Clothing Category

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I've been hearing a lot from friends and family in southern latitudes who are dealing with the cold. My lifetime of experience, living and working outdoors in northern Maine, has taught me that cold weather gear need not be expensive or complicated. Living in a cold climate does require some thought and preparation, but with a bit of both you can equip yourself and your beloved ones for cold weather so that you can not only survive but work and be comfortable. I don't represent or have any interest in any of the companies listed. I cite brand names only to help readers identify products (or similar substitutes) to add to their shopping lists for acquiring what is needed to prepare for cold weather.

I ask for your patience please as I begin with a few rules first. For those accustomed to cold climates, these should be well-known, but not everyone may be as familiar:

  1. Water next to your skin is your enemy. If you're working outside doing more than driving/riding (chopping and hauling wood, doing farm chores, or moving through timber), then you're sweating. Water next to your skin is your enemy. Cold and wet is at best uncomfortable for short period and more than likely dangerous for long periods in cold weather.
  2. Cotton clothing is dangerous in cold weather. Cotton holds water. If you sweat or will be exposed to precipitation (slush, snow, sleet) or moisture already on the ground in the cold, then your fabrics of choice for all layers should be either synthetic fabric, silk, or wool. For outer layers, I prefer wool since it doesn't readily burn in contact with flame, and it doesn't melt when touched by hot ash. As with any rule, there is an exception and that is oil-waxed cotton outer layer. High quality oil-waxed cotton gear (e.g., Filson's) can be good, but for the price of these garments, even used, you can get two woolen ones. Cotton long johns, dungarees, and cotton flannel shirts are inexpensive, comfortable, and look great, but they don't keep you warm when working in cold weather.
  3. Down insulation should only be used for dry environments. Down keeps you warm by being fluffy. Wet down is not fluffy, and you will be cold. Synthetic fill is a great substitute, plus it is often cheaper and doesn't have the water problem. Yes, it is a bit heavier, but weight is not your primary concern when keeping warm.

With those three rules in mind, I offer the following suggestions, based on my experience.


Woolen socks are a no-brainer. One pair under good fitting boots. I know some swear by two pairs at a time, but I'd rather have one pair on and another in my pocket with my boots fitting as they should. Boots should be chosen based on how wet it will be. Wear insulated rubber boots for deep water (like Servus); wear Bean's or Sorel type insulated boots for colder and less wet conditions. Don't skimp on boots. Good boots have removable liners that you can swap out when they become wet and have liners commonly available. Good boots can be worn for hours without foot pain and allow you to work on slippery surfaces. Good boots will last you for years, though liners should be replaced as needed. Waterproofing of leather can be accomplished with a coating of Sno-seal. I've used chemical warmers in my boots and had mixed results. They can keep your feet warm, but if they don't stick well they will ball up and become a nuisance. If you're just sitting around, the warmers can be great. The most important factor for boots is to ensure they are not frozen when you put them on. Bring them indoors the night before or warm them with a hairdryer or microwaved potato before putting them on.

Legs and Undergarments:

The clothing choice for your legs is based on whether you'll be working or sitting for long periods. Synthetic or silk long johns under heavy woolen trousers that have been treated to repel water (keeps them clean longer too!) are my go-to cold weather wear for legs. Plain or waxed cotton chaps over this layer can be used for dirty conditions, such as chainsaw work. Leg gaiters (nylon with an elastic top and bottom and a loop for the heel) can be useful for deep or drifted snow, but my wool pants are often on the outside of my boots making these unnecessary. I've read about thin woolen undergarments, but these are beyond my budget. Synthetic works well and is easy to clean.


In windy conditions, wool is better than synthetic fleece. Windstopper fleece is great, but it doesn't breathe as well as regular fleece or wool. Garments with (Al) Gore-Tex is very expensive and only really helpful if it is raining and you're not working. Velcro is convenient, but it can fail. Look for garments with heavy zippers (YKK) or buttons and pockets that zip closed. Woolen garments can be treated using wash-in water repellent that doesn't prevent breath-ability. Synthetic insulation should be used in any winter coat. Even better yet, wear a woolen coat over a fleece; giving you two layers rather than one allows you to unbutton or unzip to not get too hot. With a synthetic or silk underlayer with a synthetic mid-layer under a fleece covered by a woolen overcoat, I am good to go.


Mittens are warmer than gloves, but you can't do as much in mittens. If you have to take them off to accomplish your task, they are not effective. Leather is great but must be treated to be waterproof. As above, Sno-seal is wonderful at treating leather for winter waterproofing. A thin coating on your gloves in the fall and then laid in a black plastic bag in the sun will do the trick; a recoating may be needed. Down insulated gloves are silly. Working hands get wet and are often compressing the down, which make down less effective. You can spend a lot of money on cool ski gloves that are warm, but they won't last like good work gloves that are insulated. The best I've found are Kinco 1927KW gloves. They're warm, fit well, wear long, and are inexpensive. You can get a couple of pairs of these for the cost of a new pair of ski gloves. Even in harsh conditions, Kinco gloves will last a year (often more) and keep you warm even when you duct tape the holes you'll eventually wear through your favorite pair. Once you've worn a pair so much they're mostly duct tape fingers, toss them in your truck repair kit and you'll be set for a winter repair. As above, I've had mixed results with chemical hand warmers. There are times when these are useful– when you're not working hard. Otherwise, I rarely find that I need them.

Neck & Face:

A light fleece or wool scarf provides a lot of flexibility for warmth. A cotton keffiyeh may be fine in summer, but it is not for winter. I don't use neck gaiters, but others swear by them. I've tried neoprene face masks, and found them to be too wet for my liking. Water on skin is your enemy in cold weather. I prefer to have water evaporated away– neoprene traps it. In very bright or blowing snow conditions, goggles may be needed. Ski or snowmobile goggles can be inexpensive if second hand; just be sure they are not too scratched. These can fit over glasses and will keep your face surprisingly warm and stop bright sun headaches as well as keeping eyes safe.


A woolen hat can't be beaten for all-around warmth. It breathes and stays warm when wet. In extreme cold, a StormyKromer style hat is hard to beat for warmth. Look for a good fit with fold down flaps for yoou ears. These help to moderate how warm you are. If you get warm from working, it is quick and easy to remove to dump heat from your upper neck and head. Watch-style hats are also great (especially for car kits), but they don't offer much flexibility. I don't like hoods integrated into my coat, because these often limit visibility or the ability to hear. For me, these are potential safety concerns.


Skin exposed to cold can become dry. Often bitter cold is accompanied by robin-egg blue sky days with bright reflected sun. In such conditions, exposed skin can rapidly sun and/or wind burn. I've found that Dermatone ointment is great for slathering on exposed skin. In a pinch Vaseline will do to prevent wind burn, but it does nothing for sunburn. Zinc oxide creams can be effective but are messy and difficult to clean out of clothes.

Winter Kit for Truck or Car:

Assuming that you'll be wearing your coat and boots, you should have an extra midlayer (like a 200-weight fleece) and spare pair of boot liners in your auto kit. Added to a wool hat and a pair of gloves for each person, a wool blanket will likely complete what you'll need for emergency clothing. I also keep leg gaiters in my auto kit, since I don't always wear my wool pants. SurvivalBlog has excellent lists of GHBs for the automobile. (I will refer readers to those found in the archive rather than repeat the contents.)

These same principles apply to survival in winter conditions after the balloon goes up, and I would offer even more so then. I hope the information in this list helps SurvivalBlog readers and their families stay safe and warm this winter and in coming years.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I.  Introduction - Possible Scenarios.  

  1. Your automobile becomes inoperable for a period of time while traveling – it is extremely hot or extremely cold and hours to wait.
  2. A natural disaster occurs and you have to evacuate.
  3. Chaos occurs due to financial collapse or other major event causing civil unrest.
  4. An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) caused by solar flare(s) renders your vehicle dead miles from home.
  5. Or, an EMP occurs as a result of a nuclear strike (with collateral fall-out to follow).
  6. Use your imagination…in reality, nothing is too far fetched.

While these are listed in order from “Bad” to “Worse”, all of these have great commonalities.  The more obvious should be that (1) they are realistic and possible, (2) they can occur and cause mass panic and civil upheaval in a relatively short time, (3) they can land you in a situation that most likely will find you, your preparation, your knowledge and your determination are all you have to survive, and, without a doubt, (4) a lack of planning, preparation, knowledge, determination and the means to employ all will, with reasonable certainty, lead to your death

I'm glad that I have your attention.  Now let us begin to devise some of the basic means, methods and logistics that you will need to exponentially improve your survivability, and with prayer and guts, successfully reach your destination. 

II.   Equipment.  There are a number of “essentials” that you should plan to pack and keep in your vehicle at all times.  The only time these items should be removed from your vehicle is (1) if you need the room to haul other items to/from a short destination (i.e. across town, from the store, etc.), (2) to update/replenish items and then place back in the vehicle when completed, (3) you are traveling with someone else in their vehicle (your essential items go with you). 
Now let’s discuss what those “essential” items might consist.

1.  Pack.    You should purchase a quality backpack that is large enough to comfortably load the items you will need.  The pack can be of military grade (i.e. surplus such as the A.L.I.C.E. pack), or a quality hiking/camping pack that is supported by two shoulder straps and capable of load bearing for extended hiking.  Your pack should be of muted, natural or earth colors such as green, black, desert tan, or brown.  Bright colors will only amplify to others that YOU HAVE A PACK and YOU HAVE ESSENTIALS THAT THEY DO NOT!  Plus you will need the ability to hide your pack during periods of rest without it being obvious to others who may spot you. 

As stated, the pack must be large enough to accommodate all the essentials we will list below yet not too large that you cannot negotiate its weight for long periods. 
Some packs are equipped with waist belts to help distribute and support the load accordingly.  It is your personal preference.  However, most quality hiking backpacks are designed with this feature for a purpose.  Be smart. 

Other important considerations should be the design for accessing the pack.  Is it easy (relatively speaking) to get in an out of?  Can I get to the needed essentials quickly and easily at night and/or during cold or inclement weather? 

The pack should have ample outer pockets in which to store those items you will use most often (i.e. sanitation, fire starting material, maps, compass, binoculars, food, water, weapon(s), etc.). 

There should be the ability to attach additional bulk items (i.e. sleeping mat, coat, maybe a sleeping bag) on the bottom or top by additional straps or para-cord.

2.  Water.   When it comes to sustaining the human life, one must consider the “Essential Threes.”   The order of importance in need is as follows:

  1. Air – 30 seconds
  2. Water – 3 days
  3. Food – 3 weeks     However, in a survival situation where you have to exert extreme energy to travel and stay alert, the time frames on water and food are greatly shortened.

You must plan to have clean, drinkable water at all times.   The amounts will be covered later.  At this time let’s focus on types of storage and conveyance. 

2 liter, 3 liter, and 100 ounce water bladders are very popular for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, however they may not always be the best choice for the survivor.

Why?  The size alone constitutes added weight that may not be able to be spread loaded especially with a full pack.  Backpacks with separate compartments for such bladders have become very popular but you must consider the ability to frequently access the bladder without having to nearly empty the pack to do so.  Water refills in a survival scenario will often be done on the move when opportunity arises and in the quickest amount of time.  Moreover, a small puncture or tear to such a system will quickly render your main water conveyance inoperable.  

Consider multiple 1-2 quart containers that you can store and attach to various locations on/in your pack.  Give careful consideration as to how you will carry/attach your primary water source. 

For bulk storage of water in addition to your primary containers consider a 750 ml platypus bag that is relatively small, yet flexible and collapsible (like the popular larger water bladders discussed above). 

Nalgene bottles are excellent in that they are tough, lightweight and you can see the contents. 

Likely sources to replenish your water supply will be streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Consider how you will purify water.  A supply of water purification tablets should be carried.  Also, a small plastic vile of chlorine can be carried.  A few drops will sterilize 750 ml of water fairly quickly.  (Research the correct amounts and procedures to purify water by volume and make note of this information to carry in your pack with your purification tools. If using common bleach as your source of chlorine, be sure that it is non-scented with non-additives.)

Small water purification systems do very well and can be purchased for around $80+.   However, they do take up additional space and add ounces to an already loaded pack. 

A very good alternative is the Berkey Sport bottle.  A standard 750 ml water bottle has a smaller Berkey Black filter attached to the drinking straw in the bottle.  You merely have to fill the bottle with water and drink from the straw to get clean and pure water.  Water from your other storage bottles can then be poured into the Berkey Sport bottle as needed.    The Berkey Sport bottle can be purchased off EBay for as little as $15 each, so shop around.

3. Food.    Amounts will be discussed later. For now let’s consider types.

Food is definitely an essential that will become critical in a survival scenario.  It is easy and inexpensive to load up on soups and power bars at Wal-Mart and the local grocery store; however, this may prove to be a very costly mistake. 

In a survival scenario, you will be expending a much greater amount of calories due to

  1. Greater exertion of energy hiking.
  2. Greater exertion of energy due to fear and adrenalin.
  3. Greater exertion of energy due to weather (cold requires as much as twice the calories in order to keep warm.  Hot can have a similar effect.)

As a result, now is not the time to diet.  Caloric intake is key.  Inexpensive soups and quick prepare foods found at the local grocery chain will only yield about 1-2 grams of protein on average.  This is not a good return on your survival investment or on the weight you will be carrying in regards to the nutritional value received.

Consider specialized foods high in protein such as Mountain House usually found in the camping section at Wal-Mart.  Also consider purchasing a bucket of the pre-packaged dehydrated foods from Wise Foods, EFoodsDirect, etc.  While you may pay as much as twice the price of the bargain foods mentioned, the caloric value averages 11-18 grams of protein. 

Also, energy bars high in protein are a good source and easy to pack.  Mix it up. No one likes to consume the same thing over and over again.  A variety of good and satisfying food can do wonders for morale and your ability to keep moving forward another day. 

Candy bars can produce a quick energy boost but should never be your main source of nutrition.  However, looking forward to treating yourself can be a tremendous motivator. 

4.  Clothing.   Pack wise.  Clothing, while an absolute essential, can be a space robber in your pack and add unnecessary weight if not planned well.  Your clothing should be of natural and earth tone colors.  You do not want to stand out. 

a. Clothing with logos representing or making various statements should be avoided.  For example, clothing that depicts or advertises certain messages should not be used.  Examples would be articles that make a political statement, a statement of wealth or your preference for firearms or military should be avoided.  This will only prove to be troublesome on occasions you may have to interact with others you do not know.

Obviously the time of year and season will dictate the type of clothing needed, however be smart about it. 

In moderate to warm weather and in addition to what you may already have on…you should consider packing…

  1. pair long pants
  2. changes of socks (preferably some wool blend for dryness)
  3. changes of underwear
  4. shirts and/or t-shirts
  5. sweatshirt or light fleece

(1) hat

Colder weather…consider packing the same but adding…

  1. pair of thermal or polypropylene (bottoms & top)
  2. changes of wool blend socks (rather than pure cotton)
  3. pair of insulated gloves

(1) fleece or wool watch cap (a fleece balaclava is a good addition)

b. Shoes.   There are areas that you can always cut back and/or take the “bargain route” on… YOUR FOOTWEAR IS NOT ONE OF THEM!

You do not buy a nicely outfitted automobile that you will be traveling long distances in and then put the cheapest tires on it.  This would not make sense.   The same logic holds true for your feet. 
As encountering and negotiating multiple types of terrain while carrying added weight is a given, a pair of quality boots should be your primary footwear.  Only consider sturdy name brands that have a reputation and a proven performance record for the type of activities for which you will be engaging. 

Such boots generally are categorized as “Hiking” or “Military” with a minimum of 8” uppers, aggressive traction and are proven to be good for load bearing (i.e. proven to hold up and support you under the weight of a pack for long periods).    Some boots categorized as “Hunting” boots may be satisfactory but do the research and compare. 

Boot material is really a personal preference.  However, give careful consideration to modern materials.  Modern materials such as Gore-Tex and Cordura offer added warmth in cold weather and greater breathability year round.  Moreover, Gore-Tex is generally waterproof.  Keeping your feet dry and clean is key.

A second pair of shoes is a smart addition.  These are for putting on during rest breaks allowing your boots time to dry and air out, as well as giving your feet a much needed break. 

They also serve as a “back up” to your boots so they should be sturdy. New is not necessary but there should be plenty of life left in them.  A quality pair of running shoes will suffice but also consider sturdier hiking shoes made by companies who specialize in these such as Merrell, Keen, and other proven brands. 

c. Coats.  During cold weather a jacket/parka that is warm, wind resistant and water repellent is a must.  A hood is an added benefit.  Avoid bulky coats made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton, wool, or blend).  Coats made of modern materials are superior in warmth with less bulk and weight. 

During warmer months a light jacket that can repel wind should be packed (or at least a light fleece).  Rain, fatigue, and change of weather can bring on rapid chilling causing lose of body heat and robbing strength. 

d. Packing Clothing.   Most quality packs have some resistance to water.  However, prolonged exposure to rain, setting down on wet ground, or the unexpected “drop” in the creek while crossing can become a nuisance in warm weather and deadly during cold. 

Before packing your clothes, line the pack with a large plastic trash bag and place your articles of clothing within.  Be sure to cinch the bag by twisting, tuck, etc. to seal it from leaking and your clothing will remain dry no matter what occurs. 

5. Other Important Items.    There are numerous other items you will need, some more important than others.  The following list is by no means all-inclusive or absolute.  The order in which items are listed should not be construed as more important than the next.  Some will be obviously critical while others, not so much.  As with anything important, your planning, competency in use and your ability to transport all have to be considered. 

Avoid storage of smaller items loosely in your pack.  Group like items together and place into smaller zip-loc plastic bags. 

  The List:

  1. Direction Finding
    1. Compass.  Does not have to be very expensive, just trustworthy and accurate.
    2. Area Maps.  Laminated maps for your state can be purchased at Wal-Mart. 
  2. Fire Starting.  Redundancy is key here. 
    1. (2) butane lighters
    2. (2) boxes of waterproof matches
    3. (1) fire stick/flint
    4. Fire accelerates (i.e. Trioxane fuel tablets, small camping fire kindling, fire accelerate paste, lint collected from the dryer)

Spread load these so if one is lost, all will not be lost.

Survivor Ideology:  “ Two is one; One is none.”     Think about that.

  1. Sanitation.  
    1. Small bar of soap, small bottle of sanitizer, etc.…
    2. Roll toilet paper
    3. Re-sealable package of wet-wipes
    4. Toothbrush/travel tube of toothpaste and small deodorant
    5. Small vile of petroleum jelly for blisters and chaffed skin
  2. Food Preparation.
    1. Small folding (Esbit) stove with fuel tabs
    2. Excess fuel tabs
    3. Or, a small backpacking type stove such as JetBoil
    4. Fork and spoon
    5. Flavoring – salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.
    6. Small aluminum pot to heat/boil water.  An excellent choice is

     the standard 1 qt. military canteen with carrier and the “canteen cup.”     
     The canteen cup fits inside the carrier and the canteen fits inside the cup. 
     This saves space and serves multiple purposes.

3. Shelter.  A 1-2 man tent is very useful if you have one already, can pack it accordingly, and it is not a bright color. So a tarp, 6’X8’ in camouflage, dark green of brown, is a very good alternative a tent. It will provide a lot of flexibility on all terrain and can be packed many ways.

100’ of para-cord (thin ¼” nylon rope) in natural colors.

(6) small aluminum tent stakes (able to fit through the grommets of a tarp).

4. Sleep System. 
Sleeping Bag.  One that is light in weight (under 4 lbs.) and is designed for hiking and backpacking.  While “down” filled bags are very warm, extremely light in weight, and easy to compress for packing, a man-made fiber filled bag may be the best choice for the average survivalist.  Down, once wet, is very difficult to dry and loses all warming properties when wet.  The opposite holds true for man-made fillers such as Hollow-fill and other common fibers.  Be selective and do your homework.  A sleeping bag is generally the largest and most bulky item you will carry.  There are quality man-made fiber filled bags under $100 that will pack almost as compactly as the very expensive down filled bags. 

Sleeping Mat.  A very much appreciated item…especially for unknown sleeping surfaces that you will encounter.  Also, great for a barrier to keep your bag dry.  Styles, prices, and quality vary greatly so do your research and be selective

5. Medical/Personal.

First Aid.   Seek a well-stocked kit in a soft carry bag rather than hard.  Soft is much easier to pack and shift around.  Add additional painkillers such as Aleve, Tylenol, etc.  Also, consider adding burn ointment and additional bandages such as an ACE wrap.

    1. Extra pair of glasses/contacts and solution
    2. Medications that you may require
    3. Feminine hygiene products

    4. 6. Lighting.

    1. (2) Small size, quality defensive type flashlight of at least 200 lumens. One to be carried on your person and one packed as a backup.
    2. (1) Head lamp with harness or hat brim clip on light. 
    3. Extra batteries for all lights
    4. (1) Red lens for your primary flashlight. To be used to defuse white light at night when you do not need to be seen.  

      7.  Knife.  At least one quality utility folding knife with a locking blade.  Consider one with a

             partial serrated edge.  Also, a multi-tool such as the high quality Leatherman series with a   
             built in saw is highly suggested. 

8. Money.  Small bills up to about $60.  Consider having a few dollars in silver coinage as well.

             Debit and credit will not be available. 

9.  Small Bible.  Last, but certainly not least, is God’s guidance and comfort.


  III.   Situational Awareness.   You must always remain calm and in control.  You must always be aware of your surroundings and what the general atmosphere is to the best of your ability.   Be observant.  Listen intently.  The little intelligence you obtain from these measures can most assuredly save your life. 

In the event a survival situation occurs, it will be helpful to have an understanding of how human nature most likely will react. 

In large population centers such as cities, riots could break out almost immediately if the cause is fueled by an emotionally charged event.  Think of history and the Rodney King riots of Los Angeles in 1992.   Evacuation from and avoidance of such areas must be done immediately.   For other events the time line of societal decay will go as follows:

Day 1 – people will be in disbelief.  A sense of “what’s happened/happening?” will prevail and folks will generally congregate to get answers.  However, as the day progresses and night sets in, panic may escalate and tempers begin to flare.

Day 2 – Panic is growing.  People become frantic and less tolerate. Fear and uncertainty is fast growing.  The risk of personal danger is rising.

Day 3 – Without clean water and most likely food and a lack of sufficient sleep, destitute people will become aggressive with a large percentage resorting to violence.  They will attempt to take what you have.  Avoid contact.

Day 4+ - People away from the comforts of home will become very dangerous. People in their homes will become very protective and civil unrest (everywhere) is a certainty.  Avoid contact at all cost.  

Day 15 - Studies show that civil people will consider resorting to cannibalism if no other food or possibilities of food exist in their immediate future.  They will surely kill for what you have. 


IV. Protection & Security.  While personal protection is somewhat obvious and should quickly

become a very high priority for anyone who finds himself or herself in a survival situation, it is an area that is often misunderstood, misused and left to chance.  Neither of these will serve the survivor well and will surely leave you, sooner or later, in the category of “Non-Survivor.” 

While movies and books do an insatiable job of glamorizing and even romanticizing the lone survivor who beats all odds to overcome great diversity…like being in combat, one cannot truly understand the experience unless one has experienced it for themselves. 

The truth is a person who finds himself/herself in a survival situation will be consumed with confusion, fear, loneliness, and an immense sense of indecisiveness.  Having the necessary provisions discussed above at your disposal should give comfort that the essentials to survive are in your possession.  This is merely a temporary relief if you have neither the knowledge nor requisite abilities to use your gear properly.  You must continue to sharpen your skills by training and planning for such an event. 

However, no matter how strong your logistics and the know-how to use them are, if you do not have the ability to protect yourself and your life tools from others who are desperate and will, through whatever means necessary, take them from you…you will fail. 

1.  Weapons.  As noted above, you should always have in your possession a knife.  While essential as a utility tool, the knife you choose should also be suitable as a backup defensive weapon.  As a primary means of protection, you should have in your possession a quality and reliable handgun that is familiar and that you have had adequate training and experience in firing. 

While there are numerous types and brands of handguns to choose from, some do stand out as a much better choice for defensive purposes. 

Keep in mind that most attacks are done quickly and in close proximity.  Revolvers, while extremely reliable and easy to use, do have limitations.  Most notably is the number of rounds (bullets) one has available for immediate protection.  This typically amounts to 5-6 before reloading is necessary.  Reloading a revolver requires a series of time-consuming actions that make it less desirable as a primary defensive weapon in the survival mode.  If a revolver is still desired, nothing below a .38 caliber should be considered.  Multiple speed loaders should also be purchased which will aid in reloading quicker. 

The optimum handgun for a survival situation is the semi-automatic pistol in mid to full size configuration.  A mid to full size pistol will generally hold between 10-17 rounds depending on the caliber and make.  The larger bullet capacity definitely provides greater firepower in an attack.  Moreover, mid to full size pistols generally have a longer barrel length over the revolver giving it an exceptional advantage in accuracy and range.  Pistols use magazines to hold/feed bullets to the gun and therefore can be easily stored and quickly accessed for a hasty reload.   

Calibers below 9mm should not be considered.  Calibers above 9mm, such as the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP are excellent defensive weapons but be sure to consider the increased size and weight for carrying additional ammunition and magazines.   

a.  Handgun Carry.  The primary defensive handgun should be carried in a manner that allows easy and fast access in the event it is needed.  It should not be stored in the pack.  A quality holster, that either attaches to one’s belt or to the shoulder straps or waist belt of the pack, should be used.  Note: a backup handgun is an excellent idea and may be carried in the pack, if available.  A backup handgun in the same caliber is even better in that it allows you to consolidate ammunition to one type.

b.  Long Gun.  It is commonly understood in the firearms world that a person with a long gun (typically a rifle) will always defeat a person with a handgun in a straight up gunfight.  The truth of this adage leads many to consider having a long gun, either a shotgun or rifle, as their primary firearm. 

There may not be a right or wrong answer to this: only considerations to be made.
While the long gun of choice has definite and obvious advantages, there are important disadvantages as well.

  1. Added weight and ability to carry in addition to pack, water, etc.
  2. Added weight and bulk of ammunition.
  3. Added visibility or lack of ability to conceal the fact that you are armed in/around others you will eventually come into contact with. 


For example…a person sees you from a distance and may choose to by-pass contact with you.  However, if they see you have a “highly prized article” such as a rifle or shotgun, they may choose to engage you from that distance in an attempt to take it from you or double back for an attempt at a more opportune time.  Again, there may be no right or wrong answers to this question: just serious considerations to make. 

2. Traveling.  It is always best to travel in groups of two or more (like minded/prepared) persons if possible.  This is not always possible so you must develop the skills to protect yourself and provide for your own security.  

       a.  Vehicle.  If able to travel by automobile, never stop or leave your vehicle except when absolutely necessary.  Breaks to relieve one’s self should be done by the vehicle as fast as possible and then continue on.  Do not linger.  Modesty is not an issue at this point. Security and safety are. 

Always maintain a full tank of gasoline.  Try to never drop below a half tank before refilling. 

Other than to relieve one’s self, refuel or the occasional meal preparation (try to eat on the go) you should continue to travel to your destination.  Should you have to stop to rest/sleep, you should take the extra time to drive off the main routes in search of a secure and secluded area that affords protection and the ability to hide the vehicle from passersby.  If you are being observed, travel on until you are not.  If traveling with others, someone must be on watch at all times.  Rotate shifts for sleep and eating. 

NEVER relax your security or let your guard down.  

NEVER build a fire unless absolutely necessary for warmth due to potential hypothermia or frost injury.  Fire is a beacon that will lead undesirables to you. 

Be especially watchful for overpasses, bridges and other various choke points that could make excellent ambush/attack sites.

      b.  On Foot/Hiking.   If you find that you have to travel without the comfort and security of a vehicle, all of the above still apply, but now you have numerous other measures to consider. 

  1. Consider traveling at night when others in the area may be resting and less likely for you to encounter.
  2. Never camp on or near the route you are traveling.  If on a main highway/road you should camp at least 100 yards away hidden from sight in the woods.  Again, make sure you are not being observed when detouring to your campsite. 
  3. Pick a site that provides cover (barrier to shield against firearms) as well as concealment (ability to hide) from others. 
  4. NEVER build a fire.  If a fire is absolutely necessary, do so for the minimal amount of time required (during daylight) then move far away to a different locale to make camp. 
  5. Noise and light discipline is as important as not building a fire (for obvious reasons).  You want to get in and out with as little notice as humanly possible. 
  6. If you sense that you are being followed, you may find it necessary to confront the person(s) rather than continuing on.  Do so with extreme caution and with plenty of daylight left if at all possible.  TRUST NO ONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OUTSIDE YOUR GROUP!
  7. Short of someone committing a grievous act against another, avoid contact with others.  You cannot help them if they are unprepared.  They will be desperate.  So are you and even more so should they harm you and/or take what you have. 
  8. Plan your route(s).  You will most definitely have a planned route if traveling by vehicle.  You should also have routes planned in the event you are on foot. 
  9. Avoid bridges, overpasses and choke points.  They will be prime ambush sites for people traveling by foot.  Bridge crossings, etc. must be done with extreme caution.  You will need to spend time observing from a distance in order to determine the safety and opportunity for crossing. 
  10.  As time progresses you will want to avoid towns and/or any population centers.  Take the time to observe and plan alternate routes around. 


V.  Quantities to Consider.   Above we have talked about the types of food to pack and the means to carry water.  Now let us consider the amounts necessary.

  1. Water.  Clean water is an absolute necessity to survive.  You should drink plenty of water even when you feel that you are not thirsty.  While this should be obvious in hot weather, the same holds true for cold weather as well.  Dehydration is a killer and can attack you in heat or cold. 

Water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon.   Other than your pack and firearm, water will be the heaviest item you carry.  You should have at least three of the containers mentioned above on you.  One should be readily accessible and the other two can be stored/affixed to your pack accordingly. 

Take every opportunity to refill that is available to you.  Take the time to filter properly before consuming.  Illness due to contaminated water is a killer in a survival situation. 

2. Food.  Food will be critical to your health, energy and the ability to make good and sound decisions.  The amount you need will depend on the distance to your desired destination.  Let’s look at an example.


Scenario - 30 miles from your destination – while no one really wants to jump at the chance to hike 30 miles, in a survival situation it seems very “doable”, and it is…if prepared.

Without any problems or delays, the average healthy person with the proper motivation should be able to hike 10 miles per day.  For a 30-mile distance we are looking at a minimum of 3 to 3 ½ days on the road.   Add in the degradation of society as outlined above and we see our 3 day hike easily extend into 5-6 days.  Get the idea?  You have to plan your logistics and train your body and mind accordingly – now.

Ammunition.  Certainly have your firearm(s) and additional magazines loaded at all times.  A box of an additional 50 rounds packed away is not out of the question. 


Additional – Nice to Have:

  1. Radio – Provided you have not experienced an EMP/CME rendering most electronics useless, a radio to monitor news and events is very helpful.  Avoid the temptation to listen to music.  You need to be listening to what is happening around you.
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Work Gloves
  4. Binoculars
  5. Vitamins
  6. Bug Spray
  7. Portable ram radio transceiver (1 for your destination party as well)
  8. Other items to keep your spirits up (depending on your ability to carry)


VII.   Conclusion:

With the proper planning, training, and motivation you can survive such a calamity.
It will not be easy – physically, mentally or emotionally.  There is a great chance that you will see and experience many bad things.  There is a great chance you may have to use violent and/or deadly force.  Now is the time to prepare. 

“Practice makes perfect” – We have all heard this before and most will agree to this simple truth.  If that is the case…shouldn’t you practice the things we have discussed above?  After all, getting these important items in hand and these techniques down to a workable level of confidence and ability is a great deal more important than whether or not you will win a sporting event or pull off a successful performance.  How well you perform here means whether or not you will live or die. 

Finally, I have been told that I should create a checklist to include with this guide.  I have given that a lot of thought and realized that this entire guide is, in essence, a checklist.  To prepare properly you will most likely devise numerous checklist and I can guarantee that you will revise them from time to time based on your needs, plans, location, time of year, abilities, and desires.  The main thing is to get started.  Simply check off items in this guide page by page as you acquire them and you will be well on your way. 

Survivor Ideology: “It is much better to be prepared a year in advance than a day
too late.”

God is always with you.  Good luck and God speed. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I've been making my own laundry soap for a couple of years now and I've found that Zote works a little better than Fels Naptha or Ivory.  Our whites have been whiter since we switched from Fels Naptha to Zote.  I estimate that I've spent perhaps just s $15 on laundry supplies over the past two years.  That's much better than $10 to $12 for a bottle of liquid detergent!

Keep up the good work and God bless your efforts. - Emily S.

Mr. Rawles,
I would like to add to the suggested recipe for laundry detergent presented by JDC in Mississippi.  Having used this same recipe for several years, I can attest to its effectiveness for laundry.  However, I have found a couple of improvements necessary for optimal cleaning.

I found the homemade detergent to leave my whites looking dingy over time.  Also, unlike commercial detergents, this one causes towels to develop an unpleasant odor.  An informal survey of friends who also use this recipe indicated this problem existed for all of us, regardless of the water source or the bar soap used.  Several of us were on municipal water and several use well water.  Different bar soaps were also used.  Some used essential oils, others did not.  We all experienced the same dingy whites and stinky towels. 

Through trial and error, we found a solution that works.  After making the batch of detergent, I store it in a closed 5-gallon bucket and from this bucket, I fill an old detergent bottle for use.  Before adding the detergent to the bottle, I pour in ½ cup of blue-colored liquid commercial laundry detergent.  This adds enough bluing to keep the whites from turning brownish-gray and adds enough fragrance to keep the towels from souring.  My personal preference is the All brand, but others have found success with Tide or Wisk. 

Also, I’ll offer a word of caution based on a lesson I learned the hard way.  For this project, the bucket should be new.  The detergent will absorb odors from the plastic container.  I made the mistake of making my first batch in a thoroughly cleaned pickle bucket that had no discernible odor from its prior contents.  As the weeks progressed, the detergent drew out the odors from the plastic, causing the laundry to smell of pickles.  With kindest regards, - Virginia Mama

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mr. Rawles:

Here is a recipe for soap, not food,. This has saved us a lot of money and aggravation over the years. We decided to make our own laundry soap after my daughter (now four years old) was born. Her skin wouldn't tolerate any artificial perfumes or dyes and she would break out in horrible acne if exposed to artificiality of that sort.

The basis of this recipe we found online, then modified it to meet our needs. It includes only shelf-stable materials and is suitable for both washing machines and hand-washing.

The ingredients include:

--One bar of soap, grated. The soap you use is up to you. We've used Ivory, Octagon, soap made at home with lye and vegetable fats, homemade soap with animal fats and lye, a soap called Zote( that is usually marketed to Latinos), Fels Naphtha, and a wide variety of whatever is on hand, all with good results. The Zote is marketed as a laundry soap. It comes in a 14 oz. bar, significantly larger than a standard 4-5 oz bar of soap, so we usually make a double batch when using it. (If the math seems off, adjust it. I'm saying only what has worked for us.)

--1 cup of washing soda. This is not baking soda. I have read that you can make washing soda out of baking soda by baking it (which eliminates some of the carbon and some oxygen, as I understand it). But as the two are approximately the same cost to begin with, I see no sense in converting sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate. The only reason I can think of is if you should choose to store only baking soda and not washing soda, or if you should happen to run out of bicarb.

--1/2 (halfa) cup of borax. Some people use only a quarter cup of borax, claiming it doesn't cause clothing to break down as quickly. They might be right. They might not. YMMV. We use a half cup and have seen no inordinately negative effects in four years.

--3 gallons of water. Just water.

First, start by boiling about 2-3 quarts of water in a stainless steel pot. DO NOT use your good cast iron for this unless you want to ruin the seasoning/coating. Turn the water down to a simmer after it boils.

Begin adding the shredded soap slowly, allowing a small quantity to dissolve before adding another bit. Use a large stainless steel or plastic spoon to stir. Stir constantly until all soap has been added and is dissolved. You will end up with a thick mixture I call "soap soup" just because it's fun to say.

Into a five-gallon bucket or other large container, place the borax and washing soda. Pour the soap soup in with the other ingredients and stir with the stainless steel spoon until the dry ingredients are dissolved (or nearly so). We use a round kitchen-size trash can with marks on the outside to show three gallons and six gallons are. You'll have to measure those ahead of time.

Add enough warm water to bring to three gallons. Stir wholeheartedly, making sure everything but the bucket and spoon dissolves. Cover the mixture and allow it to sit for 24 hours before putting it in bottles. You don't even have to bottle it: You can use it straight out of the bucket. However, we found it best to save up empty laundry detergent bottles for a month or so before beginning this project. If you stir the bucket thoroughly before bottling, and shake each bottle thoroughly before using, you'll get the optimum distribution of materials for each load of laundry.

At one cup of laundry detergent per load, this makes 48 loads. I usually make a double batch, which is 96 loads -- meaning about two or three months worth of laundry for approximately $6 invested in the detergent. I'm an EMT and my uniform must be changed and washed after each 24-hour shift, at least, to get rid of the mixture of sweat, blood, and red Mississippi mud. I have a 4-year-old, my wife is a professional, and I work 48-96 hours a week and consequently I do a lot of laundry.

Before bottling the soap, I add 30-40 drops of tea tree essential oil to the mixture. That might sound like a lot, but 30 drops over 96 loads is actually a very small quantity. My wife has a history of MRSA and the tea tree oil seems to be effective in keeping that particular infection at bay. Put it this way: She hasn't had an outbreak since we started using the oil. You could also add other (and more) essential oils to the soap mixture, should you want your clothing to smell pretty. I prefer my clothes to smell like nothing at all (call it OPSEC), and a third of a drop of tea tree oil per load leaves nothing noticeable behind. Lavender and other flowery oils do leave a smell.

So, for five or six cents per load of laundry using shelf-stable ingredients, you get clothing that is very clean, smells of nothing at all (unless you want it to), and turns whites more white while leaving colored clothing still colored.

As always, thanks JWR for your time and energy in keeping this blog site up. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In a recent contest entry post, Clarence A. wrote: 'Warm up some round river rocks that are as big as you can fit into a wool sock.  When they are too hot to touch with your fingers put them in the wool sock and use them like you would a hot water bottle.'

No offense at your experience Clarence, but hot river rocks can hold moisture and can and do explode. I've had it happen camping as a kid, using a river rock for part of the fire ring, lucky no one was close when it exploded! it sent rock shards up to about 20 ft away. Please don't ever use river rocks for [intense] heating-  hot rocks do work great- but get them from some place dry like a stone wall! never use river rocks unless they have been high and dry for a while.

hot fist sized rocks wrapped in towels near your kidneys, and feet will provide about 4-5 hours warmth! I'd use the spit test, if it's sizzles it's ready. wrap them or put them in a sock, just don't put it on your bare skin!

Good advice on socks, many thanks and much respect! - MFitzy in Pennsylvania

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Extra Socks should be in your bug out bag your hunting pack and any other pack or bag you store outdoor gear or survival gear.  Now let me explain.  Your feet are super important to your safety and well-being. You’re healthy and fit. You take good care of yourself for Survival reasons.  But are you prepared to lose the ability to walk, run or move quickly without responding to pain caused by infection.  Soldiers in all recent recorded conflicts complained about their feet.  Cold and fungus cripple them.  OK, so you have a great pair of boots.  I get it that your chance of frostbite and trench foot are less likely and packing along some extra weight or bulk may seem unnecessary.  I have great boots.  My feet sweat.  My feet are cold when they sweat.  My socks are wet and if I am out for more than a day my socks will stay wet until I can get them to dry.  If you haven’t noticed, drying clothing in the outdoors is not all that easy except in some very dry climates.  Now if the insides of my boots are wet. My feet will be cold tonight.  I will not rest and I will not be ready for the day in the morning.  The temperature does not need to be close to freezing for your feet to be cold.

A dry pair of socks feels really good at the end of the day.  I dry my feet with a towel and use some foot care lotion and put on those warm dry socks before I go to sleep.  Never go to sleep with wet feet in cold weather.  Don’t jump up in the middle of the night and go traipsing into the bushes for a potty moment without putting on something to keep your feet and socks dry.  Protect your socks from any moisture like you would protect your fire arm.  I have some army surplus boot liners that are not the bulky felt liners but thin material.  I don’t wear these all the time with my boots but If I had to wade a stream or jump up in the night these I will take the time to use.

Let me talk about some other benefits of carrying those extra socks: 

It’s like having and extra pair of gloves when the temperature drops. I might slip one on my left hand for holding my gun while wearing the light weight glove on my trigger finger hand.  Just keep the trigger finger hand in the coat to keep it warm and ready.

Socks are a great bottled water cover when the temperature drops to keep your water from freezing.

Two extra small bags for foraging can come in handy. I am not suggesting you put berries in the socks but use them for acorns and other nuts or roots. 
A sopping wet sock on a forehead to help cool you down in hot weather.  One on your forehead and one on your neck to beat heat related illness.

Clean socks make extra bulk dressings for major wounds. You might feel better about this is they are clean and white, but if you apply them correctly the color won’t matter in an emergency.

For some wounds you can cut out the toe of the sock and slip the tube over your wrist, forearm or lower leg to hold a dressing in place and to keep the wound and dressings clean. 
Are you trying to be extra quiet in those dry woods?  Slip a pair of heavy socks over your boots.  You’ll notice the difference in how much noise you don’t make. I was surprised how little wear occurred to the socks used in this manner [over short distances]. When sitting in a blind, the socks over the boots will help to keep your feet warmer. 

Use one as a Purse.  Keep your keys and other small items in a sock and tie the top.  It makes them less likely to be lost and less likely to make noise.  The sock in your cargo pants pocket it a good way to find what you are looking for much quicker.  For smaller items I am always spending more time than I want to trying to find that one thing in that pocket. Its like you just keep chasing in around in that cargo pocket but just can’t seem to grasp it.   If I can pull out the sock and open it at chest level I can find what I needed in a hurry by touch with one hand and retrieve with the other.  

I found that I could put my Turkey Box call in a sock to keep it dry in the rain and use it to call while it is in the sock.  Turkey Hunting in the rain is not the best time to hunt those smart birds,  but if you are in the woods when it stops raining it can be the best time.

Dish cloth, hand towel, pot holder, and a towel just to wipe your sweaty brow.  Cut into pieces they are gun cleaning clothes, eye glass and other optic lens cleaners.  A strip of cotton cloth can be a wick for an emergency oil lamp. Note I said emergency Oil Lamp.  Charred cotton cloth is needed for a flint and steel fire starter kit. Granted, for most of these things you could cut off a piece of your shirt tail, but I am just trying to pile on the reasons extra socks are a good idea.  

Ever wish you had a hand warmer or a foot warmer for the sleeping bag or blanket bed?  Some hot rocks from the campfire in a wool sock will keep your feet toasty well into the night. 
Warm up some round river rocks that are as big as you can fit into a wool sock.  When they are too hot to touch with your fingers put them in the wool sock and use them like you would a hot water bottle.  Speaking of that I have put boiling water in a plastic water bottle and then put the bottle in a sock to warm my feet or relax a cramping muscle.  But, back to the rock warming.  Never heat up flat rocks like shale.  These can explode sending little chunks of rock flying your way.  It’s where the water can be in the layers of rock and it turns to steam and the pressure between the layers causes the rock to explode.  Large Potato sized round rocks is best.  Put some extra rocks in the fire or in the coals and bury them under a layer of coals or dirt.  When the rocks in your sleeping bag cool, you can replace them with some that are still warm from the fire. They may not be as hot as the ones you first used from the fire, but you will notice the difference. 

In my bug out bag I use socks as mini stuff sacks for other items.  Keeps things organized, quiet and gives me extra socks to keep my feet warm if I need them.  Use different weight of socks.  Sometimes you need thinner cooler socks and at other times you want heavy warm socks.

What kind of socks do I use?  Well I use what I would wear everyday plus some extra warm wool socks big enough to wear over my every day wear socks.  What color?  I like gray.  Wool does make me itch if it gets too warm.  Men’s dress socks are a thin layer that you can put under or over your hunting socks.  Wool socks in the winter will be warmer if you put that thin layer of tightly woven cloth over top. 

If you are older and need some extra support for your ankles or to keep swelling down, use men’s support stockings.  After a surgery I had to wear these for a few weeks for swollen ankles.  I now keep them with my hunting gear.  I liked the knee length and the support to my ankles.  Just don’t get them too small.  I wear them under my regular hunting socks and don’t notice any fit problems with my hunting boots. They have a better heal and toe fit so they don’t slide down into the boot. 

If I had a pair of Blaze Orange socks I would put them in my gear.  If I needed a way to signal by hand they would certainly be a good replacement for Orange Gloves.
That hot spot or blister on your foot may not be your boots at all.  It may be the sock you have on that foot.  A wrinkle or fold in the sock may be what is causing that pain in the foot.  Having a fresh back up pair of socks may be all that is needed to add comfort to your walking.

From your first aid kit you may add a bandage or moleskin to your blister to help, but when you do this, you often add more pressure to the spot because now you have extra thickness between your foot and the boot at exactly the spot you need less pressure.  Cut a hole in the sock where it will fit over the bandage or moleskin or use a thinner sock on that foot.

Not long ago I tried something that afterward I regretted not doing sooner and more often.  I stopped in at a Nails Salon and got a foot massage, toenails trimmed with oil and foot lotion treatment.    "Wow" is the only way to describe it.  As we get older it’s a little harder to bend over at the waist to see and get a good angle for trimming those thick toenails.   We and I use that term because We know who we are, don’t get it right.  We create sharp little cutting edges on our toes that rip our socks to shreds.  I mentioned this outing to the Nail Salon to some friends for their reaction and I got a real surprise.  Most of them have this done often. 

Healthy feet are important to our survival in an emergency. 

JWR Adds: Money spent on good quality socks in money well spent. Avalanche Lily particularly likes Wigwam brand socks. For boot socks, I like Kodiak brand, but there are others that are even better, and more expensive.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mr. Rawles:
You made mention of the Army adopting some Multicam variants for standard [field utility] uniforms; I'm not too surprised by this. The Army's move from BDUs (and DCUs for deployments) to ACUs, and finally Multicam, has an enjoyable history of stupidity and corruption (hard to imagine with the military, I know). Having worn ACUs in both garrison and deployment/combat, they're wonderfully light to wear...and get easily torn up and ripped up, unlike BDUs/DCUs. ACU are also terrible at actually camouflaging the wearer, unless you spent all your time in a grayish pastel quarry....which, of course, are rarity in Iraq and Afghanistan. Overseas, we stood out like garish sore thumbs.

Multicam, on the other hand, is a camo pattern that's actually effective at concealing folks, and best of all, it bears resemblance to former camo patterns, as opposed to the digitalized garbage. Perhaps Multicam will improve the ACUs as well (doubt it), but I don't dread wearing them.

Downside is, this is many more hundreds of millions of dollars needed to be spent to outfit folks, to buy uniforms, and flood the surplus market with outdated ACUs. Oh, joy. If they take out the velcro and return to (quiet) buttons for things, that'll work out well too (buttons last longer than velcro...who knew? ;-).
Anyway, just my 2 cents. Yours, - CPT C.K.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Most SurvivalBlog readers have heard of Brad Thor. He is a contemporary novelist who is a master of the techno-thriller genre. Several of his books have become bestsellers, and one of them reached #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Brad recently teamed up with the clothing maker Scottevest, to design a quite versatile concealment jacket that they call the Alpha Jacket. Brad arranged to have them send me one of these for test and evaluation.

When the jacket arrived I was impressed from the start. The only disappointment was seeing "Made in China" on the tag. Like so many other manufacturers, Scottevest has found that offshore production is the only way to stay cost competitive. Seeing any product from an American company that is produced in China chafes me. But in this case, I can see why it was a necessity. This jacket has a very complex design (with an amazing 35 pockets!) that is very labor-intensive to produce. If it were produced in the U.S., I suspect that the high production cost would necessitate a retail price near $350. Even with offshore production it is priced at $200.

This jacket's design is so advanced that it has an operator manual. The pockets and special features are so diverse that for the sake of brevity, I'll just refer you to the maker's web site for details. Even a large handgun can "disappear" in this jacket's voluminous pockets. (In my tests, using a Glock 21 and a Glock 30, I found that it was best to use a holster clipped to a larger rectangular piece of sheet hard plastic to eliminate any "printing" of the pistol's outline or any telltale sagging of the jacket. (I used a "roto" paddle-style holster clipped to a piece of plexiglas.) Even someone physically groping the jacket from the outside would just think that it was a large paperback book or perhaps a Kindle or a similar-size electronic device.

The jacket's exterior is a quiet and nonreflecting charcoal gray fabric with an unusual texture. The maker claims that this fabric has a reduced IR signature. (I didn't have a chance to verify that with my PVS-14 night vision scope.) It should be great at night, in shaded forests, or in urban environments, but black is a color not often seen in nature (except in shadows), so it would stand out in high contrast in most natural environments, during daylight.

The jacket that I received is a size Large, and it fit me well, although it was a bit baggy in the midsection. (I'm 6'2" and a fairly muscular 193 pounds.) I suppose that once you loaded up the jacket with a pistol, extra magazines, a cell phone, a Surefire light, a Kindle (or Netbook) and assorted do-dads, that all of that extra roominess would be appreciated. And I've been told that some of the roominess is intentional, for an "armor cut," meaning that it allows room for body armor to be worn underneath.

The jacket's main zipper is quite stout, but most of the others seemed a bit lightweight, for my preference. Time will tell if they have sufficient durability.

One interesting feature is an RFID-blocking pocket, designed to protect your passport or "smart" credit cards from scanners.

Another neat feature is a cell phone pocket with a clear plastic window that allows you to operate the phone while it is still in the pocket. (Or if you have an iPhone or MP3 player with a display, you can read the details on the music track that is being played.)

One other feature that deserves special mention is a pair of short vertical zippers in roughly kidney position at the waist. These can be zipped up to allow fast access to a pistol carried on the belt over the buttocks, for either right-handers or left-handers. For those who carry concealed, this feature alone makes the jacket worth buying!

All in all, I was impressed with the Alpha Jacket. Brad Thor came up with an exceptionally good design, and it was well executed by Scottevest. For serious preppers, this would be a great jacket to acquire for everyday wear, since the 35 pockets could be loaded up as a veritable "wearable bug out bag" that would not attract any suspicion.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Avalanche Lily & Mr. Rawles –
Just wanted to say that Survival Blog  never ceases to amaze me!  As you may know I’m not a fan of the entire survivalist or “prepper”  craze, but I have to admit the drum carder and angora bunny advice posted today was spot on.  I would not have guessed that SurvivalBlog [readers] would have been as knowledgeable about home textile production. (However I did  take exception to the sheep recommendations.)

You may be interested in my “dish towel” project.  Sometime within the next couple of weeks the flax straw from this summer will be rippled and retted; with scutching, breaking and hackling to follow. Spinning the line should commence by the middle of October with weaving by Thanksgiving.
Again – I’m impressed by SurvivalBlog. All the very best to you and yours, - Granny Miller

Friday, September 13, 2013

This is in response to the recent question re wool cards for angora fiber. Please let me add a few important facts on this subject.

Angora fiber needs to be processed on cards with a fine tine. The fibers are comparatively short and incredibly soft and fine. Buy cards referred to as cotton cards or recommended for carding exotic fibers or cotton.

Yes, one can pluck and spin the fiber off a rabbit in one's lap, but that's generally a trick for fiber shows. Really, please, just pluck the rabbit and let it down to run around while you spin.

Unless one has a large herd of fiber rabbits, the fiber yield will not be prodigious. The OP mentioned only one rabbit, so they will only get about 6-10 ounces per year if they only harvest twice in a year.

For others, though, please know that maintaining a large herd of angora rabbits is extremely difficult. At one point in time, I had 40, and I do not recommend that unless one has no other responsibilities or has a helper. There are considerations above and beyond raising meat rabbits. Proper, regular grooming must be done to prevent wool block; saving a rabbit from wool block is time consuming and difficult without an IV or a vet. One can use a blow dryer for this on a weekly basis. Keeping the vent area clipped prevents nasty abscesses. Since one keeps fiber rabbits for many years, rather than 12 weeks, providing a place in the cage so the rabbit can be off the wire prevents sores on the feet. The poop detail is horrendous. The cages must be cleaned of poop and hair regularly for cleanliness and good health. I recommend a propane torch. Maintenance in hot summers is more important than worrying about cold winters. There are many other considerations.

Back to fiber. Angora fiber has no elasticity; thus an item of 100 percent angora will droop and have no spring or ability to naturally stay the same as when made. With small yields and elasticity concerns, the better method for maximizing angora is to mix it with sheep's wool or other elastic fibers, or to simply use it for trim or accents.

Consider also keeping a couple of sheep. When buying said sheep make sure to get ones with a softer hand (smaller diameter fiber/micron count) if wanting items to be worn near the face - scarves, wimples, etc. Consider Merino or Corriedale.

If one is serious about using wool for clothing, a drum carder is the way to go. Although expensive, a family could spend as much on enough hand cards to be productive as it might on one good drum carder. A person could spend an evening hand carding rolags to equal 20 minutes' worth of wool off of a drum carder. My personal favorite for solid construction is made by Strauch.

As with all survival gear, have some saved for the future. Carding cloth is incredibly expensive. In a SHTF situation, there won't be any manufacturers of carding cloth for a long time, I dare say. I've known beginners to use dog grooming tools as hand cards before investing in expensive fiber tools. Consider stashing away a shoe box of dog grooming tools in case someone drops a wrench on your carding cloth. (Don't ask me how I know. )

Sincerely, - J.G.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

If you or your readers are contemplating carrying a rucksack [or backpack] of any type for any distance there are three items this old soldier heartily recommends:

1. Compression type Smart Wool Socks
2. Two Toms brand Sport Shield Liquid Roll On.
3. Insoles: Green Super Feet

I am still ruck'in these days (an old LC-1 pack frame with 40lbs of weight plates zip tied to it [I am certain I am quite a sight if anyone is up at 04:30 AM]), so I believe I know what I am talking about. Six to ten miles per day. I wish I had figured this all out while I was on active duty!

I have noted specific manufacturers, because, these are what have stood the test of time and miles for me, your mileage may vary. If you find a less expensive substitute that works, please share with the rest of the class.

I have not had a single blister since discovering Two Toms, not a one, not even a hot spot.

I have old school OD Green Jungle boots and new school, feather weight USGI boots, pick your poison, neither cause me problems.

BOOTS: Boots come in all shapes construction. Costs run from reasonable to WTF? From a ruck'in perspective, you need to find a reasonable compromise of: (1.) shock absorbing functionality; (2.) mid sole flex; (3.) ankle support; (4.) insulation.

SHOCK ABSORBING: Most newer boots seem to incorporate some form of running shoe technology in their construction. If you are purchasing via mail order, do some research.

FIT: Fit is important. I purchase boots 1/2 size larger and 1 size wider than normal running shoes. I normally wear a 10.5 running shoe, so I purchase and use an 11 wide boot. Your feet will get hot and expand while ruck'in. Plan accordingly.

FLEX: When carrying a load, your boot needs to flex in the middle or you find yourself "...stomping..." and "...clomping...." with weird top of foot pain. Hold the boot by the heel and toe and push your hands together. The boot should flex in the middle. Don't get pig-headed about it. Forget the brand name, or what your buddies swear by. They are probably miserable because they did not put in the thought that you are putting into your ruck'in system. Buck the trend and do not become a casualty.

ANKLE SUPPORT: A good ruck'in boot should be at least eight inches tall to support the ankle. If your foot comes down on a rock and your ankle begins to twist, a well made boot will protect your ankle. Good laces help with ankle support. Do not tie ruck'in boots too tight, when your ankles swell and your feet get hot, you will wish you had tied them looser.

INSULATION: This is a relative and very personal item. A few years ago, during a blizzard, I purchased a pair of insulated Danner Acadia's, they worked great, but I have not work then since, they are too danged hot! When you are ruck'in, your feet will get hot. On cold, wet and/or snowy days here, with my 40 lb ruck, my un-insulated boots serve me best. If I was in an ambush or snipe hide, I'd probably lust after those insulated Danners, but down over boots seem to do the trick for me these days.


BELLVILLE: These days, my go to boot is the Bellville Model #590. They are well made (this pair is going on 500 miles plus with little to no wear), good shock absorbing, good flex, excellent ankle support, fairly light in weight and good insulation (it snows here and is wet, a lot). Sierra sole (watch for mud accumulation), speed lacing (excellent), mid calf cut outs (enables boot flex). Running shoe technology. After walking on concrete at the gun show for six hours, you will not be sore. After 10 ~ 12 hours in the woods hunting, you will not be crippled.

ALTAMA: Altama's are a great value. They used to make an OD Green, Sierra Sole jungle boot which is still the holy grail of good ruck'in footwear. If you can find a pair that fits you, enjoy them. Their like may never some again. Altama's come with either the SIERRA or PANAMA sole configuration. The Panama sole is a good one, it seldom collects enough mud to become a skate board. They come with eyelets or speed lacing system, speed lacing systems are a great leap forward.

DANNER: When I was on active duty, I could not afford them, now I can and I do love them. They run the gamut from feather weight to concrete overshoe weight, but it is hard to argue with their quality of warranty. If you are purchasing Danner boots, test drive them with the insoles you will be ruck'in with. Danners can be cozy, you may need to experiment with width and length with your preferred insole. Do not assume that your normal size will work with your preferred insole and a Danner boot. Word to the wise.


Good insoles are essential. Most default insoles, under the load and stress of miles and weight will dissolve rather quickly. My best experience is with the SUPERFEET brand.

They are stout. I have at least 500 miles on this pair with a 40 lb ruck and they are still going strong. They are coated with a blister reducing green material that has yet to separate from the insole underneath. They do not seem to pick up foot odor either.

This brand is made to work with several different foot arch contours, so do your homework and get the color, arch that fits you best.


As a soldier, I was sold on USGI OD Green, double thick wool socks, until I did some homework and discovered, SmartWool, compression socks.

The best I have been able to come up with are the Smart Wool PHD Ultra Light. I have purchased these for myself and my spouse, even she likes them.

They are long lasting, fit close to the skin, never ever sag and bunch. They are not cheap, but if you only have your Leather Personnel Carriers (LPCs) to get you around, they do not seem that expensive.


Who says you can not teach an old dog new tricks? This stuff is just plain amazing. I roll it on the heel, top of foot and where my toes meet the flat of my foot. Put on socks. Settle into the ruck and get moving. No hot spots, and no blisters, ever.

I am not kidding, this stuff works so good I keep extra in the truck, by the bed, in the bathroom, etc...

You will hate spending the money the first time, and kick yourself for not spending the money sooner after you have experienced it.

So, what is the bottom line? I can not tell which is the single item that makes the biggest difference: Socks, Two Toms, Insoles or Boots, but thinking of them as a unified, ruck'in system, this system will work in your favor, support you, enable you and not let you down.

There is no substitute for experience. If you intend to ruck, then go out and Ruck! Join the folks at GORUCK when they come to your town, and remember "...runnin' ain't ruck'in...". I can not stress that enough. You may be able to run ten miles, but, put on that 40 lb ruck or heaven forbid an 80 lb or 100 lb ruck and you will quickly be humbled.

Train like you will fight. If things go bad, and you are fully acclimated to numerous miles with a 40 lb ruck, a short ten mile walk without it will be a snooze fest for you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I love your blog. Thank you so much for running it in these challenging times. God bless you and your family. It read top to bottom daily.

My family and I are now raising meat rabbits since early April: one California buck and 5 does, New Zealand, Rex and SilverFox. We now have 39 kits and the first litter is weaned and growing at an amazing pace. My wife only bought into this idea after I committed to be the butcher and the final product looked like chicken. Deal. Only the parents have names. The kits are all very cute and we enjoy them for the season they're with us, but their destiny is a 100 day life span.

I'm studying how to best tan the skins and prepare the pelts for sewing. Brain tanning keeps rising to the surface. My wife enjoys working with textiles so we eventually want to procure a long haired French Angora rabbit(s) that we believe we can "harvest" the hair twice a year, actually spin it right out of the rabbit while it sits comfortably in one's lap.

I'd like to know more about the tools people use to card the hair "carding"  and spinning and a good loom manufacture and plans to make all three.  I can google to my heart's content, but I'd rather lean on the huge and more trustworthy survivalblog audience.

Again, thanks for all you do. - J in Colorado

JWR Replies: Carding combs are a must to transition wool from a fleece into “bats”, that can be then hand spun. I recommend that you buy a couple of pairs. As long as you keep the steel tines dry (to prevent rusting), they will last a lifetime. For larger-scale production, a drum carder is a good investment. This is a 2-foot long wooden machine that clamps onto a tabletop. We have one that was made by Ashford of New Zealand.  These are built to last, but be sure to teach your children early on to never reverse the direction that you turn the handle!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My sister and I both retired due to disabilities are working as we can trying to prepare for the family. Often, we say did we really do that, like talking to a stranger in our local Wal-Mart and saying we would like some green beans and he happened to have about a bushel in his truck he had not sold so, we got them and yielded 14 quarts of beans we needed. Ask and ye shall receive hit us in the face so hard, Thanks be to God! We are on an extremely small budget but we continue to buy sale items. Then, we do a stupid things and go where it tells you how much you need for x people and kids. It is so disheartening. The adult kids know we are preparing but they do not have the time or seem too understand what can happen even with us talking to them. We pray they come to their senses and help.

Where do you store 500 lbs of flour, and rice, or 200 lbs of oatmeal and 300 lbs of assorted pastas? And do not leave out the 500 lbs of beans of all kinds! It is on the floor, table, corners, under the bed, under anything and everything and stacked to the ceiling here and there. But now where do we live? Then, there are the candles, and wicking, and of course Toilet Paper. I do not want to use corn cobs which I have, or other alternatives! Store toilet paper.

One work in progress is our assortment of "Gimme Bags." They are bags to hand out to people who ask "please gimme something to eat" or to tuck into your backpack! They are snack bags and zip lock bags of a pack of coffee, tea bag, kool aid, hot cocoa mix, and sugar in a bag. Then, in another bag, add protein bar, cup of soup, Raman noodles, pack of tuna or whatever you devise. In another add some dried beans with salt and pepper packets. Make a snack bag with band aids, Q-tips, other first aid items. You can add on and on. Another thing we are adding to some is like a Weight Watchers Protein Drink, 10 gram. Dollar Stores are great, but watch for sales. Packets of salt, pepper, and a bullion cube or two helps too.

Be creative and make a list of possibilities on an index card, pull that card, make up a few, then another card with different things and make a few. Mark the number made. EASY to pull out things already together than trying to go through your stuff if one shows up. Children can design a paper bag with artwork for you to hand to the “visitors“. Always keep your children away from the doors, out of sight, if someone shows up. Have your good ole handy defense weapon on you, not "nearby"! But, in order to be God’s children, help others as you can, but do not forget they want your stuff! I am sure you have things in place to determine when to open the door and not to! Be careful.

Make out menus, extend them to include your family members coming. Oops, I need 2 lbs of beans, instead of a cup, and see how it stacks up to your storage. Do not let it get the best of you. You are starting to get all things together, keep it up. Do not panic, just pull up your big girl drawers and suck it in and go on! Check calories, protein, etc! Have something for the kids too, pudding, or a cookie. We are saying a prayer, “GOD give us a chance to find beans cheap and some dried milk! Seriously, think of the amount a family needs! Rice doubles but even though millions of people eat it, we are used to a different diet and the beans with rice would make each go farther but can get very tiring!
Know how to make noodles, spaghetti, and breads! That includes lots of flour, solid shortening, and yeast! Get your recipes together for all kinds of breads! Corn bread on a fried grill is quick and good but again you will need variety! You must practice making things!

One thing that lays ahead for my sister and me is killing the rabbits with a broomstick and canning them. Yuck! I know we have to but do not look forward to it! YouTube has things on there that are amazing on how to dress rabbits or squirrels to making breads or cheese! Please get your act together and get organized! This is one thing I am doing too!
check for those dratted mice! I thought the mylar bags would deter them but to no avail. I lost some vital dried vegetables, and some other goodies. They do not seem to like cinnamon, so I sprinkle some around, get the cheap kind. Only mylar bag not eaten had some in it! Go figure! Make sure you have traps, etc for those unwanted detestable things. Be careful with handling them due to the disease they can carry!

One note of dehydrating things. One ounce of dried equals about a pound of raw vegetables, so when you see the cans on sale use this like a guide to determine if you can do it for less! IF we get the stuff given to us, it will be cheaper but to buy 10 lbs of green peppers and then uses the electric, etc compared to $14 a #10 can, you determine what best fits into your needs. Check into dried vegetables in minestrone soup or vegetable soup at your local discount stores! Usually, the package is about $1 and it is over an ounce of dried ingredients, so I think it is cheaper to buy!

Remember to get the necessities, like Gorilla Glue, metal tapes, and duct tape and Toilet Paper. Make sure all your tools are in good shape with good handles and clean them up. Get a few yards of extra screening, or muslin for cheese making and tuck it away in that pile, but label it well. You know what specifics you need in your neck of the woods. Of course, you need all the staples and some other necessities like chocolate and coffee! Check on this blog for list and lists. Not many can have everything they think they need but start marking off what you do have. It makes you feel like you have done something! Those hash marks behind the cans of coffee make you feel like I know I can have coffee! Also, try to find natural alternatives! If we can no longer get coffee or chocolate, the world would not end, but sure would make it easier to tolerate tough times with it!

One trick my sister thought was when storing canned jars, take off the rings, place clear plastic on the top of the jars and lids, and put a rubber band around it to keep the moisture out, and it works! She is so smart!

It is almost to the panic zone! Okay, we have the stuff to do an appendectomy but who knows how! Get someone in your group or two or three that have some medical training. Or who knows how to deliver a child? We see on television, it just comes out but really! Run off lots of" how to" situations and add in another binder. Pictures here are helpful. Let’s go from Point A to… Can you sew a cut or cleanse a wound, or bind a broken bone, find out how.

We are solicitors too, but it is legal. We ask people for apples when we see the trees are full, and not being picked, and have made lots of apple butter, apples, etc. We ask people if they do not want the produce may we buy it, usually, they give it to us and we can and can. ASK and ye shall receive, at least doing it in the right way, under the Lord’s guidance, we have been blessed.

My sis and I plug away, we read this blog daily and run it off too. Thank goodness people give me paper.
We will take most anything one gives us and find a way to make it work into our plan. If we do not can it, we bind it, or box it or seal it or sew it!

Please prepare for the children too. Get the crayons, cards, board games, glitter, glue, dice, books (i.e. school), rulers, pencils, (do not how to make pencils) etc. IT will be hard on them living a life so differently than they have for10 years or so. Get some cheap presents to have on their birthdays and for Christmas and tuck them away. A frilly top can work wonders on the girls and a neat shirt for the boys. Cheap! Right now summer sales are on. Get ones in several sizes.

SHOES-Where will I find a size 13 or 3! I can not make them, so how do I have room for all this or the money to get it! I have Please get boots in various sizes for your crew! Please tell the adults to bring boots! Good sturdy, hiking boots or work boots! Even community boots wear out, and you need several pair of working boots, and rain boots, and and and….

Okay, it hit’s the fan and the crew is coming! Have them bring clothes, bedding, and bring all the food they can fit in the car. Make sure they bring food for the animals too! Tell the family to make sure others in the family can pick up the kids from school. Keep trying to talk to those loved ones who do not believe it will happen. Also please talk to them about the value of having extra meds they need on hand! They do not have time to stop and get whatever at the store as it will be gone and your car will be stripped if you try and stop! Listen, have ears, and look, thorough eyes that GOD has given you! Have a plan, a meeting place and pray all will make it.

Being informed will help you in making wise choices. Know how to use that grinder, water purifier, and baking bread from freshly ground flour. IF you wait till something happens that is more burden on you and more stress. Practice some simple things with few ingredients that are great tasting and give you the proper nutrients. That is a job but one you must do, in all your spare time! Many cookbooks with four or five ingredients are great! This article could be 20 pages long and still not share all I feel is needed but certainly hope this may help at least one person.

Remember the Lord, go to HIM in prayer, and hold on to your faith, and beliefs. - The Peas in a Pod Sisters in a Pear Tree (And yes, we do have a pear tree).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mr. Rawles,

Thank you for a great blog site.  I'd like to share some techniques we use every day at our off-grid homestead that would be applicable for grid-down living

With 280 watts of solar panels in the southern plains, a good Xantrex controller, three marine deep-cycle batteries and an inverter we power a 9 cubic foot freezer-turned-refrigerator fitted with an analog temperature controller, a portable dvd player used nightly for movies and documentaries, 1 to 3 small fans in summer, a netbook computer, and a couple of compact fluorescent lights along with charging cell phones and cordless tools and even running a sewing machine on sunny days.

In our experience a homemade composting bucket is the best choice for human waste disposal and if properly constructed and maintained can even be kept and used in the house.  An outhouse works but I have yet to visit one that was particularly pleasant (read – I usually come out blue in the face or gagging.)  Chemical toilets are just plain gross as well.  Separately-collected urine makes a great garden fertilizer. [JWR Adds: Readers are warned that the risks of using composted human feces for garden fertilizing far outweigh the benefits.]

We have used a bio-sand or slow sand filter for water filtration exclusively for several years.  They are used the world over and work well for biological contaminants.  One can be constructed for $100 or less.  Ours is housed in a plastic 55-gallon drum. Plans and information are available on line.  Google “bio-sand filter”

Off-grid clothes washing is much facilitated by pre-soaking clothes for an hour or so up to overnight with 1/2 cup ammonia added to the water (if adequate water supplies are available.)  Ammonia is a great clothes cleaner and really cuts grease plus it takes much less water to rinse out.  Gray water containing ammonia seems to cause no harm to garden plants.  Borax, on the other hand, can kill or damage plants.  The little pressure washers, plungers and other gimmicky laundry aids have been a waste of money for us.  A washboard, a scrub brush (for jeans) and elbow grease will get clothes clean just as easily.  In a long-term grid-down situation lye leached from wood ashes will clean clothes. One thing to remember in considering SHTF clothes washing strategies is that without adequate rinsing clothes both stay dirty and attract even more dirt from the soap trapped in the fibers.  It may be that an ammonia/water or lye water soak and one quick rinse is the best option.  Bedding can be freshened between infrequent washings by hanging it in the sun and the breeze.

Five gallons of water is easily enough for a bath even for a woman who wants to shave, condition hair, etc. For example: wet down a little, wash hair without overdoing the shampoo, wash body, rinse.  Apply conditioner (again, don't overdo it), shave and scrub feet and nails with the water that's accumulated in the bottom of the tub, rinse again.  You're done in 5 gallons and most likely will have a little water left for a final rinse of the rag.  An oval, shallow black poly stock watering tank makes a great bathtub that even a child can move and empty. - Judy B.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

After reading the reply to the: Do-It-Yourself Weapons Camouflage and Kydex Gear
I have to ask the question... Does anyone see any specific pattern anywhere?  The answer should be NO!  Why do you ask, because there is not one!  The "pattern" that you paint your weapon and match your clothes to should be specific to your area.  Granted, Multi-Cam camo tends to blend into many different areas but there is still a common factor in the "pattern"... it is a pattern that is generated!  It has hard line edges and it is not random. There are not a lot of places that you will find hard line edges.

Make sure that your equipment blends in with your surrounding environment to make yourself, your equipment and others "invisible".  I know that there are some people out there that may say "If your close enough to see what I am wearing then you are already dead!"  Think big picture, of 1-2 person patrol or hide site, up come 2-3 maybe 5-10 OPFOR (not knowing if there are more to following) that are close.  Think OPSEC... Are you willing to give your/other(s) position away?

Black is not a natural color from an art prospective but it is a good base because there are dark/blackish shadows in almost all environments.  Does that mean leave your weapons totally black, absolutely not!  Black is a good base color.  If you look into the woods you will see what looks like black because of shadows.  Build on that.  In the art realm to create depth you should start dark at add light colors over that.  Going from the darkest to the lightest colors in your area.  This will give the perception of depth even though it is a flat object.  It doesn't have to be exact or even pretty!  It just needs to break your natural pattern and have random/blending edges.  I could go into a big art explanation but I will save you all from the nap time because I know that you all have work to do.

I was able to shoot a trophy deer this last year at 30 yards (with a rifle) from the ground at the base of a tree on the edge of a field coming at me because I blended in with my environment. (I never had a good angle until he was just 30 yards away.).  I have had deer within 10 yards of me, while prone on the ground, that have never gave me a second thought because I had matched my camo to the area that I am in and played the wind!
Re-think and re-plan your camouflage. Godspeed. - Sparky

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dear JWR:
By way of background, I’m a middle aged woman in reasonable shape.  I go jogging, do pushups and take karate.  I have never been in the military.
Around a month ago I tried ruck marching with my 25 or 30 lb bug out bag (BOB), to see how well I could handle it.  I wore wool Army socks and a pair of boots that I thought were reasonably broken in, and walked laps around a park as fast as I could walk.  The ruck was a civilian backpacker’s external frame pack with a belt.  I carried some water separately from the ruck – not as much water as I would want to carry in a bug-out though.
The cardio walking briskly with a ruck was similar to that from jogging, and that was manageable - but I got blisters on the balls of my feet and a sore arch after only 2 miles that made me have to stop.
After I got around the rest of that lap to the car, I put first aid tape on my feet, and at home I also taped on a small pad of paper towel to support my angry arch.  I had to wear this tape for about a week, and ended up buying arch supports and finding a pair of my boots that both they and my feet would fit in.
What I took home from this (besides blisters) was this: with a ruck on, your feet get a lot more punishment than if you’re unencumbered.  If you are going to embark on a hiking bug-out carrying any kind of weight, it would behoove you to protect your feet from blisters before starting.  One hiker told me she used duct tape for that purpose. Another thing you can do is wear some nylon knee-highs under your socks.  Nylons have additional “prepper” or “tactical” uses, your imagination is the limit there.  They also come in various thicknesses, strengths, and slipperiness.  Support or slimming hose tend to be slippery and strong, this is what you want for walking.
Granted, there may not be an opportunity to doctor up your feet before fleeing from someplace on foot, but if you have time, then do it.  Your feet will thank you, and it might make the difference as to whether you can walk the next day.
Packing a ruck also is an art, deserving of a whole other article. The things you carry should also be in layers, and be a little redundant, so that if you have to ditch the outermost layer several times you will still have something to work with.  The innermost layer is your knowledge, experience, and your muscle memory – you don’t want to be stripped down to that, but you want that layer to be real good, because it’s what makes the rest of the layers useful.  I guess you could argue there’s even a layer under that – the grace of God.
Finally, it’s a good thing to practice your bug-out route on foot.  Start small like I did, and stick close to your car or house at first just in case something like blisters or sore arches happens to you, until you work up to the actual route.  And come up with a ready excuse as to why you are romping around with a ruck on, before you start.  I had Nosy Nellies asking me stupid questions. - Penny Pincher


I thought the article "Car-Mageddon" was very good. What she describes is very similar to how my cars are set up. I'd like to add a few thoughts based on my own personal preferences too.
1. Disposable fire extinguisher - these come in containers that look like wasp/hornet spray. They are cheap and can be found at Wally World.
2. I keep my water in stainless steel containers with threaded lids. You can buy these at Wall-Mart, CVS, and other general stores for about $4 each. These won't break or puncture as easy as plastic water bottles, and you can refill them with tap water (do not filter the tap water or it won't keep as long). I suspect with a little ingenuity you could even use these to boil water in an emergency.
3. Fix-a-flat. I keep 2 cans in each vehicle, and they will keep you going after a puncture flat (nail, screw, etc). It is faster than changing a tire, adds a few lbs of pressure, and will seal leaky nozzles too so that if you have a major blow out and find that your spare is not holding air this works great.
4. My favorite food item to keep in the emergency backpack in my trunk is a box or two of Cliff bars.
5. Lastly, I buy those Halloween glow sticks for 10 cents each after Halloween is over and throw a dozen of them in the car. I have just tested some that are over two years old and they still work well. Flashlights are better, but batteries don't keep well in hot/cold weather in the trunk or glove box.
Oh, I know I said "lastly" above, but I always fill up as soon as my gas gauge gets half way down. I think a full tank of gas on most vehicles will get a range of about 300 miles, but if you are trying to leave an area where a disaster has taken place, so is everyone else. That 75 mile drive to the "safe" area might take several hours. You don't want to become disabled in heavy traffic half way there. Be safe, - Mark V.

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Becky M.'s letter prompted me to write with a suggestion for other people with small children.  My daughter is just on the verge of being too big for her stroller, but I still keep it in the trunk and plan to keep it there for quite a while.  If the car breaks down or we get stranded for any reason, a five-year old will get tired of walking pretty quickly. For now, the comfort of crawling into her stroller and pulling up the sunshade will go far to calm her down in a stressful situation.  Even when she is too big for the stroller, we will be able to put my purse, our car kit, water bottles, her doll, etc. in it and keep our hands free and our backs unburdened.  

My husband asks me if I'm getting ready to reenact "The Road" and I tell him I hope and pray I never have to go that sort of extreme, but if the day should come that we do need to fend for ourselves on the road, I want to be ready.

God bless you and the work you do. Sincerely, - Emily S.


I greatly enjoyed the article "Car-Mageddon: Getting Home in a Disaster, by Becky M.". Being a person who has to drive about 45 minutes every day to and from work (1.5 hours daily) I have spent some time thinking on this
same theme.

I have equipped all of the family cars with a small survival bag. Most of the items Becky recommended are in mine. But I have a couple of things to suggest:

Basic categories: All bags should have at a minimum: cordage, a blade (knife of some sort), snacks, walking shoes & jacket (women may need some additional items to avoid long walks in dresses/skirts), a poncho (or large
garbage bag), and a fire starting kit. Flashlights are helpful but should be used carefully to avoid drawing attention.

Note on water: I have found that the Venom brand energy drink cans are a great survival item. The aluminum can is thicker than most "disposable" cans and really is a cheap aluminum bottle. In addition to the 230 calories and
liquid in the can, it could easily serve as a container for boiling/sterilizing water found along the way, and with the screw on lid, can store 16 FL Oz of water at a time. A similar camping or hiking bottle of aluminum costs around $12 to $20, versus $2 for the Venom drink.

But in addition, don't forget: a compact MAP in case you have to find a new route. CASH: never know when you need to buy something and power is down. A battery powered radio (I have a tiny MP3 player that is also an FM radio). Always keep a day pack handy; it's no use having items in the car if you have no way of transporting them!

Alternate Transportation: Skates, skateboard, a Razor scooter, or a folding bike are all portable solutions to a long walk. If you have never used a Razor scooter, take a look at them. They are similar to skateboards, but have a handle that can be used for balance. Just about anyone can quickly learn to scoot along on one in minutes, and it would cut energy expense in half because one push with your foot can propel you for several yards. They are also lightweight (unlike folding bikes), and unlike skates, don't require you to change footgear.

Alternate weapons: I sometimes keep a pistol locked up in my car. But sometimes that is not safe/possible, so I keep a youth baseball bat in the car. A padlock can be put into a knee-sock or bandana (tie a knot above the
lock to keep it in place) can make an innocuous but effective defensive weapon. - Patriot Refusenik


First time writer here, just read the post on car preparedness and thought I'd share a few thoughts I had as reading it:
Gasoline: rather than just keeping it above a quarter tank, keep it full. It’s only expensive the first time if you stay on top of it and keep it there. I deliver pizzas part time and fill up after every shift. It not only is good just in case of blackouts as OP stated, but it’s just convenient to not have to stop and fill up in the middle of my shift thus losing money.

Food: Keep it in a mouse proof container! I learned this the hard way. I kept a bag of trail mix and assorted crackers and fruit and nut bars on my passenger floor board within easy reach, only to see a mouse on my passenger floor board one morning on the way to work. My unwelcome visitor was disposed of the next night with a trap baited with peanut butter, but I’d rather have never had him in there, and I’d still have the food he ruined. Go for either a sealable small plastic bucket or an old metal lunch box or the like, maybe even an ammo can, but the lunch box would be much less attractive to burglars than the ammo can.

Light: A hand crank is great in theory, but I wouldn’t want to count on any of the ones I’ve ever owned. Get a large mag light that will double as a defensive weapon if needed. Get a small one for EDC as well. I have a Fenix E01 that lives on a small carabiner clip on my belt loop with my key fob and takes just one triple-A battery, and it's still on its first battery with almost-everyday use when I'm locking up the chickens at night.

She mentioned kids a few times. Keep a stroller in your trunk or cargo area if you regularly are carting the kids around. Even if you don’t have them with you the stroller would make a great cart to get any other goodies home.

One glaring gap is a fire starter. Even though I quit smoking over a year ago now I still keep at least 2 lighters in my car at all times and one on my person. - Aaron B.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I live in southern California, which means at any moment one of many earthquake faults could decide to slip, a fire could break out, the economy could finally bottom out, an EMP cleverly directed toward Hollywood would finally fix the bad movie plight, or…you get the point.  We all have to live with the annoying little feeling that at any moment TEOTWAWKI could begin.  Lots of preppers will spend thousands of dollars to adequately prepare their house or bugout location, which is awesome.  Some plan to hunker down and ride out the problem in the comfort of their own home, while others will converge on a bugout location and hide from the insanity of the world.  But what happens if all hell breaks loose while you are at work, or driving in your car?  How many of us have adequately prepared our vehicles?

When you look at the numbers, it is shocking how much time we spend in our beloved vehicles.  Americans are in their cars on average 48 minutes per day and 38 hours per year stuck in traffic.  If you were to calculate this it would lead to approximately 300 hours per year, or almost 13 days just behind the wheel.  And this is merely the average.  Some people spend a lot more time than this in their car.   According to statistics, nearly 128 million Americans commute to work with approximately 75% of them driving alone.  Thus, considering many people don’t work at home and have to travel to get groceries and other items, it could easily be argued that the likelihood that chaos ensues while you are out and about is high.  

So what would you do if a major event occurred while you were driving or at work?  Gridlock would likely be moments away followed by mass chaos, as an unprepared public begins to freak out.  There could be fires, looting, loss of power, no cell service.   What if you had to get your kids?  Could you get home quickly?

Most of us drive within fifteen to twenty miles of where we live, including myself.  If you consider the average person can walk 3 miles per hour uninjured, how long would it take to walk 10 miles?  20 miles? Consider these "best case" figures:

·         3 miles = 1 hour
·         6 miles = 2 hours
·         10 miles = 3 hours 20 minutes
·         15 miles = 5 hours
·         20 miles = 6 hours 40 minutes
·         25 miles = 8 hours 20 minutes
·         30 miles = 10 hours

Then you have to consider obstacles and rest breaks, weather, your physical condition, whether or not there are children with you, or if you or someone in your party is injured.  A 10 mile walk could turn into a 10 hour trek. 
If you are like me you don’t have tons of extra cash to outfit your vehicle with expensive gear.  But, I have listed 10 things that you can do so that you are better prepared in the event that all hells breaks lose while you are on the road.  If you take a bus or carpool to work, the items are things you can keep in your desk or locker.  Most of these items are already around your house, so you won’t have to spend any money, just a little bit of time.

1.       PLAN:  If you are in your car when a major TEOTWAWKI event occurs, you already need to have a game plan as to where you want to go.   Back home?  Bug out location?  Are there people you need to get first like your family or friends?  Pets?  Go ahead and assume that cell phones will not be available, in other words prepare for the worse.  There is a good chance that the roads will be in severe gridlock. 
You need to determine the average distance you drive from your house so you can stock your car accordingly.  For the next few weeks, keep a pen and paper in your car and every time you drive somewhere write down the distance and location.  Get a feel for how far you actually travel from your home on a daily basis.  Then, pull out a map or use many of the free map services on line to study your routes.
Situational awareness is critical while creating and executing your plan.  Are there any major obstacles you might have to overcome to get to your location?  Do you pass through a rough part of town?  Are there bridges or lakes?  I work on the other side of a lake from where I live.  If the bridge that spans that lake collapses, it is absolutely necessary that I know alternative routes to get to my kids. 
That plan needs to be laid out ahead of time and discussed with all parties involved.  It wouldn’t be too far fetch to even consider a time frame for arrival so a search party can come after you along your pre-determined route from work if you don’t show up within 24-48 hours.  Extreme?  Maybe, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
2.       GASOLINE:  Get in the habit of making sure that your vehicle always has at least a quarter tank of gas.  Never let it drop below that line.  Yes.  I know gas is expensive, but allow me to share a story about a coworker to help you realize the importance of this little trick.  Two years ago she rolled in to work on fumes, knowing she would stop on the way home to get gas.  Unfortunately an unexpected city-wide black-out occurred at the end of the work day.  Not a single gas station could run their pumps.  Most of the traffic lights stopped working.  It was chaotic.  Luckily a coworker allowed the woman to crash on her couch for the night and the blackout only lasted for twelve hours, but had the grid gone down for a few days this woman would have been unable to get back home to her loved ones in a timely manner.
3.       CLOTHING:  Whether you have to dress up for work or not, it is a good habit to keep a spare set of clothes in your car.  Ladies, imagine walking ten miles in high heels?  No thank you.  Dig through your closet and find those old tennis shoes or hiking boots that you were going to donate and just shove them in your trunk.  Don’t forget the socks!  Toss in an old sweatshirt and if you have an extra hat you don’t wear anymore, add that to the mix.  Also consider a cheap rain poncho (usually $0.99), shorts or pants, and a towel or small blanket.  I know it seems like a lot, but consider this:  if your child is in the car during a chaotic event and you need to keep them warm, you’d be glad you had that little blanket.
4.       FIRST AID:  It’s always important to have a first aid kit in your vehicle, but these can sometimes be a bit pricey.  Last year I found this really cool web site that talked about making mini go-bag kits.  They are super simple to assemble and conveniently small.
Get an Altoid or Altoid-sized metal container and put in the following items:
·         Alcohol or other cleansing swabs
·         Gloves:  two latex or nitrile (in case you come across something bloody)
·         Band-Aids of various sizes
·         Ziploc bag with medications like pain relievers, antihistamines, any other meds specific to you (Not only are the pills useful but so is the plastic bag.)
·         Needle taped to inside lid, and consider about one foot of dental floss to add to this in case you have to suture something up really quick.
·         $20 cash (if the ATMs or credit card readers don’t work, you will need cash)
·         Book of matches
·         Sharpened pencil and piece of folded paper
·         I also include a whistle, a sealed razor blade and a small key chain light (yes, it all fits!!!!)
·         Rubber bands:  after you close the lid, put one or two rubber bands around the container to make sure the lid doesn’t pop off.  Rubber bands have numerous practical uses 
These are all things I already had around my house.  I put together a bunch of the little kits and put one in my car glove box, my purse, my desk at work and then I gave one to my husband.

5.       FOOD/WATER:  I keep a few bottles of water and some non perishable food next to my spare tire in the trunk.  It is suggested that a person carry upwards of 3 liters while hiking in the heat.  I currently keep 5 bottles in the trunk, but I live in a mild climate and there is shade available.  Consider your climate and distance when deciding how much water to keep in your car.  I know some people that keep a case of water in their trunk.   
Peanut butter crackers are great source of nutrition because of the carbs and protein and they are super cheap.  But any high calorie, easy to store food would work as long as it does not require cooking.  Don’t forget to rotate these items out every few months.
6.       BACK IN:  The other night I was at a training meeting for my girl scout troop and the teacher said the most profound thing:  always back into your parking spot.  She explained that in the event of an emergency, you can just whip on out quickly.  It is such a simple thing to do and most of us never do it.
7.       FLASHLIGHT:   This is probably something you already have in your car, but if you don’t, go put a flashlight in there now.  I found a hand crank light really cheap and keep that in my glove box next to my Altoid first aid kit.
8.       KNIFE:  I can’t afford to keep a gun in my car, and it is illegal in California to conceal and carry.  But, I always keep a legal sized knife either in my purse or in my pocket.  Pocket knives are relatively cheap and shoving an extra one in the glove box isn’t a bad idea.
9.       PARACORD:  This is an amazing tool that can be used for so many things.  You can easily ball up the cord and put it in your glove box, or even wrap the flashlight handle with the magical rope.
10.   BAG:  If you have to abandon your vehicle and go on foot, you are not going to want to carry your flashlight, first aid kit, water and food, blanket or towel, and other items in your hands.  You might have to carry a child or maneuver around obstacles.  Regardless you need to be light on your feet and not look like a walking grocery store. 
Dig around for an old backpack or gym bag that is collecting dust or pick one up at a thrift store or garage sale.  Put that bag in your trunk.  Heck, you can even put the emergency clothes in it.   If you don’t have a bag, you can shove everything in your blanket/towel then use the paracord to hold it all together and toss it over your shoulder.  Not comfortable, but doable.
I’m not hoping for some sort of horrific event to occur, but we live in a world of uncertainties and I want to be confident that I can get home to my children as quickly as possible.  If we spend hours upon hours preparing our homes for TEOTWAWKI, then we should spend just a little bit of time preparing the vehicles that will get us home.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A successful trek is “won or lost” before it even begins. Having the right quantities of food, water, and first aid, proper gear and adequate physical fitness will determine if a hiker is able to complete a trip as planned, and respond to the unexpected along the way.

This past June, my wife and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. Over the course of this four day, thirty-mile hike, we learned many valuable lessons that can be applied to a grid-down scenario where long-range foot travel is needed to bug-out, explore, or patrol large land areas.

I'm thankful to have learned such lessons in times of plenty, they are as follows:

A Hiking System

Just like how an infantryman’s kit works with him to create a “weapons system,” a hiker and his gear turn into a “hiking system” while on the trail. Working together, the components form a gestalt that can accomplish more than the sum of its parts.
A good pair of trail shoes or boots is the foundation of the hiking system. Footwear that has been broken-in and conforms to the hiker’s foot before the hike begins will be the most comfortable and cause the fewest problems along the way. Wearing footwear a half-size larger than street shoes allows room for the foot to expand as blood flow increases during exercise.
Wool socks wick away moisture during use, keeping feet dry and happy. I had expected wool socks to be like a wool sweater – scratchy and uncomfortable in the heat. In reality, Merino wool is much softer than cotton, and wears very comfortably.

Underwear that fits tightly against the body reduces chafing and irritation compared to looser styles. Anti-microbial fabrics inhibit the growth of micro organisms by using silver threading in the weave. While not a replacement for good personal hygiene, anti-microbial material allows for rather more extended use on long trips, when a fresh pair of drawers may be some time away.
A water bladder in the backpack allows a hiker to carry two or more liters of potable water for easy access while hiking or breaking on the trail. Carrying water on the back keeps the added weight centered on the body and out of the way.

A waist strap supports weight from the backpack at the top of the hips, allowing the hiker to carry a substantial portion of the pack’s weight on the lower body. This greatly relieves weight borne by the shoulders compared to packs without a waist strap, increasing endurance and overall weight capacity.
Trekking poles act like outriggers, providing stability on uneven terrain. Poles also help to keep the upper body in rhythm with the legs, so that the whole body is working together. In addition, trekking poles can be used as a bipod to support the weight of the backpack while pausing on the trail.    
Wearing a hat will keep the sun from beating down on sensitive skin on the face and neck, shield the eyes from glare, and help keep the head cool. Wearing headgear with a distinctive color can also help to identify a person at a distance.
A pair of sunglasses keeps eye muscles from tiring quickly in direct sunlight. It also helps with seeing details in washed-out vistas, and protects fragile eyes from branches and trail dust.   

Drink and Eat Plenty

A hiker may expend twice his normal number of calories while on the trail. Our guide told us that he has yet to see someone run a calorie surplus on a multi-day hike in the Canyon. By taking time to stop regularly for snacks, a hiker can keep his energy up throughout the day to keep moving.
Snacks that are high in sugars and fats convert easily into energy on the trail. Fruits, nuts, seeds, and energy bars make a good source of healthy energy. Candy can also be a ready source of quick energy.
Irritability can be an early sign of dehydration. Taking a drink of water at the first signs of pessimism or negativity can often head-off a hydration issue in its early stages.
Keeping enough water on hand ensures a hiker does not need to run a hydration deficit. A water bladder in the backpack, combined with water or sports drink in a bottle, is a good combination.

Using the Day

The body expends energy to maintain a healthy internal temperature while hiking in hot climates. Heat from direct sunlight and high external temperatures can force the body to work harder and expend more energy to stay cool.
Early and late hours of the day are ideal for hiking in hot temperatures. A good hot climate hiking schedule starts before sunrise (4:00AM) and stops before the sun reaches its highest point in the sky (10:00AM), then resumes hiking after the heat of the day (4:00PM) and stops at dark or when a campsite is reached.
Soaking or submerging in water will cool the body very quickly. Nearby streams or pools can be a great place to wet clothing and headgear for ongoing cooling while wearing them on the trail.

Group Hiking

The group can only move as fast as its slowest member.
People with longer legs tend to move more quickly over distances, due to their longer gait. Physical fitness, to include muscle tone and cardiovascular health, also plays a big role in determining how quickly a hiker can move.
Removing weight from the pack of a slower hiker and adding it to the pack of a faster hiker will tend to equalize their speeds.
Distributing shared items like food, cooking, and camp equipment, spreads weight around and keeps any one heavy item from falling on a single hiker unnecessarily.  
Children are capable of hiking distances, but their physiological needs are different. Generally speaking, children do best when they are carrying very little gear and supplies.
Staying within sight and hearing of the next person in the group ensures that nobody will get lost.
When people are tired and under stress, personalities can rub. By assuming positive intent from other people, and being slow to get angry with them, group members can bypass emotional flare ups. Often, frustration will pass quickly if not given full vent. Looking for unmet needs while upset may reveal the real source of those hard feelings.

Other People

Many day hikers do not bring enough water, food, or first aid supplies. Consequently, many overnight hikers still do not bring enough of the same. Unprepared hikers are most likely to get into trouble with dehydration, metabolic issues, and first aid emergencies because they cannot adequately prevent or address small problems early to keep them from becoming bigger problems.
Extra supplies can be used to help a hiker in distress. Providing a fellow traveler with food, water, or first aid from extras makes a world of difference to them, and mercy like this rewards the giver.
Foolishness stands out. Perfumes, booming voices, and fashion-over-function type clothing draw attention in the deep outdoors, and usually not the good kind. Being a mile from camp in the middle of the desert without a water bottle paints a person as a potential liability.

A Training Vacation

Vacation is an important part of life. More than just recharging the body, getting away from everyday life provides a valuable sense of perspective, often bringing the “big picture” into relief and offering insights that will enrich the very situation a person is vacating.

By taking a vacation that tests personal limits, teaches valuable skills and wisdom, and involves good clean fun, a person can enhance his preparation and promote personal growth while having fun and getting away from it all.
Many of the lessons illustrated here are drawn directly from particular experiences in the American Southwest, but they can be easily adapted or extrapolated to apply to other climates, under more austere circumstances.
Whether bugging-out by foot, reconnoitering an area, or doing long-range patrolling, the principles mentioned here will apply to, or be enhanced by, a grid-down type of scenario.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What is money?

Economist Mike Shedlock defines money through the eyes of Austrian economist Murray N. Rothbard as “a commodity used as a medium of exchange.”

“Like all commodities, it has an existing stock, it faces demands by people to buy and hold it. Like all commodities, its price in terms of other goods is determined by the interaction of its total supply, or stock, and the total demand by people to buy and hold it. People buy money by selling their goods and services for it, just as they sell money when they buy goods and services.”

What is money when the system collapses and the SHTF?

In disaster situations, the value of money as we know it now changes, especially if we are dealing with a hyperinflationary collapse of the system’s core currency. This article discusses money as a commodity in an event where the traditional currency (US Dollar) is no longer valuable.

In a collapse of the system, there will be multiple phases, with the first phase being the “crunch”, as discussed in James Rawles' novel Patriots. The crunch is the period of time directly preceding a collapse and the collapse itself.

Traditional Currency

Initially, the traditional currency system will maintain some value, though it may be rapidly depreciating in buying power. For those with physical, non-precious metal denominated currency on hand (paper dollars, non-silver coins), spending it as rapidly as possible is the best approach.

It is during the crunch that ATM machines around the country will run out of currency as people aware of the rapidly devaluing dollar will be attempting to withdraw as much money as possible. This immediate increase in money supply, coupled with the population’s general knowledge of the currency depreciation in progress, will lead to instant price increases for goods, especially essential goods.

If your physical cash has not been converted into tangible assets, this would be the time to do so. Acquiring as much food, fuel, clothing and toiletry items as possible would be the ideal way to spend remaining cash before it completely collapses to zero, as it did in the Weimar inflation in 1930s Germany, or Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation in recent years.

Precious Metals

During the initial phase of the ‘crunch’ precious metals will be a primary bartering tool, but this may not last long. The old survivalist adage “you can’t eat your gold” will become apparent very quickly. In a total breakdown of the system, food, water and fuel will be the most important tangible goods to acquire.

Consider someone who has a two week or one month supply of food on hand. Do you believe they would be willing to part with that food for some precious metals? The likely answer is no. There will be almost no bartering item that one would be willing to trade their food for once it is realized that food supply lines have been cut.

That being said, since most will not barter their food, not even for fuel, the next recognized medium of exchange by merchants, especially those selling fuel, will be precious metals. For the initial crunch, silver coins, especially recognizable coins like 90% silver quarters, dimes and half dollars, along with one (1) ounce government mint issued silver coins like US Silver Eagles, will be accepted by some, probably most, merchants. For those trying to flee cities to bug-out locations, silver coins of the aforementioned denominations may be a life saver, as they can be used to acquire fuel. While we recommend having gold, as well, the issue with gold is that its value is so much higher than that of silver, that breaking a one ounce gold coin into 10 pieces just to buy a tank of gas will not be practical. It is for this reason that having silver on hand is highly recommended. Packing at least $25 – $50 of silver coins in each bug-out bag would be a prudent prepping idea.

In a total SHTF scenario, silver and gold may eventually break down as a bartering unit, as contact with the “outside” world breaks down. One reason for this, is that the fair value price of precious metals will be hard to determine, as it will be difficult to locate buyers for this commodity.

This, however, does not mean that you should spend all of your precious metals right at the onset of a collapse. Precious metals will have value after bartering and trade is reestablished once the system begins to stabilize. Once stabilization begins, the likely scenario is that precious metals will be one of the most valuable monetary units available, so having plenty may be quite a benefit. At this point, they could be used to purchase property, livestock, services and labor.


Water is often overlooked as a medium of exchange, though it is one of the most essential commodities for survival on the planet. Had individuals in New Orleans stockpiled some water supplies during Hurricane Katrina, much of the loss of life there could have been avoided.

For those bugging out of cities, it will be impractical to carry with them more than 5 – 10 gallons of water because of space limitations in their vehicles. Thus, having a method to procure water may not only save your life, but also provide you with additional goods for which you can barter.

An easy solution for providing yourself and others with clean water is to acquire a portable water filtration unit for your bug-out bag(s). While they are a bit costly, with a good unit such as the Katadyn Combi water filter running around $150, the water produced will be worth its weight in gold, almost literally. This particular filter produces 13,000 gallons of clean water! A must have for any survival kit.

Because we like reserves for our reserves, we’d also recommend acquiring water treatment tablets like the EPA approved Katadyn Micropur tabs. If your filter is lost or breaks for whatever reason, each tablet can purify 1 liter of water. In our opinion, the best chemical water treatment available.

Clean water is money. In a bartering environment, especially before individuals have had time to establish water sources, this will be an extremely valuable medium of exchange and will have more buying power than even silver or gold on the individual bartering level.


In a system collapse, food will be another of the core essential items that individuals will want to acquire. Survival Blog founder James Rawles suggests storing food for 1) personal use 2) charity 3) bartering.

Dry goods, canned goods, freeze dried foods can be used for bartering, but only if you have enough to feed yourself, family and friends. They should be bartered by expiration date, with those foods with the expiration dates farthest out being the last to be traded. You don’t know how long the crunch and recovery periods will last, so hold the foods with the longest expiration dates in your possession if you get to a point where you must trade.

Baby formula will also be a highly valued item in a SHTF scenario, so whether you have young children or not, it may not be a bad idea to stockpile a one or two week supply. (For parents of young children, this should be the absolute first thing you should be stockpiling!). In addition to water, baby formula may be one of the most precious of all monetary commodities.

Another tradable food good would be seeds, but the need for these may not be apparent to most at the initial onset of a collapse, though having extra seeds in your bug-out location may come in handy later.


Fuel, including gas, diesel, propane and kerosene will all become barterable goods in a collapse, with gas being the primary of these energy monetary units during the crunch as individuals flee cities. For most, stockpiling large quantities will be impractical, so for those individuals who prepared, they may only have 20 – 50 gallons in their possession as they are leaving their homes. If you are near your final bug-out destination, and you must acquire food, water or firearms, fuel may be a good medium of exchange, especially for those that have extra food stuffs they are willing to trade.

Though we do not recommend expending your fuel, if you are left with no choice, then food, water and clothing may take precedence.

For those with the ability to do so, store fuel in underground tanks on your property for later use and trading.

Firearms and Ammunition

Though firearms and ammunition may not be something you want to give up, those without them will be willing to trade some of their food, precious metals, fuel and water for personal security. If the system collapses, there will likely be pandemonium, and those without a way to protect themselves will be sitting ducks to thieves, predators and gangs.

Even in if you choose not to trade your firearms and ammo during the onset of a collapse, these items will be valuable later. As food supplies diminish, those without firearms will want to acquire them so they can hunt for food. Those with firearms may very well be running low on ammunition and will be willing to trade for any of the aforementioned items.

In both James Rawles’ novel Patriots and William Forstchen’s One Second After ammunition was the primary trading good during the recovery and stabilization periods, where it was traded for food, clothing, shoes, livestock, precious metals and fuel.

Clothing and Footwear

We may take it for granted now because of the seemingly endless supply, but clothing and footwear items will be critical in both, the crunch and the phases after it. Having an extra pair of boots, a jacket, socks, underwear and sweaters can be an excellent way to acquire other essential items in a trade.

As children grow out of their clothes, rather than throwing them away, they will become barterable goods.

It is recommended that those with children stock up on essential clothing items like socks, underwear and winter-wear that is sized a year or two ahead of your child’s age.

Additional Monetary Commodities

The above monetary units are essential goods that will be helpful for bartering in the initial phases of a collapse in the system. As the crunch wanes and recovery and stabilization begin to take over, other commodities will become tradable goods.

In A Free Falling Economy Makes Bartering Go Boom, Tess Pennington provides some other examples of items that will be bartering goods during and after a crunch including, vitamins, tools, livestock, fishing supplies, coffee and medical supplies.

Another important monetary commodity after the crunch will be trade skills. If you know how to fish, machine tools, hunt, sew, fix and operate radios, fix cars, manufacture shoes, or grow food, you’ll have some very important skills during the recovery period.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Do you plan to walk to your retreat?  Then read this first.

For those who like me, are nearing or over 50 years old and out of shape after years of working a desk and who think that walking or biking to a retreat is an option for them, let me tell you about the last 27 weeks and the 850 miles I've covered by walking and biking. In doing so I'm hoping that I can convince you to start now rather then waiting for a situation that forces you to do so. After all, if my retreat were 260 miles from where I live, could I, or you for that matter, really afford to take the 10 weeks to get there that it took me to cover that distance when I first started? That's how long it took me to walk 260 miles and now that I've walked 200 more I can tell you that even in my current shape to walk 260 miles would take me a long and grueling time!

First let me say that I'm not a 'doomsday' prepper and I don't believe that a catastrophic economic collapse will end the world as we know it tomorrow. On the other hand I've seen human nature at its worst (war) and have studied enough history to know that things could go south in a big hurry if the right things occurred and we do seem to be living in a time in which a lot of those 'right things' are lining up to present the best possibility or “things going bad in a hurry” actually happening. I believe, however, that it will occur sometime in the future because, if one studies history, it always does.

I'm a 47 year old Marine who's allowed himself to ride a desk for far too long without exercising. This means that my formerly 'lean and green' 190 pound self managed to add 90 pounds of not-so-lean body weight. My blood pressure was high and I was diagnosed with Hypertension. While I ate well, so I thought, by avoiding processed foods as much as I could (I thought) I never really examined my food intake with a critical eye and as a consequence I added weight in the form of fat and raised my blood pressure to unhealthy levels.

My blood pressure was managed with drugs (a diuretic and Lisinopril) and because of that I didn't worry so much about it. My blood-work was excellent with cholesterol numbers that made the doc jealous but once in a while he'd frown at my blood glucose level which was bumping up against 100 – so not diabetic yet but starting to be something to watch.

I was out of shape, down right fat with high blood pressure unless I took drugs that might not always be available and I was fighting dehydration and a myriad of issues as a result of taking a diuretic and not eating as well as I thought. Something had to change.

After a few attempts to lose weight by dieting and a few 'starts' at walking I finally committed and began walking in earnest. Since I'd started and stopped a few times it was easier this time, but let me tell you, the first time I tried walking a mile was killer! This coming from a marine who once marched 32 miles in under 8 hours carrying a heck of a lot of gear! However, this time I wasn't so bad off and walked two miles with relative ease – if you call having shin splints relative ease anyway.  That first week I clocked 8 miles in 4 walks and I was convinced I could do 'this'. The next I was walking 4 miles per outing and put in 26 miles followed by 27. I was well on my way and felt I could easily attain 100 miles a month which was my goal at the time.

Christmas saw me take a week off but when I returned I stepped up and hit the road for an additional 23 miles and began to examine the foods I ate. I was determined to lose weight and get back into shape and while I'd done a lot of walking (now over 85 miles) I'd only lost about 5 pounds and my legs were killing me. I wanted off the blood pressure drugs and I wanted to get back in shape and lose all the weight.

I watched some movies that inspired me like 'Fat sick and nearly dead', 'Forks over knives' and 'Hungry for change' and through those and help from others I decided to really make some changes. I swapped my two eggs, cheese, toast and butter breakfast for cooked wheat and oatmeal with a little honey or agave for flavoring, I changed my lunches which were usually meat and cheese sandwiches or Ramen noodles packed with meat and cheese (I need the sodium so I thought) to rice with a little flavoring. I cut out meat and dairy from my first two meals with the exception of cream in my coffee (1 cup a day habit).

At first I gained a few pounds back which I attribute to my diet being different but I began to get used to the new foods and actually enjoyed them. It was more filling to eat the grains then I thought and I had plenty of energy for my walks. However, by now my legs were constantly sore and I began to realize that I needed more protein during the day so I added a protein shake between meals (twice daily) which seemed to cure that problem. I left my dinners alone mostly which gave me an incentive to eat well throughout the day because, after all, I could eat whatever I wanted for dinner. Doing this saw my daily caloric intake drop from around 2,800 calories a day to about 2,100 and I knew it would make a difference.

With my legs feeling better and my diet making a difference I stepped off for longer walks with more confidence. I was often walking 7 miles and clocked 25 miles the first week on my new diet and then 40 miles! I also stopped my blood pressure drugs and found my numbers were nearly normal! Frankly, that shocked me. How could this be? After all, I was told I'd probably have to take them for life so how could the doc be so wrong?

Before trying to tackle that last question, however, a new problem arose: my left foot began to really hurt. I'd done a 7 mile walk and then a 3 mile walk in the same day to reach my goal of 40 miles in a week and hadn't stopped or slowed down when I felt pain in my left foot. Perhaps it was the old marine in me loving the march again and feeling better, however it was clear I'd made a mistake the next day. My foot hurt.

I began to research the pain I had and realized that I'd given myself 'Planter Faciitus' which is tearing of the planter tendon on the bottom of the foot. The most likely cause of which was my lack of stretching! All this time I'd been telling myself that walking is what people do, it's not like it's running or something and there is not need to stretch when you walk. I was so wrong!

I also learned that my old runners (unused for most of their ten years) weren't what I needed and I learned about 'motion control' shoes and how they help with the problem I was experiencing. Off I went to the local shoe stores in search of a decent pair of runners to wear on my walks and I managed to find a good pair of gel control / motion control Asics that really helped. I was glad to be able to get back to walking and wasted no time (like a dumb old Jarhead) in getting back on the road. I clocked in another 25 miles before realizing that I was overdoing it and took my old mountain bike in for repairs because I knew I'd need to ride it if I wanted to continue my regimen of daily, or almost daily, cardio.

By this time I'd walked over 175 miles and while my left foot hurt I'd learned to stretch. My shins no longer bothered me, my thighs were no longer sore all the time and my blood pressure was nearly normal still. I'd also lost some weight and was down a total of 13 pounds off my heaviest. I was motivated but also realizing that no one my age or older who wasn't already in shape, was going to 'walk' out any great distances. After all, I was trying to walk in the best of conditions and I was having to learn a lot of things and relearn things I'd long forgotten or ignored. Consider that after each walk I could take a shower, I could eat and drink well and I could relax on a couch if need be. My evenings were spent in a comfortable bed and a nice home that was secure and warm and I had plenty of resources to pull from should I need supplements, shoes, Motrin or whatever. It wasn't as if I was walking through the hinterland on my own carrying a pack with no grid to log into and no Right Aid around the corner to purchase painkillers from. I wasn't sleeping on rocks and filtering my drinking water from a stinking mosquito infested pool and yet all I had managed in 6 weeks was 175 miles and to show for it I had a bad tendon in my left foot.

Clearly I need to change some things and clearly the idea of walking to a retreat could only really be done by the likes of me if the retreat was very close – which means too close to be of use.

I got my bike back from the shop and promptly rode it a mile – and nearly died! Forty minutes later I road it 4 miles and while my pulse was a bit higher then I'd like it wasn't that high. I could do this!

Over the course of the next four rides each getting longer and between riding I walked, albeit shorter distances and often slower paces since I was still dealing with a sore foot (that was healing thanks to the riding and a lot of stretching). My knees would get sore, my legs would complain but overall I was getting use to riding again and the following week I completed a 9 and finally a 10 mile ride. I was getting there and my pulse rate was much lower after those rides then on that first day. I also walked but a lot less and while my tendon had mostly healed it was something I had to constantly pay attention to.

In ten weeks I had completed 205 miles of walking and 55 miles of riding in ten weeks and lost about 16 pounds (20 off my heaviest). My blood pressure was 'ok' and while not below 120/80 in the morning it was often right there or only slightly higher (sometimes it's actually lower but not that often yet). Another 17 weeks followed with an additional 580 miles traveled and my weight is down 45 pounds, I can walk 4 miles per hour for 3 hours with few breaks (I walked in a 'Relay for Life' for 3 hours) and can cycle 13+ miles without killing myself. I believe at this point that I could walk, if I had to, 10 miles per day without much issue if I had to and had to carry a pack etc. To push to 20 miles a day would require a lot more work on my part but at least at this point I'm certain I could make a 260 mile hike inside a month providing there weren't any unforeseen circumstances. If I could ride, I'm certain I could ride 260 miles in 10 days or less though admittedly I'd be very saddle sore! Please bear in mind that this is after over 6 months of constantly walking and riding and eating right. I'm healthier today then I was 6 months ago and still off my blood pressure meds (my BP this morning was 121/79) and while I still ride a desk I work very hard to not allow it to debilitate me like I had previously.

The moral of the story here folks is that if you're out of shape like I was and you expect to be able to walk to a retreat further then a few miles, then you better get cracking and start walking now! Change your lifestyle, diet and routines and get in shape today because it will take months (no get fit quick scheme will work) and a commitment as great as any you've done so far.

I'm continuing on my quest to lose the weight and get back into shape but wanted to take a moment to recap for you some things that I think are important if you, like me, think you could 'walk out' if things head south in a hurry.

1. If you are not walking now then don't assume that you can later. Chances are you will injure yourself and quite possibly end up stranded somewhere you do not want to be stranded.
2. Your body simply cannot take the punishment if you are overweight and out of shape so do something about it now and get back into shape, lose the weight and strengthen your body.
3. You cannot carry all that you need so consider carefully what you think you will or can carry bearing in mind that the added weight of carrying a pack is added weight (ten times) on impact to your feet and knees.
4. You will likely suffer injuries to the planter tendon, Achilles heal and the knees as well as shin splints and other possibilities. Prepare for he worst and hope for the best.
5. You must consider pacing yourself which may mean only walking 2 to 5 miles every other day at the start and only slowly getting to a daily distance of 4 to 8 miles an only if you're at least well enough prepared that you have good shoes/boots that won't cause injury themselves.
6. You will need rest, lots of it, so if you really plan to walk out without at first getting back into shape then you will need a good sleeping mat and a lot of luck in finding comfortable places to rest.
7. There is more to prepping then just buying lots of stuff; physical fitness and personal health are as important, if not more important, then a lot of what you might be spending a lot of time and money on. Having a great retreat won't help you if you can't get there.
8. It is often said that you should store what you eat and eat what you store, but do you? How many have the required amount of wheat per person but don't know what to do with it? Have you sprouted wheat? Cooked it? Milled it into flour for bread? If you store it, eat it! Best way to do that is to start incorporating wheat, oats, rice (black, brown, wild more so then white but white is OK when added to the others), quinoa, farrow and others into your diet now. Try cooked wheat for breakfast and mixed rices and quinoa for dinner. It will be good for you and get you used to eating your storage foods.
9. If you store beans, then eat them! Many store beans but don't eat them so don't produce enough of the enzymes needed to digest them (hence the bloated gassy uncomfortable feeling when you suddenly do eat them).
10. Cut out processed foods, they are bad for you! Even store bought milk is processed and while it may be nearly impossible to replace it at least know that it isn't as good for you as the advertisements say. It's processed and that means 'damaged'. Raw milk contains enzymes and bacteria like 'probiotics' that today's modern American's buy expensive yogurts to get, ever wondered why that is? But I digress, I'm not saying 'go raw' I'm just saying pay attention to what you stuff into yourself on a daily basis and try to start eating right – something most of us have forgotten how to do.
11. Start making things you think you might have to make, or want to, at your retreat. Make cheese (you'll learn all about store bought milk then, I assure you), butter (you'll need good cream for that), soap, flour, sourdough bread etc. Everything you make will taste better then what you buy anyway and you will know what went into it. Just remember that you also have to be fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle so don't go eating cheese for three meals a day!
12. Seriously consider what you think you can do or might have to do and then test yourself. If you believe you can 'ruck up' and march off to a retreat that's 200 miles away hidden deep in the woods then ruck up today and take a nice long walk, chances are that if you're like me and no longer that young and lean fighting machine then you'll learn real quick that you need to make some changes. Make them today and survive tomorrow, make them tomorrow and you won't survive.

I know that's not a complete list but I'm hopeful that those of you reading it might take it to heart and get doing something. Just be sure to get good shoes to start off, to stretch lightly during and after each walk (calve stretches will help a ton!) and to research your diet now and make the appropriate changes to it so that you can both have the energy to keep at it, to keep walking or riding, and the nutrients to heal the muscle you will be tearing down and rebuilding.

Here is a sample of my daily diet for those interested:

1. First thing in the morning I drink a 12 oz glass of water (something that I never would have done before).
2. 1 cup of coffee with about 1 TBS cream and a half TBS of Agave sweetener
3. Breakfast: ½ cup of oatmeal mixed with ¼ cup of cooked wheat or bran and 1 scoop of Chia seeds sweetened with Agave nectar and cinnamon.
4. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
5. Lunch: 1 1/2 cups of mixed rice with some flavoring (Mrs. Dash no salt seasoning and olive oil)
6. Snack: 1 8oz protein shake (140 calories, 27 grams of protein) made with water not milk.
7. Snack: on particularly hungry days I have ¼ cup of mixed nuts for a snack in the afternoon.
8. Dinner: Whatever I want but preceded by a large salad (fills my dinner plate) with a small portion of salad dressing (I used to pour on the Blue Cheese dressing but today use a 50-80 calorie dressing that I measure out to be sure I don't pour it on). I try to keep my dinners to about 500 calories except on days I burn a lot more doing cardio.

My current daily caloric intake is about 1,450 calories unless I do cardio which can increase the intake to about 2,100 calories (these are the days I take the protein shakes or eat protein bars).

Monday, June 17, 2013

Dear JWR,
I am an avid motorcyclist. (I've logged more than 300,000 miles, and I'm 40 years old.) I recently noticed a trend on bike blogs regarding ATGATT, spoken as"At-Gat." This acronym stands for All The Gear, All The Time. In other words, if you believe a helmet (or leather jacket or good sturdy boots) to be a good idea at any time, you should wear them all the time.

Personally, I wear a helmet, leather jacket, good boots, gloves, etc. whenever I'm on the bike. I usually wear them when I'm not on the bike as well, out of habit. But I also carry a decent medical kit on the bike or in the truck, whichever I'm using at the time. I'm an EMT and like to be prepared for incidents that occur when I'm not on the clock. Add a bullet/stab-proof vest whenever feasible, a sidearm (when allowed, which in my case means not at work), materials for making fire, a knife and some other goodies, and I think I have ATGATT.

This term has replaced EDC in my vocabulary: Your "every-day carry" should be "all the gear, all the time." It doesn't take much space or weigh much if you go minimalist, and it really could save your life, or someone else's. I also have a G.O.O.D. bag, and one for my wife and daughter, but if necessary I'd be fine with the things I carry/wear every day. I'm not saying I carry an axe, adze and flock of chickens with me. Difficult, that would be. But I could go into the boonies now and stay there for a week or perhaps a month without suffering much, partially due to experience and partially due to equipment.

Thanks again, JWR, for providing SurvivalBlog. I learn something new every time I visit, which means frequently. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

JWR Replies: Your point is well taken. It reminds me of a conversation that I had with my late wife, The Memsahib back around 2006. We had just seen some news footage of a street riot in the Middle East, and I asked rhetorically: "What is the best way to survive that, aside from conveniently not being there? Her response: "Well, I suppose a full set of off-road motorcycling gear would be a good start."

And it bears mentioning that a large portion of life-threatening trauma (both combat and accidents) is head trauma. Kevlar helmets (including the later-generation ACH and MICH) are sold by several mail-order firms like Proper sizing is important for helmets, so don't just buy any Kevlar helmet on eBay. Many of these same companies also sell kevlar body armor vests. There again, sizing is crucial.

Following the theme of your letter, it is important to wear a full set of safety gear whenever you fire up a chainsaw, even if it just to "make a couple of quick cuts." (Kelvlar safety chap, boots, combination helmet with face screen, etc.) Murphy's Law dictates that the one time that you omit the safety gear will be the time that your foot slips.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Here are some insights that I gained from a recent week-long medical mission trip to Nicaragua. We treated hundreds of men, women, and children living in remote villages for general medical complaints.  I envision these conditions as being similar to what many of us would see in TEOTWAWKI.

Living conditions:
Mostly, the men in these villages are subsistence farmers, picking coffee beans, or something similar.  The women stay at home and take care of the children, grandparents, and animals – chickens and pigs.  Their average income is very low, in the 10’s of dollars per month.

Their houses are really shacks made with available materials.  They were about as big as a two-car garage, some quite a bit smaller.  Many are composed of corrugated steel sheets, plastic sheeting, and some planks.  Some have adobe walls, but few are all adobe.  With many people in a small space, they are very crowded.  One family I interviewed had 11 people in the home, probably in 3 rooms.
Their cooking is done entirely over a wood stove, many indoors without chimneys.  Smoke inhalation is a constant for everyone in the house. 
Their diet consists mostly of rice and beans to eat with coffee, soda and juice to drink.  There is literally no money left after they buy wood for cooking and their food.  There was even a sad story of how a pot of beans on the stove must be guarded against theft.

Primary medical complaints:
1)       Headaches, Dizziness – from dehydration.  They know the water has parasites, so they mostly drink coffee and sodas or juices which all dehydrate at some level.
2)       Burning eyes, sore throat, coughing – from smoke inhalation all day long
3)       Muscle aches – from lots of hard manual labor, walking everywhere, carrying children all day, plus dehydration
4)       Gastritis, Heartburn, Abdominal Pain – from intestinal parasites gotten from drinking surface water and eating beans daily, and lots of coffee.
5)       Tooth Decay, Abscesses, Rotten Teeth – from not brushing/flossing and drinking mostly sodas and coffee every day.
6)       Infections requiring antibiotics – of almost every conceivable type.

NOTE:  I’m a licensed EMT.  The below lessons are intended as educational material and do not constitute medical advice inasmuch as they may be outside of the scope of my practice or coming from instructors, experience, or reading.  The lessons are, however, within the scope of my many years of life, caring for myself and my family members.  And, in case you’re wondering, I was working under the direction of a Physician's Assistant and an Nurse Practitioner.  I also mention several brand-name OTC products below.  I only use them because most people will recognize them a lot better than the chemical name of the medicine.  Please use your own good judgment on what is best for you and yours.

Lessons taken for TEOTWAWKI scenarios
1)        Have a way to obtain pure water without fire.  Bleach or Pool Shock (calcium hypochlorite)  work well and go a very long way.  At 1 tsp to treat 10 gallons of water, a gallon of bleach can treat up to 7,680 gallons, or enough water for a family of 4 for over 5 years, at a gallon per person per day.  (This is from a government web site.  Please do your own research.) 
If I could have handed out a quart of bleach to each family, it would change their lives.  Unfortunately, they cannot afford it on their low incomes.  And they can’t afford the wood to both cook food and boil water.

2)       Drink lots of clean water.  Most of us aren’t used to heavy physical labor all day, every day.  Drink as much as you want.  While working, you may sweat more, but you’ll stay cooler. 
Most of the folks I saw were dehydrated.  In one case, I had a sickly-looking pregnant woman drink as much clean water as she wanted.  About 20 minutes later, she looked way, way better, and said she felt better too.  Wish I could have given her a 55 gallon drum to take home.

3)       Avoid smoke inhalation.  This is so obvious as to sound stupid, but the Nicaraguans didn’t even think about the problems they cause themselves.  To avoid smoke, cook with fire outside, on a wood or gas stove with chimney inside, or without fire.  Gas, of course, doesn’t create smoke when burned, so has better OPSEC, but residual carbon monoxide is even more dangerous than outright smoke.  Solar ovens and solar-powered electric stoves/ovens are good choices as well.
The only remedy I could give those folks was to recommend they get themselves and their children outside and away from the smoke as much as possible, and to open their windows and doors – if their homes even have them.

4)       Muscle aches are a given when doing the daily activities that will be required in TEOTWAWKI.  Chopping, lifting, carrying, picking, bending over and so on take a toll on muscles.  A couple more pain reducing strategies include taking stretch breaks and learning to use the other side of your body.  Switch the tools to your other, non-dominate hand.  It’s uncomfortable learning a different way to do things, but you’ll be able to work longer and more comfortably.  Start practicing now when you don’t need it to get comfortable with it when you really need it. 
I recommended this to my patients.  I can only hope they will follow through with switching hands/arms/sides every so often.  I also wish I had been able to give out tubes of Ben Gay to everyone I saw.  It’s not a cure, but it sure feels good when you’re sore.  Advil/Ibuprofen will work, but it has some fairly serious intestinal side effects – mostly upset stomach and constipation – not good for those folks.  Aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen) will also work, but equally isn’t great for long-term use.

5)       Get a few pairs of really comfortable, sturdy work and walking shoes.  Break them in now so you won’t suffer when you need them. 
The only people I saw with good boots were the men who worked in the fields.  Many of the women wore flipflops – because that’s the only pair of shoes they owned.  And they walked on rocky roads and paths all the time!  Not good for many reasons.

6)       Have a lot of intestinal meds available.  The list of intestinal problems is long:  Diarrhea, constipation, gas, heartburn, vomiting, etc.  The effects are pretty simple:  pain, discomfort, and disability.  And it’s difficult to work when your belly hurts.  Example meds to have on hand:  heartburn – Tums or Rolaids; diarrhea – Imodium; constipation – stool softener and enema bag; vomiting – Pepto-Bismol; gas – BeanO or Tums.  I recommend having a few treatments of each type for each person in your party.

I gave these meds out to dozens of my patients for temporary relief, along with antiparasitics as a long-term solution.  You shouldn’t need antiparasitics if you are careful about purified water.  If not, you’ll need them, plus a bunch of other meds for the diseases that also come with contaminated water:  typhoid and dysentery among others.

7)       Brush and floss your teeth every day.  Brush your tongue.  Use an antiseptic mouthwash (Listerine).  Have a dental hygienist in your group.  Do everything you can to keep your teeth, tongue and mouth clean.  This is such a simple thing, but without dental care easily available, it can get out of hand quickly and the solutions aren’t good.
Many of the people we treated needed more than a few teeth to be pulled.  Some patients as young as 12 years old.  In some cases, our dentist didn’t even pull all of the teeth he could have because of the risks to the patient with no longer-term or follow-up care. 

8)       If you’re going to get antibiotics at the pet store, get a bunch of education too.  Our pharmacy was extremely well-stocked.  We had about every antibiotic you could name:  Amoxicillin, Doxycycline, Erythromycin, Penicillin, and so on.  This was a new area to me, except from personal experience.  It's a very complex topic incorporating microbiology, pharmacology, and lots of other “ologies”.  The big thing I learned is that antibiotics are specialized also.  One antibiotic will work for one thing but not touch another.  Going to the pet store and stocking up on FishMox in the belief that it’s a cure all is false hope and could cause someone to die.

Learn as much as you can about what you’re buying/getting.  If you go down this path, you’re in deep water.  The fancy medical words are indications, contraindications, effects, side effects, route, dosage and so on.  The English words are what you take it for, when you don’t take it, what it does that you want, what it does that you might not want, how you take it, how much and so on. 
My own story is that one stepson had an infection that required three different antibiotics prescriptions before he was cured.  The first antibiotic didn’t do anything.  He got hives from the second one.  The third one finally worked.

One comment:  Antibiotics are only useful for bacterial infections like pneumonia. They do nothing for viral infections like the common cold or flu.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the two, even for doctors.  The only reason a doctor should give out antibiotics for a cold is if there is a real risk of pneumonia.  The current superbug scare we have is due at least in part to overprescription of antibiotics.  The germs that are left are resistant, as well as having mutated, rendering the current antibiotics harmless to them.

9)       Bactine and PhisoHex are a fantastic combination for superficial wounds.  While in country, a couple of teammates came to me for small wound treatment.  I had an AHA moment with Bactine.  It’s terrific in two ways:  topical pain reliever and antiseptic.  Topical (on the skin) pain relief is rare in the OTC med world, but super useful because I wanted to scrub the wounds to get rid of any dirt.  The antiseptic property is also nice to have.  Phisohex is another wonderful thing because it’s an antiseptic soap that doesn’t sting when you wash/scrub with it.  NOTE:  this is not a pain-free solution.  It hurts less.
I simply applied Bactine, waited for a while, then scrubbed with Phisohex and a few sterile gauze pads.  Then I reapplied Bactine for more pain relief.  In two cases (a big toe and forearm) I applied a Band-Aid for protection.  The other, I didn’t (head wound).

10)    Hand Sanitizer is wonderful  in a pinch, but doesn’t replace washing.  Being raised before the current germ phobia developed, I’ve never been big on hand sanitizer.  Of course, I used it in the Ambulance and Emergency department.  But I used it regularly while I was working in Nicaragua, treating dozens of people each day.  I have no idea what they might have been carrying, but I’m sure I’m not immune to it.  It’s a quick and easy dose of insurance when you’re in a hurry.  Washing with soap and water is even better. That said, I want to point out that keeping a house spotlessly sanitized and trying to keep the family in an antiseptic bubble is not good for  long-term health.  Reason being:  Our bodies develop immunity to germs through exposure to those very germs!  If you want to have the most robust immune system, go get dirty with a bunch of people!  Yes, you might get sick, but you’ll be immune when you recover, at least for a time.  This is exactly how vaccines work – exposing you to the specific germs you want immunity to.

Final note for SurvivalBlog readers:  all medical training is valuable, although difficult and time-consuming.  I started down the EMT/Paramedic path when I started seriously prepping last year.  The more I learn the more interesting and useful it is.  As one EMT I talked to said, “You never know when you’ll need it.”

JWR Adds: The SODIS method for water sterilization is ideal for impoverished regions, since the plastic bottles can be obtained free at almost any dump. If you are careful handling them, the bottles can be useful for several years.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dear Editor:
I used to be much more of a seamstress than I am now, but I’m getting back into it as I can’t find clothes I like (modern women’s pants all want to fall off my butt) and I am sewing my own gear to save money.  This article will focus on repurposing fabric items that are worn out or that you don’t want anymore, into other fabric items that are more useful for a SHTF situation.

Don’t throw out old clothes, even if they’re stained or otherwise unwearable.  Even clean old underwear can be repurposed into rags or stuffing for pillows.  You can take the hook and eye parts of old bras, and use them in other underwear projects or for mending.  You can remove the zippers, elastic, buttons, etc. of old clothes, and keep them for future projects.  You can even save good strong thread if you are careful deconstructing something.

If you want to dye something that is a natural fiber a different color, you can learn about plant dyes, or there is a kind of dye called procion dye.  The mordant (fixer) for that kind of dye is washing soda, which you can buy at the grocery store in the laundry soap aisle.  This dye is the kind that people who make tie-dyes use, it comes in all different colors including earth tones – you can make your own camo if need be that way, out of your existing clothes.  I used to get mine at Dharma Trading Co. which is online, but there may be other sellers.  To conserve dye, it is much more economical to squirt or spray the dye onto your garment than to vat-dye it, unless you are doing a really big batch all the same color.

If you find elastic eventually wears out and becomes unavailable, you can make drawstrings instead out of strips of fabric and modify your clothes to accept drawstrings.

You can make socks out of old sweaters or sweatshirts.  You don’t even need to know how to knit, if you can cut and sew it so it doesn’t unravel.  (I recommend zigzag stitch). Or in a pinch you can wrap a rag around your foot and stuff it in a shoe like that, but why not have something that is shaped like a sock?

Old pants legs with minimal sewing can make good bags, pouches, aprons, pillows, book covers, gaiters, or panels for bodices.  They could even be made into hammocks or cots if you have enough of them, which if bedbugs take over the world or if you end up being nomadic, you’ll be getting rid of your mattresses eventually anyway.  One thing I haven’t seen yet is a denim plate carrier.  One might fasten a 550 steel target to the inside of the bib of a pair of overalls, as an improvised rifle plate. (but pad the inside of the steel too).

You can make tactical gear or smaller bags out of old luggage you cut apart.  Many suitcases are made from Cordura.  You can save the straps from knapsacks to use for webbing or slings.  Even outdoor upholstery fabric remnants would work, but to get Cordura, the “real thing”, without ordering it, look to the luggage at the thrift store.

You can also hide clothes or gear by making them into cushions.  How about a “bolster-holster” for your rifle?  How about a piece of web gear that is reversible?  One minute it’s a purse or satchel or pillow, the next it’s your vest.   How many sets of clothes can you stuff into a seat cushion?

Back to quilts for a second, the Army poncho liner is nothing more than a thin quilt with a head hole in the middle.  It’s camo lightweight nylon with thin polyfil for batting, a few strings at the corners, and bound on the edges.  You could make something similar.  If you didn’t mind the extra weight, you could use some thin wool, maybe in two layers, and sandwich that between nylon to make it ride smoother.  It would probably be a lot warmer than polyfil, although if you were running around it might get too hot.

If you don’t have a pattern, you can make your own shirt and dress patterns by draping cheap fabric on a dress dummy or a person and pinning it, drawing on it, adding to it, cutting it, etc. You can sew a mock-up and then take it apart and there’s your pattern, only made of fabric instead of tissue paper.  And of course, once you are done with the pattern you can reuse the fabric.

You can make yourself a custom dress dummy by wearing an old T-shirt and wrapping your torso with duct tape, cutting your way out of it and taping the cut back together, then stuffing it.  I suppose if you stuff it with heavy enough stuff, you could also chain it to a door frame and use it as a punching bag when you get frustrated trying to drape cheap fabric on it (just make sure the pins are all out).

Last but not least, it might be slow, but you can always hand sew clothes if you don’t have a machine.  Sometimes I find my machine can’t handle real thick things, and all at the same time I had 3 or 4 projects that would have required a walking foot machine, which is an industrial sewing machine designed for thick fabric, where the presser foot goes up and down with every stitch.  Instead of looking for a walking foot machine, which is expensive, I hand sewed what I needed to, and made due.  You can also hand baste things like quilts, to hold them together before you quilt them for real.  It keeps the layers from migrating too much. - Penny Pincher

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dear James,
As a former professional seamstress, I have a comment on using woolen materials for quilts.  They can successfully be washed, provided that the woolen material was previously washed before making a quilt of it, whether the wool is used as the top layer, or as the batting.

The wool should be washed in hot water, and then dried on high heat in the dryer.  It will shrink, which has the double advantage of:  1. making it much warmer; and 2. washed wool becomes somewhat felted, which makes it much sturdier and less prone to wear and pulling of threads which might catch on splinters or rough surfaces.

I have run wool fabrics through the washer and drier prior to sewing them for many years for exactly these reasons, and have nearly always been pleased with the results...except for a couple of extremely loosely knitted fabrics which over-shrank.  Still, even these would have been good for quilt stuffing.

Speaking of which, you can find woolen clothing at thrift shops which can be used for stuffing, as well as for tops.

The author also mentions using acrylic yarn for knitting.  Yes, it is cheap and warm.  However, under TEOTWAWKI conditions, it would be a disaster, since it frays and starts wearing out within a year of heavy use.  Woolen yarn is almost impossible to get any more at ordinary stores, but is readily available online - try eBay - at prices comparable to acrylic. 

Woolen yarn lasts for years, and can be re-knitted when the original item develops wear spots, as the author describes.  Doing that with acrylic is a waste of time. 

I am not a herder, but do know that tribesmen in the Arabian desert mostly live on the sheep they herd, and wear woolen clothing.  Also, the Navajo of the southwest are famous for their woolen blankets, made from the sheep they raise.  Clearly there are sheep that would do fine in the author's desert area.  Perhaps some of your readers would know what breeds would be appropriate.

The tied quilt sounds like a really fast and simple way to make quilts under emergency conditions.

Wiggy's is planning to offer quilting, so your readers may want to contact him. Warmly, - Janet W.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Thanks to George H. and George W. for their input on chainsaw safety. Yes, buy Kevlar chaps and use them.  Once getting your hands on a pair, don’t expect them to function like body armor because they have Kevlar in them.  From personal experience, they work by the chain’s cutters tearing through the outer fabric of the chaps, then pulling out Kevlar fibers, that then bind up the saw and almost instantly stop the chain from moving. Chain stops and you don’t get cut. Then the penance you pay for your lapse in judgment is taking the cover off your saw and pulling Kevlar fibers out of the works. Again, from personal experience, blue-jeans do not serve this function; although if God is watching over you, you can get your keys pulled straight out of your shredded pant pocket and they will stop the chain when they enter the saw housing. I’ve had a running chainsaw cut into fabric on my leg four times, two with chaps and two without.  I am truly blessed that none of the incidents have drawn a drop of blood.  All four times happened towards the end of the day, when I was tired, and was cutting something in an awkward position.  Think safety all the time. Also, don’t forget ear protection.  A chainsaw isn’t as loud as a gun, but consistent exposure to the engine noise can lead to slow, but permanent hearing loss.  Whatever you keep your chainsaw in, put some hearing protection in there too.
Keep your oil reservoir full and the cutters sharp. - Sean B.

I read the article on felling trees and the follow up on chainsaw chaps. Several years ago my son and I bought two pair of chainsaw chaps from Labonville Inc. up in New Hampshire. These chaps are made in the USA and sell for less then the name brand chaps sold at Lowe's or Home Depot. They are of the highest quality and I highly recommend them. Also you are supporting the USA and the local New Hampshire economy. See: or 800-764-9969. I have no financial interest in them or the company. - E.G. form North East Tennessee


The other great thing about Kevlar chain saw chaps is that they save your jeans.  I use my chain saw two or three times a month on average, often in brushy areas.  I am confident that over the course of two years that the chaps have paid for themselves just in reduced wear and tear on my jeans.  - Jim B.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Last summer I wrote an article on dealing with trash at your retreat and recently I wrote Part 1 of this article about sewing.  So I’m going to forego the usual introduction and description of my living style and just jump right into the topic.

I began to think about writing this article while watching the television show Jericho.  First of all, let’s just get this out of the way. I know that “Jericho” is a television show. I know that it is fiction.  I know that the conditions depicted are in no way realistic, etc.  It is a television show.  Okay, now that’s out of the way, I found myself considering events in the television show and how I would expect things in my community to go.  Would we share our food? Would we all get together at the pub for information? Who would come forward as a leader in our community since we have no local government?  I also thought about how my specific talents could be used community wide.  In the television show, the first winter was depicted as brutal. They give the idea that people were not prepared for the harsh winter without central heat in their homes.  Some people were shown as frozen to death in their homes, under single comforters and basic blankets.  Being a beginning quilter, I thought to myself, “Where were the quilting bees?  Where were the circles of women knitting and crocheting?”  Too provincial?   Too old-fashioned?   I imagine some people would say yes, but actually, these crafts remain very popular.  You have only to look online for patterns for quilting, knitting and crochet to see how popular these crafts are today.  The internet is overflowing with ideas, blogs and videos for today’s crafter.

So, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, what can you produce to keep yourself and maybe some neighbors warm if necessary?  Let’s start with quilting.  In our small community, I help a friend keep a small quilt shop open.   I quilt for her and sometimes watch the shop when she is gone.  The shop is full of quilts, not really fabric to quilt, but quilts made and sold on consignment.  I am by no means an expert quilter.  I still have much to learn, but I do know this.  You can make a quilt out of just about anything. 

A basic quilt is very easy to construct. You need a top, middle, and a bottom often called a lining.  Today, pieced quilt tops are works of art. New patterns are often copyrighted and the old patterns are still popular as well.  These pieced tops are an important part of our heritage, but they are not necessarily the only way to make a quilt. The top can be as easy as a sheet. Actually, this would be considered a whole cloth quilt and that type of quilt is older than the pieced quilt.  You can make quilt tops out of jeans, cotton, polyester, or double knit. I’d suggest something washable and sturdy if you are thinking of saving fabrics for this future project.  Just a quick note about double knit; it is absolute gold in some quilting circles (not the artsy ones) because it is indestructible, washable and warm, warm, warm.  It is really difficult to wear out double knit, so those awful leisure suits from the 70’s are still good for something. 

Next, consider the size that you will need.  King size quilts are hard to make just because of their size, but they are doable on a home machine. However, I’d aim for smaller quilts.  I will quote a standard range of sizes for bedding, but if you know what bed you are quilting for, measure it.  Some things to consider are overhang on the sides and at the foot of the mattress and if you tuck your pillows into the quilt or leave them on top.  If you tuck pillows as you would with a regular bedspread, then you’ll want to add length.  Is tucking pillows really that important in the TEOTWAWKI situation?  Absolutely not, but you might as well get some proper instruction while we have the chance.  Twin bed quilt sizes range from 76 to 82 inches wide by 105 to 110 inches in length.  Double bed quilts can range in size from 90 to 96 inches wide by 105 to 110 inches in length.  Queen sizes range from 100 to 110 inches wide by 100 to 110 inches in length.  King size quilts come in two different sizes, the standard and the Super King (or "California King") size.  Standard size quilts are for those mattresses that are thinner and the Super Kings are for the thicker pillow top mattresses.  Standard Kings range from 105 to 110 inches in width and 110 inches in length while super kings ought to be about 120 by 120.

Size can also be determined by your immediate need or by the materials that you have on hand.  First, you need to decide what you are going to use for a top.  If you use a sheet or another piece of whole cloth, then measure it and you are ready for the next step.  If you decide to piece it, you have several decisions to make.  Whether you are trying for a pattern or not, you’ll need some sort of idea about how you want to sew your pieces together.   You can sew them randomly and then get to a certain size, for example a 12” square, and trim it.  You can cut squares, rectangles, triangles or any variation of those pieces and sew them together in a pattern.  You can find thousands of patterns online, in books and in magazines.  I would suggest that you start with squares or rectangles.  You can cut squares any size between 3” and 12”.  It would be best to have all of your squares the same size.  Then you sew them into rows and the rows onto the other rows and you keep adding until you’ve reached the desired size.    You can cut up the legs of blue jeans and use these rectangles for strips.  Sew them randomly until you reach the desired quilt size.   When piecing like this, you want to keep your seams a consistent 1/4 inch.

Now, if you were making this quilt today, I would spend the next paragraph talking about ironing seams a certain way, matching seams so that they line up, and so on. Matching seams makes a nice quilt.  It is not absolutely necessary if you are making quilts in some kind of emergency situation.  It is always important to do the best job that you can do, but I also want to impress upon you that the purpose is to stay warm and covered.  In the end, and in an emergency, it doesn’t matter if the seams match.  This description of piecing a quilt top also does not cover the enormous range of things that you can do with a few hundred squares of fabric.  I’m not going to go into inner borders or outer borders or patterned borders or pieced borders.  Quilting is a huge topic.  If this article inspires some interest, then you really need to do some research on basic quilting.  One of the reasons why quilting remains so popular today is because it is an incredibly challenging form of art.  That’s not our focus.  Our focus is quilting in an “end times” scenario where you cannot run to the fabric store and design a piece of art for display. 

Your next step in quilting is to find fabric for the lining.  This is the back of the quilt and today is often sewn from one fabric.  The linings usually come from the same fabric.  Most fabric is 42” or 44” wide.  Some can be as wide as 108”.  On larger quilts, the fabric is often matched for pattern and then sewn to make the lining large enough.  They can be pieced just like the top of the quilt, but the seams are not very comfortable to sleep under.  But, if your bed is layered, then it isn’t a big deal.  Again, the beauty of the quilt is a current times concern, not one we’ll worry about once the ball (whatever ball) drops.  Your lining needs to be at least 2 inches larger all the way around than the pieced top.  This is important because as you quilt, the top tends to creep toward the edge.  That is why you start quilting in the middle.  We’ll get to that when we talk about the actual quilting. 

Next, you need to find the middle batting.  Some of us may have quilt batting stored, but even my friend, who owns the shop and quilts everyday all day, has only 10 bags of batting in the shop at a time.  So, most of us are not going to have a thick roll of batting lying around.  What else can you use?  A lot, actually.  You can use an old ragged blanket, you can use strips of fabric, you can use wool suits from your professional wardrobe (that quilt won’t be washable), you can use cut up t-shirts, old cotton socks (cut those in half so that they are one layer), you can use bath towels or a fleece, you can use old table cloths or curtains.  Sometimes pillows are actually layered batting, so they could be deconstructed.   Some of the things that might not work well are batting used for stuffing animals, nylon, leather, and paper.  Your batting needs to be 2” larger than your pieced top all of the way around. 

Just a quick word about wool.  I have an antique quilt made from wool suiting.  It is a tied quilt with cotton batting and a cotton lining.  You can’t wash these quilts. They either need to be shaken out and aired in the sun, or dry cleaned.  That doesn’t mean that they are not wonderful quilts.  The one that I have is very warm and the kids fight over it in the winter because we only have localized heat sources, not central heat.  As long as no one spills hot chocolate on it, I can keep that quilt nice with a few good shakes and hanging it on the line.

So, we’ve got a pieced top, batting and lining.  Now what?  You need to lay these three layers out on the flattest surface that you can find.  It is very important that all three layers are pulled and clamped as tautly as possible.  You will need to either pin the quilt with safety pins or baste the quilt with thread.  It is important to keep the layers taut so that the lining and batting don’t bunch up.  Your quilt will creep in the sewing process.  Pin the quilt in every square, do not pin over the seams because that is where you’ll be sewing.  Do the same with basting.  I’ve never basted a quilt; that is often a process used for hand quilting.

There are two processes in quilting and the first one that I’ve just described is called piecing.  The second process is the actual quilting.  In the article on sewing, I closed with the suggestion that everyone consult the article on sewing machines written by Lockstich and published in February 2013.  I hope he doesn’t mind if I renew that suggestion here.  Get a machine that meets your needs post-TEOTWAWKI.  If you don’t have a machine or your machine breaks, there are other options and I’ll get to those.  Assuming you have a sewing machine, there are a few options that you need to know when picking a stitch for your quilt.  Many people will choose a straight stitch because it will look like hand quilting.  I urge you to consider other, stronger stitches.  Most quilting machines have what is called a basic quilting stitch.  It is a modified zig-zag stitch and it is a very strong stitch.  I use this stitch and sew directly over a pieced seam.  That stitch is going to hold more than 100 years unless the quilt is left to the weather.  Look for something similar on your machine.  You might look for a serpentine stitch.  It is a straight stitch, but it locks both sides of the seam.  If you don’t have anything else, use a lengthened zig-zag stitch.  Only use a straight stitch as a last resort.   

To quilt, set your machine up to quilt.  If you have an extension table that goes around the arm of the quilt, then so much the better.   Roll your quilt like a scroll from two sides to the middle.  Depending on what you used as batting, the side you start with may matter, but usually you just choose.  Set your stitch and then start stitching at the top of the middle row and work your way downward.  You will see right off that it is not always easy to stuff the rolled part of the quilt through the throat of your machine.  Sew slowly, it will fit, but this is not the place to rush.  You can go up and down the rows until you reach the edge.  I’ve been taught to sew the edge at this point, but that doesn’t work well for me.  You’ll turn the quilt 4 times if you’ve just made a simple square pieced quilt.  You’ll want to quilt the rows from top to bottom and from side to side.  At this point, I sew my edges.  I sew the two sides first, and then the top and bottom.  You’ll see what I mean about creeping.  If you have a large fold of fabric, then cut right by the sewed seam and lay the fabric over it.  All of this will be hidden by the binding.

The next step is binding.  To bind, cut strips 2.5” wide.  Turn your quilt so that the back side is facing up.  Fold the binding strips in half and place the raw cut side on the edge of the quilt.  Sew ¼” in from the edge of the quilt.  Start this process in the middle of a side, do not start your binding at a corner.   This is one of the few places where you use a straight stitch.  Turning the binding at the corners is not hard or complicated; it is just hard to explain. Sew up to the corner and stop about two stitches from the end.  Turn your quilt and fold the binding in a tight triangle, setting the raw edge against the new side.  Start stitching again about 2 stitches from the top.  This process is much easier learned by seeing than reading.  There are many, many articles and videos on YouTube detailing this process.  Go look at them.  Once you’ve sewn the binding to the back of the quilt, turn your quilt to the front.   Starting in the middle of a side, turn the binding, so that it just covers the stitch at the edge and sew the binding on the front using the same stitch that you used to quilt the quilt.  A quilt bound in this manner will last a very, very long time.  If that just seems like too much work, then once you’ve pinned your quilt, you can trim the batting and fold the lining up, turn under the raw edge and sew it onto the front as a binding. 

Hand quilting is a treasure and legacy from our history and the skill should not be lost.  Pioneers used every scrap of material and quilted for warmth and comfort.  They quilted not for art, but for necessity.  It could be that, once again, Americans find themselves in a place where hand piecing and hand quilting are a necessity.  That being said, machine quilts are stronger and they last longer.  You can prepare for both or either; you choose.  If you choose to hand quilt, then you are going to need sharp needles and a good strong, thick cotton thread.  Hand piecing is similar to machine piecing.  You’ll want to keep a ¼” seam.  You will want to make small stitches and the more stitches per inch, the better.   With hand piecing, neatness counts.  It is important that your stitches be straight.  As for hand quilting, if this is just for warmth and not for show, then it doesn’t really matter what kind of pattern you use to hand quilt.   In hand quilting, you use a straight sewing stitch, with as many small stitches as you can neatly make.  You need to concentrate on the seams so that they can be secure and you need to quilt in areas that do not have seams.  You do not want large spaces or areas of your quilt un-quilted.  Hand quilting is a skill, more so than machine quilting.  If this is where your interests lie, practice.

Another way to put a quilt together is to tie it.  This is another situation where, if you are interested, you be best served to look this up on YouTube.  But, just in case, you can’t get there, tying is very easy, just difficult to describe.  If you have a quilt made out of squares then you’ll want to tie every four square intersection.  You’ll need a heavy thread or a yarn for this procedure.  You’ll also need a sharp needle.  With your needle you sew down from the top of the quilt about 1/8” from the intersection.  When you tie an intersection, you will only sew in two of the squares.  Leave an inch tail.  Come up on the diagonal and then take your needle back down on the diagonal close to that tail.  Come up again near your other stitch, leave a tail of about an inch and cut.  You are tying the seam where the squares meet and you sew across the seam of two squares.  You have something that looks like a stitch with tails of both ends of the stitch.  Then, using the tails, you tie a knot.  Again, a video on YouTube might be more helpful than that description.  Check it out if you want to know more.

That is basic quilting.  A top, a lining and something for batting could mean the difference between you and some really brutal winters.  Maybe you’ll need several, but this is a very easy skill to acquire and one that may serve you well. 

As I said, while I was watching “Jericho”, I wondered what my skills could add to the needs I saw portrayed on screen.  In addition to quilting and other fiber hobbies, I have taught myself to crochet and plan to teach myself to knit.  I wondered if any of the people who froze to death in that fictional winter could have used another wool hat or some gloves to stay warm.

The materials needed for both skills are easy and fairly inexpensive.  Crochet uses hooks and knitting uses needles.  Basic crochet hooks come in five sizes starting with size G and on through K.  There are smaller hooks and they have their uses, and I would get them while they are available.  But, for the most part, the smaller hooks are for crocheting smaller projects like doilies.  While I’m a fan of the intricate string crochet that you find in doilies, I’m not sure that the time learning to crochet doilies is time well spent.  Once you’ve made trunks full of afghans and other wearable crochet items, then maybe you can move on to doilies.  These crochet hooks can be found everywhere and they are inexpensive.   A basic set can be found at Amazon for less than $7.  I’m not near a Wal-Mart, but they can’t be much more than Amazon.  The same can be said for knitting needles.  They are only slightly more expensive than crochet hooks.  I’ve heard that some knitters can be very particular about their needles.  I personally don’t care for the shiny aluminum sets; I like the wooden needles better.  Knitting needles come in pairs and are usually 10” to 16” in length.  Some are tethered together and are called circular knitting needles.  The metric sizes range from 2.0 mm to 25.0 mm.  Within that range, the US has size designations, the UK has size designations, and on the list that I referenced, the Japanese have size designations.  The same could probably be said for other nations as well, but these three are the most consistent that I’ve seen.  I cannot recommend anything here.  I haven’t learned yet.  I have a basic 5 pair US set that I’ve learned some basic stitches on.  A basic set of aluminum knitting needles at Amazon will cost around $10.  The wooden ones may cost twice that.  There are also cable needles and place markers in knitting.  A book, a class, some videos online can get you started with this process.  If you look into this now, you’ve got choices.  You also need some sort of pattern.  Patterns are also everywhere.  Patterns can be found at craft stores, fabric stores, discount stores, and online.  It is very easy to find patterns at all skill levels.

The final tool needed is yarn.  Currently you can buy many different types of yarn that run from plain cotton to wool to exotic yarns like llama and alpaca yarn.  It can be expensive or it can be inexpensive.  The acrylic wool blend that I like at the moment is just over $5 a skein. I find that expensive, so I really watch for sales. It is bulky, though, so storing it will be an issue.  If you have those old afghans of your grandmas, with a snip at some knots, you can pull a crocheted afghan apart and use the yarn for other projects that suit your needs.  You can unravel a knit sweater to reuse yarn also.  This was a common practice in the Depression, but we don’t do it often now.  Machine finished and serged knit garments are less desirable because they are often not one continuous stitched piece.  You might look for hand knit and hand crochet items at thrift stores and garage sales. 

Since yarn is a key issue, my husband and I plan to add some sort of fiber producing animal to our homestead shortly.  We haven’t decided what animal, but probably goats.  Living in the desert, we cannot have a wooly animal.  Once we’ve achieved that goal, I will buy a spinning wheel and learn to spin.  I may have to go out of state for classes, or I may be able to teach myself.  The ability to keep some sort of animal that provides fiber and the ability to spin that fiber into yarn and to turn that yarn into something wearable puts a level of comfort into your homestead preparations that will set you apart from other preppers.

There are two consistent issues that I’ve heard about crochet and knitting.  One is keeping the yarn tension loose and consistent.  Most people attribute this to stress.  I’m not a stressed person.  I’ve never had to rip anything out due to thread tension, but I do know that there are many articles and helpful hints out there to help you if you have this particular problem.  The second issue is reading the patterns.  This is a valid point.  US and British have slightly different definitions for crochet terms.  Double crochet in the US is different than a double crochet in British terms.  German and Japanese companies release beautiful patterns, but they are not in English.  There is a new system using diagrams that I’ve seen here and there.  I think it will transcend language issues once a standard gets established.  It is important to read the pattern before you begin.  Usually, if you read it, you’ll find that a significant portion of the project is repeated.  Once you get the repeat down, you can make your project.  I’ve run in to this several times as I’ve taught myself to crochet.  Usually, I just crochet and rip, crochet and rip until I am satisfied with what I’m doing.  Since I enjoy this as a hobby, I don’t consider this time wasted.  When I finally get around to teaching myself to knit, I imagine that the process will be similar.  At the end of the day, you treat this skill like any other skill.  You start small and easy and work your way to more advanced projects.  If you get stuck, ask for help or find a video tutorial or a class at the local community center.  Figure it out now while you have choices.

Sewing, quilting and other fiber pursuits can really make the difference in the comfort level of a homestead.  Any time you read a book, fiction or non-fiction, about pioneers and Americans of the 18th and 19th centuries, you find skills.  Their skills are many and varied.  The way that our forefathers and the pioneers of old lived was remarkable, but for them it was simply how they lived.  They had those skills because they needed them; they used them, sometimes every day.  The more skills they possessed, the more comfortable their lives were.  In America today, most of us live a very comfortable life.  I can buy all of the hats, scarves, and quilts that I want to buy.   I don’t feel the need to apologize for our basic comforts.  I do believe, though, that the loss of our skills to mass produced merchandise is ill advised.  The point is, as a prepper, you can go out and buy stores of quilts, comforters, blankets, hats, scarves, clothing, etc. and store them.  But as a prepper, you know that doing for yourself, making for yourself, honing the skills to make a comfortable life for yourself is more important that what money can buy.
In review:

  • Quilting is an easy skill to attain.  Classes now can help you acquire those skills, but basic construction is only a top, pieced or not, a lining, and batting for the middle.
  • You can use a variety of material for each of these components.  Cotton is the best, but you can also use double knit, silks, velvets, wools, and any other fabric used in clothing.  Some of these fabrics require special laundering.
  • Make sure that you pin or baste your quilt very well. It isn’t the end of the world to have a crease on the lining, but as long as you’re learning, you might as well learn correctly.
  • Go back to the article written by Lockstitch in February 2013 about choosing a sewing machine that will stand up to the demands post TEOTWAWKI.  Find a good machine if you don’t already have one.
  • Try to use a good quilting stitch when using your machine.  If nothing else use a lengthened zig-zag stitch.
  • Hand piecing, hand quilting and tying quilts are also options for putting a quilt together.  They are slower and it is more difficult to make a quilt that will stay together.  Hand quilting is by far a larger skill than machine quilting, but machine quilts are inherently stronger.
  • Other fiber arts or hobbies, such as crochet and knitting could be very important in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Having the clothing to layer both body and bed could keep you alive.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I would like to add a couple of things with regard to the recent article and letters on sewing.
1.  Get a button jar.  People used to save the buttons from discarded, worn out clothing and use them for repair or when making new items.  When a button hole begins to wear out even a novice with needle and thread can sew on a larger button and make the garment wearable until the button hole can be repaired. A riveted metal button cannot be sewn back on and neither can a broken button.  I have buttons that have outlasted several garments and are still doing their duty.
2.   Wal-Mart sells an assortment of needles suitable for most sewing tasks including some that are sturdy enough to sew leather.  They also sell a large spool of thread that is meant for sewing on buttons but is ideal for repairing work clothing as well.  Both of them together are less than $3.00.
3.  Next time you go to Goodwill or your favorite thrift look at the far end of the rack of denim pants/jeans.  Often you can find a pair of new or nearly new jeans in a very large size.  I bought a size 48 heavy denim jean that was  new or nearly new for $.99.  I hope to never be able to wear that size but by buying them I got several yards of heavy denim and a new zipper.  The back pockets are already cut and hemmed and can be used as patches on coat elbows or the knees of kids jeans.  When I buy a pair of bib overalls I put double knee patches on them right away.  It is easier to do this when they are new as the knees are not stretched out.  Put the patch on the outside of the overalls and leave the bottom of the patch un-sewn.  They dry faster when washed, you can put padding in there if you have to spend a long time on your knees and any lint or debris that finds its way behind the patch will fall out.  Jeans patched this way from the bottom of the pockets to below the knees are warmer and more comfortable to kneel in than before they were patched.  This large pair of jeans will provide patches for two pairs of bibs and that will double the wear that you can expect from them. - Larry K.

Another reader commented: "Buttons. Lay in a store of metal buttons. I can't tell you how many plastic, conventional buttons I've smashed working on something. Metal shirt and pant buttons don't break and wear for years. Plan on making clothes using buttons, including suspender buttons. Zippers break, jam and are far harder to replace than good metal buttons."

That's another of the things that our zinc sandwich phony pennies are good for: Turning them into buttons is really simple and easy with a drill press and 1/32" drill bit, but can be done with hand tools if necessary. - George S.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

James Wesley,
I have a few comments on the recent clothing article:
Good heavy work clothing is around, if you know where to look. Carhartt, Prison Blues, Roundhouse, Wild Ass jeans and Dickies to name just a few of the better known names. Treat this clothing as an investment and buy it even if its expensive as it's worth every penny.
Buttons.  Lay in a store of metal buttons.  I can't tell you how many plastic, conventional buttons I've smashed working on something.  Metal shirt and pant buttons don't break and wear for years. Plan on making clothes using buttons, including suspender buttons.  Zippers break, jam and are far harder to replace than good metal buttons. 
Lay in a pattern for overalls.  Sure, they look dorky but there isn't a better piece of clothing for hard work.  You can get them with double knees, all of them have the metal buttons, and the well made ones are made with 12 ounce denim, so they wear well for years.  Lots of pockets for tools, easy to layer up under them in cold weather, it's no wonder they've been in use for decades. - Bill S.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My husband, children and I live in a largely off-grid community in the desert southwest.  We live on forty acres with solar power, a water well and water catchment.  We garden and live with chickens and are adding skills to our new life style all of the time.  My husband does not like for me to be too specific, but I outlined some of our lifestyle changes in an article on trash in July 2012.
This article is about clothing.  It is about sewing and mending and altering.  I know you’d rather read about AR-15’s, but IMHO, clothing is going to be a big deal in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Before radically changing our lifestyle two years ago, I was the typical American mother.  I bought new clothing when the old became too small or too worn.  I bought when the seasons changed, and worse, I bought when the fashions changed.  Another thing I steadfastly did was to donate clothing by the tub and box full.  I worked very hard at keeping our closets clean and clutter free.  This is something that every home management book, blog, and article tell American moms to do. 

Whether you shop in charitable thrift stores or big box discount stores or big name fashion stores, the quality available to most Americans is pathetic.  But, while we still have shopping opportunities, look for quality clothing, for yourself and every member of your family.  Buy it whether you need it or not.  And once you own it, where ever you got it, you need to hang on to the quality stuff and learn to repair it.  I advocate charitable giving, but I also advocate the discontinuation of consumerist disposal of the old to make way for the new because of fashion dictates and other materialistic mindsets.
Have you taken an inventory of your closet lately?  Is it 90% professional clothing?  Do you have suits and ties for weekdays?  Is it chinos and button down Oxfords for the weekends?  Or do you have heavy duty work-type seasonal clothing that is suitable for your climate?  Do you have enough to layer in a cold climate with no household heating?  Can you protect yourself from the sun in the heat of the summer?  What about work boots?  Do you have a pair or two mixed in with your dress loafers?  Women, how many of you have heavy denim jeans?  I say this because women’s jeans are usually thin stretch denim and it is flimsy.  I know because I repair it!  Ladies, those high heels and flirty flip-flops that we all love are not going to serve you well in most TEOTWAWKI situations.  Neither are the flimsy tank tops that are so popular in summer.  Most of us do not wear them in the desert.  What is in your closet?  If you can’t imagine what you’d need, there are books, like Mr. Rawles’, that have fictionalized accounts of what a TEOTWAWKI scenario would be like.  Look around for people who work outdoors or farm; go into GEBO’s or whatever your farm supply store is.

I’d like to add one last thing before I begin my main topic.  I have no idea what I’m preparing for.  We, those of us who have a certain mindset about future possibilities, don’t know what the future holds.  We all have an opinion.  We think it may go this way or that way, but really, we don’t know.  Our job is to prepare, as best we can, for many different scenarios.  There are plenty of scenarios where we will all be blessed to just get out alive, never mind our extended wardrobe. There are others, like a long slow economic decline, where we simply have to roll up our shirtsleeves and do more with less.  There are plenty of TEOTWAWKI scenarios in the middle of those two.  If you are preparing, though, you need to prepare to have no new and maybe no new-to-you clothing options in the foreseeable future.

New clothing construction.  This usually begins with a pattern.  There are a few points to think about with patterns.  First, what kind do you want?  Well, IMHO, you want basic patterns for clothing that suits your area.  Pants, shirts, coats, jackets, hats, gloves, vests, the list could go on and on.  You can find a sewing pattern for just about everything, so if you’ve got an interest, look through the books and pick out patterns for additional items like luggage, organizers, tea cozies, etc., whatever suits your interests.  Just make sure you cover the basics first.  Also, if you are young, starting a family, think you may continue to add to your family, you need to consider the different stages of that child’s growth when looking at patterns.  Second, if I were you, after searching out the patterns that I like and want, then I would wait for a pattern sale.  Patterns can cost $10 to $15 these days, but most stores put patterns on sale regularly.  These sales used to be across the board, come in and get it sales.  These days, they have restrictions here and there.  Just educate yourself.  They all eventually go on sale.  Also, you can find many free patterns on the internet.  Granted, most of these are craft patterns, but you can find basic patterns too.

| Quick side note.  While tissue paper patterns have been around for a long time, they haven’t always been available. So what was the process before tissue patterns?  You can use newspaper, butcher paper, freezer paper (smaller items), muslin, or light colored sheets to make a pattern.  It is always easier to have a deconstructed item of clothing for this, but simpler garments can be traced without deconstructing.  You lay the garment pieces out on the fabric you are using and you trace around it.  You need to make sure that you leave enough for a seam allowance, usually 5/8 inch.  A basic understanding of clothing construction is helpful here.  Let me admit right here that the only time I’ve done this was in college.  Several of us in the dorm made matching sleep pants.  Two hours and lots of giggling later, we were done.  We used shoe strings for the waist, so I’m pretty sure that experience doesn’t qualify as “making my own pattern”.  So, I haven’t done this before.  If it interests you, research it.  However, one of my roommates could draw a basic dress on the fabric, cut it out and sew it up.  Many people can do this and they don’t all live in large cities.  Maybe you can find someone with this skill who is like minded enough to join your group.  Wouldn’t that be a great asset? 

Back to store bought patterns.  Patterns come in a range of sizes.  For example, women’s pants can include sizes 8, 10, 12, and 14.  You simply cut the pattern along the line that corresponds to your measurements.  And you need to have accurate measurements.  Sewing patterns do not always correspond to store sizes.  This is mostly a problem with women’s clothing, not men’s.  And, IMHO, you should buy a range of sizes from the smallest through at least extra-large in a range of patterns.  Example: my youngest son was tiny until the age of 14.  He is now the size of The Hulk.  Many women are different sizes from top to bottom.  A range of sizes is good. If you don’t want to have that many patterns, then just get the most basic clothing patterns in the widest variety of sizes.  For the more specialized patterns, you can be more size specific.  You might be able to barter with extra patterns, though, you never know.  Patterns are meant to be cut.  I don’t cut mine.  I trace them onto paper.  Besides having an aversion to cutting that pristine pattern, I don’t cut mine because I can be different sizes at different times.  I gain, I lose, I add pockets.  If you cut the pattern, it is cut.  I don’t cut mine. 
If you are going to sew new clothing, then fabric is the next step.  Useful fabric is probably another article all together.  I came from a small city of just over 200,000 and if you want to make a prom dress, no problem.  Most fabric stores sell craft fabric, home decoration fabric, and fabric for special occasion clothing.  Professional suiting (for women), fabric for Sunday dresses can be had, but the everyday hard wearing fabric is harder to find.  You can find home dec denim or denim for dressy skirts, but not hard wearing, “play outside” denim.  Since I haven’t lived in a really large city, I can’t speak to what is available there, but I don’t think it could be too different.  If I’m wrong and you live in a large city and can find good thick denim, canvas, thick flannels, strong thick cottons, then stock up and learn to sew.  Let’s not forget all of the other necessary sewing notions, either.  Thread, buttons, zippers, slacks closures, hooks and eyes, the list could be long, but it doesn’t have to be.  Stock the basics.  Now, here is the kicker, after four paragraphs, I say to you that, right now, new clothing construction is not cost effective.  I think in some scenarios, it could be…again, but right now, it isn’t.  There are just too many lower cost and more efficient ways to find clothing, such as thrift shopping.  I still stand behind what I just wrote, though.

So what were the previous paragraphs for?  You’ve got store bought patterns and sewing notions, now what?  Well, I haven’t sent you down the rabbit hole; I simply do not know what role clothing manufacturers or cloth manufactures will have in certain end times scenarios.  So you take those patterns and you read them.  This is how you learn about basic clothing construction and then, in turn, you learn about alterations and repair.  I find these two topics to be more useful for my continued efforts in prepping.  If what is ahead is a severe, deep depression similar to the 30’s, then it could be that fabric is affordable and store bought is not.  Sewing in any form will be a fundamental and much needed skill.

As I’ve stated before, I live in a small community.  I often work in a small quilting shop.  The owner will take in repairs and small, easy alterations.  We repair a lot of clothing here.  We sew up pockets, we hem new jeans, and we repair rips, tears, and wears.  For many in our community, they have no concern whatsoever about how a repaired item “looks”.  We can repair holes with a patch and the heavy and liberal use of the zigzag stitch.  If a pocket is ripped, most don’t mind if we put on a different colored pocket.  In my family of men, there are so many tiny holes in underwear and socks that can be easily repaired with a darning stitch or a zigzag stitch on the machine.  My daughter’s things have to be handled more carefully, but all in all, she’s not that picky.  My point is, when you find a rip, or a tear, fix it right then.  Don’t wait for it to get worse.  Sew it together with a strong stitch and be as neat as you can with it.  Don’t throw it away if the main part of the garment is still useful.  If you cannot wear it in public, then wear it at home or store it.  If the repair is major, get out a pattern and cut a new sleeve, or a new collar.  Use the patterns to fashion new pockets or cuffs.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot just wing something like that on the fly.  I need a pattern. 

Patterns will be very useful when altering clothing.  In any end-time scenario where people actually survive, you can pretty much count on losing weight.  Regardless of how much food you’ve stored, your supply is limited. You’ll ration your food.  Pair that with the absence of processed foods and you’ve probably got a significant loss of excess pounds.  What you also have is a closet full of clothing sized for your pre-TEOTWAWKI self.  Now, you can prep for weight loss and buy clothing in smaller sizes and store it.  You could go ahead and lose the weight now and that way you’d only have minor changes to make.  Still, your clothing is going to need alteration at some point.

I’ve thought about this portion of this article for a while now.  There is no way that I can write, describe, or illustrate all of the ways to alter clothing in this article.  So, what follows is a simple start to a much larger learned skill. 

The very best way to alter clothing because of weight loss is to deconstruct the item, cut them down and reconstruct them.  This is where those sewing patterns come in handy. Not many people will to want to do that. I wouldn’t do it unless the item of clothing needed to be severely cut down. 
So, if we are not going to deconstruct the item, then what?  Starting at the top, most shirts can be altered by simply taking in the side seams.  If the shirt has sleeves, then you probably will need to take in the seam of the sleeve as well. The seam is usually on the underside of the sleeve.  You can use pattern pieces to keep the shape of your garment.  Pattern pieces also will have the seam allowance already marked.  If you are a complete novice, break out the patterns.  Or, if you have some basic knowledge of sewing, then put the shirt on inside out and have a friend or family member pin (straight pins) the seams to the contour of your body.  You don’t want to do this too tightly.  Most clothing seams have a 5/8” seam allowance, meaning you sew your seam 5/8” from the edge.  You’ll need to consider that allowance as you pin.  If you need to take in the sleeves, pin the sleeve as well.  Take the time to mark it.  Any writing instrument will do, it doesn’t have to be a sewing marker.  These two seams will meet at the sleeve hole and will have taken up the necessary excess fabric in the sleeve hole.  Sew it up with a straight stitch.  I would suggest you try the garment on before you cut away the excess fabric.  If it isn’t right, that is okay. A straight stitch is easy to rip out.  Rip the seam and make any corrections needed.  Once you are satisfied, then I suggest you use a narrow zigzag stitch just inside the straight stitch to make the whole seam stronger.  Then you cut away the excess fabric.  It probably took me longer to type and edit this paragraph than the process actually takes, so don’t be intimidated. 

To make a small shirt larger, say for children who are growing, you could cut the side seams and add fabric to each side to the seam. Sew it up with a narrow zigzag stitch or a straight stitch.  Add fabric to the bottom of the shirt; add more fabric to the underside of the sleeve and you have a larger shirt that can see some more wear.  You can probably get at least another season of wear out of a shirt by using this technique.  Actually, since adding fabric at the seams is a style statement at the moment, you can find examples of this on the internet if you look.

Sleeves deserve a little extra attention.  Shortening sleeves? Not a problem. Most people can easily cut sleeves off and hem either what is left of the sleeve or hem the sleeve hole.  Pretty obvious and pretty easy.  Can you lengthen sleeves?  Well, if you don’t mind fabric that doesn’t match, then sure, you can lengthen sleeves.  You can add extra material at the shoulder seam or at the wrist.  Here is another time you can use the patterns that you’ve stored.  You can make a whole new sleeve by using the sleeve from a shirt pattern similar to what you are altering. If it needs to be lengthened, most patterns have a line where you can cut the pattern to lengthen it or fold it to shorten it.  Cut it out and sew it up.  Or, at the shoulder, use the upper part of the sleeve to make a pattern for the sleeve hole.  I’d use an inch or so in addition to your seam allowance of complimentary fabric and not even try to match the fabric of the sleeve.  Use a straight seam to sew the sleeve on to the new fabric. Pin your whole sleeve into the sleeve hole. If you have a pattern, follow those instructions. If you don’t have pattern instructions, then find the side seam of the shirt and pin to the seam on the underside of the sleeve. Do the same with the top of the sleeve. Once those two pins are in place, ease the rest of the fabric in on the curve.

You could also take the cuff off, if there is a cuff, and add fabric there.  Same procedure, you simply make a pattern from the end of the sleeve with the cuff off.  Sew the new fabric on and then reattach the cuff.   If there is no cuff, add one for extra length.  This is probably something that you would only do in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

The next obvious item of clothing that might need altering is pants or slacks.  If the waist needs to come in just a bit, then add darts.  Basically, to make a dart, you put your index finger in the back waist band and then using your thumb and third finger, press excess material to the front of your index finger.  You’ve done this a million times, so you know how to do it.  Pin it.  Once you have the clothing off again, pull the material together and smooth it into a long triangle on the wrong side of the fabric.  This is a dart.  Pin it and sew it up.  Make another dart on the opposite side in a similar place.  If you have a lot of material to take in, you may have to take the waistband off, take in the extra from the center seam in the butt. You’d also have to take in the waistband and that will involve removing a belt loop or two and the pockets as well.  This may be worth it if you have nothing else to wear, but it is a pain otherwise.  For general resizing in the hips and thighs use the inseam. If you are sizing jeans and the inseam is a double hem, then I’d just cut that off and make a flat seam.

After all of that, hemming the length of the pant leg is a breeze. Get a friend or a family member to pin them and sew with a straight stitch. If you need to hem more than an inch, consider cutting the material off leaving enough for a 5/8” seam.  You’ll want to turn the raw edge and then turn it again for the best results.

That is a very basic description of alteration for basic clothing. I didn’t cover altering a suit or a prom dress or any other kind of dress for that matter.  I don’t really consider those items important after the ball drops. I don’t think any of the readers on this site would either. If the world is truly gone, then I’d cut up those wool suits and make quilts out of them (you can’t wash them, but they are WARM). I’d use the softer prom dress type material for sleepwear or underwear for women or children.  You also may need to cut adult clothing down to child size.  Another good reason to have patterns on hand.
I have a final observation about Americans and clothing.  I said above that I do believe in charity and I do not advocate discontinuing that practice.  I don’t know about you, though, but the images of the mountains of clothing dumped on Sri Lanka and other areas affected by the Christmas tsunami in 2004 was eye-opening for me.  As Americans we have SO MUCH that we sent it to those people by the container full.  I think it was a wonderful testament to the giving hearts of most American people.  But!  Most of it was not usable in their tropical climate.  I read that much of it was destroyed.  The people there could not use it and they could not deal with the onslaught of all of that clothing.  So, I urge you to look at clothing that you might give away with a more discerning eye.  Absolutely donate your professional clothing!  If an item is in pristine condition, someone will be thankful to receive it.  But I know that in our little church clothing room, I receive far more articles of clothing that are stained and ripped than those that are pristine.  Many organizations will not put these clothes out at all.  They destroy them.  But, if you do not donate them; if you mine those clothes for zippers, buttons, collars, cuffs and any number of embellishments that clothing companies use, then that clothing won’t be wasted.  You can either deconstruct the garment completely and keep the pieces organized, or just store the shirt.  You can also use the deconstructed garment to make a pattern if you missed those pattern sales that I told you about.  You’ll be tempted to say that you cannot possibly store one more thing.  I agree.  Storage is a problem for all of us, but buttons and zippers don’t take that much room.  Find a way to store at least some items because you will need them.  And before you throw away the body of the garment, could you use it for a blanket or quilt?  Could you use it for cleaning rags or even bandages if it comes to that?
So, my suggestions are:

  • Learn about sewing or better yet, learn to sew.
  • Stock up on patterns, material, and sewing notions that will be useful in a survival situation.
  • Learn to keep your basic wardrobe in good repair.  Learn to alter clothing.
  • When going through your closet, keep in mind emergency/survival scenarios.  Do you have the clothing necessary to keep you covered, cool and/or warm enough in any type of situation?
  • If the clothing that you seek to remove from your closet would be useful in a survival situation, do not throw it out or donate it.  If it is too small, it won’t be after the ball drops.  It may be something that you could barter with.   Good, heavy duty clothing will be a gold mine.  If it is not in good repair, repair it yourself or have it repaired while you still have professionals who can and will repair and alter.
  • Lose the bulk of the extra weight now.  It is just easier that way.
  • By all means, donate your professional clothing to charitable organizations, but the items that are too ripped, or worn, or stained to donate should be mined for usable parts.
  • On February 8th, 2013 Mr. Rawles posted an article to Survivalblog called “Industrial Sewing Machines for Prepared Families”, by Lockstich.  This is really an excellent article.  Obviously, if you don’t have a sewing machine, then that article is the place to start.  Get a good machine.  And then learn to use it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Darkness was rapidly settling in, I was soaking wet, and the temperature was falling as fast as the snow.  There were still about 8 miles of very rough country between me and my truck and I was flat out smoked from hiking all day in deep snow at high elevation.  I realized I could not hope to navigate by headlamp the many blow down trees and steep canyon walls that separated me from my truck in my current condition.  While I realized the seriousness of my situation, I was not particularly worried and silently thanked the Lord I had practiced the skills essential to surviving in the wild and carried the appropriate gear on my back.  As I quickly went about the tasks required to set up a field expedient bivouac camp, I contemplated the many similar situations I had been through in my life were the main goal and focus was to not die.

Curled up comfortably in my emergency blanket with my face towards my fire and my back to a large log serving as a heat reflector, I realized that without the proper skills and some basic gear the situation good have been deadly.  The sounds of a distant wolf howl in the night reminded me of the thin veneer between polite society and the wild, were man is reduced to the basic necessities of survival; food, fire, and shelter.  In my experience, most people fail to realize how delicate the balance of our society is and how quickly they can be thrust into a situation where the main focus is survival.     

Not dying has frequently been a priority of mine while fighting in Iraq as an Infantry team leader and designated long range marksman, followed by a career in law enforcement in western Montana.  My love of hiking, hunting, and camping has resulted in many hours spent in the wilderness of western Montana and northern Idaho.  While enjoying these pursuits, my focus has had to frequently switch from hunting and camping to not dying.  While some of these instances were indeed emergencies caused by bad decisions and a general lack of intelligence, some of them were self induced to practice survival skills in the wild.  After surviving several life threatening situations while hunting and camping with me, many spouses of my friends no longer allow their husbands to go hunting or camping with me.  I have had to resort to marketing my frequent hunting trips as “hands on survival courses” graded on a pass or fail depending on whether they make it back alive or not.

I have an affliction that is probably encouraged from reading way too many books about Mountain Men and Native Americans that causes me to constantly push myself to the limits and test myself by surviving in the wilderness with minimal equipment in varied terrain and all kinds of weather.  Frequent trips into the wilderness to practice survival skills have resulted in a fairly good working knowledge of what actually works when the chips are down versus what just sounds good in a book read by the warmth of a fireplace.  After spending his childhood tramping around the woods with me and camping with minimal equipment, my son decided to join the Marine Corps to relax for a while.  He’s joked that after some of our hunting trips, the Marines should be a walk in the park.

There have been countless books and articles written about what to carry in your survival pack and how to survive if lost in the woods.  I don’t plan on reinventing the wheel and will not bore you with writing a field manual on the many varied tasks and skills required to survive in the wild.  I would like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned and some of the items I always carry whenever I go into the backcountry along with a few essential skills that I’ve found to be absolutely necessary for survival.

Knowledge and skills-    
First and foremost, is acquiring the knowledge and necessary outdoor skills and then practicing them until you can do them when you are wet, cold, hungry, and tired.  Gear and gadgets won’t save your tail when the cow chips hit the fan, but proper training will.  Knowing you already posses the knowledge and skills to survive gives a person the confidence of knowing that despite being a in a tight situation, they will persevere and come out okay. The confidence gained from practiced outdoor skills allows a person to control their fear and keep it from turning into panic, which can be deadly.  I heard a saying while in the Army and have found it to be true; “people don’t rise to the occasion, they fall back on their level of training”.  It still baffles me how many people I run across who not only have untested gear in their backpack, but have never actually went out and practiced building a fire and shelter in different kinds of weather, or tried to hunt and gather food from the forest.  I can’t stress it enough; a cool head and skills developed through research and practice are more valuable than the latest fancy outdoor gear.

Clothing -
Speaking of fancy outdoor gear, the older I get and the more experience I gain, the more I prefer traditional gear and clothing, with a few notable exceptions such as Gortex and commercial fire starters.  I prefer to wear wool because of its ability to maintain warmth even when wet, and let me tell you, you are almost always wet in these types of situations.  In every serious emergency survival situation that I have been involved in, I have been wet, cold, and tired.  Survival situations hardly ever occur when it’s warm and sunny outside; it’s always when it’s cold, wet, and poor visibility.  For this reason, waterproofing yourself and your gear is essential.  I keep a Gortex rain coat in my pack for wet weather and also to cut the wind. 

Gear -
After having my pack soaked a few times, I have taken to storing everything in my pack in dry bags.  I have found that items stored in zip lock baggies will only be water resistant, not waterproof.  The friction created from items rubbing together inside the backpack over time will create small holes in the baggies that will let in water.  A good light weight alternative is to obtain a rubberized military surplus laundry bag and put the bag inside your backpack to serve as a liner.  If your pack isn’t waterproof, it doesn’t take much water to leave you with soaked gear that’s as worthless as a politician’s promise. 

I won’t go into an all inclusive list of gear I carry in my pack, but I will mention a few items that I always carry when in the woods.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’m kind of old school and I always carry a light hatchet when in the woods.  This single tool is indispensable when building shelter, gathering firewood, field dressing big game, and countless other camp chores.  I have found the weight of the hatchet to be offset by the many tasks made easier with its use.  A metal cup is always with me in my pack.  Stored inside the cup are a small folding tin stove, fuel tablets, waterproof matches, coffee, and instant oatmeal.  A headlamp with extra batteries makes gathering firewood in the dark much easier and is considered by me to be essential gear.  I have found a good quality emergency blanket to be worth its weight in gold when spending an unexpected cold night in the woods.  Don’t bother with purchasing the super thin, shiny emergency blankets that fold up to the approximate size of a postage stamp.  These blankets tear easily and are almost impossible to wrap up in without virtually disintegrating.  Keep in mind that you are in an out of your blanket many times during the night stoking the camp fire.  Pay the extra money and buy a decently reinforced emergency blanket.  A quality compass never leaves my pack unless I’m looking at it to determine how far the elk tracks I’ve been following have led me astray.  Last but certainly the most important, are fire making items.  I carry at least three methods of starting a fire along with commercial fire starting material.  Cigarette lighters, waterproof matches, magnesium and steel fire block, along with a number of “Wet Fire” fire starter tablets go with me whenever I venture into the wild. 

Fire -
I have used many different types of fire starters in all kinds of weather conditions and have settled on the “Wet Fire” brand tablets because of availability, lightness, and they will light with a spark even in wet conditions.  I used to use the old military Trioxane fuel tablets, but have recently had a hard time finding them in my area (you can still find them through on-line military surplus outlets).  There are also some homemade options for fire starter that work very well.  My best advice is to practice with several varieties and decide what works best for you.  Remember, just because you have matches and fire starter, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to start a fire in wet and windy conditions unless you’ve practiced the skill beforehand.  There are many other items you may choose to carry in your survival pack, but the aforementioned items are ones that I have used repeatedly in real life survival situations and found them to be essential in making an emergency situation survivable.

Food and Water –
Without water you’re not going to make it very far at all in a life and death situation.  I’ve had to sip water from a moose track in the mud simply to stay hydrated enough to function properly.  There is a plethora of compact lightweight water filtration systems available nowadays that are relatively cheap.  I would advise you to steer away from the systems that are not free flowing.  Trying to suck the water through some of these systems is painfully slow and does not refresh you like being able to actually drink from a bottle or cup.  I usually carry water purification tablets because they take up virtually no space in my pack and weigh almost nothing.  If you choose to go the water purification route, carry two water bottles.  With two bottles, you can have one ready to use and the other bottle can contain water that is in the process of being treated via the tablets.  I usually carry a variety of lightweight, high energy foods such as: oatmeal, jerky, power bars, trail mix, etc… 

A note on food and water; you can only carry a limited supply and if you’re in a situation for an extended period of time you will have to have already learned the skills required to obtain these resources from your surroundings.  If you haven’t already, learn to fish and hunt.  In a pinch where vital calories are needed, it’s probably better to focus your attention on hunting and fishing rather than constructing snares.  Success with snares is a numbers game.  You generally have to construct quite a few snares in order to actually catch something.  There are probably many people out there that are better trappers than me, but I just haven’t had much luck with snares in survival situations.   

Shelter –
In short; situation, terrain, weather, and time available, dictates what type of shelter to build.  A book could be written on the various types of shelters and how to construct them.  My best advice is to practice building a few, and find what types you are comfortable building and then refine those until you can build them in a hurry under severe conditions.  Location is one of the key factors in shelter construction.  Once you make the decision to stop, or the decision is made for you, locating the best place to bivouac is a critical skill that comes with time and practice.  As a general rule, stay off ridge tops and mountain peaks due to the wind and try and move uphill from creek bottoms and lakes to get more sun and warmer temperatures.  Finding a spot close to water with an abundance of easily accessible firewood is also advantageous.    

As you can see, I haven’t provided an itemized list of what to carry in a survival pack or included instructions on how to build a shelter and fire if lost in the woods.  There are many resources that have gone into great detail on these subjects and I could write an entire article on fire building alone.  I also did not address the various outdoor technological gadgets such as GPS units.  While these items are useful, anything mechanical is prone to breakage or malfunction when you need it most.  I have found that most people experience varying degrees of anxiety when they are separated from today’s technology and their creature comforts.  There is no substitute for traditional survival skills to help alleviate this anxiety and provide the confidence required to perform calmly in a bad situation.  Finally, the only way to obtain these skills and confidence is to get out and practice the tasks required to survive in the wild before you actually have to use them.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Some great points have been brought up by R.S. in a response to my original article. I appreciate the input and agree completely with the value of a true industrial machine while electricity is available. Nothing compares to a walking foot industrial for those heavy jobs that use materials such as thick leather, webbing and multiples layers of canvas. I should have mentioned that a household low-tech treadle would pale in comparison to a modern electric industrial machine.

I too, appreciate their capability for sewing heavy work.  As luck would have it, I own and operate both a Consew 226R and a Singer 211G155 due to a family business that requires industrial sewing. My Consew 226R (R = reverse) is a lovely machine and I use it regularly but I must admit, I do prefer my older Singer 211 which does NOT have a reverse.  Just sew-you-know, this is easily compensated for in an industrial application with a “looped” backtack sewing method. It is a technique that is strong, speedy and has been in use for many years. A looped backtack can also be applied when using a treadle which eliminates the need to rotate your project 180’ in order to lock your stitches.

The  backtack  process is pretty simple:
Sew to the end of your where you need to stop on your project, raise your needle and presser foot to the “up” positions. Pull your work toward you about 3/4” inch, drop your foot down and continue to sew. When you raise the presser foot up it releases the tension on top thread tensioner. This allows you the freedom to pull your fabric forward as needed and create a “looped backtack”. Be sure not to snip the loop when trimming threads!  

My intention here is not to steer anyone away from an industrial machine when one is needed, but rather to point out the advantages of owning a Singer 66 treadle sewing machine in a grid-down environment. They are a general purpose all-around useful household machine at an affordable price. A used electric industrial sewing machine can cost from $600 on up, while the non-electric Singer 66 can generally be found for less than $300. While the Singer 66 treadle will certainly not sew heavy webbing or thick leather, I can tell you from personal experience that the fabrics/hides they will tolerate will surprise you. They have been home-tested for 80+ years, unlike any other machine on the market. As I mentioned in my original article, a Singer industrial treadle is also available (model 29-4) to those who want to sew heavier materials. Both will provide you with decades of reliability.

As a prepper, when comparing the later electric version of a Singer 66 to the earlier non-electric treadle version, the following must be considered:
1. No electricity required.
2. See No. 1!
3. The standard Singer 66 electric machine was equipped with .5 amp motor (the equivalent of .07 horsepower). This rating is determined with the motor running at full speed. In a nutshell, the Singer 66 electric motor is just plain weak when compared to the foot powered Singer 66 treadle which is the machine my article focused on.
4. Because of the low power of the motor at start-up, it does not achieve the same torque (at start-up) as a treadle does. Even though the heads are the same, a treadle uses mechanical leverage and pulleys to achieve its torque. The treadle’s needle has punching power within only a few revolutions. With the proper needle and a bit of coaxing, a low-tech treadle will sew a respectable two layers of soft suede or multiple layers of denim.

Did I mention that the Singer 66 treadle sewing machine requires no electricity?

Let’s get down to nuts & bolts. Comparing an electric industrial sewing machine to a household treadle is much like comparing apples to oranges. But, allow me to attempt to do this. Let’s list the advantages of industrial grade sewing machines - using the the two models I mentioned above, and which I own, as examples.

1. Both machines have powerful motors. The Consew has .33 hp and the Singer has 1/2 hp.
2. These particular industrial sewing machines have walking foots for grip which pull the fabric through and make quick work of heavy projects.
3. Both accept heavy gauge thread and needles. Both have high clearance for thick seams and an added feature is a presser foot/tension release knee lift to keep your hands free.
4. Both are wonderful machines, a joy to operate. I agree 100% with R.S. on the value of owning an electric industrial (or two).

Okay, so now back to speaking about the foot-powered Singer 66 treadle again….

A foot-powered Singer 66 treadle, (and household machines in general) have a spring that creates pressure on the presser foot. The presser foot clearance is of medium to low height, and you are limited in the number layers it will handle. In addition, a household machine is really designed for household use and should not be used with industrial gauge threads (or needles).

So what is my main reason for advocating that readers own a Singer 66? It will not leave you in the dark....when you need it most it will be there and in working condition.

I thank you once again for the opportunity to continue to share my passion for the antique Singer 66 treadle machine. It is my hope for all who read this will seriously consider owning a low-tech, highly reliable treadle. It may not sew everything you want to sew, but it is absolutely a superstar when no power is available. - T.J.G.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The sewing submission by TJG about Singer 66 Treadle machines is informative and “generally” relays the usefulness of such a machine, especially in a grid-down environment, however, as I have learned personally, her claims that the Singer 66 can handle THICK and BULKY items like leather and nylon is not accurate in my opinion. I learned this by buying a beautiful electric-motor-driven Singer 66 “Red Eye” model to do all the nylon web gear modifications I have always wanted to do to my gear, as the Singer 66 is indeed a tough all-steel sewing machine, yet I quickly discovered the weakness the Singer 66 had with thick, tough materials (as well as other old home sewing machines), that being thread tension capabilities. Thread tension is what constructs a strong stitch by pulling up the bobbin thread into the fabric, ideally half way into the center, and the Singer 66 without modification just doesn’t have the tension capabilities to pull up thick T69 or T90 thread into thick nylon or leather. Remember, these Singer 66’s were designed for normal household sewing tasks, such as dresses, suits, shirts and other thin fabrics. They were not designed to sew multiple layers of nylon strapping onto Cordura fabric.
However, mechanically-minded as I am, I was able to modify the thread tension assembly on the sewing head to allow it to place more tension on the thread, but even that had limits, as the design of the Singer 66 thread path would often cause the needle to flex from the thread tension being so tight which would then send the needle point slamming into the plate on the next downstroke, breaking the needle. True, sewing heavy leathers, fabrics and nylon webbing can be done with patience and test materials to get the tensions just right, but it is a frustrating hassle at times and not for the easily angered… But I confess, before I finally found a more suitable sewing machine for my purposes (Consew 206RB walking-foot industrial machine), I was able to create and modify quite a bit of web gear as well as make new upholstery covers for my retro vintage camping trailer.
Lastly, I found the lack of a reversing capability in the early Singer 66 machines the most frustrating of all. Without reverse capability to lock in the stitch by overstitching you end up having to [lift the foot and] spin the whole project 180 degrees to lock in a stitch. This is very difficult on thick or big projects, and time consuming.
My set up now is my Consew 206RB-3 walking-foot, industrial straight-stitch machine which has beautiful reverse capability and unbelievable sewing power and capability with thick materials using thick threads,  and an all-steel-gears vintage NEECHI Super Nova home machine for thin materials that not only reverses, but does zig-zag for bar tacks and serging (keeping edges from fraying).
Shalom & YHWH Bless You! - R.S.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The art and craft of sewing has begun to dwindle in popularity. However, this was not always the case. In the ancient world, and even in our own not so distant pioneer times, sewing has been an invaluable and necessary skill. In much of the last century, many young women (and some young men) were taught to sew by parents, in home economics classes, in some Boy Scout or Girl Scout clubs or even by employers. In this article, my hope is not to discuss hand sewing, but rather to impress the value of non-electric machine sewing.

I myself first became interested in sewing while watching my mother make aprons. I asked her if she could make some doll clothes for my doll. Much to my delight I received a child-sized sewing machine for Christmas that year. It did not sew very well or last very long, but it served its purpose well by planting the seed. It wasn't too long before I was operating my mom's machine and sewing all sorts of doll clothes from my mom's fabric scrap basket.  I learned early the value of scraps, all the wonderful varieties of colors and textures. 

In addition to sewing projects for myself and my family, I worked professionally sewing automotive seats and later for a high-end patio furniture Co in the upholstery department.  One thing these companies had in common was a preference for older (1940’s-1950’s) industrial (electric) Singers that were operated 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. They are truly workhorses. 

Another wonderful Singer treadle (model 29-4) was produced for industrial use, shoes & general leather working.  Harder to find and a bit more pricey, however, it can be a  great addition to your line-up for home use, especially in a grid down situation. It is not nearly as attractive as a model 66 although highly valuable for heavy leather applications. This particular machine is designed for sewing in very small areas.  If you want to get serious about sewing, this machine goes where others cannot!

Today I am both a self-admitted “prepper” who lives, along with my husband, on the same family farm I was raised on.  I am an avid collector of vintage and antique sewing machines. I have in my own collection, 40+ electric sewing machines and 13 non-electric treadle sewing machines. I am an enthusiastic sewing machine collector.

My sincere hope for new and seasoned preppers, is to be able to own an old Singer model 66 treadle (aka foot-powered) sewing machine (1902 - 1960). Now I realize there are fans of other brands, and I have operated many of them, dealt with finding parts, and have even sold my fair share of sewing machines. So why am I so adamant that self-sufficiency folks specifically get the Singer model 66 treadle machine?
In a low or no-power situation, the ability to sew and even better, to have a sewing machine will prove to be invaluable. While hand sewing skill is important, in order to get the job done fast and to be able to work efficiently with a wide variety of available materials, it will be very helpful to use a manual, non-electric (treadle) sewing machine. Being able to make new clothing or repair older clothing both for your own family or group will likely be the most common use for a non-electric sewing machine. However, what about sewing as a means of barter or income? The sheer durability of the Singer 66 means it can also sew leather and vinyl which could prove useful for gloves, backpacks, holsters, bags & even hats. The skill of sewing (including being a seamstress or tailor) might just be the ticket to providing your family with a valuable work-at-home income or barter commodity! After all, how many others will have more than just hand sewing supplies? Even without electricity, you can literally reap what you sew…
 Other benefits of the Singer Model 66 Treadle Sewing Machine:

  1. They are very simple to operate - even a beginner can be sewing in a matter of minutes
  2. A quieter operation, unlike modern electric machines.
  3. They use a simple leather belt which can be easily replaced with common materials and a little ingenuity.
  4. They rarely break down as they have a simple gear operation.
  5. These machines can be repaired using simple tools such as a hammer, straight screwdriver & pliers. No specialty tools required.
  6. Spools (or bobbins) of various threads used by these machines are readily available and can be stored for years or decades.
  7. Aside from a few adjustments and perhaps a small amount of oil, they are very easy to maintain in working order
  8. They are of course, not only functional but very attractive as well and provide a living space with a flat surface (table) when not in use.
  9. They were commonly produced with 2 or 3 side drawers and a center drawer for storage.
  10. A host of attachments are still available including a ruffler, hemmer & buttonholer and many times you will find these items in the drawers upon purchase.
  11. The 66 models are not finicky and will allow you to use monofilament thread as well as the cotton and polyester standards
  12.  The class 66 bobbins are very common and still produced today. And of course, standard machine needles are used, the size depends on your choice of fabric.

I do recommend, however that you purchase the head if you stumble across one (machine only-not the base) as a second purchase for spare parts. It is likely you will pay a very small amount for the machine (head)  and having the parts on hand will give you peace of mind.  This isn't a necessity, just a suggestion, the machines are quite durable.
How to Find a Singer Model 66 Treadle Sewing Machine
In many areas the very best place these can be found is by doing a local Craigslist search. This is the safest as you will be able to visit the buyer and visually inspect the machine for wear/tear and functionality. Other common places where these show up include local auctions, estate sales, antique shops and of course on eBay.

The less rub (markings/finish worn off), the better. Avoid machines that show excessive rust. Often times you will find the wood veneer has split or warped but it does not affect the function.  Turn the side wheel to ensure the needle bar moves freely. Lift the lever on the back of the needle bar to make sure the presser foot locks in place. If a machine is "frozen" and not missing parts, in most situations it can be repaired with a little mechanical ability and lots of lubricant. The price you offer should reflect the time you will have invested into it.

The average going price of this workhorse sewing machine generally range between  $150 - $250 but the value of having a functioning one in a TEOTWAWKI or SHTF scenario could be invaluable.

I cannot stress enough - limit your purchase only to a Singer model 66. Avoid all other brands. This specific model can be hard to identify because
many were void of an identifying metal tag or stamp. The pedal and side irons will have either the name "Singer" spelled out or an "S" incorporated into the design, or both.

A quick inspection of the bobbin area is a must. The bobbin is located beside the presser foot (where the needle is located) under the chrome/stainless slide plate.  If it accepts a modern ROUND drop-in bobbin, it is a 66. There were other later models produced (99, 201-3 & 201K) that should be mentioned, but these are much more scarce.  Approximately 95% of Singer treadles produced were model 66, proof of its popularity!
Sewing with the Ultimate Prepper Sewing Machine
You can download the manual for free.  Rest assured it is VERY easy to learn to use these machines.
Once you begin sewing you realize that the quiet rocking motion creates a nice straight locking stitch.  With a bit of practice and you get a sense of the speed and stopping distance. Have fun!! Experiment!!

The 66 will accommodate many attachments, still available today including a buttonholer. From pants, shirts and blouses, to blankets, quilts and other home and homesteading fabric based items, the Singer model 66 treadle and a few basic patterns will give you a unique ability to provide items essential to any long term Bug-In or off grid situation.

Something homesteaders and hunters alike will appreciate… these machines will sew soft leather, even hides! A wonderful benefit since even most modern
machines will struggle with leather and many will not even sew it at all. Imagine the items you might make with the hides from this year’s hunting! Blankets, gloves, moccasins, holsters, belts, and more.

Make good use of your scraps and sew them into colorful quilts. A true form of art that is also functional.
Even in a home with electricity readily available, sewing on a treadle can become a choice.  There is a certain sense of satisfaction in finishing a project in the same fashion that your Great Grandmother may have. 

With a heavy needle in your 66 (19/120), you can sew materials like canvas for tents, tarps, bug-out-bags (BOB), chaps, backpacks, & flour sacks to name a few.  You are not limited, this machine will also sew fine fabrics like silk and chiffon.

Because sewing is not really a manual labor skill, it can be done even by elderly or partially disabled persons. These persons in a post-collapse world are sometimes forgotten about by today’s younger preppers, or relegated to baby sitting and kitchen work.  As long as a person is able to sit and operate the pedal and maneuver the fabric, they become sewers. It is important to have value and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Honestly, the only downside is the size & weight. For traveling and transporting, it is definitely not practical for a BOB. However it is extremely practical for a Bug-In or Bug out location. What it lacks in portability it more than makes up for in function.

So what’s stopping you? Investing in a Singer model 66 treadle sewing machine, a few spare parts, thread and various fabrics, and you will be ready - even if American society gets pushed back 100 years. After all, a “Little House on the Prairie” scenario is just as likely as a “Mad Max” one. Regardless, having and knowing how to use low-tech machines like the Singer 66 will make life easier.

Much like family values, and morality, sewing -and the items that sewing can repair and produce, are a common but often forgotten thread which stretches from our American pioneer past to all of our possible futures.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Having a baby under normal circumstances is a great and beautiful thing, but when disaster strikes there’s going to be some issues.  Obviously in dark times one might not be able to deliver at a clean, safe hospital, or run to Walgreens in the middle of the night to get formula and diapers, or to Target to get extra pajamas for baby.   As a mom (and EMT 3 years, 8 years as a First Responder before that) I feel a certain responsibility to help others and to encourage preparedness in others.  Here are some helpful shopping tips, knowledge, and other items that are always good to have on hand for moms and babies in times of emergency. 

I live in a state where we have disasters and evacuations every year, so the concept of getting out of Dodge quick is something that we are familiar with.  As an EMT and as a Venturing Scout I have responded to and given aid to those struck by disaster many times, and in between I teach others how to be better prepared.  I know that sometimes response to emergencies can be delayed, resources get stretched thin at big disasters and you may not get help at all if your problem isn’t immediately life threatening.  This is why everyone should have a bag ready with supplies and waiting by the door readily accessible and more importantly a place to go to that is safe.  As a parent and wife I have a responsibility to protect and care for my son and husband and vice verse, this should be your priority too.   
If you have a member of your group who is pregnant and or has small children you’ll need to take extra care for them.  While pregnant women can do a lot of things, they will need help and, for certain duties, partnering up for safety.  Some light duty jobs you could consider are working the ops desk, the communications desk, KP, or watching the groups other children.  Jobs that you might have a partner for could be laundry, gardening, milking cows or goats (no horse riding if it can be avoided), feeding livestock, water hauling (with cart, don’t push to hard) or other not too strenuous work.  There are going to be some exceptions to this list as pregnancy progresses and morning sickness gets better or worsens.  For instance I couldn’t handle the smell of raw meat when I was pregnant, so I couldn’t cook certain things. 

There are also some comfort items that you can keep at the retreat for anyone who is or becomes pregnant.  Candied ginger and ginger ale are always great to help with nausea.  Saltine crackers are also good for this purpose.  Pregnant women will also need a good multivitamin with folate in it to ensure good gestational health and neural tube development in the baby.  A good stool softener (such as Colace) and extra fiber in the diet are both highly recommended and pregnant women will also need and extra 300 -350 calories a day.  Some pregnant women might become anemic and requite an Iron supplement.  There are also some things that pregnant women should avoid like cleaning the litter box, over exertion/lifting, and excessive stress.  Taking care with your words and actions can go a long way (like not saying that the pregnant woman is a burden or implying it).  Stress can adversely affect not only the mom, but also the baby.  When you are stressed your body secretes a lot of hormones that then affect the baby and put it under stress which can then affect fetal health.  All pregnant women should have regular Blood pressure and blood sugar tests throughout the pregnancy.  You will especially want to monitor for preeclampsia and diabetes.  Make sure you get a thorough medical history prior to delivery especially important are has the mother had a ultrasound and if so what was the placement of the placenta, medical issues like diabetes or preeclampsia, past pregnancies and any complications with those, and finally any signs of possible health issues with the baby.  

In times of disaster there is a great likelihood that the mortality rate will rise when it comes to deliveries and pregnancies.  So it is here that I shall list a little about miscarriage.  According to The Everything you need to know about pregnancy book, “up to 20% of all detected pregnancies miscarry before week 20.”  After week 20 your chances of miscarriage greatly decrease, but are not totally eliminated.  Sometimes miscarriages happen because of trauma to the baby and mother, but other times the baby could have genetic abnormalities.  Some bleeding does occur after implantation and is normal, but all bleeding should still be taken seriously.  If it’s bright red blood then this would be the time to seek out a professional.  If there is a doctor or midwife in the area then get the mother to them quickly.  A paramedic from the local fire department would have some training in child birth and complications and could also assist.  Signs and symptoms of a miscarriage are: Bright red bleeding in copious amounts, severe abdominal cramping, low back pain (contractions), high fever, extreme nausea and vomiting beyond morning sickness with quick onset, amniotic fluid leakage, and severe headache.  One of the first things that you can check for, before advanced help arrives, is a fetal heart rate by using a stethoscope. If it’s a good scope you should be able to hear the heart rate post week 10.

If the mother does miscarry or lose the baby after the delivery this will affect her not only physically, but mentally as well.  It doesn’t take long to fall in love with your baby, and when a woman miscarries or the baby dies post delivery she’ll go through the full spectrum of mourning plus additional guilt, doubt, and depression.  Again other members of the group should support, offer help, prayer, and counsel the mother.  Allow her and the father time for grieving.  It is also advisable to let her rest and recover so that she can deal with her loss.  Don’t let her rush off to work to avoid grief as this may compound the problem.  Grieving is a very individual thing and only that person will know how they need to deal.  Most importantly watch for depression and suicidal symptoms and get the mother professional help and medications if at all possible.
I won’t comment on the actual birthing process itself as this was well covered in Mr. Rawles' book.  Some additional helpful reading if you are interested thought, would be any Recent EMT Manual published within the last 3 to 5 years as these have a detailed chapter on field childbirth and complications.  You can find used copies on or  I would also advise taking a Emergency Medical Responder (previously First Responder) level aid course and few ambulance ride-alongs or hospital clinicals.  These will give you a lot of valuable training and experience and can make all of the difference in a bad situation.  Volunteering at your local hospital in the birth center can also provide you some valuable experience and you can gain helpful knowledge from the experienced RNs.  Above all else keep your head cool and mind calm, your most important tool is the one on your shoulders.               

Now let’s talk a bit about some supplies for baby.  As a parent you learn to budget (money, time, sanity), and prepping for an emergency is no different.  You must have a budget and plan in mind well before you head to the store.  When it comes to baby clothes a great, frugal place to buy is the second hand store.  From 25 cents to a dollar an item secondhand stores are a great place to stock up.  You can find all seasons of clothing, shoes and toys there for a fraction of the cost new.  Just use your head and watch for the quality of the items you buy.  Usually for a baby all through the toddler stages you want 6 outfits, 3 PJs, 6 pair of socks, 2 pair shoes, a light and heavy jacket, and a few hats and mittens per size (Remember little babies grow at a very exponential rate through years one and two,& go by months).  You will also want a stuffed animal or two, some pacifiers, extra sheets, and at least 5-7 warm blankets with 3-4 light ones.  Look into a decent port a crib (either foldable mesh or collapsible fixed material) a new one can cost as little as $20 new.  It is not advisable to co sleep with infants as there is a high risk of smothering.  The only time you might consider co sleeping is if you are on the run and sharing a sleeping bag, even then much caution must be taken.     

Let’s talk bathing and medication for baby.  Go to your local big box store (Costco/ Sam's Club) and get the double pack of baby body & hair soap.  This will last you two years if used conservatively.  You might also want to buy extra of this for wound cleaning, trade or charity.  As far as babies go there are some basic must haves for your kit: baby acetaminophen (Tylenol), baby Vic’s vapor rub, nasal saline, Pedialyte, band aids, Neosporin, and Baby Ora-gel for teething.  Children’s Benadryl would also be prudent to have, but check with a doctor on dosages for children under 4 years of age.  When babies are sick, these are the top fall backs, a humidifier would be nice but if the power is down you can use a few tea pots and a towel or bed sheet to make a steam tent.   

Making sure that babies stay hydrated and fed is a must.  Here are some good things to have:  lanolin ointment, a manual breast pump or if there is power a portable pump (I like Madela), in case of latching difficulties a nipple shield, nursing and sleeping bras, feeding and storage bottles, and a firm pillow for nursing.  A note on the shields, these are very handy for women who have odd shape nipples (flat tops or inverted) when babies have a hard time nursing, if you don’t use them you can always trade them.  If there is a problem nursing don’t be afraid to employ the pump and bottle feed off and on, get that sustenance and hydration in the baby.  Long term storage of liquid formula may be difficult and costly, but having even a little on hand can be handy in case something happens and mom can’t nurse (the powdered formula stores longer, but you will need a clean water source).  When babies get bigger you can use a hand grinder to make fresh baby food. 

Diapering can be a difficult topic to broach when it comes to emergencies, do we use cloth or buy bulk disposable.  I say do a bit of both.  During the first week or so while you’re waiting for the umbilical stump to fall off and getting through those first very dark and sticky poops my recommendation is disposable.  This will save you a bit of time while mom is healing up and decrease the risk of infection.  After this time I would go with cloth (disposable diapers might become hard to come by in a long term scenario), but the eventual decision will be up to you.  A note on the cleaning of cloth diapers, boil to rinse and then dry in direct sunlight if you can.  Between the sterilization in the water and the UV rays the bacteria should be killed.  You will also want to stock up on the big box store wipes, if not for baby then they work well for general hygiene needs.  My husband was deployed to Afghanistan for a year while I was pregnant with our son and one of the top 3 things he would ask for was baby wipes.  His unit was often assigned to FOBs (Forward Operating Bases for those who don’t speak Army) that were little more than flattened earth and concertina wire so he used the wipes to bathe. Disposable diapers also make for very absorbent abdominal wound pads so keep a few in your field first aid kit.  I would recommend getting the big box store double pack of diaper cream, at least 2 of them (it lasts forever & it’s good for trading). 

Let’s talk about some things we can do for Mom post partum.  Good things to have for sore mommies are tucks pads (or witch hazel and gauze), sanitary napkins, pain killers (Ibuprofen [Advil] or Acetaminophen [Tylenol] are generally considered safe but check with a doctor first; aspirin should be avoided), Epsom salts, stool softener, disposable ice packs, seat cushions, and a back brace or girdle.  Buy in bulk and you can always trade later.  When it comes to post partum pads the bulkier, cheap variety work best for this purpose (burn after use).  For moms who have had to get sewn up a sitz bath at night, ice packs, and the tucks pads/ witch hazel go a long way for relief.  The girdle will help shore up a new mom while her abdominal muscles repair acting as a back support.  Moms should ideally take a good 4-6 weeks off minimum to heal, but can perform light duty tasks during that time.  Don’t let the mom over do it and hurt herself (Been there, done that, Got the PT bill to prove it).  If you need to have a new mom up and on duty put her at a watch desk for short watches and make sure she takes a nap in between, eats, and nurses or pumps. 

Lastly I wanted to mention a few things about children and getting out of Dodge.  Kids don’t like big sudden changes, so keeping them apprised of any plans would be prudent.  If they know the plan it’s easier on them mentally and they know what’s going to happen.  You may have to leave in a hurry and leave many things behind, but don’t forget their lovie (security object, toy never seen without).  It may be the only thing they have to play with and their only comforting object if you have to leave during an emergency, so don’t forget it.  Have copies of birth certificates, updated family pictures that show you all together as a family, and any other important papers in your go bag (preferably in a waterproof box like Otterbox or Pelican).   If you become separated from your children you may need proof that they really are your kids when you find them again (as seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina).  You might consider sending copies of your papers to the family members you will be staying with if you trust them implicitly (if not then a bank safety deposit box near them could work also).  When leaving town one of the better options is to go at night and right away, don’t hesitate and don’t wait.  If possible take those back roads and avoid the highways as these will not only clog up but become targets for looters and banditos.  When driving out have an adult in the back seat with the kids ready to help them bail if it comes to that.  Above all else remember operational security and do what you have to do to protect your family.  Hopefully this knowledge will be helpful and informative for any preparedness savvy parents out there.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are you responsible for the most valuable commodity in the world? Do you have small children? Are you a grandparent? Even though your grown children currently think you are crazy, will they be showing up at your door in a SHTF scenario? What about the neighbor down the road, the single mother that is just barely getting by financially? Even though they are not actually your responsibility, will you be able to turn away a stranger with an infant or small child pleading for help? What does God expect out of us? What if you were suddenly responsible for an infant or toddler? Do you have some basic supplies or plans  for this scenario? In many ways, infants and toddlers require careful planning when preparing for a TEOTWAWKI situation.
Infants and toddlers can throw a curve ball into your prepping plans.  Here are some basic needs that toddlers and babies require, that many people may not think to have in their long term storage. Some of these suggestions are simple and inexpensive but extremely valuable. Anyone that has taken care of children knows that keeping them happy and comfortable reduces a lot of stress on the caretaker. Sadly, some parents will not have a clue about what to do when they run out or cannot afford/find disposable diapers. Some of these items are cost (and space) prohibitive for someone that may not be definitely responsible children.  Additionally, there are a few transportation type items my family has acquired. We will use these in a SHTF scenario, but we also use them in our day to day life.

Babies need diapers, plain and simple. Instead of stockpiling expensive and bulky boxes of disposable diapers, I bought a pattern (link) and made one size diapers that fit a baby from 8 pounds to 35 pounds. Both of our children can literally fit in the same diaper, even though they are almost 20 pounds different in weight. These are not your thin pre-folds found on the Wal-Mart shelf (don’t buy them unless you’re using them as burp cloths, they’re terribly thin and not very useful). I can also use the leftover material from the diapers as cloth wipes or the diapers themselves as bandages in extremely unfortunate situations. A couple of drawers of diapers that last for years saves much more space (and money) than years’ worth of disposable diapers. How good would you feel to hand a struggling parent a few re-usable diapers (you may need to show them how they are used) before sending them down the road? Don’t forget a good supply of safety pins for many reasons. Plus, when using my homemade laundry detergent, I don’t have any additional soap to buy or store.  You can find good, used diapers through a diaper cleaning service, online, and at garage sales. Get creative; they are out there if you look for them.

Babies also require milk. Most people can agree that nursing is the most beneficial form of nourishment for an infant. It also is simpler. For example, there is no need to find a bottle (let alone sanitize it), it is always at the right temperature, no one has to measure out precise ingredients, and I can’t think of a single time it has ever been recalled. However, it can be painful to nurse and sometimes it just is not an option. If you suddenly find yourself caring for an infant what are you going to feed that baby?

Through my research, I have found several goats’ milk recipes. Goats’ milk has very nutritious properties and is supposed to be easier for infants to digest than a cow’s milk. So, if you have access to goats, search for some recipes and see if this is something that may benefit your situation. Unfortunately, goats simply are not an option for my family. We live on a military installation and the housing authorities are adamant on their pet policies. Goats will not do here, which leads me to a formula recipe I found in a cookbook. The recipe’s ingredients are common staples in most pantries.

12 ounces evaporated milk
2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, or Brown Sugar
2 ¼ Cup Water (my Dr. recommends boiling all water, even bottled water, to kill bacteria before giving to infants)

Mix these ingredients together (be sure that the water has cooled to an appropriate temperature) then feed to the baby. This can be refrigerated after use and stored for several days.
Since this recipe does not have additional vitamins or iron that infants require, liquid vitamin drops would be important to add in order to meet the child’s nutrient requirements.
As a disclaimer, I am not a health care provider. Perhaps this information will be helpful to a child in a SHTF scenario. In the meantime, please consult with a medical professional with questions or recommendations for the health of your child.

When TEOTWAWKI occurs, how are you going to transport that kiddo if we have to? This is a subject that, unless you are currently or know you will be responsible for children, may be a minor concern. Transporting a child “legally” in a vehicle will not be a priority however; a car seat does keep the child safe and stationary so the other occupants can remain alert to the environment around them. I do not believe that traveling via motorized vehicle will be an option in most SHTF scenarios so, let’s concentrate on non-motorized transportation options.
First off, bicycles are great to have at hand. They provide a quick, efficient, and cheap mode of transportation. But, how will you transport the children on a bike? Well, you could install one of those plastic seats over the handle bars or behind your own seat. Used ones are plentiful and inexpensive at garage sales.  Or, here’s another option. We chose a bike trailer. We purchased an Aosom Elite 3 in 1 from an eBay store. This is a cheaper model, but one is better than none, right? What is nice about this trailer is that two children (up to a combined weight of 88 pounds) can ride in it simultaneously. The trailer has a mesh cover to allow air flow, but it also keeps rocks, sticks and larger bugs from infiltrating the cockpit area. It came standard with a clear plastic cover to go over the mesh to keep rain off the children or to keep the cold weather out. One of the requirements I had when looking for a bike trailer was that it had to convert easily from a trailer to a stroller. This trailer simply attaches to pull behind a bike, and it has a front swivel wheel that allows it to become a stroller. The swivel wheel can be “locked” in a forward position to be used for jogging. The handle bar at the back of the trailer doubles as a roll over bar and can be adjusted to be more comfortable for those of different heights pushing the stroller.  There is also an enclosed area at the back of the trailer that is fairly large (for a size idea, it can fit 4 gallons of milk). Another neat feature is that many trailers can be converted to be on skis for those in snowy regions. A simple ski kit is available on eBay for those that snowshoe or Cross Country Ski. Now, if funds are not an issue for you, I would probably recommend a trailer with a larger front wheel. This would make the trailer more compatible for rugged terrain. Furthermore, when the kids outgrow this, it may be retrofitted to haul game, goods, firewood or used as a great barter item.

What if hiking is more your style or a bike trailer is not feasible for you? Here are some other options. While hiking (or even doing house work) with a “fresh” baby, my Moby Wrap was a life saver. The Moby is a long piece of fabric with a stretch. You can even make your own, just do a search for how to on online. For us, the Moby worked well while the kids were just a few months old. The bigger they grew, the more difficult it was for me to carry them.

Then, I was introduced to a Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier. These distribute the child’s weight more evenly on my body, making long walks more enjoyable for both mommy and the child. Each of our Deuters have a kickstand (which allows us to double the back pack as a high chair because of the balance the kickstand provides), strap in harness, shade cover, and rain shield. They also have mesh pockets on the side, and a deep pocket under the child’s seat. We can store diapers, food, water, and other necessities in the deep pocket. This pack does not allow you to carry “tons” of items for a BOB, but it is perfect for me as a Bug Home Bag, if I am just running errands throughout town. It is perfect for everyday use, too. It frees my hands but also allows a fussy child to be comforted close to mommy or daddy.

Trying to be prepared can be expensive. We were blessed to pick up a Deuter at a garage sale, and the other was a gift from my parents. Here is a money saving recommendation. When trying to get equipment, head to an REI store (or similar facility) if you have the luxury. Be prepared to stay for several hours. Get properly fitted for a backpack. I strongly suggest this, as this will increase your comfort while carrying the child. There are also great videos on YouTube explaining how to properly fit yourself to your pack. Put your child in the backpack and see how you both like it.  Walk around the store for half an hour or longer. Try several different brands and see what works best for you and your children. Take notes on the features you like, how it fits, what you do not like, etc. Do the same with the bike trailer or any other necessities you find yourself needing.  Push the kid(s) around the store. Try to see how the kids fit in the trailer with helmets on.  Is there enough storage area, do the kids have enough room? Again, take notes. If money is not a problem or if there is a remarkable sale going on and you want to support that store, then go ahead, make your purchase.  On the other hand, if you have a smart phone or want to save a bit of money, check out eBay, Craigslist, Bookoo, etc. Take your notes and go home. Find a used product at a more affordable price. Many times children outgrow these tools before the family uses them a handful of times, so you can find good products in like new condition.

The products I mentioned are just items my family finds useful. We are not associated with any of these companies or web sites, nor do we get any monetary gain from sharing our opinions on these products. They are just that, opinions, take them for what they are worth. Children are surely a blessing. Consider them and their needs when preparing your supplies.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Preparedness is a mental state and  where I live it is extremely unforgiving if you are not ready.

I travel the bush in the state of Alaska as a telecommunication technician which means I travel mostly in small commercial planes or in bush planes along with helicopters, boats and once in a while via snowmobiles (called "snow machines" here) to get to the native villages.

This happened to me in the mid-1980s when Exxon was drilling in Arctic Ocean on a drilling rig called a Concrete Island Drilling Structure (C.I.D.S.). Exxon had chartered a helicopter company to fly supplies and personnel to the drilling rig using the Super Puma helicopter--a very nice rugged helicopter made by the French company Aérospatiale.

I was tasked with making sure the air traffic radio equipment and Non directional beacon systems where working for the flight operations which in this case had failed for some unknown reason so I called up a flight loaded my gear and off we go to the drilling rig.

When we reached about 8,000 foot altitude we ran into some weather. It had mixed snow, rain, sleet at different altitudes and yes this was in early March in the Arctic Ocean

We started to build up major ice on the airframe and the pilots were trying to find warm air to melt the ice off the airframe we went up down and I swear around in the air in circles but it just kept building up on the airframe.

I was in the cargo section with the intercom headphone on when the pilots informed me we would set down on the Ice pack and I was going to get out of the helicopter and proceed to smack the ice off the airframe.

Have you ever played with your kids whiffle ball with a plastic bat? Well we had several those bats on board. So we set down on the sea ice very gently. Luck was with us since we did not punch through the ice or hit a snow pile which could have tilted us side ways which is a bad deal since rotors tend to fly off when the hit something solid like ice.

I slid the door hatch open and it wass about 80 below zero since they still had the rotor spinning so the down draft was very brisk that day. Next, I threw my Arctic survival  river bag out on the ice with a plastic sled strapped to it just in case the helicopter takes off without me or catches on fire or Mr. Murphy just plainly messes with your day.

My sled is an orange kiddies’ sled that can be bought anywhere it has two fiberglas poles attached to it along with a leather belt that attaches to your waist.

In my survival bag is a river bag the largest REI makes--65 Liters--so in this  I carry: 3 days supply of food 5,000 to 6,000 high calorie food(s) canned sardines with oil, salami, cheese, salmon strips   dried moose with fat and if I can get dried seal strips and some seal oil that is good too along with 2 gallons of water,  juices , crackers , candies ,sugar , salt , pepper , teas and instant coffee.  For my winter sleeping bag combo I have an inner bag and outer bag that is water and wind proof and a tent that slips over the bags. I also carry several caribou hides rolled up make very nice ground cloth the hairs are hollow so the retain heat. 

My bag also has lighter, matches, candles with a holder a small camp stove with about a quart of Coleman liquid fuel along with an old military metal canteen cup spoon and fork combo. A small pocket knife and sharpening stone I carry a roll a toilet paper and baby wipes too. Also 2 pairs of socks silk and wool along with a spare set of silk underwear and spare wool gloves

My clothes: I wear silk underwear silk socks then the next layer wool pants wool shirt wool socks and a down vest. For my outer layers I have outer parker made Actionwest FR, Indura down Arctic Parka along with Bib coverall and bunny boots 

Headwear: coRaggs, Ragg Wool Balaclava Facemask/Cap and Headsokz Inc., Black Wind bloc Headsokz.

My gloves are Newberry Knitting, Ragg Wool Mitten along with surplus army mittens and wool five finger gloves

I also carry snow goggles and a wrap around wool face mask so as not to frost your lungs. I also carry a climbing ice axe, Climbing Snow shovel, Ice Crampons and ice pitons screw type along with 50 feet of 3mm utility cord all these items are for ice. I also carried a rubber coated flash light with spare D batteries the rubber coat protects your hand if you have to hold the flashlight without the heavy mittens.

The Ice axe is for getting water smack it into the blue ice not green ice pull out the chunks or out of a snow bank. The snow shovel is for snow caves if you do not have a clue get the OLD Boy Scout manual it is very detailed for ice cave instructions I have used with my own boys and their troop in the Talkeetna Mountains. Ice pitons are for securing a tent in ice along with 3mm utility cord to secure your tent .

Since it was on Exxon company property I left my Remington bolt-action .30-06 along with 40 rounds 180 grain bullets in the carrying case in my room. (Exxon had a strict gun policy.)

So I am out of the helicopter with the plastic bat along with the copilot and we proceed to beat the helicopter to death but gently since it has pitot tubes and all kind of flight sensors that can be damaged so it was go slowly but methodically.

It took about 15 minutes to get the majority of the ice off the airframe and all this time the rotors were spinning the turbines were screaming and the pilot is looking real serious because the helicopter is burning flight fuel.

So when the copilot gave the thumbs up I threw my bag back on board closed the door hatch securely strapped myself in pulled my head gear off and put the headset on so I could sweat with the pilots as we lift off the ice. The pucker factor had been very high as we took off skimming the ice toward the oil rig as we gained some altitude all of us were looking out every window for more ice buildup which for us did not appear. So Mr. Murphy had his fun with us for that day.

So we all made it to the rig I fixed the equipment and went back to Deadhorse about a week later on the same helicopter I was flying with a news crew  a women reporter and her camera crew they are doing a report on the C.I.D.S. oil platform. As we are cruising she asked me why all the gear I said,” We went down on the Ice last week due to ice buildup on this helicopter. Looking her over, I stated: “The way you are presently dressed you are going to die if we have a malfunction and stay on the Arctic ice.”  

The woman reporter gave me a funny look. So being an ex-military NCO I do not mince words. She could get us killed with her ignorance. So I treated her and her crew like raw recruits but minus the shouting. I said bluntly: “Your outfit is nice (she had a matching dress, light jacket, ankle boots and gloves) but do you realize we are flying and it is -40F outside? If we have to do an emergency landing on the ice you have about 30 minutes before cold takes your toes, fingers, legs, face and then your life. You should be wearing Arctic clothing from Refrigiwear along with the boots which Exxon has for visitors on their main compound.”

“Well no one told me”, she said. But I laughed. You see, I was in the safety briefing room along with her and it was mandatory to attend. She was too busy being a news reporter to pay attention. I pointed to her crew they had the gear from Exxon it was large ugly and bulky but it was on them so they would survive. She was angry but before she could get a word in to teach me a lesson from upon her throne I said: “You’re just a pampered fool and you’re not worth my time or knowledge to save your a**.”

“What?” she asked. My guess is she had never been talked to that way before by an Alaskan so I laughed, “Ponder this, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.'" I told her that her profession should be under this heading: “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fool feeds on folly.”

Then I pulled out my Bible and read to her from Ephesians 6 : 10-18:

“10 Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of his power. 11 Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. 13 Therefore, take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and to stand in all things perfect. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth and having on the breastplate of justice: 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. 16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. 17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). 18 By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit: and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints/"

I had just called her a tool of the devil it just shut her down so the rest of the trip was silent, so I put on the intercom head phones to listen to the pilots and took a cat nap.

She did her interviews and the news piece. The fool flew back wearing another dress to Dead Horse the next day. Some people will just not learn.

All these years later I think God put me in the helicopter with her to test her that day even though I had no clue I was a tool for God on that day too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I laughed my way through the entertaining and informative (even for me – I had no theoretical knowledge of waxing skis whatsoever, just did “what the other kids did”) recent article on the “exotic Norwegian” cross country skis. So I thought that maybe a couple of other Norwegian experiences might be of interest to survivalblog-readers:

Having lived the first 30 years of my life in Norway and had ample experience with both skiing and offgrid living as a part of everyday life, I have some personal tips on not just surviving offgrid, but actually having a good time even though:
(Before I go on about offgrid living: Nowadays most cabins (“hytter”) in Norway have electricity and outdoors electrically heated bathtubs, but my tips are from a time without electricity and tap water in the cabin.)

To get to our family cabin/Bugout Location (BOL) or “hytte” in winter one has to use skis some kilometers from the car parking (there is only car access in summer). This can, like mentioned in the ski-article last month, be compared to a bug-out situation, although without the psychological stress. The cabin was, by the way, a real life BOL during the occupation of Norway in the 1940ies when my grandma lived there all summer long with two children. There were mountain farms nearby so there was fresh milk available; drinking water had to be fetched in pails from the brook - and the family walked “cross mountain” for a whole day to get hold of the famous sweet and brown goat cheese that is for Norwegians almost like chocolate, for anybody else rather, ahem, challenging to eat… Blueberries and cranberries grew uphill, cloud berries in a bog below the cabin, and fish from the nearby mountain lake made life all in all worth living there.

 Anyway, to get there in winter one still has to carry personal things like clothes, toiletries and first aid essentials in a rucksack and to load a “pulk” or cargo sled with any children or pets, and with necessities like concentrated fruit syrup for juice, mashed,dried potatoes, spaghetti, powdered spaghetti sauce mix, dried onions, rolled oats, powdered or concentrated milk, instant coffee, tea, cocoa and some strong alcohol – just in case. The point is to assume you might be weather locked by snow storms and/or fog for days, and bring enough stuff for everybody (and of course enough pet food) to stay in the “hytte” without buying anything at all for at least two weeks. Nowadays I would include rice and lentils and dried or fresh carrots (assuming you have things like salt, sugar and spice already stored in your BOL). We used to joke about bringing instant water as well, but normally Norway in winter usually has enough clean snow, so that is ok for drinking when properly boiled (remember – at high altitudes water boils at lower temperatures, so I suggest to keep it at a rolling boil for at least five minutes to be sure to kill as many bugs as possible if your BOL is located substantially above sea level.) We melted the snow first in an enormous pot on the woodstove – this was good enough for washing up and so on – but drinking water got properly boiled in a tea kettle.

A word about the weather: There has been cases of otherwise weather-experienced Norwegians dying in a blizzard ten meters from their own cabin because they went to the “outhouse” in a snow storm without a guiding rope and never found the way back. I once experienced fog so thick it literally squeezed into the cabin when doors or windows were opened – in this kind of fog one also better either stays put or uses a rope for any movement outside the cabin. Fog has the strange effect of making distances seem totally different than usual, so even if you are doubly sure of your way, please don´t take any unnecessary risks .
So, a typical arrival at the cabin would be: first of all, get the fire going, then collect snow for melting, then bring in enough wood from under the shed to dry inside, then cook while storing provisions away.

One woodstove in the kitchen running day and night and one fireplace (only burning when guarded) in the living room kept the cabin warm and dry, and since one bedroom was an open “halfloft” under the main room ceiling, just to be reached by a ladder, and the other bedroom opened to the kitchen, both rooms were cozy and warm in almost no time.

Now we come to the part on “good life”: Since this generally was a freely chosen situation, the real challenge was staying entertained if skiing was impossible because of extreme weather. The jobs of cooking, fetching snow, tending the fire, hacking wood, cleaning and shuffling snow to keep walkways free were divided, and then the job was just to keep oneself and everybody else entertained. So, here my tips for staying sane when a group of people are cooped up for some time in one or two rooms: You can never have enough board games, card games, jig saw puzzles and old magazines! Books like fairytale collections, old crime novels (like Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers where there always is some kind of happy end), the Chronicles of Narnia books, the Perelandra Trilogy and, for a good morale booster, “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis are maybe even useful as read- aloud-material for almost all ages; throw in books on the flora and fauna of the area and an old encyclopedia that take up too much space at home and you have saved everybody´s sanity. A map of the area, (preferably one of the many extra ones you already have in store) and a compass can be used to teach children “how to” in the middle of a storm since the compass works anyway.  Don´t forget knitting wool, fabric and needles  for “grown up” projects – I once read that a female south pole explorer unraveled and re-knitted her own and her team members´ sweaters to avoid going crazy when they were snowed in for weeks.

For kids: a small knife for carving stuff out of wood rests can keep the older ones entertained for hours while they learn useful things; and crayons, paper, scissors, fabric and wool rests guarantee that younger kids can stay entertained while making boats, cars, (paper-) dolls and doll clothes.( A sailboat my father made from wood rests as a child one summer, complete with hand sewn sail and tin foil keel, still decorates the cabin wall). Some Lego or other building toys or some toy farm or zoo animals, maybe made out of fabric or wood rests there and then, can keep kids happy for days. Musical instruments can be fun for kids but might drive everybody else crazy, so they are best used in a closed bedroom. Having your kids happy instead of bored makes an enormous difference in a cramped area! A hand crank charger for mobile phones and USB is a great help to keep games electronics going… Please remember to pack all essential part: After we got electricity in our cabin my husband and I ended up taking our son and his friend for a day trip to the nearest town to hunt for a missing Playstation connection. After a whole day of searching the bigger town shops we found the missing part in the end in a drawer with odds and ends in the local tourist trap shop, and the boys were happy for the rest of the holidays. This taught us to make sure that ALL parts for such things are along, and that kids, even if they feel like they can´t live without something – still can forget to pack essential parts! (And by the way, they also went outside swimming in a nearby mountain brook for hours on end!)

Building snow lamps outdoors for a party evening is by the way a delightful job for children: with some snowballs you build a mini tipi or igloo with an air hole on top, put a burning tea light inside and enjoy the sight in the evening!  Another fun winter game for “staying around the cabin” is a bottle racing track: fill a straight glass or plastic bottle (without paper) with snow and make a racing track in a snow heap for it, complete with tunnels and open parts. Try to make the track long and complicated without stopping the bottle in it´s tracks.

Back to offgrid living: A dart game on one wall can keep everybody entertained for hours, and can give the need for movement a fun outlet if the blizzard shakes your cabin. A propos of blizzard: have your tool shed connected with an inner door to your cabin/ living area – it might happen that you are so snowed in you just get out through a window with the help of a snow shovel.  For very extreme weather, it is a good idea to have a high up window big enough to crawl out through if the snow is above your ground floor windows!  And keep your pet on a leash if you have tons of snow – then you can pull it out of deep, loose snow if necessary! As far as I know there are snow shoes available for dogs as well, and anyway you should have leather snow socks along for your pet since some kinds of hard snow otherwise can scratch paws bloody in little time. Making these would be a good project for a weather locked day.

Things to store in your BOL BEFORE winter or WTSHTF : firewood enough to last all winter, batteries, flash lights, jams, heavy cans of stuff your family likes to eat; all food of course stored in your earth cellar (with access through the kitchen floor!) Assume that mice will keep your house company while you are away, so plan accordingly with packing sugar, oats, tea etc. in glass or metal containers. Forget plastic containers – mice have no problem eating plastic that smells of food – I have dolls with grisly looking mice-eaten lips to prove that. It is also a very good idea to hang all your bedding from sturdy wood cross beams under the ceiling – anything else invites mice to use the nice, soft, warm, fluffy stuff humans have provided for them.

Another important thing to store: woolly house shoes for everybody and to spare! Wet, muddy or snowy boots need their own place for slow drying by the entrance door and have no business whatsoever in the living area. And when you leave the cabin: ALLWAYS store any rubber/ rain boots you leave in your BOL upside down – a hungry but dead mouse that was unable to climb the steep rubber walls out again is NOT NICE to discover in your boots and really sad for the mouse...  The same counts for tea kettles, water buckets and other stuff a mouse cannot climb out of. Speaking of rodents: In Norway we have the original Vikings: the lemmings. These fearless mini-fighters (here are some examples – reminds me of Monty Python´s “come here and I´ll bite you to death”: )

They usually stay out of human habitations, but they can fall into cisterns and pollute surface water sources. What they don´t like is if you throw graywater, especially hot water where they live, (and they will let you know by cursing your carelessness in loud lemming language if you transgress), so please take care that you throw used water in the same place if possible, so you and the lemmings can stay out of each other´s way.

If you are stuck for longer in your BOL in winter weather – and vegetables are getting low – remember you can eat the shoots of pines and juniper – and these shoots are full of vitamin c – make best use of the vitamin content by eating them fresh. For medical help: Blue juniper berries are a good medicine against bladder infection : steep (maximum) three berries in a cup of hot water for ten minutes or longer for a disinfecting and healing tea, repeat three times daily until well. The blue berries are best since they are ripe – leave the green ones on the bush. For a disinfectant wash you can steep juniper needles or berries in water, for disinfecting the air in your BOL let some juniper needles smoke on the top of your wood stove.

Assuming you are staying for longer in your cold weather BOL: Take care to have a book on plants that grow around your BOL and their medical uses available: A  certain fungus that grows on birch trees is called “kreftkjuke” in Norwegian; “Chaga” in Russian and has traditionally been used as a medicine against cancer as the Norwegian name also shows. If you search for “Chaga mushroom” on the net you will see that it looks very different from a nice, healthy mushroom, but if you find it (and you are sure you have found the right mushroom) you obviously have a fantastic medicine at your disposal! Check the net for “how to” – I have no personal experience and can give no specific advice other than: don´t take all you find, and get the help of a local expert if you can, to learn to find and recognize Chaga.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: take some nylon hose along – the sock part protects against blisters if you wear them under your woolen socks.  Re. skiing: as a child I had to use skis to get to my friends´ homes, so based on that I recommend: ALWAYS put reflective “dangles” or bands on your kid´s clothes in case they ski on or near roads. Children don´t understand the concept that a car driver cannot see what they see themselves. Emergency rockets or walkie talkies for older kids (if reliable) is also definitely a good idea.  Always wear double mittens: a pair of wool mittens underneath and then a thin pair of (woven fabric) wind protection mittens over that to stave off wind chill and save fingers. A kid having fun in the snow can forget tingling fingers a little too long… The same goes for dressing for winter weather generally: silk or wool underneath, more wool and then wind protection on top.
And in the end, a short lesson in world politics and a really fun game in the snow is “King of the Hill”: A gang of children try, like in musical chairs, to be the one that manages to stay on top of a snow heap while the others try to take it´s place.  After having played this with other kids in a situation where one doesn´t get hurt falling off the “peak” a child has learnt to see through this as the childish game it is. Wouldn´t it be nice if some people in power had had the same lesson?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In the past year, prepping has gone from an interesting concept to a way of life for us. There are countless resources for information, products and equipment available to the person who has an open calendar and a bottomless bank account. Unfortunately for the rest of us, even if we can carve out enough time to fully devote ourselves to prepping, we tend to find a large portion of supplies to be out of the realm of our current budget. And, with the economy in crisis, it doesn’t seem probable that the budget will be increasing anytime soon. In our case, money seems to be even tighter since I am not paid hourly and my husband is retired. We don’t have the option of getting overtime or holiday pay. It can be a daunting task to come up with ways to keep gathering preps when there is no extra cash on hand.

Jonathan Swift wrote: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I believe that was never truer than for a cash poor individual/couple/family/group who is dedicated to preparing for disaster and protecting their loved ones. That being said, our household’s answer to this dilemma is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) prepping. When you commit to taking a step back and looking at what you already have with a new perspective, you will certainly be surprised at the resources you possess. The challenge is transforming those things into valuable prepping materials. This article will cover just a few of the endless possibilities for you to begin your end day preparations even during financial strain.

“Learn on how little man may live, and how small a portion nature requires.”
– Lucanus (St. Luke)

First, I would like to cover household products that almost everyone has already, and uses that you may be unaware of that could come in handy during a disaster scenario.

From the kitchen: (uses other than the obvious one of cooking)

Baking soda: absorbs radiation and heavy metals, can be used as toothpaste, deodorant and hand cleaner, relieves insect bites and bee stings, is useful for washing dishes, cleans clothes, cleans batteries, cleans fruits and veggies, treats colds, flu and heartburn, soothes sunburn.

Honey: can be used as moisturizer and antiseptic, boosts energy, enhances vitamin A, improves blood flow, treats sore throats, coughs and burns, removes parasites when mixed with vinegar, relaxes nerves, heals diabetic ulcers, eases arthritis pain (see: cinnamon). Honey contains large amounts of vitamins and iron which help strengthen the immune system. The natural properties of honey make this one of the only foods that will never spoil! If at all possible, stock up on locally grown, organic varieties. This tends to alleviate allergies and increase potency when used as a health remedy.

Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV is rich in potassium, acetic acid, ash, and malic acid. These minerals are vital to our bodies for muscle growth, nerve impulse transmission, blood sugar regulation, maintaining proper PH levels and supporting the immune system with anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. ACV also has been found to regulate blood pressure, reduce bad cholesterol, improve bowel function, heal yeast infections, reduce sinus infections, and protect against food poisoning.

Cinnamon: eases arthritis pain when mixed with honey and water (Mix one part honey to two parts lukewarm water and one teaspoon of cinnamon to form a paste. Massage gently into painful areas.) Helps cures bladder infections when mixed in a glass of water with a teaspoon of honey. This has also been found to relieve indigestion, gas and upset stomach. A cinnamon/honey mixture also aids in regulating blood sugar levels and can help with weight loss.

Shortening: Push a wick or even a piece of string into a tub of shortening and light the end. This will provide you with an astounding 45 days of light and warmth! When faced with having to travel long distances on foot, shortening can be used as a foot cream to prevent painful cracks and splits in overworked heels and toes.

Food Preservation:

Some of us have not yet mastered the art of canning to preserve foods. (I’m working on that one.) Thank goodness there are few simple ways to keep fresh stock on hand of foods that you may not expect can be stored for extended periods of time.

Eggs: Perhaps you are not zoned for chickens on your property. Unfortunately, it seems as though fresh eggs will not a feasible part of your available food stash after an apocalyptic event. Thankfully, that would be an incorrect assumption. There a couple of different methods for preserving eggs for a period of months to years. The quickest and simplest way is to rub each egg with a liberal coating of warmed mineral oil. They can also be rubbed with salted butter and nestled into a layer of salt, bran or dry oats. Yet another trick is to dip the eggs in paraffin. With all methods, it is crucial that you begin with fresh eggs! Purchasing from a regular grocery store is always a crap shoot since you have no idea how long the eggs have been in the delivery trucks or sitting on the shelf. It is highly recommended that you buy from a friend who has chickens, or possibly a local chicken farm or farmer’s market. It is also important to store the eggs small side down in a cool (not freezing), dry environment. Keep in a covered container. Eggs can be stacked as long as they are not touching one another. When stacking, provide a barrier between layers. Remember to flip the eggs once a month to preserve the integrity of the yolks.

Cheese: Hard cheeses can be preserved for up to twenty five years when coated with cheese wax. Dip into the wax several times, apply your label and then brush one final thin layer of wax over the cheese. (Do not use paraffin. Black or red cheese wax is recommended because it lets in the least amount of light. This can be purchased at specialty stores, health food stores or over the internet.)

Household “trash”:

Empty toilet paper rolls: Insert a wick an fill with melted wax for lightweight emergency candles. The rolls can also be used as yet another form of kindling for starting fires (see below for more fire starter info). Flatten and wrap with duct tape or string for a makeshift knife sheath, neatly organize rope or para-cord, use as “planters” for starting seedlings.

Old clothing: Everyone has a corner of the closet or dresser that holds clothing too stained or torn to be donated to charity. We tell ourselves we are saving them for rags, but the rag bag is overflowing already. What can be done with old T-shirts, socks and other cotton materials? Tear into strips and store as back up first aid! Eventually, depending on the length of time it takes to re-stock in an emergency situation, you may run out of gauze. These scraps can be used as bandages, tourniquets, washcloths, or face masks for filtering dust. In a pinch, large scraps can be sewn together to create blankets or coverings for extra warmth and shelter. Stuff a handful into the corner of your bug out bag to mark a trail or alert group members of your location if you end up traveling on foot.

Dryer lint: “Wait..what? Lint??” Absolutely. Dryer lint is the core of one of the simplest DIY fire starters to make. Begin by collecting the lint from your dryer. Loosely fill the sections of a cardboard (NOT Styrofoam!) egg carton, and pour melted wax into each well. Once set, cut the tray into bricks. To use, place under a bit of kindling and light the cardboard corners. These will burn nicely for 10-15 minutes. Store in a plastic zipper bag. (Use up old candle remnants if you don’t have canning wax on hand) Another easy method for making fire starters is to fill a mason jar half way with leftover wine bottle corks. Finish filling the jar with rubbing alcohol and allow to soak. Position a couple of these underneath your kindling, and you will soon be enjoying a warm fire.

Hair clippings: If you are supplementing your food preps with a garden, consider using hair clipping in two different ways. First, add to the compost pile. Hair is high in nitrogen and excellent for enriching the soil. Second, sprinkling hair around the perimeter of the garden will discourage critters from raiding your vegetable patch.
Soap slivers: Don’t throw away those tiny slivers of bar soap. Keep them until you have a good handful collected. Tie inside a thin washcloth, knot into a pantyhose foot, or insert into a mesh bag/bath mitt for a sudsy, exfoliating tool. Alternatively, recycle by melting down the shards with a little olive oil in a coffee cup. Dip a shaving brush in the mixture and sweep onto face for use as a low cost shaving soap.

Makeshift weapons/alternative weaponry:

Although a large majority of preppers own traditional weapons for home defense purposes, there are still people who choose not to include guns/knives/etc. in their arsenal. In such a case, what would you do to defend yourself or your family in the event of a physical attack? Look around you. No matter where you are standing at any given moment, it is most likely that there are a number of items within close proximity that could be used in self-defense. Even from my office chair, I can spot several things that would certainly put a hurtin’ on an intruder.

  • Mini souvenir baseball bat (striking/thrusting)
  • Large TV remote control (striking)
  • Scissors (stabbing/slicing)
  • Sharp edged picture frame (jabbing/slicing)
  • Old style glass soda bottle (striking while intact or cutting if broken)
  • Metal edged measuring ruler (slicing/cutting)
  • Steel toe boots (kicking vital areas/stomping/crushing)
  • Flashlight (striking)
  • Screwdriver (stabbing/using as a yawara)
  • Fishing pole (whipping/slicing) and yes, I have a fishing pole in my office.

I also know a woman who used a traditional weapon in a non-traditional way when her home was breached by an intruder. As he attempted to climb through her bedroom window, she stabbed him in the shoulder with a crossbow bolt. His injuries were serious enough that he immediately fled and was soon picked up at a local hospital.

Of course, it would benefit everyone to learn the basics of self-defense and mental focus. Wielding a weapon of any kind will only get you in trouble if you don’t have the courage or know-how to use it when the time comes. Additionally, there may come a time that you are faced with an opponent with bad intentions, and you have nothing at all to use as defense. This is when it is important to be skilled in hand to hand combat. Don’t let that intimidate you! There are many ways to take down an attacker that can make even the most petite person effective. Check your local community listings. Self-defense classes are readily available in most areas without significant monetary investment. This can also be a great bonding time for a family or couple who chooses to attend together. Remember to practice what you learn outside of the classroom. Run drills; act out scenarios. Keep your skills sharp and stay alive!

Although this article has only touched on a fraction of the information available in each category, you now have the opportunity to use these tips as a catalyst for developing your own creative preps. You do not need to be wealthy or have a genius IQ. It is not important that you possess a thousand acres of woodland or millions of rounds of ammunition. In order to adequately prepare for your family’s protection and well-being, you simply need a good plan, some creativity and a willingness to learn. I encourage you to get started today.

(Note: These methods have all been tried/tested/utilized by either me, my family or friends who follow a preparedness lifestyle.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

I began as an apprentice in the Upholstery trade when I was 15 years old. I worked the trade all through high school and it helped to put me through college. Eventually I opened my own shop and worked the trade until 2004. In 2004 I partnered with a good friend and we began designing and manufacturing tactical gear for him and the guys he worked with overseas. This business has continued until today. All in all, I have been using industrial sewing machines of various types for over 20 years now. In that time, I have learned much about what machines to look for, and what machines to avoid. Much of this experience has come at significant financial cost, so I hope to help your readers avoid the mistakes I have made over the years.
I have read various articles posted in the past that have extolled the virtues of learning to sew and having a good sewing machine on hand in a TEOTWAWKI situation. The reasons are many, including being able to repair your clothing and gear when those services are not available. Also, the ability to make and repair gear will be a valuable and marketable skill in a post event situation. I have not, however, been able to locate an article specific to machine choice, especially regarding industrial machines. I know you’re a proponent of the old treadle-pedal style machines, but for reasons to follow, I would caution your readers about these types of sewing machines.  I would submit that everyone should have a good INDUSTRIAL grade sewing machine as part of their preparations. Like most good tools, once you’ve had one, it’s hard to see how you ever got by without it.

Over the years I’ve owned, used, sold, purchased, borrowed, repaired, and modified approximately 20 machines of various makes and models. I’ve used button-hole machines, computerized bar-tackers, double-needle machines, sergers, chain-stitchers, straight stitchers--the list is long. Of all the machines I’ve owned, one is by far the most useful. I’ve used it more than all others combined. This machine is what I suggest your readers find, purchase, and learn to use. I’m talking about a compound feed, walking foot industrial sewing machine. For those unfamiliar with sewing machines, let me clarify as best I can and give you some suggestions on where and how to purchase one.



I should probably apologize in advance to all the good women out there who have sewn for years on small home machines. My wife, mother, aunts, etc. all have them so I mean no disrespect, but here goes… Avoid the temptation to buy an off-the-shelf home sewing machine from the local craft-mart or that computerized wonder with a million preprogrammed stitches and fancy zipper-feet they’re selling on the TV shopping network. These machines are great for the hobby quilter, craft enthusiast, and for boat anchors in a grid-down situation. Also avoid the old fashioned treadle-pedal machines of the pioneer days. They’re okay if you only intend to sew VERY thin fabric, but they’re nearly useless for sewing heavier materials, and finding replacement parts can be dicey. They take a considerable amount of technique to use effectively. I own a great old (pre WWII) industrial long-arm Adler with a treadle. It’s superbly made and amazingly durable… and unfortunately, it’s nearly useless for 99% of the sewing I do.

One of the main reasons to go with an industrial machine is the clutch motor. A good industrial machine will be set in a 4 foot by 2 foot free standing table with a large electric motor mounted underneath that transfers power to the sewing machine head via a v-belt (like the fan belt in older cars). It does this through a clutch, usually made of very dense cork. Once turned on, the motor is always spinning at full speed and by depressing the sewing machine’s pedal, you bring the two cork plates together engaging the clutch. This transfers the power through the v-belt to the head and you’re in business. The clutches last for YEARS. (I have never had to replace a clutch on any of my machines and I sew on them almost daily.) If you’re worried, you can perform a quick test. Sit at the machine with it turned off and try to cycle it by hand. It should difficult. If it isn’t, the clutch may be worn. Don’t give up on the machine just because of this, however, because the motors and clutches are not terribly expensive to replace. If you’ve got a great sewing machine, but a bad motor or clutch, buy it! You can find new motors all day for around $100. (Make sure you buy a single phase motor though, there are tons of 3-phase sewing machine motors out there and few people have 3-phase power.) My point in all this is that if you are in a long-term grid down situation, it will be relatively easy to replace the constantly spinning motor with another form of spinning motion. I have found that with some simple modifications, I can rig up a stationary bicycle to spin the electric motor. It takes little effort for someone in your group to pedal the bike while you sew. It’s best to not remove the motor because once you get it spinning, its internal weight acts like a flywheel and helps maintain the torque necessary to keep sewing trough thick materials. If you have one of those old-school exercise bikes with the very heavy front wheel, this may not be necessary, but also consider the advantages of leaving the motor intact if power ever does become available again. Get the necessary parts/modifications tested and working BEFORE the balloon goes up and then squirrel them away. It will probably be very difficult to source the v-belts and associated pulleys/etc. you need after an event. This takes some genuine backwoods ingenuity, but I found all the parts I needed easily, online from McMaster Carr. If you have some junk 10-speed bicycles lying around, and some imagination, you could probably source everything you need from them. My point is, if you can spin that clutch disc, you can sew. If all else fails, you can cycle the stitches by hand with the machine’s hand wheel and it will still be much faster and stronger than sewing anything by hand. The whiz-bang computerized machines you buy at the craft store are servo operated these days and will be completely useless without electricity. Some of them can’t even be cycled by hand without electricity. They also lack the hardy construction necessary to sew heavy materials such as canvas, webbing, and thick leather without blowing the timing and breaking components. Few things will make you say bad words like repeatedly blowing the timing of your sewing machine or breaking needles, when you’re trying to finish an important project. Think of those little craft machines like those cute little painted hammers they sell in craft stores. They may be great for putting a tack in the wall to hang a picture, but can you imagine trying to frame a house with one?

A couple last things to consider…the good, older, industrial machines are completely mechanical except for the drive motor, so they are impervious to EMP attacks. They will last several lifetimes if properly lubricated and can be configured with various attachments to do a surprisingly wide range of specialized sewing tasks. If you look hard enough, you will find them for incredibly cheap. (More on this later.)


A “walking foot” sewing machine simply means that when the material you are sewing is being pulled to the rear of the machine by the feet, the needle is IN the fabric. This prevents bunching and gathering of the fabric and also greatly aids in keeping the top and bottom pieces of fabric indexed correctly. Having been forced to sew on a non-walking foot machine while employed in college, I will never own a strait stitch machine that doesn’t have a walking foot. If you’re unsure if the machine has a walking foot, simply cycle the machine slowly by hand, and you will see if the needle is down in the feed plate when it moves to the rear. If the needle is up out of the fabric and only the presser foot pulls the fabric to the rear, don’t buy the machine.


This is sometimes used interchangeably with walking foot, but it actually denotes how many feet the machine has. Look for a machine that has two presser feet, not just one. There will be a rear foot and a front foot. This greatly improves the way the machine feeds thick materials as well as how it handles difficult sewing applications. It’ll be a Godsend if you use a binding attachment or sew heavy zippers into tents, etc.


This is less critical, but a nice feature to have. It just means that you can access the bobbin (the small spool of thread that feeds the bottom stitch), from the top of the machine, rather than from the side, or underneath. It makes bobbin changes easier and it makes clearing the dreaded “bird nests” much easier when they occur.


This may sound silly, but there are a bunch of industrial machines out there that do not have reverse. This is a deal breaker for me. It’s like buying a jeep with two-wheel drive. Yes, it’s a jeep, but you’ve just lost so much utility and versatility by not holding out for four wheel drive. You need reverse to back stitch at the beginning and end of seams so they don’t unravel. You can’t effectively bar-tack without reverse either, and if you’re making any sort of tactical gear, you’ll be doing a lot of bar-tacking.


File this under really nice to have, but not a deal breaker. The timing clutch is a bearing-actuated clutch that theoretically breaks loose before you can blow the machine’s timing if you ever jam the machine while sewing. You then simply cycle the machine slowly forward until the bearings reset and you’re good to go. I’ve only seen these on the old Adler 067 models (of which I have two), but they may be on other good quality machines as well. They are WONDERFUL if you can find a machine that has them. I can’t explain how to look for this feature without photos and a long confusing explanation, so just ask about it when buying a machine.  Don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare from the person selling the machine, but ask anyway.


When looking for a machine, make sure it has a good thread stand that holds at least two 1lb. spools of thread. Most will hold three, but two is a must. One feeds the machine while the other one winds the bobbin.  Also, it should have a bobbin winder. Many are attached to the table under the hand wheel, but some are built right into the machine head. These are neat little contraptions that wind your bobbin for you while you sew. They run off the drive belt and disengage automatically when the bobbin is full. Unless you plan on storing away an endless supply of pre-wound bobbins, you’ll need the bobbin winder. I use pre-wound bobbins in production for a number of reasons, but I also have an ample supply of metal, reusable bobbins that I can wind myself when needed. Pre-wounds may not always be available so it’s better to go with a long term solution.


Once you’ve procured your machine, find out what length of v-belt it uses and write it on the machine somewhere. Now go out and get one or two extra belts. You can buy sewing machine-specific belts for a ridiculous amount of money, or do like I do. I buy automotive v-belts for a fraction of the cost at my local parts store. They last a lot longer too. In fact, I’ve had to replace two sewing machine belts in my lifetime. Once replaced with automotive belts, I’ve never had to replace them again.
If you can locate them, buy a couple extra sets of feet for the machine. Get a set of zipper feet in right and left hand configurations if you can. I also have two sets of welting feet for my machines, but that’s a throw back to my upholstery days. If you intend to use a binding tape attachment for your machine, you’ll need a set of special feet for that too. They can be sourced online on the various auction sites, or from industrial sewing machine suppliers. While you’re at it, get a bunch of extra needles for the machine in various sizes. I keep a large supply of 140, 150, and 160 sized needles on hand. These machines are very strong and will shatter a needle quite easily if you happen to tweak the fabric enough to deflect the needle into the feed dogs. They also become dull over time if you sew a lot of dirty canvas, etc.

If you can get the operations manual with the machine, grab it! Most of them are available online, but not always. Many are out of print and cost a mint to get reproductions. The internet has alleviated some of this, but not in all cases. You NEED the operational manual to make sure you can readjust the machine should you blow the timing. It is not an easy task if you’re inexperienced at it. If you can’t manage to retime the machine, it will be completely useless.

Industrial sewing machines are VERY heavy. I put all mine on casters so they can be easily moved around my shop. I highly recommend you do this if the machine you buy doesn’t have them. These machines are big and take a lot of space in a small garage. It’s very nice to be able to just push them out of the way when not being used.


I stated before that I’ve used a number of different machines over the last 20 years. Some were and are great, some were real dogs. I give the following as my personal opinion. It’s based off 20 years of work in the trade, but it is certainly not the last word on the subject so please don’t take it as gospel.

If TEOTWAWKI happened tomorrow and I could save only one machine from my factory, and that machine had to last me the rest of my life, I would grab my old Adler 067. It was the first machine I ever bought and I’ve sewn well over a million stitches on it. It was a used machine when I bought it, so who knows how many stitches it’s sewn over the years, but it will outlive my grandchildren if they keep it oiled. I wish I knew how many pounds of thread I’ve put through it over the years. In my opinion it’s the finest straight stitch machine ever made. It has all of the things I’ve listed above and the old 067’s can be found at outrageous discounts if you look around. The Adler 167s are outstanding machines as well. My second choice would be one of the older Pfaff industrials like the 145. They are equal in quality and toughness to the Adler, but lack the timing clutch. I also own a couple JUKI machines and they are great. I have a double needle and a computerized bar-tacker made by JUKI and I have no complaints. They are a great value and if you’re going to buy new, that’s the way I would go. I highly recommend you buy used, old, and German, but if you do buy new, I’d go with JUKI. I’ve used a few CONSEW machines over the years and they’ve been hit or miss. I’ve used a couple that were good, and I’ve used a couple that were just dogs. Same goes for CHANDLER (except the ones that were actually made by Adler). I’ve never used SINGER machines, but if you read the forums they were really hit or miss too. The consensus seems to be buy the older machines. The rest I’ve used were very specialized machines and really don’t apply here.


I’ve purchased machines from dealers, out of the back of a van, from internet auction sites, yard sales, estate sales, and from defunct businesses. The internet auction sites are great, but shipping is often as much or more than the machine itself. If you do go auction site, consider just buying the head unit and then sourcing a stand (table) and motor locally. Search the local classifieds for anything that says “industrial” or “commercial” sewing machine. You can find great deals that are close enough to go pick up. Also, research the sewing machine dealers in your area. Most dealers buy and sell used machines. You’ll usually pay more, but they may give you a guarantee on a “refurbished” machine. They are usually good sources for parts too. Keep a sharp eye out for yard sales and estate sales. There were a lot of us upholsterers back in the day but we’re an endangered species. The throw-away economy we live in has made upholstery a very difficult business to be in. Many of the old craftsmen have hung up their scissors and are selling off their machines. Many of the auto-restoration crowd bought a machine thinking they would do the interior on that old muscle car and then find out it’s not as easy as it looks. They get sick of it taking up space in the garage and the machines end up at swap meets and yard sales. Be patient and be creative in your search and you’ll find some real gems for a few hundred bucks. I once bought five machines from a defunct business for $25 each.

I really hope you will consider adding an industrial sewing machine to your list of tools.  I believe it will serve you so much better than relying on a small home machine to keep your clothing, tents, backpacks, and other gear in good repair for the long haul. If you will take the time to really learn how to use it, it can provide a supplemental income for you now and possibly a life-saving means of barter/income after the SHTF. May God bless all of us with wisdom and persistence as we prepare, and may we be successful in all our efforts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Norwegians know winter. It’s ingrained in their culture. In 2002 this country of under 5 million ranked first in Olympic gold medals and third overall. Imagine Colorado, and only people born in Colorado, doing this and you begin to realize what an accomplishment this is.

Ask a Norwegian to name the top items needed for a winter emergency and they will likely not mention skis (cross country skis). The reason for this omission is obvious, at least to a Norwegian. With skis, a situation would be far less likely to be considered an emergency. 

On moving to Norway 10 years ago I learned that, contrary to my impressions, cross country skis are as much for climbing up mountains as anything else. Skiing in Norway is more akin to hiking, where skis provide access to high and wild places where trolls live. Norwegians use skis for sport, recreation and transportation – and it’s this third category which provides lessons that may save you and your family when SHTF. If you live in an area of extreme winter weather (Redoubt?), or if the route to your bug out location can be blocked to vehicles by snow - or physically closed by authorities for reason of snow - then I suggest an open mind to skis.

I suspect that the average prepper would be skeptical toward this nerdy or trendy ‘sport’ – your view depending on what you’ve seen. Honestly, I was too (nerdy). Though consider that skiing was invented a thousand years ago and skis have been leveraged militarily from day one. In WW2 citizen Norwegians on skis prevented the Germans from developing the atomic bomb (see the 1965 Kirk Douglas film “The Heroes of Telemark’’ for the Hollywood version; research the full story and learn what ordinary men can endure and accomplish when all others fail). The Olympic sport of biathlon, or ski shooting, developed from the military requirements of traveling long distances on snow, at speed, then slowing heart and breathing enough to accurately shoot at distance. There seemed a natural link between skiing and prepping, but it took time for me to see and embrace this.

Transportation to remote areas
My first time on cross country skis was a 30 min trek, uphill, at midnight with a 40 pound pack and a headlamp. Norwegians have a culture of the ‘hytta’ or cabin, traditionally a small log cabin with no electricity or running water. Most are inaccessible by vehicle in the winter, reached only by ski or snowcat. I was lucky, my friend’s hytta was in a ‘developed/recreational’ area, many are much further off the grid. Full families make these trips, kids and grandparents included, carrying all supplies needed for their stay. If your bug out location is in a vehicle-inaccessible location in winter, even by a few hundred yards, consider skis as an effective option. In fact, skis might make it possible to place you retreat somewhere you might previously have considered inaccessible, and allow for additional options for collecting water, wood fuel and food via hunting, fishing and trapping. My ‘grandparents’ comment raises another point: I routinely see 70 and even 80 year olds on skis. I plan to be one, come what may. Don’t stop reading just because you’re not a 25 year old ex-special forces type.

I find skis superior to snowshoes, except when the terrain is very steep with deeply drifted snow. Skis are more energy economical and versatile than snowshoes, and ultimately do the job of snowshoes, if poorly, when needed. A pair of skis weighs only about 4 pounds. You can strap them to the outside of a pack when walking or bungee them to a vehicle roof rack using no special devices - though length makes them admittedly cumbersome despite their great value. One solution is to have old ‘beater’ skis at your ski-out destination stored in a locker-type box for the sole reason of crossing the distance to your retreat.  

Long distance travel
Skis offer an incredibly efficient means of traveling long distances over snow and ice. Depending on conditions, a novice skier in average shape might cover 15 miles in 3 hours, potentially with gear (see pulk below), and still feel reasonably good at journey’s end. In the annual ‘Birkebeiner’ or ‘birch legs’ race, above-average amateurs cover 34 miles of up/down terrain in 3-4 hours (the winners in less than 2). When SHTF and plows don’t clear the road to your bug out location, skis provide a means to travel long miles of roads, trails, railroad track, frozen lake or open ground for all members of your family (including infants and toddlers). And in a normal winter stranding, while I’d be reticent to leave my vehicle on foot, the ski’s I often have in my vehicle would provide other options. Many Norwegians leave skis in a locked ski box on the roof of their vehicles all winter.

The benefits of skis aren’t limited to remote areas. If you live in New England you’ve probably seen someone ski down the street after a big storm. Skis can provide mobility in temporary winter situations in urban areas, and could be the best way to move about if vehicles became inoperable for lack of gas in a long term power outage (Google the ‘Ice Storm of 1998’) or as the result of an EMP. The Birkebeiner race, by the way, is held to commemorate a feat in 1206 when two soldiers smuggled the infant King Haakon IV by ski over mountains in a storm to prevent his murder - vintage SHTF.

Gear: Skis and Poles
Incorporating skis into prepping is a skill that needs to be honed long before needed. You need to practice, develop different types of skills and learn what works for you - otherwise your skis will be useless if not dangerous. I bought skis, boots, bindings and poles for about $125 ten years ago and I still use these skis as backups. I strongly recommend skis with metal edges (at higher cost) as this will significantly increase your downhill control, and therefore speed - saving you energy by carrying your downhill momentum into the next uphill. Greater control also reduces the chance of injury by hard fall, especially when wearing a full pack.

Another option is a ‘backcountry’ ski, also with metal edges, a wider base (that does not typically fit in prepared ski tracks) and sturdier boots/bindings which are better for ‘off pist’ skiing in remote areas. I routinely break trail, traverse and ski off pist with my regular skis. I’d suggest that the litmus test for backcountry skis would be if you are doing overnight trips or consistently break trail in rugged uphill terrain (though in full TEOTWAWKI I’d want the sturdier backcountry ski).

There are also ‘waxless’ skis which have unidirectional ridges on the base that (supposedly) grip the snow to provide forward traction but allow glide. They work a little on sticky snow, and maybe powder but not at all on granular ice. I’d likely not take a pair if you gave them to me, though in a pinch you can still put wax on them and make them serviceable. I might take a pair as a backup up to a backup while I looked for something else. Waxless skis are good for training kids. Mine, ages 2 and 4, use them, though I sometimes apply wax for extra grip.

You’ll need ski poles for training. I still use lower cost metal poles compared to the fancy composites. However in an emergency you can leave your poles behind and can cut new from saplings. In fact, ski poles (as a pair) have only been around for about a 100 years. Before this people used a single pole about 5 feet long as a staff for going uphill and dragged like a boat rudder (held at one end) or kayak paddle (held from the center) for going downhill. Before that it was often a spear.

Gear: Boots & Bindings
Decent cross country boots, though somewhat minimalist, are designed for all-day cold weather use. I frequently pack (or wear) only my ski boots to save gear space. You can drive in them so you don’t need to change boots when you arrive at your ski-out destination. With a pair of leg gaiters to keep the snow out of your ankles they are pretty effective all-purpose winter boots. Gaiters are the only purpose-made clothing I’d recommend as cross country gaiters have the proper hooks and straps for use with cross country boots.

There are 2 or 3 different boot/binding brands that are not interchangeable (you can’t use a Salomon boot with a Rottefella binding and vise versa). Try to determine the brand most common in your area so that your boots will fit the widest number of skis – over time you may want to scavenge old skis as backups for multiple locations. Don’t bother with any out-of-date boot/binding systems even if the skis are free. Stick with the system where the boot toe has a small horizontal bar that clicks into a joint in the ski binding. There‘s a reason that old system skis would be free – the dumpsters are full of them over here. The technology and materials are out of date and they will only frustrate you. Though as they would technically be serviceable, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to throw them in your shed as a last prayer in a winter full-scale disaster.

Gear: Clothing
First and foremost, no cotton, ever. Cotton kills. Natural fibers hold moisture next to your skin and water extracts heat from your body at a rate 7 times faster than air. Use a base layer of wool (best), polypropylene or the like as these materials wick moisture away from your skin. In Norway there are three basic outerwear approaches: purpose-made cross country cloths (usually expensive and form fitting), regular mountain gear (Gortex pants and jackets) and traditional garb (knickers and wool socks, anorak or wool sweater). I’ve worn them all, but regular mountain wear is the most versatile and safest when even a day trip can go bad. My point is that anything goes fashion-wise as long as it’s weather appropriate. No one should tell you that you need to make additional investments in clothing beyond appropriate winter wear - what you would need and use anyway. It’s best to adapt to your SHTF gear in training.

I love Mountain Hardware - top marks - and use a lot of (quality) North Face and REI gear. I like Marmot, see quality in Arcteryx, and there are good Norwegian brands like Bergans. I buy quality, not brands, off season and often discontinued models (colors). I watch for ‘used twice’ items discarded by ski fashionistas. If it works, my family will use it. I get 10-15 years out of most items and nothing get’s permanently retired. With quality, Nixwax and duct tape we now have multiple gear stashes – we travel light, for weekends or TEOTWAWKI.

I recommend outerwear pants with full zippers along the legs as this lets you to take them off without removing your boots – which is more convenient and safer in the snow. You can also open the side zips to cool down as these pants can be a little heavy for milder temperatures (‘mild’ can still mean below freezing). You’ll want thinner than average winter gloves as your hands will generate a lot of heat. I wear a medium thickness, tight-knit wool hat then supplement this with my jacket hood if I get cold. I pack dry spares of each if I’m planning to stop mid-trip, usually thicker as to provide another margin of safety. Yellow or orange tinted glasses will protect your eyes from falling snow, ice chips kicked up by skis, and wind-tearing. In an emergency or storm I’d want full goggles as a backup.

You will overdress at first. Skiing generates a lot of body heat and you will sweat even if it is very cold or you are not breathing very hard (where you will also be expelling a lot of moisture). This makes it essential to 1) layer clothing so you can adjust to temperature and activity level, 2) choose clothing that breaths and wicks away moisture, and 3) to stay properly hydrated. Cold weather dehydration is a serious and underestimated threat, and it’s hard to judge because cold and cloths mask the amount of much moisture you expel. Pay attention to your fluid intake. Eventually you will learn what to wear and under what conditions. And note that learning to dress for harsh conditions, with or without skis, is a survival skill in-and-of itself. This is best captured in a Norwegian rhyme that is as amusing as it is true: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Gear: Personal Carry Items
Items I carry on my person include: signal whistle (clipped externally where I can reach it with my mouth), compass, fire making implements, folding knife, headlamp, small multi-tool, energy bars (Clif Bars stay edible, PowerBars freeze solid), thermal blanket, reflectors, backup map of the area, cord, neoprene half face mask, lip balm, trial size tube of sun block, temperature-appropriate ski wax (chosen that day) and cell phone.

Keep your phone close to your body as cold depletes the battery and NEVER depend on it –consider it a luxury; it won’t be there at TEOTWAWKI. In backcountry Norway you can often get a signal to emergency services (only). Triple check that your keys and wallet are securely zipped, then check again. Snow is unforgiving to dropped keys and lost keys are one of the worst, and potentially most dangerous, things you can discover in the cold, dark and empty when you are already exhausted.  

Gear: Packs
Fanny packs are good for short trips and small backpacks for day trips. Packs with hydration bladders are useful. You’ll want a quality pack with decent straps including chest and waist straps. For larger packs, a lot of Norwegians still use external frame packs, though I think this is more tradition than practicality. An internal frame pack provides a lower center of gravity (important for skiing) and there are less places for snow and ice to accumulate. You can also sleep on the empty pack in a snow cave for insulation. I use an old Lowe Alpine I that has side pockets for skis (the bases goes in the pockets and you fasten the tips in an A-frame arrangement). If you strap skis to the side of a pack with the lower half hanging down the skis can catch on things. Sometimes I wear one pair of skis with another packed (one alpine, one cross country), and I don’t want to catch the spares on anything while I ski – though with the A-frame arrangement I do need to watch for hanging branches.

Gear: Pack Items
I don’t have the space to talk about pack gear; most of this might be what you’d expect. Pack plenty of food and water (or the means to make water from snow) - the best way to keep warm is to eat. Pack first aid and tape. Two other items of note are a packable snow shovel and a folding saw. Purpose-made pack shovels are expensive, but keep your eyes open and you’ll eventually find something passable for a fraction of the cost. Saws are lighter than hatchets, and I think more efficient. I hate working up a sweat banging on a frozen piece of wood while simultaneously knocking snow from above on my head.

Gear: Wax, Klister and Skins
There are three secrets to cross country skiing: 1) developing a basic balance on skis, 2) learning that efficiency of motion, or technique, is more important than muscle effort, and most importantly, 3) how to wax skis. Waxing skis is an art and science. There are people whose only job is waxing skis for pro athletes. The mechanics of a ski is a flexible camber, or bending ability within in the form of a slight arch. When you have your full weight on one ski the arch flattens for total contact with the snow. This is where the wax comes in, providing traction so that you can push yourself forward. When your weight is evenly distributed across both skis, the arch reforms, lifting the wax off the snow and allowing you to glide. You might be surprised that I rate waxing over technique, but without the right wax you will not be able to perform your technique.

Different grades of wax interact differently with different types of snow and temperatures. At one temperature a grade of wax will be perfect, at another it will be your worst enemy – clumping snow on the base or doing nothing at all. Despite the availability of about 100 grades of hard and soft waxes, I stick to the three standard rub-on waxes of Green (very cold), Blue (cold) and Red (at or above freezing). You’ll need to do more research, but the basic idea is to rub on, then smooth in (with a cork or stone tool) successive layers of wax starting with the harder Green and ending with the color most appropriate for the day’s temperature. So if it’s 35 degrees, you might put on 9 layers – 3 Green, 3 Blue and 3 Red. If it’s 10 degrees you just apply 3 Green. You wax each time you use your skis, cleaning wax off and starting over as needed. Carry 2 colors with you, the color you think you will use and the second most likely color for the day. If there is any doubt about temperature, only put the lower temperature wax in advance and make the final decision on the spot. I don’t carry a cork or stone with me, in the field I rub the wax in with the heel of my palm. Some days I’ll just wax pre-trip. If it’s icy I might to wax 3-4 times mid trip as the ice will wear away the layers of wax.

Store plenty of wax if you are planning for a situation where it would not be available. I imagine wax would be a very valuable (barter-able) commodity in post-TEOTWAWKI Norway. And if the world does not end you might be able to sell your stash in 40 years for more than you paid. I’m serious - search ‘vintage ski wax’ on Ebay. You might even make an effort to find an uncommon brand to increase the potential for value (SWIX brand, universally common now, would not be uncommon later). A prepper to the core, I have long term preps for a world that does not end as much (if not more) as one that does.

Equally important is finding the proper dividing line between your wax (grip) and no wax (glide) areas of your skis. You’ll do this once when you first get your skis. This dividing line is different for everyone depending on weight and the properties of the ski – you will mark this permanently with a marker. It will likely be different between your two skis, so you will also need to mark left and right ski. This is a two person job involving sliding a piece of paper under your skis while you stand on them. Don’t wax beyond the heel of you binding in the back. You also need to rough up the waxing area with light sandpaper so the wax has a surface to grip. Ask someone or find a Youtube video that demonstrates this process.

In addition to wax there is also klister, which is an adhesive in a tube or spray can for use on warm days when there is high water content in the snow. Finally, there are skins for uphill trekking. My first pair of skins was literally skins – ski-length strips of reindeer pelt hooked to the tip of the ski by a thong and attached down the length with a re-usable adhesive. When going downhill the hairs lay flat allowing some glide, but going uphill the hairs bend back producing grip. You put skins on for the uphill part of the trek, then take them off and store them in your pack for the downhill. My homemade skins (purchased) were smelly and messy so I switched to store-bought synthetic, but you could certainly make your own using a similar pelt and store-bought adhesive. In a true TEOTWAWKI situation you could field manufacture these in the original manner using animal-derived adhesives or tying them on. Pull out a pair of skins on an uphill trek and you’ll draw groans of jealously; cross a mountain pass when SHTF and they may save your life.

Gear: Pulk Sleds for Supplies, Gear and Family
There’s no point making it to your destination without the gear and supplies you need to survive. You don’t want to face the choice of staying put in a bad situation or leaving someone behind if they can’t travel unassisted. Norwegians commonly use a pulk sled in the backcountry. A pulk is a version of the sleds used by arctic explorers; their primary use in Norway is for infants and toddlers. Mine is a bullet shaped tub with stabilization runners, a nylon cover and removable seat and windshield (Google ‘pulk sled’ images to see variations). The pulk is both dragged and held at bay by two aluminum poles connected to a belt around the skier’s waist. The poles keep the sled from running wild and taking out the skier on the downhills. The stabilization runners, not included on most of the pulks in the Google image gallery, are critical for preventing tip-overs when skiing downhill. My kids bagged their first mountain top in a pulk at the age of 9 months.

Pulks are multi-purpose, used for hauling gear and supplies to cabins and on backcountry trips. My kid-friendly pulk cost $400, but it’s a small job to improvise a pulk by screwing a wooden box to blocks and a pair of alpine skis, running lines down 8 foot lengths of PVC and tying these off to the sides of a fanny pack (Google ‘build a pulk’ for better guidance). A toy sled could be made serviceable in an emergency, and if pipe wasn’t available use wooden poles – again, soldiers used spears in the old days. If your bug out route includes a point where you know passage may become impossible, I’d lay odds that a MacGyver’ed sled cached in a strategic location would be there when you came back. Incidentally, Norwegians insulate pulks and all-things-baby (strollers, car seats, cribs) with sheepskin. We have 8 skins, all in use. Sometimes the old ways are still best.

Dogs: A Survival Force-Multiplier
On a typical outing you’ll see Norwegians skiing with their dogs. The dog wears a harness connected by a 10 foot leash to a belt on the skier’s waist. If you have a dog that likes to run this is a great activity for you both. In a SHTF situation a dog might increase your range by a factor of 3 or more. The dog is not pulling you – you are skiing on your own - but you are leveraging the dog’s effort in the flats and uphills. This increases your overall efficiency by maybe 20 or 30 percent. My 200 pound friend (not muscle) had a 45 pound English Pointer that increased his range by 5 times. You’ll need to properly care for your dog including ointments for paws/nose and booties/coats as needed. Check that the foreleg harness does not cut or chafe and pack a water bowl. Don’t use metal edged skis as these can injure a dog. I once saw a horse and rider pulling two skiers.

Skills Development
It’s no joke heading into the backcountry, and even ‘recreational areas’ can turn deadly. There are many cases of experienced skiers and even famous athletes going into the woods never to be seen again. Skis will push you to develop additional survival skills. This list is long, but includes: building snow caves, making fire in subfreezing conditions, map reading, navigation, reading dangerous snow and weather conditions, rescue procedures, driving and maintaining a vehicle in harsh conditions, extricating yourself from an ice breakthrough …  the list is so long it’s likely a whole separate post.  

Moving Forward
Training yourself and your family to ski will take more than reading a single post. At first skiing will seem more like a recreation or hobby than a hardcore survival skill. While enjoyment is a benefit in-and-of itself, as you gain experience you’ll start to see the applications of skis to SHTF situations and begin to challenge yourself more. You don’t need to learn winter survival any more than you need 700 pounds of wheat in your basement – until you do. Skiing is a survival and military skill that’s time-tested for over a thousand years. Skiing will challenge you to develop other skills, get you fit and provide survival options where no other may exist. All you need to do is begin. So as the Norwegians say, ‘lykke til og god tur.’ Good luck and good journey.

Friday, January 11, 2013

CPT Rawles:
The product that I use is half Twenty Mule Team Borax (contains no brighteners) and half Baking Soda (removes all scents). Military snipers use the same as they can't warrant be sniffed out by an animal and giving away their position. I use it for hunting purposes for the same reason, and it works great. It also a little less expensive than paying big dollars for Sport Wash.
Regards, - James R.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What would you recommend when washing military uniforms at home? I was wondering if soap nuts are a wise choice since they have no optical brighteners. What do you use? Thanks, - Brian X.

JWR Replies: I'd recommend using Atsko Sport Wash. Not only does it not have any brighteners, but it is also unscented. Dogs and even people with sensitive noses can smell detergent scents and perfumes, which could reveal your position if you are in a close ambush situation. Laundry scents also overwhelm your own sense of smell, making it less likely for you to smell your opponents' cooking and tobacco odors. And since your camos will likely be doing double duty as hunting clothes, using an unscented detergent is crucial. (Deer and elk reportedly have a sense of smell that is even more acute than that of hounds.)

Monday, January 7, 2013

My dear friend, the late Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, in Tok, Alaska was famous for always wearing a bandana on his head. And that bandana wasn't just a fashion statement. Chris wasn't a fashion trendsetter in the least. Janowsky was, probably the best wilderness survival instructor in the world. The US Marine Corps sent their winter survival instructors to Chris for their training, and in return, those instructors would train US Marines in winter wilderness survival techniques. Now, if the US Marines thought so highly of Janowsky, that says it all in my book. As an aside, Chris Janowsky put out quite a few VHS tapes on wilderness survival, and it would be worth your time to find them and add them to your collection.
Hoo Rags has come out with a line of bandanas in a variety of designs, colors and patterns. Now, if you are serious about survival, you really need to add a Hoo Rag to your Bug Out Bag. A Hoo Rag only takes up a very little space and weighs practically nothing - you can even carry one in your pocket. Now, the Hoo Rag isn't just used as a bandana, it has a number of uses. While a bandana is a handy thing to have in a hot climate, for keeping sweat out of your eyes, that is only the beginning of the uses you can use this for.
For you gals, you can use a Hoo Rag for a pony tail rag - and as I mentioned, they come in a variety of colors and designs - and if you wear your hair in a pony tail most of the time, you will have a pretty cool survival tool on your person at all times. A face rag can also be made out of a Hoo Rag, this keeps dirty and dust out of your mouth - and it's a pretty good thing to have if you ride motorcycles - I used to, and always got more than my share of bugs in my teeth! If you're out in a desert area, the Hoo Rag can be made into a Balaclava Rag, covering your hear from the hot sun - believe me, if you've ever been out in hot area, without a hat, you'll really appreciate some form or head covering.
Ladies, once again, you can make a fashion statement by wearing the Hoo Rag as an Alice Rag - you don't need a beret when you can wrap this around your hair and keep the hair out of your face. Also, a neck rag can be fashioned, making you into a cowgirl of sorts - it'll drive the boys crazy. How about a neck warmer in cold climates. When I was a teen, back in Chicago, I used to have to stand on the street corner, waiting for a bus to take me to school - and we are talking a lot of below zero temps - it can make a big difference in keeping you much warmer when you neck is covered.  You can also wrap a Hoo Rag around your head and look like a Pirate - once again, covering your head from the hot sun, as well as making a fashion statement - believe me, I've seen plenty of guys and gals with a Pirate rag on their head. How about as a good ol' fashion bandana, just like Chris Janowsky use to wear all the time?  The possibilities are seemingly endless to the ways you can use a Hoo Rag, and with some thought, I'm betting you can come up with a lot more uses for a Hoo Rag.
When I was a kid, it was quite the thing to carry a "Hankie" in your pocket - for wiping that runny nose. You can also, in an emergency, use a Hoo Rag as a bandage to help control bleeding, or use it as a tourniquet to stop arterial bleeding. Chris Janowsky always advocated carrying plastic bags in your Bug Out Bag, to help you collect food and berries along the way in a wilderness survival situation. You could fashion a make-shift "bag" out of a Hoo Rag and use that to collect nuts and berries along the way - sure beats putting stuff in your pockets, doesn't it? In a pinch, you could use a Hoo Rag as an aid to starting a fire if you don't have some dry kindling - neat idea, huh? How about tying the hands of a bad guy, with his hands behind his back, if you don't have handcuffs with you? Sure beats having a bad guy's hands free to do more harm. Ever get some bad blisters on your feet, and didn't have anything to cover them with? Well, you can fashion a covering over those blisters with a Hoo Rag, couldn't you?
I could probably think of half a dozen or more uses, that you could use a Hoo Rag for, but take a little bit of time yourselves, and come up with some ideas of your own, as to how you can use one of these rags in a survival situation. Oh wait, I just thought of another one - how about as a water pre-filter - to filter out some sediment in dirty water, before boiling the water to make it safe to drink? See, there are lot of uses a person can come up with for a simply piece of well-made cloth.
For the life of me, I can't come up with a good reason to not have a Hoo Rag in your Bug Out Bag, or on your person. You can put one in your pants pocket, in a shirt pocket, and you ladies, you can put one or two in your purse - they don't take-up any room and weigh next to nothing. Why not add this simply "survival device" to your survival gear? It can make a big difference when you need it. Right now, Hoo Rag is offering free-shipping on all orders, and the variety of different patterns and colors available to you will blow your mind. A Hoo Rag is $14.95 and well worth the investment - why not order several as gifts? I'd really like to hear back from SurvivalBlog readers, with some of your ideas for different uses of the Hoo Rag. I'll bet you all will fill-up my e-mail box. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I simulated bug-outs on foot in a variety of environments in order to test gear, test myself, and to learn from that single best teacher: experience.
I walked with various loads, pack configurations, and equipment through stretches of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. I walked on every type of road imaginable, from the shoulder of bustling interstates to rural roads with a stripe of grass growing in the middle. I walked on railroad tracks, by rivers, in desert, mountains, forests, prairies, and more. In more than a month, I walked around 200 miles while testing various locations and different bits of gear. As a result, I have some observations regarding gear, travel, shelter, sleep, water, food, miscellany, and fasting to share with you all.
I sincerely hope that it helps you.


For my primary backpack, I used a military surplus CFP-90, manufactured by SDS. I got it used from Ebay for $83. It is an internal frame pack. It has a woodland camouflage pattern. Everything about it screams ruggedness. I used and abused it, and the only apparent damage is a few frayed threads around the top opening.
The CFP-90 is very sturdy, and has a place for up to two rifles or shotguns along the side of the exterior. There is a main pouch that you load from the top, with an interior pocket for storing a Camel-bak watering system—or anything else.

There is a bottom sleeping bag compartment that is designed to carry the GI sleep system; I use it for this, and also for a hatchet, survival knife, folding saw, e-tool, and fillet knife. The sleeping bag compartment is intuitive, simple, and greatly aids in organization.

Then, there are three side pockets, two smaller ones on one side, one bigger one on the other side. A map compartment on top holds my maps and other small things. It accepts ALICE-compatible equipment and has PALS webbing. You can adjust the height of the shoulder straps by sliding a plastic connector up and down the height of the bag.
I have left it outside during rainstorms 6-7 times in direct rainfall, and, with one exception—a heavy storm where I did not seal the bag adequately—each time the items inside my bag did not get wet. The outer shell sheds water enough for my practical purposes. Overall, this pack is very solid, relatively inexpensive, and quite good. I am very pleased with my CFP-90, and I recommend it.
Along with my main pack, I tried out these pieces of gear essential: shoulder pack, fanny pack, vest, and tool belt. These helped me organize the gear I needed often, while making it easily accessible. Also, it helped with distributing the weight more comfortably, counterbalancing the main backpack. This was extremely helpful and is recommended. Otherwise, you will be wasting lots of time taking off your rucksack, going through it for specific items, and putting it back on. Save yourself this unnecessary ordeal.

For now, I use a small backpack as a shoulder pack. It is not the most comfortable thing, but it does work. I’ve also tried a tool belt, fanny pack, and smaller shoulder pack. The tool belt wasn’t a good idea because the pouches were open on the top. Things fell out. A fanny pack and smaller shoulder bag worked well, but I gave these to a friend. Just make sure it zips or buttons closed at the top, and you will be fine.

I also pack an empty, flattened, Jansport backpack in my main pack. After setting up camp, I left my CFP-90, packed the Jansport with fewer, lighter items of gear, and went off to gather resources or explore the area. I also use it as an improvised shoulder pack and attach it to the exterior of my main pack.
Finally, if my main pack broke, I could salvage most of my gear, place it in the Jansport, my other shoulder pack, and clothing pockets, and continue on.
One thing I learned very early is: do not over pack your bag! This will hurt you. Plan ahead and prioritize. Ditch everything else or store it at your destination.
I liked to put more of the weight towards the bottom. This seemed to give me better balance. I then tied some paracord to the top of my main pack and made a loop so that, while walking, I could pull the bag closer to my back, easing strain on my shoulders and neck. It wasn’t necessary, and wasn’t convenient, but it did work. Play around with your pack, try out different configurations, and settle on the best one.

From my experience, a slightly smaller pack than the CFP-90 has some notable benefits and drawbacks. First, the bag itself weighs less. Second, it is more difficult to over pack. You’ll be able to cover more ground quicker with a lightened load. However, when you set up camp, you won’t have as much gear. I enjoyed my experiences with a smaller pack and lighter load, but mainly just because it was more comfortable and easy. Overall, I still prefer my CFP-90 rucksack; I just pack it carefully.

For a tent, I use a USGI Gore-Tex bivy bag. I bought it used from eBay for $35. It is made of tent materials and is slightly bigger than a sleeping bag. I chose it based on its small size, light weight, and the ease of set-up. No tent poles or stakes required. The tight interior space is slightly suffocating at first, but I got used to it. There is actually enough room inside to store a small backpack, a few items, and still sleep comfortably. It is waterproof, windproof, adds another layer of insulation underneath and around me, and is highly portable.
It is incredibly durable. A solid and rigid spring was sticking out of a couch over which my bivy bag was draped. The spring hooked the bag; I yanked to get the bag off, then, puzzled by the resistance, yanked very hard. During this time, I heard a tear, and stopped. A very tiny tear in the innermost layer was the result. Barely a scratch. I fixed it immediately with duct tape, and it works fine. Given the amount of abuse I gave the bag, I was very impressed with how little damage occurred. My brother, who saw my foolish antics, was also impressed by its durability.
A regular tarp, on the other hand, had many small tears from twigs and branches after only using it for one night. It was bulky and took much longer to fold and unfold it. Also, it is less camouflaged than a primitive lean-to, which I prefer to build if I need to have a bigger shelter. In my experience, just say no to tarps.

All in all, I recommend this bag highly. The only downside is that you have to be careful when you are inside of it; if you seal it too tightly, it becomes a little difficult to get fresh air. This is easy to fix; just open the flap to get better airflow. However, this can become a bigger problem when it is cold; you then have to make the tough choice between letting cold air in or having less fresh air. However, even when fully sealed, the air restriction was never life threatening, just a minor nuisance.

For a sleeping bag, I have a used USGI intermediate cold weather mummy bag, which supposedly works down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. At 20 degrees outside, with one layer of long underwear on, 85% wool socks, and a wool winter hat, it was moderately comfortable, but my feet were a little cold, and I would imagine that would get unbearable at -10 degrees, the minimum range it is rated for. However, for only $32 dollars, it was a great deal and works well—just probably only down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, not -10.
For packing, I put my sleeping bag into my bivy bag. Then, I fold it over in half, and roll it up, and put it into the lower compartment of my CFP-90. There is even enough room left for placing my tools in the lower compartment. I find this works very well. If I want a better shelter, I can make one. Otherwise, this is a very compact, light, inexpensive, and efficient way to set up a shelter.

Boots and Socks

For boots, I use a pair of leather hiking boots from Cabela's for $80. So far they have worked well. The waterproof liner works. They are relatively comfortable. When buying boots, check for waterproof webbing around the tongue of the boot. Otherwise, water can seep in around the laces. This was what happened with my extra pair of leather work boots from Farm and Fleet; while the exterior was waterproof, there was no webbing. They got drenched a few times, making walking miserable and producing many blisters.
If you do drench your boots, do not put them too close to a fire to dry them. The heat can melt the outside of the boot and the rubber and glue inside of the boot sole.
Have waterproof boots! However, even if you do have waterproof boots, don’t get cocky. Water can still go over the top of them. Be careful around water. You do not want soaked boots!
I found that waterproofing my boots preemptively with neatsfoot oil was beneficial. Clean your boots and rub it evenly into the outer leather layer until it has soaked in. Note how long the neatsfoot oil is supposed to last on the directions.

You can use regular animal fat to waterproof your boots, although it is not nearly as efficient as using neatsfoot oil. Also, it does stink a little. I rubbed some groundhog fat on my boots and evidently the oils in it do repel water, although not perfectly or for more than a week.
High-wool content socks are wonderful. I have used some from Cabela's, some by the Fox River brand, and some from military surplus. The military surplus ones were too thin and the heel tore after light use. Both non-military brands have worked very well, but I spent quite a bit more on them. Make sure that there is padding on the bottom of the socks to absorb impact and that there is a high percentage of wool, preferably merino.

Liners made specifically for wearing under a regular sock can cut down on chafing and blisters. Cabela’s makes specialty liners for this purpose. It cuts down on chafing by absorbing much of the impact, which would otherwise reach your skin unimpeded. I found that these Cabela’s liners, while very thin, greatly cut down on blisters and made a big difference when compared to walking without them. They were especially helpful when traveling long distances with added weight.

The thickness of socks can make all the difference. Pay attention to how much room is in your boot. If the boot is very big, you can put two pairs of thick socks, keeping your feet warm in the winter. Otherwise, having too many socks will restrict blood flow to your feet and cause chafing and blister problems.
Have two pairs of boots, or an extra pair of shoes plus boots, so that you can change into dry ones if one pair gets wet, while tying the others to the outside of your pack, and letting them dry while moving. Boots are superior to shoes in many ways. Only have shoes if you already have boots.
Finally, don’t forget to break your boots in ahead of time.


For clothing, I have two pairs of clothes: one for being in society, with regular, solid, earthy tones that also double as camouflage; and one military surplus “uniform” for the rural, wild areas. I like the military surplus items a lot. They really are made for a similar situation to bugging out, and I recommend them.
A hat with a wide brim is helpful. It blocks the sun from your eyes, cools you off, and prevents sunburn. I used a boonie-hat and a cowboy hat. I preferred the boonie-hat because it can be folded up easily and stuffed into a pocket.

For gloves, I have a pair of Rothco military replica gloves. They help with tending fires, gathering resources, cooking, give mechanical advantage, and they protect my hands from sunburn, blisters, heat, fire, cold, punctures, scratches, and cuts. Gloves are essential. Any good leather pair will do.
Extra socks and underwear are the most useful clothing additions. They absorb the most seat and are also more compact. I had 4 pairs of underwear and 6 pairs of socks. These will require more washing or airing out, which can easily be accomplished by washing them in water with or without a bit of soap, wringing them out, and air drying them on the outside of your pack or coat.
Stay dry. Get an oversized poncho that fits over you and any vulnerable packs. I have tried this, and it works despite being cumbersome, but since my CFP-90 seems waterproof, I use smaller rain pants and a coat.

I use a Columbia shell for outerwear during cold weather. It is waterproof, windproof, and durable. I’ve had it for 6 years. Underneath that, I put however many layers are necessary. I have a thin fleece coat, long sleeved shirt, undershirt, and Underarmor shirt. I adjust as needed.

I personally find that my legs stay very warm, especially when I am moving. At 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I just wore some fleece long underwear underneath jeans.
Get wool for cold weather, never cotton. Wool—especially thick wool—wicks away the moisture from your skin, whereas cotton gets sopping wet, which cools you off quickly. Cotton, on the other hand, is good for hot weather, since it stays wet with sweat or water, aiding evaporation, and cooling you.
For tools, I used an E-tool, or entrenching tool, purchased from a military supply store for $30, lightly used. It has served all my shoveling needs. It also can clear the ground of brush and rocks fairly well. It is a small shovel made of three connected pieces that fold along two hinges. It isn’t as easy as using a full size shovel, but it can dig. It is a bit heavy, though; this is one of the things I am almost tempted not to bring along with, in order to lighten the load.

For my main knife, I use a Ka-Bar with a tanto point. The blade is 5 and 1/4 inches long; the full length, handle included, is 9 and 3/8 inches. It has a serrated spot near the handle. The knife has held up, albeit with superficial scratches. I did melt some of the protective coating by placing it in a fire. It works as a makeshift machete, can clear protruding branches off a tree quite well, and seems fairly easy to sharpen. I like the handle grip, although it is symmetrical; this makes it difficult to discern by touch alone whether the blade is facing out or in. The sheath works well. Honestly, I do not like the tanto tip. I think that was a mistake. Other than that, it works well, and for $42 from Amazon, I am perfectly satisfied.

With the Ka-Bar, I find that a small loop of paracord tightened around my thigh and running through two loops at the bottom of my Ka-Bar's sheath is helpful. This keeps the sheathed knife near my leg and in a constant position. This makes a quick draw easier and keeps the sheath from getting caught in branches, cords, and other things. It makes it easier to put my knife back into the sheath, too.
I used a folding saw for cutting down medium sized branches and thin trees. The BAHCO 396-LAP, or the Laplander 8” folding saw has been excellent, quickly cutting through many different types of branches, logs, and trees, is highly portable. I highly recommend it, and everyone who used it thought highly of it. This is really the piece of equipment I was most impressed with. The only downside is that I do not know how to sharpen it, but so far, after plenty of use and abuse, it seems to cut almost as good as new.

For a hatchet, I use a Fiskars X-7 hatchet. When I first got it, I was very impressed, but a few minor chips in the blade have slightly dulled my enthusiasm. It still works very well, however, and I definitely abused it to see what it could take. However, please note that I would seriously consider not bringing this and the e-tool along; they are somewhat heavy with limited, non-essential utility. The BAHCO folding saw cuts through branches and logs faster. The hatchet is better at splitting wood and cutting down trees too big for the folding saw. When you consider how much smaller and lighter the folding saw is, the hatchet appears somewhat superfluous.

I recommend a Leatherman, Swiss Army knife, or similar multi-tool. I have a Leatherman Wingman, which is great, except for the scissors, which are pretty difficult to use, and the clip, which caused the knife to fall to the ground once. I’d prefer a sheath. However, I’ve put the Wingman on my belt and pulled it off about a thousand times with only one drop. The wire cutters work. The pliers are tough. There are screwdrivers for all basic projects. The knife is great for eating with and doing precision tasks like cleaning small game. I highly recommend a multi-tool like this.
Then, “The Traveler”, made by Chicago Cutlery, is my medium sized knife. It fills a nice gap between my KA-BAR’s large size and my Leatherman’s small size. It, like all Chicago Cutlery knives, is very high quality, quite sharp, easy to cut, and comes with a good sheath.

You will want sheaths, clips, or someway to keep your tools attached and in easy reach. Sheaths are more secure than clips. Consider that when buying tools.
For first aid and medicine, I would say painkillers and multivitamins are the two most important things. A rub-on pain reliever like Ben Gay, as well as pills like aspirin and ibuprofen, allows a two-way assault on pain.

Everything else I have I consider optional but helpful. I now touch on these medicines here.
Diphenhydramine is a very helpful drug, as it doubles as a sleep aid and an allergy medication. Be sure to buy it for allergy medication and use it as a sleep aid, as it costs more when being sold as a sleep aid. I carry a few dozen, and use as needed.

Caffeine pills are a compact, lightweight, effective, inexpensive alternative to coffee or tea. They also eliminate the preparation and equipment requirements. They can be crushed and swallowed to speed up assimilation—and the stimulant effects. [Editor's note: This is not a safe practice with many other medications!] Be careful not to overdose.

Anti-itch and anti-fungal cream is helpful. I never got athlete’s foot, but the conditions are ripe for it, especially if it is warm and your feet get wet. Thus I have some cream for athlete’s foot and jock itch.

Sunscreen helps prevent sunburn and aloe-vera helps for if you get sunburned. You will want to have your intestinal ailments covered with laxative, stool softener, anti-constipation, and anti-diarrheal medicine.

Foot powder for keeping feet fresh and moleskin for blisters is also very useful. Some wet-wipes can be useful for keeping clean and for making you feel clean. Use them sparingly, first targeting the groin, armpits, hands, face, and feet. Other than that, all the regular little first aid things come in handy: Band-Aids, gauze, alcohol wipes, and so on.
I didn’t have any antibiotics or antiviral medicines. I haven’t researched these, so I can’t recommend any.

Last time I checked, Wal-Mart is selling medicines useful for bugging out for very low prices. If you buy these, many medicines have individually packaged capsules; open the packages and either remove the capsules or, if you want to retain the seal, cut around the capsules without puncturing the seal, then round the corners to prevent the sharp edges from puncturing things.
For keeping tools and knives sharp, I have two small sharpeners.

One is from DMT products, and is their red portable sharpening stone. It is quite good at sharpening knifes, but its small size makes it unwieldy to use on anything other than my Leatherman’s blade. However, if you are careful, you can use it to put a fine cutting edge on larger blades. To do this, you have to push the sharpening stone towards the blade, which is very risky. It was probably only luck that stopped me from cutting a finger while using this thing. I would not recommend it simply because of the small size and the associated complications.

I got a Bear Gryllis knife sharpening system made by Gerber. It has two integrated sharpening slots: one for coarse sharpening and the other for fine sharpening. You put the knife or blade into the slot, and pull it through at the correct angle. These two slots are very easy to use. Then, there are two small sharpening rods for sharpening serrated blades. This is less easy and straightforward to use, because the sharpening rods must match the size of the serration. Overall, I like this system more, but I find I can’t get as fine an edge on the blade as with the DMT sharpener.
If it is cold, carry lighters by your body so they continue to work. Pens freeze, pencils don't, but pencils can puncture clothing and skin. Get a pencil case, or mechanical pencil, which is lighter, refillable, and saves space. Or just carry pens by your body. Have a notepad, a journal, or both.
A small bit of liquid or solid soap can go a long way if used very sparingly. Hand sanitizer is also good, can be used to purify water, and is great for lighting fires. Dish soap can be used for anything that requires soap, not just dishes.

Try to have all your bottles be refillable and reusable after they are emptied. Big bottles, especially when barely filled, are very annoying. They waste space. Wal-Mart has refillable travel bottles, which have served me well.

Headlamps are optimal because they leave both hands free to do chores. The strap can be hung over a protruding pole, easily making a makeshift lantern. Having your hands free is incredibly important, and I would recommend you get a headlamp before you get a flashlight. I use both, but I got a headlamp first. I prefer LEDs because they last a lot longer than regular bulbs. However, LEDs do seem to mess with my depth perception at night. Bring a lot of backup batteries. If the nights are long, it can be a big, boring waste to sit still for hours before going to sleep. Although, on the bright side, this is a good time to pray and plan ahead.

When it comes to eyesight, if you have contact lenses, get glasses. Glasses do not require saline solution or generally clean fingertips to put in. You will have trouble with both these factors while bugging out. If you have glasses, get a second pair. Apply as many special treatments, such as scratch resistance and glare resistance, to the glasses that you are willing to able. They will go through a beating. Once while hiking, I fell and broke the lens of one pair of glasses. Good thing that I had a second pair.

Polarized sunglasses help with fishing. They allow me to see through the reflective surface far better. They also shield my eyes from too much sunlight.
A small container of fog preventative is helpful in cold weather; it prevents my warm, moist breath from fogging up my glasses. I use Liberty Sport’s anti fog lens cleaner. It works well except that it slightly increases glare when there is no fog. Also, it comes off when you clean them.
Get a small cord to attach to your glasses and loop behind your neck so that your glasses don’t fall on the ground and get broken like mine did. Stores sell straps specifically for this, but you can save money and improvise.
Also, I have a pair of cheap safety goggles that fit over my glasses for going through dense terrain so branches don’t poke me in the eye or steal my glasses. They can also be used to keep my glasses on my face.
For cooking, I used an imitation Army mess kit and a camping silverware set. It worked adequately. I would have liked a bigger pot for cooking, but it takes up too much space.
For repairs, duct tape fixes almost everything. I shove some paracord into the donut hole to save space and organize these items. Paracord is very useful and highly recommended, but I have also found a good supplement to it: fishing line.

In general, fishing line is immensely useful. You can twine and twist two to three strings together to make an improvised but effective bowstring. I did this, although I did not hunt with it. If the line is strong enough, you can make clotheslines or even hang a tarp from it. It can be used for many things that paracord can be used for such as lashing together a temporary shelter. You can use it for clothing repairs, but takes up far less space and is cheaper foot for foot than paracord. The downside is that the narrow strands can be somewhat difficult to tie and take time to braid together. However, once done braiding, if tied correctly, it can be used many, many times. Of course, it also works for fishing!
A small sewing kit and tackle box takes up very little space. Just be sure that it is a solid container. A few needles, some thread, a small bobber, a few hooks, and a sinker can be put into a very small space.

Instead of using floss, I bring along three reusable toothpicks. These are small plastic strips that work almost as well as floss. I got them for free from my dentist. I think that they are called Oral-pix or Ora-pix, but I threw away the box and just use the toothpicks. It takes very little soap to clean such a small item. I haven’t had any problems with these and I’ve used them for years. These take up less space than floss, and, so far, not a single one has broken.

Certain fireworks can provide an effective distraction or intimidating tool in any armed conflict. Loud, short single explosion fireworks are more effective. I saw both M-80s and firecrackers used for distractions, and the firecrackers were far less convincing or distracting, whereas the M-80, making one loud noise, was far more intimidating and realistic.
Another innovative defensive idea that was demonstrated to me was the many benefits of a fake gun. If you would like to save money and weight while looking armed, buy a replica plastic gun or airsoft gun. Spray paint the orange tip black, and if the gun is not black, paint that as well. Get a holster or sling, depending on what type of gun you’d like to impersonate. You now look intimidating without having to carry around a heavy gun, spare clips, and heavy, potentially noisy, clinking ammunition. When I first saw a holstered and painted airsoft pistol on the hip and in the hand of my friend Ramsey five feet from me, I thought it was real.

This is a versatile trick. It helps you be stealthier, lightens the load, and is cheap. You do not have to care for fake guns, saving space that would be filled by real gun care products. Combining fireworks and fake guns, my friend detonated a single loud firework and held the fake gun; if I did not know what was happening, especially from a distance, I would have thought it was real. An attacker may suspect something, but it would be difficult for them to call your bluff. Just be sure to carefully paint the fake guns—any orange left may give away the ruse. [Editor's Note: a ruse like this might work ONCE, but I wouldn't risk my life on depending on it.]
You can pack some toilet paper, but unless you pack rolls of it—wasting space in the process—you will run out. Survival isn’t pretty. Use whatever you can. Small bits of cloth found on the side of the road can be washed in running water, dried, and used a few times, then discarded or burnt. Or you can just use them without washing them. Be creative. If you’re going to try to carry some toilet paper, take out the cardboard tube or flatten it to save space.

Fishing maps, available from many Wal-marts or the internet, are helpful both for path-finding and for information that helps you acquire food. However, they are more geared for fishing, not travel. Thus, I prefer Delorme’s series of state maps, which have incredibly detailed maps. Delorme’s maps are a little big, but the detail makes them worth it.
I also print out maps and store them somewhere waterproof. Then, I have backup maps stored somewhere waterproof, just in case. I do not want to get lost.
For containers, plastic grocery bags can be compacted by twisting them while forcing air out. They take up very little space this way.
When unfolded, these can be double or triple bagged by placing one bag inside of another in order to carry weight more reliably. Most are lacking in durability, but they can be easily restocked. I carried twenty pounds of items in two triple-bagged plastic bags, one in each hand, ten pounds in each, while hiking twenty miles over five days. The handles stretched a little, but held up. Not a single bag broke.
If you have extra plastic bags, you can also create basic compartments within the triple bag shell. Just take a bag, place the items you want into it, and put it inside the triple bag shell. Repeat with other items. You can always double or triple bag these compartments. These are also the most water resistant areas, especially if you tie them shut and place them above the bottom of the bag. It was very easy to find replacement bags, as they are a common piece of litter.

These are very handy, multipurpose, water resistant, and windproof items. I highly recommend having a dozen or so in your bug out bag. Always look for more bags. I have some reusable cloth tote bags, but I have left them behind, favoring the plastic bags. The cloth bags take up too much space for their function. Should your main pack fail, the plastic bags can be pressed into service carrying your gear. While not optimal, it does work so long as you don’t overload them.
Larger plastic trash bags are also very useful. They can be folded into small spaces, but are tough. These are great for gathering resources, and, when stuffed, can insulate a shelter or to cover your sleeping bag.

If possible and practical, keep all electronics and batteries near to your body in a waterproof container like a Ziploc bag. Incidentally, Ziploc bags are also highly helpful for organizing any items and are recommended. Cold drains batteries at a hastened pace. Keep batteries out of electronics when not in use to extend their battery life. Or, if you can, put a small plastic disk cut from a bottle into the electronic device to prevent the battery from forming a circuit with the device. You’ll know the circuit is disrupted when the device doesn’t work.

At camp, I like to have an area where tools go when not in use so I can find them and don’t lose them. Also, I make it a habit to obsessively double and triple check my camp for stray items before leaving. At this time, I check my inventory to make sure that everything is there. I highly recommend packing and repacking you rucksack and bags, doing your best to memorize where each piece of gear is. This saves time in the long run and prevents lost items.

For fire, four Bic lighters, four match boxes, and a Swedish fire steel were sufficient for my travels. It is tedious and difficult to get a fire started from just a spark, but it is possible. Practice beforehand. Mainly, I just use a lighter or match to get a fire going. If you need a fire-starter, cattail down is amazing. Tear it up and fluff it up into a big, air filled mass and, so long as it is dry, it burns like something soaked in gasoline.

For bathing, a small washcloth bath with a bit of soap was sufficient. When it was cool outside, or exertion was minimal, I would go about a week between any bathing. This didn’t bother me very much, nor were there any problems as a result of this. When it is warmer, I sweat more, and thus bathing became a higher priority. Still, I only had to keep my hands, face, feet, groin, and armpits fairly clean occasionally. It was easy to do. Not a big deal.


While walking, do not overexert yourself. I temporarily crippled myself once by walking 33 miles over 18 hours with about 50 pounds on my back. This was done almost entirely on a solid road. Afterwards, my knees hurt and were so stiff that I was almost entirely lame, only capable of a very slow and painful limp for nearly a day. My feet were in agony at this time. The blisters were uncomfortable and an infection risk. It took me almost a week to fully recover, but I was able to move fairly well after about two days. Learn from my mistake; don’t overexert yourself.
When I took breaks while walking, it was very tempting to extend the breaks, eventually becoming hour-long siestas. This can severely cut into your overall efficiency, making the overall bug out take much longer. Try your very best to stay on target and not waste time. A five to ten minute break is optimal to rest, stretch, massage sore muscles, adjust equipment, and change socks if necessary. Be vigilant and disciplined to minimize the time spent on breaks. Of course, don’t overexert yourself, either. The only way to find your personal balance is to practice.
If it is too cold at night to sleep effectively, travel at night in order for the exercise to keep you warm. This has the added benefit of making you more difficult to see, so long as you keep your lights off or directed carefully to make a minimal prism. Of course, a lack of light also makes it more dangerous that you will trip and fall.

Railroad tracks make a good, elevated vantage point, although they are somewhat tricky to walk on. Also, you will often have a silhouette to any nearby observers. Keep that in mind. Consider getting off the railroad tracks when there are beneficial, flat, dry fields or an equivalent ideal footing, and getting back on the railroad tracks when going through a swamp or something difficult to traverse.
Otherwise, roads for cars can be a very good, flat way to cover a lot of distance quickly. If there is a flat strip of grass by the side of the road, use it. The additional cushioning effect of grass will save your ankles, knees, and hips from the jarring effects of constantly stepping on concrete or asphalt.
Gravel roads can be slightly tougher to walk on, depending on the size and stability of the gravel, but dirt roads generally work quite nicely. Again, I usually will look for flat stretches of short grass or solid earth to walk on. I found that this cuts down on the relentless strain of repetitive impact. The country roads are probably what you will want to look for with bugging out: less population density and generally useable roads.

It is very time consuming going over rugged terrain or through woods, and you increase your risk of injury. One loose rock can cause a tumble, which can be disastrous with a pack on. You have to spend time finding a trail through dense woods. All steep hills, especially ones with loose rocks, should be avoided if possible and, if they must be navigated, done so with a walking stick or two and caution.
You will slow down going over hills and mountains. It uses tremendously more energy. Avoid it whenever possible. Instead, stick as much as possible to roads, railroad tracks, fields, and other easy surfaces.
Stay alert while walking and look for useful items. I found an unlit police flare along a busy interstate in Texas. Cotton cloths, rags, small bits of clothing, Ziploc bags, plastic bags, and plastic bottles are useful and common. I also found some plastic sunglasses, a hat, and unopened and perfectly edible bags of dry crackers.
Finally, while traveling and camping, stay away from sand if you can. It clogs everything and gets everywhere.


When it comes to shelter, first, plan your location wisely. Is it visible from a road? From a trail? From above? Are there useful trees nearby? Is food nearby? Where is water? Is there a flat place to sleep? Are there materials for insulation? How do I get out of here? Think these things through before you start building. It saves time and resources.
Use whatever is available: a building, a wall, a cave, etc. If you are walking along roads or railroads, there will probably be usable buildings. Look for roofs. If you are going through the woods, make a basic shelter. I mainly just used my bivy bag sleep system, sometimes combining it with a lean-to or A-frame. I did sleep on concrete a few times, too. It is uncomfortable, but at least it is flat.
I experienced temperatures from 95 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and I found the cold was much tougher to deal with. A few nights were more or less sleepless. I didn’t use my sleeping bag or bivy bag. I tested the lower bounds of comfort, shivered, built a fire, fell asleep, and woke up as the fire dwindled. I added wood and repeated the process. The cold woke me up and motivated me to do work in order to heat up. I never cut so much firewood so quickly.

If the night will get cold, do not sleep in a mountain valley. I camped by a river in a valley. Big mistake. All the cold air sunk to the bottom at night, and I got cold. Camp on the side of the mountain instead. The top of hills and mountains get more wind and you leave a more obvious silhouette. The only problem with sides of mountains is it can be difficult to find a flat place to sleep, but if you have an e-tool, you can make some minor adjustments to otherwise uneven ground, making a flat sleeping area.
If you can, build a noise-making barrier surrounding your camp made of brittle twigs and branches piled one to two feet high. This causes people, but mainly animals, to make noise walking over or through it, hopefully waking you up. It isn’t perfect, but the animal, which was, judging by the sound it made, about the size of a fox or small cat, didn’t seem to figure it out. I never had to face any human intruders, though.

It can be good to camp for an extended period of time in a shelter that offers conveniences like fresh, running water and plentiful food. This saves a lot of time and gives you the advantage of experience and routine: knowing the fastest routes to the survival necessities, not having to pack and unpack your sleeping gear, and many other small benefits. This can give you more time for rest and leisure or allow you to get more done. Whenever I stayed at a camp longer than a night, I began getting into a rhythm, partially learned the lay of the land, and generally felt better. Besides, it is important not to overtax yourself. Give your body time to recuperate after it is being put through what will be one of the most physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually taxing times of your life. Of course, balance this with the need to actually make it to your destination!


I simulated lack of sleep while hiking 22 miles over four days with 50 pounds of gear on my back. I gave myself around 8 hours of poor sleep over four days. It is certainly possible to bug out with little sleep, but towards the end of this, I was getting uncomfortable, miserable and inefficient. I wish I had slept instead. Learn from my mistake; get some sleep.
To improve sleep and relaxation, earplugs help. However, these can make it harder to hear important events around you. Improvise a facemask. Make a thick mattress of soft things for cushioning and insulation from the earth. A small, insulated lean-to or A-frame shelter can be cozy and, since it traps your body heat, warm.
In addition, try the drugs diphenhydramine or melatonin, available over the counter. If I was having difficulty, these greatly helped me get to sleep. However, they sometimes left me feeling groggy the next day.

For water, I used plastic bottles and a 2 liter Last-Drop system, which is an off-brand Camel-bak. It provides a collapsible canteen and the ability to drink without having to stop. I used one from Wal-Mart with a Last Drop system daily, and it worked perfectly, other than some slight leaking from the mouthpiece. Then, I used a GI steel cup for boiling teas or for cooking food.
I personally drank from two moving rivers in rural Missouri about 40 times without purifying the water at all. I just dipped in a cup and drank. I suffered no noticeable ill effects. In fact, it tasted quite good. However, listen to the experts and purify it through boiling, chemicals, or both.

I recommend a small travel bottle filled with bleach with the dosing information written on the bottle and memorized: 8-16 drops per gallon, more if the quality appears poorer. Add the appropriate drops of bleach, wait the recommended amount of time, and, if you want, you can boil it too. I never had any problems with only bleached water, but bear in mind that I never had any problems with water straight from the river, either. If you want to be incredibly redundant and safe, have some water purification tablets, too.
If you can, plan your route next to bodies of water. Always fill your water carriers when leaving a watering spot, because you may not know the next time you will find water or how pure it will be.
To spice up your water, pine and spruce needles can be boiled in water, the resulting brew drank, and the needles eaten. While you can only put a few needles in to have a mildly flavored tea, I like to just cram as many as I can into my steel canteen cup, boil for about fifteen minutes, cool, and drink. This pine and spruce tea feels very wholesome to drink.


Food was repeatedly the weakest link in my simulated bugouts. This may have been because I planned my routes near rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds, giving me plenty of water. Also, I did not trap or fish because I did not have a license for this. Nor did I glean from farm fields. Still, food will be the weakest link because an immense amount of energy is required to lug 10-50 pounds around.
Raisins and peanuts are good for an inexpensive high calorie food that can be stored at room temperature and doesn’t require cooking. Don’t reinvent the wheel; use trail mix. Rice is good for when you have time to cook. A bag of rice can also double as a pillow.

You can glean food from farm fields. The combine loses some, and sometimes farmers leave a patch unharvested. While the quality, nutrition, taste, and edibility do deteriorate, in a survival situation, I saw enough to keep me alive. I found a smorgasbord of unprocessed soy beans, some on the ground, and others still on the plant, in many already harvested farmers’ fields in early November in Northern Missouri.

Foraging is fairly easy; the inner barks of pines and many other trees can be eaten raw or dried, pounded into flour, eaten, or mixed with water and eaten; while it does not taste good, it does work to keep energy up. You can also just eat pine needles.

Most nuts will keep for a while on the ground, but you will want a nutcracker to process them efficiently. Paw-paws, persimmons, apples, wild onions, wild garlic, cattail, sumac, wild grapes, and, depending on the season, many more edible plants are there, but first you need to know where to look, what to look for, what to harvest, and what not to harvest. For instance, hemlock looks almost exactly like carrot, but, in sufficient amounts, it will paralyze and kill you. Preparatory study and practice is necessary, quite fun, healthy, and delicious.


Consider carrying a few extra pounds of fat on you. This can be metabolized by your body into extra fuel during tough times. Before a big bug-out simulation, I would over-eat slightly, putting on a little bit of weight. As I walked, it would reliably dwindle away.

Think of this added weight as your own pack of meals ready to digest: MRDs. These are highly efficient, portable meals: no cooking, heating, silver-ware, mess-kits, clean-up, or even eating required!
If you do this, plan ahead with your clothing. You may want some suspenders or a good belt so that your pants still work after you lose weight. A regular leather belt worked fine for me, although the most my weight ranged was from 175 pounds down to 155 pounds. You can make your belt tighter by carefully poking the tip of a knife through it, creating another hole. I did this two years ago with a regular leather belt from Kohls, and I haven't had any problems.
Finally, when it comes to packing on a few extra MRDs, everything in moderation! Too many MRDs stashed around your midriff and thighs have their own set of problems for survival.


One major problem I ran into was that the necessities of survival were constantly on my mind, threatening to eclipse the greater necessity of religious renewal before God.
In order to combat this, I took a “fasting vacation”.

A “fasting vacation” of a few days gave my body time to relax and my spirit time to intensely focus itself on God. I recommend Paul C. Bragg’s “The Miracle of Fasting” for an overview of the dynamics of fasting. Basically, I have found that it allows heightened focus, concentration, and a sense of deep optimism. According to Dr. Bragg, it also purifies the body through the elimination of stored toxins. In a nutshell, fasting has lots of good benefits.

What I did for this “vacation” was find a relatively safe place and set up camp. Then, I did pretty much nothing.
While fasting and praying, I had much less physical energy. After four days of a water-only fast, I hiked 4 miles the fourth day while carrying around ten pounds. I was thoroughly drained afterwards for about six hours. Otherwise, that would have been a very easy hike. Plan accordingly and don’t fast before a twenty mile hike.

Also, remember that the subjective mental, emotional, and spiritual clarity I have reliably experienced while fasting may not occur for you. Try it out so that you know the effects for yourself.
In addition, some periods of moderate mental discomfort may also occur, but I have generally found that drinking more water and urinating tends to eliminate this. It is worst when I first wake up. This is, according to Dr. Bragg, due to toxins accumulating during the night; these are easily elimination in the morning.
In a fast, it is up to you how much time to dedicate to the Almighty. Perhaps you have more pressing survival needs than I did, or your needs for spiritual renewal are more great; adapt this for your situation.

During the fast is a wonderful time to read and reread useful survival information, plan routes, sharpen tools, become more familiar with your packing schemes, as well as all other low-intensity but useful activities like leisurely foraging for food. It is a good time to read the Bible and other religious literature, as well.
For me, two to four days of a water-only fast are effective for stepping back, relaxing, praying, and realigning my priorities from mere survival to serving God.
Bear in mind that it can take a day to even a week for your digestive system to fully restart. This is a difficult thing, and does take a while; try not to gorge yourself immediately coming off of a fast. I have gorged myself many times, and my digestive system does resume, but it takes much longer and is uncomfortable while it starts up. Slowly eating small amounts of food, and increasing meal sizes over time, works much better.

Coming off a fast, I find that fruits and vegetables are a lot kinder to my system, while meats, cheese, and dairy products, for whatever reason, tend to cause discomfort. A laxative and stool softener is also helpful.

If possible, eat less before beginning a fast, too. This allows your digestive organs to slowly wind down, rather than just cutting off all food instantly. I find that slowing down instantly is much less traumatic than starting up instantly.

I would recommend doing a fast at a safe place when you have 1-2 weeks to pre-fast, fast, and restart your digestive system. It is certainly possible to begin hiking immediately upon breaking your fast, but you will probably have some intestinal issues for a while. Finally, if a forced fast is thrust upon you by the hand of scarcity, be aware of these dynamics to optimize your health.
At the very least, understand the many proven and potential positive health effects of fasting, so that when you find yourself in a food-scarce scenario, you can remind yourself that, in at least some ways, your body, mind, and soul is improving. This will be good for keeping you and others optimistic.

Well, that should do it. Obviously I can’t cover everything in full detail. I left out many minor details, items, and tips to save space.
Really, experience is the best teacher, and it is extremely recommended that you do a simulated bug out with all of your gear, trying out each and every piece of equipment in as many different environments and situations as possible, especially the ones you would go through during a bug-out. Have fun. Be rough on your equipment. This shows you what works, what doesn’t, what you like, and what you don’t. From there you can perfect your gear. If you simulate a bug out, you’ll be more prepared if the real thing hits. And carrying 10-50 pounds of gear on long walks is a highly effective way to get into shape, which is essential for optimum living.

Given the immense practicality of most of the gear, and the many destabilizing forces at work in today’s world, having a bug-out bag and practicing for a bug-out makes rational sense. If you enjoy backpacking, camping, and the great outdoors, a bug-out bag serves two purposes. Hopefully, you don’t have to walk in a real bug-out, but if you do, I hope and pray that these observations can be of help to you. Your situation and needs may differ from mine, but that is just another reason why you should personally test out you and your family’s bug out gear!
May God be with you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I’ve been reading a lot lately about types of bags and the many different options for BOBs that are out there. A staple of all prep web sites is the gear list and there is no shortage of suggestions on what you should have with you. What I’m not seeing is how to stow your gear. I’m not talking about the actual packing of your bag. I’ve actually seen an article or two about this, tips like keeping the heavy items low and close to your back, use of ditty bags, or packing your rucksack in a columnar system. What I’m talking about is an overall strategy of where on your person, and where in your transport system certain items should go.

Most military types will be familiar with the information I’m about to present, especially if they were in any way involved in long range patrolling techniques. Basically we’re looking at three tiered system. You’ll divide your gear into three parts and carry it either on your person, on your belt, or in your rucksack.

On Your Person
Working outwards from the body we’ll look first at what you should have on your person. Think of this as your wilderness everyday carry (EDC). A good way to determine what should be on your person is to think the worst. Think about what you’d need if for what-ever reason you had to bail with just the clothes on your back. Say you’re caught in an ambush and had to drop your ruck and cut and run, or some nasties raid your camp and again you have to run for it. It could be something as innocent as losing your pack. I recall being on a canoe trip with friends. We ran a fairly serious set of rapids and one of the canoes went over. Not serious, but when we recovered everything a rucksack was missing, the tether that had secured it to the canoe dangling free and empty. We bumped around for the better part of an afternoon, getting wet and taking chances in the fast water but never did find the ruck or any of the gear that was in it.

Very important items, like a compass or a Swiss Army knife can go on lanyard around your neck, making them even more secure. Beware the Pain In The A** (PITA) factor. A full-sized Silva compass or a large multi tool hanging around your neck and getting in the way every time you bend over or move around will quickly become a PITA. It gets taken off and stowed elsewhere. Murphy’s Law seems to be ever present in these situations and that means that when the SHTF your compass or pocket knife is not where it normally is. It may seem like a good idea to keep some items “next to skin” but keep them small. I have a little plastic case on a lanyard, you’ll see folks who work in controlled access areas with their passes in them, in it I carry my ID card, drivers licence, and a credit card. You could also fold and squeeze in a good chunk of cash, especially here in Canada with our new ultra thin polymer bank notes. On the lanyard I also have a little pen knife. The entire issue goes under my shirt and is barely noticeable. Another item that you might consider keeping “next to skin” or at least under your basic clothing is a money belt.

We’ve already touched on four basic items that should be on your person, pocket knife, (or multi-tool) compass, cash, and documents. As well you should always have your survival tin well stocked and in a pants pocket or in a small pouch on your belt. There are a plethora of articles written on building a small survival tin and there are commercial versions available. It should be small enough that it can be carried all day and night and be barely noticeable. If it’s too big or cumbersome it may get left elsewhere when it’s really needed. Matches or a lighter should be on your person. This goes without saying for smokers, but it’s usually one of the things I forget and need to go digging in my main ruck when I need to light something. A small flashlight is must, either a small Maglite or a tactical light like a Surefire. While in the military I always tried to have at least some food on me at all times. A chocolate bar, Power Bar or similar snack fits nicely into a shirt pocket and might make all the difference in that first night after you had to bail on your gear. Personal comms, such as a cell phone or Sat phone should also be on your person, though this depends on the coverage available. The situation will dictate, as it does with all gear choices. Choice of clothing should be made with a view to having as many practical pockets as possible. Outdoor gear and military style clothing fit the bill nicely. Belt pouches are fine, however if you have too much stuff on your belt it becomes uncomfortable if you have to sit or lay down, your waist band on your ruck may not sit properly, not to mention it will be difficult to keep your pants up with your belt loaded with kit. Leave the utility belt for Batman. One thing that should always be on your belt is your sheath knife. I’m a bit of a believer in knives so on my person I have my Buck sheath knife, a Spyderco pocket folder, and my little Swiss Army knife around my neck.

On Your Belt
A good sized belt pouch should be next. A regular belt with a large pouch attached would work well, as would a good sized butt pack. This is where you’ll stow gear that you need readily, but without the survival importance of gear you’ll have on your person. A satchel with a shoulder strap works well too. It will swallow up a lot of gear and it doesn’t have to go around your waist. A large metal cup, coffee or tea, creamers, sugars, along with a small solid fuel stove can provide refreshment without digging into your main pack. Spare food, spare batteries, a back-up multi-tool, small water bottle, back-up fire starter, extra ammo, bigger flashlight, signal mirror or panel marker, lots of matches or lighter, water purifier, and a survival blanket are all items that can be considered for this belt pack. Again use the worst case scenario when deciding what to carry here. What if you had to run for your life and that meant ditching your pack? What if you’re foraging or scouting away from your camp and get separated from your pack for an extended time? As a rough rule of thumb your belt kit should be able to sustain you for one full day and night away from your main pack.  Keep the PITA rule in mind also and that if an item is too large or cumbersome it can quickly become a detriment instead of a benefit. Choose your equipment based on your situation and ease of carry.

Weapons and Ammunition
Generally the best possible way of being armed is with a long gun as a primary firearm and a pistol as a back up. This gives the flexibility to respond to all threats, it also gives depth to your personal defence plan. Where these weapons are carried is easy, your long gun and its ammo are part of the intermediate layer, integral to your belt kit. Your hand gun is part of your gear that goes on your person. A little trial and error with holsters, shoulder rigs, or gun belts is necessary to come up with an efficient and comfortable carry for both your primary and secondary weapon. A third layer of firearm protection is tempting, a small derringer type gun or “belly gun” kept under your shirt might alleviate an otherwise hopeless situation. On the other hand be aware of being over gunned. More guns mean more ammunition and the added logistics of carrying different natures. Again the PITA rule bears attending to. Be careful of having too much gear around your waist. A gun belt is good but how will that effect your rucksack carry? How will it ride in conjunction with a belt kit? Questions to consider and find a solution to before the SHTF.

In Your Rucksack
The rucksack is the heart and soul of any load bearing system. It becomes the “mother ship” for all of your gear. It will contain most of your necessities but keep in mind that the ruck may not be with you at all times. If you establish a base camp, and are away hunting, scouting, or foraging the ruck will generally be left behind. There should be nothing in your ruck that you absolutely cannot do with out. You might lose your main shelter, water, and the bulk of your food should you need to ditch the pack, but you should have alternate survival supplies on your belt or on your person.

What you put in your main pack will come under three headings. Food and water, shelter, and environmental clothing. A good water purifier will cut down or eliminate the need to carry a lot of water, allowing more food to be carried. Ten days food is about the max that can be carried without seriously overloading but you’ll need to be frugal and use a strict ration plan. Included with your food is a stove and fuel. You might consider leaving the stove and fuel behind and using fires instead. The downside of this is fire and smoke can give your position away and attract attention while a stove can provide a hot meal or hot drink with out too much of a signature.

Shelter can be a tent or a tarp suitable for building a shelter. This will depend on the ground and the environment. Obviously in more temperate areas a bivvy will suffice, while in colder harsher environments an enclosed tent will probably work better. A bivvy bag can be an alternative if you’re traveling alone and speed and ease of carry is an issue. There is one main disadvantage to this. In bad weather or adverse conditions you can stay put and “ride things out” a lot more comfortably in a tent. A bivvy bag is good for sleeping in but not much else. In a bivvy bag you can’t sit up and have a coffee or read a book while the blizzard rages outside.

Speaking of inclement weather brings up the subject of environmental clothing. Here in Canada, working and living in cold environments is a matter of fact for almost half of the year. You’ll need to allow room in the pack for heavy parkas, wind pants, and insulated boots. The problem here is that you’ll need to move and work in lighter, better vented clothes, while at night or in-active you’ll need serious insulated cold weather gear. Moving or working in your warm gear, and getting overheated and sweat soaked can be disastrous. Environmental clothing can take up a lot of space. Space that might seem better used for food or other niceties, but remember the old adage; “pack light, freeze at night”

Practice using a small sled to haul your gear in the snow. After years of humping big rucksacks I got a small kids sled, lashed my ruck to it and went on an overnighter hauling my gear as opposed to carrying it. The difference was quite pleasant and as long as I was in relatively open ground the pack towed along behind me effortlessly. I did end up jury rigging a set of small poles to replace the tow rope so the sled wouldn’t pass me or run me over on the down hills. It alleviated a lot of the problems we talked about earlier about having too much kit and belts around your waist.

In summary, have a good look at where each item you carry goes. Assess the value of each item and put it where it belongs. “Must haves” go on your person so if you have to bail with the clothes on your back you won’t be without your critical survival gear. “Nice to haves” come next on a belt kit or shoulder bag. These are items that can make a night or nights away from camp bearable weather they’re forced on you by weather, a navigational error, or by the action of hostiles. Lastly “Everything Else” goes in your main pack. It is your main carry and the center piece of any load bearing system. It is also the first thing that gets looted, dropped, lost, left behind, or abandoned. Nothing that is critical to your survival should be in the ruck. Dropping or losing your rucksack will be a serious situation but it should not be the end of the world for a savvy survivalists.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In a survival situation whether this is a crashed airplane, lost on hunt or a collapse scenario where normal items become scare, inexpensive or both knowing how to construct your own arctic survival footwear could be the difference between life and death, comfort or pure agony!

I was reading this old book called “THE ARCTIC SURVIVAL GUIDE” written by Alan Innes-Taylor for the Scandinavian Airline System in 1957, it has a lot of good info in it, and I believe most of it is the same info that is in some of the old US AIR FORCE Arctic Survival Manuals from the same period. Among the various survival techniques described in these books are some very primitive yet effective techniques. These include:

One way to get a nice pair of shoes is to use a method of footwear as old as the caveman.
For this you can use the hock skin of caribou, moose, elk or any large game animal.
Basically look at the animals foot, where the bend is that area above and below is what you are going to use, tailor it to your own foot. 
CUT A: Will be the area above the bend that will be body of the boot that goes up your leg, make sure it is long enough to make it med calf so it will be like a legging of sorts
CUT B: Will be BELOW the Bend and will be sewn up to keep your toes from hanging out!
• You will want to cut Areas A & B all the way around and deep.
• Separate from the Leg and pull it off over the hoof, you now basically have a L shaped piece of hide.
• In a less immediate survival situation you could clean and tan the hide, for long term use.  In a survival situation, try to scrap the loose bits of meat off as best you can, but this is about survival and getting home, so a little left on there is ok, just not optimal.
• At part B (the bottom end) sew that up with whatever you have (This is why a Paracord Belt would be great! the fibers from a piece of paracord would work perfect!)
• Then poke holes with the bottle opener/leather punch (if you have  a Leatherman handy) or just holes from a knife will work fine to create holes for laces.
• Then take the laces from the destroyed boots if possible or paracord(see another use, I'm not kidding about how useful that stuff is buy Spools!)
You know have a decent footwear.  Don't discard this as “gross” or too “primitive living”, try walking on a nice day through the woods with just socks, now imagine that in Arctic, cold weather survival situation!
Since the Moose provides you with four hocks, you can make two pairs of these shoes, and be able to change them out whenever you need to, definitely take advantage of the material to make a second pair.

Note:  The Book “ARCTIC MANUAL” which was written by  Vilhjalmur Stefansson for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1944,  is an excellent resource for many different arctic survival needs, recommends caribou for homestead/primitive living boots.

“The sole, shoepac type as always, is of August or September bull Caribou, and form the back skin.  October hides are sometimes used but as said, the skins get thinner as the season advances…August or early September bootsole is so durable that on snow exclusively, or on snow and grassland, one pair of soles will carry you a thousand miles at least.”
Pretty neat stuff right?

Your Moose hock shoes will work fine, but what they lack is insulation, this leads me to the next thing to consider…

Simple grass has been used by northern natives and hard living European hunters/trappers, etc for a long time to help augment the insulating factor of your socks, or to preserve your socks as well.
The biggest killer in an arctic environment is not the cold as much as it is inaction or getting wet.
When you walk around for awhile you start to perspire (sweat) For a quick walk in the woods, this is ok, but in a true survival situation you will want to slow your pace enough to keep you warm and conserve energy as well as to control your perspiration.  If you have good insulating boots and socks your feet will perspire, making your socks wet and when you stop that wetness will turn ice cold.

Grass insoles are good for three things
• Good dry grass will absorb the perspiration and your socks will be dryer
• The Grass will add another layer of insulation to keep your feet warm (as you get colder your body will make sure the core stays warm and your extremities such as your hands and feet will get much cooler)
• The grass can provide more cushion to your feet AND insulation if you are wearing improvised footwear like the moose hock shoes mentioned above.
How to make the insoles
• You will want to take ANY tall grass that grows throughout the north.  Grasp large handful in both hands (the guide mentions a “sheaf” of grass, basically enough so both your hands, on on top of each other, aren't touching) twist it in opposite directions.  take that bundle and fluff it up into oblong shapes so it is “fluffed up” like a nest (this is so there is air insulation in between the grass).
• Make sure this oblong shape is “foot like” but wider than your actual foot and a inch thick, carefully put that into your shoe/boot.

If you have socks (hopefully a couple) use this to further your insulation.
• Put your first sock on
• Using the same method for the insoles put that in your second larger sock and roll it down so it is very short
• Carefully put your foot in, and try to have overlap over the edges onto the top of your foot with grass.
• Pack loose grass around the open space all the way up the sock, rolling it up as you go.
Now the picture in the book shows parachute fabric as the outer layer, this is a military manual and is for pilots that have to bail out of their aircraft, so they would have this available.  This same method would work perfectly with the moose hock shoe, depending on the size of the moose and the room you have inside.
At night or long periods of rest take these out and dry them.  Discard them if possible in place of new grass if you can find it.
If you cant find dry grass, make a wooden “grate” and attempt to dry the grass on that, you could take rocks and put them in the fire to warm them and then place them under the grate to dry the grass or just set them near enough to dry but don't let them catch fire of course!
The Hudson Bay Duffle

Another form of insulation for boots or improvised footwear could be the “Hudson Bay Duffle”

The Hudson Bay Company had a trade with the Natives for insulated socks.  They would make triangular pieces of fabric from soft blankets and sell them for use inside of Moccasins.
All you need is some piece of cloth cut into a triangle, and you stick your foot in that with it pointing towards one point of the cloth.
Edge 1: Is the point in front of your foot
Edge 2: Is the point to the left of your foot
Edge 3: Is to the right of your foot.
• Edge 1 would go straight over the top of the foot
• Edge 2 and 3 would be wrapped OVER the instep
The “completed” Duffle would look rough but useable.
This would then be eased into the moccasin and firmly lashed. DONE

This has a few advantages over socks:
1. Depending on material it could be washed and dried quickly
2. Foot can be placed differently to help even out wear, and avoid holes that may form in the heel
3. It can be made from any soft material, from jackets, to multiple shirts, blankets, etc.
You can definitely use this if you have an extra blanket in your pack that you can cut a piece from, then use Grass as an insole and then put inside the Moose Hock shoe.
I would definitely try to get your hands on these books if possible, check out local libraries or see if libraries in other areas would loan them to yours so you can check them out. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Long-distance Commuters face challenges. I average 20 days at work per month.  During those days, I am away from home for 11.5 hours.   Unless the Crunch starts conveniently on a Saturday morning, before I can survive the end of the world as I know it I have to get home.     

My daily commute carries me 35 miles each way.  Sometimes while sitting in traffic I’m reminded of real life – and fictional – disaster situations looking a lot like what I face each day; miles and miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic congestion.  The defining difference is this: My traffic jam eventually clears and I motor-on my way towards wife and kids and dog.  And two cats.      

Lately my thoughts push me towards my need to return home in the event of the worst – specifically, planning for accommodating my trip.   Before I can bug-in at my homestead, I have to get there! Before I can work to provide comfort and safety for my family, I have to reach home. If the roads were closed or blocked just how would I manage? Living in Southeast Michigan for several years, I have seen the weather change pretty quickly.  Even if my winter vehicle has the ability to traverse deep snow covered roads, local authorities have the power to determine roads “Impassible”, stranding me away from the homestead.  

Apart from winter hazards, commuters face a multitude of potential challenges, from massive traffic accidents, terror attack – recall the streams of pedestrians evacuating downtown New York City on 11 September 2001 – or natural disasters.  Below you will find tips to prepare yourself and your vehicle for the commute from hell.  Driving: Take serious consideration in your commuter – remember a car not properly equipped, or lacking other capabilities gets great fuel economy, while stuck on the side of the road.  In my 14mpg pick-up hurts my wallet at fuel-up however worth more to me is the security presented by having a greater chance of making it home through all kinds of weather.     

During winter season, as defined by the daily high temperatures not exceeding about 40 degrees, I swap my summer all-season/all terrain tires on my F150 4x4 SuperCrew with dedicated-winter tires. Providing additional weight over the drive wheels is a water bladder, filled to approximately 400lbs of water, secured to the floor of the pick-up bed.      Late February of 2011 I flew from the Detroit area for deployment to Iraq.   I was under orders – I could not simply call-in sick.   The night I left, the Detroit Metro area was hit with significant snow storm.  With a solid foot of snow falling around us, the truck performed flawlessly – bringing me and my family to the airport, and providing my wife and kids safe return home.   The benefits of ground clearance and proper winter tire combined in a way either of the two alone could not.   I passed dozens of compact and other passenger cars stuck on the road, even trucks with large off-road and mud-terrain tires spun helplessly on the slick roads.     

I often hear a common misconception – “My car goes well in the snow”.  Not true, mostly.  Your car’s TIRES go through the snow well. Tires are often over-looked because the summer or all-seasons currently on the vehicle “have good tread left”.  Tread compound and tread designed specifically for winter and cold-weather driving conditions is the best way to ensure safe travel.  More than simply having the power to take off from a stop, winter tires provide stopping and turning power.  Often winter-specific tires can stop in half the distance of summer or all-season tires.  Even the best all-season tires will stop many feet later than winter-specific tires – but sometimes even a few feet can mean the difference between a collision with another car, obstacle, or person, and prevention of those impacts.      

Tornadoes are not unheard-of in my area – wind damage to infrastructure is inevitable.  Deciding to commute in a vehicle with all or four-wheel drive, and offering as much ground clearance as possible will enable me to overcome standing or running water across roadways (while avoiding those obstacles is ideal, sometimes there is no choice), or limbs or other debris across the roadway.   I also live 1.4 miles from the nearest paved road – in the worst kind of weather, my road is not maintained. Getting home means getting muddy.  Packing for worst-case: In addition to common items – jumper cables, Tylenol/aspirin, extra food, gasoline, water, folding knife, small tool kit, first-aid kit and blanket, Meal, Ready-to-eat; a ¾ full re-usable water bottle (to allow for freezing temperatures), extra socks, scarf, gloves, hat, basic first aid kit, sunglasses, small disposable lighter, 50ft of 550 cord, military surplus thermals, and plastic rain poncho will work to keep me prepared for either driving or walking home.   I purchased a pair of Army surplus aviator gloves; the Nomex™ construction will provide some flame protection in the event of an accident or rescue, while thin enough preventing significant finger/hand dexterity loss. All items fit nicely in my Oakley “Kitchen Sink” backpack.    Military members can order their Kitchen Sink pack via's Military purchase program for substantial savings.     

I also created homemade fire-starters using make-up removing cotton patches, dipped in melted candle wax, and left to dry on a wire rack over a sheet-pan.   After bundling the tender, rip one of the wax-coated patches to expose the cotton fibers.  Apply flame from the lighter and within about a minute I have a sustainable flame that holds enough flame to ignite even damp branches, sticks, and debris. A head-mounted lamp will help with vehicle repairs or path illumination should I be forced to abandon my vehicle.      Using the head-worn lamp brings freedom to use my arms to carry other items, support, or defend myself.  The lamp also serves to signal others if I become in need of assistance due to injury or attack.   I tend to forget to check the batteries of all my stored emergency electronic devices – do not follow my example as an unlit lamp shines on no path.  A good reminder – every time I change my car’s wiper blades, I re-inventory my supplies. 

Alternative routes:     Most days I follow the same route to work and home again.  While shopping for my house I became familiar with my area – I know which roads connect to the road that leads me home.   One day, every other month or so, I take a new way home – even the LONG way.  I do this to remain up to date with road closures, detours, construction, and traffic density.  In the event of the worst-case scenario, the popular roads will likely become clogged with vehicles and pedestrians sticking to the familiar.  Knowing which side streets connect to where affords some relief and ease of access to other roads leading home. One thing to remember – if you think of a short cut, chances are somebody else has too!  Avoiding the shortest route, in terms of distance or time to complete, may end up being faster due to less congestion.  Alternative Transportation:     Even my truck’s 6.5ft-long bed is large enough to hold a bicycle.  Placing a mountain bike in the truck bed, and securing with a normal bike lock and cable can provide a much-faster way home, should stuff hit the fan.   Again, do not forget to maintain the emergency bike – ensure your bike has air in the tires and inner tube patching equipment along with a means to pump air into a repaired tube. 

Walking:      While a soldier, I learned first-hand the benefits of Leather Personnel Carriers (LPCs) as a mode of transport.  Facing a 35 mile walk home, maintaining a pair of broken-in, comfortable and durable boots is vital.   Buying a pair of great hiking boots or shoes, and placing them in your car for emergencies might lead to debilitating blistering, rubbing, or aching – hindering the trek.     

Sure to be in a hurry to reach my family, I cannot forget to stretch my muscles before, during and after such a walk.  Slow and consistent plodding will take a toll on my feet, joints, and hips.  My back and shoulders will be sore carrying my backpack, too.   Nobody has to do 35 mile walks to prepare for a 35 mile walk in the worst conditions – however having a realistic view of one’s physical abilities will help in planning for such an endeavor.    

To ease the impact on feet, walk on the unpaved shoulder areas of the roads – a tip taught to me by my Drill Sergeants during Basic Training.   Using arms to swing and help momentum is effective towards covering ground.  In training, having marching cadence either playing on MP3-player with headphones, or recited from memory can help maintain an effective pace and breathing pattern.  [JWR Adds: When things go sideways, you would of course want full situational awareness, so ear buds would be a no-no.]  

Unless I am being chased, I must stop for rest periods.  These periods can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes.  Word of caution – it is often easier to KEEP walking, than to START walking. As good as a rest may feel, the pain of starting again might be worse.    

Drinking water, even in cold temperatures is vital to success.  I cannot carry enough water to keep me for 35 miles; however I can work to ensure I maintain daily hydration and consume the water I carry. Ideally, one quart per hour - water cannot help if it is never consumed.  While on a march like this finding potable water is essential.  Options include groceries and gas stationed, if open - or even a friendly neighbor along the way.     

To fight one’s worst enemy – worry/distress – finding the right mindset is essential.   Embarking on a journey like this means hours and hours before reuniting.  Considering what you might find when you return home may serve as motivation to complete the walk.  When this consideration moves to worry, rushing and carelessness may lead to injury or worse.   When starting on a walk like this, making each mile, or route-marker as individual goals will prevent the hurry-ups, and might prevent hasty decisions.  Instead of ‘walking home’, I am only walking to “The freeway overpass a couple miles from here”.  The smaller goal is more achievable than the more-than-a-marathon distance awaiting me.  Focusing on the small task makes the big task achievable.     We live in a world where the worst can happen.  With the threats and capabilities of terrorists, and the fury of Mother Nature, we can no longer afford to ‘hope’ things work out.  Hope is not a viable strategy.  Through careful consideration we can take steps to mitigate the damage; with a practiced plan, we can establish alternatives to our situations – wherever circumstance – or our commute - places us. By planning ahead, we will help to ensure we make it to our loved ones during times of crisis.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I recently learned about wilderness survival in my northern climate. So I thought I would share some of the interesting information that was imparted to me. First off, I highly recommend everyone take a wilderness survival course offered in your area, as it is a wealth of information on the existing elements in your environment, and how to use them to your benefit.
First and foremost, if you get lost and you believe someone is coming for you- stay put! Do not try to find the trail that you happened to wander off of or the road that led you there. The odds are simply against you finding what you lost to begin with. If you foolishly left without telling anyone where you were going or how long you expected to be gone for, chances are that no one will be looking for you when you have decided that you are lost. This is an entirely different situation and you are now on your own for better or worse.
I had always believed that the most vital, top of the list, get it now or die item was water. This is incorrect. Perhaps the rules change depending on where you are but here, in my northern climate the most vital element is maintaining a core body temperature of 98.6 degrees F or 37 degrees C (+ or - a degree or so) .

The first line of defense is clothing. It is very important to dress for the season when you decide to go on any outing in unfamiliar territory. Natural fibres are the best as they won't melt to your skin if you accidentally come in contact with fire. Layering is also very important in maintaining a good core temperature. Wet clothing with the addition of a cold wind can be your worst enemy. Always remember to remove outer layers before commencing any chores that might cause you to sweat. Again, sweaty, wet clothing is bad.

Footwear is also ranked very highly on the scale of importance. A good, sturdy, strong, comfortable boot is certainly worth its weight in gold. We lose a surprising amount of heat through contact with the cold or frozen earth or snow. To add an extra layer of insulation, always create a mat for your feet when sitting or standing for longer periods of time. This can be achieved by using anything within the immediate area such as fallen branches, dry leaves or evergreen boughs. One good tip is to warm rocks near your fire and use them as a foot stool. Just be careful not to heat them too hot so as not to melt the soles of your boots.

Aside from clothing, your next line of defense is shelter. Remember that you can live without water for three days and right now exposure is your worst enemy, not dehydration. A shelter can be made out of pretty much anything so I won't get into the styles and types, rather we'll focus on the primary functions it must serve. The main goal is to minimize heat loss therefore the shelter must facilitate this goal. It must offer protection from the elements such as rain or snow and wind. The other vital element a shelter must provide is protection from the ground. This can be created again with a mat formed out of branches and dry leaves. Anything that puts a barrier between you and the cold ground is necessary. [JWR Adds: See the repeated warnings in the SurvivalBlog archives about wool versus cotton. The old saying is "Cotton kills." When cotton gets wet through perspiration or precipitation, it loses nearly all of its insulating value.]
Once you have a shelter, you can work on the next step in wilderness survival which is, of course, fire. Imagine my surprise when I believed water was number one and again it has been pushed farther down the list. Please understand that this is for the northern climate and wilderness survival in a southern climate might be a very different ball game.
Fire is your greatest tool in maintaining the proper body temperature. It is required to boil water and cook food. It is also a great morale booster and a good signaling tool if you are lost. In a wilderness survival situation, fire is your absolute best friend. You should always carry some form of a fire starting tool as well as learning the basics of how to start a fire without the aid of tools.
Third on the list is at last, water. Again, this is tailored to my environment where water is often easily located and the rules may change depending on where you are. You should always be aware of the area you are in or going to and the dangers that might be present in your water or the water found locally. Of course boiling is best to purify water however if you find yourself in an emergency situation, filtration might be your only next best option. 

First locate a source. The next step is to dig a hole several feet from the source to allow the water to filter itself from the source, through the earth and into the hole. While you wait for the water to filter and the sediment to settle, you can make a makeshift Millbank filter with available materials. This is done by using a birch bark as a cone, or some large, strong leaves in the form of a cone as a filter. Cover the bottom tip of your filter with a small piece of cloth, a t-shirt or sock will work fine. Layer materials beginning with fine sand, then charcoal fragments, then coarse sand, then fine gravel, then on top, coarse gravel. This water that is filtered, is just that, filtered, and not purified. This process is slow, about 5 pints in 5 minutes. Then the water should be boiled.

Another method of purification aside from boiling is solar disinfection. This is accomplished by filling a clear PET or glass bottle with water and allowing it to purify on it's side, in the suns direct rays, for at least 6 hours. Of course, you would need a bottle to do this with.
One last method of water purification would be by making a solar still. I'm sure you have heard about it and know how to do it, the only issue with that are the required materials which are difficult to come by when lost in a forested area.

If (God forbid), you find yourself in a position where rescue is likely in a reasonable amount of time and you for some reason or another cannot purify water, you will have to make the decision of whether or not to drink it as is. I have made the decision to drink directly from a creek and I did live with no ill effects. Keep in mind that the symptoms of Giardia can begin to show in only 2 days. That gives you 2 days until you might become violently ill and in dire need of rescue. I was lucky and not in danger at the time. Only you can make that choice, hopefully it will be an informed decision.
Surprisingly food is not high on the list of survival necessities. The body can go for 40 days without food, it won't be the most comfortable 40 days you ever experienced but you could live through it.

There are two schools of thought on the food issue. One believes you should eat anything and everything you can to meet your required caloric intake. This should help to maintain your body for as long as possible without forcing it into survival or starvation mode. The other believes you should force your body into survival mode without creating that confusing 'grey area' in between. For example, if all you can muster are a few leaves and berries, perhaps you are better off sending your body the clear message that it is time to kick into starvation mode. This idea is on the belief that the body is equipped to handle this period of fasting as long as it is sent a strong message to do so. I cannot say which is best, nor have I done the research to advocate for one or the other. Again only you are responsible for the choices you might be forced to make and as with everything, an informed decision is the best one. 
If you find yourself lost without a compass and map, or worse- you have a compass and map but don't know how to use them, it tends to be very difficult to simply backtrack to where you should be. The best advice seems to be to stay put until someone comes along to help you. If no one is coming for you or you otherwise have no choice, there are some simple things to help you navigate. During the day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. With this information you should be able to roughly find the direction you should be going. Direction is not the only obstacle in getting where you need to go. The other major issue we seem to have is traveling in all directions. It is a very difficult objective to travel in a straight line in a forest. One way to keep your travel line straight is to line up 3 or 4 markers straight ahead, once you pass those look back and make sure they align. Then find more markers ahead and continue to check back to make sure that those align.
Night travel is ill advised for so many reasons. Many predators hunt at night, it is much too difficult to see where you are going therefore navigation is uncertain, also the terrain can be difficult to navigate and may cause you to become injured. In a worst case scenario, the north star is often cited as a guide although difficult to keep track of in a forested environment.
To make the best of a worst case situation, I believe that having a few simple items on your person can really make the difference between life and death. These are a few things you should always carry with you inside an inconspicuous bag, backpack or purse especially when venturing into unfamiliar territory.
-bottled water- this can be used aa a ready source for drinking, also used to solar disinfect when the pure water runs out.
-water filtration device, i.e. filtration straw.
-fire starter -matches, lighter, magnifying glass, etc. (I also like to keep a few tea light candles in my fire kit, you never know).
-emergency space blanket -folds up to nothing, weights almost nothing, can be used as a blanket, also a shelter.
-pocket knife -great for shaving sticks into tinder, trimming small branches for fire.
-extra sweater, or light windbreaker jacket.
-signal device -mirror, whistle.
-charged cell phone
-small flashlight (I like to keep a small radio as well)
-snacks -candy, gum, nuts, etc
-small first aid kit including -band-aids, pain relievers, antibiotic ointment, gauze and tape as well as hand sanitizer.
Once again, there are no firm rules in a survival situation. With each case differing from person to person, environment and tools on hand, I believe the rate of success increases with knowledge and practice. The more you know, the better decisions you will make.

Reference: Wikipedia: Giardia

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I wanted to make a couple of clarifications to Emma C.'s article on fabric choices in survival clothing, specifically with regards to wool. As a full-time Shepherdess of more than 100 heritage breed sheep, my experience in handling and processing wool runs deep. 

It was written that (with regard to socks), Wool does take more care than other fabrics in that it should be washed in cold water and lay flat to dry. While that statement is mostly accurate in general fabric care, there are primarily two things that can permanently change (i.e. shrinkage or felting) wool fabrics: agitation (washing/scrubbing) and temperature.

Washing of traditional woolen items must utilize as little agitation as possible while cleansing. Intense scrubbing will simply cause your wool item to felt.  The soaking method is preferred whenever possible using a mild, easy rinsing type soap. Gently squeezing out excess water by folding the item in half is ideal. Larger items such as pants or sweaters can be folded multiple times, pressing firmly to release the water. Never wring or twist wet wool as you may end up with a hopelessly misshapen garment. When you wash wool, it is the temperature of the water for BOTH wash and rinse that affects wool.  You can wash your wool in hot water, if so desired, but you must also rinse the item in hot water to avoid shrinkage. It is in the variation of the water temperature that causes your wool treasures to shrink so drastically. If you wash in hot, rinse in hot; wash in warm, rinse in warm and so forth. Consistency throughout the cleansing process is key.

While cold wash/cold rinse is generally deemed the rule of choice when washing wool but it is not something set in stone. I personally prefer the hot water method, especially when cleaning my wool. Hot water kills germs and is much safer on the fibers themselves than using chemical disinfectants. Most smartwool blends have already been 'pre-shrunk' and are much less likely to be affected by water temperature or agitation. I have multiple pairs of these socks that go into the washer and dryer routinely with no effect on the end product. I could go on about the many benefits and uses of wool, perhaps another time. God certainly knew what He was doing when creating the sheep!

Thank you for such an informative blog. Blessings! - C.A.T.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dear Sir,
In response to Emma C.'s article on Fabric Choices in Survival Clothing, I have two suggestions of where to find fabric at exceptional prices.  The first is the Fashion Fabric Club web site.

I have found wonderful wool there for 50-75% what I found at other sites.  I was very pleased with my purchase and they have a great return policy.  Although the disadvantage is not being able to see the fabric in person, it was worth the savings to me.

The other location is Zinck's Fabric Outlet, just east of Berlin, Ohio (in Amish Country). 

They have great prices, a huge amount of clearance fabrics, and a large selection (but no wool).  They also give a discount if you buy what is left on the bolt (be it 1-20 yards).  If you make a trip to visit this store, don't forget about Lehman's Hardware and The Ashery Country Store is a great bulk food store. 

Be  blessed and thanks for a great blog site! - Lacey M.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Textiles surround us every day, yet they probably aren’t the first thing to come to mind when gathering survival gear. A quick web search gives lackluster results, focusing more on what kinds of tactical gear would be appropriate than the fabrics and types of clothing to look for and why. Obviously what to look for is based on several things. Do you live in a hot or cold climate? Will you be staying in your home, in a bunker, or traveling around? What’s your budget? And most of all, what makes you comfortable? If you live in cotton, a tight lycra jumpsuit under your clothing may be too much to get used to, spur of the moment.

I’ve been sewing for ten years now and have learned a lot about what fabrics are appropriate for certain garments. There are some commonly known rules, like wool will keep you warm and cotton will cool you down but there are myriads of textile choices beyond those. Clothing is very personal and what works for one person may not for the next so I’m going to provide several suggestions for what to look for in terms of fabric and functionality, starting from the bottom and working our way up.


Footwear is integral and wearing them in beforehand will prevent pain and blisters at a most unwelcome time. I’m not an expert in the materials used to make footwear so I will share what I know from experience. The most common of all footwear is the sneaker but picking one out can require some research. For a ton of walking or running, running shoes would be the best choice. It is important to learn whether you experience overpronation (high arch), underpronation (flat foot), or neutral pronation to reduce foot pain and provide proper support. I experienced a lot of foot pain in my old running shoes before I learned that I have severely overpronated feet. Now I have such a good pair of sneakers that I don’t have to use insoles for cushioning like I used to. Cross trainers are another choice of sneaker for people who may be doing a lot of jagged movements, jumping, or climbing. Keep in mind that running shoes last for about 300 miles before they should be replaced (up to 500 miles if you have a low body weight).

Boots are another option with multiple choices. Combat boots would be a tried and true boot. My husband, who is in the military, finds his issued ones to be uncomfortable but there are plenty of people who find them to be comfortable. I would definitely suggest trying on all types of footwear that you are interested in before making a purchase. Waterproof shoes, commonly referred to as ‘wellies’ [short for the Wellington brand name], would be a great choice for areas with a ton of rain and water or as a spare shoe. Snow boots or boots with wool insulation are excellent for cold areas. I have a pair of men’s leather boots with wool insulation that I wear while shoveling three feet of snow and they keep me just as warm as my Carhartt overalls. And they were purchased at JC Penney, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a quality shoe, just do your research.

Last but not least are sandals. Some of you may think I’m off my rocker for that suggestion, so bear with me. If you live in a warm climate you may want to avoid boots and sneakers all together. Or maybe you want a second pair of lightweight shoes in your backpack. Or maybe you love the freedom of a naked foot. For whatever reason, a pair of sandals may work for you. Look for one with grooves on the bottom for traction as well as wide straps- no flip flops. Also be sure to bend the shoe before buying. If you can bend it in half it doesn’t offer enough cushion or support.
And don’t forget to stash some extra shoelaces.


Chances are you are going to need some socks to go with your shoes, even with sandals. For socks you’ll want either CoolMax or wool or even both. At the very least look for synthetic fibers (which you may want to look for in a lot of the clothes) because they wick away moisture and increase breathability. Avoid cotton, especially if you don’t think you’ll be washing your clothing often, because it collects moisture and increases your chance for fungal infections. CoolMax is a polyester blend that wicks away moisture and dries quickly.

Besides synthetics, wool is going to come up again and again primarily for its ability to both repel and attract moisture as well as heat retention. Wool does take more care than other fabrics in that it should be washed in cold water and lay flat to dry. However, it doesn’t need to be washed as often as cotton or polyester. Which may be a moot point, depending on the state of the world. If you live in a place where cold days outnumber warm you may want to invest in both wool and synthetic blend socks, wearing the lighter CoolMax type socks as the inner layer and wool as the outer for extra warmth and, depending on your footwear, comfort.


I’ll break this one down by three different geographical locations: (A) areas that often receive a lot of snow at one time from October until March with much less precipitation the rest of the year, (B) areas that receive fair amounts of precipitation throughout the year and middling temperature, (C) and areas that receive little precipitation with temperatures regularly over 100 degrees. I realize this doesn’t cover all the climate variances- it’s meant to be more of a jumping off point.
(A): Wool pants with polypropylene long johns/tights are going to be your MO. Columbia makes a quality wool pant that comes in camo (which I’ll touch on more later). Avoid a nylon pant as nylon, if it catches on fire, will likely fuse to your skin since it is petroleum based and highly flammable. In comparison, wool is slow to catch fire and is often used in fire blankets.  Polypropylene long underwear is very lightweight allowing for a large range of movement while providing warmth in subzero temperatures. It has little water absorption and acts as a barrier to water. Though it isn’t very flammable it can melt in temperatures over 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Polypro also retains odors without consistent washing but dries the quickest of any fabric. A polypro pant or leggings during the summer months with a wool pant over it in winter would be a strong choice for the area.
Cotton would be a poor choice in this scenario due to its water absorbency, flammability, and slow drying time. If it gets wet in the winter you’ll need to seek shelter and warmth immediately since it will no longer insulate you. The adage “cotton kills” is appropriate in area (A). Other fabrics to avoid include tencel, rayon, neoprene, silk, and bamboo.
(B): Lightweight wool or nylon will serve you well. With all the wet weather the lightweight and waterproof qualities of nylon outweigh risk of flammability. (Water repellant jackets are made from nylon.) LL Bean makes a quality cargo pant that converts into shorts and comes with insect barrier ingrained in the fabric. When it comes to clothes, loose layers will be helpful in keeping mosquitoes at bay, as opposed to skintight that allows the bugs to get closer to your skin and penetrate through the fabric. Lightweight wool is also great- it won’t weigh you down as much as thick wool while still providing the benefits of it.
With all the precipitation you’ll especially want to avoid the same fabrics as area (A): cotton, tencel, rayon, neoprene, silk, and bamboo, among other synthetics including polyester/cotton blends.
(C): Cotton, linen, and silk will all keep you cool in the sweltering heat though they also have their disadvantages. Cotton will absorb sweat easily which can make some people uncomfortable. You can always moisten the fabric to help keep cool and stave off feelings of griminess from sweating. (Not advisable if you’re trying to conserve water.) Linen is porous as well as absorbent which allows heat to escape between the fibers. It is stiffer than fabric so it won’t cling heavily to the body when wet like cotton will and is a common pant textile. Silk is very lightweight, thin, and soft which women like myself can appreciate. However, the sun will break down the fibers quicker than with cotton or linen, so silk pants aren’t the best choice for long term wear. CoolMax type blends are also available.
Lightweight wool can also be a good choice depending on how hot you get. I have a pair of wool shorts that I wore around Hawaii that, depending on how hot it was, would become itchy and uncomfortable despite the lining.


Cotton, cotton, cotton ladies (and gents)! Moisture collecting in your nether regions from synthetic fabrics is far more likely than cotton to become a sweaty breeding ground for bacteria. And avoid anything too tight. You’ll be better off going commando than sporting too-tight underwear. Don’t forget about extra bras as well, Wacoal makes an amazing underwire sports bra that goes up from an A to an H cup. I wear them quite often and have always felt comfortable (and I wear an H, so I understand how hard it is to find a supportive sports bra).


Once again the fabrics you want are going to reflect the area in which you reside. The rules for pants pretty much transfer over to shirts. Wool/cashmere tops, including turtlenecks, make for a nice layer below a coat or jacket in the cold. Personally I can’t wear turtlenecks or cashmere and find that this is the one area that I have to go against my own advice, living in a cold climate. In a survival situation I plan to find myself in three layers of shirts: a tank top, a tee shirt, and a long sleeve shirt, all made from cotton or lightweight wool. I’ll place a lot of reliance on my coat (which is waterproof and windproof, made by Gersemi) to protect me from precipitation. I keep a spare 100% wool one made by the fashion company Nine West. There is a very limited range in temperature that I find comfortable so the layers will allow me to have more flexibility. I’ve had good experiences with cotton and wool shirts from Banana Republic, the Gap, and JC Penney among others.
The same thing goes for area (B) residents. Cotton layers can work if you are careful about staying dry and preserving layers in cool temperatures. Wool or nylon are still great choices as well. Those in area (C) can still benefit from a long sleeve shirt despite the heat if it has UPF, especially if you burn easily and don’t have access to sunscreen or other protection. Otherwise cotton, linen, and silk once again.

Here I’m going to cover hats, belts, and gloves but keep in mind there are plenty of other accessories to consider including umbrellas, sunglasses, scarves, watches, and jewelry (useful for bartering on the go). When it comes to headgear the balaclava can’t be beat in terms of versatility and size. Balaclavas work for every climate; a knitted wool balaclava will protect from the winter’s cold while one with UPF will help protect delicate skin from sunny rays. They come in a variety of materials and colors, can be worn several ways, and take up little space.
Two types of belts that can be useful depending on your needs are paracord belts and tactical belts. Paracord belts work just like the bracelets, being made from 550 paracord that unravels to function in numerous survival capacities. They can be made or purchased. Tactical belts come in different materials, typically leather and webbing, and are generally useful for attaching weaponry. There are also cartridge belts to hold ammunition.

For gloves, look for leather in the palm and fingers. A really padded glove can be useful in moving and carrying large objects or heavy outdoor work but can make manual dexterity difficult. To achieve a wider range of movements, like in shooting for instance, I recommend a shooting glove made with leather and thinsulate.
First impressions could be vital so I’m going to spend a moment on image before getting to sewing and purchasing fabric. Camo and earth tone clothing are generally safe bets and, if being deserted or lost is a concern, a bright colored flag could be thrown in a pack or sewn into a coat. Keep in mind that being decked out in the best of gear can attract unwanted attention from people who would like what you have or give an impression of skill that you may not possess. Women may want to dress in more manly clothing and consider a short, pixie type haircut. In a chaotic, desperate situation people may do things they wouldn’t in normal society and women and children, being seen as a whole as weaker than men, would be automatic targets. (Unfair or not, it is what it is so I myself plan to chop off my hair to gain as much of an advantage and become as anonymous as possible).

When it comes to sewing, once you know the basics it really is not difficult to master. If you are just trying to make basic clothing you don’t need to have spent months learning techniques you won’t need. The first garment I ever made was a pair of pajama pants with an elastic waist. I taught myself how to sew them by reading the instructions on the pattern. Granted, it took me three times as long as it would now, but the pattern and instructions were so simple that any kind of extra assistance from the internet or books was unnecessary.

There are a few things you should collect if you do plan to sew your own garments. If you are going to get a sewing machine, no matter how tiny, learn to use it before you stow it in a basement or bunker, even if you only use it for a minute. Patterns for every type of clothing can be purchased. Easy Stitch ‘N Save by McCall’s and It’s so Easy by Simplicity are two collections by big pattern makers than can often be found for .99 cents or $1.99 at JoAnn Fabrics. (Just check the flyers for sales.) The garments are simple, taking only a few hours. However- and this is important-cutting out the patterns is sometimes more time consuming than making the actual garment. To save time and help yourself become familiar with clothing construction I’d recommend cutting out the patterns ahead of time. There are also plenty of unisex patterns and patterns for children along with ones for household items, shoes, and gloves.
As far as fabric goes, it can be purchased by the yard or in bulk by the bolt. Prices vary widely. I usually purchase any 100% cotton fabrics from JoAnn Fabrics,, or various local quilting shops. For wool, I try to purchase it from the Dorr Mill Store and Pendleton’s Woolen Mill store but that can be expensive. Some Wal-Marts sell fabric but their selection is rife with polyester and rayon blends so be sure to check before you buy. And don’t forget about notions. You’ll need needles (both hand and machine if you have one), pins, several spools of thread (a half to one spool per project is a fair estimate so you can do repairs later as well), extra bobbins if you have a machine, dressmaker’s chalk, scissors, buttons, zippers, elastic, belt buckles, and no-sew glue. Check each pattern for specific needs; they’ll also tell you how much fabric you’ll need to purchase for each size.

[JWR Adds: Be sure to check your local thrift store regularly. You can often find wool blankets, sweaters, and even Scottish kilts that can be used as-is, or re-purposed. (Traditional kilts have eight yards or tartan wool!) It is not unusual to find genuine Pendleton wool shirts and merino sweaters for less than $5. One trick is to run your hand down the racks, feeling the textures of the sleeves as you walk by. With some practice you can learn to detect wool with just a touch. Once you've developed this skill, there is no need to read labels except to confirm what your sense of touch has already told you.]

Overall you need to consider what’s best for you. If you strongly believe you’ll be out on the road don’t go out and purchase a sewing machine and bolts of fabric that won’t see use. Focus that money and time on finding pieces that will last a long time and provide you with protection and comfort. Also don’t settle for a blend of fabrics that you find unsuitable just because it is a great price or you like the color. And don’t be overwhelmed by the choices out there. Ask friends and family about their favorite coat brands or where they purchased their new wool socks. If you just plain out hate shopping ask your shopping-friendly spouse, friend, or second cousin if they’d like to swap expertise. Just be sure to give them a list of what garments you’re looking for, along with sizes, colors, possible brands, and fabrics. Making sure to write down the details, including what percentage of which fabrics you want, will help your assistant narrow down the search quickly. If you are, say, a vegan and do not want leather on your clothing at all, be sure to write that down too. And once everything is hung or folded neatly next to your Bug Out Bag, take yourself out to a nice dinner, knowing that you’re ready to withstand the elements.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I have literally lost count of the number of SurvivalBlog readers I've heard  from, who asked "what is the best camo pattern..." Well, there is no easy or absolute right answer to this questions. It depends on the terrain, that you'll be operating in, as to what camo pattern works best. I have always been fond of the old Woodland camo pattern - but it's getting harder and harder to find this surplus clothing.

Without a doubt, I believe the US Army's ACU gray digital camouflage pattern is one of the worst camo designs to come along. It doesn't matter what terrain you might be in, if you are wearing ACU, you stick out like a sore thumb. The US Army has finally realized this, and are switching to other camo patterns.

The old US military woodland camo pattern is a really decent design and works pretty well, when you're in the woods or grassy areas. However, it's not the best camo pattern. Enter the new Propper Clothing blended  A-TACS foliage green blended pattern, that is really outstanding. First of all, the Propper uniforms are sewn to US mil-specs, and vat-dyed 50% Nylon/50% cotton rip stop fabric. There is hook and loop face for attaching rank insignia and unit patches, as well as name tags. The Mandarin collar can be worn up or down, and the hook and loop sleeve cuff closure provides positive closure and adjustments. There is a 3-slot pen pocket on the left sleeve and shoulder pockets are designed to fit optimally with the OTV.

Propper's matching blended camo pattern pants  are made of the same material, and feature leg cuffs with front closure ties. Also featured are knee pouches with hook and loop closure for internal knee pad inserts. Button fly with a drawstring bellowed calf storage pocket and forward-tilted cargo pockets. Now, without a doubt, both of these clothing items are super-strong - we're talking seriously tough material, that will give you years of service. Ok, so what's the big deal, you ask? Mil spec ACU clothing is built strong as well.

The "blended" A-TACS foliage green camo pattern on the Propper clothing is unlike any other camo pattern you've seen. It's really hard to describe, but the colors aren't "printed" - instead, the colors are actually "blended" - kinda like working with different water-based colors on a piece of paper, where you get the different colors to blend together. I'm not sure how Propper pulled this off, but I'm blown away at how well this camo can blend into the woods in the Pacific Northwest here in Oregon. I did a test, I walked across the road to my neighbors property, and placed the Propper shirt and pants on some blackberry bushes - this is only about 50-yards from my front door. Keep in mind, I knew where I placed the clothing. When I walked back to my front door, I turned around and it literally took me a few seconds to find where the clothing was on the blackberry bushes. I asked my wife and oldest daughter to come outside and find the "hidden" clothing - they couldn't find it - even when I was pointing at it. That, my friends, is an outstanding camo pattern for the woods. It is perhaps the best camo pattern I've run across for staying hidden in the woods.

There are many SurvivalBlog readers who are hunters, and the Propper Foliage Green blended camo, would make an outstanding clothing for still or stalk hunting. It would be great for bow hunters who use tree stands - you just blend into the background with this foliage green camo pattern. I wish I knew how Propper was able to make this camo pattern, it's very unique, to say the least. But very effective, to be sure. Check out the web sites above for a close look at the camo pattern, however, keep in mind, the photos don't do justice to the camo - you can't do this clothing justice, until you see (or not see it) in the woods. When I go hunting this coming Fall, this is what I'll be wearing. And, if I ever have to bug out for the boonies, this will be my camo clothing of choice.

These Propper camo clothing items are made in The Dominican Republic. The jacket/shirt and trousers retail for $59.99 each. However, you won't be wearing this clothing out anytime soon, so if you are in the market for some of the best woodland pattern camo clothing, that will hide you, take a close look at the Propper line-up.

Okay, on to my "uniform" of the day. I don't honestly recall when I last wore a pair of jeans, or a suit - I believe the last time I had a suit on, was about 11-12 years ago, when my oldest daughter graduated from college. My "uniform" of the day usually consists of cargo pants, a t-shirt and hiking boots. During the summer months, I wear some kind of button-down shirt over my t-shirt, to conceal my handgun. I've been wearing cargo pants, long before they ever became popular, like they are today.

Along with the A-TACS Foliage Green blended camo clothing above, that I received for test and evaluation, I also received Propper's Lightweight Tactical Pants. These are a step-up from my usual cargo pants, in that, they are designed for "tactical" use - plenty of pockets and other added features that you will find of use when carrying concealed. You'll see SWAT teams wearing these pants (they come in various colors) as well as street cops wearing these pants. However, you'll also be able to wear these pants off-duty as well...and "no" you don't have to be a cop to wear these pants - they are great for everyday wear.

Okay, bear with me, there are a lot of features on the Propper Lightweight Tactical Pants. Fade, shrink and wrinkle resistant, DuPont Teflon fabric protector repels stains and liquids, low profile appearance for use on and off duty, includes a D-ring for keys or tools, extra-large belt loops, action-stretch waistband for enhanced comfort, reinforced seat and knees,zipper fly, nine-pocket design, two cargo pockets with hook and loop closure, two hook and loop closure back pockets with wallet (pocket in a pocket), two front pockets with reinforced opening for folding knife or multi-tool, internal openings for knee pads, cell phone pocket, two hidden coin pockets and they also come with a free matching belt. That's a lot of features, to be sure.

The Propper Lightweight Tactical Pants are 65/35 poly cotton ripstop DuPont Teflon fabric. And, the fabric is coated to repel stains. In my case, this really comes in handy, especially when I'm in the yard playing with some of my German Shepherds and they are playing rough with me - I'm always getting my pants (and everything else) dirty - I often wonder why I bother to have my wife wash my pants, 'cause next time I put 'em on, and play with the dogs, they are dirty all over again.

Over the years, I've tried quite a few different cargo-type pants, some are good, some are really good, and some I wore one-time and gave them away. These new lightweight tactical pants, are really a cut above most of the rest. When I tried the pants on, they actually fit like they were supposed to. This isn't as easy as you might think - some pants, just don't feel right when I put them on. I almost felt like I was "dressed-up" in these pants. As comfortable as they were, they were even more comfortable after they were washed. For me, if my pants aren't comfortable, I won't wear them - simple as that. Additionally, the belt loops are spaced properly so when you wear a gun on your belt, the gun is just in the right position.

I've purchased similar tactical cargo pants for a lot more money, than these Propper pants retail for $39.99. I'm sure you'll find a good color selection, as well as size selection. For me, these are the only tactical/cargo style pants that I'll be purchasing in the future. Yeah, I really liked 'em that much.

If you're looking for some other type of tactical/survival/military clothing, be sure and visit and check out some of the other excellent clothing products they have. Every time I visit the walk-in store at US Tactical Supply, they always have something new and exciting there, that I find I must have.

Now, I know this article won't end the debate over which camo pattern is "best" for concealment. However, if you find yourself operating in a wooded area, or the mountains, with lots of trees and shrubs, I think this A-TACS foliage Green camo clothing will be hard to beat - it really is amazing how well you blend into the woods when wearing this clothing. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hello Mr. Rawles,
After perusing the contents listed in survival kits, Bug Out Bags (BOB), and Get Out Of Dodge bags (GOOD), it seems to me that they all have one common glaring omission. That omission is knee pads. It occurred to me recently while fixing a roadside flat that so many survival/TEOTWAWKI tasks require one to get "down and dirty", i. e., working on one's knees. Knee pads can remove a lot of the "pain and suffering" from tasks such as firestarting, fence building/mending, emergency roadside vehicle repair, chainsaw sharpening, and a whole host of other tasks. Not to mention saving wear and tear on those high-dollar Multicam britches.

There are many different brands and types of knee pads, and the range of choices is truly vast. However, for my BOB and vehicles, I went with simple foam pads from Home Depot that are about 1/2 inch thick, cheap, weigh almost nothing, and are far better than nothing at all. - Larrynaz

Monday, August 6, 2012

Several months back, I did an article on the Deep Conceal Shoulder Holster. It's a design meant for "deep" concealment - worn under a shirt, instead of over it, like a regular shoulder holster is worn. The Deep Conceal shoulder holster was (and is) a good idea. My concern at the time was, that it would be a little difficult to get to your handgun, buried under your everyday shirt.
Deep Conceal has solved that problem, with the Concealed Carry Clothing shirt. Right off the bat, I'll tell you that, this is a high-quality dress shirt, not some cheap piece of clothing, that you purchase at the big box stores. I usually wear either a safari shirt from Cabela's, or something from Blackhawk, over my T-shirt, to cover my handgun, during the summer months. I don't button these shirts, because it would be too difficult, and too time consuming to rip the shirt open, to gain access to my handgun. Besides, I usually carry on-the-belt, and it's impossible to have the shirt tucked-in, and still cover my handgun.
If you are wearing the Deep Conceal shoulder holster, then the Deep Conceal Carry Clothing shirt is what you need. Even if you are wearing a regular shoulder holster, with a medium-size handgun, you can still conceal it under this shirt. The web site states that you should order your regular shirt size - however, I suggest that, if you are wearing a regular horizontal carry shoulder holster, that you go up one size - it'll help conceal that shoulder holster.
What we have in the Deep Conceal Carry Clothing shirt, is a great-fitting, very well made dress shirt. This unique shirt has Velcro attachments that are sewn in a patent pending manner, that allows for comfortable, all-day wear and repeated use. Additionally, this shirt is a great product for those who have difficulty with shirt buttons - as in arthritis in the fingers or hands. If you are right-handed, you should order the right-hand shirt, that allows the firearm under the left arm and the fake buttons on the right hand side of the shirt to "rip" open, gaining you access to your handgun under your left arm. And, if you are left-handed, order a left-handed shirt.
I tried my sample shirt, with the Deep Conceal Shoulder Holster, as well as with a horizontal shoulder holster, with a Glock 27, and everything worked as it should. I suggest you practice your draw, though - it's not natural to "rip" your shirt open - even though it's fairly easy to do. What I liked about this shirt is that, it looks, for all the world, just like a high-priced dress shirt, and no one knows you are carrying your handgun concealed under it - kool!
I know a lot of folks who carry a handgun, in a shoulder holster, and they never bother to practice drawing their handgun - this is a big mistake in my book. Then again, a lot of folks don't bother practicing drawing from a belt holster, inside-the-waist holster, or an ankle holster. Whatever you mode of carry, you need to practice drawing from it. A lot of folks don't like shoulder holsters, especially horizontal carry shoulder holsters. To each his own! I know that, I don't allow a horizontal carry shoulder holster in my firearm classes because when you draw your handgun, if someone is next to you, on your gun side, the gun will point in their direction when you draw it. However, for street use, I recommend a horizontal carry shoulder holster over a vertical carry one - I think the horizontal shoulder holster gives you better concealment. Please don't e-mail me, telling me I'm wrong - we are all entitled to our opinions, and this is my opinion. If you don't like shoulder holsters at all - then don't wear one! Simple!
The Deep Conceal Clothing shirt comes in blue, red and tan - and can only be had in long-sleeve, and I don't normally wear long-sleeve dress shirts I prefer short-sleeve, and hopefully, Deep Conceal will come out with a short-sleeved version - I know a lot of folks don't like long-sleeved shirts. As I stated at the onset, this is a high-quality dress shirt, and it retails for $44.95 - however, that includes free-shipping, too. I don't think the price point is out-of-line, for the quality of this shirt, and the hidden surprise that you will be carrying under it. Sure, you can buy a regular dress shirt, and pay someone to add Velcro to it, and make it similar to this Deep Conceal shirt, but I promise you, it won't look at good, or work as well.
So, if you carry a handgun in a shoulder holster, check out this shirt, it'll really help you "deeply" conceal your handgun in a shoulder holster, and still allow a pretty fast draw, too. You now have another option for (deep) concealed carry!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I thought this might appeal to the  "low-tech" electricity free oriented people.  Two designers got a $19,500 grant to bring the "GiraDora" into the real world. Designed from seeing the plight of those living in slums in Lima, they wanted to reduce the work load of poverty stricken people earning $4 to $10 a day.

They created this. It uses less water than washing by hand!

There is some more info here.

Respectfully, - Erik K.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hello James,

We had a hurricane watch here in Long Island, New York today, and I raced home with my kids relaxed, knowing we had food and water for a month minimum. That is because of your blog. 

I was thrilled to read Jean's article on how to make a quilt. My mother is a master quilter. I am writing to let people know that dryer lint is an excellent quilt filler. If you hang you out your clothes, terrific! But if you use a dryer, do what I do, and put your dryer lint aside in a bag. You can use your long strips of dryer ling as quilt filling. But you can also use it as a last ditch cotton swab (dryer lint is mostly cotton, with some polyester and hair. It is made of whatever fibers your clothing are), and as a fire starter. Just shove some dryer lint into a toilet paper tube, and melt the drip from old birthday candles on each end, and you have a terrific fire starter. iI store mine in freezer bags. One thing I would add about the quilting is that is is best to use a combo cotton/poly thread. Pure cotton thread will shrink with each washing, and create a clumped quilt after time. Also, discarded tube socks are a great filler layer. Just cut off the tops, baste them together, and you have filler! - K.O.L.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quilters tend to be perfectionists.  However, quilts have been used to keep our poorly-furred bodies warm for centuries.  When you just need warmth, and not a perfectly crafted heirloom, a quilt is just the ticket.  Utility quilts can be made from discarded items around the home, as long as you have a needle and some thread.  A quilt is merely 3 layers, fabric/insulation/fabric, stitched together to keep you warmer.  In a perfect world we all have our Wiggy's, but in a real-life situation, especially with the economy these days, that perfect scenario may just not be possible.  Also, remember that we will always be surrounded by folks who have not prepared as well as we have.  My grandmother told me that during the depression, she and her friends would frequently get together and make a quilt for a neighbor who was sick.  Knowing how to make a utility quilt is a good way to help out with a low budget. 

In the "old days," quilts were highly valued, often being listed in the inventory of homes in early America and Europe.  In the days before abundant fossil fuels, people knew that the warmer they could stay at night, the less fuel they would require to heat their homes.  A few quilts on top of you, and a feather bed underneath, and you had luxury.  Also, the elder women, who could no longer work in the fields, could make simple quilts and contribute to the family welfare, especially if there were children around with good eyesight to thread the needles for them.

"Quilting" is actually the process of stitching the various layers together to make one thing.  Quilting is not creating the top of scraps, it is the part where you put the layers together and stitch them to hold them into a useable object.  For instance, the knights of old wore quilted doublets, garments fashioned together in layers to protect the upper body.  The "quilting" was the process of putting the layers together and stitching so that they stayed together, and the insulation stayed put.  People today tend to think of quilts being complicated affairs of designed colors blended into a beautiful top, but actually there are many beautiful quilts made from a solid piece of cloth, called whole-cloth quilts.

First thing you need is some kind of fabric for the top layer, or "top."  When the word "quilt" is mentioned in conversation, someone invariably mentions denim, like the stuff jeans are made from.  Now, don't get me wrong, denim quilts have been made, and they are rugged.  They are also heavy.  And when you want to stay warm, heavy is not what you want.  To properly insulate yourself from the cold, you need trapped air, and if the top layer of the quilt is of a heavy fabric, it squishes down the insulation and just doesn't keep you as warm.  Lightweight is the key here.  Old t-shirts work fine, but the best choice would be a lightweight woven, similar to a man's dress shirt fabric.  Old sheets work well.  Quilting perfectionists insist on cotton, but in a TEOTWAWKI situation, we would not be able to be that picky.  Fabric made from a partial percentage of polyester has the advantage of being extremely durable, but remember please that it melts in a fire.  If you do have cotton, try to rip a section of it to make sure it is not rotten.  Rotten cotton rips very easily.  Save that stuff for the insulation layer.

I tend to think of making a utility quilt top similar to construction of a butcher block.  First you need blocks of fabric to make strips, then you sew the strips together.  It is easy to see that the bigger the pieces of fabric you have, the less sewing you are going to have to do.  However, if we are reduced to making the best of what we have, there is no better way to use small pieces of fabric than to make a quilt top.  Take a shirt, for example.  "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was my grandmother's mantra.  When the elbows wore out of a shirt, or the cuffs, she made it into a short-sleeved shirt.  When the neck wore out, she would make it into a dish-drying towel by cutting and hemming a large piece of the back.  That left the buttons, and some smaller sections of the front.  These smaller pieces, she made into quilts.  Every scrap was used somewhere.  Smaller long strips she saved to tie up her tomato plants.  After she passed away, we found a box of fabric strips for this purpose up in the top of her closet.

So, say you have some pieces of fabric at least 8 inches tall, but of various widths.  Cut them into tall rectangles, each one 8 inches tall, and as wide as you have enough fabric to make them.  Sew these blocks together, right sides of the fabric together, keeping at least a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  If your seam allowance is bigger, you can trim it to 1/4 inch, to allow for easier quilting.  If you have access to an iron, you can press the seam allowance to one side.  For those of you who are sewing-challenged, here is a picture.

If you have access to a sewing machine, you can do the piecing on it.  However, many beautiful quilts were made using just a needle and thread, and I find that sewing by hand calms my spirit and relaxes my soul, as well as helps me pass long winter hours when I cannot garden.  One of the most complicated quilts I have ever seen is the one made by Jane Stickley of Vermont, in 1863, during the civil war.  I think that perhaps Jane wanted to make the quilt as complicated as possible to help her pass the maximum amount of time making it.  The entire thing is hand pieced.  You can see a picture and read about it here.

For your simple utility quilt, it is okay if one strip is, say 10 inches tall, and the next strip is only 4 inches tall.  As long as each strip is consistent all along the length, that is all that matters.  Your quilt top will not lay flat, however, if you do not keep the edges fairly square and straight.  On the quilting forum, linked below, there are quilters who are extremely careful about seams and flatness and cutting, and you can find help there if you are so inclined.  For our purposes here, finished is better than perfect.  I made my first quilt with a pair of scissors and a piece of cardboard for a straight edge, and it is still one of my daughter's prized possessions.  Now, I use a rotary cutter, special clear plastic rulers, and a measured cutting surface, but fancy is not what we are aiming for here.

After you have your strips pieced together as wide as you want your finished quilt to be, you can sew the strips together, right sides together, along the long sides.  Keep up this process until your quilt is as long as you need for it to be.  Ironing between each strip is helpful to maintain flatness, and will show you where the problems are.  Most seamstresses have to rip out a seam every now and then, it happens to the best of us, so don't get discouraged if it happens to you.  Do make sure all the seam allowances are on the underneath side of the fabric. Trim the whole thing straight.  I find that laying it out on the floor helps here, and I measure it and make sure it is square using the linoleum tile in my kitchen.

Second, you need some kind of insulation for the center layer.  Many things we have around our home will do, anything that traps air molecules.  I recently tore apart an old quilt from my grandmother's house because I was curious as to what she used for the center layer.  Much to my surprise, she used whatever she had around the house.  There was part of an old, but tattered quilt in there, as well as part of an old blanket, part of an old towel, and one patch where it looks like she took some stuffing out of an old pillow and spread it around.  She just spread the stuff around making a layer of insulation.  You will need to be able to stitch through it, and it needs to be washable and free of bugs.  Other than that, pretty much anything goes.  Keep in mind that if you use loose insulation, say, hair you have brushed from your dog, you need more quilting to hold it in place.  If you use something that is already in a layer, like an old blanket, not much quilting is needed to stabilize it.

Third, you need a bottom layer.  An old patched sheet works well here, and actually cheaper sheets are better than expensive ones with a high thread count.  The higher the thread count, the more tightly woven it is, and it is a little harder to quilt through.  If you just have smaller pieces for the back, you can sew them together to make a bottom as big as you need, but it is more difficult to quilt through seams, because of the extra layers of fabric.  If you plan on tying your quilt, as described below, it is not a problem.  The bottom layer needs to be at least an inch wider and longer than the top layer, all the way around, so you can turn it up and make the edge.  Two inches would be even better.

As an aside here, my grandmother once told me that during the depression, it was not shameful to patch a sheet, but if you got to where you had to put patches on the patches, it meant you were poor.

To layer your quilt together, clear a spot on a clean floor as big as your bottom layer.  I prefer a hard floor, and not carpet, as in the basting process it is easier if your needle hits something hard and you don't end up with a quilt sewn to a carpet in your living room.  Spread your bottom layer, or "backing," out smooth, no wrinkles, with the right side of the fabric facing the floor.  Now, in present times there is a temporary fabric adhesive that quilters use for this next step, normally referred to as "505."  They just spray a light coating onto the backing, lay down the insulation layer (batting), spray another light coating of adhesive, then lay down the top, and at that point they can quilt to their hearts content knowing that their layers are going to stay put until they get done.  However, in a TEOTWAWKI situation, I'm assuming that this product will not be available and we would have to revert to the "old way." 

So, after you lay down the backing, you lay down your insulation layer, making sure you don't have any empty spaces (they will be cold spots).  Then lay your top down, placing the side with the seam allowances facing the insulation.  Smooth out all the wrinkles.  You then take a needle and some long strands of thread, get on your hands and knees, and "baste" the layers together.  To baste, take one stitch through all 3 layers about every 3-4 inches in a running fashion down the quilt, and every row of this basting needs to be about 4 inches apart.  After the thing is actually quilted, these stitches will be taken out, so any kind of thread is fine here, even dental floss.  If the thread is too large, you will have trouble getting the threaded needle through the fabric.  So a finer thread will make your job easier.  It only needs to be strong enough to hold the layers together while you do the quilting.

The actual quilting of the layers is much easier if done in some sort of frame.  My aunt who taught me to quilt had a makeshift frame that worked quite well.  Her frame consisted of 2 1x2s that were covered in some old mattress fabric.  These have to be longer than the quilt is wide.  She pinned the end of the quilt to the fabric on the boards, but you could do just as well by stitching the quilt to the boards with some dental floss, or anything that would hold the quilt onto the boards.  Even staples would work in a pinch.  She rolled up each board from the end, rolling the board to the underside of the quilt, until she had about a 2 foot section of the center area of the quilt showing.  Then she used c-clamps to attach these boards to two more 1x2s that were only a couple of feet long, making a large rectangle.  At this point, the frame can be propped up on anything, sawhorses, backs of chairs, or hung from the ceiling.  I quilt alone, so I prefer to hang the frame from the ceiling at an angle so I don't have to bend over my work.  In my grandmother's house, she hung the frame from her living room ceiling, and it was on pulleys so that when not actually quilting, the room could be used normally.

If you can't make a frame, the quilting can also be done in a large hoop, or merely in your lap.  It might not end up being quite as tidy, but would certainly make a serviceable quilt.

Now the quilting can be done in one of two ways.  The first method, and also quickest and easiest, and warmest, is to merely "tie" the quilt.  My grandmother tied all her utility quilts.  Tying uses a heavier thread, traditionally 6-strand embroidery thread, but any heavy thread will do in a pinch.  Every 3-4 inches, take the threaded needle and go straight down through all layers of fabric, holding one hand above the quilt and one hand below.  With the hand below, take the needle and come back up through the layers about 1/8 to 1/4 inch away from the initial stab.  Pull the thread so that you have two threads sticking out, then tie them in a good knot.  My grandmother always used a square knot.  Make sure here that you do not pull the thread tight to bunch it up.  You will be warmer if you do not compress the insulation.  Cut the thread so that you have about 1/2 to 1 inch ends sticking out above the knot.  Continue over the whole quilt, rolling the quilt from one long arm of the frame to the other as you progress by loosening and removing the clamps holding the frame together, and replacing them when you have it where you want to work.  Typically this process is done from the center of the quilt to one end, then from the center to the other end.

The second method of quilting, normally used on fancier quilts, uses a running stitch through all layers of fabric, with the rows of stitching being very close together (no farther than 2 inches apart, and sometimes as close as 1/4 inch apart).  If my grandmother was using carded cotton as the insulation layer (cotton straight from the field and home-carded into "batts") she used this stitch on her quilts, because when the quilt was laundered the cotton would shift and create cold spots if not held into place.  Here is a link to a good explanation of a running stitch.

After the quilting part is finished, remove the quilt from the frame.  To finish off the edges, fold the bottom layer toward the top for 1/2 of the width, then fold the bottom layer again up and over the top, and stitch down using a slant hemming stitch, as shown on this page.  When you get to the corners of the quilt, you can fold the corners into miters if you want, but any corner will do for our purposes here.  The point is to cover all rough edges of fabric, to prevent excessive wear and raveling.

It is important to remember that I am not trying to teach you the quilting perfectionists' method of quilting.  These instructions will merely make a serviceable quilt, not a family heirloom that is going to be worth any money to your grandchildren.  My grandmother made hundreds of these utility quilts, and when she died we found them on every bed in her home, covered in each case by a fancy bedspread or a fancier quilt on the top.  We also found one in the dog's bed, one covering up an old car, and one insulating the storage shed window. 

If you want to create a thing of beauty and value, you can read more at The Quilting Board.   There are thousands of members who daily discuss the ins and outs of every aspect of quilting, from the perfect fabrics and color combinations to how many stitches per inch constitutes "good quilting."  There are also discussions of machine, or "long-arm" quilting as well as different styles of hand quilting.  Here I just wanted the average person who doesn't have any sewing experience to be able to stay warm if things deteriorate to the point where we no longer have access to factory-produced goods.

As a final word, please remember that anything that is produced for children's bedding or sleepwear nowadays is required to be non-flammable or treated chemically to be non-flammable.  If you intend to make a covering for a child to sleep under, all of the ingredients of the quilt would have to be such treated materials.  Given the choice of flammability or freezing to death, I guess I would opt for my children to be warm, but it would be up to you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I am at home sitting safely on my couch, however, between 2001 and 2009 I was a soldier serving in the GWOT campaign. I have served three tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan, and a year assisting the African theater (proxy war.) And I’m currently working for the Marine Corps as a civilian contractor. I figured I’d write down some thoughts because I have had the misfortune of twice being cut off from any re-supply or ‘rescue’. In addition the equipment issued to servicemen is not always ‘the best’ money can buy. So here are some thoughts on that to have and what to spend money on to get the very best.

People tend to forget that everything will wear out and start to break or tear. In my SERE kit I carried two sewing kits. One for medical and another for clothing, tent repair (cold nights will keep you awake), boots, etc. Knives will dull, weapons will foul and rust, cloth will tear, boots will lose their soles, facial hair will grow, your teeth will suffer, your skin will rash. The list of things that go wrong or bad without maintenance are endless. But at this time we wont be discussing combat conditions, we are discussing survival in the inevitable troubled times within the next couple years.

We’ve gotten very accustomed to the instant gratification life style of ‘just go get a new one’ when something wears out or breaks. Now think about this for one day. You cannot get a new one, you cannot replace it. When you go on your next camping trip, think to yourself that what you have is all that you have and all that you’ll get. Do you have what you need to keep your equipment in working order for years to come? Do you have the knowledge to take the best care of your things like wash your clothes only in low mineral content water. (Here in Arizona, high mineral content water in streams or springs will destroy your clothing.)

Not only do you have to take care of your equipment, but more importantly. What equipment will you bring? And how will you carry it? Wally World carries some nice looking back packs that appear to be well made. When choosing your back pack or bug out bag, stuff it full of something. Then look to see if there is even outward pressure on the stitching or if some stitching is ‘stretched’ more than others. If so, this is not the pack/bag you want to buy. Now, not all of us can afford to spend $1,000 on a back pack with Kevlar stitching and high tech spaceman materials. So if you do buy the Wal-Mart pack, buy also a tent repair kit (or two) as the thread in these kits are more durable than your run of the mill thread. Remember, two is one and one is none.

    I say all this because if you have to leave your prepared position, I.e. its no longer tenable or you must assist in your own rescue, then you have carry all this on your back. Depending on your situation and your environment, you will need to think about what is most important. A human can go thirty days without food, but in the desert one can go only hours without water. Do not drink the hard alkali water found in the desert. So assuming that we must leave our fortified position, our packs just got very heavy. Because staying in place is much easier than moving on foot. Its when you must go somewhere is when it gets complicated. With a vehicle  you can carry much more than walking. However, gas stations won't be open for business. That being said, “ground pounder gear” will be carried eventually. So, What will be in your rolling gear?

First and foremost - (in Arizona) WATER, as much as you can carry and a means to get water. When you think that you have what you need, triple it.

Food - Without the energy, your not carrying anything. You will lose the will to survive if you don’t eat.

Shelter - A little one-man tent is good but tends to be a little flimsy. A tent repair kit would be a plus.

Sleeping Bag - A 32 degree-rated sleeping bag is sufficient in most cases with the addition of a fleece liner.

Shoes - A new [but well broken-in] pair of 6” top quality boots, period. Four pair of new socks.

Fire starter - Water proof matches, lighter, trioxane, “wet start”, etc.

Cook set - for cooking food, boiling water. Aluminum is good enough, Titanium would be better. Plastic MRE spoon (2). A titanium spork would be good to have for eating and for cooking/stirring.

Knife - A good quality general purpose knife, multi-tool, a large fighting knife, and a machete. Don’t forget the sharpening stone or even better, a full honing set.
Weapons - Rifle with 100 rounds of ammo minimum, pistol with 5 loaded magazines.


So now that we have the crucial items that you will live with or die without. Now lets make a list of items of “ground pounder gear” in the pack. Each person should carry this in their pack regardless of what else they want. These are the basics, strictly surviving.
Remember: Ounces Lead to Ponds and Pounds Lead to Pain

Water - Two 2 liter bladder, one 1 gallon jug. 16.6 lbs. Water filter (1,500 gallon working life, minimum).

Food - At least three days worth at two meals a day = 6 MREs. This is assuming that you know how and where to forage for supplementary food in your environment.

Knife -  You either have crap or gold. With knives there is little middle ground for quality.

Multi-tool - No less than two should be carried. They are too useful and there for too important to lose.

Compass - Two should be carried in case of loss or “compass panic”. People do panic when lost or off course. They start to distrust their compass and quickly make their situation worse. Comparing the compass readings can help quell panic.

Map - Individual maps for each area you intend to enter.

Toilet paper - What goes in must come out. The human body is only 86% efficient, that creates 18% waste. Butt rash is as bad as a blister. Carry plenty.

First Aid kit - Band-aids, Neosporin, Splint, Mol-skin, Gauze (stick and non-stick)…

Tent - A Bivy Sack (one man tent) is ideal in most situations. Think about it, who will carry the fifty man tent?

Sleeping bag - Appropriate temp rating to your environment. In Arizona , 32F is sufficient in the low country.

Tarp - If the weight of the pack allows. You want it to allow.

Bed mat 1” - Because a rock in your hip makes a crappy night sleep.

Socks - Four pair at minimum. Pack new ones..

Hat - Boonie type is best

Sun glasses - A decent pair will be good. A $150 could be better spent else where.

Fire Starter - Matches (water proof), lighter, Trioxane, Magnesium, …

Binoculars - Quality. Quality is a must in this area. Imagine being able to see 1,000 yards ahead without danger or eye strain.

Lock pick set - For picking locks for shelter, abandoned supplies, refuge, etc.

Flash light - Don’t be cheap here either. Seeing in the dark could mean the difference between life or death. Don’t forget batteries! Don’t want you walking off a cliff in the middle of the night going to restroom.

Warm clothing - Thermal under wear and light weight jacket or poncho or both depending on weight. Layers are best as to avoid big bulky coats and light layers insulate better than single heavy layers anyhow.

T-shirt - If you’ve ever spent an extended period of time without modern luxuries, you know what a moral boost a clean shirt can be.

Bar Soap - For washing your body and your clothes

Tooth paste - Because a painful cavity will incapacitate you.

Wash cloth - Some areas must be scrubbed; arm pits, crotch, feet, feet, feet….feet.

Bandana - Appropriate camo colors for your environment. Carry multiple if necessary.

Duct tape - You just never know. I’ve seen men use duct tape as a splint on broken feet. Yet another use.

Leather gloves - Because thorns, blisters, and cuts hurt and lessen your effectiveness.

Writing pad with pencil - For making notes or marking ‘way points’ on your map. We cannot remember everything. So write it down. Pencils don’t dry out!

Instant coffee - As much as you can carry. Because a simple cup of coffee is a huge moral boost. Also the caffeine can give an energy boost when food is low or scarce.

Mechanical Watch - When boiling water, you have to know when 30 minutes is reached. Its useful for planning your movements at sunrise and sunset.

Para-cord - As much as you can carry. 20 feet minimum. This is light and strong. Its uses are virtually endless.

Mule tape - Or flat rope. At least 20 feet. This is used by utility companies for pulling large wire. It is rated for 2,500 pounds and is very light. It can be tied in very small and tight knots if needed. Beware though that it does deteriorate over time (several years), so buy it new.

Rifle - Carry at least 100 rounds and spare parts; firing pin, recoil spring, sear, sear spring, extractor, extractor spring, hammer, and anything else that tends to break or wear out. KNOW HOW TO CHANGE THESE PARTS!

Pistol - Carry at least five loaded magazines.

Weapon cleaning supplies - Cleanliness is next to godliness. My personal choice for cleaner, lubricant, protectant (CLP) is Frog Lube. It is FDA approved so it is edible which only means that its nontoxic to you and any children around you. I’ve also cleaned my weapons with CLP and little more than my thumb and a paper towel through the bore. It will not allow carbon to stick to the metal of your weapon and does not dry out or ‘gum up‘. What ever you choose, (Hoppe’s, Remington, CLP, etc.) just make sure to buy plenty!

Emergency blanket - Use as heat reflector NOT as a blanket.

Aluminum foil - Cooking.

Knife Sharpening kit - Your knife will become dull. A dull knife will make you work harder and greatly increases the chances of a severe cut or wound. Don’t make yourself a burden or casualty.

Chap stick - As much as can be carried. Chapped lips are very inconvenient. It can also be used on the dry cracked skin of your hands or fingers.

Q-tips - Use your imagination. Clean your ears, apply Iodine (don’t waste it), start a fire….

Iodine - Water, stings, etc.

Small (short) wood handle shovel -  For digging ‘restroom holes,' Dysentery is a monster that has incapacitated armies. This can be picked up at virtually any home improvement store for $20 bucks or less. The wood handle is lighter than the all steel construction of surplus shovels and will probably last longer too!

It doesn’t matter what your situation is: If you neglect your feet then you are in for a real treat of pain and discomfort.   

The ground pounder gear is already listed. Now what? For the vehicle you simply magnify the amounts, i.e., 1,000 rounds of ammo, 50 gallons of water, a couple hundred sand bags, 100 pounds of food, etc, etc. But if you or I had to sum up a survival scenario in simple terms it would be this. There are many things we can go without, there are few things we cant go without, food, water, shelter. So it is safe to assume that we can never have enough food and water, but lets add a premium quality knife, a rifle, and ammo to that list. There is nothing worse than running out of ammo or breaking a firing pin at the worst possible time. Most of the items discussed here are cheap, some are not. Think intelligently about what you buy and where you put your money. Just because it has ‘tactical’ in the name doesn’t mean its worth the money.

Before I finish, I’d like to add some thoughts on weapons. I carried the M4, M249 SAW, and the M240B and found all of them good weapons. The M4/AR-15 platform after some fifty years of fine tuning has become a decent rifle. Now lets go against traditional thinking a moment. The M4 should only have the bore, chamber, gas tube, and bolt ‘cleaned’. As for the bolt carrier and the upper receiver, just wipe it off. It will work better. Whenever possible though, I would often pick up enemy weapons. Why? Because they work. If you want to choose a weapon system that will just work. Try observing the countries or regions that don’t have multi-billion dollar budgets or a gun store on every corner. The nomads carry AK variations as well as 70 percent of the rest of the Arab world. This is simply because it works. The other 30 percent are wielding older (legacy) HK variants. They use these platforms because yes, they are widely available. But more than that, they work. Big parts power through the fowling that builds up. Loose parts glide over the fowling. Big, loose parts just function better than the tight, light weight M4/AR15 system. My personal choice for primary weapon system is the HK G3 because its simplicity and reliability. The extra weight of weapon and ammo are a trade off. The light weight M4 and it’s 5.56mm ammunition means that yes can carry more ammo. But in my experience, using the 5.56 means that you need more ammo to get the job done. The 7.62x51mm is a versatile cartridge being suitable for deer, elk, or self defense. Still, the 5.56 has its place and will perform.

In closing, take the time to think wisely about what you buy. Know how to use and take care of your kit. Because once your equipment fails, it might just kill you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mr. Rawles;
When my first child was born, the wife of my husband's boss gave me 7 bags of clothes her then 5 year old had out grown.  She said, "I know you don't need these right now, but you will be amazed how quickly he will grow."  Two years later, when my daughter was born, she gave me 3 bags of girls clothes.  Those clothes were a Godsend.  Every time I found they had outgrown what was in their drawers, I remembered that I had more stored in the garage.  10 years later, I have 2 more kids, and no extra bags of clothes hiding away, and life is much more expensive.  I have made a practice of gifting a large box of second hand clothes up to size 2T and 3T to new moms who I know will not be offended by used clothes.  I always include something handmade, especially for that baby also.  But, I know from experience how helpful it is to have the future stored and waiting.

I live in Michigan.  I have no cherries, pears or peaches on my trees.  I may have 5 to 10 apples on each tree where the blossoms were hidden under the leaves, if I'm lucky. I am adding blueberries, blackberries, hazelnuts and walnut trees to the mix.  Anything to provide a variety of food and increase my chances for a crop of some kind. 

Thank you for your articles, I have enjoyed your blog site for several years. - Kimberly in Michigan

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
While searching around the Internet for camouflage, I came across this web site for Milsim (Airsoft) gamers that has a lot of fairly inexpensive new clothing and tactical items and is searchable by camo pattern.  They have an inexpensive version of Multicam I'm looking at, as well as a number of items in your oft-mentioned British DPM pattern.  I haven't ordered from them yet, so can't speak to their service or quality.
Thanks, - Brian  in Colorado

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hi Jim, 
I agree 100% with your addenda to Gunfighter's article, Small Unit Tactics in a Post Collapse Environment. As a consultant myself, I have had to stress (particularly to the younger crowd of OIF and OEF veterans) that Survivalists have to operate differently than Soldiers, due to the military's reliance on body armor, advanced medical resources, et cetera.

If anything, I seek out Vietnam Vets as consulting associates, for their experience in individual techniques (usually all from the prone position), from the pre-Kevlar, pre-IBA, pre-MOLLE days. I met many of them when I attended Jungle Warfare school back in 1983.
Also, I've discovered that in the Pacific Northwest, the older USGI woodland pattern poncho makes a great second to a ghillie suit, particularly in a populated suburban area, where it may not draw as much attention, when emerging from the woods. Cheers, - SGT Snuffy

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My father, a World War II veteran, suffered from trench foot, still suffers from its after effects. He contracted the condition in Europe by having cold, wet feet for days on end. A similar condition called immersion foot may be familiar to veterans who served in Vietnam where the water was warmer, but still caused loss of circulation. Dry socks are not a luxury. Warm, dry clothing is not only a joy and a comfort, it can save your body parts and your life. Protection from sun and wind, thorns and brush, cold and damp can be essential to your survival. But no matter how well prepared you are, sooner or later everything you own will wear out. When there is no thrift store, mall or internet with overnight delivery, you’ll still need to protect yourself. In this article I will lay out some strategies for keeping you covered and comfortable. I will not address specialized clothing such as rain gear, armor and personal protective equipment. I will discuss what you wear every day: how to choose clothing and preserve. In future articles I hope to describe how to reuse and recycle clothing and, if necessary, create it from scratch.

The first question is what do you need to wear? What clothing is essential to your everyday tasks? I sit in an office most of the day. What I wear in that setting is not appropriate for mucking out stalls, tramping through heavy brush or digging in the garden, so I have two kinds of “working” wardrobes. The first step is deciding what activities you’ll be performing in what kind of weather and determine if the clothing you have is going to keep you comfortable during those tasks.  Will you be hunting, hunkering down, chopping wood, following a plow? Have you tried out your clothing in these situations and how is it working for you? Will you be outside in heat and cold, wet and dry? What do you currently own and what do you need to buy? What can be repurposed for the coming tasks? How much clothing do you need for how long? Can you make what you have last until it can be replaced? What if it can’t be replaced except by your own efforts? Inventory what you have and see where you are falling short. Decide if you need more of anything and make a plan to add, repair, replace or pare down if your closets are full of things that will do you no good.

What should your clothes be made of? There are basically three types of fabric: plant derived, animal derived and synthetic. Each has different characteristics. Natural fibers like cotton, hemp, bamboo, and linen, and some cellulose-based synthetics like rayon and its kin (modal and viscose) absorb moisture, breathe and allow you to stay cool. Wicking away moisture is important both in summer, when it helps keep your skin cool by allowing evaporation, and in the winter, when sweating under clothes can leave you clammy and chilled. Silk has properties similar to plant-derived materials with the added advantage that it can keep you cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather with very little added weight. My silk long underwear is dear to me. Historically silk has been used under armor to prevent chafing, aid in cooling and, so the story goes, to add an extra layer of protection, as well as making arrows easier to remove should they penetrate your armor.

Animal fibers like wool and hair can keep you warm even when they are wet. But a wool shirt, once soaked with your sweat, can also serve as a good evaporative cooling system. A closely woven or felted wool coat will keep you warmer than anything but heavy fur, with the added benefit that it can turn water for a considerable time. Fur, leather and hide, if treated correctly, can repel water and can be made soft enough to go next to the skin, although wet leather on skin, in my experience, is not a joy.

While synthetics, especially polyester, nylon and acrylic, have their place and are available in an amazing array of textures and weights, they may be less desirable than more natural fabrics. They often do not breathe and can leave you feeling clammy and damp, especially if worn close to the skin. Synthetics are often blended with natural fabrics to improve their handling, wrinkle resistance and cost. The more of the natural fiber blended into the fabric, the better it will likely feel next to your skin.  If you ignite a tiny bit of fabric you can estimate the content of natural fibers: if it melts it is mostly petrochemical-derived synthetics, if it burns it has mostly natural fibers. You can imagine that fabric that melts into your skin during a fire is less than ideal. On the other hand, cotton gauze can burn furiously and be equally dangerous.

My vote is always for as much natural fiber as I can manage. Sometimes it’s hard to find clothing made of natural fibers because synthetics have become ubiquitous and tend to be inexpensive. Cheap clothing cheaply constructed is not a bargain. Buy the best clothing you can afford, made of good fabrics and well constructed. It will last longer. Consignment shops often have excellent quality designer clothing made of high quality natural fabrics. Don’t let the fashion fool you. These clothes are made of the best materials and built to last though they are usually worn for one season and tossed aside. That just means more for you and me at prices we can afford.

Accessorizing is not just for fashion mavens. You’ll need gloves, hats, scarves and shoes or boots appropriate to whatever tasks you’re performing. In the summer my husband and I use what we fondly call Amish sunscreen: long-sleeved shirts and hats with brims. Sunburn is painful; skin cancer is lethal.  Grown-ups put on gloves before their hands start to blister, not after. Shoes that fit and are appropriate to the task should not need to be explained. And don’t forget the dry socks.

A Side Note:
In some unusual circumstances, the best clothes are no clothes at all. Two cases in point: 1) the five women who rowed across the Atlantic recently found that their seawater damp clothing caused sores where it rubbed. By rowing without clothes, they literally saved their skin; 2) while serving on a Pacific island, my father found that by placing his clothing under palm fronds during the brief daily monsoon, he had dry clothes for the rest of the day. 

You’ve selected your clothing and tried it out in the sorts of situations where it will be expected to serve. Now how do you make it last? First, your clothes may need clothes. An apron, whether you’re a cook or a blacksmith, will preserve your clothing. Protective sleeves, butchers’ coats, and smocks can be washed repeatedly sparing your everyday clothing and making it last longer.
Clean clothes survive longer than dirty ones, but clothing doesn’t need to be washed every time you wear it. Washing clothing too often wears it out. Clothing that is to be stored for any period of time must be clean because insects and mildew are attracted to body oil, deodorant, food stains, and other soil. Clothing should be completely dry before storing. To wash, sort fabrics by weight (towels should not be washed with sheets, for example) and by color, light colors separate from dark colors. Keep the red socks out of the whites to avoid having pink undies.

Soap or detergent? Detergent, made from petrochemicals, does a fairly good job of cleaning clothes, but you will find some types of grease stains will not be removed. Soap, made from natural fats or oils, will remove stains better, but soap forms a precipitate with hard water that can cause fabrics to become gray and dull. Vinegar or citrus juice added to the wash water will prevent this, as will washing in soft water (such as rain water). Baking soda also changes the pH of the water in the other direction (making it alkaline rather than acidic) and will make the detergent foam better in hard water making it clean more effectively. Dulling of dark colors is not caused by washing in hot water but by lint and residue clinging to the fabric. Vinegar in the final rinse will reduce this. Salt added to wash water can prevent yellowing of whites and combined with vinegar will remove mildew from fabric. If you are washing in a tub rather than in a machine, my friend tells me you are better off using a bathroom plunger than the metal one she bought for the job. It rusted and left stains on her clothes.

Never wash clothing in cold water. Cold water does not destroy bacteria or prevent mildew. Use the warmest water safe for the clothing, but not so hot it will degrade the fabric. However, you should use water hot enough to purify fabric that needs it, for example, clothing that has been in flood water or has been exposed to disease or infection.

I have often heard it said that line drying is better for clothing than using a drier. However, a woman of my acquaintance found the opposite to be true. This will depend somewhat on how you are drying your clothes and whether or not they are subject to wind and sun. Sunlight can degrade fabrics (especially silk) and cause colors to fade, but it can also destroy mildew. How you dry your clothes will depend on what is available to you. Clothing can be line dried in the winter as well as in the summer, but it may take longer. If drying takes so long the fabric mildews as during prolonged damp weather, find an alternative, such as drying indoors on lines or even furniture. A drying rack in or a retractable line over the bathtub works well.

Before washing clothes make any repairs that are required. Tears become worse while laundering. Also, close zippers, turn sweaters and trousers inside out, and empty pockets – pens and chap sticks in a washer or drier will do your clothing no good. Tie drawstrings loosely to prevent them from pulling out, hook bras or other items with hooks to keep them from snagging other garments (or wash them in a net bag or a pillow case).

Storing wool, other animal fibers and fur present a special problem because of clothing moths. The tiny larvae eat the protein in the hair or fiber and leave holes. Wool blended with synthetics is less attractive to them. They can be thwarted by several means. Freezing infested clothing for about two weeks or heating fabric to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty minutes will kill the larvae. They do not like sun and movement so hanging clothes on a sunny, breezy clothes line will cause them to drop off. Also, soaking in soapy water for twelve hours will drown the little nibblers. Once you’re sure the larvae are dead, store animal fiber clothing to prevent it from becoming reinfested. First, the clothing should be absolutely clean and dry. Avoid moth balls – they are toxic to more than moths, and the really awful smell is very difficult to banish. Old houses often have closets with windows in them specifically for storing woolens, but to be safe, add other precautions. Moths are deterred by the smell of cedar (the classic cedar trunk was designed to store woolens), eucalyptus, pennyroyal, lavender, rosemary, mint, cloves or lemon. Any non-edible barrier will stop the moths from getting to your clothes. This can be a paper bag tightly sealed or a well sealed cotton pillow case. Both of these allow air to circulate. I do not recommend plastic for storage as any trapped moisture can cause problems like mildew. 

To repair and maintain your clothing you will need certain tools. Not enough can be said about the value of good needles. You should have them in several sizes, appropriate to whatever you’re repairing, whether stockings or leather. 
Here is my basic tool kit. You’ll obviously change it to suit your needs.

  • Needles in various weights and sizes: sharps sizes 3 through 9; yarn needles; others as needed such as darning, embroidery, sail maker's (also used for heavy leather), and upholstery
  • Thread in regular sewing weight and coat weight in an assortment of colors but at least white, black, and whatever most of your clothes are
  • A needle threader if you have poor eyesight
  • Safety pins in assorted sizes.  Large ones can be used to thread elastic or draw strings through waistbands
  • Buttons of various sizes; snaps; hooks and eyes; grommets and a grommet setter. I have zippers, but I don’t recommend them. More on this later.
  • Scissors, large for cutting fabric and small for snipping threads; scissors sharpener
  • Loop and hook tape; elastic in assorted widths; cording for draw strings and macramé buttons and frogs
  • Tape measure
  • Seam ripper – not essential but handy
  • Pins and pin cushion with an emery bag (the little metal-filing filled bag for sharpening pins)
  • Thimble – I rarely use mine, but they’re nice to have
  • Patching material
  • Also handy but not essential are seam tape, fusible bonding web (Stitch Witchery), liquid seam sealant (Fray Check), tailor’s chalk

A really good book on basic clothing repair and construction is worth the investment. Always make repairs as soon as possible. When adding a patch, make sure the edges are finished to prevent raveling and the patch is sufficiently large to be stitched to areas of strong fabric. A patch that is stronger than the material it is stitched to can tear out leaving a bigger hole. Creative patching can improve the appearance of worn garments, clever patching can be nearly invisible. Preemptive patches placed in areas of hard wear (leather patches on knees or elbows) can add years of life to garments.

Learn how to darn, practice doing it and wear the repaired clothing to see if the repair causes rubbing, blistering or discomfort. If so, toss or recycle the repaired item and try it again. Practice makes perfect and if you wait until you have nothing but holey socks to learn to repair them, you’ve waited too long. In most garments zippers are much harder to replace than you might think. Often to remove the old zipper and put in a new one requires nearly complete deconstruction of the item. Replacing the broken zipper with loop and hook (like Velcro) or with buttons is easier. For a coat, toggles with looped fasteners work well.  

Choose your clothing wisely and take good care of it. Still, however careful you are, sooner or later everything you own will wear out. Reusing, repurposing, salvage and creation from scratch are the next steps. These require much more time and effort, so saving your clothes saves you both.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In 2000 my wife and I decided we would do a through hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  The distance traveled would be 2,168.5 miles of foot trails through the wildernesses of the eastern United States.   We climbed more than 250 mountains.  Our elevation change was equal to climbing Mount Everest from sea level to the summit and back nineteen (19) times. The trail is very challenging and can be dangerous (two people died on the trail the year we hiked).  The trail follows the crest of the Appalachian Mountain through fourteen states.  Although this was a long “backpacking trip” it required us to have everything we needed to survive the outdoors for an extended time while living and walking through all weather conditions.  Rain, sleet, snow, hail storms, 100 degree weather, in it all we walked an average of 14.7 miles a day, seven days a week for months.  The lessons learned are very valuable when it comes to surviving extended periods of having to “make it” on your own.  I’ve read many books, articles and heard many conversations about what is needed to survive natural disasters, terrorist attacks or bad economic times, but until you’ve spent weeks and weeks in the wilderness with just what you can carry, that information at times is valuable but very often overstated and dangerous.

Our adventure began on the 3rd day of March 2002 and ended September 26th 2002.  The first night out it was 0 degrees with a 15 below zero wind chill.  The first two weeks on the trail were not much better with most days not getting above freezing.  We had to hike with our water bottles next to our bodies to keep them from freezing.   When it became uncomfortable during the day we could put them in our packs in an outside pocket but turned them upside down so the freezing would occur in the bottom (now the top) and we could remove the bottle and turn it upright and remove the lid and drink.  At night we would put our water bottles and water filter inside our sleeping bags at the foot of the bag to keep them from freezing.  In the mornings we would turn our tent wrong side out and shake the frozen moisture out of the tent.  The amount of water given off by the body’s respiration and perspiration during sleep is amazing and a problem when it is 20 degrees in your tent.  During the summer months there was a record drought for most of the eastern U.S.  We had days in access of 100 degrees and very little water.  At times we collected water from ditches, cattle ponds and once from a deep tire track in the forest service road we crossed. In the White Mountains it took 2 hours to collect just 2 liters of water.   We found a rock crevice that had a small trickle of water.  We would collect it in our spoon and put it in our bottles.  By the end of the trail we had walked from winter in the Georgia mountains to summer in Pennsylvania to winter on Mount Katahdin in Maine.

What allowed two people over the age of 50 to complete this hike was preparation and knowledge of personnel abilities and skills and equipment. By the time we started our hike we had our pack base weight down to 12 lbs plus food and water.  We could hike for 10 days and not have our packs weigh over 45 lbs. and have over 4,000 calories per day in our meals.  We only carried what we used and every item had multiple uses.  If we didn’t use it at least once a week we didn’t take it.  We saw early on that carrying things for “just-in-case” created more problems than the advantage of having it “just-in-case.”   We realized that carrying too much, too fast and too many miles, people got hurt too soon and went home too soon.

Planning is one of the most important factors in accomplishing such a daunting task of surviving in the outdoors for an extended time. It appears to be difficult for a lot of people to understand the importance of preparation when it comes to difficult task.  We like most people read as much material as possible on long distance hiking and specifically the Appalachian Trail.   We read every journal we could find on the Internet and garnered as much information as possible.   We took notes, studied maps, made list of materials, explored where we could get food supplies and the more we knew the more confidence we had in completing the task.  The benefit of all our planning became evident very quickly on our trip.  As we made our approach to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia we met several other hikers starting their “through hike.”   The first thing we noticed were the large packs.  One young man was carrying a 108lb pack and when I asked him what he had in it he said, “only the necessities.”   Another hiker had a pack that he had weighted at the ranger station that was 78lbs.  Of the eight people we met that first day on the trail only one finished the hike and actually climbed Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus) the same day we did.  Then there were the Boy Scout troops with their 50 lb packs and the scout leaders with their 75lb packs full of “necessities.”.  They would look at our packs and ask the question, “how long are you out for?”  When we said "six months" they had a very puzzled look on their face and would ask the next question, “why are your packs so small?”  When we answered we just carry what is “necessary” they would give us a curious look and walk on by.

Some of the things we did to check out our equipment was just common sense.  Every time it would rain or snow we would put on our gear and head out on an all day hike through our neighborhood.  I expected the white van from Bellview Sanitarium to show up any minute with the jackets to carry us away. We live in the historical district of our hometown and the area is very hilly, so, it was a good starting point to practice. We got some strange looks from our neighbors. A lady one morning asked if we were going mountain climbing?! We said "Yes, 250 of them". She smiled and went back into her house and probably dialed the phone.  

At other times we would pitch our tent in a downpour in our backyard and spent the night cooking and eating our meals in the rain (you cannot eat in your tent because of animals, from bears to mice will invade your sleeping quarters) and it paid off, we never slept in wet bags or tent in six months.  When it was below freezing we hiked and learned how to layer our clothes.  We learned what to take off and when to take it off.  We knew we would be alone, sometime days from the nearest town or road and we had to get it right the first time.  In the first month alone on our hike over 25% of the hikers we knew quit because of poor preparedness for the drastic changes in weather.   The struggles became very depressing and they stated, “this is no fun.”  Preparation made it fun and rewarding.  I’ll never forget the beauty of the ice storm we had in the Great Smoky Mountains and we were 35 miles from the nearest road.  I’m glad we took it seriously, during our hike a fellow hiker we knew died of hypothermia in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Not only were we prepared with the right clothes and equipment we were prepared physically.   By the time we were at the half way mark in Pennsylvania, over 75% of the hikers had left the trail.  A considerable number had left because of physical problems the majority of which were either feet or knee issues.  Walking in pain is part of the hike. We lost all of our toenails and had some sore knees and foot problems but “no blisters.”   Two thousand feet downhill walks with a heavy pack are a killer on knees and feet.  “Toe bang” is what they call it when your shoes are not large enough and your toes hit the end of your boot.  In a day or two you have black toes with a lot of pain.  Preparation avoided this and all of the other issues that we faced.

By the end of the first week on the trail we came to an outfitter in Georgia that sits on the trail.  (Literally, the Appalachian Trail goes through the building.  It is a little of the trivia on the Appalachian Trail).  The outfitter was going through individual packs and sending “stuff” home.  He said on an average day at the peak of the starting days (end of March through April) he ships out over 500 lbs of gear he has taken out of hiker packs.  The conversation around campsites each night covered only a few things; food, miles, next water source and pack weight. With over 1,000 miles of hiking experience before our hike, we were still tweaking the contents of our pack the entire hike.  The only thing we added to our packs on the entire hike was Thermarest micro pads (we shipped the closed cell pads home in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia).  They were awesome!  Sleeping on the ground for six months got a lot better when we swapped  12 oz pads for 1 lb., 2 oz pads.  I carried three Band-Aids for 2,168.5 miles.   I don’t carry band-aids now.   If I need one, I’ll use a piece of duct tape with Toilet Paper and triple ointment over the wound.  Everything must have multi-use abilities or you don’t need it.

You will never know what will happen around the next ridge or over the next mountain but you can develop the skills and habits that will enable you to deal with what ever happens; good or bad.  It will take more than a few weekend trips.  Weekend trips will not give you enough situations to correct your gear nor will it give you the fatigue you will encounter on 100 to 200 mile hikes.  You can run, jog, ride bikes and do 10k runs but 100 miles in the woods carry a pack will indicate very loudly what is wrong with your set up.  And trust me it will show up… you will end up cutting the labels out of your shirts and the unused pockets out of your pants.   You will get rid of the “stuff” you just couldn’t do with out.  You will need to spend extended periods in what ever the predicted situation may be.   Weeks of consistent “practice” will hone your skills and purge your equipment into a workable tool set. 

Basic gear list:

First, what you carry depends on how far you’re going, where, and when. Camping and backpacking magazines may make it seem as if you’re doomed unless you have the latest gear. But, new equipment for even an overnight hike can easily run $1,000 to $2,000 or more. Don’t worry. You can plan a hike on the Appalachian Trail without bankrupting yourself in the backpacking store.  Most of our gear we collected over years and less than 25% came from a name brand or a known outfitter (i.e., REI).  
What should I carry?

Packing for a day-hike is relatively simple:

    * Map and a good small compass (learn to use them first!)
    * Water (at least 1 quart, and 2–3 on longer hikes in hot weather)
    * Warm clothing and rain gear and hat
    * Food (including extra high-energy snacks)
    * Tent peg (used as a pick to dig a “cat hole” to bury human waste)
    * First-aid kit, with duct tape for blister treatments
    * Whistle (three blasts is the international signal for help)
    * Garbage bag (to carry out trash you find on the trail, some people are slobs!)
    * Sunglasses and sunscreen (especially when leaf cover is gone)
    * Blaze-orange vest or hat (in hunting season)
    * Toilet paper (take out the paper center and flatten your half roll and put it in a Ziploc bag)

On longer hikes, especially in remote or rugged terrain, add:

    * Small LED head lamp
    * Heavy-duty garbage bag pack liner (water proofs gear, an emergency tarp or to insulate a hypothermia victim)
    * Sharp small pocket knife (In 50 years in the backwoods hunting everything from bear to wild boar or hiking wilderness areas in high desert in Utah I’ve never needed a Rambo survival knife.)  I have field dress probably a 100 large game animals with nothing but a three inch bladed folding knife.
    * Fire starter (a few birthday candles, for instance) and waterproof matches or butane lighter (I have carried real flint and a small piece of file steel, but I have to admit I do it just to impress the younger hikers!)

Overnight and extended trips:

If you’re planning to spend weeks out in the wild, I suggest you go to the Internet and read the trail journals of thru-hikers (Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail) and use their “knowledge by fire.”  After 2,000 miles you pretty much know what works and what don’t.  Most Appalachian Trail backpackers carry the following items, in addition to the day-hike checklist and some method of treating water. Some items can be shared with a partner to lighten the load:

    * Shelter (a tent or tarp) 3 lbs or under.
    * One lightweight pot, one medium size spoon (Lexan works great)
    * Stove (a small ultra lite backpacking model [about 6 to 10 oz], with fuel) we use a tuna can with denatured alcohol.  In an emergency you can build a small fire.
    * Medium-sized backpack (big “expedition–size” packs are usually overkill and are heavy)  Try to get a pack that weighs under 4 lbs.
    * A pack cover or plastic bag for rainy weather
    * Sleeping pad (to insulate you from the cold ground)
    * Sleeping bag of appropriate warmth for the season (usually 2.5 lbs or under, depends on how cold you sleep)
    * Food and clothing
    * Rope or cord (to hang your food at night and many other uses in camp) (1/4 in or smaller braided nylon)
    * Water filter or another method of treating water (I now use drops of household bleach when out alone)
    * Ultra light stuff-sacks for sorting packing clothes, food (sack is used with cord to hang at night to keep it away from varmints, I’ve had raccoons to chew holes in tent to get to a pack of chewing gum!), and other items.
    * Zip-Loc bags (put everything in them, they are awesome and can serve as water carriers)

Remember that renting gear or buying used equipment are low-cost options when you’re first starting out.   Test and try out expensive equipment before you buy.  Make sure it fits and you are comfortable.

Do I have the right clothing?

Hope for the best weather; pack for the worst. Clothing to protect you from cold and rain is a must—even in midsummer and especially at higher elevations. Avoid cotton clothes, particularly in chilly, rainy weather, which can strike the mountains at any time of year. Wet cotton can be worse than nothing and can contribute to hypothermia, a potentially fatal threat.  A hiker slogan you should remember and adhere to,  “Cotton Kills.”  Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene and various acrylic blends will help protect you against the dangers of hypothermia.  Layer your clothes—a “polypro” shirt, synthetic fleece, and a coated nylon or “breathable” light weight waterproof outer shell will keep you both warmer and drier than a single heavy overcoat in cold, damp weather.

Remember, hiking will make you sweat, no matter the weather.  We’ve hiked in 20 degree weather in shorts and one long-sleeved poly shirt.   Shedding thin layers enables you to regulate your body temperature more effectively than choosing between keeping a heavy jacket on or taking it off.

Is my footwear adequate?

Hiking boots are optional for day-hikes but recommended for overnight and long distance hikes over rough terrain. Old-style heavyweight mountain boots are usually unnecessary now that good-quality lightweight boots are widely available. The most important thing is that boots or shoes fit well and are well broken-in before you hit the Trail: Nothing ends a hike quicker than blistered feet, and even minor blisters can become infected and cause serious trouble. Backpackers can expect their feet to swell; long-distance hikers should buy boots half a size to a full size larger, to allow room for this.  My feet grew a full size in six months on the Appalachian Trail.   After trying on your boots or shoes, bang your toe on the floor behind you.  If you toe touches the end of the shoe then they are too small.  You will get black toe real fast on the downhills.  Boots do not last forever.  I wore out three pairs of very good boots and was on my fourth pair when we finished our through hike.

Buy good equipment.

My backpack is 15 years old and has over 4,000 miles on it and still going.  Our water filters will last about 500 gallons before replacing the cartridge and weighs less than a 16 oz.  Our two-man tent has over 300 nights in the mountains and is still as good as new and weighs only 3.5 lbs.   

Being prepared.

My wife and I keep our backpacks packed and ready to go.  If we need to bug out quick I just sling them over my shoulder and grab my .22 rifle and I’m ready for at least 10 days without concern for anything.  If a longer time “out” is required I can procure what is needed for food and fuel.  We lived in the woods for 6 months with lightweight packs and had everything we needed and were very well prepared for everything the weather and terrain had to offer.  All you need you can carry on your back.

“Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’, to us it was tame”, Chief Luther Standing Bear.

You can follow our preparation and hike by reading our journals and seeing our photos at:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles:
n reference to the recent SurvivalBlog article "Surviving The Cold", by The Other D.B.: It is never repeated enough: wet cold kills.   The advice to test your rain gear with a garden hose is priceless.

A piece of kit that I have found invaluable exercising or working in the cold is the Neck Warmer / Head Wrap. This is a simple tube of stretch polypropylene or polyester fleece or wool.  Critical to better protect the vascular area where you lose the most heat--our head and neck.

You can see some examples at these three vendor sites:

Using a Wrap as a base layer allows you to apply the layering effect for your head and neck, fine tuning your head and neck insulation to your level of exercise and heat buildup.  If you only have one thick layer on your head, you have to choose between a hot, sweaty head with your hat on, vs. chilling off too fast going bare.

These Wraps are so light you can keep extras in pockets, so you can swap out to a dry wrap if you do get sweaty.   In the cold I like to use two at a time - one as a neck and lower face wrap, and one as a base layer on the head, under helmet or cap.   I keep two in my car, two in my pack, and two in the pocket of a jacket.

Another great feature is that they dry out very fast attached to the outside of your pack.

Beyond being a neck warmer or head warmer the Wrap can also be a balaclava, helmet liner, dust mask, facial camo, goggle cover, sun protection, etc., etc.:


Another somewhat obscure article of clothing with similar benefits is the "neck dickie".

These are available in a Coolmax sweat wicking Military Brown at Vendio and heavier fleece.

This is literally a  polo neck that has been cut off to just cover the neck and upper chest and back.  The huge advantage here is that you can add a layer without adding more bulk on the shoulder socket/arms, and it can be quickly and easily pulled off to adjust your layering (without the hassle of taking off a jacket or pack, or webbing).

Important proviso - as with almost all synthetic materials they are lighter than wool - but are vulnerable to melting in a fire, causing more severe injury than a natural fabric burning.  Don't wear synthetics in high fire hazard areas!  (Note - there are synthetics made out of Nomex that are fire-retardant - but they are very pricey.)

Full disclosure: We sell head wraps as accessories to our tactical goggles, but - we specialize in Body Armor, not clothing, and are really not looking to sell small, individual clothing items, so our bias here is quite minimal!

Yours Truly, - Nick at

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Most of us take for granted the fact that if were cold we can find someplace warm to retreat to. In the event of a catastrophe that luxury is going to be one of the first things that goes by the wayside. Animals adapt to their environment or they perish, survival of the fittest. I’ve talked to a few folks that have a couple tons of food and ammo stashed that have never even thought about the clothes situation.  So, What can we do as smart animals to prepare for that day?

Unfortunately a lot of people have no clue at all how to dress themselves for cold and inclement weather. Usually we put on what we have that we think is the warmest and hope for the best. That is not going to work when there is no warm house to run to and warm up in! Get rained on and your sol. Yeah that nice brown popular work gear is great but at most it’s used 12 hours and then you have a chance to dry it and you out. Try spending a few days in it without drying it out and see how comfy you are!

The best way  to stay dry, warm, and comfortable is layers, and they have to be layers of the correct material. Cotton is pretty much useless for  staying warm. It holds moisture, does not breath well, and is not a very good insulator. Cotton is good for warm days and summer time, It’s cheap and easy to obtain. So don’t plan on getting any usable service out of any of your cotton clothes in the winter.

The fundamental key of staying warm is to simply stay dry. Wet clothing dissipates body heat at a phenomenal rate. The saying  “If your wet your dead” in the winter is pretty self explanatory.  So in order to stay dry we need to fist keep the moisture and sweat our bodies produce away from our skin.  We do this by our base layer. It is clothing that is designed to allow moisture to pass through it without absorbing it. One of the early forms of this is silk. Yes, that luxurious cloth does have some functional value! Silk is expensive, and is not very stretchy or conforming. Silk blends however are very conducive to  functional base layers! I’ve found silk base layers to be functional and comfortable but they don’t seem to be as durable as I’d like.   Just as effective and more affordably priced, and more durable, are base layers made from polypropylene and the like. There are a variety of manufactures out there that each have their own magic blend so shop around. Just keep in mind the intended function of the base layer is to keep you dry, not to keep you warm.  As a side note there is “base layer “ underwear available from a variety of manufactures. This extends the wear time of your pants and tops base layers by letting you change your skivvies once a day or so… One key to look for on your base layers are pants and tops that are large enough to cover your lower back with no gaps. And they need to do this in all positions so bend over twist lift your legs up do some PT and make sure they don’t work their way down or up. FYI, women’s bottoms seem to ride a bit higher than men’s on the backside. Your base layer needs to fit like a second skin, skin tight is what you want. This prevents it from working and moving around and bunching up in places.

So now that we have a good moisture wicking base layer on lets talk about the insulation layers. Again, anything cotton is useless so don’t bother, even a cotton T-shirt can cause you problems. The old standby for insulation is good old wool. It’s plentiful, and has some insulation value even when wet. The cons are it’s itchy, and tends to be heavy. Luckily technology has provided us with a cheap and extremely effective material called fleece. Fleece is a form of spun plastic, often times made from recycled plastic bottles. It’s extremely lightweight, durable, available in varying densities and thickness, and is just plain comfortable. It dries quickly and does not hold water well so it even maintains some insulation value when it’s wet! About the only negative I can think of is the fact it tends to melt quickly around fire so br extremely careful if you try drying it out over an open camp fire! Again the key is layers so throw on a couple layers of it depending on how cold it is outside and your activity level. You can also mix it up with a layer of fleece and then a wool sweater. Other options include fleece jackets and vests. These are handy as they usually have some pockets. Jackets and vests are good calls when it’s cold on sunny days when there is no wind or precipitation. Layer up, you can always take some off if your hot, or throw an extra layer in the pack and add it if your cold.

The last layer you should put on is your first layer of defense against the elements, and yes, you need to think of this as war against mother nature and all that she can bring because that is exactly what it is. If she wins you die, simple fact. This outer layer is your coat and bibs. Now I know you all think that you have plenty of coats and pants for winter so let me offer you a test. Put on your best coat and bibs /pants and stand outside and let someone hose you down with the garden hose for ten minutes ( obviously not spraying you directly in the face but pretty much everywhere else). Take your stuff off and see how dry you are. If your not completely dry then your gear is junk. Sorry but that $500 you spent on that hunting coat was more for the name and the funky camo pattern on it!

Your coat and pants/bibs needs to do two things, one it needs to let moisture out, and two it needs to keep any moisture on the outside on the outside. Lucky for us humans we’ve invented just such a material, Gore-Tex is the most popular, been time tested and proven, and is what I prefer. Not to say that there are not other materials out there that can’t do the same job. I just prefer to stick with what has worked in the past. The next technical feature you need to look for are taped and sealed seams on the jacket and pants. It will look similar to a good tent that is taped and sealed only it will be a much better job usually. This is an important feature as it actually makes the coat waterproof. No leaky seams that can leak water or air. You would be surprised at how much air can permeate the holes made by a sewing machine when it’s a 40 MPH wind! Another feature is a built-in hood, usually made from the same materiel as the coat. These typically roll up and stow in the collar of the jacket when not in use. The hood is a huge component to keeping you dry when it’s raining or snowing as it’s your “roof” to keep it out of your neck! It also provides a complete barrier from the top of your head to the bottom of the coat against wind, blowing snow and rain. Another must have feature is under arm zipper vents. These allow you to ‘vent’ heat during physical activity, even when it’s raining! So when you find yourself heating up you open the vents up. If you have a fleece jacket with under arm vents as well then the next step is to open them up. This allows you to quickly cool down without removing any insulation layers. If it’s not enough then you will need to shed the fleece jacket or a layer underneath it.  A good coat will also have a powder skirt, this is an elastic flap inside the coat that you snap together around your stomach before you zip up the coat. This is the sealing mechanism between your coat and bibs to keep out blowing wind and snow. Seems like a minor trivial thing, but it is very important. It keeps all the cold air from getting inside your jacket from the bottom and wasting your body heat. The cuffs will also have velcro sealing bands that allow you to seal the ends of the sleeves to the same end. The zipper should also have a full length closure flap / gusset for sealing off the zipper against wind and rain.  A good coat will also have a number of handy pockets here and there to stash your gloves and hats and what not. Do not get in the habit of using this space as stuff space for all the things you think you might be needing. Use these primarily for your jacket accessories, hats, gloves, glasses, face protectors and the like. You need to start thinking of the coat as an important survival tool, and the tool needs to be filled with all the things you need with it so when you grab it in a hurry and run your not forgetting anything. The best coat and bibs in the world are going to be useless if you forget your hat and gloves. Most coats have a couple inside pockets for a small sidearm or radio, but much of that needs to be on your pack or utility harness, not on or in your coat.

Snow pants or bibs, this is the question.
Snow pants are nice if your never going to bend over or fall down on your backside. Even if your sitting they tend to leave a gap at the back, and that is not good! So from my experience pants are pretty useless in long term winter exposure. Bibs are the way to go, they fit higher up around your back and chest, and have suspenders to keep them in place. You may not be the suspender type of person so let me explain why it’s so important. Suspenders allow you to adjust your bibs to the point that they are not bunching up in the crotch and choking you to death. This allows you to move your legs and your body in all positions very freely without stretching your bibs all out of proportion or even ripping them open. And no matter what position you find yourself in that spot on your lower back is always covered! The height of them also bridges over the seams between your top and bottom layers under it so all your seams are not in one place making things a lot more comfortable. The freedom of movement that bibs give you in normal circumstances is critical when you need to do things like run and jump a long distance or scale a rock face or jump off a vehicle quickly.

Another feature of bibs is they usually have zippers along the outside legs, this lets you vent excess heat like your coat does. There are fleece pants that also have zippers on the side as well for more ventilation options. The cuffs are also specially designed with an internal  cuff to seal out air and snow like the one inside the jacket. Cuffs should have adjustable velcro closures to allow different boot sizes as you may be wearing packs for snowshoes one day and the next you may have on cross country ski boots. Even if your home or in camp and have on work boots or something it’s important to have the option to seal them up to keep the draft out.  The zippers should also have closures over them like the coat.  Now most of us are accustomed to cargo pants pockets and may think that you need these in the snow pants. I’ve found plain no pocket snow pants is the way to go as they shed snow and rain much better. The other factor is that if your on snow shoes or cross country  skis the last thing you want is a bunch of stuff chaffing your legs back and forth every time you take a step. Stick it in your pack. Again, make sure the bibs are constructed of a breathable fabric such as Gore-tex.

The Hands:
Treat your hands the same way as your body, layers. Everyone seems to think that they need gloves as well. Sad truth of the matter is if it’s cold out there are no gloves that are going to keep your fingers warm and toasty very long. If you want them to stay warm and dry then use mittens for your outer layer. Now were not talking the knitted red ones grandma used to make, were talking full on technical gore-tex with leather or abrasion resistant palms and thumbs. They should also have nice long gauntlets with shock cord closures on the cuffs to seal them up over your coat. Your also hook those cords to your coat sleeves so you don’t loose your mitts when you pop them off to do something. What works best is a good wicking base layer glove, these are really thin, and offer little or insulation value. On top of that you can place a fleece glove for insulation. Best to have a selection of different weight fleece gloves for different activity levels and conditions. Fleece gloves with leather palms and reinforcing are nice as you can shed your mitts quick and then have the dexterity to use your fingers. The leather give some protection against them getting wet when you grab things. For those really cold days a thick pair of fleece mittens that fit inside the liners will be warranted, and much appreciated by your fingers. Now the top layer mitts are not going to fit tight, probably even when you have the thick fleece mitts on, this is no reason for concern as they were intended to work that way! Ice Climbing and mountaineering are by far the best type of gloves to get. If your going to go cheap on something don’t let it be hand protection….

Now for the head. We all know that our heads radiate and disperse heat more than any other part of our body, so it’s critical that we insulate it to prevent all our precious body heat from escaping. Again, same principal, layers. Nice long “balaclava” wicking head liner to start the layer, then some fleece, maybe a fleece neck gaiter, nice fleece or wool hat to top it all off. Helmets - ski or snowboarding are also very nice in some situations. Just make sure you can close all the gaps between your torso and the head, the neck is a very annoying place to have a draft! Your hood on the coat completes the outer layer in time of moisture or precipitation. Make sure you have enough layers to cover and insulate your face right up to your eyes. If it’s really cold nasty and windy out your going to want everything covered… and I mean everything. Frostbite can happen in a few minutes if conditions are right, and the tip of the nose is where it’s going to occur, and you not going to know about it till it’s too late. Have extra so you can rotate them out if they ice up from heavy breathing. Goggles are a must, have at the minimum two pair of each ( Daytime and nighttime ) so you can rotate them when they ice over or fog up bad. If they are fogging up you need to vent your head a bit more to prevent it. Have some clear goggles for when it gets dark, and a couple shades for the daytime is nice as well. Yellow/orange tinted ones provide greater clarity in the snow during the day, but can sometimes not provide enough shading to protect your eyes. If it’s nice out sunglasses work just fine, goggles are for inclement weather and let you seal your face up completely against it. Gently clean iced up goggles off and place inside your coat to dry them off. Remove and let cool before you put them back on.

 If your going to be out in the sun a long time and it’s nothing but snow cover you should really have glasses with protection on the sides. Mountaineering “glacier” sun glasses have these or you can quickly fashion something from a scrap of cloth or leather. This prevents the reflection of the sun off the snow getting into your eyes. What happens if your on a snow pack on a sunny day without glasses, or with poor ones, is that you basically “sprain” your eye. This feels like someone took a 3” long needle and jabbed it into each eye. The treatment, drugs to dilate your pupil and staying out of the light, rather lengthy recovery as well. Get a few pair of good cheap polarized sunglasses  for everyday beating around in, and have a good pair of glacier glasses or two to use on those really sunny days on the snow!

The Feet. Treat your feet with the same layering technique we’ve been talking about all along. The exception is that fleece socks don’t seem to be that great of an idea! Get some good thin wicking liners and then some nice insulated socks. Most of us seem to have a pretty good handle on this so I’m not going to go into detail. Just make sure you have plenty of socks, and boots, to keep your feet dry and warm! Pack type boots are a favorite of mine and have proven themselves time and again. 

Your layers should depend on your activity level, dress for the least active you plan to be and then shed layers as you or the day heats up. Look for options like vests and fleece jackets that have zippers under the arms for vents. Try to keep from sweating as much as possible by shedding layers and venting. Antiperspirant on the feet is also a neat trick to keep them from sweating quite so much if it’s available. Try to stay away from “fashionable” Brand names and stick with time proven companies that have been outfitting climbers and mountaineers for a few decades. North Face, Marmot, and Patagonia are names I trust.  If you want warm fleece the Patagonia stuff is the bomb in my opinion, paddlers in 33 degree water do seem to know how to dress for it! About the only ‘house’ brand stuff that I’ve found and trust is REI's stuff. They make some pretty decent items that are reasonably priced. Make an opportunity present itself to test your gear, see how long you can last on a single digit day and you’ll either impress yourself at your ability or scare yourself from the fact of how ill-prepared you are for cold weather survival. Stay warm!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

We are all survivors.  I can prove it.  If you are reading this, then you are alive and surviving.  We all survive every day.  Our home is our shelter.  We use cars for transportation.  We barter our skills in a workplace in exchange for money.  That money is then used for supplies.  And so on and so on.  Our lives are comfortable.  So what happens when that comfort is disrupted?   Chaos, insecurity, fear, anxiety, despair, alcoholism, etc…not a pretty picture.

To prevail in an unfortunate situation, I believe the most important skill one must possess is the ability to adapt.  This is accomplished by knowledge, experience, and preparation.  The focus of this article is on being prepared.  Three things in my life have made me a prepared individual:

  1. My time in the Boy Scouts.  The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared”.  I’ve learned and practiced outdoor skills and survival.  I have carried this over to my adult life in my outdoor adventures.
  2. My military service.  Discipline and teamwork are stressed.  Weapon and tactics training were learned.  It has contributed to my overall survival mindset.
  3. My career as a Service Technician in communications and electronics.  If it’s broke, I fix it.  A lot of thinking outside the box and adaptability is required, many times with no outside help.

So, what does it take to be prepared and survive the unexpected?  I feel one must be mobile or capable of instant mobility to survive.  This leaves the options open.  You should also layer your supplies as to minimize unexpected losses which increases your adaptability.  “Wear plenty of layers.”  I’m sure you’ve heard that as a child.  Your mother said this so you would stay warm.  This was so you could adjust your insulation according to temperature and activity level, to adapt to the temperature.  I am going to discuss how to apply the layering principle to your personal survival.

There are three layered levels in our lives:

1.  The contents of our home or other permanent shelter.  This could also be a stocked survival retreat.

  1. The sustainment gear we can carry with us in a backpack, Bug out Bag, vehicle, bicycle, etc.

  2. What we can carry on our person every day – Every Day Carry.

In the military, we had line gear.  Line 1 was what we had in our pockets.  Line 2 was our fighting or web gear.  Line 3 was our sustainment gear or rucksack.  So let’s start with the basics:

Seven Cs
Food Fire Carrying container  – canteen, water bottle, hydration bladder
Water Hunting / Gathering Cooking container – canteen cup, cook pot, coffee can
Shelter Evasion Cutter – knife, axe, machete, glass shard
Security Signaling Combustion – Bic lighter, flint & steel, matches, road flare
Health Navigation Cordage – Paracord, string, twine, tape, dental floss
Communications Fieldcraft Cover – poncho, tarp, emergency blanket


Food:  Even though humans can go 3 weeks without food and stay alive, mental and physical capacity will diminish within a couple of days.  You should have food with you that requires no preparation on your person such as Power Bars, Gorp, MREs, Spam, jerky, canned stew, etc.  Your transport or backpack can have more sustainable food.  Don’t forget something to cook in.  Anything that cannot be cooked in a pot can be cooked on a stick over a fire.

Water:  This is more important than food especially in arid environments.  Also don’t eat if you do not have water.  It takes water to digest food.  Have a way to purify water.  A portable water filter, iodine, or chlorine tablets will work but boiling is best.  Carry bottled water in your vehicle.

Shelter:  Depending on the conditions, shelter may be more important than food and water.  You can’t eat if you are frozen to death.  Learn how to make field expedient shelters, debris huts, etc.  Carry a bivy and sleeping bag in your Bug Out Bag.  Clothing is also shelter.

Security:  What good is it to have a large stash of supplies just to have someone take it from you?  Security comes in many forms…staying hidden from others, blending in, weapons, or just keeping your mouth shut.  Fire will keep animals at bay.  Don’t carry a gun unless you know how and are willing to use it.

Health:  This includes hygiene, sanitation, and first aid.  For example, don’t use the knife that you just field dressed a squirrel with to cut up your cooked meat.  Either wash it thoroughly or use a separate knife.  You do have soap don’t you?  I’m amazed at how many people don’t include soap in their Bug Out Bags.   Don’t drink untreated water.  Treat cuts and scrapes.  Use toilet paper if you have it.  Brush your teeth.

Communication:  People are social beings.  If alone, have a portable radio to listen to surrounding news.  I have an AM/FM/SW radio that is just a little larger than a deck of cards.  It is analog so it has a long battery life.  A shortwave radio allows me more options.  Sometimes news from other countries may be the only form of information due to an EMP or communications blackout.  By the way, I put a label on all of my electronics indicating their battery life and every device uses the same size battery.  A police scanner is very useful.  2-way radios can be very valuable to groups or used as a barter item.

Fire:  Have multiple ways to start a fire.  Fire starting and building is your most important skill.  It will purify your water, cook your food, heat your shelter, keep predators at bay, and signal for help.  Bic lighters are king.  Carry a flint and steel set on your person at all times.  Magnesium works well in wet conditions.  Backpacking stoves work great for quick meals and draw less attention than fires.  Keep one in your car.

Hunting / Gathering:  Snares and traps can be left unattended allowing you to do other tasks.  Learn a few edible wild plants.  Fishing gear is small and very useful – just some string and a few hooks is all you need.

Evasion / Signaling:  Grizzly bear on your trail?  Just stumble across a meth lab on a hike?  Government out to get you?  Ok, this is a little extreme but if there is a major disaster staying away from others might be the desirable thing to do.  Those that are unprepared may want to take what you have.  People also spread disease.  The flip side to this is signaling.  If you are just lost you need to be found.  A whistle, signal mirror, or smoke from a fire are your best options.

Navigation:  You just bugged out.  Where are you going?  Learn to use a map and compass.  Don’t rely too much on GPS.  They can break, batteries die, and the satellites can be re-tasked for military operations.  Have paper maps covering where you are all the way to where you are going.  What if the roads are clogged with traffic escaping from a hazmat spill?  Do you have bike trail maps?  Do you have a bike?  You need multiple routes of escape and methods of transportation.

The Seven Cs:  These items are the most basic necessities needed to survive.  They will directly contribute to keeping your ass alive more than anything else.  The first four are the most important – Canteen, cup, knife, fire starter. 

Staging equipment is critical.  It must be secure yet accessible.  If your permanent shelter is compromised or unavailable then you become mobile.  Your mobile layer is your second layer.  It may be a Get Home Bag or a complete BOB inside your Bug Out Vehicle.  Your vehicle may be your new home.  A bicycle or scooter is a good backup to have in your bug out vehicle (BOV).  So how do we stage and carry all this gear?

My Layered Bug Out System:

I am going to describe and comment on my system and you can decide if it works for you.  Take my ideas and use whatever you feel is beneficial to your situation.

I keep extra food and supplies at home as we all should.  My food stockpile is a mixture of long term grains sealed in mylar, canned goods, MREs, [freeze-dried] backpacker meals, and the like.  This allows for variety in terms of taste and nutrition.  I rotate my supplies and I do not store much more than can fit into my vehicle due to the possibility of needing to bug out.  Any structure can be penetrated.  If people want what you have, they will get it and you can’t keep watch 24 hours a day by yourself.

My 4x4 BOV is not my daily driver but is always maintained with a full tank of gasoline.  Most any vehicle nowadays will go at least 300 miles on a tank of fuel.  I have enough stabilized fuel stored to get me to any one of my Bug Out Location choices.  A cargo carrier attaches to my rear receiver and a bicycle carrier attaches to my front receiver.  The luggage rack rounds out its cargo capability.  I have opted to not use a trailer because of lack of maneuverability and off road ability.  I can live out of my vehicle in a stationary location with complete isolation for six months to a year.

In the event of an EMP, fuel shortage, martial law, etc. full sized motorized transportation may not be an option.  My BOV may break down or roads may not be passable.  My next layer is a bicycle.  One could even use a game cart, dolly, wagon, etc.  You can only carry a limited amount of gear on your back.  A bicycle is 3 times more efficient than walking and can carry much more weight.  Mine is set up with panniers and my gear is always packed.  I also carry a tractor tire inner tube, pump, rope, and climbing gear which allows me to transport myself and gear over almost any terrain.  The inner tube is for traversing water.  I can transport 200 lbs. + by walking beside and pushing the bicycle.

This leaves the final layer – what is on my person.  My personal carry gear is also broken down into layers.  My pockets have a Bug Out Altoids Tin B.O.A.T.)  A chest rig carries my Seven Cs with a sidearm and can be completely hidden by a sweatshirt.  On top of this would be web gear and rifle in appropriate circumstances.  The final layer is a rucksack.  Another option I have experimented with is a fanny pack strictly for survival.

The above is available for an extreme situation where bugging out may be required.  My normal everyday life doesn’t require these drastic measures.  If there is a major power outage during a snow storm, I’ll just stay home, listen to my portable radio, and cook on my butane stove.  Drastic measures aren’t always needed.

One more item to talk about is a Get Home Bag (GHB).  All of my gear is staged at home waiting if it is needed but I have to get there to use it.  My GHB is combined with my EDC.  Since I am in the service industry, I am required to travel at times in a company service vehicle.  This limits what I can always have at my disposal.  Along with my tools and test equipment I carry a very small day pack.  This holds my Seven Cs, some food, extra ammo, and a few work items.  It is always near me or in the vehicle I am traveling in.  I have a cocealed carry permit and carry every day.  I carry a flint striker on my key ring as fire is more important to me than a knife on my person.  I already carry enough stuff on my belt.

This completes the philosophy and application of my layering system.  Take from it what you will.  If you learn something from it, that’s great.  If it saves your life someday, that’s even better.

A Note on EMP:

Being in the communications business, I have witnessed what lightning can do to a communications tower site.  This is the closest thing I have seen to an EMP.  I also have access to high power radio equipment and have done experimentation with Faraday cages.  My conclusions show that non-continuous shielding (such as screen) will not stop all frequencies.  The only cheap and easy thing I have seen that will shield all radio frequency energy is properly wrapped multiple layers of aluminum foil.  I have had popcorn tins fail along with microwave ovens.  I also will not ground a Faraday cage due to what I have seen lightning do.  I wrap all of my electronic devices that go in my bug out bag.

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Lastly, don’t let the preparedness bug monopolize your life.  Have a preparation plan, carry it out, then relax and enjoy what you’ve accomplished.  If the world goes to pieces, you’re ready.  If not, then sit back and enjoy a cold one.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I wish to address some issues with the recent "Combat Gear Primer" post.  Surplus stores are a great place to buy surplus gear.  It is one stop shopping.   I am an old school prepper.  I believe in a web belt with gear upon it and an ALICE pack for patrol situations.  The web belt is compatible with the old school ALICE and the new MOLLE pouches. In my opinion, a vest keeps you up off the ground with all the stuff on your chest.  I want to become part of the ground when the SHTF.  If I am bugging out, the CFP-90 pack gives me plenty of room and is adjustable to any body frame.

As far as camo clothing, in his novel "Patriots", Mr. Rawles points out the ability of being able to identify your fellow group members.  This can be accomplished with just [everyone wearing] a boonie hat of the same color.  A ten dollar purchase is a lot less than requiring everyone to purchase expensive camo patterns.  As far as the Chinese made copies, as much as I hate to say it, there are some darn good ones out there, at or above the US made and at $26-to-$32 dollars, new.  I hate buying foreign, but quality is quality.

Boots are the most important gear purchase of all!  With no fuel and if this becomes multi-generational, footwear will be of the utmost importance.  I personally, at present, have 15 pair.  Good used boots are available from $20 up at a surplus store.

On the subject of body armor: Yes, it is available.  Yes it works. .But, there is something known as blunt force trauma.  Put on your body armor and stand.  Let me take my baseball bat and hit you as hard as I can with the bat.  That is basically the same blunt force trauma you will have with a ballistic vest.  It will save you, however, you will still be incapacitated for a period of time.  Being a former Firefighter/EMT I can tell you lots about blunt force trauma.  3,100 Ft. pound of energy (average) is spread across the vest.  My point is to bring people to reality: Body armor can save your life. But, you will probably be incapacitated and out of the fight. Body armor is not magical.

In closing, we are all on a budget, and most of us making Water and food are our top priorities.  Think outside the box when it comes to gear.  A "Man Purse" thrown over the shoulder with magazines and first aid kit, is better, in my opinion than a tactical vest.  What is "cool" is not always that is best! -  G.I. Jim   

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

CPT Rawles:
I have had the privilege to wear all three of the Army uniforms mentioned in this article. Here are a few notes on durability:I wore BDU's in Basic, AIT, and a rotation at NTC (National Training Center). Nothing beats this uniform. They took a beating and always looked sharp. If you happen to get a tear in your uniform, any dull color patch or thread will hardly be noticed in the overall pattern. This uniform utilizes buttons exclusively, which is durable, convenient, and easy to fix with a needle and thread. BDUs come in two different styles, Winter and Summer. Obviously, Summer BDU's are much lighter and thinner than Winters. Winters are hardy and extremely hard to damage.

I spent 15 months in Iraq wearing ACUs. While the material itself is up to the challenge of every day use, the colors fade extremely fast. The colors themselves didn't actually conceal us very well either. We just looked like white dots on a tan background. The jacket uses a zipper which gave only minimal problems; however, the velcro that was used on all the pockets was a disaster. After a month of use, the pockets would not reseal. Plus, if you ever needed something in your pocket, nothing gives away your position like a nice big "riiiip." 

In Afghanistan, I used the new Multicam. The colors are terrific for concealment and do not fade very much at all. The trouser cargo pockets returned to button fasteners and some clothing engineer finally fixed the velcro problem for the breast pockets. They are still noisy, but you should have body armor on during a tactical situation so the breast pockets shouldn't be an issue. The biggest problem with this style is the fabric durability. Every single set I own has a belt loop missing and numerous other tears. I was issued a new style of adhesive patch, but they never stayed and I ended up replacing them every couple weeks.
If you do not plan on using the uniform daily, I recommend the Multicam for it's color and general ease of use. If you are looking for a day in and day out uniform, there is nothing better than a good old set of BDUs.
Hope this helps. - Mark P.

This article pointed out a lot of good options, but some statements were not quite correct. The older BDU woodland pattern was continued with some elements of the military up until this year. The Navy NECC/NCF is in the process of switching over to a new digital woodland pattern now, so expect an influx of surplus BDUs on the market relatively soon.

Most of the grunts and Seabees I work with will agree, the older all leather non steel toe combat boots set the bar for top notch service. I have the same set I've had for 12 years now, and they are still going strong after a couple hundred long distance marches, and even a tour in the desert when my desert jungle boots gave up the ghost. For a long-lasting boot try and find a set, and break them in, better than running shoes.

ALICE gear is still used by most of the NECC (Naval Expeditionary Combat Command) units as well. Its older, but the old school ALICE pack with the frame holds up to long term use better than the MOLLE I had when I was in the Corps. Combine a MOLLE LBV with an extra large ALICE ruck with frame and you’ll have a combination that will last for years of hard use.

Regarding helmets: Although the standard PASGT does impede your field of view in the prone, adding an improved suspension system helps greatly preventing the helmet from falling down over your eyes, not to mention it improves the comfort over extended wear periods. Thanks for posting Andrew A,'s great article! - M.K., USN

Monday, January 30, 2012

What is combat gear, and why do you need it? Well, your combat gear is simply your gear that you wear from day to day, in a combat situation, or more aptly for us, a TEOTWAWKI situation. I am a young prepper living in the central Carolinas. I have been collecting military gear, such as uniforms, helmets, vests, and such for over 8 years. Over those 8 years, I’ve seen what the average soldier wears through combat in Iraq and what a Delta operator might wear in Afghanistan. However, please keep in mind that as preppers, most of us have never received the specialized training of a soldier, and 99% of us have never had the training of a Special Forces Operator. That being said, let‘s discuss what an average prepper might need in the way of combat gear.

The uniform is the most basic of items that a prepper can find, and might be one of the most useful. There are several different types of camouflage to choose from. The most ubiquitous form of camo that can be found is the US M81 Woodland type, commonly called Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). This camo was used from 1981 until 2005 when it was dropped by all branches of service, except for auxiliary organizations, like the Civil Air Patrol ( (check that program out as well, it’s a great resource for knowledge). It seems that everybody and their brother has a pair of the BDU pants. However, they can frequently be found at local thrift shops and occasionally at Goodwill and Salvation Army for under $5 for the pants, and under $3 for the shirts. I personally have picked up all of my BDU items from surplus stores and Goodwill [thrift stores] for under $4 for the pants, and normally $1 for the shirts (large sizes as well). The great thing about the BDU pattern is that the US Military made a lot of their gear in this pattern, so you can have a lot of your gear match in color (this would certainly help in blending in to the environment. If you have two shades of green, some black, and some tan on your gear, you might stick out just a little bit).

In 2005, when the BDU was dropped from service, most of the branches of the Armed Forces went to a pattern designed for their duties. Most of these patterns are pixilated or better known as “Digital Camo”, such as the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) pattern, which is an ugly mix of gray and tan squares. One of the most effective uniform patterns that came out of this switch was the Marine Pattern (MARPAT), which is available in Woodland or Desert types. The woodland stuff blends in really well with the surrounding environment, better than the BDU. However, it costs significantly more, with prices being around $15-$30 for a shirt and the same for a pair of pants. Beware of Chinese-made copies. To differentiate: Genuine MARPAT material has a small Marine Corps Emblem known as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor or EGA and “USMC” stamped below that in very small letters printed on all of the fabric.

There are also many other camo patterns, too numerous to discuss here, but I would like to discuss Multicam. This is a camo pattern that is being introduced to our soldiers in Afghanistan, dubbed the AMU (Army Multicam Uniform). It has a good color to it, and it tends to blend into most environments quite well. It is more expensive than MARPAT, but because it is being mass produced for the military, look for prices on it to drop like a rock in the next five to ten years. The Multicam pattern is being used on rucksacks, vests, helmet covers, etc. just like the BDU and ACU patterns have been.

So, which pattern is best for you? If money were no object, I would get five sets of Multicam. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of a large piggy bank. I have used the BDU pattern in the woods around here (mostly hardwoods like Oak), and in the prone position, as well as the kneeling position, I avoided being spotted until I made my presence known. The BDU however, has four front pockets that are parallel to the ground, while MARPAT and Multicam have two slanted chest pockets, facing inwards, and pockets on each sleeve that are slanted at a 45° angle which help in accessing the items in those pockets. Special Forces operators, finding the digital patterns not suitable to their needs, modified BDU uniforms to the same pocket configurations as the MARPAT and Multicam, removing the bottom pockets, moving them to the sleeves, and slanting the top chest pockets. I have found this to be quite utilitarian, especially when using a vest that covers up your front pocket area. These modifications can be made on a standard sewing machine, or the sewing ladies at the off-base surplus stores (if you live by a military base) can help you with this, at a normally reasonable price.

In my personal opinion, you cannot go wrong with a simple US Military surplus pair of black leather combat boots. There are two types of the BDU black combat boots. One type is all leather, and offers a lot of ankle support. The other type is commonly referred to as the jungle boot, with only a leather shoe, and canvas reinforcement above the ankle. The boots are normally quite a bit more expensive than the uniform itself. Like-new condition ones, in large sizes can go for $30-$60 a pair. But, if you shop around, you can really find bargains. Since the BDU uniform was in use for so long, thrift shops often have used BDU boots in stock. I was able to find my first pair for $2, and although they were quite used and already broken in, I added a $10 pair of insoles and they wear great.

If you don’t want surplus, that’s fine. There are a multitude of commercial boot makers that the soldiers have utilized during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Among the best are Danner, Altima, and Oakley. Most of the commercial boots come in two varieties; low top and high top. Unlike the standard military issue boots, low top boots allow for more movement and agility. Some of the best low tops are the Oakley Assault Boots ($130 range) and the Danner Hiking Boots ($150 range). Most of your commercial high top boots are of poorer quality than surplus (save for the aforementioned brands), and had a zipper on the side of the boot that facilitates putting on the boot and removing the boot. However, this zipper is likely to break and be more of a hindrance than anything. You simply cannot kill lace up boots. Laces break? Tie them back together! Break them again? Then why didn’t you replace the laces with 550-Paracord and be done with it!

Combat Load Bearing Equipment
There are three ways to carry your “battle rattle”; the ALICE system, the MOLLE system, or a vest. The ALICE system was used by the US Military from the 1960s until about ten years ago. It utilizes metal clips which attach to a utility belt. The belt is also held up by suspenders. There are a variety of pouches that were made for the ALICE system- everything from radio pouches, first aid kit pouches, canteen pouches, magazine pouches, etc. It is not hard to find the components to the ALICE system, and at dirt cheap prices. You normally can buy a complete system for under $30. The ALICE system is customizable to a certain degree, and is a good starting point for combat gear. The standard surplus ALICE gear is OD Green. The cheaper commercial stuff (that is not very reliable) comes in black as well as tan. There is also the transitionally-issued Load Bearing Vest (LBV) that was used by the military in the 1990s. It is BDU woodland camouflage colored and has four M16 magazine pouches on the front, as well as two grenade pouches. It has suspenders and tightens by lacing up the sides. You can also attach an ALICE utility belt to the bottom of it.

The MOLLE II system (spoke "MOLLY", not "MOLE-Y" or "MOLE") is the newest system developed for the US Military to carry the standard gear for a soldier. The MOLLE system includes different types of pouches, similar to the ALICE system, but instead of using clips, it utilizes straps that slip through loops on a MOLLE compatible vest, backpack, or Camelback. The MOLLE system is more customizable than the ALICE system, but it is also more expensive. It comes in all of the major camouflage colors of the US Army, as well as tan and black. The most versatile way to carry gear with the MOLLE system is something called the Fighting Load Carrier (FLC). It is a vest that covers the chest fully, and has wrap around MOLLE loops. It closes with a zipper on the front as well as buckles. The FLCs can be found for $15-$30 a piece, and the pouches can cost around $3-$6 each.

Another way to carry your combat gear is through a vest . There are many makers of these vests, and some are MOLLE compatible, while others already have all of the pouches sewn onto the vest. All of the vests that I have ever seen have the option of attaching a utility belt below the vest. Also, vests adjust in size around the sides, and it laces up. Normally, one size fits all. Some of the most popular makers of these vests include Blackhawk, 5.11 Tactical, UTG, and Condor Tactical. From what I have heard from soldiers, seen in the surplus stores, and my own personal experience, the Blackhawk brand is very durable, and can take a significant beating. There are way too many layouts of vests to be discussed thoroughly here, but I personally use the Blackhawk Omega Elite Cross Draw vest, which allows me to carry 3 magazines for my battle rifle, 4 magazines for my pistol (not including one in the pistol itself), as well as a small FAK (First Aid Kit), my Ka-Bar knife, some 550 paracord, a strap cutter, and a multi tool. Not to mention I can always attach more pouches to the belt if the need arises.

Body Armor and Helmets
We always see “Bullet-Proof” vests and helmets in the movies. Sadly, this is not an accurate term. While some helmets and body armor are designed to stop bullets, others are not, and it’s important to know the difference. The US Military first started issuing Flak Jackets to the B-17 Pilots flying over Germany. The first body armor for the soldier on the ground came during the Vietnam conflict. However, the first Kevlar body armor came into existence in the mid-1970’s, and is called the Personnel Armor System for Ground Troop (PASGT). There were vests that were issued in the BDU Woodland pattern, and they came in various sizes. However, these vests were designed to stop grenade shrapnel, not bullets. They do, however, offer protection against some small caliber rounds.
There are also PASGT helmets (mostly called Kevlar helmets) that are relatively cheap on the surplus market, for under $50. These helmets are normally green or black and you can buy BDU, ACU, or MARPAT covers for them. The updated version of the PASGT helmet, known as the ACH (Army Combat Helmet) offers more ballistic protection to soldiers. However, please be aware that with helmets, you lose a lot of mobility. It’s difficult to have a full range of vision with a PASGT helmet on in the prone position.

Commercial body armor is a hot business. There are different levels of protection, and those are a separate article by themselves. However, a good rule of thumb is to remember that “soft armor” (Kevlar) is rated to a 9MM pistol round, and “hard armor” (Ceramic plates inserted into body armor) will stop up to a 7.62x39. A higher level of protection can be offered by wrapping ceramic plates with soft Kevlar armor. Most of the personal body armor that Law Enforcement wears is soft armor, and Military uses the Ceramic plates. The plates and the soft armor can be inserted into a piece of equipment known as a plate carrier, which, true to its name, holds the plates for you. If you are looking for a good concealable armor, Safariland makes some interesting products that, when worn cannot be seen under a t-shirt. Kevlar fiber does deteriorate over time (depending upon who you ask, of course), and ought to be replaced every 5-7 years. The military body armor system, called the Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), is a plate carrier system that works with either soft or hard armor, and has MOLLE loops to allow for your combat load. It comes in BDU, ACU, Tan, and will soon be available in Multicam. They are, however, expensive (especially with the ceramic plates!).

Where to Get Your Battle Rattle
When you are in the market for buying personal combat gear, I do not advise buying online. The online marketplace generally has the same prices on the same items everywhere on the net. However, you can find real bargains if you are willing to look for them. First, I would advise looking online to see what you like, who makes it, and what the general price tag is on it. Then, go to your local flea market, and look around for the surplus dealers. Or, if you can afford it, drive down to your nearest Army or Marine base and look through the surplus stores, and get to the local off-base flea market early. Flea Markets are Surplus stores are the best when it comes to gear, and sometimes uniforms. However, I recommend buying pants from your thrift stores because they have lower prices on camouflage pants than your local surplus dealer. If your surplus dealer does not have what you are looking for, get to know him, and let him know what you are on the lookout for. It helps to bring printed pictures of exactly what you want. Often times they have duffel bags of stuff they aren’t putting out, and they might just have what you want. Don’t be afraid to haggle. Also, don’t be scared of used items. Most of the time, they are gently used an therefore priced much lower than new items.

[JWR Adds: There is also a subtle psychology to the sight well-worn looking web gear. The sight of brand new looking web gear screams "newbie" or "armchair commando". But seeing old, well-worn web gear imparts the "wizened veteran" look, and usually respect and "don't mess with him" restraint. Older gear also looses the sheen that is typical of new nylon, so it is less reflective.]

Get the dealer’s name and phone number (or a business card) and call him and ask him if he has a certain item, or if he will be getting any new items soon. Most dealers make trips to their sources every so often, and they have the best stuff right after they get back from buying it.

- Most recent US Military magazine pouches are designed to fit the M16/M4 5.56 NATO 30 Round Magazine. If you are looking for something to fit an AK or FAL magazine, then bring a magazine with you when you shop to insert into the pouch and make sure it fits. I have found radio pouches will work well with AK magazines.
- If you buy the ALICE system, invest in extra clips. They often cost about a dollar a piece, and are well worth it when they break
- Larger ALICE pouches fit on the back of the belt, and the pouches often have holes where the suspenders hooks will fit into the pouch.
- MOLLE webbing is ideal for the placement of walkie-talkies and chem-lights (glow sticks)

[JWR Adds: Pouches for odd-shaped magazines such as Saiga 12 shotgun drum magazines, XS drum magazines, and FN P-90 are available from They can make nearly all of their gear in MultiCam, on request.]

Now that we have learned exactly what is available, at the lowest cost possible (because being frugal is part of the preparedness concept), get going! Try on different gear. Find out what is best for you. Research what soldiers are currently wearing, and look up pictures of special forces soldiers, because they normally carry the lightest gear possible, which is ideal for bugging out. Find something you like, except for the color? Then spray paint it! Soldiers have been doing that for twenty years now, and it doesn’t hurt. So, I hope this article has helped point you in the direction of what you may one day need to save your life! Hey, who knows? Maybe you’ll turn that Bug Out Bag into a Bug Out Vest.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am not trying to offend anyone or represent myself as an expert. I know there are many preppers on this forum that will see none of what I am writing here as new. However, some people may need this information or have not thought of it. As for me a lot of this was learned over 13 years in the active Army and seven years as a policeman. I was placed working and living in some of the most inhospitable weather situations someone could find themselves in. Enough of my ranting and I will get to the point.

As I was finishing my final preparing for winter and watching the news about the storm hitting the plains states I realized that I should call my family to make sure they were ready for bad weather. This caused me to get a migraine real quick. Then I thought that I should put this all in writing so I could send it to them every winter and make my life easier. With that I figured why not share this information to everyone who reads this forum.

The first thing you should consider is weatherproofing your winter gear and camping gear just in case you actually need it. For my Goretex jackets (Yes even Goretex gets soaked thru eventually) and my canvas work jackets I waterproof them using Camp Dry (you can use any commercial waterproofing spray but I prefer this one). I recommend doing this outside if possible due to the fumes or in a well-ventilated area. It can also contaminate the area where you are working, due to silicone overspray. Also test the fabric of what you are about to weatherproof to make sure it doesn’t stain or ruin it. If you decided to use this product or others inside put something on the floor under the work area to protect it from staining.

For Bivvy Sacks for sleeping bags also use a product like Camp Dry to keep your sleeping bag dry. Also use a seam sealing product to make sure the seams are extra protected. You don’t want water just pouring in at the material seem and causing you to get soaked. Now I know they say the seams are already sealed, but do you trust them with your warmth and safety?

Now on to the topic of weatherproofing your boots. If they are leather boots use a product like Snow Seal and liberally coat the boots and then put them in the oven at 180 degrees for 1 hour (yes I said oven, by doing this you open the pores of the leather and allow it to absorb the Snow Seal. If your boots are made of something other than leather, then use Camp Dry, of course test the boots first to make sure it doesn’t ruin them. Wet feet can make you miserable real quick along with being a deciding factor in if you survive or not. Now to socks, cotton socks are evil! They will cause you to lose toes or worse. The reason for this is cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin very well, but it is great at wicking away the heat from your feet causing your feet to stay cold and end up freezing. So get wool socks or advanced fabric socks as they are the best choice. They wick moisture away from the skin and will still keep your feet warm even when wet.  Always remember warm feet are happy feet and will help you survive.

Now your vehicle as you will most likely depend on this greatly in bad weather. Make sure your headlights are working properly and are bright after a few years they start to get dim and should be replaced. Also if you have the type of headlights that have a clear plastic cover you will probably notice that they are milky white. You need to fix this with a commercially available headlight polishing kit and follow the directions. I found one at a local auto parts store for fewer than thirty dollars. It made my headlights like new.

Windshield wipers should be in good working order and of a good quality that won’t clog with ice and stop working properly. If they are bad replace them before you need them. Not seeing and driving are not a good combination, with that also make sure that you have a winter grade windshield wash as if it freezes up then it won’t help you.
Next is your battery and alternator, the two things that almost always fail when bad weather hits. Go to an auto parts store and have them put the tester on them to make sure they are okay. This will go a long way in easing worries about your vehicle not starting when you need it most.

As for vehicle maintenance not only does your oil need to be changed regularly but so does your antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, differential and transfer case oil if you have them. With these an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Now to your emergency kit for the car, in this should be a minimum of jumper cables (not everyone has them, but every care has a battery so if you have them you can get a jump), a set of work gloves (for changing tires and such) a knit cap or some other winter headgear, warm gloves, blanket’s, a few common tools (to tighten battery cables and such), emergency markers (I prefer flares and strobe lights over reflectors, as reflectors require headlights to hit them to be seen). Also having a days’ worth of food and water in the vehicle is nice in case you get stranded in your car. You can get emergency food rations and water from most survival or prepping web sites.  Having sand for traction and a compact shovel to dig out is a must also. You can also make traction ramps buy cutting heavy grate material about the width of 1 ½ the size of your tires and 3 feet long. Using this can also help you or someone else get unstuck in snow. Tire chains or snow tires are a must and if your tread is getting to the point of being only ¼ an inch deep get new tires. I know this seems a lot for your vehicle but when the worst case scenario that you never thought would happen to you does happen you will be better off for it. I know there is more for this topic but this is a good start. I also add my bug-out kit to my vehicle every time I get in it to drive. Also my bug-out kit and vehicle kit are one and the same. It makes it larger and heavier, but then I am never in the situation of saying why did I leave that at home

Now for the house besides back-up heating, food, water, lighting and the normal prepping stuff for bugging in there are a few items to consider. On backup heating you have to be careful due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I use the Mr. Heater MH18B Portable “Big Buddy” Heater by Mr. Heater as it has an automatic low oxygen shutoff system and tip-over safety shutoff.  If you don’t have something that senses when the oxygen is low or is made for indoor use then you need to have someone stay up preferably in shifts to watch the heater along with making sure there is enough ventilation in the room so there is not a build-up of Carbon Monoxide. This also goes for daytime heating and also for cooking. For lighting using low sulfur mineral instead of lamp oil in your oil lamps as it is cleaner and safer. Also it will keep you from having to repaint your house when everything is back to normal. This also goes for candles they will stain the pain in a house along with being a fire hazard. This is since we don’t run around using candles every day we will make mistakes that can and will be tragic. On that note with heating, cooking, and lighting you should have a couple a house-sized ABC fire extinguishers for emergencies.

You need one or two heavy tarps, parachute cord, and small sandbags so that you can put a temporary patch on your roof should a tree fall due to ice and snow and uses your house as a target. For windows having 2 inch wood screws, sheet plastic, and a couple of sheets of plywood to close up a broken window or door is a lifesaver. Also if you can precut the plywood for the windows it makes the repair a lot quicker.

A note on shoving snow, shoveling snow is considered heavy strenuous labor. It is also one of the leading causes of heart attacks in winter. So like any heavy workout take 15 minutes to warm up so your body realizes you are about to do something difficult. While working on removing the snow take many breaks. I normally only shovel snow for 15 minutes at a time then take a break so my heart rate can go back down. Also it may be cold but stay hydrated.

I hope everyone has a great winter, and hope that at least some of this information is helpful.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

“I’ve outgrown another dress. That’s the third. I’m having to wear Margot’s clothes after all...”
The diary of Anne Frank, by By Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Anne Frank, p. 86.

When Anne first heard they had to leave for the Secret Annex, she started to pack. First her diary went in, then her curlers, handkerchiefs, schoolbooks, comb, and a few letters. Miep Gies came and took away some shoes, dresses, coats, underclothes, and stockings. Anne wrote in her diary " We put on heaps of clothes as if we were going to the North Pole, the sole reason being to take clothes with us. No Jew in our situation would have dreamed of going out with a suitcase full of clothing. I had on two vests, three pairs of pants, a dress on top of that, a skirt, jacket, summer shorts, two pairs of stockings, lace-up shoes, woolly cap, scarf, ·..; I was nearly stifled before we started." (July 8, 1942). As quoted at

As a family man, I am truly blessed. As the Bible says, I have ‘a full quiver’ with four beautiful children. There have been many discussions with my wife as of late as to how we as a ‘larger than normal family’ survive and thrive if and when the world collapses. In one hand should I prepare for the coming collapse and sacrifice such valuable resources in exchange for expensive or fancy vacations, big screen televisions, and the newest super crew four wheel drive vehicles? Should I do nothing and trust in my Lord and Savior and have faith that he will see us through?

Oh sure, sounds cut and dry doesn’t it? Is it truly mutually exclusive? I mean, how much would a brand new Cummins Powered, Lifted, Super Crew 4x4 deprive my children during the coming apocalypse? Wasn’t there some scripture some where where God talked about flowers and birds and that he loved us more than them, yet he still provided for them?

Sounds like I am whining, so I will quit. As for me and my house, we chose to serve the Lord and ‘pass the bullets.’ I believe that since sin has entered the world, bad things are going to happen. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t or won’t intervene supernaturally. There have been numerous accounts where God had literally stepped in to pull my family out of bad situations.

God provided for me and my family right after 9/11. The following March the tech bubble burst in Tulsa where we were living at the time. The day my wife was giving birth to our first child, I was called in and laid off along with a large number of others. I did whatever I could to keep us afloat. I started my own web hosting and design business as well as a for sale by owner business. That worked for a time, until I drove up one weekend to attend a job fair in Indiana where my wife and I are from. Needless to say I got the job and was expected to start in two weeks. Rushing home, I had to literally pack everything, sell two homes, and move my wife and newborn back to our hometown. This was no easy task. However, with God’s help we did!

There are other situations where I felt the world and sin. Times like when I took in a family member and their children only to be stolen from, lied to, and taken advantage. Times when a ‘man’s word’ was broken on account of greed. Rivalry over my father’s estate between my uncles minutes before his funeral was to begin. I have been threatened and attacked. I have lost a child to miscarriage. I almost faced the razor edge sword of divorce.

Why do bad things happen to good people? As Ray Comfort would say...”because there are no good people.” Simply stating that since sin has entered the world, we are a fallen people in need of a Savior which God provided with Jesus. As with the economic collapse, that isn’t God’s doing but man and his own Sin.  I am sure there will be people say, ‘Why did God allow this to happen?” However, it wasn’t God who orchestrated this collapse, it was Man. Man who long ago decided to chip away and remove himself from God so that he could be his own god.
That my friends, is why it is important for you and I to ‘Praise God and pass the bullets.’ I don’t know when Christ’s return will be. However, until he returns, I will patiently follow him. I will provide for and protect my family. Like a favorite scripture of mine:

14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21His lord said unto him, Well done,thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, you can bury your talents and do nothing to prepare for the eventual economic crisis or use the wisdom provided by web sites such as SurvivalBlog to help multiply your talents and be ready when something truly catastrophic happens. That said, I guess you know where I stand, so let’s get to it shall we? Just how do we keep all these “youngin’s” in clothes? Here are some way to go about it.

Children grow. I feel that we are always shopping for new shoes, pants, shirts, and underwear. My kids play hard and their clothes show it. Shoes rarely last six months before either the shoes have holes in them, or the child has simply outgrown them. At times we are lucky enough to pass on clothing from one child to another due to three of my children are daughters. This often depends on how popular that particular piece of clothing was for the child. The more popular, the more worn and less likely it would be passed on. On a personal note, I have found that boys in general are more likely have a few favored clothes due to comfort and purpose than a closet full of ‘fashion fabulous.’ My youngest just turned three and I cannot go a day without witnessing her changing clothes two to three times to meet her mood or general play theme. If she is a princess, Lord help us because there are so many different Disney princesses to choose from. 

As a father, this is a real concern. How do I provide clothing for my children for their immediate need and for their foreseeable future when and if the world collapses? I could just let the wife and girls go reckless with the credit card and become fashion divas or put some law and order and clear thinking when it comes to buying clothes for children. Let’s hope common sense ‘reigns supreme’ and you really want to prepare your children for the coming apocalypse. So let’s dig in shall we?

So you can hit the ground running by visiting  your doctor to get a copy of the growth and weight charts. Our doctor uses them to measure our children’s growth as it applies to ‘national averages’ and to ensure that your child is progressing in a healthy manner. After looking at that chart, you should have some historical numbers showing their average growth and weight and what to expect those numbers to be if you followed the natural progression using the guidelines on the chart. This won’t give you sizes but it is a gauge to use in order to determine sizes at a particular age. For example, if your child is following a normal line and is a size five today and showing a growth of ten to fifteen percent in a given six month interval, how do you exactly know what size to buy in the future? Well, I make no claims in exactness because you never know how children will exactly grow and in what proportions.

Purchase clothing sizes for two to three years in advance. Aim for clothes in shades of browns or grays, clothes with flexible or adjustable waistbands, and clothes that can work in a pinch as layered clothing for colder weather. Buy cold weather clothes in 2/5th proportions to the other clothes you purchase for each sizing consideration because the other clothes will help while being layered on top on one another. For winter clothing, choose wool over cotton because wool keeps a lot of its thermal properties even when it is wet. Just remember when you are too cold, things shut down. Better to be on the side of too warm than too cold. You can always peel off layers to cool off. It is hard to put on new clothes when you don’t have them.

Shoes should be purchased combining sandals or flip-flops, with dark colored sneakers or high-top’s and one pair of cold weather shoes with thermal protection and some waterproofing. If you have to buy shoes in sizes larger than you know they will be to ensure that you have foot protection for extended times. If the shoes are too big, they can always stuff old snippets of old worn out socks or old rags into the toes until they grow into them.

Sure Jeff, sounds good. But where do I buy all this?

The local thrift shop is a great place to shop for clothes. Knowing your children’s sizes you can buy decent previously worn clothes for pennies on the dollar to keep your children clothed for almost any season. Shoes are harder to come by in thrift shops but they are available. Other than that, you can look for sales at Wal-Mart and other box retailers when the season change and you will find last season’s shoes in bins on the cheap. Sure, your kids may be screaming or whining over having to wear SpongeBob or Hello Kitty clothes now, but when faced with the cold, and the possibility of living without clothes all together, I am sure they will be thankful that their clothes are not as trendy as they would like.

If you live in an area that doesn’t have a thrift shop handy, there are alternatives. One of the best alternatives is look for changes in the season. Just after Christmas, after Easter, after back to school, and after Halloween are some great times to look for clothing on the clearance racks. I actually found a Bone Collector Scent Lock Second Layer (pants and top) for fifty percent off at Rural King two days before Christmas. My wife shops the ads from the local paper and mailers to see when there are season end sales and clearance sales. Keeping four kids in clothes can seem like a full time job. Know your budget, shop frugally, and you can prevail.

Other opportunities for clothing are through church ministries who give clothing to the community or toward  the needy or other community agencies providing clothing. One business in town has a program called ‘Coats for Kids.’ This dry cleaner goes around and collects barrels where people donated jackets, hats, and gloves for the area kids. He cleans them all and makes the presentable so they can then be given to the area’s needy children. The fact remains, there are many ways to acquire clothing, now if we want to really go back to our roots then we have another inexpensive and crafty alternative.

But first, a story that provides a a great segue:

My mother was the youngest of twelve children. For her growing up was full of chores, digging holes for the outhouse, getting creative to make supplies last, and simply working very, very hard. Sound sad doesn’t it? Well, during a time when the budget was quite tight and family resources were rather thin, my mother had to get quite creative in how she could keep her eight year old, happy, portly, bundle of sunshine in some summer clothes. My Grandmother was visiting for a month and they put their heads together in order to solve the problem of keeping lil’ Jeffy in clothes.

‘Back in the day’ people would go to the local market and buy patterns for clothing. They would take the patterns home along with bolts of fabric came in bolts. You can buy the entire measure of the bolt or simply buy what you need by the yard. Little did I know that clothes ‘could’ be made by the hands of able body maternal figures. All I had known was clothes from department stores and underwear that Santa always stuffed my stocking with.
But this day, this day would go down in childhood as the day where my mother would put the badge of outcast on this child who already had a fragile self esteem.

I had arrived from school to see my mother and grandmother anxiously waiting for me to try on their ‘wonder works of wonder’ which assimilated itself in a Hawaiian shirt and surfer shorts. They put together this outfit by purchasing a pattern at the craft store along with some super bright Curious George yellow fabric with pineapples and surfboards printed on it. I was shoo’ed off to my roof to try on the clothes they had made for me. The clothes fit fine, a bit scratchy since they were unwashed and newly mended. I was somewhat happy to have clothes that my Mom and Grandmother made me. It felt like a big, lovely, hug given to me. That was until it turned into a blight, soul crushing, fashion crime when I decided to wear my new threads to school the next day. My mom was so proud she washed them that evening and even ironed them for my proud presentation of my mother’s superb seamstress skills to the other school kids.

The next day, I showed up to school very proud of what my Mom made me. You should see my warm, chubby, Rosy-cheeked smile. I was so happy! It wasn’t the other kids who made fun of me first. It was my third grade teacher. He laughed, almost snorting in the process. He had to excuse himself for a minute in the hallway. By then the evil menagerie’ of children in my classed descended upon me with pointed fingers and heckles. I ran out of the class, crying. What makes it worse was on my way to the bathroom I slipped in such an awkward way that I split the seem of the shorts along the back revealing hints of my tighty whiteys.

With that in your mind, I point out that many affordable clothes can be made that will not ostracize your children in the post apocalyptic collapse. Think Mennonite but solely in grays and browns. Since you will be cleaning these clothes by hand, it makes it easier to keep things in the earth tones. It also enables one to not stand out in the middle of the woods like my bright yellow shirt my mother made. The advantage of doing this over store bought is several fold. One, by making the clothes yourself, you learn a very important craft that will be necessary and ‘barter-able’ in the new economy. Secondly, since you make the clothes, you will know how to properly mend them and make adjustments and necessary. Not to mention the fact that these skills means you can take almost any old fabric and re-purpose it for clothing, blankets, and patching material.

What about babies? Good question!

Babies needs are exponentially greater at younger ages until they reach toddlers. You nearly need to triple the amount of clothes for the baby than that you would buy for the other kids. This is because babies are cute, and messy! You want to have plenty of clothes to change them when they start teething and drooling. Even the cleanliest of women will have a hard time keeping their bouncing baby from getting filthy. Babies lose temperature easy. Remember keeping their head, feet and hands covered as possible. Swaddle them when they are young and during the cold weather. Later when they grew more hair and are more active, there is less concern to keeping their head covered. Appropriate attention to hygiene and cleanliness of their clothing will go a long way in their toddler stage and upwards to adult hood.

Diapers are a huge concern. One of the happiest days in parenting is when you realize you no longer have to purchase diapers. Prepping for the collapse and planning to have disposable enough diapers to last you two years as your child ages and grows is a herculean task. While much harder to deal with and requiring more work to clean, it is easier to pack and store cloth diapers and accessories for a your child. For one, the diapers don’t change in size, you simply change how you fold them to meet the child’s new size. You can buy several diaper wrappers to keep in the wetness in the diapers. Buying one hundred cloth diapers and accessories (pins, wrappers, rash medication) will be much easier to plan for than trying to store a warehouse of diapers.

Anything else?

Well yes, matter of factly! Changing socks and underwear is very important. Socks are very important for the care of your feet. If you have sweaty feet, deodorant applied to the feet can help. Other than that, be sure to change your socks often. This will fight not only odor but other foot ailments. This also applies to underwear. Your mother always told you to have a pair of clean underwear in the car, well I am telling you to change your underwear often especially if you sweat a lot. Moisture that doesn’t get wicked away from your groin and behind can leave you irritable, chaffed, and experience things such as ‘jungle rot.’ Nothing more pleasant than having to clean away the dead skin that has accumulated in your nether regions.

Belts and hats should also be part of your preparation. Of all the belts I have, I only plan on bringing the web belts that I have purchased from our local army surplus store. For one they function just as they are supposed to and hold my pants up. Secondly, they are easily adjustable if I either lose weight or carrying two base layers under my current clothing during the cold. They also are easy to clip on attachments like clipped ammo pouches, pocket knives, and holsters. In a pinch I have used them to tie up game to sling across my back on the way back from checking traps during the winter. As for hats, you need a couple. You need one cold gear hat that will keep your head and ears warm. Be that a stocking cap, or one of those funny Elmer Fudd hats, you need something to keep the warmth in. You need a hat to keep the sun off your neck for field work. This should be something with a wide brim and breathable during warm weather. I would also suggest a ball cap or other styled hat that you can wear for normal work to keep the sweat from your eyes and your hair back.

With all this information, I still remained a little vague as it is hard to ascertain the importance of one type of garment or item for one family over another. God only knows why my wife loves those dumpy Elmer Fudd hats, but she does and will go out proudly into cold wearing it. She always said that a ‘A cold head isn’t cool.’  When you put your items up for storage, remember that you need to evaluate each year. After one year has passed, those clothes marked for year one needed to be added to their current play clothes and shoes they wear. Then you rotate the second year’s clothes into the first year’s clothes box. By inspecting them and moving them allows you to ascertain whether or not your predicted correctly or if you need to make adjustments when you go out to fill your new second year bin. Choosing clothing cannot be as mathematical as determining the caloric intake needs of the family and buying stored foods accordingly. Here there is a little fudge room. I always lean to purchase on the larger side because I can always tighten up a belt or hem the bottom of my pants. Be thrifty, and truthful for your clothing needs and you will have what you need to keep you and yours covered!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I’ve been seriously prepping for a decade and consider myself a prepared and competent guy.   Y2K got me started, but the events of the past few years have kicked my preps into higher gear.   I’m confidant with my guns and food storage.  I have alternate power and heat sources established at both our home and retreat location.  I have a co-worker who includes me in his prepper group’s  meetings.  My family (immediate and some extended) is on board with our plans for TEOTWAWKI.   Although I’m not where I want to be, I’m know I’m better off than 98% of the sheeple out there.
After my travel experience today, I’m not so sure I’m as “practically” prepared as I should be.
Today was a beautiful day.  52 degrees in Nebraska… January!?!?    What a great day for a road trip.  My daily driver is a late 1990s Subaru.  It still gets great mileage and is all wheel drive which is nice in this climate.  My wife drives a newer minivan and we have a low mileage 2001 Dodge Durango for our spare/bug out vehicle.   My car’s odometer read 168,508 when I filled the tank this morning.  It was getting close to ½ empty so of course, as a prepared guy, it was time to fill up. 
I finished a sales call just after noon in a small town about 30 miles North of the City where we live. I decided to take the scenic route on the way back to the office.     I chose to travel a paved road that ran west from the main highway.  From this road I took a number of  gravel roads headed mostly southbound .   Besides the fact that I enjoy the windshield time, I’d like to buy a piece of rural property and these road trips are an easy way to look for them.  It was on one of these roads that my car’s timing belt failed.  In a disabled car on a quiet country road is not a place you want to be on most January days in the Midwest.  I was very thankful for the mild weather today.   I had no clue how much I would learn from this slight diversion from the highway.  
My first thought was…”Where am I?” Situational Awareness is something I’ve read about on Survival Blog dozens of times.  But, I didn’t have a clue what road I was on.  What was the intersecting road had I crossed a mile or so back? How far off the highway was I?  I could see a small town about 2 miles to my south west.  What town is that?  It was too far to read the writing on the water tower.                     

Lesson #1:  Pay attention!  Know where I am all the time. 

Lesson #1.5: Get a GPS for this car.
There were two houses in view, one was about a mile behind me and one was about three quarters of mile ahead.   It was time for a hike.  Note:  Rockport semi-casual dress shoes are fine for sales calls. They are not however, intended for walking on gravel.  Same goes for dress socks or dress pants.  Good news:  I keep wool socks and my Vibram boots in my “Get Home” bag.   I love those boots!  I picked them up at a local Army Surplus store for about $25.   Too bad that my “Get Home” bag wasn’t in the trunk.   I took it in the house to update it last night!  I did not put it back in the car this morning.                                       

Lesson #2: It’s called a “Get Home” bag…not a “leave it at home” bag for a reason.
Not knowing If I’d be coming back to the car or not, I grabbed my laptop in its backpack, my cell phone and my keys (I double checked that I had the keys) and locked the car.  As I walked down the road I was pleased to see I had great cell reception.   I called my wife to tell her what was going on.   She offered to come get me, but she is directionally challenged and doesn’t  trust the GPS . Besides, I couldn’t tell her where I was anyway.   I was in the process of telling her that I would figure out where I was and then call her back when my cell phone battery died.  This just gets better all the time. 

My plan was to walk down the road to the next house or intersection to determine where I was.  I could see the cross road about two miles ahead was a paved road with quite a bit of traffic.  I guessed at what highway it was, but still couldn’t think of the name of that little town.   The farmhouse ahead was set back from the road with a long driveway. I did not want to approach the house.  It seemed a little to ‘cliché: traveling salesman with a broke down car down the road….  No, there had to be another way to figure out where I was.   Their mailbox was on a post along the road but there were no numbers on it. The mailbox door was ajar and I could see that there was mail inside.   I hope I didn’t break and postal laws, but I pulled out a piece of mail and wrote down the address then returned the mail to the box.  At least I had pen and paper with me. 
As I walked back to my car, I plugged my Goal Zero Guide 10 into my cell phone. This is a great little AA (4) battery charger/power supply. It has three different power input ports, a USB output port and a built in LED light.  I keep this and necessary cords in my computer backpack.   I plug it once a week to insure it is charged.  I have set up a reminder on my outlook calendar to remind me to do this.  See, I wasn’t as unprepared as I had thought.    After my phone re-booted, which seemed to take forever, I called my anxious wife and told her not to worry and that I’d just call AAA roadside assistance.   The walk back to the car was colder due to the wind in my face.  52 with wind chill is still nippy.  I had no gloves, no hat, and was only wearing a light jacket.  My “Get Home Bag” has gloves and stocking cap…. oh yeah, I left it at home.                                                                                                                                                             

Lesson #3: It’s fine to wear the light jacket on a nice day, but bring the warmer one, too.  This is Nebraska in January for crying out loud.
Once I reached the car again I called AAA.   This AAA membership is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.   I understand that my auto insurance company offers roadside assistance at no cost too, but I’ve neglected to sign up for it.  I’ll do that tomorrow….really, I will.   The agent on the phone was very nice but had a hard time finding the address I’d pulled from the nearby mailbox.  It took about 10 minutes to get the tow order set up.  She said the tow truck driver would arrive in about 30 minutes and that He would call in route.  The agent also said they would call again to check on me.
I powered up my laptop (plugged onto the car 12 v), I plugged the cell phone into the laptop USB and used my Air card to get on the Internet. I pulled up MapQuest and determined exactly where I was, the name of the nearby town and settled in for the wait. The net is great but, what if I had not been able to get on it?                                                                                                                                                           

Lesson #4:  I own a good State Road/ Topographical map.  Put it in the car.  
AAA called back and told me that the tow truck driver was going to be more like an hour away.  Good grief!  I gave them a much better description of my location and told her I was content to wait.  The driver called me about 15 minutes later and I also gave him better directions as he had not received the updated information. 
I’d only seen one car go by on the road and that had been right after the mine had died.  That driver didn’t even slow down.  Two utility trucks drove by without stopping before a farmer finally stopped.  I told him I was fine and waiting for a tow.  The next vehicle made me very nervous.  This beater pickup approached from the highway,  slowed as he went by then turned around and came back. There were two guys in this truck and they pulled over dangerously close to my window. The “less than professional looking” passenger leaned out and asked if I needed help. I replied that I was fine and waiting on a tow.  He asked how long I’d been waiting.  I (lied and) answered that the tow truck would be there in just a few minutes.  He asked what I thought was wrong and if I was a salesman.  I remained friendly and answered.    He said “Well I didn’t think you were a farmer, you got them ‘out of county” plates.”  I thanked them for stopping then thanked the Lord when they drove away.     I’m happy to say that I have a concealed carry permit.  I even had it with me… the permit that is.  I did not have my handgun.   I did not have my knife.  I did not have my “truck tire thumper.”  I had nothing for personal protection – on me or in the car. I’ve not felt that vulnerable (or stupid) in a really long time.                                     

Lesson #5: A Concealed Carry Permit does you no good if you don’t carry. 
I now know that I was 24 miles from home.  If I had walked, I estimate the walk on this nice day would have taken me close to six hours (at four miles per hour).  That pace would have gotten me home about 9 p.m. when the temperature would have been in the low 30s and it would have been dark for four hours.  The only thing of any use in the car was a wool blanket which I probably would have improvised into a poncho for the walk.  Obviously, I had communication capability so I would not have walked the entire distance.  But, that was this time.  What if this had been an EMP?  What if the weather today had not been so nice?
The tow truck arrived when expected. Technically, I got myself home ‘all by myself’ and it all turned out fine, except for the upcoming car repair bill.     My “Get Home” bag is restocked, updated and at the front door ready to put in the Durango in the morning.    Lessons learned!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I just read the SurvivalBlog writing contest article on keeping honeybees.  It was an excellent primer for someone to read and get started working with honeybees.  I have a few tidbits of information from my experience keeping bees.  We have had bees at our home for three years now, and it's been one of the most amazing things I have ever done.  We got started with a local supplier, and stood up two full size langstroth hives, and then brought the two "nucs" home (driving with 30,000 bees in a minivan for an hour and a half is exhilarating to say the least!)  Following the instructions I was given by the supplier, I placed the nucs near the hive bodies, and then opened up the screening that kept the bees in the nucs.  Immediately, some nuclear powered bee I swear stung me on the nose, but that was it.  I managed to move 10 frames in total, 5 to each hive, into their new homes.  Then I just sat and watched, amazed, completely in awe at the bees.  Both hives did well for the first year, and then following some advice found on the Internet, I tilted open the top to let the heat out, and wax moths got in, and devastated one hive.  The few bees remaining swarmed, and were gone.  We were down to one hive, but it was a strong hive.  We are planning on getting two bee packages next year, to get us up to three hives.  From the one hive, we have harvested six honey super frames (smaller in height) each year for the past two years, and had the benefit of a gallon of local, organic honey each year.  Our problem is that as we use the honey more, we go through it faster.  We've replaced sugar in our breads, tea, etc...  I have collected propolis from the frames, have a bunch of wax, and am putting in pollen traps next spring, so that we can get the full range of beneficial harvest from the bees.

I have wanted to build a top-bar hive for a while now. They look very beneficial on many aspects, from only moving 1 frame (disturbing the bees less when you work the hive) to being more natural for the bees, which I have read leads to healthier bees.  The design allows for mites to fall down, and out of the hive, that a langstroth does not have.  I would strongly recommend that anyone interested start web searching and YouTubing now, there is an amazing amount of information on the web, and the YouTube channels are the best source of information I have found (minus opening the hive top to let out heat).

A co-worker told me about the painting smocks at Lowe's, the inexpensive coveralls that protect you while painting, work well as a bee suit, and if you can't afford a bee suit, this is a great way to save a few bucks.  

Also, there is a recipe out there that works amazingly well to keep "robbers" out of your hive.  Take a 2 liter bottle, and cut a 1 inch hole in the middle of it.  Then put in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and a banana peel.  Doing this, and hanging it near the hives was amazing.  European hornets, yellow jackets, wax moths all fly in, and can't fly back out, and then die, and the odor they release attracts more of the robbers.

We have seven acres here, and we placed the hives within 50 feet of our home, and the bees have never been a problem.  My wife is allergic to bee stings, and has never been stung yet, none of us have, except for me, and that was only when I was working the hive.  The bees did take a liking to our pool, but eventually started using the pond in the pasture for their source of water.  Our neighbors have not been bothered by them, and our gardens have produced 2 to three times the amount of food with the pollinators working.  The weeds (wildflowers) have done very well also, that is a slightly negative side effect, the garden weeds are stronger now too, so more weeding is required.

One last bit of advice, to reiterate: Direct your web browser to Google, find newsgroups/newsfeeds/rss feeds of bee bloggers, and get into youtube channels, and watch/read and it will make you a much better beekeeper.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CPT Rawles:
I have read with interest all the good advice on sleeping bags and how to stay warm in very cold weather.  Most of the writers speak about a specific area they lived in, or traveled in, as a basis for the post.  There is a lot of good, sound advice out there by these writers.  I thought I might contribute my own personal opinion as well, since my own experience ranges pretty much across all weather extremes, and was under conditions far harsher than hiking, camping or hunting – at least for the most part.  I spent 29+ years in the US Army (mainly airborne and air assault infantry and a short time in the ALARNG SF).  My duties took me to many countries and I have slept out in the weather of countries like Honduras, southern USA, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy and Norway to name just a few.  I have experienced quite a range of temperatures and environmental conditions over the years.  In all these areas, I had to sleep with what I could carry on my back using a large Army issue ALICE pack and my time out in these conditions varied from a couple of days to over a month at a time.  I also didn’t have the option of going in if the weather was bad, the Army tends to frown on that for the most part.  My sleeping varied from leaning up against my ALICE pack with a poncho thrown over me to setting up for good sleep around an airfield waiting for a ride home (which, if you know about redeployment then you know that the Army gets you there in a hurry, but can be slow to get you an aircraft to get home). In some of these places I had the use of a HMMWV, but that was the rare exception, rather than the rule.  I want to focus on sleeping out in harsh conditions with only what you carry on your back – that is a far different proposition for most folks.  Even if you have a vehicle, if it breaks down or you have to dismount and leave the vehicle, you then only have what you can carry on your back.
My personal ideal sleeping setup consists of a hot weather and cold weather system, with both using a common sleeping bag as the base system.  While I know some people don’t care for them, I have never found a better base sleeping bag system than the current military issue system (you can buy these used from Coleman’ surplus).  It consists of a Gore-Tex bivy sack, heavy sleeping bag, light sleeping bag, and a compression sack.  I have three of these I bought as I PCS’d from various units.  The old down military sleeping bag was just too heavy and was not suited for wide ranging weather conditions, and I for one applaud the Army for replacing it with the current issue system.  Also for my base system I add an old heavy duty Army poncho (pre-dates the current rip stop nylon type of poncho),  a dozen bungee cords and tent stakes, and a cut up foam pad for insulation from the ground.  The bungee cords wrap around the frame of my ALICE pack against my back and the foam pad fits under it, so no space is wasted on these extras and the weight is negligible.  Yes, my old ALICE pack is still my go to pack for my use.  Old habits die hard.  The bungee cords, tent stakes and poncho make a great lightweight shelter and windbreak for one person and you can put you head on the kidney pad of the ALICE for a pillow so that your pack stays dry under the poncho as well.  Many configurations are possible with this setup and you need to experiment on what works best for you.  My favorite go-to setup is my poncho strung between two trees in an A configuration.  Don’t forget to tie off the poncho hood so that water doesn’t drip in from that opening.  The bungee cord allows for quick set up and tear down, even in the dark with no lights and under noise discipline conditions.  Yes, the Gore-Tex bivy sack is waterproof and I have just rolled it out and slept in it in the rain, but if you have the time, putting a poncho over your bag keeps it dry so when you stow it the rest of your gear doesn’t get wet (the poncho can go under the straps on the outside even if wet), and it gives you a dry spot to get your boots on and eat chow, etc.

For warm/hot weather (I consider this to be 35 degrees and up) you have to consider humidity in most places, and rain is almost a certainty, as are bugs, no-seeums, snakes, scorpions, etc.  When most folks think of sleeping out in hot weather, they think of warm weather, sleeping on the ground, and stars in the sky – life is good.  Well, those nights do exist, but are far more rare than you think.  What will make you miserable in hot weather is not the same as what will make you miserable in cold weather, and you have to plan for it.  Wind is not that bad in warm weather, but it can be, especially if temperatures are below 50 yet still above 35 degrees.  Then hypothermia is a consideration as well.  For warm/hot weather, in addition to my base system, I like to add a hammock or what the Army calls “Netting, General Purpose” tied off on the ends with rope and a mosquito net.  Both are light weight and very collapsible in your pack, so they pack well.  If you have the money, you might want to explore purchasing a Clark’s Jungle Hammock.  I have never owned one, but I personally know several old timers that do and they swear by them, rather than at them, which speaks volumes when discussing a hammock.  The hammock and Mosquito net are invaluable for keeping bugs and critters from getting at the buffet line that awaits them once you go to sleep and you can still use the poncho to keep rain off or as a wind break if necessary.  In a hammock, when the weather drops below about 65 degrees, remember you lost heat from the bottom, so you still need that foam pad under you.  Until I learned this lesson, I slept badly in a hammock in 70 degree weather.  You may think you are warm when you go to bed, but you will wake up soon from the cold.  As I understand it, the Clarks hammock has pockets under it you can stuff with stuff for insulation against this.  Also, if you have never slept in a hammock, you should sleep out in your backyard in one a few times before you try it under less desirable conditions.  Some folks cannot sleep in a hammock without falling out and others have to learn to sleep differently than they normally do.  Another method of a quick sleeping set-up in hot weather is to just put a poncho liner in the Gore-Tex bivy sack and sleep in that, however, I find as I have gotten older a little padding under it doesn’t hurt either.

For cold weather (I consider this to be below 35 degrees), wind is your primary enemy, as is moisture of any kind whether it is rain, sleet, snow, hail, etc.  Humidity, bugs and reptiles are not generally a problem at this temperature, however in some places in the world, things that crawl and slither have been known to seek out your personal warmth.  I well remember a cold night in Ranger school in Florida phase when my Ranger buddy woke up, stood up and started gathering his gear only to find out that a little old Pygmy Rattlesnake had burrowed under his poncho liner and was curled up asleep in a small hollow in the ground.  They had slept together all night with neither one the worse for wear, but to say my friend was a bit startled is to put it mildly - however, I digress.  Cold weather injuries like frost nip, frost bite, hypothermia, etc. are very real possibilities and you must plan for how to mitigate these.  In cold weather, I have to agree with the other authors that said sleeping in polypro with socks and a knit cap is the best way to go.  Now, I admit I wasn’t able to try the buck naked approach, since jumping out of my fart sack in the middle of the night buck naked just wasn’t done in most of the areas I was in – generally, hot or cold weather I stayed in my uniform taking off only my boots and my shirt.  Sometimes, depending on where I was and the conditions under which I was there, I slept in my boots and shirt as well along with my rifle.  Like I said, my experiences were a bit different from normal camping.   So for cold weather, I would always recommend 2-3 knit caps and a balaclava made of stretch material, polypro or silk underwear, heavy socks, etc.  I also carried an old hot water bladder that I could fill with water I heated over a heat tab and put in my bag with me if it was extremely bad/cold conditions.  I think the worst conditions I ever slept out in was during a NATO exercise in Norway, when after jumping in (ever been a living, breathing yard dart?) we had to live in snow caves for a week.  The snow caves made sleeping great since it was out of the wind, but if you were above ground the wind dropped the temperature down to almost inhabitable levels.

I never used a pillow other than my ALICE kidney pad or my rolled up shirt, so you can decide if you want that extra bit of kit or not.  I always put my clothes in my sleeping bag with me, in cold weather so they would be warm and for extra insulation, and in hot weather to keep scorpions and other critters out of them.  Always shake your boots out before putting them on – develop this habit early so you don’t get an unwelcome surprise from a scorpion or snake some morning when you haven’t even had your coffee yet.  If you decide to sleep with your boots on in cold weather or hot, unlace the boots so your feet don’t swell and change your socks in the morning religiously.  Also, when sleeping in cold weather, if you are eating MREs, put your breakfast rations in the fart sack with you so they aren’t frozen in the morning.  Same with your canteens.  I know it sounds like a lot of stuff in the bag with you, but it can be done and still allow comfortable sleeping – just don’t wait until you have to do it, to figure out how to do it – practice under good conditions first.  Also, be very cautious about sleeping in cold weather completely in your sleeping bag – if you breath into your bag you will create condensation that will form moisture on the inside of your sleeping bag and chill you to the bone.  You should arrange yourself so that your breath is going outside rather than inside your bag.

I am sure I have forgotten something, but the bottom line is to practice, practice, practice under decent conditions first, where if you aren’t comfortable it isn’t life threatening – survival gear is pricey, but knowledge is priceless. - J.K.R.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Okay, I hesitated to write, but here it is. I want the gal with the questions to get some good solid advice. First, I do not always agree with James Wesley Rawles, I read his site every day, I agree with lots, but not all of what he says. As for the sleeping bags, I do agree. I'm a 5'2'' female at 140 pounds. I've lived in Alaska for as long as my memory goes back. I camp, hunt, trap, all winter long. I've tried a lot of things, two sleeping bags, liners, bivvy sacks. I've slept out in -30 with -80 wind chill multiple times. Here is my advice. Spend the money get a Wiggy's FTRSS system. And if you are still worried about sleeping cold, then get a good hat, down booties and a nice sleeping pad. I have all three, but really have never been cold in my Wiggy's brand sleeping bag. Even when out musk ox hunting in the winter in a little valley where I'm sure all the wind from the Bering Sea was being funneled down onto us. My husband who is 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds uses the same sleeping bag, and he loves it just as much as me. - L.R.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

As a long time camper, backpacker, outdoorsman, and now K-9 SAR Tech, I understand that temperature regulation at night can be a problem.  Here are some of the tricks I've used:

I almost always use a silk bag liner.  This has multiple advantages: 1) silk feels warm when it's cold and cool when it's hot (2) silk protects the sleeping bag from dirt, minimizing the amount of needed washings and prolonging its life (3) in the winter, silk will make you bag about 5-10 degrees warmer (technically speaking, this "drops" you temp rating number- a 35 degree bag becomes a 25-30 degree bag).  All 3 are mummy bags.

I have multiple sleeping system, 3 primary bags, and I choose depending on the weather.  I use a 40 degree bag (Mountain Hardware) from the latter part of Spring through the beginning of Fall,  a Sierra Designs 30 degree bag for the transition into and out of Winter.  Both of these bags are synthetic.  During the coldest trips I use a Western Mountaineering 850 fill down sleeping bag rated at 5 degrees (with a liner this is -5).  You can't beat down for those really cold nights.

During warm months, stay hydrated.  This is a major tool for body temperature regulation.  Before sleep I'll drink a good amount of water, and this is also the time I bathe.  This will lower my body's temp.  It's like a cool shower before bed.  One great trick is to wet a bandana, ring it out, and put it on the back of your neck.  Make sure you've got adequate ventilation in your tent.  If you haven't used the guy lines this could be one of the problems, as the rain tarp begins to lay against the tent wall, increasing condensation because of the reduction of air flow. Choosing a quality campsite also greatly influences air flow.  If you can camp near water you're normally going to have some movement of air.

During the cold months I, as JWR already mentioned, always sleep with a knit cap on.  To keep my feet warm, I heat water and put it into a Nalgene bottle, put the bottle into a sock, and stick the sucker down into the bottom of the bag.  Warm goodness all night long.  I also eat a fatty, sugary snack before bed (a candy bar or something similar).  This gives my body fuel for the night, and I keep a snack handy in case I wake up.  I will also drink warm liquids.  My favorite is hot chocolate with a hunk of butter in it.  The butter provides extra, longer lasting fuel for my body's furnace.

Campsites in the winter should also be chosen based on temp.  No longer will I camp in valleys and on peaks, I like a place about halfway up the hill.  This seems to minimize exposure and the settling of cold air around me.

Last point- I always sleep naked, with the exception of a big, fluffy pair of sock I only use for sleeping.  They don't go on until I'm getting in the bag, and the same socks are used for the duration of the trip- one night to 30, and that's okay, because they never get dirty; they're only slept in.  Nakedness limits the layers between me and the bag, allowing the bag to more efficiently do its job of trapping air and using it as insulation.  In the AM, before I get out of the bag, I pull all my clothes into the bag with me for about 15 minutes to warm them up, so I don't lose heat to the cold cloth.  Pull the clothes in a layer at a time so you don't freeze yourself out (i.e. base layers for about 10 minutes, put 'em on, insulation layer about 10 minutes, put it on, outer layer 5-10 minutes, put it on)

Hope this helps, and sleep well! - D.B.

Hi Jim,
I can really relate to Nikki S.'s dilemma with sleeping bags.  In my younger days (mid 1980s) I lived outdoors for 2 years in a wilderness setting in a northern climate.  This was before manufacturers figured out men and women are built differently.  I was constantly dealing with an ill-fitting backpack and sleeping bags built for men.  One of my few claims-to-pseudo fame is that I worked with some of the major manufacturers in the 80's to design outdoor equipment for women.  My 5 ft. 6 frame was used as a template for some of the first sleeping bags and backpacks.  I did a lot of field testing of outdoor product for the manufacturers and was proud to be a part of the evolution in gear for women.
In the early days, when I had no choice, I would sleep in my polypropylene, wool socks and watch cap.  Even then I was still cold and would have to stuff my extra clothes into the empty voids of my too big sleeping bag.  If it was really cold I would heat up some boiling water and put it in my water bottles.  One would go down by my feet and I would curl up (trunk area) with the other one.  If I was camping in the summer and was too warm then I would not zip the sleeping bag all the way up.  I used it more as a comforter on top of me with my feet tucked into the foot box.  If a body part got too hot then you could easily slide it out from underneath the "comforter" sleeping bag to cool off.
These days, manufacturers make product in sizes and gender.  Look for one closer to your size, i.e., height, width at shoulders and hips.  In cold weather I still will wear a hat and start out with Thorlo socks on when I go to bed.  If you are still cold then add hot water bottles, or an extra layer such as a liner bag.  In warm weather I still don't zip my sleeping bag up and just use it as a comforter so I can easily regulate my temperature needs.
Which type of sleeping bag to buy?  Here is where I run contrary to what most readers of this blog would recommend.  I worked for 10 years as an outdoor survival professional and interacted with countless other people in the profession.  98% of staff would only use goose down sleeping bags.  However, we issued synthetic bags to the students.  The only exception would be if we were working a river course such as rafting or kayaking.  Then about 50% of the staff would go with the synthetic bag.  Synthetic bags are heavier and bulkier so if space is a consideration then this is not necessarily a good choice.  If you are car camping or not in a backpacking type situation then go with whatever works for you because size and bulk won't matter.
If you are in a backpacking type situation where you are going to have to carry everything that is going with you, then I recommend goose down.  If you are using goose down, then the trick is that you have to actually care about your gear, have a little outdoor experience and be aware of your surroundings.  (Thus, the reason we put students in synthetic bags).  To help eliminate the fear of your goose down bag getting wet there are a few things you can do.  I use a heavy gauge trash compactor bag to line my sleeping bag compression sack.  They are very waterproof and do not tear easily.  You could also use a small waterproof river dunnage bag instead of a normal sack if you are really worried about it.
I also pay a lot of attention to where I set up my sleeping area because I don't use tents.  I either sleep out under the stars or may set up a 6 X 8 polyester rip-stop tarp.  I don't set up too close to the fire or in an area where if it rains hard you are going to have a torrent of water running through your sleeping area.  If you are sill worried about your bag getting wet then you can put the bottom half of your bag in the trash compactor bag, throw a quality tarp over you or use a gore-tex bivy bag. 
In all my years of living and working in an outdoor wilderness setting I have never had the wet sleeping bag syndrome.  But then, I consider my sleeping bag as one of the most critical pieces of survival equipment and pay attention to its care and placement.  I've crossed a hundred plus river and streams while carrying a backpack and yes, I have taken a couple of falls.  As a result, my backpack did get soaked on the outside but all my stuff on the inside was dry because I use trash compactor bags to line the main compartments and sleeping bag.  They are worth their weight in gold! 
Take care and keep your powder and socks dry. - Skylar


I do better with a bag for women, my favorite is The North Face brand Cat's Meow for women. I add a silk liner if I need extra warmth. God bless, - Patti G


To the lady asking about sleeping bags: I rediscovered for myself a few years ago on a snow camping trip with my Boy Scouts the comfort of a hot water bottle. Since we are in Southern California so it is rare for us to camp in freezing temps and while we did rent extra warm bags for this trip, the first night was a chiller. The top of Mt. Pinos hit 12 degree F. and to a bunch from the beach it was not pleasant. While cuddling a hot chocolate the next morning it hit me that the easiest way to stay warn, with what we had, was to fill our Nalgene liter water bottles with near-boiling water, put one in a sock, and stuff it in the foot of the sleeping bag. I was amazed at how well this simple trick worked! The old folks from pre-electricity had something good going. Toasty warm feet all night, and the water was still hot enough for hot chocolate in the morning. Easily done if you have some way to heat water.
I would imagine that the same trick, with a few bottles of cold water, would work just as well in the summer heat. Wrap them in something to slow and absorb the condensation and snuggle. - JR

Mr. Rawles,

My experience as a reservist in the Canadian Army gave me a little bit of incite about sleeping bags, especially in extreme cold.  When I was serving, the Canadian Forces sleeping bag system was comprised of a valise carrier, a Goretex Bivy bag, a down-filled outer shell, a down filled inner, a cotton liner and a goofy "hood" with straps for the wearer to slip his/her arms through to keep the hood in place while they slept. 

An air mattress and ground sheet (a militarized tarp) were also standard issue.  This system worked very well in extreme cold and warm temperatures.  I slept comfortably outside a shelter as low as  -20C (-4F), inside a semi-heated tent down to -40C (-40F), and in summer months as warm as +20C (68F) by layering up and down as appropriate.  

The biggest downside of this system though was being down, one had to be very careful to air out and dry the outer shells in the event they got wet.  Of course, also being nylon, one had to be extremely careful to keep the assembly away from an open fire.

Your advice about keeping your head warm is well worth noting, but a critical lesson I can speak to first hand is to not put your head inside your sleeping bag with the rest of your body as you sleep.  In cold conditions, moisture from your breath will cause additional condensation to form inside your sleeping bag which will make you colder.  

I will note as well that that wearing a "sleeping cap" (a toque, as we call it up here in Canada), will keep you warm, however it will also mat down your hair significantly to the point where I found I'd sometimes wake up with bad a headache.  The issued "hood" alleviated this problem as it was loose, but many troops found the armpit straps very annoying.  One solution I had was to simply wrap my head loosely in a large scarf or a Keffiyeh.

Another consideration as well is to not excessively layer up your personal clothing when sleeping inside a sleeping bag.  My first winter exercise as an inexperienced Private, I wore long underwear and wool socks inside my sleeping bag and woke up the next morning miserable without getting a wink of sleep.  During the night, I was so warm, I had sweat excessively as a result of overdressing and the sweat actually made me colder at night.

It may sound surprising, but with a good sleeping bag system, even when it's -40C, one of the best things you can do (conditions allowing) is hop in and strip right down to your underwear.  When you wake up in the morning, keeping your inner layer of clothes inside the sleeping bag off your skin also warms them up nicely.

If sleeping on the ground, pretty much regardless of the temperature, it's critical you keep yourself off the surface.  Surface temperature outside a heated shelter is almost always colder than your body temperature and lying on it, even in an insulated sleeping bag, will cause a lot of heat loss.  A cot, air mattress, ground sheet, evergreen boughs, even your outer layer of clothing work well to serve this purpose.  If using an inflatable air mattress it's important not to blow it up using your own breath, as air you exhale is at body temperature, and as that air cools, it contracts.

After waking up, it's a good practice to air out and dry your sleeping bag (if possible), not only to ensure it's warm the next time you use it, but also for hygiene consideration.  A damp, dingy sleeping bag WILL grow mold over time, so as is feasible, in addition to regularly drying it out, it is a good idea to clean a sleeping bag following manufacturer recommendations.  If it is not feasible to wash the entire sleeping bag, at the very least, washing the internal, cotton liner regularly is a good idea.  For non-military sleeping bags, a detachable, machine washable liner, I would say is a very desirable feature.

One closing remark on sleeping bags.  The Canadian Forces issue sleeping bag was, relatively speaking, a gigantic piece of kit.  It can be tempting, especially in constructing a lightweight bug out bag, to overlook such a large item, however, I have a personal experience that I think emphasizes why that may not be prudent.

In the military I once did a basic five day survival exercise course with the Canadian Rangers (the "Arctic patrol" Reserve force of the Canadian Forces) where we were paired with another soldier, given half of an Individual Meal Pack (IMP) ration (the Canadian equivalent to an MRE), issued a small kit with an axe, flint, empty coffee can, some snare wire and paracord and given orders to "survive" as if we were stranded.  We were in northern Alberta, and even with a Chinook and unseasonably warm temperatures (of about -5C), the heaviest winter kit we were issued (parkas, snow pants, mukluks) with a fire and well constructed lean to, it was very difficult to stay warm.  I didn't sleep  more than half an hour the entire exercise because I was so cold. (During that survival exercise, the Rangers took our sleeping bags away from us, before dropping us off.)

In comparison, I later attempted to sleep inside my issued sleeping bag following the techniques I outlined above, on pavement, unsheltered, when it was -20C with a wind-chill of -30C.  I was comfortable enough that I  slept like a baby that night. - L.N. in The Great White North


Howdy James,
Here’s some thoughts about choosing a sleeping bag for cold weather use. I was a scoutmaster for a rural Colorado Boy Scout Troop for 12 years, and most of our kid’s families couldn’t afford the latest synthetic -40 below bags. We found that using two sleeping bags, one inside the other, provided plenty of warmth even when camping in the High Rockies in the middle of winter. Two zero degree rated bags (summer use in our area) would be more than sufficient.
Your advice about covering the head is completely correct. We advised our kids to bring along a big fluffy bath towel for this purpose. It makes a very good thermal air dam at the top of your bag. You should always sleep wearing a stocking cap of course.
I had a friend who worked year round as a welder in the oil fields of Wyoming, and he taught me this trick; if your feet are cold, put on a hat. If they’re still cold, put on a second hat. If they’re STILL cold, put on ANOTHER hat! Eventually you’ll stop the heat loss and when your core temperature catches up, your extremities will warm up just fine. Try it, it really works! (but you do look a little goofy with 4 hats)!
Stay Warm, - Pistol Pete

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dear Mr. Rawles,
Would you please address outdoor sleeping gear for women?
I feel like I am very prepared. However, the one glaring problem I have had my whole life is sleeping comfortably outside in about any season.  When I was 20, I just didn’t care but now that I am 40 and have five kids, not getting enough sleep is not an option.
I would love to hear how others, especially women, stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  The biggest problem I have is that I either sweat too much and freeze (doesn’t matter if its summer or winter) or can’t warm my feet enough and thus can’t warm up the rest of my body.  I’ve browsed the archives and the internet and utilized some of those suggestions, but it is mostly men writing and I’ve read that women’s bodies hold and lose heat differently. Thanks! - Nikki S.

JWR Replies: Please take the time to read my review of the Wiggy's FTRSS--a two-sleeping bag system. Because the FTRSS can be reconfigured into three different thicknesses to match different seasons or elevations, they are ideal for people that find that they either sleep too hot or too cold. These bags are outstanding, and made to last a lifetime. They are also American-made, which is a true rarity, these days.

Also, note that a proper sleeping cap is also crucial, for cold nights. The human body radiates an amazing amount of heat from the head and neck, because they are so vascular. If you suffer from cold feet at night, then the trick is: Cover your head! Perhaps some readers will want to chime in.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thank you for your excellent web site and the forethought that has gone into making it so successful. I wanted to make a brief comment on the "Adaptation to Cold Environments, by D.W." piece which appeared 11/24/11.  One of the best ways to maintain internal body heat is by increasing specific foods in one's daily diet.  During extreme cold conditions, there are few foods that improve thermoregulation better than fats -- specifically, animal-based fats. 

Fat is an easily digested, readily utilized metabolic heater that "stokes the furnace" to help maintain body temperatures during extreme cold conditions.  Although our culture emphasizes reduced dietary fats, those recommendations arise out of current conditions where we are rarely exposed to true weather extremes (thanks to air conditioning and interior heating systems). 

Fat can be obtained from fatty meats and fish, bacon grease, fish oils, and even from coconut oil -- which is a superior source, by the way.  Vegetable oils, in general, are also effective, but possibly less so; their molecular structures cause their fats to be utilized differently than animal fats.  Although I have heard of individuals in the arctic drinking up to a cup of bacon grease (mixed with brown sugar) daily to help maintain body temperatures, each person's needs will vary depending on size and energy expenditure -- those who work outdoors in the cold will clearly require a higher daily ration.  Use of fats during a SHTF situation will depend on how much one has stored, and what alternative types of body heating (clothing, heaters, etc) are available, as well. 

Thanks again for an excellent and informative web site. - Anita E.

Friday, November 25, 2011

J.M.'s article on brain tanning mentions buildings and furniture held together with rawhide straps, and I thought I'd mention another such building. The roof of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Utah is a particularly innovative design for its time, and because of the builders' lack of available metals (the few metal fasteners in the roof were made from discarded ox shoes) most
of the structure depends on wooden pegs to hold it together. The builders wrapped parts of the wooden trusses in green rawhide; as the rawhide shrank during drying, it formed tight, strong straps around the trusses, preventing splitting and holding the wooden pegs firmly in place. These trusses and their rawhide straps remained in place from the building's dedication in 1867 until the Tabernacle was renovated in 2005. - Joshua T.

Michael Z. Williamson Re: Guns for a Tight Budget Minimalist Survivalist

Dear Jim,
While I much prefer modern autos, there are many good Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers from the early part of the 20th Century, in .38 Special (an easy to find, common caliber) that retail for $100-$250.  The finishes may be well-worn and ugly, but as long as the function is sound, these are an excellent choice.  The hand fitting done at the time usually exceeds what is done on modern guns.  I am especially enamored of the Smith Model 1905 Military and Police, and the Colt Cobra.

For shotguns, the classic single shot is available for as little as $80 in some forums, used in good shape.  I also really like the Stevens Model 520 takedown.  Mine disassembles small enough to carry in the bottom of a gym bag, and cost $250. Here is a picture of one.  There are many out there, usually reasonably priced, and there are plenty of spare parts for repairs.  It's a reliable shotgun, and compact enough to be discreet for travel.

I also like the 10-22, there really isn't a better choice.  It's easily improved, I just wish the factory did most of that up front rather than leaving it to the aftermarket.  It would cost the same to put in a decent trigger and round the rear of the bolt as it does to produce now, and save buyers a lot of hassle.

As to birdshot, this has been posted before, but bears repeating: Birdshot is for birds, not people.  The physics of this is that a column of shot acts as a fluid, not as a mass.  This means it splashes on impact with heavy targets.  One ounce of shot cannot hit as hard as a one ounce slug, or a smaller number of much larger buckshot. Remember that Dick Cheney's hunting partner was shot with birdshot and suffered minimal effects.  The range was not close, but both rifles and buckshot would easily deliver stops at that range.

Also, I would like to remind readers that the "storing magazines is bad for springs" myth is from a misunderstanding of mechanics.  A spring will not suffer harm within its design range.  What wears out a spring is cycles and metal fatigue.  Constantly cycling your magazines is bad for the magazines, and bad for the ammo that is being constantly bumped around.  Load it and leave it, unless you intend to shoot it. (One exception: Some box magazines for shotguns, such as the Saiga, can deform the plastic shotshell.  But his is a different matter.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The human body can do little to adapt to a cold environment. This is in contrast to the body’s ability to adapt and become more efficient when exercising in a hot, humid environment. Cold, wetness, and wind challenge the body to maintain core temperatures above 35oC (94oF). Heat loss or inadequate heat production elevates the risk of physical discomfort, hypothermia, or surface injury such as frostbite. Blood flow bears principal responsibility for maintaining peripheral temperature in cold weather and is the metabolic vehicle for the transportation of oxygen and generation of heat.

The one adaptable characteristic that can contribute to better tolerance of recreational activity in a cold environment is aerobic capacity (physical work). When working muscles and the thermoregulation system must compete for the same limited blood supply, reduced demand for the same level of work in persons with higher aerobic capacity can mean an increased margin of safety when temperature regulation becomes critical. A second advantage is that at the same workload, aerobically fit individuals derive a greater percentage of energy from stored fat. This is in plentiful supply even in the slimmest of individuals. Therefore, a lesser percent is required from the limited supply of carbohydrate foods, which need to be conserved in any survival situation in cold weather.

It can therefore be concluded that the ability to exist safely in cold, wet, or windy environmental conditions does not depend on a robust, adaptable body, but on mastery and use of information that enables self-preservation. Two major areas of information are critical: (1) knowledge of physiologic phenomena relative to exercise and temperature regulation and (2) knowledge of the insulation, ventilation, and protective properties of outdoor clothing and how to employ such clothing to gain the greatest advantage in a cold weather survival situation.
Management of Thermoregulation:
  As metabolic machines, humans produce heat profusely during recreational activity. Heat energy increases as the rate of physical activity increases. Roughly between 80% and 90% of the energy produced is in the form of heat. Just sitting on the couch produces 60 to 70 kcal/hr, or a body temperature rise of 2oF if none of the heat is dissipated. A moderate hiking pace with a day pack could raise core temperature 8oF in an hour if the heat were not dissipated. Thus generation of metabolic heat can be a threat to proper thermoregulation. It is remarkably easy to overdress for activity in cold weather, to sweat needlessly, and to thereby lose heat rapidly. The adverse effects of sweating in a winter survival situation can be compounded by wearing clothing that sweat can permeate. This reduces garment temperature to that of a refrigerator. Clothing manufacturers have done a marvelous job of producing materials that preserve a warm microclimate for the body to maintain warmth at rest or at low levels of physical activity. However, most have not designed garments that can efficiently ventilate metabolic heat during more vigorous activity. To minimize the risk of this situation, a person surviving in a harsh environment must know what clothing is appropriate and how to use their garments correctly.

At rest body heat is lost primarily by radiation of body surface area. Radiant heat forms a barrier of warm air around a person, unless there is a breeze. In the presence of moving air or when a person is moving, significant amounts of heat are lost by convection. Loose fitting clothing pulled by body movement creates a bellows-like convection action of air between the skin and clothing, purging body heated air out, like smoke up a chimney. The neck, waistband, sleeves, pockets, and pant legs are the usual orifices. Using garments that have the ability to selectively loosen or close these “chimneys” to intentionally lose or conserve heat from the microclimate within the garment is always prudent.

Heat loss by conduction is the least frequent mode of transfer in a wilderness environment, although conductive heat loss occurs across the skin whenever it is in physical contact with matter that is 2 degrees C cooler or warmer. Some examples of heat conduction that occur in the outdoors include sitting on rocks, lying on the ground, or being in contact with clothing that has been cooled by evaporation of sweat or environmental moisture. Unquestionably, the most important mode of heat loss is through evaporation. A body engaged in physical activity of sufficient vigor to produce sweating will lose 70% of body heat loss through evaporative cooling. Because cooling occurs at the site of evaporation and, of most consequence, when evaporation takes place on the surface of the skin, the value of garments that can transfer, or “wick,” moisture away from the skin to be evaporated on outer layers of clothing is readily understood.

It helps to know the mechanisms of heat loss to critically evaluate the design and type of clothing material selected to be worn in a hostile environment. Being able to selectively control the amount of heat loss by evaporation and convection is the key to outfitting. Most important is the ability to regulate skin temperature in the trunk, where most sweat glands are located, the head and neck, and the areas of natural folds in the body such as the axillary (arm pits), crotch, and backs of knees. Using buttons, zippers, and Velcro fasteners and simply adding or shedding layers of clothing are methods by which to regulate heat loss. Despite manufacturer’s claims about product ventilatory capability, any activity of greater activity than walking requires conscious temperature regulation. The challenge is to maintain near normal core body temperature, to conserve body energy stores, and to lose body heat to the extent that sweating is minimal. This requires balancing clothing to be worn against expected climatic conditions and properly assessing the amount of physical activity that one will endure. All of these factors influence thermoregulatory balance.

Selection of Clothing:

Material properties important to outdoor activities: (1) THICKNESS. The thicker the material, the greater the insulative value, so long as it stays dry. (2) FIBER REACTION TO MOISTURE. Four qualities are important: (a) The ease of “wicking” action. Transferring moisture from body surface to material. (b) Evaporative ability. The rate of drying. (c) Moisture regain. The amount of moisture the material can absorb before it feels cold. (d) The amount of insulative value a material loses when wet. (3) THERMAL CONDUCTANCE. The less the conductance, the better the insulation. (4) RESISTANCE TO WIND.
  The most commonly used clothing materials for outdoor activities are wool, cotton, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. The four material properties are different for each of the fibers cited.
   WOOL is a poor conductor of heat and therefore a good insulator. It has a moderate affinity to absorb moisture, but it can absorb a great deal, about 35% to 55% of saturation, before it feels wet. Its evaporative ability is poor, but its fiber suspends water vapor without decreasing its insulative value.
  COTTON feels great in summer time, however has meager value in a harsh environment, where conservation of heat may be needed. Cotton loses up to 90% of its insulative value when wet. It readily regains moisture therefore its moisture regain is poor.
  NYLON evaporates moisture quickly, is a good insulator, and has good quality of moisture regain. Because of its durability it is often the material preferred for outerwear. However unless nylon is tightly knit, it doesn’t screen wind and water well.
  POLYESTER is justifiably the most widely employed material in outdoor clothing today. Polyester is a poor conductor (good insulator), high in moisture regain, and in some forms good in wicking.
  POLYPROPYLENE, like cotton, wicks moisture well, but unlike cotton it has a very low conductive index and high evaporative qualities. These properties are what make it so popular as an under layer material for active outdoorsmen.
  DOWN and SYNTHETIC LOFT material are not often appropriate for clothing to be worn by the physically active. They certainly have value when insulation is needed for quiet situations such as fishing, sitting around a camp fire, using a sleeping bag, or other relatively inert functions. The greater amount of “loft” possible in the material, the better the insulative value. There are other synthetic hollow-core fibers such as QUALLOFIL, THINSULATE (THERMALOFT), or POLARGARD that approach the insulative value of down, and are much less bulky, lose less insulative  value when wet, and, being predominantly hydrophobic, dry more rapidly when wet.

Layering Clothing:

  UNDERLAYER: Warmth and wicking ability are the principal requisites for layers next to the skin. Polyesters designed for moisture transfer and polypropylene best satisfy the needs of this layer. Some manufacturers have added a small percentage of Lycra to the polyester to achieve a consistent snugness to the skin. This enables the garment to be somewhat more effective in both insulation and moisture transfer. On days when the temperature is above freezing , the under layer may not be needed.
  INSULATION LAYERS: Adequate insulation and ability to selectively ventilate are by far the most important characteristics of the insulative layers. When protection from wind and moisture is not necessary, an insulation layer may also be the outermost layer. Finding garments that are well designed for selective adjustment can be a challenge. Zippers or Velcro fasteners that vent areas around the trunk (core) are extremely important. Also ability to adjust tightness around waist, sleeves, and collar can augment the bellows action of clothing movement by providing a chimney for air circulation.
  PROTECTIVE LAYER: wind and moisture can be serious challenges to thermoregulation, so protection against the elements and selective ventilation are the most important functions of the outer layer. Tightly knit, tough shells of nylon or webbed layers of nylon polyesters are the most popular materials for this layer. Gore-Tex laminate remains the gold standard for qualities of both water resistance and breathability. In vigorous activity performed in rain or wet snow, however, no garment will satisfy the weather because body heat production overwhelms the breathability of any material. Special finishes can be sprayed or laminated to polyester weave or microfiber garments to be used as outer layers which may be somewhat less expensive and less moisture repellent but the tradeoff would be for more breathability.

The wide variety of gloves made from polyester fleece, synthetic down, and wool, with a nylon outer cover are appropriate. Glove liners should be used when more insulation is needed. As with all cold weather clothing, gloves should not fit so tightly that peripheral blood flow is restricted.

Appropriate footwear remains a problem in cold environments. Boots are vulnerable to moisture and cold wherever they are stitched, although sealing compounds and waterproof tape can help. Instead of trying to keep moisture and cold out of the boot at the expense of sweaty feet, an alternative strategy may be to use breathable and less waterproof boots such as Gore-Tex or comparable sock liners with the intent of keeping the inner sock dry.
All for one and one for all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

As most of the readers of SurvivalBlog know, preparing for disasters can be a lifelong commitment and can be most costly, even when buying used or on-sale items.  However, after 30 years of prepping, I find that I do 40-50% of my shopping at secondhand stores, such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, and American Cancer Society, to name a few.
If you visit regularly and keep your eyes open, not only will you find a treasure trove of preparedness items, but the employees will get to know you and your products and put them aside and hold them for you before they get put out on the shelf.
Here is a list of just a few of the items that I've picked up:
PUR Scout water purifier - MSRP $80 / used $1 (actually new, never used)
Hudson Bay wool blanket, queen size - MSRP $250 / used $20 
Big Berkey water filter (with 4 elements) - MSRP $250 / used $29 (new/never used)
Big Berkey water filter (with 4 elements) - MSRP $250 / used $5 (new / never used. This was found just 2 weeks after finding the first one at another store across town)
BDUs - $5 a piece [for pants or shirts]
Carhart brand overalls (later found to have an original Leatherman tool in one pocket) - MSRP $75 / used $9
Levis Blue Jeans, Dockers, and Khakis - $4 to $5 a piece (for work clothes)
Fleece (in earth tone colors) - $2.99 (again, work/hunting/tactical clothes)
North Face Gore-Tex parka - $15
REI brand down sleeping bag - MSRP $175+- / used $10 (US made, circa 1985)
Presto 23 quart Pressure canner - $5 (I just replaced the gasket, tested it and it works great!)
Food Dehydrator (unknown brand) - $10 (almost new & works great!)
WWII steel canteens & canteen cups with covers -  I've bought at least 10 of each and the most that I paid was $10 (These were 1940s dated. At gun shows these sell for $25 or more.)
ThermaRest self inflating sleeping pads - MSRP $60+- / used $5
Kelty youth frame backpack (in OD green) - $10 (this came with one of the thermarest pads)
Canning Jars - 10 cents to 50 cents each.
Candles - 20 cents to 50 cents each
Crutches - $7 (probably used once)
Bedside commode - $10 (looks new, took it home & sanitized it, put it with the first aid supplies.
Medical supplies - Unopened packages of gauze & bandages, by the box
Sewing supplies
...and many more
This is just a short list of some of the treasures that I've found. so be consistent and keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll come across...good luck!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I debated about writing this, but in spirit of sharing with your readers the recent usage of a Ghillie suit in a real world situation, with very surprising results.
This event occurred as a what to use for the neighborhood halloween, trick or treat crowd, and it was quite a crowd.   We live in a fairly large suburban subdivision on the outskirts of Phoenix. My wife and I have as much fun as the kids who are almost always with parents or a group of adults. My problem was what to "dress up as", the wife has her ghost outfit, and mine was a an idea to try out  Ghillie suits, to determine just how effective it might be in a "real world" situation.  I am 6 feet tall and weigh about 200 lbs.  I tried both a forest multicolor, and a snow pattern which is white with black highlights.
The crowds, start about 4:30 in the afternoon, it still fairly light, and continued till about 8:30. Our light gray stucco home is on a corner lot, with a couple of 20 foot tall palm treess that have trunks about 2 feet in diameter with large green palm branches hanging down to about six feet off the ground. These palms are in the front yard about 5 feet out from the front of the home. We have two, two-car dark brown garage doors separated in the middle by the dark brown recessed front door that has about a 5 foot wide inset alcove.  (I want to give you an idea of the layout.) There are two large streetlights, one on the corner by the palms, and the second across the street about 30 further down from this one they utilize the softer yellow sodium type bulbs that provide a less intense light output. 
I positioned myself against the stucco wall by the front door, or against the palm trees throughout the evening.  I expected nothing, but was blown away by the results. My wife positioned herself with the treats on a chair in front of the garage door, where she stood out like a headlight. I was about 10 feet away standing as still as I could.  from the very first both the children and adults concentrated on the ghost in the chair or came to ring the front door bell.  During the fading light period I was noticed with little interest or the person(s) trying to ascertain who or what I was from as close as three feet to as far away as perhaps about 20 feet.  If I jumped out the effect was total with most of the adults and almost all the kids.  My wife would ask them afterwards what they thought I was or what I was.  The comments by most of the adults men and women was "Wow, we did not even see him."   One of my neighbors, who is a former Marine and combat veteran told his wife after she had jumped about two feet in the air, "That's a Ghillie suit, hon." By the way he was on the sidewalk about 20 feet away and did not figure out what I was until after I moved.   I changed from the snow colored Ghillie, to the multi color green one at dark.   The comments by the neighbors were we were the hit of the evening, and I was asked where they could get one. I am amazed at the ability to evade the attention of people even during a heightened [attentiveness] event like Trick-or-Treating where the person's heightened focus is able to be fooled by becoming a part of a tree trunk or a by leaning up against a house [like shrubbery].
I have over my career over 40 years in several fields tried homemade, and store bought Ghillie suits, there are a lot on the market, I am not marketing or endorsing products here, just letting you know this one worked and I had a lot of fun besides.  These suits were purchased on line, they are about $70 and are made in China under the name of Red Rock outdoor gear.  This is a XL/2XL and is a five-piece suit with a gun cover, it has a stuff sack which works very well.  I would rate the suit very high on the buy list, and during a time of need it I think its a smart purchase item. My only modification was to buy a pair of suspenders to hold up the pants as the drawstring does get it done. As far as negatives the suit will wear and maybe tear if you are trying to crawl or move through brush, and so forth, but as a stationary usage items or in open country it should work. 
Bottom line this was a perfect opportunity to test out a survival item with out 'standing out' as a oddball with the locals.  Of course OPSEC and common sense always rule. 
God bless or Godspeed in your survival preparations. - John in Arizona

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I found the letters on footwear interesting and informative, but I have a problem that their information just did not address that may affect others: I have big, very wide feet.  The suggestions on Redwings boots is great-a wonderful product, but even their "H" width is too small for me!  I have found that Hitchcock Shoes has an excellent selection of all types of shoes and boots available from many sources, including their own brand.  They sell for Men only from size 5-24 and widths from 3E to 6E. Even when the brands are available locally, the sizes are special orders.  Thanks to the internet, they are less than a week away.  I have dealt with them for many years and they have excellent customer service.  One option that they offer newbies is using their expertise to assist you with the fit.  There are other sites with even wider shoes, but I have not found one with their variety. - Alan W. in Maryland

Friday, October 21, 2011

Captain Rawles,
I just read Desert Rat's piece on footgear, and would like to put up a bit of advice and a recommendation on the subject.  Bates, while they put out excellent footwear, primarily makes footwear for institutional environments.  This is to say Police, EMS, Corrections, Hospital staff, etc.  Many of the officers I worked with in Corrections wore Bates on board our facility, and the footwear served them quite well in all conditions.  However, the footwear did not serve as well in the field, when we had need to be out in the boonies.  From my own experience, I highly recommend for the conditions described in the article, that the author and others who need such a dual purpose set of foot gear acquire a pair of Redwing Sheriff's Ropers, or something very similar.  This particular type of boot is outstanding for civilian appearance, while retaining the degree of tough reliability required of one who changes environment on a regular basis.  For the edification of other readers, these are not actually "cowboy" boots per se.  They are a mid heel, round toe, leather working boot.  They have perhaps half again as much heel as a high oxford garrison shoe, or a tad more depending on exact comparison, so plenty of heel to dig in with in working conditions, while not having the stereotypical rodeo or "sliding" heel most associate with western style boots.  The rounded "v" toe gives enough play to wedge one's toes in small spaces for grip and traction, without being a so called "cockroach killer"of your stereotypical redneck boot, and is abbreviated enough that it will quite handily pass for a custom oxford shoe when worn with normal office wear.  You can climb in them, run in them, and if needed fight in them, as needed.  I've done all of those in mine, on any number of occasions.  I've had mine for ten years now, and while they now carry a bit of scuffing and one deep scratch from concertina wire, I can clean them up, add a touch of Kiwi boot polish, and wear them quite handily with office and semi-dress attire, with few the wiser.

For the concrete jungle, these boots have as much non skid ability as is needed under normal circumstances, without having to carry an extra thick lugged sole; with the sole exception of traversing actively "wet" acrylic floor stripper compounds, as these substances tend to gum up a bit, and coat the sole with the partially dissolved wax.  They also take forever to wear down, so long as one takes the trouble to take a reasonable amount of care of the boot.  If you break them in well, and scrub the protective laminate spray out of the leather, then re dye, and saturate them with polish, they won't develop leaks, neither will you have to do more than give them a good buff with a soft hair boot brush, assuming you didn't just go crawling through a gumbo mud pit,  in order to make them ready for the office.  Putting mine in this condition took three days, and was well worth not getting to wear them right off.  I've worn mine quite actively in conditions ranging from backyard, to traipsing all over the desert southwest while hunting, with eight and a half years of wear on watch in a concrete floored correctional facility in the midst of all that; and only now, nearly ten years after purchase, do they begin to show enough wear on the heel and ball of the foot to warrant considering having them resoled or re-heeled.  The Redwing Sheriff's Roper (might be under a different name by now, but same boot) is, in my experience,  nearly as resilient as a proper combat boot, while still able to pass as the average Joe's work boot in the eyes of the powers that be (this means no steel toe or shank in the instep to set off detector arches, etc).  Highly recommended, and quite a reasonable investment if one watches prices carefully at the local good quality boot store, though you may need to watch prices a while as these at "full" price tend to be a bit on the pricey side.  See if you can catch a boot sale, and you might well have your next "permanent" set of footwear.

As for the issue of wet feet, so long as one is not fording creeks with these boots, all that needs be done usually is take them off while sleeping, and let them air out good.  You might consider placing them near your heater overnight if you get your feet really wet, otherwise it's not generally an issue.  Of course, one should be doing this every night, in my opinion, just to prevent trench foot, but I digress.

Good luck with your next acquisition of quality boots, folks. Semper Fi, - J.H.

Mr. Rawles,
A tip I was taught with footwear is to use 550 parachute cord as your boot laces. I put coyote brown (dark khaki) on coyote and desert boots and black on everything else, even my Justins. They are incredibly strong and durable and fit 95% of existing eyelets. - Jeremiah Johnson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I am relatively new to prepping, but one thing I have noticed is that there are quite a few “oh by the way” mini-lectures on footwear that sneak in among other topics.  This is unfortunate, because footwear should not be relegated to a bunny trail or an afterthought when planning for an uncertain future.  Your choice of shoes can be the difference between comfort and misery, so they deserve careful consideration.  By careful consideration, I don't mean going to the nearest military surplus store to buy the most expensive tactical boot you can afford.  As I have discovered, there can be some huge functional differences between one boot design and another, and there are also times that you don’t want to draw extra attention by wearing a tactical boot at all (especially in the security line at airports).  The bottom line is that there is no such thing as “the ultimate survival shoe”, nor should there be.  As an engineer, I understand that life is all about trade-offs, and while some shoes are better than others, every single design is the result of give-and-take.

As a field engineer, I have been working for the last several years as a contractor for a three, four, and/or five-letter government agency or agencies conducting experiments in an arid or semi-arid environment somewhere west of the Mississippi.  The areas I work in are very remote, and it has been an excellent training ground for learning how to prepare for the unexpected, because I do not have easy access to retail resupplies while I am out there.  There are a lot of lessons I could share from these experiences, but I would like to focus on footwear today.  I have had the opportunity to put a lot of miles on many pairs of boots in some very rugged terrain, and I hope that I can help others learn from my mistakes and victories.  I will talk about the specific boots that I have used, but my focus is not on the “best brands” so much as the features that worked and didn't work for the various situations I encountered.

On my first trip, I spent about ten days testing electronic equipment in the middle of nowhere.  Right before the trip, I bought a brand new pair of high-top Redwing steel-toed construction boots.  They were rugged, had good treads, speed laces, excellent ankle support, and a tough leather construction.  It was everything I thought I would need for my work in the field, except that I could barely walk for a week because my feet hurt so much.  Don't get me wrong, my Redwing boots are over seven years old now and I still wear them.  They are wonderful boots, and well worth the $200 price tag, but you have to break them in before they wear comfortably.  I made the mistake of not breaking them in before trying to walk long distances in them, and I paid a steep price in blisters and sore feet.

Well, about a year later, I went out again, but this time it was for an entire month.  I took my Redwings again, but, of course, they were already broken in.  I hiked for miles in those boots without much trouble... no trouble, that is, unless you count a mild case of heat exhaustion.  The temperatures reached well over 120F, and, even with plenty of water to drink, those tall boots with the thick leather construction held in a lot of body heat.  That's a good trait for a winter boot perhaps, but not for a summertime sand-stomper.  

As an aside, I was glad to have my rugged leather boots that year in spite of the heat.  A lot of people try to work out there while wearing tennis shoes or low-top hiking boots, but that year one of my colleagues was struck in the ankle by a sidewinder while stepping out of his vehicle.  He was lucky.  He wasn’t one of the tennis shoe crowd, and his boots saved him from the snakebite, but the unexpected strike scared him so much that he leapt over the hood of the vehicle and pulled a muscle in the process.  It's always the little things.  Since that incident, I have always made sure to keep a respectable distance from those shady little desert bushes.  You can assume that you won't see a snake until it moves, and by that time, it may be too late.  Whenever I do have to step through or over a bush, I probe it with a walking stick first, and I make enough noise that the snakes know I'm coming.  Well that's enough about snakes.  Back to footwear. 

Well, year two in the desert was a marked improvement over year one.  Even though the trip lasted more than twice as long, my mobility was much improved, and the boots protected me from all of the sharp, pointy plants and animals in the wilderness.  The over-heating issue was minor, but still a problem.  If I was running for my life instead of casually walking through the desert, I would have had some serious thermal problems to deal with. 

On to year three:  Because the Redwing boots kept me too warm and didn’t breathe well, I went to the local sporting goods store and bought a pair of Bates tactical police boots.  I specifically avoided the tan military-style boots, because tan is more conspicuous against a pair of khakis, and I wanted to be able to wear the boots around the office on days when I would be working outside.  My secondary motivation for going with a black boot instead of the tan was that I work with a lot of military and former military types, and the last thing I want to do is come across as a wannabe soldier by wearing imitation-issue gear.  That’s not a good way to earn respect as a civvie among combat veterans.
Well my Bates jungle boots had fabric sides which breathed better than the leather Redwings, but the fabric was still thick enough to protect me from snakes.  The boots had speed laces (the hook type, not the enclosed eyelets) and a side zipper which made them very easy to get in and out of, and the soles were made of a relatively soft rubber that was quite comfortable for walking long distances.  Also, the Bates boots did not have a steel toe, so my toes were able to flex and breathe better than in my Redwings.  I wore the Bates boots around the office for about a week before my third trip so that I could break them in, but as it turned out, I didn't need to.  They wore comfortably like a tennis shoe right out of the box. 

When I got out to the remote work area, my Bates boots were wonderful.  They were comfortable to walk in, breathed well, and protected my feet, but like I said before, every shoe has trade-offs.  After two weeks of tromping, I discovered that cushy soft soles don't stand up too well to the kind of abuse that sharp rocks and cacti can dish out.  The tread wore out quickly, and the edges of the soles were  totally shredded in places.  Every once in a while I pulled a few cactus spines out of the soles with a pair of pliers because the spines were poking through and irritating my feet, but even so, the boots survived two more trips to the desert before I had the heart to toss them. 

Actually I only threw my first pair of jungle boots away after I took a winter trip to Washington State.  In Washington, I really should have worn my waterproof Redwings instead.  The cactus-induced pin-holes in my Bates boots allowed freezing water to seep straight up into my socks every time I walked through a puddle.  I longed for the Redwings even more every morning when I had to put on the same soggy pair of jungle boots as the day before.  The motel hair dryer didn't work well enough to make up for the pungent smell of steaming foot sweat when I tried to dry my boots at night.  yuck. 

That wet winter Washington trip led to my next big lesson in footwear.  Sometimes you can't avoid getting wet either from rain or from just your own sweat, but if you have a second pair of boots, you can at least start the day off with clean, dry feet.  From then on, I always carried a backup pair, and I've started alternating pairs every-other day whenever I can.  During most of these trips, I have had the luxury of not having to carry all of my gear on my person, so I can afford the extra weight and space of a second pair of boots.  Let me tell you: it is a wonderful thing to be able to put on a fresh pair of dry boots every morning.  By giving each pair a day to air out, I can keep my feet healthier and reduce bad odors too.

By this time, I had a pretty good idea of what I thought I wanted in a good field boot:

  • Tall sides to protect my ankles from snakes and cacti
  • Breathable fabric
  • Inconspicuous under a pair of khakis
  • A quick and easy side-zipper
  • Tough steel quick-lace hooks (not eyelets) with smooth edges to prevent shredded laces
  • Soft, comfortable soles that feel like tennis shoes
  • No break-in time required before use
  • Inexpensive (less than $75)
  • A backup pair (preferably identical)

You may notice that longevity was not my top priority at that point.  For me, the fact that the soles seemed to wear down fast was acceptable as long as I could plan ahead and pick up a fresh pair before I went out to the field again.  The boots only cost about $60, so a pair every nine months or every year was manageable.  By “wear down fast”, I mean that my boots were completely trashed after about 6 weeks of walking in the desert, and by “desert”, I don’t mean a bunch of sand dunes.  I was walking off-the-beaten path in a hot, mountainous terrain filled with sharp rocks and even sharper cacti.  The boots would probably have lasted a lot longer under less strenuous conditions. 

Unfortunately, Bates made some “improvements” to my favorite boots about two years ago. They changed out the metal speed laces for these weird, chunky plastic blocks.  They also got rid of the metal zipper and replaced it with a plastic one.  I guess that this switch to an all-plastic design might have been a selling point for security officers who work around metal detectors.  That's the best I can come up with, but for me it was a horrible change.  On my first “new and improved” pair, the plastic zipper jammed up and pulled apart about half-way through a trip.  Not only were the boots harder to put on and tale off, but the broken zipper also compromised the integrity of the ankle support, making the boot more flimsy.  It also allowed sand and small rocks to sneak into the crack where the zipper was split.  Bates generously offered to replace the faulty boots, but that would have taken weeks, and I was in the middle of nowhere.  On that trip, I was stuck with my stuffy Redwings as a backup because I was too cheap to buy a second pair of tactical boot.  My wonderful wife mailed a new pair of the Bates boots right away, but a week after I received the new pair, the plastic zipper broke again. 

I don't want to be too harsh on Bates.  They are generally a good brand, but the lesson I learned was that I cannot rely on a company’s reputation to keep my feet happy.  The model number was identical, but the “new and improved” product was far inferior to the old one.  I should have bought five pairs of the good boots while I could, but I foolishly assumed they'd always be equally good and that they'd always be easy to come by at a reasonable price.  Those assumptions didn’t do me much good when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with two pairs of broken boots.  The experience forced me put “reliability” back on the critical feature list, and as a result, I have also removed the side-zipper from my personal list of desired features in a boot.  Zippers are convenient, but they are also unnecessary and prone to failure.  So my boot feature wish-list now looks like this:

  • Tall sides to protect my ankles from snakes and cacti
  • Breathable fabric
  • Inconspicuous under a pair of khakis
  • NO zippers or gimmicky mechanisms
  • Tough steel quick-lace hooks (not eyelets) that will not shred the laces
  • Soft, comfortable soles that feel like tennis shoes
  • No break-in time required before use
  • Inexpensive
  • A backup pair (preferably identical)
  • Reliable and proven to work in the environment I plan to use them in

(For a cold or wet-weather boot, I would add “waterproof” to that list at the expense of “breathable”, but otherwise it would be about the same).

The back-to-back zipper failures were annoying, but I was lucky that it was only an annoyance.  I can be a slow learner, but I eventually adapted to the situation.  I whip-stitched the zippers permanently closed using a needle from my first aid kit and some 80-pound fishing line that I always carry in my wallet.  Because Bates swapped the steel lace hooks out for large, enclosed plastic chunky eyelets, the boots were a big pain to put on, but they still did a good job of protecting my feet while on the move.

So that is where I stand today on footwear for rugged environments.  My personal experience certainly reinforces the “two is one and one is none” philosophy, and it is only through several years of hard use and abuse that I really learned what to look for in an outdoor boot.  Some of my lessons learned will apply generally, but others are specific to the environment I was working in.  There are quite a few readers who may never encounter the kind of harsh environments I have worked in, but even if you do, I cannot recommend walking for miles through a mountainous desert with no trails.
Well so far, I have focused on the functional aspects of boots for a rugged desert environment, because that is where I have learned the most about what matters on my feet.  In the city under normal conditions, it doesn't really matter whether you wear flip-flops or medieval stirrups, because the controlled conditions don't really put your footwear to the test.  In a rugged off-road environment, I would not consider anything but a good sturdy tactical boot (plus a backup pair).  Low-top hiking boots or cross-country trainers might work okay if you don’t have snakes and cactus to deal with, but don't just assume that something which is designed for a well-traveled path will also hold up equally well off-road in the wild.

I would argue that every prepper needs at least four good pairs of tactical boots: two for warm weather and two for cold weather, but like I said before, every shoe involves trade-offs.  There are many times when a boot is not the right answer, especially in a city environment.  In fact, in a city, there is a much wider variety of footwear that would not slow you down during an emergency but will hold up long enough to get you out of Dodge.  Boots are big, heavy, and can sometimes draw unwanted attention, so you will have to choose the footwear that works best for your situation, but the most important thing here is to wear something comfortable that you can also run in if necessary.  If you can't wear a “run-capable” shoe all the time, then at least keep a pair nearby. 

For urban wear, one shoe style that probably has not been considered enough is the minimalist running shoe.  There are many advantages to a sturdy tactical boot, but personally, I also love my Vibram Five Fingers running shoes.  Yes, these are the silly-looking shoes that have slots for individual toes.  They don't fit the “avoid attention” category at all, because I look like a big dork when I wear them, but I'm more likely to be pegged a tree-hugger than a prepper.  With a minimalist shoe like the Vibrams, I give up the “armor” that I would have with a big pair of boots, but I make up for it in other ways.  The Vibrams are compact, light weight, and extremely quiet. 

When I say extremely quiet, I mean these shoes are scary quiet, literally.  The other day while jogging, I came up behind a female walker.  I probably  got a little too close to her personal space while zipping around her, but I also assumed that she would make some room for me on the sidewalk.  She probably would have, but she never heard me coming up behind her.  She didn't know I was coming until I was within her peripheral vision!  She jumped sideways, screamed, and then turned really red.  I'm glad she wasn't carrying pepper spray, because it wouldn't have been quite as funny for me.  I didn't scare her on purpose, but I learned that it would not be hard to sneak up on somebody or sneak past them in the dark while wearing these shoes.  It's a lot like the old stories of Native Americans running silent and barefoot.  If you run on the balls of your feet instead of running heel-to-toe, you can move very fast without making much noise in a minimalist shoe.  Obviously, it would be foolish to run through a cactus patch in such a thin shoe, but it protects my feet enough in the city to keep broken bottles out of my toes.

To finish up, I want to make just a few comments about the “barefoot running” movement that is popular right now.  If you want to learn more about it, start with the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall or visit and try it for yourself, but don't just try it once and then give up.  It takes time to re-train your muscles for this type of exercise, even if you are already a runner.  The first few times you try it, I guarantee that your calves will hate you.  You might also discover sore tendons where you didn't know tendons existed in your feet.  It took me months to re-learn how to run in a minimalist shoe, but now that I do it regularly, it has helped me learn to run more efficiently even if I am wearing boots.  Much like prepping, there are a lot of “crazy” sounding people who are into barefoot running.  Some of them will greatly abuse the facts while promoting barefoot running (for example, do a web search on “Barefoot Ken Bob”).  There is nothing magical or mystical about running barefoot, but as an engineer, several things about it make sense to me.  First, landing with a mid-foot stride allows your Achilles tendon to recover some kinetic energy as your foot comes down on the ground.  To see what I mean, try running in place while landing on your heels; now run in place the normal way, landing on the balls of your feet.  By flexing your ankle on the landing, you are recovering and releasing some of that kinetic energy through your Achilles tendon.  When you land on your heels, there is no shock absorption and the impact shoots straight through your knees, hips, and back.  Of course, you don't have to wear silly looking toe shoes to run on the balls of your feet, but if you don't have a big cushion on your heels, you will learn pretty quickly to not heel strike, because landing on your heels hurts.  The second barefoot running concept that makes sense to my engineer self is this: too much arch support can be crippling.  As an engineer (not a doctor!), I will tell you that the best way to de-stabilize a mechanical arch is by pushing up from underneath (this point is made in Born to Run... it's not my original idea).  Your foot has an arch because it is designed by our Creator to stand up to the forces your body puts on it.  An arch is an ideal design, because it forms a light-weight structure that is still able to withstand significant downward pressures.  If a shoe provides that arch support instead of your own foot, you may weaken your foot's muscles and tendons and be more prone to injury.  Thus, even if you plan to wear combat boots, it's a good idea to try strengthening those muscles by training with a minimalist shoe from time to time.

Well, since sewing up the zippers on my last two pairs of boots, I have yet to purchase a new pair of warm-weather tactical boots.  My old Redwings are still the best winter boots I own (but I still need a backup pair).  For warm weather, I think my next boots will be the Adidas GSG9 (named after a German anti-terrorism team).  The GSG9 doesn't have the quick laces, which are a personal preference of mine, but they do have most of other the features I want, including the “tennis shoe feel” that I liked about my Bates boots.  The GSG9 is well proven in the tactical world, but until I try them for myself, there is no guarantee that what works for an elite German police team (and a few Navy Seals) will also work equally well for a field engineer working west of the Mississippi.  I'm sure there are lots of other good tactical boots out there to try, but I'll let you know how the GSG9’s work out when I get the chance to try them.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

In regards to the article: An Army Veteran’s Thoughts on Camouflage.  I have a few comments and recommendations:

There are many different types of materials that a ghillie suit can be made from and burlap being a very good and cheap and easily accessible one, a couple bundles of natural color jute and some color dyes (mixed with some burlap) can make one very nice ghillie suit.  There are many places that these materials can be purchased from. (which I have ordered my Jute from) is just one.  Do a quick search for “ghillie suit kits or jute ghillie suite material” and have fun selecting from the masses of web sites.  Why not just search for ghillie suit kits?  Why pay someone hundreds of dollars to build you one that you may not like and/or it may not match your area.  Building your very own ghillie suit is a great accomplishment that you will have for years to come.  Same thing goes for buying natural color materials.  If you live in a desert area, well, natural color will be you main base color.
Jute vs. Synthetic materials?

  • Jute is a natural material.  It will lay in a more natural look in the woods, weeds or brush.  Jute when wet gets heavy because it is a natural fiber.  It will hold the water from rain, dew, pond or creek/river.  One good/bad thing about Jute is that it will retain scents of your environment.  Every time that you use you Jute suit you should hang it out to dry or place it in a sealed bag (so that it will not gather the scents of an indoor environment).
  • Synthetic is a man made fabric made of two parts.  It is a nylon, polyester or Acrylic base material.  It is lightweight and it will repel water (to an extent).  It is somewhat of an insect repellent because of its manufactured smell.  It is a flimsy material and doesn’t lay in a natural form that you would find in the outdoors.  Synthetic materials break down much faster that natural materials from sunlight, water and just being out in the weather and become very brittle.

When building your Ghillie suit there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your environment (Dry or Wet).
  • What is your surroundings (Desert, Woods or Brush)?
  • How long are you going to be wearing the suit?
  • What is the weather going to be like?

If you live in a dry/desert area then you are going to want to make your suit accordingly.  You will want it to be lightweight but you might have to use more material to get it to blend in better.  You can make it so that your back is a bug netting material (heat rises).  This will let your body naturally release body heat and it will let you get the most out of every breeze.  If you live in a wetter environment you would not want a netted back.  Being wet in a wet ghillie suit is no fun at all. With that in mind, I am not a fan of coveralls for the base of a ghillie suit.  Coveralls are a full body suit that in it’s self is not really a lightweight garment.  If you were in a “hide site” why would you wear a garment that conceals your legs?  If you were on a long patrol in the weeds, why would you cover your legs?  There is no need carrying extra weight on your body than you have too.  You are going to be burning enough calories on daily activities let alone walking patrols with a full ghillie suit on that might get wet or cause you to sweat more than you need too.

Tactical Concealment has, what I think is a nice alternative for use of a ghillie suit for a patrol.  The Cobra is lightweight and allows you easy access to your mag pouches (if they are in front of you).  They make one with and without a hood.  This is not a very hard article of clothing to make with the hood or without.  This could be made of bug netting to make it very lightweight.  I am not a big fan of bug netting for clothing because of its lack of strength.  It tares very easy when in a bind.  You can get some sort of netting material (I would make sue that it has no smaller than ½ inch squares).  You can use 550 paracord for your edging.  Sew the netting to the 550 cord and sew a couple of Fastex buckles, in the front, to each side and you are ready to start tying on your ghillie material.  If you choose to make one with the hood, I would not use the drawstring!

The materials for your front side, I would not use materials like felt.  Felt is a thick material that can just add a lot of weight if/when it gets wet.  If your in a desert area,
maybe.  Reason I say maybe is because if you are crawling around the felt will wear out pretty fast.  If you go with a thin batting material (for cushion) covered by a Cordura material it will keep the batting material drier because the Cordura material can repel water.

We personally have ghillie suits made of BDU-style coat and trouser, Cobra like cape style coverings and blankets.  It is much cheaper to buy the materials and make them yourself.  Use your ghillie material sparingly.  To much cover can also look out of place and you can always fill in the bare areas with natural vegetation!  No camouflage in the world can beat natural covering.

The poster of the article had it right but I will make things a little more clear on covering your face.  One thing you should remember about covering your face is that you want to make your face “flat” but not appear flat.  What I mean buy that is that your face will cast natural shadows that you want to remove.  Your eye sockets are naturally lower than your forehead and cheeks and your eyes are white.  You would not want to make your eye sockets black!  You want to make them appear that they are on the same level.  Same thing goes for your nose but in the opposite.  You would want to make your nose darker and your eye sockets lighter but not with just blobs.  Make it random to match the area your in.  Use a mix of blobs and [curved] lines.  Think of the different camouflage patterns out there and how they look.  Be sure to match your face to your own camouflage. - R.H.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In case of TEOTWAWKI, being successful in the art of camouflaging will be a serious matter. It will be necessary for many aspects of life to include; movement, reconnaissance, and ambush. Camouflaging is a multi-tiered animal, including camouflaging your skin, your clothing, your gear, and your weapon.

I spent six years in the army as an Infantryman. As a result I personally have spent 26 months of my life in Iraq, and I have been on well over 500 combat patrols: to include raids and ambushes of all kinds.

Camouflaging of your outfit or uniform begins with the construction of a ghillie suit, which is often up to a person’s own preferences; there is no wrong way as long as you stick to a few basic principles. One if that color doesn't appear in nature it had better not appear on your suit; two environments change so your suit should too, if you need to roll around in the dust to make it blend in with say a desert terrain do so, if you’re in grasslands and its springtime don't try to pretend you are a patch of dead grass. Three don’t stick to patterns, there is a reason the word wilderness includes the word wild.

The materials needed for the type of ghillie suit that I made are as follows: 

One, a basic camouflage uniform (either an old set of Army BDUs which can be purchased for around $50, and bought used for much less in many different places from surplus shops to thrift stores; patterned in woodland or desert camouflage uniform (DCU), or my personal favorite a set of olive drab mechanic coveralls for around $40 brand new (heavy duty so they last long and as they are one piece they are actually more comfortable [than a separate pants and shirt]). 

Two, burlap (you can buy it by the yard for around $5 to $7 or do as I did and use old sand bags; try to get a few different colors)
   Three mosquito netting (under $20 for or you can buy a roll of 5 ft x 50 ft from Ronco for around $45.) For grasslands I recommend 1 inch x 12-14 inch strips however the nice thing about the mosquito netting is you can cut it into larger pieces to form a more leafy pattern.

Fourth, any type of basic twine net, try to stay away from plastic or synthetics if possible (I used an old camouflage net and cut away the camouflaging portion so I was left with a basic net). I personally recommend buying camouflage netting. It can be purchased in 4ft x 8ft sections for under $20 from a variety of online retailers) because you can also make "Yeti nets" with it which I will explain later in this article. 

Fifth, for added comfort buy a few sections of felt, (when I made mine I bought a 6 ft x 12 ft section of tan felt for $27 from the Felt Store online) enough to sew pieces on the front of the uniform all of this is for added comfort.

Lastly, a few additional items needed are: a tube of Shoe Goo, a good sewing kit, cloth dyes in a variety of subdued colors is also recommended (if tan burlap is cheapest with a little experimentation it could be changed into a variety of colors and shades.) And a roll of olive drab duct tape is always handy. This is known in the U.S. Army as "100 M.P.H. tape."[JWR Adds: Fire Retardant Spray is also a must, since untreated burlap is quite flammable, especially with the edges shredded, as is typical for ghillies!]
When I constructed mine I started out with an olive drab pair of coveralls cut out sections of net so the entire back of the coveralls would be covered by the net, the net covered my entire back from shoulders to ankles and down my triceps to elbows.  I then secured the net by sewing it to the uniform around the edges and about every six inches I would sew the inner part of the net to the coveralls to further reinforce the netting. Step two take your burlap material and cut it into 1in x 12-14in strips starting at the bottom weave it through one section of the netting and tie it in the middle, keep stacking strips of burlap onto each other, (if you happen to have different colors make it random just stick to good earth tones) also to add to the random pattern if you opted to buy mosquito netting, cut it into 1in x 12-14 in strips, a good ratio is one strip of mosquito netting to every 25-30 strips of burlap. Unlike the burlap however take the mosquito netting and before you attach it cut irregular patterns again use nature as your model, I made mine wavy to look similar to grass or weeds.

Once you have the entire back covered in the burlap and mosquito netting, take the burlap strips and start pulling out the horizontal fibers, so essentials you have clusters of burlap string knotted together. That should take care of the back now onto the front when I constructed mine I knew I would be doing a lot of crawling around so I took portions of felt one for my chest, two for my elbows and two for my knees. For my knees I cut out the felt 12 in long x 10 in wide. I cut it 12 in long x 6 wide for my elbows.  For the chest I cut two pieces that started at my collarbones to the end of my rib cage, and placed them side by side to allow me to zip and unzip the coveralls, I then cut sections of burlap 2 in x 2 in bigger than the felt pieces so that an inch overlapped on each side of the felt. I cut a square inch out of each corner so the burlap could easily be folded over the felt. Next I used shoo goo to attach the two together and then sewed each piece in its respective spot. For the knees I put the two pieces about where you would wear knee pads and had the elbow pieces start at my elbow and follow the outside of my arm to the hem of the sleeves. The chest piece is pretty self explanatory. It adds a little padding and helps the suit last longer.
The idea behind the one I constructed was that if you were lying on your stomach the burlap mosquito netting mix should cover everything but your boots, head and hands.

Next you need to construct a sniper veil, you can purchase these but I always found a piece of gear I made or fashioned myself was always better. I used an army BDU boonie cap and a piece of camouflage netting I rigged up and refer to as a "Yeti net". (These similar in construction to the ghillie suit but instead of attaching it permanently you use a section of camouflage netting and spruce it up with strips of burlap and mosquito netting in a similar fashion as described above, but instead of stacking the strips one on top of the other you can space them out a little.) I tied the yeti net to the boonie cap using parachute cord. The idea of the sniper veil is to break up your outline and generally you want it large enough to cover you head and neck and also extend to the front and drape on top of the optic on your weapon.
I also constructed another Yeti net one for my feet and one for my bag, both were 4 ft x 4 ft. Now, as a quick aside, Ghillie suits are advantageous because they can cover your whole body while providing great camouflage, and unlike me where I had the burlap and mosquito netting concoction covering my back, you can make them cover your whole body and even make a hood. Just do a little measuring and cutting, I had a friend that used a hooded sweatshirt as a pattern to sew a net together and a pair of pants for patterning the leggings and attached the netting together. So before he added the burlap and mosquito netting it looked like he had a fishnet pair of pants and a fishnet hooded sweatshirt. So all he actually wore underneath was a t-shirt and pair of shorts, making excellent camouflage and it was very light and comfortable.  However the advantages of ghillie suits stops here… wearing body armor is difficult next to impossible in a ghillie and its pretty hard to access magazine pouches because if you were to wear your webbing gear it would have to be underneath or the ghillie is all for naught. As a solution to this you can make a larger yeti net to cover your back and legs you wear it almost as a cape. It looks ridiculous when you are moving but it is a good alternative to a ghillie suit if you still want easy access to gear and prefer to keep your body armor on. Yeti nets are more quickly constructed but they do have a tendency to tangle. I have done both and see advantages and disadvantages to both.

Whatever choice you make, whether to make a full ghillie or partial like I did, or a yeti net, just follow the basics, subdued colors, don’t use vegetation stick to durable materials like burlap and netting. You want to get as much coverage as possible (depending on whether you want to be able to wear your body armor or web gear) Be creative within the contexts of creating camouflage and you might surprise yourself and always field test when possible.

Next, after you have camouflaged your body you have the hand and face. Here is where camouflage face paint comes in handy. Now I know a lot of sets come with black however save that for any urban raids, where you need to just subdue your face and hands. Now to understand camouflaging, you need to understand the end goal. The human face in its natural form is very recognizable, a protruding nose, shadows formed by your eye sockets and lips naturally pursed. The idea is to make you face unrecognizable and appear more two dimensional rather than three dimensional, and also remove any shine produced by natural oils in your skin) I personally like to use either a nice light to medium brown or green.

I have a whole travel hygiene kit bag full of different colors and sticks but my personal favorites are the camouflage paint sticks, they look similar to a container of Chap Stick, but they have two sides with alternating colors, two common ones are light green/loam and black/olive drab. I personally prefer them because other than the black you can use all those colors as a base and they are about $2 per versus the $5 to $10 compacts that inevitably have colors you don’t use, and not as much paint in them. That is to say you can buy a couple compacts but I wouldn’t stock up on a ton of them unless you want them for barter/ charity. When selecting camouflage paint colors diversity is key, but also keep in mind your surroundings (you will want to stock up on extra of those particular colors), and always buy waterproof. Now I know I have touched on the use of black paint, they also sell white paint in sets, you can always use the black and the white to darken or lighten up other natural colors. As well as the black and white have a limited role in winter camouflaging.

Alright, first and foremost, you have the base layer I always applied a healthy amount of the base color on the back of one of my hands add a little spit to even it out and start applying to your face starting about half an inch into your hairline and all the way down to about an inch or two of where your shirt begins. Don’t forget the ears, work the paint into your eyebrows, inside your nose half a fingernail length for those of you who haven’t outgrown the habit, and your neck.

Once you have the base coat it’s time to start adding some other colors either in the form of stripes or blobs. I always preferred a mix of the two. Keep in mind to keep the stripes small (although tiger stripes look awesome that’s not what we are going for) And I was always taught to vary things up when it came to stripes don’t be afraid to use a mix of vertical, diagonal, and horizontal. Inconsistency is the key here. The base coat is to reduce your skins natural shine while the added stripes and blobs are to break-up the protrusions on your face. Also another goal of stripes is to try to mix the vertical and horizontal lines already on your face. For example, you wouldn’t want a stripe going horizontally across your eyes, aka "the raccoon look". Also you wouldn’t want a vertical stripe going down your nose. Field testing is a must it can help demonstrate what works and what doesn’t.

I always applied paint to the backs of my hands, even if you are going to be wearing gloves, there may be moments when you aren’t wearing them, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Follow the same steps for the backs of the hands obviously not as much detail is required as is for the face. And I always rubbed the remainder of paint that I would always wind up with on my fingertips into my palms not because I was necessarily trying to camouflage my palms but in an attempt to reduce the shine
As I mentioned earlier, I used a Yeti net for my bag that I carried on ambushes. As most of you have probably already purchased subdued colored bags, I think it goes without saying there aren’t enough camo nets in the world to camouflage a sponge bob square pants backpack or that coach purse you just had to have. I phrase I heard over and over in my career keep it simple stupid or KISS applies here, if you have to work too hard to conceal something it’s not worth it. I attached a yeti net to my bag using parachute cord, and rolled the excess up and secure it with a bungee while on the move. As far as gear I always kept it on the ground under a yeti net near me when stationary or on me if the suit I was wearing permitted or in a bag if not. But you could try to camouflage it by wrapping a little burlap around it again experiment see what you like and what you don’t like.
Lastly, but importantly, camouflaging your weapon. Again they have many… many kits available for purchase online but as always I preferred something fashioned by myself; many times it’s cheaper however, the reason I prefer it is you become better at something only by experimenting and experiencing it.  Even if you have a camouflage finish on your weapon the rules of camouflaging still apply you need to break up the outline of that weapon and make it unrecognizable. Also another quick aside even if you decide to stick to the original finish of your weapon in the last several years I have noticed a trend of offering different subdued colored accessories offered for many different pistols as well as most AR-15/M4 type rifles, ranging from buttstocks and pistol grips to rail covers and lasers/lights.  Research and testing is really the only way to find out what truly works for you.

I always used sections of camo netting and fashioned them similar to mini-yeti nets and attached them to the weapon with parachute cord. When attaching it always make sure you can still see through the optic or the sights and ensure the action doesn’t get tangled. (I once almost lost a squad mate due to his camo netting getting entangled in the action of his M249.) After you have sufficiently camouflaged your weapon one thing that people often forget to is take a look at their optics. A flash from an uncovered pair of binoculars or scope can give your position away to someone over a mile away. I learned three different techniques to camouflaging scopes they are: one the honeycomb, two the bird’s nest, and three the horizontal viewing slit.

First with the honeycomb [scope caps] that a lot of companies offer these as an accessory, which I think should be an immediate purchase with the optic. [JWR Adds: These channelized "Killflash" adapters are getting popular, for good reason.] However if yours gets lost or broken you can construct one using strips of the burlap fiber and small amounts of shoo goo.  It is time consuming but well worth the effort you basically create a square patch larger the end of the optic to be covered, fold down the excess and I used a piece of parachute cord and tied a square knot to attach it to the optic.

Second the birds nest, this requires a degree of patience and is a good technique to use if you happen to own an optic similar to a Trijicon ACOG, because they have about an inch lip between the edge of the scope and the objective lens. You weave a birds nest around the outer edges of the objective lens trying to keep the middle clear, a lot of experimentation is needed for this method because too little camouflaging and it is an exercise in futility and too much and you won’t be able to see.

Lastly, the horizontal viewing slit, the name pretty much says it all you take and cover all but a horizontal strip. On my ACOG I had I covered all but a one-inch gap for ambushes. Yes it reduced the amount of light but it also helped reduce the glare off the objective lens.

All the techniques I have mentioned throughout the article I have at least some if not extensive experience with, I used many of the techniques on multiple occasions obviously for desert warfare, but even as environments change techniques remain standing, just be adaptable and being willing to change. But always field test to ensure you are on the right path. Game time is too late to be changing certain strategies. Should you choose to build your own ghillie I would spend some time at home wearing it and spend some time familiarizing yourself with camoing up. Then, whenever you get a chance to spend a day in the woods, break it out. Take turns with friends trying to spot each other, you might just amaze yourself.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Woodland pattern battle dress uniforms (BDUs) were phased out by the Army years ago, but the U.S. Air Force has allowed their personnel to wear them longer, even as they transitioned to other camo pattern uniforms.  Final BDU phase out for the Air Force is reported to be November 1st, 2011, so the availability of this used gear will continue to taper off, even in base thrift stores. 

Note that with two forms of identification, most Americans can access a base to visit a thrift store.  Military base thrift stores are usually operated as private, charitable organizations and have limited hours and days. - W.J.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

One of the most often overlooked and underestimated issues regarding first aid are environmental related injuries.  In the event that ambulance services and advanced medical personnel are unavailable, there are measures that a person can take to alleviate symptoms, prevent organ damage, and possibly save a life.  From my own personal experience as a paramedic, I have found that these emergencies are usually unexpected even in people who are in relatively good medical condition.

Environmental injuries are problems we don’t usually encounter on a regular basis in our daily lives.  While our bodies can usually compensate for extreme environment exposure, the natural protective mechanisms that our body provides can sometimes prove to be inadequate.  When these extremes are too much for our bodies to handle, the result may lead to shock and even death. 
There are basically two extremes that a person is likely to encounter; extreme hot conditions and extreme cold conditions.  Heat related injuries, or hyperthermia (abnormally high body temperature) can result in heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.  Cold related injuries, or hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature), can result in chilblains, frostnip, or frostbite.  Another environmental injury not related to hot or cold conditions is trench foot, also called immersion foot, which is similar to frostbite.

There are preventative measures that should be taken in order to ensure that the chances of these types of injuries occurring are avoided.    Dehydration is a symptom that presents early and can be avoided by drinking plenty of water.   Wear proper attire accordingly for the environment you expect to be exposed to.  Wear loose, light colored clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade in hot weather.   In cold weather, make sure to cover all exposed skin, and layer clothing to provide dead air space to act as insulation from the cold.  One should be careful to not layer to the point of sweating.  If sweating occurs, you should begin removing layers, as sweating will quickly lead to hypothermia.  Monitoring the amount of physical exertion in extreme environments, getting plenty of rest, and maintaining a proper diet are also important factors in regulating body temperature.

While anyone can be affected by these extremes of climate and temperature, it is often those with certain risk factors that are at a higher risk of developing an environmental illness.  Risk factors include:

  1.  Age of the individual – Children and elderly are at higher risk because of their inability to tolerate variations in temperature.
  2. Current health of the individual – Fatigue, hypoglycemia, malnutrition, and other chronic health issues such as diabetes, cardiac related illnesses, respiratory disease, and mental instability can interfere with the body’s ability to recover from environmental exposure illness.
  3. Medications – Many medications can affect body temperature.  For instance, diuretics can worsen hyperthermia; beta blockers affect the heart rate and can interfere with the regulation of body temperature.  Anti-psychotics and antihistamine medications can also alter the temperature in certain deep tissues of the body.
  4. Level of acclimatization – This is the person’s ability to adjust to changes in environmental conditions, or climate.
  5. Length and intensity of exposure – Factors such as humidity and wind can contribute to the susceptibility of environmental illnesses, and accelerates the effects of exposure on the human body.

Heat Related Injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of heat related injuries are best described as follows:

  1. Dehydration – This occurs when your body does not have as much fluid as it needs, and usually leads to other heat related disorders if not addressed immediately.  Signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, blurry vision, decreased urination, skin loses elasticity, and altered mental status (confusion, disorientation, etc.).  Note:  Thirst is a poor way to identify the level of dehydration.  Treatment includes rehydration by drinking fluids if the person is conscious and able to hold fluids down.  Encourage them to sip small amounts of water frequently, rather than to take large amounts at once.
  2. Heat cramps – This occurs when a person’s muscles are overexerted while exposed to hot temperatures.  Signs and symptoms are sudden painful cramps of fingers, arms, legs, or abdominal muscles, weakness, feeling dizzy, moist and warm skin.  Treatment consists of removing the person from the environment by placing them in a shaded area.  If the person is alert, have them drink a sports drink (such as Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) if available, or substitute by mixing a solution of 4 teaspoons of salt to a gallon of water.  Salt tablets are not recommended because they may cause stomach irritation.  You may even try massaging the painful muscles, and placing moist towels on the forehead to reduce body heat.
  3. Heat exhaustion – A mild reaction to heat exposure.  If not treated, it may lead to heat stroke.  Signs and symptoms include increased body temperature, skin is cool and clammy with heavy sweating, and breathing will be rapid and shallow with a weak pulse.  Other symptoms may include diarrhea, weakness, headache, anxiety, numbness and tingling, impaired judgment, and sometimes loss of consciousness and even psychosis (hallucinations or delusions).  Treatment for heat exhaustion includes placing the person in a shaded area, lay them on their back with the legs elevated, remove or loosen tight clothing especially around the neck and wrists, and cool them by fanning but not to the point of causing them to chill or shiver.  If the person is conscious, have them drink a sports drink if available, or substitute with the salt solution mentioned above. 
  4. Heat stroke – This occurs when the body is unable to regulate its core temperature, and can cause damage to kidneys, liver and brain.  Signs and symptoms are lack of sweating, hot, red, dry skin, but may still be moist from prior sweating, deep respirations that become shallow, rapid respirations that become slow, a rapid pulse that may slow down later, confusion, disorientation, unconsciousness, and possible seizures.  Treatment includes removing the person from the environment to a cooler environment, attempt to rapidly cool the person by removing the clothing and placing a wet sheet over the body.  Fanning and misting with water may also be necessary, but be careful to not cool to the point of shivering.  Please note that cold water immersion or sponge baths should not be attempted, as this can cause a rapid change in body temperature and result in shivering causing further complications.  If the person is alert and able to drink, fluid therapy should be attempted with a sports drink or using the salt solution.  Seek advanced medical care if available.

Cold related injuries
Signs, symptoms and treatment of cold related injuries are best described as follows:

  1.  Hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature falls due to heat loss caused by exposure to cold weather.  A person’s body will naturally try to warm itself by producing “goose bumps” or shivering.  Signs of mild hypothermia are shivering, impaired judgment, slurred speech, and stiff muscles that cause uncoordinated movements such as stumbling or staggering.  Person’s with severe hypothermia will become confused and disoriented, possibly to the state of euphoria or a sense of well-being.  Shivering will stop, and muscles will become more rigid.  To treat for hypothermia, begin by removing any wet clothing.  Lay the person down on their back and cover them with blankets, and prevent from further exposure to moisture.  Heat packs may be used, placing them in the armpits and in the groin area or between the thighs.  If heat packs are not available, heated rocks from a campfire may be used.  Be sure to cover heat packs or rocks with a cloth to prevent burns.  You may also use your own body as a heat source to assist re-warming of a partner by simply lying next to them under the blankets.  If you are re-warming specific parts of the body, you may place the frozen areas like, hands or feet, on your chest or abdomen.  Take care to handle the patient gently, as rough handling may cause disturbances in the heart.  If the person is conscious and alert, you may give them something warm and sweet to drink.  Do not give them alcohol or caffeine.

  2. Frostbite occurs when tissues in the body freeze, typically in fingers, toes, ears, nose cheeks, or any exposed skin.  The person may complain of a burning or itching sensation.  The affected area will be red at first, which is known as frostnip.  As the freezing reaches deeper tissue, the skin will become white and waxy in appearance, hard to the touch, and blisters may form.  There may not be any pain at first, but could become numb, leading to severe pain as re-warming occurs.  Do not attempt to re-warm if there is the possibility of re-freezing, such as the need to continue walking from a dangerous situation.  Do not puncture any blisters, and do not massage or rub the frozen area.  Cover the area with loose, dry dressings and seek advanced medical care if available.

Also known as immersion foot, trenchfoot is similar to frostbite but does not require freezing temperatures to occur.  The term “trenchfoot” comes from World War I when soldiers were forced to stand in trenches with standing water.  Although today we don’t usually find ourselves standing in trenches, trenchfoot can still be caused by wearing boots and socks that have become wet, either from walking in rainy weather, or from our feet sweating.   The most important thing to remember is prevention.  Keep your feet dry and frequently change into clean socks.   If possible, waterproofing your boots with mink oil or other waterproofing products can help in the prevention of this environmental injury. 

While environmental injuries can encompass anything from altitude sickness to zombie infiltration, the topics discussed here are related to extreme weather conditions only.  Some other topics regarding environmental injuries you may want to investigate are chemical or radiation exposure, drowning or near-drowning, bee stings, snake bites, etc.  With any injury that might require first aid, prevention is the best medicine.  It is always a good idea to keep a well stocked first-aid kit handy.  I would recommend anyone and everyone to take a course in CPR.  An EMT class or other basic first aid training would also be beneficial. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

I was just rereading the original posting about "beans, bullets and hygiene". The author wrote to be sure to check out the discount bins for after season sales on holiday soaps. He wrote that while the soaps may be strongly scented "nobody will care after TEOTWAWKI what they smell like". But actually, it may matter. 

We live in the country. We're not daily assaulted by the highly aromatic city folks wearing their cologne, perfume and scented body washes. So when we do happen to come in contact with them, we can smell them coming from quite a distance.
Its sorta' the same as noise. Today's world is so full of the noise of cars passing by, planes overhead, radios and television playing (not to mention those things people stick in their ears) that you don't even notice some neighbor pounding a nail or running a chainsaw.
But after all goes quiet, and after daily showers become much less common, folks' hearing and smelling will become much more sensitive. You'll hear saws running and know "someone" has heat and gas. If a neighbor appears cleaner than anyone else, and especially if they smell "fresher" (that is, perfumey/smelly/soapy) than the usual, you'll guess that they have more water, more soap, and therefore maybe more "other stuff". This is not good OPSEC.
We believe that when going out to community meetings, or on other occasions of contact outside your immediate group, it may be well to wear older, dirtier clothes so you don't attract notice. It may also be well to keep in mind that the person who smells 21st Century will be extraordinarily noticeable when everyone else is living 19th Century.
Our suggestion is that in a dark world, don't show your lights. In a world of no gas, don't be the only one to advertise having fuel for generators and saws. And in a world without instant hot and cold water, don't smell like Paris Hilton. - Jim in N. Ohio

Mr. Rawles,

I wanted to call to your reader's attention to the use of soap nuts in place of traditional laundry soap.  We first discovered them when looking for a chemical and fragrance free alternative for cloth diapers and baby clothes.  We now use them for all of our laundry and for many other cleaning jobs around the house.  They are all natural, economical, versatile, and easy to store - taking up much less room than traditional laundry detergent.   They can be reused several times and then composted.  They also work as a natural fabric softener. which is great for line drying.  Soap nuts are fine for septic and gray water systems. 

Other uses include:

  • Hand soap
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Window cleaner
  • All purpose cleaner
  • Shampoo
  • Pest and mosquito repellant
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Pet shampoo
  • Jewelry cleaner

Soap nuts are already very economical.  To get even more for your money, I recommend:

  • Buy in bulk and split the order with friends and family 
  • Don't buy the "whole" soap nuts.  I prefer breaking them anyway to better release the cleaning agent -  The suppliers don't always list the pieces on their web site, but if you call them they often times will sell the "broken" soap nuts at a largely discounted price, especially if you are buying in bulk. 
  • Grind your own powder and make your own liquid.  It's easy to learn and there are many instructions and recipes to be found on the Internet. 

There are various ways to can and preserve the soap nuts liquid, so you can store it in quantity and have it readily available.  We store our soap nuts in a five gallon bucket with a lid, and this lasts our family of four a very long time.   Soap nuts make a great barter item to keep on hand, since they store easily, take up so little space, and have multiple uses. - WoodsyMama


I wanted to add something to the recent hygiene article and responses that I have read and that is dental floss.  Dental floss is one of the single best tools for not only healthy teeth but, just as importantly, healthy gums.  Gum disease and tooth decay has been shown to affect overall health and contributes to heart disease and possible brain trauma due to infection.  Dental floss is compact and easy to store and it lasts forever (you might need to check that regarding the 'flavored' varieties), there is no reason not to pick up a couple extra packs every time you replace toothbrushes and toothpaste because it could be the difference between saving your teeth and having to learn to survive on broth.
  I also wanted to add a hearty endorsement for using a safety razor, as per the article posted on learning to shave like grandpa.  I started using a safety razor a year ago and I will never go back.  The shave is smoother and easier on the skin, the razor is cleaner because there is less tendency for a single blade to get 'clogged', and the blades are indeed cheaper as well as lasting longer since they are double sided.  I don't have an abundance of facial hair so I have only gone through one pack of double sided razors since started shaving this way.  Its better for your face, less expensive, and more durable - the perfect set of features for a prepper\-friendly shaving kit. Regards, - Doug W.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I read the article regarding "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids, and Hygiene" by Jason L. I thought I would contribute our family's method of making laundry detergent. In stead of paying an exorbitant price for laundry soap, we make our own using Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha soap and hot water. This is the Duggar Family laundry soap recipe. I give proper credit to that family for the recipe, and it works great. Our clothes have a light clean scent and the monetary savings is tremendous. The simple and cheap ingredients make it very easy to store supplies to make literally thousands of gallons of laundry soap. Thanks for the great blog, as I visit it every day. - J.W. in Missouri 

Mr. Rawles:
My family’s initial solution to the toilet paper problem was simply to buy two cases every time we needed one case. This was an easy way to stock extra paper.
The house we live in now is partly constructed of poured in place fiberglass entrained concrete with # 6 rebar on 12 inch centers. Because every previous house I have ever lived in eventually became short of space, this time I constructed a separate 15 x 30 x 10 foot concrete building (walls and roof) with high security, outward opening steel doors. An internal concrete wall divides this building. Half of it houses a generator and large diesel tank. The generator portion has baffled electrically actuated steel shutters for cooling/ventilation when the generator is running and the exhaust flows through a hospital muffler exiting through the roof. The other half of this building is for storage and contains shelves, two freezers one stopping time on freeze dried food, a large refrigerator, microwave, and washer/dryer.
But back to the toilet paper. Our surplus was stacked on top of the freezers and refrigerator and by the time it reached the ceiling, we had a nice reserve. Because all things eventually reach the end (a pun of course), this nice supply of TP was deemed inadequate to meet our long term requirements. So I cast about for a better alternative to the left hand.
We stocked the following:
Product: Toilet Tissue, 1 ply, jumbo roll, 2000’/roll, 12 rolls/carton KC107223 by Kimberly Clark. Amazon price $ 65.72 from the Factory Depot
(2,000 foot/roll) x 12 rolls = 24,000 feet;
24,000 feet / (2 feet/average wipe) = 12,000 wipes;
12,000 wipes/ (1 wipe/average bowel movement every two days) = 24,000 days;
24,000 days/(365 days/year) = 65 years 8 months.
If the dedicated prepper would stock a carton of 12 of these rolls per family member, all should have happy bottoms for a nice long time.
Sincerely, - Panhandle Rancher


I'd like to comment on the article "Beans, Bullets, Band-Aids and Hygiene, by Jason L" specifically on his plans to get a Wonder Washer.  Having owned one of these for more than ten years now I'd like to point out a few things about it people need to keep in mind.  First, the Wonder Washer is small compared to most washing machines we are used to using today.  I've used it on extended camping trips in our trailer and it works well enough for small items like socks and underwear.  I have yet to be able to fit a pair of heavy pants into it though nor would I be able to clean sheets from a Queen sized bed.  It works well enough for twin or single sheets or those lightweight sleeping bag liners that are sold.  I'd suggest getting a couple of water tubs and a laundry plunger and a washboard for larger items.  If you want to have your heavy clothes dry in less than a week during the most humid times of the year (here in Colorado we get a "monsoon flow" during parts of the summer and line drying becomes close to impossible) you also want to get a wringer.

I'd also add that the small size of the Wonder Washer makes it great for infrequent washing for one or two people, but with a family of seven at this point there is no way we'd be able to keep up with any laundry other than underwear and socks anyway.  Now, just imagine having an infant and all those diapers to wash as well. - Hugh D.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'd like to address the requirements for a Early Baby Boomer’s bug out bag.  The word “emergency” has a completely different meaning for those of us who are over 60 and can’t move fast, can’t climb stairs and can’t get up once we get down on the ground!  Needless to say, we can’t pack 100 pounds on our back, nor can we lift 50 pounds from the rear of the car.  But survival is still important.   My three sisters and I were born during the Korean War era, were raised on what I call a post-WWII and Great Depression farm in the Midwest in rather poor conditions.  We "did without" a lot back then and we know we can do it again if needed.  As you read through this, you may think that it would take you a fortune to outfit yourself.  But we have found almost all of these items at thrift stores and garage sales.  It takes time, but it can be done.

Pick a backpack that has thick padding on the shoulder straps and a padded waist.  When you try it on, make sure no metal touches your body.  You will want a bag with at least 2 outside pockets.  Why?  Because you can easily reach/find the things you may need most.  Pack safety pins in 3 sizes in the event the zippers break.

Front compartment is for medications.  You need to pack a 3-month supply.  Take them out of the containers and put them in small zip-lock bags.  Most hobby stores sell jewelry-sized bags that are 3x5” or 4x6”.  Use a product called Un-du to remove the prescription label from the bottle.  Allow it to completely dry, then glue or tape it to the zip-lock bag.  Your meds will stay dry, take up less space and pack more easily.  Tailor the size of the bag to the quantity of pills you have. 

Purchase an over-the-counter inhaler such as Primatene mist just in case you have an allergic reaction to something and become unable to breathe.  Pack a 4oz (or larger) baggie of corn starch.  This will dry moisture that may accumulate in the groin area and help keep skin from becoming raw from rubbing or irritation. 

My youngest sister used to be a highway flagger in a remote mountain area with no port-a-potties.  She literally sewed a flexible funnel into her jeans, used duct tape to attach flexible tubing that ran down the side of her leg and had a portable restroom whenever she needed it.  I swear this is a true story.  I keep telling her she needs to manufacture a line of jeans, but she thinks they wouldn’t sell.  In the meantime, you could rig your own. 

Pack baking soda in a zip baggie as it can be used as toothpaste when mixed with water. This same paste can be used to relieve mosquito bites, poison ivy, bee stings and hemorrhoids.  Adding 1 tablespoon in water and drinking can help with bladder infection and sore throats.   Glucose tabs are a quick method to raise blood sugars when you cannot eat on a proper schedule.  You can find them behind the counter at most pharmacies. Do not forget to pack stool softeners.  No eating, limited water and over 55 create a whole new set of problems.

Many older individuals need to pack Depends. Even if you do not need them now, lifting and carrying a heavy load may cause a weakened bladder to present problems in the future.   If you don’t use them, depends can be cut up and used as washing pads, first aid pads, and even stacked together and used as a pillow.  Hemorrhoid medicine can also be used to reduce swelling of acne breakout, treat cold sores near your mouth (not on or in your mouth), My second sister puts Vicks VapoRub just below her nose and ties an old farmer’s handkerchief up over her nose when we go out on the ATV on dusty roads.  She also does this at night to sleep.  She swears it keeps her allergies down by keeping the pollens out of her nose.  But Vicks can also be used on jock itch or other fungal rashes on the body such as nail fungus. 

A personal family favorite that we all use is a product called Quadriderm.  You can’t buy it in the US, but it’s available online.  We first picked it up on vacation in Mexico.  It’s an anti-itch cream that works perfect for any number of issues that older people incur due to drying skin, itchy feet, okay, any are of the body.  Just rub a small amount on and in about 5 minutes, the itch is gone.  It is much more effective than any over-the-counter or prescription corticosteroid available in the US.

Butterfly bandages are best for the elderly.  You skin is looser and you can easily pinch it together and put the bandage across the top.  Go to your local pet store and buy a jar of Kwik-Stop.  It is a yellow powder that can safely be used on humans and stops the bleeding – for external use only on minor cuts.  (Mom was a RN and used on us kids when we were growing up in the 1950s.)   Whenever you go to physical therapy or to donate blood, they give you those bright colored stretch things.  Pack those.  They will make a useful tourniquet. I like screw-lock carabiners to attach a variety of bags to my backpack.  I backpacked across Europe when I was 55 and trust me, you can get a ton of stuff into clip on bags.  My preference is the Eagle Creek Pack-It Wallaby. That holds enough toiletries to last two months.

When selecting a tent, make sure the center is at least 42” as you will need to be able to dress inside (we are the modest generation after all).  Make sure that when you put your backpack next to the tent wall that water doesn’t leak through.  You will also want screened windows on at least 2 sides of the tent in order to get a breeze on a hot night.  You are probably going to want something to help you get up. Telescoping walking poles are great as you can shorten them to assist with getting up, lengthen them for walking. 

Because aging slows down the body’s blood flow, we tend to get colder than most, so pick a sleeping bag the will keep you warm to -20 degrees. A Therm-a-Rest pad will keep the cold off the ground away from you and it only adds a couple of pounds to your pack weight.  It will self-inflate to a certain point, but you can also blow it up a bit more if needed. Most of us at this age have back problems. Therm-a-rest also makes a nice chair that is extremely lightweight.  No need for the inserts, but they can double as pillows at night.
Thermacare heat wraps would be another necessity.  They last up to 8 house and can provide great relief for arthritis victims. 

When we were kids, we didn’t have much in the way of clothing.  Easy to do again with the right stuff.  You need two pairs of pants, one lightweight, and one heavy duty.  The more pockets the better. Add a pair of waterproof over pants.  Pack two long sleeved shirts – I like Columbia’s insect blocker shirts.  They also have a line of sun protection clothes.  Pack three T-shirts.   Years ago, my sisters and I decided that the whole underwear thing was a marketing conspiracy and useless.  But at our age, a good sports bra is necessary.  The rest is “commando” – which certainly makes space for other essentials in our packs.  Compression stuff sacks will give you even more room and keep your clothes dry.

SmartWool socks are great as they are much thinner than the old wool socks, but will keep your feet just as warm.  Use silk liners if you want a smoother feel and less chance of blisters.  Take care of your feet.  Pack moleskin (3” x 4” sheets). It can be cut to any size and used to pad areas of your shoes/boots that cause friction against your feet.  Take an ace bandage to wrap sore knees, elbows, wrists or ankles. 

Food.  Well, if you are like me, you love to eat.  But food equals weight and since we can’t pack that much weight, just think back to when you were a kid.  Things that are light weight but fill you up.  Pasta.  Chicken noodle soup – Lipton makes dry packages.  Instant macaroni and cheese (just add water).  Pack iodine tablets to purify your water.  A kettle to boil water in and make your soup.  Jerky will give you protein and is lightweight.  Packages of tuna, Powerbars, small cans of chicken, individual packages of dry mashed potatoes.  Anything that turns into food when water is added.  One pan, one spoon, and a non-freezing canteen. (Yes, the CamelBaks are great, but plastic can break.) To me, the most important thing is going to be water.  So a backpacking filtration system and a collapsible water bag are first to go into my backpack.  My grandmother lived on fried dandelion greens during the war, but she had access to lard on the farm.  I’ve packed powdered butter that will turn to “grease” when water is added.

Contrary to other advice, I would pick a Swiss Army knife that is easy to open and has a screwdriver, can opener, lots of tools, and a really good knife.  Also pack small tools that might work to repair eyeglasses, etc.   Pack hard cases for readers, glasses, hearing aids.  Because my eyes are failing, I need a good light.  I found the OttLite mini flip lite is great.  If you have room, add a solar charger, as this requires three AAA batteries. [JWR Adds: An elastic strap can be used to turn an OttLite into a headlamp. But in my experience, a purpose-built headlamp such as a Petzl works better.]

I’ve packed a flask of vodka – multiple purposes!  Consider duct tape and flex trash bags.  You can make anything waterproof!  And if traveling with a group, you can also fashion a private “restroom” or place to change your clothes.  You can use a flex bag to cover your backpack and keep it dry.  You can pack clothes and other items inside tyvek bags (just use priority mail envelopes from the post office.)  Store food inside these bags, seal them shut – nothing will get to the food.

One of the best tools I ever had was a clever rotary awl made by my grandfather.  He drilled a hole in a rectangular block of wood then glued the end of a drill bit down into it.  Then he ground the tip of the drill bit into a razor sharp point.  Works as a hand drill and awl and as light as can be.  He would tell me to pack leather needles, and leather lacing.  You can sew anything.  Pack a good pair of leather gloves.  Look for leather welding gloves that are good to 400 degrees.  100’ of parachute cord could come in handy for any number of situations.

I found a belt that has a zipper on the inside of the back of it to hide money.  I thought that was great.   Pacsafe makes a variety of fanny packs that can’t be slashed into and can be locked to almost anything.  The slashsafe will hold my passport, driver's license, inhaler and medications as well as jewelry when I travel.

Follow the normal guides for everything else including hunting, fishing, cooking, etc. such as lightweight camp stove, waterproof matches. What I’ve written here are additional considerations for those of us who are baby boomers.  Don’t pack more than you can carry comfortably.  If you hurt your back, you won’t be going anywhere.  Food, water, warm clothes and then add to that. 

I know that I can’t run as fast as I used to run, I can’t hike as far as I once did, I can’t carry as much weight as I did just five years ago.  But that doesn’t need to stop me from being prepared for the future.  It doesn’t mean that I have to give up.  Life has been a grand adventure and I don’t plan to stop just yet!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Several months ago a SurvivalBlog post recounted a man's survival while iced-in in a remote area. He credited a life-saving cache left by a local property-owner with saving his life. Included in the cache was a pair of qiviut socks. After reading the article, the socks continued to fascinate me -- as I am somewhat cold-blooded and even wear wool socks in summer. After much research, I decided to try a pair and searched the internet. I found one source, in Canada, that sells the socks (70% Qiviut, 20% Merino, 10% nylon) and ordered a pair. I've found the product to be good quality, and decided to buy another, but only if they could tailor to the changes I wanted. They were very responsive and customized the sock to my cuff and length desire (ankle, calf, etc).

The source is Spruce Haven Farm. At their web site, enter 'qiviut' in the search box. Again, if you don't like the style shown or are unsure of the size, use the 'contact us' tab to open communications. - Desert Dawn

Sunday, August 7, 2011

When it comes to training, there are many good avenues. Some choose (or are drafted) to serve in the military and take advantage of the training there, ranging from basic to advanced. Others get involved in Scouts. Some piece together opportunities like firearms training, wilderness survival and emergency medical courses. Still others learn through travel. There are many types of travel, and each teaches in a different way, if we choose to learn. A cruise with touristy ports-of-call probably isn’t much of an education, except in the gustatory sense, but foreign military service clearly can be. Not all of us are wealthy enough to take cruises, of course, nor young enough to serve in the armed forces, but there are good opportunities between these extremes. One of the best, in my mind, is short-term foreign missions. Here are a few reasons:
Immerse Yourself in a Foreign Culture

This is the most obvious.

In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with new and different people outside your social circle. Placing yourself in a foreign country forces you to encounter and deal with new people, as well as a whole new set of customs, foods, climate, language, etc. You can study all you want about being adaptable, but nothing compares to being forced to do it by dropping yourself into such a situation. You may learn, as I did, that live flying termites aren’t a bad snack.

The strength of short-term foreign missions is that much of it is done in developing countries (though that is changing somewhat as Europe and other historically Christian areas have abandoned the faith). You’re not going to be sitting at a café in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, eating croissants and reading SurvivalBlog over free Wi-Fi. More often than not—if you seek out appropriate opportunities—you’ll be experiencing a way of life that we haven’t known in the West for over a century, possibly a millennium.

Practice Traveling Light

This is not required, of course. The tendency is to “be prepared” by having a bit of everything with you. By choosing to travel light, however, you learn to be prepared by making do with what you have on you and what’s available along your journey.

Bags get lost. Not always, but often enough to plan for it. Traveling with only carry-on luggage is liberating. Not only do you not have to worry about your bags being lost, but you’re also more maneuverable, faster through airports and less obviously a tourist. I’ve been to Africa twice. I was in both urban and bush areas and stayed in modest guest houses but also camped in remote and wild areas. I also took extended layovers in European cities on the return trips. Both times I fit all my personal belongings in a convertible carry-on backpack/suitcase. I use Rick Steve’s Convertible Carry-On, but there are other good options. It’s light, low-key, well-thought-out and meets both US and international carry-on guidelines. The US Customs agent was baffled when he looked at my passport when I returned. “Kenya, Uganda and the UK. With just that backpack?” Yes.

There are plenty of resources for learning how to travel light, so I won’t go into too many details, except to mention a few favorites:  synthetic liner socks (good ones are comfortable and dry overnight, unlike thicker athletic or boot socks), Campsuds (concentrated and washes yourself, your clothes and your dishes), a sleep sack or REI’s Travel Sack (one’s basically a sleeping bag made out of a single layer of whatever material you choose—silk, cotton, synthetics, blends—folded over; the other’s a lightly insulated bag with a hood—both are very compact) and polypropylene long underwear (goes nicely with the previous item when things get chilly and are great for layering in cooler places, like Europe for longer layovers and even the higher altitudes on the Equator, where you may not want the hassle of carrying bulkier cold weather clothes).

Deal with Discomfort

Most Americans live a life of comfort. All but the poorest live at a level of ease and safety well beyond much of the world. But in the event of a short-term disaster or longer change in our way of life, we’re going to face discomfort. Knowing how we cope and how to cope can go a long way in preparing us.

I recall lying in a tent in eastern Uganda with the temperature in the 90s, heavy rains revealing every leak in the tent and a tent door zipper which wouldn’t close for the last 18 inches to the floor. Water, insects and animals were free to come and go at will (thankfully only water and insects took advantage, though both can be just as deadly as animals in that part of the world). Sometime during the sweltering storm, one of my tent mates began vomiting profusely. It was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve had, and it was one I simply had to endure. There was nowhere for me to go, no way of alleviating my discomfort. I just prayed and waited.

While I wouldn’t seek out misery, having experienced it on multiple occasions has helped prepare me psychologically for handling it again. I know I can do it, because I’ve done it.

Test Your Gear

You can read all the gear reviews you want, but until you actually use your gear, you won’t know how it performs. A short-term missions trip is a great way to field test. See if your Gore-Tex really “breathes” in hot, rainy weather. Find out if that collapsible water bottle is really the perfect answer you were looking for—mine wasn’t. Figure out if that tiny LED flashlight will get you safely to the bushes and back to relieve yourself when there’s no light for miles except for the stars. Try assembling your high-tech tent by the lights of a Land Rover. You get the idea.

Get Super-Vaccinated

Most of the vaccinations I received when traveling to Africa were for diseases that are either not seen in the West or ones that we’re generally not exposed to due to better sanitation, vaccinations, etc. Either because they were required or recommended, I’ve been vaccinated against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever, meningitis, typhoid, and H1N1, and received boosters for polio, mumps, measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. Not only am I up-to-date on my boosters, but I’m also vaccinated against several diseases which we currently avoid but which we could easily see a resurgence of in the event of certain natural disasters. This can be an expensive proposition, but some insurance will cover portions of the vaccines and it certainly prepares one health-wise both for the immediate trip and for unforeseen circumstances to come.

Learn the Value of Water & the Environment

This may sound trite, but you really can’t appreciate the value of water and the environment until you travel to a developing country and can’t drink the water straight out of the tap. Or maybe you don’t even have a tap. In countries like the US, we have many buffers between us and nature. While we may be inconvenienced at times when extreme weather strains our systems, we often aren’t in touch with our environment as we drive our climate-controlled cars from our climate-controlled homes to our climate-controlled workplaces. Manicured, watered and fertilized lawns may mask a dry spell. Efficient and invisible waste management hides the consequences of being poor stewards or resources; we simply don’t see it unless we go looking for it.

In both Kenya and Uganda, water was not a guarantee. And even when it was available, it was necessary to boil it before drinking, a truly tedious task on a hot day. At home I can fill up my bathtub with potable water and soak in it for leisure. In many parts of the world, such a thing could only be accomplished by women and girls lugging multiple jerry cans to a bore hole a mile or more away, then returning them and heating the water using a wood fire.

Adjust Your Needs and Wants

For me, this was the biggest lesson learned. We take so much for granted and can’t fully grasp just how much until we say how the poorest of the poor live. When I came back from east Africa, I walked into the kitchen. “Snacks! Why do we have snacks?!” Then I walked into the bathroom and felt convicted about our bubble bath. Despite the heat, I went without A/C in my car for a time. Gradually, the convictions fade, unfortunately, but I still have a radically altered view of what are needs and what are wants.

There’s an anecdote I’ve heard a couple of times about a seasoned missionary greeting a new missionary in the field. The new missionary begins to ask about how to obtain certain necessities when the seasoned missionary replies, “You tell me everything you think you need, and I’ll tell you how to live without it.”

Necessity is the mother of invention. People in developing countries have to be resourceful. There is no Social Security, no welfare. If you want to eat, you have to get up and do something. Just being around this kind of productivity is inspiring. Are there lazy people, crooks and addicts in every kind of country, rich or poor? Absolutely. But a poor person in America looks nothing like a poor person in the slums of Nairobi. We sometimes look to history to see how people lived in simpler ways, but we don’t need to. Millions live that way right now.

The applications for preparedness are pretty clear. Having your mind transformed helps you streamline your life, live more simply and be a better steward of all that you have. This does two things: 1) It makes you better able to prepare, in terms of having resources and knowing what’s really needed. And, 2) In the event of a lifestyle-altering disaster, you won’t be nearly so impacted.

Practice Charity & Faith

Lastly, although I’ve described what you can get from short-term foreign missions, what you give is every bit as important. So much of survivalism and preparedness tends to be self-focused. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s like the in-flight instruction to don your oxygen mask first in the event of an emergency, so that you can help those around you. Figuratively speaking, we sometimes forget to go beyond donning the mask. And, let’s be honest, we often prepare for eventualities of varying likelihood while ignoring present certainties—disasters in progress for others. Short-term missions give you an opportunity to practice charity.

As anyone who’s ever planned, raised funds for and gone on a missions trip will tell you, both the preparation and the trip itself will test and grow your faith. You are willfully going against your self-preservation instincts for the benefit of someone else and relying on God to do it. Done with a humble and willing spirit, this exercise in faith will stand you in good stead if and when the hard times come for you. I challenge you to consider it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It has been nearly six years since I first posted my endorsement of Wiggy's brand sleeping Bags, so the majority of SurvivalBlog readers have never read it. (As background: SurvivalBlog had only 9,377 unique visitors in August, 2005, but 287,665 last month.) So for the benefit of my newer readers, here is a re-post of that August, 2005 review:

I don't write many product reviews, but I am uniquely qualified to write this one: In November of 1994 I rolled my 1968 Bronco on black ice on a winding stretch of Highway 12 paralleling the Clearwater River in Idaho. In that accident I suffered a severe back injury--so severe that the chiropractor that took the x-rays commented that he was surprised that I hadn't severed my spinal cord. Because of the injury, despite the best efforts of the doctors and chiropractors I've been unable to sleep in a bed for the past 11 years. (Any bed is too soft and causes muscle spasms.) Since December of 1994, I've spent virtually every night sleeping on a carpeted floor in a Wiggy's Hunter Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System (FTRSS) sleeping bag. It is a two bag sleep system with two different weight bags that can be used together or separately. I spend roughly 8 months out of each year in the light weight bag, and 4 months in the heavy weight bag.) I've slept for more than 4,000 nights in that FTRSS--that is the equivalent of two lifetimes of heavy recreational use for a sleeping bag. (Here is the math: An intensive recreational user probably camps out about 35 nights per year, multiplied by 50 years of camping equals 1,750 nights. Hence, two lifetimes for a bag would be roughly 3,500 nights.) Since 1994, I have spent approximately 4,000 nights--including about 250 nights in the field--in my FTRSS. Again, that is something in excess of two lifetimes worth of use.

The FTRSS has been very comfortable and exceptionally durable. The bag has had zero zipper failures, and no rips or tears. Most importantly, is has never lost its loft or had its filling get clumped or re-arranged, despite countless machine washings. (I should have kept track of the number of times that I've washed it!) I highly recommend Wiggy's brand sleeping bags. The FTRSS models in particular are ideally suited for anyone that expects to give a sleeping bag demanding use. OBTW, I should mention that I have not been compensated in any way for making this endorsement. I'm just a very satisfied customer. If you want the best, buy yourself a Wiggy's bag!

Addenda (July, 2011): Nearly another six years has gone by (so add another 2,100 nights to the tally) and my Wiggy's Hunter FTRSS is still quite serviceable. I like the Wiggy's bags so much that I recently bought several more of them (the Hunter Ultima Thule FTRSS model this time), as well as several more mated pairs of their Lamilite ground pads.

Disclaimer (Per FTC File No. P034520): Wiggy's became a regular SurvivalBlog advertiser in 2008. The company has never solicited me or paid me to write any reviews or endorsements, nor did they provide me any free or reduced-price gear. I wrote the preceding review long before the company ever became a SurvivalBlog advertiser!

If you want the very best in American-made sleeping bags (not imported) that will last a couple of lifetimes, then buy Wiggy's bags.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

As a former Boy Scout and long time minimalist, survival preparation is a natural fit for a “hobby” as I enter my thirties.  Of course this “hobby” is an important life decision, unlike how one might approach golf or poker.  The importance of this life decision really becomes clear when I think about my wife and our two little girls.  As anyone with small children will confirm, hobbies and social activities take a backseat to the needs of your toddlers.  My longtime interest in the outdoors, camping, and shooting have provided a sensible platform for a jump into the survivalist lifestyle.

As we, a young family, build our reserves of beans, bullets, and bullion (we already have a Bible), it is becoming apparent that survival with small children will prove to be quite challenging.  Developing a balanced approached to survival prep is key when considering children.  Our storable food and water supplies are modest but growing.  I have taken a deep interest in acquiring as many tools and as much information as possible to broaden my survival skills.  I am rather confident that my growing ability and stockpiled supplies could sustain my wife and I in a survival situation.  But what about the kids?  Our girls, two years old and almost four years old, are learning the value of hard work and conservation, but they’re still little kids.  The shock of a SHTF scenario would have a profound effect on the daily activities and physical/emotional needs of my beautiful dears. 

I am aware that the most important rule of survival is fulfilling the needs of yourself then worry about others.  However, one of my needs includes the fulfillment of the needs of my kids.  It must be my inner grizzly bear.  This set of circumstances presents an opportunity to apply some real-world, everyday principles of raising children to the survivalist lifestyle.  One major goal is to minimize the potential distress and disruption to the everyday lives of our girls in a survival situation.  I will not include emergency food/water storage and procurement in this plan, as those items are not kid specific.

I will begin with the dreaded D-word.  Because our youngest is not quite potty trained, diapers and baby wipes are a necessary evil in our everyday lives.  We shop at a local wholesale club store where we can use coupons and buy diapers and wipes in bulk.  Buying this way not only saves considerably on the cost, but it also encourages sustainability.  It can become quite expensive, but we like to maintain several months-worth of diapers and wipes in stock.  Baby wipes, which have an indefinite shelf life, are actually a useful item in any prepper’s pantry.  We have diapers in the next size up stocked as well (although I’d prefer she never needs them).  We also have a supply of cloth diapers that are currently used as kitchen rags, but could be pressed into service if needed.  In addition to diapers, it is important to consider the various lotions and creams that are required to maintain health in the diaper area.  We also try to maintain stocks of extra toiletries like children’s toothpaste, toothbrushes, soaps, and bubble bath.  Most of the everyday items that adults need in the bathroom are needed by children too.

Besides our storable survival food stock, we do maintain a decent supply of some favorite snacks and sweets for the kids that could be rationed in a SHTF scenario.  While their nutritional value may not be the greatest, salty snacks and sweet treats are good way to lift emotions and provide a bribery tool at dinner time (try getting a two year old to finish her broccoli without the promise of a special treat).  We also keep natural vegetable/fruit blend juice boxes on hand, which are a healthy treat that the kids love.  We plan to purchase some storable popping corn and chocolate milk drink from Mountain House or Provident Pantry to provide additional comfort food for the kids.  In addition to these food items, we are also building our stock of vitamins, supplements, and children’s medicines.  Benadryl, Motrin, and Tylenol all have products which are dosed specifically for children, and we try keep extra on hand.  Many of the vitamins and supplements we buy are in liquid form that can be added to a drink (easier than pills for kids).  We also stock extra gummi multivitamins that the kids certainly don’t mind eating a bit. 

Clothing is an aspect of survival prep that is easy to overlook as an adult.  Being in Ohio, we maintain a good selection of clothing and footwear for the different seasons we experience.  But what about children that seem to add inches at a time in their sleep?  Luckily we have two girls, so we already save all of the clothes and shoes from the older one for the younger one.  But what about an extended SHTF period of time?  I worry that the older one would be vulnerable to quickly outgrowing her clothes and shoes.  One easy and practical solution that we have taken up is purchasing these items on clearance in the off season.  It is easy to find summer clothes and shoes on clearance in the fall, and vice versa.  We have begun to buy these clearance items 1-2 sizes large for our kids.  Not only are we able to fulfill a survival prep need, but we can save money on something that we would need to purchase anyway.  Not to mention, my wife never met a clearance sale she didn’t like, so it is fun too.

We have started to take the girls on some light camping trips (in the backyard) to get them enthused and comfortable with “roughing it”.  They both have their own sleeping bags and love camping out.  While this is far from a survival situation, the girls are young and just getting into enjoying the great outdoors.  Becoming comfortable in a camp setting around a fire and in nature is an important step for the girls in learning survival skills.  This is an area that we will certainly continue to develop and expand on.

Now that we have begun to address food, clothing, and shelter, we need to look at emotional and developmental needs.  Obviously in a SHTF scenario that includes a potential bug-out, only essentials would be considered.  However, our survival prep and planning must include considerations of activities that occupy and continually develop our kids.  Due to the spoils of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, these kids have so many Chinese slave-made junk toys that we actually have to hide over half of them just to maintain order and sanity.  However, some toys are very important.  The girls cannot go to sleep without their special stuffed animals, so we actually bought backups (just incase).  These stuffed animals are cheap and simple, but very important to the emotional comfort of our kids.  We have no shortage of books, but it seems that you can never have too many.  Used book stores, garage sales, and library sales are nice places to find cheap kids books.  Back to school season is a great time to stock up on crayons, coloring books, and art supplies for cheap.  Simple things like balls, jump ropes, and bikes provide both stimulation and exercise.  We are looking to get a solar powered MP3 or CD player so the kids will be able to enjoy some of their favorite music as well.  While all of these items may be overlooked as non-essential items for survival prep, we feel that they are crucial to the sustainability of our young family in any potential disaster situation.  

Besides material items, we try to engage our kids in activities and experiences that could be applied in a survivalist lifestyle.  As we develop our gardening skills each year, the girls have taken an interest in helping in the garden.  We are also finding ways to get the girls involved and interested in helping with yard work, cooking, and other basic chores.  It sounds simple, but many of today’s children lazy, entitled, and would never survive if SHTF.  We feel that part of effective survival prep with children includes fostering a sense of work ethic and responsibility at a young age.  Developing these character traits are part of raising well rounded and well adjusted kids, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they are also practical in a survivalist sense.

Any parent can agree that raising small children is no easy task.  Bring survivalist planning into the fold, and it can feel overwhelming.  Our family takes a balanced and common sense approach to our survival prep.  Our children deserve even greater consideration than ourselves in our planning, as they are unable to take care of or fend for themselves.  It is our responsibility as parents to provide every opportunity for the success and well being of our children, and including them in our survival prep is no exception.  Being smart about everyday purchases and expenditures is a good way to simplify survival planning for a young family. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Section One

The Bug-Out Bag is an icon of the preparedness movement. The principle is well known and agreed upon: we may indeed have to pack-up and take flight to a more orderly, less hostile environment, intelligently. This would be either in anticipation of a great upheaval of social order or in its aftermath. How we will face the situation and deal with it is our part to play. Bug-out is an emergency measure, supplying us with a three-day margin for action: decisive action, evasive action, survivalist action or other salutary maneuvering. You must make an informed plan for your exodus. Considering that this would be enacted on foot, there will be an urgent need to map-out a route, determine an objective, establish foreseeable safe resting places along your intended escape-and-evasion route that include points of re-supply or hidden caches. Make back up plans.  Now, try out everything in a realistic rehearsal, pack up your Bug-Out Bag and start using it. There is no better time than now. If you plan on using military gear, you might practice with more discreet colored civilian camping gear so as to avoid curiosity. Try bugging-out in increments, start with good weather and light loads. Work towards nighttime and inclement weather scenarios. Add weight as your personal physical condition improves. The goal is to gradually rule out most potential surprises and unknowns. Whether solo or with like-minded comrades, practice equals preparedness.  If you are the leader of a family or group, members of your troop must train as abilities of age and state allow. It will be harder, and more practice will be necessary.
This proverbial “Three day” limit is not realistic for most situations we are likely to face. “72 hours” is a military standard. Soldiers are re-supplied, but who will come and re-supply you after 72 hours? There is an urgent need to rise above this imaginary status quo. Common sense tells us to select and pack items that can be used not only for the hypothetical three-day scenario, but rather indefinitely. In light of this, a solid and foolproof modus operandi must be established: the B.O.B. must serve our resolve to remain pro-active and prevent us from falling victim to circumstances of the unexpected. It is a tall order. Contents lists, ideas and examples abound on the Web. Most of it is show-and-tell. Some of it is abstract theorizing. Consult, sift through the media, but you will soon agree that people are not understanding the seriousness of the situation. Either they underestimate the critical nature of bug-out, likening it to a picnic outing, or they get sidetracked in the materialism of gear gadgetry. The bug-out market has caught the eye of commercial capitalists. Survival kits in sardine cans...?  So beware. Shun the disposable, wasteful, throw-away mentality. Cheaply made and cheaply purchased items are indeed disposable, not like your hard-earned money you handed over in vain. When the worst is upon us, no one will be replacing any so-called “unconditional lifetime guarantee” items for you.
Beyond the tedium and disagreement caused by excessively detailed lists, here are fundamental, building block elements that will form the backbone of your kit. Here is what works. Sorry if there are no sparkling gadgets to make you think bugging-out will be fun and games. If something happens that will truly require a bug-out scenario, it will be catastrophic. People will face death. “Pray that your flight be not in winter or on the Sabbath...”  In real world bug-out, the first thing necessary will be to remain rational, and keep the Faith. Keep your bearings. Keep to the proven principles. Important choices have been made here, and this principle of discernment is a key factor in assembling your personal kit.  The definitive checklist is strictly your business. Your ultimate choice of gear should be the things that serve your purpose to remain in control, and to rise above the situation at hand. Consider what is being put forth, it is foundational and proven. Source references are for suggestion only.
The Bug-out Bag: get a backpack and get the best you can afford: it may very well be your lifesaver. But it has to perform, full. It cannot fail in rigorous or sudden use: It should be able to withstand dropping, dragging and hastened concealment. It should also withstand whatever you might do: like falling, crawling, swimming or accidental situations. Imagine being pursued, being a possible target, hunting, defending a perimeter: you should be able to run, sit, duck, lie prone or take a moment of rest with your pack on, in reasonable comfort.

Whether with or without a traditional frame, here is the definition of the ideal: A medium-size pack 2.500-3.500 cubic inches more or less, with a padded hip belt that puts the weight on your legs: the legs having the most powerful muscles in the body, with shoulder straps being only for load control. This is better and safer than slogging with an unpredictable, overloaded small pack that will cause suffering. An overloaded large “moving-van” pack will be even worse, maybe fatal. Medium-size is where the balance of moderation is.  It is a good spiritual and mental factor as well.
Your pack should be either camo to match your local woods or civilian colored for discretion. Camouflage means to blend in with your immediate surroundings. Urban scenarios might fare better with civilian gear. Not everyone will be able to have recourse to the back of beyond. Think about where you will go, then blend in accordingly. Civilian gear does look a little less threatening. Solid colors in earth tones would be a good balance: Coyote tan and O.D. green are better than black. Nothing in nature’s background is truly black, though your protection and concealment will be in darker shades of most colors. Avoid loud colors. If you want the visibility option, use a pack cover or a separate piece of material in the color you want to be seen. Put it away and save it for when the time comes.
The pack should be top loading. Few or no zippers that will break or fail at the wrong time. If there must be a zipper, make sure there are back-up straps and buckles to remove weight and stress from the inherently weak zipper closure. No Velcro, which is noisy and prone to clogging and failure in inclement conditions. In essence, a pack is just a vertical sack. Cutting openings and compartments will only reduce the structural integrity. A strongly constructed single space bag is the original and still the best. Inside, pack items in small dry bags by category. Mark them with permanent marking pens or colors for rapid recognition. You should never have to be digging around inside your pack for some loose item. There is a forcible and rational order of things that go in and come out of a bug-out bag. Establish a priority of items by use: primary use, secondary use, etc, so that when arriving at your destination, especially if it is a temporary bivouac, necessaries will come out of the pack quickly and efficiently according to purpose. Articles abound on this subject, study, learn and practice how to efficiently set-up and pack-up any scenario that involves the use of your kit.
There is a need to approach your initial B.O.B. purchase with clarity.
Judge the ruggedness of your potential pack by putting weight in it and grabbing and pulling on all straps. If the seams start to give out, the sewing is probably low-quality throughout. Try it on with a load. Politely and reasonably abuse it while still in the store. Features should be truly useful and not frivolous. What looks good in the store might fail in the field. Now make your judgment, take notes and move on to another pack if you have your doubts. Remember, what is best for you, and you alone, is what matters. It has to fit your size and your natural dimensions. That means it must not extend above your head or be wider than your shoulders, it should not hang much below your waist.  It should fit your torso perfectly. If you are presently fighting the battle of the bulge, then choose a waist belt that fits both now and when you will be in better shape.
Military and non-military packs are legion. But no one makes a pack like Americans do. Watch out for imports. The ones coming down the tracks, loaded in those ominous shipping containers, are getting less and less cheap only because of corrupt marketing strategies. Prices are being deviously re-calculated and raised because it is a known fact that cheap junk is cheap. If it costs more, it must be better ... Beware of this and other big lies. European imports are inflated because of the manipulated exchange rates. There is indeed a price for buying local, but isn’t this part of the present battle?  Domestic shops are still in business, call them and communicate. Support them. Thank them for staying home to make their products. There are small companies that make camping and tactical gear, proving that yankee ingenuity is still the best. You can also search for outdoor gear at www. Still made in the U.S.A. com. You will find your kindred spirits there. You will also find items that should outlast the coming ordeal, within the range of your budget. Avoid supply purchases at the mega-store globalist marketeers who film you while you shop, beg you to spend less money by joining their club, and ask for your phone number or zip code at checkout. It goes without saying how you should handle this affront.  Common sense is in the balance. Most small hunting or military surplus shops are still ma-and-pa operations. Support them first. Some e-Bay "stores" are actually gifted artisans trying to make a living without being able to afford a brick-and-mortar storefront. Look up the contact info and deal directly. You will know right away if they are legitimate. These micro-industries are to be supported. Their proprietors are often geniuses, and honest. 
External frame packs: The ubiquitous ALICE pack is still in use today by respected military. The original version is the medium-size. It is a marvel of simplicity and solid engineering, very easily obtained at a reasonable price. You can get OD or camo versions. The frame is the Achilles heel: drill out all rivets that will likely fail. Replace them with fine thread 8/32 stainless steel bolts, with round heads that have an Allen or Philips slotted head, depending upon what your multi-tool can do in the field. Use stainless steel locknuts. The medium ALICE can remain minimalist or it can be built up with add-on modular components. It can be used without its frame if it fails. Upgrade the shoulder straps and waist belt if you want more padding. The MOLLE II waist belt is an inexpensive and effective upgrade. Replace the steel buckles with quick-attach Fastex buckles if you want the added convenience.,, are just a few of the military-class producers of improved accessories. Backpacks that resemble the medium ALICE are made by and others, with a modern polymer frame and other upgrades. They keep strictly to the original principles of the ALICE wherein the dimensions do not surpass the average natural dimensions of the wearer. This is important in bug-out when speed and maneuverability are expected. Most packs are intentionally not 100% waterproof. If you have to move through water or soaking rain, you will quickly understand why. The pack should be able to drain. With your BOB contents packed in dry-bags, water is no longer a threat. And if necessary, your pack will now float in extreme water-crossing scenarios. Practice before you take the big plunge.
Internal frame packs: some frame designs are effective while others fail before their weight capacity is reached. Some kind of frame is needed for average loads of 35 lbs. or greater. If the internal frame is too minimalist, it will flex and compress, your spinal column will do the same. Wearing an internal frame pack loosely will reduce the critical nature of potential problems, but the problems are not completely eliminated since internal frame or frameless packs are not designed to be worn too loosely. Beware of overheating from direct contact with your back. Lungs and parts of organs, muscles extend rearwards in your torso, when they overheat, you, too, will overheat. Plan on your back being soaked from shoulders to waist when wearing an internal frame pack. In winter this will increase the danger of chills. Variations of the internal frame theme are as numerous as brand names. Some are practical and minimalist while others are cerebral and scientific. Top-of-the-food-chain medium-size internal frame packs are listed in order of size: Eagle Becker Patrol, Kifaru Zulu, Mystery Ranch SATL. They have PALS webbing for add-ons. Even if they are above your means, they are the best example of what other comparable packs should be. The military has tried many internal frame packs in the larger-size category, like the CFP-90, the SPEAR, the ILBE but the external frame pack is the current choice. The USMC, having tried these packs, is also going back to a contoured external frame.
There is also a possible third category of pack, a hybrid fusion design, where the best of both worlds has been attempted. High-end military level makers such as Kifaru and Mystery Ranch are among the designers of this type of pack. It comes under the larger-size category. They have made a quasi-external frame that functions with the close-hugging benefits of an internal frame. The problems with internal frame packs are thus resolved, except for the overheating part.  Their efforts at inventing a cooling system for the back are a failure. Only a true external frame will give the necessary air space to keep cool and dry.  They are also quite expensive and disproportionately heavy for the most part. They are works of art but you must be truly committed to this design if you want one, after ruling out every other possibility. They have elaborate web sites and customer forums where feedback is published.
For backpacks in general, the military is a good rule of thumb since soldiers are load-carriers by profession. The military also established the bug-out concept. You will not be disappointed with a military level bug-out bag. It is made to withstand the abuse you will need to personally undergo in bugging-out. The newest versions of military packs are a far cry from the old instruments of torture used in the John Wayne movies.
Repeat: what matters in choosing a pack is what is best for you only. Size and shape matter a lot when moving quickly. You are the one doing the moving. The medium-size category is where we want to be in the bug-out context. But if this range is truly insufficient for you, consider the newer military packs from Specialty Defense Systems that still use an external frame such as the MOLLE II Rifleman Pack, the main ruck is 3,000 cu. in. The attached sleep system carrier is a failure, replace it with something else, or rotate it downward so it does not project out from the frame like a tail. Military users of this system have colorful words for this bobbing sleep system compartment... You will also need to upgrade to the Down East 1603 Generation IV frame, which replaces the original 1602, quite breakable frame. This new frame has fallen out of helicopters and hit the ground, nothing broke. If you envisage a "big-B" bug-out, needing a house-on-your-back rucksack, the 10th Mountain Ruck is the current U.S. Army issue, 6000 cu. in. MOLLE pack. It is basically the previous generation two-component Rifleman pack in a one-piece configuration. This pack represents the current military philosophy in load bearing. You can find it in woodland camo, coyote tan or multi-cam. The current, ineffective ACU camo will be phased out.  The large-size ALICE is currently getting more attention as well. Some speculate that bigger is better because you will have extra load capacity.  A completely full, large-size ALICE, as well its upgraded improved versions, such as the BDS Mountain Ruck, the HighSpeedGear Trash Bag, or the Tactical Tailor Malice, can be dangerously unwieldy when full. These formidable moving vans, when fully loaded, will severely limit your speed and agility. Though this level of pack may have a place in the extreme bug-out scenario, its wearer will be constrained to pack mule velocity. Even trained soldiers collapse beneath big rucks. They complain when having to double-time with these prime movers. If you are bugging-out with bulky but lightweight insulated cold weather gear, the larger size pack will not be unbearably heavy. Bug-out is not the same across the board, in all climates or foreseeable conditions. It is time to experiment according to your personal plan, which will be carried out in your bug-out theatre of operations. It is better to make a medium-size pack bigger with removable add-ons than to make a large pack smaller by carrying it half empty, where the load will be off-balance. Civilian frame packs have extension bars behind the head, such as the classic Kelty. If you need to duck, the frame won't. In contrast, most military packs stop at shoulder height, allowing the user to move through low-clearance situations more intuitively, the pack will move with you.

How much is to be spent on your BOB? Surplus military gear is an excellent value for the budget. There is a certain mystique about military gear, with which the common man has been made into a warrior… Tactical suppliers who upgrade soldiers or outfit various law enforcement groups abound on the web. But they need to hear you ask if it is made in the U.S.A. Excellent civilian gear is abundant as well. You can also rent quality name brand equipment from a backpacking outfitter. Try both kinds of packs, external or internal frame. Start deciding right now what works best for you by manual and physical trial and error. Tempus fugit.
Add-ons should include a chest pack, suspended from the backpack frame and not from shoulder straps or sternum straps, so it can be flung rearward, up and over the head, if necessary. Put quick-release Fastex buckles so it can be adjusted and disconnected. Ingenious, multi-compartment organizers, also known as E.D.C. essentials bag, medic’s bag, in every shape and configuration, are readily available from tactical gear suppliers. Kifaru, Maxpedition and others make these. They can be military or civilian in appearance. The G.I. Field Training Pouch makes an effective chest pack. Just like the ideal bug-out pack, it is top loading, single compartment, with a drawstring inner closure. The chest pack principle is to keep small, first-line usage items within immediate reach, accessing them without having to stop and remove your main pack, wasting precious time and exposing yourself.  The chest-pack keeps your overall load better balanced, with the weight of your most essential gear forward. Keep an empty dry-bag packed inside your chest pack so it can be quickly put to use in the event of a water crossing.  Your chest pack is the container of critical equipment. It must be kept dry. Being up front, it will always be under your watchful and vigilant gaze.

Extra pockets, removable waist packs and a compartment for a sleeping bag or more gear can be attached to the medium ALICE.   If you need more food provisions, put them in drop-leg pouches that hang from your waist belt.  Your leg muscles can handle the extra weight more easily than back muscles. Make sure you can swing your arms without hitting these drop-leg additions. Some individuals like to wear a MOLLE LBE vest rig beneath their backpack. Just make sure you can crawl or lie prone with all this gear on. What about trekking poles? Try them and decide if they are a help or a hindrance. In most cases, four legs are better than two. Carrying a load downhill puts stress on the knee joints. The poles minimize this undesirable effect. Trekking poles can multi-task. They can be used to quietly ward off pests instead of firing a shot, which will attract unnecessary attention. They can prop up your shelter; they collapse for quick storage. If you are humping serious weight for yourself or for others, 25-30% of your bodyweight, consider spandex compression knee braces. GI kneepads help as well.

The bug-out bag is meant to equip you, to support your will to act and to prevail, and to keep peace of mind.
Section Two
In the bug-out moment of truth, you will have to depend on certain basic things to help you survive. They must not break or fail. They are tools, but remember, you are the one doing the surviving. Material failure is one thing, but if you are the one who fails, it will be tragic. So choose the tried and true: simple, well-made designs, favoring heavy-duty and versatile things. Learn their manifold uses. Do not go out testing your kit in a bug-out-ops scenario until you first learn the limits of your gear at home, in a controlled environment.
Bug-out pack contents: the four classic elements of survival are what you are GIg to carry. 1 - Shelter, 2 - Fire, 3 - Food and 4 - Water.
Shelter: definition: protection from the elements while moving or resting. Tents are out. This is not recreation. This is survival, adding the word “reasonable.” Combine poncho and tarp, GI types will usually mate, check the snap configuration. Two ponchos can mate as well. This will give you room to expand your comfort zone or your safe zone, depending on circumstances. Prevent grommet failure by attaching 1/8” shock cord loops to your tarp and pre-tie lengths of 550 paracord so you can set-up faster. Your shelter is worth more than cheap plastic sheeting or woven plastic, both of which are highly disposable. Get a well-made nylon tarp that will serve you for the duration. Above and beyond the GI issue standard fare, are the Wiggy's Hootch, Jacks'R'Better hex tarp, and Equinox Egret among others .

Enduring the elements can be critical if you have not yet found a safe site for shelter.  Foul weather gear should be kept in the quick access parts of your pack, such as inside the lid compartment or in an outside pouch accessible by simply reaching and without having to remove the pack.  Beyond the classic poncho, if you are a consummate jacket wearer, Gore-Tex type rain gear, both tops and bottoms, are easy to find. The GI issue versions come in all shades of camo, they are still some of the best. Be they military or civilian, Gore-Tex products are an investment. The poncho has its virtues and vices, but when stealth shelter is needed fast, the rain jacket will not be enough. Shoot your poncho or other waterproof gear (not the Gore-tex) with Camp Dry spray. Gaiters: keep a pair with your rain gear. Besides their obvious use for snow and rain, try them once while hiking through wet brush or just wet grass. You will be a believer.
Tents: if insects or reptiles are really a problem in your area, or you get violent storms with high winds, a lightweight tent can offer the desired sanity-factor protection. Stephenson Warmlite, and others make the ones that fit this category. Eureka!com sells their military tents to the public; they are heavier than backpacking tents but also heavier duty. The price of tents at this quality level, from any source, will remind you that they are an investment. If you have a family or group to house, separate into two’s or three’s so as to keep to the smaller, stealthy tents. Distribute tent parts to keep loads lightweight. Always try out your shelter in the backyard before you take it on bug-out ops. Shelter is a priority concept, whatever configuration you choose, it should come out easily and quickly from your pack upon establishing a safe and secure campsite.
Sleeping bag and bivouac bag. The military modular sleep system: a lightweight warm weather bag, a medium cold weather bag plus a Gore-Tex bivy bag make the modular parts of the system. Combine all three for extreme conditions. For the space-critical bug-out bag scenario they compress surprisingly well. Wiggy’ makes an improved but somewhat bulkier sleep system. Synthetic fill holds up to the elements better than down. You can add some kind of sleeping pad as well. Self-inflators draw in ambient air, scorching hot or ice cold are the risk. Beware of the ultra high-tech, which is prone to failure. The standard GI foam pad or its civilian equivalent is plenty good. The basic sleeping pad can be used for many things besides sleeping. Think sled. Think flotation. Kneel on it when working in camp. If you want to survive the long-term, a sleeping system will be necessary. The bottom line: rest is necessary for survival.
Hammocks are not for everyone. Try one and decide if you are pro or con. makes one that compacts to a softball size and weighs mere ounces. Jacks'R' makes the ingenious lay-flat hammock as well as a camo tarp to cover everything. Clark makes the stealth, camo Jungle Hammock. Brace yourself for sticker-shock.
Use a poncho liner or a wool blanket if the sleeping system is beyond your bug-out eventualities. Put on loose-fitting clothing, covering all cold-sensitive points such as feet, ankles, neck, wrists, head, with clean, dry and preferably wool clothing. Then add the poncho if condensation will not be an issue. One trick is to breath outside of the poncho so as to minimize condensation. But your body will naturally release humidity. Wet weather and condensation are problematic when living inside nylon. Ponchos, bivy bags and tents need adequate ventilation: waterproof is a double-edged sword.
The uniform: little or no synthetic clothing. If you are wearing a military uniform, consider the golf-suit: mismatched camo. Your legs should match tree trunks or ground covering while your torso should match branches and foliage. Older military clothing, which can still be found new or barely used, is made better, and the fabric blends contain a higher percentage of natural fibers. By far, aside from the military uniform, wool is still the best for every clothing item. Do not think of wool as exclusively winter clothing or as something that keeps you warm even when soaking wet, as testified in the Filson catalogues. It is indeed every bit of that. But wool is also for warm weather. Lightweight wool t-shirts are made by and Fine wool is expensive, but you buy it "once"--to last. Other natural, God-made materials would be a second choice. Linen, cotton, raw silk, canvas. Wool does cost more than synthetic clothing, which really is just a plastic imitation of the natural fibers. We are no longer accustomed to buying long-life clothing items, so take care of these as in all investments. [JWR Adds: See the many warnings that have been posted to SurvivalBlog about cotton clothing. Search on the phrase: "Cotton Kills".] Somewhat loose-fitting is best.  Pack a small squeeze bottle of Woolite or one of those all-purpose biodegradable detergents such as Mrs.Meyer's. Natural fabrics wash and dry out rapidly if there is sunlight, they can be dried near a fire without melting. “If your feet are cold, cover your head:” Boonie hats that obscure the human form, wool watch caps and helmet liners will keep your head warm in three very different ways. Headgear should allow for the ears to be uncovered. Unobstructed hearing is essential in bug-out survival. Cover your ears only when you really need the extra warmth. Keep a bandana around your neck; keep it wet in hot weather. It will keep the spirits cool, core temperature also. A wet bandanna is best for wiping salty sweat from the face before it burns your eyes. The G.I. wool tube scarf is for cold winds and winter. Carry two and you have makeshift wool long johns. Cut one in half, wear it like pullover collar. No more flying in the breeze.
Boots: Forget style and fashion, or the latest glossy magazine fad. You are the Infantry; your feet are your transportation. Treat them with care. Boots should give ankle support as well as total foot protection. Include removable insoles that can be washed and disinfected.  Judge sufficient support requirements only when standing with a full load on your back. Shoemakers are beginning to understand. Lightweight boots with a stiff ankle section are becoming available. High-tops do not always mean better support. Avoid side zip. Put the boots on, put on a load, now stand on ramp: uphill then downhill, your toes should never touch the front. Now stand sideways on the same ramp, try to roll your ankle, simulating a sprain. It should be next to impossible with the right boots. The boots should also be able to withstand total water immersion without dissolving. As they dry out, they should still fit. Use 550 paracord instead of shoelaces. This will give you two spare lengths when needed. Three sets of thin and thick socks are standard. Blister-provoking friction should dissipate between the layers. Wool is still the best. Add silk liners for the ideal set.
Fire: it warms both flesh and spirit. But in the bug-out strategy, the romantic, dream-inducing campfire will be rare. Have three ways to make the flame. Sparking steel, waterproof matches, refillable all-metal lighters are three that tie for first place. Trick birthday candles ? Do not pre-make petroleum soaked cotton balls. Keep cotton balls dry and sterile for more uses before you commit them to a last ditch fire-starting scenario. When inclement conditions call for a fire starter, far superior to Vaseline, and maybe providing a moment of comic relief, is a tube of Preparation H, containing petrolatum, beeswax and paraffin... Cotton balls, gauze or tissue with this petroleum ointment added will burn with a steady candle-like flame. Some facts about fire: where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is fire there is smoke ... If you are evading, a smoky fire might as well be a flare signaling your position. Firewood itself can also be an issue. When scavenging for campfire fuel, avoid deadwood from poisonous or questionable bushes and trees whose smoke can kill. Some wood is toxic. In 1809 Napoleon lost seven soldiers not to the British army, but to meat rations cooked on Oleander spits. See Fine Woodworking Magazine issue 114, “When Wood Fights Back.” See also “Toxic Wood” from the same.
In bug-out, the small fire, made only for cooking or boiling water, is what you want. A stove is better. Use a very basic commercially produced or self-engineered wood-burning Ranger stove. “Ranger” usually denotes a product of self-engineered genius. People are now selling commercially made versions of these simple stoves. Some, like, are made of stainless steel as well. You have heard this “stainless steel” nomenclature elsewhere. Aluminum is lighter. Does it really cause Alzheimer’s disease? Is “cast” aluminum safer than “spun” aluminum? Regardless of the answers, one fact still stands: Aluminum is an unstable alloy. Steel is real. The weight vs. utility co-efficient should be the keep or reject rule for every item in your kit. If bug-out is indeed evasion from the confusion of chaos, it is also a focus on surviving the long-term. The extra ounces in steel products remind you that you have long-lasting, durable tools for one thing: to outlive the ordeal.

Fuel canister-type stoves will eventually run-out and become pitifully useless. You can carry a lot of fuel, but the weight will be disproportionate to the convenience factor. Or you can bring a minimal amount of fuel for the emergency.  But bug-out is already an emergency. One which, in all probability, will last longer than we anticipated. Multi-fuel stoves are better.  Circumstances may allow for siphoning of fuel from abandoned vehicles, fuel can be cached along your evasion route, if you are able to follow it. Alcohol is a proven system, so is solid fuel, which is a lightweight and compact back-up strategy. Be careful not to breathe the fumes. Surplus stores have a lot of solid fuel choices because the military dropped many of them for safety reasons.
The Ranger stove is for the unknown and unforeseen duration. This wood-burning type stove can be as simple as a section of snap-together stovepipe, ranging from 8 to 12 inches in length, 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Commercial versions are variations on a steel tube that looks like a muzzle brake for a bazooka. Less is more with these stoves. The principle is to produce contained, intense and protected fire. Use discarded paper products, dry grass, twigs, pinecones, anything that burns. Rows of holes at the bottom and top of the tube allow for a full airflow. The fire rests on an elevated perforated plate or a piece of steel mesh, and roars in seconds. The tube utilizes the chimney effect, creating an upward draft. With a little hand-pressure to reshape the top opening of the tube, you can make your G.I. canteen fit right into it. There is your one-quart teakettle. Transfer hot water into your canteen cup and continue boiling more water. Cook your own recipe-concoction directly in your stainless steel canteen cup, or in the components of the G.I. mess kit, the only cooking set needed. Grab hot items with leather and canvas work gloves. Winterize your leather gloves with G.I. wool liners. Synthetic hunting or shooter’s gloves are a hazard around fires. They will melt with your hand inside and cause severe burns. Neither leather nor wool will ever be a problem. Your multi-tool works best for gripping hot steel. This bug-out micro mess hall makes cooking pots and pans totally unnecessary. The mess kit can work like an oven. Place coals on top and beneath for a Dutch oven effect. Pour boiling water over grains, clamp the mess kit airtight, and you will have steamed food. Who says survival means being constantly miserable? If you are a staunch “cooking-pot” chef, having mouths to feed, take a look at the heavy-gauge stainless steel vertical shaped pots from The vertical shape better utilizes the heat rising upwards. It also fits into a pack more easily than a wide diameter pot. Avoid Teflon or coated cookware. The toxic coating wears off and you ingest it. Titanium is available, at a price. 
See or also offering the Caldera wood-optional stove. Initiation in working with fire includes a tube of Calendula burn ointment in your First Aid kit.
Enclose the G.I. stainless steel spoon & fork, squeeze-bottle of natural detergent, Scotch-Brite combo sponge or stainless steel scrubber and anything else you can fit inside your mess kit. Tall squeeze bottles will fit into the depressions of the mess kit lid. Put in a natural sponge as you close it up. This will compress and keep the contents quiet and secure. The natural sponge is a thing of beauty and holds many times its weight in water. For collecting water from dripping cracks and small springs a natural sponge is unbeatable. The sponge bath gives instant relief from the stress of survival and restores you to an acceptable state of hygiene. A medium-size sponge will practically soak up a canteen full of water. It weighs virtually nothing.

So far the kit has been minimalist and broad spectrum in its philosophy. Those two terms really do go together in bug-out.

Section Three
The bug-out bag should contain much more than carefully chosen gear. It should include strategy dynamics, and other peace of mind intangibles. If we are sufficiently equipped for the duration, if our modest bug-out kit of tools will aid us in prevailing, we will not be so desperate as to fall below our human dignity. The next part deals with food and water. We are more spirit than flesh. Be willing to share.
Food: Health is more than not being sick.  Remember that we are emulating trained combatants and athletes when we are bugging out. The need to keep mind and body alert is critical. The effort to keep energy at peak level is not optional. Pack basic food elements for situations where you might have more time to prepare your meals, you will be thankful to eat a traditional meal that not only looks and tastes like a real food, but has the salutary effects of balanced nutrition.  Avoid pre-packaged, ready to eat junk foods that are full of preservatives and additives that cause health side effects. The appearance of convenience is an illusion.  Select and pack your food separately by food groups from bulk quantities. Use various sized re-usable vitamin bottles, or other screw cap plastic bottles that have been pre-tested for being leak-proof. Food storage should not allow light penetration. GNC makes colored bottles. canisters are modular. Take care of your food. Vacuum wrap or stretch wrap is less re-usable, but a moderate quantity of heavy-gauge foil is essential. Those fuel-stove foil shrouds are very versatile.  Be sure to include a P-38 or bigger "P-51" G.I. can opener in your tool kit.
Phase-1 bug-out is usually intense and evasive. Use your ration packaged athletic food and drink mixes for this initial phase only.  Phase-2 bug-out is when you have achieved a reasonable measure of safety and security, even if it is temporary. Build-up your health as conditions allow in these moments when a stove can be used. Freeze-dried food or MREs are practical but better fare is not difficult to achieve. Phase-3 bug-out is when you have attained your projected destination or objective. Food re-supply takes place then, usually upon the arrival at a retreat or outpost. Nutritional overhaul takes place now. What you choose to carry or store will be for maintaining the balance in your strength and performance. It is unacceptable to think that taking toxic doses of vitamin B or other shock-energy drinks will be enough, you will be in for a few surprises. You should be training in the present moment, and your strength and endurance levels should be on the rise. Solid nutrition, not chemicals or instant-ized pseudo-foods, will keep you stable in this state.
On a 33-day 500-mile course, few of us came back the same. Many of us dropped dangerous amounts of weight. The high-tech sports food had no more effect after the first week. It has its place, to be sure, and its limits. It doesn’t rebuild or restore for the duration. Classic nutrition saved everyone. Learn now which foods support you, discard what doesn’t without apology, even if it fills full-page ads in the magazines. You will not find bug-out nutrition outlined anywhere. Forget calorie-nutrition-exertion co-efficient tables. Bug-out is off the charts. It falls under the extreme exertion category because it is both mental and physical, more akin to sustained warfare than survival. Bug-out is the will to overcome, to remain in control because of the foresight of preparedness. Load your B.O.B. with the most concentrated forms of only the best foods. The term “lightweight food” is an oxymoron. Watch weight, but better food means better performance, the scales tip in favor of nutritional value. There is no room for convenience-packaged junk. Intelligent food rationale is an essential part of bug-out.
The principle in stressful conditions such as the bug-out scenario: high fat content is necessary. Eating a steady diet of wild game, such as venison, long after your freeze-dried backpack food and MREs have run out, can cause sickness and even death, if that missing element: fat, is not added to the extra lean game meat. What is fat content? If your food has any flavor, it is probably the fat. The old-timers talk about this important fact of living off the land. Refer to the classics in survival reading. “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” is just one of Bradford Angier’s many excellent readings, or grab the works of Colonel Townsend Whelen. Their books are among the old hardbound classic treasures if you find them used. These are luminaries among the real men.  
For the extended bug-out context, pack highly concentrated foods, such as dried meats and fruits, pemmican, food bars, dark chocolate, (Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt is 5 star) various dry grains and legumes for boiling or for sprouting, raw cane sugar, sea salt, powdered milk, potato flakes, grain flour. Most trail mix is anything but quick energy, the nuts are slow digesters. Seeds are more quickly assimilated. Canned meats and fish, and various cheeses and butters are highest in total fat content. Load nut butters, honey or non-clogging fruit jams into refillable squeeze tubes. Soup based dishes re-hydrate us and make food easier to digest. Carry a small squeeze bottle of olive oil. It is both medicine and condiment. Study, learn to recognize local wild edibles as well. Get a published guidebook for your region. Attend classes on plant recognition and use.
First Aid: Band-Aids are the least important. Gauze, cloth medical tape and cotton balls can multi-task outside the parameters of First-Aid. Hydrogen peroxide is still the old favorite for cleaning wounds and other uses, keep it in the brown bottle. Essential oils and herbal poultices are also traditional.  Insect bites and stings, poisonous plant irritation, intestinal imbalance, any health condition that worsens by nature, needs immediate attention. Thermotabs prevent muscle cramps and dehydration without provoking the dry-heaves, keep them in your chest-pack. Chafing is a problem in hot weather marches. Foot powder should double-task for this. Tools: Foldable sewing scissors, tweezers and dental floss, suture kit, needles and alcohol wipes for blisters, tongue depressors. Examine the military Blow-Out Kit online, see if it pertains to your Bug-out curriculum. Avoid individually foil-wrapped travel-size pharmaceuticals that waste space and only placate most problems. First-Aid kit contents should focus on basic, broad-spectrum elements of healing and immune system defense.
Keep an eye on problems and stop them in their beginning stages. Besides the need to patch up cuts and scrapes, which become more easily infected in the out-of-doors, your immune system may need some first-aid as well. Include whole food multi-vitamins and compressed green super-food tablets. They are not cheap, but they will keep up your health. Most airborne sickness begins in the mouth. Add three drops of Super Strength Oregano Oil from North American Herb and Spice at to your gargle water to kill everything. This variety of oregano is actually akin to hyssop, the biblical bitter herb. Timeless, natural remedies handed down from the ancients, as well as proven home remedies are the subjects of other articles published on this blog. Learn to react at the first sign of declining health.
In the Bug-out context of events, there will have been a massive upheaval of social order, making our departure the only rational solution. Catastrophic events, whether they be acts of God or engineered through human malice, imply the potential outbreak of disease. Your First-Aid kit should include de-contamination: radiation, toxic chemical or vapor leaks, bacteria, viruses, etc. The best remedy is usually physical distance from the stricken area. You can walk 15-20 miles in a day. Running with a backpack, maybe 5-10 miles more. Is this far enough away? There is a category of items, “better to have and not need than to not have and need.” A gas mask that works, medicines and antidotes for pandemic viruses, penicillin, surgical mask and gloves, anti-bacterial liquid soap. Keep an old-fashioned thermometer in your kit. Learn to count your pulse rate with your watch, memorize the fever zones and danger zones. There are also herbs and traditional remedies that help keep you calm and focused in the stress of bug-out. Remember the charming story of Thieves oil, fact or fiction, it represents the savoir-faire which is the foundation of any First-Aid kit.
Water: Learn how to find water. Look downward into gullies, look for green, only water can do that. If there is a choice, it should be flowing rather than still. If you find it before you need it, collect it anyway. Anticipate the need for water. Keep a collapsible canteen or bladder in your kit for this purpose. Purification: boiling is still the easiest and most economical way to purify water. The old method for purifying water consists of two steps: filtering the water through a cloth such as a dedicated clean bandana, then putting it to boil 3-5 minutes, adding 1 minute per 1,000 feet in altitude. Water purifiers are also available in countless shapes, sizes and prices. Some even work. Articles on this subject, field-testing reports abound on the subject of water purifiers. Most ceramic and synthetic filters are imitations of two natural water purifiers: charcoal and cinnamon, both are effective bactericides, cinnamon being from biblical origins. Cinnamon in capsule form or drops, has proven more effective than Imodium, it can be used daily as a condiment while in reality, it is being taken as a preventive measure. Being around water in the wild, cinnamon would be better in your stomach instead of stowed away somewhere in your kit. Read and study this important question of water purification. Everyone seems to have a preferred “best” method. Foil-wrapped or bottled tablets are also available, some are better than others. Water filter pumps: the extra-rugged Katadyn Pocket Filter is the golden standard.  Its mere weight tells you it is all business. The MSR Mini-Works squeeze pump screws directly to a standard bladder to eliminate contamination. Sterilize your water filtering gear and keep inlet and outlet hoses apart to avoid cross-contamination. This seems extreme but deadly bacteria are microscopic. Water is life. It can also be death. Treat water with respect, then do not forget: water is more important than food. Thus the critical survival rule: do not eat unless you can also drink. Under duress, we need more hydration than nourishment. Stress and anxiety are dehydrators. So are diuretic drinks such as coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, certain soft drinks and commercial fruit juices: these “refreshments” cause fluid evacuation.  Compliment them with twice the amount of water to curb dehydration. Never wait until you are parched with thirst to begin drinking. One military unit urges pre-hydration: the day that precedes operations is spent drinking larger than usual amounts of water, though without exaggeration.  
Your bug-out water container must be able to multi-task. The legendary kidney-shaped G.I. stainless steel 1-quart canteen, or an unpainted stainless steel water bottle can be placed directly in a fire or a stove for the absolute fastest boiling of water. Loosen or completely remove the cap. For purifying water or cooking, time is always critical: 10 minutes to bring a quart of water to boil is too long.  And you might have to add the extra time for purifying. Survival is stressful enough; let alone fooling around with fire and water boiling. Think of the teakettle. The top is domed. A cooking pot with a flimsy flat lid is the worst way to boil water. A steel canteen is always ready to serve the cause. Along with the G.I. canteen is yet another marvel of engineering: the nesting steel canteen cup. has raised this lowly military artifact to an objet de art. It holds a generous 24 ounces. That equals more than enough water or food for one person. Add the G.I. canvas canteen cover, which is felt-lined.  Soak it in water to keep canteen contents cool or leave it dry for insulation in cold weather.  The 1-quart nylon MOLLE canteen covers are not insulated. The 2-quart covers are fake-fur lined. They also melt. But they are still very good additions to your kit, just be aware of their quirks. Carry several quarts of water. Several meaning many... as many as you can. A gallon per day of drinking water, that means four quarts, is considered the average personal intake for moderate exertion. One gallon is eight pounds. If you like to drink on the move, use the hydration bladder, but get the kind that open all the way at the top so you can put your hand inside for cleaning. makes them. Whatever vessel you choose to carry your H2O, the puncture resistant, fire-compatible steel canteen should be the foundation of your hydration system.
Miscellaneous: As far as other practical gear, here are some personal notes.
No flashlights. Two headlamps are better, one heavy-use and one spare. [JWR Adds: I concur with this wisdom. A headlamp can also be used as a hand-held light, but not vice versa.] A single “white-light” beam is better than the blue light produced by inferior LEDs, which is not true light, and causes depth perception failure in rapid evasion. Single-beam lights cost more but their purpose is to move you at night without incident. Petzl, SureFire, PrincetonTec and a few others make the single beam lights favored by military and night riding mountain bikers. They are essential for night ops. For all other purposes, the inexpensive LED lights are sufficient. Study the question of colored light, red, green or blue, decide if this feature is an advantage for your circumstances. Petzl Taktikka XP and PrincetonTec Eos Tactical are two that include colored filters.

If you absolutely must have a handheld light, or make the real ones. Knock-offs have poor contacts and inferior materials. They will leave you in the dark. Hand crank dynamo lights: squeeze-type military Daco-lites are now collector’s items. They are very noisy, and the dynamo must be constantly going. Freeplay makes the wind-up Jonta, probably the only light of its kind that is not a toy, it also tips the scales at 15 oz. but unfortunately “Made in China”   Chemical light sticks have their place. A thousand uses ? Maybe not. Military surplus stores sell the special holders that control light output. Medics use these.
Batteries: Standardize your battery type and size. Only one size for everything is the ideal. Keep rechargeable batteries only if you have a solar-powered charger. Batteries are fuel. Carry a sufficient supply of battery sets: for example, if your headlamp uses three AAA batteries, your supply should be in multiples of three. Some lights and electronics require specialized batteries, this means keeping an appropriate inventory of spares. If you are not in evasion mode, and not needing bright light, a windproof candle lantern is better than wasting precious batteries for night lighting.
Battery problems: How long will your batteries last? Being parsimonious with battery power may be counter-productive in bug-out. Extreme conditions imply extreme use. Batteries may wear out faster, headlamps constantly used on full-brightness will quickly go dead. There will be no warning with 123a Lithium batteries that go dead without going dim. Other battery issues: can you change a watch battery in the dark or in the midst of confusion, and be able to reset the correct time? Can you change the battery of your rifle scope in the field while your target waits for you? Same for a rangefinder. The more electronics used, the more types of batteries will be needed. Electronics are also fragile. Ask yourself that question of all questions in assembling the bug-out kit: “Can I do without?” Consider non-powered, manual, mechanical equivalents for all but the most essential electronics.
Repair tape. Duct-tape: 100 m.p.h. tape doesn’t need to be 100 miles long. Compress a small roll flat. All adhesive tape will eventually dry out and become ineffective. Protect your tape in a canister or in the humble Zip-lock bag. Get some black or green zip-ties, long ones can be trimmed when the point of no return has been decided. Can you repair or sharpen every item in your bug-out bag? There’s your repair kit list, but keep it micro. Add a Rite-in-the Rain notebook and a pencil or a space-pen. Write and keep notes, record landmarks, physical and spiritual...
Hunting: Constant thinking ahead about food source possibilities should be a permanent state of mind in bug-out. Do not let opportunity pass by, it may never return. Small game is quickly dealt with. Its finality: one meal or two. Big game will consume your time unless you have an established plan for processing this quantity of meat.
Weaponry is highly subjective.  Survival hunting: one rifle is all you can carry. One sidearm. What is the effective range of your firearm? Memorize windage and elevation compensation. For close range, use the sidearm. For noise discipline, shoot an arrow. Try a slingshot. Trapping is silent, snare wire can multi-task as well. Binoculars or a simple monocular: hunting or not, always glass before you go. Is fishing possible where you are? Put together a minimalist kit, and be content with small catches.  Collapsible fishing rods collapse at the wrong time. Make a primitive pole or use a sectional knock down rod if you are casting and spinning.
Knives: k.i.s.s.= keep it simple and sharp. Razor-sharp is normal. No combo-blades:  where the sweet spot once was there is now serration, an unwanted challenge to re-sharpen. Bug-out might include Search and Rescue. Multi-tools have full-length serrated blades and specialty cutters. A razor-sharp plain edge has been used until now for breakout scenarios. It still works. Knives: Rule #1: cannot have too many. Rule #2: a dull knife is a dangerous knife. Get a stone set from Dan’s His family still sells the increasingly scarce natural Arkansas stones in miniature singles or combo’s, get a piece of the rock. Keep your stones in hard cases or padded pouches to prevent accidental breakage. Double-task your micro-bottle of Hoppe’s or Rem-Oil for lubrication. Stones or diamonds, keep your sharpening system simple. Do not bring what has not already been pre-tested.  Keep your blades scary sharp.  Pre-sharpen every cutting tool you plan on using, each one should be the extension of your hand. Your primary use knife should be non-reflective. Set aside a dedicated stainless knife for skinning and food prep. Maintain your edges frequently, even unused, they still degrade from humidity in the air.
Becker, KA-BAR, Benchmade, Ontario, are among the myriad makers of good knives. They are exceptional American made medium-size knives for the mid-range budget. They still offer plain and simple, well-made knives that get right to work. They all offer non-reflective blades. Buy the best you can afford. Some brands offer a low-end import line of knives. Absolutely avoid these objects designed-in-America but made in... bleep. Boycott such products which offend our nation's deep sense of honor until they are dead and gone. 
Select a few knives, close your eyes and handle them with various hand moves. Imagine both dry hands and wet slippery hands. Buy the one that stays balanced and feels secure in the grip throughout all of your hand movements.  If the hand says its right, it is right. What is a good measure for medium blade length? Lay your hand on the blade, it should be as long as your hand is wide, or thereabouts. Make sure one of your choices has a lanyard slot in the pommel. Attach this medium-size, primary use, “first line of defense” fixed blade knife to your B.O.B, inverted carry, to the shoulder strap opposite of the hand you use. Put a lanyard on it. The best lanyard combines a short piece of 1/8” diameter shock cord added to 550 paracord. Attach the sheath to your shoulder strap with the similar shock cord so it can give and move when falling or crawling. Lanyards: Attach essential items in your chest and waist area with these umbilical cords. Example: the ever-indispensable Cammenga lensatic military compass should be attached so as not to lose it, make sure the lanyard is as long as your reach. Attach all primary-use items the same way, make the lanyard as long as your reach will require. The items you grab for rapid use need to be attached because things get dropped. We fumble under stress. Attach a mini-biner for quick release of your lanyard system. Sidearms should also have lanyards similar in theory to what offers, for obvious reasons. Don’t wait until you drop your pride-and-joy sidearm to see the light.
Chopping tools like machetes are lighter than axes. The military had a special short machete made by Ontario Knife, the LC-12. They are still simple and good, you will use this size more often. Heavy “survival knives” try to fill the gap in between a traditional combat knife and a full-size machete. Is there really a gap? The 12” machete is lighter than a survival knife and you will reach for it more often. It is not a thing of beauty. It is strictly business. Its thinner, softer steel blade sharpens faster and when it gets nicked, it is more quickly restored. In bug-out you are not needing a large machete, which will leave damaged vegetation in its wake, signs that say, “follow me.” The short machete is a shelter-building tool. If you still insist on the merits of the big blade survival knife, before you weigh-in your heavy contender, the often imitated, best-of-both-worlds Becker Machax is soon to be made available again through Ka-Bar.  Knife patriarch Ethan Becker at sheds light on this and all things edged.
Wrap “Ranger bands,” i.e. bicycle inner tube slices, around knife sheathes. These rubber “pockets” can contain small items such as fishhooks, etc. Include both fish and game skinning tools in your collection of blades. Skeletal neck knives like the Becker Necker or Remora from Ka-Bar can be sterilized by dropping in boiling water [suspended by their lanyards]. Keep a variety of knives in different places. A spare fixed blade can go in the chest pack, folders in your pocket. Always have a back-up knife and assign it a place which will never change.

If you really need an E-tool for digging, you can sit on the folding ones like a milking stool. The surplus wooden handle classics weigh about the same as the current G.I. issue tri-folder. The rivets on the classics are three times bigger than the modern version. Both have a folding business end. If you need a shovel for latrine duty only, a small, one-handed gardener is all you need.
Your watch: no quartz, battery types. Manual wind or automatic, heavy-duty types are better for bug-out. Luminous hands. Features such as chronographs, stopwatches, alarms, can and will fail. Accurate time is why you have a watch.  Make sure it can get wet. 
Your eyes: if you plan on fleeing into the woods, which is the ideal, plan on getting slapped in the face by branches. A poke in the eye might be next. Clear goggles will give you a measure of confidence needed for night movement in dense vegetation. Shaded lenses can be swapped out quickly for reduced eye