Vehicles Category

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The time has come. Everything you have been planning for has happened. The aftermath has befallen all of us. Whether we are talking about a hurricane running through your area, an EMP, or a military takeover, it came quickly and the rest of the country has been left with their jaws hanging open. We have been prepared for this moment for quite some time.

Yet, as we all know, plans do not always work out the way we want them to. Maybe you were supposed to bug out, and you didn't have the time. Maybe you were supposed to bug in, but damage to your location requires you to go on the move. Most likely you have multiple plans to implement according to different scenarios. Perhaps you do not. Either way, we have to adapt to whatever circumstances come our way. Sometimes these adaptations are small and simple tweaks to our plan. However, they may alternatively be a major overhaul to our perfectly thought-out playbook.

This idea crossed my mind a little while back, as I was thinking about family that lives near me. I have family living exactly eleven miles away from me. My plan is that the three of them will get to our bug in location as quickly as possible and will hunker down with my family. Eleven miles isn't that far away and should be traversed quickly, even in difficult circumstances. There are multiple routes that could be taken, depending on what the road conditions may be.

Still, what happens if we do not hear from them? What happens if lines of communication are down, and they haven't shown up? How can I quickly and efficiently traverse the eleven miles to check on them, then get them through the safest route back to our location? The answer was obvious to me because of my background, but may not be for many people– my mountain bike.

In my younger days I was quite the bike rider. I raced mountain bikes semi-professionally for local bike shops around my area. I worked as a bike mechanic and have a great knowledge, not only of work and repair on bikes, but also on how to make a bike get where I need it to go as quickly as possible. I may not be as accomplished on the bike as I once was, but my knowledge of the bike and its uses can help me through the many situations that may arise. It's not always just about pedaling fast; it's also about keeping your bike in great working order and knowing how to handle it through a variety of conditions.

We typically have bikes around, and if you do not, it certainly isn't difficult to get one. There are numerous options on Craigslist or other similar websites. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, in 2012 alone, there were roughly 18.7 million new bicycles sold. That means one in every sixteen people in America bought a bike in 2012 alone. How many of those bikes are just sitting around waiting to be sold? Getting your hands on a bike should be a relatively easy, inexpensive endeavor.

Bicycles offer us a quick way to move around, and if you know what you're doing and where you are going, they can be very stealthy. They give us options for carrying gear on racks and saddle bags, or even in trailers. A good bike will carry you over a variety of terrain, whether paved or not. They are easy to maintain, can be stored in a number of locations, and can be hidden fairly easily, when need be. Most importantly, with a little skill, their maneuverability will help you dodge even the stickiest of situations.

Let's suppose I have to get to my family, who is eleven miles away. The main roads are shut down to me, and I don't want to be locked into strictly paved back roads either. With some essential gear on my back or on a seat rack and a sidearm handy, I can easily sneak off under cover of darkness and begin winding my way through the alternate routes to get to their house. I can move quickly and very quietly. If cover is needed, I can move off the road into trees or bushes whenever possible. My background as a mountain biker gives me many off-road options that may not be there for everybody, but anyone can train to meet these needs.

Bikes are a very versatile mode of transportation, but many have overlooked them as a possible solution to a SHTF mobility situation. We dream of armored vehicles we can use to get to a bug out location, or ATV's that we will ride G.I. Joe-style through the fiercest fighting, but the truth is, you simply need two wheels and some leg power to accomplish what you need to accomplish. Bikes can get you hundreds of miles away in a week and can haul much of your equipment with ease. You just need to prepare for the challenge.

Here are some things you might want to prep for your emergency bicycling:

First, make sure you keep your bike in good working order. Whether this is a multi-thousand dollar bike from your professional days, or a fifteen dollar bike you picked up at a garage sale, they all need occasional maintenance. A typical tune-up at a bike shop can cost you anywhere from $50 to even as much as $100, depending on where you are and what you need to have done. It's nice to learn some basic skills that can cut down on these costs. Purchase a basic maintenance guide that has pictures to help you. I have always used “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance”. Also, the Internet is full of wonderful resources on keeping your chain and cables well lubed (please don't ever use motor oil!), your brakes adjusted, and your wheels properly tuned and inflated.

Learn a few of the more advanced skills, like changing cables and housing, putting on a new chain, removing links from your current chain, changing brake pads, and adjusting your dérailleurs. These are skills that will help you to keep your wheels running smoothly and quietly.

I recommend purchasing a basic bicycle tool kit and learning how to use it. A set of metric Allen wrenches, adjustable wrenches, and cable cutters are a must, but so is a specialty tool like a chain tool. Like so much of our equipment that we prep, if you don't know how to use them, they are just paper-weights. So, take the time to learn the basics.

Second, stock up on some basic bike consumables, like tubes and tires. (One size of tire doesn't fit all, so check the numbers on the side of your tires.) Also, keep some extra cables and housing for brakes and dérailleurs, some extra brake pads for each kind of brakes your family bikes have, and don't forget the chain lube.

Third, consider some extras for your bikes. Put a seat rack on the back, and get some saddle bags to go on it. You may want to get a BOB trailer or even a trailer that you would use to pull kids, so you can load it with gear if you have to travel long distances. Handlebar or helmet-mounted lights would be highly recommended for off-roading at night.

Finally, get out and ride. It is important to get experience riding a variety of terrain. Check out the back roads in your area. Chances are you will find a good route that could be used in time of trouble. Get a map of the local trails. These maps can be used later if you need to find your way from point A to point B when the roads are clogged up. There are "Rails to Trails" routes all over that can give you some good riding and can get you out of Dodge when needed. Learn how to maneuver over logs and rocks without falling. Spend time on the bike. Nothing could be worse than getting out of dodge, only to find that your tailbone feels like it is broken because your backside isn't used to sitting in the saddle. Make sure you can ride ten miles or so with some weight on your bike, so if you do suddenly have to get out quickly, you aren't dead tired midway through the first mile.

Bikes aren't just for kids anymore. Their use as survival gear is evident. They may not be as glamorous as a HumVee, decked out in armor with a .50 caliber machine gun mountain on top, but they may be more useful in the long run. If being a G.I. Joe is your dream, you could always buy some camouflage tape and a shotgun scabbard to make your bike a little more threatening. Think of your bike as the modern day horse for that cowboy inside of you. The best part is that you don't have to feed them! So, get on your horse and ride. You never know when you might be forced to.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


This was absolutely fantastic. As of today I am in the market for an old diesel, so I can apply this knowledge. - D.D.

o o o


Felt the need to respond to this. The author mentions his emergency fuel, and it should be noted that it is just that– emergency fuel. However, it sounds like he is using this full time in his Cummins 12v and OM 617. (I have a Cummins and 616– a naturally aspirated 4 cyl little brother to the 617.) It is nice that he has tested the usability of his blend, but if he keeps that up his engine will be no good for the zombie apocalypse he is envisioning.

I used a blend of wvo and high octane gasoline in an emergency once in my Mercedes 616 to get me 5-10 miles down the road to the nearest station with diesel, when my lying fuel gauge stranded me on a long lonely stretch on I-95 at midnight. I had a quart of oil, a junk thermos in the trunk, and a credit card, so I was able to walk to a closed station with high octane and bring it back to my car and mix up a little over a quart of the stuff. I started with all the oil and kept adding gasoline until it felt like diesel between my fingers. It is worth mentioning that I used high octane gas, because it ignites at a higher compression and, theoretically, will make your mix less likely to pre-ignite in the diesel engine.

After that I was hooked on the idea of using a similar mixture as a year round diesel subsitute. To make a long story short, I have considerably less compression and fuel mileage than when I started, even now only using various petro and bio diesel blends like before. I've regained a little of what I lost with some TLC.

Another thing worth noting is that if one is bent on using a fuel that isn't designed for the engine in non emergency times, then avoid using diesel motor oil. Diesel motor oil has additives in it that suspend the carbon (soot) that inevitably makes its way into the oil sump. The reason for this is so that the carbon doesn't coagulate in the oil and cause consistency problems with the lubrication.

This is written in lay terms as much as possible and may need some editing, but I think it is very important for at least some of these precautions to be considered by the other readers, who may not have the experience or any sort of technical background, to guide them to more informed decisions. - S.C.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Staying Mobile in a Collapse Situation by Matt Conner

I have seen countless disaster movies set 30+ years after the collapse of society where, somehow, people still have gasoline and diesel fuel to run their vehicles. I am a professional diesel mechanic, operating two vehicles retrofitted from their original gasoline engines to run on older mechanical diesel engines. I feel I could stay mobile longer because I would not be dependent on service stations to provide me fuel, and I could make my own. I would like to share my methods here with fellow like-minded readers. The concept I will be detailing is burning used engine oil for fuel in older mechanical diesel engines. The first of the two engines I run is a 1991.5 Cummins 6bta, commonly referred to as the "12 valve", installed in a 1998 Ford F150. This engine was commonly found in the 1988-1996 Dodge ¾ and one ton trucks but is very popular to swap into other vehicles. The engine has many benefits and the only negative aspect I have found so far is that it is loud. The key feature here is it will run on used oil. The second engine is a Mercedes Benz OM617– the 5 cylinder diesel found in various cars from the mid-1970s to late '80s. This engine has been installed in my girlfriend's 1996 Jeep Cherokee. Both the OM617 and Cummins are 100% EMP-proof, which means it will run without a battery and no alternator and will also run on used oil.

Under normal operation (not the end of the world), I collect used engine oil and fuel from changed filters off Peterbilt trucks I service (roughly 120 trucks). I filter and blend this used oil with a setup at my house that I will detail later. However, in a SHTF scenario, the theory would be collecting the engine oil and automatic transmission fluid or even power steering fluid from abandoned vehicles, which will have run out of fuel on the road, to make a custom blend of usable emergency fuel for your diesel.

W85 blend is what oil burners call a blend of 85% WMO (waste motor oil) and 15% RUG (regular unleaded gasoline). Since the viscosity of oil is higher than diesel fuel, the gasoline is used to lower it to something similar to diesel by thinning it out. Now in our SHTF scenario, we would shoot for making w85 in 5-gallon batches; we would collect all the crank case oil and ATF and power steering fluid (do not use brake fluid) from a derelict vehicle, which should yield about five to six quarts engine oil and about six to eight quarts of ATF and power steering fluid. Then we would collect the remaining gasoline from the fuel tank, because most vehicles still have a considerable amount of fuel in the tank even after they “run out”. This would be done simply by puncturing the fuel tank with a screwdriver or ice pick and a hammer. If you could get ¾ gallons of RUG that would cover your needed 15%, and the rest would be your WMO.

Water separation and filtration is the key. My fuel filtration set up is gravity fed and constructed of almost entirely "junk". It consists of two 55-gallon drums, some plumbing pipe, some filter heads, and spin-on CIMTEK filters. Search "up-flow processor WMO" to see detailed info on how they work.

The basic concept is described here. The first drum is the settling tank. The 55-gallon drum has a 2-inch opening and a ¾-inch opening. The 2-inch bung has a 4-inch pipe nipple threaded into it, and inside the pipe nipple there is a 2-inch diameter exhaust pipe section welded to it that extends down into the barrel close to the bottom. The top of the pipe nipple has a smaller 16-gallon drum with a 2-inch bung in its center, threaded onto it with the top of it cut off to act as a funnel. On the opposite side, at the ¾ bung, is a 90-degree street elbow that has two filter heads with CIMTEK water separator filters at 15 and 5 microns. The concept is as follows. The WMO/RUG mix is poured into the funnel at the top of the barrel; the weight of the oil forces it down the down tube to the bottom of the barrel where any large solids and water will settle. Then once the barrel is full, the settled oil will be forced out the top through the ¾ bung, through the filters, and out as finished product. On my set-up I have it go into another 55-gallon drum, used as a storage tank that has a 12 volt pump that runs on a battery and pumps the product through a final third filter, but this is not necessary. A smaller version of this filter concept could be constructed for portability and maybe even mounted in the truck, but the basic concept is the same.

The proper vehicle to run this fuel would be one with a mechanically-injected older diesel engine, pre-1997 would be safest. All older IDI Fords, 6.9 l and pre-powerstroke 7.3 l engines do well on it.

The pre- common rail Cummins engines in Dodges, like I run, love it; all your Mercedes 300 series cars and many others run well on it as well. One important thing is to stock up on fuel filters for your vehicle. This will save you hassle later down the road, as trying to go to Auto Zone in the end times might not be a good idea.

I have been running this blended fuel for several years in my Cummins-powered Ford F150 with no issues, and the Mercedes-powered Jeep has run for several months now as well. Still, as always, do your research, and know what you are doing before you start. I hope this will inspire others to look into making their own emergency fuel and having the survival advantage when it counts.

Monday, January 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Items to have in your bug-out vehicle:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I hope some of you know most of these things, but I’m sure most of you won’t know all of these things.

I took a camping trip not too long ago where I made one of my favorite childhood camping dishes, the hobo dinner. I’m sure those of you who camp have had it a few times. Put some potatoes and veggies in some aluminum foil and throw it right on the fire. Easy enough. Tastes great. Don’t even need a plate. I, however, am not your average cook. I like to try new things, and I don’t eat plain old potatoes. I need cheese, so I added some. All was going well until it came time to eat and guess what, the cheese stuck to the aluminum foil and I didn’t get any of it. Not a lick. The potatoes were still edible, of course, and I didn’t go hungry by any means, but it teaches a good lesson. It’s the little things that make or break your meal. So it is with life and so it will be when the SHTF or TEOTWAWKI comes. Just FYI, add the cheese after it cooks and it works great, now on to it. As the appropriately named hobo dinner shows us, those who have nothing find ways to make something that works. You need a meal? You don’t have fancy cookware or a nice electric stove? No problem if you’re a hobo, and it shouldn’t be a problem for any of us to survive given almost any situation. Just use your head and think of those little things. The ones who have invested hundreds of thousands won’t necessarily be the ones still living, and thriving, in a bad situation.

I don’t sweat the big things, I’m sure there are a million articles on them already and you have read them all, but I hope there are a few little things here that will give you food for though, and that might just save your life some day.

First things first, don’t panic. Could this be obvious enough? If I were reading a top five list of things that will save your life in a disaster and this was number one, I would roll my eyes and toss the list aside as obvious and unhelpful. Wait! Don’t toss it aside so easily(note to self). Even those of us that have a set plan and have rehearsed it to death need to take a minute and assess the situation. Time is not always our enemy. A well panned trip tomorrow may be more successful than a rushed one today. We are all human and can and will make mistakes. A few minutes of planning or double checking can save hours or lives later. There are very few situations when acting instantly is the only thing that saves your life, and presumably when that time comes you are prepared enough to make the quick choice. You can’t, however, be prepared for everything and until you’ve been in a bad situation, you can’t be sure how you will react. You can, however, try and get into the habit of good planning now. It’s also a good exercise in using your head. A tool you should never be without, so don’t leave it behind. Daydream, just as a fellow prepper enjoys sci-fi to get ideas, I daydream. It’s also often a valid way to entertain yourself when bored. Imagine you’re at work and there’s a zombie attack. How do you get out? Where can you get supplies? Do I think that a zombie attack will ever happen? No, but if there’s an earthquake guess what, I already know where supplies are and an evacuation route. Ever tried making up a lie on the spot? It’s more difficult than you think. You will inevitably find yourself regurgitating information that’s already in your head. It’s very difficult to think of something new on the spot. If you haven’t already planned on possible evacuation routes and know where supplies might be, you may find yourself walking the wrong direction and right past valuable supplies as you try to get out. Don’t panic, analyze the situation and take things one step at a time.

Water, hopefully, you already have stored. You can’t go long without it. I won’t try to tell you how much to have or how to store it, I hope you already know, but here are a few things about water you may want to think about. If you are ever without water for a long period of time, life will change drastically. By long period of time I mean like…three days. I’m sure we would all be fine for a day or even two before it starts to get really annoying that we have to bring in water to flush the toilet or can’t take a shower. What happens in four days or a week. Your daily routine will change dramatically. Think about this for a second. Who is really ready to haul a gallon of water to the bathroom every time they have to use it, or take a sponge bath because there is no shower? Even if you have a little water stored, lets say a few 55 gallon barrels, that is hardly any at all. Given the average family of four and each person needing a gallon of water a day, that’s 120 gallons just for a month. Those two 55 gallon barrels just ran out on you. I’m not concerned with can you get more or how much you currently have stored. What I really want to bring out here is are you prepared for how your life will change? Running water is nothing short of a miracle and we take if for granted much too often. Say you have an unlimited supply of water. Are you prepared to get it to where you will use it? I have some water stored in my basement. Just thinking about hauling gallons of water up the stairs every day makes me inwardly sigh. What a bother. Maybe a should add a water pumping system in my house to easily move water upstairs manually? Just a thought. That’s what I hope to invoke here. For those of you planning on bugging out, what about filters. I’ve got a great filter you say, it can purify 100 gallons a day or I’ll boil water till the cows come home. Great, good for you for having an alternative, but that won’t do you any good while bugging out. Do you have a small and effective filter for the road? If for some reason your chosen transport fails, are you aware how long it takes to walk to your bug-out local? How much water will you need for that trip? To end my thoughts on water, do you know how much water weighs? Eight pounds per gallon. That’s 440 lbs. for that 55 gallon barrel. It’s not moving anywhere. Safest thing in your house if you get robbed. They aren’t taking it with them. I’m promise.

With food storage, I hear stories that I really hope aren’t true. Like the guy who has 365 cans of soup and thinks he has a years worth of food. Good luck with that. He may survive but I can almost guarantee he will be crazy by the end of the year. Don’t ever forget the old adage, variety is the spice of life. You have an unlimited supply of spirulina, meal worms, rabbits or even wheat. I don’t care what it is. You better have a lot of something to go with it because you’re going to get sick of it really fast. We are blessed to live in a country where we have just about everything. That variety is great for everyday life. The transition to nothing will be as hard for some as the actual living afterwards. Don’t discount those stories of people who commit suicide because they just lost everything. It will happen. Life can’t just be, it has to be worth living. Concentrate less on staying alive and more on living. There is a huge difference.

Travel and bugging out. What a huge topic. Let me just say a few things. There are about a dozen situations I can think of off the top of my head that would prevent someone from using a motorized vehicle. Too big, too noisy, no fuel, roadblocks, just to name a few. Have you ever tried to walk somewhere, and I don’t just mean down the street? I mean walk 30 miles to the next town or 100 miles to your bug-out locale. The average human walking speed is about 3 miles per hour. Assume a bad situation where you may only make 2 or less. Even at the small distance of 30 miles to travel, that 30 min trip by car now takes you 15 hours to hike. That’s 15 hours that you may be getting shot at or avoiding hazards or whatever else may happen. What if you’re trying to outrun something like an angry mob or radiation. Good luck with that. Unless you’re a marathon runner you probably just ran out of time. I see people paying lots of money for these big bug out vehicles. Well guess what. If it hits the fan, it may be the guy with a nice bicycle and some leg muscle that lives to fight another day. You could easily increase speed to 10 miles per hour on a bike, or more. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and allow for more weight for supplies than you could comfortably hike with. There are great fold up models if you work in an office building and want one with you at all times. Over-reliance on tech may well be a downfall for many. How many can navigate to their bug-out without GPS or a Google map? There are places I’ve been to a hundred times in my youth that I would get lost going to now, at least without glancing at a map first. How many of us have a good paper map and know how to use it? How many are prepared, both physically and mentally to leave everything and jump on your bike and go? For those bugging-in, you may still want a bike. I consider it a vital piece of equipment. That mile to the grocery store, without a car, gets old really fast.

Now let me say something that may be a touchy subject for many. I think that the prepper community is great. I’m glad that so many people are taking thought for tomorrow, but I’m afraid that too many aren’t taking thought for today and are being way too narrow in their preps. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t get so caught up in planning your bunker for a nuclear strike that you die when a big earthquake hits. Don’t be so concerned with yourself that you forget about the six family members you have that will show up at your house and turn your food storage from a nice one year supply to a two month supply. Don’t spend so much money prepping for an attack that when you lose your job you can’t pay your bills, lose your house and thereby lose all your preps. The best prepper is a well rounded one. Have things, have skills, have people. You loose just one leg of a three legged stool and you will find it very hard to sit. Health is a big one, I’ve seen people with all the preps in the world and they are in such bad health that I expect they will be the first to go. A healthy person with a pocket knife and a head full of knowledge may be the only one to make it out, all your fancy preps notwithstanding. Prioritize, getting a personal trainer may be more worthwhile than another year of food or a better bug-out vehicle. A five dollar map may save your life when your $400 GPS fails. Plan generally for all possibilities and then add extra supplies for the most likely SHTF scenarios, not the other way around.

The way I see it most people are prepared for the imminent catastrophe. The whole prepper community is ready for it to hit the fan tomorrow, but I don’t think they are actually ready for it to hit next year. It’s very likely that there will not be one huge life changing event, but that a collapse of life as we know it will be a long and grueling process. You most likely wont wake up one day and say, times up, red light, everyone to the bug-out location. Most likely, life will get worse and worse over a period of weeks or even months and by the time you realize it’s time to go it may be too late. You had gas last week, but you’ve been going to work and running the generator every day and now the tank is empty and suddenly you can’t get more. Now it’s time to bug out, what do you do? It’s usually the combination of things that get you. You have a car, but no gas. You have food, but not enough people to stop that 10 person gang. You have a bunker, but you find after a few days that you’re getting claustrophobic. You have all the preps that man can buy, but you panic in the heat of the moment and get yourself killed. Life will change once TEOTWAWKI hits. Don’t just prepare for it, but for after it, and don’t let your hobo dinner be ruined because of the cheese. It’s those little things that will get you in the end.

You are the light of the world, let your light shine forth. Save someone.

Dear Editor:
While alloy wheels can have an alloy-to-steel corrosion issue, hitting them with a sledge hammer will probably damage the rim.I f you have an issue with a stuck rim, then just lower the flat with the nuts finger tight. If you do so, then he weight of the car will break the wheel lose with no damage. - Black Hat

Saturday, November 23, 2013

James Wesley,
In reply to Z.T.'s article, Basic Mechanics Skills and Knowing Vehicular Limitations, Part 1:

In general, while Z.T.'s post concerns tire maintenance, you should think "maintenance" on all fronts. Are you personally familiar with how much oil your vehicle eats per thousand miles? Are you familiar with your current, average and customary fuel mileage? Any diversion from the customary indicates a potential problem. Provided you're aware of what "customary" is on all fronts. Are you also checking, and familiar with, all fluid levels? Of all kinds? Simple preventive stuff. Find the problem before it becomes an actual problem.

And, as Z.T. points out, how aware are you of your tires' health? Or what it is you need to change a tire quickly and efficiently, or understand tire physics?

My rules of thumb, at least for those with steel wheels:

Every 10 degrees of ambient temperature difference equates to about 1 pound of tire pressure. Ten degrees higher? 1 pound higher. Ten degrees lower? 1 pound lesser. Whether "in-service" or as a spare, each ongoing month also equals to about a 1 pound loss per month, generally. You should be checking your in-service tires regularly. Again - are you noting any diversion from the norm? As for spares? It can be difficult to monitor them. So look at the Maximum Pressure rating on the side of your spare and inflate them to that safe maximum. You can always bleed it down to the recommended in-service inflation rating later, should you need to use it. Of course, that means you also carry a tire pressure gauge in the glove box. Carrying with you a small tire compressor that plugs into your vehicle? Gold! For yourself, as well as for others you can help along the way. No "grid" needed! No quarters needed!

And I made mention of steel wheels specifically, because if you have any sort of "alloy" wheels? Any and all long terms bets are off. As compared to true steel wheels, these alloys can be wild cards. When cast, there are all too often too many "porous" castings - where you have air leaking regularly from at least one tire through the "leaky" wheel itself. Got alloys? Get a tire gauge and use it regularly! Know your one leaky tire and pay attention to it!

An "alloy" tale: As you can tell, I'm aware and "prepared". I've made sure my vehicle's jacking components are actually there, I've done at least a "dry run" with them, I know where my jacking points are, I've got ponchos, adequate lighting, and have supplemented with additional crowbars, padded kneeler devices, tarps, tools, etc. I routinely take 1,400+ mile trips. I was prepared. Or so I thought. Yet still found myself unprepared one day. On a long road trip, and in the middle of nowhere (of course), I had a flat. No biggie. Been there, done that.

Problem was the alloys. Your alloy wheel is in contact with different and lesser metals on the spindles and hub. Dissimilar metals in contact? Along with moisture and/or salt? Electrolytic corrosion. Even though I religiously rotate my tires frequently? When I had my flat, that wheel was virtually "welded" to the hub. And I'm a big guy - yet nothing I could do would loosen it. I even thumbed the nuts back on and ran the car back and forth jarring the brakes to try to break the wheel loose. God help me, I eventually crawled under the jacked-up and swaying front end, trying to kick the wheel outwards, to no avail.

Thanks to my trusty cell phone and the kindness of telephone strangers, finally found the nearest actual "service" station, 50 miles away. At that point, I knew what I needed, and what it was I didn't have. Merely, a good-sized length of 2x4 and a sledge hammer. And that's all it took once the kid showed up. Yet I paid dearly for my rescue. At least the kid that came out finished the job, for which my back was eternally grateful!

I now carry a 20# sledge hammer and a 3-foot length of 2x4. That length of 2x4 allows you to place an unyielding mass as close to the inside hub center as possible, and then evenly spreads the impact from your sledge hammer outwards. Your sledge hammer, which will provide a far sharper impact outward than your own desperate boot-kicks under a jacked-up vehicle in the middle of nowhere, while traffic passing traffic is blowing by at 70 miles per hour. - Dave L.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Basic mechanical knowledge and skills are something that any person who hopes to be successful in TEOTWAWKI must have. I am not speaking just about vehicles, but vehicles are an excellent avenue to learn them. I can only talk with authority on my own past, but I know that the wealth of much of my knowledge comes from my extensive background in working on cars.

I won't claim that any of this post is going to be something that you have never read before. I am even willing to bet that you heard much of this speech by a parent or grandfather the day you turned 16. I know I did. And, like almost everyone in this country, I rolled my eyes.

Before you roll your eyes, I propose that we conduct a quick experiment.

I want you to drive down your local heavily used state highway or interstate, say, the one you drive on every day to work. Within 5 miles, you will see a broken down car. Now, the reason for this breakdown can and will vary. It could be because of a catastrophic motor event or a wreck,  but 90% of the time, it is there because the driver doesn't understand the basics of vehicle maintenance, the limits of the vehicle, or how to fix the vehicle in either event. Over the course of my next few topics, we will look at several of these and then explain the significance of the knowledge and it's potential uses.

Tire Maintenance
What's the most common automotive issue I see on American's roadways? Flat tires. Flat tires claim more roadside breakdowns than anything else. And not because the tire went flat, but because the owner either didn't have a spare, the spare was flat, or most likely because can't change the tire. Of these cars you see on the side of the road, how many have a jack underneath them, or a wheel propping the car up, and were simply abandoned mid-task? How many of them are just left there because they didn't have AAA? I have seen many a fine car left unattended on the interstate for hours or days at a time.

Changing a tire is perhaps the simplest task a motorist can learn. And while it IS simple, it teaches several lessons while also being a useful and money saving skill. These skills can save you valuable time and money in the every day world, while perhaps saving your life down the line. Changing a tire teaches many things including, but not limited to, the order of steps needed to complete an involved task, it teaches using a long handled tool to develop a moment to break loose lugs, balancing an unevenly weighed object, and even safety.

Now, for those of you who can change a flat tire, you realize that while it's an inconvenient, it isn't a big deal. For those of you who have practiced many times in your life, it is now a habit and can be easily fixed in a matter of minutes. Now, for those of you that can't....what does a flat tire cost you? Mere minutes? Or hours? Do you have to call someone to come help you? What about their time? Does it cost you money? How is your stress level when you miss something important?

Yet, many times the problem is deeper than that.  I remember back when I was 17 years old, my grandmother regularly telling me that my tires looked flat and that I needed to put air in them. But I always ignored her until one day the rim cut the tire down and I had a blowout. I remember driving to Auburn one time and I had a nasty blowout because a randomly 100 degree day caused the tire pressure to increase beyond the capability of the tire. In either case, simply paying attention to the tires would have raised an alarm and I would have rectified the situation. Not to mention that it would have saved me several hundred dollars.  But, I wasn't in the habit of paying attention to my vehicle, neither by checking it out whenever I thought about it or paying attention to it's behavior on the road.

Here are many things that can tip you off to a tire issue, but all require the driver to be in tune to the vehicle:

  • Uneven wear on the treads. If it's worn on the outside, the tire pressure has been too low. If it's worn in the center, the tire pressure is to high.
  • Does the care pull to one side or the other while driving? This could be a misalignment or one under inflated tire, which will also cause uneven wear. 
  • Is there a "wobble"? If so, you could have tread separation and a blowout could be imminent. 

Furthermore, great care should be taken while driving to limit the hazards to tires. 

  • Always avoid potholes. It may not seem deep or wide, and maybe you have run over thousands of them in your life. But it only takes the right one at the right angle and speed to cut down a tire. That's a a real bad thing to have happen at 70. 
  • Never run over objects on the road. It may look like a piece of littered paper, but it could be a shard of metal or class ready to cut your tire. It may be a piece of plywood. Then again, it could be covered with nails. 

Now, how about understanding the limitations of your tires? For example, do you know what the capabilities of a type of tire might be? Do you know if the tires on your current vehicle can be used to go off-road, if the need arises? Conversely, do you know just how long to expect a set of off-road tires to last on the street? In the case of a damaged tire, for example, a cut you know how to accurately gauge the remaining usefulness of that tire? Or know how to extend it's life by lowering tire pressure and travel speed? In the event of a flat tire, do you know just how fast you can continue to drive on it if need be? Or how to know if you have traveled as far as the physical limits of the flat tire will allow? Do you know what the danger signs of a tire are and can you gauge the severity? For example, what it means when you see the steel belts sticking out of a tire? Do you know what the effective stopping distance in your car is in all weather conditions? Specifically, do you know the conditions of your tires and how they might perform i the rain? In all cases, it requires the drive to be in tune with their vehicle, which in this age of automation and luxury, makes it easy for people to ignore all these important signs. 

So, many of you are asking; "Just how this might save my life in TEOTWAWK?". Specifically, if you have to get out of Dodge. You will have so many other things on your mind that you don't need to be worried about if your vehicle will get you where you need to go. Getting into habits such as checking tire conditions and pressure will go a long way to ensuring that at least the tires of your vehicle will hold up.  And, while you are on the go, you have to take care that you limit putting it in circumstances that it might fail you. Paying attention to driving conditions, specifically on the road, may save you minutes, hours, or even a dangerous circumstance that may claim others. For example, if everyone is trying to escape a city, the roadways will undoubtedly be extremely busy. There will be wrecks. There will be objects on the road. Slowing down, paying attention, and limiting the potential for cutting down you tires may save you when it may doom others. What if it' raining? Getting out is the priority, but knowing the effective stopping distance of your tires due to their physical condition could save you from a costly wreck. 

But things happen. Sometimes there are forces you can't control. What will you do then? Could you change a tire if you had to? More importantly, can you do it quickly and safely? Will it be such a habit that you can pay attention to your surroundings? What if you didn't already have a vehicle and you needed one. You find one on the side of the road, abandoned. Keys still in it. But the owner couldn't figure out how to use a jack. With five minutes work, you have secured potentially life saving transportation. We talked about understanding the limitations of the tire. Let's say that you know there is a potential problem developing that you have identified. You also know that stopping is not a possibility. Understanding the limitations of the tires may allow you to continue your path. While it may not be the optimum speed or method, it may be enough to put those crucial miles behind you. 

What does it take to learn this skill? Just time. Luckily for you, your car manufacturer gave you all the tools you would need. I am willing to bet that there are instructions on the back of the cover panel to the secret compartment that houses the jack and the breaker bar in the trunk of your car. So, take some time on a Saturday afternoon to find out where that compartment is. Pull the cover off, grab the tools, and follow the directions. I promise that even the slowest of you will only need to change the tire three times before you will have the process mastered. Even if you don't believe in TEOTWAWKI, you have to believe in saving time and money. How about keeping you from walking down an interstate late one night to find a gas station? I can't think of anything more scary for a woman than the thought of having to start walking down the street to find help.

Indirectly, there is a lot of things a person can gain from learning the basics of tire maintenance. How about the money and time that you can save from simply being in tune with your vehicle by getting in the habit of paying attention to the little things. No one likes buying tires. That's a fact. Identifying potential problems like noticing the vehicle pulling to one side can save money by having it fixed early.  Maintaining the proper air pressure can maximize tire life, saving you money. Simply knowing how to change a tire can save you hours and stress. What about the things you can learn indirectly? Off the top of my head, I think about the cause and effect of air temperature and pressure. How about understanding mechanical properties and friction? If the tire is flat, the surface area increases, so the drag increases causing the car to pull to one side. How about using a breaker bar to overcome your own physical limitations of force? I know it all sounds simplistic to many of you. But I am not writing for those of you that understand. The average American knows virtually nothing about hands-on mechanical work of any kind. They have to learn it by living it. I can't think of a better way to learn than to do so while discovering a valuable skill that has definite uses in your daily life and potential use to save it. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dear Survival Blog,
As a journalist, I'm constantly intrigued by the dissemination of information in our world. Obviously, with the advent of social media, people have become exceptionally lazy about seeking out information. There are very few circumstances in our modern society where your technology can't help you find out what's going on within seconds. However, every now and then, we encounter a situation where your technology can't help you - unless you're prepared

Earlier this week, I was in just such a situation. I was near the front of a interstate closure caused by a burning catering truck. Because I was in such close proximity (about a mile) from the closure, no one around me knew why we were stuck. The burning trailer was around a bend, hidden from view by trees. 

First some background: Years ago, my life was saved by a second-hand CB radio that I carried in my truck. I got caught in a violent, blinding snow storm in Colorado and - using the CB - I was able to estimate position based on the feedback from truckers also caught in the storm. Since that night, I have always carried a CB in my car and later I added a police scanner. I learned that night that yes, information can save your life. 

Fast forward back to my traffic jam. I realized that the closure had just happened and so the local media was not aware of it. Within the first two minutes of being stopped, I turned on my CB and police scanner and I knew all the information I needed: I knew who, what, when, and where. (The only thing I didn't know was what caused the fire - which really didn't matter) Satisfied with my knowledge, and knowing we would be there a while, I pulled my car off to the shoulder and hiked toward the fire so I could get some first-hand knowledge of what was going on. It was actually quite uneventful. The firefighters were waiting on the fire to die down a little because there were two propane cylinders on the trailer. 

The most interesting part of the whole experience was on the way back to my car. Probably less than 250 yards from the burning trailer I was stopped by a car full of women whose first question was "what's going on?" They were stuck behind two eighteen-wheelers and 45 minutes or more into this experience they still had absolutely no idea why they were even stopped. They hadn't bothered to get out and look with their own eyeballs. They couldn't call anyone who would know, and unless one of their Facebook friends happened to be stuck in the same traffic jam, social media wouldn't help them either.

After I explained to them in great detail what was happening, I said goodbye and began walking when I was stopped by the driver of the very next car. They saw me chatting with the women ahead of them and immediately sensed that I knew what was happening. After all, I had come from the direction of the closure and looked like a guy who knew something. 

All told, I repeated the same story five times in the walk back to my car to people that were either too lazy to find out on their own and simply had a passing interest in this event that was directly affecting their lives. I examined each of these people as I spoke to them and one word kept coming up in my head over and over again: unprepared. What if this had been an EMP attack? How long would these people sit there waiting for someone to tell them what had happened? It was chilling to think about. That day I realized that even if every car on the Interstate was dead in the water because of an electromagnetic pulse attack, most people would have no idea what had happened and would simply sit there and wait for information or help. 

After an hour and a half, the authorities re-opened the Interstate and suddenly everything was "normal" again and people got on with their lives. 

Continuing on, I pondered how disinterested some people were in finding out information. They relied on someone else to get it for them. I realize that in the case of an EMP attack, I would not have had my CB or scanner, but I did have my curiosity and a determination to find out information. In a grid down scenario I realized that much of the battle would be seeking information and determining what was true and what wasn't. And even more importantly, I realized that having the knowledge in your head beforehand about what could or is happening is as equally important.  I would know within two seconds that if every car on the Interstate inexplicably rolled to a stop, that we had been attacked by an EMP. (And beyond that, my car is a rolling bug out bag.) But the vast majority of people simply would not know what was going on.  

Information can save your life. 

Prepping with physical things is much simpler. It's tangible. You can see it and hold it. But after my experience this week, I am now going to double up my efforts on being able to propagate and receive information when TEOTWAWKI happens. Having knowledge and information allows to you to act and act fast, and that will save your life. 

Sincerely, - W.H.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

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

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

Sunday, October 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

RE: basic mechanics & vehicles, specifically more on tires/wheels, etc. Make a jacking platform to support the jack in soft soil. I used 2 thicknesses of 3/4" plywood Gorilla Glued together. I'd suggest at least 12" square, but there is an advantage to making it larger. I made mine as large as would fit underneath the passenger seat in my truck, which was 14.5" X 16".

Inflate the spare to 15-20% over the regular running pressure in the other four. That won't hurt it, and it's easier to let air out than to force it in .[JWR's Comment: If you do this, for safety be sure to prominently tag it "Overinflated!" add also pack a tire pressure gauge.] Since people rarely check the spare for air, the 15-20% adds a margin. Use your spare as part of a regular 5-tire rotation maintenance plan (every 5,000-to-6,000 miles is about right); that keeps its wear about the same as the other four, and adds at least 20% to the overall life of the set of tires over a 4-tire rotation schedule.

Get a spare wheel, or two if it's in the budget (used wheels for almost all vehicles are available on the Internet, inspected and guaranteed to be true). Before your running tires are worn out, buy same-size replacements - including the spare - and put the best old two on the spare wheels. Now you have three spares instead of just one (same-size matching is important, especially if your vehicle is a 4WD). Tread punctures can usually be fixed, but not sidewall punctures, and rock cuts will instantly ruin a tire.

Get extra lug nuts at a junkyard, and test them for proper fit. Find places to secure them two at a time. I used .041" stainless safety wire to secure pairs in various places around the truck where they won't get rusty but are still accessible. If your wheel mounting lugs are long enough, put 1 or 2 on each wheel, backwards, with the 2nd nut flat face to and already-installed nut's flat face, torqued tight enough to keep them from coming loose (if the lug nuts don't have flat faces, this won't work. Non-flat faces on the lug nuts will damage each other and possibly the mounting lug threads.)  I also wired a pair to each "extra spare" wheel and tossed several in one of the pouches of my "in truck" tool bag, along with a few spare wheel mounting lugs, purchased new from the auto parts store (verify the fit - your front and rear studs may be different). If you have a cross-type lug wrench, wire a couple nuts snugly at the center cross. - Nosmo King


Hi James,
All of the insights on tire changes have been welcome, and I wanted to add my 2 cents. On top of the 4-way lug wrench, tire plug kit, jack, properly- inflated spare. and DC-powered compressor, and the knowledge from practice on how to use them, you should also carry spare lug nuts and lug studs, a Ball peen hammer and a decent sized punch.

Having had a stud shear off while 4-wheeling is disconcerting and each time a lug shears off it puts more load on the remaining studs. I would encourage all readers to become familiar with all aspects of this most important piece of round rubber we all take for granted sometimes.  I have been stuck in the middle of nowhere with no spare and no way to fix a tire, and no cell service. I was very fortunate to have another  “wheeler” come along and offer assistance, otherwise the buzzards may have started circling overhead.   when the grid goes down that help may be a long time coming. - T.C. in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keep up the good work! Now that everyone knows the woes of removing a tire, does anyone check the spare tire to see if it holds air etc? Most people don't check the tires on a road trip, let alone daily driving or the condition of the spare tire. I would ask everyone to make sure the spare tire is not only inflated, but holds air for more than a day or two!

This should go before the first post: Do you have a proper (working) and weight-rated jack to lift the vehicle, and do you know where to place the jack, (i.e.: does the vehicle have a frame or or is it a unibody design)?

Do You know which wheels are locked by the parking brake? And more importantly, once the wheel is removed (if it was a parking brake wheel) how did you immobilize the vehicle so it doesn't roll and fall on you while the wheel is off? (i.e. wheel chocks)  

OBTW, I keep small (but professional) tire plug kits around all the time. (These include a reamer, plug tool, cement, etc.) . Regards, - Solar Guy

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The king of the hill when it comes to breaking loose lug nuts is the four-way lug wrench.

It is also called a "cross wrench" by some folks. I have used them since I was a child learning everyday fixes from my father in the 1960s. But beware of cheaply-made imports.

I have bent and actually broken a few of the cheap ones while helping friends break lugs loose on their vehicles using their cheap four way lug wrenches that I had told them not to buy, but they ignored my advise and went cheap. Sitting on a desolate dirt road, in the dark while in pouring rain 20+ miles from nowhere with a flat or blowout and a broken lug wrench is not my idea of fun.

While I cannot remember the manufacturer of the lug wrenches that I have (they are in my vehicles) but here is a link to a USA manufacturer of four way lug wrenches. I suggest anyone that is shopping for one (or more) to look at the web page and decide which one fits their needs (they make both standard and metric) and look for that exact model. As the saying goes; "Buy once, Cry once."

The Professional model wrenches have a drop forged center for extra strength, and can be found on Amazon with free shipping.

(I have no affiliation with either Ken Tool or - Tim P.


I have a comment on the prevention side of things concerning lug nuts.
A friend of mine who lives in southern Arizona had his tires rotated. This was performed by a major tire chain and the incident occurred a few years ago. The rotation occurred in his home town and he traveled north in cold weather.
On his return he encountered rather cold weather, below freezing actually. He had a tire failure of the sort not expected. As he was driving his right front tire was observed ahead of his vehicle which caused him to decide to stop...once the realization that it was his tire sunk in. Upon investigation he observed that all of the studs had sheared from the hub. He spent quite awhile on the side of the road pulling each of the other tires, removing a stud from each of the remaining hubs, then installing them into the failed hub just to get home.
Root cause was determined to be over torqued nuts on the failed hub. Turns out the major tire chain did not actually torque lug nuts to the recommended value at that time. Add an air rachet into the equation and and this was the result. Seems that as he was traveling in near arctic temperatures the hub cooled to the point where the studs shrunk to the point where the torque applied exceeded the shear value of the studs. Needless to say I observe my tire installations closely...and that same company now torques everything. - Kevin D.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Dear JWR,
Instead of a breaker bar, which while good to have is large and hard to store, I've found extendable lug nut wrenches to be the ideal compromise.  Easily twice as strong as the much thinner wrenches that come with the vehicle. The only caveat is that I'd recommend a long/deep wall socket that's the precise size of your lugs to ensure you don't damage and/or jam or lug nuts inside your socket...

I've tried both the Torin (sold at Wal-Mart stores) and the Grizzly (sold by with satisfactory success.  Both are over 20" extended, and even slightly longer than my OEM Toyota wrench when compacted.  At $20 per, they're much more economical than a breaker bar and socket extension (even if you're going the cheaper Harbor Freight route.)

JWR Replies: Thanks for that tip. But for durability, I prefer American-made tools. Sometimes you have to pay for quality...

Monday, September 30, 2013

If I might add my two cents to Albert's comments on Basic Mechanics Skill and Knowing Vehicular Limitations:  I was also inconvenienced with lug nuts being over-torqued. I bent the factory lug wrench in the process.   My dear spouse would have never been able to loosen one, much less five lug nuts. So I vowed to never again be put in that position again.  I made the assumption that the tire store torqued the lug nuts to factory specifications. They went far beyond that number. Apparently, many do.
My solution was far less high tech, EMP proof, and far less expensive: a 24-Inch breaker bar with a 1/2" drive for each vehicle.  Add the correct socket, and a six inch extension and you will never struggle with that aspect of a tire change again.   Get one for each vehicle and make it a permanent part of that vehicle's tool kit. - John T.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thank you for your contributions on SurvivalBlog. I read with interest the article on basic mechanical skills.  Changing a tire can be a difficult process,  last summer I had a blow out on a 100 degree day, found that changing a tire in the severe heat was a difficult task  and for an older man, and possibly dangerous.
I decided to decide to find a workable solution for this problem. At first I tried the 12 volt DC impact wrenches but found them unsatisfactory. My solution was to take a 1,700 watt inverter that I placed in a tool box along with a set of jumper cables to hook it to the vehicle battery, I run an electric impact wrench off the inverter, this will allow me to activate the jack, remove and replace the lug nuts, and winch down the spare. 
I also carry a 12 volt air compressor, some of the flat tire fixer in a can for punctures.   in one of the boxes I  also carry a tire repair kit.
with these tools at my disposal I can handle tire emergencies.
Thanks, - Albert from Pennsylvania

Thursday, September 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Basic mechanical knowledge and skills are something that any person who hopes to be successful in TEOTWAWKI must have. I am not speaking just about vehicles, but vehicles are an excellent avenue to learn them. I can only talk with authority on my own past, but I know that the wealth of much of my knowledge comes from my extensive background in working on cars.

I won't claim that any of this post is going to be something that you have never read before. Heck, I am willing to bet that you heard much of this speech by a parent or grandfather the day you turned 16. I know I did. And, like almost everyone in this country, I rolled my eyes.

Before you roll your eyes, I propose that we conduct a quick experiment.

I want you to drive down your local heavily used state highway or interstate, say, the one you drive on every day to work. Within 5 miles, you will see a broken down car. Now, the reason for this breakdown can and will vary. It could be because of a catastrophic motor event or a wreck,  but 90% of the time, it is there because the driver doesn't understand the basics of vehicle maintenance, the limits of the vehicle, or how to fix the vehicle in either event.

Tire Maintenance
What's the most common automotive issue I see on American's roadways? Flat tires. Flat tires claim more roadside breakdowns than anything else. And not because the tire went flat, but because the owner either didn't have a spare, the spare was flat, or most likely can't change the tire. Of these cars you see on the side of the road, how many have a jack underneath them, or a wheel propping the car up, and were simply abandoned mid-task? How many of them are just left there because they didn't have AAA? I have seen many a fine car left alone on the interstate for hours or days at a time.

Changing a tire is perhaps the simplest task a motorist can learn. And while it is simple, it teaches several lessons while also being a useful and money saving skill. These skills can save you valuable time and money in the every day world, while perhaps saving your life down the line. Changing a tire teaches many things including, but not limited to, the order of steps needed to complete an involved task, it teaches using a long handled tool to develop a moment to break loose lugs, balancing an unevenly weighed object, and even safety.

Now, for those of you who can change a flat tire, you realize that while it's an inconvenient, it isn't a big deal. For those of you who have practiced many times in your life, it is now a habit and can be easily fixed in a matter of minutes. Now, for those of you that can't....what does a flat tire cost you? Mere minutes? Or hours? Do you have to call someone to come help you? What about their time? Does it cost you money? How is your stress level when you miss something important?

Yet, many times the problem is deeper than that.  I remember as a teenager my grandmother regularly telling me that my tires looked flat and that I needed to put air in them. But I always ignored her until one day the rim cut the tire down and I had a blowout. I remember driving to Auburn one time and I had a nasty blowout because a randomly 100 degree day caused the tire pressure to increase beyond the capability of the tire. In either case, simply paying attention to the tires would have raised an alarm and I would have rectified the situation. Not to mention that it would have saved me several hundred dollars.  But, I wasn't in the habit of paying attention to my vehicle, neither by checking it out whenever I thought about it or paying attention to it's behavior on the road.

Here are many things that can tip you off to a tire issue, but all require the driver to be in tune to the vehicle:

  • Uneven wear on the treads. If it's worn on the outside, the tire pressure has been too low. If it's worn in the center, the tire pressure is to high.
  •  Does the care pull to one side or the other while driving? This could be a misalignment or one under inflated tire, which will also cause uneven wear. 
  • Is there a "wobble"? If so, you could have tread separation and a blowout could be imminent. 

Furthermore, great care should be taken while driving to limit the hazards to tires. 

  • Always avoid potholes. It may not seems deep or wide, and maybe you have run over thousands of them in your life. But it only takes the right one at the right angle and speed to cut down a tire. That's a a real bad thing to have happen at 70. 
  • Never run over objects on the road. IT may look like a piece of paper, but it could be a shard of metal or class ready to cut your tire. It may be a piece of plywood. Then again, it could be covered with nails. 

Now, how about understanding the limitations of your tires? For example, do you know what the capabilities of a type of tire might be? Do you know if the tires on your current vehicle can be used to go off-road, if the need arises? Conversely, do you know just how long to expect a set of off-road tires to last on the street? In the case of a damaged tire, for example, a cut you know how to accurately gauge the remaining usefulness of that tire? Or know how to extend it's life by lowering tire pressure and travel speed? In the event of a flat tire, do you know just how fast you can continue to drive on it if need be? Or how to know if you have traveled as far as the physical limits of the flat tire will allow? Do you know what the danger signs of a tire are and can you gauge the severity? For example, what it means when you see the steel belts sticking out of a tire? Do you know what the effective stopping distance in your car is in all weather conditions? Specifically, do you know the conditions of your tires and how they might perform i the rain? In all cases, it requires the drive to be in tune with their vehicle, which in this age of automation and luxury, makes it easy for people to ignore all these important signs. 

So, many of you are asking just how this might save your life in TEOTWAWKI. Let's talk about one of my posts from the 5 Stages of Preparedness. Specifically, Stage 1: The Immediate. Let's say you have identified a major threat to all cities, specifically the one you live in. While it is important to always take care of your vehicle for your everyday life, it could become vital to your survival. Specifically, if you have to get out of Dodge. You will have so many other things on your mind that you don't need to be worried about if your vehicle will get you where you need to go. Getting into habits such as checking tire conditions and pressure will go a long way to ensuring that at least the tires of your vehicle will hold up.  And, while you are on the go, you have to take care that you limit putting it in circumstances that it might fail you. Paying attention to driving conditions, specifically on the road, may save you minutes, hours, or even a dangerous circumstance that may claim others. For example, if almost everyone is trying to escape a city, the roadways will undoubtedly be extremely busy. There will be wrecks. There will be objects on the road. Slowing down, paying attention, and limiting the potential for cutting down you tires may save you when it may doom others. What if it' raining? Getting out is the priority, but knowing the effective stopping distance of your tires due to their physical condition could save you from a costly wreck. 

But things happen. Sometimes there are forces you can't control. What will you do then? Could you change a tire if you had to? More importantly, can you do it quickly and safely? Will it be such a habit that you can pay attention to your surroundings? What if you didn't already have a vehicle and you needed one. You find one on the side of the road, abandoned. Keys still in it. But the owner couldn't figure out how to use a jack. With 5 minutes work, you have secured potentially life saving transportation. We talked about understanding the limitations of the tire. Let's say that you know there is a potential problem developing that you have identified. You also know that stopping is not a possibility. Understanding the limitations of the tires may allow you to continue your path. While it may not be the optimum speed or method, it may be enough to put those crucial miles behind you. 

What does it take to learn this skill? Just time. Luckily for you, your car manufacturer gave you all the tools you would need. I am willing to bet that there are instructions on the back of the cover panel to the secret compartment that houses the jack and the breaker bar in the trunk of your car. So, take some time on a Saturday afternoon to find out where that compartment is. Pull the cover off, grab the tools, and follow the directions. I promise that even the slowest of you will only need to change the tire 3 times before you will have it down. Even if you don't believe in TEOTWAWKI, you have to believe in saving time and money. How about keeping you from walking down an interstate late one night to find a gas station? I can't think of anything more scary for a woman than the thought of having to start walking down the street to find help.

Indirectly, there is a lot of things a person can gain from learning the basics of tire maintenance. How about the money and time that you can save from simply being in tune with your vehicle by getting in the habit of paying attention to the little things. No one likes buying tires. That's a fact. Identifying potential problems like noticing the vehicle pulling to one side can save money by having it fixed early.  Maintaining the proper air pressure can maximize tire life, saving you money. Simply knowing how to change a tire can save you hours and stress. What about the things you can learn indirectly? Off the top of my head, I think about the cause and effect of air temperature and pressure. How about understanding mechanical properties and friction? If the tire is flat, the surface area increases, so the drag increases causing the car to pull to one side. How about using a breaker bar to overcome your own physical limitations of force? I know it all sounds simplistic to many of you. But I am not writing for those of you that understand. The average American knows virtually nothing about hands-on mechanical work of any kind. They have to learn it by living it. I can't think of a better way to learn than to do so while discovering a valuable skill that has definite uses in your daily life and potential use to save it. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

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

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

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

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

The Third Chapter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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

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

All the best, - Project Manager X.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

(Level II Scenario, continued)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

Government Relations

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

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

Local Area Relations

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

Job Security

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

Bugging Out

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

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

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


Level III Scenario

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


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

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

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

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

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

2 Timothy 4:7

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

to be concluded later this week, with some appendices.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hi Jim,
I'd like to mention another heavy duty come-along/manual winch you and your readers may be interested in.   It is built by a long time American manufacturer, Wyeth-Scott.  Please note the pull ratings are based on dead lift capacities and, as they state, pull ratings are approximately double those.  Please see their notes regarding rating differences between lifting and pulling.  A vehicle on a flat road or a tree, through mud, up a hill. Thanks, - Guy S. 

Dear Mr. Rawles, and Readers,
Always be careful where you place your fingers around come-alongs. I always warn people who are using them that ""these things are responsible for more amputations than any doctor in the world." This is an exaggeration, of course, but care is warranted. I still have all of my fingers, but when I was first using these tools, there were some near misses. - Sam in Nebraska

Monday, August 26, 2013

Reader L. in Tucson recent wrote to ask for some guidance on buying come-alongs for his new retreat ranch in northern Arizona. Here is my advice:

Ratchet cable hoists (commonly called "Come-Alongs") are crucial tools for life on a retreat and for off-road driving. They have umpteen uses for everything from wire fence stretching to lifting elk carcasses for butchering. These should be purchased in pairs, for the greatest versatility.  We keep four come-alongs here at the Rawles Ranch: Two that are 2-ton capacity and two that are 4-ton capacity.  All four are American-made, by Maasdam under the trade name Pow'R Pull. I highly recommend them.

I recommend that you carry at least one come-along--together with a tow chain and a choker chain--whenever driving off of paved roads in any season. And in winter months this gear should be carried even when traveling on pavement.

Keep your come-alongs well-oiled and out of the elements and they will give you many years of service. Inspect the cable after each use for any signs of fraying. Also, be sure to never attempt to crank on a cable when the spool is nearly empty. (Always have at least one and a half wraps on the spool, before you crank it under any load. (Otherwise, the cable's terminating "button" might shear off, and send your load plummeting!) - JWR

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hello Mr. Rawles,
Some thoughts on the recent post on Pulse and Glide driving (PGD), taking for granted that safety is always more important than fuel economy, and not considering any survivalist aspects:

I don't doubt the core claim made by Steven B. - that his use of PGD has reduced his fuel consumption. I am, however, skeptical about some of the other statements made in support. I note that while my comments are
based on my experience as an engineer and physicist, I have not done any tests of PGD versus other driving styles. If an actual automotive engineer writes in, please trust them and ignore me!

Disengaging the transmission and letting the engine idle while the car coasts is not necessarily the best advice. The fuel control system in a modern car does "cutoff on overrun." It will not open the fuel injectors
at all if it thinks that the car is "driving the engine". In this case letting the engine idle will increase fuel consumption since the engine must now burn fuel to avoid stalling. Exactly how modern the car must be
varies with manufacturer, but I would expect a 2008 vintage car to have this feature. Your car manufacturer can tell you, or you might be able to find out yourself with one of the myriad diagnostic port readers on
the market.

If you have cutoff on overrun the best thing to do on a downgrade is leave the transmission engaged. The fuel consumption will be reduced as the power from the descent replaces the power from the fuel. On all but
the mildest downgrade the descent will provide more power than necessary to idle the engine, fuel consumption will drop to zero, and you will have to use the brakes slightly to prevent picking up speed.

When using PGD on level ground the utility of cutoff on overrun is less clear. With the transmission engaged during the glide (and your foot off the gas!) the fuel consumption will still be zero, but the car will decelerate faster, making the next pulse come sooner, meaning more pulses and thus higher fuel consumption per trip. This would be interesting to test, if I could spare a few weeks and tanks (fuel here is about $ 9 USD per gallon). When approaching stop signs, lights, etc. you should have the transmission engaged to get the zero fuel consumption. There might be no reason to burn more fuel than at idle, but there is a
reason to burn less!

As you point out in there is a minor safety issue in having the transmission disengaged and thus being unable to quickly accelerate out of danger, though I can count on one finger the number of times I've had
to do this in twenty years of driving.

The advice to go easy on the brake pedal is spot on - brakes "throw away" the car's energy rather than using it to overcome drag or climb hills. In the long term the energy has to come from the fuel, so every
bit of braking is burning a tiny bit of fuel for no reason.

The advice to avoid engine braking is less well founded. Engine braking is exactly what's needed to activate cutoff on overrun (assuming the car can do it). And while it's certainly more stressful than idling it's
still a very small stress compared to acceleration. As Steven states, engine braking is not an effective (i.e. quick) way to slow down, and mild deceleration means mild stress. Compare any car's 0-60 time with
its 60-0 time using purely engine braking - the engine's working far harder during acceleration.

The advice on drag is correct, though the term should be "parasitic" drag. This point is actually the most important, and deserves to be at the top. For a given car with a fixed body shape and fixed accessory load (e.g. air conditioning) the biggest contribution to fuel consumption is drag a.k.a. air resistance. At city speeds it's a major component of the total fuel use. At highway speeds it's overwhelmingly the greatest.

If drag reduction is number one then load reduction is number two, and Steven's advice here is good. Air conditioning ("aircon") is likely the largest load and keeping it off will reduce fuel consumption but if you then open the
windows to keep cool the increased drag may negate the savings. Another interesting thing to test.

Headlights are a much smaller load than aircon, but you just might detect an improvement from keeping them off. Other electrical loads tend to be things you can't usefully and/or safely turn off, like fuel pumps,
power steering pumps, demisters, etc.

Not mentioned is the importance of keeping your tire pressure correct which I would rank number three, though the fuel consumption change between "correct" and "dangerously underinflated" is probably less than 5%.

The use of high octane a.k.a. premium fuel is debatable. On one hand modern engine control systems are smart enough to adjust the fueling and ignition to avoid knocking with whatever fuel they're using (within
reasonable limits!) On the other hand "premium" fuel here does not have the 5% ethanol that the regular does, which could create the appearance that "high octane" provides better range despite octane rating having
nothing to do with it. For what it's worth I follow Steven's advice - burn the cheapest fuel you can find that doesn't knock.

Regarding the core claim: I suspect the reason PGD is giving reduced fuel consumption is nothing to do with pulsing, gliding, idling, braking, or anything like that. I suspect it's simply that PGD results in a lower average speed. If a safe speed is (say) 60 mph, then driving normally you'll likely stick close to that, and maintain an average speed of 60 mph. If you repeatedly pulse to 60 mph then glide to 50 mph your average speed is somewhere around 54 mph.

54 mph is 90% of the non-PGD average speed. Since drag force is roughly proportional to speed squared, the average drag force is now 90% squared i.e. 81%. Since power required is roughly proportional to force
multiplied by speed the average power consumption is down to around 73% (81% force by 90% speed). In the long term power can only come from fuel, so power consumption is fuel consumption. These numbers are not perfect, but I think they're close enough to explain the observed 25% saving. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has compared driving with PGD, then normal driving at the same average speed, say for a month of each style.

My thanks to Steven for an interesting letter, and to you for SurvivalBlog. - Ross E.


Sorry, but I have to take exception with Steven B. and his use of this technique of PGD (Pulse and Glide) on public roads that must be shared with others.
I have seen this “technique” in use on the roadways here in Florida and while I never knew it had a name, it doesn’t surprise me. I always have thought of people using this driving “skill set” as the problem drivers or more commonly as “That A**hole”.
What you are doing is extremely dangerous to others moving at constant speeds and your sanctimonious technique of slowing down then suddenly speeding up, will inevitable causes someone to have to make an evasive maneuver or slam on their brakes because they were accelerating to get around you and your indecisiveness in not maintaining a more normal and acceptable speed.
In short you will be the cause of road rage in others.
I would suggest that you may want to rethink this dangerous practice – frankly it is likely to get you pushed into a ditch or shot in the event that you cross paths and upset someone of with a short fuse – especially in a SHTF or bug out situation. - G.W.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A while back, I remember reading a tantalizingly titled but substantively misleading news article about a group of junior high school students who built a “car” that attained a fuel efficiency of 150 mpg. After reading the story, my skepticism was confirmed that a bunch of junior high school students “out-engineered” those who engineer automobiles for a living, or more succinctly for profit. The vehicle they built was little more than a soap box racer with a Briggs and Stratton lawn mower engine; more of a go-cart instead of a practical conveyance.

What I did discover in reading the article was that the efficiency was much more attributable to simple driving techniques rather than technological innovation. I immediately saw the opportunity to save a few dollars. When I practiced and developed these driving techniques, it was no longer a matter of saving a few dollars. Upon extrapolating it out over the course of one year, it was over $300 which is quite substantive to me.
Pulse and Glide Driving (PGD) was the term used in the story and it very effectively captures the essence of the technique. It is not difficult to deduce the practical application from just those four words. I have applied this to my regular driving habits, which living in a major city suburb limits me to about 90 percent city driving conditions. I have proven that it does indeed work in stop and go traffic, although not as effectively as dramatically as it does in highway conditions. There are other factors I have also incorporated to further reduce the impact of fuel expenses on my wallet. I will mention them here as well, but be mindful that the bulk of the improved efficiency is gained by cyclical periods of moderate acceleration and coasting along in neutral.

First, let me tell you about my vehicle.  I do not have a good bug out vehicle. I drive a sensible commuter in the form of a 2008 Kia Rondo and my commute to work is less than two miles. In the South Florida summertime with the air conditioning running, it gets about 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. Using PGD, I routinely inflate those figures to 20 mpg city and about 25 mpg highway, and that is with the air conditioning still running. These figures represent approximately a 25 percent improvement without installing a penny’s worth of performance improving equipment or sacrificing environmental comfort. You would be totally surprised (or not) how important both those notions are driving around with three females; two of them under the age of eight.
The basic principles of PGD are very simple:

  • Accelerate to a good cruising speed and decouple the transmission (means shift into neutral for automatics or push in the clutch for standards). When in neutral, keep your foot completely off the accelerator. An idling engine burns little gas and keeps your hydraulic and electrical systems working to maintain steerage and braking capacity. Use your vehicle’s momentum to keep going down the road for as long as practical before re-engaging the transmission for another stretch of acceleration.
    NOTE: You may want to get the engine’s RPM up a bit from idle before re-engaging the transmission to reduce the mechanical stress on the power train as it begins to apply force to the ground again. This takes practice to get the transitions smoothed out and is not completely necessary.
  • Use downgrades to your advantage. Let gravity accelerate your vehicle while your engine sips the same amount of fuel as it does sitting at a stop sign. This is especially effective in hilly or mountainous areas. I have averaged 32+ mpg in West Virginia on a road trip; doubling my city mileage and by far my best record!
  • Shift into neutral when approaching red lights and stop signs. There is no reason to be burning any more fuel than at idle coming up to a place at which you know you need to stop. Additionally, other drivers (even those following closely behind you) will have little reason to become angry since it’s obvious why your speed is bleeding off.
  • Try to keep your cycles fairly even. By this I mean accelerate to your cruising speed, coast until about 10 mph have been bled off and accelerate again to cruising speed. There does come a point of diminishing returns if you coast to a dead stop before reaccelerating.
  • Do not use more braking than is needed. Every time you tap the brake pedal is energy burned off your brake pads instead of moving you down the road. Do not be fooled by “engine braking” either. Using an engine to slow your vehicle is not very effective and puts additional mechanical stress on your engine. Brake pads are much cheaper than engines and far easier to replace.
  • Do not make your target cruising speed too high as this will reduce your efficiency. Any pilot will tell you that induced drag is not a great thing to have more of when it is you paying the fuel bill. The faster you go, the harder the apparent wind pushes back on your vehicle no matter how aerodynamically it has been constructed.
  • Avoid accelerating too quickly as jackrabbit starts do not burn fuel as completely as does a moderate acceleration. If you are in a situation where you do need to move quickly as a matter of safety, then by all means punch it without a second thought. Fuel is far less expensive than life.

There are also a couple extra things you can do to stretch your tank’s range even more.

  • Reduce the load on the engine as much as possible. Air conditioning is something that you might not want to do without depending where you live, however the electrical load of headlights are totally unnecessary in clear daylight hours in all but the most unusual driving conditions. Any other high current devices should also be shut off or otherwise disabled when not needed.
  • Although ethanol blends are nearly universally distributed as the main gasoline fuel supply, search for pure gasoline retailers. Make trips there a couple times a year with your gas cans and rotate them accordingly. Pure gas contains no ethanol, burns more efficiently and will increase your mileage since an inefficient fuel is not being added. Go to and see if a retailer is open for business in your area.

This is all well and good, but there are times when you definitely should not use PGD techniques.

  • By constantly varying your velocity on the highway in heavy traffic, you are sure to earn the enmity of all who are driving behind you on cruise control. Exercise good judgment and employ PGD techniques only when conditions allow.
  • If you’re on a busy secondary road with traffic close behind you, do not make yourself a nuisance.  Just drive normally until you have a quarter mile or so of empty space behind you.
  • Do not accelerate to unsafe speeds in order to get the longest glide possible. If you have to ask why, then go find the nearest cast iron frying pan and beat yourself in the forehead because you are an idiot. A speeding ticket will negate half a year’s savings. Additionally, fuel savings are of little consequence to the dead. Keep it sane.
  • Do not expect to develop the technique too fast. If you are like me, get used to the idea of steering with your left hand a lot while operating the gearshift with your right. I was surprised how sore my left arm became on long trips. Other aspects of PGD require much practice to develop and you should not expect to be great at doing it right from the start. Be patient with yourself and the results will come as you put more thought into what you are doing.

Another thing to think about is by developing and refining these techniques is that you are not only going to save money now, but you are also extending the driving range of your vehicle. A tankful of gas that used to get me only 250 miles now gets me 300; more if I turn off the air conditioner, headlights and parking lights. In the less austere times that could lie ahead, this may be an important factor. If maximum range is of the most importance to you, use the highest grade premium gasoline you can get. For everyday driving however, use the lowest octane rating that provides acceptable performance without engine knocking or pinging. It’s also cheaper, which is the whole point here. Imagine the extra preps you could have after just one year!

If you are on the road to your retreat for a permanent move, incorporating these techniques could mean the difference between getting there with the fuel you can carry drawn from your own stocks or facing the reality of having to obtain more fuel along the way. It may be prohibitively expensive, dangerous to scavenge or outright unavailable at any price. Bring your jerry cans and have a few 5 Hour Energy drinks readily available-- you never know when you might need them.

JWR Adds: Be advised that coasting in neutral is banned in some jurisdictions, for safety reasons. "Gliding" can be hazardous in areas with traffic congestion. Also be aware that you can burn out your clutch if you don't fully disengage it during your "glides." FWIW, I used to turn my engine's ignition off just before very long downgrades (which is illegal in many jurisdictions.) But of course with modern steering column locks, this is no longer possible with most manual transmission cars and light trucks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I hope all is well. I noted your reply to this blog post: Letter Re: Can I Burn Home Heating Oil or Kerosene in a Diesel Engine?

You mention that home heating oil is nearly identical to diesel fuel. Three additional clarifications may be useful for your readers. The first is that depending on your locale and type of heating system, "home heating
oil" (HHO) may refer to a blend of different fuel oils, some of which may not be suitable for internal combustion. If you plan on using HHO in a diesel engine, ensure that it is Number 2 fuel oil.

Secondly, petrodiesel sold in the U.S. for use on roads is ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) (<15ppm), but some marine and off road diesel is still low sulfur diesel LSD (<500 ppm). Number 2 fuel oil (home heating oil) can contain up to 1,500 ppm of sulphur. This is important because diesel engines newer than 2010 (and some as early as 2007) can experience damage to their emission control systems with higher sulphur content.

Last, most HHO is treated with anti-smoke and antimicrobial agents, as is petrodiesel, but not always. Check with your oil provider to verify that it is. Otherwise, microbes which feed on the oil can clog your fuel filters, injectors, etc. If your fuel oil lacks antifungal and antibacterial agents, this can be easily remedied by adding an aftermarket biocide (e.g. Bio-Kleen).

In closing, I will note that one solution to this issue is to fill your home oil tank with 15 ppm off road diesel. It will burn perfectly fine to heat your home or business, and costs only a penny or two more than traditional Number 2 home heating oil per gallon. In the event of a disaster, you can have a ready supply of hundreds of gallons of fuel for your diesel engine.

Thanks for SurvivalBlog and God Bless. - Mountaintop

Monday, July 29, 2013

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

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

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mr Rawles,
I recently read a letter on your website that concerned and disturbed me.  A reader was asking for advice on what to do when they lost their right to self defense when they were traveling to California and how to bring their firearms to the state when visiting.  The issues I take with the e-mail and hope to help the reader understand are that you never lose your right to self defense, no matter where in the world you travel.  Self defense is an inherent right that can be taken from us by no one.  Secondly, self defense does not begin at the end of a pistol, self defense begins in your mind and the attitude you must have when you are prepared to defend yourself and the things you have chosen to defend. 

I happen to live in California and know full well the multitude of laws related to gun control which also happen to vary by location as well.  However, these laws cannot prevent anyone from defending themselves.  While there are agricultural check points upon arrival into California that you can get caught bringing "illegal" firearms into the state, the chances of these laws effecting anyone while traveling through our massive state are very slim.  I'm not saying that your readers should break the law and take chances but I'm also saying that one of the state's biggest commercial crops is marijuana, which is still illegal to grow commercially.  The chances of one of the laws effecting a short term traveler are very slim.  Any time you must travel to any location, you must be aware of this issue and bringing your firearms while traveling is always a dangerous proposition.  

The question therein lies with how do you defend yourself and while I know this has been addressed before, self defense begins way before anyone pulls a trigger.  Self defense is about alertness and an attitude to be ready for events as they unfold.  Being alert and knowing your surroundings can help people avoid bad situations far more than having a gun in a holster.  While I have the benefit of years of hand to hand combat training, anyone who has not would probably feel much more comfortable traveling through life having undergone the self defense training and mental preparedness to gain confidence that you can successfully negotiate any situation that may arise.  Even if you feel you are incapable of self defense via the hand to hand method, there are many methods of self defense that you can rely on prior to needing a gun.  I have always looked to my tools that I can always easily travel with to provide an additional level of security including chef's knives, small camping axes and other items that can have an easily explainable purpose to customs officials or the local police. 

Thanks for reading, - N. in California

JWR Replies: As I once mentioned in the blog, carrying dual purpose tools is all about context. Be sure to research your state and local laws--including fish and game laws--before carrying any dual use weapons. Some of the Nanny State jurisdictions now have laws on the books that have made their use, and in some cases even mere possession, illegal. The context in which they are seen by authorities is often crucial in justifying the legal possession of weapons or dual use items. A spear gun by itself in the trunk of your car would probably be seen as a "weapon", but one that I stowed in a dive bag, along with a mask, snorkel, fins, diving flag, a current fishing license, and a copy of the current year's fishing regulations would be seen as innocuous. Ditto for a baseball bat, that by itself could be misconstrued as a weapon. But if stowed in a dufflebag bag along with balls, gloves, and a batting helmet would look quite different. A flare gun by itself in the glove box of your car would be viewed as a major no-no in many jurisdictions, but one that is stowed in a box or bag in your car trunk along with an air horn, nautical charts, current tide tables, and a GPS receiver could easily be explained.

And then of course there are road flares, which require no explanation to carry in a vehicle. A lit 15-minute road flare can be quite intimidating.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I have a question that maybe you or the readers and contributors of Survivalblog can help on:

Relocation of residence from one State to another (for example in my case - from New Hampshire to South Carolina) - and transport of ammunition and smokeless reloading powder and primers.

The commercial Moving Companies, or using the "PODS" self-packed units all seem to prohibit their transporting any "Hazardous" materials such as reloading powder and primers, and Ammunition.

My Question is in regards to the best way to get a somewhat substantial collection and accumulation  of Ammunition moved InterState ?  We're probably talking several thousand pounds, such as multiple cases of "spam cans" of 7.62x45 and other calibers.

I originally thought I could rent a "PODS" transport/storage unit, get it delivered to my house, and pack it myself, so that no one but I know the POD contents. However, reading the rules of the PODS agreement, this type of material does not appear to be allowed.

What is the Solution to get a large quantity of Ammo moved to the new residence. Selling it and purchasing new replacement after the move is out of the question in these days and times, as the lack of availability and price or replacement is out of the question.

Rent a U-Haul truck or Trailer and pack it myself and  transport myself ?  
Invest in a Truck that can haul a trailer and haul it myself this way , in probably multiple trips ?

Are there any laws to be concerned with driving a vehicle through States like New York and New Jersey with a load of this type ?

Any thoughts you may have on this problem will be appreciated ! Thanks, - "HikerLT"

JWR Replies: I'm sure that some readers will want to chime in, but in essence the only safe and secure way to transport your ammo is to transport it yourself, with a rental truck.When transport valuables, if the distance requires an overnight stay, I always pick a small "mom and pop" one -storey motel and ask for a room where I can back the truck up directly outside the motel room's window. Also, see the SurvivalBlog archives about the merits of high security "hockey puck"padlocks.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dear Jim,
I notice that 5.56 is again getting an unrealistically bad rap.  It's not as powerful as many other rounds, but some online epithets seem to suggest you can hide behind a sheet of paper and be safe.

As a reminder, I'd like to repost the following demonstrations from the fine folks at Box O' Truth:

There are certainly better rounds for long range and heavy targets (I like 8mm Mauser, myself), but don't dismiss a threat because he "only" has 5.56mm.

Oh, and off topic, but of interest: How .410 revolvers stink as defensive weapons.

- Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor at Large

Thursday, June 13, 2013

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Over at the One Scythe Revolution web site, Peak Oil expert Richard Heinberg states that in order to continue to grow the same amount of food in the future, without the use of cheap oil, we will need 40-to-50 million farmers, farming 3-to-50 acres each, cultivated with hand tools. No, not like in the Middle Ages. We are talking about "appropriate technology" here.

But let's face it, "appropriate technology" is wielded by slaves. Masters wield guns. Slaves wield scythes.

Here is quote: "One good scythe per farm, could revolutionize small-scale farming." I kinda feel like this has already been done.

I think the author of this tripe has never actually farmed on a large scale and has no sense of the man hours required. Also, mild steel work-hardened with a hammer and honed with slate was state of the art, around the year 900.  Carbon steel that can be heat treated has been the cool setup since around 1100 AD.  More recent alloys allow even better toughness along with light weight.  While the Austrian design may be better, it would still benefit from modern materials.

Then, of course, even 19th Century horse-drawn harvesters were tremendously more efficient:  

"Draft horses are used at Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS to harvest and stack the annual hay crop. The stacks keep the hay preserved until winter when it is fed to the site’s livestock.
The hay harvesting process involves five steps: cutting, drying, raking, gathering, and stacking.

Upon reaching maturity in mid-summer, the hay is cut with a horse drawn mower. The team of horses, mower, and operator go round and round the field cutting a 5 foot swath with each round. Once the cut hay has dried, the draft horses are hooked up to either a side delivery or dump rake. The rakes are used to put the hay into long windrows. The horses are then hooked to a buckrake. The buckrake has fork like teeth that sweep under the windrows and gather them up into large hay piles. The piles are then taken by the buckrake to either an overshot or beaverslide hay stacker. The hay stackers utilize a pulley and cable system powered by horses to gain leverage to lift the hay piles off the ground and drop them into the haystack.
Demonstrations of the equipment used to harvest and stack hay will be given by Grant-Kohrs Ranch staff and horses."

And other animals can serve for various processes that are presently done with internal combustion engines--such as goats for clearing brush.

As far as forging scythes, without modern powered forges and induction furnace, either one mines coal, or uses every man in the village for a week to do a large scale charcoal burn to manufacture fuel.

- Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor At Large)

JWR's Comment: If the Hubbert's Peak predictions are right, then the best places to be will be those with rich soil and plentiful hydroelectric power. Scythe? Check. Battle rifle? Check. Electric ATV that can pull a Plotmaster? Check. Electric power (with batteries) is not quite as versatile and lightweight as fossil fuel-powered machinery, but it sure beats doing it all by hand.

Perhaps the new rule book will be written by those who can afford horses, harness, horse-drawn hay mowers and enough land to provide sufficient hay for the requisite winter feed (which can be harvested with those same horses).

Only freeholders with both productive farm land and guns will remain free.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On the morning of August 29th, 2005 we came face to face with TEOTWAWKI in the form of Hurricane Katrina.  An estimated 92% of our community in Pascagoula, Mississippi was inundated with a storm surge of 20-30 feet and 30-55 feet sea waves.  The surge waters traveled well inland, between 6-12 miles and combined with freshwater flooding from our numerous creeks, rivers, and the runoff from the Mobile, Alabama reservoir that opened its flood gates to relieve stress on the dam.  This basically cut Jackson County in half.  Fortunately the worst of the storm hit in the morning just as it was becoming daylight or our losses of 12 souls would have been much higher had it made landfall in the dark of night.  Even though, it took almost two weeks before they found and were able to claim one of the fallen, a young child, because she was under an enormous  20-30 foot high by at least 100 feet in diameter debris pile a block up from the beach.  The devastation completely destroyed all of our basic services: electricity, communications, water, natural gas, and sewage and covered most of the town with debris piled 8 feet or higher.  The storm’s impact was such that the entire state was declared a disaster zone and it knocked out the power to over 98% of the state and damaged 100% of the states power plants.

When we were finally able to walk around and assess the situation after most of the waters receded, we counted ourselves as lucky because most of the houses in the neighborhood where we rode out the storm appeared structurally sound and there weren’t that many trees down.  Even though everyone knew things were going to be tough for a while, we didn’t count on it taking at least two weeks to restore water, another 1-2 weeks after that to restore some semblance of power and telephone services to our temporary abode.  This appeared to be the norm for most parts of town that sustained “minimal” damage.  As it was, it took over three months before it was restored in our neighborhood, not that it mattered as it was uninhabitable and eventually had to be bulldozed down but that as they say is a tale for another day.

Like most storm veterans living on the Gulf Coast, we had planned and prepared but Mother Nature has an inane way of pointing out the futility of all of mankind’s best laid plans.  Yes, we might have possibly been able to evacuate but deemed it in our best interest to hunker down with some friends and ride it out.  After all, we were staying in a well built home on some of the highest ground in town and at least a mile from the beach.  Besides, reports from other family and friends were that the roads were so congested (1-2 million evacuees from 4 states will do that don’t you know) that it was taking over 12 hours just to get as far north as Hattiesburg, a mere 95 miles north and that there wasn’t any hotel rooms available all the way up to Tennessee and even if you could find one, what would we do with our combined 10 pets?  Besides, how safe would it have been to ride out the storm on some desolate stretch of highway in a vehicle, especially with all of the tornados that Katrina spun off, 51 in total in at least 5 states with 11 of those in Mississippi alone?

So, the hatches were battened down and our storm plan was initiated.  First, was securing and inventorying our combined vital medicines, foodstuffs, pet food, drinking water, batteries, candles, grill and camp stove fuels, cleaning supplies, bleach, anti-bacterial gel, clothing, important papers and computer hard drives, tools, firearms, and cash.  Previously, all of the vehicles were gassed up along with all of the gas cans and the generator was prepped and stored high.  The ice chests, freezers and fridge were stuffed with ice and the most perishable foodstuffs were ready for immediate consumption in the event of a prolonged power outage.  The television and storm radio were tuned to the appropriate channels and the bathtubs were filled to capacity to provide general use water for cleaning and flushing.  The attic access was opened and some basic essentials like: food, water, axe, rope, flashlights, etc.  Just in case.  The outdoor surroundings were checked and a few boats in the neighborhood were identified that could potentially be used in a pinch.  All told, we had enough foodstuffs to last 6 adults and 10 animals for 2-3 weeks and at least a weeks worth of fresh drinking and cooking water as long as we were frugal.  Ah, hindsight is truly bliss now isn’t it.

During the height of the storm, when it became apparent that we would be receiving flood water into the house, everyone rushed throughout the house to empty out the lower cabinets and drawers and closet floors, placing everything as high as possible and even opening up the attic and placing more essential supplies and tools up there in case we had to seek higher ground.  Once, the homeowner and I braved the elements to go outside and unlash the next door neighbor’s small boat (they smartly evacuated early on) from its trailer and re-tied it off to keep it from sinking or floating away.  While doing this, we were obliged to add another soul to our motley crew by rescuing a man from drowning out in the street.  He was delirious and starting to suffer from hypothermia so we wrapped him up into a wool blanket and laid him up on a long dresser in the foyer.  Later, it was learned that he woke up when his head bumped against the ceiling of his bedroom and that he had to dive down and swim out of his bedroom window to safety!  He had the clothes on his back, no socks or shoes and a small empty suitcase.

We tried unsuccessfully to get a passing fire truck loaded down with EMT and rescuers to take him, in case he needed additional medical care but they said we appeared to have things under control.  Besides they were headed south into the teeth of the storm to rescue people clinging to roofs along with an apparent heart attack victim.  Later, two guys in a “commandeered” boat came by headed south but, on their return, the boat was overloaded with people they had rescued.  All total, they passed by 6 or 7 times, and each time the boat was filled to the gills with rescued souls.  Later, we learned that they had rescued over 100 people before the receding waters necessitated docking the boat in their front yard.  I’m pretty sure that that tidbit of knowledge didn’t make the media airwaves.  Of the untold hundreds of similar acts of heroism conducted during and immediately after this catastrophic event by our local emergency personnel and citizenry, I felt compelled to add it because in the end, we all need to have a little hope and faith in our fellow man.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, it became quite apparent that we needed to re-assess our predicament and adjust accordingly.  My wife and I knew that our house that sat at a much lower elevation closer to the beach would be untenable so we gladly took our friends offer to stay with them until we could assess it later.  They were extremely fortunate in that their home, where we rode the storm out, only had 2-3 feet of water go through it and that the structure was virtually unscathed from the ravages of felled trees and flying debris which meant that at least temporarily we would have a roof over our heads and a somewhat habitable place to stay providing everyone pitched in and acted quickly to mitigate the flood damage.  This consisted of removing all floor coverings down to the slab, all of the upholstered furniture, wall sheetrock from the floor to six inches above the visible flood line, and anything else that cannot be scrubbed and taking it to the side of the road.  Next was scrapping up as much of the storm water sludge off of the floors and all heavily coated horizontal and vertical surfaces possible and depositing it at the roadside too.  Some of our precious potable water stored in large 5 gallon containers with copious amounts of bleach and general purpose disinfectant soap was used to wipe down and clean one of the bathrooms, the kitchen and dining room, and a couple of bedrooms.  It took a full 2-3 days of steady cleaning by all hands to get the house sanitized for habitability.  The surge destroyed our large reserves of fresh water in the bathtubs due to the force of the flood waters backing up through the sewage system drains.

It is vital that you sanitize every surface that could have even remotely come in contact with the flood waters because they not only contain sea water and sewage, they are also full of chemicals from industrial waste and numerous other biological and toxic substances.  In our case, there was the addition of some of the foulest smelling primordial ooze from the nearby savannahs not to mention an old medical dumpsite from a former leper colony on one of the barrier islands and numerous chemical and gas refineries.  This mire coated everything in town with inches of nasty, foul smelling and toxic ooze turning the whole city into a gigantic Petri dish rife with disease and bacteria.  It was three days before I could make the first journey out of the neighborhood to inspect our property and in those 3 days, our house was filled with every color and shape of mold that you can imagine.  It literally covered the inside of the entire house from floor to ceiling so, I cannot stress enough that the first priority in such an event is to sanitize everything.

This is also a good time to remove any large appliance that was submerged along with any other furniture and belongings that will not be repaired or restored.  Just make sure to take photos and inventory all items being tossed to the road for insurance purposes and be prepared to fight the appraisers in the event the city is able to quickly remove those items.  One of our biggest fears after the storm was that of fire because the entire city looked like one giant maze with debris piles 10-20 feet high lining every street for months after the storm.  It seems as though we went at least two months before it rained again which meant we constantly had to battle the potentially deadly dust and the oppressive sweltering heat, this is South Mississippi after all!

Fortunately, we were able to salvage the mattresses on the beds because they floated on top of the box springs, all of which was set out to thoroughly dry in the sunlight the day after the storm after being wiped down with bleach water.  Everything gets washed or wiped down with bleach water and sun dried so eventually, all of your clothes become severely faded and thread bare after time.

Temporary power and transportation was next on the agenda and even though the generator was submerged after tipping over off of the raised supports that we set it on, we were able to salvage it and get a couple of box fans and table lamps going as well as powering a couple of fans and lights for one of the next door neighbors.  If we ever have to do this again, I think suspending it from rafter eyebolts on rope or cables may be in order.  In the beginning, we only ran the generator at night because of the fuel shortage.  Because fuel was basically non-existent for the first month or so, we augmented our diminishing supply by removing the gas tanks off of the three new vehicles that “died” during the storm and filtering out the water from the gas by emptying them into a large 55 gallon drum and letting the water settle to the bottom before dipping out the gas to fill our jugs.  Make sure to place this drum outside away from the living and cooking areas but still close enough to guard against looters.  We were fortunate that my venerable 1984 Ford Bronco and 1989 Ford F-150 started right up and didn’t have any water in the oil or gas tanks.  The trannys had water in them but as our friend worked for the local Ford dealership and their main repair shop was spared from the flooding and had adequate generator backup, he was able to replace the fluids within a few days so we had transportation until we were able to replace them about six months later.  We were lucky during that time because unlike so many others, neither of these vehicles burst into flames from corroded or shorted wiring.  This was probably due to the fact that they were raised higher than normal and their cabins weren’t submerged in the flood waters.  It wasn’t until months later that I discovered that the flood water had gotten into the rear ends through a rubber vent hole, needless to say, I wound up replacing the rear end on the pickup to extends it life until we could replace it so, make sure to drain, flush, and replace with new, the fluids in the rear ends and 4x4 lockers.

An important note here about transportation is to make sure you have plenty of tire repair supplies as we must have repaired at least 20 flats that first month alone and even had to acquire another tire after we found the cast aluminum head of an old fashioned meat tenderizer imbedded in the side wall after one of our forays across town seeking supplies.

Another note on “salvaging” your vehicles is the electrical system.  A lot of folks spent enormous effort and time in drying out their cars and trucks and getting them to run to no avail as many of these same vehicles later caught fire as the electrical systems shorted out.  So, if you have to resort to this please add a fire extinguisher or two to your survival kits for such emergencies.  I had to stop two cars coming down the road within the first few months because they were on fire underneath the vehicle and the occupants didn’t know it!

The mechanic had to go back to work within a few days because his services were in high demand at the dealership as it became the main repair facility for all of the emergency vehicles.  He was their only front end specialist and in high demand because the poor road conditions were reeking havoc on those vehicles.  At any given time, there were 20 -30 vehicles with license plates from all over the country there seeking maintenance or repair of some sort for months on end.  That basically left it up to me make the twice daily trips to the county fair grounds for food, water, and ice to distribute to the folks of our old neighborhood as well as our “new” neighborhood.  I cannot stress enough the fact that you never turn anything down because whether or not you need it, someone else in the neighborhood will!  Additionally, knowing the locations of facilities rendering assistance by way of beds and hopefully hot food is vital as this will aid you immensely when you come across people wondering around aimlessly due to the trauma they experienced.  One notable experience I had was with a family of four, including two small elementary age children.  I had observed them walking around for a day or two before it dawned on me that they were still carrying the same bundles of stuff.  After stopping them, their story was one of complete despair as they had been walking the streets for the better part of a week because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  A passing National Guard truck loaded with MREs gave me the location of one such center so, I loaded them all up and of to that wonderful church made famous by Ray Steven’s squirrel song we went!  A few days later while dropping off a few more unfortunates,  I was told that one of the many charity groups was helping to relocate the family.

In the beginning, water and ice are vital to your survival and as such, must be stretched to its fullest potential.  Our wives came up with a great simple process for extending the usefulness of ice.  They set up a simple linear process using the four 100 quart Igloo ice chests that we had as the basic line with two smaller Igloo ice chest to hold any excess ice we happened to acquire.  The first chest was raised up on a sturdy chair and contained all of our foodstuffs and medicine that needed to be cooled, packed in loose ice (some ice is also placed into sealed containers to thaw as a means to augment drinking and cooking water).  To the right, sitting on the ground so that the drain plug of the first chest could drain directly into it with little effort was the second chest.  This chest served as our bathing and dish washing water.  It was sanitized with bleach because an inadvertent germ or two could be in the drained water from our hands accessing the items in the first chest.  You bathed by dipping wash clothes into the bleach water and wiping yourself clean.  Bathing was augmented by squirting GermEx with Aloe Vera directly onto a damp wash cloth and wiping oneself off.  While crude, it kept you clean, provided a refreshing tingle from the alcohol in the GermEx and aided in disinfecting any minor sores or scratches you have.  After the dishes were washed, the water from the 2nd chest was transferred to the third chest sitting to its right and then the 2nd chest was sanitized with clean bleach water making it ready for the next use.  The 3rd chest was used to our wash clothes and the 4th chest sitting to its right was used to rinse the clothes prior to hanging out on makeshift clothes lines.  The water in the 4th chest was clear water that came from sundry sources, e.g. excess ice runoff from the extra storage chests, suspect bottled water that was overheated in the sun, and later on pond water from the local park once we were informed it was safe for non-food use.  Because it was suspect, it was always adequately bleached.  After the clothes were washed, the water from the 3rd chest was used for mopping the floors and wiping off non-food areas.  The water from the 4th chest was used to rinse off everything that was washed with water from the 4th chest.  All excess water from the chests was either used to refill the bathtubs for toilet flushing water or kept in buckets in case of fire and later sprinkled throughout the yard and driveway to cut down on the dust.

Our close encounter with the Post-Apocalyptic TEOTWAWKI event named Hurricane Katrina has not only left an indelible mark upon us but has made us stronger because we survived it and has taught us a few things about ourselves and mankind in general that everyone can learn from.  Here are the 10 biggest that readily come to mind:

First and foremost, in the event you are forewarned with an approaching disaster like Hurricane Katrina, do not hesitate. Evacuate.

Second, no amount of planning can cover every contingency so be prepared to improvise.

Third, 3-7 days of supplies are completely inadequate because it can take up to 2-3 weeks before regular and consistent support from outside sources becomes available.

Fourth, everyone impacted that survives is just that, a survivor so you had better be ready to get over stupid prejudices because you either survive together or perish individually.

Fifth, you are going to have to work hard so, accept your fate and “hitch up your drawers” and get at it.  The first responders are going to need your assistance so that they can provide the aid you need.  Everything that you can do initially be that clearing roadways, sharing resources, making signs to identify streets or people in dire need, assisting neighbors, scrounging, and safeguarding will only improve your lot in the aftermath.

Sixth, maintain your vital inoculations for Tetanus, hepatitis, etc.  Get your booster shots.  Thankfully for us, the nurse in our family went over and above to seek us out and administer all of those vital inoculations.

Seventh, get your pets looked at ASAP if they are subjected to flood waters, we almost lost two of ours.  Fortunately, a dear friend that worked as a Vet tech was able to bring and administer the needed antibiotics to save their lives.

Eighth, more people die or are seriously injured after the storm than during it due to accidents while cleaning up, stress, heat exposure, microscopic critters in the surge water, disease, improperly stored or cooked food, poisonous insects and snakes, exposure to the elements, etc.  If you do not have any experience with the art of using a chainsaw to fell trees or cut them off of your house then please, seek the assistance of someone who has this knowledge!  Observe each other and don’t hesitate to seek medical assistance for even the most basic of wounds, especially if you haven’t kept up on your inoculations.

Ninth, an openly well armed citizenry tends to keep the wolves and looters at bay as they are mainly cowards seeking to prey on easy targets.  Down here after a storm, everyone just assumes that everyone is “packing” so, everyone just generally seems to be much more calm and cooperative.

Tenth, thank all those “outsiders” that show up to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding because 99% of them are there to genuinely help.  Especially show your appreciation to all of those folks manning the stationary kitchens and food trucks.  Some of the best hot meals I ever had came from the church group around the corner running a kitchen and the Red Cross and Salvation Army food trucks.

Lastly, keep the faith as it will see you through to the bitter end.  Even though it’s been almost 8 years now since that fateful day, we are still recovering from Katrina, at least economically but hey, material objects are just that, stuff, easily replaced when you get the resources should you desire to do so.  Remember, not everyone will be made financially whole after such an event but hopefully you’ll still have your health not to mention the most important asset of all, your truly good friends and family.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards, - S.L.


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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless, - Arizona Slim


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 10, 2013

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

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

Friday, May 3, 2013

I received the following from an embedded mil-blogger friend.  His personal information has been redacted:

If I may, I would like to share some information with you.  Some is based on personal experience, and some comes from experts I know and trust.  What you do with this is up to you, but I wanted you to have it to think about just in case.  

First, I can commend an I-phone app (should be available for other platforms as well) that the Army had suggested to me called IED Aware.  It is actually pretty much the basic Army awareness course (pre-deployment) done as an app.  Maker is, that does other education and training apps as well.  Not sure if it is free or not, but quite a few of the study apps are.  

Something I can share with you based on experience is that situational awareness is the key.  But, not just in trying to spot something -- you need it to be prepared for realistic options.  

Visually and otherwise scout your AO immediately.  You are not just looking for potential IED sites, you need to get an idea of cover options.  Concealment is NOT cover.  Things that can hide you from view are concealment, not cover.  Cover is something that can protect you from bullets, blast, and fragments.  Cover is concrete, it is thick metal as in armor or even the engine block of a car, it is a ditch, a culvert, or other thing that can stop/deflect incoming.  And, yes, cover can help deflect a blast wave, as they are strange creatures that can and do bounce, deflect, and reflect.  Buy me a beer and I will tell you of one (non-IED generated) I know first-hand caused a relocation of a wall without breaking a pane of glass in that glass wall.  

You need to know cover not just for yourself, but if something happens you need to be able to direct people away using as much of that cover as realistically possible.  So, scout, plan, and plan options so that you do not have to think about things if something happens, but can assess and be proactive in an emergency.  Having to stop and think can and does get people killed.  Plan ahead. 

Then, scan the area thinking of where an IED can be easily concealed (trash can, paper bin, etc.) and check those for anything suspicious.  It looks suspicious, call out and call in.  Clear the area, and hunker down in a place that gives you as much cover as possible yet still allows you to control the cleared area to keep idiots and others from wandering in.  

If the area is clear, scan for distance markers.  One of the most common currently is a plastic grocery bag tied to a branch or otherwise secured; but, the key is to look for something out of place and or a series of things that also happen to be a uniform distance apart.  Just as we use distance and aiming stakes, so to does the enemy.  While it is often that such a bag or other signal marks the spot of the IED, it can also be a trigger point so that a vehicle or group moving at a steady speed will be in the blast zone if the remote detonator is triggered as they pass that point.  Using this method, someone can be at home or a nearby bar watching an event on television and know when to dial the phone or press the button.  If you see something that could be a distance/location marker, call out and call it in.  If that marker is near a culvert or sewer line under the street, it needs to be checked out immediately.  Admittedly, IEDs in such are mostly for vehicles, but… 

It is doubtful that most terrorists would try to bury anything, but do keep an eye out for a freshly plowed or dug flower bed or such, just in case.  

Watch for suspicious behavior.  Someone moving a bit too nonchalantly, exceedingly nervous, obviously drunk or on drugs with a coat or such over themselves (amazing how many suicide bombers have to have chemical enhancement to do the job), or someone who may or may not be praying but has a look on their face and/or in their eyes that really can't be described other than to say that when you see it, you know it.  They will usually move confidently and force their way towards their destination no matter what, and one hand is usually at their side or in a pocket.  It's not just someone moving in quickly, dropping a backpack or other container and then moving away, it is a host and range of behaviors that don't fit the norm.  If you spot someone like this, don't approach if at all possible, but here stay calm, talk normally and call in and have LE come and intercept the person.  

If an IED goes off, take cover.  If possible, choose cover that provides overhead cover as well.  Roll under a vehicle, concrete bench, etc.  If there is no cover, go flat:  shrapnel tends to go out in a cone, and if you can get under the cone, all you have to deal with immediately is blast effect.  Quite a few wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan from incoming happen because people kept trying to run to a duck and cover or other shelter, instead of going flat.  You hear blast, or get an incoming warning, you go flat if you can't make shelter in about five seconds.  

Keep in mind that immediate shrapnel is only part of the issue:  blasts like that tend to toss things in the air, sometimes substantial things.  That's why if you can get to cover that provides overhead cover, you should.  Keep in mind that in Boston, parts of the bomb were found on a rooftop some ten stories up.  Debris can be coming down for up to a minute after a blast.  If there is no cover, after the initial blast front and shrapnel wave has passed, you go turtle (legs and arm under you, head back so your helmet goes over back armor as much as possible) or squat with your feet flat, knees to chest, back to blast, and hands over head so that you make the smallest possible area from a vertical perspective.  

Next, know that there are likely to be more explosions, as various online manuals (and generally smart terrorists) will do secondaries or even tertiaries to get first responders.  You will have seconds to a couple of minutes to regroup, try to get people moving in a safe direction, and get set for the next blast.  Use it well.  

For any form of IED, tourniquets are essential.  In Boston, we saw a lot of improvised and it is likely that we will have to do so at need as most IGR do not have combat tourniquets.  People are going to be screaming, there's going to be blood and debris, and triage needs to be with traumatic amputations first and foremost.  If a limb is gone, or just about gone, get the tourniquet on as low as possible on the limb and as quickly as possible.  Then worry about shrapnel wounds.  Know that if they follow standard doctrine, bleeding is going to worse because the shrapnel was coated with rat poison, warfarin, which is known medically as Coumadin.  It is an anti-coagulant, and the idea is to get as much as possible into the wound to make the victim bleed out.  

Now, to something I put last because it is against most current doctrine.

One thing that is not to the liking of academics and other rear-echelon types is that you want to see if there is a dump point in your immediate AO.  A dump point is something that will reduce blast effects and shrapnel.  Good foxholes have a grenade sump for this, when you are on foot or at an event, you don't have that but you do have other options.  Keep in mind that blast waves, no matter how powerful, like to follow the path of least resistance as much as possible.  You want to spot a dump point in advance because sometimes you roll snake eyes don't have a lot of options.  A dump point can be a concrete road barrier, a dumpster, a sewer opening, or anything that gives thicker sides and no top or a weak top.  You dump an IED into such, it will be destroyed, but most of the blast and shrapnel is likely to go up, not out; and, what does go out will not go out as far.  

Two quick scenarios under this heading.  First, someone drops a bag of some type nearby and takes off running.  If they do that, things are out of control on both sides and your options are very limited.  If they have dropped it, and there is no boom, the odds of it having any form of movement trigger are slim to none.  If they are running, they are panicked and no longer thinking and can trigger immediately or even forget to do so.  If it is a timed bomb, then they may be running because time is running out -- but you have time to think and act.  Right then, you have to make a choice.  

First thing you do, is get people to get down and/or move away as quickly as possible, because even if it is someone playing a "joke" on security, you have to treat it as real.  If you are that close, there are few realistic options for survival unless you have a dump point planned.  Get the bag to the dump point, then try to get people and yourself away if no immediate boom, and do so as low as possible.  If you hear any noise from the direction of the bag, go flat.  You can't help anyone if you are dead.  The second scenario is a suicide bomber near/next to you.  Your only viable option is to try to control them, get them into the dump point, and try to get away.  Odds are you won't, but you are pretty much out of options at that point anyway.  If you are within about 15 feet of either, odds are that you are going to die, the only difference being how many die with you. - X.

- Michael Z. Williamson (SurvivalBlog Editor at Large)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Thanks again for the recent posting on my piece: Local Food and Energy from Top Lit Up Draft Micro-Gasification Stove. That was much appreciated!

Are you tracking woodgas powered vehicles?

You may have heard of it from WWII stories and FEMA manual.

The old systems worked in emergencies, but were not really practical for long term use.

Wayne Keith has a new book just out on practical applications, Have Wood Will Travel. In it are detailed instructions for building, operating, and maintaining a modern woodgas powered vehicle.

Wayne has tinkered his way into the first system that is practical (in areas with abundant wood or stemmy biomass) for modern fuel injected engines. It works okay in carbureted engines as well. He has been driving all over the US on wood power for almost 8 years now. Longest single trip, 7,000 miles, also holds the LSR for wood power at just under 80 mph. I have ridden with him at higher speeds, but in his first trip to Bonneville he mostly just learned a lot about the protocols. He can go a lot faster.

Auburn University did a study on his design running on gasoline and wood. His 318 Dodge Dakota gets better BTU-to-energy conversion from wood than from gasoline.

I will have a copy sent to one of your reviewers, if you will give me a mailing address.

When I joined the forum a little over a year ago, when there were 8 subscribers. Today there are over 1400. Their web site has the largest collection of woodgas info on the web. Woodgas has its addicts, I am one of them. I have an old farm truck, a 1984 F-250 with a 460 cubic inch motor that runs great on wood. I have a gooseneck hitch in it, because it has enough power to pull a trailer.

Seeing is believing, and I no longer believe the PhD-spouted myths about woodgas not having enough power to do useful work. The engine, originally built to run on high octane, sounds better running on woodgas than on any modern grade of pump petroleum.

For off grid electrical power generation, the wind doesn't always blow, the sun doesn't always shine, but smoke always rises.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dear JWR:
You don't always need a snow plow to to free up the streets in a snow-bound neighborhood. I found a video that shows a U.S. military surplus M35 2-1/2 Ton ("Deuce and a Half") truck being used to pack down snow. - Solar Guy


Mr. Rawles,
We in dry Central Texas are having the opposite problem from your "Snowmageddon" contributors: Dry wind-blizzards. On Monday, February 25th we had dry, sunny weather combined with high winds all day and night.

I stepped outside after lunch to check the mail. Uhh-Ohh. The brush pile fire we had burned almost two weeks before, and foolishly thought to be extinguished, threw wind-driven sparks out to a nearby unburned brush pile. The new fire had been burning for a half-hour, but the smoke was going away from the house. My spouse and I were oblivious that a roof-high, whipping fire was outside, while we ate lunch just two hundred yards away! When juniper (here called “cedar”) burns, it flares up to a scary inferno of flames even in mild, damp weather.

My husband got the tractor and frantically covered the pile with dirt, using the loader. I grabbed chain saws, water hoses, the air tank for the tractor tire. But the trouble wasn't over, cinders had blown into the juniper forest! I ran into the woods and stomped/wetted a few smoldering spots. The cinders had traveled 140 feet and, thankfully, hadn't ignited into flames. The kids stepped off the school bus and searched the woods for any other smoldering spots, none found.

I sat out all night in the truck, with shovel/water buckets, in case there was a flare-up in the cold, whipping wind. My 4G Tablet was entertainment, and served as an alarm for short catnaps. My Jack Russell Terrier, a whip-smart little companion, kept my lap and hands warm.

Lessons: (1) I will never again allow a burn-pile to be covered with dirt and smolder. Buried logs and stumps can smolder for months! One will discover how dangerous this is when you get a dry spell and a wind storm. I will make sure future burned-up piles are promptly knocked down and thoroughly extinguished. (2) Since the burn-pile was very near the county road, I was disappointed that no passers-by stopped to offer help, nor noticed the unattended flames, while we were lunching, and inform us of the problem. As other contributors have noted, get to know your neighbors well, make sure they have your phone numbers.

Postscript: The high winds picked up again, a week later, (March 5) and blew the dirt off the pile, exposing embers from last week's accidental fire. After piling more dirt on, we are waiting for forecasted rain this weekend so we can tear down this dangerous pile of buried embers, allow the old stumps to burn and extinguish it for good. - Sarah in Central Texas

Sunday, March 3, 2013

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

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

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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Additionally, I added:

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

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

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

Friday, March 1, 2013

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I have a question that I'm hoping you could provide some insight on.  I'm looking for a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV), but can't figure out what might be best.  My options are truck, SUV, or van.  I can think of pro's and con's for each myself but I can imagine that there are things that I'm not taking into consideration as well that could sway my decision.  The biggest thing is being able to use the vehicle for other things rather than it just sitting around waiting for the Schumer to Hit The Fan.  With that being said a truck or van would be most useful in a work capacity.  I like the idea of 4 wheel drive so that might limit a van since I hardly ever find too many of them with that option.  The van could be used for more work opportunities in my opinion but a four wheel drive truck would definitely come in handy in a bad situation.  By the way, I'm looking to keep the cost down as well. 

I'm hoping that you've might have encountered the question before and provided some excellent insight to someone like myself.  Any insight would be most appreciative.  Thank you!!

- Brian T.

JWR Replies: Yes, these issues have been discussed at length several times in the past seven years on SurvivalBlog. But, to summarize: A four wheel drive pickup is generally the most flexible, especially if you get a lightweight camper shell. (For more details use de a phrase like: "BOV and 4WD and capacity" with the blog's Search box.

But I must add a caveat for this Early 21st Century era of gas prices that start with a "3": If your BOV will be a "daily driver" then get a Toyota pickup, for better fuel economy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Way back before computers completely took over our lives, life seemed a lot simpler. If it were up to me, I'd live without computers, microprocessors, cell phones, texting, e-mails and tweets (whatever that is). I long for the time when cars were more simple to work on, I used to love tinkering with my own cars, improving on them, repairing them, and just playing around with them. Heck, I even worked as a dune buggy mechanic in Hawaii for a time. Today, with all the computers running cars and trucks, I can't hardly figure out anything on new vehicles, you need a computer to hook-up to the computer on your vehicle, in order to find out what's not working right on your rig, and even then, sometimes it's still a hit or miss proposition when it comes to making a repair.
Back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, backyard and shade tree mechanics used to have a flashlight or a shop light, to use when working under the hood of the car. Many shops still use traditional shop lights these days - the incandescent bulb still hasn't died off completely. Now, I'll readily admit, a flashlight wasn't the perfect source of light when working under the hood of a car, and shop lights were difficult to get to stay in place and shed their light where you needed it. Okay, so maybe everything back in the stone age wasn't perfect....
I received the Maxxeon WorkStar 2000 Technician's Floodlight for testing for SurvivalBlog readers, and I'm impressed with the product, I'll admit that right up front. What we have is a fully rechargeable work light, with magnets placed on it, so you can firmly attach it to just the right place under the hood of a car or truck, to produce a very bright 270 Lumens of pure white light - no dark spots at all. It gives you a "flood light" where you need it most. The WorkStar 200 is basically a hands-free light, you can stick it to any metal surface or hang it with the retractable hook or mount it permanently with a camera tripod socket in the base. Heck, you can even hold it in your hand if you wanted to - retro!
The WorkStar 2000 doesn't use a reflector like so many flashlights do, instead it uses a fresnel-like lens that creates a huge floodlight beam - no shadows, no rings no hot spots, just pure light. Additionally, the neck of the light rotates 360-degrees and the head also tilts 180 degrees, so you don't have to keep moving the light around from one surface to another - just move the head. Neat! You can also use the belt clip, to clip the WorkStar 2000 to you belt or pants pocket when moving around the shop from one rig to another. You also get two power sources for recharging your light - one for the power outlet in your shop and another for the accessory outlet in your vehicle.  BTW, the rechargeable battery is the NiMH type and will last for years. You also get two power settings, on high the light will shine for over 2-hours, and on low you get 8-hours of run time. For many purposes, the low setting will suffice for many of your needs. However, if you need the super-bright high setting for those hard to see areas, you've got 2-hours of power there. Recharge time is about 3-hours.
So, where does the WorkStar 2000 fit in, for the Survivalist of Prepper? Well, first of all, don't kid yourself into thinking your bug out vehicle won't break down or need maintenance - it will! And, you can count on Mr. Murphy being on-hand when your rig does stop or need maintenance - and you will need light to work under the hood, under the the rig or under the dashboard. Believe me, it's no fun trying to find something wrong if you can't see what you're doing. Sure, an ordinary flashlight will "suffice" if that's all you have, however the WorkStar 2000 can do the job better than any flashlight can - period!
How many times have you had the bulb burn-out in a flashlight? Well, that's happened more times than I care to remember over the years. The WorkStar 2000 has LED lights that will last a lifetime. Just a few short years ago, LED lights didn't product very much light. Sure they were economical to use, but honestly, they didn't throw all that much light. Times have changed, and the WorkStar 2000 is solid proof of that.
You can also use the WorkStar 2000 for emergency lighting in your home when the power goes out - use the low setting, that's all you'll need. If you're camping and you need light in your tent, the WorkStar can take care of that, and you can hang it from the center of your tent and direct the light where you need it. If you're one of those people who insist on walking late at night, in the dark, or early morning hours before the sun comes up, you can clip this light to your pants to light the way for you and alert on-coming vehicles you are on the road. The light also produces a "white" enough light for some photography work, or for producing those YouTube videos - how many of those have you seen that were poorly lit?
One word of advice though, don't look directly into the super-bright light that the WorkStar 2000 produces - take my word for it - you'll have a black spot in the center of your vision for a while if you look directly at this light - I didn't do it on purpose, it was an accident, but you only have to do this once to know you shouldn't do it again! I'm smart - just not all the time!
The WorkStar 2000 retails for $119.75 with $9.99 FedEx or USPS shipping to the USA and $19.99 to Canada (UPS). When I first received this sample, I didn't think it had many uses, ok, I was wrong. This light is also great when it comes to working under the hood of your car in bright sunlight - yeah, there are still a lot of dark areas under the hood even in bright sunlight. And, many lesser lights simply wash out - the WorkStar 2000 didn't wash out in the bright sunlight. Maybe the good ol' days weren't as good as I remember them to be. The WorkStar 2000 sure would have come in handy back in my day when working on rigs.
Also, be sure to check out some of the other Maxxeon lights that they offer on their web site. However, if you work on vehicles a lot, this is a must have item in my humble opinion. It is well made, very durable and comes with a one year warranty as well. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In a short response to Simon S. from "Across the pond" and his letter about using heating oil for diesel vehicles, please let me add one small bit of first hand advice;  The heating oil that you buy for your home is not only dyed differently for tax reasons, it isn't filtered as well either.  I also live in Europe and I got the idea to burn heating oil in my diesel vehicle once most people started converting (wrongly I might add) to Natural Gas from Russia.  The people who converted were expected to pay a lot of money to have the remainder of their heating fuel in their heating tanks removed and destroyed as environmentally unfriendly waste.  So I started pumping it out and taking it from them for free to use at home for my own use.  Then I started putting some of it in my Volkswagen Passat Turbo Diesel car.  It worked great for about a month, then one morning the car wouldn't start, and the dealer said the fuel injector unit was destroyed, which was something he doesn't see very often.  It cost me about 2,500 Euro ($$3,000) to have a new one put in, and I thought it was just a case of a bad part.  Then, about a month later, the new diesel injector unit was also bad, and they noticed that the fuel was heating oil not diesel.  They wouldn't replace the pump the second time for free under warranty. The dealer told me that modern diesel injector units (Like those used on common rail injectors) are very sensitive to dirt and other dissolved trash in the heating oil.  The filter takes out solid particles, but not  particles fine enough to ruin the injector pump. Beware using heating oil in a modern diesel.

I use it all the time in my older Massey Ferguson MF-35 tractor with a Perkins diesel motor, as well as the MAN diesel motor that runs my emergency generator, but I never use it in my modern vehicles. - Mike in Europe

JWR Replies: Here in the States, the formulation standards for home heating oil are similar to those in Europe. Although their formulation and flash points are nearly identical, home heating oil and diesel have different standards for ash and sulfur content. With home heating oil a higher quantity of ash is allowable. Therefore, the same warning that you mentioned also applies to vehicles here in the United States. Owners of vehicles with "rail" type fuel-injected diesel engines, beware!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I recently stopped by our local farmers market, and while ambling along with a fresh home-made fig newton, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw what one vendor offered.

There amongst the crafts, and farm produce, was an enterprising fellow standing behind a table with a large three rotor drone helicopter. Marketed as the “Draganflyer” it has 3 dual sets of rotors stacked in pairs atop each other.

It was equipped with a gyroscope-stabilized digital video, and still camera, set-up. He was contracting with folks to fly his drone over their property and take very detailed pictures of their homes. He then sold them DVDs, or large crisp pictures suitable for framing. Which, by the way, he also offered to provide, so one could proudly display the photographs in the parlor to ones guests.

This drone was surely on par with those that the film industry uses for fly-over views in production. It was the largest one I’ve seen. The fellow was charging up to seventy-five dollars for the service, plus twenty dollars and up for big 24”x 24” or so color prints. He was so busy answering questions, and signing people up that I didn’t get a chance to ask him any technical questions, or get additional info on his setup.

The development of small drones, both fixed wing, and  rotor-craft has virtually exploded in the past few years. Companies are springing up all over offering these easy to fly platforms for film,  and surveillance, some designed for covert, as well as conventional operations. Like the many newer small arms manufacturers who, with their own input from their combat experiences, flooded the battle-rifle market niche’ with variations of M4s, and calibers such as 6.8, and  .50 caliber Beowulf, one looking for a drone to supplement their LP/OP has a lot of choices. The range of choices, thankfully, include so many options, that one on a limited budget, all the way up to a prepper who isn’t constrained by price can pick the drone that will be of best use in his particular area of operation (AO) when TSHTF.

 The U.S. military has clearly been pushing the limits, and using every new state-of-the-art technological breakthrough available in surveillance devices since we began the war on terror. Their un-manned drones have steadily gotten larger and larger, and went from being eyes-only camera platforms, to now being armed-to-the-teeth with virtually every missile that can be fixed to an aircrafts under-carriages.

Going in the opposite direction, the military now supplies ground units a variety of  hand-launched fixed wing RC aircraft on the squad level for special operators to use as they gather recon on the battlefield. Like the “Falcon UAV”. which I saw being demonstrated on a recent episode on the Military Channel. These are small, virtually indestructible, carbon composite aircraft that are easily deployed out of a pack by one or two soldiers.

Coupled with hardened military field lap-tops and satellite links, forward recon teams can collect, and pass on, an amazing amount of real-time information, inconceivable to reconnaissance units of even a few years ago.

A quick Google research trip came up with an unbelievable number of companies offering three, four, six, and even EIGHT engined rotor craft, like the  “Hexacopter”  and the “Octocopter” .

I couldn’t guess how much money and man-hours these guys used up, in trying to outdo each other by adding on engines, and other upgrades.

These companies clearly have some tech-savvy R&D guys, who have incorporated not only the gyro-stabilized mounting systems for cameras, but have utilized software that has taken the actual flight controls to another level. The copters in even the moderately priced end of the cost spectrum have auto-pilot, built-in GPS systems, and ground sensing features. The auto-pilot and ground-sensing features allow an operator to hover the craft for many minutes, with almost no effort. Some have thermal, and/or I.R. imaging systems, and even F.L.I.R. capabilities.  Most of the drones use a LiPo battery pack, and flight times, usually depend on how much extra software and systems are drawing power aside from the motors, varies, but is usually around fifteen to twenty minutes per full charge.

Some, like the Parrot Quadracopter 4 rotor RC offering, are controlled by WiFi, and a free downloadable APP allows one to use an I-pod, I-phone or other smart device to fly the copter. This device sells on the lower end of the cost spectrum, approximately $300 USD. The others mentioned in this article are upwards of $1000 USD, and more depending on features. These machines, for the most part, are way easier to control and fly than most of the run-of-the-mill hobby/toy RC mini-helicopters one sees in Wally World-type stores.

Now I know that laying out, or budgeting, an extra five hundred to a thousand dollars might be pushing it for some of us, but I firmly believe that these RC helicopters equipped with camera capabilities are well worth the investment. Imagine a scenario where you and others in your neighborhood “bug in”, and you are faced with multiple points of entry into your subdivision via roads. You’d have to have several OP/LP’s, manned by 2-3 persons, rotating on three eight hour shifts to cover each 24 hour period. Unless you had blocked off, or made impassable, most of those ingress/egress points, that’s a lot of manpower dedicated to advance warning and perimeter protection. With a single drone, or even two or more in rotation, one person could have the helicopter or fixed wing drone hover, or circle, virtually undetected, giving a 360 degree view of the entire neighborhood. That’s a big savings, in terms of manpower hours, and supplies in not having to keep the checkpoints and OP/LP’s manned every moment of every day.

For those who plan to bug out into the wilderness, or to a primary or secondary location, especially in a heavily timbered or forested area, a high-flying set of eyes seems ideal. Combined with the possibility that there is only you and your spouse and maybe children, or just another   few couples for security, I would think that the drones would be a God-send.

If you take the time to watch the flight videos, or have had the opportunity to see close-up just how quiet these things are, you will surely appreciate their quiet-running capabilities. I have seen these being operated from the distance of half a football field away, and wouldn’t have given it a minutes notice. In an “hunker-down” situation, if there’s roving bands of bad-guys, they most certainly will approach in vehicles, and then these drones are virtually silent.

The other clear benefit to employing drones to keep watch, is that even if the device is
spotted, and even engaged and disabled, it’s much better than risking losing a member of your team, or family. Machines are expendable, and replaceable, while people clearly are not.

A much better scenario would be to be sitting snuggly in a central command area equipped with CCTV monitors, powered perhaps by a genset, or re-chargeable solar/battery banks. Or even streaming into your laptop, I-phone or I-pad, regardless of your location relevant to the drones area of observation. As to the possibility of someone actually firing on, and taking out one of these drones, I would say that an adversary would have to be a pretty good shot, if not a military-grade marksman in order to hit and disable the craft. I’d also think, that with the ability to see the bad-guys from a long way off, or at least a distance, you’d have sufficient time to exfiltrate the drone if it came to maintaining OPSEC or remaining undetected. If you took the additional measure of deploying an LP/OP a distance from your main AO, then that would give those in the primary camp a good amount of fore-warning to prevent being located and overrun. 

 This brings up another point. That being  that the drones are only as good, as the users ability to keep them powered up. There are many options available to pair the drones with solar or conventional on-grid, or off-grid recharging set-ups. One can purchase extra battery packs, and along with that, extra spare replacement parts in kit form, in case of damage to the wings, rotors, frame or other hardware or software on the units.

If you follow this link from RC Helicopter Fun, the author, using a Parrot, proceeds to give a thorough tutorial for employing that specific device, while the site also answers many of the questions a beginner may have.

My plan is to pick up a couple of the less expensive multi-rotor helicopter units, along with spare batteries, and a solar charging array. I don’t know if our plan to “bug-in” in our neighborhood will suffice when TEOTWAWKI happens, or if we’ll have to go to “Plan B” and bug out in our mobile configuration, either way, having an “eye in the sky” looking out for our security regardless of the situation, is safer, easier solution for us.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

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

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

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

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

Monday, January 7, 2013

Captain Rawles:
I've been enjoying and learning valuable information from your books and your blog, and thought I'd share some of my expertise in hope of helping others to prepare.
If, like me, you've been slowly adding more security to your bug-in location or retreat, you've been adding perimeter defenses such as fencing, detectors, etc. in order to prevent people and/or vehicles from easily gaining access to your property.  If you have more funds than I do, then you've probably installed harder defenses, such as bollards, ditches, and maybe even concertina wire.  These measures will stop most vehicular threats, and oh, sure -- nothing is going to stop indirect fire (mortars, artillery) or attack from the air, but there is a much simpler way to gain access that we all need to be aware of:   heavy equipment.
Having worked in construction for many years. I, like thousands of others, have acquired and collected keys to most types of heavy equipment, to include bulldozers, front end loaders, and excavators.  Bottom line is, there are too many keys out there, and unlike most vehicles, most manufacturers use just one key for all their equipment,  A good example is Caterpillar who for at least thirty years has used the exact same key for all their various types of earthmoving machines.  This makes it all the easier for someone to "borrow" or steal one, and if TSHTF, there will be a lot of equipment sitting around at abandoned quarries and job sites.
While much as been written about the threat of gangs or other marauders using stolen APCs or other armored vehicles, it would be much easier to use heavy equipment to attack your place.  Here's one scenario:
A group steals a medium sized front end loader and welds thick steel plates surrounding the cab.  They fill the tires with foam (some machines already have solid-filled tires) and head for lucrative targets.  Most loaders will go down the road at 25 mph, so there's no need to bother with a transport truck.  They approach your see them coming and open fire...the machine doesn't stop because the engine is in the rear and hard to hit.  Most likely, they just go right through your gate.  The stoutest locks and hinges will be no match for a 15 to 20 ton behemoth.  If for whatever reason your gate looks like it might be too much trouble, they will gain access at some other point.  Ditches can simply be filled in, bollards can be dug out of the ground or covered with a mound of dirt, same with fences or other obstacles.  So how do you stop it?
First, try shooting the tires, hopefully more than just one.  There's a good chance they're not filled and will rapidly deflate.  It won't get far with flat tires.  If that doesn't work, try flanking it and pour as many high-powered rounds as you can into the engine compartment.  Even if all you can cause is a coolant or oil leak, it won't get very far.  If you have tracer rounds, you could go for the fuel tank.  Most newer loaders have it under the engine, some older ones have it on the left side of the cab.
The other method is to burn it.  The center of the machine has many rubber hydraulic hoses and will usually be covered in oil and grease.  A few Molotov cocktails should do the trick, but consider that the machine will be accompanied by armed men on foot, who will have to be taken out first.  Except for the tires, the same would apply for tracked machines. 
Hope this helps.  Keep prepping! - B.B.D.

Friday, December 28, 2012

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


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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

After reading the follow up to automotive preparedness, (I am Toyota fan) I figured I would share a few thoughts. Some background , I use to be a tractor mechanic for several years, repairing all kind of engines, transmissions, and other systems. I have also owned four  1980s-era Toyota trucks since I was in high school  (all 4x4s). I  progressed from no power steering or air conditioning as a kid, to wanting all the extras later in life. I also have many friends and family which have Toyotas that I helped work on. I also have a neighbor that is the parts manager for a large urban Toyota dealership.

  The main point I want to express is choosing the proper replacement parts, or more importantly when to pay a little more money for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts and their dependability . I like shopping at the local auto parts shop with people who know me, that  know automotive parts , and are not totally lost without a computer (books work too)! I don't mind saving money going to a large chain store for some parts either. Finally I have no problem spending higher dealer prices for critical parts.

The two best examples I want to share, start with a 3,000 mile round trip I made on the west coast. Over my vacation, I had an alternator fail not once, but three times, and each replacement I installed was a rebuilt large chain store part bought in a different state. Nevermore! Once I raced home on batteries only trying to beat the sunset ( I didn't want to kill the battery using headlights) , I decided to spend more money and get a new aftermarket high power alternator. I never had a problem after that. The next example involves my uncle`s truck. He had to replace the water pump, and while we were doing this we replaced the timing belt , which had 120,000 miles on it ( it should have been replaced at 80,000 miles). We used a  new timing belt from a large chain store. About 12,000 miles later his truck started running a little rough, he adjusted the ignition timing and it ran fine for 2 more days, then died. I was helping him figure out what went wrong, which took some time because we never considered the "new timing belt" failing. Once we got the timing belt out, we  were shocked to say the least. The belt with 12,000 miles on it had missing cogs , had a glazed over  look to it, and was cracked everywhere. I gave the belt to my neighbor   at the dealership to show his customers, and installed a factory belt with no problems for another 80,000 miles.

   I have other stories , but don't want drag this out. My new rules for buying replacement parts are as follows,

     1. Rubber seals/gaskets on the motor itself, timing belts, drive shaft U joints/ bearings , and  water pumps = only purchase  factory/ OEM parts, when possible.

     2. Alternator or electrical equipment on the motor = try to buy  OEM or new aftermarket.

     3. Hoses, fan belts, filters, smog equipment  ,and  any components not directly connected to the engine = save money and go to local shop or large chain store.

      Starters can fall into either rule 2 or 3 since they are not being worked continuously the way alternators are, plus manual transmission vehicles can be push started most of the time if the starter fails ( I avoid automatic transmissions whenever possible.)

  Enjoying my 349,000 mile  Toyota, - Solar Guy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The author has laid out many very important ideas regarding keeping one's vehicle(s) in working order and having the tools and know how to do repairs "on the fly".
I'd like to add one very important consideration - the MANUFACTURER and vintage of your vehicle. It hit me like "a ton of bricks" when the author mentioned his vehicle was a 1995 Chevy 1500.   I had one!  Without a doubt it was the worst vehicle I've ever owned. Brakes were worthless off of the showroom floor. By the 62,000 mi mark when I finally traded it the metallic blue paint had peeled off of cab, hood and fenders, five speed manual tranny was bad, exhaust system was rusted through, alternator had seized , caught fire and melted down (good I had a fire extinguisher / not good, I was over 50 miles from the nearest town) and it had gone through at least ten serpentine belts.  My daughter called me last week mentioning that they'd gotten a "new" used pickup and coming home the alternator caught on fire and melted. I jokingly asked of it was a Chevy half ton -- and she said: "Why, yes!"

I traded this vehicle for a  1996 Toyota Tacoma with 82.000 miles logged, back in 2000. I have a heavy camper on the bed and mileage is now over 160,000. To date I've had to replace a clutch, slave cylinder, starter, and a muffler. I also replaced the timing belt at 107,000 mi as routine maintenance.

Some vehicles are simply better made than others and can be expected to last longer and require far less emergency maintenance. - Rob in Colorado

Sunday, December 16, 2012

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mr. JWR:
A suggestion for the old bike tubes when they need to be replaced; cut out the stem and slit them along the inside of the tube curve, all the way around.  Lay it inside the wheel and nestle the new tube inside it.  You now have an additional rubber layer between the new tube and the puncture threats of the road. - Adventane

Dear Mr. Rawles,
I have "lurked" for several months on your site and have learned a great deal from it. Regarding Banjo's article about survival bikes, he did not mention these solid rubber inner tubes, like these:

Bell No-Mor Flats Bike Inner Tube, 26-x 1.75-Inch to 1.95-Inch

They are available at Wal-Mart online and I have found them in store locally. They should be available at good bike specialty shops as well. I have used them on my garage sale purchase mountain bike for the last 5 or 6 years.

They take a good bit of effort to install but follow the instructions and use a plastic bike "tire iron" and they will pop right on.
I learned of them from a now deceased friend who rode in an area of very abrasive sandy soil which "ate" regular inflatable tubes. He swore by them and he was right. Check them out.
I hope some of your readers find this of use. - John from Texas

JWR Replies: Foam-filled tires and solid rubber tires have been previously discussed in SurvivalBlog. They do indeed have some utility, particularly in situations where you don't have access to a bike shop. (For example because of living in a remote location or because of economic disruption.) However, the rolling resistance of these tires is high. This makes riding tiresome, especially over long distances. So my advice is yes, do buy a pair of them, but put them on a spare set of rims. That way your can switch back and forth, and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Monday, December 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, - Jim in Wyoming

Friday, December 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suggest stocking up things that wear, like tires, tubes, grips, rim-bands, seats, pedals, cables, brake pads, all kinds of "consumables". Tires don't store well in the sun, so a dark part of the garage is much better. The rubber actually ages just from exposure to air, so if you are really serious you can put a bunch of tires, tubes, and rim bands in a 55-gallon drum or something with nitrogen (sold at car-parts places to fill tires with) or at least an oxygen absorber.

I want you to get the best bang for your buck, so I really suggest you check garage sales, church sales, places like that for bikes and parts. Lots of small things like a decent seat ... that'll run you a minimum of $20 at a bike shop and often quite a bit more, are often found looking for a home at a garage or church sale for a few dollars. Grips, tubes, really every little part, will show up at bargain-basement prices. What I'm leery of and think you should be, is the large commercially-run "swap meet" or "flea market" because a lot of stolen bikes show up at those. You can being a smartphone and check against the listings on the National Bike Registry ( but what if the owner didn't register theirs? You just can't tell. One suggestion is to get a bill of sale and take a photo of the seller's driver's license, and if they won't let you do that, steer clear. Be careful in the jungle of deals-too-good-to-be-true.

Helmets are a personal choice in most areas, also in a lot of areas they're not a choice if you're a minor. I'm not going to recommend buying a used "lid", fortunately there are a lot of them out there new at reasonable prices. A more expensive helmet may be lighter, cooler in hot weather, or the one worn by this year's World champion, but it's not necessarily any safer than a sensibly-priced one. The one opinion I have about helmets is, if you wear one, might as well get a light-colored one, like yellow. It will increase your visibility to drivers, although in tough times you may not want to be seen so easily. That's when you get out the camo tape.

Lastly, if you have to visit one bike site online, check out Sheldon Brown's site. Sheldon has passed and will be missed, but his bike shop has kept his work online because it's so helpful, friendly, and comprehensive. In fact it can be almost overwhelming so the other resources I recommend are videos on YouTube, and classes, generally free, held by your local bike shop or bike club.

Short and sweet:

* Bikes have moved armies, officially and un-officially. They can move you.
* 26" wheels, with Schrader valves, by far the most common in the US; that's desirable.
* Get an older mountain bike, no suspension, Cro-Moly frame, stainless steel spokes.
* Learn to use Slime
* You can build a fine stable of bikes from thrift, garage, and church sales.
* Stock up on consumables, like tubes and tires.
* There are a few things you always buy new. Bike helmets are one of them.
* Learn more from Sheldon Brown, YouTube, local shops, clubs, and groups.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There has been a lot of debate over whether or not to remain in place or to leave your home and retreat to another location within the prepper community. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but that is not the scope of this article. I simply want to address the moment that all of us may come to, both the bug-in crowd, when they realize their initial plan is untenable, or the bug-out crowd, when they have made their decision to move to “higher ground.”
We all remember the game “Red Light, Green Light”, we played as kids and tried to outsmart the signal caller and get to our “destination” without the caller catching us. If we take this same approach and label the “signal caller” the economy/collapse, I feel we can apply the same basic principles to our decision making process in regard to leaving our current location for our safe haven, retreat, bug out location, etc.

Several years ago I was driving home with my family from a wedding we had attended in Chicago. On the morning of our departure, there had been a fairly strong storm the night before that dumped a lot of water on the I-80/I-90 corridor. The weather was clear in the morning and when we left at 0800 in the morning for our return trip to PA, we had no idea what we were in for as the Interstate had become impassable on the east bound lanes. I am not one prone to panic but there was a growing uneasiness in the pit of my stomach as I realized we were in for a very long delay. As it turned out, the highway was closed for a majority of the day as the water had flooded certain sections out. Whether by dumb luck or by the grace of God (I choose the latter), I decided we needed to turn around and get off the highway pronto. I was in the far right lane and saw a cut in the retaining wall several hundred yards up and needed to get over quickly but this was problematic since it was a 4-lane highway which had become a parking lot. The long and short of it was I was able to inch over, very slowly, and get to the turn around and head west bound to re-assess our plan and get off the highway. This episode is one that will likely repeat itself throughout the country in the event of a catastrophe, man-made or natural disaster, and solidified my belief that I don’t want to be anywhere near a scenario like this if it does occur.  We got off the highway, made our way south to Route 30, but that was blocked as well due to the influx of the I-80 traffic doing the same thing we were doing. We finally made it all the way to the Indianapolis bypass before we could head east towards Pennsylvania. We arrived 14 hours later at midnight at our home, completely exhausted, when a normal trip should have taken us 8 hours. With three small children in the car who were thankfully sound asleep, my mind was made up that I would never again consciously put my family in a position like that and have since then thought long and hard about what I need to do to protect my family when we travel long distances; both before a SHTF event and even more so after that. The event shook me to my very core, not because we were close to any dangerous situations, but because it illuminated how quickly a situation can change from a normal family trip into one of potential disaster.

What I did wrong on that return trip was fail to plan. I had no extra food or water in the car, I did not have a full tank of gas when I left Chicago (I was just going to fill up on the highway when I left) and I had no means to protect my family if the situation required it since I didn’t even have a handgun with me. I was traveling to Chicago which has the most restrictive gun laws in the country. With that said, I do not see myself traveling to the Windy City ever again with my family until the gun laws are changed in favor of concealed reciprocity.  Although nothing happened during the trip, it made me realize how fragile the thin veneer of normalcy is in this country and how quickly it can turn into a volatile situation; putting you and your family at risk.
A lot of preppers have an exfiltration plan from their current situation to a safe haven if the SHTF and we are no different but we all need to drill down on our plans and ensure they are workable in a less-than-desirable socioeconomic catastrophe. Our plan is to bug-in but we have an alternate plan to bug-out to western South Dakota where we have extended family and a large self-sufficient ranch. The only problem is getting there in one piece. How do we do this? I have asked myself this very question and have come up with some ideas and wanted to share them with your readers and also look for feedback as I know that no plan survives the first volley of shots fired.

When will I go? This is what gave me the idea for the title of this article. Presently I can see three types of scenarios that involve traveling. The first level of travel is our current social situation, which I will call a “green light” scenario. There is little to no impediment to travel across the US with the exception of high fuel costs but essentially, if you want to, you can load up and drive from coast to coast. This will not last forever. Whether by man-made or artificial catastrophes, a pre-planned False Flag or Black Swan event, at some point in the future, our ability to travel freely within this country may very well be curtailed. This is the gray area of the decision making process. Obviously we would like to be able to pick up and go at our leisure but that is simply not realistic unless you are able to see into the future so I will concentrate on the “yellow light” scenario which is that some event has triggered a less than optimal travel scenario within the US and you will not have complete access to fuel, food, water and the expectation of security so you need to plan for that contingency. The “red light” scenario is one in which travel is essentially prohibited either by law, force or instability and there would be no expectation of being able to make it from point A to point B so I will concentrate on the yellow light scenario and the assumption that you are ready, willing and able to make this monumental move before it is too late.

Where will I go if I have to leave in rapid fashion?
This is based on the premise that you have decided to leave your present location and move to a safer haven. If an apocalyptic event transpires, the looting and mayhem that happened during Hurricane Katrina and the Los Angeles riots will look like child’s play. Have an exfil plan from wherever you live, to a place of safety and make the decision to leave early and DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. Remember, this is a move to a place where you are going to settle for a long period of time. Family and friends who live in the country, away from large cities,  and who have land are your best bet but you must make arrangements with them well beforehand. Do not show up on their doorstep without talking to them about your plans long before you leave, and make sure they have agreed to this arrangement as well. Also, do not show up empty-handed if at all possible.  This may not be possible but as a prepper, you are doing your family a disservice if you are not ready to make a large scale move with your provisions from your present location to you safe haven. Think about how you will embark all your gear and move to your new location and have your family do at least a dry-run through.  The time to find out that you need an essential piece of equipment is not when you are doing this in prime time. The pre-planning for this move is probably the most crucial aspect of your entire relocation. Going back to my Chicago incident, had we simply looked at the local news or weather channel, we would have saved ourselves several hours even if the trip would have taken longer. We never would have gone near the interstate had we simply planned ahead. Bottom line, have a plan on where you are going to go, what are you going to bring, how are you going to transport it and when are you going to make the decision to leave?                 

What will I do for reliable transportation?
This exodus will most likely be accomplished in caravans like the wagon trains out in the old west except this time it will be SUVs and trailers. You will need to plan for food/fuel & water from your location to where you want to go and you need to be able to do it without the aid of gas stations/rest stops or any other modern day convenience (remember, this is yellow light time).  Although there may be gas available while you travel due to multiple circumstances and the type of SHTF event that you are preceding or escaping from, you should absolutely plan for a self-contained move with no outside assistance. If the assistance is there, fine, but don’t make it a lynchpin of your plan or it will fail. For my own family, I will travel west to South Dakota where we have extended family. It’s about 1,500 miles from our home so I have to answer the question; how do I refuel along the way? You do not want to carry fuel in your car and to travel that kind of distance would require more fuel than there is room in the vehicle. In addition it is highly dangerous to do this, even in the trunk. I would recommend getting a small trailer capable of towing 1,500 to 2,000 lbs and make sure your hitch has the same capacity. Inside or on your trailer, you will need a fuel storage/delivery system that allows you to refuel quickly. 55 gallon drums are relatively cheap so I would probably need two of them to make the trip. Calculate your mileage, divide by the worst gas mileage your vehicle gets and that gives you the number of gallons you need. For me its 1,500 miles divided by 15 mpg = 100 gallons. (2) 55 gallon drums will give you 110 gallons so it should do it. For me, I would add 20-30% for detours and carry 150 gallons minimum to get me where I was going. If you want to go the path of least resistance and buy the red Jerry cans, that’s 30 containers to make 150 gallons. Although simple, it is not optimal in my opinion. I have been practicing refueling with them on a regular basis and they do have some drawbacks. First, they leak, plain and simple. No matter what you do, they will leak a little and sometimes a lot if you get the nozzle twisted around while refueling. Secondly, there is the storage requirement of 30 red 5-gallon fuel cans and most garages don’t have the room for that many and everything else we have stored in there. Can it be done, sure, but I think there are better ways, especially if you have the time to plan. Regardless of what container(s) you will use, I recommend that you buy a simple pump attachment for your fuel container and run a hose from the fuel to your gas tank. This avoids a lot of spillage with the “lift and hold in place for several minutes until the fuel can is empty” routine. I have a local Tractor Supply store which carries simple hand-cranked pumps and electrical ones as well. Using the Rawlesian computation of 2 is 1 and 1 is none, having multiple ways to pump fuel is probably a good plan to have!

I will travel with my 5 x 8 enclosed trailer with a towing capacity of 3k lbs. so I can bring more gear with me. (3) 55 gallon drums will weigh approximately 1300 lbs. so I’d have an extra 1700lbs to play with for supplies. As an alternative, you may have a vehicle in your convoy that does not have a trailer but is still part of the overall plan. I have a 2’ x 6’ platform trailer that hooks into my trailer hitch. The sides of this platform are 5” tall and can carry (12) 5-gallon Jerry Cans totaling 60 gallons. With a full 15 gallon internal capacity, I can travel 1125 miles on just what I carry on the platform combined with internal fuel and would only need 20-30 more gallons to make it to our destination. The additional fuel you carried in your trailer could easily make up this shortcoming.  In the military, we called this war-gaming; thinking of every possible thing that could happen and coming up with a plan to deal with it. Have everyone take turns acting as the “doubting Thomas” and have them try to shoot holes in your plan. If it is apparent that your plans need adjusting, make it so.

Do not travel anywhere near big cities (remember my Chicago episode!). Only use the stretches of highways and Interstates where they do not go near cities like New York, Chicago, etc. My route out west, by the shortest route, takes me right near Chicago but I will bypass to the south and add upwards of 200-300 extra miles just to stay safe. I expect the cities to be congested and potentially dangerous. In addition, always have an alternate plan that gives you the ability to change routes along the way with little backtracking required. This may require some detailed planning and I would even recommend that a few persons in the group travel the route and do a route reconnaissance beforehand. Let’s say you are traveling through Iowa on your way to Wyoming and the American Redoubt and realize that your original route is blocked or less than safe. Turning around and executing a “shift on the fly” route change should not be the first time you execute this. Practice it beforehand so you get the feel for how much time and effort it will take to get a 3 to 4 vehicle convoy going in another direction. Have each vehicle ‘commander’ take turns in executing a route change so everyone is comfortable in that position if the need arises for them to take over the navigation responsibilities.

What will I do for security?
Bottom line, more crowds = more potential danger. Do not travel as a single family if at all possible. In the novel The Raggedy Edge by Michael Turnlund, there is an episode when the husband and his wife are trying to move through a roadblock and he has to make the decision to have his wife drive while he shoots from the passenger window. Don’t let this happen to you and plan for this contingency and how you are going to deal with it. If you have a convoy, you can set up a hasty blocking position and have a designated element envelop the trouble spot from the sides while the rest of the convoy sets up a base of fire.  Some of you may be reading this and saying to yourself, “I can’t handle this type of situation” and while that may well be true, you need to have individuals within your convoy who are capable of dealing with this situation or your bug-out to your safe haven may be cut very short.

If a catastrophic meltdown does happen, there will probably be rogue elements that would prey on families and take their food, fuel and gear. Think: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I would travel in as large an SUV as I could and have a minimum of 2-3 other vehicles that were going to the same place or area. Remember there is safety in numbers. If you already know who you might want to travel with you, start getting together on a regular basis to discuss your evacuation plan, much like someone in a flood zone, hurricane alley, etc. Sit down with them and discuss everything that could go wrong and have a plan to deal with it. The more prepared your group is, the easier it will be to make the decision to evacuate. Discuss emergencies, vehicle breakdowns, health issues, food, water, weapons, ammunition, and fuel. A previous article on Survival Blog discussed convoy security and this should be part of everyone’s plan. Don’t just talk about it, exercise you plan on smaller trips to uncover any potential problems you may have missed during the planning stages. Discuss how you will deal with a catastrophic vehicle breakdown where you might have to leave one behind. Also, now is not the time to discuss the issue of firearms and the right to bear arms. Deal with it, everyone will be packing heat and everyone will know it too. That’s not a bad thing. My guess is that a lot of folks will be scared but at the same time, we are a nation of mostly law abiding citizens, so take comfort in the fact that a lot of people are in the same boat. Always be cautious but do not be afraid to help someone who obviously needs it. This will be the cornerstone of the communities that will rise up from the ashes of this national emergency. 
Since everyone will need more human power to work their land and provide security, most reasonable and logical persons will understand the efficacy of allowing you to join them at their safe haven. This is where you trade your labor for a safe haven, a place to live, and the fruits that the land bears but negotiating on their doorstep when you show up un-announced is not the appropriate time to do this. Make sure they know you are coming so they can prepare as much as you should have!

What will I do for communications?
Make sure that you have a communication plan and the ability to talk to those within your caravan. And do not rely on a single point of failure system either. Have a back-up and a back-up to the back-up. Cell phones will not necessarily be reliable if the power grid goes down but the portable walkie-talkie type radios will be invaluable. Some forward thinking folks may have SatPhones which, unless the Chinese shoot down our satellites, should work during this period. This is not to say that they will always operate. Whatever form of government remains may not have the ability to maintain a system of satellites that we currently have but it’s worth it if you have the money to purchase them now. The government may also be less than accepting of the type of communication that is going on via the grid and try to shut it down as well. If you live in a place where you absolutely know you will not stay in the event of a societal meltdown, send a SatPhone to the place where you will go and have your family and friends on both ends practice with and test the system to make sure it will work for you.  I will use the MURS hand held radios and have a full set of cheap walkie-talkies as a back-up (in addition to cell phones). That’s three modes of digital communications in addition to hand and arms signals. I would also recommend that you buy good quality headsets that have either a push-to-talk (PTT) capability or voice actuated (VOX) for hands free comm. I flew helicopters in the military and the VOX capability is a force multiplier in the cockpit since it is a multi-tasking nightmare at times.

What will you do if your transportation breaks down?
Make sure you have a complete extra wheel/tire combo, not just the tire. If you get a flat, you will not have access to a garage to change your tire. I would have two extra wheels/tires as well as enough Fix-a-flat to re-inflate several tires. Remember to be completely self-sustainable and walk-through all the potential hazards of a long trip that you would normally take but add to this the fact that you cannot count on any water, food, or logistical support outside of what you can carry in/on or behind your vehicles. Several companies make roof racks that are specifically designed for carrying maintenance, camping, and survival gear and can easily be adapted to carrying tires and wheels as well. You may look like the Beverly Hillbillies but you are much less likely to be stranded on the road with an immobile vehicle. In addition, let’s make sure to practice changing a tire on the side of the road prior to having to do it in an in-extremis situation for the first time.

What should I do about carrying weapons?
Some of you may be worried about carrying weapons in your car. If this scenario goes down, this will be out the window as law enforcement officials are just like you, they have families and concerns of their own and will not be worried about what is inside your vehicle if it is obvious you are relocating your family to a safer place. If it makes you feel better, apply for a concealed-carry permit.  The scenario that may be of a gray area will be if you have decided to bug-out well in advance of the collapse and it will be relatively easy travel to your safe haven. In this event, I would not advertise the fact that you are carrying an arsenal in your vehicles but make sure you have the ability to defend yourself and your family should the need arises. This will be a call on your part depending on when you leave.

With the exception of Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and a few other states, a state concealed carry permit is recognized in many other states. In addition, the US House has passed its version of the nation-wide concealed carry reciprocity bill, H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011. If the Senate passes it we will get a clear indication from the current occupant of the White House whether or not he supports the rights of gun owners across this country. I have a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit and an out of state non-resident permit, and I could drive all of the way to South Dakota and still be in accordance with state laws, with the exception of Illinois, with a loaded weapon in my car. Remember, your family’s safety is your primary concern. Do not let anything deter you.

At this point in time we are in a “Green Light” scenario in regard to CONUS travel but it will most likely not last indefinitely.  Start planning your exodus now and do not leave any details unattended or they will come back to bite you in the rumpus! Have a place already picked out, stage as much gear and supplies there as is humanly possible and work towards completing a self-contained move that includes all aspects of the move; vehicles, fuel, food, water, supplies, security, and communications. While this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch, it should give you a starting point. Blessings to all and Semper Prep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Regarding the ability to store a fuel reserve onboard the vehicle;  Before your readers consider an expensive custom military fuel tank (which may not meet DOT standards), they many want to consider an option that is already approved by the DOT and is very affordable.
As a race car and off-road truck enthusiast I’ve participated in many events where cars/trucks must meet Department of Transportation (DOT) certification before the vehicle can compete.  A majority of the “modified” vehicles run gasoline and use aftermarket fuel tanks of various sizes.  Depending on the style of racing many of the tanks have baffles to prevent “sloshing” and spilling, as well as mounting brackets to keep them secure in the event of a crash.  The sizes of these tanks range from 2 quarts to 45 gallons, with everything in between.  The fuel cells I’m referring to do not operate the same way a Home Depot fuel can does, and instead have a filler hole and at least one pre installed pickup tube where the liquid is pumped or drained into the engine.  I could envision a system that drains via gravity or a pump into the primary fuel tank when needed.
A word of advice to anyone considering mounting an auxiliary tank in the interior of their car (including trunk), gasoline does have a fairly low vapor pressure, which causes it to turn to a gas (vapor) form easier then diesel or water for example.  This effectively will cause a sealed tank to become pressurized in the heat, and an unsealed tank to emit lots of fumes.  These fumes are what causes gas to be more flammable than some other petroleum products.  In the old days, this problem was solved by simply venting the tank to the outside of the vehicle via a hose and a check valve. Regulations vary by year of vehicle, but generally do not allow for a tank to be vented into the atmosphere without either a carbon filter or through the combustion process.  I’d recommend you visit your local reputable mechanic for specifics about your application.  Hint:  a local reputable race car builder is a good place to start asking questions. They are usually fountains of knowledge and are much easier to talk with than a factory dealer mechanic.
A good place to start looking for these tanks would be either, or  Both of these companies have excellent customer service and have been around for many years.  Look for “fuel cells”.  Prices range from ~$35 to ~$250.  While you are at it, peruse their catalogs.  These companies have many other automotive parts that could make your vehicle both more reliable and robust.  By the way, I don’t work for either of them and don’t have any financial benefit.
Whatever you decide, do it correctly and stay safe. - Race Fan from Colorado

Monday, November 26, 2012

Can you recommend a way to properly store 1-2 gallons of fuel in a trunk for emergencies?

I think something like a Kolpin Fuel Pack with some Sta-Bil in it would last in a confined space for an extended (3-6 months) period of time.

All The Best, - Travis R.

JWR Replies: For regular carry in a car trunk, there are just a few truly safe containers that will prevent your car from becoming a veritable flaming bomb, in the event of a major rear-end collision. One that I can indeed recommend is the Explosafe can. And FWIW, I prefer Pri-G as a fuel stabilizer.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

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

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

Best Regards, - S.R.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have been reading you blog and the letters other people has written for a few weeks now. A friend of mine turned me on to your site. Thank you and everyone else for all you do. I have learned much over the past few weeks and look forward to learning more as time goes on.
I just read the letter post in September by Greg G., Can You Take to the Sky? Greg makes some very valid and interesting points in his letter. Like Greg, I am a licensed pilot. I studied at a local community college earning my A.A.S. in management with aviation option. When I started the course I had no flying time what-so-ever. When I finished the course 1.5 years later, I had earned my commercial pilot’s certificate with multi-engine and instrument ratings.
Just to clarify, I am no longer active in aviation due to the high cost of building time necessary to “land” a job as a career pilot. Working line service at the local FBO (Fixed base operation) just didn’t pay the bills for a man, wife and two kids. When I could get a trip/time in a multi-engine aircraft, it was usually a free trip (meaning I provided my time and services free of charge) in order to build flying time. I gained a good bit of time in the air over a three year period and gained an enormous amount of self-confidence as a result. Just a little background to bring me to my point.
Greg states that the Cessna 172 would be an excellent BOV and I would tend to agree. They are reasonable priced from $30,000 to $50,000 and are relatively easy to maintain. I think the $5,000 annual figure he mentioned is fairly accurate. I am currently scouring the web for used aircraft. I am looking at C-172s as well as light sport to ultra-light aircraft. The only drawback to the ultra-light planes is that I would have to convince my wife to learn to fly and would have to have at least two two-seat aircraft  to use a BOVs. Of course, redundancy would be a good thing.
Greg also mentioned training. Training is paramount any time you plan to defeat gravity. If you are interested in getting an ultra-light aircraft, please get an experienced flight instructor to teach you to fly. Learn to operate in a controlled airport environment. If you are ever forced, through bad planning, bad weather, or just bad luck, into a metropolitan airport, you will be thankful for the training in that environment.
As far as getting your instrument rating is concerned, I would highly recommend the training. Even if you never use it, it will make you a better pilot and if the weather suddenly closes in on you, you will be better prepared to handle it. I remember during my instrument training, the instructor had me look out the windows during actual instrument conditions. All I could see was the wingtips and the nose of the airplane. When I returned to the instrument panel, I had a strong case of vertigo. Had I not spent hours in the flight simulator and had a few hours “under the hood”, I could have easily gotten disoriented enough to crash. Fortunately, I had complete faith in the instruments and was able to maintain control until the vertigo passed. For this reason, I would encourage anyone interested in learning to fly to take at least several hours of instrument training.
I have no experience with helicopters other than radio controlled helicopters. I can see some use, as mentioned in other letters, for UAV type surveillance using radio controlled aircraft but that would be the subject of another post. I do know full scale helicopters are maintenance intensive and expensive to learn and operate. If I could, I would learn just for the ability if I ever needed it.
God bless you and yours as well as this great nation, - Mike in Tennessee

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dear Editor:
Although land, sea, and aerial [unmanned vehicles] are available, for the purpose of survival ‘hobbyist’ surveillance from an aerial vehicle is the best option.  A land or sea based homemade ‘drone’ would have to be large to navigate even moderate terrain or choppy water and the larger the vehicle is the more costly, dangerous and obvious it is.  Aerial ‘drones’ on the other hand can be much smaller and unobtrusive.   When we refer to drones, what we are really speaking of just a radio controlled vehicle with perhaps some fancy telemetry.   Aerial drones come in two basic flavors, fixed wing and multi-copter.   I have experience building both as well as automated lawnmowers and snowplows. 

Fixed wing

A fixed wing UAV is really a radio control airplane.  There are thousands of models available, from palm sized to nearly full scale.  Power can come from a battery or even a small scale jet turbine.  The best format for a drone would be an inexpensive expanded foam model.  These foams can withstand full speed impacts with the ground with really no damage other than a broken propeller (trust me I know).   Skillfully built and operated, the fixed wing drone could stay aloft for hours and several thousand feet up.  Operation is nearly silent when at altitude.


A multi-copter is just a helicopter with more than one rotor.  A Chinook is an example of a full scale multi-copter.  Multi-copters come in several formats, having from 3 to 12 motors on arms extending from the center. Kits are commercially available, or a good multi-copter can be scratch built at home.  Design can be very robust if proper materials are selected.  The strongest units are made from carbon fiber or aluminum, with motors oriented for redundancy.   My multi-copter is about 4 feet across, weighs 6 pounds, and can lift a 4 pound payload.  These are very versatile.  I can follow a car, land on a roof, even fly to my front window and look inside the house.  Multi-copter electronics are much more expensive than their fixed wing counterparts.  Careful consideration must be paid to electronics protection.

This is a bit of a catch all term and can best be divided into stabilization and flight control.  For a fixed wing vehicle, stabilization can be done inexpensively with hobby gyros.  This will automatically correct the flight to straight and level after any deviation.  Flying is much more simple.  Flight control is added on top of stabilization.  Generally flight control is via GPS radios with waypoints programmed via a computer.   You end up with a radio controlled airplane that once launched will fly, to a point(s) and circle, take video, etc. and fly back.  Video feed is also possible, but even a cheap video camera will record nicely from the air.

For multi-copters stabilization is absolutely necessary.  Humans can not control anything this complex alone.  For a multi-copter  the stabilization essentially compiles  normal inputs, from a radio or flight controller,  along with gyro and accelerometer data from the vehicle.  The stabilization computer then calculates the desired speed for each motor.  Multi-copter stabilization is very effective.  I can literally shove my x8 multi-copter in flight and it simply autocorrects back to its original position and heading.    Multi-copter flight control is very similar to fixed wind control, via GPS waypoints, although ultrasonic range finders can be used indoors.   The stabilization in my multi-copter is capable of controlled flight in 25+ mph winds.
Please keep in mind that there are FAA and FCC rules governing radio control aircraft, drones and video downlink radios.

After months of tinkering, crashing and spending probably thousands of dollars, you will have a drone that will fly in a stable manner.  You will be able to control it with your radio and maybe you invested enough for a flight controller and video down link.  What do you do with this new toy?
Due to payload and range restrictions, an aerial drone is not suited for really anything other than surveillance/reconnaissance.  Honestly, in a survival scenario, my multi-copter in not even on the bug out list.  That is not to say that these things are useless to a prepper though.   I have video of my house and neighborhood.  I can easily fly above and look down undetected.  If I wanted to, I could peer into window on a high rise.  Whether bugging in, or at a retreat a bird’s eye view of your environment is very much a force multiplier, although I sometimes think a camera on a $10 kite with a long sting is an equivalent option. Regards, - Rockhound

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why should tyrannical, oppressive governments have all the fun with advanced technology?  How many of you reading this knew that for about $1,000 (about the cost of a good AR-15) that you could buy all the parts you needed to build your own drones?  Did you know that there are cutting edge companies that are even selling “all in one” kits to make your own drones?  Everyone is well-aware that drones have become a force-multiplier on the battle field.  They grant a lone ground force the ability of a degree of air-superiority, even if that superiority is only that of surveillance and the ability to see through the fog of war to a certain extent.  Imagine the implications this can have on the safety and security of your homestead?  Not to mention what a fun hobby this could be!

This essay is written to serve as an introduction to everyone about the possibilities of civilian drone technology.  You will need to do technical research on your own.  Please note, what you choose to do with your drone is your own business.  Make sure that you obey all local, state and federal laws regarding this technology.

What do you need to get started?
Head on over to  This is a great web site that was created with the sole purpose of investigating the world of drone technology and how it can be utilized by the average civilian.  It has a great community to help you with all your questions.  According to the web site's editors, here is a list of what you will need to start your own DIY drones project. 

  1.  You will need a vehicle. there are instructions showing how to incorporate planes, helicopters, land-based and even water based vehicles into your drone system.
  2. You will need an autopilot.  Autopilots are computer boards that control the mechanical functions of your drones.  You will need this item if you want to be able to program your drones to be autonomous and function on its own.  Autopilots typically include mission planning software to program your drones.
  3. You will need a computer or laptop.  Most of us already posses one that can serve the purpose.
  4. An optional payload system.  This could be anything from recording cameras, video transmission equipment, radio duplexers, to a message in a bottle.  More on this later.

It’s as simple as that.  The macro-components listed above are simple to gather and can be done under $1,000 (excluding computer).   This is enough to get you started in the world of drones’s.  Let’s take a look at highly suggested support equipment.  If you are really broke, take a look at AirHogs.  I know, they are toys for kids.  But how valuable could this simple “toy” be as a force multiplier?  I wouldn’t stake my life on them, but they could really make a big difference.

  1. Off-grid power source.  drones’s need electricity to run.  They don’t use much, so a big system isn’t necessary.  Ideally you would want a system that could allow you to re-charge your drones within one day.  A great no-fuss, all-in-one system is Goal Zero’s Escape 150 Solar Kit.  A system like this could be exclusively used to support your drones and isn’t too hard on the pocket book.  An alternative is a Biolite Homestove  (if you can get your hands on one) is another great option, as you can tend to your cooking duties while charging electrical systems.
  2. Spare batteries.   Spare batteries for your drones and all support equipment are highly recommended.  Batteries will wear out with constant use. 
  3. Spare autopilot.  Your autopilot is the brain of your drones.  If you only have one and it dies, your drones has become useless.
  4. Spare parts for your vehicle.  Consider the parts that might break the most.  Ailerons, rudders, rotors/propellers, wheels, chassis, suspension, etc.  Stock up on a few extras plus additional materials that could be substituted for broken parts.  Model airplane wood, glue, plastics, metals, paints (for camouflage).
  5. Spare payload parts of your choice.

It is highly recommended that any primary and spare parts for your drones be stored in some sort of Faraday cage when not in use.

So, now you’ve got your own homemade, DIY drone/drones.  What next?  How can it be useful?  The possibilities are endless, but here are some uses that might interest Survivalblog readers.  There are three main categories of use than a drone could function in; surveillance, communication, delivery/transport.  While examining these three categories, please keep in mind that drones’s can come in land, sea or air based systems.  Conduct some critical thinking exercises to see which system could serve your unique situation best in your environment.  These are just a few possibilities, I’m sure you can think of more!  Keep in mind, the mission planning software that you get for your autopilot will often come with the ability to program your drone to the below tasks.


Static Observation

Imagine for a moment that you require the ability to observe a field a view from a higher elevation or vantage point.  A quad copter type drones could be suited very well for this task since it is capable in functioning in a hover mode.  Imagine your field of view from an altitude 100’ above your ground-based observation post?

Roving Patrol
Programming your drones or drone to conduct a patrol on a pre-designated route can potentially save you man power.  If your homestead is under-staffed, you may be able to send out patrols to survey your area of operations without sacrificing critical staff at your base location.

If there is something in particular you would like to get a closer look at, you can send out a drones to have a closer inspection without putting personnel in harm’s way.  Let’s say you are in a vehicle convoy and are coming up on a blind curve.  Wouldn’t it be great to send out a drones to reconnoiter the curve to determine if it is safe/free of an ambush?  Anything that is dangerous that you don’t want to get close to is perfect for a recon mission.


Homing Pigeon
Imagine that you are out on a patrol and need a way to discretely send a message to someone?  If you had a drones that was preprogrammed to head to a designated GPS location, you could then send the drones on it’s mission to deliver a written message, flash drive, or other small object.

Aerial Repeater
UHF/VHF handheld radios suffer from the unfortunate consequence of being line of sight (LOS) radios only.  Depending on the terrain, this could limit radio communication on these frequencies to just a few miles.  Repeaters provide the ability to extend the range of these frequencies by basically putting a radio on a big-tall tower (or other high elevation) that re-transmits a signal.  The problem is, you can’t always build a tower in a remote location.
Here’s a solution.  If you have access to a duplexer, it could be installed on a UAV.  By flying the UAV at an extreme altitude in a holding pattern, you could potentially extend the range of a UHF/VHF radio network up to 50-60 miles.  Think that could be useful?  The drawback to this usage is that a fairly large UAV will be required in order to carry the heavy payload a duplexed repeater system.


This is an all-encompassing category and the possibilities here are endless.  The limitations of this category are base solely on the cargo capacity, in both weight and volume, of the particular vehicle you intend on using.  The larger the vehicle you intend to use, the more cargo capacity.  Keep in mind to, that the vehicle does not necessarily have to land in order to make the delivery (if you are using a UAV).  A package of MREs could be dropped via parachute eliminating the need for the UAV to land.  It can simply be programmed to fly out, make the drop and fly back. Use your noggin to think about this one.  They sky is the limit (pun intended).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drones

In addition to the aforementioned advantages and uses, please consider the following.

  1. Drones can function autonomously.  This requires an autopilot and uses GPS to navigate.
  2. Drones can function manually, in the same manner that an RC hobbyist controls his vehicle.  By attaching a camera the “pilot” can fly in 1st person.
  3. Drones in autopilot mode can be deployed at night.
  4. If a drone gets damaged or destroyed, that’s better than a human being injured or killed.
  5. Drones can be programmed to function in fleets as a unit, or individually.


  1. Drones require a support system.  See above.
  2. Drones can be hacked or spoofed.  Whether in manual or autopilot mode, drones are sending and receiving radio frequencies.  These frequencies could potentially be hacked into with devices like these.
  3. If you plan on making repairs or advanced modifications to drones you will most likely require extra spare parts and materials in addition to an understanding of aerodynamics, electronics, and radio frequency communication.
  4. Drones are almost impossible to operate in bad weather.
  5. Drones are not a tool to base your life on, but they can be a boon when working as designed.

JWR Adds: Drones are also fragile, so you would need to store many spare drones and parts to make your DIY drone capability viable in the long term.

Payload Considerations
Here are some considerations for payload.

  1. Video recording camera (requires download and analysis at a later time).
  2. Video streaming camera (requires radio frequency transmission system).
  3. Night vision for above devices.
  4. Thermal vision for above devices.
  5. Supply delivery system (such as parachute drop cargo bay).
  6. Radio relays such as repeaters/duplexers.
  7. What else can be carried?  Put your thinking cap on!

I hope the above information has sparked some interest into the potential uses for such great technology.  Remember to obey all laws when operating such technology.  It’s your responsibility to know the law so that you don’t do anything illegal. Enjoy your new hobby!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I am surprised that more people are not considering recreational vehicle (RVs), specifically Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheel Trailers, as important prepping tools  They can provide many advantages, backups, and a natural training environment for TEOTWAWKI.  Here are a few more:

  • Add a military surplus M1950 stove with a few parts from the hardware store to safely run the chimney through the standard RV ceiling vent [and insure proper ventilation] and you could live in an RV all winter.  We keep these parts tucked away in our at all times.
  • Add a 12 volt powered water purification system and you can refill your onboard potable water daily.  We use ours on almost every trip.
  • Adding several larger solar panels and an inverter will not only provide you with ample electricity but can serve as a backup to provide electricity to your current home or bugout location.
  • When bugging out you may not only bring a your living quarters with you but consider that it is a heavy duty trailer that can potentially haul several thousand pounds of food, water, weapons,  and other gear along with you at the same time.  If our family has 24 hours’ notice to a disaster we could load out our 32 foot travel trailer to effectively live for a 6 – 12 months without outside assistance.  This assumes wood for fuel and access to a relatively clean fresh water supply for purification and the ability to get to the location.
    It can be pre-positioned before things get really bad.
  • A distant relative may be more likely to take you in if you have brought your own living quarters.
  • Once at your bug out location an RV can becomes a potential secondary location if the primary is threatened.
  • Bug out Bags and tents can be carried within it to provide even more redundancy or as gear to share.
  • The knowledge developed while providing electricity, heat, cooling, water, cooking, living in relatively tight quarters, plumbing, and waste disposal will give you knowledge that most do not have.
  • It is great for a family to vacation in one of these as it forces everyone to cease from the distractions of normal living and focus on each other (from proximity of other family members alone).

    Off grid camping with your RV is great fun and is a great way to train for a worst case scenario without anyone questioning it.

While not perfect solution to all prepping problems, an RV is an excellent way to provide flexibility to your existing bug out plan.
Troy V. in Minnesota

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thorough prepping is expensive. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to put food on the table (plus a few extra cans for the pantry). Alternative power, water, sewage, and refrigeration are back-burnered to the ever-growing “wish list.” So what's a prepper on a shoestring budget to do?

Consider a used camping trailer or recreational vehicle (RV)! You can find a used trailer for as little as $500. We paid $1,200 for a 35-foot RV. Besides weekend camping, the RV offers the following in a self-contained package:

  • fresh water holding tank
  • water heater
  • flush toilet
  • shower
  • gas stove and oven
  • 3-way refrigerator (regular electric, battery, and gas)
  • temporary sewage disposal
  • temporary waste water ("gray water") disposal
  • heavy-duty power inverter with deep cycle batteries (can be charged with solar cells or generator)
  • propane tanks
  • beds to sleep eight

Some models even include 12-volt television, DVD player, and music systems.

Short-term Emergencies

Some emergencies are short-term and temporary in nature, such as wildfires, predicted hurricanes, or chemical spills. With a stocked camper or rv, you can temporarily bug out with most of the comforts of home. Many RVs have dual fuel tanks, giving you a much longer travel range than the family car, especially if you aren't traveling at high speeds on the interstate. You may be able to drive to a location out of harm's way and return without ever stopping for fuel. If you have a trailer, you may be able to add an auxiliary fuel tank to your tow vehicle to increase travel range.

Bug-Out Planning

As a knowledgeable prepper, you are alert for signs of impending crisis that could result in TEOTWAWKI. Hopefully, you can be on the road to your bug-out location before panic sets in. Just another family on a leisurely camping trip, tra-la-la.

Of course, once panic sets in, with fuel shortages, traffic congestion, and the possibility of armed bandits treasure-hunting the highways, you don't want to be lumbering along in a deluxe Class A motor home. All the more reason to A. Leave early. B. Buy used (old and ugly, but reliable is the goal). And C. Maintain a low profile (no NRA bumper stickers, expensive bikes on exterior racks, etc.).

Pre-TEOTWAWKI, your camper can help you in your quest for a good retreat location. Most sellers will allow a potential buyer to spend the night in a self-contained camper on the property. It's a good way to learn about typical night-time noises, such as trains, wildlife, and neighborhood nuisances. Once you find your retreat, you may choose to park your camper there so you don't have to worry about bug-out traffic. Be aware that unattended campers sometimes attract youth looking for a place to party, thieves looking for sporting goods, and wandering homeless looking for a place to sleep. Cache your food, weapons, and valuables in a storage unit nearby, or build one or more hidden storage spots on your property.

Sheltering in Place

But where the camper can really come through is when you decide to stay home and ride out the emergency, especially if you've done some advance planning and local recon.

Water and Sewage Systems

Keeping the fresh water tanks full gives you several days' supply of water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. And if you have a well and a generator, you can top of the tanks as needed. Camper water heaters operate on propane, so you'll have hot water for showers, as well.

Campers have separate holding tanks for “gray” and “black” water. “Black” is sewage that will eventually need to be disposed of. There are several options to consider. Adding a few feet of pipe and a connector (and cap) to your regular sewer is the simplest option. You can also purchase wheeled “dump tanks” from camper supply stores. Dump into the tank, then wheel the tank to a dump station and dump it. Finally, you can drive the camper to a local campground and use the dump station to empty the tank. (Check out local options in advance—many public parks allow free dumping.) “Gray” water can be recycled to water plants, livestock, etc.

If you're in a northern location, you'll need to either insulate and heat-tape pipes and tanks, or have them drained and winterized to prevent freezing.

Cooking and Refrigeration

The gas stove and oven in your camper don't need electricity to prepare food. You may need to have a lighter or matches to light pilot lights or burners. Two large gas bottles last a surprisingly long time—and the connections are the same as your gas grill. So a few extra bottles of propane can be used for either the grill or the camper. If you have a large propane tank for your home, you can even buy adapters to fill the smaller gas bottles from the large tank. One large tank and a few small ones can easily last for a year or more.

The typical refrigerator is a “three-way”. It can be run on gas, AC power (regular utility line current), or DC power 12 volt (battery). The most important thing to remember is that the camper refrigerator works best when the camper is level. You may need an assortment of boards or leveling jacks to accomplish this goal.


Most campers are equipped with a heavy-duty power inverter and one or more deep-cycle batteries. Batteries can be recharged with solar panels or generator. A full charge will usually last several days powering refrigerator, lights, and television or computer. Using the air conditioner or furnace blower will consume a lot more power.

Guest Accommodations

When friends and family arrive, where will they sleep? With a camper, your guests (or you) can sleep comfortably and privately.

When and Where to Find Camper Bargains

Fall months are the perfect time for northerners to find bargain priced campers. It's the end of the camping season, gas prices are going higher all the time, and financially-challenged consumers are looking for non-essentials to sell for much-needed cash.

Your best bargain will be with an owner, not a dealer. You can look on Craigslist or local classifieds. Drive through local campgrounds and family neighborhoods and look for “for sale” signs.

In the southern sunbelt states, spring offers the best bargains. Snowbirders may not want the expense of taking the camper back up north or the worry of finding a suitable place to store it.

Some Things to Check When Buying a Used Camper

  • Tires—be alert to signs of weather-checking that can make the tire unreliable.
  • Make sure brake lights and turn signals are in working order.
  • Check interior for signs of leaks, such as ceiling stains.
  • Ask the seller to start the refrigerator, then come back the next day to see if it's cold.
  • Check water and drain pipes for leaks.
  • Inspect gas tanks for missing or damaged fittings.
  • If buying a trailer, make sure your vehicle will tow it. Make sure your hitch is the right size and the wiring plugs are compatible.
  • Once you've bought the camper, make a “dry run” in your back yard to make sure all systems are operable and camper is properly stocked. (50 cans of food are worthless on a camping trip if the can opener is at home. Trust me, you don't want to buy a can opener in a typical over-priced campground store.)

You can also buy a used camper from a dealer, which may give you some recourse if something doesn't work right, and possibly a financing option. But expect to pay $3,000 or more for a used trailer from a dealer.

Camper Bargains to Avoid

While easier to tow, most pop-up campers won't have the same self-contained features of an RV or full-size trailer. Many older models don't have a bathroom; the “refrigerator” is an icebox (meaning you need to stock it with fresh ice every day or so); and there's no oven, just a three-burner cooktop.

Slide-in truck campers may have self-contained features, but smaller space means smaller holding tanks, smaller refrigerators, and less storage space. Instead of two large propane tanks, they have one small one.

One More Advantage of the Camper as Shelter

TEOTWAWKI will bring many challenges. While we can try to anticipate common scenarios, it's hard to anticipate exact reactions to specific challenges. If your group includes children or elderly family members, a disruption in normal routine can intensify a crisis situation. However, the multiple backup systems in the camper can help maintain a semi-normal routine. Even the most crisis-ready prepper will appreciate a flush toilet and hot shower. While children will most certainly have chores and responsibilities, there will be times a battery-operated DVD player will be a real treat. Your crisis can be your child's “adventure.”

A few years ago (while we still lived up north) our neighborhood experienced a week-long power failure in December. Same week as youngest daughter's birthday. We still had a birthday party—lighted by oil lamps, with homemade chili made on top of a kerosene heater, store-bought cake, and ice cream kept frozen in a snow drift by the front door. She still talks about the awesome birthday party she didn't expect.

And when it's all said and done TEOTWAWKI will lead to a New World We Will Build. Yes, we can improvise toilets with garbage bags and five-gallon buckets, and take sponge baths alongside the creek if we have to. But why not enjoy flush toilets and hot showers as long as possible?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our culture relies heavily on vehicles and this will likely result in a rude awakening in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  Depending on the circumstances, vehicles, fuel, and/or parts may become insanely scarce and expensive.  This reality has led many preppers to explore various options ranging from alternative energy vehicles to reverting to traditional forms of transportation/heavy machinery (horses for example).   Additionally, those preparing for the worst must consider abnormal conditions that vehicles need to withstand when TSHTF.  This article will discuss TEOTWAWKI vehicles, preparing, and special tactics/considerations in regard to operating them.

There are several schools of thought on what is needed in a survival vehicle, how to select them, etc., but unless you have a nearly unlimited budget (as well as good connections), the dream amphibious, Armored Personnel Carrier that runs on sunshine and hope , gets 80 miles per gallon, and is eco-friendly is probably not likely.  James Wesley, Rawles’ books "Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse" and "How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It" essentially recommend [for the sake of fueeel flexibility] having a diverse fleet of vehicles and this is a great idea and goal.  However, you might be restricted to one vehicle that meets your needs, purpose, and the threat environment that you anticipate.  For instance, are you planning to “bugout” and if so, will it be a long, cross-country trip?  Consider your location; your family sedan has sufficed in a snowy climate because of the roads being maintained, but when the salt trucks stop running, the snow and ice pile up, roads are littered with debris, and pavement breaks apart, will you be able to depend upon it? 

Though there are numerous recommendations out there for various makes and models, I would recommend a quality (not the same as luxury) SUV or truck.  TEOTWAWKI will require high-ground clearance, tough suspension, more space than your average grocery store trip, and work capacity.  Again, I will avoid preferences but older vehicles (no fuel injection or electronic ignition systems) will be better choices in many regards such as EMPs and simplicity of repair.  Fuel sources play a huge role in vehicle selection as they should because the vehicle is of little use if you cannot feed it.  I have not personally built a gasifier, but plan to do so in the near future.  If you are unfamiliar with this technology and have plentiful access to wood products, then you should look into this.  Window tint has some advantages such as concealing your identity and what you have inside your vehicle, but heed local laws and realize that your vehicle will unlikely be sitting in the shopping mall parking lot to be broken into when TSHTF.  One last note on vehicle selection borrows from both Mr. Rawles and good judgment; choose earth tone vehicle, preferably in a flat finish.  Our society buys flashy cars to stand out, but this is contrary to what you will want when TSHTF. 

Now that you have your vehicle (or fleet), you need to ensure they are ready to perform when and how you need them to.  Vehicle maintenance is critical to ensure dependability and longevity of your vehicle so make sure are taking care of it and know how to perform routine maintenance and procedures if you do not already.  If you are not mechanically inclined, you will benefit from taking vocational courses or hanging out with a gearhead family member or friend.  Purchase automotive manuals such as Chilton or Haynes for your vehicle.   Electronic resources are nice but might not be available in a grid-down scenario.  Do not depend on Google or YouTube to fix your vehicle.  This also goes for tools/lighting; they are great assets for automotive repair but require electricity and an impact gun powered by an air compressor paints you as a massive target to the “have-nots.”  Therefore, build your tool chest and consider investing in engine hoists and other heavy duty automotive tools.   In addition to acquiring knowledge, skill, and resources, integrate a weekly or monthly vehicle inspection plan.  This will not only keep your vehicle in top shape, but it will save you money in the long run and is a great opportunity to teach these skills to your family members.  Learn how ignition systems work because in TEOTWAWKI, it might useful to know how to start a vehicle without keys (like say, with a screwdriver).  The same goes for siphoning fuel; it can be done with a pump or the old hose method, but be aware that some newer vehicles have anti-siphon features (these can be bypassed). 

You will obviously need fuel and have probably devised a plan for producing and/or storing fuel, but have you considered the availability of replacement parts?  Auto parts stores, dealerships, junk yards, and eBay motors will not be open during TEOTWAWKI and will not take your terribly devalued money anyway so you might want to grab some key parts now if you plan to keep this vehicle.   Vehicles might be abandoned on major roadways everywhere one day, but they were left for a reason and it might be unsafe to try to remove parts (provided they have what you need).  Ideally, you will be able to replace/repair anything on your vehicle, but a spare parts car is unlikely/often impractical.  I would suggest that at a minimum, you have the following: several spare tires/wheels, tire plug kits, fix-a-flat, brakes, all vehicle fluids/lubricants, replacement hoses/belts, key gaskets/gasket material, sealants, thermostat, filters, assorted nuts/bolts/washers, ignition parts, starting fluid, fuses, wire, battery acid, paint, wire ties, tape, windshield wipers, and headlights.  Naturally, if you have some specialty vehicle (function or fuel), you will need to plan accordingly.  A note on tires is to frequently check your tire pressure and tread life.   Keep a tire gauge in your conveyance and do not depend on sensors and computers to diagnose your vehicle for you.  A penny  can be used to ensure you have adequate tread.  As long as the top of Lincoln’s head is not visible, you have sufficient (legal) tread.  However, the more diminished your tread is, the harder it is to stop, you get less traction, and hydroplaning/skidding are more likely.  In the event of a blowout, remain calm slowly decrease your speed and steer to safety.  Some people panic when a tire blows (or the breaks fail, car skids, etc.) but do not do this.  If you brake only to find that your brakes are malfunctioning, try the emergency brake or  gear down (if no brakes at all) and let compression slow you down.   Whether it is no brakes or the accelerator sticks, do not turn the engine off because it does not negate the problem and [in most vehicle of recent manufacture] now the steering column is locked (meaning you cannot steer).  Instead, put the vehicle in neutral and move to safety. 

You should equip your vehicle with survival in mind.  What you need is ultimately up to you but should include at least the following: fire extinguisher (dry powder, rated for A,B, C, and E materials), whistle, signal mirror, maps, compass, GPS, location beacon, heavy duty trash bags, N95 masks, duct tape, matches/fire starter, chem lights, flares, candles, phone charger, a good first aid kit, blankets, food, water, tire tool, jack, tire repair, jumper cables/booster box, electrical tape, wire, wire ties, fuses, v or serpentine belt, common wrenches, small socket set, pliers, screw drivers, a camera, tow strap, e-tool (small shovel), cigarette lighter air compressor, fuel can (they make collapsible ones if space is an issue), knife, toilet paper, soap/hand sanitizer, pen/pencil, notepad, list of emergency contacts (law, medical, poison, fire, and personal), flashlight, rope, medical/allergy alert, and bungee cords.   If you are traveling a long distance or through a harsh climate, consider what else you might need such as kitty litter or chains for traction on snow/ice or medications in case your day trip turns into a disaster.  I always pack my SUV for longer, more severe trips than I intend to make.  A CB radio and winch are two great tools too.  Camo netting is a worthwhile investment if your plan is to “bugout,” especially if long distance travel is involved.

Remember, this kit is not just for TEOTWAWKI; it could be the wreck you encounter on the way home, an injury at a local event, or simply assisting someone who is broken down.  Two key principles must be in place with stocking your vehicle; securing and organizing.  You will probably want the fire extinguisher or emergency glass breaking/seat belt cutter readily available, but you do not want them flying around the inside of your interior in the event of a wreck so secure all of these items to prevent injury and damage.  Lastly, organize your gear so you can quickly access it.  You do not want to be digging through a duffle bag in search of a wrench with dirty hands contaminating your sterile medical equipment.

Now, let’s move from the vehicle itself to operating them.  It is important to note several good rules of thumb before moving on.  First, be aware of your surroundings (situational awareness) in general, but especially when operating a motor vehicle or when at a high risk area such as a gas station, an ATM, or when slowed/stopped near chokepoints (overpass, train tracks, exit ramps, etc.)  Second, lock your cars doors at all times, even when you are driving.  Not only will this prevent someone from walking up at a stop and opening your door, such as a carjacking, but locked doors are safer in an accident because they shield you (whereas a missing door does not), support the roof from collapse, and keep you inside the vehicle.  Many have heard to leave them unlocked so if you are unconscious, rescuers can get to you, but many newer vehicles auto unlock and rescuers will likely break the glass or utilize the “jaws of life” so this is irrelevant.  Third, either have your windows all the way up or down (not partially) while operating the vehicle.  A partially lowered window is a good way to turn a minor car collision into a decapitation.   Next, never pull right up on the vehicle in front of you; instead, leave at least a few feet of pavement between the visible front of your vehicle and the one in front’s tires.  This will permit you to maneuver around this vehicle without reversing should it breakdown or someone jumps out shooting.   Be cautious about where you park and people in the vehicles near you.  Other than door dings and common sense (lighting, etc.), do not park between two large vehicles as this could be an abduction scheme.  Pause a moment before leaving a stopped state at intersections because it might be green for you now, but the person texting, driving drunk, or simply insistent on not catching that red light might plow into you.  You are such a nice person so who would want to harm you in any way?  Well, the world is strange like that sometimes so be cautious (not paranoid) of people following you.  Try to vary your daily routes and if you suspect someone is following you, make three rights turns to see if they continue.  If so, do not drive home, but go somewhere safe/alert authorities.  Another good practice involves your hand placement.  While this is ultimately a personal preference, do not rest/grip through the steering wheel because in the event of a collision, the wheel can jerk, breaking your wrists.  What may have been a simple collision has now given you broken hands and possibly a uncontrollable vehicle.  Lastly, try to notify friends and family about whereabouts, travel plans, and when you should arrive/return.  This may save your life or at least maybe some trouble.

The first special consideration is the “elements.”  Driving at night is not all that abnormal in our society but can be very different in a TEOTWAWKI world or even an emergency situation.  Most people have not “outdriven” their headlights, i.e. driven so fast that they cannot see in time to react.  If this is necessary, be sure to scan off the road to not only watch for people, vehicles, animals, etc., but to also break the tunnel vision.  One note about running over animals; do not swerve to miss an animal unless it would cause more damage than running off the road, like if it is a moose or bear.  If you see a large animal and cannot avoid impact, try aiming for its rear because you will likely just clip it and might miss altogether (it moves).   Insurance will sometimes cover (no fault) damage from hitting an animal, but slamming into a tree is usually regarded as a (your fault) collision.  Something to consider for TEOTWAWKI is noise and light discipline and vehicles put out a lot of both at night especially.  Many preppers already have or plan to purchase night vision goggles (NVGs) and driving with them can be a great benefit to exercise light discipline, but make sure you can wear or mount them.  Also, be aware that some models really impair your depth perception.  If you plan to operate under these conditions, install infrared lights so that you see even better.  Remember that other people with NVGs will be able to see these IR lights too though.

Other facets of the elements to consider are storms, rain, snow, and ice.  It is best not to travel in storms if possible so if you are on the road, pull over and wait it out. When you do transition back to driving, be sure your surroundings are safe prior to pulling out on the road.   However, if you must drive on, proceed slowly with your hazard lights on (unless tactically not acceptable).  Rain/flooding present concerns in limited visibility, hydroplaning, unseen hazards, and hydrolocking your engine.   If hydroplaning occurs, you must resist the urge to hit the brakes, but gradually slow down.  In any event that the vehicle begins to skid, let off the accelerator and steer into the spin, i.e. if the rear of your vehicle is skidding left, turn the steering wheel left, but do not over-correct.  If a road is flooded, you do not know the condition underneath the water, e.g. broken or missing roadways/bridges so do not proceed into water unless you can clearly see the pavement/lines. Moving or deep water can wash away your vehicle so check the depth.   Also, if you drive in too deep of water, you can suck water into the engine and destroy it.  If your vehicle fell victim to a flood, you might be able to salvage it if you change the oil, filters, plugs, grease it, and let it dry out prior to starting it.  You should thoroughly clean it and drop the oil pan/cleaning the engine and fuel system out is highly recommended.  With regard to driving on ice, proceed slowly and like you would fearing a hydroplane; do not slam on the brakes and correct accordingly.  If a road has been “cleared” but a “two-track” of snow remains, sometimes driving in the snow will improve traction.  Do not think that because you have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive that you can drive in whatever conditions.  Ice changes all of that. When cleaning your vehicle off for operation during winter storms, make sure to clean all of your glass and lights so you can see and that others can see you too.  Drive on frozen ice (only if you have to and have checked it) slowly, have your windows down, seatbelt off, and ready to bail out. 

If you would wreck or break down in a snow storm, your survival skills may truly be tested.  Hopefully, somebody knows your whereabouts, you can contact the outside world, and/or have a rescue beacon.  If you must shelter in your car, conserve gas and energy, stay awake, keep the hood cleaned, and be cognizant of carbon monoxide poisoning.   

“Off roading” might become a necessity of life instead of a hobby in TEOTWAWKI.  I doubt the roads and bridges will be maintained and when abandoned vehicles, debris, and potentially checkpoint roadblocks litter the roads, off roading may be necessary.  Hopefully, your vehicle has the capabilities, but this also requires skill.  First, let me emphasize that not all routes are passable but vehicles can travel over some pretty rough terrain.  Make sure that you have proper ground clearance and be aware that some steeper inclines and obstacles require an angled approach.  It is a good idea to trim panels that might otherwise break, to install skid plates, brush guards, and heavy duty suspensions (does not have to be “Big Foot,” but added weight/abuse can wreak havoc on stock components).   Do not be afraid to get out of the vehicle and check the road/obstacle/wash-out that you are contemplating to negotiate before committing to that route.  Off-roading is often associated with getting stuck.  If you are stuck, do not just freak out and mash the accelerator.  Instead, if you cannot move the direction you are trying to go, smoothly try the opposite way and turn the steering wheel to attempt to regain traction.  Sometimes you will have to dig yourself out (for example when high-centered (bottomed out) so remove the dirt to allow the tires traction if high-centered or dig gradual inclines in the direction you are trying to go if just stuck.  You may also be able to rescue yourself by let some air out of the tire, which puts more tire gripping surface to the ground.  Being stuck by yourself is no fun.  When accompanied, do not forget that passengers pushing and/or putting weight on the rear vehicle has led to many vehicles being freed from mud, muck, snow, etc.  Sometimes you must winch or tow a vehicle out. Take caution when using  a chain or cable to rescue vehicles because if the chain/cable breaks loose, it can excitedly and dangerously fly into nearby vehicles and people.  This can be avoided by using a tow strap/rope instead of a chain/cable or by placing a heavy towel, coat, etc. on the chain/cable.   If you are descending a steep hill, avoid slamming on the brakes, but instead allow your engine’s compression to slow you down (lowest gear).  Lastly, be careful when parking off road in tall grass or brush.  If the grass/brush comes in contact with hot engine or exhaust parts, it may burn the vehicle, you, your supplies, and the forest down. 

High speed driving has some considerations too (besides out-driving your headlights and tunnel vision).  When you are driving fast, try to never accelerate or brake while steering.  If you are driving fast going into a curve, brake hard and in a straight line (known as threshold braking) prior to the curve.  If you need to take curves fast, look into apex turning or better yet, take a training class so that you can practice this in a safe environment. 

Bugging out usually involves a vehicle loaded down with your loved ones and gear to go to some place to ride out the storm/make a stand.  Make sure you have a plan and not just gear.  Know the route, alternate routes, do not depend on your Tom Tom or On Star, plan on backed up/blocked roads, have contingency plans, have sufficient fuel, and be ready for anything.  If you are traveling a long distance, gas stations might not be able to serve you so have more than enough fuel and look at fuel cells/additional tanks in addition to fuel cans.   Bugging out requires extreme organization of your vehicle.  Have tools, food/water, medical supplies, weapons, and extra fuel readily accessible in addition to your bags.  Make good use of every square inch of storage and use the roof like people use to.  Practice loading your vehicle so there will no surprises and time your routes.  Depending on the circumstances, you could encounter checkpoints by hooligans and you need to have a plan for them.  I doubt they will be content with a small token of food or whatever else you have to permit you to pass when they could try to take it all.  You need to find another route or take them out and that is your personal decision.  If you choose to fight, have a plan for if you cannot win, if your vehicle becomes immobile, or it cannot safely be repaired due to conditions.  To run a road block of cars, aim for the rear of the vehicle (less weight), but this is a last resort.  

One last special consideration is fighting tactics from/with a vehicle.  Shooting and moving vehicles are not a fun time.  Although these are less of a concern in TEOTWAWKI, be mindful of hearing damage and hot brass inside of a vehicle.  Also consider compact weapons (or those with folding/collapsible stocks) for this because it is hard to aim a long gun inside a vehicle, especially when it is loaded for doomsday.  You can use a regular vehicle for cover and concealment, but know the difference; concealment only hides you whereas cover will stops bullets.  Ideal cover in regard to a vehicle is with the engine or wheel/axles between you and incoming fire.  Regular vehicle body panels do not stop bullets and do not press right up against the vehicle like the movie stars do because of ricochets, [spalling,] and shrapnel. 

You and your family might be on the road when TSHTF and the vehicle is all that you have access to.  A well-stocked vehicle can make all of the difference in both every day emergencies or if the world turns upside down.  Incorporate vehicle maintenance, knowledge/skills, and outfitting it into your plans and drills.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dear Editor:
Here are some videos to ponder, for those guys who are building the “Ultimate Bug Out Vehicle.”

Maybe this information should be filed under the general heading of “It isn’t the gun, it is the shooter", or more precisely, "It isn’t the car, it is the driver.”

Watch these videos. (I think the driver is just taking his dog out for a walk.)

- K.B.S. in Way North Illinois

Monday, September 24, 2012

I try not to bore my readers with the minutiae of our day-to-day life here at the Rawles Ranch. It is largely a fairly mundane annual rhythm of planting, harvesting, calving and lambing, wood cutting, huckleberry picking, hay hauling, and so forth. But I recently had driving mishap that was noteworthy: I was driving our SUV and hit a mountain lion, in broad daylight. I must first mention that deer collisions are all too common here in The Unnamed Western State (TUWS), and that elk or big horn sheep collisions are quite a bit less frequent. Even more rare are moose collisions, and those never end well. (Moose are so tall that they often go over the hood of a pickup truck and through the windshield.) But to hit a mountain lion is about as common an occurrence as getting struck by lightning or winning the mega lotto. I did a web search and found that the popular press tends to spill a lot of ink over these rare occurrences.

Here is what happened: I was driving down the highway minding my own business with the cruise control set at the speed limit and listening to an MP3 of Taj Mahal singing "Queen Bee" (part of my collection of favorite air checks from KFAT.) Suddenly I saw a full-grown cougar bounding out of the tree line, at speed. It ran into the highway in front of me. I didn't have any time to react. I heard it hit our deer bumper and then felt it go under the two driver's side tires. So now the large predator population of TUWS has been reduced by one. In doing so, I probably saved the lives of hundreds of deer. It was a little sad to see a pretty kitty get squashed, but so be it.

By the way, I should mention that extra heavy duty "deer guard" bumpers are de rigeur, in this region. These are available commercially and are also often custom fabricated, locally. To give you a sense of their size, these make typical Ford or Chevy pickup factory "brush guards" look flimsy, by comparison. Typically, real deer guard bumpers weigh 300 to 900 pounds. In TUWS, we even see these mounted on a few passenger sedans. That is indicative of how many deer collisions take place here.

I'm sure that some readers were disgusted by the foregoing while others will be ready to send hearty congratulations. (As with other large predators, I've noticed that perspectives on the Puma Concolor tend to vary widely, depending on whether or not someone has personally lost pets or livestock to these land sharks.) I'd characterize my own reaction as muted. I felt fortunate that my vehicle wasn't damaged (and with our bumper, it would probably take an elk to do any damage.) I also felt good knowing that I'd eliminated a predator that is presently a bit over-populated. But in a way I felt cheated. I'd much rather take a mountain lion in season after a long still hunt, from 300 yards, at 9X magnification. Or, better yet at spitting distance from beneath a snarling treed cat that has taken me and the dogs all day to chase down and tree. Somehow, just a heart-stopping glimpse and "whump-whump-whump" was just too easy.

I doubt that you'll be reading about any other animal collisions from me in the future, unless I have another rare one. (I don't even bother mentioning deer collisions, which we have every year or two.) By the way I did once almost hit a bald eagle, but thankfully a tragedy was avoided by the margin of just an arm-span.

So now I'm praying that some evening soon I encounter a horribly confused pack of wolves that stands transfixed in my headlights. But somehow I don't think that is very likely. Bummer.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Aircraft are expensive, fragile, very dependent on the weather and, unfortunately, on other people such as Air Traffic Control and airport operators. Airports can be blocked, aircraft can be seized and it only takes a pea shooter to put them out of commission. 

Given all that, they are still by far the best devices to quickly put hundreds of miles between you and a problem.

If you wanted an airplane as a survival tool, you would be looking at something simple that relies on the least possible support and can operate outside of airports: a bush plane. A bush plane is the equivalent of a four wheel drive car, with high wings and long legs to keep the body and propeller away from an uneven runway and a short take-off and landing distance. In that category, the Cessna 172 is the most available and easiest to fly aircraft. It is a four seater that will take you and your family halfway across the country in a day. A 40 years old model is still perfectly serviceable and costs under $50,000. However, you will need to count on a minimum of $5,000 a year in maintenance and running costs (constant compulsory maintenance is why old airplanes remain in good condition) and a serious investment in time. 

Similar aircraft start with the Piper Cub, a seventy years old classic which is probably the cheapest airplane you can find but is mostly made of tubes covered in fabric and go up to the De Havilland Twin Otter, an absolute master of the genre (the main support plane in Antarctica) but much too large and expensive for anything other than commercial operations. I must absolutely mention the Cessna Caravan and the Pilatus Porter as top of the heap although they are also too large and expensive for our purpose. Back in the “vaguely reasonable” range, you’ll find the De Havilland Beaver ($300,000), the most famous airplane on floats, ubiquitous in Canada and Alaska and the much more affordable ($100,000) family of Maule 7 light aircraft (the Maule MX-7 on Tundra tires looks like a monster truck and will land anywhere!). 

People use all those planes on water, dirt, grass and snow in inhospitable country around the world every day. They are slow, but usually have a superb range. The aforementioned C172 will take you at 140 mph for more than 800 statute miles away from your troubles before having to be refueled. Almost 45,000 have been made since 1956 so every mechanic in the world will know how to fix it and will have parts for it. Those planes are able to take off in less than 250 yards, but if you are considering converting one of your fields into a runway, count on double that to be comfortable and triple to be safe.

If you just want to get a license, it takes only between 40 and 50 hours of flying, a serious health check, a bit of classroom tuition, one ground exam, a flight test and a budget of around $6,000. Even if you don’t own an airplane, having the ability to fly one is a serious asset, especially if you consider living in a post cataclysmic world. Imagine The Walking Dead with stranded pilots instead of slightly intellect-challenged policemen.. They’d be in Hawaii having margaritas by now.

Higher up the scale come twin engine piston airplanes, which are much more difficult to fly and way more expensive to maintain without much added performance. Their only saving grace is that if you lose an engine over mountains or water at night or in bad weather, it is not the end of your world. 

I live in a small island and a light twin is one of my main modes of transportation. I would certainly not bother with the time and expense otherwise, although I am aware of a few survival situations where the plane could become useful. We were invaded once and the plane would certainly give me the option of escaping if it happened again. It might also work for a well documented tsunami or a case of serious civil unrest or a nuclear power plant failure. In every case, I’d need at least 30 minutes of prior warning and a clear enough case that I’d need to leave everything behind immediately. I used to have a second home about 500 miles away that made the plane much more useful but today, a boat would probably be a better escape choice for me.

A twin rating, added to your pilot’s license costs about the same as the original license and is at least equivalent in difficulty. It is quite a big step up but you will understand how to fly the majority of aircraft in the world and really feel like a proper pilot. A bit like the difference between driving a moped and a Harley Davidson.

Next up is the Instrument Rating. It is a course and an exam that allows you to fly exactly like the airlines, landing with as little as 200’ vertical visibility (scary!) and flying above the clouds with Air Traffic Control telling you what to do (which does make it much easier). This allows you to use your airplane as a traveling tool as you have to worry much less about the weather and I would be going nowhere without it. This is a long and expensive course for which you should budget a good $20,000 so it is not worth it unless you want to travel regularly with your own plane. Becoming a professional pilot takes a similar but parallel and slightly more difficult route and you need to decide early which one to follow. As salaries have come down significantly, the investment in time and money to become a hirable professional pilot is not really worthwhile nowadays unless you are really passionate about being in the air when you fill your endless paperwork.

A good, realistic flight simulator like the defunct Microsoft product or the still very much alive X-Plane 10 will teach you a lot but it is no substitute for the real thing, especially in the early stages. It helps greatly later on, in learning all the procedures. You can get you checklists right and learn how to operate the instruments without having to spend $150 an hour in the plane (or $15,000 an hour if you’re qualifying for a 747) and you can surprise your instructor with your new proficiency, acquired in-between lessons.

A pilot’s license can be a valuable part of your assets and, in a few select situations, a plane could put you seriously ahead of the crowds. In any case, take one lesson and do discover the third dimension for yourself.


Because they can take off and land pretty much anywhere, having a helicopter handy opens up tons of options. While it might take you a minimum of an hour to get to an airport and get an airplane ready, the scramble time of a helicopter is counted in minutes and although they are not generally considered fast,120 mph in a straight line will beat any car in traffic. They are incredibly agile and I have learnt to land a helicopter in a forest clearing, on a mountain slope, on a building’s roof and finally, to balance it on the top of a fence when there was really nowhere else to put it. 

The problem, of course, is that the cheapest helicopter costs four times as much to buy and operate as the equivalent airplane as they require even more meticulous maintenance (think 2,000 moving parts, all critical..). There are a few classic models that are vaguely reasonable to own, such as the 300, a piston engine three seater designed by Hughes in the sixties but now under license to other manufacturers like Schweizer and Bell, the very successful Robinson R22 and R44, modern two and four seater pistons, the fabulous Hughes 500, a small, very agile turbine five seater made famous by the Vietnam war and the Aérospatiale Gazelle, a very fast four seater turbine designed for the French military. They range in between $100,000 and $500,000 (very) second hand although you will need to get a 40 years old Hughes to put it in that sort of prices whereas a Robinson will never be older than 10 years, at which point they go back to the factory to be stripped and rebuilt. If you are not playing with back of the sofa money, Agusta, Sikorski, Eurocopter and Bell will all be delighted to sell you a superb new twin turbine five seater... starting at just $5 million a piece… And if you want a proper workhorse and are not afraid of random and expensive maintenance issues, $200,000 will get you a very old but still legendary Huey (Bell UH-1). 

Helicopters are also limited by weather, although not in the same way as airplanes (one might fly when the other can’t) and they have a much smaller range, often just around 250 statute miles.

It all sounds quite negative but the one thing that helicopters are good for is fun. A good comparison is that the vast majority of planes can be compared to buses, trucks and at the best, luxury sedans while any helicopter is going to be a motorcycle, and more than a few are in the Ducati category of motorcycles. Most planes are inherently stable and will easily fly on their own. In fact, it is good practice to trim (adjust) the controls so that a plane does fly itself and the pilot can use its hands and concentration for things like navigation, communications.. and paperwork. Flying a helicopter is like driving a motorcycle fast on a mountain road and the last thing on your mind would be to let go of the controls. In fact, and to complete the analogy, you even have a twisting handle for power although you do operate that one with your left hand in a helicopter.

A good airplane will allow you three mistakes before killing you; you can get in a few nasty scrapes with a car and have no more than a sore neck and an angry insurer to show for it. Just like a motorcycle, a helicopter will bite your head off if you so much as look at it funny. This, what most people would consider as a serious flaw, is of course a big part of the attraction. You’re not on the highway in cruise control, you’re on a forested mountain road in a 200hp superbike. It makes the blood flow differently.

Getting a helicopter license will involve 40 to 50 hours of flight time at $200 an hour plus the usual ground tuition, exam and flight test. It is reasonable to budget above $10,000 for the lot. You will need to double that to get a professional license but it may be worth it as, in contrast to an airplane pilots license where you will need additional ratings and flight time, the basic professional helicopter license is more immediately marketable. Also, while there is less job security, being a helicopter pilot is much more of an adventure. You might be doing oil rig transfers in the Philippines one year and herding sheep in New Zealand the next  or flying tourists inside a volcano in Hawaii or shuttling millionaires to and from their mega-yachts in the Virgin Islands or picking up casualties in the Swiss Alps. All a bit more exciting than doing the 17:15 to Boston every day.

So, if the helicopter is definitely a millionaire’s toy, it is also an extraordinary tool that proves its worth whenever there is a disaster and in every battlefield. Being able to fly one goes high in a list of personal assets and it makes for quite an exciting and varied career.


A subcategory of aircraft that are worthy of particular interest for preppers are ultralights. In most of the world, anything under about 1000lbs could be considered an ultralight and that allows for some quite capable aircraft. In America, unfortunately, those are considered sport airplanes and are subject to quite a few regulations and a specific pilot’s license although, fortunately, nowhere near what certified airplanes have to go through. Only the smallest of single seaters are considered Ultralights in the USA but those are completely unregulated: no license, no bureaucracy, just a few reasonable limitations like not flying over built up areas. Do note that not legally requiring a license doesn’t mean that you are not going to kill yourself the minute you take to the air: instruction is paramount! 

As you do the maintenance yourself, the costs go down tenfold and you don't need to spend a significant part of your life renewing licenses and medical certificates. Barring a reasonable amount of flying to maintain your proficiency, you can keep your little escape and reconnaissance tool nicely folded in your garage until it becomes useful. Ultralights are an uncommon freedom if things go really bad.  

The smallest ultralight is an extraordinarily compact device: the powered paraglider. In its simplest expression, it is a parachute and a backpack engine with a propeller attached. The whole thing can weigh less than 60lbs and will allow you to fly (slowly, not more than 25mph) from very short fields (less than 300 ft for obstacle clearance but you do get airborne almost immediately) for more than two hours. They are inherently safe (you are, in fact, already under a parachute) with the only serious danger being landing on water (where you will instantly sink with all that stuff on your back) or flying into electric lines. If you’re not interested yet, consider that many military and law enforcement agencies use them for low altitude reconnaissance and behind-the-lines insertion. A brand new package will cost you about $7,000 but you will find much cheaper second-hand ones discarded by pilots having lost their enthusiasm (they are, after all, very, very slow...). The biggest limitation of the powered paraglider is that it is almost impossible to fly in winds above 15 mph. An other limitation, for the paranoid, is that you do make a very tempting target, noisily drifting against the clouds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I have to concur with Mike Q. I have a Toyota pickup (22RE) with 310,000 miles that doesn't burn any oil and runs perfectly. You cannot kill these trucks. For a bug out vehicle (BOV) you can't beat these trucks. - Larry


Captain Rawles.
I have owned two Toyota trucks since 1995. I thought I would share some knowledge I have gained on Toyota truck platform with your readers if any are interested in owning a Toyota truck.

First, the most reliable and maintenance free Toyota truck model is the 1989-1995 22 RE 4-cylinder engine with five speed (manual) transmission. This is a fuel injected engine. If maintained well, 500,000 miles on the engine is very possible. I recommend adjusting the valves on this engine with a feeler gauge every 20,000 miles. The no.4 exhaust valve is prone to "tightening up" due to heat. This can be done by the amateur who is "willing to pay attention to detail' but a good mechanic is recommended. I know many owners of this model of truck who never have adjusted the valves, so it may be optional, I'm just a stickler for performance.

The base model for this truck weighs only 2,700 pounds, and has gets 25 miles a gallon at 55 miles per hour on flatland. (Yes, 25 miles to a gallon if you are careful.) The transmission can be used to downshift almost to at least 10 MPH without brakes if engine RPMs are watched, and the parking brake can be applied to bring truck to a dead stop.

The 4-wheel drive version is almost impossible to get to get stuck if care is taken, and due to its light weight, being "pulled" or "winched out" of a bad spot is easy.
One other quark of this truck is access to the fuel filter. I recommend pulling the passenger side front wheel off to get easy access to the fuel filter behind a plastic flap.
The truck I had was the most "Caveman" of the modern trucks. I only had an air conditioner and heater, no powerlocks, no modern computer screens or other electronic garbage. This truck is fuel injected and unfortunately I do not think it can survive a EMP attack or solar storm.

On parts availability, millions of these little trucks were imported, some parts of the country are saturated with these trucks, some are not. Parts are found at (or ordered easily) at most major parts stores or from the dealer at a premium. Used trucks are selling in my state for $2000 to $5000 each depending on condition. In a collapse, I think the fuel would run out before parts would get wore out.
A word of Warning to most would be owners on this truck, this truck is so lightweight that it bounces around on rough roads and at speed you may "hit your head on the headliner' when you bounce around on the bench seat. So wear your seatbelt!

Cleaning is easy, on the rubber floor of the truck, there are two rubber "grommets" that can be taken off and a hosing out the floor of the truck is possible, just avoid the dashboard, fuse box etc. (I have even hosed down the bench seat) The dirty water will drain right out of the cab of the truck through the grommets (remember to replace the grommets, if your drive through a creek, you may live to regret it)
I had the same truck for 12 and half years, now I drive a newer (2002) Toyota truck with the six-cylinder engine. My mechanic has the exact same truck, with the same six cylinder engine and transmission and his truck has 527,000 miles on it and he still drives it everyday!

On the six cylinder engine: Replace the timing belt every 90,000 miles.
This 527,000 mile engine has never been rebuilt, the heads have never been off and the same automatic transmission has never been rebuilt! (this 527,000 mile Toyota truck has had five timing belts replaced)

As per JWR's recommendations I would not own any vehicle newer than 2002 due to [their profusion of] electronics. Some of the newer models may be okay, however, I like old things that are not so full of electronics.

The 2002 Toyota truck I currently own should last at least 20-25 years with proper maintenance. I'm 45 years old, so this may be one of the third to the last or second to the last vehicle I own in my lifetime. Regards, - E.M.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I know that you advocate American made cars and trucks for BOV purposes based on availability of parts, but I would like to share with you a three-part video series demonstrating the abuse that a Toyota 4x4 pickup truck can take and still be driven. All with only a mechanic using no specialty tools and no replacement parts. This truck was driven down stairs, lost in the Bristol Channel at high tide, driven through a shed, had a camping trailer dropped on it, hit with a wrecking ball, set on fire, and put on the top of a high rise apartment building while it was demolished. Spoiler alert...the truck still started up and was driven after all this.

Video 1 of 3
Video 2 of 3
Video 3 of 3

Regards, - Mike Q.

JWR Replies: The Toyota 4x4 pickup truck was the first BOV choice of my Chinese-American friend D., upon whom the fictional "Dan Fong" in Patriots was based. I often talked down his choice (mainly because of parts availability), but I must concede that these videos vindicate him.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I'm wondering what the best method is to bulletproof my inherited Jeep Grand Cherokee. I'm 16 years old and I have inherited a Jeep Grand Cherokee and I'm planning on bulletproofing it for the coming apocalypse. I was wondering what the best materials and method would be to do so and approximately how much it would cost to do so if you have any guesses.

Sincerely,  - Noland

JWR Replies: The cost of effectively armoring a car is fairly high. To have it be effective, it is not a do-it-yourself job. Either  you have to massively beef up the suspension and use heavy materials (plate steel), OR you use lightweight but very expensive materials (Kevlar.)  And regardless, you have to buy some very expensive laminated windows. And you also end up with either sucky gas mileage or very sucky gas mileage.

I generally don't recommend armoring a vehicle, except for families in the US with a high profile that would put them at high risk of kidnapping.  For someone new to prepping, the $15,000 to $25,000 you'd spend would be much better spent on storage food, ammo, commo gear, medical supplies, garden seed, et cetera.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

As a former Sergeant of Marines, terrorism awareness was second nature.  It was not until I transitioned to civilian life that I realized the average guy doesn’t have a clue what a “Hard Target” is.   A Hard Target is a target that presents the lowest probability of being destroyed or overtaken.  I am breaking it down to three basic sections: 1. You’re self, 2. you’re vehicle and 3. you’re Home.  To start you need to rethink your wardrobe.  You should purchase clothing that helps you blend in. This means no wild colors or clothes that sport expensive name brands or oversized logos. If you were going to steal a purse and two women walked by one with a $600 Coach brand and the other with a $25 one from Wal-Mart what would you choose. The same  applies to how you dress.  The second thing to consider is the colors and material. Earth tones are  best. They blend in with nature and don’t stand out on the street. If you choose to carry a handgun you should consider concealment when picking out clothing. Thinner shirts and lighter colors more easily display the outline of a firearm as well as tighter and smaller articles. You have to dress to conceal. This may mean going up a size in trousers and blouse.  If you are wearing shorts, flip flops and a tank top where are you going to hide your firearm?  Also everyone else that sees you knows that you most likely are not armed.

Predators prey on the weak and sick. Lions attack the slowest and oldest Zebras in the herd not the strong and fast ones. The same is true for the two legged variety or predator.                    

Next thing to think about is your vehicle. It should always be topped off with gas. I fill my truck up at a half tank so I always have at least that much gas. The type of vehicle should be taken into consideration as well. Driving a $50,000 foreign luxury car is not a good posture. It only shows off  to the criminal that you have money and at the very least a nice car to steal. A good American 4 door or Truck a few years old and well maintained will do just fine. They are common cars and blend well. Lightly tinted windows are good to keep gear out of sight as long as they are not so dark as to imply that there is something inside that you don’t want anyone to see. The interior should be clean with nothing in sight regardless of value. All GPS receivers, cell phones, chargers and electronics should be taken down and stowed out of sight every time you leave the vehicle. No bags of any kind should be visible. You want to give the impression of nothing being in the vehicle. All BOBs should be stowed in the trunk. Tool boxes that lock and are secured to the bed work well for Pickups. Even small change in a cup holder should be removed as I have heard from friends vehicles that their vehicles were burglarized over such trifling items.

Once you have your vehicle squared away you can move on to routine. You want to be as random as possible in your daily routine. This means not leaving at the same time every morning, taking different routes to and from work, not stopping at the same place  for coffee, gas etc. The more variables you create the harder you will be to track and the more difficult it will be to figure out your work/ school schedule. This will make it hard for anyone to determine when you will be out of the house or where and when you work.   While on the road, watch for any suspicious vehicles that may be following you.  When in doubt pull over and let them pass or make a U-turn. This will make it next to impossible for anything aside from a revolving tail to continue to follow. (A revolving tail is a police surveillance technique where multiple vehicles take turns following a vehicle while maintain radio contact to make the tail harder to spot.) Always be aware of your surroundings. If something feels shady or suspect it probably  is. A good tool is a pen and paper within reach in your car. Take down the make, model and plates or any suspicious vehicles you encounter. This will help you to determine if the vehicle is the same you saw the other day that was suspicious and help the police in an investigation should anything happen. Take note of any vehicles parked in your neighborhood that seem out of place and write down the plated, make color and description of the vehicle. This is to include contractor vehicles that may be doing repairs on your neighbors homes. Many contractors have drug habits and use their work to find easy targets to make easy money. They usually work while you are away at work and can very easily determining your routine. If they watch you leave every day at 0630 and return at 1700 they know the window they have to break into your property.

While at home there are several things you can do to become a hard target. First your house should never look as if no one is home. A simple light on a timer can do the trick. You should shred anything that goes in the trash with your name on it. This includes receipts and bills and even mail addressed to you. You would be surprised the information someone can gather from you just by going through your trash. All Doors in the house should have a locking mechanism that is only accessible from the inside and any door with a window or any glass should have a dead bolt with a key that can be removed and locked from the inside. A “Beware or Dog” is also a good deterrent even if you don’t have a dog. Remember the idea behind becoming a hard target is to make yourself and your property as undesirable to the criminal as possible. This will in turn lessen, not eliminate the risk of becoming a victim.

Sliding doors can be rendered next to impossible to open with a simple wooden dowel or 2x4. The same is true for regular doors that have a wall behind them. Placing a 2x4 between the door and wall will render the door inoperable even while unlocked. This is good for doors that are rarely used like back or porch doors. I place NRA stickers on key doors and windows around the house. Small enough that they are only visible from close up. Some may argue that this presents a risk as firearms are next to jewelry on the list for items commonly stolen during burglaries. I disagree with that assessment because I keep all my firearms locked in a 1,000 pound fire proof gun safe that is bolted to the floor and would require a torch or cutting tools to open with out the key or code. All jewelry in my home is stored in a safe.

Finally I want to touch on security while in the home. Don't assume that just because you are home you are not at risk for theft. Recent years have seen rise in home invasions. I keep my carry gun on me even when doing chores around the house or mowing the lawn or walking the property. Get to know your neighbors and their routines. Talk to them about neighborhood security and inform them when you will be out of town. Offer to look after their property when they are away and help them become hard targets as well. Over all be alert, be proactive and be safe. Remember complacency kills. God Bless and Semper Fidelis.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In your novel Patriots, you describe a 1968 Ford Bronco getting its radiator shot out. The only reason that the radiator was put in the front of early cars was because they did not have effective water pumps in the beginning, water flowed through and was cooled. 90% of the air that cools the radiator comes from under the bumper. You can totally block off the upper portion without any overheating issues. So a series of slats if you do not trust it, could be welded behind the grill if you wanted to.

If you are still afraid of overheating, a trick I learned years ago is very effective, and that is to add another windshield washer tank and pump, with the sprayer aiming at the front of the radiator. You then get evaporative cooling that is so effective you have to see it to believe it.

I would think that your mechanic in the book would certainly have foreseen that weak point and taken care of it. A metal plate could be welded at an angle from the bumper to the top of the radiator. It would then have functioned fine to bounce bullets up out of the way. Granted, weight saving is important, so you again could have used Lexan for half the weight, I would have also reinforced the floor, firewall and sides with either Lexan or Kevlar laid up as fiberglass panels. - Steve D.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If things go bad do you bug in or do you bug out.  This decision will probably be made at the time depending on the expectations of what the emergency will be and just how bad you expect conditions to become.  Are you expecting a hurricane or other disaster sizable enough to worry about?  Will you be gone for a week then return and open the house back up?  Are you expecting a Katrina size event or might it unexpectedly turn into a long term emergency where the only things you have will be those things you take with you.  

What is your home like, is it standard wood frame construction?  I remember a picture taken after a wildland fire in California.  The picture encompasses what looks like the remnants of hundreds of homes.  In the middle of this devastation is one intact home.  The home owner had anticipated the hazard and had prepared for it.  He had built a fireproof home.  If I remember correctly he rode out the fire at home. Now I'm not saying that I wouldn't want to bug out in this situation but this guy could have moved back in the next day even if he did leave.  He had prepared for this eventuality, everyone else had to find a new home for several months or years till they could rebuild.  If memory serves  this guy was an architect.  I wonder how many or his neighbors hired him to design their homes.  Are you worried about civil unrest?  Just how defensible is your home over the long term?  Certainly, bugging in will have the advantage of the volume of supplies you can have on hand.   Other considerations may make this option untenable.  

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that your bug out location is a family members residence in the mountains.  There is a chance of a forest fire so your home is their bug out location.  This means that both places should have an abundance of supplies.  You will want to carry as many of those supplies with you as possible, especially if you expect an extended stay.  Most bug out bags are intended to sustain you for up to three days.  This is to allow you to get back to your supplies.  A longer dislocation will be better served with a different solution.

One answer might be a bug out trailer.  Think of all those people after Katrina, or any number of other emergencies, looking for a place to sleep.  Would a FEMA camp be your first choice?  I'd rather have a root canal.  You might have to drive a long way to find a motel room.  Even if you did find one how long could you afford to pay for it.  Would they be willing or able to take your credit card?  Having a significant portion of your bug out supplies already loaded can mean getting out of Dodge faster with more.  I have used tents before but I find trailers, campers and motor homes more comfortable especially for a protracted stay.

If you don't want to live at a FEMA camp then you had better have a bug out location or at least a bug out vehicle.  Do you have another property in a safer spot?  Fine, install a septic tank and possibly a well there and you are set.  Nothing to steal or burn down, just park your trailer on your pad and you are good to go.  If your home is the bug out location for your friends or family you might want to install a Y in your sewer line so they can have a convenient sewer hookup for their trailer or for your trailer if it becomes a spare room.  Setting up a sewer dump for a trailer is a relatively easy project now.  Later it may be difficult to find the materials and equipment.  Even if the ground is easy enough to dig by hand leaving home to acquire the materials could be a security issue.

Do you have family or friends you could stay with?  Would you be more welcome if you had your own bedroom, bath, and food?  I personally would be more comfortable if I could get away from my host for a significant amount of time.  If living with them was my first choice I would have moved in already.  If they have to bug out it might be easier to put them up in your trailer rather than displacing one of the kids.  After all if living with you was their first choice they would have already moved in.  When I was a kid my grandparents came to visit for a month or more every summer.  We had a few acres so my dad and I built a septic system just for their trailer.  Every year they parked in their spot.  We ran a garden hose and electricity, they set up their awning and deck chairs and in an hour everything was set.  

When do you bug out?  This has been covered many times by many authors but generally the sooner the better.  The less traffic the faster you will move and the easier it will be to get fuel and other supplies.  Whether you will look like a fool if you bug out too soon is something you will have to figure out for yourself.  If you leave too late it could get to the point where you are better off bugging in.

So what are you looking for?  The bigger it is the more space you will have for yourself and your supplies.  The smaller it is the more maneuverable it will be and the less power it will take to pull.  Your decision will also be based on the vehicle you have to tow it with.  If you have a Prius then you are probably reading the wrong article, unless you plan to tow your Prius with your motor home.  If you have a 4X4 one ton pickup then you can tow quite a bit.  All this applies to a motor home also if that is the way you want to go.  Much can be accomplished with an old horse trailer or U-Haul type trailer also.  I had a cab over camper that set in the back of my pickup once.  With that and a small tow behind trailer you could carry a lot.  I prefer the pickup option.  My grandparents towed with their car.  My uncle had a van that he towed his trailer with.  A buddy of mine had a camper van that we traveled across the country in.  What you already have, what your personal situation is, and what you preferences are will all factor in on your final decision.

Let's take a look at the trailer.  You will want enough beds for the immediate family, a bathroom, and a kitchen.  The bathroom does not have to  be grand but there are times when you do want privacy.  Being able to close off the master bedroom from the kids is also a bonus. 

In the kitchen you will want a two fuel refrigerator.  Propane, 12 volt, 120 volt  are the likely options and if you can find a unit with all three so much the better.  Multiple energy options means you are more likely to have refrigeration.  In the novel One Second After, the daughter of the main character died because he could not refrigerate her medicine.  As we all know the fridge is a very useful item and being without one would be a bit cumbersome.  If you had a power outage that lasted days then you could move the refrigerator food into the trailer and use the small fridge if you had to.  If your freezer finally gave up the ghost you could turn down, all the way, either the house or trailer fridge and at least delay the thawing process while using the other fridge for cool foods.   With a mobile survival shelter you will have options as to the best way to use it.

I would prefer a trailer with a couple axles.  You will be adding extra weight so spreading that to more than one axle will make your trailer more reliable.  You will certainly want to be packing spare tires but being able to drive a mile down the road before dealing with a flat could mean the difference of escaping a sticky situation or being forced to deal with it.  Remember, the best way to win a fight is to avoid it.  Also more axles mean more brakes thereby reducing the wear on your main vehicle.  If you find a used trailer with less than optimum axles, moan and groan to get the price down while inwardly smiling that you can use the money saved to put in beefier axles and brakes.   At some point you might want to consider an upgrade to the suspension system.  There are a number of air suspension brands out there that would give you the option to enhance your suspension as you add weight to the trailer.  These products have a 12 volt air compressor that you pipe into the system.  As you add or reduce weight you can change the pressure in the air bags thereby taking some of the weight off the springs.   You may want these for your vehicle as well as your trailer.  Many trailers are designed to carry a heavy load so this may not be necessary.  You will also have to consider the tow hitch.  Each hitch type has a maximum load capacity.  You will want to mount a hitch on your vehicle that is compatible with your fully loaded trailer.  The strongest is a fifth wheel setup.  If you go with the motor home option the hitch may well be a moot question unless you tow a trailer behind that.

The great thing about a travel trailer is that they are made to store an abundance of stuff.  The trick will be finding all the little cubby holes that were built into it.  If you give some thought to provisioning then you should be able to live with just this storage for a fortnight or two without any problems and probably much, much longer.  One thing you can put in a bug out vehicle or trailer is a number of tools.  You might be able to get a Swiss Army Knife or a Leatherman in a bug out bag but you will need a lot more tools than that to survive for an extended time.

You will need everything from toilet paper to tonight's dinner.  You will need water, fuel, a way to start a fire and so many other things that no list would ever be complete.  One of the storage areas often overlooked is the skirted area under the trailer. This is not a readily accessible area but for many items that is not important.  Most travel trailers come with a couple small propane bottles on the tongue.  Leave them in place and use them first.  They are the easiest to steal so you are better off if the empty or partly filled tank disappears. They can also be removed and refilled without having to take the entire trailer.  In a pinch they could be used as a barter item.  They make horizontal propane tanks that you can mount under the trailer next to the frame.  One or more of these tanks will give you a significantly increased storage capacity.  You may want to set up some sort of a valve system so that if a thief takes one tank you can still use the others.  A thief may think it faster to cut your propane line than to use a wrench so having a way to isolate each line is important.  Anything mounted out of sight will likely be out of mind and even if a thief becomes aware of their presence the complication of removing something mounted under the rig should deter most.

Water is another critical concern.  Here again you probably have built in water and sewer tanks.  Additional water storage is easily added thereby expanding your time between replenishment.  Do you already have a bunch of water jugs in the basement?  That is great but another hundred or more gallons might sound pretty good.  I would want to drain and replace the water on a semi-regular  basis to keep it fresh but you could use that water for the lawn, or to wash the car if you were concerned about wasting it.  Most trailers are designed with slightly larger sewage tanks than water tanks.  If you add more water storage it is nice to add more yuck tank capacity but it is probably going to be easier to get rid of the sewage than it is to find clean water and water is necessary for life.  The dish water can also be used to flush the toilet and if necessary an out house can be built.  Remember to bring plenty of paper plates to minimize the water usage.  I built a motor home once where the gray water and black water were in separate tanks.  In a pinch I could dump the gray water in a ditch then close the dump valve, open both tank valves and double my black water storage.  Not my first choice but dumping some shower water in a ditch is a minor sin.  Road side trailer parks usually have a dump site that you can use for a fee.  City sewers can be accessed by removing the heavy lid covering the access port.  Some cities have designated sights to dump your sewage but all would rather have you use the sewer system than to dump your sewage out in the open.

You will need, or at least want, electricity.  A small generator can be mounted underneath the rig.  This saves space inside and it is not as readily accessible to a thief, as a generator sitting on the ground, especially if some thought is taken on the installation.  When I was in the Army a radio was stolen from a squad member, while he was listening to it.  It was sitting in the window and someone reached up from outside, grabbed it and took off.  Anything you can do to make stealing your equipment or supplies more time consuming, noisy, or difficult for a thief is to your benefit.  You will need fuel for the generator but  here again that can go underneath.  This is another case where your bug out resources can be used to bug in.  If the power is out you can use your generator to power the fridge, freezer, heater, and lights at your home.  If you show up at the in-laws with a power source you might be doubly welcome.  You may have to rotate these items depending on the size of the generator but a freezer run for an hour a day and rarely opened will stay frozen.  As soon as the freezer or refrigerator drops to the set point it will shut off and you can move to the next appliance.   Generators can be set up to run in concert with each other.  Some are designed to do this easily.  The advantage is efficiency.  If you have an 1800 watt load a two kilowatt generator will be more efficient than a 4KW gen. set.  If you get to your friends and they have a larger generator then you can run your unit for the times where the load is light and theirs when the load is heaver and both if you have a really heavy load.  A multifuel generator or multiple generators where each can run on different fuels gives also has the benefit to be able to adapt to what ever is available.  Those solar panels you have been thinking of can be installed on the roof of your trailer.  If you bug in you have that power available and if you bug out then the power source is already packed.  

While we are on the subject of fuel you might consider finding a place to put  a fuel tank suitable for extra fuel for your primary vehicle.  This would be a last ditch reserve to get you a bit further down the road.  Every few months I would use this to fill my vehicles then I would refill it with fresh fuel.  Gas and diesel do get old so rotating your fuel stock is as important as rotating your food stock.  If you don't want to rotate the fuel as often then you might add a fuel stabilizer.  I would suggest fuel stabilizer as part of your emergency supplies.  If you are lucky enough to get some warning and can lay in a stash of fuel having the ability to stabilize that fuel could make a big difference.  Even then I wouldn't want to go past a year on gasoline.  Diesel might fare a little better but why stretch it if you don't have to.  I have used fuel older than a year but after a while it becomes a problem.  The engine runs rough and eventually it is useless.  If you have a truck then you can probably find a secondary tank to place under the bed and save that weight and space under the trailer.  Then again you really can't have too much fuel.   If, for example, you take two cars or if a less prepared buddy is tagging along with you it might be better to put some fuel in his tank than to have him in your vehicle.   You will have to weigh the fuel against the loss of resources.   Remember that fuel is always traded for what we want.  We trade fuel for heat .  We trade fuel to move us and our assets from one place to another.  We trade fuel for the electricity to power a myriad of things.  If we have enough we can also trade fuel for  other supplies.

If you haven't already filled up the entire underbelly of your once relatively light trailer, think about adding, what I will call "tubs" underneath.  These are five sided containers of appropriate dimensions attached underneath and sealed to the floor.  An access panel is placed in the floor so this additional space is accessible from inside.  You will need to put a lip at the top of the tub to attach it to the floor.  If some care is given when cutting the floor the panel that is cut out can rest on a portion of the lip of the tub to form the top.  A simple finger hole will make removing the panel easy.  Another design might be to cut the hole, drop the tub in place and use a thin plywood or other material to level out the floor around the lip.  A carpet can then be laid in place to hide the existence of this storage.  If you left some of your food, guns and ammo here you would probably still be able to survive if you were robbed.  Once the trailer is packed this will give months worth of food.  

Some thought will have to be given as to placement of this additional storage in order to maximize space.  A smaller trailer will of course store less underneath but then it will also store less inside.   Fuel and water tanks can be placed pretty much anywhere as long as the fill and drain are accessible.  The tubs need to be mounted where you have open floor space to install the access panel.  That means the tubs will do better down the centerline and the tanks are better suited down the sides.  

A VHF and/or a CB radio in both the vehicle and the trailer so you can communicate if you are separated.  You might be able to use hand held radios in place of base stations but I would prefer the hand held radios as a backup.  VHF and CB are for relatively short distance so I would consider a Single Side Band radio if you want to be able to communicate over an extended distance.  An SSB is capable of communicating half way around the world, given the right ionospheric conditions.  The size of most SSB radios will probably relegate it to the trailer or your home.  You will want to set up a primary channel where you can contact friends and family.  If you don't know which frequency to listen on or call on then it will be shear luck if you can find each other.  Sometimes communication is better in one frequency than another so a backup frequency is a good idea.  You will also want to set up a schedule.  It might be easy for you to listen to the radio all day while you are driving but at home you will have a few other things to do, especially if you are expecting company.  You can also use your cell phone but if the towers are down or overloaded they will be of little use.  If you can't get through on the cell phone you might try a text message.  Text takes less band width and will go through sometimes when voice will not.

Batteries are another item that will be vying for weight and space.  If you have a motor home you will want your engine battery and a set of house batteries.  After camping for a few days and finding out that you can't start the engine because you used all your battery up running the fridge, lights, and radio will be a real bummer.

Go to trailer shows and go to boat shows.  Both are designed for maximum storage and it is a really fun way to get some great ideas not only for storage but for comfort.   Survival is certainly primary but the longer this bug out lasts the more important comfort becomes.  Do not underestimate the importance of your mind set.  The  longer a situation lasts the harder it will be to keep your spirits up.  If you allow yourself to become depressed survival is much less likely.

You can carry a motorcycle or bicycles on the back and they make boat carriers that allow you to put a skiff on top.  These are usually mounted on a truck but I have seen them on trailers.  Their design is such that it simplifies the loading of the boat.   A simple car top carrier could also provide needed space.  

Take the family on a day trip, or if you already have the trailer or a tent, for the weekend, to visit a few campgrounds. Many of these places have something to keep the kids entertained while you walk around and start a few conversations.  Most of these people are very friendly and when you tell them you are thinking about buying or improving a trailer they will probably be more than happy to have a new ear to brag to.  Some of these people have been using a travel trailer or motor home for years and they are a wealth of information.

If you live in a warm climate a car port would be nice to keep most of the rain off and to keep the direct sun off it.  If you want to use the solar panels you can park the trailer on the North side of a building which will protect the trailer from direct sun while still allowing a significant light to collect on the solar panels.  When you open the door and you can't go into the trailer for ten minutes the food stored inside is not going to last as long.  If you live in a cold climate then a heated garage would be nice.  You don't have to keep the garage at 70 degrees but if you can keep it above freezing then you don't have to empty the water system for six months of every year.  If it is not all that cold parking on the South side of a building will give the solar panels better sun and help warm the trailer.

When you get done you will have created a mother-in-law apartment, pantry, and mobile survival shelter.  How you set it up will depend on your personality, resources, and perceived needs.  The options are endless.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mr Rawles,
I have a few comments after reading the guest article by Max Velocity on small team tactics. I realize the author's perspective is colored by his time in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there are some issues I have with his article.

The first is the Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP) is not the same IED he described in the Off-route section. The EFP is formed by the Miznay-Chardin effect, not the Munroe effect. The EFP (Miznay-Chardin) is a solid slug or can be fragmented by various means, but is not a molten jet of metal (Munroe). The Munroe effect, or shaped charge, works best in contact situations (it is the kill mechanism by which the RPG works), where the warhead contacts the target. At distance, it often turns into what has been termed as an "incoherent spray," where the jet breaks up before it strikes the target. This effect is so pronounced that vehicles in Afghanistan use cages to break up the spray inches from the armor, for those occasions where the warhead isn't damaged to the point of malfunctioning. Miznay-Chardin charges use a shallow plate to form the slug, which is not molten, and lance thru armor. These devices are generally only defeated by more armor or reactive armor.

Second, a vehicle-borne IED doesn't have to be so large as to affect the suspension of a vehicle to the point of noticing it. In places like Iraq and Afghanistan, the maintenance done on automobiles is spotty at best, and is generally only done to the point of keeping the vehicle running. Putting decent shocks in a vehicle is often a pipe dream. A charge of 200 pounds (about the weight of a person) will generally not affect the ride or stationary characteristics of a vehicle to the point of being noticeable, yet is a large enough charge to do plenty of damage.

IEDs are probably not a real threat to the G.O.O.D. crowd, because any benefit (other than just causing mayhem) would be lost, because a civilian vehicle's contents would probably be irreparably damaged if it was attacked with an IED much larger than three to five pounds. I'd be much more worried about small arms ambushes (which were not really covered) and things like spike strips or caltrops. These things would immobilize a vehicle and allow the vehicle and contents to be recovered relatively intact.

The author's point about forming a convoy is a good consideration, but my nuclear family (husband, wife, two kids) would be hard pressed to provide good on-road security for itself, because my sons are just over and just under 10 years old. I can't expect them to perform even as well as a 16 year old. They can't really drive, nor can they shoot with the level of fire they'd need to in a contact. You'd really need to band together with at least one other family, hopefully taking two or three vehicles.

The method of providing security is suspect as well, because not every vehicle suitable as a G.O.O.D. vehicle has a sunroof to provide something resembling 360-degree fires during a firefight. The author's perspective is again colored by his experiences. I don't own an armored pickup or SUV, and would have to rely on speed and my driving to get myself out of an ambush or attack.

And, to give you an idea of my experience, I spent a year in Afghanistan running missions outside the wire. Sincerely, - Major K.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have been a soldier for all my adult life: infantry, special operations and as a civilian security contractor. More recently, I have got into prepping for the survival of my family. I have been working slowly at it, and reading and researching a lot of the publications and related blogs. Given my background, I have a head start in the security area, but many have huge head starts over me in the other desired and required skills that will be essential to survival. I have a lot to learn and a lot to catch up on. However, I would like to contribute my two cents worth where I can.

The more I read, the more I form the opinion that certainly not all, but perhaps “some” or “many” preppers out there are making the simple mistake of thinking that with the subject of security, they can simply “tick the box”. Preparing for the protection of your family cannot be simply taken care of by having guns; not in the same way that hunger can be taken care of by stocking food. It is simply not sufficient to exercise your right to bear arms and own guns, without being tactically proficient. Even for the good shots, that is not the same as being able to perform tactically. The kind of tactical challenges that you will face post-SHTF will be in a different league to, for example, confronting an intruder in the dead of night with your handgun or shotgun. Think marauding gangs of looters, going from house to house, raping and killing. Even if you have a remote retreat, you will need tactical know-how at some point. I also believe that there will not only be a need for family and friend units to protect themselves, but if the collapse is ongoing for some time there will be a need to create tactical teams to conduct necessary operations to protect your area of operations and retreat from whatever threats emerge.

Reading through forums and articles I see many of the same questions out there about what techniques to use, how to defend yourself, your loved ones and your home, and similar. I hope to answer these questions. Also, the book takes you from tactics for survival of yourself and your family, including vehicle movement and defending your home, through to small unit tactics. These small unit tactics require the training of tactical teams and would form the basis of a group that you would use to conduct operations post-SHTF to defend your location, compound or small town. This compendium of infantry, special operations and close protection tactics would also allow you to carry out an effective American Insurgency against invading enemies, foreign or domestic, into the post-SHTF vacuum.
As an example, as part of my career in the military and security, I spent five years serving as a security contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the US Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, the rest variously based out of Baghdad and country-wide, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province and Kabul, Afghanistan. These roles were operational security roles that included exposure to multiple training methods and operational schools of thought, as well as both high profile and low profile mobile operations across Iraq and Afghanistan. In my book, I have incorporated a lot of the techniques and experience that I learned in both high and low profile movement in these combat theatres into techniques that you can apply to moving your family and conducting any type of post-collapse vehicle movement.
If you find yourself packing up your family in a "get out of Dodge" situation, then there are a number of factors to consider. The number of vehicles and personnel in your convoy will have a knock on effect to tactical potential, which will is discussed in more detail. However, to introduce the concept here: one vehicle gives you limited load carrying ability and no redundancy. If you are a standard type family you likely have a couple of cars. Take both. If you have the ability to take three cars and have a driver and security in each, then take them because you will 1) spread out your personnel so that there is less risk with the destruction of one vehicle 2) increased redundancy if one vehicle breaks down or is immobilized 3) increased your tactical options, which we will cover in detail in the chapter on vehicle operations, and 4) greatly increased your load carrying ability, perhaps without having to use a trailer which will benefit mobility.
One of the big threats faced in Iraq and Afghanistan is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). We hope that this will not be a primary threat in a WTSHTF situation in the Continental United States, and the manual does not concentrate on them for this reason, but they may either be used in a limited fashion by certain groups or become a widespread threat in an insurgency type situation if one develops, for whatever reason. Here are a few interest points on IEDs:
IEDs come in various sizes and the effectiveness of an IED depends on large part as a function of size and placement, as well as accurate targeting. IEDs can be connected in a “daisy chain” and usually placed to match the anticipated spacing of vehicles in convoys, to cause maximum damage. IEDs can be initiated in a number of ways:
• Command Wire (CWIED). A physical connection between the initiation point (Firing point (FP) and the CWIED itself (Contact Point)); the need for this connection can aid in detection of the device and the FP.
• Remote Control (RCIED). The RCIED is detonated remotely using any one of multiple options. It can be anything from a cell phone to a garage door opener. This increases the enemy’s options for placement and FP, without the need to be physically connected to the device. This can make it harder to detect the device.
Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED). Simply put, the IED is inside the vehicle. This type of IED will usually be remotely detonated, or can be on a timer (exception: see SVBIED, below). The VBIED allows for mobility and placement of large IEDs. However, they can be detected: a simple example can be a car that is packed with Home Made Explosives (HME) and therefore the suspension is weighed down, making the vehicle suspicious as it sits parked at its placement point.
Off-Route Mine: (A targeted IED capable of defeating armored vehicles)
• The off-route mine is very effective and can defeat many types of armor. It uses the “Monroe effect”(shaped charge) to create a molten jet of metal that will pierce armor, causing damaging effects inside the vehicle as it passes through. The Monroe effect places explosives in behind a metal cone or dish: on detonation, the cone inverts and melts into a stream of metal. This is the same effect used by a standard RPG, with the exception that an RPG detonates on contact with a vehicle, whereas the Explosively Formed Projectile goes off several feet away by the side of the road.
• The effect of the device can be devastating but usually limited in scope. It will pass through armor, and there have been multiple circumstances of these devices causing traumatic lower limb amputation of personnel in the driver and front passenger seats of vehicles, but personnel in other compartments being left unscathed.

Victim Operated Improvised Explosive Device (VOIED). This type of IED is detonated by the actions of the victim. In order to be effective the IED will usually target a location that is known to be used by coalition forces. VOIEDs can be anti-personnel or anti-vehicle. The type of location targeted would usually be somewhere that locals could avoid, but that forms a channel for military personnel or vehicles. These devices, or the corresponding safe routes, may also be marked, often in unusual ways, similar to the way that mines are often marked in the Balkans i.e. piles of rocks, sticks, cloth tied to markers etc.
About The Author: Max Velocity is the pen name of a former Special Forces soldier and private security contractor. He is the author of the nonfiction book Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival.

My wife and I were heading back from cabin in the Northern Arizona mountains Saturday (July 7) afternoon and were stopped by a nice elderly lady who worked for the Forest service (vehicle
parked across from her) on a forest road. She handed me a new Coconino National Forest map and said “if the roads are not shown on this map then it is closed and that each year they will come out with a new MVUM (motor vehicle use map) and the same applies. So, if the road is not shown, then it is consider closed. I said why not put up closed signs or barriers so we can see and she said they will just get moved or destroyed. She also said it is your responsibility to know which roads are closed via their maps. Rather than sit on the road questioning/argue with her (just the messenger) I figured I would look over the map when I got home.

After getting home I looked over the map and its purpose (written rules) and what it says: Violations of 36 CFR 261.13 are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both (18 U.S.C. 3571(e)). This prohibition applies regardless of the presence or absence of a sign.

It’s a National Forest and they will close forest roads (no signs/marked) which they deem and we are responsible to know by it not being shown (drawn) on their maps. Just out diving I do not look at a map. I just take whichever road is there and drive. I do not make new ones or drive across fields unless to retrieve downed game which is authorized. I could see if they were doing it for reclaiming the forest to it’s natural order or fire restriction however if you read into the rules and such (on the map) it outlines a lot more plus where you can camp. A lot of roads are missing from this map (Flagstaff, Arizona area) so if you hunt, camp or sight see look out because it is already in effect, as of April 2012.

Again, it is our National Forest (tax dollar funded) and they are going to tell us what roads to drive and where we can/can't camp? Whether you agree/disagree with off road travel, camping and quads this is pure crap.
Install barriers (post/rocks) up on areas you wish to reclaim not just delete the road from a map (only theirs) which will change yearly and make it the public's responsibility to know. I am sure this is happening in other
national forest however I just happened to be traveling through Coconino National Forest. I am writing to the forest heads and our congressmen because soon we will lose all rights of our National Forest! It’s just the beginning of our limited use of our forest in which we pay for along with their paychecks!

For more information, see this editorial in The Arizona Republic Friday, July 13, 2012: Rules a burden for hunters. - Regards, - Steve E.

Dear Editor:
The "off-road" gear carriers described in Avoid Becoming a Refugee are neat, but check out this fascinating article about the Chinese wheelbarrow. Its wheel is dead center (instead of at the end like European barrows) enabling it to carry three to six times more weight. Frequently passengers with luggage would be transported by just one person. These were the primary freight movers of their day (much like tractor trailers are
used today) but had the advantage of being able to negotiate extremely narrow "roads." I really enjoyed reading this history and have tucked this knowledge in the back of my mind in case I'd need it one day. Regards, - C.D.V.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Like many people, I was a prepper long before I ever heard the term.  I grew up on a farm and learned the value of hard work and ingenuity at a young age.  I never liked being in debt or the feeling of having others in control of my well being.  The following topic may not be of any interest to many people but for those of you who are thinking about moving out of the city to a place in the country it may give you one more thing to add to your retreat wish list.

In 1998 my family and I moved to our 67 acre farm that came with free natural gas (NG) from two 1930s-vintage shallow wells.  This heated our home and water and provided gas for cooking and clothes drying.  A couple of years later we bought the lease from the producer because he was going to plug the wells as he wasn’t making any money on producing them.  Oil was selling for under $9 a barrel at that time.  I did not want to lose the free gas and figured the price of oil would go up so I bought them and the oil I’ve sold over the past 10 years has paid me back a few times.

We live at the end of the electrical grid so our power is the first to go out and the last to come back on.  There is seldom a month that goes by that our power doesn’t go out and at least once a year it is out for more than 4 days at time.  Our first purchase when we moved to the farm was a gas generator.  We had no power the first 8 days after we moved in, due to a severe storm.  I read about fuel cells for producing electricity from NG and that they would be available for home owners in early 2002.  Well that hasn’t happened and in 2004 I bought a whole house NG backup generator.  I called an electrician to hook it up and he said he could do it the following week.  He estimated the cost at $1,000 so I decided I could cut that down by doing what I could on my own.  I prepared the site, moved the generator into position, ran the gas line, mounted the transfer switch, drilled holes through the house, ran the wiring to the switch box, mounted the breaker box and at this point I realized that all that was left was to wire nut the wires together inside the main breaker so I called him back and canceled my appointment.  This thing is great and in an extended power outage it can be turned on and off manually to greatly extend its life.

The first time gas was closing in on $4 a gallon I decided to get a car that ran on NG.  This turned out to be a no go as I couldn’t find a compressor for the natural gas that made sense.  I could only find two options at that time.  First was a “Phil” from Fuelmaker, the unit was priced alright but the upkeep ran about $1 per GGE (gasoline, gallon equivalent).  The second choice was an Ingersoll Rand commercial unit at $100,000. Even though I really wanted to do this I put it on the back burner for a while.  To run a gas engine on NG you don’t need a lot of pressure you just need a lot of volume.  Most cars have tanks that hold 3,600 psi and then have two regulators that reduce the pressure down to a useable level.  The reason for the high pressure is to store enough volume in a small enough space so you can go a far enough distance to make it worth doing.   One day, while pouring gas into the fuel tank of the Honda engine that is used to run the pump jack on the oil well, I decided that was just plain nuts with all the NG available only a few feet away.  I spent a few hours trying to rig something up to run NG into the carburetor but couldn’t get it to run smoothly.  The next day I ordered a kit online for $160 and have not put a drop of gasoline in it for six years.

After reading One Second After I started thinking about getting a NG refrigerator.  The price was mind boggling until I found out that most of the companies selling them where buying new electric refrigerators and taking out the electric parts and replacing them with NG cooling units.  Spending $2,000 to replace a fridge that was working just didn’t make sense.  I still wanted one and started looking through the local papers and on Craig’s List for a used one.  I finally bought a 1949 Servel at a local auction for $50.  This was at an estate auction and I asked a family member if it worked.  He told me it had been working a couple of years ago but did not know if it still worked.  When I got it home and hooked up to the gas I couldn’t get it to light.  I went on line and ordered a manual for the fridge from a guy in Maine who fixes old NG refrigerators.  I tore the burner apart and cleaned the dirt, bugs and rust out of it.  When I put it back together it lit right up and has been going great ever since.  These have no moving parts, are heavy made and should last almost forever.  The freezer is big enough to hold about 8 ice cube trays and the main compartment is the same size as a normal fridge.  I keep this in my shop and full of beverages but it is great to know if I ever needed it for everyday it is available.  The average newly-manufactured refrigerator lasts around 7 years but this one is on its 7th decade.

Every year I go back and search the internet on uses for the natural gas on my farm.  I mentioned earlier about the fuel cells to generate electricity for home use.  Companies like Bloom Energy are selling them to commercial users like Google, eBay and FedEx but not home users.  I can understand why they want to deal with commercial users as they can sell $500,000 to one buyer instead of $5,000 to 100 buyers, but one day they will be available for home users.  About a year and half ago while doing searches I finally found a home compressor so I could start running my car on natural gas.  I had noticed a large increase in the number of compressors available but most were made in China and were complete junk.  I found Green Line Fuel Corp. in California selling a Coltri compressor that had just what I was looking for in a compressor.  Coltri has been making compressors for the US Navy to fill scuba tanks for years.  What I bought was their smallest unit MCH-5 that fills at about 2 GGEs an hour and is built like a tank. Very low cost to maintain and this can be done by the operator unlike the Phil that needs to be sent to the company every 900 hours for a rebuild. 

Once I had found a compressor I liked I started to look around for a car.  My car had 127,000 miles on it and didn’t seem like a good candidate to convert.  I ended up buying a dual fuel Chevy Cavalier on eBay that only had 44,000 miles and that was $1,100 less expansive than the estimated cost converting my old car to run on NG.  I was quite nervous about buying the car over the Internet without driving the car first, but the car has been just great.  With the car purchased, I called Green Line and ordered the compressor.  They delivered it the middle of January. 2011 and we got it hooked up and running in no time.  A couple of months later my dad bought a dual fuel F-150 at a GSA auction and I started to fill that for him.  Six months later he bought a 15 passenger one ton Chevy van with only 18,000 miles on the odometer.  The van runs great but it had the smallest compressed natural gas (CNG) tank ever made (125 mile range).  After removing several rows of seats and installing an additional tank he now has a 400 mile range.  Filling up my dad’s vehicles has made me happier than about anything I’ve been able to do with my natural gas.  My dad is retired and has always loved going to auctions to buy stuff then take it around to farms and businesses and peddle it out of the back of his truck.  About three years ago he pretty much stopped because of the gas prices.  We live in a very rural area and many times he would travel 150 to 200 miles round trip for an auction.  Now he is back on the road and the money he was spending for gas is now profit from his dealings.  We live about 20 miles apart but my office is in between so we just swap out cars there. 

In December of 2011 I had my ¾-ton Chevy truck converted.  The truck had spent most of the last several years in the garage.  Living on a farm you need a truck but at $4 a gallon and 15 miles to the gallon you start asking yourself how many bags of feed can I get in the back of the Cavalier.  All of our vehicles are dual fuel meaning they will run on either NG or gasoline.  CNG filling stations are few and far between where we live.  My truck starts on gasoline and then switches over CNG when the engine temperature reaches 170 degrees.  I’ve filled the truck with gasoline only once in the past six months and still have over half a tank.  The Cavalier runs on CNG anytime there is NG in the tank and you can’t manually switch it over to gasoline.  The one I would not recommend to anyone buying is the Ford unless you have someone that is willing to work on Fords.  The closest Ford dealer to us that would work on a factory CNG truck is 120 miles away and they quoted $800 just to change the spark plugs. The main problem is a regulator called a Compuvalve that gives most Ford owners fits. 
We all see different SHTF possibilities but many of them include having either no gas or a very limited supply.  Being able to get around quickly or haul stuff to market could make a big difference and if nothing bad ever happens I will just keep saving money.

I have several ideas for future projects using the natural gas including a small greenhouse, lawn mower, saw mill and a tractor. 

JWR Adds: This article is further evidence that properties with their own "home tap" natural gas wells are not a myth. And you don't have to move to the Four Corners or to Oklahoma to find one. They are all over the country, if you do a concerted search. Properties with gas wells are also often available at our SurvivalRealty spin-off site. Here is an example, in Kentucky.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“One must Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst.” - Book of English Proverbs

We’ve all rehearsed it many times. A newsflash report comes on, reporting widespread chaos what appears to be the total, spectacular collapse of society. Food stores are empty. Gas station pumps are dry. All remnants of any social order have toppled, and panic has ensued. The next-second response to survivalists is second nature. Grab the kids, the AR-15, the Bug-Out-Bags, and head for the hills! To most survivalists, the most effective bug-out is clean and simple, requiring no transportation and just the pack on your back. Yet a very large number of us live in areas that are considered urban or suburban, meaning that a true unraveling of civilization would make such a short range or prolonged bug-out dangerous given the large number of unprepared occupants.  

The solution, as many see it is a Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV), which can dramatically extend range and speed in reaching secure retreat.  On a full tank of gas, a BOV can reach a destination hundreds of miles away in a matter of hours, whereas the same retreat would take days to reach on foot. Few would disagree with the logic that less time spent on the road to retreat means less danger.  Natural or man-made obstacles, such as bad weather or nomadic marauders, can be better managed given the protection of an enclosed vehicle.  Yet, I cannot overemphasize this:  While Bug-Out vehicles dramatically increase both your mobility and chances of bugging out safely, they are absolutely no substitute for the traditional bug-out on foot. Vehicles will often be destroyed in certain disasters, and an EMP will render almost all vehicles unusable. You and your family should always be prepared to walk to your Bug-Out-Location- or a secondary one- with your Bug-Out kits. A BOV should be seen as an option and expediency in bugging-out, rather than a critical part of your plan.

I am aware that many will disagree with me as to the wisdom of prepping a vehicle.  Hard-core, elemental survivalists preach the simplicity, reliability, and safety of a walking bug-out with only the supplies on your back. This breed of survivalists adheres solely to the “Prepare for the Worst” half of the prepping mantra. That is an invaluable attitude that should be instilled in every person, no doubt. But what about the other half- “Hope for the Best?”  What if, by a stroke of luck, vehicles are around? There is nothing wrong with capitalizing on advantages given to you by your environment or situation.  In many scenarios, your BOV will survive the initial aspects of a TEOTWAWKI situation.  More importantly, circumstances can arise which make a walking bug-out not possible. What if a family member breaks both of their legs, or is badly burned by a nuclear detonation? It is undoubtedly within the spirit of contingency planning to prep a vehicle. You may have heard the saying, “A good man makes his own luck.” By investing a portion of time and money into a bug-out-vehicle, you increase the chances that your BOV will be of use to you come TEOTWAWKI. When all is said and done, we don’t know what the conclusion of civilization will look like. Roads might be patrolled with tanks, or they could be empty. Your BOV could be incapacitated from an EMP, or it might be in showroom condition. Prudence, however, demands that a survivalist prepare for any number of scenarios, thus boosting his or her chances of surviving a TEOTWAWKI situation.

When I first thought about it, the ideal bug-out vehicle seemed to be that dream, roaring Jeep, loaded with tough accessories and modifications to make it the equivalent of a military Humvee.  Big wheels, big engines, and a tank-like chassis should be combined to yield the ultimate doomsday limousine, I reasoned.  Look like and become the toughest cat on the road and nothing can or will touch you. That can be true to some extent, but it’s important not to focus solely on a vehicle’s extreme capabilities. Rather, you take into consideration what the fundamental purpose of a vehicle is: to increase the speed, mobility, and range of a person. Sure, having that Wrangler with a 7-inch lift will give you more capabilities than sticking with your station wagon. But truck-like vehicles would have little advantages over normal cars should we experience a cataclysmic event- if all roads are shut down or covered in 6 feet of snow, guess what? Nobody’s going anywhere. More importantly, the fuel economy of your vehicle will be awful when compared to normal vehicles, which reduces your range and forces you to store large amounts of fuel (and, in day-to-day driving, cost you a significant amount more money at the pump, leaving you with less funds to prep with). Don’t feel like a bug-out vehicle has to be a multi-thousand dollar truck full of modifications.  
Rather, remember that any car, be it a Honda Civic to a Bentley, can function as a BOV. When all is said and done, all a BOV has to do is get you from point A to point B faster than walking speed. Try to balance efficiency and practicality with capability, based on your own personal scenario. The most important aspect of a vehicle is it can get you out fast and get out far. If you happen to be eyeing that monster truck capable of fording 5 feet of water, remember that you’re going to take a significant hit in fuel range. Plus, trying to “blend in” and navigate dangerous urban centers will be much more difficult with a large, tank-like truck. You’ll attract unwanted attention, and also increase the chances of a roll-over trying to maneuver around street corners.  At the same time, if you live in the mountains of Colorado, it’s probably not advisable to put a Prius to the test of unforgiving weather and terrain. The type of vehicle you choose is dependent on your environment. Urban residents will likely want to have a quick and maneuverable vehicle with as far a range as possible to escape rioting and chaos, while many rural preppers will desire a more adaptive vehicle to combat bad conditions. There are blends of the two. Next time you go car shopping, give thought to a crossover or all-wheel drive sedan.  Subaru makes a fleet of cars each equipped with all-wheel drive, without the usual gas guzzling and impracticality that come with it- and based on my own personal experiences, their vehicles have a long lifespan.  The Jeep Compass is also designed to be a fuel-efficient SUV.  I won’t spend any more time debating between the many species of BOVs, and won’t attest to any one’s success. It’s completely up to you if you want to purchase one dedicated for a bug-out, or if you just want to prepare your daily driver for TEOTWAWKI. 

How does one go about preparing the selected Bug Out Vehicle? For starters, let’s take a peek at the biggest limiting factor of many vehicles: fuel range. Most cars can travel a couple hundred miles on a single tank of gas, anywhere from two to eight hundred miles between fill-ups. There is, of course, a relatively clear solution to the “Fuel Problem”, which is to store fuel in anticipation of a gas pumps running dry. I advise to do so with NATO-classified “Jerry” Cans, often seen bolted to the rump of a Humvee or Willys Jeep. Jerry Cans can be easily installed on a roof rack or rear of a vehicle, giving them the strong prominence they have attained amongst military vehicles.  They also protect fuel against permeability better than plastic cans, and give the needed durability against punctures. I have had one case in my shed with a where a rodent of some kind took a chunk out of a 2.5 gallon plastic gas jug, presumably for a nest given that he took home the detached plastic.
When storing fuel- regardless whether you opt to use a plastic container or Jerry can- be sure to follow all the necessary guidelines to prevent an explosion.  Note that older, metal cans are not designed to vent expanding fumes like newer gas cans do. Most importantly, keep vehicle fuel far from your house.  When deciding on storage placement, think to yourself, “If I dropped a match in each of these cans right now, would I feel like my home is secure?” If you neglect basic flammables safety, you have already violated the Code of Prepping. Safe storage of fuel is a concept that has been drilled into our heads for years, and yet individuals still choose to ignore it. Please, think not only of yourself, but of the entire culture of Survivalists when choosing how to store your fuel. When your house blows up, killing you and your next door neighbor, the media will have a field day declaring that “thousands of so-called ‘preppers’ have infiltrated our society, storing ticking time bombs of gasoline in the midst of their paranoia.” Don’t jeopardize yourself or our reputation by doing something stupid- and that goes for not only safe storage of gas, but ammunition, firearms, et cetera, all things that some people are salivating for an excuse to go outlaw.

You’re also going to want to ensure that the fuel quality is of good standing. Most chemists agree that using premium fuel in an engine intended for 87 octane gasoline won’t increase performance. Even so, premium fuel contains better quality detergents and additives than its regular counterpart, which can help prevent deterioration. Some trials have determined that premium fuel leaves less gum deposits behind than lower octane gasolines  (See: Personally, if I am looking to fill up on the best quality gasoline available, I go for the Sunoco Ultra-93, 2 octane points higher than traditional Premium. Shell has a fairly good reputation for their V-Power, too. The gas station brand you choose for your storage fuel is extremely important! Don’t go for the no-name brand selling 20 cents cheaper unless you have reason to trust the owner. A large number of stations skimp on fuel quality, water contamination, and tank maintenance which can mean short shelf life. If you happen to live in the southern United States or a region where ethanol has not contaminated gas stations yet, try to take advantage of pure high octane gasoline. If you look at most American pumps, you’ll notice a disclaimer saying that the fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, derived from corn. There are only a handful of stations per state that don’t sell ethanol. Ethanol has two carbon bonds, but traditional gasoline has eight. It doesn’t take much science, although plenty of tests already exist, to show how engines’ durability and efficiency have been hit hard by Ethanol (EPA mileage ratings for older cars have already been lowered a few miles per gallon due to the increase in Ethanol treatments). So, if you can, try to find some gasoline without ethanol, as it enriches the quality and performance of your engine. Don’t stress out about it- it’s impossible to avoid ethanol- but if you are lucky to have the opportunity to, try to stick to pure gasoline [for your stored fuel.]

MOST IMPORTANTLY, add fuel stabilizer
to your stored fuel. Brands like STA-BIL can be found at your local hardware store. What stabilizer does is prevent corrosion and gums from forming in the fuel. Running some through your BOV is recommended, too, to help protect injectors and fuel delivery lines against corrosion or gumming.  Gas has remarkably fallen in quality over the past decade due to environmental regulating and companies cutting corners on refinement, additives, and detergents. Leave untreated gasoline sitting for a few years, especially in a vehicle, and you run a very high risk of permanently damaging your engine with the gums and moisture of old gasoline. Even if you use fuel stabilizer, rotate the gas every year into your vehicle to ensure that any bug-out gas will be safe to use.

But what if you live in area where you can’t store fuel- say, in an apartment complex in the city? Take the correct preparations, and your location won’t hinder you.  Those unable to store fuel at their residence are advised to create a cache en route to a BOL.  Try to make it as close to your residence as possible in a wooded or unused plot of land. As you move along your route, the chances increase of having to take a detour, separating you from your fuel.   It’s best to either bury your cache inside of a metal or plastic drum, covered with a tarp or board. It is essential to ensure that water doesn’t enter the fuel can. Be sure to add plenty of extra Stabilizer, too (all stabilizers are gasoline derivations, and the makers assert that an almost unlimited amount can be added to fuel). Make a trip to your cache every 6 months to rotate the fuel, as it will likely deteriorate faster exposed to conditions.  If you have any access to outside property, keep a small portion of fuel on-site. 2.5 gallon galvanized gas cans are durable and good at locking in fumes. They are usually round and can be snugly tucked into a gardening pot or bucket. This will give you at least 20 to 30 miles on most trucks or SUVs (assuming a conservative estimate of 10 mpg), and much more if your BOV is more fuel efficient.  Caches are an excellent method to store fuel for everyone because they build redundancy. If for some unexpected reason you are low on fuel en route to your destination- due to an issue such as theft- then having the security of supply points is invaluable.  Though not essential, storing some fuel at your BOL can be of value if you want to use your vehicle once settled in.

How much fuel is enough? That’s for you to decide. The magic number of gallons comes down to two factors: your vehicle’s gas mileage and the road range you want to have for your vehicle. For instance, I have decided to store 20 gallons of fuel for my car. This is based off my mileage and desired range. We want a range of at least 300 miles, which will get us far away from urban centers. The car gets about 17 MPG mixed driving and 22 MPG on the highway, but I have decided to be extremely conservative in my miles-per-gallon estimation and put it at 15. The extremely conservative mileage estimate gives exactly a 300 mile range assuming that fuel economy goes down the toilet. Estimate your own fuel economy very, very conservatively. If your BOV has a roof-rack, is carrying excess weight, or faces bad conditions like snow or damaged roads, then your efficiency will be dramatically affected. Additionally, stop-and-go traffic takes a heavy toll on efficiency. Although you will make every effort to evade them, there may be areas where roadways congest with vehicles. Always plan for the unexpected and give yourself breathing room.

As a rule, always assume your tank will be empty when an emergency hits.  By being dependent on average gas mileage and gasoline levels, you defy the entire spirit of prepping! Prepare for the worst, not the best!  Even so, try to keep a watchful eye on your gas tank. Always fill it up when the needle hits ¼ full, ensuring that you’ll have a small reserve in addition to the fuel stored. You should also make sure that you have adequate gas tanks to carry in your car if your fuel tank isn’t big enough for your fuel stores- this is only necessary if you choose to purchase a stationary, high-capacity gas tank instead of the traditional red portable ones. Invest in a wide funnel, too- you’d be surprised at how difficult it is to pour a heavy, 40-pound 6 gallon tank into a car.

Before I go on, I would like to briefly discuss alternative fuels for BOVs.  Diesel vehicles are more efficient than gasoline powered ones, and also pull more torque. Since diesel engines run on compression as opposed to gasoline’s combustion, the fuel is less flammable and safer to store. Use dedicated diesel fuel storage additives if you have a diesel BOV. Many preppers have also constructed gasifiers for their vehicles. The SurvivalBlog archives have a gushing trove of articles on alternative fuels, which would ultimately allow you to burn wood or other natural fuels to power a vehicle.  Additionally, diesel cars can run on vegetable oil or biodiesel, which is easy to obtain from restaurants (although I don’t know how many diners will be operating during Armageddon). There is a world of its own of fuels to replace oil-based ones, from trucks that run on used motor oil to hydrogen fuel cell hybrids.  Given the complexity and time consumption associated with these alternative fuels, most preppers- myself included- choose not to use them. But, they are definitely worthy of mention and I encourage everyone willing to dedicate the time and money to give alternative fuels consideration.

If you’re serious about wanting dependable vehicle, consider the other accessories or things you’ll need on the road or at your bug-out location. The first check on the list should be safety. The chances of an accident occurring are increased if we have seen our entire civilization crash and burn. There won’t be a highway patrol or state police to try to prevent or manage accidents. Keep a fire extinguisher in all your vehicles! It may seem unnecessary to extinguish a burning vehicle if TEOTWAWKI has occurred- a lot of us would just walk away, not wanting to loiter- but consider the possibility that a loved one could be inside. Additionally, all BOVs should contain a strong, hammer-like object accessible to the driver. They can be used to smash windows or pick through metal should one become entrapped in an inverted, flooded, or crushed vehicle. If snow is a prevalent weather concern for your region, purchase some tire chains for the rear/front wheels (depending on if the BOV is rear wheel drive, front wheel drive, or four wheel drive).

Stock your BOV with a complete auxiliary supply of motor oil on hand, to either replenish or change oil. Leave the oil drain pan behind.  I’ll hazard to guess that you won’t be concerned about the EPA coming after you for illegal oil disposal if society has collapsed. Be sure to have other fluids along for the ride, too, like power steering fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, and brake lubricants. You’re not going to be able to make these unless your BOL is a chemical refinery.  Perhaps, however, the best way to combat a stoppage of fuel or liquid is by way of a siphon. This will allow you to do a few things. For one, you can take fuel from abandoned vehicles (though hopefully you’ll already have the fuel needed stored).  If you own other cars, you can also transfer the fuel from one tank to the other before you leave.  A siphon, provided it is cleaned, will allow you to take other fluids from abandoned cars, such as motor oil. Remember that most engines on motorboats or propeller-driven planes use octane, too (100 octane aviation gas, or Avgas, is actually quite coveted given its excellent quality). You can take fuel out of abandoned boats or planes or and use it for your vehicle- just double-check and make sure the boat isn’t diesel powered. Fuel is the most restricting component of any engine. If you want to have the option of bugging out by vehicle, you might as well put up a small investment into making sure that vehicle can have fuel.  

I also advise investing in a full size spare tire for a BOV. If your BOV is a truck or SUV, this is likely already covered. But most sedans or crossovers carry only a small “donut” tire, if any at all, that is unstable and lacks the tread needed for a long road trip. Flat tires could be much more likely if there is an excessive amount of debris on roads. You can help reduce the chance of a flat by adding tire sealant to your tires (basically just liquid goo that swishes around and plugs a hole if one develops). Be prepared for a flat tire where you can’t limp to the nearest tire shop for tire repair- this means buying another rim and tire. Because this would only be for a few hundred miles, there’s no requirement to spend a lot of money on a brand new tire- either buy a cheap, used one with at least a quarter of a tread left, or save the one with some tread left next time you get your tires changed. A tire isn’t anything without air, too, so have on hand an air compressor for your BOV (also allowing you to deflate your tires temporarily if you need better traction, and re-fill them later on. )If indeed your vehicle is your only chance of bugging out safely given your environment, I strongly recommend you take precautions against vehicle emergencies, as it will be more of a lifeline to yourself and any companions.

Routes, too, should be altered when bugging out by vehicle in order to maximize the chances that open roads will be available. You might have planned to hike or drive 100 miles up the interstate to your location, but take into consideration the sheer number of people that will be using these routes before their last tank of fuel runs out. That’s why it’s not so much the most direct route, but rather the least populated route when using a BOV. Highways will often be the first to be shut down in a crisis, while more localized roads should survive longer. At all costs, avoid congested and populated areas! This is a rule of thumb that must be followed for any bug-out situation. Modify your routes to make every attempt to circumvent population centers. Be sure to adjust your fuel stores accordingly.

Now, we have at last arrived at the actual execution of the bug-out. The vehicle is packed and ready to go, and awaits your call to bug-out. This is where decision making and luck mate. Depending on when you hit the road, you could either be fighting off masses of unprepared civilians or safely at your BOL.  Your decision should be primarily based on consideration of being first or being last. Keep in mind that if your vehicle is usable, so is everyone else’s. If you live in an urban center, there will be hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of cars trying to flee. It is best to be the first to get out, once you recognize that the Schumer has hit the fan.  But, if you believe that roads are going to be too clogged (guaranteed after at least an hour or two), then hold out as long as you can in your own residence. Protect your vehicle and bug-out supplies, and hide your fuel. Lay low. You will not have to wait long. Within a few days, nearly all gasoline stores will have been depleted and shipments will be non-existent. Now is when you pull the trigger and turn the ignition. Only a few cars will be on the road by this time, as the majority of car owners will have panicked and used up any remaining gas in their tank (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this occurred at a very rapid pace.) NEVER gamble on the chance of getting caught in a mob of cars on a freeway! Clogged roads will quickly turn into a full-on war zone as marauders loot and plunder for fuel, food, and other supplies. When in doubt, wait it out.  

Driving at TEOTWAWKI will be nothing like driving to work. It is imperative that safety is your primary concern. Anyone who has been smart enough to store food and fuel will quickly become a high-profile target on roadways. You should try to travel in groups, in as few vehicles as possible, to allow for easier defense your BOV.  Instruct other occupants to scan the roadside for threats with the firearms you have chosen to take with you. An opened sunroof works great as a tactical turret for a rifleman. The rifleman has a high-up vantage point and 360 degrees of view- it also makes dealing with oncoming cars or pedestrians easier.  I won’t delve into the subject of defensive weapons, but a vehicle demands certain requirements. A high-powered rifle is essential to deter or eliminate incoming threats before they are within striking distance of the vehicle. For mobs, a shotgun loaded with wide-spray shells will provide a wide spray of lead pellets to disperse a surrounding group of people. Having multiple riflemen in the vehicle is invaluable. Think of your BOV as a World War II bomber. The position analogous to a rotating turret (the sunroof or front-seat gunner) should locate potential adversaries while clearing a path ahead. The "turret" is supplemented by riflemen on each side window (like waist gunners on a bomber) to guard your flanks. Finally, a “tail gunner” is responsible for protecting the rear of the vehicle. Be extremely conscious of the feeble protection provided by glass windows, and use the bottom of a door for slightly better ballistic protection in a firefight. If you’re really serious about making a dedicated BOV, then replace side windows with metal sheets, leaving a small hole for a rifle barrel.  You could supplement rear and front windshields with plexiglas.

When in high-threat urban areas, drive as fast as possible as your vehicle may become a target for others who have exhausted their own fuel.  Once on the highway or less populated roads, slow down to increase fuel range. High-speeds above 65 m.p.h. require high RPM rates. Most cars will be able to shift into a low-consumption overdrive at slower speeds. This is why speed limits were reduced during the 1970s gas crisis. Each vehicle’s optimal speed is different. It’s easy to find the niche, though. All you need to do is find the the slowest speed possible for your highest gear, which should be between 40 and 60 mph. Use cruise control if possible to hold a steady speed. Avoid turning on the air conditioning. Running the heater is okay , as it does not sap engine power.  More food for thought when considering your bug out: slower, constant speeds on the highway result in extended range. Driving in panic mode at 80 miles per hour up the highway will dramatically reduce mileage. Keep this in mind if you are ever bugging out by vehicle.  

Cars aren’t the only kinds of BOVs around that you should give thought to.  ATVs, motorcycles, and scooters are excellent when it comes to maneuverability, storage, and fuel consumption. If you happen to live in a very congested environment- like the city, give a smaller vehicle a look. Most have a range of at least a hundred miles to get you out of town on full tank of gas. If you can devise a way to carry more fuel, them more power to you. (It’s worth mentioning that many bikers carry spare fuel in small , 1-2 liter stove fuel bottles, like the red MSR fuel bottles used by backpackers). There are also 1-gallon plastic tanks available designed to slip into a saddle bag- for ATVs, gas cans can be lashed to the front or rear of the ATV. BOVs of this nature can be bought for less than cars, and often give more capabilities to the rider off-road or on narrow streets.

Even though I’m ready to dump 20 gallons of gas into my car and head for the hills if I have the opportunity to, there’s an alternative that doesn’t need any. That’s because it’s powered by good old human strength, fueled by just food, air, and water. A bicycle, in my opinion, is one of the best transportation systems ever devised and is one of the best BOVs a prepper can choose. No need to worry about EMPs, gas mileage, or roadblocks. If a human body can walk there, chances are a bike can ride there. Plus, it costs very little to maintain and the equivalent of a few tanks of gas to buy. I strongly encourage everyone to have a bicycle on hand in the event of an EMP, allowing them a much quicker bug-out while carrying their BOB.  If you can fit them in your gas-powered BOV, then take advantage of it.  I advise taking off the front wheel to make packing easier, or bolting racks to the side of a truck bed or trailer. For those who have a need for speed post-EMP, bikes can offer an often overlooked solution.  I have a friend who purchased a gas engine kit that he installed on his bike, for about $250. A multitude of companies make these kits that can propel a bike many times faster than a rider can (the one I rode got up to about 40 m.p.h., and the ¾ gallon fuel tank allows for about 100 miles before refilling is needed).  

There’s one other thing should most certainly be said for preparing  - these preparations into a bugging-out car go beyond trying to be ready for a complete collapse of society. They should translate into your every-day life, too. It’s always advisable to have certain items in your car so you can be prepared for any everyday emergency that could arise. After all, isn’t that what the culture of survivalism is all about?  Being ready for everything from a flat tire to widespread rioting? You never know when your provisions or knowledge about vehicles could be useful in your daily life. If you’ve ever had to add oil to your car,then you’ve probably been thankful you had some on hand.  If you want to have a car in working order for doomsday, then you may as well prepare for everyday obstacles. And helping others goes a long way! Many of us have been stimulated to prep because we’ve come in contact with serious survivalists, inspiring us to spread survivalism and try to prepare our world better for a catastrophe.

Man and machine have always had an inseparable bond. But come TEOTWAWKI, the bond will be tested, and humanity’s present-day "faithful steed" will fade away. When that day comes, when carburetors no longer breathe and tires no longer turn, there will be only one bug-out-vehicle that’s left. This remarkable, durable, reliable BOV isn’t powered by gasoline, and it doesn’t need four-wheel drive. It can’t be stopped by flat tires, or clogged filters. And it comes standard with a factory-installed fortitude that can withstand any opposition. There’s over 7 billion of these particular BOVs manufactured, but each one is unique, and only a few of them will remain when the dust settles. That bug-out vehicle is yourself. Remember that you run on good old ingenuity, resourcefulness, and willpower. You have a gas tank that seems to always have a little bit left, even when the road starts to disappear and the parts start to rattle. This drive train, this humanity, sets a survivalist miles ahead of even the scrappiest V-8. When the chips are down, it won’t matter who’s got the bigger truck. What will matter is something that has set humans apart from each other since the dawn of days, and something that will separate them at the end of days. That one thing is self-reliance, the cornerstone of survivalism! Bearing those integral principles in mind, I hope that this will invigorate thought on supplementing TEOTWAWKI plans with a vehicle.  Good luck to all of you, and as always, “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best!”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Listed below are mandatory needs, issues and items needed to successfully survive and weather any major natural disasters, deadly germ outbreaks, or government invasions such as martial law. This is a basic outline and your needs may differ according to location, elevation, and of course finances. Money is the root of all evil, but you will definitely need some to accomplish your survival goals.

Land and water are virtually priceless. The first and foremost thing needed to build a survival compound is water and land. Land as far away from large cities is ideal. Either find a piece of land that you can afford to install a well on or find a location that has a well cooperative. Water is key. Without water, you are done. Small rivers, creeks or springs are essential without a well. You will die without a water source. There are water machines that make water out of thin air, but they are costly and rely on humidity. Even then, you will probably only acquire enough water for drinking and food needs. You have to consider hygiene issues such as bathing and dishwashing among other things. Water is also needed for gardening and animals.

After that, you need to secure your property. Fencing such as a block wall, chain link or wired fence is ideal. Razor wire or equivalent is highly recommended along the top of your fence to provide added security. If unwanted visitors get in, they may not make it out. Locked gates with razor wire allow you access in and out easily while forcing others to cut your gate chains and alerting your animals. Dogs are great alarms and notify you of unwanted visitors. Plan on investing in a family pet that serves as a loveable alarm. You can also install fence alarms or electric fencing, but they require more power and cost.   

After your perimeter security, you need a place to dwell. Recreational vehicles (RVs) or a small cabin are ideal and cost-effective. If done correctly, an RV can be expanded if needed. A “mud room” can be built and attached to an RV. A “mud room” adds living space and a lot of extra room for a large home feeling. All the amenities of having a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom(s) and shower are in the RV; and you can build a large living room or “mud room” attached to the door side of the RV. It sounds crazy, but is very affordable and gives you a larger living space. Also, a wood-burning stove can be installed in this area to provide winter heating. Also, a wood-burning stove can be used to cook on. Thanksgiving Day is a breeze with a turkey on the wood burner overnight and prepared the day before. Wood burners are reliable and eliminate the need to use propane for heating and cooking during the winter months.

Propane may be a hard commodity to find as well as firewood, so plan ahead. Chainsaw(s) are essential, and the more expensive, the better. Husqvarna and Stihl are the best chainsaws in my opinion, and cords of wood are mandatory. Without a fireplace or stove, and a reliable chainsaw, you are done! Winter months can be brutal, and you will need these items to survive. Gas reserves, 2-stroke oil, and propane will make life much more comfortable during the winter months. Make sure you have resources near you, and plan on extra fuel for your pick-up truck or SUV with a trailer to transport your firewood.

Power comes next. Power is critical. Relying on the power grid is stupid. The best thing to do is build your own power supply. Batteries and a power supply are crucial. This is easy but expensive. Big “off-the-grid” batteries are costly, and a big battery bank can break the bank quick. Instead, try using large marine deep cycle batteries available from your local hardware store or big outlet stores such as Ace Hardware, Sears, or Wal-Mart. Well-maintained batteries will perform well, and are part of your secure compound.

To supply power to your batteries, you will need a wind generator and/or photovoltaic (PV) panels. Using both will greatly improve your power source to keep your batteries charged. Both are simple enough to install, and will keep your lights and refrigerator running smoothly.

Some suggest wiring your battery bank in a 24 or 48 volt bank, but many items run on 12 volts. Water pumps, water heaters, and lights are available in 12 volt, and readily available at many locations. PV panels and wind generators are available in 12 volt, and coordinate well with all the needed accessories such as batteries, water pumps, and lighting.

You will need certain items with your power system such as inverters and charge controllers. Inverters can power your AC devices such as television, DVD player, computer, microwave oven and compact refrigerator. Charge controllers will regulate your incoming power supply to your batteries and keep them from overcharging. Both inverters and charge controllers will make your life a lot easier. Reading and understanding how these systems operate together will help greatly in your survival. Use the internet while you can for knowledge on this information. Spend some time and learn how these systems work and interact with each other, otherwise you will be paying contractors to build your system and repair it. Self-reliance means you are on your own, and you need to know how to service, maintain, and repair problems in your power system.

After studying how to have modern conveniences in your compound, you need food. As discussed earlier, water is key to food. A supply of non-GMO vegetable seeds and gardening knowledge is essential. In summer months, having a garden is lovely. Fruits and vegetables without chemicals are beautiful, fun, and tasty. Fresh salads in the middle of nowhere are awesome. In winter months, gardens seem to fizzle. To combat this problem, learn about canning and food preservation. Canning your garden goodies for the winter are mandatory to survive. Canning fresh veggies will allow you to have tasty treats in the winter months.

Storable food is always reliable. It may not taste as good as fresh items, but can come in handy when needed. There are many sources for storable food, so you need to do some homework. Find what you like, what you can stomach, and what stores the longest. Buying food that you can store needs to be edible and withstand storage. Always keep these reserves cool, dark and dry. More importantly, you need baking/cooking supplies such as flour, sugar, yeast, and anything you deem needed. Sealed supplies will make life easier in an emergency.
Livestock, such as chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, or other animals will breed and provide a great source of food. They require care, food, and treatment.  You get a reliable small farm for meats, dairy products, homemade cheeses, and milk.

Sheds or storage facilities are also helpful. If you can afford it, bunker type systems are useful, reliable, and concealable. If possible, hide your gear, goodies, food, and other supplies underground. This will prolong your resources from being found or stolen.

After planning, building, and fortifying your compound, you need to protect it. Some people are against weapons. Foolish people do foolish things. Arming yourself is not a foolish thing.. The government is stockpiling ammo. You should too. Common weapons and ammo will help you stay stocked up on a plethora of resources. Buy weapons and learn how to use them. If you have never used guns, then learn now. Your family's survival may depend on it, and you need to be prepared. There are thousands of guns to buy. The best selection would be what the police and military use. Anything in .40 caliber or .223 caliber is advisable. There are many reliable types of guns and ammo, but you should use what may be readily available. If it is good enough for the police, it should work fine for you. After all this work, you should be prepared and ready. Bad things happen to good people, so be prepared.

Fuel reserves should also be considered. Fuel supplies for wood cutting, hunting, and possibly water runs are mandatory. Evacuations from your compound may be needed for short periods of time or longer, so have some fuel reserves available.

Once you have made it this far, consider “fire watches” or patrols around your complex. Warm, winter gear during the winter months will help greatly. An alert brisk walk around your area every 20 minutes will keep most people away. It will be helpful to have family members to take shifts or “watches”  around the clock when the time comes.

This all requires some knowledge of everything. The more you do yourself, the more you will understand and appreciate. If you hire someone to do these things listed above, you probably will not make it far. The more you understand about survival, the more you do yourself. Remember, not knowing these things may contribute to your own demise. Understand your surroundings and learn as much as you can. Researching all this information will lead you to other interesting ideas. Study, research, and learn these tips. Your survival will someday rely on this. Large cities will not provide this level of safety and security. Learn, invest and plan now for your survival later.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dear Editor:
This is in response to Your Get Home Plan by J.A.F.:  My commute is only one hour by train (about 25 miles.) This is a considerable distance to travel on foot.  I wear a suit while I'm at work, but I commute in jeans, button down shirt and hiking boots.  My suit goes into an Eagle Creek garment folder, and the shirt, pants and jacket come out of the folder looking pretty good, with few, if any, creases.  My dress shoes and belt stay in my office.  I use a CamelBak BFM bag that works year round, as it has the space for Goretex, fleece and any other snivel gear during the winter.  Inside Camelbak, I have the following:
1) Two Nalgene water bottles on each side, one of which fits into a metal cup I would use for boiling water.  The other Nalgene has about 10 feet of duct tape wrapped around it. 
2) Between my back and the pack there is a zip up pouch that usually holds the hydration bladder, but which I've replaced with two thermal blankets and two contractor weight plastic garbage bags that I can use for multiple purposes.
3) Inside, I have a 60 litre waterproof Storm Sack that I envision using to put the pack and my clothes in to ford any body of water that I need to.  I also have a 40 litre backpack cover for use in the rain.
4) I also have a well-stocked survival /medical trauma kit and a good three inch length fixed blade sheath knife.
Hope this gives you some good ideas. - Troglodyte

James Wesley:
In response to the article by the man that plans walking home from Washington, DC to a suburb up in Maryland.
I have a 'Razor' scooter that I bought from Wal-Mart for $110.  It will carry 220 pounds.  I use it with my kids.  But it is really an adult scooter.
The YouTuber NutnFancy has a couple of videos about using a scooters a get home vehicle in an emergency for commuters.  Not everyone has a car or bicycle.
He recommends an American made & more expensive model.  There are two American made scooters, Goped and Xootr. I believe one of these American made kick-scooters can carry 300-to-500 lbs. 
It's  pointed out that it might fit in a cabinet or big lockable drawer at work.  No one would 'think' to steal it if it was chain-locked under the desk.  Or, at least until after you got home 60 miles away in one day.
There are videos on YouTube about adults using kick-scooters for in city commuting  and from train stations to the office and back every day.
There are plenty of articles about scooters on the web.  This includes information about the wheels and which ones are best for wet-sidewalks and bumpy surfaces.  The cheapo one that I have will dump a person on their keester if they hit a big-crack in the concrete wrong. - Pat N.

JWR Adds: I concur that for "get me home" trips over short distances in urban areas, scooters make a lot of sense. Among the inexpensive imported scooters, the Micro brand scooter has larger wheels than the Razor, and is hence safer on rough pavement. (Look for inexpensive used ones on Craigslist.) In my estimation, adult-size kick scooters have three key advantages over bicycles: 1.) They are very compact when folded, so you can keep one stored in a spare file cabinet drawer or in a credenza at your office. 2.) They have solid rubber tires that can stand up to sharp road debris. (This is particularly important after an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado.) and 2.) They leave you less vulnerable to attack. (With a scooter, you are very low to the ground. So if an attacker rushes you, all you have to do is brake briefly, step off, draw a weapon, and take up a fighting stance. But on a bicycle, you sit much higher, and will probably be traveling faster. All it takes is a broomstick, baton, or a chunk of a tree branch thrust into the spinning wheel spokes, and you will be sent flying.) Granted, modern geared bicycles are the most efficient human-powered transport ever invented. But despite their relative inefficiency, kick scooters can play a key role in your "get home" planning.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I was born and raised on a farm, lived military and worked all my life, so I am accustomed to hard work and understand the need for a strong physical body. After years of working 10-12 hours a day, I decided to go back to college at nights to get a degree in pastoral studies, so I could keep busy during my ‘retirement’ years. In August, 2005 my life changed with a bad accident, now, disabled and in a wheelchair, my life is upside down and for me it was TEOTWAWKI.  I have always been a prepper and I’m not really sure why, a habit passed down in our family since the great depression. I never ever realized the importance of it until that day.  I am now a firm believer that all people need to be aware of what can happen and to be more prepared for all possibilities. Suddenly I couldn’t work, was facing multiple surgeries and the whole world looked different. Let me tell you now, everything we’ve been told about assistance if you ever become disabled is……..not the truth. For 14 months afterward I had no income and nothing but medical bills and no insurance (COBRA insurance was more expensive than the mortgage.) My choices became clear, sell everything I own (even though I could not prepare it for sale) and move into a nursing home, or get help at home. Luckily, my daughter and grandson moved in with me. We lived off our savings and food storage. I taught my family to forage, seems like in all our years of plenty, I have forgotten to teach my children and grandchildren the skills my grandmother taught me as a child. We ate our salads from the front yard and our garden; the food storage carried us through along with thoughtful friends who would at first bring in meals or a cake or pie. We saved the home, barely.

 Everyone needs to think now about what you would do if someone became disabled during SHTF and how you would care for them.  We now consider ourselves lucky we have already prepared for health related issues. Most preppers I know are my age, Viet Nam era people, we older preppers need to cover all our contingencies, as age itself has its own problems. Have you thought about how you might transport, lift, mobilize and care for a handicap or elderly loved one? Think about it now, even if no one in the family is currently handicap, you never know when something will happen. Anyone who is an active, healthy and disciplined person today can be disabled tomorrow. It could hit you like it did me, literally out of the blue, on a Friday night.

Initially I did not think about our prepping supplies or bug-out locations, only about making it from one day to the next. Now in a wheelchair, the house had to be modified, adaptive aids purchased, a ramp had to be built, our home had to be rearranged, lifts had to be installed, doorways widened and a disability van purchased. These things took extra money I did not have. Modifying our prepper supplies had to wait, and modifying our bug-out locations was way in the future. But now, years down the road, some of what I learned is that no amount of money saved is enough, unless you are in the 1%. One year of food storage is not enough, it can be stretched and stretched, but when it is gone it is most definitely gone. People won’t look at you the same, and that is fine, you don’t see them in the same light either. Some people who professed to be your best friend won’t be found anywhere. And most importantly, you will reevaluate your life and everything in it, including your faith. In times like these, you need to go ahead and pull out the good china and crystal to use every day, “enjoy it now” became my theme. I wish I had done that earlier in life. 

Many survivalists believe in the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory, and would be the first to leave the disabled and handicapped behind. There is something to be said for that, for if I become a burden to my family, as hard as it would be, I know that I would have to stay behind and let them go on. That would be very, very hard for me and for them, but we have discussed it to great lengths and all understand that it could be inevitable. Once said and understood by all, next step is to plan around my disabilities and see how to incorporate these new needs. I realized physically, I need the same thing as everyone else; food, water, shelter, self-defense, a potty, a place to sleep and something to read (my Bible), only my needs are now met in a different way.  We realized we don’t need two sets of preps; my preparations can work for the whole family, while their preparations won’t work for me. Sometimes I feel I am a burden to the family when they remind me that I bring wisdom, humor and hugs to the table. I know ways to defend my family, ways to gather and grow food, how to sew and make anything we need without a pattern and how to wiggle thru life to thrive, not just to survive. Everyone who has life can contribute something, even if it is just the gift of their presences, never, never discount a handicap or disabled person as less than human.

It goes without saying, if you have an electric wheelchair, always keep it charged. I have my charging unit in a backpack over the back handles of my wheelchair, so it is always with me. Have an alternate way to charge it, like a small generator or independent power supply system. My wheelchair has hidden pockets where I can keep pepper spray/mace or a weapon. Many handicap persons are not capable of handling or carrying a handgun or weapon. Also, not all physically handicapped persons are mentally handicapped. I have been surprised since my accident how many people have spoken to me in baby talk or less expecting that since I am in a wheelchair, I’m probably mentally challenged also. I want to hit those people, not only for thinking something so stupid, but for every mentally challenged person out there that has had to put up with stupid people like that. People also tend to find handicap people as vulnerable, and treat us that way. Thank goodness I already had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. My attitude is ‘don’t mess with me, in or out of my wheelchair’ It’s important not to look vulnerable, even the home. When someone looks at your home and sees a ramp, automatically you become a target. Our handicap ramp is to the side and landscaped in a way it doesn’t show. Disability license plates give you away also, so it is smarter to use a removable "hang ticket" [attached to the rearview mirror] instead of a plate.

Many modifications can be made at home, for instance; my daughter created an easy chair for me by adding heavy duty caster rollers to the legs of a plastic outdoor yard chair, it is really handy and easy for us all. My wheelchair can also be used to transport barrels of water, cast iron cookpots, sandbags and other heavy items. Transfer boards can be made from any heavy plastic or smooth wooden boards and used to move any heavy object from one place to another.  Sock pullers can be made from old bleach bottles and a bit of rope by cutting off the top and bottom and slitting the side then attaching long rope handles. The sock is then placed on top of the bottle and pulled onto the foot.

We realized we needed to make minor changes to our accessory bug-out sites also. We have four bug-out locations, one in each direction. Some are in conjunction with other family members, some are only for us, depending on which way we have to travel (hopefully we would not have to travel and could hunker down here at home).  Many of the little things I don’t need everyday any more, we have moved to our ‘Bugoutmobile’ to ease the burden. I suggest people consider adding bed wedges, adult diapers, transfer boards, reachers, portable handicap potties, rollator or walker, small portable lift system, and transfer chairs to their preps. If you have these accessories you will be able to care for almost anyone in any situation.

But the most important thing is to nurture close family relationships, as nothing can be more important to your survival. Do whatever it takes to keep your family first, to keep you all together and to learn to live with each other in a confined area. Everyone has to sacrifice; everyone has to give, to live in a happy community atmosphere. You have to diligently work to achieve family accord; it doesn’t come automatically just because you are all family. Practicing now dealing with your family in a confined space will let your family learn what traits they need to work on, because when SHTF you may have wished you had already learned this lesson and already worked out these issues. Also, living in a confined space, you may reconsider how many beans you have in storage.

 I’d like to share some things that may help someone else, things I learned the hard way. There is a difference between early, regular and disabled pension. If you must leave work due to an accident to take your pension, take a disability pension. There is a difference between transfer chair, wheelchairs and electric chairs. Transfer chairs are lightweight and inexpensive for temporary use (or prepping), wheel chairs are manual heavy duty, and electric chairs are wheelchairs that are battery pack for people who do not have full use their arms. Some auto manufactures will give you a discount for ordering a new disability fully-equipped van (some changes to policy have been made since the recession of 2008). The National Park system issues ‘Access Passes’ granting free access to a permanently disabled person good for the rest of their lifetime. Look for assistance from Community Action groups (like Agency on Aging) not from where you would expect. Adaptive aids make all the difference in the world. Items like reachers, transfer boards, leg lifters, bed wedges, bathroom and dressing aids, wheeled carts and baskets, sock pullers and gel pads are all helpful for older preppers.  Prepping is for hard times, and in hard times you still need to make life as simple as possible. All older preppers as well as those with a disabled family member should consider looking carefully at your in-home and bug-out supplies.    

There were cocky young men in my office that stood over me and defiantly said they would never be disabled, it would never happen to them, they are strong and would overcome any physical injury. Well, I probably felt the same way when I was around 17 years old. But I have learned over the years that nothing is impossible, everything isn’t what it professes to be, you can count your true friends on one hand and taking care of your family is a virtue, whatever their condition.  So believe in miracles and prepare for anything, even disability.

If you would like to add these two sites to your bookmarks, it took me forever to find these places for things I needed: and

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Good Morning Jim,
I would like to add my wholehearted support to the article “Cycling into TEOTWAWKI” by Mine T. I have been an enthusiastic Cyclist for many years, and consider a well set up bicycle to be an excellent option for bugging out, when staying where you are is not an option. I also believe a bicycle will give urban preppers a considerable advantage to those attempting to get out of dodge on foot, or even by four wheeled vehicle. A bicycle can go just about anywhere, so the option of riding out of a city along footpaths, railway lines, drainage culverts, and in the UK, old Canal Paths, would be a definite possibility.
My current choice of touring bike is a Surly Ogre. The Ogre is the latest generation of 29” wheeled mountain bikes, which has been specifically designed for long distance off-road touring. (I have no connection with the company, other than being a satisfied customer). The Ogre is built in the USA, and could be described as the John Deer Tractor of Bicycles, thanks to its strength and  the unlimited set up options, including a huge number of mounting positions for water / Fuel bottles and accessories. It can be set up for Hub Gears, Trailers, Disk Brakes, extra wide tires, and just about anything else you could think of.  My choice of 29” Schwalbe Marathon tires really come into their own on long trips, on or off road.
I fitted my Ogre with Old Man Mountain front and rear racks  and Ortlieb Back Roller Plus Panniers (front and rear)in a subdued Hazel brown colour. These give me plenty of storage space for extended trips of a week or more.  By caching food and other supplies at strategic points along your bug out route, you could remain mobile for months at a time.
I will send you a full review of the bike and the other touring equipment I use later in the year, once I’ve had a chance to give it  a full trial.
All the best, - Andrew in England


Dear Jim:
MineT wrote a great article!   When you really think about it, a bike in the back of your car or truck is likely the most effective way to get home when driving is no longer an option due to blocked roads, car damage, etc., etc.

When a crisis hits you are going to want to get home immediately, if not sooner!   10 miles hiking is a 5 hour trek at 2 mph, 20 miles is a full day.  Biking on any kind of road surface at 10 mph is easy, so you would get home in just one or two hours.    And you when you get home you will have much more energy left to deal with the situation.

The problem  is the space - even with wheels off, a bike takes up a lot of room.  (A motorcycle, moped or electric bike would be even faster to get home if only you had the space to carry it around all the time.)   Bike racks outside the car are a possible solution, but leave your bike vulnerable to theft and the weather (and decrease your mileage).

For convenience and practicality I have my eye on a Montague folding bike that can be kept safe and discreet in the trunk. A nod to SurvivalBlog advertiser Ready Made Resources, they have a good selection and great prices:
[JWR Adds: I've owned a Montague folding bike for two years, and I love it. It is very reliable and folds up quite compactly.]

Regarding type of bike:  I would not even consider a road bike. [In disaster situations] you need the robustness and reliability of a mountain bike.  (Put slick tires on to reduce the weight and rolling resistance if you are mostly road riding.)

There is much less chance of flat tires on a mountain bike, and you have many more route options of road or trail surfaces that can be ridden.

Definitely install tire liner inserts, (e.g., Mr. Tuffys) and/or a tire sealant.  I do both on serious backcountry trips.

Reliability is the key when you are on your own. Regards, - OSOM

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cycling has many facets that could attract people preparing for the time when the comforts we have been so accustom to are no longer available. Pick your scenario for the drastic change in our future and a bicycle might be able to handle some of the chores that a computer controlled fossil fuel vehicle may no longer be capable of. If the family car is incapacitated, how will you get from point A to point B?

But one can't expect to just shell out some money on a human powered urban assault vehicle, and one day just pick it up and head out towards the burning horizon as if it’s a normal evening sunset. I’m going to attempt to write this article to the person who’s looking to add this option by doing research, making wise purchases, testing equipment, and training properly, just like any other prepping should be done.

You’d think silly of me if I bought a firearm for self-defense, loaded the one magazine provided with ammunition I bought from a yard sale, placed it under my pillow, and then expected it (or me) to instantly be ready to fend off anything more than a girl scout ringing the doorbell with a wagon full of cookies. If you consider this a viable threat, I apologize for making light of it, and you might want to talk to somebody about that. But I digress. You should have done your research, talked the poor guy behind the counter at the local gun store into insanity, purchased a firearm and accessories based on your intended use, and budgeted for ammunition to test and train for the moment of truth. Cycling is no different, except for the slinging of lead and the fact that training is much, much cheaper. You should do the research, buy from a local bike shop (can’t stress this enough, as a working relationship with a good bike shop will pay for itself), and train, train, train.

This should lead to a high confidence level that you and your bicycle can reach its planned destination while carrying the gear necessary for the trip. Confidence will come from not only the tested gear, but the change in physical health that the training is going to afford you. I’m not going to assume you have already put in the amount of seat time it takes to get those sit bones in tune for a day of cycling past the no longer gas guzzling modern dinosaurs stuck on the road after TSHTF. To get there, you’ll need to add cycling to your current physical training routine. If a physical training plan doesn’t exist, cycling is the perfect place to start.

Cycling Out Scenarios

Immediate bug out
For us who are still looking for that perfect land to wait out the Apocalypse, we still consider abandoning our current digs for better ones immediately upon realizing that the grid is down and ain’t coming back soon. Walking doesn’t get us very far, and we’ve got to carry everything we need on our backs. It goes without saying that if this isn’t something you have trained for, you might still be able to look back and see your own mailbox before you decide where you’re making camp for the night.

Forced bug out
All but the most fortified and mega-stocked castle-on-a-hill should have a bug out scenario at least in the realm of possibility, or have graves already dug. By the time stores run out, and the angry mobs have eaten each other, cycling can give you that 100+ mile range when the fuel pumps have run dry, and your Hummer is out of commission. You’ve got your maps and have contacted a community with your short wave radio; but how do you get there carrying what you need for the trip when cars are incapacitated and roads are impassable? Your cycle choice and training can step up to the challenge.

Cycling home
Many people who have prepared their suburban homes for disaster work in more urban areas due to the higher paying jobs. For them, being at work when the news gets bad is a concern. Trying to get out of a densely populated area in a car on limited road space due to everyone else trying to do the same might become problematic. If getting home by car is no longer an option, cycling can be a much faster alternative to hoofing it. A ten mile commute on back roads via bike is a 45 minute ride with limited training vs. half of a day. 35 to 50 miles and more is possible in the same time it would take to walk. With no impact on your joints from the ride, you might be of some good when you get there to bunker down and defend your home.

Shelter in Place
You might think in this scenario that a bike would be useless, but I’d like to argue the point. Exercise will still be important no matter where you find security. A cycle trainer can turn your outdoor bike into an indoor gym. Even if you’re 10 feet under concrete avoiding the nuclear winter, you won’t have to have memorized your favorite 90 minute exercise DVD to get in a good workout. You’re gonna want to keep that heart in good shape for when you pop the hatch and greet the new world. Also consider the power you’re generating with that spinning wheel. That could run a generator that keeps batteries charged or run small appliances. With a little ingenuity, this energy can be used in a number of ways. Hook it to a water pump normally run by a drill and you can move stored non-potable water up to a tank on the roof to flush the last working toilet in existence. This might be a topic for another paper.

Bike Choices

Road bikes are very specialized machines for exactly what they’re named for; the road. If your plan includes pavement from point A to point B, and you train for the situation, a road bike can get you home in a hurry while your coworkers are stuck on clogged roads. I mention training due to the fact that these speed demons are to be ridden bent over and don’t have any creature comforts. 100 psi tire pressures, a rigid architecture, and a seat hard enough to deflect incoming artillery make for an uncomfortable ride if you aren’t prepared for it. The component sets are built for speed, not abuse. I’m not saying they are particularly fragile, just designed for the road. That being said, if you pick up road cycling as a hobby, you won’t blink at a 25 or 30 mile ride for fun, much less as a way home in an emergency.

A mountain bike might seem like a better choice, and for most initially riding one is a lot easier. If you’re G.O.O.D plan is off the side of a mountain into the valley below, you can stop reading here and buy a downhill special. If crossing numerous unimproved sections of land is in order, this is your choice mode of transportation. But these bikes can be very inefficient on the road and can drain your energy much faster. Your level of comfort and durability go way up, and if the distance isn’t a factor, a mountain bike might be your choice. A general rule is the more suspension travel the more energy will be robbed from each rotation of the pedals. Also, picking an aggressive tread pattern increases the rolling resistance you’ll experience. Much like the road bike, if you’ve trained for it, this type of bike can do the miles.

The type of bike I ride is what’s considered a hybrid. This is a broad category. They can range from dual suspension to a rigid frame and forks. From a wider (not mountain wide) tire with 60 psi, to a slim road tire with 100+ psi. Many sport a flat style handle bar. It is the most identifiable feature, and a huge difference between it and the road bike. The other difference is that they usually sit more upright, making it a more familiar ride to beginners. Thinner tires and less suspension separate it from the mountain bikes. Commuter bikes fall into this category, and have some features that are attractive to someone who’s looking for all-weather reliability. Commuters don’t take days off just because the weather turns on them, and neither will you in an emergency situation. They can have better component sets, sealed bearings, and disc brakes for better performance in inclement weather. Hybrid and commuter bikes are often drilled out in places specifically designed for mounting racks for bags. This isn’t mandatory but will facilitate mounting these later.

As mentioned, tires for these semi-thin rimmed machines range from slick and stiff to knobbed and squishy. Depending on your planned route, road tires give you much less rolling resistance and more miles for your efforts. The tradeoff is in traction on any (and I mean any) dirt or gravel covered terrain. Also, durability is not their strong suit. If you do run road tires, you have to be careful of any debris or deformity in the road. Fortunately, there’s a whole sport based on good rolling and high traction tires. Cyclocross tires are perfect for both on and off road. They might not save you in an extreme downhill situation, but for general on and off road use, cyclocross tires are worth looking at.

Bug Out Cycling Gear

As with most of this paper, this is practical information for every cyclist, regardless of the situation. Number one: Do not ride a bike without a helmet. Bike helmets are very lightweight, and you won’t even notice it two minutes into a ride. Note: Cycling helmets are good for one impact. Get a new one if it ends up saving your skull from impact. Number 2: Lights should be used when cycling in any type of traffic or on public accessible roads. Unless you determine your bug out a “blackout situation”, a blinking red light to the rear and a blinking white light to the front should be flashing at all times. Work gloves and safety glasses are part of my B.O.B., and the ones I’ve selected to get me through Armageddon are just fine for commuting or escaping an urban disaster to get home. Glasses will help keep you in control if something hits you in the face. The gloves have a padded palm to give some comfort from leaning on the bars for prolonged periods of time. I have cycling gloves, but my mechanic style gloves get the call if I’m loading up my 72 hour bag and heading for safer ground.

Pedals come in three main flavors: platform, clips, or clipless. I’m going to eliminate clips altogether. I consider them the most dangerous of the three, and the least effective. I’m going to recommend cycling shoes and clipless pedals, because they put a lot more of your power to the ground and are safer than any other type of pedal. I’m not sure most who don’t use them would agree, but the ones who do will never, ever go back. If you plan on doing a “century” (cycle slang for 100 miles in a day), or just toolin’ around town, clipless pedals are head and shoulders above your other options. Conversely; platform pedals (the ones you’re used to from when you were a kid on your Huffy) offer you a shoe alternative that most clipless pedals don’t. The answer can be clipless pedals with a platform around them. That way, if you have to ride without your bike shoes, you can do so effectively. It’s the win/win situation we’re all looking for. They are available from different manufacturers.

Shoes for road bikes are once again designed only for riding, and walking in them can be kind of like walking in swim fins and sound like tap shoes. Shoes designed for mountain biking use the same pedal attachment (cleat) as the road shoes, but are designed to put your foot down when you need to, and walk around much better. When buying this combination, keep in mind that the cleat comes with the pedals, and not the shoes. There are a few different types of pedals with their own style cleat. Which of these styles is better is another subject for another paper. Most are great designs, but your familiarity with them is much more important than which one might have a slight advantage on the other. The cleat that comes with your pedals should bolt on to the bottom of whatever shoe you buy. If you buy both from a cycle shop (always recommended), they should make the whole shootin’ match work for you.

If you are going to be out before the angry hordes are done looting and haven’t finished eating the majority of their own population, you can be a target for them. Much like settlers heading West, you’ll need a way of confronting the onslaught. Although you are going to want to give most of the carrying burden to the mechanical beast, some things might be better carried on your person. In fact, you might want to consider having to ditch the bike altogether if the scenario calls for it. Sure, this is a last resort, but so might have been bugging out in the first place. One thing I won’t be strapping on to my cycle is my primary firearm. This, a hydration system, and some other basic survival gear will be attached to me. I’ve worn plenty of MOLLE style vests in the past, and one that carries my sidearm cross draw in a retention holster is getting the call for this mission. Add some pouches for reloads and other must have stuff in just in case plan “C” is called into play. The rest can find room on the bike. Keep in mind that most panniers (a set of side bags) are designed to be removed quickly and have some sort of carrying handle. Loaded appropriately, and you could escape a situation quickly with quite a bit of your gear and leave behind the bike.

Other Gear
Two other parts of your body that touch the cycle the majority of the time are your hands and your derriere. Gloves we covered, so we’ll deal with your sit bones now. You can buy seats with as much padding as you’d like, then add a gel cover to it, and even find a seat post with a little shock absorber in it, but there’s no replacement for seat time. They have seats out there that look like the came off a tractor, but they’ll still more than likely hurt your butt at first. Seat time, measured in minutes, not miles, will make this pain bearable. I prefer to just log the seat time with the saddle that came with the bike. I pay good money (not too much money) for good bikes, and I find the seat that came on it plenty good for me. Cycling pants have a pad built in to them, and they are effective. Cycling pants are also shaped for being bent at the waist, making them comfortable for long rides, but not necessary option for your journey. You can wear them under loose fitting clothing so that you have your pocket knife right where you normally wear it. My tactical shorts usually ride over of mine.

Carrying Gear

This is the metal frame that attaches to your bikes frame, forks, or both. Racks are available in many different sizes and carrying styles. Some are clip-on, and some bolt on to the bike. I’m not a fan of the clip-on, and wouldn’t trust them in a heavy carry or rough terrain situation to lug what might be equipment and supplies that prolong my life. Some only carry loads on top, some on the sides, and some both. This is going to be a personal choice based on how much each person can carry safely for the distance and terrain they must cover. A general rule is that you’d rack and pack the rear of the bike first, then the front as needed. I have done both, and prefer to rack the front first. I don’t even notice moderate loads on the front of my commuter bike, and prefer the ride of the weight low and forward on my bike. I had to look for specific racks that work with disc brakes with my last purchase, as my newest cycle is equipped with them. Suspension laden cycles will have some restrictions on what racks they can accommodate. Again, a good cycle shop will be able to help you with selection, as well as proper installation.

I’ll tell you right off the bat these things can get downright expensive. But like with most things, you get what you pay for. Since I’m guessing you’ll be (as I will) moving the heavier, if not all of, your B.O.B. to the bags, the light duty bags are not what you’re looking for. Water containers can be affixed directly to the racks if you wish. Practice riding with all the extra weight in its place before the need arises. The higher you make your center of gravity, the more unstable your ride will be. The other nugget I’ll share is that I prefer to buy the racks and bags from the same manufacturer. Not necessarily the same place, as shopping around can save you some dough. As mentioned before, many panniers slip on and lock to the racks for quick on and off convenience. A slight difference in design between the racks and the bags can lead to relying on duct tape (once again) to arrive with what you departed with. There are plenty of options of where you want to put bags, too. Handlebar, trunk, sides, seat, and frame bags are a few of the choices. I have a seat bag with an extra tube and the tools to change it, along with a cycling multi-tool. I prefer these items to be out separate so that I don’t have to look for it when needed. Changing a flat on a bike is very fast with some practice. Looking for the tools can take as long as fixing the flat if you have to dig for the stuff.

Why not a bugout bag (B.O.B.) for your B.O.B.? Google up the B.O.B. (Beast of Burden, in this case) cycle trailer and I think you’ll be impressed. I’ve personally talked with people who have crossed the country pulling these things loaded down with gear, and they praise them. The only complaint is that they’re so popular that replacement parts can be hard to come by. Their single wheel design and slim profile make them very agile, able to scoot through small places (like between abandoned cars) and down narrow trails. This is the only individual product endorsement I’m including in this paper. I’m currently experimenting with a two wheeled trailer I picked up second hand. The primary use for the trailer will be our pet, which we’ve prepped for on all the levels in which we’ve prepped for ourselves. But I will also be testing this for the carrying of supplies. Water will be placed low and flat of the bottom of the cargo area. Other cargo will be placed around, and our small dog will be strapped in and sitting up in the middle. If you have a small child, this is also an option. I’m going to suggest, nay demand, the same safety equipment for the young passenger (helmet) and the same lights on the rear and far left and right of the trailer. A flag also accompanies most trailers for visibility.

Bike Maintenance and Repair

Professional Maintenance
After riding your bike the first hundred miles or so, it's time to take it back to the cycle shop for adjustments. I wouldn’t try this if you elected to buy from an individual or a big box store. New cables stretch and derailleurs will need tweaking. This is a service many bike shops offer for free. Unless you really want to learn a new skill (discussed later), I'd leave adjustments to the pros at the shop. They aren’t often necessary after initially tightening everything up. Just have it done occasionally and you’ll be ready when the ball drops.

Home Maintenance
Home maintenance is not too tedious. Cleaning and lubricating the chain is something you should do as necessary. A device to do this is about the only tool I have that is cycle specific. Keeping the bike clean, especially if you take it off road, is important to prevent unnecessary corrosion.

As for maintenance, I’d leave almost anything more complicating than flats to the cycle shop. One reason for this is the shop's mechanic can spot other things you might have missed that are askew with your scoot whilst repairing whatever it is you drug it in for. That is unless you’ve done your homework in cycle repair and equipped your tool arsenal with cycle specific implements. That being said, cycle repair could be a post catastrophic vocation that might be in demand. If you do choose to develop this skill set, it might be a bartering tool with others who now realize that a bike is their best transportation option. You might just find yourself fixing old bikes and trading/selling them, effectively starting your own “The Day After” bike shop as an income stream while saving time and money now by tuning your own.

Again, as long as you keep your bike in good working order, even if the cycle shop falls within the quarantine area, you should be able to get where you’re going on your well maintained bicycle. Tubes and the few tools you’ll need to change a road side flat are a must. A chain is a key component that can break without any real sign of abuse. An extra one might be a good idea along with a chain tool. Chain tools are small and fairly self-explanatory, and come as part of cycle-specific multi-tools. Stocking up on spare parts can be part of your plan if you’re considering the after world bike shop we previously mentioned.

Some parts will need to be replaced, much like a car. Unlike a car that has a check engine light, sometimes bicycle problems don’t present symptoms as fast and can easily be missed. Having an inoperative bike can make your five mile bug out plan change drastically, and make a 50 mile bug out nearly impossible. Tire wear is more obvious, and you’ll be looking at them more than most other parts. Tubes, unless you really are lucky, will be replaced because of occasional flats before they wear out. The less obvious parts are the chain and coated brake cables.

Testing Your Gear
Just as with the waterproof matches, the dehydrated mac and cheese, and the portable water filter you bought for your B.O.B., every piece of prepper gear must be tested. Not only for operability, but for the confidence you need to carry this gear in to TEOTWAWKI. Your bike is no exception. Find the weak links, and squash them. You have to know that when this piece of equipment is supposed to get you home (or where you’re going to call home) that when you lean on the pedals, it’ll project itself forward just like it’s designed to do.

Cycling Lifestyle

Cycle shops
A good cycle shop will pay for itself in professional advice, proper fitting you to a bike, proper mounting accessories to your machine, and continual tuning. Picking a bike off the shelf of a super store is a recipe for disaster. I wouldn’t buy a bike from a box store as a present for a total stranger; much less trust my plans for the future to one. As with any good gun shop, you should feel comfortable asking questions about gear. If they don’t have the time to answer them, then Google up another bike store in your area until you find one that does. Make sure the owner and employees are cyclists. Their real life experiences with gear will be your first test, but not your last. It should be obvious that they’re cyclists, by the display of their own bikes in the shop. Ask them why they picked the gear they run, and then learn from their answers. They’ll also most likely be your first clue to where the good cycling clubs meet.

Cycling clubs
A lot of what we do as preppers is enhanced by like-minded people, and cycling is no exception. Getting into a cycling club can make your whole experience better. There’s seat time, and then there’s seat time combined with a little healthy competition and camaraderie. There are usually ability groups to match all levels, so you don’t have to be able to do 20 miles at 20 MPH on day one. But you will improve quicker than you think if you work at it.

If you really want to be prepared to bike thru the now third world country at the end of your driveway, take up a discipline called cyclocross. Cyclocross racing is a fairly new sport, but is catching on quickly as it brings the other types of racing together in a strange and fun environment. This type of event invites inclement weather, provides terrain that varies from road to mud, includes obstacles that will force you to carry your bike, and will abuse your body (as much as you want). It takes place on a closed course designed to tax your cycling skills as much as your endurance. The events can be more about finishing than time, and more about fun than trophies. You’ll better know what your body will put out, and what your gear will put up with in this kind of situation. Consider it the cycling equivalent to practical shooting.

Cycle commuting
If your plan includes cycling home from work, what better way to know how it'll go than riding to work? I know there are those commutes that just aren’t feasible, but don't count out 10 or 15 miles one way until you know what you're capable of. Commuting every day isn’t necessary. Maybe you save it for casual Friday. Your attention to detail is different on a bike, and this gives you the best view of what you'll experience when it's time to get home under adverse conditions. I’m not going into a tactical discussion here, but you’ll want to take note of choke points and back routes that will provide better cover or concealment. It also feels good to pass a few gas stations knowing you're not shelling out your hard earned money just to get to work. Plan your commutes by picking roads that are safe to ride on.  Skip roads that don't offer you the room you need to bail out. You are considered a vehicle, and you have some right of way, but don't put yourself in a situation where you're trying to explain this to a Paramedic in the back of an ambulance. Review the cycling laws in your state, but realize you might be the only one out there who has. You will be able to pack almost anything you’d normally haul to work in the panniers that will carry your survival gear. My smaller front bags are all I usually need, and I’m much more prepared to work after getting the blood moving on a quick ride to work.

Healthy Lifestyle
Whether a quadruple bypass is in your past, or in your future, you won’t be overly welcome in a post-apocalyptic community if the procedure is imminent. Starting a physical training routine with cycling is easy and fun for almost anyone. After the initial investment, training is basically free and is as convenient as taking an afternoon bike ride. If the great outdoors doesn’t present many opportunities for pleasant riding, many indoor options are available. Adding cycling to a routine is a great idea if your joints are getting a little older. Even if you’re in above average physical shape, cross training on a bike is a great idea to change up your workout. Find a local spin class and see how fast you get into shape for miles of road. As preppers, if physical conditioning isn’t part of a routine, we won’t last long in the times we’re prepping for.

I’m hoping that by now you’re looking at this topic from a broader prospective by looking at the benefits of adding cycling to your lifestyle both before and after TEOTWAWKI. Most of the things I’ve mentioned here shouldn’t surprise you, but I hope were worth reading one more time. A few things worth repeating: You get what you pay for. Seat time, measured in minutes, not miles, is everything. Test all your equipment and strategies as with all survival gear. A great cycle shop will prove indispensable the same way a good gun store is for that type of gear. Last, a cycling lifestyle will benefit in more ways than one. If you live ten years longer because your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, you might just get to shoot some zombies that you would have missed if you flat line before they get here. Happy cycling.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

For most preppers, the action plan for a TEOTWAWKI scenario can be neatly categorized into basically one of two categories:  Bug in or Bug out.  Many people live in rural areas with sufficient security and provisions to be able to go to ground in the event of a disaster and ride out the storm.  “Sufficient” security might include bunkers, shooters, stockpiles of ammunition and weapons, spare parts, etc.  “Sufficient” provisions might be enough food to get the defense force and extended family of the principal through to the harvest, and enough seeds to ensure that the harvest will feed the crew indefinitely.  For many rural preppers, this scenario is an attainable goal.  For many urban preppers, however, this goal could never be realistically accomplished.  For that reason, we have to consider the possibility of bugging out.
There are some relatively standard considerations that almost anybody with a functional brain housing group would think through prior to bugging out.  Where am I going to get fuel?  What type of vehicle do I need?  How much food and water should I be taking with me?  Where am I going?  These are the basics of bugging out, and many of the conversations I see around the topic within the forums are geared towards that end.  These are great considerations, and they need to be considered as a bare minimum before attempting a bug out.  But, having experienced moving through combat zones for most of my adult life, I’d like to offer some other considerations that may not be so obvious.

As a caveat, these considerations are based upon several assumptions.  First, we are assuming that the power grid is down.  Second, we are assuming that the domestic security situation has degraded to the point that the police are no longer capable of providing safety and order (if they ever were capable to begin with).  Therefore, based upon those two assumptions, we have to further assume that traveling is a very dangerous activity.  People will be looking for targets of opportunity for any chance of finding food, water, or supplies. 
Here are some not-so-obvious considerations for bugging out based upon those assumptions:
What are my primary and alternate routes going to look like?  Yes, I said “alternate route.”  While it may be expedient to travel along paved roads to arrive at your bug out location, it may not be realistic.  There are several reasons why traveling along paved roads may not be the best idea you’ve ever had (remembering that we are assuming the security situation has degraded significantly):

  1. Paved roads are highly visible.  Traveling along paved roads will draw attention, particularly in a scenario where practically all vehicular traffic has ceased because of fuel shortages and security concerns.  Doing so may expose you to bands of roving thieves and other not-so-friendly types. 
  2. Bridges and overpasses make excellent choke points.  This means there is only one direction that you can travel, and it also means that you are in an extremely weak position to defend against a well-planned ambush.  It’s worth saying that if I weren’t a prepper who was working towards building supplies for my family, and the apocalyptic disaster happened upon me, I would probably use this method to feed my family.  A good ambush can be executed with a few well-placed individuals given the correct terrain.  An overpass or a bridge is the correct terrain.  It’s best just to avoid them.
  3. Roads may be impassable.  Think about a scenario where traffic was so bad that sat in their cars for days and didn’t move.  Many would eventually just leave the cars in the middle of the road and head home.  Remember, we’re talking about an urban situation here.  You might not even be able to fit your bug out vehicle down those roads. 
  4. Some people are capable of making shots at 500+ meters.  If you were driving down the side of a major highway, your enemies would be able to see you from far enough away that you would never hear the bullet that killed you.  There is relatively little cover and concealment on highways. (Obviously it is hard to drive through cover and concealment.) 

Since your primary route was probably a highway, I’d like to challenge you to come up with an alternate plan.  Let’s try it on foot this time, through the woods if possible, or at a bare minimum through back streets where ambushes would be less likely.  If you’re a smart cookie, as many of you are, the thought of reaching your bug out location on foot will immediately trigger several other considerations.  Here’s a small list of things to think about:

  1. How will I navigate?  Since we are assuming the power grid is down, you probably won’t have a charge on your fancy little GPS system (if the satellites are still functional).  You’re going to need a good, old-fashioned map and compass to get where you’re going.  Do you know how use land navigation techniques?  You’d better start thinking about taking a class. 
  2. How much food and water can you carry on your person?  This might necessitate changing your overall bug out location. 
  3. How good is the cover and concealment along your alternate route?  Will it provide sufficient concealment for your needs, or do you need to augment your concealment through camouflage clothing?  What type of camouflage is most effective in your environment?
  4. How much private property are you going to need to cross to arrive at your location?  Can you detour through a publicly owned National forest or other location where you are less likely to run into the security forces of other private citizens?  Remember, trespassing during a major disaster might get you shot repeatedly.

Where are my en-route safe havens?  “What the heck is a safe haven?” you may be asking.  Think Custer’s Last Stand.  Where are you going to go when the stuff hits the fan right in the middle of your trip to the bug out location? 
For obvious reasons, I recommend having as many safe havens built into your route as possible.  One safe haven for every mile or two would be ideal.  They need to be thoroughly discussed, known by all members of the travel party, and visibly marked on all of the maps (of which everyone should have a copy).  A good safe haven will offer limited entry access, ballistic protection, cover, and concealment.  Concrete buildings work great.  Bathrooms within concrete buildings work even better (there is only one door in, the doors can typically be locked from the inside, and they are usually made out of concrete).  In a pinch, a thick grove of trees can serve as a great safe haven as it offers the bare minimum of ballistic protection, cover, and concealment.  You get the idea.  Here are a few additional things to consider about safe havens:

  1. Public buildings such as fire stations and park buildings are less likely to be defended by gun-toting militia members.  You might even run into a friendly fireman who has medical knowledge if you’re lucky, but most likely all government operations will have ceased by this point.  If you choose to utilize someone else’s property for a safe haven, you need to be prepared to fight for it.  This might not be the best idea, considering you might be getting chased at the time.  Even Hitler couldn’t win a two front war.  Think about it.
  2. You need a running password.  In the event that your group is split up, everyone will have directions to rendezvous at the closest safe haven.  The first person to arrive will secure the location and wait.  If other members of the group are inbound in a hurry, they need to have some way to communicate that they are secure and not under duress.  I suggest sign/countersign.  It can be as simple as a number combination.  For instance, let’s say our number combination was seven.   I might challenge the runner with the number “Four.”  The runner would reply with a verbal “Three” and, since those two numbers add up to seven, I would know that all is well and not feel compelled to shoot my friend.
  3. Ideally, a safe haven would not be too far off of your route.  It’s best if they lie along your route so that everyone knows where they are and how to get there.  The fewer the barriers between your route and your safe haven, the more quickly you can travel there when SHTF.  For instance, a river between your route and your safe haven could be disastrous. 

Do I need geocaches of critical supplies?  Since we’re now on foot, we obviously can’t carry as much as we would like.  We might need extra food, supplies, medical kits, ammunition, and more.  Since we can’t reasonably carry them with us, we have no choice to but to store them along our route.  I suggest planning en-route waypoints where critical resupply caches can be pre-positioned.  I would bury them if at all possible, on uncontested land (like somewhere deep within a national forest).  Mark them on your map, and then build the waypoints into your route.  If you get there and don’t need the supplies, leave them alone.  You never know when you might come back through. 

Obviously, you would need to develop some way of storing your cache in such a way that your supplies would not be ruined.  You have to keep it dry and serviceable despite weather and potentially having been buries for a long time.  Also, you need to think of a way to mark the cache so that it’s obvious to you but won’t cause cousin Earl from the local farm to dig up your supplies out of curiosity. 
As a general rule, I recommend one geo cache for each day of foot travel required to reach your bug out location.  Of course, many people will label me paranoid and crazy for even suggesting the practice, but then I guess I am a bit batty. 

I hope this article has helped someone think of a few extra considerations about bugging out that might save their life if TEOTWAWKI ever actually happens.  As always, any prepping is better than no prepping, so take it one step at a time and do it over time as you become able.  You’ll never regret being prepared. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Growing up in a fairly large family with a work at home Mom, and a truck driver Dad, we learned to “make ends meet”.  One of our favorite dishes was “teedl-oh-bow” as Dad called it…wild rabbit (or squirrel) with biscuits and gravy.  Some even call it, ahem, “Stuff On A Shingle”.  Made many a supper meals for a family of six.  Mom even “barked” a squirrel once and it’s still a standing joke that Dad tells on her.  “Couldn’t find a bullet hole anywhere in the darn thing!”

Breakfast was nearly always oatmeal, cinnamon, and honey with mixed powdered milk over it and a piece of homemade bread toast.

Mom made us girls’ underwear from the pretty pink with blue flowers sacks that our flour was bought in.  Life was hard…but we survived.

After I married, life got even harder.  My first husband (who is now passed on) was a drinker and life was miserable.  Meals were hard to come by and sometimes me and my two kids found sanctuary at Mom’s house with something to eat.  When pregnant with my first child when I couldn’t work, beans and biscuits were our staple and wasn’t very good for someone carrying a baby…but we made it.  Raised some rabbits, raised some feeder pigs, plus worked a full time job at one time. Gardening was a must, and I didn’t even have the fancy hoes & shovels!  I picked weeds by hand and planted on dirt that I turned over with a kitchen spatula and depended on the skies for water. He became severely disabled at the age of 38 and I cared for him for 26 years before he passed on.  Good food, a lot of love, and knowing how to make ends meet, life was hard…but we survived.

One “unprepared” trip nearly cost us our lives and our baby boy … we were traveling across the mountains from a warm climate and forgot that it snows in the mountains and that a car needs anti-freeze.  We got stranded and the only shelter we could find was a post office and thank God the lobby doors were open.  We placed the baby over the floor vent (they probably don’t have these any more) and we laid down on each side of him to keep him warm.  The next morning we hauled water from a local creek to put in the radiator and managed to make it to the town we were going to…rolled down that mountain with smoke barreling out the back of that car like a freight train!  Didn’t dare stop for fear the engine would seize up.  Life was hard, but we survived.

I remember when we were raising rabbits that we had no heat other than a small wood stove (ran out of propane) so closed off all the rooms except the living room where the wood stove was and the kitchen.  We all slept on the floor of the living room to keep warm.  What a time for some friends to come calling!  They enjoyed our living room floor also and they guys slept in front of the wood stove and woke up to re-stoke.

I used a stock tank warmer to heat water in the bathtub and washed our clothes with a toilet stool plunger when I got the water hot enough.  Hung them on the clothesline to dry.  We pretty much ate tame rabbit, chicken & eggs from my 20+ Buff Orpington hens and a few roosters, and what I gleaned from the garden or bought really inexpensively at the grocery store.  Didn’t have a big box store anywhere near.  Life was hard, but we survived.

When we raised feeder pigs we lived a little better, but had our hands full when both of us got laid off from our jobs and had to depend on ourselves to put a roof over our heads and eat.  Sold off all the sows, boars and feeders and moved to town.  That was one winter my kids still remember because all they got for Christmas was a pair each of pajamas I made from scrap material from a discount store.  For Christmas dinner we ate gravy and biscuits and had a cake I made with only whipped cream dyed pink for frosting.  Life was hard, but we survived.

My then husband had a past, and that past took him to prison and I found myself alone with two small children and working in a factory to try to make ends meet.  I got behind on the payments on our house and they locked me out without anything that I owned.  No begging could persuade them to even let me have our personal things like clothes, pictures etc.  Some friends managed a trailer park and they helped me by letting me move in without a deposit and the first month's rent free.  Some church friends gave me money for utility deposits.  Me and the kids at off paper plates etc, with plastic spoons etc., and my friends loaned me a skillet and some pots.  Life was hard, but we survived.

After my late husband had his brain surgery and radiation, we moved back to our hometown to be closer to family.  I then had two teenagers that didn’t understand why their lives had been turned upside down. Once we had a power outage that lasted for 3 days, so we heated with a fireplace (one room) and cooked eggs and bacon on a KeroSun heater in the kitchen.  Life was hard, be we survived.

After his death, I met my gentleman and after a year of dating, we married a few years ago.  He was a “prepper” I guess for years, because his house was absolutely full of survival stuff.  It really made us feel bad when someone broke into it, rummaged through it like crazy, and took nothing but our two valued metal detectors.  Just turned everything upside down and made us a mess to clean up.

So being a prepper really isn’t a question for me, since I married one! (smile) Now we both are engaged in watching out for our own futures.   We put in a square foot gardening system very early with the “domes” to cover it in cool, frosty weather or hail storms…here it is late April and I’ve got lettuce in a jar in my frig, dehydrated onion tops in a spice jar, and a tiny little tomato that is a signal for the best to come!  Also have dehydrated pineapple slices in my fridge for my “sweet fix”, fresh cut up tomatoes in a vacuum sealed jar in the frig for salads and lots of other goodies.  I’ve gotten to be pretty good at dehydrating, food sealing, and looking for bargains at the grocery stores, discount stores and freight damaged stores.

I’m not excited about washing our clothes in our little counter-top hand crank washer but in a pinch it’ll do…and doesn’t take much water or soap!   I’m not excited about living life after shoot hits the fan, but…we’re doing what we can, with what we have, to prepare as best we can.  A big part of that is saving money at every turn. 

We’re not “scaredy cats” … we’re just two people who don’t like what we are seeing around us and know from experience how hard life can be if things go south in your life.  You don’t need a major event for life to wreak havoc for your family.  Sometimes all it takes is a bad decision for you to find yourself in dire straights or even deadly circumstances. 

I guess the moral of my story is simply that being “unprepared” is going to make it really hard on a lot of people for quite awhile…and they won’t have the support structure for them to survive that I had back 40+ years ago.  Even though I didn’t get welfare etc., I still had neighbors, family & church people to take my hand encourage me to keep on keeping on.  That’s why I’m saying that to prep or not to prep shouldn’t even be a question!  If you’ve ever been caught between the fence and the gatepost you know what a tight squeeze it is and how difficult it is to get loose. 

My current husband and I don’t smoke we don’t drink much other than an occasion beer, and we are very active for people in their 60’s.  We’re headed for a preppers expo this weekend and are really excited about learning even more than we’ve learned and are practicing.

Right now we’re loners, but have met another family not far from us, and we’re looking forward to getting to know better.  We’re being extremely careful about who we take into our confidence.

We’re looking forward to taking some gun training shortly so we don’t shoot our feet off. I haven’t hunted in more than 30 years.  I love fishing so that comes natural for me and my husband is going to make a great fisherman. 

We don’t plan to leave our “homestead” because we can’t afford to buy land. We’ll just do the best we can and if we fail we fail and we’ll meet you in those heavenly realms.  We love to travel and will do some of that when we can, and will keep our camper stocked with emergency supplies at all times.  We’ve purchased a lot of small propane bottles and are getting them filled.  Our travel trailer’s refrigerator runs on propane, our stove and furnace run on propane, and we have a nice outside grill if we need it.  We’ve practiced “dry camping” and found we could stay warm quite nicely with the furnace turned down really low, wearing well-insulated underwear, and hiding under a biscuit quilt that weights a ton. But I believe that it insulates better than any sleeping bag every could.  We carried jug water to “sailor bathe” as well as quick flushes in our toilet (we traveled winterized because the weather was cold and we didn’t want the plumbing to freeze up in our travel trailer. 

Never know when we might want to take a vacation for a few days (smile).

I’m not sure if this posting qualifies for anything “new” to do but hopefully will point some people forward to start making some sort of preparations...just in case something unexpected should come up. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This video shows why motorcycles are the answer to rural mobility. The 11 minute video is of a road that was washed out by storms, apparently in Japan. Much of it is overgrown and vanishing and the motorcyclist has to dodge quite a few downed limbs. - InyoKern


I would like to thank Jeff H. for writing this article on the use of a motorcycle as a BOV as I was planning on doing the same in the near future.  He touched on quite a few very good topics.  But, from his submission, you can tell that he is a more experienced motorcyclist.  I would like to share my thoughts from a beginner/novice point of view.  The one difference of opinion that I have is concerning the bike’s size.  I definitely agree with the suggestion of getting a Dual Sport/Dual Purpose/Adventure Touring bike that is a 650 cc or larger when you need it to be your pack mule, or want to do cross country highway trips.  But, I don’t want the smaller Dual Sport bikes to be overlooked for a variety of reasons.  I just purchased a small Dual Sport bike a few months ago with the mindset of using it as a possible BOV, as well as a daily commuter.  The following takes you through the reasoning I took in purchasing a small Dual Sport Bike:
First and foremost, I have never ridden/owned a bike for the street (a dirt bike here and there), so I did not want to invest too much money on something that I may not like.  For a larger bike, you will be paying more money up front.  The bike I purchased is a 2009 Yamaha XT250.  This bike sells new for about $4,500 (other bikes in this range can be had for under $4,000).  A new 650 starts around $6,000, and a can go up past $10,000 for the larger displacement bikes.  Add the insurance difference on top of that (especially if you are a young male like myself), the riding gear, and that makes for a fairly large investment for something you may not like.  Other than the initial purchase, you will be feeding this thing money in the forms of fuel and maintenance.  The XT250 only has about a 2.5 Gal fuel tank, but I have gotten between 70-75 MPG (roughly a 150+ Mile Range).  Each bike is different, but the average “High” MPG from the larger bikes I have seen is between 40-65 MPG.  The maintenance on a single cylinder, air cooled engine is not going to be as time/money consuming as a liquid cooled larger engine (there are some air cooled units though).
A small bike is generally a light bike.  The XT250’s weight is somewhere in the 250-290 lbs, while a Kawasaki KLR650 is in the 430 lb range, and they just go up from there.  It may not seem like a lot, but if you are truly in a G.O.O.D. situation and your bike gets stuck in the mud or tips over, what would you rather struggle with?  Seat height is another consideration.  Most Dual Sport bikes are “dirt bikes with lights”, so they can be awkward for some people (especially those who are inexperienced or vertically challenged).  I am about 6’ with a 32” inseam, and when stopped at a light, I can get both feet flat on the ground comfortably.  When shopping for a bike, I sat on a variety of different Dual Sport bikes, and the larger bikes (like the Kawasaki 650) I felt quite uncomfortable while stopped (I either had to have the bike tipped to the side, or be on my toes) as I could only get one foot on the ground.  This in addition to the 400+ pound curb weight didn’t make me feel too comfortable.  This may be a non-issue for an experienced rider, but as a novice, I felt like I was going to tip over and I didn’t even have any riding gear on, no backpack, no extra luggage, etc.  If this bike is still too tall for some of you; the Honda CRF230M is a strong candidate, and a much smaller bike (I felt, and looked, like I was riding a kids bike).
It doesn’t get much more simple than a single cylinder, air cooled, carbureted, dirt bike.  The only electronics the XT250 has are the lights/signals, speedometer, electronic ignition, and the handlebar controls.  The only thing that is absolutely needed out of those is the ignition control box.  Most larger bikes have fuel injection at a minimum, and quite a few newer ones have ABS, Traction Control, Fuel Injection, etc.  Also, as far as fluids go, most small displacement, single cylinder, air cooled bikes only have the engine oil and brake fluid.  If the bike is liquid cooled, then you have coolant on top of that (as well as everything that is needed for the liquid cooling: Radiator, Coolant, Water Pump, Thermostat, Hoses/Lines, Complex Cylinder Head, etc.).  Fuel injection is nice, but adds another computer, a bunch of sensors, fuel injectors, etc.  Carburetors have their own problems, but it is possible to MacGyver them in the field if need be. 
I know that I just touched on a few choice areas concerning a smaller displacement bike; the main goal of this writing is to keep your options open.  There is a good reason that the XT250 and XT225 (the XT250’s Predecessor) are used worldwide as transportation.  These bikes are hugely popular in Europe and Asia.  They are not without their faults, but a very good alternative if the thought of a larger bike isn’t too appealing in your situation.  These bikes aren’t made for cross country highway cruising, but they can handle occasional highway use; the winds really push you around though (since the bike is under 300#).  Being carbureted there is a short warm-up period vs. fuel injected which is ready to go right away.  Please do your research about what bike is best for you; there are a lot of good forums out there about these bikes with first hand experience.  Reading about the extreme reliability and durability of the XT250 was the deciding factor (some people have logged more than 30,000 miles on a 2008!).  I am very pleased with this bike and will recommend it to anyone who is on the fence, but you just need to learn the limitations of whatever you choose.  This bike is very forgiving and not overly intimidating for the first time rider, but it is also a blast for the more experienced rider – “It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow”!  And, for the sake of safety, whichever bike you choose, make sure that you use All The Gear All The Time. 
Adventure Rider Forums
XT225/250 Forums
Thumper Talk Forums

Regards, - O.V.

Monday, April 30, 2012

I had an epiphany a few years ago when I first viewed "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Since then, I've acquired several cars converted to electric and a Nissan Leaf. We bought our last tank of petroleum fuel in May of 2011.

Recently, I've been pondering how the electric cars might be used as a backup source of electric power. The battery packs of the conversions are readily accessible and can provide almost 100 kwh of energy. The Leaf's battery is not accessible at this time. Inverters that use the car's DC voltage (120-156v) as input are available but pretty rare. Ideally, I would like to find a source for a PV system where the car batteries could temporarily replace the PV panels in driving the inverter.

[JWR Adds: Nearly all home PV power systems have the inverter connected to a battery bank, rather than directly to PV panels. This eliminates the peaks and valleys of production caused by varying cloud cover.]

A higher cost solution would be to have two inverters, one for the PV panels and one for the car batteries. That would allow me to use electricity while the sun shines to charge cars as well as meet other demands and then supply energy from the car batteries when the sun isn't shining. Commonly available battery backed PV systems use 24-to-36 volt battery banks which are charged from PV panels [through a charge controller]. My car batteries need to be charged through charg[ing transform]ers that have 220 VAC input. That is, the charger's input must come through a transformer.

Our electric utility power is pretty reliable; I don't think I have seen it down more than two hours. ~1 hour outages only occur once every year or two. We might see outages of a few minutes several times a year.

The primary function of a PV system would be to pump power into the grid. That is how it would be used 99% (or 99.99%) of the time. At this time, PV is not cost effective in my region. With electric utility cost of 10 cents to 11 cents per kwh, it takes many decades to pay for a PV system. So, I would have to justify PV cost with emergency or grid-down functionality.

I've been speaking here of lithium iron phosphate batteries here. When treated well, they are far more cost effective, long-lived, and trouble-free than lead-acid batteries.

My most recent electric vehicle purchase was a Prodeco bicycle. A lithium battery "ebike", such as the Prodeco, is a great low maintenance people mover. Range is more than 10 miles without peddling. A great asset for when petroleum fuel is not available.

JWR Replies: Several of my consulting clients have Bad Boy Buggy electric ATVs. In addition to their quiet operation and utility as farm and ranch vehicles, they also provide a very portable battery bank. (They have eight large 6-volt deep cycle batteries.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I have what I would consider three different Bug Out Vehicles (BOVs): a 4WD pickup, a 4WD SUV and a motorcycle.  The bike of coarse could be placed in the back of the pickup and unloaded somewhere down the road as needed thus greatly extending the range of either individually.  As far as BOVs are concerned there are many advantages to using a motorcycle.  One is good fuel mileage. Another is the ability to go around snarled traffic and other obstacles.  Disadvantages are lack of carrying capacity and the personal protection of being in a big heavy vehicle.

As far as what motorcycle you would use, I would recommend one of the types know as Dual Purpose.  These bike types have the ability to go both on and off road.  I’d start with at least a 650cc for a single rider and I use a 1200cc because I ride two with my wife.  The bigger bike isn’t as easy to ride in the hard stuff but it can carry a heavier load.  Just don’t get a bike so heavy that you can’t pick up when it falls over, because it will at some point.  If the bike doesn’t come with one buy and install one of the large capacity aftermarket fuel tanks.  The bike I have has a range of about 350 miles on one tank of fuel.  It would be very wise to get a bike with a quiet muffler.  No need in letting everyone know where you are.

I personally ride with all the protective gear, helmet, gloves, pants and boots.  Select these items with your intended purpose.  All of mine are waterproof which I consider a big plus if you get stranded.  Note that through experience not all items advertised as water proof actually meet those criteria.  I use military issue waterproof, steel toed boots instead of regular motorcycle type boots for when you have to abandon the bike and take to foot.  My jacket and pants have lots of waterproof pockets.  In those pockets I always carry a folding knife, multi-utility tool, survival butane lighter, paper matches, LED flash light, some toilet paper in a zip lock, cash and copies of all pertinent paperwork. In addition, a password protected jump drive with lots of personal information, phone numbers, policy numbers, bank info, some photos, passport and birth certificate copies and land titles. A Fisher Space Pen is another item that has proven invaluable to me.  It will write upside down, in freezing cold, in zero gravity and under water.  In the US where allowed I carry my pistol and a small quantity of ammo. (I intentionally try to avoid traveling in states that don’t allow concealed carry.  No use in giving them any of my business).  I carry two wallets.  My real one and one filled with a few dollars and some of those sample credit cards you get in the mail.  The fake one is a give away in case someone is demanding my wallet.

I always carry a good road atlas as well as some of the DeLorme Atlas of the areas I’m traveling in.  Another item I use regularly is a GPS.  In case of a G.O.O.D. situation it is recommended to have several escape routes planned.  This is where hopefully the GPS satellites are still functioning.  The GPS I have is made for motorcycles and is waterproof and vibration resistant.  In addition the model I have allows you to plot detailed routes in advance on your computer and then down load them into the unit.  Each route can be displayed in a different color.  In addition I have loaded a complete set of topographic maps in addition to the regular road maps.  Since having the Dual Purpose bike, this allows you to plot routes through some very remote areas on trails that won’t show up on normal road maps.  Of course you have these marked on your paper maps as well.  I’ve found these work well in the US but in Mexico, South America and Africa, maps both paper and GPS are sketchy at best unless you are on a main highway.

One of my main Bug Out Route concerns is bridges (river crossings).  These are easy choke points and a huge issue of safety.  Last year flooding of the Missouri River between Omaha and Kansas City forced the closing of a few bridges causing one to drive many miles out of the way to get across the Mighty Missouri.  Think what it will be like if the New Madrid fault knocks out bridges along the Mississippi or an earthquake takes out bridges on the west coast. In Patriots the characters ran into trouble at a check point on the road.  I see this as a real concern. Having the Dual Purpose bike with knobby tires can hopefully safely get you around these types of points. In many other countries I’ve traveled in, check points with armed guards are common place.  Only a couple of times did they try and shake us down for some cash.  This type of a situation is where having the fake wallet with just a couple of bucks in it comes in handy.

 When my wife and I travel on the bike we carry all our gear on the bike.  I consider this good training for a G.O.O.D scenario.  We trade off on camping and staying in hotels depending on where we are.  You quickly learn what is important and what is not as storage space is very limited.  We make use of saddle bags (panniers) and a dry bag.  In one pannier I carry tools and spare parts.  These need to be chosen based on your bike and your abilities.  One of my friends asked me what I thought was the most important tool to carry and I told him a pair of Vise Grips.  He asked why not a wine bottle opener and I replied that with the Vise Grips I could make a wine bottle opener. An LED headlamp with extra batteries is a very important item.  I like the ones that have high and low settings.  Some times you need just a little light and on high they seriously impair your night vision. On my first trip with my new LED head light, I pulled it out to begin setting up camp only to find it was completely dead.  I didn’t have spare batteries because I knew the new batteries would last for way more hours than I needed for several trips.  Well that was before the on/off push button accidentally got pressed in my pack.  Now I have spare batteries and remove one of them from the light before I pack it.  I also carry a small cheap (in case it gets confiscated) machete.  This is a common tool all over the world and I’ve not had it questioned at any checkpoints.

Other supplies I’ll say are very important are duct tape, silicone rescue tape, bailing wire, Quicksteel epoxy putty, Loctite 248 (this is like a chap stick and won’t leak), an assortment of bolts and nuts, rope, zip ties and tire repair items.  On a recent out of country trip the Quicksteel was used to repair a hole in a radiator, a broken turn signal and a broken lever mount.

Along with the basic tools including wrenches, screwdrivers, etc, I carry a small triangle file which can be used to repair damaged bolt threads as well as other uses.  Another handy item is a Stanley 15-333 8-Inch Folding Pocket Saw.  This saw is like a big folding knife that uses reciprocating saw blades.  It will store a couple of extra blades in the handle.  I carry a wood cutting blade, a metal cutting blade, and a carbide grit blade that can be used to cut hardened steel like a padlock.  We once used these to manufacture a needed part in a remote area in South America. One more item, although I’ve never needed to use it, is a few 3/32” E-6010 welding rods.  These can be used with three 12 volt car batteries and some jumper cables to make an emergency field repair.

I haven’t had hardly any issues with flat tires in car or bike in the US in years. After saying that, I was assigned to do some volunteer work in a Midwest City that was partially destroyed by a tornado.  One of the things that became readily apparent was there were lots of flat tires and more than one tire per car. In a TEOTWAWKI situation I would suspect flat tires to be a huge issue and highly likely.  Having a hand pump or compressor and tire repair tools and supplies will be most important.  On the bike I carry a small 12 VDC compressor, tire plugs, patches, spare tubes and tire irons just in case my tubeless tires can’t be repaired with a plug. 

Traveling in remote areas in foreign countries is a real eye opener and good practice for when things are not so good here.   One of my first remote bike trips was in Baja back in the 1980’s.  When we arrived in a small town there was a line at the gas station.  People had been there for 3 days waiting for the arrival of the next gas supply truck.  In South America one gas station was so remote they had to start a small generator to make electricity to operate the gas pumps while another station was just a rack with 2 liter pop bottles filled with gas. Traveling in these remote parts of the world you don’t pass up keeping your tank full because there may not be any fuel down the road, something that may happen here way too soon.  We had just left Santiago, Chile four days before the big quake in 2010.  Talk about being lucky and being glad I keep the survival items with me.  Here’s another tip, never fill up your vehicle if there is a fuel tanker at the station unloading fuel into the stations tanks.  This stirs up any crud that may be in the stations tank and you will pump it into your vehicles tank.

We have it too easy here in the US, or at least until TSHTF.  Here in the US we think getting patted down at the airport is a big infringement of our rights.  In a grocery store in Namibia all customers were patted down before leaving the store and there was a military guard with machine gun at the entrance. At several other locations, stores had little to sell and shelves were basically empty.  Leaving one town the next morning after a rain storm had all the ditches along the road filled with people bathing, washing clothes and filling their buckets from the puddles of rain water.  These are some of the things that are commonplace in many parts of the world but not yet here.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but get and store the items you want while they are still available as they are luxury items in many places and in the future they may be scarce here also.  In Zambia I paid about 32,000 of their dollars ("Kwacha") for two beers.  The point being that cash, even the US dollar, may not be worth much in the future.

Traveling on normal roads in the US isn’t that hard on a vehicle, but in a TEOTWAWKI situation, off road or remote travel will introduce a lot of vibration.  This is hard on the vehicle, passengers and supplies.  Your vehicle whether a car, truck or motorcycle needs to be prepped.  It’s amazing how many things will shake loose.  I use Loctite on all the nuts a bolts.  I recommend Loctite 290, which is medium strength wicking formula that you can apply to already fastened bolts thus negating the need to undo every fastener.  Other things you don’t think of, are things like pills.  They will turn to dust if not properly packed and some medicines can be deadly if taken as a powder instead of a slowly absorbed pill. I’ve had holes rubbed through packed clothes that touched the inside walls of the panniers.  I’ve also learned to pour my water into recycled soda bottles.  The thinner walled water bottles don’t hold up well under vibration and even the heavier duty soda bottles need to be carefully packed.

I carry a pretty complete first aid kit that I packed into a foam lined camera case.  I won’t go into the contents as there are many good lists available. Because I’ve traveled in remote areas in several foreign countries I’ve had special shots and pills required for things like typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and yellow fever.  If one studies the aftermath of areas where disasters have occurred and the diseases that become issues I’d recommend getting those shots now.  My doctor is aware of the type of travel I do so he has prescribed other medicines for “just in case”.  I just plainly asked him what he would take with him if he was going where I was going.  A couple of different antibiotics and some pain medications supplement the other over the counter medicines I normally pack.  One really important medicine is an anti-diarrheal.

Because bulk and weight are precious commodities on a motorcycle during normal travel, just a jar of peanut butter and crackers are used to supplement daily food stops.  In a SHTF situation I have another dry bag packed with a pack stove, mess kit, food items and additional water as well as a Katadyn water filter.  I carry the typical backpacking camping equipment for setting up camp.  A Gerber pack axe for its size and weight it is pretty useful tool as well as an additional defensive weapon.  Some OD green heavy thread and some booby trap string poppers make a good perimeter guard and can be attached to items that might walk away.  They won’t hurt any one and the loud report will probably scare away all but the most determined.

While a motorcycle isn’t the ideal BOV for everyone, it has some advantages and I consider it another backup to the back up.  Ideally in a group evacuation a motorcycle could be very useful as a scout vehicle and in less than total collapse situations they allow quick fuel efficient travel. My final tip for when TSHTF is to remember to pack a roll of toilet paper.

JWR's Comments: It cannot be overemphasized that choosing a motorcycle as your bug out vehicle will necessitate storing nearly all of your gear and storage food at your retreat. While not for everyone, a dual sport motorcycle can add tremendous versatility to your mobility.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The following observations are geared toward expats or even locals living in the Third World, although most would apply as well to residents of the First World.
Here in México, there have been countless horror stories, albeit, most of them not life threatening and essentially not classifiable as DEFCON 1 situations. Both expats and locals have been the victims of countless assaults. An acquaintance on the street was recently told simply to hand over his money and music player.

Another fellow, a philosopher, became inspired at midnight on a city street and only had his laptop to record his divine whispers. Not soon after, a guy hit him with a stick, grabbed his laptop and ran off toward a taxi in waiting. As the philosopher chased him, the taxi ended up backing into the victim and he rolled over the car, as dozens of bystanders did nothing. He suffered no serious injury.
Yet another instance was when a man was getting out of his vehicle, he was approached by a robber while accomplices waited in a vehicle nearby. The robber wanted everything including the man's watch. It had been a gift from dead grandparents and he told him you can have everything but you're not taking the watch, respect the dead. He got lucky keeping his life as the thief drove away in the man's vehicle. It was later found stripped to the bone for the spare parts black market. He had been complaining to his landlord to install a security fence for the driveway for exactly this reason, to no avail.

A final example was when an expat had recently been arrested by a mini-brigade of armed federal police pointing automatic weapons at him and a companion, for driving his own car. He had apparently tried for years to clear his car's name, as it had been stolen and recovered. It still registered as stolen in police databases. The police most likely knew it was his, but detained him for eighteen hours in a jail cell smeared with excrement and swarming with mosquitoes. They were surprised when his lawyer showed up, essentially catching them red handed. It seems they were either looking for a bribe or to take the car. It is important to note that this particular individual generally is one who is generally a bit careless hence his frequent run in with trouble.

My home had been broken into while on vacation. The three things the thief got away with? One was an old ounce of silver on my coffee table. Next, he spotted a pack of Marlboro’s I kept as a prank for friends. Needles to say, I found one of my exploded cigarettes on the floor. Finally, he took my desktop replacement laptop only to discover once he got home, that it had gone completely defunct about a week prior. He also had missed an ounce of gold I had hidden away (which has since been relocated).
After this relatively harmless wake-up call, I have begun to take certain vigilant measures.


Although my laptop was defunct, it may have been possible to recover any personal data I may have had on the hard disks. I immediately changed all my passwords. What I am doing now is to encrypt my personal data via free software such as True Crypt. Because I also occasionally hear of daytime break-ins via friends of friends, I keep my computer secured via laptop locks. If I leave for extended periods, I move the laptop to a safe place outside of the home or take it with me. It is good to have a safe place such as work or the home of someone you can trust to care of any valuables. I have not owned a television for over half a decade. I also use an extension internet cable in the home and not wireless both to mitigate health issues from Electro Magnetic Pollution (EMP) and security risks associated with hackers. I do the same at work to lessen the effect of the Wi-Fi signal.

Precious Metals

One lesson I had learned was to find a better hiding place for any metals I may have around. I was lucky the thief had not found my ounce of gold, but this just goes to show that it was likely somebody who lacked experience this time around. The key is to think of smarter locations to place these valuables. An additional trick would be to leave easier to find bait so as to deter interest from the real stash. Also, one can diversify by holding both local and foreign allocated metals accounts. There are local banks where you can open silver accounts and you always have the option of safety deposit.

Personal Safety

The window bars which the thieves pried open on the front of the house were cheap. They were immediately replaced with thicker bars. I was also amazed that I had overlooked the simple placement of a wooden stick between the window and the window frame, so as to prevent someone from being able to push the window open in the case they are able to pry their way in (the same has been done to all windows).
I went out and bought motion detection lights for the front of the home. I also have purchased a few high voltage stun guns. One thing residents and citizens must do is investigate local laws. I have recently acquired my firearms license from my home state which, though not valid in a foreign country, may prove useful. I have spoken to military and it is legal for citizens or residents to purchase a firearm of a caliber lower than what is currently used by national forces. I plan to purchase a firearm for the home and a safe in which to store it. There is also an Israeli IDF soldier which runs a Krav Maga center with whom I have taken courses. I plan to make it a regular habit to attend his firearms seminars as well as self-defense courses. In most cases, you will not want to walk around with much money, so if you are confronted, you should most likely give up what cash is on you. Depending on your assessment of the situation, you may need to prepare for action if the thieves want more than just your cash and put you in a life or death situation.


Each trip to the store means buying a few extra of each item in order to stock up. Extras are stored in bins and rotated. Seeing as the water from the tap is not fit to drink (and in some instances come out discolored), filters have been placed on the shower and faucet to provide clean water for cooking, brushing teeth (with non-fluoride toothpaste) and showering. I believe fluoride is not added to the water here, but the water is otherwise of horrid quality, containing all types of pollutants, metals and chemicals. Drinking water here normally is purchased filtered in twenty liter containers. I keep four or more at a time, which would last me a good while were anything to happen.  It really only rains here during the rainy season which lasts for three to four months, but a small rain collection unit would be possible to install.
I also keep a good stock of liquor, beer and wine, this not generally for personal consumption, but for guests as well as possible barter use. I now am planning to start growing food on the roof to supplement purchases and serve as a reserve. There are increased reports of the spread in common food of genetically engineered organisms so I make it a point to purchase “organic” (or what our grandparents used to call just “food”). I also use a regimen of about a dozen of the top supplements one can take, many of which have been suggested by “Over the Counter Natural Cures” and include astaxanthin, curcumin, vitamin K2, krill oil, spirulina, chlorophyll, mushrooms, CoQ10, milk thistle, melatonin, colloidal silver and alpha-lipoic acid. It is also important to purchase brands which at least do not contain conventional magnesium stearate, which is used in the manufacturing process. I also keep items such as potassium iodide, water purification pills and filters on hand, such as the Swiss made Katadyn pocket filter. A survival backpack that would last a week is also stashed and ready to go.

I keep my car well-maintained and take it in regularly for a tune-up so as not to be surprised by malfunctions at times or in places where you really wouldn’t want to be stuck. Unfortunately, I have seen people here, who are generally short-sighted, suffer continuously for lack of foresight. They would wait instead until the problem gets really bad before they deal with it. One person had a leaking radiator and because they continued to drive it for a few days, ended up having to spend almost $1000 on repairing a number of parts destroyed as a result of the malfunctioning radiator.
I keep essential items such as jumper cables, quick tire inflation can, medical kit, blankets and such stored in the trunk. I also keep a spare ten-liter canister ready to go in the case of any fuel disruption. The spare tire which is on the outside of the vehicle has been secured via a combination lock, as thieves have also been known to take those (happened recently to a friend). One neighbor had her car stereo stolen right out from under her nose in the middle of the night, as her vehicle was parked right below her bedroom window. The car only has a cassette player and there are no objects visible inside the car, so as not to give incentive to thieves. The car itself is an old used vehicle that doesn’t attract attention. It is wise to recall the instances of armed robbery here, which target high-value vehicles. All papers are kept in the glove compartment as well as printouts of my visa and relevant Mexican laws in case I get stopped by an unethical officer.


It is good to take out as much identification as possible. I not only have an American state driver’s license but a state ID, passport as well as card which would allow land travel through North America. I am also in the process of obtaining a local driver’s license. A second passport is a must. If the USSA intends to revoke my passport for whichever reason, I’ll have another to go on. I have heard from other expats, such as the Dollar Vigilante, that it is best to have two passports and to live in a third country of which you are not a citizen, in which case the government would have less power over you. Others have argued the contrary, where as a citizen, you have more tools for righting a wrong at your disposal.

These may seem like common sense preparations, but the funny thing is, literally 99.9% of the people I know haven’t got a clue. However, I have befriended a few like-minded individuals. One of them is a family man and we have discussed the collapse scenario. He has a well-fortified home with solar power. His benefit to having me join him in a time of crisis is adding protection for his family. A collapse scenario essentially is a numbers game and having an extra individual who is self-sufficient would not drain the person's own resources.

I have accumulated this strategy gradually over time and though it hasn’t been cheap, it also hasn’t broken the bank. As a result, I sleep a bit sounder knowing that if there are disruptions, I’ll have less to worry about.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Those of us who have considered the terrible option of having to leave our homes, our main domicile and primary place of normalcy and safety due to civil unrest or worse have had to ask the question of, "What do I take with me?". Eventually this question comes down taking that hike to .... wherever we feel is best, a better chance for survival environment. Why hike? Because any rational consideration of events that could occur all lead to fuel being no longer able to be obtained, roads blocked, normal travel impossible. Furthermore, the roads themselves may not be the best option for travel for reasons we can all imagine as to why. So we mentally move on to the 'Bug Out Bag', that pack, frame and its contents that we hope will see us through to a place of peace and security.

The novice, the out-of-shape, the inexperienced all begin by assuming that they can fill their pack with everything that they've read is necessary and still perform a prolonged panic hike of some 20+ miles per day. Day after day; perhaps, week after week. Possibly even night after night as well. Packed is food, water, first aid, sleeping and/or tent gear, campsite needs such as utensils, axe, knife, machete, saw, rope and all the rest of those things deemed absolutely necessary. And should violence and the need to protect oneself be an issue, firearm(s) and ammunition.

Water alone weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. And the average needed daily amount for an adult is 8 - 8 ounce glasses of water per day. In other words, your daily water weight load is right at 4.2 pounds (a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds). Having at least two days worth of water is not an unreasonable amount to expect to be carrying. The rest of the weight math is subject to what is in the pack, in your pockets, pouches, bags.....; in other words, the traveler who's trekked knows that weight carried is the one crucial factor in what is to be carried. The value of each item is scrutinized as to that factor and its worth, utility, need and multi-purpose potential.

Consider the weight of an AK-47, a set of web gear, and 120 rounds of ammunition loaded in magazines. Having actually weighed them, I've found that they come in at just over 20 pounds. I assume that most rifles of a similar purpose, with the same number of rounds, would be of a like measure. So, just water for two days and your rifle and a minimal amount of ammunition alone add up to almost 30 pounds. How's the old back feeling now? And let's not neglect the weight of clothing, shoes/boots, pocket and belt gear. Easily another five pounds if you're carrying a good knife, binoculars, compass, mini-first aid kit, some ready-to-eat packets of food, then...

Anyway it goes, anyway you go - if on foot, the load quickly adds up. Many an Old West wagon train movie illustrated a trail dotted with belongings discarded when times got hard, animal power to haul having sickened, weakened or died or other trail hazards and dilemmas arose. That 'sleeps 4 dome tent', or extra foam rubber ground pad sure seemed to be 'the thing' when you bought it; until that is, you had to haul it for 5 days on the run. That axe or spare shotgun, handgun or two and their respective ammunition needs also seemed perfect for a last-stand home defense; but prove just too much to carry too far.

As I prepared by both reading and studying, and then actually packing a Bug-Out bag (or two, or three....) I came to the conclusion that it would sure be nice to be three people with 21 year old strong backs. I began to consider just how to beat the weight and transportation problem. Seeing an old street woman pushing a shopping cart reminded me of the movie The Road and the hero/father's shopping cart. Supplies and the means to move them for him and his son were trudged along like that poor old lady that can be found downtown in any city. Like the old woman, there is plenty of room for all the necessities and even some 'luxuries' (everything is relative don't forget.) in a stolen grocery store cart. But, a shopping cart makes a poor vehicle for overland use. Whereas those carts are fine on pavement and sidewalks, the tires are too small and easily fouled, not easily maneuvered on broken ground. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I looked around for an off-the-shelf vehicle people already use for valuable cargo that is highly maneuverable, light-weight and adaptable to many terrain types.

What I found was the everyday 3 tube-tired baby stroller. The more 'upscale' model with two 12" diameter tires and a pivoting smaller tire. A load capacity between them of over 50 pounds for usage as a human baby conveyance. The stroller features I would recommend would be similar to the Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System, Millennium with two 16" rear tires and a 12" front tire.

And this stroller, or such of a like type, can be found at virtually any thrift store for less than $20. I was fortunate and literally found one broken (the tray cracked, some of the upper pipes bent, and all the canvas shredded) being discarded by a neighbor. As in the picture above, there is a small triangular shelf above the front pivoting wheel (which you may discover can be locked in a straight 'run' position). As the stroller was damaged, I was able to salvage and saw off the rear axles, brake and wheels; as well as the front fork with the pivoting wheel and 'table' above it. This buggy originally sold for around $180.

As I looked at my parts with the eye to it becoming a 'Bug Out Buggy' and taking some quick measurements, I found that the pipe/tubing used was almost exactly the same outside diameter as high-pressure 1" PVC water pipe internal diameter. Literally a perfect fit. To the sketch board!!!

What I did was design around what I had on-hand, the former baby stroller gleaned from my neighbor's discards at the curb. The first consideration was to reverse the original wheel layout due to this vehicle being drawn rather than pushed. The second consideration being the main cargo area which consists of a large denim bag 18"W x 16"L x 12"D (which corresponded to the approximate size of 2 average day-backpacks. A table or platform area over and extending rearward from the axle of 18"W x 12" L and the pair of forks to extend the length and stride of the puller - in my project this was 40". The necessary 45 degree sloping run to the rearmost point consisting of the original front triangular table/foot platform added another 20". This sloped area was in part determined by my decision to 'fit' a previously-purchased OSHA First Aid kit in that location - the slope toward the pivot wheel platform - where it would be quickly accessible. The overall length depending on which pair of forks is being used is roughly 5'. What needs to be pictured is a vehicle with the main load structure being pulled by a pair of poles and terminating in a small triangular platform at the rear with an average height from the ground of a foot and a half. From the rear to the front the shape from a side view would be of a triangle over the pivoting wheel, an open-bottomed square with vertical supports connecting to the axle, another square that is the cargo area and finally the poles extending forward from the main cart body.

A couple of bags of PVC fittings - 'Tee's', Elbows, 45 degree elbows, caps, and some threaded adapters for the fork handles, some 15' of PVC pipe, PVC cleaner and cement, some eyebolts, heavy cable ties to affix the upright sections to the remaining buggy axle, a couple of linchpins, a piece of fiberglass reinforced plastic and for aesthetics - some spray paint - all told no more than $60 worth of hardware; and, I had my frame built and fitted in about four hours. A technical note - PVC is easily molded and bent by gentle and careful heating of the material with a heat gun. This allows for curves of any radius or direction you may wish for your project.

I own a sewing machine and had many a pair of cast-off and no longer wearable jeans that were easy to convert into denim cloth to make a hanging bag with button-on straps to sling it off the pipe rails. I can see others may use zippers, velcro, snap fasteners or the like for the same purpose. I prefer buttons over those as replacement can be done with many available materials; whereas, the latter-mentioned all take specialized tools or are not obtainable in the field. A button only takes a pierced disk or toggle and a needle and thread to replace.  It all depends on the desired configuration of the cart, the builder's preference and what and how much is to be carried. I do recommend planning on being able to remove any bag for cleaning purposes as assuredly will become necessary. In addition, having a large canvas bag for future uses independent of the cart cannot hurt. Just think of opportunistic harvest needs. A large bushel-sized bag would come in handy.

The power I intend to use is my own motive power and strength to pull this cart like a rickshaw style (with pipe insulation handgrips). But.... a major alternative 'power source' that I've made are two additional forks/tongues that can be interchanged for the angled handles in order that my dog can pull it when I desire him to. As the owner of a large German Shepherd weighing some 130 pounds, it was a case of "why not use all my resources?" Initial experimentation with him in the traces/harness I rigged and on leash went well; though, I do counsel anyone considering this option to engage in a multiple exposure and training sessions with your mutt. Some dogs may not readily take to becoming harnessed 'sled' dogs.  And thus, that is why there is a second/spare set of forks with threaded adapters/couplers on the ends of the forks to mate to the forward ends of the cart bag frame. I took the liberty of color coding the left side with red tape to insure that the threaded adapter fittings for the two fork pulling options were always installed on the correct sides and aligned with the linchpin holes drilled through the threaded adapters to prevent any accidental fork rotation while in use. The linchpins are secured to prevent loss by two nylon lines from the pull-ring to conveniently placed eyebolts just behind the threaded adapter fittings. Additional eye-bolts are installed on the dog-forks and in the center of the upper 'U' pipe forward of the bag compartment for dog harness attachment (or to be used as ready-to-hand lash down points).

Remember, if you will, that I reversed the original buggy design direction of travel, with the smaller pivoting wheel being to the rear. This allows for far greater maneuverability and affords the larger tires to surmount obstructions easier than would a forward-most small tire. In addition, the formerly front triangular shelf is perfect to sit on with feet on the axle while the dog pulls; or, for a 5 gallon water carboy, ammunition separation and availability - whatever purpose you deem this platform is to be used for. If you consider this cart is designed to be pulled not pushed, it will make better sense.

I load tested and found that the cart as built easily handles over 140 pounds of weight - with an estimated maximum of 180 pounds - while pulling easily and smoothly. As a precaution, I emptied the air out of the tubes and replaced same in all three tires with 'Fix-A-Flat' for some puncture hazard resilience.

The load I used on the initial build, pre-painting or threaded adapters for the alternate forks, was, as stated above, of two average-sized backpacks, one medium duffel and an ammo pouch containing over 400 rounds of 7.62 x 39 caliber rifle ammunition on the rear 'deck'. It is easy to picture how at least 2 long-guns and more cargo could be placed on top of the hanging bag and following fiberglass-reinforced plastic table behind it. The packs and pouch were loaded with over 90 pounds of gear and supplies and the cart pulled easily and 'lightly'. I tested the now-rear shelf with a filled 5 gallon carboy of water - some 42 pounds - lashed to 3 eye-bolts installed for that purpose and hardly noticed the extra effort needed to pull the cart.

It is an enjoyable project, a quick week-end affair to accomplish, inexpensive and as designed above; or however you may wish to configure it for your own needs, a thing that it easy to do. The big plus is a man on the move can still carry a pack, a rifle and pockets goods on his person while pulling this; effectively quadrupling the normal load if need be. Many things too bulky or weighty to be conveyed by one's own upright strength - such as 5 gallons of water on the rear shelf - can now be moved with ease. I consider it to be sort of an automatic cache if the need to be free of longer-term needs must be abandoned due to hazardous circumstances arising. All that would be needed is to find cover for the cart and move off already packed out with a short term needs regular pack arrangement and/or defensive weapon.

I've not completely explained many of the design considerations. Some important ones are why no bag compartment is behind the axle - in order to lessen the accumulation of mud, dirt and debris on the canvas. Another thought is to make the cart as well-balanced see-saw-fashion fore and aft of the axle. The height of the fork handles to pull - either human or canine - is crucial for comfort and ease of use. Good heavy-duty cement rather than the weaker strength compounds is a must. The entire cart should be able to be picked up with little strain when unloaded/empty with one hand. The ability to remove the forks allows for ease of transport in a pickup truck, van or on a car roof, giving the owner the ability to take it in a 'bug-out' situation on and then off a fueled (or just ran out of gas) vehicle and move away from a hazard or traffic situation readily by paring down its overall length initially. The poles/forks too can be used for temporary tent poles and other campsite uses. The overall length of the cart cargo platform including the bag area should be approximately that of an adult body - around 3-4' - with the knees bent at the aft over-axle platform so that in an emergency you have a wheeled gurney at hand.

There are many other design parameters that could be included ranging from sewn-on pouches on the sides of the bag, rain cover fabrication, mud-flaps and more. It is all a matter of what the builder wishes to include. But as I began this essay with - weight, weight, weight and the consideration of that is what is crucial.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I just read the SurvivalBlog post "Letter Re: Military Surplus G.O.O.D. Vehicles."

Here's a web site for any of your readers in or near West Virginia looking for a Humvee, Deuce and a half or 5 ton trucks: Clark Trucks.

With My Regards, - Aaron K.


Reference military surplus vehicles, I would like to recommend that for those seriously interested in something other than a "deuce" that there are several places here in the US where former Swiss or Austrian "Pinzguaers" are available.  These are very versatile, high ground clearance, 4x4 or 6x6 trucks.  They have 4-cylinder, air cooled, carbureted, 89 hp, motors and will travel almost anywhere.  Maintenance is easy and common items such as 24 volt light bulbs, spark plugs, and oil filters are readily available at most auto parts stores.
Now, the bad news, there are only a handful of sources in the US for major parts and some of them are fairly expensive.  They are also fairly distinctive and draw quite a bit of attention for a truck that is only slightly larger than a Chevrolet Astro van.  Their range is only about 200 to 250 miles on a 20 gallon fill up, so jerry cans would be in order for a long bug out trip.
The 4x4, 710M model, will carry a full ton, or is capable of moving 10 persons and gear at speeds up to about 60 mph on paved roads.  The 6x6, 712M, will carry 14 persons and gear or a full ton and a half of cargo.  Both styles have 45 degree approach and departure angles and are rated for a 45 degree side slope.  I will take their word for that simply because I run out of nerve at about 10 to 15 degrees of side slope.
Finding a Steyr, Daimler, Puch (the consortium that designed and built these trucks) Pinzgauer is fairly easy by just searching with the term "Pinzgauer."  There are a few diesel powered Pinzgauers finding their way into the country.  Caution would be advised on these as registration of them for use on streets and highways could be tricky due to EPA regulations.  The truck, in most cases, has to be 30 years old to meet the standards.  In my case the two I have beat the daylights out of the Polaris Ranger as a utility vehicle.  They were both cheaper than the new Ranger models and can be titled, license, insured and driven on the highways, whereas a UTV in most cases has to be trailered.
Another potential source for former military vehicles, mostly of American manufacturer, is Idaho Motor Pool.  I know nothing about them other than their internet reputation is pretty good.
I love SurvivalBlog and I am very grateful for your books and the information you provide.
Regards, - Signcutter

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I loved your book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. I was surprised when I read the G.O.O.D. vehicles section that you didn't really mention old military vehicles as G.O.O.D vehicles. I was curious of your stand on this as I'm sure other readers are too. I recently purchased a 1-1/4 ton 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715 that had been converted to run on both gas and propane. It really isn't a very complicated vehicle to work on the wiring is very basic. I believe this is a good retreat rig as the maintenance is very basic the only con is that it has a low gear ratio so top speed is maybe 55 mph. No special tools are required on it just a good socket and ratchet set, timing strobe light, a good Digital Volt Ohm Meter and a set of screwdrivers and some brake line wrenches. Those are a all you need to work on al but the most advanced repairs.

I live in Arkansas so seeing people drive old Army rigs is commonplace. So would you recommend old military rigs and why or why not? Also would you recommend a specific kind? - J.R.O.

JWR Replies: Yes, so long as you live in area where they won't stick out like a proverbial sore thumb, military surplus vehicles can be quite practical for retreats. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, here in the U.S., two of the most practical models are M35A2 2-/12 ton trucks with multifuel engines for hauling fairly large loads, and diesel CUCV pickup trucks for hauling light loads. One good source for CUCVs is Classic Mustangs in Denver, Colorado. More obscure and hard-to-find military vehicles can often be found at Dave Uhrig's site.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, you missed mentioning one of the great uses of "bypassed areas" -- that of an en route cache.  There is no question but that it would be plain stupid for any family to wait to leave the big cities and urban areas until the very last moment when TSHTF, urban riots have broken out, and the freeways have become one big parking lot full of shooting and looting.  But many families will want to hang on in the cities as long as possible because of employment, family commitments for the care of elderly relatives, and other reasons.  When they do leave, it would be much safer for them to quickly exit along the back roads with only the clothes on their backs and half a tank of gas than to take the time to stuff their vehicle full of survival goods and become a visible target of great interest to looters along the road. 
Their first destination would be their own unimproved wooded one acre lot in one of the "bypassed areas" within an hour's drive of their urban home, with only a small, used, stripped down camping trailer on it and maybe an outhouse.  It is not going to draw much interest from potential looters.  By stripped down camping trailer, I mean an old one with the wheels removed and sitting on concrete block.  Its propane tanks and battery would also be removed.  To an outsider looking in the window, it would look very Spartan with no supplies or anything useful.  There would be no source of water there.  So what good is such a property?
Somewhere on the property would be a 20 foot long metal CONEX shipping container completely buried under about a foot of soil (deep enough so you can cover it with plants and its location will not be obvious) and a specially constructed entrance to the back doors of the shipping container that is also buried under the same foot of soil and plants.  It might take an hour of shovel work to dig out the entrance to your buried shipping container.  This is your supply cache with the important supplies and gasoline that you will need to safely travel the rest of the way to your permanent retreat.  It also contains the wheels to your trailer along with the propane tanks, battery, generator, and plenty of gasoline for your vehicles and what ever else.  It contains food and water, and pre-positioned supplies that you would need for safe travel or to remain at that site for a few days or a little longer.
The advantage of such an arrangement is that there is little that is visible from the road to tempt thieves.  And if they loot an old, empty travel trailer - so what?  Your real cache is buried underground and is well out of sight.  It is also out of danger from forest fires that would likely burn your trailer to the ground.  In such a forest fire, you will not have lost anything that is not easily and inexpensively replaceable.   The best part of all -- such an acre of worthless ground that is covered with brush, stumps, and scrub trees should not cost very much.  The general impression that people will have of it will be, "This guy is really hurting if that is his retreat."
The disadvantage is that [in northern states] it is only likely to be accessible about nine months out of the year with snow closing the roads during the other three months.
Hope this helps and adds something to your work - Paul O.

JWR Replies: As has been discussed several times in the blog, CONEXes cannot be buried without concrete reinforcement. This is because they are designed to take loads only on their corners. With the weight of rain-soaked soil, their walls and roofs collapse. So, when all is said and done, it is actually more expensive to buy, reinforce, and bury a CONEX than it is to build a dedicated reinforced concrete shelter. From a practical standpoint, I'd instead recommend burying a much less expensive poly water tank with a man hatch cover just below the ground surface.

As for the camping trailer: Why have anything above ground at an unattended property? That just attracts junkies and assorted lowlifes. Storing a wall tent inside an underground cache makes more sense, to me. If you need to store a trailer, then make it a simple box trailer, with the wheels and lug nuts buried nearby. The advantage is that an open box trailer won't prove to be an attractive place for drug addicts to use as a recreational cabin.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A few years ago, I found myself widowed after 36 years of marriage.   Seven months later, I buried my mother after she lost a long battle with colon cancer.   I was only 59 but my kids were gone and suddenly I had no family nearby and no one dependent on me.  It took a few months to mentally adjust, but during that time I began thinking about re-engaging my life and setting new goals....sort of a bucket list if you will.  Two of the things that were on that list were traveling around our country and retiring early if possible. 

Retire, I did, and my travels have, and will in the future, include visiting the great national parks and wilderness areas of our country.  Also, I am an unabashed fan of Virginia Tech football and enjoy tailgating at the game.   My parents had a truck camper when I was a young man and it occurred to me that a truck camper would allow me greater access and enjoyment for both traveling and football games.  My parents' camper and truck were gone decades ago, so I began doing my research on the various makes and models and what they offered.  I quickly found out that the capabilities and amenities modern truck campers offered were light years beyond what I had experienced using my parents' camper.

I have slept in the open and under shelter halves as a Marine. I’ve also tent camped with my son's scout troop, put up big old wall tents, cooked over a campfire, and used a cat hole.  I decided that roughing it is no longer my thing.  I wanted to go for more comfort and I decided that I was going to get a camper with a lot of features and buy used to save money.  I also needed a truck to transport it.  To make a long story short I bought a 2003 Lance 1130 camper and a 2004 F-350 dual rear wheel ("dually") pickup to haul it.   Admittedly even for truck campers, this is a big combination but it had all the features I wanted and by buying used I saved thousands of dollars getting both truck and camper combined for around $36,000.    Before you sigh and close this article because of the cost, let me assure you that you can buy much less expensive truck campers that can be carried on standard pickups which I bet many of you already have.    A quick search on one RV web site while writing this article, yielded 12 campers in the Mid-Atlantic region for sale under $10,000 and at least one was an 11' foot 2011 model.  

Good fortune smiled on me and quite unexpectedly, I was recently joined in life by a beautiful lady who had been a neighbor for years.  We were acquaintances but didn’t really know each other, but our respective kids swam together on swim team, went to the same schools and we had much in common that drew us together.  We were married last year and one of our delights has been using the truck camper for camping and tailgating.  My wife has told me that this camper is definitely her idea of “camping,” and our tailgating friends are amazed at the amenities we have right in the parking lot. 

We have both been very concerned about our nation's political situation, the danger to our economy and non-conventional threats to our society.  We recently began serious prepping activity and are on our way to self-sufficiency should the Schumer hit.   We live in a rural area and hope to stay in place if things aren’t too bad, but if we have to, we will bug out and we have what I think is darn near the perfect bug out vehicle.  Let me tell you why I think so and why I highly recommend a truck camper.

First, here are some basics for those of you unfamiliar with truck campers.  Far from the “camper” shells you see on pickups, a truck camper has at a minimum the following features:  A bed, refrigerator, stove, kitchen sink, lighting, heat, and almost all have at least a portable “potty.”   The camper sits in the bed of your pickup and has a connection to your truck’s electrical system.   The interior is high enough that a six footer can walk easily down the aisle of the camper.  A bed rests in the “cab over” section of the camper over the roof of your truck.  Most manufacturers’ model numbers reflect the length of the floor of the camper not counting the cab over section.  In our case, we have a Lance 1130 which translates to approximately 11 feet of cabin length.  Our camper requires a long bed truck but dozens of models are available for short bed trucks.  I think all will require you to remove the tailgate.  Minimal modifications need to be made to most trucks in the form of tie down brackets and electrical connection and can be installed by an RV dealer for just a few hundred dollars or for much less if you do it yourself.

Most truck campers have many more features than listed above and you’d be hard pressed to find a camper with just those.  I’ll use mine as an example and while it has physical capacities larger than most due to its exceptional size, almost all campers have the same features just on a smaller scale.

We have a queen size bed over the cab.  This is pretty standard on truck campers these days.  Our dinette which seats 4, converts to a bed and over that is a fold down bunk for a child giving us the ability to sleep 4.  Most truck campers will sleep 3 or 4 fairly easily.

We have a 40 gallon fresh water tank, 25 gallon gray water tank, and 24 gallon black water tank.  The gray and black tanks have a sewer hose for dumping into an RV park’s sewer, or emptying into their dump station or in a pinch, somewhere else  We have an electric water pump or can hook up to a standard outdoor water faucet with our fresh water hose. We have A/C and a furnace.  The furnace runs on propane  The A/C runs on regular 110 volt power but we also have a built in Generac generator.  When “shore” power is available such as at a campground, we use it, connecting via a 30 AMP power cable.   While we seldom run the A/C when not connected to external power, we can if we want to by using the generator.

Our galley has a 3 burner propane stove, an oven, a microwave and a double sink with counter space.  We have a 6 cubic foot “3 way” refrigerator with freezer that runs on A/C, propane or battery power.  It automatically switches between power sources based on settings you can manage.  We have a hot water heater that can run on propane or electricity.  We have cabinet space for utensils, pots and pans, food and cleaning supplies.  This doesn’t count the multiple cabinets for clothes, supplies and gear.

Our bathroom (head) has a sink with hot and cold water, a medicine cabinet, a shower stall, powered exhaust vent, and a flush toilet.
We have a flat screen television, with crank up external antenna, AM/FM radio and a Blu Ray player.  Other amenities include a back door awning and a large awning on the side. Our windows are generous and all except the front window have screens to allow us plenty of fresh air. We have a powerful ceiling exhaust fan. Outside are power outlets and a gas nipple for connecting an outdoor grill.  There is also an external, stow able shower head with hot and cold water.

Despite all of these amenities, a truck camper is designed to be able to ‘boondock” for weeks at a time with no external connections.  Our camper has two deep cycle Interstate marine batteries.  It has two onboard 30 lb. propane tanks.  All of the lighting is 12 volt as are the fans.  There is an inverter to run electrical devices from the batteries and we have easily run the lights, television, Blu-Ray player and other things while barely drawing down the batteries.  With widely available solar panel re-chargers, and conservative usage of power, you can have power indefinitely.  But the campers also have an interface to your vehicle’s electrical system, so by running the truck engine for a while you can charge up your onboard batteries.  Also, our onboard Generac can charge the batteries but in a bug out scenario, you’d probably want to avoid that as well as running the truck engine.

Speaking of bug out scenarios, we could load our camper with supplies and be on our way very quickly.  As I mentioned, we have an F-350.  The truck has huge diesel fuel tanks giving us almost 400 miles range.  We have the crew cab which gives us a large cargo area when the rear seats are folded down.  Our truck has 4WD and is a dually.  Even with the camper mounted, we can still park it in a standard parking space.  Now since our rig is pretty long compared to most, we’re not as maneuverable as some but we can still go almost anywhere we want.   We could easily drive into the woods, pull it into a secluded spot, throw some camo netting over it and disappear.  If you could find a spot near fresh water and be able to expose your solar panel, you could stay out for a long time.  Obviously, there are other considerations, such as OPSEC, how much food you brought along or that you cached, and sanitary disposal but there are ways to deal with that and go beyond this article. 

A situation that would be most favorable would be owning your own remote piece of land, with water, pre-cached supplies, and good hunting potential.   You wouldn’t have to build a shelter or cabin, just drive your camper there.  Obviously, a truck camper doesn’t take the place of a cabin or bunker, but it also gives you flexibility and much more comfort than living out in the open.  I strongly encourage you to check truck campers out as a family emergency vehicle (FEV) and as something you can enjoy right now while things are “normal.”   Many of the prepper’s purchases are something we buy and put away.  This is one that you can enjoy all year long, yet can save your life if things get bad.

JWR Adds: Because of space and weight constraints, virtually all vehicular retreat approaches are doomed to failure in anything longer than just a short term disaster. That is, unless you heed Wade's advice. I agree with him that you will need to cache a lot of food, fuel, tools, and other bulky items such as rolls of fencing wire at your retreat property. Without a pre-positioned deep larder, you will become just another statistic. Mobility is great, but inevitably it is just a means to get yourself to a locale with supplies stored in depth and where you have fertile soil and plentiful water to grow crops.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thank you for creating your wonderful SurvivalBlog site; it is a much-needed voice of sanity in a world of foolishness and denial. We value your site for the shared experiences of your contributors and the working knowledge that many have volunteered. I hope we can also contribute in some small way, but maybe from a different perspective.

My wife and I have been full time live aboard boaters in the northeast for the last 20 years or so. The core tenants of prepping have always been near and dear to us - not just because we have a special interest in prepping, but because long distance sailors and other self-reliant mariners use the same pepper concepts, not just when the SHTF, but as constant concerns of every day life when underway.  Provisioning, access to potable water, communication, navigation, maintenance, weather, sanitation, protection from the elements, first aid, safety and physical security; expertise in all these areas is needed in order to remain self-reliant and maybe even to stay alive when cruising. The names and implementation for preppers and sailors may be different but the basic concepts are the same. For instance a preppers "G.O.O.D." bag is our "Ditch" (boat sinking) bag. Maybe we can share insights between our different prepper/cruiser cultures and learn from each other's experiences.

I'd also like to present a case that if you live near the coast in a congested area, then a well-found sailing vessel can represent an excellent bug out location, and in many ways it may be the only viable option for continued survival if some truly horrific event occurs. But first, let me give you an overview of where we live and some of the problems a typical prepper might face in our area.

The northeast where we reside is very crowded, with much of the population concentrated along the shore. In many ways it is a fragile place. Power is generated locally, but fuel and food have to be shipped in continually and the process can only be interrupted for a short amount of time. As far as I can tell none of the states in the region have any sort of rational, long-term emergency measures in place. Most of the people here, just like everywhere else it seems, do not have even a bare minimum of emergency supplies on hand. If some condition or event were to upset our delicate supply chain, electrical grid or communication system for more than even a few days, the resulting cascading "systems failures" would quickly convert our affluent and well ordered society into a chaotic, lawless place. Many of the cities here have rotting cores filled with thoughtless, brutal people, and these would be the first to take advantage of the situation. Concern would quickly give way to panic and even the typical law abiding citizen might be given to reckless and even irrational acts. The order of events in a severe emergency are not hard to imagine if you consider that most people would be living off of body fat and pond water within a few short weeks.

The fact of the matter is that there are just to many people here. You might be ready to bug out, but to where? The roads are often a congested mess even on a good day, let alone in an evacuation emergency (as an example, the Long Island Express is often affectionately referred to as "the longest parking lot in the world"). Unless you are in the northern parts of these north eastern states, such as upstate New York, your only other option would seem to be to bug in, not always the best option while the world is disintegrating around you.

So what could cause such a catastrophe? Many things, and readers of this blog probably already have a pretty good idea what they are. For me, a coronal mass ejection (CME) or a deliberate electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by a high altitude nuclear device heads the list of my nightmares; these are followed closely by a deliberate ground level nuclear event or a Category 5 hurricane hitting the coast (at high tide). Once the power goes out many of the nuclear reactors in the area, deprived of adequate cooling, would meltdown in the same fashion as Japans Fukushima Daiichi plant. This would poison vast areas of the most densely populated parts of our country. Deadly flu, economic collapse, social upheaval, loss of imported fuel - all seem tame in comparison, but experience has taught many of us never to underestimate the power of "chaos and cascading failures". Especially in power, communication and supply systems created to work as cheaply as possible but with little thought to resilience or redundancy.

Because of these challenges along any crowded coastline. I'd like to suggest that your readers consider a small sailing vessel as your bug out retreat. The greatest advantage is that you could get away in short order and with a minimum of sophisticated technology. The power of the wind can take you anywhere in the world. There are many cheap, capable smaller sailboats out there, but just as one example I'd like to present the sturdy little Pearson Triton. At 28 feet this is just about the smallest boat one can use for long distance cruising. Designed by the venerable Carl Alberg this well built little boat is fully capable of safely crossing an ocean (if not quickly or comfortably), and is small enough that it can even be rowed under dead calm conditions. 750 Tritons were made in the 1950s and 1960s and most are still around. In almost every way these "classic plastic" boats are much better than their contemporary counterparts and much less expensive too. In good condition with useable sails and a fairly new diesel engine the Triton can be had for $8,000 to $10,000 USD and sometimes much less. Maintenance, dockage and haul outs might be another $4,000 a year. This isn't chump change, but it is still much less than a land-based bug out retreat in this area.

So when and how do we use your little bug out boat? Well that depends. If the power is out and is not going to come back on as with a CME or EMP then you would have little choice other than to leave, and the sooner the better. If emergency conditions are less severe, then your choice of whether to leave or not may not be so simple. You can always stay on the boat until things settle out, one way or another. You don't have to leave on an impulse, after all the open ocean can be an uncompromising taskmaster especially to the novice sailor. But at least you can leave when you want. Just as a side issue, a small sailboat like the Triton can be great fun to sail even if the world is not coming to an end.

So how would you prepare your little Triton for TEOTWAWKI and how might the order of events unfold? Lets run through a possible scenario. Imagine that one morning there was an impossibly bright spark in the southern sky and now nothing works. The power is off and the car wont run, even the radio is dead. The neighbors are all scratching their heads in confusion, where you understand what just happened along with the grave implications. You and your family fill your backpacks with essentials and then peddle your bicycles like crazy heading to the marina where the boat is kept. Once there you set your priorities and prepare to bug out.

First and foremost, the greatest overriding concern for all small cruisers (and preppers in general) is availability of potable water. Your little ship only carries 20 gallons of fresh water in an internal tank, supplies for a few days at best. On deck you lash an other half a dozen or so 5 gallon plastic jerry jugs, this is the tried and true method used by all small boat cruisers. Still not enough water, every drop counts. The wife sends the kids up to raid the trash for any other bottles, cans or buckets, anything that can hold water including ziploc bags and trash bags. You'll sterilize everything later with bleach once you are underway. Finally fill the cockpit, bilge and galley sinks; even fill your old sea boots with fresh water. Better a pair of wet feet than a dry mouth. The scuppers (deck drains) have already been rigged to collect rainwater, but you can't count on a rainy day to save your life.

At the beginning of the season you squirreled away dozens of cans of food in the bilge, but what exactly is down there now is a bit of a mystery, as the water and high humidity have freed up and dissolved away all the labels. No matter, the calories are still in there, even if you are not really sure what is what. You'll have some interesting meals ahead, and not just because of the anonymous cans in the hold. There is almost always something to eat in and around the sea, especially in the biologically rich northern waters. Most people only think in terms of game fish like striped bass or bluefish, but for every large fish there are a hundred smaller ones. We are also surrounded by dozens of types of "unconventional" protein. Crabs, shrimp, clams, snails and other mollusks, as well as sea grass and seaweeds are all edible - palatability is another matter. Just remember, hunger is the best sauce. How about Minnows with rice and seaweed anyone?  A seining net and simple hook and line fishing gear are cheap and essential.

Food and water - check, now for security. Instead of buying something like a single AR-15 you spent your gun budget on three AR-7s. This is the survival rife that you first read about as a kid. The barrel, receiver and even two 8 round magazines all stow within the stock, and most of the parts are even Teflon coated, a great plus on a small boat in a salty ocean. When you first picked them up you thought that maybe the gun dealer was playing a trick on you. Each gun weights only two and a half pounds and is a little over 19 inches long when the parts are stored in the stock. The AR-7 looks a bit like a toy but it will kill just like any other .22 rimfire gun. Chambered in .22 LR, you can hold a thousand boxed up rounds in the palm of your hand and those thousand rounds are easy to stow in a watertight container. (Now just where did you put that spare ammo?). The philosophy here is that three small semi auto weapons firing at close range will trump a single weapon of higher caliber. Longer-range weapons would also be much less of an advantage while pitching and rolling about in the open ocean. Frankly, anything beats fending off desperate pirates with a boat hook and harsh language. [JWR Adds: Another advantage of the AR-7 is that it is is one of the few guns that float if it is dropped in the water.]

Suitable clothing and foul weather gear are already stored aboard and the meds kit is ready including a good selection of fish antibiotics and a minor surgery kit. You are ready to go (a relative term), but go where? Your first thought is to head toward Bermuda. At 700 nautical miles away it is relatively close. But on second thought, perhaps not. An EMP powerful enough to take out the eastern seaboard would probably get Bermuda as well. Maybe you could head north. The Canadian Maritimes are far enough away that the power is probably still on. There is only one problem, if the nuclear reactors along the eastern seaboard begin to meltdown, then he prevailing winds will carry this nuclear material to the northeast. You would be sailing into clouds of radioactive smoke and dust. The wife consults the Pilot chart for the north Atlantic and places her finger on a tiny dot that is two thirds of the to the way to Europe. "The Azores? That's over 2,000 nautical miles away!" You give her a sick grin. The GPS is properly packed away in a shielded box, but if it didn't make it you'll have to find your way using the sextant (and luck). Many of the GPS satellites have probably been destroyed in any case. "How is your celestial [navigation]?" you ask. "About as good as yours," the wife replies, with the same sick grin. Celestial navigation is not one of our competencies and we don't even have a working timepiece in any case. "Well, you always wanted to have a sailing adventure" the wife continues.  True, but this isn't exactly want you had in mind.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let me preface this information by saying it only applies to those preppers that live in states where it is legal to possess and carry a handgun in the car.

I live in a state where it is not a problem or an issue to carry a handgun in a vehicle, it has been that way for many years. Our state considers it part of the "castle doctrine", it is legal for a citizen to defend his castle and his vehicle is considered to be part of that castle.

For years I have carried a variety of weapons, semi's and revolvers, in my different vehicles. Some in the glove box, some in the console, some under the seat, and some in the pouch behind the passenger seat. My main concern has always been the security of the vehicle when left un-occupied. I have to admit that I have lost two different weapons when I had a vehicle break in.

Because of the possibility of vehicle theft [or theft of contest from a vehicle], I have never wanted to buy a high dollar handgun and have a $500 or even a $1,000 handgun lost. Well, I have found the best of both worlds. A handgun that is a big .40 caliber semi-automatic that works super and costs less than $200.

A good friend that is a retired law enforcement officer introduced me to the Hi-Point SW-40B. Frankly I had never even heard of Hi-Point and the handgun was a very pleasant surprise. The semi-auto is black polymer and has an adjustable rear sight. It shoots like a dream and consumes all types of ammo with no problems. It is also backed by Hi-Points lifetime warranty on repairs if they should become necessary. The great thing is that this pistol is readily available from dealers around the country for $159-to-$189. Check this out.

The only down side I have found about this pistol is it is a real heavy weight. It weighs almost three pounds before it is loaded. It is not what I would want to have as an everyday carry weapon, but that is not the issue here. We are talking about a great car carry gun for not much money. By the way, an almost identical model is also available in .45 ACP if that is your caliber of choice. - Gringo Dude

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We are a mobile culture. The vast majority of us begin our day by getting into a vehicle and driving to work.  Some of us, once we reach work drive again to reach work details. We are accustomed to driving everywhere.  We drive to the store for groceries and supplies; we drive to schools, work, doctors, etc.

When the SHTF most of us who live in a densely populated area are not going to be entirely comfortable just hunkering down where we live and hoping for the best.  Those that choose to bug-in in a suburban or urban environment are pretty much going to be sitting ducks for the lawlessness that will follow. 

You may have a decent supply of firearms and ammunition, fortified defenses and large stocks of provisions, but in reality most every house is susceptible to penetration and destruction. Fire is a prime example.  Are your defenses such that if your house was burning down around you that you could bug-in and survive? If you haven’t considered that then you should.  You may have a concrete basement with hidden entrances and exits but it’s sitting beneath a large pile of flammables.  It’s going to get mighty hot and hard to breathe. If you’re in an apartment that’s not on the ground floor, you’re in even more danger.

Of course you may take out a few marauders before they realize you aren’t going to be easy pickings, but word will quickly spread that you are there and you aren’t letting anyone in nor giving away your provisions without a fight.  Believe me, most of the people doing the raiding are not going to benevolent and generous and just walk away and leave you alone because you’re a hard target.  The mind set will be if they can’t have it you can’t either. Fire will be one of the first thoughts to enter into the equation if they can’t breach your defenses. Heavy equipment can also make your defenses inappropriate in one fell swoop as well.  Don’t worry, if you manage to discourage them the first go round, they’ll be back.

If you’re location cannot withstand burning down around you or being structurally destroyed then you still need a mobile plan.

If you’re on foot with nothing more than a bugout bag, defensive weapons and some skill sets then that’s the most basic level and you’re really going to be on your own.  Your survivability level is somewhere around zero to ten percent. There is no way to predict or control the situation as you are subject to all manner of environmental conditions and threats whether they be natural, hostile parties or geographical.  The best you can do is to have several predetermined and reconnoitered routes that you have physically traversed and are in good enough physical condition to complete and then hope for the best and pray a lot. And stay concealed as much as possible.

Those who seek to take what is yours and/or do you harm are more than likely going to have much better intel on the immediate urban/suburban environment of the streets than you are.  That’s their domain and they will quickly occupy the most defensible positions to their best advantage.  They also have much more experience than you do on living with little or nothing in despicable conditions.  This will be their turf.  They already occupy it, you don’t.  Sure, there are plenty of dumb criminals out there but once packs are formed they will have intelligent, crafty leaders who have the knowledge and experience to direct them intelligently.

I advise that everyone should have a mobile preparation plan in mind regardless of whether you need to bugout to reach a retreat or safer location, or you’re already at your retreat and well stocked for long-term survival.  Any fortification or retreat can be breached or laid to siege.

Urban and suburban dwellers should keep a well maintained vehicle(s) with enough fuel and reserves to reach where you plan to go without having to refuel from an outside source.  Supplies should be pre-packed and able to be loaded in less than fifteen minutes or less if not kept in the vehicles or trailers ahead of time. 

Optimally you should always be gathering intel and maintain a constant situational awareness of ongoing events. The best case scenario is to know when to go before the SHTF. Not after.

In any emergency you are going to have multiple situations to consider that can change at any given moment.  Having mobile preps covered ahead of time will allow you to concentrate on the situation at hand and not be distracted wondering whether or not you remembered to bring everything or what route(s) to take.

For now, it’s best to map out several routes, drive them under various weather conditions and take note of areas that could prove difficult under varying conditions.

I’m not going to cover the myriad of vehicles that could or should be considered.  Much like firearms and various calibers, when it comes down to it something is better than nothing and have what you can afford.  Just don’t go overboard if you can’t afford it.  In reality a vehicle merely gets you from point A to point B.

Cargo trailers, camp trailers and/or motor homes enhance your departure time by being able to be pre-loaded and inventoried ahead of time and simply hooked up and/or driven away almost immediately. They can also provide longer term amenities if you can’t reach your destination as soon as you might have thought.

Convoys will have better chances of success in hostile territory than lone vehicles.  If you have a group you should work out the logistics of what vehicles take what positions, what frequencies and/or  channels you will utilize for unsecure communications.  This might include code words, hand-signals, phrases and uncommon languages that could be used in-transit in the case that others may be listening in.

Convoys should have patrol vehicles, point vehicles, defensive vehicles and pre-planned defensive strategies in the case of attack. Even in war zones it is rare that every vehicle in a convoy is taken out or the entire convoy captured or killed.  A convoy gives you a fight or flight response to any hostile or emergency situation.  It goes without saying that tools and implements to clear roads of obstacles and vehicles should definitely be considered.

All vehicles should be armed and members practice various positions of defense while driving.  It’s not as easy as one might imagine to take aim and fire while moving at a high rate of speed, let alone while performing evasive maneuvers. Take the time to consider what positions in a vehicle are best for firing from and with what types of weapons.

Nearly every apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic , zombie and sci-fi movie that has even come close to portraying such a scenario rarely does not contain some sort of armed convoy scenario and for good reason.  Without mobility we increase the capability for failure tenfold in any given situation.  Flight is limited. If our retreats become no longer safe we’re going to have to bugout.  If we need to reach one before we can be safe, mobile preparations will need to be considered. Plain and simple.
Another point I wish to make with this article is for those of you who don’t have the resources for a retreat and don’t have any safe houses away from the chaos that you can bugout to then considering a short-term mobile solution may be for you.

It’s much easier to gather a group of people with a similar mindset in a similar situation than it is to find an existing retreat to take you in if you have little in the way of resources or developed skills. Let’s face it, there are plenty of “preppers” out there that just can’t afford much of what they would need to feel totally secure.  A group can alleviate some of the worry about how you’re going to make it.

You can form a group and pool your resources to purchase a low-cost undeveloped parcel of land in a remote location where you can rendezvous and figure it out from there or at least cache supplies.  Over time you can make developments to improve the land for long term habitation. Members could rotate spending time there to make improvements for the benefit of all.  It would also allow those without much in the way of expendable resources to coordinate with others in their mobile group so that each member can focus on stocking equipment and supplies that would benefit the entire group instead of everyone trying to gather everything alone. It’s better than being on your own and having no destination at all. 

If you can’t allocate the resources for a parcel of land your group can all agree on a remote location to rendezvous as far away from the immediate chaos as possible.  That will at least give you some breathing space.  I doubt there will be many forest rangers or BLM out ticketing your group for overstaying at a campground or camping in the desert or mountains in an area undesignated for camping or long-term stays.

I do not advise a constant state of mobility.  It just won’t work.  Fuel is going to be hard to come by and you cannot maintain long-term stability or defensibility in a mobile situation. For long-term survival you’re going to have to settle in somewhere.  You cannot exist on stored supplies alone. 

Having a good mobile prep plan can at the least get you through the most critical event horizon.  Of course in some situations it’s not going to be the best alternative or the most practical.  I offer it here as an alternative mindset to be included as part of your preparation plan, not the ultimate solution.

But for those who don’t have as many resources and even for those that do, mobile preparations should be taken seriously and added to any preparedness plan. If you live in a highly populated urban or suburban area you might want to consider storing your main vehicles/trailers/etc., on the outskirts of town and develop an alternate but efficient means to reach them in a SHTF scenario.

There are many factors to consider that are unique to where you live.  I just want to advise that your mobile preps consider more than just jumping in your vehicle with a 72 hour bag and heading for the hills. One should take into account the worst case scenario in your present plans and plan accordingly.

It’s easy to envision how it will all come down and how you respond, but just like on the battlefield things usually take on the age old adage of SNAFU. (Situation Normal All Fouled Up).
Here I shall outline my own present mobile preps in very general terms for the sake of OPSEC .  Our retreat is approximately 400 miles from our present location although we shall be living there by late Spring so our own plan will change at that time to consider the change of circumstance and location.

We currently have 5 alternate routes planned to reach the retreat location which does lie within the American Redoubt area. Three of the routes allow us to reach the location in just over 6 hours under optimal driving conditions.  Most of the routes we will utilize do not require us to pass through any towns over a 10,000 population.  Two of the routes pass through less than 500 until we are within an hour and then only one town with a population of 3000. 

We personally utilize two vehicles and two trailers. One of the vehicles is a 33 foot customized self-contained motor home, the other an older American made SUV.  The motor home is kept with the tanks full with a 600 to 900 mile range depending on conditions and terrain.  The SUV is never below ¾ of a tank and the stocked trailer holds two 5 gallon jerry cans on each side for a total of 40 gallons of fuel for the SUV. This is adequate for both vehicles to reach the retreat location without external sources.  Both vehicles are under a strict maintenance program to keep all systems viable and working.

Both vehicles obviously have trailer hitches with the required towing capacity for their respective trailers. One large cargo trailer is always stocked, having custom built shelving containing a 1 year supply of foodstuffs, 1 month supply of drinking water, a working stocked freezer, propane cooktop, 12 volt lights, an inverter and batteries recharged by solar as well as kerosene lamps, propane heater and more.  There is enough room left over that it could be slept in if needed. This trailer is somewhat heavy and is meant to be pulled by the motor home but we have tested it on a 120 mile drive towing it with the SUV with no problems though a bit slow going over steep grades.

The second, smaller cargo trailer is left empty to accommodate tools and equipment that can be loaded in under 15 minutes.  All tools and equipment that are not in immediate use are stored in marked containers and fit in the empty trailer.  We have test loaded it as well and can have it fully loaded with two of us loading in under fifteen minutes if need be.

The motor home is stocked with approximately 1 to 2 months of foodstuffs, a 90 gallon water tank, internal plumbing, 12V DC solar power, 110 with inverter or shore power and propane heat , water and stove.  We have also added a small wood cook stove with oven for redundancy and alternate fuel sources.  Communications consist of CB, Police scanner and two-way hand held radios.  Internet capability for mobile travel is via cellular modem though we do not depend upon it but have it as long as it there and a cell signal can be received. We keep a small inventory of spare parts deemed most likely to fail and a complete set of tools and equipment in the basement storage areas.

The SUV contains two 48 hour Bugout bags as well as a 72 hour vehicle kit at all times.  It has ample supplies and equipment for winter and summer use and can be slept in comfortably. We have ample weapons for defense and tactical use and train regularly. We have a few other individuals that would convoy in two other vehicles if need be but currently we have no long term plans to include them in the retreat locale as they are working on their own solution.

If needed we could abandon the motor home and continue on in the SUV and continue down to making it on foot in the worse case scenario.  This is our basic mobile plan.  Once we reach the retreat things change.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My new Nissan 4WD Frontier is pretty well equipped…and conspicuous. Maybe it’s the 102” steel CB radio antenna whip that tipped the balance. Yeah, they make smaller ones, but for my first foray into CB, I wanted the best money could buy…my money anyway. And it turns out that you spend more money to go smaller and the reduction in size can challenge the optimized reception with respect to the wavelength of the transmission signal(i.e. in many respects, bigger is still better). Were it not for that tall waving wand in the sky, perhaps the addition of the two sets of off-road lights, contractor tool boxes, bull bar, roof rack, and headache rack might have gone largely unnoticed in my suburban enclave. I was actually able to conceal the Public Address (PA) speakers (front and rear) fairly well. In my first drafting of this article, I actually left them off of the rundown. They were hidden even from my recollection. I do have a winch mount on order, but my plan is to have that dismountable and store the body of the winch in one of the toolboxes to protect it from the elements or potential theft. Although a GPS is no replacement for superbly honed map skills, I once read that in the wake of tornados or hurricanes when all street signs have been obliterated, it might be helpful to have some knowledgeable, turn-by-turn guidance. So I got one. There is a map of my immediate area in the rear seat pouch, and I know I should ideally have more than one map. “Haphazard”, remember? It took the loss of cell phone service following the east coast earthquake of 2011 to encourage me to enlist other modes of communication. CB radio seemed to be the next most ubiquitous which did not require any special licensing. Each of these acquisitions was spurred out of some sudden realization of a latent ‘need’ which was more likely just a ‘want’ which I could justify in the name of preparedness. I will admit, the excitement of opening and installing the contents of each of those parcels over the past few months made what is often portrayed as a doom and gloom exercise into almost a hobby of sorts which I immensely enjoyed.

The concept of preparedness started for me just two years ago. While shopping in Barnes & Noble, I happened upon a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks, a satirical, how-to guide for surviving the onslaught of the undead. It was a fairly entertaining read, made all the more enjoyable by the infusion of very practical considerations applicable to nearly any challenging situation. One piece of advice was to review existing survival and wilderness guides for general guidelines, as tactics specifically employed for the “killing” (if you can kill something that is neither living or dead is possible) or otherwise dispatching zombies would be the primary focus of this text. So I did. I picked up two more guides. Fast forward to last year’s "Snowmageddon" which was the ill-fated evening where a fast-moving and productive snowstorm enveloped the DC metro area just at the start of rush hour and gridlocked and stranded thousands of motorists. I was one of them in my trusty 4-door Honda Civic. On uncongested, snow covered roads, it responded rather nimbly in snow and I generally could count on enough room to maneuver should I get into trouble. But generally the idea was to always be a body in perpetual motion. This was simply not possible in stop-and-go traffic. I got stuck and with no provisions in the vehicle, was fortunate to get a quick push in the direction of a nearby shopping mall where hundreds of us wayward travelers had managed to scamper to and take up refuge in the food court.  I had always wanted a 4 wheel drive truck. This encounter solidified the need in my mind.

Fast forward again to this region’s significant earthquake in 2011. I was not the least bit fazed by the occurrence in and of itself. It felt like little more than the weekly trash collection in my office building where occasionally a new driver to the route roughly handles the receptacles down in the loading dock. What was more troubling is what I encountered when trying to contact my wife just to ensure that the house had survived in tact. Phones were down. I’m not sure about land lines. We do not maintain one at home. Cell phones were most assuredly down for about 10-15 minutes. Again, not an excessive lapse of service, but one which few of us anticipated. The cell phone is regarded by many of us “Sheeple” (I was one and still exhibit tendencies at times)  to borrow the phrase, as the be all end all of emergency preparedness and communication. We are lulled into complacency by believing that any service or need can be fulfilled by a timely call placed to the appropriate party or entity. So now, without any sort of coherent plan, I’ve got all these words of wisdom swirling in my head. And both the Civic, and the old beater truck (rear wheel drive only) are at just about the end of their useful service lives. I traded them in and began the journey of outfitting a new vehicle.

But first there was my own personality and ego which had to be overcome. I maintain a significant physical regimen and regard myself as possessing impressive intellect and ingenuity. So my approach to life was “Well, I’ll know how to respond if something happens and will have the physical conditioning to do whatever is necessary to endure any hardship.” And maybe  that can be justified for a single person, but now I’m a husband and will likely someday be a father. To pass on that legacy and demonstrate such dereliction of duty as the head of a household is entirely inexcusable.

So for me, the transitions have been from “nonchalant”, to “haphazard”, to hopefully “better planning” and orchestrations with my preparations than I exhibited on this fitout. My truck now is kind of funny (though survival is no laughing matter). I’ve made it into a kind of Swiss Army Knife of bug out vehicles (BOVs), including a chain saw in the back. Quick story on that is that my job told us prior to Hurricane Irene making landfall that we might be requested to come to the aid of some of our project sites. I work in construction management. I wasn’t worried about high winds (I’ve made this girl pretty heavy now) or high water; it was fallen trees that concerned me. I couldn’t very well drive over them, not without larger profile tires and a lift kit perhaps. But that will never be practical for me because I still make my living as a part time office-worker and office garages in the city do not afford that sort of roof clearance. Sigh. Getting back to my point, I figured I might need to cut any fallen trees up to clear a roadway. My ego liked that. “I could be a rush hour hero...” And now I could justify buying a chain saw. There has to be a practical limit at some point to curtail this form of vehicular hoarding that I was engaged in. As I went along, I did try to balance some of the tradeoffs in terms of weight, fuel economy, etc. I’ve also experienced some missed opportunities in terms of the locations of where some components I’ve mounted which were more cosmetic than utilitarian now occupying the ideal mounting locations of more practical additions. I’m now retroactively trying to improve my fabrication skills with a welder (another survival inspired purchase not specifically outfitted for the truck…yet)  to accommodate a front trailer hitch and the bull bar which is presently installed that I cannot exactly afford to simply throw away. Practicality will ultimately win out, but it is a tough pill to swallow at this juncture.

I’ve started focusing on some of the less sexy aspects of preparedness as they pertain to travel as well. It seems everyone focuses on food and ammo. One article on this blog dealt with the very real issue of water. I was embarrassed that I had three separate vessels for transporting and storing fuel and not even a Dasani water bottle in the truck. Terrible. That’s been corrected. I’ve got a 7 gallon jug now from Bass Pro Shops. I wanted bigger, but I reminded myself of the consideration that  each gallon is 8 pounds of cargo, and with a 50 lb pack and weapons, I’m personally well over100 lbs of carrying weight if I have to go over land. So I’m continuing to read and research in an effort to smooth out the ebbs and flows in my preparedness tide. I’d likely sacrifice the large portable in a fight-or-flight scenario in favor of the Nalgenes I’ve tucked into BOBs for my wife and me. I’ll have to become familiar with water bodies along our escape route such that we can employ the portable water purifier on the go. This brings me to my next point.

What I’m ultimately coming to terms with is that this vehicle (as sexy as it looks), with all that I’ve invested into it, is meant to be a means to an end. I’m merely supposed to travel from one destination to another. It should not represent my entire lifeline or the culmination of my preparation efforts. Should it become disabled, or no other passable routes exist, my very survival might dictate that I abandon it after salvaging whatever resources I can reasonably transport on foot. My efforts of late are actually aimed at reducing my dependence on the vehicle altogether. Communication was the biggest hurdle, as I set up the truck with the PA amplifier and CB radio as my communication hub. It was easy enough in response to this realization to acquire a hand-held CB. I still need to test out the comparative range. (Anecdotally, I read that it is less range, but some range is better than no means of remote communication).  The biggest practical drawback for me is that it is not a diesel engine. All of the posts tout diesel for its versatility of fuel options and that one could even endeavor to generate their own bio-diesel. Yes, I missed that on the dealer invoice. On the same token though, articles that advocate that our ideal bug out vehicle should be a pre-1980 Diesel Ford 4x4 miss the mark (in my humble opinion) in the sense that when the time to bug out comes, we might very well be at a dinner party, or commuting to work or in some other respect sharply jolted out of our daily lives and need to respond. And if this truly is the end of civilization for the foreseeable future, it’s not like I’ll have a regular need to travel down the road to the shopping mall even if I had extensive fuel stores. I’d likely be looking to power a generator or would have hopefully succeeded in setting up my BOL to be self-sustaining off of the grid. I just need this rig to get me there on whatever fuel I have on hand when it’s time to roll out.

Many of the articles talk about how the signs and the advance warning will be apparent leading up to a societal meltdown or destabilization. I may need to depart from the masses in the prep community in that regard. A rather insightful article I found here actually warns against being the lone, bunker dweller who alienates all friends and loved ones with eerie doomsday proclamations. That type of prepper is not beneficial to the cause according to the author. Their stance is that our mindset and practical considerations, when conveyed by a competent person who is an authority or subject matter expert may serve to encourage other loved ones to make their own personal preparations in advance of what is perhaps a more likely occurrence of a natural disaster or prolonged service outage of some sort which challenges conventional modern day life. So it might not be the end of the world as we know it, but more like the ‘end of my typical Tuesday’ which may evoke the need to enact some of the principles and strategies for which this community is renowned. The prospect has become a lot more palatable for my wife as I’ve framed some of these acquisitions in the context of us being able to embark on camping trips and enjoy the outdoors more together. I am not leading her under false pretenses. I am very up front with what my primary inclination and motivation is derived from. But in the end if ‘The End’ never happens, I wouldn’t want to have spent the sums of money and time and not ever had a use for my portable water purification system.

My parting advice is that I recommend self-performing any such improvements on your vehicle. I think the owner should be well acquainted with the intricacies of the outfit such that they are aware of any vulnerabilities and the various service points afforded to the user to ensure continued operation. I also found, in working through and planning the installations (this is the one area where I did employ planning), I considered pathways and approaches which afforded me the best chance of transferability or reusability of components. My CB radio could be hardwired directly to the battery. I instead opted to power it from a cigarette lighter so I could transfer it for use in another vehicle or just quickly extract it and salvage it for parts to be able to service the handheld CB radio I picked up. All in all, any effort that moves one from a state of dependency to self-sufficiency is effort well spent, even if the progression was a bit haphazard. I’ve definitely learned a lot through the various successes and missteps.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thanks again for doing everything you do.  It is with great pleasure I write to you again to contribute some of my knowledge. I mean no offense to Caspar d'Gonzo, but after reading his article I have the notion that he has not yet actually constructed a gasifier based on the FEMA instructions.  Though his article was very good about covering the theory and basics.

I was first fascinated with gasification when I saw them make a gasifier on The Colony.  I read about it and planned to build one.  Not long after I almost wrecked my Jeep while driving through northern Pennsylvania when I saw someone using a home-made gasifier on a car.  I pulled over and chatted with them and now I really had a passion instilled in me for an alternative energy vehicle.

Fall of 2010 I had a college course called Alternative Energy, and the final project was constructing something relevant to the class.  Some classmates and myself tackled the FEMA wood gasifier.  Other groups built solar food dehydrators, small hydro-electric generators, waste oil burners, etc.  The FEMA gasifier instructions are a good starting point, but far from all you need.  Ingenuity and creativity will get you from the FEMA instructions to a working model.

I sized my gasifier to run the 134 cubic inch, 72 horespower engine in my 1963 Jeep CJ5.  At the beginning of my project, I wanted to run that CJ5 with the gasifier.  Now, I see that this will wear out an engine faster than normal fuels, so I will be building a dedicated gasifier powered vehicle in the future.  Also, the gasifier ended up being very large overall, and requires a pickup truck or trailer.  It would not fit in the back of my CJ5.

I was fortunate enough to have full access to a local salvage yard that was sympathetic to college students.  I could go out and pick through acres of scrap, and I still could not find some of the items that FEMA called for.  The instructions are outdated.  Be prepared to deviate and get creative.

Some things I learned...

Harbor freight has the cheapest ball valves for the carburetor unit.

Garages have 125 lb grease drums/gear oil drums that make good filter housings.  They usually throw them away or use them for garbage cans.  I got one with a re-usable lid just for asking.

Home Depot sells a fireplace sealer in white tubs that worked well on the inside to protect the metal from heat cycle fatigue and seal welds and gaps. But be sure to put it on thin or it will never cure.

I used two 55 gallon drums from the scrap yard instead of garbage cans.  They're thicker and usually found for free, but make sure they didn't have anything in them that could poise a health risk when you have a fire inside.

For the shaker bowl in the bottom of the gasifier, I found a stainless steel colander (bowl with lots of holes) large enough at a restaurant equipment supply store.  They had lot's of sizes and very economically priced.

I used flexible steel exhaust hoses to connect the gasifier to the filter and the filter to the carburetor unit.  They were kind of pricey at my local auto parts store but I was having trouble locating heat resistance flexible pipe.

I used a 4" Attwood Turbo 12v inline blower to draw a vacuum at the carburetor unit and get the gasifier going.  This fan worked really well and I found PVC pipe fittings at Lowe's to connect it to the exhaust pipe. These fans are built for pulling fumes out of boat hulls, so they're typically advertised as spark-less, and the best price I found was online at walmart of all places.  This fan was really useful, because by flipping the wires I could run the fan backwards and blow air into the gasifier to fan the flames on start-up.  Switch the wires back and pull the gas through.

The only free fuel I could get my hands on at college were green pine wood chips made for mulch use.  I would not recommend that less than ideal fuel, but it did still produce flammable gas.  I had tar and filthy water pouring out of my filter.  The FEMA design for a filter was really ineffective.  When I get back into the gasifier project I will be researching what other people are using because a can full of wood chips will not keep your engine running for long.  Lot's of tar and moisture were bypassing it.  Obviously, I did not have enough temperature drop for condensation and particulate filtration going on.  The fuel definitely needs to be a good wood, not pine, that is dried.  Dried goat manure was used with success on the PA Apocalypse TV show.

The only testing I did was on a 6 HP Briggs & Stratton small engine and it ran fine on the gas I was producing, but when I took the head off after test running there was a lot of tar inside.  I was always able to light the gas coming out of the gasifier outlet for entertainment value and have a nice pink or orange flame to verify it was producing gas.  Also, I only used my gasifier while stationary, not mobile on a vehicle, so I was frequently shaking the bowl in the bottom to pass ashes through it and pushing the fuel in the top into the fire tube.  Mobility is a must with this design so that shakes and bumps going down the road keep things running, but other designs exist that are intended to be stationary.

Right now I'm playing with burning waste motor oil and vegetable oil in a 1967 military surplus M35A2 ("Deuce and a half") I purchased with great success.  For now, my gasifier will sit and wait until I have more time to experiment with filtration and quality fuel.  I hope to find an older 4-cylinder truck, like a cheap Chevy S10 to mount the gasifier on.

Good Luck with Gasification, - Josh in Pennsylvania


James Wesley:
The recent article by Caspar d'Gonzo in SurvivalBlog left out the advances by the open source group

They have taken the WWII design into the modern era, with a much more efficient design, as well as a design that is easier to start and produces much less tar than the FEMA design. Best Regards, - Bill M.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

World War II has always fascinated me. I spend a great deal of time reading and researching a wide array of books, articles and Internet sites about this period. To the conquered peoples of Europe and Asia, it must certainly must have seemed like the end of the world as they knew it.  

One of the most fascinating aspects of my studies is discovering how individuals and groups in Axis-held countries survived behind enemy lines.  Valuable lessons can be gleaned by looking at the tactics and techniques of underground and partisan groups in France, the Philippines, Yugoslavia, China, Norway, Belgium and many other invaded lands.

Recently, I read a book written by Lt. Colonel Will Irwin, US Army, retired. His book The Jedburghs: The Secret History of the Allied Special Forces, France 1944.  Irwin’s research is excellent; it is a riveting chronicle of secret teams that were dropped deep into Nazi occupied France. Working with local partisans known as “maquis”, the teams conducted a roaming guerrilla war against German forces.  

The book revealed that French resistance forces had little or no access to gasoline during this period. The Germans needed every gallon for their own military needs, so many French improvised a technology that -- in today’s übermodern high-tech society -- has long overlooked.  This technology, gasogene-powered internal combustion engines, became a popular method of fueling cars, trucks, and even buses during late World War II.

Simply defined, standard gasoline-fueled vehicle engines were converted with a wood- or charcoal-burning unit.  The unit did not generate steam for power, but instead it created a combustible gas to run the engine.  Such knowledge had been around since the late 1800s.

The gasogene device is known as a wood gas generator or gasifier by engineers.  This gasification process has all but disappeared in vehicle propulsion in the 21st Century. Gasogene devices create a mixture of nitrogen, hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and other, combustible gases. When these are cooled and filtered they can be introduced into an internal combustion engine as an efficient fuel.

In a TEOTWAWKI environment, one quickly realizes that wood, charcoal and other natural items (even coconut husks) would be plentiful and easily acquired.  Having a gasogene powered car, tractor or generator would be a huge advantage in surviving a post-apocalyptic world.

In a FEMA document on powering vehicles through gasification it was noted that “a catastrophic event could disrupt the supply of petroleum in this country so severely that this wood gas generation might be critical in meeting the energy needs of some essential economic activities, such as the production and distribution of food. In occupied Denmark during World War II, 95% of all mobile farm machinery, tractors, trucks, stationary engines, and fishing and ferry boats were powered by wood gas generator units. Even in neutral Sweden, 40% of all motor traffic operated on gas derived from wood or charcoal. All over Europe, Asia, and Australia, millions of gas generators were in operation between 1940 and 1946.”


Internal combustion engines use gasoline. What many do not realize is that the liquid that we know as gasoline is turned into a vapor and burned as a gas. The technology under the hood converts the liquid form into the gas form.  The vapor is injected into the engine and is explosively burned (combustion).  The same is true for wood gas.  Burning wood in a controlled gasifier creates a combustible vapor that will fire in the engine.

The gasogene creates a chemical process where the superheated vapors evolve into gases that the engine then burns. This is also known as a stratified, downdraft gasifier as the vapors go through four zones within the device and into the engine.  

The first zone is at the highest point of the machine.  Because the vapors are drawn down and into the second zone (the downdraft), the first zone is a 20 to 30 gallon metal container positioned atop the second zone, a smaller 10 to 15 gallon container.

The first container might be a small metal trash can or other type of metal box than can hold wood fuel.  This upper container draws in air to aid in the combustion of the wood.  A fire box connects the upper container with the lower metal container.  The fire box is surrounded by open air in the lower container and a metal grate or screen is at the bottom of the fire box.  Burnt wood char and ash fall from this grate into the bottom of the second container.  This container has to be cleaned of all spent ash to keep the process efficient.  This first container stacked above the second container (zones one and two) are the gasification segment.

From the second container a pipe runs to a third container, known as the filter unit. This enclosed container is filled with clean wood chips that act as filter medium to draw off particulates that are moving with the hot vapors in the smoke.  The wood chips draw off these contaminates and a clean stream of hot vapors moves through to the final process.  A blower is located above the third container to maintain air flow.

From the filter unit a longer pipe takes the vapors downstream to the engine manifold.  An air intake valve pulls additional cooler outdoor air to “sweeten” the combustible gases just before entering the engine.  A modifier connection attaches the gasifier pipe to the engine.  A throttle valve is also mounted just before the pipe enters the engine so the flow of fuel can be controlled and help regulate vehicle speed.

Described by a layman, imagine a small metal garbage can mounted above a metal canister about the size of a five-gallon paint bucket. A short pipe connects to a third canister (also the size of a five-gallon bucket. A longer pipe, with throttle and air valve, connects to the engine manifold.

Hundreds of thousands of gasogene engines built during World War II demonstrated that innovation in use of cans, buckets and piping had little or no effect on performance. Clever mechanics used all types of scavenged and jury-rigged components.

Three things are critical to overall success and performance of the gasogene:

A. The most critical element is that the fire tube’s (running into the manifold) inside diameter and length must be carefully matched to the rated horsepower of the engine.

B. The gas generator units and all piping must be totally airtight at all times.

C. Friction must be eliminated in all air and gas passages. This is done by avoiding
sharp bends in the pipe and by employing pipe sizes which are not too small.


One primary skill will be creating metal connections.  Cutting metal using snips is important.  Bending and brazing pipe is about the most difficult of the work.  It is much a combination of plumbing skills and metalworking -- but it is well within the skill set of most people who are moderately familiar with tools.

Having someone with plumbing skills assist makes construction of the device much easier, but not essential.  Many in World War II constructed these fuel generators with basic hand tools, components found in junk yards and assembled in extreme conditions.


The Gasogene unit burns wood and this means that frequent cleaning of the wood container and fire box.  Ash and char will fill the lower container under the fire box very quickly.  Starting the wood fuel will take some practice.  Depending upon the engine itself, most units will be able to power an average sized automobile about 15 to 20 miles at regular road speeds.  Shutting down the unit requires a cooling down period.  

There are safety considerations that require attention.  The gases produced from the unit are toxic and attention must be paid to ventilation.  Enclosed cars, garages and such must be adequately vented to prevent dangerous build up of toxic gases.  However, the same could be said for traditional gas fueled engines.

Having a container filled with burning wood on a moving vehicle is always a major consideration.  Under normal operating conditions, this is not much of an issue.  But, in the event of an accident it is very important to remember that fire risks are increased.


If gasogene is of interest to your future plans for self-sufficiency, it is important to be proactive now.  The good news is there are plenty of resources to give you the exact plans and specifications needed to create an efficient operating gasogene engine.  Kits are available to accelerate the build, but are absolutely unnecessary.


for Fueling Internal Combustion Engines in a Petroleum Emergency
FEMA Document
The absolute best reference was published by FEMA.  It not only covers all of the conceptual aspects of a gasogene-powered engine as well as a complete set of technical plans with parts list.  It is a single-source document that is free and available online as a PDF document.  This should be a part of any document package being assembled for future times.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FAO Forestry Paper 72
This UN document contains 139 pages of technical charts and graphs, scientific analysis and economic data on the potential and reality of wood gas fuels.  It is free as an online PDF.  Interesting for those seeking greater rationale on why wood gas can be an efficient alternative to petroleum in an emergency.

'Coast to Coast on Homemade Fuel,' Mother Earth News (#73) pp, 178-179. Jan/Feb 1982.
'Wood Gas Update,' Mother Earth News (#71) pp. 164-165. Sep/Oct 1981.
Mother's Woodburning Truck,' Mother Earth News (#69) pp. 126-129. May/Jun 1981

Some Useful Web Sites

Mother Earth News Wood Gas Generator Plans ($15.00)

Hi Mr. R.:
I worked in a bike shop for five years up until two years ago and my better half continues to work in a bike shop to this day.

I have to say having a road (or "racing") bike for when the SHTF is a really bad idea. Road bikes are kind of like the sports cars of the bicycling world. They are not meant to beat upon, you run over or hit the wrong thing on the road or whatever--even gravel--and you could be walking. They eat tires and tubes. I have changed hundreds, maybe a thousand or two road bike tubes, usually  because of a small piece of steel belt from a car tire, or thorns, were embedded in the tire. Kevlar liners help a little. Also, most road bike tires run between 80 to 130 PSI. Pumping them to that pressure can be a chore for the weak or small statured person [, especially when using a small clip-on touring pump].

The most replaced parts on a bike are going to be the tubes, then the tires. From there parts breakage begins to vary widely, I would say the best bike for when the SHTF would have to be a hard tail mountain bike. Skip the road bikes and comfort bikes. In essence: You can ride a Mountain bike anywhere a road bike or comfort bike can go, but not vise versa. Also, as much as I love downhill and free ride bicycles , stay away from these beasts for SHTF, since you most likely will not break one, and if you do you will be broken too (trust me). They are on the opposite end of the spectrum from a road bike. Full suspension is awesome,I love mine, but if I were in a grid down mess, and toasted a pivot bearing, I would then be SOL. There can be lots of pivots and bearings, air shocks, although much much better now than the past can be a a problem.

Bike shop brands are going to be the best bet, but not essential. Up until left the industry a couple of years ago, the majority of big name frames were made by Giant, and then Fuji. So as far as weld quality, they are going to be close. Also, as awesome as Carbon frames and parts are, stay away from them, that carbon framed bike is super strong with riding forces, but lay that bad boy down and pinch the top tube or down tube and you bay get a really big surprise that could cost you a grand or two, and in the SHTF, it will be a total loss (unless you have vacuum  bags and a high heat high pressure autoclave.) Also carbon fiber frames can fail in quite a dramatic fashion, leaving little shards of carbon in you to pick out.

You really do get what you pay for up to a point as far as strength and quality. There is a point you start paying for weight and technology, and that means next to nothing in a grid down situation. I can expand on this in great detail if you would like, this is just the tip of the iceberg, i really do think that in a SHTF situation, bicycles will be essential. - J., Esse Quam Videri

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Transportation is so easy today, its laughable.  I can take a flight from Seattle, Washington to Hong Kong and arrive 13 hours later.  Before oil was processed to produce fuel, a trip from Seattle to Hong Kong took several months on a boat in cramped conditions and meager rations.  Millions, if not billions, of people take our current methods and modes of transportation for granted.  What if these modes of transportation were suddenly not available because of (insert scenario here)?  If you can't think of a scenario, I'll list a few:  Peak Oil, World War III, End of the Petro dollar, and/or a societal breakdown.  If cheap gasoline were no longer available, how would you get around?  This article will attempt to address concerns of what could happen and what a survivalist/prepper can do to become more prepared to get around in a post-disaster world. 

I want to first consider one of the most efficient methods of transportation: the bicycle.  The technology in making bicycles has changed very little over the past hundred years.  This is because the main concept is so simple and so efficient.  The main advances in technology for the bicycle have been the materials.  Expensive bicycles in today’s world are made out of light-weight, durable metals and plastics.  You can find cheaper bicycles, but they tend to be made from cheaper materials, which tend to be heavier and less durable.  As far as the type of bicycle I would go with, it depends on the terrain around you.  If speed and lightness is your requirement, a road bike may be for you; however, if there is rugged terrain around you, or if you want to go off-road a mountain bike would be best.  If you don't have much cash, a cheap bike can be found at almost any department store for around a hundred bucks.  I would, however, pony up a little more dough for a lighter, heavier-duty one at a bike store.  Be sure you know how to repair your bike.  Talk it over with your bike mechanic and purchase the tools you will need in order to fix your bike.  The most common things are brake pads, tires, inner tubes, chains, and cables (for the shifters and brakes).  Be sure to have a few spare wheels, tires, inner tubes, and as mentioned before, chains.  As always, there are pros and cons to using a bicycle for transportation.  The upside is the light weight, effort to energy ratio, speed, low cost and ease of maintenance.  The downside is low cargo capacity, the need for roads or a trail, and they are also easy to steal.  One thing to consider is in a TEOTWAWKI situation, in almost every garage around the United States there is a bicycle, and sometimes spare parts.    So if you're short of cash, you can skimp in the spare parts area and focus on something more important.

The Horse
People I've spoken to often praise horses as a main mode of transportation come TEOTWAWKI.  This is most likely due to the prevalence of the horse in books and movies of the old west.  While they do provide fast transportation, horses need a high level of care.  Horses often weigh around a thousand pounds and require a high input of feed to maintain energy levels.  Horses need plenty of grazing land and a fence or corral in order to be kept.  They also need to be fed during the winter, and the availability of hay or alfalfa will probably be almost nonexistent, depending upon where you live.  Unless you plan to ride bareback they also require a saddle and bridle which require maintenance.  Something else to consider is how others will see you.  Not many people will be riding around on a horse, and if people see you riding one, they perceive you as being wealthy.  You may then immediately become a target for theft or worse. 

If you do intend on living off of the land and traveling often, a horse may be the right mode of transportation for you, for the horse can graze constantly when you're not traveling.  If you have a group with you, a buggy or wagon can be beneficial.  The issue is obtaining one post-disaster.  Be sure to know where you're going and the land around you for horses need to be watered just as you do. 

Our Own Two Feet
People have been walking from place to place since...well, as long as we've existed.  Our own two feet are wonderful machines of transportation.  The only problem is they need to be covered, unless you've lived your life barefoot and don't intend to walk on random sharp objects.  What you can do now is purchase several pairs of well-fitted hiking boots and other footwear you will need.  Tennis shoes wear out quickly, but you can run faster in a pair of tennis shoes than in boots.  The important thing is to purchase what you think you will need, and to be on the safe side, buy a few extra pairs and store them away.  If you have a bug out bag, it might be wise to throw in one of these extra pairs of shoes. 

Socks are often overlooked when prepping.  If you can afford it, buy several dozen pairs of socks that are suited to your environment.  The colder the environment, the thicker the sock you want.  Consider wool versus cotton as well.  Some people prefer one over the other, you will have to make your own choice.  The ability to wick water away from your foot is a definite must.  When walking long distances, or hiking, moisture is the enemy; water-wicking socks help remove moisture away from your skin, keeping your feet dry.  In your first-aid kit, also be sure to have some mole-skin; the best cure for blisters.  Mole-skin can be found in any first-aid section of most pharmacies.  Another addition to consider for your first aid kit is a spray or lotion for combating foot fungus.  If your toenails are yellow or unusually thick, then they are infected with fungus and need to be treated.

Waterproof boots are a must-have if you live in or near a wet environment.  If a flood happens and you don't have a pair, you'll regret not purchasing them.  They also work great in the mud.  If you happen to live in a snowy environment, you will want to purchase a good pair of snowshoes, and skis for cross-country skiing.  The ideal way to transport goods in a snowy or icy environment would be a sled and a team of sled-dogs, but they require a lot of upkeep and training.  A simpler way to transport goods would be a travois, which I will cover next. 

A travois is easy to build out of natural materials, and can be used to transport a load of goods, or even a person.  It is built by crossing two long poles or straight pieces of wood.  These two pieces of wood are bound together at one end; strips of leather, 550 cord, or rope will do, while a net or piece of canvas can be secured along the length of both poles, forming a triangle.  The narrow end of the triangle then leads to a person or draft animal to drag the travois after you've loaded it with goods.  Native American Indians used travois extensively, carting around goods, and even their tepee homes.  They also made smaller travois to be used by their children as well as dogs.  If a harness is made, it can actually be easier on your back if you use a travois instead of a large backpack.  You can also transport an injured person on a travois stretcher. 

Two-Wheel Carts
Hand cart have been used for centuries, and they are more efficient that a travois. They also don't leave a rutted trail like a travois. They are relatively stable and can carry surprisingly large loads. Modern carts include garden carts and deer carriers. Modern carts use bicycle type tires, so you will have to plan for patching tires, just like with a bike. And like a bike, the tires can be treated with Slime, internally, for self-sealing of minor punctures. There are also "airless" foam-filled tire available,m although these have greater weight and rolling resistance than air-filled tires..

Water Transportation
Water transportation used to be the main method for transporting large amounts of goods before the invention of gasoline and diesel.  It is still the main method of transportation, but by use of large oceangoing barges carrying thousands of tons of materials, commodities and products.  What do these barges rely on?  Fuel. 

If you live by a body of water, or the ocean you definitely want to consider using water transportation.  Canoes, kayaks, floats, tubes, and row boats in general are excellent ways of traveling on the water.  They also provide a platform to fish from in deeper waters.  Live near a lake?  You most likely already have a kayak, canoe or small waterborne vessel.  If you don't, put that on your priority list.  If you're thinking about a kayak, there are several varieties.  Recreational kayaks tend to be shorter and wider, offering more stability.  They are, however, much slower than the racing kayaks, which tend to be slimmer and lighter.  There are lighter recreational kayaks, but will cost more money due to the materials used.  If you're into SUP (Stand Up Paddling), that's okay, but a SUP board is more for recreational use than practical use.  The only practical use I can see for a SUP board is for spear or bow fishing, and even then it's not very practical.

Another thing to keep in mind is storing supplies in your boat, kayak or canoe.  Keep a few gallons of water, dried food and fishing supplies in the storage compartments, because you never know when that may come in handy down the line.  You can even think of it as your bug-out-boat.

Others Animals
Some may think using a cow or a donkey for transportation isn't very logical.  At first, I would agree, but it depends.  As a last resort, a light rider can ride a cow or donkey but it isn't going to go very fast.  Cows of course also provide more than just a mount.  A dairy cow can provide milk, providing that it hasn't dried off.  A cow can also be used for meat as we very well know, so don't begrudge the cow as a mode of transportation.  Cows as well as goats can also be used as pack animals.  Be sure the load is evenly distributed along the animal's back, making the animal more comfortable and less likely to give you trouble during the trek.  Goats also give milk as well as cows as well as offering meat.  Sheep don't make very good pack animals. Horses aren't widely known for their milk, yet there are people, mostly in Mongolia, that are known for drinking horse milk.  Unless you have previous knowledge of milking a horse, do not attempt to milk a horse!  Attempting to do so can endanger your life.  I once had trouble milking one of our goats (it did not want to be milked), I can't imagine the amount of trouble a horse can give you. 

Oxen or other large draft animals can be used to pull a wagon for group transportation or carrying large amounts of supplies.  Needless to say these animals will need to be taken care of, and the wagon will need to be maintained and fixed.  This includes spare parts, tools and a knowledge of carpentry.  These animals can also be used on a farm, for plowing, if you have the land available, and cleared land with good soil for growing crops. 

Man's best friend can help you in a number of various ways.  They may not be able to carry much, but they can be given some food stuffs or other gear to carry, provided you have saddlebags that fit the animal.  Dogs, if trained, can be hunting companions as well.  They can aid in defense, and also be a wonderful companion.  They don't take much to feed and generally take care of themselves very well.  If you also have several other animals, or a farm/ranch, dogs can also be trained to help protect your herd of animals.  Be sure your dog is trained, for domesticated dogs have been known to kill chickens, goats and other livestock simply because it is in their nature as a predatory animal. 

Hopefully this article points you in a direction you want to take for post-disaster transportation.  Once you have an idea, investigate your method further, and ask more questions of a subject matter expert.  The best thing is to adapt to your environment, now and in the future.  None of us have all of the answers, but if we adapt, and work together we will survive anything that comes our way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

[Editor's Note: A short draft edition of this article was previously posted in a discussion forum].

I am a very new prepper, but feel that I am making some decent advances in my prepping goals. Although my preps may be much smaller then most, I still think I am doing better then most of the general population, and have budgeted for weekly and monthly improvements to my preps.

While reading this and other survival based blogs and forums (not so much here, but other places get real out of hand), I've noticed that the conversation or topic tends to lean towards guns, ammo, tactical gear etc. Now granted, these are important topics, but there are other equally important topics. I personally have what I consider to be a good stock of firearms, ammo and parts, but my opinion is, they are just tools. My weapons are a tool to protect and feed my family. I would like to discuss another survival tool, a garden tractor.

When I say garden tractor, most people may be thinking of the 4-wheel drive Kubota/John Deere/Cub Cadet with a diesel, 3 point hitch and bucket loader that you see new at your county fair for approximately $15,000 new. Those machines are actually more referred to as compact utility tractors, and not garden tractors. If you have the means to make that type of purchase, then I say go for it. I'm your average blue collar middle class guy with a wife and two young sons (4 and 6), to say that $15,000 is out of my price range is the understatement of the year! Also, keep in mind that the new tractors on the market, even down to that size, can be as high tech as new automobiles with their computer modules and electronics. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be able to repair a power-train control module in my yard today, let alone during a TEOTWAWKI situation.

I'll start with, I am partial to John Deere, but you can choose your flavor if you decide to look into do this as well. The key item to look for, no matter who the manufacturer, is that it have some type of hydraulics. It can be a hydrostatic transmission, or a hydraulic lift for the mower deck. You can add a hydraulic system to any garden tractor (anything with an engine to run the pump actually), but that is well outside of my knowledge and the scope of this information. If you do add a hydro system to your machine, from there you can work along with the following. The key is that it be equipped with a hydraulic pump, once you have that, let the modifications begin.

This all started when I needed a new lawn mower, and there was no way I was going to the big box stores and spending $3,000 on a pile of plastic that wouldn't last. I knew I wanted a machine to mow the lawn, plow/disc/cultivate a garden, grade the driveway and run a snow blower or snow blade in bad weather. I started my search and landed on a 1976 John Deere Model 312. Some people look at this as a collectible tractor since they wee only built for two years, so if you're a John Deere purist, you may want to stop reading here. As I appreciate what the machine is, again, in my opinion it is a tool to perform a job.

The 312 was offered as an entry level tractor for a couple years, but I found that tractors, like cars, are easily up-gradable when pulling parts from a similar series/model. In it's stock form, it has a single circuit hydraulic system that raises the deck, a 12HP Kohler that is virtually bullet proof and still uses points and condenser no electronic ignition, has a hydrostatic transmission and weighs just shy of 1,000 lbs without any attachments or driver. When you go to the big box stores, you see them advertise 20 hp and up engines, but I think they are using the “new” math. This is 12HP but somewhere in the range of 27 ft lbs of torque. This is a stout machine!

From there, it's time to start working. For your rear ground engaging attachments, there is no need for a 3 point hitch on this size tractor. Almost every garden tractor manufacturer has offered a sleeve hitch as an option, or you can built your own. In it's simplest form, it's boxed tubing that is hinged onto the back of your tractor that can be raised or lowered manually or with some mechanical power. Mine is hydraulic, but I have seen electric actuators, electric winches or just handle levers. Here is a link to a piece at Weekend Freedom Machines--a great resource for John Deere owners)- to their PDF blueprints to build your own sleeve hitch for a majority of the older John Deere machines like the one I own.

The attachments you purchase or make have C channel that fits over the box tubing and pinned in place to give a "positive lock" to the tractor, instead of just a pin through a hole that can pivot. Now you can work your implements into the ground.

With mine, I run a 1 bottom moldboard plow, 2 gangs of 10" discs, a cultivator and a small box scraper. If you are unfamiliar with the use of these attachments, the moldboard plow is used to break ground or turn already broken ground. Setting up the plow properly does take some trial and error. If set too deep, it will stop any tractor in it's tracks. Set to shallow and it will want to keep jumping out of the ground. When set up properly, the plow will “curl” the row of soil over onto the previous passes furrow, down between 8-10 inches. The disc harrow is then used to chop the clumps, sod, organic material into a finer, more consistent and workable. One quick tip, when making your garden hills, you don't need a "hiller". After you're done discing the soil, raise up your disc harrow, spine the gangs around backwards and angle at about a 20 degree angle. 2-3 passes in the same direction will result in a 8-to-12 inch hill, depending on your soil. The cultivator is of course for weed duties. I would advise that when you purchase, or build your cultivator, you make it adjustable, so you are able to move the tines so they will straddle your your crops while they are small, then can move back together to keep down the weeds in the paths between your rows. Yes, you did read that correctly, even with this size machine, you can do work straddling your crops while they are young. With my machine, there is 10” of ground clearance, that amount will vary by model. Lastly, the box scraper is normally used by landscapers, I used it mainly to grade out my driveway.. In the garden, I like to use it to move around my compost. At the start of the season, my compost pile will be a 4-6 feet tall mound, right next to my garden site. Instead of spreading by shovel, I will back up to the pile and bite into it with the scraper and drag it out around the garden.

Last year's garden was just about 1/3 acre, will have to see what next year brings. It seems to get larger every year. I have measured out my property, and by using some simple grid paper, I found that I can plant up to just under a 1 acre garden in a survival situation. I do know people that tend 2 acres with this same set up. That size is very time consuming, but way far more efficient then tending that size garden by hand.

As far as implements for the rear, your imagination is your only limit. If you can weld it or bolt it to a piece of c channel, you can shove it in the ground and drag it along. One of my friends was concerned about loosening up the soil deeper them his plow was going. He bought a single 24" tooth from a piece of heavy machinery for $20 and tacked on the C channel bracket. When engaged in the ground, it is 18" under ground ripping the soil up. I have made a very simple type of lift for mine. I have a 6 foot long piece of box steel, that I notched and drilled on one end to properly attach to my sleeve hitch. The other end I drilled and bolted a couple link long section of chain with a hook on it. When attached to the hitch, using the hydraulics to lift the sleeve hitch, I can now lift heavy items with a chain, instead of potentially injuring myself trying to lift something way too heavy. Think of this along the lines of an engine hoist in a mechanics shop (actually where I got the idea from).

Now for the front hydraulics. Since you already have a hydraulic pump, it is easy to run a single circuit to the front. On the hydraulic control valve, where the ports are that go to the existing cylinder (deck raise etc), use 2 T fittings, and run 2 lines to the front, with couplers for attachments. On mine, I decided to go with a second circuit to the front, which was a very simple task. I purchased a 2 circuit valve from a higher model 300 series tractor at a salvage yard for $40, and ran a second set of lines. Now I have the ability to not only raise and lower my plow out front, but also angle side to side. This also gives the option of installing a front bucket loader. Yes, they have bucket loaders for this size machine. I have used them before for garden tractors, but I haven't purchased on yet for mine.

For the most part, the standard front attachments aren't really survival tools (unless the zombies are slow enough to chase them down with my snow blower), so some may ask, why go through the upgrades for the front hydraulics? First, I'm a guy, like playing with plows and snow blowers and tinkering with stuff. Second, and more to the point, think outside the box a little.. I now have 2 hydraulic circuits independent of each other, that can power almost anything. Keep in mind, most people in America will throw out an item that doesn't work absolutely perfect and just "go buy another". I got a log splitter from someone at work that he seized the motor on. There's this stuff called oil that you are supposed to check periodically to see if it's still there. Anyhow, I pulled the motor and control valve off, leaving behind the ram, wedge and stop. I took the fittings out of the ram and the info for the couplers to my new hydraulics to my local NAPA. Asked for 2 hoses, 6 feet long with those ends, 10 minutes later I was out of there. Now, my tractor hydraulics operate my log splitter. Instead of 2 engines and 2 control valves to maintain and have parts for, there is only 1. I find that much easier to plan for.

At a yard sale, I found a generator for sale that wouldn't run. Bought it for $30. Never took the time to find out why it wouldn't run, just separated the generator from the engine, make a quick little mounting plate for the front of the tractor, added a pulley to the generator and lined up with pulley on front of engine. Now an easily portable generator and again, only one engine to worry about. I am currently looking for a larger generator through.

Which brings be to the issue of noise pollution. If left in it's stock form, this is far from quiet, and you would let the whole neighborhood know what's going on in a grid down situation. For my machine, and most garden tractors of this era, they have a cylindrical type muffler. With some tinkering, here is what I've found and the results. You can open the muffler by cutting at the seam and removing one end of the muffler, like opening a can of soup. Once inside, gut it. Mine had some of the matting in place still, but I would say, whatever you find in there, gut it. Now get a roll of high temp fiberglass matting. I used the material that is used for making gaskets in propane fireplaces. Line the cylindrical walls with the matting, I went three layers thick, then cover with a thin steel mesh to keep in place. Tack weld the mesh in a couple of spots just to hold it in place, then reinstall the end that you cut off and weld back in place. It is hard to describe the sound difference in the written word. I'm not going to say that this is as quiet as an electric car or anything like that. But, it is rather amazing how quiet it is. I can be sitting on the tractor with the engine at full throttle and talk on my cell phone. I can hear the person on the phone no problem, and the person I am talking to can barely hear the tractor!

Some other odds and ends to help in multitasking. I have installed 4 off road type flood lights, 2 in the front and 2 in the rear. I can work the ground or whatever else I need to do at night, or light up an area for other types of work.. If you plan to do this, I would suggest doing as I did. Find out what types of light bulbs your automobiles use, then find off road lights for your tractor that use those same bulbs. Remember, your vehicles may be lawn ornaments in a TEOTWAWKI situation, might as well use a couple of their spare parts.

Security, yes, I said security. On most garden tractors, the sheet metal that surrounds the dash board is merely for looks, and serve no structural purpose, so have some fun with it. In the panel directly under the steering wheel, facing the operators seat, I cut a hole and on the back side mounted a 10"x8"x8" metal box that I picked up at a yard sale. That's where my pistol rides (Bernardelli P018). The right side of the machine is where the brake pedal is, so the left side is clear. On the left side of machine, I made a box out of sheet metal on an angle with padding inside, which is bolted to the tractor's sheet metal. That's where my Mossberg Model 500 shotgun rides.

Now for the best part, prices:

1977 John Deere 312 with mower deck - $600
Sleeve Hitch OE John Deere - $80
Moldboard Plow - Free - Look around, lots of people have them and they are just rusting outside
Cultivator - $100
Disc Harrow - $150
Box Scrapper - $125 - Nice for grading driveway, and spreading large amounts of compost in garden.
Used parts for hydraulic conversion - $125
Snow Blower - $250 - This was a right time right place price.
Rear Ag Tires - $175 - you can use turf tires with chains in dirt and snow, but face it, ag tires just look cool! If getting new tires, I found the cheapest ballast was to fill tires with windshield wash fluid. Won't freeze added 48 lbs per tire and I believe it to be the least toxic affordable option if it were to leak into the garden.

I am sure I am forgetting a few items, but as you can see, this is a very versatile tool and simplifies how many power sources you need to maintain and store parts for. Even with whatever it is I am forgetting, I know I have less then $2500, over the course of a couple of years, in the whole set up....and it mows my lawn too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am not trying to offend anyone or represent myself as an expert. I know there are many preppers on this forum that will see none of what I am writing here as new. However, some people may need this information or have not thought of it. As for me a lot of this was learned over 13 years in the active Army and seven years as a policeman. I was placed working and living in some of the most inhospitable weather situations someone could find themselves in. Enough of my ranting and I will get to the point.

As I was finishing my final preparing for winter and watching the news about the storm hitting the plains states I realized that I should call my family to make sure they were ready for bad weather. This caused me to get a migraine real quick. Then I thought that I should put this all in writing so I could send it to them every winter and make my life easier. With that I figured why not share this information to everyone who reads this forum.

The first thing you should consider is weatherproofing your winter gear and camping gear just in case you actually need it. For my Goretex jackets (Yes even Goretex gets soaked thru eventually) and my canvas work jackets I waterproof them using Camp Dry (you can use any commercial waterproofing spray but I prefer this one). I recommend doing this outside if possible due to the fumes or in a well-ventilated area. It can also contaminate the area where you are working, due to silicone overspray. Also test the fabric of what you are about to weatherproof to make sure it doesn’t stain or ruin it. If you decided to use this product or others inside put something on the floor under the work area to protect it from staining.

For Bivvy Sacks for sleeping bags also use a product like Camp Dry to keep your sleeping bag dry. Also use a seam sealing product to make sure the seams are extra protected. You don’t want water just pouring in at the material seem and causing you to get soaked. Now I know they say the seams are already sealed, but do you trust them with your warmth and safety?

Now on to the topic of weatherproofing your boots. If they are leather boots use a product like Snow Seal and liberally coat the boots and then put them in the oven at 180 degrees for 1 hour (yes I said oven, by doing this you open the pores of the leather and allow it to absorb the Snow Seal. If your boots are made of something other than leather, then use Camp Dry, of course test the boots first to make sure it doesn’t ruin them. Wet feet can make you miserable real quick along with being a deciding factor in if you survive or not. Now to socks, cotton socks are evil! They will cause you to lose toes or worse. The reason for this is cotton doesn’t wick moisture away from the skin very well, but it is great at wicking away the heat from your feet causing your feet to stay cold and end up freezing. So get wool socks or advanced fabric socks as they are the best choice. They wick moisture away from the skin and will still keep your feet warm even when wet.  Always remember warm feet are happy feet and will help you survive.

Now your vehicle as you will most likely depend on this greatly in bad weather. Make sure your headlights are working properly and are bright after a few years they start to get dim and should be replaced. Also if you have the type of headlights that have a clear plastic cover you will probably notice that they are milky white. You need to fix this with a commercially available headlight polishing kit and follow the directions. I found one at a local auto parts store for fewer than thirty dollars. It made my headlights like new.

Windshield wipers should be in good working order and of a good quality that won’t clog with ice and stop working properly. If they are bad replace them before you need them. Not seeing and driving are not a good combination, with that also make sure that you have a winter grade windshield wash as if it freezes up then it won’t help you.
Next is your battery and alternator, the two things that almost always fail when bad weather hits. Go to an auto parts store and have them put the tester on them to make sure they are okay. This will go a long way in easing worries about your vehicle not starting when you need it most.

As for vehicle maintenance not only does your oil need to be changed regularly but so does your antifreeze, power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid, differential and transfer case oil if you have them. With these an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Now to your emergency kit for the car, in this should be a minimum of jumper cables (not everyone has them, but every care has a battery so if you have them you can get a jump), a set of work gloves (for changing tires and such) a knit cap or some other winter headgear, warm gloves, blanket’s, a few common tools (to tighten battery cables and such), emergency markers (I prefer flares and strobe lights over reflectors, as reflectors require headlights to hit them to be seen). Also having a days’ worth of food and water in the vehicle is nice in case you get stranded in your car. You can get emergency food rations and water from most survival or prepping web sites.  Having sand for traction and a compact shovel to dig out is a must also. You can also make traction ramps buy cutting heavy grate material about the width of 1 ½ the size of your tires and 3 feet long. Using this can also help you or someone else get unstuck in snow. Tire chains or snow tires are a must and if your tread is getting to the point of being only ¼ an inch deep get new tires. I know this seems a lot for your vehicle but when the worst case scenario that you never thought would happen to you does happen you will be better off for it. I know there is more for this topic but this is a good start. I also add my bug-out kit to my vehicle every time I get in it to drive. Also my bug-out kit and vehicle kit are one and the same. It makes it larger and heavier, but then I am never in the situation of saying why did I leave that at home

Now for the house besides back-up heating, food, water, lighting and the normal prepping stuff for bugging in there are a few items to consider. On backup heating you have to be careful due to carbon monoxide poisoning. I use the Mr. Heater MH18B Portable “Big Buddy” Heater by Mr. Heater as it has an automatic low oxygen shutoff system and tip-over safety shutoff.  If you don’t have something that senses when the oxygen is low or is made for indoor use then you need to have someone stay up preferably in shifts to watch the heater along with making sure there is enough ventilation in the room so there is not a build-up of Carbon Monoxide. This also goes for daytime heating and also for cooking. For lighting using low sulfur mineral instead of lamp oil in your oil lamps as it is cleaner and safer. Also it will keep you from having to repaint your house when everything is back to normal. This also goes for candles they will stain the pain in a house along with being a fire hazard. This is since we don’t run around using candles every day we will make mistakes that can and will be tragic. On that note with heating, cooking, and lighting you should have a couple a house-sized ABC fire extinguishers for emergencies.

You need one or two heavy tarps, parachute cord, and small sandbags so that you can put a temporary patch on your roof should a tree fall due to ice and snow and uses your house as a target. For windows having 2 inch wood screws, sheet plastic, and a couple of sheets of plywood to close up a broken window or door is a lifesaver. Also if you can precut the plywood for the windows it makes the repair a lot quicker.

A note on shoving snow, shoveling snow is considered heavy strenuous labor. It is also one of the leading causes of heart attacks in winter. So like any heavy workout take 15 minutes to warm up so your body realizes you are about to do something difficult. While working on removing the snow take many breaks. I normally only shovel snow for 15 minutes at a time then take a break so my heart rate can go back down. Also it may be cold but stay hydrated.

I hope everyone has a great winter, and hope that at least some of this information is helpful.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I've been struggling with an age-old problem trying to find a safe way to carry gasoline in my vehicle. I found a way I would like to pass along. Typical five gallon plastic or metal cans don't cut it. I'm a former EMT, so I've seen what a collision does to a vehicle carrying a five gallon can in the trunk, and it's not pretty.

I want a metal shell around a plastic bladder filed with aviation foam.  Paranoid?  Yes.  Possible? Absolutely! It turns out you can get fairly low cost racing fuel cells from several sources that meet the bill - and two of them will fit in the trunk of my Prius or back of my Jeep. See this at Amazon: RJS Racing 32 Gallon Fuel Cell. These sell for $269 including shipping. You can get the same fuel tank without the metal shield but with aviation foam for about $150.

In my Prius, that gives me an un-refueled range of 3,330 miles, allowing a coast to coast run with gas to spare or dash and back x2 from Northern California to Northern Idaho.

Which gives me more options than the average bear. - Michael M.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Regarding the recent link in in SurvivalBlog to the articles on Converting a 1973-1991 Suburban to Cummins diesel engine, I have experience with the B and ISB series Cummins engines in several applications and believe they are fine powerplants. However, this swap IS an electronic engine and transmission, as described. And it is not necessarily something easily fixable in the kind of situation you envision.

I would suggest that a mechanical engine (which does include the earlier 12-valve B Cummins sixes and its four cylinder sibling the 4BT) and a manual transmission might be more suitable.

Several possibilities exist for this size of vehicle. I am sort of partial to the old Series 53 Detroit Diesel, all mechanical, simple unit injectors, nearly idiot proof. That's why these two cycle Detroits went into so many LTL day cab trucks: union drivers couldn't wreck them.

If you don't really need this big a vehicle, I would look at some of the smaller Japanese and German (Mercedes) engines with Bosch style injection pumps. These engines are in many, many small industrial machines, gensets, etc. so parts are available. They are not high horsepower but they are all mechanical and generally very robust. isuzu, Mitsubishi, Nissan all have some great choices. With Mercedes you are looking at the OM 616 and 617. They are lower horsepower, very reliable units. There are some all mechanical VM Cento engines out there as well. Parts support isn't quite as extensive but is available and they are quite robust, especially the six cylinder inline that went into FedEx and Airborne package delivery trucks for years. This engine is also widely used in marine sport boating applications and was installed in Jaguar cars in Germany by a tuner company with good results. - Roger R.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012