Outdoor Survival Category

Friday, March 7, 2014


Regarding S.K.'s question of What Skills to Have, As a Scout leader for the last 24 years, I can tell you that the current crop of Merit Badge Books and the Boy Scout Handbook are not worth the paper they are printed on. They are stuffed with "coping skills" for inter-city youth. There is much less reliance on "outdoor skills" that were in past editions. If you want good information from the Boy Scouts, go to your local second hand book store, FleaBay, or garage sales and look for handbooks from the middle 70's and back. There is now a re-print of the 1908 hand book that is filled with great info. - W.A.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When I'm out hunting, and a lot of hunting in my neck of the woods is via logging roads that you drive on, or out for a hike, I like to have a little something to munch on. Quite often, I'll take some beef jerky or granola bars, as well as high-protein bars. It's just a good pick-me-up to have something to eat - instead of running home, when I'm a little hungry. Only problem I have with beef jerky is that, while it is quite tasty, it promotes thirst - a lot of thirst. Granola bars and high-protein bars are okay, but they really aren't a substitute for real protein, that the body needs, especially during activities like hunting, hiking or if you're in the military, out on a patrol, or even engaged in combat. The body needs protein - simple as that. [JWR Adds: Another problem with most compact high-protein foods--such as jerky, canned meats, and peanut butter--is that after a few days of an exclusive diet they tend to induce constipation, which could be potentially life-threatening if in the field for an extended period.]
I make no claims to being a scientist, in any way, shape or form. But I do a lot of research - as does my wife - on topics of nutrition, and what helps keep us alive. While I really enjoy a good piece or two of beef jerky, it is a bit hard to digest, unless you drink a lot of water, and you chew it - a lot - before swallowing it. Granola bars - well, I can take or leave 'em - but I have some when out and about in the boonies - I've always found their taste a bit lacking. And, I keep high-energy protein bars in my BOB, just in case.
A lot of hunters will carry a Thermos of coffee, for a quick pick-me-up, and that's fine - but it wears off almost as fast as the "high" it brings on. And, coffee really doesn't serve as a beverage that one needs in a high-stress situation - as in survival or combat. Yeah, I know, many folks are almost addicted to coffee - or more properly, the caffeine in coffee. I stopped drinking coffee more than a dozen years ago - and I only drank a cup or two each day...it did nothing for my acid reflux. However, I will say that, when you're out and about, in a combat situation, out hiking or camping, a nice hot cup of coffee is a nice thing to have. Still, it does nothing to aid in your survival for the most part.

Consider Vitality Sciences, and their new SurvivAMINO tablets. SurvivAMINO tablets are a 100% replacement for amino acids - and any protein in the world can be broken down into a combination of the 20 amino acids. Of these, 8 are considered essential because without any one of them, body functions start to shut down in a few weeks. Any protein source without all 8 essential amino acids is not a complete source and is setting you up for a deficiency. This is not good in s serious survival situation, or even in combat. Let's face facts, when your in a survival situation, you are under a lot of stress, and your body is burning calories - a lot of calories, and that means you need protein to keep going. And, you sure can't carry a BOB full of sirloin steaks, and while beef jerky is nice to have, it still won't supply all the amino acids your body needs to keep going, and going and going.
You probably have the best backpack money can buy, and tough boots - that are water proof, and that Gore-Tex jacket will keep you warm when it's 30 below zero. You've made a study and have the best M4 type of rifle, that will see you through any fire-fight, and plenty of ammo to go along with that rifle. You have some MREs in your BOB, too - but as you know, MREs are heavy, and you can't possibly carry all the MREs you want or need. You also have the best camo clothing, for the area you'll be operating in, too. But have you really taken into consideration what your body really needs - to keep going and going? Probably not! We keep multi-vitamins in our BOB, and while it's a great supplement, it still isn't a substitute for eating right, and as already mentioned, your body needs protein if you want to keep going. Yes, I know, a lot of folks are Vegans or Vegetarians - and that's fine, but the human body, needs protein if you expect it to keep function 100% - especially in stressful situation - and a survival situation, no matter what brings it on, causes a lot of stress and your body craves protein - it needs protein.
Yeah, I know, you are better skilled than "John Rambo," and you can hunt wild game and get your protein that way. Well, believe it or not, Rambo is a fictional character, and to be honest, if you believe you can hunt all the wild game you'll need to survive in the wilderness, you're going to die in short order. I'm not Rambo, never was...and the older I get, the wiser I get (I think?) and I want to pack smarter and lighter for my BOB - and that means carrying less weight, and the weight I do carry, I want it to count - to provide me with the best of everything, to ensure my survival.
SurvivAMINO tablets take up very little room in a BOB, and weight only a few ounces. A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO tablets is enough to last a person for 7-days, if they have no other source of protein. And, "no" SurvivAMINO is NOT a substitute for food per se, it is a supplement for protein that our diets call for. And, taking a SurvivAMINO tablet will not give you an instant boost in power and energy - just like a good steak won't give you that boost, either. However, your body will notice that it is getting what it needs in the protein department.
One again, I'm no scientist, but I know a good thing, in the nutrition department, when I find it, and if you're serious about your survival - in whatever form, you honestly should have a bottle or two of SurvivAMINO in your BOB - it will only help your overall health and well-being, when under stress. My youngest daughter was recently discharged from the US Army, after serving a 4-year hitch. And, by the time this article appears on SurvivalBlog, she will be in New Zealand, making a trek, on foot, across 2,000 miles of that country, and she will have SurvivAMINO in her backpack - there will be some parts of the trek, where she will be at least, several days between rural towns, and the SurvivAMINO will help her keep her protein level up there, for the trek.
A 100-count bottle of SurvivAMINO is $45. - and it's worth it, if you're serious about aiding your survival. If you're a military troop, stationed in some hell hole of a place, you'll really appreciate the benefits of SurvivAMINO - it will help keep those protein levels up where they should be - in addition to the MREs you are eating. If you're a hunter or camper, these tablets will help you...if you're into long distance running or walking, the benefits of SurvivAMINO tablets will come into play. And, best of all, they come with a 100% money back guarantee, too. My family and I will be stocking-up on SurvivAMINO as funds permit - it's a small investment insuring your long-term and even short-term survival - whatever brings on that emergency, that requires your survival. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

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.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I once read a very interesting article from a survivor of the Bosnian Collapse of the late 1990s.  This was a true end of the world as they knew it event, and it was fascinating and eye opening to read. One of the things the author talked about in his extensive article was the most useful skills to possess. Medical knowledge was the highest on his list. Lacking real world medical training, people with the knowledge of the uses of herbs and plants were able to trade and use that skill to survive.
Most people in America can't identify even 1% of the plants that surround them. They don't know useful from poisonous or nutritious from useless plants. And yet there are dozens of plants that grow even in urban settings that are not only edible but down right lifesaving if you only can identify them. For 15 years I have been a gardener and outdoorswoman. Much of my knowledge has come from being a curious person interested in the world around me, and also from searching for natural ways to heal common ailments for myself and my children.
I have been amazed at the amount of plants growing near me that can be used for healing, and have compiled a small list of what I consider the important common plants that grow in the USA, things you can find right out your back door. I am sure there are thousands more! Knowledge is power, so I recommend that you should start now when it comes to identifying wild and not so wild food and medicinal sources. Once you can recognize a plant start noting where you see them, what time of year they flower in your area and when they bear fruit. I go out for drives along country roads and memorize where plants, bushes, berries, and helpful trees are growing. You can also look around your neighborhood. Rose Bushes will provide you with rose hips that are high in Vitamin C and can save you from scurvy in the winter.  Echinacea also known as Purple Coneflowers are popular in gardens can boost the immune system and also have a host of other uses. Look up color photos of plants on the internet to help you identify them, or join a wild crafting group if one is available. Having a print out of each plant with multiple  pictures and uses of them, along with how to use them and dosages, is very important in a SHTF event.  There are many books specifying every area of America for finding wild foods and they often have excellent color pictures and identification keys.  I keep a few of them in my purse when I go up to the wild and try to identify as many helpful plants as possible.  Often these books are inexpensive so picking them up is a good idea.
As a note I say where you can find the below plants.  We live in the dry west so most plants only grow near water sources.  However I know that in other areas of the country rain is more plentiful so the growing habitat is much different.  If you are gathering post or during SHTF remember your personal safety and weigh the possible benefits vs. danger of running into other hungry people.  Never go alone even now as accidents happen and wild animals enjoy wild foods as much as people do, running into a hungry bear is a highly unpleasant event.  When you head to any wilderness take precautions and let people know where you are going and when you are coming back. Always take a first aid kit, water, a good map, and some food with you.

Caution!  As with any wild foraging check and double check your identification before eating anything, do not take another person's word on the safety of a plant.  Some wild foods are debated on their safety as some people will have a reaction where others do not.  Also if you have food allergies be wary and careful when trying new things.  Also remember that when harvesting wild foods make sure they are not sprayed with poisons or chemicals.  I am not a doctor and am not giving medical advice.  If you want to try natural remedies do your research and also talk to your doctor.  Remember that even though these plants are natural they can still be very strong medicines and even interact with any medication you are taking!!

 Alfalfa -  Amazingly enough, this plant, a common feed for animals, is one of the most useful in a TEOTWAWKI collapse, or even just in a financial collapse where you suddenly become dirt poor. Alfalfa is highly nutritious and can be used to treat several conditions. The most important in my mind being bleeding, hemorrhaging, hemorrhaging after birth, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Blood loss is a common problem where medical care is limited and people are exposed to hard physical work or dangerous situations. Childbirth for women is the most fatal event during life in 3rd world countries, many of the deaths coming from hemorrhaging after birth. Drinking a tea made from alfalfa, or eating alfalfa in the last few weeks of pregnancy can help prevent hemorrhage or excessive bleeding due to several compounds it contains, this includes Vitamin K which is essential to blood clotting. Pregnant women should not take it until the last three weeks of pregnancy due to the fact that as it has hormone properties that could cause labor and miscarriage. Once a woman is considered full term at 37 weeks that is not such an issue. Taking too much alfalfa for longer than a month can have the opposite effect and cause bleeding to be worse!  Newborns need Vitamin K for proper development and usually receive an injection soon after birth, but during or after a SHTF event those shots may not be available and doctors recommend mothers consume foods with high Vitamin K so that it will be passed to the nursing child. Dried or fresh alfalfa can be used in the human diet and also as a compress on wounds to help them stop bleeding. In application to a wound it is essential to boil the water for 10 minutes to kill bacteria and then boil the alfalfa added for a few minutes thus killing any bacteria on the plant leaves. Alfalfa helps people who are nutritionally deficient. It helps a great deal with Vitamin C deficiency when used fresh, for it contains more Vitamin C than some citrus fruits. Scurvy is caused by a Vitamin C deficiency and is a common problem for people during famines, or when there is a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also has very high B Vitamin levels and Vitamin D levels which help with problems such as rickets, a common disease especially effecting children who have poor diets or are not exposed to enough sunlight.  This is a common problem when living in a war zone or an area where people must stay inside much of the time due to violence as Vitamin D cannot be manufactured by the body and is mainly created by the skins exposure to the sun. Alfalfa is also easy to store when dried and is very cheap.  It is a good item to keep on hand. Alfalfa is grown everywhere in the USA and can be found along ditch banks and country roads growing wild, in fields as well as in farm yards. It does not need to be re-seeded every year so a field that had it last year will have it this year as well.

Raspberry Leaf - Raspberries (also known as redcaps, bramble berries, dewberry, and thimbleberry)  grow wild in the USA and are even considered an invasive species.  They come in red, black, purple, and golden fruit all of which is essentially the same plant, but these other fruit colors do not generally grow in the wild like the common red does. Obviously the fruit is edible but the leaves and even roots can be used for highly effective remedies. The most well known is for aid to painful menstruation, to regulate and normalize a woman's cycle, and also to help shorten and lessen the pain of childbirth.  I am all for shortening the length of childbirth; having had four children naturally! Caution must be used however as raspberry leaf can cause uterine contractions, so it should only be used once labor has begun or a week before birth is expected. It can be used by non-pregnant women during and right before menstruation. Another equally important use of raspberry leaf is it’s use as a cure for diarrhea. More on that in the Blackberry Section.  These plants are found near water, in boggy areas, besides stream banks, in gullies, on ditch banks, or growing anywhere that gets plentiful rainfall.

Blackberry Fruits, Leaves, and Roots - Diarrhea is one of the most common killers in third world countries due to contaminated water supplies and poor water treatment facilities.  As a country collapses the infrastructure of water treatment always breaks down, and waterborne illness explodes. Preparation for such disease is essential when we plan for a SHTF event. Diarrhea is especially fatal to children and the elderly, and is frightening at how fast it kills. Soldiers in battle frequently suffer from dysentery due to bad water as well.  For centuries blackberries (and to a lesser extent any of the bramble berry varieties such a red caps, black caps, Marion berries, and raspberries) have been used for treating diarrhea, dysentery, food borne illness,  and even the more deadly waterborne illnesses. This must be remembered to be a treatment, not a cure as diarrhea is a symptom of an infection in the body which must be treated as well.  Blackberry Root Bark is the most effective remedy for diarrhea, but if you can't get to the roots the leaves are highly effective as well, even dried ones. Last is the fruit which can be eaten or a syrup or juice made from the fruit.  A syrup or juice is especially useful when treating small children.  One teaspoon of root or leaves per boiling cup of water, steeped for 20 minutes, then sweetened with honey if possible due to its healing and soothing properties is a good dosage. It is the tannins in the blackberry plant that help with diarrhea . Blackberries are even more invasive than red raspberries and grow profusely throughout the USA. If in a dry region look for them along streams or down in gullies and canyons. The leaves and root bark are easy to dry, and the leaves can be eaten and are high in nutrition.

Elderberries - I grew up eating wild elderberries, these are a round purple-ish blue fruit that grows in clusters on a bushy tree. The bush flowers in late spring depending on your area and the fruits are ripe in early fall. They are very common growing wild and like water so they grow either near bodies of water or in areas that get plenty of water.  I often see them growing in old farm yards or homesteads because the pioneers and old farmers used them not only for health but as a much needed fruit. They also can be found in gullies and draws. The fruit has a dusty powder on it, but care should be taken as the red elderberry, the stems of all elderberries that connect to the fruit, and also the unripe fruit, are poisonous. The fruit and flowers have been proven in clinical trials to help with many ailments, but especially in respiratory infections such as bronchitis and also to help thin mucus.  The fruit are very high in Vitamin C and are used to treat the flu and to boost the immune system. Elderberries would be good for an insurance against scurvy. Harvesting is easy and making juice, syrups, or tinctures from them is the best way to use them for healing.  The flowers are used to make a tea or tincture for respiratory ailments and compresses for wounds. They also are good in pies, jams, jellies, and to make wine and liquors. There is some evidence that they should be cooked before consuming as uncooked raw fruit can cause stomach upset. Elderberry syrup is safe for children.

Other Berries- Obviously there are many berries growing throughout the United states, many of them not only edible but beneficial as well.  Getting a good book on berry identification for your area is an excellent idea.

Rosehips - Wild roses grow all over the USA along roads, up in the mountains, and in forests. They are usually found as just a single flower, meaning they are a single layer of petals in a ring around the central part of the flower, maybe five petals in a ring. Roses are also grown in many yards and gardens, and there are even rose varieties grown specifically for large rosehips.  Rosehips are the main and most helpful part of the plant for use. Wild roses have small hips compared to their cultivated cousins, but size doesn't matter when it comes to food and medicinal value. They can be eaten raw in a pinch, but the most common way is to chop the hips roughly and pour 1 cup boiling water over two teaspoons of the chopped hips. Allow  them to steep for 20 minutes and sweeten with honey, or, if for a child under two years of age, sugar or syrup.  Rose hips are higher in Vitamin C than citrus fruit and not only prevent, but also treat scurvy. They are easy to identify and easy to harvest. Rose hips make a tea that is tart and pleasant to drink. They can help treat urinary tract infections and the flu, and rose hips also boost the immune system.  When fresh veggies and fruit are unavailable, rosehips can be found even in winter and still be eaten as they do not rot easily and cling to the rosebush.  Rosehips are generally a reddish color, and it is wise to look for ones that are still firm, not black or with mold or rot on them.  They can be used to make syrup, jelly, jam, wine, and juice. The flowers of roses are also edible but make sure you don't eat them if they are been sprayed with pesticide.

Bachelor Buttons - Bachelor Buttons, also known as cornflowers, are a  flower that grows wild and cultivated across the USA. They are popular in wildflower or cottage gardens and are  also drought tolerant and reseed prolifically in the wild. The common color is a cobalt blue, but especially in gardens they come in white, light pink, and purple. The flower is the part used and is most commonly utilized as an eyewash for injured or infected eyes. This is usually done by steeping the flowers in fresh boiled water, cooled, and then applied over the eyes on a moistened rag. A similar rinse for cuts and sores in the mouth aids healing. In this instance it is best to spit out after swishing around the mouth. Furthermore, they can also be used in the same form to wash cuts, scrapes and bruises. Combine one teaspoon of dried cornflower petals, or five fresh blossoms with one cup of boiling water. Cover and steep for 15-20 minutes; after this you may strain and consume. If taking internally it is best for no longer than two weeks. Cornflower tea has been used to calm diarrhea, treat urinary tract infections, and for anxiety or nervousness. This flower can be found along road sides, in fields, and in clearings.  They love full sun and they are very easy to grow.  Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use this internally. If you have allergies to daisies or ragweed you should not use this at all.

Lambs Quarters/Wild Spinach - Lambs Quarters, also known as wild spinach, goosefoot, pigweed, good king henry, and fat hen, is considered by most gardeners as a weed, but is in fact is a highly nutritious and delicious plant that grows everywhere and is easy to identify.  It is nicer than common spinach because it is slow to bolt in the heat of summer, and because while tasting like spinach, it is even more nutritious. It can be cooked or eaten raw and the stems leaves and seeds are all edible. It can  also be frozen, canned or dried for later eating.  Lamb’s Quarters is a good survival food and can be found in yards, abandoned lots, fields, gardens, and along roads.  You can cut it off almost to the root, yet it comes up and starts leafing out again.

Dandelion-  Dandelion is another common yard weed that grows almost everywhere, including city lots and in the mountains.  I never dig up the dandelions in my yard but use them and also feed them to our rabbits.  We do not treat our yard with chemicals.  It is highly nutritious, and all parts are edible- including the roots which can be dried and used as a coffee substitute. It has been used as a diuretic and to cleanse the blood of toxins. The milk that comes when you cut the plant can be used on wounds and is highly effective to use on warts. I have used the milk on three of my children's warts and all three times it made them disappear naturally without pain or scarring.  It must be applied every day for a good month to the warts. A tea made from all parts of the dandelion is absurdly rich in nutrients and would be well utilized by those suffering from malnutrition.

Wild Onions - Wild onions are easy to identify because they smell like onions! They are considered a weed in many parts of the country, and they can be eaten like regular onions while being a healthy addition to the diet and are easy to dry for future use. They can be in yards or near places that have a constant water supply or good rain.

Pine Trees/Spruce Trees-  Pine trees are common all across the USA and several parts of the tree can be used both medicinally and nutritionally. The needles themselves are rich in Vitamin C and can be steeped in boiling water to create a tea to fight scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency), and they are also high in Vitamin A and beta carotene. Spruce tip tea or pine needle tea is useful to treat sore throat, cough, colds, and chest congestion. This is a very important survival food as it is so readily available and easy to find. The best tasting needles are young tender ones, but older needles work just the same nutritionally. Pine nuts that are found in pine cones are rich in calories, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and are high in Vitamin K which helps stop bleeding.  The inner bark of pine trees is even edible but should only be used in an emergency because to get at it you kill the tree.

Pine Sap has many uses and is highly effective for use on wounds when mixed as a salve to prevent and treat infection. It is also used as a flu and cold treatment when mixed with honey or made into a tincture. It not only fights the infection inside but also soothes sore throats.

Chopped pine needles added to a hot bath can help with skin problems since they contain natural sulfur, they also sooth sore muscles and joints. Pine oil can be used by adding a few drops to boiling water and then breathing in the steam; there is evidence that it helps cure sinus infections, bronchitis, and breaks up mucus. Pine oil kills germs and can be used to clean surfaces during illnesses, although, it must always be diluted and never applied straight to skin. However, pine oil is a distilled product and must go through special processing and may not be easy to replicate after SHTF (although what a skill to have!) Use roughly chopped pine needles, with boiling water poured over, then cover your head with a towel over the bowl and breath deeply. Pine needles are also a natural flea and bug repellent and can be used to stuff beds and cushions to deter them.  The scent of pine is generally very calming.  Caution - Pregnant women should not use pine needle tea as there is fear it could cause miscarriage. There are three varieties of toxic pine, and it is highly recommended to learn how to identify and avoid them. They are Norfolk Island Pine, Yew, and Ponderosa Pine.

Crabapples - These are a variety of apple that are often overlooked as an edible fruit because they are unpleasant for fresh eating.  They are very good for cooking and if sweetened can be made into pies, jams, jellies, syrup, wine, pickled, and when mixed with other fruits dried in fruit leather.  They were mainly used by our forefathers as an addition to cider making as they added depth of flavor and a bit of tartness to the finished product.  There are many varieties of crabapple tree and the fruit can be quite large as they are grown for their pretty look.  They are grown in many yards and businesses as a decorative tree and the fruit is most often left to rot.  Most people I have asked are eager to let me pick off their trees since otherwise they eventually fall and have to be raked up.  They also can be found growing wild and in old orchards or farms. Crabapples are high in Vitamin C and make a pleasant tea when sweetened.  They have been used to treat urinary infections and can also be juiced to make cider vinegar which is one of the most healthy things you can make.  For the best flavor harvest after they have been frosted on.

Wild Plums - These are native to the USA and grow in all parts.  They are small and are usually a yellowish red color.  Wild Plums are a tasty fruit for fresh eating and are useful in making jam, jelly, syrup, pies, and pickles.  They are very high in Vitamin C and Iron.  Dried or fresh they are a good laxative and treat anemia.

Cattails - A well known wild food that grows in marshy or wet areas these are easy to identify.   All parts of the plant are edible in different seasons and have good food value.  The root can be pounded and applied to cuts and scrapes as a poultice.  As these always grown near or in water be careful of pollution.

Rhubarb - This is not necessarily a wild food but it is so common that noting where it grows is a good idea.  This plant comes back year after year for practically ever and you see it often in abandoned lots, old farmsteads, abandoned homes, or in peoples gardens.  Most people never use it and are happy to give away to those who will.  Harvesting in the spring is best when it is tender.  Rhubarb can be made into jam, sauce, syrup, put into pies, cakes, and breads and canned. Rhubarb is rich in B- complex vitamins such as foliates, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin B-6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid and good levels of Vitamin K.  It has been used to treat stomach problems.  The leaves are poisonous, only the stalks should be eaten.

Daylilies - These grow all over the US and in many places they grow wild or have taken over lots of land and gardens as they are hardy and invasive.  They are edible.  The shoots when young in spring can be cooked like asparagus or eaten raw, the flowers should be harvested in summer and can be fried like squash flowers, chopped and added to salads, and immature buds cooked like green beans.  The tubers can be gathered year round and cooked like corn.  They have been used to treat arsenic poisoning.

Nuts - There are so many trees that produce edible nuts that all I can recommend is that you get a good identification book and start looking around you.  Nuts are high in nutrition, healthy fats, and calories so they make an excellent survival food.  A couple of varieties that are overlooked by people are acorns and pine nuts found in pine cones.  Acorns have good food value but are bitter so most people avoid them, meaning that you will have more opportunity to gather them.  Learn how to process them to get out the bitterness.

Wild Strawberries-  Also known as Alpine strawberry, Common Strawberry, Mountain Strawberry, Pineapple Strawberry, Wild Strawberries, Wood Strawberry, Woodland strawberry. These grow prolifically all over the USA and although the fruit is very nice to eat (but tiny)  the leaves have great food value and have been used to treat diarrhea when made into a tea.  The leaves contain beneficial minerals and vitamins.  The root is also used to treat diarrhea.  These like shady places but also can grow in sunny clearings and fields..

Wild Violets -  The leaves and the flowers are edible and can be found growing in many yards and gardens where they are considered a weed.  They are purple-ish blue or white and can be found in the shade of forests or moist clearings.  They can be added to salads or cooked.  The medicinal uses are many and they make a lovely salve for irritated skin and rashes and also a tea can be made from the leaves and flowers to ease the pain of headaches and arthritis as well as to treat diarrhea. They appear early in spring and grow all summer long in the shade.  They are loaded with Vitamin A and C which makes them a good remedy for colds and flu.  The flowers can be added to jellies during the cooking stage and turn the liquid a lovely violet color.

Ferns -  Several fern varieties are edible and are often called fiddleheads, however care must be taken as there are also several non edible varieties that can cause mild to severe illness.  Invest in a good identification book or print many pictures out of edible varieties off the internet for better identification. These must be harvested in early to late spring. They are fried, steamed, sautéed, boiled, and pickled and are rich in Vitamin A and C.

Wild Greens - There are so many kinds that it would take a good sized book to describe them all and I highly recommend buying a field guide and searching them out.  Some that are common and worth investigating are mustard, watercress, stinging nettle, miners lettuce, sorrel, red clover,  and sweet coltsfoot.  Most greens are best harvested in the spring and early summer when they are tender and young.

Willow Tree - The willow tree has been used for thousands of years to treat pain. It grows in yards and woods across the United States. The bark of the tree, especially that of the White Willow tree is what as used and has the same actions of aspirin for treating pain and fever  Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of willow bark to 8 oz of boiling water and boil for 5 to 10 minutes.  Then turn off heat and allow to steep for 20 to 30 minutes more.  Drinking 3 to 4 cups throughout the day is recommended to be effective.  Gathering and drying the bark in spring summer and fall would be a good idea to have a store through winter. This is a real medication similar in its side effects to aspirin, it interacts with several drugs and can cause the same stomach problems as aspirin so research it well before use.  Pregnant and nursing women, and children under two should never use willow bark.

 Mints- Mints are not a really wild species but are so highly invasive once planted in a garden that they quickly spread and can take over vast tracts of land.  There are many varieties and just as many uses both as a food as well as medicinally. Mints are high in Vitamin A and spearmint in particular is high in minerals.  It is often used internally to treat stomach upset, headaches, body aches, reduce fever, for sore throats and cough, anti flatulence, and diarrhea.  Externally mint is an excellent insect repellent and can be use to treat lice, muscle aches, soothe insect bites, hair care, and vaginitis.  A simple tea is used internally and is quite pleasant, externally a similar tea can be made and cooled before application.

 Mushrooms -  Wild mushrooms can be very helpful both medicinally and nutritionally but great care must be taken as so many varieties are deadly.  I won't go into them here but invest in a good full color photographic field guide, and even then be careful! The only mushroom I feel very safe harvesting is morels because they are so distinctive and only have one similar species to contend with.  As my father said they look like a brain!

 Tree Saps -  There are several trees that produce edible saps that can be boiled down into sweet syrups.  Most commonly we think of the maple tree, and all maples produce sap although the sugar maple is the most well known and produces the highest volume per tree.  There are however several other trees that produce good sap for human use.  Pine trees are one but the sap is more for medicinal use than for pleasurable eating.  Birch, Walnut, and Sycamore all produce an edible sap for syrup making.  Obviously these are high in sugar content which equals calories.  As a caution only stick to the above or other documented non poisonous trees for sap.  Tree sap syrup has many vitamins and minerals making them a good survival food.

Wild Leeks Or Ramps - These are a leek or onion like bulb that are common throughout the United States in forested areas and grow often near streams or on hills.  The leaves when torn or bruised smell of onion or garlic so they are easy to identify.  The plant resembles lily of the valley.  These are found and harvested in the spring.  When harvesting only take half of what you find so they can continue to propagate.

Supplies For Harvesting - A good pair of boots and weather specific clothing, good identification books or literature, a small hand shovel, a good sturdy bucket/basket with a handle/or canvas bags, a knife for cutting, gardening gloves, a sidearm for meetings with predators of both the four-legged to two-legged kind.

Friday, January 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 30, 2013

K.M. in Ohio's post "Ounce of Prevention..." warns that "If the needles are 1 per hole, that’s NOT Pine" is not true. The warning about Fir needles being toxic is valid, but there are one needle pines. The state tree of Nevada is the Single Leaf Pinyon, Pinus monophylla. It is found almost exclusively in The Great Basin with two subspecies in California and Arizona. Besides the needles being a source of vitamin C as with other pines, it produces nutritious and delicious pine nuts. (It also makes the perfectly shaped Christmas tree!) - David in Carson City, Nevada

Sunday, December 22, 2013

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

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What is a prepper’s number one tool? What is the asset that all preppers need regardless of where they are or why they are preparing? Some will say water purification, others will say food, and either others will give a list of shelter, weapons, or a medical kit. I disagree with all of these. Yes, all of these are necessary to survival and great preps to have; however, they are not the number one prep needed. After searching hundreds of lists and web sites, and watching show after show about survival, and piecing together preps on a budget, I have found the number one tool for a prepper: Knowledge.

Regardless of how well prepared you are, eventually, through time, all preps will fail. You will eventually run out of canned goods. Bullets (regardless of what television would have you believe) are not unlimited. Metal tools rust and break. Water stores will run empty. And shelters will fall. Given time, all of our preps will turn to dust and then we’ll be left with nothing but ourselves and whatever skills and knowledge we’ve acquired.

I have preps that include canned food, seeds for agriculture, extra clothing, shelter, water purification, rope, a bow and arrows, tools, extra bullets, and extra gas, but my number one prep is my book. I have made a book of roughly 2,000 laminated pages full of survival techniques, skills, and knowledge that I may potentially need. I have a section on shelter than diagrams and describes over twenty different types of survival shelter for each climate area. I have a section on water gathering and purification. I have a section dedicated solely to wild edibles and food preparation (canning, skinning, smoking meat, etc). Finally, I have a section that is full of a variety of skills I might possibly need such as how to make your own sapling bow or star charts for directions. Ultimately, the difference between survival and struggle is you.

I would suggest that every prepper make their own survival book, not for publishing, but just for you. Yes, you can go out and buy a survival book and, yes, it will save you on time and paper. However, making your own book offers benefits that buying one. The first benefit is that you will have to personally read and select each of the survival techniques you put into your book to fit your needs and situation. This will give you a general knowledge about techniques you may possibly need to use as well as what is in your book and where it is located. Making your own book also removes a lot of the “fluff” and flowery language that is contained within all books and gets to the nitty-gritty of what you, as a prepper, need.  Another benefit of making your own survival book is that you put in your book only what you need. If a prepper is living in the Southeastern United States, then why would they need a book with a section on how to survive in Alaska? Or the rain forest? Why do you need a book with a section that lists and details edible plants in Mexico if you live in North Dakota? If the situation arises where your prepper supplies will be needed, who is going to travel cross-country? With your own, personal book, you can input only what you need to know, saving space in your bug-out bag or prepper stash as well as saving you time if you need to look for something quickly. Another benefit of making your own survival book is continuity. If you have children and they are a part of your prepper plan you will be able to pass the knowledge you have gathered in your book on to your children who can then teach their children and so on. With this book you will not only be assisting in your own survival but that of your children and future generations. Making your own book that is based off of your own needs and geared towards your supplies is the absolute most important thing you can have in your preps.

As I said, some will disagree and give a large list of supplies and preps which, according to them, will be much more valuable than a survival book. Those people will not survive past a year or two unless they have a large group with a wide range of skills and knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I am not belittling the need for water storage, food stores, shelter, and defensive preps, all of these things are absolutely necessary for a prepper, however, a person with a wide range of skills and a vast wealth of survival knowledge will last longer than the prepper who has a year’s worth of food and water but no knowledge of wild edibles or agriculture. Take the most needed resource of life; water. The average person needs about 2,250 mL of water per day that is about ¾ a gallon of water. The average prepper will have somewhere between 100- 500 gallons of water storage. If we take the middle and say most people have about 300 gallons of water stored, then those stores will last roughly a year, maybe longer. If you factor in more than one person then those 300 gallons could be gone in 3-6 months. What will you do then? Typical prepper will say build a rain catch or gather water from a river or lake. Rain water, river water, and lake water could be contaminated and your purification tablets or your water purifier won’t last forever. You might need to know how to build a solar still in order to purify your water. You may need to know how to set animal trap such as a deadfall, twitch-up snare, a bottle trap or a gill net in order to procure your family’s next meal. This knowledge will prove invaluable as more and more of your preps fail due to age or use or as situations arise that you were not prepared to handle.

Many of the skills that I feel that I may need based off of my preps and plans in the case of an emergency.  You must go though and find what’s best for you and your family for the area you are in. The information is readily available through the internet for any who are willing to look for it.

Hiding behind your preps and relying solely on them can be as dangerous as not prepping at all. As a prepper we must realize that most of our preps are short-term. Canned food and water stores will run empty. Bullets will run out. Houses will be sacked by groups of bandits and your tools and supplies will eventually break. But having this knowledge should to cause us to despair but rather to encourage us to gather and soak up as much knowledge about survival as we can. Preps are for the immediate survival situation or three months to a year of survival; a survival book is for long-term, rebuilding survival. Your knowledge is what will keep you alive whenever you have nothing and the world is collapsing around you.
In construction your survival book, I would suggest a three inch, three ring binder. I would also suggest that you laminate your pages to protect against water damage. Make sure you include both detailed pictures and descriptive instructions. I would also suggest making a copy of the book so that you can have one in your bug-out bag and one in your home preps. Make sure include food (gathering and prep), water (gathering and decontaminating), shelter, first-aid, as well as your survival plans such as various bug-out locations and directions to get there, plans for defending your home or your bug-out location, and contingency plans for everything. Make sure your survival book will have you prepared for any conceivable situation you may come up against.
To give you an idea of what you may need in your personal survival book, I will share a list of things I have in mine:

  • Food procurement
    • Deadfall trap
    • Bottle trap
    • Drag noose
    • Trot-line
    • Wild edibles in my area of the country
    • Possibly poisonous plants in my area
  •   Water
    • Solar-still
    • Rain catches
    • Natural filtering systems
  • Shelter
    • Lean-to
    • Tepee
    • Swamp bed
    • Debris hut
    • Snow shelter
    • Beach shelter
    • Desert shelter
  • First-Aid
    • Broken bones
    • Stings and bites
    • Cuts and gouges
    • Rashes
    • Medicinal plants
  • Fire
    • Fire walls
    • Fire holes
    • Different fire starting  methods
      • Battery
      • Gunpowder
      • Fire-plow
      • Bow and Drill
  • Food Preparation
    • Canning
    • Skinning
    • Smoking
  • Weapons, Tools, and Equipment
    • Making an effective club
    • Making a stone knife
    • Making bows
    • Making arrows
    • Making natural packs
  • Misc.
    • Making a raft
    • Star charts for directions
    • Making clothing from animal skins

In the end, the only thing that will keep you alive is you. If you are able to adapt to different situations and are able to defeat the obstacles that will plague your post-prepper lifestyle then you will not just survive, you will overcome.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I've been out of the military for a long, long time now. However, I still remember many of the things that were taught to me back then. Those Drill Sergeants, bless their hearts, really knew how to drive home the lessons they were teaching us. Looking back over the years, I can see they were teaching us lessons that would save our lives in combat. I can still remember our map reading and compass orientation course, and the drill sergeant told us "a good soldier never gets lost, they just get disoriented." At the time, I wasn't sure what that actually meant, I mean, "lost" is "lost" isn't it - no matter what you might call it? And, map reading was a very important skill to learn, not just for a means of finding you way back to the base camp, but for calling in artillery on an enemy position, if needed.
I love the outdoors, and don't get out there as much as I'd like to these days. However, I'm happy to say, I've never been lost - not in the wilderness, nor in the big city. I have an uncanny sense of direction - always have. However, I've run across some hunters, who were "misoriented" and couldn't remember where they parked their vehicles or where their hunting camp was located. Before heading out to go hunting, in terrain that I'm not familiar with, I'll take the time to study a topo map of the area - all the various road in the area, as well as sources of water, too. It's just good sense, to have an idea of where you're going in the wilderness - and the big cities. I don't know how many people I've run across, who can't even read a compass, and if they can read a compass, they haven't set it for the declination in the area they're in. When my girls were younger, I taught them how to use a map and compass, and how to learn which direction was north, south, east or west, too.
Many people die each year, because they lost their sense of direction and get lost in the wilderness. Also, boaters who might have a problem out on the ocean or a large lake, can get lost, and they have no means of finding their way back home. Here in Oregon, we have several people each year die while attempting to climb Mount Hood. It looks like an easy mountain to scale, but it's not. And, more often than not, those who get killed climbing Mount Hood are "experienced" climber - they take unnecessary risks - where an amateur won't take those same risks. Climbers get caught in snow storms - and they can't get rescued because no one knows exactly where they are at. Sad!
Today I'm reviewing the Rescue Me PLB1 (Personal Locator Beacon) from Datrex. Now, a lot of people think I'm pretty smart - while that may be true, I'm just not smart all the time. It took me a while to put two and two together, to come up with four - Datrex makes those tasty life boat rations. And, for the life of me, I don't know why most folks consider these survival rations just for use on boats. My wife and I carry them in our emergency boxes in our SUVs - so they are good for helping your survive on land and sea.
Datrex was kind enough to send me one of their PLB1 units for testing - well, I didn't actually want to test it, and have the local sheriff's department Search And Rescue (SAR) team coming knocking on my door, when I activated the PLB1. They also sent me a dummy unit to play with, and the entire set-up is so very simple to operate, no practice is needed! A quick run down on the specs of the PLB1 are in order.  The PLB1 is the world's smallest Personal Locator Beacon - it's 30% smaller than other similar units. It has a 7-year battery life, with a 7-year warranty - the longest in the industry, and it provides fast and accurate positioning information to a SAR team. Best of all, unlike other similar units, there is NO subscription fee. Other places may charge you by the month, or by the year, to have a subscription - which means, once you purchase one of their units, you can't use it, unless you've paid the fee - which can get expensive over the years.
The PLB1 operates on the COSPAS/SARAT System which uses two satellites to provide distress alert and location data to SAR authorities. The GEOSR system can provide immediate alerting within the coverage of the receiving satellite. To put it simply is to say, once you activate your PLB1, the distress signal goes out immediately and help will be on the way to you. And, needless to say, you only activate the PLB1 in a dire emergency - not when you can't find your way home from the local McDonald's restaurant!
The unit only weighs 4-ounces, and is 3"x2"x1.3" and it safely fits inside inflatable life jackets, small pockets on trousers, on a belt or strap - just about any place. The PLB1 also comes with all the accessories you need, flotation belt pouch, snap in clip with universal mounting strap and high tensile lanyard. Of course, you can stuff it in your backpack, too, or even a shirt pocket.
Now pay attention here, this is the "complicated" method for operating the PLB1 in an emergency. Pull out the retractable antenna, push button down for one second to activate the unit, and.........well, that's it! Can't be easier to operate if you ask me. And, one nice thing about the PLB1 is, the retractable antenna - you can roll it back up into the unit - much like a tape measure. Other units have to be returned to the factory to have their antennas replaced - and they charge you for it, too. Datrex recommends that, if you have used the unit, that you should replace the small battery - just in case. I mean, the battery is good for 7-years, but it's just smart to replace the battery if you've activated the unit.
The PLB1  is waterproof, per se, down to 15-feet so they recommend that once you activate the unit, you keep it above the water - if you're out to sea. And, ensure that the antenna is held vertically while operating the unit. The unit will send out a signal for at least 24-hours, and there is also a small strobe light that will start flashing to indicate that the unit is activated. The high brightness, low profile strobe light has 1 candela - it is bright and can be seen from quite a distance, especially at night - aiding the SAR in finding your location, once they get close to you.
Now, in order to use your PLB1 properly, you are required by law to register it - there is no fee for this - just a simple form you can fill out - that's supplied with each unit - or you can do it on-line. The SAR would like to know who they're looking for and can also alert family that you've activated the unit, too. Oh, one other thing, once you press the button to activate the unit, it takes about 50-seconds before the unit actually starts sending out a signal - in case you hit the button by mistake. Good idea. The PLB1 will operate in temps from -4 degrees, up to 131-degrees.
I know a lot of Survivalist or Preppers, have the idea of heading to the mountains, when the SHTF - and I wish them well, and hope they have pre-positioned supplies there. Many folks just want to disappear off the grid, which is harder to do than they think. I've had times in my own life, where I just wanted to "go" and disappear - and not be found. However, what if you were out on a boat, and the engine quit on you, or you're out hunting, and something happens to you - you get lost, or break a leg? These are situation where you will want to be found. And, cell phones don't work every place - here in Oregon, where I live, we have quite a few areas in our state where you can't get a signal to use your cell phone.
My youngest daughter is in the US Army right now, however, by the time this review appears in print, she'll be out. She has a plan to fly down to New Zealand, and she wants to trek 2,000 miles across that country. Quite a feat, and one I wouldn't willingly want to do, and she plans on doing it alone, too - ever wonder why dads have so many gray hairs? Enough said! Well, I told my youngest daughter that she will get a PLB1 and take it with her on her trek. This will give me quite a bit of peace of mind - knowing that, if something happens along the trek, she can just push a button, and help will be coming her way. I can't think of a better endorsement, than wanting my little girl, to carry a PLB1 with her when she's on that long trek. It probably won't stop the few remaining hairs from turning gray, but it might slow them down on my head.
If you're a hunter, boater, hiker or even in the military, having a PLB1 with you is a great idea if you ask me. the PLB1 can be purchased directly from Datrex, at the web address given above, or from any of their retail walk-in stores, for $369 - you might think the price is a bit high - I don't! What is your life worth, or the life of your loved ones? When you can't help yourself - for whatever reason, the PLB1 can direct help to your location. To me, I don't think you can put a price tag on this! And, if my youngest daughter doesn't purchase a PLB1 for her 2,000 mile trek, then I'll purchase one for her - that's how strongly I feel about having this means of being rescued. If you spend any amount of time in the outdoors - especially hiking, camping or hunting - you absolutely must have a PLB1 with you - it can make the difference between life and death! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Saturday, October 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy feet are important to our survival in an emergency. 

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

As I observe the current concerns about our food supply and our “health” care choices, I think back to the days in the 1970s when my husband, child and I took off to the wilderness of the Adirondacks.  Even though there's so much turbulence going on now, I know that being in the middle of essentially nowhere with just your three-member family can be scary no matter how, when, or why you do it.  I was fortunate in that I was trained as a nurse in my younger days, and that experience did come in handy in being able to stay calm in the face of emergency.  But we didn't have much in the way of dependable food sources or actual medicines and so, with some trial and error, I learned to use the plants around me for nutritious food and for relief and aid for the body.

 As regards the medicinal aspect, I knew that prior to modern medicine and its drugs, there were individuals who passed down, from generation to generation, the secrets of natural healing, often using herbs and various compounds to assist the body to heal itself.  Throughout the history of man, such people have provided whatever medicinal healing that was to be had, and most of the populace was grateful for them.  We are lucky to have the wisdom of herbal know-how passed down through the generations.

In this article I will tell you about some edible and medicinal uses for wild plants that I personally learned about to help my family survive on our wilderness homestead.  This will give you an idea of how possible it is to be off the grid and to still be able to deal with feeding yourselves well, and learning effective and free ways to handle health issues that could arise.  These wild plants grow pretty much everywhere and you are very likely to find them not only in your urban backyard, but also in  wilderness areas that you might inhabit.  The fascinating thing is that while I was getting a handle on feeding us for free in the wild, I was also discovering that many of those same plants also have medicinal properties, so it's a “two-for-one” kind of deal, and the best part is that it's all free!  Nature herself has provided us with the most amazing deal in health and nutrition, and yet there's all that noise about the expense of food and of health care.  What a waste of time and energy, in my opinion.

I must remind you that the key to successful use of any wild plant, whether edible or medicinal, depends, as always, on proper identification.  I have said this many times in my books, in my 3-hour DVD, in my Wild Card playing deck, on my radio shows, in my newsletter, and in my classes years ago, etc.  It is the very first action that everyone needs to take in helping themselves to Nature's free food store and pharmacy.  I always say that you should have at least 3 good field guides to help with identification, and color photos, and then go out and practice until you know you know your plants!  However, and this is a caution that I also state continually, there are some harmful plants that resemble really wonderful wild plants.  I'm going to go into a bit of detail here to give you an idea of what I mean, and so you will understand why I emphasize certainty with your identification. 

One of my favorite wild plants is Queen Anne's Lace.  When you see the blooming flower head, you will know why it is called that.  Queen Anne's Lace is a great wild edible because you see it in many places (once you know how to identify it), and it has a long harvesting season.  I would pick the flowers and saute them for a tasty treat.  I discovered that the stems can be cut and used for flavoring in soups and stews, the leaves can be included in salads, the dried seeds from the brown fall flowers can be used as a salt substitute (but not to excess).  Once I found out how delicious the lace flowers taste fried in hot oil and then cooled on rocks at my homestead outdoor “kitchen”, I didn't miss potato chips anymore!  The roots can be gathered for a carrot substitute in the spring and fall, and you can even dig during the winter months to collect the roots.  You can see how useful this plant is for free food and to use as a very healthy salt substitute.

The thing is, unless you are careful, it is possible to mistake this wonderful plant with poison hemlock, just like it is possible to mistake mushrooms that aren't good for you with ones that are.  The answer is not to stop looking for mushrooms, it is to learn the good ones from the bad ones.  In the case of Queen Anne's Lace, the most obvious difference between it and hemlock is that the stems of Queen Anne's Lace are fuzzy, and the stems of hemlock are smooth.  So just by feeling along the stem you will be able to tell which is the good, edible plant.  Another detectable difference is that Queen Anne's Lace has a very distinctive “carrot” smell to the stem, leaves, seeds, and roots.  This information, along with other specifics on a few more poisonous look-alikes, are in my book The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide.  An additional safety guideline that I have provided in all of my wild food publications are my “Rules of Foraging”, which I developed and refined over my many years in working with and teaching wild food.  That list of rules is included at the end of this article.

My procedure after any wild food foraging adventure (and they always were an adventure, like the time I ran, almost literally, into a bear—but that's another story!) was to set aside a certain amount to eat while the food was still fresh from the fields.  With the rest I would use my dependable drying and storing methods to keep quantities available to me throughout the winter, and often for years at a time.  I would also properly prepare those plants that I had learned would be valuable for helping with body issues.  I can tell you that I was never as grateful for my knowledge of medicinal plants and my dependable identification of them as I was when there was an emergency and I saw the blood gushing out from the tip of my husband's finger from a chainsaw accident. 

One of my most reliable plants for such injuries is shepherd's purse, and I can't recommend highly enough what a good idea it is to have it in powder form readily available for emergencies.  The powder of that plant is what I put on my husband's fingertip to stem the bleeding, and I kept using it on that finger until the bleeding stopped and it was healing.  Shepherd's purse is what I used during another injury episode, when I cut off the very tip of my finger with a hatchet one time.  It grew back with no problem.  My use of that plant in both of those instances taught me the incredible medicinal value of a single plant.  The native Americans kept a little bag of shepherd’s purse seeds around their necks in case of emergency.

Shepherd's purse is not only very valuable for blood clotting, even for serious cuts like those I mentioned, but it also is a nutritious food source.  The leaves can be eaten in salads, sandwiches, soups, and as a side vegetable.  The stems and seeds can be stir fried, and the buds and flowers can be eaten raw.  Seeds can also be used as a pepper substitute, and roots can be used fresh, or dried and used as a substitute for ginger.  And this very important plant is growing freely all around! 

Another wild plant that may be even more valuable medicinally as well as nutritionally is mullein.  This plant is probably more well-known than shepherd's purse because of its amazing antihistamine properties.  I have friends who buy mullein tea, tinctures and capsules to help with bronchial relief and sinus problems.  I was very, very grateful to know about mullein when my son developed a serious cough during a 20 degree below zero wilderness winter day.  The usual pine tea and honey was not having any effect.  I could see the tips of the brown mullein spikes nearby so I went outside in the freezing cold and frozen ground and was able to dig out a foot-long mullein root.  I used it to brew a concentrated tea for my son.  He drank 2 tablespoons every hour and his cough was calmed and he proceeded to get well from that point.  You should know that mullein root tea is an effective expectorant and thus can help a person discharge the mucus from the throat and bronchial tubes.  I was so grateful that those mullein plants were “standing sentinel” outside my door and that they were available even in several feet of snow and in below zero temperature, to help me help my son. 

One summer when I was teaching a Girl Scout troop and we were on horseback, a horse kicked out and clipped the ankle of one of my scouts.  It was a bad injury.  I removed her shoe and then shouted for the other scouts to get some mullein leaves quickly, which they did.  We crushed the leaves with rocks and then made poultices and applied them onto the swollen ankle.  We used the mullein stalks as splints and the leaves became bandages until we could get the scout to the hospital.  The doctor who treated her was amazed that the girl had a chip fracture but no swelling or pain, and he wanted to know what plant was on her ankle!  Think of the savings to everyone, in terms of time, money and pain, if this valuable information where more widely known.

Here's what I learned to do when anyone in my wilderness family felt a cold coming on: I would scrub a mullein root, simmer it in water for 10 to 15 minutes, and then whoever needed it would drink the medicinal tea.  That one root could be used several times to make tea. 

When there is a burn or wound that needs healing and you have mullein leaves and a heat source, gently break up a bunch of leaves (or one large leaf), put that in a pot of water and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, steep for 10 to 15 minutes and cool.  Take the leaves out, drain them a bit, and then place them directly over the bruised or hurt area.  Make a poultice with the cooled juice and add that to the area too.  A constant poultice will greatly aid in the healing process.  I knew that the Native Americans used mullein leaves to heal elbows and shoulders, so I figured out that placing mullein leaves in my sneakers when I knew I would be walking long distances would probably soothe my tired feet and prevent blisters, and I was right!  I put those leaves in my sneakers ever after when I went on my foraging trips.  I also liked to use mullein to help relieve the irritation from bug bites.  A different but very helpful use of mullein was for lamp wicks when we were snowed in.  A small piece of the leaf cut to size, dried, and soaked in oil will burn for quite a while. 

Another wild plant that is both edible and medicinal is plantain.  Plantain is so common that you are likely to find it growing in your lawn, in fields, and around construction sites.  It's very plentiful and useful.  There are two types of plantain:  long leaf plantain, and common plantain.  The entire plant is edible.  Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, the stalks can be dried for vegetable chewies, the seeds used as sprouts in salads and other dishes.  But I can tell you from my own personal experience, and for anyone I know who tried it, the first thing I did for bee stings was to make a “band aid” out of the leaves of the common plantain and apply it to the sting.  Here's how I taught children to do this:  First I would show them exactly how to identify that plant.  I would then have them pick three leaves, inserting one of the leaves in between the other two, and then roll that into a cigar-shaped, cylindrical form.  I would find a rock they could hold and then I would have them pound on their leaves to make them a little bit juicy.  That inner leaf, when unwrapped and moist, becomes a poultice for the sting, to help draw out the poison.  Water could be added if needed so that the poultice is moist when applied to the sting area. 

Of course this would all need to be done quickly, but before I took children out into an area where they could be stung, I always made sure that we would scope out where there were common plantain plants.  Then we would practice making the poultices so the children knew what to do.  They just loved the idea of doing something themselves that was effective against bee stings.  My work with teaching children about wild plants, both as food sources and as freely available aids for their bodies, is one of the most rewarding aspects of everything I did in wild food.  My recently released Wild Food Homeschool Package was compiled from my wild food materials specifically so that the activities I did with children would be available to parents to teach to their children. May these children pass it on through the generations and help us get back to our roots, literally.

While the current political outlook may seem very bleak, never forget that in every wilderness area where you go to seek survival, there will be wild plants growing freely all around you.  Be sure that you have with you materials that teach you how to become certain with identification, and which also include specifics on harvesting, drying, storing and preparing wild food and wild medicine.  I have done exactly that during my life, and now I have compiled all the information I could, to help you all do the same.  I hope it will be enough to see you, and everybody you know and love, through the tough times ahead.

The Rules of Foraging
These rules are for your own protection when investigating plants that are new to you. If followed closely, they will protect you in the field.

1.) DO NOT collect plants closer than 200 feet from a car path or contaminated area.
2.) NEVER collect from areas sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.
3.) DO NOT collect plants with RED STEMS, or red striations or stripes.
4.) ALWAYS BE FAMILIAR with all dangerous plants in YOUR area of collection.
5.) POSITIVELY IDENTIFY all plants you intend to use for food.
6.) Take a piece off the plant and roll between your fingers.  SNIFF CAREFULLY.  Does it smell like something you would eat?  If it doesn’t, DISCARD IMMEDIATELY.  If it does, go to rule 7.
7.) Take another piece off the plant and roll until juicy.  RUB the tiny piece on your gum above your teeth.
8.) WAIT 20 minutes.
9.) DOES YOUR GUM ITCH, BURN, TINGLE, SWELL OR STING?  If no reaction occurs, go on to rule 10.
10.) Take another piece of the plant and put in a teacup.  Add boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.  SIP SLOWLY for 20 more minutes.  WATCH FOR NAUSEA, BURNING, DISCOMFORT.  If no reaction occurs, you may ingest a small amount.
11.) WAIT ANOTHER 20 MINUTES and watch for any reaction.
12.)  Keep all samples AWAY from children or pets.
13.)  Store all seeds and bulbs AWAY from children and pets.
14.)  Teach children to keep all plants AWAY from their mouths and DO NOT ALLOW children chew or suck nectar from any unknown plants.
15.)  AVOID smoke from burning plants. Smoke may irritate the eyes or cause allergic reactions QUICKLY.
16.)  BE AWARE of your neighbor’s habits with chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.
17.)  BEWARE: heating or boiling doesn’t always destroy toxicity.

This is information about wild food.  The editors of SurvivalBlog nor the author make no claims as to the correctness, safety or usability of the data.

The information contained herein is intended to be an educational tool for gathering and using wild plants.  The information presented is for use as a supplement to a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle.  The nutritional requirements of individuals may vary greatly, therefore the author and publisher take no responsibility for an individual using and ingesting wild plants.

All data is to be used at your own risk.  Using the Rules of Foraging greatly helps to reduce that risk, but even they are not foolproof.

About The Author: Linda Runyon is a widely recognized expert on wild food foraging. Her web site is: OfTheField.com.

Monday, October 7, 2013

This letter is in response to your link to a post by Ross Gilmore: Living Off The Land: Delusions and Misconceptions About Hunting and Gathering.  It's a well-written article and I'd like to expand upon it.

I've been teaching Stone Age skills for 29 years and I've spent most of my adult life in the backcountry of Idaho and British Columbia.  I never purchased meat or fish from a store for about 20 years, though I consumed a lot.  I've lived Stone Age for short periods of time, living completely off the land using only the skills and tools of long ago... handmade longbow with obsidian-tipped arrows, stone knife, cordage snares and deadfall traps, etc.

I've now moved to the other wilderness, Los Angeles, where I'm sharing my skills and learning new lessons every day... but that's another story.

Meeting one's caloric needs directly from the land is an idea filled with Dances with Wolves romanticism.  Most people have no idea what it's really like.  I have been reduced to such a weakened state from lack of calories that walking 100 yards required stopping to rest, and that was after only a week of living off the land.  That experience occurred in the mountains of Oregon in the Hell's Canyon Wilderness in May, "springtime."  Spring in the mountains there meant that I was snowed on, hailed on, and rained on, and water froze solid every night.  I was likely burning through at least 7000 calories per day, and my main source of calories, bisquitroot (Lomatium spp.), provided 2-3 calories per gram.  Now, 2-3 calories per gram is very high for most wild food, but I still required about 15 pounds of it per day to break even!  I couldn't eat that much.

However, something that Ross Gilmore doesn't point out is that there is a transition period during which our bodies acclimate to new foods.  Much of that acclimation takes about a week, after which a person more efficiently processes wild foods and more efficiently utilizes the energy.  We adjust.  Part of the adjustment comes from our flexible metabolism: our metabolism shifts to match food intake.  When there is inadequate food, we have a desire to move slower and sleep more.  That's why "Naked and Afraid" people lay around so much.  However, a person getting close to adequate calories after the transition from conventional to natural food sources will feel more energized after that weeklong adjustment.

Trapping is the way to go for efficient harvesting of calorie-dense food.  My success rate for traps is 1 kill for every 3-4 traps set, per night.  However, most of the survival instructors that I've met lack the experience to set traps in the best locations, quickly and efficiently.  Paiute children were reported to set up to 75 deadfall traps in a day, using trap sticks previously made.  Now, at my success rate, that means about 20 critters per day.  The ground squirrels in Paiute country are huge, but let's figure a mix of ground squirrels, pack rats and mice and estimate half a pound of meat, organs and fat per animal.  That's 10 pounds per day.  An average adult needs about 2 pounds.

But let's be realistic.  Most instructors cannot set more than a dozen Paiute deadfalls in a day and their success rate is dismal.  And I'm talking about the people who teach this stuff for a living.

Understanding local resources intimately is key, as Ross pointed out.  So is timing.  Harvesting and storing acorns at the appropriate time means food is always available, and some of the California tribes consumed up to half of their year's calories via acorns.  However, most tribes did not store huge amounts of food during pre-agricultural times.  They didn't have to.  The keys are intimate knowledge of the environment, timing, extensive knowledge and skills, and action.  Rise early in the morning to stand hunt, then set traps in the mid-late morning while opportunistically hunting, forage easy items as you go, middle of the day process food/work around camp/make traps and tools, then during the evening hunt or set more traps while opportunistically hunting.  Each day cover 2-5 miles, depending on your environment.

When I lived in areas with chipmunks, setting a deadfall trap resulted in almost 100% success within a few hours.  In the Midwest during summer, a day in the woods covering 5 miles while carrying a bow would yield way more calories than required in the form of snakes, frogs, chipmunks, perhaps a grouse or larger animal, and a wide variety of plant foods that are consumed on the go.

In the mountains of Idaho and British Columbia, one elk provides 350 pounds of meat.  When you include the fat, organs and bones (lots of fat is stored within the bones, which must be smashed and boiled to extract) and take the time to properly preserve the animal, you can leisurely enjoy the rest of your year!  Most of the meat I preserved in Idaho was simply cut thin and laid over bushes where it dried just fine in one day.

In Ross' example of living off the land, legally, in New York, conditions would be tougher.  Killing 12 bucks is illegal and keeping to the hunting season would be difficult, but there are many other easier sources of calorie-rich foods.  Raccoons, beaver, cats and dogs (during the Zombie Apocalypse), and rodents... these animals are easy to trap in abundance in the right areas.  Remember, 1 success out of every 3-4 traps set by a skilled individual.  Imagine a marsh with muskrats and beaver, plus raccoons working the banks, and an abundance of cattail roots, shoots and seeds (yes, you can fluff up the dry seed heads and flash burn the fluff from the seeds.  Very tasty and high in calories.)  Marshes also have waterfowl, possibly fish and crayfish, frogs, snakes and turtles.  FYI, every animal in North America can be eaten, including skunk.  I've done it.  

My point is that living off the land is easy under certain conditions and with a lot of skill, and that it requires specific actions.  My point is also that most survival instructors do not have the skills or experience to teach it well.

What really doesn't work is the idealized notion that "I'll just go out and find food."  I have many years of experience in identifying plants and learning how to efficiently harvest and process them.  I've learned by doing.  I've set traps that fell down before an animal found it, or the animal stole the bait.  I've spent countless days watching deer trails and walking back to camp empty-handed.  You have to put in your time.

I have yet to see a television show in which the participant/s follow an intelligent course of action for long-term living.  Most of the shows are about toughing out the conditions until they get back to the safety and abundance of civilization.  What a shame.  The outdoors are portrayed as a dangerous place to get out of.  That mentality does not provide good information for someone who is serious about meeting his needs directly from the land in ways that are easy and efficient.  Eating a few willow buds, as "Survivorman" Les Stroud did on one of his episodes, and proclaiming, "Mmmmm... this will give me some energy" is inexcusable.  It's lying.

One last comment about Ross' article: dried mashed potatoes are nice if you want a tasty conventional addition to your wild foraging, but it's not the most efficient food to bring.  Fats and oils contain 9 calories per gram.  That's the food to carry if you are wanting maximum calories.

Get outdoors, get dirty, practice real skills in real situations, and bring a lighter and "back up" supplies... just in case.

Chris Morasky, Ancient Pathways of SoCal

JWR Replies: I agree with you and Mr. Gilmore! In many of my writings over the years, I've warned that the "Batman in the Boondocks" approach is foolhardy. Anyone who thinks that they can a carry all that they need in one backpack to survive in the wilds for extended periods is fooling themselves. That would be perilous even in the present day. But to expect to be able to do so in the midst of a societal collapse is just plain laughable. Just think how many other people will simultaneously be attempting to "live off the land." Except in very remote regions, the streams and rivers will be fished out and the wild game will be largely shot out and trapped out, in less than a year. And what little game remains will be quite spooked. A self-sufficient farm with a variety of crops and livestock, hay cutting ground, and an adjoining woodlot is a much more realistic solution

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 10, 2013

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

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

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

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

[Some deleted, for brevity]

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

[Some deleted, for brevity]

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

[Some deleted, for brevity]

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

[Some deleted, for brevity]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Leatherman Wave tool. (weighs 7.9 oz)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Pistol mag pouch (weighs 2.2 oz)

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

The ever-painful "Culling Of The Gear":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Poncho (with liner) (42 oz) 

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

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

8. Wool socks, extra pair (6.7 oz)

9. Under Armor cold weather hood (1.6 oz)  

10. Solo stove / pot (16.3 oz)

11. Leather gloves  (4.8 oz)  

12. Safety pins X3 (0)  

13. Area map (N/A)

14. ACE wrap (2.2 oz)

15. E-Tool (40 oz)  

16. Note pad & pencil  (1.7 oz)   

        UPON TERRAIN, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 8, 2013

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First let's start by saying that the proverbial "do all" knife has never been made. Men have worked long and hard only to realize that for every action is an equal and opposite reaction.
You want a knife for chopping down trees? The blade must be very tough. This means though that the blade is not as hard and will not hold an edge very long.

You want a knife that will skin a 300 pound animal without need to be sharpened? Then the blade will be very hard and thus somewhat brittle. Consequently more difficult to sharpen when it does need it.
A fighting knife is not an outdoor survival knife! Don't buy a dagger and expect it to perform as a survival knife.
When selecting a knife, consider this for a moment. Just because the price of the knife is ridiculous does not mean that its better. The heart of the system is the materials used and the construction methods. For example, A blade that is ground will not be as hard or durable as a hammer forged knife. The difference is that a ground knife is taken from 'flat stock' steel (essentially a flat steel bar) and they then grind on it until the desired shape is met. A forged knife is heated to almost melting point, then pounded and slammed until a rough shape is met. Some grinding is required, however the molecular structure of the steel is "compressed" if you will. To understand this better, take a handful of wet dirt. Shape into something just rubbing it. Do the same with another handful but this time mold the wet dirt into shape. Now tell me which one is better. Finding a forged knife can be expensive and time consuming. I would recommend doing this yourself as I did.
Let's discuss the steels used in blade craft. Stay away from anything marked '440' or '440 stainless.' Let me explain. 440 stainless steel has three grades. Yup! You guessed it, A, B, and C. At the top of this list is 440A while 440C is at the bottom. Any quality Stainless 440 knife will have one of the letter designations. If not, than the knife just looks cool and that's about all it will ever do. If you do find a stainless steel knife that you cant live without, make sure it comes from a reputable name brand. Gerber has some very nice knifes as does Schrade, K-Bar, SOG. But this brings us to the endless debate. Stainless or Carbon Steel?
The debate over carbon steel versus stainless steel will rage forever. So get some information out so you can make an informed purchase. Carbon steel is generally tougher and it will hold a better edge, longer. It also tends to be heavier and depending on the treating process, more brittle. It will also rust and if not cared for, pits form or if neglected long enough, the carbon content will compromised. Resulting in an utterly worthless blade. The most common Carbon steel blends (for knives) in America are 1095, 1085, 1080, 1050, and 1045. These numbers have meaning. The first two numbers are something that escapes me right now but they are less important than the last two digits. The 95 means that  0.95% of the steel carbon. This means that the steel is very hard and also toward the brittle side but will hold a very sharp edge for a long time. 1080 is a little less hard and also less brittle. Its still a good steel and will hold its edge. 1045 is softer still and significantly tougher than 1095. It does not hold its edge very well but will stand some angry abuse. There quite a bit more to this than just carbon content, but this will get you started in selecting your high carbon steel knife. Keep your carbon blade oiled!
Stainless steels are by their very nature 'elastic'. Meaning they will stretch and bend and thus make an ideal steel for bridges. As far as knives go. There are several types and blends of stainless steel on the market today and some of them are very good. We have already covered the 440 range of knives briefly. So, Stainless steel is made by adding magnesium, chromium, copper, and several other types of metals to create a rust resistant steel. Stainless knives tend to be pretty hard and are also hard to sharpen. But remember, stainless is hard but its 'elastic' so it will take the extra chop on the tree. There is also the "high carbon" Stainless knives out now. the best way to explain this is this. Stainless is stainless because the carbon has been reduced and replaced by other hard metals. Because carbon takes a better edge and holds it longer they have developed high carbon stainless. Imagine looking at a closet full of basket balls. Do you see the gaps between balls? That would be the "old" stainless from the 1970s and 1980s. Today that same closet would look like golf balls. The point is that the steels have gotten so good that even the bad stainless will cut. It really comes down to how often you are willing to sharpen your knife. Stainless blades also tend to be hard on your stone. The blends and numbers of stainless steels are vast. So many in fact that we're going to concentrate on the most common. Gerber knives use a blend called 9CRV19MOV which is a very good steel. Basically what this means is that it has a lot of Chrome Vanadium in it. This is a high carbon stainless steel blade that will take a razor edge and hold it for a reasonable length of time of good usage.
If the materials are the heart of the system then the handle would be the right arm. A full tang, one solid piece with a sharp end and [extending the full length of the] handle attached at the other end is the best way, period. The Bear Gryllis knife is a three quarter tang and it seems to work well. I haven't broken it so it must work well.
In my kit I carry one 1095 carbon steel knife and one stainless steel knife. The combination works for most situations I will encounter. Not everyone has the extra cash to spend $1,700 on a hand forged Damascus, hand heat treated, and hand tempered knife. So I will throw a suggestion of what I carry. Aside from the 12 inch fighting knife I got in Pakistan, I carry in my kit a Mora Bushcraft knife. Its 1095 high carbon steel and is probably the best knife that I have. It takes a crazy sharp edge and will hold for a long time. I have shaved my face with this knife. I also carry around a Bear Gryllis ultimate survival knife. It has a 7CRV17MOV stainless steel blade and this will also take crazy sharp edge. I have shaved with this one too. The point here is there is no better knife, carbon or stainless. I prefer carbon steel but find that I use my stainless knife more often. I dread sharpening time though. The Mora knife was about $35. you can get the smaller version that I call the kitchen knife for about $10-15. The Bear Gryllis cost me a whopping $50 and has served me very well in the bush.
Keep your knives sharp. A dull knife is a dangerous knife. Choose well and I hope I cold shed some light on what some call a difficult choice. God bless and long live the Republic!
- M.C. in Arizona 

JWR Replies: To clarify, I agree that 440A is a very good steel for knives and it has several advantages over 440C. For example, it has much higher edge stability (edge holding), and it is more resistant to corrosion. But in "real world" practice, a lot of 440A steel is used to make very inexpensive imported (read: Mainland China) knives that receive pitiful heat treatment, so their performance in actual use is quite poor. Granted, 440C has considerably much more carbon than 440A (1.0%, versus 0.6%, as I recall), so it can take a sharper edge. The tradeoff is lower rust resistance. In looking at the progression of 440A through 440C the edge properties go up, whilst simultaneously the rust resistance properties go down. These issues have been discussed at length over at CutleryScience.com. Some custom knives that cost $500+ are made with 440C. So it is overly simplistic to just say that 440A is "better." It all depends on what is done with the raw material. If the maker is cranking out lots of junk knives with lousy heat treatment, then the original grade of stainless steel is not the key factor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I live on a small ranch in Northern Alberta, Canada. I'm approximately a half hour drive to the nearest small town, and the winters here can be tremendous. I've always taken a slightly different approach to preps than most of my American counter parts, because most energy, food, shelter, water and defense advice floating around the Internet is not cold weather viable. In this short paper I will attempt to relay to you, the reader, the importance of being ready for winter in all aspects of survival. This is a short collection of some thoughts and experiences I've had living through Northern Canada winters.

1) Heat is what you need in the winter. 'Of course!' you say. It's hard to emphasis the priority having heat takes when it is -40 (Celsius or Fahrenheit it doesn't matter). Food, shelter, water, medicine, and defense all rely on having enough heat. You can't clean with, or drink, water that is frozen. Even eating snow is not recommended because of the energy your body must use to heat the frozen water. You can't eat meat that is frozen solid. You can't live in uninsulated flimsy structures not designed to handle the weight of snow, or the extreme life-sucking cold. You can't stay in a LP/OP for very long without heat. It is harder to fight with a rifle when you cannot feel your hands or they ache intensely from being frozen. Everything takes a back seat to keeping you and your families body temperature at the correct level. You will find that all aspects of surviving a winter are ultimately steps towards providing enough heat to live. I think most preppers agree a good wood stove and a way to efficiently obtain dry fire wood in the winter is a must. A Ski Doo (snowmobile), a sled for hauling, a good chainsaw, extra chains, oils, parts, fuels, tools etc are all requisites as well as the ability to differentiate dead standing wood (the dry stuff) with live trees that are simply dormant for the winter (not dry stuff) and transport it back home. Have multiple methods of heating the indoors.

2) Food is akin to warmth. Your body will automatically try to keep warm if it detects colder temperatures, burning extra calories. You will find that in order to maintain a healthy mind and body, you will need to start a supplement regime through the coldest winter months, when there is little to no fresh vegetables or fruits, and mainly a diet of preserves and game. Canned goods that become frozen may go bad, or the container may rupture. Unless you have an extensive organic garden that provides a winter's worth of preserves each summer, you will most likely end up eating some GMO canned products. Hunting changes with the coming of snow. Deep snow can become a serious problem for most hunters as mobility in four to five feet of snow without snow shoes or a skidoo is minimal and exhausting. For game you will mostly find mammals such as coyotes, deer, elk, etc. All can be taxing to move or prepare in deep snow. Ice fishing requires an ice auger, and multiple lines in multiple holes to really be successful.

3) Water is relatively easy to find. See that white stuff? Yup. Water. It needs heat. For every shovel full of snow you melt, you will get approximately 1/3 that volume in water. Start shoveling! If you have a good well, the water will remain liquid until it is exposed at ground level. If you heat water then put it outside it will freeze even faster, so don't do your animals a favour. All lakes, ponds, and rivers will freeze over and become hidden under snow, so you need a water source.

4) Shelter is a means of efficient heat. It contains the heat from your stove for a longer time. It keeps the wind off you, which can make the cold multitudes worse. It is a place to prepare food, practice good hygiene, and spend time with friends and family, safe from the hostile environment outside. Temporary shelters such as igloos can work if one is skilled enough and snow conditions allow snow to be packed together. This is not always possible in extreme cold. An alternative is using layered pine tree branches in a sturdy lean-to design, with a fire in front projecting heat. Note that you must dig down through the frozen snow before starting a fire for obvious reasons. Be creative. Keep the wind off your skin. Contain the heat safely. Find a way to dry your clothes and skin off while in shelter. Your shelter needs to handle huge amounts of snow weight, and will still need to be cleared. If you own a house you must shovel your roofs off if too much snow builds up on it, or it may collapse or deform, and leak.

5) While I have never been in a gun fight in the middle of winter, there are some common sense things that everyone needs to take into consideration. Cold hands are the least of your worries! We are all taught to 'get off the X', but this becomes problematic in a situation where you may have to run through a foot or more of snow. Its slippery, heavy, and you don't know what you're stepping on under that snow. If it gets a little deeper you simply cannot run, much less retain a sight picture of your firearm. Sinking into a snow bank up to your waist while someone is trying to kill you is probably not a good thing. Going prone may save you, but its a gamble if you'll land softly on the snow and ready to fight, or end up swimming in the snow looking for your buried firearms (which may or may not function after being packed with snow). You will be wet and cold when you stand up again.  The first nations had a proper solution to this. Snow shoes are life savers. I recommend rifle drills where you practice positional shooting with snow shoes as well as getting off the X. Go on winter hikes through a forest area with the shoes on. Skis become problematic due to the length especially if you are in a thick tangle of branches. Cold weather will affect the ballistics of your rifles tremendously. Canadian Rangers still use the Lee-Enfield which is a .30 caliber bolt action rifle, because the AR-15 platform simply does not perform in the super cold climate. It tends to have problems with its gas impingement system and the arctic climate and dense air causes the small .223 round to lose stability much much quicker. Also a bolt action with iron sights is much more likely to function even after being jammed full of ice and snow and moisture. M1As, AKs and VZ58s will all work very well in the extreme cold, provided that you keep your actions clear [and de-lubricated].  Winter is a completely different beast. Everyone can see your footprints in the snow, and tell how long ago you were there. You need a whole new set of winter camo's and gear such as no-fog goggles and proper gloves, boots, and balaclavas.  What will you do if someone blocks the road off in front of you? Your vehicle cant go through the snow in the ditches. If your vehicle is disabled you are put into an immediate heat-shelter survival situation on the side of the road, and you could be wounded as well.  If someone comes into your house in the middle of the night, and you decide to run... will you make it till morning at -40 degrees? A huge truck full of cut firewood would be a target in a winter TEOTWAWKI situation. Snow banks need at least a few feet of width to stop most rifle rounds. The snow will reflect moon light making night time bright as day (almost!) and if you put snow in your mouth it will stop people from seeing your breath. Batteries for night vision devices and red dot sights will die quicker. If you bury a weapon cache in the ground during summer months, that same ground will be hard as a rock and full of ice during the winter. That is... after you find it and shovel all the snow off it first! When the spring comes and all that snow melts guess where that water will go? Yup. Right down into the hole you dug for your end-of-the-world rifle.

Study the Eastern Front of the Second World War and the hardships many soldiers went through during those winters.

Think outside the box. Last winter I stayed in a trappers tent with a wood stove. To handle the weight of the snow on the tent, I drove fence posts in beside the tent and tied all of the supports to the fencing post, and after that I threw a double layer tarp over the entire tent. The result was an outer layer of tarp with a approximately a foot of space between it and the inner tent. This space acted as an insulator for inside. The outer tarp, which was always frozen, would dehumidify the air by building up frost on the inside. I stayed comfortable and warm in a 12' x 20' tent during a deep Canadian North winter. It was dry, so I was able to safely use my laptop and some lights inside. I would not recommend storing electronics in a winter tent such as this because it will collect frost, and when that frost melts and electricity is applied... you may has well have thrown it in a lake. I had to run my stove constantly. Cutting firewood and hauling it on a shoveled drive way with my quad was a huge calorie burn. That's on a day when my quad would start easy. I will be purchasing a good working skidoo this fall, as well as storing several containers of stabilized gasoline.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
Could you recommend a style of survival knife? I've read several recommendations by various people -- everything from a K-Bar to a parang. My wife and I are newcomers to the survival game, but as a hunter and outdoorsman I tend to favor a good, short, fixed-blade (drop point) Buck knife, augmented by a decent folding saw. Are these good choices, or should we really look for a versatile (if not "do-it-all"), long-bladed knife with a partially serrated edge? I'm a bit skeptical of hacking / sawing through things such as tree limbs with a knife, and equally skeptical of a tool which does all things "sort-of," instead of one thing well.

Forgive me if I just haven't searched through your archived material enough to find the answer. We read your book (Surviving the End of the World as We Know It), by the way, and consider it one of the best we've encountered -- factual, informational, accessible. Thanks in advance for your kindness. - Michael L.

JWR Replies: Your daily carry knife is one of your most important survival tools.  Not only is it available for daily utility tasks, but it can be useful for hunting, outdoor survival, or self defense when you are in gun-deprived jurisdictions.

Sheath knifes are stronger than folders, but they have a few drawbacks:
1.)   They are more bulky, and therefore tend to get left at home, when you need them most.
2.)   They are more conspicuous.
3.)   They are restricted in some locales.  (In many cities and states, a blade that is perfectly legal in a pocketknife is a misdemeanor to carry in a fixed blade equivalent.  Yes, this flies in the face of logic. But the law is the law, and we can’t do much about it.) 

One other option is what is commonly called a neck knife—a small fixed blade sheath knife that is designed to be carried on a cord around your neck, concealed beneath your shirt. Typically, the cord is attached to the tip end of the sheath, so that the knife hangs with the handle pointing downward. These are normally drawn by reaching under your shirt and tugging the knife down and free from the sheath. Many folks find these uncomfortable, but others love them. (If you tend to wear loose-fitting shirts that are not tucked in, then this might be a good choice for you. Your mileage may vary.)  One neck knife model that is currently popular is he Crawford Triumph N.E.C.K., made by CRKT. This knife was designed by Pat and Wes Crawford. It is a compact recurve tanto. 
Note: Be advised that state and local laws vary widely, so a neck knife might be considered a concealed weapon in some jurisdictions.

Aside for some specialty filleting or skinning knives, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades. I've found those to be the most versatile for everyday carry. But of course choose what suits you and your particular needs.
There is a dizzying array of folding knives available. Again, I generally prefer half-serrated tanto style blades, but choose what suits you. FWIW, I often carry a Cold Steel Voyager XL Tanto model. (Mine are mostly half-serrated ("Combo Edge") tantos, and in the Extra Large (XL) size.) A smaller version (the "Large") might suit some folks better. Regardless, you should first check your state and local knife laws for blade length restrictions.
My general advice is to carry the longest blade knife that you can and will carry every day, without fail. This is the Everyday Carry (EDC) approach. The knife that gets left at home because it is too bulky or heavy is almost worthless.

Without too much more weight and bulk, you can also carry a small combination tool (such as a mini Leatherman or a small Swiss Army knife), and/or a small flashlight in a belt pouch. But I recommend the big folding pocketknife be carried in a front trouser pocket using a belt clip, for very quick access. And pocket carry using a belt clip also leaves the knife partly exposed, an hence will shield you from a "concealed weapons" charge, in some jurisdictions.

Yes, you can buy a great big Ramboesque "survival" knife, but will you have it with you when you really need it? In my estimation the EDC knife and small tools concept is much more workable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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

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

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

A Hiking System

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

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

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

Drink and Eat Plenty

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

Using the Day

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

Group Hiking

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

Other People

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

A Training Vacation

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

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

I am a wild food author who lived it for years while homesteading in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, and I lived on wild food for many years after that during my teaching days. I still eat wild food today in retirement.

YES.  Wild food is abundant, nutritious, healthy, easy-to-use and, best of all, free! This is important to know, and it’s an important cognition to have early on the way to becoming proficient with it. Having your eyes opened to the fact that it is everywhere must, of course, come before starting the journey that ends with being starvation-proofed.

BUT . . .
I understand that many peppers and survivalists tend to think of my materials as something they can keep on the shelf right up until they need them, then take them down and use them like a road map to instantly trot off to the wilds and subsist because the world went to hell and the supermarkets are fresh out of everything. That is feasible, but that’s not what I would call practical.  Even though you could do this, it is, by far, not the best way to learn the use of wild food.  I feel the need to warn against this grab-the-book approach. True skills are only acquired over time, and your progress can be greatly accelerated by guidance, building on the experience of others as laid out in their materials.

Surely the goal of a complete educational suite about wild food would be to starvation-proof an individual, a family or a group.  Information is important, but I'm sorry to say that your success or failure in that regard is based on how much practical effort you have put into learning and practicing these skills before they are needed. Of course not everyone will be ahead of the curve, and there would be many folks that have no idea of the fact of wild food, so never tried to learn or apply them.  These could be people you would want to help keep alive.

While simple foraging could indeed be useful as you trek off-road to your retreat, you may get away with not having practiced these skills before. But if that’s the only role you’ve set aside for wild food, your are missing the bigger picture. Wild edible food, used well, will play a crucial role at your retreat, camp or homestead. All of my early years of living on wild food occurred in a homestead setting.
Yes, I know you have food stores, but they cannot last forever. Yes, if it's spring (and it probably isn’t) and you get your tomatoes, corn and zucchini started from your heirloom seeds, you might have some wonderful crops come July or August, and I hope you do. I'd love to join you if there's enough to go around!

But you are a prepper, right?  Farming can be difficult; there could be drought, early and/or late frost, hail, wind or unpredictable weather or scant sunlight, problems with deer, rabbits, or other critters, insect trouble or possibly even theft from daring people in the night who didn't take the trouble to plan ahead or think things through. When gardening graduates from a hobby to a vital necessity, the cost of failure graduates, too.  You do have a backup plan, right?

Even if you get a bumper crop, there's still the problem of storage. Unless you thought to include a freeze-drying apparatus or commercial-level canning in your preparations, your storage will be limited by the number of Ball jars you have, whether your freezer can work or not, or whether you thought ahead to build a solar food dehydrator or have the materials and time on hand to build one. Those tomatoes will be good and plentiful in their short season, but you will need to do better than give or barter the surplus- you’ll want to store them.  A question will enter your mind during your high-volume canning efforts during the heat of summer: Is there an easier, high-nutrition food solution that we can use in parallel to traditional cultivation?

Yes there is.  That’s the main reason why we use wild food. Wild edibles aren’t just something you can live off of when there is nothing better; they really start to shine when you use them as a supplement to everyday nutrition. By simply harvesting, drying, pulverizing and storing in Zip-locs or dry jars, you can add a pinch or two of dried clover, violets, lambs quarters, chicory, chickweed or amaranth to your soup or casserole, your burger or omelets—anything you want. You can sneak it into any dish, and you'll be increasing nutrition and quantity while also squeezing the most out of your food stores.  Later, when you are used to it, you’ll increase your usage, and why not?  It’s solid nutrition.

Wild food is man’s original food, so it is quite naturally your ‘backup food store’ while you’re striving to grow fancier food.  We do agree on the prudence of having food reserves, right?  Anyone who values preparation will immediately see that, as a backup plan, wild food  is undeniably the best and only viable plan for your new homesteading efforts (unless you count waiting for the supermarket to restock, that is).
Harvesting and putting up wild food gets most efficient when you do it in quantity and get used to the idea of storing it as opposed to consuming it fresh. This is a long-term, staple food we're talking about here, not having snacks with the forest creatures. It's sort of an industry so you have to approach it as such, but it’s less effort than the traditional cultivation you’ve been planning.

How can you harvest sizable quantities of wild food if you have to walk a few country miles just to find it? Well, if you're doing regular gardening, you're going to find that this food pops up all by itself. The whole concept of weeding is keeping your cultivated food from being overrun by the incredible, edible weed. “Oh no! There's food in with my food!”  Are you starting to get the idea yet?  If you're not careful you could grow five or six different waves of wild food before your tomatoes are ready, all of which could be eaten, dried or frozen long before those tomatoes have to be put up.

Another point: A vegetable garden could be almost completely camouflaged if you were to allow it to become purposely overrun by tall weeds around its border! For that matter, your separate “wild garden” would never be looked at twice while your vegetables provide a fantastic decoy to the real nutrition, making your wild patches sort of a stealth garden, if you will.
You will be making frequent trips to your wild garden, harvesting and allowing it to replenish and harvesting again, over and over until you have a winter's supply and then some. This takes the ‘wandering’ out of ‘foraging’ and bumps wild food up to a production level, where it needs to be for you to depend on it.

The transplanting and cultivation of wild edible food is actually quite easy. You can Rototill a strip to see what comes up from freshly tilled earth. This is a great exercise to see what grows naturally in your chosen patch and to see what the seedling forms of the wild edibles look like. Like most young plants, they do not look much like their later form until two or three sets of leaves form. These can then grow to full harvest maturity right where they started.

If you want to be sure your wild garden has the wild food you have identified elsewhere, just transplant it! There is nothing very exotic about transplanting wild food, but it's easiest when the plants are small. This means doing it at the right time of year, because a weed will wait for nobody. Many plants like burdock, dandelion and chicory quickly establish a deep root which would make transplanting more difficult, so transplanting in the spring is best.

I cover the transplanting and cultivation of wild edible food in my latest book, Promote Wild Food Certainty Through Plant Identification Walks, but I cover it indirectly as a means of populating the type of walk that can be used to help people learn wild food identification by taking a self-guided tour. With labels and dividers, your wild garden can be used to this end, too, and you might find yourself teaching your spouse, your children, or your community wild food identification using this simple but effective method. The idea is simple but it can be rather involved in practice, so I'll leave the details to the book.  The idea is yours now.  It is a living wild food exhibit that you must harvest from to keep under control. 

A walk works as a teaching aid very effectively, and is also one of the many activities in my new Wild Food Homeschool Teaching Guide.  This subject must be taught to many, and part of that job is yours however you choose to go about it.  I feel that God put wild food on the earth for a reason.

Wild food represents a lifestyle change — a change of mindset — and it takes some getting used to.  It is, first of all, more nutrition than your body is used to dealing with, so over-doing it is easy.  It is often a different consistency and a different taste. You will find that you have to adjust the quantity of your intake. There have been lots of instances where the men that I fed wild food to would overdo it and find themselves buzzing with energy from foods like a cattail pollen pancake or too much yarrow tea. This is why the idea of “a pinch to nutrition” is a good one. You will want to start slow and follow my Rules of Foraging as you go, reprinted below for your convenience.

You can dive in and go gung-ho, surely, but this is a journey and can’t be traveled all at once, especially on a deadline of personal starvation.  You need to start now, before you need it. The essential unit of learning this skill is learning one plant thoroughly and completely.  THIS represents one step, and that step is repeated for each and every plant until you finally have a full collection of them.  You quite probably do not have even one plant learned completely all the way from ID to storage. If so, you have not really started your journey into wild food proficiency!  Let me break down how to take that first step of one plant all the way:

  • Start by finding one edible plant.  You probably know of one already. 
  • Learn its identification with certainty.
  • Learn which parts to eat and each one’s various uses.
  • Clear the plant for your use by running it through the Rules of Foraging.
  • Learn that plant’s particular harvest and preparation.
  • Start eating it! Easy does it. Make it a part of you by eating it green when in season.
  • Start collecting it in bulk.
  • Start drying it and put it up in Zip-loc bags or glass jars.
  • Start adding it to meals, a pinch at a time and increasing over time.
  • Figure out, through use, what a winter’s supply really is.
  • Start growing it in your local surrounds.
  • Start teaching this one plant to kids, family and friends so they can start.

But I think you get the most important part of what you must do: on a real, sane, manageable gradient: Start!

The Rules of Foraging
These rules are for your own protection when investigating plants that are new to you. If followed closely, they will protect you in the field.

  • DO NOT collect plants closer than 200 feet from a car path or contaminated area.
  • NEVER collect from areas sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, or other chemicals.
  • DO NOT collect plants with RED STEMS, or red striations or stripes.
  • ALWAYS BE FAMILIAR with all dangerous plants in YOUR area of collection.
  • POSITIVELY IDENTIFY all plants you intend to use for food.
  • Take a piece off the plant and roll between your fingers.  SNIFF CAREFULLY.  Does it smell like something you would eat?  If it doesn’t, DISCARD IMMEDIATELY.  If it does, go to rule 7.
  • Take another piece off the plant and roll until juicy.  RUB the tiny piece on your gum above your teeth.
  • WAIT 20 minutes.
  • DOES YOUR GUM ITCH, BURN, TINGLE, SWELL OR STING?  If no reaction occurs, go on to rule 10.
  • Take another piece of the plant and put in a teacup.  Add boiling water and steep for 5 minutes.  SIP SLOWLY for 20 more minutes.  WATCH FOR NAUSEA, BURNING, DISCOMFORT.  If no reaction occurs, you may ingest a small amount.
  • WAIT ANOTHER 20 MINUTES and watch for any reaction.
  •  Keep all samples AWAY from children or pets.
  •  Store all seeds and bulbs AWAY from children and pets.
  •  Teach children to keep all plants AWAY from their mouths and DO NOT ALLOW children chew or suck nectar from any unknown plants.
  •  AVOID smoke from burning plants. Smoke may irritate the eyes or cause allergic reactions QUICKLY.
  •  BE AWARE of your neighbor’s habits with chemicals, pesticides and herbicides.
  •  BEWARE: heating or boiling doesn’t always destroy toxicity.

This is information about wild food.  The editors of SurvivalBlog nor the author make no claims as to the correctness, safety or usability of the data.

The information contained herein is intended to be an educational tool for gathering and cooking wild plants.  The information presented is for use as a supplement to a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle.  The nutritional requirements of individuals may vary greatly, therefore the author and publisher take no responsibility for an individual using and ingesting wild plants.

All data is to be used at your own risk.  Using the Rules of Foraging greatly helps to reduce that risk, but even they are not foolproof.


About The Author:

Linda Runyon is the editor of the Of The Field web site and the author of many wild plant books and instructional materials, including:

A Survival Acre
Linda Runyon's Master Class on Wild Food Survival
Eat the Trees!
The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide (also available as an e-book.)
A Basic Middle Eastern Desert Survival Guide
Wild Food Identification Guide
Promote Wild Food Certainty through Plant Identification Walks
Wild Cards: Edible Wild Foods (A playing card deck with photos and descriptions of 52 different edible plants.)

She has set up a 10% coupon code "backupplan" for SurvivalBlog readers that is good until July 4, 2013.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I live in Tennessee where mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks thrive.  There are two wet weather ponds near my home and if I go to my shooting range in the evening or early morning, the mosquitoes will make any quality time really miserable.  While working in the gardens and fields, one has to be constantly checking themselves for ticks.
Last year about April I read a short paragraph in Countryside Magazine from a gentleman (I believe from Maine) that has taken a Vitamin B1 tablet starting in April and takes them every day until the first killing frost in the Fall for the past 43 years.  He never gets bitten by mosquitoes, chiggers, or ticks.
I decided there was nothing to lose by trying it.  It took a couple weeks for the B1 to get through my system but from that point on through Fall I never had one mosquito bite or tick bite.  I had mosquitoes land on me (briefly), ticks crawled on me while on the range, in the woods, or in the garden, but not one bite.
I put this information out to everyone on my email list.  One of those people is a very good friend that also happens to be a doctor (M.D.).  He emailed me back to inform me that the Vitamin B1 "trick" was one of the first things that was taught in medical school.  He and I can only offer conjecture as to why this information isn't put out en mass.
I buy cheap Vitamin B1 tablets at the local big box store.  I think the price is about $4.00 for one bottle that will last one person the entire Spring/Summer insect season.  Prior to this, I was spending at least 4 times this amount of chemical sprays that were marginal at best. - Carl in Tennessee 


I prefer to anesthetize ticks with nail polish remover (acetone-type) on a cotton ball or pad for 5 minutes and just flick them off outside away from my house. Ticks absorb the acetone through their “skin” as well as breathe it. It takes patience but nothing should be regurgitated from the tick into your blood stream. You should not press hard with the cotton even though it itches. Although I hate to do it, dogs and cats need Frontline. - Stuart R.


Mr. Rawles:
A couple of notes on the recent article "Bad as a Bullet: Tick and Mosquito-Borne Diseases":

A few years ago it was discovered that Lyme disease is under debate as a possibly preventable hereditary illness! I had Lyme disease when I was about 19. Back around 1991. I honestly don't remember when it was. Unfortunately, I also discovered I'm allergic to tetracycline, which at the time was the primary treatment for the disease, so I was forced to stop treatment about halfway through the cycle. Many years later when my wife was expecting our baby, I was encouraged to be retested for the Lyme spirochetes. Lyme disease is still considered a vector-borne illness, but it apparently can be transferred to children pre-natally, from the mother, with the mother now being considered the vector [as well as a genetic tendency that can be passed from either the mother or the father.] I'm not kidding. Scary stuff. I was clean of the Lyme disease so presumably my child is okay as well, but I still (20 years after contracting Lyme disease) have rheumatoid arthritis symptoms because of having it as a teenager.

Secondly, regarding Silent Spring and Rachel Carson: I have read that while eliminating DDT (and similar insecticides) has benefited some people, more people have died from malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses than could ever have been injured by the insecticides. Rachel Carson's primary concern was for birds' reproductive systems, but humans are also sometimes injured by DDT. In the long term, however, more people are injured than helped by the absence of that particular pesticide. Consider this article in Audubon magazine regarding DDT. If even Audubon says DDT serves a useful role, then it might be time to overrule the Stockholm Convention and put it back into use.

Best, - J.D.C. in Mississippi

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We have SCUBA friends from Canada who do a lot of camping, and one year the wife came down with a debilitating illness that put her out of work for many months.  The medical system there did not make it easy to consult a specialist, especially one familiar with arthropod-borne diseases.  She showed all the symptoms of Lyme disease, including weakness, fever, sore joints, lethargy, headaches, and muscle aches.  Plus she had been exposed to ticks while camping.  She suffered for over a year before she slowly recovered.  Though it was never confirmed to be a tick-borne illness, odds are it was.

Another friend, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves who lives in Connecticut, came down with fever and joint pain and was diagnosed with three tick-borne diseases, which put him out of work for a year and a half.  It's not unusual for a tick to carry more than one of these nasty infections at a time.

Ticks and mosquitoes can put you out of action just as easily as a bullet.  In fact, throughout history disease has caused more casualties in war than any other factor, including combat.  When you're fighting for survival in the field, your hygiene is reduced, your stress is high, and your immune system is depressed.  You may not have time to check yourself for ticks every day, but you certainly should.  If you served in Vietnam, you lost a lot of blood to mosquitoes over there, and were exposed to malaria as well.  In the Middle East its sand flies.

There are seven major species of ticks found in the continental United States that can carry disease.  It's not important to be able to tell them apart, just know what a tick looks like.  I start seeing ticks on dogs in the spring, and usually have a collection of a couple dozen by the end of May.  People bring their dogs in for a "lump," or what they think may be a skin tag.  Ticks are always on the surface of the skin, and do not burrow into or under the skin.  Just their mouthparts penetrate.

An adult tick is about 3/16 to ¼" long, oval, and has eight legs.  An engorged tick full of blood can be ½" long.  Photos of live ticks in the wild generally show the tick on a leaf or blade of grass with one or two of its front legs reaching out.  You could say they're thumbing for a ride, because when an animal or man passes by, a small hook at the end of the leg grabs onto hairs or fabric. 

Now, they don't have their leg out all the time, but just like a hitchhiker, they put it out when something stimulates them.  Carbon dioxide from your breath is the number one trigger that they sense, and it may also be the reason they move to the head area once they're on board.  There are more capillaries close to the surface of the skin on the head and neck, too, for them to access.

Vibrations in the ground as you tromp along the trail can be felt on the end of that blade of grass by the tick, and even air movement or body heat may be a factor for them to reach out and say, "Hey!"  Although a tick may feed anywhere on the body, they do tend to migrate up (on humans) or forward on animals.  We may find them attached at our waistline or armpits, but more commonly in the hairline on the neck or behind the ears.  Adult ticks are usually felt when you run your hands through your hair, but odds are you will never feel the bite.

Ticks produce a potent anesthetic in their saliva that numbs the skin where their mouthparts penetrate.  They actually grab or glue to a small fold of skin and won't let go.  When you remove a tick, it often comes away with that tiny piece of skin in its mouth.  Another ingredient of the saliva is an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing until the female tick is filled to the max and falls off, ready to lay eggs.

Adult ticks are usually easily noticeable and readily found, but the smaller nymph stage is equally infective and can be quite small and hard to find.  The blacklegged tick (deer tick), the primary transmitter of Lyme disease, has a nymph stage that is so tiny it will fit inside the "O" in "ONE DIME" (pull out a dime and see).  It would indeed take a fine-toothed comb to find one on a dog, and could easily go unnoticed for days on a human.

We test dogs every year for heart worms (mosquito-borne), and the test we use also checks for Lyme, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis from ticks.  The incidence in Ohio for Lyme is one out of 172, anaplasmosis is one out of 300, and ehrlichiosis is one out of 324.  (2012, www.dogsandticks.com)  The study that came up with these figures is far from accurate, however, because only a fraction of dog owners have their pets checked for heartworm every year, let alone have them on heartworm preventives.  So the actual occurrence of these diseases is undoubtedly higher.  The point is, where there's ticks, there is also disease.

While the "system" is working, you can use 20% or stronger DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin to repel ticks and mosquitoes.  Some clothing comes treated with permethrin that is effective tor numerous washings, or you can buy permethrin treatment kits to do your own clothes.  Eventually, you will run out of these consumables in a TEOTWAWKI situation, and you will have to fall back on daily full-body inspections for ticks, which may have additional benefits if you are checking each other.

Some sources recommend wearing light-colored clothing, which one theory states ticks don't like, or more likely because they are easier to spot crawling on light colors.  If you're wearing camo, this won't work so well.  Tuck your pant legs into your boots.  I've always preferred over-the-calf Thorlo® anti-fatigue or combat boot socks with drawstring cuff BDU pants, in-the-boot combination.  With everything tucked in, including t-shirts into underpants, it's more likely a tick that gets through the barriers will end up on the neck and head, making it easier to find.

There are several neat little devices out there to remove ticks, but plain old tweezers or forceps work well, too.  These tick tools are designed to grasp the head of the tick near the skin, so that you don't squeeze the body (and supposedly squirt juices into your skin).  Steady, gentle traction will pull the tick off your skin.  Do not jerk it or burn it with a match or cigarette.  More likely you will get burned also.  Remember, ticks do not burrow, so they'll be obviously above the skin but attached to it.

A simple tick tool you can make requires a stout plastic teaspoon and a Xacto® "razor saw."   Cut a shallow-angled "V" in the tip of the spoon bowl, about ½" deep.  Slide the bowl channel under the tick and lift upward with gentle traction, and the tick will come away.  Now you can burn it or crush it.  Wash the bite area with soap and water, betadine or alcohol, and wash your hands, too, if you handled the tick.

Mosquitoes are also bad as a bullet.  Worldwide they kill more people than anything else (malaria), yet before Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" brought about the ban on DDT, it was on the decline.  Millions have died since the ban, and continue to drop from malaria.  More than any other product to prevent malaria (and other mosquito-borne diseases), the mosquito net stands supreme.  Costing anywhere from $5 to $100, you can get a travel-size bed canopy net www.longroad.com or military surplus nets that are suspended above your cot or ground cover.  There are many choices.

Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn, but in wooded or tropical areas they bite all day and night, and prefer the shade and humidity.  They are attracted to carbon dioxide, perspiration, body odors, and body heat.  Researchers found that mosquitoes do have clothing color preferences, too.  They seem attracted more to dark colors, and prefer blue.  Unlike the tick, you'll usually feel the initial bite of a mosquito, but then its saliva numbs the wound and you won't notice until its tank is full.

In the USA mosquitoes carry various encephalitis viruses, including Eastern, Western, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis Viruses and West Nile Virus.  Case fatality rates run from 0.3% to as high as 60%.  With little medical supportive care available after a collapse, more will die.  Up to 50% of survivors have continuing problems with neurologic aftereffects.  You don't want this, so take prevention seriously. 

Remove or drain all standing water containers (old tires, cans) from your habitat area.  Check roof gutters also for standing water, and if you have water catch barrels cover them with screen to keep mosquitoes from breeding in the water.  Adding goldfish to ponds helps to keep the mosquito larvae population under control.  While the federal and state governments are under control, it is illegal to use oil, soap, or other products on standing water that "suffocate" the larvae.  And in most areas you need to have a license to apply any chemical to the environment for insect control.  You don't want to poison your own environment.

Repellants are great while you have them, but keeping your skin and head covered is the best protection.  Head nets are available, and the army surplus nets with a thin metal suspension ring work well.  There are natural repellants that work fairly well, too, using essential oils, but again they will eventually run out.  Avoiding mosquito havens, like swampy and dark areas, will reduce your attacks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a good web site for information on ticks and mosquitoes www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/index.html, and it's relatively easy to prevent these illnesses.  Just watch out for them and check yourself every day, as well as do what you can to repel them.

Monday, May 27, 2013

NOTE: This article is adapted from my book When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival.
Who could not be shocked and saddened by the images of massive devastation left in the wake of recent tornadoes that struck in Oklahoma and Texas? Though nothing can guarantee absolute safety in the path of a tornado, outside of a shelter with reinforced concrete and steel walls, understanding something about the nature of tornadoes, safety tips for surviving a tornado strike, and which common folklore is to be trusted or ignored, will improve your chances for making the right decision when confronted by a tornado.

Tornado Facts and Myths

• It is commonly believed that tornadoes happen mostly in the spring, but the peak of tornado season varies with location, and tornadoes can occur any month of the year. For example, the peak of tornado season in the northern plains and upper Midwest is June or July but it is from May to early June in the southern plains, and even earlier in the spring for the Gulf Coast.
• There is a myth that tornadoes can only spawn and strike in relatively flat areas, but they have actually occurred in high areas of the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Appalachian Mountains. Though more frequent in the flatter areas of the plains states and the southeast, tornadoes have been spotted in such varied locations as Vermont, upstate New York, Nevada, and one hiker spotted and photographed a tornado at 12,000 feet in the Sequoia National Park of California.
• A common myth is that trailer parks attract tornadoes. They certainly do not attract tornadoes, but due to their light weight and lack of heavy-duty anchoring to strong structural foundations, trailers are extremely vulnerable to damage from tornadoes.
• Another common myth is that you should open your windows to allow the pressure to equalize should a tornado strike your home. Do not waste your time opening windows. If a tornado strikes, it will blow out the windows, and the last place you should be is near a window, where there is the greatest danger from flying debris and glass.
• There is a common myth that owing to the direction of rotation of tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere the southwest corner of a building is the safest place to be. This myth is totally false. Corners are areas of buildings that are most prone to damage. The safest areas are in the center of the building in a windowless room or closet, and on the lowest level (in the basement if there is one).
• There is a common myth that highway overpasses provide protection from tornadoes. In fact, the underside of a highway overpass often acts as a wind tunnel, channeling high winds and debris, and there are a number of reported deaths of people who parked under an overpass while seeking shelter from approaching tornadoes.

Tornado Prediction and Warnings

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when they have determined that local conditions are ripe for generating tornadoes. Once a tornado watch has been issued, it is advisable to stay tuned to your local radio and television stations for further updates. If you live in tornado country, the use of a NOAA weather radio is highly recommended, especially those models that have a battery backup and can emit an audible warning whenever a severe weather alert is issued. This is the time to turn on the audible alarm switch on your NOAA radio to alert you if the watch is upgraded to a warning. Once a tornado watch has been issued, stay alert using your eyes, ears, and other senses to watch for signs of an approaching tornado, and make sure you have access to a safe shelter. Watch for unusual behavior on the part of pets and animals that might be an indication of an approaching tornado.

Once a tornado has been spotted visually, or on weather radar, a tornado warning is issued. Once a warning has been issued, you should take immediate precautions and seek shelter. If you live in a mobile home or other poorly protected building, you should seek shelter elsewhere, if possible. Bring your radio with you to listen for status updates and an “all-clear” signal when the warning is over.

Note: Sirens and severe weather alerts may provide advance tornado warnings, but tornadoes can occur in any season and without warning!

Tornado Survival Tips and Strategies

• If you are at home, seek shelter in the bottommost floor, and innermost area, such as an inner hallway, bathroom, or closet. Stay away from windows, outer walls, and building corners. Do not waste time opening windows.
• If you have a “safe room” (a specially constructed room protected by reinforced concrete and/or steel), a basement, root cellar, or storm cellar, those are the safest places to be. In the basement, the safest place is under a sturdy table or mattress, and in a position that is not directly below heavy items on the floor above, such as a refrigerator or piano.
• Protect yourself as best as possible. Wear a bicycle or hockey helmet, if you have one. Crouching in a bathtub or shower stall can provide improved protection, as can lying under a sturdy table or overturned couch.
• If you are in a car, do not try to outrun a tornado as it can travel at speeds in excess of 70 mph. However, it is worth taking a moment to watch the tornado closely, comparing its motion to a fixed object on the ground, so as to gauge its direction of travel. If you see it moving to one side or the other, and can travel in the opposite direction, then do so. If it does not appear to move to the left or right, it is headed straight for you. In that case, you must make a decision. If you have the option of traveling to the right or left, then do so, but if you are stuck in traffic, or the tornado is very close, you must abandon your vehicle and seek shelter, since tornadoes can easily pick up cars and even tractor trailers, sometimes throwing them hundreds of yards. If possible, pull your car to the side of the road and do not park in lanes of traffic, since with the heavy rains that often accompany tornadoes, a driver traveling at high speeds might not see your car parked in the middle of the road.
• If you are stuck in your car with an impending tornado strike, crouch down as low as you can, with your seatbelt buckled, staying away from the windows, and shielding your head with your arms and hands.
• If you are in the open, perhaps having abandoned your car, seek shelter in a building or culvert, or lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Not a pleasant thought, but people have survived tornadoes by doing this! Stay away from cars and trees, since they will become heavy flying objects with the power to kill and maim.
• Do not park under an overpass, since these tend to act as wind tunnels funneling debris and magnifying winds.
• Avoid shopping malls, theatres, gymnasiums, and other buildings with large open interior spaces where the roof might easily collapse. If inside of such a building, with no time to seek shelter elsewhere, seek shelter under a doorjamb or next to an interior wall that may provide some structural support and protection in the event of a building collapse.

About The Author: Matthew Stein is SurvivalBlog's Back Country Editor. He is a design engineer, green builder, and author of two best-selling books: When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival(Chelsea Green 2011), and When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency (Chelsea Green 2008). Stein is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he majored in Mechanical Engineering. Stein has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and is a repeat guest on Fox News, Coast-to-Coast AM, Alex Jones’ Infowars, Vince Finelli’s USA Prepares, and The Power Hour.  He is an active mountain climber, serves as a guide and instructor for blind skiers, has written several articles on the subject of sustainable living, and is a guest columnist for the Huffington Post.

I hear from SurvivalBlog readers on a daily basis. I hear from a lot of you. I take the time to answer each e-mail I receive, too. I don't want anyone thinking I'm ignoring them. Many times, I hear from readers, just thanking me for a particular product I reviewed, and they purchased, and found it to be exactly as I said it was. A lot of e-mails are "fan" letters of a sort, and I've made some new friends because of these e-mails. Although I don't consider myself as any sort of celebrity, and I'm certainly no expert - in anything. I consider myself a serious student in a lot of different areas. While I hold Black Belt ranks in several different styles of martial arts, I don't consider myself an expert in the martial arts. If anything, when I earned Black Belt rankings, I considered it a jumping-off point, to really start to get serious about serious defense.

For more than 45 years I've been shooting firearms, and while I consider myself an excellent shot with a rifle, and a better than average shot with a handgun. Once again, I'm not expert. And, many folks believe that just because you are a gun writer - and I've been writing about guns for more than 20 years now - that I'm an expert. Once again, I'm a serious student. There are some gun writers out there who would lead you to believe they are the best shot who ever lived - however, when you actually see them shoot, it's quite a different story. But their magazine articles would lead you to believe they are a legend - well, they are - in their own minds. There's only a few out there like that, though.

The only thing I ever earned the moniker "Expert" in, is when I took the US Army Jungle Survival School training, in Panama in 1971. And I received a badge that proclaimed me a "Jungle Expert." However, I didn't feel like any sort of expert at all - I considered it another jumping-off point in another field of interest. Many folks believe I'm some sort of survival expert, because I write for SurvivalBlog, and nothing could be further from the truth. While I enjoy the outdoors and spend a lot of time in various activities, I'm not an expert. My late friend, Chris Janowsky, who ran the World Survival Institute, in Tok, Alaska was an expert in fieldcraft and especially in cold weather and rural survival. 

So, it puzzles folks when I respond to their e-mails, with questions about "survival" in general. Sometimes the questions I get simply don't have a correct answer - some things are not black and white, as some believe. I'll get a question like "what is the best handgun for survival?" Well, I can't honestly give a pat answer to that, without having more information, and then, I'm only expressing my humble opinion on the topic. And, I've received questions as to "what is the best 4-wheel drive rig for a BOV?" Again, I can't give you a firm answer on that - it depends on many different things. Are you looking for a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck, or an SUV? Will you be towing a trailer, and how much gear do you intend to haul, and how many people? You see, I can't give a firm answer to some questions. It's impossible from my point of view.

I get questions all the time about "What should I put in a 3-day BOB?" And, this is a fairly easy one - just pack some food and water, maybe a knife, a small tent, a flashlight, a firearm - things like that. And, we all have different needs, so you pack accordingly. Which leads me to a great little package of survival gear called the B.A.S.E. Ultimate Survival Series 3.0 Kit - which is sold through US Tactical Supply. And, no, this isn't the do-all of survival gear. However, it is a very good starter kit - and this is the complete one of the ones they sell - they sell smaller kits - not that this one is very big. It depends on your needs and requirements and how much money you want to spend. Again, this is a great little kit to toss into your day pack, a butt pack, a BOB, in your car, or in your hunting pack.
Speaking of hunters, I couldn't tell you the number of hunters I've run into, who had no survival gear with them at all - and I mean, nothing, zip, nada - not even a bottle of water. And, I've run into some hunters who had their 4-wheel drive rigs bogged-down in mud, and I've helped pull them out of their mess - they didn't even have a tow strap - and were miles and miles from the nearest road. Never ceases to amaze me, how stupid and unprepared many hunters can be.
The B.A.S.E. 3.0 survival kit is just some very basic gear that can help save your life if you are out in the wilderness and can't get home, or are lost. First up is the Sparkie Fire Starter, and my friend Chris Janowsky, used to teach that "fire is magic" and it is. It provides light, warmth and sense of tranquility - things can will save you if you are stuck overnight in the wilderness. Even the summer months, you need a fire at night to keep you warm - many people have died from hypothermia when the air temperature was 60 degrees F. at night - it draws your body warmth away and it can and will kill you. You need to learn how to build a fire using a flint/steel method, and I've taught my wife and daughters how to do this. I won't go into that here, as there are a number of resources you can find that will teach you this important skill - it's not as hard as you think, once you practice it. The Sparkie Fire Starter is compact, one-handed operation and will last through 300 strikes, and even more if you rotate the flint.
WetFire Tinder Cubes are included in this survival gear. And, you only get a few, so use them wisely - like if you are in a driving rain or snow - where starting a fire is more than a little difficult with tinder, a fire starter tinder cube will get a fire going for you in short order. You can even float one on water and it will burn!
Next is the JetScream Floating Signal Whistle. And, if you've ever been out in the boonies and wanted someone to hear you, this is the way to do it - yelling all day long will only lead to you losing your voice. A whistle can be heard farther away and you can blow it all day long. At 122 decibels, this whistle can be heard over most natural and made-made noises. And, it is a "pea-less" design, so there is no pea inside to freeze-up. I could be completely out of sight, and when I'd blow this whistle, my dogs took note of where it was coming from.
You need something to carry your survival gear in, and a backpack or fanny pack is nice, but a lot of people just don't think it's important enough to carry some type of pack. Well, the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit comes with a waterproof storage bag, in which, you can actually pack all the important survival gear you get in this package. And, if you need the waterproof bag for actually carrying water, you can put the gear in your pants pocket. Or, if you are crossing a stream, you can put your gear inside the waterproof bag to keep it safe and dry. A plastic bag can also be used for gathering berries and other food you might find along the way. A good waterproof bag, and this is a good one, is a very important piece of survival great to have, and this one is waterproof to 60-meters.
You get two Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification tablets, and these are also a great lifesaver. If you drink from any surface water source, you are sure to get sick - and perhaps even die, from some of the little bugs that are in surface water. Remember this, no surface water is safe to drink without first treating it in some way! These tablets will treat one liter of water - that you can put in your waterproof plastic bag - see, I told you a good waterproof bag comes in handy. It kills at least 99.9% of bacteria and viruses and 99.9% of cysts within 4-hours. Now, if it were me, I'd add a few more water purification tablets to this kit - just in case you are stranded more than a day or two. I don't want to die because I drank some contaminated water and some microscopic bugs got in my stomach and intestines - making me too sick to move or even die. I've said this many times in my articles, that you must have a safe source of drinking water - period!
A small, liquid-filled compass is included in the 3.0 kit, and don't knock it because it is so small, and a bit crude. It beats wetting your finger, and sticking it up in the air, to see which direction the wind is blowing - usually west to east in North America- but not always. You can attach this little compass to your equipment straps or a watchband. However, to my way of thinking, if I'm going to depend on a compass, I want it safe and sound, so it would be in my pants pocket - so I don't have to worry about it getting broken or falling off my gear and getting lost. And, if you go out hiking, camping or hunting - you should have a map and some idea which direction "home" is - then even this little compass can help you find the right direction to take.
A small Tag-It Signal Light is part of this neat little survival kit, and you can use it with a steady "on" or a flashing mode - which is great if you are lost at night - if there is a search and rescue unit out there looking for you, a flashing light catches their attention quicker. However, the steady "on" position is helpful if you are walking at night (not advised) and trying to stay on a trail or road. This also has a built-in carabiner for attaching to your gear or clothing.
Last up is a SaberCut Razor Saw. To be honest with you, at first I didn't think this piece of kit was all that great. Outwardly, it appeared to be cheaply made. I was wrong. It does have it's place. The SaberCut Razor Saw has 24 teeth per inch, and they claim you can cut through a 3/8 inch rebar in just 25 minutes. Okay, I didn't  have any rebar around to test it on, and I wasn't interested in getting thrown in the local jail, to see if I could cut through the cell bars. However, I did test it on some sheet metal and other metal scraps around the homestead, and that little saw cuts very well.
I went to my local big box store, and checked out their camping section, and they have similar products, that are included in the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit, and if you purchased them separately, they would cost you a lot more than what you'd pay for in this kit. And, some of the products at my big box store appeared to be identical to the products in this kit. Again, you'd pay more.
No, this is not a long-use survival kit, as some of the products are only meant to be used once or twice - like the fire tinder cubes, and the water purification tablets - one you use them, you need to replace them. For those looking for a basic start-up survival kit, that they can carry in a fanny pack, or in your pocket, or a BOB - or even your vehicle, this is a great piece of kit to start with, and you can build on it. It would make an excellent piece of kit for a military troop to carry, especially if you are behind enemy lines, working covert ops, or a helicopter or jet fighter pilot - if you had to land your aircraft in an emergency - this little kit could help save your bacon and get you home safe and sound to friendly territory.
One thing I would include in this kit, is some type of emergency food - and you can decide what to pack yourself, be military-style MREs, freeze-dried foods or just some trail mix - but I'd add some sort of food to the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit - you don't need a lot to help you survive for a day or two, but I'd pack something. Once again, I've run across hunters who were out all day long, and they had no food or water with them - and they were miles from their vehicles, and they were grateful for a drink of water from me, and some directions on how to get from where they were to where they wanted to be - back to their rig or back to a main road.
US Tactical Supply has the B.A.S.E. 3.0 kit in-stock, as well as some smaller kits, if you don't need everything that the 3.0 kit offers. However, for my money, I'd go with the 3.0 kit and then build on it. Price on the 3.0 kit is $49.95. Check out the link I provided above, and see if the 3.0 kit isn't something you should consider for your BOB, or for carrying in your vehicle.

If you are new to prepping, then this is about as basic of a kit as you should start with - and like I said, build on it, add more stuff - a good folding knife would be my choice for one of the first things I'd add to this kit. I've seen other ready-made survival kits, and they weren't nearly as well thought out as the 3.0 B.A.S.E. kit. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hey Jim,
This guy lived within 30 miles from me for 27 years. An interesting story to be sure. I'd like to bail him out just for the chance to talk but for $5,000 it would be too expensive. This is not wilderness. It is a 30 minute walk from Pine Tree Camp - I have been there a few times. My buddy in high school worked there as a cook.

Here is some news coverage about him, from another source.

Keep up the good work. - Bubby

JWR Replies: After you wrote me to mention this, I found an article that has much greater detail about his camp. And here is one more article.

Reading these accounts, I couldn't help but be reminded of Idaho's "Wild Man" or "Ridgerunner," Bill Moreland, who has been previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog. He wasn't on the lam nearly so long (only 11 years), but he was notable for walking tremendous distances, even in the dead of winter. He is also notable for killing 24 deer with just 24 cartridges (.22 Long Rifle rimfire!)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A brief article I saw on underground homeless camp in Kansas: Underground homeless camp cleared near the East Bottoms.

Although the article does not give much detail, I find it an interesting use of space, staying out of the way and a lesson to learn regarding people who may be close to your proximity without one even knowing it.  It also drew my mind back to the Bielski partisans and the camps they dug in Naliboki Forest.
God Bless, - John in Ohio

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Reader R.B.S. was the first of several readers to send this: Colorado Democrat Doesn't Understand High-Capacity Magazines Can Be Reloaded. This tells us something about the (ahem) caliber of those in Colorado's ruling party... In my estimation Representative DeGette has put herself on a par with Congressman Hank Johnson, who was convinced that the island of Guam was floating like a raft and if it became too populated that it could capsize. Oh and speaking of geographic ignorance, let's not forget Henry Waxman's brilliant understanding of the oceanic ice cap at the North Pole.

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A reminder that FreezeDryGuy.com is having a 25% Off Sale on All Mountain House #10 Cans from April 2nd to April 8th, 2013. Order soon.

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J.B.G. sent: New York Dad's Pistol License Suspended Over Something His 10-Year-Old Son Said - and It Could Be 8 Years Before He Gets It Back. (The phrase "arbitrary and capricious enforcement" comes to mind...)

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J.D.D. sent: Invention of the day: A bladeless wind turbine

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dear JWR:
The excellent article, "Fire: Your Partner in Survival, by Pledger" mentioned the BTU ratings of certain trees. Wanting to know a bit more, I did some searching and found a chart of the BTU ratings of various types of wood.

On another note, Pledger's reference to a cord as 4x8 feet by 16 inches threw me. I looked it up and found that a "full cord" measures 4x4x8 feet, which is the number I was familiar with, ranging from 80 to 100 cubic feet stacked. The web site I found uses 90 cubic feet for its BTU ratings. However, a "face cord" is one-third of a full cord and measures 4x8 feet by 16 inches. This is the one Pledger's article uses. - Larry X.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Eons ago when people lived in caves, one of their most important tools was fire.  Its ability to keep them warm, cook food, provide light, and scare away predators was of the utmost importance.  Some kind of a societal upheaval may not necessarily mean returning to a stone age existence, but when the systems that keep our everyday life humming along go down, fire will once again have a huge impact on our ability to survive.

This fact was brought home to my wife and me two winters ago, when a February blizzard knocked out the power to several counties.  It was early evening - the lights flickered a few times, and then the house was plunged into darkness.  Everything became eerily quiet, save for the wind howling outside and snow pelting against the window.

Then there was another sound – the reassuring popping of a log in our big airtight Franklin stove which continued to throw off its heat, oblivious to the fact that the juice was off.  For the next thirty-six hours we used it to keep us warm,  melt snow to flush toilets, and even did a some cooking over its coals.  While other folks along our country road bundled up in sleeping bags and shivered until the outage ended, the disruption to our lives wasn’t nearly as great.

If you live in a northern climate, staying warm is important for nearly half of the year.  Did I say “important”?  Make that “vital” because without a way to keep the temperature in your home or bug-out place at a life-sustaining level, you will die of exposure!  Your gas or oil furnace will be fine… as long as your fuel supply lasts or the electricity doesn’t fail.  These are finite resources, however, and during a long-term disruption of goods and services, your pilot light will go out at some point (probably just when a January blizzard comes howling in). 

The only logical solution is to turn to wood heat, or more precisely, a wood-burning airtight stove (fireplaces are fine for ambiance, but horribly inefficient for warming you since most of the heat goes up the chimney).  The next question, then, is where will your wood come from, and what skills and tools do you need to convert it to usable fuel for your stove? 

The countryside is full of burnable litter.  Next time you’re out and about, take a look around.  Fallen branches and even a downed tree or two are common sights in any woodlot or park, or along rural roads.  Most of it, though, is too small to keep a fire going with the BTU output that’s needed to warm your home.  Real “firewood” consists of pieces of thick branches or trunks that have been cut and split to a size of about 16” long and roughly 5” or 6” in diameter.  Anything smaller will require re-stoking the stove every few hours, while bigger pieces may smolder unless the fire is wastefully large.

At present, I get most of my firewood supply from a local landowner, who doesn’t like downed trees lying around and sees it as a favor when I clean up the woods for him.   After a big summer storm, city folks without saws will gladly offer you a tree that’s toppled in their yard.  Likewise, a downed tree across a rural road usually belongs to the first one who’s there to cut it up.   During bad times it would likely be possible to barter for timber with a landowner who doesn’t have the tools or know-how to utilize it himself -probably working together and then sharing it.  State or federally-owned hunting land and wildlife areas also have downed timber, which can often be claimed by anyone with the gumption to go get it.

If we ever arrive at a point where vehicles and trailers are no longer available, all of your wood will have to be hauled by hand.  That means that laying in a good supply now, when you can still move it efficiently, would be a good idea.  Having a sizable woodpile to begin with puts a buffer between you and calamity.  Get your wood from the more distant locations while you can still truck it, and leave the easier pickings for when you may have to move it manually. 

Wheel barrows are, in my opinion, a poor way to transport anything heavy for any distance due to their chronic balance problems.  With their single, small, pneumatic tire, they are not made to move loads over uneven ground.  Take one into the woods and roll over a few blackberry brambles, and the tire will inevitably puncture and go flat.  A better alternative is one of those “game haulers” with large, hard rubber wheels.  They’re made for going over rough terrain easily, and can handle a maximum load with a minimum amount of effort (they can also haul around a lot of other heavy stuff that might need moving).

Literally any wood will burn.  One year we survived two months of a Wisconsin winter heating with willow – a wood near the bottom of the BTU list.  Likewise, this past winter we used a fair amount of box elder – another low grade tree.  Woods like this certainly will throw out enough heat to keep you warm, but they burn fast, requiring a larger supply.

The “primo” varieties include oak, hard maple, locust, hickory and apple.  Next down the line but still good, are ash, birch, cherry, and hackberry.  Unless there is nothing else available, however, avoid any of the evergreen species, since their resin content tends to start chimney fires, spit sparks, and can flash back when you open the stove door.

Firewood should season for at least six months after being cut green (a year is better) although a few varieties, like ash and locust, will burn without much drying.

We’ve just been through a mild winter here. Spring has arrived and, after checking the wood shed, I see that we’ve gone through about six face cords of mixed hardwood (a stove face cord is a stack four feet high, eight feet long, and 16” deep).  A bad winter, like last year’s, would probably have required another cord.

A household could get by on a lot less, though.  For one thing, we have a large stove and heat the entire place with it.  The fire is usually lit in November and doesn’t go out until late March.  A smaller stove heating a smaller area would take far less fuel.  And if our wood supply had been limited, instead of basking in 70 degree temperatures all winter, we could have stretched the supply by burning less – in an extreme case, just enough to keep the place at 50 degrees.  This would have been uncomfortable, but it would have enabled us to survive.

If you envision doing your cutting with a chain saw after society falls apart, picture those last precious (and irreplaceable) drops of gas disappearing into its tank.  Even if you’ve stocked a large supply of fuel and bar oil, gas has a shelf life, and how many chains do you have?  The other problem with a chain saw (besides the fact that, being a machine, it will need unobtainable replacement parts at some point) is that it makes noise.  This broadcasts a message to anyone within a mile that someone’s cutting a pile of firewood that could be pilfered from the producer as soon as he’s finished the work.

Long-term survival requires stepping back into the 19th century and taking up the hand saw.  Do you have one capable of cutting through a 30 inch tree trunk?  Probably not, but realizing the need for producing burnable chunks suitable for splitting that will hold a fire all night should inspire you to get one.

A crosscut saw capable of handling tree trunk needs to be either a one or two-man model 48” - 56“ long.  If you’ve got a partner, go with a two-man type.  I’ve got one that can be set up either way, with add-on handle on one end that converts it from a solo saw to a duo.

There are two basic tooth types – “Lance” and “Tuttle”.  The former is designed more for softwoods, so go with the latter.  One company that carries a good assortment of saws in various designs for serious cutting is the Traditional Woodworker (www.traditionalwoodworker.com).

Also consider buying a second smaller, less cumbersome saw with a standard tooth arrangement for doing the medium cutting jobs.  This one would probably have a 24” - 30” blade with 4 ½ to 6 teeth per inch.  Such a saw could also be used in a pinch for the big stuff.  For cutting up smaller branches for kindling or your cooker (which will be discussed shortly) bow saws work fine.  They’re cheap, so get a couple of different sizes and a number of spare blades.

But having an assortment of saws isn’t going to keep you cutting indefinitely.  No matter how good the steel is, that blade is eventually going to get dull.  A good stock of files will be important for keeping your saws working efficiently.

Do you know how to sharpen a saw?  Are you familiar with things like “Fleam”, “Rakers” and “Jointing”?  Do you have a tooth setter in your tool box?  Becoming proficient at sharpening your cutting tools is a skill you can’t overlook (the afore-mentioned saw dealer also sells an excellent book by Harold Payson on setting and sharpening hand saws).  And besides keeping your own tools chipping away efficiently, being the local “saw sharpener” can make you a vital asset to a small community of survivors.

Axes can play a role in firewood production, too.  They’re not as efficient as a saw, but a century ago lumberjacks used them to take down mature trees.  Felling a tree with an axe, however, requires a lot of skill as well as effort, something you will soon discover when tackling anything bigger than a mid-sized aspen.  I’ve found that the best use for an axe is limbing a downed tree.  Just remember to stand on the opposite side of the trunk, and chop off the limb from the root end of the trunk towards the top. 

Like saws, axes come in several styles and sizes.  The “limbing” axe, with a 25 inch handle is also good for cutting up small limbs on a chopping block, while a full-sized axe can be used for splitting smaller pieces with a straight grain or, if you have to, felling a tree.

One more thought on axes:  Like any edged tool, keep it sharp!  The old saying, “a dull knife is a dangerous knife” holds true for axes as well (and you can do a lot more damage to yourself with one).

To round out your wood processing equipment you should have a good splitting maul, two or three wedges and a sledge hammer.  If you’re lucky enough to get into some straight-grained ash or oak, the maul alone will do the job, but often you’ll need the encouragement of a wedge or two to get many pieces to split to the size you desire.

Not all wedges are the same.  Get one that has a narrow entry edge for efficiently starting a split, and a wider one to open it up when you bury the first wedge (which often happens).  I like the model made by True Temper which has two built-in “wings” near the top for my second wedge.  The wings open the crack far enough to allow the head of a sledge hammer in, so you can continue to pound on the wedge until the split is complete.

A couple of final thoughts on cutting firewood:  If you don’t know what you’re doing, standing timber can kill you in a heartbeat.  Any written description here of exactly how to take down a tree would not be adequate, so go out and find someone who works in the woods, and ask if you can tag along sometime to learn how it’s done.  Some of the important things they’re likely to point out are:

  • The “hinge” (the uncut area between the notch and the felling cut) controls the direction which the tree will fall.  If you cut through it, the tree can go anywhere (including in you lap).
  • More branch weight on one side will influence a tree to fall in that direction.
  • A dead branch near the top that comes loose due to vibrations while cutting can be lethal (that’s why they’re called “widow-makers”).
  • Be aware of wind direction.  This can influence a tree’s fall – especially if it’s leafed out.

Fire is important for more than just keeping your core temperature above 98.6 degrees. In the event of a prolonged TEOTWAWKI catastrophe, everyone will need some way to cook food and boil water.  White or bottled gas, however, is not the answer, since eventually your supply will run out.  At that point you’ll once again have to turn to wood.

A traditional campfire will work, but is hugely wasteful of your hard-earned fuel resources.  The best option is to use something that will give you a big boost in efficiency over an open fire, and that “something” would be a well-designed wood-fired cook stove.

Some Preppers’ stocks of provisions include large amounts of freeze-dried food which doesn’t need to be “cooked” per se, but does require a cup or two of boiling water.  The most effective way to do this is with what is known as a “Kelly Kettle” (sometimes called  a “volcano kettle”). 

The Kelly Kettle is an odd-looking stainless steel stove that resembles a cross between a miniature milk can and a bowling pin.  It has a small fire chamber in the base which draws air from below, and the heat rises through a long chimney.  Surrounding this chimney is a hollow jacket that holds water.  The heat coming up it contacts a far greater surface area of the water than it would if it were merely concentrated on the bottom of a pan, and brings it to a boil in only a fraction of the time.

Another thing that makes the Kelly Kettle a great survival tool is the fact that it can be fueled with just about anything that burns.  Collect the wood chips from where you’ve been cutting and splitting your stove wood, break up small, fallen branches or twigs, or use pine cones or even bark – it’s all the same to the Kelly Kettle.  The bottom draft arrangement (the same principle as a Dakota fire) will make just about anything you put in it burn hot and fast.

For your actual cooking needs or for heating larger amounts of water, a special stove based on the Kelly Kettle will work far better than an open fire.  The only problem is that as far as I know, there isn’t such a stove on the market.  This means you’ll have to make your own.

 There’s a plan on a survival blog for a pipe stove with a “rocket elbow”.  I followed the basic design and tweaked it just a bit.  My version consists of an eleven inch length of  6” stove pipe nested inside a twelve inch piece of  8” stove pipe.  A vent (1 ½” diameter piece of exhaust pipe) goes from the bottom of the inner pipe and sticks out an inch past the outer one.  This tube serves both as an air intake and a chute to add fuel.

The interior pipe is closed off at the bottom using a removable standard 6” stovepipe cap and then cement is poured in the space between the two pipes.  This acts as insulation as well as giving the stove more weight, and hence, more stability.  Several one inch deep scallops are cut into the top rim of the outer pipe to allow smoke to escape, and what’s left supports the utensil you’re cooking with.  Like the Kelly Kettle, the fact that it draws air from the bottom and has a long chimney, will make the fire burn with a hot, focused flame.  A stove such as this also allows one to utilize easily collected scrap wood as fuel.

Following the basic design concept, it might be possible to build larger stoves for bigger cooking tasks.  The only drawback I’ve noticed with mine is that because it uses small pieces of wood that burn quickly, it needs to be fed often and hence, can’t be left unattended for long.

A bonus to cooking with wood is that the ashes the fire produces can be used as soap to clean up with.  Since they contain lye, merely mixing them into a paste with clean water and using it as a scouring compound will allow you to keep utensils clean long after your supply of soap has run out.
The best “starter” wood to get a fire going - whether it’s you cooker of wood furnace - is dry cedar.  If you can find an old telephone pole lying around somewhere, saw it into short lengths and then split each round into thin pieces. Unless you hit a knot, the straight grain of cedar splits easily into extremely thin sticks which take a flame in seconds.  I call this stuff “fire candy”.  It catches quickly and burns intensely for starting a fire, as well as rejuvenating one that is nearly out.  If you can’t find cedar, something like well-dried aspen or willow is also a good starter.

Don’t forget that before you can burn anything, you’ll have to have a way of starting your fire.  A large stockpile of traditional matches, metal matches and butane lighters take up little space and have no maximum shelf life.  If you run out, though, you’ll have to resort to a fire bow or a magnifying glass.

And for each fire you light, you’ll need some tinder to get it going.  A supply of newspapers and dryer lint will work, but know that when it’s gone you’ll have to rely on fuzz sticks or natural materials like mouse nests.

If and when TEOTWAWKI arrives “keeping the home fires burning” will be right up there with food and water.  Prepare for it now!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

So there I was, in the back of the UH-60 Blackhawk lifting my feet at various intervals for fear that they would scrape the pine trees as the pilot hugged the terrain below with the chopper.  One thing led to another and the next thing I knew the chopper was on the ground and I was running full speed to get to the trees to find concealment from nearby hostiles that intended to do me harm. As I got up and over the nearest ridge and ducked into some temporary concealment; I stopped and listened. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my heart to slow down so I could hear something other than the pounding in my ears, it was quiet. An eerie quiet that made me wonder if the bad guys were just sitting behind the next tree waiting to roll me up the second I started to move. I knew I wasn’t far enough away from where I left the Blackhawk so I got moving again and after the most nerve-racking 1,200 meters of my life, I found a place to hide. In the middle a huge patch of brush where no one would find me unless they stepped on me, I pulled out my map to figure out where I was. That was a long cold night shivering under my poncho listening for any sign of danger. At dusk the next morning I cautiously headed in the direction of where I thought the good guys would be. After 5 agonizing days and nights avoiding detection and a ton of other circumstances that I do not have the liberty to discuss, I was recovered by a friendly indigenous force and eventually reunited with my loved ones.

Thankfully, every detail of the preceding account took place in northeastern Washington as part of an elaborate training exercise. This phase of training combined with eight other separate phases prepared me to become a US Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist.

I’ve set up and participated in multiple evasion training events, playing the evader and other times the aggressor. I’d like to offer some instruction and insight on the topic of evasion which is not often discussed, but can make the difference between life and death when/if the time comes. The following narrative is written with the assumption that you are in a rural setting (urban evasion is much different) and there is no recovery force available. You are on your own.

The Five Phases of Evasion

1-Immediate Action:
Time is of the essence! This phase is where you are quickly deciding if you should stay and fight or evade instead and if you choose the latter, what should you take with you (hopefully your BOB is packed and nearby). A quick check to sanitize yourself so nothing compromises you or your group if you’re caught, then it’s time to high-tail it out of there. Assume the enemy is nearby and take caution when leaving the area.

2-Initial Movement:
The main objective here is to put time, distance and terrain between you and the bad guys and avoid lines of communication (roads, water bodies, trails, railroads, power lines, fences, etc.). You’re moving with a purpose, but shouldn’t be running with reckless abandon. Moving in an erratic pattern will limit the enemy’s ability to anticipate your line of travel. Periodic stops to take note of the environment will prevent running into more danger and give you the chance to detect any followers. The idea is to get far enough away from danger, effectively hide and plan your exit strategy.  Consider the fact that your adversary may have a dog and handler looking for you. Forget the nonsense you’ve seen in Hollywood and don’t waste valuable time/resources leaving traps behind or trying to get to water and “float away your scent”. Nothing you’re going to do is going to fool the dog; the handler is the one to be defeated. Using the principles of time, distance and terrain will work against the best dog/handler team. Time: dogs and handlers fatigue and have a limited workday. The more time you put between you and the area they start looking for you; the harder it is on that team. Distance: fatigue will continue to build on the dog/handler which degrades their ability to locate you. Additionally, more miles introduce more variables to the dog which have to be factored in by the handler as reliable or unreliable leads. Terrain: traversing difficult/dangerous terrain is challenging to the dog/handler team. This buys the evader time to plan his next move and continues to erode the will and energy of the dog and handler. While on the move, be on the lookout for a hole up site.

3-Hole Up:

The BLISS acronym comes in handy when remembering evasion shelter principles.
Blend- Hole up sites must look like and be a natural part of their surroundings.
Low silhouette- For the same reason you lay down to hide.
Irregular shape- Similar to blending, so don’t string up your poncho and start creating straight lines that draw attention.
Small- Just big enough for you and your gear.
Secluded- Like any real estate, location is everything. Don’t use the only clump of brush on the hill side.

You will want a site that will conceal you, but also protect from the weather if possible. Rocky outcroppings and/or dense vegetation can get the job done while also obscuring your movements and heat signature should the enemy have night vision or thermal capabilities.

Make use of the military crest if it’s available (2/3 up the mountainside, 1/3 from the top). This prevents silhouetting, provides good line of sight and avoids setting up shop in the cold sump of a valley or windy ridge line. Once a potential hole up site is identified, don’t just dive in. Approach the site using a large sweeping “J” pattern. This allows you the opportunity to detect anyone following your trail while you are in the site and get out before they discover your hole up area. Along the same lines, your hole up site should afford you multiple avenues of escape.
Now that you’re in the hole up site and have naturalized the immediate entrance area, inventory your gear, take care of medical issues, work on your camouflage, get some rest and develop a plan.  Light discipline should be strictly adhered to-- if you’re breaking out the map during low light, use a small red light with a poncho over you at a minimum. Typically, bad situations don’t happen to people on warm sunny days, but by the same token, you must not light a fire unless your life absolutely depends on it! In the event you NEED a fire, the Dakota hole is the way to go (two holes about fist width, 12 inches down, 12 inches apart, with a tunnel connecting the two at the bottom). Dig the holes near the base of a tree with lots of boughs/branches to help with smoke dispersal and use the smallest (think pencil lead size), driest wood you can find (hardwood is preferred). Hover over this fire with your poncho on (if available) and keep your flames below ground level. If bad guys start to roll up on you, keep the dirt from digging your Dakota hole on a piece of material nearby so you can quickly extinguish your fire, naturalize the area and get out of there. Latrines should be separate from your hole up site (avoid leaving trails) and must be naturalized as well. Procuring water during your evasion should be done only using obscure water sources (i.e. small mud hole, mopping up dew with a bandana, melting snow in a bottle between clothing layers, catching rainwater, etc). Approaching other water sources (creeks, ponds or rivers) puts you in unnecessary danger (more on this later). Food should be in the form of edible plants or insects, but staying hydrated is the primary concern. Edible plants are beyond the scope of this article and many books are available on the topic. As far as insects go, look for 6 legs or less and 3 distinct body segments (ants, grasshoppers, crickets, etc) Side note: My vote is for the ants. They’re similar to lemon flavor and much better tasting then any of the other slow moving protein I’ve eaten. Even worms and grubs will provide enough protein to take the edge off the hungriest evader. Fishing, snaring and hunting will generally not be conducive to the evader who has major concealment/security concerns as well as limited supplies and limited time for these activities.

4-Evasion Movement:
If you are well hidden and can meet your needs in your hole up site, there may be no need to ever enter this phase of evasion.  If you determine that you must move, develop a plan of where you need to go and how you will get there (line of travel). Movement should be slow and methodical. The environment will dictate the speed, body posture and navigation route you choose. For example: dry conditions with leaves on the ground will make every step a tightrope act for fear of crunching foliage underfoot. Crossing an area of sparse vegetation if unavoidable, may require crawling to reduce visibility to enemy eyes. While straight line navigation may be the shortest route, it’s probably not the safest and can make it much easier for the bad guys to figure out where you might be headed (and cut you off) should they find your tracks. During travel, move to and from points of concealment while using natural cover and shadows to your advantage. Constantly be on the lookout for the enemy and if seen, slowly fade away into concealment (quick movements catch the eye). Consider memorizing the evasion route and avoid marking on your map (if available) or folding it to a specified area then handling it with dirty hands. This can reveal your intended destination (retreat/group location) to adversaries if you are caught. If there are two or more evaders in your group use the additional eyes and ears to your advantage with tactical movement. There are a number of ways to skin this cat, but here is one that may work for you: Evader #1 moves along the route to concealment (still in visual contact with #2). #1 gets his bearing for his next point of concealment, looks back and gives #2 the thumbs up. #2 does a quick scan of their 6 o’clock (he’s rear security) and if everything is kosher, he slowly moves to #1’s concealment site. #2’s movement prompts #1 to move to his next concealment. When he gets there the process repeats until they make it home. If #2 were to pick up on noise or movement during this process, he simply stays at his concealment until the threat is gone. His inaction will show #1 that the coast is not clear. If #1 identifies a threat at any time he simply does not give the thumbs up to #2 until the danger is gone. No thumbs up signals #2 to sit tight. This method ensures good communication between evaders and allows the group to move in a tactical manner. If there are three or even more evaders, movement is the same. #2 would give the thumbs up to #3 and so on (a domino approach). Any time there are multiple evaders the group must decide on a rally point (before movement) should the group get separated for any reason. Ideally, your evasion movement should get you out of the danger area and on to the final phase of evasion.

5-Recovery: There’s always been a recovery force in the scenarios I’ve dealt with, but here we’ll assume the worst and say that it’s up to you to return to friendly control (wherever/whoever that may be). History and everyday life have shown that people start to ease off when they think the end is near. My advice is- don’t become complacent! It would break your heart to be so close to safety only to get rolled up by the bad guys. This is the time to focus and avoid the distracting thoughts of freedom (run through the tape, as the saying goes).

Principles of Evasion

  1. Be flexible- Successful evasion involves fluid decision making and not restricting yourself to one approach. Change with your environment and the challenges that it presents (be like water, grasshopper). Having an Evasion Plan of Action with multiple courses of action can prepare the evader for the changes that are sure to come.
  2. Stay hidden- There are several techniques that play into avoiding detection.
  3. Pay attention to the environment. Especially during times of movement- stop, look, listen and smell. You are extremely vulnerable when on the move. Movement catches the eye, creates sound and generally draws unwanted attention so you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel. Be alert to game in your immediate area. Birds, squirrels and the like can act as your personal alarm system if you’re paying attention in the hole up site. However, this can work against you when you’re the one on the move.
  4. Only move if you have to and use periods of low light and/or inclement weather for concealment. Dusk and dawn provide the evader with enough light to avoid stumbling through the dark making a ton of noise and possibly getting lost, while also minimizing the effectiveness of night vision devices that may be used by the search party. Inclement weather aids the evader with covering tracks, masking the noise of movement, obscuring visibility and making life very hard on the bad guys looking for you.
  5. If you must move at night, navigation is going to be more challenging without the use of a compass, but you can use celestial aids (Polaris in the Northern hemisphere/Southern cross for the Southern hemisphere) to avoid walking circles in the woods. When looking at ground objects in the dark, look slightly to one side and use your peripheral vision. Squat down and skyline the things in front of you to assist with identifying more distant objects.
  6. Steer clear of lines of communication. These areas are natural lines of drift for the common populace and the evader must be uncommon, unconventional and unpredictable. While these areas are much easier/faster traveled, they invite trouble for the evader.
  7. Leave no evidence of your presence by cleaning up after yourself. This doesn’t just apply to your hide site; it applies to movement (i.e. tracks, broken branches, matted grass, ruffled leaves, etc). Be conscious of disturbing your surroundings and walk on hard surfaces when available. Consider wrapping your boots with cloth to make tracks appear older, or better yet, travel during inclement weather!
  8. Camouflage needs to be appropriate for your surroundings and updated as the environment changes. Hide the shiny objects like glasses, watches, zippers, jewelry and buckles. Pad the noisy items on your body and equipment. Cover exposed skin with any available materials (face paint, mud, ash, etc). If using natural vegetation to conceal items on your person, ensure they appear natural (leaves/boughs are a very different color on the bottom side) and are changed out as they wilt. Much has been written on the topic of camouflage so we’ll leave it at that.
  9. Generally speaking, engaging hostiles while evading is bad for business. There are exceptions to every rule, but the evader is usually badly outnumbered and out gunned. If you do decide to drill the bad guy walking in the vicinity of your hole up site, be sure you’re prepared for your next move. Is he a scout for the main party shortly behind? Are you sure he even sees you? I’ve seen the warrior mentality compromise people’s judgment. Sometimes it’s better to run away and live to fight another day. 


Plan ahead- An Evasion Plan of Action can serve you and your group well in the event that you need to evade. If you live in a bigger city, this plan should be part of your bug out preparations and incorporate several scenarios with emphasis placed on rally points and timelines. The Evasion Plan of Action is worth its weight in gold when you are separated from your main party and communications are down.  We use the PACE acronym in the military: Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency. All eventualities are covered (or as many as possible). An example Evasion Plan of Action may look like, but is not limited to the following:

Communications plan/Call Signs:
P-Cell Phone
C-CB/two way radio
E-Shortwave/ham radio

Immediate communication intentions ( 0 to __ hours): Try to establish comms using Primary and Alternate method for the first half hour. If no contact is made, attempt contact at the top of the hour for the next 24 hours…
Extended communication intentions (after __ hours): Try to establish comms using Contingency or Emergency methods at 1200 local every day…

Call signs also listed here.

Rally Points:
P-The house
A-Relative/Friend’s house
C-Beacon Hill (easily recognizable terrain feature just outside the city)
E-The retreat location

Immediate rally intentions ( 0 to __ hours): Try to get to Primary rally point. If compromised, use Alternate rally point…
Extended rally intentions (after __ hours): If unsuccessful rally after the first 24 hours use Contingency rally point. After 48 hours…

Cache Locations/Descriptions:

Evasion Intentions: Will move away from lines of communication and attempt to make comms…

Code Words/Numbers/Bullseye/Etc:
--Note: use of a Bullseye (prearranged landmark used as a point of reference) can come in handy for a group. For example, if I have comms with my group and a map compass or GPS, I can relay that I am 8 miles at 115 degrees from Bullseye. My group knows what bullseye is and therefore knows where I am, but nobody else listening in knows where I am.
Obviously the Evasion Plan of Action is going to have information on it that you don’t want just anybody seeing, so keep it close hold or better yet, memorize it! Keep in mind, the Evasion Plan of Action is just a plan and plans get tossed out sometimes depending on the circumstances and that’s okay. Never forget the first principle of evasion-- be flexible! Evading will never be easy. You’ll likely be cold, tired, hungry, scared and injured to name a few, but remember your worst day evading is better than your best day in captivity!

Further Reading on Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape:

Return With Honor by George E. Day
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell
Bravo Two Zero: The Harrowing True Story of a Special Forces Patrol Behind the Lines in Iraq by Andy McNab
Wilderness Evasion: A Guide to Hiding Out and Eluding Pursuit in Remote Areas by Michael E. Chesbro
Air Force Regulation 64-4 Search and Rescue Survival Training

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The night of February 27/28 2013 is the 70th anniversary of the successful raid on the Nazi heavy water production facility near Rjukan, Norway, known in its final culminating phase as Operation Gunnerside. The precision strike on the only heavy water facility under the Third Reich's control effectively set Hitler's quest for an atomic bomb back a year, forcing Nazi scientists to ski a huge penalty loop in a race with the Allies, to borrow an appropriate biathlon analogy. A follow-on operation put the last nail in the lid of the coffin of the Germans' heavy water production capability. The story has been told in several books-- I'll list some below-- and a few documentaries you can find on YouTube. (I understand Hollywood made a film of it, but apparently ruined the story. I haven't seen it.)

Allied scientists, thanks to information from fugitive Norwegians and contacts on the inside of the plant, had long apprehended the danger of allowing the Third Reich to achieve a breakthrough in atomic research. The consequences of failing to do so were obvious and terrifying to those who understood the full issue. The long pole in the tent of atomic research at this point in history was access to large supplies of heavy water. A hydro-electric plant in occupied Norway was the only facility under German control that had the capacity to produce heavy water in the quantities needed. Gunnerside (and its sequel) was the final, successful evolution in a string of other moves by the Allies to destroy this capacity.

This story fired my imagination when I was an adolescent, having bought the Bantam paperback edition of "Assault in Norway" and reading it from cover to cover, more than once. Over the last few years I've acquired and read other books on the operation that offered more detail and background. I recommend "Blood and Water", "Skis Against the Atom", and "The Real Heroes of Telemark". See also the interview with Joachim Ronneberg, leader of the assault party .

I won't recount the entire narrative, which of course is better told in the books I listed, but I will highlight some features of the operation that I think are of interest to the SurvivalBlog community. The first of course, is survival itself; winter conditions in that part of Norway demanded extraordinary, near super-human, feats of strength and endurance. The months between the failure of the more conventional glider-borne operation, "Freshman," and the execution of the Gunnerside raid were particularly exacting for the four men of the advance party. They endured record vicious weather, near-starvation and debilitating illnesses. The other six, who did not share in all of those privations, nevertheless faced a terrible storm right after they arrived (and before they made contact with the advance party), had to tackle the difficult and dangerous approach to the target and subsequent withdrawal, and then an epic ski-borne escape to Sweden. Some of the other major points I have consistently drawn out of my Gunnerside readings are these:

- Physical and psychological fitness

- Outdoor skills and having the right gear

- OPSEC and self-discipline
- Ugly truths about an occupying power and their Quisling allies

- Unwavering patriotism, dedication to the cause, and faith in ultimate victory

I hope this letter does some small justice to an epic, stirring story, and highlights a handful of important lessons for us. I deliberately left out a more detailed discussion, hoping instead that people will go seek out the lessons for themselves. The men of the Gunnerside mission, and indeed all Norway, learned their lessons the hard way. We are being offered the same for a mere pittance. Perhaps we should read and heed.
By the way, the larger story of the occupation of Norway and the growth of the resistance movement brings up an interesting what-if, and an object lesson. What if the Norwegians, nationally and individually, had apprehended the danger of Nazi Germany as accurately as the Swiss did, and prepared accordingly? Norway's geography certainly presents strong natural defenses and lends itself to the concept of a national redoubt. An armed, prepared Norway would have presented a much more difficult target for the Germans, and any territory that fell to them would have been organized for resistance. Also, a free or partially-free Norway would have safeguarded the approaches from the US and the UK to the ice-free ports of the Soviet Union, and offered an existing, if secondary, land front with Nazi Germany. Norway was ill-prepared, and paid the price for it. - J.P.P.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Food and energy are the two keystones of any community economy anywhere on earth.   If we produce and distribute food and energy locally, we have the food, the energy and the money.   We establish the capacity to create and retain wealth in our community.   We put in place the two foundations of any human economy."  -David Yarrow.

More and easier food and energy production immediately raise standards of living. Less time worrying about essentials, leaves more time to do everything else.  Do not overlook this simple truth in preparedness and future planning. 

Top Lit Up Draft (TLUD) stove technology has many virtues: 

  • Less fuel required, less time spent gathering fuel
  • Works with small fuels, brush, twigs, bark, husks, hulls, cobs, cones, even stemmy grasses.
  • Little or no fire-tending necessary after lighting
  • Smoke free operation when done with skill
  • Easily controlled, reduced risk of spreading fire
  • Easy and reliable concealment of smoke and light during combustion (used in WWII resistance movement)


Stove made charcoal has many uses:

  • Medicine, anti-diarrheal, poison control, burns poultice
  • Liquids filtration 
  • Low power explosives since the 9th century
  • Long term soils improvement  
  • NOT typically suitable for gas phase filtration  

The invention of Top Lit Up Draft heating and cooking appliances goes back at least to the WWII resistance movement, possibly much farther back.  Resistance fighters "burned smoke", a two stage combustion process, to conceal position while making heat.  The gas flare could be left open for visible light, or easily concealed with a shroud. Proper design of a shroud increases water boiling performance for a pot nestled into the shroud.  The trick to "burning smoke" is counterintuitive for experienced fire builders. Combustibles are loosely piled into a can with open air holes in the bottom, then


Lighting on top creates an upward draft of warmed air, that pulls fresh air up through the pile to the flame front, technically termed a "pyrolysis" zone.   

The difference is similar to burning off a field of dry grass with the wind, or against the wind. A regular campfire burns "with the wind", a pyrolysis system burns "into the wind", a more easily controlled combustion process. 

The simplest example is an open can without a lid. 

  • Punch a few small holes in the bottom  
  • Loosely fill the can about 3/4 full of combustibles (small, dry paper wads for testing)  
  • Outdoors, on a still day, light it on top  
  • Observe how it makes smoke, and the smoke catches fire as it escapes the top rim of the can   

A lot of smoke will probably escape unburned during this test. If it eventually "goes to smoke", all smoke no flame, quickly try lighting the smoke. Note how easily the smoke ignites.  It may progress into a clean burn, or a smoky mess. 

The next advancement is concentrating the smoke and introducing the second shot of fresh air below the point of concentration.

  • Make a cap lid with a central hole about 1/4 the diameter of the can  
  • A slightly oversized lid with a deep downturned collar works best  
  • Make the hole by "pizza slicing" and folding the resulting tabs alternately upward and downward is fast with a pocket knife, and forward looking, but leaves sharp edges  
  • Just below the top rim of the can, punch an odd numbered ring of holes, evenly spaced, with a total face area about twice the total face area of the holes in the bottom  
  • be sure air can move freely through all holes  
  • Light the pile on top  
  • As the pile begins burning well, cap the can with the oversized lid   

You should see a ring of flares coming up through the concentrator hole, almost like a burner. The number of flares likely corresponds to the upper air intake holes and/or tabs.  If it goes to smoke, light the smoke.  The flare becomes more durable as the process continues, then fades near the end of the run.  When the flame disappears, the process has entered char burning mode. With enough oxygen, char burns to ash, emitting elevated levels of poisonous carbon monoxide in the process.  Stainless steel drink mugs, thermos bottles, and serving pots are a great way to experiment. 

With a little experience you will learn to tailor custom designs to balance heat output to runtime. You can also scale up or down to a size that suits the mission.    I carry a TLUD made from a small tapered thermos in my bugout bag.  While I have not tried any of the commercial units, I already know from design experience that what I have made suits me better than what I can buy. I can taper the flame from yellow to blue, use it as a light, conceal the light, and even snuff it at mid-process for long lasting catalytic style heat. 


Ancient charcoal makers, known as colliers, held guild status in their communities.  Upconverting wood was a combination of art and science, tuned by years of practical experience.  When using TLUD stoves, rather than burning charcoal which can generate dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (read the warnings on a bag of charcoal), it is best to save charcoal for uses outlined above.  To save charcoal, at the end of the run, using tools or gloves to protect from hot surfaces:  

  • Remove the run time cap and replace with a solid cap, preferably one that tightly seals the upper air holes 
  • Set the can on solid ground to block the holes in the bottom   

After sealing, the volatiles continue to "cook" from wood pores, until all oxygen in the can is consumed. This final conditioning opens up pores, elevating the charcoal into a more activated state. A nice low heat is produced during the process.  After cooling, the charcoal is poured into a second metal container and tightly sealed.   

A very common mistake of charcoal making newbies is believing that charcoal has cooled enough to pour into a plastic container.  If you wish to try plastic, try it outdoors, far away from anything that can ignite. Later, you will likely come back to a small ring of plastic goo.  Charcoal is highly reactive in certain states. It is an essential component of black powder.  TLUD char generally has different characteristics than retort char.  Technically TLUD char making is an oxic rather than an anoxic process.   In practice that means retort char generally retains more weight from the original biomass by holding more volatiles inside the pores.  That makes retort char generally better for cooking and selling by the pound.  Oxic char making is more prone to releasing the volatile elements, creating a lower weight per volume product with higher adsorption capabilities.  In practice that generally makes TLUD char better for filtration and as an emergency substitute for activated carbon.   The original feedstock and process temperatures also affect the adsorption properties of the finished char.

Google the works of Dr. Hugh McLaughlin for in depth discussion of the technical aspects.  The variations in some cases are quite significant.   A report published by Professor Kaneyuki Nakane from the University of Hiroshima reported that bamboo char had seven times the water holding capacity of hardwood char made for cooking. That is a very important characteristic when adding charcoal to soils for drought resistance when growing crops on rooftop gardens.  This author can vouch for the fact that crushed bamboo also works great for fuel, in a specially adapted TLUD. 

Next steps toward micro-gasification, creating combustible vapor from biomass, include adding chimneys, insulation, dampers, fan power and alternate materials.  

  • Chimneys add draft to make air flow more reliable. An inside chimney diameter slightly greater than twice the concentrator hole diameter is magical. Chimney heights up to 20x concentrator hole diameter add draft. Taller chimneys begin to negatively impact draft.   
  • Insulation or shrouds maintain a high process temperature and ideally pre-heat the second shot of oxygen to reduce accidental "quenching" of the flare with cold air.  
  • Dampers rationing air to the top and/or bottom of the process, allow fine user adjustments during runtime. Dampers are also a huge convenience for shutdown.  
  • Fan power can further simplify control. Requires fans and power.  
  • Stoves can be made from pottery clay, bricks, 55 gallon drums, dug into a hillside, etc.   

The learning odyssey has practical forward applications. Skilled practitioners use these basic gasification concepts to create gas to power internal combustion engines.  Woodgas is simple, once you understand it.  Understanding the basics first, saves a lot of experimenting on bigger projects. 

Charcoal created from biomass, applied in the root zone, has improved crops production on many soil types.  A new term "biochar" was coined in 2007 as researchers study the effect.    Earlier crops, greater production, and enhanced drought resistance are nearly universal effects reported from TLUD char.  Improving downstream water quality, sequestering atmospheric carbon, and purifying soils prior to medicinal herb plantings are more ethereal use cases that make sense considering the physical properties of charcoal.  In my experience, and by many reports, very little TLUD charcoal is required to create a noticeable response in plant growth and crops improvement.  A handful under a fruit or nut tree planting, or a light sprinkling under mulch that the worms will work into the root zone of plants does wonders.  Feeding small quantities of char to poultry was studied at the University of Georgia with reports of better bird health and higher quality fertilizer droppings with less odor. 

ECON 101

Assured energy, food, and medicine at the most local scale possible is not only practical in short-term survival situations, it is 21st century thinking with deep historical roots that holds promise of great days ahead.  My favorite woodgas engine builder, Wayne Keith, is fond of saying "With woodgas, the buck stops here, in my pocket". Wealth creation cannot be much more local than that.  Plentiful food and energy are essential to a high standard of living. TLUD technology is more than a passing fad in stoves making, it is a key to long term better living at the smallest practical scale.  More info is available at resiliencemovement.com on the energy tab, including pictures and links.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I was reviewing some back issues of the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, published by the Wilderness Medical Society, and came across an article that I realized may be of use to preppers.  The article deals with the effects of food deprivation vs. the effect of sleep deprivation, on cognitive ability, decision making, and risk taking behaviors.  Here I will attempt to summarize the relevant findings and examine how these realities might inform our choices in prepping and responding to emergency survival situations. 

We have all been taught the easy to remember device for setting priorities for survival, right? You can't live more than 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food.  While this list has been examined and tweaked over the years to suit the uses and particulars of various groups, it remains essentially a fair, if imprecise rubric of priorities.  Except the food.  Studies have shown what reality has long known: when things get tough, people do not starve to death; they are killed or injured as a result of poor decision making (often related to trying to obtain food).  From a strictly starvation stand point, it takes far more than 3 weeks to die, but the poor decisions you make, whether in a moment of hunger or a prolonged calorie deficit, are much deadlier much faster.

Hunger isn't the only stressor facing the would be survivor (doesn't matter what the disaster--could be TEOTWAWKI, could be a wildfire/hurricane/tornado/ice storm/train derailment/etc.).  Lack of sleep,  whether caused by a need to remain vigilant (security threats, long haul driving) or insomnia related to mental stress or environmental stimuli, is a very real and very common reality in the days and even weeks immediately following disasters.  Back when I was a wild land firefighter, the feds would not let a crew work more than 18 hours in a stretch, no matter what the fire was doing, because after so many hours of constant wakeful work, reaction time was dulled to the point of being legally drunk (so I was told).  A crew must be taken “off the clock” and given a safe place to sleep, even if that place was 3 feet back of the fire line they had just been working on.  Better to let a crew sleep and loose a few steps on the fire, than push a crew past the point of fatigue and have to deal with the inevitable costs and casualties that come with high risk work and dulled perception, reaction time, and impaired decision making.    

Even if zombie squirrels ate every last protein bar and bit of hardtack in your BOB, you will not die of starvation on your 3 day (or 3 week) journey to safe haven.  What is much more likely to get you into trouble is making bad choices.  In light of this fact, the authors of this study wanted to determine which had the greater negative impact on decision making and cognition in civilian survival situations, lack of food, or a lack of sleep.  To do this, they examined the effect of food deprivation for 18, 42, and 66 hours and of sleep deprivation for 26 and 50 hours on blood glucose levels, simple and choice reaction time, memory/recall, risk taking, and navigating a computerized maze. 

The tests found that while food deprivation had the effect of increasing symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), these symptoms where increased even more when deprived of sleep.  Reaction time was slower for both groups (food deprivation and sleep deprivation) in both simple reaction time (how quick you can perceive a change and react) and in choice reaction, which forces a choice between three actions when prompted.  Sleep deprivation of 26 and 50 hours was found to have a more deleterious effect that either 18, 42, or 66 hours of food deprivation.  Memory and recall tasks were both negatively affected to nearly the same extend for both groups, with the exception of delayed recall, which suffered a much larger (almost 50%) decrease after 50 hours of sleep deprivation.  Visual/spatial learning was also negatively affected by both treatments, again with sleep deprivation causing a more dramatic worsening of ability to navigate a computer generated maze.  Finally risk taking behavior was affected very little by food or sleep deprivation, with the exception that 50 hours of sleep deprivation decreased subjects risk tolerance, and both food and sleep deprivation cause subjects to make risk taking decisions faster. 

So what does all this mean?  Essentially given the choice between expending energy to procure food or toward procuring sleep, we should prioritize the sleep.  This of course is easier said than done.  In fact the authors even acknowledged that even small amounts of food may make sleeping easier.  “Sleep hygiene”, as it is known among those who counsel people with insomnia, includes things like avoiding caffeine after noon, not watching TV while lying in bed, keeping a consistent pre-bedtime routine, having a quiet, dark, cool place to sleep, and going to bed at the same time each night.  Good luck finding any of those things in the hectic days immediately following a major disaster.  So what to do?  For starters, be aware of what environmental factors are affecting our mood and decision making process.  By being aware that perhaps it is not only the stupid knot on your tarp shelter you can't untie in the freezing rain at night that is causing your disproportionately angry feelings, but also the lack of sleep, you can compartmentalize the things that you can control and the things that you can't, fix or improve what can be fixed, and prioritize what is important in the long run (sleep!) over the task at hand (untying that knot).  Finally, it may be worth considering some supplements to your emergency sleep hygiene plan.

Chamomile has been used for centuries as an herb that calms and promotes sleep, and is available in tea form at the supermarket right now.  Melatonin is also available over the counter, and used on an occasional basis by many night shift ER nurses, among others.  Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is the most common histamine blocker used to treat allergies, but its' number one side effect is drowsiness.  In fact, the exact same drug in the exact some dose (diphenhydramine 25mg) is sold as an over the counter sleep aid, often cheaper than the same drug in a different bottle sold as an allergy blocker!  A brief warning, there is a very small percentage of people who have an opposite reaction to Benadryl and get a stimulant effect from the drug.  My mother is one such, who refuses to take it because she'll be up all night cleaning the house and unable to sleep.  Of course there are also prescription drugs available to promote sleep, and while their action is different than those listed above, they share the warning that they are NOT for long term use, as they can cause a dependency that makes is difficult to fall asleep without them.  But as a useful addition to a disaster medical kit, I would certainly give them strong consideration.  Among these, the benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Xanax, and Valium are common, useful, and powerful, and have the added benefit from a survival medicine chest perspective of being anti-seizure and anti-anxiety drugs.  The down side is that they are also commonly abused and are controlled substances, which makes it less likely that even a sympathetic doctor will prescribe them “just in case”.  You may have better luck with the non-benzo hypnotics such as Sonata, Lunesta, and Ambien, which have less potential for abuse and are meant for short term treatment of insomnia.  In any case, never mix these drugs with alcohol (even the over the counter drugs), use the lowest effective dose possible to avoid over sedation and grogginess the next morning, and use only after consultation with a doctor (Disclaimer: nothing in this article should be construed as specific medical advice).

This is not to discount the value of food, as negative effects with food deprivation on performance were noted in the study; it is just that they were not as dramatically negative as the effect of sleep deprivation.  This study also cites other, prior published works that illustrate the negative effects of combined food and sleep deprivation, which of course is a real possibility in a survival situation, This study however was attempting to discern the relative contribution of each to the noted reduction in capability.  The study also cites prior literature dealing with the effect of hypoglycemia on cognition and decision making, and found it to have a greatly deleterious effect.  Even though in this study sleep deprivation was found to increase hypoglycemia symptoms, this study intentionally excluded those with diabetes or other confounding health problems.  For that reason, food would certainly be a bigger priority for those with diabetes, hypoglycemia, or other metabolic conditions.  Finally, the study authors also acknowledged that even small amounts of food may improve endurance and be critically important to preventing hypothermia in cold conditions.  All of these are valuable considerations for preppers.  Better to know why we do the things we do, rather than blindly following by rote the prescriptions of a variety of experts. 

Through better understanding we can be better prepared for unanticipated circumstances.  In particular it is an easy temptation for the strong (well prepared) member of a group to shoulder a bit more of the burden, to take that longer shift on watch, to hike through the night, thinking after all that it is only a little sleep you are missing out on.  But bear in mind it is not just sleep and comfort you sacrifice, but rather it is your keen edge in decision making, reaction time, and spatial reasoning that you give up.  Knowing this, you may be better prepared to appropriately weigh all priorities should you ever be faced with such a situation.

For those with an interest in reading the entire article, it is available to the public in the WEM archive here.  In addition to this article there are a variety of others on all kinds of topics related to emergency, wilderness, remote, expedition, combat, and improvised medicine.  Be aware, the details of some of these articles may be difficult for those who don't speak “medical”, but the abstracts are generally very comprehensible.   The Wilderness Medical Society also holds several conferences each year, with expert speakers in many disciplines of medicine and hands on workshops on subjects like improvised splinting, litters, and orthopedic care, avalanche awareness and rescue, snow shelters and hypothermia prevention and treatment, and many others.  While these conferences are geared for medical professionals, there is no reason interested lay-persons (preppers) can't attend and learn alongside the pros. 

Finally, a very reasonable standard of medical training for peppers would be Wilderness First Responder, an approximately 80 hour program that goes much deeper into prevention, assessment, treatment, and ongoing management of the sick and injured with an emphasis on austere environments, limited resources, and improvisation.  Numerous schools with some excellent instructors include Wilderness Medicine Institute, Aerie, SOLO, WMA, and others.  A quick search online will locate a school near you.  Given that fracture/laceration/heart attack type “disasters” are much more common than EMP/hurricane/asteroid type disasters, the wide spread dissemination of a useful level of medical training makes all of us safer. 

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?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Note: This article is adapted from my book When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival

Tips for Surviving Outside in Extreme Weather and Subfreezing Temperatures

Every year people get lost in the backcountry near where I live in the High Sierras, and end up spending one or more unplanned nights outside in the snow and extreme cold. Some of those folks live to tell the tale, and some of them don’t. Hopefully you will never need to spend unexpectedly long hours outside in extreme weather, but in case you do, here are a few tips:

  • Stay Dry: If at all possible, keep your clothing dry, including hat, gloves, and boots. It takes a huge amount of energy to dry clothing using just body heat, and wet clothes will not insulate nearly as well as dry clothing. If you must lay down to sleep, break fresh green pine boughs off evergreen trees to make a somewhat insulated “bough bed” that will help you stay drier and warmer than lying directly on the snow.
  • Check for numb hands and feet: The extremities of your body will tend to cool and freeze first, so keep a watchful eye on your hands and feet. At the first signs of numbness, you should stop what you are doing and get the blood circulating again, or you will risk frostbite and potentially permanent damage due to freezing your flesh. For the feet, brace your arms against something, stand on one leg, and vigorously swing the other leg back and forth, like a ringing bell in a bell tower. The centrifugal force of the swinging motion will usually restore blood circulation and warm your toes, unless they are already truly frozen and not just cold. If they burn and hurt, that is okay and the painful condition should only last a few minutes, unless the feet had actually suffered frostbite. The easiest technique for restoring feeling and circulation to the hands is similar to the previous technique for the feet. Swing your arms in wide rapid circles to help drive blood into the fingertips. Alternately, take your gloves or mittens off and stick your bare hands under your jacket and into your arm pits until your hands are warm.
  • Check each other for signs of hypothermia and frostbite: A few years back a father and son skied out of bounds into the Granite Chief Wilderness and survived several nights out until they were rescued. The father kept the son moving most of each night to keep his feet and hands from freezing, and to help prevent him from succumbing to hypothermia. A couple winters back, a female snow boarder descended out of bounds into the Granite Chief Wilderness. She perished from exposure while trying to hike her way out of the wilderness, not realizing that in the direction she chose, it is about a 50 mile snow covered backcountry trek to reach the nearest all-season road. If you have no companion to help each other check for frostbite and/or hypothermia, you must be vigilant and do this for yourself. Frostbite on the skin shows up as a bright white patch of skin, usually surrounded by pinkish colored flesh. It is caused by freezing of the flesh, and actual frost crystals start forming on the skin’s surface. See below for more details on both frostbite and hypothermia.
  • When in doubt, backtrack: Surprisingly few folks who get lost in the wilderness try to backtrack. Downhill skiers and snowboarders who travel out of bounds inherently dislike the idea of hiking back up the mountain the same way they came down, but this course of action would have saved many a life. However, when snows are incredibly deep, like they can be in the high mountains, backtracking may not be a viable option.
  • Seek Shelter: Tree wells and snow caves can provide shelter from storms and extreme cold. Snow is an excellent insulator, but try to keep yourself from getting wet both while building your snow shelter and when staying inside the shelter. If you must sit or lie down in the snow, a layer of fresh green pine boughs can provide insulation and help minimize getting wet from melting snow with body heat
  • Build a Fire: Your chances of starting a fire in extreme weather, using primitive methods, like a fire drill, or flint and steel, are pretty slim, but if you happen to have matches or a cigarette lighter on hand, by all means build a fire! Look for standing dead wood, or drier branches sheltered underneath fallen logs that may be drier than the rest of the available wood. For kindling, look for branches on trees that have a bunch of dead brown pine needles. The dead pine needles on these branches will usually burn even if they are fairly wet. Make sure you knock the snow off any overhead branches before you start your fire, so they won’t dump snow on your fire as it heats up. You can build a fire directly on top of the snow. Just lay down a bunch of branches to keep your drier wood separated from direct contact with the snow.

An aside:

On a solo trans-Sierra backcountry ski trip, while I was setting up my camp for the night, I made the mistake of not bothering to stop what I was doing in order to swing my feet and regain the circulation in my toes. My route had taken me to lower elevations in the warmth of the midday, and the snow had been quite wet, soaking through my old leather ski mountaineering boots. It was a clear night as I was pitching my tent, and the temperature had dropped to well below zero. Figuring I would soon be inside my sleeping bag, boiling a hot pot of tea on my camp stove, I did not pay attention to my numb toes. Turns out I froze the last half inch of my big toe. It blistered up, became quite sore, and turned black. I eventually lost my toenail and a large hunk of blackened flesh peeled off the tip of my big toe, but I did not need any surgery or have to deal with infection problems, so I consider myself lucky, having learned a valuable lesson that could have been a lot worse.

Warning Signs of Hypothermia

Hypothermia, and its evil twin, hyperthermia, are both very dangerous life-threatening conditions. The human body is designed to function within a relatively narrow core body temperature within a few degrees of 98.6°F (37°C). When the body’s core temperature rises a few degrees above this, hyperthermia (overheating) occurs, and when it drops a few degrees lower, this condition is described as hypothermia (overcooling). When left uncorrected, either case can rapidly lead to impaired mental and physical performance followed by death. When people die in the wilderness due to either overheating (hyperthermia) or overcooling (hypothermia), their cause of death is usually referred to as “exposure”.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of hypothermia is extremely important. Most people who died of exposure probably had ample time to recognize the situation, and may have been able to do something about it had they realized what was going on. The following are warning signs of hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Decreased awareness and inability to think clearly
  • Numbness, especially in the extremities
  • Pale skin color and skin cold to the touch
  • Poor dexterity

As hypothermia advances, and the body core temperature approaches the “death zone”, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Apathy
  • Feelings of blissful warmth
  • Sleepiness and the desire to lie down and take a nap
  • The victim may start to feel hot and start shedding clothes
  • Difficulty or inability to walk
  • Slurred speech followed by inability to speak, or speech not making any sense whatsoever
  • Ashen cold skin, looking like a corpse that can still move a little
  • May or may not have waves of uncontrollable shivering

Treatment for hypothermia:

  • It is absolutely critical that core temperature be raised as soon as possible.
  • Monitor pulse and breathing. Give victim artificial respiration, or CPR, if necessary.
  • Get the victim out of wet or frozen clothes and immerse in a warm bath (not hot, optimum is from 102°F-105°F/39°C-40.5°C), if available. Change victim into dry warm clothes. Alternatively, wrap victim in pre-warmed blankets.
  • Drink plenty of hot liquids, such as tea, coffee, or simply just hot water.
  • If prior options are not available, have a warm person crawl into a single sleeping bag alongside the hypothermic victim for body heat transfer from the warm body to the hypothermic body. NOTE: Simply placing a hypothermic victim inside a sleeping bag by themselves is usually not good enough, since their body will at that point be pretty much shut down and not generating enough body heat on its own to rapidly restore correct body temperature.
  • Seek medical attention— hypothermia is life threatening, so time is of the essence!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dear James,
Those of us who live in the Southeast are constantly dealing with ticks and chiggers.  Sometimes the old-timers have the best ideas.  We were told that ticks and chiggers hate Vick's VapoRub.  It really works!  Before getting dressed, rub the Vick's VapoRub on the back of your knees, your ankles, and anywhere else you know they are going to go.  

But we found there are two more things you need to do to repel ticks and chiggers.  

1.  Wash your clothes in this recipe.  Most of the conventional laundry detergents, and fabric softeners have heavy perfumes.  Bugs are very attracted to perfumes!  

2.  Use unscented soap, preferably homemade, or soap that is scented with only real essential oils and not synthetic perfumes.

A doctor told a friend of ours if you find a tick on you that is having lunch and you can't get it to let go, smear Vick's VapoRub all over the tick.  The idea is that if the tick will let go first then you won't have to dig half of the tick out later or risk the spread of infection.  This truly works but it just might take a while for the tick to let go.

Our family spent several days hiking in the Southeast woods in the summer, looking for bug-out property.  The first day we followed all the rules above for combating ticks and chiggers.  The following day, no one in our family had any signs of ticks or chigger bites.  

This protocol worked great for days.  Later that same week, a dear family member offered to wash our clothes and, of course, it was washed in conventional detergent loaded with synthetic perfumes (it happened to be a very common, well-known brand of laundry detergent).  After hiking, the next day, we had chigger bites all over our body!  The Vick's didn't even help!  We thought we were going to be scarred and it took weeks to heal.  After this laundry incident we realized the importance of doing all three steps together.  It does make a difference!

Happy Hiking! - Suzanne from the Southeast

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'd like to recommend the best chigger bite treatment:
Put some rubbing alcohol on tissue paper and lightly rub this on the chigger bite as soon as possible. Hold in place for at least half a minute to kill germs. Then immediately rub a piece of ice on the bite for a few minutes to reduce swelling. This will eliminate pain and swelling by 99%.  After getting hundreds of chigger bites over the years, this is the best method I've found. - Paul O.

One thing to add about chiggers, or red bugs. I got these on my legs when I worked outside in Louisiana back in the early 1980s. I was told to sit for a half-hour in a hot bath, to which was added 1 cup of Pine-Sol. It did the trick, but I smelled like a pine tree for about three weeks. - Jim A.

In reference to the recent bugs article, I wanted to share another defense against chiggers. We live in Texas and frequent areas that seem to be loved by chiggers. We've found that sulfur dust is a great chigger deterrent.

We put the sulfur dust in a sock and the tie a loose overhand knot in the sock. Before we go into a chigger infested area, like a dewberry patch or tall grass near a body of water, we'll take the sock and pat it on our shoes, socks and pants (or legs if wearing shorts) up to the knee.

It's not a foolproof method as we'll get an occasion chigger bite, but I've gone into the previously mentioned areas in shorts and yellow tinged legs without being bothered by chiggers. We also try to stay out of these areas during the morning, or at least until the heat has burned the moisture off of the plants. It seems that there are fewer chiggers on the dried vegetation.

Best Regards, - Jeff B.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Being “bugged” by insects is a problem we will likely face in TEOTWAWKI. Americans will spend more time outdoors in an effort to gather food and fuel as well as hunt and guard their retreat and resources. Exposure to insects will increase exponentially. Our defenses against pests will diminish significantly as our homes and retreats have their windows and doors left open more often. Also, the commonly available pesticides will probably not be available as supplies (of all kinds) decrease when TSHTF. We all know that insects have the potential to spread disease as well as lower our quality of life.  
While some insects have many beneficial roles in nature, this article will focus on those that are considered biting or stinging pests, e.g., ants, mosquitoes, flies, chiggers, fleas, ticks, lice, bees, wasps, and bedbugs.  Certainly, there are many more insects that can be considered pests. The brief descriptions here are intended to familiarize the preparing reader with insects that may be a nuisance when TEOTWAWKI comes and give some information on the dangers they pose and some suggestions for their control when supplies may be limited. Each of the listed insects below has a brief description, their likely locations, the effect and treatment of their bite or sting, as well as suggestions for their control when supplies may be limited.
Ants are found on nearly every inhabited land mass of the planet. Most ants serve beneficial roles in our ecosystem, but occasionally conflict with humans. Examples of such conflict include, invading retreat larders and foodstuffs, damage done to equipment by ant hills, and of course, ant bites. There are many species of ants: the Black Ant is the most common while the Fire Ant is the most feared. Ants may be nomadic but most build nests that are made up of chewed vegetation and soil. Their nests may be located on or underground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems, or even acorns, in and on buildings in walls, windows, and even electric appliances. Ants enter a home to forage or seek shelter or both. Most ant bites cause brief pain, but scratching at them can lead to skin infections. Fire Ants are the only ant species that both bite and sting. The sting can be painful for several hours. Multiple stings can cause anaphylaxis and death to individuals that are highly allergic to insect stings.  Treatment for ant bite/sting consist of topical cortisone cream and oral antihistamines such as Benadryl. Control of ants is difficult. For ants found in the home, a bait that the ants carry back to their nest is the most effective. Many commercial products are on the market and a supply should be included in your preparations. Other control methods are to be sure your home and retreat are tightly sealed with caulking, screens, etc before TSHTF. There are many folk remedies for repelling ants, many more than can be discussed here, but I’ll include citrus oil.  Save any citrus peels, boil them gently in a small amount of water for 10 minutes, strain, and spray areas that need ant control. Boric Acid powder placed where ants will walk through it clings to their exoskeleton and dehydrates them or is ingested when they groom and kills them. Boric acid can be effective for up to a year if kept dry.  Please investigate other remedies to determine what will store well, be affordable, and perform to your satisfaction.
Mosquitoes have been called by some “the most dangerous animal on Earth”.  Mosquitoes are found everywhere, except Antarctica. Stagnant pools of water are required for most mosquitoes to lay their eggs. The water can be fresh or salty depending on the species of mosquito. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and other plant juices, however, only the female of some mosquito species requires blood protein for egg production. Besides the irritation of their bite and possible allergic reactions, mosquitoes are known to transmit West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis and Eastern Equine Encephalitis to humans. Use insect repellent containing DEET, citrus oils, or diluted Skin So Soft (Avon) on exposed skin and/or clothing. Products containing 100% DEET have been shown to provide up to 12 hours of protection while those with concentrations of 20% - 30% DEET offer 3 – 6 hours of defense. DEET is very stable and is effective indefinitely as a mosquito repellent.  The repellent/insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing to protect through several washes. Always follow the directions on the package. Avon Skin-So-Soft (diluted 1:1 with water) sprayed on skin and clothing is an excellent, economical repellent. Wear long sleeves and pants when weather permits. Have secure screens on windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out. Limit outdoor activity during peak mosquito feeding times such as early morning and evening hours. Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flower pots, buckets, open barrels and other containers. Make small holes in tire swings so water will drain out. Children’s wading pools should be kept empty and on their sides when they aren't being used, as should similar containers.  

The Housefly comprises about 90% of the common flies. Not only is the Housefly a nuisance, it spreads diseases as well. Houseflies lay their eggs in decaying, organic material from which larvae (maggots) emerge and develop into the adult. Houseflies serve as vectors of diseases such as Amebiasis (amoebic dysentery), Giardiasis, Typhoid, Cholera, bacterial dysentery, and intestinal viruses to name only a few. Flyswatters may keep kids busy and provide temporary relief from these pests, but other control measures are needed. Several commercial fly sprays are available, use the one you are familiar with which provides the control, price and availability you desire. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, a DIY fly trap may be useful. Re-purposing a 2 Liter (or similar) bottle with a funnel taped to the mouth (small opening in the bottle). Use a little waste organic material or waste sweet substance as bait. When full, remove the funnel, place the cap on the bottle and pour on the compost pile. Start over again.. Remove organic trash daily (or more frequently) to the compost pile, which should be located well away from the residence and water source.  If Houseflies (or other flies) are a problem, look for the source of decaying organic material and remove it. Wipe out waste receptacles, rinse, and bleach weekly or as needed. Sanitation is the key to Housefly control. Horsefly females inflict a painful bite. They are present in nearly all of the United States. Control is difficult relying on long sleeves and pants with DEET  insect repellent. Horseflies are known to transmit many blood borne pathogens between humans and Tularemia from rabbits to humans in the western US. They also transmit Equine Encephalomyelitis to horses. 


Chiggers (aka Red Bugs) are found worldwide and are present in the United States. They are common in the Southeast and Midwest but rare in the northern areas, deserts, and mountain terrain. A Chigger is a mite that lives in forests, grasslands, low, damp, marshy areas and appears to be more active in early summer. They seem to thrive in hot humid climes. Chigger larvae attach to human (and several other animal) skin. These larvae form a hole in the skin (not a bite) and inject digestive enzymes through this hole. The Chigger larvae then ingest the cellular contents and after 3-5 days on its host they drop off. The redness, itching, and irritation of a Chigger “bite” are not usually noticed until more than 24 hours after their digestive juices are injected.  Chiggers are not known for transmitting serious disease in the U.S., however serious cellulitis and secondary bacterial infections are common. Over the counter topical corticosteroids and/or topical/oral antihistamines are often used to treat Chigger “bites”. Cool or warm baths have both been described as bringing relief for Trombiculiasis (Chigger “bite”s). Fingernail polish applied to the “bite” does not suffocate the Chigger as is commonly believed. Control methods include wearing long pants/long sleeved shirts when possibly entering an area Chiggers are known to infest. Use a DEET or permethrin  pesticide before engaging in activity near Chigger infested areas. Wash clothes in hot water or leave them out in the hot sun for an extended period will clear the Chigger larvae from the clothes. Widespread or spot/area pesticide treatment of areas known to have chigger infestations is probably not practical in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.


Lice (singular is Louse) are small insects that are very species specific. Human lice affect only humans, while different animal lice affect only their host specie, i.e. cattle louse for cattle, dog louse for dog, etc. Lice are spread by direct contact and there are three types of human lice. These are head lice, body lice and pubic lice. Head lice are spread by direct head to head contact, sharing combs and hair adornments (hats, caps, etc.). They are very common among children, but also spread by child-parent contact. Body lice are also spread by direct contact as well as by sharing clothing and like articles from an infested person. Pubic lice are spread by direct contact, sexual contact, and/or shared towels, bedding, and clothes. All three types of human lice feed on blood, but do not burrow under the skin. The body louse has been known to spread diseases such as typhus.  All lice cause itching, redness and the possibility of secondary bacterial skin infections due to the intense itching. Head lice are treated most effectively with  a combination of lice combs to remove the nits (louse eggs attached to hairs) and wet combing every 3-7 days until the infestation is cleared. Hot air blow drying until the nits are dehydrated is effective, but not against newly hatched larvae.  Several other treatments are described, but may not be available when TSHTF.  Prevention is directed at preventing contact with affected persons and scrupulous hygiene when an infestation of head lice is occurring. Body lice are more easily treated by improving personal hygiene and washing clothing, towels, and bedding in hot water greater than 130 degrees F. Leaving clothes unwashed, but unworn for greater than a week will also kill the lice and prevent lice eggs from hatching.  Pubic Lice (aka Crabs) require clothing and bedding to be laundered and topical treatment by a physician using a permethrin or lindane product. Sexual or other direct (or indirect) contact should be avoided until the infestation is cleared. The take home message about lice is not to let an infestation get started in a TEOTWAWKI situation. There’s enough to worry about. Be careful of sexual, direct, or indirect contact (by group or family members) with new additions to your group until sure they are healthy to prevent pediculosis (louse infestation) as well as other health problems.


Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed exclusively on blood. The name "bed bug" comes from its preferred habitat: inside of or near beds or bedding in warm houses. Bed bugs are mainly active at night. They usually feed on their hosts without being noticed.  Many adverse health effects may result from bed bug bites, including skin rashes, psychological effects, and allergic symptoms. Diagnosis involves both finding bed bugs and the occurrence of compatible symptoms. Bed bugs are bloodsucking insects. They are attracted to humans mainly by carbon dioxide and body heat. Their bites are not usually noticed at the time. Itchy welts develop slowly and may take weeks to go away. Bed bugs prefer to bite exposed skin, especially the face, neck and arms of a sleeping individual. It takes between five to ten minutes for a bed bug to become completely engorged with blood and then it returns to its hiding place. Bed bugs can live for a year without feeding; they normally try to feed every five to ten days. When it’s cold, bed bugs live for about a year while at warmer temperatures they survive about five months. Bedbugs are carried to new locations on clothing, luggage, visiting pets, and transfer of furniture and/or on the human body. They may also travel between connected dwellings through duct work or false ceilings. Elimination of bed bugs is difficult. They are beginning to enjoy resistance to many pesticides. The active ingredient Lambda-Cyhalothrin found in Hot Shot Spider Killer has been found to be effective, but not appealing to use around human sleeping areas. Vacuuming, heat treating mattresses and bedding as well as wrapping mattresses must be included in any attempt to exterminate bed bugs, here again, be careful what you bring into your home or retreat. Bed bugs are hard to find and usually move only at night. They usually stay unnoticed in dark crevices, and their eggs can be found in fabric seams. Aside from bite symptoms, signs include fecal spots, blood smears on sheets, and molts. Bed bugs can be seen alone, but often congregate once established. They usually remain close to hosts, commonly in or near beds or couches. Bed bugs can also be detected by a unique smell described as that of rotting raspberries.


Fleas are small pests that cause discomfort and disease. They are laterally compressed, wingless insects that are found worldwide. Both male and female fleas bite and feed on the skin cells and blood of their host which may be human or domestic animals such as dogs or cats and rabbits, squirrels, etc.  For every adult flea found on a host, there are many more in the environment. Fleas cause discomfort by biting and crawling on the hosts’ skin. Their bites cause itchiness and redness. Some people may be highly allergic to these bites. Fleas also spread diseases such as plague, flea-born typhus, and cat-scratch fever. Treat flea bites with topical steroid or antihistamine creams, and/or calamine preparations. Flea control is difficult, especially if you have canine security or feline rodent control as part of your preparations. Modern flea control for pets is very effective; however the best topical or oral flea control products may not be available long when the grid is down. There are many, many flea control suggestions. Some are effective and others are hopeful. The following suggestions are offered for use when better flea control products may not be available. Salt, boric acid (borate), or baking soda can be applied liberally to bed linens and laundry mixed well in a closed container and left for 24 hours, then washed thoroughly. This will dehydrate and kill the fleas. These same compounds can be liberally sprinkled on floors and other places fleas may hide. Luckily, these are non-toxic and have many other uses so they may be too precious to use for flea control. Stock up! On the pet, most shampoos and diluted dishwashing detergents will kill fleas if lathered well for 10-20 minutes and rinsed well, however, this offers no long lasting control. Another suggestion is to use as much discarded citrus peelings or rinds as you can, boil in a small amount of water for 10 minutes and allow to steep overnight. The resulting fluid may be used as a non-toxic flea spray on humans, pets, and the environment, if you are lucky enough to have citrus fruits available. Have a container to accumulate citrus rinds and peelings to make as much of this fluid as you need.

Ticks are not insects, but are included in this discussion as they are biting pests that cause discomfort and transmit disease. Ticks are present worldwide and are known to transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Colorado Tick Fever, as well as several other blood borne disease like babesiosis. They can also cause tick paralysis in humans and animals. The treatment of these diseases is not in the scope of this discussion, but is important for any outdoors person to be familiar with. If a tick is discovered on a human or pet, it must be removed with care not to force more of the fluid in the tick into the bite wound. Tweezers are recommended to remove the tick by grasping the attached mouth parts and head and gently rocking them out of the skin, being sure to remove the mouthparts and head. If these parts remain attached to the victim, gently scrape to remove these parts much like a splinter. Of course, wash and treat the bite as a wound. Tick control can be accomplished with regular inspection of your body especially after walking through tick infested areas. Also, many of the commercial mosquito control products containing DEET work well for tick control. An interesting approach for tick control in the environment, especially in a survival situation, is the use of guinea fowl. An article in the New York Times reports that 2 guineas can clear 2 acres of ticks in a year. As a bonus, guineas and their eggs can be cooked and eaten, plus they may add to security by setting up a ruckus if a predator or stranger comes near.

Bees and Wasps are truly venomous insects that are common throughout the United States. There are several types including the Paper Wasp, Yellow Jacket, Hornet, Mud (or Dirt) Dauber, and Cicada Killer as well as Honey Bee, Bumble Bee and Carpenter Bee. The Honey Bee may be the most beneficial insect to humans. All these venomous insects contribute to agriculture by honey production, pollination, and pest control, but may pose a threat to humans when their nests are disturbed. These insects feed on nectar, sugary plant juices, ripe or rotting fruit, and attractive, sugary human foodstuffs. Many of them prey on spiders, caterpillars, and other insects to feed their developing larvae.  Wasps and bees make their nests in many different fashions. Honey bees build colonies of combs or cells made of beeswax in tiers or layers located in tree cavities, rocks, spaces in buildings and commercial hives. Honey bees swarm when a newly produced queen leaves the colony with workers looking for a new place to establish a colony. A swarm is typically not aggressive and will usually settle in 2 – 4 days.  Bumble bees are larger, more hairy relatives of the honey bee. They burrow in the ground and use old rodent dens. Carpenter bees have little hair and are very similar in appearance to the Bumble bee. Their abdomens are typically slick. The female deposits its larvae in a tunnel with ½ inch diameter holes that extend several inches into wood. Male Carpenter bees cannot sting but will “bluff” when protecting the tunnel. Yellow Jackets make their nests in the ground, attics, crawl spaces and wall spaces. Hornets are bigger relatives of the wasps and make their paper, upside-down, pear shaped nests in trees, attics, and eaves of structures located in or near forests. Mud Daubers and Cicada Killers make their nests out of dirt on the sides of structures or burrow in the ground.  Only the female bees and wasps have stingers, which are adaptations of the ovipositor.  Honey, Bumble and female Carpenter bees typically are not aggressive unless provoked. Honey bees rarely sting when away from the colony however, but will actively defend the colony. Africanized Honey bees are more aggressive and attack in greater numbers when threatened. Paper Wasps build nests under eaves of buildings, trees, or other structures that they feel are out of the way and not likely to be disturbed. They will aggressively defend their nest if provoked. 

Yellow Jackets cause more stings than any other bee or wasp. They are notoriously belligerent. Yellow Jackets are attracted to sweets, and like the paper wasps, they feed on nectar and plant juices but prey on insects, spiders, and caterpillars to feed their larvae. Hornets behave like the wasps, but are slightly larger. Mud Daubers and Cicada Killers are wasps but are very passive and only sting when handled roughly. Their nests are the familiar dirt tubes found on walls or in the ground. Honey Bees stingers are strongly barbed compared to other bees or wasps. As such, when the Honey bee stings, the stinger is lodged in the skin and torn out of and along with other parts of its abdomen. Therefore, Honey Bees can only sting once and die shortly after stinging.  Honey Bee Queens stinger has no barb and can sting repeatedly, but rarely do. Other bees and wasps can sting repeatedly, and do not necessarily die from the act of stinging alone.  Bees, wasps, and hornets may release an aggression pheromone when killed, threatened, or stinging to identify a threat and raise an alarm to the rest of its colony. This pheromone goes away slowly and may stay on even after being rinsed with water. Therefore, these venomous insects may attack again after the perceived threat has gone under water and re-emerged.  

Bee, wasp, or hornet stings (venoms) vary in intensity by the type of insect. Usually they only cause brief pain, swelling, and redness which may last a few hours to a day or so. Some people are highly allergic to bee or wasp stings such that one sting can be fatal. Treatment for a bee or wasp sting is to rapidly remove the stinger, either by scraping the stinger out or removing it with fingers being careful not to stick yourself again. No difference has been proven between scraping or plucking the stinger from the skin, the more important factor seems to be removing the stinger quickly so that less venom is injected. Several home remedies such as applying tobacco, toothpaste, pennies, clay, urine, onion, baking soda and other similar applications circulate in folklore, but are not proven to be of benefit other than that from rubbing the area and the placebo effect. Ice applied to the area has the best result as for reducing the pain and swelling. People known to be highly allergic to bee and wasp stings should have an EpiPen or other source of epinephrine readily available. These people should be monitored closely and treated for anaphylactic shock if necessary. Destroying the nest of bees and wasps that are likely to conflict with humans is the most important part of bee and wasp control. Aerosol wasp and hornet sprays are available, and a significant supply should be available in your home or retreat. Sometimes destroying a nest becomes more of a threat than if the nest is simply left alone.

Honey Bees are the only one of the flying venomous insects that survive the winter. The others produce a queen to start over again and usually do not re-use a nest after freezing weather. Other control techniques involve good sanitation where foods are stored, prepared, eaten, and discarded. Also, using trash receptacles that have a tight lid and are cleaned as needed and regularly is important.  Control is not easy given that these insects usually nest in places that may be secluded and not frequently used. It is tempting to save gasoline or diesel fuel that is no longer useful, to kill ants, wasps, or bees with, but be aware of the risk these fuels may have if there is accidental skin or eye contact or inhalation. The flammable or explosive nature of old fuels may present more of a hazard than the insects you need to manage. Wasp and Hornet sprays can be used as a personal defense spray when directed at the face of an unwanted attacker - which may qualify it as a force multiplier.  

In conclusion, be prepared. Have your home and retreat pest proof. Seal cracks in walls and floors, use window screens and screen doors where appropriate and have a way to mend them. Include first aid items for insect bites and stings in your medical supply. Research and stock up on pesticides and repellents with an emphasis on those pests common to the area your home and retreat are in. Realistically guesstimate the quantities you may need or wish to have for barter or charity. Be cautious of who and what you allow into your home or retreat as they may bring insect pests. Always use good hygiene and sanitation. As preparations are made for TEOTWAWKI, please remember that it will be a long haul. My hope is that we will all thrive, not merely survive. If your arrangements have progressed past the Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids stage, remember that you will have some company in the form of insects. Given the information above you can make some educated preparation. Now, of course, this information is not exhaustive and you should do more due diligence on this topic, just as you should with any other preparation. Where pesticides are used, it is the applicator’s legal responsibility to read and follow directions on the product label. None of the commercial products listed here are endorsed nor do I have any commercial interest by mentioning them. A physician, veterinarian, entomologist, nurse or pest control technician should be consulted if possible for more information, ideally before it is needed.


List of Items for Bug Management

  • Cortisone Cream
  • Benadryl Cream
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Benadryl Capsules
  • EpiPen
  • Neosporin, Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • Crab Louse Insecticide containing Permethrin or Lindane
  • Avon Skin-So-Soft
  • Deep Woods Off – DEET 25%
  • Repel 100 – DEET 100%
  • Wasp/Hornet Spray
  • Hot Shot Spider Killer
  • Fly Swatters & Mosquito Nets
  • Bleach
  • Salt, Boric Acid, Baking Soda – in bulk
  • Tweezers
  • Louse Combs
  • Spray Bottles – generic
  • Other Items desired for your specific needs


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Fact sheets
How to Manage Ants – University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
Iowa State University Extension Department web site
DEETonline - web site
University of Wisconsin Extension Department web site
University of Florida – Medical Entomology Laboratory web site
US Environmental Protection Agency web site
US Department of Agriculture web site

Author's Personal Experience: Twenty years of Scouting: Scoutmaster, District Chairman, Board Member. More than 300 days and nights of camping (front country and back country). Firsthand experience with all of these pests while camping – except the bedbugs.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Disclaimer: I have to say that I am not a physician and nothing I tell you is a substitute for good medical care. I am an RN with many years of experience in Emergency Room care, but that does not qualify me to advise you in medicine when there are Emergency Rooms all over the USA with qualified physicians on duty to take care of your health problem. The things I’m going to tell you only apply in a TEOTWAWKI situation. Use any information I am going to give you at your own risk.

That being said, what do you do if you’re bitten by a striped bark scorpion? First of all, let’s make sure that’s what bit you. A striped bark scorpion (or Centruriodes vattatus) is native to Northern Mexico and the Central United States, but I’ve heard it can be found all over this great nation of ours. It’s certainly the most common scorpion encountered in the US. Now, in South West United States, there is such a creature as the Arizona Bark Scorpion. It’s the most venomous scorpion in the US, but the fatality numbers are so low, it’s probably more likely that you’ll die choking on asparagus. However, knowing the difference between the two types can save your life, or your dog or your goat or whatever you have. I recommend that you look at some pictures of them right now. It’s okay, I’ll be here when you get back. I could describe them all day long, but a picture is worth a thousand words. You’ll notice that the Striped Bark Scorpion is about two to three inches long and has two broad, black stripes running down the length of its back (it’s striped, who knew). The Arizona Bark Scorpion is similar in build, but it’s more of a uniform light brown. While the striped one is venomous and its sting is highly painful; I’ve never seen anyone have a reaction more than that of a typical wasp, bee or fire ant sting. That being said, most of the tips I’m going to give you are treatments for wasp, bee or fire ant stings too. Just remember, this article is not about the Arizona bark scorpion, just the striped variety.

An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure. It certainly beats a mouthful of colorful expletives that you might have to explain to your small kids later on if you get stung. Striped bark scorpions tend to be nocturnal. That means they do most of their business at night. But, they sleep in cozy little places and tend be upset if you wake them; so don’t let your guard down because the sun is out. They really like dark and damp places, so if you have dark and damp places, take extra precautions. Be careful when lifting up old tree bark or wood that has been on the ground for more than a few hours. That also goes for rocks, bricks, tools, helicopters or anything that you might have laying around in the yard. When you bring firewood in, give it a good once over if you’re not putting it immediately on the fire. Keep your yard mowed and trim tree limbs so that they don’t touch your home. Invest in a cat, invest in two cats! Over the counter sprays and pesticides do very little if anything at all to kill scorpions, but cats will eat those little dudes up! If you live in the country, get some Guinea Fowl. Guineas are veracious little insectivores (omnivores, actually) and they’ll mostly leave your garden alone. You dog will be thankful for all the yummy ticks they take care of, also. As an added bonus, they lay eggs that taste like chicken eggs and cook up nicely with dumplings. Just be careful with your guineas because they’re very susceptible to predators, like cats.

Now that we know how to keep scorpions away from yourself, let’s talk about some other things we can do before TEOTWAWKI to minimize bad outcomes. After all, the very nature of prepping is having things ready before things go south. Get a tetanus shot. You should have one anyway. If you haven’t had one in the last ten years, make an appointment to get one first thing in the morning. Tetanus is a much more painful death than a scorpion sting. A tetanus shot is good for ten years, unless you have a scratch, then it’s five years. Getting one today will help you when there’s no doctor or ER to go to.  Have lots of soap on hand. Also, know the difference between soap and detergent. Most soaps you buy today are just detergent that will cut grease and make you smell nice, but they really don’t disinfect. Look for antibacterial soaps. Just in the regular world, I don’t recommend them; but for TEOTWAWKI, they’ll become essential. Lye soap can disinfect. Learn how to make it, it’s not too difficult. Make sure you have access to clean water. It’s always a good idea to not only have clean water to drink, but for first aid, also. Always know how much you weigh and how much your children weigh. It’s terrible important. There are three medications I recommend having on hand. Benadryl and Ibuprofen or Aspirin are the two most useful. The third is an EpiPen, which is available by prescription only. We’ll talk about that one later. First, let’s cover immediate first aid.

If you get stung by a striped bark scorpion, the first thing you do is scream like a little girl and dance around because it hurts like a mad bastard. You’ll know it because it almost feels like a bee sting but worse. When you calm down and regain some self control, look at where it bit you. Is the insect still in a place where it can sting you again or sting one of your children as they run towards you to find out why you’re expressing your filthy mouth? Is it still on your pants leg? Go ahead and kill it. Don’t worry, they’re not endangered. God will make more. Smash it with a shoe, scoop a little dirt and then bury it so it won’t sting you or your kids again. Wash it with clean water and soap. If it’s today and the lights are on, regular soap is okay. If it’s post TEOTWAWKI, then you want to use an antibacterial soap or lye soap. The risk and incidence of infection will be so much higher. If you have ice, put ice on it, but for no more than twenty-four hours. Be careful with ice, too. Placing it directly on your skin can cause frost burn. Elevate your offended body part and keep it still for about twenty-four hours. Expect to have pain and some numbness in your entire extremity for up to forty-eight hours. Never be afraid to seek medical help. If you have a reliable family doctor or an Emergency Room within a day’s drive, go see them.

Warning! Math content ahead! Before we go any further, let’s take a minute to learn how to convert pounds to kilograms. It’ll be important later if you want to save your children’s life. You take a weight in pounds and either divide it by 2.2 or multiply it times 0.45. So, if you weigh 123 pounds, 123 X 0.45=55.35 kilograms (just round it off to 55). Okay, moving on.
Benadryl is useful as an antihistamine. Basically, when you have an insect sting, your body releases chemical called histamine.  Histamine, in turn, triggers and inflammatory response. That is what makes a bite so red and itchy. Also, if you are prone to allergic reactions to insect stings, this can be helpful in saving your life. Any medications I tell you about are best taken as soon as possible. Let me repeat that, it’ll be on the test. In the event of a scorpion sting, take these meds as soon as you can get them in your body! In a true anaphylactic (allergic) emergency, seconds count! Benadryl works by blocking histamine, therefore blocking some inflammation. If you are an adult weighing over 100 pounds, take 50 milligrams. If you have pills, you’ve wasted your money, but we’ll talk about that later. If you have twenty-five milligram pills and that’s all you have, take two of them (twenty-five plus twenty-five equals fifty, see how that works?). The reason I say that the pills are a waste of money is that the liquid works much faster. It tastes horrible, it costs more and it’s hard to store, but the faster absorption can be the difference between life and death when seconds count. Remember seconds? If you are an adult weighing over one-hundred pounds and you have Benadryl liquid that is 12.5 milligrams in a teaspoon, then take four teaspoons. If one of your children gets stung, give them Benadryl at 1 to 2 milligrams per kilogram. So, if your kid weighs 50 pounds, that’s 22.5 kilograms. 2 milligrams per kilogram turns out to be 45 milligrams of medicine (2X22.5=45). 45 milligrams divided by 12.5 milligrams = 3.6 teaspoons. Since there’s 5 milliliters in a teaspoon, we will give 18 milliliters (3.6 X 5=18).

Wow, have a headache yet?

Now, let’s talk about Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen, Motrin and Advil are all the same thing. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. So, after the histamine makes inflammation, the Ibuprofen will kick in. Still, don’t waste any time taking it. It’s okay to mix Benadryl and Ibuprofen. For grownups weighing more than 100 pounds, take 400 milligrams. Again, take a liquid. If your Ibuprofen is mixed 100 milligrams to one teaspoon for the kids give 5 milligrams per kilogram. So, if your child weighs 50 pounds, that’s 22.5 kilograms. 5 milligrams per kilogram turns out to be 112.5 milligrams of medicine (5 X 22.5=112.5). 112.5 milligrams divided by 100 milligrams = 1.125 teaspoons. We’ll just give one teaspoon.
Burns your eyes, don’t it?

Okay, next let’s talk about EpiPens. No more math, I promise. An EpiPen is available by prescription only. It’s a shot that you give to yourself if you’re having an allergic reaction to anything, insect bites included. If you need one, make sure you see your family physician, get a prescription, get it filled and carry it with you at all times. It contains a prescribed dose of adrenaline to get you to the ER so that doctors and nurses can take it from there. If you can’t get to an ER, say a little prayer. If you know you’re allergic to insect bites and you get one in a TEOTWAWKI situation, always use your EpiPen, because it’s the best chance you have. If you use one or not, go ahead and pray. It’s never too late to get yourself right with God.
What are the symptoms you might experience when stung by a striped bark scorpion? Let’s see.  The site will be red. It’ll be painful if you mash on it.  Check and make sure there’s not a stinger left in there. A scorpion won’t leave a stinger, but a bee will and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. If you see a stinger, scrape it out with a clean fingernail. Numbness and tingling.  Those are the local signs. You might sweat, vomit or feel palpitations (heart fluttering). That’s less common, but it’s a sign of a more serious reaction. If you get dizzy, feel your throat and lips swelling, get restless or irritable, that’s even more serious.

The most important rule of all is to stay calm. Running around in circles and acting like a chicken with its head cut off gets you nowhere. People make mistakes when they panic and panic is much more dangerous than any insect known to man. No matter what, if you’re not sure what to do, always ask somebody who knows. Again, this information is for use only in TEOTWAWKI. Otherwise, use it at your own risk.

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.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A little about me: I am 27 years old, I have been married to my wife for 7 years. We have two boys, ages six and 22 months. Both my wife and I are school teachers; I also coach football and power lifting. So, we are the epitome of the American middle class. I have always enjoyed hunting, camping and the outdoors. So I have developed some basic “outdoorsman” skills throughout my youth and early adult hood.
As a young child and early teen, I was very interested in survival, homesteading, and living off the land. I remember reading Foxfire books with my grandfather and dreaming of becoming a true mountain man. I wanted to be a real Jeremiah Johnson. My grandfather passed away when I was thirteen and I subsequently lost interest because it was something we talked about together. It was just too upsetting to think about without him. Shortly after his passing, I began high school and eventually college and “got caught up in life”.
In the last several months, I have become very interested in emergency preparedness for my family. I was truly overwhelmed with the amount of information I discovered; some of it very good, some so-so, and some just plain off-the-wall. I am writing this in hopes that it will save others in the same situation I was in some time. Just like in any other survival or preparedness situation, time is of the essence.
This article is meant as an introduction for someone who has little to no background information on the subject. This article could also be useful to the serious prepper who never thought about how they would get back to their shelter if a disaster struck while they were “out and about.” This is a “primer” to get people thinking about survival situations. Are there some better choices out there? Possibly. Did I say my suggestions were the cold, hard, fast rules?  No. Take this article as it was meant.
I have run across several three tier survival models in my searching. I have also discovered several good sources for emergency preparedness for bugging out and sheltering in place. I have combined the information in what I am calling 4-Tier Survival. The tiers are as follows:

  • TIER ONE: This is your everyday carry (EDC) on person. You should have this with you 24/7 or as close to 24/7 seven as possible. Basically, if you have pants on, you should have these items with you.
  • TIER TWO: This is your EDC bag. You should have this with you or within reach 24/7. Take it with you to work, the grocery store, running to the gas station, etc. If you walk out the door of your house, it should be with you.
  • TIER THREE: This is your 72 hour kit, bug out bag, SHTF bag, or any of those other catchy names for them. At a minimum you need one. If you only have the funds for one, so be it. But, eventually I would suggest having one for the house, the vehicle and possibly at work if you have the space to store one.
  • TIER FOUR: This is for long term preparedness. This is long-term food and water storage and procurement methods. Always prepare your home to shelter-in-place first. Then, if you have a secondary bug out location, prepare it. Depending on the disaster or emergency you may or may not be able to bug out. On the other hand, you may be forced to evacuate or bug out.

Before I go any farther in this article I want to give you a great piece of advice: Develop and hone your knowledge, ability and skills over the knives, tools and kits. A vast amount of knowledge and skills with a minimum amount of tools will keep you and your family alive a lot longer than a vast amount of tools and minimum amount knowledge and skills will. This may seem contradictory to what this article is about. But, do not lose sight of this advice. Everyone knows someone who has the newest, best whatever it is but no clue how to use it. This makes them look like a fool. Don’t be a fool.
When creating the tiers, I kept in mind the basic needs of a survival situation, shelter, water, fire, food and I am going to add protection. In a the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) situation, protecting yourself, your family, home, supplies and gear could be a paramount priority. The first three tiers will enable you to get to your fourth tier. We all find ourselves away from
Now, let’s discuss the tools and supplies I feel are needed for each tier. This is by no means the end all, be all list of what is needed. This is what I have come up with for my kits. Feel free to add or take away as you feel necessary. This is based off of my skill set and my family needs. I wanted to condense a lot of information into a single article and basically get you thinking about what you will need. I want you to come up with your own kits. I also wanted to show you that all of the tiers are possible. They will take some time, energy and money, but anyone can do this.
Note: I will not get very technical in the types/brands of items to carry. Use your own judgment; remember, most times you get what you pay for. Also, I go by the mantra, “Two is one, one is none.”
TIER ONE: On-person EDC

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality folding knife of your choice. Make sure it is sharp. You are more likely to injure yourself trying to cut something with a dull knife than you are using a sharp knife.
    • Quality multi-tool. There are many options available. Look at the type of environment you spend the majority of time in, consider your skills, and use this to decide the brand/style of tool you want to carry.
    • Lock picks/Bogota – I choose NOT to carry these as of now. Remember what I said about skills earlier. I know I don’t have the skills needed to use these. Now, once I develop the skills, they will be added to my EDC.
    • Small compass. Just to get a general direction if needed.
    • Pen and small notepad. I personally like the waterproof kind. Nothing like getting caught in the rain and losing everything you have made notes of.
    • Small survival whistle.
    • Cotton bandana.
    • P-38 can opener. I carry one on my key ring. I forget it is even there, until I need it.
  • Cell Phone
    • Pretty self-explanatory. Pretty much everyone has a cell phone that they carry anyway. [JWR Adds: It is important to also keep a 12 VDC cell phone "car charger" handy.]
  • Cordage
    • 550 Cord. There are lots of different, creative ways to carry. There are bracelets, key fobs, zipper pulls, belts, even lacing your boots/shoes with it. Learn how to braid your own items.
  • Fire
    • Small brand name lighter. Cheap and easy to carry way to start a fire.
    • Small firesteel. Another cheap, easy to carry way to start a fire.
    • Tinder. Could be a magnesium rod, dryer lint, or any brand of quick tinder that is out on the market now, you should know what works. I prefer magnesium rods; they take up less room and are light.
  • Firearm
    • I am not going to start the never-ending conversation of discussing brands and calibers.
    • Find a gun that you can comfortably carry and shoot.
    • Shoot, a lot.
    • Shoot from behind cover, kneeling, sitting, lying down, standing, off hand, from one yard to 25 yards.
    • Shoot some more.
    • Practice reloading, practice reloading behind cover, practice reloading standing, kneeling, lying down, off hand.
    • Practice some more.
  • Light
    • Small flashlight. I personally look for an LED version that runs off of AA or AAA batteries. Look for one that is waterproof or at the very least water resistant.
    • Keychain LED light. Look for one that has a locking on/off switch. These are easier to use in the fact that they do not have to have constant pressure on the switch to illuminate.
  • USB Drive
    • I use my USB drive to store all types of important documents and other information I run across and want to save. I have encrypted my USB drive in case it falls into the wrong hands. (I strongly suggest doing this.) Also, save the information under nondescript names. In other words, don’t save the file as: “Insurance Papers” or “Social Security Cards”, etc.
    • Birth/Marriage Certificates
    • Social Security Cards
    • Driver’s License
    • Insurance Policies/Cards
    • Vehicle Registrations/Insurance
    • Medical/Shot Record
    • Recent Check Stubs/Bank Statements
    • Stocks/Bonds
    • Property Description
    • Another option/addition to this is online file storage. There are many places available on the internet to store files on a remote server and be able to access from any computer or cell phone with internet access.

Some people I have seen carry as much as possible on their keychain. The only thing with that is if you lose your keys, you have lost a lot of your gear. I carry some stuff on my belt, some in pockets and some on a keychain. I have even seen and thought about carrying some items around my neck. Whatever you feel comfortable with and what works for you is best.

Tier two is going to contain pretty much everything from tier one except bigger and better.

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality fixed blade knife of your choice. Again make sure it is sharp.
    • Sharpening stone.
    • Quality multi-tool. I would look at one to complement the one from tier one. A little larger and possibly features that the other does not have. I personally wouldn’t want the exact same model from tier one. Look at the ones that have the screwdriver possibilities.
    • Small entry bar or pry bar.
    • Larger more reliable compass. Possibly a GPS system if you are so inclined. If you are in a large urban environment, I would have a city map in my EDC bag.
    • Pens and notepad again. Plenty of pens and permanent markers.
    • P-51 can opener.(A scaled-up version of the P-38.)
  • Cell Phone/Communications
    • This is where I would keep a wall charger for my cell phone.
    • I would also think about one of the emergency chargers that run off of batteries at this point.
    • I also carry a pay-as-you go phone in my EDC bag. On some occasions when one service is down, others are still up and running. It’s a cheap insurance policy.
    • Radio of some sort. Depends on your location and abilities.
  • Cordage
    • I would carry no less than 25 feet of 550 cord in my EDC bag. The more the better. Again, options here, braid it to take up less space, key fobs, I’ve seen some braided water bottle carriers. Use your imagination
    • I have run across Kevlar cord, no personal experience with it. But, something I will check out.
    • I would toss in some duct tape and electrical tape here. You can take it off of the cardboard roll and roll it onto itself and it takes up very little room.
    • Possibly some wire, picture hanging wire works well.
    • Possibly some zip ties. Various sizes as you see fit.
    • I also have a couple of carabiners clipped to my bag.
  • Fire
    • Another cheap lighter.
    • Larger firesteel.
    • More tinder. Personally I prefer the magnesium, but whatever you are comfortable with.
  • Firearm
    • I personally don’t see the need to carry a second firearm.
    • I would however warrant the carrying of at least two spare magazines for the handgun in tier one.
  • First-Aid
    • Basic first aid kit.
    • Package of quick slotting agent.
    • Basic EMT shears.
    • Basic pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach tablets etc.
    • Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
    • Baby wipes.
  • Food
    • I always carry a couple of energy or meal replacement bars in my bag. If nothing else, I may have to work through lunch and need a snack.
    • Some people will toss a freeze-dried meal or MRE if they have room. Personally, I don’t.
    • A small pack of hard candy.
  • Light
    • I personally prefer a headlamp at this stage. You can use a headlamp as a flashlight; you can’t use a flashlight as a headlamp.
    • If you don’t go the headlamp route, choose a higher quality flashlight than tier one.
    • Extra batteries. On the subject of batteries, do your best to acquire electronic items that use the same size of battery.
    • Another keychain light. I have one attached to the inside of my bag to aid in finding items inside in low-light situations.
    • Some people carry chemical light sticks in their EDC bag. I have found battery operated light sticks that also have a small flashlight in one end I prefer to carry.
  • Shelter
    • I keep a packable rain jacket at all times and depending on the weather a packable pair of rain pants. Remember, your clothing is your first form of shelter.
    • I also keep a couple of “survival” blankets in my bag.
    • I keep a couple of contractor style garbage bags as well.
  • Water
    • I have a stainless steel water bottle that stays in my pack at all times. If I am traveling longer than my normal commute, I will toss in a small collapsible water container.
    • Ziploc bags.
    • Two-part chemical water purifier.
    • Filtering drinking straw.
    • Toss in a couple of standard coffee filters to filter sediment if needed.

Now, bear in mind, my EDC bag is not for long-term survival. I feel like I could sustain myself for several days if I needed to with the contents of my pack. However, that is not its intended use. All of the tiers are designed to sustain you until you can “make it” to the next tier.

My EDC bag is the same bag I use for school every day. Granted I cannot carry a weapon or ammunition into the school building. My point is you don’t want all of your Tier Two items to be so big and bulky that you can’t comfortably carry them. All of this stuff is in addition to my school books and papers and tablet. For those of you that are curious, I prefer a messenger style bag. But, again, whatever works for you and is the most comfortable.

TIER THREE: Larger rucksack or backpack

A lot of people would call this the 72 hour kit. I feel that this is a bit of a misnomer. Granted, 72 hours is a good figure for most people to shoot for. However, I feel that in this stage of the game, you should be able to carry enough to survive indefinitely. 

  • Blades/Tools
    • Quality fixed blade knife. If you want you can double up from tier two. Depends on your requirements. Remember, two is one, one is none.
    • Small quality folding shovel.
    • Quality hatchet.
    • Small machete. If you feel that your knife is up to the task of clearing brush, no need for one. Also, if you are in a true bug out situation where people could be looking for you, you don’t want to clear a highway through the brush.
    • Some type of saw or saw blades. There are some nice pocket chain saws on the market now. Or you could carry blades and fashion your own handle or frame.
    • Tools for forced entry if warranted. Pry bars, bolt cutters, etc.
    • Tool kit. Depends on your location and environment. At the bare minimum carry enough tools to repair anything that you are depending on in a survival situation.
  • Cell Phone/Communications
    • Depending on the level of the disaster cell phones may or may or may not be working.
    • Again, depending on your location and abilities, depends on the type of communications you should carry.
    • One thing I have not seen widely talked about is two way radios. Obviously this would be if more than one person is in your party. However, now you start talking about batteries and chargers.
  • Cordage
    • At least 100 feet of 550 cord.
    • Depending on your environment, climbing rope, harness and gear may be warranted.
    • Tape, electrical and duct.
    • Zip ties, various sizes
    • Wire, picture wire.
    • Carabiners, various sizes.
  • Fire
    • Cheap lighter.
    • Firesteel.
    • Tinder.
    • Camp stove. Small, lightweight, portable. A lot of good information about this out there. Pay special attention to the type of fuel that the stove you select uses.
  • Firearm

This depends on the type of situation you are in. I will list the types of firearms I would have, not necessarily carry, and reasons why. If this is a true bug out situation obviously the adults in your party could carry at least one, more than likely two, long guns.

    • We have already discussed a handgun.
    • “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Be it an AR based platform, an AK-47, Mini-14 etc. I personally like the AR platform. However, A’s can be a bit finicky if not properly cleaned and maintained. Something you may not be able to do well in a TEOTWAWKI situation. So, I would grab an AK-47. Whatever your budget and preference lead you to.
    • .22 caliber rifle. There are many options, I personally recommend the Ruger 10-22. There are several collapsible stocks available. This is for hunting small game.
    • Home defense shotgun. I would suggest a 12 gauge. The options and setups are endless. You can go as mild or as wild as your budget and imagination allow. This is not something I would necessarily always grab. However, this is something I feel that no home should be without. The sound of a shell racking into the chamber of a pump shotgun is a sound that will deter most people without even firing a shot.
    • Extra magazines and ammunition.
  • First-Aid
    • More advanced first aid kit. There are pre-made ones on the market or come up with your own.
    • Quick clotting agent.
    • EMT Shears.
    • Pain relievers, fever reducers, upset stomach pills, etc.
    • A week’s supply of any prescription medications.
    • Any supply of antibiotics or narcotics that you can procure.
    • Knowledge of natural/herbal remedies. Here is a great area where knowledge can help you a lot longer than supplies can.
  • Food
    • If you want to put in a three day supply of freeze-dried meals or MRE’s. Go for it. But here is where procuring your own food will come in handy.
    • I would suggest some type of mess style kit for cooking. Again, your choice.
    • Fishing kit. Fishing line, assortment of hooks, sinkers and artificial bait if desired.
    • Fishing “yo-yo” traps. Can be set and left alone to catch fish while you are doing some other task. I feel these are a necessity. They are light and take up little room.
    • Snare kit. I would suggest several pre-made snares and supplies to create more.
    • Traps. Connibear style traps, an assortment of sizes. 4-6 is all you should need.
    • Frog gigs. Could also be used for spearing fish, depending on your location.
    • You also have a firearm for taking small or large game.
    • Knowledge of wild edibles in your area or bug out location.
  • Light
    • Again, I would suggest a headlamp and extra batteries.
    • Use your discretion for what else you may want/need.
  • Shelter
    • Two changes of clothes. One for warm weather and one for cool/cold weather. Again depending on your environment.
    • I would suggest at least 3 pair of underwear and 6 pair of socks.
    • Packable rain gear.
    • Quality bivy style shelter or tarp.
    • Quality sleeping bag. Again, do some research. See what fits your needs and budget.
    • Sleeping pad if wanted.
    • Possibly a pocket style hammock.
  • Water
    • Stainless steel water bottle.
    • Chemical water treatment.
    • Water filter/purifier. Again, look at your budget and needs. There are several nice options out there.
    • Coffee filters for straining out sediment.
    • Collapsible water storage.


TIER FOUR: Long term preparedness.
Even though this is the largest of all the tiers, I will probably go into the least amount of detail. There are many great sources of information concerning long term preparedness, SurvivalBlog.com being one of the best, if not the best, in my opinion.

  • Blades/Tools
    • Obviously any blade or tool previously discussed. Except full size versions.
    • An ax, saws, shovels, garden hoes, rakes, etc.
    • Possibly a plow, seeder, etc, for planting a garden.
    • Variety of hand tools.
    • Automotive tools, carpentry tools, etc.
    • Sewing machine, needles, thread, clothing patterns, etc.
    • Begin thinking of ways you can use your tools and knowledge to develop a skill that can be used for trade or barter.
  • Communication
    • Short wave radios, ham radios, etc.
    • Two way radios.
  • Cordage
    • Large amounts of any cordage or supplies under cordage already discussed.
  • Fire
    • Cast iron stove.
    • Fireplace.
    • Begin thinking now about how you will be heating your home in the winter. Think about how you will be cooking your meals. Also, think about how you will get fuel for your fire.
  • Firearms
    • We discussed in tier three the types of firearms I felt were needed.
    • Begin thinking about amount of ammo you can and are willing to stockpile.
    • Begin thinking about reloading your own ammunition. Begin thinking about stockpiling supplies. This can be turned into great bartering items.
  • First Aid
    • Begin developing a large first aid supply. Think about what you will need to do without a doctor present. Suture kits, surgical kit, trauma kit, etc. There will be no running to the emergency room.
    • Begin thinking about dental supplies. Again, there will possibly be no dentists to go to.
    • Again, knowledge is key in this situation. There are some good books about this type of thing. Take a first aid class, learn CPR. Learn as much as you possibly can.
    • Study about and begin stockpiling medications.
  • Food
    • There are many more articles to be written and read on this subject alone.
    • Start developing a small reserve of foods that you eat on a regular basis that have a long shelf life. Start with a week; go to a month, then three months, then a year, then longer.
    • Begin thinking now about storage. A year’s supply of food for your family will take up a considerable amount of space.
    • Expand on the amount of items you have from tier three. Increase the number of traps and snares you have.
    • Think about obtaining a variety of seeds to plant in your garden.
    • Again, there is a vast amount of information to be found on this subject alone. The main thing I want you to understand is this is doable, on any income. Start small and work your way up to larger quantities.
    • Do not get yourself into a financial burden by going out and buying a year’s supply of food at one time.
  • Light
    • Begin obtaining lanterns, fuel, mantles, etc.
    • Begin thinking about candles and candle making.
    • If you are so inclined, begin thinking about solar panels for your home or shelter location.
  • Shelter
    • Begin making those small repairs to your home. Things that may be fairly quickly and easily fixed now may not be so easily fixed later. I’m not talking kitchen remodeling; I’m talking leaky faucets, broken windows, drafty doors, etc.
    • Think about having a metal roof installed if you don’t have one already.
    • This is the time to think about a secondary survival location. A remote, rural location. Think of this as an investment. It could be used now as a vacation spot. Use it later as a retirement home.
  • Water
    • Begin storing water. Think not only about drinking, but also cooking and cleaning.
    • Again, start small. Begin with a few days worth; then weeks and months.
    • Start thinking about long-term procurement and storage. Gutters that empty into water storage, etc. Think also about purification on a large scale.
  • Miscellaneous Things to Thing About
    • Sit down and make a list of normal, everyday things that you do around your house, cleaning, washing, “personal” business, entertainment, etc.
    • These are activities that require items that you will not be able to run down to the store to get.
    • Toiletries. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene, etc.
    • Cleaning. Bleach, disinfectant, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
    • Entertainment. Cards, board games, puzzles, books, etc.
    • Think about large quantity storage of fuel; for cooking, heating, anything with an internal combustion engine, etc.


Again, I have very briefly touched on long term preparedness. There are numerous articles and books on long term preparedness. Read them. This is meant merely as a primer to get you thinking about long term survival.

I hope you use this article as it was meant; to give you some basic information on survival and get you thinking about survival situations. Remember to develop your skills, knowledge and abilities over the amount of tools and supplies you have. I cannot stress this enough. Read, listen to others, take classes, and always be open to new ideas and opinions. You will find things that will work for you; and just as importantly, you will find things that will not work for you.

Take the time to use the skills and tools you acquire. Go camping, use primitive methods to start a fire, gather food and water, cook over an open flame. Once you think you are ready to test your preparedness, turn the breaker off to your house, and turn off the gas main and water main. Do this for a weekend. You will quickly find your shortcomings and deficiencies. You will also find the things that you have done well on.

Friday, January 18, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

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

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I have been a scoutmaster for 18 years. It is a lot of fun teaching scouts how to make fire using unorthodox methods.  Seeing the look in their eyes as they get their first fire built in the outdoors using no matches is a great experience.  As a matter of fact, in winter camps where the ground is not frozen I like to use a trench fire pit with rocks in it, then bury it and sleep on top for a very cozy and warm night. I too was bitten by the survival bug when I was a young scout, and the first priority in survival is ‘keeping your wits about you” so you can focus on what is important.  One real force multiplier in helping to keep people calm is a fire.  It can warm the heart as well as the body, but it doesn’t have to be a bonfire by any means.  As a matter of fact a small fire using only sticks can do just about everything you need, and is much easier to leave no trace with when you are done.  Here are a few simple methods anyone can use to get a nice little fire started.  Please remember that little is the key word in a survival or bug out situation.  Cowboys used to light a very small fire just big enough to put their coffee pot on, because they ate their food cold, and a hot drink was all they needed to warm their spirits. The methods below are simple and inexpensive methods of turning the first spark into a flame. 
Before we start, I would like to say that I have no financial interest in any company or manufacturer that I list, and only do so out of my experiences over the years with them.  No matter how much I would like to have them sponsor my scouts, the only thing I get from them is the potential opportunity to pay Uncle Sam his Tax.
Matches: enough said, unless it is windy in which case you may only have a 0.5 second flame.  Let’s read on, shall we?
Lighter: ditto…but wait what if your lighter is out of fuel?  Well if it still has a good flint, then you have a handy little spark generator.  I prefer the older Zippo style lighters since I don’t have to worry about a seal drying out and I can store some lighter fluid for many refills.  It also lets me have a refill of flints right in the bottom of the lighter.  Zippo even now offers a small 4 oz. refill canister that you can place into your pack and will not spill.  It will provide you enough fluid for one full refill of your lighter.  If you are thinking longer term SHTF scenario then storing fluid or using disposable lighters would be wise.  Then again if you keep reading I have some other ideas for you to consider as backups.
Permanent Matches:  These are an interesting combination between a Lighter, and a “Ferrocerium bar” (below). It comes with a small reservoir which you fill with lighter fluid.  The ‘cap’ has a magnesium striker it with a glass wick that is supposed to burn up to 15,000 times. The wick is in the screw top lid which extends down into the lighter fluid.  You strike the magnesium stick on the side of the container to ignite.
Fire Piston: The fire piston uses the friction from compressing air to get an ember from tinder.  You can buy them on amazon, but you can also find a variety of videos showing how to make your own, and how they work online.  If you are at all skeptical try searching Charles’ Law or Boyle’s Law on the Internet regarding pressure and temperature effects on gases.
Flint and Steel:  If you can find some flint, and you have a piece of high carbon steel then all you do is strike the two together and you get a spark.  These are usually used with char-cloth (cloth which has been charred) to catch the spark, but you could use a number of items to catch them.  To use it effectively you would hold the char-cloth just over the top of the flint and strike down onto the flint with a piece of steel, hoping to catch the spark on the cloth.  Videos of making and using char-cloth are also available online.
Ferrocerium fire starters:  Sometimes mistakenly referred to as “flint”, these come in many different styles from the straight bar you slide across a piece of steel to create a nice spark, to the Magnesium fire starter bars.  These all will get you a great spark, but remember that you want to pull your Ferrocerium across a stationary piece of steel so you can put your spark where you want it.  If you try to slide the steel down the bar you may ruin the tinder nest / pile you have created when you hit it.  Used with Dryer Lint or Steel wool, you will have a fire the first time, every time.  You can buy these inexpensively just about anywhere, but my personal favorite is the one made by Strike Force which has a small storage compartment in the handle.
Magnifying glass:   Everyone remembers burning insects with a magnifying glass, and yes you can get things to smolder, but you really need a good amount of sun to get a magnifying glass to start a fire.  To do it you need to focus the brightest part of the light coming through the glass into the smallest most compact point you can make it, and then hold it there.  It will work on paper, and really dry small vegetation, but you do have to be patient.  You could use a disassembled Camera Lens or Binoculars for the lens as well.
9V batter and fine steel wool:  I find that the finer the steel wool (0000), the better it lights.  Also spread it out just a little bit to get more air to the fire, and you don’t need a lot.  Just rub the steel wool across the top of the battery and the electrical shorting sparks will ignite the oil on the steel wool.  (The oil is what helps prevent rusting on the steel wool)  DO NOT STORE THE TWO TOGETHER…it gets hot fast. You can also use a standard 1.5v AA, C, or even a D batter, but then you have to stretch the steel wool from one end of the battery to the other, and it gets a little awkward.   A little goes a long way with this. Fine steel wool will also work very well with a Ferrocerium rod and will light right up.
Potassium Permanganate (a powder) and Glycerin (a viscous fluid):  Potassium Permanganate is an oxidant which can be used to sterilize water, treat ulcers like canker sores, and a general topical disinfectant, but it will stain the affected area purple. It is used to treat candidiasis (superficial fungal infections like Oral Thrush and Vaginitis) and will neutralize Strychnine (poison).  Glycerin, or Glycerol, may be used as a laxative (2-10 ml used as a suppository or enema), and has been used to treat psoriasis, burns, calluses, and other minor skin irritations.  It works as a bacterial desiccant (it removes moisture through absorption) on contact so it can also help with periodontal diseases.  Okay back to the point, when you create a small mound of Potassium Permanganate with a small depression in the top, and then place a few drops of Glycerin in the depression you get a very impressive exothermic reaction which will start a fire, or even can be used to initiate a thermite reaction.  It takes a bit of time for it to occur but don’t put your hands over it to feel for heat.  It happens very quickly and is very hot when it happens.  I recommend testing this method, but don’t do it on your kitchen table with a thick folded up piece of heavy duty tinfoil.  It will go through it and make your wife very unhappy with the black mark it leaves.  Trust me on that one.
FRICTION FIRES:  There are many different ways to start a fire using friction.  The hand drill method, for example, where you spin a stick on a flatter piece of wood with a hole in the bottom and something to catch the ember below (blisters galore of you don’t wear gloves, and you will get tired very quickly).  The old Bow drill method (below) which is better, to the fire plough where you create a long notch in a piece of wood and then slide a stick back and forth in the notch and push the ember out onto your tinder pile.
Hand Drill: You will need a straight stick with a narrowed end (Drill), a notched piece of wood with a depression for holding the narrowed end of the stick (the notch should extend into the bottom of the depression for air movement). You will also need a piece of Leather, or metal under the notch to catch the ember. The notched board goes on the ground and you hold it in place by putting your foot on it or kneeling on it.  .  The drill should be standing straight up out of the depression, and held in place by your two palms.  By spinning the drill between your palms, and pressing down you will create friction and over time a smoking ember.  You will continually have to move your hands back up to the top of the drill as they will move down as you continue to spin and push down on the drill.  When you see some smoke coming from the depression then you can remove it to see if you have an ember.  When you have an ember you will need to move it quickly to your tinder and begin the process of nurturing it into a flame.
Bow Drill:  This one is probably the most complicated in that you must have: a straight piece of wood about 8-12 inches long which is narrowed on both ends (drill), a notched piece of wood with a depression for holding the narrowed end of the drill (the notch should extend into the bottom of the depression for air movement), a flexible but strong piece of wood about 16 to 24 inches long that has a slight natural curve to it (the bow) , a string (bow string) and a piece of something hard enough to withstand the heat from the drills friction with a depression to help control the top of the spinning drill.  You will also need a piece of Leather, or metal under the notch to catch the ember.  The notched board goes on the ground and you hold it in place by putting your foot on it or kneeling on it.  Then you have the drill standing straight up out of the notch.  The bow string goes around the drill (one wrap only) and then on the top of the drill is held by the hard small piece of wood and your hand (gloves are a good idea).  The bow string should be tight enough that when you push the bow back and forth it will spin the drill but not bind on it.  Once you have this balancing act in place, you move the bow back and forth until you see an appreciable amount of smoke coming from the notch then you look under it and see if you have an ember.  If you do then transfer it to your tinder immediately and start the gentle blowing that will bring you a flame.  If you don’t have any In-Laws that frustrate you, then this will help you understand what frustration is all about.  If you can do this, you can do anything.  This is a really primitive ‘art form’ method of making fire.

Getting that first spark to actually ignite your tinder is a little harder that it appears on the silver screen.  I have had many scouts go grab a handful of what they think is dry bark, or weeds only to find that it is still too wet, or the oils in them only smoke no matter what they do.  One of my favorite examples was an episode of a survival BASED reality television show where they gave the contestants a magnesium fire bar.  They were holding the magnesium side, and striking the flint side with a machete.  They were getting a pretty good spark too, but there was NO WAY they were getting a fire.  My wife, whom I love dearly, was sitting there saying “Oh that was a good one”, for every spark they got.  I on the other hand was sitting there thinking, “They would die in a real survival situation”.  It wasn’t until I explained to her that you can scrape magnesium into a little pile, hold the fire starter right down on the pile, and scraping the blade (held at a slightly obtuse angle towards the pile ) down the ‘flint’ side so that the sparks land in the magnesium and “Heywhadoyaknow” you have fire.
Ethanol based hand cleansers: these come in pocket bottles or pumps and the 10% ethanol will burn for a short time.  A spark can ignite this but the ethanol will evaporate quickly.  I only list this because of the dual purpose this item has.  I don’t recommend using any type of “Scout Water” (read: Flammable liquids) to start a fire due to the dangers involved.
Cotton balls and Vaseline:  These will burn once ignited just like a candle will.  If you spread out the cotton so it is not just a clump, you can light it with a good spark.
Paraffin and Cotton balls:  Very similar to above, just different substance.
Sawdust and paraffin blocks:  Fill the depressions in a paper based egg carton with a mixture of melted paraffin mixed with sawdust (from wood not particle board due to the glue).  Let them cool, and cut or break apart the individual parts, with the cardboard attached and it can be lit with a lighter, or match and will burn like a candle.
Dryer Lint:   This is my personal favorite.  Simply take the lint out of your dryer and place it into a pill bottle, Ziploc baggie or other water resistant container and it can be started with the smallest spark.  This will also win you points with the significant other by cleaning out the lint filter.  With it being so flammable you may want to confirm that your dryer vent is clean and connected.  This is especially important if you have a furnace, water heater, or if your dryer is heated by Natural Gas (flame) in the same room. Remember; safety first.  Dryer Lint will also work very well with a Ferrocerium rod on the first strike.
Wax and newspaper:  Dip pieces of newspaper in paraffin wax and it burns like a candle. This one is similar to the sawdust but you can leave some of the paper not covered in paraffin and it will ignite easier.  You can do this with cardboard or any other paper product as well.  The paraffin only makes it a little slower burning and a little more durable.
Gun powder:  Yes you could remove a bullet from a cartridge with a pair of pliers and use some of the powder inside to catch your spark, but it is a violent reaction so if you are desperate enough to try this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL. (All the usual safety warnings and legal disclaimers apply.)

TeePee:  This is your typical campfire where you have sticks in the shape of a TeePee over your tinder and kindling.  It is great to keep warm, and puts out a lot of light.  This would be fine if you are trying to be found, but not if you don’t want to give away your location.
Parallel Fire: This fire has two logs, one next to the other, and the fire burns starts at one end and burns towards the other.  You need to have them slightly separated at one end and more so at the other.   You build the fire at the wider end, and can put a pot right on top and air can still get to the fire to keep it going, and the log does provide a bit of light discipline, but there are better ways to achieve this.  This one also provides some good heat. 
Swedish Fire log: Take a log and quarter one end (only one end if possible, but if you go through then just bind the bottom back together).  Into the end where you have partially split it, stuff some tinder down into the split and light it.  This will burn for a long time, and can provide heat and light when needed.  This is also be called the “Swedish Torch” so keep light discipline in mind.
Trench Fire: For a Trench fire, you will need to dig a trench and then build a long fire in it.  The idea is that it can burn for a longer period of time as the fire moves through the trench from one end to the other.  Depending on the depth, it can hide the light from the flame pretty well, and you can put a grate across it to cook on.  You need to be sure it is not so deep though that air cannot get to it and put it out.
Reflector Fire: A reflector fire is basically any fire built next to a block to prevent heat or light to escape in a certain direction.  These can reflect heat into a shelter, and help block light from moving, however the light can then again reflect off of whatever it hits and in the dark, the glow is enough.

Log Cabin: A log cabin fire is a fire where you stack the outer ‘walls’ as you would in a log cabin.  It is great to cook over because the heat tends to leave the top, in the same manner as the chimney of a house.  It too provides good heat, and light when wanted.
Dakota Fire: The Dakota fire [pit] is a convection fire, which provides a great fire with very little light.  First check the direction of the wind if possible to help your fire burn better.  Dig a hole in the ground about 1 foot wide at the top, 4 to 6 inches wider at the base on one side, and at least 1 foot deep.  The wider part of the base should be on the downwind side of the hole.  Then dig a second hole, with the closest part of the hole, about a foot away from the first one, on the upwind side of the first hole .  The second hole should be six inches across, and dug at an angle towards the bottom of the first hole.  In the first hole build your small fire and after you get it going you will see that air is moving from the second hole into the first one to keep the fire going, and it will become more efficient and put off less smoke due to the conductive air movement.
Fire stoves:  These have been around for years, and have been made from everything from a number 10 can (Hobo Stoves) to some of the wood gas stoves like the Sierra Stove.  I list these because they burn for heat, use the same materials that a campfire would, and last for a long time providing a stable cooking surface.  There are videos on the web on how to make wood gas stoves that you can build and put in your B.O.B. or Get Home Bag (G.H.B.)
Well there it is.  If you can’t get a fire started with the instructions above, then please be sure to live in the middle of a large population center so you don’t have to suffer to long in the event of a natural disaster or socioeconomic crisis.  Don’t get me wrong, a fire is not difficult, but you should know how to do it before you need it.  It is also very cool to be able to show your kids, friends, or others you want to impress how to make a fire without matches, or a lighter. For those who wish to be proficient at it a little bit of practice is all you need.  Remember when you are cold, hungry, and out in the middle of nowhere, a fire can save your life.  Just remember to think about what kind of fire you really need
Keep your powder (and your tinder) dry!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

As a result of moving into remote retreat areas, you may begin to have encounters with North America's bear population. Even in suburban/urban areas, a lack of hunting and the return of forests has seen bears make a comeback, raising the likelihood of a bear-human encounters. Even if you live somewhere with a low likelihood of bear encounters, you should know the proper actions and make preparations, because bears can turn up anywhere. I'm going to outline the steps for bear camping, keeping your homestead secure from bears, traveling in bear country, tactics for a bear encounter, and bear defenses that will help keep you, your family, and your property safe. There is much confusion surrounding bears, so I hope I can clear things up for people with limited bear experience and remind experienced back country folks about good habits. Over the years, I have heard a lot of information about bears that is silly, wrong, or dangerous passed off as fact. Everything in this piece comes from personal experience or what I have been taught by friends with first hand experience. Here are two "facts" that I have heard thrown around that are preposterous:

Myth: Menstruating women should stay away from the woods because bears are attracted to the odors. Call this one busted; the National Park Service shows no correlation, with the possible exception of polar bears.

Myth: Bears are attracted to gasoline because they can smell the dead organisms that make up "fossil fuel." A fellow student in a wildland firefighting class tried to tell me this one. Some of the other students actually believed him (bears may actually be attracted to the smell of gasoline but I highly doubt it has anything to do with the dead dinosaurs).

As with all things survival, seek out good advice, do your own research, and get multiple opinions.

There are three bears living in North America: Black Bear, Brown Bear, and Polar Bear. I have been lucky enough to observe all three North American bears the wild. They are fascinating but dangerous animals that should be kept at a distance. Bears are not your friends, but they don't have to be your enemies either.

Black bears are the bear that most folks in the Lower 48 are going to encounter, as they live throughout North America. Black bears are expert tree climbers and prefer wooded areas. Sometimes they can be a bluish or cinnamon color instead of black. They are the smallest of the bears, although I have seen black bears in Alaska that looked big enough to be dark colored Grizzlies. Don't let the smaller size fool you, as they can be feisty and mischievous, being notorious camp robbers. While they usually eat berries and plants and avoid confrontation, they can be dangerous if they feel threatened. Like all bears, they will violently defend carrion and cubs. My father, who is a former guide and bush pilot, has only once killed a bear in defense when a young black bear tried to liberate the moose that he had just bagged.

Brown bears have two subspecies: the inland grizzly and the coastal brown. They prefer open areas, like mountains above the tree line and tundra. Historically they were found in the American west as far south as Mexico, but now they are confined to Alaska, western Canada, and parts of the American Redoubt. They are omnivorous, with the bulk of their diet coming from salmon runs. Brown bears account for the majority of fatal attacks every year in the United States. They are less shy than black bears, simply because they are apex predator with no fear of anything in the wild except other bears.

I'm not going to discuss polar bear precautions and defense because it isn't relevant for most of us, but I will throw out a few fun facts. Polar Bears eat almost exclusively meat, mostly Ringed Seals. They roam the Arctic Icecap during the winter, and I have personally seen them on the polar icecap just a few hundred miles south of the North Pole. They sneak up on their prey and attack by surprise, so many human victims aren't even aware that an attack is imminent until the polar bear pounces. An Arctic marine biologist confirmed to me that polar bears have actually been seen covering their black noses with their paw to make themselves completely invisible against the ice as they sneak up behind seals. Also, Polar Bears are often unfazed by the sounds of gunshots because they are accustomed to the loud noises of cracking ice packs.

All of the bears I encountered in Alaska were very wild and still had a natural fear of humans. In the Lower 48, bears I have met have been less frightened by humans, possibly because they have come to associate humans with trash and other food. A bear that becomes habituated to people is a dangerous animal, as it will be more aggressive in seeking out humans and human activity as a potential food sources. This is especially true of cubs that are taught early on by their mothers to forage for trash and other food created by humans. By keeping bears in your area wild through best practices, you are protecting yourself and future generations, as well as the wild bear population.

Whenever traveling in bear country always stay vigilant, and if the situation allows, alert bears to your presence. This is especially thick brush and undergrowth, where you should announce your presence to any bears by yelling, singing, or whistling. Bears will generally move over for humans if they know you are coming. If you are hunting or in a survival situation that necessitates noise discipline, it is doubly important to keep a sharp look out for bears that might be sleeping or foraging, as a surprised bear is an angry bear. I almost learned this lesson the hard way walking in some dense alder brush in Alaska when I was fifteen years old. I accidentally got within 30 feet of a sleeping brown bear that looked about as big as a VW bug at the time. When he woke up, he roared loudly, and ran away towards the mountains as fast as he could go, leaving me shaken but wiser about bear country travel. Also worth noting is that I had become complacent because I had seen so few bears in the area over my years of exploration. Bears roam around and you never know where one might turn up. There's a survival lesson that applies to all areas: Complacency is the enemy. This is a case where there is real safety in numbers. For every additional person in your group, the chances of attack decrease and drops to near zero once you have five people. Leave your dogs at home if possible, as dogs will chase and try to fight bears, probably resulting in the deaths of both the bear and the dog.

There are three general bear situations that you may encounter:

  • Meeting a bear that is traveling/foraging/resting,
  • Meeting a bear defending carrion or other food, and
  • Meeting a bear with cubs.

The latter two are the most dangerous situations, as the bear could be confused about your intentions and become aggressive.

Never get between a female bear and cubs. Always give a female with cubs a wide berth. To the sow bear, you are the equivalent of the stranger with the rusty van and free candy. A mountaineering guide I knew was out walking one day with his wife on a trail near Anchorage, Alaska when they inadvertently moved between a female and two cubs. They held there ground at first, but the mother bear started to charge, and they did not have a firearm or bear spray. He turned to run, and the bear was on him in an instant. Ultimately, he survived the mauling, but he almost lost an eye and his face had to be rebuilt with metal plates. A few lessons: (1) Always hold your ground or retreat slowly facing the bear (2) Always pay attention to where you are going (3) Have a means of defense.

In the wild, carrion or other meat is something that a bear will fight for. If you come to a bear that is sitting on carrion, avoid the bear, try to leave the way you came, and give the bear wide berth. The bear sees you as a possible competitor for precious food and may become aggressive. If you are hunting in bear country, do your best not to leave killed game unattended, as a bear will not hesitate to claim your kill. Of course, in a survival situation, you may have to kill the bear to ensure that the bear does not take what you need to survive.

Walk through the woods and open country long enough, and you will run into bears who are minding their business. Some bears may be curious when they meet you, stopping to look and even standing up on their hind legs for a better view. In any bear stand off, help the bear make up its mind by holding your ground, waving, and yelling. The goal is to present the bear with a novel situation that makes it want to retreat. If the bear still doesn't budge, fire warning shots to get the bear to run. My former employer, who was a hunting guide on Kodiak Island and a polar bear guard for oil crews on Alaska's north slope said that this was enough to put almost every bear he encountered on the run. By helping bears associate negative things with humans, you protect bears and other people. Try to end all bear encounters by scaring the bear away. If the bear begins to charge, use your bear spray or gun to stop the bear. If you do not have a means of defense available, stand your ground because as soon as the bear sees you run, it will chase you. The possible exception to the "stand your ground rule is if you are near an easily climbable tree (keep in mind that bears can climb trees). Often, bears will simply be bluffing when they charge, so continue to hold your ground and do not run. If it the bear is attacking and you have not been able to stop it with your means of defense, get into a tight fetal position to protect your belly and face. This may help you survive the worst of the attack. You can't outrun a bear, so don't try.

Of course, many of us venture into the wilderness so that we can see bears and other wildlife in their native habitat. If you see a non aggressive bear at a safe distance (outside 200 yards is my comfort zone) it is fine to watch and take pictures, but don't try to get closer or do anything to antagonize the bear. It seems like many people (people who don't read SurvivalBlog) expect the wilderness to be like Disneyland. Bears are wild animals with claws and teeth, so leave them alone.

When you set up camp, there are procedures that should be followed to keep your food secure and to keep you safe and to prevent bears from coming to the tent to look for snacks. I was taught to establish a camp in a type of triangle with each side at least fifty yards long. At the first point of the triangle you should have your food storage area. Your food can be stored in bear proof containers or on a line between two trees at least twenty feet off the ground. I have used Garcia Bear-Resistant containers and have not had any problems. Home made bear containers can be made from PVC pipe with a plug and a threaded cap, but these are very heavy if you are traveling on foot. Buried caches are a bad idea in general for bear country, as bears are expert diggers. The second point of the triangle should be your kitchen area. Keep all utensils, dishes, and vessels here, as well as any scented items such as soap and toothpaste. You should keep any clothes you cook in here as well, but this often not practical. The third point of the triangle is the sleeping area. Keep it sanitary, and do not bring any food to this area. All human waste should be buried well away from the camp. In an unplanned survival situation where you are unable to cache your food you may have to combine all three stations into one, but don't do this unless you have an appropriate firearm. When you break camp, always exercise 'leave no trace" (called trash discipline by military types) by packing out all garbage and burying human waste to prevent the habituation of wildlife to human food.

Bears can wreak havoc at your homestead because of their curiosity and their perpetual hunt for food, but there are steps you can take to make your retreat secure. A good start is to make sure all structures are sturdy and "over built" (at least by the standards of what passes for construction in America nowadays). Bears can easily claw through thin plywood and break down weak doors. Make sure your dwelling's doors have strong hinges and bolts that can be locked from the outside on the top and bottom of the door. At remote areas in Alaska, we used "bear boards" as a deterrent for bears trying to break into unoccupied cabins. These are made from pieces of plywood with 16 penny nails driven through [facing outward and covering] the whole area spaced every 2 square inches. These were placed over every ground level window and in front of the door. For livestock pens, chicken coops, and other sensitive areas, electric fences can be effective for keeping curious bears out. One of my friends in Alaska whose cabin was over a mile from his airstrip used this concept to build a small solar powered electric fence enclosure around his Piper Super Cub, as bears are notorious for shredding cloth covered bush planes. It is possible that concertina or barbed wire would be an effective alternative, but I have never seen this used. Do your best to not give bears a reason to come around by keeping garbage and other food secure. "Haze" problem bears by firing warning shots or using air horns.When securing the homestead, think of bears as extra large puppies who will chew on anything they can reach. They are crafty scavengers and will exploit any shortcomings in your retreat's security as some friends of mine learned when they had a bear hibernate under their remote cabin in Alaska.

I left the discussion of bear firearms for last because if you use your smarts in bear country, your likelihood of needing your firearm to kill a bear is low. Your good habits in the wilderness will be your first and best defense against bear attack. I have met far too many newcomers to Alaska who believed that their gun was a magical talisman against bears. The simple act of taking a gun into the woods is not a comprehensive plan on how to deal with bears. While I am usually the last person to enter into the endless debates on the pros and cons of this or that gun/caliber, I do have a few pretty strong opinions about bear guns. When it comes to killing a bear, a gun inadequate for the job can be worse than no gun at all. Empty your .22 or 9mm into a bear to get a bear that is twice as angry, clearly a counterproductive move. That being said, a firearm is as much a noisemaking device for bear defense as anything else because firing warning shots will send the vast majority of bears on the run. A bear is nature's version of a Panzer tank, with dense bones, thick fir, and heavy layers of fat and muscle, calling for some serious firepower. First, there is no such thing as an ideal bear pistol, because there simply isn't a caliber powerful enough to guarantee that you can stop a charging grizzly in its tracks. However, a .44 Magnum is the minimum for an acceptable bear defense for those of you who don't want to live be your long gun. Just so you don't think I am being biased here: I love automatics. The first paycheck I ever earned I used to buy a 1911, but no experienced woodsman I have ever met in grizzly country ever carried anything smaller than a .44 Magnum. If you are exclusively in black bear country, .45 ACP might be sufficient but a .357 Magnum or larger would be preferable. Go big or go home when it comes to pistols for bear defense.

In my opinion, a semiautomatic 12 gauge shotgun is the king of bear defense firearms, and that is what I prefer to carry in the back country. I usually load the first two rounds as slugs, with the rest as three inch double aught buck shot. If you don't have a semi auto shotgun, a pump action 12 gauge is a close second. A lever action .45-70 is also a good choice, and some professional guides swear by them. A large caliber rifle can also be an effective defense, but you will have fewer shots, and it will be more difficult to aim and take quick follow up shots. JWR's SurvivalBlog has a static page on survival guns that is well thought out and a good guide for building your battery. If you currently do not own any firearms, I believe that a shotgun is the first gun that you should get, simply because it is so cheap and versatile. Whether it is used for rabbit hunting, bear defense, or as a tactical weapon it is an indispensable tool for the survivalist. In no way am I suggesting that it should be the last firearm you should procure. Like JWR, I believe that the "ultimate survival gun" debate is irrelevant. If you are carrying a long gun that is under powered for the job (that includes assault rifles), you really should be backed up by a secondary weapon or bear spray.

What about bear spray? If you are a good survivalist, you already have a bear gun. However, I think that bear spray, for casual purposes, such as backpacking and walking around the woods can be an effective alternative in these pre-TEOTWAWKI times. Bear spray has been shown to be more effective than a firearms for stopping charging bears, so it definitely belongs with you preps. It is convenient because it is light to carry, requires virtually no training to use, and is easy to aim. It is five times hotter than pepper spray for human attacks, so don't get any on you when using (pay attention to wind direction), and always put it on the outside of any vehicle or aircraft in case of accidental discharge.

I think it is useful to do a few bear specific firearms drills to prepare yourself for bear attack. To simulate a charging bear, set up three targets, one at 50 yards (a typical distance for a hostile bear encounter), one at 30 yards and one at 10 yards. With your bear gun of choice, practice putting a third of your rounds into each target starting from the farthest and working to the nearest, with the goal of accurately emptying your weapon in 3-5 seconds. You need to be highly proficient with your weapon if you hope to stop a charging bear.

There are two broad schools of thought for bear-human encounters. On one side, there is the idea that as a visitor into bears' home, it is your duty to be respectful and do everything possible to avoid a confrontation with bears. On the other side, you have people like the hunting guide I used to work for who always said "I'm sleeping on top of my food. If a bear wants my food, I'll shoot him in the face!" I've always believed that it is in everyone's best interest to minimize bear-human confrontations, and people who come to the wilderness without the knowledge to stay safe are, but we should never hesitate to defend our lives and property. Follow safe procedures for travel, camping, and securing your homestead, and the likelihood of needing to actually kill a bear are low. My greater fear while solo in the wilderness is death by hypothermia or being injured and not being rescued. Sometimes I think we survivalists can get too focused on the exciting, adrenaline pumping aspects of survival and ignore the fact that the difference between life and death is often the mundane: starvation, exposure, disease, etc.

Bears kill approximately one person per year in the United States, including Alaska. Almost all of these deaths are preventable, because bear behavior is predictable. Bring your smarts and your means of defense into bear country and you will be fine, and make sure to teach your children exactly what to do if they encounter a bear if they are alone. All in all, I think human predators are far more dangerous than bears. After all, when is the last time a bear killed someone to get $20 for their next crack cocaine fix? Stay safe out there.

Monday, December 31, 2012

I'd like to believe that after Earth for more than 61 years, that I'm getting a little bit smarter in my old age. Well, maybe not smarter, but a bit wiser, might be a better description. There was a time, not too many years ago, when I could hump 50-pounds around the boonies, with a full-set of A.L.I.C.E. gear and a full combat load of ammo and some manner of AR-15. Those days are long gone! However, I'm actually in better shape physically these days, than I was 10 years ago, but that doesn't mean that I want to pack more gear than needed in my BOB. To this end, is why I believe I'm getting a little bit wiser. I still want to be able to survive - as best I can - with the smallest amount of gear that I can carry. If you believe you can haul all the gear and equipment on your back that you'll need for long-term survival in the wilderness, you are only kidding yourself. However, we can pack smarter, and make wilderness survival a bit easier.
Like many folks, I enjoy a good camp fire, however that isn't always needed, especially when cooking a meal. If you've ever had to gather wood out on a camping trip, or a survival training weekend, you know it can be a lot of work to gather enough wood to keep you going for several days. Consider the Emberlit Camp Stove that can making camping and wilderness survival a lot easier in many respects. With the Emberlit Camp Stove, you don't need to build a big camp fire to cook your meals, all your cooking can be done with this small camp stove, and a very small amount of wood, or other products that you can burn in this neat little stove.
The full specs on the Emberlit Camp Stove are available at their web site, so we'll only touch on a couple of them: First off all, the stove is only 1/8th of a inch thick when folded flat. And, the stainless steel model only weighs in at 11.3-ounces and is 100% Made In America. There is also an Emberlit Camp Stove made out of Titanium, and it weighs a mere 5.45-ounces. I tested both stoves, and for my money, I'd pay a little bit more and get the Titanium model - remember, I talked about saving weight in a BOB - this saves a few more ounces.
I've tried quite a few small camp or cook stoves over the years, and while they all worked to one degree or another, they all required that I carry fuel with me - some required small tablets that when lit produced a heat source. Others required Butane gas, and some required white gas or propane, or even a gel - all a pain to have to carry in the boonies, and you are adding a lot of weight by having to carry these sources of fuel - plus some of the stoves were just too big to carry in a pack. I want to accomplish the same tasks with less weight and less bulk these days - again, I'm getting wiser and thinking smarter these days.
The Emberlit Camp Stove assembles in a minute or less, and your don't even need to read the directions that come with it - I like simple, and simple usually equates to stronger and better in my book - less things to go wrong. You can also get an optional carrying case for the Emberlit Camp Stove - although I believe in my humble opinion that, the carry case should be included with the stove, instead of being sold at $6.95 - but the carrying case does fit nicely on a belt, if you don't want to carry it in your pack. Still, I believe the carrying case should be included with each stove - just my take on it.
We were still in the burn ban part of Fall when I tested the Emberlit Camp Stove, so I had to do my testing in my covered carport, instead of out in the woods. Still, I believe I gave the Emberlit a good work-out several times - cooking several meals without any problems. And, believe it or not, this little stove would really get good and hot with just some small twigs. I did have to add some twigs during the cooking process because the stove is so small, you can only fit so many twigs in the stove at any given time. Still, I had no problem cooking over the stove, with my camp cook gear - read: military pan/tray. I even tried doing some cooking with wadded-up newspaper (without colored ink, of course), and I could cook with that - although I did have to constantly feed the fuel into the stove - still, it worked just fine.
I spoke of "simple" and this is about as simple as it comes for a camp stove - again, simple means stronger and with less things to break. Emberlit does offer extra cross bar members for their stoves, and it's probably a good idea to have a spare set on-hand, just in case. When the power grids go down, and you've run out of propane or natural gas doesn't flow to your kitchen stove any longer, the Emberlit Camp Stove can be a real life saver. And, with the small amount of wood it takes to cook a meal, a person can easy scavenge enough wood to keep the stove cooking for a good long time - just about anything that can burn can be used as a fuel. You could even burn some old tax code books if you had to. A face cord of wood, split into small pieces and cut-to-fit the Emberlit Camp Stove would probably last you a couple years of daily use. I've also written about  having a source of safe water to drink, and one way to have safe water is to bring it to near a boil - and you can easily do this with the Emberlit Camp Stove, too.
The Emberlit Camp Stove is the brain-child of Mikhail Merkurieff, and he categorically states on his web site that he wants all his customers be happy with their purchase, period! How many times have you read that you have a one-year warranty, or a limited lifetime warranty on a product, and there are always "ifs ands and buts" when it comes to placing a claim. Merkurieff doesn't put limits on his promise: If you aren't happy with his products, for any reason, he wants to make it right. That is very refreshing in this day and age.
The basic stainless steel stove cost $39.95, and the Titanium model is on-sale right now for $64.95 and a mini Ti model is on sale for $59.95 - for my money, the Titanium version is worth the added cost. Remember what I said about packing smarter? Well, if you can shave off a couple ounces here and there, it adds-up in short order, and any more, I don't want to pack one more ounce of gear than I need to carry. I really believe I'm getting wiser in my old age.- SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots and Socks

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

As any survivalist quickly learns, the “three basic essentials” to survival are air, water and shelter. However, I learned to realize that there is a fourth basic essential, that being a stove--which provides a way to reliably purify the water, cook the food and make the shelter more comfortable.

Of course, there are many types of water filters, solar ovens and warmer clothing for those needs but, somewhere along the line, the ongoing need for a practical, portable, concealable, quick and highly-efficient means of heating will be needed. SHTF heating that can purify your water, cook your food and warm your shelter.
Like many other survivalists who began their prep “journey”  in preparation for Y2K, my knowledge and supplies have since grown exponentially, expanding my supplies and knowledge with countless lists, articles and learning from invaluable web sites (such as survivalblog.com), to prepare for the soon-to-come world upheavals to come.

Over that time, I’ve also concentrated on learning ancient & medieval survival techniques, as well as learning how people survive in today’s war-torn areas and third world countries. Such information has given me real insight into real-world situations, with the internet and books such as “Life in a Medieval Village” or the “FAMA Sarajevo Survival Guide” being invaluable resources.
My explorations began in ancient history, where cooking fires were open, basic and offered no protection from wind or rain. Perhaps ringed by stones and supporting some type of grill, this type of fire continues through U.S. campgrounds today, as well as many parts of the world. The biggest disadvantages to this type of fire are a tremendous inefficiency in cooking and fuel use, as well as the smoke-trail. Fuels then, as now, include anything that will burn, including animal dung. Also, smoke is composed of unburned particulates so, the denser the smoke, the less efficiently the fire is burning.
In addition to outside fires, native peoples began moving fires indoors with holes in the center of the shelter’s roof, for smoke to draft upward and escape. This was much more efficient, lowering problems with wind and rain, as well as heating the shelter interior. However, it was still largely inefficient and still had the very visible disadvantage of a smoke-trail.
The medieval world brought about the castle and the fireplaces large enough for a man to stand in. While used for cooking, another crucial purpose of these larger-than-life fireplaces was for the heating of the stone castle rooms, aided by large tapestries on the walls and covering both doorways and floors. With an addition of a canopied bed with side-curtains and thick blankets, one could stay cozy on a cold evening. But these also left a dense smoke-trail and were inefficient in fuel use.

South American adobe ovens brought about more efficiency by enclosing the fire and concentrating heat to an interior cooking space. The smoke escaped through the chimney and, although more efficient for cooking, the dense smoke-trail continued.

Victorian times brought  multi-story dwellings with a fireplace in every room and the Colonials continued that practice here in America.
The industrial age brought about the smelting of metals and the iron age. Fireplaces evolved into standalone stoves which would allow a home to be fairly airtight and still vent smoke outside with piping. However, once again, portability and efficiency was’t available.

Since then, standalone units have evolved to be highly efficient, but many are now dedicated to heating only, using pellets or some other renewable fuel source. This evolution will, no doubt, continue… That is, until the SHTF. Once this happens, and it gets closer every day, you will be forced to re-think your methods of purifying water, cooking food and warming your shelter.
That is why you must learn now the principles of making and using a Rocket Stove, as well as having one in your supply. The Rocket Stove concept was developed to aid third-world countries, where fuel-wood is scarce and resultant pollution is severe.  Over the past years, many experiments, tests & contests have been conducted worldwide to develop a highly-efficient method of heating, which also uses a minimum of fuel.

The recent leader in tests has been the Rocket Stove design, the principles of which were presented by Dr. Larry Winiarski from Aprovecho in 1982 and stoves based on this design won Ashden Awards in both 2005 and 2006. The Rocket Stove design has been shown to operate on ½ the fuel as a traditional open fire, using smaller wood.
The principle is simple in that it is based on an “L” shaped combustion chamber, which allows for maximum draft at the low end and heat/height enough vertically to fully burn any fuel particles, which we call “smoke.” Many Rocket Stove designs are also highly-insulated, to minimize heat loss and maximize efficiency.

The Rocket Stove excels by having excellent air flow and high-temperature burning of fuel, as well as allowing the user to carefully control the heat by addition or removal of fuel as needed. There are four main components to the Rocket Stove: Fuel Load Area, Burn Chamber, Chimney and the Cooking/Heating Vessel.
The Fuel Load Area is at the lowest area of the Rocket Stove and enters toward the center of the stove. The fuel is not merely thrown in, but is set upon a “pedestal” which is usually ½ way up in the opening and allows a excellent air flow beneath the fuel. The pedestal does not fully enter the Chimney, but extends to the forward edge of it and allows the fuel (i.e.: sticks/branches) to hang over into the center of the Chimney.

The Burn Chamber is the intersection of the Fuel Load Area and the Chimney. It is the area where the fuel is burned and, when in operation, the burning ends of the fuel wood are centered in the chimney area.

The Chimney is a round, vertical shaft, extending upward from the Burn Chamber and of such height to both provide enough  updraft to maintain the fire, as well as enough length to assure the complete burning of all fuel particles (smoke), resulting in a burn clean enough to allow little or no smoke to be seen.

The Cooking/Heating Vessel is whatever unit you are using your Rocket Stove for. My StoveTec Rocket Stove came with a “pot skirt” to retain heat closer to the pot sides and is very useful for that purpose.

There is an abundance of videos on YouTube on how to construct your own Rocket Stove, of which I have made several. There are even Rocket Stove designs which have gravity-feed fuel loading and many different designs, such as off-the-floor ideas which can allow fuel storage beneath and less danger of child burning.

My current Rocket Stove was purchased from StoveTec (www.stovetec.com), a leader in Rocket Stove research and manufacturing which also provides these to third-world countries.
Their Rocket Stoves come in several model designs and have the benefit of being totally portable, designed like a 2-gallon steel bucket with side handles. Their basic 1-door model (the one I own) is excellent for general cooking, while their 2-door model also allows slow-cooking and baking capabilities. With whichever model, fuel use is minimal, usually needing only small sticks or branches.
They also offer cooking accessories and a “water pasteurizer,” which I just purchased, which fits onto the Rocket Stove. It holds several quarts of water, has a hole through the center to allow heat up through the middle of the unit and, looking down through is, has somewhat of a “donut” design in that the water is housed in a “jacket” which surrounds a “chimney.” The water is also “pasteurized” for purification and a reusable “dipstick” lets you know when the water is safe for consumption.

In addition to a main convenience of transportability, the lack of smoke trail is an obvious benefit in a SHTF situation. When water or food becomes scarce, neighbors will be on the lookout for any type of activity denoting cooking

In addition to no smoke trail, another excellent reason for owning a Rocket Stove is the ease of concealing your firelight in night or dark situations. Although there will be obvious firelight coming from the top of the Rocket Stove, the addition of a potskirt and pot will minimize any upward or side-view shining of  light coming out of the top of the Rocket Stove. However, light will still shine out of the lower Fuel Load Area. To help conceal this light, the easiest way is to face the Fuel Load Area away from any prying eyes. In addition, I also recommend the construction of a “tunnel,” much like the entry to an Eskimo igloo, long enough to minimize light and, ideally, painted flat black or blackened with ash to minimize reflection along the tunnel. The only drawback to that being the need for longer branches/sticks to keep fueling the stove without the tunnel needing to be removed.

In summary, my Rocket Stove has all the features necessary to be that fourth Essential, which is easily transportable, highly efficient and leaves little or no smoke trail.

Friday, December 21, 2012

With an endless and ever-growing supply of preparedness items and gadgets for TEOTWAWKI, it is easy to forget where we all came from.  Each and every one of us alive on this planet today is in large part due to the sheer will, strength, and survival ability of our ancestors.  We are all, literally, direct descendants of the toughest and smartest humans the world has ever seen.  Our ancestors were the ones who survived plagues and diseases of all types, hunted the largest of beasts, survived harsher conditions than most of us can imagine, always procured food, and still managed to procreate, eventually passing on that genetic material to each and every one of us.  In each one of us, is them, and we contain hundreds if not thousands of generations of genetics that survived.  We are the culmination of all those who have endured before us.  Sure, luck and the grace of God has much to do with this and I do not discount that fact.  Frankly, I thank God everyday for my life and the lives of those I love.  The reason I decided to write this article is because I feel that too little emphasis is placed on these necessary skills by both survivalists and preppers alike.  Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% in favor of being fully stocked with everything necessary for any “what if” type scenario.  I fully believe in the necessity of being well prepared whether stationary at a retreat location, mobile in a vehicle, or loaded like a beast of burden on foot.  But I don’t like to be dependent upon store bought items.  For me, preparedness is a mindset and a lifestyle.  So, my point is, what happens when we lose those items, they break, are stolen, or our supplies run out?  Don’t think it can’t happen to you.  We’re all preparing because it provides a sort of insurance against the countless what ifs.  Think of primitive survival skills as your reinsurance or back up to your back up plan.  The purpose of this article is to provoke thought and discussion to the subject of primitive survival and to serve as a brief introduction on “how to.”  When I say bare bones survival I mean just that.  No knives, saws, axes, cordage, rope, water filters, bottles, bladders, portable shelters, lighters, flints, matches, stoves, fuel, or food.  I think you get the point.  The one exception is the clothing on your back since practicing primitive skills nude in the woods would probably be a one way ticket to the insane asylum.

Most primitive survival situations, pre or post TEOTWAWKI, will require shelter.  It’s probable that this will also be your most pressing need, one to be fulfilled first.  Shelter keeps you warm, dry, and concealed. It gives you the ability to escape the elements as you plan your next step.  Six of our seven continents are inhabited and have been for millennia.  What this translates into is that almost anywhere on earth the natural materials already exist to provide you with a sufficient shelter.  From igloos to adobe settlements, all these materials are free for the taking if you know how to use them.  These are just examples, so I’m not suggesting you build an igloo or sun bake bricks because of the time and energy required to do so.  What I am suggesting is that you familiarize yourself with the natural materials present in your neck of the woods in order to build an efficient and expedient shelter.  Be it sand, snow, dirt, grass, rocks, sticks, moss or leaves, they all can keep you relatively warm, dry and alive.  After that, you must practice repeatedly.  Otherwise you’re simply an armchair survivalist, and we all know what happens to them. 

I live in an area with plenty of deciduous forest and mild winters (mid-Atlantic state), which is probably one of the easiest places to construct a survival shelter.  The shelter I build most is often referred to as a debris hut and I do so because it’s simple, efficient, and the materials required for doing so are abundant in my area.  I typically make a pile of leaves two feet deep and two feet longer than I am tall against the trunk of a fallen tree.  I then lay sticks perpendicular to the trunk over the entire length of the pile angled from the ground to the top of the trunk and tight enough together to not let leaves fall through.  A few more feet of leaves are piled on top of what should by now resemble one half of a ribcage with the trunk being the spine and the angled sticks being the ribs.  A few feet of leaves will shed absolute downpours leaving the interior dry.  I leave a small opening so that I can enter feet first and keep another pile of leaves at the entrance to plug it when I’m in.  For colder temperatures it’s necessary to keep the interior barely larger than yourself to minimize heat loss.  In windy conditions you may need some sticks on top of the shelter to keep the leaves in place.  Before constructing, be sure to look up and around you for any dead or dying trees or branches that could be brought down on top of you during a storm.  If possible face your shelter opening to the east to take advantage of the rising suns warmth.  If you cannot tell direction without a compass, learn to do so.  

There are countless primitive shelters one could build, and they all have advantages and disadvantages based upon where one resides.  This article is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all those shelters and how to build them, but rather an attempt to get you thinking along the lines of what you would do without a permanent or portable roof over your head.  Most of these structures can be constructed within a few hours and really do not require hand tools or supplies of any kind.  Do your research and see which type of primitive shelter best fits your locale.

Under normal survival circumstances, such as being lost or caught in an unexpected storm, one would usually choose a shelter site with plenty of natural material nearby as to minimize having to carry debris any distance and thereby conserving energy.  Ordinary survival situations also assume that someone wants to be found.  In TEOTWAWKI type scenarios we probably do not want to be found, therefore minimizing our “sign” left behind as we construct our shelter is paramount.  Leaving bare spots on the forest floor as we rake up every last leaf to use as insulation may be noticed by others and further investigated by them.  The point is to do your best at leaving as few clues behind as possible.  Using the existing landscape to your advantage will help in this regard.  Caves, crevices, overhangs, thickets, hollow logs, boulders, etc may provide the basis for an adequate shelter with minimal caloric expenditure as well as provide added insulation, wind proofing, and concealment.  By taking advantage of natural structures, your shelter will blend in to your environment much better than otherwise.  When you’re finished you should be able to step back from your shelter, looking from different angles, and not even recognize it as such.  If possible, construct shelter near a water source, just be sure you’re above the high water mark, which should be obvious.  Locating shelter near a water source isn’t always possible, just try to if feasible.  But don’t force it, shelter is typically priority number one unless you’re already approaching dehydration, starvation, are being pursued, or it’s warm and dry enough to forego it.  If you’re not familiar with basic primitive shelters I suggest that you research it.  You may even want to construct one near your retreat or on the way to it as added insurance.  Once you have established a sufficient shelter that will keep you warm, dry, and well concealed, you can move on to priority number two, which is hydration. 


Where I reside, water is abundant and very easy to find.  I have no experience in more arid regions of the US so I’ll leave that to others to discuss.  First, let’s dispel some myths regarding water.  Clear, fast moving water is not always safe to drink.  Springs are not always safe.  Dogs do drink disease laden water.  And the liquid in some plants can kill you, or at minimum make you ill.  Frankly, I treat all water as potentially disease causing until I’ve purified it in some manner.  Notice I said purify, not filter.  All too often I see people touting their homemade water filter consisting of leaves, moss, sand, charred wood, etc as a viable means to filter pathogens from water.  Simply put, this is incorrect and should only be used for filtering sediment from water and not pathogens.  Charred wood is not the activated charcoal commonly used in water filtration. 

Just a side note, activated wood charcoal is vastly inferior to activated coconut carbon in terms of the porosity needed for high level water filtration.  We’re talking about macropores vs micropores so keep your coconut hulls or stock up (they’re inexpensive, in bulk) if you make your own activated carbon for these purposes.  When searching for water keep a few things in mind.  First, water flows downhill which means that you’re generally more likely to find it at lower elevations than at higher ones.  There are exceptions to this, but I’m speaking in general terms.  Specific vegetation is an excellent indicator of water or at least wet ground.  Certain trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants will only grow in or very close to water or damp earth.  At higher elevations, look for threads of more dense or more varied vegetation tracking downhill.  The same principle applies to lowland areas as the vegetation will usually change and be denser near water or damp soil.  Learn the plants in your geographic locale that need wet earth and memorize them.  Learn to recognize them year round.  Knowing your trees in the dead of winter without leaves present is a critical skill to have.  The same thing applies to the dead dry stalks of certain herbaceous plants.  Also, having the ability to recognize these plant species from a distance can save you time and energy on your search.  Once you’ve located damp earth, try to figure out the drainage in that particular area and start your dig in low points located along the drain path.  If enough water is present it will seep into your hole.  If you don’t want to wait, somehow mark or remember this spot so you can return as you seek other sources.  Once again, minimize your signs left behind.  I like to thoroughly scatter any dirt I excavate and fill the hole lightly with leaves to conceal my efforts.  Where you decide to dig is critical.  I’ve dug two feet down in a dry streambed and did not get any water but moving ten feet in another direction with the same size hole yielded a quart every hour.  For dry stream beds, usually stick to the outsides of any curves.  Only practice and experience can make you better at this.  You can use a broken stick, rocks, and your bare hands to excavate.   

Animals, including birds, can also tell you where to look.  Many animals, but not all, must drink water to survive.  Therefore, following animal trails, especially when these trails converge and widen more and more, can be a reliable indicator.  Birds, with the exception of flesh eaters, are fairly reliable indicators of the presence of water.  The overall flight pattern of birds in a particular area at dusk and dawn is a great clue.  Also, bugs and insects can be telltale signs.  Bees, small black ants, flies, mosquitoes, and others are rarely too far from water.  Although in the case of some of these insects it could only be a few ounces of water in the crotch or rotted section of a tree.   Another great and often overlooked source of water is dew or condensation.  Given that you do have clothes on your back, use some article of clothing to “mop” it up.  From dusk to dawn is the best time for dew formation and gathering.  Sometimes in shaded areas you can still gather dew hours after the sun has risen.  If you’ve experienced a rainfall recently, keep in mind that rotted wood and moss will hold water long after everything else has dried.  Simply squeeze the water out.  The last source of water I would like to mention is tree sap.  It’s my favorite since it doesn’t require boiling. I’ve consumed box elder, red, black, and sugar maple, black birch, black and white walnut, shagbark and shellbark hickory, and sycamore sap as my sole source of liquid for days.  I’ve also drank large quantities of sap from many other tree species. 

Some refer to the sugar content as a possible source of dehydration.  I haven’t experienced this to be true but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t.  As an added benefit, most tree sap has an abundance of vitamins and minerals.  Not all tree sap is potable.  Check out the Plants For A Future Database and look under the heading “plant uses” and scroll down to “sap” to see which trees grow in your area.  Just a side note, many of the trees with potable sap also have edible inner bark, which was extensively used by Native Americans.  Once you have positively 100 percent identified that species, sample a small amount first.  Then progress to larger amounts of consumption.  You should do the same with anything your body has never consumed before.  We all may potentially have food allergies were not yet aware of.  The downside to using sap for hydration is that it doesn’t flow year round and not all trees flow at the same time or for the same length of time.  Maple sap, for instance, will flow best when nights are below freezing and days are above freezing and it’s sunny or partly sunny (high pressure).  With maples in my location, sap flow begins after the trees have gone dormant in the fall.  This usually occurs after a few hard frosts and will continue through winter and into spring as long as the tree isn’t frozen and the aforementioned criteria are met.  These principles do not apply to all tree species. 

An example is birch, which averages 3-5 weeks of sap flow in early to mid spring depending on the weather.  Once the leaves have emerged the sap of most tree species loses its clarity and palatability as the chemical components change.  Shortly thereafter, sap flow will cease and does not begin again until the weather warms after a sufficient dormancy period.  Given that all trees do not leaf out all at once in the spring but rather in a slow progression this can be a source of water for many months if you have the knowledge.  In my area, by utilizing all tree species with potable sap, I can drink for nearly six months out of the year as long as the trees are not frozen.  Maples are among the first to leaf out in the spring therefore they flow first.  In my area, this is followed by birches, walnuts, hickories, etc.  Tree sap is highly perishable and must be used quickly.  One of my favorite methods for preserving it in early spring is to pile the melting snow around and onto the container to keep it cold.  Be sure to cover the container opening with wood or a rock to keep the snow out.  Using this method sap will keep for days. 

Harvesting tree sap without tools is more difficult but not impossible given that it were Native Americans who taught Europeans how to do this and did so without steel implements.  Maple and birch syrup producers rely on drills, buckets, taps, tubing, etc to procure their liquid.  Primitive survival does not afford these luxuries.  Gouge a v shape incision into the tree on a side that faces the sun using a sharp rock (research flint knapping to provide you with an adequate knife).  Then insert a thin twig into the base of this v and slope it downward so that the sap can drip down it.  Better yet, break the end off of a lower branch that is pointing in a downward direction or hang deadfall on it to make it point downward.  You can also bore a small hole into the trunk with a rock and insert a hollow stem of a non poisonous plant to act as a tap.  Just match the diameter of your tap very closely to the diameter of your bored hole creating as tight of a fit as possible.  You can speed up the flow by sucking as through a straw.  While testing certain trees pre-SHTF to see if they are flowing I suggest breaking off the very tip of a twig instead of gouging a hole into the trunk unnecessarily.  This is just a good conservation practice in my opinion. 

Grape vines are also a good source of liquid during certain times of the year.  When grape vines are flowing I like to break one off low to the ground, wrap it up, and bring it with me.  When I’m ready to use it, I’ll cut or break this vine into many equal sections and bundle them together allowing the liquid to drip into a container.  As with trees, grape vines have a prime flow period which closely coincides with trees.  Other times of the year sap doesn’t flow or isn’t palatable.  Although these are just a few of the plants I like to use for water, there are many others available as well.  As a general rule for herbaceous plants, if the entire plant is edible so to is the liquid within it.  By now you should be asking, “okay, well I found water, but what do I put it in and how do I purify it?”  The answer is found in fire.


Making fire with sticks is referred to as friction fire.  The concept is to rub or spin two pieces of wood together producing a fine dust that will ignite into a glowing ember or coal at around eight hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  This coal is then transferred into a tinder bundle and blown into flames.  The flaming tinder bundle is placed underneath a pre constructed arrangement of small twigs and progressively larger pieces of wood.  I like to arrange my sticks in a tepee fashion with one side open to insert the flaming tinder bundle.  There are countless methods invented throughout history but the two I like the most are the bow drill and hand drill methods, with the latter being my preference.  An experienced person could easily write a 50 page article on all the nuances of friction fire.  Instead of giving an in depth “how to” I think it’s better that you start by watching internet videos on this subject as it’s much easier to understand when you see it.  It can be rather verbose to explain.  Do searches for both the “hand drill fire” and “bow drill fire” and watch many different videos to gather more information as no one video or source of information is the best. 

The bow drill is the best place to start for beginners as it’s usually the easiest.  This video shows the basics of the bow drill by Ray Mears.  Although he does use a knife, machete, and nylon cordage, a sharp rock and natural cordage can achieve the same results with slightly more time invested.  Developing an understanding of sound basics and technique on the bow drill will make the hand drill that much easier.  Outside of proper technique and form, the next most important factor for success is the right selection of wood or plant material.  Not all wood can be spun together to make fire and dead but not rotted wood is almost always best.  If you can dent it with a finger nail with moderate pressure that is likely an appropriate hardness.  Softer woods are easier to create fire with than harder woods.  Avoid most oaks, most maples, hickories, walnuts, persimmon, beech, birch and any other wood than is generally considered hard and durable.  This is not to say that it can’t be done with these woods, it’s just much harder than with woods such as buckeyes, basswood, elms, willows, sycamore and some members of the pine family.  If you’re using the bow drill method you’ll need to make some sort of natural cordage. 

My favorite sources of natural fibers are stinging nettle, milkweed, dogbane, and basswood, although there are literally hundreds of other trees and herbaceous plants that can provide adequate fibers.  Do a search for making natural cordage to see this first hand and to see which of these species grow in your area.  Also, pencil thick roots from some members of the pine family make excellent bow drill cordage.  When you’re first learning the bow drill use paracord or an old shoe lace as you’ll quickly get frustrated when your natural cordage wears thin and breaks.  My favorite tinder is cedar bark shredded and balled up like a birds nest but many other materials will work as well.  For firewood, especially in wet or rainy weather, it’s imperative to gather wood that is off the ground.  Dead twigs and branches still attached or hung up in the tree are an excellent choice.  Fatwood, which is the heartwood of certain pine trees usually located in decaying stumps, is probably the best kindling there is.  Its high resin content makes it rot resistant and will easily catch fire.  Friction fire can be physically demanding and to have your tinder bundle fail to ignite wet wood is not a good thing.  As far as wood selection goes, the easiest to produce fire using a bow drill in my locale are buckeye, basswood, elm, willow, and eastern white pine.  There are many others that work well, but these are simply my preferences. 

The hand drill consists of only a spindle, fireboard, and tinder bundle.  It has the advantage of not needing cordage or as much preparation time but is less technically forgiving.  Here is another clip of the same guy performing the hand drill.  Although he is performing this in the desert, all the materials needed to do so are easily found anywhere south of the tundra.  My favorites for this type of friction fire are basswood, buckeye, willow, elm, and yucca for the fireboard and mullein, cattail, evening primrose, and goldenrod for the spindle. After you learn the basics, it is persistence and a desire to succeed that makes all the difference in success.  Because this method most often utilizes the dead stalks of herbaceous plants it’s imperative to be able to recognize them at this stage.  Many people can recognize plants when they’re flowering but cannot do so when it’s a dead dry stalk in mid-winter.  As with any skill truly worth learning, it takes practice and dedication over an extended period of time.  I constantly read how these methods are impossible or worthless.  Well, I’m here to tell you that if you’re willing to put in the effort you can start a fire with these methods at will anytime you please.  I do it all the time.  The last primitive method for fire starting I feel worth mentioning is flint rock.

Most of us are familiar with the flint and steel method of fire starting as well as the more modern ferro rod.  But given that we’re talking about primitive skills this would predate the invention of steel.  Flint rock has a decent distribution across the US and that’s why I mention it.  Before steel, many native cultures simply scraped flint against an iron ore containing rock.  Quite a few different rocks will work but the most commonly used was marcasite or pyrite.  It produces small sparks and is tedious but can be a viable alternative to friction fire if your local geology has plenty of these rocks available.  This is another good research topic specific to your locale.  Here’s an excellent link showing how.   And one more for a different look  Once you have fire it’s now time to purify your water. 

You’ll need to fashion a container by using coals from the fire to burn out the center of a piece of wood.  You can make bowls and cups capable of holding large quantities of water with this method.  Find an appropriate piece of wood and place some hot coals onto it.  You can speed up the process by blowing on the coals.  Every so often remove the coals and gouge out the charred material of your cup and repeat the process until you have something capable of holding your desired amount of liquid.  I recommend sticking to something quart sized for mobility.  If stationary, burn a large depression into a fallen tree capable of holding gallons of water.  Birch bark containers, animal stomachs and hides work very well for transport.  You can use pine sap to seal up any leaking areas of the bark.  Once you have a container you need to heat up rocks in the fire and using two sticks in a chopstick manner transfer them into your wooden container to boil the water.  Your rocks should be gathered from a very dry area that doesn’t sit in water.  The reason being is that trapped moisture will cause the rocks to crack when heated and sometimes these sharp sections are flung outward.  Basalt is the rock of choice as it rarely cracks and if it does it doesn’t go flying outward towards your face.  Rocks gathered from stream beds or any other wet areas are poor choices as they almost always invariably crack.  If you must use these types of rock, cover your eyes when placing them into the water and keep back while it’s boiling.  Continue to transfer more rocks into the water until you’ve boiled it for the desired period of time.  Placing a large leaf, flat piece of wood or rock over your boiling container will increase efficiency and negate any flying hot stones.  Burn out multiple containers to gather tree sap and place them under your taps.  Or if you live in an area with bamboo you already have a container.  Check out this kid to see what I mean.  Instead of cutting the bamboo into sections as he does, I like to keep the bamboo stalk intact and gouge a hole at the top of each section and lay the entire bamboo stalk into a water source to fill up.  This way all the sections will fill with water and can easily be transported to the fire location.  You can then keep the stalk upright and take off one section at a time for boiling.  Fire is sort of a double edged sword, you may need it to keep warm, cook food, and purify water but its presence may give away your location.  My favorite low profile method for fire is the Dakota fire hole.  Research it.  It consumes far less wood, doesn’t smoke as much, and doesn’t cast as much light.  Also, to keep your fire “near smokeless,” use the driest wood possible and keep the flames going.  A fire smokes the most as the flames are dying down. Now that you have shelter from the elements, water to quench your thirst, and the all important fire, it’s time to eat.

In a short term survival situation food is the least important.  However, in a long term scenario food is paramount.  To date, I’ve consumed and or used approximately two thousand different edible and medicinal plant species and I can recognize them at all stages of their growth.  I do not use this number to boast but rather use it to illustrate what our Creator has given to us that is free for the taking.  Even in the dead of winter an abundance is still available if you have the knowledge.  Domestic produce pales in comparison to wild food in taste and nutrition, although certainly not all edible plants taste great.  I always feel my best when consuming wild plants and animals and I try to consume something from nature daily.  Many people feel that one cannot entirely survive off wild food indefinitely.  They claim that too many of the Native American staples have been greatly diminished due to loss of habitat.  This is true to an extent and I’m deeply concerned with loss of biodiversity.  However, with this loss has come a substantial influx of Old World plants and animals to fill the fields and meadow that were once forested.  Many years ago I set a goal for myself which was to see if it was possible to still “live off the land.”  Honestly, I doubted that one could only consume wild food and make it.  But the more I continued to learn the more I realized that I was wrong.  Simply put, it is my firm conviction that one can not only survive but absolutely thrive consuming only wild species when armed with the right knowledge and skill set.   

As I mentioned in my introduction, almost everywhere on earth has been inhabited by natives that did just that.  The downside to this is that it takes years of learning to develop this skill and knowledge and a TEOTWAWKI type scenario will make it much more difficult to live this lifestyle.  Procuring wild food by far has the longest learning curve of all primitive survival skills.  It involves plant identification, harvest, and preparation.  It involves hunting, fishing, tracking, trapping, stalking, snaring, processing, as well as other skills.  These are things that take time to learn.  I don’t say this to discourage you but rather to be realistic.  Shelter, specific to your locale, can be learned in a day.  You can become really proficient in finding water in a slightly longer period of time.  It takes a few months to become good at fire, practicing twenty minutes a day three to four days a week.  And it can be nearly mastered in a year to the point where you can do it almost anywhere anytime.  But to learn food, you really have to be dedicated.  It’s probably best to start learning all the poisonous plants in your location to rule out what cannot be eaten.  These will be a huge minority of the overall number of species in any given area.  In fact, in most geographic locales it’s extremely difficult to locate more than a handful of species that can kill you.  Besides, with very few exceptions, poisonous plants taste so terrible that it would be difficult to ever consume enough quantity to kill you.  We have taste buds for a reason, don’t ignore them!  To really learn plants you’re going to need books and some basic botanical knowledge.  You can also learn a tremendous amount on the Internet.  Just like survival authors, some wild food authors are better than others.  I consider only a few to be authorities, as I find mistakes in almost all wild food literature.  Fortunately, these aren’t mistakes that could kill us.  Many authors, I think, just copy others’ work.  The authors I find to be most reliable and accurate are Samuel Thayer, Thomas Elpel, Linda Runyon, Steve Brill, and John Kallas.  There are many others so do your research, read reviews and make an informed decision.  Outside of books specific to edible plants you’ll need field guides for your region that cover all plants not just those that are edible.  A taxonomic guide for your locale is indispensable. 

Once you have positive identification, research that plant for its edibility.  Basic rules for foraging are: 1) never eat anything unless you’re one hundred percent sure it’s not poisonous.  2) know at which stage of growth and what part of the plant you can consume since some are edible young but become poisonous later or may have one edible part and other poisonous parts.  3) know if any special preparations such as boiling are required for that plant species.  4) when consuming any plant for the first time, only sample a small amount to be certain you’re not allergic and then increase your consumption.  5) use at minimum three references to ensure a plants edibility.  6) use latin names including genus and species for identification purposes.  Start learning plants now since it takes time to become proficient.  Don’t assume you’ll be able to head to your retreat with a few field manuals and then start learning these necessary skills.  I say this because plants are mainly identified by dissecting and/or counting their flower parts and the edible parts may precede or succeed flowering, which would leave you out of luck.  So, just because you’ve identified an edible plant it doesn’t mean it’s at the appropriate stage for consumption.  It can be, but not always.  If you haven’t learned edible plants in advance then at least memorize the universal edibility test to leave you some options.  Type in into a search engine to learn it.  I chose not to go into detail on which plants are edible simply because it would be specific to my locale and would only be good info for some.  I would rather conclude with you knowing that there are tens of thousands of edible plants within the United States and if you apply yourself you and your family will never be without food.  I love to gather seeds of edible plants and scatter them near where I live, as well as my family’s garden, to add to my local abundance.  I may succumb to disease, I may be shot or die in an accident, I may live to a ripe old age and simply die of natural causes, but I can assure you I will never starve to death. 

I’ve chosen not to cover hunting, trapping, snaring, and fishing in a primitive manner simply because it’s illegal in most areas.  Most places require steel snares and traps that conform to state laws as well as fishing with a rod and reel and hunting only with certain weapons.  However, it’s certainly not illegal for you to research these topics and I strongly suggest doing just that.  Snares and traps work round the clock in as many locations as you place them.  They will consistently outperform a hunter for this reason as he or she can only be in one location at one time and only for a limited amount of time.  I personally prefer snaring over trapping because of all the supplies needed to trap.  Trapping is heavy and bulky and I can carry many more snares than I can traps.  Trapping can be great when you’re stationary but if you’re on foot, I wouldn’t even consider it in my opinion.

This concludes Bare Bones Survival.  I hope I’ve sparked your interest in some of the things within our past that make our present possible.  God is simply magnificent, and as we all scramble to make sure we purchase everything on our “list of lists” before the SHTF, it’s easy to forget that He has already given us everything we need in nature.  Slow down a little and get back to nature and you’ll find peace that doesn’t exist within the rat race of American culture.  When you start learning and practicing these skills, by all means use anything that will make success more of a probability.  If something doesn’t work for you, don’t assume it doesn’t work altogether.  You may just need to adjust something in some way.  Be persistent.  Don’t run out into the wilderness without gear and expect to be able to do these things overnight.  Start small and work your way up.  Take a trip with a fully stocked backpack and work on these skills over an extended period of time.  The first time you make shelter, bring your tent, bag, and pad as a backup.  Bring your water and filter when you work on finding water.  Bring your flint and knife when practicing friction fire.  And bring food when working on edible plants.  Learn to hunt, fish, and snare using legal methods as you will learn many things that are transferable to doing the same in a primitive manner.  If you’re willing to put in the time necessary to learn these things, you’ll be rewarded by always being at home in the wilderness, never to hunger or thirst or to be left out in the cold.  Good Luck and God Bless you all!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
For those considering the purchase of winter tires, a good web site with demonstrations comparing the performance of different vehicle types (including all wheel drive) with and without these tires from the Rubber Association of Canada.

Survival experts have also advised against consuming snow as a water source. Les Stroud, a Canadian survival expert, has demonstrated that if engaged in physical activity, such as walking, the consumption of snow when necessary is safe as metabolic heat offsets the cold snow. Some have survived in Arctic conditions doing this. However, it is still not safe when hunkered down.

Best Regards, - S.R.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We have all heard the old idiom: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." This basically means that something that one person considers worthless may be considered valuable by someone else. This could not be further from the truth in the mind of any survivor. You could branch out into every aspect and area of survival with this mindset at your core. Water, food, fire, shelter, and security can all be obtained with this in mind.
I believe that in a survival situation and in everyday life that everything around you is valuable and has multiple uses. I also believe that everyday life is survival. From the moment of your birth until right now, you are in a survival situation. If this weren't the case you would not be here. It is just that in an actual "survival situation" that the stakes become higher. It is how you perceive things around you, and how you choose to use them that will give you the edge in a "survival situation".
Preparing and being prepared for any and all situations is something that I highly recommend. However, this may not always be conceivable, or you may not have certain items with you at the time of need or when disaster strikes. In certain survival situations you may not be resupplied for a great length of time or not at all. It is imperative in those moments that you and I think outside of the box. Virtually everything around you and I has multiple uses and purposes, but it is up to you and I to use our most important survival weapon and tool to discover those other uses for those items. This weapon and tool is our minds.

For years I have slowly integrated all parts of a "survivor’s mindset" into my wife and kids, but I always try and reinforce keys aspects to them, and one of those main aspects is the mental ability to "improvise"! For a long while I had shown my son that there are multiple uses for any single item or thing he comes across. I have also shown him many survival techniques over the years. To drive this point home to my 12 year old son I took him to a picnic campsite up in the mountains. The point of the trip was to show him that he could survive even if he lacked certain items. He didn't know what we were taking the drive for until we got there.  After arriving at the campsite I told him, “Pretend right now that you were in a survival situation or that you got lost up here in the woods. What would you do?"

To my amazement he just gave me a grin, stopped and sat down. He then thought about what I had just said for a moment. Next he pulled everything that he had out of his pockets and took inventory which consisted of the following:
A survival whistle which had a compass, magnifying glass, and thermometer.
And a stick of bubble gum
He then looks at me and says, "It's not much is it?" I told him, "Nope it sure isn't" He then said, “Well, I suppose I can do what you taught me to do." "And what's that?” I asked.
"I can forage around and see what I find.” he said.

He first walked around the campsite and found a plastic bag, 3 metal bottle caps, a lighter with no fuel but flint still sparked, a used 3 foot piece of multi-strand white rope, a torn piece of paper, and a large coffee can. He then walked along the nearby creek with me in pursuit. Along this creek he gathered up an empty plastic water bottle, a glass bottle, a tangled wad of fishing line which had 2 hooks attached, a small bait container with cotton and 2 weights inside.  On the way back to the campsite he found a broken piece of a vehicle side
mirror on the road.

Then my son took inventory of what he had again. I then asked him, "What can you use that stuff for?” How will all this stuff help your situation?"
"For food I could try using the hooks and weights to catch fish with bugs as bait, or at worst I could try making lures with the hooks and metal bottle caps," he said
"I know I'll need water and I could collect it from that creek using the plastic or glass bottles. Maybe after I got a fire going or I found some charcoal around the campsite I could make a water filter. I'd have to use the plastic water bottle for that. The coffee can would be for boiling the water and cooking food.
"For fire I think I could try putting some sparks on that cotton as long as it's dry and hopefully it will turn into a flame." I also have this piece of paper to help me along with the magnifying glass on my survival whistle.
"Shelter would have to be made using the rope or rope strands and maybe tying branches together to make a simple shelter." He kept on glancing up at me as if to see if I approved, but I kept quiet. I wanted to hear what he would come up with. I was thinking in my mind as he talked,” Not bad, not bad at all kid!"
He continued:
I guess the fire would give me some sort of safety and security. I could use the broken piece of mirror for signaling or use my whistle to try and get someone's attention.
For the rest of the afternoon I watched as he put his plan for each aspect of survival into action. He succeeded in every one of them by himself. (Keep in mind all local and state laws were kept during this exercise.)
At the end of the day he said, "The plastic bag is pretty much useless.” "What are you going to carry all this stuff around in?” I asked. "You're right dad. I guess there is no such thing as trash!” he said. We both laughed as he enlightened us with that final comment. Not only did my son gain additional confidence that day but we also picked up what most others would consider trash or litter and we cleaned up that area.

My son was absolutely right in saying “there is no such thing as trash”, and in a survival situation there isn’t! Everything becomes useful. In our day to day lives we throw things away in the garbage all the time. Have you ever stopped to think what other uses those items might have? It is absolutely mind blowing all the ideas that will flood to your mind if you asked yourself this question every time you open the trash can to throw something away! You could save yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars in thinking like this. I'm not telling you to be a messy, disorganized hoarder, of course not. What I am saying is to stop and readjust your way of thinking about everything around you and their potential uses. In a  TEOTWAWKI scenario you will be glad that you started thinking this way. There is no such thing as trash! It's all treasure in some form or another. It's just up to you how you use and apply those items into your situation. By all means start preparing. Educate yourself and your family about survival, prepare your survival kits and bug out bags, and store up emergency supplies and food but remember this simple yet effective core idea that there basically is no such thing as trash. You can recycle and reintegrate almost anything back into your inventory and situation to help you. You can combine what others consider junk items together and make useful things to help you and those around you. For example if you needed an alternative source of power you could make a simple generator using a motor, an alternator, electrical wires, a V belt, a cast iron pulley, and some mounting brackets.  However keep in mind that you may have to obtain these items from different places and different items. The motor could be obtained from a lawnmower, the alternator from an old car, the pulley from a beaten down belt driven air conditioner, etc. What others have considered to be their trash could now become your treasure! In its simplest form this would be a DC charging system but with the addition of a DC to AC power inverter it also becomes an AC generator system with battery back up. In simpler survival ideas using this mindset you could make a simple water filter using a plastic water bottle, sand, and charcoal, a thrown away soda pop can could be used to start you a fire by polishing the bottom and using it like a reversed magnifying glass with the sun. There are endless ideas, tools, weapons, and survival supplies that can be made or obtained with items around you.

In a  TEOTWAWKI scenario the average person who is not prepared and survival minded is limited by their supplies. Society has too many people accustomed to turning on the faucet and expecting water, going to the nearest store when their pantries and refrigerators supplies run low, going to a restaurant when they get hungry, and filling up their vehicles with gas when needed. These people sadly will not be ready for a TEOTWAWKI situation. The ease of society I believe has weakened and blinded the average person into thinking that the comforts and convenience of everyday life will always be there when needed. It’s not impossible for the average person to pull together and survive this type of situation but it will be that much harder for them since they are so accustomed to the ease of societal living. It’s not a matter of if something of this scale will occur but just a matter of when. For the survival minded person, survivalist, or prepper at least you will be that much more prepared than the average person. However, please keep in mind that if the economy collapses, or there is a nuclear catastrophe, a world wide viral outbreak, etc, etc, that known commerce will come to a halt. Supplies as we know it will come to a halt. At least those who have prepared will have a greater chance versus those who have not. Never deceive yourselves into thinking that you have prepared supply wise for everything, and indefinitely. At some point you will have to resupply something. You will either have to barter and trade, or forage for what items you need. Keep in mind that God gave us all our most important piece of survival gear and it sits right above our necks. Our brains and our minds are an awesome tool if we are willing to see through the right lens. Most of the world has been explored by man. Man by nature leaves things behind either by throwing them away or seeing things as junk and abandoning that stuff for others. How you see that stuff and what you do with it can help you greatly.

Over the years I have used the term survival extensively but I don’t want you and I to just hang by a thread surviving. I don’t want you and I to just survive. I want you and I to THRIVE.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of survive is:

  1. to remain alive or in existence: live on
  2. to continue to function or prosper

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of thrive is:

  1. to grow vigorously : flourish
  2. to gain in wealth and possessions: prosper
  3. to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances

These two words sound the same but quite surprisingly they are different. I would rather thrive than just survive. I don’t just want to exist or continue on but rather I want to flourish and prosper despite my circumstances. My friends we need to think outside the box. We need to improvise when necessary. I believe the key to thriving rather than just relying on supplies and surviving is the ability to improvise. These two sayings go hand in hand and they are:
Necessity is The Mother of Invention and One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure. Both require you and I to think outside the box and realize that if you really need something that you will find a way to do it or acquire it. The items you need could be right in front of you and you may not yet realize it. Some uses for things may be obvious but they may require a little elbow grease to get them working. For example a few weeks ago on my way to the city dump I noticed a wheelbarrow on the side of one of the large dumpsters that was going to be thrown away. Upon inspecting the wheelbarrow all it needed was a new tire and handles and maybe a new paint job. After asking permission I immediately took it with me and fixed it up. The cost was about $5 for a can of spray paint since I already had a tire for it. It looked and functioned like new. I just saved myself at least $145-$150 for this particular brand of wheelbarrow. See not only can you apply this concept in a survival situation but in your day to day life. The money you save in day to day living using this way of thinking could be used for additional supplies and gear, bills or a vacation.

In summary when something thrusts us into a major survival situation you and I will already be thinking this way and you and I will go from just surviving to thriving. This article could go on describing hundreds of thousands of things around you in a survival situation that may help you but it is up to you and your ingenious and inventive mind to figure those things out based on your particular needs. Remember if my 12 year old son can put this mindset into action then so can you and I. It’s not the one with the most toys and ready supplies who wins in the end but the one who can use his or her mind and faith that will endure to the end. Thank You for taking the time to read this article and as always, “Take Care, Be Prepared and May God Lead and Guide You in every situation that you face!”

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 war” pack. The weight of this pack would include web gear, extra magazines, ammunition, and a little bit of food. This article won’t be about this type of pack either.

In this article I will focus on the 72-120 hour pack. The reason I feel qualified to write about this topic is because a 72-hour pack is nearly identical to what a thru-hiker carries. While I was on the trail, I would typically re-supply every 4-5 days. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could hike more miles, faster, and with less fatigue the lighter my pack was. Getting my pack weight down made such a difference in my daily mileage that I was able to get to the next town a day earlier to resupply. That meant I could further reduce my pack weight by not carrying that extra day of food. This positive feedback loop works the other way around too. If you carry a heavy pack you can’t walk as far or as fast, so you have to pack out even more food to get to the same destination.

When I started the trail in Georgia, my fully loaded pack weighed 37 pounds. By the time I got to Maine I had my pack weight down to 17.5 pounds with 4 days of food and full water. I admit that I carried extra water through Pennsylvania and New York this summer due to the lack of rain. But my total pack weight during that time still never exceeded 20 pounds.

A lightweight pack allows you to perform better no matter what your fitness level is. Ultralighters that are in good shape can cover 30+ miles a day through mountainous terrain. Several times on my hike I covered 100 miles in 4 days, that was a more comfortable pace for me. But the real beauty of ultralight backpacking is what it can do for people that aren’t in top shape such as children, the elderly, and people with desk jobs. How often do busy folks get out to do training hikes? I bet there are preppers reading this that have fully prepared G.O.O.D. bags and still haven’t felt what it’s like to do 15-20 mile hikes with them. I challenge every prepper who has taken the time to put together a Bug Out Bag to map out a route and actually hike it! A good way to save weight is by making note of water sources along your route and carrying less of it on your back. My pack was so light on the Appalachian Trail that I actually did quite a bit of running on my way to Maine. Being able to run with your Bug Out Bag could mean the difference between life and death in a Schumer Hits The Fan scenario. Try doing that with 50-60+ pound pack!

The G.O.O.D. bag has a specific purpose. If I’m fleeing a city trying to get somewhere safe, I want to avoid confrontation and get out of the area as fast as possible. I don’t want to be bogged down with the weight of a heavy long gun and extra ammunition. My only weapon should be the lightweight concealed carry pistol that’s always on me. In the beginning of a societal collapse the zombie hoards will be most interested in looting stores. By the time they start getting desperate enough to mess with us we’ll be long gone. All the bigger equipment and extra supplies should already be at a defendable retreat location. It’s prudent to not only map out several routes to that Bug Out Location, but also walk there under simulated conditions. Using snowmobile trails, logging roads, and two tracks may be the safest way to get there. Knowing the area at ground level puts you at a big advantage. How many miles will I need to cover before the next water source?

An ultralight 72-120 hour pack will give most people a range of 100 miles. Even someone who’s out of shape can comfortably make 50 miles in 5 days with a light pack. When the retreat location is further then that you can bury resupply caches along the route. This can extend your range hundreds of miles.

Getting your pack weight down will challenge your preparedness mindset. You don’t need or want backups in your G.O.O.D. bag. The 2 is 1, and 1 is none mentality doesn’t work when the weight is on your shoulders. Leave the kitchen sink at home. After carrying a backpack over 2,000 miles the term “less is more” has taken on a whole new meaning. You really want to get your pack down to the bare necessities.

Hopefully this article has encourage you to put together an ultralight bug out bag or overhaul an existing one. A great way to start is by purchasing a scale. Keep a list of the items you carry and how much they weigh. Where can I cut weight? Is there a lighter option? What can I do without? Military surplus gear is made of really heavy materials. A backpack designed for a 100-pound load can weigh as much as 7 pounds empty. This would be perfect for the I.N.C.H. bag, but totally wrong for an ultralight 72-hour pack. We need to equip ourselves with the type of gear used by the ultralight backpacking community. This type of equipment isn’t as durable as military gear. But if it’s strong enough for a 2,000+ mile hike, it’s strong enough to take you where you need to go.

Making specific gear recommendations is no substitute for educating yourself on this topic. Searching the Internet for “ultralight backpacking” will reveal loads of information. New stuff is coming out all the time. My personal kit is in a state of flux as I find new equipment that can increase my comfort while reducing my pack weight. Don’t be afraid to experiment. During my hike I swapped out every piece of gear for something lighter at least once. The equipment you carry will differ depending on your location, the time of year, and the size of your group. Traveling with at least one other person gives you the advantage of being able to share the weight of one tent, one water filter, and one stove.

I kept an online journal for my friends and family while I was out hiking the Appalachian Trail this summer. If you are interested in learning about the equipment I carried, click the “gear” tab on the left hand column of my journal page. My journal can be found here:


Again, what I carried won’t work for everyone in all situations but hopefully it will give you some ideas. I believe it’s irresponsible to stuff a pack with what we think we’ll need and let it sit around until the balloon goes up. Plan a backpacking trip and get to know your kit. Not only is it fun, but you’ll learn a lot too. By the time you get back home you’ll know how to pack more efficiently. God Bless, - Pete R. Pan

Friday, October 12, 2012

I recently fabricated my first two rocket stoves using $25 in parts per stove, and gave one to my local volunteer fire department fundraising auction.  It takes just over an hour to make one and it works great.  The fuel/vent stand is key for ensuring air flows under the fuel for maximum combustion.  The pot grill is key for ensuring maximum heat transfer to your cooking pot without choking the fire.  

It was pretty nice the other morning making scrambled eggs without having to use propane, electricity, or the fire pit.  The rocket stove is one of the most efficient wood fuel stoves ever devised.  

You can find a photo of one of the finished stoves, here.

The following is how I made the rocket stoves:

- 5 gal steel paint pail from commercial paint store, with lid $12 (or free if you find a used metal paint can)
- 18" x 24" wire deck from Lowe's SKU# 319519 $5 
- 4" galvanized duct elbow $4
- 24" piece of 4" galvanized duct $4
- small sheet metal screws
- Wood ashes

- Saber saw with metal blade
- drill bits and drill motor
- tin snips
- pliers
- vise
- electric hand grinder with metal cutting wheel
- half round file

- Cut the wire deck with the cutting wheel to create both the fuel/vent stand and the pot grill
- Bend legs of fuel stand at stable angle so that top of stand lines up with center of vent pipe when raised off of bottom of pail about an inch
- Taper front end of fuel stand so that three inches of it can fit into vent pipe without binding.  Leave two small studs protruding so that they can fit into notches cut into vent pipe
- Mark paint can on side where vent pipe would be centered and draw 4" circle
- Do the same in center of paint can lid
- Remove foam seal in paint can lid
- Drill starting hole with 1/4" bit and wiggle to widen hole enough for saber saw blade to fit
- Cut out both circles (don't worry much about the quality of these holes
- Attach vent to elbow and fasten with three sheet metal screws, avoiding screw at top of vent where fuel will be shoved through
- Measure width of bottom of paint can and cut duct with grinder cutoff wheel so that the pre-assembled 90 degree angle will easily fit in the bottom of the can (it will protrude properly once the  duct is centered vertically in the can)
- Attach remaining section of duct to other end of angle duct
- Pre-install duct into both holes to confirm fit, and mark top end of duct at 1/2" above top of lid and cut off excess duct with grinding wheel
- File cut edges of both ducts with half round file to reduce risk of sharp edges
- Fill paint can with wood ashes and slightly compress with hands as you fill it, while maintaining duct centered in can
- Put lid on and crimp closed with pliers
- Mark horizontal duct 1" in from edge to align with the two attach stubs and drill clearance hole for fuel stand stubs
- Cut clearance notch in duct slightly above clearance holes to allow stubs to slide along duct and drop into place into the clearance holes like a detent position
- Cut remaining piece of wire deck so that you can bend four support legs and bend the outside corners in a bit to fashion a grill
- Cut the support legs so that the grill stands at 1/2" (or slightly under) above the duct edge (this may take trial and error, but you want to maximize heat transfer to your pot without choking your air flow)
- You're done.  The commercial guys sell an adjustable pot skirt which directs the heat up the sides of the pot.  I might make one of those as an accessory one of these days.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I read your blog almost everyday and sometimes I get a little irked when someone writes "You can survive without water for three days". Having been an investigator in a desert climate, I can attest to the fact that a person can die of dehydration in a matter of 4 hours, especially if they have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs just prior to going on that hike or riding an ATV into unknown lands. True you can survive longer in northern climates, but you can't count on going three days without water. It is misleading and can cause the unnecessary death of people who get lost!
Another thing, as my good friend Cody Lundin taught me, always carry several gallon sized plastic Zip-Loc bags. They are extremely light weight and make great canteens in an emergency. Furthermore, one can places the bags over the end of leafy tree limbs and suck the water out of trees. True, you may not get much, but every ounce can be a life saver.
I hope this helps someone if they get caught out in a situation they don't want to be in. - T.J.

Dear Mr. JWR,
Food is very important in maintaining your core temperature when outdoors in a northern clime.  I'm talking about being out for extended periods in sub-zero weather.  I go out for a day or two at a time and my favorite high calorie foods are peanut butter and pemmican. They give you good " bang for the buck" and are relatively compact and you can eat them while you're walking.  I also love my kelly kettle.  It's nice to have a hot drink in about 5 minutes even when it's -30F.  If you are going to go out playing in the snow or are living up north where the cold is quick killer do yourself a favor and read Snow Walker's Companion: Winter Camping Skills for the North by the Conovers.  

I also carry a lighter, matches, ferro rod, and old school flint and steel with char cloth.  Fire Is Life, so know it, understand it and make it your friend.  The cold doesn't care whether you live or die, be prepared for it. - Captain S.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference: Wikipedia: Giardia

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

For those of you who are awake and aware of the fact that our current lifestyle is about to change in a big way, this information should appeal to you.  I would like to take the time to present some information that might not be known to everyone. This article is about the Cattail.  That humble plant that some people go to great lengths to rid themselves of.  That is foolish in the extreme in light of the coming collapse.  A person that had a pond with cattails growing thick around the perimeter, or access to one, should consider themselves extremely wealthy.  They can provide many things in all stages of their growth and are easily sustainable by replanting some of the seeds.  In fact, if there are suitable places for them to grow near you, bur you don't see them there, you can take a seed head from another area and establish your own cattail garden.  Apart from the uses for the cattail itself, they provide great cover for ducks and geese.  (yum)   

They are found in most areas of North America, so finding them in non-desert, non-mountainous areas should be relatively easy.  There are multiple varieties.  If you look around, there are probably some growing nearby.  They are easy to identify, as no other plant produces that brown seed head that all cattails do.  There are similar looking plants that can grow in close proximity, but none have that seed head.  As a word of caution though, if you are not sure then don't eat it.  Some of the broad leafed grasses that grow on the edges of ponds are poisonous.     

If ever there was a truly year round plant, it is the cattail.  You can obtain something from them in every season, even in winter if you can get through the ice to the roots.  In spring, once the shoots are above the water line, you can dig and collect the new shoots coming off the roots.  Peel, boil and eat.  A bit later, late spring/early summer, the pollen spikes form and are edible.  They can be boiled or eaten raw.  They get 8 - 10 inches long and taste somewhat like corn.  There are male and female parts, both are edible.  In summer, the male parts (on top of the seed head) will start to produce pollen.  This can be knocked off and used as flour, or mixed in to extend your flour storage.  In late summer to early fall, (and all the way back to spring), the time is right to get the most amount of food.  The roots can be dug up boiled, and eaten as such, or the starch can be extracted and used as flour.  The root is dug, washed and peeled, then they are broken up underwater either by hand or between clean stones to release the starch from the root fibers.  The excess water can be (carefully) poured off and the remainder dried out leaving flour.  Cattail flour contains gluten so it will hold together well in pancakes, cornbread, etc.  I have read that per acre, there can be as much as 10 times the starches than potatoes.  It might not taste like a potato, but if it gets bad enough that we are trying to get through hard times with nothing but wild edibles, that number is important.     

That is pretty brief, but that is for a reason.  I really want to discuss all the other uses for cattails that don't relate to food.  A lot of the food information has been covered already.  One is only limited by their own imagination when it comes to finding uses for the plant other than food.  The leaves can be broken down for cordage, or woven to make mats, hats, seats, thatching, wall material or anything else that broad leaf grass can be used for.  Like I said, use your imagination.  The stalks can substitute for arrow shafts if not too dry.  Primitive but useful when all of your other arrows have already been used, bent, or broken.  Not for compound bows though, as the poundage is too high and the stalks can shatter.  But, with a recurve bow or bundle bow, they work very well.  I would hate to think that I would be reduced to using such means to survive, but strings break.  Arrows bend and break as well, depending on the type. Finding naturally straight replacements is a huge bonus.  They require minimal processing to make arrows out of and all you need to do is cut the seed head low and take the whole thing home.  

The mature seed head is both edible and useful too, maybe the most of all.  The fluff can be used for stuffing pillows, mattresses, etc.  It has excellent insulation properties as well, think of it as the natural version of fiberglass.  But, the greatest utility from the seed head in my opinion is for making fire.   

The fluff can be used as-is for tinder and it works well, but charring the fluff makes it exponentially  better.  Making char cattail is extremely easy and the finished product will take a spark as well as anything I have tried in nature.  Yes, there are things in the commercial world that do a better job, but given a long enough timeline, they will not be around.  This information is for when things like that have already run out, and you still need to make fire.  I can imagine that fire will become one of the highest priorities in the more northern climates and once the matches have run out, this could really come in handy.  Like I said, charring cattail is easy.  Just collect some seed heads once they have dried out and take the seeds off of the spike.  It will be surprising to most people when they do this for the first time.  There are a lot of seeds in that seed head packed very tightly.  It is best to do this outside, but not on a windy day.  Place the seed head in a bag and break the seeds off of the center spike.  Take the fluff and pack it tightly into a small metal container that you can put in a fire, like an altoids tin or shoe polish tin.  You will get 2-3 tins full of fluff from each seed head.  If the lid does not snap closed, you can wrap a wire around the whole thing to keep it shut during the charring process.  If it pops open during the process, you will probably have to start over.  It is best when there are few leaks to allow air (oxygen) into the container when charring.  Once packed into the tin, make a small hole (tack sized) in the top of the tin and then place it on the coals of a fire.  You have to allow the gasses to escape while limiting the amount of oxygen getting in.  We are basically trying to burn the fluff without the presence of oxygen.  If you read the "how to" on making charcoal, the process is very similar but happens in minutes not hours.  Watch the hole as the tin heats up, smoke will start to exit.  Once the smoke has stopped coming out, you need to time it for 1-2 minutes before it is done.  There is a feel to it that you will get the hang of after a few batches.  Once it has charred, remove it from the fire but do not open the container.  Place it on the ground with the hole side down.  You need to leave it alone for it to cool before opening so that the influx of oxygen does not let it burn completely.  I have made this mistake and it will turn to ash pretty fast.  What you end up with is a tightly packed pad of excellent fire starting material.  Virtually any spark you can get on this stuff will take and allow you to add oxygen to get a coal hot enough to ignite tinder.  Once the matches have run out, this will be the next best thing.     

I have no idea how bad things will get.  I have no idea how long things will be bad.  I only know that every bone in my body is telling me that whatever it is, it's coming, and coming sooner rather than later.  I hope that all that come here appreciate that and are taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families.  The time is now to have plans in place to survive, no matter what happens. Having this knowledge in your toolkit could make a big difference to even those that already have deep larders.  Everything will run out eventually.  If things go on for a decade, most everyone left will be eating out, so to speak. 

About the Author:   I live in Northwestern Pennsylvania and have been awake to the possibility of a collapse for only a few years.  15 years ago I was already an avid hunter and outdoorsman and even went on a few outdoor survival trips (by choice), back in college.  This was long before Les Stroud was doing it on television.  I have been interested in and doing research on wild edibles and survival techniques for as long as I can remember as an adult.  I don't claim to be an expert on either subject, but I do know enough that I thought I might do some good in sharing.  God bless you all.             

Reference:  The incredible cattail: The super Wal-Mart of the swamp, by Kevin F. Duffy, Backwoods Home Magazine

Monday, September 24, 2012

If many of you are like me, and are from the old Army school, you know all about canteen cup cooking. The old-style canteen cup had a locking "L" handle, that made it perfectly suitable for heating water in your canteen cup, as well as heating meals, or even cooking in that little cup. Today's canteen cup that the US military issues has dual folding wire handles, that are not conducive to placing it on a fire - the handles are too close to the heat source. Sometimes "newer-er" doesn't equate to "better" in my book. When you have something that works, and works well, you leave it alone, but the military isn't like that for some reason.
I'm always looking for a way to lighten my backpack, and the older I get, the wiser I get - at least I believe so. It wasn't that many years ago, when I could hump a CFP-90 pack, fully loaded, with a sleeping bag, and all the gear I needed for survival, and plenty of gear I didn't need. Today, my CFP-90 sits in the back of my closet in my office. I've gone to a lighter and smarter pack for my survival and bug out purposes. And, if there is anything I can do to lighten my pack, and still maintain all the gear I need , I'll do it. I've carried a small "stove" in my pack for a lot of years, only problem with this little stove is that it takes those little fuel tabs that the military used to issue - I don't know if these tabs are still an issued item or not. But it was a hassle to have to carry enough of these fuel tabs for cooking on, for more than a day or two.
Enter the 180 Stove from 180 Tack, a Colorado-based company. The 180 Stove is a compact, folding, put-it-together camp stove, that is small enough to even fit in your rear pants pocket, yet large enough to provide an ample cooking surface for large cookware, as well as my trusty old-style canteen cup for heating water for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. What makes the 180 Stove a great backpacker companion is that you don't have to haul any fuel for it. You can use twigs, sticks, dried grass, etc., for your fuel to cook with. Now, unless you're in a barren desert, or the Arctic, finding some form or "fuel" shouldn't be a problem for you. Heck, you can even use dried cow chips for a fuel if need be.
The 180 Stove takes about 30-seconds to assemble, and you don't even need to read the instructions to put it together, it's "that" simple. I like simple - simple is easier and usually fool-proof, too. The 180 Stove is made out of quality stainless steel, with interlocking components, so that there are no moving parts, hinges, welds or rivets that would normally cause a product like this to fail you in the field.
Unfortunately, the 180 Stove arrived during the heat of the summer, and we have burn restrictions in place - no open fires, period. However, I was able to test the 180 Stove in my covered carport, that has a gravel floor and is exposed on the front and the back ends. For fuel, I simply gathered some twigs and pine needles, and put them under the cooking surface of the stove and lit it. Inside of a minute or two, I had a flame hot enough to boil water and cook a burger. I needed to add some more fuel during the cooking process, but it only took a few seconds to take care of this chore. Very little fuel is need for cooking.
The assembled 180 Stove is 7" long 6" wide and 3.25" high, the folded stove is 7" long 3.25" wide and 0.6" high - we're talking pretty compact. And it comes in a heavy duty plastic carrying case, so when you are done with the stove, and it has cooled, you simply disassemble it, place it back in the carrying case, and store it in your backpack ready for use once again. The stove only weight 10.4 oz and that's a big plus. The less weight I have to pack, the better I like it.
Here's some more of the pluses for the 180 Stove. It is truly a "green" stove and does not use toxic fuels. It's light-weight since you don't have to carry fuel, and it is super-strong (and made in the USA). The ease of assembly is another big plus in my book. Simply put the stove together, push a little soil along the sides or use gravel (as I did) then cook, douse and store the stove for another use. I don't care if you live in the city or out in the boonies like I do, you can find some form of fuel to cook with, which makes this stove one of the best choices for cooking in the outdoors in a camping or emergency situation. The 180 Stove comes with a 2 year manufacturer's warranty.
Hunting season is coming up, and if I can find the time to get out this year (didn't make it last year) the little 180 Stove will be in my backpack, or in my rig. Should I find myself stranded out on a lonely logging road, I'll have a stove to cook on, as well as providing some life-saving heat that can make the difference between life and death. In the past, I've resorted to a camp fire to cook on and keep me warm. The 180 Stove will eliminate the need for a big camp fire.
I wish I could write more on the little 180 Stove, however, because it is sooooo simply, and very effective, I find I'm limited as to what I can say about this outstanding product - other than, "why didn't someone come up with this great product sooner?" Sure, there are some other similar stoves out there, but they aren't as well-made as this one is, and many of them also take some kind of canned fuel, which is bulky, expensive and messy to carry with you.
Full-retail on the 180 Stove is $46.95, and it may seem a little bit spendy, but when you stop and think about the quality materials that are used in the stove, and that the thing actually works as advertised, and it can and will be a lifesaver, you are making an investment in your future survival. On top of that, you will be lightening your backpack and assuring yourself of a hot meal when time comes to eat. Yes, you can eat MREs cold - but who likes doing that? If you have a fishing pole and some hooks, you can catch a nice trout and cook it up, using the 180 Stove and nothing tastes better than a hot meal when you're hungry and cold.
I'm gonna see about getting a couple more of the 180 Stoves for my wife and daughters, I know they'd like 'em in their backpacks, just like I do. And, its always nice when you can lighten a pack, and still have all the gear you need. Sure, a camp fire is nice, but it takes a lot of wood, and it honestly isn't all that much "fun" cooking over a large fire...the 180 Stove will take care of your cooking needs in an emergency, like nothing else can. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, September 21, 2012

Concerning the article posted Thursday Sept. 20th, Surviving on Reptiles and Amphibians in a Worst Case Scenario by Misphat, something that that I felt needed clarifying in the article, was concerning what type of turtles.   To make sure that everyone knows that Misphat is talking only about water turtles, the red-ears, sliders, soft shell turtles and the snapping turtles, for only a small example.  The ones found in water or the ones sitting on the log and then sliding into the water when you get too close, there is no problem with eating them. 

My concern is with the box turtle that "could" be found close to water.  It is my understanding, of at least 30 plus years married to a herpetologist, that box turtles should never be eaten because they can eat mushrooms that are poisonous to us humans.  The toxins from those "fungi" can be stored in the tissues of the turtles. 

I couldn't find it written in any of my books and wanted to see if this could be an "urban legend".  After doing a google search and reading turtle forums, (I understand that you can't believe everything from the internet), I found that supposedly the Native Americans did not eat box turtles and that other "predators" could get sick after eating them.  It would be nice to hear from anyone else and see if they agree or not. 

I am not talking about the various "land" tortoises found through out the states, this is only about box turtles.  If this could help just one person not get sick, especially in a SHTF scenario then good.

By the way, I found an interesting web site on turtle cleaning.
Thanks and God Bless, - Ann D.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“Do you think you could survive on your own in the Everglades if you had to?”

The question rang in my mind as I thought about the implications, logistics and hardship that would be involved. I’m an ecologist specializing in Reptiles and Amphibians – which basically means I spend a ton of time up to my waist in swamp water, catching snakes, alligators and other creeping things all the while being assailed by endless hoards of mosquitoes and deer flies. One tends to learn a few things under these conditions, about these animals and about survival where they live.

Now what on earth does trudging through swamps in search of Reptiles and Amphibians have to do with survival when things go awry? Being prepared for any circumstance is most certainly beneficial, but what happens when disaster strikes away from home - Perhaps at a friend’s house, on vacation, or on the road? Not everyone can be completely prepared with sufficient food, water and armed to the teeth during such times, and sometimes even preparations can fail – Those prepared to hunt big game and fish may find heavy competition from others similarly hoping for a meal. Even in your own homestead corn, grains and other crops can be plagued by the same forces that have assailed them for millennia: drought, disease, plague and theft. When every other source of food is depleted, look to the ground: look to the things that creep.

Reptiles and Amphibians are collectively called “herpetofauna,” or “herps” for short – meaning “creeping things.” These animals are actually extremely abundant in many areas and can provide a ready and stable food source especially if you’re forced to remain perpetually on the move (or on the run, for that matter.) In fact, a given habitat can actually support a lot more biomass herpetofauna than it could mammals or birds (the stuff most of us think of when hunting.) Herps, you see, are cold-blooded (or a better word is ectothermic,) meaning they do not generate their own heat but receive it from the environment. Why does that matter? Well, as many of us are aware heating and cooling houses can be extremely costly in terms of energy; and the same is true of animal life as well: Deer, dogs, humans, ducks and all the other furred and feathered animals spend a lot of their food/energy on maintaining their body heat. Reptiles and Amphibians don’t do this, which means more energy to go around; which means more Reptiles and Amphibians. This is part of the reason why we can have millions of alligators and tens of thousands of pythons in my home state of Florida, but far fewer Panthers, Black Bear, etc.

Before we delve into the “how to” of it, it should be important to note that some species and some areas are protected, and one shouldn’t resort to reptiles and amphibians as a food source unless it is necessary for your survival. Practice, of course, is essential with any survival skill so recreationally looking for herps (or “herping”) without the killing/eating angle is suggested this side of TEOTWAWKI. It’s an enjoyable pastime with vital applications. This is, however, not a guide on herping but on survival with herps as the vessel.

Your first objective when faced with the need for food is to find a body of water: ponds, wetlands or any other standing or slow moving water will do. Such bodies of water, even if they are temporary and completely lacking in fish, are a permanent fount of sustenance. This is because, on the whole, aquatic environments are much more productive than terrestrial (land) habitats. More productivity translates to more wildlife, which translates to more food available - And unlike deer, hogs or many other game species this wildlife can be readily apprehended with a little skill and no equipment (though a flashlight can’t hurt.)

Flashlights, of course, should be a part of any sane person’s bag o’ tricks: if you don’t carry one on your person, it is advisable to at least keep one in each vehicle you own. My own preference is for a flashlight that takes a large number of readily available batteries (AAs are the best), and has extremely dim (for extended use) and extremely bright (for tactical and hunting use) settings. My suggestion is for the Fenix TK45 or Fenix TK41, which both run on 8 AA cells and can last for months of sparse nightly use on low, and can make the sun envious on their highest setting.

The most abundant food source you’ll find in and around most bodies of water are frogs. Of course it is no secret, especially in the southeast, that frogs can be a delicacy – the best way to find them is to walk around the margins of your selected body water and be ready to pounce. Most frogs will quickly jump into the water before you see them, but this does not make them impossible to catch: a little practice will go a long way. There are also many species, such as tree frogs, that will remain perched among lakeside vegetation and motionless – relying on camouflage rather than speed.

Without doubt, if a flashlight is available or on nights with bright full moons, warm evenings can be the best time to find frogs out and active. In the absence of flashlights, many frogs are also visible during the daytime. Either way, move slow and keep your eyes peeled. Perhaps it is counterintuitive, but when the rain starts falling this is often the best time to get out and get looking, resisting the urge to hunker down and wait for inclement weather to pass. Rain, even on a chilly night, is often a cue for all sorts of frogs and toads to wake up and start calling and breeding, and breeding frogs can prove for easy targets, as they are understandably distracted. Learn the calls of the biggest, meatiest frogs in your area (In much of the country that will be the “jug-o-rum” call of the Bullfrog) and target them on such rainy nights.

It should be noted though that some species of frog possess toxins in their skin – but most are harmless to humans. As with toxic plants, sampling a little bit of any frog species before partaking of a full meal is suggested, watching out for symptoms such as upset stomach. Oftentimes a simple lick after extended handling will result in a foul taste, revealing a given frog’s toxicity. Once again, Bullfrogs are the most widespread and largest of frogs likely to be encountered in the U.S., these are not in the least toxic. In all but the most desperate of situations, it is advisable to eat only the limbs off any frog, more for palatability concerns rather than health concerns. Frogs can make for easy preservation as well, their porous skin making drying a small task on a sunny day.

The meatiest of reptilian meals, however, are certainly turtles. Turtles can be found in every state in the continental United States and are easy to catch if found in wetlands or shallow ponds. During the midday sun, they can be found scooting through the shallows. Many creeks across the northeastern U.S. also have them, and one large snapping turtle can easily cure hunger pangs for a few days. Turtles are largely harmless – and this includes even the “dreaded” snapping turtle, which is completely unable to bite if handled properly with one hand on the shell behind the neck and one at the base of the tail; but realistically for eating purposes one would not be handling a live one.  Springtime will also bring turtles to nearby high ground for nesting. Nests can be easily found by looking in such areas around wetlands and finding areas of recently disturbed ground, excavating and finding the tasty morsels – hopefully before the raccoons do.

Then, of course, there are the snakes. First, it’s worth to say that if you’re afraid of snakes you needn’t be. I know; such fears are often primal and difficult to overcome – I find however, that knowledge of a subject (or faunal group, in this case) typically dispels any fear of it. Snakes are beneficial as pest control as well as food for a variety of animals: maybe even you someday. You may laugh at such a thought, but there was once a detestable invertebrate that was abundant and so loathed that it was fed to prisoners in New England: nowadays it costs in the double-digits per pound. I’m speaking of the Maine Lobster of course. All this to say that stranger things have happened, regardless, in the interest of your own survival researching the snakes in your area and their preferred habitats is an indispensable tool.  

Venomous snakes are, of course, a concern. The venomous snakes should be the first snakes in your area to learn: it is often best to do this by finding them in the field under the watchful eye of an experienced snake hunter (believe it or not there are a lot of them) until you develop “the eye” for differentiating snake species. Even venomous snakes will not try to attack you under normal circumstances. I purposely seek out snakes on a near-daily basis and have only been pursued by one of the thousands of snakes I’ve come across. Most will attempt to escape, or they will be defensive. By defensive I mean they will bite if harassed, but will not pursue if you keep a safe distance. In a survival situation any venomous snake can be safely dispatched from a distance by any number of primitive tools: sticks, thrown rocks, machetes, et cetera. I should state once again that I am strongly against killing snakes except in a survival situation: many species of snake are in danger of extinction because of needless killing by humans.

There are a few ways I typically go about finding snakes. The first method, called road cruising, will be largely impractical should gasoline be in short supply, so I’ll skip over this method in favor of the latter two. Snakes and other tasty morsels will often take cover under discarded tin and boards in the woods, in fields and other areas with good habitat. “Flipping,” as it’s called, is best suited for cool times of year (55-75 degrees is ideal) and can be extremely productive especially in the Midwest, western U.S. and parts of the southeast, where the remnants of an abandoned building can potentially yield many individuals. I find that the longer a specific piece of debris (often called “A/C” or Artificial Cover) remains in an area, the more productive it becomes and vegetation underneath dies and food sources such as mice and rats move in. Also of interest for locating snakes would be to simply mimic the methods described for frogs and hike around wetlands for them in the evening; as many aquatic snakes can be seen while hunting fish or frogs this way. [JWR Adds: Based upon my amateur field herpetology experience in my teenage years, I can vouch: You can easily make artificial covers with scrap plywood, OSB, composition house siding, or roofing sheet metal, to form a "trap line", of sorts. You simply attach (with screws or nails) some random length scrap 2x4s to the bottom of the sheeting scraps (of any shape from roughly 2 feet to 4 feet square.) In open fileds they should be positioned about 200 feet apart. The scrap 2x4s elevate the board just enough to be inviting to large snakes. Just be very careful of poisonous snakes or arachnids when you do your flipping!]

Hopefully, when things go south fast we’ll all be tucked away in our homes, compounds or bunkers, rifle firmly in hand with a year’s worth of food at our back – but the future is without doubt unpredictable and our own situations are often impacted by the choices (poor or otherwise) of others. Put simply: none of us are God and any of us could potentially get caught with our pants down. The best route is to have confidence and to have the varied skill set to back up that confidence. When building this skill set, be sure not to forget the things that creep.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I live and prep on a tight budget – at least for the time being. I am lucky to have a fireplace in my home, not a woodstove, nor the room for one, but at least a fireplace. It’s better than no fireplace, but rather inefficient for heating or cooking. It would do in a pinch, but a rocket stove would greatly reduce the amount of wood needed to cook a meal. On my budget even $100 is a lot right now and I began looking into building my own rocket stove. The knowledge is out there, and “improved stoves” are being made in many third world countries to reduce fuel use and increase efficiency. The number of sizes, shapes and applications for improved stoves is incredible. I decided to try to make my own, and the money I saved could then be spent on something I couldn’t make for myself (like ceramic water filters, for instance).

Why DIY?
There are some very good reasons why learning to do-it-yourself (DIY) with an improved stove is a good idea. Not least of which is the cost. Cost was the initial factor for myself, and remains a benefit for me. Not only can I make myself low-cost rocket stoves, I can make them for extended family members and gift them as emergency kits disguised as camping stoves. In learning how they operate, you can also troubleshoot your stove, fine tune it to the task you require, and fix your problems yourself without resorting to someone else’s customer service. The fact that you are learning a new skill, and a potentially lifesaving one at that, is another great motivator. In a disaster scenario the ability to boil water efficiently is essential. Fuel is likewise inexpensive or free. The aftermaths of disasters almost always will have broken lumber which provides a useful and readily available fuel, or they can burn previously overlooked fuel such as branches of smaller diameter (around the thickness or a finger or thumb works well in my little stoves) that may have been considered too small to be worthwhile issuing in a proper wood-stove. I have purposely tried to make all my rocket stoves out of locally available and free re-purposed materials, or very inexpensive materials which are readily available. I have found some ‘non-free’ materials really help the process, and create a superior product (like JB Weld) but I also want to be able to make them out of the most basic materials around if needed.

The Science of Improved Stoves
There are a number of principles that go into making a good rocket stove. From what I know, the most important is that they need to be hot. Very hot. The goal is create a clean, complete burn that burns the combustive gases and the particulate (smoke). For that you need temperatures that go beyond your simple three stone fires. Most of the other principles are a part of trying to create that heat required for a good burn. High temperatures equal full combustion. For that reason, improved stoves need an insulated combustion chamber, top keep the heat in. Pre-heating the combustion air makes a hotter fire. By having a shelf for the wood to sit on, air can move underneath freely, providing all the oxygen needed, and is heated by the fire before being burned. Thus cold air is not as likely to get into the main combustion chamber and reduce the temperature, keeping it hot.

A flange or shroud can be built to surround your cooking pot, forcing the hot air to move further along the side of your pot, transferring more heat to the pot and cooking your food faster.
Another principle is that the air volume in needs to equal the air volume out. Sounds simple when your inner chamber is a consistent 4” diameter, but when adding a shroud you have to make sure there is enough area/space in between the pot and flange for the equal volume of air to escape through the top. If not, you get a backdraft and smoke pouring out of the bottom of the stove.

Construction Basics
The basic design of any improved stove starts with an “L”-shaped combustion chamber. Combustion is meant to take place at the right angle corner of the “L”. The chimney/upper part of the “L” must be long enough to allow time for complete combustion of the gases. On the bottom of the “L” you typically run a wire shelf for the fuel (wood) to rest on. This allows air to enter horizontal portion of the “L” freely, beneath the fuel, and pre-heats the air before it gets to the actual combustion area.

Around this “L” is the outer sleeve. The sleeve should surround the vertical portion of the “L” completely, with a few inches gap in between to fill with insulation. You will need to cut a hole in the side of the sleeve for the horizontal “L” section, and in the top for the vertical “L” section. There are lots of ways and styles in which to do this. The main idea is that the sleeve holds the insulation against the “L”.

Three DIY Stoves
I made my first stove out of an empty white-gas/naptha can and some old drain pipe from a downspout on the house. I cut a 90 notch in the drainpipe, angled at 45 degrees to its length, with tin snips and folded it to make a simple 90 degree bend in the drainpipe. I then traced the entrance hole to fit the drainpipe on the narrow side of the naptha can and punched it out with a chisel and tin snips. I removed the top of the can with a can opener and tin snips, and traced and cut an exit hole for the vertical chimney portion of the drainpipe. I then sealed it with insulation (more on that later). I slid the top of the tin over the chimney drainpipe, and let it set and dry. I used a cut section of another drainpipe, drilled with a bunch of holes at one end, and slid into the horizontal section of the “L” as a rack to place the fuel on that also allows air to enter underneath and pass through the drilled holes directly into the coals of the fire. A wire rack for the pot to sit on top completed the stove, and allows for the smoke and flue gas to escape. So far this stove has performed fairly well. Not perfect, but an encouraging first attempt.

My second stove was a better built model, loosely based on a plan from the internet. Two #10 cans, one with top removed and one with top and bottom removed (with a can opener) become the body of the stove. I taped them together end to end along the interior of the can with duct tape. This allowed me to use JB Weld to join the cans together, which form the outer sleeve. When dry I removed the tape. The inner sleeve I made from purchased 4” stove pipe, though I later found that standard food tins are also 4” diameter, and could also be used. Having a 90 degree elbow stovepipe section greatly decreases the work involved, and makes the stove look much more streamlined inside, but I am confident I could work up a 90 degree elbow out of 4” food tins as well. Again, I cut holes for the 4” combustion “L” tube on the side of the lower can and on the removed lid of the upper can. Fill with insulation, replace the lid, add a fuel platform and pot rack, and viola. It has performed much better than the first, I think because there is more insulation, and perhaps because the height-to-diameter ratio of the combustion chamber is better. Either way it produces less smoke.

The third stove I tried came from a Webster called Practical Action (practicalaction.org) and is a build-in-place stove in the backyard made of simple red bricks. The principles are the same, creating an “L” shaped combustion chamber, tall chimney, insulate and create a fuel platform and pot rack. I like this type of stove particularly for use as a summer shack for outdoor cooking. It is easy to make, and can be made out of just about any sort of bricks, earth, or rock. Some in-place improved stoves get pretty fancy, similar to the old homesteading wood ovens, and have chimneys that vent right out of the house. The brick version is very similar to the survivalist “adobe stoves” that are dug into the side of clay hill side.

For any stove, efficiency can be greatly improved if you use a flange or shroud to surround your pot when you cook. It works by holding the hot gases close to the sides of your pot as they rise, rather than the gases just heating the bottom of your pot. I was able to make shrouds for a few pots, but they do have to be tailored to the size of your pot to maximize efficiency. I made mine by cutting a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the chimney into a round sheet of metal (mine came from a big popcorn tin). I put that over the chimney, and the pot rack on top of it. On goes the pot, and surrounding the pot I made a shroud out of the sides of the popcorn tin. It sits right on the bottom sheet, and I bend it to fit around whatever pot I use. I tend to leave about a ½-inch to 1 inch gap between the shroud and the pot. These work on the same principles that you see with many ‘windscreens’ for single burner back-country stoves like the MSR Whisperlite.

I have tried three types of insulation in my first stove – wood ash, sand, and my favourite a concrete-perlite mix. Wood ash was messy, and though perhaps a very good insulator, it kept leaking out of the gaps in my stoves. You also have to be sure to use completely burn wood ash, or you may get an unintentional smoldering fire inside your stove. Sand was the second choice, and it worked well, but again leaked through any sloppy joints. I found that a mix of concrete and perlite (a soil additive from a gardening store) was the best all round for ease of mixing and performance in the stoves. Perlite is an inert volcanic mineral that has the consistency of small Styrofoam beads. It’s light and fluffy and very insulative. I mixed it with concrete to keep it in place, and it sets well, doesn’t leak out the gaps, and adds some rigidity to the stove so your whole pot weight isn’t sitting on the JB Welded joints. It’s another concession to modern materials, but if they are available then why not use them and get a longer lasting product.
I have seen informative instructions and videos on making firebrick, the gold standard in woodstoves for insulation properties, out of sawdust and clay which is then fired in a kiln. The resulting bricks are porous (the sawdust burns away in the kiln) and extremely insulative and lightweight. However, they are beyond my expertise and resources.
I also found that whatever insulation I use, I seem to get closer to complete combustion as the stove runs a while and heats up.

Caveats and Warnings
One issue that I was concerned with was the use of non-intended materials for cooking over. Galvanized stove pipe, for example, may release toxic fumes when heated. Even the liners from some food tins are probably not too nice if you burn them. I personally don’t feel this is a major concern if you cook outside and your pot has a lid on it. I also burn a good hot fire in the stove for a good while to hopefully cook out any fumes before I use it for food preparation. If I am frying, I do not use a shroud with my frying pan, and feel that most flue gas and fumes likely blows off in the wind. To be be completely technical remember that simply burning wood and other biomass releases carcinogenic chemicals that are likely not good for human consumption in quantity. I feel it is a measured risk. Each person must make their own choices for themselves.

Though a store-bought rocket stove is still on my wish list, I am happy to have an in-the-meantime solution to cooking without power, and one that can be replicated over and over, or adapted to the materials at hand, and given to friends and family. I encourage you to look online for plans - youtube has a several videos on making brick backyard stoves, for example - and get cooking. Though I have yet to rival the clean burning store models in my home-made designs, I find them very useful in the meantime, and as gifts in emergency “camping” kits.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Taking stock recently, I realized that I am probably not as well prepared as most of the followers of James’ SurvivalBlog.Com, certainly not in terms of infrastructure and stockpiles of materials and equipment.  I don’t have a long-term supply of food, nor do I have a survival retreat prepared for when the big one hits.  My bullion holdings are embarrassingly low.  On the other hand, I am probably better prepared than most for any criminal or paramilitary attack on my person, my family, or my home, so I am not totally hopeless by the standards of most survivalists.

The thing is, the deficiencies in my preparedness don’t bother me.  I know that no matter what happens, I can cut it.  I have a number of skills developed over the years, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about that most important of all attributes: the survivor’s mind.  This is what enables a person to apply skills to the resources at hand to overcome whatever is thrown at them, and turn those circumstances to their advantage such that surviving looks more like thriving.

A man or woman cannot overcome a substantial survival situation without a conditioned mind.  You could parachute all of the necessary supplies right on top of a stranded person and they will fold up and die if not properly conditioned mentally.  You could parachute a properly conditioned man or woman into the middle of nowhere with nothing but a knife and a piece of rope and they will come out okay, or at least make a hell of a good show of it. 

I believe that not only is the survivor’s mind the most important thing in his arsenal, but that the specific attributes of his or her mind can and should be actively cultivated.  The key elements of this capability seem easy to identify.  Above all it consists of a consistent determination to be self reliant.  When something happens, you are not likely to sit around waiting for someone to tell you what to do or take care of the problem for you.  I suspect that anyone who is a regular on SurvivalBlog.Com has a good start on this one.  Another key attribute is the ability to adapt and overcome changing circumstances, without an initial emotional breakdown.  We have all seen friends, business associates or family members who will freak out when a flight is delayed, or they panic when the power goes out, or crumble into uncertainty when it rains unexpectedly.  Those people really need to work on this one.   Thirdly, you must be able to instantly size up a strategic situation, evaluate its potential lethality, and recognize a true survival matter when it arises.  Part of this is recognizing threats when they arise, which requires awareness of your environment and how it can interact with you.  Some people go through their entire life in Condition White, never knowing that they were at risk until they have already become a casualty.  A fourth key element is just “guts” – the refusal to give up and accept defeat.  As Aunt Eller said to Laurie in the musical Oklahoma: “There’s just one way: you gotta be hardy. You gotta be. You can’t deserve the sweet and tender in life unless’n you’re tough.”  As Clint Eastwood’s character Josie said in The Outlaw Josey Wales: “When things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.”I have not used the word “courage” in this discussion for two reasons.  First of all, it is such a subjective quality, as used in our society, that it is not useful for our purposes.  It is often used interchangeably with the word “heroic.”  People described as courageous often display one or more of the attributes described above, and I have seen people who are commonly known to be true “chicken-s#@&s” display many of those characteristics on occasion. 

Secondly, a man or a woman who has mastered all of the attributes of the survivor’s mind will often choose a course of action that would be considered cowardly, if that is what the situation called for.  The correct strategic decision from a survival point of view might not be heroic or courageous at all. 

The man or woman who possesses the survivor’s mind may not look like a movie action hero or heroine, and may not act like one in the opinion of society at large.  However, a survivor will do the right thing to ensure his or her survival or that of his family or group.  When TSHTF, and you come out on top, and then they make a movie about you, maybe your part will be played by Michelle Rodriguez or Christian Bale.  You will know that it was your head and not your good looks that got you through.

Where do the mental attributes of a survivor come from?  How can you become hardy in a nation that is going through an era that history will probably call the Age of the Wimp?

The survivor’s mind may be the result of genetics, or it may arise from a family’s culture.  Either way, it is clear that you have a tremendous head start if you were brought up properly.  My father was a survivor.  He came of age during the Great Depression, was a professional soldier in Central America before WWII, then spent WWII in Army going across the Burma Road and serving with General Stilwell in China.  He came home from China to become a successful professional engineer and raise his family.

My father structured my education and training, and that of my older brother, to stress not only survival skills, but to promote the development of what he called the combat mindset.  The training included horsemanship, woodsmanship, hunting, climbing, martial arts, wilderness travel, wilderness medicine, and general problem solving.  In an act that would probably result in his being jailed if it happened today, both my brother and I spent a week on our own in the Mojave Desert when in our early teens, followed by several repeat performances in the Eastern Sierra and Mojave throughout our teen years.

We were encouraged to participate in sports, but my father demanded that we understand the limitations of team sports as a foundation for developing individual self-reliance.  My father coached my brother’s little league and pony league teams, but he was never happier than when we were with him in the mountains or the desert hunting, climbing, or working through some survival situation that he had concocted.

I don’t think that it is necessary to be a survival expert to properly nurture a youngster so that they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.  As described below, the training and experience for skill development is available for anyone to acquire if the desire is there.  The minimum required of a parent is to teach the philosophy of personal responsibility and self-reliance, refrain from coddling the little darlings into becoming wimps, and support the acquisition of skill and knowledge as a lifelong endeavor. 

We live in an age where teachers are not allowed to use red pens because it may make a child feel inadequate.  Certain sports no longer keep score, or declare winners or losers, because of the severe risk of traumatic hurt feelings.  In such a world, the gift of self-reliance, the determination to overcome adversity, and the commitment to continual self-improvement, are the greatest gifts that a parent can bestow upon a child.

Training and Practice
We live in a society that seems to do everything possible to prevent, if not reverse, the process of natural selection.  Even so, our minds and bodies are the product of a long line of survivors, and we are hard-wired to learn and to creatively apply those lessons learned to a wide range of situations in ways that improve our survivability.  All other things being equal, training will make the difference, and the more realistic the training the better. 

In addition to specific skills, the proper training will foster the development of the survivor’s mind.  In my experience, actively training in areas that are potentially dangerous is the best preparation for true emergencies and survival situations.  A squirt of adrenaline can improve your memory significantly, and it will enhance your ability to react properly under pressure and in the face of danger.  Let’s take a look at a few of the areas that you can work on, and how that fits into the theme of this article.

If your family is not the outdoors type, then general outdoors skills can be acquired through other means.  Some of the programs, such as Outward Bound, also include survival training as part of a more general curriculum on climbing, mountaineering, canoeing/kayaking, or sailing.  Grab any general outdoor magazine and peruse the advertisements and you will find many places to begin.  James’ blog is another place to connect with entry-level skill-building programs.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the most likely TEOTWAWKI scenario will play out in an urban setting, then adjust your training schedule and list of desired skill sets accordingly.  My experience has been primarily in the wilderness setting, so I need to confine this discussion to that set of circumstances.

An area of study that incorporates valuable skills as well as tremendous discipline and mental condition is the martial arts.  I prefer the more combative martial arts for this purpose because real is better.  The closer the training is to combat, the better the skill set that is conveyed, and the keener the mind that absorbs it.  However, the most “sportified” versions have roots in fighting disciplines that were created to meet a survival need, and will provide a foundation for further training.  Even in those martial arts that have been tamed to the point that they can become an Olympic sport still involve a high level of training discipline and athleticism, and ultimately involve two people facing off in a situation that results in a winner and a loser. 

To me, the use of firearms is a martial art.  I have spent a lot of time studying the progression from empty hands through various weapons to firearms and back again.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy firearms and shooting for its own sake, and valuable survival lessons can be derived from a pure shooting sports orientation and training.  A basic introduction to shooting involves the study of safety issues, bringing the lethal nature of firearms and their use to the foreground.  Legal issues relating to firearms ownership, couple with society’s sensitivity towards firearms, ensure that even the youngest trainees approach the subject with a serious mind – a mind closer to being that of the survivor.

If you have not been trained in the ownership, maintenance and use of firearms, then by all means obtain that training, become a firearms owner, and continue to advance your level of training in that area.  Above all assert your rights, and acknowledge your obligations, as an armed citizen who has decided to take responsibility for his or her own safety and defense. 

Shooting is a fun and challenging sport and a highly enjoyable activity for the family.  Above all, safely acquiring skill at arms requires an awareness of deadly force.  This awareness is central to conditioning and cultivating the mind of the survivor.  This awareness becomes more pronounced when the training is for the purpose of self defense or hunting.  This grounding in the reality of life or death is an extremely important element in developing the survivor’s mind.

Rock climbing can be another important classroom for the survivor.  First of all, the skills involved in putting up anchors, belaying a fellow climber, and moving over rock, are all of great utility in certain survival situations, particularly rescues.  More importantly, gravity does not take any time outs, so climbing requires a continuous discipline that is in many ways very similar to combat or combat training. 

Even when a climber is being belayed, the danger from even a short fall is very real.  Unless you are falling from rock that is overhanging, you are going to develop a very close personal relationship with the rock on the way down, and I can assure you that you will feel every single one of those caresses.  I am a relatively old rock climber, and old climbers are invariably careful and serious minded climbers or they don’t make it that far.  Climbing can be practiced nearly everywhere at some level, and is a very wholesome outdoor family activity.  The safety training that comes with the art is an opportunity to teach your children how to learn something serious and important, which carries over into other areas.

Hunting is another way to continue upgrading your skills and tune your mind to survival situations.  To successfully stalk and take game animals in the wilderness you must cultivate and integrate a wide range of skills, and competently apply them to the task at hand.  You must also discipline your mind to the hunt, and to the ultimate reality of the life or death of your prey.  If the game you are hunting is dangerous game, or if the meat you are hunting is essential for your survival, then you must also condition your mind to the fact that your own life or death depends on your ability to make the kill. 

Another important philosophical aspect of hunting is that hunting is an absolute rejection of the growing tendency in our society to view nature as a spectator sport.  To absorb the lessons of our ancestors and take your place in the natural order is to become one with nature in a way that others will never be able to appreciate.  As you grow in the art, you can steadily remove the various tools and technological aids that you use, such that you deal on a more primitive level with your prey.  As you do so you will also come even closer to being absolutely self-sufficient in the wilderness.  Once again we speak of the development of certain skills, but it is the mind itself that is being honed.

Wilderness medicine is another opportunity for building the survivor’s mind.  First of all, particularly if your family is joining you in your journey of discovery, you need to be prepared for the inevitable injuries, and accepting responsibility for dealing with those injuries is an important leap of self reliance.  In addition to the skills themselves, this training further develops a seriously competent mind.   A Wilderness First Aid certificate is the bare minimum level of training, but if you spend a lot of time in the bush you should invest in at least a Wilderness First Responder level of competence.  This training usually results in your pack getting heavier and heavier as you become a walking ambulance, so it will also result in your getting in better shape.   

Soldiers, particularly combat veterans, tend to be survivors.  Military service can be the ultimate in organized training for survival situations.  It includes training and experience in weapons and small unit tactics, the services of most nations also incorporate survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) training.  If military service involves combat, then the survivor will have an entire universe of useful experience to pass along to his family and community, and such men and women are an enormously valuable resource to our society.  Every primitive society looks to its experienced warriors for leadership during times of crisis, and we would do well to do the same.  If you did not have the opportunity to go through this experience, then you can pick and choose amongst a number of civilian training programs that will focus in a weekend or a week-long session various aspects of military training. 

Conditioning and Health
The survivor’s mind resides in a fit and healthy body.  The most resourceful and well trained survivor cannot execute a viable strategy if he is sick or out of condition.  Conditioned bodies resist injury and sickness under survival situations better than bodies that are not in condition.  You don’t have to be both a UFC cage fighter and a triathlete, but it wouldn’t hurt either. 

Generally speaking, a moderately aggressive training schedule that might include a couple of rigorous martial arts workouts during the week, some running and cross-training, bag-work, and perhaps some weights, and then some time on the rocks or in the bush during the weekends, will keep you in great shape and keep you entertained as well.  As a bare minimum you should be able to put in some calisthenics and some running (or even walking) during periods when work or other responsibilities keep you away from more rigorous training.  Pay attention to your overall health as well: get the excess weight off and keep it off, turn down the alcohol and junk food to a minimum, don’t smoke, wear your seat belt – you know what to do. 

You also need to listen to your body when it is telling you that there is something wrong.  I once got on a plane heading for a month-long self-guided hunting trip in West Africa, and my back had been getting more and more painful, but I ignored it.  I was two days hard hiking away from the nearest road when I finally had to admit that I had a very serious kidney stone problem.  I was laid up for several days, treating my condition with palm wine and aspirin, and then managed to get back to civilization by easy marches while the stone worked its way south.  We even managed to harvest enough kob and baboon to make the trip worthwhile to my crew - meat is part of their pay you see - and I came out of it without permanent damage.  It was preventable and could have been much more serious.

Being able to respond because you are hardy and inured to the dangers and difficulties of emergencies is a major portion of the survivor’s mind.  However, a mind that refuses to freeze or quit still needs a strategic groove to operate along in order to efficiently work through the problem at hand.  There are a number of models that we can work with that have broad applicability.

Primarily viewed as a skilled and innovative martial artist, the great Bruce Lee was most importantly a philosopher who dealt with the ultimate reality of combat and survival.  In my opinion, his work The Tao of Jeet Kune Do is one of the most important survival manuals, and should be on everyone’s bookshelf.   My original martial arts training was in both Jeet Kune Do and Kali-Escrima; I have a heavily annotated copy of the original manuscript for Sifu Lee’s book, which was one of our training aides.  One of his frequent sayings was that “Freedom of expression towards the ultimate reality of combat is the goal of all martial artists,” a statement that encompasses much of what goes into creating an effective survivor.  Another of his sayings, on the subject of training and learning, was that a martial artist must “absorb what is useful, reject what is not, and add what is specifically your own.”  A study of Bruce Lee’s works creates an excellent foundation, and provides useful guidance in even the most unusual circumstances.

The late Jeff Cooper was a guru of another martial art, the art of the self-reliant individual and his personal arms – the rifle and pistol.  Although a number of individuals have taken this ball and run with it, it was Jeff Cooper who organized the art of the pistolero into the Modern Technique of the Pistol, and it was Colonel Cooper who fully articulated what it means to be a modern rifleman, both philosophically and technically.  Colonel Cooper also modified the Marine Corps color coding and used it to teach the relative levels of readiness as part of the study of the combat mindset, obviously relevant to this discussion.  Colonel Cooper’s published works are saturated with wisdom for the independent and self-reliant person, and a serious minded survivor’s education is incomplete if he has not included them in his library and studied them. 

Another strategist that deserves your attention is John Boyd, the Air Force Colonel that developed the OODA Loop theory.  OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act, and defines the reaction and decision cycle that must be successfully negotiated to win a battle.  Colonel Boyd was a fighter pilot, and he developed his theories in connection with dog-fighting.  He found that agility and resourcefulness were decisive, in that the pilot that could “get inside of his opponents OODA Loop” would prevail.  If you study Boyd, and think of any particular survival situation as your opponent, then you will begin to see the value of Boyd’s strategic theory as part of the repertoire of the well educated survivor.

There are others of course, and in your journey you will encounter great strategists and teachers who will light the way for you.  These three are a good place to start, and provide a useful framework to start you on your way.

I have never been a religious person.  I was raised in the Episcopal Church, but became increasingly rebellious towards the Church’s monopoly over my Sunday mornings, a time when I would prefer to be in the bush or on the rocks.  As I grew older, I was able to escape that restraint when I discovered that my father felt the same way and would support that decision.  I always considered the wilderness to be my church, and I have never felt more spiritually at peace than when I am in the mountains or desert, and as far away from the rest of my species as I can manage.

On the other hand, I have known highly religious men and women whose faith and devotion to their church was the very foundation of their personal strength.  If that is the way your mind works, then you will not be as strong and self-reliant as you could be if you ignore your need for organized spiritual interaction.  You may also find that your approach to the most likely survival emergencies is best organized around a group of like-minded people that happen to be members of the same church.  Like many loners, I have always envied people who can easily associate in a close community in this manner, and as Bruce Lee would sometimes say, “If it scores, it is effective.”

Dealing with the unknown is more difficult than covering familiar ground.  You may not have been trained on how to survive an airplane crash, but if you think it over and figure out a few basic dos and don’ts then you are way ahead of the guy sitting next to you.  The planning process can and should be a family endeavor.  Instead of a dinner table discussion of the latest episode of Breaking Bad - there are some interesting survival situations in that series – why not discuss some scenarios and what the best response would be?  What if someone kicked in the front door and ran inside screaming obscenities and brandishing a machete, right now?  What if we had an earthquake right now?  When my kids were small, we used to play this game, and one time when the power went out it was the kids that suddenly appeared with the candles and the headlamps just as we had discussed.

In my view, successfully meeting a survival challenge is more about what you decide to do than what you can do.  Of course you must have skill sets to execute a strategy, but it is still the strategy that wins the day.  As discussed above, there is a vast body of knowledge relating to survival, and in fact the web site on which you are accessing this paper has descriptions of many thousands of articles on the technology of survival.  As you pursue your training, and your accretion of survival assets, do not neglect that greatest of all tools, the one that sits on top of your shoulders.  Make sure it is developed and educated, and you will be well served even if you find yourself without the other tools and trinkets that you have amassed to meet your needs.

The Author
William C. Prentice lives peacefully in California with his wife, and is engaged in the business of financing energy and technology firms, and is the acting CEO of a private military contracting firm.  He is also devoted to the personal pursuits of rock climbing, martial arts, and hunting.  Prentice is also the author of Feral, a novel with significant Libertarian overtones, and the short story Purgatory.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

If you live in the American Redoubt or any of the Northern US, you deal with a lot of cold winter weather. But all of those folk living in warmer places, you need to take heed too, because cold weather can touch you too in a survival situation. In January 2010, Florida experienced temperatures in the mid-30 degrees Fahrenheit (F) range, cold enough to kill the unprepared individual.
I grew up in Alaska, and spent my childhood and teen years exploring the woods and the mountains, often far from any trails. Winter is actually the optimum time for travel in places where there are no roads and trails because Alaska's dreaded thickets of Sitka Alder and Devil's Club are safely buried under many feet of snow and the streams and rivers are frozen. More importantly, large loads can be sledged behind snow machines (snow mobiles for you lower 48ers), dogs, or humans. The first general store in my hometown was actually brought up the frozen river over 75 miles from the ocean this way back in the early 20th century.
For the purposes of this discussion, I am going to define cold weather conditions as temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. I am going to exclude another very dangerous condition that is common to the Pacific Northwest- the wet cold when there is liquid water just above 32 Fahrenheit (F).
You may scoff at cold temperatures, even sub zero temperatures. After all, you can go work all day outside in the winter when it is -10 F and still be fine right? You haven't experienced cold weather until you have went out and lived in it for a few weeks at a time. It takes on completely new dimensions when you don't have a ready supply of clean, dry clothes and warm shelter to go back to at the end of the day.
For the newly initiated: No cotton in the cold weather ever! As cotton becomes moist from your sweat, it will begin to take heat away from your body, resulting in hypothermia. Layering is the key to dressing for the cold. You always want to minimize the amount of sweat you produce by optimizing your layers. As you become more active, take layers off. As you slow down, put layers on. Aim for a perfect fit for your layers, but if this is not possible, get clothes that are looser rather than tighter. The air between the layers will help insulate you.
In our active state, we can resist the cold well. That's why you can go outside and work in the cold weather and be none the worse, even wearing light clothes. But as soon as the activity stops, our metabolism drops, and we are at risk of hypothermia. When you are walking, carrying a load or working in cold weather, your clothing can actually be pretty light. On my cold weather running workouts when temperatures were at -15 F, I would typically wear wool socks, poly propylene top and bottom underwear, fleece pants and jacket, balaclava, and thick gloves.
You will be able to turn up some of the items you need at REI or your local outdoors store. But beware: some mountaineering/skiing type clothing is not made with the durability necessary for work or moving through thick brush. Gear made of materials such as thick nylon and wool will be heavier, but you can ill afford to rip your clothes during a survival situation. Duluth Trading Company, Canada Goose, Woolrich, and military surplus all offer the durable, warm clothes you will need. Also, I love my Carhartt gear, but leave it at home for the winter trek. As far as I know, all of their clothes are made to be worn for the day and dried out at night, an option that will not be available to you on multi day trips.
Start with your base layers. I recommend Under Armor brand boxers. One pair per day if possible, just like Mom told you. Thick, high quality wool socks are a must. It might hurt to shell out $20 for a pair of socks, but it is worth it. One pair of socks per day, and always one clean dry pair to wear into the sleeping bag at night. Wear top and bottom long underwear. I have had the best luck with polypropylene long under wear as they keep you very warm even when damp. Generic brands are readily available.
Now we move up into insulating layers. I have a wool union suit that is excellent, but military surplus thick polypropylene "Extreme Cold Weather System" underwear work as well. If I need additional layers, I prefer my light but very warm alpaca sweater. Wool and fleece sweater/jackets are excellent as well. Remember that as you move up in layers, you will need larger sizes to fit over your other layers.
For outer layers, I wear wool pants and a wind breaker. I have nylon overalls for working. For times when you are inactive, you need a heavy down parka with a hood. Don't skimp on the parka! Your parka is probably the single most important clothing item discussed here. For temperatures less than -20 F, you may need down pants as well. I recommend using suspenders or bib overalls as much as possible. When working and traveling it can be irritating to have too many layers going on at your waist.
Footwear should be bought slightly large so that you can wear two pairs of wool socks if needed. I wear thin Smartwool liner socks, thick wool socks and Baffin brand boots. A quality pair of gaiters is an excellent investment, the only brand I have found that works well is Outdoor Research. Whatever brand of boots you get, removable liners are a must so that you can wear them into the sleeping bag if necessary. Your boots will collect a lot of moisture and can freeze solid at night. To rest your tired dogs at night, get a pair of down camp booties to wear around camp.
If your hands are uncovered, they can become numb in less than a minute. Recently, I discovered that by wearing wool "hobo" gloves without finger tips, I could take off my bulky overmitts to do delicate work for a few minutes without making my hands too cold. The military issues over mittens with a trigger finger for operating a firearm, but I have not tried these. If you need more dexterity for longer periods, I recommend a pair of high quality technical mountaineering gloves.
The arctic sun's glare can cause snow blindness after a few days of travel, so you will need tinted goggles. These will also be necessary to protect your eyes from blowing snow in storms.
Head wear is of critical importance because up to 80% of the body's heat can escape through the head. The balaclava is one of the most versatile, useful clothing items for cold weather survival. It can be used as a hat, scarf, or to protect the whole head. Have at least one with you. Additionally, have a hat, either a wool watch cap or an earflap hat.
If possible, select a campsite near the top of a hill. The cold air sinks into the valleys, so it can be 5-10 degrees warmer on hilltops. Make sure that you are sheltered from any wind. If no shelter is a available you may have to construct a wall or other shelter to block the wind. I'm not going to go into the many styles and techniques for building snow shelters, but I can personally attest to how wonderful a snow cave can be. They warm up quickly to a relative balmy 32 F regardless of outside temperatures.
If you bring a tent, ensure that it will be able to withstand any winds you expect. A tent is not always necessary and I have spent many beautiful nights under the stars and northern lights.
Everyone's body reacts differently to sleeping in cold weather. Some sleep with relative ease, but others sleep "cold" and may want warmer sleeping bags. You basically have two choices for sleeping bag materials, down and synthetic. Synthetic is usually cheaper, lighter, and more compactable but it can lose its insulating value in just a few years as it becomes compacted down. I'm not discounting synthetic sleeping bags... they can be excellent for fast light travel, but don't count on one lasting forever. Down sleeping bags are heavier, but they will last longer and I believe they are more trustworthy. I am a "cold" sleeper, so I generally add 20 degrees to whatever the bag is advertised as (So -20 F rated bag becomes a 0 F bag). You won't necessarily freeze to death if your bag is not warm enough, but you will spend a miserable night with little or no sleep, which could be very dangerous after two nights of sleep deprivation. Make sure your mummy bag fits almost perfectly. The more dead space you have, the less efficient your heat retention. Maximize the bags warmth by keeping the drawstrings around your face tight. Always ensure that your breath vents out of the bag to prevent a build up of moisture.
Insulation from the ground is at least as important as insulation from the air, as lying on a cold surface will conduct large amounts of heat from your body. In the winter I use two thick foam pads for sleeping. I advise against air inflated pads because they are vulnerable to leaks that render them useless. Also, foam pads can be used as splints, makeshift sleds, etc. I have used spruce boughs in place of sleeping pads and it wasn't the most comfortable but it worked.
Wear several layers into the sack if necessary; especially dry socks to prevent trench foot. You may even want to bring a watch cap to be worn only in the sleeping bag. Items that need to be dried can be brought into the sleeping bag, but they will rob you of some heat. At night I like to fill my Nalgene water bottles with hot water and bring them into the bag. You may also need to bring battery operated devices to bed with you to preserve charge. This ensures you have some water in the morning and also keeps your feet warm.
As I learned the hard way a few years ago, compressed gas does not work in extreme cold conditions. Use a stove that is manually pressurized like the Mountain Safety Research Whisperlite. I have used this rugged, self cleaning, reliable stove when I climbed Mount McKinley (Denali) and other Alaska Range trips and it has never let me down. I recommend one stove per person as you will need to melt large quantities of snow for water. Be very careful to not get stove fuel on your skin during extreme cold. Because its freezing point is much lower than water, it could cause instant frostbite. When melting snow, make sure you start with a small amount of liquid water at the bottom; otherwise the bottom of your pan will burn rather than melting the snow.
As with any type of camping, a fire can be a welcome addition to your camp. Starting a fire in below zero temperatures will challenge your patience and skills. See Jack London's short story "To Build a Fire."
The farther north you are, the shorter your winter days, so try to have camp broken by first light. Fill your water bottles for the day with warm water and wrap them in whatever insulation you have in your baggage so that they don't freeze.
For snow travel, you will most likely need skis or snow shoes. Walking through deep, powdery snow without them will quickly exhaust you. You may feel like a crusty Sourdough when you wear your old fashioned ash and rawhide snow shoes, but I recommend modern, rigid plastic snowshoes with crampons for effective travel on hills. A sled is another tool that can make your winter travel easier. Although expensive purpose built can be had, I use a reinforced kiddie plastic toboggan. On level terrain, your sled can be your best friend, allowing you pull more than you can carry on your back. If you are going up steep hills, I recommend you keep most of the load on your back.

Keep in mind that your firearm may not function properly in sub-zero temperatures. Strip all oil from your gun in cold weather, or risk having the action locked shut. Keep in mind that firing a gun in extreme cold weather causes the weapon's temperature to rise rapidly, which could affect the temper of the steel. Usually this won't be a problem if you are just taking a few shots at some game, but if you are in a sustained gun battle with a pistol or an assault rifle, you risk severe damage to your firearm. One solution to this is to hold your weapons inside your layers to keep them warm. Of course, this presents the problem of having a giant chunk of cold metal robbing you of your heat.
Moisture is going to be enemy number one in the extreme cold. Moisture from your body will wick its way through your layers and freeze on your outer layers. Your eyebrows and beard will be covered with frost. You must constantly work to keep this frost off your clothes. Brush it off regularly. Adjust your layers so that you do not break a sweat. Sweat build up can wreak havoc in cold weather. This highlights the importance of conditioning for survival. Carrying a 70 pound pack while pulling a 45 pound sled without sweating takes a lot of exercise. Keep in mind that your nose will run in the cold air. Bring plenty of Vaseline to keep your face from becoming chapped.
As with any activity, hydration is key. The dry air will quickly rob your body of moisture. Drink lots of water, especially hot drinks to keep warm. I have known people who deliberately dehydrated themselves during storms so that they wouldn't have to leave the tent to urinate. This is foolish and dangerous. Consume plenty of food high in fat content during extreme cold. Anything with lots of butter is good. Under no circumstance consume alcohol in extreme cold. This enlarges your blood vessels and increases heat loss. Keep yourself clean to the best of your abilities. Baby wipes work well for sanitation and bird baths. I'm not going to discuss the cold related illnesses and injuries and their treatments because others have written excellent articles that cover these subjects. Suffice to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Cold weather survival, as with anything survival, is about discipline, discipline, discipline. Keep your guard up against the Wendigo, and with a little experience, you will not only survive the cold, you will thrive in it. And when the mercury rises from -40 F to 35 F, you will be looking for your Bermuda shorts and flip flops.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Although my body is growing older, my mind is still stuck at age 27 - and at times, my mind is even younger than that. I hope this never changes, once the mind grows old, then the body will grow even older - faster! While I can't do the things I used to do (physically) when I was much younger, there's still a lot of "fun" left in me.
I grew up in Chicago, and like most kids at that time, and in my neighborhood, we were pretty poor, except back then, we didn't know we were poor. We entertained ourselves in a lot of different ways. Back then, the television only had four stations, so there really wasn't much to watch compared to today, where people have hundreds of different television channels to watch, and complain that "there's nothing on..." As a kid, my friends and I often played marbles - we could play for hours on end. We also fashioned home made slingshots from tree branches. Most of the time, those slingshots didn't even last a day. And, for ammo, we used rocks - we never ran short of ammo in those days. Yeah, and like most kids my age back then, we got into a little trouble with our slingshots by shooting out windows of abandoned buildings. I guess that wasn't so bad, compared to the trouble kids get into these days - like taking guns to school and killing their classmates. Nope, back then, we didn't get into nearly the trouble kids get into today.
When I grew older, I purchased a store-bought slingshot - made out of some kind of hardwood, and it lasted a good long time. The only thing that needed replacing from time-to-time, was the rubber band used for propelling the ammo, more often than not, the rubber band was made out of an old tire inner tube (remember those days, when we had tubes in our tires?). I've also had some other better made slingshots pass through my hands over the years, and they were really a lot of fun, and very well-made, too.
Montie Gear has a new slingshot called the "Y-Shot" and I'm here to tell you, hands down, this is the best-made slingshot I've ever run across - PERIOD! The all-aluminum frame is made out of 1/2" thick aluminum plate, cut with a water jet at 50,000 PSI for unrivaled strength and low weight. Then, Montie Gear either powder coats the Y-Shot in different colors, or leaves the aluminum bare - with a grayish oxidized color to the finish.
I'm gonna give you the run down on the specs, right from the Montie Gear web site: "The slingshot features a tapered flat band and leather pouch assembly. The tapered flat band has a 16-pound pull weight at approximately a 28" draw. The band has a tapered shape and is made from Thera-Band material for a fast shot and long life. The leather pouch and tapered band assembly come from A+ Slingshot in California. The handle is wrapped with 550 test weight paracord for comfort. The paracord also provides a source of very strong cord, should you need it in the field."
This slingshot is ready for hunting (small game) or target practice. Don't hesitate to use ammo up to a 1/2" ball bearing or .44 cal lead ball ammo with this baby. My Y-Shot only came with 30, 1/2 steel ball bearings - which I shot up in only a few minutes, shooting at empty soda cans and empty milk jugs. Darn!I had to run to town, to the local big box store, and purchase a couple hundred more ball bearings - and in no time at all (again) I was out of ammo. Next day, I went to town again, and purchased a good supply of ball bearing ammo from the local big box store, so I'd have enough ammo to last me through several days of target shooting.
I'm here to tell you, that with only a little bit of practice, I found myself hitting empty cans at 25-yards without any trouble at all. I even placed some cans out to 50-yards, and about a third of time, I'd hit one, and they were hit with authority enough to make 'em go flying too. I didn't do any small game hunting because I haven't picked-up my hunting license for this year. However, I believe that the Montie Gear Y-Shot slingshot is capable of taking small game like squirrels and rabbits, as well as larger birds like turkeys, too...and we have a lot of wild turkeys are my rural country road. The slingshot would also discourage someone from coming very close to your property, with a well-aimed shot to the body or leg. Now, I'm not saying that you should purchase a mere slingshot for personal defense. However, if someone were trying to sneak on your property, and they took a hit from a steel ball bearing, they'd sure know that they weren't welcomed. It would also keep pests out of your yard, too - stray cats or dogs.
I honestly believe, that there is a place in a Prepper's arsenal for a good slingshot. It would be great for taking birds and other small critters for the stew pot - and you can do it silently, too. What's not to like about this? And, ammo is plentiful, if you only use rocks as ammo. However, rocks are not nearly as accurate as ball bearings or round lead ball ammo - be advised! I personally wouldn't want to take a hit from a steel ball bearing launched from the Montie Gear Y-Shot slingshot. I saw what it did to aluminum cans and milks jugs - they were easily penetrated out to 25-yards.
Now, while you can go to the local big box store, and buy a pretty decent slingshot, you won't find one as nearly well-made as the Y-Shot is, or one that will hold up for a lifetime. Were there any negatives about the Y-Shot? Yeah, It only came with 30 ball bearings - I'd like to see at least a hundred included in the package. I'd also like to see at least one spare rubber band and pouch included - because sooner or later, the rubber band is gonna break on you. Full retail price on the Y-Shot is $99.95 - a bit spendy, to be sure. But if you compare this slingshot to ALL the others, you're gonna see the difference, and it's a big difference, too. The Y-Shot is outstanding and will give you a lifetime of pleasure - so long as you don't run out of ammo. And, you will run out of ammo very fast - it is very addictive shooting the Y-Shot - trust me, the little kid in me is telling you the truth.
So, if you're in the market for the world's best slingshot, look no farther that the Y-Shot. Is it worth almost a hundred bucks? Yeah, to me it is, and I think you'll also agree, if you get one, that it's worth the money. Just make sure when you order your Y-Shot from Montie Gear, that you get some more ball bearings and a couple extra rubber bands with the leather pouch.
I've tested a lot of firearms and knives over the years, and to be sure, they were all a lot of fun. But I don't recall when I had more fun testing a product, than the fun I had with the Y-Shot slingshot. It's fun to shoot, silent and accurate...and it's capable of taking small game and birds for the stew pot when the SHTF if need be. If it sounds like I'm more than a little excited about this product, I am. It brought out even more of the little kid in me. And, if I had this slingshot when I was a kid, I would have been king of the block, and would have been known as an "Ace" with it. Check this slingshot out on the Montie Gear web site and you'll probably get one.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I am a pretty avid reader of the survivalblog.com site. I also follow many of the other sites on prepping and survival that are out there. After a few months, it becomes pretty obvious which sites lean towards sensationalism, conspiracy theories, couch prepping, and even sales and marketing. The problem lies in the fact that with the mainstream media is piling onto the prepping bandwagon and this increases the amount of information available. Some of the information available today is of little use and some of it is outright dangerous. With that in mind, I will make the suggestion that you take a little walk.
In this case I am referring to Get Home Bags (GHB) and Every Day Carry (EDC) kits. I have seen numerous kits advertised for sale or personally built. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support the idea of EDC and GHB. My concern is with what is contained in many of these kits. Some of them seem to be created with just a bunch of stuff, and not designed with a specific goal in mind. Some of the items are useful, but many times they are mishmash from the junk drawer. Other times they are a collection of cheaply barely functional gear.

When you build an EDC kit, have a specific goal in mind. Something reasonable may be “to get me to my home after a natural disaster (earthquake, fire, EMP)”. I am not dictating the emergency you are planning for. Make it coherent and plausible for your situation. I am also not dictating what you put in it, but make it useful for the goal, or leave it out. More crap just to fill an empty spot in your kit can be counterproductive. Put in gear that is useful. I mean gear that you use fully (consistently with success). If you get a new piece of gear, practice with it until you are proficient.

After you build your kit, test it. If it is designed to get you home, then use it to get you home. This is what a buddy of mine and I did to test our Get Home Bags (GHB). We picked a Friday with good weather (ideal conditions) and decided to walk home. We had our GHB packed and at work for several weeks prior. We made sure our wives knew (and yes they thought we were crazy) and set out after work.

The trip was approximately 18 miles through suburban, light industrial and commercial areas on the edge of a mid-sized city. We planned to stick to roads and sidewalks, and our path took us through some less desirable parts of town, but nothing outright dangerous. The worst parts of town would be traversed before dark. The weather was clear and the temperature was about 75 when we started.

My GHB consisted of a small well-used day pack from a discount store. It contained a small first aid pouch (antiseptic wipes, gauze, band aids, and ointment), two small candles, cotton balls, hand sanitizer, lighter, chap stick, Leatherman multi-tool, $5 cash, $5 coins, $3 in small change, sunglasses, bandanna, a gallon bag of homemade trail mix, a ball cap, a flannel shirt, a pair of socks and two 16 oz. bottles of water. I changed from steel toe boots to a pair of quality running shoes.

I expected we would cover between two and three miles per hour. We left at 3:30 PM so I was projecting we would arrive around 10:30. We each obtained a walking stick at the first opportunity. This provided a walking aid, and a way to fend off aggressive dogs. It is not exactly a bad item for two legged critters either, although an adult walking through town is a bit more conspicuous when they carry a stick (it was not a club).
The first part of the trip was fairly rural with no sidewalks. We spent most of the time walking on the road. Our pace was moderate since we were fresh, but we decided to not push too hard early. We covered just over a mile in the first 20 minutes, and decided to take a five minute break every hour. This would keep us at a pace of about 3 mile per hour.

After two hours we had covered just over six miles and decided to stop for dinner. There was a convenient place to sit, and we were in a fairly busy commercial area. Security was not a major concern, but there were several transients in the area. We did a fairly good job of blending in, and did not appear to attract attention. Plain clothes and lightweight (used looking) kit helped with this, in my opinion. We shared some trail mix and granola bars (from my buddies stash) and water. One bottle of water was gone at this point (my buddy had a Camelbak).

The next leg of the trip was a little more challenging. The less affluent neighborhoods we went through at this point had no sidewalks. We were following a fairly busy thoroughfare, so walking in the street was not safe. The area also had hills that were not steep enough to notice while driving. They were not strenuous, but you could tell they were there when you had to walk up them.

Three miles later the second bottle of water was gone. We were halfway home and I was out of water. This brought up another problem, where to relieve myself. The area was too populated to just use a bush and not attract the attention of law enforcement. We opted for a small gas station that also required a purchase for use of the facilities. I purchased a 32 oz. Gatorade. Lesson learned: You will probably need much more water than you think, under ideal conditions.

We made another three miles and decided to take a longer stop. We were slightly ahead of schedule and our feet were less than happy. This stop included an airing out of the feet (dude, don’t sit upwind) and a change to clean dry socks. The socks were invaluable. We probably should have been changing them every two hours to properly care for our feet.

The next portion of the trip was fairly pleasant (other than tired feet and calves). The sun was going down along with the temperature, and we were in a better part of town with sidewalks. The difference in walking on a sidewalk as opposed to a grassy roadside is amazing. We even took the time to cross the street if it meant we could get on a sidewalk for an extended period.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. The final three miles required a lot of willpower on my part. My buddy had a flashlight, and that was helpful when there were no sidewalks, but not essential. It did make us more conspicuous. I probably would not have used it in a bad neighborhood.

To sum up the trip, more socks would have been nice and I needed more water. Two liters was just about right for my buddy. Lip balm was essential. I had trail mix left over, and he had a few snacks left also, so food was not an issue. We ended with a few blisters, but nothing too bad. Cold weather or rain would have changed the story entirely (that would have been miserable). A truly hot day would have been extremely difficult.
Looking at EDC kits I see a lot of these things packed with fishing line and hooks, a tiny magnifying glass, survival instructions. They seem to be filled with small, but only marginally useful, items useful in specialty situations or just to fill the kit up.

I fish quite a bit, and I have a hard enough time catching fish with a rod and reel. I can’t imagine the time and effort it would take to catch a fish by hand with 8 feet of line and small hook. Besides that, every minute sitting there fishing is not getting me to my destination.

I once started a fire with a magnifying glass. It required a 4 inch glass and the help of my buddy, and it still took nearly an hour in good conditions. I am no expert, so maybe some people could do it with a 1 inch glass. The problem is that for this purpose size matters. The smaller glass will not collect enough light to generate the heat required for ignition very quickly. For this reason I do not pack a magnifying glass in any of my bags. It does not fit my skill set and therefore does not fill a need.

I am getting at the following point. Learn to use the items before they go in your kit. The things you are able to use, and fill the purpose for your kit, are the essentials. These are the things you need. I will tell you right now, you need water. Who cares if it doesn’t fit in your small metal tin box, you need it. You need it more than just about anything except air. If you need to pack something in your small tin, then pack a way to purify more water.

Some sort of knife or multi-tool is another essential item in my opinion. This item will open up another world of tools and items you can fabricate. Pack a knife you use and are comfortable with. My knife is always in my pocket. It was a free gift, but probably only cost about $10. I don’t care if it is not a high dollar name brand unobtainium alloy. I like it and more importantly, I use it constantly.

From this point we start moving down the road to luxuries. By this, I mean we could have completed the trip without a fresh pair of socks. We would have been more uncomfortable doing it, but I am pretty confident we would have made it. On the other end of the spectrum, we could have packed 5 extra pairs and changed every hour. To be honest, that would not have been worth the extra space and weight. There is a balance between need and luxury. This is a personal aspect that only you can answer, but the only way for you to truly know is to take a little walk of your own. In any case you will be much better informed, and you will know what you, and your kit, are capable of.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I am at home sitting safely on my couch, however, between 2001 and 2009 I was a soldier serving in the GWOT campaign. I have served three tours in Iraq, one tour in Afghanistan, and a year assisting the African theater (proxy war.) And I’m currently working for the Marine Corps as a civilian contractor. I figured I’d write down some thoughts because I have had the misfortune of twice being cut off from any re-supply or ‘rescue’. In addition the equipment issued to servicemen is not always ‘the best’ money can buy. So here are some thoughts on that to have and what to spend money on to get the very best.

People tend to forget that everything will wear out and start to break or tear. In my SERE kit I carried two sewing kits. One for medical and another for clothing, tent repair (cold nights will keep you awake), boots, etc. Knives will dull, weapons will foul and rust, cloth will tear, boots will lose their soles, facial hair will grow, your teeth will suffer, your skin will rash. The list of things that go wrong or bad without maintenance are endless. But at this time we wont be discussing combat conditions, we are discussing survival in the inevitable troubled times within the next couple years.

We’ve gotten very accustomed to the instant gratification life style of ‘just go get a new one’ when something wears out or breaks. Now think about this for one day. You cannot get a new one, you cannot replace it. When you go on your next camping trip, think to yourself that what you have is all that you have and all that you’ll get. Do you have what you need to keep your equipment in working order for years to come? Do you have the knowledge to take the best care of your things like wash your clothes only in low mineral content water. (Here in Arizona, high mineral content water in streams or springs will destroy your clothing.)

Not only do you have to take care of your equipment, but more importantly. What equipment will you bring? And how will you carry it? Wally World carries some nice looking back packs that appear to be well made. When choosing your back pack or bug out bag, stuff it full of something. Then look to see if there is even outward pressure on the stitching or if some stitching is ‘stretched’ more than others. If so, this is not the pack/bag you want to buy. Now, not all of us can afford to spend $1,000 on a back pack with Kevlar stitching and high tech spaceman materials. So if you do buy the Wal-Mart pack, buy also a tent repair kit (or two) as the thread in these kits are more durable than your run of the mill thread. Remember, two is one and one is none.

    I say all this because if you have to leave your prepared position, I.e. its no longer tenable or you must assist in your own rescue, then you have carry all this on your back. Depending on your situation and your environment, you will need to think about what is most important. A human can go thirty days without food, but in the desert one can go only hours without water. Do not drink the hard alkali water found in the desert. So assuming that we must leave our fortified position, our packs just got very heavy. Because staying in place is much easier than moving on foot. Its when you must go somewhere is when it gets complicated. With a vehicle  you can carry much more than walking. However, gas stations won't be open for business. That being said, “ground pounder gear” will be carried eventually. So, What will be in your rolling gear?

First and foremost - (in Arizona) WATER, as much as you can carry and a means to get water. When you think that you have what you need, triple it.

Food - Without the energy, your not carrying anything. You will lose the will to survive if you don’t eat.

Shelter - A little one-man tent is good but tends to be a little flimsy. A tent repair kit would be a plus.

Sleeping Bag - A 32 degree-rated sleeping bag is sufficient in most cases with the addition of a fleece liner.

Shoes - A new [but well broken-in] pair of 6” top quality boots, period. Four pair of new socks.

Fire starter - Water proof matches, lighter, trioxane, “wet start”, etc.

Cook set - for cooking food, boiling water. Aluminum is good enough, Titanium would be better. Plastic MRE spoon (2). A titanium spork would be good to have for eating and for cooking/stirring.

Knife - A good quality general purpose knife, multi-tool, a large fighting knife, and a machete. Don’t forget the sharpening stone or even better, a full honing set.
Weapons - Rifle with 100 rounds of ammo minimum, pistol with 5 loaded magazines.


So now that we have the crucial items that you will live with or die without. Now lets make a list of items of “ground pounder gear” in the pack. Each person should carry this in their pack regardless of what else they want. These are the basics, strictly surviving.
Remember: Ounces Lead to Ponds and Pounds Lead to Pain

Water - Two 2 liter bladder, one 1 gallon jug. 16.6 lbs. Water filter (1,500 gallon working life, minimum).

Food - At least three days worth at two meals a day = 6 MREs. This is assuming that you know how and where to forage for supplementary food in your environment.

Knife -  You either have crap or gold. With knives there is little middle ground for quality.

Multi-tool - No less than two should be carried. They are too useful and there for too important to lose.

Compass - Two should be carried in case of loss or “compass panic”. People do panic when lost or off course. They start to distrust their compass and quickly make their situation worse. Comparing the compass readings can help quell panic.

Map - Individual maps for each area you intend to enter.

Toilet paper - What goes in must come out. The human body is only 86% efficient, that creates 18% waste. Butt rash is as bad as a blister. Carry plenty.

First Aid kit - Band-aids, Neosporin, Splint, Mol-skin, Gauze (stick and non-stick)…

Tent - A Bivy Sack (one man tent) is ideal in most situations. Think about it, who will carry the fifty man tent?

Sleeping bag - Appropriate temp rating to your environment. In Arizona , 32F is sufficient in the low country.

Tarp - If the weight of the pack allows. You want it to allow.

Bed mat 1” - Because a rock in your hip makes a crappy night sleep.

Socks - Four pair at minimum. Pack new ones..

Hat - Boonie type is best

Sun glasses - A decent pair will be good. A $150 could be better spent else where.

Fire Starter - Matches (water proof), lighter, Trioxane, Magnesium, …

Binoculars - Quality. Quality is a must in this area. Imagine being able to see 1,000 yards ahead without danger or eye strain.

Lock pick set - For picking locks for shelter, abandoned supplies, refuge, etc.

Flash light - Don’t be cheap here either. Seeing in the dark could mean the difference between life or death. Don’t forget batteries! Don’t want you walking off a cliff in the middle of the night going to restroom.

Warm clothing - Thermal under wear and light weight jacket or poncho or both depending on weight. Layers are best as to avoid big bulky coats and light layers insulate better than single heavy layers anyhow.

T-shirt - If you’ve ever spent an extended period of time without modern luxuries, you know what a moral boost a clean shirt can be.

Bar Soap - For washing your body and your clothes

Tooth paste - Because a painful cavity will incapacitate you.

Wash cloth - Some areas must be scrubbed; arm pits, crotch, feet, feet, feet….feet.

Bandana - Appropriate camo colors for your environment. Carry multiple if necessary.

Duct tape - You just never know. I’ve seen men use duct tape as a splint on broken feet. Yet another use.

Leather gloves - Because thorns, blisters, and cuts hurt and lessen your effectiveness.

Writing pad with pencil - For making notes or marking ‘way points’ on your map. We cannot remember everything. So write it down. Pencils don’t dry out!

Instant coffee - As much as you can carry. Because a simple cup of coffee is a huge moral boost. Also the caffeine can give an energy boost when food is low or scarce.

Mechanical Watch - When boiling water, you have to know when 30 minutes is reached. Its useful for planning your movements at sunrise and sunset.

Para-cord - As much as you can carry. 20 feet minimum. This is light and strong. Its uses are virtually endless.

Mule tape - Or flat rope. At least 20 feet. This is used by utility companies for pulling large wire. It is rated for 2,500 pounds and is very light. It can be tied in very small and tight knots if needed. Beware though that it does deteriorate over time (several years), so buy it new.

Rifle - Carry at least 100 rounds and spare parts; firing pin, recoil spring, sear, sear spring, extractor, extractor spring, hammer, and anything else that tends to break or wear out. KNOW HOW TO CHANGE THESE PARTS!

Pistol - Carry at least five loaded magazines.

Weapon cleaning supplies - Cleanliness is next to godliness. My personal choice for cleaner, lubricant, protectant (CLP) is Frog Lube. It is FDA approved so it is edible which only means that its nontoxic to you and any children around you. I’ve also cleaned my weapons with CLP and little more than my thumb and a paper towel through the bore. It will not allow carbon to stick to the metal of your weapon and does not dry out or ‘gum up‘. What ever you choose, (Hoppe’s, Remington, CLP, etc.) just make sure to buy plenty!

Emergency blanket - Use as heat reflector NOT as a blanket.

Aluminum foil - Cooking.

Knife Sharpening kit - Your knife will become dull. A dull knife will make you work harder and greatly increases the chances of a severe cut or wound. Don’t make yourself a burden or casualty.

Chap stick - As much as can be carried. Chapped lips are very inconvenient. It can also be used on the dry cracked skin of your hands or fingers.

Q-tips - Use your imagination. Clean your ears, apply Iodine (don’t waste it), start a fire….

Iodine - Water, stings, etc.

Small (short) wood handle shovel -  For digging ‘restroom holes,' Dysentery is a monster that has incapacitated armies. This can be picked up at virtually any home improvement store for $20 bucks or less. The wood handle is lighter than the all steel construction of surplus shovels and will probably last longer too!

It doesn’t matter what your situation is: If you neglect your feet then you are in for a real treat of pain and discomfort.   

The ground pounder gear is already listed. Now what? For the vehicle you simply magnify the amounts, i.e., 1,000 rounds of ammo, 50 gallons of water, a couple hundred sand bags, 100 pounds of food, etc, etc. But if you or I had to sum up a survival scenario in simple terms it would be this. There are many things we can go without, there are few things we cant go without, food, water, shelter. So it is safe to assume that we can never have enough food and water, but lets add a premium quality knife, a rifle, and ammo to that list. There is nothing worse than running out of ammo or breaking a firing pin at the worst possible time. Most of the items discussed here are cheap, some are not. Think intelligently about what you buy and where you put your money. Just because it has ‘tactical’ in the name doesn’t mean its worth the money.

Before I finish, I’d like to add some thoughts on weapons. I carried the M4, M249 SAW, and the M240B and found all of them good weapons. The M4/AR-15 platform after some fifty years of fine tuning has become a decent rifle. Now lets go against traditional thinking a moment. The M4 should only have the bore, chamber, gas tube, and bolt ‘cleaned’. As for the bolt carrier and the upper receiver, just wipe it off. It will work better. Whenever possible though, I would often pick up enemy weapons. Why? Because they work. If you want to choose a weapon system that will just work. Try observing the countries or regions that don’t have multi-billion dollar budgets or a gun store on every corner. The nomads carry AK variations as well as 70 percent of the rest of the Arab world. This is simply because it works. The other 30 percent are wielding older (legacy) HK variants. They use these platforms because yes, they are widely available. But more than that, they work. Big parts power through the fowling that builds up. Loose parts glide over the fowling. Big, loose parts just function better than the tight, light weight M4/AR15 system. My personal choice for primary weapon system is the HK G3 because its simplicity and reliability. The extra weight of weapon and ammo are a trade off. The light weight M4 and it’s 5.56mm ammunition means that yes can carry more ammo. But in my experience, using the 5.56 means that you need more ammo to get the job done. The 7.62x51mm is a versatile cartridge being suitable for deer, elk, or self defense. Still, the 5.56 has its place and will perform.

In closing, take the time to think wisely about what you buy. Know how to use and take care of your kit. Because once your equipment fails, it might just kill you.

Yes, we all know that an end of world event could happen at any time.  However I look at things statistically and realistically.  I think I have a greater chance of getting into a car accident than getting hit with an asteroid or meteor.  So I first focus on my little corner of the world.  Even if there is a catastrophic event you still need to get to your "go" bag and/or vehicle with your G.O.O.D. bag and perhaps onward to your home or retreat depending on each situation.  So what do you need for day to day survival?  Because the world can come crashing around you and you alone.  It may just be your end of the world event like an accident or illness.  It may not be you but a close family member or dear friend.  It may be a local isolated event like a flood or power outage or a fire – who knows?  As a former boy scout, “always be prepared”.  

While surfing the net, I have come across some sites talk about a list of 20 or 25 things you should always have with you – some ideas were good and some not so good and some not even considered.   So I decided to come up with my own list.  I generally have most of this with me at any given time – it drives my wife nuts.  She always asks why I have so much schumer in my pants pockets and on my keys.  As a city resident it this may be slightly urban oriented.  So here is my version of 25 or so things that you should always try to have with you and my thoughts comments and explanations on each with some additional helpful hints I have adopted over my years:

  • $100+ in cash plus small bills, $3 in quarters & a few new dollar coins.

$100 is the bare minimum, I try to keep $250 to $500 with me at all times.  This is obvious – we are still in America where cash is king.  You can buy your way out of a lot of situations.  Even a fender bender, “Hey here’s two hundred bucks, let’s forget about the insurance paperwork!”  No cops, no insurance and no wasted time.  Remember, when the lights go out so do the credit card machines.  You can spread it around so if you get robbed they don’t get it all.  If you are really worried about a sudden economic collapse you can even keep a 1/10th-ounce or 1/4th-ounce gold coin or more in your wallet.   And even though nobody likes or wants those new dollar coins, a lot of vending machines now take them and you can reduce the quarters you are carrying.  Prices are going up for everything including water, soda, snacks and parking, all available via coin operated equipment.  Hey, did someone say inflation?

  • Credit/debit card with at least $1,000 available on it and a telephone calling card.

You can only carry so much cash safely, so have a credit/debit card with at least a thousand bucks available to buy your way out of stickier situations.  Here in New York City on 9/11 cell phones went out of service so you may need to use one of the few remaining pay phones, so have a $5, $10 or $25 calling card in your wallet and make sure it is up to date.

  • Pocketknife / multi-tool.

This goes without saying – the Leatherman I carry has a bunch of tools – I can fix nearly anything with it.  I will not get into a debate on which is the correct model.  I prefer the Leatherman Flair because it has a corkscrew.  That has saved me on many an occasion

  • Cell phone with camera – keep it charged!

For many of us now our phone is multi-functional tool.  For others it is their entire world.  It is our contact list with phone numbers and addresses, appointment calendar, memo pad, our watch, camera, video recorder, voice recorder, GPS, Internet/e-mail access, MP3 player, radio, alarm and even a phone.  If we lose it or the batteries die, it may really seem like TEOTWAWKI.  Charge your cell phone each night!  Again, you don’t know when it will be your emergency.  As I have said TEOTWAWKI may just be your world and the rest of us will be continuing normally.  When you need it most to communicate your cell phone should be charged!  Keep a charger in each car, and use it!  And when you’re bored at the dentist’s or doctor’s office or wherever just killing time, the same magazines you’ve read before are still there, so you surf or play a game on your phone.  When the battery gets down to 50%, stop and put it away.  It is just like keeping your car’s gas tank filled.  You don’t know when you may really need it.

  • Laminated list of phone numbers of people you can count on in a real emergency.  Don’t use an ink jet printer – when it gets wet your numbers may be unreadable when you need them most.  List both cellular and hard line numbers on the card! – Cell phones might not work in a crisis, or your phone is lost or dead.  For some strange reason some federal agents I know, are required to have a hard copper phone line in their home, I do the same.  And back to 9/11 when cell phones didn’t work.  My point about having a calling card – these two go hand in hand.  Have an out of town contact for you and your immediate circle to communicate on.  You can also use an answering machine at your retreat to leave and retrieve messages in a crisis via a touchtone phone.  Keep the answering machine commands and access number hint on the phone list. 
  • Small flashlight - long life LED type also an LED key fob.

Again my wife tells me I have too many keys and key fob gadgets.  You always have your keys – right?  So keeping some critical essentials on it is a good idea.  One of these is the little LED keychain lights – they are cheap and disposable. As often stated “one is none” so the key fob light is a backup to a quality flashlight.  My personal favorite primary light is the SureFire E2D LED Defender. It is expensive but well worth it.  I have had this light for three years now without fail.   Its small size fits well in your pocket with all that other stuff.  The Surefire has two power settings, to save battery life.  The high setting can temporarily blind someone at night.  There are times when this could be your only means of defense and it has the ability to shed light onto another sticky situation and additionally impale the skull of an attacker.  The downsides are the initial cost and that it needs CR-123A batteries.

  • Lighter and matches

I don’t think I have to go into detail on the many reasons to have these.  And I additionally keep a flint & steel on my key ring.  (“two is one and one is none”)

  • Tactical Pen, pencil and paper

I love my tactical pen.  I have never had issue on any flight or security check with this pen.  Again it could be a last line of defense in addition to a quality writing instrument.  Again “one is none” and a pencil never fails.  A few pieces of paper for quick notes, thoughts etc…
There is something to be said for low-tech.  The US government spent a ton of money on designing and inventing the “space pen” so they could write in outer-space, and the Russians used a pencil.  Let us be reminded to learn, keep and pass on old world common sense, simplicity and skills.  Low tech is sometimes the best.

  • Band-Aids and a few butterflies bandages (keep in wallet) these are always handy for minor cuts, scrapes and scratches.  I even keep a few character Band-Aids for the kids.  It is amazing how quickly a tragedy can be turned around with the distraction of a picture on the Band-Aid.  
  • Aspirin and Necessary medications - Aspirin is good to chew and swallow if you think you are having a heart attack.  I always have a few packets in my pocket for that pounding headache, sore muscles or heart attack.
  • Firearm and ammo, where legal - Know and Follow Federal, State and Local Laws!

This again is obvious – this is a topic unto itself.  I will say take a good class and practice, practice, practice!  Learn the color code of awareness, and learn to avoid confrontations so you don’t end up like George Zimmerman.  

  • Wet Wipes and/or antiseptic wipes – I always tuck a few in my pocket from restaurant leftovers when I order ribs.  They are great for cleaning hands and wounds - but the alcohol stings. Freshening up your hands, neck and face in a tough situation can bring a minor sense of comfort that can help you collect your thoughts and find the strength to carry on.  Sometimes it is the little things in life.  A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer is also not a bad idea. [And most hand sanitizer gels also double as fire starters.]
  • Sunglasses and reading glasses (if needed)

Again this is self-explanatory.

  • Whistle / compass combo keychain fob (small)

Again my love of key fobs. We all know the importance of signaling for help and knowing where we are going.

  • USB drive (encrypted, [such as Ironkey]) again it can be on your key fob.

Tons of information can be kept here securely, depending on the encryption you use.
Additionally I keep an unencrypted text file on it with contact info for the honest individual to return it to me should I lose it.

  • Spare house key kept in wallet – this is what you need as a backup when you lose your keys and all the goodies you now have on your key ring.  So it is a good idea to keep at least one of those grocery or pharmacy customer appreciation barcode tags on your key ring in the hopes of getting them back from another honest individual.  
  • Rubber bands – keep a few on your wrist.  This is another thing that drives my wife nuts.  But how often I use them to fix, bind or secure things for her.  A Para-cord bracelet is not a bad idea for the other wrist since we don’t need watches anymore because most people have cell phones.
  • Safety pins - again it can be on your key fob. There are tons of emergency uses for these. Including quickly fixing your clothes and perhaps preventing a wardrobe malfunction ;-) 
  • ID (Passport if outside country) again in your wallet.  This is self-explanatory.  (The only thing in this country you don't need ID for is to vote - go figure.)
  • Floss (Glide in a tiny, flat dispenser). Did you ever have something between your teeth driving you nuts?  It can also be used as string to fix, repair, and secure things.  A tiny sewing kit from the hotel is also not a bad idea. 
  • Food (candy and/or energy bar) a few mints, hard candies, chocolate, or a granola bar. This can help take the edge off a physically and mentally challenging situation. 
  • Bandana – a hundred and one uses.  Trauma bandage, tourniquet, A wind/dust mask, Soaked in water to use as a neckband to keep cool, Pre-filter water, Headband, For magic tricks, Blow a nose, Clean glasses, As a sling (with the safety pins), Wrap a sprained ankle or wrist, To secure a splint on a broken arm or leg, Wrap around snow or ice for an ice pack or to wipe a tear.  And the list goes on.  You can use it in a restroom as a washcloth and towel to freshen up – perhaps making you feel better in a difficult situation.  Again, sometimes all it takes is a few moments of simple comfort to feel human again and provide the strength to go on and forge ahead.
  • Medical info (allergies, med history, med list, doctor's name and number, etc…)

This again is self-explanatory.

  • A bottle of water – water is life!  Don’t discard the bottle – you can always refill it from a faucet, water fountain or water cooler.  I prefer this over the concept of a condom in your sock as a water carrier.  Although there is nothing wrong about having a few condoms along – just make sure it is not expired, dry rotted of damaged from being in your wallet forever, regardless of what you are using it for. 
  • Recent family photos for ID purposes.  God forbid your family member is lost, separated from you or just missing.  A recent picture in your wallet could speak volumes.  Whenever my family and I go on a trip, before we leave the house, I take a picture of the wife and kids with my phone.  So when you are panicking because they are missing, you may not remember what color shirt, pants and jacket they were wearing.  Additionally with the technology today you can text that picture to law enforcement in an instant. 

This list can go on and on.  Some may say I have missed items, they may feel the list should be 30, 40, or even 50.  Please make your own list with the adjustments you feel are appropriate.  And it will most likely be adjusted each day, sometimes more than once a day.  I am not getting a man-bag, or an everyday carry bag, I’d end up losing it – so I keep the stuff in my pockets.  I guess it’s a guy thing.  This may be the beginning of a justification for an everyday carry bag . But, like I say that can be left and/or lost especially in a panic, or stressful situation.  What about clothes?  Unless you’re living in your swim trunks you got pants with pockets, cargos have even more pockets, and most ladies have a purse with this and more.  Weather appropriate clothes is obvious including hat and rain gear.  The better we are prepared in the short term the better we can get ahead on the long term.  Being prepared should bring about a certain sense of calm and comfort.  If we prepare for life’s little hiccups,  daily problems, major events and total catastrophes we will know in our hearts that we did what we could, and try not to agonize over the should of, could of, would of, and leave the rest in the Good Lord’s Hands. 

For some, this may be the start of more serious prepping.  But it is a mindset that comes over years, it is a part of situational awareness and flexibility.  Be resourceful with what you have at your disposal to fix a situation.  When you fix a kid's toy with a rubber band or help you wife’s wardrobe issue with the safety pin, or comfort someone’s grief by offering your clean bandana it will help you build your confidence for perhaps more troubling times ahead.  I hope this is found to be informative and helpful, and perhaps inspires and starts some on the road to preparedness.  The more people that are prepared the better it will be for all!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I recently witnessed an accident that gave me great insight into what it means to be prepared for an emergency situation and what it will mean post-TEOTWAWKI, when you cannot dial 9-1-1.  It was important for me to evaluate the situation afterwards and to share the lessons I learned with others.  I have numbered the main lessons that can be learned from my situation and I hope you will find a thing or two that might be helpful to you in the future.  

I was driving from Denver to Vail after work on a Friday this past May.  Less than 10 miles from my destination, in Vail Pass, the weather quickly turned to a damp snow which collected on the highway.  As you drive through Vail Pass you gain thousands of feet in elevation over only several miles and the difference in climate can be drastic.  

I slowed my front-wheel drive 2009 Honda Civic to around 45 mph since I had already put on my summer tires (Lesson #1- Have adequate tires for the terrain or be prepared to drive SLOWLY) .  A white Jeep Grand Cherokee passed me and lost control as we crested a hill which was nearly glare ice.  The driver managed to slow it down a bit so I anticipated they would go into the ditch in the median and come to a stop. But as the vehicle went into the ditch the car did a quick, full roll and I saw a body fly out of the driver’s door (Lesson#2- Always wear a seatbelt and drive with your doors locked!  If a vehicle rolls over, the doors can easily open).  I brought my vehicle to a stop, put on my hazard lights, dialed 9-1-1 and safely crossed the highway.  As I was approaching the Jeep, while giving the 9-1-1 Dispatcher the information, I could see the driver (heavy-set woman, early to mid 30’s) crawling on the ground about 20 feet from where her vehicle landed.  I told her “Ma’am you’re okay, help is coming, please sit down right there.”  She was sobbing, shocked, and hurt but she did as I asked.  

I then looked up to see the back driver’s side door open and a young boy (who I later learned was 8) stepped out.  There were two gashes on his face that were a least 5” long; one laterally across his forehead and another vertically down his left cheek.  You could see pretty far inside the one on the cheek and blood was dripping from both wounds pretty badly.  I have minimal emergency training but a good amount of time spent with young ones so I knew I didn’t want to freak him out any more than he already was.  I bent my knees and got to eye level with him, gave him a smile and a thumbs up and said “Buddy, you’re gonna be ok, everything is going to be fine.  Can you go sit beside your mom there?  I’m gonna get help, everything is okay.”  He immediately stopped crying, stared directly into my eyes like he was hypnotized, and sat down by his mom. I could tell he wanted her to go back to the vehicle.  She stayed there, in hysterics.   (Lesson #3- Don’t freak out the kids.  They’re already scared to death and you might be too, but your face  can’t show it.  That kid probably thought I was some kind of idiot, grinning and giving him a thumbs up, but it worked.)

I walked past the two of them to look in the vehicle and could see through the open door that there were two very small children in the backseat.  Having seen the injuries to the older boy, I had a natural aversion to walking up and looking at the two tiny children still in the vehicle but the Dispatcher asked me to describe the condition of all parties involved in the accident.  (Lesson #4-You might have to see some stuff that you aren’t prepared for.

Some people with military or emergency response backgrounds will already have experience with these types of situation.  I don’t really have much advice to give other than be ready for it and don’t freak out. )
As I looked inside the vehicle I saw two little girls under the age of 4, one still in her car seat, one on a booster seat, both still buckled in.  They were crying but physically unharmed.  At that point I felt truly blessed.  Seeing those two babies moving around, trying to get out of their seatbelts was the best possible scenario, and I had been mentally preparing myself to see the worst.  The injuries to the boy seemed most serious, but not life threatening.  At this point I had given 9-1-1 all the info she needed and she said help was on the way.  I also reached in and shut off the vehicle, which was now lightly smoking/steaming from under the hood.  
My priority was to tend to the boy’s wounds and stop that bleeding.  I had a small First Aid kit in my car that I knew contained some latex gloves and gauze.  I ran back across the highway to retrieve the kit from my trunk. (Lesson #5 - I probably should have brought that kit from my car in the first place, huh?  I had never trained for this situation and had to learn this lesson the hard way.  Unless you are in a profession where you do it on a regular basis, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about having to run into an emergency situation and care for others.  Any one of us might have to be a First Responder in a given situation, so be prepared for it.)

As I returned to the accident with my First Aid kit, other people had started to gather.  One couple had pulled over just as I did but didn’t have much means to help.  At this point, we received some more good fortune.  As I went to unzip my First Aid kit and apply gauze and pressure to the young boy’s wounds, I hear a man behind me say “I’m an EMT, is anyone hurt?”  I was really grateful for this because my training is limited to a First Aid course I took back in college that has since expired.  I then gave him my first aid kit and told him that the boy was the most seriously injured.     

Myself and another young lady at that point told the mother that all of her kids were going to be fine.  I now understand why she had not run back to the vehicle while she was still moving around as I first got there.  You could tell that she had it in her mind that her kids were seriously injured or worse.  (Lesson # 6 - Don’t assume the worst.  I understand this woman was traumatized and injured from being tossed from her vehicle, but her kids were okay.  Despite how awful the situation was, it was a wonderful thing to be able to give her that news.)
Another man arrived on the scene who clearly had some training and he began to take care of the boy with a medical kit he brought with him.  The EMT, myself, and a few others took the two girls from the backseat, wrapped them in whatever clothes we could take off our backs, and moved them into another car to keep them warm.  

As the first ambulance pulled up, I breathed a sigh of relief until it did a U-turn at the median and drove the other direction down the highway.  It stopped less than 300 yards up the road where another accident had occurred. Apparently someone else had called 9-1-1 before I did.  Several more minutes passed until the Vail Fire Department showed up with all of their medical supplies.  I wanted to wait there until help arrived but at this point I was ready to get out of there.  I had done all I could for them and they were now in much more capable hands.  Only after all the action had taken place and I was returning to my vehicle did I get a bit emotional.  

The main lesson (#7) that I took from the situation was to get some training.  Ideally, anyone who is serious about survival should get EMT training, but that requires a good amount of time which most of us do not have.  At the bare minimum, everyone should have First Aid/CPR training and keep it current.  These classes are widely available and inexpensive.  Your local Fire Dept or college will offer these first aid  several times a year.  
If you are part of a survival group, all of your members should have basic First Aid training and someone should be trained as an EMT or better with some serious research into field/survival medicine.  SurvivalBlog has a large section of First Aid/Medical related articles and JWR has several recommendations on survival and field medicine books.  Be sure to pick some up and share them with your group’s Medic. (You do have a group Medic, right?).

Another lesson (#8) to be learned is to always have some sort of emergency kit in your vehicle.  The EMT was helpful, but more helpful because I was able to provide him with some of the tools he needed to care for someone who was injured.  The trunk of my car contains:

  • Basic First Aid kit (gauze, bandages, rubbing alcohol, Neosporin, a few small splints, etc...)
  • Wool Blanket
  • Space Blanket
  • Fleece coat
  • Gloves
  • Road Flares
  • Zip ties
  • Small tool kit (screwdriver, wrench, sockets, etc.)
  • Strike anywhere matches
  • Small bag of food (granola bars and a few cans of tuna)

All of these items take up less than 2’x2’ of space in my trunk.  Keep in mind that my kit is tailored to my needs.  Someone who lives in coastal Texas or a desert in Arizona will have different items than someone who travels through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Now last but not least, it is important to put my experience into context.  What I described was how we were able to handle an emergency situation until the cavalry arrived, so to speak.  What if there was no 9-1-1 to call?  What if someone is seriously injured and the buck stops with you?  For most people in the United States, help is only minutes away and we live our lives with a notion of security because of that.  If you are reading this site, you are already acquainted with the notion that someday there may be no emergency services to rely on.  This will require us to have a greater level of training and to take much greater precaution in our day to day lives.  A minor injury today could be life threatening post-TEOTWAWKI.  Please evaluate your level of preparedness and take the steps to get the training and supplies that you need.  I hope my situation serves as an example that anyone could be in any situation at any time.  You don’t need to be a Doctor or an EMT to help someone, but you do need to be prepared. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012


There has been a lot of news about an English-speaking boy who claims to have been living for five years along with his father, camping out undetected in the forests of Germany, south of Berlin. Is this fact, fiction, fantasy? - Calvin D.

JWR Replies: I was also contacted by ABC News about this, seeking an interview. I reminded them that this was actually a nine month -old news story, dredged up by Huffington Post. I did provide ABC with some background, which I will repeat here, to explain why I'm quite dubious of this boy's story:

1.) A five day hike north to Berlin would have meant that he had been living in either the Federal state ("Land") of Brandenburg or Sachsen (Saxony.)  As for "living in caves", that is not karst (limestone) country.  No limestone means no extensive caves. There would just be a few rock fall ("slippage") caves.  You mainly find limestone caves in central Germany and Southern Germany, and a few in Westfalia.  There are very few caves in Brandenburg or Sachsen.

2.)  The forests and wild game in Germany are extremely well-managed.  The notoriously observant Jagermeisters (game wardens) and land owners would have soon caught on to anyone illicitly camping out and harvesting game in forest lands for an extended period of time.  The over-managed monocultural nature of their forests (spruce and pine) do not lend themselves to supporting a high density or diversity of small game.

3.)  German forests are not like ours in America. Most forest lands are consistently kept looking downright park-like. Any dead fallen trees are almost immediately removed. The lack of deadfall and dead-standing cavity trees in German forests provides very little cover for small game.  This keeps the rabbit population relatively low.

4.) The same lack of deadfall and dead-standing cavity trees also provides little habitat for wood grubs and other edible critters. It is fairly difficult to "live off the land" in that sort of forest unless you are an expert with traps and snares and can set them across a wide area.

5.) The climate of northeastern Germany is fairly cold and snowy--usually around 120 days of snow. It is unrealistic to expect someone without substantial shelter to survive these winters without gathering large quantities of firewood.  (And again, how could that that done quietly without a copious supply of deadfall?)  A tent set up on warm ground near hot springs might be an option, but all of the springs ("Bads") are well-known and frequented almost year-round by German hikers.

Note: The forests are not as well guarded or well-managed in the western reaches of the Czech Republic.  Perhaps if the boy claimed to have walked from there (five days of hard hiking, 20+ miles per day), then his story might have a shade more credulity, but even that would be a stretch.

The bottom line:  I think that the boy's story is mostly fantasy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

There are a lot of things to be fearful of in this old world.  But, for most of us Joe Average North Americans, there are things we believe that are likely to happen, and many other events that are a lot less likely.
Most of us are not all that worried about a magnetic pole shift, the Mayan calendar ending this year, the Yellowstone super volcano, or an alien invasion from outer space.  It’s not that all those things are impossible, but there are threats that are simply a lot more probable.

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average (the people that don’t have their heads stuck in the sand in denial) are most worried about an economic collapse.  Joe knows these events have happened historically in our own country (1929), as well as many other countries.  He is not so rigid as to think it can’t happen again.

In the current world, Joe hears about it from many different media outlets.  Prior to the last few years, since around 2008, Joe never heard such dire thoughts from any media source, much less from the now countless sources.  He knows the causes could be myriad, and everyone out there has a theory and a prediction.  It might be “just” a hard economic downturn like the Great Depression, and there still might be basic law and order.  Or, it could be truly apocalyptic social disintegration.  Joe is not so arrogant as to think he knows how all the countless variables will turn out.  He might not know what the eventual “tipping point” will be, but neither is he is oblivious to what is happening in the world around him.  He sees the signs.  A recent poll indicated that nearly 50% of Americans believe there will be an economic collapse within their lifetimes.  Many see it as imminent.
Joe, being a practical sort, has stored up a little extra food, water, and supplies, including outdoor gear.  Joe and his family would much rather “bug in” than “bug out”, but he can envision a social collapse where that choice might not be his to make.  He especially knows that if the power grid were to go down, all bets are off.  Joe, trying to look ahead, can foresee a time when cities might become dangerous places, at least for a fairly extended period of time.  Though he can see this possible future, he is still more than a little reticent about the thought of bugging out his family to a remote location in a “live off the land” scenario.

However, Joe, as I have described him, has a lot more going for him than he might think if he has to put into action his bug-out plan to a remote area.  Less than 2% of the population has made any preparations for such an event.  Joe has; at least to some degree.  When he reaches his bug-out location, he has food, water, and camping gear.  He also has a little basic fishing and hunting gear.  He may not have enough for months or years, but he has some.  Most of the population will have virtually zero.

Also, he has been thinking about all the “what ifs” this new world might bring.  Again, that is a lot more than the other 98% out there who think preppers are ignorant idiots who are wasting their time.  Those folks believe the government will “do something” so that it won’t get that bad.  Yeah, right.

Even for Joe, however, life in the wilderness won’t be a picnic, especially for months on end.  Joe, like the rest of us, will need a little change of mindset.  We will all have to realize that at least some of the rules have changed.

The following is a list of “possibles” to think about.  These are all situation oriented.  Obviously, what to do will depend on the exact situation we find ourselves in, and none of us can really predict that.  We have to prepare for a little of everything, but we don’t need to go out of our way to make it any more back-breaking than it has to be.

The mantra of this list is:   Use common sense, do the Easy Stuff First.

(1)  Joe needs to go to water.  Most of us live within a few miles of a stream, river, lake, creek, or even just a pond.  The easiest stuff to successfully accomplish is almost always near water.  Obviously, this won’t help if you are stranded in the Mojave, but Joe has transportation.  Find water.
(2)  Joe needs to clear his mind of at least some old precepts.  Not many people are going to be able to take their trusty bolt action rifle (that has been in the closet for years) and go out and get a deer every couple of weeks to feed their family.  Many people think they could, but it is really unrealistic for most of us.  There might be a few exceptions.  There are a few areas of the country that are simply teeming with large game, but those areas are extremely few and far between.  Even in those areas, there will be a lot of other people competing for that same game in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Again, think easy.  Hunting is, in most instances, a fair amount of work.  You want to conserve calories, not expend them.
(3)  After setting up his camp, Joe should try water resources.  It is generally easier to obtain protein in (or near) water than elsewhere.  Try tiny hooks for small fish.  Almost any water source will have perch or other small fish.  I have caught many small perch by using bait I scrounged up at the site such as grasshoppers, grubs, crickets, etc.  Once, I used a petal off of a very tiny white flower (or weed) I found in the grass.  All you have to catch with this improvised bait is one of these tiny fish, and then you can cut it into tiny pieces for better bait.  Once you have these tiny pieces of fish flesh for bait, you can generally catch all you want of the little buggers.  Does it matter that you can only catch 3 inch fish?  In the old world, it would not have gotten you any bragging rights, but now is a whole new ball game.  A skillet full will be good, and will conserve the canned goods and MREs you brought with you.
After all, most of us Joe Averages out there have an immediate family of five or less.  Most Joes won’t be trying to feed forty people.
(4)  Joe will have started off with a success; not a failure.  It is, admittedly, a small success, but at least it is a positive outcome, not effort expended that produced nothing.  Failures breed worry and panic.  A positive outcome will help not only Joe’s attitude, but also his wife and children.  If the kids (and their Mom) see an initial positive outcome, it eases their minds.  On the other hand, if they see Dad fail miserably right off the bat, it scares them.  Dad needs to be seen as doing things that work.  A series of little victories is a good thing.
(5)  Set traps that will work while you don’t.  Again, think easy and conserve energy.  Cut a plastic 2 liter soda bottle so that you can reverse the cone end back into the larger end, forming a cone fish trap.  Chop up one of the tiny fish you caught earlier to use for bait inside.  Let it “fish” for you in shallow water while you rest.  Again, it will only catch very small fish, but so what.
(6)  Set individual lines from limbs overhanging the water (or cut poles) to fish while you do other things.  Multi-hooked trot lines, if possible, are even better.
(7) If the body of water has crayfish (poor boy’s shrimp), toss a burlap bag or some such thick cloth into the waters edge, pat it down flat, and let it set for an hour or two.  Crayfish will hide under it, and you can catch some of them by quickly yanking it out on the bank.  Some will have their claws caught in the underside of the bag.  A lot of them will escape, but so what.  You have expended little effort.
(8) If Joe thought ahead and brought with him a piece of large plastic pipe (4” diameter, or so, like is used in sewage drain lines), he can make an un-baited hollow log catfish trap with very little effort.  He would need a piece about 3’ long.  Wire off one end so that water will flow through, but the catfish can’t.  Leave the other end open.  Tie a rope to that end (to retrieve), and toss it into the water.  Leave for several hours at least.  Catfish will swim into these just like they will an actual hollow log that has fallen into the water.  Exactly why they do it, I don’t have a clue.  But, they do.  It is a fact.  “Noodlers” take advantage of this catfish behavior.  Have you ever seen the television show Hillbilly Handfishing?
(9) Something to think about.  Most of the activities mentioned thus far are things that will fish for you while you do something else, or maybe while you simply rest.
(10) Something else to think about.  Virtually all of the above things can be hidden so that a passerby would not even notice.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation, even a remote area might have some people passing through that would rob a fish trap (or set hooks) if they were visible.
(11)  Look for shallow inlet pools.  These are little offshoots of most all waterways where water (and fish) have overflowed into shallow pools just off the main body of water.  Eventually the water level dropped slightly, leaving the fish trapped in the small pool.  If the pool is too large to grab the small fish by hand, carve a spear to stab them with.  Bamboo is relatively easy to whittle into a multi-pronged spear with barbs.  Water birds (like kingfishers) utilize these small pools because their prey is easier to catch there than in more open and deeper water.
This method is obviously a little more work, since you have to physically have to spear or catch the fish.  It won’t work while you rest.  Sorry about that.
(12)  If there are no shallow inlet pools around, you can make your own fairly easily.  Find a spot on the bank where you can wade out at least a few feet without falling into deeper water.  Drive sticks (bamboo is good, but use whatever you have) into the mud making a fence out into the water.  Obviously, the farther out you go, the longer the sticks will have to be.  Move about three feet over, and build a second fence out into the water.  Then, form a cone back toward the bank from the end of both fences.  Looking at it from the bank, it should look like an “M”.  Leave the cone of the M open, so that fish can swim in.  In essence, it is just another cone trap like you made earlier with the plastic soda bottle.  Again, a little work is involved with this one, but once built it will work for you relatively permanently.
(13)  In some waterways, schools of small fish can be netted if you just had a net.  If you can cut a ten foot long pole with a Y shaped end, you can fashion one.  Take a t-shirt and tie the sleeves into a knot.  Then, tie the shirt onto the Y end of the pole forming what hopefully looks something like a butterfly net.  Again, small fish is about all you can hope for, but so what.
(14)  Hopefully, it goes without saying that if a “big success” stumbles into your lap, go ahead and take advantage of it.  Use that trusty old rifle if an elk ambles by your camp.  Everything is situation oriented.  Don’t let doing the easy stuff blind you to an opportunity of bigger and better.
(15)  If Joe has a minnow seine or a cast net, either is quick and easy to use if the water is shallow enough to wade out a few yards.  Again, these items produce a quick gain for little effort.
(16) After a pattern of success has been developed, and the initial panic and apprehension of being forced to bug-out has faded, Joe can move on to “bigger” things if he wants.  He can move on to trying for bigger fish, hunting wild game, setting animal snares, and the like.  Squirrel or rabbit hunting generally has a high success rate.  If his time in the wilds is extended, he will eventually have to set up a water filter for when his initial supplies run low.  The really hard stuff is now starting.   But, he will have avoided the initial fear and panic that could have proved fatal for his little family.

Hope for the best.  Prepare for the worst. 

About The Author: Dale Martin is the author of several books, including Every Man's Guide to Outdoor Survival

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kevin S. suggested this piece : Be Resilient, Part I: How to Measure Resilience

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Steve H. sent this: New FBI Surveillance Backdoors? Six Key Points

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North Korea 'executes three people found guilty of cannibalism'. One man... "reportedly resorted to cannibalism after supplies to the city dwindled in the wake of the government's disastrous efforts to reform the currency triggered rampant inflation and worsened already critical food shortages."

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Ol' Remus of The Woodpile Report recommended this piece: How Government Wrecked the Gas Can

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Finding a pre-1899 gun among junk

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived for generations by gathering the food that nature provided. Some of those plants contain natural remedies to many common problems, and in fact are where many modern pharmaceuticals come from. 

In this article we will be discussing various edible plants mostly found in the north east United States, as well as a few others.

Provisos: Before getting started you should be warned that some plants can be highly toxic. We will cover some common look-a-likes, but you should never eat a plant unless you are one hundred percent sure of what you’re eating. Wild poisonous plants often resemble non-poisonous varieties, and also often grow side by side. Some edible plants can have non-edible parts. It is up to you to make the right decisions when applying this information in the wilderness. With that in mind, once you can identify wild edibles accurately you will find that natures garden is full of delicious and healthy food, fresh and at your finger tips. Also, I’ve included a few definitions at the end of this article you may find helpful.

Common Dandelion

AKA: Lions Tooth, Priest Crown, Swine’s Snout
How To Spot It: One yellow flower on a hollow, hairless stem,or spherical cluster of white “parachute” seeds, no leaves other than basal leaves with large teeth pointing toward the base. There are no poisonous look-alikes, however other edible relative can look similar when young. 
Cautions: Dandelion root should be avoided for those with an irritable bowels or stomach.
Uses: Use young leaves or flower tops in salads. The taste can be slightly bitter, so use sparingly. Light cooking will increase the bitterness, however further cooking (about twenty minutes) will make the taste almost disappear, especially when combined with a sauce or spices.
Notes: Dandelion root contains a substance called inulin.  Inulin has very little impact on blood sugar levels, and—unlike fructose—is not insulemic and does not raise triglycerides making it increasingly popular among  diabetics and potentially helpful in managing blood sugar-related illnesses ; Dandelion has also been known to be especially beneficial for treating chronic hepatitis and gall stones.

Japanese Knotweed

AKA: Monkeyweed, Hancock’s Curse, Water Weeds, Elephant Ears, Donkey Rhubarb, Japanese Bamboo, Pea Shooters, Fleeceflower, American Bamboo
How To Spot It: Tall, bushy plant with a bamboo like sheathed stalk. Alternating triangular leaves, green and/or red-ish in color. Hundreds of tiny white flowers grow on long lacy spikes in the spring and summer. Mature plants can grow to be nine to twelve feet tall. It’s interconnected root system often creates a dense bamboo like thicket. There are no poisonous look-alikes, however it could be confused with Giant Knotweed, which is used the same way except it is much less common, or wild Asparagus or Rhubarb (a relative), which of course are also edible.
Cautions: Do not eat large quantities of Knotweed raw. It contains substantially more oxalic acid than cooked Knotweed which could potentially cause problems in a survival situation. Smaller portions, however, are fine.
Uses: Collect the young shoots, discard the leaves, discard the rinds of older shoots and chop or slice the stalks.Has a nice sour flavor. Use in fruit dishes or pies just as you would Rhubarb. Also excellent addition to soups, stews, jams, or applesauce.
Notes: The large hollow stalks contain some fresh drinking water. To collect it chop the plant at the base the hold it upside down. Take a stick and poke through the inner wall of the joint, opening the ‘chambers’ one at a time, then simply pour the water into your mouth. ;  Larger quantities can act as a laxative, breaking down fats and stimulating digestion, which of course, could possibly be fatal in a survival situation. ; Extracts of this plant are currently being tested to help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, dely the onset of Alzheimer’s or slow its progression, and to help treat or lower the risk of certain types of cancers.

Poor Man’s Pepper

AKA: Virginia Pepperweed, Peppergrass
How To Spot It: The small spicy annual grows six inches to three feet tall, beginning with a ‘basal rosette’ in early spring. The narrow stalked basal leaves grow two to five inches long and soon the lobes become deep, sharp teeth that usually point toward the leaf tips. A long, wiry, branching flower stalk grows from the plants center mid-spring to fall with similar, but smaller, lance shaped toothed leaves tapering toward the base. From spring to fall the plant is covered in tiny, white four petaled flowers at the tips. In summer and fall the flowers are replaced with flat, circular seed pods, slightly notched at the tip, and containing many yellow-brown seeds. There in no no colored sap when you break open the stem, and the plant has a short, white taproot. There are no poisonous look-alikes, however it could be confused with other edible species.
Cautions: It should not be given to very young children, or others that may be sensitive to spicy foods.
Uses: The leaves, seeds, pods, flowers, tender part of the top of the stem, and taproot are all edible raw or cooked, and make excellent addition to salads, stews, soups, ground as a seasoning for meats, etc. The flavor can be compared to horseradish or wasabe. They tend to lose a little of the kick when cooked. 
Notes: The Poor Man’s Pepper is actually not a pepper at all, rather a member of the mustard family. ; The leaves contain notable levels of vitamin c, calcium, iron, and potassium. ; A ‘tea’ made from the leaves has been used historically for diabetes, to expel intentional worms, as a diuretic, and to ease arthritis. The seed pods have been used to treat coughs and colds, to help break up and expel fluid built up in the chest.

Field Garlic


AKA:  Wild Onion, Meadow Leek, Onion Grass, Wild Garlic
How To Spot It: Long, unbranched, hollow, rounded basal leaves six inches to two feet tall, with a strong onion /garlic smell, growing from an onion like bulb. In late spring consisting of stalkless, green or red-ish bulblets grow on top of a single long leafless stem, one to three feet tall. Each bulb has a curved side and a straight side, project a tiny green shoot upward, and lilac colored, six petaled flowers bloom from them. Later the bulb falls to the ground as the plant dies and turn into new plants next year.
Cautions: Field Garlic should not be confused with the highly toxic plant ‘Star of Bethlehem’, which also has a long linear leaf resembling various wild onions, except it has no odor, a white stripe running down the length of each leaf, and the six-tepaled white flowers don’t resemble that of any other edible plant.
Uses: Collect the leaves in early spring or fall, when the young plants are most tender. Consume them raw or cooked just as you would chives or scallions. The underground bulbs are more onion tasting in seasons with cold weather, and more garlic-like in seasons with warmer weather. Use them accordingly raw or cooked. The Young bulbs growing from the plants have an almost spicy taste and should be used when still young, before the skin toughens.
Notes: Field Garlic is a blood purifier, diuretic, and expectorant. Raw bulbs can help to lower blood pressure. It is also used to prevent worms in children and animals.



AKA: Tiger Daylily, Orange daylily, Ditch Daylily
How To Spot It: This perennial produces large, showy flower yellow-orange in color above a basal rosette of long, sword shaped leaves. Six to fifteen short stemmed, upward facing,  funnel shaped flowers stem from a slender, unbranched , smooth stem, three to four feet tall. During flowering, buds grow on the same branch as the flowers, which wither and die the same day they bloom. Other species while still edible, are not as tasty.
Cautions: This is not to be confused with Daffodil or Iris, which are both toxic to humans. By identifying the plant by its flowers, you can avoid confusion, as Daffodils and Iris look nothing like the orange Daylily.
Uses: The flowers and buds are a good source of beta caratine, vitamin c, and iron. Cook the larger, unopened flower pods in recipes that call for green beans, as the flavor is similar. They cook in about fifteen minutes. Be sure not to eat the green base of the flower, as the taste is rather unpleasant. Flowers and the pods can also be batter dipped and deep fried for a delicious side dish or snack.
Notes: The Daylily is an important herb in ancient Chinese medicine. An infusion is made from the flowers is used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a sedative, to reduce fever, as a pain killer, and to ease childbirth. The rhizomes and tuber has shown antimicrobial and antiparasitic properties. Research is also being done one how to use the Daylily to treat cancer.

Common Mallow

AKA: Buttonweed, Cheeseplant, Dwarf Mallow, Roundleaf Mallow
How To Spot It: The plant, which arises from a long, slender taproot, can creep along the ground or grow upright. The crinkled, rounded to heart-shaped, toothed, slightly hairy basal leaves grow up to three inches across, with five to seven shallow lobes. The leaf stalks can grow up to seven inches long, and the leaf is notched where it connects to the stalk. Flowers are white to pale-pink with five petals, have a bushy column of many stamens surrounding one pistil, and are under one inch across. Pink lines run through the petals, which are notched at the tip. At a quarter-inch across, the tiny, flattened, segmented fruits resemble a wheel of cheese. There are no poisonous look-alikes.
Cautions: Common Mallow could possibly be confused with various ivies if only ID’ed by the leaves, so be sure to look for the distinctive fruits and flowers.
Uses: A good source of vitamin c, iron, and calcium. The leaves, flowers, and fruits are good cooked for about 10 minutes as you would cook okra. The fruits are also excellent raw.
Notes: Tea made by boiling the root is said to be internally soothing. It has been used by natives to treat skin sores, stomach and dental ulcers, digestive irritations, as well as sore throats and coughs, Although thorough medical testing has yet to be done and results are not confirmed.

Garlic Mustard

AKA: Jack-by-the-hedge, Garlic Root, Hedge Garlic, Penny Hedge, Poor Man’s Mustard
How To Spot It: This common, highly invasive woodland biennial has a distinct garlic smell when crushed. The sprouts of new plants resemble alfalfa sprouts, each with a singular red-ish stalk about two inches tall, and a single strap shaped leaf about half an inch tall. The thin white taproot smells and tastes like horseradish. By mid-spring plants grow to be one to the and a half feet tall, slightly hairy, with more pointed, alternate, deeply veined triangular leaves. A flower bud resembling broccoli gives way to clusters of white four-petaled flowers. The flowers are replaced with long, green, four-parted seedpods curving upwards, about an inch long.
Cautions: Not to be confused with the Common Blue Violet or Henbit Deadnettle which can look similar when young, as always ID the plant through multiple means and be sure of what you are eating.
Uses: The leaves taste like garlic. Young leaves near the flowers are better tasting than the basal leaves, although both are pretty good. Cooking can add a bitter taste, some lightly sauté them for 5 minutes at most. The seeds have a wonderful spicy flavor and don t need cooked or crushed (cooking actually ruins the flavor, so ad them to your dish near the end). The root is used just like horseradish, and again, should only be cooked lightly if at all.
Notes: Crushed Garlic Mustard is a good topical treatment for bug bite, as well as bug repellent, and as a disinfectant. 

Shepard’s Purse

AKA: Mother’s Heart, Lady’s Purse, Pickpocket, Rattle Purse
How To Spot It: Shepard’s Purse begins with a basal rosette of stalked, lobed-to-deeply toothed, lance shaped leaves up to nine inches long, and broader towards the tip, coming from a slender white taproot. Unlike similar plants, the leaves point outward and the is no white sap when broken. In mid-spring long, wiry stalks branching from the base grow from eight inches to two feet tall. Smaller, alternate lance shaped leaves, sometimes with teeth, meet the stem with two small pointed lobes at their base. Tiny stalked flowers grow inside four oval sepals, with four white petals. The flowers eventually form long-stalked, flattened, heart or triangular shaped seedpods.
Cautions: Because of possible effects on the blood, this plant is not recommended for women who are nursing or pregnant.
Uses: Mid-spring the flowers, buds, and tops of the stems are all edible and similar in taste to broccoli. Leaves can be cooked ten to fifteen minutes and are great additions to salad soups and stews. It provides vitamins a,c,k,b1, b2, b3, choline, inositol, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. The also contain fumaric acid, which may help inhibit cancer.
Notes: There is little evidence of any beneficial medicinal use, however historically it has been used to ease childbirth, lower blood pressure, and as an astringent.

Lady’s Thumb

AKA: Persicaria, Redleg, Gambetta, Adam’s Plaster
How To Spot It: Growing with slender branching stems, it usually reaches a height of one to two feet tall and can create a dense brush.The pointed, lance shaped leaves grow from one to four inches long. A darkened triangular spot often appears toward the leaf’s center. Tiny white or pink flowers form in dense clusters about two inches long. This plant has both fibrous roots and a tap root. There are no poisonous look-alikes.
Cautions: Don’t confuse this with Smartweed, which can look similar and while non-toxic, has a horrible taste.
Uses: The leaves are the best parts, although the flowers and stems are also edible but can be unpleasant. They taste similar to lettuce, and can be used raw in salads and on sandwiches, as well as added to soups, casseroles, and stews.
Notes: This plant is rarely used in herbal medicine. 

Asiatic Dayflower

AKA: Yazhicao, Duckfoot Herb, Tsuyukusa, Dew Herb
How To Spot It: This hairless plant with distinct blue flowers grows from one to three feet tall. The simple, smooth edged leaves resemble grass grow three to five inches long. Their stalkless bases wrap around the stem to form a sheath. It has two upper blue petals, and a lower, smaller translucent-white petal. Two short sepals fuse to partially enclose two small yellow-green elongated seeds.
Cautions: It could possibly be confused with Virginia Dayflower which is also edible but larger, and grows more towards the south. Also similar is Spiderwort, which has three blue petals, not two, and is much larger. The leaves of Spiderwort are also edible.
Uses: Strip off the leaves, flowers, seeds, and tops of the stems. Add to salads or other vegetable dishes. The taste can be compared to string beans
Notes: It has been used in ancient China as an anti-inflammatory, and also to sooth a sore throat. It can also be used as a pigment or dye.


  • Basal Leaves - Leaves at the plant’s base
  • Basal Rosette - A circular arrangement of leaves, with all the leaves at the base of the plant, near the soil
  • Diuretic - A substance that increases the rate or urination
  • Expectorant - A substance that helps bring up mucus and other liquid from the lungs, bronchi, and trachea
  • Iris - The female fertilization organ of a flower
  • Rhizome - A horizontal stem, usually underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes, also called rootstock
  • Sepals - Modified leaves that lie under the more conspicuous petals of a flower
  • Stamen - The male fertilizing organ of a flower
  • Taproot - A straight tapering root growing downward and forming a base from which other roots spring

Have a good time in the wilderness and remember to always be safe!

Friday, May 11, 2012

After a few camping trips where I learned the hard way about preparing for local wildlife I started thinking about the bugs in my bug out plan and I'm not talking about technical flaws.  Previously I had focused much of my attention on what kind of gear to pack, how to provide food and water, and various routes to travel.  A trip to the Rockies, part of the AT and a few southeastern US adventures later I realized that people weren't the only hostile forces I might encounter and I didn't have much prepared to deal with the critters I might encounter.
Preparing for wildlife became a new priority for me when I reached an epiphany after visiting my sister in the southwest this summer.  While we have all seen the massive fires sweeping across the southwest, most of us have been fortunate enough to avoid their destruction.  Animals, however have had much of their habitat destroyed by the fires and as a result these animals have been forced out of the burning forests and into more populated (and better protected by fire suppression efforts) areas.  When the fires approached her town, so did many of the animals trying to escape the flames.  While my sister at most sees a coyote every now and then, the occasional scorpion and rarely a snake, all of these animals were prevalent throughout her neighborhood.  I admittedly have an irrational fear of snakes, but seeing so many in an area where I never saw one before made me a bit paranoid and hesitant to walk quickly without deliberately looking where I was stepping.  As we hurried to get things ready and get out of town I came to the realization that this may be just what we face in a TEOTWAWKI situation and I would need to be prepared to deal with it  In a disaster situation animals will be just as confused as humans and with widespread destruction animals may be out of their "normal" habitats.  With this soft awakening to the additional challenges I might face in a disaster, I began to take some of my camping experiences (and failures) and applying them to my bug out plan. 
My primary method of avoiding unnecessary wildlife is to properly select a campsite.  While this may seem easy for those of us used to hiking in state parks where there are designated camping areas mostly clear of brush with pre-dug fire pits, in the wild this can prove to be significantly more difficult.  If possible, I try to elevate myself off of the bare ground, if only by a few inches.  This not only provides some insulation in the winter from the cold but also helps to keep some of the bugs away.  I also try to clear the ground around where I will be camping.  Most snakes (so I'm told by my friends who actually like snakes) will avoid crossing clear ground if there is brush or concealment through which they can travel.  I will try to find a good branch and rake away the leaves and other cover, pick up the sticks and rocks and have several feet around where I will be camping.  Before clearing the site, I try to find a site that is not in a dry creek bed, is level and doesn't appear to be close to a game trail.  I realize that in a survival situation the campsite selection will be a compromise between concealment and comfort.  In the case of concealment at night, those wondering around will typically look at the ground (think about stumbling around in the dark or walking at night with a flashlight)  you will focus where you are going and rarely look up.  If you can safely get up high in a tree and sleep there, this offers great protection from the ground critters and helps you avoid discovery.  I have laid logs between a forked branch and tied the logs down with paracord to keep everything secure.  This took a while, so when making camp be sure to start early to avoid working at night where your flashlight may give you away.  I further took a spare carabiner and clipped my belt to the lashed log assembly while I slept to avoid rolling off in the middle of the night.  A few tricks I learned to quickly cut the cross member logs to size was to find longer logs of the appropriate thickness, stick the long log between two trees growing close together, or a tree with a fork near the base, and then use the leverage of the fork holding one end and me pushing the other end of the log to break it to size.  This avoids needing to have an axe or saw and works great to manage the size of firewood.  The sound of a branch snapping is also less indicative of human activity when compared to the distinctive sound of chopping or sawing.
Another ritual I always follow while camping is to avoid the triangle of death.  While this isn't always necessary, I still do it to ensure my safety and peace of mind.  The triangle of death is something I learned in the Rockies while working to keep bears away from my supplies.  The triangle is formed between where you suspend your food in the trees, the fire pit where you cook and where you store your dishes.  If you make camp inside (or very close to) this triangle, you have the highest chance of encountering any bear, critter or person investigating the smells of this area.  I always take note of what can be smelled and ensure that those items are not on me or near me when I am sleeping.  This includes things like film (has animal-based adhesive), deodorant, snacks I may carry in my pockets, Chapstik, medicines, stove fuel, duct tape, water bottles you drink out of while eating and even your survival knife if you used it to butcher game.  If you have a change of clothes available, I always cook and eat in one set and sleep in another set to fully minimize the smell.  I also don't apply any deodorant, powder, Chapstik or other smelly substance after 3 p.m.  While this is not a hard rule, if you do this, the substance will likely absorb or lose its scent by the time you are sleeping.
If it smells I string it in a tree (old feed sacks and paracord work great for this).  If I ate out of it, I always wash it before going to sleep and leave it either in a tree or by the fire pit (this goes for stoves and fuel too).  While I thankfully have only had raccoons invade the triangle, I am hyper vigilant to avoid being woken up by something much more menacing.  Additionally I only eat right by where I cook and I never take food into my tent if I have one.  I try to stay 20 feet or more away from the triangle, and often build a secondary fire for where I sleep for warmth.  While this may separate you from you gear, you can consider camouflaging it with branches, a camo poncho to shroud items you place in the tree and by avoiding unnatural colors such as stark white, orange  and other bright colors.
If I am trying to conceal my fire, I will dig a Dakota fire pit.  I learned this configuration in Scouts and it is essentially two pits, one large to hold the fire, and a second smaller one to draw out the smoke.  A small tunnel connects the two to provide airflow.  Dig the pit deep enough to keep the fuel and the flames below the top edge of the larger pit.  This keeps the flames shrouded while allowing you to cook and heat yourself under cover.  If you need to sit a pot over the fire, the recessed flames allow you to easily place logs over the pit to support the pot.  I try to soak the logs so they don't burn through and spill my food into the fire.  If i need to reflect more heat, I will stack logs to make a lean to which will reflect the heat and keep me warm while I sleep.  If you can't dig a pit due to rock or hard soil, I usually try to find a fallen tree or large log and build the fire in the hole where the tree fell or against the large log with more logs stacked up around it to conceal some of the flame.  These areas near the fallen trees may be wet, so i will place bark, branches and other dry (even green) items in the pit as a base on which to build the fire.  While smoke is visible during the day, it is much more difficult to see at night so the primary concealment should be focused on the flames.  If visibility is not a concern, animals, including snakes, don't like fire.  If I am trying to keep them away then I try to gather four times as much wood as I think I need and will usually end up going through most of it.  In my experience you can never have too much firewood.
After you have a good camp set up and a good night's rest, you will likely need to move on the next morning.  If you took your boots off (I usually do to make sure my feet dry out) be sure to shake them out.  A trick I learned is to stretch your sock over the top of your boot and this will keep critters out while still allowing everything to dry.  I've found everything from millipedes to frogs in my boots so be sure not to ruin your escape by being in a hurry.  When going on foot, your feet are your wheels and you won't get very far with a flat.  To allow my boots to further dry I typically try to have a pair of "camp shoes" with me.  While this does add some weight, I have found my Teva type sandals or croc type shoes to work best depending on terrain.  The crocs are a bit more difficult to walk in but weigh very little while the sandals allow me to hike in them if my boots should be destroyed.  I generally prefer the sandals but have had success with both.  As a general rule though, I never go barefoot or sock footed anywhere (even in creeks) and I try to keep my feet as dry as possible.  I generally safety pin my extra pair of socks on my bag and let them air out and dry in the sun while I continue to hike.  If my feet become too sweaty, I take off my boots, change socks, and let them air out a few minutes.  Wet feet are unhappy feet and if you don't dry them out they literally rot away. 
Apart from that bit of foot maintenance be sure to watch out for the smaller bugs when getting up every day.  I had the unfortunate experience of waking up one morning covered in ticks.  I picked 58 off of me and itched like crazy for a week.  Hiking in the south I also encountered every southerner's favorite itch to scratch, chiggers.  Without any anti itch medicine I had to do a bit of improvisation to stop the itching.  I have found that petroleum jelly will work, as will fingernail polish if you have it (I didn't).  In a pinch, if you can find some clay soil and make a paste out of it, smearing the clay over the chiggers will smother them almost as well as the nail polish but you will have to reapply the paste as it dries out and cracks off.  Nothing beats a good pair of tweezers to get those tiny seed ticks off, just be sure to get them off as soon as possible to avoid the spread of any disease.  As a critter first aid kit, I carry a venom extractor (great for wasps and snakes) a pair of tweezers, a small container of petroleum jelly, some antihistamine, and alcohol wipes.  The petroleum jelly doubles as a great fire starter, blister bandage and lubricant.
Wherever you go, take some time to study the local wildlife before you go out.  This goes for preparation with your BOB as well.  A small guide can come in handy and help you understand which creepie crawlies are edible and which ones are better left alone.  Further, if you study, you can avoid certain areas in your routes known to house certain animals (mountain lions come to mind) and you can determine how to appropriately hike.  By this I mean whether you should be concerned with proceeding too quietly and surprising a bear or whether you should be using your hiking stick to probe in front of you for snakes or other painful surprises.  Knowing the wildlife in your area will come down to more than looking at territorial range maps found in the field guide.  While those various shades of red flowing down in a sweeping arc can give you a general idea of what you might find in your travels, you will have to be more specific if you want to really understand the animals in your area.  This will not only help avoid wasting your time hunting for an animal which isn't there but also help you stay out of trouble should you encounter an animal on your hunt much larger than what you were anticipating.  You will have to make critical decisions while out hiking involving the local wildlife.  While that fat and juicy timber rattler would make a great meal, if you don't have any experience with snakes trying to kill it might not be the best idea while you are bugging out.  If you aren't sure if a particular frog is safe to eat, it may be better to look for another source of food.  An Apache foot snare can hold an animal very well if properly constructed but once the animal is held, you will still have to dispatch it.  If you can't do it safely from a distance, it would be unwise to get close to an angry and injured deer trying to stick it with your knife or bash it with a log.  You should know what you are hunting for and how that animal can potentially hurt you.  After you successfully kill an animal, be mindful of where you kill it and clean it.  Be sure to clean it far away from camp and bury the waste if possible to minimize attracting animals.  If you accidentally spill something in camp when you are cooking or preparing the animal, urine will help to mask the smell of the animal (or any other spilled food) and avoid attracting additional predators. 
Be sure to keep the bugs out of your bug out bag by shaking out all of your equipment and being aware of what is around you and which bugs can ruin your day, especially if you have any allergies.  I realized the hard way that preparation involves being prepared for the animals, insects and other wildlife you may encounter on your journey.  As the Scouts say, be prepared.  Victory loves preparation.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

While I understand consuming insects may keep you from starving to death, there is a real concern if eating without adequate cooking.

Many insects carry round and tape worms, nematodes and other parasites.  I once softly stepped on a cricket and watched several worms exit the body.  Every time I see people advocating eating insects, I think of that cricket and the nasty worms. 

While the insects my stave off starvation, the worms, parasites, and so forth might well be worse in the long run. - Alan T.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food. Insects are eaten by many animals, but the term is generally used to refer to human consumption of insects; animals that eat insects are known as insectivores." -Wikipedia

This subject is fairly arcane, so I'll be relying on several authoritative sources, in fair use. I have attributed all quotes and have provided links to their sources. Please take the time to explore these web sites, for further detail on this subject.

Like it or not, you've probably eaten some in your life.  From Wikipedia:
"According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's The Food Defect Action Levels booklet. Contamination on the average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams of wheat flour, or below poses no health hazard. Other example of the maximum permissible levels of insect contamination in food products for humans, contamination below which level, poses no health hazard, are:
- Canned sweet corn- 2 or more 3 mm or longer larvae, cast skins, larval or cast skin fragments, the aggregate length of insects or insect parts exceeds 12 mm in 24 pounds
- Canned citrus fruit juices - 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml
- Wheat flour- Average of 150 or more insect fragments per 100 grams
- Frozen broccoli- Average of 60 or more aphids and/or thrips and/or mites per 100 grams
- Hops- Average of more than 2,500 aphids per 10 grams
- Ground thyme- Average of 925 or more insect fragments per 10 grams
- Ground nutmeg- Average of 100 or more insect fragments per 10 grams"
As gross as it may initially seem, it is actually estimated that about 80% of the global population consume insects on a regular basis. "In Algeria, many people consume desert locusts. To add extra flavour to the bugs they are soaked in salt water and roasted in the sun. Australian Aborigines eat Bogong moths they find in caves and in crevices of rocks. In order to remove the wings, legs, and heads of the moths, the Aborigines cook them in hot ashes and sand and sift them through a net. In Africa, some cultures eat fried termites and caterpillars for nutrition. In Mexico, insects are served in restaurants for a high price. Also Thailand and Columbia feature insects on the menu." - From Ask The Exterminator
Although the U.N. advocates eating bugs as a way to feed the hungry and end "costly" farming, many of us would use this information as a last resort to starving to death. You've probably seen Les Stroud, or Bear Grylls eating bugs on their respective survival shows. I can tell you that it will be a long time before I can scrub from my mind the image of grub guts being splattered through clenched teeth. It really doesn't have to be that graphic or repulsive. Insects can be prepared in ways much like our normal everyday foods which can help cut down on the 'revolting' factor.
First, a list of edible insects, courtesy of Girl Meets Bug:
"Agave worm, Carpenter ants, Lemon ants, Leafcutter ants, Honeypot ants, Bamboo worms, Bees, Cicada, Cockroach (not house ones), Cricket, Dragonfly, Dung beetle, Earthworms, Fly pupa, Flying ant, Grasshopper, Hornworm, Jumiles, June bugs, Locust, Louse, Mopane worm, Meal worm, Midge fly, Nsenene, Pill bug, Rhino beetle and grubs, Sago bug, Silk worm, Scorpion, Tarantula, Termites, Wasp, Walking stick, Water bug, Waxworm, Wichetty Grubs." 
Bugs to Avoid -Courtesy of Chris Needham of Infolific.com
"Unfortunately, many of the bugs you come across shouldn't be eaten even in a survival situation. Here are some guidelines for what to avoid.
       * Bugs that are generally associated with carrying diseases should not be eaten. This includes flies, mosquitoes, and ticks.
       * Some bugs use poison for capturing prey and for defense making them inedible so avoid centipedes, scorpions, and spiders.
       * As a general rule, bugs with fine hairs, bright colors, or eight or more legs are off limits.

You can actually sustain yourself quite well with bugs so give them serious consideration when you're otherwise without food and trying to survive in the wilderness. They have the additional benefits over animals and fish of being plentiful, not requiring traps, and needing little preparation before they can be consumed."
*"Warning: Although many insects are edible, entomophagy poses some risks. If you are allergic to shrimp, shellfish, dust, or chocolate, never eat an insect. Even the non-allergic, unless in a survival situation, should never eat a raw insect. Certain insects store compounds that make some people sick; some are poisonous; others may be carcinogenic. Be as cautious with insects as you would be if you were gathering mushrooms. Know your insects!" From NOVA.
Nutritional Value:
"Insects often contain more protein, fat, and carbohydrates than equal amounts of beef or fish, and a higher energy value than soybeans, maize, beef, fish, lentils, or other beans. According to a 2004 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, caterpillars of many species are rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, as well as B-vitamins. In some African regions, children fight malnutrition by eating flour made out of dried caterpillars. Pregnant and nursing women as well as anemic people also eat caterpillar species high in protein, calcium, and iron." Alison Fromme.
The following chart is reproduced from Iowa State University's web site. It shows how some insects as food compare to lean ground beef and broiled cod.


Insect Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs Calcium (mg) Iron (mg)
Giant Water Beetle
Red Ant 13.9 3.5 3.9 47.8 5.7
Silk Worm Pupae 9.6 5.6 2.3 41.7 1.8
Dung Beetle 17.2 4.3 .2 30.9 7.7
Cricket 12.9 5.5 5.1 75.8 9.5
Grasshopper 20.6 6.1 3.9 35.2 5.0
Grasshopper 14.3 3.3 2.2 27.5 3.0
June Beetle 13.4 1.4 2.9 22.6 6.0
Caterpillar 28.2 N/A N/A N/A 35.5
Caterpillar 9.7 N/A N/A N/A 1.9
Termite 14.2 N/A N/A N/A 3.5
Weevil 6.7 N/A N/A N/A 13.1
Beef (Lean) 27.4 N/A N/A N/A 3.5
Fish (Cod) 28.5 N/A N/A N/A 1.0

Now if you are still with me, I'm going to share some recipes I found using insects. From Girl Meets Bug:
Cabbage, Peas 'n' Crickets
-Handful of crickets
-1 cup chopped snap peas
-1 cup chopped red cabbage
-1 tbs olive oil
-1 crushed clove of garlic
-Pinch of salt
Chop snap peas and cabbage. Heat olive oil in pan or wok. Begin stir-frying veggies and crickets. After 1 minute or so, add crushed garlic. Once cooked to desired level (I prefer mine firm and crunchy) add salt. Bug appetit!
Bee-LT Sandwich
-Bee larvae
-1 egg white
-1 tsp butter
-1/4 tsp honey
-1 tomato
-1 leaf lettuce
-2 slices of bread
-1 tbsp mayonnaise
-1 pinch salt
Sautee the bee larvae in the butter, with a tiny bit of salt and a few drops of honey. Once larvae become golden brown and crispy-looking, remove, and mix into enough egg white to cover and bind them into a mass. Then return them to the sautee butter, pressing them together into a patty.
Toast bread, and slice tomato. Spread mayonnaise on toasted bread when ready. When bee patty becomes firm, place it atop the lettuce and tomato on the sandwich. Enjoy!
Waxworm Tacos
-1 cup waxworms
-1 cup chopped onions
-1 cup chopped tomato
-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
-1/2 avocado
-2 tbsp olive oil
-pinch salt
-hot sauce
Freeze live  Waxworms overnight.
Saute onions in olive oil until golden, then turn heat to medium-high. Add waxworms, stirring quickly to keep them moving, while adding a pinch of salt (to taste). Waxworms will start to straighten out as they hit the heat; this means they are partially done and are becoming firm, just like shrimp or fish. When you start to see a little bit of transparency around their edges, they are ready.
Simply use sauteed waxworms as you would any other taco meat, adding whichever complementary ingredients you fancy.
From Iowa State University's Entomological Department:
Mealworm Fried Rice
1  egg, beaten
1 tsp. oil
3/4 c. water
1/4 c. chopped onions
4 tsp. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 c. minute rice
1 c. cooked mealworms
Scramble egg in a saucepan, stirring to break egg into pieces.
Add water, soy sauce, garlic and onions. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice. Cover; remove from heat and let stand five minutes
Banana Worm Bread
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 eggs
1/4 cup dry-roasted army worms
Mix together all ingredients. Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour.


I will conclude with a quote that provides some more important provisos:

"If you have the desire to eat insects to become closer to nature, make sure you wash and cook them first. This will reduce the chance that you may chomp into a poisonous substance the bug may have consumed. However, if you live near agriculture that uses pesticide on a regular basis, do not eat bugs that live nearby. The pesticide cannot be washed off the insects, and it can be toxic to humans. Your safest bet is to order creepy crawlies from areas that do not use pesticides. Finally, do not eat insects that are dead when you find them. It is better to find live insects and cook them." - Ask The Exterminator

Sources and Further Reading:

JWR Adds: Bon appetit, and Hakuna matata! (Scroll forward to 2:08.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nature is amazing, I love plants. Not only does just looking at them produce a calming effect, they are beneficial to us in every way. From food, to medicine, glue and rope, plants give us everything we need. These are my top five favorite plants because they are amazing, easy to grow or find and have many uses which are especially valid in TEOTWAWKI. Here are my favorite plants found in the wild, and in the garden, and the reasons why.

1. Garlic
 Garlic is great for two reasons, it is a food and a medicine. All parts are edible except for the skin and woody stalk among the cloves. It is the easiest thing to grow and cheap to do so as one clove produces one head. In the garden, it also is said to repel rabbits and moles.
The health benefits are numerous to using garlic as it is reputed to have antibacterial, antimicrobial, diuretic, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Not only is it flavorful, but beneficial in the prevention and treatment of many common ailments.

There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving.”  - Leo Buscaglia

Here are some uses for garlic:
 -insect repellent when ingested in larger amounts or when rubbed on topically, treatment for bee and wasp stings
-high blood pressure treatment/ management
-remedy sore throats, cold hands and feet, earache, tight headaches
-treat fungal skin infections like thrush
-treat and prevent bacterial and viral infections, urinary tract infections, bronchial and lung infections
-treatment for pinworms, roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, warts
-reduce nasal congestion, coughs, respiratory problems
-boost resistance to candida infections
-flu, cold, stye, prevention
-effective against a wide range of pathogenic bacteria, influenza, meningitis
-boost immunity, circulation
-poultice for aches, pains, sprains
-help with poor digestion, help regulate blood sugar
-prevent scurvy, prevent gangrene
-boost testosterone with a high protein diet (suggested in a study with rats)
-enhance thiamine absorption
-garlic juice used as an adhesive when mending glass, porcelain
-natural antibiotic, 1 milligram of allicin is the estimated equivalent of 15 standard units of penicillin
-inhibit clotting

2. Cayenne Pepper
We love our food spicy. Cayenne is the easiest 'go to' to spice it up a little, or a lot. Again I'm a fan of multi purpose and cayenne is not only a staple in the kitchen but a great thing to have in a medical kit, and as personal protection. Cayenne contains capsaicin, vitamin A, B6, C, E, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese.
"If you master only one herb in your life, master cayenne pepper. It is more powerful than any other." - Dr. Schulze
"In 35 years of practice, and working with the people and teaching, I have never on house calls lost one heart attack patient and the reason is, whenever I go in--if they are still breathing--I pour down them a cup of cayenne tea (a teaspoon of cayenne in a cup of hot water, and within minutes they are up and around)." - Dr. Christopher
-aphrodisiac in males
-ant repellent
-topical anti-inflammatory for joint pain, back pain, arthritis, and nerve pain (Do not use on broken skin)
-remedy cold hands and feet
-soothe chilblains with ointment containing cayenne
-prevent gas when used in meals
-stop a heart attack with cayenne tea, 1 tsp cayenne dissolved in 1 cup hot water
-ease dyspepsia symptoms
-rebuild tissue in the stomach and peristalic action in the intestines
-aids elimination and assimilation
-aids the body in creating hydrochloric acid
-boost circulation, increase heart action, arrest shock symptoms
-lower blood pressure
-overcome fatigue, restore stamina, vigor
-stop hemmoraging
-improve itching of psoriasis
-fight pancreatic cancer
-headache relief
-pepper spray main ingredient...cayenne

3. Dandelion
I used to hate seeing all those yellow flowers infiltrating my green lawn, now it almost pains me to mow them down. Dandelions are higher in beta carotene than carrots and higher in iron and calcium than spinach. They contain the vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, bitter glycosides, inositol, terpenoids, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.
"Suppose your doctor tells you, on your next visit, that he has just discovered a miracle drug which, when eaten as a part of your daily diet or taken as a beverage, could, depending on the peculiarities of your body chemistry: prevent or cure liver diseases, such as hepatitis or jaundice; act as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify your blood, cleanse your system, dissolve kidney stones, and otherwise improve gastro-intestinal health; assist in weight reduction; cleanse your skin and eliminate acne; improve your bowel function, working equally well to relieve both constipation and diarrhea; prevent or lower high blood pressure; prevent or cure anemia; lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half; eliminate or drastically reduce acid indigestion and gas buildup by cutting the heaviness of fatty foods; prevent or cure various forms of cancer; prevent or control diabetes mellitus; and, at the same time, have no negative side effects and selectively act on only what ails you. If he gave you a prescription for this miracle medicine, would you use it religiously at first to solve whatever the problem is and then consistently for preventative body maintenance?"-Peter Gail
-plentiful emergency food
-used to make dandelion wine
-coffee substitute, gotta love that
-strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder
-promote the flow of bile, reduces inflammation in the bile duct, helps eliminate gallstones
-reduces liver swelling, and jaundice
-help indigestion caused by insufficient bile
-gentle diuretic
-good for pancreas, bladder, spleen, stomach and intestines
-helps with mature onset diabetes, hypoglycemia
-encourages production of hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes
-milky sap removes warts, pimples, moles, callouses, sores
-sap soothes bee stings
-help with hypertension
-aids in night vision
-detoxification agent
-therapeutic benefits in the treatment of persistent constipation, acne, eczema, psoriasis
-aids in the treatment of gout, arthritic conditions and osteoarthritis
-recommended for weight loss
-prevent or cure anemia
-appetite stimulant
-use the white juice in the flower stems as glue.

4. Cattail
 Cattails are beautiful, and one of the most useful plants I have have ever encountered. It contains beta carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin C, protein, unsaturated fats and calories. From food, to rafts to insect repellent, this plant seems to do it all.
" Although now relatively unused in the United States, where four species thrive, cattails are deliciously edible both raw and cooked from their starchy roots to their cornlike spikes, making them prime emergency foods." from 'Survival Wisdom and Know-How Everything You Need to Know to Subsist in the Wilderness'.
-soothes wounds, sores, boils, inflammations, burns and carbuncles
-excellent food source
-weaving material for mats, backs of chairs,
-great stuffing for pillows, great insulation
-used internally to quell diarrhea, kill and expel worms, also used for gonorrhea
-fluff used as tinder
-stalks are great for use as an emergency raft  
-pounded, soaked leaves make good improvised cordage
-used in construction of thatch roofing
-burn as insect repellent
-use brown head of stalk dipped in animal fat as a torch
-pollen is hemostatic and astringent, used to control bleeding
-sticky substance at the base of the green leaf is antiseptic

5. Nettles
Nettles have a bad name due to their special stinging defenses, I find that handy in terms of defense. No one in their right mind would tramp through a nettle patch just to see what's on the other side. Nettles contain very high levels of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulphur. They also contain chlorophyll, tannen, vitamin C, beta carotene, B complex vitamins, and are high in protein. Yes, they can sting, but the sting is easily remedied with jewelweed, plantain, or dock.
"Sitting here writing this book, I frequently sip on warm nettle tea. It's one of my favorites. It does not taste like a normal tea- not bitter, spicy, minty, or lemony. It's more like a strong stock of a rich, deep, green plant essence, and it's one of the most nourishing drinks of all."- Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean in 'Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places'.
-food and tea (always cook nettles)
-ward off iron deficiency anemia
-effective in treating allergies and hay fever
-expectorant, recommended for asthma, mucus of the lungs, and chronic coughs
-tincture used for flu, colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia
-infusion is a safe diuretic
-recommended for weight loss
-tea compress good for wounds, cuts, stings, and burns
-used internally to stop excessive menstruation, bleeding from hemmorages, bloody coughs, nosebleeds, and bloody urine
-helps blood clot
-helps treat gout, glandular diseases, poor circulation, diarrhea, dysentery, worms and hemorrhoids
-makes your hair brighter, thicker, shinier
-makes your skin clearer and healthier
-good for eczema and other skin conditions
-cleansing and antiseptic properties
-stems used for weaving, cordage, cloth and paper making

NOTICE: Please be cautious when attempting to prevent, treat or cure any health issues. Be sure to talk to your Doctor before considering any type of health related changes. Also it is important to note that although these suggested uses are easily found in books and on the internet, some may not work for you. Each body is different and some react in adverse ways. Always be sure you know what you are doing before trying any of these ideas. Some of these plants may have 'look a likes' that at best, won't do what you expect, at worst, will kill you.

The Doctors Book Of Home Remedies II
Reader's Digest Curing Everyday Ailments the Natural Way
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
Survival Wisdom and Know-How

Protection from mosquitoes can be difficult but mosquitoes in hot weather are a particularly difficult problem. Years ago I used to know an old leather-skinned Florida Cattleman that never noticed several mosquitoes biting his bare arms; they didn’t even raise a bump. Most of us aren’t that lucky. I was a little allergic back then, a mosquito bite would often make a sore; this is more often true for children. These sores can easily get infected due to the inching and scratching over a long time period. Mosquitoes can also carry serious diseases like Malaria and Encephalitis which might not be easily cured in the future. Another concern, if you are trying to be still while hunting or being hunted it is difficult to remain undetected while swatting at bugs. Besides it is just plain miserable to be out with mosquitoes if you don’t have proper protection. Of course Insect Repellent should be in every Bug Out Bag but it takes more than that in extreme Mosquito territory! Even if you don’t expect to be out in the heat with the bugs, who knows where you will be or how well you will be equipped when the flag goes up.
As an avid outdoorsman for many years in Florida I have always been amazed, at how little time and attention is devoted to protection from mosquitoes on various survival shows and discussions. I once saw an entire show dedicated to unprepared wilderness survival in the Okefenokee Swamp (in southern Georgia ) in which the only mention of this most important outdoor problem was the suggestion to smear mud on your face and stay in the smoke! Sorry but that is not very useful advice. Much of my outdoor time has been bare bow archery hunting with a stick bow in southern swamps. This put me in the woods during a very hot time of year and required that I get very close to the game.  The need to be close kept me from covering myself with insect repellent; deer will detect and usually avoid the odor of repellent. My experience could be useful, especially if repellent is not available. Here is what I have learned through years of fighting our southern mosquitoes; they are smaller than northern ones but much quicker and much more aggressive so it is hard to defend against them.
If it is cold there is not much of a problem, thick warm clothes can protect all but the face. It is very different when it’s hot. Heat stroke is a serious and real danger, and besides, thick sweat soaked clothes are not comfortable, healthy, or practical. Even so, the right clothes can give good low tech protection. What is needed are clothes made of the thinnest cotton cloth that has an extremely tight weave. The type of material needed is the kind that a very thin dress shirt is made of.  DO NOT use T-shirts or any stretchy knit material. You need to wear two layers of long sleeve shirts and long pants made of this thin tight weave material. A very loose fit or even oversized is best. The reason for not wearing stretchy material and wearing two layers is the same. Mosquitoes don’t bite through the cloth fiber; they stick their snouts between the threads of the material as you might stick your finger through the strings that comprise a Volleyball net.  So a tight weave cloth means the gaps between the cloth threads are smaller and expand less at stress points like elbows, knees, and crotch. The gaps expand a lot on T-shirt material when stretched; that is why it doesn’t work. The reason for two layers is that with the right material, the gaps between the threads do not line up so almost all of the time when the mosquito sticks her snout through a gap in the outer layer she will hit a fiber thread on the under layer and be unable to penetrate to the skin. The reason for using thin cotton is to help stay cool. Less body heat is held under the cloth and more sweat evaporates through it. Synthetic/Cotton blends are more durable and will work but they just don’t cool as well. I’ve found that the best thing to use is loose fitting long sleeve thin cotton dress shirts and loose fitting long leg cotton pajama or lounging pants. About the Pajamas, and the shirts also, if you look around you can find some colors or patterns that blend in well and don’t look so goofy; I’ve even seen both in camouflage!
Okay, you don’t want to be seen running around the woods in your pajamas? I understand. There are alternatives.  You can use one set of the above as the under layer and use some other pants made of tight weave cotton as the outer layer, but the thicker it is the hotter you’ll be! Also you could use something like a “Bug Tamer” as the outer layer. Bug Tamer is a brand name for shirt and pants made of a fine camouflage mesh lined with a string net material. The idea is that the thicker string net will hold the light mesh material off the skin and keep the mosquitoes snout from reaching the skin. Alone it works reasonably well but gives little protection at the elbows and knees when sitting. When sitting the tightly stretched material can lay against the skin. That is why I suggest the additional under layer. While the Bug Tamer outer layer looks sportier I think it is inferior for three reasons.  First it is hotter; it traps more body heat. Second, it is much more likely to snag and tear. Third it is much more expensive than a couple pairs of K-Mart or Wall Mart draw string pajama pants.
Next you need the right head gear. The right hat is one that has a short brim all the way around and it should be covered by a head net. I prefer a military style Boonie hat made of cotton.  Cotton is cooler and is absorbent; sometimes the top of your hat is the only thing dry enough and handy to wipe sweat from your eyes.  The mosquito head net drapes loosely over the hat and brim keeping the net, and therefore the mosquitoes off the face, ears and back of the neck.  A billed baseball type cap will allow the net to lay on the ears and neck and not protect. The best head net has a black mesh area over the eyes; it is much easier to see clearly through black than green or camouflage. I think a head net should be in every Bug Out Bag! By the way, if you are without a net and have repellent it is a real bad idea to put it on your forehead or above the eyes. Sweat will cause it to run into the eyes and incapacitate you! Instead of putting it on your forehead put repellent on the under side of your hat brim. If you haven’t got a hat then a strip of bath towel folded double and tied around the head Indian style is helpful. It can protect the forehead with or without repellant, is a good sweat band, and can be used as a bandage if you need one. It is another good item for a Bug Out Bag.
Next it helps to have a pair of cotton gloves. The type sold for gardening and light yard work. Most Sporting Goods departments sell them in Camouflage. If you find some made of a synthetic material with a fuzzy exterior this will help protect from mosquitoes. The fuzz slows them down. If you are using repellent the gloves will help hold it on your hands so that it is not wiped, rubbed, or sweated off.
There is a more hi tech protection that works very well if you are stationary as when sitting or sleeping. It is a Thermo Cell. There might be other brands of this device but I have not seen them. A Thermo Cell is a device that looks a little like a large hand radio (Walkie Talkie). It contains a tiny heating coil fueled by a small butane cartridge. A repellent impregnated cloth pad fits over a metal plate heated by the coil. The heat releases repellent fumes. Each pad last about four hours and the cartridge about six or eight hours. It requires no batteries. These things protect very well and game does not seem to detect or are not bothered by the repellant. I think one of these should also be in every Bug Out Bag.
There are some plants that are said to be natural mosquito repellents but they are not helpful if they are not around when you need them. I have tried one, a Myrtle bush that is common in wetlands of the Southeastern Gulf States .  Crushing the fresh leaves and rubbing them on the skin worked surprisingly well. I only needed to reapply about once an hour; it did turn my skin green for a while though. Oh, mud doesn’t work because when it dries it cracks and/or falls off. Mosquitoes will bite through the cracks. Smoke only works while you are sitting or standing in it. It burns your eyes and makes you stink! If you are going to hunt the smell of smoke on you can alert game and keep them from coming close.
Wearing two loose layers of thin tightly woven cotton shirts and pants, a Boonie hat with a head net, and a pair of cotton gloves I have been able to spend hours of hunting and photographing wildlife in hot mosquito invested swamps using no insect repellant. Add a Thermo Cell and it’s a Cake Walk!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Captain Rawles,
In addition to the points you made in reference to stealth and scarce ammunition supplies post collapse, in your commentary on the named article, I would make a second point:

While the squad level tactics described have proven to be rather effective for active duty military in offense;  the average Joe and his family unit will most likely not have those kinds of numbers.  The average familial size seems to be right around four, these days.  So unless one is lucky enough to have found/joined/founded a group for this purpose, when it gets to be Schumer time the average Joe will find themselves with a fire team at best, in most cases.  Do not mistake me, here, if you got a thirteen man squad, or more, great.  But most won't, so other tactics are perhaps more appropriate.

I would frankly be more inclined, speaking as a veteran myself, to highly recommend the average family/small group employ an adaptation of ST:A (Scout Team: Advanced), fire team recon, or LRRP doctrines.  Which is to say concentrate on detection over engagement, stealth over owning ground, and strict employment of the sound/light/motion/trace "disciplines".  For those who aren't familiar, trace discipline can also be called trash discipline or "policing your line of advance".  It simply means don't leave any trace that you were there; burn, bury, or carry with you any trash or spent brass.  In short, get in-do your business-get out, preferably without having to engage, especially if the other side is physically entrenched.  If you must engage at assault ranges, then somebody goofed and goofed badly, in my experience. Of course, if one must engage, do so authoritatively, and with prejudice; in other words don't just hit your target, drop them, so they don't get back up. Then break off the engagement as quickly as is possible.  Obviously, further adaptation will be needed for such things as movement connected with resource gathering, and so forth.  Cutting firewood in quantity leaves a lot of trace and will have a huge sound signature, for example.

I would also very highly advise these small groups to train all their members as designated marksmen, on top of whatever other skills are possessed, in order to foster the habit of observation at distance.  This allows for long range engagement from behind cover, followed by a break contact movement while starting from that same cover. (Assuming there's cover to be had.)   This is in keeping with what I've written previously concerning keeping a low profile.  Simply put, the average family unit will just not possess, most likely, the numerical assets to engage at squad level or higher, with much degree of success.  Huge families and so forth are more an exception these days than they were when I was a child.

When it comes to family, there's no such animal as "acceptable losses."

Just my two cents, here.  And Easter blessings to all. - J.H.

Long before the days of supermarkets and organized agriculture, people lived.  We are the evidence.  They lived in small groups and even alone as hunter gatherers.  And remember, this was in the days before language!  How did we do it?  Trial and error?  Instinct?  If so, the instinct has been lost, but with some simple rules, it may be regained.

The good news is we don't have to watch Uncle Ogg keel over in agony after grazing on a patch of poison hemlock to know that it's something to stay away from. Solutions to common problems such as what to eat from your immediate environment can now be had through books, pictures, video and the spoken word.

I am here to tell you that your body can be sustained for long periods of time by taking advantage of the wild edible food that grows from the ground everywhere.  I know because I did it, and I practiced what I preach exclusively for many years.

I lived in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York in a homesteading situation for many years without electricity and indoor plumbing and the modern conveniences that come with those things.  Town was miles away and visits to civilization were few.  The hardships were many, but so were the lessons learned.  By degrees, I came to know that abundance is given by design.  Believe it or not, we already live in the Garden of Eden, but being "civilized" keeps us from knowing it, and the high pitched whine of man-gone-crazy keeps us from knowing its peace and its gifts.

Some of these foods are known to us already, perhaps instinctively. What child hasn't blown the little parachute seeds from a dandelion's puff-ball while laying in the clover?  Girls pull the petals from a daisy saying "Loves me, loves me not..." and collect tiny bouquets of violets while boys brave sharp barbs to collect raspberries and blackberries.  The helicopters from Maple trees, the burrs from burdock, the fluff from a dried milkweed pod on the wind or the bark of the birch tree have all been child's playthings at one time or another.  Perhaps these warm associations come from a lost knowledge that these are all sources of food?

The average lawn contains many, many food sources. I once published a book called The Lawn Food Cookbook, Groceries in the Backyard due to the sheer amount of material there.  This is without taking a walk around the block or going to local fields and waste areas.  Needless to say, if you're trekking from hither to yon, you'll be passing through many of nature's supermarkets. Will you know how to use their assets?

All it takes to get started is the will to do so. Take a trip to the library or the Internet for tons of free information.  I have found, however, that while many resources are strong on the identification and uses, they can be short on practicalities such as harvesting tips, preparation and especially storage for the long winter months. I have sought out the methods of the early Native Americans to cope with many of these issues, and I've used them to great benefit.  While many of these foods freeze beautifully, I found that much can be done with drying foods and making flour from the dried material for a concentrated nutritional benefit.  This has immediate appeal to people who are on foot.

What if you could make yourself "starvation proof"?  What if you knew you could be dropped off anywhere, even on a desert, and not only survive but have all the nourishment a body could need?  Well, I'm here to tell you that not only is it possible, but it's relatively easy for a person of average intelligence to attain.  It certainly might be hard on your system to begin to eat wild food after steady diet of sugar filled fast foods and processed grains, but those problems largely come from the sheer amount of nutrition you would be confronted with.

It's no secret that modern agriculture techniques have depleted nutrients from the soil when they've been grown in the same place for a long time ago, but this is not true for wild food and the places where it grows.  The very weeds that are giving Big Agriculture problems by becoming resistant to the herbicides that are used to "cultivate" today's GMO crops tend to be the very same foods that we could utterly live on for centuries to come.  Ironic, isn't it?  The "troublesome" amaranth, horseweed, waterhemp and lambsquarters all have edible uses.  It's almost as if Mother Nature is trying to tell us something!

While I am not a “prepper", I have found over the years that these folks are my best audience.  The similarities between my chosen situation in the Adirondacks and the scenario where there is some sort of disaster disrupting the food supply as we know it are too striking to dismiss.  The intent might be different, but the techniques remain the same.  The truly prudent know that this knowledge is not won overnight.  Foraging is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced in one's everyday life before one could depend on it in an emergency.  If you feel that disaster is imminent, my advice to you is "start now."  There is a learning curve, but that curve could begin in troubled times if it had to, assuming you had the information in hand.  You could be up to speed in time to stretch your food supplies and be expert by the time they run out.

One note here-- if you have a family during troubling times, foraging together has the excellent benefit of reducing fear.  As you learn and look around and see that a high percentage of the vegetation around you is edible, you will find that this automatically lessens the worry you may be experiencing while ensuring your family's survival.

To start with wild food, concentrate on finding one plant that grows in your area.  The one's I teach grow almost everywhere.  Identify it and test it using the rules of foraging to be sure that it will not produce a reaction for you or anyone that will be eating it.  This means that they, too, should learn and apply the rules of foraging, as stated below.  This is important, especially if you are reaching outside the bounds of the plants that are known to you.

Then, having passed the tests, harvest some, pro