Physical Fitness/Training Category

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Many articles have been written here about the best way to get in shape and stay in shape to be ready for a major societal disruption up to and including TEOTWAWKI. None of them that I have ready have really taken into account the societal challenges and day to day retreat and retreat area conditions extant during a disruption. Sorry, but no matter how much you may enjoy it, and I am an endorphin junkie myself, you won't be running even one mile per day, let alone eight or ten miles per. Any running will be a flat out mad dash– lungs bursting and heart racing sprint– to safety. You won't be in running shoes, shorts, or sweats. It won't be on a track, and if that sprint is more than 200 yards, you're dead. How much adrenalin you can pump into your muscles in a few seconds will be paramount rather than how many miles you can run at a ten minute per mile pace. Therefore, let's look at a realistic training regimen for post-TEOTWAWKI.

First, what is the philosophy behind creating a training program to prepare you? Bruce Lee, among many, said to train how you intend to fight. No one trains to run long distances by spending all of the time in the weight room at a local gym. Your training must be based on the conditions you will encounter or expect to encounter during a disruption. Then, your exercises must be chosen to duplicate as closely as possible these conditions. By way of explanation, I exercise strenuously four or five days per week throughout the entire year to stay in the best shape I can. My program includes martial arts, resistance with weights, biking, running, and walking. Every year I travel from my home at 5,000 feet elevation to mountain areas at 8,000 to 10,000 feet elevations to hunt for three or four weeks. In addition to weapons– bow, muzzleloader or rifle– I carry a 20-30 pound pack and wear clothes suitable to the season and location. In spite of all I do during the year, it takes up to three days, now that I am nearing 70 years of age, to get in the proper shape for this activity– not just a 15 or 20 mile trek every day. This is hiking up and down mountainous terrain for as long as I want to pursue game and, hopefully, retrieving said game. Why does it take any time to get in shape for this? Because each type of strenuous physical activity stresses different muscles, in different ways, at different intensities. If you don't believe me, try one of the programs I list below. You will have a whole bunch of muscles you didn't know you had that are really sore no matter what shape you think you are in. You have to determine what will be the primary activity you will be engaged in to determine how to best train for it. I will discuss getting real about a training regimen for two of the situations most of us will encounter during a disruption– bugging out on foot or on a bicycle and survival at your retreat.

If your plans depend on travel by foot or bicycle for any significant distance, running marathons will be very little help. This training is usually in running shoes and shorts, or sweats, over basically even ground, like roads, though some people do some training in the mountains. Extended travel on any roads at this time is definitely not conducive to longevity. You will, or should, spend significant time traveling cross country, since you may be required to do so for safety. To begin your training, don the clothes you will need to keep you warm during winter travel, especially good hiking boots. Pack your pack(s) with everything you plan on taking and weigh them. Then, add 25 percent weight equivalent for all the stuff you'll think of at the last minute. Either pick up whatever weapons and ammunition you plan on carrying or its weight equivalent. Now, head out through fields, woods, hills, or whatever broken country you have in the area, and hike steadily at a three mile per hour pace for three to four hours, not counting a ten minute rest each hour. When you can do 10-12 miles per day for six days straight, you are ready for bugging out. Three miles per hour may not seem very fast or get you very far each day; but with a 60-80 pound load, including clothing and not including weaponry, over broken terrain for an entire week, it is getting real about what may be necessary. Remember, things will not be as they are now. For bike travel, work up to 15 to 20 miles per day– five walking and dragging the bike cross country and 10-15 on the road. Don't forget the trailer if you plan to use one. Detours, delays, hiding, and weather must all be factored in to calculations. Ninety miles on foot and 150 miles by bike in a week are realistic estimated distances. Thinking you can carry more than one week of food, fuel, and clothing is not getting real about preparations. There won't be any motels, restaurants, or laundromats available. You may be able to do more, but what about the weaker members of your group. It is best to plan for the worst possible scenario. Once you can do this, you won't need to train more than three times per week to maintain your conditioning. Oh, don't worry about cardiovascular training; it will take care of itself. There is one other major consideration for this regimen and the following ones also. There is no time off. This means no matter what the weather, if it is a training day, you do the training. Rain, snow, cold, wind, bad day at work, even feeling a little tuckered out is no excuse; none of that makes any difference. It certainly won't when it all hits the fan. This is about getting real about training for survival and not some 10k race if the weather is nice. It's also good conditioning for patrols after you reach your retreat.

Assuming you are not at your off-grid retreat and not planning to hike there, how do you train so you'll be ready when you are living there on a permanent basis. It may not actually be permanent, but you have to plan for that eventuality. No one is able to predict how long any disruption may last, and you have to be ready for whatever comes down the pike. It doesn't matter how you have prepared your retreat for off-grid living, I have three words for the primary feature of your life there. HARD-PHYSICAL-LABOR. Any aides requiring fuel will have to be used sparingly. First, because of the uncertainty of how long conditions will last, your limited supplies of fuel will require managing. Second, OPSEC. All powered equipment, even electrical, make recognizable noises. The following are exercises that are inexpensive, or relatively so, and attempt to duplicate what will likely be at least a major part of any off-grid scenario.

For the first one, go to the nearest lumber yard that has them and purchase the heaviest railroad tie you can find. The same length ties can vary in weight by as much as 30 pounds. An eight foot length is minimum; 10 or 12 feet is even better. Also pick up, if you don't already have, a pair of good heavy weight leather gloves. Place the tie on the ground wherever you have room. Stand at one end, bend your knees with your back straight, and work your fingers underneath. Stand up with the tie, curl it up to your shoulder, work your hands around, and press it over your head. Move forward, working up the tie until it is vertical. Reverse the motions until it is back on the ground. Repeat until your muscles turn to jello. When you can do this continuously for 1/2 hour, add five knee bends, curls, and presses to each rep. Perform the routine at least five times per week, until living at your retreat when all extra exercise programs will become unnecessary.

The second routine requires more money and space, but it is still cheaper than any gym membership. Purchase a contractor's wheel barrow, rake, shovel, gloves, and 20 tons of ½" minus gravel. Have the gravel dumped in a single pile. Shovel the gravel into the wheel barrow and move it, one wheel barrow load at a time, up to 50 yards away to a new separate pile. Approximately 25-30 shovels full will be a good load. Be sure to keep your back straight and lift with your legs. Rake up every rock from the first pile. Work six days per week, 1-2 hours per day, until the entire pile has been moved. Move it all back. Repeat until all the gravel is gone. I don't know where it goes either; it just seems to disappear. If you have enough property, and don't have a need for gravel, digging a hole 10'x10'x4', moving the dirt to a new location, and burying the hole will accomplish the same thing. While neither of these is very glamorous or entertaining, each attempts to approximate the physical conditions and psychological atmosphere of day to day life at a retreat.

Survival during a serious societal disruption will not be pretty, and will not be pretty for quite some time. It will be boring, repetitive, dirty, and physically demanding. Much of it can be very dangerous to perform when not tired, let alone when it is necessary to work while exhausted due to unexpected circumstances. It won't be physically demanding in the way that running marathons or bench pressing 200 lbs is. It will be long periods of hard physical labor engaging every muscle of your body. It may be even more taxing mentally. Your survival will be dependent on it, so you can't take a day off if you don't feel well. You can't vary your work out to keep yourself fresh or allow your body to recover from something particularly strenuous. Working from sunup to sundown will be the norm, just as it was before all of the labor-saving devices of the 20th century appeared. I have probably set the training standards for each of the programs higher than is necessary, but I feel the routines are much better than any I have read in the blog at being able to prepare you physically for what may be on the horizon. If you don't get real about the way things will be after it hits the fan and train for those conditions now, you won't be ready to deal with them if or when they occur.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

There is a preparation we can all make that doesn't required much money, much storage, or much expertise. Yet it should be a critical component of your readiness. Yes, it is your personal health and fitness. If you started 2014 with good intentions but haven't had the success you hoped for, this article is for you. This commentary outlines the whys and hows of improving your health and fitness.

Survival Benefits to Improving Health and Fitness

Prevent ever needing, or even reverse the need for drugs that you may no longer be able to get when the SHTF. Statins (Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor) for cholesterol control are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. Blood pressure medicines (ACE inhibitors and diuretics) are the next most common. Metformin, to help mitigate diabetes, also makes the Top 10 list. How will you cope when your supply is gone? Fortunately these are drugs that most of us can avoid ever needing simply by employing good nutrition and exercise practices. Even those who are already taking these drugs may be able to get off of them by improving their diet and exercise habits. For example, for every two pounds an overweight person loses, their blood pressure is lowered by approximately one point (1 mmHg.)

Improve your work capacity. When the SHTF, the technological advancements that have enabled Americans to enjoy physically easy lives may not function. Want to be warm or to cook? Start chopping and carrying wood...lots of it. Want to drink? Walk to your water source and/or carry water back from it, over and over again. It's sad but true that even without the presence of a criminal element, many Americans will not be physically able to care for themselves after a major disaster.

Improve your self-defense ability. Of course, when the SHTF there will be a criminal element looking to prey upon others, particularly upon the weak. Don't be one of them. Improving your fitness will go a long way in making sure you can hump that bug out bag (BOB), carry that rifle, climb that fence, and sprint away from danger when you need to.

Happily, the benefits of improving your health and fitness are not only highly beneficial to you if the SHTF, they are highly beneficial to you if it doesn't. It's a no-lose scenario! How do we know if we're fit or fat?

Fatness Tests. You probably already have a general idea if you need to drop a pound or 20 or 100. Certainly the scale and the mirror are easy places to start. However, the scale and the commonly used Body Mass Index (BMI) can be misleading. By BMI standards, every six foot, 205-pound piece of twisted steel that plays defensive back in the NFL is "overweight." And the linebackers are obese. A much better standard is to actually have your body composition tested. As a general rule, men should have less than 20% body fat and women less than 30%. While commercial body composition testing can be expensive, embarrassing, and/or unreliable, there is a very simple and effective method of estimating fatness that can be done at home-- the Waist/Height ratio. Your waist measurement should be less than half your height. For example, if you are 5'10" (70 inches tall) and have a 32" waist, you probably have relatively low body fat. If you're 5'10" with a 40" waist, you have some work to do.

Fitness Tests. This is a critical tool that even many people who regularly exerciser ignore. How will you know if your personal physical training (PT) program is working if you never test yourself? Obviously, there are a myriad of these tests, from expensive VO2 Max tests (measuring the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during incremental exercise) to simply seeing if you can touch your toes. Since we are talking about survival fitness it seems logical that we look toward military physical fitness standards. In order to graduate from basic training, male Army recruits must perform roughly 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and run two miles in under 17.5 minutes. Female recruits must perform 11 push-ups, 40 sit-ups, and complete two miles in under 20.5 minutes. (The actual numbers vary somewhat due to age-related adjustments.) Keep in mind, these are the basic military training MINIMUMS, and therefore not at all representative of an elite warrior, like a Ranger or even a basic infantry troop. If you want to survive TEOTWAWKI, it seems like those minimums would be a good place to start. Another way of measuring your fitness for survival is to test your performance in survival simulations. Can you carry a five gallon bucket of water the 200 meters from your hand pump or creek to your shelter? How many times? How much wood can you chop in an hour? One excellent survival-specific test would be to actually load your BOB or get-home bag and walk the number of miles you anticipate walking when the “balloon goes up”. If you can't do that easily, you need to improve your fitness or change your plan. Important caveat: If you're not already pretty healthy, do NOT try these fitness tests. Employ gentler methods of improving your health first, then worry about improving and testing your fitness.

Hacks To Improve Our Health and Fitness

Despite what the marketers of commercial exercise and diet plans will tell you, this is not rocket science. To lose weight, eat less. To run faster, practice running. You get the picture. However, there are some scientifically proven strategies which can improve the effectiveness of your quest to improve your health and fitness, and some of these are not as commonly known as they probably should be. Listed below are seven of the most important strategies (along with supporting references, so you can see that this is not just one person's opinion.) With 33% of Americans overweight and another 33% obese, most of the recommendations here are of highest relevance to those who need to lose weight. However, all of these strategies will also help people who are already at a healthy weight.

Step 1: Start! Nobody's perfect. Only a select few have the genetics and discipline to be SEALs or Olympians. All of us have factors that make it difficult to completely incorporate ideal health and fitness habits. Still, every one of us can be healthier and more fit in two months than we are today. Setting your intention is the first and most important step in any self-improvement effort.

Step 2: Don't Drink Your Calories. Sugar in liquid form, like in soda or even juice, is less satiating (satisfying) than in solid form.[1] Notably, diet colas are not a suitable substitute. Not only is there scant evidence of their consumption being beneficial to weight control, but some research has reported they increase hunger[2], which of course can lead to weight gain. Additionally, fruit juice is not a healthy alternative to soda. An 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains about 21 grams of sugar! Get in the habit of drinking WATER.

Step 3: Obey Your Hunger, NOT Your Appetite. Distinguishing between hunger (a physiological need for energy) and appetite (a psychological desire to eat) can prevent overeating. There are several ways to effectively reduce hunger.

  • Eat slowly. This allows more time for our hunger-related hormones to adjust to our food intake. Specifically, it allows ghrelin levels to fall and peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1 levels to rise, effectively telling you that you are not hungry.[4] This strategy has been demonstrated to effectively reduce total caloric intake.[3]
  • Consume plenty of fiber. This provides a physical feeling of fullness that can reduce hunger.[5]
  • Avoid liquid calories and simple carbohydrates. Instead, choose foods that promote feeling full, as outlined in steps 2, 4, 5, and 6.
  • Engage in mindful eating. Observe, smell, and really taste your food. Pay attention to your body's cues. Zoning out in front of the TV while eating often results in eating well beyond the point of natural fullness.

Step 4: Eat Complex Carbohydrates, Not Simple Carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Simple sugars (syrup, candy, soda), which contain few nutrients and cause a potent insulin response, should be avoided. A logical next step is to consume foods with a low glycemic load. Not only do such foods cause a less dramatic insulin response than high glycemic foods, but they are more satiating than high glycemic foods.[5] In general, low glycemic index (GI) foods include vegetables, beans, and berries; medium GI foods include whole grains and most other fruits, while white breads (pasta, rice, pretzels) are high GI foods.

Step 5: Avoid Foods Labeled "Low-Fat." Despite the low-fat mantra being drilled into Americans' psyches over the past few decades, there is scant evidence that simply changing your macronutrient ratio to include a lower proportion of fat has any desirable influence on weight or health. Worse, most "low-fat" foods have replaced the fat with extra salt and sugar. Compare any "low-fat" snack with its "regular" counterpart to see for yourself. Finally, fat is an important nutrient in its own right, promoting good endocrine health. Notably, most of our fats should be monounsaturated. A diet above 12% in monounsaturated fats has been demonstrated to increase satiety, reduce fat mass, and lower blood pressure.[6] Examples of healthy monounsaturated fats are nuts, avocados, olive oil, and cold-water fish.

Step 6: Eat At Least 1.5 Grams of Protein Per Kilogram of Body Weight. Protein is vital to maintaining our lean body tissue, particularly as we age. There is convincing evidence that a higher protein intake increases thermogenesis, as well as it being very satiating.[7] Both of these factors promote weight loss. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is a meager 0.8 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight. However, the International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends 1.5-1.9 g/kg for adults engaged in regular resistance training, which you'll do if you follow Step 7. Following those recommendations, a 180-pound man would eat about 145-155 g per day. First convert pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.2. Then multiply by 1.9 to get the target daily amount of protein. (The math looks like: 180/2.2 = 81 kg; 81 kg x 1.9 g/kg = 155 grams.)

Step 7: Resistance Train At Least Twice Weekly. Like in the case of avoiding fat, mainstream health advocates have been tireless but misguided in their promotion of endurance or "aerobic" exercise. Certainly, that type of exercise is beneficial. However, resistance training provides benefits that endurance training alone does not, such as an increased basal metabolic rate (which aids in weight loss/maintenance), reduced potential for injury, and increased strength and work capacity.[8] A well-rounded exercise program includes both endurance and resistance training. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training 2-3 times per week. One other note: Because it incorporates balance, proprioception (an unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation), and natural movement paths, resistance training that uses free weights (like barbells and dumbbells) will be much more transferable to survival activities than resistance training with machines would be.

Step 8: Seek Help if Needed. Many preppers understandably take pride in their self-sufficiency, but we must be wise enough to know when we need to consult an expert. This is particularly true in the world of nutrition and fitness because there are so many charlatans out there peddling ineffective or even dangerous plans. If your plan isn't working, seek out a trainer and/or nutritionist who possesses: a) a degree, b) a recognized certification, and c) a physique/lifestyle that proves he or she practices what they preach. There are some good trainers who don't have all three of those qualities, but finding someone who has all three all but assures that they will be able to help you.

I'm confident that incorporating these strategies into your lifestyle should leave you healthier, happier, and better prepared. Valeo Valui Valiturus.


[1] Mourao DM, Bressan J, Campbell WW, Mattes RD. (2007). Effects of food form on appetite. Int J Obes (Lond). Nov;31(11):1688-95.
[2] Mattes RD, Popkin BM. (2009). Nonnutritive sweetener consumption in humans: effects on appetite and food intake and their putative mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan;89(1):1-14.
[3] Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. (2008). Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. Jul;108(7):1186-91.
[4] Kokkinos et al. (2010). Eating Slowly Increases the Postprandial Response of the Anorexigenic Gut Hormones, Peptide YY and Glucagon-Like Peptide-1. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Jan;95(1):333-7.
[5] Chang et al. (2012). Low glycemic load experimental diet more satiating than high glycemic load diet. Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):666-73.
[6] Schwingshackl L, Strasser B, Hoffmann G. (2011). Effects of monounsaturated fatty acids on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Nutr Metab.;59(2-4):176-86.
[7] Halton TL, Hu FB. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. Oct;23(5):373-85.
[8] Knuttgen HG. (2007). Strength training and aerobic exercise: comparison and contrast. J Strength Cond Res. Aug;21(3):973-8.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

You were spot on with your comments regarding the improper stretching.  In fact, the U.S. Navy has recently made major changes to it's authorized workout routine because PT standards from just a year ago are now considered potentially harmful.  The new workout routine is as follows...The beginning of a workout involves "Dynamic warmups" instead of stretches to prevent injury.  Here's a link to the PDF on dynamic warmups.   The workout commences once the full-body dynamic stretches are complete.  "Static Stretching" is only done at the end of the workout.  Here's another link that highlights good and bad forms. Regards, - Anonymous Sailor

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I've been lurking around your blog for a while now and I love it!   I'd like to share this link with you: the Iowa Health and Physical Readiness Alliance web site.
This online library has several old military physical fitness manuals (dated 1892, 1914, 1917, and 1946).  I think that your readers would really love the 1946 manual, FM 21-20.  Not only does it have an extensive calisthenics routine, but also has guerrilla drills on carrying wounded comrades, running and swimming instructions, and even brief sections on wrestling, boxing, and hand-to-hand combatives.  All are in PDF.
Enjoy! - Tom R.

JWR Replies: Those manuals can be quite useful. But I must forewarn readers: Old School methods of "warm-ups" provide insufficient muscle stretching to prevent injuries. They also emphasize "bouncing" stretches rather than slow stretches. It is the slow stretches that are much safer. (Bouncing can tear muscles and ligaments.) I recommend doing some slow Asian martial arts stretches before doing calisthenics workouts or running.

Also, keep in mind that these older manuals often depict running in boots. That too can lead to injuries. Be wise and minimize any regular running in combat boots!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A friend and I recently discussed some of the possible physical difficulties that might be associated with a rapid exfiltration from a devastated area during a major grid-down scenario.  We thought it would be interesting to explore the personal effects of increased stress, combined with decreased caloric intake, which might be encountered while “bugging-out.”  We wanted to move away from academic knowledge to personal experience, so we created a seven day bug-out “challenge” for ourselves.  

Background note: my survivalist friend was a U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and then spent his career working on computers.  I'm a 46-year-old male who exercises daily by running and lifting weights.  I'm also a Wilderness EMT-B and I teach wilderness survival and wild plant skills as serious hobbies.  We both grew up in rural Utah, and we’ve spent many years backpacking throughout the Rocky Mountains.  We also invited another survivalist buddy (lawyer) to participate in the seven day challenge. 

The Challenge

  • Consume only 1,200 calories daily 
  • Run 5K or bike 10K each day
  • Work manual labor (or) lift weights one hour each day
  • Sleep only 6 hours a night on the floor or ground
  • Refresh your (heavy) bug-out bag and wear it at least 30 minutes a day
  • Capstone: Run 15K or bike 30K with a (light) pack at the end of the challenge

We picked 1,200 calories per day because this is the approximate amount of freeze-dried survival rations that we carry in our bug-out bags (and it's also the amount with which we've stocked our families' bug-out bags).  The idea was to test these calorie limits while under increased stress.  We couldn't simulate everything perfectly, as we still had to work each day and support our families.  However, we thought this limited set of experiences would be achievable and educational. 

Our friend the lawyer never started the challenge.  In addition, my Marine Vet friend shifted to 2,000 calories by the third day after struggling with effects of calorie reduction, although he continued with the physical challenges.  I personally stopped the challenge after five days – here’s why:  

Body Temperature
By the end of the second day I started getting cold and then I stayed cold.  I went from one blanket to two at night.  This was odd for me, as I don't get cold very often.  My metabolism is fairly high and I was probably feeling the effects of a reduced metabolic rate as my body adjusted to fewer calories.  One takeaway is that in a major crisis, I would probably want a larger sleeping bag than the ultra-light one I currently carry.  In addition, I'll probably include an extra base layer of lightweight underwear just to maintain body heat when additional food isn't available.   

Physical Fatigue
Under these austere conditions, by the third day I was taking nearly twice as long to run my standard 5K route (7,000s-foot elevation, two large hills).  For me that was huge, as I run this route regularly.  After four days of this grueling exercise regime, I became a little light-headed just climbing a few flights of stairs.  The lack of calories really affected my overall physical performance.  Occasionally while I ran, I would get a weak out-of-body feeling.  I felt feeble in my arms when I did pushups or worked outside with a shovel.  I also experienced difficulty sleeping only six hours -- I was a little wired at night, but then I had trouble getting up the next morning.  My stomach growled constantly and I even experienced low blood sugar "shakes" in my hands after exercising.  I simply didn't have the fuel to perform at normal levels.  A key takeaway is that I'll need to factor in a slower pace when backpacking and running long distances, as well as more time to complete light construction and related manual labor during a crisis.  I might also need a small, manual-wind alarm clock of some kind.

Lack of Mental Clarity
By the fourth day images of food consumed most of my mental down time.  When I wasn't thinking about family or work, I found myself drifting off while wistfully envisioning peanut butter on bread.  I love peanut butter, and my brain probably associates that food with calories, so images of peanut butter became my near constant companion.  I awoke the morning of day five to a vivid Technicolor dream of eating stacks of pancakes in my grandmother’s kitchen.  I also found myself mentally "dull" or not as "quick" when it came to making decisions and/or responding to everyday challenges.  The takeaway here is that with a fuzzy head, falling back on training will become important during a crisis.  As a Wilderness EMT-B we are drilled to follow standardized patient treatment pathways and protocols for every single medical scenario.  This ensures that we hit all the critical steps while under stress.  During a collapse, training will probably dictate many of my decisions when I’m too hungry and exhausted to think clearly. 

By the fourth day I also began to get a sore throat (remember that we were really pushing ourselves physically).  My immune system was clearly weakened due to lack of food and sleep.  I'm sure that if this exhausting regime continued for another few weeks, sickness would become my constant companion.  I responded to the sore throat by sleeping an extra hour, popping lots of vitamin C, and drinking more liquids.  This helped, but what if I couldn't add another hour of sleep or if I didn't have a ready supply of vitamin C?  I could potentially supplement with wild rose hips, which are plentiful in my area (even during winter).  But what if I didn't know what plants to use?  Historically, during wars and other periods of extreme deprivation, more deaths occurred from malnutrition and sickness than from direct hostilities.  When your immune system is weakened, a simple cold that you dodged during seasons of plenty might become a serious health concern.  My takeaway here (besides obviously trying to eat and sleep more when possible) is to throw into my bug-out bag a small bottle of multivitamins and/or vitamin C, as well as dedicating even more study time to what local plants may be helpful (albeit feebly) when sick.      

Behavioral Changes
My wife complained that I was grouchy during the challenge.  I've learned that care must be taken to control irritability and the tendency to snap at others in your family or team when fatigue sets in from too many sleepless nights and not enough food.  Kindness and patience come easily when your stomach is full, your family is happy and healthy, you are fully employed, and your DVR successfully records your favorite television program.  But can you practice charity and self-control when everything is collapsing around you and you can't even think clearly?

Weight Loss
After the fourth day I was down nine pounds.  This much weight loss in such a short period of time simply wasn't healthy – I pulled the plug on our little experiment at the end of day five.  I remember once reading an article on that suggested being 10 pounds overweight during a system collapse might be advantageous.  As a middle-aged exercise junkie I thought "how could being 10 pounds overweight be even remotely beneficial?"  Well, I've just learned that under stress and with reduced caloric input, I'll easily burn 10 pounds or more in a week if I'm carrying a heavy pack and dragging my family away from a crisis zone.  Of course, the assumption here is that one is in excellent physical shape (regardless of being a few pounds overweight) so they can actually perform under great duress.  Over the course of the last year I’ve increased my exercise regime knowing that being in shape may be the difference between living and dying in a collapse scenario. 

I cheated twice during the experiment.  I ate an extra 100 calories of peanut butter on two separate occasions.  My body was literally screaming for food and my brain was starting to rebel.  Most folks will probably cheat a little bit under similar conditions.  But stealing a few extra calories now and then may reduce how long you can survive with your given stash.  Because I teach wild plant food skills and I grew up hunting, I'll (theoretically) be able to augment my food storage with a few (very few) additional calories.  But knowing that I have a tendency to want more calories than I currently have stashed for myself and my family, my personal takeaway is to add to my total larder (and especially to our bug-out bags) while the stores are still open.  My initial estimates of how much food my family will need while bugging out (or “bugging in”) were too low.        

Coincidentally, I had a doctor’s appointment immediately following the challenge.  The nurse asked if I was dehydrated, as she had a very difficult time finding a vein from which to draw blood.  My resting heart rate was approximately 64 and my blood pressure was approximately 106 over 71.  I thought I had been over-hydrating during the increased exercise.  It turns out I hadn’t hydrated adequately.  I also gained back about two pounds later that day when I ate as many peanut butter granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and glasses of milk as I could hold!  I diligently lived up to the exercise component of our challenge, and I learned that I simply wasn’t drinking enough water (and I thought I was pretty good at hydrating).  The takeaway here is that in a crisis, forcing yourself to drink more water than you want (or can perhaps even hold on a shrunken stomach) will be critical.  Water will always be more important than food in any crisis.  I probably need to add an additional water bottle (or two) to my bug-out bag in case finding water becomes difficult.               

“Survival Is Not Fun”
This real-world experiment might seem a little strange to most, but I personally learned a great deal about how my mind and body react to stress, increased physical exertion, and the significant lack of calories that will accompany many of the larger collapse scenarios.  Your experiences may vary under similar conditions based on your own level of fitness and your personal metabolic rate.  The ultimate goal here was to test ourselves, our equipment, and our survival food choices.  We achieved that goal, although the experience wasn’t much fun.  As Les Stroud of Survivorman fame states: “Survival is not fun.  It’s not pretty.  It’s never comfortable.  It may involve eating gross things, enduring pain and deprivation, and battling fatigue and loneliness.”  Prior to this exercise I was quite cavalier about how little food I would need to maintain optimal performance levels under stress (I'm invincible, right?).  Now I know from personal experience that I need to eat more calories and drink more water than I previously estimated if I want to stay physically and mentally sharp during the first critical phases of any future collapse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

So you are a prepper?  You might be just getting started or you might be stockpiled for armageddon.  Regardless of what stage you are at, most preppers compile lists of equipment they foresee needing and as sources such as point out, prepping is not just about stuff, but rather skills too.  Skills and gear will undoubtedly be vital in any unfortunate circumstances mankind might face.  However, a seriously overlooked aspect of being prepared (and an inexpensive one) is fitness; overall wellness and physical/mental fitness.  If you are not able to use your gear and skills due to being weak or sick, then it is likely that you have built an impressive stockpile for someone else to use.  America has an obesity crisis and our society has become overall weak and dependent.  There is no room for this in a survival situation.  People will have to carry their own weight (and sometimes others’ too), conserve resources, and let go of numerous comforts.  Note: I am not a doctor and assume no responsibility for illness, injury, buff abs, losing lottery tickets or anything else that someone might try to blame on me.  I am merely sharing some of my life’s experience.

The key to living healthy is balance.  Being healthy is a lifestyle that will not only improve your daily life and longevity, but will also increase your ability to survive.  First, a proper and nutritious diet is a must.  Your body needs healthy meals to ensure you have fuel to function, work, and exercise and to keep your body at a healthy weight.  You do not need to carry unnecessary weight in a survival situation but remember balance; no fad, starvation diets or unhealthy supplements that dehydrate you.  Eat the recommended amount of calories from good sources and ensure you are exercising.  There are countless sources of information on this but according to WebMD, you should get this number of calories:




Moderately Active




















Remember, you have to eat fat and carbs as well.  You can become very ill or even die due to proteinosis if you never consume fat, which is vital to many bodily functions.  Many people have heard about a survival situation where there are only rabbits to eat and you would eventually die because wild rabbits have no fat unless you consume the bone marrow.  Be sure to stay properly hydrated, especially when in hot, humid climates or when working or exercising hard.  The easiest way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is 1. you are not thirsty and 2. your urine is pretty clear.  That thirst concept might force some laughs but if you are truly thirsty, you do not just need water; you are dehydrated!  You typically cannot drink too much water.  With a balanced diet, there is little fear of water intoxication, i.e. dying from drinking too much water and washing out all of your body’s sodium.  With that said, it might be beneficial to store some Gatorade/Powerade and Pedialyte to replenish the electrolytes for cases of intense physical exertion or illness (vomiting/diarrhea). 

| Resting might be one of the more difficult aspects of a fitness program but make sure you rest while you can.  Sleep is important and allows your body to recover from hard physical activity.  If you are not well rested, your workouts will be less productive and focused.  Also, if you are working out, your body needs time to recover so allow it to heal.  It is hard for many when they have set goals and committed to a fitness regimen to embrace rest, but if you do not, you will likely injure yourself and have further setbacks. 

General wellness also includes staying on top of medical issues.  Do not put off dealing with check-ups and procedures because your quality/length of life might be altered, not to mention your survivability.  Some issues, such as Type II diabetes, might be controlled through diet and exercise and this might be helpful if there is a shortage of insulin or medical treatment.  Do not forget about your teeth either because hygiene will likely suffer with limited supplies of water and dental care products.  Dental issues can range from horribly uncomfortable to fatal if neglected. 

Physical fitness cannot be stressed enough for survival because a grid-down, chaotic world will involve a level of physical exertion that our culture is no longer accustomed to doing.  Simply put, when the SHTF, life will become more physical.  Manual labor, cardiovascular-based transportation, moving heavy weights, and even engaging in physical confrontations will be daily life.  Do you remember doing an activity as a child that was so easy, but now leaves you sore the next day, like raking leaves?  That is because we do not perform such work anymore, but a survival world is much different so start getting fit now.  You will not wait until doomsday is here to get supplies or training and I seriously doubt you will get four months to prepare your body when the SHTF.

I remember studying karate as a child and watching obese people learn the skills to advance through the ranks, but they were easily winded in the simplest, minimal contact movements or sparring matches.  They were on the right track by learning the skills to defend themselves, but would stand little chance in a real physical confrontation due to being out of shape.  I have been in numerous unarmed situations as an adult who was in very good shape and found myself completely exhausted at the end and my life did not depend on winning nor were my attackers giving it everything they had.  Self-defense preparation is a must, but to be truly effective, you must be fit.   In addition to getting in shape, make sure your self defense training safely embraces contact sparring, ground defense, and scenarios to better prepare yourself for the real thing.  Self defense is a big business so make sure that you are training for a fight and not just earning belts and certificates.

Getting from point A to B might be a rude awakening for many in a doomsday world.  Most people only walk, run, hike, swim, or bike for leisure/exercise and it is not usually done for extreme distances or in harsh conditions.  Preppers have their bug-out bags and plans, but have they walked ten plus miles per day with their gear on with little sleep, scarce food, harsh weather, rough terrain, and in a hostile environment?  Probably not in most cases.  That gear is not that heavy standing in your living room, but walk fifteen plus miles through the aforementioned conditions and away from your former life and see how heavy it gets.  Do not underestimate how much heavier water-logged gear is either.  If you have never ran a mud run type race such as the Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder, ask someone who has.  Your light shoes, clothes, and body can quickly absorb mud and water making running, climbing, and negotiating obstacles much more challenging.   

So why not prepare for life and survival at no cost?  No need to live in the gym or become a marathon runner, unless you want to.  Remember that health is about balance; if you only run, that hike with all of your gear, physical confrontations, or moving heavy objects might disappoint you.  By the same token, if your only focus is packing on freakish muscle with no cardiovascular exercise, your endurance and speed will be sacrificed. Though many pieces of exercise equipment are useful, you do not have to have anything other than a decent pair of running shoes to be fit.  I recommend some dumbbells, a kettlebell, and a pull up bar, but what you use is completely up to you and your goals.  To be fit, you need muscular/cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, speed, agility, and flexibility training.  Do not skip the flexibility portion because it drastically decreases your risk of injury and increases your blood flow.  A combination of weights, calisthenics, variable cardio, and flexibility exercises are best.  There are many programs such as Crossfit and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that embrace these concepts with the goal to increase overall fitness and work capacity.  Also look into kettlebell programs; they are very effective and efficient.  Below is a sample cross training program:

  • Sunday – rest
  • Monday – a HIIT weights program or Spartacus and sprints
  • Tuesday -  30 minute interval run and pull ups
  • Wednesday – Calisthenics (dips, abs. push ups, pull ups, etc.) and bike ride
  • Thursday – Distance jog
  • Friday – Weights
  • Saturday – Ruck march and chin ups

This can be modified and is just a sample. Again, do not forget to stretch and you know your level of fitness so do not over do it.  Challenge yourself but do so safely.  Also, be aware that working out to be fit and for vanity are not the same thing.  You can be skinny and weak; you can have huge muscles, but be unable to pull your own body weight or perform work for extended periods of time. 

Your workouts do not have to be intense and dreadful.  Put that bug-out bag on and go hiking.  Add some land navigation, tactical movements, first aid scenarios, or whatever field craft training to keep it interesting, maximize training opportunities, and get in shape.  For those who have never “rucked” a long distance, be sure to educate yourself on footwear and taking care of your feet.  I suggest reading Get Selected by Joseph Martin or talking to an infantry soldier.  Wood chopping/splitting is a tremendous workout and builds not only muscle, but a good supply of fuel too.  Shooting can even be tiring.  Anyone that has done extensive firearms training can attest to the fact that a normal firearm gets very heavy after a while.  If you train the way you will fight (and you should), shooting can be taxing.  Make sure you are safely practicing shooting while moving, from different positions, behind cover, and transitioning to other weapons.  You might be surprised to find soreness and bruising from a simple day at the range.  Also, practice shooting and reloading one handed and with each hand because you might be wounded/injured and survival is at stake. 

So you are ripped like Sly Stallone in Rambo II and you have the endurance of a triathlete, but how tough is your mind?  Mental conditioning is frequently overlooked but is crucial to being prepared.  First, be firm in your faith.  No matter what you believe, the afterlife is there no matter the state of our world.  Decide what you can live with in a chaotic world.  Otherwise decent people will do the unthinkable and you must decide now, not when the time comes, that you will survive and defend yourself.  Your faith might be all you have when face disaster, illness, or whatever else this world can throw at you. 

Second, your mind will tell you that you are exhausted long before your body actually is.  When I was in training some years ago, we were at the mercy of our instructors and training ceased when they decided it did.  We would go for runs and have no problem maintaining the pace for whatever distance until they would slow us down to a walk when approaching our barracks.  Just when we thought we were finished, the run would resume and it defeated us mentally.  During the same training, we would frequently be required to perform push ups.  When the order was given, you never knew how many you would have to do so in essence, ten push ups were as hard as 100 because the mind is defeated.  The same guys that were struggling at fifteen could have easily dropped down and knocked out fifty if they would have known the limits.  One way to address this is to train for time instead of repetition or distance in regard to calisthenics or running.  It is often more beneficial to do one minute of push ups (resting when needed in the up position) rather than say thirty.  I am not saying numbered repetitions or set distances do not have their place, but five sets of twenty-five push ups is probably less effective than five one minute sessions, even if you rest.  Another effective way to improve fitness and mental toughness is through body weight muscle failure exercises and this means exactly what it says; perform the exercise until you physically cannot, not just until you are tired and want to stop.  Naturally, this must be done with care to avoid overtraining and injury.  The discipline it takes to maintain a fit body will lead to a healthy mind and the survivor’s mindset can be the difference between life and death.

Lastly, any survival situation will be stressful.  One must learn to manage stress now to not only improve overall health, but to increase your chances of survival.  Diet and exercise typically fight stress, but have you ever seen a person who has a highly stressful life and cannot shed belly fat despite an intense fitness plan and sensible diet?  That is likely attributed to stress and its by-product cortisol.  Stress causes stored fat and clogged arteries in otherwise healthy people so take time to manage it.  A tool to prepare you mentally against stress when the SHTF is rehearsal and repetition, muscle memory as many people call it.  When you are in danger or in some other high-stress environment, your body enters fight or flight mode.  When this occurs, you will find that your pupils dilate, you cannot grab things as easily, breathing increases, and a host of other things.  This is why you must practice so that when it is real, the training takes over.  You do not want to hesitate when it counts!  Applying a tourniquet in a climate controlled classroom on your friend who is laughing at your mistakes is different then when you are in tired, hungry, and in hostile/harsh conditions when someone’s life is in the balance.

Educate yourself about all aspects of wellness from good, balanced sources that emphasize vitality and avoid drastic, gimmicky trends.  There are numerous great works available to strengthen your mind as well and  I recommend reading On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman, A More Elite Soldier: Pursuing a Life of Purpose by Chuck Holton, and works about Prisoners of War or Medal of Honor recipients. 

In conclusion, being prepared requires planning, skill, and having the necessities to survive.  Being fit and healthy, both mentally and physically are no less important.  Those  trees will not cut themselves down and fall into neat little stacks on their own.  The bag and all of the items you thoughtfully placed in it will not bear the burden of its own weight to get you to safety.  Seeds will not till the ground for you.  TEOTWAWKI will be a rough, physical, and stressful place.  Make sure that you truly prepared.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mr. Rawles:
First of all, I would just like to say a huge thank you for all the advice, expertise, and survival techniques that you have bought to my attention through your books and your blog. I never realised just how much of a risk our current climate is, and how likely we are to get to a state of "every man for himself" survival.

My name is Steve. I am a 21 year old living in the West Midlands county in the heart of Great Britain. I have always had survivalism in my blood, and have always liked to think that I am prepared for whatever the world can throw at me, but recently, the last four years or so, I have become increasingly worried with the state of my country and economical clime. My fears were confirmed last August when mass rioting and looting took control of many of my country's cities, including our capital, London. The authorities and law enforcement were powerless to do a thing, and we were nearly in a state of "Northern Ireland law enforcement", in that the armed forces were to patrol the streets, and we were to have riot shielded police with water cannons on every street corner. Thankfully, that situation has calmed down now, but I know it is only a matter of time before chaos breaks out again.

My main concern is that I, like many million other British residents, live in multi-story, "high rise" flat (apartment) which I see as near enough impossible to defend in the event of WTSHTF. Some "high rise" flats can have as many as 60-70 homes, with 200+ people living in them. It's one thing to secure my front door from burglary and looters, but what's the point when our housing options are so small that we barely have enough room to sleep a family, let alone store equipment and supplies for the inevitable. It's impossible for me to keep a back up generator along with substantial food, water, and fuel supplies in a home that has the total floor space of around 30'x30', including bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room and dining space. My home is just not a practical safe house for me, my fiancée, and our daughter. Let alone the fact that we are on the 5th floor, and would have almost zero chance of escape in the event of a fire or terror attack.

I know that the obvious thing to do would be to move house, somewhere out of the city with the space and freedom to properly prepare, but we simply can not afford to. I am currently out of work. I lost my job over a year ago and have been unable to find work since. The same goes for my fiancée, who lost her job nearly two years ago and has also been unable to find a new work placement. We both have to survive on[a combined unemployment insurance benefit of] just over £53 per week (about $84.50 USD), pay all our bills, rent, buy our food, and also bring up our young daughter. It's outrageous. In the past two years alone I have witnessed more businesses and company's both regionally, and nationally, collapse due to the economic state that my government has put the country in. I have recently applied to join the British Armed Forces Reserves (Territorial Army, or TA) in an attempt to earn more money to support my family, and also acquire any necessary tactical, survival, and combat, training and techniques that will undoubtedly prove vital WTSHTF.

Another concern I have, the laws and regulations in this country regarding owning and using firearms. Shotguns and shotgun licenses are fairly easy to obtain, if you own a farm or are a registered target/clay-pigeon/small-game shooter. But other than that, pistols, rifles, and semi-auto weapons are nearly impossible to obtain and get a licence for. A licence can be applied for, but are rarely granted. If you are lucky enough to obtain your licence and firearm, you can expect regular "knocks on your door" at 3 a.m. by the local armed police to check your ammo count and security cabinets for both weapon and ammunition. Then there is the fact of actually getting hold of ammunition for your gun(s). The only real stockist of rifle and pistol ammunition is local "gun clubs" where enthusiasts can go and fire a limited number of rounds from their weapon. But even then, only specific weapons are allowed to be fired. Mostly, some pistols and shotguns. We have no real facilities to accurately zero and test fire weapons that we will no doubt need for our own protection and survival in the case of TEOTWAWKI.

I know I may be thinking small in terms of what will happen, but these are real concerns that I deem as extremely important to the survival and order of my family and fellow country man in the near, inevitable, future.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback or advice that you could give me.

Thank you again, and keep yourself safe. - D.S.

JWR Replies: Joining the TA is a great way to get yourself training in marksmanship, land navigation, first aid, small unit tactics, and even NBC defense. The rigorous physical training will also get you in great shape. BTW, I recommend that you start running every-other day and doing dozens of sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups a day, months in advance of your enlistment.

The free SurvivalBlog archives are fully searchable for the many articles that we've posted on selecting and training with weapons for locales with draconian laws. The article topics include:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I have recently been introduced to survivalism, preparedness, and TEOTWAWKI - The End Of The World As We Know It.  It was my father who first got me interested in the subject (although I had stumbled upon a survivalism web site years ago when web searching, of all things, how to cook and eat giant salamander - more on that later, possibly).  I have, over the past couple months, picked up lots of cool skills.  For example, I can now cook food that didn't come in a box! That is a big deal.

I have also learned to shoot the paper that the target is on (most of the time) and I have begun taming the deer that live in the nearby woods.  It pays to plan ahead.
That said, I realized that I do have one thing going for me that, sadly, most Americans don't.  From 2007 to 2011 I worked at an athletic club.  During my time there, I learned everything from the correct way to pick up a treadmill with one hand and vacuum under it (yes, that IS possible) to how to make a positively sinful chocolate ganache that is also low-calorie, and, with a little stretching of the truth, you can even claim it is healthy.  All of which, mind you, is my very elaborate introduction to my survival advice: fitness

I know that working out is hard.  It can be boring.  Probably, if you are anything like me, you are literally thinking "I don't wanna!"  Well, you don't have to be a muscle man to be fit. Me?  I'm 5'9", and weigh around 145 pounds and, BTW, I'm a girl.  That said, I'm more than halfway to my goal of 50 consecutive, standard push-ups!  When I started working toward my goal I could do... yes, I'll admit it: 3.  Three push-ups.  That lands right up there in the healthy range for a toddler. So what did I do?  What should you do?

1) Start Small.

No matter what your goal is (and having a goal is a great idea) you need to start small.  Do something easy.  Put 1 less teaspoon sugar in your coffee or tea.  Stop buttering your toast.  Circle your couch once before you sit on it.  I'm not kidding.  The little stuff makes a big difference.
I started by not putting sugar in my tea.  I lost 5 pounds in less than a month.  That is literally the only thing I changed that month.  Not kidding.  Of course, I was a 3 teaspoons of sugar girl, so it made a big difference.  I cut out butter on my toast - which sucked because toast is so dry without butter.  I ended up not even eating toast.  Suddenly, 10 pounds of body weight was gone. 
I used to eat a lot of toast. 

Choose a specific plate, or bowl, to be yours.  You can label it if you want.  Put all the food you want on it once per meal, and then leave a little on the plate when you "finish" eating. 

You care about your health, right?  Eat three meals a day.  No more, no less. If you skip a meal you teach your body that you are literally starving to death.  Then, anything you eat gets magically turned into fat.  Fat, technically, is like canned goods for your body.  Unfortunately, your body has lost its can opener, which means before it figures out how to use all that fat, it is going to eat (not joking) your muscles to stay alive.  So, no skipping meals.

Start switching foods you only kind of like (or foods you like) that are bad for you with good foods.  Anything you eat that contains sugar can be replaced by a fruit.  Fruits are awesome.  Guess what?  Fruit is a natural food.  That makes it healthy.

Replace any carbohydrates you eat with vegetables.  My favorite vegetables are potatoes, because they are also a carbohydrate!  (Wait a minute...) 
Onions are yummy if you cook them.  Garlic is good, too.  There are all sorts of health benefits for onions and garlic, but I like them for the taste.  Celery is one of the few foods that burns more calories to eat than it contains. 

One more tip for starting small:  eat meat. I know animals are cute and most of them are furry and they generally have eyes that stare at you (what else would they use them for?) but - meat is the ultimate food.  It contains protein, which makes muscles and bones, and, yes, it even feeds your brain.  You brain is pretty much the most important part of your body.  You will die without it.
Protein is most easily accessed by eating meat.  Yes, you can find protein in other places, like legumes (beans) gluten (wheat) and, tofu (soy) but get this: meat is the only source of complete protein.

Beans, grains, and nuts contain partial proteins.  Think of it as puzzle pieces.  If you get all of the pieces, maybe your body can flip them around and put them together.  Possibly.  If you only get some, though, your body just throws it away. Meat has complete proteins.  The full puzzle, already put together.  Unless you carefully pair incomplete proteins, they are nutritionally incomplete, and your body cannot utilize them. Fortunately, meat is delicious.

Oh, and in case I forget to bring this up later: quit eating so many grains. I know bread is awesome.  I love carbohydrates too, but they will make you fat.  We use grains to fatten livestock like cows, sheep, chickens, and all those other tasty animals.  It works just the same when we eat it.  Unless you want to get fat (which, I suppose, is one way of preparing for food shortages...) you should stop eating grains. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables which taste good and contain vitamins.  If you're anything like me, you will be much happier getting vitamins from food than taking them in pills.

2) No Slacking Off

You need to make a commitment to yourself, to your health, and to your body.  That means no slacking off when you "don't feel like it".  (Okay, fine, you can skip working out Sundays.)  Make your health choices into a habit.  Every morning, every evening, or every whenever-you-have-time-during-the day, you need to get in a little something extra.
I started out with a few push-ups, crunches, a little jump-roping and a whole lot of asking myself why I was doing this.  I have skipped a total of 5 days.  (That is approximately one out of every ten days, and then an extra because honestly I just didn't feel like it today so I am writing about it instead.  That counts, right?)
Even if you don't have time to do your full routine, do something.

I mentioned rope jumping before.  This is important.  Jump ropes are cheap, and people give them to thrift stores regularly.  Buy one, now. The ideal jump rope is long enough that you can stand on it and the handles will come up to your arm pits.  If it is a little long you can tie knots in the end.  If it is a little short, well, that's harder but you can deal with it. 

Jump ropes take up little space (about as much space as one shoe) and you can use them almost anywhere.  I bring mine along when I travel, and get out of the car to jump every time we stop for gas.  You can jump indoors (unless you have annoying neighbors who complain about the noise) or on pavement, or on grass.  You can jump any time.  There are also jump rope tricks.  I watched little kids do a major jump rope performance that involved flips in the air, multiple people per rope, multiple ropes per person, jumping rope while doing push-ups and, of course, gratuitous amounts of 1980s era rock music.  For the first time in my life, I was jealous of third graders. So, jump ropes are a great investment in your health, and if you keep at it you can astound people will your abilities.  (There is probably a way to convert your jump rope into a weapon for TEOTWAWKI, too, but I haven't learned that yet.)

By the way - you don't have to do an "exercise" to work out.  Anything that uses your muscles counts as strength training.  That means when you haul wood, or carry things upstairs, you can count it as your workout.  Anything that works your heart and lungs is aerobics.  So, running, walking the dog, etc. 
Plus, you can always do a little of what my dad calls "Rambo Skills."  This is anything that you can picture needing to do in a survival situation.  So, like, climbing trees (presumably to survey the land) or punching a punching bag or karate (or pseudo karate). 

Practice presenting the pistol from several different positions. You know, those guys in the cowboy movies make it look easy, but it's tough.  That gun gets heavy fast.

Use an unloaded gun that you've disabled.  [JWR Adds: Do you own a Glock? Then buy a training barrel. That is very inexpensive insurance for 100% safe practice. You can also buy a special dry fire training trigger from Southwest Shooting Authority. These eliminate the need to cycle the slide each time between dry fire presses. The same company also does some great grip reduction work.]

Pick a target with a safe backstop. Practice drawing from the holster, bringing the gun up, and lining up the sights. 

Just like the push-ups, you need to train your body.  You are working on coordination, yes, but you are also training your muscles for strength and endurance.  The goal is that you will be able to automatically bring your gun up (through kinesthetic memory) to aim at the target you are looking at.  Look.  Raise the gun.  Aimed. 
Practice this with open sights, and with a scope.  Yes, you can do this with a scope.  The magnification doesn't change how you hold the gun, it just changes how far you can see when you hold the gun.

My dad can bring it up and have it aimed exactly.  I can't, yet, but if I practice enough, just like with the push-ups, I can.
Plus, just from the little practice I've done, I know it works your deltoids (shoulder.  Ladies!  You want this) and pectorals (chest.  Men!  This is for you) and that one along the side of your ribs that I can never remember the name of (everyone wants to work that muscle). 
BTW - look at your target, not your gun.  Move the gun so that the sights line up with the target without shifting your gaze.  You need to be able to trust your aim, and aim quickly.  That 6-point buck isn't gonna wait all day.  Neither are the zombies.  Just saying.

3) Build On It

I started with 3 push-ups.  I did some crunches and jump roping too, but push-ups were my weakness, so that's what I focused on.  On Day One I did three standard push-ups.  Then I collapsed on the floor for a while, and then I did a couple one-knee push-ups,  a few both-knee push-ups.
Now, Day Forty-Two, I can do 30 standard push-ups consecutively!  That means no breaks.

Add a little more each week or so, and you can reach your goal too.
A bit of advice about building up: your body doesn't understand math.  This is pretty cool, actually.
You know those light bulbs that are 50, 100, and 150 watts?  When you go from low-level to middle, it seems like a quite perceptible difference, but when you go from middle to high, it's like "Meh, so what?"  Ever wonder why that is? This is why:  Your body sees 50 watts.  Okay.  So far so good.  Then, you see 100 watts and that is twice as much! Then 150 watts is only half-again as much, which seems marginal.
When you up your reps (repetitions) you need to factor this in.  Going from 4 push-ups to 5 push-ups is going to seem the same, to your body, as going from 20 push-ups to 25 push-ups.  Both times you are increasing by the same percentage.  Your brain knows that 1 more push-up is much different from 5 more push-ups, but you muscles don't!  Remember that.

Once you decide that your workout is easy enough to amp it up a little (when you start to feel bored while counting your reps) take the time to do a little math.  Pick a percentage that feels safe (like 10%) and figure out how many reps that is.  The next time you are working out, add that many. Re-do your math calculation each time you increase your reps.  That way you can trick your body into doing more for you.

Oh, and if push-ups are too boring, then stand up between each one.  This is what Uncle Sam does to train Navy Seals. It works, too.  Stand up nice and tall, then get down on the ground.  Flat on the ground.  Then get up, and stand up nice and tall.  I wanna hear your back crack.

4) Find Yourself Some Awesome Music

Because, believe me, if you listen to fun stuff when you work out, you feel happier, and less bored.  The optimum music choice is between 100 and 150 beats per minute.  "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees is 100 beats.  It is also the theme song for CPR so it should definitely be on your workout tunes list.

5) Don't Let Go

I'll admit it, sometimes I just don't want to work out.  I figure, I can do 30 push-ups, so I deserve a break, right?  Wrong.  If I let myself skip a day, or two days, or maybe, you know, like, just a week... next thing you know I'll be back down to three push-ups.  It's tempting to slack off, but you have to be tough on yourself.  Someday this work is gonna pay off.  Trust me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

First, my credentials, such as they are:  I have an AS in Farm Management which included Animal Anatomy & Physiology; a BS in Business Management; an MS in Human Resource Management which included considerable work with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In addition to these I spent nearly fifty years as an American Red Cross Instructor.  Some of you might remember back in the dark ages of First Aid, there was a job of ‘Red Cross - Highway First Aid Unit’.  For those areas of our Nation that did not yet have ambulance coverage.  Well, I constituted a Red Cross Highway First Aid Unit.  In addition, I was disabled during a Coast Guard Rescue in 1977.  At first it was but a small disability, only 30%, however, by 1997 it had advanced to 100%.  The doctors prognosis for me in 1977 was, four years to 100%.  I rather strenuously disagreed with them.

How did I prove them wrong?  I refused to just sit down and surrender.  I exercised in every way I could.  I pressed my limits.  Now there are a lot of jocks out there that will scoff at my rather puny efforts, compared to their exercise routines.  I can only stand back and admire their dedication, and their abilities.

My disability is to the nerve bundle feeding down the ventral side of my right thigh.  It effectively prevents me from most strenuous work with my right leg.  I’m not whining, just stating facts.
So, what did I do?  In the beginning I still did what amounted to modified, full exercise routines.  I swam, bowled, played racket ball, and rode many many miles on a bicycle.  The government helped out by providing me with as much pain medications as I wanted.  More than I wanted.  My doctors and a progression of two wives have chimed together often, and loudly that I should partake of more medications.  I still resist.

I am fortunate to have a doctor who believes me and my ‘hidden’ disability.  No missing or deformed limbs nor a gait that could, or could not be that if a disabled leg.
In about 1996 he recommended that I partake of a Pain Management Group that was forming at our clinic.  My initial thought was, “Right, I want to sit around and listen to other vets complain about their pains.”  Boy was I wrong.  Our group leader had an in-depth background in pain management, and was continuously updating Her knowledge which she passed along to us, her ‘group’.  I will not attempt to do justice to the training she provided us with.  I can never do it justice.  I will stick to what she taught me, and what the group taught me.

First we learned about pain cycles.  I knew I had varying levels of pain throughout a month, but I have never equated this to an identifiable cycle.  Now I can.  Next we covered ‘hidden disabilities’.  Those that Joe Public never see’s.  When the average stranger or casual acquaintance asks that old standard question of, ‘How are you doing today?”  They don’t want to really hear how you are doing.  They can’t handle the knowledge anyway since they cannot identify your ‘problems’ with anything in their backgrounds.  If you proceed to tell them how you are actually feeling, they will get that thousand mile stare and end with something like a head shake and a ‘Oh, that’s too bad.’  In the future they will attempt to avoid you ever telling them again by just not asking the question, or avoiding you totally.  For those true friends who ask, I often have to point out, ‘You don’t see me on the days I cannot get out of bed.’  The implication being, they only see my ‘good’ days, and try to average my condition based on only these ‘good’ days.

1996 was a pivotal year for me.  First, I had to give up my Professorship at the University of Nevada, Reno. Next, I had to accept the stigmatizing title of ‘Unreliable Worker” that was tagged into my file.  This caused me to go out, find a job, and work up to sixty hours a week at it just to show them I could still be ‘of value’.  For a short while I worked this job with a truly understanding boss.  There were several tasks at this workplace that I could perform.  My boss knew that.  As I would walk in the door I would be greeted by,”Good morning X.  Is this an ‘up’ day or a ‘down’ da?.”  It didn’t matter which I told her, she would exclaim, “Great!  I need you over in XYZ today.”  She made it sound to me, and anyone else within hearing that I was doing her a great favor by working ‘that’ department that day.  Too bad it was a short time job as the company made one of those famous ‘moves’ to another land!

But that was okay.  Ninety days on that job just about killed me.  It was also the low spot for me psychologically for me.  I considered suicide.  This is when I was placed in the pain management class. I began to turn my life around.  I learned what I could do, what I could not do, and what I should do, and what I should not do.  It was a revelation.

Now I exercise as I can.  I do not care about keeping up with the Jones of the world.  I do this for ME.  Sounds selfish?  You bet.  On a ‘normal day’ I will get up and take my morning meds.  I assess myself.  If I think I can do manual work, I head out to the greenhouse, or the shop building and tackle one of many ongoing projects.  Which one?  That depends totally on how I feel.  If I can lift things, I move materials, maybe pot some plants, or stack a little bit of firewood.  If it’s a marginal day, maybe weed plants.  I just sit on the 2x6 ledge that tops the 24 inch deep vegetable beds in the greenhouse that I built myself [both the greenhouse and the raised beds.  It only took me nearly three years.  The greenhouse folks tease me that it takes most folks three days to assemble the greenhouse and a couple of weeks to make the beds.  I know they are joking as we have been friends a long time.  They never have to ask me how I’m doing.  If I can walk in their shop, they know I’m having a good day.].

How long can I work outside?  It varies with the day.  The trick is to work to the limits of your ability, and then stop.  It’s the stopping point that’s hard to learn.  Sometimes I can work a light job for nearly an hour.  Sometimes a more strenuous task for a few minutes.  I then must make myself stop.  Sit down, and do a non-strain task until my body is ready to be worked some more.  How long?  That’s the other hard part, first to learn, then to apply.  The only reason I ‘got it’ was the pain management group. 

If, instead, when I eat breakfast, I assess that outside work is out, then I look for an inside task.  My wife and I have accumulated a large library.  We are currently cataloging them.  I can sit with the computer on my lap, in my recliner with my feet raised [best ‘bad day’ position for me] and type.

Some days I can work an ‘up’ job for only twenty minutes, then need a ‘down’ task for a bit.  A bit is sometimes the better part of the day.  So be it.  But, I’m up and moving just as soon as my body will allow.

I need to be careful here as I do not want you to think I avoid all pain medications.  This is unfortunately, not the case.  There are many days that turn out ‘blank’ in that I am not a reliable person.  These are the days, if you were to call me, my wife would answer the phone. After finding out you are calling for me, you may get a response something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, but X. cannot come to the phone today.  May I help you?”  She’s very good at this.  She was my care-giver for fifteen years before we married nine years ago today.

So how do I tie this into prepping?  Our group stress’s physical training and preparedness is based upon, ‘Each to their own abilities’.  The group knows I ‘exercise’ to my limits every single day.  The group, and I, know it is a losing battle, but one I will continue to fight until the real end.  Without all the support of true friends, the pain management group, and my background in education, I would probably just sit down and wait to die.  It’s going to happen anyway, so why fight it, right?  Not me.  I expect my disability will contribute to my end.  But I’ll keep that ‘end’ as far away, as long as I can.  Exercising to my limits every single day is the best that I can do. And I’ll do my best, just as long as I can.

Where do I get off telling someone who is disabled to get up and hit it?  Mainly it’s the thirty years of OJT, the help and support of true friends, the wonderful pain management group and our group leader, and in my case, the desire to see just as many sunrises as I can, before my sun finally sets.  My group knows I cannot do everything.  They also know I will carry just as much of the load as I can.   No free-loading here.  My military days were spent in the US Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus– Always Ready.  To this day I remain just as Semper Paratus as I can be, every single day.

So, get off your dead center, stop listening to all those who tell you that you can’t, and even worse, those people, who by just ignoring you, try to make you feel useless or insignificant, and start living life to its fullest for you, not them.  You can do it.  I did, and still do.


CentOre is a loosely connected group of people centered in the Oregon High Desert interested in improving our existing skills, and learning new skills that will enhance our odds when it hits.

JWR Adds: Any readers that are dependent on pain medication should do their best to gradually get off them, as soon as possible, since supplies of all medications will be uncertain in a disaster. I recommend that you cultivate Valerian Officinalis in your garden. Valerian Root is a natural muscle relaxant and sleep aid that is not habit forming. Be self-sufficient in as many aspects of your life as possible. A diverse herb garden is part of this.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When a SHTF moment happens, preparedness is everything. But it is more than just having a bugout bag and a meeting place for your family. It means being ready, economically, intellectually, and physically.
I’m going to talk about three specific goals, why they are so important, and the techniques you can use to get yourself in the best position possible.
Don’t wait to progress from one to the other – instead, look at each of the three goals and pick an idea from each to focus on, then continue to add and build as you go.

Goal #1 - Economic Readiness
Zero Debt - If you are currently in a position of zero debt, and I include mortgage, car payments, credit cards and student loans in this, congratulations. Now…stay that way! As for the rest of us…get out of debt and avoid all debt if you don’t have any yet.
Why is this so important? Put simply, debt is slavery. Stop worrying about your credit score or whether you have one of those nice new flat screen televisions. Keep in mind that every commercial is a siren call to stay a slave and be in debt. It is a pervasive message, one that urges you to continue to swim upstream and be beholden to the credit card and mortgage companies. They want you to believe that your credit card score will be terrible if you aren’t out there running up the numbers.
Living within your means is excellent training for the complete financial collapse that is almost assuredly coming. It isn’t the time to party until the 11th hour, but to teach you what reality, with all of its bristly parts, is really like.
Accomplishing zero debt takes time – especially if you are an owner of a house with a mortgage or cars in the driveway with a few payments to go. Consider either doubling up on payments and forgoing the annual vacation or if you have a decent amount of equity in the house, selling it and purchasing a smaller, more affordable house that has a zero or minimal mortgage. Then pay it off.
If you are currently looking at buying a car or a house, make it a priority to consider whether it fits your needs. Does the car get excellent gas mileage? Could it be converted to biodiesel? Will it carry all the members of your family and have room for the belongings you will need if you have to Get Out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.)? What can you afford to pay double payments on (thereby reducing your term of slavery by half)?
Don’t depend exclusively on debit cards, have some cash on hand at all times - A credit or debit card in your hand will not buy you groceries when the store is out of power and full of desperate people. Have at least a small amount of cash on your person at all times. Invest in a money belt or other hidden contraption and keep some cash in your vehicle and in a safe location in your home.
A source for good money belts and travel wallets can be found here.
I recommend this article on places to hide cash in your house.
And this web-based vendor carries a variety of hidden safes.
Silver and Gold - Consider storing some ‘junk silver’ coins in a safe place in your home. If the dollar continues to devalue, having a precious metal on hand to barter with may make the difference between being able to eat or not, and having the fuel to Get Out of Dodge.

Goal #2 – Intellectual Readiness
Learn something new every day - I’m not just talking self-sufficiency here. Learn a different language, for example. The United States, the country that I and a vast majority of SurvivalBlog’s readers live in, is a melting pot of diverse cultures. And while English is the primary language, having the ability to converse in another language gives you an advantage. It shows your flexibility and willingness to learn from others. If you learn Spanish, Italian or French, they all share common Latin roots – enabling you to communicate in a limited fashion with speakers of other Latin-based languages. 

Learn survival skills, take a CPR class, learn to cook foods from scratch. (This includes practice replicating mixes such as Bisquick, muffin mixes, bread mixes and more).

Learn to garden, farm animal husbandry, auto maintenance and more. Don’t just write it off as ‘not your specialty’ – instead, become a generalist. Science fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Play games   - All sorts, but mentally challenging ones are best. Rev up your brain. Engage in challenging games of strategy by playing chess or other mentally stimulating games. Do crosswords or Suduku and word scrambles. The key here is to challenge your brain – to make it struggle a bit, so that it continues to grow.

Engage in ‘what if’ scenarios – What if there is no way to rendezvous back home with your family? Where do you go? What if you are hurt, or they are hurt, are you prepared? What can you do to prepare?
If you aren’t asking yourself these questions and more; if you aren’t thinking of ‘what if’ scenarios, then you are not prepared. Your bugout bag might be sitting at home, twenty miles away and all your plans shot to dust.

Organize yourself – Know where everything is and have a place for everything. You should know exactly how much food you have in your pantry, how much cash (or gold or silver) you have on hand, and where everything you need to survive a SHTF situation. This means keeping the house tidy, evaluating and re-evaluating the need to keep items and where to store them. Do you have a basement jumble of ‘stuff’ that you haven’t touched in years? It is now time to go through it.

Can’t park your car in the garage due to the pile of belongings inside it? Figure out what needs to go and what needs to stay and find appropriate storage solutions.
Streamline your life and possessions as much as possible.

Increase personal productivity – Increase the number of things you do each day. Make it into a challenge to see how much you can get done (and how few steps you can take to do it) on a daily basis. You can start by making a list of goals…and then get started accomplishing them.

All of these steps will help you become ‘mentally fit’. Someone who is used to working out their brain, every day, will be better prepared for the twists and turns of an unknown future. They will also be better able to make a snap decision that may very well save their lives and the lives of those that they love.

Goal #3 – Physical Readiness
Exercise daily – Whether it is walking, running, working out with weights, yoga or Pilates. Ask yourself this – how far can you walk before getting tired? How far can you ride a bicycle before reaching teh point of exhaustion?
You don’t have to be in ‘run a marathon’ physical shape. What you should do is build your endurance each day, challenging yourself to go that extra five minutes, that extra mile, or that extra five pounds of weights.
Think about creating more flexibility as well. Yoga, Pilates, or just simple stretching activities are good for this. Coax yourself off of the couch and onto a treadmill – or better yet, a walk outside. Take in the fresh air, meet your neighbors, and scope out your surroundings near and far.

Learn a martial art – Increase your chances in surviving a personal assault by taking some kind of self-defense class (even consider fencing – it is mentally challenging and requires quick movement, flexibility and spatial awareness). It will help get you into shape, teach you good body awareness, and help if you are ever in a situation where you need to defend yourself against an attacker. This makes good common sense, with or without a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation.

Learn Gun Safety - Learn how to handle a gun. I was quite young when my father taught me gun safety, around nine or ten. At fifteen, I was the only other female and the youngest of our group when I attended a combat firearms course taught by Massad Ayoob in the mid-1980s. A special note to any women who may be reading this, do not depend on someone else for this –learn how to operate and clean a handgun. Your life may depend upon it.

Stockpile Medications - Maintain your health and stockpile any needed medications. Ask your medical provider if they will issue you a second prescription that you can fill at cost. Insurance might only cover one, but a good doctor will issue two if you request it. For those with chronic conditions (high blood pressure, Type I diabetes, and any other medication-dependent conditions) it is imperative you stockpile these medications. Most insurance companies will only pay for 30 day supplies, keeping you dependent on their medical system. That system is all well and good, until it breaks down in a socioeconomic collapse, or even a basic natural disaster. Medical records could be lost, and your store of medications could quickly run out. Stockpile what you can – and if possible, keep additional prescriptions on hand to be filled at a moment’s notice if things start to go bad.

The Side Benefits
All of these goals will prepare you for TEOTWAWKI or a SHTF situation, and give you that added level of preparedness that may well make the difference between living and dying. However, they are also good common sense.

Being economically prepared also means that you are no longer a slave to debt. Instead you are being financially savvy, and that is a huge step up from the neighbor who only buys Abercrombie & Fitch, or can’t live without getting a new car lease every three years. Your life in the here and now may be simpler, but it will be far better in the long run.

When we keep ourselves mentally challenged, we are encouraging our brains to work out hard each day. There has been a great deal of research into the possibilities that keeping our minds mentally fit is just as important as keeping our bodies physically fit – and could even stave off the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

And of course, when we keep ourselves at a healthy weight, exercise and prepare our bodies, we are more flexible in combat situations or able to flee while our neighbors huff and puff along behind us. Having the presence of mind to ensure our health through necessary medications will give us the upper hand when faced with others who have chained themselves to a system that is ripe for failure.

In Summary
I hope that you also now see that ‘being prepared’ is more than just a bugout bag near your front door. It is a lifestyle, it is a frame of mind, and it is also completely achievable. Better yet, it will keep you alive…come what may.

Friday, February 24, 2012

As an avid reader of SurvivalBlog, I have read a countless number of articles on communications, food storage, tactics, weaponry, and a long list of almost every topic involving survival during a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation.  One major area that directly effects all of the aforementioned topics is physical fitness.  As a certified Health and Physical educator that is working on receiving a Certified Personal Trainer certification I take physical activity very seriously. One term that is used frequently in my field is GPP or General Physical Preparedness. GPP is the base level of fitness that a person must have before they begin a training regiment. As the infamous power lifter Louie Simmons states, “You have to be in shape to train, not train to get in shape.” Relating this to a survival situation, a person can be mentally and emotionally prepared for any situation that comes their way-economic disaster, nuclear fallout, EMP, etc.- but if you are not physically prepared to meet the demands of living in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation you are doomed to fail or at the minimum will have an extremely arduous physical adaptation period. One thing that many people take for granted is the belief that you will just fall into a routine that will help you adapt quickly and efficiently to different activities that must be completed on a day-to-day basis. Though there is some truth to this, the adaptation will not be pleasant by any means and in some situations will be painful. Walking long distances with a heavy load is a perfect example. Your body will be sore from your pinky toe all the way up to your neck. I know from experience what the effects of a lack of GPP can get you. When I was younger I spent a summer working in a fishing camp in the Alaskan wilderness. One week I was carrying 4 foot sections of logs a half a mile back to our base camp through the undergrowth the next week I was digging six foot deep latrine holes, the week after that I was carrying 15 gallon gas cans 100 feet to fill our boats up, and the list goes on for the 10 weeks I was there. Not only did it take me several days to adapt to the climate, my body was forced to go through physical adaptations week after week which are daunting to say the least. Overall, general physical preparedness is something that people need to seriously consider when preparing for any situation.

As previously discussed in several different articles, everyday life will change drastically after an event. To name a few physical activities that will become commonplace:

  • Chopping firewood
  • Carrying firewood varying distances
  • Carrying water (5 gallon buckets weigh 40 lbs.)
  • Carrying food pails of varying weights
  • Lifting 50 or 80 pound bags of foodstuffs or livestock feed
  • Shoveling materials into sandbags
  • Moving sandbags for defensive positions (typically 25 lbs. or more)
  • Digging caches
  • Driving stakes for fortified positions or fence posts
  • Mending fences
  • Moving car batteries for charging electronics
  • Bug-out situations carrying different weights and hiking varying distances over various terrain

The list is never ending. Each person’s situation will be different. If you have a dedicated retreat your physical responsibilities may also require moving hay bails for feeding livestock. If you are in a suburban area you may need to push cars off the road to travel to bug-out location or in come instances push them into place to help set-up a defensive position. In an urban area your physical responsibilities will be even more drastically different then the rural and suburban environment preppers. Also, as the event that has occurred pushes into a longer time period such as in Mr. Rawles’ book Patriots and the financial collapse, physical responsibilities will be even more drastic for everybody no matter where you live.

Many people are prepared to stockpile food, buy weapons and ammunition, and educate themselves on a range of survival skills that will help them in any scenario imaginable. Though, people will not take time out of their schedules to physically prepare themselves to use those stockpiles, weapons, and information  they spent countless hours studying, practicing and preparing. Personally, I would not want to be the person that is as welled armed as Fort Knox, is as prepared medically as Mount Sinai hospital, has enough food to feed 100 people but can’t manage to walk miles in a bug-out situation to get to my retreat or abandon my retreat if it ever came to that.

I am frequently asked by friends how to lose weight and get into shape. I tell people that they must start slow (especially if having not done any physical activity for more then several months.) I would recommend the same thing for preppers who want to get into shape. What I would prescribe requires no special equipment, only items that would be found in any preppers already created stockpile. Developing a proper level of physical preparedness does not require any high-tech equipment or “one machine fits all” gimmick that are being marketed today.

One simple place to start is going for long walks. Not only does the walking help prepare your legs for an environment that does not have any other means of transportation but it will also help you slim down (in conjunction with eating healthier which is key.) Something I recommend is filling up your CamelBak and walk with it. A three liter (100 ounce) CamelBak weighs about 6.5 pounds. The additional 6.5 pounds will come as a surprise to those who are not used to carrying any extra weight on a day to day basis. This is also a great precursor to carrying heavier weights on hikes. You can add more and more weight as your body adapts.
The next place to start is doing various calisthenics. Pushups, pullups, sit-ups, doing bodyweight squats (squatting with not additional weight,) lunges, walking lunges, and a countless number of other exercises that help the body get into shape.

  • If you are unable to do 20 pushups in a normal fashion on the ground begin by doing incline pushups against a wall or table depending on your physical ability.
  • For pullups, you can begin by doing negatives: jumping up so your chin is above the bar and slowly lowering yourself down fighting your bodyweight. Eventually your body will get stronger allowing you to do pullups. Another useful exercise is lying underneath a sturdy table, grabbing the edge and pulling your chest to the table edge while your feet remain on the ground. These are called bodyweight rows, which strengthen your back and help with various pulling motions.
  • When performing bodyweight squats, make sure you squat down to parallel. An easy way to understand when your body reaches parallel is using a bucket, table or chair that allows you to sit down with your legs at 90 degree angle when sitting. If you sit down then stand back up you are performing a proper squat. Work your way into not using the object after you become strong enough and can physically reach the parallel level of the squat.
  • Lunges and sit-ups are fairly well known and are tried and true methods of developing strength.

There is a much longer list of calisthenics/bodyweight movements that can be performed that can be researched by those interested in developing strength and endurance.
The next method of getting into shape involves two empty five gallon buckets. Fill the buckets almost up to the brim with water, squat down and pick them up, then walk various distances with them. That will be approximately 80 pounds of weight being carried. The task of carrying water or other objects in buckets (especially stored food) will become commonplace after the SHTF.

You can also pick up different objects and carry them. Logs, rocks, sandbags, loads of firewood, and anything else that you will use at your retreat or other location. Not only does this help develop your overall strength and endurance, it also prepares you for the tasks that you will be performing in the future. Also, a wheelbarrow filled with sand, dirt, rocks, firewood, etc. can be pushed different distances.
Finally, one of the most physically demanding and overall physically active things that someone can do is chop firewood. One of the newest crazes to hit the world of training is sledgehammer training. People are buying sledgehammers and old tires and striking the tire over and over again to develop physical strength and endurance. Why waste your time striking a tire with a sledgehammer when you can chop firewood that you will use to cook, and heat your home.

Although I did not list any activities that are “scientifically advanced” or mind boggling to those who think physical activity is simply moving your preps from you car to your storage area every few weeks, they are effective and will help you when the SHTF. I encourage everyone to challenge their bodies not just their minds when preparing for any situation.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We live in an obese society driven by processed fast food and have drinking liters of soda a day and barely any water if at all. I have seen hundreds of people “preparing” for some sort of catastrophic event that can barely walk and some cannot even see the bottom of their shoes they are so obese. I am not trying to be harsh because I am by no means perfect I am just trying to point out something I see wrong with the prepping community today. We also rely on certain stimulants to get us through the day whether it is coffee, soda or any other form of caffeine. If something bad is to happen that would drive us from our normal lifestyle we need to not be so reliant on those things to get us through the day.

Those preparing for a disaster whether it is man-made or a natural disaster should find time somewhere in their schedule to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. As a prepper I find myself thinking when I look at my Get out of Dodge (G.O.O.D.) bag wondering how far I could really get with it if there was an EMP or some other disaster that left me and my loved ones walking. It weighs around thirty pounds and I am in decent shape (trying to get in better) but, I honestly do not know how far I could get with it. That is why the group of people I am preparing with we have started exercising with are bags on anytime we can. Granted it would come off a little strange being at the gym with an ALICE pack on however, everyone should practice it once in a while to get a feel for it and know what they would be carrying. Below I will lest the exercises that everyone in my group has to be able to maintain and we practice once a month to be sure we are still in shape and we can keep each other in check. (Keep in mind this without gear.)

  • Dynamic warm ups and stretching
  • A mile jog in under nine minutes (I know this is not fast but not everyone in our group is young we just want everyone to be in decent cardiovascular shape.)
  • Fireman carry’s with a partner
  • Pushups: 50
  • Sit ups: 50
  • Finally squats with a partner

This is just a basic workout to make sure everyone in the group is doing their part and we can work as a team. Everyone in the group is required to stay physically fit because it is not fair for some people to be busting their tails to stay in decent shape then have one out of shape person slowing the team down and possibly putting them in danger. Do not misunderstand me we are a team and we will always work to encourage each other when we are working out and strive to better ourselves. Every person in preparation community needs to take every measure to be in great (not good) physical shape in case there is ever a SHTF situation. If there is such a disaster there will not be a doctor or anyone to help you with your heart problems or give you the blood pressure medicine you need. Some people astound me because they are willing to put away thousands of dollars in supplies but, they are not willing to take the time to secure their lively hood and chance of survival by staying in shape. Another way to prepare physical for this type of situation is to do they type of labor you see yourself doing in whatever scenario you foresee. Gardening, working on your house or various chores could also provide the muscle memory your body may need.

I am not an expert in kinesiology or exercise and no one in my group is and we do not claim to have the perfect workout routine but we are at least trying to hold each other accountable in the actions we take. Since we only meet once a month to exercise we make sure at our preparedness meetings that the other members are preparing in all areas, especially fitness. If you are out of shape and cannot do everything on my list try and do some research on what you can do there are hundreds of routines on the internet and even more for beginners.  No one can be able to do all these things in a day but everyone preparing for a disaster should consider staying healthy another step on the road to preparedness.

The word addiction in the title of this article pertains to many things. I will do my best to cover everything that encompasses the word “addiction” in the second part of this article. Our world is driven by convenience we want things and we want it as fast it will come no matter how horrible it could possibly be for us. I can remember always waking up to the smell of coffee at my parents’ house and I wonder how people would deal with not having their comfort food or drink in a survival situation.  The society we live in has people addicted to things all around us cigarettes, caffeine, video games, candy, fast food, and the list goes on and on. We prepare food, water, shelter but how do we prepare for our lives to be stripped of the things we have become so accustomed to having handed to us.

I am writing this article to encourage people to make a change to their lives and that will help the keep their cool in a SHTF scenario. I have recently given up soda because I know that it may someday no longer be available to me. If that day comes I do not want my caffeine withdraws to affect my judgment or those around me. I know that caffeine is an endergonic aid and can help some focus however it is a stimulant. I have also tried to stop eating out except for on weekends and have stopped eating fast food completely. We live in a fast paced world but I encourage others to really take a step back and look at your diet and how it will affect you if someday there are no doctors to help you.

Cigarettes and alcohol addiction are the scariest addiction to me when thinking of a survival scenario. There are many adults who have beer with their dinner. There is nothing wrong with that and it by no means is wrong but how will that affect them if they cannot have a beer every night if there is an economic collapse? Many people have seen the way addicts act and what they are willing to do to get what they are after no matter what it is or who it effects. When my Aunt quit smoking it changed her personality for a while, she seemed like a completely different person. The thing that bothers me the most is she wanted to quit so how would it affect someone who didn’t?
If we really want to prepare ourselves for a disaster we need to start cutting the things out of our lives that we know would affect us the most in the heat of the moment. I hope that every prepper would do their best to start cutting out certain things out of their life. Whether it is unhealthy eating choices or smoking we need to make a healthy life choice. If we really want to prepare we need to do ourselves a favor and start dealing with things that could cause us problems in the long run. As an individual you know what you need to change and if you need help doing it I recommend finding a group within your community or even someone in your preparedness community.
In my short time of preparation I have come across many different types of people. We should all strive to make better life choices and cut out things in are life that will drag us down. As a person you can only do so much to prepare for a disaster mentally but if we all do ourselves the favor of shedding a little baggage and changing our lifestyles we would be that much more prepared for something to happen. I suggest that everyone give something up and do it step by step possibly wean yourself off of whatever you think you are “addicted” to or could not live without in a collapse of society.


We live our lives day by day in hopes that nothing bad ever happens to us yet we prepare for it. We put away food, water, ammo, and supplies keeping our fingers crossed that nothing ever happens but, if something did in the future and we made lifestyle changes now it would better prepare us for anything. Instead of drinking coffee in the morning I now try and exercise and it has completely had the same effect as coffee for me. I feel alive and ready to go in the morning and I would suggest it to anyone that feels tired in the morning. All I hope for with this article is that anyone who is preparing makes a lifestyle change, whether it be to exercise or give something up I know that it would benefit you and your family in the future. Also freeing yourself from the financial burden of an addiction could be very beneficial and aid you in preparing.

Authors Note:
About me, I am a college student in his senior year engaged to a beautiful woman who “preps” with me and is the one who encourage me to do this. I go to school full time and work full time. I hope everyone enjoys this paper as I have enjoyed many written by JWR and other amazing people on

Friday, November 4, 2011

My family is the most important thing in my life. I sometimes ask myself, what will I do if there is some event that will leave me stranded away from home? Maybe the event is minimal and my vehicle works, I just drive home. What if it is something more serious like an EMP disables my vehicle and I have to walk home, would I be able to make it home to take care of my family. This is why I have a Get Home Bag (GHB) and I try to keep myself physically fit. My main concern is the gear, the route selection home and more importantly the physical fitness that would get me home in one piece with energy to spare.


The things that are always on me when I am at work are a good pocket knife, a quality multitool, flashlight, money and a good pair of boots. What I have in the vehicle that I always drive to work is my get home bag, 1 gallon of distilled water changed out monthly, a blanket and a good pair of running/ walking shoes.  The gallon of water goes in my canteens; I drink the rest to get me hydrated before the journey. The running/walking shoes and the blanket go into the GHB in case I need to change shoes as a result of hot spots on my feet and the blanket is to keep me warm. My get home bag is a backpack that blends in well with a population that may be migrating home, not one that is camouflaged or tactical looking. I want to blend in with the sheeple so that an opportunistic predator will not give me a second look but one that is subdued so that if I need to hide someplace dark to avoid people, I will not stick out. The clothes that I wear at work are ones that are a dark color, durable and that you can work in without them causing too much discomfort. The gear I carry is in my GHB is very basic, the idea is to get home as quickly and down and dirty as possible, without too much weight but that still will still keep me alive if I have to hole up for a few hours up to a day.

  • 1 dark earth tone or camouflage-pattern 8x10 tarp
  • 75’ roll of cordage(the inexpensive kind that you can get for less than $5),
  •  Hank of 550 paracord (≈25’)
  •  Shemagh,
  • Butane lighter(goes in pocket when I start moving)
  •  Magnesium fire starter,
  • Rubbing alcohol,
  • Penny stove,
  •  Small roll of duct tape,
  •  1 qt military canteen with cup, stove support and cover,
  •  Military grade chemical lightsticks (2),
  • Small first aid kit in a 1qt Ziploc type bag
  • Two 1gal Ziploc type bags and a 55gal trashcan liner,
  • Fire resistant aviator gloves,
  • 2% tincture of iodine,
  • A sack that used to hold drums of linked 5.56 ammo for the M249 SAW that will conveniently hold a 1 qt canteen with cover
  • 2qt canteen with cover and carrying strap
  •  Some granola bars, peanut butter and crackers packets, cliff bars or power bars
  •  Map of the area
  • Some seasonally appropriate clothing( Jacket, gloves, hat, extra pair of socks, etc)

I know that some of these items are tactical or military based but those items stay in the bag until needed and what can I say, you go with what you know and the military items are all high quality, durable items that are inexpensive and that you can get nearly anywhere. All of this including water weighs approx 15 lbs. This is a good weight because I know for a fact that depending on where I work I may have to travel between 15 and 25 miles to get home. For me that could take as little as 4 hours at an uninterrupted pace to days if I have to hole up or take the long way around to avoid trouble. That is why gear selection is so important but so is physical fitness.  You can have all the best gear in the world but if you cannot carry it two miles then it is doing you no good in getting you home. This is not a 72 hour BOB, this is an ultra light no nonsense pack that is to get you home in one piece. The items that I pack into the bag are intended to be a onetime use and inexpensive, (purchased at stores like Harbor Freight with coupons clipped from magazines or newspapers) so that if I lose them or have to ditch en route, it would not be a big loss. The other thing to consider when you are thinking about spending a lot of money on the kit that if you are in a foot race with someone who wants to hurt you, if you drop your gear as a diversion you might make a clean get away.  If it is inexpensive, you can laugh at how mad they will be when they find out that they only got a canteen of water and a pack of crackers. It is important to remember to keep your most valuable items on you or in your pockets.

Preparing to get home starts days, weeks or even years ahead of time. This comes in planning the route or routes home. How the roads are laid out?, do you anticipate many people on the roads?, where are there creeks or rivers in case you need to refill your water supply?, are the creeks or rivers crossable if bridges are out or blocked?, what are my alternates if any of your roads are blocked?, can you go cross country if needs be?, will I need to pass through bad neighborhoods?, what are some hole up areas if I do need to hunker down? What are some resources that I can utilize at work? Am I physically able to make the trip and will I be able to fight or think clearly when I get to my destination?


There are four components of physical fitness with relation to getting home in a SHTF scenario. Endurance, speed, agility and strength. All of these can be accomplished with family in one way or another. This helps to build strong bonds and gives everyone an idea of the physical capabilities of the others in the family. Now the legal disclaimer: Your should not start an exercise program without consulting a doctor and you should discontinue if you feel faint or short of breath. You should also start an exercise regimen slow and gradually build up to where you want to be. If you try and do too much you increase the possibility of injury and then you are no good to anyone WTSHTF.

ENDURANCE. Being able to travel long distances over varying terrain with or without gear and with the possibility of little to no water or food. This is one of the things that will occupy the most training time because it is not something that you can build up twenty minutes a day, three days a week. This requires you to dedicate some real time, hours sometimes. One good way to incorporate a long walk or run a week is to involve your kids. Get them on a bike and let them ride while you walk. I recommend when you get to a decent fitness level that you start bearing weight and workout with more than you would carry in your get home bag. If your get home bag weights 15 lbs, carry 20-25 lbs, because if you can carry 20-25 lbs over long distances, you can carry 15 lbs over the same distance with less effort. If you intend to carry a sidearm while getting home but you may not want to draw attention to yourself while training, take a 2.5 lb weight plate and run your belt through the center home to simulate the weight of a sidearm. You can also take another plate and put it on the opposite side of the simulated sidearm to simulate magazines. Walk for time or distance, if you have an hour to spend, see how far you can go. If you only want to go 2 miles, see how fast you can do it. Build up until you get to a point where you can walk 75-80% of the distance hat you would walk if you have to walk home. If you require a 2 day walk to get home, cut the distance from work to home in half and use that as your goal.

. Being able to get to top running speed quickly when the need arises. This is a lot more fun to work on with your kids. Try having foot races with them; give them a head start if you are faster or start even if they are faster than you. It can also be incorporated into your endurance training, in the middle of your long runs or walks, pick a point in the distance and break into a dead run until you get to that point then resume your walking. It simulates getting away from a human predator, family dog or angry bull if you decide to cross the wrong pasture. Speed training is one of the most taxing forms of exercise; it requires a lot of energy and makes you work with more intensity. The good thing about this is that it gets easier as you build up your lactate threshold. Lactate threshold is that limit where your bodies can no longer remove the lactic acid as fast as it is producing it. This is the stiffness you feel in your legs when you are doing wind sprints. Speed training is an important factor in getting home because you may have to evade a human predator while on your journey. The quicker you can get to full speed and the longer you can sustain it, the better your chances of getting away. This type of exercise should be done no more that 2-3 days a week because of the toll it takes on the body.

. It is being able to start, stop, turn and jump quickly. This is an important aspect of getting home because you may have to dodge a human predator, jump over a wall or log and move in and out of tree lines or around obstacles. The way to incorporate this fitness aspect with your family is play tag or a similar game with them. This is a great way to keep you and your kids quick and nimble. Other ways to get more agile is the exercises that you did in middle school gym class, suicides, run sideways, run backwards, box jumps or jumping rope. Agility training is also very hard on the body so you need to do this in moderation and like I said before, start off slow and build up.

. This is being able to lift or carry heavy objects possibly over long distances. This is the one thing love doing with my kids. I do pushups with the smaller ones on my back. Do squats with the kids on your shoulders or carrying them piggy back. Teach them to do a proper pushup. Core strength is very important and can be worked on in front of the television. Assume a modified pushup position but stay on your elbows and hold your body in a plank position. These can also be done on each side so your work your oblique’s. Another great place to go with your kids and get a workout is at the local park. Although these are usually designed for children, they can be used creatively to get some exercise. Monkey bars are great for pull-ups, varying types of pushups can be done on the apparatus, and reverse pushups can be done on a low bar; climb up and over rock climbing walls. Your kids will love doing this with you and you will have fun doing it. Once again start off slow. If you cannot do pull ups start off with negative pull ups, meaning, step on a box to get you to the high point of the pull up and lower yourself slowly. Also you can use a friend to hold your feet to assist you in doing regular pull ups. Over time you will be able to do pull ups without assistance. Another good way to gain strength is frontier skills. Cutting, splitting and stacking wood by hand will make you strong in a hurry. The feeling of strength or power you get when you can split an oak log with one shot cannot be beat. There is no gym out there that will get you in shape like digging post holes, splitting wood, and carrying odd shaped objects, or hoeing the ground by hand. These last few exercises are not just for getting home but being able to work for an extended period of time doing manual labor in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

The last thing to address is being able to think under pressure and when you are tired. When you finish a physical task how is your thinking? Is it clouded from the effort or can you put the physical exhaustion aside and think clearly? I have come up with ways to train yourself to think under pressure. The physiology of adrenaline pumping through your body and the after effects of exercise are similar. What I try to do when I have done something exhausting like exercise is to do something that requires a higher level of thought, and I do not mean philosophy. What I mean is after exercising do an easy crossword puzzle, field strip your weapons or do simple arithmetic. These activities will help train you to keep your thinking clear when you are tired, during a high pressure situation or when the fog of war sets in.

The question that you need to ask yourself when judging when you are physically fit enough to get home is, will I have the energy to fight when I get home? Will I be able to chase someone or a group of people away when you get home or if you get home and there are roving bands of looters in the area, will you be able to pull an all night guard duty after traveling from work a great distance? The crux of determining whether or not you are where you should be in your physical fitness quest, are you able to go to the limits of your mental strength and fitness for 24, 48 or 72 hours?

The last thing I want so mention about getting home is that there are going to be a lot of people on the road trying to get home, help those that you can, but if there are people that mean you harm and you cannot get away, then strike first and with violence of action.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave or forsake you." - Deuteronomy 31:6

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

After reading the recent MBR article by Zorro, it seems that all the amateurs still fuss over the 5.56/7.62 or 9mm/.45 debate. At our police agency here in the Southwest, we focus on increasing our trigger time via the SIRT laser training pistol, practicing fundamentals through live and dry fire, working through scenarios (lessons learned) and practicing "range fitness".

A great resource for range fitness is Rob Shaul speaks of high percentage shooting positions based upon the experiences of combat veterans, as well as developing the fitness needed to put the gun in the fight.  It seems that whenever I'm selected to attend firearms training courses it's at the worst possible time of year. The temperature for my shotgun course in February was 20 degrees with howling winds. I had to decide between wearing gloves that got stuck in the elevator of the weapon when doing slug manipulation or just letting them go numb. Now I will attend a Rifle course in August as the temperature is officially 110 degrees in the shade. Hydration, heat effect, and laying on the hot ground to zero or practice prone positions are all on the menu. In other words, when we find ourselves in need of deploying the main battle rifle (MBR), its usually at the worst time with factors like weather, visibility, and fatigue affecting our ability to utilize the weapon.  So before a person picks a side in the great ammo/rifle debate, can you run a half mile, do 20 burpees, assume a firing position with your main battle rifle (MBR), acquire targets, squeeze off accurate fire, "change your return address" (i.e. move off the line of attack to better cover), change magazines, and then put the gun back in the fight? I still can't and yet I train for it. I'm considered a reliable shot. I practice, watch videos, and seek out the help of others because I know my life depends upon it. 

My advice is to find a good rifle in a caliber that's readily available. What's a good rifle? (I can hear people leaning in as I write this), Any rifle from a reputable company (Remington, Colt, Winchester, etc) in a caliber you can find at a stocking sporting goods store (.223, .308, .30-06, .22 LR) at a price that you can live with.

Inevitably, you'll purchase other firearms in other calibers as you gain experience (trust me). Seek out competent instruction in your area and practice firearms safety religiously. Improve your level of physical fitness as you improve your firearms skill set. For example, today I will go to the range on my way to work and practice "snapping in" on a target with my AR. I won't fire a single shot [in these particular drills]. Just bringing the weapon up, on target, and acquiring a sight picture. Yesterday I practiced drawing, acquiring a sight picture, and speed reloading with empty magazines for 10 minutes.  Live by the four firearms safety rules, improve your skills, and have fun.

In response to Zorro: Yes the M1 Garand is a great rifle compared to the AR/M4, but I'm partial to the 1903 Springfield because the US Marines wouldn't be known as "Devil Dogs" without it. Just had to say it! Thank you, - Bretmail 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

After reading the BYU Kid’s excellent article on physical fitness for TEOTWAWKI, I had to respond.  I had to take exception to his statement that Crossfit wasn’t recommended because it’s “Metabolic conditioning is not conducive to the ultimate goal of being useful, functional and simple.”

The heart of Crossfit is in fact functional fitness for Law Enforcement and our Military.  I’ve been involved in fitness all my life due to my chosen occupation as a police officer (now retired) and my current occupation as a protection specialist which is what most people refer to as a bodyguard.  I’ve been a competitive long distance runner, power lifter, triathlete etc.  You name the fitness activity and I’ve tried it.  I am now 56 years old and discovered Crossfit about two years ago.  I’ve never been so fit, strong and lean as Crossfit has made me.  Crossfit would work well for any prepper searching for a better level of fitness.  All of the exercises described in BYU Kid’s article are either recommended as Crossfit exercises or are very close to a version Crossfit recommends.   Crossfit is completely scaleable to your current fitness level so that you can work at your pace to improve yourself.  I would urge any SurvivalBlog readers interested in making huge strides in improving their fitness level take a look at the Crossfit web site.  You’ll find drop down menus listing all of the crossfit exercises complete with videos to demonstrate their simplicity.  I’m not a crossfit gym owner, I don’t even belong to a crossfit gym.  I viewed their videos and tried the workouts and got results.  That is what’s important to me, results.  It is not even necessary to purchase expensive equipment.  Most of what’s needed involves dumbells, barbells, pullup bar and a place to run.  You can spend as much or as little as you like to build your own home gym.  Try it you’ll like it! - Carl L.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

There are some no nonsense, low-cost hands on things that we can do right now and daily to become more prepared in a slow and steady, simple manner. I recommend using Regularly Unavoidable Training Triggers (RUTTs). Getting in a RUTT could save your life.

We all know people that are in a rut.  Some people like to smoke their cigarettes and some spend hours a day in front of the television.  Some people without even thinking about it pick up a little bit of candy or junk food when standing in line at the grocery store.  The truth is that ruts are very easy to get into.  Our quality of life and our very survival will depend on the RUTT that we are in.   Lets talk specifically about how you can get into a RUTT that affects you physically.   Like most people, hitting the gym has never worked for me.  First, you pack a bag, then drive to the gym, change, and work out.  Someone is inevitably using the equipment you want to use.  Then you need to clean up and head home.   

What a huge drain of time and energy.   I would rather be in a RUTT.  Instead of going to the gym, I would rather use quick five minute exercises at many different Triggered intervals during the day.  This has the benefit to allow me to relieve stress, mentally switch gears between daily tasks, and allow me to clear my head as I go about my day.   Here are a couple of things that I do and the Unavoidable Triggers that initiate the action.  

Near the entrance to my home I have an inconspicuous string that is dangling such that the bottom most part is just out of reach for me to jump and smack it.  Every time I go in to or out of that door (almost), I jump up attempting to contact the string. The idea is do this often enough such that eventually you get good enough to actually hit it.  At that point where I actually hit it, I immediately find something to stand on and trim 1/4 inch off of the string. (wash, rinse, repeat)  How high can you jump? Easily 30 attempts a day (approximately 5-10 jumps at each passing of the Trigger) , over a month definitely pushes the 1,000 attempt mark.  Could that whole body explosive jumping action benefit you on occasion?  Would it come in very handy in a survival situation?  I set one up for each of the nieces and nephews at their homes,, and made it a game.  

 The Regular Unavoidable Training Trigger that initiates this exercise is merely passing through the front door.  Get in a RUTT and do it every time.   What would be the benefit if you were to place a punching/heavy bag  just inside a child's bed room door, such that they could not enter without giving it a bit of a shove.  Would it benefit that child physically to push that bag out of the way 10 times a day for years?  Could you do the same thing for your bedroom/ den/ office/ man cave?  This exercise is Triggered by entering and exiting the room and is Unavoidable.    

What would it do to a child's (or adults) agility and ankle strength if the middle of their bedroom floor from a young age (It has just always been that way) J had a large section covered by a piece of wood or thick carpet with a random array of tennis ball half's attached to it.  Would agility improve over time?  Here the Training Trigger is Unavoidable and is always present when walking in this room.   If there was a pull-up bar above the bathroom door. Every time you finish using the bathroom do a pull up or two on the way out.  As most people use the bathroom a few times per day, this Regular Training Trigger is Unavoidable.  

A 2x4 on the floor (or laying in the garden if the spouse will not tolerate it in the home) makes an excellent balance beam. Get in the habit of always traveling along it when you come to it. When you get to the point where you are doing it without even thinking,,, turn it on edge and screw a couple of supportive "feet" to it. Now walk the narrow edge from then on. It will soon become second nature and brainlessly easy. Have you been able to do this for a while without thinking about it?  Place or screw a stable block under one end to create a 1' incline. The balance beam is right there whenever you approach this area.   It is in your way, Unavoidable and it is just easier to play along with this game you have made for yourself.  You could even disguise it as decorative landscape edging.  

Is there any way that a Tarzan rope could be incorporated into your daily comings and goings?  Would you and your kids benefit if the Tarzan rope was the only acceptable way to leave the front porch.  If there was that and a balance beam coming up the stairs into the home, kids would come and go using them every time.   

A personal hero of mine, J.J. Armes, is said to have turned all of the stairs in his home into high traction rubber inclines to benefit the physical abilities of his family.  How is that for a Regularly Unavoidable Training Trigger?  As a bonus, this would also seriously confuse a burglar and slow down the uninitiated.  

Almost as drastic, a couple of well placed boards or commercially purchased climbing hand holds could become the only acceptable way for the kids (big and small) to go upstairs to the bedrooms or to enter their tree house.   Although not complete, I am currently working on weaving a stout climbing rope so that at multiple times of the day I can take a moment and climb it as I pass.  A regular thick rope is climbable; however, a proper "fast-rope" is much easier on the hands and will result in more frequent use.  If you ever find yourself feeling unmotivated to climb the rope, just attach a small sign that reads “Do NOT Climb Rope - By Order of a Large Government Agency.”  You will soon find that the urge to climb has returned.

I like to frequently have a look and see what is in the refrigerator.  On the main shelf , front and center and sideways, I place the water pitcher.  Now, whenever I open the refrigerator, I have a glass ready to fill with water.  It is usually the case that after having a drink of water, I am not thinking so much about getting a little snack.  

What kinds of things do you Regularly do as you go about your day?  To what positive things can you attach a Regularly Unavoidable Training Trigger?   

Is there a BB gun trap target on the back wall inside of the wood shed with a BB training pistol standing by such that each and every time you fetch wood you can have a couple of practice shots?  Is this proximity to a safe backstop also a good time to practice retrieving your pistol from your concealed carry?  Yes, I know, the wood shed is often cold.  But is that not the point, to practice in all conditions?  What about practicing after you have split a few logs?   Does the screen saver on your computer show a different intricate scene or series of objects and when a button is pushed, does it block you from proceeding until you put check marks in the box corresponding to the items that were actually in the scene? Would that help improve your recall and situational awareness.  Can you set the level of difficulty?   Can others upload expansions and new scenes?  (Well, mine certainly cannot.)

Do you without fail play the "situational awareness game" when out in a public setting like a restaurant?  It goes like this:  Everyone but you closed there eyes, and you ask them three questions about the surroundings. For instance: What color are the drapes?  Does the room have fire suppression sprinklers installed?  How many exit signs are visible?  How many people are wearing hats? The players can answer with a show of fingers and the winner leads the next round.  My Trigger for this is all dining out occasions.  

When traveling home never travel the same path twice.  It is a proven brain stretcher and allows you to familiarize yourself with what is currently going on in the area around you.  Attempt to use unconventional paths such as through parking lots and behind shopping centers.  This simple exercise could really be a life saver in a bug out situation.   It is easy to fall into a habit or a RUTT, why not set yourself up, and create a few that would really benefit you and your family.  Just like food preps, slow and steady, simple and stupid, can win this race also.

JWR Adds: One good RUTT is positioning pull-up bars at the top of two or three doorways inside your house. Get in to the habit of doing four or five pull-ups each time that you walk through that doorway when you aren't carrying an object. This can be turned into a fun game for the family. If you have teenagers, it can even be made a bit competitive--in a friendly way, of course.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I noticed the great recent piece by B.D. on the importance of training. Here is a follow-up to that:

All too often as Americans we tend to focus first on the material side of things. That is, "I have to have the right gear to train with." No, not necessarily.

Proverbs 1: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Even for the non believers this is the best place to start when it comes to training and learning. A haughty spirit hinders proper learning. Unfortunately you see this all too often in training. Ego and pride issues in both men and women preclude many from getting the most they could get out of the instruction available to them.

Proverbs 15:33 says "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility." Humility. Interesting word you rarely see in our day and age. We want to be so "proud" of all of our achievements and accomplishments. Yet Scripture teaches us that God "resists the proud" and brings Grace to the humble.

I can't tell you how many times in the last 2 and 1/2 decades of training that I've seen people hampered by their pride and ego issues. Certainly I have not been immune to it at times also. Yet we don't learn with a closed mind. Yes, those new ideas might seem odd to you. Yes, they might be different from what you learned 40 years ago in the military. Yes, they may be different than what the police academy taught you. That doesn't mean they don't work!

Don't be afraid to "lose" in training. This one is going to be a real blow to the pride and ego'ites. You can afford to lose in training. Getting shot with a simmunition or plastic BB isn't the end of the world. Getting knocked out or having to "tap out" to a choke isn't the end of the world. Should you set out to lose? Obviously not! But my point is that it's training and -with the proper attitude- training is about learning - not competing. That's a different realm.

When you lose in training you should learn from that loss. Certainly their is going to be a "learning curve" with any new skill. Would you rather experience that learning curve in the gym or in the force-on-force shoot house or would you rather experience that "learning curve" out on the street in a real encounter?

However when your main concern is only winning, then often times you miss the important lessons being taught. Yes, some techniques you can "muscle through" with a smaller adversary. Often times when you fight someone your size or larger, that won't work. Meanwhile you've missed learning how to properly work the technique because you did it your way. Here again- pride and ego issues.

In training, allow yourself to get into a bad position or situation just to practice getting out of it. How often do you start a force on force drill on your knees with the opponents Airsoft or Simmunition weapon pointed at your head? How often do you start hand-to-hand practice with your opponent in back mount with a choke already sunk in? Impossible situations? No, just really tough situations. This is where the person that doesn't really want to face reality says "I'd never let myself get into that position in the first place." Yep, you and the tens of thousands that have already experienced it. Yet limiting your training to only the "best possible scenario" is like saying "well it will never rain so I don't need an umbrella."  You need to know how to react in unpleasant situations like this. Like Sonny Puzikas, a renowned trainer says "you can either think that you know, or you can know."

Training shouldn't be easy or set up in such a way to make us "feel good about ourselves." If your leaving your training sessions like that, I would submit to you that you need to bump it up a level. You should leave training saying "I need to work on (fill in the blank)." Now is the time to push yourself. Now is the time to get in shape. Now is the time to learn.

Back in high school I remember their was a lot of talk about "on the job training." For us as survivalists, "on the job training" won't always be an option. Learning how to most efficiently manipulate your weapon under fire is not very conducive to learning- or survival for that matter! For serious survivalists, we want to learn and experience as much as possible before hand to avoid "on the job training" during bad situations.

Good luck and good training! - Robert (from the Survival And Preparedness Forum)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

We all have taken the time to discuss here the importance of making preparation for the the bad times to come, in the realm of food and water storage. We have picked our defenses carefully, planed routes of egress, but how many of us have prepared ourselves from a physical perspective? This in my opinion is really the cornerstone of any prepping, after all our mobility and endurance is seldom tested in the confines of modern society. Now I realize that not all people are at the same starting level of fitness, starting level of health, or other factors. That being said, let us look at what we can do to take each member of our family to their optimal level. This will not, unfortunately cover every possible unique situation, there after all too many variables. This is intended rather as a primer, a place to start out and for each person to progress as their situation, and abilities dictate.

The reasoning behind my motivation for this part of preparations, is that it seems to be the most under covered and a fundamental for survival. This is one of the preparations that will cross all situations. This covers more then just the mobility effects of being in better shape, but the host of other benefits for the body as a whole. The immune system will work better, you will be more alert and focused. The release of endorphins from this can stave off depression and will help with the manual workload that will be if things get really bad. So where to begin, start with taking a look at your current level of activity, If you run marathons as a hobby, congratulations, not only are you in superior shape but a bit crazy too. However if you sit and play video games all day long your thumbs are in shape, but maybe not much else. So lets start here with the people that are the least active.

1. Get moving. This is the start, even just getting out and walking will improve your base fitness.

2. Skip the elevator. This goes with point number one.

3. Skip the drive through. Fitness is more then just being active, its a way of life, plus when the end comes Burger King will be out of order.

4. Push yourself. Not too hard, but you want to make progress, if you start at only walking a few blocks, try to add to that each week.

Now this is just the beginning, but you have to start somewhere, and you have to push even just a little to make some progress. Talk to your doctor of course before you begin, just to be safe, they will probably be overjoyed in your interest in this kind of self improvement, and can direct you how to begin.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When you’re training, your main goal should always be to improve tactical and technical proficiency.  Combat is a contest of skills and abilities, and without tactical & technical proficiency you’ll surely lose this contest, going from survivalist to speed bump before you know it. 

Let’s start by defining these terms.  Technical proficiency is obtained from the experiences you gain from training whatever equipment you plan on using, whether it be an AR-15, a field dressing or a compass, to name a few.  Tactical proficiency is best gained through experience training with your team, such tactical movement exercises, drills for reacting to enemy contact, and so on.  To attain a level of proficiency that will sustain you through a life or death fight, you need to train.  Proper training will help you to overcome the small problems that can compound and cripple your ability to kill your enemies and protect your loved ones.

But how do you train?

While at the range, a good approach would be to go into your range drills the same way a professional athlete would go about his or her workout; with a well thought out plan that details what exercises you’re going to perform and how much time or ammo you’re going to devote to each activity. This approach will help you train more efficiently, instead of just going to the range without goals and a well thought out plan.  Poorly planned training wastes both time and ammo, and can quickly get expensive while building poor form and weaknesses.  A wide variety of range drills are out there on the internet for you to take and implement in your own training program, on web sites like and to name a couple.

Don’t forget about how beneficial it can be to practice dry firing your weapon against a safe backdrop.  Army Special Operations soldiers have been known to spend their first 2 weeks of weapons training only dry firing their weapons, because this is a very effective way to develop the muscle memory to bring your weapon up on target quickly.  As a sniper, I dry-fired my M110 a lot to remain familiar with the feel of the trigger and to practice my marksmanship fundamentals. While deployed to Iraq I was able to keep up on my marksmanship skills just by dry firing.  A 70% dry fire / 30% live fire ratio during weapons training has proven to be a good, cheap, and low profile way to maintain and refine your skills as a firearms operator.

Training blocks are a great way to manage your time and help your training program transition from one fundamental element to another, while maintaining accountability of what skills you’ve practiced and what skills need practice.  For instance, in my group’s carbine training plan (We have different training plans for each weapon system we train on, as well as different aspects of operations, such as first aid/self aid and land navigation), Block 1 is a simple loading/reloading drill. We break Block 1 down into different sub blocks, because there are different methods to how we reload our weapons, depending on what type of environment you’re in, e.g., Admin loading is done before range training, patrols; tactical reloads are used when there’s a lull in the gunfight and you have an opportunity to top off your weapons; and speed reloads are used when in a time-is-life situation, such as when there are bullets snapping past your head and your bolt locks to the rear. 

Our next block would be Basic Marksmanship, since that would logically come after loading your weapon, and so on.  So when you look at it on our training plan it looks like this:

Block 1- Load/ Reload and AR-15

  • Administrative Reload
  • Tactical Reload
  • Speed Reload

Block 2- Basic Marksmanship Drills

  • Prone Supported
  • Prone Unsupported
  • Kneeling
  • Standing
  • Short Range Marksmanship
  • Intermediate Range Marksmanship

Block 3- Advanced Carbine

  • Weapon Transitions
  • Offhand Marksmanship

Block 4- Malfunction Correction Drills

  • Immediate Action Drill
  • Remedial Action Drills

Of course there are many more aspects to employing an AR-15, but, for all intents and purposes, you should develop your own training program that best suits you and your team’s needs.   

After you’ve designed enough training plans you might wish to combine them and have a team field training exercise, if you have the resources to do so.  Not only are these fun team building events (when done right), but your team can focus on a wide variety of different skills, and can evaluate individual members to diagnose areas that need more training, like first aid, marksmanship, or land navigation. 

Okay, some things to think about when actually employing your training plan:  I like to keep records on my skills as they progress, and when I don’t see the type of improvement in a certain area that I’d like to see, I’ll focus on that problem area by devoting more training time to it.  It seems pretty obvious, I know, but if you don’t keep tabs on your progression you’re not going to know what skills need attention.  Keeping a training journal will pay off big time in the long run. 

  • Buy a shooting timer.  I use a PACT-III Timer and it is awesome for working on your Balance of Speed and Accuracy (BSA) Drills.  Training with a shooting timer will help you get rounds on target a lot faster, and they’re especially good for short range marksmanship training.
  • Dummy rounds are excellent training tools.  You can randomly put them into your buddy’s magazines to help build better immediate action skills.
  • If you can, try to video tape your training.  If you’re trying to learn how to do a dynamic team movement, video is a great tool to help you see who needs work, and to show that person what they’re doing wrong. Sometimes you have to actually see what you’re doing wrong to understand how to improve.   Video is also a good way to help improve the mechanical aspects of drawing your handgun or transitioning to your handgun from your carbine, because you can actually see and identify where your excess waste movement is coming from and can better eliminate it.
  • Lists are your best ally if you hate leaving things behind.  Pretty straightforward, but a lot of people don’t think to take the time to put together a quick list and do a quick layout of everything you want to make sure you have, before you leave for the range.  (When I was in my company’s sniper section, our training coordinator would always forget something important when we went to conduct training, and it would cost us hours of valuable training time.  One time, we were going to conduct a stalking exercise, and when we got out to our training area he realized he didn’t have the table that the guys on glass needed, so he had to go back to get a folding table.  When he got back, we went to go grab our blank rounds that we would be using, and we realized nobody remembered to bring the blanks that we needed.  The next time we went out training we made sure we had detailed checklists for everything we needed, and that helped immensely.)
  • Research and develop your own creative drills to train with.  Go take classes if at all possible.  Training weighs nothing, you can take it anywhere, and you only have to pay for it once.  If you can’t make your way to a course at OnPoint Tactical or Magpul Dynamics, you can watch Magpul Dynamics DVDs, which have a ton of great information on them, and it’s also easy to find a lot of good tips on YouTube for free from some tactical training schools, like Viking Tactics.
  • A good way to induce stress into training is to put the shooter under some sort of bodily exertion, maybe by knocking out 25 pushups or some sprints before the buzzer goes off, and using a stopwatch to time the shooter. 
  • My favorite way to practice reloads for both my primary and secondary weapons is to take several magazines and have a buddy load only a few rounds into each one, and to speed reload/ tactical reload after each magazine runs out, until I’m “rounds complete.”  You can also do weapons transitions between reloads with this drill, and this is also a great way to stretch a small amount of training ammo.  You can incorporate dry firing into this exercise to get even more mileage out of it.

All in all, training should be the first thing in your mind when you’re prepping.  This article focuses mostly on weapons training, but a good technical proficiency is absolutely needed with all aspects of your self reliance, and without a good technically and tactically proficient team when the horde comes or while bugging out, you’re sure to be dead in the water.  Remember: All the cool guy gear in the world means nothing if you don’t know how to use it, and when things go south it’s already too late to start learning.

About The Author: "I’m a B4 qualified Army Sniper with two combat deployments to Iraq under my belt; one as a Sniper and the prior one as a Rifleman and SAW Gunner. I gained teaching experience as an instructor for my battalion’s Squad Designated Marksman program and by training Iraqi National Army (INA) soldiers on numerous occasions, and have been an avid shooter since age 10." 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

With all the many choices and ways of how to prepare for a natural or man induced and instigated crisis, one detail that is critical and mostly overlooked is being relatively physically fit.  Yes it is time to face your fear of physical activity, but that is why I am writing this article, so you can have a better understanding of the amazing creation know as the human body.  Having spent most of my life in some form of sport or physical job situation, I want to share what I have learned about ways to regain and maintain a healthy you.  First of all, our bodies are designed in such a way, that with consistent exercise, yes I used the E word, you will see positive results.  Hey, if things get as bad as folks say they will, the least of your problems right now is taking that half hour walk or bike ride or stair climb or hike or, well whatever you do, start out by doing something that raises your heart rate to around 70% of your maximum heart rate.  Oh, you say you don't know what your maximum heart rate is. 

Here is a basic way to estimate your maximum heart rate:  Anyone in their 30s, you can use 180 as your max heart rate.  It doesn't matter right now as much as how close this is in reality because it will simply give you something to find the 70%, and for people in their 40s, for you folks let's use 170.  Now for anyone in their 50s, you use 160 safely.  For anyone older, you can see I lower the max by 10 points for every 10 year span.  Alright now, once you have your max, times it by .70 or 70% on a calculator and you should come up with the heart rate you need to maintain for at least 30 minutes.  An example is of a man 45 years old.  He would start with 170 X .70 which comes to 119 beats per minute and maintains this heart rate for 30 minutes or longer.  The important thing is that your heart and your muscles and ligaments and tendons need time to adjust to any physical activity.  This level of intensity will give your body the ability to begin the way back to a better fitness level and not over work it so not to end up tearing those tight tendons or ligaments that need to be reminded how to work longer than the walk from your car to the couch in your house. 

Here in our wonderful United States, it is a sad but true fact that the majority of Americans are out of shape, and I am not referring to having "6 pack" abdominal muscles or less than 10% body fat.  That is not the type of conditioning you need to be for better survival, when in fact. having between 20% and 25% body fat is better because there is the possibility you may have to go without eating your 3 meals a day, and your body will thank you for those fat reserves.  What is important is your inner body fitness level, namely your heart and lungs.  These two organs play key roles in circulating the necessary blood, i.e. oxygen to your muscles and every area within your body, so it can function as efficiently as possible.  Now back to your workout schedule.  After four weeks of exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes at least 3 days per week at 70% of your max , you should notice some positive changes taking place in your body.  I will warn you, hang in there because after starting your exercising program, the first week or two your body will realize there are stored up toxins that it wants to get rid of and the symptoms can cause a sense of nausea.  Hey, you don't want to be having to walk 10 miles to the nearest water supply in a time of crisis, and not be in better condition at that time, so keep exercising now, and you can be the one to volunteer to go get that water and enjoy doing it too.  Those first two weeks are usually the hardest, so stick to the program and you will be glad you did, I know. 

Now that you have finished your 4 weeks and now that you completed your "base" or foundation for exercising, you will be ready to increase your heart rate to 80% of your max.  Multiply what your max heart rate with .80 or 80%.  To make it easier, for someone in their 30s, your exercise heart rate is 144 beats per minute.  For someone in their 40s, yours is 136.  For someone in their 50s, yours is 128.  These numbers may seem low to you but they are in the range for your body to continue to get fitter.  Exercise at this level for another 4 weeks but add an additional day so you are working out 4 days per week at a minimum of 30 minutes each day you hit the road or the treadmill or whichever form of exercise you have chosen.  You will find that some days you will feel strong and refreshed and other days it may be a challenge to do this, but again, NOW is the time to invest in your health and not when your car runs out of gas and you still have 15 miles to reach your home or local "community" center.  The benefits of exercise can be better sleep, more energy because of your body receiving more oxygen more efficiently, and a better mental attitude.  Finally, to give you a sense of accomplishment, in two months time, with this plan,  you will have exercised 28 days, almost a full month.  How many of your friends will be able to boast about that? 

The foregoing basic plan should give you an excellent start to regain and help you with becoming fitter.  After your first two months, you should continue to find ways to give your body what it needs to be prepared for the physical demands you may face in a crisis.  If you are wanting to gain strength after having a base of conditioning, remember to start with the mindset that Rome wasn't built in a day and our bodies won't grow stronger unless you stick to a program longer than 2 weeks out of the year.  You can be creative on what type of ways you gain strength.  It doesn't take 30 minutes to build strength but you have to find something that puts stress on your muscles without damaging them by trying to lift something that you might be able to lift less than 5 times in a row.  I suggest you use a weight or object that allows you to raise it or lift a minimum of 10 times in a row or in one "set".  If you think you need to lift like "Arnold", you are incorrect.  Your body and muscles will respond to being worked and if you develop a routine you can enjoy, it will become a part of your life and you will see positive results. 

The number of days typically to work on strength exercises is 3 to 4 days with alternating days of upper body and lower body workouts.  Your body needs time to rest and recover.  The basic understanding is that taxing your muscles requires time for them to respond by the muscles fibers thickening to accommodate the increased "workload".  It is pretty amazing how our bodies can adjust in order to gain strength and endurance.  So are you ready to begin?  This is not a contest.  You as an individual only need to focus on yourself and not make the mistake of comparing how good or how bad of conditioning you have with someone else.  Take that first step towards a better you.  Remember to pray for God to guide you and to send forth His truth and mercy to our land.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dear Mr. Rawles:
As a devoted prepper, I have been trying to be diligent in practicing what I preach.  This past weekend was a bit of an eye-opener for me and should be for most of my fellow travelers.  In anticipation of future gas shortages and the impossibility of maintaining reasonable security while running a chain saw, I recently purchased a one-man, 36 inch, made in Germany, crosscut saw.   Saturday morning, I spent a couple of hours building a sawbuck.  Then the education began.  

At this point, I need to interject that I’ve been burning wood for the past 30 years and typically cut (chainsaw), split (hand maul) and stack 12-to-14 face cords of hardwood per year.  I’m in good shape and used to hard work.  In fact I also put a truckload of hay in the barn and went horseback riding before putting the new saw to work.   I went into the hedgerow next to my pasture and took out a fairly small ash tree and a section of a dead cherry tree with my trusty Stihl gas chain saw. 

I then cut them in sections which would yield three or four stove-length logs and sawed these lengths by hand.  After an hour, I had produced maybe three armloads of wood.  My arms were sore and my grip was shot.  I woke up pretty stiff on Sunday morning but finished sawing up my “pile” later that afternoon.  The soreness worked out and I felt fine on Monday.  I also found that if I cut every third log with my left hand that I could keep from over fatiguing my arms.  Still, it became abundantly clear that supplying my home with heat in this manner will occupy an hour a day year round! 

Sawing firewood, in addition to gardening, caring for animals, hauling water and providing security will be more physically taxing than most people can imagine.   I don’t find many truly committed preppers as it is, but of those that I have encountered (mostly in tactical weapons training), I’ve only met one or two that would be up to the physical rigor.  This is no joke.  I would estimate that not one percent of the general population is doing anything to prep for TEOTWAWKI while maybe 10% of preppers are fit enough to see it through.  Gear and even knowledge will be of little use to the ones that collapse from exhaustion.  As Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”  That is truer for us than for the NFL players for whom he intended it. - F.M. in Western New York

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mr. Rawles,
This letter from Friday 4 June, plus a few other recent articles, prompted me to chime in with a plug for cross-country skiing (alternately, nordic skiing) for the preparation-minded individual. Cross-country skiing's benefits for preppers include:

- An alternate method for getting from A to B in adverse conditions
- An outstanding physical workout
- Another way to get outdoors in the winter
- An inexpensive activity for couples and families

R.M. in Iowa wrote a very interesting and thought-provoking letter about having to solve a winter mobility problem. There are winter situations in which snowshoes are not only an appropriate solution, but also the only one. However, in some cases skis might be a better choice, namely those in which distances are involved. Cross-country skis offer a very attractive method for traversing long distances, with or without loads. The reasons are simple. Skis can float through or over snow, using a more efficient gliding stride that lends itself to long movement. Also, nordic skiers can take advantage of downhills for a little rest and to add some speed.

Cross-country skiing is a great workout, and one that fits with other recent article about getting fit for what lies ahead. It works the entire body, and promotes endurance. I don't usually see heavy folks at cross-country skiing centers, and there's a reason for that. It does take some skill, and it's worth the time and effort to get some lessons.

A blanket of snow closes off the wilderness to many people, but not if you have skis. Logging roads and many mountain biking trails are ideal avenues for the cross-country skier. And there are several activities you can add in to a winter outing-- a late season hunt (while most other hunters are at home), a map reading exercise, a scouting expedition, a visit to your retreat, or a test of your alternate bug-out plan. Additionally, you'll probably have the woods to yourself, a great advantage for OPSEC or for someone who just prefers to stay away from the crowds.

One of the most pleasant sights at a cross-country skiing center is whole families out on skis. At my favorite center, Whitegrass in Canaan Valley West Virginia the area use fees and rentals for a family of four work out to $90. That's $90 for all four-- contrast that to teh cost of a single lift ticket at a downhill resort. Now, this can be not only a good family outing but a stealth way to get the spouse and the spawn with the program. (BTW, purchasing the equipment, even new, is likewise comparatively inexpensive. And quality gear lasts for a long time. [JWR Adds: Annual "ski swaps" in many towns are a great place to pick up gently used cross country ski gear at bargain prices!])

The bottom line is this-- R.M. in Iowa brought up a good point about needing to be mobile in the winter. Snowshoes, as he demonstrated, are one way; cross-country skis offer another way. Cross-country skiing is not the be-all/end-all of winter mobility, but it is a useful capability to have on hand. (Read about the Norwegian commandos who raided the heavy-water plant at Vemork in WWII. They could not have done that mission without skis and the ability to use them.) And the development of that capability has several ancillary benefits. If you live in a snow-prone environment, you would be well advised to consider as a viable and useful capability.

Semper Fi, - P.J.

First, this is a great write up with some excellent ideas. It certainly raises awareness about the need for physical training. However, two quick clarifications need to be made.

1. Re: "The stronger you are the faster you can run, the further you can jump, and the harder you can hit."

This depends on which type of strength you’re referring to. For example, low repetition heavy squats will develop only slow twitch muscle fibers. The meat-head you see at the gym who squats 700 and benches 500 is probably the slowest guy in the room. To run faster, jump higher, and hit harder you have to develop “explosive strength” by training fast twitch muscle fibers. Explosive strength is defined strength per unit time. “Maximal strength” is developed through the concentric, eccentric, and static muscle movements of weight lifting. To increase speed and acceleration much more time should be dedicated to explosive strength training than maximal strength training to achieve optimal performance so slow twitch fibers aren't overtrained.

2. Re: "In my opinion, any man above 5’10” tall and weighing less than 200 lbs is underweight."

I hope to change your opinion. A man who is 5'10" 200 lbs has a BMI of 28.7. While this man is not obese, he is by definition "overweight" (BMI 25-30) unless he has a high muscle percentage skewing the BMI calculation. Being overweight alone increases your risk for many diseases: osteoarthritis, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, sleep apnea, etc... This is corroborated by many peer reviewed medical studies. Of course we need some fat, and we should strive to maintain a healthy BMI (18.5-25). Anything under 18.5 carries its own set of risks.

If we knew TEOTWAWKI would occur within six months, then putting on a few extra pounds like a bear before winter is a great idea. However, we don't know when TEOTWAWKI will happen, so maintaining an unhealthy BMI for an event that could occur 20-30 years down the road is unhealthy and might even make you dependent on pharmaceuticals later in life (i.e. insulin, beta-blockers, bathyspheres). Good information on a healthy BMI and how to calculate it can be found here. (Again, please note the BMI calculation is not accurate for those with very high muscle percentages.)

Warm Regards, - David S. in Texas

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mister Rawles,
I really enjoyed reading a fitness article that made sense to me from a prepper's perspective. But building sensible body mass is important for much more than fight, flight and health reasons. In a collapse situation jobs will be at a premium and equal opportunity hiring will truly be a thing of the past (as will most desk jobs). If you find yourself needing work, you'll want to be bigger and stronger than the guys around you. Also, it will be apparent to any employer that you are no stranger to toil and self discipline. In short, you'll be wearing your resume. Kindest regards, as always. - The South Aussteyralian

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So it's the end of the world.  No problem.  Don't panic.  Just grab your handy bug-out kit, sit back with some popcorn, and try to make the most of Armageddon.  I just have one question for you: what in the world did you put in that bag that makes you so confident you'll do any better than the unprepared masses around you?  (Don't answer that... it's a trick question!)
Do you remember that old cartoon “Felix the Cat”?  There was a line in the theme song that went, “...whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks!”  Those were the good old days, huh?  Well the sad truth is that we often approach survival preparation just like that.  If you think you can pack a bunch of gear in a bag and call yourself “survival ready”, then you are in for a world of hurt.  If being prepared were that easy, we'd all just pick up a FEMA-approved survival kit from Wal-Mart and wait out the next disaster in duct-tape-and-plastic shelters.  The truth is, there is no magic bullet, and if it's TEOTWAWKI out there, there's no guarantee you'll even make it home to your bullets.  There's one thing that I will guarantee though: In an emergency, your survival kit will not contain everything you need, no matter what you've packed.

Now before you get too bent out of shape defending the $15,000 you spent on Bisquick, whiskey, and ammo, here's what I mean:  Packing a bag is not the same as being prepared.  Regardless of what gear you've decided you need for survival, I'd like to offer you six important things that won't be found in your kit:

#1 Questions (BE SPECIFIC!) - Survival is a mindset, and questions can be powerful when preparing for the worst.  Ask them now while life is easy.  You might not like the answers you come up with when the pressure's on.  Below are a few good questions to ask yourself.  These questions are not rhetorical.  It's up to you to come up with your own answers, but I did include a few of my own in italics.  Now on with the questions:
-Can I really be so cold-hearted as to hunker down with a year's supply of food and firewood while my neighbors are starving outside in the cold? 
Be specific:
Do I have the mental toughness to turn strangers away?  What about my neighbors?  How would I explain that to my kids?  Is isolation the answer?  Is there some better approach that still protects my family?  If not, am I willing to stand firm?

-What gear am I putting too much faith in? 
Be specific:
What if I lose the key to that lock or forget the combination? (More on lock-picking later...)
Is my flashlight waterproof?
What if my GPS is dead when I go to get my secret cache in the woods? 
I'll answer this one for you.  All you need is a decent compass with clear angle markings.  Standing at the cache site, carefully record the angles (from North) for at least two objects nearby.  Now you can find the spot again as long as you can find your reference objects.  You may want to pick more than two references just in case the view to any of them is blocked.  Avoid things like trees or buildings that might not be the same when you go back. back to the questions.

-When is my kit going to cause more problems than it solves?
Be specific:
Did I leave anything in my hidden cache that could compromise my security (or the location of my other caches)?
Am I going to get in trouble if a state trooper finds my [fill-in-the-blank] hidden in the woods?  What if a teenager finds it? 
Could I stand to carry that heavy bag all day?  On the run?  Quietly? 
Could there ever be a situation when it's safer to be unarmed? Last year a man was killed in my neighborhood when he threatened a gun-toting punk with a rock... not smart and ultimately tragic. If you are outgunned, it's probably best if you are not seen as a threat.

-What about creature comforts?  Sure, I can survive using X,Y, and Z, but can I make my life easier by preparing better?
Be specific:
Am I willing to use nothing but a Leatherman to open canned goods for several weeks or months?
Can I stand to sleep on/in [fill-in-the-blank: my packable hammock, cot, sleeping bag, truck bed, back seat, etc.]?  How will poor sleep affect my ability to keep up with the daily tasks required for survival?
Do I have to wipe with 80-grit toilet paper just because it’s WWIII outside?  Wouldn’t the soft toilet paper be okay for emergencies too? 

-What if X,Y,or Z doesn’t work? 
Be specific:
Will I starve in my own Y2K bunker because my can opener fell apart? Probably not, but if you buy a cheap-o can opener and it breaks, you might do something stupid like cut yourself while trying to get into your can of beans with a knife.  Seriously, get a reliable tool for the important things like food.
What if the batteries/generator don’t work?
What if the water supply dries up?
What if I run out of cartridges?  What if the slingshot breaks and I run out of arrows too?  How will I hunt?
What if there are no animals to hunt?  Where will I go?  What will I do?

-Have I printed out all of the manuals and instructions I might need just in case the computer gets fried?  Do I honestly expect myself to remember all this info without any printed manuals? 

…And so on and so on.  You get the idea.  Ask the hard questions.  Expect the first, second, and third plans to fail, then learn how to improvise and adapt today while learning is not a matter of life and death.

#2 Understanding Physical Security – Physical security is more than owning a gun or putting a lock on the door.  It requires careful thought.  Think like a thief.  Think like a desperate, scared, and hungry soul just trying to find the next meal.  What would you do?  Where would you hide if you wanted to ambush someone on the road?  Physical security means thinking like your opponent and staying one step ahead:

Locks: A lock is only as good as the door it’s attached to.  Sure your door has three locks on it, but this is the end of the world, and that guy is hungry.  Why wouldn’t he just break the window or kick in the doorjamb or smash through the wall with a car?  Locks keep honest people honest.  For everyone else, it just slows them down a little (“a little” may be all you need).  A good lock will at least make life harder for looters and thieves. 

Lock-picking: When used responsibly (and legally), lock-picking can be an extremely valuable skill.  Even if you don't use the skill often, it will give you a better understanding of how much trust you can put in any given lock. There’s a ton of info on the net about locksport (see: MIT Lock-picking Guide by Ted the Tool), but learning takes time and practice.  In an emergency, you will have neither the internet nor the time to practice, so you'd better learn  to do it now.  And don't bother spending $100 on some fancy “professional” pick set.  Some of my favorite picks have been cut from a dull hacksaw blade.  If you buy a set, get a cheap one that you don't mind losing or breaking. 
When you practice lock picking, don't get cocky.  Remember that there's a big difference between a file cabinet lock and the deadbolt on your house.  Remember that lock-picking takes time, so don't expect doors to just fly open if you're on the run.  Also remember that it can be a useful self-protection scheme to  honestly say: “I don’t have a key to that lock.”
One more thing:  don’t lose sleep over thieves picking locks.  If they can’t cut the lock, kick the door in, or break a window, then they probably won’t bother picking it.  Even if they do, that's what alarms are for. 

Alarms: Alarms are the second line of defense when your locks and physical barriers have failed.  Ideally, the alarm gives you notice before they fail so you can decide whether to take a stand or run.  An alarm can be as simple as a few pebbles in a can on a string, but my emergency alarm system of choice  is a sophisticated mobile listening device that I like to call “my dog”.  She just happens to have a very handy set of teeth on her too.

Camouflage and Deception: Sometimes that big padlock just screams “Something valuable is in here”, so you really need to disguise it.  When you do, remember that “almost perfect” camouflage is usually worse than an okay disguise.  Most people have a knack for noticing when something is “not quite right”, and inappropriate camouflage may draw attention rather than hiding your treasures.  In other words, it's better to make something look like useless trash than to make it look like a weird rock.  To really understand what I mean, try going geocaching.  Not only is it fun, but it will also expose you to a wide variety of both well and poorly disguised containers in all sorts of unusual hiding places. 

Show of Force: You may scare off the lone thug, but be wary of scouts who may come back with a group.  If you put your biggest gun on display, someone will find a bigger one or come at you in some way you don't expect.  You must balance the element of surprise with deterrence.  This is a judgment call.

Use of Force:  If you have a CCL, you know all about this.  This has been covered elsewhere on SurvivalBlog, so I won't say too much about it.  It is a last resort, but you need to be willing and capable of using whatever weapons you own instinctively and effectively.  Just be prepared to live with the consequences.

#3 Staying in Shape – 24-hour gyms don’t take new members during the apocalypse. Just play it safe and get in shape now.  If you don't already have a fitness plan, I would recommend using the US Army Physical Fitness Manual.  It provides basic exercises with and without gym equipment. The Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) at the back of the manual also provides an excellent baseline for determining how in-shape you really are.  If you are fit enough for combat, you are fit enough for emergencies.
When you exercise,  push yourself.  You'll be mentally and physically tougher for it.  Hard exercise teaches you to endure and overcome pain and discomfort like nothing else.  This is especially true of long-distance running.  If you are not a consistent runner, you will find yourself rationalizing shortcuts before you've reached your goal.  Learning to recognize and overcome these head games in sports will help you deal with them confidently in life too. 

#4 Having Fun – You don't have to study the psychology of survival to know that your mental state can determine whether you live or die.  Have a plan for keeping spirits up and especially for dealing with boredom.  You can't afford boredom-induced mistakes, so have something on-hand in case you are stuck in one spot for a long time.  At the very least, throw a deck of cards in your kit.  A harmonica or an Irish whistle can be great portable morale boosters if you know how to play them (but very annoying to others if you don't).  Likewise, a football, hackey-sack, or Frisbee might take up valuable space, but they may be well worth it when you need a physical distraction from the stress of survival.

#5 Clothing for Daily Use – Think about the Virginia Tech shootings or other “going postal” scenarios.  More than anything else, the shoes you are wearing right now could determine whether you survive the first thirty seconds of such an event.  You may not have the luxury of showing up at the office in your jungle boots, but there's still a good chance an emergency will happen during working hours.  If you can't run in your work shoes, then at least keep a set of tennis shoes nearby. 

As far as outfitting for work, here's what I do: for my shoes, I wear what amounts to a leather tennis shoe.  They look professional enough to go with my slacks, but they're comfortable, and I can run in them if needed.  Even on Fridays I prefer slacks to jeans, because they are lighter, more comfortable, and easier to run in.  I always carry a pocket knife, an LED key-chain light, a pen with a metal clip on the cap (the clip makes a good flat-head screwdriver in a pinch), and a small lock pick set. I also keep a light jacket and a pair of boots in my work locker.  You may want to add a few things to your own list, but the main point is that you should wear and carry whatever makes sense for your own environment.

#6 Practice and Experience – You can't train for every situation, but constant survival practice will build confidence in yourself, and it helps you keep a level head when the time comes.  Practice will also build your confidence in the gear you carry and teach you how to improvise when something is missing or goes wrong.  Only experience teaches you what gear is trustworthy and which things are going to need routine maintenance. 

“Survival training” doesn't have to be unpleasant.  Try to have fun with it.  I already mentioned geocaching, and camping is an obvious way to practice, but be creative.  There are countless ways to hone your survival skills that won't make you miserable in the process.  If you don't enjoy it, you won't do it often enough, and that means you will rely too much on unproven equipment when an emergency comes along.

Conclusion -  If you ask 100 survival-minded individuals what items you should keep in an emergency kit you'll get at least 100 different answers.  For myself, the answer is simple and yet not so simple: pack your brain.  No matter what gadgets you may pack away, you can't predict what you'll need, what will break or get stolen, or what will be in short supply.  So do your best when picking and packing, but be prepared to make the most of whatever you can find around you.

Trust (in yourself or in your gear) should be earned, so don't give it out blindly.  Ask questions, then try out your solutions in practice.  Have fun with it, but don't take it too lightly.  We are still dealing with life and death.  Only you can decide the best way to prepare, but remember that you will be the same person five minutes into an emergency that you were five minutes before.  Be the best person you can be today, and you won't regret it tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I first became fascinated with the art of preparedness in my youth during the days and months leading up to Y2K. The thought societal meltdown and global collapse seemed almost too much to bear, hard to wrap my head around. I was 17years old, just starting my life -- now faced with a potential situation that I had little training or experience to deal with. But my parents had instilled in me a valuable lesson early in childhood; fear is derived from the unknown and the lack of preparedness. With knowledge, preparation, a “never quit” attitude and maybe a little luck, any situation can be overcome. Granted, the Y2K scenario came and went without incident, but I swore never to carry the same fears again. Ten years later the same feeling has swept over our country, a feeling of loss, impending doom, fear and a myriad of other things is accompanying this New Year. I started my journey all those years ago with an “Armed Services Survival Manual” given to me by my father. Reading every word, memorizing every picture, I studied it tirelessly. It just didn’t seem enough. By knowing a little, I really knew nothing at all. The potential scenarios that we face are larger in scope than anything covered in a typical survival manual. So what should we do?

The military taught me several things, but most importantly it taught me to fight the enemy that lies within before I ever face an external adversary. Start from scratch to combat your fear.

Step 1: Analyze Your Life
You know better than anyone what you are capable of, whether you have had extensive military or law enforcement training, or are a highly trained civilian. The greatest lies are those we tell to ourselves, don’t lie to yourself. By being truthful with your self assessment you will achieve more than if you are not. Determine what areas are strengths and weaknesses; increase the balance by becoming a well-rounded person. Increase your knowledge in weak areas, while maintaining your strengths.

Step 2: Location
Just like in real estate, "location, location, location." Where you live is so very important. It dictates many of your needs and precautions. Do you live in a house? An apartment? The city? The country? Are you close to a major interstate? What is your climate? Do you have a local food source? Do you have room to store equipment? Land to grow food? How far away is your closest neighbor? Do you have a close fallback point? A secondary? A tertiary fallback point? Do you have an out-of-state fall back point? If you must evac quickly, will there be others around you with similar needs? What is the local population? State population? All of these questions have roots in different scenarios, application of preparation techniques and above all, pure survival. This is just the start, challenge yourself to continue your list of questions, learn why these things are important how to use your location to benefit you.

Step 3: Visualization
In the martial arts I learned the technique of visualization. Really it is a continuation of using your childhood imagination. Develop that skill and it will provide you answers to questions that you never even knew to even ask. Start by picking a scenario an EMP attack, economic meltdown, a nuclear surface detonation; go through your day such as that event took place. By imagining what would be changed in your lifestyle you will be able to determine what holes need to be plugged. You don’t have to even tell a soul what you are doing, but it will remove the “rose colored glasses” that sit upon your face. Life takes a turn for the worse when there is no available food, water, medicines. The possibility of having to leave your home makes it even more challenging.

Step 4: Equipment
Weapons. Some people shy away from this, but defense is always necessary. Don’t make this complicated, you don’t need a tricked out $4,000 battle rifle, you do need something battle proven. It also needs to use a cartridge that can always be replenished. Stick with NATO standard calibers: 5.56x45, 7.62x51, 9mm Parabellum or other very common cartridges like .45 ACP, 40 S&W, 12ga. I prefer the 7.62x51 (somewhat interchangeable with .308 Winchester) over the 5.56x45 (somewhat interchangeable with .223 Remington) due to its increased range and power. Same goes with the 40 S&W over the 9mm. I try to stay away from Soviet cartridges; once that supply is dried up it will be gone forever. Most importantly go get professionally trained. Clothing and other gear, make sure it is good quality. Nothing is more demoralizing than when your equipment fails when you most need it. Test it, train with it, and make the equipment prove its worth to you before you stake your life on it. You will figure out what you need through research and training.

Step 5: Medical Concerns
Learn basic first aid. This should go without saying; we should all know basic first aid. Get some medical supplies on hand, Israeli bandages, a one-hand tourniquet, clotting agent (if trained), sutures (if trained), antibiotics, your daily meds. Again, learn how to use these things correctly. If you don’t, you could cause more harm than good. Staying healthy is of great concern. Dying from something as simple as an infection is very possible in a survival situation. Knowing basic things such as what antiseptics work best or complex techniques like wound debridement are invaluable.

Step 6: Physical Fitness
An old SEAL once told me, “Guys need to push themselves away from the desk, put down the 'tactical wannabe gear,' and run!” There is incredible amount of truth to this statement. You need to be physically fit to handle the stress encountered in a survival situation. Start working out regularly! All of the gear in the world can’t help you if you are not physically able to use it.

Step 7: What’s Next?
I don’t know, that is for you to decide. Pick your scenario, study it, live it through visualization, prepare for it, get the necessary knowledge, visualize it again and again, over and over until your fear is gone. Make checklists for each scenario, to remind you of tasks that need to be completed or gear that needs to be packed. By training hard you will have overcome the event before it even happens. Your mind is the most powerful tool you have at your disposal; don’t be afraid to use it. How deep you want to dive into this is your choice, but don’t take shortcuts with your level of training, equipment or the quality of information; it could be the difference between life and death.

These are basic areas to start with, expand upon them, and add too. Remember, this is a journey, a lifestyle; not of sacrifice, but of increased knowledge and security. God forbid you encounter a life threatening scenario, but if you do, you can take comfort in knowing that it is a mountain you can climb without hesitation. One that you can guide others to the top of if need be. Carry the weight of knowledge and leadership instead of being weighted down by fear.

Louis Pasteur said: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Good luck and Godspeed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When the Schumer Hits the Fan (WTSHTF) are you going to be physically able to handle the new pressures of life? If not, then now is the time to get your butt in shape. Getting fit and healthy is not complicated. Losing weight comes down to two basic things, eating healthy and exercise. Forget all the so-called fitness gurus who promise you that they can get you fit and trim only if you buy their expensive equipment. You don’t need it. Forget the drug companies that say the fat will melt away if you buy their pills. You don’t need it.

All you need is to exercise every day and reduce your daily caloric intake. If you are overweight then I would suggest you talk to a doctor before starting any fitness program. But there is no reasons why you can’t just get off your fat butt and walk around the block every morning. Walking is one of the best physical activities to lose weight. Break out the sneakers and hit the pavement. If you haven’t exercised in a while, just take a short slow walk around the block or down the road. As time goes on you will be able to go farther and faster, but for now just start slow.

Before you start any other exercises you need to get the junk out. I am not talking about your flabby gut, I am talking about food. You should all know what’s considered good for you and what's bad for you. But if you don’t then I will break it down for you. Grilled fish, chicken, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, are good. Fast food, chips, cookies, ice cream, fried foods, lots of carbs, bad. Use you God-given gift of common sense and make the right choices for the food you put in your body.

Once you have a healthy diet planned and you have started a walking routine, you can move on to other exercises. Martial arts training is my preferred . Not only is it good exercise, but you will learn to defend yourself. This can get expensive, with monthly contracts, but there are always DVDs. I have trained in the martial arts for over 20 years, so I know the basics. Now, all I do is buy a different DVD every few months and watch it over and over and practice the moves until it is drilled into my head. A great style to learn for WTSHTF is Krav Maga. It is a very practical style and easy to learn.

Weight training definitely has its benefits. But if you are short on space or cash, then doing exercises that use your own bodyweight is the next best thing. I am talking about push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats and lunges. Once again, start off slow with low repetitions and as you get stronger you can increase your reps.

People make fitness out to be some hard and mysterious thing. It's not, eating right and exercising is all you need to get in and stay in shape pre and post-WTSHTF. Regards, - Brian B.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I was a Boy Scout, and later did a fair amount of camping when I toured the US by motorcycle in the late 1980s. My tents started floorless and without mosquito netting; progressed to canvas umbrella tent with both. Later still, I was able to go to ripstop nylon "pup" style tents. Advancing, finally, to modern shock-corded aluminum poles and nylon.

After a long gap of 20+ years, my son is now a scout, and I'm on the "no-other-parent-can-go-and-we'll-have-to-cancel-if-you-don't-volunteer" rotation for his troop.

I just completed my second camp-out, and have noticed a few things that both dismay and encourage me.

Following is a stream-of-consciousness review of my reentry into the roughing-it world. Please bear in mind that emergency preparedness has been on my mind for a couple of years, and I didn't go into this a complete neophyte. That said, I didn't actually do anything other than car-camping since about 1993.

Buy a backpack one size smaller than you think you need. It's amazing how much crap a backpack can hold - inside and out. If you actually physically cannot cram another gizmo into the pack, then you'll have to leave that gadget behind. That will always focus your mind on what's truly important.

The single most important article of clothing you need in an emergency is a hooded rain poncho. Even in mild temperatures, you can lose a lot of body heat when you're wet. A rain poncho will help against wind and rain, and can double as a tarp if necessary. I have found two good sources: Jacks-r-Better and Camping Survival's "GI Plus". You should spray both with silicone to enhance their water repellant properties. Don't rely on cheap plastic or vinyl ponchos. During testing I quickly destroyed both of these varieties.

Second most important article of clothing is hiking boots, followed closely by a full brimmed waterproof hat. I have the Tilley nylon winter hat, with retractable ear muffs.

Craigslist is the best place to get camping gear cheap. To date this year, I have picked up two tents, a backpack, a Coleman stove, camp kitchen, tarp, and several other things. Usually, the price is about 10-25% of retail. In the case of the Coleman stove, it's an older model (1973) and built much better than the modern cr*p (which I also have). A $15 repair kit, and $20 for the stove, and it's in brand-new condition. I got a $300 North Face tent for $75 - and it was brand new with original price tags.

Craigslist is a wonderful resource, but there are some rules you might try. First, look for a solid month before offering to buy anything. That way, when a bargain shows up, you'll know it instantly.

Second, if the item is really hot - don't make any arrangements to pick it up more than a day out. I lost the chance to acquire a pair of Wiggy's brand sleeping bags because I tried to schedule pick up four days away. The lady sold them to somebody else because he offered her a deal she couldn't refuse. That's $1,000 worth of sleeping bags I could've had for $50 and I was too cheap to just pick them up ( about 80 miles away ).

Third, as hinted at above - when purchasing from Craigslist - calculate your time & mileage into the price of the items. A bargain that's 50 miles away becomes much more expensive with gas and driving time tacked on. Ask if the seller can meet you half way.

And fourth - generally low ball an offer on the item unless it's already too-good-to-be-true priced.

Break in your emergency / hiking boots. I have two pair of excellent quality boots that I've had for about eight years. I've worn them on occasion, but never really broken them in. This weekend, I pulled down a pair and used them on this trip. Socks were too thick for one thing - these are Goretex and Thinsulate boots, and a bit thicker as a consequence. My feet were miserable yesterday as the socks were too tight, and I ended up hobbling about like an old man by the end of the day. Today I went without socks (as my second pair of socks were just as thick as the first), and was much better, but had the other problem of rubbing the wrong spots you'd expect to have when going sans socks.

Test your equipment. Every camp-out is a test bed for my equipment. This particular trip I tested a Craigslist-purchased North Face one man tent ( Canyonlands ), and a newer sleeping pad ( Thermalite Prolite Plus ). The tent was wonderful. Bigger than my small nylon tent used when motorcycle camping (though not by much ), and an excellent performer. It's my current favorite. The mattress also was quite nice - and made in USA.

That said, I think I understand the popularity of inflatable camp pillows. My older head and neck didn't appreciate the stuff-sack-filled-with-a-towel-and jacket pillow that worked adequately 20 and 30 years ago. I had a nasty headache when I awoke this morning, and I know I was head higher than feet on the gentle slope. My 18 year old sleeping bag, however, worked well.

Sitting down is the main problem for old knees and feet - especially in the rain. I don't want to sound like a whiner, but it gets tiresome standing around with a coffee cup because the ground is too wet to sit, and there aren't any rocks nearby. I'm open to suggestions to fix that. On my first trip, I had cut a section of the closed-cell Thermarest pad ( they're green and purple, and do not compress well at all). It helped a lot placed on a rock. This time, I didn't have that, as I was using a different ( more comfortable )pad.

Erect a tarp so you have a dry place to work. Tarps are cheap, light, small to pack, and generally easy to erect. If it's raining, put up your tarp first so you can unpack necessities where it's dry. You might even need to erect your tent under one. Later, you can cook under it, and generally live under it until bedtime.

Put lanyards on everything. A recent fetish of mine is parachute cord. I get mine from Supply Captain in 100-foot lengths. I put lanyards on my pack zippers, multi-tool, flashlights, LED lanterns, etc. I use different colors and locations to help me know which of the myriad zippers it's attached to. For example, to get to my emergency whistle, I can tug on the blue & yellow one. For my tactical light - the olive drab. Multi-tool is black, et cetera.

There are different sizes of nylon cord. Get the smaller stuff for many jobs. If I wish to erect a tarp, use a 100 lb test cord instead of the 550 paracord. It's far smaller, lighter, and easier to work with.

There's a tension when purchasing emergency equipment. Bright-and-visible vs camouflage. Bright orange equipment, or ACU digital camo? Or something in between? Currently, I've been getting innocuous black or green equipment. If I need to be seen - I can always whip out mylar space blanket, or build three fires, or use the whistle, etc..

Anybody who thinks that anything more than bare-bones survival is feasible with a shiny space blanket hasn't actually used one in the woods. I'm very ambivalent about these things. I can see a use for them, I guess, to help reduce heat loss, but can't imagine they're effective in most situations I'm likely to encounter, with one exception.

That exception would be as a blanket put on a injury victim to prevent or mitigate shock. Any animated person is going to tear the damn things or find they're too small to really do anything well. They really are just barely useful. Especially for big people such as myself.

I'm going to experiment with a sleeping bag version put out by Adventure Medical called a "Heat Sheet." I probably should've tried it last night, but I had too many other tests going on, and didn't want any more variables. The next trip is early November, and might already be too cold for a decent test. I hope to have my Wiggy's winter bags by that time.

The Heat Sheet is interesting because it's a full sleeping bag and you don't have to worry about coverage. I'm a big guy and coverage is important. I've heard it's warm but keeps moisture trapped inside.

Lower that pack weight! Did I mention that people try to carry too much crap? One of the younger scouts packed two tents (actually a Hennessey Hammock and a Sierra Designs Tengu 3!), plus one of those nylon full-sized camp chairs. His pack weighed a ton.

One patrol had so much stuff, they used a child's wagon to carry what wouldn't fit in their ( giant ) packs. Part of this is not their fault - the Scouts don't allow liquid fuel stoves, and therefore, the scouts have to use propane. Of course when I was a kid, we used only wood. But, many camping areas do not allow campfires any more.

Carry only one extra set of clothing, except, maybe, socks. In addition, carry two layers, or more for winter. If you get one set of clothes dirty or wet, then just clean and dry them while wearing the other set. I prefer nylon and polyester. Believe it or not, Boy Scout pants and shirts are among the best I've found, for a decent price. They come in sizes up to XXXXL, too. Just ensure that you have very high quality and tough clothes.

Don't take any mess kits made out of plastic. Use only metal so it can double as cooking equipment. I hate to say this - I bought the entire family colorful mess kits. Each had their own color, and they come with plate, bowls, spork, cup, etc. And for car camping, they're great! But, for hiking / camping, they can't do double duty as cooking equipment, so they're leaving my pack. I'm replacing the set with a stainless steel mug of 20 oz, and a lidded 600 ml pot that can be used as plate and bowl. Less equipment = less weight.

Did you know that you can take a prophylactic dose of Ibuprofen to minimize swelling when you know you're going to hit the trail [on an arduous hike]? I learned this from a doctor at an Appleseed event. It's very effective, but don't drink alcohol 48 hours before or after the dose. Ask your doctor for specifics.

Take a hike with a full pack. I'm good for about three miles before I worry about getting an infarction. Part of the problem are the shoes, but general lack of fitness is kicking my butt. I used to ride a bicycle 300 miles a week in the 1980s, but the last twenty years I've been a software engineer and my fitness has plummeted.

How are you going to cook food? Planning for an emergency, you have to ask yourself questions such as, "What will I be cooking? How long in the woods? How many people? Car camping? And so on.

My cooking plans are pretty extensive. If I'm staying put in my house, the main plan includes a Coleman stove. My wife actually prefers cooking on one of those to our electric range. It's also useful for car camping. One gallon of Coleman fuel will last an amazingly long time. Refills are available at most gas stations with yellow-bottle Heet. A single burner camp stove is great for motorcycle camping.

Next tier down is wilderness camping - for that I prefer alcohol burners / stoves. There are myriad choices, and I won't go into all of them. I even tried to invent my own and found that I couldn't do a better job of it than a dozen others I've purchased. The best, in my opinion, is the Trangia "Spirit Burner" from Sweden. Not pressurized, no moving parts. Built like a tank, but pretty light to carry, too. About $10.

My own system marries a "Sterno" stove with a Trangia burner, and I get a full-sized pot and pan platform with a windscreen for about half a pound. I use two of these side by side for two burners to cook most anything. Total cost for both is about $35. Buy some denatured alcohol and cook some meals on your porch to get the hang of it. That is part of fully testing your equipment. Please note that there are two kinds of Trangia burners. The military surplus version fits the Sterno stove perfectly. The civilian version requires support. I use a tuna can. If you invert the tuna can, the burner is closer to the pot. I don't do that myself, and have found the heat transfer to be completely adequate. You can also just use a Sterno can, obviously.

A lot of people prefer "canister" stoves - using butane, propane, isobutane, or other variants. Yes, these are great. They work anywhere. But, they are expensive to fuel and it's harder to find refills. Also, most butane systems have tiny pot stands, making them very easy to knock over. And if you're cooking with large pots or pans - they're almost unusable.

Whatever you decide upon - stock up on fuel, and place that fuel in several caches, both cars, bug-out bags, etc. If you're using volatile fuel, such as white gas, ensure you insulate the can against high heat. In cold weather, keep a 4 oz bottle of alcohol inside your jacket to ensure easy lighting.

Buy a windup radio that charges cell phones. These are down under $50 and will give you two types of communication. I have the Eton FR360. These also charge any USB device, including iPods and most music players. This weekend I used it to keep my iPhone charged, and while a bit tedious - it worked.

How to Covertly Sleep in Your Car
I'm fairly frugal. Several times I have worked out of state. I hated giving upwards of $100 / per night to hotels so I developed a system for sleeping in my car that ensures that I would not be noticed. The first vehicle I used was a pickup truck with a bed camper top - not a real camper, just a top with windows on the side. The second vehicle was Chevy Suburban. Both vehicles were reputable looking, and not too new or old - completely innocuous.

Cover all the windows on the inside with large sheets of butcher paper (white) or brown wrapping paper. Both can be found for cheap at Wal-Mart. It's important to do a neat job of it so there are no wrinkles, holes, or other damage. I use clear wrapping tape, and cut to fit. On both vehicles, the windows covered were tinted, and only a close look would you even notice they were blocked off. They just look - blank.

On the Suburban, I bought a bungee cord and tan curtains for $10 - again from Wal-Mart. String the curtains on the bungee cord. Then, attach the cord to the coat hanger hooks behind the driver's and passenger seats. Make sure they hang straight and neat. There will be a gap at the top of the curved roof, but it's nothing to worry about.

The last step is to turn off your car's interior light if you can. On many newer cars, this is done with a switch on the driver's console. Other cars have a switch on the light itself to prevent the light coming on with an open door. If all else fails - disconnect the light bulb.

The hard part is finding a place to sleep. Here is one time when you cannot sleep in Wal-Mart's parking lot. You're not driving an RV, just a car. And "empty" cars will be scrutinized by flashlight-wielding security or police.

In a large metropolitan area, the best places are large apartment complexes, preferably straddling a street. Park in the street right behind another car already there. I did this for well over a year without any problems at all.

In the drive-in apartment complexes, ensure there's a lot of extra spots, and that the one you pick is not marked in any way. Usually, I try to pick a spot that the front of the car faces a wall, or the garbage dump area. You don't want to face a park or sidewalk. You want your car to be one among many. Don't park way off to one side - dog walkers may be too common and wonder about the car with curtains.

Small office parks are another good choice. Here, the opposite of apartment complexes is wanted. Park the car as far from the building entrances as possible. Here it's easier to face a wall or line of bushes. People will do anything to shorten their walk to work.

Going to sleep is not normally a problem - I usually went to sleep well after midnight. Whatever you do, don't dawdle when entering your sleep area. There may be people that notice a slow-moving car driving slowly through a parking lot more than once. Scope several places in advance, and have a primary and secondary location for the night.

The two most observable times will be going to sleep and getting up. Usually, you'll be more visible during daytime, obviously. But, getting noticed depends on what time you're leaving and where you parked.

If you can wiggle into your driver's seat without getting out of the vehicle - you have it made. Neither time was I able to do that. I had to leave the car to get into the driver's seat.

I left small flaps in the paper on both cars and would open them to look in all directions (as necessary) for pedestrians and security vehicles. When you're sure you're clear - make a very fast exit, and get your feet on the ground. After that, if required, you can pretend you're retrieving something, and take a leisurely pace. Unless somebody was looking directly at your car when you exited, they will almost assuredly assume you just opened the door, rather than popped out of it.

In an office park, ensure your exit is on the opposite side from the office buildings. Imagine a bored secretary staring dazedly out the window. Suddenly - a scruffy looking man with wild hair pops out of a car door, walks quickly around the hood and drives off. Not good. In my favorite park, I was between a wall and a tree break. Though I finally got noticed after six months, and had to use backup.

Do not stretch, or scratch your head, or hang around at all at this time. Get into your car seat. Start it, and leave at a normal pace. I don't know about you, but it you're like me - you'll be way too scary an apparition for most people. You should have also designated a place to go in the morning to do the ritual wake-up duties such as bathroom, teeth, hair brushing, etc. I usually use McDonald's. I then repaid them for their facilities by buying breakfast.

Other items to remember are ventilation and security. The pickup was no problem - I just left the windows open a crack, including the back panel. This allowed me to hear my surroundings pretty well, too. On the Suburban, it was more problematic. One inch on each window was left open at the top, and I didn't leave the back open. I also engaged the car alarm.

Unfortunately, one morning I forgot about the car alarm, and opened the door causing it to go off. I had the key in my hand, and stopped it very quickly, and I was sure the whole world had noticed my faux pas. Alas, nobody even hears car alarms anymore, and I didn't have to abandon that spot.

Never, ever go to rest stops on the interstate to sleep. While traveling, if I couldn't find an apartment complex or office park, or other suitable location, I'd park on the onramp of a highway - many times between trucks doing the same. I got rousted three times by cops over the years. Technically, it's illegal to park there. Each time I told the truth - I was very tired, and unsure I could proceed to the next motel location. Two of the three times, the cop said that's fine, and go ahead and stay. The third time, he helpfully noted that the very next exit had a motel.

If you have a regular route, other considerations might come into play. For me, sleeping in a tiny Honda Civic, I would have problems with biting insects - and very warm nights. Both problems were solved with an onramp location in an extremely windy spot next to San Francisco bay. (Parish Road off of I-680 in case you're wondering ). My pattern was to arrive about 2 am on a Sunday night and sleep until 7am Monday morning. I then proceeded across the bridge and went to a Burger King in Walnut Creek. I was rousted twice in a six month period.

I have less experience in rural areas. Though extreme familiarity with a route can help by allowing you to identify good spots during the daytime for possible use on another trip. For example, I used to drive between Oregon and Pahrump quite often (on my way to attend training at Front Sight). I spent one whole day identifying likely spots for impromptu camp spots.

One spot, south of Tonopah was a short road that led to some kind of a relay station. I'm pretty sure it was a microwave station, but it doesn't matter. The small fenced-in building was partially hidden behind a hill from the main road, and clearly was not visited very often. The road leading to it went further around the hill, leaving a nice void hidden from the station itself.

Between Tonopah and Hawthorne, I identified two spots very similar to the first, though both were very windy. North of Hawthorne, Walker Lake had parking spots that I felt comfortable enough to use without hiding.

Rural terrain will dictate your choices, too. In South Carolina, I identified two spots on US-25 north of Greenville that looked pretty good. Their characteristic? They were both old houses that had been completely covered in kudzu! I could literally drive under a canopy of kudzu and hide the entire car.

Finally, etiquette inside the car. I always wore gym shorts and T-shirt in a sleeping bag. Never anything resembling underwear. I never used a flashlight or listened to the radio. I was there strictly for sleeping. I didn't eat, cook, brush teeth, or anything else except sleep. The human eye is especially tuned to see movement. Even with covered windows, a brief movement might catch a dog-walker's attention enough to wander over and look at the car. Not a good thing.

I estimate I've saved more than $10,000 in motel bills over the years.

The main thing is to have people assume the car is empty, and belongs to somebody nearby. Obviously, in a serious crisis, extra thought may be necessary to keep below the radar of both security and nosy people.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Since June of this year when my new Dahon Speed 8 folding bicycle arrived I have greatly increased my bicycle mileage typically doing about 120 miles a week commuting instead of taking the bus in. The Dahon is a 20" wheel folder so I have the option of bagging it up throwing it in the back seat or trunk and catching a ride with friends or taking the inter-city bus if I am tired, this hitch-hike-ability could be an important to a survivalist trying to cover long distances, perhaps even beating out the larger harder to stash 26" wheel folding bikes. The better Dahons come equipped with Schwable super long life tires, they have significantly longer wear life than most bicycle tires. Since this bicycle is ridden around four hours a day comfort is key, a quality narrow spring seat, alloy pedals, hand grips and multi position "horn" bar ends were upgraded since these were the places that my body interfaced with the machine. Good fenders and aluminum cargo racks front and rear let me carry my backpack on the front with the extra pack strap length secured with recycled inner tube rubber bands. I had straps added to my pack to secure my pack onto the front rack where I feel I have the best control. A useful feature of some Dahons is the seat post air pump which gives a long stroke floor pump inside the long seat post shaft. As for spares I carry an extra tube, LED headlight, tire levers, Rema Tip Top patches(by far the best), and a Crank Brothers folding bicycle multi tool, additionally I have 4mm and 6mm Allen wrenches on my key chain next to my Kryptonite bike lock key. During regular times I wear a bluetooth headset for my mobile phone and white LED forward headlamp and red rear LED flashers attached to the helmet, a yellow reflective safety vest makes me even more visible to drivers. A Glock Model 17 and two spare mags in a padded Michael's of Oregon ("Uncle Mike's) holster on my heavy leather belt is comfortable and has shown no complaint to my regular sweating on summer rides. During a two hour afternoon ride I consume about two liters of water and occasionally gulp down some salted honey I keep in a sports gel flask for an extra boost before a hill. Regular mountain commuting will wear on your brakes, a complete set of brake pads is a good idea to keep in your repair kit.

I have made several five day to one week trips in the last few years and in addition to the regular stuff I carry for commuting I also include:
-Stuffable semipermiable rain/wind jacket
-Two pair of wool socks
-Hennessey asym hammock
-MSR Whisperlite International stove
-Kerosene fuel bottle
-MSR cook set
-Military nesting silverware
-MMR-40 40 meter QRP kitted radio
-15deg F lightweight sleeping bag
Everything fits in a mountaineering day pack.

I find that beans and lots of rice supplemented by eggs for dinner and fresh fruit especially bananas for snacks keep me running strong all day if I am careful to pace myself, I also try to remember vitamins. Since I know that I will be eating large portions it makes sense to pack larger camp pots. Strong coffee seems to boost my cycling strength especially when traveling uphill, but a person should know how late in the day they can drink caffeine before it affects their quality of sleep. Caffeine also causes you to urinate more requiring additional water supply. Along with the Norwegian and Swedish armies, I use the fold-a-cup coffee cup. It is unbreakable and flexible.

Hydration is key, for commuting my regular 2/3 liter bottle and a 1.5 liter soft drink bottle is enough for commuting 1.5 to two hours with about 200 meter climb in the hot sun. More water bottles for longer trips can be carried in tight panniers on the rear rack. There are times where a very dilute fruit juice makes gulping down water easier. I refill my bottles at every opportunity. I carry an Aquamira filter squirt bottle for my bike bottle and purification tablets for using questionable irrigation or spring water.

I have previously in SurvivalBlog extolled the virtues of kitting together the very small (2/3 the length of a 600 page paperback book) and inexpensive MMR-40 radio. It provides 6 watts for CW or SSB PSK-31 digital mode has a range of up to several thousand miles [with favorable ionospheric conditions].

The Hennessey hammock is a wonder of simple engineering. The asymmetrical design lets a large person lay off-axis on his side without being forced into the parabolic curve of the hammock. Entry is through a slit in the bottom which snaps shut from the weight of the camper and a tough bug net is sewn to the whole hammock. There is a cord keeping the bug net off of the campers face hung from this is a mesh pocket for your glasses, phone, or headlight. The rain fly when attached kept me warm and dry through a few downpours, but if there is a possibility of strong wind the rain fly cords should be staked or weighted with water bottles else they might blow a flap of rain fly open to the rain depending how the hammock is hung. If it is cold more insulation or a sheet of closed cell foam will make up for the compressed insulation heat losses on the bottom of the hammock. The Hennessey hammock also makes a nice swing seat, if you have no big trees available. The instructions also show how to use the hammock as a one man tent using walking stick or saplings. As with any hammock be sure you are tied into live trees and not dead rotted snags which could fall and crush you. On the upside you need not worry about how steep the incline or rockiness of the terrain as you are hanging suspended.

I used to carry a small Triangia cook set including a brass alcohol stove, which is a tougher sealable version of the DIY soda can stoves. I have found these to be useful in their weight but the hazard of a tip over burning fuel spill combined with the price of alcohol fuel at the paint store lead me to keep this for ultralight expeditions and instead to use my MSR stove. The MSR Whisperlite is designed for easy field maintenance as are most MSR products. The one main weak point, the pump stop, which has failed in a non critical way on all of my older MSR stoves, could allow foreign objects into the pump mechanism or loss of the piston, this has been upgraded to a much stronger design in recent years by MSR. I use kerosene due to the higher energy content over gasoline and the cleanest flame of fuels easily available to me in Israel. I carry a small bottle of alcohol to prime the stove, this leads to much less carbon accumulating on the stove, and quicker startups. (A tablespoon of alcohol fuel into the primer cup is enough to prime the stove most of the time.) Using the wind guard (very heavy aluminum foil) wrapped tight to keep the heat in the stove it primes and is ready to cook much faster, then the wind guard keeps the heat on my pots. I must also mention that MSR makes a repair/service kit with most of the parts and tools to fix and maintain your stove even on extended outings. - David in Israel

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Throughout the history of warfare there has always been an elite class of warriors that had superior skills, tactics, and mindset. Today is no different with each branch of our military having its own elite class of warriors.
When you think of a Navy SEAL, Delta, Pararescue, Green Beret (Special Forces or "SF") , or Force Recon, what phrases run through your head? “Intense”, “Highly disciplined”, “Extremely fit”, “Tough”, “Well rounded”, “Deadly”. These are well-deserved phrases that can be applied to any of the special forces operators and the foundation that built these men is their mindset and training.
I think all of us would love to have a team of loyal operators when the SHTF , but unless you are lucky enough to have them in your group, you’ll have to settle for the next best thing… Yourself.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery”
If we are preparing ourselves for some level of combat, whether it is in defense of our family, our community, our freedom, or ourselves why not follow the path of the elite? If your training takes you to the highest levels, then you’ll be ready for the high demand events, and have the ability to breeze through less demanding situations. However, with so many other preparations and demands on life, your training schedule needs to be able to fit your lifestyle. Like most of you, I work 40+ hours a week, have a family, and we are trying to prepare our own five-acre homestead. What follows is my training regimen that takes into account limited training time, resources, and funds.
Step 1: Think like a Ranger
Tenacity is like a muscle, with exercise it can be built, but it will take desire and hard work. Every day you are faced with decisions and situations where you can take the easy path or “tough it out”, choose the latter. Discipline can conquer laziness, so set attainable goals, stay focused, and take it one step at a time when it gets tough. Steps 2 & 3 will really help you forge this trait.
Time: 0    
Cost: Some discomfort
Step 2: Work out like a Navy SEAL
Like the spec ops community, pursuit of fitness should be at the top of your training priorities. It takes hard work to get in shape and little time to lose the gains, so a majority of your training time should be allotted to this category. There is an efficient, high yield program being used by the spec ops community and fortunately it is available to everyone. The name is CrossFit.
CrossFit is an online fitness community where a different workout is posted on the web site on a daily basis. In their own words:

“CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.
Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.”

Focusing on functional fitness, CrossFit will develop the ten general physical skills of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. By the nature of the varying workouts, you will be forced to work on your
To say that CrossFit workouts are challenging, would be an understatement. I have seen the WODs (Workout Of the Day) punish military, police, and college athletes alike, so start out slow and build consistency before intensity. The mental and physical demands of the workouts will also put you on the fast track to developing a tenacious mindset.
Other side benefits of superior fitness include the ability to handle stress better, resistance to disease, and increased work capacity, all will be needed during TEOTWAWKI along with the ability to sprint, lift heavy objects, and scale obstacles.
CrossFit’s web site is very user friendly, has a FAQ section, free journal articles, and exercise demo videos. For friendly support or competition, you can post your WOD results in the “comments” section and compare them to CrossFitters around the world.
If you are not ready for the Main Page WODs, there are modified (scaled) workouts for different fitness levels. This has allowed my 65-year-old mother and 11-year-old niece to complete the same workout as me, albeit on a different level with exercise substitutions, less weight, and/or shorter duration. Follow the “Start here” links on the Main Page.
Time: 3 hours per week (6 days / 30 min. workout) Although some WODs can be done in less than 5 minutes, take the extra time to work on your Olympic lifts, flexibility, or the gymnastic moves.
Cost: $0 (other than weights). The WODs are posted on the CrossFit site for free. Subscription to the online journal will cost you $25 per year and is well worth it. If you don’t have pull-up/dip bar or a weight set, you’ll need to buy them. Check Craigslist for good deals on used equipment. If you are unable to acquire weights, bodyweight only WOD’s can be found in this PDF: CrossFit Bodyweight Workouts.

Step 3: Fight like Recon
Find a good MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gym and train at least twice a week. MMA gives you the most “bang for your buck”, making you competent in the areas of standup, clinch, and ground fighting. While traditional martial arts have benefits of fitness, flexibility, and discipline, I have seen the practitioners get taken apart in the gym, in bars while working as a bouncer, and in the field of law enforcement. When it comes to fighting, MMA should be your foundation. Not every altercation will require the use of deadly force and most criminals might use a ruse or ambush to get close enough to negate your weapons. MMA will give you the variability to handle the lesser event or the fighting platform to allow you to bridge to weapons for lethal force situations.
The current trend is Marines training MCMAP, Rangers training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and SF units training with a South African MMA coach.The reason that military combatives are shifting toward MMA as their base is because it works!
Once you find a good school and learn the basics, focus on developing a “Sprawl and Brawl” game, instead of a “Ground and Pound” or “Submission’ game. This will keep you on your feet and help you deal with multiple opponents, defend against weapons, or access your own weapons in a much better capacity. Even if you get caught on the ground, you’ll be comfortable there and have the skills to prevail.
If you are unable to find a MMA gym in your area, look for a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo school, a boxing/kickboxing gym, or a wrestling club. All these styles are components of MMA and will pit you against a fully resisting opponent, which is the key to development and success.
While there is no substitute for a good gym, if your retreat is really isolated and there is no training available, then find a training partner, order some videos/books, and/or attend some seminars. I have hundreds of training DVDs and my top picks for home MMA study are:
StandupCrazy Monkey (CM) series

ClinchCouture’s series

Ground - Matt Thornton's Functional JKD Series Two – Discs 1, 2, & 3
Bas Rutten’s MMA workout is also a great option for solo home workouts and only requires a CD player and a heavy bag. It is currently being used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Facility for their officers in training. I use it on the heavy bag for my warm-ups and days when I can’t make it to the gym. The set consists of an instructional DVD and four workout CD’s, boxing, kickboxing, MMA, and an all around workout.

As side benefits, you’ll also be working on Steps 1 and 2 during your MMA training. Fighting and getting punched in the face on a weekly basis is a great character builder and the cardio demands of fighting are some of the highest.
Time: 3 hours per week. MMA has a steep learning curve, so you’ll want to train at least twice a week. Classes usually run about 1-½ hours.
Cost: From gym to gym the price will vary. Gyms with competitive teams can cost over $100 per month, but good “hobby” gyms can be found for $50 per month. I have even trained at a local church that had great training and tough opponents for no charge.
Step 4: Shoot like Delta
Superior weapons proficiency and handling ability is another trait of highly skilled operators, and while we’ll never have a multi-million dollar ammo budget and 8 hour range days, there are alternatives for us.
First and foremost, seek out a good school and take tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun classes. Look for classes that are designed to help you win a gunfight. Once you take the classes, then you will have the skill set that you can take home to practice. Tactical Response offers great classes in all the disciplines. While it is no substitute for professional instruction, if you cannot afford classes, here my top picks for DVD instructional videos:
Handgun: Jim Grover’s Defensive Shooting Series

Carbine: The Art of the Tactical Carbine  

Shotgun: Tom Givens Defensive Shotgun

Second, develop a dry fire routine based upon the core skills you learned from your class or DVDs. Focus on key skills like drawing from concealment, weapon transitions, malfunction clearing, magazine changes, and positional shooting. If you can afford it, buy Airsoft replicas of your guns so you can work on shooting and moving, multiple targets, and force-on-force drills.
The final, most important step is to shoot competitively. Monthly competitions will build your gun handling skills and accuracy under the stress of time and the competitive nature of the event. Tactical pistol matches are a good start, but I prefer Three-gun matches where you get to shoot rifle, pistol, and/or shotgun in the same stage. This way I get to do live fire once a month with all three guns in stages and scenarios that someone else creates. Shooting and moving, weapon transitions, shooting from cover, shooting in and around vehicles are some of the benefits along with mastering the basic core skills. Don’t get caught up in “gaming” the match, instead focus on using the tactics you learned in your gun fighting courses. Use cover, draw from concealment, and throw some dummy rounds in some mags. It will slow your times down, but will pay off by ingraining good habits.
During and after the match, identify weak skills to work on during the daily dry fire sessions until the next match. If you don’t have local matches, you can usually find the stages online, and set up your own match on your farm/range or even in your backyard for an Airsoft match.
Time: 1 hour per week (10 min. per day of dry fire/Airsoft) Our local three gun match usually last about 3 hours, but since it is on a monthly basis and is so much fun, I don’t factor that as training time.
Cost: $0 for dry fire. $15 dollar entry fee for our three gun match,  plus your ammo costs. Our local matches usually require less than 50 rounds of pistol and rifle, and less than 25 of shotgun (birdshot). We also have a .22 division where cheapskates, like myself, shoot conversion kits to save on ammo costs.
Step 5: Cross-train like a Green Beret
Aim to make yourself as well rounded as possible. Maybe you are in great shape, are a good fighter, and shoot in the top ten at your matches. Excellent! Keep working those foundational skills because they require the most time investment due to a steeper learning curve or degradation over time, but now is the time to look outside your Spartan routine for weak links in your overall skill set.
Sit down and make a list of skills you want or might need in the uncertain future and rank yourself on your competency. Focus training on the categories with the lowest rating. Training can be accomplished through research, classes, or knowledgeable friends.
Emergency medical skills, wilderness survival, hunting/trapping, mantracking, mechanical repair, patrolling, tactics, edged weapons, orienteering, home security, high performance driving, gardening, beekeeping, homesteading, sniping, escape and evasion…. If you are like me, you’ll have a four page list in no time.
Time: 1 hour per week. Try to spend an hour a week working on your weakest skill. Once your weaknesses catch up, only then should you focus on training that you are naturally drawn towards and enjoy more.
Cost: You can spend as much or as little as you like. Your training priorities and interests will guide you. I work on trucks at my friend’s garage, I order gardening books, my beekeepers meetings are $20 per year, and my next tracking class is $385. The goal here is to learn and develop new practical skills.
Step 6: Evaluate yourself
Be honest and routinely critique your progress. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and how can you work on them? Ask yourself if you could out fight, out shoot, or out run/lift the “old you” from three months ago? Also seek out standards of fitness and shooting, available on the web, to see how you compare. Keep a training log so you can watch your progress.
Example for today 9/9/09:
Mental: Only 5 hours of sleep last night. Still sore from the last cycle. Hate lunges and box jumps. Have lots to do before work. Suck it up and get it done.
Three rounds on heavy bag of Bas Rutten’s MMA workout (boxing CD) – 10 minutes
CrosFit WOD:
Four rounds for time of:
100 ft Walking lunge, carrying 30 pound dumbbells (no 30’s so subbed 25 pounders.)
24 inch Box Jump, 30 reps
30 pound Weighted pull-ups, 20 reps
Time: 19:44 (M/33/6’1”/205)
Dry fire:
10 minutes of tactical reloads with M4
Total time: 40 minutes. Hit all three primary areas. Will stretch for 10 minutes tonight and read a chapter of the dentistry manual I am reading.
There may be some people that are reading this that cannot do a pull-up, let alone weighted ones. That is okay, just start out on the scaled version and you’ll be cranking them out soon enough. Example of the lowest scaling of today’s WOD from BrandX:

3 rounds
100 ft Walking lunge
12-15 inch Box Jump, 20 reps
20 Beginner or Assisted pull-ups
In reality, some of us may have had years of bad habits, health, injuries, etc. that may prevent us from reaching the levels I have outlined, but any gain is still a gain. Because of the variety of functional movements, CrossFit at half intensity is still better than more traditional programs. Really light MMA sparring and rolling is still better than the [no contact/tap contact] McDojo stuff taught at the strip malls. I have seen a 50-year-old man at our gym getting thrashed by the more experienced, younger players, only to school a 20-year old “newbie” a month later.
You may never make it into the top ten of the three gun match or be posting record times on CrossFit’s board, but you are also unlikely to be facing a superior opponent in the real world if you work hard, as the majority of the population is in poor shape, cannot fight or shoot very well, nor will they be training as hard as you.
While I have been fortunate enough to workout with, fight with, and shoot with top level civilians that could out-compete the average Spec Ops member in their chosen sport or field, none of them could approach the overall well-roundedness of our country’s finest that I have known. Emulating these fine warriors within our group or family is a critical preparation step for TEOTWAWKI.
You may have years of stored food, a self-sufficient homestead, and an impressive battery, but liabilities in fitness, fighting, and shooting skills may negate your hard work and preparations. I look at training like saving for retirement, start early, save every day, and the benefits will add up.
So set aside eight hours this week and follow the training outline, this small investment of hard work and training might save your life, your family’s, your community, or your freedom.

JWR Adds: Unless you are already in a regular workout program, I recommend that you start any new program immediately after you've had a physical checkup. Don't totally exhaust yourself the first day. Work up your distances, weight and repetitions gradually!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The hard economic times that I--and many others--warned you about are now here. We are clearly now in the opening stages of a full-scale depression that will last a decade or longer.

This news article (sent to me by SurvivalBlog reader Eric C.) .about an unemployed couple in Indiana is a microcosm of what we will be witnessing for the next decade. Take a few minutes to read it.

Our pampered society is in for a rude wakening. Now, at the risk of sounding unkind and judgmental, the term "white trash" comes to mind. Note that this man in Indiana had no savings, plenty of debt, and obviously no food reserves. Also note that despite his "austere" budget on unemployment insurance, he wastes hundreds of dollars per month as he smokes cigarettes, drinks soda pop, drinks beer (in large quantity), gambles, and pays for commercial car washes. His wife still carries a Blackberry with an airtime contract. Why are they buying disposable diapers, when they could be washing cloth diapers? The article also mentions that the husband has gained 40 pounds in the year since he was laid off. Did he consider planting a vegetable garden? Or washing his own car? (Both would have saved money and provided exercise.) This couple needs a serious lesson in budget priorities. They say that they are worried about their children's school grades, yet they still have a television and XBox games. It is time for a garage sale, to sell those time-wasting gadgets. Then regularly-scheduled trips to the local library, to get their children literate!

This gent is in his thirties, yet he has ruined his health with drinking, smoking, and over-eating. He and his wife seem to view military service as a last resort for their high school senior son. Well, I have a news flash for them: Both the son and the father should have enlisted! In 2006, the US military raised its maximum age of enlistment to 42. (BTW, as the economy continues to worsen, I expect the military to raise their standards considerably and eventually begin turning away large numbers of candidates, just as they did in the 1930s.)

It is also noteworthy that this man is on anti-depressants. He is not alone. Consider this article that was sent to me by Karen H.: Antidepressant Use Doubles in US, Study finds. That is alarming just by itself, but just consider what will happen if and when the Schumer Hits the Fan, and all those patients run out of their medications. (And their booze, and their cigarettes, and their marijuana, and their MTV, and their Crackberry instant messages, and their chocolate, and their American Idol, and their Dunkin' Donuts, and their porn, and their meth, and their soap operas, and their "Energy" drinks.) This could get very ugly, very quickly, once so many millions of suddenly very cranky, very desperate people start roaming the streets. My suggestion is: Don't be near then, in any significant numbers. Move to hinterboonies.

In summary: I had no idea that wallowing in self-pity was such exhausting, time-consuming work. At least they have a comfortable couch and recliner. This old quote mentioned by a SurvivalBlog reader sums up their situation: "The Lord does not bless the farmer who leans on his hoe."

Here is my advice for SurvivalBlog readers on how to survive the currently unfolding Depression:

  • Work cheerfully and diligently. It is slackers that find themselves unemployed first.
  • Get debt free and stay debt free. Take on no new indebtedness, and pay down the debts you already have.
  • Learn to distinguish essentials from non-essentials.
  • Write a budget, and stick to it. Whittle it, as necessary, to avoid debt.
  • Sell off your useless Beanie babies and assorted knickknacks.
  • Increase your savings
  • Build up your food storage
  • Diversify your investments. Don't put all your money in one bank.
  • Check your bank or S&L's safety rating at Check your stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and insurers, while you are at it.)
  • Hedge your investments with some tangibles
  • Sell off any vacation or rental properties that don't have retreat potential
  • If you move, then it should be to a place near a secure job, and preferably to a piece of farm or ranch land that provides some self-sufficiency.
  • Develop a second stream of income.
  • Release yourself from your addictions. Pray fervently, and if need be, seek help.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Stay in shape.
  • Be willing to accept work that is lower paying or less appealing
  • Be charitable.
  • Most importantly: Get right with God. (Believe, repent of your sin, confess Jesus as your savior, and be baptized.) It is time to pray hard, folks! I believe in predestination. If you are reading this, and feel convicted to make change in your life, then you are fulfilling what God has had planned for you since "before the foundations of the Earth."

Forgive me for ranting, but that article about the unemployed family in Indiana got me a bit riled up.

One suggestion, in closing: If you get laid-off, do not move to a relative's basement in Michigan. Instead, move to where you can find work, even if it hard, "rolled up sleeves" work.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In descending order of frequency, the 78 readers that responded to my latest survey recommended the following non-fiction books on preparedness, self-sufficiency, and practical skills:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (Far and away the most often-mentioned book. This book is an absolute "must" for every well-prepared family!)

The Foxfire Book series (in 11 volumes, but IMHO, the first five are the best)

Holy Bible

Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

"Rawles on Retreats and Relocation"

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

The "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course

Crisis Preparedness Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Home Storage and Physical Survival by Jack A. Spigarelli

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon

Tappan on Survival by Mel Tappan

Boston's Gun Bible by Boston T. Party

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Survival Guns by Mel Tappan

Boy Scouts Handbook: The First Edition, 1911 (Most readers recommend getting pre-1970 editions.)

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein 

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Preparedness Now!: An Emergency Survival Guide (Expanded and Revised Edition) by Aton Edwards

Putting Food By by Janet Greene

First Aid (American Red Cross Handbook) Responding To Emergencies

Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook by James Talmage Stevens

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

Cookin' with Home Storage by Vicki Tate

SAS Survival Handbookby John "Lofty" Wiseman

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike Bubel

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide by Carol Hupping

The American Boy's Handybook of Camp Lore and Woodcraft

Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton

98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive by Cody Lundin

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management by Maurice G. Kains

Essential Bushcraft by Ray Mears

The Survivor book series by Kurt Saxon. Many are out of print in hard copy, but they are all available on DVD. Here, I must issue a caveat lector ("reader beware"): Mr. Saxon has some very controversial views that I do not agree with. Among other things he is a eugenicist.

How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman

Tom Brown Jr.'s series of books, especially:

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking

Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants (Field Guide)  

Total Resistance by H. von Dach

Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies by Hugh Coffee

Living Well on Practically Nothing by Ed Romney

The Secure Home by Joel Skousen

Outdoor Survival Skills by Larry Dean Olsen

When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need To Survive When Disaster Strikesby Cody Lundin

The Last Hundred Yards: The NCO's Contribution to Warfareby John Poole.

Camping & Wilderness Survival: The Ultimate Outdoors Book by Paul Tawrell

Engineer Field Data (US Army FM 5-34) --Available online free of charge, with registration, but I recommend getting a hard copy. preferably with the heavy-duty plastic binding.

Great Livin' in Grubby Times by Don Paul

Just in Case by Kathy Harrison

Nuclear War Survival Skills by Cresson H. Kearney (Available for free download.)

How to Survive Anything, Anywhere: A Handbook of Survival Skills for Every Scenario and Environment by Chris McNab

Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance by John & Martha Storey

Adventure Medical Kits A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicineby Eric A. Weiss, M.D.

Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: The Indispensable Green Resource for Every Gardener  

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook (superceded the very out-of-date ST 31-91B)

Wilderness Medicine, 5th Edition by Paul S. Auerbach

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Longby Elliot Coleman

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring

Government By Emergency by Dr. Gary North

The Weed Cookbook: Naturally Nutritious - Yours Free for the Taking! by Adrienne Crowhurst

The Modern Survival Retreat by Ragnar Benson

Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John McPherson

LDS Preparedness Manual, edited by Christopher M. Parrett

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Principles of Personal Defense - Revised Edition by Jeff Cooper.

Survival Poaching by Ragnar Benson

The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We may soon depend on all of what we have learned over the years. Putting all of the threads of knowledge together into a tapestry of self-sufficiency, and survival capabilities, is part of the lifelong quest for our family’s security. We learn from many sources and experiences such as: family, church, friends, teachers, teammates, co-workers, reading books and SurvivalBlog, and hopefully from our mistakes.

Preparedness Skills from our Grandmas and Grandpas

The foundation for preparedness begins with my childhood in Michigan. We lived in Lansing where my great-grandmother was next door and my grandmother lived next door to her. My father was born in great-grandma’s house after the family moved to the city during the early 1900s. My sisters and I spent weekends and summers alternately at my mom’s family dairy farm, which was just outside of the city, and at my dad’s family cabin “up north”. These were the richest times of my life. We knew all of our grandparents and some of our great-grandparents very well. My great-great-grandfather still lived in the old log cabin when I was born in 1956. We have been fortunate to have had five generations alive consistently from then until now. The wealth of love and knowledge you gain from your extended family is irreplaceable.

The “old timers” told stories of hardship during the great depression and the dust bowl era (we live an area that was the largest prairie east of the Mississippi.) Memories of crop failures with tales of early and late frosts were passed down. There were also hunting and fishing stories passed down as we learned to hunt and fish with older family members. There were bigger than life lumberjack stories and stories from Prohibition and the World Wars. I learned to safely handle and accurately shoot a .22 rifle with peep sights when I was six or seven years old. I walked the roads with my grandpa squirrel hunting. We ice fished on local lakes and went to Tip-Up Town USA every year. All of this adds to ones persona and the early experience helps awaken the necessary “survivalist” traits.

On a working dairy farm you rapidly learn about life (and death). Animal husbandry and caring for the land lead to sustainability. Animals do become food and harvesting the crops sometimes seems little reward for the hard work. The milking must be done every day and chores do not wait. As a kid I learned to drive tractors and pick-ups to and from the fields. We mowed, bailed and then stacked the hay in the mow. Alfalfa, oats and corn were the field crops. Pigs, chickens, and sheep were raised along with the dairy cows and we cleaned the barns and spread manure.

Knowledge is passed down from generation to generation such as when to plant, where to plant, when to harvest, and how to raise the animals. There were many topics of conversations at the Sunday breakfast table. Many things are debated and discussed after chores and before Church. Most times the conversations continued outside the Church after the sermon. It was the only time you saw the other farmers. When you are a little guy you tended to be quiet, pay attention and learn.

Grandpa was a farmer and Grandma was a one room school teacher. Grandma also taught vacation bible school during the summer break. Us kids learned how to tend good gardens and helped preserve the food we raised. We took care of the barn animals while the uncles milked. We hauled water to the bull pen and helped milk as we got older. Survival skill sets from the farm come from being part of a close knit community with a solid work ethic. There are strong religious underpinnings with good people engaged in caring for one another as well as the animals and the land.

Preparedness from "Roughing It”

The log cabin “up north” had a well-house for getting water and an outhouse for getting rid of water. There was a wood fired cook stove for heat and kerosene lamps to play cards under. There was a red checkered oilcloth on the table with cane chairs around it. The place was originally homesteaded by my great-great-grandfather in the late 1800s (a few electric lights were added at some point.) We used to go up on Friday night after Dad or Grandpa got out of work. The next morning started with an awakening trip to the outhouse and then fetching a bucket of water from the well house and kindling for the wood stove. On a cold morning you stepped lively until the fire was going.

Once the stove was hot, Grandma would cook buttermilk pancakes on a griddle that my great-grandmother had used in the lumber camp. Eggs and bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet. Clothes were washed on a washboard in a wash tub and then hung out to dry. You took a bath in the river. During the summer we would fish morning and evening and water ski on the nice days. The family summer vacation was spent camping in a tent along the river or at a state park. The old cabin was also used for small game hunting in the early fall and deer camp in the late fall / winter. We would take walks in the woods and look for morels and other edible things like may apples, hickory nuts or raspberries and huckleberries. Animal tracks were learned and followed with hopes of a glimpse. Life was considered sacred unless needed for food and being a part of nature became obvious. A leave no trace and waste nothing ethic was being born.

Opportunities for further wilderness and pioneering skill development were provided by Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. My mom and dad were actively involved in Scouting when I was growing up. Teamwork and sharing responsibilities for the group were learned. Outdoor cooking and keeping things sanitary were heavily emphasized. Food poisoning is no joke – we had one patrol that damn near killed us with their meal. We learned to wash our hands and boil the crap out of everything. Hiking and backpacking skills were beginning to be developed in the Scouts. We day hiked a 20 miler once a year on the Johnny Appleseed Trail - the Scouts version of the death march. You had to carry a full pack if you wanted the patch. We also hiked the Pokagon Trail in northern Indiana and learned to camp in the winter.

While living in Pennsylvania (later in life) I started winter backpacking with a few of my buddies. We went in the winter both for the solitude it offered, and to learn the special skill sets required for survival in the cold. There are beautiful views from Seven Springs and other spots along the Laurel Highlands Trail during the winter. This experience then led to the development of technical mountaineering skills. The books Basic Rockcraft, Advanced Rockcraft and Knots for Climbers were memorized along with study of the book Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. Skills were practiced and ingrained.

My first solo backpacking / climbing trip came in the summer of 1980 in the Organ Mountains of southern New Mexico. I later solo climbed most of the 4,000 and 5,000 footers in New England (many in winter). I met a like minded climber on one of those hikes and we made a summit bid on Mt. Rainier in June of 1998. I also began the solo circumnavigation on the Wonderland Trail that year. I set the first tracks both that year and when I completed the circuit in June of 2001. Map and compass skills were required. Primitive camping while carrying everything you need to survive for two weeks is a tough proposition. It was tough in my 30s and 40s. It’s even harder now that I am in my 50s. G.O.O.D. to the deep woods is doable but it would be a hard life.

Responsibility and Teamwork

We learned to be responsible and self-sufficient during our childhood. We learned to play without other kids around and had chores to do for our allowance. I learned to gather the wood and light a fire as soon as I was old enough. You pumped the water and filled the reservoir if you wanted warm water for washing up. You learned to use guns and knives as tools while you learned hunting techniques and cleaned the game for the table. Being a responsible hunter meant taking ethical shots and using what you kill. Catching and cleaning fish, then cooking or smoking them were all part of being a good fisherman. To go along with these survival skills you also need the ability to share knowledge and work as a team.

Most of the skills you learn will help you to fend for yourself one way or another. The only problem is summed up with the statement “no man is an island”. You will need others sooner or later. My sisters and I developed basic teamwork skills while setting up camp. The girls helped mom and I helped dad. We had a “system”. This was carried further in Scouting. Some Patrols set up tents while another set up the kitchen. These valuable lessons were used later in life as I went through boot camp and during service in the military. I served on small boats as part of a search and rescue team in the USCG.
Teamwork helps to overcome the steep learning curve and high risk of being a self-sufficient survivalist. You can do things as a team exponentially quicker and safer than you can by yourself. Your bunkmate becomes your partner in boot camp and later becomes your shipmate. You learn “one hand for yourself and one hand for the boat”. As a team you can survive what would kill you alone. In a bad storm someone has to steer while someone bails out the boat. One person couldn’t do it. Avalanche in the back country is another perfect example - by yourself you are probably dead. Doing things alone is great - but it may cost you your life. Skill and knowledge can’t cover your a** like a buddy. It’s nice to have someone else on the rope with you; they are your only hope.

Teaching everyone at least something you know and learning from everyone something you don’t know can only make the group stronger. If someone gets sick or is tired someone else can step up. CPR is a good example here. In the back country one person can’t help himself. One person helping may bring back the life but it better happen quickly. Two people allow you to send someone for help while rendering aid until you are too tired to continue. Three people allow almost indefinite support. Two can alternate CPR while waiting for the one who left for help to return with the defibrillator. If help is real far away, then it’s done. There is a point of no return. Remote locations usually cross that point which is a distinct disadvantage (unless the SHTF).

Without teamwork you will usually die if something bad happens. Everyone has to be a good shot. Everyone needs to be able to render first aid. The group is only as strong as the weakest link and precious resources are spent covering someone’s a** that’s not up to speed. Teach and learn and cross train. Remember what you did as a kid and don’t sell the kid’s of today short. Teach them the skills they need and allow them to grow into the responsibility. Being part of a team or extended family that functions like a team is fun. The action of being responsible for one another is at the root of any team.

The Prepared Family

The family is the primary source of knowledge. Some survival skills to learn right along with reading, writing and arithmetic are: swimming, knot tying, fire building under all conditions, where to get water and how to make it safe to drink, safe gun handling and accurate shooting, hunting in fields and the woods, fishing in rivers and on lakes, first aid, camping, boating, gardening, making things “homemade”. You can’t start learning or teaching these things too soon.

10 years ago we moved back home to Michigan after living all over the USA. I had come home for my Grandpa’s funeral and was returning to New England. Something was wrong and I couldn’t put my finger on it. That’s when the light came on and as I drove it became apparent that I was going the wrong way – both figuratively and literally. We were chasing the so called “American Dream”. Losing my grandfather and returning to the north woods had shown me where home really is. It is with family and God and where your roots are. I had drifted away from the true values I had learned early in life.
I resigned my position, cashed out the 401(k), and bought the homestead from grandma. We planted 24 fruit trees and installed irrigation systems for the gardens. We pruned the grape vines back and tended to the asparagus beds. My wife renewed the old flower beds and I have replaced the split rail fence. We re-roofed everything. The folks put down another well up the field and had another septic system installed for their travel trailer. We had a 100 amp power drop installed and we also buried a power cable from the field to the trailer for a 12 volt system (small scale solar and wind).
I once again could use guns after living in the tyranny of Massachusetts. (I refused to get an Firearms ID card so my guns never left the house in 16 years.) I taught a niece and nephew to shoot with the same .22 that grandpa used to teach me with almost 50 years ago. My nephew, now an 8th grader, got his first deer this past year. No one believed him when he came home and told them. He did it on his own.

Things have now come full circle in our life. My grandma lives with us in her old house through the summer. My sisters are both Grandmas themselves now and they are taking care of our mom and dad. The kids have great-grandparents and a great-great grandmother. My understanding wife of thirty years and I live here on the homestead as stewards of the family heritage. The whole family gets together up here once or twice a year. We know how to provide for and take care of each other. If the SHTF my sisters and the rest of the family will head up here to the homestead and once again adopt the ways of our Great-Great Grandpa and Grandma. Everything we have learned through our lives will serve us well. Skill sets from the north woods and from the farm are derived from living simple, living manual and living with nature as part of nature.

We used to fall to sleep on a feather tick mattress while listening to rain tapping over our heads in the loft of the old log cabin. Bedtime stories were told as we drifted to sleep and the whippoorwills sang into the night. We didn’t think that the day would come that just about all of what we learned from our family and from our life would come into play. Thank God for our tight family and all of the distilled knowledge passed down to us. I now live in a home built over the site of the original log cabin and now we have 7 generations since my great-great grandparents first cleared this piece of land. It looks like we will be talking of another “Great Depression” soon and the complete cycle renews. Do we learn from our mistakes?

Preparedness Skills and Materials

We’re preparing for the future and I hope to teach what I can to as many people as I can before it’s over. We can survive well if we draw on one another’s strengths and knowledge. It starts with the family and moves out to the extended family then to the neighbors and on to town folk and into the blogosphere. Many people have grown up in similar circumstances and have similar experiences. We must practice our learned skills and trades all of the time to stay fresh and perpetuate our way of life. We must keep acquiring new skills and more materials for survival. Preparedness is a constant quest.

Survival trades that I've learned:

ASE Certified Master Auto Technician
Journeyman Machinist and Apprentice Welder.
Experience with all aspects of house construction from framing to finish work, including house wiring and plumbing for water, gas and DWV systems.
Professional ditch digger and home brewer of beer.

Survival tools, equipment, and material acquired over the years:

Comprehensive set of Snap-On hand tools, diagnostic equipment and garage.
Several redundant computers and complete wi-fi coverage with satellite internet.
All of the carpentry, plumbing and electrical tools needed to build a house.
All of the tools required to garden both manually and with gas engines.
Fence building tools and supplies.
5,500 watt gas generator.
Wood stove and saws, axes, mauls, wedges.
Stores of food, bits of gold and silver, books and manuals, and lots of lead.

Survival firearms battery:

Auto-Ordinance Model 1911A1 .45 ACP (I qualified Marksman in USCG)
Stag Arms AR-15 with 20” Bull barrel, 5.56 (I qualified Expert in USCG)
Marlin .22 WMR (squirrel / varmint gun)
Mossberg .22 LR (shot this since 1962)
Ruger M77 Mk II .270 Win. (my deer rifle)
Winchester Model 94 .32 Win. Special (got my first deer with Grandpa’s gun)
Mossberg 12 ga. 3 -1/2” Ulti-Mag in Camo (turkey / duck / goose gun)
Winchester Model 1897 12 ga. 2-3/4” (I've shot this gun since 1969)
Reloading equipment and supplies (loads for Barnes Bullets)

Survival Quest 2009 (the final pieces I'll need for grid down and "zombies"):

Ruger M77 Mk II .300 Win Mag with optics
A manual water pump (the old pump is gone)
Wind turbine and photovoltaic panels for water pumping and power generation.
Battery bank and inverter
More kerosene lamps
Night Vision for the AR-15

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Situational Awareness has a number of definitions, from the rather complex to the "simple". They include:

  • The process of recognizing a threat at an early stage and taking measures to avoid it. (Being observant of one's surroundings and dangerous situations is more an attitude or mindset than it is a hard skill.)
  • The ability to maintain a constant, clear mental picture of relevant information and the tactical situation including friendly and threat situations as well as terrain.
  • Knowing what is going on so you can figure out what to do.
  • What you need to know not to be surprised.

This comes to mind because of my recent reading of your novel, "Patriots". (An excellent book. A must have for any "prepper".) The book is primarily about a group of people who joined together to survive in the "days after". The daily requirements of surviving in times of roving bands of criminals and martial law enforcers were covered rather forcefully. Many of the challenges they faced required an armed response, and situational awareness was often discussed. For the kinds of situations in which the "Patriot" folks found themselves, the extremely helpful explanations of such matters as OPSEC and LP/OPs are very helpful to anyone facing what is soon coming for many of us. As the book describes, situational awareness is absolutely vital to survival and success in our near future.

But, while situational awareness is most commonly thought of as a conflict skill, there are also other kinds of situational awareness. On Yahoo Groups, there is a discussion group about surviving in the days after. One of the most prolific writers has several times recently warned the readers to "Get out of the cities now !". He's even suggested moving to very unpopulated areas and using wood pallets to erect shacks. IMHO, this is a suggestion that will cause many people great harm. Folks, with little or no preparations, suddenly moving to the land to escape the "Golden Horde", will likely fail or die. Just reading the stories of the many pioneers who moved west, will quickly sober you up from any "can do/don't know" thinking.

I have lived nearly all my life on a farm. I have developed a deep knowledge of the land. It has come at the great expense of many missteps, failures, successes, hard work and time. I call it having situational awareness of the environment. I know what certain kinds of clouds mean when forecasting tomorrow's weather. I know that the vine-like plants with three shiny leaves aren't so good to eat or touch. I know a dead snake can still bite. People just coming to the land for the first time will have little of that knowledge.

For untold years and many generations, the knowledge of how to live on the land and be self-sufficient was passed down thru families. In farm country, school was often found at the back fence. If you or your Grandfather didn't know something, the farmer next door often did. I remember many times in my youth when I'd be out working the land and the guy next door would be out on his. Often as not, we'd stop and stand by the line fence and talk. ...And I learned lots. But, now, much of this passing on of knowledge is lost. Farmers more commonly sit 12 feet in the air, driving an air conditioned combine, following the turns suggested by the GPS receiver on the dash. Your parents most likely worked in a factory or a shop, than on a farm. What was common family knowledge just a couple generations ago, such as maple syrup making, canning, gardening, butchering, animal husbandry, etc., etc., is gone. The "chain" is broken. Without this great deal of passed on knowledge and experience, nearly any farm endeavor can, and often will, lead to unexpected disaster.

This is where Situational Awareness comes in. "The need to know, so as not to be surprised." The list is endless, but for starters:

  • Knowing the good bugs from the bad in the garden
  • Knowing fresh horse manure will kill a garden, fresh chicken m. will help
  • Knowing only 3 or 4 ounces of yew leaves--a common landscape plant in much of the US--can kill a horse
  • Knowing how to split wood so that the axe won't glance off and chop your leg
  • Knowing that burning certain kinds of wood in your wood stove means you need to clean the chimney twice a winter so you don't burn down your house [with a chimney fire]
  • Knowing the nice, fresh, clean, free flowing, mountain stream may be full of giardia.
  • Knowing that, when plowing with a horse, you should never tie the reins together and put them around behind your back so your hands are free to handle the plow. (This was the way it was done in the novel "Dies the Fire" [by S.M. Stirling). If your horse happens to shy and takes off running, you will be dragged along the ground and be seriously hurt. The proper way to plow is with the reins over one shoulder and under the other. Then, if your horse runs, you just duck your head and the reins slide off.
  • Knowing that crows in the garden are bad because they eat the new planted seeds, but crows around your chicken coop are good because they keep away the hawks that will eat your chickens.
  • Knowing that if your tractor suddenly starts making a new sound, this is not good. Stop immediately and figure out what's going on, before something breaks.
  • Learning to look around you when walking, instead of only staring at the ground for your next step, (as most people do).

And on it goes. I have lived decades on the land. There's not a day goes by that I don't learn something. But even with all my handed down knowledge and hard-fought experiences, I'm not even sure I could make a go of suddenly heading out to the "country" to build a cabin and barn, till the soil, cut fire wood, store food for man and beast, and more. It's just awful hard without lots of prep's. And I can tell you, without an extensive knowledge of what the "environment" around you is telling you, it's darn near impossible. ...(Taking a walk in the woods can hurt just as much as a walk on certain inner city streets.)

So what are you to do ? Well, having a "G.O.O.D." bag and great escape vehicle is a start. Having supplies, tools and seed already in place really helps. But once you get to your retreat site, have a plan, have some knowledge of how to do, what to do. Practice now. If you think you're going to learn while living in a wood pallet shack, you won't. You'll most likely die. If there's no more Elders to ask, get to know the other "elders"--books. Go to local farms and ask to spend time just helping, so you can learn something. Go to a school to learn skills; like tracking, orienteering and fire building without matches; (one of the best, imo, is Midwest Native Skills Institute). Never take charcoal or lighter fluid on a picnic, learn to gather what burns. Go camping in winter, instead of just when it is "pretty" outside. Find a "big animal" vet. and ask to attend and help when birthing a calf. Most especially, turn off your tv. Use your time to learn to sew, or knit, or make soap. Pick up (fresh) dead animals on the road and practice skinning them and then tan the hide. [JWR Adds: Needless to say, consult your state Fish and Game laws before doings so!] Find local crafts people and acquire a skill, such as weaving, or candle making, or tin smithing, because having a survival trade in a cashless society may keep you alive. Learn to listen. Throw away those darn ear plug music things. Learn situational awareness. What is the wind telling you about the day ? What does the sudden and not normal crowing of a rooster warn you of ? What does the setting of the moon in a certain place on the horizon tell you about the season ?

Learn what it takes to live on the land, before you have to suddenly move there. Learn what nature, the land, and new tasks are telling you, before you find yourself in a difficult situation, ...(un)aware.

- Jim Fry, Curator, Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment, Ohio

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Are you really ready to meet the challenges of a TEOTWAWKI situation?
I think often about what may happen if I have to move myself and my family over a long distance of rough terrain through a hostile environment and in urban combat conditions. I’ve wondered if I’m physically ready to face the challenge. Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. But have you ever actually put yourself to the test to really know what you can do?

Maybe you say, “Of course, I'm ready. I have a basement full of food-stuffs, ammo and weapons, and survival gear. I have a 4WD vehicle in the driveway. All I have to do is load my gear and bug out.” But have you asked the hard questions? Have you put aside your facade of macho pride and actually assessed your physical readiness to accomplish the mission of preserving your family and your own life?

Start at the beginning. How long will it take you to move your stockpile up a flight of stairs? Do you have the endurance to lift all of those buckets, tubs and packs into your truck by yourself or with one other person? All the gear will be useless if you are too exhausted to even take the first step in your plan.
Then what if the vehicle runs out of gas or is otherwise immobilized? How do you get where you're going? You probably figure you’ll pack what you can in your BOB and huff it on foot, right? Really? How far will you get before you collapse? One, two, three miles? How do you know?

What will you do if you must cross a defended danger area and are engaged against armed hostiles? Can you assault through using fire and maneuver? It's exhausting.
What if you're already in a secured retreat? Have you thought of what you will do if your retreat is overrun by a superior force? You may have no other option but a rear-guard movement to another location. Can you hack it?

Do you think you’re in pretty decent shape? I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty fit person. I ran cross-country and track in high-school. I scored a 96% on my Presidential Fitness Test. I did calisthenics and weights for 1-2 hours a day for years. I was a big-city cop and hit the gym after hours, did some martial arts on the weekends, and thought I was a pretty tough dude. But the years of sitting on my butt, consuming donuts, McDonald's and post-shift beers took their toll. My traditional fitness regimen just wasn’t cutting it.

At 25 years of age, I enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and I barely passed my initial strength test. A mile and a half run, max set of pull-ups and two-minutes worth of crunches had me reeling.

Let me tell you a little about the traditional training our nation’s “Few and Proud” go through. And then I’ll tell you why the Marines have realized that even that is not enough.

We started with mile and a half runs at about a 9-minute/mile pace, a measly five pull-ups, 50 crunches in two minutes, and about 50 push-ups a day. And we were just disgusting First-Phase "Maggots".

Over the course of 13 weeks we increased these to 3 mile runs at an 8-minute/mile pace. We had a platoon goal of a minimum 10 pull-ups. The hotshots aced the test with 20 pull-ups. Everybody did 100 crunches within the two-minute time frame. In the final phase of boot camp one day I decided to count how many push-ups I did. I quit counting when I hit 500, just before lunch. We felt invincible.

But then came the infamous Crucible, our final graduation requirement. Have you ever rushed a 30-degree incline hill using fire and maneuver (leapfrogging) with a full rucksack, after marching for three or four hours? How about doing it several times a day after marching for 30, 40 or 50 miles in a few days? Have you ever tried to stay awake on a guard post, covering your three or four buddies while they sleep, when you’ve only had four hours of sleep in the past three days? What about carrying a 180 pound casualty on a litter for a half-mile under the blazing California desert sun? And this is only recruit training.

Despite this rigorous regimen, members of the military community of which I am a part have recognized that the traditional fitness models of long-distance running, calisthenics and weight-training are wholly inadequate to prepare a person for the rigors of extended periods of combat. Do you think your current fitness plan (of let’s be honest, complete lack thereof, right?) has you’re ready?

Last year the Marine Corps did a study on “Functional Fitness” concepts. The high incidence of non-combat-related injuries among forward-deployed troops highlighted the need for a change. Guys who could run 3 miles in 20 minutes were collapsing during approaches and assaults. Guys who could do 20 pull-ups couldn't carry a casualty or climb a wall. If a combat survival situation presents itself, what should you expect? Unless an EMP nuke goes off while you are at the YMCA, I can guarantee you won’t be going for a 5-mile jog in a track suit with sneakers on. You’ll need the endurance gained from this kind of training, of course, and you’ll need the strength gained from push-ups, pull-ups and crunches. But you’ll need more.

Seriously think about what you might be doing. Loading boxes of ammo and food stuffs into vehicles? Jumping in and out of trucks? Climbing over walls, through ditches, sprinting from block to block? Or taking an extended trek across the Midwest as you head for the mountains? What if a team member is injured? What will you do?
What about when you get where you’re going? You’ll likely find yourself digging ditches, earthworks and fighting positions, chopping wood, hauling water and sandbags, and maybe even dragging large game away from the kill site. How do you prepare for this?

The result of the Marine Corps’ study was the implementation of a new Combat Fitness Test. There is much you can learn from in this program. I’ve seen “fat-bodies” and “weaklings” pass the traditional 3-mile run, pull-up and crunches test. But I’ve seen some pretty “tough” guys fall-out vomiting from our new test. The new test consists of a combat simulation based on our recent actions in Haiti, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first element is a Movement to Contact; running to the fight. It’s an 800 meter “sprint” in full utilities and boots.

The second element is an Ammo Re-supply. You lift a 30 lb. ammo can from your chest to an overhead, arms-extended position as many times as you can in two minutes.

The third element is a 300 meter Movement Under Fire. Start in a prone position, as though firing a rifle from a covered position. Sprint 25 meters to another covered position and hit the deck, back into a prone position. Low-crawl on your belly for 10 meters. High-crawl on your hands and knees for another 15 meters. Stand and sprint through a 25-meter serpentine (place cones 5 meters apart, every 5 meters for a zigzag course). When you get to the end of the serpentine, you have a seated “casualty” you must lift up from behind (squat down and grab him under his arms) and drag back through the serpentine. Once you’ve gone back through the serpentine, transition your buddy to a fireman’s carry and sprint 50 meters back to the starting point. You’re now halfway through!

At the start line, pick up two 30-pound ammo cans and sprint the 50 meters to the serpentine. Negotiate the serpentine. Now, pick up a grenade (you can use a baseball as their nearly the same size and weight). Lob it at a 5x5 meter target 25 meters downrange. Hit the deck and do three push-ups. Stand, pick-up the ammo cans, go back through the serpentine, and sprint the last 50 meters to the finish.

I run a near perfect score on the traditional test, and I nearly failed to complete the new course on my first attempt. So how should we train?

First, you need to develop a basic level of fitness. If a flight of stairs leaves you huffing, you’re really going to be hurting WTSHTF. Start walking. Over the course of a few months, increase from a half-mile after dinner, to four miles. My mother did this and lost about 60 lbs in a year. When you can walk 3-4 miles, start jogging. Begin with a mile at a 9-10 minute pace and then build up to where you can run 3 miles. Unless you’re training for a specific athletic event, there’s not a real need to do longer runs than this. The risks of injury versus gains in endurance are impractical and the further endurance can be gained by increasing your walks to five or six miles and maybe a 10 or 15-miler once a month. Do at least a third of your running in clothing similar to what you’ll be wearing to bug-out. Do at least half of your walking with a full backpack on.

Calisthenics are also useful for developing the basic body structure necessary to support a combat fitness regimen while minimizing injury risks. No special equipment is needed to do crunches, push-ups, leg lifts, squats and stretches.

Depending on what kind of shape you started out in, you should be able achieve a basic level of fitness in one to three months. Then you can begin your combat fitness conditioning. Now, I live in an urban environment and due to my job, have little opportunity for the kinds of work I did as a laborer in college. There’s no lumber or concrete to haul to a job site and no hay bales to throw in the back of a pick-up. But there are a few things I do have, that you can incorporate into your daily fitness plan.
First off, get a couple of sandbags from a farm-supply or military surplus store. Fill them and empty them. Repeat. Build up to doing fifty in one session. I dare you. You will build incredible forearm strength and endurance, as well as thickening up your hands, strengthening your shoulders and stretching out your back.
Carry the sandbags around. Do you remember the “shuttle run” from gym class where you laid bean bags on the lines of the basketball court? Put two sandbags on a line 15 yards out. Run out, pick one up, bring it back and drop it. Run back out and get the other one. Vary the set up and repeat. Do this in boots and utilities.
Buy a couple of ammo cans. Fill them with sand (or boxes of ammo, right?). Weigh them out to about 30 pounds. Set up some cones in your yard (or the local park or a parking lot) and run with one in each hand through a serpentine course. Try running with 60 lbs of ammo for more than 5 minutes. You will strengthen your back, shoulders, forearms, knees, ankles and mind.

Lift the same ammo cans. First, as a traditional squat, from the ground to standing, then set them down again. Repeat. 100 times. Next, lift them from your chest over your head and back down. Repeat. 100 times. When you can do this without collapsing, you may be getting close to being ready (at least physically) to handle a dire situation.
Now get a partner. I like partnering with my wife and kids. Put a kid on your back and run around your house 5 times. Don’t pass out. Have your wife lay down “dead” on the ground. Get her up over your shoulders and fireman-carry her around the block three times (3 laps times 4 sides equals 12 city blocks, approximately a mile!) You may have to do this for real some day!

Practice sprinting 15 yards and then hitting the deck and rolling to a covered position. Count to 5, push-up into a run and do it again to the next position. Repeat for a good 5 or 10 minutes.

Load your bug-out bag and go for a hike. Can you do 10 or 15 miles? Are your feet calloused enough to do this for several days in a row without disintegrating? Skip the keg party this weekend and find out. I'll bet that five miles leaves most of us office-jockeys spent.

These practical drills can help prepare you for the time when you may have to G.O.O.D. in a hurry with a bunch of armed and panicking locals in your way.
At this point you may be thinking, “Well, here's another military fitness nut. These are ridiculous. I don't have time to do all that. I'm sure I'll have the energy and adrenaline from my need to survive if the time ever comes...”

I've been there, done that, and failed. Fortunately it was in practice drills that I was slapped awake to the extraordinary challenges of combat survival. Without the strength and endurance I've achieved from focused training and conditioning, I would have failed to accomplish my assigned missions in Iraq. Even with the training, there were times I thought I wouldn't make it through. I was pushed beyond the limits both mentally and physically.

How we train is how we will fight. And failure to plan is planning to fail. “Hope” is not a plan. The two objectives of Marine Corps Leadership are mission accomplishment and troop welfare. Among combat instructors we have a saying: “The best form of troop welfare is tough, realistic training.” All of the drills and exercises I recommend are tough. But more importantly, they are realistic. They will prepare you for the things you may be called upon to do should we face the worst.
Now that you know, are you willing to make yourself ready?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mr. Rawles,
Papa Papa made mention of getting in shape before the need to bug out:

Here is a link to a good workout that I found online. I have been using it and it is an intense workout that requires very little of my time. The information is available for free. The workout also goes by the name Combat Conditioning. Sounds appropriate. Matt Furey sells a comparable course for over $100. I hope your readers find this useful. Thank you for your help. I am praying for the Memsahib and you. - Konrad M.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dear SurvivalBloggers:

Modern images of strength conjure up big pectorals and biceps and perhaps a set of 6 pack abs but are these the muscles we need to develop for WTSHTF? No, not really.
Here's some ideas of the less romantic parts that would be useful to work on now.

1) Hand and forearm strength: Gripping, grappling and weapon retention come to mind. Consider how many things we would have to use our hands for if there were no power (and no power tools). Kneading dough, screwing screws, pulling ropes. Do you have the grip strength to carry two 5 gallon buckets full of water 1/4 a mile at 8.3 pounds per gallon? Do you have any calluses or is your job cerebral and are your hands soft and unprotected.

2) Lower back strength: Lifting, gardening and carrying a pack come to mind. Can you carry your wife or buddy if he or she were injured? Can you drag them (hand strength again)? Try pulling 150 pound person a few times across the lawn and find out.

3) Cardiovascular strength: Okay, perhaps not a strength per se, but how's your conditioning? Can you run an 8 minute mile without cramps and total loss of fine muscle control (meaning that you can still fire your weapon accurately)? - SF in Hawaii

Friday, June 27, 2008

One of the constant knocks by the mainstream media on the preparedness movement is the oft-touted canard that preparedness, indeed the “survivalist” mindset is nothing more than an excuse by far-right loons to engage in Rambo-esque fantasies of firearms, firefights and macho posturing. While there is a scintilla of truth to this in some far dark quarters of doomsday lunacy, it is for the most part fiction. (This matches JWR’s caveat on discussing unregistered suppressors [in the US] or other illegal preparations). So that we bring no discredit on what is nothing more than prudence, perhaps a few short observations can be proffered here so those of a serious nature can learn to assume a proper martial mindset without resorting to hysteria.

Preparedness, survival, or any other euphemism one can assign to our interest is as much mindset as gear, land or other physical manifestation of prudence. It is in itself a way of life that incorporates simple daily teachings, practice, and when training, the incorporation of real-life situational aspects that can better model an actual emergency scenario or a situation of social unrest. Any competent defense professional will say that greatest advantage in warfare is information, followed by logistics, then combat power. It’s no use having the greatest army in the world if you don’t know where the enemy is nor if you can’t you feed your troops. As Napoleon so famously postulated, an army marches on its stomach.

So with those adages in mind, how does one prioritize daily living to more readily understand these concepts? We all have things we do on a daily basis, so the question of incorporation becomes one of time management, especially given the marvelous source of information now available in today’s 24 hour “always on” culture. For instance, instead of perusing the morning newspaper or watching the morning breakfast, find several reputable financial news sources such as the online versions of the The Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. Start educating yourself on how markets move, how seemingly insignificant moves in commodities or futures, such as pork or wheat can have a direct impact on your daily life. This also gives you markers to start creating your own scenario planning data for acquisition planning, and in the worst case, a timeline for moving to your retreat. American’s are notorious for living in a bubble, in what is now a deeply materialistic culture, and missing the obvious signs of downturns both in the US and abroad. This new discipline has an upside as well, in that by becoming a more financially-aware individual, you can make more informed decisions on how to manage cash flow or even become a day-trader, freeing up capital for other, more serious purposes. Understanding the world around you, looking at information as intelligence rather than simple factoids and being aware of the bits and pieces that can provide a different and in many instances, a more accurate picture of what is really going on, is a skill that will pay one back in spades. Think outside the box!

Next, personal fitness is a must. In any crisis situation, adrenalin levels, stress, even physical injury can manifest themselves in a variety of ways that can cripple or terminate the best laid plans. It is therefore mandatory that anyone considering a preparedness strategy baseline their family health. The advantages of this are twofold: first, it gives one an idea of how much exercise they will need to incorporate into daily life to bring them to a level of basic fitness of a recruit in the US Army, ideally the Marines, which is not as hard as it may appear. Second, this will aid in identifying a medicine acquisition plan for family members so you are not caught short in a crisis situation. There won’t be heart or blood pressure tablets around if the mob has burned all the Walgreen [Pharmacies]. Gun shows are great places to get surplus, mil spec-quality first aid equipment, along with catalog houses that supply paramedics or EMS personnel. The best book on the subject is the US Army Special Forces Medical Manual, available anywhere, along with “Where There is No Doctor” and “Where There is No Dentist”. (I will cover medicine in a survival situation in greater detail in another post.) Learn how to take your blood pressure, especially pre- and post-exercise so you understand the difference between resting and active pulse. The various military physical fitness programs are all available on the web. Pick one that you can realistically follow upon consulting your physician, and then be rigorous in its application.

You want lean, endurance-based conditioning – not necessarily big bulky SEAL-like muscles. I can remember from my [USMC Force] Recon days watching these guys while with them at dive school, getting all bulked-up and then not being able to run worth a damn with my fellow Marines. You want endurance, endurance, endurance. Muscles will come, and remember: shooting skills are as much a kata as a karate movement and are technique-based on a solid, lithe platform. Incorporate a martial art into your training regimen if possible. This can be a speed bag, or large punching bag, dojo work, sparring with a partner or any other self-defense program. These teach discipline, respect for the art, and most importantly, stamina and situational awareness, all priceless skills in a crisis situation. These types of activities begin to solidify the warrior mindset, and in solidifying this mindset, you now assume the duty, indeed the responsibility to only use these skills in the protection of kith and kin, and not as a license to bully, cajole, or simply show-off. Many years ago my first sensei gave me an axiom that rings very true: “One warrior may spot another in an instant. Be it by the way he moves or by the way people avoid him. The problem lies when would-be warriors and/or fools attack a true warrior. The fool may seem to back the warrior down, but the warrior knows by instinct that he outclasses the opponent and does nothing, or just kills.” By increasing you martial acuity, you will soon learn to spot fools, an invaluable skill not only in crisis situations, but in life in general.

Learn to live in the outdoors. Go camping or hiking with your family as much as possible. Carry weight when you hike, so you get used to load bearing. Increase it, and record you accomplishments. Not only is it great exercise, but it allows for team-building activities and provides an avenue to understand group dynamics and how task-oriented your family is or is not and what your personal and familial endurance levels are and should be. Bring map and compass and learn orienteering skills, and if possible, find the local orienteering club and go on organized compass courses when you can. Land navigation is an invaluable skill along with map reading (topographic – not your normal service station map of greater Canton…). This was the greatest challenge when I attended [US Army] Ranger school, the skills of pace-setting and azimuth shooting, particularly at night. Remember, you may not have the luxury of G.O.O.D. as a family unit, so it is imperative everyone know how to find your retreat, rally point, or rendezvous site by azimuth and location. Moreover, in fleeing, you may need to alter your route intentionally if pursued, and you will want to keep your bearings so you eventually end-up where you need to be. This will help bond your family unit, and help in math skills with kids. Thinking on your feet and being able to understand where you are without navigational aids is the ideal. Hold a rehearsal drill with a prize or incentive at least yearly. Also have a vehicle plan that works on the same level – and here any of the relatively inexpensive commercial GPS systems can be a great help. However, don’t become reliant on them, as they fail, they require power, and they can be tracked. Map and compass are best – master them. Have your kids join the scouting movement in your area as this will also provide an inroad to appreciating living rough. I learned more about outdoor living in my 10 years of scouting than was ever taught to me in the many schools (with the exception of S.E.R.E. – Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape) that I attended whilst in the military. Lastly, get local guidebooks that identify edible plants and animals indigenous to your potential egress/retreat area. Again, take the family out and do some plant, bird, and animal spotting. Knowing how animals behave – particularly what they eat – can give you insight into how they react around humans, particular those humans not know to them. Understand the ebb and flow of the environment around your egress and retreat area. The warrior knows his terrain intimately and it is a force-multiplier in a crisis situation. From the Art of War, on the Varieties of Terrain for the commander: “if ignorant of the conditions of mountains, forests, dangerous defiles, swamps and marshes he cannot conduct the march of the army…”

We’ve now started to look at incorporate an intelligence gathering outlook on life, followed by a fit state of readiness for the unexpected, now what about conflict? Unless you live in a state that allows concealed carry, you most likely will not have much experience in the carry of, or more importantly, the skills of living with loaded firearms. The old soldier’s adage of training as you will fight is key here: living with live weapons does not impart a casual familiarity that can lead to tragedy, more so the understanding of levels of readiness depending on the scenario. Combat pistol and rifle craft will be followed in another post and there as many philosophies as there are gurus. I subscribe to the school of Jeff Cooper and Mel Tappan, and readers are encouraged to seek out their writings. Suffice to say, in regards to our emerging warrior ethos, the idea is mastery, as a weapon is only as effective as the mindset and situational awareness of the person wielding that weapon. Begin to think of becoming one with your chosen piece; don’t choose a combat handgun, rifle or shotgun simply on caliber and aesthetic appeal. You want to ensure you have good grip control, eye relief (for rifles) and for shotguns, that the stock fits snugly when snapping the weapon to your shoulder. This is especially critical when fitting weapons for women and children. Your martial mentality is the platform for that weapon to be effective so it is imperative it feel comfortable. Next, find an air pistol and air rifle that resemble your chosen battery. Rather than wasting ammo “snapping-in” on the range (and fielding potential embarrassing and/or curious questions), use these tools to get the feel for breath control, trigger pull and eye relief. Use toy soldiers to simulate range. If you pick a particularly loud air rifle, check local ordnances prior to beginning your training. I have used air pistols in my garage for many years with no problem. Just ensure you have sufficient target backing. You will be amazed by how well you shoot your live weaponry once you’ve disciplined your stance, breathing and bench positions with the air weapons.

One of the reasons I stress familiarity with a martial art is that all involve a relatively similar pre-contact stance. That is, feet slightly wider than shoulder width, a light bend in the knees coupled with a straight back and slight relaxation in the elbows in a punching position. This easily translates into the FBI “A” (“triangle,” “apex,” etc.) shooting position when using a pistol. There are a variety of shooting stances; find one you’re comfortable with and practice it until it becomes rote. I like to shoot on BLM land where I can set up a loose range with a variety of targets that can simulate a variety of situations. Moreover, one can carry side arms “live,’ the most important part of the exercise. Always use caution and appoint one of your group as range master. I cannot emphasize enough the importance in warrior thought of acclimation to daily use of one’s weapons. Each pistol, rifle and shotgun, and the associated ammunition and accessories, all have specific, indeed quirky, characteristics that are best discovered and addressed in a benign environment. Another advantage of the informal range is practicing contact drills in the form of fast draw and point shooting; again, topics for another time, but key to the mindset. In conjunction with the mechanics of the draw and basic tactical levels (safe – elevated – hostile), there is the consideration of dress and load-bearing equipment. We’ve all seen pictures of militia-types and airsoft rifle enthusiasts kitted-out to the nines, but in reality, no warrior worth their salt dresses in such a poseur fashion.

Kit should be scenario, then mission-driven. It’s ok to mix commercial and military gear, as it gives you the best of both worlds, along with adaptability and more importantly, a covert OPSEC profile. One need not run around in camouflage with chickenplate-enabled body armor and all the other stuff that goes with such a mindset in order to present a hardened, tactical, preparedness profile. Try running 10 to100 yard wind sprints with what you consider to be “appropriate” gear, along with running up and down hills, pausing frequently to set-up a shooting position, and you will soon see what gear is needed and what quickly proves superfluous. Moreover, one quickly grasps the need for constant conditioning, proper diet, and rest – again, train with the gear you intend to use in your preparedness planning. Crisis situations entail short-burst energy requirements, breath control, noise and movement discipline and a host of soft-skills that are much more important than having “cool” gear. You may have the slickest web gear, a trick battery of personal defense weaponry, and way-cool “digital” cammies, but if you’re too winded to hold an aim point, too thirsty sucking down water like there’s no tomorrow (and at that rate, there won’t be…), or cramping and puking for lack of salt, you are now ineffective as a resource, a drain on those dependent on you, and more likely dead, as you were not sufficiently aware tactically, as you were too troubled sorting yourself out… The warrior is ready at all times, and uniformly effective, regardless of time, place, or contingency.
I rarely wore the same load bearing equipment (LBE) configuration twice, as operational contexts were always different.

The axioms I lived by were simple enough: keep your [front] belt area free of any pouches or protuberances; this allows you to lie flush when rounds start flying; next, position you main weapon’s magazine pouches on your side, slightly behind your hip or ideally, over your kidneys, as again, when prone, they are easier to access without elevating your profile. You drink more than you shoot, so canteens can be located at the traditional hip pistol position; use [CamelBak-type water] bladders where possible, as they are less noisy, hold more, and can double as a pillow, rifle rest or anything else you can come-up with. 1 qt. plastic mil spec canteens are fine, but I normally carried them on my main LBE framed knapsack or butt back. Use mass to distribute weight (your hiking with weight pays off here). If you do use them on your waist belt, ensure they are positioned in such a way that you won’t injure yourself collapsing quickly on the deck, nor are they in the way of your weapons carry. Never attach a side-arm to an LBE belt that leaves your body. Drop-leg pistol holsters seem all the rage, and for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and urban warfare, they have a place. In a retreat scenario, less-so, as they will hang on fencing, drag on brush, and hamper quick ingress and egress from vehicles. Use good quality leather or black nylon (i.e. low-profile, non-martial appearing) pistol dress when not in tactical mode, and again, wear it as often as possible so it becomes second-nature. Shoulder holsters are good for this as well; just ensure it fits, can carry spare magazines, and that you have practiced drawing from the holster so it is not a liability. As to holster location, again, this is personal preference, as some like to cross-draw (i.e. a right-handed shooter holsters their piece on the left hip, magazine facing the target, and draws across the body) or use the simple hip draw. [JWR Adds: The disadvantages of cross-draw rigs have been previously discussed in the blog.] Concealed carry is much in the same vein, although by its very nature, you normally carry a smaller weapon, using a variety of purpose-built holsters on the arms, legs, inside the belt, or small of the back. I like the small of the back myself. Constantly experiment with your LBE until it is no longer “fiddly” and fits and works the way you desire. Run in it, dive on the ground in it, get it wet, understand how it behaves in a variety of circumstances. Use black electrical tape, or ideally, mil spec“100 mph tape” (in reality, olive-colored gaffer tape) to secure loose straps and to cover metal or plastic tabs or sharp edges that might become noisy or otherwise problematic in use. Don’t use black duct tape as it is too sticky and leaves a residue that gets on everything.

In recapping the warrior mentality relative to equipment, remember that less is indeed more; the more you pre-place, the less you need in a bug-out kit. Blend in and look "conformist" as much as possible, using situational awareness, concealed carry, and normal attire when going about your business in urban and non-conflict rural areas. Don’t depend entirely on surplus or new mil spec gear; use the best kit for the job, but more so, maintaining a martial “look” may draw the authority’s attention or encourage other fools of a tin soldier mentality to take you on. Adjust your kit profile to the appropriate level of security and risk and you should be fine. Lastly, you must reconcile in your mind the concept of deadly force. Regardless of how prepared your scenario, you may be forced to confront those that wish you harm, and you will die if you start the mental ethical thought process at the contact point. Knowing your tools, knowing where to shoot, and understanding the need to shoot will allow you the upper hand when dealing with fools. Concise action can often abrogate the need for violence; so again, preparedness can be as much a tool of avoidance as much as kinetic action. Deadly force will comprise several upcoming posts and I will also provide a topical reading list in the next few weeks, addressing not only use of deadly force, but the warrior mindset, how to plan and what constitutes strategy, tactics, and conflict. In the meantime, start thinking about times you’ve been scared, or in a heightened state of anxiety, or even shot at. What went on in your mind? How perceptive were you? What physiological signs manifest themselves? How did you compensate? In short, begin to analyze things from an angle of what you would do, say in an airplane crash or severe auto accident – I call this reaction planning, and it will save your life. Understand that danger has constants, just like any other natural phenomena. The more you think of “what-ifs?” the more you will be ready for crisis.

In closing, preparedness, like any other skill, is much, much more mental than physical. The successful preparedness planner is in essence a renaissance thinker, as you must understand and appreciate a variety of skills, and master the most critical at least at a basic level. In creating this series of articles, I will be working with a variety of assumptions: many of my readers will have had some military or scouting background, and possess a passing familiarity with firearms. You may have only just started to think about contingency planning, and I encourage you to mine the marvelous resources of SurvivalBlog. Next, that you have families, and you intend to incorporate your family or immediate friends or relatives into your planning; also, you are in the early days of simply trying to sort through the myth and reality of what the preparedness movement and mindset entails, along with the commiserate moral, ethical, and practical considerations one must entertain to not only thrive in a crisis situation, but also maintain the social mores of being a good citizen, neighbor and staying within the remit of reasoned law. And like a good scout: Be Prepared… Stay tuned! - "Jeff Trasel"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It was June, 1998. Y2K was a salient topic of conversation. It got my attention. When the electricity went off and there would be no water to drink, and no fuel to move food to the JIT grocery stores, I could see things getting very ugly. I had been willing to fight for this nation as a member of the US Army. Now it was time to fight for my household. I bought a Springfield Armory M1A. I bought a safe to store it in. I bought another M1A (for the spousal unit of course!) I bought ammo. Lots of it. I bought gear. I bought food. I became awakened to the idea of being self-reliant.
That was 10 years ago. Y2K didn’t cause a global melt down. (Although I have a friend in the service that sat in a command bunker holding his breath at Y2K – the government didn’t know what was going to occur.) I have not had to live through or endure Hurricane Katrina. No participation in the 9/11 attacks. In fact, I can’t claim a campaign ribbon for any disasters. Am I upset or sorry that I have changed my life to follow a path of self-reliance? Most definitely, absolutely not!

Let me share with you the good and the bad of what I have done in the last ten years. So often, people new to self-reliance are like ants at the foot of a mountain staring up with their head touching their back wondering how in the world they will ever be able to replace modern society and be able to take care of themselves WTSHTF. Well, truth be told, you can’t do it overnight unless you’re Warren Buffet. I am walking, talking living proof, however, that you can make significant progress. Let me show you!

In order to show you that you do indeed have cause for hope, let me share a few of my screw-ups. How about the initial purchases I made while in a state of “marked concern” when I became “self aware” with regard to self – reliance. The money I invested in self-reliance was my spousal unit’s “down payment on a house”. Do you think this view of “my nest” versus “the world may end” led to some intense “discussions”? You bet your last dog flea it did. For much of the intervening 10 years I have been the one prepping while my wife harbored a severe grudge against the entire topic because I spent our money for the house down payment on crazy self-reliance materials. A grade of “F” to me for consensus building. She is just beginning to come around in the last two years. Poster child example of a bucket of wet sand. (If two guys fight, they belt each other like two crazed wolverines. Eventually they realize they were stupid for fighting, shake hands, forgive and are back to being friends. Kinda like a cow urinating on a big flat rock – big splash and splatters, but it dries up pretty quickly. Get in an argument with a gal and it is like pouring water into a bucket of sand – the surface may dry after a bit, but it stays wet down in that bucket for a long time.)

I very religiously squirreled away Gillette Atra razors because that is what I used each day. The handle that you click onto the blade cartridge gave up the ghost after many years of faithful service. The stores don’t sell them anymore! Now I have three dozen packs of five cartridges with no way to use them to shave! Fortunately, I did find a second/spare handle in my stores and will be able to use them up. Did I re-learn some valuable lessons? You bet!

Two is one, and one is none.
You need to see what you have (inventories!)
Store what you Eat/use – I did great on the cartridges, but forgot spare handles!

In the run-up to Y2K I bought a dozen 6 volt golf cart batteries to be able to set-up some kind of power system in the house. Great intent. No photovoltaic panels No wiring until last year. They have been “stored” sitting on pallets in a friends storage building for 9 years because I have not been able to get to the replacement power system yet. I could have used that money for a higher priority item.
The spousal unit and I built our home last year. We did many things very right. Some learning experiences occurred, however. Maybe chief amongst them is my underestimation of the massiveness of the size of this endeavor! I joke with friends about not being free from the To Do list to be able to get into trouble for at least five years! Fix the septic pond berms. Sort out the “scrap” lumber. Put a deck on the back of the house so the [building] code Nazis will give us the permanent occupancy permit. Fix the leaking pressure tank in the basement. Fix the DR mower. Mow. Clear 30 trees dropped to get the septic pond clearance (not done with that one yet). Cut and split and stack firewood. The list goes on. Don’t get me wrong – I would not trade my homestead back for city living for anything. Was I able to foresee the "second & third order effects” of the change to a country homestead? Nope. Not even having read Backwoods Home magazine for 8 years. Thank God I listened to my in-laws and did not try to finish the upstairs interior construction while living downstairs!

Prior to Y2K I tried very hard to create a group. It failed in many ways. Had Y2K caused the feared problems, we would have been road kill. Okay, we would have been the third or fourth critter on the highway run over by life, but we were nowhere near ready to deal with WTSHTF/TEOTWAWKI. The Yuppie Queen and her husband went right back to spoiling their princess/daughter, buying Jaguars, clothes, and hair implants. You know - living the typical American city life. The other couple moved out onto 20 acres in a very rural county and raise goats and chickens. I am on 20+ acres and moving in a self-reliant direction. Two out of three ain’t bad!

I endured the gauntlet of multiple careers trying to find a fit for who I am. Thankfully, my spousal unit was trained well by her farmer parents. We never carried any debt other than the mortgage. One thing we did do smart was under-buy on our home with a condo (sixplex) in town. No car payments. No credit card payments. We kept 3-6 months of expenses in savings. One business venture was as a franchisee for Idiotstate. Massive mistake. Four years with no income for me and a net loss of $60,000 overall. What preps could you get done with an extra $60,000? I am certainly not happy I put one in the “L” column. I am not proud of failing. I am proud of jumping into the fight and giving it my 110%. As they used to tell me in the military, “What an opportunity for character building!” Learning lesson for me was that I should never have stopped Soldiering. I simply have green blood. I have returned to the Army by working as a tactical/leadership contractor at a nearby Fort and getting reappointed into the National Guard. Will a deployment take me away from directly protecting The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)? Yes. Does staying employed doing what God designed me to do mean we’ll have a steady income? Likely. Does a pension check from age 65 on make us better able to care for ourselves? You betcha. The world may not disintegrate in 30 days. It may actually remain fairly normal. One has to prepare for that contingency as well.

By now you have to be thinking “What a knothead! This guy couldn’t find his fourth point of contact if you put one hand on a cheek!” Well, not so fast there Skippy! I have a thing or two that should go in the “W” column. I should give you a massive dose of hope! Let me describe to you in a quick overview where I have come to in my 10 year quest to become more self-reliant. First, about our home…

Your home is your castle, right? Well mine actually kinda is. It sets on a chunk of land that is 20+ acres. The terrain is rolling and 95% wooded. It butts up against a cemetery to the north, a 900+ acre conservation area to the south, a river to the west, and a section line to the east. The home is an Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) structure. The walls are 1” of concrete fake rock veneer, 2.5” of foam, 8” of reinforced concrete, 2.5” of foam, 5/8” of sheetrock. It is “round”, being made up of 12 wall sections each 8 feet in width. Two stories with a basement. About 1,800 square feet of living space. (2,700 with the basement, however, that area is not finished yet.) Geothermal heating/cooling and a soapstone wood stove. Metal roof. No carpeting – oak floors and tile. The wellhead is inside the home so I don’t have to worry about winter breakdowns or freeze-ups, nor losing access WTSHTF. We are running at top speed towards the 20% equity checkpoint in order to get rid of the bankster-invented Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) extortion racket. (We have a credit rating of 804, so the “risk” the bank incurs by carrying our note is a freaking joke!). It suits our lifestyle very, very well. Our intent was to have a very low maintenance home. Having lived here one year in two more weeks, it looks like we have a very big check mark in the “W” column. More details on the design/floor plan in a future article!

Weapons & Training
We have an M1A set-up for combat, and one set up for long-range precision work. The Glock 21 [.45 ACP] is the base pistol for the household, with one for each of us and a G30 [compact Glock .45 ACP] as back-up. The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU) doesn’t carry a rifle or carbine, just the pistol. (More on that later.) Training for both of us includes Defensive Handgun 1 and Team Tactics with Clint and Heidi Smith at Thunder Ranch. I have also had General Purpose, Urban, and Precision Rifle with Clint. I completed a special symposium at Gunsite (pistol, rifle, shotgun, carbine). I am an NRA Certified pistol, rifle, and home defense instructor. I have several other weapon platforms as a “Dan Fong” kind of guy. The two rifles with accoutrements, and the four pistols with same were certainly not cheap. Nor was the training. I do, however, know how to properly employ them now.

Food & Supplies

The spousal unit & I could stretch the on-hand food to cover two years. Canned freeze dried is 45% of it, bulk buckets is 45%, and “normal use” food is the last 10%. We have built a rolling rack set of shelves for the 3rd part to ease rotation of the canned goods with each grocery store trip. No, I haven’t found the secret spy decoder ring sequence on how to rotate the bulk and freeze-dried stuff with our normal, both of us work, lifestyle. The sticking point for this area I see is that WTSHTF, Mom & Dad in-law, Sister-in-law, Brother-in-law with wife and two princesses (one with hubby), and my Mom & her husband will show up on our doorstep. That makes for an even dozen mouths to fee

Now for a bit more detail. First topic up, IAW my military training, is Security. The base of everything here is God. I have chosen to bend my knee to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I can amass all the weapons, ammo, food and “stuff” you can imagine, but He is the one ultimately in charge. I am charged to be a prudent steward of His possessions - my family, property, vehicles, food, weapons, ammo, etc.. I am definitely striving to be the ant storing things for the winter. If you ain’t right in this area, it will really matter in eternity.

Part of your security is weapons. There are sheeple, wolves, and sheepdogs. I am definitely in the 3rd category. In today’s world your “teeth” are your firearms. I plan from a Boston T. Party paradigm of having a battle rifle. Hence, the M1A. Were I starting over today, I would likely go with a FAL, but now "I will dance with the one that brung me". Or maybe just accept the brilliance of the M1 Garand at $620 delivered to your doorstep from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). I do have two of these. Hard to argue with .30-06 ball. I renovate Mausers as my hobby and so have a .35 WAI scout rifle. A second one in the more common 7.62x51 chambering is in work now. I laos have a Mossberg 835 [riotgun], two Ruger 10/22s (one blued, one stainless), Ruger MKII stainless .22 LR pistol, S&W 625 pistol in .45 ACP/.45 Auto Rim, a few Enfields, and a couple of Mosin-Nagants round out the field.

Let me detail for you the path to get to the Glocks. I think it may save you some of your money. I received a Colt Gold Cup [M1911] .45 ACP pistol from my Dad as a graduation gift from the Hudson Home For Boys [aka USMA West Point]. Great intent. A weapon as a gift – how can you ever be wrong in doing this?! However, a terrible choice as a combat weapon. The Gold Cup is a target pistol. Tight tolerances. Feeds only hardball, and that can be tenuous proposition. I carried it on the East-West German border leading patrols. The rear sight broke twice. The front sight shot off once and tore off twice. It was a jammomatic. I hated it. Sold it to a guy that wanted to target shoot.

Took that money and bought a stainless Ruger P90DC. Sack of hammers tough. always goes bang when you pull the trigger. Inexpensive as far as handguns go. After some marked de-horning, you could even make it run in a fight without shredding you at the same time. One marked problem. Two [different weight] trigger pulls [for first round double action versus subsequent round single action.]. This started to teach me to throw the muzzle down as I pulled the trigger in double action. This nasty habit caused a problem when you were firing the 2nd through X rounds, as now it operates as a single action. TLSU had a heck of a time with it at Thunder Ranch. Clint loaned her his G21. No more trigger problems.

Still bowing at the altar of the 1911, I bought a Kimber Compact to carry instead of the Ruger. (I still have the Ruger – it is still “the gun that my Dad gave me” and no one buys the P90 used for anywhere near it’s initial cost, so I can’t sell it without taking a significant bath on it.) The Kimber was going well. Then I got a little too aggressive at slamming magazines home in the shortened grip and jammed it. Then the recoil rod unscrewed itself during an IPSC run and seized the gun while messing up the trigger. Off to Kimber. Free warranty work and 48 hours without my self-defense pistol. Now I have no confidence in the pistol. I Loc-Tite’d the recoil rod and staked it so it wouldn’t come undone again. Then I sold it.

Glocks cost roughly one-half of what a Kimber does. Crummy factory sights, but all my pistols wear tritium anyway. No ambidextrous safety required. My short fingers are mated to big palms, so I can handle the grip. TLSU has been trained on the Glock Model 21 (G21). It ain’t an issue of psychological derangement like many guys get about their 1911/Glock/H&K/Springfield, but it is a comfortable and working relationship between Glock & I. I have a G21 and a G30 for both of us. They always go bang accurately and they have never rusted. I am not pleased with Gaston [Glock]’s refusal to take responsibility for any mistakes they make in manufacturing. No problems with the G21 however. A pistol is what you use to fight your way back to your rifle, which you shouldn’t have laid down in the first place.
M1As hit my safe because it is what I knew from the service. They also fire a full power cartridge, 7.62x51. It makes cover into concealment. I don’t have the other 10 guys in an infantry squad fighting with me so I can maneuver under their covering fire. I have to hit the bad guy with a powerful blow once and move on to the next wolf/bad guy. Mouse guns firing rabbit rounds don’t scratch that itch for me. To each his own. My two are old enough to have USGI parts and good quality control. Here are the mods I made to my “combat” M1A. Maybe they will help you:

Krylon paint job to disrupt the "big black stick" look
M60 [padded] sling
Front sight filed down so that zero is achieved with the rear sight bottomed out
Handguard ventilated
National Match trigger group, barrel, and sights (came as a “Loaded” package from Springfield)
Rear aperture drilled out to make it a ghost ring
Skate board tape on slick metal butt plate
For the “Surgical” M1A (it shoots1/2 minute when I do my part):
National Match loaded package
Trigger assembly additionally tuned at factory
Unitized gas system
Factory bedded
Stainless barrel
Swan rings and QD bases
Leupold M3 3.5-10x40 scope
Handmade leather cheekrest

Other weapons - I have two M1 Garands. Both were bought from the CMP. One is stored offsite with a "Bug-In Bag" (BIB). One is a Danish return, less wood, that I re-stocked. TLSU has claimed this one as hers. Ammo from the CMP is cheaper than any other cartridge out there, save the communist surplus stuff. An M1917 Enfield (also from CMP) is in the safe, along with a 2A, a #3, and a #4. A VZ24 is stored offsite. The first Mauser I renovated is sitting there as an additional .30-06 with a Trijicon 3-9x40 tritium-lit scope. A Remington 700 with Leupold VX-II scope is in the safe, but likely to be sold soon. A Mosin-Nagant (M44 or M38) ride in each vehicle.

I formerly had [Ruger] Mini-30s. I could never find any 20 or 30 round magazines that would function reliably. I sold them and got SKS carbines. When I quit holding out for TLSU to become a Warrior and carry one, I sold them off to fund other toys. I am pondering the purchase of an AK folder because it is a sack of hammers tough and can be transported discretely. I don’t know if I have ever come out on the positive side when selling a gun. Now I have to re-buy an AR-15 to have one for training purposes. The SKSs could be useful for arming the family showing up on your doorstep. Hindsight being 20/20, I would caution against selling any gun you buy. (The 700 mentioned above is a 2nd precision weapon and I have no AK to train with. Still deciding.)

Ammo is required to feed these weapons. I have over 10,000 rounds of 7.62x51. I have over 10,000 rounds of .22 LR. No, I don’t think these amounts are enough. Now that the costs of ammo have risen to heart stopping levels, I really don’t feel like I bought enough in the past! I need to plus up the quantities/smatterings of other cartridges that I have like .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .40 S&W.

The location of my home is the best I could get balancing competing requirements. It is as far from the city as we can get and still stomach the drive to work. It is between two major line of drift corridors – 12 miles to the major one, 8 miles to the secondary one. It is bordered by neighbors on only one side. The folks in the cemetery don’t say much. The critters in the wildlife area are more vocal - the ducks, turkeys, geese, hoot owls, loons, coyotes sound off regularly. We don’t mind. About 95% of the property is wooded. A few hickory, lots of oak. walnut, (unfortunately) locust trees are all there. The local river comes out of it’s banks about every other year and blocks our driveway for several days, but never comes near the house. The German Shorthair is long in the tooth for security, but she is there. A new pup is in the pipeline.

I would feel a great deal more secure if the homestead was picked up and dropped into Idaho or Alaska. It is about as good as we can do, though, staying near a major city so we can have decent paying jobs. There are some improvements we can make though. I just bought a weather alert radio from Cabela’s today. Tough to hear tornado sirens when you live miles away and have 1 foot thick walls! We need a driveway monitor/alarm. Again, the superior insulation of the walls means we hear nothing outside. I can see the utility of sandbags if things got really ugly. Some more land line communication assets would be useful. I think an AR-15 for training people would be useful, as would an AK. Overall, I think we have done pretty well in the security arena.

Our Home
We started the 10 years in a condo. It was part of a six-plex set on a small pond. I hate Homeowner’s Associations and their covenants! We could afford the mortgage on one of our two paychecks. Good thing! I didn’t get a paycheck for four years. We scraped by. Two years after re-entering the job market we built our house. We worked on the plans for five years. Beware! Finding a property piece and building a non-shoebox home on it is not for the feint of heart! You effectively are funding the construction of a mini town. You build and maintain mini roads (your driveway). You must build and maintain a mini sewage plant (Your septic system/pond). You must build and maintain a mini water plant. (Your well.) You must perform mowing and tree removal for the mini parks of your town (Your “yard”/acreage). I will write a separate article detailing our construction woes.

Let me highlight some of the self-reliant features of the house for you. We did not want to spend a constant stream of Federal Reserve Notes [FRNs]on maintenance. We used insulated concrete form (ICF) construction for the structural strength and the energy efficiency. The metal roof should outlast us. The geothermal and the R-50 walls of the ICF are paying us back the initial investment in construction costs. We opted for no carpeting due to the track in mud nature of the property, having a dog, and me having allergies. Wood and tile floors don’t hold dirt like carpets do. Less fire hazard as well. We used commercial steel doors for the exterior and security-need spots. They have ASSA [high security] locks. They have peepholes.

The basement has a 10’ square root cellar for the storage of canned produce from the garden. It also has a safe room/shelter. 12” of concrete overhead. The well head is enclosed in it. Land line telephone and power service into it via buried lines. Food stored in it. DC wiring in place to the attic for when we get to the photovoltaic [PV] system. We also ran DC wires to each room in the house for the use of LED lighting off of a battery system. The soapstone wood stove augments the electrically driven geothermal. (In spite of several damaging thunderstorms this past year, we have not lost power so far – great job juice Coop!)

The stairwell was kicked out onto the W/NW of the house. This shields the house from the hottest part of the day’s sunlight, and the coldest winter winds. We made the stairwell an extra foot wide. What a huge nice difference that foot makes to walking up and down each day, not to mention moving stuff up or down them! The mud porch/entry was set up for coming in with muddy boots, or for snow covered coats. We should have made it 1’ wider, as it can be a little tight. The bench is great for donning/doffing boots. The tile is easy to clean the muddy paw prints, human or canine, off of.
Windows were one of the few areas that caused some fireworks. TLSU wanted a green house in order to take advantage of the great view of the property. I wanted firing ports to defend against mutant zombie hordes. I am still hugely uncomfortable with the nakedness the windows leave us with. Yes the view is great, but what about when we experience incoming rounds, or more mundanely, when someone comes out to the property while we are away from the house all day at work and they help themselves to our stuff? Some relief is in sight, however. We are pricing Shattergard vinyl film for the ground floor windows.

Things That are Still Need on the Home
The great thing about the R-50 ICF walls is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. The bad thing is that they are R-50 and pretty tough. We can’t hear anything without a door or window being open. Hence the just purchased weather alert radio for us from Cabela’s this week. It is kind of eerie waking up at 0200 hours and having no idea if the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm or if it is a tornado. The television is useless when the rain is so heavy that the dish won’t get a signal. With regard to 2-legged varmints, a driveway MURS Alert system is on the purchase list as we have had multiple invited guests show up, beat on the front door, and have to walk around to the living room windows to get our attention so they can be let inside. Okay for invited guests – certainly too close for uninvited varmints!

The entry hallway was one of TLSU’s “must haves” in the house layout. It has worked out well in terms of traffic flow and such. The security door at the foot of the stairs is a tough choke point to deal with at 0500 in the dark. No light installed there means nothing is visible through the peephole. I will have to install a camera and/or light so I don’t open it to let the dog out in the morning and get rushed by 2-legged varmints.

So far, the only commo needs are between myself and TLSU. When the sister-in-law, brother-in-law, parents-in-law and my Mom show up and we start pulling security, we will need to be able to talk more. I have an old set of TA-312 [field telephone]s and wire for the primary LP/OP, but obviously will need more in this area. Just not a sexy/fun area to spend FRNs on for a combat arms kinda guy, but I am working on the self-discipline needed.

We did look ahead and sink the FRNs into running 12V wires in the home for future installation of PV panels and batteries. Obviously things like the Shattergard film, more food, more Band-aids, etc., are of a higher priority though. We are working our tails off to reach the 20% equity mark to get rid of the PMI extortion as well. I still have an ASSA lock to install on the shelter door, and one to put into the basement door. Other projected door enhancements include armor plates for the front, outside basement, shelter, and outside storage doors. There just never seems to be enough $ to go around, does there?

The other major source of fireworks during the home design/build was on-demand water heaters. Having taken a 30 minute hot shower with one in Germany for 5 marks while on an FTX, I well understand what a brilliant piece of technology they are. TLSU, having never been outside of CONUS cannot give up on the electric water heater. She still doesn’t believe that the electricity will ever go out for more than an hour or two. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to draw hot water at the kitchen sink, and take a hot shower from a propane fired on-demand heater? She doesn’t get it yet. Obviously not something to break up a marriage over. We really did very well on the whole house building thing. The opposite of what everyone warned us about. I am pretty proud of that performance!

We started a garden this spring. So far, it is an endeavor run by TLSU. Spinach, onions, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, beets, and some herbs. I have not been able to convince her to expand the size. She wants to learn in steps and I am the whacko that orders 100 seedlings at a time from the conservation department, which then overwhelms us in the planting department. For example, the first iteration of this tree-planting endeavor, we got them the Thursday before Easter weekend. Friday night and all day Saturday we planted our buns off. TLSU was indeed a great Trooper about it, planting right along with me. Sunday was spent at church and pigging out at family’s homes for Easter. Monday I had shoulder surgery to grind off bone spurs and remove cartilage chips. Too much, too fast. But at 7 FRNs per 12 seedlings, how can you argue? I have to admit though, that after two years of the 100 seedlings, I am ready to give it a rest. This year we settled for seven apple saplings. Initial inspection of the cherry, pecan, oak, walnut and persimmon seedlings around the house reveals about an 80% survival rate. Only another 10 years and we will be getting food from them!

The initial freeze dried and bulk storage food needs to be rotated. Anyone figured out how to do this kind of at home cooking when the two of you work? The canned/”normal” food is now being rotated with each grocery store trip. We have canning jars for this year’s veggies and the root cellar has a robust collection of shelves to store them on. How much is enough? I don’t know. Four geographically separate and secure stashes of three year’s worth of food for all of the family? Who knows!?

I have Boo-boo kits just about everywhere now. You know, the band-aid and antibiotic salve with ibuprofen kit that handles 90% of life’s issues in this area. Now comes the high-dollar investment stuff. The combat blow-out packs for gunshot wounds or serious car wrecks. I did go along on a buying trip to a medical warehouse and got some catheters, sutures, gauze pads, etc.. I did get in on the last great iodine buy before our loving big brother government banned the sale of iodine to us mere citizens. (It is a stewable ingredient to make drugs, you know – “we must deprive/punish all to protect you from a few. Oh, well, you don’t need to be able to sterilize water anyway – we’ll take care of you on that too….”)

TLSU and I eat very healthy food – locally raised beef with no antibiotics or growth hormones. No growth hormone dairy products from a local dairy. Spinach from the garden. There are sugar detectors on the doors. Also, no chips allowed. We get to the dentist regularly. We both do Physical Training (PT) . She jogs 3 miles, 3-4 times per week. I run over lunch at work about 4 miles, 4-5 times per week and lift weights twice per week.

“Needed Still” list includes: Blow out kits, more bandages, more hospital type stuff, more medicines, syrup of ipecac, more antibiotics, more feminine stuff (think of a vaginal yeast infection with no drug store open), drinking alcohol, poison Ivy soap and remedies, athlete’s foot cream, more baby wipes, more hand sanitizer, all forms of baby stuff, get the bone spur ground smooth in my other shoulder and the cartilage chips taken out, get rid of the cat (allergies).

We still have the same vehicles we had in 2001. A 1998 Toyota Corolla bought with 30,000 miles, and a 1999 Ford Explorer bought with 45,000 miles. Both were paid in full when bought. Both avoided the 25% loss of value when driving a new car off the lot. The Corolla gets 37 MPG. I hate it. Every bit of plastic on it has broken – the car door locking mechanisms, the trunk lock, the ventilation system fan. It gets 37 MPG. I can’t find anything to touch that. The Ford is too big to get decent mileage, and too small to really be a useful truck. It is paid for and has AWD/4WD. It always starts. Both vehicles have BIBs and gas masks in them. Both have trunk guns. Both have roadside gear to help ourselves out of a jam. We are saving for the replacement of them both. We are going to be saving for quite a while. We need more cash in the BIBs and Bug Out Bags (BOBs)

All of the preps in this section were done via Cabela points. I bought gas and paid for business expenses - everything I could pay for with a credit card was paid for with the Cabela’s credit card. You get points at some sickening rate of $.01/FRN spent, $.02/FRN in the store. However, when you buy $6-8,000/month of stuff between personal and business stuff, it adds up! The gear for the BOBs & BIBs, weapons gear and parts – a significant percentage – 85%+ - came from Cabela [credit card bonus] points. When I got birthday or Christmas monetary gifts I spent them on self-reliance items. We did this never incurring any interest penalties because we zero the balance out each month. Our BOBs are set-up to sustain us for 10 days. They are packed in Cabela’s wet bags for load out in five minutes. Originally I sought to wear a tactical vest and ruck. After two unsuccessful winter BOB campouts where I could barely waddle one mile with both of them on at the same time, I dropped the vest. TLSU’s back is in tough shape due to scoliosis, so she is not humping any mammoth rucks with the extra three mortar rounds and can of 7.62 linked. We also decided that the G21 was what she could carry and dropped the SKS and chest pouches of 10 round stripper clips. Her ruck is a Camelback Commander. That is as big of a ruck as she can hope to carry without killing her back. We are not leaving home to go on a combat patrol in Hit or Fallujah. We are fleeing some kind danger and have every intention of avoiding additional entanglements, to include government hospitality suites in stadiums.

The Lovely Spousal Unit (TLSU)
I started self-reliance the wrong way. No consensus development. I saw a danger and acted. I am a male/sheepdog/warrior type. I am not sure that I could have ever persuaded her to participate in any meaningful manner before Y2K. She has only recently begun to do so after eight years of seeing me provide for and protect her. I was, however, stubborn/strong enough to do what I thought was the right thing and to heck with what was popular. Most “males” check their gender specific anatomical gear at the wedding alter and continue on in sheeple status. I get that females are the nurturers. I get that they work from an emotional starting point, not logical. Not wanting the tornado to destroy the house or the hurricane to wreck your and the adjoining three counties is, at best, the French method of addressing life. TLSU is finally helping me to rotate food via the grocery store purchases. She no longer rolls her eyes or sighs disgustedly when I spend my Cabela points to buy gear. Once I explained to her that I was planning to shelter and feed her parents and siblings and that our one year of food wasn’t going to feed all of them for very long, she started to get on board. She even likes spending the points off of her Cabela’s card now. She is running 3-4 times per week and gets some PT from work outside in the garden. She has come a long way. As best as I can tell, she will not ever be a warrior. We have come a substantial distance from sleeping on the couch each time a self-reliance topic hits the table of discussion though. A definite and growing check mark in the “W” column!

Skills that I have acquired:

Rifles – renovating Mausers and training at Thunder Ranch helps your ability to use these tools immensely.
Soldering – fixing plumbing leaks myself vs. paying a plumber $200 to show up and start billing me for work
Building – I invested 13 full work weeks of time during the building of our home helping the contractor. Some of it was the nubby work of cleaning up the scrap and sawdust. Some of it was banging in joist hangers. I laid all the tile and 95% of the wood flooring in the house.
Fix-it – the DR Brush mower has long passed it’s warranty period and while performing quite admirably, does need attention every now and then. The 1974 F100 demands attention regularly. Each of these repair work challenges teaches me a little more about mechanical items and taking care of things myself.
Sewing – Yes, my dear Grandmother taught me to sew buttons, and my Mom taught me to survival sew/repair things. A 1960 gear driven Singer sews nylon gear though!; )
Skills still needed:
More First Aid – it appears that a first responder or wilderness 1st aid course may be in the cards for this year.
More Hand to Hand – my goals and objectives list has had this goal on it for several years. Good news – I got started on knocking it off the list. Bad news, it revealed an “old man” shortcoming in my shoulder. Good news, I am getting the shoulder fixed (hopefully) during “normal” times versus after Schumerization. I just may get ambushed and not have my trusty M1A in hand. Having unarmed defense skills means never having to be a steak dinner/victim.
More riflesmithing – each birthday or Christmas gift of money has been partially apportioned to the purchase of gunsmithing tooling. I need more practice with the tools I have. I still need more tooling. I recently secured Parkerizing gear, but have not gotten the metal stands for the tanks built. Still, progress is progress and I can already do more to maintain weapons than 95% of the population.
Knife making – I just cringe at the idea of spending $300 for top quality knives. CRKT is my friend. Even better is learning to assemble the scales and blank myself. Eventually, knowing how to forge blanks myself would be useful.
Mill lumber – with 95% of my property wooded, I have the material to be self-reliant with regard to my lumber needs. I need a way to saw the tree into lumber though. First, the mill, then the skill to use it. Then I have the gear to diversify my income and help others.

Have I always done the smartest thing? Absolutely not! Much to the crazed satisfaction of a former operator buddy, I have cycled through the “best/high dollar” gear approach to the “sack of hammers USGI/AK” school of self-reliance. Don’t get me wrong – I ain’t surrendering my Kifaru rucks anytime soon! However, there were a great number of FRNs spent on those self-reliance tuition payments! Have I learned a lot? Absolutely, yes! Am I better able to maintain my independence and protect and provide for my family? Absolutely, yes! Could you do better than I did? Good chance. Have you done as much as I have in the last 10 years? Only your freedom, loved ones, and the quality of your life post-TEOTWAWKI depend on the answer to that one.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mr. Rawles:
T. Davies' letter begins with the proper assumption, that most people reading it will be suffering from hardening arteries and softening backsides, and NOW is the time to reverse the trend. Swimming, walking (especially), and running are all good exercises and abilities to possess and cultivate.

Beyond that, his comments range from dangerous (foot conditioning) to the plainly fallacious and silly (Tae Kwon Doe Masters kick harder than any others!). Where to begin?

Firstly, as to foot conditioning: yes, most of us could use some foot toughening, but the author ignores the fact that the African Bushman, as well as any other barefoot Aboriginal type he'd care to mention, is a tiny grasile creature, with very little extra weight (muscle or fat) on his bones. Therefore his body density to total body mass is much greater than his Northern European counterpart. Humans have become much larger, particularly in the past fifty years in this country. Why? ask your local, genetics, it's really just a guess, but the Aboriginal is small because a small man requires less food to sustain himself. Thus, diminutive size is a survival advantage on a daily basis. Also, the Aborigine, when on walkabout, isn't carrying a pack, rifle, ammo, and water, along with assorted medical supplies and munitions. He has, at most, a bow and a few arrows, and maybe some sort of water carrier. That's it. Walking around barefoot while burdened is asking for permanent foot injury, unless you are a Sherpa by birth. Limping and gimping about is the quickest surest route to becoming every MZBs first and favorite target. Modern boots are a bargain. Buy the best you can afford that fit you well, then buy two more pair and rotate them! Survival is dependent on one's ability to MOVE (Motionless Operators Ventilate Easily). The first thing one does when in a fight with a stronger adversary is to degrade his ability to move. (Read: chase you.)

Which brings us to the Martial Arts section:
Karate is highly focused on repetition, not kata, and makes greatest use of powerful linear attacks.
Tae Kwon Do masters kick no harder than any other masters. (I have been kicked by, and kicked, masters in almost every Martial Art taught in North America, and I have come out on the winning end of most of the exchanges. The hardest kicks weren't by Tae Kwon Do masters, and I don't practice Tae Kwon Do.) Backup mass is one of for Major components in generating power in all motion: Backup mass, timing, balance, and speed. There are many others, and these apply to ALL motion, fighting or otherwise. Notice, the term used is Backup, not body mass. without alignment with the direction of one's attack, the size of the body doesn't matter. Imagine me swinging a wooden arrow at you, arm fully extended. Now, imagine the same effort being exerted, but this time I am thrusting the arrow ...get the point?

Tai Chi is the root form (or the closest living relative) of all Chinese, and therefore by default Japanese, Okinawan and Korean martial Arts. The deadly fighters mentioned are master fighters, schooled in many styles and systems not just Tai Chi masters,

Kung Fu is a generic term applied to Chinese Martial Arts (as opposed to karate for Japanese/ Okinawan). I have never seen a generic "Kung Fu" school in this country. Most honor their distinct heritage proudly (wing chun, qi gong, jeet kun do, kempo, kenpo etc. Ed Parker's American Kenpo karate is considered kung fu by many, due to its origins in China) It is no harder to learn than any other form of fighting art.

Ninjitsu is an art I have no personal experience in, so my only comment would be that time spent practicing with arcane weaponry would be better spent practicing firearms proficiency. One may be able to disguise a sword as a walking cane (I do it all the time) but a Glock tucks right into the trousers as easily. Efficiency first, esoteric later...
Aikido is based on two principles, both using an opponent's energy (their attack) against him. First is evacuating the line of attack; second is turning big circles into smaller circles (a declining radius/apex arc, in engineering terms). Judo is not a sport form of Aikido. Aikido is a "sporting" version of Aikijuitsu, the Martial Art practiced in the Japanese Imperial Court. Judo is a "sporting" version of jujitsu.

Jujitsu is a grappling art, not just focused on grappling. Brazilian jujitsu is a "ring" oriented style. The greatest weakness with any style of "-jitsu" is that it is singular combat, and bad guys come in bunches, and it is becoming more ring-oriented (i.e., more "rules", ala boxing). I had a kid try an arm bar on me the other day. He caught me by surprise, got the legs around my arm and neck, but before he could straighten it , I locked my hands together, put a foot on his throat, and began to lift. I may be old, but I'm still plenty mean, quick, and crafty, and if you want to cheap-shot me in my own school, I'm more than happy to play rough! Needless to say, as my weight and his and my pulling all became directed on his neck via my foot, his efforts ceased precipitously, and he tapped out immediately and vigorously!

Please do not misunderstand my comments, but [Mr. Davies'] misinformation must be corrected before it becomes "common knowledge". After all, you and SurvivalBlog have become the "source of record" for the survivalist movement with the mainstream media. FWIW, - Bonehead


Regarding Mr. T. Davies' statement: "When you run, you should never touch the heels of your feet to the ground."

Is completely incorrect as is most of the rest of his remarks on running. To be honest the above statement is correct only if the runner is sprinting. Long distance running (800 meters or more) can be run on the heals of your feet! At least I do, and my knees have not been the problem.

For some really good advise on running please see Running World and Running Ahead. The latter has some really good runners that post often and are very helpful to both new and old runners alike.

I started running after walking the One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon a few years ago. I run to control my Type 2 diabetes sans medication. And so far so good

For new runners, do a web search on "Couch to 5K race" training program and follow it. It is a great way to start your running.

Some general rules to follow.

Build miles slowly. Don't add more than 10% to your weekly miles per week. In other words if you currently are running a mile a day for six days a week then next week should be no more than 0.6 miles more.

You should have one long easy run per week, and that run should be no longer than 30% of your weekly total miles

An easy run should be at a pace where you can carry on a normal conversation with your running partner

Cross train. It is important to have good core strength. If you don't you joints will attempt to move in directions the joint was not meant to go.

And stretch before and after your runs. This is a must. The before run stretch is always after a nice 3 or 4 minute warm up session. Never do this "cold"!!

Don't be afraid of walking some of your miles! Here is a fact: A lot of runners that keep missing qualifying for the Boston Marathon attempting to run all of the distance in qualifying races. When they start doing recoveries (walking) some of the distance, they find they make the qualifying time.

These rules will generally help and I want to repeat that: They will help in avoiding injuries. But very lucky is the person that completely avoids running injuries.

The number one rule for running (and even walking) is getting the proper shoe and having it properly fitted to your gait! This, more than anything, helps avoid injuries! Do a web search on running clubs in your area and contact them. Ask them where they go to get fitted for the proper shoes. The people in these shops are trained to watch you run and most of the top shops have machines that analyze your gait in the shop and see the mechanics of how you run, then fitting you to the proper shoe. To skip this process in your running is like buying a nice new .45 ACP then stocking up on .357 ammo. There are going to be problems! And be prepared to pay from $75 to about $110 for good shoes. I have not spent more than $95 to include tax on any of my shoes. The price range can go to $250 and above, but you still are going to be replacing them at between 300 and 500 miles no matter what you spend, so don't unless you just have to have the absolute top of the line. Oh and one other thing, NB 767 bought at Penney's for $55 is not the same NB 767 bought at the Runners Shop for $85. You will be replacing them in 150 to 250 miles. That is not saving money!! Tracking shoe miles is where Running Ahead comes in. There is a top of the line free on line log there and the tools are great! You can lay out training runs complete with miles. water stops etc. You can toggle between street mapping and Sat images and even graph the course elevations.

And don't forget to enter some local races. You'll meet some great people and learn more about running and your body than you ever thought possible! Where I live we have Pace for the Race Training each year. It is a group that meets to train for 15 to 16 Saturdays before the Indianapolis Mini. For several weeks before we run that morning we have guests come in and teach us the things we need to know to avoid bad knees, shin splints and ITBS (ITBS hurts like h**l!)

Hope this helps. There is nothing like completing your first 5K or half-marathon! - Gregg S.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

There is a lot of information online and in print about what gear to have on hand if the worst happens, tons and tons about how to store food, fuel, etc. There is even a plethora of information on how to get food and build shelter in the extremes. All of this leaves out some crucial elements. In this article you are going to see how to prepare your body and mind for working without equipment in adverse or even brutal conditions. the steps involved are extremely labour intensive. What you do with it is up to you.

If you are out hunting and home base catches fire, will you be able to get to a location suitable for shelter in a reasonable amount of time? If everything goes wrong and your supply caches are gone, the fuel stores have burned and the damned jeep is toast, is your body in the kind of shape it needs to be in to survive? If you are confronted by an attacker and your ammo is long gone, can you win in hand to hand?

Even the basics, like walking for a full day, are beyond most people in North America. This isn't a natural condition, and is not true in most of the world. In the highlands of Papua New Guinea a native will still walk a full day with a spear sticking through his leg if conditions require it. In the plains of Africa it is not uncommon for a tribesman to run a hundred kilometers in a day. This level of survival is available to anyone if they simply take the steps and do the work to build it.

A good place to start is with walking. People think that walking requires good shoes or boots. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some form of light foot covering such as a moccasin is useful but not necessary and most of the walking footwear out there will actually get in your way over long distances. Your feet are built with natural springs in the form of the muscle in the arch of the foot, most footwear destroys that muscle by giving constant support for the arch. Your feet are also supposed to bend at the toes, most footwear restricts movement through the toes. Then there is ankle support. In rough terrain your ankles are supposed to constantly modify their angle in order to maximize your footing, string ankle support actually prevents your ankles from being able to do their job. Finally we come to padding. Padding in shoes is supposed to cushion you from shocks. It actually does the exact opposite, providing no protection for impacts above 5 psi while preventing the bodies natural feedback mechanisms from reporting the true strength of your impact. Put another way, wearing those expensive hiking shoes can really mess up your legs over any kind of real distance. As stated above, simple moccasins are great as they offer a degree of protection to you feet, but they do lack durability. Other options include Nike Free's (the cross trainers are not as good from the foot health perspective but are much better than a normal shoe and will last a very long time). Alternatively, Parade boots have no padding at all and as such are better than hiking boots and last almost forever, while being very cheap from most surplus stores. Of course, barefoot is ideal and your feet will toughen up over time. Any of the walking options mentioned above will take a lot of getting used to. If you are unused to walking with this kind of footwear, you should start to practice now. The first few days will cause you pain in areas that are unfamiliar. After a few days the pain will mitigate and you will be able to walk faster than you were able to before, but you still won't have much in the way of arch muscle so anytime you push it you are going to experience muscle fatigue. Push yourself, but keep in mind that if you push too hard you will injure the muscle and be in worse shape than before you started. It can take quite a long time for a muscle that hasn't really been used since early childhood to develop, so be patient with it.

Running would be the next spot. Again, footwear has all of the same problem associated with it as it does in walking, plus there are some thing you will probably need to unlearn before you can be an effective runner. When you run, you should never touch the heels of your feet to the ground. The pattern is toes to ball or mid-foot, use the toes to launch again (this requires very developed foot arch muscles). Running on your heels means that the impact if transferring to your knees, causing minute damage with each step. The accumulation of that damage will increase your odds of a serious knee injury, usually within the first your of running. In a true survival situation your legs are your best friends, treat them with kindness and respect and they will outlast any vehicle, cover terrain that even a horse can't touch and keep you going when everything else has failed. Breathing is another aspect of running. If you have ever done track, odds are good you were taught how to breathe. Unfortunately you were taught wrong. When you run you should breathe exclusively through your nose. There will be a strong temptation to breathe out through your mouth (after all, that is what we were all taught). The problem with that is twofold. One, it rapidly expels all the Carbon Dioxide in your blood. This seems like a good idea, but in reality we require a small CO2 reserve to allow us to properly absorb oxygen. Without that reserve, you are simply making your body operate with less oxygen than it should have. Two, mucus. This sound fairly unpleasant, but mucus exists in our body for very good reason. In this case it helps to lubricate the nasal passages, but needs strong out breaths to flow properly. If you try running on a cold day, you will notice that for the first few minutes every in breathe through the nasal passages hurts, but once the mucus is being pumped properly the pain goes away. There is one other benefit of nasal breathing: many asthmatics who have tried it have found that they become asymptomatic and remain so. There is no real research on this, so these are purely anecdotal accounts, however the sheer volume of them is fairly persuasive.
So now you can walk somewhere and run if you need to put on a burst of speed. This is where the advanced stuff comes in. Parkour is a discipline that was created in France in the late eighties by a man named David Belle. Parkour is essentially the art of running away really fast in places that your pursuer probably can't follow. The best info on parkour will come from local communities, but barring that, the web site is a great resource. [JWR Adds: This video clip and this one of the notorious "Ninja For Hire" show the more extreme aspects of the art. Disclaimer: Kids, Do not try this at home! Their interpretation of the "art" seems foolhardy, especially engaging in practice jumping without at least wearing a rock climbing helmet!] What follows is more of a brief summary of the training and methodologies involved.

A huge part of Parkour is the idea of gradual progression. When you begin training you should practice landing as much as you can. Go to a flight of stairs and go up one step. Turn and face the bottom of the stairs and then jump off. When you jump, lift your legs as high as you can in front of you, and then bring them down so that they are almost straight (just a slight bend in the knees) and point your toes. Your feet should be a little more than shoulder width apart. Land on your toes, spreading the impact across all of them. As the impact starts to hit, bend your feet until you hit the balls of your feet, resisting with your foot muscles. Then start to sink down using your thigh muscles, while resisting as much as you can. You should end with your hands on the ground, between your feet. Listen to your landing, it should be almost silent. Once you can do that perfectly a hundred times, move up to the next step and start the process again. There is no point where you are finished training how to land, practitioners of parkour who have been doing it from the start still train how to land every day. That is fairly typical of parkour training, intensive repetition combined with conditioning and incremental improvement. The key skills are: landing, rolling, vaulting, climbing, jumping, and running. Parkour can save your life in literally hundreds of situations, from extracting yourself from a burning building (the creator was a fire fighter in France) to escaping pursuit, but it isn't a casual discipline and requires a very high degree of commitment.

Swimming is another skill that every survivalist should have. For swimming, it is probably enough to be able to cover a lot of distance although the stronger a swimmer you are, the better.
Finally there is unarmed combat. While parkour can keep you out of most situations involving hand to hand combat, there may come a time where it is needed (either because you are unable to formulate an escape route, or if you are diligent with parkour more likely because you are protecting a loved one who is unable to escape). Obviously there are many, many styles of martial art, and many factors as to which one is going to suit you best.

Karate is the classic martial art, because it was really the first one that western audiences had a large exposure to, but that doesn't mean it is the right one for you. Karate is highly focused on Katas [(choreographed sequences of footwork, kicks, strikes, and blocks)] and improvement can be slow, while many believe that Katas are actually detrimental to your ability to win a fight (Bruce Lee was among those who believed this.) Having said that, many people find the rigid discipline of Karate valuable, and it does leave you far better equipped in a fight than an untrained opponent.

Tae Kwon Do is more focused on mastering very hard, very effective punches and kicks. A Tae Kwon Do master actually kicks harder than someone of the same skill in any other discipline. Improvement tends to be fairly rapid, with the average time to black belt being around 3 years at 100 lessons a year and diligent practice. One down side of this is that physical condition is imperative, on the other hand diligent practice at Tae Kwon Do tends to leave you in great shape. Body mass is also a major advantage, as it is the main source of power.

Tai Chi is not usually thought of as a martial art, but more as an exercise for elderly Chinese people. However, Tai Chi teaches you a huge amount about redirection of force and using spirals to create energy. Some of the most effective fighters in the world are Tai Chi masters.

Kung Fu is actually not one style of martial art, but it is usually taught as a single style in the west and so is being considered that way here. Kung Fu is probably the most stylized of all the martial arts listed here, and takes the most time to master. There is a high focus on Kata again, and a high demand for physical conditioning. Basically, Kung Fu is really, really hard to master. Once you do, it is very difficult to beat. The amount of time you can dedicate to it and your passion for the beauty of the movement should be the determining factor in taking up this martial art.

Ninjitsu is a Japanese martial art that is very different from the rest on this list. Ninjitsu was a peasant martial art, designed to take on opponents who were better armed, armored and equipped in a situation where if you were caught training with weapons you would be killed summarily. As such, ninjitsu is eminently practical. Kata's simply don't exist in ninjitsu and most moves are designed around deception and redirection. Joint locks, low kicks and nasty nerve strikes are the main weapons, as well as a thorough training in stealth.

Aikido is an art that focuses on redirecting your opponents force and moving them off balance. Aikido is very effective for smaller people, as it doesn't rely on your body mass or ability to generate force at all. It uses many of the same locks and throws as ninjitsu, but is more focused on them. Judo is basically a sport version of aikido and probably shouldn't be your first choice for unarmed combat.

Jujitsu has been receiving a lot of focus lately as it is the most common martial art in modern mixed martial arts competitions. It is focused primarily on grappling. A really good jujitsu fighter can beat most other styles if they can get the fight to the ground, but there is inherent risk associated with the process of getting someone to the ground. That is why most Jujitsu fighters cross train at least one striking martial art as well.

There are many, many other styles out there (Capoeira, Savate, Kick boxing, Muay thai, Escrima, Krav-maga, Jeet kun-do, etc.) each of which has its own specialties. The one to take is a very individual choice but all require dedication and focus. Parkour and Tai Chi seem to be a common combination, although Parkour tends to magnify your abilities in any martial art due to the simple physical awareness and athleticism it imparts.

Of course, strength training is important for any and all physical routines (for Parkour a strict body weight routine is strongly encouraged) and the more cardio you do the better your endurance will be.

In the end, the only tool you can't lose is your own body so it makes sense to keep that tool in as good a condition - T. Davies

JWR Adds: I do not recommend the "foot toughening" approach and/or wearing minimalist foot gear that lack thick soles and arch support--such as moccasins or ninja tabi--for preparedness. Note that this foot gear would be mutually exclusive with Parkour, which requires foot protection. It is also out of the question for anyone living in an area with long-spined cacti (such as Cholla), or for anyone that might ever have to do any karst climbing or reef walking. Foot toughening also requires a commitment of time and a level of training dedication that few adults can afford. You will note, for example that barefoot competitive runners are few and far between. ]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In the past week I've had three newcomers to write and ask me to summarize my world view. One of them asked: "I could spend days looking through [the] archives of your [many months of] blog posts. But there are hundreds of them. Can you tell me where you stand, in just a page? What distinguishes the "Rawlesian" philosophy from other [schools of] survivalist thought?"

I'll likely add a few items to this list as time goes on, but here is a general summary of my precepts:

Modern Society is Increasingly Complex, Interdependent, and Fragile. With each passing year, technology progresses and chains of interdependency lengthen. In the past 30 years, chains of retail supply have grown longer and longer. The food on your supermarket shelf does not come from local farmers. It often comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This has created an alarming vulnerability to disruption. Simultaneously, global population is still increasing in a near geometrical progression. At some point that must end, most likely with a sudden and sharp drop in population. The lynchpin is the grid. Without functioning power grids, modern industrial societies will collapse within weeks.

Civilization is Just a Thin Veneer. In the absence of law an order, men quickly revert to savagery. As was illustrated by the rioting and looting that accompanied disasters in the past three decades, the transition from tranquility to absolute barbarism can occur overnight. People expect tomorrow to be just like today, and they act accordingly. But then comes a unpredictable disaster that catches the vast majority unprepared. The average American family has four days worth of food on hand. When that food is gone, we'll soon see the thin veneer stripped away.

People Run in Herds and Packs, but Both Follow Natural Lines of Drift. Most people are sheep ("sheeple"). A few are wolves that prey on others. But just a few of us are more like sheepdogs--we think independently, and instead of predation, we are geared toward protecting and helping others. People naturally follow natural lines of drift--the path of least resistance. When the Schumer hits the fan, 99% of urbanites will try to leave the cities on freeways. The highways and freeways will soon resemble parking lots. This means that you need to be prepared to both get out of town ahead of the rush and to use lightly-traveled back roads. Plan, study and practice.

Lightly Populated Areas are Safer than High Density Areas. With a few exceptions, less population means fewer problems. WTSHTF, there will be a mass exodus from the cities. Think of it as an army that is spreading out across a battlefield: The wider that they are spread, the less effective that they are. The inverse square law hasn't been repealed.

Show Restraint, But Always Have Recourse to Lethal Force. My father often told me, "It is better to have a gun and not need it, than need a gun, and not have it." I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity.

There is Strength in Numbers. Rugged individualism is all well and good, but it takes ore than one man to defend a retreat. Effective retreat defense necessitates having at least two families to provide 24/7 perimeter security. But of course every individual added means having another mouth to feed. Absent having an unlimited budget and an infinite larder, this necessitates striking a balance when deciding the size of a retreat group.

There are Moral Absolutes. The foundational morality of the civilized world is best summarized in the Ten Commandments. Moral relativism and secular humanism are slippery slopes. The terminal moraine at the base of these slopes is a rubble pile consisting of either despotism and pillage, or anarchy and the depths of depravity. I believe that it takes both faith and friends to survive perilous times. For more background on that, see my Prayer page.

Racism Ignores Reason. People should be judged as individuals. Anyone that make blanket statements about other races is ignorant that there are both good and bad individuals in all groups. I have accepted The Great Commission with sincerity."Go forth into all nations" means exactly that: all nations. OBTW, I feel grateful that SurvivalBlog is now read in more than 100 countries. I have been given a bully pulpit, and I intend to use it for good and edifying purposes.

Skills Beat Gadgets and Practicality Beats Style. The modern world is full of pundits, poseurs, and Mall Ninjas. Preparedness is not just about accumulating a pile of stuff. You need practical skills, and those only come with study, training, and practice. Any armchair survivalist can buy a set of stylish camouflage fatigues and an M4gery Carbine encrusted with umpteen accessories. Style points should not be mistaken for genuine skills and practicality.

Plentiful Water and Good Soil are Crucial. Modern mechanized farming, electrically pumped irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides can make deserts bloom. But when the grid goes down, deserts and marginal farmland will revert to their natural states. In my estimation, the most viable places to survive in the midst of a long term societal collapse will be those with reliable summer rains and rich topsoil.

Tangibles Trump Conceptuals. Modern fiat currencies are generally accepted, but have essentially no backing. Because they are largely a byproduct of interest bearing debt, modern currencies are destined to inflation. In the long run, inflation dooms fiat currencies to collapse. The majority of your assets should be invested in productive farm land and other tangibles such as useful hand tools. Only after you have your key logistics squared away, anything extra should be invested in silver and gold.

Governments Tend to Expand their Power to the Point that They Do Harm. In SurvivalBlog, I often warn of the insidious tyranny of the Nanny State. If the state where you live becomes oppressive, then don't hesitate to relocate. Vote with your feet!

There is Value in Redundancy. A common saying of my readers is: "Two is one, and one is none." You must be prepared to provide for your family in a protracted period of societal disruption. That means storing up all of the essential "beans, bullets, and Band-Aids" in quantity. If commerce is disrupted by a disaster, at least in the short term you will only have your own logistics to fall back on. The more that you have stored, the more that you will have available for barter and charity.

A Deep Larder is Essential. Food storage is one of the key preparations that I recommend. Even if you have a fantastic self-sufficient garden and pasture ground, you must always have food storage that you can fall back on in the event that your crops fail due to drought, disease, or infestation.

Tools Without Training Are Almost Useless. Owning a gun doesn't make someone a "shooter" any more than owning a surfboard makes someone a surfer. With proper training and practice, you will be miles ahead of the average citizen. Get advanced medical training. Get the best firearms training that you can afford. Learn about amateur radio from your local affiliated ARRL club. Practice raising a vegetable garden each summer. Some skills are only perfected over a period of years.

Old Technologies are Appropriate Technologies. In the event of a societal collapse, 19th Century (or earlier) technologies such as a the blacksmith's forge, the treadle sewing machine, and the horse-drawn plow will be far easier to re-construct than modern technologies.

Charity is a Moral Imperative. As a Christian, I feel morally obligated to assist others that are less fortunate. Following the Old Testament laws of Tzedakah (charity and tithing), I believe that my responsibility begins with my immediate family and expands in successive rings to supporting my immediate neighborhood and church, to my community, and beyond, as resources allow. In short, my philosophy is to "give until it hurts" in times of disaster.

Buy Life Assurance, not Life Insurance. Self-sufficiency and self-reliance are many-faceted. You need to systematically provide for Water, Food, Shelter, Fuel, First Aid, Commo, and, if need be, the tools to enforce Rule 308.

Live at Your Retreat Year-Round. If your financial and family circumstances allow it, I strongly recommend that you relocate to a safe area and live there year-round. This has several advantages, most notably that will prevent burglary of your retreat logistics and allow you to regularly tend to gardens, orchards, and livestock. It will also remove the stress of timing a "Get Out of Dodge" trip at the11th hour. If circumstances dictate that you can't live at your retreat year round, then at least have a caretaker and stock the vast majority of your logistics in advance, since you may only have one trip there before roads are impassable.

Exploit Force Multipliers. Night vision gear, intrusion detection sensors, and radio communications equipment are key force multipliers. Because these use high technology they cannot be depended upon in a long term collapse, but in the short term, they can provide a big advantage. Some low technologies like barbed wire and defensive road cables also provide advantages and can last for several decades.

Invest Your Sweat Equity. Even if some of you have a millionaire's budget, you need to learn how to do things for yourself, and be willing to get your hands dirty. In a societal collapse, the division of labor will be reduced tremendously. Odds are that the only "skilled craftsmen" available to build a shed, mend a fence, shuck corn, repair an engine, or pitch manure will be you.and your family. A byproduct of sweat equity is muscle tone and proper body weight. Hiring someone to deliver three cords of firewood is a far cry from felling, cutting, hauling, splitting, and stacking it yourself.

Choose Your Friends Wisely. Associate yourself with skilled doers, not "talkers." Seek out people that share your outlook and morality. Living in close confines with other families is sure to cause friction but that will be minimized if you share a common religion and norms of behavior.You can't learn every skill yourself. Assemble a team that includes members with medical knowledge, tactical skills, electronics experience, and traditional practical skills.

There is No Substitute for Mass. Mass stops bullets. Mass stops gamma radiation. Mass stops (or at least slows down ) bad guys from entering a home and depriving its residents of life and property. Sandbags are cheap, so buy plenty of them. When planning your retreat house, think: medieval castle. (See the SurvivalBlog Archives for the many articles and letters on Retreat Architecture.)

Always Have a Plan B and a Plan C. Regardless of your pet scenario and your personal grand plan of survival, you need to be flexible and adaptable. Situations and circumstances change. Always keep a G.O.O.D. kit handy, even if you are fortunate enough to live at your retreat year-round.

Be Frugal. I grew up in a family that still remembered both our pioneer history and the more recent lessons of the Great Depression. One of our family mottos is: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without."

Some Things are Worth Fighting For. I encourage my readers to avoid trouble, most importantly via relocation to safe areas where trouble is unlikely to come to visit. But there may come an unavoidable day that you have to make a stand to defend your own family or your neighbors. Further, if you value your liberty, then be prepared to fight for it, both for yourself and for the sake of your progeny.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Some of us with desk jobs in the current economy (who possibly stop at Starbucks more than we should) have a bit more to do than just preparing our retreats. I will attempt to address the issue of keeping our bodies injury free, during the upcoming adventures. In the coming economy, there’s going to be a lot of hard, physical work and chiropractors will be hard to come by.

I believe that our family’s preparation plans are going to have to include a plan to bring our bodies up to a standard of fitness, flexibility and strength. Every family member is going to have to be at the top of his or her game, physically. Realistically, we don’t know how bad it’s going to get, so we need to prepare for the worst. In my mind, TEOTWAWKI could mean having to care for our families in a combative environment, without a reliable medic and perhaps far from our medical supplies. In that kind of environment we are going to have to rely on our bodies like never before.

The most important part of the preparation of our physical bodies is going to be flexibility. Thorough flexibility can and will prevent an injury that a stiff, inflexible body could suffer from for months. Have you known anyone sidelined for months or even years with a bad back? WTSHTF, that’s not going to be an option. Our survival will depend on being able to get it done, every day.
The second most important part of your preparation is going to be your “core” strength. This is the strength at the center of your body, mainly your abdominal muscles. A strong core means a strong back. Also, your balance and agility come from having a strong core.

The last, yet still vitally important, part will be muscular strength. Strong arms, legs, glutes, etc. will ensure that we are able to accomplish what we have to. We can be certain that there is some hard work ahead. It’s better to be prepared, than to discover too late that we’re not up to the task.

Before we head off to the gym, gung ho to “get in shape,” keep in mind that we won’t have an LA Fitness Center nearby to maintain our physique. So let’s build it, the way we’re going to have to maintain it. Realistically: at home, without equipment.

We aren’t aiming for a perfect physique. We don’t even need a pretty physique. We need a strong, flexible physique that does what it’s told. Like our children and pets, our bodies have to be trained to respond and comply without hesitation, and without letting us down.

Let’s start with flexibility: Every day, without fail, we need to spend some time stretching and limbering our bodies. This is not until we get to our goal – this is forever. Here are some stretches that should get every inch of our bodies limber: I got these stretches from “The Genius of Flexibility” by Bob Cooley (ignore the “Chinese Medicine” and “Energy Flow” Schumer– but the stretches are good.) You may find better stretches in your own health library. (YMMV)

1. Knee to forehead: increases flexibility and strength of lateral leg, hip, torso, and neck muscles.
Lie on your back. Pull right knee halfway to your chest and place the left ankle over your right knee. Place both hands on the back of your right thigh, close to your knee. Stretch the muscles on your left hip and thigh by resisting your left leg and ankle against your right thigh, as you pull your right knee toward your chest with your arms. Repeat several times and switch sides.
2. Lateral bend: increases strength and flexibility of arms and torso muscles.
Stand with feet together and grasp your hands together above your head. Continuously contract the muscles on the side of your torso by pulling your left arm downward and using your right arm to lean over to the left. Turn your head and torso towards the ceiling. Return to starting position. Repeat several times, and then switch sides.
3. Thigh stretch: front of thighs.
Kneel on all fours with your hips aligned over your knees, and your hands and wrists under and in alignment with your shoulders. Bring your left lower leg and foot up against the wall with a rolled up hand towel to cushion your foot. Step up onto your right foot in front of you and lunge deeply forward, slanting your torso slightly forward. Contract the muscles on the front of your left thigh by pushing against the wall with your left foot while you bring your hips back next to your left foot. Return to starting position. Repeat several times then switch sides.
4. Forward bend: back of thighs and calves.
You can do this standing or sitting. Spread your legs shoulder width apart or wider, and bend forward. Grasp your ankles with both hands. Contract the muscles on the inside back of your thighs as you bend forward, straighten your legs, and pull your head down between your legs with your arms. Return to starting position. Repeat several times.
5. Central leg extension: back of legs and up spine.
Lie on the floor on your back. Bring your right knee up to your chest and bend your lower leg. Grasp hold of your right ankle and foot with both hands. Contract the muscles on the back of your legs and up your spine by kicking your heel toward your butt while you bring your heel up toward your head with your hands. Repeat several times and switch sides.
6. Child's pose: back of shoulders and arms. Kneel on the floor. Curl your torso and head toward your knees and place your elbows and hand parallel to the floor in front of you. Contract the muscles on the back of your shoulders and arms as you pull backwards and push downward against the floor. Press your lower legs against the floor as you arch your back.
7. Lotus – inner thigh.
You can do this sitting up, or laying on your back with you feet up the wall. Bend both knees and put the soles of your feet together. Contract the muscles on the inside of your thighs by squeezing your thighs together while your hands press you’re your thighs open
Remember when stretching – inhale before the stretch and exhale through the stretch. Always stretch slowly, no bouncing or jarring – which could damage the muscle rather than strengthen it. (This seems completely counterintuitive, but give it a try – it works: if you contract your muscles through the stretch, you’ll get a better stretch and you’ll build muscle strength isometrically.) Stretch every day and we’ll all be limber as house cats in short order.
Once we’ve limbered up a bit, it’s time to start working the core. Remember we’re increasing our workout, not replacing anything. : o ) Core strength means balance, agility and a strong back Here are some simple abdominal exercises to get you started: I got these from “Body for Life for Women” by Pamela Peeke and can’t recommend it enough.
1. Crunches:
Lie on the floor, hands behind your head, knees together, feet flat on the floor about one foot from your bum. Push your lower back into the floor, then roll your shoulders up, keeping knees and hips stationary. When your shoulders come off the ground a few inches, hold this position and flex your abdominal muscles as hard as you can for a count of one. Slowly lower your shoulders to the floor, keeping pushing your lower back into the floor for the entire exercise.
2. Reverse Crunches:
Lie on your back with your legs and hips bent at 90-degree angles, and your arms relaxed at your sides, palms facing down. Pull your abs in, and lift your hips as if you were tipping a bucket of water that’s resting on your pelvis. Don’t lift your hips more than a 30-degree angle from the floor. Don’t use your hands to help you pull your hips up.
3. Hip Thrusts:
Lie flat on your back on the floor, with your legs straight up in the air directly above your hips, ankles together and feet flexed. Stretch your arms over your head and grasp the leg of something heavy/sturdy that won’t budge. Lift with the lowest area of your abs so that your hips rise off the floor several inches. Squeeze and hold foe several seconds at the top of the movement, then return to the starting position.
When we have become flexible, and have strengthened our abs and backs: it’s time to build some basic strength. It’s important to handle the flexibility and core training first, because a lack of either will shoot down our strength training in a hurry.
By far, the best method of strength training is calisthenics. No equipment is needed, and exercise can happen anywhere. Calisthenics use the weight of our bodies to build strength – so our equipment is handy at all times.
Again, we’re not replacing any of our current workout – we’re building on it. We’re not trying to build beauty pageant muscles. We want to build functional strength. We want to be strong enough to perform all of our tasks without injury. We want to be strong supple and ready for the unexpected. God designed our bodies to build and maintain muscle mass in response to the demands we put on our bodies. The more demand we put on our bodies; the more we can put on them.
Here are some calisthenics to get started with:
1. Squats:
With feet shoulder width apart, squat as far as possible. Bring your arms forward, parallel to the floor, return to starting position. Repeat.
2. Alternating lunges:
With your hands on your hips, take a step forward with your right leg until your front knee is bent 90-degrees and your back knee almost touches the ground. Push off from your leading foot and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg.
3. Push-Ups:
Do manly push-ups, up on your toes; girly push-ups, up on your knees; or even standing and pushing off the wall push-ups.
4. Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups:
Palms face out for traditional pull-ups on a bar to strengthen middle back muscles. Palms face toward you to do a chin-up, which strengthens that back and biceps.This is just a basic outline to get you started. I suggest that you buy a few books on stretching and strength training, just so you have somewhere to go after you’ve mastered the basics. The basics will definitely get you there, but you will probably want to go further. I strongly endorse “Body for Life for Women” and heartily recommend "The Pace Plan" by Dr. Al Sears both programs are short on effort and long on results. There are a lot of good Pilates books out there too.
So here’s my family’s plan, for everyone – even the preschooler and the dog:
Create a flexible body that can twist and bend without snapping anything.
Build abdominal/core strength, so our agile and graceful bodies can hoe a garden (or drag a casualty) without injury.
Build functional strength that will maintain our health and ensure that have that extra effort to give.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Throughout my life I have been caught unprepared several times and while nothing seriously bad happened, it easily could have.  I have been lost hiking.  My car has broken down in very bad neighborhoods - twice.  I have been close enough to riots that I feared they would spread to my neighborhood, been in earthquakes, been too close to wildfires, been stuck in a blizzard, and have been without power and water for several days after a hurricane.   I managed to get myself out of each situation, I thanked God, and tried to learn from my mistakes.  I could have avoided these situations or made them much less unsafe and worrisome if I had been more aware and prepared.  I have also tried to learn from the mistakes of others so as to not learn everything the hard way.  One group I assisted was a two hour drive into the mountains, out of gas, wearing tee shirts, and had empty water bottles (at least they kept them) (I have made each of those mistakes but not all at the same time). 

I aspire to be more prepared the next time.  My preparedness includes many different aspects.  In my opinion, the most important thing I have done is to learn as much as possible about what to expect and how to deal with those situations.  The other important thing that gives me some piece of mind is that I carry and stock away water, food, ammo, books, and other tools and equipment that should help me survive a bad situation.  Be prepared!

The other inspiration for my preparations is my family.  Seeing my family suffer from lack of water or food would be very hard for me, especially if some easy and cheap preparations could have made a big difference.  Recently, a few friends and family have asked me about my preparations and how they might prepare.  I didn't have a good short answer because I have spent years learning and stocking away.  I thought of myself as more of a student than a teacher in this area, but now I think I do know enough to give some basic advice and refer them to good sources for more.  Hopefully, they (and you) can learn from my mistakes without having to waste time, energy and money on things that don't work.  Of course, I haven't been through every situation or disaster but I have made it through a few tough spots without losing my head.  My advice is based upon what I know to work and also what sounds like it would work with the minimum fuss.  I always prefer the cheap, easy, home-made solution, but sometimes it is worth the cost to get a quality item that is just too hard to improvise or where the manufactured solution is much better (such as a knife).  Keep it simple stupid (KISS) when you can.  With persistence you can get a lot done $20 at a time.

The purpose of this document is to give an overview of preparedness and the first steps to take.  I focus more on the why than the what so that you can tailor your preparedness to your own situation and budget.  I will also cite the best sources I have found for more information.  There is a lot of information out there in books, classes, web sites, and forums. Most of it is good but it is also really repetitious and overwhelming.  This document is only about 15 pages printed out (you are printing important information (not necessarily this) aren't you - since in an emergency you may not have power and need to take the information with you).  I try to keep my important preparedness documents in an expandable file folder with a tie inside a plastic crate.

What are you preparing for?

No one really knows what will be the next survival situation they will face or how it will play out (will it get worse before it gets better?).  It could be getting lost hiking, the car getting two flats in the middle of the desert, a hurricane, a home invasion, an earthquake, or a terrorist attack.  You must assess your own situation and determine what you need to prepare for.  Of course some preparations will be useful in many situations including everyday life, and these are the best type.

In order to get an idea of what to prepare for, look at the types of situations that you or people similar to you have been through.  Also, assess where you live or spend a lot of time such as work and vacation.  We need to learn from the past but without fighting the last war. 

I like hiking and being outdoors, so for me learning how not to get lost and how to stay alive in the outdoors are high priorities.  These skills may also come in handy if I need to walk to safety during a terrorist attack because all of the roads and public transportation are closed.  Living in your house without power or water isn't too different from camping except for the nice roof over your head and all of your stuff.  I have also taken a first aid class.  It is pretty limited in coverage but still useful in a variety of situations.

To assess the likely dangers to where I live and work I used several sources including FEMA (free guide), DHS, Disaster Center, Emergency Essentials, Two Tigers and CBS.  Also, find your local emergency response office.  But don't rely on the government too much for planning or for help.  As we relearned with the Katrina response, their information and advice is far from perfect.  And FEMA has always said it will take 72 hours to respond.  So the way I look at it, during Katrina, FEMA (and local governments) failed to live up to its own low expectations.  But even if FEMA had been able to provide more food and water, you would still be much better off taking care of yourself.  Do you really want to be told what possessions you can hold, when to eat, when to sleep, and live in close quarters with thousands of strangers?  Sounds like prison to me.

It's A Disaster is a good book that will get you started on a plan for most disasters.  Some of their plans are a little passive for me (don't take any risks and follow all FEMA directions) and their kits lack some important things like knives.  Still, it is a very good book and a great start.  Family and friends should be included in your planning and preparations as much as they want to be, but be careful about telling people who you do not trust or know well.  You do not want to become a target in a crisis.

I think one of the best sources for thinking about what you are preparing for and what does and doesn't work is news and first hand accounts.  These are some of the best ones I have found.  A few of them seem kind of glib and bravado but the advice seems sound.

True Stories of Survival

Hurricane Katrina:

Argentina thread 1:

Argentina thread 2 (some swearing):

Airplane crash:

Ground Zero:

Karen Hood's Survival Journal (a week in the wilderness)

Sailing to Hawaii



A list of stories


The survival Rule of Threes:

  • It takes about three seconds to die without thinking
  • It takes about three minutes to die without air
  • It takes about three hours to die without shelter
  • It takes about three days to die without water
  • It takes about three weeks to die without food
  • It takes about three months to die without hope
  • Try to have at least three ways of preventing each of the above (a backup to your backup).

So the priorities are thinking, air, shelter, water, food, and hope.  These are rules of thumb and approximations.  Also, you will likely start feeling really bad before you die so you need to be proactive in addressing these needs.

Basically, don't panic and do something stupid.  This is easier said than done, but you can build your thinking skill and confidence by playing ‚Äúwhat if‚Äù games. After reading about the risks to your area and the survival stories above, think about what kinds of things could go wrong and how you would deal with them.  The more detail the better.  What would you do if a cat 5 hurricane was projected to hit your house?  Where would you go?  What would you take?  Would it all fit in your car?  Do you have enough gas to get there if the gas stations are closed?  What if you don't have time to leave? What room in your house is safest (can you reinforce it easily)?

If you are facing a serious situation but no immediate threat, take the time to consider your options before rushing into a course of action.  Take an inventory of what you have on hand and what is around you.  Think of how each item could help solve one or more of your priorities. 

Thinking about these things may be scary but it will be less scary when it actually happens if you have thought it through.  Focus on what you can do to improve things and not on what you cannot change. Thinking can also be more long term as in learning and planning.  I suggest you read some of the sources below and then come up with a plan for several types of situations that you are likely to face.  But don't delay, you can take some first steps outlined below, such as storing water, right now.  You can then read more, take classes and collect useful items.  Preparing is a process not a one time event.

Having breathable air is not something you usually have to worry about, but it is an immediate priority if you do.  First aide can help with choking and bleeding (which causes the body to not get needed oxygen). Hundreds of people die from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning every year because of gas leaks and cooking or heating indoors.  Being at altitude can also make it harder to breath.  Finally, a terrorist attack could put dust, chemical, biological, or nuclear contamination in the air or force you into a shelter that needs ventilation.  Be aware of these dangers and have appropriate detectors if possible (smoke, carbon monoxide, etc.).  A wet cloth or hand wipe (carry on airplane) to breathe through can help for dust or smoke.


Shelter is mainly about staying dry and the right temperature, but you also want to avoid sunburn, bugs, animals and other dangers.  Your house is your usual primary shelter but it could become damaged or you may have to evacuate.  You should have emergency repair items on hand such as tarps, lumber, shovels, nails, plastic sheeting, crowbars, and a saw.

Your clothes are your first and most important layer of shelter outdoors.  Clothes protect you from heat, cold and abrasions.  In general silk, wool, and synthetic materials are better than cotton especially to keep you warm in cold wet weather. I find cotton more comfortable especially in hot weather, so I compromise and wear a cotton shirt and shorts, but carry a better shirt, pants and socks in my bag, as well as additional layers and a change of underwear.  This makes my pack a little heavier, but I have been cold and wet in the wilds and that is miserable.  For me, a hat and sunglasses are indispensable.  I try to always carry at least a light water resistant jacket or poncho (with a garbage bag as a backup).  For me, boots are the only sensible walking shoes.  Find some that are rugged and comfortable.  Have extra laces and a backup pair.

You can carry a tent, a tarp or garbage bag for resting and sleeping.  A tarp can make a simple shelter or an elaborate one.  Rope, twine and tape are also useful.  You can carry some type of staff or tent poles or make them with an ax or saw.  Mosquito netting is necessary in some places.

You should have many ways to start a fire since most are cheap and compact.  At least have a lighter, matches, and flint.  You can also build a firebed to sleep in if you have inadequate shelter from the cold.

This is a crucial area that can be helped a lot with very cheap and easy actions before The Schumer Hits The Fan (TSHTF).  This is probably the thing you can do with the highest payoff for amount of effort.  The only problem with water is that it is heavy and can take up a lot of room.  If you have storage room and are staying home this isn't a problem but if you are on the move it can become a driving factor in your progress.  Long term solutions are also difficult if your primary water source (city water or well) goes out and you are not near a river or lake. 

Used plastic soda bottles and orange juice jugs with screw tops make very convenient water storage containers.  Just rinse them a few times with hot water. Old liquor bottles and wine box bladders work well too.  I also have several canteens and rugged 5 gallon containers with taps.  The five gallon containers weigh about 40 pounds each and are about as big as can be easily moved (larger drums can go in your basement or garage or under a rain spout).  A few collapsible containers might also be useful because they can be stored and carried empty.  Tap water can last for years without going bad if kept in a cool dark place.  But you should check water that has been stored for clarity and odors.  If in doubt, treat it with one of the methods below.  You can also freeze the plastic soda or orange juice containers (these do crack sometimes when freezing) and use them in a cooler to keep food cold if the power goes out before drinking it.  If you know a disaster is coming fill up any container you can including the coffee maker, crystal vase, bucket, bathtub, sink, and kiddy pool (some of these could be spilled or contaminated but hopefully some will make it).

Most sources recommend about a gallon per person per day.  People consume about 2 quarts in cool low activity environments but much more if hot or active.  You should have at least 2 weeks worth per person in your primary residence (but why not have months worth if you have the room).  If you are traveling by car, three days worth per person is minimum (more for bathing), and if you are walking take as much as you reasonably can carry but at least one days worth (several small bottles are better for diversification if one leaks and also to let you know to start looking for more water before you are on your last bottle).  I also store extra water for washing and bathing.  Here the container doesn't matter quite as much.  I use old liquid detergent jugs.  You should also have at least two methods of sterilizing water. 

The first step in sterilizing water is to get the water as clear as possible.  If it is cloudy, strain it with coffee filters, a clean cloth, or sand.  Or you can let it settle and pour off the more clear water. 

The primary and most reliable method of sterilizing water is boiling.  You actually do not need to boil the water just heat it past 145 degrees for long enough. But if you don't do it right you can get sick.  So to be safe, boil it for 5 minutes if you can.  If you are walking, a metal cup (enamel or stainless) or a converted tin can is easier to boil than a full pot.  You can carry a backpacking stove or a Kelly Kettle.  You can use solar power to sterilize water (in a soda bottle) if no cooking is possible.  Other stoves are suggested below under food. 

To sterilize water with bleach use 2 drops of plain unscented bleach per quart of water (or 8 drops per gallon or 1‚ÅÑ4 tsp per 2 gallons).  If you don't have a dropper you can wet a paper towel and then drip it (wear gloves).  Let the water sit for 20 minutes and then smell it.  If it smells like chorine then its good to go.  If it doesn't, repeat with the same amount of bleach.  If that doesn't work try to find other water.  (Really bad water or salt water requires a still.)  Bleach is cheap but does not last forever - rotate.  Dry Calcium Hypochlorite {sold as "pool shock" bleach) stores much better than liquid bleach but requires an additional step of mixing a solution. (It provides a very inexpensive long term solution to water treatment).

There are also Potable Aqua iodine tablets that are more compact for sterilizing water.  You can also use Tincture of Iodine.  Iodine and chlorine are poisons so be very careful (kill the bacteria not yourself. [Avoid ingesting chlorine or iodine crystals!])

Any of the chemical treatments can make the water taste funny.  You can use drink mixes to make it taste better.  I'm not sure if sports drinks are really better, but Gatorade seems more thirst quenching to me than water.  The powder form is more convenient and cheaper.  You can also make your own sports drink (1/4 tsp nu salt (potassium chloride), 1‚ÅÑ4 tsp salt, 3-6 tbsp sugar (to taste), juice of 1 lemon (or orange), and optional flavoring (Kool-Aid) per gallon of water) or switchel.        

Of course you can spend money for water if you want to.  You can buy prepackaged water or expensive filters. There are backpacking filters but I have found these to be temperamental.  A water bottle with a filter would be a good backup or a straw. You can also go the more expensive route with a good gravity fed filter like this:  This is a great looking solar still but doesn't appear to be for sale right now. 

If you are a homebrewer (or like beer), you can add some dry malt extract, hops, and dry yeast to your stash.  Beer is boiled as part of the brewing process.  Then the alcohol and hops act as a natural preservative.  For the long term you can get some sproutable barley, grow some hops, and culture yeast.  If you or someone with you doesn't handle alcohol well, skip this. 

Providing food can be as easy or complicated as you want.  The easiest thing to do is simply buy more of any food you normally buy that stores well.  By store well, I mean does not spoil.  Foods like fresh milk, meat and bread do not store well.  Other foods like rice, dried beans and pasta all store well and are cheap.  They eventually lose some of their nutrition but this is gradual and will not make you sick from eating ‚Äúexpired‚Äù food if you forget to rotate.  I do not list exact rotation schedules because every source is different.  Some sources say grains only last one year but most sources say 10 plus years and other credible sources say hundreds or thousands of years.  It all depends upon how it is packed and where it is stored which is discussed below (vacuum packed, cool and dry are best) Canned meats, fruits and vegetables store okay and are more expensive.

How much food you want to have on hand depends on what type of situation you expect and how much you want to spend.  Buying a month' worth of rice, beans, salt, and pasta will not cost much (and is a good start).  You will be a lot happier if you add:

  • canned or dried meat (Costco and BJs have multipaks of Spam, ham, tuna and chicken for under $10)
  • canned or dried fruits and nuts
  • canned or dried vegetables
  • dried potatoes
  • canned or dried sauces (for pasta, chili, etc.)
  • soup mixes (bean soups are cheap) and bullion
  • dried onions
  • parmesan cheese
  • cooking oil
  • ramen noodles
  • peanut butter
  • mayo
  • vinegar
  • sugar and honey
  • powdered milk
  • bread crumbs, stuffing, oatmeal, cereal
  • flour, pancake mix, biscuit mix
  • baking soda
  • cocoa, instant coffee, tea, drink mixes, juice mixes (cranberry)
  • lemon juice
  • dry yeast
  • spices 

Some of these can be eaten without cooking or water if you have to.  Costco is great for the rice, canned goods, bullion, yeast (2 pound box), cooking oil and spices. Don't forget a can opener and other utensils.  Of course you can do the drying (wood or solar) and canning yourself for better quality and lower cost.  The oil, flour, baking soda and yeast (refrigerate the yeast if possible) do not store well and have to be rotated more frequently than the rice, beans and pasta.  You will be healthier if you add some multivitamins.  There are also luxury items like Powerbars, powdered eggs, powdered cheese, powdered butter, food tabs, and meals ready to eat (MREs).

To decide how much you need, you can simply scale up recipes and meals (print some simple recipes that use your stored food).  How much rice and beans would you eat at a meal or in a day if that was all you ate?  A lot probably (make a meal as a trial).  Now multiply that by the number of people and the number of days and you have a ball park of how much to store.  The problem is that you could end up feeding more people than your immediate family.  Who else would you not turn away? (Anyone you wouldn't want to live with normally is not someone you want to be stuck with in a crisis.  That said there is some family I wouldn't turn away even if they deserve it).  Start with the cheap stuff (rice, beans, pasta, salt) and then slowly keeping adding and rotating the other food until you have at least one months worth.  Do an inventory at least twice a year.

Store everything in airtight/waterproof containers inside a tough container in a cool, dry, dark place.  Some things come packed pretty well and can just go in a plastic bucket or crate (cans can be dipped in wax).  Other items should be vacuum packed in small bags or large mylar bags with oxygen absorbers and then put in the plastic bucket with a lid or crate (with a solid latching lid).  If you don't have shelves, you can make shelves out of the buckets or crates and 1‚Äùx12‚Äù lumber.  Put 2‚Äùx4‚Äù's under the bottom shelf to keep it off the floor.

For years worth of food instead of months worth of food we need to move to grain and grain grinders.  The Church of Latter Day Saints are the experts here.  They also have storehouses that will sell to the public if you are polite.  Of course you can buy online but the shipping will be as much or more than the food.  I went cheap and was able to get about six months worth of food for one person for $100.  I stuck to grains (400 lbs/year), beans (40 lbs/year), soup mix (20 lbs/year), and milk (16 lbs/year) (I already had sugar (60 pounds/year), salt (10 lbs/year), oil (5 gallons/year), baking soda and yeast).  I borrowed some of their equipment to pack some of the food, the rest I packed at home in the mylar bags and buckets described above.  The milk is a sticky powder and very messy (think of spilling flour and multiply by 100), repack it outside if possible.  I also bought a hand operated grain grinder to make flour from the wheat.  Then I can make bread (scale this recipe up to one loaf per day for a year as a cross check for a year's supply).  This would be a pretty miserable diet but I think it would keep me alive and healthy if I had enough vitamins.  Because of the sack size I have more of some things than others so towards the end I may be eating paste.  I hope to upgrade later.  For infants you need more milk, oil, sugar, and vitamins from which you can make an emergency formula (breast feeding is better, then you give the extra food to the mother). 

For even longer food solutions you need to farm.  Supplementing your food with a garden or sprouting would also make things last longer and provide some healthy variety.  Its best to have some non-hybrid seeds on hand or save seeds from your garden.  Serious (expensive) seed packages are here.  Have some fertilizer and pesticides on hand but in the long run organic is the way to go.

For cooking you can use a wood burning stove, barbeque, or camp stove in the short run (have some extra fuel on hand).  The Petromax lantern is pricey but well made and also has a stove attachment.  If you don't have one of these or run out of fuel you can build one: a coffee can stove, a bucket stove (avoid galvanized metal), a alcohol stove, a collapsible stove, a tin can stove (simple version), solar oven (portable version), or a clay stove (print directions for making at least one of these).  This is also a good commercial stove for those with cash to burn.  These are much more efficient than an open fire.  You need a good pot or dutch oven for boiling water and cooking.  For more portable food you can go with MREs, make your own or stock what ever you would normally backpack with.

Hope is different for everyone.  It can be safety, comfort, companionship, or normalcy.  For me it is mainly hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I can work hard and persevere if I know eventually things will get better.  This means long term planning.  So I want to have what I need in the short term but also have some hope for the long term (so I have gardening tools and seeds in addition to rice and spam).  You also want comfort items such as a book, Bible, game, coloring book, pictures, beer, tea, or warm shower.  Some of these can be dual purpose such as a book about hiking or gardening, survival playing cards, or a novel about survival and perseverance. 

There are lots of things you can get, but you can also just organize what you have already.   The number of lists seems endless and what you need depends upon the situation, your skills, and your budget.  Here is what is wrong with the DHS kit  I have already mentioned several items above and list some others here but being comprehensive would take a lot of space (read the links and references for more).  Here are some basics.

All types of camping equipment and tools come in handy but can be expensive (shipping can be expensive too so you may want to make your own, try your local yard sales, craigslist, sporting goods or hardware store first).  You may want a small tent to carry and a larger tent to put in the car.  Sleeping pads are as much for insulation as for comfort (learned the hard way‚Äîyou don't want to be in the cold without some insulation between you and the ground).  A hammock can be multipurpose.  You can try your local hardware store for lanterns or Lehman's (they also have candle making supplies).

I suggest four knives for anyone responsible enough to have one (in general you get what you pay for, but start cheap and upgrade later): a folding lock blade knife (buck and gerber are both good reasonably priced brands), a Swiss army knife (with saw blade) or leatherman type knife (pliers are handy), a solid full tang knife, and a machete or short sword for brush.  A kitchen knife can work until you get any of these.  A hatchet would also be useful.  Keep them sharp.

You need several maps (local, state (small scale and large scale), neighboring states, topographic and road) and a compass.  A GPS is optional but very handy.  There are usually welcome centers along interstates and in some cities that hand out free maps.  The USGS is a good source for reasonably priced maps but sometimes it is a bit hard to find what you are looking for.  They have a catalog for each state that really helps. They are also very friendly by phone but still prefer if you order online. 

You should have at least one non portable (plug in) phone that can be used with the power out.  Medicine, diapers and feminine products will be hard to get.  A generator is great but can be expensive and you must have enough fuel (I don't have one but want one).  Solar powered battery chargers are really slow but might be the only option.

Change your attitude, don't be wasteful, and you can reuse many items. A tin can becomes a cup or pot with a little work.  Use both sides of a piece of paper and then use it as insulation or tinder.  Waste not, want not.  This also minimizes trash as there may be no trash pickup.

Organize your equipment and supplies into different levels and packages

Stuff you almost always carry

You should make a small kit that fits in your pocket or around your neck.  This should include:

  • ways to make a fire (matches, mini bic, flint, etc.)
  • a button compass
  • a small knife or razor blade, broken hack saw blade, small file
  • Swiss Tech Micro-Tech 6-in-1 Tool
  • led light
  • small candle (light or fire making)
  • a saw
  • short piece of wire
  • parachute cord (as much as will fit)
  • iodine tablets
  • sturdy needle and thread
  • individual salt servings
  • food tabs, hard candy, bullion or individual parmesan cheese/sugar (if space permits)
  • freezer bags (water)
  • nails (assortment)
  • trash bag if it will fit (poncho or tarp)
  • dental floss (twine)
  • Advil, Imodium, Benadryl, vitamins, band aids, SPF chapstick any other essential medicine for you or your family (all labeled)
  • fish hooks, split shot, fish line, safety pins.
  • Survival cards can go in kit or wallet (you can make something similar). 

Personal Fanny Pack (or vest)

This should be small enough and attached to you so that you do not put it down even when you take a break.  Take it with you on any hike, drive or emergency.  A large fanny pack works well or Ranger Rick suggests putting everything in a vest and a bamboo walking stick.  You can duplicate some of the items in your mini kit but add substantially.

  • Survival cards or pocket survival guide (or print some out).
  • Knife of your choice (another one can go in your pocket or on your belt)
  • Sharpening stone (or ceramic insulator)
  • Fire materials (matches and tender (dryer lint, cotton balls in Vaseline, small candles, etc.) waterproofed)
  • Magnifying glass wrapped in bandana
  • Pliers if your knife doesn't have them
  • Compass
  • Maps
  • Metal cup (boiling water)
  • 2 small bottles of water
  • Freezer bags (organization, waterproofing and for more water)
  • Small camp soap (or traveler's shampoo)
  • Iodine tablets
  • At least 2 trash bags (clear for still and heavy black for shelter), or tarp and poncho, or space blanket, or light weight jacket with hood (a shell that compacts) or hat
  • Rope, twine and wire
  • Headlamp and extra batteries
  • Candle
  • Wipes (these are multipurpose and are more compact than toilet paper, keep them in zip lock bags (add a little water if they get dry))
  • Gloves and socks
  • Small first aide kit (including prescriptions)
  • Sunscreen and bug repellant.
  • Whistle
  • Snacks (powerbars, trail mix, food tabs, tea, Gatorade mix, bullion, beef jerky, MRE)
  • A GPS, FRS radio, am/fm radio, cell phone, or CB can go in here if it fits
  • Mini binoculars (to spot landmarks, approaching fires, etc.)
  • Notepad and pencil or pen
  • A multipurpose tool is a good backup for the other items.

72 hour kit (or less)

To some, the 72 hour kit is everything they have in their house for disasters.  I think this should be what you take with you if you have to evacuate (even on foot).  If you can't carry 72 hours worth of food and water (that is a lot of water even if you only plan 2 quarts per day), scale it down and put the rest in a car bug out kit that can be used in your house or on the road.  You can also make a similar kit for work or other places you are likely to be in an emergency.  It should be in a medium sized backpack that you can easily carry (get a rain cover for the backpack (or make one)‚Äîthese really help in wet conditions).  Again, repeat items in your smaller kits as you see fit.  Here are some suggestions:

  • It's a Disaster! Book (or print out a similar one)
  • Personal mini-kit and fanny pack or vest (attached to you separately from the backpack)
  • Water (as much as you can fit without making the bag too heavy, you can carry some containers empty and fill them later)
  • Changes of clothes (several underwear and socks, long underwear)
  • Jacket, hat, and sunglasses
  • Sleeping bag or blanket (and compact pad), hammock
  • Soap and other toiletries (comb, nail clippers and razor)
  • Small stove and/or lantern (or directions and supplies for making one of the stoves above)
  • Small tent or tarp and netting, plastic sheeting, tent poles and stakes (multipurpose)
  • Stuff sacks, mesh bags, pillow cases for organization
  • Duct tape
  • Hatchet or machete, folding saw
  • Small shovel
  • Rope, twine and bungee cords
  • Backpacking pot/pan
  • Cooking and eating utensils (kitchen knife, can opener, spatula, spoon, forks, plates, cups)
  • Foil
  • Dish soap, sponge, dish pan or bucket (collapsible) (also a wash basin or bucket), towel
  • Food (Snacks and MREs as well as rice)
  • Vitamins
  • Detailed road maps
  • topo maps
  • Extra ammo
  • Pocket warmers
  • A GPS, FRS radio (everyone with a list of channels to use), am/fm radio, solar calculator, or CB (whatever you have that fits)
  • Copies of important documents, phone numbers, extra credit card, cash, ID
  • Comfort items (book, cards, bible, pictures, coloring books, games)

Car Kit

Keep this in the car if possible.  I used to keep a lot of this in my car but since some of it was stolen, I keep most of it in the house and load it up for longer trips.  I have something similar to the personal fanny pack that I keep hidden in the jack compartment.

  • 72 hour kit
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Jumper cables
  • Seat belt cutter and window breaker (keep within reach)
  • Water (bottles can go under the seats)
  • Matches
  • Gloves
  • Tarps
  • Garbage bags
  • Wipes
  • Maps
  • Driving compass
  • Rope and/or tow strap and bungee cords
  • First aide kit (any medications)
  • Siphon hose for water or gas (do not drink gas)
  • Window washer/scraper
  • Crowbar and other tools (hammer, saw, wrenches, duct tape, fuses, belts, and screws)
  • Ax, bucket and shovel (this is required in some forests)
  • Engine oil
  • Gas can (keep it empty and unused unless you have a place for it on the outside of your car or truck)

Stuff you take if you have to Bug Out

This is stuff that is too heavy to carry in your 72 hour kit but something you can throw in your car (in addition to what is already there) quickly if you need to evacuate.  You might be able to take it in a garden cart if you can't drive but travel by roads is still safe.  Here is an example to help you make your own kit (or here).  Pack it in crates or duffle bags.  Here are some suggestions (what fits in your car will vary):

  • More survival books or books on camping/country/simple living
  • 5 gallon water cans (full)
  • Food (cans and other heavy bulky items)
  • Cooler (grab some ice and any travel friendly fresh items that are still good like cheese, peanut butter, apples, lemons, and bread)
  • Large first aide kit
  • Dutch oven
  • Stove and fuel or barbeque, Kelly Kettle
  • Lantern (Petromax is good but expensive)
  • Unscented bleach
  • Tent and large tarps, rugs
  • Blanket and pillows (sleeping pad, hammock, or cot)
  • Paper plates, utensils and cups
  • Paper towels and wipes
  • Foil
  • Solar shower
  • Bucket toilet (you can store garbage bags, toilet paper, wipes, and soap inside the bucket)
  • Many garbage bags
  • Laundry soap
  • Clothes pins
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Ant traps and insecticides
  • Fishing gear
  • Radio and batteries
  • Several extra fuel cans (enough to get to your destination without refueling)
  • Propane heater with fuel
  • Generator
  • Small safe for guns and documents
  • Bikes (on rack and with pump and tire repair kit)
  • Frisbee or other games

First Aid and Medical Kits

Take a first aide class and more training if you can.  For supplies, the place to start is with a pre-made small portable first aide kit and a larger home or car first aide kit.  These are usually $10 to $20 on sale (but can be $100's if you want).   You can add items from your medicine cabinet and replace things like the cheap scissors that usually come with them. However, these usually are not good for much more than minor cuts and scrapes (going to a hospital/doctor may not be an option or may take a while‚Äîso do your best until you can get to one).  For more serious injuries you probably have to make your own kit.  The best book is Wilderness Medicine, by William W. Forgey.  His suggested kit in the back of the book is great (I learned the hard way I needed some of the items that he recommends and figure the other items are ones I may need in the future).  Amazon and Moore Medical have most of the items if you can't find them locally.  For the house or car first aide kit, I suggest a hard sided box like a tool box.  Dental care is also important.  A toothache is really distracting. A little dental kit like this could make you a lot more comfortable until you can see a dentist.

Other Kits

Make other kits as you see fit.  I have a kit that is mainly in case of terrorist attack (I live and work too close to a likely target).  I have Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook and what to do if a nuclear attack in imminent as well as Potassium Iodide (seven days), plastic sheeting, duct tape, Tyvek clothes coverings,  and a face mask (this is not as good as a gas mask but its what I have).  You can spread this to your other kits if you want.

Protecting yourself from criminals
is as natural as buying a fire extinguisher to put out fires (but more expensive).   Get fences, dead bolts, and lock your windows at night but if someone really wants to get in your home they will.  Police take an average of 11 minutes or more to respond to violent crimes 40 percent of the time (sometimes hours), under normal conditions. A lot can happen in 11 minutes and you are going to wait a lot longer in a crisis.  When someone is kicking in your door, it is too late to go buy a gun.  You are on your own.  Relying on the kindness of someone breaking into your home is not a good bet.

If you are a gun person, pick your own gun.  This advice if for those who don't own a gun or don't shoot.  I suggest a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun for every adult (check you local gun laws).  If I had to only have one gun it would be a shotgun because of their versatility.  A 20 gauge shotgun is more than enough for most purposes including home defense and has less recoil than a 12 gauge.  The Remington 870 is a great choice but many people also like Mossberg.  Take a class on using the shotgun for home defense.  For home defense ammo, I use bird shot.  This will not penetrate and stop a criminal as fast as buck shot but is also less likely to go through a wall and hurt an innocent person.  Make your own decision here based on who is in adjoining rooms and how close the neighbors are.  You can always load bird shot as the first few shells followed by buck shot (keep about 200 rounds on hand because it will be hard to buy in a crisis).  The only options I recommend are hearing protection, glasses, a cleaning kit, a sling (guns with slings don't get set down in bad places as much) and maybe a light or night sights.  I think the factory stocks are fine. 

Next on my list would be a .22.  The Ruger Single Six is a nice revolver that is convertible to either 22 LR or 22 magnum (This might be a better choice as the only gun for some people). Also get a holster for it.  Savage and CZ make bolt action rifles that are great bargains. A .22 is a little small for home defense (it is less likely to stop a criminal in his tracks) but a lot better than nothing.  It is also important to be comfortable with your gun and a .22 is fun to shoot so you are more likely to practice (.22 ammo is very cheap and you can get 1,000 rounds for about $20).  As soon as you are comfortable with the .22 and your budget allows, you should probably upgrade to a larger common caliber (.357 for a revolver, 9mm, .40 or .45 for an automatic pistol, 12 gauge for a shotgun, and .223, .308, 7.62x39, .30-30, or .30-06 for rifles).  Get a concealed weapon permit if your state allows them even if you don't plan on using it (carrying a gun).  Again, these take some time to get so you have to get one before you need it even if you think that will be never.  Also, the required classes are really great and focus mainly on when not to use a gun.  Almost any gun range will offer such a class (and many others that are worth it too).  In general, buying a used gun is fine (simple guns are very durable) but for the guns I recommend here, the premium for a new gun (gun store or some sporting good stores) will probably be less than $100 and probably worth it to avoid any mechanical issues to start with.

Learn the gun safety rules and locking up any guns not on your body is a good idea and a necessity if you have kids (or adults who act like kids) in your home.  For pistols you can get a cheap keyed safe for about $20 (also good for documents).  Then you have to hide the key where you can find it quickly but no one else can.  A combination safe is better but a lot more expensive (practice opening it in the dark).  For long guns you can get a locking cabinet for about $100 (some cases have a good lock and that is a good idea for taking with you in the car), put a lock on a closet, or get a real safe for about $1,000.  Trigger locks are generally a bad idea because you can accidentally pull the trigger when getting them on or off.

If you decide against a gun, at least get pepper spray, a baseball bat, or a flashlight.  A self-defense class would be good too (martial arts classes are good but take a long time to become practical). A bullet proof vest and helmet would be good but neither is inexpensive.  Finally, there is safety in numbers.  Staying with family and friends during a crisis is a good idea if resources and space allow.

First Steps

  1. Buy some unscented bleach and start storing water.
  2. Start accumulating food and other supplies.  Initially, just buy more of the food that you already buy that stores well.  Re-pack as necessary.  Get some food grade buckets or plastic crates and find a cool dark place.
  3. Start reading more about the risks that you face personally and ways to deal with them.  What is your plan to deal with each?
  4. Organize your stuff into personal mini kits, personal fanny packs (or vests), one or more 72 hour kits for each person for each location they spend time, a car kit, a bug out kit, and your house stash.
  5. Practice.  This doesn't have to be a military style exercise.  Try camping and living without power and running water (in your backyard to start with).  Load your car with what you think you would want to take if you had to evacuate.  How long did it take?  Did it all fit?  Try driving back roads to get out of town.  Go hiking with your 72 hour kit. 
  6. Periodically take an inventory and revise your plans.

Books and other sources (in order of relevance and grouped)

Online Resources

SurvivalBlog (the best daily variety of all types of information at a good price too)

Alpha Rubicon (The "Mythbusters" of the survival world. Membership required for most information, great information and more personalities than members)



Some of these are a bit far fetched and depressing (worst case) and mainly about TEOTWAWKI  (sing ‚ÄúIt's The End of The World as We Know It, and I feel fine" ) (they are fiction) but still give some good food for thought.

Author's web site:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Recent comments in SurvivalBlog provided excellent advice on using the public library. You can gain lots of knowledge with no expense, then purchase only those books you want to keep on hand for personal reference. Also, many colleges and universities loan to local residents, so you can use them too, even if you aren't a student.

If your local libraries participate, a great resource is Worldcat. It lets you search for books from home, then go check them out, or get them through interlibrary loan.

What will happen to the Internet when the SHTF? There's no guarantee it will survive. Even if the World Wide Web endures in some form, most of the individual computers connected to it will not. Hopefully by then you will have already downloaded all the free info that's going to help you cope with the new world.

You may want to download a copy of information on this web site or any other web site with useful content. It would be a shame to face some disaster when all the resources of the internet are no longer at your fingertips.

 In preparation for a worst case scenario, it's a good idea to begin now to collect the knowledge that will come in handy later. You can download whole books, save them to jump drives, and keep an entire library in a very small space. All kinds of free manuals, guides, tech tips, and schematics are available on the internet; for everything from firearms to furnaces to computers to appliances.

All of the downloads listed here are in the public domain or allowable for copying. Stay away from sites that may involve copyright infringement. If you use a file-sharing site such as Limewire, Kazaa, or any site that uses bit torrents, you are not only downloading, but also uploading. Your participation involves automatically uploading to other users. If the file is illegal, you are distributing illegal material, not just downloading it. Stay away from these and stick with the legitimate sites listed below.

Keep in mind that some of this information you download might be illegal to use at the present time. You can't practice dentistry on your neighbor just because you have the book. Nevertheless, you have the right to possess this very vital information. After TEOTWAWKI, all bets are off. The information you collect today might save your life or the life of somebody you love.

Many downloads are in Portable Document Format (PDF) form, so to read them you must have a suitable program such as Adobe Reader, which is the free version of Adobe Acrobat. There are alternatives to Adobe that can read PDF files, if you prefer. Some of these files are very large. If your internet connection is slow, it's better to right click and download rather than try to read a huge file online.

Some documents you may want to print out. Others you can just leave on disc. Just be sure to store your drives safely. Not included in this list are the many web sites that are very good resources in themselves. Rather, these are the files you can download for offline viewing at a later time. Download them while you still can!

Project Gutenberg was mentioned as a good place to go for eBooks.

The Smithsonian Institution is another great resource. They have digitized many older books, maps, and documents in their collection.

Wikisource has a nice collection of free eBooks.

One way to search for books no longer in copyright is to use Google Book Search. Check "full view." If it comes up in the search, it can be downloaded as a PDF file.

A good alternative to Google is the Internet Archive which includes books, images, audio, and more. The Internet Archive also hosts the Wayback Machine, which archives copies of an incredible 85 billion pages from the internet of years past.

Over 100,000 free eBooks can be accessed through Digital Book Index

2020ok is a directory of free online books and free eBooks

The British Columbia Digital Library has an impressive Collection, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and most importantly, the Holy Bible. It also has a Guide to other digital libraries.

Scribd is an online document library of free research articles, eBooks, and other content.

A great resource for home schoolers is the Internet's largest directory of free audio & video learning resources maintained by

Check out the postings of Home Schooling On-line Resources on the The Mental Militia Forums, as well as the "Must Have" Books/reference material topic.

More than 3,200 pages related to the U. S. Constitution can be downloaded from The Founders' Constitution

Firearms For any firearm you own or plan to own, you should have a drawing of its Exploded View, which will help identify parts and how they fit together. One of the most comprehensive collections of Exploded Views is the paper edition of the Numrich Arms Catalog, which in itself is a gold mine of information and very inexpensive for a volume of over 1200 pages.

But if you only need certain Exploded Views, there are many places on the internet where you can download them for free:

Gunuts is a good place to start with hundreds of drawings. Another source is The Okie Gunsmith Shop, which is apparently no longer operating, but you can still download drawings and parts lists from its web site.Big Bear Gun Works has another good list. For pre-WWII firearms, check out Gunsworld. For examples of specific firearms manufacturers, see Remington, Browning, and SKB Shotguns

The book, The Defensive Use Of Firearms by Shane C. Henry is available as a download from rec.guns. An enormous amount of additional gun information is available on the rec.guns web site.

There are several good sources for Military Publications: has a huge collection of Military manuals.

Try Integrated Publishing for access to millions of pages of engineering manuals and documents.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command maintains the LOGSA web site for access to thousands of Army technical manuals.

The U.S. Air Force maintains the Air Force e-Publishing web site.

As mentioned recently, The Small Wars Journal has a Reference Library of downloadable military documents.

The Brooke Clarke web site has a good guide to accessing military field manuals

Surviving War and Nuclear Attack For a basic guide, download How To Survive A Chemical Or Biological Attack.

Nuclear War Survival Skills, along with some other very interesting books, can be found on the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site. This book includes plans for the Kearny Fallout Radiation Meter (KFM). If you have not bought a radiation meter, you should at least download the book for future reference. You can also get the Free Plans from The Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Nuclear War Survival Skills is also available on the KI4U web site as an online book, but not as a download.

The Equipped To Survive web site has some free ebooks, as well as books for sale: Survival, Evasion, and Recovery and U.S. Army Survival Manual FM 21-76.

The Volunteer Center of Marin County, California has prepared A Guide to Organizing Neighborhoods for Preparedness, Response and Recovery which you can copy from their web site. 

Medical Resources The Disease Net has a library of downloadable manuals on survival, weapons, emergency medicine, and less serious subjects.

Virtual Naval Hospital is a digital library of naval, military, and humanitarian medicine

The very important field manual, First Aid For Soldiers FM 21-11 can be downloaded here.

One of the best medical handbooks available is the U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Handbook ST31-91B. It can be downloaded free (as well as additional essential guides) from Delta Gear, Inc.

A newer version of the Medical Handbook, plus more great material can be downloaded from NH-TEMS (New Hampshire Tactical Emergency medical support).

The American Red Cross has some of their disaster guides online for download. For most of their material, you have to go to the local office. Some of it can be copied from the Earth Changes Media Survival Tips page. 

The Red Cross Book, First Aid in Armed Conflicts and Other Situations of Violence

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency book, The Ship Captain's Medical Guide

Hesperian makes available free downloads of its books for medical treatment in primitive conditions. Two highly respected guides it publishes are Where There Is No Doctor and Where There Is No Dentist.

Here is a direct link to the must-have book Survival and Austere Medicine: An introduction. Australian Survivalist Online has several additional Files for downloading.

The Department of Agriculture has a treasure trove of information for free download. This agency maintains The National Agricultural Library, a collection of free information on Agriculture, Food and Nutrition, and other related subjects.

Another USDA web site is the Cooperative Extension Service. Click on the map to navigate to various Extension offices around the country. Don't limit your search to just your own state. Many of them have invaluable information on animals, crops, construction, food preparation and much more for free download.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) offers downloads about preventing plant and animal diseases, among other topics.

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) offers Fact Sheets about food handling and preparation, and emergency preparedness.

Other Important Reference Resources The classic outdoor guides, The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves are available on the Chris Molloy web site. Free manuals for electronic equipment can be downloaded from Another source is For Ham Radio and Test Equipment Manuals, the KO4BB web site has Free Downloads, as well as LINKS to many other web sites with free downloads. A few examples of repair information for outdoor equipment are Penn Reel Schematics, and Mercury outboard parts.

Paid Services In the unlikely event that you can't find free information on the Net to fix that generator or whatever you need to repair, there are web sites that charge for information. As a last resort, you can check Sam's PHOTOFACT service manuals, or Hopefully, that won't be necessary.

The foregoing just begins to scratch the surface. Some of these free downloads are also available as books or CDs from eBay, Amazon or from some of the survivalist web sites. That is fine. Sometimes it is easier to just pay the money and buy the book. But nobody can afford it all, and downloading gives you access to millions of pages - much more knowledge than you could acquire through any other method.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Call me old-fashioned or whatever you'd like, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the plethora of gadgets that are now being sold under the banner of "preparedness". The latest one mentioned by a reader was this: The Tactical Mirror Sight. Oh yes, and don't forget the combination vertical foregrip and laser. And while you are at it, get yourself a M-203 look-alike 37mm flare launcher! It isn't just tacti-cool, it is practically a fashion accessory! Who buys all this stuff? I'm sure that some of the more strident Armchair Commandos over at just can't wait to unlimber their credit cards and fill up all the quadrants of their gee-whiz, Oh-so-OIF-looking Knight's Quad-Rails with this Schumer. Sorry folks, but I'm not buying into this Mall Ninja paraphernalia cargo cult.

I've said it before and I'll doubtless feel obliged to say it again: Your chances of survival are not increased so much by what you acquire, but rather by what you know and have practiced. All the gadgets in the world are no replacement for common sense, hands-on experience, and friends that you can trust.

I'm making this post short, for good reason. My message is simple: Don't fall for the trap of gadgets versus skills. Stick with the basics. Maintain balance and common sense in your retreat logistics procurement. Buy quality gear, and develop a deep larder, but remember that it will be proper training and teamwork that will be 99% of the battle.

Friday, December 28, 2007

After reading the Profiles you have posted. I have come to the conclusion I cannot hold a dime to these folks. Makes me wonder why should I bother. Hmmm, that thought lasts all of five seconds. A lot of the people for whom you profiled are in a much higher income bracket than the rest of us working folks. Personally, I have two jobs and work 12-14 hours a day. I was unlucky enough to be in a third rear end collision. In my life time this year, although instead of being rear ended by an illegal uninsured illegal alien like the last two times. This time I was rear ended by a 94 year old woman who also was uninsured. Makes it hard to work with post-concussion syndrome from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I have a hard time with short term memory. But do what I can, the best that I can.

I live in a small city in Massachusetts in a 500 square foot second floor apartment in a house.
I have four 15-gallon water containers + 15 cases of Poland Spring 3 liter bottles, About 20 cases of MREs or the equivalent thereof. I bought only the items I knew I liked, 20 cases of the two person pouches from Mountain House again a chosen menu but rather extensive. Also 50 #10 [one gallon] cans of both freeze-dried food and dehydrated foods--mostly soups in the dehydrated department. I have close to 15 weeks supply of groceries. I work in a supermarket for one of my jobs and I look around during my break for "ideas " to expand my dietary habits.

I have canned butter, cheese, bread, and meats. My other job allows me to get discounts on a product called a Vittle Vault. An 80 gallon air/water tight container which I use to bury my other food (all freeze dried pouches) but not before sealing it in plastic from a nifty device I found at Costco one day ( One day I was shopping at Costco and I stopped to look at something else and came back to my cart and there it was just sitting in my cart. Never did find who put it there. Anyway it has found a good home with me ever since.:) Everything is hidden away. Amazing what one can stuff safely under the bed. I have a couple of products that run on propane one-pound cylinders like the Mr. Heater Big Buddy and a Coleman lantern. The Christmas Tree Shoppe is world renowned for having lots of candles on sale all the time too. Although do not want to have any lights on when other do not. Not too draw any unnecessary attention to ones self.

I have a Black Berkey water filtration system, with a half dozen back up filters and several 5 gallon buckets for either the collection of snow or from the stream out back, or to use as an emergency dry toilet.

I am a faithful practitioner of homeopathic remedies,and have quite the collection of remedies and books and homeopathic today magazines. Which I read all the time, to keep it fresh in my memory. Also read a lot of medical/ wilderness first aid books. Took a class from the National Ski Patrol. Thought it would be another 1st aid class. Boy was I wrong. Three months later they awarded me with a WEMT certification, finished top 3 in my class of 20. I have an easier time learning " if I can play with it ". So now I have a collection of 500 EMT flash cards that I go through twice a week, Also Wilderness Way magazine read through my collection of 40 magazines every week as well. My library also included books on herbs, symptoms, pathology, anatomy, first aid, NBC, wilderness survival.

I'm obtaining a [State-issued] Firearms Identification (FID) card soon, God willing for a long gun or three. Handguns are not allowed in Massachusetts for subjects err I mean citizens. Also magazines over ten rounds are not permissible unless one has a handgun permit for that as well or its off to jail for a year, no questions asked. Trying my best to avoid the jail part.
Go to a gun range three times a month and rent a instructor and a gun of my choosing over 300 to choose from ( guns)and say teach me how to use this. Stocked up on medical supplies and trauma kits mostly from I have wiped out many a first aid kits just from cutting my finger. What am I preparing for I think the economy is going to blow out sooner than later. Like it would not surprise me if it happened in the next 30-to-60 days. How bad it will be and how long it will last?. No clue but history shows major wars start with major economic troubles.
Oh forgot to mention already went shopping at KI4U and got the complete package. A lot of other items I am sure I left out but you get the gist of it. The longer the economy survives the longer we have time to prepare, for whatever. I do not wish the dollar to die but if it does die then I hope it enjoys a long, very long lingering death. - Scott V.

JWR Replies: I commend you for your dedication, Scott. I have long held the opinion that true preparedness is more about skills than it is about money. I have a lot of wealthy consulting clients that have heaps of supplies and tools, but I have my doubts about their ability to actually survive when things get Schumeresque. When I ask them about firearms training, they often say that they have the money, but that they don't have the time to attend. What good is a large firearms battery if you aren't confident and competent with these tools? (Some owners admit that they haven't even zeroed all of their guns!) I hear similar lame excuses about first aid training. Many community classes are available free or for a nominal fee, but few take the time to attend them. And the same for physical fitness. Most exercises take little or no equipment, or can even be done with improvised "low cost/no cost") equipment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the event of a disaster (I live in New York City) I intend to shelter in place until all the riotous mobs destroy each other or are starved out. I am preparing for up to six months. I have one liter of water stored for each day (180 liters) and about 50 pounds of rice to eat as well as various canned goods. I have not seen on your site anything about heat sources for urban dwellers who intend to shelter in place. I'm assuming that electricity would go first soon followed by [natural] gas and running water. Do you have any recommendations for cooking rice and other foods in this event.
I am considering oil lamps or candles, methane gel used for chafing dishes, or small propane tanks. Because of the small size of my apartment and potential hazards of storing fuel I'm unsure which would be best. Please advise. Thank You, - Michael F.

JWR Replies: I've heard your intended approach suggested by a others, including one of my consulting clients. Frankly, I do not think that it is realistic. From an actuarial standpoint, your chances of survival would probably be low--certainly much lower than "Getting Out of Dodge" to a lightly populated area at the onset of a crisis. Undoubtedly, in a total societal collapse (wherein "the riotous mobs destroy each other", as you predict) there will be some stay-put urbanites that survive by their wits, supplemented by plenty of providential fortune. But the vast majority would perish. I wouldn't want to play those odds. There are many drawbacks to your plan, any one of which could attract notice (to be followed soon after by a pack of goblins with a battering ram.) I'll discuss a few complexities that you may not have fully considered:

Water. Even with extreme conservation measures you will need at least one gallon of water per day. That one gallon of water will provide just enough water for one adult for drinking and cooking. None for washing. If you run out of water before the rioting ends then you will be forced to go out and forage for water, putting yourself at enormous risk. And even then, you will have to treat the water that you find with chlorine, iodine (such as Polar Pure--now very scarce), or with a top quality water filter such as a Katadyn Pocket water filter.

Food. For a six month stay, you will need far more than just 50 pounds of rice! Work out a daily menu and budget for an honest six month supply of food with a decent variety and sufficient caloric intake. Don't overlook vitamin supplements to make up for the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sprouting is also a great option to provide vitamins and minerals, as well as aiding digestion. Speaking of digestion, depending on how your body reacts to the change in diet (to your storage food), you may need need a natural laxative in your diet such as bran, or perhaps even a bulk laxative such as Metamucil.

Sanitation. Without water for flushing toilets, odds are that people in neighboring apartments will dump raw sewage out their windows, causing a public health nightmare on the ground floor. Since you will not want to alert others to your presence by opening your window, and no doubt the apartment building's septic system stack will be clogged in short order, you will need to make plans to store you waste in your apartment. I suggest five gallon buckets. A bucket-type camping toilet seat (a seat that attaches to a standard five or six gallon plastic pail) would be ideal. You should also get a large supply of powdered lime to cut down on the stench before each bucket is sealed. You must also consider the sheer number of storage containers required for six months of accumulated human waste. (Perhaps a dozen 5 gallon buckets with tight-fitting o-ring seal lids would be sufficient.) Since you won't have water available for washing, you should also lay in a supply of diaper wipes.

Space heating. In mid-winter you could freeze to death in your apartment without supplemental heat. As I will discuss later, a small heater or just a few candles can keep the air temperature above freezing.

Ventilation. If you are going to use any source of open flame, you will need lots of additional ventilation. Asphyxiation from lack of oxygen or slow carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are the alternatives. Unfortunately, in the circumstances that you envision, the increased ventilation required to mitigate these hazards will be a security risk--as a conduit for the smell of food or fuel, as a source of light that can be seen from outside the apartment, and as an additional point of entry for robbers.

Security. The main point of entry for miscreants will probably be your apartment door. Depending on the age of your apartment, odds are that you have a traditional solid core wood door. In a situation where law and order has evaporated, the malo hombres will be able to take their time and break through doors with fire axes, crow bars and improvised battering rams. It is best to replace wooden apartment doors with steel ones. Unless you own a condo rather than lease an apartment, approval for a door retrofit is unlikely. However, your apartment manager might approve of this if you pay for all the work yourself and you have it painted to match the existing doors. Merely bracing a wood door will not suffice. Furthermore, if you have an exterior window with a fire escape or your apartment has a shared balcony, then those are also points of entry for the bad guys. How could you effectively barricade a large expanse of windows?

If you live in a ground floor apartment or an older apartment with exterior metal fire escapes, then I recommend that you move as soon as possible to a third, fourth, or fifth floor apartment that is in a modern apartment building of concrete construction, preferably without balconies, with steel entry doors, and with interior fire escape stairwells.

Self Defense. To fend off intruders, or for self defense when you eventually emerge from your apartment, you will need to be well-armed. Preferably you should also be teamed with at least two other armed and trained adults. Look into local legalities on large volume pepper spray dispensers. These are marketed primarily as bear repellent, with brand names like "Guard Alaska", "Bear Guard", and "17% Streetwise." If they are indeed legal in your jurisdiction, then buy several of the big one-pound dispensers, first making sure that they are at least a 12% OC formulation.

If you can get a firearms permit--a bit complicated in New York City , but not an insurmountable task--then I recommend that you get a Remington, Winchester, or Mossberg 12 gauge pump action shotgun with a SureFire flashlight forend. #4 Buckshot (not to be confused with the much smaller #4 bird shot) is the best load for defense in an urban environment where over-penetration (into neighboring apartments) is an issue. But if getting a firearms permit proves too daunting, there is a nice exemption in the New York City firearms laws for muzzleloaders and pre-1894 manufactured antique guns that are chambered for cartridges that are no longer commercially made. It is not difficult to find a Winchester Model 1876 or a Model 1886 rifle that is in a serial number range that distinguishes it as pre-1894 production. (See: for exact dates of manufacture on 12 different rifle models.) You will be limited to chamberings like .40-65 and .45-90. You can have a supply of ammunition custom loaded. A Winchester Model 1873 or and early Model 1892 chambered in .38-40 might also be an option, but I would recommend one of the more potent calibers available in the large frame (Model 1876 or 1886 ) rifles. Regardless, be sure to select rifles with excellent bores and nice mechanical condition.

For an antique handgun, I would recommend a S&W double action top break revolver chambered in .44 S&W Russian. None of the major manufacturers produce .44 S&W Russian ammunition. However, semi-custom extra mild loads (so-called "cowboy" loads, made specially for the Cowboy Action Shooting enthusiasts) in .44 S&W Russian are now available from Black Hills Ammunition. The Pre-1899 Specialist (one of our advertisers) often has large caliber S&W double action top break revolvers available for sale. The top breaks are very fast to load, and you can even use modern speed loaders designed for .44 Special or .44 Magnum cartridges with the stumpy .44 S&W Russian loads.(It has the same cartridge "head" dimensions.)

Firearms training from a quality school (such as Front Sight) is crucial.

Fire Detection and Contingency Bug-Out. A battery-powered smoke detector is an absolute must. Even if you are careful with candles, lanterns, and cook stoves, your neighbors may not be. There is a considerable risk that your apartment building will catch fire, either intentionally of unintentionally. Therefore, you need to have a "Bug Out" backpack ready to grab at a moment's notice. Although they are no proper substitute for a fireman's compressed air breathing rig, a commercially-made egress smoke hood or a military surplus gas mask might allow you to escape your building in time. But even if you escape the smoke and flames, then where will that you leave you? Outdoors, at an unplanned hour (day or night), in a hostile big city that is blacked out, with no safe means of escape. (This might prove far too reminiscent of the the 1980s Kurt Russell movie "Escape from New York.") By the time this happens, the mobs may not want just the contents of your backpack. They may be sizing you up for a meal!

Fuel storage. Bulk fuel storage has three problematic issues: 1.) as a safety issue (fire hazard), 2.) as a security issue (odors that could attract robbers), and 3.) as a legal issue (fire code or tenant contract restrictions). I suspect that New York City's fire code would not allow you have more than a week's worth of propane on hand, and completely prohibit keeping more than just one small container of kerosene or Coleman fuel. From the standpoint of both safety and minimizing detectable odors, propane is probably the best option. (The odors of kerosene and chafing dish gel are both quite discernable.) But of course consult both your local fire code and your apartment lease agreement to determining the maximum allowable quantity to keep on hand.

Odds are that there will be no limit on the number of candles that you can store. If that is the case, then lay in large supply of unscented jar candles designed for long-burning (formulated high in stearic acid.) I suggest the tall, clear glass jar-enclosed "devotional" candles manufactured in large numbers for the Catholic market. You can even heat individual servings of food over these if you construct a stand with a wide base out of stout wire. Watch for these candles at discount and close-out stores. We have found that the large adhesive labels slip off easily if you soak the jars in water for an hour. Since their burning time is approximately 24 hours, and since you might need two of them burning simultaneously for sufficient light and to stay warm, that would necessitate laying in a supply of 360 candles! (This assumes that the worst case, with the outset of a crisis in October, and your having to hunker down for a full six months.)

Fire fighting. Buy at least two large multipurpose ("A-B-C") chemical fire extinguishers

Cooking odors. In addition to the smell of fuel, cooking food will produce odors. I recommend that you store only foods with minimal spices. In situation where you are surrounded by starving people, just frying foods with grease or heating up a can of spicy chili con carne could be a death warrant.

Noise discipline. Just the sound of moving around your apartment could reveal your presence. For some useful background, see if your local library has a copy of the best-selling memoir "The Pianist", by Wladyslaw Szpilman. (If not, buy a copy through Amazon or request a copy via inter-library loan. It has been published in 35 languages. The US edition's ISBN is 0312244150.) The book describes the harrowing experiences of a Jewish musician in hiding in Warsaw, Poland, during the Second World War. Following the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising and forced deportation, Szpilman spent many months locked in a Warsaw apartment, receiving just a few parcels of food from some gentile friends. In his situation, the power and water utilities were still operating most of the time, but he suffered from slow starvation and lived in absolute fear of making any noise. His survival absolutely defied the odds. There was also an excellent 2002 movie based on Szpilman's book, but the memoir provides greater detail than the film.

Light discipline. If you have any source of light in your apartment, it could reveal your presence. In an extended power blackout, it will become obvious to looters within a couple of weeks who has lanterns or large supplies of candles and/or flashlight batteries. (Everyone else will run out within less than two weeks.) And I predict that it will be the apartments that are still lit up that will be deemed the ones worth robbing. So if you are going to have a light source, you must systematically black out all of your windows. But sadly these efforts will be in direct conflict with your need for ventilation for your heating and/or cooking.

Heat. With the aforementioned restrictions on fuel storage, heating your apartment for more than just a few days will probably be impossible. Buy an expedition quality sleeping bag--preferably a two-bag system such as a Wiggy's brand FTRSS. Under the circumstances that you describe, don't attempt to heat your entire apartment. Instead, construct a small room-within-a-room (Perhaps under a large dining room table, or by setting up a camping tent inside your apartment, to hoard heat.) Even if the rest of the apartment drops to 25 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit, your body heat alone will keep your demi-room in the 40s. Burning just one candle will raise the temperature another 5 or 10 degrees. For the greatest efficiency at retaining heat, your demi-room should be draped with two layers of mylar space blankets.

Exercise. While you are "hunkered down", you will need to maintain muscle tone. Get some quiet exercise equipment, such as a pull-up bar and some large elastic straps. Perhaps, if your budget allows in the future, also purchase or construct your own a quiet stationary bicycle-powered generator. This would provide both exercise and battery charging.

Sanity. .Hunkering down solo in silence for six months would be a supreme challenge, both physically and mentally. Assuming that you can somehow tackle all of the aforementioned problems, you also need to plan to stay sane. Have lots of reading materials on hand.

In conclusion, when one considers the preceding long list of dependencies and complexities, it makes "staying put" in a worst case very unattractive. In less inimical circumstance, it is certainly feasible, but in a grid-down situation with utilities disrupted and wholesale looting and rioting in progress, the big city is no place to live. But, as always, this is just my perspective and your mileage may vary (YMMV).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mr. Rawles:
Every once in a while, at topic comes up that I feel somewhat qualified to comment on. I'll offer some miscellaneous comments on Dave T's letter and your thoughts on medicine WTSHTF, as posted on SurvivalBlog. This is not meant to be exhaustive, and of course may not apply to your particular situation. Since I can't see you, its hard for me to diagnose you or give you specific advice. Disclaimers all 'round.

Chronic renal failure: It may be worth learning to do peritoneal dialysis if you may have to help someone deal with this condition in a grid-down situation. It is not as effective as hemodialysis, but it is much simpler. The risk of infection would be significant, especially in less than optimal hygienic conditions. It might, however, be a useful technique, especially as a 'bridge' for use until hemodialysis can
(hopefully) be arranged. Dialysate is introduced into the abdominal cavity and later removed (or exchanged continuously). Another thing to consider is renal transplant, if that's reasonable for the patient, but that has its own perils.

Diabetes: The key here, as many will realize, is the type of diabetes. Diabetes Mellitus ("DM") Type 2 is the most common. WTSHTF, it may be self-treating, as it can often be eliminated by weight loss. DM Type 1 is treated with insulin. Living on the edge of starvation is a brutal but somewhat effective treatment, if insulin can't be had. Islet cell transplants (often in the context of a kidney transplant) can lead to years of no insulin requirement (they make insulin), but you have to be on (often expensive, toxic, and obscure) immunosuppressants. Might be better to stock up on insulin. Be careful with Lantus (long acting glargine insulin). Potency decreases by about half , six weeks after the bottle is opened. Are you dedicated enough to learn how to *make* insulin, and confident enough to use insulin you made yourself? I did biochemistry for a while, and I'm not confident I could do so. Diabetes insipidus is fairly rare, and not what most people think of when 'diabetes' is mentioned.

Lung disease: By far, most lung disease is self inflicted. Don't smoke. Some, obviously, is not. Move lower, where there is 'more air in the air', is sound advice. If you have asthma, learn what your triggers are, and avoid them (this goes for many 'episodic' chronic illnesses). Stimulants such as caffeine can often help at least a little with an acute asthma attack. CFC-propellent inhalers are nearly gone, and the newer versions (such as Proventil-HFC) are often in short supply; plan ahead.
If someone requires oxygen, again, moving to a lower elevation may make sense. Small oxygen concentrators are a common home health item; they require electrical power but do not require a supply of oxygen from the medical supply company. Most welding oxygen is generated on exactly the same equipment as medical oxygen, but is not certified for medical use. Diving gas?

Coronary artery disease: Do you need bypass surgery? Can you arrange to get a 'cadillac' surgery with both a right and left internal mammary artery graft instead of just a left, and a bunch of venous grafts?

Other miscellaneous chronic medical conditions: these run the gamut. If your doctor put you on Toprol-XL and Diovan because your blood pressure was running 150/90 all the time, and you are sedentary and overweight, you can probably bring the blood pressure down by losing weight and exercising. It may not come down to normal, and you may still have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but your life expectancy won't be reduced by much compared to the reduction that would accompany socioeconomic collapse. If you need to choose between blood pressure medicine and insulin for your type-1 diabetic son (who can otherwise pull his weight and then some), I'd probably go for a little extra insulin.
You might also try to change from these top-shelf meds to generic metoprolol (which has to be taken more often, but costs a lot less) and lisinopril (which might or might not make you cough, and costs a lot less). If your doctor has you on five different drugs for blood pressure and you still run 150/90, even though you're 10 pounds under actuarial ideal weight, well, you may need those medications to keep from dying from a stroke in the short term.

Alternative medicine: I have to expose my bias here. I have been practicing medicine for 10 years, and my wife worked for a 'nutriceutical' company while I was in graduate and medical school, keeping tabs on clinical studies on alternative treatments. 'Alternative' is often code for 'expensive placebo'. This is a many billion dollar a year business. Most alternative treatments, if they worked, would have been studied and would be accepted for use as medical treatments. There are no (governmental, whether good or bad) controls on what actually goes into these 'treatments'; if, for instance, a particular flower was effective, the companies could put in the stems and the leaves, and leave the flower out. Also, 'natural' does not mean 'safe and effective'. Curare is natural (and the basis for all the paralytics that are used in surgery and anesthesia). Foxglove is natural (and deadly, and the basis for the anti-arrhythmic medicines digoxin and digitoxin). Uranium (including U-235) is natural. There are water wells in north-central New Mexico that would almost qualify as uranium mines (but rarely does anyone test for it). The usual response to this is 'well, it works for me'. The fallacy here is, of course, mistaking correlation for causality. You would have gotten better anyway (or with another placebo).

Veterinary medicines: Most come from the same factories as the human equivalent. I am told by my veterinary friends that meds intended for horses may be higher purity than those intended for dogs and cats. One of our geldings, Jack, had a pretty bad, dirty laceration on his hip. Our vet sold us equine trimethoprim/sulfamethoxizole (bactrim or septra are brand names in the human medical world) -- the pills were marked exactly the same as the ones I prescribe. We put 15 of them into a syringe with some water and injected the paste into Jack's mouth, twice a day. That's a 7.5 day course for an adult human in one dose for a horse.

Expiration dates: I have heard of (not personally read) military studies that suggested most (dry) medicines would lose less than half their potency after 10 years storage in the cool and dry. I can't confirm this myself, but it has the ring of truth to it.

Dentistry: This is a black art to me, as it is to many medical doctors. There is a product called Cavit-G that dentists have recommended to me as temporary 'patch' material... I don't know how long you can stretch out its use. Oil of cloves (does that count as alternative?) is a fairly effective oral topical anesthetic for short-term use.

Eye surgery: my PRK is settling even further. I started at -5.5 and -6.0 diopters; I am now at 0 and -0.5 diopters, which works well for me. I do get some "haloing" around lights at night, and I think my contrast discrimination is slightly reduced. Now I wear glasses primarily to protect my eyes, rather than correct them. Everything is a trade off, but if my glasses get crushed, I will not be nearly as crippled as I would have prior to surgery.

Appendicitis: It is not uncommon for folks planning travel ["over-winter"] in Antarctica to undergo elective laparoscopic appendectomy. If you develop appendicitis in the back country in Colorado, you apologize to your traveling companions (for inconveniencing them). If you develop appendicitis in Antarctica, your friends may well be apologizing to you (because you're going to die). Post-SHTF, things start to look like Antarctica. Are you going to have your aching gallbladder removed? Ask your surgeon to take out your appendix at the same time. If not, maybe ask a different surgeon.

Antibiotics: Most readers will be attracted to the idea of having at least a small stockpile of antibiotics. These can indeed be lifesavers, however they are over prescribed in the extreme. Common reasons for giving antibiotics are 'bronchitis' (almost always viral, and thus unaffected by antibacterials), 'pneumonia' without any abnormal physical findings or even an abnormal chest x-ray (usually this is the same thing, a viral upper respiratory infection), 'strep throat' which may be viral pharyngitis masquerading as a bacterial infection. Some bacterial infections don't really need to be treated with antibiotics: a lot of folks come to the ER with a 'spider bite', without ever having noticed any spider. These are often abscesses caused by Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus [MRSA], which can be cured by incision and drainage, but will be unaffected by most of the commonly prescribed antibiotics. Even urinary infections will often clear (in females) with large volumes of fluid and acidification of the urine (i.e, cranberry juice). Expert advice both on when to use an antibiotic and which one to use can be helpful! It ain't rocket surgery, but it ain't always intuitively obvious either. (I am fond of saying that, as a doctor, I don't give orders, I just sell advice).

Another thing a lot of folks don't consider is actually talking to your doctor about your concerns. The knee-jerk liberal AMA does not represent the attitudes of all physicians. The American Academy of Pediatrics' position that guns and children should not coexist on the same planet does not represent the opinion of all physicians. You can open the discussion with your doctor with questions like 'what if there was a hurricane Katrina here' (insert the natural disaster most likely to occur in your geographic area); what would I do about my medications/conditions? If your doc looks at you and blinks, then suggests a good [psycho]therapist, maybe you should find a new doctor. If he starts telling you about cheaper alternatives so you can afford a year's supply without the insurance company's help, or talks to you about sizing your solar panels and backup diesel genset to run your medical equipment, you may have found someone worth knowing outside the doctor-patient relationship.
Apologies for the length of this letter, but perhaps there are some useful tidbits in there. - Simple Country Doctor


Dear James,
In response to the medical supplies listed on your blog, I would also add that it would be a good idea to stock up on the following:
1. Over the Counter Meds: imodium (for diarrhea), laxatives (for constipation), gatorade/pedialyte for dehydration, Tylenol, ibuprofen (and children's tylenol/ibuprofen), cough and cold medicines,
benadryl, vaseline.

2. Prescription Meds: pain medication such as T3's, percocet, or hydrocodone, anti-virals such as Tamiflu or Relenza (note that there has been some recent controversy about these drugs recently with reports of psychiatric conditions and suicide amongst Japanese children on Tamiflu), Sambucol (a herbal remedy for the flu), nitroglycerin (for angina/heart disease), blood pressure meds, and very importantly, antibiotics. For skin and soft tissue infections (impetigo, diabetic ulcers, human or animal bites, etc) amoxicillin-clavulanate, 500 mg po ["by mouth"] tid ["three times a day"] for 10 days, for post nail puncture of the foot,
ciprofloxacin 750 mg po bid for 2 weeks, for most upper respiratory tract infections I would use amoxicillin 500 mg po tid for 10 days. Erythromycin is also a good antibiotic to have on hand for community acquired pneumonia (500 mg po qid ["four times a day"] for 10 days). For gastroenteritis and traveller's diarrhea I would use ciprofloxacin 500 mg po bid ["twice a day"] for 5 days. Urinary tract infections can also be treated with ciprofloxacin. Make sure to speak with your physician about any of these as this does not represent medical advice.

3. Palliative Care medication: in the event of a long term grid down situation there will be many people dying and in distress, not only from trauma but also from end stage cancer, heart disease, etc. Three of the worst symptoms to be faced with when dying are pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. Having morphine on hand can be very valuable as this can help with pain and shortness of breath. Other good narcotics include dilaudid and fentanyl. For nausea it is a good idea to have phenargen or compazine as well as zofran or kytril. These medications can be very expensive, so again, plan accordingly and prioritize. Find yourself a good family doctor that is willing to work with you.

4.Anaphylactic reactions: whether from bee stings or other sources, you must be prepared to deal with an anaphylactic reaction. Having an Epi-pen on hand can save someone's life. Also, have lots of benadryl and if possible some prednisone. (Benadryl is over the counter).

5. Burns - You will want to store up on sterile NaCl as well as silvadene and lots of gauze. If you need to sedate someone to perform any kind of debridement, versed and ativan are useful as well as morphine for pain.
Hope this helps. - KLK

With regard to your suggestion that the Big Island of Hawaii might be a good place for people needing kidney dialysis, let me add a little local knowledge. The Big Island has a good percentage of alternative energy sources (wind farms, geothermal, hydropower and small scale solar) which would allow our local power company (HELCO) to direct power to a home or facility pre-designated as being for "emergency use", so in that respect, you're right.

However, the diesel powered generators that still make up the bulk of power provided have very little on-island storage (fuel trucks make the run from the port of Hilo to Kona virtually every day) and there are no projected plans to increase storage capacity in any significant way. Earthquake damages to bridges or tsunami damage to the port could literally limit or shut most of the power off for an extended length of time. As serious as that problem is, a much greater negative is the status of medical facilities on the Big Island. The hospitals are quite small and so inadequate for major medical emergencies that patients with serious injuries or conditions are routinely flown to Oahu (300 miles away) via air ambulance. It is often said (by local doctors) that the hospitals on-island are limited to an equivalent of "third-world" care, which is something that has to be seriously stressed with regards to chronic care.

This is not to say that it would be the wrong choice for everyone. In the case of CPAP machines (for sleep apnea), it could be a very good possibility, but when it comes to machines that require extensive supply replacements and constant thorough cleaning (such as dialysis machines), one might be better off looking elsewhere. The availability of emergency electricity is only one factor of the equation and when the necessity of ongoing sophisticated medical treatment (which is normally required for chronic care) is added in, the Big Island loses some of its luster as a survival retreat possibility. - Hawaiian K.


I found it interesting that your comments about Hawaiian Electric essentially concede, without explicitly saying so, that in some situations, the chronically ill are doomed to die without medical care provided by the Establishment. This is, of course, true (unless you have unfathomable financial resources at your disposal to proactively re-create a private, parallel medical infrastructure).

Without insulin, diabetics will eventually die; without dialysis, so will kidney patients; without oxygen, so will those who need assisted breathing. These are just facts. Let me suggest that for those who are in the unfortunate situation of having to care for a loved one with a chronic condition, contingency planning needs to be broken into short- and long-term time horizons.

In the short term, all of your points are well taken re: stockpiling supplies. The plan here is to hold out on your own for as long as you can, and hope that things eventually go back to normal (e.g., Hurricane Katrina). I would add that many insurers will fill a 90-day supply of medicines, provided that you’re willing to use a mail-in service, and generic substitutes are available. If finances are tight, look into this route—it will give you an additional 60 days of stockpile for the same co-pay.

One thing you sort of skipped over was medical knowledge. All the supplies in the world won’t do you a lick of good if you don’t know how to use them. So take the time when things are good to amass a reasonable medical library. Like I mentioned in a previous letter, I own a copy of "Medicine for the Outdoors" for acute care issues, and obviously as a new parent, I own pediatric references too. But it would probably be a good idea to add books like the PDR to have information about drug interactions; a slightly out-of-date edition might be available on ebay. I’m sure real doctors out there could make recommendations.

In terms of longer-term planning, it’s going to come back to relying on the Establishment for drugs, life-saving chronic therapies, etc. My view is that if things go to hell, they may or may not go to hell all at once and everywhere. Cities will get worse before the countryside; collapse may be local before it is national. So use this time, when the internet still works, to do research. For example, how much could it hurt for a dialysis patient to have a list of every public and private dialysis center within 200 miles? The hope would be that if your locale turned ugly, an operating medical establishment could be found somewhere nearby.

The rest of your post dealt with preventative care: elective surgeries, dental care, physical fitness. I’m in wild agreement with everything you said (but now we’re far afield from the original question about chronic care, notice). I’d add that I’m a post-Lasik patient myself, and recommend it highly. I can understand budgetary constraints, but these days Lasik is no longer nearly as expensive as it used to be. Depending on the amount of correction you need, the surgery can be obtained for the cost two handguns, or one good rifle, and is probably worth more to you in a SHTF situation than another firearm in the arsenal, or an extra 1,000 rounds of .308 Winchester.

Keep up the great thinking and writing. - DCs


JWR Replies: I'd be reluctant to consider Oahu, since its population density is so high that it could not be self-sufficient in the event of an economic collapse and the likelihood of rioting and looting seems much, much higher than on the Big Island. There are at least three dialysis centers extant on the Big Island (One on the Kona coast, one in Hilo--both operated by Liberty Medical--as well as another in Hilo at the Hilo Medical Center. OBTW, I've also read that a large, new dialysis center was just recently opened on Maui.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hello Jim,
I am a 10 Cent Challenge subscriber and have looked at your site daily -- great job!

I have a medical background and would advise readers to consider what gear they will need if a friend, relative or team member becomes ill, hurt, disabled etc. The basic first aid supplies will not provide the level of comfort et cetera needed. We are talking basic nursing care, not "first aid". Take care, stay safe and God Bless! - Dave T.

JWR Replies:
Thanks for bringing that subject up again. Aside for fairly some brief mentions (such as photovoltaically-powered CPAP machines for sleep apnea patients, and refrigeration of insulin) we haven't given this the emphasis that it deserves.

Acute Care
Preparing to care for injuries or acute illnesses, is well within the reach of most middle class families. You should of course build up a large supply of bandages, antibiotics, and so forth. Also plan ahead for such mundane items as drinking straws, hot water bottles, bed pans, and diaper wipes. I also recommend looking for an older-style used, adjustable hand-crank hospital bed. Just watch Craig's List regularly, and chances are that you will eventually find one at a bargain price.

Chronic Care
It may be difficult for us to confront issue of care for the chronically ill, because it can seem so overwhelming. But for the vast majority of us that do not subscribe to the "park granny on an ice floe" (senilicide and invalidicide) mentality, these issues demand our attention, our concerted planning, and considerable financial commitment. Since there are such a wide range of chronic illnesses and disabilities, it is impossible to address them all, but I will mention a few:

Lets start with the most difficult to mitigate: Chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis. In a "grid-down" situation, dialysis patients will be out of luck once the hospital backup generators run out of fuel. To see a loved one slowly have their blood turn toxic and die would be absolutely heartbreaking. My suggested solution may seem odd, but think this through: Move to the Big Island of Hawaii, or to a natural gas producing region, or to near a refinery in an oil-producing state.

In Hawaii, each island has its own independent power generation infrastructure. For many years, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) utility has used diesel fired generators (using crude oil that is shipped in and then fractioned at refineries), but they may soon switch over to natural gas, using imported liquefied natural gas (LNG). There are any number of different circumstances, including an EMP attack, wherein the continental US power grids will go down, but the lights will stay on in Hawaii. My only unanswered question is: how much a of crude oil supply is kept on hand? And if and when HECO switches over to LNG, will the number of months of reserve fuel increase or decrease?

As for natural gas-producing regions (such as parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and several other states), such a move would first require considerable research. You would have to find a community adjacent to natural gas fields with a kidney dialysis center that that has a natural gas-fired backup generator and that is in an area with sufficient wellhead pressure to pressurize local lines. (You can expect to be making a lot of phone calls, finding such a rarity!) As I've mentioned previously in SurvivalBlog, in the late 1990s, my mentor Dr. Gary North bought a property in Arkansas that had its own natural gas well, and two-natural gas-fired generators. To borrow the modern parlance, talk about a "sweet" set -up!

Another option might be to find a dialysis center with a diesel-powered backup generator that is within 25 miles of a refinery that is also in oil country. (Providing a local source of crude oil for resupply.) As biodiesel plants start to come on line in the next few years, this should widen your range of choices. But keep in mind that you will want to find a biodiesel plant that is independent of grid power. The key word to watch for in your web searches is co-generation. A plant that has co-generation capability is likely one that could operate without the need of the power grid.

Next down the list is diabetes. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, relatively small and inexpensive (under $3,000) packaged photovoltaic power systems with inverters (such as those sold by Ready Made Resources) can be used to operate a compact refrigerator (such as the Engel compact refrigerator/freezers sold by Safecastle). A system of this size could also be used to run a CPAP machine or other AC-powered medical equipment with similar amperage demands.

Another category of chronic illness to consider is the care of post-surgical "-ostomy" patients--folk s that have had a colostomy, iliostomy, urostomy, and so forth. These often require keeping on hand a large supply of medical appliances, bags, catheters, and so forth. Thankfully, most of these items have fairly long shelf lives and are not too expensive to stock up on--at least compared to some of those "$5 per pill" blood thinner medications.

Yet another category of chronic disease to consider is bronchial and lung ailments. There are some ailments that can be relieved (at least to an extent) by relocating. Getting to a more suitable elevation, moving to avoiding pollen or fungi, and so forth can make a considerable difference. If this is your situation, then I suggest that you go ahead and make the move soon if you have the opportunity. Chronic asthma is quite common, and of course an acute asthma attack can be life threatening. Ironically, buying a wood stove--one of the key preparedness measures that I recommend to my clients--is not good for someone that has an asthmatic in their family. If that is your case, then consider moving to the southwest, where passive solar heating is an option, or moving to an area where you can use geothermal heating. I mention a few such locales, such as Klamath Falls, Oregon, in my book "Rawles on Retreats and Relocation".

For the many folks that now depend on medical oxygen cylinders, it is wise to at least stock up on extra cylinders. One alternative suitable for long term scenarios is to buy a medical oxygen concentrator. High volume units are fairly expensive, but owning your own would be an incredible resource for charity or barter as well as for your own family's use. Large (high volume) units can sometime be found through used medical equipment dealers such as East Tennessee Sterilizer Service. Smaller, factory new oxygen concentrators are available in the US from Liberty Medical, and in England from Pure O2, Ltd.

A much more common situation is caring for someone that requires regular medication that does not require refrigeration. The high cost of some medicines make storing a two year supply difficult. And the policies of most insurance companies--often refusing to pay for more than a month's worth of medication in advance--only exacerbates the problem. In these cases, I suggest 1.) Re-prioritizing your budget to provide the funds needed to stock up, and 2.) If possible, looking at alternative treatments, including herbs that you can grow in your own garden or greenhouse.

If you decide yo go the route of stocking up your meds to build a multi-year stockpile--all the way to their expiration dates--this will require not only lots of cash but also very conscientious "first in, first out" rotation of your supplies. I have seen a deep, open-backed cabinet used for this method. After you have bought your "all the way to the expiry date supply", you simply continue to order your monthly supply and put each newly-arrived pill bottle in the back of the cabinet and use the bottle that is closest to the front.

Alternative treatment, such as using herbs or acupuncture, is a touchy subject. Again, it is something that will take considerable research and qualified consultation, and in effect making yourself your own guinea pig. If you decide to use this approach, I recommend that you make any transition gradually, with plenty of qualified supervision. If it takes a lot of extra visits to to your doctor for tests, then so be it. Just do your best to make the transition, before everything hits the fan. Living in Schumeresque times will undoubtedly be extremely stressful, and the additional stress of changing medications might very well be "one stress too many."

I have seen some folks in preparedness circles on the Internet recommend stockpiling low-cost veterinary medications, but I could only advise using such medications in absolute extremis. (When your only other option is certain death.)

As for using meds beyond their "official" expiration dates, this requires some careful study. Some medications have listed expiries that are overly conservative. (I suspect that any of these expiration terms are driven by the advice of corporate staff malpractice attorneys rather than by the advice of the formulating chemists.) A few drugs, however, are downright dangerous to use past their expiration dates. Consult your local pharmacists with questions about any particular drug. (I lack a "R.Ph." or "PharmD." after my name, so please don't ask me. I am not qualified to give such advice!) Parenthetically, in my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse", I mentioned a WHO-approved titration test that is useful for some antibiotics. This method was developed for use in Third World countries where out-of date medications seem to end up with amazing regularity.

Speaking of the Third World, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned from studying the way that chronically-ill are treated in poor countries. (I'm not taking about neglect. Rather, I'm talking about creative ways to care for people when there isn't the money or there aren't "the proper facilities.") Do some Internet research on the chronic illness that is of concern to you with search phrases that include "In Cuba", "In Africa", "in Thailand", and so forth.

Elective Surgery and Dental Work
If you have an existing problem that could be cured with elective surgery or dental work, then I strongly recommend that you go ahead and do so, if you have the means. If your condition worsens after medical or dental facilities become unavailable, it could turn a simple inconvenience into something life threatening. I've heard of several wealthy preppers that have had their nearsightedness cured by Lasik or PRK, just for the sake of being better prepared for a foreseen new era that will not have the benefit of ophthalmologists and a handy shopping mall "eyeglasses in about an hour" shop. Living free of eyeglasses or contact lenses also makes wearing night vision goggles and NBC protective masks much easier, and makes defensive shooting--particularly at long range--more accurate. Lasik is an expense that I cannot personally justify on my tight budget, but if you can afford it, then do so. (BTW, I even had one consulting client go so far as to have his healthy appendix removed, just to avoid the prospect of appendicitis. That qualifies as "going to extremes"! I would not recommend this, since new research suggests that the appendix does serve to maintain good digestive bacteria populations.)

Fitness and Body Weight
One thing that every well-prepared individual should do is to stay in shape. Good muscle tone prevents back injuries and other muscle strains, and leaves you ready for the rigors of an independent, self-sufficient lifestyle. (There surely will plenty of 19th Century muscle work involved, post-TEOTWAWKI!) Keeping a healthy diet and maintaining an appropriate body weight (or getting back down to a proper weight!) is also very important. Again, it will leave you ready for physical challenges and it falls into the prepper's "one less stress to worry about" mindset. And, notably, watching your weight will also make you less likely to become diabetic. The only thing more tragic than having a chronic illness is unintentionally making yourself chronically ill!

One important side note: Many injuries and illnesses cause difficulty chewing and digesting solid foods, because of the patient's weakness, dental problems, or jaw/palate/throat trauma. It is important to have a hand-cranked food grinder available so that you can accommodate the needs of these patients. Old-fashioned grinders (the type that clamp on the edge of a kitchen table) can often be found used, for just a few dollars at yard sales. If you want to buy a new one, they are available from both Ready Made Resources and

In Closing
The bottom line is that caring for someone with a chronic illness in a protracted emergency or in the midst of a societal collapse is something that will take plenty of research, planning, and unfortunately, expense. As previously noted, it might even require relocating.

Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers with (or with loved ones with) chronic health conditions or disabilities would care to chime in. I'd also appreciate hearing from those in a health care professions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Last week my wife told me that another couple had gotten reservations at the cabins at Haleakela State Park for the Labor Day Weekend. We would hike across the crater floor, then down the Kaupo Gap. These are hard to come by and since we were invited, I felt we had to go. Great, a chance to try out my bug out bag. I gave my feet a liberal and prophylactic spraying of anti-fungal medication (a ritual I would end up doing every morning on that trip) and put on my Bug-Out Bag (BOB). Before we left, I unscrewed the aluminum pole from a mop, checked to make sure my backup knife would fit on it and now I had myself both a strong and lightweight walking stick as well as a spear in case a wild boar came too close. The BOB weighed in at 55 pounds. I'm 160 and with the backpack I was using it felt like a manageable weight. On the way there, the steering and brakes on the car went out. I hit the emergency brake and slowed down. The engine just turned off. Since it had power steering and brakes, when the car turned off, they went off too. Strange for a reasonably new car. It started up again so I figured EMP was ruled out. We drove up to about 10,000 feet, got our gear on and started hiking. It was a steep decline into the volcanic caldera/crater and within about 10 minutes I noticed a hot feeling in the heels of my feet. You see, as a sufferer of athletes foot, I tend to keep my shoes loose. Bad idea. Loose shoes make blisters. I stopped and got out the moleskins but I didn't have a pair of scissors. Let me say for the record, a knife is not a pair of scissors. These are separate tools. There I was with my BAK (Big A** knife) trying to cut moleskin pieces. Not only was it the wrong tool for the job, but one slip and it would be a bloody mess.
To take the pressure off my heels, I walked native style (toe to heel) and this helped.
We hiked for the rest of the day through what can only be described at the surface of Mars and finally arrived at the first cabin. The manual pedometer gave me some lousy data. It was set for a 2 foot step/4 foot stride length but I forgot to take into consideration that stride changes with inclines and declines. When I got there I tried out my Zipstove for the first time. At first glance, it looked like something made in a high school metal shop class, and it's a lot heavier than other stoves, but then again, I didn't need to pack any fuel. It has a battery operated fan built in and get fires hot real fast. I hit my sparker into a cotton ball with some vaseline rubbed in and presto. I dropped the little ball of fire into the stove, and added a few twigs and turned on the fan. Wow. The stove worked great. In a minute or two dinner was on it's way. I'll be investing in their titanium version and perhaps I can swap out their metal fan for a plastic one to drop the weight. I was cooking in a titanium Titan pot and I was concerned that due to the rapid heat transfer of titanium I'd burn the food but it never happened. Another nice thing about cooking with titanium is that as fast as it heats up, it cools down too and less than a minute after taking it off the fire, the top was cool enough grab and move around. We sat around when the lights went out, lit some candles and played Hearts for a few hours. (Make note to get Hoyle's Encyclopedia of Card games.) Before I went to bed I inspected my feet. Yup. Two huge blisters, one on each foot. These were the biggest blisters I'd ever had. Each one covered my entire heel. I also had burns on the backs of my hands. I was wearing nylon pants and a long sleeve shirt to keep out of the sun, and because we all know 'cotton kills.' I also had a cloth over my head which I kept in place by wearing a pair of sunglasses which had a retaining strap on them to keep from getting lost during activity. The strap around the back of my head kept the rag in place nicely and with the exception of a spot on my nose, I escaped the searing rays of Hawaii at 10,000 feet. What I didn't think to cover was the backs of my hands. The were bright red and angry when I saw them. I cut squared of cloth off my head rag and placed on the backs of each hand. I held them in place (mostly) with rubber bands around my wrists. They kept me from getting burned any worse, but it was a constant annoyance repositioning them for the rest of the trip. (Make note, put tactical gloves in BOB).
The next morning after having some oatmeal, I packed up. I put on another pair of socks and this was helpful as with less wiggle room, my feet didn't slip around so much and maybe I wouldn't make any new blisters. My wife suggested that in her experience (She hiked the Thorong La Pass. I lance the blisters. (Make note to bring needle in first aid kit) I left the blisters alone. Personal preference. The other fellow on the trip I noticed had the soles of one of his shoes come off. He was wrapping cord around them to hold them together when I suggested he use the awl tool on his swiss army knife to stitch them back on his shoe. He liked this idea and it worked. (Make note, find that Speedy Stitcher and add it to my BOB.)
The second day was excruciatingly painful. I can't recall the last time I was in that much pain for that long a period. I now had pain along the entire bottom surface of my foot. There was no comfortable way to walk. I was very grateful for the walking stick! Sure I could have make one from wood on the trail, but it would have been much heavier and bulkier to be as strong as the cheap aluminum tube.
After hours of promising myself I would never go hiking again, we arrived at the second cabin. At this point the fellow's second shoe fell apart. Keep in mind that both shoes were in good condition before we left. His wife was also having shoe trouble but she overcame it with a safety pin. (Make note, safety pins.) More cards and dinner and now the other people were complaining. No one else had a good external frame pack and their hips and backs were sore. For me, it was just my feet. Even though my pack outweighed anyone else's there by a factor of 2, it was a good pack and now showing itself to be worth the high cost.
The third day we had to hike down from over 6,000' to 1,000'. We'd already gone from 10,000' to 6,000 the previous two days and left the Martian landscape. We were now in fog enshrouded hills and rain forests. The next 5,000' would be a 30 degree incline though rain forests and meadows. I filled up my 4 steel water bottles with filtered water from my Katadyn and told my wife that with the condition of my feet, I wanted to leave a hour and a half before the rest of the group as I'd be going slow. I also wanted to hike in the morning to stay out of the heat . She finally agreed and we slushed though thigh high wet grass and we were both soaked in short order. It was about five minutes into the hike that I learned that not only were my hiking shoes too big, but they weren't waterproof nor even water resistant. The cool dewy water was sloshing around in by boots for hours. It wasn't just an annoyance either. When I took the map I got from the Ranger station out of my pocket, it was soaked and the pages were sticking together. Oh, did I mention that the trail I was taking was right along a crease on the map and due to the water damage it was totally illegible? (Make note, put Zip lock bags in BOB).
Although she didn't say anything, I know she was pissed. Cold, wet and pissed but when she realized how hard the hike was getting, she looked at me. "I'll just say it once and get it over with. I told you so." She thanked me. We smiled and moved on. That extra time was great to have. I used an altimeter to guesstimate where we were on the map. I didn't bring my topos with me, but it was a great psychological benefit to know how much longer you had to go.
My wife started complaining about her left knee under when we stopped at an old growth Koa tree. We snacked on ostrich filets (kept at 150 degrees in the oven overnight), peanuts and some chocolate. She wanted a Koa walking stick. "But that's a heavier wood and look, no straight branches here darling." Well, she wanted one anyway so I hacked her a walking stick, put a point on the bottom and cut away the bark where her hand would grip it. At about 4,000 feet I saw my wife walking backwards for a few seconds. I tried it and it was great. Although it was riskier, I couldn't walk forwards anymore. Aside from the fact that my blisters were hurting, I now had somehow developed a pain in my left knee too. It only hurt when I walked forward, or sideways (yes I tried that too) so my wife and I walked backwards down the rocky and treacherous declines for miles. The trails were covered with golf ball and base ball sized spherical lava rocks that acted like ball bearings. It was hard going and nerve racking. I made us both drink like fishes and soon I was dripping with sweat and she was peeing like a racehorse. Every time my mouth got dry I drank and so did she. I wasn't thirsty but I drank anyhow. Then the water stopped feeling good to drink. Dang, with all this drinking and sweating I was beginning to going hyponatremic. (Make note, put ORS packets in BOB). On the milder inclines I tried walking while dragging my left leg behind me to avoid having to bend it. It was slow going and again, my wife thanked me for getting us out early. We came across some ambiguous fork in the road and she lost it for a bit. I said that I thought both trails would probably work and let her pick the route. She picked and then got nervous. "What if it's the wrong one?" She was starting to lose it again. "This trail is the correct trail." I said forcefully and with more confidence that I really had about her choice. She seemed okay with that and we kept going.
We used the last of the water that everyone said I was crazy to bring just minutes before reaching the rendezvous point. One of the women in the group I later found out had a near nervous breakdown as she never knew how much farther she had to go. That altimeter kept my wife and I sane.
I'm finally home and writing this out before I forget. The blisters will probably heal in a week the knee, who knows. (Make note, put ace bandages and maybe even knee and ankle supports in BOB). I'll be walking with a cane for a bit but no permanent damage, I don't think. I will now have a dedicated foot first aid section for my BOB. Consider giving your BOB a test run. You may find things you want in it you don't have now and some things you can do without. I think of my BOB like a gun now. If it's all shiny and new but not zeroed in, you may be in for some nasty surprises. - SF in Hawaii

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

As long as I can remember, I have felt that someday the comforts of a modern American lifestyle would vanish, at least temporarily. So I have made small mental preparations for some time now; keeping my mind and body fit and strong, staying informed, dropping hints to the wife, etc. Recently, and mostly after reading Patriots, I have a renewed interest in preserving my life and protecting those I love.

After educating myself on the subject of survival, I felt, as I’m sure many others have, very vulnerable and even overwhelmed. I needed to take action, immediately. Many thoughts spring into one’s mind during these moments. “What will I feed my children; oh man, water is essential; what about all those crazy people in the city, I need a gun, I need several guns; I need to move to North Dakota!” Sloooow down! These are daunting items. Once you quiet your mind and restore some sense of calm (it may take a couple days), you realize that you must be realistic. It’s not feasible for most of us to pack up an arsenal and move to a remote retreat in the hills or forests of the upper Midwest. We have jobs and responsibilities, relatives and friends; lives that at least for the time being, limit our options. And there is also the feeling that hundreds or even thousands of dollars spent on preparations could be wasted if The Schumer doesn’t ever Hit The Fan. (Doubtful, but it does cross one’s mind) A sense of urgency is implied; however, a caution against panic is warranted. It’s easy in this post 9/11 age to let fear control your life. Don’t! Simply take comfort in the fact that doing something to prepare for various scenarios, however big or small, will most importantly increase your odds of survival in the worst of emergencies, but also increase your comfort in the less dire situations and even improve your life now.

You Don’t Have to Move to Idaho--Survival Mindset for City Folk

I wanted to write an article for people like myself who are in the beginning stages of survival preparation. People on limited budgets, who may not live on farms, or maybe have never served in the military or had experience with guns. Those people who live in or near a city, particularly congested east coast cities. I write for those city dwellers and suburbanites in less than ideal regions; students, urban professionals, everyday people. However, it can apply to just about anyone who is not already well “squared away”. I will attempt to provide ideas on where to begin, how to prioritize and how to prepare mentally and with limited monetary resources for a multitude of events. I will try to focus on things that can be useful now and for a lifetime. My intent is not to instruct on what exactly is needed for every particular individual; there are more capable advisors for that. I aim to get people thinking and to provide a more general approach to surviving the times.

Get Your Mind Right
First and foremost is your mindset. Think about your values, your morals. What is most important in your life? Who is most important to you? How far are you willing to go to protect them? In the most serious situation, we would do anything, right? Why let it come to that? There’s good reason to get motivated. Put yourself and your family in the best possible position for survival now, so you don’t have to act out of desperation later. Also, think about what you spend your money on and where you spend it. Do you really need that big screen plasma television? What are you teaching your children about spirituality, health, money? Just as important, what are others teaching your children? You see where I’m going here. It’s not all about beans, bullets and Band-Aids. It’s about your mentality. Only the strongest-willed individuals will make it through tough times, be it TEOTWAWKI, high school, or simply life as an adult in the 21st century.

Beginning Logistics

Now think about tangible items to have on hand. Make a list. Just jot down ideas, then categorize (based on cost or type) and prioritize later. Your location and climate will impact your list. Set up your inventory and storage on varying degrees of threat and length of time of crisis. For instance a blackout that lasts 30 days vs. a full scale economic collapse. Will you be staying put or escaping to a safer location? What criteria will you base your decision on? What would you miss most if something tragic happened? Put yourself in that situation. The obvious answers are food and more importantly, water. If you are human, you already eat and drink water, so this is nothing new. You just need to think about having more of it on hand. In turn, storage is needed. We find room for other items; we can find room for potentially life saving sustenance. Package enough easily transportable food for 30 days. A durable plastic tote should work well. Then store enough for much longer periods of time. Buy a little extra food with each grocery shopping trip and date it. Not extra chips or TV dinners, get extra items such as dried fruit or granola that will last for an extended period of time, without electricity. Buy in bulk and incorporate raw grains into your diet. Start a garden. Not only will you know how to prepare these foods now, you will be more accustomed to eating them later, not to mention the health benefits. Think about buying a food dehydrator. They are reasonably priced. Keep a few five gallon containers of water in your garage, basement or crawlspace. If you live in an apartment, do you have a spare room or a patio? For long term situations, any amount of water that can be conveniently stored in most homes will be consumed surprisingly fast. Think about other sources and get a good water filter. Again, this is prudent to have anyway. A [compact] portable filter might come in handy also. With both food and water, as much as possible, use your storage as supplement, not a main source.

Little by little set aside money and acquire items you will need. Keep an extra supply of first aid items on hand. Don’t forget some of the less apparent items like toilet paper, sanitation, batteries, tools, candles, medications and fuel. Keep some spare 5 gallon containers of stabilized gas in your shed. It’s not wasteful as it can be used in your vehicles at any time. And with the rising gas prices it may prove to be a worthwhile investment. Don’t forget to rotate [your stocks]. Consider buying a generator. In a full scale crisis, drawing attention to yourself and home with a loud, light-producing device is not going to be very smart, but when power goes out and the masses aren’t yet rioting in the streets, a generator will be nice to have. Get a portable model. Study maps and plan different routes to and from your home. Keep an emergency kit in your car. This is by no means a complete list, it’s designed to get you started. Yes, the preparations are abundant. Don’t get overwhelmed into thinking you have to get it all at once. The key is minimization. Minimize the chances that you will be taken by surprise, wondering why you didn’t do something earlier. Start small and with things you can use in everyday life. The wealth of available information on specifics is immense. This web page is a great resource. It’s up to you to educate yourself and determine exactly what and how much you will need.

Help Others Help You
Working together will be to your advantage during crunch time. Find strength in numbers. Seek out others who share your values and have skills you lack. How can you help each other? Build relationships and share ideas. Educate others, but be careful as you can imagine the funny looks you might get if you start prophesying doomsday. And guess who’s doorstep they’ll be standing on come crunch time. I am a firm believer that the more people around you that are prepared, the better off all of us are. If your neighbors can take care of themselves, then it’s more likely your preparations will be preserved in the event of crisis. In short, at least fewer of your neighbors will be knocking on your door the same day of an event.

Securing Your Castle
I’d like to take a moment to discuss security, specifically firearms. If you have studied survival even a little, then you are aware that arming yourself ranks high on the list of recommendations. Perhaps some of you share my reluctance to build an armory in my home. I have children, and being married to someone who is strictly against guns makes security a particularly difficult element in my survival preparations. While I recognize security as an absolute must, I have reservations about keeping a device designed to kill in my home. Ironically the reasons not to own a gun are the very reasons why I feel I should own gun. The reasons are aged 2-11, not including the Mrs. In a volatile scenario that could spiral out of control; I would feel helpless without weapons to protect my family. All the stockpiling of food and water will be futile if some thug can easily take it from you (and maybe your lives with it). If you do decide to own a firearm (or firearms), don’t flaunt it and please educate yourself and practice. Keep a chamber or trigger lock in place and store the ammunition in a different location if necessary. In addition, don’t rule out other ways of defending yourself. Albeit, less formidable, they are less expensive. These include pepper spray, knives, batons, stun guns and martial arts. I don’t think I need to remind people that these are mostly ineffective against attackers with guns, or even large groups of unarmed evil doers. However, they may prove useful in that they are very portable and can be used in less dire emergencies. Deterrence in the form of dogs, fencing, motion detection, alarm systems and location should also be considered. Protection from those who intend to harm is imperative and yet another item that is useful even today.

Back to Basics
Take an assessment of your skill sets. What knowledge do you posses that would be of value in a crisis situation? Don’t worry, if needed, your survival instincts will take hold, but some basic skills can make you an asset and will help you survive. Develop and hone these skills now. Start simply; make your own bread, catch your own fish, grow your own vegetables, prepare healthier, less processed meals. I enjoy beer, I brew my own. It’s rewarding and I’ve learned much from it. Learn basic plumbing, carpentry and electrical skills. You don’t have to be a master mechanic, but any vehicle owner should know the basics; how to change the oil, filters and spark plugs. Having a skill can be just as valuable as having an inventory; you never leave home without it and could earn you a spot in a group if needed. Maybe you are a dog trainer or electronics engineer. Don’t forget your kids. Teach your children to swim, hunt, split wood or sow a garden. It seems that all too often, in our frenzied lifestyles, we focus all our energy on skills that will get us fat paychecks and forget the simpler but more important things. Get back to basics. Slow down. Simplify. If something isn’t adding positive value to your life, eliminate it. Many preparedness items can be fun and done as a family. Go camping, take hikes, etc. If you have kids, consider home schooling them. Most importantly get to know your children; spend time with them.

It’s Up to You
You can make self sufficiency a way of life without going “off the deep end,” so to speak. Taking action will not only give you peace of mind, a sort of insurance policy, but also can improve your life in the meantime. Many corollary benefits will emerge. Here are some that come to mind: Less reliance on outside institutions, money saved, healthier eating habits, time spent with your family. Regardless of the future, you’ll be teaching your children to be prepared, to think logically and independently and not to have a lazy, consumerist attitude of entitlement that dominates our culture today.

This writing isn’t packed full of technical how-to information, but I sincerely hope it helps to serve those of you that may feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin and to breathe hope into those who are obliged to retain their current lives without major upheaval. There are many who see the challenges involved with getting ready and are scared into doing nothing. For one reason or another they go back to sleep, their head comfortably lodged in the sand. Don’t be one of those people. Enjoy the time and blessings you have, but be ready. An old proverb says “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.” Just the same, pray for peace, but prepare for war.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

With regard to the article on getting into physical conditioning and buying used exercise equipment, here is a general rule for readers to remember. They are like room heaters, air conditioners, pools, and lawn mowers etc. They are very seasonal. I have friends who work at thrift stores, and I can assure you the time to buy any exercise equipment is during the warmer months like right now [in the northern hemisphere]! The Ski Machine you refer to that costs almost $1,000 for the higher end models can be had for song during the summer months. Sometimes pennies on the dollar over the cost of buying new. In fact, I know of personal experiences where one was sold for less than a dollar to a person who was willing to ask about a unit sitting out back of the store. It was in almost brand new condition.
In the summer months, when everyone is physically active and the days are longer, very few folks are thinking about exercise. Folks are too busy enjoying their summer months to exercise indoors. These "junk" and thrift stores generally cannot sell them and don't want to fill up valuable floor space with retail "dogs" when there are items that will move fast. With all the garage sales, flea markets, and yard sales, that are going on the supply is great and demand is low. They don't tend to sell well there either so they accumulate at the local thrift stores as donations. This rule of thumb also applies to treadmills, weight benches, and other high quality seasonal items. One thing to remember about this kind of equipment is that everyone has great intentions about exercise equipment but very few of us ever really dedicate ourselves to our lofty goals. As a result, why ever buy new equipment, when you can let someone else absorb the new sticker price and second if you decide to stop or lose your motivation, you wont be stuck with buyers remorse.
With respect to thrift stores and the like, each one is different so you may have to find the right place to do business with. Don't be afraid to make friends with the store workers and let them know what you are trying to find. Above all else be sincere. Then visit the store and remind them that you are still on a quest. Depending upon the circumstances, it's generally just a matter of time and patience before what you are looking for, finds you. Also don't be afraid to reward the employee or manager with a cold pop or a tip (if allowed) once you take delivery. This is very much appreciated by the employee and you will be remembered the next time you are on another "quest"- since so few people will ever display this kind of courtesy or generosity.
This same rule of seasonal supply and demand applies to other items you will need like clothing, insulation, building supplies etc,. Buy your necessities in the "off season" and be patient and most times you will find what you are looking for at a very reasonable price. That is the heart of the concept of preparedness on a budget. Tis Better to be the Ant with a mindset for what is coming than to be a Grasshopper caught up only in the moment with fiddle in hand.
A local auctioneer always sums it up best during his sales pitches before he starts the bidding on a piece of exercise equipment at his sales: "Folks, I have been in this business for over 30 years and I have yet to sell a worn out piece of exercise equipment!" Food For Thought. Keep it in mind the next time you are looking to buy "used" exercise equipment. - RBS

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hello again from a very wet England. I've been reading with interest the articles on physical fitness and would just like to add my two penny-worth.

Cross country skiing is generally considered to be about the best form of aerobic exercise, inasmuch as it works pretty well all the muscles. The Nordic company do a ski machine that retails new around $700.00, but second hand they sell [on eBay)] for peanuts.

Here is an example of one currently on that well known auction site. GBP 15.00 is about $30.00 - a very small price to pay for the ultimate exerciser. Admittedly, they take a little while to get the technique, which is probably why you see so many of them for sale, but they are superb. I would recommend everyone with an interest in post TEOTWAKI fitness look at them. Oh, and they're adjustable, so every family member can use them, and at these prices, get a couple, for spares - I've got several stowed away ready to export to our new GOOD location and one in use right now.

Keep up the good work. Very best wishes. - Michael

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The more physically fit one is overall, the better your odds are you will survive WTSHTF.
Or, maybe you don’t believe that survival preparations should include physical fitness.
U.S. military forces emphasize solid fitness in part because the higher the fitness level, the more an individual can maintain acceptable performance levels while under stress. Police SWAT units emphasize high levels of fitness for the same reasons. Organized units like these are highly effective also because they conduct rehearsals of established SOPs until it is ingrained to the point that they are able to perform under any conditions. They are able to train at high levels of performance seamlessly because they are capable of keeping up physically and mentally. They also have each other to depend on while operational making them even more effective. Maintaining a solid level of fitness is important for civilians as most of us are preparing with the free time available in our schedules. It is important to identify where you stand in physical fitness. Ask yourself, am I fit? How fit is fit enough? Who will be there to assist me when TSHTF?
When visiting the SurvivalBlog web site, consider how much of the material and advice provided requires you to be in good shape in order to take advantage of it.
I’ve assisted and encouraged others to improve their physical conditioning for decades. During yesteryear I promoted fitness primarily for healthy living. The reasons these days are for healthy living and potential survival scenarios. Living ‘healthy’ during a non-survival scenario is one thing, living healthy during a survival scenario is quite different. Fitness doesn’t just happen. Fitness is accomplished by adopting good habits of exercise, nutrition and rest.

Step One: Assessment
Assessing your level of fitness requires only that you be honest with yourself in several physical fitness categories including your present fitness level; your weight status; age; diet/nutrition; and your overall state of health.

Present Fitness Level: Ask yourself what you can do today in terms of sustained heart rate while active. If you are already active then this should be easy to answer. If not currently active (or haven’t been in the short term, i.e.: within 12 months), then you probably have a good understanding for where you stand and are capable of daily/weekly exercise routines not too far off from your previous workouts. If you haven’t been active for 12 months to 24 months but previously were active, then you know what you are capable of, you just have to start and make it routine again. For those beyond the 24 month time period, you fall into one of several categories spanning a range from former solid fitness to those who have never been fit. Either way, you have been away from a fitness routine for too long.
Weight Status: Are you overweight, underweight, or at (or close to) where you should be? Take this into consideration when deciding what course of action(s) you decide to take. If you are overweight today, you could be significantly trimmed down by your next birthday. Whatever your particular case is, when going from non-active to active, you will start to lose body fat and become lean. Just assess where you are and be cognizant of how your body will react. It is all important to keep in mind that your body will change and that you will need the proper diet/nutrition to recharge your batteries between workouts. Refueling with the right foods will payoff big when you go for the next workout. If you are not overweight but have never committed to a fitness program and feel it is unnecessary, consider this: my sister went for her annual physical. She is 50, mother of 3, is not overweight, and looks good. The physician advised her that she was obese. Huh?
The doctor's explanation: you have no muscle and therefore you are obese. My sister has never done anything physical, ever. This may be an extreme example, but illustrates the point that inactivity and not being overweight don’t add up to capable of handling the rigors of a post-WTSHTF life.
Age: Don’t let age fool you. It’s deceiving. I currently exercise by training/running long distance races (10 mile races to marathons), weight lifting, boxing, biking, and recreational swimming. I started wrestling when I was 6 years old and continued competing for 15 years and it still pays off. I have a small farm that keeps me moving constantly otherwise. I also have a full time occupation so I don’t workout daily. It is unnecessary. I bother to mention this because with all of the above exercise and while I averaged 15 long distance races a year for the last four years, I am constantly amazed at the older men/women who beat me (45 yrs old) to the finish line every race and I’m in the top 15 - 25%! Age definitely slows one down in terms of intensity and volume but that’s it. Age is deceiving so never judge a book by a cover regarding fitness/self defense. If you consider yourself ‘old’ and have never been fit (or out of it for quite some time), it is never too late and you will probably surprise yourself at the results. If you are young and never been committed to a fitness program, don’t wait. Find something(s) and go for it. Make it a habit and the health benefits will stay with you for a lifetime.

Diet and Nutrition: Assess what you are eating and how you feel. Eating fast food? Too many carbs? Sweet tooth? Living on coffee and cigarettes? Or, are you already eating a healthy diet? Either way, the new stresses added to your daily routine in a survival scenario will cause your body new stresses. You will either keep up or break down. It really depends on your present habits. An individual who is fit and maintains a healthy diet will be able to make the transition from living in the present day to a survival mode relatively easy. Adrenaline will carry the day for a brief time. But after the adrenaline subsides, what’s left in the tank and where is the energy required to keep up coming from? I know many over the years who have maintained poor diets but had excellent workout routines. They were mostly the younger generation. It always catches up with them. They usually become injured/hurt, sick, and/or are tired…but then they come back after a rest period and the cycle repeats itself. If you have poor fitness and a poor diet, you are advised to alter both. The body wants good clean fuel, not items containing too many carbs, items made with hydrogenated oils, trans fats, a diet loaded with sugar (sodas, desserts, snack(s)…). Also overlooked is hydration. Re-hydrating is critical. Once you begin to exercise, you have to replace your fluids. Not doing so will result in cramping, tiredness, and/or can result in heat exhaustion if not replacing fluids while exercising. Watch the sports drinks as some have lots of sugar. I always dilute my quarts of Gatorade 50-50 [with water]. Too much sugar can prevent the hydration you are seeking. ‘Emergen-C’ is a product I use daily to keep the immune system strong. It contains numerous vitamins and supplements in small packets mixed in water. Particularly good is the chromium, sodium, several antioxidants, vitamin C and low sugar content. Some final words regarding overall diet and fitness are: everyone has time to eat right. If you believe you are eating ‘right’ but are under/overweight, then your diet needs improvement.
Overall State of Health: Take the four assessment categories above and rate yourself overall. With the exception of age, you should be in control of the other three categories. While modern medicine has extended, saved, and aided our lives, could you get by without the convenience of it? If you find yourself not in control of your fitness, weight, and diet, you need to get control of each. If you score low in each of the categories and are overwhelmed by what appears to be too much at once, take Henry Ford’s advice: "Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs."

Step Two: Getting Started and Motivated
I found that to identify a realistic fitness program, it’s important to know that person’s motivation, goals, attitude and background regarding physical training. Rate yourself in each category. Not everyone has time or ability to invest in what it takes to climb mountains, run marathons, bicycle 100 mile routes, or carry a 60 lb ruck sack with battle weapon in hand over an extended obstacle course. That’s understandable. However, everyone should make time to ensure that they can do the arduous tasks that await us in a survival scenario. Your motivation in this regard is to increase your fitness level and therefore increase your ability to survive. Your goals need to be realistic. Most of us are not trying to qualify for the Olympic Judo Team. From a strictly survival perspective, ‘realistic’ fitness means different things to different people. Consider the answers to some commonsense survival questions: Just how arduous will it be? How much time are we talking? Will I be able to drive to my retreat? Will I have to run or walk long distances outside of my retreat? If forced, how much stuff can I carry and for how long? If threatened, will I defeat the attacker(s)? Can I carry/drag that 125 lb. deer I just shot to my retreat? How far can I push that bike I loaded up with supplies and while carrying a weapon, water, and ammo?
Only you can answer these types of questions. Identifying now your limits regarding stamina, endurance, strength, hand and eye coordination, and reflexes will certainly give you a good feel for where you stand in regards to survival fitness. It will also help fine tune your survival plan by forcing you to be practical. A likely money/silver savings will result by not wasting it on items that just don’t fit into your plan.
SurvivalBlog patrons already know that their survival depends on various factors including the location of your retreat (or staying put), your level of preparations, and the duration and type of WTSHTF in your area. Often overlooked is your fitness level. When going from ‘normal life’ to a ‘survival life’, it’s going to be stressful and require a lot more personal energy. Procrastinating fitness until the day you need it is risky. Getting ‘fit’ after it kicks off will be impossible. The best you can hope for at that point is that you get lucky, don’t get hurt, and/or are not too exhausted to survive when it counts. Keep in mind that if you are lacking physical fitness, the possibility of placing a burden on your family-retreat group when you can’t keep up will cause even more unnecessary (and avoidable) stress. Obviously, I’m not referring to elderly family members or those with illnesses.
A crucial key to success is what motivates you. If you are in the business of fitness, you are really in the business of motivation. If not motivated, then there is nothing anyone can do for you. If motivated, the sky is the limit. It’s up to you.
Getting started requires that you just select an activity. Once you determined what you plant to do, get some good advice and training partners to share the load. Go online for advice or subscribe to a magazine dedicated to that activity and identify beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert workout routines. Then, make a suitable schedule and get started. Mixing activities is ideal as it keeps you mentally fresh and your body doesn’t get used the same activity. Furthermore, mixing activities challenges your body more and therefore reaps added benefits. Your fitness program most likely will change from time to time as your fitness increases and you take the next step in those activities. After time, you will discover that your body will ‘crave’ the workout and it’ll become difficult for you to ignore that. Competing in amateur events or joining a club which sponsors events will help define goals. Being around like minded fitness people also provides a pool of knowledge that will assist you in attaining your goals. Pushing yourself and testing how you hold up under ‘game time’ conditions is one of the joys of being active and gives you confidence. Keep in mind that being physically fit has a carryover effect where one becomes mentally tough along the way. Working out with others is always beneficial as you push each other to be on time and not waste time. Your workout friends also become good friends. Along the way, you learn what you’re made of and that’s an important part of knowing that you will survive.

Step Three: Which Activities? Where to Get Fitness Information
I’ve identified above the fitness activities that I participate in and maybe none of those appeal to you. Some people can’t get themselves to get fit in the ‘traditional’ sorts of ways. No problem. Those of you that fall into that category, I encourage you to take on activities specific to your threat profile. Any type of martial arts will keep you fit and provides a useful skill. For those participating in martial arts, I encourage you to incorporate ‘Empty Hands’ training. This involves the integration of empty hand skills with firearms skills.
One thought regarding martial arts training (and generally speaking regarding being fit and armed) I have often overheard that “ I have a gun(s), what do I need xyz training for?” Because, all weapons skills are physical in their nature. They all depend on your ability to move decisively, with balance and coordination, and at times with power. Just like you will need in a survival scenario. Maybe it won’t involve firearms but imagine yourself carrying water (weight = 7.8 lbs per gallon!), gardening daily, and/or hunting for an extended period of time. It’s hot or freezing outside. The fitness will pay off. These skills (and fitness levels) have to be developed. Training takes time and precious few of us have it to spare so make the most of your training time.

For those looking to multi-task and have dogs, training in Schutzhund will challenge you and canine, and both of you will get fit. Schutzhund is training for canines (and handler) in tracking, obedience, and protection. The canines trained for this are mostly German Shepherds but also include Rottweillers, Dobermans, and Belgian Malinois, Giant Schnauzers, and Bouviers. It seems that a Rhodesian Ridgeback would be particularly suited for Schutzhund but I’ve never seen one at a club. If you are ‘dogless’, consider adopting and he’ll remind you that he wants his exercise too. Not all dogs are suited for Schutzhund so be aware that the canine needs to have drive, agility, and intelligence.
Instead of listing numerous activities and providing levels of workouts ad nauseam, listed are tried and true sources of information to help you get started and/or enhance your current fitness program.
In my opinion, this is the best approach to overall fitness. Incorporates what is referred to as ‘Interval Training’. Provides a different workout daily (including a rest day) that is designed for all types. Focus is on intensity, varied exercises. Daily workout may be only one exercise [i.e.: run a 5k.], other days, three exercises are on the schedule. If you don’t have weights at home, access to weights will be necessary. No, you do not need an entire gym full of equipment. You can get by with a few dumbbells, plates, and a bar. Garage/yard sales sometimes give up this stuff for free just to get rid of it. The web site has full video clips of each exercise for demonstration purposes. The web site offers substitute exercises for each workout. They offer nutrition advice, seminars, and an affiliates list. Lots of good stuff there!)
Road Runners of America. Running tips and coaching for all levels, calendar of events, links for local affiliates/clubs, nutrition advice, news, shoe reviews. (and their corresponding magazine)
I subscribe and it has much to offer all levels of runners. They have a very knowledgeable staff.
Title boxing has been around for a very long time. They have all the supplies needed to keep you fit using just a heavy bag or equipping yourself with an entire array of training items. Heavy bag training is an excellent choice for overall fitness (and stress reduction!). It also gives me a break from running and weight lifting, two things lots of folks just can’t get into. I subsequently created my own workout that is only 15 minutes. But believe me, 15 minutes is enough. Heavy bag training will build overall strength, power, and stamina. From head to toe you will improve fitness since you use your legs as much as arms while hitting the heavy bag. Title also offers videos/DVDs and books to illustrate how to train with the heavy bag. Huge advantage is that you don’t have to join a gym, drive anywhere, and is an all-weather, day- night friendly workout.

NEANDERTHIN, by Ray Audette.
Excluding the appendix and recipes, only 130 pages. Taken from the cover is this description: Eat the foods your body was designed to eat and have the body you were meant to have!
How to become a modern day Hunter-Gatherer and give up the addictive foods and habits that have kept you unhealthy and overweight.
How a high-calorie, high fat diet can actually make you leaner.
Becoming Neanderfit: a five-week exercise plan to complement your new diet.

PROTEIN POWER, by Dr. Michael Eades, and Dr. Mary Ann Eades.
Taken from the cover is this description: The high protein low carbohydrate way to lose weight, feel fit, and boost your health. I’ve adopted these eating habits and the description is accurate.

Combatives Hand to Hand Combat, Dept. of Army FM 21-150. For the individual seeking to increase his/her fitness via martial arts type drilling, supplement it on the cheap with military training manuals. Copies of these manuals are available at (only $6.97); used book stores with a good military manual section; and/or many military surplus stores. Other titles available in military field manuals are: Hand to Hand Fighting, Karate, Tae-Kwon-Do, US Army Special Forces, ST 31-204 and Close Combat and Hand to Hand Fighting, US Marine Corps, FM 0-7.
Good luck and stay fit. - Flhspete

JWR Adds: Keep in mind that reading books on martial arts is no substitute for actual hands-on training. Instinctive, reflexive "muscle memory" in hand-to-hand combatives only comes with lots of practice.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The recent school shooting at Virginia Tech demonstrates a huge underlying societal problem that many of us are either ignoring or are ignorant of. Because society has spent much of the last several decades trying to stamp violence out of schools and out of our children, we end up with kids who are made-to-order victims that will line up to be shot execution style rather than fight back.
The answer to school violence is not to arm the campus police, have campus SWAT teams, or class rooms that can double as fortresses, it is to teach our children to protect themselves aggressively and confidently with whatever weapon may be at hand. Clearly the schools are not doing this, so responsible parents need to be sure they are.
While it may be politically incorrect to say so, how many of us have wondered why the 30 college kids in a classroom didn't mob the gunman, tackle him, hit him with a chair, or otherwise fight back? Why was the only defender a concentration camp survivor old enough to be the students' grandparent? I believe that the answer to those two questions is the same: Because in two generations our feel good society has gutted the right to self defense in our public schools and created a generation of victims. That's right – they have brainwashed our children into pliable victims who will not defend themselves.

Creating Willing Victims
In our school district, kids in middle school and occasionally in lower school are handcuffed and arrested when a fight breaks out. Because of "zero tolerance" towards fighting, even kids who defend themselves when attacked are arrested and suspended, regardless of who was "in the right" or what witnesses say. The concept that students have a right to self defense does not exist in these schools and the lesson taught is "do not fight back." Is it any wonder that kids who are indoctrinated in this system have no idea how to defend themselves or that it is even permissible to try, even when faced with a gunman killing their fellow students?
This politically correct emphasis on non-violence is really a drive to non-confrontation that teaches kids to be victims at an early age. Violence not only still exists in our schools, it is worse than ever because the system does not allow kids to counter force with force. This means that kids cannot fight back when they are harassed on the school bus, spit on in the lunch room, assaulted in the hallway, or beaten in the locker room. Teachers routinely do not intervene in bullying or one-way assaults. This bullying behavior is allowed until the target decides to fight back, at which point school rules treat both the attacker and defender the same way. I am afraid that these days, the only place bullies and their victims really meet after school to settle their differences is on television or in the movies.

Stamping Out the Competitive Spirit
In addition to creating willing victims who are powerless to defend themselves, public schools are stamping out the competitive spirit out of our children. This is terribly unfortunate, because competitiveness and the desire to win are two of the things that have helped make America great.
In public schools, competitiveness is looked down upon because it might hurt a less competitive student's self esteem if they don't do as well as someone else. For the sake of self esteem, standing out must be discouraged and everyone must be equal – equally bad, that is. (Didn't we fight the Cold War to keep this communist mentality from spreading? And now it is being enforced in our schools.)
Public schools are routinely taking those kids who are smarter or otherwise above average and forcing them to work at the level of the slowest kid in the class. For example, in my daughter's public elementary school class, smart children were teamed with slower kids on team projects to bring up the slower kids' grades up.
This approach is an example of backwards thinking. Instead of allowing kids to succeed or fail on their own merits, the system promotes mediocrity. Worse, the smart kids are bored by the slow progress and frustrated at having to do the teacher's job of instructing the other kids. They also learn early that by appearing smart, they have to do everyone else's work, and so some decide to hide their intelligence. The slower kids learn that society will promote them even when they don't do the work (so called social promotion – don’t get me started), so there is little incentive for them to try harder or to improve their performance.
We used to encourage success and honor our high achievers; now the public schools teach your kids that standing out and excelling is wrong because when you stand out, someone with a lower average may get their feelings hurt. So much for pride in a job well done.
This effort to improve children by falsely boosting their self esteem is wishful thinking. Kids know where they stand regardless of what the teacher says, and it sends the wrong message when teachers and school officials honor everyone, regardless of their performance. We need to go back to rewarding the high performers and addressing the problem with a child who isn't finding success, even if it means we have to hurt their self esteem by holding them back a grade.

Sports, the Last Bastion of Competition
About the only place in public schools that competition still exists is on the sports field. In fact, the coach is about the only teacher who can still yell at kids without a parent calling up and complaining.
But how long will this last? If football were not such an institution and economic boon for high schools and colleges, I have no doubt "well meaning" school administrators would have banned it by now. Already, there are fewer hours of PE class in most schools than ever before. Adults are even interfering with pick up games at recess by saying that kids can’t pick their own teams because someone might have their feelings hurt by being selected last. I'm sure everyone reading this has heard of a school district where dodge ball has been banned because it is too violent or dangerous. When did we start to coddle our children so much that getting hit with a big red rubber ball became something we must protect them from?
In most organized contact sports, you can still hit the other player. As a coach of a girls soccer for six seasons, let me tell you that it is difficult to get a young girl to be aggressive on the soccer field. Even by age 7, they are so indoctrinated in non-violence that they back up or will run away from a charging player instead of advancing or holding their ground to steal the ball or disrupt a fast break. The short-term result is that the one or two aggressive kids dominate play, largely because they are unchallenged. The long-term result is that later in life the girl will become a woman who shies away from confrontation and is afraid to stand up for herself. Another ready victim.
Yet even organized sports are changing. At young ages, the parents and coaches are told not to keep score, because losing may cause a child to lose self esteem. As if a kid old enough to swing a bat can't keep score! Such behavior on the part of adults who are supposed to be experts in childhood development is laughable. Let's face it, in life you will win some, and you will lose some, so the sooner you learn to be a good sport when you lose, the better off you will be. Pretending that "everyone wins" also eliminates the life lessons that come from losing, such as picking yourself up and trying again.
Sports are tough, but so is life. Get used to it young and you will survive better when you are older. I was knocked unconscious playing "touch" football in sixth grade. In high school, I broke my leg in a soccer game. (The coach told me to walk it off, and I tried to.) My younger sister almost lost her front teeth in a softball game in junior high. (Her braces actually kept them from getting knocked out – it was the only time she was happy to have braces.) Were we disillusioned or too dispirited to return to the game? Of course not. We both overcame these temporary setbacks and continued playing sports. It's the old getting back up on the horse that threw you idea, which is an important lesson for success later in life. How will our kids learn perseverance and to overcome obstacles if we clear all the obstacles out of their way? No wonder the Virginia Tech victims did not fight back – they had been taught to wait for someone else to come and solve their problem for them.It's Not Your Father's School Anymore
When my father went to school during World War II, he and his friends would often bring their .22 rifles or single shot shotguns to school so they could shoot rabbits and other small game on the way home. When I went to school in the 1970s, I remember bringing cap guns to school on Halloween, and I carried a pocket knife every day after I turned 10. Today, dressing like a cowboy for Halloween or bringing a pocket knife to school can get you expelled, and don't even think of bring a .22. Not only will the child be expelled, authorities will likely charge the parent with a crime, confiscate any weapons in the house, and restrict their right to own a gun again in the future. My, how times have changed.
So are schools any safer today than they were 30 or 60 years ago? Of course not. Just as gun control does not reduce violent in the real world, it does not reduce it in schools. In fact, there is evidence that concealed carry permits for teaches and administrators is far more likely to forestall a bloody school massacres than laws and metal detectors.
I don't have to tell you that we live in a violent world where things are not fair – perhaps the one lesson that public schools do consistently teach our youth. Unfortunately, public schools do not teach kids how to counter violence, how to walk with their head held high, and how to avoid or deal with trouble before it escalates. Instead, it teaches them to be fearful, to slink around with their heads hung, and to call an administrator, police officer or other member of the nanny state when something goes wrong. This curriculum has not only rendered students powerless and created a generation of easy victims; it has lead to the type of slaughter we saw earlier this year at Virginia Tech.
Further, I postulate that the zero tolerance policies that force good kids to be victims rather than fight back cause frustration and suppressed anger in otherwise normal kids. It is this anger and frustration that causes the oppressed kids to one day reach the bursting point and bring a gun to school, seeking to end their torment. We will never know how many kids fantasize – without taking action – about bringing a gun to school and killing their abusers. But we do know that school shootings driven by revenge on bullies and tormentors, such as Columbine, show no sign of abating.
How many adults would allow ourselves to be subjected to verbal, psychological and physical abuse by our peers for six or eight years? Yet kids from fifth grade up routinely deal with this kind of abuse at the hands of their fellow students. Should we really expect high school kids, with their raging hormones and adolescent angst, to survive years of this daily abuse without cracking? Maybe this is why the use of antidepressants is so high among teenagers today.
Unfortunately, the policies of feel-good, self-esteem raising, zero-tolerance school administrations have created a generation of ready-made victims and a revenge-based school shooting culture that never existed before.

Reversing the Brainwashing
So what can you do to fight this conditioning and brainwashing? My advice is as follows:
First, enroll your boy or girl, in extracurricular sports as young as possible, preferably by age six. Sports like football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, roller hockey and ice hockey are in my opinion better than sports like golf, tennis and baseball because there is contact and aggressive play is both encouraged and rewarded. In their lives, your kids will have to face violence, and learning to face it in the controlled environment of the playing field is the first step in successfully facing it in an uncontrolled environment. Contact sports do not teach violence and aggression, but they provide an outlet for the aggression that the schools otherwise bottle up. Sports also teach kids how to channel aggression and anger into positive activities.
If finances are an issue, choose soccer over a sport that requires lots of pads such as football or hockey. You can outfit a youth soccer player for less than $50.
Second, when time and finances allow, enroll your kids in other extra curricular activities where they will meet and mingle with kids from other schools, towns and cultures. As they get older, they will need to have a network of friends outside of the people they go to school with. This provides an escape; when everyone at their school knows they did something stupid, the kids from the next town over will probably have no idea. These extra curricular activities can be programs that teach valuable and vanishing skills, such as Scouts, junior shooting competitions, and 4H.
Third, do things with your kids. Spend time with them so they can observe your behavior in difficult situations and learn by your example. Have dinner with your children regularly and ask them what they learned at school. If you disagree with what they were taught, provide your contrasting opinion in a reasonable, even handed way. Remember, any time spent with them is better than no time. Use examples from your life to and tell stories with morals. Even a drive to the store and back gives you time to talk and is better than time spent watching television or playing video games.
Fourth, try to find other responsible adults for them to spend time with; relatives who think like you do are a good choice. The more one-on-one time they have with a right-thinking adult, the better, as that influence will slowly infiltrate, overcoming the brainwashing and protecting them from it in the future. I say this from experience, having raised two politically conservative children who understand the second amendment, regardless of what the school tries to teach them
Fifth, encourage your children to stand up for themselves and tell your child that you won't punish them if they fight back and defend themselves. There is a fine line to walk here, as they must understand that 1) the school will still punish them, but that you will back them and they will not get in additional trouble at home. And 2) they can't go around looking for or starting fights. The other person has to throw the first punch or two, so to speak. In my personal experience, a good martial arts school can help give kids the confidence and discipline to walk this line as well as the skills to enforce it.
At the same time you give them permission to fight back, teach them that the best fight is the one that they avoid. Teach them to not to make enemies – there's no profit in it and potentially much pain as they will have to see the other kid every day for the rest of the school year. Teach them to think and reason, and not react emotionally. Cooler heads do prevail. But teach them that when a fight cannot be avoided, they need to do whatever it takes to win it clearly and decisively in a way that discourages re-engagement at a future time.
Sixth, talk about what to do in a school shooting scenario. Don't avoid the topic or turn off the television – address it, just as you would another survival situation such as an earthquake or tornado. Discuss when to run, when to hide, when to fight back. Discuss what, if anything, the school told them to do and whether it makes sense. Teach them to be aware of exits and where to sit in the room. Teach them to look for hiding places and that a table is unlikely to stop a bullet. They also need to know that that action beats reaction. Demonstrate how it is harder to hit a moving target than a stationary one. At the same time, reassure them that while it is very unlikely they will have a school shooting at their school, it is better to plan ahead of time than to panic.
Finally, if you can afford to do so, get them out of the public schools and into a good private school. Preferably a small one with class sizes under 20, where kids will have opportunities to learn at their own pace. Home schooling is another excellent alternative, and is usually very safe, but unfortunately is often not an option for single parent households or households in which both parents work.
Because private schools are expensive and generally do not refund your tuition if your kid is expelled, parents have a much greater vested interest in keeping their kids in line and well behaved. This makes a world of difference, as does having independent administrators who do not need to please an elected official.

The Private School Experience
We chose private school, and after the mortgage, it is our largest single expense. It also requires that we drop off and pick up our child each day, which required some scheduling changes as well as some additional dollars for gasoline. We evaluated several schools before picking what we felt was the best one for our daughter.
Yes, private schooling required a sacrifice, but in our experience, it is well worth it. Not only does our daughter get far more individual attention from teachers that she did in public school, she is encouraged to work ahead in the book. Rather than be held back by the lowest common denominator, kids in her school compete to see who can finish the most vocabulary words, math sheets, and reading assignments in the given time. She is no longer bored in class, and competition encourages her to push herself harder than the teacher could. She is much happier and well ahead of where she would have been had she stayed in private school.
Several of the sports teams are co-educational, so the girls learn to play with the boys – they have to be aggressive if they want to play. Kids pick their own teams at recess and make their own rules, often with much healthy argument and dissent, yet the teachers usually do not interfere, letting the kids work out their differences. Yes, the kids get bumps, bruises, and abrasions, but they wear these playground injuries with nonchalance, just like we did 30 years ago.
Most refreshing is the attitude of the administrators. I met with an administrator at my daughter's school to express my concern that she was going to punch an especially annoying boy if he kept up his inappropriate behavior on the basketball court. The administrator said "Yes, we are aware of his behavior and are taking steps to address it. We have discussed at our staff meeting that your daughter or another child may sock him, and a good number of us think that it would be well deserved." Imagine that -- a school official acknowledging that a student had a licking coming and that the school would not punish a girl for defending herself against his boorish and inappropriate behavior.
In the end, no one punched him because the school and his parents got the problem under control. But it was a refreshing attitude, and one that could never exist in our politically correct, zero tolerance, public school child warehousing system.
Whether you go the private school route, are able to home school or have no option other than public schooling remember that if you take an active role in your child's life, your influence and teachings will exceed those of the most liberal school system. So take the time and teach your child well.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unlike horses and other farm animals, bicycles do not require any food, or water, or pasture, or daily care. They also don’t generate any garden manure and that could be either a plus or a minus depending on your situation. And a bicycle is ready to go the instant you need it, even if an EMP blast disables other modes of transportation. A bicycle can be stored for decades with just a little oil on its chain and on its other moving parts. In the event of a serious worldwide catastrophe, a bicycle may become extremely useful in two important ways: (1) transportation between locations, and (2) as a pack mule.

TRANSPORTATION: Depending on the type of worldwide catastrophe, transportation may or may not be necessary or even desirable. However, if it is necessary and automobiles are not available for some reason, then a bicycle will enable a person to cover distances easier and faster than walking. A person can walk about 3 miles per hour but a bicycle can easily cover between 10 to 30 miles per hour, depending on the road conditions (hills, etc.) and the physical fitness of the rider.
PACK MULE: When forced into service as a pack mule, an adult human male can carry about 30 pounds and still be able to walk 2 or 3 miles per hour. However, most bicycles will allow the rider to add about 20 pounds to the front wheel and about 30 pounds to the rear wheel for a total of about 50 pounds plus the rider. If the rider is willing to walk beside the bicycle and push the bicycle, then a typical adult bicycle could be loaded with 200 to 250 pounds of supplies and equipment strapped to the metal frame of the bike. [JWR Adds: When doing so fro more than a short distance, it is useful to lash a stout broomstick or a 5+ foot length from a sapling on to the handlebars, to provide a solid surface to push against with equal pressure of both hands, as well as leverage for keeping the front wheel pointed in the desired direction.]
Or a bicycle trailer could be attached to the rear of the bicycle and the rider could add about 100 pounds of supplies onto the bicycle trailer. You could purchase a special bike trailer or you could convert a two-seater child trailer into an equipment trailer by replacing the children’s compartment with a large lockable waterproof plastic storage box securely mounted between the two trailer wheels. If you use a rear mounted bike trailer to transport supplies and it is not lockable, then you need to be very careful when you travel through an area where there are other people. People will steal things off your rear bike trailer when you aren’t looking or while you are being intentionally distracted by one of their associates. This type of theft can be prevented by using a locking waterproof plastic storage box bolted to your trailer instead of just strapping things down to a basic flatbed trailer.
Even if you are walking and pushing a fully loaded bike, you can still occasionally stand with your RIGHT foot on the LEFT pedal and lean the bike gently away from you at a slight angle to maintain its balance, and then coast down a hill or incline while operating your hand brakes to keep the bike at a safe speed.
A bicycle will allow you to cover more ground with more supplies and equipment with less fatigue, and this could make a significant difference in your chances of survival. Even if you do not anticipate the need for transportation during a worldwide catastrophe, a bicycle would still be a good investment in the event you were forced to become a refugee for some unexpected reason and your automobile was not available. Anyone could be forced into the life of a refugee due to events beyond his or her control, such as forest fires, or floods, or drought that results in dry wells, or enemy soldiers with heavy artillery who are destroying all the homes they find.
Two or three-hundred pounds of supplies and equipment is not a lot but it could keep one person alive for one-year (or longer) depending on how wisely you selected your items and how successful you were at supplementing your food supplies with hunting, trapping, fishing, foraging, and growing simple vegetables from seeds such as corn and beans and tomatoes. Growing pinto beans or kidney beans is a lot easier than searching for wild edible plants. For some additional information on seeds, please see my article entitled “How to Harvest, Process, and Store Vegetable Seeds

Bike Style: Any style adult bicycle is acceptable. This includes mountain bikes and road bikes. I recommend a bike with a fixed rigid rear wheel as opposed to a spring mounted rear wheel. The advantage of a spring mounted rear wheel is that it helps to absorb road shocks and not transmit their full force to the saddle. The advantage of a fixed rear wheel is that you can install a more substantial rear luggage rack over the rear wheel.
Folding bikes are also nice and eBay has them for $200 or less. However, unless you really need a folding bike, a normal fixed frame bike is probably a better investment and it will probably last longer before needing repairs.
All bicycles need roads or paths or trails or some other relatively smooth unobstructed surface to ride on. Therefore don’t buy a mountain bike simply because you think you will be riding through wilderness areas. If you are in a thick forest, you will be walking beside your bike and picking it up and carrying it over obstacles, such as fallen trees. Almost any type of bike works fine when you are walking beside it.
Price: You can purchase a bike at a specialty bike shop or at a store such as WalMart. If you make your purchase at a bike shop you may discover you are paying a premium for the bike because bikes, bike accessories, and bike repairs are the only source of revenue for the bike shop. However, a store like Walmart has a standard markup on most of its items and their profit on bicycles is not that much different from anything else in the store. At Walmart you can usually find a really nice selection of good bikes for under $200. If you look carefully, you can also find several below $100 and a few below $75. If you go to a bike shop, the bikes usually start at $200 and quickly jump to $300 or $400 and some are even priced at $800, $1,200 and $2,000. The final decision on how much you wish to spend on a bike is up to you, but I think you could get a very, very nice bicycle for less than $200. (Note: I have a $59 ten-speed bike that I purchased 10 years ago from Walmart and I am still very happy with it.) Many, but not all, of the accessories mentioned below can also be purchased at a very reasonable price at stores such as Walmart. However some items must be purchased or ordered through a specialty bike shop or purchased off the Internet.
Gears or Speeds: A bicycle with three or more speeds is highly desirable. A bicycle operates the same way an automobile does. If you only had ONE gear in your car, you would NOT be very happy with the performance of your car. With three or more gears in your car, the car can shift gears as you gain speed and improve the performance of your car. If you encounter a really steep hill, the car can shift into a lower gear. The same principle applies to bikes. Many, many years ago there were only single-speed bikes. To demonstrate the advantage of the newly invented three-speed bike a simple road test was conducted. An adult male racing champion was allowed to ride his favorite one-speed bike but a petite female was given a three-speed bike. The race was over a typical course involving some hills and some decent stretches of level ground. The young lady literally beat the socks off the professional male bike racer because she had three gears to pick from. She could pick the best gear for climbing a hill and a different gear for maximum speed on level ground. The professional bike racer only had one gear and he couldn’t keep up with the lady even though he had substantially more strength in his leg muscles. That simple two-person race resulted in the end of single-speed bicycles in professional bicycle races.
The Optimum Number of Speeds: Any number of speeds between 3 to 21 will yield good performance. The total number of speeds is not as important as a person might expect.
A three-speed bike has one front gear and three rear gears. All three speeds work just fine.
A ten-speed bike has two front gears and five rear gears for a total of ten combinations. However, each front gear works best with the three (or four) gears closest to it on the rear. So the RIGHT front gear works best with the three RIGHT gears on the rear wheel. And the LEFT front gear works best with the three LEFT gears on the rear wheel. Therefore, even though the bike has ten possible speeds, somewhere between six to eight speeds are used most often. The reason is chain crossover. If you use a front gear on the far right with a rear gear on the far left, then the chain is at a bad angle and the chain undergoes excessive tension and chain wear and other chain problems are more likely, such as chain breakage. Therefore, most bike riders use the three or four rear gears that are most closely aligned with the front gear currently in use.
A 21-speed bike has three front gears and seven rear gears for a total of 21 options. However, based on the previous discussion, somewhere between 9 to 12 of those options are high quality combinations that minimize chain wear.
Therefore, a three-speed bike has three good gear combinations, a ten-speed bike has about six really good gear combinations, and a 21-speed bike has about nine really good gear combinations. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a good ten-speed bike. I have a ten-speed bike and I really like it. I also have a 21-speed bike and I like it too. I suggest that you select a bicycle based on factors other than the number of “total” possible speed combinations.
Brakes: Hand operated braking systems are really nice. Rubber brake pads and disk brakes both work well in my opinion. Don’t let a bike salesperson talk you into a bike with disk brakes unless that bike also has all the other features you really need. You should also purchase a spare set of brake pads for your front and rear wheels. There are two basic sizes so look at the ones on your bike before you purchase your spare brake pads. Bicycle brakes will wear out before the other parts on your bicycle, just like the brakes on your car will wear out and need to be replaced several times during the life of your car. Spare brake pads cost between $4 to $6 for a set of two rubber pads.
Tire Size: A 26-inch tire is a very good choice for adults. Some individuals prefer a 24-inch tire and that is also a very popular tire size. A 27-inch tire is also an option but in a disaster situation it may be very difficult to find replacement parts for a 27-inch tire.
Tire Design: Any standard tire design will be okay. Smooth tires and knobby tires each have certain advantages but your choice of a good bike should probably be based on factors other than the design of the tire tread. All the different tire designs work reasonably well in most situations, although some are superior for specific applications.
Bike Comfort and Riding Fatigue: When selecting a new bike there are two related issues that should be considered: (1) comfort, and (2) riding fatigue.
Most of us grew up riding a bike and we already know what feels right and what doesn’t. To evaluate a new bike you should sit on the seat and then lean forward slightly and put your hands and some of your weight on the front handlebars, with your arms slightly bent at the elbows. If you feel comfortable in this position then the bike is worthy of further consideration. Remember that the seat height is adjustable and if you need to move the seat up or down to improve your comfort then that is really easy to do on today’s modern bicycles.
Don’t let a thin skinny bike seat influence your decision about comfort because you can easily replace the seat for about $20. It is the rest of the bike that can’t be easily modified. The seat design issue will be discussed in more detail below.
Some individuals, such as professional racers, prefer a really low set of handlebars so they can lean forward to an almost horizontal position to minimize wind resistance. However, in this position you must tilt your head and neck backwards so you can see ahead. This position is not comfortable for many people.
When you are standing upright astride your bicycle with both feet on the ground the center bar should not make contact with your groin area.
Most new bikes have the adjustable seat in a low position so the prospective customer can sit on the seat and put both feet on the ground to stabilize the bike. This is the seat position from which most of us learned to ride and it is the way we teach our children to ride. It is very easy to start and stop a bike if both of your feet can touch the ground when you are stopped. There is nothing wrong with this seat position and it works well for short riding distances when there are frequent stops. However this low seat position will result in your becoming tired more quickly if you are riding a long distance.
To find the best seat height to minimize long distance riding fatigue you will need to sit on the bicycle seat and extend one leg straight down to one of the pedals in its lowest position. When you are sitting on the seat the pedal in the down position should allow you to fully straighten your leg. This means you will have to get OFF the seat when you stop so you can put your feet on the ground and keep your bike upright. To minimize fatigue and maximize power while riding your legs need to be straight when each pedal is in the full down position. Adjust the height of the seat by trial and error until you find the optimum seat height that is just right for you. However, unless you anticipate long distance bike rides, there is no need to raise the seat and you can leave the seat in a low position so both your feet can touch the ground when you are stopped.
Seat or Saddle ($20): If your bike comes with a standard slim style racing seat, I suggest you consider replacing it with a Wide Bottom Gel Seat. Your rear end will be spending a lot of time on this seat and those thin seats are not comfortable for an extended ride, in my opinion.
Kickstand: The kickstand should be long enough to support the bicycle in an almost vertical position when on level ground. If the kickstand is too short then the bicycle will fall over when a front wheel luggage rack and saddlebags are added as an accessory.
Pedals: Most bikes have good pedals and you will probably not need to replace them. This is one area where an upgrade is definitely not recommended.
Gasoline Engine or Battery Power: I have looked at adding either a gasoline engine or a battery powered motor to my bicycle many, many times during the past five years. Each time I decided not to invest in either option. Their range is usually 30 miles or less and their speed is usually 30 mph or less. Both types of motors take up space and weight behind your seat that could be used to store other more useful items. Instead of motorizing your bicycle, I suggest that you use the power in your legs unless: (1) you are unable to do so, or (2) you intend to use your bike for daily commuting back and forth to your current place of employment to save a little gas money.
Bike Tool ($13)): The bike mega ultra-tool is a special bike tool that includes all the tools and accessories needed to perform minor (or major) repairs to your bike if it should require service while you are on the road. At a retail price of about $13 this tool is a real bargain.
Tire Patches ($2): For emergency repair of a flat tire.
Air Gauge ($3 to $25): A dial gauge is usually more accurate than a stick gauge. However, they are also more expensive. If money is an issue, a simple automobile tire gauge will do the job. A bicycle tire requires a LOT more air pressure than an automobile tire because the surface area of the tire that actually makes contact with the road is very small.
Small Storage Bag That Fits Under the Seat ($7) (or attach it to the front handlebar): Use it to store your special bike tool, a Leatherman type tool, a 6-inch adjustable crescent wrench, an air gauge, tire patches, a small can of Three-in-One oil inside a small plastic freezer bag, a small LED flashlight, a good folding stainless steel pocket knife, a butane lighter, a small good quality first aid kit, and any special tools such as little hex wrenches that come with any accessories you install on your bicycle.
Air Pump ($8 to $25): A necessity, in my opinion. The hand pump model that attaches to the side of the bike frame is really nice. I also have a smaller more compact air pump but it does not work as well as the mid-size air pump that attaches to the side of the bike frame. Some bikes have predrilled threaded holes for attaching the special air pump holder and some bikes do not. If your bike doesn’t have the predrilled threaded holes you can attach the air pump holder to your bike using two Velcro straps.
Rear Luggage Rack ($20 to $35): My suggestion is to avoid the rear luggage rack that mounts ONLY to the seat post. However, if you have a spring mounted rear wheel bike then this may be your only option. My preference is a rear luggage rack with TWO downward metal supports on EACH side that attach to the frame of the bicycle just above your rear axle. It will support more weight than a seat post mounted luggage rack. These luggage racks can be mounted to the rear frame of most bikes using the pre-threaded holes just above the rear axle. The holes are generally either 5mm or 6mm and when you add a lock washer they eliminate the need for an inside nut to hold the luggage rack to the rear frame. An inside nut could get in the way of the chain when it tries to make contact with the outside rear gear. If your bike has a rear hole that it is not threaded, then you can add threads by purchasing one or two extra bolts of the correct diameter and screwing them into the opening to thread the hole. This may damage the threads on those bolts but if they are extra bolts then you can simply toss them in the trash when you are done. Or you could use a tap and die set to thread the holes. Luggage racks can be purchased at your local bicycle shop or they can be purchased over the internet.
Front Luggage Rack ($15 to $30): Adds about 20 pounds of extra storage capacity to the front of your bike. It can be used for any item, but it is best suited for bulky light weight items such as extra clothing and a blanket or a sleeping bag and a small pillow. Do not put too much weight over your front wheel or you may find your bicycle difficult to steer. Some bikes have mounting holes just above the front axle. Neither of my bikes had those holes so I used 3-inch long predrilled braces to mount the rack on the front of each bike. (Necessity is the mother of invention.) If you are looking for a new bike then I suggest that you examine the front fork to see if it has the predrilled holes just above the front axle for installing a front luggage rack. After you mount your front luggage rack and put a few things onto it, you may discover that your bicycle falls over. This is because the kickstand that came with your bike is too short. Install a longer kickstand and you will solve this problem.
Luggage Rack Design: The front and rear luggage racks are each uniquely designed for their specific application and you should not buy two of the same type in the belief that you can simply turn it end to end and make it fit on the opposite end of your bike. It won’t work. Each rack has it own special mounting hardware designed specifically for one end of the bike. You will need one rack for the rear and a different but similar design for the front.
Saddlebags or Panniers ($30 to $200 per pair): Bicycle side saddlebags are called panniers. I have three different brands, including Jandd and Ortlieb. Ortlieb was the most expensive of the three brands and I bought a pair of them due to their most excellent reviews on the internet. However, they are NOT my favorite panniers. My personal preference is the Jandd Economy Pannier. The Jandd Economy Panniers have good quality workmanship and materials, they attach quickly, easily, and securely to either the front or the rear luggage racks, they have a zipper closure, they are rain proof, they are really easy to open and close, and their design makes it easy to store and remove items from the panniers. If I purchase any more panniers they will all be the Jandd Economy Panniers. Panniers can be special ordered through your local bicycle shop or they can be purchased over the Internet. The Jandd Economy Panniers can be purchased at this web site:
Bungee Cords and Cargo Nets ($2 to $6): Saddlebags can be used to store items on both sides of your luggage racks. However, you can also secure items to the top flat surface of each luggage rack using elastic bungee cords and/or cargo nets. They also make specially designed panniers for use on top of these racks, but I prefer the flexibility of being able to secure my own personal survival backpack onto the top of the rear luggage rack and my sleeping bag on top of the front luggage rack.
Water Bottle (Optional): Attaches to the frame in the center of the bike. I bought one out of curiosity but I only bought one. In a refugee situation the small amount of water in the bottle would NOT last very long. A person would be far better off with a quality water filter such as the Swiss Katadyn Pocket Water Filter. It will process up to 13,000 gallons of water for drinking purposes and it is about the same size as the water bottle designed for bicycle mounting. If you should become a refugee, then one of your most important problems EVERY day will be a fresh supply of safe drinking water. The Katadyn Pocket Water Filter will easily solve this problem for several YEARS. There are LOTS of other cheaper water filters available that are advocated by a wide variety of individuals, but they will only process a few hundred gallons of water before they wear out. If you should become a refugee, then your family will be depending on you for EVERYTHING, and water should not be one of your daily problems. In my opinion, everyone should become as educated as possible about water and its importance. I suggest you review the information available on my web site about “How to Find Water and Make It Safe to Drink.
It is a very long read but it contains information that could save your life one day.
Speedometer: I prefer a non-electric speedometer. However, the one I purchased would only fit on one of my bikes. Although a battery-operated speedometer would have worked on my other bike, I decided I really didn’t want one of those. You need to make your own decision on whether or not you need a speedometer.
Shoes: Most bike shops sell special bicycle shoes. You may buy a pair if you wish. However, your normal walking shoes will do just fine if they do NOT have a flat smooth sole. Your normal walking shoes should have ribbed or tread type soles for traction while walking. This type of sole will also make positive contact with the pedals on your bike and prevent your foot from slipping off the pedal when in motion. Since you will not be riding all the time, a quality set of footwear will need to function as walking shoes in addition to riding shoes. Your shoes are a VERY important consideration because the shoes you are wearing when you first become a refugee will probably be the only pair of shoes you possess for several years. I suggest you research the shoe issue very carefully and purchase a really good pair of quality walking shoes instead of an expensive pair of high performance bicycle shoes.
Helmet: If you like the bicycle style helmets, then buy the one that appeals to you. However, a motorcycle helmet is a better investment, in my opinion. Just walk over to the automotive section and they usually have nice motorcycle helmets for $90 or less. During the past 50 years I have had occasional rare accidents with bicycles and motorcycles and, in my opinion, a helmet is an absolutely NECESSARY piece of safety equipment.
Other Safety Equipment: You may invest in other typical bicycle safety items, such as elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves as you believe appropriate.
Rain Gear: A good rain suit is a nice thing to have. It consists of a waterproof upper, usually with an attached hood, and a waterproof pair of pants. You will need waterproof pants if you intend to ride your bike in the rain. If you already have a good waterproof jacket of some type, then waterproof pants will complete your outfit.
Bicycle Lock: Always take your bike INSIDE wherever you happen to be and lock it securely so it can’t be stolen. If you leave your bike outside, even locked to a bike stand, you will eventually discover that there are some people who will intentionally disable your bike or steal stuff off your bike. You really don’t need those kinds of problems.
Headlight: I have a battery-operated halogen headlight on one of my bikes. It uses two standard C cell batteries. I was NOT impressed with the headlight so I did not install one on my other bike.
Oil: I normally use whatever I have available, such as motor oil or Three-in-One oil. I put a little oil on the chain, the gears, and the axles before I put the bike in storage. This consists of hanging the bike on a bike hook from the ceiling of the garage. This may not be the best way to store a bike but it has not caused me or my bike any problems for over ten years.
Child Carrier Seats: There are several different types of child carrier seats. Let’s look at three different models.
The first child seat ($40) mounts behind the rider’s seat and it replaces the rear luggage rack. Therefore I don’t recommend this type, unless you have two small children and for some reason you must install Two child seats on one bike. If you have two children then the third option below is a better choice.
The second option is a child seat ($45) that mounts between the front handlebar stem and the rider’s seat post. This puts the child where you can see the child at all times and it positions the child so the child can see where you are going, regardless of whether you are riding or walking beside the bicycle.
The third option is a two-seat child carrier ($110) that attaches to the rear of the bike.
If you are forced into a refugee situation and you have small children then a bicycle would allow you to travel relatively quickly with your young children. Young children cannot walk very far before they become tired and they need to be either carried or transported. Carrying children is not a good option if it can be avoided.
The best solution would be to have one front mount child seat per adult or teenager bicycle. However, in an emergency, one adult could transport up to four small children on one bicycle and the adult could either ride or walk beside the bike. One child could go in the forward child’s seat (mounted between the handlebars and the rider’s seat), one child could go in a child’s seat mounted behind the rider’s seat, and two small children could fit in a child trailer attached to the rear of the bicycle. If one person had to transport four small children using one bicycle then there would be very little space left over for food, supplies, and equipment, but your primary responsibility in this type of emergency situation would be the immediate safety of your children.
If you perceive a situation where you would need to transport several children on one bicycle, then you should also consider installing a quality set of heavy duty children’s rear training wheels on each side of your bicycle to help keep your bicycle upright at all times.
Different bike enthusiasts have different opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of every possible type of bicycle and bicycle accessory. I am not a bike enthusiast. I am just an ordinary person who has ridden bicycles for more than 50 years, beginning with a single-speed bike, and then a three-speed, and then a ten-speed, and then a 21-speed. The above is just my opinion and it is nothing more than my opinion. Before you invest in a bicycle you should research this topic very carefully and collect a variety of different opinions and then make your own decision based on what is best for your particular situation and your anticipated riding conditions.
Before you spend any money on a bicycle you should first make a list of the different bicycles that are available along with their prices, and a list of the different options and accessories you wish to purchase for your bike. Then add up the total cost and determine whether or not you can afford it. If not, then reconsider the bike, the options, and the accessories based on need and not simply desire.
Finally, I strongly recommend the purchase of the following book: “Bicycle Maintenance & Repair,” 5th Edition, by Todd Downs. I suggest you place this book inside a two-gallon plastic freezer bag and store it inside one of the rear saddlebags on your bicycle. Bicycle maintenance and repair is not complicated if you know what to do. A typical bicycle has a variety of different simple adjustments that can be made and knowing the correct sequence of adjustments is very important. This book, plus your bicycle multi-tool and your Leatherman type tool and your 6-inch adjustable wrench, will help you keep your bicycle operational until it eventually wears out from old age.
One place where you can begin to acquire additional knowledge about bicycles is Sheldon Brown’s web site.
His web site contains a lot of information and you should read the articles that are of interest to you. When you are finished reading you will be able to make a superior choice about the type of bicycle that is just right for you.
I truly hope you will never need your bicycle except for recreational purposes. However, if world events should unfold in an unexpected fashion, then your bicycle would allow you to take your most important survival possessions with you if you were suddenly forced into becoming a refugee and your car was not available for some unexpected reason. In my opinion, the best option would be not becoming a refugee, if it is avoidable. However, if the choice were between certain death or life as a refugee, then I would select the life of a refugee. A good bicycle would significantly improve a person’s chances of survival in that type of situation. Respectfully, - Grandpappy

Monday, June 11, 2007

I started reading SurvivalBlog this year after a friend told me to check out the site and it has been a great resource. I had a couple of thing that might be of interest to everyone.
First is the 2nd annual Bug-out drill at Tiger Valley in Texas. Tiger Valley will host its second annual Bug Out Drill, September 29, 2007. We will run the same distance as last year, 15 miles, but the physical challenges will be tougher. For those who didn't attend the last event, the idea for this was spawned from reading the survival forum. I, like a lot of people don't believe that something does what it claims without a test; hence, the But Out Drill was born.
As last year the challenge was to move and recover family members who are a distance away. For the sake of argument an EMP has disabled all vehicles, I know some of you have spare parts wrapped in foil, but we have to keep this on an even keel. That means you have to travel the entire route on foot, no bikes, 4-wheelers Gurkhas or Donkeys allowed on the course. You must carry everything you need for the event on your person. We will have a hydration station that you can top off water during the event.
Last years event had 20 physical challenges, everything from having to cut through chain link fence to triage a tactical mannequin. This year I plan on making some of the challenges technically and physically more challenging. I won't go into detail on the plans but nothing is off the table.
We had 27 hard-core contestants compete last year. Everyone made a great effort, and from the feedback, learned a lot from the experience. As the concept stated last year, you don't have to complete each event. If the event is to challenging, you can bypass it and take the penalty. Remember, this event is designed to test you and your equipment, not kill you. We don't want to run those off who might be intimidated by some events.
I need some feedback from you guys on one area. I thought it might be good to require those attending to camp out on Friday night. Pitch whatever survival tent you have and take off in the morning. This idea is still up for grabs so let me know what you think.
The price for the event will be the same as last year, $150. I will start getting prizes as soon as I get back from this class in Waco.
The other item of interest is medical training information from Medical Corps. This organization has a substantial amount of information that I'm currently digesting. {Meanwhile,] has downloadable videos on various procedures like "How to Suture a Wound" that can supplement or help prepare for classes. It could also be the only training available to people without the means to attend classes. Thanks, - Paul in Texas

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some of these stretched the 100 word limit. (I skipped posting one that rambled on far beyond the limit.) The poll's premise in a nutshell: "If someday you went to the gates of a survival community post-TEOTWAWKI and pleaded the case for why you should be let past the barricades and armed guards to become a valuable working member of the group, would you get voted in? Taken objectively, would you vote yourself in?"


I am a shoe maker (not just a repairman) can repair saddles tan leather have done ranch work mechanics weld gardening skills set a broken bone stitch up a bad wound can bake bread etc, shooting skills need work only 5.5 MOA on AQT. Can milk a cow make butter some basic carpentry skills can use a wood lave make one if needed to know how to set up wind / water power to a shop or mill make some one laugh when things are bad can teach can also learn.know how to adapt over come make things work specialization is for insects.
Some limits to work: mild back problems cannot do a lot of over head work.
1 CETME rifle with 12 mags, ALICE pack, compressed MREs, 1 folding shovel camo nylon rope water filtering canteen extra canteen freeze dried canned soup 1 empty
small can rubbing alcohol cotton balls (cheap cook stove) 1 cooking kit 1 med kit 1 multi tool 1 roll toilet paper 1 wash cloth 2 tooth brushes tooth paste 1 belt with bayonet for CETME one pocket knife canteen & pouch cleaning kit for rifle and butt pack 2 mag pouches fishing line and hooks matches 4 Bic lighters 1 Iver Johnson 5 shot .38 S&W revolver 36 rounds of ammo, Flecktarn camo pants and shirt vest 1 light weight sleeping bag wool socks and a spare pair sturdy boots, Carthart coat tan 1 pocket size bible etc,,


Many years' experience in:
Primitive Skills:
*edible and medicinal native plants
*cordage and rope making
*hide tanning
*bow and arrow making
*bow hunting
Contemporary Skills:
*organic gardener
*orchard (fruit and olive)
*firearms use
Mid-50's, good shape for age, 6'4", 225#. Wife, mid 50's, 5'10", 150# (who shares many of the above skills, plus expert at canning/freezing, quilting, tatting, making clothes and moccasins).
Both have a sense of humor and aren't afraid to work.
In packs, besides personal gear:
*heirloom seeds
*one .308 MBR, one .223, with magazines and ammo
*two .45 Governments


Age 25, weight 160, excellent health, single. Engineer, engine mechanic, builder, jack of all trades. Trained and competitive marksman. Skilled teacher. Tolerant, thick skinned, sense of humor. Introvert, not loner. Schooled in college, educated in real life. History buff and cook.
Competent with photovoltaics, backhoes, generators, concrete, gardens, propane systems, AC and DC electricity, firearms, computers, welding.
Most importantly: not a prima donna, armchair commando, or busybody.
Equipment includes rifle, pistol, small amount of ammo, soft body armor and binoculars.


Age: Near 60. Can still see well enough, without glasses, to shoot back.

Old, tired, wore out. Been around the third world several times. (South America, South Seas, East Asia) Can't lift a third my own weight. Don't eat much. Know how to do just about anything.

Will arrive with 30 Lbs water, 30 Lbs freeze dried food, Ruger Mini 14, S&W 659, 100 rds for each, a few old books. and 50+ years usable knowledge. That about 100 pounds? (Worst case here. Actually, I would attempt to bring my entire robotics shop. Attempt, I said! )

Skills: Artificer. If you can picture it, I can make it. Make a windmill from a starter motor. Make my own tools as I need 'em. Bend railroad rail with no more than an axe and 6 young men for the bull work. Machinist, electrician, carpenter, stone layer, robotics engineer .


Age 25. Ex-military.
Trained extensively in: Perimeter reconnaissance,
Instructor of: full-spectrum warfare, defensive fighting positions, combat operations.
Expert marksmen: M16A2, M4A1 (GUU-5/P), M9. Expert in FN-FAL, M1A/M14, AKM, M16/AR-15 Family, 1911-A1, M9, CZ-75. Proficient with many other firearms.
20/15 vision. Reloading/Gunsmith hobbyist.
Physically/Mentally Fit.

Equipped: FAL Carbine (18"bbl). Custom 1911A1. PASGT Kevlar Helmet/Vest. Boots/Socks. Woodland BDUs.
Custom LBE: Seven 30rd FAL Mags(210rds). Eight 8rd 1911-1 Mags( 64rds). Two 1-quart Canteens (Full). Multi-tool.
Medium ALICE pack: Five 20rd FAL mags (empty), Two SA Battlepacks (280rds). Two Boxes .45ACP (100rds). First-Aid Kit. Extra BDUs (1 set). Cans of Soup (5). Mess Kit. Local Map/Compass.


Phd/MBA expert (37) on alternative energy and appropriate technology. Tool maker and builder/manufacturer/processor of useful post-TEOTWAWKI machines, trade goods, and alcohol (own BATF-licensed alcohol fuel still). Russian MBA wife (35) survived fall of Soviet Union and 1998 crisis. 4 yo and 10 mo daughters. Home machine shop, tools, anvil, forge, ethanol still, large printed alternative energy / appropriate technology / engineering / survival library, and inventory of preparation items greatly exceed the 100 lb per person limit but would be worthy of a group salvage/recovery mission. G.O.O.D. bags contain standard items recommended by Rawles, et al. Additional personally carried gear would include M1A w/ Leupold scope, AR-15 with trijicon night sites, Glock 21 (45ACP) with Trijicon night sites, Berkey water filter, laptop with large collection (>500 books) of appropriate energy and appropriate technology books on CD, Robinson curriculum on CDs for home schooling kids, ten 15"x15" fresnel lenses capable of starting fires in 30 seconds, disassembled 2" diameter alcohol still column with supply of vapor locks and 1 lb of ethanol yeast, and a few of my more portable tools (blacksmith hammer, hardy, & gloves; measurement tools; multimeter; temperature measure).


48 y/o 6ft 180lb male – good health
- Can walk 20 mi/day in full gear
- “Rifleman” with .308 MBR
- Doctor (emergency medicine and minor surgery)
- Gunsmith and reloader
- Cook

Backpack (40 lbs)
Sleeping bag/tarp
(2) BDUs & wool socks
Rain gear
Soap/camp towel/toothbrush
Food bars for 1 week
Water filter/bottle
Cookset/Trioxane tabs
Small survival kit (Fishhooks, matches, snares, etc)
AR-7 and 200 rounds

Web gear (35 lbs)
First aid/trauma kit
G23 + 2 mags (51 rounds)
8 mags .308 (150 rounds)

Barter/buy-in: (25 lbs)
Minor surgical set
Local anesthetic/syringes
2000 doses various oral antibiotics and pain meds!


I feel I would be a great asset to your community. I am a seventh degree black belt in American freestyle combatives and I could easily teach your people the skills to handle themselves in this perilous time. I also have an extensive background in firearms handling,gunsmithing and reloading. My real expertise thought is as a meat butcher. I can literally take a beef ( or any wild or domestic animal) from the field to the table. I bring with me a full set of cutlery tools, including saws,steels and several knives. I also carry a AR-15 w/8-20 round, loaded mags. A Glock 19 w/mags, and a Rem 870 tactically modified. I have a full set of ultralight camping gear including, freeze dried food,tent, sleeping bag,etc. My loyalties are to God, Country, and my brothers at arms.


repaired furniture
a little basic farm work(irrigation, pick rock)
assembled some field sprayers
inventory control/purchasing
some hunting
a lot of fishing
a lot of target shooting
cashier(a lot)
lube and oil cars
built 40 wood tables for an assembly line
sorted recycled paper
stock shelves
gas station attendant
a little gardening(corn,peas,onions)
unarmed watch
yard work(mowing, weeding)
sandwich/donut driver
some bow and arrow
some encrima [Philippine stick fighting martial art]
some cooking
printers helper
some CPR


Male, 38, 160 pounds. Reasonable shape.
Suturing, minor surgery, advanced airway management, cautery, fractures, casting, NBC treatment, tooth extraction and making dental fillings. 2 home births. Pistol. Morse code.

Sutures, antibiotics, casting supplies, complete surgery tools and dental extraction set.
.45, scoped M21 sniper rifle plus ammo. Field scope, rangefinder. Level 4 bulletproof vest, helmet, FRS radios.
Water filter, water, food, tent, sleeping pads and bags, heirloom seeds.

Two boys, 7 and 9 and wife. All with level 3a vests. Kids with .22 rifles and ammo. Wife with 9mm, AR-15 and ammo. Knows some gardening. Kids learning morse code.


Have excellent interpersonal/negotiation skills
Have made a sufficient study of military history/combat tactics/military strategy
Maintain a vegetable garden/fruit trees
Have studied/used survival techniques in N.A. and C.A.
Have knowledge of indigenous edible plants/animals in N.A. and C.A.
Have skill-at-arms on US/ComBloc small arms
Am expert in usage of map and compass
Have field grade(ditch) medical skills
Maintain personal combatives skills
Can forage and improvise like nobody’s business
Have seen the elephant

Weaknesses –
No livestock husbandry experience
Not a carpenter
Middle aged
Average driving skills

Probable TEOTWAWKI employment:
Retreat security
Weapons maintenance and training
Strategic Planning and Implementation

Friday, May 18, 2007

S.F. in Hawaii suggested another poll topic: "If someday you went to the gates of a survival community post TEOTWAWKI and pleaded the case for why you should be let past the barricades and armed guards to become a valuable working member of the group, would you get voted in? Taken objectively, would you vote yourself in?

I suggest the following poll. Put together your survival resume in 100 words or less. The resume is what you would present to a panel of tough as nails judges who would decide if what you offer is worth what you will consume in resources. You may use in your arguments (1) whatever real skills you possess as of today and (2) whatever you can reasonably carry in a backpack or on your body, as long as you actually own them in real life, not to exceed 100 pounds. If you have children, a significant other, or plan to have anyone else come with you, this must be mentioned. If they possess skills, then they may put in a resume as well and you will be judged singly and as a group. The resume should include your age, weight and general physical condition. Any weaknesses in your case that would be discovered over time that you do not expose (such as a recurring back injury) will be considered grounds for immediate expulsion from the group, so for the purposes of this exercise, you should be up front and honest. If you have children under 12, they can carry their own weight in supplies.
You must take into account that your 100 pound allowance should contain whatever food and camping supplies you would want as a refugee. Since you cannot assume that you will be granted sanctuary in the community, you must take what you will need to survive on the outside if you are refused entry. A backpack full of guns and ammo will do you little good if you have no food and water.
One caveat: While being part of a group increases survival odds, being on the road as a refugee does not. This is meant as a learning tool to help assess what our skills and assets are and which we might want to develop and accumulate."

Please send me your "resumes" in 100 words of less, via e-mail and I will post them anonymously. Thanks!

I appreciate your advice. Here is my situation: I attend college full time in a post-industrial [Eastern United States] city that has had a 50% population decline in 30 years. Most people here are on welfare, and the largest employers are prisons. I am in a bit of a predicament because I only make about $6,000 per year, so I cannot really afford to spend much on supplies. My goal if things go downhill is to do a ruck march (assuming EMP, otherwise I would drive) with my ROTC-issued [TA-50] equipment to my family's summer home in farm country on a lake. The home is located about 40 miles from where I go to school. Going home is not feasible as I live in Massachusetts which would take a full tank of gas, and is entirely highway and there are several choke points, including driving through Albany, Springfield, Worcester, and into the high-density suburbs.
At school, one of my best friends is also into survivalism and he also has experience. We share the same goals and are both Baptist. Additionally, we are both known on campus as people who have everything, tools, water, food, etc. which means that if there was a situation, we would likely be inundated with requests from others to help us. We keep a small, verbal list of people we would accept, and keep it to five people.
What would you recommend I do in this situation? If you need more information, please do not hesitate to ask. Thanks, - Sam

JWR Replies: I recommend that you form a survival retreat group. That is exactly what I did 25 years ago, when I was an Army ROTC cadet. Stock your retreat as best as you can, given your limited budget. Prioritize your purchasing. Water purification and food storage should be at the top of your list. Set group standards for communications gear and guns. For short range tactical coordination, I recommend the modestly priced MURS transceivers, since they use a little-used band. This is particularly important in the signal-dense northeastern United States, where using CB frequencies would be almost impossible WTSHTF. For advice on firearms selection, see my Survival Guns web page, and my novel "Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse".

Be very selective about who you bring into your group. Unlike building a group based on an extended family, you can be choosy. Be dispassionate in choosing new group members. Evaluate each candidate on their stability, motivation, and their mix of skills. Friendship is a great thing, but the guy or gal who is presently your dormitory buddy may not be your best choice for a survival group member. Look at their weight, health, and physical fitness. Consider their religious background. Are they moral and trustworthy? Are they intelligent and adaptable? Do they have valuable skills? Are they hard working or will they just be "talkers" or "strap hangers"? Avoid people with extremist views or anyone that suggests making any preparations that are illegal. Ask yourself the key question: Am I willing to trust my life to this individual? If any candidates don't pass muster, then keep looking.

In the long term, try to develop a retreat that is in a less densely populated region. When you graduate, direct your job search--assuming that you will be a reserve officer--to a region that is suitable for self-sufficient retreats. (For details, see my Retreat Areas web page and my book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation.) Odds are the group that you form in college will have a considerably different composition five or six years from now, once your friends change locales to pursue careers. In fact, depending on where you end up, you may be teamed with an entirely different group of people.

If you are destined to go on active duty, then tailor your "dream sheet" of preferred duty assignments (after OBC) to posts that are in the western U.S. (You didn't mention if you had been branch selected yet. That could make a big difference in the locale of your eventual posting.) I suggest that you consider posts like Umatilla Army Depot, Fort Carson, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Tooele Army Depot, Dugway Proving Ground, Fort Lewis (possibly permanent party at Yakima Training Center), Fort Greely, Fort Wainwright, or perhaps Sierra Army Depot. Army PERSCOM branch managers are often willing to accommodate requests from junior officers that state a preference for posts that their peers would consider "backwater" assignments. (Let everyone else ask for a posting in Germany, Fort Meade, or Fort Devens.) Your branch manager may exclaim to his co-workers: "Holy cow! This lieutenant asked to be assigned to Umatilla Army Depot!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mr Rawles-
I've been a reader of your blog for maybe the last nine months or so and I know I need to stop reading and get to doing something. So I was wondering if you could advise me on where I should start my preparations.
I'm a city boy so I don't have many of the skills that I think would be useful in a TEOTWAWKI situation. I don't know how to shoot or farm or fix a diesel engine. While I could start buying equipment in order to be prepared, I think that the first thing I should do is learn skills that will help me stay alive if things start going bad. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help and keep up the good work. - Mike

JWR Replies: Getting started can seem overwhelming. Just make the conscious decision to get prepared, and set aside some time to work at it a little every other day, and of course set a corresponding budget. You are correct that training is just as important as logistics. Also don't overlook physical fitness, which costs essentially nothing. (Push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and running take little or no specialized equipment.) Some low cost training resources were detailed in a recent SurvivalBlog post, with some useful links.

On to logistics: As I describe in my "Rawles Gets You Ready" preparedness course, you should start by making a "list of lists." Next, draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me.) Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different food storage and preparation list than someone living in the Rockies. Your "List of Lists" should include:
Water List
Food Storage List
Food Preparation List
Personal List
First Aid /Minor Surgery List
Nuke Defense List
Biological Warfare Defense List
Gardening List
Hygiene List/Sanitation List
Hunting/Fishing/Trapping List
Power/Lighting/Batteries List
Fuels List
Firefighting List
Tactical Living List
Communications/Monitoring List
Tools List
Sundries List
Survival Bookshelf List
Barter and Charity List

Consider your preparations a form of insurance. But it is much better that traditional life insurance, where if you die, they pay. Lord willing, this type of insurance will keep you and your family alive and well.

Don't dawdle. Even modest preparations will put you miles ahead of your unprepared neighbors. Stock up gradually and consistently. Take you training seriously. Once acquired, share your skills with others. Network with like minded relatives, neighbors, and friends. But of course be circumspect about what you reveal about your preparations to anyone that doesn't have a need to know.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Here is the first round of responses to this question: Those who are well educated enough to see a societal collapse of some sort or another in the making fall into two groups, the merrymakers and the preparers. The merrymakers don't see life worth living post-SHTF, so they live it up now. We on SurvivalBlog are the preparers and have chosen to survive, but why? Our children? To rebuild civilization? Because the collapse will only be temporary? Because we can and we're stubborn with a stronger than normal will to survive? The following is just the first batch of responses. I plan to post at least one more batch. Please send your responses (one paragraph or less) via e-mail, and I will post them anonymously.

The survivalist is an optimist -- not merely because he/she thinks he'll make it through the crisis, but because of the (possibly subconscious) hope that something good will emerge in the aftermath. It's the logic of any kind of apocalyptic thought... Theological systems that have a conception of a climactic struggle or an "end times" imagine that, after Armageddon, we'll see the dawning of a new age. Not surprisingly, a lot of Hollywood movies follow this script, too: After the aliens are defeated, for example, in "Independence Day", mankind stands united, having put aside their differences; After catastrophic weather changes in "The Day After Tomorrow," the planet begins to heal itself, etc. Heck, this theme can be seen, too, in your fine book, "Patriots". In the same way, I plan to live not only because I'm stubborn and have a finely-tuned sense of justice -- and thus hate the idea of turning over the planet to looters, thugs, and others who would prey on the innocent -- but also because I'm both curious and hopeful about what will emerge as society reconstitutes itself.

My modest preparation springs from the knowledge that I and the Lord are the protectors of my family (there are five of us). Our ultimate trust is in Him, but it is on me to do what I reasonably can do to protect my family from in the event of hardship and/or disaster. (After watching [Hurricane] Katrina, it seems apparent that the government cannot do that.) Anyone reading your web site thinks that there is at least a fathomable chance that our nation's run of blessing/luck will end (or be suspended) at some point in the future. Nothing lasts forever. If and when that time comes, I would never forgive myself if my family suffered unnecessarily because I did not take reasonable steps to prepare for such a time. In addition to that, it's just plain fun to learn about this stuff. (Anyone who says otherwise is lying!)

Because the alternative is inconceivable to me!

I’m currently going through some things in my life that are agonizing (but subject to change) and make things feel almost hopeless for me at times, yet every day I wake up again and thank God that he breathed the breath of life into me. I won’t waste that breath. I’m motivated to prepare to survive and overcome by many factors. Here are some examples:

I’m a 7th generation descendant of a settler in my current state and I’m motivated to survive by the risks my settler ancestors took, the struggles they went through, the multiple battles they fought in, the children they lost prematurely and the price they paid to be here. I recently visited some of their graves for the first time. I see it as my responsibility, honor and duty to live freely and survive. The stock I am from is cut out for it.

I prepare to survive because I’m ultra conservative, at times feeling like an endangered species or “minority” and I’m tenaciously defiant to those who would like to see my “kind” exterminated. I am equipped with a few trusted friends that are peers in regard my views (though mostly surrounded by sheeple) and have inspired some to begin to prepare. I discern a negative spiritual force is taking action to see my country’s sovereignty given away. I am motivated to be a hindrance to that spirit. My country is worth saving.

I prepare to survive because as a young man I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, despite the fact that there have been some truly sorry individuals working to undermine that Constitution since before I was born. I intend to see my oath fulfilled.

I prepare to survive because I read "Patriots", awoke to how fragile our economy really is and saw how foolishly I’d been behaving in the past (assuming life would always be normal) and am in the process of repenting of any residual foolish, sheeple-like attitudes and habits I have.

I prepare to survive because I’ve been in a city where gasoline was temporarily not available and walked through the local grocery store at 3:00 AM (less crowded) and have seen the store shelves stripped of food for a short period of time. It’s pretty convincing you need to prepare when the fuel in the tank of your vehicle and few 5 gallon cans (at the time) may be all you’ll have for a while.

I prepare to survive because if things ever Schumerize I have multiple skill sets that can help a number of people in a number of survival situations. I believe I was created to help people, when possible. I gather info, educate, discuss and leave food for thought for those who are unprepared, but willing to listen and consider my views on the subject.

Why an I preparing? For the simple reason that I live in the middle of the midwest. Bad winters, heavy snow, and ice storms. The rest of the year heavy rain , floods, tornados, et cetera. You can't depend on the government to come through when needed, so if you don't have what you need than you are SOL! You have to be able to get by on what you have or fabricate something to do the job needed. I haven't depended on the government to help and I really don't think they have the capacity any more if ever. It will be your self and friends and neighbors pulling together that will make the difference. I prepare for me and mine so that we may be able to help others if need be. I've traveled extensively in South America, off the beaten path, and if you don't have what you need or can fabricate it than you should not be there. The same goes for having all your ducks lined up at home.

I'm a Jesuit educated 38 year old Bachelor, Eagle Scout, USMC Gulf War Vet, working for a major aerospace company in Seattle. The reason I'm preparing is I inherited ~$500K from my grandfather, who sold the family farm in California to housing developers. He worked hard for all of us and I don't want that blessing of wealth to be squandered. I'm preparing because being prepared is what's been beat into my head since I was a kid. You can't play the "victim" card on the Four Horsemen.

Why do I prepare? Probably because I read too much science fiction as a child! Probably because surviving is so much more interesting than succumbing. Born in the late 1950s, I remember bomb shelter salesmen and diving under my desk during A-bomb drills. I always assumed something, a war, or a pandemic, could change life as I knew it. It never occurred to me not to want to survive. Both my parents were alive during the depression, and that contributed to not taking food/housing for granted. Perhaps my uncle, who survived Bataan, or my aunt, who was a prisoner of war in the Philippines, might also have had something to do with my mindset?

Because I believe that life is worth living, and I have no intention of simply "biting the dust" unless I give it the old college try. I believe that trying and ultimately failing is far better than not trying at all.

Bottom line: I owe it to my family to be prepared. I could not bear to look into their eyes as they look to me for help and have to say "Sorry."

I am a preparer. Not because I'm smarter than anyone else, but because from what I see, there just is no other choice. I do it for my family; my beloved husband who humors me but thinks I'm slightly nuts, my grown children who love me but roll their eyes whenever I speak about what is happening around us. look, I don't have any college degree or any fancy smarts, no one would call me well educated. But I can see what I can see. I read, study, research and from my angle, we are gonna be toast and I bet my surly one eyed cat that it will be ugly. so I plod along doing the best I can when can. I don't have a retreat, I don't have a bunker or fallout shelter, I don't have 10 acres or two years worth of food. But I've got God. I keep plodding on doing the best with what I have and I know He takes care of the rest.Will we survive the whatever that comes? Heck if I know. But I'm a fool if I do not give it my best shot.

As a man of firm Christian beliefs, I believe all our days are numbered and have value. In those number of days we are to protect and provide for our our own selves, our families and so on. Examples in scripture are numerous how people were commanded to defend their homes, their cities, their neighbors, and their land. Unless we (like some were) are destined to go into Babylonian captivity I see no other proper choice.

I am taking what steps I feel necessary to survive in a societal collapse of infrastructure because I realize that the more intricate a system of living becomes, the more possible facets of failure are therefore created. As the machine known as Society grows in scale and complexity, so do the required aspects of its function; increasing the number of things that can go wrong, thus eventually causing a critical failure of the system. With the statistical (and historical) inevitability staring one in the face, how can someone not do everything within your power to be prepared?

I feel its my duty to four fathers, kids, grand kids, friends, although they are getting harder to find these days, an it just feels like the right thing to do,also its interesting,fun, a great learning expense,i spend hours on your site an i want to really thank you for it. I'm sure you make money off of it an you should, but I'll bet you are the type of person that really believe in what you do. I love my guns an have about 25 [of them], I try to go to the range at least three times a week, its the most relaxing time in my life ,by myself or with someone, I'm sure a lot of people don't understand, I love the military weapons a lot, I have .303s, Mausers, and others. I'm proud of my beliefs, thanks.

I consider preparing my Christian duty. I'm also stocking up lots of extra food, clothing, and so forth for charity, which is also my Christian duty.

Myself, I am what would be called a "millennialist" based on my beliefs from the Bible. The majority of mankind is stupid and sinful. Thousands of years and we are still doing the same mistakes over and over. I do not believe in any Gene Roddenberry vision where mankind, by its own efforts, rises from the ashes and evolves into a benevolent a Star Trek society. Nothing sort of divine intervention will save us in the long run from permanent self-destruction----Now aren't I a cheerful one to invite to a social gathering?;)

Just for the record, I'm not one of those nuts that believe in trying to hasten or encourage the Second coming The world is dong a fine job all by itself.

While I had read about survivalism and planning for a couple of years, the importance of having some sort of plan didn't hit me hard until I was living in the South, had a new baby, and [Hurricane] Katrina hit. All of a sudden the importance of having an evacuation plan, supplies, and a known destination to retreat to were very important. I am not as prepared as many of the readers, but I know where to go and what I'll do when I get there. Also, thanks to some great books on small farming and some great advice on here I know how to avoid some real pitfalls.

I’m preparing to survive for my wife and my children, because I can and because it gives me a feeling of confidence. I say “because I can” since most of my acquaintances don’t have a clue of the probable upcoming changes in society, but of those that do have a clue they can’t prepare for survival. They can’t prepare for survival because they’re financially tapped out by having been brainwashed into living on credit today figuring somebody else will take care of them tomorrow, but it won’t be me.

And it drives me nuts. A 45 year old single female friend of my wife owns a boat, owns a camper, had two vehicles, bought a scooter and recently bought a house within the last two years. When I first started preparing for survival, my wife made a comment to her about it and her friend said when the SHTF “we’ll all be as snug as a bug in a rug.” I said“What do you mean we? I think you need to make your own preparations.”

I used to try and educate our acquaintances but have started taking more of an inquiring approach with regards to what they think are the possible upcoming changes in society. A couple we know refinanced their house to buy a travel trailer but they only camp within 45 minutes of their house because they can’t afford the gas and their tow vehicle is not reliable. I asked the husband what he thought was coming in the future, he said he figured things were going to get pretty bad. But then they just put down a deposit on a trip to Hawaii so I’ve got to figure you just can’t help people like this.

And it’s not that I wouldn’t help anybody, I saw value in a comment on your web site with regards to helping neighbors and I will. (Is it okay if I only help the ones I like?). We live in a conventional neighborhood and I wish we didn’t but at this point it would take too much of our resources to move to a property with more land. So our best defense is to bond with the good neighbors but I don’t want all our irresponsible acquaintances coming to live with us.

We have a good life and are lucky to be able to make preparations for what may come. And I am thankful for every additional day I have to get better prepared.

I am preparing to survive because I believe the threats to our way of life are manifold. We are in a global war. China strength's grows, our borders are not protected. Our government is shredding the constitution. Natural disasters, environmental concerns, the basic depravity and selfishness of man--its reason enough. I was a volunteer during [Hurricane] Katrina. Not one person who had preps, was sorry. Many other equivalent societies in this century have fallen, why is America better ? It is inevitable, one disaster will prove the wisdom of preparing.

1. Life is worth living.
2. I want to be around if there is any defending of this nation to be done.
3. Who said one can’t prepare and merrymake? (I guess it depends on one’s interpretation of ‘merrymake’).

It's something that was raised in me. Whether it was the Boy Scout's motto of always being prepared, or just the human instinct of survival, if I see something on the horizon, I won't back down. Not to mention I get to justify spending a lot of money on camping gear and guns, my two favorite hobbies.

We are trying to prepare because it is the right and responsible thing to do for our family, friends, neighbors, and country. If we all became part of the solution, then there would be no problem.

Jim, I grew up in the bomb shelter/Cold War era. A neighbor two houses down actually dug out their front yard to install a bomb shelter. My folks had a rudimentary bug-out bag and we always kept a month's worth of food on hand. Hey, for the 1950s, that was progressive thinking so I guess I come by being into preparedness naturally.

I hold advanced degrees but my education does not get in the way of exercising common sense. It is obvious that our complex society is too interdependent to survive major interruptions and we have numerous examples to look at (the L.A. riots, Hurricane Katrina, and such). To believe that a major interruption of services could not occur is delusional. The empirical evidence is right in front of us. The family which is prepared has far fewer worries.

Do I believe we are headed for TEOTWAWKI? Not particularly. Do I believe that we will see significant disruptions that will affect us for 10 days or so? Yes, definitely. Disruptions lasting to 30 days or beyond? Less likely, but I maintain a "year's supply" nonetheless. Also, my Church has preached being prepared for years. Our leaders have constantly cajoled us to have a year's supply of food and other necessities and my guess is they know something we haven't heard yet.

Most pundits state that human beings are constantly evolving. The point they have ignored or can't see is that the evolvement of the human race in the last 50 years has been a deterioration, not an advancement. We survivalists are, quite frankly, throwbacks to the pure genotype that got us to this point in time.

I prepare because the end is nigh (at least TEOTWAWKI), and there will be a lot of merry-makers who suddenly changed their minds, post-collapse. If you're prepared and you decide the going is too rough, you can always quit,but if you're not prepared, your options are zero. You're done. Besides, my family is Finnish, and we're stubborn SOBs. You can always tell a Finn, just not much...

I prepare to survive because I see it as part of the natural cycle of human civilization. Something in us wants to forget the lessons of what makes us a great society and start living on borrowed riches and capabilities. Eventually, that living beyond our means catches up with us via a natural disaster, economic collapse or societal conflict.

If we were not to prepare to survive then we are doomed to fail and live miserably under the dictates of someone else. If we prepare we are not guaranteed to have prepared for the right situation, or enough, but at least we have a much better than average chance. In the end, I am an optimist. No matter how bad things get they will eventually get better. We can speed up our own recovery and that of our community’s by preparing now. If we do not, then we may end up wallowing in misery and struggling for the barest necessities. Is that the kind of life God wants for us? I think not. I believe God wants us to live wisely and prepare to prosper under all conditions. That takes discipline and short-term sacrifice.

Jim, your blog rocks. I only hope that I can learn and earn fast enough to take advantage of the incredible information that your forum provides before TEOTWAWKI.

I have a beautiful 6 month old son who is totally innocent to the ways in which TPTB (the powers that be) are systematically destroying nature, American Democratic principles and threatening the survival of humanity. He deserves a chance in this life, regardless of whether or not he'll ever get to visit Sam's Club, get a college scholarship, drive a V-8 or own an iPod.

When things start to get dicey, and as the world as we know it begins to fall apart - most likely permanently- he will be just coming up in age and entering what should be the most wondrous years of a child's life.

For him, and for my future children, I will fill their youthful imaginations with nature, tools, projects, outdoor adventure and practical knowledge. Before I let the idiot-box and America's media-driven junk-culture destroy their understanding of their place in God's kingdom (and the animal kingdom), they will know what to eat and how to hunt it, how to garden, how to fix stuff and how to avoid trouble in a society that in the future will eventually fail entirely by trying to eliminate all risk of failure here in the present.

They will be encouraged to learn practical trades: veterinary sciences, engineering, construction, medicine and alternative medicine, martial arts, food production and off-the-grid technology solutions.

No bankers, real-estate agents, financial analysts, politicians or computer graphic designers in this family, Jim. No sireeee bubba.

I have always believed that those people who want to throw God's gift of life away through risk, recklessness, attempted suicide or plain old bad lifestyle habits are doomed to live longer.

I have also questioned since1987 when the U.S.S. Stark got hit by our"allies" escorting black gold in the Persian Gulf how long our cheeseburger-driven, cheap-oil, fiat-money, fake-friends and fear of loss-driven society can keep going.

Therefore I will survive this impending paradigm-shift in human existence in order to see my children prevail into adulthood, and for my morbid curiosity to see how all this B.S. I have put up with my entire life winds-up in the end of my days.

It won't be easy however. Here in Texas, not 1 in 1000 people has a clue what might be coming in the next few years. Even after [Hurricane] Katrina pushed a not-so-golden horde of 150,000 low income welfare dependents onto the greater Houston area. I guess that bad stuff only happens to others, right?

I'll be heading for the hills soon enough I hope, and taking my brood to a more austere, self-sufficient and remote lifestyle before Sugar Land Texas becomes a looter's paradise.

At first I prepared because it was an American act of self-reliance. Now, after all the weird looks and puzzled expressions, I get to have the biggest 'I told you so' in my lifetime.

Great question. Do I have an answer? Yeah a couple. Peace of mind in these troubled times is the main one. We buy insurance for everything except peace of mind. Our power goes off we start our transition to alternatives without a worry. Lights, power,shelter, water, communication ability goes on. Food is here to be eaten fuel to use without need to purchase, cash on hand no worries. Another reason we do what we do is because "I" feel it's my responsibility to my family. Part of my responsibility as a husband and a father is prepare to take care of them no matter what happens next I can't sleep knowing I could have, but I didn't. It's a philosophy of maintaining the status quo to then have the time and resources to help others. It's about being "ahead of the game." It's about life and meeting it's changes head on, never stopping head down and moving constantly on forward to whatever it is that is next in life.

My reason is: why give up? I have fought to hard in this life to just roll over and die.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dear Jim:
As my confidence in the dollar depreciates and my desire for skills increases, I'm wanting to convert FRNs into hands-on knowledge. What weeknight or weekend workshops would you recommend? Are there any places where you can learn Army Ranger skills without joining the military? Animal husbandry, and so on? - Spencer

JWR Replies: There is a tremendous wealth of free or low-cost classes available--enough to keep you busy every weekend of the year if you are willing to drive a distance. If you have time and just a bit of money, you can get some very well-rounded training in skills that are quite applicable to post-TEOTWAWKI living. In my experience, the most cost-effective training opportunities in the U.S. include:

American Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes

Local Community College, Park District, and Adult Education classes. They offer classes on metal shop, auto shop, wood shop, leather crafting, ceramics, baking, gardening, welding, and so forth.

RWVA Appleseed Shoots. These are held all over the nation. They offer great training for very little money. The West Side Sportsman's Club, located on the west side of Evansville, Indiana is hosting the national RWVA shoot on June 30 / July 1st. The Red Brush Gun Range, located on the east side of Evansville is having another Appleseed, and they're also having an Appleseed Boot Camp. The boot camp starts on Monday October 22 thru Friday Oct. 26th. Then the Appleseed Shoot is on Saturday Oct. 27 and Sunday Oct. 28. The deal is if you want to attend both the Boot Camp and the Appleseed match, you do so for $200. Yes, for just $200 you can have seven days of top notch marksmanship training.

U.S. Army ROTC classes, the ROTC Ranger program (administered by individual university ROTC Departments), and ROTC Leader's Training Course, aka Basic Camp). The first two years of the ROTC program--including Leader's Training Course--are available to any full-time enrolled undergraduate college student (including "cross-enrolled" junior college students) with no contractual obligation. Participation in the ROTC Ranger program by anyone other than enrolled ROTC cadets is usually up to the discretion of the instructor or the PMS. When I was in a ROTC Ranger program back in the early 1980s, we had two Marine Corps PLC students and an Administration of Justice (police science) major in our Ranger program, as supernumeraries. So even if you don't sign up for ROTC classes, you might be able to be involved in a Ranger program. Of particular note: If you sign up for the four week ROTC Leader's Training Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky, you will actually get paid to attend, plus get a couple of free pairs of combat boots. To be eligible to participate in ROTC, you must be under 31 years of age on Dec 31 st of the year that you expect to graduate. (Or possibly 34 years old, with waivers.) The best chance to get a slot at the ROTC Leader's Training Course is during your sophomore year of college, but when I was there I met a graduate student that had wangled a slot. (He eventually got a direct commission, by virtue of his ROTC "contact hours")

LDS (Mormon) cannery classes/canning sessions. Many "wards" have their own canneries, which are generally open to non-Mormons. (OBTW, the LDS food storage calculator web page is a very useful planning tool.)

FEMA / CERT Classes (Classroom and Internet courses, some with team commitment)

ARRL amateur radio classes.

Species-Specific or Breed-Specific Livestock and Pet Clubs

NRA and State Rifle and Pistol Association training and shooting events

Fiber Guilds (spinning and weaving) and local knitting clubs

Mountain Man/Rendezvous Clubs (Blackpowder shooting, flint knapping, soap making, rope making, etc.)

University/County Agricultural Extension and Cattleman's Club classes on livestock, gardening, weed control, canning, et cetera

Medical Corps small group classes. I heard that they have scheduled just one hands-on Combat/Field Medicine Course thusfar for 2007. It will be at the OSU Extension Campus, in Belle Valley Ohio, April 20-21-22. That class is full, but check their web site for additional course dates. They offer great training--including advanced life saving topics that the American Red Cross doesn't teach--at very reasonable cost.

Volunteer Fire department (VFD) classes (usually with some commitment)

Candle and Soap Making Clubs/Conventions

Boy Scouts and 4H. Informal, un-enrolled ("strap hanger") training is available for adults--just take your kids to the meetings and don't leave.

I would also consider these less important (but still worthwhile) training opportunities, as time permits:

Sheriff's posse and Search and Rescue (SAR) programs

Police department "Ride Along" and Police Reserve programs

Civil Air Patrol (CAP) courses.

Civic/Ethnic Club cooking classes

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dear Jim and Family,
Bad news from the largest oil field in Mexico. The Canterell field, formerly reported to decline at 2% last August, 6% in October, and 11% in December has been rated at 25% today. Oil production has dropped from 1.99 million barrels per day to 1.5 million barrels per day.

This is a very bad thing. Most of that oil goes to the USA via NAFTA treaties. There are no fields to replace it, and since Mexico has 51% leftist leanings, no oil company will risk investing there (Pemex was formed from seized foreign oil investments, most of which were from the USA). Losing half a million barrels of non-Middle Eastern supply makes us more susceptible to interruptions from hostile nations like Iran and Venezuela, and unstable nations like Nigeria.

This also has secondary effects. Most of the money in Mexico comes from oil wealth. Without the oil, Mexico, the nation with one of the highest birth rates in the world, will be needing to find other sources of income for their 1 million young men turning 18 each year. Without the oil wealth to pay for social services, the collapse there will either cause them to come to the USA seeking jobs (just as the USA is entering a recession due to energy costs and the collapse of the housing bubble), or further fuel revolution in Mexico. Mexico is already unstable since the race for president and ruling party was hotly contended and claims of voting fraud rang very loudly, particularly in the South where leftists openly battle with the Federales.

Let's assume that any internal issues in Mexico stay there, and that conditions in the USA don't cause a higher number of illegal immigrant labor. Even without that, losing 1/2 million barrels per day in 6 months, and possibly another half million by July of this year is going to hurt the USA quite a bit. That's an Iraq worth of oil. If things get more messed up in Mexico, the oil may stop flowing temporarily, thus removing 1.5 million barrels per day from the market and driving the price up until demand for those barrels is removed. This generally means the third world is bid off the market. It also means that you may see $6/gal gasoline, maybe later this year. Who knows? It's too uncertain to invest in crude oil futures.

The thing about predicting gasoline prices is we know the price will rise, but we don't know when, or if $6 will be just a few days before it races past that number for a higher price. Supply and demand rule, and if you paid the same price per volume for gasoline that you do for beer, you'd be looking at around $32/gal. And beer won't push you two dozen miles surrounded by 3,000 pounds of steel, rubber, and plastic. Gasoline is more useful, so will inevitably cost a lot more, eventually to cost what its actually worth for the work it can do. This will leave a lot of cars empty of fuel, sitting in your driveway rusting forlornly with only 30 more payments. My advice is to start offloading your excess vehicles sooner rather than later, and if it comes to a choice of going into debt for a hybrid and someday tossing the guzzler for scrap metal: the math says the guzzler is a better deal. The price of fuel will rise faster than the hybrids can accommodate and debt for a vehicle will make less and less sense when unemployment follows energy scarcity and transportation problems. If you must maintain your personal travel freedom, there's always motorcycles, which get 60 mpg. If you insist on your car and can live with the loss of freedom, you can carpool which effectively doubles or quadruples your fuel efficiency (if you carry three passengers). It's not very macho and it's painful to your freedom, but it's better to have a job than not. And some mobility is better than none. We're all going to have to get used to much more limited mobility in the next few years.

And I shudder in anticipation of "travel papers" and other documents limiting travel in the name of fuel efficiency, homeland security, or whatever other excuse they choose. Sincerely, - InyoKern

JWR Replies: Reading through the SurvivalBlog Retreat Owner Profiles, you will notice that nearly every one of them has a "economy runabout" car listed. I think that is a wise approach. Also, don't overlook mountain bicycles with panniers and/or light cargo trailers, the new generation utility trike-bikes with cargo platforms and/or cargo trailers, and of course horses. These alternatives may not be speedy or convenient, but they require no gasoline.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Thank you for response on the mobile survival fantasy. I think it is dangerous for the average Joe to believe that he can be a mountain man. Sure, some can, in some climates and locations with lots of training. Even then it's dangerous and unpredictable. A twisted ankle can be the end of you. Remember too, those mountain survival stories were from the days when the wildlife in this country was at much higher levels. For most of us it means being cold, wet, tired, hungry and thirsty in the woods and being targets on the streets. ("Nice pack man, what 'cha got in there? Hey, your wife/daughter sure looks purty...")
Other pet peeves of mine are the twin television fantasies regarding water and guns. First thing you notice on TV 'survival scenes' is the lack of packed water. The heroes mount up with their guns and attitude, but... no water? Yup, it's heavy to pack and takes up space. Nope, there are no water fountains in the woods. The communal fountains that people could drink out of are mostly gone from cities. True, most cities were founded by the water for transportation, but that means you need either a water distiller/desalinator for the oceans or a really good filter for the rivers. Drinking the water from a river in a major city might work months after a TEOTWAWKI when upstream factories shut down and stop using the river as a toilet, but for now it's really nasty.
Just imagine walking through a city with the stores closed/burned/looted and the the water pressure gone. I grew up in NYC and the only place I can think of to get water in that scenario would be the reservoir in Harlem. A dangerous place in the best of times. Also, with a pack, you'll sweat more. I can get by on very little water in my office, but on a trail with a pack in the noon day sun I get dehydrated real fast.
Television peeve #2 is the one shot kill (and one punch knock out). Just shoot the bad guy once and he's down? Unless it is a central nervous system hit (spinal cord or brain) he's not down. Even a heart shot gives him enough time, say 6 seconds, to stab you or shoot back if he's angry or drugged enough. How far can a man run in 6 seconds? Will he close the gap? It's not whether the bad guy dies from the wounds you inflict on him, it's whether you kill him in such a way as to deny him the ability to return the favor.

FWIW, here is a compilation of my top 15 survival fantasies and misconceptions:

1. You can fit everything you need for extended survival in a backpack
2. A single shot not hitting the brain or spinal cord less or than .40/.44/.45 caliber will stop an attacker before he can kill you
3. I don't need to bring that much water
4. The government is here to help
5. I'm in good enough shape right now to hike 20 miles with a 70 pound pack
6. Everything I have stored still works, hasn't expired, I know how to use it and I know where it is
7. I can buy what I need at the first sign of impending crisis
8. My kids can keep up with me on an extended hike
9. Farming/livestock/hunting/fishing/trapping are easy to learn from a book, I don't need practical experience
10. God will help me. I'll be in the right place at the right time if I am a good person
11. I can argue/discuss/bargain with a bad guy(s). I don't have to shoot them.
12. If I shoot them, I can wound them, I don't have to kill.
13. By virtue of my obvious survival knowledge, foresight and preparedness, my family/friends/neighbors will agree that I am the best suited to lead our newly formed fledgling survival group and will listen and carry out my suggestions.
14. Life in TEOTWAWKI will be fun. Since there will be no more taxes/bills/mortgage to pay and I don't have to show up for work it will be hard but rewarding. Add that to the satisfaction of being able to say "I told you so" and given my preparations, I'll be better off then than I am now.
15. My stash of silver pre-1965 coins will let me live like a king

Survival fantasies. We all have them, and we all need to lose them. - SF in Hawaii

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mr Rawles,
Here are a couple of free training links. Train for free. All you need is a pool, running shoes and a pull-up bar. If you live too far from a pool, the substitute cycling for double the swim times.
Regards, - Felix

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mr. Rawles:
I couldn’t agree more with Ron D’s article on the need for basic fitness. The most perfect Bug Out Bag in existence and the best hidden cache of beans, bullets and bandages won’t do you any good if you have a heart attack getting there.

I would add, though, that for strength training you don’t have to invest in a lot, or even any, equipment. Bodyweight calisthenics can help build strength rapidly using only your own body as the weight you are lifting. Unlike machines, or even free weights, bodyweight exercises don’t just target individual muscles but also strengthen all of the supporting muscles as well. At least in theory, and my experience bears it out, this results in fewer injuries.

Another advantage to bodyweight exercises is that you can do them anywhere. This is especially useful if you travel much for for work. Do them in a hotel room, at a roadside rest area, in a park or parking lot. And there’s nothing else to pack and lug along. Matt Furey is a leading voice in this area. His Combat Conditioning is a great resource for developing a workout routine appropriate for you. I sometimes find his style a bit hard to take, but his stuff works. - M.P.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Just a quick note on Bings post, taking up a martial art may be the perfect activity for many people on this site. Not only can you get in shape, but you will learn some self-defense techniques (more or less, depending on how 'martial' the art is) and do it with a group of people who are WAAAAAY nicer and more approachable than people in your average gym. Classes are usually made up of all sorts of people, including athletes, housewives, businessmen, kids etc. Everyone welcome and everyone is very helpful, since they all started the same way, on the lowest rung of the ladder. One of the things I love about it is that you get out of it what you put in to it, work harder, gain more, learn more. You can make every hour a good workout if you want to, you can practice in your living room if you need to, you can develop a warrior mindset, you gain grace, power, flexibility, endurance, discipline - what's not to like?  Keep up the good work! - M.W.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Back pain is the second most common complaint, following headaches, of patients visiting doctor’s offices today. Activities such as heavy lifting, twisting while holding a weight, or lifting at odd angles frequently trigger the onset of back pain. Unfortunately, these are the exact activities that could occur while trying to hurriedly load a vehicle to evacuate or while pulling a 72-hour kit out of the trunk of your car. A back injury during an emergency would suddenly limit your ability to respond effectively. This report will list the most common types and causes of back injuries followed by preventative measures to minimize the chances of suffering a back injury.
The straw that broke the camel’s back is an adage that applies to most back problems. Many people have heard someone say that they “just bent over to pick up a (insert your own light object here) and my back went out.” It usually isn’t the activity that causes the problem, but the years of lifting improperly with a weak back, sitting with poor posture, repetitive lifting, and normal degeneration of the spine. Lifting injuries can be classified in three ways:
Muscle Injuries: These occur when too much weight is lifted from the wrong position causing more stress than the muscle can bear. This force causes tiny tears in the musculature known as muscle strain. Muscle strain can be very painful and make moving extremely difficult. Generally, muscle strain repairs itself in a few weeks to months.
Disc Injuries: The discs are located between the bones of the spine called vertebra and act as a shock absorber or a ball bearing. Discs are composed of fibrous rings that can bulge or even rupture when injured. Pain is usually sudden and may radiate down into the leg. Numbness may also occur in the leg. Disc injuries may resolve themselves after a few weeks or may require surgical intervention in severe cases.
Joint Injuries: The spine consists of numerous bone-on-bone joints. If one of these joints is overstressed, the joint can slip and often times become locked. These joint deformities frequently pop back into place on their own. They may require physical manipulation via physical therapy or chiropractic care.
The best treatment for a back injury is to avoid having one. Here are a few suggestions to help avoid a back injury. First, plan what you are going to do and then do it in the safest way, which is not necessarily the quickest or easiest way. Get help with objects that are too large to lift alone. This seems extremely simple, which is why so many people often fail to even consider it. Always lift with a straight back, lifting with your legs. Remember to keep your chest pointed forward, as just bending the legs can cause a bend in the spine as you lift an object that is low to the ground. Feet should be shoulder width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other.
After the lift, keep the object close to your body. A simple experiment to show the importance of this is to hold a gallon of water to your chest and walk around your living room. Next, do the same thing but hold the water at arm length in front of you. It makes quite a difference. While turning with the weight lifted lead with the hips and not the shoulders so that your body will stay in line. While carrying the weight remember to keep good posture and do not stoop.
Good physical conditioning is also important to maintain back health. Activities that improve core muscular strength such as walking, sit-ups, leg raises, and alternate arm/leg lifts while lying on your stomach are excellent strengthening activities. Another lazy man’s way of strengthening core musculature is to sit on an exercise ball--the large ones used in Pilates classes. I sat on one while watching an hour long television program one night and found muscles that I had forgotten the next morning.
If you are currently experiencing any back problems, seek treatment now. Doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors can all give advice and treatment for back injuries.
I hope that this article has given you some thoughts on back care and will motivate you to study the subject further as I have only scratched the surface. During times of stress and hectic activity is not the time to learn about such things the hard way. Take the time now to start strengthening your core muscles and practice safe lifting techniques each day. - "Doc Savage"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

When contemplating the self-sufficient/survivalist lifestyle, the most common concerns are weapons, power generation, and food. One area that is frequently overlooked is that of physical fitness. All the non-hybrid seed in the world won't do you any good if you have a heart attack while trying to plant it. All the guns in the world won't do you any good if you can't run to a defensive position without wheezing like an asthmatic in a field of ragweed.
Getting in shape often seems like an impossible task. Although you may never be able to be a body double for Brad Pitt or Kate Hudson, being healthy is a very achievable goal for anyone. All it takes is a little knowledge, some common sense, and dedication. The purpose of this article is to give you the basic knowledge you'll need to achieve your fitness goals.
There are many factors that influence physical conditioning. Some are outside the scope of this article (like stress) and some are so complicated that going into depth about them would require a book (like nutrition). I'll be covering some of the basics, but you may wish to do further research as your time and inclination allow.
First up is a series of negative factors that impede the march to fitness. At the top of the list is stress. It wears down your body, robbing you of the will to workout. Although it's not always possible to completely eliminate stress, reducing it should be a goal of first importance. Closely allied with stress is lack of sleep. Too often our culture devalues sleep as a luxury, sacrificing precious rest time for unimportant pursuits. Without proper rest your body can neither recover from exercise, nor rebuild for further efforts. Relax, get enough sleep and you'll be amazed how easy achieving your goals can be.
Now, let's take a look at some things you can do to enhance the effectiveness of working out. At the front of the line is proper nutrition. I won't get into specific diets or schools of nutritional thought, but there are a few general rules anyone can follow. Cutting down on junk food (candy, soda, potato chips etc), eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast first thing in the morning to get the metabolism working, and not eating for a few hours before going to sleep are all fairly easy to accomplish without drastic lifestyle changes.
Another vital aspect of an effective fitness plan is pre-workout stretching. Often overlooked, stretching properly reduces injuries, enhances the efficacy of a workout, and builds flexibility. Develop a routine that works for you, and do it religiously even on days you don't work out.
Okay, you've gotten a good night's sleep, had a thorough stretching session, and you're ready to exercise! Next we're going to discuss some different types of exercises, their relative advantages and disadvantages, and how to get the most out of them. For the purposes of this article we'll divide the various exercises into two categories: aerobic and strength. Although there is often significant overlap, this division helps to formulate a plan.
The aerobic (or cardiovascular) field of exercises function mainly to tone muscles, build endurance, and build up the circulatory and respiratory systems. This field should form the base of any exercise regime. Without proper circulation of well aerated blood, one cannot hope to make any significant fitness gains. I t is also the most important in terms of overall health.
The field of strength training is somewhat more limited, both in types of exercises and in potential gains. To derive the full benefits of this field, one should have a solid base of cardiovascular fitness. All this is not to demean strength training; it is merely an attempt to put it into perspective. There are many benefits to a proper strength training program, and it is definitely not a field to be ignored.
There are as many ways of getting fit as there are unfit people. The key to it all is persistence. Whether you choose an all out assault on fat that drastically changes your entire lifestyle, or merely start walking the dog and skipping that side of fries it's all for nothing if you don't keep at it. Find activities you enjoy and make them a part of your routine. Find other like-minded individuals and band together to support and encourage each other. Stay positive, stay motivated, and soon you'll see results you thought impossible! - "Bings"

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