Field Gear Category

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I've been doing this for years but not all nail polish works, it all keeps the matches waterproof but some polish puts the flame out. If you can try to get the polish that says HIGHLY FLAMMABLE on the back - this is getting a lot harder to find. Cover half way down 3 matches and when dry test them (away from the polish and the matches) you soon know if your OK. If you are do the rest top half and then the base up. I did not find this out the hard way and you don't want to. - B.G.

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With regard to coating Strike Anywhere matches with fingernail polish to prevent moisture, an excellent way to handle them is to do the following; take a piece of corrugated fiberboard (that is correct name for what we all commonly call cardboard from a box. Cut the material into strips about 2 inches wide. Insert the base of the matches into the holes or corrugations. This will hold the matches neatly and evenly allowing you to dip or treat the matches and it will provide a great way to dry them or dip them over and over. It will make the process faster and much neater. - RBS

Monday, April 14, 2014

Over the years, I've tested quite a few knives from Cold Steel, and I've yet to be disappointed in any of them. We're going to take a closer look at the Cold Steel Recon Scout. This is one brute of a fixed blade knife, which is made In Taiwan, for those who ask. I've known Lynn Thompson, who owns Cold Steel, for at least 20 years or more, and he is one of these people who is dead serious about his knife designs and the final product. Lynn has, on more than one occasion, sent back an entire run of knives after he received them and inspected them. He won't settle for shoddy workmanship with the Cold Steel name stamped on his products. To be sure, once in a while a "second" will slip through or a customer returns a knife for "whatever" reason. He won't sell those knives as new; he sells them as "seconds" so you don't ever have to worry about buying someone else's used knife when you buy a new knife from Cold Steel. Once a year, Cold Steel holds a yard sale at their offices, where you can buy discontinued, "seconds", or returned knives at a huge discount.

The name of this website is SurvivalBlog, so many of the knives (and other products) we test and report on are designed for survival, not just wilderness survival but survival on the mean streets. We also cover products suitable for camping and hunting needs and products that you can use around your home all the time. However, the Cold Steel Recon Scout is without a doubt one of the absolute best all-around survival knives you will ever find. It is designed to take whatever you can throw at it and come back for more, again and again!

Just a quick run down on the specs from the Cold Steel website on the Recon Scout is in order. We are looking at a fixed blade knife with a blade that is 7 1/2 inches long and made out of SK-5 High Carbon, NOT stainless steel. However, there is a black powder coating on the blade to help ward-off rust. One of the things I like best about carbon steel blades is that they hold an edge for the longest time, and when they do dull they are easy to bring back to scary sharp in a couple of minutes. The overall length of the Recon Scout is 12 1/2 inches, and it weighs a hefty 15 ounces. The blade thickness is 5/16-inches. Read that again; it is more than a quarter of an inch thick. The handle material is Long Kray-Ex, and I'm not sure what it is exactly, other than it feels like rubber, hard rubber. It has cross checkers for a good hold, and there is a lanyard hold in the butt of the handle. The sheath is made out of Secure-Ex, and it is a polymer material.

I've tested a lot of Cold Steel fixed blade knives, as well as folding knives over the years, and I believe that the Recon Scout is my favorite of the lot for camping, hunting, military use, and survival use. If you can break this knife, you should join the U.S. Marine Corps. They can break just about anything. I've tried to do some serious damage to the Recon Scout, all to no avail.

First off, the Recon Scout came as sharp as sharp can be. I would have been disappointed if it wasn't up to my expectations. Then again, I've said it many times, I honestly believe that Cold Steel set the gold standard when it comes to sharp factory knives. I could take a piece of copy paper and slice off a piece from the top of the paper that was ever so thin. Try that with another knife that is 5/16th of an inch thick. It can't be done.

This knife was made for chopping, too. It has just the right blade length and amount of heft to it to enable you to really chop. I have a lot of timber on my small homestead, so I never lack for a tree or branch to chop on. The Recon Scout is like a hatchet, when it comes to chopping. I also took some free-hanging poly rope, which is tough to cut because it is so slick. I could easily cut right through it, with one swing of the blade. Try that with many other fixed blades knives.

One test I don't normally do with many knives is trying to break off the blade's tip. It's easier done that you think. How many times have you taken your pocket knife and used it for prying on something,only to have the tip snap right off? Yeah, that's what I thought. I pounded the Recon Scout's blade into a tree, about half an inch or maybe a little deeper with a hammer, and I "snapped" the knife out sideways numerous times trying to break the tip of the blade off. It didn't happen! It won't happen, either!

I took an old used car tire with steel belts and went to work on it with the Recon Scout. It easily cut through the rubber and the steel belts. Try that with many other knives and see what happens. I chopped on 2X4 wood, cut through cardboard boxes, and even used the knife in the kitchen a few times. It came through with flying colors. I threw the knife at a big pine tree, trying to make it stick. It never did. I did manage to finally scuff the black coating on the blade but just a little bit. I also did some digging in my yard, and we have a lot of rocks in our soil. I finally, at long last, managed to dull the blade. A few minutes on the croc stix had the blade scary-sharp all over again.

The Recon Scout used to come with a Nylon-type sheath, and while it was ok, I always wanted something more. Current knives come with the Secure-Ex sheath, and it is really a dandy one. You don't have to worry about the sheath getting wet, staying wet, and causing the knife to rust. Nor do you have to worry about the tip of the knife poking through the sheath, if you're not careful putting it back into the sheath.

The Recon Scout retails for $199.99, but you can sometimes find it discounted a bit, if you check around. Yeah, it's not cheap, but quality never comes cheap. Now, for the bad news. If you go out and get a Recon Scout for your survival purposes or camping/hunting use, it might just be the last fixed blade knife you'll ever need. I can't recommend this knife highly enough. It is impressive and will handle many jobs that lesser fixed blade knives can't handle. So, be advised, this might be the last fixed blade knife you will ever buy.

Friday, April 11, 2014


I am a long time reader of survival blog and find the info very helpful. I noticed the comment on Thunderwear holsters and thought I would pass on my take on it. I am a large guy. Concealment of even a large frame handgun is relatively easy for me, but that limits me to only certain modes of dress. So, I tried thunderwear over 10 years ago and never looked back. I every day carry a ruger sp101 in .357 mag and did carry a 41mag for a few years, both stainless. I also carried a .45 1911 briefly. Corrosion is an issue if you do not clean your piece daily without fail and oil it liberally. While it is not the perfect holster, it makes it easy to have your gun close at hand in most occasions, and it makes it very difficult if not impossible for others to know you are packing heat unless they physically grope you. That alone could be hazardous to their heath, as my wife is the only one allowed such close contact and not in public. God bless - M.S.

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Walking/running shorts or bathing suit and a t-shirt are typical South Florida dress. Using the SmartCarry holster, I have never had any corrosion issues with my firearms. I'll leave the handgun out of the holster at night so the holster will thoroughly dry but give it no other special treatment. - Florida Native

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While I have not used the Thunderwear brand holster, I have carried using a SmartCarry for about a year. The SmartCarry uses a special material that isolates the metal parts of the gun from moisture created from sweat in that area, and I never saw any corrosion or even wear on the gun itself after carrying in this method. Granted, I am in Colorado rather than Florida, but I frequently wear it with shorts while performing physical activities. It is great for this, but for everyday carry with jeans, I find an Old Faithful IWB holster more practical and comfortable for me. In fact, my Kydex/leather IWB holster I use now is more apt to produce wear marks on the weapon itself. Thanks, E.M.

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I am responding to your request about ThunderWear (now called SmartCarry) holsters. I have three holsters that I use for daily carry, and ThunderWear is my go-to favorite. In Texas, I normally wear shorts (either athletic or cargo) and a t-shirt, nearly year round. I've tried lots of holsters, but none concealed well with light clothing. I've never had an issue with sweat causing rust or corrosion. If I do sweat a lot on a really hot day, I just give it a quick wipe down in the evening. I also learned long ago to wear an undershirt. It may seem counter intuitive to wear an undershirt when it's hot, but it does help soak up sweat, keep you cool, and helps keep the grip of the handgun off your skin. I would say that there are two downsides of the ThunderWear holster: 1) If you are in a hurry to go out the door, it takes a bit more time to put on than just slipping on an IWB holster, and 2) You can't just use a standup urinal when going to the men's room, or the next guy may see it.

Since I am writing in about concealed carry holsters, I'd also like to mention the other two I use: Uncle Mile's IWB and Kangaroo. The Uncle Mike's only costs about $10. I can put it on or take it off in seconds, and the material comes all the way up to keep your gun from contacting skin. The material is sweat proof, and it stays put when drawing. The Kangaroo is a bit more pricey, but it is also very comfortable. It's very adjustable and conceals well, but you need a bit heavier shirt than a thin t-shirt. A Polo of Oxford works well. They also have absolutely outstanding customer service. - Jeff in Texas

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Although B.D. doesn't like Thunderwear, from my personal experience, it is a must have for those of us that live in warm climates where clothing can be a big issue. When you're wearing a bathing suit and tee-shirt (like many of us do here in Florida), it is a super way to carry a weapon concealed. Otherwise, the weight of a typical carry weapon will have your trunks around your ankles, and there are typically no belts with a pair of swim trunks. Thunderwear is great for the tropics. - S.V.

HJL Replies: I would be interested in hearing from those who have used Thunderwear: Is corrosion an issue with your firearm? Especially if it isn't stainless?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


So, you're standing in front of the handgun holster display at your local gun shop and trying to decide which holster to purchase for adding to your survival gear. The sheer volume of manufacturers, styles, and materials can be overwhelming. Even the specialized terminology can make your head spin. In an attempt to help reduce some of the pain and confusion, I'm sharing my personal experiences and some basic information I've picked up along the way that may be worth your consideration before making your next handgun holster purchase. While this information is by no means exhaustive, I hope that it will be helpful and assist those who are less familiar with this particular equipment.

The following experiences and observations are based on my being a handgun owner and enthusiast for almost 20 years. In this time, I have owned, built, and used holsters for both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols in a variety of scenarios. These have varied from a recreational day at the range to hunting, competitive action pistol shooting, and concealed carry.

I'll begin by clarifying some of the common terminology by providing basic explanations.

INDUSTRY TERMINOLOGY (In Alphabetical Order)

Ankle Holster– A holster specifically designed to be worn on the ankle or calf area, using elastic and/or straps to secure the holster.

Belt Loop Holster– A holster that is secured to the belt using loops, straps, or openings.

Cant– Refers to the angle that the holster rides at when carried.  A straight up cant (or 0 cant) refers to the barrel being perpendicular to the ground or in-line with the leg and torso when in a standing position. A forward cant refers to the rear of the frame/grip leaning forward, while the muzzle is tipped to the rear. A forward cant is commonly used for improved draw ergonomics on the strong side (see description below). A rear cant is essentially the opposite of a forward cant. A rear cant is typically used in cross draw (see description below) applications on the weak side (see description below), as moving the holster from the strong side to the weak side would turn what was a rear cant into a forward cant for the strong hand as it reaches across the body.

Clip-On / Clip-Over Holster– A holster attachment method using a metal or polymer clip to allow for easy on/off use of the holster. These can be used with either inside the waistband (IWB– see definition below) or outside the waistband (OWB– see definition below) style holster configurations.

Cross Draw– A term used to describe a holster that rides on your weak side, but the drawing motion is performed across the body using the primary shooting hand. These holsters can be either IWB or OWB.

Draw– The action of gripping and removing the handgun from the holster.

High Ride/Rise– A holster that is designed to locate the grip of the handgun further above the beltline than a normal (mid-ride/rise) holster. This can be for purposes of concealment, such as when covered by a jacket or shirt, or for preference of draw. A high ride holster worn IWB typically has to clear less space prior to being presented at the target and can therefore provide a faster draw.

Inside the Waistband (IWB)– A holster that is worn on the inside of the waistband (beneath clothing), commonly in conjunction with a belt.

Low Ride/Rise– A holster that is designed to locate the grip of the handgun further below the beltline than a normal (mid-ride/rise) holster. This can be for preference of draw. A low-ride/rise holster can cause interference when riding in a vehicle or in other seated positions.

Mid Ride/Rise– A holster that is designed to locate the grip of the handgun just above the beltline. This is the most common or standard position. Holsters that are not designated as high or low ride/rise are typically mid-ride/rise.

Outside the Waistband (OWB) - A holster that is worn on the outside of the waistband, commonly in conjunction with a belt. This is common for open carry applications and can be used for concealed carry, if in conjunction with an outer garment (jacket, shirt, etc.).

Paddle– This part of the holster uses a component that is broader than the holster itself and often shaped similar to the top half of a ping pong paddle. The paddle portion is slid inside the waistband, while the holster itself rides outside the waistband. The large surface area of the paddle helps to prevent the entire holster assembly from being inadvertently removed from the carry position when the handgun is withdrawn from the holster.

Pocket– A holster that either wrap around the handgun to disguise it as a wallet or holds it in place in a pocket to facilitate drawing from the pocket, while the holster stays in place. Wallet style holsters often provide an opening to access the trigger and allow the firearm to be fired while still inside the holster.

Retention Level I– A Level I holster provides passive retention by using compression of the holster against the firearm, creating friction, which is felt as resistance when the handgun is drawn. Common examples of Level I holsters include leather and/or polymer that have been molded to the shape of the specific handgun to create the compression. Both fixed and adjustable (using a tension screw; see definition below) compression/friction methods are available in Level I holsters. No mechanical devices actively capture or engage the firearm to prevent it from being removed from the holstered position. So, a Level I holster uses a single method of retention– a compression/friction system. Some disadvantages include that the firearm can be disengaged from the holster when not intended by the user. This can occur due to a wide variety of possible circumstances, such as abrupt movement that can be caused while riding a vehicle on rough terrain, running, falling or being suspended upside down. This also means that a child or assailant can more easily seize the firearm from the owner.

Retention Level II– A Level II holster provides passive retention by using compression of the holster against the firearm, which creates friction, plus active retention through using a mechanical device to capture/engage the firearm to prevent it from being removed from the holstered position unless the retention device is disengaged. Retention devices can include a strap, catch, lever, block, et cetera. Level II holsters use both passive and active retention systems.

Retention Level III– A Level III holster provides passive retention by using compression of the holster against the firearm, plus two separate active retention systems that use a mechanical device to capture/engage the firearm to prevent it from being removed from the holstered position unless the retention devices are disengaged. Level III holsters use a passive and two active retention systems. This increases the holstered security of the firearm through redundancy, but it also increases draw time and the possibility of failing to release both retention systems on the initial attempt, especially if under duress.

Retention Strap– A band fastened to the holster or extension of the holster material used to secure the handgun in place, commonly using a Velcro or metal snap mechanism. This can also be referred to as a thumb break.

Shoulder Holster– A holster that is suspended from a harness worn over the shoulder or shoulders.  The holster itself usually rides under the weak side armpit.

Small of the Back (SOB)– Refers to a holster that is carried in the small of the back and commonly has a forward cant.  These holsters can be either OWB or IWB.

Strong Side– Refers to the primary shooting hand side of the body.  For example, if you shoot with your right hand, the right side of your body would be considered your strong side.

Tactical Holster– Refers to a holster that is worn on the outside thigh of the strong side. Also commonly referred to as either a drop leg or thigh holster.

Tension Screw– Refers to a screw based device mounted within the holster itself that allows the shooter to adjust the draw tension to his/her specifications.

Weak Side– Refers to the secondary shooting hand side of the body.  For example, if you shoot with your right hand, the left side of your body would be considered your weak side.

When considering your handgun holster purchase, the primary materials used in its construction will affect the form, fit, and function of the final product. The following are the most commonly utilized materials by current manufacturers.


Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer (CFRP)– As the name suggests, this is a polymer product that has reinforcing material added to lend strength and stability to the product. The woven carbon fiber fabric material embedded in the polymer helps to add resiliency, while reducing the likelihood of fracturing under duress. The material can be molded to the size and shape of a particular handgun to provide a custom fit. The material does not retain moisture and is considered stable within typical temperature ranges.

Kydex®– A thermoplastic material used to produce holsters that are molded to the size and shape of a particular handgun to provide a custom fit. As Kydex® is a polymer, it does not retain moisture. It can be susceptible to breaking under stress in cold temperatures and can be deformed when exposed to high temperatures.

Leather– A natural material produced from animal hide that can either be used to produce generic size holsters or ones that are molded to the shape of a particular handgun to provide a custom fit. Leather is a well known and tested material that is versatile. As a natural product, its composition and quality varies widely. It has the disadvantage of holding moisture and losing its integrity with extensive use.

Nylon– A woven fabric made from synthetic material, commonly Cordura® nylon or Kodra nylon, to form holsters that are generic in size and detailing for a broad range of handgun models based on overall length and width.

While a variety of material options are available in most holster styles, the styles themselves have particular applications for which they are best suited. Below are my thoughts and experiences on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the most common handgun holster styles on the market today.

Style/Configuration Pros & Cons

Belt Loop– As one of the most common OWB holsters on the market, the belt loop has many applications. They are well suited for open carry uses, such as a day at the range, working around the yard, or making a trip into town (if your state allows open carry).

Pros: Holster is strongly secured to the belt and unlikely to be inadvertently removed, easy access to handgun, allows for rapid draw.

Cons: Requires taking off your belt to remove, less readily concealed, bulky when in a vehicle or seated position.

Paddle– The paddle holster offers easy on/off flexibility in combination with the ready access of an OWB holster.

Pros: Easily put on and taken off, easy access, allows for rapid draw.

Cons: Can be removed with adequate force, less readily concealed, bulky when in a vehicle or seated position.

Inside the Waistband– This holster is a top choice for concealment underneath garments, while still allowing for fairly fast access if configured properly.

Pros: Allows for concealment without needing an over garment, such as a jacket, and can be drawn with reasonable speed when configured appropriately.

Cons: Can be removed with adequate force, slower to draw than an OWB holster, can be uncomfortable for some users, including when in a seated position or using a larger frame handgun.

Shoulder– This suspended holster offers concealment with jackets and vests. Some versions include a magazine pouch on the side opposite the firearm.

Pros: Offers concealment and easy access.

Cons: Requires a jacket or vest to be worn for concealment, can be difficult to draw from due to lack of rigid support.

Ankle– A holster that offers concealment for small to medium frame handguns that works well with many different types of pants.

Pros: Useful option when concealment is needed and holsters such as IWB or pocket are not an option.

Cons: Can be slow to draw and may come loose if strenuous movement, such as running or jumping, are required.

Drop Leg/Thigh/Tactical– A leg mounted holster system that is tactical in nature.

Pros: Rapid draw, no issues with being seated.

Cons: No concealment options, can be jostled out of place due to strenuous activities.

Pocket– A concealed holster that is specifically designed to be carried in a pocket.

Pros: Easy to conceal small frame handguns, the draw can be discretely disguised as retrieving one's wallet, keys, etc.

Cons: Can only be readily drawn from a standing position, slower draw time.

Specialty– The range of special purpose holsters is broad and includes such items as pouches, hip packs, purses, tactical jackets, books/binders, and many others.

Pros: Concealment can be achieved in a variety of ways.

Cons: The handgun is less secure, in that it can be taken away from the owner while still in the carry object (hip pack, purse, book, etc.), and can take more time to draw.

While I've tried not to focus on particular brands and models in general, I would like to share some of my personal experiences with a few particular holster models that I found to be noteworthy, based on performance at both ends of the spectrum.

The Good, The Bad, and The Really Ugly

Blackhawk! SERPA CQC– This OWB retention level II holster that is made from durable CFRP and comes with both a belt loop and paddle mounting option. The retention system is easily and ergonomically released by depressing a finger paddle in the area of the frame just above the trigger guard, placing the hand in the proper position to safely draw the gun and present it at your target without changing your grip. In addition, Blackhawk! Offers a SERPA Quick Disconnect System that allows the holster to be attached to other mounting systems, such as a drop leg configuration. I believe that the versatility and security of this holster will make it a valuable piece of equipment for hunting, recreational use, open carry around town, or in a SHTF scenario. This holster rates near the top of the good category of my book.

Versacarry®– This is a skeletonized IWB style holster that is essentially nothing more than a polymer clip with a barrel retention plug. By sliding the barrel of the handgun firmly onto the holster plug, the handgun is held in place with a Level I retention system. The plug is connected to the polymer hanger and clip system that function similar to other IWB belt clip systems. The lack of additional materials to cover the handgun means that the holster adds very little width and bulk under the concealment clothing. It also results in the firearm coming into direct contact with your skin, so this may cause discomfort for some users. I have only had this holster for a short time, but I've found this to be very comfortable and practical for IWB applications. I give this holster a good rating for function.

Homemade Leather Holsters– When it comes to simple utilitarian holsters, such as a level I retention belt loop holster or pocket holster, I have found that building my own hand crafted holsters from good quality cow hide leather produces satisfactory results. I have come to value the ability to craft holsters that are the specific size and configuration that serve my purposes well. With just a little research and practice, I discovered that building custom leather holsters is fairly straightforward and very affordable. If you take your time and do it well, you can produce a rather good holster. Try to cut corners or rush through the process and you're likely to end up with a rather bad holster.

Thunderwear– This specialty holster is a hybrid system that I can best describe as a cross between an IWB holster and a flattened hip pack shaped fabric pouch. Worn as a pocket below the waistline and in front of the groin area, it acts like an IWB holster without any clips or other components sticking above or clasping onto your belt. However, while the concept seems sound, I've found that I could never get comfortable with a handgun pressed firmly against the area just above my groin. I also found that it was susceptible to creating an awkward appearing print through certain types of clothing. While I believe that this holster has its merits, it did not become one of my favorites. For me, this holster falls into both the bad and really ugly categories.


The unique ergonomics of each person will dictate the style and configuration of holster that will offer the most benefit. For example, the length of one's arm as it relates to their body's waistline and where they wear the waistline/belt of their clothing can significantly impact the ergonomics of the holster position. If you prefer to wear the waistline of your clothing near your bellybutton, as compared to around your hips, the difference in location that a high ride versus low ride holster would place the grip of your handgun can be significant.

In order to best determine which holster will offer you the most value for your particular situation, I highly recommend trying out as many styles as you can get your hands on before you make a purchase. Whenever possible, I have borrowed a friend's holster or visited a gun shop that allows customers to try out their products before buying. As a safety note, always remember to test out holsters using training handguns or an unloaded firearm. No matter how familiar you are with the handgun, you are not used to the holster, so play it safe.

Remember to consider all of the possible scenarios in which you may utilize your handgun holster before deciding which style(s) may be best for your particular application. Based on my own experience, I have found that a normal week of concealed carry may involve the use of three different types of holsters in order to best fit the circumstances of each day or outing. For example, if heading out in normal business attire wearing a pair of dress pants, I've found that an ankle holster works the best for me. I might come home and change into a pair of jeans for an evening out and switch my carry handgun into a pocket holster or decide that because I'll be seated most of the time that evening, an IWB holster would offer better access to my handgun. If purchasing multiple holsters is not an option for you, consider the most common situations in which you are likely to carry your handgun and select a holster that would work well for the majority of your likely situations.

When it comes to your survival gear for a SHTF scenario, it is my assumption that concealed carry and recreational use holsters will become far less important than those holsters that accommodate practical, tactical, and hunting applications. Given this line of thinking, I have selected the Blackhawk! SERPA CQC line of holsters for my survival equipment. I believe that employing a holster system that is durable, offers quick, yet secure access, and that can be carried in a variety of methods will be the most versatile for the array of scenarios that are most likely to present themselves should TEOTWAWKI arrive at our doorstep.

Final Thoughts

Practice, practice, practice. Let me say it again, practice with your holster. It is very important that you build your familiarity, confidence, and muscle memory with your new handgun holster. Given that the life of you and/or your loved ones may depend on your ability to safely draw your handgun and present it on target with all urgency, you don't want to be figuring out how to extricate it from underneath your clothing or how to disengage the retention system when it is needed most. So become familiar with it now, and it will enhance your level of security and the peace of mind that goes with it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I confess; I'm a holster junky. I like buying them and trying them out. That said, I hate buying a holster and ending up not being able to use it. I'm left-handed, and that makes it harder to sell or even give them away. Unfortunately, in the process of learning what I am writing here, I've wasted a fair amount of money. With luck, perhaps some of what I've learned can help you a bit. Much of it is probably obvious, but I'm not the only one with a box of unused holsters, so I'm not alone in learning the hard way.

Just as a point of information, my first carry gun was a S&W 659 in a Bianchi fanny pack. I was bicycling a lot for recreation and encountered some threatening people and dogs. I wasn't there, but a rider I knew got hit by someone with a bat just for being on the road. That had a sobering effect. I wasn't happy with how I shot the Smith, however, compared to how I shoot 1911's, so it got replaced with a Colt Officers ACP. My primary carry gun on the belt has almost always been a Colt Commander in some sort of Milt Sparks inside the waist band (IWB) holster. Last year I began to experiment with Kydex. I have a G-Code IWB and am looking forward to a JM Custom IWB that is on order (review to come). I love leather, but I have a lot of hot, humid weather here, and summer sweat ruins my beautiful Sparks holsters. It also allows that corrosive stuff to get into the pistol, which increases maintenance issues. I almost always carry a S&W Centennial in a trouser pocket using a DeSantis or Uncle Mikes pocket holster. I still use a fanny pack for cycling, but I now often use a S&W Model 19 revolver as I started to fret about something bumping the safety off on a 1911 pattern pistol covered only by a layer of nylon.

Concealment holsters may look simple, but their job is deceptively complex. They handle the difficult tasks of carrying your weapon comfortably and safely, ready for immediate use, yet invisible to onlookers. Balancing these four factors– comfort, safety, access, and concealment– must give holster makers fits as they perform their craft. Luckily for us, there are so many good ones that we face tough decisions when we try to pick one.

Two holsters may look much the same, but there can be very subtle differences. Precisely where and how a holster carries your gun can make a world of difference in how well works. The location of a belt loop might make a holster simply not work with some clothes.

We first have to realize that any holster is a compromise that reflects individual circumstances and what type of gun you carry. How do you dress? How big are you? Body size and shape are critical factors in what will work for you. Some things just won't do. A five foot tall woman in jogging shorts won't be able to conceal a six inch .44 in an inside the pants holster.

The threat you face plays a role in choosing the type of weapon you need and how you carry it. A prosecution witness in an organized crime case could have different priorities than a rural physician. The bigger the threat, the more weapon most of us want. Firepower and stopping power exact a price in the size and weight of the gun. In short, we trade comfort for protection.

Levels of concealment have an effect, too. An undercover cop, who can't afford to be made, has different requirements than a legal civilian or a detective on routine duty. Laws also pose problems. Florida, for example, recently made "wardrobe malfunctions" legal. Before that, flashing a gun when your shirt got caught getting out of a car was a crime. Now it isn't.

Safety is the only factor that can't be compromised. A holster must be safe or you shouldn't use it! The design of your gun plays a big role here. As an example, there are holsters that disengage the safety on some types of pistols.

The four factors– safety, comfort, access, and concealment– play off against each other, your situation, and your gun. It's a tough job, one most of us don't solve on the first try, but hopefully this will help you get there as quickly and cheaply as possible (unless, of course, you enjoy collecting holsters)!


The most important thing is safety. A good holster helps prevent negligent discharges (ND's) while the gun is holstered, drawn and carried. A bad design that's unsuited for your gun can cause an ND. At best, an ND is embarrassing. If you shoot yourself, you're doing the bad guy's work for him. Worse, hitting an innocent bystander makes you the bad guy.

The single best safety feature is a covered trigger. Don't leave home without it. If you get eager or fumble, you might put your finger on the trigger too soon. The stress of mortal combat has been known to produce a certain degree of clumsiness. Covering the trigger keeps you from shooting at least until the gun clears the holster. It forces the trigger finger to go straight, which is how it should be until your sights acquire the target. Only then should it move into the trigger guard.

About the only redeeming feature of a holster that doesn't cover the trigger is that it might help prevent an AD if you holster with your finger on the trigger. It seems easier, however, to learn to remove your finger from the trigger during holstering than to keep it off while drawing. You are trying for speed during the draw. That makes you want to hurry up and get the finger on the trigger, especially if someone is shooting at you. You can and should learn to be more leisurely when holstering.

There are other pieces in the safety equation too. How well the holster retains your gun is important for at least two reasons. First, when you need it, the bloody thing better be there. Second, not only are dropped guns embarrassing in polite company, some handguns will fire if they fall far enough. Dropping a gun can also get you arrested.

Your situation will tell you how much retention your gun needs. If you're a cop show hero doing a track and field event with the French Connection, you need something that holds your piece pretty securely. If your idea of working up a sweat is shuffling loan papers in your bank office, you can get by with something a lot less retentive.

The most common retention systems are friction and straps. Friction can be provided by a tight fit of leather to the gun or the clamping action of a spring or clip. Some friction fit holsters provide a screw to adjust for user preference, conditions, and wear. Inside the pants holsters can be adjusted by tightening the belt. Holsters also use the shape of the body to provide the friction. The bulge most of us (alas) have above the belt helps keep the gun in the holster. By the way, women, having differently placed bulges, probably can't use the same holster as a guy. I'll plan on doing my best to address women's issues later. They have a lot more problems than men do with concealed carry, and it's hard for us to fully understand them.

Most straps these days are thumb breaks. They let the thumb push them off as the hand wraps around the grip. Alessi makes holsters with a pull through snap. You just jerk the gun out, and the snapped strap pops open. They work well. Many of the soft synthetic holsters are using Velcro rather than snaps. I'm not keen on that, as Velcro doesn't release as cleanly as a snap. Some makers, including Sparks, are dabbling with magnetic closures. I'm looking forward to trying that. In the old days, there were straps that required a separate motion to release them. These are best avoided.

Ultimately a strap retains best, but a good friction design gives better access, since a strap can be missed under pressure.

Straps can help you, however, keep your gun if someone is trying to take it from you.

Another advantage of straps is that they block the movement of the hammer (if your gun has one). This prevents the gun from firing when holstered. This is a nice bonus, and if everything else were equal, might give the nod to one design over another.

A drawback of retaining straps is that they can interfere when you're trying to re-holster. There is also a possibility of one getting into the trigger guard and causing an ND.

Another safety point to ponder is how much your gun points at things you don't want destroyed (like your personals, perhaps). It's just about impossible to make a holster that conceals well that doesn't point your gun at you, but I like to minimize it as much as possible. Skill is important and is derived from practice and repetition. During all that practice, worry about where the muzzle points! Some designs, like horizontal shoulder holsters, are very problematic.

Then there is the safety many handguns have. Make sure your holster doesn't push it off. Some holsters will. Some designers make holsters that secure the safety in the safe position as part of their design. This is a good thing. Have you modified your safety or fitted a replacement? Go back and check your holster again. Things might have been fine with the original, but now you may have a problem.


A final safety factor is how well can you re-holster your gun? Some designs take two hands while others practically force you to undress. Some holsters collapse after the gun is drawn. Some retaining straps also cause trouble. The hooked trigger guards found on some autos don't help either.

Don't underestimate the importance of being able to re-holster. Uniformed police will surely respond to ANY incident that caused you to draw your weapon. Having your gun back in the holster will help prevent them from thinking you're the bad guy. If you can re-holster without looking, you can keep your eyes where they belong– on the situation. Don't give the bad guy a chance because you have to look at your holster to get the gun back in. This should, of course, make the point that you should practice re-holstering as well as drawing!

There can be a problem with ND's during the re-holster. You must remember to get the finger out of the trigger guard during the re-holster. Clothing can get caught and press the trigger. As mentioned earlier, be careful with retention straps. The weight and length of the trigger stroke as well as the presence of a thumb safety can make a difference here. Technique matters too. Practice pulling your clothing out of the way as you re-holster.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I just read Pat's report on the Buck knife. I have carried and used one of these knives for over 40 years. They can be opened and closed using just one hand. Using thumb pressure on the blade you can open the knife. Holding the knife by the blade you can use the weight of the handle to swing the knife open. - C.B.

o o o


In addition to the off the shelf mass production Buck 110 knife, Buck has a custom shop that will make a custom 110 knife for you. Custom in that blade metal can be upgraded, handle scales from different wood or horns, etc.

This past year I got myself a custom 110 with upgraded blade metal - S30V - buffalo horn for the scales, and silver nickel for the end caps and bolsters. The ability to upgrade to a much better quality blade metal is well worth the wait and the extra price. - H.D.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Flight Jacket

I like black flight jackets. They are dressy enough to wear to an art reception and common enough to be worn to a junk yard. They're made of water-proof nylon and have two large button outside pockets, two large inside button pockets, and a pocket on the shoulder. The best one that I have found is sold at Alpha Industries. If you look in the left front pocket, there is a white label that states Alpha Industries Jacket, Flyers, Man Intermediate. On the shoulder pen pocket is a small black label sticking out with a gold sort of “A” on it with three bars on either side of the “A”. This is how you can tell it's not a cheap one.

Pocket Light

For a little light to carry in my pants pocket, I like the Fenix E11 light, available from Duluth Trading for $40 with shipping. The problem with all the other lights is that they either come unscrewed in my pocket, get accidentally switched “on”, or are very dim. This light has a strong click button on the end so it stays “off” in my pocket, and it never comes unscrewed. It uses a standard AA battery, which makes it easy to carry a spare in your flight jacket. It is very bright at 115 lumens with its LED bulb. It is not much bigger than a AA battery. So, now instead of carrying an extra AA battery, I just carry a second E11 light in case the battery dies, thus providing me with a full backup or extra light for a partner.

Cell Phone Charger Battery

I carry a PowerRocks backup cell phone charger battery, available in Verizon stores. This is the rectangular one, which is bigger than the cylinder one. It has a lot of power and is good for four charges of an iPhone. It charges a lot faster than a car charger, too. It's about $70 and comes in colors, in case you want to get a second one and need to keep track of which is which.

Cell Phone

I bought a second cell phone, in case everything falls apart with the main cell phone when I am in a jam. I got a T-Mobile flip phone from Walmart for about $40. I put on a $10 minute card every three months. It seems to be able to hold a charge for many months. It's not very big and doesn't take up much room. When you get the phone, you go on the Internet and pick the area code you want, and it gives you the number. I put the number on the phone with my label maker. So, if the iPhone breaks, runs out of charge, or if Verizon goes down, I have a completely separate system for the low cost of $10 a quarter.

I carry extra 12v and 110 volt plugs and the charging wire for the iPhone and the wire that goes from the PowerRock to the iPhone. Unfortunately, the flip phone has a big charger and a Samsung-unique plug. Given enough research, one could probably find a better flip phone that could be charged directly off the PowerRock battery.

Odds and Ends

All of this fits easily in my flight jacket pockets along with a nice big pocket knife, bandaids, water purification pills, some medicine that I take, two freshly laundered handkerchiefs, some napkins, a big folding black hat, a pair of gloves, some ear plugs for concerts, a very small backup ball point pen, some large paper clips, a couple of Bic lighters, and a pill bottle full of peanuts out of the shell.

Hobos used to make little lamps from a peanut burning the oil within the nut itself. They would take a paperclip, bore a hole in one end of the peanut, and insert a piece of toilet paper in the hole for a wick and then make a stand of the paperclip to hold the lamp up by drilling into the other end of the nut. It burns for quite some time. Remember, Rudolph Diesel used peanut oil for his first engines.

In addition, in the small pill bottle I carry a push pin for punching holes, a couple of safety pins, different sized nails for boring holes, and bit of toilet paper rolled up in the size of a dice for the lamp.

I also carry a couple of small ziplock bags, which I constantly seem to be using for something. I carry am ATM card for my secondary bank and an extra set of car and house keys. They theory behind the extra keys is that if I get my wallet stolen and not my jacket, I can still get inside my car, get to an ATM, and get into my home. I also carry a couple of twenty dollar bills and a dozen quarters, which can operate a pay phone or a vending machine.

I must say that, in all my years of testing products, the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker has been one of my most challenging products to test. Made in the U.S., in Bountiful, Utah, this cooker proved a handful. No, not the product itself, rather the weather in my part of Oregon. For the better part of almost a month, we had very heavy, low-hanging fog. It's been totally frustrating, to say the least!

Anyone who is a prepper, survivalist, camper, or hunter, should understand the “Rule Of Three”, and that is you should always have three ways of accomplishing a task. It's sort of a back-up plan, with a secondary back-up plan, should plan one or plan two fail you. When it comes to cooking, we have several methods available to us at our homestead. We have our electric cook stove in the kitchen. We also have a propane camp stove that is used a lot when the power goes out. We have a BBQ grill that also has a propane burner on it. We also have a solar oven, and we have several "rocket-type" stoves as well. So, we have a lot of bases covered.

We had more than two solid weeks of heavy fog with no sunshine at all. So, it was impossible to test the Solar Flare Parabolic Cooker during this time. This is an example of why you need back-up plans for your preparedness items. You can't always count on perfect weather or fuel supplies. I even took the Solar Flare up on a mountain near my home, hoping the fog wouldn't be up that high. Wrong! On several occasions, the sun did break through late in the day. However, it wasn't out long enough to get anything cooked in the Solar Flare. No sooner would I get everything set-up, which only takes a few minutes, the sun would disappear behind some heavy clouds or more fog would roll in. It was totally frustrating, to say the least.

A close look at the Solar Flare is in order, and it is one of those "why didn't I think of that" inventions. First, we have the cooking vessel, which is a large Mason canning jar that has a special coating that helps it retain the heat, so the food cooks inside the jar. The temperature inside the jar can reach 350-400 degrees inside of a few minutes. With the special black colored coating, unlike other solar cookers, there are no hot or cold spots inside the jar, and you don't have to stir your food as it cooks. In most cases, your food will cook in about 45 minutes to an hour. The cooking jar works similar to a pressure cooker.

We also have the reflector, which catches the sun's rays. Unlike some solar ovens, this flexible reflector allows the sun's rays to fully circle the Mason jar– 360 degrees. I'm not sure what material the solar reflector is made out of, but it is familiar to me, and there isn't any information on the Solar Flare website as to what this material is. You can roll it up and place a rubber band around it, and place it in your backpack for easy transport. Just don't fold it or wrinkle it, or you'll lose a lot of the “reflectivity” of the reflector, so be advised!

You also get a plastic bucket with a lid on it to transport the special Mason jar. There is also a cooking bag, similar to what you might find at your local grocery store, that you can place the cooking vessel in on winter days; this helps retain the heat and cook your meal faster. I examined the plastic bag, and it looks for all the world like the bag my wife uses to cook our Thanksgiving turkey in. It helps retain the heat and moisture of the turkey, and it helps to cook it faster.

Here is how the Solar Flare set-up works. You take the reflector and put it together using the easy-to-use fasteners, so you have a parabolic shape to the reflector. You then place the cooking vessel (Mason jar) on top of the plastic bucket, with the lid on the bucket, and place the parabolic reflector around the cooking vessel. On colder days and in the winter, you should place the cooking vessel inside of the plastic cooking bag to help retain the heat and promote faster cooking. You also get two plastic "riser" cups, if you feel the need to raise the cooking vessel a little higher. It depends on the weather and the angle of the sun whether you need the riser cups or not. Experiment! You need to adjust the parabolic reflector so that it is catching the sun's rays.

Okay, that's it! There isn't anything complicated about setting up the Solar Flare cooker. It really is "that" simple. The only problem I encountered, once we finally got around to actually being able to do some cooking with this product, was wind! A few times the reflector blew off the cooking jar. I did some checking on the Internet and have found numerous people who have used the Solar Flare cooker, and everyone loved it and said it was the best-of-the-best, in regards to this type of set-up. I can't find much to fault. The thing works and works as advertised, so long as you have access to a solid hour or more of sunshine, and one of the best things is, you can't overcook your meal.

I did find that it is best to let the cooking vessel cool down a bit before handling it; it gets VERY hot. You don't have to put the lid on tight; just finger tight, in order for it to work as a pressure cooker. You can also use it to pasteurize water, too. Another thing worth noting is that, if you are on the run, you sure don't want to make a campfire and have smoke giving away your position. On the other hand, you want to make sure that the solar reflector doesn't give away your position either, with the sun reflecting off your cooker and giving the bad guys your exact location. However, with a little experimentation, you can safely hide the reflector with a little bit of camo, yet still allow it to cook your meal.

I'd like to see the Solar Flare come with two of the specially-coated Mason jars. Once one is filled and the food inside is cooked, you could place the second one inside the Solar Flare for a second person's meal to start cooking. As an aside, I'd like to see Solar Zenith include some kind of carrier for the reflector, so after you roll it up, you can place it inside of the carrier and not worry about it getting bent or crinkled. A mailing tube that you could get at any post office of office supply store would work. Still, I think it would be a dandy item to include in the kit as it comes from the factory. That's just my two-cents worth.

A single Solar Flare cooker sells for $69.99, and you can get two of them for $99.99. To be sure, they are a lot of fun to cook with, and they work as advertised, when you have some sunshine for more than an hour or so. I was totally frustrated with the lack of sunshine we had in our area, but I was determined that this product would work. Once the sun came out, at long last, I put it to the test and cooked several meals over several days. A person can cook a couple days worth of meals at one time, if they had more than one cooking vessel. You can purchase additional accessories from the company, so be sure to check out their website for more information.

Once again, this product proved that you really need to follow the “Rule Of Three”and have three different ways to accomplish any task, including cooking. Remember, no single method of doing anything is something you want to depend on. If you want to start a campfire, you should have matches, a flint and steel, a butane lighter, et cetera. Don't just depend on the matches, and don't depend on just one method of cooking. Explore other avenues, and the Solar Flare is one great method for flameless cooking in an emergency or even just cooking out in the great outdoors, as an alternate way of doing your cooking. It's a worthwhile investment to your emergency preps. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Buck Knives, , has been around for about 100 years, depending on who you talk to. Their most popular folding knife is still their Model 110 lock-back folding knife that is made in their plant in Post Falls, Idaho. Many people say that imitation is the sincerest form or flattery. If that's the case, then the Buck Model 110 lock-back folding knife is probably one of the most copied folding knives in the world, if not "the" most copied folding lock-back knife.

The Model 110 is now celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, and every model will have "50" stamped on the tang of the blade, as well as a medallion in the handle. The sample I received must be one that slipped through because it doesn't have the medallion in the handle. It is only stamped "50" on the blade. Perhaps I have a one-of-a-kind; we shall see.

For as long as I can remember, and even today when someone sees a large, lock-back folding knife, they often call it a "Buck", regardless of who made it. However, let's be clear on this, there is only one Buck Model 110. Everyone else is copying the design. Some make minor changes so as to not infringe on the design. Others simply outright copy the design made famous by Buck. To be sure, they are all copies or clones– some well-made and some junk, with the pure junk being made overseas and imported into the U.S. There is only one Buck Model 110, and it's the real deal!

The blade on the Buck Model 110 is 3 3/4 inches long, but it seems longer, for some reason. The material is 420HC (High Carbon) stainless steel. There is one thing Buck is famous for, and that is that their knives are made out of 420HC and known to hold an edge on the blade for an extremely long time. Therein lies the one minor complaint. The steel is very hard to re-sharpen. For those who aren't aware, Buck changed their edge geometry a few years back, and now all their knives are much easier to re-sharpen. Before this change, it took a real knack with a sharpening stone to get a dulled Buck knife's edge back to “hair-popping” sharp– the way it came from the factory. So, if you haven't purchased a Buck Knife lately because they were hard to re-sharpen, fear not; the task is much easier, thanks to the new edge geometry Buck is putting on all their knives.

The 110 has Macassar ebony Dymondwood handle scales, and this is very dense material– almost indestructible, to be sure. Plus, it is a very attractive deep brown color. Brass bolsters are on either end of the handle, and they are real brass (not brass coated or colored aluminum or steel, like many of the fake 110s have). For all you tactical knife fans, you'll be sad to know that the 110 does not have thumb studs for rapid opening. It has the old fashion nail nick, so you need two hands to open the blade. As already mentioned, it is a lock-back design with the lock midway down the spine of the handle, and the blade locks-up extremely tight. A black leather belt sheath is included with each 110, too.

Here's a bit of trivia, and many of you Vietnam Vets will already know this. The Buck Model 110 was the most popular folding knife carried by our troops in Vietnam, and all the base PX outlets sold the 110. If memory serves me correctly, the Buck Model 119 Special was probably the most popular privately-purchased fixed blade knife bought by our troops in the later years of the Vietnam War, too. Buck Knives has a long history with our fighting men and women in the military.

I have an older (not real old, though) Buck Model 110, and I carry it every now and then. Comparing it to the new 50th anniversary edition, side-by-side, I can see the different edge geometry because I know what I'm looking for. Aside from the "50" stamped on the blade's tang, there is no discernible difference between the older model 110 and the new 110.

A very wise sage, at a major knife company, once told me that a really good knife design will have about a 3-year life. After that, people lose interest in the design and sales decline. Eventually, the design is dropped from the line-up. We are looking at steady sales of the Buck Model 110 for 50 years now, and I don't see it disappearing from the Buck Knives line-up any time soon, either. The design is as popular as ever. If it wasn't, then all these copy cat companies wouldn't be copying the Buck Model 110's design.

I know that, these days, everyone has to have the latest "tactical" folding knife with thumb studs for fast opening and a pocket clip for easy carry in the pants pocket, and it needs to have a liner-type lock or other similar features. However, for a pure hunting folder, an everyday carry folder, or one for camping and survival purposes, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better folding knife with a longer history than the Buck Model 110 has going for it. So, if you're in the market for a new folding knife and might just want a little nostalgia to go along with it, take a close look at the Buck 110. Its full retail is only $73.00, and it comes with Buck's lifetime warranty against defects in materials, too. Just make sure you are purchasing a genuine Buck and not a copy because not every large, lock-back folding knife that looks like a Buck is a Buck. Buy the real deal, and you won't ever be disappointed. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some months ago, I tested and reviewed the portable WorkStar 2000 floodlight from Maxxeon for SurvivalBlog readers, and it was a huge hit. I heard from a number of readers about how pleased they were with the product. Today, we're looking at the new and improved Hunter's floodlight from Maxxeon. Some SurvivalBlog readers have requested that I list the country of origin– where the products are manufactured– in all of my articles. Maxxeon products are made in China. Like it or not, we now live in a global economy, and in order for many companies to compete or even introduce a new product at an affordable price point, they are having their products manufactured in other countries.

The new Workstar 2030 Hunter's Floodlight from Maxxeon has all the same tough features of the original WorksStar 2000, with some improvements, to make it even better. Maxxeon listened to suggestions from folks who purchase their products and went to work to improve an already excellent product. I personally know this to be a fact, because I suggested some improvements to one of their products, and they jumped right on it. The Hunter's 2030 model still has a high 270 Out The Front lumens and on low, 90 Out The Front lumens. It also has the easy-to-adjust brightness level, at the touch of a button. The entire unit can be fully recharged in about three hours and has it's own charging unit.

The unit can run on high for about two hours and on low for about eight hours. The Fresnel-like lens creates a huge floodlight beam. It can light up my entire huge front yard at night, and it has all the same uses that the original 2000 WorkStar had, with some new additions and changes that make it more suitable for hunters.

First of all, the unit is covered in REALTREE Camo that is topped with a rubberized soft-touch grip coating, making for a secure grip in all weather conditions. I've had to track game after the sun went down. As any hunter can tell you, you need a good, bright light. The 2030 gives you a real advantage in this area. There is an unbreakable LED "bulb" that never needs replacing, too. Ever drop your flashlight at night and the bulb breaks? Yeah, me too. With the 2030 Hunter's model, you don't have to worry about the bulb breaking.

You can also carry the 2030 model on your belt, with the detachable belt clip. That's handy! Also, Maxxeon has added indents to the 180-degree tilting action of the neck, so the light stays where you shine or aim it. No more having to adjust where the light is aimed; it's super cool! If you've ever had to dress-out game in the dark or under low-light conditions, you'll certainly appreciate the titling action of the neck on the 2030 Hunter's model. In the dark, I once had to search for a large buck that I had taken. When I found it, I then had to dress it out, in the dark. It was a total pain to dress out the deer while trying to hold my small flashlight in one hand and dress-out the buck with my knife in the other hand. Oh, how I wish I had owned the Maxxeon 2030 Hunter's model back then.

The rubberized coating is a nice touch that keeps your hand from getting cold holding the light, which happens with aluminum flashlight barrels. Additionally, the REALTREE camo is just a nice touch for hunters. The 2030 is very attractive.

If you work on cars all the time, you know how hard it is to get the light just where you need it. I have no problems with the original WorkStar 2000, but the new and improved 2030 Hunter's model is just a little bit better in my humble opinion. So, if you haven't already purchased the WorkStar 2000, then take a close look at the 2030 Hunter's model. It might be just what you're looking for, whether for working on cars, tracking lost game at night, or lighting up your yard at night when something goes "bump". Full-retail on the new and improved 2030 model is $155.00. It's a light that will serve all your needs.

SurvivalBlog isn't going to review products that aren't up to our highest expectations, so don't look for those reviews on our website. However, from time-to-time, we will review a product that doesn't quite measure up to our high standards, and we'll alert our readers that they might just be wasting their money on that product. Sometimes products arrive in our hands that are a good idea, however, it is poorly executed when the final product is manufactured. I've worked with some companies lately to help them improve on their products BEFORE bringing them out on the market. I enjoy when a company listens to an outsider, instead of having the NIH (Not Invented Here) attitude, and not interested in hearing from an outsider on how one of their products might be improved. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Today, we're looking at the Rift, automatic folder from Benchmade knives. The Rift is proudly made in the United States of America and is from the black box line– a working line of knives for professionals. I remember when I first started writing about knives. I was a freelance field editor for Knives Illustrated magazine. I contacted Les d'Asis at Benchmade and requested a sample to do an article on. This was more than 22 years ago, and Benchmade has continued to keep me supplied with samples for articles.

Benchmade knives are always in demand. A good number of our military personnel use Benchmade knives, as well as many folks in law enforcement. Benchmade Knife Company is a leading manufacturer of automatic folding knives. Even though Benchmade has been producing automatic folders for a number of years right here in Oregon, there are large numbers of law enforcement officers who do not know they are legal to own in Oregon.

The Benchmade Rift model number 9555S is a reversed Tanto blade for toughness. It also has a large belly blade for utility cutting, and its textured G10 handle scales help you get a firm grip in any situation. There is also a manual safety on top of the handle scales, for locking the blade in the open or the closed position. The blade is manufactured out of 154 CM stainless steel with a Rockwell hardness of 58-61. The knife can be carried in the pocket with the reversible pocket clip for a tip up carry only.

The blade length is ideal at 3.67 inches; the blade thicknesses is 0.114 inches. Its handle thickness is 0.556 inches. What is unique about the Rift is that it has the Axis locking system, which releases the blade with either hand by simply sliding the axis pivot point to the rear. Overall, the length of the knife is a 8.27 inches; closed its length is 4.60 inches.

The model 9555, Rift, can be had in several different versions. You can get it either satin finished blade or a black coated blade with a plain blade or partial serrations and a blade. The sample I received is the satin finished blade with partial serrations, which are very handy when cutting wet rope, rubber, or cardboard and many other tough materials.

The textured G10 handle scales are black, and the texturing is just in the right places on both sides of the handle to assure you a firm and secure grip in all kinds of weather conditions. At the top of the handle scales, there are friction grooves for proper thumb placement in the fencing grip. Additionally, on the bottom of the handle there are also friction grooves, once again, for a sure grip in any position that you hold the knife. G10 is one of toughest materials you can use for handle scales on a knife or handgun grips.

During my testing of the Rift, I used it for chores around the house, including chores in the kitchen as well as outdoors on my small homestead. The blade came shaving sharp out-of-the-box, which is typical of all Benchmade knives. During my testing, over a period of several weeks, I did not have to touch up the blade one time. It held the edge.

For the past several years, I've carried an older model Benchmade folder that has long been discontinued, yet is one of my favorite folders. However, the new Rift is making headway and fast becoming a favorite. It may replace my old discontinued model that I've carried for so many years.

The Rift is one of those knives that you will have a hard time putting down, once you pick it up. It just feels like a natural extension of your hand, no matter which position you hold the knife in– fencing, reverse, hammer, et cetera. The Rift just feels great in the hand. I also like the fact that the Axis locking mechanism is self-adjusting. As the blade/handle wear over the years, the Axis will keep the blade firmly locked when opened, without any wiggle.

I've toured the Benchmade plant several times over the years, and I'm always amazed at the growth they have experienced and how much the product line has expanded. To be sure, Benchmade, during my last tour, was working two shifts, and they would work three shifts if they could find enough qualified people. Benchmade takes pride in hiring the best of the best. Also, it is of interest that Benchmade doesn't have many knives in-stock. They go out the door just as fast as they can produce them, which says a lot. Another reason why Benchmade knives are always in short-supply is that we keep buying them as fast as they are made.

Now, for those who don't live in areas where automatic folding knives are legal, Benchmade also produces a manual opening version of the Rift, and it opens pretty fast with the thumb stud. The Rift 9555S sample I tested retails for $250. Remember, you are getting a near custom, if not custom knife from Benchmade.

I really like the Rift, and if you are looking for a new EDC (Every Day Carry) folder, take a close look at the Rift. Shortly before this article was done, I somehow lost or misplaced my Rift sample. So, when funds permit, I'm going to get another one, and it will more than likely replace my well-worn and abused older Benchmade folder that I've been carrying in my right front pocket for about six years. That says a lot, in my book. I test a lot of knives, but for my everyday carry folder, I've stuck to my older Benchmade folder, which may just get replaced...soon! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, March 8, 2014


I don't have any experience with the "Zoom Versa" rocket stove, but I currently own a "Stovetec" single door rocket stove.

I believe the Zoom is built to look like the Stovetec but don't know this for sure. (I don't have any financial interest in Stovetec, but do love the thing.)

I've used ours only in the backyard with the grand kids. We've found it to be very effective using small, otherwise "junk" sized pieces of wood to cook almost anything. I have used small pots, stock pots, woks, and other skillets on ours. ANY rocket type stove does take frequent tending of the fire. I've found ours to have a great firebrick-type interior and works at least as well as advertised.

You can also do an Internet or Youtube search for "16 brick rocket stove" to build your own. This may be especially helpful if you don't need to travel with it.

As for the overall review, I wish I had three more of them, but other items are higher on my list right now. - C.M.

o o o


I have used the Versa Rocket stove, and it works just fine using just about any form of biomass.

It is definitely not a backpacking stove and not the only option (or the lightest option) out there for rocket stoves. It does a good job of cooking, and puts out very little smoke due to its efficiency. The lower door on the front is for regulating the air you allow to get in there, and if you take the time you can tune it to be very efficient for your environment. Due to the efficiency of the burn there is very little ash output. You can also cook using barbecue briquettes, if you don't have wood. The top of the stove looks a bit like a kitchen range top and provides space for gases to escape while you have a pot on top cooking. While you shouldn't cook with this stove in a tent or other enclosed area, once the fire is out, you could move the stove into a shelter and the insulating layer will continue to put off some heat as the unit cools. The carry handles are nice, but the wood stand is an extra piece you have to carry separately, and the stove is a little cumbersome. Durability is good overall as long as you don't drop it, as the insulating layer can break and crumble and the metal can dent. They have different models of the Eco Zoom stove out there. One comes with a ceramic insulator (very strong, but can break if dropped) and one with a lightweight ceramic fiber insulation. Both work well, but the ceramic one will hold heat longer inside.

If you would like to try a rocket stove to see how they work you can find videos online for how to make your own. Here are links to a couple versions:

$12 rocket stove using a paint bucket, some pvc drain pipe, and fiber reinforced concrete mixed with vermiculite.

#10 can rocket stove using a #10 can, 3 smaller cans, and vermiculite.

Rocket Stove using 16, 20, or 24 bricks.. - M.B.

o o o


I have the predecessor to the Zoom Versa. Mine is called the StoveTec Rocket stove. It is essentially the same stove in form, fit, and function. It is filled with fire brick, so it is not packable, but it is portable enough to take car camping or picnicking or barbecuing. The stove works great, consumes relatively little fuel, and I have a pot that is custom made for it that increases the cooking efficiency. In function, they work very similar to a shallow Dakota hole with a good draft, except that once the burn chamber is up to temp, you get more efficient combustion resulting in less sooting and greater output heat. The stove is rugged enough, but I would not want to drop it for fear that the firebrick would bust. It will work well with charcoal or scrap wood, but the wood should be seasoned for best effect, as one would expect. It is relatively easy to get a fire going in it due to the natural draft design. There are a lot of these stoves deployed around the world as StoveTec had quite a campaign for third world markets. I believe they had a giant barrel-sized version that was deployed to Haiti after the big earthquake there, so people could disinfect water as well as cook community meals. Bottom line: This is a most functional design and a great survival tool. - BSP

o o o

Regarding the March 7th article on rocket stoves, the Zoom Versalooks almost identical to the Stovetec. I have used the Stovetec and am very pleased with it. You should mention the Saratoga Jack thermal cooker in conjunction with the rocket stove, as they work marvelously together. I boiled water on the rocket stove and placed it in the thermal cooker. Thirteen hours later, the water was at 140 degrees. - M.B.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


While the routers and switches do require power (which will be spotty at best), they too will be fried by the EMP. Many of the modern ASICs are based on IBM proprietary copper chips and as a result really don't get along well with any form of EMP. It's bad enough that I've seen a floating ground stretched between two buildings fry Cisco, ACC / Wellfleet, and Extreme gear.

The only purpose-built router that is tempest hardened is the very old TGS router by Cisco. This was an AGS that was built into a hardened shell. Wide scale deployment of this router outside the Air Force was not seen.

Telcos, of course, were and are so cost constrained in most of their wide scale deployments that pennies per device and dollars per central office are the dividing line between profit and loss. Hence to think they would spend extra on Faraday cage enclosures or tempest rated devices is laughable.

My estimation, having consulted with all the large regional carriers globally as well as having built a large number of FOREX networks, is that it won't even take a Carrington level event to nail the Internet or most banking. - H.D.

Hugh Replies: It is a common misconception that all electronics will be killed by an EMP blast. This just isn't so. The EMP needs an antenna to transfer the energy into the conductors of the electronics, and any length of metal can act as a antenna. Some electronics, such as your land-line phone or your AM radio, by necessity have long lengths of wire designed into their operation. The phone uses copper wire to connect to the closest switch, which is sometimes up to two or three miles of wire. Your AM radio has a built-in antenna that probably has more than a 100 feet of copper wire. These lengths of conductors make for efficient transfer of energy, and those electronics will probably die. Your cell phone, on the other hand, has a very short antenna, and the amount of energy transferred into the electronics is much, much smaller. Of course, the cell tower is probably connected to the power grid and will most likely be taken out, making your cell phone useless, even if it survives the EMP event. Modern electronics are so sensitive to static electricity that they ALL come with some amount of built-in protection. You can view the protection on a tiered basis. The integrated circuit will always have protection as part of its design. A well-designed PC board will have another layer of protection on it, and so on. Protection built into electronics will work regardless, but protection designed for external connections requires the help of the installers. If your ground is not properly connected, you are starting out in a hole and will probably loose the device. Cars are designed to operate in noisy environments. Even though there is significant wire that interconnects the small computers, they have relatively decent grounding, shielding, and rf/emp spike protection. It all depends on how close the electronic device is to the source of the EMP, how much antenna the device presents to the EMP spike, and how well protected the device is from an EMP spike. Military-grade electronics will generally be hardened because they are expected to be targets. Consumer devices will display varying levels of protection, depending on how they are installed and any added protection given to them. The bottom line: You don't know how close to the EMP spike you will be, so if you absolutely need survivablilty in your electronics, you have to go with the best protection possible. If your electronics are nice, but not necessary, you can relax the requirements a bit and hope for the best.

The Internet is a complex beast. For operation, it requires connectivity. The better the connectivity, the more useful it is. Small islands of operation only give you local communications, but even if sufficient chunks of the Internet survive, it won't be the same. Commerce and banking are the core of commercial Internet. Without those, an Internet will only give us communications at best. T.P. sent me the link to this video clip from “Jericho”, which had me ROFL. Caution: This clip contains some offensive language.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I get contacted by SurvivalBlog readers daily, and I take the time to answer each e-mail, and I have to keep my replies short, because my time is limited. I'm often asked, "what should I carry in my BOB?" and I can't really give a definitive answer to that. It depends on where you live, you age, your own personal requirements, when do you plan to bug out to, and other factors. Many readers send me a list of all the things they have packed in their BOB, and most are pretty well equipped for many different emergencies. One item that is often missing, is Paracord - and I'm using this in a generic term.

There are many different types of Paracord, some better than others, and some really cheaply made - so to be clear, not all Paracord is the same in quality. And, if you don't have a good 25 or 50 foot hank of Paracord in your BOB, shame on you! This is one of the handiest items you can pack in your BOB, and it doesn't take up much room, either.

I received some different types of Paracord from 5Col Survival Supply for testing, and to put it bluntly, they aren't making junk - like you might find at the big box stores. As I said, not all Paracord is the same. First of all, 5Col Survival Supply sells only military grade Paracord, conforming to Mil-C5040H and the newer pia-c-5040 specifications. Now, while this might not mean anything to you, but if your about to make a jump from a plane, you want to know that, your parachute has the best Paracord you can get attached to the canopy. Additionally, all their Paracord is manufactured in the USA!

The folks at 5Col Survival Supply, are a family run business, and I like to send business the way of small companies like this, for some reason. They keep extremely busy, and I understand they are growing, too. They sent me Type IV 750 and Type III 550 Paracord samples for testing, along with hanks of different colored Paracord - and they have a nice selection, so you don't have to settle for OD green or black when you place an order. Needless to say, the Type IV 750 Paracord is thicker and capable of holding more weight than the Type III 550 Paracord - so you have to decide which one you want to carry - personally, I'd just go with the Type IV 750 for my needs. The Type IV has 11 core strands, and all core strands are 3-ply - heavy duty! And, as the name suggests, it has a minimum breaking strength of 750 pounds. The outside diameter is 3/16th of an inch, and a pound of it is about 165 feet in length, so it doesn't weigh much at all.

So, what are the uses for Paracord? Well, there are many, and this is just a partial list of suggestions. You can use it to help build a shelter, traps for small game, snares, rigging, trot lines, gill nets, wraps, braids and many other survival purposes. I've tried Paracord in the past as fishing line - you have to take it apart, and use the thin inner strands, but it works quite well - very strong. It's great for lashing gear to your body or your pack, too. I have a friend, who is a former US Army Ranger, and he said whenever he went on a jump, he took inner strands of the Paracord and used them to lash down his gear, so it wouldn't go flying off his body - and hit him in the face, good idea if you ask me. You can also use it to fasten a knife to a pole, for an improvised weapon or for spearing fish. The uses are almost unlimited when it comes to Paracord. I've used Paracord on more than one occasion when a shoe lace broke - and there is no better substitute for a shoe or boot lace, than Paracord.

I used some of the Paracord samples sent to me, and tied the ends together, and let my big ol' German Shepherds play tug-o-war with it, and it never broke - and my dogs are very strong, to say the least. I even let my dogs chew on the Paracord, until the outer cover was chewed through, and then let them play tug-o-war some more and the cord still didn't break. I keep some in my e-box in my car, and on more than one occasion I've used it for some sort of emergency. Recently, I went to the dog groomer, and forgot a leash, well, I used a piece of Paracord for an improvised leash - my main male German Shepherd hates having his nails done and won't get out of the car - so a leash is needed to "motivate" him at times.

5Col Survival Supply 750 and 550 Paracord is certified, and that's why it is rated for military use - and if you've ever done any business with any government agency, you know what a hassle it is, meeting specifications, especially military specs! I know I wouldn't want our troops using anything but the best of the best. And, if I were jumping out of a plane, I'd want to be assured that the Paracord holding my chute on, wasn't going to break because it was some cheap commercial grade stuff - that hasn't been tested and certified.

If you're serious about Prepping, or you're in the military, you honestly have to have some Paracord in your kit or BOB. And, it doesn't take-up much room at all - heck you can even lash it to the outside of your pack, if you don't have room inside the pack. And, as an aside, make sure you have matches or some way of burning the ends of your Paracord when you cut it to the length you need it - you don't want it coming apart - so burning the ends is a must do.

So, go through your kit or BOB, and if you don't have some Paracord in there, give the nice folks at 5Col Survival Supply a call and order-up some genuine mil-spec certified Paracord, and it's not that expensive, so there's no excuse for not having some in your emergency supplies. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dear HJL,

I have gone back and, over a period of time, reviewed all of the entries in SurvivalBlog since its inception in 2005, plus numerous other survival forums. Among the most commonly posted forum inquiries are questions such as, "What do I need to add to my BOB/GOOD bag, BOL storage, et cetera?" Also, many ask, "What would be a good barter item for after the SHTF?"

Last evening, I reached up to remove an item from a shelf in the shop. I was very glad that I had it on hand and realized that I did not recall having seen it on a prep or barter list. It's mosquito spray! It sits next to the cockroach spray, the spider spray, and the flying insect spray.

We all know that mother nature has a tremendous ability to repair itself and to revert to, well, nature when man does not interfere. Pests are pests during normal times and, during a major SHTF or TEOTWAWKI, we should certainly prepare for mother nature to attempt to reassert herself and send her small and sometimes dangerous pests out to be fruitful and multiply. This could only get worse if the event involved a die off with deceased people providing easy pickings for all sorts of critters, including maggots. After all, we do look like prime rib to a mosquito, and people, of course, die from Lyme disease carried by ticks and anaphylactic shock from bees and occasional spider bites, among other things. We can't count on an ER room during a major event, remember? Plague and disease carried by insects of some type might itself be the next major SHTF. Who knows?

I think that one of the most valuable items during a serious event might be insect killers– bug spray, fly spray, and things to kill or ward off mosquitoes, cockroaches, spiders, ticks, moths, and so forth.

This might be even more of an issue for those of you planning on bugging out by hitting the road and surviving in the woods. You wouldn't be the first person to sleep on top of an ant hill. DON'T ask me how I know this! For those of us with a little space and real estate to protect, the answer is usually to buy concentrated pesticides and mix and spray them in bulk. You are probably already doing that if you have some property. However, what about your neighbor who lives in an apartment or duplex? I think a great barter item might be a couple of cases of assorted insect cans. These are often available at the local dollar stores, and Ace hardware stores (not a paid ad) often have their brand of spray on sale for two for the price of one. I often use the cans for "touch up" or for indoor eradication of pests when the 5-gallon sprayer of Malithion would be overkill and result in evacuation of the bedroom for a while. Remember, if you keep any spray can for too long and it loses pressure, you can always turn it over and CAREFULLY pop it open with an old style "church key" beer bottle opener to pour the contents out and put it into a pump style spray bottle or pour it onto an infested area. If you have to do this, go outside, point it away from your body and go very slowly to release any residual pressure before opening the can enough to pour out the contents. Also, remember to wear eye protection and gloves.

In addition, you might consider adding a couple of cans of "OFF" (or something similar to protect your person) and also something to protect an area . Avon Skin So Soft mixed 50/50 with water works for MOST people to repel bugs, especially mosquitoes. It also makes you smell better (especially after two weeks in the woods) and actually softens your skin.

Be safe and prep as if your life depended on it.


P.S. What about bigger pests? Rat traps for barter?

HJL Adds: So far, there seems to be a resounding vacuum of double blind tests on DEET vs other repellents. Without the true double-blind test, the results of the test are guaranteed to be biased. I also find it interesting that Avon does not push their “Skin So Soft” as a repellent in the U.S., though they are marketing a similar product in Europe, specifically as a repellent. I have found that the best repellent is a 100% DEET on clothing, including a mosquito net around the face. Just don't use it on bare skin.

A word of caution is in order. A couple of years ago, I had a “go” bag for a local Ham event. In the bag was a can of OFF. The lid came loose in the process of moving and something pressed up against the spray button. When I pulled out my 25-foot coil of coax, the plastic had melted off of the wire and was a large pile of black goo in the bottom of the bag. DEET eats plastic! It doesn't take a large amount either. I also lost a lens hood for my camera by spraying OFF (Deep Woods variety) on my legs while wearing shorts and then resting the heavy lens on my legs as I sat awhile. I'd rather not have that on my bare skin, even if there is no evidence that it causes problems. Still, there is no more effective solution, if you use it with the appropriate netting or clothing.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


I have used Battery Junction for many years and am happy with their product and service. Below is what I use.

I use these batteries daily and have for over three years. I have no affiliation with this company. Thank you for the work you do. Respectfully, - L.G.

o o o


Reading the Rechargeable Batteries and a Solar Charger, I was glad to see the Eneloop recommendation, as I've been using those since 2006 myself and plain old Sanyo NiMH since the 90's. However, you then recommended the Energizer 15-minute battery cooker. Notice I don't call it a charger, since charging seems to be a secondary goal behind cooking your batteries. Basically, it's one of the worst chargers out there. The current selling version seems to not be as bad as earlier ones but is still too fast and harmful to the long life of your batteries. There are some who like to push the envelope and will monitor the charging batteries with expensive temperature sensors and fans to dissipate the heat, but that is not something you want to mess with for survival situations. If you want a good charger, you need to look at Maha or LaCross. Occasionally, other brands will put out decent chargers, but you have to research and look for the good models. - E.N.

o o o


Just a thought on the really neat charger, Maha PowerEx MH-C800S. It's really neat BUT...

Even though it can be used on worldwide voltage with a plug converter, it has a drawback. For right now, it's great, but if we have upsets, it isn't easily run on 12VDC. The power supply uses a DIN connector to power the unit; they're not very convenient to convert or adapt. I looked at all the tech specs but couldn't find out what the wall wartoutput voltage was.

As I said above, I ONLY use chargers that run off of 12VDC or use a wall wart power supply that provides 12 Volts DC. AC is not forever and is hard to make in uncivilized times/arenas. This is just my two cents worth. YMMV.

Best regards all - The Army Aviator

o o o


I have personally owned and used the Powerex MH-C800S Eight Cell Smart Charger (for 2 years now) and can attest to its excellence. Once a month, over the course of 2-3 days, I rotate approximately 275 AA and AAA batteries through the charger to keep them fresh. Once I complete my modest solar array, I'll add three more of these chargers to the mix. Standard night vision devices and, especially, thermal units go through batteries rather quickly. This charger removes the "guess work" regarding your batteries. - P.C.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I love working on guns, and I've tinkered with them since I was a teenager. Later on, I was trained by a military armorer to work on M1s, M14s, and M1911s, and I took several gunsmithing courses over the years. I've repaired many guns; however, the two firearms I enjoy working on the most are the grand old 1911 and the AR-15 family of rifles. More than anything, I usually can't leave a 1911 alone, especially as it comes from the factory. So, I keep a decent supply of spare parts on-hand. The AR-15 doesn't usually require a lot of repairs, which is a testament to the Stoner-design. However, when something breaks or needs replacing, it often calls for specialized tools. If I don't have that tool, I make do with another tool that is not intended for the job but gets the job done. I also keep a small supply of the most often broken or misplaced AR parts.

Some of the most broken or misplaced/lost parts are small springs and pins, so I keep plenty of those little parts on-hand. My local gun shop often calls me to see if I have "this" part or "that" part for an AR. Most of the time I can help them out. If you own an AR of any make or model, you really need to have some spare parts for a SHTF scenario, when a gunsmith not be available and parts are scarce. Plus, you should, at the very least, have a good working knowledge of how your gun operates and have an armorer's manual on-hand. Honestly, most work done on an AR is fairly easy to do, and most parts don't require precision fitting; they just need replacing, in most cases.

I have three tool boxes full of spare parts and various types of gunsmithing tools. I'm always searching in the boxes for just the right tool to get a job done properly. Yes, you can make do with a tool that's not specifically designed for a certain job, but it's nice to have the right tool and have all the tools you need in one place.

That's exactly the great benefit of the Deployable Compact Armorers Tool, also known as D-CAT. The D-CAT is designed and sold by Spaceage Weaponry , and it can also be found at my favorite gunsmith supply house, such as Brownell's (where I do much of my tool and spare parts shopping). The D-CAT is just about every tool you'll need for working on the AR-15/M16 family of firearms, all in one nice little package.

A quick run down on the D-CAT is in order. First of all, the D-CAT was designed to fit into the butt stock of a standard, full-sized AR-15. It also weighs only 6-ounces. The tool (made of 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum, 303 stainless steel, and H13 tool steel) is designed to give you a lifetime of service. The D-CAT comes supplied with all the bits, punches, and other small parts located in the tool's "magazine"and accessed by rotating the magazine gate to expose the individual storage compartments. You will find a 1/8-inch punch, a flat blade screw driver, front sight adjustment tool, and both 3/16-inch and 9/64-inch hex drivers. There is also a spare punch pocket and a hammer/trigger pin pocket. You can also use the D-CAT as a screw driver. Okay, I can already hear someone complaining, "How do I remove the barrel or the butt stock on my AR?" Glad you asked. You can buy additional tools for the D-CAT for that job. If you need to replace a barrel, you really should be trained in how to do it properly. Torquing it to the right poundage and aligning everything just perfectly is usually a job best left to someone properly trained to work on an AR. An adaptor is available from Spaceage Weaponry, so you can use the D-CAT for butt stock removal. For the majority of us, the D-CAT (as it comes from the factory) will take care of 95% of your needs, and is an all-in-one tool in one nice little package.

One of the AR-15/M16 tools I'm always using and breaking is the front sight adjustment tool. Most ARs that I've run across usually need the front sight pin moved up or down to get the proper zero, and I've lost count of the number of front sight adjustment tools that I've broken because of a stubborn or frozen in place (rusted) front sight pin. Well, with the D-CAT tool, I don't worry about having to buy another front sight adjustment tool. Springs and pins break, wear out, or get lost if you are really serious about taking an AR apart. The D-CAT tool makes it soooo much easier and faster, plus it's nice to have just the right punch on-hand. Some folks can't quite figure out how to remove some of the little pins on an AR (not that they need replacing), but gun buffs get curious. Well, the D-CAT can nicely handle the job on all of the pins. Brownell's has a short video on the D-CAT, and the Spaceage Weaponry website also has several videos you can watch and see the tool in action.

Have you ever tried replacing the factory trigger guard on an AR? You might want a larger one or an oval-shaped one. Well, it's easier said than done, since you have to depress the little pin to get the trigger guard to release. However, with the D-CAT, the job is much easier to do. Do you need to remove the trigger assembly for replacement or a broken disconnector, or just want a match-grade trigger group in your AR? Once again, the D-CAT can handle the job.

Are you a military armorer? Just think how nice it would be to have a complete AR-15 "tool box" full of tools, all in one, that you can carry in your pants pocket? To be sure, you could also put some of the most often broken or replacement parts in a plastic baggie to keep in your pocket. This way, when an M4 or M16 goes down and a soldier needs it repaired "right now," you can do the job, without having to take the rifle back to the arms room or armory to work on it.

Are you a police armorer? Once again, you will find how handy it is to have the D-CAT on-hand. If out on the range with your officers qualifying or just getting in some target practice when something breaks or a part gets lost, you can repair it right there with the D-CAT and a few of the most-needed, spare parts in your pocket. No need to go digging through your tool box to find the right tool; you'll have it in your pocket.

If you are a serious Prepper, you absolutely should have a D-CAT on-hand, along with spare parts for your ARs plus a working knowledge on how an AR type of rifle operates and functions. They really aren't all that hard to work on, if you have the right tool and the right parts.

The D-CAT is one of those "why didn't I think of that" inventions. While it's not a KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) idea, it took a lot of time, effort, and design know-how to come up with it. Still, you wonder why you didn't come up with the idea for all the tools you'll need to work on an AR-style rifle in one compact little package that fits in your pocket. The D-CAT retails for $149.99. It may sound like a steep price, but if you went out and purchased all the tools you'd really need to work on an AR, you'd probably spend that much or more, and they wouldn't be in one nice, tidy little self-contained package, like the D-CAT.

Remember, though, all the tools in the world are useless if you don't have the spare parts needed to do a gun repair on an AR, or any firearm for that matter. At the very least, get a D-CAT and then get one of the AR spare parts kits (or a couple of spare parts kits), so you'll have it all on-hand when it's needed. If you take your survival seriously, and you should, then take weapon maintenance/repair just as seriously. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat CascioPat Cascio

Don't you just hate it when someone comes up with one of those "oh-so-simple" ideas, and it is an immediate hit or success. I don't begrudge anyone success in their lives, but how come it's always someone else who invents a better application of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle? I've been around long enough to know that keeping things simple is usually the right and smart way to go. I recently heard from one of my former martial arts students, who I hadn't heard from in 25 years. He now holds Black Belt rank himself in several different styles of martial arts. He said he always remembered what I taught him-- the "basics" are what work in a fight rather than all the fancy kicks and jumping around. If you did nothing except learn and instill the basic fighting techniques, you'd be a force to be reckoned with.

Now, as most SurvivalBlog readers will know, I prefer big knives. They seem to get the job done better than smaller knives, in many situations. Consider the Columbia River Knife and Tool Original K.I.S.S folder from the creative mind of Ed Halligan-- a well-known custom knife maker and designer. It's one of those simple designs that I wish I had come up with while designing knives over the years. Now, while the design is simple in context, everything had to fit together precisely for the design to function properly. This K.I.S.S. design has to have everything perfectly in balance, and CRKT and Halligan did an outstanding job.

By the way, the K.I.S.S. design actually stands for “Keep It Super Simple”, according to Halligan. I can't find fault. The design is super simple. The K.I.S.S. is a unique two-piece construction, featuring an integral frame lock, and the design allows the cutting edge of the blade to seat against the handle rather than inside of it. It's easier to see on the CRKT website, than it is to explain.

I first saw the K.I.S.S. during a visit to the CRKT offices many years ago and was amazed at the design. The closed length of the knife is 3.5 inches, and opened it is 5.75 inches. The blade is only 2.25-inches long and can be had partially serrated or plain edged. Both the blade and handle material is 420J2 stainless steel. The blade shape is a Tanto with the grind being chisel point and only sharpened on one side, like a wood-working chisel blade.

There is a thumb stud for one hand opening. However, I must confess that on smaller blades I simply can't use the thumb stud to open blades. This is not unique to this knife. It's the same on all smaller-sized folders; I just can't open them with my thumb. My thumbs kind of work opposite of most folks' thumbs; they easily bend backwards but not very far forward.

When you close the blade on the K.I.S.S., it folds onto the handle, NOT into it. My first impression was that a person is going to get cut or the point of the blade will stab them, when it is closed. Such is not the case. I've tried to intentionally cut myself with the K.I.S.S. folded and couldn't do it. The blade is securely locked against the handle and you can't cut yourself when the blade is closed. AMAZING!

Now, there are several ways you can carry the K.I.S.S. on your person. It can be clipped to your pocket with the pocket clip (my preferred way to carry it) or clipped to a shirt pocket. Since I only wear t-shirts, the idea of clipping to a shirt pocket wouldn't work for me. You can also use it as a money clip, and it doesn't draw unwanted attention when you pull the paper money out of your pocket with the knife clipped to it. I have to assume it works that way because I never have any paper money in my pocket. I only carry change, so my pennies and dimes kept slipping off the pocket clip. LOL! You can even use the knife as a keyring knife, and you won't even know it's there until you need it.

The K.I.S.S. came with a hair-popping edge on the blade. You can also get one with a partially serrated blade as well. Given a choice, I'd go with the partially serrated blade for opening mail and boxes . The serrations just rip through cardboard boxes with ease. I've also found that a small knife, like the K.I.S.S., doesn't cause someone to express "that" look when you pull it out of your pocket in public. Whereas, a larger knife draws glares, and people wonder why you need such a big knife. The K.I.S.S. is a fun knife. When you show it to someone, they immediately comment on how simple the design is. I'm not sure how long this design has been in the CRKT line-up, but I'm sure it is probably their longest-selling design. It comes in many different flavors, too, so check out the website. You'll be amazed at all the different ways they came up with this same basic design. Unlike many smaller folders, this is one stout, very well-made, little folder.

If you have a birthday coming up, either for yourself or a loved one, the Original K.I.S.S. would make a wonderful addition to your knife collection. You'll find yourself using it all the time for those smaller chores that call for a knife. Now, while I wouldn't dare call this knife a "survival knife" by any stretch of the imagination, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it. Which reminds me, I just gave my K.I.S.S. sample to someone who couldn't stop talking about it. So, I need to replace it because I miss it already.

The K.I.S.S. retails for $39.95, but can usually be found deeply discounted at many of the big box stores or online at knife dealers. Since the K.I.S.S. came along, there have been many, many imitators, but there is only one original. The imitators are all junk and have violated a patented design. Pick-up a K.I.S.S. for your loved ones, and I'm betting you'll get a kiss in return. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat CascioPat Cascio

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dear SurvivalBlog,

This is the best charger I have ever used:

Powerex MH-C800S Eight Cell Smart Charger has eight independent slots for AA/AAA batteries. It's like having eight chargers! It has a deep-cycle conditioning worldwide power supply, a smaller light weight power adapter, and both soft and rapid charging speeds. BATTERIES ARE NOT INCLUDED!

The MH-C800S features eight independent slots that can charge one to eight AA or AAA batteries in any combination in around one to two hours! The unit also incorporates a large, easy-to-read LCD screen featuring the charging status of each battery. This new charger uses the same precision microprocessor as its professional sister, model MH-C801D. The user can choose between a soft and a fast charge mode. The soft charge delivers the highest battery life and allows 100% compatibility with older, lower capacity batteries. The fast charge allows eight batteries to be fully charged to their maximum capacity in as little as one to two hours. The eight-cell charger is embedded with a high-rate battery conditioner that will charge, deep-discharge and recharge batteries automatically for maximum performance. The cycle restores the batteries to their optimal performance level minimizing the memory effect. Batteries that were previously thought ready for the recycle bin can be brought back to life. The MH-C800S can be used anywhere around the world using the included switching AC power supply-- perfect for home, office, and travel. - C.G.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I ran across Darrell Holland's new firestarter and bought four of them. They are now rated #1 by “Survival Magazine.” Watch the video and get one for your BOB. I have no economic interest in this product and the video is a HOOT, being classic Holland. - F.B.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I have been thinking about trying to start a business of making treadle or pedal power appliances and tools, but I was wondering what your view point is on what would be most wanted, and if you think that someone could make a living that way. I would like to make kitchen appliances that use one power unit, and I think that the food processor, blender, and mixer would be the most wanted kitchen appliances. House tools would be a washing machine, vacuum, and generator. For the shop, I think a grinder, saw, and drill are the most useful and would therefore be the most wanted. If you would please offer your thoughts I would be very thankful. - D.H.

JWR Replies: To minimize shipping costs, your best bet would be to adapt an existing (current production, with longevity) brand of bicycle or a stationary exercise bicycle. That way you could just supply the adapter parts, as a bolt-together kit. For the greatest versatility, it should have a rear shaft with BOTH a cogged sprocket and a V-belt (fan belt) plate.

Monday, February 10, 2014

When we were all children and Christmas rolled around or our birthday, we would normally reach for the biggest present with our name on it. Of course, everyone just knew that the bigger the package, the better the present. Right? Well, not so fast

Did you ever hear that good things come in small packages? Well, quite often, the smaller the package, the better the item inside. I'm a big knife fan, and I don't mean that I'm a big "knife" fan (although I am rather big). Instead, I like knives that are big. More often than not, a bigger knife can do more things better and quicker than a smaller knife. Not always, but most of the time that's true.

Enter the Ultimate Knife and their interpretation of the folding Karmabit (pronounced "ka-rahm-bit") self-defense knife. The Karmabit is based on an Indonesian fighting knife design. It is not a big knife; far from it. I received the 599 and 599 TK set from Lad Mandiola, who owns and operates The Ultimate Knife website and company. I'll share more on Lad shortly. What we have is a Talon-style blade that is VERY wicked, but it's only 2.25-inches long. That's not big at all for a knife designed for self-defense. However, because of the curved talon-style blade, it is meant to rip, claw, and trap just about any part of a person's body. Once again, these are designed for self-defense, not for opening letters or other utility chores.

The blade material on the Karambit is N690 Cobalt stainless steel, and it is black Teflon coated for that tactical/subdued look. The entire knife only weighs in at 3.5-ounces. Handle scales are super-tough G10 black composite material that's almost bullet-proof! The blade locks open via liner locks-- a proven locking design. You also get an orange handle "training" Karambit in this package; the blade is NOT sharpened and has a blunt point and holes in the blade, so you can't confuse it with the sharpened version. I strongly suggest you buy the two-knife package, instead of just the sharpened Karambit alone.

There is a pocket clip that can be reversed from one side of the handle to the other for Southpaw users, and depending on how you carry the knife in your pocket, it will dictate which side of the handle scales you place the pocket clip. That's something you have to decide for yourself. I choose strong side (right) pocket carry.

There is also a large ring on the butt of the handle scales. The ring aids not only in drawing the knife from your pocket, but is a place to put your pinky finger inside for a more secure grip, or (if using the knife in the reverse or ice pick-style hold) is a place for your index finger. The ring can be used several ways, depending upon how you hold a knife for self-defense. We also have an oblong hole in the blade for manually opening the blade, if you choose to do it that way. However, you'll miss out on the neat little trick to the fastest opening folding knife in the world, and it's NOT a "switchblade" either.

The Italian-made Karambit is made by FOX in Italy, and they produce some outstanding knives at great prices. FOX is something of a secret to many knife owners for some reason, but I've owned several of their knives and have not been disappointed in any of them. What the Ultimate Knife Karambit has is the Ernest Emerson, patented "Wave" feature on the top rear of the blade. Basically, when you start to draw the knife from your pocket, pull back slightly towards the side of your pocket and, when you have cleared your pocket, the blade will be open. Much easier done that said. There are several videos on the Ultimate Knife website that I strongly suggest you take the time to watch. If you're not familiar with Ernest Emerson, Google his name. He's a well-known custom knife maker and designer, who was in such demand that he opened his own shop, where his knives are carefully manufactured and precisely fitted by a highly skilled staff. I've written several articles in the past about some of Emerson's knives.

I've talked to Lad Mandiola a couple times on the phone, and I'm here to tell you, Lad is totally excited about the Ultimate Knife Karambit that he is selling. He doesn't hold back his excitement when you are talking to him, and for good reason; he has a great product that performs out of proportion to its size. I tested one of the Emerson Knives Karambits some years ago, and these Italian-made knives that Mandiola is selling are every bit as good. Mandiola went the extra mile and got Ernie Emerson's approval to use his patented "Wave" feature.

What we have with the “wave” is a part of the knife blade that is machined in the shape of, well, a wave coming off the ocean. When you pull back on the knife a little bit, as you are drawing it, the "wave" catches the edge of your pocket and pulls the blade out of the handle scales. Once again, easier done than said. It opens just "that" fast, and there is no worry about the blade cutting you as it opens, either. In speaking with Lad Mandiola (in a long conversation the first time we talked), he directed me to his website where he has comments from a number of very happy customers. Everyone loves the "wave" feature. It doesn't take any real training to whip the Karambit out of your pocket, and it is open. I know. I know that a lot of people think that an automatic folder is fast opening, and they are, sorta! First, you have to draw the automatic folder from your pocket, and then find the release button to open the blade. On the Karambit, you simply draw the knife out of your pocket, and when it has cleared the pocket, the blade is open. You do it with one smooth motion; it's almost like magic!

Now, you might say, "What good is a 2.25-inch knife blade for self-defense?" Glad you asked. Let's go back to the Talon blade design, and I've mentioned a number of times in my knife articles that most knife fights involve slashing rather than stabbing moves. If you slash at a person's arms, legs, or wrists and cut a tendon, that body part is useless. If you slash at someone's face and the Talon catches an eye, they can't see you to continue their attack. If you happen to catch an artery in the neck, a person will bleed out in very short order. The Talon designed blade, although short, can reach tendons, arteries, eyes, and many other body parts. The Talon's claw shape not only cuts, it also tends to pull the body part into the blade, doing more damage. Think of an Eagle's claw. That is what the Karambit's Talon blade is shaped like. It's very, very wicked!

Also, if you are forced to use the Karambit for self-defense, the police would look at the short blade and wouldn't think of this knife as a wicked self-defense weapon in the least. It would look better for you when you used this little bladed knife for self-defense as opposed to a larger knife or something that screams "tactical" because of it's large shape or design.

The orange-handled training knife can be used for practicing your attack/self-defense moves against a cardboard dummy (or whatever you want to use as a training aid) without fear of harming yourself with a sharp blade. Also, the training knife can be used, quite effectively, as a pressure point weapon-- a non-lethal weapon that can cause a person to break-off an attack. I originally trained in Judo as my first martial art, and then I moved on to Karate and Kung-Fu. We learned the importance of using pressure points and strikes to break-off an attack. Believe me, if you struck someone on a pressure point with the blunted blade of the training knife, they would break-off the attack. If an attacker has you in a deadly hold of some type, you could rapidly draw the training knife and apply pressure to cause them to release you. I honestly don't know any place, other than an airport security check point, where the blunted tip training knife would be illegal to own and carry in your pocket. To be sure, it's not a "knife" per se. It can't stab or cut anything. However, with a little practice, it could easily be used as a self-defense weapon against an attacker. Think about it.

The Karambit comes in two sizes-- medium and large. For most of us, the medium size will fit our hands nicely. If you have bear paws for hands, then you'd want to look at the large Karambit. Mandiola is running a special; if you buy the sharpened Karambit with the training knife, it is only $244.95, even though the regular price is $319.90. That's almost a $75 savings. You can also purchase a Kramabit by itself or even a training knife separately. Check out the website for the various packages and prices. Be sure to take the time to watch the education videos before you decide which Karambit you want to purchase. There is a lot of information there that will help you. Also, if you have any questions about the Ultimate Knife Karambit, give Lad a call. His number is on the website, and he will be more than happy to help you any way he can. I honestly don't recall when I've last talked to someone like Lad Mandiola, who was so "up" about his products. It was a pleasure talking to someone who has such faith in his products. He's “good people”, too. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Can you store a handgun along with the ammo in the same ammo can providing you have the silica gel packs inside. - M.

JWR Replies: Yes, but the ammo should be vapor isolated (with two layers of sealed Zip-Loc bags) from the lubricants on the pistol. (For fear of the lube deadening the primers.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Personal Survival Kit (PSK) is everywhere. If you Google it, up come 10,400,000 entries. What is it? Peace of mind, a force-multiplier, a breath-mint tin full of miracle producing ingredients, or maybe not! The PSK can be purchased ready-made online or in any camping store. These kits are diverse in contents and in price range, some being quite expensive. They are interesting but rarely are they exactly what any specific real-life survival situation requires. You will always have to add or subtract components in order to achieve the ideal kit. It is better to take the time and make your own PSK. The self-made kit will make you think about what survival is all about. The process of selecting each component will put you in direct contact with its function and your commitment to its possible future use in your hands.

The plethora of Internet how-to videos is presently making the self-made PSK the hot topic. Some are thoughtfully assembled and presented, but most go more in the direction of nonsensical fantasy, uselessness, and unrealistic imagined survival scenarios. Many presumed essential components of these PSK's would unfortunately not save anyone's life.

The Real PSK

Everyone has their own personal contingency. The Personal Survival Kit will neither save you from an E-5 twister, a category five hurricane, or an earthquake registering a 9.0 on the Richter scale, nor from floods, forest fires, or civil unrest. The most important tools to have with you in an emergency are practical experience and prudence.. You will ultimately have to save yourself in every survival scenario. The PSK is a wisely selected collection of effective back-up tools that will serve you once you decide what you will do next. It is there to support your resolve to take action and survive.

One foundational principle of survival is to know where you are and be able to locate yourself on a basic road map. If you had to abandon your vehicle and walk home, which way would you go? Wherever I travel, especially when driving, I keep a general sense of homeward direction. I still use hard copy maps and a compact road atlas. Even if I know where I am going on a repeat trip, without any need for a map, I habitually pay attention to directions with a sort of mental compass. Everyone, especially those who don't have an innate sense of direction, should include some navigation aids in their PSK, since getting out of a bad situation usually involves moving and going.

Wherever my work takes me, I always have at least a minimalist PSK in my vehicle driver-side door, in my shoulder bag, or sometimes in my pocket. Your own PSK can be kept in your vehicle storage compartments, in your boat, in your aircraft, in a pocket in your backpack, or best of all, on your person in a pocket or purse.

A PSK Means Foresight

In an emergency situation, the immediate objective is positive, can-do, survival attitude. In the face of contrary predicaments, survival means to keep safe, keep dry, keep hydrated, keep fed, keep warm, keep alert, keep visible or invisible, keep connected, keep healthy, and stay alive. The last 36 months have produced enough extreme situations, both nationwide and abroad, where many people probably wished they had some sort of survival kit.

Building your PSK

Your PSK should be intentionally compact and practical, so as to avoid any excuse to leave it behind. If something were to happen where the PSK was your last resort, your life might depend on what's inside. Every item should be your own personal choice. Even though budget priorities command how we invest in equipment, you can't afford cheap. Doubtful and unproven components are not an option. Better-than-nothing is an unacceptable survival attitude.

Good Survival Books

Any comprehensive survival book covers the PSK. I have benefited from John McCann's "Stay Alive" and "Building your own PSK". Also good is the Tom Brown series or military handbooks. Ex-military authors usually cut the fat and get down to essentials. The PSK is a big fad right now, and there is a confusing array of things to buy, based on TV survival shows. Many of these highly commercialized gadgets are glorified toys. They are endorsed by survival stars who are actors. I would not entrust my life to any of them.

Basic principles

It comes as no surprise that the little phrase "God helps those who help themselves" exists in every known language. In survival scenarios, it frequently happens that little things make the big difference. Read, study, take notes, and learn now because the government's emergency system cannot always save you. Your PSK is for you and yours, in line with your life's immediate situational duties, your employment, and your extended range of activities. Most specific components can be had at reasonable cost, from ordinary sources such as grocery stores, drugstores, and hardware stores. Camping or military surplus stores offer a variety of specialized items, as well as imported knock-offs. Be selective and buy what really works. Online sources are located by using clear and precise search words for the item you want.

What is your PSK really for?

Question its ultimate purpose. Should your PSK help you to be more visible or more easily found? Will you be lost and, hopefully, the object of “search and rescue” efforts? In some scenarios, you want high visibility; bright, orange-colored and reflective items should be sought for the container and contents.. When stranded at night, it is good to be able to shine a light on yourself to oncoming traffic or potential “search and rescue” personnel. Shiny PSK components add more visibility. If bright colors are only preferred because you are concerned about dropping and losing your PSK contents, then put minimal landyards on the items you fear losing.

Modeled after military-issue PSK's, should your kit be of the tactical type, to be able to disappear with you? Are you escaping and evading SHTF pandemonium or WROL disorder? Is wilderness or desert near where you live and work? Can you discreetly camp or make a fire where you are going? Is your situation more likely in an urban context? Your survival kit should be specific to your area of operations. PSK's are as diverse as their owners and their respective contingencies.

The Container

The small tin format, immortalized by the Altoids breath-mint dispenser, has become the model. Despite the genius-level examples I have seen, I do not consider this to be completely serious or adequate. If your PSK absolutely has to fit inside your pocket, then be ready and willing to forego a lot of useful survival items. By going a little bigger, the greater benefits would exponentially outweigh the inconvenience. Worthy and larger variants to the Altoids tin do exist, such as watertight plastic boxes made by Otter, Pelican,and Plano. These run the gamut of either bright or subdued colors as well as camo.

Metal containers either larger or smaller than the breath mint tin are widely available. Larger would be ideal for a more developed PSK; smaller would be good for mounting on an edge tool sheath, such as a fixed blade survival knife or a machete. Smaller tins can be sub-containers inside the main container.

USA-made military organizers and pouches with buckles or zippers can be used for the PSK container itself or as a quickly identifiable storage case. These come in virtually any size, color, and configuration, with varying amounts of internal fixtures and sub-compartments. By themselves, they are good if soft and silent is a priority. Just be sure your choice will resist the elements.

My personal preference is for the metal tin concept, which is crush- resistant, and able to be put on a fire for boiling water or cooking. The shiny inside surface can be polished and used as a signal mirror. It should be waterproof, either with an internal gasket or sealable with heavy tape. Every shape and size can be found online. Sources are numerous, such as or, which offer many of the common sizes. and make larger sizes.

I tape my PSK tin shut. Tape can be re-used for other purposes in survival. Gorilla brand is available at any big-box home improvement store. offers tactical tape in military colors and various widths. Go around the edge of your container several times so as to have more tape available for multi-tasking. Ranger bands made from bicycle inner tubes will keep your PSK closed but if the inner tubes are old, these bands will fail. Small diameter elastic shock cord is considered a multi-use survival item by the USMC. It can be used to keep your PSK closed, if you do not want to use tape. If you wrap paracord or anything else around the outside of your PSK, it must be able to slide off easily, allowing your kit to quickly deploy. Taping my PSK shut also reminds me not to borrow things from inside that I'll forget to put back.

As it is for the container, so should it be for the contents. I like metal sub-containers. To me, metal PSK items seem better-- more robust and less toy-like. My kit incorporates various metal items like a titanium whistle, brass button compass, zinc alloy flashlight, stainless steel signal mirror, and an aluminum match case.

PSK Tools

  • Maps and Compass.

    One foundational principle of survival is to know where you are and be able to locate yourself on a basic road map. If you had to abandon your vehicle and walk home, which way would you go? Wherever I travel, especially when driving, I keep a general sense of homeward direction. I still use hard copy maps and a compact road atlas. Even if I know where I am going on a repeat trip, without any need for a map, I habitually pay attention to directions with a sort of mental compass. Everyone, especially those who don't have an innate sense of direction, should include some navigation aids in their PSK, since getting out of a bad situation usually involves moving and going.

    The compass is one of the survival big C's : cutter, cordage, container, combustion, communication, compass. Navigation is for the scenario where you are either lost and needing to get your bearings, trying to get a sense of location on a map, or trying to move in a line towards a precise objective. The cardinal directions of the compass will be indispensible. Two accurate compasses should be part of the PSK; one primary compass should be kept on your person and a back-up one kept inside the kit.

    Every PSK wants to have the ingenious little button compass made famous in war movies. Brass is best for the button compass. Cheap plastic ones are unreliable and a gamble, at best. I'm not sure if I would entrust my life's destiny to a $1.99 plastic button compass. The Francis Barker NATO brass button compasses are pricey, but they are trustworthy, while keeping in mind that button compasses are meant only for very general navigation. Only one button compass, from USA-made, is as accurate as bigger ones and worthy of total confidence in all conditions.

    The next size bigger is the watchband compass. This compass is excellent, accurate, and much better than even the good button compass. Cammenga, TruNord, and make these.

    Add a playing card size plastic laminated map of the USA, or cards with more specific maps, depending upon where you live and work or where you will be traveling. Copy and print them from map websites. The smallness of such map cards seems somewhat futile, but it is a big help in giving a general geographical sense of where you are, and is usually sufficient for getting your bearings.

    Slavomir Rawicz's somewhat contested, but believable, biography "The Long Walk" was particularly long because the escapees from the WWII Siberian gulag did not know where to go. They did have a cobbled PSK of sorts, but only sketchy knowledge of their whereabouts in eastern European and Asian geography.

    In survival, even the smallest help can change everything for the better. You can print out survival instructions from the Internet and make your own quick information cards. If you are injured or compromised, someone else may have to utilize your PSK. makes plain cards and labels any size to print out and add to your PSK.

    I do not keep a complete note pad in the PSK, but rather just a few loose Rite-in-the-Rain pages. Shorten the length of a pencil and sharpen it so it fits into your PSK container. I use a woodless, solid graphite pencil from the arts and crafts store. Sharpen the pencil with a metal sharpener, which will multi-task to make wood shavings from whittled sticks for fire tinder. In a pinch, you can remove and sterilize the pencil sharpener blade for first aid use.

    Add some surveyor flagging ribbon to your PSK in your choice of color (bright or subdued) for marking your way so as to avoid walking in circles, if you are disoriented. The true story of German officer Clemens Forrell's escape from a Russian prison camp "As Far as my Feet will Carry Me" dramatizes this delirious episode. It frequently happens to hunters while they concentrate on stalking and inadvertently lose their bearings. Most hunters do not look at a compass when they start out in the direction of their game. Reversing the bearings to come back to camp becomes impossible. It only takes a minute to look.

  • Knife.

    A good knife is your number one tool. If you put one inside this kit, you have three choices-- a folder, a multi-tool, or a small fixed blade. However, if your PSK attaches to a fixed blade sheath, the knife can be a big as you want. Do I really need to put a knife inside my PSK? What will be my eventual demands and expectations of an edged tool? Do I want a snap-off cutter refill blade or disposable scalpel blade only for fine cuts, or a broader use standard knife? If I choose a folder, can I still baton and process firewood without stressing and breaking it? Are there other blades and useful tools folded inside the valuable handle space? Can a small skeletal knife be made bigger with the addition of an improvised handle? There are plus-and-minus determinants for each type of tool.

    Ultra compact PSK-specific knives are now being produced by quality knifemakers, including the American Redoubt knife-making superstars (TOPS, Buck, CRKT), and also the common USA-made brands like Kershaw, ESEE, and Becker. They range from three to six inches in length or longer. Internet sources can be found by entering the search word "PSK knife." Besides a multi-tool, which I carry on my person, I like the military variants of the Swiss Army Knife for my PSK. They are available in black, green, or camo. My SAK has a decent stainless steel blade that allows for one-handed opening and includes a saw, while other tools fill up the handle space. I add various grits of folded wet-or-dry sandpaper in the PSK for edge tool sharpening and other uses. Small sharpening stones removed from fold-up holders are very effective but less compact. Credit card size diamond sharpeners are excellent but a little pricey.

  • Multi-tools.

    Small multi-tools do fit well in the PSK tin, but how useful are they in a survival situation? Miniature/tiny fold-out blades and tools are not always ideal. A little extra room allowed for medium-sized tools could make a huge difference when the heat is on. Beyond the blade and pliers, everyone wants tweezers and scissors. The original Slip-N-Snip folding scissors are still made in Sweet Home, Oregon. produces Uncle Bill's heavy duty tweezers. Although a sewing needle or knife tip can aid in the removal of splinters and other foreign elements that penetrate the skin, traditional tweezers are still the best. Cactus grows in my area of operations, requiring sufficient tweezers. A mini-tin of PRID traditional black drawing salve is a good follow-up to cactus run-ins and splinters.

  • Mini Prybar.

    The urban PSK tends to downplay the knife, since this can usually be carried separately. In its place is a combination tool or mini-prybar. These range from a truly functional miniature prybar to a wedge-shaped keychain accessory. Leatherman Piranha, Planet Pocket Tool, and Widgy Pry-bar are USA-made examples. Although their realistic prying force is surprising, the principle is to have an alternative to knife blades, which were not meant for leverage prying. In desperate emergency situations people panic and demand the impossible from whatever tool is in their hands. Urban PSKs frequently include other city-specific implements. offers versatile lock bypass tools. offers the saber-cut survival saw, which acts as a mini hacksaw.

  • Fire Making.

    Fire is an essential survival objective; it's one of the big four-- fire, shelter, food, and water. If fire-making is within your contingency, be sure to have multiple ways to make the fire that will warm you, protect you from animals, allow cooking, and purify water. Fire is useful for signaling with smoke during the day and flames at night.. Dry wood makes black smoke; wet wood makes white. The decision to build a fire should be the conclusion of much thought regarding necessity, safety, and discretion.

    In an urban scenario, metal-cased tea lights or small emergency candles fit in the PSK. The more real beeswax content, the longer the burn time. Light the candle, drip some wax on the intended fireproof emplacement, and it should stick in place, standing up. Compelling words on beeswax. A lip balm candle idea is great.

    Fire starter petroleum-impregnated cotton is still the favorite choice. You can put some in dedicated sealed drinking straw segments. I do not commit cotton balls or cotton wads from vitamin bottles to being greased up for fire starting until the need arises. I keep some form of first aid petroleum separate for the same idea of multi-tasking. Lip balm or ointments from first aid squeeze tubes work for fire as well as their intended purpose, but they are bulky if you want them in your PSK instead of your pockets. Purchase the single-use flat wrapped versions of these first aid items. Foil-wrapped single-application antibiotic ointment takes up little room. Add any of these to cotton balls for fast fire starting. Multi-task Remington gun wipes, alcohol wipes, military issue Trioxane, or Esbit, and WetFire cubes are all good fire tinders for open-air fires. Avoid breathing the fumes.

    Ferrocerium combination magnesium bars with an attached ferro rod, even the original military-issue, are over-rated. I have rarely had the chance to light a fire in idyllic, windless conditions. Magnesium shavings blow away, and the attached ferro rod can only be repeatedly struck on the same face. A good ferro rod is a major player in survival fire making. A plain one, without a handle and or plastic housing, is best; it's the most compact, long enough to be firmly held by a gloved hand, and can be struck from either end. The minimalist ferro rod will not take up valuable space in the PSK. Camping, Going or offer the best sizes.

    Coated blades and some stainless steels will not spark a ferro rod. To make the ferro rod spark well, the striker must be bare metal that is sharpened square with a burr on the edge, whether this be the back of a carbon steel tool blade or a dedicated striker. Practice by lightly scraping your finger across your intended striker. If it grabs your skin, it will do the same on a ferro rod. My back-up striker is the larger P-51 military can opener I filed with a square edge. How many uses does the can opener have? See "The Army's Greatest Invention: the P38 Can Opener”.

    A compact disposable Bic-type lighter fits perfectly in the PSK, as well as any available clothing pocket or purse; the more the better. Refillable windproof or metal survival lighters are more durable but require extra lighter fluid. When making a PSK, it is practical to wrap things like extra tape and small diameter cordage around tubes. But common sense says not to wrap anything around a disposable object such as a lighter. Better to wrap material around something you will not throw away, like a metal matchcase. Put a small cable tie at the on-button of your PSK lighter to prevent it from inadvertently turning on while stored, since items in compact kits are generally very tightly compressed against each other. Break the cable tie only when you absolutely need that particular lighter. Additional cable ties are useful for other purposes. They also come in multiple colors for marking things for specific uses.

    NATO matches are frequently poor quality of unknown manufacture. Household strike-anywhere matches are surprisingly dependable. The Eco-green ones are not. Get the windproof-waterproof UCO long matches at camping supply stores.

    Keep matches in a waterproof metal container, if the plastic ones may be an issue. It makes sense to have fire-making elements stored in fireproof containers. Matches are used once, but the container can be re-used for other things. Original Marbles brand or old Boy Scout brass match containers are available, if you search around. The new ones you buy today are poorly made copies and are not waterproof. The long UCO matches need a slightly longer container. NuMyth and Exotac make watertight aluminum containers. K&M, a highly respected ma-and-pa American Redoubt enterprise, makes military grade brass containers.

  • Energy and Warmth.

    If fire cannot be made, what else can give you energy or warm you up in a pinch, at least to prevent hypothermia? Plastic sheeting or reflective mylar sheet materials, such as a survival blanket or a bivy bag, are my first choice. Wrap up, sit down, and, if possible, light a candle inside this thermal environment. It is not luxurious, but you will keep fairly warm. Grocery store tea-lights work, but not as well or as long as the UCO beeswax tea lights.

    Tea bags can be sucked on to increase alertness. Salty bouillon cubes are my favorite quick revitalizer. If you can light a fuel cube and put water in your PSK tin to make real bouillon, this is well worth the extra effort. Chewable vitamin tablets or hard candy help as well. still produces the classic miniature ration bars with a 5-year shelf life. In extreme military survival, the patriotic Tootsie Roll has a special history of its own; it story is a A “must read”.

  • Lighting.

    Single AAA battery nano flashlights or coin-size lithium battery-powered keychain lights will fit in the PSK. Energizer makes a metal-cased high tech key chain light. The original is based in Blachly, Oregon, but beware of the fakes. Solar-powered keychain lights are absolute fakes, as well. Good lights require good batteries that need to be kept fresh. Before I entrust any light to my kit, I try it out for a while, keeping it in my pocket. Keep spare batteries in the kit. When packing your light into the PSK container, be sure nothing pushes against the on/off button.

  • Signaling.

    Everybody puts a signal mirror in their PSK. Even though anything shiny and reflective can be used for signaling, a dedicated mirror is more efficient. I've used both plastic and steel signal mirrors. If you are not familiar with signaling by sunlight, you can glue instructions on the back. An interesting credit card size steel signal mirror is available from American Redoubt located at

  • Water.

    The dangers of dehydration make this the biggest of the “four big survival concerns”. Water wisdom: the dictum, "don't eat unless you can drink," is still one of the golden rules of survival. This is why, in general, most survival kits contain little or no food, though hydration is essential. Water and food procurement possibilities do remain primary ends of the PSK. Various military and survival authorities dispute how long a human can go without food. But all agree that hydration is critical. In survival, never pass up a water source if you find one, collect some and purify it while moving. If you find something better later on, you can always discard the less desirable water.

    You need two water specific items: a container and a method of purification. Beware of fast-acting water purification tablets. The best tablets require several hours of waiting for full effect. They come wrapped and sealed in foil, and identified with a printed expiration date. Be sure to know how many you have on hand. You can add packets of powdered sports drink mix to mask the iodine or chlorine taste. Space is a primary issue according to PSK principles, but essential items such as water purification should have a primary place.

    A compact filter-straw water purifier is a good addition to the PSK, if there is sufficient room. Not all filter-straws are created equal. Beware of the cheap ones. Water is life. DownUnder Military-approved Sure Aqua Survival straw is imported by Colorado-based Good straws are more expensive, and slightly less compact, but they are proven. They cease to function when their time is up, so there is no guessing about how much water they will purify. The cheap ones reach their expiration limit and you ingest any combination of deadly bacteria. Water filters are very sensitive to what touches them, so be sure to practice at home. Recognize how one small error could spell disaster, since bacteria is only microscopically visible. Remember also that wet water filters will freeze in extreme cold conditions.

    Avoid the common cheaply-made zip-lock style water bags. Aqua-Pouch, Nasco WhirlPak, and Loksak make survival-specific water bags for the PSK. They have space-saving, zip-lock style closures. The PSK tin makes for an ideal vessel for boiling water. A coffee filter or tablet-size compressed survival towels, which (once unwrapped) become washcloth size or bigger, serve as pre-filters. EZ Towel, Ultimate Survival Technologies, Hoods Woods or Uni-Tissue make these. A compressed sponge made by Miracle Sponge at Dick, powderless nitrile surgical gloves or sterilized balloons can be used as makeshift water vessels.

  • Food gathering.

    This is another one of the four survival elements. Animal trapping and fishing seem like a time-consuming gamble, but certain situations allow for this with much-appreciated results. Better to have the means and not need it than to be completely without and suffer a missed opportunity. Keep some brass or stainless snare wire, which can be used for many things besides snares. Craft stores sell all kinds of fine gauge wire. Maybe add an ESEE AH-1 arrowhead, an impressive miniature spear.

    Gripping examples of real-life extreme survival food gathering are found in one famous WWII story of the Norwegian commandos "Assault in Norway." BBC sponsored a re-enactment led by survival celebrity Ray Mear, with many failures. See The Real Heroes of Telemark. Hunting for food in a survival situation can be very trying. Practice first. Learn how to skin and cook unusual and less desirable animals you might trap, which would normally not very appetizing. Declassified military instruction film demonstrates these skills.

    Fishing obviously presumes being near natural bodies of water or canals. Be sure your mini kit is what catches the local fish-- the bait they like, right size hooks, and appropriate line. Braided filament such as Spider Wire has many uses besides fishing, whereas monofilament degrades quickly. Soft tree bark, bits of wine bottle cork and foam ear plugs will float for makeshift bobbers. Store your fishing kit as a sub-kit in something like an Altoid small tin. Smaller slide-top tins are available on-line at and others under the search : small metal tins.

  • Bandana.

    SurvivalMetrics.comoffers a head bandana with established survival instructions printed on it. My choice is a piece of cloth from fabric stores where good materials like silk, wool, linen, can be found by the yard, in bright or subdued colors of your choice. Any bandana should be sized so as to double as a cravat-scarf for a first aid sling. The bandana also serves as an effective pre-filter for water collection.

  • Shelter.

    A painter's clear plastic drop cloth is light and compact. You can get them in various mil-thicknesses and dimensions. Ultra light is less re-usable. Close up your shelter with this and light a fire out front, if it is feasible. This mini-greenhouse keeps you warmer than in an open lean-to style configuration. If you are in a natural duff-debris shelter, put the painter's drop-cloth down as a water barrier, either on the ground or overhead as a cover, adding more debris for insulation. This is much better than a mylar blanket, which should be saved and used around you as a personal wrap.

    If you pack a larger-size PSK and include a tarp, pre-tie cordage to corners and most often used tie-offs in between corners. The tarp should thus be ready to deploy quickly. Space blankets, plastic sheets, and trashcan liners and ponchos that lack grommets can easily be used as tarps as shown at.

  • The SPACE Blanket.

    This is the iconic survival item. Though many knock-offs exist, still makes the original Mylar blanket. Blaze orange or O.D. green are available on one side, if visibility is wanted or unwanted. Hypothermia is overcome by wrapping yourself in the blanket to create a thermal barrier. Add a metal encased tea candle to heat up the inside. An excellent instruction on the space blanket is available. U.K.-based Blizzard has a full range of space blanket configurations. They are widely available at U.S. suppliers. They make the mylar ponchos and vests that fold up for a compact PSK, too.

  • Cordage.

    Pre-cut single or double shoelace lengths of cordage. Then make quick-release braided chains. Coiling will knot up when you try to unravel it in a hurry. 550 military-invented paracord is touted as the best for a PSK. The inner strands can be used for filament or other low-strength applications. Paracord bracelets deploy easily, yielding about 8 to 12 feet. I carry my cordage outside of my PSK. Better to keep some extra around your neck or waist, or wrap it around the PSK so as to slide it off quickly. Despite all the praise for 550 cord, there are other PSK-specific options. makes the compact 3/32" cord. Nylon twisted or braided masonry line, bankline, decoy line, or 65-pound spider wire braided fishing line will all easily do the job, as well as 550 cord, where strength is less important. The 550 paracord does remain a backbone of any PSK, whatever length you choose, but you will never regret additional smaller cordage.

  • Carabiners.

    Stay away from the brightly colored toys, key chain, and water bottle ornaments. They are dangerous when any trust is placed in their effectiveness. Get the real thing, so it can be truly put to use, if the need arises. I wouldn't keep any carabiners inside the PSK; instead, attach them on the outside of the carrying case. If things need to be clipped together, use a small Nite-Ize metal S-biner or any size split ring. They are more effective than toy carabiners.

  • Foil.

    Neatly-folded aluminum foil is a popular PSK item, but it is next to useless for repeated use. Aluminum foil melts and burns in a hot campfire. Heavy foil, used in backpacking stove windscreens, is better and obtainable through online suppliers. Fold up a small aluminum foil baking pan and you will have something for boiling water if you opt out of the metal PSK container.

  • The Survival Saw.

    The compact G.I.-issue wire saw is often a misnomer. Make sure it is the real item based on the original medical-use Gigli wire saw. Every manufacturer uses survival, military, and/or commando buzzwords. Knock-offs will quickly fail and even break in your hands with a little stressing. There are dubious claims that these saws will cut bolts and padlocks. There is also a pocket chainsaw, utilizing field-made handles, that works fairly well. Tests prove that all survival saws are fragile, and their proven use varies. See Survival Saws. What do you need to saw? If padlocks, bolts, and door hinges are barriers in an urban scenario, try a plan-B alternative passage first. The saw on the multi-tool or SAK should be enough for most woodland survival sawing purposes. The wire saw is compact and worth a chance, if it can be used properly. Practice with one; you may or may not like it. Quick-use firewood can be broken with hands and legs.

    Reality survival is intense and improvised. Minimalism is nearly always the right measure for survival. Your PSK should be enough. Elaborate tools made in the field seem to be less essential in a true survival situation. They appear to be more at home for extended primitive camping and bushcraft recreation.

  • The Fresnel magnifying lens.

    Will you have time, along with a cloudless sky, to sit and magnify sunlight to make a fire? Fire making is best covered by the ferro rod, matches and lighter. However, if you use reading glasses, the magnifier will help if your glasses are lost.

  • IFAK and PSK crossovers.

    The survival tin cannot always double as an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), but some minimal space-saving items are useful and welcome. A small assortment of Band-Aids, Steri-strips, a patch of Moleskin, Burn-Aid pads are thin and lay flat in the PSK. Anti-staph alcohol wipes such as Hibistat multi-task for a variety of clean-up needs. Betadine wipes and triple antibiotic singles take up little space as well. Single-dose pain relievers and both allergy and sting medicines fit inside any PSK. Add assorted sewing needles with eyelets big enough to take braided fishing line and dental floss. Not sure if I would ever suture myself, but at least for repair, the humble needle and thread saw the beginning of everything you are wearing. A few safety pins can be added to the repair items. Foil wrapped single-use scalpel blades are my preference over safety razor blades, they can be easily resharpened for non-medical repeat use. Scalpel handles can be re-sized for your kit. In wilderness survival scenarios, most people are justifiably worried about insect and snake bites.

Your PSK will be a diminutive giant of preparedness in your travels, wherever you need to go. Choose your components based on your personal situation. Upgrade and improve your collection of small but effective tools, use them, and be familiar with their multiple uses. Peace of mind will ensue, knowing that you have an effective real-life kit ready to support your plan of action. R.B.

Monday, January 27, 2014

In all the years I've been around knives, there are one or two things I've learned about what most people think about knives. It really depends on where you live, too. Many folks in the big cities see knives, including folding knives, as a weapon of last resort, and that isn't wrong thinking by any stretch of the imagination. Folks who live in rural areas think differently about knives. Instead of a weapon, most see a knife as a tool to use in dressing out game. Then we have Preppers, living in the city or in the country. They see a knife as a tool and a weapon. I'm in the Preppers corner on this one. First off, I see a knife as a tool and then a weapon. Very few people actually use a knife as a weapon for self-defense. Most use the knife as a tool quite often; in my case, I use one almost daily.

I like innovative knives, especially folding knives. I'm not a big fan of the slip-lock type of folders, where the blade does not lock up, because they can be dangerous when used as a heavy duty tool. The blade can close on your fingers. I, also, don't especially like folders with a nail-pull notch to get the knife blade out. I prefer some kind of thumb stud or disc opening device because it's quicker and easier than the nail-pull method.

So, I'll introduce the SOG Knives folding knife into this discussion. There are quite a few characteristics that I like about the Trident folder. (SOG also makes a Trident fixed blade knife, too.) The first thing one notices on the Trident Desert Camo folder is, well, the desert camo pattern on the glass reinforced Nylon handle scales. The desert camo pattern is digital in design, which is quite eye-catching, to say the least. The blade is desert sand in color, and my sample came with a partially serrated blade, which I find very useful as a tool, as opposed to a weapon. The serrations come in handy when cutting through cardboard boxes and box straps; serrations really grip and rip through that stuff.

The blade is 3 3/4 inches long and made out of AUS-8 stainless steel, and the design has a Bowie clip-type handle. The stainless steel blade, along with the coating, resists rust. One will also notice that there is a sliding button on the right side of the handle scales - this is a lock - that keeps the blade locked in the open position, preventing accidental closing of the blade on your fingers. There is what is called a bayonet pocket clip on the butt of the handle. This allows for deep pocket carry. Also, the clip is easily rotated to the other side of the handle for left-handed carry.

Blade hardness is just about perfect for a knife blade at a Rockwell hardness of 57-58. It will hold an edge a good long time and is easy to re-sharpen. I like AUS-8 stainless steel. It's a great compromise stainless and is very affordable compared to some of the "super stainless" knife blades. I like a bargain in a knife, and AUS-8 affords you a good blade steel at a great price. The Trident only weighs in at 3.80-ounces. It so light you will readily forget it is clipped inside your pants pocket.

Then, towards the ends of the handle, there is "that thing"-- a groove milled into the handle scales. It is actually an opening that allows you to easily slice through paracord or thin rope without opening the blade. The opening in the handle scales allows just enough of the blade to be exposed, so you can place a piece of cord in there and cut it. You might wonder what the big deal is about this. This was designed by a former US Navy SEAL, who saw Zodiac boats on rough water punctured by someone opening a knife to cut some paracord, causing the Zodiac to sink. With the groove in the handle, you can cut paracord without opening the blade. It's a nice idea, especially if you are around water much. It is also great for fishermen. It's one of those simple designs that make you wonder why you didn't think of it first.

The blade has ambidextrous thumb studs on it, for getting the blade deployed quickly and easily. However, this Trident folder has what is called S.A.T.-- SOG Assisted-opening Technology. It's an assisted opening folder. What SOG came up with is a VERY fast-opening device, one of the fastest assisted-opening folders I've run across. You only have to push on the thumb stud, and the blade comes right out of the handle scales in the blink of an eye. Some assisted-opening folders are rather slow or sluggish; that's not so with the S.A.T. mechanism. It's FAST!

There is a raised pattern on the handle scales that allow for a very firm grip on the Trident. They aren't too aggressive, nor too passive. They are just right. On the bottom of the handle scales are serrations milled into the scales, giving you a firm grip on the knife when the blade is opened.

If you don't like the digital desert camo pattern on the Trident folder, you can get one in all-black, tiger stripe camo and a few other camo colors. I personally like the digital desert camo pattern. The sand colored blade is actually a TiNi coating, which resists scratches.

For the better part of a month, my wife and I tested the Trident folder using it around my house for all kinds of cutting chores. My wife found the S.A.T. opening easy to use . Believe it or not, a lot of folks have a difficult time opening assisted-opening folders. These folks keep their thumb on the thumb studs a bit too long, which slows the blade down just enough that it won't fully open. You won't have that problem with the Trident folder.

I liked the Trident folder for several reasons. I like the S.A.T. technology for fast opening; I liked the clip point blade design; and I like the partially serrated blade, too. Now, the Trident is a great Every Day Carry (EDC) folder and makes a super Gent's folder for all kinds of everyday chores. Is the Trident a survival knife? Well, that depends on your definition of "survival". I wouldn't want to take the Trident into the woods as my one and only knife because it's not designed for heavy wilderness work. You can dress out game and accomplish some chores, but I'd prefer a heavier folder for that. SOG has many folders to pick from. As an EDC folder, the SOG Trident really shines. Folks will be amazed at how quickly the blade is deployed, and it will serve most of your work needs. It can also be used as a last-ditch self-defense weapon, too.

SOG advertises the Trident folder as being assembled in the USA with some parts made in Taiwan.

The SOG Trident retails for $114, and you can usually find it for less on the Internet if you shop around. It's a great knife at a great price, and it won't let you down as an EDC knife. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

There was a time, many years ago, when I collected high-end custom knives. I designed several of the knives myself, and had a couple custom knife makers produce them for me. I was a real sucker for a beautiful hand-made knife; I still am. However, I didn't want to use any of those beautifully crafted knives because, well, they were so beautiful. They were works of arts, and I didn't want to see them get all scratched up. Oh sure, I had some custom knives that were "working" knives. I wasn't afraid to put them to work or get the blades scratched or dirty. However, most of the knives in my collection were too darn pretty to use. (Using them would decrease the value of my knives.) Eventually, the entire collection was sold.

Since selling my handcrafted, fancy custom knives, I've designed a few more knives and have also received custom knives for articles over the years. I was mainly interested in a working man's knife, rather than an "art" knife. I want knives that I'm not afraid to use and abuse. Christopher Fischer of C.T. Fischer custom knives from Elk City, Idaho contacted me some months back and asked if I would be willing to test one of his knives for SurvivalBlog readers. He also asked for an article on my findings. I agreed. He had an in-stock fixed blade knife on-hand that he sent to me. Many custom knife makers are backlogged months and sometimes years on their orders. I just happened to luck out this time with the knife being immediately available for testing.

I received the 6-inch, full-tang, all-purpose camp knife with a brass guard for testing. A camp knife is one of those knives that can handle most chores around a camp, dressing game in the field, and preparations in the kitchen, as well as act as a weapon for self-defense. A camp knife should also have some type of guard to prevent your hand from sliding onto the blade and doing some serious damage to your fingers. The camp knife Fischer sent me came with a full brass guard. He also offers the same knife without a guard, if you want it that way.

Fischer usually works with CPM S30V stainless steel; high-carbon steels, such as O-1 tool steel, 1095, 1075 and 52100; and steel from large saw blades. While I really like CPM S30V stainless steel, like many stainless steels, it doesn't hold an edge as well as carbon-steel blades. I've always found carbon-steel blades easier to re-sharpen when compared to stainless blades. Now, don't get me wrong, most of the knives I own and use are made out of some type of stainless steel, which is a nice thing to have in the rainy and very wet Pacific Northwest, where we usually have about 8-months of rain per year. Even with the best care, stainless steel blades can rust and carbon steel blades are even worse. Carbon steel blades require extra care, but it's worth it.

The camp knife I received for this article is made out of 0-1 tool steel. Fischer sends all his stainless steel knife blades out for heat treating to Paul Bos, who (if you ask me) is "the" number one name in heat-treating of knife blades. Even though Bos no longer does the heat treating himself, the company still holds to his high standards. Fischer does his own air-hardening heat treatment himself on the non-stainless blades.

The blade on the camp knife sample I received is 6-inches long-- neither too long, nor too short for a camp knife. The thickness of the blade is 3/16th of an inch, which is just perfect for this type of knife. Its overall length is 11-inches from tip to butt, and the knife weighs 13-ounces. The handle material on my particular knife sample is made out of light- to medium-brown Dymondwood. It is a dyed, plastic impregnated laminate that is available in 50 colors and color combinations. It has a layered look to it , which is very attractive and almost bullet-proof. We're talking super-tough hand scales. However, you can get your knife's handle scales made out of Micarta or hardwoods. Fischer doesn't use bone or antler because they are fragile and shrink-up on a knife.

Another nice touch to all of the C.T. Fischer knives is that Fischer makes all his own sheathes, which are well-made and heavy duty. I've had some absolutely beautiful hand-made knives pass through my hands in the past with sheaths that looked terrible. The knives didn't fit in the sheaths properly. Not good! Fischer's sheath that came with my camp knife sample was made for the knife and will last a lifetime with little care.

Fischer will make you a sheath out of Kydex, if you request it. However, on this camp knife sample, it just made sense to my way of thinking to have a leather sheath. A Kydex sheath would detract from the look of the knife. You can also get a sheath made for horizontal carry as well as neck sheaths for his smaller knives. C.T. Fishcher will be happy to fill your special sheath requests.

Okay, I'll be honest, before being contacted by Fischer, I'd never heard of him or his knives. I haven't really been into custom knives in a number of years. So, I did some research on Fischer and his knives and found some big-name knife dealers are carrying and selling C.T. Fischer knives. These dealers' websites had some favorable comments from very satisfied customers. That's a good thing.

The blade on my camp knife sample has a soft satin finish on it. On a working knife, you don't want a shinny blade because it shows the scratches easily. The handle scales were also pinned on the knife, and there is a lanyard hole in the butt of the knife. The knife came shaving sharp, which is a nice thing. Some custom knife makers don't know how to put an edge on a blade.

Around my small homestead we always have an abundance of blackberry vines. No matter how much blackberry killer I spray on these vines, new ones pop up all the time. It's an on-going battle keeping these wicked vines in-check, and it gets very expensive having to buy the spray-on blackberry vine weed killer. So, I often get out there with a knife and whack away at those vines. It's a great media in which to test the sharpness of any knife. Many knives won't cleanly cut through thick blackberry vines, which are super tough. The C.T. Fischer camp knife had no problems taking the large vines down with one slice with the knife. I also used the camp knife in the kitchen, too, for all manner of cutting, including tomatoes, meat, and onions. The knife breezed through them all.

Now, one look at the Fischer knife will readily tell you that it is a working knife rather than a show piece. You could mount it on a stand and put it on your desk for everyone to admire. However, Fischer's knives are working knives, first and foremost, no doubt about it. Like the old Timex watch commercials, they can take a licking and keep on ticking. Okay, maybe not “tick”, but they can stand-up to just about anything you can throw at them and still do the job they were designed for. The camp knife had a nice balance just behind the brass guard. I like a knife that is slightly handle-heavy, especially if I'm doing any chopping.

I didn't bother with any knife-throwing tests, like I normally do with knives. I just couldn't bring myself to throw it and scratch the blade or handle scales. Yeah, there is still some of that "fancy" knife mentality left in me since I couldn't abuse this sample by throwing it.

All-in-all, I was impressed with the C.T. Fischer camp knife sample. It is a working man's knife, and one that deserves consideration as a wilderness or survival-type knife. If you don't like this particular pattern, check out the website. Fischer also makes a Classic-style Bowie with a 9-1/2 inch blade, as well as a 3-inch utility knife and everything in between. Now, for the good news, the 6-inch camp knife sample I received, with the tool steel blade, is only $360. In my book, for a custom, hand made knife, of this quality, it's a steal. I would have expected this knife to cost at least $500 or more. Now, once again, keep in mind, these are NOT show knives. They are designed as working knives, so the blades won't come all shinny. However, the knife sample I received was well-executed, well thought out, and priced "oh-so-right". Fischer doesn't often have knives in-stock, but check with him. If the knife pattern you want isn't in-stock, see how long it will be for him to make one just for you. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, January 20, 2014

Route Security by Chuck S. was a good article, but I would add a few things:
-          Newer cars will have daylight running lights and some basic tools may be needed to disable them for real covert night travel.
-          If you can afford them, and practice using them, NVGs are great for covert night travel.
-          Relying on Fuel en route is a gamble. Ideally, carry the fuel you need to get to your destination. For that, you should have a fuel supply stored and rotated. Use proper storage containers and procedures for safety. Use fuel stabilizer to ensure freshness of fuel and protect your engine.
-          Have tools and experience siphoning gas from abandoned cars.
-          Plan to use up to double your normal fuel consumption in a car evacuation due to:
o   Detours to avoid road blocks and traffic
o   Engine running in idle in a traffic jam situation
o   Higher than normal vehicle weight due to supplies carried
o   Charity fuel donation to stranded strangers (exercising proper operational security)

-          Carry tools and equipment to clear obstacles from roads:
o   Good bolt cutters
o   Chain saw and tow chains
o   Broom for glass or nails removal
o   Shovel
o   Snow removal equipment or chains if appropriate to your environment

-          Add a battery jump-starter with air compressor to the tools list
-          Plan for a good balance of persons to vehicles. You don’t want to overload your vehicles and if you can, you should have redundancy in case a vehicle becomes disabled, however you do not want to stretch your gas supplies to the limit just to have vehicle redundancy. For example, a family with 3 drivers and 3 smaller kids may want to leave with 2 vehicles instead of squeezing into one.
-          If possible, travel in a group of vehicles (Convoy) to increase security and provide redundancy. Ensure communications that do not rely on the grid (CB, or even better – FRS/GMRS with privacy codes). Perform proper briefing to establish procedures and responses to various events.
-          When bugging out of an urban area, traffic gridlocks are your biggest enemy. LEAVE EARLY! Having vehicle, equipment and personnel ready to go will make all the difference. Any advanced signs or warnings, interpreted correctly, will give you an advantage over the panicked masses. 1 hour can be the difference between getting to a safe destination or spending the night inside your car with hungry, panicked masses all around you. While the grid is still up, use traffic and road status data sources such as online/mobile navigation software to identify problems on route. Assess your urban area's ability to evacuate on a large scale.
-          Do not rely on GPS – as mentioned in the article, paper maps are a required backup to any electronics that can be damaged or disabled.
-          Be able to leave your vehicles if needed and still survive and travel effectively. Packing your cars with supplies doesn’t mean that a bug-out bag or bug-out stroller is not needed. You should be able to leave your car, carrying or rolling supplies on foot, on a moment’s notice.
-          Do your best to camouflage your supplies. Towing an open trailer with a cornucopia of goodies such as water tanks, gas tanks and boxes of food just shouts “rob me”. Try to use closed trailers, tarp covers, or other more creative methods to disguise your supplies and eliminate yourself as a juicy target.
-          Many of us spend 1/3 of our lives at the office. Route planning, communications and supplies for travel from the office to your house are just as important as bugging out from your house to a bug out location. - H.P.

A recent article on Route Security by Chuck S. in your blog mentioned:

“Road Atlas / Maps:
Purchase a large road atlas and use wet erase or permanent markers for marking of primary and secondary routes using different colors.”

I have a problem with that statement. 
After a High School football game a family discovered their car had been broken into.  One of the items stolen was the car’s GPS.  When the family arrived home they discovered the house had been burglarized too.  It was theorized that the thieves pressed “Home” on the stolen GPS which lead them straight to the car owner’s house!  Instead of entering your home address in the GPS as “Home” I would recommend entering the local Police Department or in my case the small town three miles from my house.
Having a road atlas with your destination clearly marked could lead undesirables straight to you!  What I would suggest is ending your marked route at the town before your BOL or at least 20 miles before.  Then if your map is taken from you [or circumstances force you to abandon it], the marked location will take the thieves to where you are not. - Robin in Indiana

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dear Mr Rawles,
I would like to comment on the letter entitled, "How to Travel as a Prepper
When you are a Road Warrior."
I commend him for trying to be prepared when traveling, however I think he can easily be better prepared.
When I travel I carry the following in a backpack.
1) LifeStraw portable water filter. This is for emergency use only.
2) Bottle of Polar Pure water disinfectant. Polar Pure is based on Iodine Crystals.
Polar Pure never expires. It can purify up to 20,000 gallons of water. Note however, that you only want to use it for 3 weeks max continuously as your body does not like too much iodine at one time. I have
used Polar Pure on numerous wilderness trips and I understand it has been taken to Everest. I carry it with all the time, whether or not I am traveling.
3) Three coffee filters for partially filtering dirty water if needed.
4) One bottle of water
3) One MRE. Note: do not try to fly with an MRE pouch that has a heater in it. Remove the Heater. Note that the TSA might have an issue with the individual food packets. If so, then leave it with them.
4) One 12 oz package of high calorie food ration.
5) 100 feet of #550-cord (paracord)
6) One partial roll of black duct tape. (The duct tape can be used for wrapping your shoes in winter to partially protect them from walking in snow in wintertime.
7) Three folded heavy duty garbage bags (These can be used to sit on or sleep on wet ground. In a pinch they can be used for partial rain protection of your torso by cutting the right holes for arms and neck.
If you find  yourself in the position of needing to walk in deep snow for any distance or time, the plastic could be wrapped around your lower ankles and up to the knee and fastened in place with either duct tape
or paracord to make a temporary pair of gaiters.
8) One Pak-Lite LED flashlight mounted to a 9 Volt battery.
9) A Eton emergency wind up flashlight/solar powered radio
10) Portable handheld HAM Radio. If you are a licensed HAM, you can carry your portable radio. You also might want to carry the pocket guide for all nationwide repeaters.  If you are not a licensed HAM operator, become one. Obviously it must be powered off and I remove the antennae.
11) One folded plastic poncho for rain protection.
All of the above items are not heavy and do not consume a lot of space.
As they say, preparing is a journey. There are several items I would like to add that do not consume much space and
could prove to be useful.
1) Small handheld compact binoculars
2) Compass
Other items can be carried based upon the season. In winter I carry a balaclava in addition to my parka shell and gloves.
There are many good articles in Survival Blog about common items that can be used for self defense should the need arise. These include pens, rolled up magazines, briefcases and walking canes. My favorite is the fellow in Los Angeles that placed ballistic fiberglass into his aluminum briefcase!
I hope this helps some of the road warriors. - James S.

Thanks to S.S. for a thoughtful reminder that it is prudent to be prepared when traveling.  I, like S.S., am a road warrior, although my travel is much less frequent than his and the vast majority of my travel is by car.  I, too, keep a bugout bag in my trunk with things I would need should I find myself in a situation requiring me to abandon my vehicle and walk home, a trip that could easily exceed 300 miles.  Fortunately, as I am a resident of Kentucky, I have no problem also packing along a .22 caliber rifle or even sometimes a semi-auto 5.56mm rifle.

One aspect of travel that S.S. did not mention, and one on which I would like to add my thoughts, is staying in hotels.  Prior to my preparedness mindset, I would put the "Do Not Disturb" sign out for the entirety of my stay and if I ever needed fresh towels I would trade the dirty ones directly with the housekeeper.  Now, however, the first thing I do when I get into a room is to put the giveaway soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, coffee/tea packets and condiment packets into my luggage and then, when I return at the end of the day, new ones have magically appeared to take their place. 

If I happen to be staying at a hotel which I deem to have less than trustworthy housekeeping staff then I will still put out the "Do Not Disturb" sign but every day I approach a housekeeper in the hallway and ask for refills of the above items.  Then, when I return home, I put the hospitality items in my barter box.  The coffee, tea and hot chocolate packets go into a ziploc with a desiccant packet.

Some people might consider this less than honest as these items are intended for use during your stay but, considering how much hotels charge these days, I figure that the cost of the items is included in the price of the room and I do have a couple of guidelines to which I adhere.  I never ask for more than one of each item per day and I would never, ever take anything off the housekeeper's cart without first asking.

Who knows, six months into a TSHTF situation that little bottle of shampoo that most people leave behind might be worth a couple of rounds of ammo, a chicken or some other nice-to-have goodie from someone who hasn't showered in a month. - Ken, A Prepared Kentucky Paratrooper

Friday, January 17, 2014

Much has been written regarding bug-out bags, vehicle choice and maintenance, weaponry and retreat locations but the one issue missing is how you are going to get there. There are numerous issues to consider in selecting your primary and alternate routes to your bug-out location and hopefully the following will assist in your route selection and maintaining security en route.

Route selection can depend on numerous decision points such as fuel locations, traffic load, choke points and law enforcement roadblocks / checkpoints.  Do the highway entry / exit points already have gates on them to close them off during inclement weather? Later in the article these issues are addressed in more detail. One is the most important points to remember is to travel both the primary and alternate routes and become familiar with them. Pay particular attention to what is normal today and make notes to refer to when traveling when the going gets tough. Get to know the folks at the mom and pop convenience stores so they will recognize you when the going gets tough, a little conversation and smile cultivated today could go a long way in the future.

Keep in mind that you are probably the safest while the wheels are rolling as well as having an increased ability for evasive actions.

Primary Route:
This should be the quickest route between point A and B. However, it very well may not be the best most secure route. Is it traveling an interstate highway? If you are able to have enough lead time before the masses panic then you may be able to beat the rush of traffic that may use that route to escape the city. If you are looking at using a less traveled route such as a state highway or rural route, be sure to drive those and become familiar with them.
One of the inherent problems with interstate highway travel is that exits can be few and far between as well as the fact that they tend to run between larger cities and those could be where you might encounter the most problems. Also, most Americans have become accustomed to driving interstates and rarely get off those highways so they could become congested in short order. Of course, there is an advantage to having plenty of gas stations and maintenance facilities available in the event of mechanical problems.  

Alternate route(s):
Always have back-up route and be familiar with it. Traveling on less used state highways could afford one much more security but there would be a trade-off in available services. While these routes could take longer; they might offer a higher security level. Often on secondary roads there will normally more detours available to you such as county or farm roads that will allow you to bypass areas and still continue in your desired direction.

Detour around large cities:
Check your maps and investigate the routes around large cities, avoid them at all costs. It may take an extra hour to detour but could well save you countless hours in road jams and lessen your odds of confrontation.

Road Atlas / Maps:
Purchase a large road atlas and use wet erase or permanent markers for marking of primary and secondary routes using different colors. Get an atlas with large print so you can read it in low-light conditions or so that you don’t need to find your “readers” to be able to see it. Also, if you have a traveling companion, have them review the maps and notes often to stay informed of what is ahead of you.

Points to consider:

Concrete / Cable barriers:
Numerous interstate highways have concrete / cable barriers dividing the lanes of traffic. Once you are on these roads you are committed until the next exit or highway. Normally there are few “official use only” turn around locations along these types of barriers so it is very important to travel the route and make note of these turn around locations, you can also record the GPS coordinates. I prefer to make notes on map sheets and a route planner. The biggest problem that I see in traveling on routes with these type of barriers is that will be very difficult to reverse route as turning around could very well not be an option. Cable barriers (those 2 – 4 cables running in the center median) to prevent head-on collisions could possibly be defeated with and large set of bolt-cutters. One of my biggest concerns about highways with these type of barriers is that it would be very simple to get caught in your direction of travel and not be able to reverse direction in the event of an accident or roadblock.

Entry Gates:
One of the observations that I have made over the past few years in snow/ice prone areas is that a number of cities are installing gates at the entry ramps so that in the event of inclement weather they can close off highways that are closed due to bad road conditions. They will more than likely use those during other “times of uncertainty”.

Choke points:
Keep your situational awareness up at any choke point such as four-way intersections, exits and overpasses.

Fueling locations:
More than likely, at some point you will need to purchase fuel (if the grid is still up). Someone should always stay with the vehicle, this is not a time to mess around. Do not go shopping, get in and get out. If you are serious about not being tracked to your end location, do not use credit or debit cards as they can be easily tracked. Only take in a set amount of cash and get back out to the vehicle. If you pay for $40 in fuel and only pump $38 – forget about the change and get back on the road. Always keep your vehicle in view and whoever stays with the car needs to get out and maintain situational awareness. Another note, prior to getting out of your vehicle, take out whatever cash you need and put it in a pocket for the purchase. Never take out your wallet and allow others to see additional cash, or cards.  

Hills / High points:
If along your route there are hills and high points, stop before the crest and walk up and use binoculars to view the road ahead and look for anything unusual. 

Ability to divert / change route:
Keep in mind each time you pass a turn off to an alternate route there is a good chance of not being able to make that choice again. Basically, once you pass the point of no return you are committed.

Route security measures:
Stay aware of your surrounding while driving at all times! Try not to get bunched up in a lot of traffic, always keep plenty of distance between you and the car(s) in front of you to allow you plenty of time to react in the event of an accident or other event. Never let yourself get boxed in, you never know if those around you are partners in crime.

Have a prearranged cover story and ensure all vehicle passengers are on the same page. If law enforcement personnel feel anything strange about the driver or occupants they will try to question everyone separately and then compare notes to see if you all are relaying the same story. Rehearse the story often and be sure and add in personal details which should include a name and mention that they are aging or sick. Try to work the sympathy card and stress that time is of the essence.

Try to have something from the bug-out location to show “officials” that you have a reason to be going there. Rent a post office box in the nearest town and show receipt, have a utility receipt or better yet a copy of your deed (this would be a last resort as giving the actual location may be recorded) just something ease their curiosity and allow you to proceed.

Rural areas:
This issue could be a mixed bag, while rural folks tend to be friendlier and willing to help out a stranger, who knows what could happen if things start going south. Depending on the rural area that you are planning on traveling through, they could have their fair share of bad guys as well. One way to mitigate this would be to keep up on news from the area. Are there a lot of burglaries, dope busts and such? If so, might be best to avoid.

Items to have in your bug-out vehicle:

  • Compass / GPS
  • Fix-a-Flat
  • Spare fuel filter
  • Fuel dryer / antifreeze (in case of bad fuel or water in fuel)
  • Spare tire(s)
  • Serpentine belt
  • Coolant
  • Duct tape
  • Flat repair kit
  • Water (yes, I know you know that but it bears repeating)
  • Tools for normal road repairs
  • Neutral earth tone tarp or camo netting (in case you have to stop – to help hide vehicle)

Bug-out vehicle security measures:
Disclaimer: I’m not advocating violating traffic laws just giving you food for thought.  

  • Turn off inside dome light so that if you open the door in the dark without notifying everyone in the area that you getting out of the vehicle. If you can’t turn it off, cover with duct tape or pull the bulb out.
  • If you need to see inside the vehicle purchase a light that will plug into your power outlet and also try to find one with a red lens even better.
  • Push bar or complete grill guard and install fog or driving lights with easily accessible interior on/off switch. If you feel that you are in an area with security concerns switch off your headlights and drive with the fog/driving lights.
  • Figure out how to disable your brake light switch (normally) a spring loaded switch mounted in contact with the brake pedal. A simple wrap of electrical tape to hold the switch compressed will do the trick. Brake lights can be seen for miles and no reason to advertise.
  • If you have to stop for rest or repairs get at least a couple of hundred yards off the road in an out of sight location. Also, I would recommend that you don’t sleep in the vehicle get 25 – 50 yards away in a hide sight where you can watch the vehicle. Today’s vehicles are very quiet inside and you may not be able hear approaching footsteps or voices and it could be very easy for a couple of bad guys to trap you inside.
  • Keep your maintenance up to date on your vehicles, especially the tires.
  • Make sure that everyone traveling with you has a set of keys and keep a set hidden somewhere under the car just in case you get separated.

In summary, I hope that this article can help you determine the safest, most secure routes and has given you some things to consider in your route selection. Look at your routes as if you were someone with ill-intent watching for prey, don’t become a victim and most of all maintain your situational awareness at all times. God’s speed and may His blessings be with you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and remember spending many afternoons in the basement due to tornado warnings and watches. Several times a year, we saw homes across town destroyed by the tornados. Seeing homes destroyed up close as an eight year old made an impression. After our first winter blizzard, Mom started prepping and established a corner in the basement with our food stuffs, books, toys, radio, flashlight, water and a mattress for us to sleep on.
About two years ago, I gave up on living in the suburbs and moved 20 miles away in a rural area in the next county and bought a place with three acres. Since then, I have rekindled my prepping roots. This year we planted an orchard with 11 fruit trees, planted a 20 x 40 garden of heirloom vegetables. We also built a chicken coup and established a flock of 15 chickens with the neighbors.
I want to commend all of those people that are able to live on a remote retreat full time. Unfortunately, my career and family choices do not permit that at this point in my life. I live in the central Midwest and work in sales with a territory that now spans five contiguous states including where I live. Over the last 30 years, I have averaged more than one trip a week for the entire span. I am what most people would call a Road Warrior and have learned how to travel efficiently, and make it tolerable.
Over those 30 years I have had several close calls while traveling.  What I hope to share here is some of the hard lessons learned with a prepper insight.
One night, I was on the last plane into Raleigh, North Carolina during a freak blizzard. They closed the airport due to 6 inches of snow as we were landing. When the rental car bus arrived at the car rental lot, everyone ran to the closest cars for their cold dash to their hotels. As the bus pulled into the lot, I noticed three pickup trucks at the far end of the lot. I trudged through the snow and climbed into one of the trucks to find out it had four wheel drive. For the next two days, the entire city was paralyzed. Virtually no snow plows, shovels or salt were present in the city. My fellow travelers were stuck in the hotel trying to dig out their Ford Taurus rental cars with their bare hands and having to eat microwave popcorn for dinner. In the meantime, I drove from one end of town to the other and stopped at several stores and watched as crazed locals stripped the shelves bare in just a few hours. To this day, I still chuckle when a car rental agent asks if I would consider a truck as a rental instead of the usual corporate sedan.
The night of the first Gulf War invasion, I got stranded in Detroit due to a mechanical issue with a very late flight. They canceled the flight and rebooked us on a flight the next morning and offered us a hotel room and bus transportation. On this night, I had checked my luggage as I was headed home and tired. Since the luggage was checked, the FAA regulations did not permit the airlines to give our luggage back to us for the stay in the hotel. I found myself on a bus with nothing but my laptop bag and regrets.
Years later, I was driving across the turnpike in western New York during a winter storm. I pulled off around 11 PM to get gas and supplies because the storm was getting worse. I should have gotten a hotel room but convinced myself if I rushed, I could get ahead of the storm and get to my destination 50 miles away safely. I picked up several bottles of water, a sandwich and some granola bars while topping off the gas. Thirty minutes further down the turnpike, the traffic stopped and turned into a parking lot. The snow was nearly 8” deep with 30 mph winds blowing. Later, I would learn that the state police closed a ten mile stretch of the turnpike for safety. Unfortunately, they closed the ramps both on and OFF that section of the highway without letting any cars in between get off before they closed the gates. During the night, the snow increased to almost 18” deep and the winds blew hard all night with wind chills below zero. I turned off my car, pulled out the book from my bag and covered up with my heavy winter coat. As the hours passed, I ran the car for about 15 minutes every hour to keep some heat. I also checked to make sure the tailpipe was not blocked. I ate well and made the best of it. The older ladies in the car ahead of me did not have coats and somewhere around 2 AM took turns holding a blanket for each other as they relieved themselves outside. They tried to use the space between the parked cars to block the wind as they bared their backsides. It was almost noon the next day before the snow plows cleared the road enough that paramedics could reach the stranded cars. Many people were without food, water, adequate clothing and most importantly their medications. An hour later, the cars were slowly guided through the snow to the freshly cleared roadway and released, after being forced to stop at the toll gate and pay their fee.
Now when I travel, I always give thought to how I will get home in a SHTF scenario. September 11th  demonstrated how fast our travel infrastructure can come screaming to a halt. Thinking like a Prepper is a great start but you also have to act like a Prepper. At the first sign of a SHTF scenario, leave and head to your home, retreat or meet up location. If you wait for the sheeple to act, then you will be stuck in the mob scene with them. You need to get to the car rental counter, or airline desk before the masses. If you decide to drive, you need to get off the main arteries, before they are blocked by the unthinking and unprepared.
I cannot count the number of times I have had my travel changed due to large storms or other scenarios.

Move quickly, quietly without drawing attention. Use your assets like frequent flier points, or car rental status to get any seat available on the next flight out or a one way car rental. Getting into an argument about price is only going to slow things down and make things worse. Take the first available anything! Many times have I been at the counter and heard others being told that there were no more seats or cars available while I finalized my arrangements to get out of Dodge.
You need to prepare your luggage and travel appropriately. As a business professional, it is not advisable to walk into a Wall Street conference room with a full camo military issue pack and bugout gear. At the same time, a $1,000 suit with stylish shoes are not going to help you get home. You must strike a carefully planned balance.
I carry highway maps of all the states I travel in my bag, along with medications, flashlight, spare batteries and emergency phone charger. I have plans for all my major destinations for how I can get home by flying, driving, or some combination of unplanned travel. I know the main arteries as well as alternate routes to avoid congestion. Periodically I will even drive to distant cities instead of flying so I can familiarize myself with these alternate routes. Make sure you communicate your plans and emergency alternatives to your family as you start your travel home if possible. Tell them it might take hours or even days longer than normal to get there.
Here are some of the things I carry when I travel now:
• A small zipped bag with a week's supply of all my medications, vitamins, bandages and over the counter  medications for colds, headaches and fever.
• Water, always have at least one bottle of water
• Granola bars or other snacks that will hold you 4-6 hours until you can get to a good food source. I even carry a few single cup coffee and tea bags for those times when extra caffeine is needed.
• An emergency ID card or passport in case my wallet is lost or stolen
• A flashlight with spare batteries
• A spare battery, and charging cable for my cell phone
• Paper maps of all my travel areas
• A print out of important credit card, frequent flier and rental program account numbers
• A print out of contact information for local friends that will help me if I need it
• My laptop with charging cables and power supply
• Hard candy
• A handkerchief which can be used as an emergency bandage
• A book to read as I wait for my flights or other delays
• A strong and large computer backpack instead of a briefcase
When I travel with a suitcase, I make sure to include a pair of comfortable distance walking shoes with thick socks, along with weather appropriate coat and gloves. I also carry additional granola bars and medical supplies. It is important to note that if you check your luggage you have much more flexibility  on what you can bring with you when you fly. However, I almost never check my bags due to frequent flight changes and mostly short trips. FAA regulations require the passenger to be on the same flight as their luggage so checking bags, limits your ability to make last minute changes.
In the days before the advent of the TSA I always carried the legal limit for a folding knife along with a Leatherman. Today, I feel naked without these.
I wish I could carry a handgun when I travel, but several areas I frequent are very strict about prohibiting Concealed Carrying of Weapons. Checking weapons on airline flights is also a hassle that I cannot afford when I typically fly 100-125 times a year.
I always make sure to carry extra cash with me when I travel “out of town” where I am not in my own vehicle. More than one taxi driver has balked at credit card payment. In a SHTF scenario, I want to leave NOW and not haggle about payment. Typically I will carry between $300 and $500 cash, all in twenties or smaller when I travel.
There are times when I am able to travel in my own personal vehicle and not have to fly or use a rental car. In those cases, I am much better prepared for SHTF scenarios. I have a large diesel 4x4 truck in which I carry a large bugout bag with 5 days of food and survival supplies for two people. I also carry a comprehensive medical / trauma kit. The tool chest in the bed carries a variety of tools, shovels, axe, tow chains, emergency fuel jugs, fire extinguisher, tarps and door look pick tools. Stuffed under the back seat are two wool blankets, 12 liters of water and my emergency weapons. The truck also has a CB radio.
Future upgrades to my travel gear will include a triple band handheld ham radio wrapped in an EMP-protective foil bag with a spare battery. I am also starting discussions with two trusted friends about leaving a small cache of “get home” supplies with them in cities where I frequently travel.
In thirty years of being a road warrior, I have learned two key lessons. The first is that Schumer does Hit The Fan when you travel and when it does, only you will be looking out for you. The second lesson is that you always forget something on every trip. Most of the time it is something small like a pair of socks, a toothbrush or a sport coat. Make sure what you forget is not something important! Pack your own bag, and check the critical items every time before you leave.
Travel smart and safe. At the first sign of SHTF, leave your meeting or event quietly and head home before the masses make a mess of everything. You are no good to your family stuck in an airport or on a turnpike 500 miles away. Careful prepper planning and quick action can get you home safe.

Monday, January 13, 2014

I still recall the days when most folks owned and used some type of D-cell flashlights, that held 2 of the big D sized batteries. And, while they were better than walking around in the dark, they didn't throw a very bright light, nor was the light bright white - at best, they were yellow in color. And, to be sure, those old flashlight - that are still sold today - really used up the battery power in short order. I remember working as a cop, and using the Mag-Lite "police" flashlight, and the model I used (and I still own it) took 3 of the big D batteries, and it had a Krypton light bulb, which threw a whiter light than a regular bulb did. Still, it was lacking in many areas - especially size - it was big, and heavy.

Over the past few years, I've tested quite a few hi-tech flashlights, and continue to walk away amazed, at the small size of these flashlights, and the amount of light they put out, and the run-time of the batteries. One of the smallest lights I received recently for testing is the Maxxeon 330 Pocket Floodlight. Now, while this isn't exactly a flashlight, it is considered a penlight, but not just any old ordinary penlight. I've owned quite a few little penlights, that fit in a shirt or pants pocket, via a clip, but none lasted very long, they were cheaply made, and they didn't throw much light at all.

The Maxxeon 330 is quite a bit different than the run-of-the-mill penlights. First of all, it has 140 OTF (out the front) lumens, and it will temporarily blind a person if you point it at their eyes. Secondly, it takes three AAA batteries - many penlights take one or two AA batteries. Third, this thing is built like a tank, really tough. I also like the Realtree camo coating on the entire penlight - and it has a soft rubber coating and really allows you to keep a good grip on the light. And, we have a pocket clip, that can be slid up or down to adjust it to fit different pocket depths. The end cap is green and it glows in the dark, so this light is easy to find.

The light bulb inside of the Maxxeon 330 is a Cree XP-E, cool white, 3-watt bulb, and it is very bight, as already noted. The custom designed flood reflector creates a huge floodlight beam - no rings, no shadows, no hot spots. The lens is AR coated glass, and is easy to replace if broken - however it is fairly well protected in that, it is recessed back a little from the end of the penlight. The body of the 330 is T6 aluminum - strong stuff. Run time with 3 AAA alkaline batteries is 2 hours to half brightness, and 4 hours of useable light with typical intermittent use - impressive, to say the least.

Overall length of the Maxxeon 330 is 6 1/2 inches - just slightly longer than most pens and pencils and it only weighs 1 ounce - you will readily forget you're carrying it. It has a click on click off button, and a half-press momentary on. And, it comes complete with three AAA batteries, too.

I've been using the 330 for two months, in my backyard - when I let my dogs out for their final "business" run - and my backyard isn't nearly as big as my huge front yard is - still, it is about 50 feet across and 20 feet wide, whereas my front yard is 25 yards wide and about 200 feet long. My backyard is fenced-in, for a dog kennel. When I let the dogs out - and I have four German Shepherds - it is dark at night - can't see the dogs without a light source of some kind. The Maxxeon 330 completely lights up my backyard - just like a real floodlight does. Of course, it isn't super bright at the far end of my yard, still, I can easily see all my dogs, and my guest house that is next door. I can also see through the dense brush and trees behind my house, too.

I work on firearms all the time, either cleaning, repairing or doing "whatever" and I've found the 330 to be very useful for seeing inside of  guns - it helps my aging eyes see things they might have ordinarily missed. Quite frankly, this little penlight is a real blessing to me, when working on firearms.

The Maxxeon 330 comes with a one year warranty against manufacturers defects, and it retails for $43.95 - a bit spendy you say might say, for a "mere" penlight? Well, once you get a 330 in your hands, and see how bright it is, you'll want one...this is no ordinary penlight - this little penlight throws a floodlight of light, and does so for quite a distance. It easily lights up an entire room in my house, too. Be sure to check out the Maxxeon web site for full details and ordering information on the 330 - you'll be as impressed as I was, and I'm thinking about getting another one or two - for around the house and for the wife's purse, too. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, January 6, 2014

Good morning!
Yesterday I received an order for Israeli bandages, ordered direct [from Israel], from:

I placed the order on 12/6/13 and received it 1/3/13. Not bad considering it was in international order/shipment.

The bandages are well packaged, dated, vacuum sealed. I applied my own labels to them as these packages are in Hebrew and English, and would be a little hard to quickly decipher, particularly in a stressful situation. The prices are good and shipping was only $4 (see below).
I ordered the following:

4" Israeli Bandage with Pressure Bar
1    $5.79 USD    $5.79 USD

6" Israeli Bandage with Pressure Bar
1    $5.99 USD    $5.99 USD

Burnfree 4"x4" Burn Relief Dressing
2     $4.99 USD    $9 98 USD

Personal Green IDF Dressing
2    $2.99 USD    $5.9 8 USD

Personal Green IDF Dressing - Larger
2     $3 .99 USD    $7.98 USD

Subtotal:    $35.72 USD
Shipping:    $4.03 USD
Grand Total:   $39.75 USD

Thanks, E.B.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Fishing was born out of necessity for man to feed himself and his family. Over time it has evolved into a recreational pastime and moved away from a generational skill passed down from father to son. Food can so easily be acquired at your local convenience store that fishing has become a lost art form to most. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where we are lost, without food, or the world as we know it ends. It will be particularly important to know how to procure food for you and your family.

The following information is on Survival Fishing. This is not fishing with a rod and reel but rather minimal equipment to keep you alive. There are many ways to fish and information on this subject is everywhere, however the following is tried and true and has worked well for me over the past several years. Most information in this article is for beginners, but I guarantee even a seasoned fisherman will pick up something new.

Fishing Locations
Fish are almost everywhere but knowing where to look will greatly improve your chances of landing one. The first thing that you need to understand is that fish love structure. They will congregate in areas where they can be protected from predators, find food, and stay cool or warm depending on climate. Overhanging brush and downed trees in and around water are great places to begin your search for fish. In places where structure is not present try looking for changes in water depth like drop offs or slopes. Fish will congregate more on slopes than flat bottom because of its use as a highway. Fish can use this area to travel from deep to shallow water in search of food. When moving into an area where you suspect fish may be present make sure to stay quiet and out of sight as much as possible. Spooking a fish will ensure failure. Fish will also mass in areas that save energy. They will hide behind rocks or stay in river bends to protect themselves from current and fast water. Undercuts in river banks and entrances to feeder streams will also be a great places to fish. This may sound silly but put yourself in the fish’s situation. They are in their own survival state of mind. They will find the most convenient, food rich, energy saving area to live. If you take these things into consideration you will be on the right path to landing fish, this is however only half the battle, now you must actually catch the fish.

Fishing Kits
I would first like to address that I know this is what everyone wants: a new lightweight addition to add to their kit. My only disclaimer is that you should use the kit and adapt it to your needs and skill level before having to use it in a life or death situation. Having a kit without the knowledge to use it will certainly lead to your early departure from this earth. Kits are small and compact because carrying a fishing pole, even the travel kind will only take up space and add unneeded weight. It’s merely inconvenient and illogical to carry modern gear. As we all know, "Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain." I like to categorize my kit in a level 1 and level 2 tier. Contents of level 1 will carry over to 2 with their addition.

Tier 1 Emergency Pocket Sized Fishing Kit-This kit should be in your bug out bag or get home bag. It is for an emergency and will get you through a pinch until you can improve your situation. Items that are compact, multipurpose, and light are essential. Contents have the ability to be used in a variety of fishing situations with or without bait.

-Item Container X1 (Alum or Steel Case, such as an Altoids Can)
-Treble Hooks Size 1 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 1 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 2 X2
-Straight Shank Hooks Size 3 X2
-Wire Leader 40 pound X2
-Snap Swivels Assorted X6
-20 Pound Mono-fil Line X50 Feet (Wrap on Sewing Bobbin or Cardboard Cutout with Wings)
-60 Pound Mono-fil Line X50 Feet
-Small Stainless Steel Spoon X1 (With Weed Guard)
-Medium Spoon with Color X1 (Red and White Works Well)
-Large Stainless Steel Spoon X1 (With Weed Guard)
-Large Safety Pins X6 (Connect Them to Red or Yellow Fabric)
-Single Edge Razor Blade X1
-Large Saltwater Hook X1 (Based on biggest fish in your area)
-Square Styrofoam Block X2 (One Inch Long) (Used as Float)
-Jig-head with White Grub X2
-Fishing Knots Paper X1 (Basic Knot Printout or Drawn Diagram)

-The container can be used to cook your catch or boil small amounts of water. You can also shine the inside of the can to use as a signaling device.
-The Fabric can be used on a bare hook as bait if you have nothing else, color attracts fish.
-The fishing knots paper can double as dry tinder.
-Place a long strip of duct tape around the top and bottom seals of your case to keep contents from spilling and also to use the tape for other applications.
-Place your hooks in the Styrofoam for storage but use it as a homemade float during operation.

Tier 2 Traveling Fishing Kit -Ultra-light backpackers, Hikers, or Wilderness bug out bags should have this kit. This item is not just for emergencies but can be used on the go for a subsistence lifestyle or adventurer. This kit can be used to fish whenever and wherever. Everything that was included in the Tier 1 kit is included in this kit plus the following contents.

-Double Your Tier 1 Gear X1 (Double)
-Nalgene Bottle For Container X1
-Nail Clippers X1
-Power Bait Dough in Bait Can X1
-Bloodworm Fish bites X1 Pack
-Super Glue X2 (Set Knots or Repair Gear)
-Small Pocket Knife X1
-550 Cord X50 Feet
-Baby Wipes X1 Pack (Hygiene Purposes)
-Duct Tape X20 Feet (Wrap around your Nalgene)
-Screw in Circle Hook X3 (Can be used as eyelets on sticks to make expedient Rods)
-Mesh Laundry Bag X1 (Use for Net or Chum Bag)
-Black trash bags X2 (Thick Black Trash Bags)
-Signaling Whistle X1
-Signal Mirror X1
-Magnesium fire starter X1
-BIC Lighter X1
-Chap-stik X1
-Multi-Tool Leatherman or Gerber X1 (Uses too many to List)
-Snare Wire X15 Feet


-Line can be wrapped around the Nalgene bottle and thrown with the other hand to gain distance.
-550 cord innards can be tied together to make tough line, nets, or build fishing systems to set overnight.
-A Laundry Bag is also a great tool for food gathering or can be fashioned into an expedient backpack with 550 cord straps. This is not comfortable for heavy loads but to carry miscellaneous gear or found items it can keep your hands free.


Using bait to catch fish is much easier that artificial lure fishing. Using that last scrap of food might get you a bigger meal in the long run. Grubs and worms work well if you know where to look. Tree stumps, dead animals, overturned rocks, or digging small holes can all be easy ways to procure bait.

Tip: After catching your first fish check it’s insides to see what it has been eating, this will help you catch more fish. Save all the left-overs for bait as well.

How to Fish
Time is critical in a survival situation and most fishing takes patience. This means that you should use fishing in conjunction with other food gathering methods such as snaring, hunting, or gathering. Your goal is to save energy, getting cold, wet, or exhausting yourself may simply not be worth the calories you expend. Know when and when not to fish. Using your hand to reel in line or rolling your line around your Nalgene or Altoids container can work, but making your own rod by using your screw in circle hooks as eyelets can allow you to give more action and lifelike presentation to your bait. Tying your line on the end of a stick can achieve the same thing if you’re not going use the eyelets and will be cutting your line. The purpose of the eyelets is to allow line to pass through therefore not snapping your line in case of a large fish. It also places pressure at the top of the homemade rod over the fish to keep the pressure upward. When you feel the fish take the line set the hook by pulling up and applying constant pressure. Trying to pull your fish directly out of water will sometimes result in a snapped line or lost fish. Instead walk backwards landing the fish on the bank. It is hard for a fish to escape on land.

Fishing with bait The Easiest way to fish is to drop your bait in and wait for the bites, patience is key but if you don’t get any strikes within 10 minutes change depth or location.

If you have no bait almost anything can be made to attract fish. Color, Smell, and Movement all attract fish. If you have nothing else then the red or yellow fabric in your kit can be used on a hook by just moving it up and down until you get a strike.

The jig head and grub combo or attached bait is used by throwing line out and giving life like action while reeling in. Pop the Jig a few inches off the bottom while moving forward a few inches to work an area. Fish tend to go for fast moving retrieves in warm climates and slow retrieves in cold climates. Just like you or me fish become lethargic in the cold. This is not always the case but it is a good place to start. If you don’t get anything change it up and keep trying.

Set lines- Used barbed hooks so you don’t lose your fish. Tie the end of your line to a stable feature like a tree or root. Secure the other end with a rock or weight to set the line. Use several lines or one long line with multiple hooks but ensure you check it often. Hourly is a good idea, if left overnight most fish will escape.


Don't try to overpower a fish or set the hook with extreme force. These are common mistakes with novice fisherman. They get excited and try to overpower fish. Let the fish fatigue and work them to the bank by keeping constant pressure on the line. Setting the hook is a slight jerk and not a full body action. Going to hard may rip the hook right out of the fish’s mouth.

-I can’t say it enough, try your kit and catch fish; this is the only way to ensure you are prepared when you need it most.

Other Fishing Methods

Spear-A simple stick with an angled point to an edge (Not Center) will work but cutting barbs in two or more points attached with the 550 cord making a fish gaff is more effective. Fish Trap-Nothing more than stacked rocks or sticks placed vertically in the soil to form a wall in shallow streams or rivers. A box with a narrow opening is made with a wall going several inches inside the opening on both sides. Wide wings on the outside are made channeling fish into the small gap. Fish can get in but not out. Place pieces of bait inside or chum the water with your laundry bag. Net-You can make a gill net with your 550 cord but this is very time consuming and requires a lot of prior knowledge and practice. Instead you can use your laundry bag across a stream or river channel secured with two sticks on the edges. You can then move several hundred feet away and scare fish into your trap by hitting the water with a stick corralling them in. This works best in narrow areas were the fish have no other path but into the trap. Cleaning Fish

Cleaning fish for survival is a little bit different than your everyday fishing. You don’t want to waste any part of your fish. Your left over parts such as the scales, head, tail, and guts can all be used as chum or bait. Allow no part of your catch to go unused. Fish spoil very easily so if you are catching multiple fish it is advised to keep them alive using your 550 cord as a stringer until you are ready to clean them. (A Stringer is nothing more than cord going through the mouth and out the gill cover to keep the fish secured in water. Make sure to tie the end of the cord to a rock or stick spike.) Boot laces work well if you have no other cord. Try your best to clean your fish within an hour depending on your climate. You can wait longer in colder climates.
-Don’t clean your fish at your camp, move at least 150 meters away to keep your camp clean and also predators away
-To scale your fish use your knife with light pressure going from tail to gill holding the fish firmly. They will simply peel off.
-Your first cut should be made from the anus to the head, this should be a short incision and not deep enough to puncture any guts or innards.
-Pull out all the insides and save for later.
-If your fish is large enough to get a fillet than you can cut the head off but if not leave it on and cook as is.
-For larger fish you can run your knife from the spine to the belly going along the bones to get the largest fillet. -Save everything else for later and rinse your edible parts in clean water.

Cooking Your Fish
-After gutting small fish can be stuck on a stick and cooked as is. Make sure you are not placing the fish in the flames. Use the heat from the fire not the fire itself. A roasting stick can be placed in the ground so you can tend to camp while cooking. You can tell you fish is cooked when the skin peels off easily and the backbone separates from the meat.

Altoids Can Cooking-
I suggest your emergency fishing kit being contained in the can because it can be used as a mini pan to cook your chow. Making a platform out of two rocks or large logs is easy and can last for quite some time.

If you have the ability to boil fish than do so. It is an excellent way to keep all the nutrients of the fish. Using a soda can, canteen cup or some other type of container can get the job done.

We have gone through everything from catching to cooking your fish. After reading this I believe that even a novice with the right tools will be far better informed and able to keep themselves alive. These things are all my opinion and there is always room for improvement or customization. You should use this as a baseline and create your own Kit. Remember that this is just one skill to survive uncertain times. Knowledge is power, always learn more and test yourself and your kit often.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Who said prepping couldn’t be fun?   Granted, prepping is something that should be taken seriously, but in our journey to prepare for a possible eventual catastrophe we can enjoy the ride.  I think of it as setting up home, going camping and uniting the family all wrapped up in one. 

In my eagerness and urgent desire to see friends and family prepare for an oncoming disaster, either natural or manmade, I feel like I have frightened or overloaded them into inaction.  Discouraged by my lack of persuasion I was reminded of one of Aesop’s fables where the Sun and the Wind argued as to who was stronger.  During their passionate debate, the Sun saw a traveler walking down a road wearing his coat.  The Sun suggested that the one able to get him to remove his coat was indeed the strongest.  The Wind accepted the challenge and started blowing as hard as he could.   The stronger he blew, the tighter the man held on to his coat.  After the Wind did all he could, he gave up assured that nothing would get the man to remove his coat.  At last the Sun came out and spread his warmth over the traveler at which time he removed his coat settling the question of who was the strongest. 

In like manner, many of us eager preppers have distanced people from us through fear and have paralyzed them into doing nothing.  This should give us pause to reflect whether it is more important to be right or to get results.  If our love and care is greater than our need to be right, we need to put away the strength of the Wind and bring out the warmth of the Sun.  It would behoove us to limit conversations by merely drawing awareness to recent catastrophic news reports and offering bite-size solutions for averting potential calamities for their families.

When I was a child, I found a grove of pine trees near our home.  The limbs were full and low seemingly impenetrable, but for some reason I ventured in and found a tree-lined cathedral inside.  I was in awe!  In my childlike state I imagined it to be my home secure from all external danger.  I immediately went to work clearing the area of debris and setting up house.  I found pine boughs to use as a sweeper and used stumps as tables and chairs.  When satisfied with my work, I invited my friends to join me for imaginary tea parties as we enjoyed playing house all summer long. 

Just as the grove of trees seemed impenetrable so many years ago, preparing adequately for the myriad of catastrophic scenarios that could befall us seemed overwhelmingly impossible.  Once I embraced its eventuality, I found comfort in the shadow of its boughs through like-minded individuals sharing their knowledge in books, web sites and blogs.  I gained a sense of security through a cyber-family where all were welcome and useful information was shared.

In like manner, I always enjoyed camping.  Half the fun of camping was seeing how much I could pack in very little space.  It was almost like playing house with miniature objects.   As I got older, my camping skills became sharper, better…more creative and sometimes more expensive.  Camping became a game for me.  The object of the game was to provide as many comforts of home without taking much space and without compromising the outdoor experience.  

Prepping is much like camping, yet is far more encompassing which allows for more creativity and many more alternatives.  The explorations of these options expand the mind and unite individuals in a like cause.

I’m older now but the little girl in me is still alive and well.  I still like setting up home and camping in the woods, but now I have a husband to share my joys.  I am blessed that we have the same mindset concerning prepping.  I don’t need to convince him, nor does he have to convince me to invest money and time in preparing for potential calamities. 

The bond between us has grown through our prepping odyssey.  We compare notes and plan our next purchases.  We organize, arrange, design, and frame our goals as we continue to build our future together.  When we started our journey, in our eagerness to increase damage control, we started out thinking big.  But as we researched alternatives, we learned how to compact things in our modest home to maximize our limited resources.  

We don’t have the funds to set up a camp in Iowa with barbed wires and endless guns and ammunition; however, we can be somewhat comfortable in strained conditions.  Our goal is to remain strong in times of trouble so we can help others and offer them hope.  Though everyone’s objectives may be different, the important thing is to have attainable goals and take the necessary steps to reach them.

Sometimes I question whether we are doing enough or whether we’ll survive, but then I remember that our future is in God’s hands.  Eventually, we will all meet our creator.  Whether it is now or later, I’m having fun and life is good.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Back in the 1980s it seemed like every knife company was producing some sort of hollow handle "survival" knife, and the truth is, most were just junk - plain and simple. Oh sure, there were some good ones, however if you wanted a really good hollow handle survival knife, you had to go to one of the custom knife makers - and at that, there weren't that many really producing this type of knife. I remember being at an auction one time in Colorado Springs, Colorado - and there was all manner of stuff up for auction. There was one lot of the very cheapest, and poorly made hollow handle survival knives that were just junk. You could have purchased these knives any place in town for a couple bucks. When the bidding started on this lot of a dozen knives, a couple bidders just went crazy, and the winning bidder had purchased the knives for $20 each. My friend and I just stood there in shock - as did almost everyone else. You would have had a difficult task slicing warm butter with those knives, and the saw on the back of the blade - it wouldn't saw anything. To each his own. And, I'm glad the "Rambo" hollow handle survival knife craze has passed. You can easily pack all the survival gear that was in a hollow handle survival knife in a 35mm film container to put in your pocket, in a pouch built into a sheath, or in your pack.
Today, most Preppers tend to lean towards smaller fixed blade knives as their first choice for operating in the boonies. However, while a smaller 4 or 5 inch blade fixed blade knife can handle many chores, there's nothing like a bigger/longer blade for the hard tasks. Ever try chopping a small tree down with a smallish fixed blade knife? I didn't think so! How about breaking through bones on a big game animal? You need some heft behind your blade, and smaller blades won't get the job done!
I recently tested the Columbia River Knife & Tool "Redemption" survival knife, a design from the creative mind of custom knife maker and knife designer, Ken Onion. Onion is very well-known for his folding knife designs, but a lot of folks don't know about his fixed blade knife designs, and there are quite a few of them on the market being produced by various knife companies. Onion collaborated with CRKT to come up with one of the biggest and baddest fixed blade survival knives I've ever run across. And, if you've ever looked at any Onion-designed knives, you'll readily recognize the graceful flowing lines of the blade - all are a bit different from one another, but all have the same "Onion" design behind them.
The Redemption has a 9.50-inch long blade made out of 01 tool steel, that has a black powder coating on the entire blade - nice subdued look to the knife. The blade is recurved, and this actually extends the cutting edge over the overall length of the blade - in reality, you are getting more than 9.50-inches of cutting power. Blade thickness is .26-inches, so just a touch over a quarter inch in thickness. Overall length of the Redemption is 15-inches with the bulbous handle shape with finger grooves placed right where you need them. The handle material is G10 and this is super-tough stuff. At one time, only custom knife makers used G10 handle scales because the material was so expensive. The top front of the handle has what I like to call "friction" grooves, for sure thumb placement, giving you tremendous control and gripping power when using the blade in slashing and stabbing moves.
The 01 tool steel blade has a Rockwell hardness of 56-58 and that's about perfect for tool steel - you don't want it too hard, or it becomes brittle and hard to re-sharpen. And, 01 tool steel has been around as a blade material for a lot of years, and the only drawback is that it will rust if not properly cared for - thus the black powder coating on the blade to help protect it from the elements. For such a large blade, it only weighs 20.8 ounces - not too heavy, and not too light for the tasks you'll use it for. And, speaking of tasks, the Redemption can be used as a self-defense blade, as well as a mini-machete, and it can replace a hand axe, too - it can chop better than many small hand axes I've used over the years. And, in my neck of the woods, we have blackberries vines all over the place, and the Redemption sliced right through them without much effort and blackberry vines are quite tough.
Truth be told, I don't normally like a fixed blade knife for survival purposes, with a blade much more than 7 or 8 inches. However, the balance on the Redemption is such that the blade doesn't feel that big - although it is. And, I believe you can get a blade that is too long for self-defense use - however the Redemption seems to work when I put it through its paces slashing and stabbing it into stacked cardboard in my car port.  While I couldn't stab it the complete length of the blade into the stacked cardboard, I have no doubts at all, that this blade would easily penetrate its length into warm flesh and bone. There is also a lanyard hole, with a 550 paracord lanyard attached, a great thing to have and use.
The sheath that the Redemption comes in is worthy of mention, too. Not too many years ago, you would have paid $100 or more for this type of sheath from a custom sheath maker - I know from experience! The sheath is made out of high-strength Nylon, with a formed and fitted thermal plastic insert, so when you are putting the Redemption back into the sheath, there is no fear of the blade piercing the sheath - I've seen it happen numerous times on leather sheaths and unlined Nylon sheaths - not a good thing. There is also a leg strap on the sheath, for securing the knife so it doesn't flop around on your leg - and the sheath is easy on/off, too, so you don't have to remove gear to put it on your web belt. There is an additional paracord length of material on the bottom of the sheath, so you can further secure it to you leg - as in making a parachute jump - you don't want your gear flapping in the wind at 120 MPH, nor do you want to lose your gear in a jump. The knife is further secured in the sheath with a Nylon retaining strap with a firm one-way snap.
If you're in the market for a large fixed blade knife that can serve as not only a large camp knife, but one well-suited for self-defense as well as serving as a small hand axe, then be sure to check out the CRKT Redemption. I think you'll be surprised at how well it handles, for such a large blade. Full-retail is $300. However, like many CRKT products, you can find them discounted at many big box stores and on the Internet. And, don't forget, all CRKT knives come with a lifetime limited warranty, and I've used it once or twice, excellent service. The Redemption has all the quality of a hand-made custom knife, but without the high price tag.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hey, Jim:
I think we need some more collective thought on this. I've got more time in the air than most people--4,000+ hours as an Army helicopter pilot (where we wore a cleverly-stocked survival vest; alas, a lot of the contents would not pass TSA scrutiny), 2 million+ miles on Delta, and about that many more on defunct airlines (especially Eastern and TWA). Getting stuck somewhere could happen to me on a trip. Here's some of my thinking (and I still need some help):

It seems to me that anything important should be in the carry-on bag, not checked. Most frequent-flyers will avoid checking a bag, unless going on vacation with spouse/family. So, that says we need ideas and separate strategies for carry-on and checked bags.

I've thought a bit about what I might be able to do in a hijack situation. I am much more realistic about this now than when I was young, buff, and a bit more foolish. I have read about various strategies for sneaking illegal devices, substances, and gadgets through security, but the downside seems too severe for me, especially when one's livelihood depends on being able to fly (getting caught a time or two will earn a slot on the "no-fly" list). Here's at least a partial solution:

In the carry-on bag, include three rolls of coins--one each of Walking Liberty [silver] halves, pre-'65 [silver] quarters, and Mercury dimes. This is $25 face value of silver. At today's silver price and value (per, that's about $350-worth, if I did the math right. That should be enough for a domestic SHTF situation/stranding. If you think you need more, I would carry the gold coins in my wallet/purse. Also in the carry-on bag--along with your athletic shoes (if they're not on your feet)--will go a rolled up pair of tube socks. I think the combination of the Walkers and a tube sock could come in pretty handy, if needed (swing hard).

Beyond that, I have no idea. Space blanket? Disposable poncho? Water purification straw? Why don't we put this out for suggestions and ideas? Or, have you plowed this ground before and I missed it? - AAA (Another Army Aviator)

As someone who spent several years asking people if they packed their own bag, and did it contain any of the following items (while pointing at the dangerous goods poster).  I would like to mention that at my locale the matches, magnesium and entire fire group would have been removed from the bag, as would any complete MREs. (The MRE eater pack is a no-no, and knowing which ones have heaters was not something any of us were likely to know.)

I would recommend anyone, as you said, to check with The airlines policy, Government agency (FAA, TC, etc) and airport security. If any one of them says no, don't bring it. Fortunately this information is all usually on the web these days. - Dave W.

I would caution TR from North Carolina against packing flammable/combustible materials in checked baggage, no matter how it's packaged (especially matches). Not only is it against fed regs, it is dangerous to everyone on board. Believe me, as a commercial pilot I know those rules are there for safety reasons. You don't want to end up like ValueJet in 1996. Consult for a good list of what is permissible in both carry-on and checked luggage. If TR wants a fire starter, he could carry a lighter in his carry-on bag no problem. Safe travels!

That was a thought provoking article. I purposely left my last job due to the heavy travel requirements. However I too sought risk mitigation while traveling ... I carried a minimal amount of items with me so I never checked baggage, however since my trips were to the same locations time and again (including outside CONUS) ... I found locations where I could keep appropriate items necessary should I need to try to "manage" in case of emergency ... this sometimes involved like minded individuals ...sometimes it meant leaving a bag locked in the hotel porters closet (big tip and explanations that I didn't like continually hauling my hair curlers and curling irons on the airlines ... hotels I frequented didn't bat an eye at the frequent guest who wanted to leave a bag.)
Obviously doesn't work if you don't return often, and I always assumed that the bag might walk off ... I was always prepared to replenish/ replace.
Just some more food for thought.

Keep up the good work. - Debra, Somewhere in the Midwest


Dear Editor,
To T. R. in North Carolina and anyone else who flies frequently did you know that the airlines have provided you with weapons and a host of defensive equipment?

I worked on big jets as a line mechanic for many years Boeing 737s to 747s, DC10s, MD11s and some others.

Let’s start before you board the plane for when you get off, how does an oak walking cane with the end rounded and covered with a rubber tip sound. Take some martial arts training that will teach you how to use the cane as a weapon. Medical equipment isn’t forbidden on air planes and don’t count against your carry-on baggage. Oh the rounded tip well cover it with a rubber grip and no one will know it’s rounded and it will have more impact power than a flat tip and in snowy climates you can get pointed tips that flip up and down as needed for traction on ice and snow.

Now you are in the boarding area start your profiling of your fellow passengers and be aware of where the problems you have identified wind up especially if they are scattered to strategic parts of the cabin. Choke points are the bulkhead between first Class and Coach and if there are lavatories or Galleys in mid cabin as on large wide bodies and at the rear of the aircraft. I like to fly First Class and have an aisle seat. This way I can view the passengers as they board and size them up while sipping a Sprite.

When you board the aircraft do at least two things, take a look into the first class galley and view the food service carts and note how they are secured. They usually are held in place by to methods, one a large usually red lever turned down to hold them in place and a break mechanism in the center of the cart on the floor and some have handles to grab that must be rotated to move the cart these are usually the drink service carts  these are the best as they have sodas, ice and other items in them for minor very minor ballistic protection but it will be the best you can get but this also makes them heavy to be used as a battering ram against someone in the aisle and you can throw the cans or shake them up and then open them in the face of the bad people. This can cause confusion, minor eye blinding and a reaction to clean oneself so a distraction. The second thing is to ask the flight attendant for a seat belt extension. If you are thin just say you don’t want to feel trapped and like the extra room the extension give you, me I don’t have this problem. Why do I need a seat belt extension well I do need one but if you have one it makes things easier just extend the buckle to the max and now you have a “flail”. That buckle will hurt. Let’s say the flight attendant won’t give you an extension not to worry Boeing gave you one.

During the hubbub of boarding if you can before you sit down grab hold of your seat cushion and pull up, it’s held in place by Velcro strips. It is designed as an auxiliary flotation device. There are two elastic straps on the back to hold onto if you are in the water, correct, but slip your arm in it and now you have a small shield that can be used for blades up to about 3 inches and to block punches. And lo and behold underneath the seat cushion is where the seatbelts are fastened to the seat frame. By FAA requirements these must be cotter pinned but most of the time they are not. Just a snap holds them to the little clevis attached to the seat frame. They are quick and easy to be removed and now you have a flail on the end of about a 16 inch strap.

Now let’s look into the pouch on the seatback in front of you, there is a rather thick in-flight magazine in there, in fact every seatback has or should have one. Now what can you do with a magazine? Well not much but if you hold it by its spine (back) and throw it in a spinning motion the pages will fly open hopefully distracting and confusing your opponent and you hit them with the seatbelt buckle and then give a push with your seat cushion which is attached to your arm and do a leg sweep or trip your opponent somehow now they are on the cabin floor pretty much at your mercy and the mercy of the other passengers.

Another thing to look for is where are the oxygen bottles kept? They are steel bottles and are formidable weapons as are fire extinguishers. Discharge a chemical fire extinguisher at a person and it is very confusing and blinding. Also look for the first aid kit it is removable and can be thrown at a bad person.

Guns on a plane, Well unless you are a sky marshal so don’t try it but if the bad person has one remember the soda service cart if you can get to it and the rapid decompression of an airplane by a gun shot well this isn’t Hollywood you won’t squeeze through a bullet hole in the side of the plane or a window.

Door opening in flight well forget it. I was a mechanic and we did pressure checks I couldn’t open a door of a pressurized aircraft if my life depended on it and I was a big strong person then.

Other things to look for when you board is overhead dropdown panels. On most 757 Aircraft life rafts are located in the overhead in the aisle of first class two latches hold it up and a safety catch string keeps it from coming all the way down it’s easy the unhook and drop it all the way now you have another barrier.

Oh and don’t forget your cane.

While none of these are deadly it could even your chances in a sky jacking and after all in a sky jacking you have nothing to loose but everything to gain and if there are other passengers of similar mind set well no airplane should be flown into a skyscraper again. - OldAlaskan


I'd carry a few extra wool socks, and rolls of quarters or a large padlock. buying knives gets expensive- but putting the rolled quarters in the socks makes a useful slap implement. it's probably not lawful in most un-gun-friendly states but it's likely to be something that if you carry the change rolled won't get taken from you through security.  nothing is more useless then a man with out a knife (as I was taught as a kid)- but since humans generally can adapt with intelligence we can overcome most roadblocks. - Fitzy

JWR Replies: In addition to their use as an ersatz sap in a sturdy sock, a large padlock also makes a dandy "brass knuckle." Just hold the padlock in your fist with your middle finger through the steel loop of the lock. Especially if is not expected, the blows that you land while holding a padlock can be quite devastating. There is an advantage in not using one in a sock sap, which generally "telegraphs" your intent. Just be sure that you use a lock that is large enough, or you can strain or break a finger. Test fit a few locks at your local hardware store.

Also see my previous comments in SurvivalBlog on Kubotan-type striking weapons. Some of these--mostly felt tip pens--go through airport security with ease. One good currently-available product for this is the Sharpie Magnum Permanent Marker.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Your Bug Out bag, Go Bag, SHTF Bag, or whatever you call it contains similar items for each one of us. Some are kept at the door ready at a moment’s notice, some in the trunk of each vehicle all with the same purpose; Mitigation of Risk. As a project manager, Risk Management is a key component to successful project delivery, and one tool of risk mitigation is contingency resources. Understanding the risk and developing contingency to avoid, eliminate, adapt to or reduce the impact upon a project’s outcome. I say all this to share with you my recent experience of experimenting and adapting to build a Air Travelers Contingency Bag.
Over the last year my role as a project manager has changed with a promotion to a position that now directs and leads other project manager for our company throughout the most population concentration in the country, the East Coast. My primary responsibility is an area from North Carolina to Maine, but frequent travel to Atlanta and Denver. This is in stark contrast to my previous role which confined my travel to 180-200 miles of home or our retreat location. In an event situation, though difficult but not impossible, it was always possible to get to one of those locations. Since my main travel method was by vehicle packing and carrying a contingency bag with a full pack with significant supplies was always readily available in my truck. Since I have always traveled with my “security contingency bag” that included a means of self defense, but as of February 3rdmy world changed. The promotion was a mixed blessing, a promotion and larger salary but increased risk.
I have been working to build an Air Travel Contingency bag since that time and I thought I can’t be the only one that needs this information. I know I am not the only awake person that realizes the world in which we live that travels. So from a project manager’s mind set my thoughts and methodology I personally went through to arrive where I am today.
For all non-project managers, risk management included contingencies to overcome or adapt to a variable that may create a critical project failure, thus the name sake of my bag is a Contingency Bag. My first struggle was what can logistically be packed, not just from a space or load perspective but also legally to avoid TSA/Homeland Security scrutiny.
All projects with a begin with a mission in mind, and mine project mission is to travel in-complete the work-get home as quickly as possible to reduce my exposure to the risks associated with traveling in the I-95 Corridor (DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston). I eliminated planning for an EMP risk while airborne, since well let’s just say the landing will be a little rough. So I eliminate the thought of any carry-on bags and thus increase the size of luggage I can travel with. This allows has allowed me to enter and exit the aircraft quicker, though I still have to wait on other carry on passengers, but I also move quicker through busy airports such as JFK, Atlanta or Denver.
With the determination of checking my bag it allows consideration of risks that can be mitigated. I would suggest performing a risk matrix analysis, it helped me to determine how many contingencies I should plan for a event that has a low probability but high impact to those that are high probability but low impact. Some of the contingency planning included the distance from home or retreat and method of return or even if the return would even have a remote possibility of success. This reminded me of all the travelers on I-40 in One Second After. Each contingency should present valid solutions, whether that is walking from Boston to North Carolina, time of year, etc. or surviving in location long term. Not all contingencies will necessary have a high long term success rate, it may only present a solution that reduces the impact of the variable.
To avoid getting any deeper into risk management, I only presented it to you to show my methodology used to construct a contingency bag for traveling by air. I then decomposed my bag into categories, I will avoid long lists of specific items, they are numerous lists available and you will want to weigh and build your own bags according to your own risk matrix.
As you go through your categories be mindful of the size bag you have chosen. This is important since I assume you, like me would need room for business attire and a change(s) of clothes for your trip. I don’t pack trips in a full military duffle bag, nor do I want the attention. I use a standard suitcase, slightly bigger than a carry-on and I found a bag that when packed takes no more than 50% of the checked suitcase. Make sure it is neutral or black, no HI-VIS colors for the obvious reasons to remain inconspicuous. Also, be mindful you can’t take everything you would if the bag was packed for a bug-out from home scenario or one in which you can travel by car, this is for Air-travel. The categories give you some minimal resources, adjust for your personal situation.
Category 1-Water
        I include two bottles of 8oz water in my bag, one the weight is low, and it provides additional containers for future use. Since packing air is a waste of space either take filled bottles or fill them with something useful but dry. I use filled bottles. Purification tablets and a LifeStrawGo
        Matches dipped in paraffin, cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, magnesium starter, small pieces of fatwood stored in an empty Altoids can
Category 3-Food
        Three days MREs, instant oatmeal, power energy bars, chocolate bars, instant coffee.
Category 4-Medical
        Standard first aid kit, moleskin, k-Tabs, Fish Antibiotics, Pain relief, Combat Bleed Stop, tourniquet, syringe and a scalpel. Yes, the scalpel makes its way the checked bag security unlike knives. I also, carry two epi-pens and Benadryl since I am allergic to bee stings. I suggest packing these in a Med Kit since it seems that they get through inspections without much scrutiny. Items you pack may be specific again to your personal situation.
Category 5-Clothing
        In addition to your travel clothes which should include a sturdy pair of jeans, I pack extra socks, underwear, thermals, rain jacket, tactical pants and a shirt. As for boots, they are bulky and difficult to pack so when I can I wear them on the plane both way and store them in my rental car upon arrival. Those of you that don’t have that option realize some sacrifices may need to be made if you are traveling with footwear that will last if you need to evacuate by foot.
Category 6-Defense
        This was the most abrupt change. I the past I was able to travel freely in North Carolina and Virginia with a firearm for defense. This all ended leaving me feeling completely unable to defend myself. I first decided to include a knife in my bag thinking it would be overlooked since it was in a checked bag. Wrong! On three consecutive trips three knives were stolen or confiscated. So I quickly decided not to include a knife. Of course the paper work and logistics of declaring a firearm etc was not logistically possible, plus the States and Cities I work are not gun friendly to even their citizens. There are some products I have yet to try that may pass as innocent products but I am not going to list them here for numerous reasons. So for now I have decided that upon arriving at my destination the first stop is a Wal-Mart or Sporting Goods store and purchase a knife. I have padded self addressed envelopes for at the end of the trip I mail myself the knife home or return it to Wal-Mart unopened. Those that I have mailed home now total over 30, thought they will make a great barter item in the future. Bottom Line you will have to think creatively to provide your inherent right to self defense when traveling by air.
Category 7-Shelter
        Flat unwrapped 6x8 tarp, 100’ of Para-cord
Category 8- Cash/Gold and Silver
        Never, ever, pack cash or precious metals in a checked bag unless its Christmas time and you are giving the TSA agents a Christmas bonus! I carry these items on my person, be cautious however since gold and silver bullion shows as a distinctive black circle on TSA X-Ray scanners. I experimented and was pulled and ask about them. My computer bag physically checked. Use discretion when travel with PMs (precious metals not project managers).
Category 9- Communications
        I assumed the communication grid will be limited or down, cell connectivity will be limited similarly to 9-11. I have approached this category as if I was going on a hiking trip alone. I leave all destinations, arrival times, departures, hotel accommodations and phone numbers with my family and a friend at our retreat locations. I also let them know in case of an “event” my intended course of action. I include in my bag maps and a compass of the area I am traveling to mitigate the chance that GPS is down. Included in this category is a flashlight and extra batteries. I additionally discovered that “a friend” has a number a safe houses available to me that I now have access to in an event.
Category 10-Free Space
        Usually by this time there is none so I move into what is available at my hotel destination. Shelter for one, but towels and personal hygiene items are available in your room, as are blankets and some type of food stuff such as fruits, instant oatmeal and grits, etc, but if you do have free space after packing your Contingency Bag add things like a additional food, clothing etc. or personalize it if traveling with children, chances are you won’t have any room.
Is this the perfect solution to an Air Travel Contingency Bag, by no means, and your bag will become personalize to your unique Air Travel project as mine has over the last year.  But it is only meant to mitigate a risk just like any other Bug Out, SHTF Bag etc. Good luck in your travels.
 JWR Adds:
Be sure to check current airline regulations. These seem to change regularly, and they restrict some items which seem quite innocuous.

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. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

This article is mainly about improvising Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
I have been employed for over 36 years by an international coatings company. I have held several positions in different areas of our plant, including production, maintenance, and raw materials. I also have 35+ years in the field of Industrial Emergency Response. The last few years I have been an instructor for our Emergency Response Team (ERT). Some of the topics we deal with are firefighting, Haz-mat, Medical response, and rescue.

Participating with the Team has been both educational and enjoyable as we develop a closeness and brotherhood (and recently sisterhood).
I have been able to use some of these skills and talents in my everyday life, as well as in other interests that I have.
I was reviewing some information a few days ago for a presentation coming up in the Haz-mat area. Haz-mat basically means hazardous materials. The facility where I work uses approximately 250 different chemical compounds. My present position allows me to have direct contact with most of these either by sampling for analyst, or verification.
The information I was reviewing was decontamination during and/or after an emergency exposure.

It dawned on me that many people of the prepper mindset might find it useful as it closely resembles the decontamination ("decon") of bio, chemical, and radioactive fallout exposures.
Most of us, as preppers, do not have all of the fancy and expensive gear that professionals have available. But please keep in mind that even in industry we don’t always practice with the “real thing”. Instead of expensive haz-mat suits we usually make do we inexpensive substitutes. Also there are times when we do not have enough of the real thing. At these times we use the system outlined below.
I do not recommend using these substitutes except under dire emergencies. Please, please do not ever take unnecessary risks by exposing yourself to bio, chemical or radioactive hazards.
There may be times though that you must operate in these environments. If you do not possess the correct protective equipment then you may have to substitute. These substitutes are what I would like to address in this article.

At this point I would guess that most of us are on a budget in our prepping endeavors and are looking for bargain prices and ways to stretch our prepping dollar (Euro, peso, or whatever).
Whenever I am teaching I always take the time to tell my students, whether they are ERT members, Boy Scouts, adult Scout Leaders, or Appleseed students, to NEVER become a victim. Always stay alert as to what is going on around you. Be Aware!

The secret to staying safe in a hazardous environment is to stay alert. Do not take chances…ever. It only takes one time and its over, death awaits those who are careless.
Statistically most firefighters who are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty become victims while trying to rescue someone else. Many times it is while trying to rescue one of their own.
“That’s my friend down there!”, and so off we go to rescue our pal and fall victim to the same dangerous environment that affected our friend.

Most of the time that first victim is down for a reason… we probably can’t hold our breath long enough to perform a rescue. One way to eliminate some of the danger is have a second person in any hazardous situation, literally some one to have your back.
Anyway…be cautious. ‘Nuff said about that.

Back to basic and inexpensive equipment.
One of the most important items to have is a quality gas mask. It is almost impossible to improvise one of these. It really is a high priority item. These can be purchased commercially through Industrial outlets such as Grainger and Fastenal. They can be expensive, often costing in the hundreds. I have also seen mil-surp  masks at Army-Navy stores and gun shows, often for $40 or less. Please research these before you buy.

If you do buy the mil-surp masks please make sure that the rubber or silicone face piece is not dry rotted or cracked. There are different sizes and you must make sure that you correctly fit your face. Facial hair can also be a problem as it does not allow for a tight fit.
There are two schools of thought when donning the mask. Either can be used and are correct:

  1. Open the straps all the way with the web in normal position. Place your hand inside the web, with the web against the back of your hand. Lift the mask above your head and bring down. Using the hand inside the web to pull the web out and your other hand to pull the bottom of the mask out, the mask should slide over your head and face.
  2. Loosen the straps and pull the web over the face piece so that the web is inside out. Place and hold the mask against your face and with the other hand pull the web back over your head.

After donning the mask you must cinch-up the straps. On most masks there are 5 or 6 straps. I usually tighten the two nearest my temples first, followed by the lower two. I always tighten the top strap(s) last to avoid pulling hair.

The next step is to check the seal around your face. With the mask in place cover the exhaust valve with one hand. Exhale normally to verify that the mask is sealed. You should feel the mask pressurize. If it does not there may be a leak due to improper fit, facial hair or condition of the mask.
Next place one or both palms over the inlet(s). There may be one or two inlets depending on style/manufacturer. Breathe in normally. You should feel the mask shrink into your face.
You may need to try petroleum jelly on the seal in you cannot get it to quit leaking. This is not recommended as it may break down the rubber material in the mask.

A word or two about filter cartridge:. There are basically two different media that I have had the opportunity to use, activated charcoal (carbon) and HEPA.
The carbon filters are used with organic compounds such as solvents, monomers, and isocyanides. I would imagine that they would be effective against most gases.
The HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are used for solid particles in the air, including dust. This would be effective in the case of nuclear dust fallout.
Filter cartridges are available with either of these media. However, whenever I have a choice I will use both together. Some filter cartridges are made with both carbon and HEPA. There are also “add on” HEPA filters that attach over the intake on carbon filters. Please be aware when buying mil-surp masks that correct cartridges may not be available.
One other point before we proceed; gas mask type filters do NOT supply oxygen. In a low-oxygen environment you will need to supplement with oxygen and/or breathing air via a device such as SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) or SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus). Without supplied air you must leave the area immediately if you find yourself in a low-oxygen situation.

Most filter cartridges are good for about eight hours. You must changes filters immediately if you detect an odor or taste.
In an emergency situation you may find yourself needing a barrier suit. These are protective coveralls that are impervious to dangerous materials. They also will not allow radioactive fallout to reach your skin. However, they will not protect you from radiation. Fallout is most dangerous when inhaled or when it comes in direct contact with your skin, eyes, nose, or mouth.

The following is one of the least expensive ways to make a barrier suit:
 It is made from a two piece vinyl rain suit. You’ve seen them…bright yellow, usually with a hood. That’s what you need. I have found them online for $15-20 USD.
You also will need pull-on over boots and some kind of rubber (butyl, vinyl, etc.) gloves. In addition to all this you will need a roll of duct tape.
To do this properly you will need an assistant to help you dress.
Start by donning the pants/bibs. Pull the pants legs up and put on the boots. Pull the pants legs down, over the tops of the boots. Have your assistant tape the cuffs of the pants, with the duct tape, to the boots. You will want to give yourself plenty of slack in the pants so that you can move freely. Note: when taping seals be sure to fold under the last inch of the tape to itself, making a tab. This greatly helps when removing the tape from the protective suit.
Secondly you need to put on your face mask and check for leaks.
Thirdly, don the jacket. Pull the sleeves up and put on the gloves. Pull the sleeves down over the gloves. Have your assistant tape the jacket sleeves to the gloves with the sleeves held back enough to give you slack.
Next have your assistant pull the attached hood up and over your head up to the face piece. Pull and tie the drawstring snuggly enough to hold it on but not choke you.
The assistant should now tape the hood to the mask, making sure all skin is covered. Tape the front of the jacket closed so that the gap is covered.
Finally, tape the hem of the jacket to the pants and the front opening (where the snaps or zipper is) closed, again allowing for movement.
You should now be totally encapsulated and safe from most threats.
Please remember to leave the tape tab on each piece of tape to aid in removal.
If you find it necessary to change filters it is easier to have the assistant change them for you. However, if you are in a hazardous area your assistant must be protected also.

Which brings us to decon (decontamination). In a real emergency it is a good idea to decon in stages. The area that is contaminated is the hot or red zone. This is wherever the suit is needed to protect you.
Next is the warm or yellow zone. This is where the main decon occurs. Finally is the safe or green zone. As its name implies, it is safe without protection. These zones should be well marked so that you do not track in contaminants.
Now for the actual deconning. When you are done in the hot zone you need to communicate to your assistant that you are ready to enter decon.
A very inexpensive way to decon is to invest in three kiddie pools. You know the kind, cheap plastic about 5-6 feet in diameter and about a foot deep.
Place one pool just outside the hot zone in the warm zone. Place about six inches of water in it with a half cup of dishwashing detergent. Note: In a bio situation I would also use a disinfectant. Even liquid bleach would work.

The assistant, who should have on a minimum of a rain suit, face shield, boots and gloves, will use a long handled boot brush to scrub you down.
Next step into the second pool which should be located about one foot away from the first, again containing soapy water. Your assistant should wash you down again with a second brush.
The next step should be into the third pool placed one foot from the second. This will be half filled with clean water. Your assistant will pour this fresh water over you to remove the soap.
A tarp covered with newspaper or another absorbent should be placed next to the third pool. You will step out of the pool onto the newspaper.
Your assistant at this point will help you remove your protective clothing. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE ASSISTANT TO NOT CONTAMINATE YOU OR THEMSELVES IN THIS STEP.
Do you remember those tape tabs I mentioned twice? They come into play here. With clean gloves the assistant should remove the tape from around the mask. DO NOT REMOVE THE MASK.

Next remove the tape around the gloves, then down the front of the jacket and then around the hem of the jacket. He should gently assist you in removing the jacket by pulling it off from behind you, turning it inside out. It should be placed inside a large trash bag.
Now remove the tape from around the pants cuffs. By far the easiest way to remove the pants is for him to cut the pants down each side with a utility knife, being VERY careful to avoid cutting you.
The assistant can also slice the sides of the boots for you and help you remove them.
Your gloves are still on at this time to avoid contaminating your hands with the boots. They can be removed at this time if you have another pair to don.
You can now step into the cold zone and remove your mask. Your assistant will now pick up and dispose of all contaminated articles.
He now steps over to the warm/cold zone line. You will assist him in disrobing if needed.
The Protective gear that was in the hot zone, with the possible exception of the face mask, should not be used again, but disposed of. The mask must be totally decontaminated before using again.
Is this method as good as the PPE made specifically for the job? Of course not. It will protect you, however, in an emergency situation. Do not ever expose yourself unnecessarily. Remember: DO NOT BECOME A VICTIM.

If we look around us we will be able to find ways to improvise what is needed. Be safe and be ready.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My transportation Plan B for when the big one hits is your basic bicycle. Think about it. No fuel costs (you have to fuel yourself in any case), sturdy, dependable, minimal maintenance, lasts a long time, goes anywhere, and its healthy for you. Not only that, but when you get all those maniac drivers off the roads, it can even be a pleasure. Sure, I fantasize about being able to brew my own biofuels, or having enough solar panels to charge a small electric runabout, but the reality is a sturdy two wheeler sitting in my garden shed. If the electrical grid goes down for the long count, and the available fuel supplies are all used or hoarded, you can rely on your own two feet.
“Okay,” you say from your survivalist armchair next to the gun safe, “that’s fine for the young and fit, but what about us older, wiser, and perhaps wider folks? And how do we bug out with grandma too.?”

Let me tell you a secret. I turn 60 next month, I’ve been a grandfather for a number of years now, and I plan to splurge on a hybrid mountain bike for my birthday. Am I a fitness nut? Far from it. I’m packing an extra 30 pounds of meat and only got back on a bike last year after a several year hiatus. But as they say, “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” Sure, my hill climbing is not what it used to be. Thank G-d for the granny gear built into most bikes these days. The object is not speed, but to get there and back. I think my new (or used if I can find a good one) bike is a good investment; in my health in the short run, and in my future transportation needs in case of TEOTWAWKI.

Today’s mountain bikes are all-terrain wonders of person-powered technology. Maybe a little too much on the technology side, I plan to keep an eye out for a cheap, ten-speed beater bike to keep in the back of the shed as a spare. Today’s bike tires are tougher and last through all kinds of abuse; rims and frames too if you don’t go too much on the ultra-light side. You don’t really need a road any more, just a reasonable sort of goat path. With one of these babies a muddy track is a type of fun, not an obstacle.

Chances are that you have a bike or three in your garage already. Americans bought 12 million adult-sized bikes last year. It used to be that every kid had one. It would not take much to get it tuned up – or better yet—fix it up yourself and start learning the necessary survival / maintenance skills. Stash a few spare tires, brake and gear cables, brake pads and nuts and your transportation Plan B is ready.
From where I sit (for the past 10 years that has been in Jerusalem, Israel), the most likely threat to trigger the need for my survival plan is a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) courtesy of one of our many friendly neighbors. That means that a nuclear warhead is exploded many miles overhead and the burst of electro-magnetic energy disables the electrical power grid and anything that uses a computer chip, transistor, or just about any electrical controls. Most of the radiation blows off into space, the real damage is to the electronic infrastructure, and it would be devastating. As a good prepper, you should have read all about it by now. If not, stop reading about bikes and start reading about the EMP threat right now.

With the toothless agreement signed in Geneva this week that is supposed to curb Iran’s nuclear arms ambitions, that possibility just became even more probable. By easing worldwide sanctions in exchange for empty promises, Iran just bought six more months of development time on their ambitious nuclear program.

Iran and its rogue nuclear ally North Korea have openly discussed the effect on "The Great Satan" (us and you guys) of an EMP strike by even a single warhead. They make no secret of their ambition to overthrow the US and Europe. Israel is first on their target list. They’ve said so countless times. It’s time we started believing at least half of what they say.

I’ve been worried about the EMP threat for a number of years. My assumptions about what happens next differs quite a bit from most American post-EMP fiction like William Forstchen’s “One Second After.” In Israel’s case the shooting war starts almost immediately and there is nowhere to run. However, with most adult Israelis having military training and belonging to a reserve unit up to the age of 50, a citizen army mobilizes within hours. This provides an organizational structure and social cohesiveness undreamed of in the US. Thanks to having to rely on our own resources for so many years, we are net food exporters. Even though collective kibbutzim and semi-cooperative moshavim account for a small percentage of the population, people here are not as far from their rural roots, both literally and historically, as today’s average westerner. Enough about that, let’s get back to our bicycle transportation plan.

Basically, what are your transportation needs once the big one hits? Job one is to get from where you are to where you want to circle the wagons. If your plan is to get from your home to your rural retreat, then the bikes in the garage are there to help you. Your SUV won’t run no matter how much gas you have stored if the big one comes in the form of a [close proximity, high field strength] EMP. That is assuming your 4x4 was built after the mid-1970s and has electronic ignition and computerized fuel injection. If you have taken care of this problem beforehand, pat yourself on the back, but load a few bikes on top anyway. The gas won’t last forever.

Once you are one with your survival stash, does that mean you don’t have to go anywhere again for a long, long time? Maybe. But when you do, the bike is there for you. It works for trips over to the neighbors to visit and trade goodies. I give myself a half-day range of perhaps 20-30 miles, which is an awfully big circle of territory. In fact, with my bike I could get to anywhere in Israel (about the size of New Jersey) in about 3 or 4 days. However, it is not likely I would need to go that far.

Sure, the carrying capacity of a bike is limited. In my younger days I did some bike touring and could carry a self-sufficient camp around in a pair of pannier bags weighing about 25 pounds. Add a couple pounds a day of food for an extended range. Of course, I could do 60 – 120 miles a day back then. People my age still do, but they have to work up to it.

As an all-weather vehicle, the bike has some obvious limitations. I have ridden miles in the rain with little ill effect, but little pleasure. A good rain suit does wonders and should be part of your kit anyway. I have even ridden in snow upon occasion. Some people do that for fun. It takes a lot to stop a determined cyclist. Where I used to work in Denver we had a 50-something guy who biked 10 miles each way, rain, snow or shine with a very few exceptions. I would join him when the weather got better. He always got there.
People often talk about keeping your survival skills in shape. Perhaps you should think about adding a weekly bike ride and consider it part of a health workout as well. The benefits of good health, greater strength and endurance, and cardio-vascular fitness are worth it.

Now, how about bikes for transporting great grandma and the little tykes? There are plenty of kiddy carts and kid seats available. Mom and Dad can usually schlep the infants and toddlers; and older kids from about 6 or 7 up can ride along at the slower pace that dictates. Carrying the elderly and infirm on a bike, now that’s a challenge. But if the family chariot doesn’t work, what else are you going to do? In the worst case scenario a bike or two, or even a tandem bike can tow a small trailer. That is something you would need to test out well before the bug out date.
There are also sturdy utility bikes with reinforced carriers and geared low for hauling kids and groceries. Unfortunately, they are kind of pricey, but urban commuters and eco-freaks swear by them. I am also intrigued by the adult 3-wheelers that have come on the market in recent years. These offer stability, higher load capacities, and all-round utility. I’ve been thinking of one for my wife, who doesn’t feel as secure on a two-wheeler as in our courting days.

I haven’t even touched the possibility of electric bikes. If you had the PV power capacity to charge one, some of the new electric-assisted bikes they are building in the past few years offer an electronic boost. I tried one in a store in Colorado during my last trip to the old country. I felt bionic. It was one of those new-fangled models that supplies the power to the crankshaft. That means that you can use all the normal gearing, and the electric motor can give you an assist from 0% (turned off and pedal power only) to 100% electric power (coast forever, or at least about 20 miles or better) and anything in between. With the assist set at a power-saving 25%, a few turns of the pedals and I flew. I’ll put a two-wheeler one of these on my long-term wish list, say for my 70th birthday, and an electric 3-wheeler for the love of my life.

Speaking of bikes and electricity, your basic bike – set up on a stand so the rear wheel turns freely – is a good way to run a small alternator. You can scavenge a battery, alternator, and lamps out of one of the useless cars sitting about to make a very serviceable auxiliary lighting system that can be topped up every day or two by a session on the bike. These simple components should work even post EMP. The power generated by a cyclist is estimated to be about 1/4th horsepower (in my case, 1/4th of an old tired horse), enough to run a variety of household tasks such as charging batteries, pumping water. grinding grain, chopping silage, even turning a simple lathe.

So, in the world after TEOTWAWKI, if you see me pedaling by, please smile and wave back. Don’t shoot.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
My name is Matthew Gibbs. I read through your blog from time to time and find it very informative! I am also an avid reader of your books. They have taught me a lot and really got me thinking. Due to this eye opening thought process. I have managed to wake up several others to some of the things happening in the real world. I thank you for some of the recent changes in my life. (for the better)
Anyway, long story short. This evening when reading through your blog, I found a post you made regarding builders of custom products.

I run a small home business in western Nebraska called GBS Holsters. GBS Holsters produces high quality custom Kydex holsters, mag pouches, and knife sheaths. All products are made to order one at a time by hand. I take pride in producing the best possible gear for my customers. The time is taken to give the perfect fit and finish they need.
I also have a Facebook page. If you like what you see, and if it applies to the readers of your blog as you see it, please pass my contact info on.
Thank you for your time. - Matthew Gibbs


While I have not used any of their gear, I have seen and heard much good on this company from various trainers such as James Yeager & Cory & Erika. See: Original SOE Gear.

Regards, - Corey G.


JWR: offers Kydex holsters made to order. I just  bought one from these guys out of Texas, it's an excellent piece, I highly recommend them. - Ash


Hi Mr. Rawles,
I just saw your post on SurvivalBlog regarding custom gear and thought I'd chime in with this site for DIY tactical gear makers. The web site and forum dedicated to the DIY tactical gear maker crowd and frequently there are offers to do custom work for people. The forums at DIY Tactical are found here. Note that readers might have to scroll through the posts to find forum members who do custom work however at the bottom of the forum page there are listed sponsors who may do custom work.

Thanks for all you do! Happy Thanksgiving! - Jeff H.

The company 101 Holsters is great for kydex work. The company is veteran owned and operated. - J.J.T.


Hi CPT Rawles,
My wife and I were just doing our morning reading of SurvivalBlog this morning and came across the article titled "Letter Re: Source for Custom-Made Web Gear".  In it, your response was that if any readers do those certain types of custom work, to let you know and you will post contact info to connect us with customers.  Two things: First is that I am a disabled vet who does custom Kydex work, as well as makes custom outdoor gear, specifically high tech, four season, emergency shelters that work down to 0* F and set up within 2 minutes.  If anyone wants to contact me they may feel free to do so via email at The second issue is more important however, and is something I have been considering mentioning to you for the past couple of months.  

For the years that we have been reading and contributing to your blog, you have consistently emphasized two particular issue:  Vote with your feet and get moved to the Redoubt, and develop home-based business.  I agree wholeheartedly with both.  As we purchased property in northern (far northern ) Idaho last year, we are now working on step two, developing home-based (aka "cottage") business ideas due to the lack of job opportunities in the area, which is what lead to the kydex and gear manufacturing start-ups.  We are finding however that the most difficult thing about this is connecting to the people who want our products.  

I am convinced that a great many of the people who read your blog, especially the type who are even going so far as to uproot their live and seek relocation to the Redoubt, are also the type of folks, who both realize the importance of, as well as want to support local business for "Redoubters".  I know I would.  The problem is however that there is no centralized, easily accessible location for them to connect, at least not that I have been able to locate.  You have the perfect venue for creating a cottage industries or co-op type corner to be able to do this.  In your readership you certainly have the right combination of home based producers of prepper related products and services, and people with a need for those products and services, who I suspect, would prefer to buy not only American made, but made in the Redoubt as well, if they could only connect.  Why there are always reasons that can be found not to do something, I personally prefer to focus on solutions and benefits vs problems.  I'm not exactly sure what it would take to create some kind of "Redoubt Cottage Corner" or "Co-Op Corner" somewhere on your site, nor is this quick email intended to flesh out such an idea.  Instead, I was hoping to bring an idea to your attention for consideration.  It would be something that I sincerely believe would benefit your readership as a resource for both those of us needing things, as well as those of us providing things, in an economically difficult area.  In essence: Redoubters helping fellow Redoubters.  Supporting our own, if you will.  I'm sure that such an endeavor could also be established so as to benefit SurvivalBlog as well, after all that would only be reasonable right?  If such an idea is something you would consider supporting and give a place to get started, I think you would see something amazing happen, and be doing a real service to a lot of good folks. If not, perhaps you would consider polling your readership to see if there is interest in such idea, and provide a way to connect those of us interested in creating such an arrangement somewhere.  As always, we take your opinions very seriously and would be quite interested in hearing what you think about this. Best wishes to Avalanche Lily and the entire crew at the Rawles Ranch! Highest Regards, - Dan B.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mr. Rawles,

I was just informed by Valerie at TacticalTailor that due to high demand, their custom shop is not currently accepting additional work. Perhaps your readers know of someone providing a similar service (or that would like the launch one)?

Thank you, - D.D. in Colorado

JWR Replies: I'm sure that there are many others, but the first custome makers that comes to mind are Mystery Ranch for backpacks and The Vest Guy for magazine pouches. If any blog readers in the United States do custom work in nylon, leather, or Kydex, then please let me know and I will post contact info is that you can connect with customers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The United States Military tests its capabilities and preparedness by exercising its systems, soldiers and supply chains in war games. [These include field training exercises (FTXes), Command Post Exercises (CPXes), and Mobilization Exercises (MOBEXes), Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises (EDREs) and more.]  These war games are used to ensure that their personnel is trained and fit, that the hardware of every sort works as it was intended to work and that in times of duress their supply chain will provide the fighting men at the front what supplies they need in order to be victorious.  I have extended my preparations for what the future might hold by exercising my personal set of war games.

I have been preparing for surviving a variety of events for a little over a year. Living in a rural area in eastern Oklahoma we are in an area prone to tornados and wildfires.  Beyond natural disasters I am very concerned about the effects of geopolitical decisions our government has been making.  I have read numerous articles and books on what to accumulate, how to store what you collect, how to do it on a budget, what kinds of defensive arms and skills to accumulate etc. etc. etc.  I have used this information to formulate my own lists of needed supplies; food, shelter, hardware, knives, guns and so on.  I have broken it down into lists of those things absolutely essential, those things that would be great to have and those things that may not be essential to survival but that would make surviving more comfortable.  What I am about to share with you is as essential as anything on any of those lists!

If you are not mentally, physically and spiritually prepared to deal with survival situations all your supplies will only help you temporarily, if at all!  Sociologists have researched human behavior in disaster situations and have found that immediately after an event 75% are in a daze, 10% are even worse, crying and wailing, while only 15% start working on a solution to alleviate suffering and provide for human needs.  Not surprisingly they found that these 15% were also the ones that were trained and had practiced what to do and how to deal with survival issues (shelter-food-water).  In other words, they had participated in some form of war game prior to the event they were thrust into.  Preparation time is never wasted time.

My War Games consists of testing your personal readiness to deal with the physical and mental challenges we might face in the future.  I’m talking about testing your readiness to deal with off-grid living by regularly practicing those skills and preparing your body physically by wilderness backpacking.  Preparation time is never wasted time.  I’m talking about backpacking into wilderness areas as if you were “bugging out” and using the things you would use, both hardware things and skill things.  You will learn what things you can live without and therefore lightening your BOB and also you’ll learn what things you really need to have.  Just like when you started collecting your cache of prepping supplies you will learn slowly at first and grow in wisdom and ability, with time you will find out where your weaknesses are and also your strengths.  Backpacking as a recreation is not only a good war game to test your survival supplies and skills but you will be preparing physically for the challenges of post calamity survival, whether its days or weeks without power because FEMA is inept or even longer because of political, financial or petrol disaster on a nationwide or worldwide basis.  Surviving off grid will take skill, will take good preparation and will require a person to be healthy and fit.  I suggest that backpacking not only tests your ability and resources but also helps you continue to improve and prepare in all these areas.

Now this is an area of prepping that I have been working on for a lifetime, I just didn’t label it as such!  I teach backpacking and wilderness survival skills to Boy Scout Troops, Royal Rangers, VFW Halls, church groups and wherever people are interested in learning how to spend time safely in the outback.  A personal aside here, my goal is to reacquaint today’s youth with outdoors skills that sometimes have not been passed down from father to son as in the past.  My teaching is based on 40 years of outdoors experience, packing into remote areas on foot and horseback, sometimes to hunt and fish where others haven’t had the gumption to go; and other times just to get far enough away from civilization to test myself, hear from God and just think.

I divide wilderness skills into four categories; pre-trip planning, gear, skills and physical fitness.  I will cover each one specifically as to how it relates to survival preparedness.

Pre-trip planning:  Any trip to the wilderness requires planning, and planning means decisions and choices.  We have three basic needs, water, food and shelter.  Planning any trip, whether it’s recreational backpacking or planning to be ready to bug-out means evaluating where you will be going and making choices.  Is there water available?  In this day and age we can assume all water needs to be treated, learning to treat water on a backpacking trip will give you confidence in the case you might have to bug out and treat your water source.   Will you be able to carry 100% of the food you need or will you be able to supplement your supply by hunting and gathering.  Sure you can carry a weekends worth of food, but wouldn’t it be a good time to practice your hunting, snaring and gathering skills in case you have to be away from a grocery store for an extended period of time.  Is there firewood available where you’re going?  I own some pretty awesome lightweight stoves but in a long term situation you will probably run out of fuel so now is a good time to learn how to build a fire under any conditions, use it to cook and to heat a primitive shelter.

Gear-As I said earlier in the area of gear, backpacking will help you evaluate things that you can get along without, what gear provides more than one use (always a good thing) and what gear you absolutely have to bring, usually in duplicate.  Another value of backpacking is finding out if your choice of gear is dependable and durable.  If a necessary piece of gear breaks or fails to perform on a camp out it may mean discomfort or a problem until you get back home and can replace it.  Once you bug-out, if it fails, you can’t return it to the store for a replacement or refund!  You will also find out what gear needs to be duplicated.  I need reading glasses, so besides the ones in my pocket, needed for map reading and such,  I usually have two pair in my pack, one in the first aid kit.

Skills- This is the real crux of the matter!  You can read about how to build a shelter and where, you can read how to navigate with a compass, build a fire, cook with a fire, find your food et cetera. But the best education is practice.  By using your backpack and actually going into the wilderness you will be practicing survival skills and gaining confidence.  Training and confidence is what separated the 15% from the 85% in the scenarios that the sociologists studied.  Have you ever spent the night in your backyard with just a blanket and a canteen?  Most people never have.  Most people have no idea of what being alone at night anywhere is all about. Try it sometime,  it’s not as easy as it sounds!  Think about what the same night would be like if you were in the wilderness with only you and coyotes howling, or wild boar rooting around you, or someone looking for you that is not looking to “rescue” you.  How about building a fire?  Daylight, no wind, no rain, matches, -sure you can build a fire.  But what if you fell into a creek, its cold, you need a fire, it’s windy and raining? Now can you build a fire?  These are skills that need and can be practiced before you actually have to have them.  A soldier doesn’t learn how to acquire a target, identify it and squeeze the trigger the day he gets sent into battle, he learns the skills ahead of time and is tested in war games.  First Aid is another important skill-both to the weekend backpacker and also to the person trying to survive off grid.  It needs to be acquired ahead of time.  Learn how to bandage burns, how to control bleeding, take a CPR course, better yet take a complete First Aid course.  This skill will be a little harder to practice war game style but education and training will build confidence.  When the poop hits the ventilation system is not the best time to be learning essential skills.  It is not the best time to find out how far you can't walk with your bug-out bag, or how much weight you can't carry, and that brings me to my final category-physical fitness.

Physical Fitness-We live in a comfortable society, we have remote controls, we heat our houses by turning up the thermostat, we get a drink by turning the tap or reaching into the fridge for another bottle of purified, distilled water.  It hasn’t always been like this.  My grandfather heated a five bedroom house with wood, in northern Wisconsin, without a chain saw or log splitter!  He used a tractor driven 36” saw and a splitting maul.  He and my grandma had a large garden that they hoed by hand, no rototiller.  They were both physically fit because their lifestyle both demanded it and also contributed to it.  Any off grid lifestyle whether its short term because of natural disaster or long term TEOTWAWKI will demand that we be physically fit, and waiting until it happens to get fit is a recipe for disaster.  I’m 62 and still backpack on a regular basis with scouts and also a men’s ministry I’m a part of.  The boys (ages 12-16) often comment on my fitness.  Many times during a rest break on an outing I will forgo removing my pack or sitting down,  I’m fit, they’re not.  There are different types of fitness.  A weightlifter can seldom run a marathon,  a jogger usually won’t play the line in a football game.  In my opinion backpacking is a great way, probably the best way, to get the kind of fitness needed to survive off grid.  If you need to grab your BOB and go, all those miles jogging or lifting weights at the gym will help, but the best way to prepare the legs and back for your BOB is to carry your bag ahead of time, especially up and down hills not in the park or on a sidewalk.  Part of fitness is weight as proportioned to height. Too thin, no muscle is almost as bad as too fat.  Especially since many of today’s maladies are weight related.  Diabetes, High Blood pressure, even headaches can be weight related.  By getting physically fit now you may reduce or eliminate medications which will be at the very least, difficult to obtain off grid.  Essentially, the better shape you are in, the higher your level of fitness will translate into longer success in a survival situation and backpacking on a regular basis is a great way to get into survival shape. 

Wilderness backpacking will get you fit, get your skills refined, give you confidence in yourself and your equipment and the best part is that it can be done as a family, a couple, an individual or a group.  It doesn’t cost much (National Forests are open to free camping) and is healthy spiritually, mentally and physically.  So if you’re serious about survival-why wouldn’t you?  My intention in this article was not to get you trained, there are countless books and articles, whole shelves in most libraries, that can train you.  My intention was to show you why you want to get your skill level increased and your fitness improved.  Wilderness backpacking, with its accumulation of skills and physical challenges is an excellent test of your readiness for survival situations.

The military uses war games to test its readiness for battle.  Serious backpacking can be the war game equivalent that tests your readiness, hones your skills and improves your chances at survival.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pat Cascio's recent review of the Eberlestock Terminator backpack was a good read, but I would like to point out that their packs are made in Vietnam. Please remind your readers that companies such as Tactical Tailor and Kifaru are made in the USA and are Berry compliant (100% US-made.)

Thank you, - Quentin T.

Monday, November 11, 2013

When I was young - quite young - I had a serious thirst for adventure, and I was always undertaking something dangerous - many called it "stupid" or "foolhardy" as I recall. I was very independent (still am) and many also used the term "hard-headed" to describe me and some of my exploits. It's okay, I believe everyone should follow their heart and their dreams, when possible. Which leads me to my youngest daughter, who just got out of the US Army - where she served as a Combat Medic. Now, those who know me, especially from the past, know how hard-headed I was back in the day. However, my youngest daughter easily has me beat in the "hard-headed" department.
As I write this article, on Nov. 7, 2013, my youngest daughter is in New Zealand, and is undertaking a 2,000-mile trek across that country - on foot - all alone! She wants to experience life, and not just live it. Okay, I can understand that, I really can! But being a parent, one naturally worries about their children - no matter how old they are - and want them to be safe and protected - if anyone ever wonders why a father has so many gray hairs - like I do - look no further - our kids give us gray hairs! My youngest daughter has been planning this trek for about 5 months, and even though I was (still am) against it - especially by herself - I promised her I'd help get the best gear available for such an undertaking.
Much of the equipment and gear she purchased was very good, still it was (is?) meant for weekend camping in my humble opinion - not for an extended 4-6 months trek in the boonies of New Zealand. The pack she had, while a nice commercial one, simply wouldn't hold up for that kind of long-term use and abuse. I mentioned this to the nice folks at US Tactical Supply and they insisted that my daughter come in and pick out any backpack she wanted for her adventure. And, to be sure, US Tactical Supply only carries the best of the best when it comes to all the products they sell. After visiting the US Tactical Supply walk-in store, and checking out their backpacks, my daughter decided on one made by Eberlestock called the F4M Terminator backpack - go to that web site for a video of the features of this backpack. And, here is a link to the pack, that is sold at US Tactical Supply. Now, to be quite honest, I couldn't have picked a better backpack myself - I'm proud my daughter took the time to exam all the packs, for the best features, to help serve her needs for this trek. BTW, in New Zealand, they call what she is doing "tramping" around the country.
I was totally impressed with the F4M Terminator backpack when I checked it out at US Tactical Supply. However, I didn't get a chance to fully exam all the features of this pack, until we came home. To say I was totally blown away with all the features this pack offers, is putting in mildly. To start with, the pack is called dry earth in color - a very clay-like color that blends in no matter where you take it - it also comes in other colors, too.  And, I honestly lost count of the number of pockets this pack has, but if my public school math is correct, there are 12 different pockets for carrying your gear. Plus, what I really liked was that this pack has a top opening and front opening pocket - with heavy-duty zippers for getting to the main compartment - really sweet!
The carrying capacity of the F4M Terminator is 5,000 cubic inches, and the empty pack weighs in at a little over 8 pounds if our bathroom scale is correct. All loaded-up, with the gear my daughter will be carrying, the pack weight about 35-pounds - a bit much, however, she has it down to the absolute bare essentials she'll need on her trek - and she will be adding some freeze-dried foods - which will add a little bit more weight to the bag. The carrying straps/system is worth mentioning, too. There is a heavily padded lumbar support on the back of the pack, as well as several more padded areas, to help keep the load from cutting into your back. Also, the adjustment straps - there are several - allows you to carry the F4M Terminator higher or lower on your back - super cool - as well as being able to adjust the main shoulder straps for the size of your body - moving the straps inward or outward with Velcro adjustments, and my daughter spent a lot of time getting the pack just right - however, once out on the trail, more adjustment will probably be made to keep the pack just where she wants it on her back.
On each side of the Terminator, there is a long side pocket - one on each side - for carrying more gear. My daughter placed her walking sticks on one side and they fit nicely. There are several other pockets on the outside of the pack, the bottom pocket held her tent, sleeping bag (a light-weight one - wish she had gotten a heavier-duty one) and her inflatable mattress and inflatable pillow - they all fit in there like this pocket was made especially for them. Again, the pockets are secured by heavy-duty zippers so nothing will fall out.
The top of the pack deserves mention, as it is a small pack itself, that you can remove from the pack. My daughter is using it as a fanny pack, during her flight, for carrying her ID and other stuff she'll need. And, while in Auckland, New Zealand, for several days before her trek, she will use it as a purse of sorts. The pack can be fastened around your waist like a regular fanny pack, or used across the front of your body like a courier pack. And, in an emergency, if you had to bug out and run like the wind, and the F4M Terminator was too heavy and/or bulky to carry, you could place survival items in the removable top pack and run with just the gear you have in there.
The F4M Terminator is manufactured out of 1000 Denier Nylon - super heavy-duty material. All pockets on the pack have tensioning straps, for snugging down each pocket - if you've ever gone hiking or on a long range patrol, you know the importance of having your pack and everything in it, nice and tight, so nothing rattles around, and nothing moves around causing a hot spot on your body. There is a waist belt, and it can be removed if you don't need it - I suggest you always use the waist belt of a more secure fit - and there is a chest strap there if you need it - once again, I'd use it. All straps attaching the F4M Terminator to your body are nicely padded and thick - heavy-duty in all respects. On top of it all, the Terminator also comes with a rain cover - for nasty weather.
There is PALS webbing all over the outside of the Terminator, for attaching more pouches if you feel the need for carrying more gear. And, there is also PALS webbing on the inside of some of the pockets - for carrying even more gear. You can also add a hydration bladder to the pack. And, to top it off, you can purchase rifle scabbards if you desire to carrying rifles/shotguns in the Terminator. And, depending on the size of your rifle, if it's a folding stock model, you can actually fit the rifle inside the pack and no one would be the wiser that you were carrying a rifle.
I tested the Terminator for comfort myself, and found it to fit nicely, after a few pulls on the carrying straps to make it fit my body - large! My daughter also tested the pack, fully loaded, on her back, and the fit was just great for her. She was against getting another pack, she liked the one she had, but I explained the benefits of a military-grade backpack, over any commercial hiking backpack, and she is glad she visited US Tactical Supply with me and found this pack. I wanted my daughter to have the best of the best for this trek, and without a doubt, I think she has some great gear, and I have no worries that this pack will ever fail her. And, as I've mentioned before, about the nice folks at US Tactical Supply, they are great to do business with - they donated this pack to my daughter (no charge) for her trek - asking nothing in return - they just wanted her to have the best pack available. After checking out this pack, I wanted to let SurvivalBlog readers know about it. I've mentioned before, that some Preppers feel they need the biggest pack they can find - and then stuff it with everything they can - including the kitchen sink - only to discover, that they can't walk even a mile with those monster packs.
The Terminator isn't too big, nor is it too small - you can easily make this your BOB and never look back, knowing you have a pack that will last you a lifetime. And, just before my daughter left for New Zealand, US Tactical Supply got word from Eberlestock, that the New Zealand Defence Forces, adopted the Terminator backpack in an open competition. What's the odds, of my daughter picking a backpack that she will carry in New Zealand, that the New Zealand Defence Forces will be using?
As I've said many times, quality never comes cheap - you can buy all the junk you want - and you will be buying it over and over again. If you buy quality, you only have to buy it once. The F4M Terminator retails for $399 as it comes from US Tactical Supply - however, you can add rifle scabbards if you wish, and other smaller pouches to the pack, too. If you are looking for the best pack around, then save your money and get the Terminator - it will be money well-spent, and you wont' have to worry about this pack failing you. Then load the pack up with the gear you need - and just remember, you don't have to fill the pack completely - take what you need for bugging out purposes...
If I were looking at getting a new BOB, I would, without a doubt, save my money, and get the F4M Terminator and never give it a second thought - I was "that" impressed with this pack.

If SurvivalBlog readers are interested in following my daughter's trek, you can do so at her blog site. Of course we are all hoping she can make the 2,000-mile walk. But one never knows what may happen along the way, injuries and illnesses can stop a trek like this, as can severe weather - luckily, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Spring right now, and as I write this, it is Fall in the USA. However, I've been told that a person can experience all four seasons in one day on certain parts of New Zealand. So, I ask all SurvivalBlog readers to keep my little girl in your prayers, as she undertakes this adventure. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I started my journey much to the dismay of my wife and family, in December, 2007. Not ever having been in the military or anything closely resembling it. Without having a clue of what I was doing I headed off to good ol Houston Texas where my journey began at an old shopping mall with portions of it still active selling goods. This was the “processing” phase of me getting ready to deploy as a US DOD contractor to the war effort in Iraq. My life was about to take a very drastic turn and I jumped head long into it oblivious to the aftermath of things like PTSD and getting typhoid fever all of which I am sure I wasn’t told about.

The whole premise of taking this processing, if I had to guess was it being similar to the army where you get ready to deploy to a foreign land to defend freedom. Except for the boot camp and workouts and discipline which to me is the most important part. Basically the processing consists of two weeks of checking in eating meals breakfast lunch dinner which is very much like a large buffet and preplanned meetings and or classes all to prepare one for upcoming deployment to a foreign land and in my case a war zone!

One of my more prevalent memories of this processing step was the medical clearing portion, a bunch of medical tests done to determine my overall health and suitability to become a contractor. One who works in an austere environment in Iraq. This also brings us to the first topic of my post which is more along the lines of EDC and preparedness. Basically this 1 day of hell for me sums up the whole mantra of prepping survival and the reason that I sort of woke up one day and decided that I wasn’t going to be that guy the guy that is caught out in the rain the guy that is asking for assistance with a flat tire the guy the Joe who is always asking to dull my favorite pocket knife for lack of owning or carrying his own. (Usually it is sitting on his dresser all nice and shiny new where it most definitely shouldn’t be when he needs it.) This was also when I started looking at my world for what it really was and seeing things that TPTB are doing and sitting up and taking notice.

After doing a few days of classes and meetings I carry on through the first week of my DOD Contractor preparations and the beginning of medical screening. At the end of the second to third day we are told that we are not to eat anything past midnight and not drink any water the day of the medical screening due to needing to take our blood sugar on an empty stomach. Our day which starts at around 04:00 hours we are picked up by a bus and transported to what looks like an abandoned warehouse with a whole bunch of single wide trailers as offices clinics inside.  All and all it doesn’t seem bad I pass my physicals breath strength, hearing BMI most of which are very simple but as the day progresses I start to get hungry and wondering when I could eat. I asked the nurse who gave me my hernia test. The woman looked like a large-handed man. At any rate she told me I had to wait until I got my blood sugar drawn and that I would receive a sack lunch. Not knowing that I could skip around the list as I may I continued to go down my check off sheet one by one noticing that the  blood sugar was close to last. Well around 19:00 hours I completed my blood sugar test and got my sack lunch and headed to my last and final test which was blood pressure. Which by this time I was still hungry and it was getting late and cold so I failed my BP test miserably. No worries I can try again back at the mall and should be fine.

Not sure who came up with the list or the rhyme or reason behind the order the items were in but with all of the confusion it wouldn’t have mattered I could have hit that section and got to lunch no problem.

Few things wrong there to say the least. We ended up waiting around the warehouse until 22:00 and I ended up being huddled with a group of Kenyans who also hate the cold next to a space heater that didn’t put out much heat. In retrospect I would have packed a jacket even a light wind breaker to keep the chill off. Maybe some snacks even though I was told not to eat. And sought out someone in charge and communicated with them about expectations order of business and what not to get a feel for what was going on and how I was expected to complete the screening not having anything to eat nor drink any water…

Keep in mind this was to be the start of a six year journey that would be chock full of hills and valleys to traverse, especially not ever having experienced anything like this before in my life.
After 2 weeks I made it through the orientation/processing classes and meetings. I learned a lot about my own patience and the ugly side of the human person when you stick them in to a group of 800. Funny how men and women act when their wives and husbands are not around to see or find out about what they do. It is time to deploy to the foreign land and off to the war!
 My very first day in-theatre I get to my bunk where jet lag is fully taken hold and I am fast asleep when all of a sudden I hear a very large explosion and gravel and shrapnel are being flung against my containerized housing unit (CHU.) (That is a a really cool acronym for a cruddy trailer on blocks. The CHU rocked back and forth violently. At that moment I seriously questioned how bad do I need this job and am I going to die in this foreign land never seeing my loved ones again.  Forget that! What can I do after I hit the deck and wait for a few seconds? Well nobody happened to tell the new guy where the bunkers are in the maze of T-walls and CHUs.

Second lesson: Ask questions, base decisions on questions and Intel and communication with others that have knowledge of the situation or the task at hand. I can honestly say you can be as prepared as anyone can be but you can’t do much with it if you don’t have any Intel to go by or any viable way of making an informed decision. The contractor company that I worked for is loosely organized like the army in the regard that there are different sectors all with different skill sets relying on the other to complete tasks. If one doesn’t network with the other sectors then he will have a hard time completing the task at hand. This works out especially well for bartering I once bartered an AK-47 bayonet for a battery powered saw.

Carrying on through the six years of my deployment in the stink hole they call Iraq, I developed a sort of disdain for the inept and much disorganized procurement system due to the fact that it is extremely slow and for not wanting to use a whole myriad of colorful words “lame.”

Thus it brings me to the Third lesson: Think outside of the box I couldn’t rely on the procurement process to get what I needed if I tried to get what I needed usually it was wrong. If I had a nail I was missing a hammer. Had a socket no ratchet. Silicone gun no silicone so on and so forth. All told hustling with the locals and helping their economy is very effective and a socket works pretty will with a pair of vice grips if you don’t mind what it looks like when you are done. The socket tends to get a bit chewed up… Too many times I needed to create things fix things and didn’t have all that I needed to do so. Hence would be the conditions in TEOTWAWKI.  This has become and is the “ARMY” ways they have taken “adapt and overcome” to a whole new level its called half ass! At any rate, you are not going to be able to run down to that blue or orange home service store and grab what you need to finish a project. Parachute cord (aka 550 cord) works wonders sometimes when you need to replace a shoe lace and don’t have one, drying clothes outside guy wire for an antenna or rope for a US flag on a pole. I have seen it used by adding a bit of weight and making a jump rope for calisthenics.  My personal favorite is the boot laces as that is what is holding my boots on as we speak.

One or two 1,000-foot rolls of paracord in your cache box what’s a cache box, you say? Check out Yeager on YouTube and see his take on it, very informative.
I once saw a guy make an alcohol stove with a soda or beer can and some steel wool. Very cool idea if you don’t have a stove. When TEOTWAWKI comes, these types of things will be common place if not they should be.

Thinking outside of the status quo is essential for life and especially during a tactical or trying situation and to overcome an imminent threat. If one wakes up can see things in a clear light and think things through without bias anger or spite one can see the true reality of the situation and make an unbiased and educated decision on how to act.
In summary from my six years as a contractor I would say the three essentials tools are EDC look at it, organize it, practice it,  plan it, look at your today, your tomorrow your week your month, use it Remember always have a plan “B”.
You cannot use what you do not have. You cannot use it if its broken because it’s the first time you took it out deployed it and it failed when you did now you’re stuck.
Communication is key. Effective communication with your team good comms are essential. Don’t forget operational security (OPSEC.) Communication with your family your community, your peers and coworkers. Base your decisions in an educated fashion; If to bug out, how to bug out, when to bug out, where to bug out to, bug in? Have a plan and run it through all the while be fluid and flexible. Again Remember always have an escape plan…
As it was told to me in Iraq, it is an ever evolving ever fluid mission and one has to be flexible to accommodate the needs of the mission to take care of the needs of the team. Whatever your team consists of.

Break the paradigm! We live in what I like to call a throwaway world. With that being said how many things that we take for granted that would in a normal household be tossed out with the trash can be repurposed to something else useful? If you can find him look online for the guy that takes old firefighter turnout bunker gear and refashions it into pretty sweet gear in my opinion, duffle bags, purses and other pieces of kit.

How many people could actually say that they can grow a garden enough to sustain themselves with something to eat? I watched a guy who lives in a CHU (remember those?) in Iraq grow tomatoes squash and peas in the window of that CHU using it like a greenhouse, cut milk jugs, dirt, some seeds, water and a little love. I cut him the stakes to help the plants stay up right out of old pallet lumber. Boy that was a pretty sweet tasting salad!

In summary, a few take a ways from being deployed in Iraq for six years (boy I never thought I would be there that long!) Every Day Carry (EDC.) Live it, breathe it, be it. Build a kit, use it, break it, and perfect it. It’s better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

Communication you can’t problem solve if you have no idea what the problem even is. Develop a plan with your family and friends. Who, What, When, Where, Why. Each person in an effective team knows what to do before they need to do it.
Be flexible, adapt and overcome and please please don’t do it the Army way and half ass it. Think outside the box don’t be trapped in it! If something breaks fix it and move on. Try and build it stronger than it was. When it comes to gear it’s amazing what you can repurpose to something you need. Duct tape! Need I say more?

Oh one last thing that should go without saying, always carry a knife, a good quality fixed or folder. My father is an Army veteran from the Vietnam War and he said “the only thing I need to survive is a good pair of boots and a Ka-Bar.”

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard: “Do you have a knife?" Or, "Can I borrow your knife?” I’ve heard it all the way from the local national laborer to a Command Sergeant Major in the Army.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Here’s a wood splitter that I’ve been using for years.  The Woodwiz Splitter is easy to using and safe way of splitting wood and it’s made in the United States.
Respectfully, - Tim McC.


In my experience, over several decades of processing hardwoods for fuel in the lake country of mid-Ontario Canada, I found no maul which can out split the venerable "chopper 1".   With or without operational springs on the wedge face, these axes, usually marketed with a tough composite handle in Canada would be my candidate to recommend as the "American made splitting tool of choice"!  I notice on eBay there are several listings.

Another thought regarding a company whose products I use and respect is Norwood sawmills. ("Quality-built in the USA and Canada"). I own and use their steel handled cant hook, their ATV log skidding arch and their tree-felling jack. I work my own wood bush on my own.  The items I mention are intended to be appropriate to your readership, meet your criterion and provide value of service.

Additionally, I would be remiss not to mention the Crosscut Saw Company.  This is for the chainsaw adverse,  the purist, the "quiet minded", or the fuel deprived. They are located in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
Regards, - Lee of the North

Another great source for American made wood cutting tools is Snow & Nealley Company in Bangor, Maine. I’ve used one of their splitting mauls for many years. The quality is unparalleled. They know a few things about logging tools in Maine. Regards, - Granite Guy from Vermont

Thursday, October 31, 2013

CPT Rawles,
The author of the "Your Two Foot Bugout" article refers to through-hiking the Appalachian Trail as a simulation of a "shank's mare" bugout. I've had similar thoughts in the past and would add these recommendations: in a situation where the fecal matter has impacted the rotating blades of the oscillating air moving device, do as the Laytons did in Patriots, i.e. go heavy on bullets and light on food. As the Golden Horde descends on your trail, you'll want to defend whatever remains of your belongings and family.

Also consider that thru-hikers count on resupply on average of every 10 days. Your mileage may vary, but can you and your loved ones realistically handle more than 10 days worth of gear and food? Even the elites of the military rely on resupply from higher echelons, on average of 3 days.

Also consider travel distances. Appalachian Trail thru-hikers average 15 miles per day. Without resupply or pre-positioned caches, a foot bound bugout is limited to 150 miles. Is your retreat within that limit? Don't be one of those who "always relies on the kindness of strangers." Ken and Terry Layton were fictional characters driving a narrative with an author guiding the process. We have a divine Author who is guiding our story, but we prep anyway. - Woody

Monday, October 28, 2013

I need to review several products from the Nitecore company, as they're accumulating around my office and seem to be multiplying.

First, the Nitecore Intellicharger i4. We've been using this at the house for a year now, and it's excellent.

Unlike many battery chargers, this doesn't require them to be charged in pairs.  Singles of different amp hour ratings, and even different types, can all be charged at once.  It handles Ni-Cd, NiMH, Li-ion, and various types and sizes up to C.  If you have a battery that needs charged, stick it in and let the charger have at it.

Every cell has come out topped off to peak voltage and power, with no issues.  There's not much more need be said.

While D cells don't fit, I found I was able to use a metal shim to get one between the poles and charge it that way.  This is not recommended by the manufacturer, and I offer it as an emergency option only. 

MSRP is $30, and I highly recommend it.

Next is the SRT7 light, which I'm carrying in my car for business use.  960 lumens is a lot of light, and useful when setting up or unloading in the dark.  For tactical purposes, it's blindingly bright, uncomfortable even with eyelids closed.

The SRT7 is a rheostat controlled light that starts with a rescue strobe, dials through flashing blue/red LED setting for emergencies and police use, red, green and blue LEDs for signaling, maritime, aircraft or night illumination, to a white setting that is very white, the brightness dialing from a spark all the way up to full intensity, then to two different strobe speeds.  The tail cap is momentary or on/off, and the light remembers its last setting because the rheostat ring is a physical switch. 

With the color settings, I can foresee someone taping one to their craft in an emergency. 
Battery life and toughness are excellent.  It's a bit large for carry in business wear, but still compact enough for a tool or gun belt, or a box or console.  The large reflector increases beam throw and range over the smaller lights.

The light comes with a holster, lanyard, clip and spare switch and gasket assembly. 

The SRT7 retails at $129 and is often available cheaper.

Last is their MH25 Hunting Kit that comes with the light, a USB cable (the battery can be charged in the unit via USB), the Li-ion battery, two filters (red and green), a remote switch and rail mount for weapon mounting, holster, lanyard, clip, spare switch, all in a hardshell case that would also double as a small handgun case.  The MH25, in "turbo" mode, goes straight to 860 lumens, and lowers it after three minutes to conserve batteries.  This is for spotlighting game (where legal) or threats, or to disorient an opponent. The user defined settings involve loosening the head slightly, then pressing the tail switch to select mode.  I found this awkward and non-intuitive.  It will take practice to learn.  The available settings are dim, medium, bright, strobe and SOS.

The significant advantage on this model is the onboard USB charging, and I'd like to see them expand it to more models.

Despite the awkward controls, the unit is tough and well built.  If you're familiar with modern tactical lights and have a use for this, it's a good value.  If you are not familiar with modern tactical light controls, or need more flexibility, I would recommend against it, and suggest the SRT7 instead.

Retail for the MH25 kit is $144, for the light by itself, $99.

The company offers lights from 12 lumens to 3,500 lumens in a variety of compact sizes. Their accessories are well thought out.  Quality is top notch so far.  I highly recommend the Intellicharger for anyone with rechargeable batteries. It has both simplified the task and brought all batteries to peak performance.

All these, and most of my other light purchases, have been made through  Larry, the owner, is very knowledgeable of all brands, well-versed in the physics of illumination, and provides top notch customer service.  He can recommend lights for any function and purpose, and offers very competitive prices.

All products in this review were purchased.  I have no financial interest in the companies. - Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

For most of human history, people have traveled by foot or by beast.  People have walked great distances over trade routes, over Roman roads, caravan routes, the Appalachian Trail and the Bering Straits to name a few. Do not forget that your core bug out vehicle is your own two feet. So much emphasis in the prepper community is placed on fantasy vehicles, tricked out 4x4 SUVs, retrofitted military vehicles, campers, trailers, the list goes on. I call these fantasy vehicles not to insult those that have invested their future in them, but because for many people living paycheck to paycheck, a Winnebago, a 5th wheel or a conversion van is just not in the budget. If that 12 year old Subaru in the driveway is all paid off and it still runs fine, there is no reason to sell it, or go into crushing debt for that dream vehicle that will save you from Armageddon.
The one thing these bug out vehicles all have in common is that they must share the road with all of the other millions of wheeled vehicles in a SHTF scenario. Even the police in their slick new MRAPs won't be able to move through traffic. Once you are on the road, you will have to contend with police roadblocks, crashes caused by panicked drivers, abandoned vehicles that have run out of fuel and smash and grab looters, all of which are not conducive for you getting to your bug out location safely. Of course timing is everything, and everyone I have talked to is absolutely certain that it is they and a few others that will get the heads up and be on the road one or two steps ahead of the masses. The unpleasant fact of the matter is that all urban dwellers are the masses, we are the Golden Horde. If your vehicle fails you in your bug out, or obstacles or threats arise where you must abandon your vehicle, you have now joined the ranks of the refugee.  A refugee for the purposes of this piece is someone who is on foot and is fleeing a disaster, civil unrest or war and is completely desperate and unprepared for their journey.
A well planned non-mechanized bug out does not make you a refugee. If you have a plan, a route, provisions, equipment and training, your bug out can be more successful than those who try to drive their way out of the disaster. The clear advantages of traveling by foot are that you can truly go off road, you are silent, you present a small signature, you are always in a fighting position because both feet are always on the ground, and you can get to the ground quickly to find cover and concealment. Additionally, traveling by foot allows you to move in relative darkness at a pace as slow or as fast as you want without producing any light that might give away your position.
I strongly recommend that all preppers take a look at the map of their city with a new set of eyes. Imagine that all of the streets are clogged with traffic, so clogged that you can’t back out of your own driveway. This has happened to me on one occasion in midtown Phoenix during rush hour where a few accidents on major arterial streets and an interstate backed traffic right up into my relatively sleepy neighborhood. I ride a bicycle to the office, so this did not affect my commute very much because nobody was driving their cars on the sidewalks. Look at your maps and search for the unconventional passages out of town, like rivers, canals and their tow paths, bike paths, golf courses, city parks, railroad tracks. My plan involves a five mile walk on a canal tow path or taking a boat down the canal straight to train tracks that head northwest out of town through industrial areas. My exposure to arterial streets, highways and even collector streets will be minimal. I have walked this route many times, studied water levels, clearance under bridges, locations of boat slips, hazard features, and I take mental and actual notes about the terrain. I know exactly how long it will take me to get from one location to the next.
Walking great distances seems like an impossibility to many 21st Century Americans, but it is not. Almost anyone can cover three miles in one hour. I recently read a book “Long Distance Hiking, Lessons From the Appalachian Trail” by Roland Mueser.  I highly recommend this book to everyone who believes that they may have to bug out at some point. You may begin your bug out in a loaded Hummer, but you could very well end your journey on your own two feet. Without giving a book review, will say that this book dispels a lot of myths people have regarding equipment and training. Many Appalachian Trail hikers are called “thru hikers”, meaning that they hike all the way from Georgia to Maine, roughly 2100 miles straight through. This usually takes six months, and requires immense endurance and commitment. It is not the world class athletes that dominate in this endeavor. Men do not outshine women, the young do not always leave the old folks in the dust. In fact, the surveys showed that after the first month, the most overweight and ill prepared at the start were now covering the same number of miles per day as the more experienced and fit hikers. If this book does nothing more than to inspire you to get out and take a few day hikes, it is worth the money. Even short hikes can be instructive to those who rarely get off the couch.  The importance of well-designed and proper fitting shoes becomes painfully obvious after the first few miles.  The prevention and treatment of blisters and the development of calluses are crucial to your success in a two footed bug out.  You can conceptualize these types of aches and pains and maybe dismiss them, but if you experience blisters, shortness of breath, or a bum knee, you will not dismiss the need to address them and you won’t hold on to any unrealistic view of your abilities.
The obvious downside to bugging out on foot means that you must physically carry all of your food, water, clothes, gear and weapons. Any grunt like any hiker tries to lighten the load any way they can. Search the net for “ultra-light hiking” for ideas to shave pounds off of your gear, and to fashion some gear so it serves more than one purpose. I made an alcohol stove out of an aluminum Bud Light bottle and it weighs no more than an ounce or two.  My cook pot is a modified Foster’s Lager can which weighs next to nothing. A proper fitting back pack, whether military or civilian can make all of the difference. I recommend having one of the experts at REI or their competitors fit you for a pack. The key to a good fit is that the pack weight must sit on your hips, not your shoulders or back.

I don’t like the idea of walking great distances loaded down with gear, and unlike the people that crossed this country over one hundred fifty years ago, I don’t have access to a mule. The Viet Cong used French bicycles in the war to transport hundreds of pounds of rice, supplies and ordnance per bike over very rough mountainous terrain for many miles. Dozens or hundreds of these bikes would snake through the mountainside quietly and effectively.  Currently, DARPA is developing very disturbing looking robots designed to assist our soldiers in the field. These high tech mules will eventually carry equipment and supplies, so the soldiers won’t have to, but it won’t be long after that before they are deployed to fulfill a combat role.
I don’t have access to a robot, mule or a Sherpa, so I had to think of something. My solution to this problem was a modified B.O.B. brand baby stroller, the Sport Utility model to be exact. I own both a duallie and a single Sport Utility. The beefy tubular frame looks nearly indestructible, it has shock absorbers, three 16 inch durable plastic wheels and BMX style knobby tires. I removed all of the nylon fabric and installed a couple of 24 quart milk crates suspended by thin braided steel cables. A half inch section of steel electrical conduit held in place by cotter pins runs through the fulcrum and sticks way out to the side, making a nice platform for my gun rack. I used the single Sport Utility stroller to haul 100 pounds of gear almost effortlessly for ten miles, averaging a speed of 3 mph. The terrain was very flat well groomed dirt, so if I had to tackle more technical terrain or even moderate hills, I would cut the weight down to 60 pounds at the most. The duallie Sport Utility can certainly haul an even bigger load, and I estimate that my wife and I can easily move 150 pounds of gear with these strollers for a great distance.  The BOB strollers are very pricey, but you don’t have to buy them brand new from REI, you can find used strollers on craigslist and . Another great site I use to stock up on parts, should anything break while I am out trekking is BOB Parts. Spare tubes, tires, a patch kit, mini tire pump, machine screws, nuts and multitool with pliers make up my repair kit.  
I see more and more homeless people around town every year, and occasionally I will chat them up on my bicycle commute or if I’m out walking the canals.  If I see an interesting bicycle mod or trailer rig, I will stop and ask them about it.  For many of these folks, the “S” has already hit the fan and I look at them as Beta testers. The wheel still is the greatest invention, just don’t get stuck in the automobile mindset.

Monday, October 21, 2013

For my own use here at the ranch I'm looking to purchase a fresh and bright (less than three year old) original tritium Beta-Light map reader. I can use one with or without an integral compass.

If you are confused about what I'm seeking, see this photo. I'd also consider buying one or two Beta-Light Torches (flashlights).

They should be marked with any of these NSNs:

Map Readers:

NSN: 6605-99-186-9075
NSN: 6605-99-458-1598
NSN: 6605-99-593-2157

Torches (tritium flashlights): NSN: 6260-99-965-3582

I can pay cash (Bitcoin, PayPal, PMO, greenbacks, or whatever,) or I'm willing to work out some great trades from the hundreds of full capacity magazines that I've stocked up for barter in Jim's Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR.) - JWR

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I am a retail jeweler that is nearing retirement and am looking forward to my move to the Redoubt where we already have a house with some land to grow and raise things on.

So in reading the SurvivalBlog, I have been thinking how we will keep time after the watch batteries run out and the mechanical watches stop working, and of course the electric clocks have stopped.

There are multiple ways to achieve accurate time keeping when the power is off, some temporary and some permanent. My first solution is to buy a solar powered wrist watch, then make sure that I have one or two mechanical clocks and when time permits, construct a sun dial.

The recommendations below are just my take on solutions and if you choose to purchase any products that I suggest, I will have no economic or other benefit. I just thought that time keeping might not be a high priority on everyone’s list of lists but something useful to think about.

In the past I have sold Citizen Eco-Drive watches and they have been very reliable. They come with a five year warranty and have performed well, with a very low percentage of non working watches.  Citizen first sold them in the mid 1990s, so I expect that they have improved the technology since then. I have not owned one since then as I have been wearing high end mechanical watches which need expert watchmakers to keep operating. When the Schumer hits the fan, these will eventually stop operating and the other battery operated watches that I have will also stop when the small power cell goes dead.

The Eco-Drive has a solar collector under the dial and the battery will not ever have to be replaced. Any light will charge it. Casio also makes a solar drive watch, but most are more expensive and have complicated functions.  Citizen has a large selection of watches with Eco-Drive as I viewed the company web site today. Unfortunately, men’s styles outnumber the women’ styles in the Eco-Drive.

My recommendation is the simple stainless steel with time and calendar only as the complicated movements are nice to look at and the stop watch function is useful at times, but they add an unknown factor of failure. So the simple timekeeper is what I will buy online soon. My choice is model number AW1150-07E. 

Most people will opt for the metal bracelet. Not me. I want the comfort of a leather strap as they tend to soak the sweat and are more comfortable for me. The watch that I will order comes with a synthetic black rubber band. I will get a few black leather bands and spring bars that attach band to the case so I can replace as needed as leather is my preference.

Normally, I do not recommend that a person attempts to change the power cell in their own watch as there are many mine fields in doing so. It seems that the cheaper the watch the more difficult it is to remove and replace the case back. Jewelers have special tools to either unscrew or snap open the back and a pressure tool to reinstall the snap backs and that results in a broken crystal on occasion. So unless you have a screw case back and proper wrench, it is unlikely that a non jeweler would have much success at battery installation even if the correct battery was on hand.  There are at least fifty different batteries that fit watches and they have various shelf lives, lithium having the longest shelf and working life, most are silver oxide and the advertised shelf life is one year. My experience is that the shelf life is much longer. I have not done a real time study but used some that have been around for several years and they worked just fine.

A person that is determined to keep his or her battery powered watch( with a screw back only) operating for a long as possible could go to their local jeweler to find out the specific battery required and then order from a jewelers supply a number of batteries and a case opener . I talked to Roseco, Inc., 13740 Omega Road, Dallas, TX 75244 -972-991-9731 and they will sell to non jewelers watch case openers and batteries. The one that I recommend for a screw back watch would be L-G Master case opener wrench Stock number WCW100. ($45.95) This is an adjustable wrench that will fit ladies and men’s watches. Small screwdrivers, item number SSE100 ($4.69) also from Roseco, Inc. will be required and the Home Depot or Ace Hardware also has similar small sets in stock.

One thing to know is if the crown on the watch is pulled out, it ;eaves and incomplete circuit and the watch will stop as the battery is not being used. So a watch will have a good battery that is not using power at the maximum, only the shelf life discharge. This would be a way of keeping several watches in reserve, remember they might work when needed or not depending on the shelf life of each specific battery. I have seen some that will work five years after the crown is pulled out, most likely the exception.

If a person is handy, most windup clocks can be cleaned and oiled and they will run and keep time.

Overview of the task: Remove from case, remove hands and dial, go carefully with this as hands and dial damage easily. Clean movement in a petroleum based cleaner, kerosene, benzene or other light solvent, using a brush to remove black residue from the bearings. Rinse in rubbing alcohol and let dry. Using very light oil, 3 in one, etc. apply a VERY VERY SMALL amount in each bearing and a little on the Main Spring. Attach dial and carefully install hands, hour hand first and then the minute hand,  line up the hour hand at the 6 o’clock position and then put the minute hand at the 12 o’clock position and the hands should be in time with each other, and last, the seconds hand if there is one. Make sure the hands are level and do not touch each other as that will stop the clock. Return it to the case; be sure to clean the crystal before installation. Most clocks have time adjustments but the clock most likely was keeping time before it stopped, so it should keep time after cleaning if adjustments have not been disturbed.

If adjusting is required there usually is an adjustment on the escapement or balance wheel on a windup clock. On a pendulum clock the adjustment is to raise or lower the pendulum, lower is slower. Amazon has several books on clock repair listed.

There is another solution to a battery powered clock, which is to have a solar panel with battery charger and rechargeable batteries. Then the only challenge is to reset a clock when changing batteries and if you anticipate when the battery will expire or just plan to put a freshly recharged battery in at regular times you should be able to do it quickly and the time will not be off too much.

Another solution is a sun dial which has ancient roots. There is a good video demonstrated how to make a sun dial. Even though it is constructed from foam board, I would think one could be made from stainless steel and brass or copper for markers that will be my plan. Just remember to get your location correct in order for the sun dial to be accurate.  Sun Dial  simple Sun Dial

It is fortunate that I have a Jaeger Le Coulter Atmos Clock which is powered by air pressure. They will operate for 10-20 years without service. In a TEOTWAWKI situation when this clock stops it will not be able to be repaired until the world is functioning again. When this clock was sent to the company, Le Coulter, for servicing six years ago, the cost was $1,500. These are available on EBay from $700 to over $2,600. I believe the retail cost is $5,000 at this time. These might not be in the budget and buying a used clock that may operate for a long time  that is costly to repair or might not be able to be repaired might not be the best use of funds while prepping. Just wanted to inform what is available in time keeping that does not need electricity.

My solution is to have most of the above time keeping devises and to monitor them as to accuracy and adjust as required before they become critical.

When I move to the American Redoubt, I will take some watch batteries, work bench and tools to replace batteries and even to clean and repair windup clocks if there are any in the neighborhood. Since I am thinking about the subject, I will make an effort to stop by yard sales etc, and buy all Big Ben or Baby Ben clocks as they are easy to repair and of course, no electricity or batteries needed. Many people have old wind up wall or desk clocks and they will come in handy in the future if they are operating.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

One day, last year, I found myself in a pretty serious situation that tested my nerves and my luck. It happened on the C&O canal in Maryland. The canal runs 184.5 miles from Washington DC to Cumberland Maryland. Living just across the Potomac in McLean, Virginia, I made it my custom to ride my mountain bike on the canal every chance I got. It was and still is my favorite ride of all time. I would enter the trail at the 12.6 mile mark across the street from the Old Angler’s Inn near Carderock, Maryland. where there was ample parking for trail-goers and those who chose to kayak the rapids. I would ride to the Huckleberry Hill Campsite at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. then turn around and ride back. Total ride: 100.6 miles.

It was a Monday, my day off, and I had until Tuesday 5:00pm to be accounted for at work. I hit the trail at about noon, it was sunny and about 60 degrees, perfect weather for a nice long ride. I had my usual gear, Camelbak with a full bladder, cell phone, headlamp with extra batteries, AM/FM radio with headphones, 2 packs of Myoplex meal replacement powder, a couple of Cliff bars, and about a half dozen GU energy gel packets. Also I was carrying my standard rain gear consisting of a jacket, pants, and a bonnie hat. As usual I began riding at a slow and even pace to warm up, around 8-9 miles per hour. Typically I continue this pace for the first 3-5 miles until the gravel gives way to hard-packed dirt which is smooth and fast. Also at this point on the canal the traffic becomes almost non-existent. One can go miles without seeing another biker or jogger, particularly on a weekday. I put on the headphones, tune in my favorite conservative talk radio show, and begin to up the pace. Now I’m going 12 miles per hour, right in my zone. I can go for hours at this pace (on relatively flat terrain). The miles tick by, marked every tenth of a mile with a wooden mile marker on the side of the trail. At around 3pm I take a break at one of my favorite spots where I stretch, consume a Myoplex, and relax for a bit. There’s plenty of scenery to take in, the historic Potomac River on one side and the canal on the other.

I call my girlfriend (now my wife) and chat for a while. She is concerned as usual because I am riding alone again and wants to know EXACTLY when I’ll be done. And as usual I have no definite answer as it’s hard to pinpoint my finish time. I hit the trail again and sadly I’m reaching the outer limits of the other news radio station’s abilities. The traffic and weather on the ten’s are now gone. I find a local AM station that is talking about zoning issues and hear the chance for rain in that area has increased for later in the evening. However the reception is spotty and static makes me crazy so I turn it off. The rest of the ride to West Virginia is uneventful and I arrive at the turn-around feeling great. Here I consume another meal replacement pack and refill my Camelbak bladder from the hand-operated pump, these are located at each campsite along the canal. I meet and talk with another cyclist who has come to the same place from the other direction. We chat for a few about bikes and rides and pesky joggers and part ways. I check my cell phone for reception so I can advise my girlfriend but, no bars. This is no surprise to me as I have never had reception in this area, but I thought I would check anyway. I roll for about 20 miles and the ride begins to take it’s toll. My rear is getting tender, my legs are getting sore, and my arms are becoming heavy. My pace begins to slow as I count down the miles to where my vehicle is waiting for me.

Coming back into radio range again I tune in to listen to yet another conservative talker that I enjoy. Talk radio and endurance cycling go well together and I find the familiar voice comforting. At the half hour news break I hear the updated weather report for the Washington area and it seems the rain is coming. Thundershowers. Could be heavy at times. I notice through the tree canopy that the sky is indeed dark in the direction that I must go. I assess the distance remaining, about 25 miles, and deduce I may need the rain gear at some point. However at this time I’m in the endorphin zone and negative thoughts are absent. Five miles and about 40 minutes later my confidence begins to wane. I’ve got 20 miles to go and the skies are very dark ahead, and night is approaching. I receive the radio news quite well now and they say frequent lightning strikes are to be expected. Adjusting my pace at this point is difficult to justify due to the ground left to cover, burn out too soon and I’m potentially in even more trouble. I’ve bonked out before and it’s not something you want to do when there is the potential for trouble. Once, after a hard ride in town on a hard trail I barely made it back to the car. I was shaking and light-headed and had no food to bring me back. I barely made the two miles to the Burger King drive-thru where I carbed-up. After eating I basically passed out for 45 minutes in the parking lot with the engine running, slumped over the steering wheel. The temperature is dropping but I’m feeling no chill as I’m used to riding in cool weather wearing minimal riding clothing. I consume two more gel packs in an attempt to ratchet up my energy level. The difference is negligible, I get little if any real boost. By the way, when you use energy gel packs make sure you drink plenty of water. The wooden mile markers are my goals now, each one only one tenth of a mile apart. I begin to ride out of my seat as my rear is on fire and very sensitive. Standing up and pedaling creates more power but can only be done intermittently without burning out. So I rotate, pedal 1, 2, 3, and coast, pedal 1, 2, 3, and coast. I am able to maintain my speed without burning out and my rear is spared. The rain begins. It is a drencher from the get-go. No easy sprinkle gradually turning to a downpour. I stop and put on the jacket and the rain pants and the boonie. I take the moment to consume the last GU gel pack and suck the H2O as I start again.

Another minute or two shows me the next marker and tells me I am still 12 miles from my car. I have not seen anyone on the trail for the last hour. I guess they heard the weather report and made their way off the trail. The rain is torrential now, my headlamp only lights the trail for about 10 feet in front of me. I must slow my roll as the trail begins to puddle and I must be careful not to wreck, Remember I have a river one side and a canal on the other. The towpath is roughly 12 feet wide, so there is not much room for error. I am now less than 10 miles from the parking lot and the storm is on top of me. The lightning is everywhere, the thunder is immediate and I am scared. Being at the mercy of nature will make you pray, even if you never have. As I have a deep and constant relationship with my Creator I defaulted to begging for mercy. I had just recently lived through a Derecho weather event in Virginia which devastated my home, left me without power for nine days and put my family in real jeopardy, so I was keenly aware of the danger. Every tenth of a mile was a small miracle that I rejoiced. There was no stopping, no time out, no shelter whatsoever. No option but to get to the parking lot and get in my vehicle. The last marker I saw said I had two miles to go, it was nearly impossible to see them in the drenching rain. The lightning was still everywhere, this was the real fear and it was unrelenting. Quite frankly, I have never been so scared in my life. I continued to pray out loud. I was yelling. Save me Lord! Save me Jesus! The last distance to the car was a time I will never forget. I choose to believe that God spared me that day. And nothing will ever change that. Got to the car, loaded the bike, sat in the driver’s seat and laughed/cried for a solid 10 minutes.

The take away from the experience was, always check the weather. Always have the gear you may need to survive. If I had a simple tarp I may have been able to hunker down and ride out the storm. Most importantly, get good with God and don’t be afraid to ask him for help.

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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts on Preparedness, by Mom in the Colorado Rockies

Most of us have it down to a science on what we are going to do every morning. Wake up, grumble at the alarm clock, stagger in for coffee, etc. You know what time you need to leave to get to work on time, and maybe squeeze in a drive thru run for coffee or a breakfast biscuit. Muddle through the work day and pray for it to hurry by so you can fight traffic and get home in time for dinner, baths for the kids and vegetate in front of the television till bedtime. Our existence as the average, everyday Joe is rather simple and mindless sheep leaving the barn to graze for the day and return to  the barn to sleep. But there are a lot of folks out there that are really beginning to 'wake up' to the fact that our everyday routines need to change.

Moving to the high Rockies has given me a different perspective on what survival means. Folks out here in these small mountain towns have a true understanding of what is needed just to get by every day. There are very few drive-thrus to grab a bite to eat, if any. In fact, a lot of the restaurants communicate with each other to see who is going to be open so they can close for the day. There are not a lot of big box stores nearby so you save the gas and pay a little extra at the local, way over-priced stores if you need to fix your commode or the crack in your hammer handle finally gives way. And snow is practically a season of its own up here. It seems there is snow, summer, then back to snow. No need in putting away your winter clothes or gear as summer can mean 50 degrees one day, 85 degrees the next, then snow in September. Oh! I forgot to list 'mud' season! That's when the snow melts and you have about a month of mud to sludge through to get anywhere!

So, a lesson learned. I know I must keep all weather conditions items in my vehicle year round. I have ice melting spray in my floorboard and liquid in my windshield reservoir tank. And yes, I have already needed it three times in mid-September for ice and/or snow. I keep food and water, map and compass, a candle lantern for light and warmth, a mac-daddy first aid kit, boots and wool blankets, hunting knife and a strong, lite weight flashlight in there too. This is by no means a full listing but you get the point.

Collecting, cutting, processing wood is year round. You never really stop because, like they say, cut the amount of wood you think you will need, then triple it. Never under-estimate your wood supply. You always need more than you think you do. And, trust me, digging around in a foot of snow for those cut logs you haven't split yet is no fun. Neither is splitting them when they are wet or frozen, as you will also be wet and frozen by the time you are done. And you still can't use them because they are wet and frozen!

Most folks have wells, not a lot of city water out here. So, do you have the ability to run your pump when the power is out? Is it a generator you need gas/oil for? Do you have enough in case you can't get to town in the near future? Do you have a standby water supply tucked away? Is it enough to cook with, bathe with, flush with, wash clothes with for an indefinite amount of time? Do you have access to more? Where is the nearest creek, river, lake and how do you get it home?

Four wheel drive is not mandatory up here... but it should be. Most of us have at least one per household. With the access to trails and mountain roads, they are a lot of fun to have. Not much you can't do in the summer if you have one. But in the winter, they are pretty darn handy to have. Yes, they plow the county roads and highways. And yes, you will see the plows out 24-7 through the winter. But what about the folks that commute over the passes for work? Businesses don't shut down because of snow, schools don't shut down because of snow, government doesn't shut down because of snow. Sooo, you still have to be able to get there.  What about the folks that work the graveyard shift or have to be in at 6 am? Yes, we need four wheel drive vehicles. And you will see quite a few with small plows on the front. Not everyone lives on a well maintained street in town. In fact, very few do. And these side roads are not priority for anyone other than those of us that drive them every day. And yes, most of them are still dirt roads.

So let's discuss gardening. We have about a 60 day grow season, if you're lucky. Factor in your potting time, keeping your seedlings warm till it is safe to put them outside. Tilling is not much of an option here as our particular soil is rocky. It costs a small fortune to pay anyone to come out here and drill a new well or put in fence posts because they will spend most of their time hand pulling rocks or breaking auger/drilling bits. So you need to bring in soil to either mix in or cover over. And at almost 10,000 ft above sea level, the sun can burn up your plants if you are not careful. So what do you do? Put up a greenhouse! Oh wait, there are some of us that live in high winds areas. You know the places you drive through that have the big snow/wind breaks by the roads? But that doesn't really slow down the 40 to 60 mph winds we can have blowing over the roads and fields. Trust me and learn from my failures, a greenhouse is a task of its own. Factor in the sun's path for the two months of growing season, the normal wind path, the 'other' wind path for when we get the south to north winds and storms, the questionable soil, etc. Gardening at its finest is still a lot of hard work. Don't forget to figure in the local climate too.

Now, considering all of the above, I will cover food supply. Being gardening is tough, you don't dare want to lose any food you can produce. Be prepared to either make sure you have a heat alternative for your greenhouse or a spot inside to bring your plants. We pot in containers so it is a feasible task to bring them in. Heavy lifting, but doable. So do you have an area in your house with great sun exposure and ventilation to complete their growth and yield? Or do you do what you would do in the cities... go to the market and buy. You can definitely buy whatever fruits and vegetables you could want in the markets here, and we have a lot of option for organic produce. But you will pay for it, literally and figuratively. These local stores can be pricey so do you pay the extra in gas to go to the nearest big town or suck it up and pay for the convenience? You do what most do, buy your day to day locally and make a plan for your trip to the city and hit every store you think you might need something from. Make a list, make several lists. You will need them so you don't forget anything.

With that being said, do you have at least a 30 to 60 day food supply stored? Beans, rice, flour, sugar, and let's not forget coffee! What about that generator we talked about earlier... will it run the fridge? Or do you need adequate cooler storage space to last for several days till you can eat what is in there? Do you have plenty of canned fruits and vegetables? What about meats? Are they all frozen or do you have some canned or dehydrated put away somewhere... Let's not forget the fact that in a short time span you could get extremely bored with peanut butter sandwiches. And what happens when the bread runs out? Oh, do you have a way to actually cook any of this food you have in the pantry if the power goes out indefinitely? Consider what your options are for safely cooking indoors in inclement weather for a family and then factor in a backup. Like they say, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Gaskets dry rot, tanks leak fuel, charcoal runs out for the outdoor grill eventually. And the high winds and snow can definitely hinder your charcoal grilling on the back deck, trust me. And, as we discussed before, do you have enough water to actually cook those rice and beans and dehydrated vegetables and backpacking meals included in your water storage calculations?

Now... this was not meant to discourage anyone from moving to the country or the high country areas. This was meant to make sure you consider what it means to live in some of these more remote areas. I have always tried to have a prepper mentality when it comes to ensuring the existence and safety of my family, but I can tell you that moving from my safety net on the edge of a big city to a small mountain town in the high Rockies has truly been a learning experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything. We live on a shoestring budget week to week and do not have the funds to put into the large purchases I know a lot of preppers have. So we do the best we can with what we have. Our neighborhood barters with each other for things each house may need but doesn't own. We trade off babysitting or canning or dehydrating or water storage containers, whatever can be done to make sure we all are taken care of. We watch each other’s houses, vehicles, pets while they're away. We help each other with cutting wood, mending fences, fixing holes in the roof or moving furniture around. You learn real quick who to trust and can count on should SHTF tomorrow. And, I have to say, that is a good feeling I did not have back in the 'city'.

So for those of you wanting to move to some small town in the middle of nowhere and set up shop, consider the above. Think about it, have a plan, then have a backup plan. It took me several months to find work out here when a job back home was fairly easy to get with a good resume. Research the area, see what type of businesses are there or nearby that you can feasibly commute to in bad weather. If you are going to have neighbors, try to meet them when you look at a house you are considering buying. Are they nuts or fairly like-minded people? Find out the gun laws for the area and state, how hard or expensive is it to get a permit to add a solid greenhouse or storage shed. How many and what size can you have without a permit? Is there somewhere to obtain firewood and water should you need emergency supplies? And, most of all, can you get out of your driveway and to a main road should you have a heavy snow or rainfall? If not, either plan ahead or reconsider your housing selection. These are not frivolous things, these are your survival pitfalls. Think ahead, discuss your options with your family, can you afford it if you can't immediately find work, what do you really need for your family to survive. All the ammo in the world does you no good with a gun that breaks a piece and you have no spare parts. All the food you could possibly eat is of little comfort when you have no way to cook it or water to cook it with. Electric or propane is awesome, but with no power, no way to pump water and losing the food in your fridge and freezer is not exactly what I want to do in the middle of winter with snow on the ground and a family to take care of and a job to get to.

The true lesson here is: think smart, work hard and have a backup plan for your back up plan!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Most of us use a cutting edge every single day, be it a chef’s knife, pocket knife, or scissors.  We typically suffer with overly dull cutting surfaces, and that is OK for cutting a zucchini after the daily nine-to-five routine.  However, when faced with a long-term survival situation, the importance of cutting edges will skyrocket, quickly shifting this humdrum facet of daily life to center stage.  Knowing how to restore and maintain blades and edges will take on new importance, as sharp tools will be necessary for survival, and sharpening will be a marketable and barterable skill.

Besides knives and scissors, we will regularly rely on axes, machetes, fingernail clippers, chisels, gouges, wood planes, drill bits, saw blades, animal hide preparatory tools, and shaving razors, just to name a few.  Different edges require different sharpeners and techniques to achieve sharpness, but with a little bit of investment in some simple tools and also time for honing your skills (pun intended), the dividends will pay off for years to come.  Unlike some niche survival skills and tactics, sharpening is extremely useful in every-day non-emergency situations, as you will finally be able to maintain blades that actually slice through tomatoes without clumsily squishing out an eight-inch radius of juice blast!

Some blades and tasks are more sensitive to dullness than others.  For example, a dull chef’s knife will get the job done, however it will take longer, leave jagged edges, and require more force.  These last points are issues of safety, for the greater the force leveraged on a knife, the less control the user typically has.  Also, dull knives have a greater propensity for slipping or bouncing off of surfaces before cutting in, which increases the likelihood of lacerating oneself.  Wounds inflicted by dull knives also tend to be more ragged, potentially necessitating medical attention—the last thing you need in a survival situation.  Other cutting tools, such as straight razors and plane irons are rendered virtually unusable when dull.   Dull machetes and axes are also inefficient and dangerous.

All sharpening methods rely on the same basic principle—abrasive particles that are harder than the blade are used to create a series of scratches on the cutting edge.  Coarse abrasive particles cut quickly and remove relatively large amounts of metal from the edge.  Fine abrasive particles cut more slowly, yet leave a finer scratch pattern.  The finer and more uniform the scratch pattern, the sharper the edge will be.  Eventually, the progression to finer and finer abrasives yields a mirror finish and an exquisitely sharp edge. 

Sharpening typically occurs over a number of abrasive, or “grit” stages.  A coarse or low grit stone first removes deep gouges and scratches.  Fine, or high grit, media are used after coarser abrasives have created a uniform edge.  This can be compared to a wood working analogy, in that a progression of finer tools is used to craft a piece of work.  An axe is used to cut lumber to a coarse shape, saws work coarse lumber to the close-to-finished shape of the desired piece, and then sand paper and scrapers are used during the last finishing stage.  Sandpaper is not used to cut down the tree!  In theory it could be, but you would waste a lot of paper, and it would take more time and effort than you probably wish to spend.  Conversely, you would not use an axe for the final smoothing.   For the same reasons, you would not use a fine abrasive for the initial sharpening of an edge.  The idea is to take rough (coarse) cuts of metal off the edge to get the shape of the blade right and to eliminate deep gouges.  Once all the scratches made by the coarse abrasive are uniform, it is time to progress to a medium abrasive.  Once the medium abrasive has created a uniform series of scratches, it is time to move to a finer abrasive.  One of the biggest hurdles to creating a good edge is impatience.  By switching to the next finer abrasive too soon, coarse scratches persist and a sharp edge will remain elusive.  Each progression of finer scratch pattern must completely remove the coarser scratch pattern from the abrasive that came before.  Going back to the lumber example, even if you used the axe to chop through 95% of the log, switching to sandpaper at this point would still be foolish.  Likewise, even if you remove 95% of the coarse scratches with a medium grit abrasive, moving a fine abrasive will not readily remove the remaining 5% of coarse scratches.

The tools needed to begin sharpening are relatively simple, but the vast array of choices can be dizzying for those new to sharpening.  On one end of the spectrum resides sandpaper that is simply adhered to a flat surface, while the other end of the spectrum hosts multi-thousand-dollar sharpening machines.   This article focuses on the middle ground, which is the domain belonging to sharpening stones.  Sophisticated sharpening machines will be largely ignored, for when the power goes down, so do these machines.  Additionally, replacement parts may be impossible to source.  A brief description of the utility of sandpaper is worth mentioning, however. 

Sand paper is inexpensive and only requires a flat surface such as a mirror, glass pane, or a block of granite as the underlying substrate.  Even MDF (medium density fiberboard) or cast iron tool tops (such as table saw tops) can be used with some success.  Utilizing a series of differing sandpaper grits can be an extremely effective means of sharpening edges.  Vast amounts of information regarding sandpaper-based methods are available on the internet, and they can typically be found by typing the phrase “scary sharp” in a search engine.   In a nutshell, sandpaper is generally adhered to a flat surface with a spray adhesive.  The edge to be sharpened is placed on the sandpaper, and worked to create a uniform scratch pattern.    A low grit (50, 80, 100) paper is used to shape the edge, followed by a progression of finer grits (150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1200, 2000, 5000 or even finer).    Stopping at between 600 and 1200 is suitable for everyday use, but finer edges (that are more delicate and more easily dulled and damaged) require higher grits.   To set this system up, it takes very little initial monetary output, as sandpaper and float glass is inexpensive.  The problem is that sandpaper may not be readily available in a long-term survival situation, and high quality wet-dry silicon carbide paper in fine grits is rather expensive and may not be readily available at box stores.  Overall, this methodology is useful to have in one’s bag of tricks, but may not be as practical or cost effective (in the long run) as having some quality sharpening stones.


It should be noted that I have no financial interest in any brands of the sharpening stones mentioned below, and have included reference to brands I have either personally used or that have a reputation for quality.  Like all tools, I would recommend buying the best you can afford, staying far away from cheap imports.

Sharpening stones come in a few basic varieties: Oil stones, water stones, and diamond stones.  Oil stones are the stones that our grandfathers used, and require a coat of oil to work effectively, hence the name.  They were traditionally natural stones (e.g. “Arkansas stones”), but man-made oil stones are readily available today from manufacturers such as Norton.  Natural Arkansas stones vary in coarseness, and are typically available in finer forms than their man-made counterparts.  The types of Arkansas stones are, from coarse to fine; “Washita,” “Soft Arkansas,” “Hard Arkansas,” “Hard Black Arkansas,” and “Hard Translucent Arkansas.”   Oil stones typically cut more slowly than water stones, and are more difficult to clean due to the use of oil.  They are, however, the most economical of the stones available.  Quality oil stones can be had, at the time of this writing, for under $20 each.

Water stones need no oil, but require water as a lubricant, as their names suggest.  They are also available in natural varieties, but are rare and cost prohibitive, so only man-made water stones will be considered.  They cut faster than oil stones since the binders that hold these stones together are relatively soft, which allows worn abrasive particles to slough off the stone during sharpening to reveal fresh and sharp underlying particles.  Of course there is a tradeoff, which is that water stones “dish out” more quickly due to their softer construction, so they must be flattened regularly (with a dedicated flattening plate).   Water stones are also available in much finer grits than oil stones (up to 30,000 grit).  Water stones vary in price, with finer grits costing substantially more.   Norton makes combination stones with differing grits on each side of the stone, and for around $150 dollars, two stones (4 grits: 220/100, 4000/8000) and a flattening stone can be had.  I personally feel this is an excellent approach for a basic “do it all” sharpening setup.  Water stones are easy to use and clean, while not being terribly expensive.  Extremely fine grits, however, can be upward of $300 per stone.  The Naniwa Chosera line of Japanese water stones, though I have not personally used them, are extremely well-regarded, and warrant consideration. I regularly use Shapton glass stones (1000, 4000, 8000) and a DMT Coarse Diasharp stone to keep my glass stones flat, and highly recommend this setup.  The Shapton stones cut fast, don’t dish out quickly, and are super easy to use.  They are, however, fragile as they are manufactured on a glass backing, and relatively expensive (around $300 for such a set).  In a critical situation where “two is one, and one is none,” glass stones may not be my first choice without a backup in place. 

Diamond stones are not stones at all, but rather metal plates impregnated with diamond particles.  They cut extremely fast and their surfaces remain very flat over time.  They use water instead of oil, so are also easy to clean.  Diamond stones are typically more expensive than water stones in average grits, but less expensive than ultra-fine water stones.   Diamond plates are also not readily available in the extremely fine grits found in water stones.  For a long-term survival scenario, these stones are arguably the best choice if you could only have one set of stones, as they are robust and remain flat.  A set of four diamond stones by DMT (x-coarse, coarse, medium, fine) sells for around $200, and represents good value for overall utility.  When choosing diamond stones, look for brands offering monocrystalline construction, as these stones tend to cut faster and last longer than polycrystalline varieties.

Strops should not be left out of the discussion.  A strop is simply a piece of leather (or canvas) used to polish an edge.  Unlike stones, strops do not remove material from a blade, but rather straighten or align the edge.  A strop is essential for achieving a keen edge on a straight razor, and is also used for creating a superior edge on woodworking tools such as chisels or plane irons.   Strops may be impregnated with fine abrasive particles, such as “Jeweler’s Rouge,” or chromium (III) oxide to aid in achieving an even better finish.  For kitchen and utility knives, a honing steel, or simply “steel” is often used for a similar purpose (A “steel” may be made of steel or ceramic).  Learning to use a steel is a requisite for maintaining sharp kitchen knives, as it allows prolonged use of knives between sharpening sessions, since one can periodically “touch up” the edge with just a steel.

What about electric kitchen knife sharpeners?  They are super-fast, easy to use, and require virtually no skill.  As long as you have electricity they will work relatively well.  However, one can’t always count on having electricity.  Also, if a part breaks or wears out, the apparatus will be rendered useless.  Lastly, they can only sharpen thin-bladed knives, but a set of stones can be used to sharpen axes, combat knives, scissors, lawnmower blades, pruners, and dozens of woodworking tools, just to name a few.   High end sharpening stations are more versatile than the kitchen knife sharpeners, but again have dozens of moving parts and rely on electricity.

A number of specialty stones are also offered in the market, and are intended for specific tasks.  For example, round and triangular stones can be used for sharpening serrated blades and gut-hook skinning knives, and even some nail clippers.  Gouge sharpening stones are shaped to accommodate a wide variety of wood working gouges and carving tools.  Smaller stones can be used for sharpening fish hooks, saw blades, small scissors, tweezers, and even carbide router bits and carbide tipped saw blades.  It should be noted that a diamond stone is needed to sharpen carbide.

The last tool worth mentioning is the file.  Files are useful, especially in conjunction with stones, for sharpening axes, hatchets, lawnmower blades, gardening equipment, shovels, and saw blades.  Files could be the subject of their own article, but for the sake of brevity only a brief introduction follows.  Files are also indispensable for general metalworking.  Mill files come in a variety of “cuts” (the pattern of ridges on the tool) and roughness.  Files generally follow the nomenclature of, from roughest to smoothest: “rough”, “middle”, “bastard”, “second cut”, “smooth”, and “dead smooth.”  To make matters more confusing, a 10” long second cut file is typically coarser than a 6” long second cut file, and levels of roughness vary from one manufacturer to another.   Files can be flat, half-round, round, and tapered.  For basic sharpening of garden tools, lawnmower blades, shovels, and axes, an initial shaping with a file is the most practical way to form an edge when exceedingly dull or damaged.  They cut more aggressively than the coarsest of stones, and do so far faster.  No sharpening set would be complete without at least one flat mill file, but a selection of flat, round, and tapered files, in both coarse and fine cuts is ideal.  Small tapered files are used to sharpen hand saw blades, while a small round file is required to properly sharpen a chainsaw blade.

There are also numerous jigs and fixtures on the market to aid the would-be sharpener in his or her quest for that perfect edge.  I would avoid these items in general, and instead focus on the skill of sharpening.  Jigs can break, but once you have acquired the knowledge and sharpened your skills (another pun!) that can never be taken away from you.  Knowledge is power.


Since there are so many options for sharpening implements, it is admittedly confusing at first.  However, in choosing the right tools, some first questions to ask are:1) What are you sharpening?, and 2) Where are you sharpening?  The “what” is simple—buy what you need to sharpen the tools you will need.  The “where” simply refers to whether you are in a stable location or preparing for a bug-out.  Therefore I have put together four hypothetical kit examples: two bug out kits-ultralight and standard, a basic sharpening set for home use, and a comprehensive sharpening set for home use.  Below each set is a description of what task can reasonably be accomplished with the tools at hand.  These are not written in stone, so feel free to adjust based upon your needs.

Bug Out Kit-ultralight
Diamond credit card sharpeners – Coarse, Fine, Extra Fine

This kit is lightweight (under 7 oz.), inexpensive, and suffices for most common tasks.  Each stone is a metallic credit card-sized diamond plate.  They are a bit heavy for my EDC (every day carry) preferences, but not totally impractical.  For a bugout bag, these are a no-brainer.   This set gives you the ability to sharpen chef’s knives, smooth pocket knives, smooth combat knives, machetes, axes, hatchets, adzes, swords, scissors & shears, arrow heads, fish hooks, as well as craft and woodworking tools.  Tools, such as axes or lawnmower blades with major nicks would still likely need the use of a mill file.  Blades will not achieve a keen edge like what is possible from fine grit water stones, but can be made very sharp and very functional. 

Bug Out Kit-standard
Extra Coarse/Coarse diamond folding sharpener
Fine/Extra Fine diamond folding sharpener
Fine diamond folding Serrated Knife Sharpener

This example contains three collapsible sharpeners that unfold like balisongs (butterfly knifes) to reveal a sharpening stone.  Two double-sided sharpeners yield four stone grits, and a fine pointed stone sharpener is used for serrated surfaces.  Again, blades will not achieve as keen an edge like from higher grit water stones, but will be sharp and totally functional.  Another, more compact, option would be to use the credit card sharpeners from the ultralight bug-out kit, coupled with the fine diamond serrated knife sharpener.

Basic Sharpening Set-home use
Diamond Stone Set: X-Coarse, Coarse, Medium, Fine, X-Fine
Chef’s Steel
Flat Mill Files: Coarse and Smooth

This very basic set allows one to sharpen: chef’s knives, pocket knives, combat knives, machetes, axes, hatchets, adzes, swords, scissors & shears, fish hooks, chisels, plane irons, garden equipment, and lawnmower blades, at a minimum.  Since the set is diamond, carbide inserts on router bits and the like are also sharpenable.  The stones are far larger than their folding counterparts, so will last longer (since the surface is greater and wear is more widely distributed) and are easier to use, as they are placed on a table top so both hands can be used for sharpening.  Pocket sharpeners require one hand to hold the sharpener and one hand to hold the tool to be sharpened, which is not optimal for maintaining a consistent angle while sharpening, so stellar results are more difficult to achieve.  Again, augmenting this kit with a folding serrated knife sharpener adds the ability to sharpen serrated edges.

Comprehensive Sharpening Set-home use
Water Stone Set:  220, 500, 1000, 4000, 8000
Flattening Stone for water stones
Backup Diamond Stone Set: Coarse, Medium, Fine, X-Fine
Chef’s Steel
Sharpening Rod – round (ceramic or diamond)
Sharpening Rod- Triangle (ceramic or diamond)
Leather Strops- plain and compound impregnated
Files: Mill file selection, round file selection, tapered file selection.  Large and small, coarse and fine for each.

Having water stones will allow a keener edge than what is possible in the sets above due to the 4000 and 8000 grits, as well as the strops.  It is these additional tools that allow for the sharpening of straight razors, and also to achieve razor sharp edges on most tools.  The sharpening rods open up the possibility of maintaining serrated knives, gut hooks and seat belt cutter hooks.  The diamond stones provide a robust backup for the more fragile water stones, and also allow one to sharpen carbide tipped router bits and saw blades, while the expanded selection of files is used for hand saws and chain saws blades.   Additionally, some general metalworking and gunsmithing tasks are possible with the above stones and files.

But wait!  How exactly do I sharpen X,Y, or Z?  You never told me!!  Smooth knives are sharpened differently than serrated knives, and axes are sharpened differently than chisels.  The focus of this article is not to teach you the techniques needed to sharpen particular types of edges, but rather to convey the importance of possessing sharpening skills in emergency situations and to explain what tools are needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.  It is also vital to understand that learning to sharpen effectively and with efficiency takes practice, and is a perishable skill.  I therefore recommend, at the very least, that one regularly sharpen kitchen knives and pocket knives to achieve and maintain a reasonable skill level.   Your first attempt at sharpening a kitchen knife may yield a blade that is duller than when you started!  This changes with practice.  Another article, far longer than this one, could be written that breaks down the procedures necessary to sharpen all the tools mentioned above, but in this case a picture is really worth a 1,000 words.  I would therefore recommend a book such as The Complete Guide to Sharpening by Leonard Lee, as this text covers the vast majority of sharpening situations one can expect to encounter, is full of photographs, and is a worthy reference for any preparedness library.  Additionally, there are hundreds of YouTube videos that show the procedures and motions used to achieve edge nirvana, but I would caution that some are worth far more than others. 

When faced with TEOTWAWKI, chopping wood, preparing game, cooking, bushwhacking, hunting, self-defense, personal hygiene, and tool maintenance for woodworking, leatherworking, and virtually every other craft will heavily rely on edged tools.  With a little bit of investment and regular practice, you can ensure that your survival tools remain safe and functional while also creating a skill set that has bartering value—both of which may help you through hard times and promote your survival.

Can anyone prove that the long-touted “desert solar still” will maintain life in a emergency desert survival situation? I’m age 70 and tired of hearing the Bravo Sierra.  Prove it to me, please. Sorry , but with more than 35 years experience (15 years at the USN SERE-P.O.W. school in Warner Springs, California plus three years at the USN JEST school and since then 20 years in the business of survival training and digging earth,)  I must call foul on the desert still concept.  People should stop selling the idea. (The USAF has.)  
I have tested the solar still idea since 1968 - hoping it would work. I did so in the El Centro, California desert, Yuma, Phoenix, to the flat lands of Illinois, to the Colorado mountains and they do not produce any significant quantities of water.
I will pay the person who proves to me that such a still will save your life!    My friend Dave Ganci, an expert in Arizona says NO. Peter Bigfoot, also an Arizona expert says NO. Dale Nelson - desert expert,  says NO. My Australian desert friend Sean Mc Bride says NO.The late Ron Hood said NO, and his desert survival DVD had excellent facts.  

I’m sure other experts at Rabbit Stick will agree: no [significant] water. Good try but a real waste of time, sweat and energy. Even the barefoot hippie Cody L. or Indian-trained Tom Brown Jr. can not prove the desert still works.  One can not survive on this nonsensical  information. And I  too say NO to the desert still.  Prove it to me.  
Sincerely signed and standing by, - Mountain Mel

JWR Replies: I have never touted solar stills, although one of my readers once did. His long-winded article admitted that a lot of effort was required in construction, and only marginal output--even with his improved design and with extra foliage tossed in. And he reported virtually no output from the standard design.

Several real-world tests have shown that you sweat more moisture building solar stills than they produce. Unless you are on top of some amazing local surface aquifer, if you depend on the local ground moisture then these stills only produce a trickle for the first full day, and then hardly anything the second and subsequent days. The "experts" talk about adding gathered vegetation to the solar still's chamber area, but that adds little to their output. Again, the effort of gathering that vegetation outweighs the benefit.

In temperate regions with leafy vegetation, gathering early morning dew from grasses with cloth and then wringing it out into a container is a far more efficient use of your time and energy.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Despite years of reading valid arguments for moving to the American Redoubt or other remote area, of the hundreds of preppers I've met I can count on one hand those who made the move and most of those were retired.  I meet relatively few preppers living at a secluded retreat, a few with secondary retreats, many planning to bug out to property they do not own (hopefully by agreement), and the majority still living in and around cities with no alternative plan to shelter in place.  Only one of those four types I just described is unlikely to be on the road at some time after a trigger event. According to NOAA, 39% of Americans live in counties directly on the shoreline.  It is for those who are not already where they intend to weather the long emergency that is to come that I share my experience.    

I am blessed to live in what has been described by many publications as one of the best small cities in the U.S.  Not only are we hours from cities with populations over 30,000, but our infrastructure is designed to withstand the occasional two-week power outage which happens every few years.  When our local grid goes down water still flows from large tanks perched high on the surrounding peaks.  We are close enough to the natural gas wells that even the elderly do not remember a time when gas stopped flowing to our homes.  We are surrounded by rivers and lakes with standing dead timber and wild game so prolific they are both considered nuisances.  While this is great for localized disasters it is still too population dense for comfort during a long-term world-changing event at 274 people per square mile, I purchased acreage in a secluded and gated community about an hour away via the highway, a couple hours via secondary roads, and a few days walk via mostly rail trail with caches buried along the route.  Deep in a holler on a dead end gated road off a dead end paved road off a township road I built a wood-heated, solar-powered cabin with hot and cold running water which my neighbor looks after in my absence.  Outbuildings and other infrastructure scatter the hillside.

Just when I thought I had everything squared away, my wife came home excited about an opportunity for professional advancement.  This new position would be closer to her parents which had become important because we recently had our first child.  My concern was the location.  It was in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia which sits on a Peninsula between Naval Station Norfolk (the world's largest naval base) and Surry Nuclear Power Plant.  Traffic on I-68 is a bear in both directions on an average day and horrendous around the holidays.  Remote controlled gates shut down Eastbound on ramps so all lanes serve westbound traffic in the event of a hurricane or other evacuation.  State studies show that it would take 36 hours to evacuate South Hampton Roads in the event of a hurricane and that is less than half the 1.7 Million residents of the metropolitan area.  Rob Case, principal transportation engineer for the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization stated "that means you'd be sitting in your car for up to 30 hours, then you'd probably run out of gas.”  If we didn't leave early we would have to bug in until the crowds thinned.  This close to such an attractive military target that meant nothing less than a hardened bomb shelter would suffice.

Fortunately my wife did not get the job so it cost me nothing to be a supportive husband to someone who, although she is not at all interested in preparedness, is supportive of my spending tens of thousands of dollars and much of my spare time pursuing it.  Although I did not have to implement the plan, the thought process I went through in developing a way to get back to my mountain retreat from such a desperate locale helped me to improve my existing plan for the much shorter distance from this small city.  I share it here in hopes that those who cannot relocate pre-incident will find it helpful in making an assessment and developing an evacuation plan.

SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats
This term I learned pursuing my MBA in the nineties is an appropriate way to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both the location and the person in that location.

S = Strengths:  As it is on a peninsula, the only good thing I could find about Hampton Roads is that it borders the James River on one side.  There are probably more, but since I never had to actually move there I did not discover them.  In the interests of humility I will limit the explanation of my personal strengths to those relevant to that fact.  Part of my job when I worked for the Boy Scouts of America was to pilot a boat ferrying scouts from typical camps to my high adventure outpost.

Weaknesses:  Hampton Roads is an overcrowded peninsula and even during “normal” times traffic is often at a standstill on I-64 in various spots between Hampton and Richmond.  As I explained earlier, even if all lanes are going NorthWest experts believe it could take days to cover that 75 mile stretch.  My relevant personal weakness is that I absolutely hate traffic!  I somehow managed a commute of six lanes each way when I was a graduate student in Atlanta, Georgia.  As I've grown older, however, I'm on edge the entire time I'm in traffic.

Opportunities: I could buy a boat which is not only enjoyable during good times.  Since as you say, two is one and one is none I would get both a cruiser and a dingy.  Although much farther away moving close to my wife's family would provide the opportunity for more time at the retreat since I'm the primary care giver of our toddler.

Threats:  Greater cultural diversity in the Hampton area has resulted unprovoked attacks.  A newspaper reporter was recently dragged from his car and beaten by a mob merely because of the color of his skin.  This friction could escalate following a trigger event because people need someone to blame and these differences are the most apparent.

Since this essay is about getting out of the city I will dispense with all the preparations I would need to make based upon identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats because these are going to change substantially.  I will instead focus on the subject of this essay which is escaping from a crowded city to a preplanned safer location.  Here in Appalachia I buried my first cache with essentials similar to a bug out bag within a day's walk in case we have to leave with only the clothes on our back. In this hypothetical example, however, we will leave from home fully provisioned and experience several setbacks so as to explore the greatest number of possibilities:

I'm home with our daughter when normal programming is interrupted news of a trigger event.  I immediately text COME HOME NOW SHTF to my wife at the nearby university.  She heads for home before most people realize the intensity of the situation while I slide out Coleman Scanoe onto its rack on the roof of our Jeep Liberty.  After filling the back with our bug out bags, the electric trolling motor in its EMP resistant metal box, and the portion of my armory I keep at the house, I slide the motorcycle rack into the hitch receiver and roll my Suzuki DR350 into place.  My wife makes it home in time to change change clothes and grab something for us to eat on the road before we head out the door.

Traffic in our residential neighborhood is not much different than during Trick-or-Treat, but once we get onto the main streets traffic is heavy and the radio reports it is already getting messy on the Interstate.  We decide to take the two-lane secondary road which we are familiar with from trying to avoid stop-and-go traffic while visiting the in laws.  I creeps along for a while until it stops completely.  We hear on the CB that there has been an accident up ahead, but unlike before we do not hear the sounds of sirens converging on their location.  They must be tied up elsewhere meaning the sea of vehicles isn't going anywhere.  People are still civil, but we do not want to be trapped her when darkness falls.  Doing the math, we decide we have to leave the Jeep behind.  We consider rolling the DR350 off it rack behind the Jeep and winding our way through the traffic, but we are still far down the peninsula and although I've seen families of five weaving through traffic on similar motorbikes in third-world countries, they weren't trying to carry as much stuff as we do.  Fortunately, the great majority of the traffic is trying to leave and while there are people waiting at intersections to enter this mess, no one is driving away from it on the streets perpendicular to the golden horde.  There are several cars in the other lane prevent me from turning toward the James River so I make a deal with the neckless behemoth in the truck next to me to give him the motorcycle if he can clear a path.  Under normal circumstances that would be a foolish trade, but I can't take it with me.  Within a few minutes we are at the James River and shortly thereafter the Scanoe is in the water with the trolling motor attach and the hull filled with the supplies from the Jeep.

It's decision time again.  Do we head twenty miles down river in hopes our cruiser does not pass us coming up river along the way?  I know if I had no other options I would have stolen one myself.  Maybe I should have headed there to begin with, but hindsight is 20/20.  Since we want to get as far away as possible before dark and the nuclear power plant on the other side of the river is still stable, we opt to head upriver in the Scanoe to the first asset I pre-positioned in a more rural area on the other side of the river.  We arrive just after sunset at the place I pay a monthly fee to store my farm truck.  I could get by with driving a 1989 Ford F250 Diesel with rust holes and no exhaust muffler in the back woods of West Virginia, but when we moved to the big city I had to leave it behind.  Instead of leaving it at the retreat I opted to strategically place it within walking distance and on the other side of the James River.  One weekend a month on my way back and forth to my retreat I stop and maintain this and my other caches which I will describe later.

It doesn't take long to get the truck loaded and on the way because I did not have to use the alternate starting procedure necessary in the event an EMP disables the ignition and glow plugs.  Traffic is still heavy on this two-lane rural highway, but with very few people trying to enter the flow from side roads it moves along at a good pace, but it still takes three hours to get to our next asset, a small self-storage unit near the small town of Farmville, Virginia population 8,200.  We arrive physically exhausted so instead of the two of us taking shifts sleeping we back the truck up as close to the roll-up door of the unit as possible, lock the doors, and set the portable motion alarms stored in the unit before locking the outside hasp open with the padlock, rolling down the door, and securing it with a chain.  I would prefer a guard, but I'll sleep in the bottom bunk with my battle rifle on my chest while my family rests up top because we want to get on the road before day break.

At 5:00 AM the battery powered alarm clock I've had since I lived in a tent for a living screams me awake.  While my wife tends to the toddler and prepares a simple breakfast, I replenish our water supply from the 50 gallon food-grade plastic barrel and load the canned food (rotated monthly due to high heat) into the back of the Jeep.  I empty the remaining contents of this 5' x 10' self-storage unit onto a large tarp which I wrap up like a burrito and place into the back of the truck.  I also top off my tank with stored diesel and ratchet down the gasoline cans that I moved from the unit to the back of the truck when we arrived. 

Except for some trepidation when we passed under I-64/81 in the middle of nowhere, the remaining 250 miles to our retreat is largely uneventful.  I remembered how foolish I felt driving up and down the Interstate with my GPS mapping road that go under the Interstate, but without off ramps. We stopped at our buried cache in Mon National Forest and added those items to our load.  More people seemed to be open carrying then usual, but it's legal here and we may just be extra sensitive.  It's not unusual and according to at least one survey we have the highest rate of armed households East of the Mississippi.  By keeping the truck registered in our retreat state, sticking to back roads, and crossing under Interstates where there are no exists, we were able to avoid road blocks.  We arrived back at our retreat community with twenty-four hours of leaving Hampton, before the bridge to our community was closed, and within the nine meal buffer before anarchy.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thanks for all you do.  In my quest to do one thing to prepare for the coming uncertainties each day, I thought I would take a moment to remind you and all readers that this coming weekend is the Equinox, the time that I update my car kit to prepare for the coming winter.  Besides my day to day car kit, I'll add extra warm coats, hats, gloves, boots and scarves to the trunk.  Additionally, a few ponchos and garbage bags.  Here in one of the nanny states in the northeast US, there aren't many places I go that will require much more than that.

I also think it it's a good time to remind all that a half tank of gas should be considered an empty tank.

All the best, - Project Manager X.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ragnar Benson wrote the book “The Survival Retreat: A Total Plan For Retreat Defense” many years ago, but one of the things he discussed has stayed with me for a long time.  Reading this blog influenced me to read it again recently.  A great many of the things in the book don’t apply to my situation, but his discussion of the insights into the conditions during a disruption of normal society influenced my decision to “bunker in place.”  His descriptions of the situations of refugees especially affected me.  Refugees are basically at the mercy of whichever authority is controlling the area they are moving through, or temporarily residing in, at the time.  More than anything, what I have taken from this section of his book, and I have paraphrased here is, die if you must but never become a refugee.  In the broad sense a refugee is anyone who is not residing in a permanent, sustainable, and defendable location; and has no intention of moving from it in the foreseeable future.  The qualities of your location may be dependent on your means at the time, but they are necessary.  By this definition, if you have to commute to and from work through an area that could become dangerous during any societal disruption, during the time you are moving through this area you are a refugee.  You have limited resources, you have to move through territory that may have unknown dangers from obstructions, you have no fixed defenses, and you may have a limited time to reach your destination.  This is especially true if you are truly “bugging out”, moving you, your family, or your group from an area which is not any of the above requirements for a retreat.    Most probably even though you are a “prepper” and have made many preparations for eventualities you do not live permanently at your retreat location.  Even if you do, most of you have to work somewhere else, and very few of you stay within a few miles away from you retreat every minute of every day.  You take vacations, shopping trips, visits to the relatives, etc.  I don’t think any disruption will be sudden enough that you won’t have 2 or 3 days to get to your retreat, but that doesn’t mean something like a war or major volcanic eruption in Yellowstone can’t happen. Even so, some difficulties will be manifest during a slow slide to oblivion.  Unless you are part of a military armored column with close air support and adequate recon capabilities you are a refugee.  You are vulnerable.  To maximize your chances of reaching your destination safely you have to think and act like a refugee, a smart refugee.

When you are moving you are extremely vulnerable.  Anyone who has hunted knows that the best time to find game such as deer and elk is when they are moving and you can “lieth in wait” as the Bible says.  When they are bedded you have to move to find them, and that gives them the advantage.  Every moment you are on the move or stopped in some questionable camp you are vulnerable to the predators that will be waiting or moving in search of prey, and it won’t take much movement to attract their attention.  In a true “fan” situation, and even in a temporary local disruption if it happens to be your local, every thing beyond your line of sight including intervening obstructions such as gulleys must be considered “Bandit Country.”  If you live in a city this includes down to the corner and around the block.  Any place that could hide a hunter or a group of hunters is suspect.  Your status as a refugee may be extremely temporary, but it can take no time at all to put you in grave peril.  As a refugee you want to be as inconspicuous as possible.  Any attention you attract is probably not good, and in a total meltdown can be deadly.  You need to avoid all contact with anyone outside your trusted group.  This includes the neighbor you’ve known casually for many years.  Trust no one outside your group, and have no one in your group you don’t trust. Everyone must know and act according to plans and instructions.  Bugging out is no place for a debating society.  Since it may not be possible to avoid all contact you want to blend in as much as possible.  Don’t look too rich or too poor.  Most of the people you meet will not be prepared for this and will look rundown, ragged, and discouraged.  If you look too rich by being prepared they will try to latch onto you either to make you responsible for them by association or to steal what they need.  The same goes for looking too weak or too powerful.  The larger the group the more attention it will draw; and the harder it is to stay out of the spotlight as it were.  The individual or single family with a child will be very attractive to just about anyone.  As to the logistics of bugging out there are a number of things which must be considered to maximize your chance of reaching your retreat successfully.  These are based on your having to move after a fan situation, but can be applied any time you are away from your retreat.

If you live east of the Mississippi river your retreat should be on the east side also unless you live somewhere in Minnesota near the headwaters.  It’s a big river and there are a limited number of bridges over it and they are well known to every local.  They make great choke points for movement.  The same goes for any of the major mountain ranges, or other major geographical features which funnel movement through limited avenues.

If you are less than 50 miles away from your permanent retreat, why haven’t you moved there already?  Move now and commute.  Buy a cheap car that gets good gas mileage and never let it get below three quarters full.  Keep good tires on it and keep it in good condition.  It may be a pain to commute, but it is much easier for one person in a small car to negotiate hostile territory than 2 or 3 loaded vehicles to do so.

If you live more than 100 miles from your retreat you should allow for at least one night on the road somewhere.  The reasons for this assumption will be itemized and explained below.  They are based on worst case scenario premises and a realistic assessment of conditions during a total fan situation.


  1. If you are out of fuel you are going nowhere and thence a truly desperate refugee, so saving fuel is a high priority. Drive the optimal speed for fuel economy. (Research this for your particular vehicle.)
  2. Every thing past the end of your block is bandit country even if you were on the same route this morning.  Yesterday was a lifetime ago.  It is a brand new unknown country and you have to treat it that way to survive.  Every blind turn, sharp curve, overpass, underpass, bridge, tunnel, hill, or even stretch of road with dense vegetation close to the edge must be investigated prior to driving through.  Ditty-bopping along at 60 mph and topping an overpass to see a sawtooth log barricade across the road or a massive pileup at the bottom could be very embarrassing.  Might even be deadly.
  3. Any vehicle will be much quieter at 25 or 30 than at 55 or 60.  I live in quiet country away from any major paved road and the whine and roar of a car or truck on a paved road can be heard for quite a few miles.  Remember, you’re a refugee and you don’t want the attention of the hunters.  Also, remember the other really desperate refugees that will also be on the move, going nowhere.  While not that dangerous in themselves, the larger the group the greater the consumption of limited resources and the harder it is to stay out of the spotlight.  Dissension in the ranks can be increased tremendously.
  4. If you have to travel on unpaved roads the dust trail of a vehicle at speed can be quite impressive and highly visible if the weather conditions are right.  If not, say unplowed snow, traveling at speed is dangerous in itself.

Travel time.

  1. You will only be able to travel during daylight hours.  The reasons should be obvious.  If they aren’t you have no business attempting this sort of a bug out.  If you have to travel during the winter you may have only 6 to 8 hours of daylight to travel in.  The following requirements will reduce this to only 4 or so hours of actual time.
  2. Since you will have to spend at least 1 day on the road depending on the distance you have to travel you have to find a safe camp to spend the night in.  Even if you have a number of possible sites picked out which have all the requirements, water-seclusion-defendability-space-accessibility, others may have the same locales in mind.  Desperate refugees hue to the even a blind monkey can occasionally find a banana philosophy.  Local hunters may also know of these locations as good places for harvesting whatever.  You will have to start looking for and find a suitable place long before dark because your camp will have to be set up, members fed, children bedded, defenses and sentries set, and light and noise security established long before full dark, which can be as early as 4:30 in the winter.
  3. In a real TOTWAWKI it will have to be a cold camp.  Cooking food smells can travel for miles and smoke and light from a fire even further.  Even the heat from a furnace in a trailer can be detected, and the noise of a fan can be quite loud if it is the only noise for miles around.
  4. Light and noise security must be maintained until full daylight which is usually 8:30 or 9:00 in the winter depending on the weather.  Patrols must be sent out to determine the operational situation since last patrol the night before.  Only then can the camp be allowed to stir, members fed, and camp packed up for the days travel.  Set up and tear down must be done with the utmost quiet to prevent attracting the oft mentioned attention.

There are many other requirements which could be listed here, where to have the noon meal, how to keep small children quiet, what to do with human waste to prevent propagation of the smells, which roads should be the primary route, when to leave, who and how many to trust, and on and on.  These itemized here should be sufficient to convince anyone intending to travel any distance to a permanent retreat to be “getting real” about “bugging out” before they actually have to.  As for me, I am bunkering in place for as long as I can, and have discussed with my closest neighbor, not too close, how we can support each other.  I may have to die in place also, but I have decided I won’t become a refugee.  My children are all grown, though I don’t think it would change my thinking if I did have small children, or if my grandchildren were living with me.  If you are a Christian death is not the end.  That, and a quick death can be a blessing compared to what some small children have been subjected to.

One other item, and it is off on a tangent towards equipment, but is part of the mindset.  Remember, you are a refugee; if you can hide, hide by all means.  Never initiate contact with anyone you don’t have to.  Especially combat contact.  You will probably be carrying a precious cargo of non-combatants.  If the hunters, or others, are 50 yards away and they haven’t seen you, keep quiet and stay in hiding.  Don’t under any circumstances initiate contact unless you know they have discovered your location and appear to have evil intentions.  You have set up your camp to be as advantageous to you as possible.  You want them as close as possible before initiating an engagement so you can neutralize the threat as quickly as possible with the least amount of damage to your personnel and equipment.  Remember, they have to move to get to you and that makes them vulnerable.  Therefore, the battle rifle in 7.62x51 caliber which can hit a target at 800 yards won’t be of any real advantage.  The 5.56 caliber weapon can be just as effective at 200 yard or less, especially with the XM855 ammo.  You can only carry so much stuff in or on any vehicle and you can carry more rounds of the smaller caliber.  Any engagement will be very short in duration, absolutely terrifying, unbelievably violent, gut-wrenchingly horrifying to your group’s psyche, deadly in effect, and quickly final one way or another.  Number of deadly projectiles downrange per second will be very important and the smaller caliber is easier to fire with combat accuracy by the inexperienced.  Right now you can’t afford to take any casualties since you don’t have a MASH unit traveling with you and you can’t depend on the locals or they wouldn’t be hunting you.  Once you get to your retreat being able to reach out and touch someone or something, like an elk, at long range will be much more important.  I have both for the reasons stated above; and other large bore calibers also. Just because I can I suppose.

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.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greetings Sir,
I read your post concerning magazine pouches for some of the more obscure weapons systems favored by many in our community. I'm not sure if the demand is there to justify a full production run of the pouches you mention, but we do produce very limited custom articles from time to time for clients with specific needs. If you would like a truly custom, American made product to fit the systems you mentioned, we would be glad to provide that service for you. Your input will completely drive the design, including, the products style, color, material, mode of function, attachment system, etc. I would be happy to send sample articles for test and evaluation before settling on a final design as well. The only obvious problem is laying hands on all the magazines you described in the post. In the past, we have just gone out and purchased the magazine in question, but with the mania of recent events still raging, that is clearly a problem. This can easily be overcome by you sending us a single magazine in each of the configurations for which you need a pouch. The magazines will be returned in good condition with the completed project if you choose to go forward with the order. Our company is DynamicDesignsUSA. We are located in Utah, so we are not subject to any of the ridiculous restrictions on magazine capacity, etc. prevalent in the more blue areas of the country.
If you're interested, please take a look at our web site for a small sampling of our capabilities. Only about 20% of the gear we manufacture is actually on the site because the products were developed for clients with very specific requirements. If you can describe it, we can most likely make it for you.
Best Regards,
Tyler Donaldson
Dynamic Designs LLC.
Phone: 435-313-4513

JWR Replies: I've posted this e-mail for the entire readership, since I'm confident that I'm not alone in needing pouches for unusual magazines.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Many years ago I worked as an EMT - part of my training was to work on a Chicago Fire Department rescue ambulance. It was exciting  and demanding. Also, in the course of working as a police officer, I had many occasions where I had to cut someone out of a seat belt that had become stuck, or cut people out of their clothing so we could attend to their injuries. While I've always carried a pocket knife, it was not the perfect tool for the job.
There are several different types of cutting tools on the market today, that are geared toward EMS, rescue and police officers, that are designed for helping them cut injured people out of a stuck seat belt or their clothing. However, one rescue tool really caught my attention a couple months ago, and that is the T3 Tactical Triage and Auto Rescue Tool sold by For the sake of brevity, we'll just call it the T3.
The T3 is a folding knife, but it doesn't end there. It also has a seat belt cutter, that can double as a cutter to remove clothing from an injured person - and this is important, as many times, I've had to cut away clothing on an injured person to properly treat them and dress their wounds. There is also a hardened glass breaker on the butt of the T3 - this is used for easily breaking out automobile windows, and you can do it safely and quickly, instead of pounding on a window with a night stick, rock or even your hands - I've done all three in the past - not fun! On top of that, there is also a flashlight built into the T3 - and it isn't used for navigating at night, instead, if is used to check pupil dilation on an injured patient. That is a very important tool to have if you are working in EMS!
The 440C stainless steel blade is 3-1/4 inch long, but it looks longer for some reason - not a bad thing, just an observation. The overall length of the T3 is 5 inches in the close position and it weighs in at 6.4 ounces. It is a hefty beast, but needed in a rescue tool - you don't want some lightweight tool, that might fail you at the worse time - you want heavy-duty, and the T3 is that! Half the 440C blade is serrated, another good idea, in case you have to cut through wet rope, clothing, etc., just makes it easier with those serrations, trust me - been there, done that - and serrations make the job easier when dealing with wet material. you also get a heavy-duty Nylon belt sheath, if you prefer to carry the T3 on your belt, and there is a stainless steel clothing/pocket clip, for carry inside a pocket, for faster deployment.
Over the  years, I've tested seat belt cutters and serrated knife blades on actual seat belt material, so I had some on-hand for testing. The seat belt cutter easily cut right through the seat belt material with ease! It really grabbed the material and fed it into the cutter, too. The serrated blade worked almost as well, but it tended to snag a bit - ever so slightly. For my money, the seat belt cutter is the tool for - well, cutting through seat belt material. But the serrated folding blade worked 98% as well as the seat belt cutter did - no surprise there. However, I had to apply more force with the serrated blade, than I did with the cutter. Again, no surprise there!
The flashlight - it worked as advertised...I checked the pupils on my wife and the light wasn't blinding, like so many of today's hi-tech super bright flashlights are, that can not only destroy one's vision temporarily, but actually do serious harm, maybe permanent harm to a patient's eyes. Additionally, the battery is easy to get to when time comes to replace it.
The spring loaded, steel-tipped window punch tool: I was interested in this one, for sure. However, I wasn't about to break out my own car windows to test it. I had an old picture frame that was cracked, so I used that as a test media. I placed the tip of the window punch tool against the glass, and applied pressure and the glass shattered into hundreds of pieces. I know this will easily punch out the window of an auto or truck. I even tested the power of the window punch tool against a 2X4 and it made a nice little dent in it. No doubt this will easily break windows in vehicles!
The 440C stainless steel knife blade held a good edge, and to be sure, not all 440 stainless steel is the same. There is 440A, 440B and others, but 440C is the toughest in my humble opinion. Normally 440C is tough to re-sharpen, but the T3's blade wasn't that hard - maybe a lower Rockwell hardness? I don't know...the blade held an edge for a long time - I did a lot of cutting with the T3 - and when time came to re-sharpen it, it didn't take but a couple minutes on some crock sticks to get the blade hair-popping sharp again! The handle scales on the folder are G10 - or they at least appear to be...I didn't see any information on the web site to tell me differently. There is also a thumb stud on the folding blade, and it easily snapped the blade in-place. Friction grooves are on the top back of the blade, for perfect thumb placement in the fencing grip!
If you are an EMS responder, police officer, or just about anyone - you can benefit from the T3. While not designed as a survival knife per se, it fills in that role - if a person is trapped in a burning vehicle, and you need to get them out ASAP, the T3 is a survival knife - trust me! If you have family or friends in the EMS or law enforcement fields, then buy a T3 for them as a gift, they'll really appreciate it - and so will injured people. Best of all is, the T3 is only $39.99 right  now -- discounted $20 -- and orders over $100 are shipped free. I think anyone in the EMS or rescue line of work would benefit greatly by the T3. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dear JWR,
After reading your list of needful gear I wanted to offer some insight. First, the weapon stencils you mentioned are available from the makers of Duracoat at Lauer Custom Weaponry. They offer the woodland pattern as well as many other camouflage patterns, including multi-cam. In addition to that they sell a  template kit that you use to design the pattern yourself.  While you're there don't forget to check out their Duracoat kits, colors and temporary camo paint for mission specific camouflage that is removed by another of their products.

As for the Kydex equipment, there will never be enough on the market. I suggest creating your own custom holsters and gear from the material. has tons of information and specifications for the materials applications, including adhesive agents and shrinkage. Two more sources for Kydex sheets are and A quick Internet search will yield plenty of options. I've even found multi-cam sheets for exceptionally reasonable prices, and with the money saved on material and taking pride in your hand made kit, what's not to like?   - Michael S.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mr. Rawles,

Regarding your big listing of American-made tools: For 30+ years I was a devotee of CeeTee pliers because they were the best.  Alas, like many, they are no longer American made.  Even 25 years ago, I noticed that the then-new CeeTee pliers were not as heavily made as the pair I had purchased in 1971.
A few months ago, I was bemoaning the state of CeeTee pliers to a friend that works in a hardware store.  He set me onto his favorite pliers (like me, he had been a CeeTee devotee):  The pliers are from Wilde Tools.
These hand tools are all 100% American made, produced in Hiawatha, Kansas.  They are heavy-duty and have a Lifetime Guarantee. Explore their web site.  Get at least a pair of their “regular” pliers.  I’ve only had mine a few months, but I love them! I cannot recommend these highly enough.
Keep up the great work with the blog! - Doug P.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Triple-decker mint brownies are one of my favorite treats.  The base is a thick, chewy brownie.  Next, a layer of green mint filling is spread on the brownie which is then topped off with a thin layer of creamy, chocolate glaze.  When I think of these delicious brownies I think of prepping.  The thick, chewy brownie on the bottom represents the base of my preps.  This is long term, shelf stable food, water, security, sanitation, first aid, communications, and all the other things which are the foundation of being prepared.  This is by far the largest layer.  The mint layer represents bug out bags, bug out vehicles, and mobile preps.  It’s a smaller layer, yet very important to the overall composition of the entire “brownie”.  The thin layer on top is everyday preps or a get home bag.  All three layers work together to create a yummy dessert or a complete preparedness plan that all work together now and will meet the needs of my family down the road.  The brownies wouldn’t be complete without the chocolate glaze on top.  Prepping for everyday (small) emergencies is important and can help me get ready for larger, more complex emergencies.

The foundation preps are a constant work in progress.  I’m regularly thinking about, making lists of, shopping for, and organizing my basic preps. Long term preps are strictly stored and earmarked for family (or group) use only. My bug out bag is packed and ready to go in the closet near the front door. Bug out bags are for the family, but may also be shared with others, if the situation calls for it.  I can’t store my bug out bag in the car because of the heat.  Many items would be ruined in a very short time.  This leaves me without anything to grab and go with at work.  I primarily work at a school, which doesn’t have an appropriate place to store a bug out bag.  Another layer of preparedness is necessary to complete my overall plan. My solution is a small get home bag located inside my purse.  A get home bag is, of course, for my use, but seems to be more about assisting people whenever I can.  Looking for opportunities to help others daily, and having the supplies to do so, helps me prepare mentally for all sorts of more intense challenges that may come my way.
 My large, oversized purse (can also be a messenger bag, small backpack, or a computer bag for guys) holds numerous supplies and is with me all the time.  The bag has a long shoulder strap which can be worn across the body and the bag carried in front or back.  There are pockets on the outside to hold my phone, my keys (three different sets), and pens.  It’s hard to find these items in the bottom of the bag because my purse is so large and so full.  I may need to get to these items quickly.  I always shop carefully to find the right purse.  I also carry a book bag filled with classroom supplies, so I get plenty of exercise lifting all my gear.  Here are some of the important items that are with me all the time:

*Water bottle filled with water - In a hot climate it can burn your mouth if left outside for too long, so be careful!  In Arizona water is always your first priority, no matter where you’re going.
* Cell phone – for obvious reasons.
* Keys – can be laced between the fingers and used to strike an assailant, if necessary.  It’s good to carry keys this way, especially if walking at night.
* Camera – if you have a good one on your cell phone, then you don’t really need a separate camera, but I like mine – it’s small – and I have photos of family members on it in case I need them for identification purposes.  This is good to have in case of an accident – take photos to help remember details.
* Money – “In an emergency, cash is king.”  Sometimes students need lunch money – not necessarily an emergency.
* Snacks – no melty stuff - just *nuts, granola bars, crackers, fruit snacks, jerky, gum, mints, etc. 
*Nuts can be tricky – some classrooms have posted nut-free zone signs for students with allergies (most of these students carry Epi-pens with them).  I go easy on nuts during school.
* Scissors – I use scissors every day – in my kitchen, in the garden, at school and for sewing - to name just a few.  They are one of the best inventions ever made!  Students ask to borrow my scissors all the time because they know I always have a pair.  This small (3” blade), but sharp pair, is the closest thing to a weapon that I can carry at school, since it’s a weapon-free zone.  (My bug out bag contains a Swiss army knife and a Leatherman tool which I could quickly retrieve and put in my purse on the way out the door, if conditions require it.)
* Small pliers – another great tool.  I’ve rescued kids who were trapped inside jackets with broken zippers with these babies!
* Small sewing kit – made from an Altoids box with at least two needles threaded – one black and one white for quick fixes.  I also like Hi-Mark thread and dental floss for heavy duty repairs.  Include lots of safety pins.
* Small screwdriver – Try to find one small enough to fit in the sewing kit (mine is from an old sewing machine).  These are great for fixing broken desk legs, computer carts, hinges, etc.  It beats calling the maintenance man and waiting.  If the screwdriver is small enough, it can be used on tiny eyeglass screws.
* Small first aid kit – this needs to be larger than an Altoids tin so it can hold large Band-Aids, dressings, antiseptic, gloves, and tape.  I have an even larger first aid kit that I keep in the school supply cupboard (inside a lunch box), which I can grab on my way out the door.  You can never have too many first aid supplies!
* Hat with a brim in front to keep the sun off of my face (a folded baseball cap works well).  In the winter I replace the hat with my “driving gloves”.  Warm hands and feet are a must when walking.
* Small case that contains sun block, Chap Stick (SPF 30 or higher or the medicated kind for burned lips), toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss (great for sewing up ripped backpacks), mirror (for signaling or starting a fire), nail clippers, Motrin, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, cough drops, etc.
* Kleenex – T.P. substitute/Hand sanitizer
* Small flashlights - several types, including bite lights (hands-free, small lights that are held in the mouth and the light follows wherever you look.  These are great for a small area, when you don’t want a bright light to call attention to where you are).  I also carry a small LED flashlight which will let everyone and their neighbors know where you are!
* Bandana – If someone is hurt, a bandana can be placed on the ground to prevent burning while the person is lying down (hopefully in the shade).  Also used for applying pressure to heavily bleeding lacerations or used as a wash rag.  Our family has color coded bandanas, which could be tied to a street sign to signal that a message has been left.  (See Post-its)
* Book or Kindle – books can be burned, but only for survival purposes (I would rather read them than burn them).
* Large Super Sticky Post-its – if I need to write a message, I can stick it on a smooth surface and hopefully it won’t blow away.  I also carry a large assortment of writing instruments.
* Map – a laminated, blown up map of the neighborhood with various routes home highlighted.  This is a half sheet of card stock, so it’s not too large.  More complete maps live in my BOB, again, this is just to get me home.
* Spare eyeglasses – when I get new glasses, the old ones get spread around to my purse, my BOB, a box of spare glasses on the emergency shelf, and so on. (Theodore Roosevelt packed 12 pair of glasses when traveling to Panama while the canal was being built.  He was prepared!)
* Large Ziploc bags – at least gallon size.  Can be used for wet or throw-up items.  At school, you always need to be prepared for throw-up!
* Paper clips – can be used to pick locks, fish things out of small spaces, and fix cars!  One day my car wouldn’t start and I used a paper clip (and my screwdriver) to tighten the clip around the solenoid of the battery.  It worked perfectly!
* Sweater or jacket – I usually have one with me or leave one at school, especially during the hot weather because the AC gets too cold in some rooms where I can’t adjust the thermostat.  This can also be used as a ground cover.

This list doesn’t include some personal items, plus I add a few more goodies to my bag when the school year begins.  It’s great to be prepared for everyday emergencies like nose bleeds, cuts, lost pencils, “starving” students, students that throw up, ripped backpacks, ripped clothing, and so on.  I’m often asked to help individuals with problems at school or I’ll take home a project that needs attention.  I try to do one “Good Samaritan” deed each day.  I might stay with a student with an injured leg (after they’ve fallen while running across campus) while another student goes to the office to get the nurse and a wheel chair.  I might walk a crying student to class and offer her/him Kleenex and kind words.  I might clean up after a student has a bloody nose (wearing my gloves) or clean up a throw up mess (yes, I’ve done that too – the student didn’t make it to the trash can or outside – also wearing my gloves). 

I rarely get sick because I do a good job with hand washing/sanitizing while at school.  I don’t get flu shots because I don’t like introducing an illness into my body unnecessarily.  Flu shots are a hit and miss proposition anyway.  Only three or four different types of flu virus are given in the vaccination.  The experts try to pick the ones that will be most common that year, however, if they pick the wrong ones and other strains start spreading, many people will still get sick, even if they’ve had a vaccination.  Some years many students miss up to two weeks of school because of flu.  I’ve never had the flu at school, only colds, even when students all around me are “dropping like flies”.  This may have something to do with working around so many germs all the time – I’ve built up some immunity. I have to stay healthy in order to help others.  This is especially important during emergency situations – take care of your own health first, and then be prepared to help others in any way possible.

My home is about a mile from work, so I frequently get dropped off in the morning and walk home in the afternoon.  It normally takes me 20 minutes to walk home (15 minutes if I pick up my pace, and ten if I run).  This gives me a chance to observe things around the neighborhood and learn all I can about my area. Usually, if someone stops to give me a ride, I say, “No, thank you, I need the exercise,” even on 110 degree days!  When I was a child, we had “Helping Hands” in our neighborhood.  Parents who were home during the day, and were willing to help a child in need, placed a poster (provided by the school so they were all the same and “official”) showing an open hand in the front window of their home.  This let children know they could go to them if they ever needed help.  For children who walked (the majority of the students at my elementary school), this gave them a sense of security.  The children mostly walked in groups anyway, rather than alone, which was a safety measure, as well.  Obviously, this wouldn’t work today because the wrong people would put a hand in the window to lure children to their homes.  As I walk home, since I usually walk alone, (there are also students walking at the same time), I mentally picture “helping hands” in the windows of people I know that would assist me if I was ever in need.  I think about their schedules and who’s home during the day in each house.  This is a small mental preparation that I make as I walk.  I hope my friends and neighbors feel the same way about my home – if something dangerous happened on the street, they could turn to me for assistance/refuge.

As I walk home I also try to notice who drives what car, who’s having work done in their yards, people around the neighborhood, areas that could be used for concealment, and so forth.  The HOA in my community maintains green belts with walking/riding paths and water features.  These green belts are part of several different routes home, including cut offs between houses and behind backyard fences.  The water in the green belt “lakes” is pumped in from the local water treatment plant.  I could filter or boil this effluent water if I ever needed to drink it. (I need to add a small filter and an enamelware cup to my bag for boiling water.)  Knowing where cacti are located is also important.  Pushing someone (who’s an unsuspecting threat) into a cactus is a quick way to cause pain and help them lose their focus.  Then I would run!
You would think that I don’t need much in a get home bag, living so close to work.  If something happened in the neighborhood, however, and I had to take a different route home or got stranded, this would be a great help to me and others.  Even during a fire drill (which we have every month) I take my bag with me.  I just never know when I’m going to need it.  There are many times when having extra “stuff” is a blessing.  Here are a few examples:   

Lockdown drills and actual lockdowns happen every year at school.  This can mean two hours of tense students worrying about something bad coming through the doors.  I tried to stay calm and reassure the students as much as possible and kept trying to call the front office for further instructions.  I also spent those two hours walking back and forth between the two doors thinking about what my response would be to gunmen or other threats.  I hovered around the students, making sure they were doing alright.  I was responsible for those children.   What would I do?  Many scenarios went through my mind.  It was a wake up call!  This was a chance for me to test my mettle.  Was I willing to sacrifice my life for that of a student?  I also wished for more items in my bag to pass out to distract the students (I didn’t carry as much “stuff” back then). (I won’t share the decisions I came to and things I pondered that day, because they are personal and each individual must find their own moral road.)  You can’t positively know how you’ll react in a dangerous situation until you’re actually in it, but thinking through various scenarios can help mental preparation.  The class was never in danger, but we didn’t know it at the time.  Later on, I found out that the SRO (School Resource Officer), wearing his bulletproof vest, fully armed, was on duty in the courtyard, right outside the classroom, the entire time the lockdown was going on, but the office didn’t let us know.  Just a little communication would have saved us a lot of worry and stress.

Contrast that to a more recent lockdown which lasted about 45 minutes near the end of the school day.  Changes have been made to lockdown procedures and supplies since the previously mentioned lockdown. A “Go Bucket” and a case of water bottles are now stored in each classroom (although the water bottles seem to disappear, the “Go Buckets” never do).  The buckets have an inventory list and instructions on the front – to be used only if necessary – and placed outside the classroom door after the lockdown or lockdown drill is completed (call the office, request a new bucket, and they will pick up the used one). On this day the students quietly drew pictures, read, did homework or slept on the floor until the lockdown was over.  After the lockdown was announced, the office communicated with the classroom via e-mail and kept everyone up to speed.  I was more prepped and ready as well, with lots of items in my bag to pass out, if necessary, and a calm attitude about the situation.  Shortly after the lockdown was over, the students were dismissed for the day.
 I had a problem, however, because I was walking and a news helicopter was hovering right over my path home.  A shooting had taken place, but other than that I had no information about the situation.  Was it safe?  I wasn’t sure (although the students were released), so I called for a ride home.  Had I not been able to get a ride, I would have walked right by the crime scene tape and dozens of police officers and news reporters!  I really wouldn’t have done that because I’m a prepper – right – and I would’ve taken one of my alternate routes home, away from the crime scene or stopped by a “helping hand” home of a friend.  The street where the crime took place was taped off for several days.  The situation was a domestic disturbance in which multiple people, including a child, lost their lives.  I thought about the neighbors who lived next door and down the street that couldn’t get back into their homes for at least two days.  I thought about living someplace else when society comes crashing down (I really hope I’m elsewhere by then).  I thought about my bag and not going home for several days.  I would be fine, with the exception of clean clothes and deodorant.  As long as I could touch base with all family members and account for everyone, then I would be okay with temporarily finding another place to stay, even without a BOB.  In addition to the shooting, dangerous chemicals were found stored in the backyard when the house was searched.  Another day of yellow tape was needed while the Hazmat team removed the materials.  The chemicals were stored next to a cinder block wall which was next to the green belt where many people and their pets walk and run (including me).  I had no idea it was so close to a public area.  This lockdown and crisis in a neighborhood adjacent to mine helped me to be more alert, more vigilant as I traveled through my community.  It was another (different kind of) wake up call.

Getting home from my secondary job is more complex.  Its located 25 minutes from my home by car on a college campus.  My first prepping priority is to make sure my car’s in good shape every time I travel to this job – full gas tank, tires fully inflated, oil changed & maintenance up to date, Justin Case (holds jumper cables, air compressor, and other emergency gear) in the trunk, etc.  If I could drive even part way home from this location during an emergency, it would be wonderful.  If I had to walk all the way home, it would take me two days.  I don’t carry a purse to this job because security isn’t great.  I do carry a tote bag with water, snacks, a magazine or sewing project, my pouch with my toothbrush in it, and spare bite lights/flashlights in the bottom.  If this gets stolen it’s not a big deal.  I can buy more water and snacks from the vending machine and I could “borrow” items from the first aid kit on the premises, if needed.  All personal items are carried on me (ID, money, keys, etc.).  I also wear a work apron that contains a sewing kit, Altoids, Chap Stick, phone, camera (sometimes), Kleenex, scissors, pliers, screw driver, Band aids, Sharpie, pen, Post-its, hand sanitizer, and bite lights.  I can’t carry as many preps because of the size of the apron. It’s very full as it is.  Another difficulty is the time.  I usually get finished with work around 10:30 p.m., so if something happened, I may have a hard time contacting people for help – they may be asleep.  I wear all black when I work this job, so I would blend in with my surroundings while walking at night, but there are some unfriendly, unfamiliar neighborhoods adjacent to the university.  I wear good shoes to this job since the cement floors are hard to stand on for long without supportive footwear.  My feet would be protected and I always carry a black hoodie, as well, so I would have another layer of “shelter” (clothing is considered shelter).   I only have one “Helping Hand” location on this long walk home.  I have keys to my sister’s place, which is on one of my possible routes home.  Other than that, this could be a long two days of travel and danger.   I only work this job ten to 15 weeks per year.  This (thankfully) limits my time in this location.  The extra money is nice, however, it lets me get items on my prepping list, pay outstanding debts, and invest in silver.  At this point, I’m not inclined to give up this job, but I need to work on some additional strategies for being safe in an emergency situation while I’m there.  Even if my car was inoperable, if I put some extra supplies in my trunk (just for a week at a time, so they wouldn’t be ruined), I could possibly get to them to help me get home.  I don’t think being on a college campus during an upheaval is a great idea.  I would try to leave as soon as possible, or at a minimum, walk to the police station (on campus) down the street.  Even during normal activities, like football games or graduation, there are so many people in one small area that chances of something happening are high.

Preparedness really is a layered process, just like great brownies.  Adding something to one of the prepping layers (long term/bug out/daily) makes a difference.  Sometimes, I get bogged down thinking I’ve done too little or I’m not prepared enough.  I stop myself from thinking this way by doing at least one preparedness task each day.  It could be as simple as thinking about prepping or adding an item to one of my lists (ear plugs were added recently) or looking through my preparedness binder for ideas or cleaning out a soda bottle and filling it with water or exercising (running) or practicing building a fire with one of the 17 different methods on my fire list.  (A recent favorite is a soda can with melted chocolate spread around the bottom edge and angled an inch from the kindling to start a blaze.  What better materials can be used to start a fire in Arizona in the summer than melted chocolate and an old soda can?  I can easily locate these materials.)  Action helps me think clearly and plan my next step.  All the little things I’ve done don’t seem like much, but when put together, they add up.  One of my favorite sayings is, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”  Prepping is absolutely greater than the sum of all the things you put together because you also gain experience and knowledge as you assemble your gear and test it out.
A drop of water doesn’t seem like much, but keep collecting drops and eventually you’ll have a bucket full of water, and that is something!  Every time I prep I’m adding a drop of water to my survival bucket.  Daily preps and get home bags may seem insignificant, but they are really important because they help me practice for what’s coming on a regular basis.  I need this reinforcement – both mentally and physically.  Get home bags are the important first step in a layered prepping strategy, or if I’m thinking of those brownies again, each layer of the brownie treat is okay by itself, but not unforgettable.  After all, would you like to eat a boring brownie or enjoy an outstanding, triple-decker dessert? I want fabulous, outstanding, multi-layered preps, so I’ll keep working on each layer, starting with my purse.

Thanks so much for your invaluable blog.  I’ve been reading with interest all of the checklists on what to include when bugging out.  But I’ll be 70 years old on my next birthday in January.  So even 40 lbs. on my back is too much for me to travel very far.  That limits what I can carry and how long I can stay viable.  Then I remembered when I was camping in the mountains of eastern Oregon, I saw what some hunters brought with them to bring back their deer.  It was a home made single wheel cart using a bicycle wheel with a frame above that held a sheet of plywood smaller than 4X8 feet.  It was able to go on almost any trail and could haul one or two hundred pounds with relative ease.  In this way, you could bug out and still bring almost everything you need for an extended period of time, not just a week or two, if there was a source of water that could be purified.  I hope this suggestion is helpful for you and your readers. - Cary T.

JWR Replies: I don't recommend a "bugging out" strategy for urbanites or suburbanites of any age, unless you already have a prepared retreat that is well-stocked.  Unless you have a very large truck, there is simply no way that you can get your family and everything that they will need out of town in just one trip.   Travel light, and travel fast (ahead of the herd.)   98% of what you need should already be waiting at your destination.

Deer carts and similar devices should indeed be considered, but reserve them for a worst case "Plan B."

Monday, August 19, 2013

I love dropping hints. Wouldn't it be great if someone made any of the following products? (Some of these might already exist.)

  • A set of stencils designed for camouflage spray-painting rifles and other field gear to replicate popular camouflage patterns, such as Woodland pattern.
  • Custom checkered wooden grips or molded checkered plastic grips at a comfortable Glock/1911 grip angle, to solve a problem that has existed since 1896.
  • A Kydex holster that would fit a HK 26.5mm flare pistol.
  • Kydex belt pouches shaped to fit all of the most popular Leatherman tool models.
  • Kydex belt pouches for FN FiveSeven pistol magazines.
  • Earth tone nylon magazine pouches specifically for those loooong magazines, such as HK93 40 rounders and Galil 50 rounders. (The Vest Guy already makes pouches for Saiga 12 magazines.)
  • Earth tone nylon magazine pouches specifically for FN FiveSeven pistol magazines with +10 extensions installed.
  • Earth tone nylon magazine pouches specifically for Glock 21 pistol magazines with KRISS magazine extensions installed.
  • Earth tone nylon magazine pouches specifically for Glock 33 round pistol magazines.
  • Stereo headphones with extra sturdy (larger gauge) cords and stress-relieved mini-plug that would last more than a couple of years.
  • Replica olive drab canvas skeeter gloves. (Open palm and no finger tips)
  • A soft start power box for radios that use vacuum tubes.
  • AAA, / AA/ C / D / 9 Volt and CR-123 smart battery charger trays with Anderson Power Pole connectors
  • Dewalt and Makita battery chargers with Anderson Power Pole connectors, to operate from 12 VDC power sources.
  • Speedloaders for large frame S&W top-break revolvers.
  • Speedloaders for .41 Colt DA revolvers.
  • 80% complete receiver modules for SIG P250 pistols
  • Waterproof hard shell plastic portage packs in earth tone colors with backpack straps, similar to the discontinued York Packs.
  • True expedition quality four season tents in earth tone colors similar to the discontinued Moss brand tents.
  • Replacement Valmet .223 and .308 magazines that really work reliably.
  • Replacement SIG AMT/SIG-510 .308 magazines that really work reliably.
  • Replacement Galil .308 magazines that really work reliably.
  • Replacement Yugo .308 magazines that really work reliably.
  • Replacement AR-180 magazines (with the thin mag catch slot) that really work reliably.
  • 20 Round magazines for Romanian PSL rifles that really work reliably.
  • 20 Round magazines for HK 770 / SL-7 rifles that really work reliably.
  • 15 and 20 Round magazines for HK USP .45 Compact pistols that really work reliably.
  • 10, 15 and 20 Round magazines for Ruger Scout rifles that really work reliably.

The aforementioned magazines should be taken as hints to the management at MagPul and at Uinta Industries.)

Note to America's Entrepreneurs: Take all of the preceding as new business venture suggestions. Some of these might be suitable for home-based businesses. - J.W.R.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hello, Mr. Rawles:
I'd like to share a hint with you and your readers: Save all of your empty (discharged) disposable lighters, such as "Bic" brand lighters. They contain flints that you can use in your Zippo lighter. [These lighters can have their striker mechanism quickly broken down with a pair of pliers.] These are longer than the replacement flints that are sold in stores. They also work well in the older Coleman lanterns equipped with flint strikers.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I have been a reader, and sometimes commentator, of your blog for some years. I have read all kinds of ideas on what should be carried for all kinds of bad things happening scenarios. One thing I have rarely seen mentioned is the simplest and cheapest fire starter around: a magnifying glass.

No moving parts. No fancy training. Hardly any space required. Less that $10 in any drugstore as a “reading glass.”

I have one that is 4” diameter by ½” thick one that I have carried, unprotected, in my coat pocket for over 30 years.
It has a lot of scratches on it. It will still get a pile of dry leaves into open flame in less than a minute, regardless of the air temperature.

I also carry in my back pack, in a simple manila folder, an 8 1/2 x 11 "Full Page Magnifier Fresnel Lens" It doesn’t provide the pin point hot spot that the glass lens does, but that can be an advantage if your target is damp. The larger “hot spot” seems to dry out a larger area before it gets to the ignition point. That larger area gives the flame more to work on when it ignites.

I don’t think there is any excuse not to carry either one, or both, on you at all times. - KBS

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My experience this past weekend camping with two of my friends and all of our children reminded me of the difficulties that one would have in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  To begin with I have two friends that I have known since jr high or longer.  We have, since that time spent lots of time together camping, hiking, biking, canoeing and any of a number of other outdoor adventures.  We have climbed over 12,000 foot passes while backpacking and ridden our bikes for hundreds of miles, camping along the way.  When we began having children we decided that we would do an annual camping trip to push the limits of what they and we could physically handle.  The ultimate goal, to build a life time love of the outdoors for our children and also to prepare them for the really fun trips we can do when they are finally big enough to carry their own weight.  For this article I will talk mostly of our most recent trip but may throw in lessons learned from the past.  

This years trip was by bike.  We rode 25 miles from one of our houses to a campground on the outskirts of our city.  In our party are three 38 year old men who are in decent shape but not the shape we were before fatherhood.  We had 3 girls 9,7 and 5 and 4 boys 5 ,5, 3 and 3.  The 9 year old rode her own bike but carried no equipment. We then had the other two girls and oldest two boy riding trail behind bike.  We had three Burley bike trailers carrying the youngest two boys and all of our equipment.  

We actually had room to carry more stuff but for the ease of transport we elected to only bring food for dinner and breakfast with the plan to resupply during the following day.  We ate our meals on the road at restaurants.  We cooked by fire to avoid a stove.  We had clean water available to us so we brought no water purification equipment.  The forecast was for temps from 60-80 so we could skimp on cold weather clothes and sleeping equipment.  All of these are thing I would be reluctant to leave behind were it not for the the fact that we were only gone three days and a rescue was only a phone call away.  We had the usual other camping and first aid equipment, as well as bike tools and tubes.  We did not have any tactical equipment or firearms with the exception of my carry gun and 2 extra magazines.  I state all of this to make it known that we would have wanted to bring a lot more with us or have it cached if this was a true bug out situation.  

The ride out there went pretty well.  We covered about 8 miles before we had our first break.  All the kids were hungry and thirsty and tired, though with in a few minutes most of them had begun playing red light green light and were clearly not that tired.  We had another 9 miles to go to our planned lunch stop.  My son who is very diligent about staying hydrated had to stop three times to use the bathroom in that next 9 miles.  It is good that I do not have to worry about him not drinking enough but it really slows momentum when the whole group has to stop so often.  About two miles from our planned lunch the nine year old was losing steam.  Even though we were only 20 minutes away at most from lunch we had to stop and let her eat a snack.  It was a good lesson for the rest of the kids when they did not also receive one as well(rationing) but it is once again a momentum stopper.  The truth though is that you can not make kids at this age wait to eat.  If they crash their energy reserve they will not recover for some time and that will slow the rest of the trip down.  This is true for adults as well.  I have certainly pushed myself to the point where with out food I was slowed to barely a walking pace while biking.  It can takes several hours to get your system up and running again and that is not a position you want to be in under any circumstance.  We made it to lunch and spent a good hour eating and resting before finishing our trip.  I believe we made it without any stops from lunch to the campground about another 7-8 miles.  I should add that we were riding mostly on a trail that was built on a rail road track so there was very minimal grade to contend with.  Whenever we met hills the weight of our combined rigs was a lot to deal with.  The whole trip took us about 5 hours with about 3 hours of riding time.

Some word on bike choice would be appropriate here.  I have a lot of bikes to choose from in my garage.  In order to pull a trail behind bike you can not have a rear rack because the trail behind mounts to the the seat post.  For this reason I did not ride my commuter bike which I am the most comfortable on and has the widest range of gears.  I picked an older bike that was a top of the line racing bike 20 years ago.  It is geared to go fast and it does, but I found that I was riding in the bottom 2-3 gears most of the time and was not able to maintain the cadence I would like unless we were going about 12-13 miles an hour.  If I were going up any kind of incline I had no choice but to fight down the pedal in way too tall of a gear.  I have ridden a lot and given our situation I could handle it but I would have been much happier with a bike geared for a lower speed range.  The truth is that even 12-13 miles an hour was never maintained for more then a few minutes and so I found myself always pedaling slower then I would like.  I will say though that when we faced one of those up-hill climbs and I yelled back to my son to pedal hard--he was helping me get up the hills.  It is important to take advantage of their energy when you can but also be mindful of preserving it on the level.  I suppose a mountain bike would be the best choice in a bug out situation but if you are comfortable on a commuter style bike the skinnier wheels will save you a lot of energy.  Half of our ride was on crushed lime stone which those bike handle well.  I have ridden them on true country gravel roads though and found them to be difficult to keep upright when loaded down.  I have also ridden a mountain bike with smooth but still fat tires on long trips and found them to be more able but about 1-2 miles an hour slower, there is always a compromise.

I will also comment on bike maintenance and equipment.  It is wise to have a tool kit with wrenches etc that will fit most if not all the components on your bike(s).  They do not generally have that many different sizes so the kit is not that big.  Spare tubes, tube repair kits, spoke wrench, chain breaker and tool, as well as a spare chain and chain oil would all be good things to have as well.  Remember tubes for all the different wheels you have.  [Albeit a rare occurrence,] a broken chain can be a real problem.  I was stranded once and had to have my sister come get me because I could not fix the chain and I was too far away to walk.  Chains breaking can be a very dangerous thing as well.  Many of the injuries I know of with bicyclists have happened while going hard up hill or sprinting and having their chain brake.  The rider almost always suffers a bad crash in this situation.  In some instance I know of broken bones and concussions.  

Once we reached our camp ground we put up our tent and set up our camp.  We rode back to buy firewood, much easier then foraging and set out to explore the campground.  We had drank all of our water plus three Gatorades, a chocolate milk for all the kids and drinks from water fountains along the way.  I would estimate that was at least 4 gallons of water but probably more.  That takes along time to pump through a purifier or boil and cool were that necessary.  Plus we had all begun the trip well hydrated.  We went to get more water and found that it tasted pretty awful.  A lot of the kids seemed like they would not drink it.  I am sure in time they would have but not before risking dehydration.  Luckily we had powder mix and found that it could be mixed pretty lean to take away the bad taste and still last.  

Here is the hard part about camping with kids.  The dads are tired and the kids are ready to play.  They are old enough to do so with out us but they like it better when we participate and after all we are there to have fun.  This gives our group a good chance to gain some unit cohesion where one father will entertain the kids while the other two get some work done.  By the end of the weekend the kids rarely care which dad is lifting them up, applying sunscreen to them or cutting their food.  It also give us the chance to discipline them all as necessary so that we can effectively operate in the absence of one parent such as when one of us had to go to the grocery store the next day.  If nothing else comes from these trips the chance to have a close relationship with your best friends children is worth it.  We never know when one of us may be gone and it is easier to rest knowing that there are at least two good men in their lives.  This is especially close to my heart as my father died when I was 19 and I would have liked to have had that relationship with some of his friends.  

After dinner, Smores for dessert, and another walk it was time for bed.  It is hard to get kids to go to sleep in a tent when it is still light out.  Expect it to take a while.  Even though they are tired, it is not dark enough and they are out of their element.  You will spend a good while going back to assure them that you are just sitting by the fire.  We stayed up until about 12:00 or so as adults then slept poorly until about 6:00 in the morning when the first kids started to wake up.  One thing that you get a lot practice with as parents in general and especially while camping is sleep deprivation.  I am sure in a bug out situation it would be worse but we would also be more careful about staying up so late and better about napping during the day.  

We made breakfast and then two of us took the kids to the playground while the other went to the store to get food for the rest of our stay.  This turned out to be a good opportunity for me to try my Mainstay Emergency rations on the kids.  When we returned from the playground to get our swimming suits for the beach the kids were all hungry again.  We had some food left but I told them we did not and offered them each one of the lemon flavored emergency bars.  To my surprise all but one of the kids liked them.  They did have a hard time eating the whole thing but it carried them over well, until lunch time.  I ate one as well and found it to be a little dry but filling.  At lunch we ate a loaf of bread,  chips, grapes and a few other snacks.  However much you think that you will eat get about 20-30 % more.  Kids eat a lot when they are outside all day playing.  The rest of the evening went well with the usual filling of all the water bottles every couple of hours.  The only new lesson learned was that my younger son who never has nightmares woke up in the middle of the night screaming about a bad dream.  That could be a big problem if you were dealing with a security situation but I am not sure how it can be avoided.  I think that if you went to bed with them it would help but it is only a theory.  

The next morning we were up again by 6, had oatmeal, packed up camp and were on the road by 9:30.  We could probably shave some time off of this but we did not have to pump water or do many of the other tasks that would have been necessary camping in the wild.  We made good time back going almost 12 miles before our first stop.  Another 5 miles brought us to lunch.  The last stretch we also made with out a major stop.  I find that the kids start to travel better the longer that you are out.  

We could probably have made it another 10 miles that first day but that would have been about the limit I think.  If we had traveled the next day I think that it would have had to be a pretty easy day but we could have probably made 20 miles.  After that I think that we could settle into a 30 mile a day routine.  I say this from past experience on longer trips.  The 2nd day is usually the hard one and after that you can usual get into a rhythm that works for awhile.  I think that it would be awhile before you could go much more then 35 miles a day and expect to keep doing it day after day.  

Another consideration is in a real situation we would have our wives with us.  That would increase our cargo capacity but also increase our cargo.  The other problem is that in our situation we are three friends that have done this kind of thing for over 20 years together.  We know our groups strengths and weaknesses and for the most part deal well with them.  Having spent the weekend at a cabin with the same group plus wives I know that our group does not operate as well.  I am sure it is something that would work itself out, as we are all married to very capable and intelligent women, but it still could make for some difficult moments.  

I have also given consideration to pulling larger trailers with multiple bikes.  We have done this once before when we built chariot type rigs to be pulled during our High school homecoming parade.  They were not of the highest quality construction so I am sure I could improve upon the design but they were manageable.  With two bikes attached as horses would be it did not take to long to coordinate with the other rider starts, turns and stops.  Hills were very difficult and some provision would need to be made for assisting the trailer up the hills possibly by less encumbered riders.  More likely by walking up  the hills.  The other problem and the main reason that I would see this as last resort is that they were very difficult to stop or turn quickly.  In this way you would expend a lot of energy going up hill and not getting the advantage on the coast down as you would be trying to keep from turning into a runaway train.  Another idea I have for moving more stuff is to shuttle half the group forward with half the equipment and then send the strongest riders back to pick up the rest of the stuff and the other half of the group.  This is also an idea I do not like but the truth it that we may be forced to make decisions we would rather not have to make and it is good to think about it ahead of time.  

In closing if biking is part of your strategy please ride as much as you can.  Ride to church, ride to the store, ride whenever you  can.  You body will remember those miles when the times comes.  Practice pulling additional weight up a hill, you will be surprised how much you can feel that 20 pounds.  The eye opener to me in all of this is that I need to consider more seriously caching food and equipment.   The cabin that I thought was one hard day of cycling away, is probably more realistically 3 to 4 days away.  All the extra space I had intended for more tactical equipment would be taken up by the additional food requirement.  

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

I have to confess, at one time, I had a huge CFP-90 pack, that was my own personal BOB, and I had so much stuff in it that I could hardly get it on, much less hike any distance - it probably weighed in at 50-pounds or more. But I was good to go, for a week or two without having to resupply, except for a source of water. What was I thinking? My only excuse was, I was young and dumb, and I was actually a lot younger, but a lot stronger back then, too. Today, I have a more sensible BOB for my own use - still working on the wife - she has a pack that is too big, but change comes hard to her.
I live out in the boonies - I'm six miles from one town, and ten miles from another town, with the main road about 3-miles from my digs. We don't have many people who live on our rural road, so whenever I see something a bit out of the ordinary, it catches my attention. For the past several months, I've been seeing a young man, probably in his early to mid twenties, hiking up and down our road, several times per week, with a HUGE backpack on his back. And, you can tell the bag isn't heavy, but it is stuffed - to make it look heavy. Just by the way the backpack carries on him, you know there isn't anything very heavy in there - oftentimes, he has a young teenage boy behind him. I don't know, maybe he his trying to impress the young teen with the monster pack, but it is probably full of clothing - to make it look full and heavy. To each his own, I guess.
If you think you can carry everything you need to bug out, in a backpack, you are only dreaming and kidding yourself. A BOB is meant for the bare essentials, to keep you alive for a few days - nothing more. It's not meant to be a bag that is packed for a two week vacation. You only need the basics, food, water, a change of clothing, a first-aid kit, a knife, perhaps a firearm with spare ammo - things like that. You honestly don't need the kitchen sink, and the bigger and heavier your bag is, the shorter the distance you will cover if you are on foot. I admit I'm getting older - later this year, I'll collect my first social security check, and I know my limitations. And, bugging out with a huge backpack isn't going to work for me - nor will it work for most folks, either.
The good folks at US Tactical Supply recently provided me with one of their Removable Operator Packs for testing. This isn't a big pack, it only has about 1,178 cubic inches of room inside of it - however, it does have bungee cord on the outside, for attaching other things, perhaps a jacket, poncho, or things like that. The sample I received is in Multicam camo, however, it is available in several other colors and camo patterns. The concept behind the Removable Operator Pack is that, you can attach it to you tactical assault vest, so it is part of it - or you can carry it solo, on your back. Attachment hardware is included for attaching the pack to your tactical vest. And, with the popularity of tactical assault vests, and vests that carry body armor, this is a great pack to add. I know that US Tactical Supply is now selling Infidel Body Armor, and I did an article on this outstanding and very affordable hard body armor on SurvivalBlog some time back, and US Tactical was so impressed with this armor, they are now a dealer. US Tactical Supply thought this pack would be the perfect accessory to this body armor vest, it is easy to attach and even easier to remove the pack, if you need to get it off in a hurry.
I know a lot of law enforcement personnel don't give much thought - and I should know, I was a cop - several times - as to down time on a call out. What happens if you are a SWAT cop, and you are on-scene for hours or even days - what do you do for food and water. What if you are holding an sniper position on a roof top, and you can't leave to get a drink of water or you need an energy bar or an MRE to eat? You don't have that with you - just your weapon and hard body armor vest. Well, with this Removable Operator Pack, you can have it attached to your tactical vest, and when you don't need it, just drop it - easy as that. And, as already mentioned, you don't need to be wearing a tactical vest to enjoy this pack, it works just fine on it's own - as a BOB - that you can keep in your vehicle or near your front door - just grab it and run.
There is a large main compartment, as well as a front compartment, that has side entry, and it is easy to get to the gear you have packed inside of it. There is also modular webbing for attaching additional pouches on the outside of the pack - then again, you are starting to add more weight - just how much can you carry for any distance or length of time? The zippers are heavy duty, and there is a grab/pull handle that won't pull off or rip, if you have to grab it and actually pull someone who is down - try that with many lesser packs! There is Velcro material for putting on unit patches on the back of the pack, too. There is a packet for carrying a 2 litter water bladder inside the pack as well - and you can never have enough water on any mission of bug-out scenario. And, if you are younger and stronger than me, like a Spec Ops guy, you can attach this little pack to an Extended Range Operator Pack (such as those made by Tactical Tailor,) for carrying additional gear, besides whatever is in your main pack.
Many Spec Ops guys might go out on a mission for weeks at a time, and resupply is difficult, if not impossible at times - they don't want to give away their positions, by having an air drop of supplies, or having a helicopter landing near them - that could spell disaster. So, these guys might hump out of base camp with a pack weighing a hundred pounds or more - and the DoD is talking about cutting military pay and benefits? I think not!!!!! Anyone in the military earns every red cent then are paid - so why are we even talking about cutting their pay and benefits? Don't even get me started...
For a BOB, the Removable Operator Pack, is an out standing choice - if you pack it wisely. We simply aren't talking about carrying everything you "think" you need to survive in the wilderness for weeks at a time, or forever. Those with a mind set like that, aren't going to survive for long at all. You simply have to pack wisely, and train smarter - only take the things you absolutely need. And, not all bug out situations means that you have to bug out to the wilderness. Maybe you just need to bug out for a day or two - and head to a motel or to Aunt Martha's house because of a nearby fire or flooding. Just don't go thinking that every time you bug out, you have to head to the wilderness and survive like a caveman - such is not the case. More often than not, you just have to leave your dwelling for a day or two, three at most. If you honestly believe you have to bug out to the mountains, you had better have pre-positioned a lot of supplies ahead of time.
Think smart and pack even smarter. Everyone should have some kind of BOB, and for some, it might just be a suitcase, for others an overnight bag, for some, it might mean a small backpack, and the Removable Operator Pack will sure fill the bill nicely. It is made from 1000 denier Cordura Nylon construction - many lesser packs are made from 600 denier - and they rip easily.
I've tested several products from US Tactical Supply over the years, and they only carry the best of the best. To put it bluntly, and in poor English, "they don't carry no junk." If you want junk, go to Wal-Mart or your big box store and buy junk, but you'll be buying junk again and again because it won't last you. The Removable Operator Pack is $95. That is not cheap, but not too bad - we are talking high-quality here - not junk! Check it out on the US Tactical web site for more information. You could do a lot worse, or get a bigger pack, that you won't be able to hum for very long. Pack smart, buy smart! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, August 10, 2013

[Editor's Introductory Note: I sometimes receive quite lengthy articles that are mix of great practical information and extended political narratives. In such cases I sometimes opt to edit out the particularly ranty sections. Where I have done so, you will see: "[Some deleted, for brevity]". My apologies, but to make an article of this length readable, editorial discretion is a must. Furthermore, I have to recognize that all politics are local. Since SurvivalBlog is a publication with an international readership, I feel obliged to chop out political discourses that would be of little or no interest to my readers in places like England, Germany, or India.]

My family and I have received so much benefit from all of the information from SurvivalBlog as fellow blog readers, that we wanted to give something back.  Hence we decided we would submit this entry into your writing  contest.  Hopefully it will help other readers, who like us, struggle with both, not seeing as clearly as we may think what lies in store for us, nor knowing exactly how to prepare for it when we do see it.  While there is something to be said for lessons learned the hard way, as we all know, there is also never enough time to make all those mistakes again for yourself. So for that reason, as well as all the wasted time & resources we've fumbled our way through, we would like to share with other readers the lessons we've learned, with the hope that they will help someone else streamline their preparations better than we did.  We certainly don't have all the answers, in fact I can't even say for sure that the answers we do have are the right ones for anyone other than us, it's just what we've found, and how we have addressed our various concerns.  I guess here's also where I should say, "your individual mileage may vary." To best convey the lessons we've learned  I would like to do it in three distinct sections. First, how we arrived at where we did, secondly, the information which generally guided our then redirected and more aware thought process, and finally, the actual equipment and decisions that actually got us to where we wanted to be. 

I should start off by saying that we are middle class Americans.  Christian, law abiding, patriotic, and freedom loving of course.  We are not disenfranchised, anarchists, social malcontents, nor psychotic. We are just worried by what we see happening in our country.  I'm a ten year military veteran, former police detective / SWAT officer, and now a licensed in a medical private practice. My wife works as a sales representative. We have three sons who are in their mid to upper teens.  We're just average, everyday people by most standards.

Like most folks, we thought we had been moving along the prepping path fairly smoothly, until recently when my wife and I both began to feel very uncomfortable with what we were seeing regarding how easily our various elected "leaders" were apparently embracing the concept of "political corruption with impunity".  Additionally, we were very concerned not only with how all of us, as citizens were being treated, but the very way in which these same "leaders" seemed to view us at a fundamental level.  They seemed to be barely able to conceal the disdain they have, both for us, as well as the constitutional rights we claim, when we question their actions, and seek their accountability. 

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Our hope and goal of course, is to be able to remain low profile, and stay in the home we are preparing on our northern Idaho ranch.  It is, after all, our primary security and logistical base.  I know many of us realize that at some point we may need to defend our homes, as well as ourselves, be it just as a single family, or in cooperative groups.  Home defense, to whatever degree may be required, I happen to believe, can only be realistically attempted against civilian threats, and even then, only in reasonable numbers.  Certainly not against any, even moderate size, or type of conventional military, or militarized police forces.  Like most in the prepper community, we want to avoid any armed confrontations with anyone, to whatever degree we can.  Our intent has been to do that by being as discreet as possible.  Knowing that will only go so far however, our simultaneous plan has been to make our ranch as inaccessible, and undesirable of a target as possible.  Worth neither the risk, nor the cost, to any potential miscreants. Should the worst come to pass, hopefully, Good Lord willing, there will be an evolution into cooperative communities throughout The Redoubt, be that simply a single street, a whole neighborhood, or entire communities.  An evolution into working together for their mutual security, as well as other common benefits.  The down side to this hope however, is that such cooperation will likely take time before people realize the logic and mutual benefit in doing so, as well as to develop the willingness to trust anyone again.  In view of these things, our mindset had been to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst.  All well and good I suppose, until in our scenarios, we started replacing criminals and looters with federal sanctioned enforcement troops, who viewed us as "the threat".  We then started wondering, what happens at that point?  More importantly, what if these same "leaders" who show such disdain for the citizenry and their constitutional rights now, become a bigger component in this forthcoming problem?  What's left then, just to run and hide?  I must admit, we considered that tactic. Just hide, survive, wait for the dust to settle, and then help rebuild. Hard for us to swallow to be sure, but something we had to consider, none the less.  In the end however, we felt that simply leaving our ranch to be plundered, and running away to hide, in what we access would clearly be a hostile environment at that point, with no additional substantial support structure in place to sustain us, just to avoid potential conflict, put us all in an equal, albeit different type, of danger that is every bit as grave.  

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Up to this point, our preparations being geared towards living discretely and then hiding and waiting things out, was not a bad starting framework.  However, given these aforementioned realizations, we have been forced to evolve in our thinking, and therefore make some adjustments to our preparations as well.  Due to the increasing concerns these realizations have have brought to our attention, my wife, now thoroughly stressed out, opted to turn it all over to me (God bless her) to find the solution.  To that end, I began doing research both historically, as well as regarding current military forces, and their use in quelling the civil unrest that's currently going on around the globe.  As a result, I've come to the conclusion that there will very likely be more violence directed at dissenting citizenry than we personally were anticipating. That appears to be the common thread in how these situations unfold. Additionally, as for us, we were probably too open in voicing our opinions about the current state of affairs in our country, letters to newspaper editors, etc.  Thus, I don't think we can effectively "fly under the radar" at this point.  We've already spoken up and drawn all the wrong kinds of attention to ourselves, "making the list", so to speak.  Decision's I'm not sure I would make a second time. They only served to draw negative attention to our position on these social issues, while producing no apparent immediate positive change.  Why send out such an alert, when we are all so closely scrutinized?  Why inadvertently shorten your G.O.O.D. reaction window, and become one of those first houses visited without warning?  Was it worth it or not?  I cannot say. 

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Things in recent world news, as well as events here in the various scandals of our own government,   It scares us to death.  It's as if our elected leadership has been empowered, and turned down the path of trampling any of our rights that are not convenient for them.  Usurping authority, abusing citizens, and not to sound melodramatic, but turning not only ungodly, but just plain evil.   Such demonstrated behavior compels us to believe that without the boundaries of accountability and resistance when needed, their abusiveness will not end, but rather will only expand and grow worse, until it destroys us all.  If that's in fact true, and we see no reason to think otherwise, then the hide and wait scenario has a very limited shelf life after all.   No more "low profile", hide & wait it out.  We're all going to have to stand the line, or live with something much worse than what we're complaining about right now!  While we can't speak for anyone else, we've decided that we're not up for passing that legacy on.  The buck had to stop somewhere, & that's where some new stuff for us had to begin. These realizations have changed both our thinking, and how we prepare, we believe for the better. This section was about realizing the underlying threat.  The next two sections respectively are about better understanding that threat & how to cope with it, and then the item by item list of how we modified our preparations meet this evolving threat. We hope that it helps others to to take a look with fresh eyes at their own preparations and consider the realities we did not.

[Some deleted, for brevity]

I also learned military operations today are primarily focused around the concept of forces being "inserted" near a conflict area.  This can be done via airborne drops, rotary wing, vehicle, etc type transport.  Once deployed, forces may have to move on foot a couple clicks to an objective, where they perform their specific mission, and walk back to their vehicles or extraction point for transportation back to their base of operations.  They don't really march in & out any more, which enables them to carry more high tech gear on their missions, the downside of which equals heavier combat loads.  It also means however that in carrying that extreme load, they are unable to move as quickly during actual contact (look at pictures of guys in full kit and see how likely you think it is that they can effectively get prone, & when they do, that they can get back up & quickly sprint to a new position). Additionally, unless it is an "Elite" soldier, whose physical conditioning standards are significantly higher, they are not going to carry all that gear very far very fast (below is an AAR about that). Regarding that issue, I learned that overall, in today's conventional military forces, although some have the title, there is generally speaking, no longer a true "Light Infantry".  By light infantry I am referring to foot-borne units that are capable of rapid movement over long distances of varied terrain, being able to rapidly engage a non-static, elusive target. All my reading led me to believe that in significant part, the inability to move as quickly, having a less intimate knowledge of an operational area, and the dissidents ability to "disappear into the indigenous local populations" (which in some instances supported them in their cause), seemed to account for most of the problems abusive governments had with using conventional military forces to deal with dissident type problems, and offset much of the benefit of the increased technology. (now the caveat, that does not of course include the numerically limited, elite units such as Rangers, S.F., SEALs, etc, as that is precisely their game.) It seemed as though this would be applicable to us as well, rather I should find myself at odds with abusive government enforcers, OR an overwhelming group of marauding civilians wishing us harm, and that could not be successfully preemptively repelled at a greater distance.  Being able to move faster & farther, knowing the area better, and being able to disappear, seem generally beneficial across the board.  I further discovered that when confronted by a force by which you are outgunned and out supplied, a static defense (such as defending a home against a military or militarized police unit) is almost certainly a losing proposition.  However, if you turn the tables, and they have to carry all those beans and bullets as they pursue you, and you are fluid, fast (i.e. can travel light due to pre-positioned cache points), and can blend in, they are generally not able to be very effective in such a dynamic situation.  Basically, what it all boiled down to is that it's hard to catch a ghost.  In support of that, I also came across some interesting information from a S.F. NCO in Afghanistan, that the average fighting load carried by a combat infantry soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan is 60-80 lbs. Now bear in mind that that is what he is carrying in the midst of the actual combat, i.e. closure with the enemy. This same soldiers "approach march load" (which is what he carries to sustain him in the field just getting to the fight) is between 130-150 lbs.  It is also noteworthy that the load weights listed, only addressed the "doctrinal load", and did not include the inevitable addition of personal items that most guy's also carry.  Now I realize, these are fit and conditioned young men, but that's a lot of weight to pack, and having a little brother currently over there, I know the Hindu Kush mountains are some serious mountains.  Thinking about that, and digging further I found this information, which puts into perspective the results of carryings such massive loads.  This is an excerpt from an after action report from a first sergeant in the 187th infantry regiment of the 101st airborne div. during operation Anaconda in Afghanistan.  It stated:

“We had extreme difficulty moving with all of our weight. If your movement would have been to relieve "a unit in contact", or a time-sensitive mission, we would not have been able to move in a timely manner. It took us 8 hours to move 5 klicks. With just the vest (Interceptor Body Armor vest) and LBV, we were easily carrying 80 pounds. Throw on the ruck and you’re sucking.”

I also discovered in this information that these incredible loads were based on apparently short term needs vs more protracted time periods, because they were factored on 48-72 hr regular re-supply.  They are not able to be self reliant any longer than that and remain at full capability.  Now one of the things I found particularly interesting about this information, was how it related to a previous study conducted by the U.S. military that I found, (it seems the military quickly forgets the lessons of it's past).  In this study, they determined that a soldiers maximum "approach march" load should not exceed 55 lbs. That was the maximum that he could carry, and still possess the energy to be able to fight effectively when he got to the fight.  Now bear in mind, that "approach march load" is inclusive of all the gear they carry, period.  The study further determined that a maximum 48 lb "fighting load" could be effectively carried in actual combat if it was carried by a "conditioned soldier".  

Now, that's all interesting stuff, but why go into it? For several reasons.  Because I wanted to understand something about those who may be sent to come after us, and at least in part, some of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to have a better understanding of both myself, as well as the physical abilities we need to possess.  Realizing that while in good health,  I am no longer the highly fit, conditioned soldier of my youth, this helps put into perspective the importance of our daily PT regimen because survival isn't something that is graded on an age curve.  You either will, or you won't.  The age, we're stuck with. The mileage, and the wear and tear, well, it just is what it is. The conditioning however, that is within our control to improve every day.  This information was also helpful when we got down to seriously culling our gear.  When I looked at all our preps in the harsh light of these weight recommendations, it was clear that we were carrying far too much in our BOBs.  Think about how much faster could you run, or if necessary, better defend yourself, if you were carrying less weight.  When it comes to surviving there are no points awarded for second place, we want to have every advantage possible, even before we start cheating!  For me, this is when I realized that the gear we were amassing, and the way we were planning to utilize, and transport it, was totally inadequate for this updated scenario.  Our gear was set up great for an extended "backpack" type movement, or to pack it all on the mules and haul it up to a remote alpine static location & hide there until the smoke settled.  We definitely were not however, set up for a "break contact" type running gun battle while trying to E&E from folks intending to incarcerate, kill, or perhaps do even worse things to my family and I.  What we were doing wasn't going to cut it for people who had to be alert, fluid, and ready for a spectrum of scenarios.  Scenarios ranging from the daily working and defending of our ranch, to short range patrols around our AO / Community, to fight, disengage & run from surprise encounters, and unexpected E&E when you might not have all your gear with you, and progressing all the way up to proactive offensive actions.  All while still trying to function in discreet daily living on our ranch.  A pretty broad spectrum to fill.  What we needed was a system, and gear, that would be as adaptable to both home / ranch security, as to living in the field, or on the run, and it all had to be able to be accomplished potentially without the availability of the ranch as a base to work from any longer.  So, we switched from a full size, catch-all emergency / survival pack system which involved a get home bag, a B.O.B., separate cold weather gear packs, and a separate tactical gear set up, to a lighter, more efficient, integrated four tier system.  I was able to, for the most part, use gear I already had to accomplish this, although some new stuff was required.  

Now that we've identified the threat, and have a fundamental understanding of it as well as it's various strengths and weaknesses, we can now look at the actual equipment changes we made to address those issues.

Before delving into how we cut incredible weight from our loads, and streamlined our equipment, we feel it would be irresponsible not to point out something that is best expressed by a saying from a man with some real credibility in this area.  "Software trumps hardware."  My interpretation of this is, skills are more important that excess equipment.  Beware of the trap many of us have fallen into, gear is absolutely necessary, however, training and the high level of skills it produces, even more so.  That being said, onto the gear!  Oh, and by the way, I have no affiliation with any of these products other than as a consumer, except the Kydex mag pouches, which we make ourselves.

The first sorting out, or "Culling" of our gear, was done according to this new load weight information, and threat expectations.  It was done according to the recommended mnemonic of SMOLES. This stands for Self defense, Medical emergencies, Observation, Lost & found, Extreme weather, Survival.  Focusing on those priorities, with an eye on cutting weight, actually reduced what we thought was a pretty "Necessary stuff only" out by about half.  We were feeling pretty good at that point, little did we know we had barely scratched the surface.  With our newly updated version of "necessary" gear as a starting point, we began looking at putting it into tiers, and found some great recommendations out there to combine with our own experience.

In breaking down my tiers, I found it most effective if it is built upon a base uniform, and then each tier folds into the next, but is independent from it.  This is important since it, in essence, this prioritizes the gear.  The very first issue I ran into however, was how I was going to be able to have my Tier 1 gear (basic survival essentials) on me at all times, as that was our goal for Tier 1.  I'm sure there are a lot of other ideas about how to skin that particular cat, but the way I did it, was opt for a style of military clothing called Combat Vehicle Crewman (CVC) coveralls. They are a type of coverall that looks very much like the flight suits we built our ghillie suits on in the military. They are inexpensive and they are actually ideally suited for my purposes.  They are fire retardant, have re-enforced knees, elbows, and seat. They also have both a front zipper that opens from the top down as well as up from the crotch up, and a seat flap, (trying to be discreet here) both of which are quite utilitarian when you are wearing a tac-vest with plates and a battle belt, and don't want to have to virtually disrobe when nature calls, hence this also makes them unisex applicable.  Additionally, they have 9 zipper closure pockets wherein I can secure all of my Tier 1 gear.  Thus, as long as I'm dressed, it is with me.  The only adaptation required was to put in an additional chest pocket I reinforced with kydex to support my P220 when I'm not wearing my Tier 2 gear, and sewing on some 1 3/4' exterior belt loops.  

Regarding clothing, and viewing it in light of using it in the Rocky Mountains of the pacific northwest, and in an attempt to more or less standardize, we tried to err on the side of going bit  overboard, knowing we can cull it down as necessary.  Some of our selections were due to what we felt is the very real possibility that we may end up living in a field base camp(s) situation for an extended period of time.  Therefore, durability, medical, as well as hygiene issues came up in our considerations, and influenced some of our choices.  We decided to start at the basics, and worked our way through a complete set of field clothes.  Since the CVCs may be a bit warm during the hottest time of the year in the Pacific Northwest (although I don't think unbearable, by any means) we put extra cost into undergarments to stay as dry as possible, and avoid things like severe rashes, yeast infections, etc, as those types of issues not only interfere with your ability to move rapidly, but can also be an unnecessary drain on medical supplies.  We avoided cotton altogether.  We did some research on a product called Under Armor Heat Gear.  Well made, it wicks moisture extremely well, eliminates chaffing, dries quickly, and is antimicrobial.  Additionally, it comes in a style that acts very much like the nylon leggings I used to wear under a karate gi, to allow it to slide freely and not bind up during kicking, jumping, etc.  Thus they have the same effect regarding combat athleticism in the CVCs, as an added benefit.  They also have shirts to match. That is what we use under the CVCs as a base layer.  For cold weather we also have the underarmor cold gear, which we already knew, works fantastically.  Polypropylene sock liners, again wicks moisture, and eliminates friction, helping to eliminate blisters, etc.  Wool outer socks for cushion, as well as being insulating even when wet, have been useful in all weather.  We discovered that a style called "wader socks" work the best for us. 

Footgear has been an individual choice, it's only requirement being, that it is constructed of heavy leather to minimize the potential penetration of snakebites.  Those are overlapped with TurtleSkin snake gaiters.  Many may think I'm crazy on this one, but here's our logic;  Without antivenin a Rattlesnake bite's hemotoxin can be bad at best, and fatal at worst.  Discounting the approx 20% of bites that are "dry", that still leaves 8 out of 10 bites that potentially envenomate the person struck.  Medical care being uncertain at best, we were not willing to gamble on those odds.  Antivenin is not something we can access, nor stockpile.  Contrary to popular belief, they don't always rattle, before striking, or rattle early enough to be of any help.  According to a gentleman at Turtle Skin who happened to have spent a great deal of time working in the woods for the forest service in northern Idaho, and is quite familiar with the area, it's unlikely that any of us would run across a rattlesnake. However, "unlikely" is not the same thing as won't.  Living and operating in the woods constantly, can only increase our "unlikely" chance of that one "run in" with one. While we are normally very alert to the things around us, as well as avoiding high risk behaviors and places for them, our concern is, that in running from pursuers, or trying to navigate and hastily exit a two way firing range, we'll likely have other things on our mind, and may find ourselves stepping in the wrong place at the wrong time.  This strikes us as one of those times where an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.  Moving on, we included KEPS (knee & elbow pads) which anyone who as ever had to drop to their knees or prone on rocky ground will understand, and for headgear use the old standby USGI boonie hat.  Lastly we all have solar watches that also contain a digital altimeter, compass, and barometer in them.  This constitutes our basic field uniform.  (BTW, should anyone else opt for CVCs, be sure to break up the solid OD color with some Rit dye in spray bottles, it works great, if you don't then they will stand out.)

\This brings us to the four tiers of our gear.  Tier 1 is our basic survival stuff.  It's the stuff we figure you should always have on your person in such an environment.  It's a pared down compilation of various experts recommendations, as well as our own experience.  It's primary purpose is that if due to some threat, I needed to immediately run without any other gear, or had to ditch my gear so that I could run faster than the "fed-ex man" pursuing me with my FEMA invitation, I would still have what I needed to survive until I could get to either a safe place, or a cache site.  ~ yes in our system we chose to employ the use of cache sites for long term emergency resupply ~  Tier 1 is what you have on you when you are just working, etc. within what you consider to be your secure area, whatever that may be at any given time. This gear provides for the needs of defense, shelter, navigation, fire, water, and food, and would never be discarded.  The way I currently have it configured, it all fits nicely in the nine various pockets of my slightly modified CVCs.

Our Tier 1, "Survival Load" that, Lord willing, we will never be without, consists of the following:

1. SIG P220 & one spare mag in modified, kydex re-enforced, zippered chest pocket of my CVCs (whenever not in Tac gear). (S.S. 220 with 1full 8
        rd mag and 1 in the chamber + 1 spare mag of eight 230 gr. JHP's weighs a total of 53.6 oz OR 3.35 lbs.

2. Leatherman Wave tool. (weighs 7.9 oz)

3. #550 cord (50' daisy chain weighs 3.9 oz ~ we also use #550 cord in my boot laces, 5" daisy chained pull tabs on all 9 zippers, with a cord-lock 
         on the end of each.  Those pull tabs, while just normally handy, when "unchained", each also provide 2'4" of emergency cordage, believe it or 
         not.  9 separate 2'+ sections (12' worth) of #550 cord with a cord lock on each. (Great for shelter construction, making a yeti for concealment, 

4. Small Silva compass. Explorer Pro High Vis.  (This is redundant, in case of failure of the digital compass built into our watches) (1.0 oz)

5. Small flint & steel fire starter & 15' roll of jute. Tie 3 or 4 overhand knots back to back and then leave 3-4" of cord & cut.  Fray the un-knotted
        end into a "bird's nest" & strike a spark. Works great & lasts long enough to get your twigs going well and then some. (Jute weighs 1.7 oz & the
        "Light my Fire" flint & steel weigh 0.3 oz, for a combined total of 2.0 oz)

6. A small collapsable MSR dromedary type bag (we use a Camel-Bak bladder & tube) and purification tablets to purify it. (2 liter bladder & tube
        = 7.3 oz, 1 bottle Potable Aqua & 1 bottle of Potable Aqua+ , weigh 1.1 oz each, combined total of 9.5 oz and will treat 25 ltrs of water)

7. Small fishing kit (a roll of spiderwire, some small split shot & some #10 hooks in a Zip-Loc bag.)

8. Casualty blanket for shelter ~ Heavy duty, OD green / reflective (with 4 daisy chained, 5' long sections of #550 cord, one attached to each 
        corner grommet.  All you then have to do is make some quick stakes, or use some rocks for that matter (weighs 11.8 oz) 

9. A rat trap (Works great for catching squirrels around the house here, but I need to test it, out in the field) (weighs 5.4 oz) [JWR Adds: I'd rather carry 10 wire snares (also about five ounces, combined weight) for 10 times the number of chances to catch critters.

10. Plain fish netting (two pieces, approx 12"x24" and 2'x6') In the military, I learned in Survival / E&E, staying hidden is very important.  With the
        2X6 netting you just cut a slit in the middle of for your head, drape it over you like a poncho, and secure it around your waist with your belt or
        #550 cord and you have the foundation for a quick, makeshift bushrag.  Thread it with whatever foliage is appropriate.  Use the 12x24 over your
        boonie hat, for your head veil.  Not as effective as my full ghillie suit, but it's field expedient, light weight, and it's quicker and easier to throw 
        together than a yeti. It's also versatile and can be used for other things as well.

11. Gig head. Cut shaft for it in the field, if needed. For frogs, fish, reptiles, small mammals (weighs 1.7 oz) [JWR Adds: For safety, be sure to cap your gig's points with a piece of rubber or a wine bottle cork, when stowed!]

12. Blackhawk Serpa holster (weighs 4.3 oz + 2.0 oz for chest adaptor = 6.3 oz total)

13. Pistol mag pouch (weighs 2.2 oz)

Tier 1 weight before culling:  103.1 oz, i.e. 6.44 lbs.  We felt that this was too much, so after consideration, we made the following initial cuts:

The ever-painful "Culling Of The Gear":

Dropped gig head (-1.7 oz), P220 (-38.4 oz), 2 empty magazines (total -5.0 oz), 17 rds of ammo (-10.2 oz), holster (-6.3 oz), mag pouch (-2.2 oz). Combined weight of these cuts was 3.99 lbs.
(The pistol and ammo can be replaced if the threat situation merits it.) 

Total weight of my Tier 1 load is after culling is: 2.46 lbs) 

Tier 2 is all of our basic combat gear, our "Fighting Load", or "Kit", if you will.  It's contained on our Tac-Vest / battle belt.  In my case, I opted to attach a battle belt to my plate carrier tac-vest. While I wouldn't say it's necessary for everyone, due to my body geometry (i.e. long torso) it's just the way I chose to go.  It gives me a little more real-estate to put my gear on, without interfering with my ability to get prone, should I need to.  Tier 2  is supplemented by your survival load which you will always have on your person.  We would be wearing Tier 2 gear for example, anytime there was an elevated threat level, when performing security operations at the ranch, or of course for anything that took us out into the field, things of that nature.  It is not a "stand alone" gear list however, it both builds upon the Tier 1 gear, and is in turn, supplemental to the Tier 3 gear as well.  It is divided this way so that if any of us were to find ourselves in a fix and needed to hastily E&E, and our combat gear was slowing us down too much, we could ditch it in order to run faster, and come back for it later.  Meanwhile we still have all of the necessary 1st tier gear on our person, because it is not actually attached to the Tier 1 gear.  The important point here being that you can dump Tier 2 and still have your survival load. This gear would be the last of the three tiers to be discarded.  Our goal here, although probably unattainable given our choice of battle rifle and caliber, is to keep the combined weight our Tier 1 & 2 gear to right around 40 lbs, with a maximum of 48 lbs.

My Tier 2, "Fighting Load" consists of the following:

1. Tactical vest:  We went with Blackhawk's S.T.R.I.K.E. Commando Recon front & back plate carriers, along with Infidel Armor front & rear ballistic
        plates.  Heavier than I'd like, but they fit into the budget.  We've gone to wearing our's while doing PT & H2H practice, & it's beginning to feel a
        little less foreign at least. (plates and vest collectively weigh 268 oz, i.e. 16.75 lbs).

2. Battle belt (attached). We went with High Speed Gear's "Sure Grip" belts for those who wanted them, with a Cobra riggers belt as an under belt.
        (weight unknown at the moment)

3. M1A Rifle mag pouches, X 6.  We went for seven 20 rd mag's - two on the vest, two on each side of the battle belt (both in the event of an
        extremity injury, as well as I reload faster from different sides, depending on my shooting position) & one in the rifle.  Went with kydex, since that
        is my side business anyway, and made our own custom mag pouches. (weight per mag pouch is 3.5 oz, for a total of 21.0 oz)

4. M1A magazines X 7 ~ one carried in the rifle and 6 spares (loaded w / 20 rds each), (weight per empty mag 8.6 oz, loaded mag is 26.6 oz, X7
        = total of 186.2 oz or 11.6 lbs)

5. M1A rifle, in Sage EBR mod 1 configuration, with scope, with no mag. (weight 224 oz or 14 lbs) 

6. M1A rifle sling (I did not opt for a fancy "tactical" sling, instead I went for the simple Blackhawk "Rapid Adjust" 2 point sling.  With SOCP, as my
        primary form of H2H, you will understand why I chose to avoid a 3 point tactical sling.  (weight 5.9 oz) 

7. Pistol mag pouches, X 1 .  Again we went with the kydex, and made our own custom single mag pouches. (weight is was excluded at Tier 1)

8. SIG P220 SS magazines X 2 ~ one in pistol + 1 spare, loaded w / 8 rds each +1 extra for the chamber (weight was excluded at Tier 1)

9. SIG P220 ST, .45 ACP (weight excluded at Tier 1) 

10. Dump pouch.  We went with the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. folding dump pouch, mounted rear center of the battle belt so that it was accessible with
        either hand.  (weight 8 oz)

11. SOCP dagger (While some may cringe at the non-utilitarian nature of having a "dagger", and I would have too, it's not what you're probably 
        thinking it is.)  Since we use SOCP (my brother is a SF NCO), in part, for our hand to hand / CQB defense, this is actually fantastic.  If you're
        curious, then do a web search on it.  Watch Greg Thompson's demos and see for yourself, it's fairly close to perfect, especially when you are loaded down in kit
        and things need to be simple and effective!) (weight 2.5 oz)

12. Tomahawk. Some may think I'm crazy on this one too, but honestly, after spending a lot of time in the woods using it for everything from
        firewood, to pulling the handle out and using it like an Alaskan Ulu knife, I've found it's a lot more versatile that my ghurka kukri.  It's quite handy, and
        between it and my Leatherman I've had no want of anything edged. I made a custom kydex sheath for it, it stays out of my way, but is handy when I
        need it.  (weight 30.0 oz)

13. B.O.K.  (You could think of it as a trauma first aid kit) (weight 18 oz estimated)

14. 2-Way Radio (currently undecided on model)  (weight TBD)

15. Poncho with liner, in pouch on rear plate carrier (weight is approx 21 oz for poncho and 21 oz for liner, TOTAL is 42 oz)

16. An empty, drawstring closure pouch on the back of my Tac-Vest for carrying dehydrated food, as well as being able to carry your emergency 
        water bladder when you're not packing your Tier 3 Camel-Bak.  (weight 12 oz)

Tier 2 weight before culling:  817.6 oz, i.e. 51.1lbs. The initial weight of our Tier 2 gear was more than we were satisfied with, so again, we let the culling begin!

After consideration we made the following cuts:  As much as I hated to, I reallocated the tomahawk to Tier 4 (-30.0 oz), & reallocated the poncho / liner (-42 oz) to Tier 3 as it's only necessary away from home. 

Combined weight of these cuts was 72.0 oz, i.e. 4.5 lbs.
Total Tier 2 weight after culling:  46.6 lbs.

Results: Combined Tier 1 and 2 "Fighting Load" weight is:  49 lbs (goal is 48 lbs or less) compared to 60 - 80+ lbs, for an average conventional foot soldier, or enforcer who may be pursuing the pleasure of our company [JWR Adds: Note that his calculations are based on an empty Camel-Bak and minimal rations. The weight of water and food adds up quickly.

Missed the weight allotment goal for the Tier 1 and 2 combined "Fighting Load", by 1 lb.  I really would like to do more reduction. However the body armor and the M1A EBR are big drains against our weight allotment.  The weight of the .30 cal ammo is also not helpful.  While we did not opt to trade away what we see as a ballistically more beneficial caliber for our varied purposes, one could clearly present a legitimate case for the lighter weight of both the AR platform rifle, as well as it's lighter .223 caliber ammunition in this particular context. Those tradeoffs just are what they are however, not much can be done there.  Unquestionably, without just the armor plates alone, the load is reduced by 15 lbs, ( down to 30.41 lbs) but that option was off the table for us.  Expecting the lack of surgical facilities to deal with a thoracic gunshot wound, we don't see that as a chance worth taking.  The reality is, this is going to be the Tier where the the real weight is. I'm not sure anything else can be cut at this point, after all, we need what we need, & then cull out the rest. This heavy stuff (i.e, the armor plates, ammo and rifle) are necessary.  At this point I guess that just means more PT, and after all, 48 isn't that old, right?

Tier 3 is our S.R.R.P. (Short Range Reconnaissance Pack).  It falls under the higher combined weight restrictions of the "Approach March" load's 55 lbs maximum weight, although should still be as minimal as possible.  For us, that currently means it should be somewhere in the area of about 6 lbs.  We knew from the beginning that was not going to happen.  The pack and water alone weigh more than that already. . .  This is the gear that it would take to sustain us, in addition to the items in Tiers 1 & 2, for those times you would be in a potentially hostile, field environment, overnight and up to 3 days.  You are basically living out of a Camel-Bak.  Logistically speaking, this is to enable you to perform short term patrols / missions within your AO.  It is supplemented by the equipment that is already contained in your Tier 1 and Tier 2 loads.  It is the "less essential" gear that could/would be dropped prior to dropping the Tier 2 gear, if anything had to be dumped.  Agai, it is not actually attached to the Tier 2 gear, it simply augments it.  Excluding Tier 4, this gear would be the first option to be left behind.

My Tier 3, "S.R.R.P. load" consists of the following:

1. Camel-Bak W / bladder.  We use the Rim Runner model. (36.5 oz) (note: the H2O will weigh an additional 4.4 lbs, a total combined weight of 6.7

2. For "field rations", so to speak, as I am only addressing a 24 - 72 hr window, we decided to go with the "Mainstay" emergency ration bars.  Good
        for five years, these come in 400 cal meal bars, 6 to 9 in a packet depending on what you order.  You can check the other nutrients on line if you 
        are interested, but they're good.  Additionally, they do not increase your thirst, a good thing if you find yourself in an unexpected situation where
        water is either scarce, or if the incoming fire that your attempts to access it creates irritates those around you. A 2,400 cal pack contains six 400
        cal bars, each a meal they say, and weighs 16 oz.  the 3,600 cal pack contains 9 of the same bars and weighs 24 oz. They figure that at 1,200 cal
        a day, this is a two day supply pack, however they are also thinking in terms of someone in a life raft on an ocean.  But honestly, how far are you
        really going to walk per day, in that case?  Being a "land lubber", I planned for a higher caloric need of 2,400 cal per day.  Six bars a day, 
        breaking it down however you want.  The good thing about this however, is that should you need to reduce your consumption for some reason
        and stretch this supply out, or share with someone, you can easily do so.  I also include 3 multi-vitamins as an additional margin.  (weight is 48 

3. Petzl headlamp with one set of spare batteries (4.3 oz) 

4. Casualty blanket to wrap up in (this = 2, 1 for shelter, which is in my survival load, and now a second one to wrap up in)  (11 oz)

5. Poncho (with liner) (42 oz) 

6. Underwear, extra pair (U/A Heat Gear type) (2.2 oz)

7. Poly-pro sock liners, extra pair (0.6 oz)

8. Wool socks, extra pair (6.7 oz)

9. Under Armor cold weather hood (1.6 oz)  

10. Solo stove / pot (16.3 oz)

11. Leather gloves  (4.8 oz)  

12. Safety pins X3 (0)  

13. Area map (N/A)

14. ACE wrap (2.2 oz)

15. E-Tool (40 oz)  

16. Note pad & pencil  (1.7 oz)   

        UPON TERRAIN, 

*** Rope for rappelling seat and a 100' rappelling rope (NOT FACTORED IN AGAINST WEIGHT ALLOWANCE.)

Tier 3 weight before culling:  170.4 oz = 10.7 lbs + 6.7 lbs = 17.35 lbs.  The initial weight of our Tier 3 gear was way more than we were satisfied with, so again, we continued with the culling.

After consideration we made the following cuts:  Reallocated the e-tool to Tier 4 (due to high wt. & limited use, more useful in establishing a remote base camp than on a S.R.R.P.) (-40.0 oz), dumped the spare sock liners (-0.6), spare wool socks (-6.7 oz), solo stove & pot (-16.3 oz. With the Mainstay rations no cooking is required, & with H2o tablets no boiling water is necessary on a 3 day patrol), 1 Mainstay 2,400 cal packet (can live for 3 days with NO food, so can surely do fine with 1,600 cal, i.e. four bars per day)(-16 oz), casualty blanket (may rethink in winter, along with socks) (-11 oz), spare underwear (-2.2 oz).

Combined weight of these cuts was 92.8 oz, i.e. 5.8 lbs.
Total Tier 3 weight after culling: 11.55 lbs, (without H2o weight 7.15 lbs.)

Results: Combined Tier 1, 2 and 3 "Approach March Load" weight is:  60.61 lbs (56.21 lbs without the H2o) compared to 130 -150+ lbs, for the average "Marching Load" of a conventional foot soldier, who my be pursuing my family & I …  

While 5.6 lbs over what we wanted for our Maximum March Load, given the larger, heavier rifle, the heavier basic load of ammunition, and the extra 15 lbs of armor, we are quite happy with where we are at this point.  The bottom line:  We got the "Fighting Load" to 49 lbs,  one pound over our 48 lb. maximum goal, but still  11 - 31 lbs lighter than that of potential pursuers.  We got the "Approach March Load" to within 5.6 lbs of our 55 lb. maximum limit goal, but are still 69.4 - 89.4 lbs. lighter than that of potential pursuers.  The difference being more than the weight of our entire Marching Load Out. Frankly, at this point I think we have more or less reached bare bones, if you will.  I just can't find any more reasonable cut's to make, so for additional gains at this point, the game has to change from an issue of hardware (equipment) to one of software (skills, tactics, conditioning, area familiarity, etc.). 

Tier 4 is my L.R.R.P. (Long Range Reconnaissance Pack).  It's incomplete at this point, still undergoing construction and refinement. It is the gear that would allow us to set up a distant field base of operations.  It is primarily the equipment required for establishing a primitive alpine safe haven, should you be forced from your normal AO. It would also serve to develop a base camp of a semi permanent nature, from which could be conducted security patrol operations to a distance greater than that which your SRRP provides for. The areas for camps were pre-selected as optional sites and then will be chosen specifically depending on the situation. The pack will contain more rations, to sustain you during the initial set up of your field location.  As well, it will have a longer term shelter system, increased & upgraded medical supplies, and additional munitions.  This is not a tier that would normally be carried in the field, and with any luck will be transported by pack animal, although it, out of necessity, is man portable as well. It is best thought of as a sort of foundation level, emergency camp construction pack.  It's intent is to provide for the needs covered in S.M.O.L.E.S.  (but of a base camp nature), and expands upon the equipment you already have at your disposal via the first 3 tiers.  At this point, ours contains the following, although exacts amounts and weights have not yet been determined:

1. Backpack (Gregory, North Face and Dana, internal frame packs, although any quality pack will work, this is just what we have).
2. Food, dehydrated (additional rations).
3. Second full set of clothes & cold weather gear -fleece pants & top.
4. Medical kit (more inclusive).
5. Shelter ( a new enclosed 4 season hammock design).
6. Spare magazines and ammo. 
7. Spare weapons parts (Firing pin, extractor, cleaning supplies etc).
8. Mission specific items, (Rappelling ropes harnesses, etc).
9. Mini-mag light with solar rechargeable batteries and spare bulbs.
10. Range finder & spotting scope.
11. Weatherproof notebook.
12. Additional H2O purification tablets.
13. Additional roll of jute rope.
14. Tomahawk.
15. Mess kit.
16. Wyoming saw.
17. Spare parts / sewing kit.
18. P220, mags & ammo.
19. Solo stove & pot.
20. E-Tool.
21. Second causality blanket.
22. Spotting scope.
23. Solar charger kit.
24. 100' of additional #550 cord.
25. Night vision optic is currently under debate as it has an IR illuminator as enhancement option, and given the preponderance of IR detection 
        devices out there in the hands of anyone and everyone, we are evaluating the risk of sending out such a beacon as opposed to the reward any night 
        time surveillance ability may offer.  Of course the logistics of it are an additional concern. May well end up becoming a cached away special 
        purpose tool, since we already have it.

While tier #4 is still a work in progress, and being interfaced with pre-positioned caches and preps, we look for it to eventually, like the other 3 
        tiers, come together as part of a cohesive system.  

Hopefully this information will be of use to other prepper's in understanding, more fully than we did, the dangers facing us all, as well as the need to adapt to it.  While certainly not the only way to address these issues, we hope our solutions will stimulate thoughts, and help other survivalblog readers find the ways that best address the issues facing them in their unique situations.  Master your skills, travel light and fast, blend in well, and most importantly, trust that God often shows His strength through our weakness!  

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.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'm a lawyer.  I'm a criminal defense lawyer.  Every day I put on a suit and I walk though metal detectors and into a courthouse where guns, ammunition, and knives are not permitted.  Other days I may visit one or more jails, where it should be no surprise that the above are prohibited, as are lighters, flammable materials, and pretty much everything else.

I also happen to be a prepper. I think I have a pretty good idea what may be coming in the not too distant future, and I want to be ready.

How do I balance these two realities?

My goal was to create a simple carry system that is unobtrusive and unassuming.  Something that would blend in and let me carry a little bit of EDC gear without notice.  No major bulges or anything conspicuous that could draw attention—from court security, judges, jurors, or even my co-workers. 

I considered many different systems.  I tried key-ring systems that wound up with 1.5 pounds of metal bulging and jangling in my pocket.  I looked at flat wallet-like containers for my back pocket.

And then I looked around me.  And I realized.  What is less conspicuous than a phone pouch?   I see lawyers with one or even two phone pouches on their belts every day.

I began purchasing. Some were too loose or closed with weak magnets.  Others rode on a single metal hook that jutted out far from the waist and tended to twist.

About 15 purchases later, I landed on the Phone Pouch Horizontal from Tactical Tailor.  It comes in several colors, including khaki and green.  In black, it looks exactly like a standard phone pouch--which it is.  But there are several very helpful attributes--and one drawback.

The first helpful design feature is that this item secures to a belt with two (plastic) clips instead of the standard single clip.  As a result, it hangs tight and conforms to my waist.  Other pouches secure with one clip (frequently steel) in the center, which allows a lot of torque and wiggle.  But make sure you secure both clips!  I broke several clips early on settling into my car seat.  In all instances, I had only secured just one clip.  I now double check myself when dressing to make sure I have properly secured both.

The second useful design is the flap that covers the pouch.  It is perfect for tucking a tactical pen horizontally through the top.    My pen is longer then the pouch, leaving plenty of pen to easily and quickly grab with my strong hand or weak hand.  So far, I have worn this setup daily for over a year and I have not lost my pen yet.  Simply pull the flap tightly, secure the velcro, slip that pen in, and use the pen clasp to hold onto the flap. 

The only drawback to the Tactical Tailor pouch design is that it is not “fully enclosed”. Like many phone pouches, it has elastic on the two narrow sides to allow for expansion and add tension to the phone inside.  And like many carriers, it also has four little openings at the four corners.  This poses a problem for very small items that could work their way down and out.  But for me, it works well along the top, as it leaves a notch for the tactical pen even when the top flap is secure.

The tactical pen model I carry with my pouch is the Operator series by Tuff-Writer.  I normally carry the sanitized matte black because it doesn’t have any markings overtly suggestive of its purpose.  At the same time, I cannot deny that it does have a “tactical” look to it.

With the idea that sometimes the best way to hide something is in plain sight, I have a second pen available when I dress in the morning.  This is the same Operator series pen in a beautiful shiny executive-looking NP3 finish.  It is just the opposite of a tactical pen—in appearance.  It may scream “showoff SOB” but it doesn’t scream “tactical”.  It doesn’t appear to be listed on the web site at this moment, but keep an eye out for it or reach out to their customer service, they have take pretty good care of me in the past.  Please note I have purchased and do not like the other pen models because the caps are not designed to stay on the barrel when in use.

Inside my pouch I carry a variety of items helpful for both work and survival:

  • On the outside I have a small stack of business cards. 
  • One wax-impregnated cardboard fire starter trimmed down to business card size. 
  • A plastic card with several turns of duct tape
  • One sheet of adhesive blister padding. 
  • A credit card size Fresnel lens
  • $20. 
  • Two Band-Aids and sealed disposable alcohol pads. 
  • A plastic card wound with spider wire. 
  • Imodium AD and flat tooth flosser
  • A microfiber cloth (for my eyeglasses)
  • A Split Pea lighter with several large safety pins attached so they don’t fall out of the pouch. 

Together, these items are what I need to stay comfortable, make small repairs, and perhaps help me handle a bad situation.  If asked what is inside, I explain that it has my "cards and medicine and Band-Aids and stuff."  Now remember, I am a credentialed professional in a suit and I am frequently recognized by security.  I am not going to deliberately break the law to bring in something I am NOT supposed to bring in, but I will concede that I receive less scrutiny than someone off the street.

In the pouch I also formerly carried a skinny flint and steel system—the Exotac Nano  and a skinny metal whistle, the Vargo titanium.   But I gave those two items up as the Pea lighter will produce a spark with or without fluid and I carry a small flat 2-chamber Titanium whistle on my keychain to hail my dogs.  But both items remain on my dresser ready to be added if circumstances warrant.

Also on my keychain, with the whistle identified above, is an Amsler Knives Pocket Wedge.    It is not much larger than a key and it is not particularly sharp, so it does not alarm security personnel.  It is not a tactical fighting tool, but for opening boxes, screwdriving, or a bit of prying it is handy.

Also part of my everyday uniform is my briefcase.  I carry a modern black ballistic nylon bag.  Inside is a black Kevlar divider that I purchased from .  It totally blends in with the ballistic briefcase and has never been questioned.  In fact, it looks and feels exactly like standard laptop padding.  In a pinch I can sling the briefcase over my neck for crude ballistic protection.  I have considered adding straps to the divider itself but have opted to remain with it low profile.

I have several pairs of extremely fancy black and brown dress shoes to wear with my suits.  The fact is, I have come to realize they are killing me.  I have one pair of Clark Wave "dressy" (dressy in quotes because they still look rather sneaker-ish) and I intend to purchase a black pair for days when I can get away with it.  Because, the first defense in most emergencies—especially unarmed—is to put as much distance between myself and danger as I can.  As The Doctor says, “Run!”

And the second defense is to get to my vehicle as quickly as I can.  In my normal  stomping grounds, my  vehicle is normally parked at my office, about three blocks away from my courthouse.   When I am in my office, my vehicle is normally within 50 feet of my first-floor office—and is frequently parked right outside my window.  The parking lot is shared with court and law enforcement personnel and -- at least during working hours and normal circumstances--is not going to be an early target.

So let's quickly address my vehicle.  I commute 30 plus miles to work, most of it on busy suburban and urban interstate.  I have a large SUV.  Inside, I carry several days’ worth of food, a blanket, water bottles, water filter, first aid kit, trauma kit, and a SCARE Bag with minimal supplies to help me scare/fight my way home.  I have a concealed carry permit and lots of training; I do try to car-carry my  Glock 17 with two extra mags, but I cannot do so on a daily basis for family reasons.  If I identify things starting to "heat up" that I do intend to car-carry daily.  I also need to purchase an effective locking device for regular car-carry.

Of course I have also added a small duffel with a complete change of clothing and shoes.  I'm considering adding some gold coins to pay a boater in the nearby marina to ferry me upriver to a location that would be a very short walk home. This would bypass what I expect would become an extremely dangerous solo hike on foot.

In conclusion, I would like to add that this system proves fairly flexible on weekends and outside of work.  Thanks to the single pouch, most of my gear is containerized and is easy to transfer from clothing to clothing.  On weekends I normally add just two items.  First I add my flashlight; normally the Quark Tactical QT2L which produces 230 lumens off its 2 CR123A batteries.  However, if I purchased today I would opt for the newer model with maximum 780 lumens for a very short period of time.

My daily carry folding knife is a simple Benchmade Griptillian.  I ordered a custom model through the company web site and while delivery took quite some time, the design process was entirely fun.

As you likely know, knife regulations vary widely and in some cities even the Griptillian blade length of 3.45 inches is unlawful.  In my state, open carry of such a knife is no problem.  But when I go to my kids’ school, I do have a problem.  My state prohibits knives on school grounds but carves out an exception for pocket knives (folders) with a metal blade less than three inches.  As I am large with large hands, this posed a major problem, as all smaller knives came with smaller handles that were always swallowed up in my fingers.  The one and only folder I found with a sufficiently large handle for me to grip but a sufficiently small blade to be legal was the Emerson “Stubby” with a 2.7 inch blade . 

Note: This is my personal gear review and all items mentioned have been personally paid for by me. No consideration has been asked for or given.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First let's start by saying that the proverbial "do all" knife has never been made. Men have worked long and hard only to realize that for every action is an equal and opposite reaction.
You want a knife for chopping down trees? The blade must be very tough. This means though that the blade is not as hard and will not hold an edge very long.

You want a knife that will skin a 300 pound animal without need to be sharpened? Then the blade will be very hard and thus somewhat brittle. Consequently more difficult to sharpen when it does need it.
A fighting knife is not an outdoor survival knife! Don't buy a dagger and expect it to perform as a survival knife.
When selecting a knife, consider this for a moment. Just because the price of the knife is ridiculous does not mean that its better. The heart of the system is the materials used and the construction methods. For example, A blade that is ground will not be as hard or durable as a hammer forged knife. The difference is that a ground knife is taken from 'flat stock' steel (essentially a flat steel bar) and they then grind on it until the desired shape is met. A forged knife is heated to almost melting point, then pounded and slammed until a rough shape is met. Some grinding is required, however the molecular structure of the steel is "compressed" if you will. To understand this better, take a handful of wet dirt. Shape into something just rubbing it. Do the same with another handful but this time mold the wet dirt into shape. Now tell me which one is better. Finding a forged knife can be expensive and time consuming. I would recommend doing this yourself as I did.
Let's discuss the steels used in blade craft. Stay away from anything marked '440' or '440 stainless.' Let me explain. 440 stainless steel has three grades. Yup! You guessed it, A, B, and C. At the top of this list is 440A while 440C is at the bottom. Any quality Stainless 440 knife will have one of the letter designations. If not, than the knife just looks cool and that's about all it will ever do. If you do find a stainless steel knife that you cant live without, make sure it comes from a reputable name brand. Gerber has some very nice knifes as does Schrade, K-Bar, SOG. But this brings us to the endless debate. Stainless or Carbon Steel?
The debate over carbon steel versus stainless steel will rage forever. So get some information out so you can make an informed purchase. Carbon steel is generally tougher and it will hold a better edge, longer. It also tends to be heavier and depending on the treating process, more brittle. It will also rust and if not cared for, pits form or if neglected long enough, the carbon content will compromised. Resulting in an utterly worthless blade. The most common Carbon steel blends (for knives) in America are 1095, 1085, 1080, 1050, and 1045. These numbers have meaning. The first two numbers are something that escapes me right now but they are less important than the last two digits. The 95 means that  0.95% of the steel carbon. This means that the steel is very hard and also toward the brittle side but will hold a very sharp edge for a long time. 1080 is a little less hard and also less brittle. Its still a good steel and will hold its edge. 1045 is softer still and significantly tougher than 1095. It does not hold its edge very well but will stand some angry abuse. There quite a bit more to this than just carbon content, but this will get you started in selecting your high carbon steel knife. Keep your carbon blade oiled!
Stainless steels are by their very nature 'elastic'. Meaning they will stretch and bend and thus make an ideal steel for bridges. As far as knives go. There are several types and blends of stainless steel on the market today and some of them are very good. We have already covered the 440 range of knives briefly. So, Stainless steel is made by adding magnesium, chromium, copper, and several other types of metals to create a rust resistant steel. Stainless knives tend to be pretty hard and are also hard to sharpen. But remember, stainless is hard but its 'elastic' so it will take the extra chop on the tree. There is also the "high carbon" Stainless knives out now. the best way to explain this is this. Stainless is stainless because the carbon has been reduced and replaced by other hard metals. Because carbon takes a better edge and holds it longer they have developed high carbon stainless. Imagine looking at a closet full of basket balls. Do you see the gaps between balls? That would be the "old" stainless from the 1970s and 1980s. Today that same closet would look like golf balls. The point is that the steels have gotten so good that even the bad stainless will cut. It really comes down to how often you are willing to sharpen your knife. Stainless blades also tend to be hard on your stone. The blends and numbers of stainless steels are vast. So many in fact that we're going to concentrate on the most common. Gerber knives use a blend called 9CRV19MOV which is a very good steel. Basically what this means is that it has a lot of Chrome Vanadium in it. This is a high carbon stainless steel blade that will take a razor edge and hold it for a reasonable length of time of good usage.
If the materials are the heart of the system then the handle would be the right arm. A full tang, one solid piece with a sharp end and [extending the full length of the] handle attached at the other end is the best way, period. The Bear Gryllis knife is a three quarter tang and it seems to work well. I haven't broken it so it must work well.
In my kit I carry one 1095 carbon steel knife and one stainless steel knife. The combination works for most situations I will encounter. Not everyone has the extra cash to spend $1,700 on a hand forged Damascus, hand heat treated, and hand tempered knife. So I will throw a suggestion of what I carry. Aside from the 12 inch fighting knife I got in Pakistan, I carry in my kit a Mora Bushcraft knife. Its 1095 high carbon steel and is probably the best knife that I have. It takes a crazy sharp edge and will hold for a long time. I have shaved my face with this knife. I also carry around a Bear Gryllis ultimate survival knife. It has a 7CRV17MOV stainless steel blade and this will also take crazy sharp edge. I have shaved with this one too. The point here is there is no better knife, carbon or stainless. I prefer carbon steel but find that I use my stainless knife more often. I dread sharpening time though. The Mora knife was about $35. you can get the smaller version that I call the kitchen knife for about $10-15. The Bear Gryllis cost me a whopping $50 and has served me very well in the bush.
Keep your knives sharp. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. Choose well and I hope I cold shed some light on what some call a difficult choice. God bless and long live the Republic!
- M.C. in Arizona 

JWR Replies: To clarify, I agree that 440A is a very good steel for knives and it has several advantages over 440C. For example, it has much higher edge stability (edge holding), and it is more resistant to corrosion. But in "real world" practice, a lot of 440A steel is used to make very inexpensive imported (read: Mainland China) knives that receive pitiful heat treatment, so their performance in actual use is quite poor. Granted, 440C has considerably much more carbon than 440A (1.0%, versus 0.6%, as I recall), so it can take a sharper edge. The tradeoff is lower rust resistance. In looking at the progression of 440A through 440C the edge properties go up, whilst simultaneously the rust resistance properties go down. These issues have been discussed at length over at Some custom knives that cost $500+ are made with 440C. So it is overly simplistic to just say that 440A is "better." It all depends on what is done with the raw material. If the maker is cranking out lots of junk knives with lousy heat treatment, then the original grade of stainless steel is not the key factor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I live on a small ranch in Northern Alberta, Canada. I'm approximately a half hour drive to the nearest small town, and the winters here can be tremendous. I've always taken a slightly different approach to preps than most of my American counter parts, because most energy, food, shelter, water and defense advice floating around the Internet is not cold weather viable. In this short paper I will attempt to relay to you, the reader, the importance of being ready for winter in all aspects of survival. This is a short collection of some thoughts and experiences I've had living through Northern Canada winters.

1) Heat is what you need in the winter. 'Of course!' you say. It's hard to emphasis the priority having heat takes when it is -40 (Celsius or Fahrenheit it doesn't matter). Food, shelter, water, medicine, and defense all rely on having enough heat. You can't clean with, or drink, water that is frozen. Even eating snow is not recommended because of the energy your body must use to heat the frozen water. You can't eat meat that is frozen solid. You can't live in uninsulated flimsy structures not designed to handle the weight of snow, or the extreme life-sucking cold. You can't stay in a LP/OP for very long without heat. It is harder to fight with a rifle when you cannot feel your hands or they ache intensely from being frozen. Everything takes a back seat to keeping you and your families body temperature at the correct level. You will find that all aspects of surviving a winter are ultimately steps towards providing enough heat to live. I think most preppers agree a good wood stove and a way to efficiently obtain dry fire wood in the winter is a must. A Ski Doo (snowmobile), a sled for hauling, a good chainsaw, extra chains, oils, parts, fuels, tools etc are all requisites as well as the ability to differentiate dead standing wood (the dry stuff) with live trees that are simply dormant for the winter (not dry stuff) and transport it back home. Have multiple methods of heating the indoors.

2) Food is akin to warmth. Your body will automatically try to keep warm if it detects colder temperatures, burning extra calories. You will find that in order to maintain a healthy mind and body, you will need to start a supplement regime through the coldest winter months, when there is little to no fresh vegetables or fruits, and mainly a diet of preserves and game. Canned goods that become frozen may go bad, or the container may rupture. Unless you have an extensive organic garden that provides a winter's worth of preserves each summer, you will most likely end up eating some GMO canned products. Hunting changes with the coming of snow. Deep snow can become a serious problem for most hunters as mobility in four to five feet of snow without snow shoes or a skidoo is minimal and exhausting. For game you will mostly find mammals such as coyotes, deer, elk, etc. All can be taxing to move or prepare in deep snow. Ice fishing requires an ice auger, and multiple lines in multiple holes to really be successful.

3) Water is relatively easy to find. See that white stuff? Yup. Water. It needs heat. For every shovel full of snow you melt, you will get approximately 1/3 that volume in water. Start shoveling! If you have a good well, the water will remain liquid until it is exposed at ground level. If you heat water then put it outside it will freeze even faster, so don't do your animals a favour. All lakes, ponds, and rivers will freeze over and become hidden under snow, so you need a water source.

4) Shelter is a means of efficient heat. It contains the heat from your stove for a longer time. It keeps the wind off you, which can make the cold multitudes worse. It is a place to prepare food, practice good hygiene, and spend time with friends and family, safe from the hostile environment outside. Temporary shelters such as igloos can work if one is skilled enough and snow conditions allow snow to be packed together. This is not always possible in extreme cold. An alternative is using layered pine tree branches in a sturdy lean-to design, with a fire in front projecting heat. Note that you must dig down through the frozen snow before starting a fire for obvious reasons. Be creative. Keep the wind off your skin. Contain the heat safely. Find a way to dry your clothes and skin off while in shelter. Your shelter needs to handle huge amounts of snow weight, and will still need to be cleared. If you own a house you must shovel your roofs off if too much snow builds up on it, or it may collapse or deform, and leak.

5) While I have never been in a gun fight in the middle of winter, there are some common sense things that everyone needs to take into consideration. Cold hands are the least of your worries! We are all taught to 'get off the X', but this becomes problematic in a situation where you may have to run through a foot or more of snow. Its slippery, heavy, and you don't know what you're stepping on under that snow. If it gets a little deeper you simply cannot run, much less retain a sight picture of your firearm. Sinking into a snow bank up to your waist while someone is trying to kill you is probably not a good thing. Going prone may save you, but its a gamble if you'll land softly on the snow and ready to fight, or end up swimming in the snow looking for your buried firearms (which may or may not function after being packed with snow). You will be wet and cold when you stand up again.  The first nations had a proper solution to this. Snow shoes are life savers. I recommend rifle drills where you practice positional shooting with snow shoes as well as getting off the X. Go on winter hikes through a forest area with the shoes on. Skis become problematic due to the length especially if you are in a thick tangle of branches. Cold weather will affect the ballistics of your rifles tremendously. Canadian Rangers still use the Lee-Enfield which is a .30 caliber bolt action rifle, because the AR-15 platform simply does not perform in the super cold climate. It tends to have problems with its gas impingement system and the arctic climate and dense air causes the small .223 round to lose stability much much quicker. Also a bolt action with iron sights is much more likely to function even after being jammed full of ice and snow and moisture. M1As, AKs and VZ58s will all work very well in the extreme cold, provided that you keep your actions clear [and de-lubricated].  Winter is a completely different beast. Everyone can see your footprints in the snow, and tell how long ago you were there. You need a whole new set of winter camo's and gear such as no-fog goggles and proper gloves, boots, and balaclavas.  What will you do if someone blocks the road off in front of you? Your vehicle cant go through the snow in the ditches. If your vehicle is disabled you are put into an immediate heat-shelter survival situation on the side of the road, and you could be wounded as well.  If someone comes into your house in the middle of the night, and you decide to run... will you make it till morning at -40 degrees? A huge truck full of cut firewood would be a target in a winter TEOTWAWKI situation. Snow banks need at least a few feet of width to stop most rifle rounds. The snow will reflect moon light making night time bright as day (almost!) and if you put snow in your mouth it will stop people from seeing your breath. Batteries for night vision devices and red dot sights will die quicker. If you bury a weapon cache in the ground during summer months, that same ground will be hard as a rock and full of ice during the winter. That is... after you find it and shovel all the snow off it first! When the spring comes and all that snow melts guess where that water will go? Yup. Right down into the hole you dug for your end-of-the-world rifle.

Study the Eastern Front of the Second World War and the hardships many soldiers went through during those winters.

Think outside the box. Last winter I stayed in a trappers tent with a wood stove. To handle the weight of the snow on the tent, I drove fence posts in beside the tent and tied all of the supports to the fencing post, and after that I threw a double layer tarp over the entire tent. The result was an outer layer of tarp with a approximately a foot of space between it and the inner tent. This space acted as an insulator for inside. The outer tarp, which was always frozen, would dehumidify the air by building up frost on the inside. I stayed comfortable and warm in a 12' x 20' tent during a deep Canadian North winter. It was dry, so I was able to safely use my laptop and some lights inside. I would not recommend storing electronics in a winter tent such as this because it will collect frost, and when that frost melts and electricity is applied... you may has well have thrown it in a lake. I had to run my stove constantly. Cutting firewood and hauling it on a shoveled drive way with my quad was a huge calorie burn. That's on a day when my quad would start easy. I will be purchasing a good working skidoo this fall, as well as storing several containers of stabilized gasoline.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
Could you recommend a style of survival knife? I've read several recommendations by various people -- everything from a K-Bar to a parang. My wife and I are newcomers to the survival game, but as a hunter and outdoorsman I tend to favor a good, short, fixed-blade (drop point) Buck knife, augmented by a decent folding saw. Are these good choices, or should we really look for a versatile (if not "do-it-all"), long-bladed knife with a partially serrated edge? I'm a bit skeptical of hacking / sawing through things such as tree limbs with a knife, and equally skeptical of a tool which does all things "sort-of," instead of one thing well.

Forgive me if I just haven't searched through your archived material enough to find the answer. We read your book (Surviving the End of the World as We Know It), by the way, and consider it one of the best we've encountered -- factual, informational, accessible. Thanks in advance for your kindness. - Michael L.

JWR Replies: Your daily carry knife is one of your most important survival tools.  Not only is it available for daily utility tasks, but it can be useful for hunting, outdoor survival, or self defense when you are in gun-deprived jurisdictions.

Sheath knifes are stronger than folders, but they have a few drawbacks:
1.)   They are more bulky, and therefore tend to get left at home, when you need them most.
2.)   They are more conspicuous.
3.)   They are restricted in some locales.  (In many cities and states, a blade that is perfectly legal in a pocketknife is a misdemeanor to carry in a fixed blade equivalent.  Yes, this flies in the face of logic. But the law is the law, and we can’t do much about it.) 

One other option is what is commonly called a neck knife—a small fixed blade sheath knife that is designed to be carried on a cord around your neck, concealed beneath your shirt. Typically, the cord is attached to the tip end of the sheath, so that the knife hangs with the handle pointing downward. These are normally drawn by reaching under your shirt and tugging the knife down and free from the sheath. Many folks find these uncomfortable, but others love them. (If you tend to wear loose-fitting shirts that are not tucked in, then this might be a good choice for you. Your mileage may vary.)  One neck knife model that is currently popular is he Crawford Triumph N.E.C.K., made by CRKT. This knife was designed by Pat and Wes Crawford. It is a compact recurve tanto. 
Note: Be advised that state and local laws vary widely, so a neck knife might be considered a concealed weapon in some jurisdictions.

Aside for some specialty filleting or skinning knives, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades. I've found those to be the most versatile for everyday carry. But of course choose what suits you and your particular needs.
There is a dizzying array of folding knives available. Again, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades, but choose what suits you. FWIW, I often carry a Cold Steel Voyager XL Tanto model. (Mine are mostly half-serrated ("Combo Edge") tantos, and in the Extra Large (XL) size.) A smaller version (the "Large") might suit some folks better. Regardless, you should first check your state and local knife laws for blade length restrictions.
My general advice is to carry the longest blade knife that you can and will carry every day, without fail. This is the Everyday Carry (EDC) approach. The knife that gets left at home because it is too bulky or heavy is almost worthless.

Without too much more weight and bulk, you can also carry a small combination tool (such as a mini Leatherman or a small Swiss Army knife), and/or a small flashlight in a belt pouch. But I recommend the big folding pocketknife be carried in a front trouser pocket using a belt clip, for very quick access. And pocket carry using a belt clip also leaves the knife partly exposed, an hence will shield you from a "concealed weapons" charge, in some jurisdictions.

Yes, you can buy a great big Ramboesque "survival" knife, but will you have it with you when you really need it? In my estimation the EDC knife and small tools concept is much more workable.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in 1979 I found myself in facing a hurricane by the name of Frederic. It had Mobile, Alabama in its cross-hairs. The category three hurricane made landfall on September 12. I did not take the warnings seriously and unfortunately there was little to no preparation made on my part. I barely had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was some non perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I was basically like most folks, ill prepared and not taking the warnings seriously.

When hurricane Frederic finally made landfall it did not take long for the power to go off. The winds were fierce and seemed relentless throughout the night. It was pretty eerie. There really wasn't much you could do except wait for it to end. The winds were estimated to be anywhere from 111 to 130 mph. Power lines and trees were down all over the city making some roads impassable. Most of the stores had been emptied out prior to the storm. Then whatever food was left had become spoiled in the stores that did not have back up generators. Back in 1979 that was probably most of the stores. I personally had never experienced power outages on this scale. I did not anticipate the power at my home was going to be out for 22 days. The entire city looked as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Trees were on cars and houses; debris was scattered everywhere. A curfew was imposed by  the national guard because of homes and businesses being broken into. It took several days for assistance to arrive with emergency items. And even then there were very long lines for ice and canned goods that was distributed by the national guard. Arguments broke out as people were feeling tired and frustrated. It was also hot and humid. So I avoided going because I did not want to stand in the hot sun for hours and then finding out the supplies ice or food items were exhausted.

Each night was the same in my house-dark, hot and humid. It was difficult to sleep. I did have a natural gas water heater and fortunately the gas service was never turned off. So I did not have to take cold showers although that may have helped cool me down. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were several nightly cookouts until the food ran out. Afterwards I realized that I had made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never get caught in that situation again. This could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. It takes a little effort  here and there to prepare.
Since Frederic I have gone through several hurricanes - most notably Ivan and Katrina. I feel I have learned some valuable lessons.

I consider myself more or less an amateur prepper. And I really mean an amateur. I don't worry about the apocalypse but more about the possibility of lengthy power outages because of hurricanes.
My motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. From what I have read over and over is that ordinary people can emotionally break down in just a matter of days. Within a week they can get desperate and then there are those who will take from you what they do not have and if necessary they will take it by force. It could even be your neighbor.

So don’t brag about how you are preparing or what you possess and the post it for all to see on the Internet. Don’t make your supplies common knowledge. Its best to maintain silence. The dangers are not only from ordinary people who under normal conditions are law abiding citizens. There is also the criminal element already established out there and they will become emboldened in a disaster. They will not hesitate to take with force what they want and will often gather together in small or large groups.

Most of you reading this are probably like me and have a budget to consider. All of my items have been purchased slowly and I have not gone on a frenzied shopping spree. I would love to but that is not economically feasible for me. So I just started with the basics and went slowly from there. Its amazing how quickly you can accumulate your emergency inventory.

The first thing I focus on  is having an adequate supply of water. I know that water is extremely important so I keep three six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. One of the first things I do once there is the potential for a hurricane entering the gulf of Mexico is fill up my water containers. If the storm misses I water my plants so nothing is wasted. I try to keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand and rotate them. Fortunately there have not been any issues in the past regarding water contamination but just too be on the safe side I keep several life-straw water filters and a couple of bottles of polar pure water treatment. I also fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. Recently I discovered a nearby water stream within easy walking distance from my home. That was a great find. Remember folks water is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

Food is my next priority. I try to keep my pantry stocked with at least a month of food such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, rice, beans, granola bars and dehydrated foods. I also have several #10 cans of freeze dried foods. I have not had to use any of the freeze dried foods so far and I am glad they have a 25-30 year shelf life. They can be expensive to purchase so I always look for price drops and free shipping.
The next priority is obtaining fuel for my cars and generator. As a good practice measure I always keep my gas tank topped off especially when it is at the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam. In my area it is extremely important the minute a storm gets close to the Gulf of Mexico to head to the nearest gas station and not only top off your car but also fill up your gas cans. If you wait to see if your area is in the five day cone it will be too late. When that happens everyone panics and heads to the gas station. Then the stations start running out of gas. Then there are some who will only accept cash. So its good to keep some cash on hand for the unforeseen emergencies. I keep several five gallon gas cans and fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm.
If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas back in my cars. Additionally I have a small generator to keep my refrigerator running for at least two to three days.

Its prudent to have a supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volt VDC batteries. I also have several battery/solar powered radios. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency prep pack. Recently I discovered a new product by a company called WakaWaka. Yes it is a funny name. The product is a solar powered light with a phone charger. It works well. You can  charge them with 8 hours of sunlight or with a micro USB charger. My kindle charger will charge it. The solar light has several settings of brightness and even includes an SOS flashing light. I have used this to fully charge my iPhone and in less than two hours with plenty of power left for a light you can use to read by. On the lowest light setting it is estimated to last 100+ hours.

I started making an inventory of my emergency items and this way you can see what you have or what you need to replenish. I keep my items in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag. The items are duct tape, Para-cord with various lengths, a snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-you can easily start a fire with these two items, and various camping cookware. I have learned it takes some practice to master using the fire starters. I try to practice at least once a month starting a fire and either boiling water or cooking on my ember-lit stove. The ember-lit stove is really amazing. Its very light and packs up compactly. It only requires twigs and small branches for fuel.

I also have a charcoal grill as a back up to our gas stove. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than to wait until there is one. I keep a baggie by the dryer and put the dryer lint in it. Using a fire starter just place some dryer lint under the twigs and it doesn't take much of a spark to get started. And on windy days I take a toilet tissue holder and put the lint inside and you can easily get a fire started this way.
All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe. I learned about storing items the hard way. I had a fireproof safe and discovered that you must also make sure is waterproof. I lost several documents because of this oversight.

I keep my ammunition stored in watertight ammo cans. I have collected a number of flashlights and lanterns over the years. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. That way there is always light easily within reach. I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit as I have had problems with spotty cell phone usage during and after hurricanes. For some reason land-line phones have always worked.
An alarm company representative made some suggestions regarding safety in the home. He recommended hinging my doors so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force  winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. That prevents someone from kicking the door in with one swift kick. With the buddy bar it takes a number of kicks and of course a lot of noise so you are not caught so quickly off guard. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down and limits what outsiders can see at night if you have lights on.
Because of a recommendation from a local contractor I decided to use spray foam in my attic instead of the traditional cellulose insulation. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I recently installed a battery-operated wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home.
Anyway these are some steps I have taken and I hope this has been a helpful read for you. All of my purchases have taken me years to accumulate what I currently have. There is still much work to do. But instead of thinking of what I did not have and get overwhelmed I simply started with small steps.

Monday, July 15, 2013

I spent more than half my life involved in the martial arts - and not just one style, either. I started out in Judo, and earned my Black Belt in this style. I went on to study several different styles of Karate, as well as Kung Fu. I hold Black Belt rank in five different styles of martial arts, with my highest Black Belt ranking a 6th Degree. Not bragging, not in the least, as I honestly believe that when you get your Black Belt, you are then a very serious student of the martial arts. I have adapted what I learned over 35 years and developed a street style of martial arts, for real-life self-defense, not for winning trophies. Whenever someone came to me, for training, I asked them why they wanted to learn martial arts techniques. If they said they wanted to win trophies, I directed them to another school. At one time, I ran four different schools, and all we taught were self-defense fighting techniques.
My advanced students - Black Belts - were afforded the opportunity to train in knife and gun fighting techniques, as well as unarmed techniques they learned from me. Having been around knives all my life, and tested them and written about them for a lot of years, I think I have a pretty good grasp on what makes a good fighting knife. I've also designed several fighting knives over the years, with my latest design sitting here on my desk - trying to decide which knife company I should send it to, for a possible collaboration, and get it into customer's hands, as an affordable fixed blade fighter - custom handmade versions are available, but I want to get factory made versions out there, at affordable prices.
I received several requests from SurvivalBlog readers to test the new Columbia River Knife & Tool Otanashi noh Ken Model 2906  - and this is a new model for 2013, and I spent two weeks pouring over the new CRKT 2013 catalog and completely missed requesting one of these knives for testing. I contacted Rod Bremer, the owner of CRKT and requested a sample, and Rod always comes through - they were sold out, but they managed to find one in the warehouse for me...this knife is in great demand right now, so be advised.
The 2906 was designed by James Williams, who has designed several knives for CRKT over the past several years. Williams is a military veteran and a current martial arts practitioner/instructor. So, it comes as no surprise that he knows cutlery. His Hissatsu knife designs have become a favorite with military Special Forces around the world. I like his Hissatsu designs and own most or all of them, but the Model 2906 really added something to his already famous design - it's one of those things that is hard to explain, but easy to understand, once you get the knife in your hand. the 2906 is a further design refinement on the Hissatsu line-up from Williams.
Many knives are designed for several tasks, and that's not a bad thing. However, the 2906 is purpose-driven, and it was designed for one thing, and one thing only - to be used as a weapon . The 2906 was designed for SOCOM (Special Operations Command) as a primary or a secondary weapon to augment the handgun in the hands of well-trained professionals. Again, this knife is purpose-driven - it is a weapon, not a hunting knife, or a knife to be used around the kitchen - although it could be. However, it was not designed for these purposes.
The Otanashi noh Ken has an AUS 8 stainless steel blade, one of my favorites because it is affordable and easy to re-sharpen, and it will do all you ask of it. The Rockwell hardness is 58-59 - which is just right. The blade is 4.52-inches long - so this is a blade that can reach out there and touch someone. CRKT describes this blade style as a Clip Point - I guess it could be called that - albeit a very modified Clip Point design. The grind in hollow and the edge is plain. The finish is bead blasted, with a black corrosion resistant finish - very tactical looking. The lock-up is from the CRKT Frame Lock design, a very strong one - where one side of the handle actually locks the blade open ,and the other side of the handle is G10 scales - tough stuff. There is also the LAWKS manually operated locking device, that turns this folder into a virtual fixed  blade knife. The pocket clip allows for very deep carry in the pocket and it is NOT reversible - it is a one position clip. Opened the 2906 is 10.13-inches and the it weighs in a 6.4-ounces. There is a thumb disk on the top of the blade, however I found I can easily flick the blade open with my wrist for faster deployment.
I've often mentioned that, most knife fights are designed around slashing moves - and they are. However, you might be required to do some penetrating moves, and the 2906 thin blade, with a needle point on the blade has exceptional penetrating ability. I used some stacked cardboard and the knife VERY easily stabbed to the handle without much effort on my part - this knife can penetrate. I also had some thin sheet metal, and I used the LAWKS manual lock to further lock the blade open and I was able to easily penetrate the sheet metal without much effort at all. I can see the 2906 penetrating soft body armor, too.
The long curved blade is also designed for slashing moves, and the actual cutting area of the blade is longer than the measured length of the blade because it is curved upwards from the hilt to the point. Again, hard to explain, however if you check out the CRKT web site, you'll see how the long curve is on this blade. I can see this blade easily slicing down to the bone on an arm or leg. If a Special Forces Operator were to use this knife to take out an enemy sentry, I could see if easily slicing through the front of the throat all the way to the back of the neck - not a pretty picture, but I believe this folder can do it with ease. Again, this knife was designed to be purpose-driven, and that is as a weapon - primary or secondary. I wouldn't willingly take a knife to a gun fight, however, I wouldn't feel the least bit under armed against several attackers if I had this knife in my hand. This knife instills a lot of confidence because of the design of the blade.
The Otanashi noh Ken is one of those knives that has to be experienced, to fully understand it. It's one of those knives that is hard to explain in words, but easy to understand, if you are involved in the martial arts, or in a high-risk military MOS, that may require you to use a knife against an enemy combatant. I like knives that are hard to explain, but easy to understand, once you hold it in your hand - it has to be experienced to fully appreciate it.
It's not very often that a knife comes along that is totally purpose-driven. If you are looking for a knife that was specifically designed as a weapon, then take a close look at the CRKT Model 2906 for your next purchase. And, be sure to check out the other James Williams designs, I'm betting you'll find a few more in the Hissatsu line-up that you'll want. Currently - (I'm writing this on May 4, 2013) - this knife is still sold out on the CRKT web site. I told you they are popular. However, I'm hoping that they will have more in-stock when this article comes out in print. The Otanashi noh Ken doesn't come cheap. It retails for $150. However this folder is well worth the asking price. So, take a close look at the 2906, and see if it might be something you want to add to your battery of weapons for self-defense and survival use. I plan on getting a second 2906 when they become available again - that's how much I like this design! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, July 12, 2013

Several readers sent suggested additions to my recently-posted list of field gear makers that have all American-made products:

MollyMacGear - MOLLE panel backpacks, extreme cold weather gear, hammocks, hammock insulation...

Urban ERT Slings - Single point, two-point and three-point slings. Made in Indiana by a former NCO and father of an active duty USAF Pararescue Jumper. They also take payment in silver.

Go Ruck - Military packs made by a Special Forces veteran.

Fight and Flight Tactical - Products hand made in Kentucky. They have a particularly good solution for field transport of AA, AAA, and CR123 batteries.

Holland's of Oregon - Makers of the Lighting Strike fire starter, a great tactical shooter's pouch, excellent muzzle brakes, and more. Their instructional DVDs are also highly recommended.

High Speed Gear - Magazine pouches, packs, hydration carriers, plate carriers etc. Their TACO magazine pouches are a great design.

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.

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Mac's e-mail in-box is stuffed full every morning. I plow through dozens and dozens of e-mails. After a glance, most of them get a perfunctory "delete" click. In addition to the inevitable SEO Optimization. V*agara, and Nigerian scam letters, I also get a lot of grammatically-garbled e-mails that begin like this one: "Hi friend, Greeting from Ceina. Compoka,China--Headphone manufacturer. What kind of headphones and earphones are you collecting now? Hope we can do some help for you...."

This constant barrage of e-mails are a sign that mainland China is gaining global dominance in manufacturing of consumer goods.

One of my frequent topics of discussion in SurvivalBlog is generically called "field gear." This includes tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, military load bearing gear, compact stoves, canteens, knives, fire starters, first aid kits, and so forth. While the limits of this category are nebulous, I like to think of field gear as just what a foot soldier would carry on his back, or what a backcountry guide would load on his packhorses.

Surprisingly few brands of field gear are now American made. Sadly, the vast majority of field gear-making has moved offshore to mainland China. Rather than just be depressed about this situation, I have resolved to do something to counter this trend. I urge all of my readers to do the following:

1.) Don't just blithely purchase merchandise without first checking on its country of origin. Take the time to LOOK at labels! When buying from mailorder catalogs or online, take a minute to call and ask, before you order. If a product listing says "imported", then the odds are now better than 80% that it is made in mainland China.

2.) Beware of the words "style" and "type." With field gear, the most common euphemism for Chinese-made garbage is "G.I. style."

3.) Be sure to thank the management of these companies for keeping their production in the States, and tell them that they earned your business because of it.

4.) Read the codes. (See the following discussions.)

Decoding UPC-A Bar Code Numbers:

Universal Prices Codes (UPCs) are a complex subject, so I'll defer to linking to a couple of fairly definitive sources: Wikihow and Snopes.

But generally, if the first 3 digits of the number beneath the bar code are between 690 and 695, then the country in which the code was registered was China. But if the codes are between 000 and 019, or between 030 and 039, or between 060 and 139, then the country in which the code was registered was the United Sates. But remember that this indicates the country that issued the code rather than the country of origin of the product! A list of country codes can be found here.

Decoding NSNs:

For military surplus, get smart about NATO Stock Numbers (NSNs.) A typical NSN looks like this: 8465-01-254-575 . The second group of numbers is the Country Code. If the Country Code is 00 or 01, then it is American made. The code 99 designates the UK, and 20 designates Canada. A complete list of codes can be found here.

By the way, the Defense Logistics Agency has a public web search page, called Web FLIS. There, you can look up even a company name and locale, by searching its CAGE code.

Remember the American Brand Names:

I'm sure that I will miss many companies, but here is a general list of field gear companies that sell all (or nearly all) "Made in USA" products:

Knives deserve their own category, since this is one of the few industries where there is still a large number of American makers. We can maintain this presence by only buying from these makers:

Note: There are thousands of smaller custom knife makers in the United States--too many to list here. (See: The Official "KnifeMakers Database" for a detailed list, with links. Most of these are home-based businesses that do custom work.

Formerly Made in USA: Many knife and multitool makers have moved part or all of their manufacturing offshore. Gerber is typical of this trend. Not only are they owned by a foreign company (Fiskars of Finland), but more than half of their knives are now made in China. On a similar note, I still have readers recommend Marbles brand knives. They were all made in Gladstone, Michigan until a few years ago. But they've started importing them from China. :-(

If in doubt about the origin of a product, then contact,, or

Also note: I didn't even attempt to list the hundreds of American-made brands of guns, clothing and boots. I tried to stick to just field gear.

I'm sure that I will get a lot of suggested additions to the foregoing lists, via e-mail. Once I do, I will expand this post and turn it into a static reference page.

And by the way, I plan to compile a companion piece on American-Made Tools, later in July. Please e-mail me links to the web sites of tool makers that have 100% U.S. made tools that you recommend. Thanks!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'd like to discuss some practical aspects of power tools. Some posts in the past have been mentioned about them but I am going to discuss making solar power tools. And not just buying the pieces and making them (which you could do if you wanted) but actually making them from salvaged “junk”.
I’ll be the first to admit that while I love and own all types of traditional (non-electric) hand tools, using them does take considerably longer and more effort than the powered ones. (Not surprisingly).
My background is that of a professional tinkerer, and a trained marine and environmental biologist. I have tinkered with electronics since I was a small child and while no expert (and welcome corrections (there is much I don’t understand)) what I know is from first hand tinkering and reading.
As a professional scavenger I have come to realize that we live in an incredibly wasteful and unsustainable society on many levels (no surprise to most readers I am sure). Over the years I have found drills, reciprocating saws, circular saws, chainsaws, and all types of other power tools thrown away for various reasons. You just have to keep your eyes open.
The project I am going to describe was one in which I took an older Black and Decker 7.2 volt NiCd battery powered drill (that I found in someone's trash), and turned into a lithium ion solar-charged drill for free. This project can be adapted to almost any brand, voltage, or type of battery powered tool.
Tools and supplies needed:

  • Voltmeter/multimeter
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Flux
  • Wire (decent gauge, larger than 3mm, preferably braided)
  • Diode (at least rated for 20v)
  • Some type of male/female plug with 2 leads
  • Photovoltaic (PV) panels (5-10 volts (peak) more than the total battery voltage.
  • A battery-powered tool of some sort
  • Several lithium ion computer batteries. (Non-Apple.)

This project assumes the reader has basic soldering knowledge and basic electrical knowledge, if not there are plenty of how-tos and tutorials online.
Diodes can be scavenged from almost any types of old junk electronics whether it’s an old television, old computer monitor, printer or many other types of “junk” electronics. Many diodes have numbers on them, just type them into an Internet search engine and you can usually find the power it is rated for. Unsolder it and you’re ready to go.

[JWR Adds This Warning: Use extreme caution whenever cannibalizing parts from any high voltage electronics such as televisions. Most of these include high amperage capacitors which remain energized with a potentially lethal charge, even when the electronics are powered down. (And in fact even after discharged they can even "bounce" building up a new charge, unless they are shunted.)]
The same goes for scavenging male/female plugs, it can be the circular types used for plugging an AC adapter into electronics, the square type or anything really that you can plug together and has at least two leads. Adequate wires are easy to find in most electronics, just keep your eyes open.

[JWR Adds This Caution: I recommend using dedicated DC connectors with red and black polarity markings, such as Anderson Power Poles for all of your DC lights and appliances. This minimizes the risk of confusing the correct input voltage an type. You may know how it is intended to be used, but friends and relatives might be confused by a familiar-looking plug and do a Very Bad Thing. Inadvertently applying 120 VAC power could cause some smoke and/or fireworks.]
Solar panels can be a little more difficult to find but with the massive influx of cheap solar junk from China if you know where to look they aren’t too hard. I got mine from the solar patio lights you see everywhere and only last about a year before they break. I am sure if walking around your neighborhood you’ll see some that no longer work, and offer to take them off your neighbors hands, or just look in the trash you’ll find some eventually. You can usually find adequate diodes in them as well. It is important to test your solar panels to make sure they function. Most patio light solar panels output around 4-5v or so at peak, but by linking them together in series (+ to -) the total is the sum of each panels voltage (e.g. 4v+4v=8v).
Now for the batteries. Most laptop computers made in the past 10 years use round lithium ion metal encased cells. The only exception I know of are Macs which use lithium ion polymer cells which don’t work so well in this application just because they are rectangular and flat. The large battery packs you see actually contain several smaller “cells” inside and when linked together (in series again) provide the voltage required, the same applies for power tools. When your battery no longer holds a charge it is usually because a single cell has “died” and no longer functions whereas the rest of the cells still function albeit at a lower efficiency then they did before. So you can disassemble an old laptop battery pack and test the cells with a multimeter. If all the cells show around 3.7v and one shows 0v you found your culprit.
 Most cells are rated for 3.7v, so when deciding how many you will need for your project just make sure the sum is over the rating for your tool. In my case I needed at least 7.2v so I used 2 cells to power the drill (3.7v + 3.7v =7.4v). If you want your battery to last twice as long you can connect some of the batteries in series-parallel ( which produces sum of the current in milliamphours)  (+ to + and – to –) but it is important to balance the batteries out. So if I wanted to double the run time of my drill I would have first made 2 sets of 2 cells together in series, (+ battery – to + battery –) then connect the sets together in parallel by connecting the positives on each end together and the negatives on each end together.
If this seems confusing read more about it online and get a solid grasp of the theory behind it before connecting batteries together causing a fire or worse yet, an explosion.
The same goes for your solar panels wire them together to produce around 5-10 volts more than the sum of your batteries so that even when a cloud passes by you are still able to charge your batteries. For my project I wired 3 panels together in series (4+4+4=12v) and this works fine for me charging to 7.4v . Once again if you want to charge twice as fast just wire two sets of 3 panels (4+4+4=12v) together in parallel, and now you’re charging twice as fast.
Now in comes the diode. The diode functions like a one way valve, allowing electricity to travel in only one direction in your circuit. This is important because without it every time a cloud covers your panels, the electrons stored in your batteries will seep back out into the panels possibly damaging your panel and draining your battery. Diodes typically have a single white or black band indicating the orientation of it. The band indicates the negative side, so current flows from the banded side to the other, not vice-versa. The diode should be soldered between the + of your solar panels and the + of your batteries. If you have a multimeter you can set it to test your diode and make sure it is in the correct orientation, and working.
So let’s finally put everything together.
1.      Determine some method to attach your batteries to the drill and that they will fit.
2.      Determine if there are leads coming from the drill and which are + and – make sure they are long enough to reach the batteries.
3.      Solder the drills + lead to the + side of the batteries as well as another wire to attach to the diode and male/female connector later.
4.     Solder the – lead to the – side of the batteries as well as another wire to attach the male/female connector later.
5.      Solder the diode banded side lead to the extra wire we soldered to the + side.
6.      Solder one lead from the male/female connector to the non-banded side of the diode.
7.      Solder the remaining – lead to the remaining lead of the male/female connector
8.      Determine a way to mount the connector to the drill either drill a hole and glue it in or some other secure method.
9.      Solder the other half of the male/female connector to your solar panels (making sure your orientation matches up to the other half attached to the batteries)
10.  There are many ways to make this project look nicer and neater, some possibilities include encasing the back of your solar panels with fiberglass resin, to create a larger single panel, or using an old battery case (Dewalt etc) and taking out the old NiCd cells (please recycle, cadmium is deadly) and placing your new batteries, wires and diodes into the case, and closing it back up.
11.  Remember this should be fun, educational, and there is always a way to build a better mousetrap. I always love to hear others ideas and criticisms. If you have the skills (and time) you could include a charge control system or other features.
A few tips
1.      I always first just “soft wire” (as in, I twist the wires together) making sure none are touching and determine if my circuits work (like seeing if the drill works) before soldering things together.
2.      Double check the orientation of your male/female connector using your voltmeter before plugging them together and [with reverse polarity] possibly destroying your batteries.
3.      Make sure that any and all bare wires or soldered joints are not exposed. I use electrical tape, hot glue, and heat shrink tubing to cover all bare metal surfaces. If you don’t when you shove it all together then things will touch and short circuit.
The solar powered drill I made for free is still running strong after a year, and I’ve only had to recharge it once! Next solar project is a reciprocating saw!
Important safety note: Lithium ion batteries can explode if improperly recharged. (Read the pertinent news headlines.) Make sure you know what you are doing before attempting this project. There is no charge controller in this simplified solar system so it is important to make sure not to over charge your batteries! I would monitor the voltage of your batteries the first time charging in full sun and determine the time it takes to reach full charge. That way you have idea about how long to keep it connected to the panels in the sun. Also note that the quality of the batteries you start with will largely determine how often it needs to be recharged. So if your batteries are on their last legs expect the same from the drill.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A friend and I recently discussed some of the possible physical difficulties that might be associated with a rapid exfiltration from a devastated area during a major grid-down scenario.  We thought it would be interesting to explore the personal effects of increased stress, combined with decreased caloric intake, which might be encountered while “bugging-out.”  We wanted to move away from academic knowledge to personal experience, so we created a seven day bug-out “challenge” for ourselves.  

Background note: my survivalist friend was a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and then spent his career working on computers.  I'm a 46-year-old male who exercises daily by running and lifting weights.  I'm also a Wilderness EMT-B and I teach wilderness survival and wild plant skills as serious hobbies.  We both grew up in rural Utah, and we’ve spent many years backpacking throughout the Rocky Mountains.  We also invited another survivalist buddy (lawyer) to participate in the seven day challenge. 

The Challenge

  • Consume only 1,200 calories daily 
  • Run 5K or bike 10K each day
  • Work manual labor (or) lift weights one hour each day
  • Sleep only 6 hours a night on the floor or ground
  • Refresh your (heavy) bug-out bag and wear it at least 30 minutes a day
  • Capstone: Run 15K or bike 30K with a (light) pack at the end of the challenge

We picked 1,200 calories per day because this is the approximate amount of freeze-dried survival rations that we carry in our bug-out bags (and it's also the amount with which we've stocked our families' bug-out bags).  The idea was to test these calorie limits while under increased stress.  We couldn't simulate everything perfectly, as we still had to work each day and support our families.  However, we thought this limited set of experiences would be achievable and educational. 

Our friend the lawyer never started the challenge.  In addition, my Marine Vet friend shifted to 2,000 calories by the third day after struggling with effects of calorie reduction, although he continued with the physical challenges.  I personally stopped the challenge after five days – here’s why:  

Body Temperature
By the end of the second day I started getting cold and then I stayed cold.  I went from one blanket to two at night.  This was odd for me, as I don't get cold very often.  My metabolism is fairly high and I was probably feeling the effects of a reduced metabolic rate as my body adjusted to fewer calories.  One takeaway is that in a major crisis, I would probably want a larger sleeping bag than the ultra-light one I currently carry.  In addition, I'll probably include an extra base layer of lightweight underwear just to maintain body heat when additional food isn't available.   

Physical Fatigue
Under these austere conditions, by the third day I was taking nearly twice as long to run my standard 5K route (7,000s-foot elevation, two large hills).  For me that was huge, as I run this route regularly.  After four days of this grueling exercise regime, I became a little light-headed just climbing a few flights of stairs.  The lack of calories really affected my overall physical performance.  Occasionally while I ran, I would get a weak out-of-body feeling.  I felt feeble in my arms when I did pushups or worked outside with a shovel.  I also experienced difficulty sleeping only six hours -- I was a little wired at night, but then I had trouble getting up the next morning.  My stomach growled constantly and I even experienced low blood sugar "shakes" in my hands after exercising.  I simply didn't have the fuel to perform at normal levels.  A key takeaway is that I'll need to factor in a slower pace when backpacking and running long distances, as well as more time to complete light construction and related manual labor during a crisis.  I might also need a small, manual-wind alarm clock of some kind.

Lack of Mental Clarity
By the fourth day images of food consumed most of my mental down time.  When I wasn't thinking about family or work, I found myself drifting off while wistfully envisioning peanut butter on bread.  I love peanut butter, and my brain probably associates that food with calories, so images of peanut butter became my near constant companion.  I awoke the morning of day five to a vivid Technicolor dream of eating stacks of pancakes in my grandmother’s kitchen.  I also found myself mentally "dull" or not as "quick" when it came to making decisions and/or responding to everyday challenges.  The takeaway here is that with a fuzzy head, falling back on training will become important during a crisis.  As a Wilderness EMT-B we are drilled to follow standardized patient treatment pathways and protocols for every single medical scenario.  This ensures that we hit all the critical steps while under stress.  During a collapse, training will probably dictate many of my decisions when I’m too hungry and exhausted to think clearly. 

By the fourth day I also began to get a sore throat (remember that we were really pushing ourselves physically).  My immune system was clearly weakened due to lack of food and sleep.  I'm sure that if this exhausting regime continued for another few weeks, sickness would become my constant companion.  I responded to the sore throat by sleeping an extra hour, popping lots of vitamin C, and drinking more liquids.  This helped, but what if I couldn't add another hour of sleep or if I didn't have a ready supply of vitamin C?  I could potentially supplement with wild rose hips, which are plentiful in my area (even during winter).  But what if I didn't know what plants to use?  Historically, during wars and other periods of extreme deprivation, more deaths occurred from malnutrition and sickness than from direct hostilities.  When your immune system is weakened, a simple cold that you dodged during seasons of plenty might become a serious health concern.  My takeaway here (besides obviously trying to eat and sleep more when possible) is to throw into my bug-out bag a small bottle of multivitamins and/or vitamin C, as well as dedicating even more study time to what local plants may be helpful (albeit feebly) when sick.      

Behavioral Changes
My wife complained that I was grouchy during the challenge.  I've learned that care must be taken to control irritability and the tendency to snap at others in your family or team when fatigue sets in from too many sleepless nights and not enough food.  Kindness and patience come easily when your stomach is full, your family is happy and healthy, you are fully employed, and your DVR successfully records your favorite television program.  But can you practice charity and self-control when everything is collapsing around you and you can't even think clearly?

Weight Loss
After the fourth day I was down nine pounds.  This much weight loss in such a short period of time simply wasn't healthy – I pulled the plug on our little experiment at the end of day five.  I remember once reading an article on that suggested being 10 pounds overweight during a system collapse might be advantageous.  As a middle-aged exercise junkie I thought "how could being 10 pounds overweight be even remotely beneficial?"  Well, I've just learned that under stress and with reduced caloric input, I'll easily burn 10 pounds or more in a week if I'm carrying a heavy pack and dragging my family away from a crisis zone.  Of course, the assumption here is that one is in excellent physical shape (regardless of being a few pounds overweight) so they can actually perform under great duress.  Over the course of the last year I’ve increased my exercise regime knowing that being in shape may be the difference between living and dying in a collapse scenario. 

I cheated twice during the experiment.  I ate an extra 100 calories of peanut butter on two separate occasions.  My body was literally screaming for food and my brain was starting to rebel.  Most folks will probably cheat a little bit under similar conditions.  But stealing a few extra calories now and then may reduce how long you can survive with your given stash.  Because I teach wild plant food skills and I grew up hunting, I'll (theoretically) be able to augment my food storage with a few (very few) additional calories.  But knowing that I have a tendency to want more calories than I currently have stashed for myself and my family, my personal takeaway is to add to my total larder (and especially to our bug-out bags) while the stores are still open.  My initial estimates of how much food my family will need while bugging out (or “bugging in”) were too low.        

Coincidentally, I had a doctor’s appointment immediately following the challenge.  The nurse asked if I was dehydrated, as she had a very difficult time finding a vein from which to draw blood.  My resting heart rate was approximately 64 and my blood pressure was approximately 106 over 71.  I thought I had been over-hydrating during the increased exercise.  It turns out I hadn’t hydrated adequately.  I also gained back about two pounds later that day when I ate as many peanut butter granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and glasses of milk as I could hold!  I diligently lived up to the exercise component of our challenge, and I learned that I simply wasn’t drinking enough water (and I thought I was pretty good at hydrating).  The takeaway here is that in a crisis, forcing yourself to drink more water than you want (or can perhaps even hold on a shrunken stomach) will be critical.  Water will always be more important than food in any crisis.  I probably need to add an additional water bottle (or two) to my bug-out bag in case finding water becomes difficult.               

“Survival Is Not Fun”
This real-world experiment might seem a little strange to most, but I personally learned a great deal about how my mind and body react to stress, increased physical exertion, and the significant lack of calories that will accompany many of the larger collapse scenarios.  Your experiences may vary under similar conditions based on your own level of fitness and your personal metabolic rate.  The ultimate goal here was to test ourselves, our equipment, and our survival food choices.  We achieved that goal, although the experience wasn’t much fun.  As Les Stroud of Survivorman fame states: “Survival is not fun.  It’s not pretty.  It’s never comfortable.  It may involve eating gross things, enduring pain and deprivation, and battling fatigue and loneliness.”  Prior to this exercise I was quite cavalier about how little food I would need to maintain optimal performance levels under stress (I'm invincible, right?).  Now I know from personal experience that I need to eat more calories and drink more water than I previously estimated if I want to stay physically and mentally sharp during the first critical phases of any future collapse.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Twenty years ago in 1993, I had already been collecting paramilitary style firearms for over 15 years. I remember purchasing my first HK91 rifle in the late 1970s and being so excited about the Galils, Uzis, Valmets, FN/FALs and the other varieties of collectable rifles that were available to a firearms enthusiast in that period of recent American history.

Being a collector of arms also made me interested in collecting the ammunition that was abundant in that era. Shortly after getting married in the 1980s, my lovely wife asked, “Why do you need to keep all this ammunition?” I responded that it was like a savings account and that I was gathering it because it was, “still cheap.” I guess I had a premonition of what might someday happen to ammunition availability. I remember buying .223 ammunition to fuel my AR-15 rifle, and paying around $110 per thousand for the stuff.

Like minds seek each other out and it was at a gun show that I met and became acquainted with an older and financially successful firearms collector. This man owned more than a few Class 3 registered firearms. He had the things that I had only dreamed of and I respected his wisdom in collecting and preparing.  After our friendship grew, he introduced me to the concept of ammunition caching.
This man had already placed multiple ammunition caches, when he allowed me to know that he was doing this. I was intrigued and asked him about his methods.

He was making each of his caches about the same. His caches consisted of 10 Krugerrand one-ounce gold coins (at this time gold was about $375 per ounce), a Ruger factory folding stainless Mini-14 rifle with five magazines and 1.000 rounds of ammunition. He also placed a cheap nylon backpack in the cache to aid in transporting the contents from the site. This gentleman claimed he preferred the stainless Mini 14 side folder, because with the pistol grip removed, he could make his cache to fit inside a 3 inch piece of PVC pipe. He then capped both ends and voila, you have a pretty handy cache for the future. I asked him how he remembered where these caches were located, and without going into too much detail, he told me he had a pattern, based on section lines. He stated that any friend of his only knew where two or less of the caches were. He buried his caches near steel cattle guards, culverts, or other large metal objects to discourage the use of metal detectors in compromising the cache locations. He explained to me how he preferred fresh plowed fields (not his own) and that he used a sheet of plywood with a hole in the middle, along with an auger to make the placements. He would search for location matching his “pattern” and the aforementioned criteria. He would place the plywood in the field and auger cache burial hole through the hole in the plywood. The plywood allowed him to control how the site looked after he finished, by containing the excess dirt, with the excess being distributed away from the site. When the cache was in place, he would remove the plywood and make the plowed field look as if he had never been there.

Needless to say, I was envious of his provisions, but sadly I was nowhere near as financially capable as this man, to make caches containing gold and rifles. What did happen; however, was that the seed was planted and I began thinking in earnest about the concept of caching.

The 1990s were an eye-opening time for me. I remember how horrified I was at the news of the federal siege at Ruby Ridge. The shooting of Randy Weaver’s son and wife caused me to wonder just how far the “powers that be” in this country could act against citizens and also to wonder what might be ahead as far as an out of control federal effort that seemed squarely against something as basic as the Second Amendment. Then in 1993 came the Waco siege. I remember watching on television as military tanks were used to smash holes in the church compound. This is the first time in my memory, on U.S. soil that I had seen military tanks used in an operation against U.S. citizens!  When the whole church compound went up in flames, the tanks and dozers kept pushing the rubble together to burn everything rather than extinguishing the flames to preserve evidence. I began in earnest to think how it could be that we had come to this in America and what the future of freedom would look like in the coming years.
By this time I had piled up a fair amount of ammunition.  As I hefted one of the wooden cases I struggled with the logistics of having to move ammunition in time of emergency. I remember thinking, if I had to leave my home under an emergency (I had not yet heard of the term “bugging out”) it would be next to impossible to include very much ammunition in my vehicle’s payload…  I made up my mind that I would locate at least some of my ammunition offsite to a remote location.

The following is what I did and how it turned out after I returned to open the cache this year, some 20 years later.
Once I decided that caching ammunition was a goal, I began keeping a lookout for various types of materials to construct containers to use for my caches. I did not have the extra money to make the acquisitions all at once, so I kept looking over different materials and possibilities.

I was also trying to think how a cache might be designed to allow retrieval quickly and without a large amount of effort as far as digging. The idea of a container that would hold another, removable container began to form as my design. This has been the pattern for the development of my caching system. I do not believe that I read about or heard others describe this type of cache. It is a design that was born of my desire to be able to quickly retrieve cached items. By its very design, the cached items have a double wall layer of protection from the elements. Time has proven that this is a viable method of creating a cache.

To get my project started, I discovered some heavy duty green sewer pipe at a second hand store. There were two pieces; one of eight inch inside diameter and one ten inch inside diameter. Each had some damage to the ends and so they were fairly inexpensive. I made an offer on the pipe and returned home to hack saw the cracked portions off of the pipes. Next I purchased caps to seal the ends. I did not find threaded caps, but only simple slip on caps. On one end of the pipe, I fiberglassed the cap in place to make a permanent seal to the pipe.  The other cap was left to simply slide onto the pipe to make the seal. The removable slip on cap fit so tight that it took more than a minute to remove the cap due to suction.  The next component came about because I often visit “Army Surplus” type stores. I remembered seeing plastic tubes that were U.S. Navy surplus sonobuoy shipping containers. A quick search of the Internet will show you what a gray plastic hexagonal sonobuoy shipping tube looks like.  As luck would have it, one of these sonobuoy tubes fits exactly inside an eight inch inside diameter pipe. The sonobuoy containers were selling for less than ten bucks apiece, so I could not pass up adding these to my project. The ten inch inside diameter pipe turned out to be the perfect size to hold the remainder of the eight inch pipe perfectly.

So, picture the design as being a permanently placed outer container (in this case pipe) as a “shell” to contain the smaller removable container, which I refer to as the “pod”. The outer shell will remain embedded in the ground (or concrete, or whatever you can imagine) and be placed so that the pod could be relatively easily removed.  One design possible with the materials I had gathered used the smaller sonobuoy as the pod inside the eight inch pipe (as the shell) to complete one cache.  The other used the larger ten inch pipe as a shell and an eight inch capped pipe inside as the pod. In either case the design uses a tube inside a tube. I termed this design an “encapsulated cache” which should allow the relative rapid withdrawal of the cached material. The encapsulated cache, uses the internal removable pod container, surrounded by the fixed protective walls of the outer shell container. The outer shell container in this concept is not excavated (other than to expose the cap) in the retrieval of the removable cached pod with its valuables.

The materials I had collected, had come together to give me what was needed to complete my idea for a cache concept that had formed in my mind. My plan was for a vertical cache, with the end (of the shell) that could be opened, hidden just under the surface for a quick retrieval of the contents. The cache would have to be located in such a way that I could quickly uncover it, remove the cap on the shell container and retrieve the inner pod containing the ammunition. The more likely the chance of people being in the area, the deeper or more creative you would have to be in the placement to conceal the removable outer cap of the shell. If need be the whole cache could be buried deep, but that begins to defeat the need for the “encapsulated cache” as time and effort to remove the pod would negate the “quick extraction” feature of this method. A variation in the encapsulated cache placement could involve the shell being placed horizontally. A horizontal placement of the shell could be included in the construction of a concrete basement wall for example and sheet rocked over. The retrieval would only require the breaking of the sheet rock veneer to expose the “shell” cap underneath. Rebar in the concrete might thwart the use of metal detectors to locate the cache set in such a wall.

Most of the remainder of this description will focus on my actual experience in placing and using the cache made from the eight inch outer pipe (for the shell) with the sonobuoy inner container (for the pod), but the concept would work the same whether you could obtain sonobuoy tubes, or made your inside pod tube from other material such as a smaller diameter pipe. I envisioned the cache design that I was going to place to be oriented vertically, and with the removable cap for the outside shell container only slightly underground or under a random large, discrete object.

As a side note, I have also made this type of cache by using a five gallon bucket as the permanent shell container with an ammo can as the interior pod container. I have had one such “bucket encapsulated cache” in place for over two decades. It is buried about six inches underground. I have returned to the bucket cache many times over the years to retrieve and add items from/to the “pod” (ammo can). At times I have found a very small amount of condensation in the “shell” (outer bucket), but never any inside the removable “pod” (Always protect the “pod” with desiccant where possible). This bucket encapsulated cache survived a logging operation that skidded trees directly over the placement. It survived one hundred percent undetected and unscathed.

In the placement of the encapsulated cache that I made with the sonobuoy pod, I used Mylar (metalized) bags to hold the various calibers of ammunition for the cache. I had one of the old “seal-a-meal” bag sealers and I began to collect the small bags of desiccant that came with various items I had had purchased. When the day came to load the interior container, I heated the many desiccant bags to recharge them, just prior to sealing the Mylar bags with varying calibers and quantities of ammunition.  I took a marker and labeled each bag to identify what it contained.

I found that my sonobuoy tube could hold all of the following:
Four bags containing 250 rounds each of 223 ammunition for a total of 1,000 rounds.
One bag containing 500 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
Six bags containing 100 rounds each of 308 ammunition for a total of 600 rounds.
One bag containing 120 rounds of 45 auto ammunition.

With the bags sealed, I arranged them in the sonobuoy tube, placing a large commercial bag of desiccant that I had scrounged from a snowmobile shipping crate and recharged in the oven, on the top of the pile of individually sealed bags. I screwed on the plastic cap of the sonobuoy pod and applied a silicone sealant gasket to provide an additional barrier against moisture.

When you put something like this together, you will notice is that the cache tube is very heavy.  To assist in the removal of the pod from the shell, I decided to construct a harness out of ¼ inch nylon rope for the pod, so that once uncovered, I could grab the rope harness and remove the inner cache from the vertical burial tube with more ease than if I had to try to pull the inner tube out by the cap alone.

With all this constructed, I now had to decide where I would place my cache. My concept was that this might have to be accessed by me in the event that I had to leave my home…what has become known today as bugging out. The different scenarios I envisioned all centered on the possibility of having to leave home and venture to a remote location. This is the most important consideration that anyone making this sort of preparation has to consider. You do not want to return to your cache after an extended absence and find that a new highway had compromised your efforts. How about a new housing development, and then there are logging operations and so on. In the end, I chose a remote location that I had spent some amount of time in my younger days camping and exploring. I choose public land far from civilization. I went camping and looked for “my spot”. The location I chose was in the high plains, above 6,000 feet elevation. I choose a location that gets about 20 inches of moisture a year; much of it in the form of snow.

Since I planned on leaving the upper cap on the vertical shell where I could access it quickly, I had decided that I would find a location with abundant rocks in the hope of locating the cache under a large boulder. My idea was that this would help water proof the cache, hide the cache and make the cache quickly accessible by simply moving the large rock “cap stone”.

After much searching, I found my location. I moved my materials along with two 4 foot by 4 foot pieces of plywood (to keep the surface of the ground pristine) to the location. With a digging bar, and a shovel it took most of the afternoon to place the vertical shell tube in position. It should also be noted that I picked a location that was well hidden from curious eyes by vegetation. With the shell tube in place I removed the dirt that had been dislocated in the process of digging the hole, away from the site to keep the site looking natural. I took the larger rocks that had been unearthed and used them to line the area directly around the removable shell cap. I did this so that upon retrieval of the ammunition, I would not have to dig, but could just pull these loose rocks from the area immediately surrounding the shell cap. With a great deal of effort I rolled the cover rock, which was a large mostly flat rock, into place over the cap of the cache shell.

One thing that I worried about when I initially placed the cache was the possibility of disturbance by bears, as bears often move rocks in search of moths, grubs, and ants to feed on. In this case I chose a cap rock that was very large. I also was careful not to use any container or material that had been used to hold food that might attract a curious scavenger.

Over the next twenty years, I made many efforts to revisit the area. I often went with friends, never mentioning the location of the cache, but lingering in the area to see if anyone might notice anything out of the ordinary. No one ever did. As time went on, a tree grew a branch directly over the cap stone adding to the security of the location. Sometimes I would leave a branch or twig lying on the cap stone to alert me if the stone had been tampered with. Over time, pine needles, leaves and debris continued to build up over the area and I became certain that the cache was safe for the foreseeable future. On some visits I observed four feet of snow covering the cache site. Other times the air temperature was nearly 100 degrees.

This year, being the twenty year anniversary of the placement of the cache, I decided I would test my design and see how the cache has fared. I approached the cache and observed that everything was as I had last left it.

I was careful not to break the tree branches that have grown over the stone as they add a level of natural camouflage to the shell cap stone that I cannot reproduce artificially. I slid the cap stone off of the cache cover (the stone weighs about fifty pounds). There, just as I had left it, was the plastic cap of the shell. I carefully, but easily removed the larger rocks around the perimeter of the plastic cap. I held my breath and began to work the cap up and off of the shell. When it came off, I was greeted with the view of the sonobuoy tube and its rope harness. Within three minutes of approaching the site and without any tools, I had extricated the pod containing the ammunition from the larger shell. I peered into the bottom of the larger, now empty shell and saw that the larger tube was indeed as “dry as a bone”. I was overjoyed as I often wondered if moisture had been seeping into the cache. In retrospect, I might have opened the cache a couple of years after the initial placement to assure that everything was staying dry, but in this case it all worked out just fine.

I put the plastic cap back on the now empty vertical shell and returned the cap stone to its place. Next, I anxiously opened the cap of the sonobuoy tube to reveal the contents after twenty years. I sampled the bags and found the ammunition dry and shinny. I took a 10 percent sample and test fired the ammunition. I had 100% reliability in firing the test ammunition. It should be noted that much of this ammo was surplus ammunition to start with and some is now more than forty years old.  I replaced the quantity of ammunition that I used in testing, recharged the desiccant by heating it and again sealed the bags and the sonobuoy tube. I did take advantage of a small unused space inside the tube to add an additional 750 rounds of .22 long rifle ammunition, to top off the space in the sonobuoy tube. I returned to the cache site and replaced everything as it was before the cache was opened.  The replacement of the cache took only minutes and no special tools.


I can’t tell you how much peace of mind I have knowing that this cache is in place and functioning as I had hoped for two decades. I do not see any reason that it might not survive many more decades into the future.  When the time is right I hope I can show my children the cache and pass it on to them.
At the time I buried the cache, I would have been somewhat embarrassed to tell anyone that I would make such preparation. Now, twenty years later I believe there are many more people who would not think the placement of such provisions is at all eccentric.
I have written this description to encourage other kindred spirits to pay attention to the materials that you may come in contact with that could be used to construct a similar cache and to motivate you to make such a preparation for you and your associates for the day when such provisions may be needed.

My guess is that some will scoff at the idea of the cache being only slightly underground, or being covered by a removable rock. The weakness is that the cache may be found; however, the location that I placed this cache in is so remote that humans seldom even walk near the location. Also, large boulders are common in the location, giving the “cap stone” a very inconspicuous look (I would NOT recommend placing the cache under the only prominent rock in an area). These factors give this type of cache the security that has allowed it to be successfully placed these twenty years.
I know of another individual who has placed a cache of ammunition in a totally different way. His cache is buried more than ten feet underground! It certainly is secure, but how long would he have to work to remove the contents?  

In the end, your choice of materials and designs are endless. My “encapsulated cache” is really one that came together by imagination and luck in finding the materials I used to construct it. The secret is being ready and available to make use of what is around you and then being motivated to do something, rather than spending your precious time “getting ready to get ready” and in fact doing nothing.
Lastly, I want to state that I consider myself a patriotically motivated individual. My cache is in place as a last resort to preserve the ideals of the Constitution of the United States, and especially our God given rights. I consider it my responsibility to be prepared to personally keep the Minuteman mentality that I came to admire as I learned our nations history.  I pray that it does not come to the point where freedom is so curtailed that patriots are again force to fight tyranny on this North American continent  in order to preserve the concepts that made this country great, but the fact is, that it is looking more and more like that is our situation.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." - United States Declaration of Independence

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back when I was in the military I would have loved to have had a way to heat-up my C Rations - yeah, I'm "that" old - that we were issued C Rations in the military, when out in the field. MREs (Meals, Read to Eat) were still only just a concept in the mid to late 1960s. Nothing beats a hot meal in the field, even if it was just C Rats - a cold meal just doesn't seem nearly as comforting or filling, as opposed to a hot meal. My late friend, Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, up in Tok, Alaska used to say Fire is magic" and it sure is - very comforting, mesmerizing and warm. A fire can make a difference when you're out in the boonies or in the field, especially when time comes for a meal.
Over the past year, I've tested several survival-type stoves for SurvivalBlog readers, all had their good points, and I especially like the light-weight they afforded me, and some folded-up for ease-of-carrying in a backpack or buttpack. Best of all is, they burned "whatever" combustible materials you could find; twigs, paper, wood chips, straw - whatever was laying around! You didn't have to pack fuel, which is expensive and cumbersome to say the least.
When I received the Vitalgrill stove I couldn't wait to get this one out and test it. Right now, I'm buried with products to test for SurvivalBlog - so much so, that testing one product each week - which is the pace I try to maintain - I have enough products to keep me busy for the next 4 or 5 months now. I make every effort to test products in the order I receive them - I want to be fair to everyone who takes the time to send me their products for testing. Thanks for your patience!
So, what do we have with the VitalGrill, that sets it apart from some other small survival stoves? Well, first of all, you can't fold it up, but the compact size isn't all that big - you can still fit it inside of a small backpack, and it only weights 1.5-pounds. Secondly, the VitalGrill will burn most combustible materials, and I found it works well with small twigs - they burn long enough that you won't have to keep feeding the fire. I also used wadded-up pieces of paper, but they burn rather fast, and you have to keep feeding the fire while you're cooking. You can also use heat tabs if you want to pack them along. What really sets the VitalGrill apart from the other small survival stoves I've tested is that it comes with a blower. Yes, you read that right, a small blower is attached and it operates from two AA batteries - that last from 35-40 hours - and that's a lot of fires for cooking, and it's not a big deal to carry a pack of extra AA batteries in your gear for replacement when the time comes.
The little VitalGrill can hold up to 50-pounds of weight on the cooking surface. However, I don't see how you could put that much in a pot or frying pan, still the little stove will hold a lot of weight - I put some concrete slabs on the cooking surface, and the stove held them just fine. There are "diffuser" plates, that fit on top of the cooking surface, and this reflects the heat upwards, from the tiny holes in the bottom of the stove - where the forced-air blows, to produce as much as 20,000 BTUs - again, you read that right - 20,000 BTUs of heat. I had no way of measuring this statistics, but I do know this little stove really got extremely hot. There are also rods that are attached to the diffuser plates, that you can adjust inwards or outwards, to hold the pot or pan you are using - be it a big pot or pan or smaller ones, the rods did their job.
The diffuser plates, with the rods, store easily under the stove, and inside of a minute of less, you can have the diffuser plates installed on the cooking surface, install your batteries into the battery pack, and plug it in, and you are ready to start adding some fuel. Like I said, I found that small twigs worked the best for me, and in my neck of the wood, Western Oregon, we have no lack of trees with plenty of small twigs you can use for fuel. To make my job easier, I wadded-up some paper to get the twigs started, and in a matter of a minute or two, I had a very hot fire going. The VitalGrill web site said temps can reach as much as 1,200-degrees - and I have no reason to doubt this - just depends on the fuel you are using. I used some cardboard for some testing because I know how very hot cardboard gets when it burns. You can even use charcoal, if that is on-hand.
There is also a mechanical shutter you can use, to adjust the air-flow, making your fire hotter or cooler if you so desire - neat idea! It works similar to a flu on a wood stove - adjust it up or down for more air-flow. The air intake is also split to prevent smoke or small particles for entering the fan, too.
The height of the VitalGrill is only 1.8-inches when folded, width is 4.9-inches and when in use, the height is 4.9-inches, so you can see, this stove is pretty compact. To make your camping or survival a bit more "comfortable" I would suggest carrying some kind of fire starter material, either cotton balls with Vaseline rubbed into, or even some commercial fire starter material. By doing this, you can have your fire up and running in a couple of minutes, and once the fire is going, get ready to cook because the stove heats-up fast - no waiting!
I played around with the VitalGrill for a couple of weeks, and really found it to be all it was advertised to be. I was able to cook soups, fry burgers, and even roast marshmallows over the twigs that were burning. A few times, I had to add a few more twigs to keep the fire hot, but it wasn't any problem - and you should always keep extra fuel on-hand - make sure you have enough to get through your cooking needs.
I really liked the little VitalGrill, and I had some concerns about how the stove would work without the blower - so I tried cooking without it. While it still worked, it didn't cook nearly as fast - I actually got spoiled using the blower motor. And, as I mentioned at the start of this, a pair of AA batteries will last 35-40 hours - that's a lot of cooking. My batteries didn't show any signs of quitting on me during my testing, and you can easily pack some spare batteries with the stove in your pack.
While cooking over a camp fire is a lot of fun, especially when out camping, you have to build a fire in a safe area, and more than likely, any camp fire you build will bring unwanted attention to you, and in a SHTF scenario, you may not want others knowing where you are at. With the VitalGrill, there wasn't much smoke to be seen at all - and that's a good thing. And, you burn a lot less fuel with this stove, than you would with a camp fire. I honestly couldn't find anything to fault with this little stove - it worked as advertised and you can cook on it faster than you can with some other small survival stoves. Only slight drawback is, this stove doesn't fold-up, but it is still a very compact stove and you can fit one in your backpack, or the trunk of your care with your bug out gear.
Now for the good news, and I expected this little VitalGrill to cost a whole lot more than the $69.99 retail price. I honestly thought, that because of the blower motor (fan) that this little stove would have cost at least a hundred bucks. So, I was pleasantly surprised at the $69.99 price. The VitalGrill is made in Canada, but can be found at retailers all over the place, or you can order direct from them, and they can ship this super-cool little survival stove directly to you.  Be sure to check out their web site because they also have a barbeque grill accessory that transforms your VitalGrill stove into a barbeque grill. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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

When I was younger I didn't give much thought to a sling on a rifle or shotgun. When hunting afield, I simply carried my rifle or shotgun at the "ready" position - ready to shoulder it and fire on game. When I went into the military in 1969, I sure appreciated a sling on my M14 in Basic Training. In Infantry School, we were issued M16s, and while quite a bit lighter than the M14, I still appreciated a sling on the gun for long road marches. Over the years, I've tried all manner of sling on long guns, and to this day, I still can't say there is one particular brand or style of sling I prefer over another. I've tried single-point, two-point and three-point slings and they all have the good and bad points.
To be sure, not all slings are made the same - some are made out of leather, some canvas and some Nylon - again, I'm not sure which I prefer. I know for long-distance high-powered rifle competition, I preferred the leather competition sling, it really locked the rifle into my shoulder and with the arm loop, made it all that much more secure.
I recently received the Echo Sling for testing for SurvivalBlog readers. My first impression, upon opening the package was "gee, nothing special here..." What we have with the Echo Sling is a heavy-duty, 1-inch wide Nylon sling - made in the USA - and that always tends to swing my opinion on many things. I still think we can manufacture better products in this country than most other countries can produce. Sure, we pay a bit more, but we get better products. I don't mind paying more for something better made.
The Echo Sling has durable stitching, and an easy to adjust polymer buckles - no worries about them rusting. The sample I received is the Dark Earth color, but they also have Safety Orange, Neon Pink, Hazmat Green, Autumn Orange, Salmon/Princess Pink and Desert Tan. They also claim that the Echo Sling will fit any rifle - guaranteed. I tried it on a variety of different sling swivels and attachments, and it fit them all. I would like to see Echo Sling offer their products in a 1.25-inch width too, in the future - for slinging heavier rifles - that little bit of extra width really helps out if you're carrying a rifle or shotgun at sling arms for any distance.
Okay, I have a box full of slings, some are leather, some Nylon some canvas, and a few made of other synthetics. I did note that the Echo Sling is much better made than many of the nylon slings in my collection - it is heavier stitched and the Nylon is a bit thicker in my humble opinion - hard to measure, I tried. I do like the simply two-point attachment system - some slings take a PhD in engineering to figure out how to attach them to a rifle or shotgun - you all know what I'm talking about, too. And, to make things easier, the Echo Sling comes with printed instructions and photos to show you the proper way to attach it. And, on the reverse side of the instructions, are photos and an explanation, as to how to use the Echo Sling as a belt - don't laugh, a belt can and does break, when you least expect it - this is an outstanding idea and secondary use for the Echo Sling.
One thing I don't much care for with most Nylon slings is that, they tend to slip and slid on the shoulder. The Echo Sling stayed in place, and I believe this is because if is a heavier grade of Nylon, and the tighter stitching that the material has. Okay, so how does one go about testing a sling, other than to put it on a rifle or shotgun and carry the gun at sling arms? Well, I knew there had to be a better method for testing this sling - other than to just carry a long gun around the house - we're in the rainy season in this part of Oregon - and I didn't feel much like hiking the logging roads in the monsoon rains to test the sling - I know it works, but there had to be a better way to test this sling's durability.
It hit me! Or should I say, one of my German Shepherds, "Sarge" showed me a method for testing the sling. Sarge isn't quite a year and a half old, and he loves to chew-up cardboard boxes that FedEx and UPS bring me almost daily - he honestly believes UPS and FedEx come to bring him new toys to destroy - and destroy them he does. While examining the sling, Sarge decided it looked like a new chew toy and grabbed an end, and the tug-o-war was on - he loves playing this game with "Arro" one of my other German Shepherds. (We have four in our house right now, but we've had more than that in the past.)
Sarge and Arro - and even Fanja, our little female, got into a three-way tug-o-war with the Echo Sling - my older main male doesn't much get into this game - he's Schutzhund 1 trained and certified, and he likes to bite - not play tug-o-war. So, over the course of a month, I let Sarge and Arro play with the Echo Sling - and these boys can really pull - they've destroyed a number of pull tug ropes in the past year. Over the course of this "test" the polymer buckles were chewed on pretty well - but still functioned, though they had teeth marks on them. The Echo Sling was looking worse for wear, but the dogs never did break it - and these boys can really pull and pull hard against each other. There was some fraying, on the ends of the sling, where the boys usually grabbed it in their mouths, but the sling didn't fail. Now, if a high-quality Nylon sling can take this kind of abuse, over a month, and still function - I'm impressed. I never let the boys chew on the sling - I know it wouldn't last but a day if they did - but I let them play tug-o-war several times a day with the Echo Sling.
I have lesser-quality Nylon slings and I know, if I had given them to my German Shepherds, they would have made quick work of them - they'd be destroyed inside of a day or two. So, all Nylon slings aren't the same quality, or made out of the same high-quality and thicker material. What started out as a "ho-hum" product to test for SurvivalBlog readers, turned into a lot of fun testing - and I didn't have to do much of the testing - my dogs helped me out quite a bit. A slightly different way of doing an endurance test, but it was a lot of fun - for the dogs - and for me - watching them. The sling held-up to the testing and a close examination of it, shows it is better made than most other nylon slings. A simple product, that works and stands-up to abuse! I like that! The Echo Sling retails for $18.99 each and as mentioned at the beginning of this article, it comes in a variety of colors, too. I've paid this much for lesser quality Nylon slings, so I think the Echo Sling is a good investment, if you are looking for something simple and durable - something that will stand-up a lot of abuse, and still safely carry your rifle or shotgun. Check it out. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Greetings, my fellow SurvivalBlog readers! My name is Michael, and I am seventeen years old. I live somewhere on the East Coast of the United States of America with my mother and father. To the rest of the world, I appear a normal teenage boy: Glued to my iPad, where I read SurvivalBlog each night before bed, obsessed with both new and old music, and always quoting music lyrics, movies and television shows with my friends. Yet what both the majority my friends and society do not know is for the last year I have been preparing for The End of the World as We Know It. Yes, dear reader, it affects even the youngest in our society: this fear of a “world gone mad.” Generally, optimism is my life philosophy, but I see society on a dangerous trend towards self-ruination. Realism has taken deep root in the way that I handle the world around me. My goal for this essay is to be the example to those who say that they cannot prepare because of financial, familial, social, political, or other factors. I also want to give those holed away in the mountains or in “The Unnamed Western State” a sense of peace, knowing that regular, everyday citizens of our society understand that preparing for a future that might not come to fruition is better than partying on and having to learn the hard way.

My prepping story began when I was eight years old. My parents bought me a copy of the book The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. I fell in love with the book, as it revealed how to land a plane, jump off a building (and there is a safe way!), and escape from killer bees. The book made me think of the classic cheesy Hollywood inspired “doomsday” films that seem to open each summer blockbuster season. I thought, “How would I take care of myself if something terrible happened?” Thankfully, those thoughts faded just as quickly as they came. I still have the book a full eight years after my days dreaming of the end of the world. However, prepping fell out of my thoughts for many years, as I entered an academically challenging school where my time to consider such things was severely diminished under the weight of 12 page research papers, math homework and more. Prepping, like an urge to contact a long-forgotten friend, though, did come back. One of my father’s friends is a gunsmith and a prepper who gave me a paperback of one of James Wesley Rawles’ novel Patriots. I was in tenth grade at the time. The book did not stand a chance against my voracious appetite to keep turning the pages: I finished it within a day. Going back and reviewing the elaborate ways that the Gray’s prepared The Group" for TEOTWAWKI-style living was quite a shock, and made me consider The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook a trifling attempt to capture some of what the fictional Grays did at their wilderness fortress.

As I thought about Patriots, I considered where I was located in the country and the world. Being on the East Coast, many nuclear power plants exist and are an open target for some form of terrorist takeover or attack. Nuclear threats from a “rogue state” like Iran or North Korea could be a threat, but many years further on. By the time that North Korea has a missile that can reach where I am and stay in one piece, I will be dead and gone, and thus I considered myself safe. Yet such events as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), Flu pandemic, economic collapse and innumerable more catastrophes made me reconsider my “high on the horse” mentality quickly. As I did then, I continue to want to leave the East Coast for good, as I see it leading to the destruction of the American way of life and a haven for looters and other miscreants after a TEOTWAWKI event. As it turns out my father has a job opportunity that will take him west after I graduate high school. Naturally, my mother and I will follow him out there. As Robinson Jeffers said in his poem Shine, Perishing Republic, which includes this stanza:

“But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center;
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains.”

I believe that prepping is a task best undertaken by the community that surrounds oneself. My parents, for example, are my strongest and most dedicated supporters on this long and arduous process of collecting and storing the things necessary to continue life as we know it. My mother has kidney, sinus, back, and other health concerns that force me to stock up on such products such as antibiotics, namely Levofloxin and Avalox. As a family, we also contract many other infections, and to combat this I attempt to keep a full prescription of Amoxicillin inside of my bug-out-bag, just in case. Advil, Tylenol, Mucinex, sleeping medications, cough drops and more play as crucial a role in my bug-out-bag as a room full of ammunition or a new AR-15 would be to an otherwise “healthy” prepper, given our medical histories and other complications. Procuring these medications, especially the antibiotics, requires nothing short of an act of Congress to get, as doctors are more reticent now than ever to forking over such prescriptions for infections that do not exist. Nevertheless, my mother and father allow me to store these medications when obtainable in an effort to protect us from what may lie around the corner.

In addition, as a family, we also work as a team on buying such things as ammunition. Our gun battery is not what I would consider sufficient, yet we are making strides forward. We have a 9mm Glock Model 17 and a .22 Long Rifle Beretta handgun. Because the nature of ammo is transient on the shelves in Wal-Mart or any other dealer, just finding ammo in either of these calibers is an act of Providence! My father enlists the help of my mother to purchase ammo in the “bulk packs”, as an individual can only purchase one per day. I am the one who stores and checks all of the ammo for defects once purchased, keeping it separate from our firearms, which are in my parent’s room, locked up. Nothing like a little bit of physical distance to keep “the lock from the key”. In addition, my mother is supportive of my father and I going to a local gun range every so often and honing our skills, of which I am grateful for her trust in my fathers and my abilities.

Because I have supportive parents, they fostered my desire to form my very own bug-out-bag. My first bag was a disaster. I constructed it last year, and at the time, it was the best thing since sliced bread to me. It was a L.L. Bean backpack that I had formerly used for school, but now insisted that it needed repurposing into a “survival kit.” My father was none too pleased because I had just gotten this backpack, but my mother was yielding, buying me a new backpack to replace the one that would soon become my “survival kit.” I woefully overfilled this poor backpack, whose purpose was to carry about 15 to 20 pounds for only a brief time. I weighed it at one point and was horrified to find that it weighed 45 pounds! I could barely carry it 15 steps when relaxed and not stressed, let alone under duress. My mother had forbid me to carry it outside the house, fearing for my physical safety! Yet, as I got older and wiser, I realized that a frame bag would take a majority of the weight from the supplies and distribute it, making carrying 45 pounds similar to carrying 20 in my current bag. After finally having this stroke of genius, I went out and purchased a Kelty Redstone 60 frame backpack. I spent the big money, and it was absolutely worth every penny. Now I can pack so much more than I could have in my old bag, and not even feel a difference! I ascertained a moral out of this: Always buy the best gear that you can afford, and make sure that it is applicable to the job you want it to do.

Now that I have made my decision and have a better bug-out-bag than I did before, I can now pack my bag with more than I ever imagined I could. Now, I have 5 days worth of clothes and food in my bag at all times, ready to go. In addition, I have a Kaito Voyager radio for staying in touch with the outside world, a 3 D-cell MagLite flashlight, a small quantity of ammunition, all of my medical supplies, toiletries and more. In addition to the bag itself, however, my room can be converted into survivalist headquarters in the event of a catastrophe. A set of clothes that include a L.L. Bean rain coat, blue jeans, sweat pants, long johns, and boot socks stay perched atop my Sturm T0 sleeping bag, which I recently purchased. The bag is amazing: it can keep me warm on even cold concrete, and while I may wake up stiff, I can sleep easy knowing that I will not become ill from being chilled. I also love the Sturm because it connects perfectly to the bottom of my Kelty bug-out-bag, where I would connect it for easy carrying if an event forced an evacuation of my home. In addition, my steel-toe boots sit beside my bed at night, along with a pair of Teva sandals and flip flops, just in case. This setup is just the “Warm weather” or “hurricane season” wear; I make the change from my “Winter weather” to “Warm weather” whenever the temperature remains above 60 degrees F at night, as only then could I survive in my summer clothes outdoors. Yet when the temperature dives below 60 degrees F at night, I make a swift change to my survival supplies, bringing out the “Winter Weather” supplies. These changes include bringing out ski pants that I have in my closet to an accessible place for quick access, bringing out my LL Bean heavy winter coat, filling it with a lighter, hand and boot warmers, Clif Bars and a small flashlight. This jacket stays next to the ski pants, where they sit in preparation for whatever life may throw at them. I also replace the sandals and flip flops with a pair of Bass winter boots that sit next to my steel toe boots, ever ready to tackle the next problem.

While my parents and I think that these plans are fantastic and prudent, there are many detractors. Some questions that I seem to get a lot from both friends my age and adults: How do you plan to implement these plans? Where would you go if you could no longer stay at your home? Why are you a “prepper” anyway? I will answer these questions respectively, starting with how my family and I would implement these plans. If there was ever a catastrophe great enough to displace thousands from their homes, and this happened at least 60 miles from my house, we would make the getaway plans effective. I would grab my bug-out-bag, put on my spare clothes I keep by my bed, put on shoes or boots, grab additional clothes that are stored in my closet, grab the family ammo tin, my watches and any other sentimental items that can be transported without additional weight. My mom and dad would grab their kits and any small items they would need and we would move to either my mother or my father’s car. The decision on which car to take would be on the amount of gas in each. As for where we would end up, we have a family friend that lives “somewhere out West” that has agreed to take us in if any catastrophe ever happened, and this is where we would formulate our plans to either return home, stay put, or move further out west, depending on the situation. As for why I personally am a “prepper”. I believe in a Supreme Being that has endowed me with enough intellect to understand when times are getting rough. With many potential threats to society now becoming apparent (CME, Yellowstone Eruption, Power grid failure, economic collapse, etc), now is the hour to hear the “little voice” within us all and begin making preparations not only for ourselves, but for the next generation of Americans as well. These preparations do not have to be on a massive scale to be a benefit; rather it is the small steps that move us forward with more wisdom and guidance than those who will attempt too great a stride too late, succumbing to a TEOTWAWKI style event rather than being a survivor.

I sincerely hope that this article has inspired you all to either begin preparing for events outside our “Circles of Influence”, or to continue on a path that protects you from those events. My family and I pray daily for the SurvivalBlog readership and the aversion of devastating events. I wish you all the best. Never Surrender. Stay Strong.

Monday, June 10, 2013

I'm reviewing the Brite Strike LED Tactical Balls® RID-3, Rolling Illuminated Distraction and Disorientation Device. Awkward name aside, these are an interesting item.

The LED balls come as a set of three, in a black nylon pouch with a MOLLE-compatible belt loop and Velcro closure.  They activate with a push button on the back, which is readily locatable by touch.  Once lit, you roll them into an area and they tumble, sending bright light in several directions each.

RID-3 are a low-level substitute for a flash bang device, being less distracting, but much safer.  Brite Strike publicizes this fact; they are honest about the capabilities.  However, for situations where flash bangs are unsafe, or for civilians who can't get them, these are still a useful device.
In a dark room with a hard floor, there is both a rattling noise and the shifting lights.  They roll for about 5 seconds, then steady out, lights facing up, to provide steady illumination of the threat.

I performed several tests.  These are fairly durable, but they are made for rolling, not throwing or dropping.  A three foot drop caused the case of one to burst open.  However, it did reassemble and function again.  In extremis, consider that a bright, spinning LED hurled at a threat would certainly make them focus on it, not other people.

The rear of the RID-3 case unscrews easily to replace batteries (Which are included.)  They take two CR2032 batteries each.  Brightness seems to be about 20 lumens (13,000 MCD with a 90º beam), and they are rated for 20 hours.

A military/police variant with infrared (IR) LEDs is available as a set of 5 with no pouch.

Especially if you have a house with a hallway with a hard surface, these would make a nice adjunct to your defensive kit.  If you have stairs, the effect should be even more pronounced, understanding that the RID-3 may be damaged from the fall.

When not being used as distractions, these are still useful little lights that can be lowered into toolboxes, sumps, crates or other containers to illuminate contents.  They can be set on the ground cloth, cot or end table while camping.  They would work under the hood of a car or in a foot well. Anywhere a compact, up-facing light would be useful, they can be deployed. And, of course, they can be held in hand, or in a closed fist, with the closed fingers as an aperture for low level illumination for maps or gear.

The MSRP for the RID-3 set is $55.99.  This works out to about $16 per unit, plus a little for the pouch.  They can be found less expensively at various outlets. - SurvivalBlog Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson
(per FTC File No. P034520): The author was furnished one set of Brite Strike LED Tactical Balls for evaluation. SurvivalBlog accepts cash-paid advertising. To the best of my knowledge, as of the date of this posting, none of our advertisers that sell the products mentioned in this article have solicited SurvivalBlog or our staff to write any reviews or endorsements, nor have they provided me any free or reduced-price gear in exchange for any reviews or endorsements. JWR is not a stock holder in any company. SurvivalBlog does, however, benefit from sales through the SurvivalBlog Amazon Store. If you click on one of our Amazon links and then "click through" to order ANY product from (not just the ones listed in our catalog), then we will earn a modest sales commission.

Over the years I've probably handled and tested well over a thousand different knife designs. I know a lot about knives. I look for quality materials in knives, then I look at their intended purpose, as well as the carry system - be they folders with pocket clips, or fixed blade knives with sheaths. I also look at the design of a knife, and I look at the price point, too. I test knives for sharpness and durability - do they do what they are supposed to do?
Some time ago, I wrote an article on the Montie Gear sling shot, and in my humble opinion, I believe it is the best sling shot on the market - albeit a little expensive - but it certainly is high quality. Montie Gear also came out with an attachment for their sling shot, that allows you to shoot arrows - for hunting small game. And, they also produced a folding arrow, to use with their sling shot. Be sure to check it out on their web site for more information. I've learned that Montie Gear produces high-quality everything. No short cuts, and only the best materials are used in the things they produce.
When Montie Gear sent me their new Ultra-lightweight fixed blade knife, I was a little anxious to get my hands on it. The first thing that catches your attention is the quick draw aluminum sheath that the knife is in. Yes, that's right, in this day and age of Kydex sheaths, Montie Gear, came up with a sheath - a skeletonized aluminum sheath - that carries their neat little fixed blade knife. And, it has a quick draw release - you simply place your thumb on top of the lever and press down and draw the knife - simple - and I like simple, less things to go wrong. The sheath also has different mounting attachments, for belt carry, or you can even place it on your gear.
The blade steel is listed simply as "Chrome Vanadium Steel" on their web site, with a blade that is approximately 3-inches long, with a Rockwell hardness of 58-62 and an overall length of just under 7-inches. The handle of the knife is covered with wrapped Paracord, and you can get it in different colors, my sample had a black Paracord wrapped handle. The knife only weighs in a 3.7-ounces, too - so it is lightweight to be sure. You can also get the knife without a 550 Paracord wrapped handle, too.
However, there is one distinct difference in the knife, compared to most others, and that is, the blade is replaceable - that's right, if you damage the blade or break it, you can simply unscrew it from the main part of the knife and replace it with another blade. Montie Gear guarantees their knives with a lifetime warranty. So, if you happen to break the blade, you send it back to them with a small fee for shipping and handling and they will replace the blade. They also have a sharpening service, but I don't know what the fee is for re-sharpening the knife. If you keep your knife sharp, you shouldn't have to send it back to the company to have their re-sharpen it - that's my thoughts. I don't like a dull knife - they are dangerous and can't get the job done when you need it.
The design of the blade is akin to a reverse (upside-down) Tanto-style blade, and it is very easy to re-sharpen, too. I found this small little knife very easy to use and because of the blade design you can do some extra-fine detail cutting if need be. In a survival situation, you must have a blade that is easy to re-sharpen in my opinion. I will say this, without a doubt, this knife was the sharpest I've even tested - bar none! The blade is hand-sharpened, and I don't know if the final edge was done on a buffing wheel, but mine had the literal razor-edge on it - you could easily shave with it, if you had to. The blade's edge really gripped into anything you want to cut - I liked it - a lot!
As a rule, I like bigger knives - fixed blade or folders, because I think they are a bit more useful for different tasks. However, the Montie Gear Ultra-lightweight fixed blade, did everything I asked of it. I didn't try to chop through any tree branches - the knife isn't designed for this. However, if you want a constant companion, in a fixed blade knife, that you can wear on your belt all day long - and forget it is there, and a knife that can handle any chores around the house and kitchen, this is a worthy contender in this regard. Almost daily, I have deliveries for UPS or FedEx - and the USPS, and these are boxes that need to be opened, and this little Ultra-lightweight folder not only zipped through opening the boxes, it also made quick work of cutting the boxes down for easy disposal in the trash - that is, when I can get a box away from one of my German Shepherds. (My dog Sarge believes that UPS and FedEx only come to bring him cardboard boxes to tear apart. He often grabs a box out of my hand, before I've had a chance to open it and remove the contents.)
I think, more than anything that I liked the quick-draw sheath that the knife is housed in - it is very secure, and you don't have to worry about the knife falling out of it. However, it only takes a split second to press down on the release lever, to get the knife in your hand and into action. Now, while this knife, because of it's small blade length, isn't particularly designed as a self-defense blade, it can be used as one in a last ditch effort. I've noted many times, that most knife fights or self-defense situations call for slashing moves, instead of a stabbing wound...and this knife can easily slice through heavy clothing - even a leather jacket - and get to flesh and bone, if need be. However, I think this knife is more suited for everyday use around the house or on the job - and would make a neat little trail knife for your wilderness hikes. It would also serve to dress out big game, too.
Now, to the nitty-gritty, the price of the knife. Like all Montie Gear, their products are expensive. Then again they use the finest materials and their workmanship is outstanding. There is no junk from Montie Gear. The retail price of the Ultra-lightweight fixed blade knife is $249.99. And be advised that it usually takes a couple weeks to get one of these neat little knives - they are always on back-order. If you're looking for a new fixed blade companion, check out this knife on the Montie Gear web site, and I believe you'll be impressed. You could do a lot worse, and pay more, but I don't think you'll find many knives like this one, with the design of the blade, to be replaced if damaged or broken, and the super-cool sheath that houses it. This is just one of those knives, that when you pick it up, you can't put it down! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One of our motivations for making disaster preparations was the tornado scenario.  Living in Tornado Alley, there is a reliable risk every May and June.  Each spring brings numerous alerts and trips to the closet when the sirens go off.  This was my first experience of a tornado disaster since moving to Oklahoma eight years ago.

On May 12th  of this year, the sirens went off three times, which means a tornado has been spotted on the ground nearby.   My sister and I headed to the safe room each time, where our “disaster bags,” water and snacks were stashed.  Nothing happened in our area and we were relieved.

On the Monday morning of May 20th, I called for an appointment with the chiropractor and they had an open slot at 2 pm.  I knew a storm was headed our way sometime in the afternoon/evening.  Feeling a little uneasy, I rationalized that I would probably be home by the time the storm hit. Mistake # 1:  knowingly making an appointment at a time of potential risk.  I did not listen to my intuition.   
It was 2: 40 pm, my appointment was over and I stopped at the waiting area where a couple other clients were watching the television.  The staff had come out to the waiting area and we all heard a concerned newscaster say, “this is a monster tornado, a mile wide,  get underground. “FIND SHELTER UNDERGROUND NOW!”  The blood drained from my face and my heart began to pound.  What should I do?  We just had a safe room installed this past January and I felt more confident as the tornado season approached.  I finally had a safe room and now I wasn’t home to use it!

My home was about 7 miles away in the direction of the tornado.  In other words, I would have to drive toward the approaching tornado in order to get home.    The tornado was approximately 12 miles from my home in the opposite direction.    In normal traffic, the 7 mile drive with 7-8 traffic lights, usually takes me about 15-20 minutes.  The big question was, could I get to my house before the tornado?  It seemed too big of a risk to me.  The second big question was, do I even want to be home and was the above ground safe room, safe enough?  The newscaster said, “ UNDERGROUND!”     
My sister, a computer tech specialist, was working remotely from home.  She texted me to say that she was heading to the safe room, the tornado was at such and such a street.  This information confirmed that I should not try to make it home.

As I am watching the news, the other two clients leave the office.  I am not going home but where should I go?   Going to a friend’s house at that time of day was not an option.  No one I knew had an underground shelter.  The staff gathered blankets and prepared to go into the bathroom.  We again heard the newscaster shout, “FIND SHELTER UNDERGROUND.“  One of the staff remembered that she had a friend close by and called to see if the friend had a shelter.  The friend said she did, so the four of us quickly got into our vehicles and drove two blocks away. 

When we arrived, the husband did not know that his wife had invited four extra people!  He warned us that the underground shelter had a couple inches of water on the floor.  As we looked down the steep stairs, a friendly black puppy was waiting at the bottom, wagging its tail wildly and splashing water everywhere.  While it wasn’t verbalized, I am sure everyone wondered what else might be in the water.  There was no light except for the open door, maybe it was a good thing we couldn’t see?  However, if I had a flashlight, I would have shined it around to verify if there were any critters in the water.    Mistake #2:  flashlight in my Disaster Bag was at home.  I do not know if the owner had already checked the water.  Remaining above ground seemed like a greater risk, so we rolled up our pants and descended into the dark, wet shelter. 

 Most of us had smart phones.  We were texting loved ones, checking the tornado progress on a weather map, etc.  While this is comforting, it isn’t reliable for timing purposes because of the amount of texts and phone calls being made in the area.  In other words, you can expect phone calls not getting thru, or delay in your messages or texts because the cell tower is overloaded.  There was some delay and lost texts between my sister and I, but texting to family out of state did not appear problematic. 

For 15 minutes, it had been lightly raining. Rain usually precedes a tornado.   At one point, a female screamed and two additional women came running and joined us in the dark.   We could not hear any rumbling yet.   A few minutes later, the husband who had been outside, came down the stairs and told us that he thought it had missed us and it was safe to come out.  The chiropractor staff and I looked at each other in the dim light, wondering if we believed him.   We didn’t know him and he didn’t know us. There is often a “calm” right before the tornado hits, so we didn’t want to come out too soon.  After checking the phone weather reports again, we decided to take a chance, leave the shelter and go our separate ways.  We were grateful to a young family for sharing their shelter with strangers.

As I headed south on the normal route to go home, thus began my 5 hour driving nightmare.  I was surprised that the traffic was already bumper to bumper.  Since traffic was barely moving, I decided to turn west sooner than my normal route.  I was on the east side of the North/South I-35 corridor and I wanted to crossover I-35 to the west side.  This was mistake #3:  I was driving right towards the destructive path that the tornado left.   As I began to cross over the I-35 bridge, I was shocked to see the freeway was empty of cars and a muddy mess. I wondered where all the cars were?   As I looked beyond the freeway, I was again shocked to see the devastation of businesses and buildings that once  lined the frontage road.  It looked like a war zone where huge bombs had gone off.

I received a text from my sister that she was okay, that our house had not been directly hit.  She thought our brother’s house had been hit and she was headed over there with some supplies. This news upset me because I thought it was too risky for her to leave a safe place.  Keep in mind, everyone is in shock, not thinking clearly and have different concerns on their minds. 

Traffic slowly inched forward in a western direction.  After I traveled several blocks past the freeway, I wanted to turn left or south towards my home, which was about 2 miles away.   However, turning south was not an option.  The police had already placed barricades to keep people from driving into that area.  The efficiency of the police and emergency personnel was amazing.  The traffic snaked and snarled thru the neighborhood streets that were cluttered with debris. It seemed like no one could go the direction he or she wanted.  People were patient, took turns letting others in when you wanted to make a left turn, etc.  People began parking cars and walking.  The walkers were moving faster than the cars.  Traffic lights were not working. Debris was everywhere.

As I drove from neighborhood to neighborhood, the traffic proceeded at a snail’s pace.  Several times I tried to avoid a major intersection by turning right into a neighborhood entrance, hoping to leave by a different exit.  I would then run into streets blocked by debris or downed power cables and have to turn around.   With shattered and pointed pieces of wood lying in the streets, I began to worry about punctured tires from nails and other debris.  I decided to stop seeking shortcuts and stay on major streets.   [JWR Adds: Everyone with a car or truck should always carry at least one 20-ounce spray can of Fix A Flat tire inflator/sealant, or equivalent. And anyone living in tornado or hurricane country should carry three or four of them!]

At every junction, you only had the choice to go north or west.  This happened time and time again between 3 pm and 8 pm.  It was very frustrating to not be able to turn in the direction of one’s home.  As I realized later, there was a 17 mile area of destruction between me and my home.   No one was allowed to go into the disaster areas as they needed the streets free for emergency personnel to rescue or recover bodies.

During these five hours, the police, ambulances, fire engines were going in the opposite direction I was traveling.  The noise never let up. The constant sound of loud sirens was just maddening.   I have never in my life seen so many emergency vehicles at one time.  They also came from surrounding communities and cities. About 5 pm, I saw a convenience store and decided to pull in and rest.  I am diabetic and had no food nor water!  Almost always, we have 1-2 bottles of water in the car.   I couldn’t believe there were none on hand, that day!  The convenience store had no power.  I was lucky to have stopped here early enough as I was able to use the bathroom, buy water, snacks and bananas. Note:  only those of us who had cash could buy things.  I also had plenty of gas and a phone charger which allowed me to keep in communication with loved ones.

Feeling a bit refreshed, I decided to take a friend’s advice to travel west towards the I-44 Interstate which ran north and south.  It might be possible to take I-44 south 5-10 miles, turn east, then look for an open road to travel north and enter my neighborhood from the south.   However, when I arrived at the I-44 junction, double lane traffic was stopped in both directions. I later learned, the tornado had also crossed this interstate farther south before it arrived in the Moore area.  Traffic was backed up because of damage near Newcastle.  I turned around and tried to go back the direction I came from, but new barricades had been put up! Unbelievable.

I joined a line of cars that was trying to travel south via a gravel road.  As we inched along, the road got muddier and was washed out in places.  A view of the 12-15 inches of water across the road explained why some people were turning around.  I was in a Honda CRV, not low but not high.  I didn’t want to risk stalling or getting stuck.   Once again, I turned around and headed back to the Interstate.

At the I-44 interstate junction, there is a newly built ER facility.  It was 8 pm and I was exhausted.  I had tried again and again and again and was now 15 miles from home.  I prepared to spend the night in the ER parking lot in my car.   I had access to a bathroom, the facility provided me a pillow and blanket and I felt reasonably safe.  For two hours, I texted family and friends, assuring them I was safe and where I was.    By 10 pm, I could not stay awake any longer and just wanted to sleep.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone and welcomed the peace and quiet of this rural parking lot.

It turned out that the traffic diminished considerably and some barricades were removed after 11 pm.  A couple friends decided they were going to come and get me and bring me back to their place for the night.  A normal response would be to welcome the kindness of friends.  I had texted these friends not to come. They didn’t listen.  I was upset when they showed up because I just wanted to sleep!  I am sure there is some psychological reason why I acted this way.  I got over my crankiness about half way to their house.  They are dear friends and their concern for me was touching.  However, I told them that “next time,” I would not tell them where I was. 

I was able to drive into my subdivision and home at 8 am the next morning.  Thankfully, our home had no structural damage, but mostly small debris all over the roof, gutters, front and backyard.  The debris included wood, insulation, tar paper, sheet rock, branches, lumber and tin. Mud, grass and leaves were plastered all over the south facing windows.    I felt very fortunate that my home was standing, but realize that it could have easily been one of the destroyed structures 1 mile away.
What did I learn from all this?

When I was at the chiropractor’s office watching the news, I remember thinking, I wish I had my “Disaster Bag”.   It was at home in the tornado safe room.  I will be assembling a smaller bag to keep in the car or light enough to take with me.  At minimum, I will add to this bag:  (a) flashlight,  (b) P-Mates, (c)  ibuprofen, snacks, water and  (d) Wingman.   See the following explanatory notes.

  1. There was a flashlight in the car, but my car had been left at the chiropractor’s office and I rode to the underground shelter with the doc.  I didn’t have the flashlight when I needed it.
  2. I was fortunate that I could use the rest room at the convenience store that had no power.  Had I not been able to, P-Mates ( are helpful for women to pee while standing up.   I purchased these for motorcycling in rural areas and for emergency situations.  A couple of these are needed in the car as well.
  3. As a diabetic with arthritic hands, I did not have pain meds nor snacks in the car.  Those will be added to the car bag as well.  A kind woman, who was also “camping out” at the ER, shared her ibuprofen with me.   The food purchases at the convenience store provided needed energy.
  4.  I was delighted to have with me my Leatherman Wingman, which I had just received for my 60th birthday.   How many 60 year old women do you know, go to the chiropractor with a Leatherman multi-tool in their pocket?   It came in very handy when cutting off the ends of bananas. (LOL)    I also felt like I had some type of weapon if someone tried to break into the car.  The knife blade is partially serrated, the scissors and pliers are spring loaded and I love it!

I now understand what others have said about travel routes being shut down in the event of a disaster.  Timing and quick response is crucial.   I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around that previously and now I have a better understanding.  I am hoping that I can think differently next time and immediately start driving away from the disaster area.  One has to have a certain degree of accurate information to know what locations have been effected so one can avoid those areas.  This is especially important if you live in a metro or suburban area with heavy traffic. 

After the last text from my sister, when she left to go to our brother’s, I did not receive any understandable texts from her till about 10 pm.  Communication can be frustrating and lead you to wonder why someone isn’t answering your messages.  You cannot make assumptions other than the messages are likely delayed by the cell tower.   Emergency personnel need the air waves free so people are asked not to use their cell phones for calling.  Some conclusions, in retrospect:

  1.  The decision to not race the tornado home was wise.  I would have likely been caught in the commercial area that was hit. 
  2. In your food pantry, having food on hand that you don’t have to cook is a good thing.  We were so worn out from the stress that neither of us wanted to cook.  Frozen waffles with syrup or cereal with blueberries, sounded good for dinner. 
  3.  Before I retired, my job required leadership skills during stressful situations.  While I remained calm during the whole event, I was most surprised at what a traumatic event like this does to your mind and body.  I did not suffer to any degree like those who lost loved ones, homes and businesses.    

 However, in the days after the tornado, or after any traumatic event, you can expect certain symptoms.  It was difficult to make decisions.  My sister and I both acted like we were in a daze, easily distracted, hard to focus, we had conflict over little things, forgetfulness, and we didn’t want to socialize or be around people.  We were extremely tired.  I would do something for two hours and want to sleep the rest of the day. This shows our state of mind and body after a traumatic event.  Our neighbors are experiencing the same behaviors.  Can you imagine needing to make life and death decisions in this condition after a traumatic event?  If possible, delay any important decisions until you are thinking clearly.  However, in the case of a TEOTWAWKI event, one may not have that luxury.

My sister took a prescription to the drug store, went back twice to pick up and each time forgot her money.  “Third time was a charm.”   It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the drug store hadn’t been near the devastated area and slow, slow traffic. 

We finally felt like we were getting our energy back 4 days later and we started to work on picking up the debris in our yard. While we feel more “normal” at this stage, it is still difficult to focus, we tire easily and are “uneasy” with any storm clouds in the sky.    

Our neighborhood was the only one in the area that did have power that same night. There was no city water for two days.  The cable and internet came back on after a 7 days.  We know how very fortunate we are compared to those who use to live 1 mile away. 

We had stored water, did not need our generator, and I had just installed an OTA antenna in our attic two weeks prior.  We watched the 15 local HD channels.   We were able to access our email and internet thru our phones and Ipads.  The biggest adjustment was not being able to watch Fox news and the national issues. LOL.  However, we did go to their web site and read news online.

While in this “dazed stage,” there is something to be said for cable television entertainment.  While there are other activities like reading and playing cards, we missed not having movies to watch and wanted to focus on something besides the tornado. The local Red Boxes were out of commission so no DVD rental either.  We could have driven farther, but we didn’t feel like it.

We give thanks to God for having survived the Moore tornado and pray for those who have an overwhelming recovery process ahead of them.  When preparing to survive any disaster, having disaster gear with you, is only part of the preparation.  Recognizing the psychological and emotional impact, the impaired decision-making from shock, the emotional & physical stress, are some of the other aspects that have to be dealt with.

P.S.: After this was written, Moore and Oklahoma City area had five additional tornados and hurricane-like wind and rain on May 31st. A serious thing happened, which could have resulted in many more deaths than the nine deaths that occurred.  All the freeways and Interstates became “parking lots.”  Evidently, people thought they would try to escape the approaching bad weather, especially knowing what had happened a week before, and the freeways became gridlocked.  Traffic was at a standstill.  There were numerous tornados moving along the freeways and people were urged to get out of their cars in the fierce wind and rain and find shelter!   As Governor Fallin said, ”staying home is safer than getting in the car.” After this experience, I also understand why it is recommended, “If you must evacuate, use back roads and leave as soon as possible!

Friday, May 31, 2013

I have really come to enjoy researching and testing off grid cooking ideas and possibilities.  Last year I had purchased a few products that I felt were going to be the back bone of my preparedness efforts. Over this past winter, I began thinking that it was necessary to actually try out the ideas and suggestions from videos I had seen and articles I had read.  I ordered a few products to round out my supplies, and I became so enthusiastic with all the possibilities that I wrote “Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 1” and “Off Grid Cooking Solutions, Part 2.”

I had mentioned that it is very easy to build a brick rocket stove that performs fairly well.  Two downsides of that method is lack of portability and efficiency. Depending upon the design, it will smoke more than a professional stove during cooking, which could prove to be problematic for security reasons.  (You won’t want others to be aware you are cooking and the less smoke, the better). One thing that really concerned me is that I kept reading of the potential danger of bricks exploding.  I stopped by a business that builds outdoor fireplaces for patio use.  The owner had heard of rocket stoves being made from regular brick, but he warned against their use.  They are not made to withstand the heat like fire brick does.  If they get wet (and most people leave them set up outside in the elements), the steam building up inside as the bricks are heated can actually cause them to crack and even explode.  He felt the risks were not worth it.  The cost of the safer yellow-colored fire brick was $3.50 each.  The design I like and seemed most promising required 28 bricks.  The price to purchase the bricks would be about $100, which is close to the cost of a commercially made product. 

My brother’s father-in-law provided me with reinforcement of what I was told.  He formerly worked in a blast furnace, and he was well versed in the dangers of heat on regular brick.  He said that even moisture from dew was enough to seep into the porous bricks.  Then in a super-heated environment of the “rocket” effect, the steam will build up and could actually make the brick explode.  It’s much the same idea of not using river rock to line your camp fire because the rocks could explode.

I have seen various videos of people building and using these stoves as an economical solution to non-electric cooking.  At my suggestion, a friend built one for emergency use for her family.  However, the risks do not seem worth the potential danger.  Unfortunately, it can be compared to Russian Roulette.  You can use the stove many times and not have any problems.  Then one day when the circumstances are ripe, disaster strikes.

I wanted to inform those that are using and relying on them of these concerns.  Because of the possible danger, and because of the portability and efficiency of a professional model, I would strongly urge that people go that direction. 

In continuing my off grid cooking journey, I contacted to let them know about my article.  I had bought my “SuperPot” from them (which is a pot that is made specifically for the StoveTec rocket stove) and I wanted to let them know I had tried it and really liked it.  I also relayed my experience with using a rocket stove and thermal cooker together, which is now one of my favored emergency cooking methods.

It turned out that that they had just received a new rocket stove which recently came on the market. Several days later, Chris Horrocks contacted me and asked if I would be interested in testing it out.  He was wanting a completely unbiased opinion (someone who wasn’t in business and had an investment to protect) who could experience the operation of the stove and give an opinion.   I felt honored to be asked and was glad to do so.

I received the stove, which is part of the new SilverFire line, and I got ready to try it out.  Unfortunately for me, we were experiencing the coldest and wettest spring that I can remember and it was difficult to even find a day suitable to get outside.  And that is where the trouble began.

In the previous year when I had worked with my StoveTec, I chose a few nice days to go outside and perform tests.  I experienced great results.  Satisfied that my stove would be an asset in emergency situations, I put it away in readiness should I need it.  I am so glad that is not the end of the story…

The rocket stove is ideal for cooking in emergencies because its fuel consumption is so little compared to woodstoves or campfires.  However, the stoves must be used outdoors, or perhaps in a garage with the door open for ventilation.  I discovered that days that are cold, damp, and windy proved to be bigger obstacles than I thought, due to my inexperience.  However, in a crisis, you must be able to cook in whatever the weather conditions may be.

The difficulty began when the theories and possibilities I had in my head met the reality of the situation.  What I thought I knew flew out the window!   I was working with damp wood (we had a lot of rain) and the cold wind just would not stop.  I wasn’t getting great results, even with my original stove, and I was frustrated.
Operating a rocket stove is actually basic, easy, and fun.  However, the reality of weather has to be dealt with and a few tactics employed in order to be successful.  I happened to pick more difficult conditions to work in.

I repeatedly had to contact Mr. Horrocks for advice because I was flailing a lot.  He   explained that a person at the equator in very hot weather would have an easier time of it than someone working with damp fuel in cold and windy conditions.  There really is a learning curve.  But, he also estimated that 80% of his customers never test out their stoves before storing them away in their preps. 
I believe that if I had to go through what I just did in testing out the stoves, but was in a crisis situation, my stress level would have gone through the roof.  I think that is an aggravation which is easily avoidable.   It is my opinion that everyone should test things out for themselves and try various recipes and pots in differing weather conditions.  The experience gained is more valuable than ideas and untried theories.  Although “doable,” it is much easier to learn in a more relaxed atmosphere.

I was the one who encouraged folks to get out there and hone their skills.   I felt so humbled because I was having such difficulty.   As I had not done much testing, but rather had spent my time researching, in reality I was an “armchair prepper.” Why does this all even matter?  Let me give you a scenario which someone could likely face.  Say you live in the Midwest where tornadoes often strike.  You live in the suburbs.  There’s been a few days of rain.  The weather briefly warms, but a cold front approaches.  They collide and result in a storm which produces a large tornado.  Fortunately, your home is spared, but there is great damage in the area and much of the power lines are down.  The power company works round the clock to restore the electricity, but it takes three weeks until your home has power again.  Meanwhile, the weather is unseasonably cool and rainy.

You have food, water, and a way to light your home.  You have invested in a rocket stove and have a way to cook the food to feed your family.  You previously saw a couple of videos that showed a person lighting up a few sticks to cook a meal, so you get everything ready and are confident that you have things handled.  With the cold wind swirling around you, you try to light the stove.  No go.  The fuel is damp and just doesn’t want to light.  You get some more tinder and remember the trick you heard of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, which when lit creates a flame lasting several minutes.  Finally, you have a fire going.  But then it goes out.  You battle it for a while, but finally the fuel is dried out enough that it starts to catch. 

You didn’t find that many sticks for your fuel, but you think that you have enough because rocket stoves really don’t require that much.  You are preparing a large pot of vegetable beef stew to use up some meat you had in the freezer before it spoils.  But you just can’t get the pot up to a boil.  After an hour of standing in the cold wind, you finally are seeing progress, but now you are out of fuel.  Family members are scouting around for more sticks.  Thankfully, even though what sticks they do find are really damp, the hot fire dries them out enough to catch and you finally have enough heat to cook with.  You didn’t think it would take this long or be this hard. You’re cold and discouraged.  You realize that you have to do this two to three times each day.  There’s got to be a better way!

I urge you to invest some time with your stove.  Try out some recipes that your family enjoys.  Use a cast iron or stainless steel pan and fry hamburgers, a steak, or eggs. The amount of fuel to fry a few burgers is less than making a large pot of chili or stew in a Dutch oven or large pot.  Note that difference. Once your food is up to a boil, you can actually keep it simmering for hours by adding just one stick at a time.  Give that a try.   Take a large stock pot filled with water and bring it up to 150 degrees (the recommended temperature for pasteurizing) which may be needed for safe drinking water.   Keep track of how long that took.  Keep on going and see how long until the water boils.  You will need hot water for various tasks such as washing dishes, laundry, and bathing, so it is best to know how to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

If interested in using a pressure cooker or canner, try that out as well.  I have canned tomatoes and green beans, so I do have a little experience in that area.  Canning is just a simple process with numerous steps to follow.  But if you have never canned before nor worked with your rocket stove, I would think it would be pretty overwhelming to begin for the first time in a crisis situation.
I would suggest cooking on the rocket stove in fair weather as well as windy and colder conditions.  One thing to consider is that as the rocket stove is working to bring a pot and its contents up to a boil, a cold wind will work against progress.  You must add heat to the cooking pot at a higher rate than the wind takes away.  The wind will speed the heat loss, so you need a wind break or shield, as well as more fuel to provide the heat required.   In those conditions, a shallow pan heats up faster than a taller, narrow one due to a larger surface area of the taller pot that is assaulted by the wind.

In dealing with wind, I have found two things to be invaluable.  The StoveTec comes with a pot skirt that directs the heat up the side of the pots and helps the stove to operate more efficiently.  I have seen some videos where people have placed shallow frying pans on top of the pot skirt, but that actually is not how they work.  They are designed for a taller pot to be placed on the stove and the adjustable metal skirt wraps around the sides, thus guiding the heat up the sides of the tall pot.  StoveTec also has the SuperPot which essentially does the same thing, but also gives the advantage of not having to clean off soot from your cooking pots.  In my testing, they both are a beneficial aid to get your pot heated quickly, especially in cold and windy weather.

The new SilverFire stove does not come with a pot skirt.  Because it is an improved design, it has a hotter and cleaner fire and quickly heats up to provide an efficient cooking flame.   It is my experience that a pot skirt does make a difference in colder, windy conditions, so I wouldn’t want to be without one.  I am assured, however, that the SilverFire will have its own SuperPot, which is currently in the making.  It is slated to be available during summer of 2013.

I would suggest finding several locations for cooking.  Where will you prepare meals when the sun is hot and bearing down?  You would want to cook in the shade, if possible.  If there is a stiff north wind blowing, is there a southern portion of your home or a building that would provide you with a wind break?  Is a garage or shed available during rainy, cold weather?  Do you have so much stuff packed in there that it would be a fire hazard to cook with a rocket stove?

As far as fuel is concerned, I suggest that you stay ahead of the game.  If there is a crisis and you live in a suburban area, and all you can find are a few wet sticks, you are going to have a little difficulty. Thankfully, it does not take the time to “season” fuel sticks like it does larger wood pieces for use in home heating. Even in urban areas, trees continually shed small, dead branches.  It is such an easy thing to gather them throughout the year.  Consider storing them in a weather-protected area so that they don’t get wet.  A tarp will keep your fuel dry and ready to go should you wish to have an ample supply ready.  You could also keep handy a large bucket or two of larger sticks and twigs, which could be stored in the garage.   And pallets make excellent fuel for rocket stoves.  Many businesses in my area just give them away.  They can be disassembled and a small hatchet used to split them into fuel sticks – all at no cost to you.  Although any biomass can be used, sticks give the longest and most trouble free operation due to their mass, and they are my fuel of choice.

One thing I discovered in performing my tests is that fuel made from lumber or dry sticks versus wet sticks performs differently.  The bark on the wet limbs acts as a fire retardant due to the moisture it holds, and is harder to start a fire with.  Since I live in an area with a lot of trees, limbs will be what I will commonly use.  But I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting the results I saw on videos.  I was able to overcome this when I added drier sticks in the stove coupled with more tinder, and then used more sticks for a hotter fire.   On one of the first days of testing, I worked for an hour to get a small stock pot of 10 cups of water up to a boil.  Last summer I had accomplished the same task in just minutes.  It was taking way too long.  But with the right technique and a pot skirt, it took only 15 minutes.
If the only fuel available is wet sticks, this actually is still doable.  Using more dry tinder (any biomass) to produce heat and get a bed of coals going will aid in getting the sticks to burn.  As the fire progresses, the sticks will dry out and will burn more easily.

As I continued my tests, the day I was able to easily start my cooking fire without the assisted means of cotton balls and petroleum jelly, I was happy.  I know there are serious survivalists out there who could almost sternly gaze at a small pile of tinder and get it started.  Not so with me.  But I discovered that with the right amount of either paper strips or dried leaves coupled with plenty of small twigs to create a bed of embers, my fuel sticks really got going.  And I only used one match on a very windy day.  I simply struck the match slightly inside the door so the wind wouldn’t immediately blow it out.  It quickly lit the paper, which in turn caught the tinder, resulting in enough heat to catch my fuel sticks on fire.  I was able to start cooking in about one minute.   Victory!

You may be wondering what all my testing resulted in when I tried out the new SilverFire stove and compared it with my StoveTec.  There actually was not a clear “winner,” as each stove had advantages.  My observations formed my opinions, and I realize that a controlled lab test would actually give more scientific findings.  But I will let you in on what I experienced:

The StoveTec is a solid stove that sits very securely either on the ground or a table, and it can take quite a bit of weight.  It can handle large pressure canners and heavy Dutch ovens with ease.  It fires up quickly, and coupled with either the pot skirt or SuperPot, it works very well.  One nice feature is that it remains cool to the touch on the outside for a prolonged period of use.  However, the insulation and cast iron top are slightly fragile if dropped, so caution needs to be taken when transporting it.   I love using this stove and wouldn’t want to be without it.

The SilverFire is almost half the weight of the StoveTec (12½ pounds), and it has an inner insulation that will not break if dropped.  It also has a thicker cast iron top which is more durable.  Those features make it very portable.  It is made from stainless steel, will not rust, nor does it have paint to scratch or peel off.  It also fires up quickly and is very efficient.  It is both a rocket stove and a gasifier stove, which means that it uses primary air (from vents located on the base) and secondary air (from vents in the interior fuel chamber).  I noticed the combustion process lead to less soot on the bottom of the cooking pots, which attests to it achieving an efficient burn.  However, due to the design of the base, it is somewhat less stable and if nudged or hit from the back, could possibly result in the stove falling forward during cooking operations.  I was easily able to overcome that potential problem by placing a small wedge just under the bottom front.  A SuperPot of its own is in the making, which will help it be even more efficient in cold, windy conditions.  Therefore, I find that it also is worthy of having in my preps. 

Given the choice, one or the other, or both, I would actually say:  Both!  If any of you already have a StoveTec but have the financial means to add the SilverFire, that would be my recommendation.  If you plan on “bugging in,” the StoveTec is great and can handle all of your cooking needs.  But should you need to “bug out,” the lighter and less fragile SilverFire would be advantageous. Either would give you great results and will cook your food.  Why both?   Remember the wise saying concerning preps that “one is none and two is one?”  Having both would be a great peace of mind.

Before I conclude, I want to turn your attention to the AfterBURNER Stove Corporation. The help I received from them is invaluable.  They are a family owned business and mainly sell rocket stoves and accompanying merchandise.  They treat their customers like gold.  They have a 100% money back guarantee for one full year from date of purchase, a full year bumper to bumper warranty, a free lifetime ceramic burnout guarantee on all StoveTec stoves, and a lifetime discounted replacement plan for accidentally damaged stoves. They work hard to educate and inform their customers on the use of their stoves, provide instructional videos, and are planning additions to their web site to aid in addressing various aspects of stove use and other products.  As a customer, they want you to USE your stove and gain experience, which will help you in a crisis situation.  They are available to you to develop the skills you need for success, and they offer lifetime support on any of their products via phone or email.  I would hope that customers will take advantage of that while it is available.  In a crisis, you might not be able to reach them.  They work hard to earn and keep your business.  On top of all that, they guarantee the lowest online price.   
You might think that since I got a stove to test that I am just giving them a commercial.  Not so.  I informed them that although I would test the stove and would be happy to report my findings, I would be giving it away to a friend who only had a brick stove (which I now believe could be dangerous).  I did not receive any personal gain – except for the knowledge, experience, and improvement of my skills.  I feel like I made a friend. And that was priceless.

Although I highly recommend that every family that is serious about emergency preparedness have a rocket stove, I just as strongly recommend that you work with it and build your skills.  It will serve you well in a crisis, but it is so much easier to deal with the learning curve before it’s actually needed.  Your stress level will already be high in an actual emergency.  Why make it harder for yourself than you have to?  Because it’s so much fun to operate, and can be used right now for backyard cooking, picnics, camping, and hunting, it’s a win/win situation.  So why not go out and get cooking today?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Many of the articles that I have read on various web sites are, in my not so humble opinion, not adequately addressing the equipment necessary for a Bug-Out-Bag (BOB).  Having had many years of experience in the survival arena, winter and summer, in the Arctic, mountains, tropic and desert regions, many times in hostile theaters, I have drawn up a list for a BOB, along with some accompanying information. There are variations for some of these items and the list of potential equipment and gear is nearly infinite.  However in my considerable experience, what I have listed below has proven to work.

Minimum Equipment

Weapons and Ammunition

  • Semiauto handgun in .45 ACP, 40 S&W, in (A 9mm, is less desirable. The bigger the projectile (bullet) the bigger the hole and big holes and deep penetration.)
  • Four loaded magazines for handgun
  • Additional 50 rounds for handgun
  • Fixed blade combat knife
  • Folding tactical knife
  • Tomahawk with sheath (excellent for bush craft & a formidable weapon)
  • Compact weapons cleaning kit for weapon caliber (Bore Snake and CLP)

Other Tactical Equipment

  • LED Key Chain flash light with green lens (to read maps)
  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Holster for your handgun (see info below)
  • Handgun Magazine Pouches
  • Camel back style Hydration System with inline filter, 100 fluid. oz
  • Multi-tool, black or OD in color
  • Small SureFire (or other tactical-type) flashlight
  • Six spare batteries for lights, GPS, etc.
  • Six spare batteries for Surefire lights
  • One (1) spare flashlight bulb for each style of light
  • Appropriate first aid kit
  • Small binoculars
  • GMRS/FRS Radio
  • Radio pouch for GMRS/FRS size radios
  • Head set with push to talk for GMRS/FRS radio
  • Wristwatch with covered dial/face.  Nothing that reflects.  (See SOP)
  • Knee pads
  • Ruggedized Cell Phone with spare battery
  • Cell Phone charger for 12 volt and 110 volt
  • Topo maps of your area of operation (AO)


  • Sleeping pad (Thinsulate)
  • Good quality large size Space Blanket or Rain Fly, either camo in color or with camouflage net

Water / Food

  • Water bottle with filter
  • Several coffee filters to strain sediment from water
  • Flint & Steel with Magnesium Bar (practice building fires in the rain)
  • Zip Lock Bag of Dryer Lint (fire starter)
  • Dehydrated food for at least seven days, entrees only
  • Heavy duty Fork and Spoon
  • A way to cook your food, i.e. MSR Multifuel stove or MRE cook pouch.  You probably will not always have time for a cooking/warming fires and there will be many times that you do not want to expose yourself with that type of a signature.
  • P 38 can opener


  • 1 set of Camo appropriate for your location
  • 1 pair of combat style boots that are well broken in to your feet
  • Camo rain gear or winter gear as needed
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Tactical belt for pants
  • Dry socks (No socks with seams over the toes!  i.e. Smart Wool brand)
  • Camo rain poncho
  • Store everything that has to stay dry in heavy duty Zip Lock bags


  • If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses you must have a spare pair/set
  • Toilet paper and know a natural alternative in your AO.  Save the T paper for when you have to be quick
  • Tooth brush
  • 10—six inch black zip ties (to repair equipment in the field)
  • 10—heavy duty 12” black sip ties to secure bad guys
  • One roll black electric tape (UL listed)
  • Partial roll of camouflage Gorilla Tape
  • 100’ of 550 cord
  • Potassium Iodate tablets
  • Several one gallon size Zip Lock Bags (spares)
  • Two leaf/yard size trash bags
  • Two small roles of picture hanging wire for snares etc.
  • Hooks, flies, lures, line, sinkers, swivels, weighted treble snagging hook with steel leader, all sized for your A.O.
  • One small plastic container of cayenne pepper
  • Mosquito repellent
  • * Coagula XL, 2 ounces
  • * Dysentery Stop, 2 ounces

SOP  (Standard operating procedure)         

No glow in the dark, shinny, reflective gear of any kind, including but not limited to:         

  • Stainless side arms or Leatherman tools (unless painted)
  • No glow in the dark sights (tritium type).  Black them out for night ops
  • Shiny pistol grips
  • Ink pens
  • Watches and watch bands
  • Rings and other jewelry
  • Flashlights
  • Eye glass frames

There will be nothing in your Bug-Out Bag that rattles or makes noise.
No perfumed products of any kind


After reading this list, I am sure that each of you has many different questions and I will try to answer some of them here.

One question that I am asked a lot is “How do I carry all of this stuff with me?” Some people prefer to have some type of day pack or back pack. Personally, I am not a great fan of packs because they throw your center of gravity to the back making it more difficult to navigate difficult terrain. Personally, I like a tactical vest better than anything else does. The tactical vest, in my not so humble opinion, is far superior to day packs and is much more comfortable to carry.  A tactical vest is much less fatiguing to wear all day than carrying a pack.  You do not have to take the tactical vest off to access the most critical items because they are carried in your front pockets.  You can conceal your tactical vest in a duffel bag while at work or in your vehicle.

Good tactical vests for a standard bug out bag (BOB) can be bought at This company makes very good equipment and I have personally used a lot of their gear. If the only weapon that you plan to carry is a handgun (or no gun at all, which is foolish at best and catastrophic at worst) then I suggest that you get the Blackhawk Mega Tactical Vest (Medic/Utility), along with a Patrol Belt & Pad. This vest has many pouches to carry your gear/equipment. I also suggest that you get the S.T.R.I.K.E. LRRP Butt Pack GP, which easily attaches to the back of the vest. This allows you to carry extra supplies in the Butt Pack.  A 100 oz. hydration bladder will also work with this vest, so get one. I also suggest that you get the Serpa Drop Leg Holster (Platform) for your handgun on your strong hand side and an additional drop a leg STRIKE platform for your weak hand.  These attach to the Patrol Belt Pad (which attaches to the vest).  The weak hand platform can be used to carry your first aid kit or other things in a separate pouch or pouches.  BLACKHAWK carries a wide variety of STRIKE pouches.  If you do decide to use a day pack, get the best one that you can possibly afford.  Tactical Tailor, Blackhawk and 5:11 Tactical all make great packs.

[JWR Adds: As I've previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, I personally find the weight of drop-leg holsters uncomfortable for walking long distances. I prefer traditional belt holsters. Not only is the weight distribution more natural--on your waist rather than on your thigh--but they are also quicker to access. But your mileage may vary. If you have the chance, try out this style gear before you buy it.]

Personally, if it is not in the winter, I do not take a tent or sleeping bag if I am going to be gone on a (dismounted) patrol/mission for less than 10 days and, depending on the climate/terrain etc., sometimes longer.  I take a Thinsulate closed cell foam sleeping pad just to stay off of the cold ground, a space blanket and maybe an extremely light water proof shelter.

Here is the scenario. All of a sudden without warning, there is a meltdown in the nation, whether it is social/economic, a terrorist strike, natural disaster or some combination of these. You grab your BUG-OUT-BAG and head for the door, be it from your place of work or your home. The next question is “Where am I going and can I get there from here?” If you plan to head home, you have to consider that someone else might be occupying your home by the time that you get there.  What will you do then?  Have you ever considered this?  Do you have a plan in place for this event?  No?  Then make one, make several.  It is critical to your survival and the survival of your family and loved ones that you have a plan for this. Just taking off with your BOB, family in tow, with no destination in mind is going to be a world-class train wreck for you and your family. So get a plan and then make several alternate plans and stick with it.  Always have several backup plans.

Be absolutely certain that you have a communication (commo) plan set up with all of your family members.  If things get bad during a weekday, you will be at work, your wife at home or at work, your kids in school….in other words almost everyone in your family will be away from home with no way to communicate with each other.  Do you think that is impossible?  The government always shuts down local cell phone service in a crisis to keep the bad guys from communication and remotely detonate IEDs. Just wait until the cell phones go down, the electricity goes out, the land line phones go out…then what are you going to do to communicate with your family?  Have a Rally Point (RP) that you know that you can all get to and have at least two alternate RPs in case the first one is compromised (overrun).   Everyone in your family has to be able to get there from all the places that each of them spends most of their time away from home.  Be able to pick up your kids from school on your way to the Rally Point and have an alternate plan for that. If your kids are old enough to be able to make it to the RPs on their own in case you can’t get there they need to be trained in how to do that, where to go, what to do, who to trust and who not to trust.  Make it known to the school that your kids can and may be picked up by your trusted friend or relative.  Then this trusted friend must be willing and able to transport your kids to your RP.

A few words about your handgun:  Buy only a good quality semi automatic handgun like a Colt or a Glock.  Then get some quality tactical training with your handgun!  I cannot stress this enough! After you get the training, practice and practice and practice some more. If you cannot hit a 3” X 5” note card four out of five times at between  7’ and 21’ than you need to practice some more. In a survival situation where the nation is completely falling apart, if you do not have tactical training with your handgun then somebody is going to take it away from you and use it on you. I have heard this many times “nobody’s taken’ my gun away from me!” but here is a news flash for you. If you do not have proper tactical training and if you do not keep current with your proper training then you will one day be in for a very rude awakening! When the chips are down and someone is trying like mad to kill you or one of your family members, believe me, when you return fire it is not the same as shooting at paper targets on the range with your friends!  And one more thing…get a concealed carry permit and carry your weapon with you….always!   If you are three seconds away from your weapon, then you are unarmed!!!

You very well might not make it out of Dodge if you leave too late, and you might very well bug out but not make it all the way to your RP or your retreat location with your vehicle.  In that scenario you will be stuck trying to survive with what you have on your back until you get to your RP or to your retreat.  If you do not have a retreat location that is already stocked, then you will have to spend the rest of your days trying to make it with what you have on your back, what you can hunt, catch or gather and what you can take from the enemy.  Not a very pretty picture is it?  So get a retreat and get it stocked…yesterday!

Remember this:  Many so-called experts only recommend that you have 72 hours worth the food in your BOB.  If that is the only thing that you have in your BOB, then you are only 72 hours away from being just another refugee.  You must have the necessary equipment (and knowledge) in your BOB to obtain more food, build a shelter, and provide heat and first aid treatments! 

Another thing that I highly recommend you get is some wilderness and urban survival training and some Escape and Evasion (E&E) training. Let’s face it; most of you do not know anything about E&E when the bad guys are hot on your heels and very little to nothing about surviving in the wilderness or in an urban setting with nothing but your BOB. None of this great stuff in your BOB will do you any good if you do not know how to use it. Get the training. You can survive with the gear/equipment on this list but you need some training in how to use it.   

Also, get some training in map/compass orientation and navigating. The civilian portion of the GPS system will likely be shut down in the event of a terrorist attack!  Or…..what are you going to do if your GPS batteries run out or just gets broken and quits?  If you cannot read a map and use a compass, and know how to orient yourself and navigate to your destination, you are going to be in very deep trouble!

When you have made up your Bug-Out Bag use it before you need it.  Get the kinks worked out of before you have to put it to use in a real world situation!  Take nothing but your BOB and head into the bush for a few days.  You will be surprised at what you learn works and what does not work.

This list may seem very long but most of the stuff is small and light and you will be surprised at what little room it takes up in your vest or pack.

Keep your Bug-Out Bag with you at all times!  It will do you no good if you leave it at home and you find yourself miles (or even several blocks) from home when you need it and there is no way to get back home.  If you chose to use a tactical vest for your Bug-Out-Bag then keep it in a duffel bag or larger back pack and keep that with you all of the time.  It will be far less noticeable.  When things fall apart, do not worry about what you will look like wearing a tactical vest.  Wearing a tactical vest with a drop leg platform/holster, you look like a professional and that you are serious. I promise you that the bad guys will be far less apt to mess with you.  They will pick a different target, probably the person wearing a day pack with his weapon his hidden inside. 

[JWR Adds: I disagree with this approach. Statistically, it is the people who stand out that tend to get targeted in a mob, riot, or "stream of refugees" situation. Just watch some archived news videos of riots, and ask yourself: Why were those people targeted for a beating? (Typically, it is boisterous people in the front ranks, but sometimes it is just the bright color of shirt.) In a refugee situation, who gets targeted for police searches and interrogation? So I advise the "Gray Man" approach in an urban escape situation. Blend in. DO NOT stick out. Unless you are part of a large, organized unit if you prominently display particularly desirable gear then you will be making yourself a target of envy or "we/they" discrimination. Avoid crowds when possible. (But of course as an urban refugee, that might be impossible.) Don't leave your vehicle unless you have to. Wear gear that can be concealed by a loose-fitting rain coat, if need be. Do your best to get out of the city far in advance of the pack. But if you are forced by circumstances to be in a crowd, then do your best to blend in.]

*Note:  (I have listed two items that you might not be not aware of. One is Coagula XL and the other is Dysentery Stop. Here’s a quick blurb on each product that, I pray that I will never have to go into a survival situation without these two products!

Coagula XL is a blood coagulant accelerator made from all natural products, it is non-toxic, chemical free and with no negative side effects.  It works on topical applications for open wounds, and it works equally well given orally for internal bleeding.  It also helps keep the wound from becoming infected.  I have seen this product save people lives when an onsite prepped operating theater would have failed. This will save your life when nothing else will. 

Dysentery Stop does exactly what it says. It is also an all natural product, non toxic and chemical free. Diarrhea/dysentery in a survival situation spells nothing but disaster. Dysentery causes you to become rapidly dehydrated so you will drink more water, which may be the cause of your dysentery to begin with.  I know of a tactical mission that had to be aborted when the entire team came down with dysentery and they had nothing to stop it with.  In a survival situation, you may be forced to drink water that is not too good, eat food that may be slightly tainted, and you will be exposed to every bacteria, virus and germ you could ever imagine. This stuff is a must have.)

When I am on a mission, everyone on my team carries two ounce bottles of both of these products in their personal first aid kit and our Combat Medic carries even more.
Both of these products can be purchased from BHP in Alaska by calling (907) 567-7486.  FYI:   The company does not take credit or debit cards.  You might have to leave a message but they will get back to you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some time ago, I did a review on SurvivalBlog about the Ruger 10/22 Takedown (TD) .22 LR rifle. I fell in love with my sample. I liked the idea of a .22 LR rifle, that could easily be taken apart, and put back together in a few seconds. I also liked the case that Ruger ships the rifle in - very nice, and you can carry the 10/22 Takedown rifle, with a brick or two of .22 LR ammo, half a dozen magazines, a scope and some clothes for the weekend. Not a bad combination, and whenever I travel more than 25-miles from home, I toss the 10/22 Takedown in my rig - just in case something happens and I have to hoof it home in an emergency.
However, I don't always need the heavy-duty case that the 10/22 Takedown comes in. And, I looked around, but there really wasn't anything available, other than a full-sized long gun case - which defeats the purpose of having a rifle that you can take apart, making it into a smaller package. SurvivalBlog reader Wayne W. e-mailed me and told me about the Skinner Sights TD Case that Andy Larsson, the owner of Skinner Sights, is producing for the 10/22 Takedown. And the Skinner gun case is much thinner, trimmer and doesn't take-up much room at all, yet it still protects the 10/22 Takedown rifle. Wayne W. told me that I'd better not get my sample, before he got the one he ordered - not to worry, Wayne W. got his order before I got mine.
The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is flat and compact. However, when I got my sample, I saw that it opened from both ends, with a secure clasp. I was more than a bit concerned that, when I took the 10/22 down into two-pieces, that they would rub against one another, causing scratches on my sample. Not to fear, Andy Larsson, very cleverly designed a method wherein, when you place the barrel assembly in one end of the bag, and the receiver in the other end of the bag, they do not touch - they are in separate compartments - although it appeared to me, that they were one in the same compartments. Neat idea, Andy - job well-done!
I used to own a standard cab pickup truck and found if I filled-up an overnight bag, and tried to stuff it behind the seat in my pick-up, it wouldn't fit - too fat. Such is the case with the factory bag that the 10/22 comes in - you can't fit it behind the seat of your pick-up truck - too fat! With the Skinner Sights 10/22 TD Case, you can easily store your 10/22 Take Down rifle behind the front seat of your pick-up truck - out of sight, so no one sees it. You can also toss a brick or two of .22 LR ammo - assuming you can find any these days, because of this ammo drought - in your glove box, or under the front seat of your pick-up, along with some extra 25-magazines - again, assuming you can find any - Ruger 10/22 25-round magazines are hard to come by these days.
Also, in a previous article, I reported on the Skinner Sights front and rear sight combination that Andy Larsson sells, as a replacement to the factory provided sights on a 10/22. While there is nothing "wrong" with the sights that come on a 10/22, there is always room for improvement, and with my aged eyes, I want every advantage I can get, and by replacing the factory sights on my 10/22 Takedown rifle, with the sights that Skinner Sights has, I greatly improved my hit ratio with the 10/22.
What Skinner Sights came up with is a shortened version of their standard rear hooded sight, that works nicely on the 10/22 Takedown rifle - it doesn't hang over the joint where the barrel and receiver join together - like the original Skinner Sight would do. I want to mention, too, that - all Skinner Sights are hand-made, you are not getting a cheap, mass-produced sight set-up. Andy Larsson takes great pride in designing and manufacturing his sights here in the USA.
Skinner Sights came out with the barrel mount sight that clears the take down mechanism, and does not contact the stock during assembly. The hooded rear sights is slick and provides an amazing sight picture - one that is much easier for me to see. And, others how shot my 10/22 Takedown rifle agreed with my findings. Additionally, the 10/22 Barrel Mount rear sight, ships with a .125-inch aperture installed - 5 different aperture sizes are available - and given the uniformity of common ammunition and barrel dimension, this aperture works great. A front comes bundled in the package, too.
By having both the front and rear sights mounted on the barrel, instead of one on the barrel and one on the receiver, insures repeatability when disassembling and re-assembling the 10/22 Takedown rifle. While I never had any problems with my factory sights staying zeroed on the 10/22 Takedown, things might loosen-up, if you took the rifle apart and put it back together hundreds of times, and you might have to make some sight adjustments. With the Skinner Sights Ruger 10/22 TD Sights, you have no worries about your zero changing, no matter how many times you might take your 10/22 Takedown apart and put it back together - the zero isn't going to change on you.
The Skinner Sights 10/22 sights are $62 in blue, $63 in brass and $65 in stainless steel. Not bad at all, considering these sights are hand-made and not mass-produced. The Skinner Sights 10/22 TD case is only $49 and comes in either black or dark green - your choice of colors. I want to thank SurvivalBlog reader, Wayne W. for alerting me to these products. As if often the case, I get alerted to a lot of new products by SurvivalBlog readers. You are a very intelligent bunch of folks. And, I appreciate all the help you give me in my quest for new products, or products I might have overlooked or not been aware of. I can't be all over the Internet and through factory catalogs each day, trying to find products to write about - not enough hours in the day.
So, if you're looking for a slimmer carrying case for your Ruger 10/22 Takedown rifle, and you want some better sights to go on that gun, check out the Skinner Sights web site for more information. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Many Uses of Vacuum-Sealed Bags

Late spring and early summer are the times to buy the Seal A Meal or Foodsaver machines. They are both made by the same parent company and can be found at any major grocery or department store in the kitchenware section-the Seal A Meal is the less expensive version that can be found for under $30 on sale, and the bags to go with it will cost you about the same again. You can make this a game or a family activity like an assembly line, just have all your items stacked in little piles, and start sealing--it's actually fun to use it-I feel like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter. See below for the myriad uses I have made of my unit. These also make wonderful gifts to your church for emergencies if they are given food items that may go stale.

1-Batteries-as we all know, moisture and air are the enemies of batteries, buy in bulk when they are on sale and seal them up airtight and watertight and keep them in your fridge.

2-Ammo--seal up your ammo/bullets in their boxes in individual sealing bags labeled with the date of purchase, that way if you have to ford any bodies of water (rivers, swamps, canals etc) or are caught in deluges, your extra ammo will stay nice and dry and untarnished.

3-Precious Metals--your silver coins and bars and gold coins and bars can be portioned out and individually sealed in similarly valued amounts. I haven't tried burying them to see how long it would take the heavy plastic to degrade but it should be good for a few months at least, unless rodents get into it or its in very wet or alkaline earth--you could try burying them inside a jar or can. One good side effect is that vacuum sealed items do not clink and clank as they are packed solidly together so they make no noise when carried.

Medicines-I sealed up individual pouches containing baby aspirin, Pepto Bismol chewable tablets, chloraseptic cough lozenges (the heavy duty ones that really numb your throat), over the counter allergy pills like generic claritin, sinus pain and pressure pills, Lanacane or Neosporin cream for insect bites and scrapes, insect repellant wipes, tooth and gum numbing gel for toothaches, moisturizing eyewash to help with dust, soot and gunpowder grit, small jars of Vicks and Noxema and aloe sunburn gel, and advil or tylenol. I also throw in a small bottle of Thompson Labs Fish Mox Forte which is the same as human grade 500 mg amoxicillin (antibiotics) that you can buy online without a prescription (it's a shame we cannot locate a family preparedness-friendly doctor who would be willing to give out prescriptions for tranquilizers or anti-anxiety meds for those individuals who will undoubtedly freak out big time after a week of no gas and no grocery deliveries). If you put together several of these as your finances allow, they make great trading items. You can also add condoms, or bag them up separately, as after the existing supply of condoms and birth control pills goes away, expect a flood of pregnancies as nature tries to naturally replenish the ranks. You can also bag up your medicinal marijuana separately if you anticipate needing it later.

Clothing Repair Kits--needles, thread in 4 basic colors, small scissors from the dollar store, buttons in half inch and three-quarter inch sizes (these are standard waistband and shirt front sizes, if the button holes are too big you can sew the holes partially shut so the buttons will not come unbuttoned.

Surgical Kit-a basic surgical kit containing over the counter items such as tweezers, silk suture thread and suture needles, a couple pairs nitrile gloves, gauze and medical tape, a couple surgical masks if you can obtain them, wound clotting powder or gauze saturated with same (expensive but may save a life), small bottle of silver solution or betadine wound area disinfectant, a small X-Acto knife, and a basic pair of dental pliers for extractions. Salt could also be included for rinsing mouths after extractions.

Children's books and small toys--bag up a couple of those old beanie babies and some Lego or Playmobile toys and a few standard children's books, they can be a great comfort and distraction to anxious small ones.

Fire Strikes and Sharpening Stones (and small pocketknives)--these are messy to carry loose in your bag but sealing them up minimizes the marks and grit, worth their weight in gold if unable to obtain later. I also buy the multi packs of bic lighters when they are on sale and keep a few in every location along with several cheap flashlights that I test semi-annually and replace batteries if needed.  

Coffee, Tea bags, Creamer and Sugar packets--I bag up sets that include a small bag of good brand ground coffee, a couple dozen individual sugar packets and some individual creamer packets, and do the same with tea bags. Don't combine coffee and tea as one will absorb the smell of the other. You can buy the individual packets in bulk from any restaurant supply store or from

Newborn Gift Sets--use a larger size seal a meal bag that you can make yourself from the endless roll you can buy, you can cut it to any size, seal one end, fill it, and seal the other end. About half a dozen good thick cloth diapers, a few diaper pins, a baby bottle with nipple, a few packets of powdered infant formula and a flannelette baby gown will be a welcome gift for all those unprepared mothers with babies.

Sugar, Salt, Seasoning Packets--I buy the cheap seasonings when on sale for .99 cents, I get Lite Salt, Coarse Ground Pepper, Dried Onion Flakes, Cinnamon, and I buy the individual packets of salt and sugar online and throw in a big handful of those. You can add vanilla extract and garlic powder as well if you enjoy those flavors. I also include the strips of 6 quick rising yeast packets for "just in case". You can also throw in a couple packets of jerky seasonings or rubs if you make your own jerky. I also like to add a packet or two of uncle dan's dill dip as a seasoning for fish.

Important ID Papers--open your passport so the page with your photo is visible, then right below is, put your drivers license face out so it's visible, the on the reverse side, put your birth certificate face out so the details can be seen, that way you can show it without having to remove the documents.

Jerked Meats-you can seal up your own venison or salmon jerky, it will last for quite a while.

Local Honey--Honey has been known to last indefinitely if well preserved, I get local organic honey at the farmers market in glass jars, and then wrap the jars in bubble wrap and seal them up. Glass will break if dropped or clinked against something so make sure to bubble wrap the jar well.

Dried Fruits and Nuts-I especially like pecans and cashews so I buy cans of those and portion them out in seal a meal bags--they have the good fats in them. I also like dried cherries and strawberries and papaya, a spear or two of dried papaya every week will make your poop the consistency of mush and you will never be constipated-stands to reason, papaya is a natural tenderizer that breaks down food fibers. You can get a large bag for under $2 in the bulk foods section of any major grocery store

Photo Albums--if you are going to seal up any kind of paper goods they have to have stiff corners as the sealing process will crumple them all up otherwise.

Clothesline rope and clothespins--good to have for when you get to where you are going. Any good man can build the end supports for the clothesline and attach the rope for you--may take a pie or two to persuade him though.

Emergency Toilet Paper--as we all know, TP is a very fragile item if not stored properly and the most desirable in an emergency. The sealing process will flatten the roll but you can bend the internal paper tube back into shape once you open the bag. I bag up one roll per bag and throw a couple in your car trunk. Also to put it delicately, tampons and menstrual pads pack up easily and would be a great comfort to a female who may be embarrassed when her period begins. [JWR Adds: They also make good wound dressings.]

Clothing--a pair of clean socks, a pair of gloves and a clean pair of underpants can make a world of difference when yours are soaking wet and smelly. I keep a bagged set in the trunk-doesn't take up much room.

Laundry detergent--I pre-measure 2 heaping cups of powder type laundry detergent and seal it up. I do not like the liquid as the lids on the jugs are not tight and the liquid will leak out all over your other goods. One bag should be good for a small load of heavily soiled clothing when hand washing in a bucket or washtub if you don't have access to a motor driven washer. This way the powder is protected from absorbing water and spillage.

Soap and Washcloth--seal up a bar of your favorite soap and a washcloth or small hand towel. I make up several of these and keep one at work, one in the trunk, one in the go-bag at home--you never know where you will be when the smoke, dirt etc, will land on you. Throw in a handful of individual wet wipes if you like.

Make your own Breakfast and Lunch packets--I buy the boxes of high fiber oatmeal packets when on sale, and bag up 8 at a time--if watered down, that is enough for a family of 4 to have a nutritious breakfast for a couple days. I also make up emergency group lunch packets by combining 2 cups of instant rice with an envelope of the cheap brown gravy mix. You can do the same with stuffing mix or instant mashed potatoes, the goal is to get as many carbohydrates into you as possible if you are on the march and these items will not create much of a cooking smell to attract predators.

I will not mention liquor or cigarettes as those are wants, not needs, And if your adrenaline is pumping hard you won't need any further stimulation.

Another suggestion: Once the SHTF, if you are near other humans and will be cooking anything that has a smell, like baking bread or frying meat or making coffee, wait until full dark, and keep lights from being seen. That way another person may smell what you are cooking but will not be able to see the smoke or follow the scent exactly.

And one closing suggestion: Every time you have an empty mineral water bottle or juice bottle, rinse and fill with water and add a couple drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide, and cap tightly and put up on the top closet shelf or under the sink, there's always a little room, and the worst that will happen is in a year you may need to empty and refill them. As a test, try going for 8 hours without drinking any liquid and you will appreciate the necessity of having clean drinking water on hand.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In response to the letter about swapping out devices that use button batteries, I would point out that some EOTech holographic sights use standard AA batteries, that are easily recharged. The EOTech 512 is an example. These sights are robust, easy to use and stay calibrated through heavy use. 

Combined with the Sanyo Eneloop AA batteries the EOTech sight would be useful for many years to anyone with a solar battery charger. The Eneloop batteries can be recharged over 1,500 times and unlike other rechargeables, they maintain 75% of their charge after three years of storage. While the EOTech doesn't have the ambient light intake or tritium sights of the mentioned Trijicon, it is an option that folks should explore as they compare options. Just my humble opinion. - Ohio Shawn

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The survivalist movement is growing at great rate today.  You only have to read some of the articles posted in this blog to know that.  But with all the fancy accruements available today some of the more fun and lowly survival items are overlooked.  Among them: The hobo and emergency pocket stoves.

These are so much fun to make, and so easy.  I remember first seeing them in an ancient tiny camping book from the 1960’s.  The book itself was a hoot.  When I cracked the book open the faded and almost crunchy yellowed pages revealed what I thought was an amazing thing: a complete recipe section with everything from biscuits to roast beef, puddings, jams, and eggs, and all off it made by can stoves, can cooking implements, and can ovens.

There are several basic designs of the hobo stove.  If you are cooking for multiple people and really want to test out complicated recipes, go for the large industrial sized cans.  You can go all out and use metal cutters, hole punchers, and even a saw to make things nice, but I’ve also found that a rock and a nail or screw works just as well.  With whatever tools you decide to use, there is a basic design among hobo stoves.  First off, cut the top and bottom off the can. A can opener is great, but use what you have on hand as needed.  Remove the two steel discs for a later use.  Cut a door in the bottom of the can, in a square, and flip it up. It now looks like a little house with an awning over a door.  Puncture holes around the top of your stove so the fire can breathe.  If you want to cook a pot on the top take a wire hanger, straighten it, and thread the pieces of wire through the top holes to make a place for your pot to rest. 

Now you are ready to build your fire.  Please clear a safe area, free from extra debris.  You can use whatever you like to build your fire.  For a medium sized can a good fire should take about six to eight minutes to boil water.  Your imagination is up to you as to what you would like to cook.  My personal favorite is eggs.  Missing a ladle?  No problem.  Take the leftover can top (or bottom); use a rock to bend it into a ladle shape, notch a stick, then thrust the “ladle” into the stick.  Wa-la, you go yourself a ladle.

This basic hobo stove design is of the most simple.  I’ve seen people do all sorts of different variations and they all have their merits.  One variation is to use a wire hanger to make handles and attach them to the top of the can, omitting cutting the bottom out.  Punch holes in this design on both levels of the stove, top and bottom.  The advantage is that in case an emergency, provided you have heavy gloves, you could take your stove and run.  However, the stove itself will be very hot and a safety hazard.

If it is windy consider building a fire screen attachment.  For this example, start with the biggest size can for the bottom stove section.  You may want to make bigger holes for this design.  If you are down to basic equipment: i.e. a rock and nails, for example, try and find a sturdy piece of metal to widen the holes.  Now take your smaller sized can.  The best fit would be for the medium can to balance nicely on the larger bottom can, seamlessly, within the seams.  Think of balancing a standard 15-ounce can of beans on top of a larger pasta sauce can.  It would be an ideal fit.  If that’s not possible line the two cans with tin foil when setting up the fire.  Take the medium sized can to make the fire screen.  Cut off the top and bottoms as well.  Instead of holes this time cut a “V” notch in the can, the point of the V pointing down. 

Now things are getting exciting and it’s time to build your fire in the lower can.  For this design it’s okay to add bigger branches.  The fire may reach all the way up through the screen with the V in it.  Experiment with air flow to make your liquid burn faster.  After the water is boiling an added egg should take about four minutes.  If using a larger cooking device it may take a little longer. 

Now let’s look at emergency pocket stoves.  These are great devices, easy to make, tiny, and there are a bunch of different types you can make with materials easily found around your house.  They are super inexpensive, and, therefore, disposable.

My favorite device is one that seems at first far too easy and simple to make.  Literally just tear or cut 10-30 sheets of a paper towel into circles that just peek out from under whatever you want to heat up.  It could be a soda can, a tin of vegetables, or even a coffee pot.  Find a smooth fireproof surface.  The top of an uncut can would be fine.  Soak the paper towel sheets in91% Isopropyl alcohol. 70% may work directly and it should be "salted out."  Fuels that float on water are not recommended.  A ring of blue flame should surround the pot and then the pot should begin heating up.  If the fuel burns up before the desired temperature is reached, no problem. Just remove the pot, replenish the fuel and put the pot back on followed by relighting.
Please be absolutely sure to replenish the fuel only after the flame is extinguished.

There are some very good web sites to examine this process step by step.  Another favorite of mine is made from small tins, such as pet food and tuna cans.  Take the smaller tin and puncture holes all around the top.  Remove the top of the larger tin.  Cut a hole in the bottom and remove, as best you can, with what materials you have at hand, enough of a hole so that you still have a perimeter existing around the sides of the can.  For example, if you have a tuna can, make the hole about the size of a half-dollar.  Now cut holes in the bottom of the can, the edge opposite of the hole.  Next, take the small tin and place it upside down inside the large one. If you have it, take aluminum muffler tape to go around the can and split it up the middle.  However, this isn’t strictly needed.  Now, put a layer of fiberglass into the can so it’s loosely filled.  The fiberglass will hold its shape after the first burn and it makes a reusable wick.  Please note that you should use only alcohol based fuels.  Gasoline could easily blow up if using fiberglass.

I’ve seen some pretty awesome “penny stoves,” that look spectacular but are somewhat short of practicality.   They are are easy to make, but in an outdoor situation they  fall short, due to wind factors and the length of time spent building one.  It also worries me that online directions on how to make them always are sure to say that they may explode and kill you.  Needless to say they are not my favorite.

The last idea I’ll leave you with is a mini grill made of a circular mint or candy tin.   Take the bottom part of the tin (the belly), and remove a large circle out of the bottom.  You can get professional and find the old fan part of a computer for the bottom grill, or go old school and fashion a grill from a coat hanger.  You will need one grill to hold charcoal on the bottom and one for the top.  Hold the grills in place by wedging them in, or, for a more pro look, use screws.  Your mini grill will resemble a typical rounded grill.  Create legs from either screws, additional lengths of wire hangers, or anything metal.  If windy you will need a fire break for this grill, made of folded tin foil or whatever you can find to screen it.  The advantage is that you don’t need an alcohol fuel, just a piece of charcoal.

All in all, it’s easy to make and prepare emergency stoves for just plain fun, camping and as cooking devices.  Man’s ingenuity is endless and these simple designs can easily be mucked around with to create imaginative stoves best for your particular environment.  The local weather, time of year, and altitude should all be considered in your personal designs, and also what materials you have on hand.  Some of these designs are perfect if you find yourself in a disaster situation, and even if you decide on more professional equipment for your survival stash, I’d recommend practicing making these devices.  No matter what the scenario, most disasters, natural or man-made, are inherently dangerous, and one of the number one dangers to us is lack of fresh water and possible contaminated water.

These simple and effective designs could very well save your life and the lives of your friends and family!  I hope you have enjoyed reading about them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In her recent article on repurposing material by sewing, Penny Pincher said: "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."

I made something similar last spring, but with nylon on only one side. I like carrying a wool blanket rather than a sleeping bag when motorcycle camping. Heavy wool blankets get very hot -- in part due to the nap of the wool directly against the skin. So I took an old olive drab blanket (washing it first to shrink as much as possible) and sewed a similarly sized piece of dark brown thin nylon to one side of it. After "quilting" the two pieces together by simply running it through the sewing machine a few times in both directions, I bound the four edges with canvas left over from an old couch, tan khaki in color. Now I have an extremely durable blanket/quilt (in woodland camo colors) that doesn't get unbearably hot in the summer, but which can be reversed to make the most of wool's insulative properties when required.

Because I started out with the largest surplus blanket I could find and pre-shrunk it, and because nylon and wool are both water repellent, I was able to sleep soundly with only my blanket in a solid drizzle while camping this winter in Mississippi. And the whole thing rolls up to about the diameter of a surplus closed-cell foam pad, and it's only about half the length of those pads. So far it's been used for motorcycle camping, as a ground pad for rifle practice, as my bedding while at the station where I'm an EMT, and as an occasional play tent for my toddler. Very durable, only been washed once, and looks brand new. - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Monday, May 13, 2013

For the life of me, ever since I was a little boy, who regularly carried some kind of folding knife, could I understand how a "switchblade" knife (read: automatic opening knife) is any more dangerous than any other knife. Somehow, I think we have Hollywood to thank for this nonsense going back many, many years, where they portrayed gang members using a switchblade to intimidate or kill someone. How on earth one can justify how a folding knife opens, to how lethal it is, is beyond my comprehension. I've said this many times in the past in my knife articles, and that is, I can draw my folding knife from my pocket, and open it faster, with a flick of my wrist, than I can an automatic folder. On an automatic folder, you have to index the knife and then find the sweet spot - the button - on the handle and then press it to open the knife. Still, I like automatic folders - and not because they open faster - they don't - at least not for me.
Many states ban the mere possession of an automatic opening knife - even if you keep it in your home. In my home state of Oregon, where automatic folders are made, and where they are legal to carry, many, many police officers mistakenly believe that an automatic opening folder is illegal. Ignorance is bliss!
Almost a year ago, I received the H&K Entourage automatic opening folder - a "switchblade" for testing. I never carried this knife, but kept it on my desk, and it was used almost daily for opening FedEx and UPS packages, as well as other chores around the house and homestead. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that I received this knife for testing for an article on SurvivalBlog - I just kept on using the knife daily, and it slipped my mind that I was to write this article about the knife - until I found the paperwork in a pile of papers on my desk from Benchmade Knives - who makes the H&K "Entourage." So, I figured I'd best get this article written.
First of all, it is a testament to how useful the Entourage was for daily chores around the house. Yes, it is faster opening, when I picked it up off my desk - as opposed to having to dig into my pants pocket to get my regular folding knife out to use all the time. The Entourage was just "there" all the time for me. What we have is a 3.74-inch 440C stainless steel blade, with a Rockwell hardness of 58-60 - and this is a bit hard, but the edge stays sharp a good long time - only problems I've ever encountered with 440C stainless steel is, it takes some work to get the edge back to hair-popping sharpness. However, I don't let my knife get very dull to start with. Unless I'm doing an intentionally destructive test, I keep a keen edge on my knives at all times.
The handle scales are made out of 6061-T6 anodized black aluminum. And, I should mention that, the blade on the Entourage is a Tanto style, which is one of my favorites. There is also a pocket clip on the handle scales, should you elect to carry the Entourage in your pants pocket. My sample had the plain edge, but you can also get a partially serrated edge, and those serrations really help out when cutting cardboard or rope.
There are friction points on the top and butt of the handle scales, that greatly aid in getting a secure grip on the knife in many different styles of knife fighting holds. And, there is a very slight upward angle on the front top of the handle scales for proper thumb placement in the fencing grip. On the bottom front of the handle scales, there are also friction points for proper placement of your index finger in the fencing grip. Closed length of the Entourage is 4.70-inches and opened it is 8.44-inches and it weighs-in at 4.50-ounces--not too heavy and not too light.
The button used for opening the Entourage is large enough that you can easily make contact with it with your right thumb, and there is an enhanced spring design for improved and faster opening times of the blade. I found my sample had the front pivot pin just a tad too tight, and it only took about half a turn with a Torx head driver, to get the tension a bit looser and more to my own liking. The blade seemed a bit slow springing out of the handle scales - but now it is perfect. And, during almost a year of testing and daily use, I never once had to re-adjust the tension on the front pivot pin.
I liked the black anodized handle scales, there were also grooves milled into the handle scales for a more secure grip. With the blackened blade, the knife has a very "tactical" look to it - very cool! On the top of the Entourage's handle scales, you will also find a sliding safety button - to lock the blade solidly open or closed - making this a virtual "fixed" blade folder in the locked open position.
I've mentioned this before, but thought I'd mention it again, for new SurvivalBlog readers. Some Preppers mistakenly believe that all survival situations call for bugging out to the boonies - such is not the case. If you live in the big city, you are more apt to need survival tools on a daily basis, and one tool I find useful on a daily basis is a folding knife. The Entourage isn't a wilderness survival knife - it's not designed or meant for that type of use, However, if you life in a big city, having a very well made Every Day Carry (EDC) folder is a handy thing to have. I just read a report this morning, about a group of more than 100 teens, who went on a rampage in downtown Chicago - my birth town, and people were attacked by this group. There is such a thing as disparity of force - which means basically, if you are outnumbered, you can use more force to fend off your attackers. In this case, when you are faced with multiple attackers, you would be justified in using a knife to defend yourself with.
The Entourage would make an outstanding EDC folder, it's well-made, strong, and it is priced at $170 - which is a very good price for a Benchmade produced knife. And, if you are into collecting logo knives, the H&K line is very collectible. I played with my Entourage for almost a year, and the blade was opened and closed thousands of times, and there wasn't a sign of the button or spring failing or working loose. Check out an Entourage, if you can legally own one in your locale or state. I think you'll be pleased with the Entourage. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

After reading about the waterproof Bible, I went to the publishers web site, and discovered that they also manufacture waterproof notebooks.  Many times during my military career I have needed to write something while in the rain.  These would have been great, but alas they were not available in the 1970s.

These notebooks are available in both top and side spiral, and in the most common sizes, all at an attractive price. Thanks, - Greg L.

Monday, May 6, 2013

That was an excellent article by George H. on Felling Trees. He mentioned Kevlar Chaps as only being recommended. Were I writing the article I would have advised people to use them as mandatory equipment.
I have never been a "safety nazi", but my dealer would not sell me my new Husky unless I bought these, which cost very little. I now agree with his demand.
He has an old time logger who almost died after cutting his femoral artery without these chaps. New saws of any manufacturer have higher RPM on the bar, and the chain will keep spinning around the bar longer than older saws I have used, making them more likely to be near the body before the chain is fully stopped.
The chaps have saved my artery area at least twice, and saved each of my sons. None of us cut without Kevlar Chaps. The cost is very little given the very possible alternative of death due to bleed out from a femoral artery nick, which has happened to many experienced loggers. Think about it, many of us live in rural areas, who are serviced by volunteer fire departments made up of great people, who may or may not be home when you get in trouble, who may not be able to respond quickly, who may not be in the best physical fitness level, who may not find you quickly, who may not know how to stop such bleeding, etc., and one can see that a femoral cut can kill you quickly. Go get some chaps! - George W.

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 popu