G. O. O. D. Category

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Someone just told you about the Boston Marathon bombing. You are combing the interwebs looking for more details and view several videos of explosions and subsequent swirling brownish smoke. What was in that smoke? Did anyone die from just that smoke? Was it cancerous? Was it filled with botulism? Mustard gas? Alpha particles from a dirty bomb?

While people either ran away from the explosion, sought cover, or were moving toward the explosion to help victims, most people probably did not worry about what was in that smoke. I, on the other hand, was primarily concerned about the smoke wondering if there were any contaminants in those bombs.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) I was part of a unit called the Combined Joint Task Force, Consequence Management (CJTF-CM). Our basic job was to respond to Sadaam's chemical or biological SCUD missiles by cordoning off and decontaminating the area hit. When I saw the bombing videos, a year's worth of training came rushing back to my brain and after looking through the archives did not see much written on this topic and thought I would share my experiences and ideas.

The purpose of this article is to provide you with a very simplified decision aid, when you think or the news lets you know that a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) release occurred near you, your bug out location, or somewhere in between and you need to decide to bug in or bug out.

Before we begin, I will first define what I mean by "plume". That brown cloud of dust from the marathon bombs contained particles that, at first, have no real shape and are amoeba-like. After a few seconds to minutes, though, that cloud of particles will move and form what is referred to as a plume. A simple way to visualize a plume is to look at an active smoke stack on a windy day. If there is no wind, the smoke tends to look like a large cloud. With some wind, however, it tends to take on a cone-like shape that expands up, down, left, and right as it elongates with the wind direction. This is the "plume". Even if there is no wind, eventually, the smoke will move with air pressure vagaries associated with whatever terrain is in the area.

If the plume is contaminated with any CBRN agent, then it is probably something you should be concerned about because the longer you spend in the plume, protected or not, the greater the chance of serious injury or death. Not to mention, if you are in the plume, you are dragging whatever is in the plume with you to wherever you are going--you are now contaminated and spreading it! Understanding how a toxic plume moves is critical to staying safe and preventing further contamination.

Two skills and one piece of background knowledge are required for understanding how to avoid the plume: 1) being able to conduct an Intelligence Preparation of the Battle (IPB) and 2) predicting the weather. Also, knowing how officials will respond will impact your mobility, so having some background information about first-responder activity will help you when making your decision to stay or go.

Disclaimer: Tracking the plume is incredibly difficult to do, and my goal is to break it down into simple discrete steps that can be performed while under pressure. If an event occurs and you are in a position where you have to decide whether to bug out or bug in, I am confident that this article will help you make a sound, informed decision. Heck, we were willing to put our lives on the line during OIF using this technique. However, a toxic plume can be similar to a wild animal in that you are never 100% certain of anything, so please use caution and your best judgment.

Background Information

Anticipating how responders deal with a CBRN event will definitely affect your mobility, so it is important to anticipate and plan for their actions. Once a CBRN event occurs, the first thing responders will do is cordon the area, at least that is what we did when we trained for OIF. The purpose of this cordon is to prevent anyone from entering the immediate contaminated area. This area will be impassable to you. If this area lies in your area of operation (AO), you will not be going through it and must find another route. For the sake of this article, your AO is your house, where you commute to, your bug out location, and everywhere in between. According to the Center for Disease Control's directions for first responders (index for type of agent is found here), the cordon area has a radius of .5 mile. It sounds small, but the man power required to cordon this area will take more than just your local police department. Not to mention the people trying to get out of that radius because they are contaminated and doing the Sarin-induced funky chicken. In other words, that immediate cordon area will be chaotic and dangerous. Once the area is cordoned, responders will begin attempting to decontaminate, while at the same time working downwind of the plume, in an area not yet touched by the toxic plume, but soon to be touched, to protect citizens. The typical advice we gave the Kuwaitis was seal all doors and windows with duct tape, grab gas masks, wear clothes with limited skin exposed, and wait until they heard the all clear siren. Here in the U.S., with the National Defense Authorization Act, I might imagine this would be perfect for martial law with similar directions to households. Obviously, a martial law type situation will dramatically hinder your ability to move. Luckily, this step will probably take a while, and if you move within the first four hours, odds are, you will avoid a martial law scenario. The man power to enforce such an action is tremendous; we had 1800 troops from all four branches of the U.S. military and five other countries, plus some large vehicles, and we were going to fall far short for anything sustainable. I guess I would say you have a little bit of time, but I am not sure I would push it. There are also competing priorities for responders. They must prevent people from entering the area, they must find people, clean them, then attempt to triage the injured. If weather conditions are favorable for CBRN agents, responders may actually try to decontaminate the terrain. During our training for OIF, we tried to avoid this at all cost because time, some wind, and rain make most agents disappear within a day or two. Why kill our own trying to clean when we can wait? Nonetheless, decontaminating terrain may occur, thus reducing your mobility. After initial cordon, responders may move about the contaminated area searching for survivors and decontaminating personnel and equipment.

All this adds up to a lot of people and large vehicles in the middle of your area of operation (AO) that are either trying to clean you (whether you like it or not), prevent you from moving where you want to go, or just getting in your way and reducing mobility to a crawl.

From what we practiced in OIF, we tried to get the cordon done in the first four hours and establish command and control with the first round of decontamination completed within eight hours. At 12 hours into the incident, we were prepared to hand over operations to a larger unit capable of sustainable decontamination operations. What this means for you is that, ideally, you want to make your decision and be moving well inside of the first four hours. After four hours, assume responders will have things generally under control and your mobility will be extremely limited.

Responders require assets– local or outsourced. The first of which will probably be water. Water and lots of it are critical to decontamination efforts. Medical treatment facilities will also be needed. We planned on overcrowding for Kuwait City hospital beds within the first four hours, so we knew we needed a field hospital. We also needed a command post (CP) to coordinate and maintain situational awareness. We had enough assets to set up a small, fully equipped CP, but we were only directing direct traffic, so to speak. If an event had occurred and we had cordoned the area, knew casualty counts, area of damage, agent used, et cetera., we would turn it over to Doha's command at about 12 hours after the event. I mention this because first responders will use what they have on hand--local fire trucks, rivers, ponds, fire hydrants, anything capable of producing water. Plus they'll use their small deployable CP on wheels or take over a nearby school, office building, or barn. Areas large enough for field hospitals that are dust-off capable (able to land a helicopter) will be obtained by responders. Think about the movie Contagion--schools and stadiums are perfect locations for a combination command post, field hospital, and decontamination site. Remember, responders going into the area need to be cleaned after coming out of the contaminated area and so do the vehicles. It is a fairly massive operation, which requires a few football fields of space with tens of thousands of gallons of water per day. Traffic into and out of this area will be closely guarded and controlled to prevent the spread of the contaminant.

Keep this information in mind for when I discuss your AO IPB.

Plume Intelligence Preparation of the Battle

The next part of IPB is to actually track the plume itself. What I present here is based on experience from OIF as well as guidance from online plume models such as ALOHA (you can download a free copy here), which is made by NOAA. It is really pretty cool, and I recommend playing with it. The model we used, that FEMA gave us during OIF, was very similar, although with less capability. (I used the model 10 years ago!) Basically, these models are on a computer; you enter the parameters, and it generates a multicolored teardrop looking plume, overlaid on a map of the area based on parameters like type of agent, size of incident, wind speed, and so forth.

Using a clear piece of plastic with some stiffness, like a transparency, cut out an 8 x 4 inch rectangle, assuming you are using a 1:24,000 scale map. I say rectangle because it has more surface area and thus is a safer geometric shape for tracking a plume. Outline the rectangle first with a marker, so it leaves a line around the edges. Draw a line in the middle of the rectangle down the long axis. At one end of the rectangle, where the middle line intersects the short edge of the rectangle, make a dot. This is your generic plume, a rectangle with a line down the middle long ways and a dot at one end. On a 1:24,000 map this equates to a 3-mile long by 1.5-mile wide area of plume. Now, according to the CDC website, this is too small of an area for a large Sarin-tipped missile. The CDC claims they would want to "protect" persons seven+ miles downwind for a 53 gallon spill, as if it were in a large missile. Given the average map size and the quickness a prepared person would want to leave (inside of four hours) a 3 x 1.5 mile rectangle is probably okay. Now remember, I did say PROBABLY. Ideally, you would want a rectangle 20 inches long (seven miles) by 8 inches wide (three miles) in keeping with CDC recommendations. I'm not sure we would see a large missile like that or that large of an event, but we might. In any case, a 20-inch transparency is unwieldy for most detailed topographic maps. If you have a 1:60,000 or 1:250,000 scale map, however, you can scale accordingly and thus be extra safe. In any case, after this article you will have the skill to draw the transparency plume with whatever degree of safety you feel is adequate. Use the map scale and the CDC website to help you decide how large to create the rectangle.

So you now have the maps with your routes, alternate routes, and CBRN-relevant features identified, and you just received the location of a CBRN incident. Luckily, you caught the prevailing wind direction in the report. You take out your plume transparency and lay the dot on the transparency over the place where the event occurred. While holding the dot in place, perhaps with a thumb tack or push pin, rotate the plume transparency until the middle line of the transparency matches the direction of the wind with most of the transparency pointing downwind. Trace the transparency. Maybe your map is laminated and you can do this with dry erase marker or maybe you can use a pencil. Now, you have a map of your AO, with key terrain and routes marked, with a rectangle somewhere in it. This rectangle represents contamination. You cannot travel into or out of this rectangle. If you are in it, you need to begin protective measures immediately. I will not discuss protective measures here. There are ample articles in the Survival Blog Archives to help you. If you are not in the rectangle (the contaminated area), but the rectangle is between where you are and where you want to go, you will have to find new routes to where you want to go.

Winds change. The easiest way to track wind changes outside of the weather channel or a hand-held device is to use a weather vane. I found you can make a simple one using a straw, card stock, a pushpin, and a pencil. You can also use some leaves, grass, lint, or smoke along with a compass. Throw the leaves, grass, or lint in the air, and see which way they fall, and shoot an azimuth with your compass. Hunters use a scentless "smoke bottle". To make a smoke bottle, put some talcum powder in a small Visine or contact solution bottle. Simply squeeze the bottle, look at where the mini-plume of talc goes, and shoot an azimuth with your compass. Hunters use this little trick, and if you do not want to make one, you can purchase one at any store that has hunting equipment. Keep this bottle or weather vane with you, and you will be able to track wind direction. As winds change, rotate the plume transparency middle line with the direction of the wind change, and trace again. Repeat as the wind changes. Every time a major wind change occurs, you should retrace the plume transparency because as winds change, the contaminated area grows further limiting your mobility. Yes, your areas will overlap, but that is okay; everything within the rectangles are contaminated. Within a four hour time frame, prevailing winds probably will not change, if it is in the middle of the day or night, but during transition times, such as dawn or dusk, day to night, or night to day, winds can and do change so you might have to continue tracing.

Also remember the peripheral effects of that new contaminated area. There will be lots of official activity within that plume area, and if you are in that area uninvited, you just might be forcibly cleaned. The Czech Republic decontamination unit, which conducted the cleanings for OIF, described something that was not my idea of a fun evening on the town. More than 20 soldiers tearing all the clothes from your body, hosing you down with high pressure water hoses, strapping you onto a clean steel table, and then scrubbing every inch of your body with long handled bristle brushes is not pleasant. It often resulted in broken skin, which my Czech comrades said was not that big of a deal. I guess I am saying it is probably in your best interest to avoid the plume at all costs, unless you have an affinity to 20 plus people, armed with two-foot long brushes, bearing witness to your birthday suit.

The purpose of the IPB, as I outlined it, and the plume transparency is to provide you with advanced situational awareness. This advanced situational awareness will help you decide to stay in or bug out because you will know how much of the terrain is denied to you in terms of mobility. You will be able to know whether or not you can execute your primary route or secondary route, or need to find a tertiary route in the moment, while at the same time responders are just beginning to lock down the area. If the plume is close enough or even in your immediate location, you can take preventative measures to reduce exposure probably before the contamination reaches you, all while avoiding unnecessary contact with responders. The sooner you make your decision, the greater mobility you will have.

If your decision must be delayed by a few hours due to unforeseen circumstances, some knowledge about weather and terrain may be helpful in determining plume propagation beyond the initial few hours. As time elapses, confidence in your traced rectangle degrades because the plume is subject to more variables. Wind speed and temperature affect plume propagation as does terrain. The net result of these variables is reduced confidence in your traced triangle. In other words, certain weather conditions may force you to adjust the contamination area.

Examining the various variables associated with plume propagation is extremely difficult and fraught with inaccuracies. What I am suggesting here is simplified to help you evaluate the situation quickly. There is a balance among air temperature, soil temperature, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction time of day, presence of an inversion, type of agent, how much of the agent, etc. that is too hard to describe in an article let alone a large simulation model. There are some generalities, however, that will assist in your decisions based on a few parameters: wind speed, temperature, terrain, and inversion presence. I will address each of these in terms of confidence in your plume rectangle.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battle of Your Area of Operation

I am sure it goes without saying, but have several maps of your AO. I get my maps from USGS for free, download them to a computer, and manipulate the images digitally so I can customize what I need. You can also pay USGS the $8 or $9 per map, but the digital maps are free when downloaded. I usually use the 1:24,000 scale maps, and that is what I will use in this article. The better quality of the map, the better decisions you will make, but any map is better than no map. Just keep in mind you will need to work within the scale of the map.

Within your AO, make sure areas of water--ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams are well marked. Are they accessible by improved roads? If so, and your commuter route or bug out route crosses these water features that are accessible by large vehicles, then make sure you have an alternate route. This same idea applies to local schools, stadiums, hospitals, and any area with a lot of infrastructure, rooms, phones, and antennas, as well as large open areas, like parking lots or fields. These will become CPs for responders. All improved roads (hardball roads that have blacktop or concrete as a surface) into and out of this area will only be accessible for official vehicles. I say improved because mobile decontamination vehicles, like the M93 Fox (used by the U.S. military) are well over 17 tons (maybe as much as 20 tons when combat loaded). Responders may not risk using roads that cannot support this large of a vehicle.

Now mark your primary and alternate routes to and from work and to and from your bug out location. Ask yourself, "Are these routes near any of the above objects? Near a water source? Hospitals? Stadiums? Large open areas?" If so, consider adding a tertiary route. In the army, we used the acronym PACE: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency when constructing plans or signals. Now your map may get too cluttered highlighting four different routes for your commute and bug out location, so you do not have to address PACE, just have a good working knowledge of your AO. Odds are you will have some time to lay out your plume IPB and find a new route.

Wind Speed

FM 3-6 has four different categories of wind speeds. We can probably get away with one delineator--winds at 13 mph. According to the Beaufort Scale, winds greater than 13 mph mean that, "Small branches move, flags flap, waves have some whitecaps". If this is occurring, then your plume rectangle might only be good for two hours, expanding beyond the three miles longitudinally, with some minor reduction in the 1.5 mile width. In other words, you would need to expand your rectangle from eight inches to maybe ten inches, but reduce the width of the rectangle by an inch. Use caution if you are going to change the dimensions of the triangle; remember, these are guidelines, not fact. Persistence of the agent generally degrades with higher winds. “Persistence” means how long the agent will remain, if no decontamination occurs. If the amount of agent dictates that it will persists for say three days, and winds stay above 13 mph, then agent persistence might reduce by 12-36 hours.

If winds are below 13 mph, assume your rectangle is good, and stay away from that area as well as the fringe areas. As time elapses, be prepared to expand your rectangle by an inch in all directions every four hours or so.


Generally speaking, the higher the temperature, the less persistent the agent and more readily the plume will spread. There is a greater risk to individuals, however, as temperature increases. Perspiration on your skin will be more apt to absorb some agents. FM 3-6 draws your attention to this fact, so stay covered up, even if it is 100 degrees outside! So, the hotter it is, the more likely the actual plume will match your plume rectangle plus an increased chance that the plume will exceed the 1.5 mile width and 3 mile length as time elapses. By the end of four hours, with high temperatures such as in the summer, areas outside your rectangle may be contaminated. High temperatures also reduce agent persistence, but this depends very strongly on the type of agent, as some agents will increase persistence with an increase in temperature. Cold temperatures, as in winter, however, will increase agent persistent 12-48 hours, depending on the agent.


Complex terrain, such as an urban environment make tracking the plume that much more, well, complicated. One way to compensate for the complexity of urban terrain is to draw an 8 x 8 inch square, instead of rectangle, which I would recommend doing if any part of your AO is considered urban or even suburban terrain. Concrete buildings, cars, pollution, and so forth all dramatically alter both wind speed and temperature's effect on plume propagation. The only way I would trust my plume rectangle is if winds were closer to 20 mph. If terrain is flat, or low rolling hills, trust your plume rectangle. If terrain is heavily wooded, the overall plume rectangle will be smaller, so trust it, and if you had to, you can maneuver closer to the contaminated area. Any terrain features alter plume propagation making any estimate fundamentally unreliable. The way we correct for it is to make our rectangle a bit more square or simply make the rectangle larger in both length and width.

Inversion Presence

An inversion is when hotter air lies on top of colder air. On the eve of our invasion of Iraq during OIF, there was an inversion at 2000 feet, which is perfect for deploying chemical weapons. An inversion means that no agent is lost to the upper atmosphere through diffusion; all agents are pushed back down to Earth's surface, due to this pressure difference caused by the hot air on top rather than closer to Earth. This means that you may have to track the plume longer than the three days usually associated with a large Sarin release. It could mean that contamination could continue to spread in the plume beyond five days, so you will have to continue to track the plume beyond what is initially thought. The weather channel and local news generally does not report on this inversion. Luckily, the tell-tale signs of an inversion are not overly complicated. You can spot an inversion when "mist, fog, or dew is visible, smoke or dust hangs in the air and moves sideways, just above the surface; and cumulus clouds that have built up during the day collapse towards evening," (Grains Research and Development Corporation, November, 2011). Again, presence of an inversion means that responders will be doing their job longer, and the plume will propagate further than anticipated based on the kind of agent used.

Summarized Steps

There is a lot to digest in this article from plume definition to identifying a potential inversion. Below, I will wrap up all that I have discussed in simple steps. If worse comes to worst, you could print this article, cut just this part out, and put it in with your maps.

Before a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear Incident:

  1. Highlight or make note of any key terrain associated with the plume: sources of water (rivers, lakes, ponds, streams), open fields, stadiums, schools, and hospitals.
  2. Highlight commuting route (primary and alternate). Routes from commute to bug out location, (primary and alternate). Routes from home to bug out location.
  3. Create plume transparency. This assumes a 1:24,000 scale map. Cut out an 8 x 4 inch clear transparency. Outline the rectangle. Bisect the rectangle with a drawn line down the middle of the long edge. Mark a dot where this bisector line intersects with one of the short edges. Keep with your maps along with a thumb tack or push pin.

After CBRN Incident Occurs:

  1. Remember, you are making the decision, "Do I bug in or bug out?"
  2. Take plume transparency, put dot on transparency over where the incident occurred. Stick push pin in dot.
  3. Rotate transparency so that the bisector line aligns with wind direction. Trace rectangle so that what you are tracing is on the map, not on the transparency.
  4. Check weather conditions. If the wind is not moving tree branches or flags, trust your rectangle. If tree branches and flags are waving, your rectangle may only be good for two hours, and you will have to retrace.
  5. Make a decision by answering these questions: "Am I in the rectangle?" Yes, then stay put and begin preventative measures.

If no, then look at your routes. Do any of your routes go through the rectangle? Are there any key terrain features near the rectangle that may interfere with your routes? If yes, use an alternate route or draw a new route. If no, then assess if you will have to move after four hours--are you in the downwind area? Are you currently located in line with the rectangle bisector line, but just outside it? Then, after four hours, you will be in the plume and need to move.

Will your bug out location be in the plume? If yes, then bug in. If no, (and you can move), move to your bug out location (or whatever your preference is).

Please remember, this is a situational awareness aid to help you decide whether to bug in or bug out. If you have a computer, by all means run the ALOHA program and get better estimates. If you still have questions, I encourage you to read FM 3-6; it is really informative. Plus, if you plan on defending your home, this FM is great for instructing you on how to use smoke screens effectively!

I have shared with you a methodology we used during OIF to help keep the troops and people of Kuwait safe. Hopefully this article will enable you to make an informed decision about whether you should bug in or bug out in case that brown smoke, such as in the Boston Marathon Bombing, is something other than just brown smoke.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I love the website but having difficulties. I live in an urban environment, in a good town but near a rough section of Chicago...which causes crime to seep into our borders (theft a huge problem). I live in an apartment, with limited storage space....limited space in general. So much seems geared to those who live in a bit more suburban or rural communities. I want to be prepared but overwhelmed is an understatement, as well as feeling stymied by many factors outside of my control, i.e. space and lack of land. I have looked through the archives, perhaps not carefully enough, so forgive me for the following question: Are there any resources you can recommend for someone urban like myself?

JWR Replies: It is fine to plan to stay in the city for a few days during a discrete event wherein the power grid stays up, or when it only goes down briefly. However, attempting to hunker down in an apartment in a major metropolitan region during a grid-down collapse would be foolish. That has already been described at length in the blog, as far back as 2007. See: http://www.survivalblog.com/2007/12/letter_re_hunkering_down_in_an.html

Your best bet is to have a well-stocked retreat that is well-removed from urban areas, and plan to get there quickly, ahead of the inevitable flood of refugees. My novel "Patriots" was about a group of Chicagoans who planned to do just that.

Some techniques for storing supplies in an apartment have been discussed in the SurvivalBlog on several occasions. See, for example:

The bottom line: Do the best you can with your resources. Team up with like-minded friends and relatives. Always have a Plan B.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I just found your blog. God bless you!

I am seriously interested in protecting my family and have been organizing and preparing for whatever may happen even though I'm stuck here in the NYC area for now. I never found a blog describing a perspective on possible events that mirrors my own so closely before. Look, I am practical, and was a good Boy Scout. “Be prepared,” always made a lot of sense to me as a motto to live by. We might have to be self-sufficient for two days, two weeks, two months, or two years (in the zombie apocalypse scenario of grid/economic collapse). Or, perhaps we just end up with a vacation house and land until I retire there. That's what I tell my two boys.

The thought you've put into the lists and the information on guns and first aid/surgery are exciting to me. I no longer have to invent all these wheels! The problem is that I live here, in the NYC area. I know you prefer the 19 western states, but if I have to start with a staging area around here, perhaps the Delaware water gap or maybe south PA. Is there any research for suitable retreats/sanctuaries around here? Is there any data spreadsheets for the area around here?

Again, though, I really wanted to write just to thank you so much for your gracious and intelligent assistance in keeping my family and myself safe. It is much appreciated, fellow citizen. - SRC

Hugh Replies: It's understood that not everyone can just pick up and move for a variety of reasons. It's important to begin the process of networking with similarly-minded people wherever you live. You just have to weigh the risks of where you choose to locate with the dangers that are present.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


The article by TK4 is not only a great article (since we all need to re-cover the basics), but is a credit to homeschooling and his parents. - H.D.


Mr Rawles,

I found this to be a VERY well-written article, especially for a 13 year old. Maybe you should consider him/her as a character in your next book. - D.H.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hi Jim,

Here's an Interesting video from Cambodia, which triggered a series of thoughts on bugging out. You have used railroad tracks and trains in your books to speed along movement away from roads and people. This video shows how anyone who has tracks near them and need an escape route when the roads are blocked could be so very simple. The parts to put this together should be cheap and, depending on location, readily available just to have in the garage as a back up back up plan. I am sure enough readers can also tweek it in such a way as using people power or any other idea to make it work for their situation. My situation is that train tracks about a mile from my city home, pass about 30 miles from my cabin which is 200 miles away from the city home. So it would get me much closer and much faster, if there were road problems getting out.

Have a great day - Ender

JWR Replies: This topic has been raised several times in SurvivalBlog, invariably leading to discussion of the safety and legality of operating a rail bike on any other than completely inactive rail lines. There have also been threads of discussion about the possible use of speeders (which are now largely obsolete, but have a following of hobbyists) and rail-adapted pickup trucks. See the blog archives for details.

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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The recent article The Benefits of a Homesteading Approach to Preparedness, by Chaya had much wisdom about moving before a crunch. There will not be time to prepare or get to know your surroundings if you wait.

I have dreamed about moving to the American Redoubt for the last 3-4 years, however there were several things that prohibited me. I had a house payment and small business in Rural Northern Pa, I had a great job and family ties. I did not want to leave my father and small hobby farm. In December of last year my mother received news that her job may be moving to a new location. I half heartily said we should move to the west. This planted a seed that would grow over the next few months. We talked about different states like Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. She had some contacts in Idaho and Montana that she used to work with and began looking for a job. I was still unsure until January when I was told by the company I worked for that they would be consolidating locations and moving some jobs, including mine, offshore. To top that off my father was up for reelection for his township supervisor position.  My sister had lost her full time Job and was working two part time jobs. We had to potential to lose our 3 biggest family incomes. In April my mother received an offer to come look at a job in Montana and interview in person.

Before she was scheduled to fly out we looked at several properties and contacted two separate realtors. One realtor, Mark Twite, who advertises on SurvivalBlog's spin-off SurvivalRealty.com and another who works for a large [multi-state] real estate company. When we arrived we knew what type of property we were looking for and Mark cogently knew our intentions. He showed us several interesting properties that all had potential. He walked the properties with us using a GPS unit to show us properties lines. He is an amazing realtor.

The second realtor, however, was a snake. On the first day we met with him he had a paper that he asked my parents to sign “to give him permission to show up properties”, they signed without fully reading every line (a mistake), After they signed I read it quick while they talked to the realtor, mixed in with some of the lingo was a clause that we had to exclusively deal with only him and no one else. If we bought property without him he could sue for some of his costs. At this point we should have left but we didn’t. He showed us several properties but none were exactly what we were looking for.

After we arrived back home we kept in contact with the realtor, He sent us several more places that were not even close to what we were looking for, Some were trailer/doublewides, other had less than 5 acres and some were next to the interstate, certainly not what a prepper would consider a home. A few weeks later we came across a listing on craigslist that looked like a place we could call home. We contacted our exclusive realtor and began the long negotiations.  In June my mother flew out and started her new job. As soon as her feet were on the ground she checked the property out. By this point we had already started packing and selling everything that wasn’t a must have. The realtor in the meanwhile had pressured the seller into a contract as well and we were in jeopardy of the property being lost due to the realtors’ greed in wanting over $30,000 from the seller to just play middleman. We were finally able to come to a deal with the seller after they threatened to contact Montana Realtors Association regarding our exclusive realtor. He shredded both of our contracts so we could work directly. After a few short weeks we made a deal to move into our current home.

In mid-May, I contacted James Rawles for ideas on jobs, and in one of his replies he directed me to his 2011 article on job finding. I was subsequently able to find a job with a major company and get a job offered over the phone to start in July. The rush was now on to sell, pack and move. We were fortunate in that the company my mother got a job at offered a move package that including moving two vehicles and our house.  We had 7 people moving all together plus 4 family dogs. We were instructed by the moving company to not pack anything in the houses as the movers would catalog the material and move it. We had content from three houses and several outbuildings. We decided that we would not be able to bring our small heard of beef cattle so we put them on the market first. This gave us several thousand moving cash. On top of that we had a small business making Maple Syrup so after the season we started advertising all our equipment since we would not be using it in Montana. This again provided us with some extra money for the move.

We went through all our material positions and started filling our garages with yard sale stuff. A lot of things I had were with a prepper mindset but were unrealistic to move (fuel tanks with 300 gallons of fuel, windmill, scrap metal etc) so they all got sold. We advertised a three-day moving sale on a few local sites and started selling. We sold some stuff at value but a lot was sold at bargain prices just to get rid of it. The final day we made piles and sold stuff by the pile. In the end we sold 90% of the things we needed too. We also cleaned during this time and ended up with 5 truckloads of garbage that was either not worth donating or had little value.  We also filled two 30 yard dumpsters with scrap metal[ to sell] (never get rid of anything mindset). We also soldthree3 of our cars leading up to the move. These were older, front wheel drive, minor rust "East Coast" cars, not valuable in Montana and not usable where our new house is.

In addition to the 53’ tractor trailer full of household stuff we rented the largest budget truck and used a 15% discount coupon included in a USPS Mover's pack. In total it was $2,700 for the truck and another $1,400 in fuel to drive from Pennsylvania to Montana. We built 40”x48”x4’ shipping crates out of oak and maple so we could fill them leading up to the move and just load them into the truck. We had 8 crates total and 3 pallets of shop equipment and tractor parts. We also hired a neighbor with a step deck trailer to move three tractors and several farm implements to Montana for us (friends loaded him up a week after we left, with a Bobcat). Our cost for the step deck was $5,300 about the price of one tractor (we used cattle money to pay for this).

The trip to Montana was an experience. In Erie, Pennsylvania we decided to see how close we were on weight limits as we had no way of telling how much was on the truck. At a commercial truck scale we found that our "26,000 pound max" truck weighed in at 34,440 pounds! Knowing the stuff on the truck was not stuff we wanted to leave at home, we pressed on. We only passed one open weigh station on the way and just drove by with heads low. Since my mother and sister had moved out in June there were five of us that made the trip, My wife and I plus our West Highland Terrier dog (Westie) in the Budget truck and my father, my son and my 82 year old uncle along with two more Westies and a Boxer mix in his GMC pulling a trailer with 1 tractor on it. We took I-90 straight across which was not the smartest move in the world, at one point we sat in Chicago in traffic for two hours. We made the trip in five days as planned simply because of the animals and people involved in the trip.

Since moving to Montana we have met a lot of great people. Our new neighbors (all 30 of them in our 6 mile long valley) had a fall get together so we could meet. We have become close friends with several neighbors and have found a great church in Missoula. We used our Maple equipment money to buy a Norwood Lumbermate Sawmill. Since the purchase we have started construction of a new barn that houses some of our equipment this winter, but will house chickens, goats and pigs come spring. Our property is at 4,800-5,000 elevation so we also have plans for a greenhouse using raised beds next spring. We have been able to trade some wood for things we need so the sawmill has been a great investment.  We have also all got 4 wheel drive vehicles to cope with the winter, I have a Older Ford Bronco and older Jeep Cherokee, and other family members have all wheel drive Subarus and SUVs. All have studded winter tires and we have had zero problems so far.

The house we ended up buying is totally offgrid on 40 acres backed up to Forest Land. It had eight 100 watt solar panels when we moved in and a 300 watt windmill. The windmill is a joke but since it’s here we let it spin. The panels are also nowhere big enough so we have added six more 250 watt panels giving us a total of 2,300 watts. Next summer we plan to bump it up over 5,000. We have 16 6 volt batters to make two 48 volt battery banks; we also have a generator when the sun cannot keep up with our loads (in the winter months).  The property has several springs and a small pasture; it is a dream location that we fully believe the Lord led us too. The way jobs have lined up, the church we found, even the move.  The only bad part about the move is leaving our friends behind. However the Lord has even taken care of this with several people from the church filling the void. The job opportunities in Montana are endless but the pay is less than other parts of the country. Anyone looking at moving to the Redoubt region should consider applying for work at DirecTV. They are always hiring here and start new classes every three weeks. The pay is base at $11/hour, health insurance, a free subscription to the service, and bonuses. It would be a great place start then step off into something better and get you into the Redoubt any time of year.

If I was having someone move my household items again there are a few things I would do different. Make sure that you have a safe area of the house that the movers will not pack. We were missing a laptop for several weeks while moving and unpacking. Also cell phone charges should be labeled and in the safe zone. The last two days we ended up eating at neighbors because all our dishes and glasses had been packed away. I am still missing a few small parts for my reloading press that I forgot to take off. I did move all my guns myself by placing them in silicon gun socks then wrapping them in heavy blankets and placing them in a 2’x2’ locker. I hope my move will inspire more to make the move and shed some light on your plans.

Monday, December 23, 2013

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 www.coinflation.com), 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 TSA.gov 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.

Mr Rawles,
I have read many articles and have seen many videos on motorcycles and their role in preparedness. While I agree with the views of most people on a majority of their points, I also disagree with them on some.
Selection of a motorcycle and route planning are two key items that I think many people overlook. If I live in a rural community and I've traveled the off-road trails quite often then I have no problem selecting a Dirt-Bike, Dual-Sport or even an "Adventure" Bike. I however, like a lot of people live in Suburbia and work in the City. For the situation I am in, yes I can use a dual-sport to go briefly off-road, but the problem exists that I would never be using these routes unless SHTF and therefore would be at a disadvantage because I would not know of any possible obstacles in my path (either I ride extremely slow, or risk severe injury when I approach an obstacle too fast).

Rather than select an off-road capable bike, in the event I really need to get moving I have the option of selecting a more "Streetable" bike (Naked bike, Sport touring bike, commuter bike, etc.. Touring bikes would not be ideal for this). I can still leverage the ability to "Split lanes" when the traffic gets too thick with everyone trying to escape (NOTE: This is only legal in a few jurisdictions like California to the best of my knowledge.) Additionally, I have the huge advantage in terms of performance.

As an additional item, I think anyone interested in adding a motorcycle to their preps, here are a few helpful bits of information:
1) Seek out and take professional motorcycle instruction (Note: The motorcycle safety foundation is an industry group that provides instruction at very low prices -- in some states, the MSF class is mandatory for getting the "M" endorsement on your license).
2) If you do add a motorcycle to your preps, use the same approach as you do with firearms: Ride often and get as much practice in the saddle as you can. Not only do motorcycles die sitting around unused, but you should not expect to pull your motorcycle out of storage after five years and expect to ride like a professional.
3) Invest in quality safety gear. This does not have to be expensive: DOT approved helmets are great. (In my opinion the Snell rating is overpriced) and CE approved armor is approved by the European testing agency.)
4) Get a lot of riding experience before going out and trying to buy a 1000cc sport bike. Too many people get themselves hurt by buying too much bike and ultimately, if you enjoy the hobby, your first bike will not be your last bike.

Hope this helps anyone who is considering a motorcycle as a prep. Ride Safe. - K.A.

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.

Monday, December 16, 2013

One other thing I forgot to mention: Bike maps. Adventure cycling has a series that covers the USA and includes elevation gradients along the way. Also see this video. These might be worth having if your primary bugout plan involves bicycles and trailers. - W.W.

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. 

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.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The recent SurvivalBlog article titled "Your Two Foot Bugout" raises some interesting points. The author describes a plan to bugout on foot, using a baby stroller to carry essential gear. That's reminiscent of the Pushcart Mormons who traveled from Iowa City to Salt Lake City in the mid 19th century. More than 250 of the immigrants died along the way, and any plan to evacuate the Phoenix area by foot would risk difficulty at least as severe.

The author describes a plan to leave Phoenix by foot in order to avoid traffic gridlock. He plans to walk alongside a canal, and then train tracks to escape the city.

Having some familiarity with Arizona terrain, I would suggest that he would have to walk at least 50 miles to get out of the desert. In the desert, it's all about water. Travel would have to be from waterhole to waterhole, and only at night if the collapse were to happen in the Summer.

The Phoenix area holds more than 4 million people, and almost all of them would have to head north. That's a wave of humanity! The American Highway
Users Alliance studied emergency evacuation in various cities and gave Phoenix a grade of "F"
. But it's actually worse than that. In a state where adequate grazing land is considered to be 80 acres to support one cow, there is no area that has the carrying capacity to support 4 million people.

The author might make it to Lake Pleasant and up the old Phoenix to Prescott Toll Road into the Bradshaw Mountains. Or he could go up the old sheep trail along the Verde River through Bloody Basin. But either way, he'll have to get a head start on the hordes of refugees heading north.

An alternative plan would be to travel as far as possible by car or ATV, then use the stroller as a last result. With a Tsunami of desperate people breathing down your neck, escape is all about getting a quick start, ahead of the hordes. - K.L.

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 www.backpage.com . 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.

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.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I am an active prepper. I do not have a retreat or bug-out vehicle (yet), but I do what I can for bugging-in and preparing for emergencies. I have extensive food and water preps, tactical supplies, and all of the other trappings of modern-day prepping. Although my family is aware of my prepping, and support my efforts, they are not “in the loop” with how to do what, when to do it, and what to do it with. I have come to realize that many of my preps will be useless if anything happens to me. A good example of this is my emergency comm gear. It’s good gear, easily accessed, and will work well, but there are no user-friendly instructions on how to use the gear. Another example would simply to list where everything is located, as my preps are spread throughout the home, vehicles, and remote locations. There are many, many things that I can do with the gear, but might be a stretch for my wife and children, simply due to the lack of instructions.

To this end I have begun documenting all of the needed information regarding our preps. This is being done in plain text, and then a printed copy will be hidden, and a copy given to my wife. Digital versions on the thumb drive are encrypted with a password that we all know well. The docs begin with a detailed inventory that gives location, quantity, and a short description. After the inventory I have started writing how-to docs for each area of need, and the level of detail is just deep enough to get the job done. As is the case with most such articles on preps, bug-out-bags, etc., I begin with water, food, shelter, protection, safety, communications, and lastly, comfort. I have kept the technical jargon to a minimum, and intend to solicit feedback from my family to clear up any points that need it.

With regard to each are of prepping, in some short discussions with my family that safety and security are two areas where considerable discussion was required before writing my docs. The reason is very predictable, my family consists of my wife and two teenage daughters. While they are all very sharp, and quite capable, some aspects of safety and security are difficult for them to accept. An example is the need to hide the bulk of our preps, while leaving a substantial quantity of food and water out in the relative open. I think this is needed because looters WILL come, and they can more easily dealt with if they are not coming up empty-handed. The other reason may be obvious, they might give up looking once they think they have taken all they can find, so the bulk of our preps will be secure. My family thinks that there will no looters, and that if I think there will be, then we should hide all our preps. Another example is dealing with strangers. My family of females is not as callus as I am, and will want to lend aid much too readily. After having lengthy discussions with my family, I was careful to re-state my concerns for security in the related docs. Mainly, be cautious and suspicious at all times. We should always be ready to lend aid and be charitable, but individual safety comes first. My rules are simple, in an emergency situation, no one outside the family is allowed in the house, and if we are providing any sort of aid the recipient will remain at least twenty-five  feet from the door until it is closed and locked, no exceptions.

In creating my docs, I have tried to write instructions as I perform a task, at least mentally. I have found that when I describe how to do things, I leave out small details that I take for granted. Don’t do this! Be exacting when it counts. We don’t want to bog-down anyone with too much detail, but overlooking a small but critical detail could be disastrous. A prime example is the fact that my gun safe key must be turned before dialing-in the combination or it wont open. It’s a key feature of the safe, and a detail I have long since just taken for granted. Although a tiny detail, this could easily hinder my family in my absence. I’m sure you can all think of dozens of small things similar in this respect.

Another aspect of preparing these docs is the printed version. Digital copies are valuable, I store mine on a pair of thumb drives, but printed copies are mandatory. If there is no computer to read the docs, they are useless. I have started printing my docs on waterproof paper, using larger than normal (14 pt) bold type font. They are then placed in zip-loc bags with moisture absorbers  and stored in a predetermined location, high above the water line of any potential flood. My wife thinks putting a copy in a fire safe is a good idea, I may agree with her. (it’s so hard admitting she’s right!). I have read articles about encoding printed docs, but it seems to be a dangerous practice, except maybe for very sensitive information, and the need for that kind of secrecy is far outweighed in my mind by the need to get the information quickly in an emergency situation. We’re talking about how to start the generator here, not nuclear launch codes!
I believe that the digital copies of these docs should be written and saved in a simple .txt format whenever possible, even if encrypted. You never know what sort of device or program you might have to open them on. The more universal the format, the better. If you have diagrams or pictures, consider using a PDF format for those. The PDF format is widely supported on computers, phones, tablets, just about any digital device available. If you will be printing docs that must contain actual photos, try and use high-contrast black and white in all of your images. In the long run, these images will last longer and will maintain readability better under adverse conditions, and the high contrast will make them easier to read under low-light conditions. Regarding storage of the printed docs, I found some surplus Army signal flare tubes that seem to fit the bill perfectly for this task.  I also put a chemical light stick in the tubes with the docs. This way we have a ready light source if needed to read them in the dark. I found the tubes at a local gun show, but I bet there are millions of these things out there on Ebay and military-surplus outlets. Another idea would be just to make your own tubes with PVC pipe and screw-on caps. If the tube does not fit your docs, there are countless waterproof containers out there. You might even consider fireproof containers in addition to waterproof containers.

So far my family has been supportive in giving me feedback on my docs and it’s going well. I expect that will change some as we get into more sophisticated activities like setting the channels up on a 2 meter hand held radio, or setting the bait hook on a small game trap. In the end, I believe that my preps will be complimented well by a good set of documents and procedures. My original thought was to provide the needed information to my family in the event that I was not here, for whatever reason. After several weeks of typing, I am keenly aware that there were some things I needed to brush up on as well. Now more than ever, I think it’s true: you don’t know how to do anything well until you can tell someone else how to do it. I strongly suggest that you use this opportunity to use and test gear and practice using tools and techniques, having found many times that some things were much easier to do in my memory than they currently seem to be. It can also be a great opportunity to get your family more involved in the practical side of preparation. We live in the deep south east where hurricanes are quite common, and I love the thought of my family knowing how to take care of themselves in the event of any emergency. It also gives me a chance to spend more time with my kids, and that’s always good.

So to recap my thoughts here:

  1. Make a good inventory of all of your preps.
  2. Write a detailed how-to document for each prepping item.
  3. Make no assumptions, where needed be very thorough.
  4. Store digital copies in an encrypted file.
  5. Use a safe but easy-to-remember password on your files.
  6. Make printed copies on waterproof paper.
  7. Store multiple copies of digital and printed versions in safe locations.
  8. Review the docs with the people that will be using them.
  9. Use the docs to practice using tools and techniques.
  10. Setup a periodic review and update schedule for updating your docs.

I hope others find this informative, good luck with all of your preps, I hope you never need them!

For more in depth information on encryption, see the Wikipedia page on encryption software.

And this link will take you to the free encryption software that I use:

Some really good sources for waterproof paper can be found using these links:

Or, you can waterproof your own paper.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

As I imagine many of the readers on this site, I once found myself somewhat isolated in my prepping, embarrassed to let on to how I felt, why I prep, et cetera . My family is very close, very involved in each others lives, and I couldn't imagine or want it any different. My entry into this contest will be an explanatory background on myself and my preps, followed by a realistic guideline on how to "save the ones that matter" to you; or at least, my means of doing so.

I am a young, 30 year old father of an angelic two year old girl, with another child on the way (another motivator and complication to my prepping). My background was in the Finance/Insurance arena for years until I decided to open my own business in a different industry. One could say I am living the "American Dream," or at least, what it used to be - the house, two new cars, kids, a savings account, investments, hobbies, etc. It wasn't until about two years ago that a very close uncle got me back into coin collecting that my investment-guided mind started seeing the patterns and benefits of gold and silver and their true role as a store of wealth. With any worthwhile research, one will slowly find the fringe reasoning behind seeking metals as an investment, which I did....and then I continued reading. Quickly I began seeing through some of the fog that has been lowered over our field of view and the implications of where our current financial and economic status indicates we are...and it doesn't look good. I found myself up every night until 2 a.m. reading endlessly over conspiracy theories and radical ideas. Granted, I took everything with a grain of salt but I definitely had come to one conclusion; the system was hanging by a thread that seemed to be about to snap. Being naive and having a biased financial background, I started converting many of my liquid investments to silver and gold.

I was able to conceal this for awhile, or rather - felt I had to, however, eventually, my wife confronted me about the slowly growing clutter in our home safe. So one night, after she got home from work, I sat her down and had a very serious talk with her, something I am usually never the one to initiate or request. The last time I had done this was in 2011 after we had been burglarized and I told her that I needed her to swallow her distaste for firearms because this had been the last straw, and we were both getting sidearms, and a rifle. That was no easy battle and it was only when I had put it in black and white: "What if you had been at home with our infant daughter when they kicked in the door?" that she saw the light. And we did it responsibly, which I knew was important to her. We had my father, an ex-police officer, and highly successful/responsible/moral man, sit down and drill us together (even though I had grown up with his guns and his rules) on how to operate, use and maintain our firearms. We went to the range together many times and enjoyed ourselves finding a new and fun way to compete with one another.

But prepping is so much more than guns and silver. I remember one night reading something that said "you cannot eat your gold". This really stuck with me. I had focused so much of my time on first acquiring ounces and ounces of precious metals, followed by boxes and boxes of ammo. It was if I could see myself in a post apocalyptic world looking like Rambo, AR-15 in one arm, sack full of gold and silver in the other with my wife and child huddled behind me as I kept the roaming MZBs at bay (those are Mutant Zombie Bikers if you haven't read the novel Lights Out by David Crawford). So unrealistic. You cannot do it alone. (That is an idea we will come back to later.) But yet, so common amongst today's preppers. I would bet that most preppers, or rather, people that consider themselves preppers, follow the same misguided purchasing patterns that I did with silver and weapons first. This is the turning point that I consider when I really started to get serious about prepping.

It was also around this time that my wife started asking about some charges to our debit card, some high dollar amounts at Wal-Mart, some Army Navy Surplus store charges, etc. Purchases outside our norm. I did not want to start a fight with my wife, but if I had it my way, I would go out and spend $20-30k on what I would consider necessary preparations; she would go out and hire a divorce attorney. So we sat down and came up with an acceptable budget. I highly suggest that you do the same. But before you do, make visible sacrifices to your spending habits so that your significant-other/family can see your dedication and how important it is to you.

This whole time, my wife was slowly paying attention to my behavior. Rather than going golfing on the weekends, I was going to the target range instead with the husband of her friend. Instead of buying new business clothes or styles, I was purchasing quality boots, outdoor clothing, etc. Then, one day I came home and one of the huge plastic tubs in our garage was in the family room and had been emptied onto the floor. My wife had this look on her face like "What the ---- is wrong with you??" This particular bin had all of our clothing and footwear in it. All sealed in plastic. She was upset. "Why did you buy all of this stuff you haven't even used it" followed by "How much did all of this cost?" So we talked for awhile about it. I explained to her that I have a life insurance policy for the dreaded "what if" contingency. This was life insurance, but the real kind; to keep our life intact. I explained that rather than having all of my life insurance in the highest premium category known as "Whole Life", that we had diversified some of it into "Term Life"...that this was a tradeoff between the investment value of Whole Life and the extremely high premium it requires, all while still maintaining the level of insurance we require with a combination of "Whole Life" and "Term". This made sense to her. So I further explained that I keep these all terrain boots, all weather clothing, rain suits, etc in here for the very same reason. Eventually, she calmed down, and laughed that I had picked the right size for her by going through all of her shoes in the closet and guesstimating her size.

At this point, I had a pretty solid foundation of the essentials. I had food, water, shelter, fuel and security all set and ready to go in our closet and garage. All we had to do in the event of an emergency was throw all of the giant storage bins, our BOBs, 5-Gallon water jugs and fuel cans into the SUV and we could go 1,200 miles in any direction. I had even done a practice drill once while she was out shopping with our princess to see how fast I could do it alone. I even figured out a way to "Tetris" everything as efficiently as possible into the vehicle while not being able to see much from outside the vehicle. I was impressed; I could be loaded and ready to go in 15 minutes - alone. And that was when it hit me: Where am I going and what am I going to do when I get there? That brings me to what I call "Level 2" of preparing.

Ensuring that you can initially survive a disaster is a huge first step. Up to this point, I was positive I could sustain my wife and child for a month comfortably even if we had to drive out into some remote forest and live out of the SUV and tent. That was when I read the novel Patriots. That was when I realized you cannot do it alone no matter how well you prepare, no matter how much money you throw at preps. Every man needs to sleep and who is going to guard my queen and princess while I am sleeping. Where is the cross fields of fire going to come from with one inexperienced man defending his family who is probably wetting his pants in the heat of his first battle? It was time to reach out. So enter Level 3:

The first logical choice was my father. Understand one thing about him; he is the guy everyone in the neighborhood is friends with, the guy everyone calls when they need help, and a "guys guy". Everyone I know respects him. He owns his own company, so he has a lot of spare time and usually spends it helping people. Fixing things. Driving people to doctors appointments. Babysitting my princess when I have to run out for my company. I grew up with him coaching every sports team I was on, shooting, fishing....to be honest, I couldn't have been luckier. So when the day came and I showed him all of my preps, I wasn't prepared for his reaction which was "Buddy, is all this necessary? Do you really want to live in a world where you have a weekly gunfight just to defend your garden from poachers?" This hit me really hard. All I could think was that my dad thought I was crazy, and worse, that he would be one of the people to just lay down and die. So I kind of dropped it for awhile and didn't mention this to any more family members for months.

Randomly one day, my father asked if I had any good books to read. I mentioned that I had a book on my tablet, "Lights Out," if he wanted to borrow it. So I gave it to him and crossed my fingers. A few days later, my dad called me and had a little spunk in his voice. He loved it. I mentioned that I had another as well, called "Patriots" by none other than JWR. He read it in two days.

On Monday mornings, my father comes to pick up my daughter and it is the one day a week I go out to my accounts and put an eye on site. The Monday following him finishing "Patriots" he knocked on my door like normal at 7:30am to pick up the princess. As I was walking to the front door, I noticed I didn't hear the car running like normal. When I opened it, he greeted me, and walked in. He played with my daughter for awhile but I could tell something was up. Usually he just scooped her so I could get on the road, and my wife, sister, her fiancee and I all meet up for dinner at his house and after we take our daughter home with us. Eventually he says "Hey bud, I know why you gave me those 2 books, I feel like you are trying to tell me something."

I didn't know what to think. So I started by asking him if he would just give up if the SHTF. He laughed. He then went on to explain to me how he had reacted that way months ago because he didn't want me obsessing and worrying about TEOTWAWKI, but at the same time, it has stuck in his head. After reading those 2 books he said he saw how realistic a disaster could be, and how close to a meltdown our country was...and....what was my motivation for making him read those specific two books? So I went on to explain my concerns, my preparations, etc.

It was at this moment that my father blew my mind. Remember, I was in Finance for five years. I wrote every policy, investment, etc that he owned; he trusted me that I knew what I was doing. And on a side note, I did well. He asked if I remembered about that piece of property him and my mother had purchased years ago in the mountains. My eyes almost popped out of my head. I don't know how I hadn't remembered it. It was just property, no structures. He then went on to tell me how it was a dream of his to build a cabin there, and use it as a vacation home in his retirement and to one day leave it to me. My head started racing with ideas, building plans, farming plans, security measures, and so on, it all started flying out of my mouth a mile a minute. He put his hand on my knee and said, "Buddy, we have some work to do, I didn't realize how much this meant to you, why don't we spend today putting a plan into place?"

So we did. I called my partner (my soon to be brother in law and sisters fiancee) and asked if he would mind making the rounds today and that I would see him tonight at dinner. He said no problem. We sat in my family room with a composition book until 5 pm. We hammered it all out. From immediate BOBs for everyone, to a short term "bug in" plan, to our long term disaster plan. We talked about building a cabin on the land, and even splitting the costs. We talked about who else we needed. Our immediate family was a given: myself, my pregnant wife, our daughter, my sister, her fiancee, him, my mother...and then we stopped. W e needed skills, or rather, people with skills . My partner's (my sisters fiancee) sister and husband came to mind. He was ex-military, and is now part of an undercover drug force,  and known to be a little bit of a gun guy. I figured he at the least could assist with security. My father was an ex-police officer but also has serious mechanic skills rebuilding muscle cars. I am an electronic tinkerer. One major gap we had was medical and farming. A very good family friend of  my wife and her husband were immediate choices. He is an ER nurse and she teaches Botany at the state college. The funny part was, he happened to be the only person in the last two years I ever really talked about prepping with, went shooting with, and we saw eye to eye on everything, and they had a daughter that our daughter played with frequently. It was all coming together. We just had to get everyone on board. I suggested to my father that he be the one to present it at dinner as everyone listened to him.

That night, we all met for dinner. About halfway through, my sisters fiancee asked if I was feeling ok. Everyone looked at me as if thinking "what is he talking about???" I started cracking up laughing. Here is where my dad stepped in and discussed with everyone what we had been doing all day.

Amazingly, everyone was on board. Initially my mother and sister thought we were a little crazy, but eventually agreed that this was necessary and a good idea. We even worked out a budget to start building on the land. My parents handled the initial chunk to break ground and my sister and I each contribute monthly. Over the next few days, we approached my partners sister and husband, as well as my wife and I's couple friend. They were all into it as well.

Since then, we have gone on three of what we call "prepper" weekend camping trips. One was for seven nights, and all 10 adults and five children came at once. It was amazing. We had itineraries where each day, each couple was responsible for teaching a "class," and if you didn't have a TEOTWAWKI skill to teach, then they either had to learn one very quickly and thoroughly to teach to the others, or were responsible for cooking all 3 meals that day (which my mother ended up doing anyway). My wife and I's couple friends ended up doing 2; one in treating traumatic injuries and another on basic planting/harvesting skills. My sister, of all people, taught us how to process a squirrel and a fish.

Since then, we all frequently communicate in what we call "The E-Mail Chain". Whenever someone comes across something relevant, we "CC" everyone in our group. Whether it be something in the news, a group supply idea that we will all split (and the resulting debates, ha-ha-ha) or people we are considering inviting. We rotate printing hard copies of valuable handbooks and "how-to" guides that we store with our supplies.

We have gotten a lot accomplished so far and I am proud and impressed at everyone's contributions. And to think, none of this possibly could have come to fruition if I hadn't just spoken about it, and about how important it was to those around me that they understand and get involved. That initial dinner was in August of 2012.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I lived in Jamestown Colorado until three weeks ago, and was prepared for various disasters, mostly fire, and I always expected a road system to exist.  Wrong-o!

I have a more keen sense of the Lord's blessings, and they are amazing. The outpouring of support from the various communities that I'm in has been amazing.   I am walking in abundance, but not everybody is. My life has had a hard reboot - I was in some middle-aged doldrums - no more! I anonymized my name and corporate affiliation in the narrative, otherwise, it's unedited, and reflects my understanding of the events at different times, as things unfolded.

This is a narrative of surviving a flood in a small mountain town of 350 persons in Boulder County, Colorado.  After several days of unusual rains, the situation was described as a 500 year flood event.    On Sept 11 I was having barbeque with a friend, and it started raining.   No big deal.  On Sept 12, I could not get to work, because of road flooding, the power was out, and I was prepared with radio, walkie talkies, electricity and food.  I thought we'd down for a couple days, or maybe a week.  On Friday, Sept 13, it became clear that we were cut off from the larger world, and that something extraordinary was occurring.  I was well prepared for the wildfires that come here, but not a flood. I always thought that the road system would exist - and that was the biggest gap in my planning!

Here's a stream-of-consciousness description of events, unedited.

Roger's Jamestown Flood Narrative #1 - Evacuation Sept 18 2013

The Bad:

Last Friday, Sept 13, a Chinook helicopter evacuated my wife and I from Jamestown, Colorado with 3 cats, a backpack each.

Even if the main road is open after weeks or months, my house in town on a minor dirt road was across a bridge. Bridges belong to the  town, as does the water system. Rebuilding Jamestown may occur at the earliest a year, or not at all, depending on FEMA. Given the damage in Lyons, Longmont and Boulder ... well, Jamestown,  with  300 people doesn't take  priority. On  Tuesday, Sept  24, I am mounting an expedition with a couple 4WD vehicles to winterize  the houses, and get 2 cars worth of possessions. Getting things out must be done on foot, over a makeshift bridge and ford with backpacks - even a wheelbarrow or wagon isn't  possible, and I'm hiring some younger friends that meet the inflexible  Sheriff's requirement of having a Jamestown drivers license. I am concerned about squatters and looters, but  the area's secure for a week or so.

There is no vehicle access to the town. Jamestown may not be rebuilt - we've all heard of a ghost town.

Some great  learning opportunities! Did I mention that FEMA forms are full of  questions that you need legal papers to answer? Did I mention that Hospice Thrift Shop is the best  in Boulder? Did I mention that learning to live without my own car is a challenge? Did I mention that learning to use the bus system (which is quite good here) will be a hoot?

The  Good: Really, I'm blessed. My friend Norm picked us up from the Chinook [CH-47 military helicopter] at Boulder airport, and let us stay in his spare bedroom.

Rental with 3 cats is difficult, but it turns out my friend had a tenant not pay rent on Sept 1, and he just had evicted him and the guy left the place  smelling of cat piddle - perfect for someone with three cats! No need to paint, re-carpet, or even put an ad out for a new tenant, it was all done on a handshake.

My wife and I dropped in to my job to do the admin work of setting up a new house. It  is  so good  to have  a place with phone, printer and internet to perform change  of address, phone  service, and so forth.

Someone from my work  offered to loan a spare car!

The future - I may  have lost a house, but may still have  a primitive cabin! My old house above  Jamestown  survived, and because it has a well (with water  that  is rust-colored) and is on the main road may become habitable if they rebuild the road.   Currently, accessibility is via  seasonal mountain dirt roads and the commute to Boulder is 3.5 hours.

How great  is it to have housing, transportation and work's understanding of the situation?

It's  a disaster, but not a tragedy.

Roger's Jamestown Flood Narrative #2 - from response to recovery Sept 22 2013

The initial disaster response is complete.  Immediate physical needs of housing, furniture and transportation are met.   Martha & Marc S. loaned me a Prius, and it's a blast to drive!  Not having internet really hurts, but will be done Thurs, Sept 26.    I'm ahead of the curve in the physical world, but behind in the infosphere, and that's okay.   I can spend way too much time on a computer. Last  week, my wife had an urgent care incident involving  a tiny nick on a finger that turned to a big infection requiring antibiotic injection.   If we had stayed in Jamestown, we would have been in real trouble. Wash your hands!

Weather permitting, I'll muster a team on Tues Sept 24 to recover valuables. This is done with backpacks across a footbridge, and the distance is only 1/2  mile across  a new stream, and up a steep hill.   Our cars are not accessible, and still no word on a temporary bridge to retrieve them. At least our buildings are intact, but they are now buildings, not homes or rental houses. We'll also perform winterization of cars and buildings (drain traps must have anti-freeze, empty water heaters, washing machines, etc). Greg, Rick,  and Nate are loaning 4WD trucks, and I look forward to using trained engineers as pack animals ;-) I also have a couple young volunteer firefighter friends.  I rent a house to one of 'em, and every time he did a call, I told him to take $50 off the rent, to show my appreciation of his public service.   Of course, he's eager to help too.  Karma works.

FEMA help is a mixed blessing.   They provide a lot of help, but are pretty nosy. I paid my taxes for 40 years, and getting some back would be soooo nice. FEMA is a road show - they may leave here this week, so coordinating their inspectors with my Jamestown expedition is challenging.    It  may require 4 trips to Jamestown. My wife is affected financially, as she was a landlord, and now has only a meager state pension, (in lieu of Social Security), and now has rent expenses as well as loss of income. She will be navigating state  and local government assistance, as well as  FEMA. Funny how our plans can change  - I thought I'd be trimming the trees and doing some fire mitigation this month.   That's  one pain in the neck that I don't have! (Later we see this wasn't true ! )

For  my geek friends,   this has been a life-reboot, and I've just gotten past POST, and am in that place where you're waiting and waiting for the OS to come up and display the logon screen.

I  have the understanding of my company management team at this time - folks I know do not have the work flexibility that I've been blessed with.  The outpouring of generosity from employees is noteworthy -  I asked for a  bed, and had 3 on Friday by noon.  I have better cookware  and cutlery that I had in Jamestown.    Physical goods are abundant,  and buying them doesn't make much sense - money's  a lot harder to come by than stuff.

That's all for now!

"It's a disaster, not a tragedy"


Roger's Flood Narrative Three Wednesday Sept 25 A backpack expedition:

On Tues, Sept 26, my wife and I went on an expedition to retrieve our belongings from our homes in Jamestown.

Recap:  The house is standing and undamaged, but after the flood, there's no longer a road  to get  there. The old road that took 30 minutes  to get to Boulder is gone, and some dirt roads must be used, but they're damaged, and the route takes 1.5 hours, and is downright hazardous. In winter it will be impossible to get from Boulder to Jamestown some of the time, and dangerous at all times.

We were able  to get to with 1/4 mile of the house, then we had to cross a makeshift foot  bridge, climb a mud path on a hill with a rope to stabilize yourself, and  backpack everything we wanted out.    Besides getting our things, we wanted to make a start on winterizing the houses - all the water must  be blown out from the  P-trap pipes on dishwashers, washers, sinks, bathtubs and toilets and replaced with antifreeze in order to have a drain system in the springtime.

We enlisted the aid of Nate VanDuine (software engineer), Victor Smith (firefighter), David Lindquist (firefighter), Chris Ryan (firefighter) and Rick Sutherland (painter).   Using  software engineers as pack animals is always an iffy proposition, but after some training, Nate did great.   Also,  Greg Walter graciously loaned the use his 4WD pickup, as did Nate.

It was a beautiful day, and our mission was pretty successful - we got  clothing and computers, but didn't get things like books, cookware, or furniture, obviously! Friends at work and in general, and the thrift stores have all provided  wonderful support.   On Friday, I put out a call for a bed on an employer-sponsored board, and had three offers by noon! People are incredibly generous, and work is incredibly supportive at the local and national level.

Dealing with FEMA  is  my next challenge.   Gathering paperwork is tedious, as is waiting in line, but all in all, I'm impressed with the FEMA response, and with the compassionate and helpful attitude of the workers.   The delivery of services isn't perfect, but the people are pleasant, and that makes a world of difference.  They really must have learned a lot from previous disasters, because my experience is pretty good. One big thing they learned from Katrina is  to let people bring pets on the helicopters. my wife and I have our 3 cats, and that's huge.

In order to get aid for our non-accessible houses, we need to be physically present for FEMA inspectors in Jamestown, and the only scheduling mechanism is telephone at the last minute.

The rumor yesterday was that a temporary road will be up within about a week, so that  we can retrieve our cars in Jamestown.   Not having access to your  car and house is frustrating - so  near yet so far! It's unlikely that the road system will be rebuilt before 1.5 years (two summers), and may not  get rebuilt at all. The water system is a different - because the main access road is a county road, it might get rebuilt. However, the water  system is from 1930s WPA work, and was rickety - it's owned by the town of  350 persons. Now that the distribution system is damaged, and the main plant will go unattended,  it strikes me as unlikely that we'll get the tax base together  to rebuild it to modern standards. A  well isn't an option due to state regulation.  So have a house that's  inaccessible at present, may be uninhabitable for at least a 1.5 years, and possibly forever. As mentioned in the first  narrative I may have a house in a ghost town, but it will make a great weekend getaway - the night sky will be very dark, and perfect for my 13"  Dobsonian reflector!

"It's a disaster, not a tragedy".

Roger's Flood Narrative Four Sunday Sept 29

The finish line for the sprint and start of the marathon, and a word of advice to the prudent.

Sunday Sept 29 2013

It's been 2 weeks since I was evacuated via Chinook helicopter from the Colorado flood.  I can finally use the Biblical and Epic as adjectives without hyperbole. Since then, I've seen an outpouring of generosity from the communities I'm in that's been incredible.  I never thought I'd have so much goodwill to manage!

A few bad things I've seen after the event:

The drunks in my town started "borrowing" bottles from their neighbors who were not home. Societal breakdown happens quickly, and normally honest people become criminals of opportunity. I also experienced a theft after the flood, and that stings. You can't let down your guard, and have to be vigilant when fatigued, and at the same time gracious to others who were affected. These events bring out criminals of opportunity and they hurt those on the margins the most. I've seen of the homeless and marginal members of society hurt a lot. The scene of a mentally ill person at the FEMA site harassing the guards and evacuees haunts me still.  He was eventually arrested.   I can't imagine how the security folks, police and FEMA workers maintain their civility and humor. I've seen scammers trying to game the system and swindle refugees, which is shameful. I've tried Korean toothpaste from the Red Cross and wow - they sure make a different-tasting product.  However, Red Cross will get my donations in the future - for feeding us at FEMA sites, and the general immediate assistance they provide.

In terms of life experience, I was in a rut, and the good news is that I'm not in a rut any more!

The finish line for the sprint: A temporary road has been built, and I'll retrieve the cars today. My FEMA administrative will be finished tomorrow. The time for disaster, new housing for my family, a psychological reboot and return to a semblance of normalcy has been two weeks of running on adrenaline.

Today, Sunday Sept 29, I'm going up for my final FEMA inspection. The drive there is grueling - it takes a couple hours up rutted dirt roads with a lot of traffic and breakdowns, and it will be worse in winter. The FEMA guy and I missed each other on 2 previous occasions. There isn't land line or cell phone there, and a commute of two hours and missing someone makes me depressed.   On the other hand, when God made time, He made lots of it, so I try to enjoy the aspens turning, and there's plenty of chores to do in Jamestown. At 60 years of age, I get a few joint aches doing this much physical work under a deadline, but I'm thankful that I'm in good enough shape to do it at all. JWR's advice about physical and spiritual fitness is to be taken seriously. I did, and now I'm glad for it.

Writing four narratives helped immensely, so that I have some understanding of my new situation, and to get help from folks.

The start of the marathon: Our buildings are undamaged, but uninhabitable due to lack of access and water.  You just can't drill a well, legally, and putting in a cistern and having water trucked may have legal as well as logistical challenges. I have yet to winterize the houses, but I'm hiring that out to locals. I need to complete a fire mitigation project that I was in the middle of, and will now hire that out too.   Expensive. Ouch. The time for a new road to looks like summer 2014. In that time, I hope to rebuild my home, but I have to consider living in an unfamiliar community - which is not a fate worse than death, despite my initial feelings about it ;-)   My bucolic lifestyle had it's downsides, and the ability to get a pizza delivered has some charm. Defending the old homestead from fire, looters, and squatters will be a challenge. I don't know if I'm up to being a combination fire and police department. Winterizing the houses so the pipes don't burst, and maintaining the septic systems is necessary until a water system is restored, and the FEMA funds are uncertain.  If a water system is funded, the time frame is unclear, and there's no guarantee it will be concurrent with a road, but you never know.     I realize more keenly now that homes require constant maintenance and use to keep them habitable. And there's changing building code and occupancy requirements by local government.   The folks relocated by fires in Boulder county found that only a few percent were able to rebuild to code. Insurance does not cover inaccessibility due to flooding, and I've noticed that things have become more expensive than when I was a lad. My best case scenario is re-occupying the house by fall, 2014. That's what I'm hoping for.

This is going to be an interesting engineering and planning exercise, and I'm up for it !

Here's advice in one word.


I had a disaster plan in place with a friend in a neighboring community. We discussed it in advance, and the plan had a list of procedures to follow. The plan was for a fire, but it adapted to a flood.

Laminating a plan brings it to a level of formality that's executable, and if it rains cats and dogs, you can still read it!

The Lord's blessings and lamination are a powerful combination!

Roger's Postscript and Debrief Sunday Oct 6

Situational awareness was key to taking the right course of action. During the rains, after the 2nd bridge washed out, those of us on one of the "islands" that now define Jamestown got together at the 1-room schoolhouse. Most folks didn't understand what was happening, and thought that we'd be back up and running in a week or two, and that between the individual preppers and the government, we'd be up and running in a couple weeks. I had a talk with a friend that I regard as bright, and he simply said "I was in Katrina, and I can tell you that Jamestown is done for a year." That sentence made my situational awareness change, and I could take appropriate action. Most folks didn't get it until a week after they were off the helicopters. I was able to set up a new household based on that one sentence, and I'm now helping others, and participating in small-town government plans to rebuild. Whether we can raise the money is unknown, but there's enough infrastructure left for it to be worth a try.

Some of JWR's readers will take issue with me using FEMA.  Don't judge me.   They are there with money, helicopters and housing. They were effective and compassionate. I suspect that a small town in Colorado can get different treatment than the nightmare that was Katrina, just on the basis of scale.  One of the things that they learned from Katrina is to let people bring pets - many folks had an attitude of "I won't leave without my pet", and they were able to make that a non-issue. I will let JWR know in a year whether I would have used FEMA in the aftermath again.

Families with children were easy to evacuate, older folks were harder. The older folks would not have fared well had they stayed. One had a suspected heart attack, and there was no way to get help to him. Don't be too attached to your home in a genuine disaster.

About 20 people remain in Jamestown.    Some of these have a good chance of over-wintering, and they are all deep preppers whose homes were not in the flood plain.   They are all in the 55 year and up age group, for some reason.  These are the folks who own backhoes and excavators, and there are 6 of them. They will get the rebuilding contracts. Another four are more granola oriented, and they  have experience from Peace Corps living in Third World countries, and they've lived off-grid lives of simplicity for years. They will get the house maintenance (winterize and watch my house during diaspora) contracts. One of the cannabis grow ops was well set up, and that family will thrive, barring crop failure. The others are drunks and young hippies, who appear self-reliant, but just happened to luck out.  I expect a cull of these folks.

I'll check back in a year and let you know my experience with FEMA and more.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The never-ending threat of the TEOTWAWKI looms in the depth of all of our minds.  My work experience lays primarily in public safety, government peroration to emergency response, tactical team assaults, gang mentality and survival, logistics and law enforcement radio communication.  My personal experience is very broad beginning with my first job at age 15, working continuously through college, being married for the past 16 years to my “high school sweetheart” and raising three young children.  I have been validated in court as an expert in several fields regarding gangs, firearms and narcotics.  I would like to share with you my thoughts and expertise relating to successfully bugging out of an urban area.

My family and I happen to live in the California Bay Area and like many of the SurvivalBlog.com readers, live in a heavily-populated urban area.  Don’t be fooled though, many of us urbanites are just like our rural area pepper counterparts; we just haven’t made the jump to move to the desirable off grid lifestyle, full time.  That being said, most urban based preppers are vested in the communities we live in, go to Church/Temple, donate time and resources to local charities, and are involved in our children’s school(s) as well as many extracurricular activities.  Most of us have bug out plans and a small network of family and friends to help us achieve the goal of getting our families out safely.  However, the looming challenge is knowing the right time to leave, weather to leave together or in groups, what mode of transportation will be available (vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, small aircraft, boat), what we can bring based on how we can travel, safe routs of travel (neighborhoods, highways, bridges, chokepoints, time of day, waterways, air travel) and realistic time needed for travel to your safe location.

Deciphering the right time to leave the city or urban areas is something that you have to research in advance.  It’s not something one can effectively do after the mass evacuation crisis has started.  I recommend paying attention to the raw materials trade markets, indicators of local government preparations, public schools and local airports.  While these are not traditional sources of impending danger information what each one of them show are immediate shifts in normal behavior, change in the flow of resources and change in human behavior.

The raw materials markets show the flow of milled lumber mostly white fir to China, metals, mostly recycled metals overseas especially at a reduced rate, recycled oil products to Southern America and lastly vehicle buyback programs such as Cash for Clunkers, Kars for Kids and Habitat.org.  These programs receive significant government funding to get abandoned vehicles, boats, RVs and trailers off the streets of America.  When we see the price of white fir lumber drop, the price per shipping container of metal or aluminum drop, the price to recycle your used oil increase or having to pay to “donate” your vehicle a shift in normalcy is on the horizon.  While these indicators may not be immediate indicators you should maintain a watchful eye on one or all of them to make a predicative analysis of the fall of the USD.

Indicators of local government preparations include an increase of public disaster drills (outside the norm), more specialized emergency management equipment being stored extensively at and around public safety buildings rather than at city or county corporation yards and police and fire personal response times increasing to a higher than normal routine.  When you notice changes in staged emergency management equipment and supplies at the public safety building in your community you should anticipate a large event taking place.  If it’s a preplanned event such as a fair, a celebration or a parade generally there is no cause for alarm.  But if the changes you notice appear unplanned or in such duration that goes beyond normal parameters you should pay attention.  Again these signs alone may not be indicators you should bug out, but the totality of your research and observations will be the deciding factor.

Changes in behavior at the public schools relating to free lunch programs, after school program accessibility and an increase in teacher absences are signs that the transportation logistics are failing and the priorities of the school administrators are changing.  The focus will shift from keeping children at the school to surviving with what funds and resources the schools left. 

Changes of behavior at the airports will show similar concerns.  When air fuel costs go up, plane tickets go up.  When airport TSA restrictions go up, freedom and liberty go down based directly on actions of the TSA Director.  This should raise eyebrows and should be evaluated along with the other change of behavior signs in your communities.

When you decide to leave you will need to already have a preplanned route as well as a secondary route for redundancy.  Your primary route will generally be the shortest you can take by way of a vehicle on a paved road.  If you have access to a small aircraft you will likely be traveling by vehicle with your supplies to the airport.  The same goes for waterway travel.  You will generally need a vehicle to get to a harbor or a boat launch with your gear to leave the heavily populated urban areas.  The most significant dilemma for most urban area preppers is not leaving too early where you may face being fired for not reporting to work if things don’t go bad and not waiting too long where all the highways are packed bumper to bumper where you can’t get out.  The last thing any of us want to do is lose our job if we leave without notice and are released from our employer in a non-emergency scenario.

A solution may be to leave in groups at staggered start times.  Those who have a low risk of a significant impact for leaving early are those like home makers who would face no more than a child’s school absence, telecommuters who don’t have to report to an office, business owners who decide not to open their business for a day or two, retirees who don’t have commitments in their communities and obviously those who are on their regular days off from work.  Those who can leave early with little or no recourse should leave as soon as the indicators outlined above begin to show.  Those who have jobs where leaving would cause employer concern such as construction, infrastructure jobs, public safety, government offices or other employers who require prior notification for unplanned absences, will face a tough decision.  At some point you will have to make the call to leave knowing your unexcused absence will have a substantial affect on your future employment.  Sometimes it’s a gamble and sometimes it’s an educated decision on your part.  Those who have fled suspecting troubled times in the past have suffered the loss of a job or disciplinary action because of their unexcused absence.  They know all too well what can happen for their decision to leave.  All I can suggest is you study the signs and make the best decision for you and your loved ones.

Determining you mode of travel is simple, if you have the discretionary free time and if you leave early enough.  Unfortunately that is not the reality for most of the working class in the urban environment.  You need to plan for moderate to heavy vehicular traffic.  Pack extra provisions, fuel and comfort items you and loved ones need to make the extended trip palatable.  Secondly plan for extra security measures.  Having quick and easy access to a firearm is you first defense when faced with marauders so it’s essential that you have one close to you when traveling during these troubling times.  If you flee in a vehicle is would be easy to inconspicuously and legally carry firearms with you even in the most restrictive states like California and New York.  All states allow legal vehicle transportation of firearms.  Some states are more restrictive than others and require the firearm be in a locked case and with the ammunition stored away from the firearm in the vehicle, but most do not specifically define what a locked case is and don’t require the ammunition be locked or unloaded from a magazine.  That being said I have seen some very creative case locks which include “rope”, zip ties, bailing wire and twist ties.  While under normal circumstances I would recommend sticking with a traditional key or combination lock, I think in a bug out situation law enforcement officials will be less worried about the manner in which you chose to transport your firearm and more concerned with problems of keeping the peace.

Be wary of hasty road blocks and haphazard detours.  Most traditional law enforcement road blocks need to have proper signage and notification and will “look official.”  Your best option to avoid checkpoints all together.  When driving keep your must keep your eyes on the horizon and always be looking ahead.  Travel efficiently but not too fast where you may come upon a roadblock too fast and can’t get out of the queue line before your trapped and committed.  At the onset your most efficient way of travel will be on the Highways and Freeways.  During the later stages of the exodus you will have to divert to your secondary travel route and stick to back country roads.  Lastly as a general rule never park your vehicle(s) with less than half a tank of fuel.  To do otherwise is lazy and foolish.  I shouldn’t have to say anything more on that topic.

If another mode of travel is your plan such as a boat, small aircraft or motorcycle/quad then the options open up for you.  Small winged air travel being the safest you will not need to be as concerned with the roadways.  You will however need to be concerned about flight restrictions and filing of flight plans.  If you are traveling by boat you are sure to run into some resistance and chaos at the docks with others fleeing the later you leave.  You should expect to run into frantic citizens loading copious amounts of supplies onto their boats at the same time.  The boat docks at most marinas are not designed for mass exodus and lots of people piling provisions along the docks at the same time will cause confusion and delay.  For those scenarios, it’s imperative you store as much gear on your bug out boat prior to the event to avoid delays and confrontations on the ramps and docks.  Stay light and quick and you can weave yourself and family through the rushes at the docks very efficiently. 

If the motorcycle or quad is your planed way of travel be prepared to carry extra fuel along with all your other gear which will be seen by all.  While we would like to conceal our gear and fuel it’s nearly impossible on a motorcycle or quad.  I would suggest painting your jerry cans to at least appear like traditional saddle bags so at first glance it doesn’t look like a gas can.  Also I would recommend a siphon.  There small light and can make the world of difference between only making it part of the way and walking versus riding all the way to your destination.

Travel routes and times are critical.  Plan primary, secondary and alternate routes out.  Have a road map or atlas with you so you can recalculate your route if needed.  GPS is a great tool until Murphy’s Law kicks in and it doesn’t work for any number of reasons (government satellite shut down, EMP, CME, system over use overload, etc…).  Areas of concern are heavily populated areas, low income housing blocks, chokepoints, bridges, tunnels, and highway to highway intersections.  Determining routs around these potential ambush points is your key to your safe travel.  Leaving early enough to avoid these problem areas is ideal but may not be possible.  If you run into a choke point sometimes it’s best to pull over to a safe location and observe for a half hour or so.  Learn from others mistakes and adjust your route accordingly.  Stay alert and watch your surroundings.

Most likely the best time to leave is late at night.  Just as the early bird gets the worm, the early traveler gets less traffic.  Leave after midnight but before 5:00 am.  You should give yourself enough time to be out of the populated areas in into the country before 5:00 am so plan for delays and rest stops if needed.  While headlights can be seen for up to a mile away and ambushes can be organized on you approach, it’s still safer and more efficient to travel at night.  Night vision capabilities are premium when driving at night but most of us can’t afford such an expense.  Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst and always have contingency plans.  The government does for just about everything having to do with emergency response, so why shouldn’t you?

The last two options are the least desirable.  Bicycling or walking are obviously slow and open you up to all sorts of potential problems.  While you will benefit from moving quietly while creating a small silhouette of yourself, you will have no cover or concealment.  Additionally traveling by bicycle or by foot will extend your travel time immensely so plan for it.  Coordinate it ahead of time with your group so members know to expect you in weeks rather than days or hours.

Realistic travel times need to be planned for.  If your bug out location is a five hour drive during normal conditions, then plan for twice that during times of crisis.  Inevitably you will be faced with delays, detours, unplanned refueling stops when the opportunity arises and necessary renaissance stops.  Plan for stopping to top off your fuel tanks at every reasonable opportunity you have.  Fuel prices could be rising every few hours and credit cards systems could be corrupted or shut down without warning.  I would suggest using a charge card as much as you can while the systems are still active.  Save your cash until the credit systems stop working then transition to your cash.  If/when you reach your bug out location and the credit card systems are still functional, unload your gear and family and go back out to the closest fill station and top everything off.  Fuel will be worth it’s weigh in gold when the refineries shut down and/or the fuel trucks stop rolling.  If nothing more, fuel will be a good bartering item for the new America.

In conclusion, be prepared, make the sacrifices now so you can live comfortably in the future.  Having preparations stored provides most with a sense of accomplishment and security in your future.  As Americans we mustn’t forget the duty of charity and helping others out.  That being said, take care of yourself, your loved ones and your group.  After then, and only then as J. W. Rawles says, “Give until it hurts.”  With that, be safe, plan ahead and God Bless.

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.

Friday, September 20, 2013

For 45 years I was all about the Great American Dream.  A 100 mile per day [round-trip] commute to a six figure pressure cooker job supported an upper middle class lifestyle.  All that changed in 2001 when I was squeezed out of that job during a company transition to second generation children.   Overnight, the new CEO and COO determined I was too traditional and old school for the vision they had for the company going forward even though I had served their father profitably for a decade.   In quick succession I lost the house, the cars and a wife of 20 years because I could no longer ‘support her in the manner to which she had become accustomed.’   Yes, said those very words in the divorce papers which were incidentally served on the date of our 20th anniversary.  Thank God and Greyhound she’s gone.

What followed was what my teenage daughter who opted to live with me dubbed the Baloney Years.   It was an apt description as I re-invented myself from a shiny shoe wearing cubicle slave to a self-employed man.  Things got progressively better as the years passed.  I never re-married or bought another big house during that time period.  I had an expanding Internet business which was very lucrative and required just a few hours per day on my part.  I diversified my holdings with rental property and a car shop where I bought fixer uppers and flipped them.  I was carrying a substantial amount of commercial debt but little to no personal debt.  The cars, motorhome and personal items were paid for and I had no credit card debt. In 2008, the recession wrecked my business plan.  The rental properties were vacant and were sold for no profit or returned to the bank.  The Internet business fell off 80% in the space of two months and the car fixer upper business became unprofitable as well.  At 53 years old I was left with a motorhome, an SUV, some tools, firearms and an empty nest as my daughter had joined the military.  Luckily, this go round, I had a little money saved up and a small income each month from what was left of the Internet business.  It gave me time to assess the situation and choose my next plan of action.

Folks who live year around in recreational vehicles are called fulltimers in RV parlance.   Most, but not all, have given up their traditional sticks and bricks home.   Fulltimers are not to be confused with snowbirds that flee in their motorhomes, fifth wheels and travel trailers southward each fall to escape the cold weather.  However, some fulltimers are snowbirds who use their RV as a means to seek out the best climate year round.  Traditionally fulltimers have been retired folks who chose to travel and enjoy their twilight years.  After 2008 this traditional definition began to change.  I still meet many retired fulltimers who travel from RV park to RV park getting by on retirement income.  More and more these days I see younger folks who are still working but have chosen a recreational vehicle as their home.   Some of these working RVers had a defined plan and chose the lifestyle as a way to escape the 9 to 5 suburban hustle.  Others did it as a last resort.   Many lost houses and jobs and took the last few remaining dollars they had and purchased an RV.  It is better than being homeless and living in a refrigerator box under the overpass.
I truly enjoy living in my recreational vehicle.   It is compact and mostly self-contained.  With the addition of a generator, a battery bank and solar panels I can sleep in my own bed just about anywhere I chose.  I love the freedom, I love the lifestyle with no defined boundaries, I love that I pay no property taxes and don’t have to mow the lawn.  I follow the work from place to place. Sometimes I stay a few days; sometimes a few months. I am a 21st century nomad.

Nomads are as old as history itself.  Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde, Bedouins of the Saharan Desert and Romani Gypsies are nomads.   When the Spanish Conquistadors came to North America they brought horses.  The American Plains Indians acquired some of those horses and their entire lifestyle changed with the mobility the horses afforded.   Much like the Plains Indians, my lifestyle has completely changed with the mobility afforded by an RV but it did not happen overnight.   Since I was the victim of two harsh economic calamities this third chapter in my life was initiated only after long consideration and considerable research.  

The Third Chapter

You don’t have to be a smart man to realize we live in unsettled times.   I have read Thomas More, John Locke, The Federalist Papers and Thomas Jefferson.   I read the current offerings of Mark R. Levin, James Howard Kunstler, Mac Slavo and Captain Rawles. At a point in my research I realized the ‘American Dream’ had been little more than carefully prepared and artfully packaged slavery.    Brainwashed by the American School System from kindergarten onward, we were told that if you work hard and obey the rules that you will be a success.  Success meant debt for most of us.  Bigger houses in nicer neighborhoods, new cars every few years, swimming pools, country club memberships --- that was success as we Baby Boomers were taught.   Behind the scenes, in the offices of powerful people, we were counted among the good minions.  Our task was to fill the coffers of Big Business and Big Government and we did an admirable job. People in debt have to go to work every day to service their debt.   30 year mortgages and cars that cost $50 grand just about insure that you will be in debt until the day that you die.   Our economy is based on ever expanding spending and if we don’t spend more money each successive year the economy falters.   Well, I worked hard and obeyed the rules and had the rug brutally jerked out from under me – twice.  I resolved I would never again be a wage slave.   After all, nobody came to my rescue and bailed me out!

Near the top of every preparedness list I see is a requirement for a bug out location.  Some acreage in a rural location with everything available that you will need when the SHTF seems to be de rigueur.    I commend the folks that appear to have attained the optimal bug out homestead and I wish I was one of them.  I just don’t see it happening for most of the rank and file people like me.  

  • Buying property usually means assuming more debt.  Most of the people I know do not have the financial ability to lay out considerable quantities of cash to purchase a property outright.   Even during the Great Depression, banks foreclosed and the repo man came to get your vehicles.
  • I grew up on a rural farm.  You just don’t go to Tractor Supply, the John Deere House and the local library and become a farmer or a rancher.  It takes years to acquire the equipment and the knowledge to use it.

One of my paying jobs during this Third Chapter was working for an excavation company that specialized in rural retreats for rich folks.   These city fellas had worked most of their lives with the dream of retiring   to a country estate where they could ‘get back to the land’.   I saw the pattern repeat itself many times over during my tenure with this company.   A 50 something executive from the city buys a few hundred acres of unimproved land. We roll in with bulldozers and backhoes and excavators and clear the brush, build roads, dig fishing lakes and clear a spot for their ranch house.   The executive buys a Ford King Ranch truck, a John Deere tractor, a Polaris UTV and a chain saw.  Seems like reality sets in about the second year.  The executive realizes he does not have the skill set required to pull this off and he also does not have the time left to learn it all.  He also is forced to acknowledge the hard reality of physical limitations that advancing age brings you.   I know it was frustrating for the executive.  It was heartbreaking to watch it unfold time after time.

I watched the television show Doomsday Preppers with interest.   Each and every one of those folks was convinced they knew the future and each were preparing for a specific calamity.  EMP, economic collapse, nuclear war and earthquakes --each and every one of them had it pegged unequivocally.  I just wish I was that prescient.    This Third Chapter of my life embraces the Nomadic lifestyle and my best efforts to prepare for an uncertain future.  I honestly believe we will see rising inflation and reduced services from the public sector.   Do the math and its’ a pretty simple conclusion.  Our elected officials are going to do nothing to stem the rising tide of debt and at some point the bills are going to come due.  You can only kick the can down the road so far. Things we take for granted like police services, fire protection, mail, utilities and road maintenance are likely to be less evident the farther you get from major Metro areas in my future scenario.   I have no intention of ever being in close proximity to a major Metro area ever again so my plans address a lifestyle that does not include these elements available at current levels.   I cannot depend on Social Security income in five years when I become eligible which is another consideration.

The RV
is not a really, really small apartment—not even close.  It took me over a year to understand all the systems and to become reasonably proficient at repairing or replacing systems that failed.   The same elements that make an RV livable in an off the grid environment make it complicated.  RVs have dual power systems which are 12 volt DC and 120 volt AC.   They also utilize propane for heating, cooking and refrigeration.  Some appliances like the hot water heater and refrigerator may have both electricity and propane as dual power sources.   A converter/charger applies the power to the on board 12 volt batteries and the 120 volt accessories.  My wife and I recently upgraded from our 20 year old diesel coach to a large travel trailer that is towable behind one of the SUVs.   Maintaining an increasingly problematic older RV and another power train simply did not make sense.  The 2010 model we bought (for cash) was immediately upgraded with the following components:

  • Addition of second 12 volt deep cycle battery
  • 200 watt solar panel, controller and charger to charge the batteries
  • 4,000 watt inverter
  • Progressive Industries Energy Management System (EMS) to monitor and protect  onboard appliances from erratic power sources
  • Double canister water filter with ultra violet light sterilization for drinking water
  • Honda EU3000i portable generator
  • Additional 120 volt AC small refrigerator to supplement the RV fridge
  • Wilson SOHO wireless cell signal amplifier  boosts a weak Internet air card signal AND our cell phone signal in rural areas
  • Flojet macerator pump which allows me to pump raw sewage  via a ¾” garden hose up to 200’ to a septic cleanout, residential toilet, porta-john or external  portable septic tank

These additions to the existing travel trailer components have allowed us to be independent of the grid if we choose to do so.  The cool thing is we still have all the comforts of home including Internet and HD satellite television.

Our Environment and Prepping
go hand in hand. There are myriad ways to make a dollar while living in an RV.   Some RVers work for an Amazon Distribution Center during the Christmas rush.  Amazon pays them well and provides free spots to park the RV.  Other folks go to the Dakotas and harvest sugar beets.  Some follow the State Fair circuit or NASCAR.  Others work virtually over the Internet.   The opportunities are endless.

For the last three years my wife and I have been Level II Security Guards in the North and South Texas oil fields.  We have been on site at construction sites, pipeline construction, electrical transmission line construction and active drilling sites.  The work has been 100% off grid.  The company we work for supplies water, septic system and a large diesel generator.   We have no lot rent to pay or utility bills and it is a great environment to polish our prepping skills.  Why?  We are self-sufficient in many respects.  We are off grid, we have a limited water supply that must be rationed and treated to be potable. We are miles from the closest grocery store and infrequent trips to town are carefully planned for maximum benefit.  We are in a fringe area for communications and rely on additional equipment to provide communication access to the outside world.  Police presence here is rare and we rely on our own resources to settle disputes and minor altercations.   We live in a harsh, remote environment for weeks on end and both my wife and I have adopted a survivalist mindset to get by day to day.   The difference in the way we deal with everyday life is especially noticeable when we retreat back into normal civilization for some time off with friends and family. 

is a major consideration in any survival plan.  Our water, as delivered, originates at a potable source but the handling between origin and destination is questionable and I do not trust it.   Our water source is a 300 gallon translucent plastic tote.  I have installed a three-canister water filter system on the outside of the tote with a bypass valve on the third canister and a 12 volt pump.  I check every water delivery with a dissolved solids meter.  If the meter reads high, I place a 5 micron sediment filter into the first canister and a 1 micron sediment filter in the second canister.  I bypass the third canister for this operation.  I place the outlet hose into the top of the tank and recirculate the water through the canister filters for several hours until the dissolved solids meter shows an acceptable reading.   The outside tote is treated with chlorine on a routine basis to prevent algae growth and I monitor the chlorine levels with a pool test kit.  I wish we had a black potable water tank as we had at previous locations.  Algae growth in a black tank is negligible.

I pump the water from the tote into our on board 50 gallon water tank with the 12 volt pump.  This water is reasonably pure because I filter it through the three-filter outside system as it is pumped aboard.   In this operation, the first canister contains a 1 micron sediment filter, the second canister contains a granular carbon resin 1 micron filter and the third filter is a 1 micron carbon block filter.  I only use NSF certified filters and keep a one year supply of spare filters on hand.  I also have several spare 12 volt pumps that I picked up used on eBay.  The water from the onboard tank is used for washing, showers and flushing the toilet.   Potable water for cooking, drinking and coffee making is delivered via a separate spigot at the kitchen sink.   This spigot is connected to a 2 canister system under the sink.  The first canister has a 0.5 micron spun polyester sediment filter and the second canister contains a 1 micron carbon block filter and the ultra violet light.   The company that manufactured this system supplies the same system to our US Military for use overseas.

in some form is necessary for our survival especially during the heat of a South Texas summer.  Air conditioning is not a luxury; it is a necessity if you are living inside a tin can.  Our prime source of electricity is a 4 cylinder diesel generator with an output of 20 kW.  It provides ample electricity for our needs.   Secondary electrical backup is our small Honda EU3000i gasoline generator.  It is quiet and extremely fuel efficient.  At 3 kW it will power every appliance on the travel trailer including one air conditioner unit.  Some judicious power management is called for with this power source.  For example, it will not power the AC and the coffee pot simultaneously.    Our third power source is the 12 volt battery bank, solar panels and inverter.   RVs use 12 volt power for lighting, water pumps, water heater, furnace and refrigerator circuit boards.  The inverter will run the microwave, coffee pot, television and DISH receiver and the various laptop and cell phone chargers.  The inverter will not run the air conditioning unit because it quickly depletes the battery bank.

Food Preparation
may not sound like a big concern for most but it is for us.  The RV has a microwave, propane cook top and propane oven that my wife uses to full advantage.  However, when the summer heat is 100+ for days on end,  using the cook top or oven heats up the inside of the RV for hours afterward.  We enjoy cooking outside during the summer months.  We have a small propane grill, a propane smoker that will also serve as an outside oven and a Volcano stove that is tri-fuel.  It has a removable propane burner and it will also burn charcoal briquettes or wood.  We have a small selection of Lodge cast iron cookware for use outside and we are gradually learning to use them as time goes by.
Even with two refrigerators, we do not have the refrigeration capacity you would find in a residential refrigerator.  My wife manages the refrigerated space admirably with her infrequent stocking trips to the grocery store.  A large cooler is a standard item in her SUV because of the length of the trip.  She will fill it at the store and then ice it down thoroughly.   What doesn’t fit in the two refrigerators is left in the ice filled cooler as long as possible.  Through practice, she has learned how many items she can purchase with no resulting spoilage.

I wish we could have a normal garden.  In years past both of us raised a garden on a regular basis.  Being mobile as we are a garden is out of the question currently.  We have laid in a good supply of seeds and we are bucket gardening.  2.5 and 5 gallon buckets are transportable and work well as garden containers.  I am glad we started this project because our gardening skills are much rustier than I thought after a decade or more of inactivity.   Our current project is a winter salsa garden which consists of tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.  One of the blessings of South Texas is you can garden for almost eleven months out of the year.

Storage space
is a huge limiting factor in an RV.  RV manufacturers utilize every square inch available in most cases but it is never enough.   My large SUV only has the front row of seats available.  The second and third row have been folded down or removed to make room for cargo and storage. An air compressor, tool boxes and footlockers full of maintenance items fill the SUV, and it is still not enough space .  As you have read my description above you can tell we are dependent for the most part on fossil fuel.  Diesel, gasoline and propane figure prominently in our plan.  We purchased a small enclosed trailer that we use as our ‘nurse trailer’ and my wife pulls it behind her SUV when we move.  It stores several items that are rarely used and our supply of fuel.   I like propane because it is very portable and has an unlimited shelf life.  At one point in the past we had a 6.6 kW propane generator that has since been replaced.  I found it to be very noisy and fuel hungry.  Filling a propane tank will never be as easy as filling up a 5 gallon can of diesel or gas.  I DO like the propane for heating and cooking as it is very efficient when applied in that manner.  When it comes to diesel and gasoline storage I had a hard time deciding exactly how to store it.  I considered 50 gallon fuel drums or auxiliary fuel tanks which would be stored in the nurse trailer.  Ultimately, I decided the price of the tanks or barrels and the need for an additional 12 volt pump and nozzle to transfer the fuel was unwarranted, pricey and cumbersome.   A 55 gallon of fuel weighs around 400 lbs!  We decided instead to use 5 gallon NATO surplus jerry cans.  They store in an economical fashion, they are tough and they do not leak.  Current reserves of fuel are five 30lb propane tanks, two 40lb propane tanks, 50 gallons of diesel and 75 gallons of gasoline.   The diesel and gasoline are treated with PRI preservatives.  Both SUVs are also kept full of fuel at all times.

The nurse trailer is also the home for 20 gallons of potable water in 5 gallon Reliance Aquatainers and a 65 gallon water tank that is only filled in emergencies.
I store a spare set of 12 volt vehicle and trailer batteries in the nurse trailer.  They are maintained with a Battery Tender trickle charger that also has temperature compensation.   The 2 SUVs are used infrequently and sometimes 3 weeks will pass without them being driven.   They are kept on a Battery Tender as well.

I have an aversion to being broken down on the side of the road.  Neither of our SUVs are new; both of them are on the other side of 150k miles.  They are maintained meticulously as far as service, maintenance, tires and brakes.  For the main SUV I also have spare radiator hoses, serpentine belt, alternator and starter motor.   All of these items are easily replaceable in the field.

supplies in a recreational vehicle is near impossible due to space limitations.  We try to keep a ready reserve [of staple foods] onboard which loosely equals about a one month supply.  While I see or future economy going through a severe long term decline I do not think we will see a true SHTF situation.  Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.   We do have a bug out location in North Texas which is a still active family farm.  I have attempted to tailor our strategic reserve supplies to include this scenario.   We move around South Texas quite a bit so storing supplies in an offsite location would be hit or miss at best.  With my luck, I would rent a storage room close by and then the next week we would take an assignment 300 miles away.  Texas is a big place you know!

My wife is required to go to a doctor for a checkup every two months and for years she has used the same doctor north of San Antonio.   Two years ago, we rented a small climate controlled storage in that small town.  We collect a variety of supplies in the two months prior to her appointment and she deposits them in the climate controlled storage.   In two years we have accumulated quite an inventory of food and other items.

I entered our marriage 3+ years ago with a dry storage unit in South Dallas.  Since it is not climate controlled, we are limited on what can be stored at that location.  Currently it holds tools, tires, a small cargo trailer and a 7.5kw diesel generator.  We also store a small supply of potable water and food there.  It is an all day trip to go up there and back. The North Texas bug out  location is over 400 miles from our present location.  As the storage units fill, we leapfrog the excess to the bug out location.

Our plan is to draw on the supplies in each storage unit should the need arise.  If we come down to a true SHTF scenario and anarchy across the land is on the horizon, both storage units are on our direct route to the North Texas location.   Even if we had to get out of Dodge in one of the SUVs with nothing more than the SUV  contained and the clothes on our backs we could easily resupply and continue our trip north with a stop at either or both storage units.

Fortress RV
we ain’t.   Most likely you could shoot through one of our walls with a pellet gun.  I would like nothing better than to have 500 acres of impenetrable castle somewhere up in the hinterlands of the Texas Hill Country.  Maybe if I win the Powerball [lottery] and have another ten years to build the castle complex... Like most everyone else my wife and I have a set of circumstances called our life that we have to work with.  Our situation is far from optimal but we have to work within the framework we have to get by and prepare for the tough times ahead.

JWR's Comments: Nomadism is a fairly tenable during a "grid-up" depression, where law enforcement would still functional. But in a grid-down world, frequent travel will simply be an invitation encountering ambush after ambush, and your life expectancy will plummet. Don't plan on taking those sorts of risks. My advice for The Crunch: Have a planned destination, get there pronto, and hunker down!

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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

(Level II Scenario, continued)


For me, a 1,000 Gigawatt generator is not needed. Just 12 volt deep cycle storage batteries and a photovoltaic panel to charge them up, along with with a homemade generator from a lawnmower engine fan belted to a Chevrolet car alternator will be enough to power some communication electronics and spot lighting.  Deep cycle batteries are preferable to regular 12 V car batteries as they last much longer, but car batteries will certainly do in a pinch.  Incandescent lights need more power than fluorescents which need more than white LED arrays. Do some experimenting.  Another way to generate electricity is by turning a DC motor into a generator.  A DC motor accepts a DC voltage, from a battery for example, applied across two terminals and translates that energy to a rotary mechanical motion that drives whatever the motor is hooked up to, (a cordless drill, a kids play jeep, whatever).  A generator is the exact same motor, except instead of applying a voltage and harvesting a rotary force, you apply a rotary force and harvest a voltage.  All you do is hook something to the motor shaft, a bicycle, hand crank, a water or wind wheel, and turn it and a voltage is generated across the same two terminals the battery was previously hooked to.  Pay attention to polarity.  The motor should have a plate on it indicating what amount of voltage and amperage it will generate.  As you put the generator under a load it will become harder to turn, the result of a phenomenon called back EMF.

I don’t know much about big generators.  The options are basically gas, diesel or propane.  Diesel appears to be the best option.  Gas is more dangerous to store than diesel and the diesel generators last longer under a sustained usage (lower RPM).  Propane may also have problems lasting due to top end lubrication (I’m not sure about that) but propane is the easiest to store.  A generator could be used sporadically, say a couple hours a day to keep the refrigerator cold or run appliances.  If you do store gas or diesel, treat it with preservatives while it is fresh, at the beginning of the storage cycle, and store it in a safe manner.

There are a lot of electronics that could be harvested from a car, 12 Volt lighting, batteries, radios, CBs, meters and gauges.  Not to mention the metal to fabricate tools, hydraulics to provide motive force, petroleum products, the motor, the wheels and tires, transaxles to translate a rotary force 90 degrees, seats (what Southern abode is complete without an old car seat gracing the front porch?).

We have pretty well considered water; (did I just say well?)  That's the next step in a more permanent water supply:  a well.  It is certainly possible to hand dig a well, but before attempting to do that, you should find out how to go about it because a well cave-in is nothing to be ‘cave’alier about.  The best bet is to have the well dug by a professional; don't forget to have a way to get the water up without electricity, or have a generator.  Research how to locate a well with regard to septic systems, water table etc.

Lighting is also covered by using Kerosene lamps and /or rechargeable solar powered lamps.  Have spare wicks, globes, bulbs, switches, and plentiful fuel or energy.  Even if using Kerosene lamps, it would be wise to have a more concentrated, focused, portable, powerful method of lighting available to use when needed.  Of course, a flashlight fills the bill quite nicely.  Have some way to use rechargeable batteries. 

For more permanent ways to dispose of bodily waste, I reckon the most lo-tech is the good ol' outhouse.  Dig a pit about 6-8 feet deep, build a portable house to cover it and provide privacy.  When it gets near full, cover the last few feet with dirt, dig a new hole and pull the house (built on skids?) over to it.  Lime might be used to keep the smell down, another exciting topic to research.  Other options are methane digester toilets, burning the waste in 'honey pots" or using the existing septic system by hauling in flushing water by hand.  The latter option is probably the easiest and less damaging to the water table than an outhouse, non-potable water can be used for flushing.

Washing dishes in a water conservation mode can be done by using the following process:   1.) scrape the loose food of for the dogs to eat or to compost for the garden, 2.) fill one sink with water and some soap, 3.) fill another sink with water and a 1/4 cup of Clorox, 4.) Wash the dishes in the soapy water, 5.) rinse/disinfect in the Clorox water and 6.) set out to drain or towel dry.  Dishtowels will be worth their weight in gold; I suspect the cloth could be purchased fairly cheaply and towels cut, and hemmed, from the roll.  If need be, recycle the water through a distiller or use it to wash something else.

Washing clothes will be a chore.  I guess a big washtub or two and a washboard is the way to go, hang em up on a clothes line, it's been done before.  Another option is to cut a hole in the top of a five-gallon bucket lid and agitate using a (clean) plunger, kind of like an old-fashioned butter churn.  A clothes wringer would be cool (A large industrial mop bucket with a wringer might suffice).  Speaking of which, study up on ways that these common things were done before electricity, read books on pioneers that kind of stuff.  Figure out how to make soap or stock up on enough to hold you over for a year or two, just in case, God forbid, a collapse drags on that long.

Trash disposal will be non-existent in a survival situation.  Around here if we miss one trash day, it starts to pile up something fierce.  Over the long term, this could be a serious health hazard.  Trash piling up will smell, attract rodents and flies, and encourage disease.  On the bright side, there will be less packaging to be disposed of since most new production will be home generated, food and such.  None the less, have a sanitation plan.  Separate trash at the point of origin, paper and combustibles in one can,  biodegradables in another, glass and metal in a third.  Burn the combustibles, compost the bio-degradable, and bury or pile up the metals and glass.   Re-cycle everything possible.  Keep the area cleaned up from trash blowing into the yard.

Bathing could be accomplished by heating water on a stove and pouring into a tub or maybe by constructing a solar shower outside for summer use.


Communications could be clutch.  Try to cover as much as the spectrum as possible.  Get a short-wave radio, or Ham transceiver, covering at least 15 kHz to 30 MHz; a police/fire scanner covering the local emergency bands, an AM/FM radio, CB radios, and a television.  Have the ability to power all these with a 12-volt battery.  A Ham rig would be cool to enable two way conversations.  The shortwave should cover the upper and lower sidebands as well as CW signals.  The police scanner will be useful if there are riots or civil unrest.  CB radios, especially ones with sideband channels, can be used for personal communications, maybe one base station and 2 or 3 handhelds, all with rechargeable batteries.  Avoid having an 'antenna farm' outside your house so as not to draw a lot of attention.  Point to point communications in the form of intercoms, sound powered phones, hand, mirror, and semaphore signals could also be used.


If the gasoline is flowing, well and good, if not, it’s back to bicycles, horses and feet.  Make sure the car stays tuned up, has good tires, a full tank of gas and is in good working order.  Stock up on spare parts, water pump, alternator, fluids, and plugs, et al.  You can build an 'Urban Assault Vehicle' with winches, heavy-duty bumpers, and extra gas cans and all that stuff if you are so inclined.  Having a couple bikes handy might be a good thing.  Spare inner tubes etc, etc. 


The immediate concern regarding education is knowledge gained before problems occur.  Learn how to do stuff, study farming, gardening, carpentry, blacksmithing, medicine, cooking and preserving, stone masonry, weaving, trapping, hunting, fishing, metal working, electricity, plumbing, the list goes on and on.  Pick one or two things to get really good at and cross train in the others.  Gather information, books, magazine and Internet articles to keep as a reference library.  Don't neglect classics and light reading. And the three R's, reading, 'riting and 'rithmatic.   Set up schooling for the children if the schools shut down for a while and train constantly in as many sufficiency disciplines as possible.  Have school supplies available.


Picture yourself in a shelter with four young kids and no crayons; picture yourself climbing the walls.  Games, books, coloring books and crayons, lots-o-paper and pencils (exactly how would you go about making a pencil anyway?) textbooks for higher education, radio, outdoor activities.  Have fun.

Government Relations

A real wild card, chances are they won't be prepared (in a good way) for a serious societal emergency.  Of course with the current bunch of crafty, disingenuous, lying, cheating, stealing, power mad, constitution stompin' yahoos in Washington, that won't matter as they are likely to make a power grab (for the good of the people, don't you like children?) using the various Executive Orders surreptitiously signed into law over the last few decades.  "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."  Yeah, right.

As far as self-government goes, pick a leader, establish a legislative and a judicial body is one option, follow the US Constitution; another might be to set up a system of Judges like the early Hebrew people had in the Bible.  Definitely something to think about.

Local Area Relations

That would be your neighbors.  Help them get informed about survival in general, if not your plans specifically.  If your neighbor has his own food supply, he won't be knocking on your door for a handout when the SHTF.  This is where it gets a little confusing.  If someone is doing a full combat assault on your house, hey lock and load, ready on the right, ready on the left, commence fire, not a real moral dilemma; but, if your neighbor, your beer drinking buddy, and his extended family are starving next door and you've got some food stashed back, but not really enough to hand out willy-nilly without endangering your own family, then what?  One possible solution would be to store a lot of extra bulk foods, (corn, beans and rice) to be able to share liberally, also within your group, if you hand out a meal, someone within the group fasts for that meal for a net loss of nothing, as long as no one fasts excessively.  Maybe a combination of both, even so keep an ultra low profile, maybe leave a bag of groceries on the front steps at night.  If the food is distributed openly, the person receiving it can hoe in the garden or chop some firewood to help out.  Help as much as possible within your neighborhood and community.  Try to form supporting groups of people that have diverse skills and knowledge. 

Job Security

If your job goes under due to societal issues, you will need an alternate career until everything gets back to normal.  Gather tools and supplies to accommodate a backup career.  Try to focus on something that 1) you know how to do and  2) will be in demand.  Some job where the work came to you rather than you going to the work would be desirable.  Something like a produce stand would be ideal or battery charging station, just a thought.

Bugging Out

Bugging out, aka leaving your home base, without a clear destination that is able to absorb you and your family, is just another way of saying: refugee.  Refugees are helpless and totally dependent upon the vagrancies of whatever group takes control of them, be it a government or an armed band of thugs; or both as happened during Katrina.  Forget bugging out to the forest with a .30-30 and a backpack; it won’t work.

Have a secure bugout location in mind before you leave.  Bring what you can: weapons, ammunition, food, medicine, seeds, tools, blankets, camping gear, pots and pans, functional clothing and footwear, candles, lighters, whiskey, kerosene lamps, Clorox, soap, detergent, towels, gasoline and kerosene (keep your vehicle gassed up).

Be prepared to take back roads as the interstate system might be shut down.  Travel with a group if possible and keep a well-armed presence.  Have actual paper maps; don’t depend on the GPS system being up and running.  Beware of roadblocks.  


Level III Scenario

I guess I really don't know what to say about this type of scenario.  Lock and load.  Pretty much like a super level II scene.  Sort of like the movie "The Postman" without the happy parts.  Who knows?


Do not be dismayed by the prospect of societal collapse; take precautions but don't freak out; it won't do any good anyway.  If I were to guess about the potential for a societal collapse, I would say probably a mild level II scenario with more inconvenience than danger.  The foregoing text dealt with a more severe level II with the premise that is would be better to be over prepared than under, "better a year too early than a day too late", as the saying goes.  Which is good advice, don't wait until it is too late to start preparing, it may be too late by then to get many items.  Get the bulk foods first and secure drinking water now, then start in on the other items.  Gather together with family and friends to prepare; plan on congregating together if it gets hairy.

At times this paper takes on a Christian evangelical bent.  I don't apologize for that.  If you aren't right with God, you need to get right.  All you have to do is realize that you need God in your life and ask Jesus into your heart.  Matthew 7:7-8 says:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Self-sufficiency will give you a peace of mind regardless of the actuality of an emergency taking place.  You don't buy car insurance planning on getting into a wreck, but you buy it anyway for the peace of mind and the protection afforded in you do have an accident.  Use the same approach for “collapse insurance”.  You can probably do everything mentioned in this paper for the amount of money you spend on insurance in one year, and to a large extent, these are one time expenditures not re-occurring expenses.  Better safe than sorry.  But, put your trust in God.

This reminds me of a joke: A guy dies and goes to heaven and Saint Peter says:  "We have a point system to get into heaven, it takes a hundred points to get in the door, tell me about your life."  "Well", the guy says "I was a preacher for seventy years and led many hundreds of people to know Christ the Savior."  Saint Peter says "OK, that'll be 3 points."  The preacher says "I started a soup kitchen in my town and fed many homeless people every day with my own money."  "4 points" says the Saint.  By this time the preacher is getting a little nervous.  "Okay...I operated an orphanage in my home and kept dozens of children there for the last 40 years."  "Ummm, 3 points" says Saint Peter.  "Now wait a minute", explodes the preacher, "at this rate, the only way I'll get into heaven is by the Grace of God !"  "100 points!" says Peter throwing open the Pearly gates.

2 Timothy 4:7

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

to be concluded later this week, with some appendices.

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."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wakeup Call
 It was 2 o’clock in the morning when our two year old toddler woke me with a terrifying scream. She was just across the hallway, but I was disoriented for a moment and couldn’t figure out why I was blind.  As I realized the power was out, I looked for the battery-powered lantern I keep beside the bed only to find it missing.  The three year old had probably been playing with it again.  I felt my way around the house and hoped the lantern would still have power.  It clicked on and what a blessed sight that light was.  After a few minutes of rocking and lullabies, the baby was soundly sleeping, but I was wide awake.  I found the extra flash light and left it turned on in the older children’s room so they wouldn’t be scared if they woke in the pitch-dark.  I went to the deck and saw the entire subdivision blacked-out.  Across the fields and interstate the city was aglow, but our tiny part of the world was eerily quiet.  All the white noise of technology was gone and only the frogs and bugs by the irrigation ditch were chirping away.  I lay awake long into the night, on high alert for the sound of little ones crying, pondering the long list of things I did not have prepared. 

Prior to that night I had 72-hour kits, winter-weather packs for the cars, and some bulk foods on hand for rainy days.  I grew up in the country where we kept a flashlight by the back door to check animals in the middle of the night.  My mother was and still is a wonderful advocate of food storage and small animal self-reliance.  Our family enjoys watching shows like “Doomsday Preppers” and “Mega-Disasters.”   My lack of preparation wasn’t because I hadn’t heard the message, but rather the notion that there would be time later.  My goal in writing this article is to provide an outline for individuals new to the prepping world. The first item of discussion is disasters, but which disaster? The second item is creating the LIST, in other words, what stuff is needed to survive said disaster.  The third portion addresses how to keep it all organized once you start making lists.  And I’ll mention a few tips on organizing for the smallest of disasters, Category I’s or 72 Hour Evacuations. 

Item 1: Disaster, Which Disaster?
Survival and Emergency Preparation information is available in many places and it can take days and weeks to sort through.  Our church hosted an Emergency Preparedness Fair with workshops covering many topics such as Heirloom Seeds, Getting Water without Electricity, 72-Hour Packs, Planning, Canning, and Non-canning food storage.  Each participant received a binder entitled “Provident Living” for organizing information and setting goals for future needs.  I dusted that binder off and began reading with new eyes. 

There are as many disaster scenarios as there are “preppers”, so how the heck do you know what to plan for? (Check out “Different Prepping Approaches” by Marlene M. posted July 20, 2013 in the Survival Mindset Category, SurvivalBlog.com.)  Using one presenter’s advice1 to create lists for different scenarios, I summarized his information on disasters into four categories.  It just made sense to start with disasters of shortest duration and build up to The End of the World as We Know (TEOTWAWKI)-level disaster.

Table 1. What types of Disaster do I Plan for?


Category I

Category II

Category III
Provident Living

Category IV


Natural or Man-made requiring evacuation

Natural or Man-made

Rainy Days & Hard Times

Long-Term Calamity TEOTWAWKI


Forced out of home, no utilities or supplies except what you take with you

In home or have access to it, but there are no utilities

In home with possible utilities, insufficient funds to purchase supplies

May or may not be in your home, nothing available anywhere at any price


72 hours to 2 weeks

Short term- up to 2 months

A few weeks to  a year or more

Long Term- Unknown



  • Natural Disasters
  • Weather related
  • Chemical Spills
  • Wildfires
  • Terrorism

<-    All of these, plus

  • Riots
  • Civil Unrest
  • Disrupted Utilities

Economic Crisis:

  • Unemployment
  • Death
  • Medical Problems
  • Hospital Stay
  • Extended family needs

Widespread Catastrophes:

  • War
  • Drought
  • Devastating Storms
  • Terrorism, etc.

Special Emphasis

All essentials in a portable container
Small, compact, lightweight

Emergency Supplies
Emergency Skills

Pantry Principles: Practical

Long-term storage, self-reliance skills of mending, repairing, providing, bartering, medical care, etc.

Item 2: List, What List?
My vague wish list for long-term storage items was not enough.  I began to sort through what I had and figure out what would be needed for possible disasters.  I needed a master plan to get organized and felt that the Lord would guide me.  A Sunday lesson had taught how the Creation was a pattern for gaining self-reliance.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Following this example, I created a plan for my little “Homestead” taking into mind food storage, water, gardening, small livestock, and so on.  I made the following Table and listed some basic supplies for each section to give you an idea. For exhaustive lists search the “List of Lists” on Survivalblog.com. 
Table 2. Creation-Based Planning



Category I

Category II

Category III

Category IV


Time Frame

72 Hour Minimum*

3 Month Supply

1 Year Supply


Genesis 1:3-4

Light & Heat


- Oil/Kerosene
-More Matches
-More Candles

-Wood Stove
-Wood for heat
-Cooking Briquettes
-Propane for BBQ

-Log Splitter
-Rechargeable Batteries

Genesis 1:9-10


-72 hour supply
-Portable jugs

-2 week supply
-Purification method tablets, filters

-Private Well
-Hand Pump for Well
-Large Storage Tanks

-Portable Filter
-Knowledge of local water and geography

Genesis 1:12,29

Plant Based Foods

-fruit leather, raisins
-Fruit cups
-Peanut butter

- Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, fats & oils, nuts, seeds, sugars and peanut butter

-Seasonal Gardening
-Composting, Natural Pest Control
- Canning & dehydrating skills

-Heirloom Seeds & preserving skills
- Farming Tools

Genesis 1:21,25

Animal Based Foods

-Protein shakes
-Powdered Milk

- meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, honey bees (powdered items for back-up)

-Dairy Goat/Cow
- Other livestock
-Hunting Weapons & Ammo

-Fishing supplies
-More Animals
-Gun Smith tools
-More Ammo

Genesis 1:27

Human Necessities &

-Toiletry Kit
-First Aide Items
-Sturdy, warm clothing
-Sanitation Items

-All Toiletry Items
-Socks, Underwear
- Medical Supplies
-Cleaning Supplies

-Sewing Machine
-Extra Shoes/Boots
-More Toiletries

-Outhouse or other Sanitation solution
 -Travel Trailer
-Bartering Goods


Rest from your work and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being prepared.  Remember to honor the Sabbath day even in times of hardship.  Those in your company will be in need of Spiritual nourishment as much as physical nourishment.  Ex 31:17 “he rested, and was refreshed.”

Genesis 2:15

Put All into Practice

Set a time every year to rotate items

Store food that your family will eat, and rotate through it

Garden, Raise Livestock, and Live as if your life depended on it NOW

Learn Self-Reliance, Practice It and then spread the word in your community

*72 Hours is the minimum amount of time to plan for.  As recent natural disasters have shown, it may take longer for you to return home and have full use of utilities.

Item 3: How to Organize

So now you have all these areas of your life that need preparation and the list in your head is getting longer by the minute.  Ahhhh! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the details, but don’t stop now!  Take a deep breath and remember that you only have to start with ONE item this week, and next week you can do another, and so on.  Look at different lists until you find a style that resonates.  A simple spreadsheet design on SurvivalBlog.com is titled “List of Lists”.  They offer detailed lists from an expert on every necessary area.   

All you need is a 1 or 2 inch ring diameter binder and some dividers to start.  The binder system allows you to easily add information along the way.  Start with a section entitled Homestead which will include: Communications, Evacuation Plans, and Tools.  Continue to make a section for each set of items from Table 2: Light & Heat, Water, Plant Based Foods, Animal Based Foods, Human Necessities & Comforts, and Spiritual Needs.  Some additional sections may include Financial Preparations, Safety, Security, and Maps.  Again, the work has already been done in “List of Lists” referenced above and they are free to use.  I just put each list under the best-fitting section and make personal modifications as needed.

Item 4: Category I- Short Term Evacuation

So let’s get into the short term evacuation scenario.  You need to leave your home quickly with enough supplies to carry you through … fill in whatever type of disaster you wish. I started organizing for Category I with “72 hour kits”.  Other names for this type of kit are the B.O.B. “Bug-Out-Bag” or the G.O.O.D. “Get Out Of Dodge” bag. You may have seen the term I.N.C.H. bag as in “I’m Never Coming Home.”  As this last name implies, it would be a kit that is kept for Category IV scenarios with more emphasis on rebuilding tools and long-term survival away from home.  Some helpful hints for beginners: designate an area for these items, make water portable, have a backpack for each person, and post a list in a visible spot. 

72 Hour Emergency Station- Create one spot or “station2” where all things needed for the 72 hour level of emergency are kept together. We now have a closet in our laundry room that is designated for that purpose.  This ensures that any person at home could load the evacuation supplies and meet up at a Rally Point with other family members. To help young children prepare, practice drills where each family member is assigned certain items to carry for an evacuation.  Use a stopwatch and make it a game for them. 

- The general rule of emergency preparedness is 1 gallon of water per person or pet per day. There are 5 people in our family x 3 days= 15 gallons.  Because my small children can’t carry the weight of three gallons, I have 2 liters in each pack with the additional water in a combination of 5 gallon jugs and cases of bottled water.  Since this is the bare minimum, it’s also a good idea to have water purification methods in each of the kits. 

- There is one backpack or small rolling suitcase for each person and pet in the home.  These hold everything from important documents in waterproof covers, flashlights, food, clothes, and first aid kits to books and tiny toys for the kids.  This is where list making is needed.  After studying several suggested lists, compile an individualized list based on what type of disasters are common in your region and specific needs of the person such as extra prescription drugs, glasses, or diapers. 

Evacuation List- Make a printed list that hangs in the station listing evacuation items in order of importance.  You decide and make sure everyone else knows that the list is law.  Take time to think it through now so when the SHTF evacuation will go smoothly and safely.  Put the “Extras” at the bottom of the list.

Extras- “Extras” are the items that would be nice to have if there was time and space to take them, but not essential to your survival for three days.  It could be a duffle bag or other portable container.  Mine is a blue Rubbermaid tote that is easy to move, water proof, and doubles as a child’s bath or wash tub.  Inside the tote is an inventory of items so that all family members will quickly know what resources are on hand.  I also added a copy of driving directions and a map of alternate routes to our evacuation spot. 

Item 5: Line Upon Line

Following the example of organizing for Category I, continue to develop your plans for the next category, and then the next, and then the next.  It’s a situation where the principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept3” applies because after you have planned for and acquired supplies for 3 days, 2 weeks will seem do-able.  After you have two weeks’ worth of supplies, three months won’t seem like too big of a burden, and all of a sudden you will have a year’s worth of supplies and be living like a veteran “prepper.” 
The last section titled Put it all into Practice happens when “prepping” becomes a way of life.  “Line upon line” you will gain knowledge of self-reliance, including but not limited to: gathering resources, building a personal library, networking with people, gardening, raising livestock, physical fitness, self-defense, hands-on training, and tools of a trade. 

Gathering Resources-
The internet is a wonderful tool for gathering information on every topic imaginable.  SurvivalBlog.com, Mother Earth News and Honeyvillegrain.com are just a few of the sites I like to search. As I find a specific topic that I want to learn more about I send for free catalogues to look at supplies. My preparedness binder has a growing section of articles I’ve printed from professional and amateur blog sites. 

Personal Library
- When the grid goes down, having a collection of books on a wide range of topics will be invaluable.  I want the peace of mind knowing that I can refer to tried-and-true information in times of need.  Take the time to read reviews on books before purchasing them.  Many times I was saved from buying a book because the other readers pointed out it lacked the critical information I would need for real-life scenarios.  I also subscribe to GRIT that offers information on all kinds of homesteading topics.

Networking with People
- The talents and experience of neighbors, extended family, and community members is a wealth of knowledge that is only useful if we know where to go.  The Preparedness Fair at church gave me insight into the resources of our congregation.  We moved into a new subdivision and as we get to know the neighbors, I’ve found that one is a Jack-of-all trades that can build anything from houses to engines while another on is an avid bow hunter and camper.  Ask these people for advice and help when you come across new and unfamiliar prepping topics.  Being new to this blog, I find it exciting to know there are countless people out there with similar interests and a wealth of knowledge.
If you are a veteran prepper that has been doing this for years and can think of someone you know who hasn’t caught the fire to prep, maybe they don’t know where to start.  Don't give up; continue to be the great examples you are and someday it will reach someone like me.

- Grow what you can, even if it’s a few pots on the patio.  Learn about local soil, how to fertilize, controlling pests and climate restrictions.  Living in a dry area with short growing seasons means that my ability to preserve a large harvest is crucial.  Up here we plant mid-May and harvest by late September, so in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, I would be eating canned or dried produce 9-10 months of the year. 
Look to your local county extension office for help.  Each state has this program under their county government listing. They offer scientific based help for agriculture, livestock pastures, family and consumer sciences (cooking and preserving methods), and horticulture.  One example of courses offered by Yellowstone County helps develop horticulture skills in a Master Gardener Course. 

Raising Livestock
- Start small and build your herds and flocks with the same principle of “line upon line.”  I grew up in the rural 4-H setting, so I dabbled in everything from pigs to dairy goats to horses.  If you have children from ages 6-19, find a local 4-H club to join.  The kids get to enjoy the responsibility of caring for animals and parents have an automatic network of experienced project leaders that volunteer hundreds of hours to the program.  Their programs extend beyond animals to include a wide range of topics with everything from Aerospace and Astronomy to Wind Energy and Woodworking.  Check out page 16 of the Project Material Order Form4 for a full list of the 115 projects available.

Physical Fitness- After reading several articles5 I realized my kids will be depending on me to keep them safe, sheltered, and fed when SHTF.  I’m 35 pounds overweight and I feel stiff and tired many mornings.  That comes after a good eight hours of sleep in a very comfortable bed with plenty to eat and a hot shower each day.  Imagine being on the run, sleeping on the ground with limited calories and an immense load of stress.  This was another important area that I needed to start making changes in now, and not wait. So thanks to a great neighbor, I’ve started cardio and weight lifting, alternating days and resting on Sundays.  When I get tired, I envision having to put up a shelter in subzero temperatures or bug out with all our gear.  That’s what motivates me to push harder.

- I cannot add any personal experience in this area of preparation yet.  If you are like me, unfamiliar and intimidated by handling firearms, the best advice I can offer is to seek out opportunities to learn these skills.  This summer I will be attending a three day camp, just for women, that focuses on outdoor skills.  (An idea is already forming for my next article, Women and Firearms: 101).  This fall I want to take a two-part basic pistol class offered by a local shooting range. My goal is to increase my confidence through these experiences and become knowledgeable enough to purchase my own firearms. 

Hands-on Training
- So how do I become self-reliant?  If I wait to learn by trial-and-error, I may not last the first week or the first growing season.  Start by asking family members to share things they know about.  My father-in-law is a Vietnam Vet and was really helpful when I told him I had started “prepping.”  Search out camps and retreats that offer classes by experts.  I found affordable and local classes put on by the Wildlife, Fish and Parks Department in Montana.  They offer classes on things like packing horses in the mountains, GPS and Compass reading, Rifle, Archery, Outdoor cooking, and Wilderness Survival.  Locally the police department put on a free woman’s self-defense class.  Even if your funds are limited, be resourceful and find ways to learn the skills you want.  Organize classes through local churches or volunteer to be a 4-H project leader.

Tools of the Trade/Craft
- If the grid crashed today and there was no FedEx or Amazon.com would you have the tools and supplies needed to perform or produce something of value?  For example, my extended family raises dairy goats.  Each spring the children choose newborn kids for 4-H project animals and the extra milk is used by our families.  There are many valuable products besides milk such as cheeses, soaps, meats, hides and pack animals.  While these aspects of the goat herd aren’t being utilized right now, having the necessary equipment on hand such as molds, lye, presses, cheese cloth, Rennet tablets, etc. will be crucial for us to have a means of bartering goods and providing basics for survival. 

Just Do It
Just do it!  If you made it this far, I know you have been “awakened”! You are now aware that there are various types of disasters to plan for and that each can have a different list of supplies. Use a system to keep it all organized so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Remember to seek the council of the Lord.  Start with the smallest disaster and build steadily toward TEOTWAWKI. Make self-reliance a way of life and may God bless you in all worthy endeavors.


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.  

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 BulletProofme.com .  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.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dear Editor:
Lean Jimmy's bug out boat idea is good, but on most rivers of North America you'll have "pirates" set up at strategic points along the watercourses -- as in yesteryear -- and have a tough time getting by them. It'll only be a matter of time before they take control of those defined travel lanes and lighten the load of fleeing refugees. Slave trading might also come back into vogue.
How could you outfox them? Travel at night? Maybe. But if your craft was small, almost silent and light enough to carry or collapse into portable pieces, you'd obviously hold some advantages up your watery sleeve:

A Folboat (See a video of some being assembled and paddled.)

The native people of the continent were using stealthy deerskin folding craft in the late 1700s and often broke them down to hide their presence while scouting or traveling waterways. Commandos in WWII used the very same tactics and still do to this day. Why not follow in their wake?
A Greenland II tandem kayak from Folbot -- Made in the USA -- will take a large payload and two paddlers. Dr. Hannes Lindemann made an amazing voyage across the Atlantic in a tandem folding kayak in the 1950s so they can handle the big stuff, too. Long Haul is another USA based manufacturer while Feathercraft is based in Canada. For the money, though, Folbot tops my list and I've had their 2-man version (at the time it was called a Super Folbot) since the early 1980s. And it's still going strong!
Since I live on an inland river - as many North Americans do -- and that watercourse connects to others that run all the way across the country to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, I have several folding boats stashed away. Did I mention that they also make fine craft for weekend forays and extended holidays?
Get one now! Cheers, - Wayne W.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Every Prepper needs at least one serious bug out plan in his repertoire. Most of us will need a plan to get to our retreat when the SHTF. Even those of us fortunate enough to live in their retreat right now will have to be ready to bug out if circumstances demand. Things like a fallout cloud or a pandemic, or an invading army of zombies can’t be ignored. You may be forced to leave and you’d better know where you are going and how you are going to get there.

Your bug out plan starts with an assessment of the conditions you may be facing when the time comes to leave. If, as most of us, you live in an urban environment, you will likely be looking at a hopelessly clogged transportation grid. Let’s say you live in a large Midwestern metropolitan area. If the SHTF in a sudden, dramatic fashion, everyone in town will have the same idea you do; get out fast. The difference between you and the rest of them will be that, because you are a Prepper, you will have acquired the wherewithal to support your withdrawal. On the other hand, you have the same immediate problem that the masses have. How will you get through the panicked mob and reach the relative safety of open country?

If you live in the eastern half of the country, more than likely, there will be a large river near your home. That river will connect to other rivers and waterways that will open nearly 5,000 miles of liquid highway to those with the means to use it! Most people will never think of the water and will limit themselves to land travel. Without a plan or supplies they will be bogged down and faced with looting to survive within a day or two of their departure. In fact, within hours of the start of the exodus, many of these people in stalled cars will be involved in their first deadly confrontation with other people in the line who took to the road with an empty gas tank and now are seeking “volunteers” to resupply them. The Prepper with a boat, even a pretty small boat and good prior planning may slip nearly unnoticed from the area.

If, on the other hand, you reside in the western half of the country, waterways may be a little less obvious, unless you live along the beach. Even if you have an ocean view from your deck, I wouldn’t recommend bugging out in a boat unless it is very seaworthy and you are prepared to go a long way to safety. California offers a few places of refuge in the Channel Islands, but they are so easy to reach that even on a summer weekend it’s a mob scene out there. Oregon offers nothing but cold, rough water offshore with very few places to return to land safely. Only Washington State offers a wide variety of islands to hop among. The Inside Passage and Alaska beckon if you have enough long underwear to survive.

Still, many metropolitan areas in the west have captive rivers or canals bringing water to the thirsty city. Perhaps they offer a quick means of egress if you are prepared. Large reservoirs are not uncommon and, if they are close enough to get to quickly, may give you a clear shot at getting to the other side and some semblance of isolation.

The boat option assumes that you have someplace to go when you bug out. That someplace has to be fairly close and it has to be near a body of water accessible to you from your retreat or home. In my case, for example, the Cumberland River forms a large bight around my home. The river is less than two miles from me on three different sides. There are several boat ramps within 15 minutes of my yard. That makes for ready access to the water. As far as access to a bug out location, the Cumberland River is tied into a network of waterways that makes most of the eastern half of the U.S. within reach. In fact, I can ultimately reach the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico from a boat ramp within minutes of home. All that is necessary to tap into this vast network is a boat suited to my aspirations.

If you don’t need to travel far to your retreat location, you can make do with just about anything that floats. It just has to be big enough to carry you and your 72-hour bag. The family ski boat or even enough kayaks to go around will fill the bill. If your destination is more than one tank of fuel away, then you need to plan for resupply. A hidden cache placed in happier times will do as long as it is safe from high water and marauding critters, whether they be of the two-legged or four-legged variety. Keep a detailed map to each cache aboard your boat or in your bug out bag so you won’t forget where they are. The maps need to be detailed enough so that anyone in your party can find them in case something happens to you along the way.

Security during such a move is always problematic. In a boat you will face some unique issues. Stealth will probably be your best friend during the escape. Traveling at night will provide more security but navigation in the dark can be tricky. GPS may still be working but extreme caution is required to avoid floating obstacles, sand bars, and meandering channels that lead nowhere. If you must slip down the river through the center of town, fires burning ashore may provide some welcome light but don’t get so close that you illuminate your own position.

Armed and active defense during a waterborne bug out is a horse of a different color. The inherent rocking in a boat will render long range firearms and marksmanship largely irrelevant. Receiving fire from people ashore is unlikely unless you are very close to the bank. They won’t want to waste ammo shooting at something they can’t reach anyway. Boat to boat confrontations will be more likely. Ranges will be short and encounters brief, ending in one boat floating and one boat sinking or disabled. Go with shotguns and 00 Buck. Aim for the engine, the control station and/or the waterline.

On land, caltrops are used to disable a pursuing vehicle. On the water you can quickly improvise a workable substitute. Tie lengths of polypropylene line into a rough net with squares about a foot on a side. Make the net about ten feet wide by five or six feet long and tie a couple of floating weights (such as short blocks of wood or plastic jugs) to the ten foot ends. This will allow it to deploy effectively when you toss it. Store it in a bucket in the stern of your boat. When a pursuing boat gets close, you toss the net over the stern so he runs over it and fouls his prop. End of pursuit. A word of caution is in order. Water-ski ropes are made of polypropylene and would fill the bill just fine except they are usually bright yellow to make them easy to see so boaters won’t run over them. Find some green or brown line to make your net more difficult to avoid when you deploy it. Make sure it floats before you actually need it.

In addition to the normal items you carry in your 72-hour bag, there are some essential extras you will want to pack along in your boat. A good pair of binoculars tops the list in my opinion. Few tools are more useful for finding your way on the water. Match the binoculars with a good set of charts for the waterways you expect to travel and finding your way will be a lot less stressful. A cautionary note: check your charts carefully for locks along the river. These are abundant on eastern rivers and the Corps of Engineers will probably not be on hand to operate them for you. You may need to portage around them. This is where smaller is better as far as the size of your boat is concerned.

Health and safety items should include mosquito repellent and netting. These pests are rampant and dangerous on the water in the warmer months. A good anti-itch cream might be nice in case the repellent doesn’t give 100% protection. Life vests will be more important in a bug out than on a normal boating outing. The risk of winding up in the water with debilitating wounds is high. The vest may keep you afloat long enough to get out of immediate danger and regain your group.

If you plan to lay low during the daylight hours, don’t forget a camouflage system big enough to hide the boat. If your boat is too small to support the weight and bulk of a net system such as the military styles, fresh cut greenery gathered from the area you are hiding in and tied in place will do nicely. In any event, you need something to cover anything in the boat that is brightly colored or reflects light.

A method of holding you in place, even in a current, will be crucial. Carry an anchor big enough for the job attached to enough line to hold you. Your line should be at least seven times as long as the depth of water you are anchoring in. In addition, carry plenty of line long enough and strong enough to tie off to trees or other solid objects if you are lying along the shore.

If the trip is more than a few miles, foraging items such as trot lines, gill nets and crayfish traps should be included. Don’t bother with your good ol’ bass rod and reel since sport fishing is not going to be productive enough to meet your needs. This kind of situation calls for meat fishing techniques. Some simple snare materials for small game would also be a plus.

Finally, a small spare parts kit appropriate to the boat should be included. If the vessel is powered, a spare spark plug, fuel filter, and shear pins might be in order. Two-cycle engine oil shouldn’t be overlooked if needed for your engine. With human-powered craft such as kayaks or rowboats, an extra paddle or two for the group might save the day. Inflatables need a repair kit and an air pump.

Clearly, the floating option can be taken to a whole new level. There is a group of people known as cruisers who are basically accidental Preppers.  They have forsaken life ashore and moved onto a boat permanently. Generally, this boat is a 40-50 foot sailboat set up for the husband and wife to sail without additional crew. These people spend a lot of time and effort to make their floating homes self-sufficient with solar and/or wind power, fresh water makers, etc. They enjoy all the amenities of home while riding to an anchor in some secluded cove somewhere south of somewhere. Bugging out is simply a matter of raising the anchor and sailing to a safer location. Most of these people tend to stay in salt water but there are freshwater live-aboards, too.

If you would like to join this group of far-flung floaters and you aren’t already an experienced boater, start now. You have much to learn before you can confidently and competently pilot your chosen vessel safely. There are lots of ways to get into trouble on a boat even without the added complication of people trying to waylay you. Whole libraries have been written on the subject of living aboard. It is far too big a subject to tackle in this essay. If you want to check out this life, try www.cruisingworld.com/ or the book section of the West Marine web site for information. You should find plenty of links to satisfy your curiosity and help you make a decision. A cruising home may just be the ultimate retreat.

Bugging out exposes you to the most danger you will likely encounter. You will be at the mercy of the crowd until you can clear the populated areas. Consider the water option for your bug out plan. It won’t work for everybody, but it might just work for you. Slipping out of the city under cover of darkness as you watch the fires burn and hear the random firefights sounds a whole lot better than being stuck on a divided highway somewhere trying to fend off the slugs who took off without anything.

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 SurvivalBlog.com 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.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Editor’s Note: You have no doubt had your own set of issues dealing with friends and family members that simply don’t see the writing on the wall. The following article may serve to assist you in convincing those who simply don’t know, don’t want to know, don’t care, or have never even thought to contemplate. Some of the scenarios outlined below may be frightening, as they should be, because when it hits the fan millions of people will be thrown into desperation with no hope of a solution. Be Informed provides a variety of point-by-point details that may (and hopefully will) convince the non-prepared individual to at least insulate themselves with the basic necessities. The consequences for not doing so, as you’ll see, are severe and often deadly.

I have become personally so disenchanted with the way people fail to prepare. People still don’t understand how important it is to put away. I have gotten into arguments over this and had cretins call me a fool because I put away food, water, and supplies. I thought about this and the frustration that other preppers have with this laid back idiotic attitude that there is no need for preparation. There are good people that just can’t/won’t start preparing. They have the money to do so, but just don’t want to. Many have only seen what happens to non-preppers on television, but it still doesn’t make an impact.

In this article I detail some hard core realities to show just how awful it will be for those that don’t prep. Every one of these scenarios is something that has occurred to the non-prepper throughout history. While strong images come to mind, the purpose is to jar some people out of their inaction and into action before it is too late.

Preppers are good people and care much about those around them, and unless something does jar those around them that choose not to prep, their own survival chances could be reduced. For every bit of food, water, ammunition, or supplies you sacrifice to the non-prepper, the fewer irreplaceable supplies are left for you and your family in a crisis situation. It is hoped that the following can help certain people put into true perspective just how horrific it will be for those that don’t prepare.

Here are the awful consequences for those refusing to prepare.

As the world continues to decay at multiple facets, the common person has and continues to be lulled into a sense that everything is improving and will continue to for the distant future. After all, to them unemployment has peaked out and will drop until everyone that wants to work will easily be able to find good paying work, North Korea is no threat because all their long range “bottle rockets” fizz out, sanctions will eventually make Iran give up their nuclear program, oil prices will start going down after June or so, Europe will bail out Greece and Spain and everyone else, and U.S. debt will eventually come under control.

After 2012 everyone that has prepared themselves will go back to more “sensible” lives. “Good times are coming”, baseball season is here, let’s get back to watching some more crackerjack news.

It is amazing how people become good conversationalists with most others discussing all the gossip related news, while becoming mentally tranquilized into a totally deceptive state of denial of truly dangerous issues of the times. It’s the blind leading the blind… right off the cliff.

Rather than dealing with harsh reality, people surround themselves with easy to digest material that can be talked about without directly influencing anyone’s lives. Meaningless chatter. Even for those unwilling to even think to prepare for a societal catastrophic event, there is also no desire to even face the extreme possibility of a sudden loss of one’s employment. A personal SHTF.

Look at some of the terrible personal pain experienced in America right now – and it hasn’t even hit the fan on a grand scale. Those people who have lived it up on credit, who failed to put much of anything away for a rainy day, who’ve lost their job, and who eventually lost their unemployment benefits are experiencing the first level of collapse. This is happening to millions of people in our own country, all around us, as we speak.

These Americans, who once enjoyed the luxuries that modern living had to offer, are now at their wits end, with very little hope for a return to their previous lives. They are no longer able to pay most or any of their bills. Many have to humiliatingly turn to others for help to pay for food, or worse, to obtain old, unhealthy and poor tasting food from locally funded food banks. Their credit cards are totally worthless. Many have been evicted from their homes and have uprooted their families to live either on the street, in tent cities, with relatives, or have been forced to live at homeless shelters, They’ve have had their vehicles repossessed, or simply can’t afford the gasoline anymore. Their living conditions often make it difficult, if not impossible, to look presentable for job interviews. For many, the life of stability they knew just a short while ago is gone, replaced with fear and a constant stress to the point of nervous breakdown.

A personal economic meltdown is confined to the individual or family, or at worst a few families. The human civilization remains intact and so do society’s safety nets.

With food assistance, rental assistance, homeless shelters, and family to turn to, even the most destitute are almost always able to find some sort of help – however menial.

It is no wonder with these known assistance programs, then, that people have forgotten or never thought to consider what happens IF and WHEN human civilization goes through a strong enough SHTF event. If that happens on a mass scale what happens to everyone that needs help that has not prepared ahead of time? What happens when governments are in such total disarray or destroyed altogether that they can’t help even if they wanted to?

The media and others have portrayed the good people that sacrifice much if not all “luxuries” of life to prepare themselves and their family and friends for extreme times, as Chicken Littles. Those who have made the choice to store up emergency food, water, and other necessities to avoid extreme life threatening risks, including suffering horribly during and after a widespread SHTF event, are laughed at and ridiculed often for “wasting” their lives on delusional paranoia.

But who is delusional? Those who see the signs around them and understand how vulnerable the system is, or those who believe that things never change, that politicians have their best interests at heart, and that if the worst happens the government will be there to provide everything they may need?

How many have considered the dire consequences of their failure to prepare in the event that the infrastructure and everything a country’s people depend on totally collapses?

The misery from long term unemployment and lack of money is like a walk in the park compared to the severe anguish and dangerous conditions that await those who have failed to prepare for the aftermath of a large scale cataclysm. The “minor” problems of unemployment that seem extremely major and painful to most today should serve as a wake up call to what life will be like when something much, much worse happens – when those proverbial safety nets are no longer there to catch us.

Many preppers have become deeply frustrated at those around them, especially those that truly mean something to them, because they simply refuse to put away anything at all for emergencies. The prepper is usually a person that cares a lot and it is often difficult for them to take a tough stance towards the people that they care about. However, unless someone changes the habits of those people that fail to get ready, decisions will need to be made, and they won’t be easy.

The choice of what the prepared prepper should do will boil down to either either adding these people to their own circle or survival group and reduce the group’s safety, supplies and self sufficiency, OR, they will have to let the non-prepper fend for themselves. This is a very personal choice, and each of us will need to decide based on our own morals, ethics and personal relationships.

As a last ditch effort, discussing the following scenarios with the non-prepper may help them understand what life will be like without what has sustained them so comfortably for so long.

This is the hard reality the non prepper needs to understand:

  • Without power the water company cannot get water to their faucets. Without water dehydration occurs within 24 hours. Dehydration causes much suffering before death.
  • Toilets in homes, unless they have an incineration toilet that still need power to work, don’t flush without water. Where will they go to the bathroom and then where will they dispose of human waste?
  • There will be no clean water available anywhere, especially in major cities, and they cannot live more than about three days without it.
  • Drinking dirty and polluted water will make them incredibly sick and accelerate the dehydration process.
  • Polluted water must be purified and that means having a good filter, bleach or other disinfectant, or fuel and something to bring water near a boil.
  • Understand just how fragile the power and the infrastructure is that pumps water to the public. A breakdown in our power infrastructure or a cyber attack against utility systems will render them useless.
  • A single event can rapidly lead to a cascade of other events that would certainly collapse almost, if not, everything. This is why major snow storms, hurricanes or solar events in the past have affected millions of people in an entire region all at once.
  • A single, seemingly unimportant event may become quite terrible as its repercussions spread; this can include a far and away disaster.
  • Understand that the economies of the world are so interwoven that when one major economy falls it affects everyone.
  • Not having any food in the house means that if the stores are emptied suddenly in a bad enough situation that there will be no food available for a long period of time afterward. Recent history during disasters around the world has shown that stores can literally be emptied in minutes.
  • Think about how totally horrible the feeling of being very hungry is and what circumstances would cause one to be desperate enough to eat anything.
  • ALL stores can be closed instantly under martial law.
  • Understand that you may not be able to purchase anything after it starts, especially with any credit cards.
  • Understand the complexity of food and water distribution; breaks in these chains can stop anything from getting to the people.
  • What life will be like if no toilet paper is stored?
  • Understand that without modern light sources--interior, exterior, and street lighting. Some nights will be pitch black, often with zero visibility. [JWR Adds: Driving conditions will be a lot like England during the WWII Blackout. There, traffic fatalities were higher in some months that than the bombing fatalities.]
  • There will be no communications, other than probably martial law type of instructions over the radio, that is if they have batteries for the radio.
  • Other than ham and shortwave radio, any information that is available will be sent out by the government as filtered propaganda that “they” want everyone to hear.
  • Without power consider what it will be like to not have any heat to stay warm, or air conditioned air to stay cooler – with no way of alleviating the situation.
  • Traveling will likely be by foot or bicycle, as their will be no fuel and roadways may be blocked.
  • Realize that any travel outside of the home or neighborhood will be extremely dangerous as anyone who moves becomes a target
  • Non preppers will be pushed way beyond their limit because of lack of supplies.
  • The non prepper must realize their government does not really care about them individually, that they are a mere number and help will likely not come from them.
  • They have to figure out somewhere to get food. This can mean wild plants which they must know how to identify as safe, or risk poisoning themselves.
  • They have to understand that when we refer to “having no food” it doesn’t mean not having the food they are used to enjoying, it means no food to eat at all.
  • They have to understand that if they are fortunate enough to have any running water, they will probably have to bathe in cold water for lack of stored fuel to heat water.
  • They have to realize that the very strange and totally unexpected is going to be all around them, made that much worse because of lack of any reliable self defense stores or skills.
  • They might have to remain on the run constantly because of looking for water and food.
  • They must understand that bad will be magnified magnitudes to living misery because of lack of food, water, and other necessary items that they took for granted for so long.

Okay, now comes the “truly ugly and unthinkable” life that most, if not all, people that have failed and refused to prepare themselves will deal with. Clear vivid visualization is key here for anyone that ho hums the idea of prepping.

What horrors they will likely face after a cave-in of their nation’s economy, war, geophysical upheaval, or whatever crisis is bad enough to disturb or stop their nation from working and functioning? There are plenty of very potential SHTF events that are simply awaiting a catalyst to trigger them.

  • The Non-Prepper (NP) has to realize right off the bat that 911 and other emergency calls in will be met with silence or some recording telling the caller not to panic.
  • The NP that has no reliable self defense that can stop an attacker, will not get help from public services, and will become a victim of rape, assault, torture, or murder.
  • The NP that has no reliable self defense and will not only be at the mercy of criminal elements, but also have to contend with many desperate animals, some with rabies.
  • The NP that has no food will either have to find food or be ready to beg for food or worse, like sacrificing their bodies or other horrible acts or things to get a bite of food.
  • The NP will have to go through the worst, most rancid conditions of garbage to just maybe find what they should have stored up.
  • The NP will go through panic and near if not total psychosis looking for any water source right before their bodies begin shutting down during advanced stages of dehydration.
  • The NP will go through unbearable mental trauma when their children and other people around them are crying, screaming, and suffering with intense hunger pains in their stomachs.
  • The NP will have to deal with the awful stench of rotting wastes from many sources because they have not taken the effort to even store up waste disposal plastic bags.
  • The NP will have disease and pathogens everywhere, not only because they have no trash disposal means, but because they haven’t prepared how to deal with trash and waste.
  • The NP will have to live in very primitive conditions after things around them deteriorate rapidly, because they have neglected putting away anything to make life more bearable.
  • The NP and those around them will likely develop all sorts of infective skin rashes from the lack of insight of storing up toilet paper. Imagine the smell for a moment.
  • The NP will have to handle biting insects and other vermin that will collect amongst the filth that will pile up. No pest control stored up along with no other supplies.
  • The NP will have no way of treating sickness certain to follow a SHTF event, no first aid and likely no training or knowledge about how to treat the ill on top of this.
  • The NP will have sick and dying people around them because of not being able to treat minor injuries. Didn’t even stock up on disinfectants. Unsanitary conditions lead to infection.
  • The NP and others around them will experience much grief as they watch helplessly as their family members literally die of starvation right in front of their eyes.
  • The NP won’t believe how desperate hunger drives them and those that mean everything to them to “trying” to eat food that taste so bad it gags them and comes back up.
  • The NP will likely have family and friends around them that have also not prepared committing suicide because they can’t take it any longer.
    The NP will witness some of those people around them lose any sense of civilized humanity in them and behave like wild animals after some time from lack of necessities.
  • The NP and family members, maybe friends also, will at some point end up barbecuing or eating raw the family dog, cat, bird, any pet dear to everyone for food.
  • The NP will likely get into physical fights with other family members over any scrap of food available as rational thoughts are lost to wanton hunger.
  • The NPs will eventually go out of any safety of their home looking for food and or water, become disorientated and lost, and die a hard death somewhere.
  • The NP that is “lucky” enough to find some government help will likely have to almost sell their soul, probably all their freedom, to get tiny rations – just enough to keep them alive.
  • The NP will see widespread violence and barbarism that will shock them to the core and will wish that they had purchased some form of firearm and stocked up on ammunition.
  • The NP had better get used to attempting to explain the children and other adults why they wasted all that money on gadgets and trinkets, and didn’t buy any emergency food and other supplies.
  • The NP, no matter how positive they are will drop quickly into depression and lose willpower as having nothing to hold on to does this, along with lack of any nutrition.
  • The NP will feel the worst guilt imaginable as they hear their family moaning in anguish from lack of anything to eat, knowing they could have done something to prepare.
  • The NP will most likely not see the rebuilding and recovery after A SHTF event. They will, like almost all NPs, be statistics. Some will die hours or a day before help arrives.
  • The NP from lack of food, drinking bad water, no light at night, the horrid smells, no good self defense, the overall horror, will often be paralyzed with fear and despair, blank stare.
  • The NP is totally helpless after SHTF, will have to rely totally on charity of those prepared to live. They will take all sorts of desperate measures likely to get them shot. They’ll attempt to eat hazardous foods like an animal trapped in a house will do, and get sick and suffer much before dying. The NP will likely die (ugly and hard) as they lived, unprepared for anything.

If we were to use one single word to describe the torments that someone who “chooses” not to prepare will go through after a true you know what hits the fan it would be “PREVENTABLE”.

Almost every single person, even a very poor person, has the capacity to put away emergency food and supplies. Even homeless people have stashes of something just in case things become so bad that the normal hand outs and thrown-away items dry up. Many people with good sources of income don’t even have an extra can of food or any water put away at all. This is stupidity beyond words.

Every day lightweight disasters happen in all parts of the world that disturb services enough that people are confined to their homes for a certain amount of time. While recovery is short, people are still uncomfortable during these times. Look what happens after a power outage at night and you will be mystified at how many homes are completely dark for hours. People have not even bought an extra couple of candles or any battery operated light sources. Even in well-to-do neighborhoods you may hear only a lone generator going after a blackout. This lack of preparedness is truly frightening and plays itself out again, again, and again every time services are disrupted for minor to major reasons. It’s as if there is something wrong with storing extra food, water, and supplies.

Even after “lessons” played out to what happens to those non-prepared, most people still feel that it just cannot happen to them, or won’t ever happen to them again. It should be proof enough to people what happens to those unprepared after disasters simply by looking at those that have gone through it firsthand. The difference, though, comes in that these disasters have had recovery periods and help from others. Even Haiti received some help and conditions remain putrid over there.

After a true SHTF event, it is presumable that government help and others coming to the aid of those in need WON’T happen for long periods of time. During that time those that have chosen to not put food, water, and necessities away are going to be in life threatening positions. Most people just don’t get that when the supermarket shelves are empty they will stay that way for an extended period. When the utilities go down, especially water, it may be weeks, months, or longer before they come back, if ever. Without what someone needs to survive each day, it is not going to magically appear, and depending on the goodwill of others to feed them and sacrifice their own family’s survival chances is a terrible choice.

People must know what life will be like after SHTF in mega fashion if they refuse to prepare. This is NOT new. Terrible events have plunged people into the deepest levels of desperation and hopelessness, and they will happen again and again.

While the above consequences to the non-prepper are extremely abysmal for anyone to read, the simple fact of the matter is they have already happened time and time again to those that have nothing put away. People have resorted to cannibalism and gone to levels of primitive savage behavior out of shear desperation and out of literally losing their minds to the physical depletion of food and water that keeps the physical body operating. Sometimes showing the extreme severity and results of a person’s lack of action, such as failure of the simple act of putting away extra food, water, and supplies, can be the kick in the complacency that they need.

It’s really easy to put away food and supplies. All one has to do is add a little bit of extra food to the grocery cart for long-term storage. Over time this adds up to a well stocked pantry of supplies.

There is something that is in a can of food that everyone can eat and enjoy the taste of, so talk to family members about their nutritional preferences and start stocking up. Toilet paper and other supplies that really don’t have any expiration date can be put away and forgotten about ’til needed.

There must be common sense and intelligence to see what happens IF they don’t stock up for the future. There has to be the desire to get started, and this is the real problem with so many.

Once started, however, prepping becomes a type of life saving routine or positive lifestyle habit. It is easy and can and will save one from misery. It may save their life and the lives of their family from ruin when SHTF, which is almost inevitably going to happen someday. Every month and year that goes by without a true SHTF event, makes it more likely that it will happen. Basic statistical chance shows this to be the case, but people continue the same pattern of behavior that has led them to the same devastation countless time before.

For those preppers that have people around them that refuse to prepare, you can at least have some degree of solace knowing that you tried to show the non-prepping person(s) what not having anything will mean to them and their families.

All we can do is try. Once we’ve given it our best shot, all we can do is let those who have been warned about the direness of the possibilities live their lives the way that want to. They will, unfortunately, live in a world of regret and suffering if the nation and the world falls apart around them.

To every action there is an opposite equal reaction. Preppers will see their efforts have been more than worth it. Objects that are motionless tend to remain motionless and non-preppers will find there are horrific consequences for their lack of effort and motion to put away “life insurance” preps for themselves and their families.

Note: Reposted, with permission. This article first appeared in the SHTFPlan blog.

Dear JWR;
There is nothing like a real emergency to get you checked out in a quick way for your evacuation plan. During the Black Forest Fire, which began on June 11, 2013, at least 511 homeowners completely lost their homes, many more were damaged and are uninhabitable, two people and countless animals perished in the fire. Our family and business were in the direct path of the fire, but a major wind shift the first night, along with hard-working first responders saved us.

Sitting at the office ready for our afternoon of work, a friend walked in and sid, "did you see the fire?" Expecting a wispy white trail of smoke when I peered out the window, I was immediately floored when what I saw was a GIANT plume of black smoke heading our way.

LESSON ONE - Take Action. My husband and I took 30 seconds to put the "Office Closed, Fire Drill" sign on the front door and we were outta there and home in four minutes. We did not debate, question, ponder, look, examine; we went directly home. I know some who dawdled to watch and photograph, but then had only minutes to "grab and go."

At home, we sat down with our two children, who were wondering what we were doing home so early. We calmly told them - which took ALL KINDS of self control, that there was a fire, and we were going to pack up and be ready to go if we had to.

LESSON TWO - Keep the kids busy and involved. The more we gave them to do, the better they felt. Our children are old enough to help, 11 and 16, and were very calm, as we stayed calm. I have to give kudos to both of them, they did not panic and were very focused on the tasks at hand. On a side note, my 16 year old is completely disabled. His task was to monitor the news and let us know when "breaking news" came over the Internet. Thank goodness for the battery-powered radio, which kept him involved and important while we packed, even when the power failed.

LESSON THREE - Ammo is heavy. Unlike so many families in this firestorm, we had time to load the trailer. Clothes, papers, medicines, dogs easy in 10 minutes or less, ammo was a bit more difficult. Thankfully, friends materialized out of nowhere to help!

LESSON FOUR - Keep the keys on a lanyard or string or belt or rope or chain on your body. We only had to hunt for lost keys twice. One friend loaded up her van, couldn't find the keys and had to leave the loaded van there. It is easy to set them down when you are busy going to and fro from house to car to house to car and so on. The memory stick around my neck was a comfort, unfortunately, brain doesn't kick in so well in an emergency so I never thought to tie the keys to the lanyard I was already wearing.

LESSON FIVE - Power and water are going to be shut off. After years of reading this blog, books, emergency handbooks etc., you think I would have figured this out. Well the fire commenced at 1:30, we were home by 2 p.m., and the power and water and gas were off by 3:30. Thankfully, water stored, battery radio prepared and additional lighting was no problem, but I did feel a bit stupid wondering why the sink faucet wouldn't work.

Because of the smoke and proximity of the fire, we voluntarily evacuated the children late Tuesday night. Thanks grandma for the couch. My husband came back and spent most of the night at the property. And we were able return, early Wednesday morning. We had no utilities, but our preparedness habits made our home quite comfortable during this emergency. Our home remained on "Pre-Evacuation" status for two and a half weeks. That meant living out of suitcases in our living room, which was a miniscule problem compared with what was going on just a couple of blocks north of us.

Now the rebuilding is taking place. Friends are sifting the ruble of their home sites looking for hidden treasures. So much was lost, but community and family abound. The Southern Baptist have their disaster relief semi trailer parked a block from our home and are offering assistance. When I asked how long they would be here, they said "Until we are done." Great people. I also know Samaritan's Purse is here with disaster teams, and the Red Cross and many other agencies. By the way, I never thought I would be the one offered a ham sandwich from the Red Cross. It is weird to be on the "receiving end" of the emergency. Gratefully, I declined and offered the food to a friend who had to evacuate, lost power and all of the contents of his freezer.

There are many more lessons to learn from a fire drill like this, and some stories to tell. Some were learned by others, some by us: For example: Paper maps to handle all of closed roads, grab the cell phone chargers, leave the stuff. We learned that goats like to ride in the back seat of Hummers too. Spray paint your phone number in large numbers on your horses if you have to let them out and close the gates so they do not return to their stalls and many more. Hopefully this can help others, and I look forward to continue reading this blog to learn more for myself and my family.

- Colorado Boots. Black Forest, Colorado

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).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I will be writing a series of articles for SurvivalBlog that focus on prepping aspects, but with a military mindset. I will say first and foremost that I am not the definitive expert on these subjects, though I do have a wealth of experience that I would like to share. First, I am an Infantryman by trade. I have served in Iraq during the surge and also Afghanistan. I have been a Rifle Team Leader and Squad Leader in combat. . Additionally, I spent 3 years as the opposing force applying guerilla tactics against units who were deploying overseas to combat. I have seen when good doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) work perfectly and also when they have not. One of the defining characteristics of war is chaos. TTPs are the counterweight to this chaos. From the moment combat begins, plans often become obsolete, communications fail, Soldiers become casualties, and units fragment. The result can be devastating. I have served in Light Infantry and Airborne Infantry Units. So my views and opinions will be with that mentality. There are other types of Infantry Units that choose to skin the cat differently. It doesn’t make them wrong just a different flavor of soda.

The first topic I will write about is some factors to plan for when bugging out. From reading these and other forums a lot of people seem to have the same plan to one degree or another; through on a bug out bag and start walking. Sadly, most of those people will find themselves dead. So I will discuss several military doctrines and TTPs that will aid them in this endeavor. Any bug out must be planned out thoroughly and elaborately, this doesn’t mean that your plan must be elaborate, but that you must cover all the angles. There are six planning or assessment factors that can save your life. In the Infantry world everything we do is based on the acronym METT-TC and without knowing it all of us use this tool hundreds of times a day, just not in this deliberate thought process. METT-TC stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, and Civilians. Some or all of these play key factors in operations and planning. You must begin to think of your bug out as an operation, not just a stroll from one place to another. I will elaborate and explain each factor:

Mission, this is what I am planning or currently doing or my desired end state.  This will dictate a large majority of your initial actions based off of what your mission is. It is critical that all members of your party understand the mission to the lowest level and also what each member’s piece of the mission is. The reason for this is should something happen to a member of your party someone else will have to fill in on that role and they must know what that role is. A term we use in the military is two down, one up. This means I will know the job one echelon above me and two below me. It is also a good idea to know the job to the left and right of you. This mean that when you look to the left and right of you, you should know the job of the person you see and that they should know the same. As stated above, my mission will dictate most of my principle actions if I am bugging out. For instance, if I am bugging out it is implied that I want to try to remain hidden until I can get out of built up or urban areas as much as possible. For example, its hit the fan and I need to get to from point A (an unsafe location) to point (my bug in location or link up point with family or friends). So if I come across a group of people I will shy away from them and try to stay out of eyesight, smell, and hearing distance of them.

Enemy, this should be considered everyone that you come across. In a bug out situation there are the haves and the have not’s. You have and should consider that they do not and want what you have. The general rule of thumb is that for every one enemy I encounter, I want to have three friendly personnel. So if I come across two people I would want to have five other people with me. This will give me the odds that I want so that it will deter them from trying anything and if it should become hostile I can either disarm them or have enough fire power that I can put on them so that they cannot shoot back at me without being killed. This ratio of 3:1 can change based off several factors. Such as: weapon systems, improvements made to their fighting position and finally, the training and expertise of both your group and theirs.

Terrain is one of the most important factors, so much so that it gets it own acronym of factors that you should plan according to. That acronym is OAKOC. This stands for obstacles, avenues of approach, key and decisive terrain, observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment.

  • Obstacles- These will limit your mobility with regards to your mission. These obstacles can be natural or main made.  These may include ravines, gaps, or ditches over 3-meters wide; tree stumps and large rocks over 18-inches high; forests with trees 8 inches or greater in diameter and with less than 4 meters between trees; and manmade obstacles such as towns or cities.
  • Avenues of approach- An avenue of approach is a route leading to an objective or key terrain. Put plainly, it’s a path that might lead people to you or you to people. You should also consider how large of a group can travel on these and also if it is accessible to vehicles. These may also be lines of drift which are paths that are natural or formed by animals. These should be avoided because if you were to come across someone if would most likely be on one of these.
  • Key and decisive terrain- Are terrain that affords a marked advantage to the combatant who seizes, retains, or controls it. Simply put it is terrain that I can use to ones advantage such as a hill top to look at others below them, or it can even be a bridge that I can use to control who gets to cross a river. Or if they should want to use it to attack them as others cross. They will be channelized on the bridge and limited in the space that they can maneuver. The bridge then becomes key terrain because it gives them an advantage over their opposition.
  • Observation and fields of fire- You should analyze areas surrounding key terrain, objectives, avenues of approach, and obstacles to determine if they provide clear observation and fields of fire for both friendly and enemy forces. This means that I should be concerned with being able to see the other people from my key terrain, avenues of approach and more specifically not only that I can see them but can I shoot at them from that location if need be.
  • Cover and Concealment- Cover is protection from being shot at, this can be sand bags or trees over 8” in diameter. Concrete blocks such as ones used in building can be used but only if they are filled with cement. A standard concrete block will do little to nothing to stop a bullet. Concealment is protection from observation but not from bullets.  Such as foliage, camouflage patterns, terrain. Cover can be concealment but concealment cannot be cover.

Troops are the next planning or assessment factor. This is solely concerned with the troops that you have with you and questions like: What kind of training for they have? How physically fit are they? How confident are you in their ability to complete a task? And do you even have enough of them to complete your task? This is all about knowing your men or women in your group and being able to honestly consider their capabilities. Just going to a range and shooting at a target 25 meters away does not mean that they will be able to shoot, move and communicate or that they have the proficiency to defend against hungry and crazed people who want to take what you have.

Time is the amount of time you have to accomplish your task, in bugging out this may be one of the most critical factors. Have you bugged out in time? Also it is used in planning considerations such as how long it will take you to bug out to your location. How much food and water should you bring? What time of the day will you travel? Night time travel will greatly slow down the time it takes for you to negotiate more difficult terrain.

 Civilians will be a harder factor to assess for, this because there will be so many. Especially, in an urban environment. Needless to say since there could possibly be so many of them it would be in your best interest to stay away from them and consider them hostile until you can determine otherwise.

This was just a brief overview of one aspect to military planning. It only brushes the surface but I hope that it will give you a different perspective to your bugging out plans.  You must be methodical and calculated in your plans. Know where to assume some risk and where to control it.

Part 2 of this article will be on principles to use when planning your actual bug out movement. After that I plan to discuss more tactically-based topics that I have learned from combat and training.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just a note on the penetrating power of the 5.56 NATO M855 ball round on various materials.  Much ink has been wasted noting the presence of a steel or tungsten “penetrator” being manufactured inside the M855 round. It weighs about 3 grains.  It is insignificant so far as getting the bullet inside a car unless you open the door first.  True, any load in the 5.56 will make impressive wounds or even penetrate 1/4” or even 3/8” mild steel plate...as long as there absolutely nothing in the way before it arrives on target.  Put a 1/8th inch tick sheet of aluminum a foot in front of it, and witness a stunning reduction in it’s effect on the steel behind.  Two sheets of 1/8” steel plate, with a foot of air between them will stop the 5.56 cold.  Any load.

In my experience on several junked cars, an ordinary car door will, more often than not, stop the 5.56 before it can enter the passenger compartment and cause anything like a serious wound. Inserting a piece of 3/4” plywood inside the door of a 1988 Buick Station Wagon, I was unable to get any penetrations in the 5.56 caliber, regardless of the weight of the bullet.  But note that I did not try the newer bonded LE loads, nor the ammunition using the Barnes solid copper bullets. These show better performance on auto bodies.  The largest shred of bullet that even stuck to the outer veneer layer looked like a piece of glitter.  Contrast this to routine through and through holes in the plywood made by garden variety 9mm, .40, and .45 pistol ammunition.  

Occasionally, a bullet would hit window control hardware, or lock work, and fail to make it through, the most did. The 5.56 launches a very tiny, low mass bullet at high velocity.  When it encounters any sort of layered barrier, it self destructs, yielding all of it’s energy upon whatever that material is. Heavier, sturdier .30 caliber rifle bullets represent a very serious threat to occupants of a motor vehicle, and require expensive countermeasures.  But don’t be fooled by the impressive holes in homogenous steel plate, thinking the 5.56 will replicate this performance on a steel auto body or door.  If you must use an AR system on a vehicle, then consider the far superior .300 AAC Blackout cartridge, launching serious high-mass .30 caliber bullets. Avoid the light weight varmint-type bullets...the 147s and 125 Sierra’s shine in this arena. - Paul S.

JWR Replies: For far more reliable penetration of car doors, .308, .30-06, and 7.62x54r will rule the day. Black tip armor piercing (AP) bullets are best, but plain old FMJ ("ball") penetrates admirably. Yes, a .50 BMG rifle would be better, but a .308 is far more portable and versatile.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Let me first say thank you to all who have contributed to this blog for your columns and all your wisdom.  Without this site, my experience during the recent tornado would have been much different!

For some background info, I have only been prepping for about a year. I have been an Emergency Medicine physician for over 10 years.  I treated patients of the May 3, 1999 Moore, Oklahoma tornado during my training years and I was involved in door to door search and rescue for the recent May 20, 2013 tornado. While my house was not hit, it did strike about half a mile from us and we did lose power for about 20 hours. 

My goal for this article is to inspire those who have not prepared, to begin to do so.  To help take what we learn on this site and apply it to tornado disasters.  Lastly, to recognize the problems or holes this disaster caused in my plan and how to correct them thereby help others avoid the same pitfalls. 

Many previous articles have talked about reluctant spouses or family members who do not think preparation is important.  While we can debate the likelihood of certain disasters and calamities ahead, having a disaster plan for your family is the first step.  Part of the plan should be getting the family involved. This is where leadership comes in. It might be hard to convince my wife an EMP attack is eminent and we need a large Faraday cage, but it is not hard to convince her a tornado in Oklahoma will happen.  Basic prepping is a good idea regardless of the situation it will be used in.  

If you are new to this site, water, food, shelter, and protection are the basics. Almost immediately after the tornado went through, there was some concern about the local water supply. One issue was contamination, and the other was pump failure at the treatment plant. Having several cases on hand was such a comfort.  Same goes with food.  I was ready. Shelter may be destroyed, have alternate plans.  Maybe having a stash at another location would be wise with friends, family or a storage locker.  A lot has been said on protection.  We will not directly address that.  

During tornado season, we determined primary and secondary meeting points should our house be hit.  The first one was about a mile away and the second was about two.  This was to insure that if the house was hit and cars were damaged, walking would be a very easy option.  I would also recommend to consider problems with the rally point.  For a flood  it is obvious to choose higher ground, but what about a tornado?  One consideration for me was to choose a point north and west of my house.  Tornados in this part of the country tend to come west to east or SW to NE. This is to avoid both your house and rally point both being taken out.  RP #1 is northwest, and RP #2 is almost directly north.  Learn your region and apply it to your situation. 

My wife and I also carry walkie-talkies and cell phones during storms when we are apart.  As expected, cell phone use was not available for many hours after the disaster.  Text messaging seemed to works some, but it did not at ground zero.  Our wifi worked at the house so out of town family and friends could still text/email/social network us. The secondary plan was not carried out due to us all being ok, however it would have been nice to have while away. 

Because we had days notice that storms would pop up, I went and took the kids out of school early as soon as the radar began to light up.  Not as early as my wife wanted me to, but I will listen to her next time!  This delay meant I was away from the storm shelter when the storm hit.  Trying to avoid a tornado in a car is extremely dangerous!!  Trying to figure out exactly where the tornado will go is impossible.  Many in Oklahoma do this now, and I do not blame them one bit when the television tells us to get underground for this storm.  If you do not have a shelter, what other options do you have? This can and has worked for many, but being in a car when the tornado hits is almost certain death.  The cars we saw had every window broken, and one car had a 2x4 impaled directly into the passenger seat.  If you do decide to leave, do it early!

What worked for me was the kids monitored the texts from mother while I drove.  We also listened to local radio stations broadcast the wall to wall television feed to help pinpoint the danger areas.  The fact that I had a full tank of gas, and on an interstate, I just drove east.  If I had to go all the way to Arkansas, I could have done so to avoid the storm.  This worked well until the traffic stopped (This was a major problem in the May 31st storms!).  Bumper to bumper.  I was not going to be a sheep and just sit in line and risk injury to myself and kids.  I remembered a previous SurvivalBlog post about how to escape a mall shooting by looking official and going through the back hallways.  I pulled off on the shoulder and took the next exit heading more north and west.  Having a 4x4 truck, I considered going off road, but with several days of recent heavy rains, I did not want risk it if I did not have too.  I finally headed more west and found out the storm was past our house.  Now the challenge was getting home.  In a large long track tornado like this one, crossing the path is impossible even on interstates.  This was true for both north south highways in the Oklahoma City area.  Because I was familiar with many back roads, I was able to get home very easy and avoided all the sheep on the main highways.   

In the hours/days after, the interstates were reopened, but sometimes backed up 6 miles or more.  

After a few hours of door to door searches, I was back home and glad to have the generator going,  but now my house was a beacon of light among the dark houses.  I was able to turn off most of the lights, draw the blinds, and try to be just a regular house.  The one thing I could not cover was the noise of the generator. I was fortunate to have about three or four other neighbors close with the same hum or growl, and I hoped since my lights were off, I would blend in.  Be sure to check other things outside to turn off that are not needed.  I did walk around the house and remembered the fountain was running and shut that off.  

I could go on and on about the heroic efforts of Fire, EMS, Police, and medical responders.  They all did an excellent job!  Command posts were set up, ambulances were abundant, destroyed hospitals still set up triage areas, heavy equipment brought in, crowd control, all functioned well.  

Also excellent response was also done by churches, and even local retail stores.  One local big store even opened its doors and gave away whatever people needed that night! By the next AM, supplies were brought in by numerous individuals.  Some brought cash, some drove from other states just to donate a case or two of water! Others brought commercial grills and provided hamburgers free to anyone at a  local church!  Another local community brought two school buses packed full of supplies from water, to diapers, to work gloves to canned foods.  I was also impressed that local grocery stores had palate after palate of water, batteries and food moved up to the front of the store ready to go.  Did you notice all the references to God and prayer in the television interviews?  Not just words, but faith with action!

We did have a few looters in the days after, but I was glad to see a large police presence.  I did see one military person during my door to door searches who was openly carrying on his property.  I was also glad to see the police not even question him about it.  I asked one cop if he would have said anything if he had an AR slung over his back.  He said, "No.  His property, he can do whatever he wants."  When rumors swirled about forcing people out of slightly damaged portions of the neighborhoods, the police were knowledgeable and said they could not force people out unless martial law was enforced.  Most police said they would not force them out.  Many tornado survivors decided to put up tents and stay the night on their property to protect it.  Not sure what I would have done, but the smell of natural gas was significant and I am not sure how safe it was.  


As Rahm Emanuel once said, "Never let a crisis go to waste. " I know Mr. Emanuel meant this to push for more government, but I see this as a chance to learn and fine tune my plans. I was very thankful for the supplies I had, but discovered some problems.  

My water was adequate, but my backup plan of using the pool water was somewhat viable if I had to boil the water, but due to the large amount of debris thrown by the tornado into the pool, this would require a large scale filter of the water before even boiling.  Next step for me is going to be a water filter.  Grade of B- for water.  Food was not an issue. Grade A

Travel was A-.  I did well with getting the kids out early, not coming home, adjusting the plan on the fly, and having secondary routes planned out by local knowledge but this could have easily become a C or worse if I had waited longer, or been stuck in traffic.  I can not emphasize enough how travel is disrupted during these long track tornados. As stated in the previous article, both north/south interstates were blocked for hours.  Consider driving 10-20 miles parallel to the track and than consider crossing.  The length of this tornado caused 12 miles of blocked N/S roads!

Communication is a C.  Primary route of cell phone/text failed (somewhat expected) and the backup plan was not initiated.  My wife knew where I was, but wondered when I would be back.  CB radios may be added and carried.

House is a B+.  Generator worked flawlessly, but hiding the noise is a problem I do not know how to solve.

Community response. A+. This plan worked well for this disaster, but not sure how generous everyone will be when no one has water or food.  I do see the church as a great asset should Schumer happen, but I realize this is not likely to last long term either. 

Just a few other points.  I do know FEMA was there the next day, but they were already dwarfed by the community and other volunteers who can immediately step up and help.  The last thing is related to storm shelters.  If you live in tornado alley, you should have one or know someone who will let you in theirs.  Also each town has shelter registries, but I never saw one and it was not utilized.  When going door to door, we relied on neighbors knowing about shelters, where they were and if the homeowners were home or had fled.  I will add a hammer to my shelter so I can make some noise for the boots on the ground folks to hear me.  One of my LEO friends had a good idea to paint a tornado symbol or write "storm shelter" on the curb by the house number to help us look for folks. 

Lessons learned, don't rely on the government (obviously), talk to your neighbors so the know where shelters are, and begin with basic prepping NOW!

I welcome your comments! Thank you and God Bless! - TornadoDoc

P.S.  After the May 31st storms, many Okies did try to flee and this created massive traffic congestion.  This makes the recommendation to leave early all the more important.  I was on the road during this storm also (on the way to work).  Family wanted me to stay at home, but I left as the El Reno storm was touching down.  I choose the most eastern route north, and avoided the sheep. Had I waited later, I may have never made it to work.  This storm produced lots of flooding. Six inches at my house! Park in a safe place and wait a few hours. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recent conflicts overseas, namely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have shown the usefulness of hardened vehicles in environments where governments were unable to provide for the security of the public or governments ceased to function at all.  Lessons in vehicle defense were hard learned in many cases, however the ability to freely maneuver under adverse conditions (such as those that may be encountered post-SHTF) is a much needed capability.  Improvised systems and designs based on proven engineering methods to defeat small arms and small improvised explosives can be adapted for use by the prepared individual to provide for a higher degree of security in movement.  The basis for all designs examined will focus on protection balanced with mobility, as any truly purpose built armored vehicle has to balance mission accomplishment with adequate levels of protection.  With materials readily available to most American consumers, a vehicle can be equipped to perform a wide range of operations from logistical convoys to patrols through potentially hostile territory.

A look at modern armored vehicle construction and what it is designed for is helpful in understanding the engineering behind defeating various weapons, and can be scaled to fit just about any platform imaginable.  For instance, a modern Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle (MATV) has several aspects of its armor built to mitigate shape charges and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that detract from vehicle application and maneuverability, like its limited field of view.  The hull shape is designed almost like a v-hull boat to help direct energy waves from explosions around the occupants of the vehicle, but almost in every case this results in suspension and axle components being separated from the vehicle.  While the occupants may still be alive, the vehicle is most certainly useless for transportation unless it’s repurposed as a gondola car.  The compromises made with most commercially available armored vehicles balance the level of protection, mobility, cargo capacity, visibility, offensive capability, and survivability.  The more purpose built any one type of vehicle is, it tends to perform exceedingly well in one or two of the above areas, but suffers in others.  Mission type and availability of components will play the largest roles in armor design, such as cargo trucks retaining load capacity may not have the same protection levels due to lack of space and vehicle size.  With improvised armor solutions, the highest levels of protection will sacrifice the speed, mobility, and longevity of the equipment, but do have their application.  The lower levels of protection may offer an additional security measure for longer range reconnaissance patrols or cross country movement where enemy contact is unlikely and the extended range and maneuverability of a lighter vehicle are more advantageous.

An in-depth study at threats encountered and ways they are handled will provide the foundation for whichever armored application will work best, then an analysis can be made as to the materials and construction for each protection measure.  The various threats most likely to be encountered in a post collapse society or one without the rule of law are as follows: small arms fire, improvised explosives, incendiary weapons, low-level conventional explosives, and a collection of terrain or environmental threats.  The below breakdown will list the threat and what engineering components are implemented to counter them; these engineering designs are best employed with tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to provide the highest degree of protection, however those TTPs are better tailored to situational and individual conditions than covered by a generic threat response.  For every imaginable conflict, a TTP should be developed and practiced by those participating in the operation to ensure the highest probability of success. 

Small Arms Fire:  Small arms are defined as those that can be operated by an individual and are man-portable, such as conventional rifles, shotguns, and pistols.  Light to medium machine guns also fall in this category, as the projectiles are not designed as anti-armor (in most cases) unlike their heavier brothers.  Historically, hardened steel or iron has proven effective at defeating small arms, and most any metal an inch thick will protect from .50 caliber rounds on down.  It is impractical in most cases to use inch-thick armor however, and improved designs are readily available that are lighter and more easily adapted to vehicles.  Kevlar is one such material, which is a thin nylon fabric that is matted many layers thick to provide ballistic protection.  This can sometimes be found in industrial applications where ballistic shielding is required around equipment, but is often prohibitively expensive.  A more easily found replacement is bulk nylon cloth with either stitching or resin added.  While not all nylon fabrics share Kevlar’s anti-ballistic properties, a thick (one inch or more) matting of nylon either tightly woven or bonded with resin or epoxy will offer some flexible and light-weight protection from pistol, shotgun, and some rifle rounds.  Bolts of fabric can be found at places like Wal-Mart, and each 52”x40 yard bolt, along with two gallons of fiberglass resin, could provide enough materials for one smaller vehicle packed between the door panels and sitting on top of the floor boards or roof.  A side note on Kevlar and anti-armor rounds: the M855A1 5.56mm NATO ball ammunition, and other types of military sabot/SLAP ball ammunition contain tungsten or steel penetrator tips.  These are very effective against mild steel and Kevlar, which is why many small arms protective inserts (SAPI plates) are ceramic.  The M855A1 is rated to penetrate 3/8” of mild steel, so consider this in material selection.

Improvised Explosives:  Any device which uses a rapidly expanding propellant or explosive charge to inflict damage falls within the “improvised explosive device” category.  This includes a wide range of devices, from black powder in a pressure cooker to a howitzer shell wired for command detonation.  Regardless of construction or means, there are two principal threats with IEDs: one is the concussive blast wave created by the localized pressure from the explosive, and the other is primary and secondary projectiles in their many forms.  Projectiles range from shrapnel and lead shot to heavy-metal rods, as is the case in shaped charges.  Concussive blasts are best defeated by channeling their pressure away from or around the vehicle, which is very difficult to accomplish without a purpose built hull.  Mild steel or magnesium-alloy steel in over one-inch-thick continuous pieces are used in MRAPs, and would be difficult to fabricate at home.  However, the convex design of many bulk fuel tanks (like propane and gasoline) could be cut to fit many different vehicle sizes and provide a measure of protection against concussive blasts.  This will reduce the ground clearance of the vehicle and may have adverse effects on drive train performance due to excessive heat build-up.  None of the purpose built vehicles will place armor over the exhaust systems because of this, so be mindful of exhaust routing if under body armor is used. 

For protection against projectiles, the same techniques are employed as those to defeat ballistic threats with the exception of shaped charges.  Shaped charges employ a directive metal cone, normally copper, to multiply and focus blast pressure.  The explosive is focused in such a small area that the pressure wave generated acts upon metals as if they were a fluid, and under the principals of fluid dynamics, incompressible.  Imagine an explosive force that renders a normally solid metal hull to act like a shield of water with hollow core.  The pressure exerted on the exterior would allow the shield to rupture and transfer energy to the hollow center where the force becomes a concussive pressure wave.  Glass and ceramic layers were found to be incredibly effective in disrupting shape charges, as when the explosive pressure makes contact with the ceramic plate, the concentrated path of the charge is disrupted and not able to transfer energy like a fluid, which shields an inner skin of metal from penetration due to the blast.  These can be improvised by using ceramic flooring tile, and while these tiles may not be heat tempered, they are a light-weight addition that can also provide for additional ballistic resistance.  Using thinner (3/16” to 3/8”) sheet steel, these tiles can be sandwiched in between for door skins and passenger or engine compartment shielding.

Incendiary weapons:  Thermite and Molotov cocktails are easily improvised by nefarious groups and can be devastating weapons against vehicles, as many components and cargoes are extremely flammable.  Modern tactical vehicles are designed with automatic fire suppression systems, as IEDs, incendiry bullets, or tracer bullets can ignite the vehicle fuel or cargo.  These systems are generally high flow dry powder or CO2 systems that would prove difficult to improvise without a pre-staged stocks of fire suppressant tanks.  Insulating the vehicle armor on both sides can provide a measure of resistance until a conventional extinguisher can be used to put out the fire.  There are plenty of light-weight and flame resistant coatings available in mat and spray on applications, the easiest to be found is in junk yards as under-hood insulation.  These high density mats are not flammable and can easily be cut and glued onto the interior of armor paneling to provide the vehicle occupants the time necessary to escape from a danger zone without risking vehicle systems or excessive passenger compartment temperatures.  Two part urethane coatings, such as truck bed linings, have also been found as a great exterior coating for armor that assists with ballistic and incendiary protection.  Almost all new production armor vehicles use these coatings on the exterior of the entire vehicle, and have the benefit of protecting the armor from corrosion and being easy to apply.  While none of these will stop thermite from burning through due to its extremely high temperatures, they will provide the operator with valuable time to deal with a situation.

Low level explosives: While it is difficult to imagine the possibility of encountering land mines or howitzer shells in a post-collapse situation, encountering pipe bombs, black powder, or Tannerite powered devices would be inevitable at some point.  These explosives do not function like a shaped charge or high explosive, but instead use the rapidly expanding gas pressure from the charge combusting to blast secondary projectiles or cause their enclosure to rupture and fragment.  These threats are handled in much the same way as ballistic projectiles are as the accompanying blast pressure wave is negligible.  Steel sheets with a three to six inch gap in between filled with packed sand or concrete work very well to prevent fragments from penetrating, but these enclosures can be excessively heavy.  If a smaller area, such as an exposed gunners position in the bed of a truck, has the space and capacity, this is a viable and attractive option that provides better and more resilient protection than sand bags or other alternatives that may not withstand the vibration and flex that a mobile platform encounters.

Terrain and environmental threats: One of the most often encountered issues with mobile armor is the cumbersome and heavy design of a vehicle that may need to operate off road or in less than ideal road conditions.  Traction and suspension issues that are common in mud, sand, and snow are magnified if the vehicle is substantially heavier and has less suspension flex.  Additionally, road conditions that stress the suspension will push components past their failure points with the added weight of armor.  Upgraded vehicle components are necessary to counter the issues encountered with the additional weight of armor if any sort of longevity is expected out of the platform.  Suspension upgrades should include heavier-duty and longer travel springs, larger shocks, and heavier duty axles/axle shafts.  Tire size and load range should also be increased; weight is better distributed across an area if the tire is wider and taller.  Drive trains should be toughened up with heavy duty transmissions and additional cooling systems.  Running several small oil coolers for the engine and transmission will provide extra fluid capacity and allow one to be bypassed if it is punctured.  Because the armor places more load on the engine, consider upgrades to engine power and a free-flowing exhaust, which will assist in keeping the engine cool as well.  High temperatures have been known to disable armored vehicles that were not equipped to cool a harder working drive train. 

Now that the treats and appropriate countermeasures have been identified, a closer look into choosing and up-armoring a specific vehicle can be investigated.  While there is no “one size fits all” option, for the typical family-oriented prepper nothing larger than a one-ton (or perhaps flat-bed) truck would be practical.  For larger vehicles, there are more available methods, but they fall well outside the scope and price of most individuals’ needs.  One-ton trucks and SUVs are common and readily available now, with many preppers already owning one, so the focus of specific modification instruction will apply to these but many modifications can be scaled down for smaller applications.  Before considering armoring a vehicle, ensure that it is mechanically sound and all regular repairs are completed.  An invincible truck with a seized engine is a great land anchor but a poor tactical vehicle.  If practical for your application, the installation of a heavy-duty lift kit and larger all-terrain tires will make for a better armored foundation.  If the towing and payload capacity would be exceeded by the additional armor weight, installing air bags to the factory or aftermarket springs will assist in handling the extra load.  A note on springs: the military was in a period of transition throughout the war, and both leaf sprung and coil sprung variants of the same vehicle could be found.  The same is true in many cases in the civilian world, many manufacturers have stopped using leaf springs both front and rear and now use coils or torsion bars in the front end.  While coil springs provide better on road handling and a smoother ride, they are not as resilient to overload or the constant stress of armor.  The military found many stock coil springs fatiguing prematurely, and in some cases breaking into pieces.  Leaf springs did not suffer many of these issues regardless of the load placed on them, and although they do not offer the same performance, are often a better choice for armored vehicles.  The same thing was found regarding solid “live” axles versus independent suspension, where the solid axles required fewer (if any) upgrades to handle the additional stresses, but independent suspensions suffered regular failures.

Adding the lightest level of armor can be accomplished with little more than scrap sheet steel and bolts; simply find 3/8” thick plates and bolt them on top of existing body panels.  Use twice to three times as much hardware as normal for the application, a good rule of thumb is a bolt every 6 inches along the edges of the panel, two inches away from the edge.  While not as strong as a continuous weld, this will help prevent distortion of the panel due to explosive pressure and aid in longevity.  All hardware should be grade 8 if it’s available, lower grade bolts can be sheared off with small arms fire.  Another easily applied light armor option is the “L door,” where a panel of steel is cut to fit the dimensions of a door exterior including the glass, then notched in the front towards the A pillar to provide visibility while still offering protection for the head and shoulders of the occupant.  These can be hung from a channel bracket that rests on the window frame of the existing door, and have the benefit of being easily installed and removed.  With subsequent levels of armor, the standard framing and hinges for the doors will not support the weight, so consider welding the doors to the frame or removing the doors entirely and mounting a heavier duty frame and hinge in place.  The most neglected component of door armor is the latching mechanism, which has to be just as strong as the hinge.  A single point of contact is not enough for a heavy door, so consider a multiple bar lock style of latch, like one would find in a safe door.  For upgraded protection, the inner door can be gutted of window glass and other components then paneling, like aluminum street signs, can be added to the interior side to create a large cavity within the door.  This can then be filled with sand, ceramic tile, nylon/Kevlar matting or a combination thereof.

For hood, fenders, and other body panel protection, consider using a mix of scrap steel sheets bolted to existing frame or body parts and tiles mounted with brackets or channels in the steel.  If the tiles are mounted in a channel or with brackets, they have the advantage of being easily replaced if broken by incoming rounds.  Do not place solid sheets of metal over the grill as this will cause overheating of the engine and under-hood components.  Louvered steel or iron can be easily made to fit over these sensitive areas by cutting the steel into two inch wide strips and bolting or welding them into a frame at a 45 degree angle.  Spacing can be changed to add more protection but at the cost of airflow.  Sand bags stacked on the hood or along the inside of the vehicle may be a field expedient method for minimal protection, but this will prove very heavy and cumbersome without providing a substantial degree of protection or allowing for heat transfer from the engine to the ambient air.  Instead, mild steel and tile can be used to protect the floor boards and interior of the vehicle without expending cargo capacity and space. 

Field of view and transparent armor have been a weak point for armored vehicles since their inception.  Due to the limited availability and excessively heavy weight of transparent materials, most applications restrict the amount of glass as much as possible, often sacrificing visibility for enhanced protection.  In modern designs this has still held true, mainly due to the material limits and current engineering technologies.  Ballistic glass has not changed much since the advent of clear polycarbonate, or plastic based transparent materials.  These are employed in layers with tempered (or heat treated) glass to create a dense transparent panel that can withstand multiple high powered rifle round impacts.  The sheets of glass and polycarbonate vary in thickness but are typically ¼” to 3/8” thick, and between three and 12 layers are used depending on level of protection.  The frame is critical to effective transfer of force from glass to vehicle body, and should be sufficiently over-built to accommodate the level of threat expected.  Overall size of the glass also plays a role in resistance to forces, such as IEDs, as the larger surface area of solid glass increases the stresses placed on the frame.  Smaller is better when mounting transparent armor and will save weight while increasing strength.  Custom ballistic glass makers can be used to provide prefabricated transparencies of just about any size, however basic protection can be accomplished by adding layers of Lexan (the most common brand of polycarbonate used) to existing tempered safety glass.  Two layers of Lexan, one on the exterior and one on the interior, bonded to the safety glass with pressure sensitive adhesive will provide protection from shrapnel and low powered cartridges as well as large hand-thrown objects such as rocks or bricks.  Any more protection will require a custom frame as the existing A pillars that support the windshield will not withstand a substantial amount of force or weight.  Using small residential windows layered with Lexan would work well and could be easily mounted in sheet metal fabricated for the doors for enhanced windows.  A note on working with polycarbonate is it becomes more flexible when mildly heated and can be cut with a hot knife easily, with masking tape on both sides of the material along the desired cut to preserve surface transparency and reduce the risk of fractures.

While practical welding, fabrication skills, and familiarity with basic automotive tools are required to perform the majority of these modifications, they are developed over time and with hands-on training in order for one to be proficient with their applications.  A good recommendation however would be to take a welding class at a local technical college, or failing that, purchase a hobby welder and practice with scrap metal at home.  Most heavy, armor grade steels will require the use of a 220 Volt or larger welder, wire-feed being the first choice and arc (or stick) welding being a cheaper alternative.  Heating many of these metals with oxyacetylene welding will weaken them, making it an impractical method for armor construction but can be used in place of a plasma cutter or circular saw if there is no alternative.  Bolting of armor pieces has been found an effective method, and is generally more viable due to the availability of hardware and assembly tools.  Locating scrap metal sources is critical to this endeavor; some universal resources could be dumpsters, shipping containers, storage tanks, rail cars, guard rails, and junk yards.  Use a magnet to check for non-ferrous metal, like aluminum, which is not ideal for armor construction and requires different welding methods.  If the metal is non-magnetic, it will not be suitable for most MIG or stick welding.

Having the ability to up-armor and harden your vehicle may be critical to your bug out plan or continued survival, and with the correct approach can be accomplished to protect your assets and provide enhanced security in a challenging situation.  Should the time arise when you desire mobile protection, employing these methods may provide you with the advantage needed to prosper where others fail and enhance whatever transportation plan you have in place.  Please research specific parts and attributes of your vehicle beforehand, and use appropriate protective equipment when welding, using hand tools, or going into unfriendly territory. 

Safety Notes: Never weld on a vehicle while the vehicle battery is still connected, as this will damage the vehicle electrical system.  And do not turn your vehicle into a Mad Max look-alike without first consulting your spouse as this may be hazardous to your health, especially if it is the one they use most frequently.  Lastly, remember to keep the vehicle's rubber side down.

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 (pmatesusa.com) 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!

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 Blackhawk.com. 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.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm sure this subject has been well covered before, but I will interject my thoughts.

I ride a lightweight dual sport motorcycle in Colorado and personally believe it is an excellent tool for everyday use, and even more so in rough circumstances. 

If we look around the world at less developed countries and areas without much infrastructure the use of motorcycles and scooters is very prevalent. This is due in part to the relatively low initial purchase cost compared to conventional cars, fuel efficiency, ease of maintenance, and flexibility of use. I also often look to my experiences in Afghanistan for a real life example of what a declining and rough world might look like, and there are many valuable lessons to be learned from places like that. In Afghanistan small displacement motorcycles are very common. They often provided families a sole means of transportation over long distances to sell goods in larger towns, take family members to distant doctors, etc. I have seen no less than an entire family of 4 on a single low displacement (125-250cc) motorcycle, which is not ideal, but really shows the flexibility of use. The vast majority of roads in Afghanistan are not maintained and in very poor condition. Traveling in a 4-wheeled vehicle is painfully bumpy and slow, and quickly destroys suspensions. A motorcycle has the distinct advantage of being able to go around potholes and bumps, and still maintain a good rate of speed. Motorcycle are also able to travel on narrow footpaths that can take you over terrain that would be impossible for a conventional 4-wheeled vehicle to navigate. Gasoline in Afghanistan is somewhat limited and costly, but is still a commodity in nearly every little town or village no matter the size. A motorcycle that gets 50+ MPG is an obvious choice if you expect to have limited supplies of fuel. 

To directly address the author's pro and con list:

1)  Bypass traffic jams and stalled/out of commission cars: This a great advantage of motorcycles. They are very maneuverable. Aside from boulder fields, and sheer rock faces, there's pretty much no limit to where you can take a motorcycle. Especially in Colorado with the large number of bike paths, hiking trails, forests roads, and jeep trails.
2)  Saddle-bags can carry a lot more than than a human: Properly set up you can easily carry 100-200lbs+ (45kg-90kg) with a good quality saddlebag system. Although large bags will lower your MPG to a certain extent. 

3)  Much faster than on-foot bugout: There's a reason people have ridden horses for thousands of years. Speed is good.

4)  Handles off-road with suitable tires: A lightweight dual sport bike with good suspension and knobby tires can take you through roads, fields, and forests without a second thought.

5)  Fewer people could drive it compared to a car, so lower theft risk: If someone is in the business of stealing, they will know how to take your motorcycle. In fact motorcycle theft is pretty high because they can easily be thrown in the back of a truck or van in a matter of second and are gone. Happens all the time. Here's where you can use size to your advantage and store the motorcycle inside your home. Most motorcycles will easily fit through a doorway.

6)  Small profile makes it hard to shoot: True, but also provides no protection. The speed and agility of a motorcycle would be more of a factor than size alone.

7)  More maneuverable than a car, harder target to shoot: See above

8)  Very fuel efficient: A 250cc bike will get 60-80 MPG, with larger displacement engines getting anywhere from 30-50 MPG. The ability to travel long distances with a few gallons of gas is a huge benefit, not only in terms of supply, but cost.

9)  Can add a trailer for added hauling capacity, limited by bug-out route terrain: A good trailer can easily double or triple your weight capacity. Great for long distance moves or simply packing out field dressed game.
1)  Zero protection - rider at high risk: See above

2)  Easy to stop or slow down with chains, cables, fences, etc: Yes, it's more susceptible to being stopped by a guillotine cable, but the odds of that happening are also extremely slim. That falls more into having situational awareness and not getting yourself ambushed. If it's just a wire fence or chained off area, a motorcycle can easily be laid on it's side and dragged under the obstacle. 

3)  Can't carry loads of supplies: Simple and light is key! The more you know, the less you need. Early American trappers, hunters and mountain men thrived with much less than most of us probably have.

4)  Gas-powered, not diesel. [With a very few exceptions.]: Playing the odds, you will probably be able to find gasoline even during pretty bad conditions. It may be expensive or in short supply, but it should still be around. If gasoline supply dries up on a global level, you're out of luck anyway, and would probably be using a very expendable supply should you have any stored up, even if it is diesel. 

5)  Difficult to operate when injured: Yes, they are more difficult to run if you're hurt, but you'd have to be pretty bad off. I don't think the odds of that happening are high enough to be a game changer and deem a motorcycle unpractical. 

6)  Limited personnel transport capability: If you have a family of 5 you're trying to move hundreds of miles all at the same time, you're not going to use a motorcycle. For short distance runs you can always make multiple trips if you had to.

7)  Some models headlights are "always on" which is a visibility problem unless you install a secondary switch: True, most headlights are always on, but a switch is easy to install.

8)  Spare parts may be hard to find: If we have a slow downturn where gasoline prices skyrocket, I have a feeling the motorcycle/scooter business will boom, and we'll look like Asia or India with streets packed with them, which means parts will be readily available. The engines on most motorcycles are extremely simple, and most parts could be fabricated easily with anyone with some metal working skills. There are definitely parts that can't easily be made (spark plugs, computers, etc) but they are also inexpensive and easy to have spares on hand. 

This leads me to motorcycle selection. If you decide a motorcycle will be a good fit for you, what should you buy?

It's the common consensus that a dual sport motorcycle is the most practical style. They handle on-road and off-road conditions equally well, and are built for durability and longevity.

I am an advocate for 250cc displacement motorcycles because they generally are light enough to maneuver in rough conditions, yet still have enough power to haul you and your gear at 60+ MPH. There are 125cc-400cc bikes that could also fit the bill, but the market has a wide variety of 250cc class bikes readily available. A lot will come down to what features you want on your motorcycle. Air cooled, liquid cooled, carburetor, fuel-injected, etc. There's a lot to be said for simple air-cooled carburetor engines, but if you're willing to play the odds that you'll never run into an EMP or something, a liquid cooled fuel injected motorcycle can be a low maintenance and high performance option that is a pleasure to ride.

This is anything but an exhaustive list but it's a good place to start looking:

Yamaha WR250R 
Honda CR250L 
Kawasaki KLX250S
Honda CRF230L
Yamaha XT250
Yamaha TW200
Suzuki DR200
Kawasaki KLR250

Regards, - S.L.


Re: Motorcycles as BOVs? I have been riding motorcycles for most of my life, and currently I have both street bikes and a dual sport. I do most of my riding on the street, which is a lot of fun, when you are not in rush hour traffic, and it can be very economical. (Good gas mileage, low insurance, low up front cost at least compared to a car or truck) The street bike I own is a cruiser, I shy away from the sport bikes mostly because of the seating position and the temptation to go fast. My days of wanting to drive fast are long gone. I ride because I enjoy it. I can't really explain the joys of riding to you; you just have to try it. Anyway, that is not why I am writing.
The question was raised about using a motorcycle as a BOV. In my humble opinion (IMHO) a motorcycle would make an okay BOV for a single person, you are just limited on what you can carry. Any more than one person and a motorcycle makes a poor choice unless of course you have two motorcycles and each person can ride one. If you go with two motorcycles and one motorcycle breaks down, you can both ride on one bike, so with two motorcycles you would have some redudancy.Two is one and one is zero. So in that sense you would have a backup. But, IMHO, I think a 4x4 would make a much better BOV. I happen to have an E250 as a BOV, but that is because I have a wife, 4 kids and a lot of stuff. Also, bugging out for me is my last option, I plan on riding out the storm where I am.  I know prudence might be on the side of getting out of Dodge now, but that is just not a good option for me right now for many reasons. So why write this at all, well I love motorcycling and I think there are other values associated with motorcycles.
So, if a motorcycle does not make a good BOV, is it useful for more than just riding? I say that it is.

What I am going to talk about can really be done with almost any motorcycle, but I am going to concentrate on one motorcycle, the Kawasaki KLR650 dual sport. I did a lot of research and have read a lot of articles and reviews over two years before I purchased the KLR650. I think that the KLR650 is the best bang for the buck motorcycle you can buy. The KLR650 has remained pretty much the same for over 20 years and has a huge following. Two of the reasons I chose the KLR was because of the availability of parts and aftermarket accessories and the fact that the KLR is relatively easy to work on yourself.  It is a very simple motorcycle; single cylinder, carbureted, chain drive. I will not go into all the details of maintenance and adding accessories to the KLR, there are many YouTube videos on maintenance, repairs and upgrades. There are also web sites dedicated just to the KLR. Do a Google search and you will find more than you will ever need. The KLR is not a fast motorcycle and does not excel at any one thing, but it is good at a lot of things. The KLR makes a great commuter motorcycle, it gets over 50 mpg and is tall which helps in traffic. It has a 35 inch seat height, which will be high for some, but the suspension compresses when you sit on it. The KLR also has a 6 gal gas tank which gives you about a 300 mile range on a tank of gas, that’s a lot of off road riding between fill ups. The KLR makes a great trail bike, but it is heavy if you want to just ride in the dirt. So, the KLR is best on the street but will go off road when you need it to. The KLR can also be an adventure touring motorcycle, it has been ridden all over the world.  It is not great at speeds over 75, but if you don’t mind taking your time, the KLR is a great motorcycle.
So now onto where I think the motorcycle shines when things fall apart (SHTF). The area where I live has just been rated the worst traffic in the country, yes we passed LA. A little rain, or a little snow and traffic gets ridiculous. And if there is an accident you can add hours to your commute. As bad as traffic can get I am honestly surprised that more municipalities don’t utilize motorcycles for first responders, but that is a different issue. We all know what will happen when the SHTF for real. All roads will become parking lots. For most people travel will be limited to walking, bicycles and motorcycles. But in this scenario the motorcycle has the definite advantage. With motorcycles you can avoid paved roads and go places that most vehicles cannot go.  You can also provide assistance to others who do not have any other means of transportation. There will be no ambulance service and if it is safe for you to do so you can assist local emergency services.  So if you have a motorcycle you will be able to travel at least for a while. The first few days of when the SHTF can also be used to pick up family and friends who are stranded far from home. This should really be your first priority if you plan on doing this because I do believe that the timeframe for safe travel will be very short lived.

This brings up the issue of protection on a motorcycle. While it is true that a car provides better protection from the elements, crowds, hard objects…  there are ways to protect yourself and in some situations be better protected than a vehicle. When I ride, I ride in full gear; boots, gloves, jacket, full face helmet. That is just my normal riding protection. I cringe whenever I see someone ride with shorts, T-shirt and flip flops. One fall, even at slow speeds, will ruin your day.  But what about protection from non-riding incidents. Once the SHTF you are on your own and if you run into a crowd or group wishing to do you harm, getting out fast is your best bet. The motorcycle will help you do that. But what if you are caught by surprise or caught by a group intent on harm and you are unable to drive out for whatever reason. If you are in a vehicle and stuck you have no other protection once the vehicle has been compromised. If you are on a motorcycle and wearing protective gear, your head and body have an extra layer of protection from rocks, clubs, fists, feet and you may be able to escape on foot. Anything to improve your chances will help. One extra layer of protection that I recently purchased is the Stryker Vest by Icon. It is chest and back protection in case of an accident, but it is also great protection from anything striking your back or chest. And even if you are knocked to the ground you will be like an armadillo. No, it will not stop a bullet, but it will lessen the blow from any hard objects. The idea is not to fight but to flee. Take the first chance you have to run. As to other obstacles; fences, down trees, large rocks obviously these need to be avoided as well as crowds. Avoiding roads and riding through neighborhood back yards can be filled with lots of nasty obstacles. Be careful and be aware of your surroundings. And it would be best to ride during the day unless you really know the area.
Depending on the event and how bad things get and for how long, a motorcycle can be a real force multiplier. When most other vehicle are unusable due to any number of reasons, the motorcycle can be very useful during the situation. There are many roles the motorcycle can play. Motorcycles can be used for scouting, communications, patrolling, foraging, hunting, transporting …. They will not take a lot of precious supplies to operate. I believe the advantages far outweigh any use of supplies. If you are preparing for all situations, a motorcycle would be a good addition to your preparations after water, food, weapons and medical supplies.
One more thing to consider and that is how to earn a living after the SHTF, at least until things come back (Which could be years)
-          Goods will need to be transported, your customers may not always be within walking distance, getting paid to transport goods and services is not a bad way to make a living.
-          People will need medical help, whether you ferry a medical person around or bring people to a medical facility, you should be paid to do so. I am not saying there won’t be times to help others, but you also need to provide for you and your family.
-          Communities will need security. Being mobile will be a big advantage for anyone providing security.
-          Communication. This really depends on how bad things get and if you can spare the fuel for communications. But people will want to communicate with family, friends… Instead of Pony express it would be motorcycle express. (I believe this was the case in the novel “Patriots”)
One other advantage to motorcycling is that it will make you a better driver. Because I ride I am aware of what is going on around me, will a driver suddenly pull out in front of me or pull into my lane, what is the road surface like in front of me, will a child suddenly appear from behind a parked car.  When you ride you are constantly on alert, I think this has been lost in our cars with GPS, phones, CD and DVD players and other people in the vehicle. On a motorcycle, it is just you and your thoughts, that is why I don’t have a headset in my helmet, even though my wife would really like to talk when the two of us ride. I try and keep distractions at a minimum and yes I still enjoy the ride.
On final note, just like any other skills you have, you should take some training classes. I have taken the ERC (experienced rider class) in my state for street riding and I have also taken an off road class to improve my riding in the dirt. Both classes were well worth the time. The dirt class was on a BMW R1200GS. It is a great motorcycle with endless power but it is very heavy and costs about four times what the KLR costs. For the money, I just don’t think you can beat the KLR.

One final note, just like any other skills you have, you should take some training classes. I have taken the ERC (experienced rider class) in my state for street riding and I have also taken an off road class to improve my riding in the dirt. Both classes were well worth the time. The dirt class was on a BMW R1200GS. It is a great motorcycle with endless power but it is very heavy and costs about four times what the KLR costs. For the money, I just don’t think you can beat the KLR. - Marty S.


Hi Jim,
Saturday’s responses [on G.O.O.D. motorcycles] were great!
My current pre-collapse and collapse bike is my customized KLR 650, modified with micro-sized turn signals for a smaller physical profile. Along with that, the bike has been re-painted in flat sand, with OD painted grip guards. I use a Condor-brand, tactical MOLLE tote bag as a handlebar bag, with my registration, insurance info, spider bungee net for the cargo rack, etc.
One thing people may not be aware of is that the cargo rack on the civilian KLR 650 still conforms to the inner diameter of the good old G.I. ALICE pack’s aluminum frame. Recon troops / messengers would normally just slide their rucks onto their bike’s frame, secure it, then take off! Being an old ALICE kind of guy, this is great, as I’ve put the bike to the test, carrying thousands of rounds of ammo to/from gun shows, etc.
However, 2007 was the last good year for the bike in many people's opinion, as unnecessary junk was later added to the bike, such as dual front disk brakes, and flashy colors, a different headlight cowling, etc.
My post-collapse bike is a mothballed TW 200, with a battery in dry storage. Also, all identified solid state components (two of them, one being a voltage rectifier) have been pulled, and are protected in a food-grade Mylar bag, inside of an old all-metal schoolteachers’ desk. With a modified rear sprocket, made of aircraft-grade aluminum and titanium (40 tooth), I get mileage of around 90 mpg, along with a top speed of 80 mph. It can carry a passenger, as well as cargo, and, even better, it is so relatively light weight,  that two people can physically pick it up, and put it in the back of a pickup, to use as a parasitic recon vehicle, for instance.
Also, the company Moose Racing makes awesome cargo carrying accessories for the TW 200.
Cheers, - Joe Snuffy

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I too have consider the motorcycle-for-TEOTWAWKI option. E.M.P. covered the pros and cons pretty well and I can add just a couple of thoughts. I have a family, which means while there are a number of possible TEOTWAWKI uses for a motorcycle, actually bugging out isn't one of them. This is obviously viable only for the single, unencumbered prepper. But I can see other, perhaps invaluable uses.

A [high field strength EMP event - A motorcycle is small enough that it could actually be kept stored in a protected enclosure. Or failing that, it would be far easier to keep a spare ignition module in a protected enclosure for quick swapping out versus dealing with similar repairs to a car or truck. I live in a suburban environment and the ability to quickly retrieve a child from school or a spouse from work at the outset before things had a chance to start to come unhinged would be priceless.

Fuel shortage - Any scenario where fuel is hard to get or priced beyond reason would make the economy of these bikes shine. The leading candidate, the Kawasaki KLR650, gets in the neighborhood of 50 mpg and would make the most of any available fuel in any circumstance where a bike could get the job done. The maneuverability and on/off road capability would also be priceless in avoiding crowds, traffic jams, etc.

There are other terrific choices in the dual sport category, but most run almost twice the cost of the legendary KLR. It's shortcomings are few, most notably being slightly underpowered [versus large displacement road bikes], but they can haul a tremendous amount of gear, and have been ridden from one end of the planet to the other. Their utility serves well in good times and bad, with the normal caveats about safety of course.

There have been some diesel versions built for the military, and while there have always been rumors, even recently, a civilian version is sadly still just rumor. What an awesome bike that would be!

The limitations are so substantial that I cannot condone it as your only option in place of another vehicle, but if you have the means to have one around as an option it might pay big dividends.

God bless, - Arizona Slim


As a former off road racer,I'd like to add my nickel here. First and foremost,all bikes are NOT created equal! You won't bug out on a Harley, I promise !If the roads are congested,you can ride on the shoulder, until a broken down car blocks the way ,then you have to off road...not even an idea on a Harley or big road bike!

Second point: 2 stroke or 4 stroke? Do you know the difference? If not, do not get a bike, period! A 2 stroke is a lot faster and lighter ,but gets lousy mileage. My 500 2 stroke race bike got around 8 mpg in a good race, maybe 5 in deep sand. A 500 4 stroke could do 30 mpg in the same race, easy.

Third point: Can everyone in your party ride? My ex-wife can twist a throttle, but can she handle sand? Nope.

Fourth point: Got parts? Sure,you can buy one of the cheap auto part store bikes,but try to find parts for it...been there, done that, no you can't. Stick to a brand name.You will never find Husqvarna or KTM parts, either.

My recommendation is: Buy a 200cc or perhaps 250cc, 4-stroke dual purpose. Strip the turn signals off, just keep it barely street legal, to save weight.Find any type saddle bags you can find on the seat,even horse bags! And they make packs that fit on the tank.Hang a pack on the bars over the headlite.Keep the weight as low as possible,or it will wash out in a turn.

An interesting side note: My parents had a little Honda Express, barely a step up from a moped.They were camped out in a forest where they didn't allow me to ride my 500 Husqvarna. I took the little Honda for a ride down some little goat trails, and with a little practice, I was doing things on it that I'd never try on my race bike! A lot slower, but it amazed me how far and how many places it got me!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hi James,
After seeing and living through the nightmarish traffic jams and rerouting during the Colorado wildfire last summer, I started thinking about the wisdom and utility of having a motorcycle in SHTF scenarios.
There are pros and cons to it that I can think of, but I'd like other's opinions.  An off-the-top of my head list:
1)  Bypass traffic jams and stalled/out of commission cars.
2)  Saddle-bags can carry a lot more than than a human
3)  Much faster than on-foot bugout.
4)  Handles off-road with suitable tires
5)  Fewer people could drive it compared to a car, so lower theft risk
6)  Small profile makes it hard to shoot
7)  More maneuverable than a car, harder target to shoot
8)  Very fuel efficient
9)  Can add a trailer for added hauling capacity, limited by bug-out route terrain
1)  Zero protection - rider at high risk
2)  Easy to stop or slow down with chains, cables, fences, etc.
3)  Can't carry loads of supplies
4)  Gas-powered, not diesel. [With a very few exceptions.]
5)  Difficult to operate when injured
6)  Limited personnel transport capability
7)  Some models headlights are "always on" which is a visibility problem unless you install a secondary switch.
8)  Spare parts may be hard to find
I'm considering trading a diesel sedan I have for one of these, but would love to hear what other people think.
Thanks for your noble work, - E.M.P.

JWR Replies: This has been briefly discussed before in the blog. The general consensus was to buy a fairly quiet dual sport bike with as much cargo capacity as possible. But I welcome additional input.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I take a different approach, but one that may prove useful for other ladies. My husband is military, so that would make me the military spouse. However, I can tell you from experience that there SHOULD be a survival guide to being a military spouse. Now, I don’t plan on making this some betty home maker guide; Because in my opinion there is so many other survival aspects that us ladies should be aware of when our husbands are away. Unfortunately, we are not aware of these survival tactics until some misfortune is staring us in the face and we are left to handle it by ourselves.

First off ladies, you should ALWAYS make sure you have a survival travel pack in your vehicle. (Mind you it doesn’t need to be a pack so to speak, just a tidy area with survival things handy.) In this “pack” there should be jumper cables, fluids for your car, a jug of water, road flares, a jack, tire rod, first aid kit, fix a flat, MREs (or some sort of compact food, protein bars are nice to.) A knife/and or multi tool, a fire starter (rather it be a good name brand lighter, matches, or an actual fire starter), tinder shavings, rope, extra set of clothes and shoes, and an emergency radio/flashlight (I, personally have a 2-in-1) with extra batteries. I also HIGHLY recommend a book called,“SAS Survival Guide Handbook”, They sell this in a pocket size version which you can easily put in that survival pack. This book not only shows you what plants to eat, but which one too not eat. It has great first aid advice, talks of poisonous animals, insects,etc….it truly is an all-around lifesaving book. (You can purchase it on Amazon for about $8.)

Since, I am on the subject of jacks and tire rods; one should become familiar with how to use these tools. (Have your husband show you before he leaves and YouTube is great as well.) You should also know how to change your own oil/fluids, jump your battery, and you should become familiar with your engine. I recommend a short mechanical course on the weekends, or again YouTube can be useful or Google. When packing MREs or food related items, keep track of your expiration dates, and make sure there is enough for each person (in my case I have two children.) The same goes for the water. I keep bottled water in my car; The jug of water is good in case your vehicle over heats or you just need extra water.  When it comes to the knife, learn how to sharpen your knife and learn its different uses. (Same with the multi-tool.) Also, make sure to Google and/or YouTube ropes and knots…it may make a real difference on day. For the clothes/shoes make sure you change them out with the season. If its winter you will need good insulated boots and wool socks, gloves, hat and long johns. (Remember Wool is the better choice as cotton will keep you cold and wet.)

Since I have mentioned water, I want to take a minute to go over some important factors on water. We all know its vitally important, more so than food. If you ever get in a situation where you are out of water and need to find more water then follow some of this advice. First off, NEVER, drink unsterilized water. If you are prepared for an emergency (such as your survival pack in the car.) you should have your jug that had your water, tinder shavings and fire starter. You can collect the water and boil it before you drink it. Un-boiled water can have dangerous pathogens in it. If you are in a cold climate and think you’re going to eat snow…DON’T! Eating snow can bring down your core body temperature. Again, you can boil the snow down to water…kills pathogens and in turn heats up the water. If this sounds like too much work you can buy filtrated straws that will filter the water your ingesting.(Make sure to buy one for each person or even two for each person, as the straws only filter about 20 gallons of water and you never know how long it will take to get rescued.)

And with water is food. Now, I will touch base with you on food preservation and proper storage. Canning food is a rather simple task and it can not only be useful, but even lifesaving in case of an emergency.  I will start by informing you of the importance of proper canning, to help prevent illness due to improper storage. Fresh foods, like those out of your garden, consist of a high percentage of water.
The high percentage of water in most fresh foods makes them VERY perishable. They spoil or lose their quality for several reasons:

  • growth of undesirable microorganisms-bacteria, molds, and yeasts,
  • activity of food enzymes,
  • reactions with oxygen,
  • Moisture loss.

Microorganisms live and multiply quickly on the surfaces of fresh food and on the inside of bruised, insect-damaged, and diseased food. Oxygen and enzymes are present throughout fresh food tissues.
Proper canning practices include:

  • carefully selecting and washing fresh food,
  • peeling some fresh foods,
  • hot packing many foods,
  • adding acids (lemon juice or vinegar) to some foods,
  • using acceptable jars and self-sealing lids,
  • Processing jars in a boiling-water or pressure canner for the correct period of time.

Collectively, these practices remove oxygen; destroy enzymes; prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds; and help form a high vacuum in jars. You can purchase a good vacuum for roughly $100-$200 to make sure a tight seal forms, which will keep liquid in and air and microorganisms out.
The “canning” world is full of excitement, and great potential in all aspects of daily living. I would HIGHLY suggest one par take in this living experience; And even pass it on to children and grandchildren.  Its can save money, and is can be a healthy way of eating.

Another, more far out idea is if your stranded outside, one can eat off the land (plants, insects, Etc.). (Remember that awesome book; I said to buy off Amazon? “SAS Survival Handbook”…yes that $8 book MIGHT help save your life.)

I would also like to touch on the importance of taking a defensive driving course. Being military you never know where you will be and each place has different climates (I went from Florida to Alaska, and learning to drive on ice has been a challenge)

Next, I want to talk with you about protection. When our husbands are home, we rely on them to protect the home front. However, when they are way it is OUR job to protect and defend our home front.  I want to advise you to take a shooting class. Research guns, their specific uses (as each gun has a different use/specs) then take a safety course and learn how to properly defend yourself, family and home.  I would also recommend getting a carry permit if your state allows it. Again research the gun, and your state laws. If you do not like guns, learn to self-defend with a knife or even take a self-defense course.

I also want to stress the importance of Always being familiar with your surroundings. It is one of the most lifesaving things a person can do. Research your surroundings, take trips and learn it like the back of your hand.  When or if you work, learn to take different ways home. You never know if you have a stalker and this way you keep people guessing which way you might go.  This also comes into play within your home. If a stranger is to break into your home…DO NOT, I REPEAT…DO NOT go an try to find the intruder…remain calm, and quiet. You know your home better than they do. Lay low and wait for them to come to you and then take action.

As for more home front survival; learn and familiarize yourself with the more laid back task such as: power tools, fire extinguishers, and your breaker box.  If a fire breaks out, you need to have an escape plan and know how to use that fire extinguisher. If you need to fix something you will need to learn how to properly and safely use the power tools. The breaker box is great to be familiar with as you never know when you might trip a breaker.

I know this is not your everyday…stuck out in the wild survival things. However, Ever since my husband has joined the Military, I have come across a lot of women who truly have no idea what to do in case of an emergency or they depend on others to save them.  Even if I only reach out to one person, maybe that one person will survive, become stronger and pass along this vital information to another.  I hope you all have enjoyed my brief ideas and knowledge and happy, safe living to you all.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dear James,
I wish to make a comment about the article on preparing an emergency bag for your car. This is a prudent and good idea. I currently have one for each vehicle I own.

The only problem with the article is the choice of food. I have a tendency to leave my emergency bag in my car. The problem arises in the summer when the outside temps start to rise. With the outdoor temp at 100 degrees F the car's inside temperature is 120 to 130. The MRE entrees only have a shelf life of 30 days at 120 degrees F. Unless you were to replace this every 30 days more than likely the meal would be unusable when a need would arise.

I was recently introduced to the New Millennium Food Bars. These are designed to with stand +300 degrees F to -60 degrees F without going bad. I leave these in my kit and I don't have to worry if they will be good when I need them, and they don't taste half bad. - Keith R.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Most preppers probably have a pretty good handle on how to assemble a bug-out-bag (BOB). And, it’s probably so large and ungainly, that it gets stuck in the closet, just like mine. Let's be honest, are you going to have it when you need it? I think we have covered the likelihood of being at home when “it” happens in plenty of detail in the past. We have seen that the chances of you being at home on your couch with your BOB beside you are slim. What about all the other situations? In other words, where to you spend a sizeable quantity of your life in a situation that can easily turn against you? And, in this situation, are you adequately prepared? Lastly, are you just thinking of yourself, or thinking of your dependents…who are what really matter.

Ironically, about a month ago, Alabama had one of those Jesus Is Coming moments when the white stuff from hades started falling. If you don't catch the joke, it's that Alabama shuts down at just the threat of severe winter weather. I was sitting here in my office when the loud speaker told us to go home. In the ice and snow. 2,500 people all recklessly driving to pick up their kids. Not only does Alabama shut down, but Alabamians don't know how to drive in bad weather, of any kind. But they are particularly incapable of driving in snow and ice. Case in point is that on Interstate 65, wrecks caused 24 hour delays. Most of these delays were between exits in a very rural area. Families were trapped in their vehicles for a whole day.

I guess you can see where I am going with this article. The fact is, you use your car every day. You spend a sizeable amount of your life in a car. And of all things that you do, driving is probably both the most dangerous and most likely to put you into one of these situations. Here is the kicker: it is also the most likely time that you will have to fend not only for yourself, but for your entire family. Face it, being stuck in the snow for 24 hours is bad. But, you…by yourself…could hump it, if you had to. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. But it wouldn’t be the case for me.

So, my wife...ever supportive of this hobby of mine...saw a real application of survival prepping. She asked me to make an emergency kit for the car. While most of you reading would think about gas cans, flashlights, and tow straps, recall that many of us have kids. Young ones. We can't just start humping it up the interstate. We need food, water, and warmth. Now, I know times are hard and people have a tough time spending money on things they will probably never use. But, you can't put a price on safety, convenience, or comfort. These things do happen. All the time.

I am going to show you how to put together a simple kit that will buy you 24 hours of comfort and assurance for you and your family. And I am going to do it on a budget that anyone can feel good about, while maintaining the useful space in your vehicle.

After a few weeks of procrastinating, I finally got serious (and got paid...). The first thing I did was to shop at the Emergency Essentials web site. They have plenty of “all in one package” items, but not only was the all in one survival bags a little bit more than I wanted to spend, it took the fun out of shopping and building it for myself. Not only that, but everyone is different in their level of survivability. I started out by buying the 72 Hour Improved MRE kit. This cost $58 dollars.


Contents of the Improved MRE 72-Hour Food and Water Supply

  • MRE Main Dish Entrees 9
  • MRE Side Dishes 6
  • MRE Dessert 6
  • MRE Drink Mix 3
  • Water Pouch 18
  • Bread/Biscuit 3
  • Peanut Butter 2
  • Jam Packet 1
  • Cheese Packet 1
  • Hard Candy 3
  • Accessory Pack 9

Now, that's a big box of stuff, and honestly, as I counted up the calories, I realized that we didn't need all of this, nor could we fit it in the car conveniently. I figured we needed a solid 1,000 calorie meal and days’ worth of water. After all, we are American and it would take weeks to starve us fat people. But kids get cranky and it's hard to keep your wits about you when you have 3 of them telling you how hungry they are. Turns out, by counting the calories in each item, it took one MRE main dish, one dessert, and one fruit for a 1,000 calorie meal. Multiple that by 5 and I actually had 1 person's day worth of food left over, which I added to my 24 hour bag.

Additionally, I added:

  • Wool survival blankets for $11.99. That's a steal. These things are heavy and huge. And they normally cost $25.
  • 5 Hothands Super Warmers. I bought these for $1 each.
  • 3 Mylar emergency blankets. I bought these in a lot of 10 from Amazon for under $5
  • 3 glow sticks. I bought these in a lot of 10 for $11
  • Baggie of vitamins and OTC pills.
  • One large flashlight
  • Basic hand tool kit
  • Straps and bungee cords
  • Can of Fix-A-Flat

Even after I put this together, I noticed that there were some other things that I think should be added, but aren’t necessary. For you, they may be, so don’t forget about things like playing cards, sanitary wipes/toilet paper, extra plastic sacks, spare sets of clothes, and, if you need it as we do, baby formula.

While the people reading this already are like-minded and see the benefit of this kit, I am trying to appeal to those that aren’t. The Top Two Questions you are asking are: 1) I bet it’s a lot of money for something I will never use and 2) That much stuff would be impossible to fit in my vehicle. These two questions were foremost on my mind when I put this together. Why? Because like everyone else, I am on a budget and I have three children and all of their stuff. Yet, it fits nicely behind the back seat of my Chevy Yukon. It isn't very heavy. The total cost was under $60.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I have not seen the subject of a 2WD with a limited slip differential versus a 4WD addressed on your blog. If it has, I have missed it.

Most 4WD vehicles have "open" differentials and if one wheel on that axle spins, then the other stops. I have seen 4WD trucks spinning the driver side front wheel and the passenger side rear wheel and nothing from the other 2 wheels (dead stop). There are vehicles with limited slip front and rear but they are uncommon unless you special order them that way new or have aftermarket parts installed.

A limited slip differential will still transfer about 30% power to the non-spinning wheel thus giving you some traction. I had an old 1969 ford pickup when I was a teenager in the 1970's and it had a limited slip rear end. Doing all the truely dumb things a teenager will do, I only got that thing stuck twice. Every other time I was able to get it unstuck on its own. Admittedly, the worst off roading I did with was cow pastures, fire break roads, and power line easements in Texas. (Gravel and dirt roads and mud.) I do not have much experience in snow, perhaps some other readers have info about it on this subject.

It is a LOT less expensive to purchase and maintain a 2wd limited slip differential than a 4WD setup and you get pretty close to the same traction capabilities in the real world unless you are seriously off roading or in snow. They also get better gas mileage.

4WD is better in extreme conditions, but day to day, pre-SHTF you are rather well served with 2WD and limited slip, depending on your climate and terrain.
Just my two cents worth, I have learned a lot here and want to contribute. - John in Texas


Mr. Rawles,
Several years ago I came across an article in a 4-wheel drive magazine (I can't remember which one) where they tested a 2-wheel drive pickup versus a 4-wheel drive pickup. They concluded that a 2-wheel drive could go about 85% of the places that a 4-wheel drive could go if set up correctly with off roading tires, beefed up suspension and a winch. Since most 4-wheelers tend to add those features anyway, you're still saving money because a 2-wheeler can be several thousand dollars cheaper than a 4-wheeler. Add to that the lower overall cost of operating it daily because of better mileage and no differential to wear out and a 2-wheeler is a viable option.

There were two caveats with the 85% percent number - Heavy rock crawling and serious mug bogging were definitely out. But then again they found that the person driving the 2-wheel drive truck tended to take a bit more care in picking their line because they didn't have that feeling of invincibility that some get when driving a 4-wheel drive truck. - Matthew B.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another important thing to store: woolly house shoes for everybody and to spare! Wet, muddy or snowy boots need their own place for slow drying by the entrance door and have no business whatsoever in the living area. And when you leave the cabin: ALLWAYS store any rubber/ rain boots you leave in your BOL upside down – a hungry but dead mouse that was unable to climb the steep rubber walls out again is NOT NICE to discover in your boots and really sad for the mouse...  The same counts for tea kettles, water buckets and other stuff a mouse cannot climb out of. Speaking of rodents: In Norway we have the original Vikings: the lemmings. These fearless mini-fighters (here are some examples – reminds me of Monty Python´s “come here and I´ll bite you to death”:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNW3B-lAodQ )

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

InyoKern's comments [about living in trailers] are right on. My brother is [living] in a 21.5 foot long toy hauler and it is built stronger than a conventional trailer and you can haul a lot in it. It is very comfortable and has extra large storage capacity for fuel, water etc. He has 200 watts of photovoltaic panels on the roof and four 6 -volt golf cart batteries cabled together to provide most of his electrical needs.

I have a 9 foot truck camper and though its good the trailer is much more versatile for moving about from city to city if you have a place to drop it, like a RV park. They are a good choice for a small business, as well. - Jason M.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dear Jim,
I've been having blinding flashes of the obvious lately that I wanted to share.
A friend of mine just got a few AS degrees in IT, not realizing just how FUBAR the business world is for his new profession. IT professionals are no longer employees. They're contract workers, rarely working in a position more than a year, and often a lot less. They don't get benefits or retirement packages. They get specific tasks, get done, get paid, and get shown the door. This is not conducive to stable living. The career has changed so much that they are doing the minimalism trick and moving to the job. At first, that means renting long term stay hotel rooms, economy suites etc. But that's pretty expensive. The blinding flash? A trailer.

Get a town vehicle and pull a trailer that you can live in. Depending on pay and vehicle defines the kind of trailer to pull, but I've found through my own Google searching that there's many manufacturers of modest very light trailers which can pull behind any pickup or SUV, and even behind a Subaru. Ones you can stand up inside. Ones with hookups for most trailer parks. There are even ones with garage space, called Toy Haulers, which could be used for workshops for many professions, including space to store a table saw or electronics bench, welding rig and generator and gas bottles. All sorts of stuff, and its out of sight, out of mind. The Garage models are heavier so will require a stronger tow vehicle, but anyone driving and RV could tow a specialized trailer to a job site instead, chain it to something solid, and live next to it. Put it in the contract. I can see contract labor is the future, or even the present, and businesses are veering away from employee benefits in the modern economic disaster area thanks to that last election and the ongoing Derivatives Bubble. Investing in business seems very risky. Contracts avoid the risk.
Since the Tow Vehicle is massively fuel inefficient thanks to its specialization, the answer to getting around is either bicycle or motorbike or scooter. Roads being what they are, scooters are somewhat risky. They go down in potholes, in the road, often in front of traffic. A used Enduro motorbike, road legal with license plate and mirror and turn signals, or an older but working small displacement road motorcycle offers a means to get around, buy groceries, run errands. And it can be carried on or in the trailer. People do that. Its not as comfortable as a car, but its more comfortable than walking and cheaper than an 8 MPG tow vehicle.
As for the trailer itself, insulation seems to be key, as is power generation. Not all jobs will have hookups, meaning a (really quiet) generator is going to be needed unless you've got solar panels installed on the roof. Cheap solar that charges a battery is the answer. The more panels you've got, the more power for heat, lights, radio, fridge, and living humanely. Water will always limit trailers, so a hookup is far preferred. If you park somewhere with common showers, room to stretch out, and real hot water that might be a better choice. This also implies there's a real business opportunity there: running trailer parks for traveling professionals and technicians. Installing WiFi or including ethernet in the hookup bundle? Winning strategy for a business based on short and medium duration stays. Run a restaurant that delivers in the park center and you make yet more money and attract clients that have no time to cook or cleanup.
Professionals are going to be there to sleep and clean up, then back to the job they're on. Its not the traditional slumming situation. You'll have doctors and repair techs, IT guys, web designers who work directly with the customer (a niche that exists), event planners (business marketing, MBAs), horse dentists, mechanics, factory design engineers and techs, welders, CNC machinists, compliance officers, all sorts of things which make for contract labor. As the cost of fuel goes up and goes synthetic ($33/gal for synthetic biodiesel), the people who do this will be modestly to highly paid. They're just living in trailers so they keep more of it.
The strongest argument for residence trailers is that if you live light enough, you have your bugout gear with you, and you are yourself bugging out every time you move. Moving to jobs and away from bad economies is a viable survival strategy. You can't take hold of opportunity trapped in one place, not really. You "make do" in one place. You build labor saving devices and get things comfortable, but business moves with the economic winds, and those winds are turbulent today. America has largely exported its thinking and manufacturing jobs to China and India, and its left us with high unemployment. That unemployment is hiding behind the largest Back To College surge since the Veterans returned from WW2. Students aren't counted as Unemployed. When they graduate, we'll see more real numbers. They'll hit the job market and find little or nothing unless they starting thinking outside the box. And some will be thinking about this. Sincerely, - InyoKern

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Survival can certainly include situations that are a bit short of, and a bit more mundane than TEOTWAWKI. And as much as we wish it were otherwise, I know a lot of us are in a suburban or even urban environment. We find ourselves in a great many situations with the potential to become survival scenarios on a smaller, more personal scale. We are also subject daily to a million ridiculous rules and laws and prohibitions and warnings and  statutes and such that most of our rural brethren can go for long periods of time without even having to consider. We can find ourselves lulled into a sheep-like acquiescence, where it’s easier to go along to get along. But if you want to have every opportunity to survive a threat, you must be aware of this condition and be able to switch it off when the flag goes up.

The first job I had as a young adult was as an EMT, working for a local ambulance company. It is an amazing experience for an 18-year old to turn on flashing red lights and a siren and leave the Rules of the Road pamphlet buried and forgotten somewhere under the seat. Driving on the wrong side of the road, the wrong way down one-way streets, entering on exit ramps and exiting on entry ramps, ignoring red lights and posted speed limits. Not to mention parking next to No Parking signs and red curbs, on sidewalks, lawns, and many places one does not find vehicles on a regular basis. Not con permiso, that’s for sure.

Now, I should mention that all of these were not only acceptable hereabouts during that wild and wooly time, but they were all done with tremendous care and judgment, in circumstances necessitating such rule-bending. But I was also set for life with the appreciation that given the right circumstances and the right impetus, most rules can be bent, broken, or completely obliterated with just cause and due care. And at times to great benefit.

If you are facing a crisis scenario, or even when you are doing the invaluable mental preparation for such times, do not let mindless adherence to “The Rules” impede your ability to provide for your safety, that of your family, and anyone else you might be responsible for. Now, I’m not talking about ignoring that society has proscriptions against capital crimes. Let’s not get carried away. No matter what you are considering doing, keep in mind you may well find yourself defending your choices at some later point. And face whatever outcome is decided by those who may disagree with your judgment. We all know that circumstances can take the act of killing another human being from murder to manslaughter to negligent homicide to justifiable self-defense. But we’re going to dial this down to a whole other level.

I’m talking about the endless ocean of minor “rules” we face from a thousand sources every day. “Don’t Walk, Do Not Enter, One Way, Authorized Personnel Only, Danger, Keep Off, Keep Out, No Turns, Caution, Employees Only, No Public Access, Warning, No Parking, No Exit, ad nauseam, the list really is endless.

Rules made up by anyone, everyone, and no one (that anyone can determine) with and often without the authority to make them, much less enforce them. Rules that under any normal circumstances might be so minor we seldom give them any thought, but blind adherence to which in an emergency might make all the difference in the outcome. This is a mindset, a “civilized” way of living under normal circumstances. But it’s an insidious one. You can find yourself “obeying” mindlessly, without considering the cost. In a worst case scenario you could find yourself in a bad way because as a morally upright, law-abiding sort you reflexively followed herd-think and didn’t allow yourself to consider an out-of the-box alternative that might bend the rules temporarily into a pretzel.

The fictional Sarah Connor said "There’s no fate but what we make." I decided a very long time ago that when my safety and that of my family is at stake, there are no rules except the ones I make. Period. I will face the music, if any, after my family and I are safe.

These precepts can and should be adapted to every conceivable location and circumstance, but we’ll use a familiar place for our mental exercise, and explore one small example of what I’m talking about. You are at a large shopping mall with your family. As is your nature, as you contemplated this outing, you gave some thought to where you parked, the layout of the mall, and where you intended to go in the mall. You ran through some what-ifs in your head, and possibly verbally reinforced your family’s safety and security procedures before going in. This undoubtedly includes maintaining awareness of exits and potential evacuation routes, when and where to meet, cell phones all around, etc.

You realize that a major incident would surely result in chaos. You picture the crowd trying to get out the exits in a fire, or in response to something in the air, like the inadvertent dump of someone’s OC pepper spray, or worse some kind of flash-mob event or … the sound of gunfire. Whether there is an immediate threat or just the perception of one, these are herd animals we’re talking about. It’s going to be ugly.

When faced with large-scale moving forces, whether mall stampede or tornado or rip-tide the very best path to safety isn’t with or against, away from or toward, but at right-angles. You could survive any of the above from fairly close range if you were only off to the side; if you had a way to move that is perpendicular to the lines of force. Like that very plain double door over there that no one seems to notice. Have you ever considered or discussed the use of the mall service corridors? There’s a good chance the answer is no, you’ve never given them any thought. Why? Because the signs say “Authorized Personnel Only.” The “rules” say you aren’t supposed to go there. So you might not even know what’s back there, much less have that at the top of your escape route list.

In most large malls the building is riddled with these secondary access-ways. Despite their non-public nature, a lot of times they even appear on maps of the mall. They are typically long, bare concrete or concrete-block corridors which run behind all of the inside stores and there are usually exits from each store into these passageways. The shops often use them to receive merchandise deliveries. In many there are also fire exits to the exterior of the building. In an emergency, if using a service corridor was the expeditious route to safety for me and my family, I would “authorize” myself in a heartbeat. I would disregard the signs, and I would do so forcefully and immediately. Let some retail mall rat holler at me. Let someone shake their head with a disapproving stare. Let some rent-a-cop mumble into his walkie-talkie. I’ll deal with that later, if at all. Chances are no one would even notice.

In fact, take a field trip. Go walk-about at the mall. Dress respectably if not professionally and carry a folder or clipboard. Most often these corridors open into the mall at both ends. Go to one end, open the door like you own it and walk directly and purposefully to the other end. No one knows everyone and each will assume you are “authorized.” Chances are no will even be there. If you meet someone, make eye contact and offer a pleasant greeting. No one will wonder or care. And now you know what to expect on the other side of those plain doors. While you’re at it see if the mall has some give-away maps and see what might be on them.

I am famous for my “create-a-space” parking. I know what the law says, I know what the signs say, I know what is enforceable and what is a “suggestion.” It’s amazing what some places and management types will try to get away with simply because it works with 98% of the sheeple. But that’s not the same as the rule and force of law, or even private property rights. Now, I’m not a sociopath. In fact I go out of my way to not take advantage of or be a hindrance to others, or disregard or disrespect the rights of others. But I make my own decisions based on the situation at hand. And that is under normal circumstances.

In a crisis my willingness to play these reindeer games all but evaporates. Need to immediately retrieve a family member in an emergency? Let someone holler, “Hey, you can’t park there!” First of all, says who? Yes, actually I can. Second, even if I can’t “legally,” if circumstances are serious enough a parking ticket is the least of my concerns. And I’ll likely be long gone before any official response materializes anyway. And if not I’ll explain. And if Barney’s having a bad day I’ll accept it and tell it to the judge. What I’m not going to do is stand there and debate the issue. Whatever I say in response, if anything, I am not going to stop moving. Better to pretend you can’t hear, as you smile, wave and keep moving.

While I am a staunch advocate for private property rights for individuals, when it comes to commercial private property much is actually considered a public space and is legally and operationally different. I know that many, many “rules” carry only the force that comes from hoping the sheeple don’t know any better and decide to play along. Very few carry any consequences beyond being asked to leave or “don’t do that.” Hardly anything that rises to the level of changing what I would do in the best interests of safety and security for me and my family.

The point is, you decide, don’t let something or someone else decide for you. Make a choice for your immediate survival and let the chips fall. Never let silly rules or someone’s delusions of  authority trip you up at a critical moment. Be civil, but forceful. Apologize later. If later comes. Even when talking about “rules” survival can be a matter of “improvise, adapt and overcome.” Especially the overcome part. Rules that may make some kind of sense or serve some purpose in civil society under normal circumstances may hinder survival in a crisis. They can cause you to hesitate, reconsider, change direction. They can slow you down, rob you of what turned out to be your only chance.

You may think this is all a bit elementary. You may be thinking, well of course in a case like that I’m going to ignore the rules. Perhaps. A great many otherwise intelligent people have inexplicably done otherwise in difficult situations and paid dearly. You may be a big tough guy who is pushy and independent to a fault on his best day. But what about your spouse? Your older children? Chances are they were raised to respect and follow the rules. I know of family members that, though fortunately having not seen them in a critical situation, on a daily basis they are not the pushy sort. I could just hear them saying they and their children were trapped in some place for some long period of time because there was this guy saying no one could leave. Let’s face it, most people want to play by the rules in normal situations, and our bias is to want to believe the situation is in fact normal. I of course would be apoplectic! Guy? What guy? You listened to some guy? You stayed there because some guy said stay? Hopefully they’re telling me this in person because eventually all was well. But I’m guessing you have a family member that you can hear saying the same thing.

Many occupants of the World Trade Center towers were told by 911 operators to stay where they were and wait for rescue. Some were on their way out and were told, “Go back upstairs to your office.” Hard to believe, knowing what we know now. And very painful to contemplate. Those who obeyed, died. Those who listened to their inner voice and said the heck with that, left, and lived. These were New Yorkers! “Whadda ya gonna do, give me a ticket? Up yours, I’m outta here.” But of course those who stayed…were New Yorkers too.

You decide, and make your own fate. And make sure your spouse and your family are up to the task as well. Sometimes people just need to consider the situation and give themselves “permission” to do what is necessary. The point is to do that now, while there’s time.

Back to the mall. Many of those who relish flexing imaginary authority over petty and absurd rules are themselves sheep when push comes to shove and can frequently be directed, re-directed and misdirected by superior force of will. Let’s play, “my pretend authority is bigger than your pretend authority.” A brawl breaks out close-by in the mall. It seems to be spreading or moving in your direction. Teens that you aren’t going to out-run with your family. There’s no clear avenue of escape. You move swiftly into the nearest store and head for the back. At the very least you are out of the immediate path of the mayhem and it may pass you by. If it enters the store you have a better defensive position with your back to a wall. But what you are hoping for is that like most of the stores there’s an exit into the service corridor in back.

As you move through the store, headed for the back “authorized personnel only” exit a store employee steps into your path. Before they can get a word out, use your command voice and tell them to do something. Anything. “There’s a man with a gun. Keep all of your employees in the store.” Don’t debate, don’t discuss, don’t answer questions and  don’t stop moving. Point and issue commands. Officials don’t answer questions, officials tell people what to do. It doesn’t even have to make sense. “There’s been a release, don’t run any water.” Give them something to do. “Call mall security and tell them there’s a Code 18 at the food court.” What they intended to come out as, “You’re not allowed back here” or “Where are you going?” suddenly and reflexively turns into, “Uh, okay, yessir.”

Pretty funny actually. Think of it as the shock-and-awe version of social engineering. Think of some lines in advance. Practice.

If the way out isn’t obvious, ask! Ask in a firm command voice that leaves them with no thought but to provide the answer. Very controlled, professional, firm. As you do so pull out your wallet and flash your ID. It doesn’t matter if it’s your library card, they aren’t going to get a look. You watch television, you know how. Keep issuing commands and keep moving. They’ll be overwhelmed and it will work 95% of the time. For the other 5%, you’ll have to make the call. If the situation is grave enough, go around, over or through them. Or even have them consider that they should be leaving also, for their own safety.

In any situation, move with purpose, as someone on official business would move. Sound official, as someone on official business would sound. Look like you know where you are going and are supposed to be going there. Demeanor is everything. You can accomplish an amazing amount without ever actually being official or even saying anything or misrepresenting yourself as official, but just by being officious. “I never said I was anyone at all, I guess she just assumed," you might say.

In a disaster I intend to get home. I have a hard hat, metal clipboard, reflective safety vest, ID on a lanyard, and two-way radio in the back of my truck. I don’t intend to claim to be anyone. But I intend to appear to be someone. Look official, sound official, be treated as official. (Who was that masked man?)

Beyond the “posted” rules, the same goes for folks acting under some delusion of quasi-authority, or even real honest-to-goodness authority for that matter. I make the rules for my safety, period. There’s no question I am pre-disposed to listen to the directions of qualified, commissioned public safety figures: police officers, paramedics and firefighters. I actually work in public safety with these folks. But I will still determine for myself if those directions made good sense, and act accordingly. Even the best in blue can cast good sense aside, sticking to an official line solely because they are under orders, and that can ultimately get people hurt or worse. The chief standing up in front of the local news camera two weeks hence and apologizing for mistakes that were made isn’t going to bring anyone back. And if we are talking about anyone else – a rent-a-cop, a store manager, any civilian in any civilian role – sorry Charlie, all bets are automatically off.

And of course it all comes down to the urgency of the situation. Under any normal circumstances if the nice officer says,  “Sorry, road’s closed, not supposed to let anyone through,” I will say thanks, turn around and make other plans. In a major event, a true personal emergency, I will decide for myself. Note from the pros: the nice officer manning the roadblock typically cannot abandon the roadblock to chase after the person who ignored the roadblock. (And you can’t read a plate that isn’t there. I’m just sayin’.)

Brand it on your consciousness: Following the herd is almost always a really bad idea, unless you are convinced by your own direct observation that what the herd is doing makes sense and has an obvious, immediate, demonstrable chance of success. Certainly never follow the herd just because some low-level functionary who found the on-switch on a bull horn is telling you it’s the thing to do. And never ignore your gut because some sign says, “Don’t Go There.” You will almost always have a better outcome by doing the opposite of what the herd is doing, or at the very least, if there is no immediate threat, waiting until the herd thins. Petty “rules” be damned. No matter the circumstance of my passing, the one place I will never, ever be found is at the bottom of a pile. No Coconut Grove for me. It’s anathema to everything I know.

I’m sure you can think of a hundred examples. The point of this is to get you thinking, and like everything else we do, use the luxury of time available now to contemplate the what-ifs, saving critical time in an emergency. Raise your awareness. Consider the massive onslaught of rules you are subjected to as you go about your daily business. Take note of every prohibitive sign or posted notice. That includes traffic signs. Think about how they might restrict your chances for survival were you to follow them blindly in an emergency. Perhaps more important, is to consider how they will drive the herd in such a situation, and how you might benefit from choosing a different path.

Get other family members thinking along these lines. Although I know a few very formidable women who could stop a charging grizzly with a look, it is undoubtedly easier for most men to take such a forceful authoritative approach. And probably, let’s be honest, for us guys to flaunt or ignore the rules and would-be rule-enforcers. Convince your better half that she absolutely can do the same, with a bit of determination to prevail, and maybe a little practice with her “command voice.” Role play. Let her pretend to be a prison guard. I’ll leave the uh, details to you.

If all of this talk of wanton lawlessness doesn’t sit well with you, keep in mind we are not talking about normal every-day circumstances. We are not talking about getting the last flat screen television on Black Friday. We are not talking about avoiding the longest line for Splash Mountain. We are not even talking about getting to the church on time. We’re talking about planning ahead to let ourselves color outside the lines a bit if that’s what’s necessary for the safety and survival of ourselves or others we are responsible for. The good news is that in a large-scale emergency no one is likely to notice, care, or have time to address the infraction, much less try to intervene or even follow up later. Like an ambulance driving on a sidewalk en route to an emergency. In the big picture it will be a non-event.

Remember, studies of those who survive catastrophes have shown that the survivors tend to be those that thought about the possibility of trouble in advance and had a mental what-if plan. Because when the bell rings, there is no time for thought. You move instantly, or you lose. So consider now, and make friends with the idea that you intend to put your hand firmly in the very middle of the “NO EXIT” sign when you shove the door open and take your family out of harm’s way into the sunshine. You can stop for ice cream on the way home. And see what you missed later, on the evening news.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Useful tips and advice for the rest of us. Don’t have lots of money? Just started prepping when it hits the fan? This guide is for you. Free of charge!

Tip #1: Bug-in
Chances are that you won’t be in such immediate danger (dirty bomb, lava about to engulf your house, spiders like in that Arachnaphobia movie) that you actually have to leave your home. Most likely the government will stop functioning or the power grid will be down for a long time. Of course, there is always risk of civil unrest, but that is not likely to effect your home. There is no switch that will turn your peace loving neighbors into homicidal maniacs. Most likely life will simply become more difficult. Ask yourself, how will I best be able to survive for a few years in this situation? Was the answer, out in the wilderness with no supplies? I’m not a big hunter myself, but I’ve heard how crowded it can get during hunting season. Now imagine that times ten. I’m just not seeing it. It would be a bad situation if it does happen. I put my money on a few running to the hills and coming home about two days later hoping their house with all the supplies they left hasn’t been ransacked. Even a beginning prepper will have some food, water, shelter and supplies at home. If you have to leave and can only take what can fit in your car, or worse yet, in your backpack, how long will you be able to survive. Check the G.O.O.D. section. There are many detailed articles on this point, and if you are a po’ boy like myself (hence you reading this article), you couldn’t afford a nice retreat in the hills anyhow, so stay where you’re at and lay low. It’s your best bet, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Tip #2: Water
Okay, so you’ve made the decision to stay home. Lucky you, you already have shelter. Now you need water. Even if you didn’t have the foresight to store a few hundred gallons, you still have a few options. Option 1: If time permits fill everything you can that will hold water. Those with two or thee bathtubs have an advantage here, but even if you live in a small apartment with only a shower, you still have this option. Fill every bowl and pitcher with water. That water tight bag you have to keep your stuff dry, guess what, it works in reverse. You can even use the water in the toilet tank (not the bowl, and be sure to purify) if you run out of every other supply. The idea here is not to have enough for two years, the idea is that everyone else around you won’t have water either and that means the population will either get water restored and you won’t have to worry about water anymore, or the population will decrease rapidly and you can come out of seclusion a month later and not worry about the hordes of people between you and the nearest lake or stream for a refill. Presumably by then you could also find a few good containers to bring back a good amount of water so you aren’t making trips to the water hole every day. Option 2: You don’t have time to fill containers. I assume here that water may stop flowing quickly or may be contaminated out of the tap. In that case you only have one good option, the hot water tank. Hoping of course that this hasn’t gotten contaminated as well. Remember here that water really means liquid. A few two liters of Coke will keep you alive just as well as anything else. If you still have the option to get to a grocery store, do it. If the bottled water is already cleared out, go for the juice, or the milk, or soda. In a pinch a few bags of oranges or the pre-squeezed lemon juice bottles would give you enough water content that you would survive (just make sure the food you eat is high in water content, eating food without drinking can cause you to dehydrate faster). As prepper Allen C. said in his article “Why I Hate Preppers”, we may actually have 25 days of food at the grocery store. Utilize this. Just remember a rush on the store is different from a normal shopping period and some things may well run out very fast. Don’t wait a week if it hits the fan and you don’t have supplies. You may have a timeframe to get to the store before everything runs out, but it may be a small one. This may necessitate tip 3.

Tip #3: Cash
Have some cash on hand. Bartering may become the norm in a while, but at first, if the stores are still open, cash might save your life. That lady at the checkout counter may be sweet as molasses, but she won’t make trades. If the power is down your credit cards may not work and the banks may not be open to withdraw cash. As we’re all po’ boys here I’m not talking much. Even $50 would be enough to buy food for a few weeks. More would be better of course, but don’t go crazy. Hyperinflation is always a concern, so after you pass a certain cash point start looking into silver or other tradable goods. Just because we couldn’t afford that ranch retreat doesn’t mean we po’ boys can’t have a few bills laying around for emergencies. Just remember, unless it is a true emergency don’t use that cash reserve. It would be a shame for it to hit the fan and you need some cash, but you used it to pay the pizza boy last week and haven’t replenished it yet.

Tip # 4: Food
Edible vegetation in your neighborhood, pets, stray or wild animals, your garden, bugs (earth worms…yum) or charity from neighbors more prepared are just a few places you may find food if you run out. If things get really desperate and stores have closed check break rooms at local employers, warehouses that ship food to stores and dumpsters (you may be surprised what people throw out). I don’t however recommend two things, hunting unless you are quite alone. 100 city boys with rifles all gunning for the same deer is a recipe for disaster, and cannibalism. I’m sure I don’t have to get into why I don’t recommend cannibalism. Just remember here that a little knowledge of possible food sources around you could save your life. This doesn’t, however, mean you should forego food storage. I still highly recommend a deep larder--at least a few months worth. It doesn’t have to cost much.

Tip #5: Hygiene
If basic services stop, lack of good hygiene could become the number one killer. That cut that becomes infected or your medication that you can’t get refilled may be more deadly than your desperate neighbor. We may all be using the latrine we dug in the back yard. If you can’t flush it keep it out of the house. Be extra careful to wash every little cut, then keep those cuts properly covered. This means bandages, antibiotic ointment and alcohol or something similar. First aid kits don’t have to be expensive and it’s a good idea to have one at home and in the car. You won’t need a bug out bag if your bugging in, but keep one in your get home bag. This parleys nicely into tip 6.

Tip #6: Get-Home-Bag
Here’s the situation. You’re at work or otherwise away from home. Public transit isn’t running and the roads are gridlocked even if you have a car. Your commute home just turned into a six hour ordeal. Who’s prepared to run a marathon tomorrow? Me neither. Having a get home bag can give you the vital supplies to make it back to home sweet home. Water, some high energy food, a knife or anything else your situation requires. If you work in a high-rise some paracord would be good. Even if you don’t it’s not bad to have on hand. Add a flashlight, fire starter or anything else you may need depending on your situation. Don’t, whatever you decide to pack, overload your get home bag. It’s better to have one bottle of water and 40 miles to go, than 50 lbs of gear and collapse after 5 miles. Speed and stealth may be more important in the moment than how hungry you are. You can go without food for a long time. A straw filter will same you lots of water weight and now is not the time to have all your survival books on you. You have a limited supply of energy and the more you carry the more you need. Don’t blow it all in the first half of the race and not get to the finish line. Simple is often better, and cheaper.

Tip #7: Peace of Mind
Don’t sweet all the fancy equipment that you can’t buy. You won’t need most of it anyway and what you can’t buy other people can’t buy either so at least you’re on level playing ground. If you are constantly worrying about doomsday or your neighbor who you think will shoot you, you may have a mental breakdown.  Take a minute to de-stress and cope with the situation at hand. A clear mind is worth all the preps you can buy. Are you a high stress person? Find a good relaxation exercise. Not a high stress person, good, just remember in a bad situation you may be looking at a dead body for the first time, or forced to kill. Many things can cause mental stress and the more stressed out you are, the less likely that you are thinking clearly and will survive. Be mentally prepared for the worst, then when the not too good happens, you can handle it without issue.

Tip #8: Practice
To really get yourself mentally and physically prepared you need to test your limits and learn where your weaknesses are. Never fasted? Try it for a few days. Hunger is a powerful thing. You may just have a spiritual experience along the way. Try living without electricity for a week. Ride your bike to work. Live off only your food storage for a while. These things will do much more than educate you, they will prepare you for when you have no other choice. Many preconceived notions will fail and truth will become quickly apparent. The knowledge that it takes more time to do something than you thought or that you aren’t in as good shape as you used to be, may just be the crucial piece of information you need to get truly prepared. We also get better with practice. Those with military experience know practice will save your life if it hits the fan and you’re not left with time to think and plan.

Tip #9: Be Realistic
Everyone likes to think that the whole world will be trying to steal your stuff and kill you. Remember that everyone is in the same situation. If someone goes to a neighbor with a gun to steal their food; chances are the neighbor has a gun too and will use it. Will there be an increase in violence and clime, probably, will it be like Titanic, sudden chaos and almost everyone dies, not likely. Some disasters bring a whole lot of death with them, but they are not things that could effect the whole world at once. Things that would effect all of us are not likely to cause everyone to start running around shooting each other. We’ll all be too busy running for our lives. Stay grounded in your life and in your preps. A home made rocket may get you into orbit and save your life if the earth explodes, but when you’re dying a slow death alone in space you will wish you had never left. We as human beings have an immense ability to adapt to whatever situations come our way. Stay grounded, be realistic and you will be ready for whatever comes your way.

Tip #10: Don’t forget the rest of your life
Prepping can become an obsession and life isn’t stopping for you to get ready for tomorrow. If you don’t have it together now, that won’t change when it hits the fan. You are the person you are and if you can’t seem to keep things together now, how do you expect to later? Do you have health issues, marriage or job problems? The same set of skills that will allow you to survive and thrive when it hits the fan are the same as those that you used to solve problems now.  Critical thinking, awareness of environment, planning and follow through to name a few. The best indicator of survival tomorrow is how you are doing today. Take a self assessment and see how you are doing. If you find something lacking, consider that your first task in prepping for tomorrow.

Always remember that your survival isn’t dependent on how much money you have. Nor is your piece of mind. Our greatest asset is our mind. Use it to it’s fullest and find ways to be prepared without taking out a loan, and if you do have some spare cash, use it to it’s fullest. Don’t forget your family and friends in your preps. Do more than just survive, save someone else.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thanks so much for all you and your family do to keep survivalblog.com going. It is a daily read for me.

Upon reading "Four-Tier Survival for the Newbie," I reminisced about what my father would say to me while I was initially preparing my bug-out bag: 

"Son, you are preparing for luxury. Back when I was a boy during the Depression we used to go out camping with just the clothes on our backs, our pocket knife and a potato in our pocket. We took a potato 'cause we generally couldn't 'find' potatoes."

Being in my mid-fifties now, I recognize my limitations for what can be realistically carried. Being able to move father faster in a bug-out situation is key to my mindset. 

I often wrestle with the difference between a bug-out situation verses an "I'm not coming home" one. My wife and my bug out bags (BOBs) are plenty heavy enough with food and water, therefore every other item carried is multi-purposed, essential and chosen for less weight. One entrenching tool is the only "luxury" item carried between the two of us.

My hope is to be able to drive-out with the truck in an I'm Not Coming Home (INCH) or BOB scenario. The truck bed has a camper-top on it which is ideal not only for cargo but also use as a foul-weather tent. Otherwise a deer cart, wheel barrel, shopping cart or even a child's wagon might be employed to haul INCH items in a walk-out. Let us all pray it never comes to that. Let us all prepare because it looks like our prayers aren't working. - S.J.H.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hi James,
I have gone through many variants of a BoB or EDC Bag over the years, and feel that I've found a really good setup for a "covert" EDC bag that can function as a get home bag (GHB) more so than a BoB.  It doesn't draw unwanted attention to carrier, but provides what I think is essential to EDC.  

As a summary, I am using a 5.11 Covrt Backpack as my bag.  It provides all the needs I want in a "tactical" bag but doesn't scream "HEY LOOK!! I have a MOLLE bag with a bunch of stuff on it!  Shoot me first bad guy (or LEO, take notice of me)."

It is set up with:

  • Concealed full size pistol + 1 extra magazine
  • Individual first aid kit (IFAK)
  • Toiletry kit
  • Hand-crack radio
  • Leatherman MUT
  • Lock pick set,
  • Streamlight Pro-Tac 1l flashlight
  • Fire starter tools
  • Water purification items
  • Paracord wrap
  • Oakley gloves
  • ORAL IV rehydration ampoules
  • Pen/notepad
  • Poncho
  • Plus a slew of other small EDC items

That still leave plenty of room within the pack itself.  This is a bag I carry into work and in my car on a daily basis, and no-one gives me a second look.  Previously, I had a MOLLE bag with most of the same items in it, but it would draw unwanted attention to myself (even though I thought it looked cool). 

Regards, - Nick K.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hi James,
I was recently at the chainsaw shop and saw cans of something called TRUFUEL. It is basically one quart metal cans of gasoline, with most versions premixed for 2-stroke engines.  However, they also have a 4-stroke version that my chainsaw dealer tells me is simply 92-octane gasoline with stabilizers and other additives that would be perfectly suitable for running a car or other vehicle.  Haven’t tried it myself yet, but if plausible, big box hardware stores, power tool dealers, and some auto parts stores could have fuel available in a pinch (and I imagine for only a short time) if gas stations were out of fuel or out of service.  The company web site lists several big hardware stores that carry their products. Relying on it for any significant amount of fuel is going to cost you anywhere from $25-$35 a gallon, but under the right conditions, that might be worth it.  On the upside, the web site says that it has a two-year shelf life, although my chainsaw dealer indicated five years. Something in between is probably the real number.  For the record, I have no financial interest in TRUFUEL nor any connections to the company or their products. - Sean B.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I've browsed your site for about a year off and on, and have read Patriots, and am just starting Survivors. Great work I must say, keep up the good work!

My question for you is one I've tickled in my mind since heading to a camping trip this last summer. While we were driving, and I was mindlessly staring out the side window, I noticed the large power grid high tension lines. (you know the ones I'm talking about with the large steel towers, holding a dozen or so lines high above the earth). I had a day dream while watching them about bugging out on foot, and I was following them to our bug out location, which is quite near where we were going camping.

What started out as a small day dream actually got me thinking that following the right-pf-ways for these transmission lines wouldn't be a bad way to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) on foot, since they're off the beaten path, and are easily mapped, using Google maps/earth. The only problems I foresee with using them as G.O.O.D. routes are that they are somewhat exposed, as the ground below them is often well trimmed (though this could be an advantage for faster movement to G.O.O.D. quicker), and that they can and do, span locations that are not easily traversed on foot, such as rivers and crevasses. 

I browsed your site and did not see any information on the power grid (though admittedly your archives are huge and I wouldn't be surprised if I missed anything) with respect to getting out of Dodge. I live in the northern Seattle metro area, and planning G.O.O.D. routes is a nightmare, but following the power grid lines appears to be a relatively good option for me, as they ironically to run close to two of my bugout locations.

What are you or your reader's thoughts on following these power grid lines, good or bad, and do you happen to know of any resources that would have an actual map of them, as opposed to using Google maps? Or do you have any other ideas that I may have not thought of, such as utilizing storm drains? They were mentioned in your novel Patriots.

Thank you for your time Mr. Rawles. - Jesse

JWR Replies: Depending on the locale, most high tension lines pass over private property, using easements. This would make following the lines dicey, at best. I generally wouldn't recommend it. (This could be a great way to run into confrontation after confrontation.) But to be ready for a true "worst case' where roads are impassable, I suppose it would be wise to at least map out these routes. Google Earth can be a handy tool for doing so, particularly in forested areas, where the swaths of cleared trees for the power lines stand out distinctly.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I was glad to read in M.L.'s article "Just In Case" that he packs some form of flashlight for the train commute. I wonder if he realizes the single-most important use for it would be inside a tunnel. A grid-down situation will stop subway and above-ground light-rail trains which operate on electricity delivered by overhead wire or energized third rail. Grid-down will also bring at least a momentary stop to diesel-powered trains if the signal system goes dark. Earthquake, terror attack, or even a derailment are other ways one might find themselves onboard a train that suddenly gets stopped inside a tunnel.

In addition to the Los Angeles subway, M.L.'s commute might involve several other tunnels if the initial rail journey from home is out of the suburbs or outlying canyon country north or northwest of Los Angeles. Both areas use rail lines which have several tunnels, two of which are about a mile in length. One of these mile-long tunnels is just outside Chatsworth; the other is near Sylmar. If it becomes necessary to evacuate from a train in such a tunnel, personal lighting will be crucial. One additional concern, in the event the locomotive is not shut down in a reasonable amount of time, is that the interior of the tunnel might become filled with diesel exhaust.

Rail commuters in New York, New Jersey, Seattle, and Portland also have the potential of finding themselves stopped inside a tunnel. And long-distance travelers on Amtrak trains pass through numerous tunnels, some of them quite long, on certain routes. Of the many tunnels which the Empire Builder train between Seattle and Chicago passes through, two of them are more than seven miles in length, one of these being northeast of Libby, Montana, the other being under Stevens Pass in the Washington Cascades. Imagine having to walk your way out of the middle of a seven-mile long tunnel. You had better have some spare batteries for that light.

One final thought. While most commuters become familiar with the landmarks and communities along the freeway, very few of them pay attention to where they are during a train ride. If getting home is the ultimate goal, it's important for rail commuters like M.L. to take note of the location of communities, stores, infrastructure, and general terrain along their route. In addition to tunnels, are there bridges, gang-infested areas, or other "challenges" on the rail line you would need to be aware of in the event of an emergency? - Bruce in Idaho

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I was looking at the weather in Ohio the other day. I was using web cameras operated by the Department of Transportation and it got me to thinking that this could be a good way to gather intelligence.

If the power stays on and you have computer / Internet capabilities you could look at weather cams in any of the 50 States by going to the link:  State Traffic Webcams

Click on the state and go from there. Most have the major areas covered, where there are expected to be traffic problems but some have back roads as well.

It might be worth studying your area now and looking at your bug out routes to gather some intelligence on the normal, day-to-day, road conditions and also how the traffic flows all year long.

Living in Hawaii I check the Honolulu Traffic Cams daily before I leave work and sometimes when I come home.

It might help!

I love living in these United States of America! 73, - D.S.H.

Friday, January 4, 2013

I have seen a great deal of information over the years concerning the “Bug Out Bag” but very little that addresses the “Get Home Bag”. Considering the fact that most of us spend a good portion of our day away from our homes, I would have expected to see a greater amount of attention paid to the subject. Benjamin Franklin said it best, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

I reside in a semi rural area outside the megatropolis of Southern California, I work in downtown Los Angeles which requires a 1/2 hour drive to the train station, a 1-½ hour commute by train and a 10 minute subway ride to reach my place of employment. A very small number of people in this corner of the world are fortunate enough to be able to utilize public transportation. I consider myself lucky in a sense, not having to battle through the daily road war. It comes at a cost however. At a minimum, I am away from my home 14-1/4 hours a day during the week and the commute costs me $17 a day.

Observing my fellow train commuters, almost no one is carrying a pack of any kind. The packs that are being carried contain laptops or other personal items. I get delayed 2-4 hours a month on average for locomotive failures, accidents at crossings or freight activity. Nothing serious has happened so far but you would think folks would realize something could happen and we could be on our own. I was on the subway platform the other day with a fellow employee who also rides the train; I asked him a hypothetical question. Assume that a massive and sustained power failure just occurred, what would you do? He said that he never contemplated that possibility and had no plan to get home. Given the fact that we live in Earthquake country, I find that irresponsible to say the least but sadly, not unexpected.

I feel the need to carry some items with me that might improve my chances of returning home in reasonable condition should a major “Event” take place. If heading home does not appear possible, I will head towards an alternate rally point to meet up with my wife. I always have a Get Home Bag with me. Over the years I have redone my bag a number of times. Currently, my bag is actually not a bag, I use an aluminum attaché. Something that had always bothered me in the past was the inability to secure the contents of my bag. The attaché I am using solves that problem providing me a locking device and some degree of EMP protection which I never had previously. The hard case also provides the contents impact protection should something fall on it or I drop it.

I selected an aluminum Samsonite attaché. It measures 18 x 13 x 4 inches and has a very stylish business appearance. If I were a tradesman, I would have selected a model suitable to the field I worked in to avoid drawing any unwanted attention to myself. The first thing I did was to beef up the case. I have used Armorcore ballistic protection products on a couple of projects at home and got the idea to have my case do double duty by providing me with some personal protection in addition to carrying my equipment. I acquired some level 3 ballistic fiberglass. It is 7/16” thick, weighs 4.8 lbs per square foot and will stop a 240 grain .44 Magnum traveling 1,350 fps. I fashioned some brackets inside on one side of the case that permit me to remove the panel if necessary. I had it welded in by a professional as I do not weld aluminum enough to trust my work. I refinished the case in a gun metal gray. It should provide center mass protection and will defiantly protect my equipment from most gunshots. I do not wear body armour everyday, aside from a law enforcement individual, who does? My thoughts were some potential protection is better than none at all. To secure the case contents, I purchased some Pick N Pluck Foam from Pelican Case. The Model 1520 case is close to the size of my attaché and it allowed me to easily fashion cut outs to cradle my equipment.

To a certain degree, the contents of your bag, or case, are personal choices depending on your perceived needs. I consider the basics to be Water filtration, Personal Protection, Communications, Shelter and Food in that order. In the worst case scenario I expect it to take 48 hours to reach my home or rally point if I have to start from the furthest point away from my destination. To fulfill my first requirement, I carry the Life straw for water filtration. They are small, easy to use and are good for 20 gallons of filtration. I have a couple of coffee filters for pre filtering if necessary and carry a couple of 1 quart Mylar water containers. If I am at work when something happens, I have a 100 oz Camelback hydration pack in my file cabinet and more water available to me than I could carry.

I have a trio of options for my Personal Protection needs: a Glock 36 .45 ACP. As this is California, it must be carried unloaded in a locked case. I keep the magazines on my hip in a leather pouch that also has a locking hasp. This setup is not great for a quick response but it keeps things legal. I have two additional defensive tools. As Los Angeles has restrictive knife laws, I carry a CRKT M21 tactical folding knife in town. When not in Los Angeles , I instead carry a Cold Steel Bushman Knife with a Paracord wrapped handle. The 4 oz Fox Labs Mark 5 flip top pepper spray rounds out the field. Having choices permits the appropriate level response for a given situation.

My next priority is information and communication. I use the Puxing PX-888K Dual Band Handheld Receiver. This radio has VHF, UHF, 2 meter/440 MHz, NOAA weather and public safety frequencies. I have a nice tactical headset for hands free use. It also works with Dakota Alert products which I utilize at home. For me, a 200 channel scanner was my next choice. Monitoring police and government communications could prove useful. I also carry an older Smartphone in my case. I replaced one recently with a newer model but retained the old unit. Although I have no cell service associated with it, you can still make 911 calls, a feature that will most likely prove useless in a major incident. However, the phone has a 32gig memory card that I permanently installed. I have an extensive electronic library, how to videos, pictures of important documents, insurance and bank account numbers, a movie or two, music, Kindle e-books and some games. I have a spare battery and the device is password protected

Sheltering maybe required during my journey so I carry the Emergency Zone Mylar sleeping bag as well as an emergency blanket and Poncho. I carry some Survivor Industries Mainstay 1200 emergency food bars. I maintain a two month supply of A-Pack MREs at work and I can carry some in my hydration pack if I am starting from work.

So I can see into the immediate future, I have a small monocular in my case. Spotting trouble in advance will enhance my ability to avoid it. I do not expect trouble initially, maybe the first 12 hours, but as people get past the initial shock of an event, things will change quickly. To deal with darkness, I have a Streamlight Strion hand-held light and the Argo headlamp, more than enough lumens to light the way but I will need to careful not to draw attention to myself.

As some unforeseen task will undoubtedly come up requiring tools, I have the Leatherman Surge on hand which should prove useful. I carry Padlock shims; they will come in handy when I find that someone inadvertently locked a gate or access to something. The remainder of my goods are fairly standard. Cash in small denominations, basic first aid items, dust masks, means to build a fire, Kleenex travel packets, not necessarily for my nose, handi-wipes, bandana, chamois, compass, a map etc.

My goal was to keep the weight of my Get Home Case under 25 lbs. The weight of the attaché came in at 20 lbs and change. I pull it around on a small luggage dolly. I removed the wheels that came on the dolly and I installed larger balloon tires so I can traverse uneven terrain with ease. I can collapse the handle and carry it all if I am in a hurry. I can also carry the case contents on my belt by means of clip, nylon carry case and in my pockets. This would allow me to travel without the case or use it to carry other items.

When I finally reach home or my rally point, my Get Home Case becomes my Bug Out Case, if required. It will be supplemented with additional weapons platforms, ammo, food, larger water filtration equipment and more of everything which I can carry on my luggage dolly should my other means of transportation be unadvisable. My wife has a similar case in her car. She is only a couple of miles away from home at any time but has what she needs if it all goes wrong.

The majority of you have likely taken all of the above into consideration and planned accordingly. If not, I guess I will not be seeing you at Bartertown.

JWR Adds: One advantage of a locking attache case is that in many jurisdictions, a locked piece of luggage is not subject to search without a warrant or the most dramatic "probable cause" situations. (Consult your state laws, for details.)

J.B. mentioned that it is important before and when bugging out to listen to all radio news reports and gather any information concerning the route.  This, of course, depends on somebody still broadcasting.  We must constantly keep up on what’s going on locally and soak up every scrap of information available.  This data is used to update the maps, note the areas to avoid, and make navigation decisions.  It will be important to constantly gather intelligence, adjust plans accordingly, and to be acutely aware of where you are.

Something I found helpful: I picked up a 1000 channel scanner from Radio Shack and updated it using the Internet. (manually inputted all the channels I consider important state and local police, EMS, fire) - and searching around you can find police/EMS/fire and a lot of other info - by county/town/state - I loaded up 300 channels in to my scanner- in hopes of avoiding trouble from Pennsylvania to Indiana on my trips out there. I have a 10 hour drive out to my goal. The unit I have also allows you to seek and lock radio frequencies on the fly, so I can add them as I move in to an area. (hopefully that will be a valuable asset)  You can gain a lot of insight listening to what is going on--car accidents, armed robberies down town, car accidents when the roads ice up, down power lines or a house fire--anything like this can be in your path, so you might get a little warning before you travel in to it. and a little warning makes a big difference, a few weeks ago- I went to get an oil change, and got to hear about multiple accidents on the highways- black ice- I had no idea it was bad, because it hadn't moved in to my end of the valley yet. it was coming my way-  I went for coffee/breakfast and a few hours later it had warmed up enough that it was a rain event. win/win.

Yes, it is expensive, but just so you know it's info- and info is one of the more important things you need when things are bad. In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. Your primary goal is to avoid all bottlenecks in your path, and find a safe way home. you need to know what locations are with out power (no traffic lights), where the lines/poles are down (roadblocks), what is going on around you in your area. The local law enforcement officers might be on trunked radio frequencies, but then again due to budget cuts it's just as likely they might be on open channels - good news is this radio has trunking ability. (I know the basics- but like most things I'm a beginner. Check out the documentation that comes with it.) Youtube it to learn more about what it can do for you. 

I'm not a lawyer, you might want to consult one before putting this in your car. I'm sure bureaucrats have a law against it- you know for the criminal types. :p

One thing that sticks out from my Marine captain friend who did some time overseas- watch every over pass if you have to go under, go fast- as undesirable people might drop things like Molotov cocktails on your truck or in his case, grenades. bug out travel is no joke- it seems every turn is a bad situation waiting to happen. 

Good luck - hope you find this a helpful addition to your plans. - Mike in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

There is a plethora of good, sound information and articles on SurvivalBlog.com that I have researched, absorbed, and adapted into much of what we have done to prepare.  I would like to personally extend my gratitude to all the contributors of this subject and let them know that the information they have freely shared has been very helpful.  In addition, there are countless other informative sites, books, and organizations gained from this web site that has also been very useful.  This article describes our particular situation, the challenges, and planning to make our escape from the crowded suburbs of Atlanta to the sanctuary of the American Redoubt.  It is not a perfect plan and there are many risks involved, but in the end, one must do what they must with what they have and be prepared for the worst.

Finding adequate long-term retreat locations in the southeast United States is proving expensive and leaves one to doubt its protection near so many people.  As with many beginning prepper’s, we started over a year ago with the basic focus to improve our food & water situation at home along with basic gear needed for an extended bug-in situation.  In the midst of this, we realized we were not in an ideal location and would not be able to bug-in forever if things got really bad.  We decided to start looking for recreational acreage in the southeast to provide a retreat and develop into a new homestead over the long term.  The problem has been finding the right place, in the right location, for an affordable price.

Having grown up in the California, Colorado, and Idaho areas, I’m very familiar with the region’s resources, geography, political climate, and culture.  Overwhelmingly it appeals as the better place to be when SHTF and we have changed our focus to purchase property and move to the Redoubt region to establish our retreat/homestead for retirement.  The goal is to purchase ample acreage to build a self-sufficient, off the grid home and make the move.  My troubles began when I questioned what we would do if the excrement hits the rotator before that plan is finalized.  What do we do, where do we go, and how do we get there?

It comes down to a choice of hunkering down in the suburbs, bugging out to nearby forest or wilderness, or high-tailing it west where we want to be.  Believe it or not, we decided that if it comes down to it, we’re making a bee line for the northwest.  Since that decision, our prepping has focused on that being the primary plan until we are able to relocate.  Once we move, the prepping focus will change accordingly.

Since I have traveled the road between Atlanta and Twin Falls several times, planning a 2200 mile bug out seemed simple enough but quickly became a monumental task.  The more I got into it, the more challenges I uncovered.  This undertaking is much more involved than a simple road trip and the necessary planning becomes complicated and risky – almost to the point of scrapping the idea entirely as hopelessly impossible or insane.  I’m not here to profess one thing over another, but to pass on what I’ve found to be noteworthy getting from point A to point B, 2000 miles away, within my comfort zone.  None of this is a guarantee of mission success.

Living east of the Mississippi one quickly learns there are a number of circumstances and factors to consider in developing a workable escape plan.  The most troublesome element is that 58% of the country’s population resides east of the Mississippi river in roughly 1/3 of the total land mass.  This is a huge impediment in reaching and crossing the Mississippi river, a formidable natural barrier.  It will be a continuous challenge avoiding the mass of people, possible road blocks, checkpoints, and other hazards on the first third of the journey.  Another issue is multiple large rivers to cross with limited bridges away from populated areas.

My current location requires 7 hours of driving to reach the Mississippi river – by interstate.  For me, this is my first tactical objective.  It’s not west enough, but it’s a line that once I’m on the west side, the bulk of the population is behind me, my odds of success are improved, and I can breathe a little easier.  The goal is to get across it as soon as possible, before the bridges become impassible in a worst case scenario.  Naturally, this all depends on the nature and scale of the event and in some scenario’s, this trek would not be possible and we’d have to find refuge elsewhere.

Planning a route to carry you a thousand miles or more during a crisis is challenging.  In this case, to go from Georgia to Idaho requires some 230 gallons of gasoline (my vehicle only) and 46 hours driving time – under normal circumstances.  In this plan, I have added an additional 400 miles to the route by avoiding the larger cities and denser counties.  I cannot carry enough fuel for that entire distance so I must rely on the availability of gasoline along the way.  It is the single most critical item in the plan and without it we are dead in the water.  This is certainly not the ideal solution and the only way it can be successful is to get going before the fuel runs out – before the panic.  This is easier said than done.

Two days before hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, word was spread over the Atlanta news that the Colonial pipeline, which supplies Georgia and parts of the eastern seaboard with gasoline from the gulf coast, would be temporarily shut down.  It was also mentioned that there was at least a 10 day supply of gasoline in the Atlanta area for normal consumption and the supply line was expected to be back online before any shortages occurred.  It didn’t take long for a needless panic to ensue.  A gas buying frenzy started and prices jumped to $6/gal in 4 hours.  Within 3 days, most urban stations were as dry as the sand in the Mojave.  That’s how quick a situation can change and any plans will be bust if you wait too late.  It was weeks before supplies and costs returned to normal so fuel will be a constant critical item in the route plan.

To aid this situation, I have designed and in the process of building a 50 gallon rectangular stainless steel fuel tank that can be quickly installed in the bed of my truck.  Basically it’s a simple transfer tank to be used to refill the truck’s main tank via a hose and hand-crank pump. Combined I now have approximately 75 gallons of fuel capacity giving me a 900 mile range.  This should easily get me across the Mississippi river as my cross country route is only 600 miles.  The idea is to have sufficient fuel to cross the river and the plan calls for refueling at any opportunity along the way.

The questionable availability of gas requires specific gear and consideration.  Two critical pieces are the siphon hose and a 12 volt dc pump to reach the gasoline in the underground tanks.  It’s the only way to get fuel if power is down.  Underground tanks can be accessed through the lids found on the lot surface and the tank cap can be removed to allow a suction hose to be dropped inside.  Most underground tank bottoms are around 15 feet below the pavement surface.  (I reckon it should be mentioned that this is extremely hazardous.  One good spark and everyone around will know where you are and what you just attempted to do).  The pump needs to be self-priming, explosion proof or hermetically sealed, powerful enough to lift fuel at least 20 feet, and provide a minimum of 5 gallons per minute flow using at least a 1/2” outlet.  (Plans for a suitable pump setup are available at SurvivalBlog.com using a spare automotive fuel pump).

Many variables can adversely or favorably affect the route plan.  A road or bridge being open or closed is a simple example.  Fuel being available here or there is another.  Since it would be nearly impossible to know before getting within sight of a bridge, etc., I decided to plan for both possible situations, one being primary and the other secondary, and in some cases, a third alternative.  Every critical part of the bug out route is thought through for possible problems and solutions.  If we get to the primary bridge over the Mississippi River and find it impassible, we divert to bridge B.  Rather than stand around and scratch our heads figuring out where to go, we keep moving toward a new target.  If that one can’t be used, plan C is implemented and so on.  The plan has to be flexible and if all else fails, we bug in somewhere and wait.

We found one of the most critical components of our planning was the preparations needed just to get us on the road.  Unless the event is an instantaneous major tectonic malfunction of cosmic proportions, events should unfold and develop such that we have time load and go.  Two things become vital in the beginning stage; vehicle readiness and the loading process.  Naturally, any bug out vehicle must be maintained, fueled, and ready to go at a moment’s notice, but we are not always that disciplined.  This requires that we have the means to do it very quickly and carry spares.  The plan requires us to leave town in a moment’s notice so all our ducks need to be in a row.

A whole article can be written on the proper condition to maintain a bug out vehicle.  I simply treat it as I do any other vehicle and keep it maintained such that I have no worries to jump in it right now and head for the west coast.  I know it will make it, but there are always those rare times when something takes the opportunity to unexpectedly fail.  To counter this, I keep an assortment of spare parts stashed under the rear seat.  Accessory drive belt, ignition coil, spark plugs, and tire plugs just to name a few.  The key is to keep it in good running order; oil changed regularly, good tires, healthy battery, etc.  If you are concerned about it making a 2000 mile trip, then it isn’t ready or reliable.

Unless one has a dedicated bug out vehicle that stays locked and loaded, we must factor vehicle loading into the equation.  What can be thrown into a particular vehicle in the least amount of time and how does it all fit?  The clock is ticking and the window is rapidly closing so there isn’t a whole lot of time to waste figuring out what to take, where it all is, and how to pack it all.  To simplify and minimize loading we pre-packaged everything and keep it stored in 2 places that can be reached easily and quickly.  Normally, most of this gear and supplies would be stored at a hideaway location, but in this case, we are creating a mobile retreat of sorts.  God help us.

We pre-packed our food supplies in identical boxes that can be easily stacked and transported.  Each sealed box contains 4 to 5 days of food and supplies for two adults.  Like a deluxe family size MRE, each box contains a variety of canned & dry goods, stove fuel, water purification, can opener, personal hygiene, meds, and other items needed for living and surviving comfortably in the boonies.  Except for the canned items, everything else is vacuum sealed to protect against moisture.  We store the boxed food supplies in a cool, dry place along with the backpacks and med kit to maximize shelf life.  Our plan is to carry a minimum of two month’s supply of food in the event we have to hold up somewhere and wait out a situation, recover from an injury, etc.

Containers of gear are pre-packed in a similar manner – tent, stove, first aid, fishing and hunting gear, radios, spare batteries and the like.  These are loaded along with a shovel, dry wood, axe, tool bag, extra fuel, water drum, camo netting, and the ice chest full of what refrigerated and frozen food will fit in it.  In addition, the backpacks (BOB’s) are tossed in full of clothing, MREs, water, sleeping bags, maps, and other survival gear.  Included in this is our financial pouch of documents, currency, and coinage.  All the gear is stored together in the garage where it is easily accessible and can be quickly loaded.  Lastly, the firearms and ammunition will be retrieved and loaded in the cab.

We found it was highly beneficial to practice loading as we learned several things; order and method of loading, where to store things, waterproofing the load, and the physical aspects of gathering everything.  It took several attempts to fit everything in the truck and find the right places for some of the gear.  The loading process was too time consuming and required too much physical effort.  We also had items stored in several different places which required more time to collect.

To improve these issues we moved the gear to a special storage area built above the garage door to put it closer to the truck.  Originally it was scattered between the garage, utility room, and in the basement with the food supplies and significantly increased the number of trips up the stairs.  Another solution was to improve the loading of the food supplies stored in the basement.  Rather than haul the boxes up the stairs and through the house to the garage to load, we moved the truck to the back yard and passed the basement supplies through a window.  The house is a tri-level and the basement is actually concreted crawl space with about 4 ½ feet of head space.  By removing the widow sash from the utility room (where the crawl space access is), we could easily pass the boxes through to just above ground level in the backyard.  With the truck right there the loading was much simplified, saving a substantial amount of time and labor.  An added benefit was that we were concealed from the street in doing this.

Once we got the loading figured out, in 30 minutes we can be on the road heading due south to our primary rally point located about 80 miles away.  We picked a location that will allow us to stay if needed and have an alternate site picked out in case the primary is compromised.  The rally point allows us the opportunity to re-assess and monitor the situation, take stock, meet-up with others, prepare for the longer march, and if necessary, bug in for the duration.  At this point, we have escaped the Atlanta area and are in a relative safe zone.

Masses of people trying to escape the urban areas will have, for the most part, a predictable flow.  Like water, they will follow the path of least resistance.  They will generally follow the interstates until they clog up and then to the nearby smaller highways, and so on.  Authorities could be implementing evacuation plans and I found it useful to read those I could find for major cities along our path.  One thing I learned is that they provide evacuation routes out of the city but indicate no defined shelter or specific location to go to.  People will be ushered out of the cities and the surrounding outskirts will be highly congested with lost, stranded, and confused people.  This situation also introduces a big uncertainty of where the government will set up refugee camps.  So far I have found nothing defining where those may be and it would be a bad thing to unexpectedly come upon one in the middle of bugging out.  With all this in mind, our route will stay at least 80 to 100 miles from all large metropolitan areas and avoid interstate corridors exiting those areas.

A valuable source of useful information in planning our route is the U.S. census bureau.  On their web site one can find state population density maps that show you by state, what the population density is for any given county.  These maps were used to define a primary corridor through each state to avoid more populated areas.  Even when using this method to define a path, the routes still funnel to the few river crossings available so we still have to navigate a few populated areas.

Each city or town along the route can be a potential problem or benefit.  A handy web site to use is www.city-data.com to find the population, number of gas stations, grocery stores, demographics, crime statistics, and other useful information.  The local crime statistics revealed an unknown (but not unexpected) vulnerability in our initial route planning.  Many of the counties along the shore of the Mississippi River have above average crime rates of robbery and assault.  In addition, these are some of the least densely populated counties and are some of the most depressed in the country.  Just because the density is low doesn’t mean it’s without other hazards.  In addition, the web site provides the past voting history of the town as well as the county.  We used that information in defining routes by traveling through areas that are more conservative than liberal – for obvious reasons.

Discovering all the crime statistics along the river didn’t create a warm fuzzy feeling about getting across without issues.  The possibility of the highway robbery or the bridge being blocked by a band of thieves is increased and one might have to fight their way across.  That’s not something to look forward to and in this case, it makes the interstate crossing worth a second look.  Each has risks involved that have to be mitigated in order to reach the goal of getting across.

Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we diverted a recent trip out west to follow our initial route through the countryside of Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.  We learned several things both good and bad.  The population along this route is low as we traveled mostly through agricultural lands and the bridge across the Mississippi is a few miles outside of the nearest town and can be reached without having to travel through it.  The down side was the fact that the area of the crossing is economically depressed, had higher than average crime, and we stood out like sore thumbs.  On the west side, we were dumped into a light suburban area that will require navigating through to reach the more rural farmland.  Along this entire route we passed through several small towns, some of which could be a problem in a bug out and will need to be approached cautiously.  Overall I give the route a plus and will have to have a defensive posture during the approach, river crossing, and beyond for 10 or so miles.  We have worked out an alternate route and will recon that one as well to see if it is any better.

We know the quickest and most direct route is by way of the interstate highways.  My assumption is that they will be mostly useless, especially in the east.  They all pass through highly populated urban areas and the likelihood of impenetrable gridlock and possible closure is too great a risk.  One would certainly become trapped in the city they are trying to pass through and for this reason, our primary route was planned to use only federal & state highways and back roads.

With that in mind, we have specifically addressed the points where our route crosses interstates as all of these highways have interchanges connecting them.  Most of them are packed with hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.  We want to avoid these interchanges as they will most likely be blocked with traffic.  People on the interstate needing fuel, food, or shelter will exit at these locations causing major gridlock and the filling stations there will be dried up.  We plan to use less traveled points around these interchanges to cross that will require slight detours from the main track.  Many nearby roads cross interstates without access and are the ones to use - preferably those that cross over the interstates than pass under.  I used Google maps to zoom in to these interchanges and then scan up and down the interstate for overpasses without an interchange.  Then I printed out that segment and added it to the route plan.

In rural areas, federal and state highways will have less congestion than the interstates.  In addition, there are countless county roads crisscrossing the countryside.  Detailed county maps will be needed to navigate and use these roads.  These can be downloaded and printed from the web or printed directly from Google maps.  They are used for the necessary bypasses and detours around specific points and are stored in a binder in the vehicle.  For state maps I prefer the large fold out maps over the ‘vacation map’ books for the greater detail they provide.  These can be ordered through the web or obtained at state welcome centers.

Along the way it is highly important to listen to all radio news reports and gather any information concerning the route.  This, of course, depends on somebody still broadcasting.  We must constantly keep up on what’s going on locally and soak up every scrap of information available.  This data is used to update the maps, note the areas to avoid, and make navigation decisions.  It will be important to constantly gather intelligence, adjust plans accordingly, and to be acutely aware of where you are.

With regard to crossing major rivers, there are a limited number of bridges available to use.  Interstate, federal, and state highways generally have bridges across the major rivers that you will have to use.  In some cases, a secondary road or an old highway roadbed may cross a river by way of an older bridge, sometimes right next to the newer bridges that’s still used for local traffic.  These are the gems to look for because they are off the beaten path and less traveled.  Find all of them and list as alternates, they may very well become the primary.

The census maps and city-data information was used to determine likely fuel locations in the sparsely populated rural areas.  The idea is that the fuel stations there will not have been drained dry by the evacuating masses because the rural folks may choose to stay where they are.  In addition, our route keeps us away from the evacuating mass where fuel will still be available.  There are numerous little towns dotted along the state and federal highways that will have fuel longer than the urban areas or along the interstates.  If the grid is down, we’ll rely on our 12 volt pump.

We also considered small aircraft as an alternative means of transport.  Taking to the sky is not a bad consideration since I have the skills to fly, but cargo capacity would be limited with my rating.  In pursuing this train of thinking, I realized that most small airports and airfields have a modest supply of aviation fuel.  As a refueling alternative, general aviation 100LL (low lead, also known as 100 octane Avgas) fuel will burn in an unleaded gasoline engine.  It will eventually play havoc with your emissions (catalytic converters & sensors) but will not harm the engine.  With this in mind, we located and noted all small airports along our route as possible refueling points.  There are airport/facility directories available in the aviation market that publishes airport information regarding available services and fuel availability.

The whole point of this essay is to stress the importance of deep thought and planning of the possibilities and factors involved in a long distance bug out.  Having the gear, supplies, and knowing how to make cornbread from tree bark are the easy parts.  The further I dig into the details, the more I discover I’m not as prepared as thought.  Just writing this article has revealed several deficiencies in my preparations and adjustments are warranted, the plan is refined, and I learn more.  No plan will ever be perfect and hopefully I get moved before this one is ever needed.

Go over your plans inside and out, determine the variables, and look at the risks involved.  Work on mitigating the risks so that the impact does not negatively affect your goal.  Practice your plan, take a vacation and drive your route and see what you may be up against.  Adjust your preparations accordingly and carry the necessary items to deal with the potential problems and provide options.  Be ready for the unexpected but more importantly, think of the unexpected and plan for it.

Regardless of the situation, we have to do what we can with what we have and if the world goes to hell in a hand basket tomorrow morning, we execute our current plan.  I urge everyone to stay informed, refine and practice your plan, and learn new skills.  The goal is to get to a safe zone and survive.  The future depends on it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dear Captain Rawles,
Thank you for your fascinating web site!

I found the article entitled, "Observations on Bugging Out By Foot, by J. Smith" to be generally interesting and useful with his shared experiences.  Three items within the article bothered me somewhat and you had an editor's note on at least one of them.

I think that using a plastic fake gun and some M-80s to simulate firing will get you killed or at least arrested.  If you are stealthy enough in your travels, you shouldn't need to brandish a weapon.  Perhaps carrying a take down .22 rifle in your pack would be a better idea.  At least you can hunt some with it.

That takes me to my second point.  Scrounging in some farmer's field could get you shot or arrested for trespassing.  I feel it would be better to try to speak with the property owner first and get permission.  Heck, who knows, he might give you temporary housing and job that pays money of some kind, plus feed you too!

Having a fishing/hunting license for the state your in will save you some questions from a game warden.  Here in Texas, both a fishing license and hunting license combo is fairly inexpensive.  You'll need the hunting license to gig frogs along with snaring rabbits (no seasonal limits) and squirrels (sporadic seasonal limits).  Fishing with a pole and line is just about legal anywhere and using trot lines and bank lines is generally acceptable but not everywhere.  Fishing gear can double as snare gear too!  Also, a book on your state's edible plants would be a good addition to your kit.

Lastly, drinking wild water could be a major health issue.  I'm glad J. Smith didn't get sick from doing that and also glad that he recommends against that.

However, all in all, I did enjoy the article.  I found it useful with my thinking process on the subject.  

Cordially, - Steve H.

Friday, December 28, 2012

"Observations On Bugging Out By Foot" was a great article by J. Smith.  Like him, we use the Military Modular Seep System.   It can be purchased new on eBay for $120 to $150.  We keep them in our bug out bags here in cold country.
Another item we have tested and found to be very useful is the Solo Stove wood gas stove.  It only weighs 9 ounces and you can cook a meal with just twigs.  It has an alcohol stove option that fits inside and only weighs a few ounces.  You can get both stoves as a kit for about $90 on Amazon.
Lastly, I should mention that the stove works well with the Esbit Fuel Tabs.  You then have three fuel options to cook with in a very compact, lightweight package.
Keep up the great work, - PED


I appreciated the article 'Observations on Bugging Out By Foot, by J. Smith'. As a 'seasoned' citizen I would like to offer this suggestion. In my youth I did 15 - 20 miles with a 45 pound pack with no problem. However, now in my mid sixties, I may well be able to walk extended distances, but I could not do so with a full pack. Even if I was able to, I can assure that my wife could not. Consider also the younger family man with a couple of kids. The extra food, water and supplies could very well overwhelm dad's ability to carry all that was needed. Yet, the need may still arise. My solution to this problem is the 'deer cart.' They are easily portable, highly mobile and rugged enough to carry a heavy load.

Side note: If you were going to bug out on a bike, you could consider a bike trailer! - Fred K.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots and Socks

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I am a firm believer that a TEOTWAWKI situation will happen, and in my lifetime.  I consider myself a prepper, and am a daily reader of “prepping articles,” and almost always read about “bug out bags,” or “72-hour kits,” call them what you will.  I also read allot of articles devoted to bug out vehicles.  A bug out vehicle is a great concept, but is only as good as the distance it will take you, or for the length of time that it will last.  I do believe that bugging out is a necessity in prepping for a TEOTWAWKI situation, but to my surprise I very rarely read articles on preparing for automotive repair during a TEOTWAWKI situation!  Imagine this:

The grid goes down, you and your family and/or team are preparing to “bug out.”  You gather all of your supplies, and start your journey to your retreat.  On the way your vehicle starts running very rough, sputtering, and stalls on the side of the road, which is not a very good place to be during a TEOTWAWKI situation!  What do you do?  If a member of your family, and/or team is an experienced mechanic the situation may not seem so dire.  That person may be able to repair your vehicle fast, and proper.  But what if no such person is a member of your group?  How did you prepare for this situation?

The basics of all automotive mechanics are as follows:  Diagnosing the problem (figuring out what is wrong), and fixing the problem.  This may seem difficult for someone who is not experienced in mechanical repair, and can definitely be a frustrating situation.  Here are just a few from a very long list of tips:

  • Become very familiar with your vehicle, and how it operates.
  • Have a service manual for the specific year, make, and model of the vehicle.  This will provide you with detailed information on your vehicle, and offer you detailed directions on how to replace parts, and more.
  • Include an experienced mechanic in your group, or become familiar with common automotive problems related to your vehicle, and the ways in which to correct those problems.
  • Always include a set of tools (wrenches, socket sets, jack stands etc.) in your prepping list.  Preferably tools that you know will fit the various bolts, nuts, and screws found on your vehicle.
  • Remember that one size tool does not fit all or solve all problems.  Always use the right tool for the job, to help prevent further damage. 
  • Include a jack; tire tool, and spare tire.  Many vehicles already come with a spare tire, tire tool, and jack, but not all of them do.
  • Make sure that your jack can safely lift the weight of your vehicle, and any added weight from supplies.
  • Include a set of Jumper cables.
  • Include a fire extinguisher.  You don’t want fires making an already bad situation worse!
  • Include a set of tire plugs, so that small holes can easily be patched on the go.  Also include a few cans of fix-a-flat for the same reasons.  Many types of fix-a-flat exist, and most of them contained compressed air, which will aid in airing up the tire.  These are for temporary use only.  Tires should be changed, or repaired as soon as possible.
  • Determine the average amount of oil changes you will do in a year, and stock up on oil and filters. On average for most gasoline engines oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.
  • Know what kind of, and how much oil you should use with your vehicle.  Not all vehicles use the same viscosity and/or amount of oil.  The type of oil and amount you should use can be determined by reading your owners manual, looking for information under the hood, or on the side of the driver’s side door.  Temperature will also play a role in determining the type of oil you should use.  
  • Determine the average number of tune-ups you will need in a year (tune up-changing spark plugs, plug wires, and distributor cap/ rotor if applicable), and stock up!
  • Always make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas.  This helps to not only remain prepared to leave, but keeps moisture from building up in, and rusting out your fuel tank and/or fuel lines.
  • Check fluid levels regularly so as to maintain readiness, and to ensure the absence of leaks!
  • Always carry extra gas cans in your vehicle so you can store, and use fuel as needed. 


In addition to making sure your vehicle has a spare tire it is always a good idea if possible to include more than one spare tire, and even a complete wheel and tire so as to change in a hurry, as you most likely wont have all day to work on changing a flat tire on the side of the road in a “bug out” situation.  Just the other day a friend of the family was posting on facebook that she had a flat tire, and her donut (a common type of spare tire) went flat within an hour of it being changed, that’s two flat tires in one hour!  It is impossible to predict every scenario, but you are always better off to plan ahead, plan ahead, and again plan ahead!

Currently my own personal vehicle a 1995 Chevy 1500 pick up has a bad exhaust system, brake problems, bad spark plug wires causing a misfire, and a tire that needs attention as it has been slowly leaking air!  I think to myself, why I am I setting my self up for failure by putting off the work that needs to be done.  How far would I make it if I needed to “bug out?”  Probably not very far!  Don’t set your self up for failure.  Properly maintenance your vehicle as much as possible so that you are ready when SHTF!

Remember that this list only contains some of the basics.  Your situation, and type of vehicle will both play a huge role in preparing for automotive repair in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.  The best advice I can offer is to regularly check the fluid levels on your vehicle.  Look for, and repair any leaks as soon as they are noticed to prevent further damage.  Get a service manual for your vehicle its value is immeasurable!  Familiarize yourself with common automotive problems, and ways to correct those problems!  I hope this list is helpful, and that you are prepared when, and if your bug out vehicle breaks down!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

  Most of us are aware that the world is full of “WHAT Ifs.”
  “What if… my house catches fire, and I have to get out quickly?”
  “What if… my purse or wallet is stolen?”
  “What if… my family is separated, and I need help finding them?”
One of the most useful items in a well-prepared survivalist’s inventory can help in almost any disaster scenario… and is simple and inexpensive to acquire. We call ours the “Bug-Out Binder,” but you can give yours any name you choose. The best part of an Emergency Binder is that it is completely customizable, and easy to assemble.
  We started out by purchasing the following items:
1. A ziploc, cloth-covered, three ring binder. Ours has four interior files, an interior pocket, several exterior pockets and pouches, and a “headphone access” slit. We bought our binder for $13.00 at a popular department store, but prices range from $9-$20.

2. Two packs of 8-count tabbed dividers (These came from the local dollar store). You may need more, or less, depending on how many sections you want to include.

3. Two three-packs of waterproof, zip seal document covers (These also came from the local dollar store).

4. A pack of the binder inserts that hold baseball cards (you will probably only use a couple).

5. A printer, paper, and a hole-punch. Alternatively, you can use notebook paper, if you are willing to do your note taking by hand.

  Once you have gathered the necessary items, you are ready to start putting your binder together.
  Step one: Decide, on a piece of notepaper, what categories you wish to use to organize your binder. Make your list. Afterwards, reread it. You may find that some of your categories can be put together. Others may be too expansive, and you might want to separate those into individual sections. Underneath each category, you may wish to jot notes on the types of subjects each category may cover.
  As an example, here are the sections we chose to include in our binder, with examples of the contents of each one:
  The first section is dedicated to our home files.

Emergency contact numbers (including work, school, neighbors, poison control, gas leak hotline, power outage hotline, and so on)
Family emergency plans
Shut-off instructions for utilities
Operating/maintenance directions for well pump, generator, back-up heaters and oil lamps, etc.
Wallet contents, with bank and insurance information and contact numbers

Inventories for pantry, freezers, icehouse/root cellar, and food stockrooms (with exp. dates)
Shelf life/Expiration chart for food items
Dietary guidelines
Shopping list

Inventory of first aid supplies, by location (with expiration dates of medicines)
Inventory of hygiene supplies
Inventory of firearms and ammo, cleaning supplies, and repair supplies
Inventory of tools and gear, by location
Contents lists for EDC, BOBs, INCH bags, etc.
Shopping list

Planting and harvesting charts
Propagation and seed collection/storage
Preservation guidelines (canning, freezing, drying/dehydrating, etc.)
Yield guides and conversion charts

Planting and harvesting charts
Propagation and seed collection/storage
Preservation (drying/dehydrating, oils, freezing, etc.)
Culinary/medical/personal care usages, dosages, indications
Recipes for teas, tisanes, salves, etc.

(sorted by type of animal)
Care guides... feeding, breeding, shelter, etc.
Recognizing/treating injuries and ailments
Charts for each animal (birth date, health history, breeding record, date and cause of death OR slaughter date and yield)

7. HOME-
Maps of each room, indicating measurements of room, windows, doors... location of outlets/plugs/vents... fabric and paint swatches
Maintenance/repair records
Fuse/Circuit Breaker box chart
Cleaning supply inventory
List of various info (like the bag and belt sizes for the vacuum, household chore lists...daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal/annual, etc.)
Directions for completing common housecleaning chores, without electricity/running water
Cleaning supply recipes
Stain removal guide
Inventory list of all valuables, with serial numbers, etc.

Maintenance records
Info on replacement parts (bulb sizes, tire sizes, etc.)
Fuse chart
Auto emergency kit inventory, and expiration dates of any perishable items

The second section is more "survival-oriented." It includes:
First aid guide (with emergency pages on neon paper)
Dental guide

Several shelter types
"Camping furniture" instructions

Purifying and filtering

4. FIRE-
Firestarting (several methods)
Burn index of wood types
Tinder chart

Traps and snares
Processing meat
Preserving meat
Tanning hides/fur
Other uses for body parts (bones, organs, etc.)

Bait suggestions and recipes
Water temperature chart for various fish
Fishing knots
Making flies/lures
Line fishing tips
Fly fishing tips
Other fishing tips (nets, fish traps, etc.)
Cleaning and preserving fish

Plant identification and usage guide
Mushroom identification guide
Tree identification and usage guide

Compass and map

Cloud reading
Weather prediction guide
Cold weather survival
Hot weather survival
Storm/flood survival

Tensile chart
Making cordage
Tying knots and lashes

Weaving (basketry, etc.)
Clothing patterns, sewing stitches
Crochet stitch guide

Firearm manuals
Making primitive tools
Ax, knife, archery, and sling manuals

Constructing ovens, stoves, etc.

Glossaries of codes, signals, etc. (Morse, phonetic alphabets, and such)

Soapmaking and saponin chart
Basic hygiene (latrines, bathing/showers, dishwashing, laundry, etc.)
Recipes for toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, lotion, etc.
Lice treatment
Communicable disease prevention
Trash and sewage disposal

Evasion techniques
Hand-to-hand combat

  Some of these categories may not be practical for your particular plans. Eliminate those, or replace them with topics that suit you and your lifestyle better. Some suggestions might be Pets (Pet supply inventory, pet care routines, pet food recipes, first aid and medicine, etc.), Childcare (Activity ideas, baby food recipes, infant supply inventory, home schooling curriculum outlines), Religious (favorite Bible verses, prayer journal), Sewing (patterns, fabric charts, techniques), Internet (favorite web sites, user names and passwords, Microsoft and Windows certificate numbers), or anything else you find suitable.

Step two: Label each of your dividers, according to the topics you want to include (and in the order you wish to include them).

Step three: Now, it’s time to compile your information.
  For the home sections, this will include taking inventory of supplies, measuring rooms, noting what each of the circuits in your house and vehicle fuse boxes operates, copying contact numbers, listing family emergency plans, documenting the numbers of bank accounts and insurance policies (as well as contact numbers, in case the cards are stolen or a claim needs to be filed), writing down the locations of utility shutoffs (and how to shut each off),documenting the identifying information for household valuables (for instance, the Makes, models, and serial numbers for electronic goods… plus the date of purchase, store, and cost), guidelines for household chores, and so forth.
  You may want to print off copies of  food storage guideline pages, stain charts, and so forth, to finish this section of the binder.

Step four: For the “survival section,” remember that most articles and books on these subjects contain information you may already know, or that is repetitive of other articles, or paragraphs that are better placed in a separate category. If you include all of the material you compile from the wealth of pdfs, online pages, or books out there, you will have a mess. It will be disorganized, and far too bulky. Your mission, here, is to sort through it all and pull out the most important details for your notes. Use your word processing program, and collect these notes (and any relevant diagrams or illustrations). Keep your notes concise, but helpful. When you are satisfied with your material, print it out and include it in your notebook in the appropriate section.

Step five: Print a current photo for each family member, trimmed or sized to fit into the baseball card page’s slots. On the back of each, list the medical and identifying information for that family member. Birthdate, height, weight, hair and eye color, identifying marks, piercings or tattoos, allergies, medical conditions and current medications, blood type, shot records, dates of illnesses/hospitalizations, etc. may seem like a chore to document, but it could make all the difference in the event that one of your family members is missing, or injured in an accident.
  Put each photo into a slot of the baseball card sheet, and insert this in the front of the binder.

Step six: Separate your important documents into the waterproof document holders. Since we have four folders, we divided ours in the following manner-
        Family (marriage certificates, divorce records, custody and child support papers, protection orders, current grade cards and school schedules, diplomas, military discharge/I.D.s, etc.)
        Property (Deeds/leases, vehicle titles, and so forth)
        W2’s, copy of prior year’s tax form, banking account information, retirement/pension information, and other related papers.
         Health (For each member, I included shots records, eye prescriptions, dental records, copies of current prescriptions (if any), and health insurance information)
         Death (information on organ donation wishes, Living Will, Last Will and Testament, life insurance information, letters I’ve written to each family member, etc.)
       Social security cards, birth certificates, passports
  Again, customize your folders in a manner that suits you.

 Step seven: If you wish, download your favorite files in their entirety to a disk or flash drive. You can do the same thing for favorite movies, books, photographs, pictures of the items in your home inventory list, computer games, music, or anything else you’d like to preserve. Jot the contents of each media storage item on an index card or print the list out, and store these in your binder. Many flash drives, today, come with a keychain attachment which you can attach to one of the concealed key rings, in these binders. Alternatively, you can store the flash drives or disks in a binder pocket, and use the key ring for duplicate keys to your home, car, business, safe, etc.

Step eight: Complete your binder, by adding whatever additional items you desire. You can tuck maps into the back interior pocket. The pouch with the headphone slot can store an E-reader and charger. Another pouch (or, if you have the space, a pencil case made for a binder) can store items like a multitool, firestarter/lighter, compass, first aid items, a mini fishing kit, or anything else you wish to store!

Step nine: A lot of people express concern, at having this much security information in one place. They are justified in their concerns. Consider a safe spot where you can keep your finished binder. It should be secure from theft or snooping eyes, but it should also be easily accessible to other family members. A fireproof safe is an expensive, but excellent, solution. Alternatively, you might want to keep your binder with your Bug-Out Bags. Whatever you decide, make sure that it is easy to grab (or retrieve) in the event a sudden evacuation is needed, but that it is also protected from theft.

Step ten: Update your binder, regularly. Update inventories, replace family photos, add to medical histories, add new notes, reorganize as desired… this is your binder. Practice your family emergency plans, and take notes on what worked and didn’t. You can use these notes to reformat your plan, for the next practice run. Practice the skills, in your survival notes. If something you took notes on doesn’t work, get rid of it! If something works well, highlight it or add a foil star sticker beside it. If you make changes or adaptations, write them down! Before you know it, you will have… the Ultimate Emergency Binder.

First, thanks for the great blog.  I wanted to take a minute and let the readers know of a great way to test what it is like to be stressed and carry a load of 40 plus pounds for an extended period of time.  Last weekend I participated in a GoRuck Challenge.  The premise is based on Special Forces type training where participants (max of 30 per event) act as a team to accomplish any task that the cadre gives them.  There are a few requirements, the most notable being that each person 150 lbs or more must cary six bricks, 149 or less four bricks, in a backpack for the entire event.  This challenge is not for the faint of heart or for those that are new to exercise.  My total pack weight was 47 lbs dry at the start.  After many a trips into the ocean and rolling around in the sand, pack weight got to be about 55 lbs.  For those who plan on bugging out, being under stress, acting covert, and taking care of others, this is the ultimate test run you could have.  It goes way beyond putting on your pack and going on a hike.  Think a crossfit challenge combined with a marathon, while wearing a weighted pack.  The final stats for my event were 14.5 hours long (start time was 10 pm, finish 12:30 pm following day) covering 24 miles.  Each event is different and is based on the cadres experience so what we did will be irrelevant.  I will say that after nine months of intense training and diet, I was prepared physically for the challenge.  Mentally I was pushed to my limit.  I drank three gallons of water and lost eight pounds (total kCal expended was 25,000 to 30,000).  If someone wants to know what there body and mind will do in a stressful bug out situation this is the event.  Though six bricks is a minimum, you could add more if you want to get it to the weight of you bug out bag.  It is also a great way to test gear and know what your caloric and water requirements will be to get to your final destination.  The only way you could get this level of experience would be to join the military and do the real thing.  I must warn anyone who takes on one of these challenges, that it is addicting, and you will want to do more!! 

Thanks for your dedications to helping others prepare!  May God bless your efforts and those that seek to be self-reliant. - Scott L.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

A few more thoughts on survival bikes, especially two readers' recommendations to use Presta-valve tubes. Mark L. might be a bit of a bike snob; I understand that, having myself been into high-end
bicycles and raced and toured thousands of miles, but his comments on Presta valves and suspension bikes I think are off the mark in a TEOTWAWKI situation. You cannot buy a Presta valve anywhere except a [high end] bike store or online. In my area, in the winter, there are no bike stores open within 150 miles in the best of times. Of course, if you're thinking of stocking up on Presta tubes, remember they will
grow brittle with age. Big-box stores, which stand a better chance of staying open in a civil crisis situation, DO NOT CARRY THEM--only Schrader. You cannot fill a Presta tube at a gas station. Schrader
valves have served cars well enough. The late bicycle tourist Ken Kifer, whose web site kenkifer.com is still up through the kindness of a friend, was a pragmatist who lived in a Thoreau-inspired cabin in
the woods and toured many thousands of miles on bicycles--on Schrader tubes. (Detailed diaries of most of his rides are on his site--he powered a laptop with a solar cell on the carrier of his bike.)

And suspension bikes WILL break; without welding tools (and of course the power to run them) you will be out of luck. The only possible realistic reason for any suspension on a bicycle is on a racing trials
bike. Otherwise, all the vehicle's wheels are on the ground 95% of the time (which is the purpose of suspension on a four-wheeled vehicle). One can always stand on the pedals for rough terrain.

Mark's right, though, about Kevlar tires when you can, and about "seats." A small saddle on a bike that's well-fitted (and fitting and riding technique can be researched on the Internet--it's quite
important) is much better in every application than any "seat" with too much padding or springs (except the highest-end Brooks and Ideale saddles).

I also agree with all about the superiority of steel lugged frames and avoiding buying bicycles in big-box stores. (Although bicycle manufacturing is so low-tech that a simple bike from Wal-Mart or Kmart
nowadays will probably last a good long time with proper care.) - Peter H.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

[Editor's Introductory Note: I didn't write the following article. It was written by reader A.D.G. Normally I wouldn't run an article that discusses loathsome behavior. Stealing from your employer or from your fellow employees isn't conscionable. But I decided to post it because it underscores the importance of keeping a well-stocked Get Home Bag (GHB) ready whenever you are away from home. Do not put yourself in a position where you must loot to survive. - J.W.R.]

I found myself at the office during a power failure and I started thinking about what to do in an emergency situation if I was at work and for some reason without my GHB.  Of course the best option would be to already have the bag constructed, but in the event that this was not possible, I began scouting around for items to gather should the need arise for me to construct a GHB on the fly and then get out of there. 

As a side note, I work in a corporate office building for a medium sized employer on the edge of a big, but not Chicago or Atlanta sized city.  While the power was out and I had some time to think thanks to my computer being out, I compiled a list of items to get and how to gauge their effectiveness.  As an employee it may be helpful to find out what your company’s emergency plan is and what resources the company has available to respond to emergencies.  Even if you don’t have to start collecting these resources to get out quickly, knowing where the AED and other first aid supplies are located may save one of your co-workers lives.  Also, if you are familiar with your office plan, you will know how people will be instructed to react in an emergency and be able to plan your collections accordingly.

I would start by securing some provisions for the trip home in our cafeteria.  We have a great salad bar that contains walnuts, craisins, sunflower seeds, cracker packets, raisins, croutons, those little crunchy things and the usual lettuce, cheese, bacon bits and dressing.  The kitchen has several storage containers, and our supply closet contains some ziploc bags, which is where I would begin my storage.  In a real disaster I expect the kitchen to be abandoned as individuals are either in the designated storm area or trying to get out.  I would create a trail mix out of the dry items in one bag and then create a bag of the more perishable items, which I would try to eat first.  I would also try to grab a chef knife, small pot, and plenty of sugar, salt, pepper and other compact calories.  I would grab as many of the breakfast bars as possible and hopefully have enough to get me home.  If the aluminum foil were accessible, I would pack some along to help cook and even keep me warm in an emergency.  For water, we have several sources throughout the building.  One of the least considered sources is our icemakers throughout our kitchens located on each floor.  While the pipes may be broken and the bottles may disappear, the ice maker will stay frozen for a few hours and if everything melts it should still hold some residual water.  Fortunately, the cafeteria has bottled water, and most of our conference rooms have fridges stocked with bottles of water.  I would grab as many of these as I thought I could carry and proceed back to my office.  To carry all of these items, typically have a good sized briefcase with a shoulder strap, alternatively I would go to the workout room and look for a gym bag of some sort.

After securing food I would try to find better-suited clothes to get home in.  We have a workout room with open lockers.  I would prioritize finding spare socks and grab a towel while I was down there.  If I found suitable shoes and workout type clothes, I would try to change into these for my trip home and leave my suit behind.  I would then grab the first aid kit off the wall and go on to scout out more provisions.  Many of our offices have candy dishes on the desks.  I would try to get the candy for trade or extra calories and move on to the break room.  We have several coffee pots and if I was not able to get a pot out of the kitchen, one of these would work though the plastic handle might melt off.  For cordage, Ethernet cables not only contain a thin string but also have 8 individual small wires, which can nicely bind things together.  I would grab some paperclips to fashion fishhooks (it is tricky but still possible to catch a fish on one) and some binder clips to function as clamps.  Around my office I would also try to gather my thermos, my wire coat hanger that stays on my door, my letter opener (which is very sharp) and the tea bags I keep in my desk.  Unfortunately we don't have cans of coffee grinds (ours come in a plastic pouch) but if we did I would take the can to cook and store things in.  Hopefully a few packs of our plastic coffee would give me the extra energy to make it home, even if I ended up eating it.

If your office doesn't have a cafeteria, consider raiding departmental fridges and freezers for provisions (just be careful because I have found some nasty things when cleaning out one of our fridges).  Additionally, try to notice who always seems to have snacks and make a note of where their desk is.  When they leave they might just leave their snacks behind.  If this doesn't work, you may have to raid the vending machine.  If the power is out, you will likely have to smash and grab what you need, but be careful not to cut your arms on the glass in the front.  If the machines have cages, it may not be worth the time and energy to try and break through them to get to the food before leaving.

On to our janitor's closet, a mop handle makes a suitable walking stick / spear to help you keep your footing and fend off any dogs you may encounter on the way home.  Some of our cleaner is just chlorine bleach.  I would try to get a small container of this (perhaps in a clearly labeled water bottle) to purify water as I traveled.  Further, some of our cleaner is denatured alcohol diluted down.  This would make a great antiseptic and fire starter should the need arise.  I may also be able to get a utility knife and some extra garbage bags for creating a shelter, a poncho and for keeping my stuff dry.  As I made my way down the hall, I may be able to grab one of our few emergency flashlights, but these would likely be gone in the event of a power outage.  Hopefully I cold grab the hose off of the fire extinguisher, but if not, I would try to stop by our maintenance shop before leaving.  This area is usually secured, but if it were accessible, I could add a crowbar, flashlight, batteries, tape, pliers (the tool you can't make in the wild), and perhaps even a radio. 

I try to notice who has access to certain rooms and who has keys to access our building.  Many of our office keys are sitting in a filing cabinet that is unlocked or on a shelf near the door.  This may be convenient but it is not very secure.  If you need to get into a room, look around for a public bookcase, small side table or filing cabinet and then look around to see if there is a key.  The maintenance, IT, and janitorial closets can often be a good source of keys, as can manager and secretary desks.  Look around and you may be able to avoid having to break in to a room.

The bathroom is the final destination on my supply expedition, where I would try to get at least one roll of white gold, toilet paper that is.  Other items I would find useful are: the hand sanitizer they keep in there, hand lotion and possibly even the smaller trash bags they store the trash can.  While these are not top priorities, white gold can in fact be traded for much more expensive items, as I found out in the Rockies when an extra roll got me a small maglite.  If your restroom has any sort of powder, this can be invaluable to control sweat and the chafing that comes along with it.
When you make the decision to go on your supply run within your office, you should be certain that you need to do so.  If there is just a little severe weather and you'll be back at work in the morning, it is probably best not to get fired.  The above plans are for a major incident where I don't plan on coming back to work for a while, if at all.  If there is a collapse, however, make your run quickly and get out.  Even if you already have a GHB, consider looking around your office for additional provisions you my need and prioritize getting them before leaving.  A few minutes spent preparing before your journey could provide the tools you need to survive.

Hey James;
I just want to comment regarding the article just posted about survival bikes.
It was a generally good article, but I have a few points of disagreement with the author.
The first point where I would disagree is in regard to the type of tubes he recommends.  His recommendation is bikes with Schrader valves as opposed to Presta.  I believe Presta valves to be far superior and more durable than the Schrader valve.  His reason for using the Schrader valve tube is that it is more universal.  While that is true, generally, most bicycle pumps have Presta valve adapters, and it is also possible to buy a small adapter that screws onto the Presta valve, that you can keep in your patch kit.  Another reason for picking the Presta valve tube is that most quality rims are drilled for Presta valves, not Schrader.   Presta valves also come with a small nut that tightens down and holds the Presta valve in a vertical position in relation to the rim.  This is important, because Schrader valves will shift, especially if the air pressure gets low and results in the rim actually cutting the valve stem.  Finally, a Schrader valve requires a plastic cap that keeps dirt and debris out of the valve body (which can cause the valve to leak).  These are easily lost.  A Presta valve can have a cap but it is not required, as there is a small nut, built into the valve, that tightens down and creates a very effective seal that prevents inadvertent release of air from the tube.   To sum it up, there is a reason why high-end bikes use Presta valved tubes almost exclusively: they are just better.
My second point is regarding suspension.  While his point regarding simplicity is well taken (and that is my reason for not having a suspension bike as my bug-out bike), there are some definite applications for at least a suspension fork on a bike: comfort.  A suspension makes for a much more comfortable ride and aids in control of the bike on rough terrain.  Riding a bike over a long distance can be brutal to your hands especially.  A suspension fork does much to alleviate this problem.  I would suggest simplicity in the fork design however, and would go for a fork that uses springs or elastomers over air or hydraulic….which will eventually have to have extensive maintenance to continue to function.   For a survival type bike, if rear suspension is desired, I would go for a suspension seat-post over a rear shock.  Again, virtually all modern bikes with full suspension utilize some form of hydraulic or air shock for the rear suspension.  That is a maintenance problem in a SHTF situation.
When it comes to tires, if you can afford them, get tires with a Kevlar bead that are foldable.  They take up much less space and are much lighter and easier to mount to the rims. They are also generally a better quality product.
When it comes to the bike’s components, (brakes, shifters, etc.), middle of the road is the way to go here.  You don’t want the top of the line components  (too expensive and sometimes what we call “stupid-light”), but you don’t want cheap.  Cheap components do not perform well, aren’t durable, hard to adjust and keep working and are just a pain in the neck in general.
A quality saddle is an absolute must.  And while this may be counterintuitive, you don’t want a big mushy sofa cushion type saddle.  It’s best to have a saddle with a moderate amount of padding that does not restrict movement.  You won’t find many of these in the $20 range. The $50-$70 is more likely. This is an area where you don’t want to cut corners, trust me.  A poorly designed saddle can put you in agony and actually do some pretty severe damage if you ride the bike a lot.  An anatomically designed saddle is a must here.
He mentions finding bikes at places like garage sales.  Not a bad idea, but one must exercise some caution here.  Yes, Chrome-Moly bikes are outstanding.  But some people don’t take proper care of them and the downside to Chrome-moly is rust and this can be hidden. I is not readily apparent to the naked eye.  So while older bikes can be a bargain, I’d steer away from any bike that has even a hint of rust or corrosion.  And while we are on this topic…another thing to watch out for would be damaged components..such as shifters and brakes.  These can be costly to repair, and can make a cheap bike into an expensive bike very quickly.  Some older bikes have components that are almost impossible to repair or find and the bike’s design may not accommodate the newer design components.   Bike maintenance can be learned, but some aspects of it are almost an art, especially when it comes to the bike shifting mechanism.  Another thing that you have to watch out for are badly worn chain-rings.  And then there is the matter of the wheels and hubs.  Sealed hubs are an absolute must.  The author mentioned quality rims and he is correct.  Used bikes can definitely be a good deal….you just have to be careful and know enough about bikes to be able to spot problems that the bike may have.  A cheap bike can turn into an expensive bike very quickly if you aren’t careful.
And I totally agree that big box department store bikes should be avoided at all costs.
I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that when one is considering a bike for a survival vehicle….especially if one is looking to use a bike as a bug-out vehicle, then cutting corners on the quality and condition of the bike is probably not a good idea.  I would compare it to the purchase of a cheap firearm.  You don’t want your firearm to fail you at a critical time.  And you don’t want the bike to fail you either.  This is another one of those cases where you truly do get what you pay for.  It is not necessary to take out a second mortgage to get a quality bike, but I think a person should not be afraid to spend $400-$500 for a good quality, recent model bike with decent components.  I recently sold a very nice Bianchi racing bike and then turned around a purchased a nice Hybrid (or city bike).  This bike is extremely versatile and I can even ride it off road, since I made sure that the rims and tires were adequate and designed for that.  I purchased the bike on sale from a reputable shop and only paid about $400 for it. (Normal retail was $600).  The key was, I purchased a bike that was not a popular color (brown)…but it was perfect for me, since it wasn’t flashy.  I immediately upgraded the saddle to a Brooks leather, which are incredibly comfortable once they are broken in.  And I recently purchased a trailer that is rated for 200 lb. load capacity.  It is my ultimate bug-out vehicle. What I would resort to if I had to get out of Dodge and fuel for my car was unavailable.  A person in reasonable condition can easily cover 50 miles a day on a bike and trailer combination like this.  And no person on foot could ever carry 200lbs on their back.  I could pack a lot of gear and food on this .  Both the bike and trailer will go in the back of my pickup.  So if the truck fails, or travel in a motor vehicle is impossible, then still have the bike.

Thanks James for your blog site and what you are doing.  I listen to you every chance I get on YouTube.  And I especially look forward to hearing you on Alex Jones.  I think you’ve been one of his best guests. - Mark L.

Banjo gave a very good introduction to bikes as useful/usable transportation in an emergency situation by Banjo. The author is correct and covers most pertinent points well. Just a few additions from me:

If you can find one, a steel-framed bike is potentially preferable to an aluminum frame for several reasons, including greater flexibility and, thus, resilience on bad roads or backcountry. The most pertinent in a survival situation is that it is much easier to weld steel than aluminum. Aluminum is more prone than steel to crack at the joints (welds) and if you're covering rough country, you may encounter an break that can be repaired relatively easily via welding, although soldering is preferred for steel -- and that's even easier than welding.

As someone noted recently on SurvivalBlog, bicycle tubing can be relatively easily dismantled. If you want to carry an emergency stash of silver dimes or quarters or cartridges, for example, you can wrap it in something to insulate it (keep it from rattling) and stuff it down the seat post, in the handlebars, etc. If it's in the handlebars, it'll be even easier to access. Put the same mass in each end so it doesn't unbalance the bike's steering.

If you plan to use a trailer, practice riding the bike with the trailer loaded, whether it's with a child or supplies. And make sure some of the practice rides are done with the people you plan to evacuate with. I haul my daughter around in a bicycle trailer frequently. We live close to stores, my wife's office and other necessary stops, so we commute by bike when possible. It's free (now that I have the bicycle) and I get some exercise. Recently my wife and I tried to take a ride together to the grocery store and she repeatedly got in front of me and stopped quickly, not realizing that with an extra 60 pounds of weight behind me, I wasn't able to stop as quickly as she could. Also, at times my 3-year-old has managed to unbuckle her restraints, open the front of the trailer, and attempt to jump out. Plan ahead, know what you're getting yourself into, and remediate as necessary. I am currently working on a fix to the child buckle situation. That kid is ingenious.

One minor correction: Banjo says tire rubber "actually ages just from exposure to air, so if you are really serious you can put a bunch of tires, tubes, and rim bands in a 55-gallon drum or something with nitrogen (sold at car-parts places to fill tires with) or at least an oxygen absorber." Actually, bicycle racers sometimes purchase a stockpile of tires and intentionally let them age in a dark, dry environment. Aged tires are much more puncture resistant and long-lasting. Some of their elasticity goes away and they may not have the same non-slick qualities as a new tire, but they last. On my most recent bike, for example, I left one old tire mounted and replaced the other immediately due to obvious damage. Since then, I have replaced the new one twice due to wear, and fixed about 12 punctures on tubes for it. The old tire, which was probably 15-20 years old, hasn't had a problem of any sort.

If nothing else, a bicycle is good transportation. I've personally done up to 140 miles per day on one while touring, but that was 26 years ago when I was significantly older. But if all else fails, you can also use the chain drive much as you would the power-take-off (PTO) on a tractor, to power a grain mill or many other tools, as JWR mentioned in his novel Patriots. I've even seen one used to operate a blender, if that's high on your list of priorities.

Best of luck. Buy something high quality if possible, use it often, and learn how to change a tire. If you live in an urban area, buy something ugly but mechanically sound so it won't get stolen, then get out there and ride. - JDC in Mississippi

CPT Rawles,
Though I enjoyed Banjo's article, I feel the article on survival bikes was a bit too narrow-sighted in scope. First, Presta valves are a completely viable option in a Shrader world. Bike shops regularly carry brass and aluminum (which weigh next to nothing) Presta-Shrader adapters. These cost upwards of a
dollar and can be left on the bike so that you're never unable to fill at a gas station.
Secondly, Tire sizes (fat or skinny) have also come around. 29" bikes have been making a hit the past few years. The extra few inches really seems to make a difference in the ride, especially over uneven
terrain. If availability is an issue, buy several and keep them around.

Finally, don't overlook Craigslist. I've found plenty of deals (like my own hard tail 29") for a third of the original price. Many people rushed out to get the latest 29" bike, and it has sat in their garage

Thank you, - Jim in Wyoming

Saturday, December 8, 2012

CPT Rawles,
In reference to the article Making Our Bug Out Bags Work: Shaving Weight, I applaud the efforts of Joshua H. taking the opportunity to hike 22 miles in three days, however, without any other information, his resulting experience is not surprising.  As a fellow Army officer, you can attest that ruck marching is essentially a practiced art.  One builds up to those distances and weights.  Cutting weight is good, but only those items not deemed necessary.  Don't cut weight because of a lack of practice carrying a weighted down backpack.  Practice carrying that weight, and build up the weight you can carry, over progressively longer distances.  Otherwise, you will find that you have moved 22 miles in three days, and that is the end of your trip due to medical reasons.  Slowly build up your distances and weight, keeping a standard 15 minute mile time on flat ground. - CPT D.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lots of people are getting out of their cars and onto bikes these days, because of the high cost of gasoline , parking hassles, and concerns about staying physically fit. When natural disasters or terrorist acts strike, people repeatedly find that a good bicycle is a fine thing to have. On a "bang for the buck" basis, the bicycle is one of the finest travel machines Mankind has devised. When the motor vehicle was still in its infancy, armies the world over were putting their troops on bicycles. The armies knew they could move a lot of soldiers, with gear, impressive distances in impressively short times.

I highly recommend bicycles as part of your preps. A bike for each member of your family or group is best, and having ridden around on them quite a bit, I have some definite opinions on what's best to look for in a "survival bike". It should be durable, comfortable, versatile, and easy to work on. I should note that my experience is in the US, so if you're outside the US you might want to translate what I recommend to your local area. But I think the kind of bike I recommend is fairly universal.

First, any bike is better than no bike at all. Secondly, your survival bike should be one you're familiar with, ride often, and are comfortable on. It will be your every-day, or at least one of your everyday bikes. If you have more than one it may be your "winter bike", or the one you do grocery errands on, or putt around on your local trails or unpaved roads. Consider it a mule who's an old friend who you can always count on.

So, what's best to get? Let's work from the wheels up. These days you'll see a lot of skinny bikes with skinny wheels and little, skinny, tire valves. These skinny ones are called Presta, generally need a different pump head, are more complicated to use, and are generally on skinny wheels on the kind of bikes I don't favor. We don't need to win a bike race here, and we don't need European-standard valves. I also say avoid the old skinny-tire 10-speeds, the one your Dad may have bought in the 1960s and left you, for instance. These have Schrader-valve wheels, but they're an older standard for "vintage" skinny-tire bikes, and tires and tubes can be hard to find, in limited choices, these days. Leave all this skinny-tire stuff to the racers, messenger kids, and vintage-bike enthusiasts. Stick with the Schrader valve, the Schrader valve is found on car tires, pumps that fit it are found everywhere, and in the US it's by far the most common, proven, and user-friendly valve type.

What I recommend is, you get a bike that has 26" wheels. That's the standard in the US and is found on cruisers, a lot of "city" or "commuter" bikes, and on the tons and tons of mountain bikes that are out there. You want something you can get tires and tubes for everywhere, fill up just about anywhere, and there are pumps widely available.

An older mountain bike is what I recommend. What goes under the name "mountain bike" these days is most often something I'd avoid. The reason is, almost all of them have suspension, springs and shock absorbers, on them. Those are to be avoided. They have their place, but on a general-purpose bike all they do is make the ride mushy, wasting your pedal-power, make the bike heavier, and add complication and expense. Sure, they cushion the bumps, but that's what pneumatic tires were invented for. The high-end bikes are very expensive, and made for "downhill" riding, going fast and bouncing over stuff. You won't do that with your bike, you'll lift it over that log etc. The big-box store cheapo mountain bikes are made to look "hi-tech" and are heavy, inefficient, and really not much fun to ride. Any big-box store bike isn't going to last, and at their low cost they're still too expensive. This is why I like older, "hard-tail", mountain bikes. When mountain bikes were a new thing, people were willing to pay a premium price for them. Also, the manufacturers weren't sure how roughly they'd be treated, so they tended to build them really well. This was the age of quality steel frames (look for Cromoly or Cro-Mo, on a sticker on the frame) with lugged construction which means at every joining point, the steel is double-thickness. Look up "lugged bicycle frame" on a search engine's images, it's a very handy thing to know how to identify.

These older, non-suspension mountain bikes have often been living in garages for a decade or two, and since a lot of people don't appreciate what they are, you can get them reasonably. They often have stainless-steel spokes on the wheels, and often the wheels are made by Araya, a Japanese wheel maker well-known for making motorcycle wheels. These are signs of quality to look for. In fact as a rule-of-thumb, if the spokes aren't stainless-steel, pass on it. Stainless spokes will have a dullish shine and feel smooth when you run your fingers down them.

I recommend garage sales and thrift stores and so on for price, over Internet sites because I feel the prices trend high on sites where someone has to go through some effort to list it and describe it, and likewise there's a large, well-informed public scanning the ads. You want the bike that gets pulled out for the garage sale "because we've had that old thing forever" and so on. Just remember: look for quality.

You'll want to look into bike fit, seats, various rack and pannier systems, etc. You can go fancy on racks, but the humble folding wire jobs that hang off of a rear rack are better than nothing by far. At the high end you have Ortlieb panniers, and then there are many types of homemade panniers made out of buckets and ammo boxes and so on. There are lots of plans online. A basket on the front looks a bit nerdy but they're extremely useful. Put one on and you'll wonder how you got by without it. Trailers, and those made by Burley are generally the best, are an additional thing. You can carry 100 pounds in a Burley Nomad, for instance. Again, look for them used, as they're quite pricey new.

Now some more about tires and tubes and wheels. After all, they really are where the rubber meets the road! First, you may have heard of a product called Slime. If you have "goat head" (Tribulus terrestris) weeds growing in your area, Slime is going to be a must-have. You can get tubes with it already installed, or you can put it in - the directions on the bottle are very easy to follow. You should know how to fix a flat anyway, and 26" wheels seem to be about the easiest to work on, as far as changing out tires and tubes. I recommend learning how to patch a tube, using the old-school patch kit with the "vulcanizing" cement in the little tube. Tubes are expensive these days! I'm about to go back to my old rule from my college days: Re-tire a tube after three patches.

Used bicycle tubes are extremely useful for all kinds of uses, so don't throw 'em out. For tires, with Slime, the tires you get with the bike should be fine, assuming they're not old and dried out (look for cracking in the sides of the tires). There are some highly regarded tires with Kevlar in them for hard usage like touring, or police-bicycle work, like the Schwalbe Marathon. If you've got to have "the" tires and have the budget, by all means get 'em. But you can get tires in all price ranges. Don't forget rim-bands, which are little strips of rubber or plastic that cover the nipples (bases) of the spokes inside the rim - uncovered, those will eventually wear through the tube and give you a flat. Remember that the tube needs a little TLC; if you get a flat, you must remember to check the tire to make sure the thorn, piece of glass, etc., that caused the flat isn't still in the tire.

You can buy bike stuff in a bike shop of course, and it's good to patronize your local bike shop just like any small business. But if you're on a budget or stocking up, that big 'Mart can't be beat. Or your local hardware store. There's a large population of people who go around by bike and are on a budget, and "dime stores" and their descendants generally have a bike department with basic tires, tubes, lights, all the things utilitarian riders need.

I suggest stocking up things that wear, like tires, tubes, grips, rim-bands, seats, pedals, cables, brake pads, all kinds of "consumables". Tires don't store well in the sun, so a dark part of the garage is much better. The rubber actually ages just from exposure to air, so if you are really serious you can put a bunch of tires, tubes, and rim bands in a 55-gallon drum or something with nitrogen (sold at car-parts places to fill tires with) or at least an oxygen absorber.

I want you to get the best bang for your buck, so I really suggest you check garage sales, church sales, places like that for bikes and parts. Lots of small things like a decent seat ... that'll run you a minimum of $20 at a bike shop and often quite a bit more, are often found looking for a home at a garage or church sale for a few dollars. Grips, tubes, really every little part, will show up at bargain-basement prices. What I'm leery of and think you should be, is the large commercially-run "swap meet" or "flea market" because a lot of stolen bikes show up at those. You can being a smartphone and check against the listings on the National Bike Registry (NationalBikeRegistry.com) but what if the owner didn't register theirs? You just can't tell. One suggestion is to get a bill of sale and take a photo of the seller's driver's license, and if they won't let you do that, steer clear. Be careful in the jungle of deals-too-good-to-be-true.

Helmets are a personal choice in most areas, also in a lot of areas they're not a choice if you're a minor. I'm not going to recommend buying a used "lid", fortunately there are a lot of them out there new at reasonable prices. A more expensive helmet may be lighter, cooler in hot weather, or the one worn by this year's World champion, but it's not necessarily any safer than a sensibly-priced one. The one opinion I have about helmets is, if you wear one, might as well get a light-colored one, like yellow. It will increase your visibility to drivers, although in tough times you may not want to be seen so easily. That's when you get out the camo tape.

Lastly, if you have to visit one bike site online, check out Sheldon Brown's site. Sheldon has passed and will be missed, but his bike shop has kept his work online because it's so helpful, friendly, and comprehensive. In fact it can be almost overwhelming so the other resources I recommend are videos on YouTube, and classes, generally free, held by your local bike shop or bike club.

Short and sweet:

* Bikes have moved armies, officially and un-officially. They can move you.
* 26" wheels, with Schrader valves, by far the most common in the US; that's desirable.
* Get an older mountain bike, no suspension, Cro-Moly frame, stainless steel spokes.
* Learn to use Slime
* You can build a fine stable of bikes from thrift, garage, and church sales.
* Stock up on consumables, like tubes and tires.
* There are a few things you always buy new. Bike helmets are one of them.
* Learn more from Sheldon Brown, YouTube, local shops, clubs, and groups.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There has been a lot of debate over whether or not to remain in place or to leave your home and retreat to another location within the prepper community. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but that is not the scope of this article. I simply want to address the moment that all of us may come to, both the bug-in crowd, when they realize their initial plan is untenable, or the bug-out crowd, when they have made their decision to move to “higher ground.”
We all remember the game “Red Light, Green Light”, we played as kids and tried to outsmart the signal caller and get to our “destination” without the caller catching us. If we take this same approach and label the “signal caller” the economy/collapse, I feel we can apply the same basic principles to our decision making process in regard to leaving our current location for our safe haven, retreat, bug out location, etc.

Several years ago I was driving home with my family from a wedding we had attended in Chicago. On the morning of our departure, there had been a fairly strong storm the night before that dumped a lot of water on the I-80/I-90 corridor. The weather was clear in the morning and when we left at 0800 in the morning for our return trip to PA, we had no idea what we were in for as the Interstate had become impassable on the east bound lanes. I am not one prone to panic but there was a growing uneasiness in the pit of my stomach as I realized we were in for a very long delay. As it turned out, the highway was closed for a majority of the day as the water had flooded certain sections out. Whether by dumb luck or by the grace of God (I choose the latter), I decided we needed to turn around and get off the highway pronto. I was in the far right lane and saw a cut in the retaining wall several hundred yards up and needed to get over quickly but this was problematic since it was a 4-lane highway which had become a parking lot. The long and short of it was I was able to inch over, very slowly, and get to the turn around and head west bound to re-assess our plan and get off the highway. This episode is one that will likely repeat itself throughout the country in the event of a catastrophe, man-made or natural disaster, and solidified my belief that I don’t want to be anywhere near a scenario like this if it does occur.  We got off the highway, made our way south to Route 30, but that was blocked as well due to the influx of the I-80 traffic doing the same thing we were doing. We finally made it all the way to the Indianapolis bypass before we could head east towards Pennsylvania. We arrived 14 hours later at midnight at our home, completely exhausted, when a normal trip should have taken us 8 hours. With three small children in the car who were thankfully sound asleep, my mind was made up that I would never again consciously put my family in a position like that and have since then thought long and hard about what I need to do to protect my family when we travel long distances; both before a SHTF event and even more so after that. The event shook me to my very core, not because we were close to any dangerous situations, but because it illuminated how quickly a situation can change from a normal family trip into one of potential disaster.

What I did wrong on that return trip was fail to plan. I had no extra food or water in the car, I did not have a full tank of gas when I left Chicago (I was just going to fill up on the highway when I left) and I had no means to protect my family if the situation required it since I didn’t even have a handgun with me. I was traveling to Chicago which has the most restrictive gun laws in the country. With that said, I do not see myself traveling to the Windy City ever again with my family until the gun laws are changed in favor of concealed reciprocity.  Although nothing happened during the trip, it made me realize how fragile the thin veneer of normalcy is in this country and how quickly it can turn into a volatile situation; putting you and your family at risk.
A lot of preppers have an exfiltration plan from their current situation to a safe haven if the SHTF and we are no different but we all need to drill down on our plans and ensure they are workable in a less-than-desirable socioeconomic catastrophe. Our plan is to bug-in but we have an alternate plan to bug-out to western South Dakota where we have extended family and a large self-sufficient ranch. The only problem is getting there in one piece. How do we do this? I have asked myself this very question and have come up with some ideas and wanted to share them with your readers and also look for feedback as I know that no plan survives the first volley of shots fired.

When will I go? This is what gave me the idea for the title of this article. Presently I can see three types of scenarios that involve traveling. The first level of travel is our current social situation, which I will call a “green light” scenario. There is little to no impediment to travel across the US with the exception of high fuel costs but essentially, if you want to, you can load up and drive from coast to coast. This will not last forever. Whether by man-made or artificial catastrophes, a pre-planned False Flag or Black Swan event, at some point in the future, our ability to travel freely within this country may very well be curtailed. This is the gray area of the decision making process. Obviously we would like to be able to pick up and go at our leisure but that is simply not realistic unless you are able to see into the future so I will concentrate on the “yellow light” scenario which is that some event has triggered a less than optimal travel scenario within the US and you will not have complete access to fuel, food, water and the expectation of security so you need to plan for that contingency. The “red light” scenario is one in which travel is essentially prohibited either by law, force or instability and there would be no expectation of being able to make it from point A to point B so I will concentrate on the yellow light scenario and the assumption that you are ready, willing and able to make this monumental move before it is too late.

Where will I go if I have to leave in rapid fashion?
This is based on the premise that you have decided to leave your present location and move to a safer haven. If an apocalyptic event transpires, the looting and mayhem that happened during Hurricane Katrina and the Los Angeles riots will look like child’s play. Have an exfil plan from wherever you live, to a place of safety and make the decision to leave early and DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. Remember, this is a move to a place where you are going to settle for a long period of time. Family and friends who live in the country, away from large cities,  and who have land are your best bet but you must make arrangements with them well beforehand. Do not show up on their doorstep without talking to them about your plans long before you leave, and make sure they have agreed to this arrangement as well. Also, do not show up empty-handed if at all possible.  This may not be possible but as a prepper, you are doing your family a disservice if you are not ready to make a large scale move with your provisions from your present location to you safe haven. Think about how you will embark all your gear and move to your new location and have your family do at least a dry-run through.  The time to find out that you need an essential piece of equipment is not when you are doing this in prime time. The pre-planning for this move is probably the most crucial aspect of your entire relocation. Going back to my Chicago incident, had we simply looked at the local news or weather channel, we would have saved ourselves several hours even if the trip would have taken longer. We never would have gone near the interstate had we simply planned ahead. Bottom line, have a plan on where you are going to go, what are you going to bring, how are you going to transport it and when are you going to make the decision to leave?                 

What will I do for reliable transportation?
This exodus will most likely be accomplished in caravans like the wagon trains out in the old west except this time it will be SUVs and trailers. You will need to plan for food/fuel & water from your location to where you want to go and you need to be able to do it without the aid of gas stations/rest stops or any other modern day convenience (remember, this is yellow light time).  Although there may be gas available while you travel due to multiple circumstances and the type of SHTF event that you are preceding or escaping from, you should absolutely plan for a self-contained move with no outside assistance. If the assistance is there, fine, but don’t make it a lynchpin of your plan or it will fail. For my own family, I will travel west to South Dakota where we have extended family. It’s about 1,500 miles from our home so I have to answer the question; how do I refuel along the way? You do not want to carry fuel in your car and to travel that kind of distance would require more fuel than there is room in the vehicle. In addition it is highly dangerous to do this, even in the trunk. I would recommend getting a small trailer capable of towing 1,500 to 2,000 lbs and make sure your hitch has the same capacity. Inside or on your trailer, you will need a fuel storage/delivery system that allows you to refuel quickly. 55 gallon drums are relatively cheap so I would probably need two of them to make the trip. Calculate your mileage, divide by the worst gas mileage your vehicle gets and that gives you the number of gallons you need. For me its 1,500 miles divided by 15 mpg = 100 gallons. (2) 55 gallon drums will give you 110 gallons so it should do it. For me, I would add 20-30% for detours and carry 150 gallons minimum to get me where I was going. If you want to go the path of least resistance and buy the red Jerry cans, that’s 30 containers to make 150 gallons. Although simple, it is not optimal in my opinion. I have been practicing refueling with them on a regular basis and they do have some drawbacks. First, they leak, plain and simple. No matter what you do, they will leak a little and sometimes a lot if you get the nozzle twisted around while refueling. Secondly, there is the storage requirement of 30 red 5-gallon fuel cans and most garages don’t have the room for that many and everything else we have stored in there. Can it be done, sure, but I think there are better ways, especially if you have the time to plan. Regardless of what container(s) you will use, I recommend that you buy a simple pump attachment for your fuel container and run a hose from the fuel to your gas tank. This avoids a lot of spillage with the “lift and hold in place for several minutes until the fuel can is empty” routine. I have a local Tractor Supply store which carries simple hand-cranked pumps and electrical ones as well. Using the Rawlesian computation of 2 is 1 and 1 is none, having multiple ways to pump fuel is probably a good plan to have!

I will travel with my 5 x 8 enclosed trailer with a towing capacity of 3k lbs. so I can bring more gear with me. (3) 55 gallon drums will weigh approximately 1300 lbs. so I’d have an extra 1700lbs to play with for supplies. As an alternative, you may have a vehicle in your convoy that does not have a trailer but is still part of the overall plan. I have a 2’ x 6’ platform trailer that hooks into my trailer hitch. The sides of this platform are 5” tall and can carry (12) 5-gallon Jerry Cans totaling 60 gallons. With a full 15 gallon internal capacity, I can travel 1125 miles on just what I carry on the platform combined with internal fuel and would only need 20-30 more gallons to make it to our destination. The additional fuel you carried in your trailer could easily make up this shortcoming.  In the military, we called this war-gaming; thinking of every possible thing that could happen and coming up with a plan to deal with it. Have everyone take turns acting as the “doubting Thomas” and have them try to shoot holes in your plan. If it is apparent that your plans need adjusting, make it so.

Do not travel anywhere near big cities (remember my Chicago episode!). Only use the stretches of highways and Interstates where they do not go near cities like New York, Chicago, etc. My route out west, by the shortest route, takes me right near Chicago but I will bypass to the south and add upwards of 200-300 extra miles just to stay safe. I expect the cities to be congested and potentially dangerous. In addition, always have an alternate plan that gives you the ability to change routes along the way with little backtracking required. This may require some detailed planning and I would even recommend that a few persons in the group travel the route and do a route reconnaissance beforehand. Let’s say you are traveling through Iowa on your way to Wyoming and the American Redoubt and realize that your original route is blocked or less than safe. Turning around and executing a “shift on the fly” route change should not be the first time you execute this. Practice it beforehand so you get the feel for how much time and effort it will take to get a 3 to 4 vehicle convoy going in another direction. Have each vehicle ‘commander’ take turns in executing a route change so everyone is comfortable in that position if the need arises for them to take over the navigation responsibilities.

What will I do for security?
Bottom line, more crowds = more potential danger. Do not travel as a single family if at all possible. In the novel The Raggedy Edge by Michael Turnlund, there is an episode when the husband and his wife are trying to move through a roadblock and he has to make the decision to have his wife drive while he shoots from the passenger window. Don’t let this happen to you and plan for this contingency and how you are going to deal with it. If you have a convoy, you can set up a hasty blocking position and have a designated element envelop the trouble spot from the sides while the rest of the convoy sets up a base of fire.  Some of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “I can’t handle this type of situation” and while that may well be true, you need to have individuals within your convoy who are capable of dealing with this situation or your bug-out to your safe haven may be cut very short.

If a catastrophic meltdown does happen, there will probably be rogue elements that would prey on families and take their food, fuel and gear. Think: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I would travel in as large an SUV as I could and have a minimum of 2-3 other vehicles that were going to the same place or area. Remember there is safety in numbers. If you already know who you might want to travel with you, start getting together on a regular basis to discuss your evacuation plan, much like someone in a flood zone, hurricane alley, etc. Sit down with them and discuss everything that could go wrong and have a plan to deal with it. The more prepared your group is, the easier it will be to make the decision to evacuate. Discuss emergencies, vehicle breakdowns, health issues, food, water, weapons, ammunition, and fuel. A previous article on Survival Blog discussed convoy security and this should be part of everyone’s plan. Don’t just talk about it, exercise you plan on smaller trips to uncover any potential problems you may have missed during the planning stages. Discuss how you will deal with a catastrophic vehicle breakdown where you might have to leave one behind. Also, now is not the time to discuss the issue of firearms and the right to bear arms. Deal with it, everyone will be packing heat and everyone will know it too. That’s not a bad thing. My guess is that a lot of folks will be scared but at the same time, we are a nation of mostly law abiding citizens, so take comfort in the fact that a lot of people are in the same boat. Always be cautious but do not be afraid to help someone who obviously needs it. This will be the cornerstone of the communities that will rise up from the ashes of this national emergency. 
Since everyone will need more human power to work their land and provide security, most reasonable and logical persons will understand the efficacy of allowing you to join them at their safe haven. This is where you trade your labor for a safe haven, a place to live, and the fruits that the land bears but negotiating on their doorstep when you show up un-announced is not the appropriate time to do this. Make sure they know you are coming so they can prepare as much as you should have!

What will I do for communications?
Make sure that you have a communication plan and the ability to talk to those within your caravan. And do not rely on a single point of failure system either. Have a back-up and a back-up to the back-up. Cell phones will not necessarily be reliable if the power grid goes down but the portable walkie-talkie type radios will be invaluable. Some forward thinking folks may have SatPhones which, unless the Chinese shoot down our satellites, should work during this period. This is not to say that they will always operate. Whatever form of government remains may not have the ability to maintain a system of satellites that we currently have but it’s worth it if you have the money to purchase them now. The government may also be less than accepting of the type of communication that is going on via the grid and try to shut it down as well. If you live in a place where you absolutely know you will not stay in the event of a societal meltdown, send a SatPhone to the place where you will go and have your family and friends on both ends practice with and test the system to make sure it will work for you.  I will use the MURS hand held radios and have a full set of cheap walkie-talkies as a back-up (in addition to cell phones). That’s three modes of digital communications in addition to hand and arms signals. I would also recommend that you buy good quality headsets that have either a push-to-talk (PTT) capability or voice actuated (VOX) for hands free comm. I flew helicopters in the military and the VOX capability is a force multiplier in the cockpit since it is a multi-tasking nightmare at times.

What will you do if your transportation breaks down?
Make sure you have a complete extra wheel/tire combo, not just the tire. If you get a flat, you will not have access to a garage to change your tire. I would have two extra wheels/tires as well as enough Fix-a-flat to re-inflate several tires. Remember to be completely self-sustainable and walk-through all the potential hazards of a long trip that you would normally take but add to this the fact that you cannot count on any water, food, or logistical support outside of what you can carry in/on or behind your vehicles. Several companies make roof racks that are specifically designed for carrying maintenance, camping, and survival gear and can easily be adapted to carrying tires and wheels as well. You may look like the Beverly Hillbillies but you are much less likely to be stranded on the road with an immobile vehicle. In addition, let’s make sure to practice changing a tire on the side of the road prior to having to do it in an in-extremis situation for the first time.

What should I do about carrying weapons?
Some of you may be worried about carrying weapons in your car. If this scenario goes down, this will be out the window as law enforcement officials are just like you, they have families and concerns of their own and will not be worried about what is inside your vehicle if it is obvious you are relocating your family to a safer place. If it makes you feel better, apply for a concealed-carry permit.  The scenario that may be of a gray area will be if you have decided to bug-out well in advance of the collapse and it will be relatively easy travel to your safe haven. In this event, I would not advertise the fact that you are carrying an arsenal in your vehicles but make sure you have the ability to defend yourself and your family should the need arises. This will be a call on your part depending on when you leave.

With the exception of Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and a few other states, a state concealed carry permit is recognized in many other states. In addition, the US House has passed its version of the nation-wide concealed carry reciprocity bill, H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. If the Senate passes it we will get a clear indication from the current occupant of the White House whether or not he supports the rights of gun owners across this country. I have a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit and an out of state non-resident permit, and I could drive all of the way to South Dakota and still be in accordance with state laws, with the exception of Illinois, with a loaded weapon in my car. Remember, your family’s safety is your primary concern. Do not let anything deter you.

At this point in time we are in a “Green Light” scenario in regard to CONUS travel but it will most likely not last indefinitely.  Start planning your exodus now and do not leave any details unattended or they will come back to bite you in the rumpus! Have a place already picked out, stage as much gear and supplies there as is humanly possible and work towards completing a self-contained move that includes all aspects of the move; vehicles, fuel, food, water, supplies, security, and communications. While this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch, it should give you a starting point. Blessings to all and Semper Prep.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I was raised in a family with a survivalist mentality. We were the family prepared for Y2K. I learned to shoot at age six. We lived on a farm and had the knowledge and ability to grow all our own food. I was taught self-reliance and how to think as a "prepper". Basically, my parents did the best they could to impress on me that the stability and safety we experience in the United States is precious and very possibly temporary. But even with all this training, my first year living away from my family I was caught unprepared.

In 2008 I left Oregon to attend college in Southern California. Two months later, I was A College Student’s Guide to Prepping, by Connie E. placed into one of the very situations I had been prepared for all my life: a natural disaster. In mid-November a wildfire started less than a mile from my campus that is nestled in the foothills of Santa Barbara. The fire started a few minutes after 5pm in the evening. Less than twenty minutes later the fire alarms went off. I was recovering from a knee injury at the time and was on crutches. As I limped out of my dorm, I was frustrated that someone had, once again, burned popcorn or some such item causing the alarms to sound. Because it didn’t even enter my head that there might be a real threat, I grabbed only my cell phone and keys. As I slowly hobbled down the stairs and turned to look behind the dorm, I saw the flames. Already twenty feet high, they looked as if they were right behind my dorm. All of a sudden, I realized that I had practically nothing with me. Dressed in the clothes I had worn to my chemistry lab that afternoon, I had no ID, no money, none of my prescription medications, no plan beyond following the directions of the college to go to the gym in the event of wildfire, and no time to go back to my room for anything else.  

When I arrived in the gym there was mass panic. Students were frightened, annoyed, and hungry. Many had been about to eat dinner after a long day of classes, when the fire alarms sounded. Quickly, the school accounted for all the students, and tried to calm us down. Over the next hours, the gym filled with smoke so thick that we all had to lay down on the floor to breathe. Members of the Santa Barbara community were sheltering in place with us. A six week old infant was among those that sat in the smoke filled gym. The fire department decided it would be too dangerous to move the 800+ people out of the gym and decided to have us shelter in place. Surprisingly, after the initial panic everyone was calm. Groups of students formed prayer circles, or talked quietly. When I got up to use the bathroom, I could see ten foot flames just outside the gym windows. As the hours passed, news slowly trickled in that campus buildings, including dorms, had burned down. By the early hours of the morning the fire department had things under control enough to let the Red Cross bring hundreds of blankets, food, and water to the gym for us. I slept on a blanket on the gym floor between two friends for a few hours.

The next morning we were allowed outside for the first time. The campus was still smoldering. Many buildings were still intact, but the physics department, the math department, the psychology building, dorm housing for over sixty students, and some campus storage space was destroyed. Sadly, sixteen houses in the faculty housing development next to the school also burned down. Because I needed a prescription medication, I was able to go back to my dorm. I was also able to grab my ID and wallet at the same time. After that I went to stay with the family friend of a girl in my dorm. The next day my parents arranged for me to get on a plane back to Oregon. I returned home grateful to be alive and very thankful that no one on the campus had been injured.

By the time I arrived home, I had already had time to reflect on the things that I should have done differently. Most of the students at my college had never heard of a bug-out-bag, but I had. I should have known better. I, of all people shouldn’t have been caught off guard, but I was. When taken out of the relative safety of my prepping family, I had no idea how to be prepared as a college student. I had left my dorm room without ID, food, water, or any plan to get to safety.

Being prepared as a college student seems like a difficult task. You don’t have a permanent space to store supplies. You have to explain just about every item you own to your roommate. You are likely living in an urban environment, and money is much too tight to buy anything extra. Following the wildfire on campus, I was faced with these problems, but I was unwilling to be caught unprepared again. I went to the traditional prepper web sites and forums, but found they lacked any information about prepping as a college student. Because of the limitations of being a student living on a college campus, and the general lack of interesting of the college age group, it seemed hardly anyone had written on the subject. What follows is the preparations I made after the fire. They are especially tailored to a college lifestyle, and are meant for Get-out-of-dodge and short term local emergencies, not end of the world as we know it scenarios.

Have a basic bug-out-bag
My bag is just an extra backpack I had lying around. I filled it with a box of energy bars (remember I wasn’t planning for a long term emergency, just enough to get out of dodge of a natural disaster or to get me back home). I also included two liters of water in disposable water bottles. This is also where I stored my hiking emergency and first-aid kit when not hiking. I know doubling up like this is not ideal, but I already had about seventy dollars invested in this hiking kit, and I didn’t want to purchase all new supplies for a bug-out-bag. In this kit, was a basic first-aid kit, plus an emergency blanket, fire starter, and duct tape. I also had a pair of warm gloves, a hat, a rain poncho, an extra jacket, a change of underwear, and two extra pairs of socks. (I also made sure to include some feminine care products as well.) Basic hygiene items are important as well. I also kept a couple of twenty dollar bills in my bag. Most of these things I already had on hand, making putting this bag together not only quick, but also inexpensive.   

Have a plan
If you had to evacuate your college dorm today, where would you go? Do you have family in the area? Do you have a close friend to stay with? If your family is far from you school would you have a plan to get home quickly? If you own a car, would you plan to drive home? Are you dependent on public transportation? These questions and more are something you need to have an answer for in the event of an emergency. When my school was evacuated I stayed with a friend of one of my dorm-mates. The next year when I had a car on campus, my plan became to drive home in the event of TEOTWAWKI scenario. This would have been a thousand mile trip, meaning getting out quickly would have been crucial to it working. As a college student your plan depends on many factors, but the key idea is: you need a plan!

Have a charged cell phone
I can not overstate how important this is. I have been guilty of having a poorly charged phone at times. One of those times was the night of the fire on my campus. I can’t tell you how many times I have let a friend borrow my cell phone after they failed to charge there’s. But this is probably one of the easiest things you can to do be prepared as a college student. All it will cost you is a little awareness. There is, of course, no guarantee that your cell phone will work in an emergency, however, that is something that is out of your control. What you can control is if your cell phone is fully charged.  

Have a full gas tank
This may be the most expensive of all my recommendations, and know that it just might not be feasible for some students. However, if you are serious about the possibility of needing to get out of dodge, then the last thing you are going to want to do is find a gas station to stop at on the way out of town. Even if you are just getting out of the way of a wildfire you want to have a few hours of driving time before you need to stop for gas.  

Take advantage of no cost/low cost training
After the fire my college started offering earthquake disaster training to students and staff. I learned how to identify unsafe buildings, how to clear a building, and how to use basic mechanical levers to move heavy debris off people. The next year I took a lifeguarding class for Physical Education credit, which not only taught me valuable first aid skills, but also gave me a professional-CPR certification, at no cost beyond my normal tuition. Many other colleges offer similar classes and training, at no cost to students.

Know what the potential hazards are
If you are like me, you may have gone to college in a very different location from where you were raised. Up until there was an actual wildfire on my campus, I never considered wildfires to be a threat, because of where I had grown up. Do a little research about the area you are moving to, that includes the crime rates, socioeconomic trends, the potential natural disasters.   

If you are prepared, help your friends  
Most people of college age think they are invincible. If you know better and have taken steps to be prepared, then talk to your friends about it. You will only help yourself in the event of emergency if you are surrounded by a group of people that also prepared. If you are having to take precious time and resources to help your friends then you are putting yourself at risk.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This all fits in a one gallon Ziploc baggie (except for laptop and fleece)
19 hour Emergency Room and Hospital Survival Kit
·       Stocking cap (to shut out light and things you don’t want to see)
·       Ear Plugs (to shut out things you don’t want to hear)
·       Zip-able fleece outer wear (Wear. To control Temperature)
·       Cell phone/Smart phone/I-pad/Laptop(Obvious reasons plus recreation/distraction for self and kid(s).  Typically something you already carry)
·       Way to charge cell phone etc. (It will see much use and you will be making many calls.  The phone will gobble up charge hunting for signal if signal is weak.)
·       Card with lists of contact numbers (To save digging them out of cell phone.  You will be asked for this information several times.)
·       Lists with kid’s meds or those in family with chronic illness (Names, dosages, frequency of taking.  You will be asked at least twice a shift for this information and it is easy to screw up)
·       24 hour supply of your meds (so you don’t get goofy)
·       Aspirin/Ibuprofen/Tylenol (Whatever works for you.  ER furniture designed to torture and maim the people who sit on it.)
·       Tooth brush (obvious)
·       Change for vending machines
·       Clean pair of socks (Emotional pick-me-up)
·       Empty Ziploc bag to stow dirty socks. (The ER staff will appreciate it)
Note that if you are in an ER for more than 8 hours it is probably because there is not a regular room to transfer you to in the immediate area.  So your 19 hour ER stay may have a 6 hour (round trip) drive and a 2-or-3 hour admission tacked onto the end of it.

- Joe H.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Is everyone geared up for Christmas shopping? On the first day of Christmas my five children receive presents from their parents, grandparents, and friends and by the twelfth day of Christmas....well, the presents begin earning the label of junk, lying in the basement or being “played with” by the dog and chickens in the backyard. Every year I declare I will not buy anymore useless, plastic toys - and this year I mean it!

Lest I sound too much like the Grinch, rest assured that I love giving the kids presents. I love thinking about just the right gift for each child, wrapping the presents and hiding them from curious eyes; there’s the fun of sneaking them out to the bottom of the tree after they have gone to bed and of seeing them open them with delight. So what to do?

I have decided this year to focus our gifts on preps for the kids. I don’t think this is necessarily a ho-hum thing; most kids enjoy aspects of prepping much more than we adults who do it with a slight (or large) sense of anxiety. Kids genuinely enjoy learning new skills and “playing pioneer”.

So here are some tips on shopping for “kiddie preppers”:

1. Seed kit and gardening tools

Children have a natural fascination for watching plants sprout and gathering the harvest. A seed kit with some gardening tools can be as simple as a few packs of easy-to-grow seeds such as beans, squash, sunflowers, and pumpkins or you may want to purchase a family starter kit such as the one offered at Saint Claire’s Heirloom seeds. Horizon Herbs offers a Kidzherb kit of useful medicinal and culinary herb seeds such as basil, calendula, and lemon balm that also includes a story book with kid-friendly information, herbal fairy tales and songs, and instructions for making products such as salves and slippery elm cough drops. Books like Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy offer whimsical, yet useful projects, such as “pizza gardens” and gourd tee pees. Consider purchasing kid-size garden tools like gloves, shovels, hoes, and watering cans.

2. Sleeping bags and bedding

No, I’m not talking about those flimsy sleeping bags with a cartoon princess on them; I’m talking about the real deal. Now this might not be exciting unless you promise the kids that they’ll use them on a camping trip. Another idea is a new comforter or quilt. I never seem to have enough blankets as they are often serving as forts and the kids tend to fight over the favorite ones. This way, everyone will have their own special quilt and the bedding will serve your family well should you experience a power outage or need to turn the heat down (or off) to save energy and money.

3. Bug out bag - kiddie style

First things first, get some durable backpacks. What you put in them will, of course, depend upon the age of the child, but the great thing about this gift is that you’re not only providing a gift and teaching them about being prepared, you’re also knocking out an item on your prepping to-do list. Some ideas for kid bug out bags are: flashlight, a magnesium fire starter, compass, important numbers and info on a laminated card, a deck of playing cards, nonperishable snacks like jerky and candy, small mylar blanket, small bottles of children’s pain relief and cold medicine, chapstick, wipes, straw water filter, a tin mug, and a pocketknife.

4. Non-electric games

Imagine, games without noises and glassy-eyed kids. Consider buying a durable chess set and a checkers set. Purchase Hoyle’s Rules of Games and some nice playing cards. Nowadays, decks come in quite a variety, from art masterpieces to tree identification, so you have entertainment as well as sneaking some education in. Other classics to consider are Scrabble, Sorry, and Clue. For the younger crowd, there are concentration games like Memory, Connect Four, and alphabet or number games. I would suggest something like Candyland but you might be stressed enough and yet another round through the Peppermint Forest might have you banging your head on the wall.

5. Survival fiction books

Fiction books are a great way to introduce morals and valuable skills without seeming to lecture. In books such as My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, Sam not only learns survival skills such as making fishing hooks, building a shelter in a hollow tree, and making clothing from deer hide, he also learns lessons about courage, independence, and making peace with solitude. Likewise, Brian in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet series learns how to gather edible plants and build a raft from driftwood, but he also learns about self-discipline and perseverance. Other titles include the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare.

6. Knot games

One of the most useful skills to learn, and one of the easier ones for nimble, little fingers, is knot tying. Companies such as Ramco produce a game wherein the players match the knots on the cards, with each card being worth a certain number of points based on difficulty and Think Fun Knot So Fast has players trying to tie the knots the quickest. There are also numerous how-to books available.

7. Books on wild edibles, traps, and nature skills

Help your children begin to develop a prepping library of their own. A great start is Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature and Survival for Children. What I like about this book is that it includes the more usual information - shelter building, wild edibles, first aid - but it also covers nature awareness and “lostproofing”. For example, it includes exercises for training kids in better orientation in nature. Other books to consider are wild food books like Linda Runyon’s or Euell Gibbons’s (for sheer enthusiasm), first aid books, Boy Scout books (usually available for cheap at thrift stores), and books about Native Americans (such reading inspired the likes of Eustace Conway - “the last American man”).

8. Tools

As mentioned above, child sized tools can encourage an early love for gardening. Likewise, consider giving your child useful tools such as basic woodworking and handy tools. When my son got into Survivor Man, we purchased a multitool and, as he got older, he saved up his money to buy a Gerber survival knife and a hatchet. These have provided great lessons in knife safety and tool care. Along these lines, consider buying basic, but high quality, cooking ware and utensils. Tools such as these not only provide a back-up set for your family while your child is young, they will serve as a good “start up” for your child when he moves out on his own.

9. Beginner’s arms

After the popularity of The Hunger Games, it wouldn’t be hard to talk your teen into learning some bow skills. Decent quality bows can be found online or even consider making a self bow. Consider introducing your kids to BB guns as practice for target shooting and for use of larger firearms in later years. Early introduction to bows and rifles help kids better understand the uses and safety rules of such items. In addition, consider purchasing sling-shots or the material for putting together traps and snares.

10. Gift cards

No, not gift cards to the big box stores or for more electronics. I’m talking about cards or passes that give your child an experience, hopefully with a survival slant. For instance, consider buying passes to the national parks and camping grounds. Or lessons in basic knitting, cooking, quilting, or pottery. My town has a rock climbing gym and lessons would encourage physical activity while teaching the kids courage, problem-solving, and determination. Even buying some music lessons would provide the kids with the opportunity to learn an entertainment skill that doesn’t require electricity (think of Pa Ingalls with his fiddle).

11. Craft kits

There are kits galore to help kids of all ages (and their parents!) get started with a useful skill. A quick check online will offer up kits for beginning sewing, quilting, knitting, woodworking, and leather working.

12. Livestock

For the really ambitious, another gift option is a “start up kit” for livestock. Ready made coops and chicks can be purchased via Craigslist (or online if you really want to pay a lot). Better yet, select a kid-friendly book on chicken raising, gather the necessary materials for building a coop, and purchase necessary equipment like waterers and feeders. In this way, you can spend the winter months building the coop and preparing for chicks in the spring. Other options to consider are worms, bees, or rabbits. While I don’t have experience with the last two, I can attest that worm “farms” for composting definitely have a degree of grossness that attracts little kids!

So here’s the challenge this year. Instead of plunking down that hard-earned money to buy some junk made in a country with dubious government policies only to have that junk clutter up your house later on, consider replacing at least some of those purchases with gifts that will truly benefit your family. Help your kids add to their own preps as well as their prepper skill set.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mr. Rawles:
During the recent Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I drove from my house, to my brother's a mere 270 miles, a mere 4 to 4-1/2hrs drive. With accidents and construction, it took almost 8 hours. And it was in both directions, North and Southbound. I was perplexed at the mass confusion, weaving in and out, driving over medians to get to the access/frontage road to get ahead of others, only to find out that that road went off in another direction or dead ended.
Coming home on Sunday I saw 15 accidents in a 20 mile stretch, one accident involving six cars in a tailgating fender bender. Most others were 1-2 cars, or single run off the road flat tire accidents.
This was under a 'holiday' weekend Wednesday and Sunday. What is going to happen when these folks are 'bugging out' like they hear on television? And if there is a real emergency? Where are they going to go if everyone along an Interstate Highway is bugging out at the same time? All points of the compass are going to be a parking lot within 10 miles of any major population center. Then What? Everybody gets out and walks? They wouldn't make it 100 yards before collapsing.
I don't think I can last long enough to get a piece of property and make preps, outside from the city. So I am trying to prep on site, until after the wave flows over us. I fear the European crisis and the Middle East war expanding. It is coming like a freight train and I can't get out of the way.
Now I am talking economic collapse that disrupts government involvement, transportation and food distribution/jobs/civil war/ or some other catastrophe other than natural, like Superstorm Sandy, where the infrastructure is destroyed.
Am I being 'prudent' in assessing the situation? I am stocking up on food and weapons and working on my concealed handgun license and range time. I won't give you my list of weapons as I value OPSEC, but I have enough in each category home defense, short battle rifle, long range rifle and a mixed bag of other rifles, including an assortment of pistols. It's not an 'arsenal' to outfit an army, but it's enough for me for now.
If we lay low, until most of the shock wears off, and see what happens, we'll be okay for the most part.  I need to get a genset for power and other essentials, but I am headed that way.  Thanks for all you do. but this is my quandary that I can't get my head around. - Mr. Wickey

JWR Replies: I must begin by reiterating a regular theme: I strongly recommend relocating and living year-round in a lightly-populated farming region, if your work and family situation allow it. The "hunker down" approach will probably suffice in most situations. But in a grid-down societal collapse--when law and order is not restored within a few weeks--your chances of survival will drop off to near nil, if you stay put in a metropolitan region. Granted, the odds of a such a collapse in any given year are very small, but the consequences would be dramatic. A grid down collapse will very likely trigger a massive die-off. In this event your chances of survival would be relatively high in places like The American Redoubt, but pitifully low in the big cities of the northeastern United States.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been reading you blog and the letters other people has written for a few weeks now. A friend of mine turned me on to your site. Thank you and everyone else for all you do. I have learned much over the past few weeks and look forward to learning more as time goes on.
I just read the letter post in September by Greg G., Can You Take to the Sky? Greg makes some very valid and interesting points in his letter. Like Greg, I am a licensed pilot. I studied at a local community college earning my A.A.S. in management with aviation option. When I started the course I had no flying time what-so-ever. When I finished the course 1.5 years later, I had earned my commercial pilot’s certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings.
Just to clarify, I am no longer active in aviation due to the high cost of building time necessary to “land” a job as a career pilot. Working line service at the local FBO (Fixed base operation) just didn’t pay the bills for a man, wife and two kids. When I could get a trip/time in a multi-engine aircraft, it was usually a free trip (meaning I provided my time and services free of charge) in order to build flying time. I gained a good bit of time in the air over a three year period and gained an enormous amount of self-confidence as a result. Just a little background to bring me to my point.
Greg states that the Cessna 172 would be an excellent BOV and I would tend to agree. They are reasonable priced from $30,000 to $50,000 and are relatively easy to maintain. I think the $5,000 annual figure he mentioned is fairly accurate. I am currently scouring the web for used aircraft. I am looking at C-172s as well as light sport to ultra-light aircraft. The only drawback to the ultra-light planes is that I would have to convince my wife to learn to fly and would have to have at least two two-seat aircraft  to use a BOVs. Of course, redundancy would be a good thing.
Greg also mentioned training. Training is paramount any time you plan to defeat gravity. If you are interested in getting an ultra-light aircraft, please get an experienced flight instructor to teach you to fly. Learn to operate in a controlled airport environment. If you are ever forced, through bad planning, bad weather, or just bad luck, into a metropolitan airport, you will be thankful for the training in that environment.
As far as getting your instrument rating is concerned, I would highly recommend the training. Even if you never use it, it will make you a better pilot and if the weather suddenly closes in on you, you will be better prepared to handle it. I remember during my instrument training, the instructor had me look out the windows during actual instrument conditions. All I could see was the wingtips and the nose of the airplane. When I returned to the instrument panel, I had a strong case of vertigo. Had I not spent hours in the flight simulator and had a few hours “under the hood”, I could have easily gotten disoriented enough to crash. Fortunately, I had complete faith in the instruments and was able to maintain control until the vertigo passed. For this reason, I would encourage anyone interested in learning to fly to take at least several hours of instrument training.
I have no experience with helicopters other than radio controlled helicopters. I can see some use, as mentioned in other letters, for UAV type surveillance using radio controlled aircraft but that would be the subject of another post. I do know full scale helicopters are maintenance intensive and expensive to learn and operate. If I could, I would learn just for the ability if I ever needed it.
God bless you and yours as well as this great nation, - Mike in Tennessee

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I am surprised that more people are not considering recreational vehicle (RVs), specifically Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheel Trailers, as important prepping tools  They can provide many advantages, backups, and a natural training environment for TEOTWAWKI.  Here are a few more:

  • Add a military surplus M1950 stove with a few parts from the hardware store to safely run the chimney through the standard RV ceiling vent [and insure proper ventilation] and you could live in an RV all winter.  We keep these parts tucked away in our at all times.
  • Add a 12 volt powered water purification system and you can refill your onboard potable water daily.  We use ours on almost every trip.
  • Adding several larger solar panels and an inverter will not only provide you with ample electricity but can serve as a backup to provide electricity to your current home or bugout location.
  • When bugging out you may not only bring a your living quarters with you but consider that it is a heavy duty trailer that can potentially haul several thousand pounds of food, water, weapons,  and other gear along with you at the same time.  If our family has 24 hours’ notice to a disaster we could load out our 32 foot travel trailer to effectively live for a 6 – 12 months without outside assistance.  This assumes wood for fuel and access to a relatively clean fresh water supply for purification and the ability to get to the location.
    It can be pre-positioned before things get really bad.
  • A distant relative may be more likely to take you in if you have brought your own living quarters.
  • Once at your bug out location an RV can becomes a potential secondary location if the primary is threatened.
  • Bug out Bags and tents can be carried within it to provide even more redundancy or as gear to share.
  • The knowledge developed while providing electricity, heat, cooling, water, cooking, living in relatively tight quarters, plumbing, and waste disposal will give you knowledge that most do not have.
  • It is great for a family to vacation in one of these as it forces everyone to cease from the distractions of normal living and focus on each other (from proximity of other family members alone).

    Off grid camping with your RV is great fun and is a great way to train for a worst case scenario without anyone questioning it.

While not perfect solution to all prepping problems, an RV is an excellent way to provide flexibility to your existing bug out plan.
Troy V. in Minnesota

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thorough prepping is expensive. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to put food on the table (plus a few extra cans for the pantry). Alternative power, water, sewage, and refrigeration are back-burnered to the ever-growing “wish list.” So what's a prepper on a shoestring budget to do?

Consider a used camping trailer or recreational vehicle (RV)! You can find a used trailer for as little as $500. We paid $1,200 for a 35-foot RV. Besides weekend camping, the RV offers the following in a self-contained package:

  • fresh water holding tank
  • water heater
  • flush toilet
  • shower
  • gas stove and oven
  • 3-way refrigerator (regular electric, battery, and gas)
  • temporary sewage disposal
  • temporary waste water ("gray water") disposal
  • heavy-duty power inverter with deep cycle batteries (can be charged with solar cells or generator)
  • propane tanks
  • beds to sleep eight

Some models even include 12-volt television, DVD player, and music systems.

Short-term Emergencies

Some emergencies are short-term and temporary in nature, such as wildfires, predicted hurricanes, or chemical spills. With a stocked camper or rv, you can temporarily bug out with most of the comforts of home. Many RVs have dual fuel tanks, giving you a much longer travel range than the family car, especially if you aren't traveling at high speeds on the interstate. You may be able to drive to a location out of harm's way and return without ever stopping for fuel. If you have a trailer, you may be able to add an auxiliary fuel tank to your tow vehicle to increase travel range.

Bug-Out Planning

As a knowledgeable prepper, you are alert for signs of impending crisis that could result in TEOTWAWKI. Hopefully, you can be on the road to your bug-out location before panic sets in. Just another family on a leisurely camping trip, tra-la-la.

Of course, once panic sets in, with fuel shortages, traffic congestion, and the possibility of armed bandits treasure-hunting the highways, you don't want to be lumbering along in a deluxe Class A motor home. All the more reason to A. Leave early. B. Buy used (old and ugly, but reliable is the goal). And C. Maintain a low profile (no NRA bumper stickers, expensive bikes on exterior racks, etc.).

Pre-TEOTWAWKI, your camper can help you in your quest for a good retreat location. Most sellers will allow a potential buyer to spend the night in a self-contained camper on the property. It's a good way to learn about typical night-time noises, such as trains, wildlife, and neighborhood nuisances. Once you find your retreat, you may choose to park your camper there so you don't have to worry about bug-out traffic. Be aware that unattended campers sometimes attract youth looking for a place to party, thieves looking for sporting goods, and wandering homeless looking for a place to sleep. Cache your food, weapons, and valuables in a storage unit nearby, or build one or more hidden storage spots on your property.

Sheltering in Place

But where the camper can really come through is when you decide to stay home and ride out the emergency, especially if you've done some advance planning and local recon.

Water and Sewage Systems

Keeping the fresh water tanks full gives you several days' supply of water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. And if you have a well and a generator, you can top of the tanks as needed. Camper water heaters operate on propane, so you'll have hot water for showers, as well.

Campers have separate holding tanks for “gray” and “black” water. “Black” is sewage that will eventually need to be disposed of. There are several options to consider. Adding a few feet of pipe and a connector (and cap) to your regular sewer is the simplest option. You can also purchase wheeled “dump tanks” from camper supply stores. Dump into the tank, then wheel the tank to a dump station and dump it. Finally, you can drive the camper to a local campground and use the dump station to empty the tank. (Check out local options in advance—many public parks allow free dumping.) “Gray” water can be recycled to water plants, livestock, etc.

If you're in a northern location, you'll need to either insulate and heat-tape pipes and tanks, or have them drained and winterized to prevent freezing.

Cooking and Refrigeration

The gas stove and oven in your camper don't need electricity to prepare food. You may need to have a lighter or matches to light pilot lights or burners. Two large gas bottles last a surprisingly long time—and the connections are the same as your gas grill. So a few extra bottles of propane can be used for either the grill or the camper. If you have a large propane tank for your home, you can even buy adapters to fill the smaller gas bottles from the large tank. One large tank and a few small ones can easily last for a year or more.

The typical refrigerator is a “three-way”. It can be run on gas, AC power (regular utility line current), or DC power 12 volt (battery). The most important thing to remember is that the camper refrigerator works best when the camper is level. You may need an assortment of boards or leveling jacks to accomplish this goal.


Most campers are equipped with a heavy-duty power inverter and one or more deep-cycle batteries. Batteries can be recharged with solar panels or generator. A full charge will usually last several days powering refrigerator, lights, and television or computer. Using the air conditioner or furnace blower will consume a lot more power.

Guest Accommodations

When friends and family arrive, where will they sleep? With a camper, your guests (or you) can sleep comfortably and privately.

When and Where to Find Camper Bargains

Fall months are the perfect time for northerners to find bargain priced campers. It's the end of the camping season, gas prices are going higher all the time, and financially-challenged consumers are looking for non-essentials to sell for much-needed cash.

Your best bargain will be with an owner, not a dealer. You can look on Craigslist or local classifieds. Drive through local campgrounds and family neighborhoods and look for “for sale” signs.

In the southern sunbelt states, spring offers the best bargains. Snowbirders may not want the expense of taking the camper back up north or the worry of finding a suitable place to store it.

Some Things to Check When Buying a Used Camper

  • Tires—be alert to signs of weather-checking that can make the tire unreliable.
  • Make sure brake lights and turn signals are in working order.
  • Check interior for signs of leaks, such as ceiling stains.
  • Ask the seller to start the refrigerator, then come back the next day to see if it's cold.
  • Check water and drain pipes for leaks.
  • Inspect gas tanks for missing or damaged fittings.
  • If buying a trailer, make sure your vehicle will tow it. Make sure your hitch is the right size and the wiring plugs are compatible.
  • Once you've bought the camper, make a “dry run” in your back yard to make sure all systems are operable and camper is properly stocked. (50 cans of food are worthless on a camping trip if the can opener is at home. Trust me, you don't want to buy a can opener in a typical over-priced campground store.)

You can also buy a used camper from a dealer, which may give you some recourse if something doesn't work right, and possibly a financing option. But expect to pay $3,000 or more for a used trailer from a dealer.

Camper Bargains to Avoid

While easier to tow, most pop-up campers won't have the same self-contained features of an RV or full-size trailer. Many older models don't have a bathroom; the “refrigerator” is an icebox (meaning you need to stock it with fresh ice every day or so); and there's no oven, just a three-burner cooktop.

Slide-in truck campers may have self-contained features, but smaller space means smaller holding tanks, smaller refrigerators, and less storage space. Instead of two large propane tanks, they have one small one.

One More Advantage of the Camper as Shelter

TEOTWAWKI will bring many challenges. While we can try to anticipate common scenarios, it's hard to anticipate exact reactions to specific challenges. If your group includes children or elderly family members, a disruption in normal routine can intensify a crisis situation. However, the multiple backup systems in the camper can help maintain a semi-normal routine. Even the most crisis-ready prepper will appreciate a flush toilet and hot shower. While children will most certainly have chores and responsibilities, there will be times a battery-operated DVD player will be a real treat. Your crisis can be your child's “adventure.”

A few years ago (while we still lived up north) our neighborhood experienced a week-long power failure in December. Same week as youngest daughter's birthday. We still had a birthday party—lighted by oil lamps, with homemade chili made on top of a kerosene heater, store-bought cake, and ice cream kept frozen in a snow drift by the front door. She still talks about the awesome birthday party she didn't expect.

And when it's all said and done TEOTWAWKI will lead to a New World We Will Build. Yes, we can improvise toilets with garbage bags and five-gallon buckets, and take sponge baths alongside the creek if we have to. But why not enjoy flush toilets and hot showers as long as possible?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

This year I thru-hiked the entire 2,184 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I started in Georgia on the 4th of April and finished in Maine after walking through 14 states, on September 17th. The 5 ½ months I spent on the trail taught me a lot about living out of a backpack and efficiently covering miles on foot. In this article I’ll explain how others can use this experience to create or refine their own G.O.O.D. bag.

There are a few packs that fall under the umbrella term “Bug Out Bag” or “Get Out Of Dodge” bag. First off, there is the 72-hour pack. This pack is intended to get you from point A to B as quickly as possible. Just as the name implies, this bag will support you for 3 days, although stretching that out to 4 or 5 days is easy. The 72-hour pack is the one you grab as your bugging out to a safer location.

Another type of bug out bag is the “I’m never coming home” (INCH) pack. This is the pack you put on when you don’t have anywhere safe to go. That’s a scary thought… If you haven’t squirreled away supplies somewhere else, you could end up with all your possessions on your back. This pack would be heavy. In addition to hunting, trapping, and fishing equipment, this pack should have a bow saw blade and entrenching tool to build a more permanent shelter. You’d also want to carry some seeds and pray to God you livelong enough to see them bear fruit. This article is not about this type of bug out bag.

The last type of pack could be called the “I’m going to