Water Storage & Filters Category

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hi Hugh,

Is the new Clorox Concentrated, splash-less bleach still recommended for purifying water? I can't find the Clorox I bought for years. It seems all bleach is now concentrated. I am reading the blog this morning and people talking about bleaching their water (as we are taught to do). Well, it just occurred to me that the 3-pack Clorox that I bought from Sam's Club awhile ago has not been doing the job it normally does. Yes, I know that they now have lemon and lavender, but I stay away from those. What I bought was the new "concentrated" splash-less regular bleach. I can't smell the bleach in it. I cannot find the old Clorox that I bought before, not even in Walmart. Believe me when I tell you that the rags I wash do not come out clean the way they used to. I bleach my shower tile also, and that has not come out the way it did with the old Clorox. I called the company and talked to their service department. They said that people had complained about the smell, so they changed the formula but that it should still have the same cleaning power. I told them that with my repeated use of the old Clorox and now this new formula, there is a big difference and that I was not happy with the change. I went to Walmart and bought their "Great Value" brand. It says it is concentrated, but I can smell the bleach in it, and it works better than the new Clorox, concentrated version. Does anyone know what is going on in the bleach prepping world? Thanks for your time, - NM

Hugh Replies: A Google search reveals a dizzying array of information regarding the formula change but no definitive answers. It seems they changed the formula sometime in 2009 to contain a high percentage of sodium hypochlorite, in an effort to reduce the amount of chlorine shipped by rail (and the associated hazards and legalities). Clorox claims their new formula contains a higher percentage of Chlorine to reduce packaging costs. You are apparently not the only person who has noticed a reduction in its effectiveness as a cleaning product. However, I'm going to have to put this question to our readers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

As background, I am a water rights attorney with multiple engineer degrees who formerly worked as a drinking water treatment plant operator.  Given that water is a preppers most precious resource, there is no lack of advice for preppers about water treatment, storage, and procurement.  Despite this, very few people truly understand where their water comes from and the factors that influence the availability of water in rivers, lakes, and streams. However, this information is crucial for planning water supply and retreat locations. Below are some important considerations regarding water sources and delivery. Some of this is information specific to the western U.S., but the rest is universal.


The 100th Meridian, which runs north and south through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, has long been an important reference for western settlers.  This line is considered a dividing line between lands requiring irrigation for the production of crops to the west and lands to the east enjoying sufficient precipitation to support a crop without irrigation.  Much of the United States and the American Redoubt lies to the west of this line.

Because of the arid nature of these lands and the need for water, early settlers (primarily miners) established a unique system for allocating this scare resource.  In the west, this is known as the Prior Appropriations System and is based on the mantra "first in time, first in right."   All states west of the 100th Meridian utilize some form of the Prior Appropriations System.  Under this system, water is allocated based on the timing of its first use.  Thus, the first person to divert from a stream has a superior right to use the water over all people who come later.  The earliest users are referred to as "senior appropriators”.  Senior appropriators are entitled to receive their water before those junior to them.  In the event of a drought, senior appropriators can "call" for water and require upstream junior appropriators to cease diversions until the senior's water right is fulfilled.  As an example, a call during a severe drought may require anyone with water rights obtained after 1895 to cease diversions, but a call during a wetter year may only require rights acquired after 1970 to stop diverting.

The right to use the water is documented by a water right decree, which can be sold separate and apart from land.  Water right decrees limit the amount, place, timing, and purpose for which water may be used.  Water right decrees also assign a priority date, which dictates seniority.  While this description is a gross simplification of how it works, the basics are all that is important for purposes of this article. This description is based on my experience in Colorado, and there are variations among the states.

As the water demands have increased, water users have developed complex methods to ensure that their water right is available even during droughts.  These methods include augmentation plans where senior water is released from an upstream source to compensate for a more junior diversion at another location; or exchanges where junior water is diverted at an upstream location, but senior water is provided somewhere downstream to satisfy a downstream senior call or recharge ponds where surface water is stored in ponds for the sole purpose of recharging the ground water to compensate for delayed groundwater depletions that result from well pumping; or transbasin diversions where water is transferred over mountains from one water basin to another.

As you can imagine, this system can get complicated quickly.  States maintain massive databases documenting water rights and seniority. In Colorado, the Division of Water Resources and the State Engineer are charged with administering the prior appropriations system.

As a result of these ever-evolving water delivery schemes, most rivers and streams west of the 100th meridian have been transformed into nothing more than a complex pipe network with little resemblance to its natural condition.  The same is true in the eastern U.S. as a result of networks of dams.  While most people understand that dams dramatically alter natural flow patterns, the impact of dams often pales in comparison to the effect of the prior appropriation system.  It is absolutely crucial for all preppers to be aware of the system of water use within their state and to have a basic understanding of how it influences the flow of rivers and the levels of lakes and reservoirs.   How a river or stream near your retreat looks today may have little resemblance to what it will look during TEOWAWKI when natural flow conditions are restored.  Below I highlight some of these issues and describe what you can do to prepare for them and evaluate the reliability of your water supply.


Dams are prevalent throughout the United States for flood prevention, navigation, water storage, and even recreation.  While dams are arguably useful for these purposes now, their existence can create significant hazards and uncertainty during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event.

Most larger dams have outlet works that can be opened and closed to regulate the height of water stored behind them.  Some also have a spillway, which is basically an emergency release mechanism to prevent water from overtopping a dam when the water coming into the reservoir is greater than the water that can be released by the normal outlet works.  The purpose of a spillway is to protect the dam from damage.

If and when SHTF, it is difficult to predict how all of these dams will be left (i.e. outlets opened or closed).  If outlets are left open most reservoirs will eventually drain completely.  If outlets are left closed, reservoirs will likely fill and cause spillway releases or will overtop dams.  The status of the outlet valves will dictate the water level in the reservoir and will influence the flow in the downstream body of water.  The effect will vary dramatically depending on the size of the dam. 

The status of outlets will also dictate downstream safety. Dams without spillways whose outlets are left closed will create a significant downstream flood danger.  As a reservoir fills, the water exerts increasing pressure on the dam. The increase pressure can result in earthern dams becoming saturated which weakens the structure significantly.  Moreover, if a dam is overtopped, the flows can scour the dam which weakens it.  Even dams with spillways may be weakened from repeated spill events.  The breach of a dam can cause massive flooding and damage as it results in a huge release of water.  Here is a link to a report of a large dam failure outside of Estes Park, Colorado: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn_Lake_Dam.  The bottom line is that you do not want to be downstream when a dam fails, and the likelihood of such a failure will increase during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event, as maintenance of these structures ceases and they are left in dangerous conditions.

Moreover, spillway releases are nothing more than partially-controlled flooding and can cause serious damage.  Here is a link to a photograph showing a spillway in operation.  The spillway is to the left and the outlet works are on the right.  Thus, even where dams are behaving as designed, they can cause serious downstream carnage.

Being aware of dams near your home or retreat is important for both safety and for water supply purposes.  If the level of the lakes or streams that you plan to rely on when SHTF are influenced by dams, you need to be aware of this to adequately assess water availability and to plan for any changes that may occur when the operation and maintenance of these structures abruptly ends.

Transmountain Diversions

Despite the fact that water is the most important resource for maintaining human life, humans continually chose to settle in locations with inadequate water supplies. As a result, massive water projects have become necessary to carry water from places of abundance to places of need.  These projects can include hundreds of miles of pipelines and require massive pump stations that cannot operate without electricity.  As a result, many population centers receive an artificially-augmented water supply that would not otherwise be available. The instant these projects cease to operate, many places (like Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and many other large metropolitan areas) will experience an immediate water shortage.

These projects not only impact the amount of water that comes out of your faucet, but also impact the flows of water in rivers and streams.  This occurs in two ways.

First, many of these projects do not use pipelines for their full distance.  Rather they discharge into reservoirs, which in turn make releases to rivers thereby transporting the water to its place of use.  In Colorado, there are approximately 24 transmountain diversions which take water from the west side of the continental divide and convey it to the front range population centers.  Without this water, the growth of Colorado's front range would be severely limited.  Denver, in particular, relies on massive transmountain diversions to meet the needs of its inhabitants.  On average more than 500,000 acre feet of water is diverted across the continental divide in Colorado each year. This is equivalent to approximately 163 billion gallons of water.

The situation in California is far worse.  In fact, just three projects in California-- the Central Valley Project, California State Water Project, and the Colorado River Aqueduct-- transport approximately 9 million acre feet of water per year. This is nearly 3 trillion gallons of water that would otherwise exist in a completely different place.  Smaller scale transbasin pipelines also exist in Wyoming, Arizona, and Utah, and others are being planned.

Even where these projects are not being directly diverted into rivers and streams, they eventually end up there.  The wastewater that you create when you wash the dishes or flush the toilet goes to a treatment plant where it is "cleaned up" and then released back into the environment.  Unless this water is discharged into the ocean it goes to a river and other people use this water for drinking, washing, growing crops, et cetera.

As a result of all this water, the natural flow of many rivers is being artificially augmented.  This is incredibly important to understand because, when SHTF and these projects stop operating, the status quo of many rivers will change dramatically.  What was formerly a flourishing river year-round near your retreat or home today may be a dry creek bed eight months out of the year once SHTF.  As a result, it is imperative that preppers do sufficient diligence before committing themselves and their families to a particular water source.  Having all the beans, bullets, and bandages in the world does you no good if the water source you planned on using ceases to exist when SHTF.  I urge you all to do as much research as you can tolerate to ensure that you do not find yourself in this situation.  Whether you're selecting a retreat location or just a home where you plan to bug in, you absolutely must vet your water supply.

Effect Other Water Users

Obviously, water availability and quality are important considerations when selecting a retreat location, or simply selecting your main residence (if you are planning to shelter in place).  People often look for properties with springs, wells, or nearby surface water.  As mentioned above, the fact these water sources appear viable in present day is no guarantee that they will be around to serve your needs come TEOTWAWKI.

First, you must consider water quantity.  The prior appropriation system, at least in Colorado, is carefully administered by the State to ensure that those with senior water rights receive their water first regardless of their physical location on a stream reach.  Once the ball drops, it is highly unlikely that there will be people running around administering water rights and running the highly complicated computer models that keep the system running smoothly.  Instead, anyone capable of diverting water is going to do so, regardless of the priority system.  As a result, downstream users may discover that there is no water left for them to divert, regardless of any water rights they may have.  This is particularly true if your water supply is dependant on transbasin diversions. As a result, it is important to be cognizant of your upstream neighbors and their ability to divert water. If all the water is diverted before it gets to you, then your expensive riverfront property is essentially worthless.

Many wells, mostly alluvial wells, are also influenced by nearby surface waters. Thus, you could find yourself in a situation where the creek through your property is dry because of upstream diverters and has in turn caused the level of your well to drop so significantly that it is no longer viable. You don't want to be that guy. Know what influences the availability of water in your wells, springs, and surface water before your rely on them as a back up water supply. It is also important to have a general idea of how much water your upstream neighbors are capable of diverting.

The second consideration is water quality. As Coloradoans learned in the recent flooding, once wastewater plants stop operating, the river and stream become polluted very quickly.   Wastewater treatment plants are designed to collect sewage, treat it, and then discard the "clean" water to surface waters.  Many are also designed to discharge the sewage directly to the receiving body in emergency situations to protect the collection system.  There will be no waste water treatment in TEOTWAWKI.  Thus, any sewage that is still collected in the system is going to be discharged directly to a surface water.  You do not want to be downstream of this. Even if the collection system is not operational, massive amounts of human waste and trash are going to find their way into our lakes and streams.  As a result, being located upstream from these pollution sources is crucial.  The potential for contamination is massive.

This contamination can affect both surface water and ground water.  Recently in Colorado, many wells and springs were contaminated after being inundated with flood waters containing raw sewage.  Once ground water is contaminated there is little that can be done to remediate the source.  Instead, one must treat that water before use.  By locating yourself above potential contamination sources, you are protecting the long term viability of your water supply.

As described in the recommendations section below, the best way to avoid both water quality and water quantity issues is to locate yourself as high as possible in your water basin.


The issues described above can be avoided and mitigated as described below.

  1. Research

    There are many resources available to people who want to learn about where their water comes from and what factors influence the flow in nearby rivers, lakes, and streams.   A good starting point is U.S. Geologic Survey.  They maintain stream gages across the country.  This information can give you a general idea of the average flows and the severity of droughts and floods.  Sometimes, they can even show you how the flow of a river has changed as a result of a particular water project coming online. 

    The next level of research would be to find out exactly what factors influence your water source.  In Colorado, the Division of Water Resources maintains a massive database of water rights and diversion records.  There are also maps that show the location of various water rights.  You can use the maps and the water rights database to identify major diverters as well as the presence of transbasin diversions.

    It is also helpful to contact a local representative.  In Colorado, the state is divided into water districts.  Each water district has a water commissioner whose job it is to be intimately familiar with the water rights in that area.  If your state uses a different system, you can try talking with your regional water or natural resources office.  Regardless of the exact system in your state, there will be people who can answer your questions.

    Water is a huge issue in most western states, so there is often a large volume of information available simply through a google search.  Information about large water projects can typically be obtained through google.  You may even be able to find information about operating protocols. One word of caution, however, is that many states protect specific information about dams and large water projects because of security concerns.  At different times, I have been required to submit information about my work affiliations and need for information regarding certain dams before being granted access.  I can only assume that this information is being stored somewhere.  Moreover, be smart about the search terms to use when looking for this information so that you don't inadvertently get flagged because it looks like you are doing something nefarious.

    To the extent that you can, I would also recommend contacting a water rights attorney.  This is particularly true if you are planning to spend any significant amount of money on a retreat.  While attorneys aren't the most popular people, water rights attorneys are a rare breed and are extremely knowledgeable about water issues.  Many are also politically conservative and would be happy to help if they can.  Because every state is a little different, you may have to make a few calls before you get to the right person, but you will be glad you did.   The bottom line is that you need to inform yourself.

  2. Seek out Headwaters Areas

    If you are looking to relocate or purchase a retreat take time to look for properties in headwaters areas (i.e. the origins of stream and rivers).  The higher up you are in the basin, the less interference you can expect from other water diverters.  This is important for both water quantity and quality. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to position yourself so that your water security is not dictated by actions of someone upstream of you. There is no doubt that water will be a serious source of conflict during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI situation. You can keep yourself out of these conflicts by strategically locating yourself and by treating this resource with respect to avoid undue attention from downstream users. This may be less important in areas east of the 100th Meridian where there are fewer water scarcity concerns, but fewer upstream diverters also means fewer contamination issues.   

  3. Plan your irrigation practices

    Another important thing to consider is how you will irrigate your fields.  Today, more and more, farmers are trading-in their flood irrigation for pressurized drip irrigation systems and sprinklers. These systems are great in that they conserve water and can reduce labor costs.  However, without a way to pressurize these systems, usually by pumps, they will be of little use when SHTF.  As a result, anyone planning to rely on irrigation to grow crops should construct an irrigation method that relies on gravity, even if they don't plan to use that system pre-TEOTWAWKI.  This can be a massive undertaking requiring serious earth moving and planning in order to maintain the proper gradient.  Consequently, it will be much easier to do this work with earth-moving equipment now than with a shovel once SHTF.  While you may not want to use this method today, you will be glad that you have this setup when you are unable to run your pumps.  Moreover, as we all know pumps make noise and may draw unwarranted attention.

    I do not claim to be an experienced irrigator, but I think this is a very important consideration that may get overlooked.  Many preppers, including myself, have spent considerable time, money, and energy learning to grow and preserve their own food.  These are great skills and can help with setting food away, but in a prolonged event people are going to need to continue producing food.  This can only occur if there is sufficient water.  For land west of the 100th Meridian this requires irrigation, and irrigation requires planning. I urge you to consider how you will irrigate your fields when STHF and electricity is scare or entirely unavailable.

For those who don't have the luxury of a dedicated retreat, rainwater harvesting is a great option. Homeowners can easily set up a system to capture rainwater using their existing gutters and downspouts. The Internet is filled with ideas on this point. It is important to know what, if any, legal restrictions may exist pre-TEOTWAKI. The following link is a good resource for learning about your state's rainwater harvesting rules, if any :http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/rainwater-harvesting.aspx. Colorado is unique in that rainwater harvesting is largely illegal, except in narrow circumstances that require a permit. As I currently understand it, this rule is largely unenforced. Regardless, folks in Colorado may want to hold off on installing their system until it is needed. Obviously, these rules will go out the window during TEOTWAKI, but you don't want to bring negative attention to yourself in the interim.

As I hope I have conveyed in this article, you need to be very careful about the water source you plan to rely on.  Looks can be deceiving.  Today's roaring stream could be TEOTWAWKI's dry creek bed.  Educate yourself and thrive.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Regarding the article Resource Managment - Water, by Z.H.T.



When calculating your stored water resources, don't forget your water heater. That's usually 30 to 50 gallons. When collecting rainwater the amount collected depends on the square footage of the portion of the roof the rain is landing on. My patio is 10 by 30 feet, that's 300 square feet. If a half an inch of rain falls thats 150 square feet of rain, 12.5 cubic feet, = 93 gallons. That doesn't even include the house roof that flows onto the patio roof. There's two 55 gallon drums filled almost full. Use a 275gl water tote and you have a lot of water. - Sasquatch


Good day to you all!

Z.H.T., you have written a fine article. Thank you. I would like the readers to know one thing about bottled water, however. The bottles are permeable to contaminants. This occurred several years ago to Poland Spring Water in Maine. They had received reports of "funny tasting" water and, upon further investigation, found stored bottles sitting next to cleaning agents. The vapors or liquids did, indeed, leach through the plastic, thus giving them the funny taste. So, I encourage all who are storing bottled water in the basement or garage to store them carefully. It sure would be a terrible backslap to find this happen when it was needed. Take care and God bless. - J.P.


Dear SurvivalBlog,

I enjoyed the letter from Z.H.T and can validate much of what he wrote. The drinking water in my town is not very appealing to anyone, so bottled water is preferred. I have 60 gallons on hand in 6 gallon containers that we rotate through and refill from a vending kiosk at $0.25 a gallon. In addition to this I regularly rinse and refill suitable containers with tap water to cook and wash with and stash these all over the house, behind furniture, and under guest beds. I also buy cases of bottled water to keep in vehicles and just to use. At last count I had approximately 100 gallons stashed away. Also, as my metal roof gets built by me in stages, my rainwater system will evolve. It is not glamorous, but it is not overly difficult and rewarding when you approach it like a puzzle. I am very curious about where 1 gallon of bottled water gets over $5? I would consider going into the bottled water business there! In North Texas under normal conditions a gallon of water ranges from .25 to $1.00. - J.C.



The author I believe overlooked a large source of fresh water many people also forget about in their own homes-- the water heater. Many water heaters hold 75 gallons, and many newer houses have two (ours does), totaling 150 gallons of fresh water stored right in our garage and upstairs closet. - WDP



A good tip for storing water is to reuse old bottles and fill them up with tap water. Put the bottles in the freezer. It creates a thermal mass in case the power goes out, like a giant bag of ice. It will keep things in the freezer for a bit longer than if the freezer was half empty. It also is a great place to store water. - W.R.



I've never felt the need to respond before, and I know this is a few days past, but here goes!

This author clearly has a good start on thinking about water availability, but has missed a few key points.

  1. Water coming out of the tap is not expensive and there is always unused space in a house (under beds and other furniture, backs of closets, etcetera), so saying there is not enough money or space to store water may be committing to an erroneous notion that ends in a disastrous mistake. We even fill and store used 1 gallon containers in our deep freeze to maximize its efficiency and would not hesitate to drink those in an emergency.
  2. Don't forget that our homes run on a water system and that system holds a great deal of water at any given time, even if it has lost pressure. Your water heater, for example, even a small one, still has 20-30 gallons of potable water waiting for you to remember it and hook up a hose to the bottom of the tank to drain it out. In our large home full of people, we opted for a 50 gallon tank. This does cost more upfront and in operation, but we chose to spoil ourselves in this area and thus have 50 gallons of emergency storage as well.
  3. There is also water in your pipes throughout the house. Tapping into this source would be essential in a true crisis and hopefully common sense, but I would hate to think that someone could die of thirst in a house full of water they didn't realize was there. Just be sure you have plenty of capacity for catching the water and that you are in a clear state of emergency before breaking into your pipes. If you decide to do so, try drilling a small hole higher up in the system first. Don't just smack a pipe in your basement with a hammer, or you will likely lose more than you gain. Remember, in all but the worst situations, you'll want those pipes repaired, so minimize the damage you create. Of course, if you or you children are dying of thirst, I suppose you won't care much about a future plumbing bill!
  4. Potable water is even hiding in our toilet tanks (not the bowls!) so bear that in mind and stretch to think of other places water is waiting or where you could be storing bottles of various shapes and sizes. It could make all of the difference to you one day and is the cheapest prep, next to improving your mind and body, and far easier to secure than any I can think of off hand! - K.S.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

One of the reasons that I love watching movies and reading books, particularly those of the apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic variety, is because I occasionally learn a little tid-bit of useful knowledge that may one day benefit me.

One of my favorite movies and novels of this genre is “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. While it is a fantastically bleak and powerful work, it still provided me a teaching moment that has been invaluable. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, we see that something dire has happened. Though we are never told what it is, we assume that it is either the precursor to, or is the extinction event itself, that drives the plot of this movie. The dad, whose name we are never told, immediately fills any basin in the house with water. He stops up the sinks and tubs. He fills any and all containers with water.

Additionally, we learn that he keeps his family inside his home, blocks windows, locks doors, but most importantly, keeps an extremely low profile in order to avoid any attention from the outside. We aren't told if he, his wife, and his child stay inside 100% of the time, but we do know that the wife is slowly driven crazy with such a meager existence. We also learn that it is understood that life outside is death, for whatever reason, as she eventually departs and is never seen again.

What I find interesting is the relationship between the man's actions early in the movie and his ability to outlast most everyone else. It's obvious that his ability to avoid confrontation as well as make quick decisions provided great dividends in the future. Simply said, his willingness to stay bunkered down in his house, despite being well-equipped, served him greatly. While there may have been many other ancillary reasons, it can be safely assumed that riding out the storm was the most important and intelligent thing he could have done. Yet, without the proper resources, it would have led to death just as the outside world also promised. However, he was able to take stock of what he had, maximize it, and realize that he didn't have to survive forever on these items. He just had to survive everyone else.

How was he able to do this when it was obvious that he hadn't taken any great pains to prepare, as we have so discussed? How would I be able to apply this to my own situation, should the circumstances of this movie arrive at my doorstep? Going back to the single action that I identified earlier. He immediately stopped what he was doing and maximized the single most important resource he would need to survive and outlast. He stockpiled water.

Ever since I saw this movie, almost a decade ago, that one moment has stuck with me. This was before I even considered myself a casual prepper. I saw what he did, and I applied it to my checklist of things to do in the event of any emergency. To be fair, I had some experience with this exact problem back when I was a teenager. My area was devastated by a large F4 tornado that went right through my homestead. We lived on top of a hill surrounded by woodland. The downed trees trapped us on top of the mountain for several weeks. It became evident what resource was truly precious after about 3 days. Sure, we were down to eating things for meals that we would never have normally considered "dinner"-- potted meat and canned tomatoes, for instance. Still, we were fed. What we didn't have was water. See, living on top of a hill, we had a booster pump to supply water to us. With no electricity, we had no water. It took two days to drink all the sodas and juices. After two days of profuse sweating and hard work, it was hard to be around each other due to a lack of hygiene. The hard work and sweating was affecting the hydration of our bodies without pure water around. That isn't to say we were in any danger of dying or anything. We weren't. We had friends come help us after a day or two, but it has always stuck with me how quickly the water was gone, how precious it is, and just how much a human needs it to function.

It doesn't take much time in researching other common natural and unnatural disasters to see what is the number one supply brought in by aid programs. Additionally, after disasters, the most common cause of sickness and death (other than trauma) is diseases through contaminated water supplies or dehydration itself. According to some quick research, the human man needs around three liters a day just to function. A woman needs a little less at 2.2 liters. As everyone knows, it only takes about 48 hours to die of dehydration, and that doesn't cover the extra needed by people under physical duress. Additionally, water is needed for more than drinking. It's needed for waste control, hygiene, and other things. It doesn't take a genius to do some simple math to come up with the needs for your family on a day or month basis. For my family of five , which includes my wife, me, and three children, let's say we need 12 liters or a little over 3 gallons a dayor around 90 gallons a month;ut 100 is a nice round number, so let's use that number instead. We need 100 gallons a month for consumption alone. Additionally, I started thinking about how much time a family might need to buy themselves, hunkered down, to wait it out. As we have seen aftermany disasters, researchers' numbers suggest that when supplies dry up, there is a high death rate right at 30 days. That number sounds good to me. Let's go with it. We want to stay bunkered for 30 days in typical urban America. Our critical resource is water, so we need a minimum of 100 gallons for consumption alone. 

With that in mind, I started wondering about all the different ways that you could meet this demand. Keep in mind that I am considering only people living in urban areas where you have people living next door and across the street. You don't have a water supply such as a stream or river that you can easily get to, and if you could, you wouldn't because you don't want to expose yourself to the outside. So, I thought of several ways to bunker up and meet your water quota. You could store it last minute using available containers. You could buy a supply of water. You could source water from the rain or try recovering the water with a "closed loop" approach. Immediately, I (and I know you) identify potential problems with each of these solutions. All you smart people are already thinking, “You will need a combination of these”. Well, for those that aren't so savvy, let's talk it out.

Storing Water from the Tap in Available Basins

Ironically, I was in the shower the other day when this topic came up. I called my wife into the bathroom and asked her how much water we could possibly have on hand, in the event of an emergency. Make the assumption that we wanted to turn the lights off, lock the doors, and pretend no one was home in order to avoid any conflict. What was our capacity? What would we have on hand? How long would that buy us. Lastly, how would that compare to the people around us, who ultimately may become the most dangerous of adversaries. Now, I understand that your neighbors that you have known for 10 years aren't going to turn into crazies over night. Nor do I believe in zombies. However, let's make the assumption that whatever is outside is bad, and you would prefer to stay indoors at all times. So, we added it up quickly:

  • We have two bath tubs, each able to hold approx 30 gallons; that is 60 gallons,
  • We have three sinks, one of them a double sink. Each holds an average of one gallon; so, let's assume that is four gallons,
  • Around the house, we have several pots and pans, buckets, coolers, water coolers, and other containers. If I were to use these, I would guess I could have another 50 gallons, and
  • I have 2.5 cases of bottled water; each case contains 24 bottles that hold about 0.125 gallons. Let's round that to 7.5 gallons of water

That gives us a total of 120 gallons or 450 liters, give or take. So, in an absolute best case situation (no losses do to leakage, evaporation, or use for other purposes, such as cleaning or sanitation), my family of 5 could stay indoors for 37 days. Let that sink in. A little over a month on your internal supplies alone. Of course, that's assuming that you jumped on the water- saving effort immediately, had containers, and had some stock of bottled water. 

Now, I know many of you are saying that this is an over simplified example, and you would be correct. I will address some of the holes in my logic, but ultimately that 37 day estimate is fairly accurate or possibly on the high side. While I can't speak on every town and city in America, it can safely be assumed that you will still have line pressure from your city supply (or whatever utilities you have) for several days, but, so will everyone else. That could be a good or a bad thing. Sure, you could store more water by going out and getting more containers, but that would defeat the objective of being able to avoid danger. 

Additionally, we discount the ability to source outside sources. Even if at some point, things will slow down and you would have the ability to seek an outside water supply, you wouldn't want to attempt this. Not only does it go against the purpose of the exercise, but consider that the further into this apocalyptic event we go, the more desperate people will be for nearly anything of value. You may live next to a perfectly good water supply. But so do everyone else around you. Again, the name of the game is to wait it out. 

Yet, when reviewing this 37 day estimate and how it would fair in waiting out the storm, all I could think was that the average household has the same capability. That doesn't mean the average household would exerciseapproach our own "lockdown" approach, but it does certainly mean that "waiting them out" for an appreciable amount of time isn't going to happen. We would need a lot more water to buy us a lot more time. Additionally, these open air containers would be severely susceptible to leakage, contamination, and evaporation.

Buying an Appreciable Water Supply

Obviously, the easiest way to fix this problem would be to supplement my stores of bottled water. While you can't put a price on safety and your welfare, the fact remains that bottled water is incredibly expensive. Okay, I know everyone is raising their eyebrows at me. It's just bottled water! Are you that cheap? Well, we aren't talking about needing a case or two. We are talking about needing 100 gallons. Just a quick Internet search shows that you can buy a gallon of water for $5.70. So, you could spend $570 dollars and only buy yourself a month worth of water. Where are you going to store it? I sure don't have a place for that much water. Maybe you do. If you do, you either have no kids or a lot bigger home than me. I know these people exist; good for them. We have seen them on those TV shows. When money isn't an issue, you can do these things. I can't. Money and space aside, this is a fantastic option for many reasons. Perhaps the best reason is that the water is sealed and impervious to becoming contaminated. Additionally, you will not have any losses from evaporation or leakage. 

Rainwater Collection

What about rainwater collection? Ah, now we are getting somewhere! Again, let's make the assumption that you can safely collect water without exposing yourself to others. What do you have in which to collect water? We added all the collection containers we have in the list above. Even if we used every cup and bowl we had and could store 100 gallons, the amount of rainfall is the true driver. Additionally, it has less to do with available volume of your containers than the surface area of the collector. In my state of Alabama, the rainfall averages around 65 inches per year. Let's say that's 5.5 inches a month, since we are talking in terms of days and months. Additionally, the heaviest rain we might ever see is around five inches overa period of three days. Again, another nice number when we contemplate the time of dehydration being around three days. Five inches is about 1/6 the height of the average 5-gallon bucket. We said that we had the ability to store 100 gallons total, which is equivalent to 20 five- gallon buckets. That rain collection could give us around another 20 gallons, which is not even good enough for another two days. 

Again, rainwater collection is a complicated formula of available basins and rainfall. The other potential answer is the application of cisterns. For example, for under $500 you can add onto your house a rain water collection system, which will collect all the water from your roof into a collection tank via a “T” added into your drain spouts. While you can add as big of a basin as you like, the average system uses a 40 to 50 gallon drum. My father uses one of these for his garden, and it took one large rain to completely fill it up.. Going back to our math we used in the above paragraph, if the weather averaged three rains a month you would collect 150 gallons a month. This if you quickly and efficiently maximized the storage. 

Which means, without taking losses in the system into consideration, you would be able to sustain yourself with a rainwater collection system indefinitely, as long as you have the amount of rainfall we have in soggy Alabama. There are some assumptions in this statement.. First, it assumes you experience AVERAGE rainfall and that the water is usable and not tainted. Alabama is a very moist climate. In fact, Alabama leads the nation in rainfall. Even here we can go through severe dry spells over the period of a month. In much of the country, the rainfall for the year is nearly nonexistent. Arizona, for example, has a 24 inch per year average. Ohio has an average of 47 inches, while Maryland checks in at 50 inches of rainfall. In fact, most of the nation experiences an average of 30 inches or more rainfall per year. So, our use of Alabama's rainfall is a best case scenario. On the average, you would be lucky to experience half of the rainfall we have in Alabama, so you would still need to supplement your rainwater collection with a minimum of 15 gallons of water per month sourced from somewhere else, or you would have to expand the capacity expected from a single rainwater collection system. Again, it's not really a problem to expand. You just need another roof and another rainwater collection system as well as luck that you don't go through a dry spell. Additionally, if you already had this system set up, you would possibly have an instant 50 gallon surplus in addition to anything else you had on hand. 

Water Recovery

Obviously, the best answer is a “closed loop” system, or as near to it as you could reasonably achieve. That is, recovering used water from urine, sweat, and other by-products. By “best” I mean efficiency. You could buy or design a tool to do all the work for you, but, unless you have developed “still suit” technology (like the one in Herbert's “Dune”), there is virtually no way to close the system entirely. The best you could hope for is to recover water from urine. While this is certainly achievable, it departs from the more simplistic methods listed above. You either have to have a filtration system on hand (which can be quite expensive), or you have to build your own. Even this isn't a closed loop system because you will still lose a significant amount of water per day through respiration and sweat, just as you would lose much of your water to evaporation. A quick search shows that a human produces around 0.8 liters of urine. This means, at best, you could only recover 40% of your daily water intake, not taking into account other minerals in the urine that would need to be filtered out. That's not much water to collect, but it is more than the average person would be able to recover. And, we said from the beginning that we wouldn't be trying to survive forever on what we had in our home; we just want to survive LONG ENOUGH. After all, when the traffic dies down, procuring supplies such as water will be easy, but until then you won't have to subject yourself to the dangers outside. Of course the downside is that you are drinking your own urine. Okay, I can get around that idea, but with a homemade system (even with off the shelf systems) you can run the risk of poisoning yourself because of some filtering error. 


So, where does that leave us? Hopefully you have at least identified which of these techniques would work for you. At a minimum, I hope we have learned that while having guns and dehydrated food is great, it isn't the resource we need every day in great supply.

In a situation where you are waiting out the outside world, it would ultimately be nice to have enough water stored so you don't have to worry about it. Chances are, if you are reading this, you have either handled your water issues or at least considered it. Many have thousands of gallons stored away. I have neither the money to buy it nor the space to store it. If you are like me, we can maximize our in-home capacity as much as possible.. After reviewing the prospective techniques and tactics above, it seems fairly intuitive that the average person would have to rely on multiple, if not all, of the techniques. To be successful, a person would have to immediately identify the problem at hand and set in motion a plan to stock up and sustain the one most basic and essential commodity that humans need and need in vast quantities. Like we noted, my family alone would need 12 liters or 3 gallons a day just for consumption in normal operating environments. That doesn't take into account the needs for sanitation and hygiene which really are extensive, especially with three kids. Perhaps most importantly, this doesn't take into consideration the potential losses to evaporation and stagnation. It's hard to put a number on that for every locale, but you can reasonably take the 100 gallons need for consumption and add a 20% buffer to account for losses. Add in another 50 gallons for miscellaneous sanitation and other uses and you would need 170 gallons a month, which means that my home would need to essentially do everything listed. We would need to immediately store as much water as we could in bathtubs, sinks, bottles, and buckets. We would need at least one rainwater collection device capable of collecting 50 gallons per month. Additionally, we would also need to be able to recover 20% of our urine water. All of these actions would just meet our basic needs on an average month. The easiest solution to exceed our break-even point would be to stockpile more sealed containers of water. 

That's a pretty razor-thin edge. When you have a family, the edge is not where you would prefer it be. Ideally, you want a nice cushion when it comes to consumables, particularly water. So, the logical answer is that you would need the combination of at least two of the proposed techniques.  I don't know about you, but I really don't want to drink my or my kids' pee. It's relative efficiency is low. So (to me) it's a great long term solution, but not in the timeline we are talking about. That doesn't mean I wouldn't do it; I would,but it wouldn't be my preference. In terms of buying a water supply, I have neither the room nor the cash to go out and buy 100 gallons of bottled water. I do have some on hand, and I have no problem buying a little at a time to store as I have room. I have the option, as does everyone, of storing water in available open air containers, but I don't necessarily like this technique because it isn't efficient due to leaks, evaporation, and difficulty keeping the water viable. That doesn't mean it isn't a great last ditch effort or a way to supplement your own supply. In particular, this is probably the best way to provide yourself a “general use” supply of water. A rainwater collection device is almost a necessity. It does cost a little money, but it easily collects and stores water with no effort from you. It is renewable as long as it rains, but may be unreliable without dependable rainfall. Depending upon the reasons for bunkering down, the water could be useless. It may be a stretch, but if radiation or chemical warfare is the concern, you're probably dead anyway. 

There are many combinations of these four different processes. I realize that everyone's situation is different. We really only considered one particular situation--the typical urban American home. Considering that's where the vast majority of American's live, I believe the example is pertinent. It's important to understand what your situation is. In mine, rainfall usually isn't a problem. With the combination of 50 gallons of bottled water and a rainwater collection system, I would get by for a month. The point is, you have to realize that water is ultimately the most valuable resource. It's the only resource you must have in great supply and one you can't go very long without. In a situation where you have identified that you want to wait out the storm, you have to take steps to have enough of this resource or a way to collect and use it without exposing yourself to the outside world. 

Just as reading a book taught me one small thing, hopefully this article will get you thinking on how best to prepare yourself with the means to supply your family with water while waiting “it” out.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Sir:

Regarding "Building a Backyard Water Treatment Plant, by J.S.M.", I wanted to comment on a couple of errors I saw in the last section on treating surface water with alum. I once worked for a manufacturer of aluminum sulfate and was involved in several trials at municipal water systems.

  1. First thing, I would not bother waiting a day for an initial settlement. Once the leaves, twigs, and tadpoles have been removed, you should go ahead and treat the water. It seems paradoxical, but the cleaner the water is when you start, the harder it is to get good flocculation and settlement.
  2. I double checked the tuna can measure and was surprised to find that a 5 oz. tuna can does contain about 5 oz. of dry alum. This reference shows that the average density of dry alum ranges from a low of 38 - 45 lb/ft3 for powdered alum to 63 - 71 lb/ft3 for ground. Five ounce tuna cans are about 3 ¼" in diameter and 1 ¼" tall, so the volume of one is 3.14 ÷ 4 * ( 3.25in )2 * 1.25 in ÷ ( 1728 in3/ft3 ) = 0.005998 or about 0.006 ft3. If you know whether you have powdered or ground you should use the correct value. Using an average of both of gives you about 55 lb/ ft3. Using this value and multiplying by the tuna can volume gives 55 lb/ ft3 * 0.006 ft3 * ( 16 oz./ lb ) = 5.28 or about 5 oz.
  3. The fourth step should be amended to say that the alum is mixed with clean water and is shaken until all of the alum is dissolved. This is your working solution.
  4. The fifth step in the procedure contains several errors.
    1. The original post says nothing about mixing the 5 gallon bucket. For best results, the bucket should be mixed vigorously for about a minute after adding the alum and mixed gently after that, if it is mixed at all. Vigorous mixing helps contact of the alum with the suspended solids in the water. Very gentle mixing can help the small floc particles (pin floc) that are initially formed bump into one another and grow into larger particles. These larger floc particles settle faster.
    2. Adding all of the 5 oz. of alum to the 5 ½ gallons of water will grossly overdose the solution. Here's the calculation: 5 oz. alum ÷ ( 16 oz/lb ) ÷ ( 5 gallons water to be treated + 0.5 gallons of water the was alum mixed in ) ÷ 62.4 lb of water/gallon * 1,000,000 ppm/ lb/lb = 911 ppm. I remember that 10 - 20 ppm is a more typical dose. About 1 tablespoon of the working solution would be a dosage of 8 ppm. That calculation is 5 oz. alum ÷ ( 16 oz./lb ) ÷ ( 128 tablespoons per ½ gallon of water ) ÷ ( 5 gallons water to be treated and ignore the water the alum mixed in because it's small ) ÷ 62.4 lb of water/gallon * 1,000,000 ppm/ lb/lb = 7.83 or about 8 ppm. All surface water is different. If I was doing this myself, I'd add a tablespoon at a time, mix, and then inspect for pin floc. If I didn't see any, I'd repeat.
    3. Using alum to flocculate water works best when the pH of the water after adding the alum is maintained at 6 - 7. Adding all 5 oz. of alum will drive the pH too far below the optimum pH. Even adding normal amounts can decrease the efficiency of the alum. For best results, pH should be adjusted with lime after addition of alum.
    4. It shouldn't take a day to flocculate the dissolved solids in the water. You should be ready to move to the next step in a couple of hours.
    5. Don't wash out the container with the alum solution. That's your working solution and will be enough alum to treat up to 500 gallons of water.
  5. To transfer the clean water after flocculation and sedimentation, I'd recommend siphoning into another bucket instead of pouring. Pouring is ok if you have to, but the bucket will slosh, and you could get some of that sediment into your clean bucket.

- S.M.


Dear Mr Rawles,

This article has inspired me to begin treating water from the murky duck pond on the golf course behind my condo, though I will have to wait a few more months for it to thaw. I had thought for a long time how I would be able to use this water if the "S" ever hit. One previous comment stated that pool shock is not intended for human consumption. On its face, that is a true statement, but neither are fish antibiotics. I think the commenter missed the point or did not read the article completely. The miniscule level of impurities presumeably would be filtered out in the final stage with a carbon or ceramic filter, and even if they were not filtered, the level of impurities would be no higher than what would be found in a gulpfull of pool water, which is hardly life threatening. The article was instructing people how to treat water in multiple steps in an extended grid down America. One of the steps involved tiny amounts of pool shock, and the final stage was carbon filtration. - JPJR

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dear SurvivalBlog,
A warning, pool shock is not intended for human consumption. I was unable to find out what's in it besides the 78% purity. You can buy calcium hypochlorite. - S.R.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clean drinking water is critical to your survival, because without potable water you will die within a few days. I don't intend to hammer away on this point, because everyone who visits this blog generally knows how important it is to have access to clean water, and this subject has been covered many times from many different angles. Many of us have several hundred gallons of water stored away in containers, some more portable than others. Some plan to rely solely on a Berkey water filtration system to filter surface water collected from ponds or rain catchment barrels. While the Berkey filters are excellent and water storage is a must, having these will not be good enough in a prolonged grid-down scenario. Your water storage may run dry, and your Berkey filters have a limited lifetime and may not be able to handle long-term filtering.

The Lord handed us a pristine planet, and though we may have polluted much of the water we have been entrusted with, He has given us the materials and intelligence necessary to purify our water. Most of the modern world relies on municipal water treatment facilities to provide them with clean water. Water flows from faucets and toilets flush with the flip of a lever as surely as the sun rises and sets. By paying the water company every month we are guaranteed an almost unlimited supply of clean water. Most of the time the public shows no appreciation for the system that delivers the water or knowledge of the process by which it is treated and delivered, but most everyone expects to be provided with water as though it were a birthright. The public generally does not question the quality or safety of their water while the nameless, faceless technicians at the utility company work their "magic", and we generally put our faith in them to deliver. However, some of that faith has been shown to be eroding over the last few decades as more people have been relying increasingly on water filtration systems and bottled spring water.

I hope that the reader will understand that there is no magic taking place at water treatment plants, and that individuals are capable of treating contaminated water in their own home in much the same way as it is done at a water treatment plant. I should note that I do not advise anyone to drink water that may be unsafe, or to treat unsafe water for drinking. The materials and methods I describe may be hazardous if proper care and proper safety equipment are not used. Because I have no control over the quality of your source water, or the procedures you employ, I can not make guarantees and will take no responsibility for injury or illness that may result from this information. I am not providing explicit instruction or advice. In an extended grid-down scenario, however, almost every activity will come with a heightened degree of risk, and at that time only you will be responsible for making risk assessments concerning water availability and water quality.

I can say that I have personally used the method I am presenting here to treat and drink small amounts of water from a canal in the downtown area of a large southwestern city. The water I drank did not pass through a water filtration system as I advise in the final step below to insure absolute safety. I felt there would be no point in using the Berkey as part of the test because the Berkey is quite capable of handling contaminated water without prior filtering or treatment. My method is intended for a maximum production of just over 12 gallons of water per hour. This volume of water is more than suitable for bathing and cooking, and somewhat suitable for drinking. However, the final step for absolute safety would be a pass through a Berkey or similar filtration system or by boiling.

Required Materials

This is a list of materials you will need to set up your water treatment system and should not cost more that $200. [In 2014 USD]

  1. Aluminum Sulphate - Known as Alum, a 5lb. tub can be purchased at any pool supply store for $15. This is a type of flocculent which will make suspended solids in cloudy or turbid water stick together and sink to the bottom of the container. See flocculation in action in this video.
  2. Calcium Hypochlorite, commercially known as pool shock. A one pound bag costs $5 or less.
  3. Five gallon white food grade buckets, at least two.
  4. Five gallon colored non-food grade buckets, such as Homer bucket from Home Depot, at least three.
  5. Sturdy glass bottles with ground glass stoppers (laboratory grade glass) to safely store the calcium hypochlorite. These can be expensive, but Amazon has some very reasonably priced bottles.
  6. Basic pool chlorine/PH test kit. Buy additional large bottles of testing solution.
  7. Fifty-five gallon plastic drums. You should already have several of these in your backyard.
  8. Cloth filter. I use a Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet for use in aquariums.
  9. Hydraid Biosand Filter.
  10. Pool filter sand.
  11. Aquarium gravel. Ten pounds with smooth rounded edges approximately 1/8 of an inch in diameter to 1/4 of an inch in diameter
  12. Aquarium gravel. Ten pounds with smooth rounded edges approximately 1/2 of an inch in diameter to 3/4 of an inch in diameter.
  13. One gallon plastic jugs. Two or three will be enough, and they should be clean. Do not use milk jugs.
  14. Measuring spoons. This set should be dedicated for water purification and not used for cooking.
  15. Tuna Fish can, 4.8 ounce to 5 ounce. Can should be cleaned thoroughly.
  16. Twelve ounce jar or can with lid removed.
  17. Five pounds of non-galvanized iron nails, three to four inches long. The rustier the better, and if they are new out of the box, make sure they are wiped clean, and completely free of grease. This is only necessary if you are concerned about mitigating the arsenic in your source water.
  18. Activated carbon or charcoal pellets. These can be purchased at Wal-Mart in the aquarium section or at any aquarium store.

Some important notes on materials:
Pool Shock

Calcium Hypochlorite is a dry form of bleach with chemical compound Ca(CIO)2 better known as "pool shock" and can be purchased at Walmart, Home Depot, or any pool supply store. Avoid pool shock with clarifiers or anti-foaming agents. A concentrations of 78% or higher is preferred, but do not buy anything lower than 65% Ca(CIO)2.

This powdered form of chlorine is superior to liquid bleach because it has a very long shelf life, very compact and is highly portable. Calcium Hypochlorite is very caustic to the skin. The fumes can burn eyes, lungs, nasal passages and sinuses; seep into your food storage; ruin the biolayer in your biosand filter; and it will rust every tool in the shed if not stored properly. You must wear chemical resistant gloves and eye protection and work in a ventilated area when handling this stuff. I always handle Calcium Hypochlorite on the back patio, and only if there is no breeze. You do not want to be down wind if there is a breeze.

Pool shock must be stored in glass labware with ground glass stoppers only. Do not use mason jars, Dutch beer bottles with ceramic stoppers and rubber gaskets, or corked wine bottles. Over time, the chlorine gas will eat through rubber gaskets, plastic, cork, and even metal. So, do not take a shortcut on this because chlorine gas is no laughing matter.

For safety reasons, pool shock must be kept dry like regular dry pool chlorine. Refer to the safety guidelines on the packaging.

I keep my pool shock in reagent bottles, and I carefully pack the sealed bottles inside Home Depot buckets with bubble wrap to cushion the glass. I then seal the bucket tightly with the bucket lid. The bottles and buckets are clearly labeled with information about the contents, with warnings like "keep dry", "caustic", and "fragile".

You might be thinking at this point, "Why take the risk? Why not just keep a few bottles of Clorox around instead of this dangerous dry chlorine?" Understand that liquid bleach has a short shelf life. It loses its efficacy at an unacceptable rate, and within a year or two your bleach will be useless. You cannot rely on weak bleach to disinfect your water. With unknown potency, you will be playing a guessing game with ratios, and over time you will effectively have no bleach at all. Consider the following:

  • Currently, a one pound bag of pool shock costs about $5.00 or less.
  • This one pound bag of pool shock has an unlimited shelf life, if it is stored properly.
  • A one pound bag of pool shock will make 128 gallons of stock chlorine solution, the equivalent of 128 gallons of bleach.
  • This 128 gallons of stock chlorine solution will disinfect 12,800 gallons of contaminated water.
  • If you factor in weight, cost, and value, there is no other item in your preps that can come close to a bag of pool shock. Twenty pounds of pool shock stored at your retreat translates into 256,000 gallons of clean water. Should you ever need to bug-out, one or two pounds would be very easy to pack.

Hydraid Biosand Filter
The filter

The Hydraid biosand filter stands two and a half feet high. It is roughly one and a half feet wide at the top with a taper leading down to a smaller diameter base. Unlike traditional concrete filters, which are often constructed on site, the Hydraid is plastic and very light weight when empty. The Hydraid looks a lot like a small round plastic recycle bin with a PVC pipe running up the length on the outside. For those unfamiliar with biosand filters, please look at this video.

The design of the filter is brilliantly simple in one sense because it looks to be just a plastic trashcan filled with four inches of rocks on the bottom, a few feet of sand on top and a PVC pipe running out of the bottom and up the side. The complexity of the design is not so apparent. The biosand filter works several ways:

  1. The first phase is biological predation where micro-organisms feed on dangerous pathogens. The top surface of the sand at the top of the filter perpetually sits below several inches of water, and develops a biological layer of beneficial organisms which consume and remove parasites and pathogens up to 99.8%.
  2. The second phase is mechanical filtration. The sand acts as a mechanical filter, physically trapping debris and pathogens.
  3. The third phase of filtration is adsorption. The filter media emits an electrical charge of sorts and pulls the remaining debris to it like a magnet.
  4. From this point, the water slowly filters down through the last few feet of sand which is devoid of light, food and oxygen, killing off any remaining organic pollutants and pathogens.

It is important that no chlorinated water, tap water, iodine, or chlorine gas ever come into contact with the biolayer because the disinfectant will kill off the beneficial organisms, thus destroying the biolayer. It is also important to place the filter indoors and in an area where it will not be disturbed. If the filter is placed in a high traffic area and it gets bumped or rocked, the biolayer may be damaged.

Contaminated water should always be poured onto the diffuser plate where it will drip gently down onto the biolayer. Water should never be poured directly onto the biolayer, as that too will damage it. By being consistent with your source water, the biolayer will develop organisms specifically catered to treat water from that source. A biolayer formed from canal water may not be so effective against pathogens from harvested rain water.

According to the Hydraid brochure, the filter is capable of producing 12.4 gallons per hour with intermittent use. This amount of water serves the daily needs of eight to ten people. If you consider that one person requires one gallon of water per day just to survive, 12.4 gallons per hour would be a luxury for you and your family in a long term survival scenario.

Triple Quest Company and ordering information

Before ordering, you must understand the intended application for this filter. The filter needs to be set up correctly with the filtration media. It needs to be primed for several weeks to let a biolayer develop, and it needs to be used and maintained on a consistent basis. None of this is especially difficult, but it does require some commitment, unlike ceramic or carbon filters which are more "plug and play". In an extended grid-down scenario, as in months or years, the biosand filter would be a perfect choice. The biosand filter is not a good choice for those prepping for short term events like hurricanes, floods, or temporary civil unrest. Someone living in a remote area without well water but access to a stream or pond, could definitely rely on one or two Hydraid filters. A Hydraid would not be suitable for a vacation cabin because it would not be used and maintained with regularity.

From what I understand, the Hydraid is not intended for use in this country, and it is not marketed as a retail item. Triple Quest manufactures these filters for Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's) like UNICEF who provide aid to families in developing countries. Triple Quest is geared for handling orders by the pallet load to be shipped overseas. Triple Quest is not accustomed to filling orders of one or two units for domestic use, so please take this into consideration when ordering your filter. By doing business with Triple Quest, you are supporting their humanitarian operations. Whether they would admit to it or not, they are doing God's work by providing, free of charge to the poorest of the poor, a device to filter horribly contaminated water.

Though research has shown the Hydraid to be incredibly effective against biological contaminants, parasites, and pathogens, Triple Quest will not recommend it for general use in this country. The filter is intended for use by people in developing countries living in squalid conditions. It may be that another reason Triple Quest cannot promote these filters for the American market is because they have no control over the water source that the user may attempt to filter with their product. Should the user not follow the installation and maintenance instructions properly or try passing water contaminated with diesel fuel or chlorinated tap water through the filter, the end result would reflect poorly on the product and could leave the company exposed to endless litigation. This is just my guess as to why these filters are not marketed to the public.

To order a Hydraid BioSand filter, contact Triple Quest at (616) 254-4222.

Sourcing local filtration media

When you place your order for a Hydraid filter, do your wallet a favor and order the filter only. If you order the filtration media, you will have to pay shipping on 106 pounds of sand and rock, all of which can be purchased at a swimming pool store and aquarium supply store for a lot less. When you place your order, ask how many pounds of each type of media you will need. By purchasing just the filter, which includes the plastic body, lid, diffuser plate, and outlet pipe, you can probably spend about $70.00, including shipping. If you opt to pay for the load of sand and rocks, the cost will be at least twice that amount. It would make more sense to spend that money on an additional filter to give to a family member or friend.

Inferior designs and short circuits

Do not attempt to rig a common trash can with a PVC standpipe for use as a biosand filter. Most trash cans are made out of low density polyethylene and will easily flex and bow out at the sides, creating a short circuit of sorts where the water on top bypasses the sand filter entirely, running down the sides to the bottom where it will enter the outlet tube. The Hydraid is made from a higher density polyethylene and is rigid enough to prevent a short circuit. Likewise, never build a biosand filter with the standpipe tube running up the inside of the filter. This will also create a short circuit, as the water on top will follow the outer wall of the PVC pipe right down to the bottom, bypassing the filtration media. I have seen several how-to videos on how to construct one of these dangerously designed filters on Youtube, many of which are too painful to watch. This video demonstrates the wrong way to build a biosand filter.

Because the consequences of drinking contaminated water are so severe, stick with the design that is tried and true.


The best filtration media for the biosand filter is pool filter sand. This sand can be found at Home Depot and swimming pool supply stores. Do not use masonry sand, play sand, or beach sand. The size of a coarse grain of sand like what you would find in a sandbox is measured in fractions of a millimeter. The size of a fine grain of sand, like pool filter sand, is so small it is measured in microns. The organisms we are trying to keep from entering our bodies are in the micron range and will easily pass right through coarse sand. The size of the grains in a bag of pool sand are very consistent, ranging between 10-40 microns.

Activated Carbon (Charcoal)

If you do not have a Berkey system, you can make a carbon filter with activated charcoal/carbon pellets from Walmart or an aquarium store packed into a 2 liter plastic bottle with the bottom cut out. This carbon filter is in no way as capable as a Berkey, but it will remove excess chlorine, heavy metals, and fluoride from your water, making it safer and giving it a much cleaner taste. These pellets are relatively cheap and easy to store in bulk. Never filter your water with charcoal intended for BBQ grills, whether it was treated with lighter fluid or not. Grilling charcoal is not activated, so it makes for a poor filter. This type of charcoal is also very good at absorbing airborne contaminants right through its paper bag as it sits on the shelf at the hardware store for months on end. The charcoal will absorb nearby pesticides from the garden section and petrochemicals from the quick light charcoal bags sitting a few feet away.

Before beginning, understand that this process is not guaranteed to remove pesticides, heavy metals, or petrochemicals, unless a Berkey filter is used in the final step. It is important to find the cleanest water source possible. However, do not collect chlorinated water or add chlorine or any other disinfectants on the front end of this process. Chlorine and other chemicals will damage the biolayer of the filter. Once your biosand filter is set up and primed, you can begin. You can see the proper set up in this video.

  1. Collect surface water in colored 5 gallon bucket. Filtered water should never be poured into a colored bucket, and raw untreated water should never come in contact with a white food grade bucket.
  2. Cover the bucket and let the water sit undisturbed for a day.
  3. Sediment should have settled to the bottom. Place a cloth or a Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet over another colored bucket and carefully pour the clear water into the bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket and rinse the Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet.
  4. Place a clean empty white bucket underneath the vinyl outlet tube of the Hydraid biosand filter.
  5. Remove the lid from the top of the filter and gently pour the water onto the diffuser plate. Be very careful that not even a drop of the contaminated water drips down into the clean white bucket sitting on the floor. Pour the water slowly and carefully. Place the cover back on top. Filtered water should begin flowing into the white bucket as the water in the filter finds equilibrium.
  6. Store the filtered water in a clean 55 gallon drum designed specifically for water storage.
  7. Repeat the filtration process until the drum is nearly full. Leave a little room for your chlorine solution.
  8. Put on eye protection and chemical resistant gloves.
  9. Pour a half gallon of water into a one gallon jug. Add 1/8 of an ounce (about 1/4 teaspoon) of pool shock to the jug. Cap the jug and gently shake or swirl the contents until they are dissolved. Fill the jug with water until it is about full.
  10. Pour one half gallon of the chlorine stock solution into the 55 gallon drum and let it sit for a day.
  11. Collect a small amount of treated water from the drum and run a chlorine test with your pool test kit. A chlorine reading under 0.2 parts per million (ppm) is too low, and is not considered safe according to the EPA. A higher chlorine reading around 3.5 to 4.0 will make for very unpleasant tasting water and can cause health problems over time, but you can be assured that all pathogens are dead. If your water has a chlorine level between 0.2 and 4.0 ppm, it is safe to bathe with, wash clothes, and probably safe enough to drink.
  12. For additional peace of mind and for improved taste, it would be a good idea to run your drinking water through a Berkey or other charcoal filter one or more times to remove all chlorine and any residual contaminants. The pre-filtering and slow sand filtering with the Hydraid will no doubt greatly extend the life of your Berkey filters.
If you wish to bypass the biosand filter altogether and run all of your water through a Berkey or other carbon filter, I suggest the use of Alum in addition to performing steps 1 through 3 above . The Alum acts as a flocculent, which pulls together all of the undissolved solids floating around in the water, most of which are too tiny to be seen. I have not been able to find any information regarding Alum and potential interference with the biolayer of the filter, so I never flocculate water before running it through the biosand filter. I imagine that the Alum would be indiscriminate, and remove many of the beneficial micro-organisms from the water as well as the dangerous pathogens.
  1. Collect surface water in colored 5 gallon bucket.
  2. Cover the bucket and let the water sit undisturbed for a day.
  3. Sediment should have settled to the bottom. Place a cloth filter or Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet over another colored bucket and carefully pour the clear water into the bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket and rinse the Singed Polyester Felt Filter Media Fabric Sheet.
  4. Fill the empty tuna can with Alum, then scoop the Alum into an empty water jug. Fill the jug about half way with water, cap it and gently shake for a few seconds.
  5. Pour the alum solution into the bucket of water, cover and let sit for a day. Rinse out the jug that contained the Alum solution.
  6. After 24 hours, the water should be very clear and clean looking, and a fair amount of sludge and scum will be resting on the bottom of the bucket. Again, carefully pour the clear water into a clean bucket, making sure not to let any sediment enter the second bucket. Clean out first bucket.
  7. Add 16 drops of your chlorine stock solution, mix well, cover and let sit for a few hours. See step 9 above for instructions on making chlorine stock solution.
  8. This water is now ready to be poured into your Berkey or homemade carbon filter.
If you wish to treat more than five gallons of water at one time, refer to the following ratios to create a flocculent solution.
  • Five gallons of turbid (cloudy) water requires one half gallon of Alum solution made up of 5 ounces (empty tuna can full) of Alum powder mixed with one half gallon of water.
  • Ten gallons of turbid water requires one gallon of Alum solution made up of 10 ounces of Alum powder mixed with one gallon of water.
  • Twenty five gallons of turbid water requires two and a half gallons of solution made up of 25 ounces of Alum powder mixed with two and a half gallons of water.
  • Fifty gallons of turbid water requires five gallons of solution made up of 50 ounces of Alum powder mixed with five gallons of water.

One gallon of chlorine stock solution will treat one hundred gallons of biologically unsafe water.

One quarter teaspoon (1/8 of an ounce) of pool shock added to one gallon of water will make enough stock chlorine solution to treat 100 gallons of water.

Twelve to sixteen drops of stock chlorine solution will treat one gallon of water. Depending on the concentration of Ca(CIO)2 in the pool shock you use to make the solution, it may require more or less. Test chlorine levels with your pool test kit.

The process described in detail above can be broken down into four steps:

  1. Screening and pre-sedimentation.
  2. Coagulation, flocculation, and sedimentation.
  3. Filtration.
  4. Disinfection.

These are the same basic four steps that your municiple tap water is subjected to before it reaches your faucet. The chemicals, agents, and methods presented here are very similar to those used by water treatment facilities.

If you suspect that you have arsenic in your source water, there is a simple modification that can be made to a biosand filter. I tacked this on the end because most people will not have to worry about this problem. Parts of Southern California, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maine, South Texas, North Texas, Massachusetts, and Montana have concentrations of 50 or more micrograms per liter in their ground water.

Some arsenic is naturally occurring and enters the water supply through runoff of eroded natural deposits. Runoff from farms and waste from glass and electronics production are other sources of arsenic. The modification I made to my Hydraid is a simple one, and it involves nothing more than a few pounds of non galvanized rusty iron nails placed on top of the diffuser plate of the biosand filter.

Without getting too technical, arsenic in the water is attracted to the iron oxide in the rust, which then flakes off and becomes trapped in the sand, never making it more than an inch or two into the filter. Without the rust, arsenic would pass through the sand unobstructed.

I hope that I have demystified the process for treating water and that there is no magic taking place at water treatment plants. All of these steps to treat water, except for chlorination, are just an accelerated simulation of the natural process of filtration and sedimentation. With these basic materials and instructions, anyone can begin learning how to treat contaminated water. By familiarizing yourself with the Hydraid biosand filter, you will learn the mechanics of how these filters work, and you will carry this knowledge with you wherever you go, whatever the circumstances. At some point, if the need should arise, you may even be able to construct a large capacity biosand filter out of concrete or masonry block, with scavenged materials. Now is the time to learn and perfect this skill.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mr. Rawles,
I noticed your reference to the water situation in the Charleston, West Virginia (Kanawha Valley) area. As of Saturday when I'm writing this, the water is suitable for flushing toilets and fire fighting but that is all. The town I live in (St. Albans) has their own independent supply, but most of the surrounding area is fed from the centralized West Virginia American Water Plant in Charleston. One plant serves a very large geographic area. I know when I first finished mechanical engineering school I could only find a job working for a small civil engineering company. We had to survey a water line expansion in Boone county near the small towns of Van, Twilight, and Bandytown. Fairly deep in the southern coal fields but not nearly as deep (feels kind of like a different world being raised near the valley) as McDowell county and the low volume coal fields. I could not believe the West Virginia American plant in Charleston was going to serve that far away from the city.

St. Albans has lines out the door at the laundromat and restaurants,. Even the Krogers [grocery store] was stripped bare, even of the toilet paper. The parking lots of the stores remind me of Christmas time when I was a kid in the late 1970s, prior to many of the strip malls being built and taking business from the business districts.

If the water had been cut off completely, unfortunately it probably would have very quickly required deployment of the National Guard. I passed one water relief station where they were giving out bottled water and it had a sheriff eyeballing everyone that went by even if you did not stop for water.

Making large complex systems helps for economies of scale, but a single point failure makes them far from robust. - Paul in West Virginia

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dear Editor:
I live an in area that is considered to have excellent water, however with time and age the delivery system is having some issues.  I am a great water drinker so this is an important matter to me personally, not withstanding any kind of a meltdown.  A friend of mine recommended that I buy a Berkey brand water filter.  So I researched and of course found that they are not cheap.  Being one that does so much with alternative purchases such as yard, estate type sales I almost choked when I heard the price.  I contacted LPC Survival (aka Directive 21) an advertiser on SurvivalBlog and made my final purchase. They even tossed in free shipping.  My friend also recommended buying two extra filters (there is space for four filters) because they will flow faster.  He has had his system over 10 years and loves it. 

So after sweating a few financial bullets and putting it together, I have to just write about how wonderful it is.  I told my husband who has had a kidney infection that it is better for this item to filter the water rather than having his kidneys do the work.  So after I set it up lo and behold I read a negative item on this system [with an earlier generation of black filter cartridges] that it would not even filter out red dye, imagine my dismay after having spent a bundle.  So I tried the red dye test, I had a little bottle of it and so I poured almost half of it in.  After a week, still no pink water, I looked inside the top and the water was still red.  I was truly impressed. I cleaned out the top, checked all the plastic screws (a sort of a tune up) and continued using it, I think that if the screws were loose, red dye would show.  A friend tried the water and described it as having a velvety texture. 

I have since purchased an extra spout kit just in case that fateful day arrives and postal delivery is no longer available. I purchased that spare because it gets used so much I want an instant replacement.   We all want to be prepared and there are many things that we can cut corners with or simply survive without, but clean water is not one of them.  So I will buy used and refurbished but there are a couple of things that you simply must suck up and buy new. I chose a Berkey water filter as one.  This is a "must have" and I highly recommend it.
Thank you for your blog and all the education it has given me.  - D.N. in Spokane

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I.  Introduction - Possible Scenarios.  

  1. Your automobile becomes inoperable for a period of time while traveling – it is extremely hot or extremely cold and hours to wait.
  2. A natural disaster occurs and you have to evacuate.
  3. Chaos occurs due to financial collapse or other major event causing civil unrest.
  4. An Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) or Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) caused by solar flare(s) renders your vehicle dead miles from home.
  5. Or, an EMP occurs as a result of a nuclear strike (with collateral fall-out to follow).
  6. Use your imagination…in reality, nothing is too far fetched.

While these are listed in order from “Bad” to “Worse”, all of these have great commonalities.  The more obvious should be that (1) they are realistic and possible, (2) they can occur and cause mass panic and civil upheaval in a relatively short time, (3) they can land you in a situation that most likely will find you, your preparation, your knowledge and your determination are all you have to survive, and, without a doubt, (4) a lack of planning, preparation, knowledge, determination and the means to employ all will, with reasonable certainty, lead to your death

I'm glad that I have your attention.  Now let us begin to devise some of the basic means, methods and logistics that you will need to exponentially improve your survivability, and with prayer and guts, successfully reach your destination. 

II.   Equipment.  There are a number of “essentials” that you should plan to pack and keep in your vehicle at all times.  The only time these items should be removed from your vehicle is (1) if you need the room to haul other items to/from a short destination (i.e. across town, from the store, etc.), (2) to update/replenish items and then place back in the vehicle when completed, (3) you are traveling with someone else in their vehicle (your essential items go with you). 
Now let’s discuss what those “essential” items might consist.

1.  Pack.    You should purchase a quality backpack that is large enough to comfortably load the items you will need.  The pack can be of military grade (i.e. surplus such as the A.L.I.C.E. pack), or a quality hiking/camping pack that is supported by two shoulder straps and capable of load bearing for extended hiking.  Your pack should be of muted, natural or earth colors such as green, black, desert tan, or brown.  Bright colors will only amplify to others that YOU HAVE A PACK and YOU HAVE ESSENTIALS THAT THEY DO NOT!  Plus you will need the ability to hide your pack during periods of rest without it being obvious to others who may spot you. 

As stated, the pack must be large enough to accommodate all the essentials we will list below yet not too large that you cannot negotiate its weight for long periods. 
Some packs are equipped with waist belts to help distribute and support the load accordingly.  It is your personal preference.  However, most quality hiking backpacks are designed with this feature for a purpose.  Be smart. 

Other important considerations should be the design for accessing the pack.  Is it easy (relatively speaking) to get in an out of?  Can I get to the needed essentials quickly and easily at night and/or during cold or inclement weather? 

The pack should have ample outer pockets in which to store those items you will use most often (i.e. sanitation, fire starting material, maps, compass, binoculars, food, water, weapon(s), etc.). 

There should be the ability to attach additional bulk items (i.e. sleeping mat, coat, maybe a sleeping bag) on the bottom or top by additional straps or para-cord.

2.  Water.   When it comes to sustaining the human life, one must consider the “Essential Threes.”   The order of importance in need is as follows:

  1. Air – 30 seconds
  2. Water – 3 days
  3. Food – 3 weeks     However, in a survival situation where you have to exert extreme energy to travel and stay alert, the time frames on water and food are greatly shortened.

You must plan to have clean, drinkable water at all times.   The amounts will be covered later.  At this time let’s focus on types of storage and conveyance. 

2 liter, 3 liter, and 100 ounce water bladders are very popular for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, however they may not always be the best choice for the survivor.

Why?  The size alone constitutes added weight that may not be able to be spread loaded especially with a full pack.  Backpacks with separate compartments for such bladders have become very popular but you must consider the ability to frequently access the bladder without having to nearly empty the pack to do so.  Water refills in a survival scenario will often be done on the move when opportunity arises and in the quickest amount of time.  Moreover, a small puncture or tear to such a system will quickly render your main water conveyance inoperable.  

Consider multiple 1-2 quart containers that you can store and attach to various locations on/in your pack.  Give careful consideration as to how you will carry/attach your primary water source. 

For bulk storage of water in addition to your primary containers consider a 750 ml platypus bag that is relatively small, yet flexible and collapsible (like the popular larger water bladders discussed above). 

Nalgene bottles are excellent in that they are tough, lightweight and you can see the contents. 

Likely sources to replenish your water supply will be streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Consider how you will purify water.  A supply of water purification tablets should be carried.  Also, a small plastic vile of chlorine can be carried.  A few drops will sterilize 750 ml of water fairly quickly.  (Research the correct amounts and procedures to purify water by volume and make note of this information to carry in your pack with your purification tools. If using common bleach as your source of chlorine, be sure that it is non-scented with non-additives.)

Small water purification systems do very well and can be purchased for around $80+.   However, they do take up additional space and add ounces to an already loaded pack. 

A very good alternative is the Berkey Sport bottle.  A standard 750 ml water bottle has a smaller Berkey Black filter attached to the drinking straw in the bottle.  You merely have to fill the bottle with water and drink from the straw to get clean and pure water.  Water from your other storage bottles can then be poured into the Berkey Sport bottle as needed.    The Berkey Sport bottle can be purchased off EBay for as little as $15 each, so shop around.

3. Food.    Amounts will be discussed later. For now let’s consider types.

Food is definitely an essential that will become critical in a survival scenario.  It is easy and inexpensive to load up on soups and power bars at Wal-Mart and the local grocery store; however, this may prove to be a very costly mistake. 

In a survival scenario, you will be expending a much greater amount of calories due to

  1. Greater exertion of energy hiking.
  2. Greater exertion of energy due to fear and adrenalin.
  3. Greater exertion of energy due to weather (cold requires as much as twice the calories in order to keep warm.  Hot can have a similar effect.)

As a result, now is not the time to diet.  Caloric intake is key.  Inexpensive soups and quick prepare foods found at the local grocery chain will only yield about 1-2 grams of protein on average.  This is not a good return on your survival investment or on the weight you will be carrying in regards to the nutritional value received.

Consider specialized foods high in protein such as Mountain House usually found in the camping section at Wal-Mart.  Also consider purchasing a bucket of the pre-packaged dehydrated foods from Wise Foods, EFoodsDirect, etc.  While you may pay as much as twice the price of the bargain foods mentioned, the caloric value averages 11-18 grams of protein. 

Also, energy bars high in protein are a good source and easy to pack.  Mix it up. No one likes to consume the same thing over and over again.  A variety of good and satisfying food can do wonders for morale and your ability to keep moving forward another day. 

Candy bars can produce a quick energy boost but should never be your main source of nutrition.  However, looking forward to treating yourself can be a tremendous motivator. 

4.  Clothing.   Pack wise.  Clothing, while an absolute essential, can be a space robber in your pack and add unnecessary weight if not planned well.  Your clothing should be of natural and earth tone colors.  You do not want to stand out. 

a. Clothing with logos representing or making various statements should be avoided.  For example, clothing that depicts or advertises certain messages should not be used.  Examples would be articles that make a political statement, a statement of wealth or your preference for firearms or military should be avoided.  This will only prove to be troublesome on occasions you may have to interact with others you do not know.

Obviously the time of year and season will dictate the type of clothing needed, however be smart about it. 

In moderate to warm weather and in addition to what you may already have on…you should consider packing…

  1. pair long pants
  2. changes of socks (preferably some wool blend for dryness)
  3. changes of underwear
  4. shirts and/or t-shirts
  5. sweatshirt or light fleece

(1) hat

Colder weather…consider packing the same but adding…

  1. pair of thermal or polypropylene (bottoms & top)
  2. changes of wool blend socks (rather than pure cotton)
  3. pair of insulated gloves

(1) fleece or wool watch cap (a fleece balaclava is a good addition)

b. Shoes.   There are areas that you can always cut back and/or take the “bargain route” on… YOUR FOOTWEAR IS NOT ONE OF THEM!

You do not buy a nicely outfitted automobile that you will be traveling long distances in and then put the cheapest tires on it.  This would not make sense.   The same logic holds true for your feet. 
As encountering and negotiating multiple types of terrain while carrying added weight is a given, a pair of quality boots should be your primary footwear.  Only consider sturdy name brands that have a reputation and a proven performance record for the type of activities for which you will be engaging. 

Such boots generally are categorized as “Hiking” or “Military” with a minimum of 8” uppers, aggressive traction and are proven to be good for load bearing (i.e. proven to hold up and support you under the weight of a pack for long periods).    Some boots categorized as “Hunting” boots may be satisfactory but do the research and compare. 

Boot material is really a personal preference.  However, give careful consideration to modern materials.  Modern materials such as Gore-Tex and Cordura offer added warmth in cold weather and greater breathability year round.  Moreover, Gore-Tex is generally waterproof.  Keeping your feet dry and clean is key.

A second pair of shoes is a smart addition.  These are for putting on during rest breaks allowing your boots time to dry and air out, as well as giving your feet a much needed break. 

They also serve as a “back up” to your boots so they should be sturdy. New is not necessary but there should be plenty of life left in them.  A quality pair of running shoes will suffice but also consider sturdier hiking shoes made by companies who specialize in these such as Merrell, Keen, and other proven brands. 

c. Coats.  During cold weather a jacket/parka that is warm, wind resistant and water repellent is a must.  A hood is an added benefit.  Avoid bulky coats made from natural fibers (i.e. cotton, wool, or blend).  Coats made of modern materials are superior in warmth with less bulk and weight. 

During warmer months a light jacket that can repel wind should be packed (or at least a light fleece).  Rain, fatigue, and change of weather can bring on rapid chilling causing lose of body heat and robbing strength. 

d. Packing Clothing.   Most quality packs have some resistance to water.  However, prolonged exposure to rain, setting down on wet ground, or the unexpected “drop” in the creek while crossing can become a nuisance in warm weather and deadly during cold. 

Before packing your clothes, line the pack with a large plastic trash bag and place your articles of clothing within.  Be sure to cinch the bag by twisting, tuck, etc. to seal it from leaking and your clothing will remain dry no matter what occurs. 

5. Other Important Items.    There are numerous other items you will need, some more important than others.  The following list is by no means all-inclusive or absolute.  The order in which items are listed should not be construed as more important than the next.  Some will be obviously critical while others, not so much.  As with anything important, your planning, competency in use and your ability to transport all have to be considered. 

Avoid storage of smaller items loosely in your pack.  Group like items together and place into smaller zip-loc plastic bags. 

  The List:

  1. Direction Finding
    1. Compass.  Does not have to be very expensive, just trustworthy and accurate.
    2. Area Maps.  Laminated maps for your state can be purchased at Wal-Mart. 
  2. Fire Starting.  Redundancy is key here. 
    1. (2) butane lighters
    2. (2) boxes of waterproof matches
    3. (1) fire stick/flint
    4. Fire accelerates (i.e. Trioxane fuel tablets, small camping fire kindling, fire accelerate paste, lint collected from the dryer)

Spread load these so if one is lost, all will not be lost.

Survivor Ideology:  “ Two is one; One is none.”     Think about that.

  1. Sanitation.  
    1. Small bar of soap, small bottle of sanitizer, etc.…
    2. Roll toilet paper
    3. Re-sealable package of wet-wipes
    4. Toothbrush/travel tube of toothpaste and small deodorant
    5. Small vile of petroleum jelly for blisters and chaffed skin
  2. Food Preparation.
    1. Small folding (Esbit) stove with fuel tabs
    2. Excess fuel tabs
    3. Or, a small backpacking type stove such as JetBoil
    4. Fork and spoon
    5. Flavoring – salt, pepper, hot sauce, etc.
    6. Small aluminum pot to heat/boil water.  An excellent choice is

     the standard 1 qt. military canteen with carrier and the “canteen cup.”     
     The canteen cup fits inside the carrier and the canteen fits inside the cup. 
     This saves space and serves multiple purposes.

3. Shelter.  A 1-2 man tent is very useful if you have one already, can pack it accordingly, and it is not a bright color. So a tarp, 6’X8’ in camouflage, dark green of brown, is a very good alternative a tent. It will provide a lot of flexibility on all terrain and can be packed many ways.

100’ of para-cord (thin ¼” nylon rope) in natural colors.

(6) small aluminum tent stakes (able to fit through the grommets of a tarp).

4. Sleep System. 
Sleeping Bag.  One that is light in weight (under 4 lbs.) and is designed for hiking and backpacking.  While “down” filled bags are very warm, extremely light in weight, and easy to compress for packing, a man-made fiber filled bag may be the best choice for the average survivalist.  Down, once wet, is very difficult to dry and loses all warming properties when wet.  The opposite holds true for man-made fillers such as Hollow-fill and other common fibers.  Be selective and do your homework.  A sleeping bag is generally the largest and most bulky item you will carry.  There are quality man-made fiber filled bags under $100 that will pack almost as compactly as the very expensive down filled bags. 

Sleeping Mat.  A very much appreciated item…especially for unknown sleeping surfaces that you will encounter.  Also, great for a barrier to keep your bag dry.  Styles, prices, and quality vary greatly so do your research and be selective

5. Medical/Personal.

First Aid.   Seek a well-stocked kit in a soft carry bag rather than hard.  Soft is much easier to pack and shift around.  Add additional painkillers such as Aleve, Tylenol, etc.  Also, consider adding burn ointment and additional bandages such as an ACE wrap.

    1. Extra pair of glasses/contacts and solution
    2. Medications that you may require
    3. Feminine hygiene products

    4. 6. Lighting.

    1. (2) Small size, quality defensive type flashlight of at least 200 lumens. One to be carried on your person and one packed as a backup.
    2. (1) Head lamp with harness or hat brim clip on light. 
    3. Extra batteries for all lights
    4. (1) Red lens for your primary flashlight. To be used to defuse white light at night when you do not need to be seen.  

      7.  Knife.  At least one quality utility folding knife with a locking blade.  Consider one with a

             partial serrated edge.  Also, a multi-tool such as the high quality Leatherman series with a   
             built in saw is highly suggested. 

8. Money.  Small bills up to about $60.  Consider having a few dollars in silver coinage as well.

             Debit and credit will not be available. 

9.  Small Bible.  Last, but certainly not least, is God’s guidance and comfort.


  III.   Situational Awareness.   You must always remain calm and in control.  You must always be aware of your surroundings and what the general atmosphere is to the best of your ability.   Be observant.  Listen intently.  The little intelligence you obtain from these measures can most assuredly save your life. 

In the event a survival situation occurs, it will be helpful to have an understanding of how human nature most likely will react. 

In large population centers such as cities, riots could break out almost immediately if the cause is fueled by an emotionally charged event.  Think of history and the Rodney King riots of Los Angeles in 1992.   Evacuation from and avoidance of such areas must be done immediately.   For other events the time line of societal decay will go as follows:

Day 1 – people will be in disbelief.  A sense of “what’s happened/happening?” will prevail and folks will generally congregate to get answers.  However, as the day progresses and night sets in, panic may escalate and tempers begin to flare.

Day 2 – Panic is growing.  People become frantic and less tolerate. Fear and uncertainty is fast growing.  The risk of personal danger is rising.

Day 3 – Without clean water and most likely food and a lack of sufficient sleep, destitute people will become aggressive with a large percentage resorting to violence.  They will attempt to take what you have.  Avoid contact.

Day 4+ - People away from the comforts of home will become very dangerous. People in their homes will become very protective and civil unrest (everywhere) is a certainty.  Avoid contact at all cost.  

Day 15 - Studies show that civil people will consider resorting to cannibalism if no other food or possibilities of food exist in their immediate future.  They will surely kill for what you have. 


IV. Protection & Security.  While personal protection is somewhat obvious and should quickly

become a very high priority for anyone who finds himself or herself in a survival situation, it is an area that is often misunderstood, misused and left to chance.  Neither of these will serve the survivor well and will surely leave you, sooner or later, in the category of “Non-Survivor.” 

While movies and books do an insatiable job of glamorizing and even romanticizing the lone survivor who beats all odds to overcome great diversity…like being in combat, one cannot truly understand the experience unless one has experienced it for themselves. 

The truth is a person who finds himself/herself in a survival situation will be consumed with confusion, fear, loneliness, and an immense sense of indecisiveness.  Having the necessary provisions discussed above at your disposal should give comfort that the essentials to survive are in your possession.  This is merely a temporary relief if you have neither the knowledge nor requisite abilities to use your gear properly.  You must continue to sharpen your skills by training and planning for such an event. 

However, no matter how strong your logistics and the know-how to use them are, if you do not have the ability to protect yourself and your life tools from others who are desperate and will, through whatever means necessary, take them from you…you will fail. 

1.  Weapons.  As noted above, you should always have in your possession a knife.  While essential as a utility tool, the knife you choose should also be suitable as a backup defensive weapon.  As a primary means of protection, you should have in your possession a quality and reliable handgun that is familiar and that you have had adequate training and experience in firing. 

While there are numerous types and brands of handguns to choose from, some do stand out as a much better choice for defensive purposes. 

Keep in mind that most attacks are done quickly and in close proximity.  Revolvers, while extremely reliable and easy to use, do have limitations.  Most notably is the number of rounds (bullets) one has available for immediate protection.  This typically amounts to 5-6 before reloading is necessary.  Reloading a revolver requires a series of time-consuming actions that make it less desirable as a primary defensive weapon in the survival mode.  If a revolver is still desired, nothing below a .38 caliber should be considered.  Multiple speed loaders should also be purchased which will aid in reloading quicker. 

The optimum handgun for a survival situation is the semi-automatic pistol in mid to full size configuration.  A mid to full size pistol will generally hold between 10-17 rounds depending on the caliber and make.  The larger bullet capacity definitely provides greater firepower in an attack.  Moreover, mid to full size pistols generally have a longer barrel length over the revolver giving it an exceptional advantage in accuracy and range.  Pistols use magazines to hold/feed bullets to the gun and therefore can be easily stored and quickly accessed for a hasty reload.   

Calibers below 9mm should not be considered.  Calibers above 9mm, such as the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP are excellent defensive weapons but be sure to consider the increased size and weight for carrying additional ammunition and magazines.   

a.  Handgun Carry.  The primary defensive handgun should be carried in a manner that allows easy and fast access in the event it is needed.  It should not be stored in the pack.  A quality holster, that either attaches to one’s belt or to the shoulder straps or waist belt of the pack, should be used.  Note: a backup handgun is an excellent idea and may be carried in the pack, if available.  A backup handgun in the same caliber is even better in that it allows you to consolidate ammunition to one type.

b.  Long Gun.  It is commonly understood in the firearms world that a person with a long gun (typically a rifle) will always defeat a person with a handgun in a straight up gunfight.  The truth of this adage leads many to consider having a long gun, either a shotgun or rifle, as their primary firearm. 

There may not be a right or wrong answer to this: only considerations to be made.
While the long gun of choice has definite and obvious advantages, there are important disadvantages as well.

  1. Added weight and ability to carry in addition to pack, water, etc.
  2. Added weight and bulk of ammunition.
  3. Added visibility or lack of ability to conceal the fact that you are armed in/around others you will eventually come into contact with. 


For example…a person sees you from a distance and may choose to by-pass contact with you.  However, if they see you have a “highly prized article” such as a rifle or shotgun, they may choose to engage you from that distance in an attempt to take it from you or double back for an attempt at a more opportune time.  Again, there may be no right or wrong answers to this question: just serious considerations to make. 

2. Traveling.  It is always best to travel in groups of two or more (like minded/prepared) persons if possible.  This is not always possible so you must develop the skills to protect yourself and provide for your own security.  

       a.  Vehicle.  If able to travel by automobile, never stop or leave your vehicle except when absolutely necessary.  Breaks to relieve one’s self should be done by the vehicle as fast as possible and then continue on.  Do not linger.  Modesty is not an issue at this point. Security and safety are. 

Always maintain a full tank of gasoline.  Try to never drop below a half tank before refilling. 

Other than to relieve one’s self, refuel or the occasional meal preparation (try to eat on the go) you should continue to travel to your destination.  Should you have to stop to rest/sleep, you should take the extra time to drive off the main routes in search of a secure and secluded area that affords protection and the ability to hide the vehicle from passersby.  If you are being observed, travel on until you are not.  If traveling with others, someone must be on watch at all times.  Rotate shifts for sleep and eating. 

NEVER relax your security or let your guard down.  

NEVER build a fire unless absolutely necessary for warmth due to potential hypothermia or frost injury.  Fire is a beacon that will lead undesirables to you. 

Be especially watchful for overpasses, bridges and other various choke points that could make excellent ambush/attack sites.

      b.  On Foot/Hiking.   If you find that you have to travel without the comfort and security of a vehicle, all of the above still apply, but now you have numerous other measures to consider. 

  1. Consider traveling at night when others in the area may be resting and less likely for you to encounter.
  2. Never camp on or near the route you are traveling.  If on a main highway/road you should camp at least 100 yards away hidden from sight in the woods.  Again, make sure you are not being observed when detouring to your campsite. 
  3. Pick a site that provides cover (barrier to shield against firearms) as well as concealment (ability to hide) from others. 
  4. NEVER build a fire.  If a fire is absolutely necessary, do so for the minimal amount of time required (during daylight) then move far away to a different locale to make camp. 
  5. Noise and light discipline is as important as not building a fire (for obvious reasons).  You want to get in and out with as little notice as humanly possible. 
  6. If you sense that you are being followed, you may find it necessary to confront the person(s) rather than continuing on.  Do so with extreme caution and with plenty of daylight left if at all possible.  TRUST NO ONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES OUTSIDE YOUR GROUP!
  7. Short of someone committing a grievous act against another, avoid contact with others.  You cannot help them if they are unprepared.  They will be desperate.  So are you and even more so should they harm you and/or take what you have. 
  8. Plan your route(s).  You will most definitely have a planned route if traveling by vehicle.  You should also have routes planned in the event you are on foot. 
  9. Avoid bridges, overpasses and choke points.  They will be prime ambush sites for people traveling by foot.  Bridge crossings, etc. must be done with extreme caution.  You will need to spend time observing from a distance in order to determine the safety and opportunity for crossing. 
  10.  As time progresses you will want to avoid towns and/or any population centers.  Take the time to observe and plan alternate routes around. 


V.  Quantities to Consider.   Above we have talked about the types of food to pack and the means to carry water.  Now let us consider the amounts necessary.

  1. Water.  Clean water is an absolute necessity to survive.  You should drink plenty of water even when you feel that you are not thirsty.  While this should be obvious in hot weather, the same holds true for cold weather as well.  Dehydration is a killer and can attack you in heat or cold. 

Water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon.   Other than your pack and firearm, water will be the heaviest item you carry.  You should have at least three of the containers mentioned above on you.  One should be readily accessible and the other two can be stored/affixed to your pack accordingly. 

Take every opportunity to refill that is available to you.  Take the time to filter properly before consuming.  Illness due to contaminated water is a killer in a survival situation. 

2. Food.  Food will be critical to your health, energy and the ability to make good and sound decisions.  The amount you need will depend on the distance to your desired destination.  Let’s look at an example.


Scenario - 30 miles from your destination – while no one really wants to jump at the chance to hike 30 miles, in a survival situation it seems very “doable”, and it is…if prepared.

Without any problems or delays, the average healthy person with the proper motivation should be able to hike 10 miles per day.  For a 30-mile distance we are looking at a minimum of 3 to 3 ½ days on the road.   Add in the degradation of society as outlined above and we see our 3 day hike easily extend into 5-6 days.  Get the idea?  You have to plan your logistics and train your body and mind accordingly – now.

Ammunition.  Certainly have your firearm(s) and additional magazines loaded at all times.  A box of an additional 50 rounds packed away is not out of the question. 


Additional – Nice to Have:

  1. Radio – Provided you have not experienced an EMP/CME rendering most electronics useless, a radio to monitor news and events is very helpful.  Avoid the temptation to listen to music.  You need to be listening to what is happening around you.
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Work Gloves
  4. Binoculars
  5. Vitamins
  6. Bug Spray
  7. Portable ram radio transceiver (1 for your destination party as well)
  8. Other items to keep your spirits up (depending on your ability to carry)


VII.   Conclusion:

With the proper planning, training, and motivation you can survive such a calamity.
It will not be easy – physically, mentally or emotionally.  There is a great chance that you will see and experience many bad things.  There is a great chance you may have to use violent and/or deadly force.  Now is the time to prepare. 

“Practice makes perfect” – We have all heard this before and most will agree to this simple truth.  If that is the case…shouldn’t you practice the things we have discussed above?  After all, getting these important items in hand and these techniques down to a workable level of confidence and ability is a great deal more important than whether or not you will win a sporting event or pull off a successful performance.  How well you perform here means whether or not you will live or die. 

Finally, I have been told that I should create a checklist to include with this guide.  I have given that a lot of thought and realized that this entire guide is, in essence, a checklist.  To prepare properly you will most likely devise numerous checklist and I can guarantee that you will revise them from time to time based on your needs, plans, location, time of year, abilities, and desires.  The main thing is to get started.  Simply check off items in this guide page by page as you acquire them and you will be well on your way. 

Survivor Ideology: “It is much better to be prepared a year in advance than a day
too late.”

God is always with you.  Good luck and God speed. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

We all have our own personal style at preparedness, and the style seems to mature with you the longer you prepare.  I have noticed this in others and myself; that we all gravitate towards the preparedness hobbies that best fit our personal inclinations—homesteading skills in the traditional sense just might not be your gig.  I get that—it is another great reason why a close knit community of prepared people is a super idea.  Let someone else make homemade candles if you just cannot get kicks and giggles out of dipping string repeatedly into a burning wax. (Tactfully)  Identify others, identify their skills sets, and build out from there.  However, I do not think that the “It’s not my fave” excuse will really be a luxury you can afford when it all goes down.  That works in a modern everyone’s-a-specialist society, but not in the real world of hunger and hard work.   If homesteading does nothing else, it builds the “somebody’s gotta do it” grit in yourself, your spouse, and your children—as I was reminded this week when I had to eliminate an animal that was born with spinal cord problems.  As solemn as that moment was for me, I took my place as steward of land and animal, also taking the opportunity to reflect on just how homesteading is a beneficial  crucial part of a prepared lifestyle.   

  1. The animals and structure are already in place.  Let’s face it: freeze dried food runs out eventually.  A steady diet of it (even the best of it) will leave your body hurting for a fresh egg fried up in some tallow or lard.  Just when do you plan on purchasing your livestock?  There will be many, who in a panic, will not reserve enough breeding stock to supply for themselves and others too.  Pack animals and livestock will be a true commodity.  So will fencing and shelter.   If you get it in place now, it will be life as usual for you later.
  2. You will learn your land.  You will learn its flora and fauna.  Before homesteading, I did not realize that I had such a mess of chokecherries down by the overgrown creek bed or that those Siberian Pea Bushes attracted the deer.  Knowing your land is key to protecting it from others and to surviving off of it in lean times. 
  3. You will develop a sense of stewardship.  You will feel a loyalty to the land that provides for you and will become better at maintaining it properly with a long-term perspective.  Sure, you could spray that nasty field of weeds this year, but you’ll lose a valuable cattle field for a season; so perhaps you’ll choose to cycle goats through it instead.  They will eat the weeds, fertilize the land,  keep Monsanto off your property, and provide meat or milk for your family.  This is a singular example of how creating an active polyculture on the land will create a sustainable yield for decades to come.   This mentality does not generally happen overnight; it is a seasoned approach developed through trial and error. 
  4. Frugality.  No one is as poor as a homesteader.  But then, we homesteaders measure wealth in different ways.  The bleating of animals, the rustling of the fruit trees, this is wealth to us.  When it comes to recycling and repurposing, we become masters by necessity.  Broken pots string together to scare the birds away from the garden, serve as plant markers, or work really well to provide drainage in the bottom of other pots.  You never throw a glass jar away;  broken furniture can serve as a chicken roost, a potting station, or a gate to a pasture.   You get the idea.  As a former rich kid, believe me when I say that this is a learned skill and an altered mindset that come only from practice (not Pinterest).
  5. Time Management.  You will learn to live seasonally based upon the season’s chores and food availability.  You will focus on the indoor stuff in bad weather, outdoor stuff in good weather.  This sounds trivial, but if you are accustomed to a consistent career in which your to-do list has a line of checkmarks at the end of the day, well….homesteading is not usually that.  You planned something that got rained out, or you fixed a broken fence instead of the original day’s plans.  You will learn to appreciate the successes along the way and to relax about the diversions.  Eventually.  In either case, you will make the most of the moment and learn to “make hay while the sun shines”.
  6. You will be healthy and strong.  I pounded fence posts for the first time in my life this past summer; I was unable to do it when I tried six months earlier.  The time I spend in the sunshine has altered my overall mood, appearance, and contentment.  I breathe deeply, I eat well, and feel  good. 
  7. Your children will receive a practical life education.  Most kids in modern America have a connection to their food, their land, or even to hard work.  If anything were to happen to our societal structure, how have you incorporated self-reliance into your child’s upbringing?  Problem-solving skills, tenacity, hard work, a sense of priorities, the ability to face unpleasantness, the list goes on.   
  8. Healthy Psychology.  Tied to number 7, it is not just the harder stuff that builds your child (or you), but the fun stuff too.  We have developed intrinsic motivators wholly unconnected…literally.  No plug, no batteries.  We reward ourselves for a hot day on the homestead with an icy dip in the mountain stream.  We reward ourselves on long wintery homeschooling days with a family game of Monopoly.  We know how to work hard, but we know how to have fun too.  We do it “off grid”…homesteading style. 
  9. Water.   A lot of preppers store plastic jugs of it “just in case”.  That is not a bad idea, by any means.  But is it the best idea?  When searching for our homestead, we knew the land had to have some type of water on it.  This is not possible everywhere, I understand, but it makes things easier now while trying to irrigate crops or water animals during a drought.  We use a Berkey Water purification system for our daily drinking water and I know—if it came down to it—the bucket brigade at the creek means that I never have to worry about clean drinking water in an emergency. 
  10. A rural environment.  This is the modern era—guys get pedicures and women get bicep tattoos.  Likewise, homesteading is no longer confined to rural America.  Goodness no—apartment dwellers can get into beekeeping and gardening, food preservation and other homesteading skills.  I hope that we can foster that self-reliant attitude no matter what type of geological environment you may occupy.  With that said, though, someone actively homesteading now will ultimately seek the place to stretch out.  Like-minded neighbors are usually the result.  If you are living out of the city limits with the hope of having livestock, your immediate (or even sprawling) neighbors are likely to have either the same tendencies or sympathy towards them.  I must make a caveat that I know firsthand this is not the case everywhere.  If you have yet to purchase land but are looking, talk to the neighbors.  Wilson and I, when initially searching for land in Montana, came across land with so many covenants on it that you could not have more than a single family pet.  The irony was that the land was originally Amish land in the mountains of Montana.   As an aside, that land has been for sale for over two years now…but still.   Find out about covenants, meet the neighbors.  You will find kindred spirits in most rural areas far more effortlessly than you would in metropolitan ones. 
  11. A physical connection to the Creator, which will serve as a moral compass in hard times.  This isn’t hooey about how you do not need fellowship because fishing on a Sunday morning meets that need; that excuse is contrary to Biblical counsel.  Still, there is something to it that when life hits me hard and I step out into the unforgiving snowstorm to check on the animals, I glance up long enough to see the deep hues of the pink and gray sky and think…for just a frozen moment…about my miniscule stature in light of an awesome God.  And then I hustle my tail back into the house.  The Heavens declare his firmament…not billboards, not the latest mobile app…the Heavens. When it all comes down in the end and you have the opportunity to help others in need, your long-term perspective of your smallness and your utter dependence upon God will guide you to do the right thing, should such a moment ever arise.  And it will arise. 

In the meantime, Wilson and I at Pantry Paratus hope that you will keep learning & working to produce, prepare, and preserve your own harvest.  - Chaya

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

This device allows for the baling of water from a standard "drilled and cased" domestic water well in the event of a power outage.  The only drawback is that the “guts” of the well system must first be removed from the well – this includes pump, pipe, cable, wiring, etc.
Materials List

  1. Section of solid PVC pipe sized for the well casing diameter – probably 3-inch inside diameter will fit most water wells.  A 30-inch section of 3-inch pipe will hold about a gallon of water.
  2. End cap – use a flat test cap rather than the usual convex permanent cap.
  3. PVC primer and glue – to affix the end cap to the pipe section.
  4. Plumber’s gasket – this is a rubber sheet, typically red in color, and available as 6-inch squares found in the plumbing aisle in a home improvement / hardware store.
  5. Long bolt and locknut – this is placed through the pipe section at the top to secure a d-ring and rope.  Length needs to be appropriate for the pipe diameter.  Stainless steel is preferred.
  6. Short bolt, fender washer, and locknut – this is for assembling the gasket and end cap.  A 1-inch long ¼-20 bolt, wide washer, and locknut is typical.  Stainless steel is preferred.
  7. D-link – placed on the top long bolt and to secure the rope.  ¾-inch or 1-inch size is typical.
  8. Rope or cord – attached to the D-link for lowering the bucket into the well.  Nylon or poly braid in 100-foot lengths is typical.

Tools Needed

  1. Drill and bit – holes in the pipe for top long bolt and holes in the end cap and gasket.  Bit size is determined by hole size that must be large enough to accommodate the bolts (or rope).
  2. Screwdriver or wrench – determined by the bolt head configurations.
  3. Pliers or wrench – because locknuts are used.
  4. Scissors – to cut the plumber’s gasket

Assembly Instructions

  1. Option 1 – drill holes through one end of the pipe and install the long top bolt and nut.  This is used with the D-link and rope.  Make sure the bolt head and locknut still have clearance on the inside of the well casing.  Option 2 – drill holes and use rope only without a bolt, nut, and D-link.
  2. Cut a round piece from the plumber’s gasket to fit the inside diameter of the pipe section.  Diameter of round gasket should be about a ¼-inch less than the pipe’s inside diameter.  The end cap can serve as a template.
  3. Drill a hole in the center of the round gasket to accommodate the short bolt.  Drill a hole in the center of the end cap for the short bolt.  Also drill eight holes around the outside edge of the end cap – these are the water infiltration holes.
  4. Place the round gasket atop the inside surface of the end cap.  From the other side, insert the short bolt through the end cap center hole and through the round gasket hole.  Place washer over the bolt against the gasket and secure with the locknut.  Do not over-tighten the locknut.
  5. Prime and glue the end cap assembly on the bottom end of the pipe section.  Allow to dry.

Testing Instructions
Once the end cap glue is dried and cured, then the performance of the well bucket can be tested.  Fill a sink, tub, or other vessel with water.  Lower the well bucket into the water and water should flow into the device through the holes in the bottom end cap.  As the well bucket is raised, the weight of the water should press down upon the gasket and keep the water from leaking out.  It may not be a water-tight seal, but it should be adequate to bale water from the well casing.

Well Baling Instructions

  1. If the top bolt and D-link option was used, attach the rope to the D-link at the top of the well bucket.  Make sure the bitter end of the rope is secured to a stable tie-off point.  If only rope is used, then thread the rope through the drilled holes and secure the rope to the top of the well bucket.  Tie-off the bitter end of the rope to a stable point.
  2. Lower the well bucket into the well casing and submerge in the column of water in the well casing.  Allow water to fill the well bucket.  Raise the filled well bucket out of the well casing and pour contents into a storage vessel.  Repeat as desired.

Notes and Comments

  1. Water weighs about 8.3 pounds per gallon (think of a gallon jug of milk from the grocery store).
  2. A 30-inch long, 3-inch diameter well bucket will hold almost one gallon.  Longer or wider well buckets will hold more water.
  3. For those concerned with volumetric mathematics, here are some data points:
    1. Bucket volume equation is Pi times pipe radius squared (inches) times pipe length.
      Pi = 3.1416.  This volume equation yields cubic inches of water.
    2. To convert cubic inches to gallons, divide cubic inches by 231 to derive gallons.
      With the 30-inch pipe, 3-inch diameter example, the equation is:
      3.1416 x 1.52 x 30 = 212 cubic inches = 0.92 gallons = 117 ounces
  4. As an aside, the volume equation can also be used to calculate the storage capacity of your well bore hole.  (I have a very deep well that is low yielding in gallons per minute but there is a large storage capacity volume due to the drill depth – perhaps some piece of mind.)
Don’t be over-zealous in making a larger or longer well bucket.  Water is heavy and baling out of the well head is ergonomically challenging.  A repeated vertical rope-pulling  lift of even 50 feet with only a ten-pound load (one gallon plus bucket) will prove to be a strenuous workout.

JWR Adds: A commercially-made foot valve (available at your local plumbing supply store) is usually much more efficient and reliable than a home-made one, but YMMV.

Monday, November 25, 2013

In response to the recent article: Light Blocking Suggestions for Windows, I'd like to mention that another very low cost option for blacking out windows is a roll of roofing (tar) paper. It takes up very little space. It can also be used as expedient, water-resistant repair material.  - Pat O'C.

JWR Replies: Tar paper does indeed have many uses, but I'de recommend that you use it outside, rather than inside widows. Tar paper is notorious for outgassing. The distinctive tarry smell can linger for many months or even years in a confined space, so I would recommend never storing or using it inside a living space. It is also important to avoid using tar paper on the outer (exposed) layer of roofs that will be use for drinking water catchment.

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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I'm a suburbs dweller, living about 25 miles out of Milwaukee. I've gotten my mom--who lives nearby--into prepping. (Loaning her my copy of your "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" book worked!) So what do I do next, to get her farther down the road [to prepping]? I bought her a Kat[adyn water] filter. She has no clue about storage of foods. (We aren't one of those "canning" families.) I bought myself a bunch of MREs and Mountain House foods, but she can't afford to [do likewise], since she's a retired school teacher. Do you have any advice on how she can store her own food, and not break the bank? Thanks, - G.H.C.

JWR Replies: The Rawles Gets You Ready Preparedness Course (now priced at less than $20) would be a good gift to put in the hands of any relatives or friends who are interested in prepping, but don't know where to start. In the course I describe shopping at Big Box stores like COSTCO as one of the most time-efficient and cost-effective ways to stock up on staple foods. There is also some information in the course that is useful for advanced preppers.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hi Jim,
The really bug thing about long-term black outs, is the failure of urban (and not-so urban) water systems.  Few care where their clean, safe, drinking water comes from, since it’s been gushing out of their pipes all their lives.  Electricity pumps water into towers and tanks on high ground where gravity does the rest.  No power, no water.  Even the FEMA planners in New Jersey I lectured to a few years ago didn’t quite grasp the implications of a post-EMP America....they all thought they’d be inconvenienced because they couldn’t use their computers. Toilets need water to flush, so there will be sanitation issues on a Biblical scale. There will be disease outbreaks soon after 315,000,000 people start eliminating outdoors.  Few peopele will dig latrines in the concrete jungle to properly bury waste.  Ultra-modern buildings built without windows capable of being opened will soon be unusable for their designed purpose....but maybe can be used for baking, eh?  

Our fellow citizens who lived through Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy already have had a taste of this, except that no outside help may be coming next time.  Next to immediate considerations for clothing, water will soon prove our biggest challenge in coping with life without power.   When I ask neighbors where they will get clean water to drink when it no longer comes out of their taps, I get “the stare.”.

Best Regards, - Paul

Friday, October 11, 2013

When I was very young I would sometime spend rainy days at my grand-mother's house going through sporting goods catalogs and the Sears catalog making list of items that might be needed during disasters or emergencies. I have no idea why I am wired in such a way that I give a good amount of thought to being prepared. I am no longer a young boy but now I believe making such plans are more important than ever before. The economic situation in our country can only be described as terrifying to anyone who will take the blinders off and look. It is said that there is nothing new under the sun and if one looks back at other countries and civilizations that followed a similar path you can see the possible outcome. If one prepares for a disaster that never happens he is no worse off but if unprepared when disaster strikes there is no remedy. 

Each family's needs and security situation is different so there is no cookie cutter plan for being prepared. Use available learning tools and make your own plans. The reason I am writing this letter is to share some resources I have found. I am by no means prepared for all possible events. I am working on my own plans as I am able to. If we encourage each other and help each other than if a disaster ever does occur then we will all be better prepared. I will list some resources I have found that others might find useful.

1. Water
    I believe that the first item everyone should try to plan for is a source for safe drinking water. If a well is available consider installing a solar powered well pump. Since most of us don't have a well I strongly recommend Lifesaver brand water filters. The Lifesaver jerry can filter will make 20,000 liters of safe drinking water from most any source of fresh water. The lifesaver jerry cans are available at Amazon.com. There are other good filters but try to plan for months, not days.

2. Food
   You gotta eat! For short term food storage we should all have a supply of canned goods and basics such as rice, beans, oats, pasta, and flour. Don't worry too much about storing these foods for long term. As they age just donate them and replace them. One of the best resources for food storage is the Latter Day Saints food facilities. We are lucky to have one of these nearby in Slidell, Louisiana. The Mormons encourage their members to be prepared and set up regional facilities to pack food items for long term storage. Dry food items sealed in #10 cans can have a shelf life as long as 20 years. This facility is at this time open to people that are not associated the the LDS. The LDS web site has a great deal of information about disaster planning and food storage.
Storing food will feed you during most conceivable emergencies. We should also plan for an unconceivable emergency that doesn't last days or weeks but instead last months or years. We should all have on hand a good supply of heirloom non-hybrid seeds for gardens. Using heirloom non-hybrid seeds allows you to save seeds from your gardens for future gardens. Most hybrid or modified vegetables do not reproduce well naturally. Emergency seed packs are available at many sources. Here are a couple, Sportmansguide.com, item wx2-222028. Type in emergency seeds on Amazon.com and you will many choices. Keep in mind that you will also need to keep fertilizer on hand. As you use the stored fertilizer replace it. You do have hand tools for gardening don't you?

3. Warmth and cooking
   We are lucky to live in an area with mild winters but we still need to plan on heat sources to keep warm. For short term generators or even simply extra blankets will suffice. For long term situations we will all end up burning wood in some form or fashion. Make sure you have hand tools such as ax, splitter, and saw. For cooking most of us have camp stoves or grills that we have used after hurricanes. But what if the fuel for these becomes unavailable or so expensive it might as well be unavailable. Buying some type of wood stove or making a jet cooker now and storing it will give you peace of mind. You can look up plans for home-made wood cookers on you-tube and on several prepper web-sites. I will list some helpful sites at the end of the letter. The Dollar Tree store sells candles that are about 8 or 9 inches tall in a glass jar that will burn for about 80 hours each. The candles cost $1 each. The stores are often out but you can order them by the case from their web site and pick the candles up at the store. You should have a at least couple of dozen of these candles.

4. Shelter
    This is a difficult topic because this is one area that everyone will have different needs and desires. Most everyone would want to stay in their present location but there are several items to consider. You must be in a secure location and be able to defend yourself at that location. Having a weapon is not enough. You need to consider what is required to set security watches and defendable perimeters. Some people might think that they will not resort to violence to defend their shelter and there supplies. When unprepared people decide to take what you and yours need to survive most people will fight. Your location must have a reliable water source. Many people will find it necessary to join with other friends or family members for support and security. These topics should be discussed with others before there is an emergency at hand. If people decide to plan on joining up together than it would be wise to preposition supplies at the planned location. It is also wise to have a back-up plan in case the planned location is not useable for some reason.

5. Medical supplies
    Most of us end up taking some type of daily meds as we get older. There is only so much of these meds that we can obtain and hold. However there are sources for other medical items that we all need from time to time. Many people that are called preppers these days have been buying antibiotics from vet supply resources. www.calvetsupply.com is one I have used. The antibiotics are usually labeled for use in aquariums or for animals. The antibiotics are exactly the same as the ones you receive from Wal-Mart or Medco. I have documentation from doctors that state that the meds are the same and that the shelf life if stored out of intense heat is measured in years in most cases. There is talk that the government wants to stop the internet sales of vet medicines because people are buying them for human use so I would get a supply as soon as you can. We should all have several types of antibiotics and other medical supplies. There are sites that describe which antibiotics are best used for different medical ailments. You should have basic first aid supplies for stopping blood loss from major injuries. Keep QuickClot or Celox packets to stop major bleeding. Israeli pressure bandages and tourniquets are must have items. Steri-strips and sutures are also needed. Also alcohol and Betadine needs to be on hand. Have a supply of forceps and other tools. Buy a good supply of otc medicines, especially imodium, tylenol, and ibuprofen.

6. Power
    As you can tell from this letter we are discussing long term emergencies instead of a couple of days without power after a storm. It would be prudent for us to look at solar power systems to provide some electrical power. This would not only allow you to have a couple of lights but could also power a communication device to talk to people on guard duty or could power radios for communication. We should all definitely have a good supply of rechargeable batteries and a solar recharging device. The more batteries you can obtain now the better. Remember that the day after the emergency is too late to find batteries, radios, or solar devices. If you decide to look into setting up a solar power system you will need deep cycle batteries. The better the deep cycle battery is the more expensive it is and none of them are cheap. A very good book to have on hand is The 12 Volt Bible, it is available on Amazon.

7. Transportation
    We should not only have at least one bicycle but it should be maintained. We should keep spare tires, tubes, and tire patches for the bike. It would be great to have an extra chain. Don't overlook having a hand powered pump

8. Clothing
    Buy a few pairs of jeans and other sturdy clothes and store them in a vacuum bag to protect them from moths. On www.sportsmansguide.com there is available Guide Gear brand jeans. You can get them with or without a double layer of cloth on the front of the legs for extra durability.

9. Security
  This is too large a topic to cover in a letter. The most important thing to say is to learn and plan. There are many books available to order or borrow. Everyone learned a few months ago how quickly ammunition can disappear from store shelves. We should all have a couple of good weapons and plenty of ammunition. There is no such thing as enough ammunition. In a real long term emergency ammunition will become the preferred barter item. Ammo will become the basic currency along with pre '64 silver coins if we ever experience a real long term disruption. A couple of weapons and a good supply of ammunition are required but from there a person is only limited by his own resources. In a true long term disruption the man with a night vision device will be much more secure than those without. These devices are very expensive for good 3rd. generation models. At least get good night sights such as Trijicon brand night sites for your primary weapon. Trijicon night sights for an AR-15 cost less than $100 and will be invaluable if you ever need them. You won't be very effective if you cannot see your sights. A similar item is body armor. It seems like a complete waste of money in normal times but would be worth everything if it saves you from being shot. I will share some information from books I have read. It sounds basic but you must know the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment can prevent someone from seeing you but cover can stop rounds headed your way, don't confuse the two. In times of trouble a weapon is useless in a safe. During a real time of trouble you should be armed at all times.

Trying to be prepared is a project that never ends. All we can do is the best we can but even that will be more than the majority of people. I will list some items we should stock up on and a few books that can be helpful. I should say that these books should be acquired in paper form and not on an e-reader.
| Stock up items for your own use and for barter: bug spray, storage food, ammo, water filters, jeans, t-shirts, batteries, pre-1965 silver coins, otc medicines, skin lotion, towels, blankets, fertilizer, seeds, food grade pails with lids (find a restaurant that will give you mayo and dressing pails), hand gardening tools and wood cutting tools, toothbrushes, 1st aid supplies, candles, reading glasses, bike tires and tubes, tire patches, multi-vitamins, matches, baking soda, sugar, vinegar, propane (propane will store long term), bleach (dry pool tablets store well but must be pure bleach), bar soap, surgical mask, latex or vinyl gloves.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It by James Wesley Rawles
Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by David Werner
Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
Wilderness Medicine Beyond First Aid By William W. Forgey M.D.
Emergency War Surgery (NATO Handbook:- Third United States Revision, 2004) by Dr. Martin Fackler, et al.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring
When There Is No Doctor: Preventative and Emergency Healthcare by Gerard S. Doyle,
Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles (a great novel but it is full of useful information)
Ranger Handbook an Army field manual. (There are many other useful books and military field manuals).
Useful web sites:

 http://jrhenterprises.com/PVS14-3rd-Gen-on-SALE-PVS14SALE.htm, night vision sales
http://rainydayfoodstorage.blogspot.com/ food storage
http://www.ebay.com/bhp/woodgas-camp-stove wood gas stove
http://www.tilapiadepot.com/ raising fish at home
http://www.knowstuf.com/basementaquaponics raising fish at home, aquaponics
http://aquaticpharmacy.com/eshop Vet Supply
http://www.calvetsupply.com/ Vet supply
http://www.cdc.gov/ Centers for Disease Control
http://www.truthistreason.net/guide-to-veterinary-drugs-for-human-consumption-post-shtf Medical info
http://www.firstaidweb.com/ First aid training
http://shop.sportsmansguide.com/net/Main.aspx?kwtid=239433 Sportsman's Guide
http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/NTESearch?storeId=6970&ipp=24&Ntt=wood%2Bstove Northern Tool
http://www.rddusa.com/ military surplus equipment
http://www.natchezss.com/ Natchez Shooter Supply
http://www.brigadeqm.com/default.asp Brigade Quartermasters
http://www.armslist.com/classifieds/mississippi Armslist MS. classified firearms sales and trade.
http://www.wilderness-survival-skills.com/wilderness-first-aid.html wilderness first aid
http://www.gunbot.net/ ammo search tool
http://www.zahal.org/ Israeli Tactical gear
http://www.luckygunner.com/ ammo sales
http://www.midwayusa.com/ gun parts and magazines
http://www.sgammo.com/ ammo sales
http://www.underwoodammo.com/ ammo sales
http://www.trijicon.com/na_en/index.php night sights
http://www.firstoptionmedical.com/ medical supplies
http://www.backyardchickens.com/ raising chickens
http://codegreenprep.com/ prepping info
http://homesteadsurvival.com/ general homesteading info
http://www.backwoodshome.com/ general homesteading info
http://www.goldandsilveronline.com/ pre-1965 silver coins

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I, like so many people across the country, can't walk out of my local sporting goods store without buying the limit of ammunition. Now, before you judge me, realize that most places limit you to small boxes of ammunition, and usually one two per caliber. Is it being prudent or just being obsessed? While the firearm and ammo situation is very much a media-hyped thing,  I have even talked about things you must buy every time you are out, like my article on Things Commonly Overlooked.  But what about those items that you pick up, look at the price tag, but pass on it saying "maybe next time."

In conversations with my other prepping type friends, it would appear that ammunition and firearms are the centerpiece of all of our preparations. While all of us love to shoot and none of us want to cut a good day of shooting short because it will take us weeks to resupply. the truth of the matter is that we are making firearms and ammunition the priority, both in the money and the peace of mind spent to assure our continuation in a world gone bad. But does it really do either of those?

After a few comments from my better half, I got to thinking about how much money I have sunk into my firearms and ammunition in the last year. I have bought at least a half dozen guns. I also make it to my local Academy at least once per pay period and have never walked out without buying the 2 box limit of 9mm or .45, or the limit in .223/.22. Which means the cheapest possible trip in and out is approximately $45. Commonly I buy an additional box of .38 special or .357, which is at least an additional $25. So, let's say I do that once a pay period or twice a month. That's over $1000 a year in ammunition. Again, that's a very conservative estimate. Truth be told, i don't shoot that much and my stock had grown such that I have...well...more than I need.

It was after the crisis in Syria became front page news that I started thinking: What could I have bought instead of all this ammo. More importantly, what things could I possibly need in a split second that guns and ammo couldn't get me. The first thing that I thought of was the one thing that was all over the news. There were scenes of those killed by gas. There were scenes of those luckily to only be maimed by it, usually losing their eyesight. I don't know about you, but that's one sense I'd rather not do without. What did these people not have  that might have saved them? Gas masks.

All of the ammunition in the world couldn't help those people exposed. There was nowhere to run. Once within that poison cloud, you couldn't simply run or hide from it. You certainly couldn't fight out of it or buy/trade your way to safety. But, had those people had access to gas masks, what then? Chances are, they slip them on and escape to live another day. So, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, watching this horror, I got on Amazon to see what gas masks were selling for. In the back of my mind, I assumed that it was just another piece of equipment that I knew I might one day need, would love to buy it for piece of mind, but just couldn't afford to buy it. I'm like everyone else. I am middle class, and while I do believe in being prepared, the pragmatic part of me sets limitations.

What did I find? Amazon has Russian/Israeli/etc military surplus gas masks....to the tune of about $40 shipped to your door.

Now, I didn't forget about the kids. After all, life really isn't worth living if I can't get my whole family. So, still on Amazon, I looked for the same thing in kids sizes. To my surprise, they were also extremely affordable. I was able to buy 3 kids size military surplus masks for under $40 shipped. Not bad, eh?

So, that got me thinking....we spend all this time talking about things we may need, but can't "justify" spending the money on...even though we nickel-and-dime ourselves away prepping on other things. And while I did think of some things.

  • At home water cistern/storage. I had been talking about doing this for a long time, specifically to my dad. See, they live on top of a mountain that's actually above the local water tank. So, there is a booster pump at the bottom of the hill to provide water pressure. It goes out constantly. Well, he has chickens. And dogs. And tons of everything. Not to mention the need for water for himself. He elected to buy an off the shelf version that caught rainwater running off of his shop. I believe it's a 450 gallon unit and it filled up with the first rain. You can get pretty ingenuity with yours and do it fairly cheap (under $150) and go as far as you want to make it work for you. For example, putting it on stilts, adding a 2 way valve to your house water supply, and you can now use your house water system. 
  • Tyvek suits are something that are relatively cheap and very useful to have ready. Will they protect you against many nasty chemical weapons? Will it stop radiation? No. But, it will do an admirable job against most chemical weapons and biological ones. They are water proof. They are easy to find, easy to put on, and cheap. 
  • "Noah's Ark" seed assortments. Tons of places sell heirloom seed assortments. They are around $80-to-$100 and will come with a large variety and assortment of herbs and vegetables. If you are like me and my wife, you normally buy your seeds annually from a catalog. What if instead, you bought one of these a year. And the next year, you planted your old one when you received your new one? This would ensure maximum freshness. While I understand that most people don't have that kind of room and couldn't use a whole set, you can at least use some of them. This way you can save yourself a little money on groceries, but most importantly, get into the practice of growing your own and learning all the little pitfalls.
  • Indoor plant growing station. Even if you live in an apartment you can buy one. Sorry, I couldn't think of a better name for it. The stands and the correct lights (you can't just use standard bulbs) do cost a good amount of money, usually around $100. Maybe that's one of the reasons that I never bought one to begin with. Plus, Alabama has such a temperate climate that starting your own seedlings isn't usually necessary. This year, however, we experienced a deluge of rain that kept me from planting. Plus, a friend was moving out of town and was selling his setup. So, I bought it cheap. With a cheap bag of soil, I was able to easily grow 30 tomato plants in a 48" long tray until they were big enough to separate and grow in their own pots. So, it cost about $125 counting the lights and stand, the soil, cups, and seeds. What would 30 half grown tomato cost you at Lowe's? There you go. 
  • A dirt bike. A used dirt bike can be found easily and cheaply around here. Especially an older one that is carbureted and has a non-electronic ignition. Why would you want such a thing? Well, in the case of an EMP, it would be one of the few rides left around town that ran. You couldn't put a price on being able to ride to and fro when the lights went out. Additionally, if you didn't get out ahead of everyone in another catastrophic event.. For example, let's say that you were in gridlock traffic and you just KNEW something really bad was about to happen. You could unload your little dirt bike off the back of your truck and take off. Paved roads, dirt roads, through the trees, doesn't matter. You could ride almost anywhere. Sure, it would cost you $1,000 up front. But, like we were talking about earlier, I spent that in ammo this year. This is a much more useful tool.

Again, these are but a few things that I thought of in a short thinking session. I hope that I will hear from some of you to point out others. The point is, you simply can't let a once time price stop you from buying semi-affordable things. Especially when you are dedicated to spending the money anyway. There are certainly things that I can't afford. But, I find myself spending money on things I can afford while ignoring things I could afford. So, put things in a price-perspective. Do you need another assault rifle? Another case of MREs? Maybe. Maybe not. But think of all the other things you could do with $1,500 that could buy you precious minutes or hours.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm looking for any insight regarding regarding discreet water storage in a suburban neighborhood.  My family is most certainly amateur peppers living in a suburban neighborhood just north of Des Moines, Iowa.  We have security, food, medical supplies along with other essentials.  The one thing we don't have is near enough water.  

My main hesitation from just going out and getting 55-gallon water barrels is how conspicuous they would be. However that said, that may be the best solution. Are there any other solutions that I should consider?

Great site and invaluable information.  Thank you! - J.P.H. in Iowa

JWR Replies: Yes, I would recommend getting blue HDPE 55-gallon water barrels or perhaps metal frame "tote" food grade tanks, if you have the floor space. If they will be stored in a garage where they will be in public gaze if the garage door is open then be sure to drape them with tarps, or camouflage them with scrap cardboard boxes that have been sectioned. With some creativity, you can easily make the row of drums look merely like a stack of typisch Middle Class excess "stuff."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello Mr. Rawles,
I am a great fan of your work and I eagerly anticipate the release of your new novel.   I live in rural Northeastern Colorado, where both sides of my family settled in the 1870s.  The mid-sized ranch, 1,900 acres, that I live on has been owned by my family for 104 years.  I raise cattle, goats, horses and hay along with my dad, my wife and kids.  I also have a “government job” in local emergency services to help make ends meet. 
I read the recent article by Denise Chow of Live Science, titled Water Woes: Vast US Aquifer Is Being Tapped Out about the Ogallala Aquifer and thought you might be interested in it.  I can vouch that the water table is indeed dropping, from personal experience.  We are on the edge of the Ogallala Aquifer and we have always had an ample supply of water until about five years ago when the wells in our area started going dry.  We have a stock well with a windmill on our place, that was originally hand dug by my great-grandfather in the early 1890s, which went dry two years ago.  I believe that this problem will help contribute to and be a factor in the coming collapse.  There are some center pivot irrigation wells in our area that are no longer being used because they either went dry, or were told to shut down by the state to conserve water.  This has reduced the amount of high yield crops being raised because they now have to be dry land farmed and produce lower yields.
Keep up the good work and God Bless, - Michael M.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

(Continued from Part 1)

Level I Scenario

In these paragraphs, we will look at the areas of primary and secondary importance as they can be managed in a Level I scenario.


A person needs around two gallons per day for cooking and rudimentary cleaning.  For short term emergencies it may be possible to store up two weeks or more water, that much should be stored up anyway.  When you store water, treat it with iodine or Clorox or boil (iodine is better, boiling is best) and rotate water stores every six months, see level II instructions for disinfecting ratios.  Water can be recovered in the house from plumbing pipes, the back tank of the toilets, the hot water heater, and can be stored in water beds if the conditioner has never been used (treat and rotate).  Reserve the water bed, toilet tank and tub water for non-potable uses or distill before use.  Milk jugs don't make good long term storage devices, 2 liter coke bottles do.  Also, if you expect water shortages, clean the tubs thoroughly and fill them up.  Water has also been used from swimming pools.  If the water is shut off temporarily, you can flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water directly into the bowl, use creek water or bath tub water.  Conserve water at every opportunity.


Keep two months worth of canned goods in your pantry.  Canned goods will last for at least a year, longer if you turn them over every couple months.  Rotate them on a last in, first out basis to keep the stash current.  Beware of canned goods that are bulging, smell bad or make a whooshing noise when you open them, if there is any doubt, feed them to the cat.  Just kidding, cat lovers  (the cat may be needed for extra protein)  Don't forget the can opener (non-electric, of course)  Have some way to cook: an outdoor grill with plenty of fuel, Sterno cans, fireplace, camp stoves with plenty of fuel; all the above; an outdoor campfire might work. 


A disaster may hit in the winter so have some way to heat your house if the power goes out for a while.  A fireplace, although grossly inefficient, will help, a kerosene heater costs about 150 dollars, or less, wood stoves are a good bet.  Never burn a charcoal fire inside.  Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning, use adequate ventilation, and don't catch the house on fire.  Make sure you have a couple of fire extinguishers rated for ABC type fires, keep the matches away from the kids.  Block off only the room you are trying to heat with blankets over openings not already covered with a door.   If you are depending on firewood, or whatever source of fuel, stock up well before the winter; firewood takes several months to dry out.  Have plenty of blankets or sleeping bags handy.  It would be advisable to install battery powered Carbon-monoxide monitors and extra smoke detectors, if you are heating or cooking indoors with open flame.

Physical Protection

Keep the doors secured at night; don't leave tools and firewood lying about in the open.  Avoid the cities if there is unrest; heighten driving awareness, lock the car doors and drive around crowds of people.

Spiritual Needs

Never miss an opportunity to get closer to God.  Pray for guidance before making decisions.  Try not to worry;  Matthew 6:34 

"...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Also, 1 Peter 5:9 

            "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

Medical/Dental Needs

Keep current on medical issues.  Stock up on any medications you may require in case of any spot shortages in that area.  Build up a first aid kit, there is a fairly extensive one listed in Appendix A, of course speaking of appendix, with the kit listed below you could probably take one out.  Modify the kit downwards if you like to fit a Scenario I environment.  Don't forget a spare pair of glasses if you need them.  Wash your hands frequently to avoid sickness, purify your water religiously.

Financial/Legal Concerns

Make copies of all bank statements, insurance policies, retirement policies, IRAs, 401(k)s, anyplace you have money in an electronic format.  Keep a copy of your estimated Social Security benefits; this shows the amount of retirement benefits you are entitled to when you retire.  Talk to a financial advisor.  The stock market may take a dive but will probably recover.  It might be a wise move to have 3 or 4 weeks’ worth of cash at home, don't advertise, keep it in a well concealed fire-safe. 


Power, lighting, water, gas, and sewage.  In a Scenario I environment there might be random power outages lasting for a relatively short time, maybe a day or two, think of a good ice storm or tornado.  A generator might be in order, make sure you connect it to the system safely and isolate your house from the outside system to avoid cooking utility repairmen.  Talk to an electrician; there are several options on how to hook up a generator to your house, there's the correct way and there's the way everybody does it.  Store enough fuel for the noisy, hungry beast and use only those appliances that are necessary.  An alternative to electric lights are Kerosene lamps, use #1 or #2 Kerosene, three lamps burning 5 hours a night will go through about  2 -1/2 gallons of Kerosene in a month.  Calculate your fuel requirements accordingly.
Have some trash bags on hand in case there are temporary interruptions in trash pickup.  Water and sewage disposal were covered in the water section above.


It is nice to keep informed, as a bare minimum have an AM/FM radio with plenty of batteries.


Keep the gas tanks on your vehicles above half full at all times, (you and everybody will be lining up at the pumps so don't do it on the way to a party you’re already late for).

Level II Scenario

At this level, serious self-sufficiency plans have to be implemented.  The normal level of division of labor breaks down and purchasing everything you need at Kroger's, Home Depot and Wal-Mart might not be an option; therefore, you have to have supplies stockpiled ahead of time or have the ability to generate them yourself through home production or barter.  Nobody knows how bad it can get or how long such a situation could drag on, but it might be wise to plan for a slightly worst-case scenario and act accordingly.  A level II plan would preclude burning all your bridges, but would require some outlay of thought, money and time to prepare.  An extensive list of tools and supplies are laid out in Appendix A, more of a dream list than what one will be able to acquire, sort of like going through the Sears catalog saying "I want that... I want that..." , but it might give you some ideas.


Water is critical, of course.  Level I instructions apply in this scenario.  You can purify water by boiling it for one minute.  Also, by treating it with pure Clorox at the ratio of 8 drops per gallon if the water is clear or 16 drops per gallon if the water is cloudy, shake it up and let it sit for 30 minutes to allow time for the Clorox to kill all the microorganisms.  A 55 gallon drum would require about 1/5 cup of Clorox to purify for 6 months.  You can also purify water with 2% tincture of iodine in liquid form; add 20 drops per gallon of clear water, 40 drops per gallon for cloudy water, shake it up and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Don't accidentally drink any of the iodine straight, for example from the lip of the container, as it is a deadly poison; also, the iodine is suspended in alcohol, so if the alcohol evaporates, adjust the number of drops accordingly.  Don't use Betadine solution to purify water.  Probably the best way to purify water is to distill it using manufactured heat or solar power.  One easy way to construct a solar still is to build a 3' x 3' x (12" on one end, 18" on the other) waterproof box, paint the inside black with a non-toxic waterproof paint, or line with black plastic, and construct a roof of clear Plexiglas sloping to a trough or even a multi-faceted cover sloping to one point.  The box should be totally enclosed with no ventilation.  Pour dirty water into the box and let the sun work, collect the distilled water as it evaporates and runs down the Plexiglas cover; this method will yield about one quart per day so build accordingly.  Clean the box out occasionally.  Filters are an option, they are expensive and require filter element changes.  Filters might be manufactured from earth and/or sand products. 

Rainwater catchment systems seem promising.  The rain from the roof is diverted into a cistern or barrels.  The literature I've seen says metal or plastic roofs are OK for potable water systems, but not roofs with asphalt shingles; however, if the water is just used for flushing toilets or watering cats, go with the asphalt shingles.  If you do need to build a potable catchment system under an asphalt roof, it might be ok if you use a filter made out of sand to filter out trash, I believe the problem is in tar products from the shingles and possibly fiberglass.  You can cheaply construct a washer system by letting the raw water from the roof run into a five-gallon bucket with a large overflow outlet near the top of the bucket and a smaller (1/4") outlet at the bottom of the bucket.  When it rains, the water rushing off the roof fills the bucket before overflowing into the cistern thereby washing the roof of pollution and dirt before going into the cistern; the smaller tube at the bottom allows the water to drain out of the bucket before the next rain.  All in all, quite an elegant low-tech solution.  The system might be as simple as cutting off a gutter downspout and directing it into a 55-gallon drum.  A cistern can be built out of chicken wire wrapped around circle of re-bar stakes, then plastered over with a 3:1 sand: Portland cement mixture.  There's a little more than that to it but you can research it if you’re interested in that technology (i.e. I'm not sure what all is involved, I've just seen them in use in South America).

A well would be a nice thing to have, they are somewhat expensive and most pumps require electricity to operate, plan accordingly.  Solar powered, wind powered or hand powered pumps are a viable option.  Water conservation would be necessary.  Save water used for cleaning to strain and re-use.   Water used to cook vegetables or meat can be added to soups for extra nutrition and liquids.


Picture a grocery store when the weatherman gets done talking about an ice storm...now picture the same store where not only the bread, milk and eggs are gone, but everything is stripped down to include even the canned artichokes and Brussels sprouts; well maybe the Brussels sprouts will still be there.  The average grocery store only holds enough food supplies for three days; they depend on a steady stream of trucks re-stocking the shelves on a regular basis.  In addition to the two months supply of canned goods stored for a level I situation and the food in your 72 hour kit, store whole grains, pasta, rice (white not brown), beans, powdered milk, oil, spices, salt, and other items you may care for.  There is a more extensive list in Appendix A.  Whole grains store infinitely better than flour and preserve their nutrients much longer, the problem with grains is that they have to be converted to flour to make bread, this means a grinder; a good grinder can be purchased for around $250, or possibly they can be found at flea markets for $30 -$60, look for a grist mill.  The larger the grinding wheel, the faster they work, the smaller ones with a 1 1/2" wheel take a long time to make flour.  You can grind flour between two rocks or pound them with a heavy iron bar in a sturdy metal can if you have to.  Grains can also be soaked and boiled, roasted, sprouted or just gnawed on for as long as your teeth last.  The optimum lo-tech way to cook is with an old-fashioned wood fired cook stove, not really an economically viable option for most of us, so figure out what is needed to cook over a fireplace, build a wood fired grill/oven out of rocks and mud, and learn to cook over a campfire.  A Dutch oven is a great way to bake bread if it is the type that has a raised lip around the lid to hold coals on top and provide an oven like area inside the pot.  It probably wouldn't be a good idea to set up your outside kitchen out front by the street unless you have plenty to share. 

Foraging for wild game and plants might be an option, but it is better not to depend on it for your main source of food for several reasons: 1.) everybody will be doing it.  2.) When you are hunting, nobody is looking after the farm  3.) Game will become scarce(r).  4.) if you kill something, you have to get it back to the house carrying the unfortunate deceased critter with one hand whilst fending off poachers with the other.  5.) Wild game does not have enough fat on it to make a straight deer/rabbit diet feasible.  On the other hand, if a deer wanders across your yard early one morning and you are ready for it...venison for supper.  Also, you can have a box trap, or two, working for you all night while you are sleeping and have roast Raccoon for lunch the next day.  Leg holds, snares and Connibears also work.  Pay attention to wild plants for food also, get a field guide.  A pellet gun can harvest rabbits and squirrels around the house and is quiet and cheap to shoot, as well as being good practice.

Canning supplies will be a good thing to have in a survival environment, jars, lots-o-lids, pots big enough to sterilize jars in.  Food can be dehydrated, pickled in salt, or smoked in a homemade smokehouse.  The enemies of stored food are heat, oxygen and bugs.  To store grains and beans, get five gallon plastic buckets with new lids, put 1-2 inches of grain in the bottom of the bucket, put in a chunk of dry ice as big as your (4-6 oz.) hand then fill the rest of the way to the top of the bucket.  Set the lid on loosely and wait for 4-5 hours until the lid stops 'burping'.  As the dry ice evaporates, it displaces the oxygen, which cause food oxidation, and also kills the bug’s larvae by starving them of their oxygen.  The CO2 is heavier than the O2 and stays in the bucket.  Next seal the lid and store in a cool place, don't put it in an attic or hot garage, this will shorten the storage life.  Grains will store for 20+ years, beans for 8+ years, dried food for 6 months, solid Crisco stores longer than liquid oils (about 6 months for the liquid), Brown rice 6 months, flour for 6 months, pasta 2 years and powdered milk 18 months.

Just about any food storage plan is a temporary stop gap measure until food production can resume, this means seeds, non-hybrid so that the seeds can be used from year to year (if it goes on that long).   Garden tools will be required.  If livestock farming is envisioned, envision a fox in your chicken house if you don't have some chicken wire stashed back.  Fencing can keep a deer out of your garden if it is about 10 feet tall (maybe higher if the deer is a good jumper).  Seeds can be picked up cheaply after the end of the summer and would also make an excellent barter item.


More of the same as level I, Have a way to heat it.  If you envision a more serious situation, such as a level II disaster, plan on having a wood fired heater, even a homemade one fabricated from a 55-gallon drum.  Have a way to cut firewood; the best option is a chainsaw, with a spare or at least a bucksaw as a backup.  Keep an extra bar, 2 chains, spark plugs, points, file, plenty of gas and bar oil.  If you don't have oil to mix with the gas for a 2-cycle engine, 30-weight non-detergent oil can be substituted.  Also, 90-wt gear oil can be used as a bar oil; bar oil will be used just about as fast as the gasoline mixture, so get plenty.  Eye and ear protection is also a good thing to have.  Don't forget the splitting wedge.  Plastic sheeting will be handy to further insulate windows, stop leaks or build a small greenhouse. 

Most likely your shelter will be your present home, so figure on what you could do that would make it habitable without any outside utilities coming in.  Don't put all your eggs in one basket; bury (cache) a large portion of your supplies underground to avoid a massive loss due to fire or other calamity.  Research ways to protect goods buried underground with regards to waterproofing, location, security and availability. 

Physical Protection

Here's where it starts to get somewhat confusing.  As a Christian, I have rules to follow that are not of this world; but I have a family to protect also.  I don't believe that God would have me not protect them with every tool possible.  I can only pray for guidance on this issue and hope I do the right thing as God would will it.  A gun is a tool that can be used for good or evil.  Wars have been fought with weapons that resulted in ultimate good; WWII is the most striking example.  If Hitler had not been stopped, by American's carrying guns, he would have done much more damage than he did.  On the other hand, firearms in the hands of criminals have taken untold numbers of innocent lives.  Another analogy might be that Solomon was able to build the Temple in Jerusalem because his father, David, had secured peace in the Middle East through the might of his armies.  Yet, David had wanted to build the Temple himself but was stopped by God because his hands had been bloodied in war.  Most perplexing.

If you do decide to get a gun or guns, start with a pump shotgun in 12 or 20 gauge, a .22 rifle, a center-fire bolt action scoped rifle and maybe a center-fire pistol, in that order.  Get plenty of ammunition, especially .22 ammo, it's cheap.  With the grace of God, you'll only have to use them to harvest wild game.

A dog is an effective early warning system (cats are worthless).  Also, tin cans filled with pebbles strung up on wire.  If there is civil unrest in the area, get together with several families in order to provide for mutual protection, watches, garden help and spiritual support.  Pay attention to the area and the people moving through; try to establish a buffer zone around your house, like a fence.  Don't tell people what is your exact situation.  Don't appear obviously better fed or provisioned than the people around you.  In spite of all this direness, help people to the best of your ability, without compromising the safety of your family.

Spiritual Needs

Hold regular church services, "pray without ceasing" as the Apostle Paul would say, set up Bible study classes, organize Christian counseling in stress relief areas, set up a food bank and widows and orphans ministry.  James 1:27

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress..."

Observe the Sacraments.  The Methodist church observes three sacraments, the Communion, Baptism and the covered dish supper.  :-)

God's will is for you to help your neighbor.  When Jesus comes back, Matthew 25:37-40 says:

"Then the righteous will answer Him "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"  The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.""

Jesus is coming back someday, or we will go to Him, and we will then have to give an account of our actions on earth.  We are not saved by good works, but do have to account for our works, good and bad.

God loves you and wants only what is best for you, as it says in the book of Romans (8:28):

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him."

If a collapse goes down this heavy, it will be somewhat scary, way out of our normal comfort zones, but if we put our hope in the Lord, we will never be disappointed.  He will take care of us to the ends of time.  Look at Psalms 118:5-6:

"In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid."

At some point when you trust in the Lord for your well-being, you cease to be afraid because you know that no matter what happens, He will be with you to comfort and protect you.  Therefore, why be fearful.  I think it is OK to prepare for things such as famine, Joseph did, but don't put your faith in your own human preparations.  Look at Matthew 6:19-21:
            "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also."

Maybe you think you don't need the Lord or He couldn't love somebody like you, well, you're wrong.  You do and He can.  Trust Him.  Listen to this, think about what it means to you.  Matthew 7:24-26:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

Build on the rock, not on the sand.  Jesus Christ is the rock; the things of the world are the sand.  Nobody is perfect; everybody has a past where he or she didn't live according to God's laws.  When you accept Jesus as your Savior, you may still be accountable to the world but as far as God is concerned, the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ covers all your sins and in His eyes you are pure and sinless.   Psalm 103:1-22

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; in all my inmost being, Praise His Holy name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases; He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's.  The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.             
He has made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.  The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower in the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with his children's children- with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.
The Lord has established His kingdom in heaven and His kingdom rules over all.  Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.  Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.  Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion.             

Praise the Lord, O my soul.

The fear of the Lord is not the terror inspired by a tyrant, but the respect and awe a child holds for a beloved father, a father who has always been there, even when the child strayed and sinned, a father who has always loved the child; a child that will always love the father.

Psalm 91:2
"I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.""

Medical and Dental Concerns

The best thing you can do right now is to get physically fit by exercise and correct eating habits; this is a failing of mine.  Preventative medicine and proper hygiene will be important.  In a sustenance type environment, it is hard to stay clean, especially if water is in short supply.  You must however, purify drinking water and wash your hands to keep from getting sick.  Get two spare sets of glasses, if you need them.  As discussed earlier put together a first aid/medical kit sufficient to handle serious emergencies, 911 might not be working or paramedics might be overloaded.  Learn how to perform rudimentary medicine and gather medical, drug and nursing books now. 

Most drugs are still good after the expiration date (not Tetracycline- toss it when it expires, it cause kidney damage when old; also, aspirin when it smells like ascetic acid (sour, vinegary, smell like blue RTV sealant) is poisonous.  If a drug is far past the expiration date, you might have to up the dosage.  Understand, do not use this information in lieu of a real doctor, I'm not one and I don't play one on TV, this information is for emergency use only with no medical help available, I believe it to be correct.  Stock up on medication in advance, Aspirin, Tylenol, anti-biotic, painkillers (or alcohol), anti-diarrheal, etc etc.  See the list below. 

Financial and Legal Concerns 

Pretty much the same as Scenario I.  Perhaps more cash set aside and maybe some investments in gold and junk silver; junk silver is non-numismatic grade, pre-1964 solid silver coinage, useful for barter.  Junk silver is in small enough denominations to be reasonable when trading and also easily recognizable as what it is, a silver coin.  Keep a real low profile with the exact specifics of your preparations.  It won't be a secret from the criminal elements of our society that people are stockpiling cash and supplies.  There are those that are stockpiling only guns and ammunition.

With regards to barter, some things are easily tradable and typically in short supply during a crisis.  Clean water, coffee, batteries, candles, kerosene and lamps, lighters, candles, toilet paper, soap, stuff like that.  Keep some for trading purposes.   If somebody needs something you have set aside for trading purposes, but does not have anything to trade, give it to them anyway, don’t be a dweeb profiteer.  Don’t use societal collapse as an excuse to get rich; use barter goods to re-supply or obtain items you have not anticipated needing. 

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

 Many of us that have been prepping since before the Internet have welcomed all the new information, knowledge, and interaction with our fellow preppers. But for someone who is just starting out, it can all be overwhelming. So overwhelming that they don’t know where to start. The sad part is that many of them don’t start. They feel that they have to  spend so much money at one time to get all the gear that the experts say they need, that they just can’t do it. This is in large part due to shows like Doomsday Preppers. While I watch these shows regularly, and enjoy them, they are, in my opinion, a two edged sward. They have made many people aware of the need to start preparing for _______(fill in the blank), but they also go so far beyond the basics (where we all started)  that they leave the new prepper with the wrong idea of how to start.
None of us started out with everything we needed. For some of us, we had no idea what we would need. We knew we had to prepare, maybe we had a vague idea what we were preparing for, and a kernel of a plan in the back of our minds. Before the Internet came along, we had to search through stacks of books and magazines for information. If we were lucky, we found a survival school nearby. We slowly built up our supplies, made a Bug Out bag, practiced our skills, and continued the search for information, gear, and more skills.
For those that are just beginning, I am glad you found this site. It will offer you many tips and suggestions. The gear, gadgets, and most of the advice have all been tested. The advertisers have all been vetted, so if you choose to purchase their products (and I hope you do as they help keep this site up and running) you can be assured that they will deliver on their promises.
I hope that with a few tips, the new prepper will continue to become prepared and will continue to seek knowledge to help them and their families become more self reliant. The tips and suggestions I offer are based on my own experience, I do NOT consider myself an expert. In fact I learn more each and every day. I have had to replace my bag a few times, often on a very limited budget. These suggestions have helped me through the years, that is why I offer them to you. These suggestions are for a bug out kit, not a bug in kit. (although it can be used for both)
By way of introduction, I am 44 years old and I have been prepping since I was in my teens. I took my first survival course at 16 in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I am a Nurse and an EMT, I have also been a volunteer fire fighter and a storm spotter. I have been through ice storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma, and earthquakes and forest fires in California.
When you pack your bug out kit, think of the five priorities you have; Water, Food, Heat, Shelter, and Security. Everything you need in your bag falls into one of these five categories. You need to try to have at least three days worth of supplies. Of course, if you can’t have that at first, remember that something is better than nothing.

  A source of water would be your first criteria for your bug out location. (I will talk a little about this later). The recommendation is one (1) gallon of water per person, per day. So you would need 3 gallons of water for your own use. That would be about 24 pounds (8 pounds per gallon, approximately). Since most people can not carry more than 50-60 pounds for more than a short time, I suggest carrying two liters and having a way to purify or filter the rest. (search You Tube for your best choices on how to do this)Two liters should last you through most of one day’s drinking requirements. I prefer to carry mine in military style canteens, with a military style canteen holder and canteen cups. An alternate method would be using 2 one liter bottles or a two liter bottle such as a clean soda bottle.

 In my bag I usually carry three MREs, three dehydrated meals I made myself, a few food bars, a jar of peanut butter, M&Ms, and several pieces of hard candy and gum. Hard candy can provide sustained energy by keeping your blood sugar up while burning more calories than normal, but can also keep your mouth moist when exerting yourself. If you carry canned food, which is heavier but easier to come by when first packing your kit, make sure to pack a can opener. Also make sure you pack eating utensils. You would be surprised at the number of people who forget these.
Remember to check your food often for expiration dates. I do this by setting my e-mail ca lender to send me reminders a few days before I go shopping at the beginning of each month. That way I can check everything and add it to my shopping list as needed. Anything about to expire gets eaten or donated so nothing goes to waste.
 Like me, many of you have watched the various survival shows and watched while they made a fire out of whatever is handy. Building a fire this way is a great skill to have. You may need it, and if nothing else it builds your confidence. But, as my first instructor told me “It’s easier to flick a Bic than rub a stick”. That’s the reason I never leave the house without a lighter and a pocket knife. Disposable lighters are easier to dry than matches, or even a Zippo lighter, if they become wet. I carry all three of these with me in my bag or on my person. The matches are in a water proof container (available at almost any sporting goods store) along with a small piece of sand paper, since I have found that “Strike anywhere” matches actually do NOT work everywhere.  You should also pack some type of tender in your bag. I have cotton balls, dryer lint, paper (from the note book I carry) and I always have a few business cards in my wallet and in my bag (most sales people and many other businesses will be more than glad to give you one or two). There are also commercial fire starting fuels out there like Trioxane. A small saw and hatchet are also part of your heat providing gear. There are many choices out there for these items, so do your research and choose the best ones for you.

In this category would be the clothes you wear and pack. You should have a sturdy pair of shoes or boots, at least two extra pair of socks, long pants ( I always pack jeans or military style BDUs) a long sleeve shirt (I pack either a work shirt like Dickie's brand or, again, BDUs) and a cap or hat that can shade your eyes and keep your head warm.
You should also have a good sleeping bag appropriate to your climate and season, and a small water and wind proof tent. I like to have a few hand warmers as well as a good pair of insulated gloves, and a pair of work gloves for handling wood, rocks, etc. My bag also has a military surplus folding shovel and carrier that hangs on it. This is used for digging a fire pit as well as sanitation and preparing a shelter area.
A roll of duct tape is also useful, both for securing and repairing your shelter. as well as repairing almost anything else. I also have a Multi-tool so I have small wire cutters, screw drivers, etc handy to help repair anything that breaks.
If you have never built a shelter, you can start learning on YouTube or similar site online. Once you have watched it done, practice you methods of choice until you have it down pat. It is never as easy as it looks.

When most people think of security in a SHTF scenario, they think of firearms. While I believe everyone should have a few of those and the training to use them properly, they are not the only form of security.
First aid is also a vital part of your security. Being able to treat wounds or illness is vital to being and staying alive. If you have never taken a first aid course, do so. They are available almost everywhere, and they are cheap or free. Most commercial $10 first aid kits come with a small first aid handbook. Study it. Once you have chosen a first aid kit appropriate to your level of training, check it often and replace anything that is expired, just as you do your food.  Many people have written about this topic, from lay people to doctors, so I will not go into it again. Search out these articles, essays, videos, and books, then practice the skills described in them.
Hygiene is also important. Staying clean is the first step in fighting disease. Having a place away from your shelter and water source to “do your business” is very important. You should have a bottle of hand sanitizer in your kit. I would recommend having a complete hygiene kit in your bag that has anti-bacterial soap along with a wash cloth and small towel. You can also pack shampoo, and deodorant in there if you choose. Make sure you have a toothbrush, tooth paste and dental floss in your hygiene kit, as well feminine hygiene products if you need them. The one thing a lot of preppers seem to forget is toilet paper. So pack that too. If you wear glasses, then get an extra pair and keep them in your Bug Out Bag in a hard case, as well as a repair kit for them. If you wear dentures, make sure you have your cleaning and care supplies in your bag.
For me, one of the most important security items I have is a Bible. The one in my G.O.O.D. bag is the same small Gideon one I was given when I joined the army. The New testament, with Psalms and Proverbs, has given me very good sense of security all of my life.

The next step is finding the place you will be bugging out to. As I mentioned, you will want a place with a good source of water. You also want to have a place (or places) that has good security, or that you can quickly make secure. Your site should be away from whatever disaster you are getting away from. And it’s location should never be shared with anyone outside your immediate family or group. When the excrement hits the oscillating device you don’t want everyone and their brother trying to show up at your retreat.

The most important piece of gear you have in the one above your neck and between your ears. I can not stress enough how important your mental attitude is. Having the right mindset is the most important skill in surviving any situation. Whether you are preparing for total societal collapse, or the more common natural disasters, you can not survive unless you want to survive.  Mental preparation is the most important preparation you will do. Think about the two or three most likely disasters, then prepare for them. After that you can go on to preparing for any other disaster you think may happen.
By finding the SurvivalBlog site and reading the notes, articles, and essays in it, you have already taken the first step. By thinking about and following through with making a BOB, you are on your way to being able to get through almost any disaster.
I personally invest at least an hour each day to my preps. This can be anything from reading magazines, blogs, or books (which I do every day) to cutting wood, to food preservation and storage, to learning a new skill or practicing one I learned already. I practice one of my bug out plans at least once each month, and my bug in plan at least twice a year. I also try to exercise at least three times a week. Sometimes that is walking, sometimes I combine exercise with other activities, such as cutting, splitting, or stacking wood. In colder months I use a tread mill and do calisthenics inside.
I hope this has helped at least a few people to become more self reliant. Remember that you can not count on anyone but your self to come to your aid in an emergency. Good Luck, Good Prepping, and God Bless.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

All sources of preparedness information stress the importance of water. Without water everything else is put at risk. You cannot drink bullets, beans do not have a lot of moisture and sucking on a bandage will not help.

The ideal situation is to have some form of safe running water on your property. But what if you don't? Hopefully you have a well, but if your electric goes out your pump will not work. A hand pump will work, but it takes a lot of energy to get that water, and then you have the situation of Operational Security (OPSEC) while you are pumping that water and hauling it to the house.

About a year ago I started seriously investigating an alternative source of water. I looked at hand pumps but at my age of 70 that did not seem a practical solution. I also looked at windmills. In our area of the country windmills are a viable option and have been used successfully for years. But the location of our well is very close to the house and with the trees around here I did not believe that was our solution. If you have a well and the wind conditions, a windmill is something to consider. The costs are about the same as a solar system with less maintenance costs. Around the country there are windmills that have been pumping water for 40 or 50 years. Literally millions of head of cattle are provided water every day by windmills, and they are not the great big windmills being used today to generate electricity.

After much research we decided that for us the solution was a Solar Powered water pumping system. 

In our situation we live on top of a hill, there is no running water on our property or even nearby. But we do have an 180 foot deep drilled well. This works fine most of the time. But after one 500 year flood that wiped out electricity for many days, and tore out most water lines around the area, that got us thinking. The flood was so bad that it flooded the electric substation to a depth of 10 ft. All roads in every direction from our house were under water for a period of time. We live 10 miles from a small rural city and have the availability of city water, but do not use it. Our two closest neighbors are on city water and we were able to help them out because of our well and a generator. I called the local water department and asked if they had generator back up to be able to run the system and pump water, they do not. Most smaller cities do not have generator back up for their water systems.

 Then add in three tornados that happened in the area that wiped out electricity, we got to worrying. One tornado touched down just a quarter of a mile from our house and wiped out all electrical systems (including ours)  for about 6 miles. The second tornado touched down close to our sons house and wiped out 30 large trees on his property but luckily he house was not damaged. But it tore out the same electrical system as the first storm.

All of this was in a four year period, and we live in an area that has not been known to be flood prone or tornado prone in the south. Things can happen anytime and anywhere.

Recently I pulled the 220 volt AC (VAC) pump out of the well and installed a solar system that consists of a 1000 gal. approved plastic water tank partially buried, solar panels, two pumps and the control equipment necessary.

The water tank is 7 ft tall and has a diameter of 5 ft. We dug a hole two and 1/2 ft deep and 6 and 1/2 ft in diameter. This  had two purposes, the first to get the bottom of the tank below the freeze line and second to put the top of the tank at a height that will allow me to look down into the tank for inspection purposes. I put in a 6 in layer of fine sand for the tank to sit on and made sure it was level and well compacted before putting the tank in the hole. After installing the tank I filled in around the tank with fine sand. We installed the 2ö water outlet of the tank 4 inches above the bottom of the tank so that any sediment that might be pumped into the tank would settle and we would not be pulling that into the pumping system. The inlet to the tank is installed above the maximum water height of the tank so that when filling air would be introduced into the water on a continuing basis. We also installed a float switch in the tank that automatically shuts off the pump when the tank is full and adjusted it so the pump comes on after 100 gallons of  water has been pumped out.

 I also built a 10 ft by 12 ft building over the well head after putting the tank in the ground. After the building was finished the top of the water tank  is four ft. above the floor. This gave me a place to put the solar panels very close to where they would be used and also the equipment is all inside and out of the weather. We insulated the building in order to minimize the freezing potential. The 1,000 gal water tank is refreshed with 56 degree water from our well and will go a long way to keeping the building above freezing in most weather conditions here. With the 10 by 12 ft building I have enough roof space left to add six more solar panels in the future to bring some solar power into the house.

Our system is a two stage system. The Solar well pump is at 180 ft depth. That pump, actually pumps 1 gallon per minute into our 1000 gal storage tank. I know that does not sound like much, but over an eight hour day that is 480 gallons of water.  The pump is not on a battery system it is controlled by the sun, when the sun shines the pump is working. It even pumps a little bit of water when it is cloudy. I installed a float switch on the pump, so that when the tank is full it stops the pump. As it turns out we had a day that was cloudy all day and the water level was down to the point that the pump came on, by the end of the day the tank was again full, even with our water usage and no sun to speak of.

Solar systems are standard in 12 volt DC (VDC) and 24 VDC with some available in 48 VDC. The general rule of thumb is the higher the voltage the less the amperage draw. I elected to go with the 24 VDC system. This required two 12V batteries hooked up in series to provide the 24V backup for the pressure pump. The pump runs on 24 volts which draws less power than the 12V pump would, and the battery power lasts twice as long in a no sun situation. By opting for a 24 volt system the wiring was simpler.

The second stage of the system is an additional solar panel that charges two deep cycle large batteries, purchased from our local auto parts store. This powers the pressure pump that supplies normal water pressure to the house. Our water pressure to the house is the same as it was on the old pump and the volume is also the same. Our old system had a pressure tank in the basement, I installed a second pressure tank in the well house, this keeps the pump from kicking on so often.

I have tested the pressure pump system by disconnecting the power source and letting the system run on just the batteries with no charging. After five days the batteries still had more than half a charge. So I am confident that during a cloudy rainy period the water system will still work. Even on cloudy or partially cloudy days there is some charging going on.

We measured our water usage over a two week period of time, using our normal living pattern. We did not try to conserve water during this period. Our average usage of water was 80 gallons per day. The 1000 gallon tank would provide about eleven days of water if we had no sun, and more than twice that time if we were in a disaster situation as we would be conserving water.

When I first started investigating this project, all of the information seemed a bit overwhelming. I got a book titled Solar Electricity Handbook. (Mine is the 2012 edition, bit there is now a 2013 edition available.) It is written in plain English and easy to understand. I also got on the internet and searched for information and called many suppliers and manufacturers of equipment. Most of the suppliers were able to email me their installation manuals and spec sheets before I bought anything.  After all of that it made more sense and was really not that difficult to come up with a plan. I have a tendency to overbuild on projects, that's just me. In designing this system I increased the solar capacity by about 25% to give me some extra supply in the winter when the sun is in a different position and the days are shorter. After one year, we will evaluate the situation and I will look into adding some low voltage lighting to the system.

In a project like this you need accurate information whether it is a do it yourself project or a contract project. Solar energy for home use is a somewhat new technology and there are a lot of people out there that claim knowledge but really don't have that knowledge. Do your homework before hand and it will save you problems in the future. In evaluating this project I selected products that have good ratings and a history. In estimating your solar power needs it is important to remember that your pumps will only be running for short periods of time each day, so you may not need as much power as you think.

When planning a solar project it is very important to take into consideration sun and shade. The solar panels must face a southerly direction. I set up a wooden panel over the well when I started this project to see exactly where the sun would hit the building, for how long during the day and how the nearby trees would interfere with the solar panels. This resulted in some tree trimming that in my particular situation will be required about every two years. This is not a big project for me, it can be done with a pole saw from the ground. Shade is a killer for a solar system, so plan accordingly. Before you start make sure that trees or buildings will not be a problem. If they are you can move the system to another location and just have a little more plumbing work to do. Depending on your situation it may be a better idea to remove a couple of trees, you have to judge for yourself.

The estimated life of the solar panels I purchased is 20 years. The estimated life of the pumps are 15-20 years and both pumps can be rebuilt. The estimated life of the batteries is five years. I selected batteries that are both deep cycle and deep charge commercial batteries. Even with that the cost was just $100 each. I purchased kits to rebuild both pumps after getting the system up and running. That way I know that I have the parts available instantly, no matter what happens.

This can be a do it yourself project if you are careful, have a little background in plumbing and electrical work. If you don't have the necessary background then you can hire a professional. Before hiring a professional, do your homework so that you do not spend more than you need. My background is in industrial maintenance, where I had to deal with AC and DC power sources,  so that made things easier.

A word of caution is needed here about dealing with DC power. An understanding of electricity both AC and DC is necessary for a do it yourself project. Most people understand that high voltage power lines can kill you. Low voltage can also kill you. Voltage does not really kill, it is the amperage that does the job. A stun gun may have as much as a million volts or more, but just enough amperage to give you a good jolt. Solar panels can put out high levels of amperage. If you do not have the background, get professional help. I have a friend that is an excellent electrician and has the capability to wire industrial systems correctly, but has no experience in DC or solar power. He would not attempt a solar systems without gaining more knowledge on DC power.

We also have 600 gallons of water barrel storage that could be used for flushing toilets etc. The water barrel storage is set up easily catch rain water if necessary. Right now the barrels are filled with our well water and are located where they can easily be reached and if necessary some can be moved into the basement. They are treated with a mild bleach solution and the plan is to empty and refill them on a six month basis.

With the system installed and running successfully we now have peace of mind about our water situation. This also gives us the opportunity to share the water with neighbors when  the need arises, all of them are on city water. I have convinced our next door neighbor to get some water barrels and keep them full. If the need arises I can help refill her water barrels.

We do not have a specific type of disaster we are preparing for. Just any type of disaster, sort term or long term. An EMP is one of those possibilities. So I purchased additional solar controllers for the system. These items are kept in our small Faraday Cage container along with an emergency radio, hand-held short wave radio, laptop computer so that I can even refer to the SurvivalBlog Archive DVD when necessary.

I ended up purchasing all of the solar equipment, including the pumps from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, Inc. The reason being is that they were knowledgeable, helpful and spent a lot of time answering my questions and making suggestions. There were able to provide instruction manuals before I purchased anything. I am not in anyway connected with this company, I was impressed with the service and quality of information provided.

We will give this project some more time to make sure it works as planned, then I plan to add to the system to provide solar power to two freezers and one refrigerator with a few low voltage lights thrown in for good measure. For anyone that has been without power for a few days, you know what  pain it is to keep food cold or frozen with a generator, that needs gasoline that you might not be able to obtain.

As a side note: I hired a local person to build the well house. Turns out that as a child he grew up on this very property. He lived in a house that was on the back of our property which has since burned down. He related to me that his grandfather lived two doors down and seemed to be somewhat eccentric as he was a prepper before there was such a thing. He generated his own electric by means of a windmill and had battery storage in his basement. He had a 500 gallon underground gasoline tank, a water well with pump that was powered by the electricity generated by the windmill. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman.  Had a large garden and they canned most of what they got out of the garden. When he retired 25 years ago he sold the place and moved to Montana to be self sufficient. What did this man know that we are just learning?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sometimes, I'm just beating my head against the wall, when it comes to trying to explain to some folks, how important it is to have a source of clean, pure drinking water. I have an old friend back in Chicago - we've known each other since 1975, and it is just impossible to make her understand that, in due time, the water from her faucets will stop running, and what will she do when that happens? I've tried to get her to store a couple of the large blue water containers, that the big box stores carry, all to no avail. I have, at the least though, convinced her to get some freeze-dried/dehydrated foods for storage - so that's a step in the right direction. However, with a source of clean, safe water, he freeze-dried foods won't rehydrate...I'm still working on her!
There are a lot of different water purifiers/filters on the market, and not all are the same. The local Big Box stores and many sporting goods stores sell some really cheap water filters - and they are not the same as a water purifier - and they are okay, so long as the water source you are using isn't extremely dirty or contaminated - but how do you know? Over the years, I've tried a lot of different water filters/purifiers, and some work better than others. Just don't go thinking that the water pitcher, like Brita or Pur are actually water purifiers - all they do, for the most part is make you water taste a little better - water from the faucet. I wouldn't dare put water in my Pur from a small stream on my property, and then think that water is safe to drink - it isn't!
I've used the water purification tablets, the type the military issues, or used to issue - any more, they spend millions of dollars to fly-in bottled water to our troops in combat zones. For the life of me, I don't understand this, doesn't the military have the capabilities to treat and purify water any longer. Sad! The bad thing with water purification tablets is, the treated water often has a "funny" after-taste. You really need to pour that water back and forth from one canteen to another, to get some air into that water, and make it taste a little better. Still, it's better than drinking contaminated water.
I recently received, from Pantry Paratus an item called the SolarBag water purifier  and to be honest, I was a bit skeptical as to how well this simply little water purifier would work, so I did some research on it, before using it. I learned that it is made right in my home state of Oregon - just outside of Portland. What we have with the SolarBag is a simple, clear plastic bag, that can hold up to three litters of water. There is a specially treated "mesh" membrane on the inside of the plastic bag, that helps purifier the untreated water. The bag also has an attached pre-filter, for use, if the water source you are using, is murky - you don't want to have sediment or dirt in your drinking water - even though the water has been effectively purified. So, you pour the water through the pre-filer, into the bag, first!
The SolarBag water purifier comes with a little bottle of blue liquid. When you fill your bag with water, you add but one drop of this liquid, and when the water is clear, you know your water has been purified. You simply hang the water bag in direct sunlight and in 2-3 hours, your water is purified - on slightly cloudy days, it may take 4-6 hours - still, your water will be purified and safe to drink. The maker says you can treat up to 9 litters of water per day - that is sufficient for a family of 3 or 4 to drink each day. Plan you day accordingly, and don't wait until the sun is ready to set, to start purifying your water - start early in the day.
Here's the simple breakdown on how to use this set-up. Rinse your SolarBag before using it the first time - that means, rinse it in a clean, safe water source - your home tap, for instance. Now, put your pre-filter over the mouth of the heavy-duty plastic water bag, before pouring the water in. This will remove any sediment, then add one drop of the blue liquid that the company calls Pur-Blue, put the cap on the bag, and hang it in the sun for the required amount of time - and you'll know when the water has changed from a blue color to clear - then drink the water - can't be much easier than that in my book.
Here's a list of the harmful contaminants that this set-up will treat: bacteria, viruses, protozoa, pesticides, herbicides, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, arsenic, lead and mercury. It will remove 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, and 99.9% of giardia and crypto - not too shabby there if you ask me.
You can reuse the SolarBag up to 500 times. Now, if the timing process is taking too long, and your water isn't clear, it will be time to replace your SolarBag. I'd also suggest that, if you are using a really dirty source of water, that you collect it in another container, like a bucket, and let it sit, until the sediment settles to the bottom - then dip that water into the pre-filer - and into your Solar Bag - this way, you won't be clogging-up your pre-filter all the time.
I'm not privy to what the mesh pad has on it, that is inside the SolarBag, but it obviously is the "magic" to purifying the water - along with the sunlight. Also, if your pre-filter gets too dirty, gently wash it by hand. The SolarBag has a dry shelf-life of 7-years. Don't crush or fold it during storage, either. And, if you're not going to use the bag right away, after initially using it, drain the bag and allow it to dry then replace the cap - this may take several hours, depending on weather conditions and temperature.
The SolarBag is yet another device for helping your purify your water before drinking it. And, there is a rule of three, that many Preppers and Survivalists go by, and that is one is nothing, two is one and three is two. In other words, make sure you have more than one way to treat your water source - don't depend on just one. If that fails you, then you are "up the creek." So, the SolarBag is yet another method you can have on-hand, for treating your suspect water source, and it isn't much easier that to just fill the bag, let it sit, and then drink the purified water.
Retail on the SolarBag is $77.99 and when you consider you can reuse it up to 500-times, that's a cheap source of pure, clean drinking water. I've reviewed other products that Pantry Paratus sells, and they only carry top-of-the-line products. Check out the SolarBag, and I think you'll be impressed, like I was...the darn thing works as advertised. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hello Mr. Rawles:
I expect you have already heard about this problem, but the black Berkey water filters have an alarmingly high failure rate (in my personal experience, for what it's worth, 4 out of 4).  The silicone caulk that attaches the black ceramic-like filter itself to it's plastic base fails, and water runs right through the failure spot, without being passed through the filter material.  People could be unknowingly drinking unfiltered water, as I was.  I read online that adding red food coloring is one way to test the integrity of the filter unit, I do not know if this is true.  Thank you, as always, for everything you do, I have received so very much from you. - Carol D.

JWR Replies: Sending them back to the company under warranty for a free replacement works. (At least it does now--a couple of years ago, they just mailed you back identical filters that also failed.) But I learned that there is also a practical way to fix them yourself.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in 1979 I found myself in facing a hurricane by the name of Frederic. It had Mobile, Alabama in its cross-hairs. The category three hurricane made landfall on September 12. I did not take the warnings seriously and unfortunately there was little to no preparation made on my part. I barely had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was some non perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I was basically like most folks, ill prepared and not taking the warnings seriously.

When hurricane Frederic finally made landfall it did not take long for the power to go off. The winds were fierce and seemed relentless throughout the night. It was pretty eerie. There really wasn't much you could do except wait for it to end. The winds were estimated to be anywhere from 111 to 130 mph. Power lines and trees were down all over the city making some roads impassable. Most of the stores had been emptied out prior to the storm. Then whatever food was left had become spoiled in the stores that did not have back up generators. Back in 1979 that was probably most of the stores. I personally had never experienced power outages on this scale. I did not anticipate the power at my home was going to be out for 22 days. The entire city looked as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Trees were on cars and houses; debris was scattered everywhere. A curfew was imposed by  the national guard because of homes and businesses being broken into. It took several days for assistance to arrive with emergency items. And even then there were very long lines for ice and canned goods that was distributed by the national guard. Arguments broke out as people were feeling tired and frustrated. It was also hot and humid. So I avoided going because I did not want to stand in the hot sun for hours and then finding out the supplies ice or food items were exhausted.

Each night was the same in my house-dark, hot and humid. It was difficult to sleep. I did have a natural gas water heater and fortunately the gas service was never turned off. So I did not have to take cold showers although that may have helped cool me down. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were several nightly cookouts until the food ran out. Afterwards I realized that I had made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never get caught in that situation again. This could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. It takes a little effort  here and there to prepare.
Since Frederic I have gone through several hurricanes - most notably Ivan and Katrina. I feel I have learned some valuable lessons.

I consider myself more or less an amateur prepper. And I really mean an amateur. I don't worry about the apocalypse but more about the possibility of lengthy power outages because of hurricanes.
My motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. From what I have read over and over is that ordinary people can emotionally break down in just a matter of days. Within a week they can get desperate and then there are those who will take from you what they do not have and if necessary they will take it by force. It could even be your neighbor.

So don’t brag about how you are preparing or what you possess and the post it for all to see on the Internet. Don’t make your supplies common knowledge. Its best to maintain silence. The dangers are not only from ordinary people who under normal conditions are law abiding citizens. There is also the criminal element already established out there and they will become emboldened in a disaster. They will not hesitate to take with force what they want and will often gather together in small or large groups.

Most of you reading this are probably like me and have a budget to consider. All of my items have been purchased slowly and I have not gone on a frenzied shopping spree. I would love to but that is not economically feasible for me. So I just started with the basics and went slowly from there. Its amazing how quickly you can accumulate your emergency inventory.

The first thing I focus on  is having an adequate supply of water. I know that water is extremely important so I keep three six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. One of the first things I do once there is the potential for a hurricane entering the gulf of Mexico is fill up my water containers. If the storm misses I water my plants so nothing is wasted. I try to keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand and rotate them. Fortunately there have not been any issues in the past regarding water contamination but just too be on the safe side I keep several life-straw water filters and a couple of bottles of polar pure water treatment. I also fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. Recently I discovered a nearby water stream within easy walking distance from my home. That was a great find. Remember folks water is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

Food is my next priority. I try to keep my pantry stocked with at least a month of food such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, rice, beans, granola bars and dehydrated foods. I also have several #10 cans of freeze dried foods. I have not had to use any of the freeze dried foods so far and I am glad they have a 25-30 year shelf life. They can be expensive to purchase so I always look for price drops and free shipping.
The next priority is obtaining fuel for my cars and generator. As a good practice measure I always keep my gas tank topped off especially when it is at the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam. In my area it is extremely important the minute a storm gets close to the Gulf of Mexico to head to the nearest gas station and not only top off your car but also fill up your gas cans. If you wait to see if your area is in the five day cone it will be too late. When that happens everyone panics and heads to the gas station. Then the stations start running out of gas. Then there are some who will only accept cash. So its good to keep some cash on hand for the unforeseen emergencies. I keep several five gallon gas cans and fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm.
If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas back in my cars. Additionally I have a small generator to keep my refrigerator running for at least two to three days.

Its prudent to have a supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volt VDC batteries. I also have several battery/solar powered radios. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency prep pack. Recently I discovered a new product by a company called WakaWaka. Yes it is a funny name. The product is a solar powered light with a phone charger. It works well. You can  charge them with 8 hours of sunlight or with a micro USB charger. My kindle charger will charge it. The solar light has several settings of brightness and even includes an SOS flashing light. I have used this to fully charge my iPhone and in less than two hours with plenty of power left for a light you can use to read by. On the lowest light setting it is estimated to last 100+ hours.

I started making an inventory of my emergency items and this way you can see what you have or what you need to replenish. I keep my items in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag. The items are duct tape, Para-cord with various lengths, a snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-you can easily start a fire with these two items, and various camping cookware. I have learned it takes some practice to master using the fire starters. I try to practice at least once a month starting a fire and either boiling water or cooking on my ember-lit stove. The ember-lit stove is really amazing. Its very light and packs up compactly. It only requires twigs and small branches for fuel.

I also have a charcoal grill as a back up to our gas stove. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than to wait until there is one. I keep a baggie by the dryer and put the dryer lint in it. Using a fire starter just place some dryer lint under the twigs and it doesn't take much of a spark to get started. And on windy days I take a toilet tissue holder and put the lint inside and you can easily get a fire started this way.
All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe. I learned about storing items the hard way. I had a fireproof safe and discovered that you must also make sure is waterproof. I lost several documents because of this oversight.

I keep my ammunition stored in watertight ammo cans. I have collected a number of flashlights and lanterns over the years. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. That way there is always light easily within reach. I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit as I have had problems with spotty cell phone usage during and after hurricanes. For some reason land-line phones have always worked.
An alarm company representative made some suggestions regarding safety in the home. He recommended hinging my doors so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force  winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. That prevents someone from kicking the door in with one swift kick. With the buddy bar it takes a number of kicks and of course a lot of noise so you are not caught so quickly off guard. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down and limits what outsiders can see at night if you have lights on.
Because of a recommendation from a local contractor I decided to use spray foam in my attic instead of the traditional cellulose insulation. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I recently installed a battery-operated wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home.
Anyway these are some steps I have taken and I hope this has been a helpful read for you. All of my purchases have taken me years to accumulate what I currently have. There is still much work to do. But instead of thinking of what I did not have and get overwhelmed I simply started with small steps.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Living in rural Texas has taught me how to live a fuller, deeper life, but with a western twist.  Although the American Redoubt has captured many preppers’ imaginations, I live in Texas by choice.  I’ve traveled the world, visited most states and lived in multiple cities on both coasts, but I choose to call the Texas Hill Country home.  The cowboy way of life is intoxicating.

The first time I drove into the small town of Bandera (population 859) and saw cowboys riding horses down Main Street I immediately fell in love.  Many towns in the Texas Hill Country region are predominately German in heritage and the people have strong work ethics, coupled with old fashioned common sense.

Manners count
. Cowboy Jerry Lee taught my sons to ride a horse and instilled them with the cowboy code: never cross over private fences, always speak the truth, respect your elders and respond with a yes Sir or no Ma’am.  Women are addressed by their first name, but always preceded with “Miss” even when married. 

Many children learn to shoot a gun at a very young age, some shooting their first deer as young as 5 years old.  Children are taught early to respect firearms.  My sons are boy scouts that are live the scout motto, “Be prepared”.  FFA and 4-H teach kids agricultural literacy in a world that has lost touch with how our food gets on the table.     

Momma knows best
.  Homeschooling has huge support from our local communities and state government.  You would be hard pressed to find a state with stronger support for parents who want to control their children’s education.  Although our public schools do require immunizations, parents can opt out by simply notarizing a one page affidavit.  

Most families attend church regularly and it’s common for couples to still be married to their high school sweethearts after decades of marriage.  I enjoy seeing three generations at a country rodeo dancing to western swing music under the stars and smile when the grandparents show the crowd that fifty years of marriage makes for a perfect two-step partnership.   

Ranching is a way of life here
.  Many family ranches have been passed down from generation to generation, but even that has become increasingly difficult.  Tough, loyal and devoted to family, most native Texans wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else and they truly believe this is God’s country. 

The majority of Texans are deeply conservative and Christian.  They want their guns, little government interference and hands off their property.  The state capital of Austin is where you’ll find most liberals and where the city’s motto “Keep Austin Weird” is practiced daily.

On our local hometown radio station they play the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and the Star Spangled Banner at noon.  Pretty cool huh?  The small town of Boerne’s siren goes off at noon as a not so gentle reminder from times past, letting everyone know its lunch time.  I lived five miles out of town and I could faintly hear it go off if I happened to be outside. 

Texas has taught me valuable life lessons that have helped me become better prepared.  First is location.  Although Texas is a large state, only Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio have large metropolitan populations.  The remainder of the state is predominately rural, with most residents living in small rural towns.  After taking a leap of faith and moving my family to the country, I’m blessed to live a quiet, peaceful lifestyle.  I will never go back to the city. 

Ranches large and small are the backbone of rural communities.
  Make friends with your neighbors.  I’ve borrowed my neighbors’ tools, asked their advice on planting vegetables and one even fixed my broken gate without my asking.  That’s important stuff especially if the SHTF.  Always be kind too, get to know and help your neighbors just like the Bible says.

Learn to have different energy sources.
  Electricity, solar, wind and propane give us greater energy independence.  Not relying on the local electric provider for all our energy needs gives me greater peace of mind.  Also having a propane/gas cook stove lets me finish making dinner when the power goes off like it did three times last week.

To access ranches, most owners use solar panels for automatic gate openers and gate envy is pretty common here.  The problem with a fancy entrance is that it screams money, but old money taught me to be understated.  Ditto for the cool ranch name over the entrance gate to make property identification easier.  Low key folks use flags, fencing or reflectors to help friends discretely locate their property.

I know a wealthy Texas woman who owns an 8,000 acre ranch, with no ranch entrance identification and even a broken down gate.  The caliche (crushed limestone) driveway is better suited to a four wheel drive and it stays that way until the road is out of sight from the highway, which then flattens out and pulls up in front of a 15,000 square foot mansion.  Now that’s OPSEC.

Old timer’s love their pickups
.  Here the ultimate badge of honor is an old, beat up Ford truck that’s seen better days, but still runs.  What’s really cool is the old man driving that truck has more money than most people you will ever meet in your life!  Double OPSEC!

Fencing is important
.  It’s usually one of the first things done building a ranch.  Although barbed wire and T post are the norm across the country, high game fencing is predominate here.  If you have the money, galvanized metal piping and a 10 foot high perimeter fence makes it difficult for animals and trespassers alike to jump a game fence as well as provide perimeter security.  Cross fencing with helps rotational grazing. 
Those with limited funds can use a fence pole digger by hand, which is extremely tough in our famously rocky soil.  Texans also use plain old sticks when building fences, with a metal post and then three wood sticks.  We use what is abundant and they get the job done.     

Water is life
.  Water is the biggest asset any property can have and here it’s very valuable.  The price of land cost between $5,000 to $10,000 an acre, but it doubles with live water.  I’ve learned the hard way that when the electricity goes off, there is no water for drinking, washing and toilets that require electricity to run the water pump.  Get every know resource of water storage you can get your hands on: dirt tanks, cisterns, water tanks, 55 gallon drums, rainwater catchment systems, grey water and clean those used bottles to store household water.    

Ranchers use dirt tanks to water livestock, which is just a hole dug in the ground to capture rainwater runoff in a low part of the property.  Don’t dig past the hard pan or it will leak, so it’s best to use someone who has lots of experience.  This works well when you don’t have a well and power pump or can’t afford one.  A stock tank is a large metal container for watering livestock, which still needs some type of water source, typically a well and windmill.

Although springs are highly desirable, most properties are without water, which makes drilling a well crucial.  A cistern (open top) or water tank (closed top) acts as a reservoir to hold water.  Made of metal, plastic or concrete they hold the precious liquid from your well.  No Texan worth their salt drills a well without adding a water tank.  Texans also have lots of swimming pools, which can act as emergency water storage. 

Many homesteads still have their original working windmills that pump water to the house and livestock.  It’s not uncommon to find old, disassembled windmills on Craigslist and some could be had for a reasonable price or possibly your effort in taking it down. 

Oil is king in Texas
.  Few ranches don’t have an above ground gas tank and most have a diesel tank as well for trucks and equipment.  Having 500 or so gallons of fuel on hand is really out of everyday ranching necessity, but oh so smart in case of TEOTWAWKI.

Texas ranches are multi-generational
.  Typically ranches have more than one house on a property: a main house, guest house, ranch foreman’s house, bunk house, cabin and maybe an apartment in the barn is very common.  Most aren’t big or expensive.  This provides additional space for family members, ranch workers and guests.  It’s also valuable should the need arise to for banding together for protection.

Barns are useful for large gathering places.
  Party barns are great entertainment and I’ve seen pool tables, dart boards, washers and checkers in these outdoor rooms, none of which needs power.  Stables are typically metal frames and roofs made from kits.  Texans love their horses: cutting horses, trail riding, team roping, breeding horse, training horses, you name they ride it.

Ranches have many useful outbuildings.
  Our German immigrants knew that survival was more important than a fancy house so they built smoke houses to cure meat, well houses for water, chicken houses, tractor sheds, garages, storage sheds, horse barns, hay barns, black smith sheds and tool sheds to name a few.  This is still true today and a good ranch set up with ample barns will help secure your hard earned assets should the balloon ever go up.

Ride for the brand
.  In the old west, ranchers hired men to work their cattle and the cattle brand of the owner was who they gave their loyalty too.  The ranch owner also depended on those extra hands when trouble came knocking.  Today, many ranch hands have lived their whole lives on one property, with some like the King Ranch passing those ranch hand jobs down to the next generation.  Talk about loyalty.  This kind of security can’t be bought, but the next best thing is your family.  Living close to family makes a tighter bond than living far away. 

We don’t dial 911”.  Guns are a way of life here.  I’ve been to lots of ranches that have some sort of hidden gun room or secret cache where guns are stored.  Guns are everywhere.  Over a fireplace, in trucks, boots, bedrooms, barns, purses and even the outhouse (snakes of course).

Guns, guns and more guns
.  Every type of gun known to man is here to protect their family and property.  They also stockpile ammo.   A good rule is to honk first when driving up unexpectedly to a ranch so as not to spook anyone.  Watching those old cowboy movies gave me a good idea: use both hands when shooting guns.    

Without question Texas is a strong, vocal supporter of the Second Amendment and the NRA
.  Just check out their bumper stickers.  I saw a bumper sticker on a father of a teenage girl my son was checking out and it said “Guns don’t kill men, Daddy’s with pretty daughters do”

Growing gardens is tough here
.  Start with a mandatory 6 foot deer fence and build your raised beds because of the rocks.  Rain harvesting and gray water systems are slowly becoming more popular due to the drought.  Drip irrigation is the way to go.  Our long growing season is an added bonus. 

Architectural design is important
.  Ranch houses are typically one story, with wide eaves and deep porches to offset the harsh Texas sun.  Most are built with metal roofs, rock siding and tile floors that last for generations.  This greatly helps to cool down a home, while fans are in almost every room.  Tall ceilings, shutters and siting a home to take advantage of south eastern gulf winds help’s to offset demand for air-conditioning.  So does a tall glass of sweet tea.

Many small towns in the Texas Hill Country have a secret
.  Beneath our town’s main street are old tunnels that were built to protect settlers in case of Indian raids.  That makes me feel a little safer next time I shop for pickles knowing that if a nuclear bomb goes off my family can go underground.   

Texans love all kinds of horse powered transportation
.  Should an EMP attack render cars useless, they’ll get around riding their horses or driving their horse drawn carriages, buggy’s, hay wagons, chuck wagons and buck board wagons.  During the summer on country roads you can run into wagon trains filled with hundreds of people driving their wagons, which is an awesome sight to behold!  And yes they still ride their horses into town for a coke, hamburger and even a beer.

Alternative vehicles are a must
. Almost every ranch has at least one All-Terrain Vehicle or a truck with a big bumper grill, which is used to help stop damage to the engine if you hit a deer.  Heck, I’ve seen a new Cadillac with a huge bumper grill.  They could come in pretty handy during a Without Rule of Law situation.. 

Horse trailers, cattle trailers and utility trailers are all great survival tools
.  We use them all the time and I’ve learned how to haul them and back them up too.   (It’s pretty hard so it’s a really good thing to learn now rather than later)  Most horse trailers are nicer than some people’s homes, plus the added bonus is the ability to travel with your livestock and family under one roof.

Every cowboy knows that a rope is an important tool
.  Sure they can lasso a cow, but it serves so many other uses that it would be impossible to list.  Suffice to say that that’s one thing that you never can have enough of and I’ve been known to use my son’s lariat in a pinch to tie down furniture on the utility trailer. 

Hunting is different here versus other states
.  Deer blinds and corn feeder’s act as bait to lure deer close enough to the house to make an easy kill and butchering process.  I used to think that was cheating, but the older you get, the smarter this becomes.  A poor man’s lure is an old fashioned salt block.  Deer also love my chicken feed.

Ranchers are born entrepreneurs
.  It’s very tough today to make a living from ranching alone and that has forced most ranchers to have home based businesses.  Things I’ve seen them do to make a little side money are selling hay (if you don’t have the equipment, then split the hay fifty-fifty with someone who does). 

Selling firewood, cedar logs, tamales, tractor work and tilling gardens is common.  Everywhere you look is a small, roadside barbeque stand.  Game ranches make serious money allowing the paying public to shoot exotic animals that pay a rancher from $500 to over $10,000 per animal.

The women earn extra cash too
.  Many sell handcrafts, herbs and vegetables at the various farmers markets during the summer.  Quilts, antiques, farm fresh eggs and canned goods will always provide pocket change, but some are starting to build and install custom raised beds and set up vegetable gardens for those who lack the time and skills. 

Horseback rides at $75/hour per horse is one way for their keep, providing parking in your field for events and tube rentals on the areas many rivers are a fun way to boost a family’s income during the tourist season.  The bed and breakfast industry is a thriving business in the picturesque Hill Country.  Even a small cabin that rents nightly provides a nice extra income.  Some play guitar on an open mike night to help make ends meet.       

Ranchers use their bartering skills every day
.  My brother in-law trades broken industrial equipment given to him from an owner who wants to get rid of the “junk”.  He repairs it and then turns around and trades it for boats, cars and especially guns.  I’ve seen ranchers lease their grassland property to landless horse/cattle/goat owners for extra cash.  Some sell watermelons and other cash crops at roadside stands and many out of the back of a pickup truck.  The ideas are endless and all it takes is your imagination.

Foraging for wild food is fun
.  I’ve learned Texans are serious wild food foragers and last fall had to fight numerous other pickers for the pecan nuts that fell on country roads.  My acorn harvest was a bust and I learned not to store them in plastic because they ruin.  Prickly pear cactus grows wild here and is highly prized for making jam that has become a Texas tradition.

I want to touch upon food preps just a little
.  Although I’ve re-learned to can after forgetting this important survival skill my mother taught me as a young girl, one of the best new things I’ve learned is to manage my food storage.  The closest grocery store is 32 miles so I now buy my groceries monthly. 
Yes, I still run to town for bread and milk after a few weeks, distance has forced me to store at least a months’ worth of food, which is good in case of an emergency.  It also cuts down on buying unhealthy processed food, which is a way too easy an option when you are always in a grocery store. 

Many older women have taught me a surprise weapon
.  I’ve been taken aside to enlighten me on their secret recipe: cooking in cast iron pans.  Needless to say, I now cook almost exclusively with my own collection of cast iron that you can find in antique stores, garage sales, ranch supply stores and online.  My latest acquisition is a cute little cast iron cup with handle that holds 1 ½ cups, which is just right for melting butter for corn on the cob. 

Learn to cut out the poison
.  Less toxic, processed food means more scratch cooking, which is a must learn skill.  Even if you think you can’t, just try a few things and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make food staples like homemade pancakes, biscuits and jam.  Now if only I can improve my aim and shoot a deer!  But like any country gal, I did the next best thing which is to learn how to process a deer. 

You just gotta love chickens
.  Although my family are cattle ranchers, without a doubt, chickens are the easiest livestock to begin with and just about every small town in Texas allows homeowners chickens.  Remember you don’t need a rooster for eggs, only if you want baby chicks.  Don’t forget to buy non-GMO feed and free range chickens are always best.  Now if only I can train them to lay eggs exactly where I can find them…

Texas women are natural born preppers
.  They love their bling.  Gold, diamonds, silver, you name it they wear it and all the time.   If SHTF, their bling-bling can be an immediate bartering tool.  Camouflage, boots and jeans are the norm here for women and it gives us an edge over business suits, high heels and designer clothes that aren’t made to last.      

Living in the country does have responsibilities.
  Most people I know are first responders and are volunteer fireman.  If you can’t afford the expensive communications devices, in exchange for your time each town outfits their guys with the latest and greatest gear.  Learning CPR and other medical know-how is the icing on the cake and it’s typically free.  Walkie-talkies are useful around home and gives you peach of mind having constant contact with the kids.  (Remember that cell phone service doesn’t always work in the country.) 

Smart ranchers use what nature gives them
.  Many an old timer has converted their cow manure into liquid fertilizer to boost their hay field production.  That’s a big deal when large round bales sell upwards of $100 dollars a bale.  I always ask my kids when we pass a freshly baled hay field “Now how much money is sitting in that field?”  Their answers are jaw dropping.
I know that without living in Texas I would never have been exposed to so many ways to ranch and homestead.  I read this article to my children who have been raised in Texas and they both said “Mom that’s not a story about prepping, that’s just the way Texans live.”  Out of the mouths of babes.

The education I’ve been given by the cowboys, ranchers and farmers who live here has shaped the person I am and my children as well.  And we’re better for it.  God bless America, God bless Texas and God bless all Patriots keeping the faith.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ten years ago, my wife and I, as young newlyweds, were living the American dream. Our future was bright. While my wife earned a lucrative salary and I built a successful online business, we were on the road to success.  Our urban lifestyle provided us with everything our hearts desired.  In 2006 everything changed.  With the collapse of the housing bubble and the economy in a tailspin, we woke up to the fact that our easy urban lifestyle was fragile and dependent on factors far outside of our control.  We began to be alarmed at the precariousness of our current situation. We asked ourselves what we would do if the economy continued to deteriorate and we could no longer depend on the comfortable income we had so long enjoyed.  We considered our options and tried to determine what we could do to lessen our dependency on others and build in security for our family’s future.  After much prayer, we decided to radically change our way of life. We put our house up for sale and resolved to move to a remote location and become modern homesteaders. 

Our first step was to find a suitable location. Every weekend we loaded up the van and started looking for off-grid properties.  With an eye towards self-reliance we determined our future property must include four things: 1) a reliable water supply independent from municipal sources; 2) a climate that would support growing our own food; 3) an adequate forest that could provide firewood for heat and lumber for building material; 4) a defendable property far enough from major cities to be safe from the influx of an urban exodus in the case of natural or man-made disaster.  We decided on an area east of the Cascade Mountains in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

After years of searching we found what we considered to be the perfect location for our future off-grid homestead.  We purchased the land and set to work.  Our new property was bare, forested land. Having a background in construction and site development, I was undaunted by the scope of work needing to be performed.  Clearing land, logging, construction, building roads, installing septic systems and water wells were within my scope of abilities.

Before we started we had resolved to build out of pocket and complete the job debt free.  We had made the necessary preparation and everything was accounted for and a go. What we didn’t consider were the road blocks about to be put up before us by the county building department and the dramatic increase in the cost of building materials. I have been in construction for a long time and am familiar with building department requirements, engineering, and the inspection process.  Very early on I began to sense a perceptible resistance by the building department to sign off on our building plans. It seemed to me we were trying to hit a moving target with continuous requests for changes in engineering and permitting requirements.  I cannot say with certainty that the building department was actively trying to make our life difficult. I think perhaps our project was so far out of their general scope of knowledge that they were reluctant to give approval over fear they may become liable for unforeseen problems in the future.

With the cost of development skyrocketing and the demands of the building department becoming ever more difficult we were quickly reaching the point of no return.  We were faced with a very difficult decision: Do we continue to bang our heads against this proverbial wall or cut our losses; take the remaining money we still had; and purchase a homestead with an intact infrastructure? The thought of pulling up stakes and starting over was heartrending. We had already invested thousands of dollars clearing timber, building roads, and installing a septic system and fresh-water well. We had fallen in love with our future home site and developed relationships with neighbors that continue to this day.

With time and money running low a decision had to be made. We pulled the plug, loaded up the van and hit the road searching for a place we could call home.  I believe my wife and I looked at every  property for sale in the county. Toward the end of a long day of searching we came over a rise in the road and were treated to a spectacular view of the Cascade Mountains.  My wife motioned to me to stop!  To our left stood an old "for sale" sign and a promising homestead property with a modest house and several barns and out- buildings.  We immediately got out of the van and investigated the property. We quickly realized it had everything we had been looking for: strategic location, favorable climate, ample water, timber and nearly move-in ready.  I’m not going to go into the long and arduous process we went through to purchase our homestead, but to make a long story short, we now call it home.

Preparing for the Future.
In late November we took position of the property and moved in. The homestead had been abandoned and was in pretty rough shape. Winter was bearing down upon us and a lot of work needed to be done. Time was running short and the harsh winter snows were looming on the horizon. With my family living onsite in my parents’ fifth-wheel trailer we started to work.  It was as if we had been thrust back into the 19th century.  We had no heat or water in the house. Pipes had frozen and burst. The woodstove was so old and worn that it was no longer safe to use; which would not have helped much anyway since we had no firewood.  This experience was very eye-opening for our family. I was amazed how dependent we had become on modern conveniences like warm water, a furnace with a thermostat, and grocery stores so close that a person need not worry about food storage or maintaining a pantry.  The hardships of our first winter were a disguised blessing. We began to realize many short comings and vulnerabilities in our preparations. It has been said that every boxer has a plan until he gets hit in the nose. Our noses had been bloodied and we resolved our second winter would not be a repeat of the first. 

We needed a plan. My wife and I counseled together to determine our most pressing needs.  As an avid outdoors man I learned and at early age the four things one does if lost in the wilderness: 1) build a shelter; 2) provide a source of heat; 3) secure water; 4) find food.  With a sturdy house and a dry roof we moved to step 2 - provide heat and warmth. We purchased a used woodstove and chimney pipe and installed them in the front room.  With perseverance, determination, and a lot of very wet firewood we had a reasonably warm house.  Just when our conditions started to improve a severe ice storm knocked out our power for nine days.  With the well pump out-of-service we were forced to devise a water source that could operate independent from the power grid.  How difficult it is for the modern mind to shift from the conventional way of doing things.  If you need to pump water you have two options, correct? Either you use an electric or a gasoline powered pump. With the electricity to our home shut off this left only one alternative.  With the nearest gas station many miles away down a treacherous ice-covered road, running a generator 24 hours a day is a less than ideal solution.  One of the most important lessons homesteading has taught me is to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and to look to the old ways of getting a job done.  I searched the internet for an alternative approach to our water problem. Lo and behold I found a 16th Century solution to a 21st Century problem, the ram pump.

YouTube is a modern homesteader’s best friend.  By watching several videos I learned how to build a simple pump constructed of common plumbing supplies that operates on the kinetic energy of falling water. We now had a solution to our water emergency.  By combining this simple pump with a small water tower, we were able to provide water for drinking as well as an adequate supply for irrigating our garden.  I’m not suggesting our grandfathers had all the solutions but much can be gleaned from their past experience and the solutions they devised for similar problems we face today. It seems to me that the modern homesteader who combines the old-tried and true techniques with modern technology can devise simple and robust solutions for nearly any problem. 

With shelter, heat, and water issues sorted we began to look at our food supply. Our first spring was fast approaching as we planned our garden.  We homestead in an alpine forested area where we need to protect our garden from deer and elk. We settled on an area close to the house and began the construction of an 8 foot high perimeter fence and headed down the road to food independence

Fast forward a year and a half.  Life on the homestead is much different.  We have learned a great deal.  My father used to say that it’s amazing how much a man can get done when he has to. This has certainly been true for our homestead experience.

JWR Adds: Be sure to follow their homesteading adventures, videoblogged at Wranglerstar.com.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

Here are the awful consequences for those refusing to prepare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What is money?

Economist Mike Shedlock defines money through the eyes of Austrian economist Murray N. Rothbard as “a commodity used as a medium of exchange.”

“Like all commodities, it has an existing stock, it faces demands by people to buy and hold it. Like all commodities, its price in terms of other goods is determined by the interaction of its total supply, or stock, and the total demand by people to buy and hold it. People buy money by selling their goods and services for it, just as they sell money when they buy goods and services.”

What is money when the system collapses and the SHTF?

In disaster situations, the value of money as we know it now changes, especially if we are dealing with a hyperinflationary collapse of the system’s core currency. This article discusses money as a commodity in an event where the traditional currency (US Dollar) is no longer valuable.

In a collapse of the system, there will be multiple phases, with the first phase being the “crunch”, as discussed in James Rawles' novel Patriots. The crunch is the period of time directly preceding a collapse and the collapse itself.

Traditional Currency

Initially, the traditional currency system will maintain some value, though it may be rapidly depreciating in buying power. For those with physical, non-precious metal denominated currency on hand (paper dollars, non-silver coins), spending it as rapidly as possible is the best approach.

It is during the crunch that ATM machines around the country will run out of currency as people aware of the rapidly devaluing dollar will be attempting to withdraw as much money as possible. This immediate increase in money supply, coupled with the population’s general knowledge of the currency depreciation in progress, will lead to instant price increases for goods, especially essential goods.

If your physical cash has not been converted into tangible assets, this would be the time to do so. Acquiring as much food, fuel, clothing and toiletry items as possible would be the ideal way to spend remaining cash before it completely collapses to zero, as it did in the Weimar inflation in 1930s Germany, or Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation in recent years.

Precious Metals

During the initial phase of the ‘crunch’ precious metals will be a primary bartering tool, but this may not last long. The old survivalist adage “you can’t eat your gold” will become apparent very quickly. In a total breakdown of the system, food, water and fuel will be the most important tangible goods to acquire.

Consider someone who has a two week or one month supply of food on hand. Do you believe they would be willing to part with that food for some precious metals? The likely answer is no. There will be almost no bartering item that one would be willing to trade their food for once it is realized that food supply lines have been cut.

That being said, since most will not barter their food, not even for fuel, the next recognized medium of exchange by merchants, especially those selling fuel, will be precious metals. For the initial crunch, silver coins, especially recognizable coins like 90% silver quarters, dimes and half dollars, along with one (1) ounce government mint issued silver coins like US Silver Eagles, will be accepted by some, probably most, merchants. For those trying to flee cities to bug-out locations, silver coins of the aforementioned denominations may be a life saver, as they can be used to acquire fuel. While we recommend having gold, as well, the issue with gold is that its value is so much higher than that of silver, that breaking a one ounce gold coin into 10 pieces just to buy a tank of gas will not be practical. It is for this reason that having silver on hand is highly recommended. Packing at least $25 – $50 of silver coins in each bug-out bag would be a prudent prepping idea.

In a total SHTF scenario, silver and gold may eventually break down as a bartering unit, as contact with the “outside” world breaks down. One reason for this, is that the fair value price of precious metals will be hard to determine, as it will be difficult to locate buyers for this commodity.

This, however, does not mean that you should spend all of your precious metals right at the onset of a collapse. Precious metals will have value after bartering and trade is reestablished once the system begins to stabilize. Once stabilization begins, the likely scenario is that precious metals will be one of the most valuable monetary units available, so having plenty may be quite a benefit. At this point, they could be used to purchase property, livestock, services and labor.


Water is often overlooked as a medium of exchange, though it is one of the most essential commodities for survival on the planet. Had individuals in New Orleans stockpiled some water supplies during Hurricane Katrina, much of the loss of life there could have been avoided.

For those bugging out of cities, it will be impractical to carry with them more than 5 – 10 gallons of water because of space limitations in their vehicles. Thus, having a method to procure water may not only save your life, but also provide you with additional goods for which you can barter.

An easy solution for providing yourself and others with clean water is to acquire a portable water filtration unit for your bug-out bag(s). While they are a bit costly, with a good unit such as the Katadyn Combi water filter running around $150, the water produced will be worth its weight in gold, almost literally. This particular filter produces 13,000 gallons of clean water! A must have for any survival kit.

Because we like reserves for our reserves, we’d also recommend acquiring water treatment tablets like the EPA approved Katadyn Micropur tabs. If your filter is lost or breaks for whatever reason, each tablet can purify 1 liter of water. In our opinion, the best chemical water treatment available.

Clean water is money. In a bartering environment, especially before individuals have had time to establish water sources, this will be an extremely valuable medium of exchange and will have more buying power than even silver or gold on the individual bartering level.


In a system collapse, food will be another of the core essential items that individuals will want to acquire. Survival Blog founder James Rawles suggests storing food for 1) personal use 2) charity 3) bartering.

Dry goods, canned goods, freeze dried foods can be used for bartering, but only if you have enough to feed yourself, family and friends. They should be bartered by expiration date, with those foods with the expiration dates farthest out being the last to be traded. You don’t know how long the crunch and recovery periods will last, so hold the foods with the longest expiration dates in your possession if you get to a point where you must trade.

Baby formula will also be a highly valued item in a SHTF scenario, so whether you have young children or not, it may not be a bad idea to stockpile a one or two week supply. (For parents of young children, this should be the absolute first thing you should be stockpiling!). In addition to water, baby formula may be one of the most precious of all monetary commodities.

Another tradable food good would be seeds, but the need for these may not be apparent to most at the initial onset of a collapse, though having extra seeds in your bug-out location may come in handy later.


Fuel, including gas, diesel, propane and kerosene will all become barterable goods in a collapse, with gas being the primary of these energy monetary units during the crunch as individuals flee cities. For most, stockpiling large quantities will be impractical, so for those individuals who prepared, they may only have 20 – 50 gallons in their possession as they are leaving their homes. If you are near your final bug-out destination, and you must acquire food, water or firearms, fuel may be a good medium of exchange, especially for those that have extra food stuffs they are willing to trade.

Though we do not recommend expending your fuel, if you are left with no choice, then food, water and clothing may take precedence.

For those with the ability to do so, store fuel in underground tanks on your property for later use and trading.

Firearms and Ammunition

Though firearms and ammunition may not be something you want to give up, those without them will be willing to trade some of their food, precious metals, fuel and water for personal security. If the system collapses, there will likely be pandemonium, and those without a way to protect themselves will be sitting ducks to thieves, predators and gangs.

Even in if you choose not to trade your firearms and ammo during the onset of a collapse, these items will be valuable later. As food supplies diminish, those without firearms will want to acquire them so they can hunt for food. Those with firearms may very well be running low on ammunition and will be willing to trade for any of the aforementioned items.

In both James Rawles’ novel Patriots and William Forstchen’s One Second After ammunition was the primary trading good during the recovery and stabilization periods, where it was traded for food, clothing, shoes, livestock, precious metals and fuel.

Clothing and Footwear

We may take it for granted now because of the seemingly endless supply, but clothing and footwear items will be critical in both, the crunch and the phases after it. Having an extra pair of boots, a jacket, socks, underwear and sweaters can be an excellent way to acquire other essential items in a trade.

As children grow out of their clothes, rather than throwing them away, they will become barterable goods.

It is recommended that those with children stock up on essential clothing items like socks, underwear and winter-wear that is sized a year or two ahead of your child’s age.

Additional Monetary Commodities

The above monetary units are essential goods that will be helpful for bartering in the initial phases of a collapse in the system. As the crunch wanes and recovery and stabilization begin to take over, other commodities will become tradable goods.

In A Free Falling Economy Makes Bartering Go Boom, Tess Pennington provides some other examples of items that will be bartering goods during and after a crunch including, vitamins, tools, livestock, fishing supplies, coffee and medical supplies.

Another important monetary commodity after the crunch will be trade skills. If you know how to fish, machine tools, hunt, sew, fix and operate radios, fix cars, manufacture shoes, or grow food, you’ll have some very important skills during the recovery period.

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.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Making it through a worst case scenario in a two bedroom apartment is not my idea of a good chance of survival.  I read about others who are relocating to the American Redoubt or who have acquired sizeable land out away from town.  Those who have bunkers or cellars lined with shelves of log-term storage foods and an arsenal of weapons and ammo to protect it all; who have chickens and goats and a place to plant those seeds that come in the long-term storage can.  Then I look at myself and think, “Can’t do that, can’t afford that, maybe I should just lay down and die when it all hits the fan”, but that is not my nature.  So I fight back with whatever I have, and besides the Lord is on my side.  In the book of Nehemiah the Bible speaks of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and enemies who are always present; from this and many other passages I gain courage, “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” (Nehemiah 4:14).  “Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon.” (Nehemiah 4:17).  So I intend to prepare my family the best I can and trust the Lord to be over all.

We live in the western side of Washington State and it would not take much to make it into the American Redoubt area, but without necessary funds it seems impossible.  My husband and I also care for my brother-in-law who is 63 but mentally developed to about that of a twelve year old.  Bringing him with us in a long term bad situation would be disastrous; abandoning him is out of the question. 

We live on the edge of a smaller town and are in a relatively good location for urban surviving.  Our apartment complex is a small six unit building in a neighborhood of houses.  The railroad tracks are about four blocks from the apartment complex.  If we had to grab our get-out-of-town bags and run I think we could make it through the neighborhood to the tracks.  Once there the forested area quickly becomes thick, another mile and you hit the river.  We fish this river in the summer.  Along the river is a corridor of thick forest, meadows and farmer’s fields for miles, and it passes through several state parks and national forest land.  In my twenties (or even thirties) this would have been my go to escape route, but we are not there anymore and my brother-in-law would not even make it past the railroad tracks.  So it seems to me I need to simply face my reality and do with it what I can.  So here is my plan.

A two bedroom apartment doesn’t have a lot of storage space but I have been rearranging as much as possible to accommodate boxes of #10 cans.  A box holding six cans stacked on another box of six cans and then covered with a cloth becomes a small inconspicuous table.  The upper shelf of the linen closet holds lighter weight items.  Filing or bankers boxes stack well and are placed under the desk in the second bedroom and on the shelf in the bedroom closet.  The lowest shelf of the bookshelf in the living room holds regular sized can items, coffee, quick cook pasta meals you buy at the grocery store, and other short-term storage items.  This shelf is then draped over with a simple spring loaded curtain rod and an old pillow case.  This keeps it out of view and keeps the dust off.  These items typically have a shelf life of one to two years and need to be rotated to maintain freshness.  My brother-in-law occupies another apartment in our six unit building and a few things are stored there that would be specifically for his needs, you just have to convince him to leave them alone.  If he thinks they are old or in his way he will simply throw them in the dumpster.  The trunk of the car currently holds a get-home-bag, in case I am at work when it all comes down, and extra toilet paper.  Toilet paper is bulky.  I am sure we are not the only family with similar difficulties or restrictions for making it through TEOTWAWKI and yet feel the urge from the Lord to “prepare now”, and I hope some of this encourages those. 

Fortunately, we live on the second floor on the end apartment.  This will make it easier for us to defend ourselves if it comes to that.  A few weapons have been acquired, a .357 Magnum carbine for home defense and .380 semi auto pistol (I know, some of you are screaming, “that won’t get you anywhere”, well this is what we have to work with and besides David killed Goliath with a stone and I’m not that great with a slingshot).  Then there is the .22 Winchester rifle for small game, a .22 magnum revolver (my personal everyday concealed carry), and another .22 LR revolver small game capable.  I know it is not much and writing it down and looking at it seems puny, but I have to live in my reality and like it or not, this is it.  We have a few hundred rounds of ammo for each weapon and have great difficulty finding any more anywhere.  For this reason practicing with these weapons is very limited.  I do have a slingshot by the way and practice with it.  I bought it from A+ Slingshots and like it a lot.  My accuracy is increasing and the slingshot will put a marble through a pop can at 75 feet.  My thought is that if I need to gather small game in a quiet manner this would work well.  Whatever resources I have I intend to use them.

The river is close by and I believe we could gather water there if needed and fish.  A large container could be strapped to the bicycle and I could take the neighborhood roads a mile and a half to the river gather water and return.  My biggest concern would be doing this with bad guys around, nevertheless the resource is there.  There is also a meadow alongside the river where I have gathered Nettles in the spring.  This is another resource available just outside of town.  Learning about a few wild edible plants that grow in your area can make a difference.  Another that is easy to find here is Cat’s Ear, It grows in the small lawn next to the apartment complex.  The lawn is never sprayed so I don’t have to worry.  I prefer the young flower buds to the leaves but both are edible.  Learn a few for yourself, you might be surprised at what grows outside your front door or very close by.  Neighbors can also be a great resource.  We have one neighbor that we are like minded with.  They have a house and a few fruit trees and raise chicken.  Currently we buy our eggs from them and they let us gather the extra fruit when they have it.  I believe they will be a great resource for safe barter in the future.  Having this relationship established now gives me a greater since of confidence.

There is one other place where I have a few things stored.  Last fall we purchased a used 17 foot camper unit.  It is kept outside the apartment and we have worked hard to seal up the leaks to keep it dry inside.  Inside the camper are a few very difficult to get to storage areas and I have a few #10 cans wrapped in plastic bags stored here.  The camper also has a propane operated stove and refrigerator and a 30 gallon water tank.  These could make the first week much easier.

We have managed to acquire and hide some silver and gold.  I cashed in a small IRA early (paying the penalty for early withdrawal), and paid down some of our debt and purchased some silver and gold.  Not knowing what the real scenario will be, we diversified and bought some bullion, some old 90% silver currency (junk silver), and a few small pieces of gold.  We also have a small stash of cash on hand.  Some may not be able to do even this much, but do what you can.  Our neighbors who live in the apartment complex likely have nothing stored away even for a weekend power outage.  It has occurred to me that we may be feeding them too.  Part of me says let them be, they have made their own bed and part of me says, am I not required by God to help my neighbor if I have the power to do so, therefore I prepare with the possibility in mind.  I can dream all I want about what I would like the situation to be, but I am still left to deal with the truth at hand.

Another way I have been preparing for my probable reality is in cooking.  Just for fun, a few years back, I began making homemade pop can alcohol stoves and can wood stoves.  I have become very good at it and feel I can make a stove to cook on with just about any kind of can.  The secret is to learn how fire works and what it requires to burn efficiently.  A small amount of wood in a home-made double walled can stove burns with very little smoke.  Some designs of alcohol stoves will work even on 70% isopropyl alcohol you have in the first aid cabinet.  Denatured alcohol form the hardware store is much better.  We also have a small hibachi type charcoal grill for when the propane goes out in the gas grill and the camper unit.  Acquire different ways to cook.  There are many resources on the internet to teach you how to make a can stove, the Zen Backpacking Stoves web site is a great resource to start with.

My husband and I went on a weekend trip to eastern Washington a few weeks back and rented a cabin on the Columbia River.  We picked up some beer along the way, the kind that says “tools required” right on the cap, and once at the cabin to my dismay I discovered I had no bottle opener.  Normally I would have had every type of camping gadget/equipment with me but it wasn’t intended to be that type of a trip.  I did get the bottle opened and drank my beer; the next day I purchased two simple bottle openers for a dollar apiece at the local store.  I seems a silly lesson, but this made me realize that I needed to do something more about preparing food without electricity.  No coffee grinder, microwave, oven, electric mixer, blender, you get the idea.  I have started looking through the local thrift stores for old time cooking gadgets.  There are many great things available, bottle openers, can openers, meat grinders, hand turned mixers and egg beaters, cherry pitters, apple slicer corer peelers; you would be amazed at what you can find.  It would be great to find a hand grain grinder and a coffee grinder at an affordable price.  Tools are also available at the thrift store, hand powered drill, saws, axes, hammers, and so on, at great prices.  Get now what you think you may need.  You may need to make it through right where you are.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waking up to the sudden realization that my safe, comfortable world as I have always known it to be was not the result of watching any “end of the world” movies or documentaries, or from reading something about it or from a friend convincing me.  I feel it was a gift, a freebie wake-up call from the heavenly powers that be.   I can’t help but think that I am supposed to be a survivor…..at least long enough to keep my children alive and healthy until they are grown and can then survive without my assistance.  My husband on the other hand, has been given no such gift.  He is in denial of anything going askew with the easy way of life he’s always known.  I have tried in vain to convince him of a very dire economic future.  Having information from very reputable sources placed in front of him does no good as he ignores it or explains how it’s all wrong.  I feel though, that on some level he is aware but is afraid to acknowledge the reality of it.  I fully understand that a highly unpredictable future can be too much for some people to stomach - but it’s a future, I feel in my bones is going to be encountered.  Nonetheless, it’s a difficult situation for a marriage to be in whether the one who has awakened is the husband or the wife.  But, I would bet my home-made rain barrels that it’s definitely tougher to be the wife, or female significant other who is the enlightened one.  Men for centuries have usually had the final “say-so” in most situations and our society still predominantly leans that way.  As strong and independent a person as I think I am, I still find it hard to go against my husband’s wishes.  When he comes home from work and sees the box or two of preps that have been delivered and sitting on the kitchen floor, or knows that I’ve made another run to the Thrift Store and scored more wool sweaters and blankets for the girls, I acutely feel pain when he winces or shakes his head in an “I give up!” manner.    Our marriage is still a good one, but because of my prepping it has a few dings, dents and rust spots that I wish were not there.  And let me state it clearly right now, that although my husband is still asleep as far as the reasons for prepping go, he has been one of my best life supporters, and has done more for me than anyone else could.  He has always been there for me when I was going through (and currently am) some of the worst life decisions a person has to make.  For all of those reasons and more, I will forever be loyal to him and will not allow myself to wallow in self-pity for more than a couple of minutes just because he and I are not on the same page about prepping.  My hope in writing this piece is that I can bring to light some areas of prepping that are not often thought about, plus show my empathy and understanding for those preppers who don’t have the support of their significant other.
My "awakening" just happened, out of the blue.  One day I was blissfully unaware of any potential economic, political, environmental or other such trouble, just happily skipping through life and the very next day I was aware.  Boom!  Just like that.  My day of “catastrophic awakening” was in early December, 2009.  Now in early 2013, I feel I am far better prepared than most in my middle class neighborhood, but still not where I need to be to feel really good about it.  I am coming to the conclusion that that place of comfort is unattainable.  It’s been quite an adventure, and a process from which I get little rest.  If I’m not actively doing some sort of prepping activity I’m thinking about prepping.  I closely watch the economy to see if I need to hurry my prepping up or can I wait until the credit card flips before using it again.  Though I still very much enjoy life, and participate in non-prepping activities with my friends and family, I can’t help but miss the days of blissful ignorance when I was totally unaware of impending DOOM.    I must continually read, study, buy, make, plan, think, save, and use my  imagination in anticipation of various disastrous scenarios  and prepare for them for all of us…….alone.  My husband’s only contribution is paying for most of it.  He complains frequently and loudly and I ache frequently and strongly.  Buying extra food and all the hundreds of necessary items on a tight budget is a work of art in itself.  I think only a woman can truly understand the logistics of it all.  If it were just he and I, I might not even try to prep.  But I have kids…… and that changes everything.

Another heavenly gift I was given was the desire to never become pregnant.  That didn’t mean I never wanted children, I most certainly did.  I simply never felt the need to have my genetic code replicate itself in the form of human that was half me, and half somebody else.  Even back when I could still get pregnant I felt an inkling of a looming, foreboding future. My environmental courses while attending the college didn’t help me culture a positive attitude about our world.  Why should I bring more people into an already “overly-burdened with humans and their endless problems” planet?  Adoption was the answer for me.  I won’t bring any more people in but I will be more than happy to raise those already here.  So after completing grueling reams of paperwork, background checks, intrusive home studies, and a “wait and hold-your-breath” for acceptance from a certified adoption agency, we were finally off to China to adopt the most precious two baby girls in the world!  I am determined that these two kids will not only survive life, but will have the best chance at the best life that I, and the “heavenly-gifter” (God), is willing, to provide.   I’m sure I share this deep, primitive instinctual drive with many mothers across the globe to protect their offspring even to the point of death.   Fathers, no doubt, are also deeply driven to protect their children, but my experience is from a mother’s perspective.   I’ve read many blogs about the perfect prepping relationship and living situation.  Sometimes when I start reading one of those blogs and realizing it’s another “preppers heaven” situation, I stop reading and look for something else that I can use.  I sometimes find myself having fleeting feelings of jealously mixed with a tad of resentment towards those “blessed” preppers who have it so good.  But in the final analysis, I’m really happy for them and can only imagine what it’s like to have someone to readily discuss world events, prepping needs, scenarios, to practice skills with and to have the same desires and needs concerning getting ready for an eminent catastrophe of some sort.  I don’t have that.  And, I’m probably never going to get that.  But what I have is enough…..I was given the gift of waking up and the means to prepare for the future and that is all I can ask for.  I am very grateful.  We are all exactly where we are supposed to be though I sometimes have to remind myself of that.  I’m here where God wants me to be and here is where I’m staying until God says it’s time to move.

So here’s our family situation.  The four of us are suburbanites living in a two story brick house with an unfinished basement.  And it’s the basement that may be our sanctuary.  It’s dimly lit, cold, cluttered, and just plain dirty but I pretty much enjoy being there.  It’s where I feel my prepping call the strongest, and where I can readily see the fruits of my prepping labor.  I feel a little bit closer to my Higher Power when I’m in the basement.  I receive more spiritual encouragement being there than anyplace else.  And I need that encouragement since I find it nowhere else except on my favorite survival web sites (Survival Blog my most favorite) and other blogs from my fellow internet preppers and friends.    I look around the basement and notice the windows and French doors and see all the work I still have to do to make them as secure as possible from break-ins.  I study various ways of protection but all are more than I can afford.  So, I must think, ponder, mull over and dream about effective ways of providing very inexpensive home security.  I feel that sometimes I’ve been guided to the right places at the right times.  I was at Lowe’s when they were selling “imperfect” lumber at 90% off and loaded my husband’s pick-up truck with it, and unloaded it alone when I got it home.  It took me two trips to get it all.   So now I have plenty of lumber of various lengths and sizes.  I bought four (4), metal zinc 6 and 3/8” bar holder brackets and have bolted them to the wall studs ,two on each side of the French doors and rammed two (2), 2x4’s through them directly across the doors.  I realize that all one needs to do to easily enter the basement via the French doors is to break the one of the many glass panes, slide the board out of the brackets and proceed to kick the door in or bump the dead bolt.  To prevent this I have screwed two (2), 2 and ½” screws deeply into the exposed wall studs next to the end of each 2x4 board.  I can pull outwards on the end of the boards to release them over the heads of the screws to slide them out of the brackets, but I can only do this if I’m already in the basement at the inside of the doors.  I was surprised at how well this worked!  Someone on the outside would have a hard time trying to slide the boards out of the brackets due to the stud screws stopping them.  I know I can’t keep them out, but I sure can slow them down some.   Hopefully long enough for me to grab my shotgun!

All sorts of projects are in the works and a few have been completed.  My rain barrel project was at first very intimidating but I persevered and now have three (3) of the plastic blue 55 gallon water barrels daisy-chained together and collecting off of one downspout.  And they are nicely hidden behind the huge cedar tree I took as a seedling from my grandmother’s yard several years ago.  I had read many different plans by many different people on how to make rain barrels but none of them really made clear sense to me.  So I ended up taking a little from this plan, and a little from that plan and created my own plan along the way.  The jigsaw I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago finally got used to saw the tops off of each barrel.  And I had to make a lot of trips to the hardware store and think and ponder as I stood in the PVC section playing with all the different parts and connections trying to figure out something that would work.  (The guys working at the hardware store got used to seeing me drop by nearly every day and are still interested in all of my various projects.) Then I had to decide on the best hose to use (radiator hose) to connect my barrels together, and solve a dozen or more other small but very important details.  I had some minor leaks of course at first.  After taking the barrels apart and trying rubber vs. metal washers, and with a little swearing they finally held water-tight and have been for water-tight about three years now.  They even survived a couple of hard freezes with thick ice on the top. 

Water is so extremely important.  It’s the most important thing to have, in my opinion, after shelter.  I should build more rain barrels, and I will, but only after some other things are done first.   I must admit that I’m very proud of myself for building these all by myself.  It was kind of a hard chore but a necessary one.  Hubby was surprised I did it but I wasn’t!  When I’m in the basement I also see the many 2 liter water bottles that I’ve spent hours washing and filling up with tap water just in case of a water shortage.  I used some of the lumber I got at Lowe's to make separate shelves for my canned food and home-bottled water.  I have to keep as much on the cheap as possible so I bought  masonry concrete blocks for a little over one dollar each  and made shelves using some of that lumber.  I’m tall, 5’10”, and the top shelf is at head level.  Canned food and bottled water weigh a lot so these shelves have to be strong.   They are great to see what I have in order to keep them off the floor and to rotate in and out. 

Still, so many other skills needed to be mastered…..it still seems overwhelming at times.   I often find myself thinking back to the days when I was a young girl and staying with my grandmother out in the country.   She was a real country woman who could have taught me a lot of self-survival skills.  I watched her work in her huge garden, then canning the vegetables she grew.  She even made her own soap from wood ash and lard out in the yard.  I just took it all for granted…….but at least I still have the memories.   My grandmother would be proud of me now.  I’ve learned to pressure can, garden, dehydrate veggies and fruit, sew, (build rain barrels!), make soap (but not yet out of wood ash and lard) and am still working my way up the learning curve.  I need to learn how to quilt, make pottery, hunt (dread that but will if I have too), fish for real – not pleasure fishing, and a ton of other skills.  I also think about skills I need to have in case we need to find a new community to live in.  I want to be found useful enough for us to be allowed into a safe situation.  I’m a music teacher by trade, and even have a Reiki II level training in healing.  I’m always trying to improve myself to become more useful by way of skills.    Women are naturally useful in many ways but those who only have training in artificial human-made vocations such as law and economics may be in for an extra hard time if they don’t get practical training in everyday life skills.   Same of course, goes for men.

Though I speak of possible future community acceptance, right now bugging out is not a viable option for us.   Being a woman, I see things perhaps, somewhat differently from most men.  Instead of focusing on BOLs, BOVs, guns, and ammo to a great extent, I prepare for life right here, where we are in our suburban neighborhood.  All of our lives are here, everyone we know and love is nearby.  To “bugout” is not realistic for us, at least at this point in time, so I am preparing for life right here.   I’ve read many pros and cons about bugging out, and feel leaving would definitely not be in our best interest.  If we had a place to go to maybe we would bug out.  But for us to hit the road when all hell breaks loose with nowhere to go would do us no particular good.  My plan is, as a woman who is doing this without any input or advice from her husband, is to stay put for as long as we can.  Danger lurks greater out there for women and children than for men.  I think about situations that probably few men think about.  Most of them probably aren’t overly worried about getting raped, though it may cross their minds concerning the women in their family.  I especially fear something bad happening to my girls such as getting raped, or murdered or both.  Women have deep fears rarely expressed, even to each other.   By far most of our fears relate to our children’s welfare and all the dangers involved.  And all of these fears can happen right at home too.  I feel my ability to protect is far superior from behind walls with a loaded shotgun than walking out in the open with my kids at my side and all I can carry on my back.  Such exposure I cannot tolerate.  Also, I have to have faith in something greater than myself that we will be alright.  If I do the footwork (prepping) I can leave the results of my prepping to God.  I didn’t wake up suddenly with a desire to prep for no good reason.  Nor did anyone else who is preparing for disaster whether it be small, great, or somewhere in between.  Those of us who have awoken have done so for reasons that may exist far beyond our immediate ability to grasp them.  Who knows what the Universe has in store for us, but hopefully very wonderful things!  If preppers are fortunate to be living with others of like mind, then their jobs are much easier and much more enjoyable. However, not all of us live in such a good situation and have to carefully balance prepping duties and marriage duties ever so carefully.  Some of us face outright hostility, and others, like me, endure mostly silent scorn.  And this hostility, whether overt or covert, can cause some irrational feelings to be felt.  On rare occasion, I have found myself actually wishing the economy would suddenly crash, or that a CME would race towards earth causing destruction of our electrical grid, or even a pandemic to occur just to prove to my husband that I was right!   But that kind of thinking is crazy, and I know it’s just my ego.  At least I realize it when it happens and can see it for what it’s worth.  I’m only human……we’re all only human and so I don’t berate myself about having such thoughts.  I guess if God, or whatever our personal Higher Power is, wanted everyone to have help from our spouses or significant others, then we all would have their help.   This is definitely my solo learning journey. 

Prepping is now a way of life for me.  It’s something that I have come to enjoy for the most part, despite having to do a lot of it in secret.  It’s futile to discuss world economic or political situations, or anything that might lead to reasons why I prep.   He and I just aren’t on the same page and attempts to discuss differing points of view always lead to bad feelings in the both of us.  Also, I can’t share even little things like my great news about all the wonderful clothes I bought for next to nothing at my favorite thrift store, in larger and larger sizes for the girls as they grow. Or about the nearly brand new Timberland boots I scored for only 4 dollars at Goodwill!  I bring home my items in secret and store them away in secret without telling anyone.  I check all my favorite web sites everyday for bargains on the things I feel are necessary.  The headlamps, two for the price of one, the large spools of dirt cheap sewing thread, the solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries, the manual floor sweepers, the survival books, the oil lamps, ceramic water filters, the heirloom vegetable seeds and more – all ordered off the internet in secret.  The other items such as soap, OTC medicines, antibiotics, toothpaste, toothbrushes, boxes of salt, lamp oil, wicks, propane tanks, candles galore, ammo, slingshots and replacement bands, bicycle tires and tubes, toilet paper, tools, etc…. are all secretly stashed away in the bowels of the basement.  Some special items that I have purchased I feel are very important and would like to list them here.  These are spring-loaded rat traps, fly strips, essential oils, flea control, colloidal silver generator, distilled water, canning jar lids, self-clumping kitty litter by the 40 lb. buckets (the empty plastic buckets can be used for other purposes), fire extinguishers, several rolls of 12 ml. window film and tubes of clear latex caulk.  I feel these items are especially important.  Flies and rodents will be a BIG problem if garbage is allowed to accumulate and ugh, I hate to say it, but if dead bodies are inside and outside of houses the flies will be super thick.  Flea outbreaks will also be a bad problem if SHTF and will be carriers of disease.  I want to keep my pets as flea-free as possible for as long as possible so I buy extra of those small tubes of flea control that you squirt on their backs.  Also, in the last month I was able to purchase a rocket stove and thermal cooker which should save a lot on fuel.  I am very concerned about hygiene if the grid goes down and I plan on using the kitty litter in makeshift 5 gallon toilet buckets, if we can’t flush toilets or there is no water.  Having plenty of pre-packaged adult washcloths, gallons of hand sanitizer gel and other cleaning supplies is extremely important.  If you manage to survive the first round of SHTF trials and tribulations, you certainly do not want to succumb to any diseases afterwards due to unsanitary hygiene.  I bought a lot of these items from Sam’s Club and many others I ordered from Amazon.com.

I have placed the window film on all the lower level windows and all the basement windows (finally finished that since I started writing this piece!) and carefully caulked the edges with clear latex caulk to give them added strength for resistance to break-ins.  Security is always first and foremost in my mind.  I even tried out my home-made water purifying system on myself to make sure it worked.  I took some really nasty rainwater out of one of my barrels and ran it through my ceramic filtering system (I leak tested it first), then added a little bleach, stirred and let it sit for a while.  I poured myself a tall glassful of the filtered water and chug-a-lugged it down.  I got sort of scared for a moment, but the deed had been done and now I just had to wait and see if I got sick or not.  I am happy to report that I did not have any problems whatsoever!
Another thing I have done to try and protect my two girls is to buy larger sized boys clothing at the thrift stores.  I have even gone so far as to buy boys underwear to complete the desired look.  I plan on turning my girls into “boys”….at least temporarily.  If the situation gets bad enough, I will cut their hair short, and dress them as boys.  Boys get sexually attacked too, but not as often as girls.  I will even turn myself temporarily into a man.  I guess my husband will just have to deal with it for a while. (LOL.)  At least he’s aware of that possibility so it won’t come as a total shock should it happen.  If women don’t look like easy targets, then they won’t be as prone to attack.  And temporarily looking like a man is a small price to pay for safety.  At least that’s how I see it.  I also practice with my 12 gauge shot gun.  I don’t get to shoot it as much as I would like, but I try to keep reinforcing muscle memory by using the fake metal shells I bought from the gun store.  Quick loading and racking practice…..over and over. 

As well as acquiring the physical preps to keep us healthy and happy for the duration, I have also been buying rolls of mercury dimes when I could afford too.  I don’t have many, but even with all the careful planning and scenario predicting, I will not think of everything.  I’ll need some way to buy those items I overlooked, if they can still be bought.  Barter is always possible, but I don’t spend any money on items to use for barter.  I know some people do, but I simply can’t spare it and really hope to not have to barter, at least not much.   Luckily I bought a boat load of .22 caliber rounds some months back so if that becomes currency I good to go.

And lest I forget, I want to tell you about some signs I have downloaded from the internet, printed out and laminated for future use, if necessary.   You can easily find, “BEWARE OF DOG”, the Gadsden flag symbol, and various bright orange and black infectious diseases warning labels all free and downloadable from the internet.  Of course you can create your own signs as you see fit.  I have made several “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT” signs in various sizes and have all these signs nicely laminated and stored in a folder to pull out and attach to the doors and windows as needed.  I even made extra signs for the neighbors to use.  This is another step towards home security to warn and hopefully thwart off anyone who may be having thoughts of annoying me and my family in any way.  Also, having the signs in Spanish might not be a bad idea either.   Get these made now in case there is no electricity later to use your computer and printer.

Since I have been continuously prepping since late 2009, I have accomplished a lot bit by bit over the months and years.  I feel mostly alright about the preps, but I will always worry about security.  I think about what will happen to my neighbors who show no indications of any knowledge of what catastrophe(s) is/are coming down their pike in the near future.  Will they be prepared or will I have to make those hard decisions about sharing my preps and endure all the heart-ache involved in that?  Should I try to approach my neighbors and talk about disaster preparedness and get an idea on where they stand without divulging too much information about my situation?   Opsec is so critical to me.  I want too talk with them very badly and will most likely do so but I must be very careful with my words.....this is an area that will take much prayer and guidance before any discussions with my neighbors occur.  Having neighbors on board however, is a prep item that is better than anything else.  I am dreading the approach, but as calamity gets closer and closer I really must talk with them.  And if they feel nothing is bad is ever going to happen, then at least I will know better how to deal with them later should they come knocking on my door asking for some of my preps.

For women who especially are having a difficult time doing what they know is the right thing to do, while keeping the waters calm at home is in the very least, a challenge for which a gold medal should be awarded.  Ending a relationship that otherwise is very good, is a terrible loss.  In the initial months of my prepping I was concerned that our marriage might end, but after nearly 4 years I suppose we’re still solid.  I know that God put me and my husband together for very good reasons.   I have absolutely no doubt about that.   And my husband was born and raised in the country and knows a lot about hunting, fishing and those skills of which I am at a loss, so he most definitely will be very helpful when the time comes.  He will shine as a protector and warrior, as that will be his heavenly gift from God. 

I hope I have helped someone by writing all of this.  I am forever grateful for all the wisdom and good advice I have been freely given by those who contribute to this site and to the many other sites I have read and enjoyed.  I just wanted to try and give back as best I could.  God bless everyone and thank-you!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hawaii is in a special situation in a potential emergency.  The island chain has seven inhabited islands (of eight major islands) that support a total state population of 1,392,313, a land area of 6,422 square miles, with an overall average density of 217 persons per square mile (11th highest in the U.S., just above Virginia, Ohio and Indiana).  Most of the population (70% or 976,372) is concentrated on Oahu with an area of 597 square miles, an average density of 1,635 per square mile.  The urban core of Honolulu has an estimated population of 340,000 (ranked 55th by population, just above Aurora, Colorado) with an area of 60.5 square miles, or just over 5,600 per square mile, similar to Syracuse, New York or St. Paul, Minnesota.  Hawaii also has about seven million visitors a year, and none of these visitors are prepared for survival in a meaningful way.

Something else differs for Hawaii, since we are 2,400 – 2,600 miles from the nearest US mainland cities and are known as the most remote inhabited island chain in the world, supply chain disruption would have a major impact on life as we know it.  How could we support our large population with supply chain disruptions?  Some background will help us understand what could be done.

Pre-contact survival in Hawaii

In the distant past, before contact (1779) with the west, Hawaii supported a population conservatively estimated at 300,000 but this did not take into account inland populations.  The peak estimates include numbers of 800,000 up to one million. 

This depended on a very organized structure where individual households were merged into a public economy, the well-known ahupua'a system.  This was established from approximately 1200 AD through contact with the west.  In theory these were self-sufficient typically pie-shaped territories that typically extended from mauka (mountains) to makai (the sea), incorporating key resource zones (fresh water, plants, animals, fish, etc.).  Ahupua'a were essentially “estates” often distributed by the rulers to loyal supporters following the successful conclusion of a war of conquest.  Ahupua'a, managed for the chiefs by a specialist class of managers (konohiki), were fundamental to the organization of early historic Hawaiian society.  Moreover, this system replaced the older (and widespread) Polynesian pattern of kin-groups with associated "houses" and ancestral estates.  In reality, the ahupua’a were not all equal in depth and variety of resources, so inter-ahupua’a and inter-island trading of specialized resources did occur with the chief’s permission and control.  So historically, it was possible to support a large population if the systems were in place.  The konohiki regulated what could be harvested and when, in order to maintain the health of the source.

Supply chain disruption

Presently 85 – 90% of all food for Hawaii is “imported” into the state by ship or air.  Although there has traditionally been lots of agricultural land in crops, much of it was dedicated to sugarcane or pineapples, most for export from Hawaii.  With the advent of cheaper labor in other countries such as the Philippines, much (not all) of this dedicated land has been taken out of monoculture agriculture.  Some of it has been converted to truck farms that supply local fruits and vegetables to local users.  Some has converted to coffee, cocoa, cashew, vanilla and other specialty, high-value products.  So supply chain disruption would have an immediate impact to everyone in the population.  Since we are susceptible to hurricanes and tsunamis, most people are prepared to survive 72 hours to seven days.  Hurricane Iniki on 9/11/1992 caused a failure of power systems on Kauai for six weeks, although schools resumed in two weeks.  It did 3 billion dollars in damage.  Many people were in emergency shelters for weeks.

9/11/2001 halted all air travel for Hawaii and most flight did not resume for five days.  Immediately, tourists stopped arriving and the ones already here were stranded for days.  I was on Kauai with friends and family, and the effect was chilling.  We were as far away from 9/11 as one could get in the U.S. and yet we were mesmerized by the event, spending every afternoon in front of the TV catching up on the news.  Many service jobs were immediately laid off; since there was an expected major slow down on people traveling even after the flights were resumed.

Most of our energy comes from oil, with a little coal.  A small percentage of our power comes from burning garbage instead of placing it in landfills.  There are some PV and wind farms on line and they are growing, now above 10% of the total used.  We have a strong military presence in the islands, with all branches represented.

In the event of any event causing a disruption of sea and air transport, the islands would have only a few weeks of food on hand.  Energy supplies would also be limited.  Water is pumped from aquifers beneath the islands and is treated, then pumped into water tanks in the hills to supply pressure to most areas.  In the event of a sustained power outage, use of water must be rationed quickly to provide only critical uses: drinking and cooking.  During a magnitude 6.7 earthquake near Hawaii Island on 10/15/2006 power was disrupted on Oahu (166 miles away) because of generator protection devices being set too sensitively.  This caused an almost 24-hour power failure to some areas, necessitating people using emergency kits to cook food and provide light.  Most all businesses were closed, so it was too late to prepare once the event occurred.  With most predicted events like hurricanes and tsunamis, there is always a last minute scurrying of some people to stock up on groceries, gas and drinking water.

Get prepared

I am prepared for these events on an everyday basis.  As an Eagle Scout I taught survival and preparedness in the 1960s.  As an adult, I have always had an earthquake / hurricane /tornado kit ready.  Most agencies recommend enough to support your family for 72 hours.  Here in Hawaii they recommend 7 – 10 days because of the delays in getting help here in case of a major disaster.
In addition, I have good stocks of food and water as well as the ability to defend and protect them.  I have many alternatives for cooking depending on the need and can cook with wood long term if required.  The shore is two miles away, so fishing is an option if needed.  We have manual transportation (bikes and wagons) if other vehicles run out of fuel.  Bug-out bags are ready and available.  Water purification supplies are at hand.  I won’t go into more detail for OPSEC reasons.

But TEOTWAWKI poses much more serious challenges.  Hawaii would have to immediately make drastic changes in everyday life.  In addition, Hawaii must bump up its level of preparedness, both on a personal, island and state level.  The state and counties have good civil defense / emergency preparedness groups in place because of our isolation.  But they are not preparing for a long, drawn out emergency of weeks, months or years.  Even in a non-emergency situation, critical parts for elevators, generators, airplanes and machinery are in short supply locally.  It can take many weeks to get these parts even with no disruptions to the supply chain.  In case of a TEOTWAWKI situation the parts would be unavailable, maybe for years, if ever.  To improve this, every level of preparedness will need to look at the risks of maintaining critical services and mitigate those risks accordingly.

This is a simple example, for cooking preparedness.  In the case of a few days or even two weeks, an individual can stockpile enough LP gas, butane, charcoal, etc. to get by.  But if the event goes on much longer, the islands will run completely out of these supplies assuming the supply chain is broken.  People need to look to other forms of cooking such as solar or wood.  Almost no one is prepared for this on a long term basis.

In the case of food supplies, it is much more complicated.  Short of relief from the U.S. Mainland or other countries, Hawaii would be in serious trouble.  Even with the farm land that is actively growing, the output is not enough to support the present permanent population, much less visitors who could be stranded here.  It also requires petroleum and power to process, preserve, and transport.  We are lucky in that we can grow most crops year-round.  To date, on my small parcel of land I grow food in a number of raised beds.  I also have fruit trees such as lemon, lime, fig, banana, papaya and breadfruit, as well as containers for tomatoes, garlic, shallots and herbs.  I’ve grown potatoes in buckets as an experiment and will soon try growing rice in 5-gallon buckets.  The raised beds allow me to grow salad greens, collards, kale, beans, sweet potatoes and most other locally-expensive crops.  There are local farms within 3 – 4 miles where bigger plots commercially grow corn, papayas, greens, mangoes, taro and many other items.  There are emerging local aquaponics systems, both personal and commercial.

Of course because we are islands we also have access to the ocean for sustenance.  The historical ahupua’a depended on three key items:  upland / inland forest, lower elevation intensively cultivated areas and a coastal zone, including local fishponds where near shore fish were trapped for harvest on demand.  A few of these fishponds have been restored and are in active use, but many have been destroyed by development.

Even with increased stockpiles of food, Hawaii will need to consider going back to a system similar to the ahupua’a system of old to be self-sufficient.  In particular, the need for fresh water must be dealt with, since growing food also depends on it.  Although many areas of the islands have good rainfall, catchment, processing and distribution of fresh water depend on the use of petroleum products to supply power.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation this would have to change dramatically and quickly.  It would be difficult to prepare individually for this since fresh water is not as easily accessible as in many mainland areas.  Most people here don’t have wells since the fresh water under islands is shaped like a lens and varies based on rainfall and how much is drawn out.  Personally I have a small solar-based desalination / purification system (http://www.seapanel.com) that can be used to desalinate a small amount of sea water (transported about 1.5 miles) or purify fresh water found nearby or gathered from rainfall.  Hawaii has no commercial scale desalination capability at present, although pilot experiments have been done.  The island of Lanai is considering setting up such a system.

I even have a small portable PV system that combined with a lead-acid deep draw battery and 12 volt pump can be used to transfer collected rainwater up the hill behind my house to provide a small pressurized system, but I am still trying to acquire a 1,000+ gallon tank to hold the rainwater.  Getting them shipped here to Hawaii is very expensive.  Solving the problem for an individual family is much simpler than for a neighborhood, a town or an ahupua’a or an island, much less a state.  But it is not enough to prepare yourself and your family when living on an island.  Stocking up a good idea, but will not be enough to weather a long-term emergency or break in the supply chain.

Permaculture principals may be a key part of the answer, since they take a long-term view of how you build a system and how to be sustainable.
Of all the areas in the United States, Hawaii needs to internalize the goal to improve both our survivability and sustainability in order to weather the future, TEOTWAWKI or not.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dear CPT Rawles,
Thank you for SurvivalBlog, and best wishes to all of you at the Rawles Ranch.  

My wife and I have written to once before about retreat locale recommendations, and you were so very helpful.  We are, I guess what you could call "late preppers" because we've only been working on this for about the last year, & part of that with admittedly a certain skepticism. Time has proven you right however, & now we are doing all we can.  It's tough to prioritize when you need so much, and everything is like an emergency right NOW kind of need because of so many new regulations, and doors being closed.  I'm sure you understand how all of that is.  We have taken your past advice seriously, and are moving to the Redoubt in June of 2014, hopefully things will hold together that long...  Last year we purchased 10 acres in Boundary County in the general vicinity of [locale deleted, for OPSEC], and it is about that that I am writing to you.  To put it plainly, an appraisal of our situation is that we are very poor, financially speaking.  We have however managed to reach zero debt, but have only one income, plus whatever I can scratch up.  I am a disabled veteran, injured in the Gulf War, and no longer able to work in my chosen profession (LEO), so I am now finishing up learning to be a locksmith.  Our land purchase depleted most of our savings, but it is fully paid for.  Our land is undeveloped, save for a gravel driveway/access road and a leveled and cleared building site.  It has a small creek that flows through it.  I was told that the creek is seasonal.  According to my neighbor it has not gone dry in several years.  The property is timbered and also has some pasture land.  That is what we have to work with.  We currently live in [locale deleted, for OPSEC] with our three teenage sons (18, 16, 14).  Our plan is to get moved to the Redoubt as soon as possible.  That relocation is our top priority, as we feel time is of the essence, and it will at least give us the best fighting chance with what preps we have been able to put into place, as opposed to back here.  To make that happen however is requiring a lot of bailing wire, duct tape and "McGyverisim".

As we will be unable to build a home, we are thinking of taking storage buildings (from a provider in Ponderay, Idaho) and setting them on concrete footings, as "roughed in" structures that we can then insulate and finish out as finances allow (double pane windows, 60 psf snow load, steel roof, etc are givens).  We would start with two, one for my wife and I, which would also contain the family common areas, and a second for my son's, as a bunkhouse, if you will.  The plan is to eventually have five, which we will inter-connect via breezeways for lack of a better term, with an inner courtyard.  The buildings will be 14' x 40' (560 sq ft) each, with the ability to be added onto if later desired).  The long term thought is that if things hold together long enough, each of my children will be able to have their independence in their own "wing" of the house, much like an apartment if you will (independence but common security & mutual benefit being the goal here). The plan is of course that this will all be off grid.  

Q:  Have you heard of anyone doing such a thing before?  In your opinion is such a plan viable? Is there any advice or cautions that you would offer?

For cooking and heat we will obviously want to use wood, but are debating if it would be best to try to cook on a wood stove (which I see as more of an emergency adaptation than practical for daily use) but would be much cheaper initially, or would we be better off buying a wood cookstove such as the Heartland Sweetheart stove, which would be more than ample to heat our space (if it is efficient for that purpose I am not sure), warms water and uses a thermo-siphon to provide it for showers, etc I'm told but have not yet confirmed, and allows for all forms of cooking and baking, but is much much more expensive (i.e. $6,000-7,000.)

Q:  Do you have any experience with, or thoughts on this?

Q:  As you are obviously a well thought and researched person, do you have any thoughts and/or recommendations on efficient wood stoves, other wood cook stoves we should perhaps be considering, the use of propane for a cook stove and refrigerator for the short term, and any recommendations for an emergency generator (our electronic needs would be small).

Q:  Lastly, regarding drilling a well, according to area well reports we have discovered that with the exception of 1 or 2 wells, most are really deep (400 to 500 feet deep at roughly $37 per foot) so are there any options you may have experience with know about that may allow us to use the surface water from the creek that we could check into?

Thank you for for your time, and any input you may be able to provide us to help us along the way.  We always take what you have to say with the utmost seriousness.  Once again thank you for all that you and your family provide to the preparedness community. 
God bless you and your family! - B.D.

JWR Replies: If you have enough level ground, a "spokes of a wheel" arrangement for the cabins should work fairly well.   Just keep in mind that North Idaho can get up to 6 feet of snow, so allow room for the snow that comes off the roofs to pile up.

For heating, rather then burn fires in five separate stoves, you might consider an outdoor furnace in its own little shed, right next to your wood shed.  (With metal roofs for both.) In addition to hydronic (radiant) floor heating, these can also be used to provide domestic hot water. This approach creates less chimney fire hazard, and just one chimney to clean, twice a year

Creek water is of course not safe to drink untreated, but a lot of folks make do with constructing ponds or cisterns and then using two-stage filters and an ultraviolet water line light on the service line. (These are commonly used to sterilize the bacteria in the water circulated through fish ponds.)  If you can divert the creek and establish a pond or cistern at least 30 vertical feet uphill from the house, then that avoids a huge set of problems.  (There are no pumps in the system if you have gravity feed.)  OBTW, the pond must also have a stout, tall fence around it to keep out all livestock and wild game.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I know this blog is primarily aimed at folks preparing for a long-term crisis, but I have a unique perspective on living without electricity after a regional disaster that I thought some might find informative. I live in the hills of northwestern New Jersey, and I have lived through three sustained (my definition: 4 or more days each) power outages caused by extreme weather events during the last two years. These power outages were caused, respectively, by Hurricane Irene, 19 inches of wet, heavy snow in October before the trees had lost their leaves, and Hurricane Sandy. I have learned important lessons from each power outage that I would like to share.
A wood stove and lots of firewood are necessities. I live in a county with tens of thousands of acres of forest. Today, however, most folks are too lazy to cut and process firewood. As each generation passes, fewer and fewer know how. Fortunately, I grew up on a farm and my dad always heated our home with firewood so I learned the joy of hard work and more about trees than I could begin to write here. As the temperatures plunged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the inside temperature of homes in my neighborhood dropped to near freezing and those of us with woodstoves became havens of comfort each day for friends, children, the elderly and neighbors in need of warmth. I think anyone who doesn’t have a wood stove and 10 cords of split, stacked and dried firewood in the backyard by October is unprepared. It’s a low-technology essential that works on simple principles, it warms your home, cooks your food and dries your clothes. Get a wood stove. Trust me when I say your wife won’t complain about the mess that comes with one when it is warming your house. Get a bigger wood stove than you think you need, it will make it easier to load and you won’t have to work as hard cutting small pieces of firewood. The side benefit is that a wood stove will save you thousands in heating costs each winter and will pay for itself in short order.
Water. It seems so obvious, but even most country folk today are dependent on electricity to run their well to provide them with water. Having a generator is much more useful if it powers your well. For starters, this means you can flush your toilet, wash your hands and take a shower, things we take for granted when the electricity is running. I learned after our first extended power outage that I wanted to get a generator and a lot of gas cans to protect the venison in my freezer. After the second one I realized that I wanted a Reliance transfer switch to hook up my generator in a safe way to my electrical box so that I could provide power to my well pump. As a bonus, I could also run my freezers, a refrigerator, a few lights and outlets. But I needed water. For a longer-term crisis, I am looking into a hand pump such as the Simple Pump that has the capability to pump water by hand from my existing well. Because I believe in redundancy when it comes to water, I also picked up some high-quality water containers that hold 7 gallons of fresh potable water. You can use it for drinking, cooking, washing and filling up the toilet. There’s a stream about a mile from my house that I could drink from if I had to (I strongly discourage this unless it is a true survival situation because of water-borne illnesses found in most surface streams), and I would be glad to haul the water back home in a wheelbarrow each day if it came down to it.
A generator coupled with a transfer switch. I made this a separate category because I think it deserves special attention. I personally bought a 5,000 Watt generator that can surge to 6,250 Watts, made by Briggs and Stratton. There are myriad choices in this area so do your research, evaluate your budget, and get the most appropriate generator for your circumstance. It has performed admirably for over 100 hours and has only required minimal maintenance. For starters, it is recommended that you change the oil every 40 hours or so. You should also drain the gas out when you are done using it. No problem here, but if you don’t use the generator for six months you ought to run it for half an hour or so. This means you are bi-annually putting a little gas in, running the generator, and draining the fuel out. A model which lets you easily detach the fuel line to drain the leftover fuel out makes this chore much less of a hassle.
I suggest having a two-week supply of fuel on hand, because it is amazing how quick it runs out during a crisis. I never would I have believed that I would live to witness gas lines, gas rationing, people driving to other states to get fuel, etc. until I actually experienced it. It can happen. That being said, I believe that within two weeks after a regional disaster, supply chains will develop to get things moving around again. If they don’t, then we are talking about a situation that is truly dire and you’d better think about how to live without electricity from any source for the long haul. My generator burns a little less than 4 gallons of gas in twelve hours (I turn mine off each night), so 10 gas cans gets me there if I conserve a bit. I could get by on eight hours, but my wife immeasurably appreciates being able to open and close the refrigerator with four kids. If I have learned only one thing in thirteen years of marriage, it is that having an appreciative wife is invaluable.
I had a neighbor with very large whole-house generator that was burning over 10 gallons of gas a day, and he ran out of fuel within a few days. So bigger is not always better. I also learned that diesel fuel is more available than gasoline during these situations, so if I were to do it again, and money were not an issue, I would consider a diesel, natural gas or propane generator. I found out the hard way that having a can of carburetor cleaner and a small piece of wire is invaluable because carburetors get gummed up easily if a little gas sits in there for a few months. If this happens, you have to clean it (which is easy once you have done it once) or run your generator on partial choke all the time (which is less than ideal and may not work). Drain your gas completely when you put it away and this shouldn’t be a problem.
Food. This was actually the least of our worries. We had plenty of food on our shelves to last for months if necessary, and we didn’t really even plan it that way. I guess with four kids and one income we are just used to buying in bulk when sales hit at the local grocery store. There has been a lot written already on this subject, so I will defer to other essays on this topic.
Medical Supplies. Everyone has different needs here, but it is just good sense to keep a few extra of whatever you need around in case the pharmacy isn’t open (which it won’t be if the store doesn’t have a back-up generator).
Feminine hygiene products. Keep a few extra boxes around.
Lighting. Because we had plenty of firewood and a fireplace, we lit the fireplace each night and everyone in the family loved it, but it didn’t light up the bathrooms or the other rooms in the house. And when I went out in the dark each night to turn off the generator and bring it in the garage, a lantern came in really handy. LED lanterns that can run over 100 hours on one set of batteries are great, and are easily available on Amazon.com. Get two of them because you need one in the bathroom and the rest of the family doesn’t have to sit in the dark while they wait for your return if you have two. I also purchased two old-fashioned kerosene lanterns and a gallon of kerosene after the last power outage. The more flashlights and batteries you have around the better when the power goes out. Those little LED book lights are nice luxuries as well when you want to settle down and read a book in the evening.
A hand crank radio. This is one item I used every day during lunch. We sat around and listened to the local AM radio station as people would call in with all sorts of useful information, such as which gas stations had gas to sell and a generator to power their pumps, which stores were open, where one could get potable water (some buildings have emergency generators), what roads were cleared of trees and now passable, and where the electrical crews were working. On top of this, listening to a radio lifts your spirits when you have no other contact with the outside world.
Relationships with your neighbors are vital. No one knows everything, and a plumber, electrician, farmer, mechanic, doctor, dentist, police officer, etc. each possess unique and valuable skills and knowledge. You can only access those skills and knowledge if they trust you before the crisis and are regularly communicating with you during the crisis. Build friendships now with your neighbors. Find out what their strengths are. Forgive those whom you have had past disagreements with, as those arguments will seem truly unimportant if the SHTF. One of the unexpected benefits of Hurricane Sandy was that I built several long-lasting friendships with neighbors as we spent two weeks cutting trees, dragging branches, splitting wood and stacking firewood. We worked together to get warm, make food, get gasoline and other supplies, take showers and watch children. And everyone in my area has give a lot of thought about surviving when the government and the utility companies cannot help you. I can honestly say it was, in some ways, a blessing.  
Cash. Try buying something when nobody in town has power and you find out real quick that cash is still better than a credit card or a debit card.  A few hundred bucks was more than enough for the short-term outages I have experienced, but a longer-term situation would require more. In a truly long-term disaster situation, actual goods that you could barter with would have the most value.
Intangibles. I would like to conclude by suggesting that maintaining a positive attitude in spite of adversity is of immense value. Being a person who smiles while working to meet daily challenges lifts the spirit of everyone you come into contact with, and your attitude will have a marked impact on children. My children actually think that power outages are something to be celebrated (no school and you get to pretend like you are living Little House on the Prairie)! Having faith helps us see the good that comes with difficulty, and gives us strength to forge ahead, no matter what.
Our world is becoming more like a Rube Goldberg machine every day. Our infrastructure and supply lines become more fragile as they become more dependent on new layers of technology. My advice to everyone is to build redundancy into every system you control, and pass on practical knowledge to the next generation. A co-worker who was not prepared for any of these circumstances suggested to me that preparing for them was wrong, that it amounted to cynically saving yourself at the expense of your neighbor. I replied that quite the opposite was true: those who are prepared are far more able to help their neighbors than those who are not, and my real-life observations actually back up this assertion. Thank you for taking the time to read this essay and God Bless!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A few months ago, I did a review on Clearly Filtered water purification products, and the response was overwhelming to say the least. You can't survive for more than a few days without a source of clean, safe drinking water. We aren't necessarily talking about surviving out in the boonies, with only mud puddles to drink from. There are many times, when your tap water isn't safe to drink. Think about it, how many times have you heard on the television news about contaminated drinking water, from a big city water supply,and "boil water" warnings? This happens too often if you ask me. And, for the life of me, I still don't understand people paying a buck or more for bottled drinking water from the store. More often than not, that clean safe bottled water simply comes from the tap of a big city water supply. So, why are people paying for water from a bottle when they can get the same thing from their own tap - which doesn't mean it's always safe to drink in the first place?
The simple fact is, you can go many days, even weeks, and some can go a month, with food. However, you can only last a few days without a safe water source. And, I don't care where you live, I honestly don't believe city tap water is all that safe to drink to start with. I live in a rural area, and get my water from my own well. The water is run through a filter in my pump house - and this filter has to be changed every two years, at a cost of about $400 each time it's changed. And, this filter doesn't make my water safer to drink, instead it removes some of the iron bacteria from the well water - without this filter, my drinking water would come in brownish - ugly, and not that safe to drink. Still, in the past, I used one of the popular commercial water pitchers to aid in filtering my drinking water. Only thing is, those commercial filters don't actually purify the drinking water - at best, some of 'em only remove some bad tastes from the water, and honestly don't do anything to purify my drinking water. Enter Clearly Filtered, and all their fine products that actually purify your drinking water - there is a difference between "filtering" your water and purifying it.
Clearly Filtered has some more products that I deemed worthy for testing for another article for SurvivalBlog readers. One is their water pitcher, and it's not like the Brita, PUR or Zero Water pitchers, that don't truly filter all that much from your tap water. First of all, the Clearly Filtered pitcher can filter 200 gallons of water with one filter For comparison, the Brita is 40 gallons, the Zero Water is 22.5 gallons and the PUR is 40 gallons. Also, one of the things I notice when drinking city water - which isn't that often - is the chlorine smell from the city water. The Clearly Filtered pitcher removes 99.99% of chlorine, the rest only "reduce" chlorine. Clearly Filtered removes 90.00% of fluoride, and the rest make no claims at all. Lead removed is 97.50% - the Brita and PUR make no claims and the Zero Water "reduces" it. Mercury reduction is 99.60% - Brita "reduces" and Zero Water and PUR makes no claims. Chromium 6 reduction is 99.87% and the Brita and PUR no claims and the Zero Water "reduces" it. The Clearly Filtered pitcher costs about 30-cents per gallon for pure drinking water, the Brita is 55-cents to 90-cents per gallon, the Zero Water is $1.77+ per gallon and the PUR is 50-cents per gallon. This is a no-brainer in my book, the Clearly Filtered pitcher makes your drinking water safer, and does so at a lower costs than the other filters. The Clearly Filtered pitcher is $69.95 right now - and that's a good deal in my book.
I also tested the Clearly Filtered plastic water bottle with the RAD filter - this filter not only reduces all of the above, it also eliminates 100% of: Radon 222, Uranium, Plutonium, Cesium 137, Strontium, Beta and Iodine 131 - again, the RAD water bottle removes 100% of all these elements - something to take into consideration, if you believe you might be in an area that could have radiation from a nuclear bomb or nuclear plant accident.The water bottle with the RAD filter is normally $74.95 but is on-sale for $69.95 right now. And, you can purchase additional RAD filters if you already own the standard water bottle - a wise investment in my book - no matter where you might live.
For those who want something more than the plastic bottle for everyday use, Clearly Filtered offers a stainless steel water bottle, with a filter in it, and it is one very classy-looking drinking bottle, and it comes in a variety of colors.the stainless steel drinking bottle is $39.95 and would look nice on your desk, as opposed to the plastic bottle or bottled water from the local big box store - that you already know isn't all that much better to drink than tap water.
In my previous article on Clearly Filtered products, I reviewed their military-style canteen, and I was swamped with e-mails, asking me if this canteen would fit in a US military canteen carrier. It does indeed fir very nicely.
For further information, check out my previous article on Clearly Filtered products in the SurvivalBlog archives, or go to the Clearly Filtered web site. In this day and age, its foolish to not protect yourself from the nasty bugs and other things that lurk in your drinking water. To be sure, no surface water is really safe to drink as-is! Sure, that clear mountain stream might look pure and safe, but it's not, so don't drink it without first purifying it, and one of the best methods is with one of the many products Clearly Filtered offers on their web site. It just makes good sense to protect yourself as much as possible from all the things that can hurt or kill you - in your drinking water. And, in the event of a SHTF scenario, odds are, that you city drinking water isn't going to be the least bit safe to drink. And, if you're in the wilderness, you can always find a water source, however, don't drink it without first purifying it - it can kill you if you don't, or at the very least, make you very, very sick - which can lead to being disabled and can lead to death, too.
Look, a safe source of clean and purified drinking water should be right at the top of your survival gear and equipment list. Food is important, or course, but not nearly as important as safe drinking water is. Take the time to check out the many products Clearly Filtered has to offer, and make a small investment in your future survival, but insuring you have safe water to drink. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Greetings JWR,
I just returned from my local Wal-Mart where I purchased the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System for less than $25.00. Removes 7 log (99.99999%) of all bacteria and 6 log (99.9999%) of all protozoa. Comes with a squeeze bag and attachment to fit on most common drinking water bottles. Great product. - Bill K.

JWR Replies: I should mention that the Sawyer brand filters are also sold by several SurvivalBlog advertisers. Be sure to do some comparison shopping before you buy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dear Jim;
I can contribute to the water filter research.  I have been a student of the subject for about 45 years depending on where I start counting.  I could tell a lot of great tales about things I have seen out in the world of water but most the people would question my truthfulness making these tales go better around the firepit. 
Many people misunderstand Charcoal filters and their usefulness.  In practical terms, they are useful for water that is contaminated with pesticides, complex nasty chemicals, or maybe a tiny bit of Hydrocarbon (Oil, Gasoline) pollution.  If you can taste anything like that, start looking for a better water supply.  Other nonchemical bad things can be removed by some well cared for sand filters and if you have possible human or animal waste contamination you need clorox, iodine, of even permanganate to finish your filtered water.  If you can taste chlorine let it set a minute in open air and try it again.  IF you can still taste chlorine strongly, you are using too much or heaven forbid you need that carbon filter before the chlorine and maybe an hour after it sits in the open.  Better start looking for new supplies.  I have been reading all the good reference sites from Survival Blog for making charcoal just in case I ever need to use it when making a filter. 
My view is that for short events like the well pump or city water being down a few days or weeks for localized disasters most of the commercial filters will work fine.  They should be cleaned and maintained regularly and instructions that come with each filter usually give a good practice regimen.  The most important thing to remember when using a filter is not to contaminate your clean water or parts of your filter mechanism.  At home don't let the children the water filter care job.  And if you just got back from the pig pen or chicken house you don't do it either.  Water treatment should be handled cleanly and carefully. 
Ceramic filters allow faster filtration but do not replace charcoal or finishing with chlorine.  If you have a really clean surface water supply you can simply use sand filters and forget the chlorine and the charcoal.  Yes people will disagree but if you have a long term or grid down supply problem you will be learning to build the old rain barrel filter used commonly a hundred years ago and described here recently.  Then advance your learning to build a better sand filter treatment system in some plastic drums with two or three filters in a row.  
For your backpack filters in the wilderness do not use glaciated water for your supply, it will jam your filter in a few draws of water.  Watch for nasty precipitates on the rocks before you choose your supply.  White or red is not good.  Look for better and yes rainwater puddles.  If running water tastes alkali, move on.   If in doubt, flip some rocks and see if anything can live in the stream or water puddle.  If it is dead, pick another supply.  I have been forced from the main stream to the puddles before and the 2 micron filter did fine.
For long term events and a number of people to supply we need to build larger gravity filters that are simple to maintain and operate.  The water first needs pass a small sized gravel filter to screen debris and rough solids, then clean sand filters six to ten inches thick.  Build sand filters on a plate with many tiny holes to allow the water to pass and collect under the plate to be piped to the next stage.  Next is another barrel with sand and if your supply merits a third filter then build one.  These sand filters need to be cleaned if possible back washed with clean filtered water when they noticeably slow down the finished water yield.  If you use plastic barrels, it is convenient to use removable tops for easy access.  Remove the top one inch of sand from the filter and look to see if the remaining sand is clean, inspect carefully for weak spots or piping in the sand filter and if you see any remove them and replace with prepared sand that you will have on hand for maintenance.  If your filters are eight inches thick you might remove two or three inches before replacing sand.  Stagger the regimen for several filters so that some are thicker at any particular time.  Without pumping pressure to backwash the sand you may have to completely remove all the sand and re-wash it all with a store of clean water then rebuild your filters.  The process takes some planning and thinking but the payoff is worth the effort.
All sand is different and you must wash out the fine sediment to make it useable.  Building a superior water system requires a little tinkering and experimentation.  It you need or want a charcoal filter, for long term water treatment, start reading and watching youtube videos on making your own charcoal.  It is a neat skill to learn and will be in demand for trade during a long term event.  Many of the people bringing back and improving the technology of charcoal making and hyper efficient "rocket" stoves are thinking of making charcoal for water treatment.  The charcoal chunks are pulverized and layered in your last water barrel filter setup.  Layer a couple of inches in the middle of a couple of thick sand layers.  One issue I seldom see discussed is that these carbon filters have a life time constantly shortened by the amount of nasty stuff (as described above) they must filter.  Not much chemical pollution in the water, the charcoal filter layer lasts longer.  More to filter, shorter life.  Charcoal cannot be cleaned like sand.  When it is spent it is finished and you cannot tell by looking but you may taste the difference in the water and that means new charcoal, immediately.  If you have an extra barrel build a replacement finish stage with the charcoal layer that you may just change out the barrel and keep producing water.  Same for the early stage filters.  You can continue to make water while you do your maintenance.  Accumulate plenty of new sand as you improve your system.
Recently I wandered down a click bar trail from SurvivalBlog to the University Research document linked below.  They have a good example of a home built water filter system near the end of the study.  Most of the study was about making the charcoal for the filter. 

Sustainable Decentralized Water Treatment for Rural and Developing Communities Using Gasifier Biochar
Version 1.0, March 2012
Corresponding author
Josh Kearns
Director of Science, Aqueous Solutions
PhD Candidate, Environmental Engineering
Engineering for Developing Communties
University of Colorado-Boulder
There are backyard researchers and Professional Companies now designing for wood fuel shortages and learning how to make charcoal in small amounts with out wasting all that wood heat and the wood gases (major BTUs) but cooking meals or heating water while making charcoal as they go.  Many are building better low fuel consumption, low pollution stoves and water filters for Third World countries but the same usefulness applies to a grid down event right here at home. - R.W.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In the interest of accuracy, I would like to clarify a couple of  statements made by Kevin K. in his response to "The Water Filter Quest" submission. Kevin states: "Another problem with only using mechanical filtration is some viruses are physically impossible to filter out of water (i.e. rotavirus)" ....  ”   I know of at least one mechanical filter on the market that does in-fact filter out all known viruses and is used extensively in Third World missionary operations .  Here is an excerpt from the filter manufacturer's web site:
"The Sawyer 4 Liter 0.02 Micron Complete Water Purification System is critical to having adequate drinkable water when a crisis occurs... The 0.02 Micron Absolute inline water filter removes 99.99999% of all bacteria such as salmonella, cholera, E.coli, typhoid, amoebic dysentery, and streptococcus, and others, and also removes 99.9999% of all protozoa and cysts such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Cyclopora, and 99.9997% of viruses such as hepatitis A, hepatitis E, poliovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus and SARS (corona virus). These levels exceed the EPA guidelines by far, and equals or exceeds competitive options. If you are traveling internationally this filter is essential. Unlike other filtration systems, Sawyer offers a 1 Million Gallon Guarantee!! No more replacing the filter unit every few hundred gallons, just clean it and continue filtering. Whenever the flow rate slows, just back-wash the filter with clean water. Note that the filter does not remove minerals, metals, petroleum products or pesticides."
It was also stated that: "As far as I understand it, carbon filters remove viruses as well, but the problem is you never really know when the carbon is “fullmaterial."  Carbon filters cannot filter out disease causing viruses or bacteria.  Both are too small for the pores in the carbon and pass through without effect.  However, carbon filters are excellent at filtering out some organic compounds, gases, odors, and bad tastes.
I have no financial interest in the Sawyer company and I own a number of other filters, but I can say hands-down that the Sawyer is the best gravity flow filter I have ever used.  I can use it as both as a portable/ backpacking/ bugout/ unit or at a permanent location using two 5 gallon food grade buckets. Depending on the source water quality,  I sometimes attach an in-line carbon filter after the Sawyer filter so I can get that "Evian" drinking water experience while roughing it. Best Regards, - Ron H.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I found the recent water filter article interesting and appreciate all the time Scott spent researching water filters.  I set up filters for missionaries in Third World countries and have found that plastic water containers can promote bacteria growth.  I believe there are two causes: 1. The plastic scratches when cleaning and provides a place for the nasties to attach and hide on the sides of the container, and 2. The container allows sunlight to enter which also encourages some types of bacteria.
Another problem with only using mechanical filtration is some viruses are physically impossible to filter out of water (i.e. rotavirus).  For this reason we add a final stage of purification, UV light (battery powered).  Once all the particles are filtered out, UV light is extremely effective in killing anything that’s left.  As far as I understand it, carbon filters remove viruses as well, but the problem is you never really know when the carbon is “full” and can’t absorb any more material.
That said, I’m pretty sure I can’t identify the missionaries who use plastic drip filters by their bad health. - Kevin K.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Living in a rural southern area of the eastern United States I am keenly aware that we are usually the first to lose power and last to regain power in any natural calamity.  A few years ago, we lost power for over a week.  With recent environmental catastrophes like Sandy et al, I have been reminded of a significant deficiency in my family survival preparations, water filtration.  I am not getting into the nitty gritty of the micron levels of filtration (most units reviewed were .2 microns or better) or the science of the systems.  This is a layman's attempt to navigate the troubled waters of filtration systems.  At the end of my research, I contemplated ditching the whole idea and simply boiling pond water, filtration systems be hanged.  I have a basic hiking pump water purifier along with gallons of Clorox and even iodine tablets but for long term water purification, I have felt naked since actively pursuing a mind set of preparation.  Simply put, without hydration, you die, and not pleasantly.  With this in mind I determined it was time to make the investment in a gravity drip system for my family.  Most of you familiar with the basic concepts of preparedness are probably aware of the options available for home use.  In my typical OCD research mode, I determined to find the "best" option for my family based on the following criteria:  economy, availability of filters, purification capabilities and durability.  I dedicated one evening of solid research to ascertain the "best" gravity drip water filtration unit.  My bias initially was towards the "Big Berkey" system of filters.  It is ubiquitous on the Internet.  But what I learned is that the Big Berkey system may be in fact one of two very different systems, first there's the "Berkey" system which appears to be the most common system.  This product's stainless steel housing is made in India, but the filters elements are made in the USA. This was my first choice based solely on reputation.  There exists much diffuse debate as to the effectiveness of the Berkey black charcoal based filters and their mysterious manufacturing components.  No one on the Internet was able to ascertain or say with any definitiveness what the black filters were made of.  On a personal note, I think it'd be nice to know what's filtering my drinking water.   The unit I was looking at was the Royal Berkey and was a two filter system encased in a lovely, shiny stainless metal container.  The price seemed steady at $270.50 from a number of different vendors on line.  The replacement black filters are in the $50 to $60 range with an expected life of up to 6,000 gallons and they are reportedly re-cleanable.  The ceramic filters 9" run from $33 to  $48 per unit and are impregnated with silver, expected life 1,200 gallons.  These filters are also re-cleanable.  The silver is present in the ceramic filters to inhibit bacterial growth in the filter.  And than there's the the British Berkefeld system, which has been utilized for years and years, and is made in England.  This system has been utilized in the remote, water dirty areas by the likes of the Red Cross and other aid agencies.  This, to add to the confusion, is also imported by New Millennium Concepts Ltd., and others as well, their listed price for the basic camping model was $337, not sure if shipping was included.   British Berkefeld also makes a fluoride and arsenic filter, the PF-2 and PF-4 which run in the neighborhood of $25 a piece.  The second major system I researched was the AquaRain filtration system, in particular the Model 400 (price around $229.) and 404 (price around $310).  The primary difference between the two is two filter elements in the Model 400 and four in the model 404, obviously the 404 has a higher rate of filtration.  I was drawn to this system because of its purportedly being made in the United States and its use of  ceramic water filters which have greater life than the charcoal based systems.  The replacement filters I found ran from $47 to $57 for the ceramics.  But, what threw me off of this product was others reporting that it was not entirely made in the United States and reports of some units breaking in the field.  Customer service was purportedly prompt, which was encouraging.  The Aquarain systems received high praise for their filters.  The ceramic filters are made utilizing a computer controlled manufacturing process for greater uniformity.  Expected life is at least one year of use with thousands of gallons of water filtered with up to 200 light scrub cleanings as necessary.  I further researched the low end of gravity drip filters the Doulton's and the Monolithic systems.  The Doulton is the poor man's Berkey.  There are mini versions along with more family oriented sizes, one model--the SS-2--can filter 10 gallons a day and lists at $179.  The filters looked pretty affordable as well, in the $30 to $40 range.  I also found mini versions of these systems which received high praise by many reviewers.  These products are made in the United Kingdom as well.  For the budget minded there is the Monolithic system.  The Monolithic system is nothing more than two five gallon buckets, covers with holes, filters and a spigot.  Their cut rate cost was less than $60 on some of the web sites that I found.   I also found a do it yourself model, estimated cost would be around $100 to a $120.  It truly is a sad day when it costs less to buy the complete system than it would to do it yourself.  The web site was called "Southern Belle Prepper."  She gave step by step instructions on how to make your own gravity drip system from easily acquired resources both local and Internet. I finally after hours of frustration and reading claims and counterclaims of superiority chose the Katadyn TRK Ceradyn system.  It is a system that does not have the nice shiny chrome look of the Berkey's, Aquarain or Doulton systems but is composed of a BPA free plastic and utilizes three upright ceramic filters, this is the primary difference between it and the Katadyn Gravidyn system which uses charcoal based filters.  The Katadyn systems are Swiss made, and the Ceradyn model has a 13 gallon per day filtration rating.  The standard price for this unit was $317 and some change, but I was able to find it on ebay for $240 with shipping.  Emergency Essentials had run a sale listing it at $249 during the month of January.  I was pleased that the Ceradyn system had the ceramic filters because of what I note as greater longevity of filters.  The ceramic filters have an expected life of up to 13,000 gallons per filter.  The price range for replacements was $58 to $65 per ceramic filter, well within the range of the comparables.   I confess that I often read the reviews found describing the pros and cons of products on line.  I was impressed with the words of one user of the Katadyn Ceradyn system who had been a missionary in the undeveloped world describing this as the best system money could buy.  I also appreciate that the Katadyn systems are used by the U.S. armed forces and International Red Cross.   The filter life was a major factor in my choice of the Katadyn TRK Ceradyn system.  More gallons for the money.  In then end I determined that your gravity filtration system choice is a highly personal one, and I almost laugh as I write this because it sounds pretty silly.  But, folks who prepare tend to be folks who research and want the most bang for their buck.  When I started my research and ultimately made a purchase, I wanted someone to tell me what to buy.  What I found was a frustrating maze of information for a lot of great items.  I ultimately chose a model that I think fits my family's needs, is portable, efficient and with great accessibility to filters.  One general rule that I would encourage others to consider is ceramic is preferred to charcoal, especially silver impregnated ceramic as it has excellent longevity and can last thousands of gallons of filtered water.  Another factor to consider is filter availability, most if not all of the major players filters can be found on line and on amazon.com.  Some of the filters are even interchangeable, e.g., an Aquarain ceramic filter in a Big Berkey unit.   I know that I may have offended some with my lack of scientific detail, but I reviewed the specs of the various models and on a basic level, they are all pretty good.  And they are all certainly an improvement on boiling and iodine treatments.  Do your own research and draw your own conclusions.  But whatever you do, don't go thirsty.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIER THREE: Larger rucksack or backpack

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cisterns have been used for water storage for thousands of years and continue to be used today.  A cistern is a large water storage container that is often underground.  Many of you will remember Masada where the Roman Legion had the Jews besieged.  This mountain top fortress was able to hold out for as log as they did, in part, because of the large cisterns where they stored rain water.  In fact without cisterns this would have been nothing other than another uninhabited mountain.

These water storage tanks can range up to thousands of gallons, or liters if you prefer.  The size of your cistern should be determined by your water usage and the water source.  If your water source is seasonal then a large enough capacity to get you through the dry spell would be real nice.  A cistern can be above ground, below ground or partially buried.  This storage is something of a midpoint in you water system sitting as it does, between the collection and distribution systems.

I grew up in a community where thousands of homes collected their water off the roof and stored it in a cistern.  I have seen, used, and built many different cisterns.  The first one I actually put together was an inexpensive above ground pool.  We made a level spot near the eve of the roof and ran the down spouts from the gutter into the pool.  While today I might question whether the plastic liner was appropriate for potable water, back then the question never came up.  We drank from that pool for years and it didn't affect me… affect me… affect me.  Actually because of the price and ease of installation this type of cistern became fairly popular around the community for a couple decades.  While they will last for a few years the plastic eventually deteriorates in the sun or the thin metal sides rot out so this is not a permanent solution.  In a SHTF scenario your down spouts could be run to your in ground pool to collect what ever rain you do get and replenish what you have consumed.  If this becomes part of your plan you might want to secure and store adequate downspout and/or pipe.

Another popular way to build a cistern is with a ten foot length of culvert.  The suppliers would nest these starting with an eight foot culvert inside a larger and larger culvert till the largest was about twelve feet across. This greatly reduced shipping cost.  Since the freight company cubes something like this you are essentially paying freight for only the largest culvert.  The culverts need to be manufactured in such a manner as to have water tight seams.  Delivered laying on its side  it could be transported on the road with little problem.  When placed on a low trailer the twelve foot height would fit under the power lines and the ten foot width was legal.  The process is to dig a flat spot larger than the culvert to a depth that the top of the culvert will be lower than the eve of the house.  You then make a form for your concrete and place reinforcing inside the form.  Pour and level your concrete.  Tip the culvert into the wet concrete and vibrate it to create a seal.  The culvert should set so that it is four to six inches into the concrete.  After a week or so the concrete has cured enough to start filling your tank.

The tank off an old water truck was a quick answer in that it only required a flat spot.  I would expect an old milk truck tank to work as well.  A local mill had been serviced by a four foot diameter wooden water line. We wound up with a twenty foot section and built ends in it.  

A friend of mine built a tank out of plywood and put a plastic liner in it.  He started with eight sheets of plywood.  Standing up two on each side he attached 2X6's every foot from the bottom past midway up then spaced them further apart.  The 2X6's were laid on their side, run past the plywood and bolted to the intersecting 2X6's.  This is a relatively inexpensive tank but be aware that eight feet of head generates quite a bit of pressure at the bottom so do quality work.  Stringers tying the bottom sides together are essential as well as the top.

The newer systems often choose the plastic tanks made for that purpose.  The largest of these are cylindrical.  A buddy of mine had room to place two, five thousand gallon tanks behind his house.  There was a small ledge on the hillside next to these that allowed him to place another two thousand gallon tank.  With twelve thousand gallons available they can go quite a while without rain.

My personal favorite is to build the cistern as part of a concrete foundation.  This requires a foundation of at least four feet tall to get adequate volume.  A full basement would be even better.  If this is the way you go I strongly suggest that you design the house so that no sewer lines run above the water tank.  This leaves your entire water system accessible inside the house and protected against freezing.  

One of the problems with outside water storage is the possibility of freezing.  I had an eighteen hundred gallon plastic tank freeze solid one winter with no apparent damage.  It was not in current use and had been filled without my knowledge so I did not know to empty it.  This tank had also been sprayed with four inches of insulation so it took over a month for it to thaw completely in the spring.  Insulating a tank can help as can putting it in a shed.  Two or three wraps of PEX pipe around the outside near the bottom before you spray the tank works well if you have a boiler.  Your outside water storage could then be another zone off the boiler.  My outside tank has seen -40°F with no problem.  Okay, maybe a few problems but I worked them out.  

 If you do not have really severe winters a heat tape on a Hula Hoop will keep your tank from splitting.  Just a heat tape on the water line will leave an open passage that allows the water to escape out the top if the ice expands reducing pressure on the tank walls.  You still lose that volume of water that turns to ice.  At least until it warms up.  We had a particularly long stretch of cold weather this year and a neighbor of mine ran the water from his water heater back into his tank to melt some of the ice and reclaim some of the lost volume.  You can also put a purpose made electric heater in your tank.  If the bottom of the tank is buried below the frost line freezing problems are greatly reduced.  These are some of the heat sources at your disposal if you opt for outside storage.  

You might also want to consider PEX for your water line especially outside or any other place that is likely to freeze.  PEX has a memory and will return to its original shape after it thaws.  Copper will stretch until it ruptures, usual between the first and third freeze.  Not only is it expensive to replace water lines but the time required is a factor as well.

If you collect rain off your roof the roofing material is an important part of the system.  Metal roofing is the best as it sheds water faster and does not retain as much as other materials.  Three tab works but it holds a surprising amount of water and in a light misty rain it takes a bit before it starts dripping, where a metal roof might shed some water in a fog or when a frost thaws.  Some three tab shingles are also built with chemicals that I am uncomfortable with but most of the roofs that I have seen collect drinking water are of this type.  Cedar roofs are of particular concern.  Cedar is toxic so special care must be taken with a cedar roof.  I lived in an area with heavy rain.  Those people who wanted to collect from their cedar roof waited for over a year with a new roof to allow the rain to flush most of the oil from the surface of the wood.   This community is in the middle of a rain forest with thousands of homes collecting rain water.  

While I have run into people who look at me like I have a third eye, when I discuss drinking rain water, I consider rain water generally safe.  What I like to call God distilled water (rain) is generally free of contamination with some rare exceptions.  Were I down wind of a frisky volcano or a forest fire I might redirect my down spouts for a while. City water can become contaminated as well.  How many times have you heard news reports where the community has been told to boil their water.  I worked with a man who was replacing his copper water lines because his wife was having a reaction to the copper.  As long as reasonable care is taken with the construction, material selection, and maintenance rain collection and a cistern is a viable option in many climates.  

I have seen cisterns filled by wells and wind mills.  If you had a hill above your house you could also place your cistern at a useful height to provide water pressure for your home.  If you have a stream on the property you could use a hydraulic ram pump/water hammer pump (clacker) to fill your cistern.  This system could give you water and suitable water pressure with no electricity. 

If you decide to haul your water in a large tank in the back of your truck or on a trailer make sure the tank is full.  If your vehicle won't haul the weight of a full tank get a smaller tank or larger truck.  Most tanks are built without baffles and when you get the weight of the water slamming back and forth you can have all sorts of problems so it is best to travel with a full tank.

We used bleach about once a year to kill what ever might be growing in the cistern.  The chlorine smell for the next two or three days was a bit much, but it worked.  I preferred in the summer when we ran low and a truckload of city water was purchased.  This was already chlorinated so the tank was sterilized but with far less odor.  

While a gravity collection system is preferred I have put smaller collection containers (50 to 200 gallons) under the down spouts and then used a sump pump to fill the larger tank.  This method is most often incorporated when adding an out building to the collection system or when the tank can't easily be placed below the roof line.  I've seen the power go out and pumps get old but somehow gravity keeps working so that is my preferred method whenever possible.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cordially, - Steve H.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I asked my Reverse Osmosis (RO) supplier if I could use his RO system in a bug out trailer by sucking out of a pond.  He told me that if I have at least 50 psi, it will remove 98% of everything.

I am building a bug out trailer using old Elite styrofoam panels from house trailer patios.  I am going to have a solar panel on a stand that I can set in the sun.  I will have an extension cord to the controller and two 12 volt golf cart batteries.  I am using a 60 psi flo-jet pump which is 12 volt.  I am going to use camper drinking water hoses for the suction line.  In the pond I am planning on using a short PVC well point in a loose bag made from garden ground cover which will keep out large particles as a prefilter.  I am using a sand filter before the flo-jet pump and I will use a charcoal house filter after the pump.  That pump will go to a stainless restaurant sink I got from the salvage yard.

The RO system is water pressure activated and requires no electric power.

The purpose of the trailer is I can now consolidate my prep supplies in one location and I can move it anywhere on a moments notice or bug out with it.  Since reading Patriots in 2006, I have developed living situations in the woods that I own but I feel the need to be flexible.  I am putting two bunk shelves in the front of the trailer and it will have LED lighting.  I am going to hook up an outside shower but it may require a larger (lower pressure) flo-jet pump to get the flow high enough.

Friday, December 21, 2012

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

This is a simple fact; without a source of fresh and safe water to drink, you will die within four days - depending on weather conditions. As I'm writing this, the folks back East are still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Many are still without power or heat in their homes after two weeks - at least 40,000 people were totally homeless right now, and winter temps are setting in. I read one news report, where people were paying $7 for a loaf of bread, and $10 for a box of matches. FEMA ran out of bottled water less than a week into this emergency and folks were left to fend for themselves for a source of safe drinking water for several days.
Many poke fun at "Preppers" or "Survivalist" for preparing for bad times. I just don't get it! What is wrong with storing some extra food and water, for a future emergency? And, sooner or later, the lights and power go out, and I don't care where you live - it happens! The folks on the East Coast had plenty of warning of the impending hurricane coming their way. However, may chose to ignore the dire warnings, and went about their usual daily routine - instead of spending a few dollars and a little bit of their time, stocking-up on extra food and water. Instead, they depended upon FEMA and the Red Cross to take care of them. I read numerous reports that the Red Cross was giving hot chocolate and cookies to hurricane victims. Really? There are also victims living in unheated tents that FEMA set-up, and depending on the FedGov to feed and care for them. Don't you ever trust or depend on the FedGov to care for you in a time of disaster. And, reports stated that 50 million people were affected by Hurricane Sandy - there is no way that the FedGov can possibly care for that many people in a disaster.
We can all go a good long time without food - some say people can go weeks or even a month, without food. However, without a source of clean, safe drinking water, we'll all perish in short order - this is a fact! While its a good idea to store some bottled water, I wouldn't want to only have that as my source of drinking water. Some excellent filters are made by Clearly Filtered water filters. I recently received three of their products for testing: One is their Athlete drinking bottle, another a military-type canteen, and lastly a straw - all filter waster so that it is safe to drink. The Bottle can filter up to 100-gallons of water, removing approximately 99.9% of many nasty things that can make you ill or even kill you. It filters 99.99% of Giardia, Crypto, bacteria and viruses - ditto for the Canteen and Straw.
I set about to test all three of these products over more than a month - along with the assistance of my wife. She took the Athlete bottle to school - where she works as an elementary grade teacher. Living in the boonies, we have well water - which tastes much better than city water, that is loaded with chlorine. Most folks who live and work in the town, don't taste the chlorine because they are used to it. However, if you depend on well water, you can smell and taste the chlorine in city water, so my wife would usually take a bottle of water from home each day to drink while at work. She decided to give the Athlete water filter bottle a good work out - she said, and I concur, that the first few bottles full of filtered watered had a bit of a "taste" to it - after that, the water was clearly "filtered" and had no strange taste. I found the same true with the Straw and Canteen - after a use or two, the "taste" was gone, and we were drinking great water.
The Athlete bottle will last up to 6-months or 100-gallons of water - and I drink a lot of water each day. The Canteen can also filter up to 100-gallons of water or 6-months of use. The straw, which is very small, can filter up to 25-gallons of water. The Athlete bottle and canteen replaces up to 800+ plastic water bottles - stop and think about that for a moment. I don't know many people who store 800+ bottles of water in their homes - that's a lot of room they would take up. One water bottle or canteen can replace 800+ water bottles - this is a win-win situation in my book. Of course, these water filters do not filter salt water, so don't attempt this. However, if there is a mud puddle in your yard, or standing water any place, you can filter it so it will safely take out all that nasty stuff that will make you sick or even kill you. And, right now, back East, they have plenty of water around - but they just can't drink it. Also, the Clearly Filtered water bottles are 100% BPA free, if this is a concern to you.
Living in Western Oregon, we always have plenty of water - we get about 48-inches of rain each year - we have two seasons - one is about four months of beautiful summer sunshine, and then 8-months of rain (with a little snow) so there is plenty of water around to drink if we ever had to bug out - however, it simply isn't safe to drink from a stream, creek or standing water - without first filtering it. I tested the Straw, and it was difficult to get centered over a body of water and drink it. So, the solution was simple, just take my canteen cup and scoop the water into it, and then drink the water from the canteen cup through the straw - piece of cake!
I also tested some dirty looking water that was standing along a logging road - not something you'd even consider drinking. I placed my Canteen on the side and let the dirt water flow into the canteen - and then, just to be sure the water was actually "filtered" I squirted some of it out before drinking it - and it came out crystal clear - so I took the drive and drank so - no nasty taste and it tasted great!
Just think of what people back East would be giving to have their own source of filtered water right now? FEMA tells everyone to be prepared - and they used to say that folks should have three days worth of food, now they are saying to have two weeks worth of food and water. Too bad they didn't take their own advice and have enough food and water stored to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Anyone who depends on FEMA or the FedGov for anything is a fool in my book! While the Red Cross does some good, did they really think people were gonna survive on cookies and hot chocolate? I just read an article where the Red Cross said their response was "near perfect" to Hurricane Sandy. Huh?
People who had only debit/credit cards of their welfare debit cards, were out of luck, when it came time to purchase food or water, in grocery stores that were able to open, even without power. The debit machines couldn't work without power, so cash was king. Take that to heart, even if a grocery store can open, if they don't have power, they can't take your credit or debit cards - you have to have cash!
Don't wait for the next disaster to hit, or for your power to go off. Start storing some extra food and water, and make sure you have an alternate source of fresh drinking water. The Clearly Filtered Athlete's bottle is on-sale right now for $34.99, the Canteen is also $34.99 and the Straw is $19.99. Additionally, if you'll go to the Clearly Filtered web site, you'll find many more of their water filters that you might want to consider purchasing. In my neck of the woods, a store-bought bottle of water is about a buck or more - and that's a lot of money in my book. To be honest, I've rarely drank bottled water - I don't see any sense in paying that kind of money for water - when I can get it for free at home from my tap. If you purchased the Athlete or Canteen filters, you could drink 100-gallons of fresh, clean water for $34.99 - that would be about $400 in bottled water, and odds are, that bottled water came from a water tap, just like you have at home - so you aren't gaining much in the way of "safe" drinking water. With a Clearly Filtered product, you know you are drinking extremely safe water, and at a bargain price too boot. Plus, the filters in the Bottle and Canteen can be replaced, so you don't have to purchase the entire product - just replace the filter, and save money.
Don't depend on FEMA, the Red Cross or anyone else for a source of safe drinking water - take responsibility for your own needs and the needs of your family and do the smart and right thing - make sure you have a way of obtaining safe drinking water. The Clearly Filtered water filters are a step in the right direction. Check out their web site for complete information on all their products. You'll be glad you did! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Sawyer Squeeze filter has become very popular with backpackers. The filter threads onto a variety of soft-sided bottles and hydration packs. By squeezing a bottle or bladder of dirty water you generate the pressure to push the water thru the hollow fiber filter. Here’s one review.

The biggest advantage of the Sawyer Squeeze filter is that it does not require a pump. This removes the potential mechanical failure of a pump and the hassle of tubing as you balance on the edge of a stream or lake. Just scoop up water, pour it into a bladder, and filter it elsewhere. Other benefits are the small size and light weight. 

It filters faster than many other designs (about one minute per liter) and can also be used as a gravity or in-line filter. It is very simple to back-flush. It is rated for 0.1 microns and is effective for bacteria and protozoa.  It is not rated to remove viruses – so if that is a concern in your area then many other treatments will be more effective after the suspended organic solids have been filtered.

Note that the Sawyer Squeeze filter does not include an activated charcoal element to remove dissolved chemicals. You can add an in-line activated charcoal filter, available from Katadyn or Platypus or you can make your own if you have any concern about chemicals or taste.

Sawyer guarantees this filter for one million gallons. Just for fun, let’s say their claim is only 5% correct – that’s still 50,000 gallons. For 4 people this equals one gallon per person per day for 34 years. 

A shortcoming of the Sawyer Squeeze system is the included mylar bladders for dirty water. They are more prone to leaking than other brands. (The kit comes with three bladders, I’m carrying one as a free backup). A bladder or bottle will require flowing water or some type of a cup to fill with dirty water.

I’ve adapted the Sawyer Squeeze filter to plug directly into a Camelbak Hydrolink bladder in my backpack for quick and easy “on the go” refills and have a system for backflushing without using the syringe included with the filter. My approach also adds a pre-filter as well as protection from cross-contamination.  With so much flexibility I’m going to be listing a lot of options along the way.  Make the system work best for your needs.

Reminder: You should always have more than one way to treat water – I carry Katadyn tablets separately from the filter kit. And protect all filters from being dropped or frozen.

Here’s what I purchased and how I built my system:

1. Sawyer Squeeze Filterthe latest packaging includes a gray dirty water end adapter cap which has a semi-permanent cap on the hose barb. Includes a 60cc syringe for back flushing, 3 mylar bladders, and sport-style pop up drink cap. 

You may need to purchase a Sawyer adapter set. If your Sawyer did not come with the gray male adapter you will need to buy one to seal the dirty water end so that water doesn’t drain out in that direction when you disconnect the dirty water bladder. You will also need a thread protector cap from the hardware store. Buy one with a tight fit. The included blue female cap can be connected by tubing to almost any filter to turn it into a “Squeeze” filter – I recommend having this ability. If you have another filter system you prefer, at least get this adapter and a bladder as a backup to your pump.

2. Platypus or EverNew water bladder. Replace the Sawyer dirty water bladders with a stronger design. Platypus water bladders fit the Sawyer Squeeze (others have written the Soft Bottle style are harder to seal without replacing the Sawyer white washer with a thinner washer). EverNew bladders are described as more durable but they are difficult to find.  I am using the 2 liter Platypus Hoser bladder with a replacement solid cap.

Because there is the chance of confusion, label the bladders you’re using for dirty or clean water and don’t mix them up. And make sure the dirty water end fittings are tight and don’t leak contaminated water onto the clean end of the filter or clean water containers.

Pour dirty water into a bladder or bottle using a cup, a folding bowl, or one of the smaller Sawyer bladders with the top cut off. Still another useful idea is to use a flexible plastic cutting “board” to make a small funnel that will store flat. Or use a small silicone funnel that is sold in some kitchen supply stores. A funnel will double as a bladder filling scoop if you put a finger over the bottom. Don’t reuse a dirty water cup or bowl for eating or drinking.

3. Aquamira Frontier Pro water filter. I use the male/female pre-filter adapter which adds a thick felt pre-filter.  The Frontier Pro includes a Universal Quick Connect (UQC) which you might use on Camelbak or Source hydration systems. It includes 4 felt pre-filters. The Frontier Pro with chlorine dioxide tablets could be a lightweight backup to the Sawyer Squeeze.

A home-built replacement for the Frontier Pro pre-filter adapter can be made from the threaded top to a SmartWater bottle and cap (the threads and caps on the SmartWater bottles fit the Sawyer filter and are sold in many grocery stores – they seem more durable than other brands and are cheaper than the Platypus replacement caps).  Cut the bottle at the top of the neck under the solid plastic ring. Level out the cut on the bottle piece down to the ring with a razor knife and use sandpaper to roughen the surface. Sand the top of the cap and drill a ½” hole in the cap. Use plastic epoxy to attach the pieces.

The closest replacement for the Frontier Pro felt disks that I’ve found is a few layers of the synthetic chamois sold at Home Depot. The felt disks will be placed in the cavity of the bottle thread portion.

Pre-filters will slow the volume of filtered water, but will reduce the sediment getting into the filter and let you filter more water before having to back flush it.

If you want to add an additional pre-filter element you can trim down a Mr. Coffee permanent coffee filter (made of stainless steel mesh) with scissors into disks to fit inside the pre-filter adapter above the felt disk (or below the white washer in the Sawyer dirty water end if you don’t have the pre-filter adapter). The mesh filter is better in the pre-filter adapter for quick removal and backflushing.

Another way to easily minimize large particulates from getting into the dirty water bladder in the first place is to use a woman’s nylon footie (usually sold in a mini-egg container at drug stores) over the bladder mouth when filling.

4. Two bottle or bladder caps. Use 1- or 1.5-liter SmartWater bottle caps or Platypus closure caps to make a double-female fitting. Take two caps and sand the tops to make a rough surface. Use plastic epoxy and press the 2 caps together back to back. Once cured, drill a 1/2 inch hole in the caps.

These caps are also a little too tall to screw down to a tight seal on the filter body (or the Frontier Pro UQC) and need to be trimmed down with a razor knife. The double female lets you fill an attached clean water bladder and also backflush the filter with a bladder.  

5. Camelbak Port Plug. You need to protect the fresh water end of your system from contamination and the Camelbak plug is the best choice. A cheaper option is a soft plastic thread protector from the hardware store that fits just over the end of the fitting.

I found the Camelbak Port Plug release button to be difficult to operate with the Frontier Pro UQC. I removed the plastic button/spring piece on the plug by pinching the “spring” portion together and lifting it out. I then trimmed down the guard lip around the button so I could get more fingertip on the button.

I also trimmed about 1/2 the thickness of the spring (“dishing” it out only on the sides away from the closed end of the cap) to reduce the pressure needed to press the button. I attached a loop of cord to reduce the likelihood of losing this piece.

I noticed the O ring of the Frontier Pro UQC was getting roughed up from the edges of the spring so I very slightly smoothed inside both ends of the spring. Keeping the O ring coated with food grade silicone grease will help. I recommend carrying a couple spare greased O rings.

While working out the fit and release problems with the UQC into the Camelbak Port Plug I found that the diameter of the UQC is slightly larger than a Camelbak Hydrolink.  The UQC was difficult to remove from the Camelbak Port Plug and the Hydrolock on the Camelbak bladder tubing. The O ring was occasionally being knocked off. 

Because of this I recommend another home built adapter - using a Platypus cap and a Camelbak Hydrolink adapter in place of the UQC.

Drill a tight-fitting hole in the top of a bottle or bladder cap (a Platypus cap is stronger than a SmartWater cap for this use – or even better use a Sawyer blue female adapter) and cut down the hose barb end of the Camelbak adapter.  Sand the contact areas and use plastic epoxy to secure the adapter to the cap. Trim down the sides of the cap to seal on the Sawyer filter. This adapter/cap will work better in the Camelbak Plug and replaces the Frontier Pro UQC and double female adapter, attaching directly to the filter body. The hose barb inside the clean water end of the filter may have to be trimmed down for clearance from this adapter/cap. An option is to use a Sawyer blue female adapter with 1/4” tubing connected to the Camelbak Hydrolink adapter.  This may not be as functional as the tubing can kink during use.

7. Additional ideas.
From your hardware store you can pick up a Watts PL-215 Nylon barb-to-MIP adapter 1/4” x 1/8”. Installed in a Nalgene wide mouth cap this will adapt a Nalgene Cantene or MSR Dromedary to 1/4” tubing and fit on either the dirty water or clean water hose barb of your system.

To drink directly from the Sawyer filter or a bladder you could use the cap from a 23.7 oz SmartWater bottle which has a better drink-thru cap (with attached cover) than the Sawyer cap. Trim down the cap so it will seal properly when attached to the clean water end of the filter.  Or Platypus has a bite valve cap (which will also need the sides trimmed down for a seal).

Putting it all together:
Starting at the dirty water end – place the wire mesh pre-filter into the cavity of the Frontier Pro pre-filter adapter, followed by a felt pre-filter disk. (You will notice that this adapter also has a tubing barb if you wish to use it with a gravity filter or in-line setup.) Then attach the Sawyer gray male adapter. This seals the dirty water end of the filter. If your filter didn’t come packaged with this adapter then you will need the hardware store thread protector to seal the Sawyer adapter hose barb. Attaching a loop of cord on the Sawyer adapter might be a good idea to avoid losing this piece.

On the clean water end - to fill a Camelbak bladder attach the Camelbak Hydrolink adapter/cap (or the UQC with the double female adapter if you prefer).  To fill clean water bladders or bottles attach the double female adapter.

The Camelbak Port Plug seals the clean water end and completes the Super System. 

Fill a soft sided bottle or bladder with dirty water and attach to the dirty water end of the filter.  Begin to gently squeeze the container and check for a tight thread seal.  Don’t twist or wring the bladder.  Roll it up as water is expelled. Treat the bladders with care to extend their life.

Don’t contaminate the clean water fittings with hands wet with dirty water.  The Camelbak adapter/cap prevents this. Dry your hands and use a little Purell that you carry in your filter kit.

Remove the pre-filter adapter and dirty water bladder before backflushing. Sawyer advertises that the Squeeze filter does not have to be backflushed as often as other filters, but with the double female cap or Camelbak adapter/cap it’s easy enough to backflush after every use.

The Sawyer Squeeze filter can be backflushed while attached to a clean water bladder by applying rapid pressure to the bladder. Watch the videos at Sawyer’s web site and experiment with the supplied syringe to understand backflushing. You are trying to dislodge particles – slow water flow will not work.

To store the filter after use - flush the filter with a diluted bleach and water solution and let stand for one hour. If you suspect a biofilm buildup is slowing the flow rate try soaking longer with this solution. If you suspect the flow is slowed by mineral buildup try flushing/soaking with a diluted vinegar solution. Drain the filter by shaking water out of both ends. If you must drain the filter faster you might try blowing on the clean water end (mouth only - not with a cold or flu). With even a slight amount of water in the micro tubes make sure the filter doesn’t freeze. Don’t seal the filter with the caps in storage before it has completely dried out.

Understand the limits of your filter as with any other vital piece of equipment. With up to 4 pounds of water in a wet and slippery bladder attached to the filter be careful to not drop it. I would recommend using the filter while kneeling. The Sawyer Squeeze filter is quick and easy to use. Adding a few parts makes it even more flexible and effective.

Addendum: In case you are wondering: I checked Sawyer's customer service desk, and they told me that their filters are manufactured in Safety Harbor, Florida. (Not overseas!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

If you’re just now catching on to the need to prep, it’s not too late, but to be done effectively, it will cost you some money up front.
There are plenty of suggestions and web sites galore for the budget-challenged to prep ranging from buying a little extra each week---see the LDS shopping list for newlyweds---to hunting, fishing and foraging on state land. At the other extreme are those who can afford survivalist-consultants to build and stock extensive underground bunkers, which require the employ of a staff including farmers and Blackwater-type security. But, since no one else is, I’m going to focus on the needs of someone who needs to get up to speed fast and has enough money to cover it.  And getting up-to-speed has recently been sped up to two years of preps from six months.
Let’s get going.

Time’s Running Out

There are already sporadic shortages of various consumer products and, depending on how bad things get, there may come a time when some items aren’t available at all, especially things that come from far away. A few years ago when surveying the wreckage after the 2008 crash, a consumer-products analyst was worried about what choice the consumer would be left with as the Great Recession deepened. Yes, I know, choice will be the least of our concerns going forward, but you should stock up on what’s important to your family now while it’s still possible.
The take-away here is not that the needs of what’s left of the middle class are different from anyone else’s. The point, again, and unfortunately, is that it will take that kind of income or enough room left on credit cards to catch up to storing two years of necessities. And preferably, this should be accomplished before the November elections in the US. Our long-time friend, FerFAL, has a few insights about what to expect from mid-November (scroll down to What will Happen in the USA after the Elections.)

Everybody’s got to Eat

The shopping list below will cover bulk purchases and storage of food, water and minimal toiletries in quantities sufficient to get by for two years. You can still buy the dips when favourite items go on sale; however, I don’t think there’s enough time left to use the Mormon’s weekly shopping list that is spread out over a year.

Whether or not you buy into TEOTWAWKI mentality or not, at the very least, storms and other natural disasters can keep you running your generator for a week or a lot longer. This happened in the Northeast during last October’s freak snowstorm and happens repeatedly in other parts of the country. Oh, wait a sec; you do have a generator, don’t you? It’s at the top of 100 Things that Disappear First. You gotta have a generator. You also gotta have fuel for it, which you gotta store. If it’s gasoline, you’ll need a gasoline additive like Sta-Bil. Get the original formula for the [gasoline] generator and lawn tractor, Sta-Bil marine for your boat if you have one and Sta-Bil diesel for your Mercedes.

Talking about Mercedes, when the drought reached crisis stage in Somalia more than year ago, many Somalis---but not all---had to walk for days, weeks and sometimes a month to get to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. One woman who didn’t have to walk was approached by reporters as she got out of a car with her kids. Her car was a Mercedes, but she didn’t have food and had to go to the refugee, camp. And why didn’t she have food; why didn’t she barter her car, cell phone or expensive wristwatch for food? Because there wasn’t any. There wasn’t any food at any price. Can it happen here? The US had a drought this year after a lousy growing season last year. The effects of these things are cumulative. So’s radiation poisoning, BTW, but we’ll get to that some other time.

Many items will end up in short supply or not be available at all. Note the Iranian diplomatic staff stocking up on consumer products (at dollar stores, mind you; times must be tough over there) while in New York to attend UN meetings. You’d think they’d have a few bucks, so I guess the items they bought were no longer available in Iran. Their currency plunging 20-30% over a day or two didn’t help either. I hope no one still thinks it can’t happen here.

Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb has been to store six months of food, cash and anything else you need. Some think two years are safer and I do too. While you may have to increase your food budget 100-fold short term, keep in mind that this is a no-lose proposition. Anything you buy today will be more expensive tomorrow. So, as you effectively pull consumption forward, you will be average-costing down your household expenses. Even if prepping in anticipation of scarcity doesn’t grab you, blunting the effect of inflation, or a potential jobless stretch, should. I don’t see much of a downside here. Preps not used can be donated to a local food pantry for a tax deduction. If you have the extra funds, that would be a nice idea anyway.

Two Years’ Worth...

Drinking Water: This is considered the most important prep. The plastic containers water is sold in leach so you should store drinking water in glass containers. I bought gallon glass jars from: http://www.freshwatersystems.com 

The Mayo Clinic recommends [a minimum of] 72 oz/day for women and 104oz/day for men [for a sedentary lifestyle]. Together, that’s about a gallon a day with enough left over to fill your cat or dog’s bowl. FreshWaterSystem’s price break for gallon jars is $4.24 for 24+. Here’s where the bucks come in. If you want to safely store drinking water for six months for two adults and a cat, that would be about 180 [one gallon] jars for $339.20; one year $678.40; and two years $1,356.80. The plastic jugs that you buy milk in are now formulated to biodegrade, but can be used to store water for bathroom use should it not be forthcoming from the faucet.

Tip: You can fine tune water purity by filtering it through a Big Berkey or other countertop water filter. If you’re looking at second homes, with prices coming down, look for something with a well. If you can dig a well where you are now, do so and install a solar pump.

Adequate Nutrition: The recommended daily calories for women* are 2,400—1,600/day depending on age and 3,000—2,000/day for men.** The easiest way to get sufficient calories and

Tip: Rice, beans and maybe a few other veggies can be made quite palatable with teriyaki or soy sauce. I bought a lifetime’s supply of Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce at http://www.buythecase.net $39 a 36-bottle case, which was a bargain over grocery-store prices.
Sautéing veggies and meats in olive oil improves the taste and adds nutrients. Oil lasts several years in unopened glass bottles or metal cans; just make sure you get it in glass bottles or cans.

*A woman aged 19 to 30 years needs between 2,000 and 2,400 calories daily; 31 to 50 years 1,800 to 2,200 calories daily; those over age 51 need 1,600 to 2,200 calories daily.

Males** ages 19 to 30 need 2,400 to 3,000 calories a day, those 31 to 50 need 2,200 to 3,000, depending on level of activity. Males over age 51 need 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day.

Coffee and Tea: I don’t think it’s asking too much to include coffee and tea in a survivalist diet. ByTheCase.net carries several brands and sizes of coffee and tea including non-dairy creamer, which probably has a shelf life of infinity. Honey will last indefinitely too. Ground coffee in an unopened can will last two years or longer. Tea in bags in their unopened box or transferred to a lidded glass jar will last at least two years.

Spices and Condiments: Among common household items that store indefinitely are salt, sugar (preferably stored in glass or metal cans), honey and mayonnaise (unopened in a glass jar).
Those that last two years or more include dried or powdered garlic (2 years), dried or powdered onion (2-3 years); ground pepper (2-3 years); peppercorns (3-4 years). Here’s a good site to lookup shelf life: StillTasty.com.

Dollar-Store Spices: Prices are so much better at dollar stores that, for these items, I suggest actually shopping in a store. If you don’t want to spend the time, but are okay with spending the extra money, there are online sources. You can also buy cases of spices from the dollar store.

Pet Food: From a vet: “Generally speaking, if you buy the more expensive all-natural foods, the natural preservatives such as vitamin E used do not work as long as the preservatives used in cheaper foods. They break down. This is reflected in the best-used-by-date posted clearly on the higher-end pet foods. Dry pet foods with natural preservatives may be kept under 85 degrees sealed in a container in the original bag for about 4 months, while foods with other preservatives may be kept as much as three years if kept properly sealed up cool and dry. Just kept in the bag, I would not keep dry pet food past three months."

Dog Food:
Nutritional requirements for a dog aren’t that much different than for a human. They can be fed people food and do fine.

Cat Food:
This isn’t so for cats, however. There is a good article on the subject from Cornell’s Vet School.  In a SHTF scenario, kitty may have to make due with certain people foods. Low acid foods have a greater shelf life than those with higher acids in them. Fish and meat are low acid foods, hence, can be stored for a long time. Canned fish and meat can be stored unopened for about 2-5 years. Ask your vet about vitamin supplements.

Preppers are obsessed with toilet paper. I don’t know why, but I bow to their greater experience. Since it’s bulky, it’s a lot easier to have delivered than to buy it at the store. Here’s where I bought Ultra-Soft Charmin (the price break is at 40 rolls) at  Restockit.com.  Conservatively, budget 1.5 rolls per person, per week. That’s 78 rolls per year/one adult or 156 rolls for two adults. For two years/two people you’ll need 312 rolls or about 8 cartons @ $38.94/carton for a total of $311.52.

Tip: Toilet paper is considered to be a high-value barter item amongst the prepper cognoscenti. It also makes a nice hostess gift or Christmas stocking stuffer. Think of all those omelet brunches you’ll be invited to by backyard chicken farmers when they know you’ll show up with a roll. Not having gone through the above formula before I placed my order, I now have plenty to barter with.

Wrapping Up

If you place orders for the above items---all of which can be done online---you and your companion pets will have two years of adequate nutrition and safe hydration plus toilet paper. I’ll go into other food and toiletry items that will help maintain well being in subsequent articles.

JWR Adds: I realize that in many jurisdictions inside city limits with civic water supplies it is illegal to drill a well. But if you live in a region with a high water table and it is legal to do so, then go ahead and drill!

Regardless, you should convert your roof downspouts to fill water barrels. That water is fine as-is for gardening or toilet flushing. If you have a composition roof or a roof with treated wood shakes, you should plan to re-roof with a metal roof. Not only will it give you better fire protection, but it will also eliminate most contaminants from captured rainwater. If used for drinking, captured rainwater should be run through a good quality high volume ceramic filter such as a Big Berkey. (Available from several SurvivalBlog advertisers.)

Not all plastics leach toxins. Food grade HDPE is perfectly safe for water storage. Glass jars are not advised in earthquake country, but they are fine anywhere else. However, the cost per-gallon cost of storing water in jars is dramatically higher than using HDPE barrels, tanks, or tank totes. That is the only affordable way for most folks to set aside a large supply for dry seasons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference: Wikipedia: Giardia

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I’m a prepper, however my situation is a little different than most.  I wanted to write an article explaining my unique challenges.
My family has a small ranch in New Mexico.  In the old days when it rained more often we ran about 100 head of cattle.  With the drought that has hit the southwest so hard, we’re down to about 50.
I know most of you are thinking, oh my goodness this guy is so lucky.  He can eat all the beef he wants when TSHTF.  The answer is yes, and no.  I had about the same initial reaction when I first started prepping.  I thought I’d just go home, to the ranch, from my day job and be safe.  I read all the books and browsed all the prepping blogs, then began to realize it wasn’t so simple.  Not only did I have to prep for myself, I had to prep for 50 head of cattle!  Plus a lot of other animals like chickens and dogs.
After I got my beans, bullets, and band aids squared away, my family and I started prepping for the cattle.  There’s little question that they are our greatest resource.  Imagine what half a beef could net us in a barter situation when everyone is starving.  Provided I can defend the livestock, and keep them happy, healthy, and alive. 

  1. Water

Everything needs water.  There are dozens of articles about water on survivalblog.  One gallon per person per day seems to be the golden rule.  For a cow in 100 degree summer heat its 50 gallons a day!  Crunch the numbers and that’s around 3,000 gallons of water per day worst case.  Some days they don’t need near as much.  We’re in the high desert, and do not have surface water.  No streams, lakes, ponds, etc.  Our current water source is pumped via an AC pump from a depth of ~600ft.  Running a generator to pump the water we would need isn’t feasible.  Solar was the solution.  We ended up drilling a new well and equipping it with a solar pump that can produce about 2,500-3,000 gallons a day in the summer.  To supplement this we installed a very large and complex rain catchment system.  All in all we have ,7500 gallons of potable (people) water and 38,000 gallons of stock water that we keep on hand at any given time.  This is fed all over the place via gravity to stock troughs and solar powered booster pumps to other areas such as the house.  As you can imagine this cost a great deal of money and my income is lower middle class.  It was a matter of priority setting for us.  In a grid down situation the cattle would all die without water.  That is not acceptable.

Here’s some advice about drilling a new water well.  I did a lot of the work on the well myself to save money.  Of course the actual drilling was done by a “professional”.  When you interview your well driller be sure to ask the following question, “Are you the actual person who will drill the well?”  Make sure it’s not his cousin, son, or some neighbor down the road.  We ended up with an inexperienced guy.  Our well also proved to be extra difficult to drill, because soon after drilling started he ran into caves and basically freaked out.  This ended up costing more money.  Ask around for recommendations and don’t just go with the lowest bid.

If you choose to install the pump and pipe yourself be sure to put more check valves than you think you’ll need.  I put one every 200 feet, and it’s not enough.  Install a good brass check valve every 100 feet. Do your own research about the gauge of wire to be used.  I ran number 10 wire down to the pump at 575 feet.  To compensate for the DC voltage drop I added another solar panel to bump up the voltage instead of buying the recommend more expensive number 6 wire.  The new well is working better than I dreamed it could.  Solar water pumping is amazing.


To feed cattle; it rains, the grass grows, and the cattle eat the grass.  Unfortunately for good healthy critters you have to add to that diet.  At the very least you must give your cattle some salt and minerals.  You’d be amazed at how much salt we use in a year.  I have food for myself stashed away, but also we’ve included several thousand pounds of bagged stock salt, and minerals.  We went with granulated bagged salt instead of blocks because it could be used for other things like salting beef. 

Sick animals need medical care too.  In my band aids section there’s plenty of the normal veterinary supplies we use on a regular basis.  Many of these items can be used for all types of animals including the two legged kind.  I did not include vaccines as once TSHTF the cattle should not be exposed to other cattle that could be carrying something nasty.  Of course that isn’t 100% certain but one must pick their battles. 


If you think your retreat security causes you to lose sleep at night imagine securing seven square miles of land.  Without an army; it can’t be done.  I don’t have an army, so another solution had to be found.  The current plan is to pen the cattle up at the ranch house during the night, and then send a small patrol with them during the day to graze.  We’ve erected guard towers at the retreat and at least one of them will be manned at all times.  I hope however that our remote location is adequate to keep the golden hordes at bay, because defending our retreat properly would need a very large force.  I suppose that could be said about any location.  I’m still searching for more people to join me at the ranch, and as many of you know, it’s very difficult to find like-minded people.  I’ve been fortunate so far and have some great folks who will stay with us in the event of a disaster.  We have a doctor and a dentist as well as some ex army guys.  I don’t know what the magic number of people needed is but there’s safety in numbers.

Bartering of beef

Without the power grid, cooling and preserving raw meat will be a challenge.  Currently (if you want really good meat) after you dress out an animal you typically hang them in a cooler and let the meat age for a couple of weeks.  This allows the natural enzymes in the muscle tissue to break down some of the harder parts of the meat.  Aged beef is quite simply the best food there is!  I’m sure 99% of the population has never had it.  The fast paced production slaughter plants today don’t age meat more than a day or two.  To age and store the meat we kill we have two large deep freezes.  I’ll soon be installing a solar system to run them.  One of the freezers will be equipped with a thermostat to regulate the temperature so the freezer can be used as a cooler.  Without the solar freezers processing and selling meat during the summer will be all but impossible unless of course I try to make 600 pounds of jerky.

To supplement the beef sales we also have a milk cow and lots of chickens.  If you have a bug problem, get yourself some chickens instead of an exterminator.  You’ll be amazed at the result, plus free eggs!  Our chickens and guineas roam free, but generally lay their eggs in the hen house.


We’re going to need more flexibility than other groups when we’re hunkering down on our ranch.  For this reason a blacksmiths shop has been setup.  Not only is it fun to learn how to make metal parts with nothing but a hot fire and a hammer.  There will certainly be a need for building things.  I don’t know what those will be; otherwise I could go buy a few.  
Heat in the winter is an issue too.  Our ranch house has no central heating.  We have a large fireplace and a wood stove.  I was 19 years old before I lived in a house with a thermostat.  A wood stove is a great way to heat a space but it uses a lot of wood.  We burn between 3 and 9 cords of wood a year depending on how cold it is.  I can only imagine how much wood the folks up north are going to need.  If you live in the colder areas of the country you had better get a spare chainsaw and all the stuff needed run the heck out of it!  I’ve stashed gas for the sole purpose of hauling wood from the pasture to the house, as well as a spare chainsaw (don’t buy a cheap one).  There are no trees around our house.  That makes for great sight lines from the guard towers, but it’s a long way to haul wood for the stove.

I know the EMP group out there must see that my plans would come crumbling down in the event of an EMP.  I just pray it’s not an EMP or CME that kicks off the SHTF chain of events. 

In conclusion: next time you feel overwhelmed about your prepping remember the poor ranchers out there who are responsible for a great many more mouths to feed and water.  I envy your relatively simple preps often, but this is the lifestyle I’ve chosen to keep.  I also feel that after the collapse, if I can pull my family and herd through, ranching won’t be such a hard way to make a living as it is in our current society. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

I am just getting ready to explore the Pacific Northwest.  What has come to my attention is the horrific nuclear  (Hanford) and toxic metal (mining) contamination of all the rivers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  The Columbia River and its tributaries are a toxic soup. Even Lake Roosevelt, above Spokane is filled with heavy metals due to mining in Canada. 

[Some deleted, for brevity]

Thanks for all your hard work. - Barbara H.

JWR Replies: To start, the Hanford Nuclear reservation sits right next to the Columbia River. It is down river from Idaho. Furthermore, the Columbia is down river from all of the rivers in Oregon and southern Washington--they are feed into the Columbia and out to the sea. The contamination at Hanford is now a non-issue. The water there has been studied in excruciating detail, and at great expense. To the best of my knowledge the Hanford Weapons Lab never affected anyone's drinking water outside of the immediate Tri-Cities (Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland) area.

Some key points, in summary form:

If you want to avoid mercury contamination then simply don't drink river water or live in a current or former mining district.  All of the rest of the drinking water in the Inland Northwest region is fine. In fact it is some of the best water in the country.

Heavy metal contamination is indeed a concern, but in the Inland Northwest, the culprit is usually just iron, and that has few deleterious health affects. (The trigger for hemochromatosis is genetic, not environmental.)

There is some arsenic contamination, but most of that comes from arsenic in the bedrock, rather than from industrial use.

The radioactive contamination that shows on this map is from uranium in the bedrock, rather than from careless atom bomb scientists at Hanford.

I've had few queries about radium in groundwater. The USGS reports: "Elevated concentrations of combined radium were more common in groundwater in the eastern and central United States than in other regions of the Nation. About 98 percent of the wells that contained combined radium at concentrations greater than the [maximum contaminant level] MCL were east of the High Plains."

Another issue is nitrates from chemical fertilizers. But again, overall, the Northwest has some of the lowest levels of contamination in the country.

Ditto for pesticide contamination--at least in the Redoubt portion of the northwest.

Ditto for salt water intrusion and salt buildup.

Ditto for acid rain.

Ditto for potential contamination from hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")

Ditto for organic and industrial toxins.

Ditto for declining aquifers.

In conclusion, the Inland Northwest is far from perfect, but the very low population density and the absence of heavy industries make its water quality better than most of the eastern U.S. In essence, since the region was settled later and settled more sparsely, people have simply had less time and fewer opportunities to mess it up.

If you are worried about "toxic soup" rivers, then look elsewhere. There aren't many in the Pacific Northwest.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm a big fan of the site. You have very smart contributors. I learn a lot. What I’d like to add to the “1,000 Bottles of Water on the Roof, by James C.” post is a simple suggestion:. If you are concerned about water purification, storage, etc. and you’ve fiddled with the thought of brewing your own beer, I would humbly suggest that there are many ways that this hobby can kill two birds with one stone.
If you are set up to brew your own beer you will also have the following advantages:
1.       You can store your own glass and PET carboys – these are a necessity for home brewing and usually come in 5-gallon sizes (though 1, 3 and 6 gallon are available). You can also buy 6 gallon sealable food grade buckets. All of these are relatively inexpensive and give you good storage capacity.
2.       If you brew at home, you will quickly learn that sanitizing your gear is the most important thing you can do. To achieve this, you can buy Idophor solution and add a capful to your filled-up carboy or bucket to completely sanitize the surface in less than five minutes. You can reuse the solution if need be, just be sure not to consume any portion of it. Dump it out before you put your potable water in.
3.       To make sure your brew doesn’t boil over – you would likely have a 5 gallon stock pot. This is also good for boiling water before storage. One recommendation is, if you begin to homebrew, get a dedicated 5 gallon pot. Don’t cook your meals in it and then brew your beer in it.
4.       Unless you rack your beer into a keg, you will have to bottle it – this involves the bottles themselves, caps or corks and a capper or corker device. All good for storing, moving and giving away water. Since even beer in brown bottles can go bad from the sunlight (“skunking”), it would likely let enough UV rays in to perform James’ SODIS (brilliant idea by the way – simple and just brilliant). Just be sure to sanitize both bottles and caps with the Idophor solution mentioned above.
5.       The beer itself is not without value – and not just for getting loaded while the world ends! Think “Middle Ages” – water quality was so poor back then that turning water into beer or wine was often the only way you could safely drink it. I’m not trying to offend anyone’s sensibilities toward alcohol consumption, and I’m not suggesting giving your four year old a beer to drink in hard times. But if it gets bad enough, really bad enough, will you spurn that case of PBR or wine in your cellar?
I didn’t set out to combine home brewing and water prepping, but I realized after the fact how much easier I sleep having all of this great equipment. It doesn’t even cost that much money and there are a ton of local and online homebrew stores (Northerbrewer.com is my favorite). You can also get propane burners, plastic tubing, small and large siphons; all very useful stuff.
“Brew. Ferment. Drink. Repeat!”
Best, - John in Pennsylvania

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It is predicted that 76 million people will die from water related diseases by the year 2020. This statistic may be a drastic underestimation if the collapse occurs before the end of the decade.
Imagine that you just used up your last pocket micro-filter, and although you have access to fresh water, you have no way to purify it. You think about starting a fire to cleanse your mucky pond water or reclaimed rainwater, but looters have sacked several outposts that you trade with in the area, and you fear smoke from a fire may draw unwanted attention to your retreat. Your family is in need of water, what do you do? Well, you may have a supply of water stored in containers from last week in your cache, but if you did not read this article you would not know that the water you stored is now only moderately cleaner than the barrel, river or lake that it came from.

It is known by virtually everyone in the United States that if you boil your water it is safe for consumption. The Clasen 2008: Microbiological Effectiveness and Cost of Disinfecting Water by Boiling in Semi-urban India, exposes this well-known fact to be true, but also discovers the downfall associated with boiling water occurs in its storage after boiling.

Clasen verifies in the field by observing pasteurization habits performed by locals, not scientists in a laboratory, that 99.9% of dangerous materials were removed from water with high fecal matter content in India. The fact that boiling water in a third world country where water quality is beyond horrible should make everyone feel a little safer about using pasteurization as a primary means of water purification, but the study further tests water which had been stored after boiling. The research published discovers that less than 60% of the stored water met the World Health Organizations standards for quality drinking water. How can this be?

The study reveals that a very high percentage of households where drinking water is first boiled that re-contamination occurs during storage and results in the consumption of polluted water. Unlike chemical treatment there is no residual treatment of the water after the water is boiled and placed in a container for storage, so bacteria re-growth is possible even with the slightest contamination. It is important to note that boiling water is by far the preferred method for treating water because when done properly it kills 100% of the pathogens. Clasen’s research highlights the importance of practicing proper water boiling habits and the need for a secondary system to provide an extra measure of safety to ensure that your drinking water is safe.

Secondary Systems of Treatment

I am a fan of learning skills that are not reliant on an open loop supply chain. I have spent the last year practicing my gardening skills, learning how to harvest fruit and vegetables, as well as seed harvesting and storage. This is a closed loop system and is infinitely viable. Much of the material that I have read on water purification focuses on technology or low-tech systems that rely on the availability of machined products. The problem with anything mechanical or technical is that eventually it will break or simply wear out, and then you are faced with the question, now what? I like to take a bottom up approach to all of my preparations. If someone says you should have a steady supply of salt and sugar, the first question I ask is how do I make my own salt and sugar?

In the short term many people will be able to use chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or other forms of chemical treatment as a secondary form of water purification after pasteurization to reduce re-contamination during storage. Even if you are lucky enough to have a ‘Big Berkey’ I would recommend treating any water that is stored, no matter what the primary system of purification is. But what happens when you run out of chlorine or hydrogen peroxide? If you live close to the coast, then salt production can easily enable an endless supply of chlorine, but unfortunately the production of hydrogen peroxide is by far more complicated and dangerous, so what do I do if I am not a mad scientist?

There is another system of water treatment that exists within a closed loop regardless of your location because it makes use of the sun’s powerful UV rays. Although the SODIS method can be used as a primary means of purification, it does not offer a 99.9% treatment capability like pasteurization. The advantage of SODIS (solar disinfecting) is that the water treated is easily stored in the same containers that are used to purify the water, which eliminates the risk of re-contamination. If you plan on using, consuming or cooking with the boiled water immediately then you are relatively safe and a secondary system is not needed. The purpose of this article is to highlight the dangers associated with water storage and provide readers with a closed loop system that ensures that the water stored after TEOTWAWKI is just as safe as water that is consumed after being boiled.


In 2009 my architecture firm began designing a portable disaster relief housing unit that could easily be deployed in response to ‘Hurricane Katrina’-type natural disasters. I began researching sustainable technologies that could be implemented in the design to give disaster survivors food, energy and fresh water in a closed loop system. Photovoltaics, natural ventilation, and the ability to grow food on the roof of the structure were all ideas that were incorporated in the design, but water purification technologies either required too much space, complicated mechanical equipment or would eventually require maintenance, and consumed large amounts of energy. After all we had to work with a 10’ x 40’ footprint for easy transportation.

As my research intensified, I began studying water purification techniques used in third world countries. There is one method of water purification that is infinite and accessible to all, the sun. The SODIS (solar water disinfection) method does not require any mechanical devices, electrical power or chemicals. All that is required is a plastic/glass bottle and some sunshine. There are tidbits of information and misinformation regarding SODIS all around the web. I have collected all of this information in hopes of compiling a definitive guide on the process.

How does SODIS work?

UV light destroys the cell structures of bacteria by interfering directly with the metabolism of the bacteria. The UV light additionally reacts with the oxygen dissolved in the water and produces oxygen free radicals and hydrogen peroxides that are believed to also damage pathogens, preventing reproduction. The solar radiation heats the water and if the temperature rises above 122 degrees Fahrenheit then the disinfection process occurs three times faster. The SODIS method has been proven to destroy diarrhea-causing organisms in polluted drinking water and laboratory experiments have shown that extremely high levels of E. coli populations 100,000 (1-3,000 is a natural maximum) per 100ml of water can be made harmless.

The UV rays can kill germs such as viruses, bacteria and parasites in as little as six hours of exposure to the sun

Bacteria are highly sensitive to UV-A radiation (wavelength 320-400nm) and are quickly killed by sunlight. This is the principal concern when storing water.
The viruses are slightly more resistant, but are also killed within the recommended 6 hours. 
Parasites are less sensitive to sunlight. While giardia cysts are rendered inactive within 6 hours, cryptosporidium cysts must be exposed to direct sunlight for at least 10 hours before they are neutralized. Amoebas do not die until the water temperature has been warmer than 50°C for over an hour.
The Process
First, you must be sure to use clean PET bottles, see the next section on bottles for more information. Fill the bottles with water and close the cap. Bottles should only be filled three-quarters of the way full and be shaken vigorously for 20-30 seconds with the cap on to increase the oxygen content of the water. After oxygenating the water, fill the bottle completely and recap. If you can read black printing on a white paper through the bottle, then the turbidity is low enough that the UV rays from the sun will be able to purify the water. For water with high turbidity use smaller diameter containers so that the sun can fully penetrate the water. If the water is very cloudy then it must be filtered before using the SODIS method, and in general I recommend always filtering water first even if you plan on boiling. The filled bottles need to be exposed to direct sunlight for at least six hours or two days under very cloudy conditions. Solar reflectors or metal roofs are preferred because they increase the amount of sunlight that infiltrates the bottle. After the water has been purified it can be stored in the plastic or glass bottles that they were sterilized in until it is time to drink or use the water. The risk of contamination is greatly minimized if the water is stored in the bottles used for solar disinfection.
Re-growth of bacteria may occur if the water is stored in the dark. Recent studies have shown that simply adding ten parts per million of hydrogen peroxide is effective in preventing the re-growth of wild Salmonella. In addition table salt is an effective agent for reducing the turbidity.

Type of Bottles:

All bottles are not created equal. Thin-walled polyethylene terephthalate, labeled PET or PETE in the US can safely be used for SODIS. These are the water bottles that are marked with a “1” recycling symbol on the bottle.
Nearly all soda bottles, including 2 liter bottles which are great for daily use can be used for SODIS. Care should be taken to minimize scratches and wearing of bottles as this reduces the efficiency of SODIS, because it prevents UV rays from passing through the plastic. Typically plastic bottles need to be replaced every 6-12 months, although if greater care is taken or glass is used then the life-cycle of the bottles is greatly increased. Glass bottles can be used and will last forever under proper care, but you must be sure that they are free of UV-blocking additives.

Additional Filtering

If additional filtering is required there are a number of means that can greatly increase the quality of drinking water. The following is a great source on SODIS and secondary means of water filtration: http://fundacionsodis.org/site/index.php/simple-solutions/safe-water-tutorial/filtering
Due to the abundance of sand in my region, I am biased towards the sand filter, which conveniently is the lowest tech filter of the bunch.

The PotaVida indicator: Practice Makes Perfect
The PotaVida indicator, is not required, but is a great tool to have as you hone your SODIS skills. The indicator is designed to tell you when the water has reached a safe level of drinkability by measuring the water’s exposure to solar irradiation. The PotaVida indicator is not needed for each bottle, it simply measures sun exposure and calculates based on the actual conditions when your water is purified. Get to know how long it takes on a cloudy day in February in your region for a water bottle to be exposed to enough solar radiation to be purified. Keep a journal and log the temperature, day, and the conditions of the sky. This information may save your life one day. It is important to note that this is a learning device that helps you perfect your SODIS skills. The PotaVida indicator runs on solar power, lasts for five years and the price is less than $10 per indicator.

Do Chemicals Leach from the PET bottles?
The leached organic compounds amount to less than 10% of the safe amount for drinking water as defined by the World Health Organization, and studies have shown that no other chemicals are leached into the water during the SODIS process.
If you are using glass bottles then there is no risk of any leaching.

What mistakes do new users make most often?

Use only clear bottles, do not use green or brown bottles because these bottles absorb UV-A light.
Do not use bottles that hold more than 3 liters or are greater than 4” in diameter.
Do not place bottles vertically, they must be laid horizontally. This increases the area exposed to the sunlight and reduces the effective depth of the water the light has to penetrate.
Keep the treated water in the same container, remember that we are trying to prevent re-contamination.
Do not store treated water in dark places, this encourages growth of bacteria. If limited algae growth occurs, the water is still drinkable. Algae are not harmful.
Check the turbidity, pre-filter or better yet, pasteurize your water before using SODIS.

What does SODIS not remove?

SODIS does not remove any toxic chemicals that may already be in the water, which makes it ideal for rainwater sterilization.

Closing Water is by far the most important resource and although there may be some skeptics that dismiss SODIS, it is always wise to be aware of multiple ways to purify water off the grid, and to know the pros and cons associated with each. I strongly encourage everyone to question their strategies for water purification and to become familiar with SODIS and the Readers should also familiarize themselves with the Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality, third edition, incorporating first and second addenda, which is available as a free PDF.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

People who are interested in preparedness seem to love lists.   So, I have compiled a list of 30 steps that may be useful for average families who don’t necessarily have a hideout in the mountains (yet).  This list is by no means all-inclusive and it presumes a basic background in preparedness.  In other words, I hope you have been reading this blog for a long time already!  I am a proud military wife and mother of two grade school students.  I have a master’s degree in chemistry.  We are just an average family trying to get by in uncertain times. I am just optimistic enough to believe that there is hope for the future and just realistic enough to prepare otherwise.  
Coming from Alaska, where power outages can mean the difference between life and death at forty below zero, prepping is as mainstream as owning a TV.  Geomagnetic storms knock out power regularly and a good aurora borealis may mean you better get out the generator.  It is good to see the preparedness trend catching on in the Lower 48 states.  Alabama recently held their first tax-free weekend from July 6-8, 2012 to purchase hurricane preparedness equipment, with tax exemptions on generators, batteries, flashlights and more.  There also appears to be a massive education campaign going on throughout U.S. schools.  My kids are coming home with all sorts of flyers and papers encouraging them to get their parents involved in basic preparedness for hurricanes, tornados, ice storms and more.  Propaganda mission?  Who cares—If we want to make preparedness the norm, then asking kids to make sure their parents have flashlights is one place to start.  There is certainly an emerging capitalist market for all things survival related.  Embrace it and get the goods while you can.  These are the steps that have been useful to me so far, but it is a never-ending job to be prepared.  Good luck.
1.  Water is always number one on any survival prep list, so I have to start here.  Learn the location of the nearest source of fresh water to your home and how to walk to it with filtration equipment and water containers.  Not everyone lives near an Alaskan glacial stream, but it doesn’t matter if you are in inner city Philadelphia next to the Schuykill River (I’ve tried both places), it pays to know your drinking water source in case the taps run dry.  Try drinking it too--AFTER boiling it for ten minutes or filtering it with a Katadyn filter or adding iodine or bleach of course.  Add some Gatorade powder if you have to. If it gives you giardiasis or cholera now, at least you will be able to see a doctor now while we still have a functioning society.  Then, you will definitely know that you need to work on your water purification skills.   
2.  Learn to grow something.  Tomatoes in an upside down hanging basket, potatoes in a bucket on your rooftop, sunflowers on your back patio, or anything you can. You can do a lot with potatoes.  I have grown them from sprouted organic potatoes from the supermarket.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with seed saving techniques.  Pumpkins and watermelons are great starting points for saving seeds.  Kids can help rinse and dry those seeds easily.  A great resource on seed saving that I like is the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth.
3.  Practice outdoor cooking.  We love our Volcano stove and use it for everything from S’mores to grilled salmon.  You can even put a Dutch oven in it.  Dutch ovens are great because you can practice using them indoors in the winter when outdoor BBQs are not as appealing.  “The Scout’s Outdoor Cookbook” by Tim and Christine Conners is an invaluable guide.   
3.  Get off the couch and get in shape now.  Walking is a great place to start.  There are elderly people who walk laps around the malls of America that are in better shape than the average high school student.
4.  Lose 5 pounds.  Stop eating all that delicious Hershey’s chocolate and start saving it for bartering.  With the price of groceries going up every day, it’s not too hard to cut back the caloric intake in an attempt to break even on food inflation.
5.  Take care of your teeth now.  Make an appointment to see the dentist for a cleaning and/or fillings now while you still can. Don’t be afraid to get your kids the braces they need just because the end of the world is near.  There are numerous articles on this blog on how to remove orthodontics in an emergency survival situation that involve little more than a wire cutter.
6.  Go to the library and check out some books.  Better yet, start your own survival library.  National Geographic’s  “Complete Survival Manual” by Michael S. Sweeney is very useful. You can get books on everything from how to make goat cheese to how to knit socks to how to can peaches in a water bath.  If the library is not your thing, go online or to Amazon Kindle or Pinterest or whatever works for you.
7.  READ the books and learn a new skill, such as how to make goat cheese or how to knit socks or how to can peaches in a water bath.  Read to your kids too.  There are great books for kids about gardening or keeping chickens for example.  One book I have found useful to get kids thinking about prepping is “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  9 year old Almonzo in 19th century upstate NY does more after school chores than you can imagine. He gets a calf yoke for a birthday present!  Happy Birthday Almonzo, now go break in the calves.  I haven’t heard any more complaints about taking out the trash after reading that with my kids.  
8. Download the Latter Day Saints Preparedness Guide for free.  The 2012 15th Anniversary Edition is available now.  You will be amazed and forever grateful for this outstanding contribution to society.
9.  On your next trip to the grocery store when you are stocking up on extra rice and toilet paper, don’t forget to throw in a bag or two of bird seed.  I’ve been known to eat a handful of those sunflower seeds myself when I’m refilling the feeders.  I’m not too sure I’d eat suet, but you never know.  Just skip the millet because most birds don’t even like that and it tends to get left uneaten by even the hungriest chickadees.  The corn cobs designed for squirrels are cheap and can attract all sorts of game in range of your gun or traps.
10.  While you are at the store, spend some time in the drug aisle and look for things beyond the usual hand sanitizer, multi-vitamins and Band-aids that preppers stockpile.  There was a sale on lice shampoo the other day and we picked some up. It even came with two nit combs, which we didn’t have on hand. We also grabbed some pinworm medicine.  It seems like there are OTC meds for everything these days.  Take advantage of it while you can.
11.  Take a quick stop at the pet store or online and while you are getting an extra bag or two of dog or cat food, grab up some FishMox, FishFlex and Bird Sulfa.  Vetdepot.com sells FishMox 250 mg, 30 tablets for $8.87.  Yes, these are identical to human antibiotics.  Ever taken amoxicillin for strep throat?  In a true emergency with no hospitals, I will not hesitate to take 250 mg of Fishmox three times a day for strep throat even if it were 10 years after the expiration date.  It’s best to store them in the fridge though.  Just please consult one of the many useful survival preparedness antibiotic guides if you have no medical training, or better yet, get medical training now while you can.
12.  Prepping supplies cost money, I know! Budget and get your financial house in order now.  Get out of bad debt and don’t rack up credit card debt. If the SHTF or not, you do not want credit card debt.
13.  De-clutter your life.  Get and eBay account.  Learn to sell stuff lying around your house.  Supplement your income. It is really so easy my school age kids can do it.  They are accustomed to helping me scour their drawers and toy boxes for things they no longer need.  You would be absolutely amazed at the things people will buy.  I have sold half-used bottles of perfume that I didn’t like. Get rid of all that useless stuff around your house to make room for more useful supplies.
14.   While you are thinking about used stuff, take a trip to your local thrift shop.  Do it regularly. Volunteer there if you can so you can get first dibs on incoming items.  I have found some great preps at thrift shops from cast iron pans to down parkas.
15.  Get organized now.   With all the material stuff people deal with, it pays to stay on top of your game and be organized.  My WaterBOB to fill up the bathtub with drinking water is useless in a hurricane if I can’t find it.
16.  Don’t let your bug out bags sit in a corner collecting dust.  Unpack and repack them regularly to stay familiar with what you have.  That is an easy task for us with kids because we have to constantly re-evaluate kids’ clothing to account for their rapid growth.
17.  Take a camping trip this weekend and pack nothing but your bug out bags and see how you do. Try to start a fire with that fancy flint tool you have.
18.  Include kids in prepping.  Start them young.  I’m sure it’s not easy trying to talk to a thirteen year old plugged constantly into Facebook about potential life without power.  Little kids feel more empowered and less anxious when they have confidence that they can do some useful things.  Start small with where they are, and include them as much as you can. It could be as simple as making sure you have extra foods on hand that they like, such as macaroni and cheese, or it could be a more involved task like teaching them to swim.  Be open with them about the reality of our times, but help build their confidence to alleviate some of their fears.   
19.  Invest in a good pair of hiking shoes and break them in. Don’t forget the kids.  Do you really expect junior to haul water with flip flops?  You get what you pay for and that goes for clothes too.  You may not need a new North Face Gortex rain jacket for everyone in your family, but don’t expect to thrive in the tissue thin cotton T-shirts from Old Navy.
20.  Find a good old fashioned washboard.  They have been selling nice American-made ones at Columbus Washboard Company since 1895.  I love this company because they send donations to our troops overseas that include a washtub, washboard and supplies.  Just make sure you get stainless steel.  After you buy it, make sure you stain it with several coats of waterproof stain.  I’m not sure why they even sell galvanized ones (they rust) and I sure don’t know why the wood doesn’t come pre-stained, but I guess most people just buy them for decoration.  Try using it in your bathtub with a bucket of water and see what a pain it is to do laundry in third world countries like Afghanistan.
21.  Learn how to make a honey bucket.  No, I’m not talking about a bucket of the delicious golden stuff, but that is good to have on hand also.  Having lived in Alaska for many years, where many people still voluntarily live in cabins with outhouses and no running water, I learned that a honey bucket is not so sweet.  In the remote Alaskan bush, people just don’t have the amenities that you know and love down in the Lower 48.  In Alaska, a honey bucket is defined as a place where you go to the bathroom like a chamber pot that you fill up and then go dump.  It basically consists of a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket lined with a trash bag and an adult-size potty chair insert.  You don’t need to buy the fancy camp toilets that they sell at Cabela’s.   
22.  Practice using one weapon or help train someone in your family to use one.  Have a “Take-Your-Wife-To-The-Range-Day”.  Get her a pink gun if you have to: they do make them.  Our daughter has a pink Ruger 10/22.  There is something for everyone.  Slingshots for squirrels are great for kids.  Just be sure and protect their eyes and teach them basic safety rules.  Don’t overlook axes and knives.  I know I am preaching to the choir when I lament about how many American children have never helped butcher a chicken or a deer.  Make it a point to train others if you have skills.
23.  Convert some of your assets to silver and/or gold and have it on hand, not in a safe deposit box or ETF.  Junk silver coins (pre-1965 quarters, dimes and half-dollars) are available for sale at such places as Northwest Territorial Mint.  It is worth buying now while you can.  You may experience a three month wait to receive your package since it is so popular.  In this economy with the dollar’s value rapidly sinking, yesterday was the time to convert your hard earned savings to tangible assets such as silver, gold, food, ammo, medication, chainsaws, or whatever preps are on your list.  The general rule of thumb in the investment portfolio brochures is that you should have at least 20% of your savings in the form of gold or silver.  Just don’t stick it under the mattress.  Buy yourself a good safe.
24. However worthless the dollar is, it is still good to have some cold hard cash on hand in small bills.  Even nickels are worth stashing around since they are worth more in metal content than face value.
25.  Get a passport for yourself and everyone in your family.  If things get really bad, you can always head for New Zealand, Northwest Territory or central Patagonia with all that silver for a while.
27.  A supportive community is key.  Choose your allies well and always have backup plans.
28.  Practice, practice, practice.  Everything from cooking rice over a camp fire like they do on the Survivor television show to composting with your morning tea bags or coffee grinds.
29.  Have faith in yourself and confidence in your abilities.  Just don’t get overconfident.  Confidence with humility is essential to a prepper’s lifestyle.
30.  Pray.  I’ll be praying for you all if things get as bad as some of the National Geographic Doomsday Preppers think it’s going to get. Lord have mercy on us all! Amen.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dear SurvivalBloggers:
What is a halfway prepper? Some people think it is a lazy prepper. Well, if you're lazy you're not getting prepped. A halfway prepper is someone who gets things done slowly but isn't going to let life pass them by. Is prepping worth losing friends (I try to make them see the light), missing date night with the wife, missing out on your favorite sports, living as a recluse? When SHTF things will change but I don't want to miss those things.We have to continue to live in the world as we prepare for the future. I know I fall in this category with a lot of other people. Sometimes life gets in the way of prepping and we need to take a break. I want to move to the American Redoubt and have a survival group with rehearsed plans and member responsibilities and 30 years worth of food stored up, with an arsenal that would make the Marines proud. But that just isn't going to happen anytime soon.

Just over three years ago I started prepping for the first time. I keep an eye on what's going on in the world for my job and I could/can see very bad times ahead. I started my prepping with firearms of course since they are so much fun and it was a great hobby the wife and I could do together. Being the halfway prepper I bought the least expensive firearms I could fine. Some people might say that’s a problem and I should have gotten the best on the market. I feel that I'm not going to be more accurate with a more expensive gun and I couldn't afford a second for the wife. We try to go shooting at least twice a month to stay proficient. We have gone shooting at night and practice malfunctions and magazine changes. We haven't done any formal shooting classes but that’s on the "to do" list for this halfway prepper.

Next I looked into food and water, we started to buy a little extra canned food and bottled water every month. About the time we started stocking up I convinced the wife to move out of West Texas and head to the Redoubt. I started looking for a job in the Redoubt and after a year we sold our house. My job in Texas was working for the government as a contractor, we were living very comfortably. After we sold the house we moved in with some friends. We overstayed our welcome with the first friends and had to move in with some other friends. After living with friends for over a year, we decided to stay and find a house. The job search hit a dead end, with only one chance of a job (our year grant job) in the Redoubt area. We wanted a house that would be a great retreat but in West Texas all the good qualities aren't there for properties. We found a house with a little land and a well that met our needs at a very low price. We decided that my wife would go to school and a get a degree in the medical field, while I hold on to this job until the contract ends s and then we will move to the Redoubt. So the halfway prepper in me decided to settle...for now. I still look for job openings in the Redoubt. If your hiring let me know.

Next came the challenge of prepping since we finally had a house and a place to store things. Well, this is where we are at the moment. We have enough ammo for the guns saved up and have started on food storage with about three months worth. I'm looking into getting a Flojak so we will always have water since that is the biggest deal where we live. Then there’s our survival group or lack there of. We had a good group that we were starting up but one member left and the whole group fell apart. And my wife’s family is nearby and the rest of the group didn't want to take them in. The wife said she could never leave them if they were close by. Her family understands what's coming but doesn't want to put anytime or effort into prepping. So now we will have to prep for the family as best as possible. The problem is that I'm a halfway prepper. We want to live life comfortably and don't want to make it to hard on life while prepping. So every week we at least do one thing for prepping to keep us going in the right direction, use the solar oven for practice, build solar power system, build garden, chicken coop, take the family shooting, rotate canned food, use hand crank washer, et cetera.

My main and final point is that it is okay to be a halfway prepper. Remember you are halfway there. The more you do little by little the closer to your goals you are. You will never be 100% prepped, as long as you are trying you will be better off than most. Someone else will always be more prepared then you in some aspect. Don't be discouraged and frustrated. Just make your goals and work toward them. Just keep getting better day by day. You know what you need to do to get ready. Don't be lazy and do nothing. Be a halfway prepper and gradually get it done! Don't forget to live now while you prepare for the future. Look to God and take care of your family. - Z.T.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When I first started hiking and backpacking in the 1960s and 1970s few people bothered to treat their backcountry water in the USA. If it looked good it probably was good and we drank from streams and lakes without a second thought to the quality of the water in them. Unfortunately this is no longer the case and serious illnesses can be contracted by failing to treat the water you drink. Since I have not yet experienced TEOTWAWKI, I will describe my experiences with different water treatment methods from the viewpoint of a hiker and backpacker. I think that in most cases you will agree with me that a backpacker’s water needs and treatment of choice will not be very different from a prepper trying to make his way cross country or possibly cross city to his home or retreat.

When cases of Giardia began to be reported in the 1980s I began to treat my backcountry water with iodine tablets. Iodine was the Army’s standard water treatment chemical for individual soldiers (canteen cases even had a little pouch on the outside for the bottle). The tablets are quick and easy to use; just pop two in a quart of water and wait 30 minutes (longer is better, especially with cold water) before drinking. Iodine tablets are cheap, compact, failure proof and lightweight to carry. They also turn your water and water containers brown and do not taste very good. I treated a lot of water with iodine. My wife complained about the taste, my kids complained about the taste, I thought about complaining about the taste but nobody ever got sick from bad water.

Iodine still holds some advantages for the prepper. The bottles are relatively cheap ($5-7), readily available at places like Wal-Mart (packaged as Coghlan’s Emergency Germicidal Drinking Water Tablets) and other big stores that have a camping department and fit in almost any pack or container. One bottle treats 25 quarts of water. An unopened bottle has a shelf life of four years. More recently it is possible to buy iodine tablets with an extra bottle of taste neutralizer. Sold as Potable Aqua P.A. Plus this combination is said to be effective at hiding the taste of the iodine.   While I haven’t actually tried this version yet I do have several sets in my survival gear – just in case. I can live with whatever taste might remain but not without the water!
(If you really want to save on cost and weight you might consider a bottle of Pure USP grade iodine crystals; marketed as Polar Pure. One small four ounce bottle will treat up to 2,000 quarts of water. The crystals last indefinitely; some Appalachian Trail "thru hikers" complete their 6 month 2,200 mile journey on one bottle of Polar Pure and have leftovers for their next long distance adventure.)

Note: If you want to neutralize the unpleasant taste of the iodine from either tablets or crystals you can use any powdered citrus drink or simply crush up a Vitamin C tablet and add to the water after the required waiting time has passed.

Moving up from iodine tablets I bought a Katadyn Hiker PRO pump microfilter. This is pretty much the standard filter system in use among many hikers and campers. There are better (cheaper, faster, more efficient) systems available but this specific model seems to be carried in most outdoor and Army-Navy shops. Again, you can even buy them In Wal-Mart!

Special Note: check the details of any pump system you buy: micro filters treat giardia, cryptosporidium and similar bacteria in water but not viruses. Usually this is not a problem in the continental USA; if you are travel outside the country you should consider water purifiers which also eliminate viruses. If you are really concerned about the quality of the water you are getting out of a micro filter you can always treat it with chemicals too. If you dose with chemicals first the filter will remove any objectionable taste.

The Hiker filter (you can buy a Hiker purifier or replace the standard microfilter with a purifier class filter is desired) is relatively heavy and seems to take forever to un-package and connect the input and output hoses to the correct ports on the filter body (it is important not to mix hoses or contaminate the output hose with “bad” water) and get started. It takes a minute or two of pumping to filter a quart of water.  It is much easier if you have two or three extra hands to hold the output hose, water bottle, input hose and pump assembly while treating water. The pumping action itself is somewhat tiring and it helps to trade off assignments if you have many quarts to filter.

If you get the idea I do really not like pump filters you are correct. They are heavy and a hassle to use; it helps if you are an octopus. However they work well (when they are not clogged) and are an effective way to treat relatively large amounts of water in a short time. I use a Hiker filter when backpacking with my two adult sons. We filter 9-12 quarts of water each night for dinner and to refill our 3-liter water reservoirs for the next day’s hiking. It takes some time but the cold, clear, pure water taste is worth it for larger parties. (Note to self: As I write this it becomes obvious that maybe a gravity filter system would work better for my needs. It does all the work by itself and can effectively filter all the water we need for the next day’s hiking. I will have to look into this as there are several gravity filter systems available that look ideal for my needs).

The big advantages of pump-type filters are two- fold: great tasting water and (almost) immediate drinking water availability. The disadvantages include the weight of the system and the hoses and associated hassles of setting them up, pumping water and then packing them away. In addition, pump filters clog when you least expect them to and being mechanical they are subject to failure for a variety of reasons.
Besides chemical treatment and mechanical filters a relatively new water treatment option uses UV light to make sterile all the harmful things in wilderness water. [JWR Adds: The UV light does not kill all of the microbes. Rather, it renders them incapable of reproducing, so they simply pass through your digestive tract without multiplying.]

I bought a Steripen UV water purifier after watching a thirsty Appalachian Trail thru-hiker arrive at a mountain stream and treat his drinking water in under a minute (1/2 liter bottle). I was impressed by the speed and efficiency the way the Steripen handled the job.  While I fussed with my Hiker filter he treated and drank several bottles of water with an efficiency I envied, packed back up and headed out. I wanted one!

Using such a system allows a traveler to immediately treat just the water he needs now and use other methods to treat water to be carried and consumed later. In the case of the Appalachian Trail hiker he treated his water reservoirs with Polar Pure allowing the chemicals to work while he hiked. The concept of being able to immediately treat and drink the water when you need it and then allow time for a chemical treatment to neutralize all the bugs in the water you are carrying is indeed an attractive approach to a prepper on the move.

I chose the Classic model Steripen for my personal use. There are smaller and lighter units but the Classic uses four AA batteries while the lighter models use more specialized and expensive CR-123 cells. Using AAs makes sense from a standardization point of view and I use them in my flashlights and weather radio as well. As a backpacker I figured I could buy AA batteries just about anywhere in the world – this same principal would be equally important in a SHTF situation. I always try to avoid special, hard to find batteries in all my outdoor gear – it is too much hassle trying to find them when you need them. I was disappointed however to discover that the Steripen really puts a drain on ordinary alkaline batteries – you get only about 10-20 one quart treatments with them before they are exhausted. You really need either lithium or rechargeable NiMh cells to work efficiently. Since all my backpacking trips are short duration a single set of rechargeables lasts me through a typical weekend outing. Availability of these more specialized batteries might be a concern for the traveling prepper or maybe not if you go the rechargeable route as many have suggested in this blog.
We took a pair of Steripens on our annual “three guys” backpacking trip and discovered that filtering 10 quarts of water at a time was more of a hassle than anticipated. We had to do a quart bottle at a time and sometimes the Steripens did not want to work on the next bottle – perhaps they needed to ‘cool off” after a treatment? It was slow methodical work and somewhat annoying. We went back to using the Hiker filter for these trips.

An alternative approach to instantly treating water with a UV system is the personal water filter, either contained in a water bottle such as the Bota Outback Water Filter  or the Katadyn MyBottle Microfilter (don’t they make this in more subdued colors?) or an individual filter straw like the Frontier Emergency Water Filter System Straw. Either system allows quick and easy water treatment on the go: simply scoop up a bottle full of water, replace the top and drink/suck clean Pure water. I have an older model filter bottle that I use so I can’t comment specifically on these particular versions but if water is plentiful this is by far the easiest way to replenish on the move. Drink your fill and then top off your spare water containers with water and treat with the chemical of your choice (see below).
If you use your filters for hiking and camping it is important to properly clean them before storage. Simply add 4-6 drop of chlorine bleach to a quart of water and filter it through the system. Remove the filter element and allow all the parts to dry thoroughly before putting them away.

Whether you use pump filters, bottle filters or UV light systems to filter your water you must always have a back up for when these devices fail; and fail they will. Filters are very prone to clogging and of course being mechanical can also break when you least expect them to. The Steripen requires batteries and even though the bulb itself has a life expectancy of over 3,000 treatment the device is mechanical and probably would not survive being dropped onto rocky ground etc. Remember, one is none and two is one.

I used to carry a bottle of ordinary chlorine bleach as back up. I re-purposed a small eye dropper container and after washing it out filled it with unscented Clorox bleach.  I only used this a couple times as the container leaked within the plastic bag I had it stored and risked damaging my clothes and other gear. Four drops per quart is the standard dose; let sit at least 30 minutes for average water at average temperatures, longer for cloudy water or cold temps. You should still smell the chlorine when you open the bottle. If you cannot smell the bleach please add 4 more drops, shake and wait an additional 30 minutes. As with all chemical treatments be sure to open the screw top slightly and allow the treated water to wash away any contamination that may reside on the lid and threads from when you filled the bottle originally.

BTW, chlorine is still a very useful tool for disinfecting water on a large scale. A single teaspoon of bleach will treat a 5 gallon container of water at a very low price. A bottle of plain, unscented bleach (Clorox is a good example) should be in the emergency stores for ever survivalist. Since many municipalities treat their city water with chlorine most people will not even object to the taste!
I now carry Katadyn MicroPur MP1 tablets as my primary back up water treatment. The MicroPur tablets release chlorine dioxide when dissolved in water; the same chemical used to disinfect many municipal water supplies. Each tablet treats one quart of water and is individually wrapped in a tough, durable foil package. Instructions are simple: tear open the foil package and drop into a quart of water. The FDA mandated instructions tell you to wait four hours before drinking but a little on- line research revealed that this is a worst case scenario for very cold, very turbid (cloudy) water. If your water is clear and not ice cold than you can wait 30 minutes and drink without a worry.  I carry a number of foil packets in all my first aid and survival kits. They are very useful when day hiking and the water you carried from home runs out. I pack a minimum of 6-8 tablets in a kit; they are my backup for getting home hydrated and healthy. I really like the MicroPur tablets and recommend them as a lightweight, compact and very effective water treatment technique.

I hope this review of some of the available methods I have used for treating questionable water is of use to you. A quick review of on-line camping and survival stores will reveal many additional options for treating “bad” water. For example I have heard good reviews for Aquamira solutions – I met another pair of Appalachian Trail thru hikers using this two part solution to treat all their water on the way from Georgia to Maine. Aquamira also makes water treatment tablets similar to the MicroPur system – I use the MicroPur MP1’s because they are readily available in the stores I frequent but you might find the Aquamira better for your use. My advice is to consider your requirements, research the choices available and select a technique/system that works for you. Actually you need to select TWO systems to be truly prepared; but then you already knew that didn’t you?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We all know that three days without water and we are incapacitated and nearing death.  We all know that water from streams, lakes, ponds and rivers if consumed “raw” can lead to parasitic infection.   We also know that those same sources may be polluted with pesticides, insecticides, heavy metals, and a host of other contaminants.  These can lead to sickness and to death. 

If you find yourself in a situation where it is drink or die, then drink of course and hope for the best, right?   In a worst case scenario that might be the only choice you have, and you might very well get lucky.  A better alternative is to know how to treat the water so that it is safe.  The following techniques require at least a fire-safe container, or plastic sheeting, or PET bottles, bleach or iodine.
The simplest technique of removing parasites is to boil the water.  Pasteurization will take place at just 160 degrees F after 6 minutes.  Bringing water to a boil and letting it cool off will also do it [but it is overkill.  You don’t need to actually boil the water [, but if you don't have a dairy of candy thermometer, it is one way to make sure that the microorganisms in the water are sterile or dead.]  This does not remove chemical or metal content.

Treatment with common household bleach works quite well.  Use regular bleach, not bleach with scents  in them.  The chlorine in the bleach is the same chlorine used in water treatment plants.  If the water is cloudy, let it stand until the particulate matter settles, then decant the clear water – or filter the water through coffee filters or clean cloth or whole chunk charcoal.  Do not use briquettes, they contain chemical binders that can leach into the water.   When the water is clear add 8 drops of bleach per gallon.  Stir or shake well and let it set for at least 30 minutes before drinking. 
If you use tincture of iodine (2%) mix in 20 drops per gallon of clear water, shake or stir well and let set for 30 minutes.  In both cases, Iodine or chlorine, use more if you cannot filter the water.  How much more?  There are too many variables to give a single answer.  Use your best judgment.  Also let it stand longer so that the disinfecting chemicals have more time to work their magic. 

If heating water to 160 F isn’t possible and you don’t have bleach or iodine then there are still other methods that you can use. 

Solar distillation is an effective way to remove contaminants.  This is a simple process, but a slow one.  It will not produce a large volume in a short time.  It can keep you alive though.  The materials required are plastic sheeting, clear is best, and a clean bowl or small pot.  Begin by digging a large diameter hole shaped like a shallow dish bowl.  The size of the hole depends on the size of the plastic sheeting you have.  A manageable size would be three feet in diameter.  The depth should be twice the depth of the bowl or pot you will be using.  The hole should slope up on the sides to the top to maximize the amount of water surface exposed to the sun.  A thin large sheet of water will evaporate faster than a deep small hole of water will.

Collect enough rocks to make a complete circle around the circumference of the hole.  Lay one sheet of plastic in the hole to line the bottom.  Cover the edges of this plastic with enough dirt to keep it in place.  Fill this hole with water to the edges.  Place the bowl or pot in the middle of the hole of water.  This will be the collection container.  The inside of the collection container must be clean.  You may need to place a rock or piece of metal inside the collection container to keep it from floating out of position, if so make sure it too is clean. 

Lay a second sheet of plastic over the top of the hole, weighing it down with the rocks you collected.  Leave a little slack in this sheet.  When it is secure around the edges place a small amount of dirt on the edges of the plastic.  You want a fairly good seal, or you’ll lose some of the water you would otherwise be able to drink.  Place a small rock on top of the top sheet directly above the collection container.  This will slope the plastic down to a point above the collector.  As the sun hits the plastic it will evaporate the standing water.  That evaporated water will be trapped against the underside of the upper plastic and condense, then run down the plastic to the point above the collector and drip into it.  When enough water has accumulated remove it and set the apparatus back up.

If you have clean flexible plastic tubing you can run the tubing to the collector, coming out the edge of the hole and suck the water out periodically, saving the work of restoring the solar still each time you collect water.  If you don’t have the tubing it’s no big deal.  Obviously you should choose a sunny location for the solar still, and you can make more than one to increase production.  The hotter the ambient temperature, the more direct the sunlight, the faster it will work.

Another system for biological disinfection is to use the sun’s ultra-violet rays.  This is a simple and easy method.  It can also produce as much water as you can find containers to disinfect in.  Clean, clear PET bottles of two liter or smaller size are the container of choice.  Clear glass works, but not as fast. 

Put clear filtered water inside a PET bottle, set it where it will be in direct sunlight, and wait four hours.  The suns UV rays will kill the biologicals in the water.  The bottle should be horizontal, not standing up.  Angling the bottles to perpendicular to the sun is best, roof tops work well for this.  Of course remove any labels that would block the sun.  That’s the short explanation.
For maximum effectiveness fill the bottle ¾’s full, cap it and shake vigorously, then fill the rest of the way.  This helps to introduce oxygen into the water.  The oxygen enhances the UV exposure and kills pathogens faster.  On partly cloudy days where you are receiving more than 50% sunlight during the day 6 hours is required.  On overcast days where you receive less than 50% sunlight 12 hours.  UV penetrates overcast days, but at a lower rate.  This doesn’t work during heavy cloud days or rain.  To be safe and if you have the time, two full days of sunlight would be optimum.
PET allows UV rays through.  PVC blocks UV rays and may also introduce chemicals you don’t want.  Most bottles that contain consumable liquids are PET.  Clear glass works, but glass blocks some of the  UV rays.  If using glass then double the exposure time.   This method does not remove chemical or metallic contamination, only biological.   This is a system that is being introduced to third world countries around the globe.  It is simple and effective, relying only on being able to find sufficient PET bottles to work.  Plastic bags also work.  Use sandwich type bags, or any other type of food grade clear plastic bag.  Make sure the sun doesn’t have to penetrate more than four inches of water though.  If the only container you have requires more than four inches of penetration, shake or move the water several times and give extra exposure time.

Another way of obtaining water is a transpiration trap.  Locate a leafy bush, wrap a plastic bag around the end of the bush and seal as well as you can against the stem that you placed it over. Get as many leaves inside the bag as you can.  Plants transpire, or give off water vapor, all the time.  The plastic bag catches that moisture and condenses it.  Periodically check the amount of water and when enough, you can probably drink it straight out of the bag.  Caution – do not do this with poisonous plants such as oleanders.  You might get some of the poison in the water. 
If you use a clean bag that is well sealed this water might be clean enough to drink.  It has been “filtered” by the plant itself and will most likely not contain contaminants.  However, it can be polluted by whatever is on the leaf’s surfaces.  The best thing to do is to follow the UV disinfection routine after collecting the water. 

If you have towels, during a heavy dew you can collect water by dragging the towel through dew-laden grass and wring it out into a container, then collect more.  This water should also be sun treated if possible, or boiled or chemically disinfected. 

Fog traps can also be made.  They are not difficult to make, but only work in a heavy fog.  Hang large sheets of plastic or other sheet like materials and collect the water that adheres to them.  With plastic, shape the bottom of the sheet into a curve that brings the water down to one point and place a container beneath it.  With cloth sheets wring the sheet out periodically.  This water will be as clean as the surface you collect it on.  You may or may not have to disinfect it, although it is a good idea to.

Water heaters are also water storage tanks.  They come with a drain valve on the bottom.  Each water heater will contain many gallons of drinkable water.  This is particularly handy for short term water shortage problems, such as grid power failures. 

Safe drinking water is an age-old problem, and is still a major problem for much of the world’s population.  In a survival situation the last thing you need is to become sick or parasite ridden.  There isn’t much time, three days or so, to solve the problem.  Knowing how to treat water is of paramount importance.  Starting right away on the treatment process is necessary.  If you can produce a surplus of water, do so, but remember to store the water in clean vessels.  If the water is stored for a long period of time, treat it again.   The above treatment options can leave small traces of contaminants that won’t be a problem at the time, but if stored long enough those contaminants can breed and re-infect the water.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I found myself in a rather uncomfortable and vulnerable position. Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile, Alabama in September 1979. I thought it was going to be exciting. In fact several friends of mine had a party the night before Frederic made landfall. There was no preparation made on my part for this hurricane. I had no anxiety and could have cared less. At the time I didn't even have a gun. I had barely a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was very little non-perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I had no idea about hurricane preparation and I did not heed the warnings issued. My family lived in north Alabama about six hours away so I was on my own.

Well, Hurricane Frederic made landfall and it was very destructive. The winds were fierce and the rain was relentless. A large pine tree fell on my house. Many trees were downed throughout the city proper and county making it extremely difficult to navigate. Electricity was out for most of Mobile County so there was no way to obtain gas to fill my car up. Price gouging was rampant - a bag of ice was selling for $10 or more, that is if you could find some. Most of the stores were emptied out prior to the storm. I had never experienced power outages on this scale. My home did not have power restored for 22 days. What little food I had in the fridge if not eaten in 24 hrs was ruined. There was also a curfew imposed by the National Guard. There were very long lines for ice and emergency food being distributed by the National Guard. Fights broke out and looting was rampant. 

I was stuck in a very hot house every night. We were afraid to leave the windows open because of all the looting. Luckily I did have a gas water heater and fortunately the gas was never turned off. My home was a popular stop off for friends who wanted a hot shower. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were nightly cookouts until the food ran out. I ate well in the beginning. Several weeks later I was finally able to get some food supplies and batteries thanks to my family. My brother drove to Mobile with a well-received load of supplies for me. Federal assistance was slow to arrive and I was feeling desperate still I was luckier than most folks. I made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never let that happen again. I was not going to be a helpless victim especially when this could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. And I certainly was not going to depend on any government assistance.

Since Hurricane Frederic I have experienced a number of hurricanes over the years including Ivan and Katrina. I also went through a house fire in 2009. The house fire started due to a lightning strike. It totaled my home. I had to start all over on my emergency kit. The good news is that I was able to rebuild my home and fortify it against category four hurricane winds. This also helped me keep my homeowners insurance at a more affordable rate. But I have learned some valuable lessons.

In this article I will share with you how I now prepare for emergencies since my dreadful days during Hurricane Frederic in 1979. 
I first came up with a list of what emergency items I might need. I kept adding to the list after reading a number of survival books and blogs.
Initially it was frustrating because I wanted everything right now. But I had to sit back and realize it was going to be a slow process. Each month I purchased a few items from my list.
It has taken awhile to obtain what I currently have and my emergency kit is not complete yet. But as I add items I feel more confident. As with most people I had to budget purchasing my emergency items. But you have to start somewhere. Now I do not feel so vulnerable. I feel that I can protect and provide for my family. Even though they think I'm a little weird prepping for the unknown. But whenever the power goes off they come to me for flashlights and lanterns. They expect me to take care of them and have even commented they would have been disappointed in me had I not been prepared.

First thing - I always fill my gas tank up when the gauge nears the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam.
I also have (5) five gallon empty gas cans in my garage attic and I fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm. If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas in my cars so nothing is wasted. You simply
cannot wait until the storm becomes a hurricane. By then there are long lines at the gas stations and shelves are emptied at the grocery stores.

I purchased a Honda 3000 watt generator that I can plug it into my electrical system. The generator is attached to a heavy chain and locked in place for security. I run the generator for several hours every month to ensure it is in good working order. I also have a small window A/C unit stored in the garage so I can have a cool room to sleep in at night. The generator is mainly to keep my refrigerator and freezer running.
My pantry is kept stocked with at least a month of food - canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and dehydrated foods. As a backup I have a closet stocked with long shelf life freeze dried foods.
I have a several six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. I keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand. I have several Aquamira frontier water systems, life-straw, and polar pure water treatment. I fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. I recently located a nearby water stream within walking distance from my home. Remember folks a water supply is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

I keep a three month supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and Nine Volt batteries. I have several battery/solar powered short wave radios along with a ham radio. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency pack.
I started out simply with a hurricane kit to get me through at a minimum of 3 to 4 days of survival. Now it has evolved to a more elaborate emergency kit. My goal is to be able to survive at a minimum of three to six months. In this emergency kit there is duct tape, Paracord - various lengths, snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, bacterial soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-(you can easily start a fire with these two items), and camping cookware. I plan on getting some seeds so in the case of a long lived disaster I can grow my own vegetables. I already have several fruit trees in my backyard.

I inventory all of my emergency items monthly and refresh the list when needed. I also include a note where each item is stored. All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe.

I have ammo stored in watertight ammo cans. I clean my weapons on a regular basis. There are plenty of flashlights and lanterns. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. There are several battery powered fans to use during the day.

I have a grill and an Emberlit stove for backup in case the gas company shuts down our gas supply. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. I practice using a flint/steel fire starter and my Emberlit stove. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than wait until there is one. That also includes going to a range and firing your pistols and rifles.

I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit. Cordless phones will not function without electricity and I have experienced problems with spotty cell phone usage during hurricanes. For some reason land line phones have always worked for me.

I have precut plywood and each piece is numbered so I don't have to wonder which piece goes to each outside window. I use plylox brackets to quickly and easily insert the precut plywood to protect my outside windows.

I have my rear and garage doors hinged so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. There have been a number of home invasions in our county occurring at night. It usually involves kicking in the front door and before you can react they are in your bedroom. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down. I decided to use spray foam instead of the traditional insulation in my attic. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I have several neighbors close by that I keep in touch with. We have agreed to help each other out if need be. There is strength in numbers. I recently installed a wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home. I plan on getting two way radios so I can easily keep in touch with my family and neighbors. My biggest fear is of people becoming desperate and dangerous. From my research it appears to only take several days for some folks to begin looting and killing. Once that begins it multiplies. I want to be able to protect my family at all costs. So ammunition and additional firepower are priorities for me. Most of my emergency items are stored in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag should I need to bug out quickly.

My pipe dream is to buy some land in a wooded area near water. I would build a small but comfortable shelter and an underground bunker. But that is only a dream and not in my budget so I plan to survive with my current method.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
My wife and I began prepping approximately two years, prepping for what exactly is still unknown. We first were concerned with the economy going South (and still are) and begun to stock up for this type of event, as well as work on our debt's. We quickly begun to realize that our path was not a straight one with no intersections, the deeper we got the more work we found was needed to compensate for a host of problems that could arise, and before we knew it, we were preparing for a multitude of scenarios. Each time you start to feel good about where you are the more you find you need to improve upon. I am not going to go deep into all aspects of what we have learned and prepped for, but instead  focus on one that we are realizing could be devastating our chances of survival if the cards got stacked against us.

We all know the human body needs allot of water and will soon perish without it, however, water for human consumption is not the focus of this article.
 My family lives in a suburban community close to cities, nuclear power plants, and we are very dependent on the public infrastructure. (We do know that this is not the ideal situation, but for the time being we are not comfortable with moving to a more secluded, less populated area. It is on our minds every day, and until we are ready to make the jump we are preparing to hunker down and make the best with what we have.) Back to the topic. This summer has been very hot so far in the United States, wild fires and droughts are in the news daily. Here we have not had more than few passing sprinkles of rain in over five weeks and the daily temperature for at least 15 days was over 90 and a few days topping a hundred.

Imagine this scenario for a moment. The grid goes down for an extended period of time for whatever reason, the public water supply screeches to a halt, home wells do not pump without electricity. You have made reasonable preparations to sustain you and your family and neighbors through a bad period but forgot to factor in summer heat and droughts and the effect they will have on your gardens, orchards, and livestock.
 You are probably not in a position where your garden and animals are your only source of food but someday it could be, and the survival of your family could depend on your ability to manage the situation and do

In the United States at the moment our corn crop is on the verge of collapse for 2012 due to severe droughts, other crops are also in peril but the corn is what I have been hearing the most coverage on. This is going to have major impacts on the cost of food, fuel, and any products that use some form of processed corn in production.
This is what inspired me to write this article, lately I have been watering my vegetable garden and other plants and trees from my carbon filtered outside hydrants, (carbon filters to reduce the chlorine content of the municipal water supply.) My reserves of water to do this job is depleted and now I am paying for my water to keep things alive and productive. Heavy mulching is a big help in the garden. But what if I did not have this abundant water source?

Unless you have a creek, spring, or other water source close by, what do you do? You certainly do not want to tap into your stored drinking water supply unless you have thousands of gallons at your disposal. Without reliable water your garden can quickly become a new compost pile and all you can do is hope for a better season next year, if you can make it until next year!
 We have 220 gallons of rain water that we collect from the roof to water the garden vegetables and herbs. This has been quickly depleted recently and we have not had any rain to refill the barrels.
I collect gray water for the fruit trees and other perennial plants we have on our small  suburban lot, but without running tap water this is not going to be in any great quantity because if you are using your stored emergency water you will be in serious conservation mode.

If you or a neighbor have a shallow well as well as the necessary tools and equipment on hand to convert to a manual pumping well this would be a great option. I have neighbors on wells, however, they exceed 200 plus feet deep. A more expensive option is to purchase a generator and store sufficient fuel to power the well, most pumps are 240 volts and can be over one horsepower so size the generator accordingly. Do not get caught up with the desire to power every electrical appliance that your heart desires, this would quickly deplete your fuel reserves. I have a friend who converted his Honda 6500 watt generator to multi fuel, he can burn gasoline, propane or natural gas. He has stored 500 gallons of propane as well as a few cans of gasoline. In a long term emergency, (you generally will not know if it is truly long term until it has been a long time down) you could use the generator just to power your well to get your water containers refilled and maybe recharge some battery powered devices, get a job done using power tools, etc.  Conservation is very important.
Most people have a tank type water heater that could be drained for use as well as the tanks on the back of toilets, however, this should be deemed potable in most cases and used for human consumption. (Do not use toilet tank water for human or pet drinking water if you use bleach tablets or other cleaning agents in your tank.)

Do not forget the water that is in nearly all canned goods, this is potable but if you have your drinking water covered well you could salvage this small amount to use in other areas. Every little bit helps here.
We have a creek about a quarter mile away as a crow flies and this would certainly be an option if I could get a vehicle there and have a way of getting the water into a container on my vehicle and safely get it back to my property.

A few people in the area have swimming pools, however I would not recommend going onto private  property in a crisis as this may lead to confrontation. This is an area that you should address before it becomes necessary. Maybe this neighbor has a large garden or animals also and has not thought through this scenario. You could educate them as well as secure some bonus water in the process.

If you have the space, you could build a fish pond into your landscaping, maybe you are not ready to raise tilapia fish or another breed to eat, you could just have a few goldfish swimming around in your new tactical water reserve disguised as a simple "keeping up with the Jones's" addition to your yard. Who knows maybe you will become Jones and the neighbors will build ponds to keep up with you and without knowing it they will be serving the needs of you and other neighbors.

I have not found a good option yet to remedy this situation except to store as much water as I possibly can safely. I have no basement or garage, so space is an issue to contend with. I do currently have a few 55 gallon barrels that I store outside, and keep treated and rotated. Winter time I drain them down by a third and have not yet had a barrel failure. Underground storage is an option, but you need to have a way to get the water out of the tank when you want it. Have a manual backup pumping method available, and a backup to your backup.

In the early stage of a crisis, short or long term, you hopefully have time to react even if only a little bit. Fill any container with water before you lose service. Bathtubs, sinks, buckets, washing machine, milk jugs,
Tupperware, barrels, wheel barrel, fill the fresh and gray water tanks in your camper,  line your truck bed with a good heavy water tight tarp and fill it full.

Do what you can to make life easier, even if it is short lived. Anything to help you transition to the new reality.

This article is intended to be an eye opener to make you think more than a how to guide, as I have no good long term solution at the moment, and I am sure I am not alone in this area. Like most people these days, I was raised in a family who did annual small garden farming more as a hobby than anything else and was reliant on the infrastructure to supply us with life's most basic needs.

My wife and I  have started from scratch and are  trying to learn the ways of the past and teach it to our children so we do not have to be dependent on anyone but ourselves, in today's world that may not ever be possible but we can try.   <

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Water from open sources must always be treated before use. The lack of proper attention to water quality can be life threatening. By a review of the literature there appears to be no one way to treat water to make it safe. As I went through the Blog I found numerous authoritative sounding articles that contradicted other equally authorities articles. Unless we can get EPA experts or similar authorities to talk about water quality in WTSHTF conditions and not 4 acre treatment facilities you have to pick your experts and go with them, understanding that none of us have ever been there.

There are numerous methods for treating water including osmosis, distillation, ultra violet, boiling, filtering, and chemicals such as chlorine or iodine. Most of these treatments are aimed at biological contamination and each of them has disadvantages in a WTSHTF scenario. (Contaminates may also include chemicals but that is beyond the scope here.) I have a preference toward water treatment methods that can be applied in a WTSHTF which eliminates the methods requiring significant electrical power.

What are we trying to do? How to sterilize water? You don't need to ‘sterilize’ water. Sterilization is the destruction of all microorganisms in, on and around an object. What is needed is disinfection (killing of pathogenic (disease causing organisms). Another proposal is Pasteurization (less than boiling (149°F) but a temperature high enough to “kill disease causing organisms”.) The exception might be Ultra Violet treatments which don’t kill the organism but leave them so they can’t reproduce which makes them harmless.

Biological contaminates consist of microorganisms also called microbes. There are four different groups. Arranged from largest to smallest they are, fungi, protista, bacteria, and viruses. The smallest bacteria which causes human disease is Mycoplasma pneumoniae which is approximately 0.2 microns in size. When selecting a microfilter, I want one that filters down to at least 0.2 microns (a micron is one micrometer or 0.000001 meter or 1 x 10-6 meter). While effective against bacteria and larger microorganisms, even a good microfilters (0.2 microns) cannot be counted on to filter out viruses unless there is another mechanism to trap or destroy the virus. All the viruses I am familiar with are smaller in diameter than 0.3 microns, examples include Smallpox 0.250 microns, Rabies 0.150 microns, Influenza (Flu) 0.100 microns, and Polio 0.028 microns. Viruses are composed of DNA or RNA surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid. This construction allows them to be easily destroyed by boiling or chemicals such as iodine or chlorine (bleach). While iodine or chlorine is effective against viruses, it is ineffective against the protista Cryptosporidium.

(Since the first recorded human case of Cryptosporidiosis in 1976, it has grown to become one of the most common waterborne diseases. In 1993, an outbreak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin infected approximately 400,000 residents. 4,400 people had to be hospitalized and the cost of the outbreak was estimated at over $54 million. If this is a problem now, imagine what it would be in WTSHTF scenario. See the CDC web site for additional information.)

Unfortunately, some bacteria produce spores which can survive extreme conditions. They can survive being boiled in water (100 degrees Celsius) for two hours, survive in 70% ethyl alcohol for 20 years, or survive one million REM of radiation (600 REM is fatal to most people). One of the most infamous bacteria that form spores is Bacillus anthracis which causes Anthrax.

Unfortunately we don't know what bad guys are in the water we will get in the future so you make your choices and take your chances. Here are some suggestions that might help you make these choices. It will always be a juggling act between: Time consumed, cost – energy and financial, and what you think you are protecting your selves from.

Many prepper discussions include bleach as a means to add chlorine to the water to be treated but the shelf life has you moving to the dry pool shock (Calcium hypochlorite) as an easier storage item and far more concentrated source of chlorine. (Long term storage of Calcium Hypochlorite still need to be resolved because of evidence of slow generation of Chlorine gas.) [JWR Adds: The main concern is that chlorine gas is corrosive, and will induce rust on any exposed metals that are nearby, even in very dry climates.]

Calcium Hypochlorite – Mixing From the EPA site: "Granular Calcium Hypochlorite. Add and dissolve one heaping teaspoon of granular calcium hypochlorite (~50%) (Approximately 1/4 ounce or 1 heaping teaspoon) for each two gallons of water. To disinfect water, add the above developed stock (bleach replacement) chlorine solution in the ratio of one part of chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water to be treated. This is roughly equal to adding 1 pint (16 oz.) of stock chlorine to each 12.5 gallons (1,600 oz) of clear water to be disinfected.

It is usually recommend that a three step approach to treating water from open sources be followed:

  1. Pre-filtering. This removes particulate matter. Pouring water though a couple of thickness of t-shirts or tightly-woven bath towels or coffee filters works fine. The water that comes through may still look like tea, but at least you have removed the crud and larger particles. By pre-filtering, you will also extend the life of your water filter. (You avoid clogging the microscopic pores in the filter media.)

  2. Chlorinating. (Iodine – Hydrogen peroxide etc) This can be accomplished following directions above

  3. Final / fine - Filtering. The large Katadyn or British Berkefeld filters. Some filter elements available for Katadyn or British Berkefeld filters .2 micron rated. (Complete filter systems and spare filter elements are available from Ready Made Resources, Safecastle, Katadyn Pocket filter, and other Internet vendors.

Follow up questions needing additional research:

Disease-causing organisms in water are killed by exposure to heat in a process known as pasteurization. Water heated to 65°C (149°F) for a short period of time is free from microbes, including E. coli, Rotaviruses, Guardia and the Hepatitis A virus. A Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) is a simple thermometer that indicates when water has reached pasteurization temperature and is safe to drink. It was invented by Fred Barrett and Dale Andreatta. An article written by Dr. Bob Metcalf who promotes pasteurization at 149°F stated that it kills Guardia but no mention of the Guardia spores which I have read cannot be killed by boiling?

Lot of discussion on the blog about the non-active ingredients in your Calcium Hypochlorite. I have heard some ideas as to what the non active ingredients are and not having an active chemistry expertise have come to the conclusion that if it is going into a pool it has to be pretty close to drinkable and we are diluting the snot out of it. (Am I copping out?)

When using the purchased filters in step 3 for the final filtering how do you know if the filter is functioning? Is it as simple as, when the water will not flow through it, it’s plugged? Is there a way to regenerate them? In the bigger picture, how long after the WTSHTF will your current stock of extra filters last? In my search to understand using pool shock as a source of chlorine I did some minimum reading about pool filters and have to ask if there is a pool filter that is sand based that can be recharged / regenerated mechanically. I try to always look at techniques in two perspectives, short term while stored supplies last and long term, what do you do when your chlorine is gone and all your micro pore filters are clogged. Regenerating a sand filter has a nice ring to it. I have never owned a pool and have no experience with this. Can anyone tell me if this is reasonable? Could this type of filter get you close to the .2 micron goal of the purchased filters

Has anyone looked into the long term storage of Calcium Hypochlorite. It is sold in plastic bags that I fear contain it as well as gunny sacks contain grain dust. Short term answers appear to be glass containers that depend on rubber gaskets. I have seen rubber gaskets become dry, brittle and worthless with no more than just age. Is there a better storage mode?

I am consistently impressed with how dummied down things like mixing Calcium Hypochlorite to make a stock solution of how much of the stock solution to put in drinking water. It leaves me wondering how may preppers reload their own ammunition. If this is a reasonable number, as I think it might be, then we all have access to a very accurate scale and can move to exact measurements vs heaping teaspoons. Is there a reason for not using this cross subject expertise?

I may have just received an answer to some of my question about killing things like giardia cyst. I am still rereading and trying to digest this article. Vinegar anyone?

Addendum: I just got through to a customer rep for PPG, the makers of the Calcium Hypochlorite for the 73% Pool Shock I bought from Leslie's.  He told me that the balance of 27% in this product is NaCl (table salt) and chemically bound water.  (This product is used in potable water treatment systems.)

The other question was about long term storage because I have been told by people that they get a chlorine gas smell in a closed closet.  He said that the proper storage would be dark, cool and well ventilated.  I asked about the results of storing it in a sealed container.  He said that this would not be a good idea because you end up with a pressurized container of chlorine gas.  You cannot stop the slow decomposition to chlorine gas.  Their product has a 73% guaranteed available chlorine for one year from manufacture.

As I type on my photovoltaic-powered desktop computer and consider the most important preparation I’ve made to “survive and thrive,” undoubtedly, it has been procuring sizable amounts of potable water. Think about it. Yes, you need defensive measures (got ‘em). Yes, you need food (got that too), but none of us can survive, let alone thrive, without a bare minimum of a gallon of water a day per person. That’s a lot of water if you are shooting for a year’s supply or more. For the average family of four, that’s nearly 1,500 gallons a year!  That is just to survive. What about feeding animals or livestock, growing a garden, bartering, or simply bathing? Your needs will far exceed the menagerie of 2-liter plastic bottles you may be collecting and cluttering in your garage.

How it all started

My journey for a sustainable and renewable water source, coupled with substantial storage, began in 2006 when I moved to the country in Central Texas. I thought digging my own well (more than 400 feet before hitting a local aquifer) would suffice. No, it’s not publicly produced water, and yes, its drinkable (just barely) but if stuff does hit the fan and we are off line permanently, my limited solar power will not pump out water 400 feet deep. I needed a more cost effective and viable alternative. I found it. It came from above in the form of rain.

Yes, collecting and storing rain water is the easiest and most practical way to secure enough water to meet your needs, wants, and perhaps the needs of others who would trade a pound of gold for a gallon of drinkable water when none can be found.  It is so simple; I can’t imagine why more people don’t do it. Maybe it seems too “green” or too antiquated. Perhaps it’s like the public library no body uses because its “free,” or maybe, just maybe, we’ve been conditioned to believe water has to come from the ground first before we can drink it up. I can assure you it does not. In fact, my family drinks rain water almost exclusively. Moreover, my young boys have become what I call “water snobs.” Rain water is so delicious, so pure in taste these picky kids of mine don’t even like the bottled stuff anymore. I have to agree. Nothing is more refreshing (and void of whatever God didn’t want in it) than rain water from on high.

Constructing Your Own System

So how did I do it?  How did I make rain water collection and consumption part of my daily routine?  It started simply enough. First, I determined where to store the water. Admittedly, this was easy for me. I live on nearly 10 acres of land with no zoning laws, permits or other governmental interference. God love Texas! Anyway, I needed a way to store as much water as possible. My family (four of us at that time) would require the bare minimum of 1,500 gallons of water a year that I mentioned, so I doubled it. I purchased two 1,500 gallon black plastic water storage containers from a local farming supply. Tractor Supply also sells these containers in different sizes as well. I paid $600 each for mine.

I was cautious to purchase black containers, not because they’d match my Texas limestone farm house (they do not), but because black keeps algae from growing in your tanks. Sun and water in a clear container will produce this unwanted green goo.  Solid green containers will also do the trick, but again, whatever you do, stay way from clear containers even if you think it’s a practical way to see how much water you’ve collected. You’ll see more than water collecting. I promise.

Now before you conclude that you can’t possibly put a 1,500 gallon tank next to the swing set in your back yard (your wife would kill you) or you can’t afford such large containers, understand that water tanks come in all sizes and shapes. Start small. Consider a 50 gallon drum. Just be careful that the drums you procure weren’t used for storing anything other than water.  It is best to get new water storage tanks if possible.  Remember water is more important than anything else you may store. I prefer plastic containers because they are less expensive, lighter and don’t rust, but professional cisterns or storage containers can be galvanized metal which are less likely to be punctured.

When positioning your water tanks consider either back corner of your home. Yes, you can put a water container near a front corner of your home, but then everyone will see just what you are doing, and who knows if one day a stray bullet (or a not so stray bullet) doesn’t puncture your container and spew forth real liquid gold. Corners are good places for your tanks because they are close to the down spout of your gutter system. Keep in mind, plastic water tanks are meant for above ground. If you bury them they may collapse.

When I first built my home I didn’t care about putting in a gutter system, but collecting rain water requires it. I chose galvanized metal gutters because they are more durable than the plastic ones (which I’ve seen bleach and almost melt in the Texas sun). I don’t know that it’s an issue, but I also don’t want any plastics breaking down in my rain water. If you are putting in new gutters, make sure they are at a slight angle with the down spout being at the lowest point near your water tank. You want gravity on your side. Gravity is a major factor in ensuring water comes from the sky to your roof to your tank and to a smaller container for transport (more on that later). Think about clearing or cutting back trees that may hang over your gutters. Leaves, branches and twigs can clog them or even enter your storage tank(s).

The biggest difference between a standard gutter system and a rain water collecting system is where your water goes. Collecting rain requires you to remove your standard down spout. You don’t want the rain running down the pavement into the street. You want it going into your tank. To get the water from my gutter to the tanks, I used pipe strapping to connect approximately four feet of three inch PVC pipe directly under the corner gutter joint with the hole. Use an elbow joint at the top (larger than the gutter hole) and run the pipe vertically to a tee joint. The other side of the tee will connect to more pipe with an elbow down to the top of your tank. You will likely need reducer couplers to go from 3 inch wide piping to two inch. It depends on the width of the opening on the top of your tank. The length of your piping depends on how far away your tank is from the roof. Measuring and planning is key.

The vertical or bottom part of the tee joint (between your roof and your tank) will connect to another three inch pipe down to the ground (about six to eight feet). This piping is called a “first flush.” It looks like an upside down candy cane (or down spout). At the bottom (the crook part) is another elbow fitting which is threaded for a drain plug.  When it rains the first flush is plugged. Its purpose is to catch some of the debris or dirt that collects on your roof when it first begins to rain. Once the first flush fills up, the water will continue into your tank where you need to use a threaded fitting, usually female on the pipe joint and male on the tank. Make sure you empty the first flush after every rain. You’d be surprised how dirty this captured water is. If it has been a long time since the last rain, leave the first flush unplugged for a few minutes to wash out the excess dirt and debris your roof has likely collected.

I use a T-post to secure the first flush PVC pipe to the ground. Because I have two tanks they are connected together at the top and at the bottom with two inch wide PVC pipes (my tanks have openings both at the top and the bottom). This allows the tanks to both be filled up at the same time and to remove water from them at the same time. In the middle of the 2 inch PVC pipe at the bottom I have another tee joint connected up to a pipe with an elbow joint and then connected to a copper faucet or spigot. I mentioned earlier that gravity is your friend. The weight of the water allows a decent amount of pressure to push water up the pipe and through the spigot. You’re not going to power wash a car, but you can fill a five gallon bucket or water jug in no time without the need for electricity. All pipes will need appropriate fittings where they are connected to your tank(s).

How much can I collect?
So how much water can I collect?  There are three factors that determine this. First, how big is your roof? Second, how much does it rain where you live and third, what is the capacity of your storage container(s)? For example, I have a 2000 square foot home, but I only collect water off of one side of the house. That being said, one or two good inches of rain can totally fill my two 1,500 gallon tanks. It is amazing to see just how quickly they fill up from a good rainstorm. Even during the Texas drought last year, my two tanks were never empty.

My neighbor has seven 1000 gallon tanks and uses rain water exclusively for cooking, washing, drinking and all his water needs. He has yet to see his tanks empty. As long as it continues to rain and your storage tanks are relatively large (500 to 1000 gallons) you will be pleasantly surprised how much water you can collect and store. Again, you may have to start small as time and money allows, but as you add more tanks (and in my case more gutters) your capacity for storage will exceed your needs and may provide for others who are not as prepared as you.

Is it really safe?

Admittedly, we do not use rain water exclusively, but it does provide for all of our cooking and drinking water needs. Every day or so, my son retrieves five gallons from the tanks. The water is then poured into a Berkey Water filtration system (gravity filtered). Nothing tastes better. I assure you. My neighbor uses a UV light sterilization system that filters all incoming water to his house by passing by a UV light. From my research, the only possible contamination I am truly concerned with is bird droppings on my roof which could cause illness in untreated rainwater. If possible, and if you have more rain than storage ability, consider rotating your water before the big storm comes in. If not, you can also add appropriate amounts of bleach, iodine or water purification tablets right into your water storage tank.

Some have also asked me what kind of roof is safest for collecting rain water. Optimally, a metal roof is best, but my brother has the same rain water collection system I do (I helped him install it) with a standard shake roof. He uses a Berkey system as well. He contacted the roofing manufacturer and they said there was nothing unsafe in their roofing materials. Unless your roof is more than 15 years old, there shouldn’t be anything in the roofing material that would cause you harm. To be safe you can have your rain water tested, but in truth it’s probably much safer than what your local water company is brewing. In an emergency there would be no question about this.

Lessons Learned

Experience (daily use) has taught me some hard lessons with my rain water collection. First and foremost, glue all of your PVC pieces together. I was a bit on the lazy impatient side and thought, well there’s no water pressure on the feed pipes, so why not just hand fit everything? That was a bad idea. A few good winds knocked everything down, and all of my water leaked out of my pipes at the bottom. Also, consider placing a ball spigot between your tank and pipes at the bottom. This way if a pipe breaks you can turn off the water to your tank. Having two tanks in tandem allows you to fill them both up simultaneously, but it also allows them both to empty at the same time if a pipe breaks, or if one your children leaves the spigot open. Once they are both filled, I shut one tank off and use it as a back up.

Your PVC pipes are above ground, so they are subject to freezing if they are full of water. I shut both tanks off at the bottom with my ball spigots first and then let the remaining water out of the middle spigot. I wrap both ball spigots with old cloth diapers during the winter. Yes, it’s hot in Texas, but it can get cold too. As long as your pipes are empty, and the spigots at the bottom of your tank(s) are covered, they shouldn’t crack. However, nothing is fool proof. Keep extra PVC fittings on hand. I hate running into town (spending $10 on gas) for a two dollar fitting. In a true emergency, you will be the hardware store. I have extra elbows, couplers, (connects two pipes together) spigots and PVC pipe glue, not to mention extra lengths of pipe. Again, nothing is failsafe and nothing lasts forever.

Whatever you do, don’t install your rain water system, walk away from it and think it will be ready when you need it. It only takes a minute to visually inspect your system for cracks, loose fittings, clogged gutters or water puddles. If you have small children as I do, water play is a temptation and leaving spigots open is common. You’d be surprised just how fast water can drain out of a 1,500 gallon tank. Get in the habit of using your rainwater, so that it’s part of who you are now, not just when an emergency arises.
Five years after installing my rain water collection system, I couldn’t be happier. My wife no longer lugs in store bought drinking water, and I no longer pay for it. More importantly, if it does hit the fan, I see those full tanks outside my home and know I can irrigate my garden, put water in my toilets (I have a septic system), see to our bathing needs and most importantly ensure my family will drink and cook with water that is as pure as nature intended it to be. Hit the fan if it must. We are water prepared!

I know that you have had stuff on about rain harvesting over the years. I thought I would add my $0.02 worth. I live in a dry climate in the west. We’ve had many fires this summer so water is an issue here. We get rain in the summer, but it can be sporadic and voluminous when it does come. So, in order to even things out I wanted to be able to capture some of it for future use. I was trying to figure out how to do it inexpensively. I wanted to bury whatever I did for reasons of OPSEC and also because it freezes here and I want to be able to store water throughout the year. I looked at a lot of options but they were all pretty expensive. Then I came across a local company that sells used food grade liquid totes. These are the 275 gallon variety with the metal cage around them. I was able to check some of these out. Although the plastic is not so stout (they are meant to hold liquid in, not any external pressure) with the metal cage I thought they would do what I needed. I bought four of them so I would have a storage capacity of about 1,100 gallons. These totes are about a 4 foot cube. I used a mini excavator to dig the hole. I made it 16 feet long, 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. If I had it to do over again I would make the hole 6 feet wide to allow better access to connect the totes to each other. Once the hole was dug, I began to place the totes in it. I first placed two totes and connected them to each other with PVC pipe, leaving a stub for the next. Then I placed the following two, connecting them to the others as I placed them. Once I had all the connections made, I placed concrete backer board all around the outside of the totes up against the metal frame and backfilled. This way the force of the earth - when backfilled – would be against the concrete backer board and the metal frames, not against the plastic sides of the totes. I then covered the tops of the totes with ¾ inch pressure treated plywood backed with 2x4s to hold the 8 inch or so layer of dirt that I put on top of the totes. I cut holes in the top of the plywood to allow access to the top caps of the two outermost totes. One is to allow the drainage system from my gutters to fill the totes. I routed all my gutters into drain pipe that comes to the where the totes are buried. I also built a small filter box to filter off any debris that comes through the gutters and grain pipes and then the filtered water flows into the totes. Any debris that makes it through the filter should will settle out in the first or second tote and not make it to the last tote – the other one with a hole in the plywood for access. This hole is to allow access to the water.  I currently have a well pump in the last tote to pump water out for irrigation. This could also be used to access the water to fill buckets via a hand pump or a variety of other methods. So far it has worked fine for me. Anyone wanting to try this may want to check local water law in their area. It is not legal to harvest rain water in this way in many states.
These totes are not meant to hold side loads, but they are meant to hold vertical loads. They are designed to be stacked two high. A tote, when full, weighs well over 2,000 lbs. So, to have a layer of dirt on top is no problem as long as the plywood can support it, the tote can too. With the metal frame and the backer board on the sides they should be fine for side loads too. Even if they had no frame, as long as they have water in them they would never collapse from the weight of the surrounding dirt. With the metal frame and backer board they will be fine for those periods when they are closer to empty. I hope to never run them completely dry, but if it does happen for a time I don’t worry about them being crushed by earth pressure because of the surrounding support provided by their own frames and the backer board to distribute the load onto the frame.
In any case, they are full today and I am enjoying having a large volume of water stored for any future need. Best Regards, - Tim P.

JWR Replies: Your clever idea just earned you a BFO Award, with an Amazon.com gift card to go along with it. Congrats!

Friday, July 6, 2012

In March of 2012, I was shopping at Sam’s Club doing some food prepping when a tornado struck my rural northern Kentucky community. We were asked to go to the center of the store until further notice because a tornado had been spotted in the area. After 20 minutes of nervous waiting, we were able to continue shopping. On our trip home there were several roads closed due to mobile homes being in the road as well as a tractor trailer turned over on my main route home. Seeing the destruction so close to home I started to get this sickening feeling in my stomach but I was finally able to make it home after the third route attempted. After arriving home I quickly assessed the situation and I felt very fortunate to arrive home to a basically undamaged house other than some downspouts ripped off and all my newly built greenhouse panels missing. The tornado had missed my house by approximately a quarter mile taking out the electricity to every house in sight. The house I could see from my master bedroom window was now a basement with one wall only standing on top.

I had been prepping for the last year or so and was quite anxious to see how things would turn out in my first trial run of when the SHTF. I quickly pulled the propane powered portable generator out of the basement to the transfer switch on the side of the house. I had to strap the generator to a dolly in order to move it and that took time. I think I should have invested in a wheel kit. I realized it was getting dark quick and I needed to work fast because my lighting preps were less than ideal. (I have recently purchased headlamps). I was able to hook up the generator just before it turned pitch black out and fired it up with no issues. I had wired the transfer switch into some key breakers, namely a room or two on each floor for lighting, the main refrigerator and extra refrigerator in the basement, porch lights with motion detectors and outlets in the living room for the wood stove blower. After getting the generator all set up and finding flashlights, candles and trying to get things arranged to make life as easy as possible running on the generator with only half the house powered, I sat down to relax and thought, not too bad…not that much has changed…we have electric (well at least partially), city water, food and guns. I did pretty well at this prepping thing.

The next day consisted of cleaning up the fallen trees out of the driveway and gathering up everything that wasn’t secured all over the yard and out of the tree line. There was the main path that the wind carried the majority of stuff, but things were located 360 degrees from where they started. I was surprisingly able to locate all but three of the panels from the greenhouse. The basement doors were pushed in and jammed and needed much convincing to open but I was able to get them working again without too much effort. The following day, I went to help a neighbor/friend who had completely lost his house. We worked all day cleaning up fallen trees. There was quite a crew of volunteers and that was good to see. About two days passed with no major complaints from the wife and two young kids, and then the third day came. After three days without a shower for the wife and no bath for the kids, things were starting to unravel. My wife was very irritable and frustrated with living so primitively (in her mind anyway). This was a rude awakening for me. I thought things hadn’t really changed that much other than I had to take a very fast, cold shower and carry a flashlight around or candles in certain rooms. When my wife started crying and threatened to go stay in a hotel until the electricity came back on, I suddenly realized the importance of hot water in SHTF. At first I was frustrated with her and told her how fortunate we were and that things could be a lot worse. She wasn’t so convinced that all was as great as I had thought. I contemplated running electric to the existing hot water heater and started to regret buying my [inadequate] 4000 Watt peak 3500 Watt continuous, propane powered 110V generator.

I did some brainstorming and even considered heating the water on the wood stove, but then I remembered my Dad had offered me an 110 volt AC 6 gallon capacity water heater some time ago which I couldn’t think of a use for at that time. I went and picked up the heater and did a lot of complaining to the wife about how hard it was going to be to hook up because I would need to install it downstream of my existing water heater and install 3 valves so I could bypass it when the grid power came back on. With all the cleanup and repairs in order, I didn’t feel like the water heater was a priority. But after taking a closer look, I realized that the fittings on the inlet and outlet looked familiar. I checked them using a garden hose and it fit. So after some contemplation, I decided to place the heater on my washing machine, unhook the hoses from the washer and hook the cold water to the inlet on the heater and the hot water to the outlet. Please be careful and don’t place it directly on the lid of a top loader without some kind of additional support like a piece of plywood. Remember, 1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 lbs so just the water in this tank is 50 lbs. Add the weight of the tank and you will be approaching 100 lbs. I then turned off the valve to the inlet of the existing hot water heater in the basement. I wired in a plug to the romex cable connection of the water heater and ran an extension cord to the nearest outlet powered by the generator. I will wire the washer outlet to run off the generator in the future so it can be used for this purpose. I filled the heater with water by turning on the hot water at the closest faucet and both washer hookup valves. It is very critical to make sure the heater is completely full of water before turning it on. It will burn the element out almost instantaneously if there is air in the tank. The water heater tag says 1650 Watts and the generator bogged down somewhat when the water heater kicked on along with the refrigerator, but it worked just fine. Now six gallons isn’t a lot of hot water, but I cranked the water temperature all the way up and it was enough for a quick shower and hot water for dishes was no longer a problem.

The electricity was out for a week and I burned through several tanks of propane which reminded me that I needed to increase my supply of propane. Storage is not an issue for propane luckily, unlike gas which does not store very well, which is exactly why I chose this unit. I was able to hook a garden hose to the drain of the heater and run it outside once the electric came back on. I was very careful to drain all the water and leave the valve and pressure relief valve open to let it air dry to lessen the chance of corrosion and the rotten egg smell of stagnated water the next time I need it. I then hooked the hoses back up to the washer and it was ready to go again.

The lessons learned were very valuable and it was an under pressure moment where I was able to brainstorm and come up with an easy way to have hot water. I didn’t realize the importance of hot water in an SHTF scenario. This is not a convenience item especially where women and children are involved (at least not for my family anyway). Sanity quickly disappeared with the lack of hot water for a basic shower. Now I know others may think she is spoiled and things will be much worse when the real SHTF. I agree that they could get much worse than the way my situation unfolded, but my philosophy is to take care of everything I can possibly take care of to keep life as normal as possible. When it really hits us hard, the more we can do to maintain our current lifestyles, as luxurious as they may seem in the future, the easier it will be to maintain sanity. I have to imagine how great a hot shower will feel after cutting wood all day to heat the house in the winter when it’s no longer optional to burn the wood stove, but a necessity. This method is sure going to be a lot easier than heating pots of water on the wood stove, not to mention less dangerous.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yes, we all know that an end of world event could happen at any time.  However I look at things statistically and realistically.  I think I have a greater chance of getting into a car accident than getting hit with an asteroid or meteor.  So I first focus on my little corner of the world.  Even if there is a catastrophic event you still need to get to your "go" bag and/or vehicle with your G.O.O.D. bag and perhaps onward to your home or retreat depending on each situation.  So what do you need for day to day survival?  Because the world can come crashing around you and you alone.  It may just be your end of the world event like an accident or illness.  It may not be you but a close family member or dear friend.  It may be a local isolated event like a flood or power outage or a fire – who knows?  As a former boy scout, “always be prepared”.  

While surfing the net, I have come across some sites talk about a list of 20 or 25 things you should always have with you – some ideas were good and some not so good and some not even considered.   So I decided to come up with my own list.  I generally have most of this with me at any given time – it drives my wife nuts.  She always asks why I have so much schumer in my pants pockets and on my keys.  As a city resident it this may be slightly urban oriented.  So here is my version of 25 or so things that you should always try to have with you and my thoughts comments and explanations on each with some additional helpful hints I have adopted over my years:

  • $100+ in cash plus small bills, $3 in quarters & a few new dollar coins.

$100 is the bare minimum, I try to keep $250 to $500 with me at all times.  This is obvious – we are still in America where cash is king.  You can buy your way out of a lot of situations.  Even a fender bender, “Hey here’s two hundred bucks, let’s forget about the insurance paperwork!”  No cops, no insurance and no wasted time.  Remember, when the lights go out so do the credit card machines.  You can spread it around so if you get robbed they don’t get it all.  If you are really worried about a sudden economic collapse you can even keep a 1/10th-ounce or 1/4th-ounce gold coin or more in your wallet.   And even though nobody likes or wants those new dollar coins, a lot of vending machines now take them and you can reduce the quarters you are carrying.  Prices are going up for everything including water, soda, snacks and parking, all available via coin operated equipment.  Hey, did someone say inflation?

  • Credit/debit card with at least $1,000 available on it and a telephone calling card.

You can only carry so much cash safely, so have a credit/debit card with at least a thousand bucks available to buy your way out of stickier situations.  Here in New York City on 9/11 cell phones went out of service so you may need to use one of the few remaining pay phones, so have a $5, $10 or $25 calling card in your wallet and make sure it is up to date.

  • Pocketknife / multi-tool.

This goes without saying – the Leatherman I carry has a bunch of tools – I can fix nearly anything with it.  I will not get into a debate on which is the correct model.  I prefer the Leatherman Flair because it has a corkscrew.  That has saved me on many an occasion

  • Cell phone with camera – keep it charged!

For many of us now our phone is multi-functional tool.  For others it is their entire world.  It is our contact list with phone numbers and addresses, appointment calendar, memo pad, our watch, camera, video recorder, voice recorder, GPS, Internet/e-mail access, MP3 player, radio, alarm and even a phone.  If we lose it or the batteries die, it may really seem like TEOTWAWKI.  Charge your cell phone each night!  Again, you don’t know when it will be your emergency.  As I have said TEOTWAWKI may just be your world and the rest of us will be continuing normally.  When you need it most to communicate your cell phone should be charged!  Keep a charger in each car, and use it!  And when you’re bored at the dentist’s or doctor’s office or wherever just killing time, the same magazines you’ve read before are still there, so you surf or play a game on your phone.  When the battery gets down to 50%, stop and put it away.  It is just like keeping your car’s gas tank filled.  You don’t know when you may really need it.

  • Laminated list of phone numbers of people you can count on in a real emergency.  Don’t use an ink jet printer – when it gets wet your numbers may be unreadable when you need them most.  List both cellular and hard line numbers on the card! – Cell phones might not work in a crisis, or your phone is lost or dead.  For some strange reason some federal agents I know, are required to have a hard copper phone line in their home, I do the same.  And back to 9/11 when cell phones didn’t work.  My point about having a calling card – these two go hand in hand.  Have an out of town contact for you and your immediate circle to communicate on.  You can also use an answering machine at your retreat to leave and retrieve messages in a crisis via a touchtone phone.  Keep the answering machine commands and access number hint on the phone list. 
  • Small flashlight - long life LED type also an LED key fob.

Again my wife tells me I have too many keys and key fob gadgets.  You always have your keys – right?  So keeping some critical essentials on it is a good idea.  One of these is the little LED keychain lights – they are cheap and disposable. As often stated “one is none” so the key fob light is a backup to a quality flashlight.  My personal favorite primary light is the SureFire E2D LED Defender. It is expensive but well worth it.  I have had this light for three years now without fail.   Its small size fits well in your pocket with all that other stuff.  The Surefire has two power settings, to save battery life.  The high setting can temporarily blind someone at night.  There are times when this could be your only means of defense and it has the ability to shed light onto another sticky situation and additionally impale the skull of an attacker.  The downsides are the initial cost and that it needs CR-123A batteries.

  • Lighter and matches

I don’t think I have to go into detail on the many reasons to have these.  And I additionally keep a flint & steel on my key ring.  (“two is one and one is none”)

  • Tactical Pen, pencil and paper

I love my tactical pen.  I have never had issue on any flight or security check with this pen.  Again it could be a last line of defense in addition to a quality writing instrument.  Again “one is none” and a pencil never fails.  A few pieces of paper for quick notes, thoughts etc…
There is something to be said for low-tech.  The US government spent a ton of money on designing and inventing the “space pen” so they could write in outer-space, and the Russians used a pencil.  Let us be reminded to learn, keep and pass on old world common sense, simplicity and skills.  Low tech is sometimes the best.

  • Band-Aids and a few butterflies bandages (keep in wallet) these are always handy for minor cuts, scrapes and scratches.  I even keep a few character Band-Aids for the kids.  It is amazing how quickly a tragedy can be turned around with the distraction of a picture on the Band-Aid.  
  • Aspirin and Necessary medications - Aspirin is good to chew and swallow if you think you are having a heart attack.  I always have a few packets in my pocket for that pounding headache, sore muscles or heart attack.
  • Firearm and ammo, where legal - Know and Follow Federal, State and Local Laws!

This again is obvious – this is a topic unto itself.  I will say take a good class and practice, practice, practice!  Learn the color code of awareness, and learn to avoid confrontations so you don’t end up like George Zimmerman.  

  • Wet Wipes and/or antiseptic wipes – I always tuck a few in my pocket from restaurant leftovers when I order ribs.  They are great for cleaning hands and wounds - but the alcohol stings. Freshening up your hands, neck and face in a tough situation can bring a minor sense of comfort that can help you collect your thoughts and find the strength to carry on.  Sometimes it is the little things in life.  A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer is also not a bad idea. [And most hand sanitizer gels also double as fire starters.]
  • Sunglasses and reading glasses (if needed)

Again this is self-explanatory.

  • Whistle / compass combo keychain fob (small)

Again my love of key fobs. We all know the importance of signaling for help and knowing where we are going.

  • USB drive (encrypted, [such as Ironkey]) again it can be on your key fob.

Tons of information can be kept here securely, depending on the encryption you use.
Additionally I keep an unencrypted text file on it with contact info for the honest individual to return it to me should I lose it.

  • Spare house key kept in wallet – this is what you need as a backup when you lose your keys and all the goodies you now have on your key ring.  So it is a good idea to keep at least one of those grocery or pharmacy customer appreciation barcode tags on your key ring in the hopes of getting them back from another honest individual.  
  • Rubber bands – keep a few on your wrist.  This is another thing that drives my wife nuts.  But how often I use them to fix, bind or secure things for her.  A Para-cord bracelet is not a bad idea for the other wrist since we don’t need watches anymore because most people have cell phones.
  • Safety pins - again it can be on your key fob. There are tons of emergency uses for these. Including quickly fixing your clothes and perhaps preventing a wardrobe malfunction ;-) 
  • ID (Passport if outside country) again in your wallet.  This is self-explanatory.  (The only thing in this country you don't need ID for is to vote - go figure.)
  • Floss (Glide in a tiny, flat dispenser). Did you ever have something between your teeth driving you nuts?  It can also be used as string to fix, repair, and secure things.  A tiny sewing kit from the hotel is also not a bad idea. 
  • Food (candy and/or energy bar) a few mints, hard candies, chocolate, or a granola bar. This can help take the edge off a physically and mentally challenging situation. 
  • Bandana – a hundred and one uses.  Trauma bandage, tourniquet, A wind/dust mask, Soaked in water to use as a neckband to keep cool, Pre-filter water, Headband, For magic tricks, Blow a nose, Clean glasses, As a sling (with the safety pins), Wrap a sprained ankle or wrist, To secure a splint on a broken arm or leg, Wrap around snow or ice for an ice pack or to wipe a tear.  And the list goes on.  You can use it in a restroom as a washcloth and towel to freshen up – perhaps making you feel better in a difficult situation.  Again, sometimes all it takes is a few moments of simple comfort to feel human again and provide the strength to go on and forge ahead.
  • Medical info (allergies, med history, med list, doctor's name and number, etc…)

This again is self-explanatory.

  • A bottle of water – water is life!  Don’t discard the bottle – you can always refill it from a faucet, water fountain or water cooler.  I prefer this over the concept of a condom in your sock as a water carrier.  Although there is nothing wrong about having a few condoms along – just make sure it is not expired, dry rotted of damaged from being in your wallet forever, regardless of what you are using it for. 
  • Recent family photos for ID purposes.  God forbid your family member is lost, separated from you or just missing.  A recent picture in your wallet could speak volumes.  Whenever my family and I go on a trip, before we leave the house, I take a picture of the wife and kids with my phone.  So when you are panicking because they are missing, you may not remember what color shirt, pants and jacket they were wearing.  Additionally with the technology today you can text that picture to law enforcement in an instant. 

This list can go on and on.  Some may say I have missed items, they may feel the list should be 30, 40, or even 50.  Please make your own list with the adjustments you feel are appropriate.  And it will most likely be adjusted each day, sometimes more than once a day.  I am not getting a man-bag, or an everyday carry bag, I’d end up losing it – so I keep the stuff in my pockets.  I guess it’s a guy thing.  This may be the beginning of a justification for an everyday carry bag . But, like I say that can be left and/or lost especially in a panic, or stressful situation.  What about clothes?  Unless you’re living in your swim trunks you got pants with pockets, cargos have even more pockets, and most ladies have a purse with this and more.  Weather appropriate clothes is obvious including hat and rain gear.  The better we are prepared in the short term the better we can get ahead on the long term.  Being prepared should bring about a certain sense of calm and comfort.  If we prepare for life’s little hiccups,  daily problems, major events and total catastrophes we will know in our hearts that we did what we could, and try not to agonize over the should of, could of, would of, and leave the rest in the Good Lord’s Hands. 

For some, this may be the start of more serious prepping.  But it is a mindset that comes over years, it is a part of situational awareness and flexibility.  Be resourceful with what you have at your disposal to fix a situation.  When you fix a kid's toy with a rubber band or help you wife’s wardrobe issue with the safety pin, or comfort someone’s grief by offering your clean bandana it will help you build your confidence for perhaps more troubling times ahead.  I hope this is found to be informative and helpful, and perhaps inspires and starts some on the road to preparedness.  The more people that are prepared the better it will be for all!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The past several months, I have been buried in products to test and evaluate for SurvivalBlog readers. While this is a good thing, it's also a "bad" thing - some products take quite a bit of time to test. My time is limited each day, and I do my best to give all the products a fair and honest evaluation for SurvivalBlog readers. And what you read in my articles, are findings based on my testing and my final opinion of the products. No one pays me to feature their products in my SurvivalBlog articles. I know a lot of folks believe that gun and knife companies pay magazine writers to write about their products, and that simply isn't true, at least in my case. I've been writing magazine articles for 20 years, and I've never once had any company offer to pay me to write favorable things about their products, and I don't know of any other reputable writer who has been offered money to write favorable things about anyone's products.

Chad, who runs the Internet Prepper web store contacted me about a month or so ago, and wanted to send me one of his Ceramic Drip Water Filter System, made by the Just Water Company. Chad e-mailed and asked: "Pat, I'd really appreciate an honest review of the filter system..." That's refreshing to hear from someone. I've had a few companies contact me, and asked me if I would give their products a favorable review and asked what I was going to say about their products - before they even sent me their products. I make no promises to anyone, other than I'll give their products a fair shake and write an article. I've also been asked if I can guarantee them that the article will appear on SurvivalBlog. I refer them to Jim Rawles, he is the editor of Survival Blog for that answer. (Be advised that the editorial calendar is packed, so there are often delays.)

Chad told me that he is a USAF veteran, and he picks and packs each filter order personally. They ship from Dallas, Texas, usually the next business day via Priority Mail. True to his word, my sample filter arrived in short order, via Priority Mail.

Some water filtration systems can cost hundreds of dollars. Some are as little as $15 - but they don't all filter well, and they don't filter a large volume of water, either. There are many products on the market these days, and you are only limited by your imagination and funds, when it comes to water filtration systems. Like most folks, my funds are limited, and I carefully shop around for the best products for my budget.

The Just Water Company had their Ceramic Filter Drip System tested by Johns Hopkins University and a number of other independent labs, and they all concluded that it exceeds FDA and NSF standards for filtering water. Cooper was kind enough to send me a copy of some of these reports along with the sample filtration system. Keep in mind that this filtration system does not remove viruses - so if you are concerned about this in your water, it's best to add a bit of chlorine to the water. However, most water filtration needs are easily met by this system, including the removal of Giardia and Cryptosporidium - two of the really nasty bugs in water, that can kill you.

Johns Hopkins noted in their letter that the treated water should be protected from recontamination in a safe storage vessel - which is part of this filtration system.

Okay, what I received from Chad was the filtration system, which consists of the silver-impregnated ceramic water filter, with a "sock" pre-filter that goes over the filter for keeping out larger particles that could clog the ceramic filter. The system also comes with a spigot and other neat things for getting this filtration system up and running. What this system does not come with are two standard 5-gallon plastic buckets. Those you must purchase yourself. No big deal here, the local big box store had food grade buckets for under $10 each. You will also need a drill and a couple drill bits in order to make the two buckets into a complete filtration system. It doesn't take any special handyman skills to drill a couple holes in the buckets to connect the upper bucket to the lower, and install the spigot. You'll also need a rubber band or two. I won't go into the details of how to get this system up and running. You can read it on their web site - but it only took about 10-minutes of time to get it all up and running . It was a piece of cake!

The biggest concern you have to be aware of it that, you make sure there are no leaks between the two buckets - or the water will get re-contaminated - as pointed out by Johns Hopkins. And, if you've installed everything correctly, there won't be any problems.

Okay, I'm the first to admit, that I'm not the most patient person in the world - far from it. In the instructions that came with the filtration system, it talks about the flow rate you can expect from this simple system, which is about 3/4 to 1 gallon per hour. The flow rate increases as the ceramic shell and mixed media inside the ceramic shell become saturated with water - this can take a couple of days for the flow rate to really get going. So, don't try to rush it - there's nothing you can do to make the filtration system flow faster to start with - a couple days is what it took in my case - just as advertised.

With daily use, you can expect a year's worth of filtered water with this system. When the flow rate decreases, this indicates that the "sock" and the filter might need to be cleaned. All that is needed is a pair of rubber gloves to remove the sock and rinse it in clean water, and a green Scotch-Brite pad to gently rub the surface of the ceramic filter. Rinse with clean (filtered) water and you're good to go for another year - or whenever you see the flow rate decreasing. You should be good for another year or so, depending on the turbidity of your water source.

The two 5-gallon buckets that you stack on top of one another takes up considerable counter space,. However, anyone can find a suitable place for this simply filtration system in their home. And, if the filter is only going to be used in a SHTF scenario, then who cares if it takes-up some counter space? Clean water is vital to your survival.

My water well has a large filter between the well and my house, and I have to have the media replaced every couple of years. We have what is commonly called "rust bacteria" in our water - and it comes out of the well brownish and it doesn't taste very good at times. Still, even with the big filter installed, we used a water filtration pitcher for our drinking water that removes the taste from this rust bacteria. So, I had a little something to compare thise Ceramic Filter Drip System to. I ran this system for couple weeks, and found that our drinking water actually did taste much better, that the water from the filtered water pitcher.

And, as mentioned above, if I were concerned about viruses in my drinking water, I'd add the appropriate amount of plain hypochlorite bleach to the water before drinking it. That is no big deal in my book.

You can get all the information you need about the nasty stuff that this filtration system removes from the water you run through it from the web site. The one important thing to remember is to never use any kind of soap when cleaning the filter, pre-filter sock and buckets, as it will ruin the filter.

I like to save the good news for last, and in this case, the selling price for this water filtration system is only $29.97 - and no matter how you look at it, that's one of the best bargains around. Why would you spend hundreds of dollars or more, each year, for that bottled water, that isn't nearly as clean as most people think it is? Personally, I think you are throwing your hard-earned money away when you purchase bottled water - and a lot of this is water from the same tap water you already drink - it's just placed in a plastic bottle - and you'll spend a buck apiece for this water - that you can already get out of your own tap. If you feel the need to drink bottled water, then buy a couple of bottles, and after you've emptied them, fill 'em up with filtered water from this filtration system. You'll find the water taste better than what you spent a buck for at the big box store. Just think of the savings on not buying bottled water alone. And, think of how much you're going to appreciate this filtration system when the SHTF and your only source of water might be a puddle of dirty rain water in your back yard?

The bottom line is the quality of the filtered water that comes out of this simple and inexpensive system. I don't care how stretched your finances are, you can pull together $29.97 plus shipping for this system and another $20 or less for a couple 5-gallon food grade plastic buckets, to assure your family of clean drinking water for a year or two. It's a great investment, especially for those on a tight budget, as many are today.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Prepping is full of assumptions.  We prepare because we assume that something could go wrong in our lives and that it is our own responsibility to take steps to assure that we come out smelling like roses.  Others don't prepare because they assume that nothing could go wrong in their lives and that someone else will take care of them.  We buy long term storage food because we assume that there will be a food shortage in the future.  Others barely have enough food in the pantry because they assume the pizza place will always be able to deliver and that they can send someone to the grocery store on the corner to pick up the smallest bag of sugar because they only need 1 cup to finish the recipe.  We stock up on spare parts, spare clothes, spare batteries, spare medicine, extra ammo, extra deodorant, extra cash, cans of fuel, etc, etc, because we assume there will come a day when we wont be able to just run down to the massive store that sells everything and get it all in one stop.  Others would have a very clean garage without the smell of gasoline, beautiful pantry cabinets so organized that everyone that comes over is so jealous as to how organized and clean their house is, because they assume that they can always run to the store no matter what time of day it is and get whatever is their immediate need. 

Assumption is one of the biggest banes for anyone that is concerned about safety.  I worked as a technician in the oilfield for one of the largest technology companies that is present on land based drilling rigs.  If there is a safety-conscious industry, it is the oil field.  Every company working in the oil field is required by law to do mountains of paperwork, proving that the company is safe.  There is so much emphasis on slowing down, being aware and not assuming anything.  Double check everything.  Don't assume that there is not anyone behind your work truck,  have someone check and watch for you as you back up, or never park in a spot where you have to back up.  Don't assume that the guy driving the heavy equipment sees you walking across the drilling location,  always take the extra time to verify your presence with everyone.  Working on the cattle ranch that my father and I run,  I also find that assumptions can get you killed.  It is a lot of fun working with my father.  We think very similarly.  This means that we work together very efficiently.  This also means that we assume to always know what, where, when and how the other is going to act.  These assumptions have almost left me ran over, squashed, banged, or hurt some other way on multiple occasions.  The same goes for him.  There have been times where my assumptions have almost gotten my father hurt.  We have discussed the situations and have made ourselves slow down and take our time.  The most important thing is for us to make it home at night.    We as preppers pride ourselves on our long trains of thought which are supposed to end in discovering every possible scenario and how to overcome them.  There are many times where we still make assumptions that could leave us in a whole lot of hurt.  The most present assumptions that I am finding around me has to do with electric generators.   

It was about five years ago that my part of the county had another “Ice Storm” scare.  Everyone that had lived thru the original “Ice Storm” back in the early part of the millennium knew what could be in store.  Generators flew off the shelves.  My parents went and purchased a brand new gasoline generator.  My in-laws did as well.  Last summer I helped my mother in-law clean out her garage.  There, still in the box was the generator.  I asked her if she had ever ran the generator.  Her reply was simple,  “No.  We've never needed it.”  I then asked “How do you know it will work?”  Another simple reply,  “Why wouldn't it.  It's brand new in the box.”  I made her help me get it out of the box and I tried to start the generator.  Do I need to tell you the result?  After a couple of hours exhausting my small engine starting tricks, the generator produced no more electricity than a rock would.  She insisted that we take it back to the store and get it replaced.  “Ma’am, we have a 30 day return policy.”  We called the company.  “Ma’am, the warranty has expired.”  The next step was to take it to a small engine repair shop, but we ran out of time that day.  Guess where the generator is.  In it's box, back in the garage and it has never made it to the repair shop.    My parents have a similar generator sitting in the garage.  There is a major difference between the generators.  My in-laws have opened their box.  My parent's have not even broken the tape on the box to make sure all the parts are there.  I have tried to explain to them that their warranty expired without even the box being opened to make sure that the box actually contains a generator and not a couple of sand bags.   

This spring I purchased a tri-fuel generator with a well known engine and a well known power house.  I was very excited for the day it would arrive.  That night I went to fire it up.  It needed engine oil.  I didn't have any.  I just assumed that it would come with some.  It was not till the next day that I was able to get some and fire the generator up using gasoline.  That was back in February.  It was just during this last week that I was able to find and purchase all the “not included” parts to be able to run the engine off of propane.  It was a good thing I didn't need to run it using propane prior to this last week.  The next step is to get what is needed to connect the generator to the natural gas line that runs to the house.  Both my in-laws as well as my parents are always curious why I spend so much time working on the generator.  There is no need for it during the summer.  My answer is always, “I don't want to have to worry about it when I do need it.” 

Walking down this long road of assumptions brings me to another recent event in my prepper world. I have a lot of new work boots in boxes.  The company that I used to work for would buy us new work boots every six months regardless of the condition of our present boots.  I take good care of my boots and they normally last me a long time.  Needless to say I was able to stock pile my work boots.  As a prepper, this is a great situation to be in.  I just recently had to get the pair that I have been wearing for over a year, resoled.  So, while they were at the cobbler, I got out a new pair of boots.  I had not even worn this new pair of boots for a full week when the sole on both boots just peeled off.  So much for assuming that a new pair of boots ought to act like a new pair of boots.  I have now worn all of my boots for at least a week to ensure they meet my expectations.  Now I am sure that my boots will function when they are needed.  Just as my boots could not meet expectations out of the box, it is imperative to wear and use your bug out bag and the equipment in your bag.  The very next day after my first outing with my new BOB, I ordered all new buckles for the lap belt.  The ones that the bag came with would just loosen on their own.  If I had not tested the bag I would have never known.  Making the 200 mile trek to my retreat with bad buckles would have been more eventful then it should been.    

As preppers, we purchase a lot of equipment.  Most of this equipment will not be used to any great extent until a crisis arises.  Do not assume that your equipment will work as advertised.  Test it.  Use it.  It is during these times of use that the warranty is important.  A warranty is there to protect you from a manufacturing fault and to ensure that everything works as advertised.  My final scenario has to do with an emergency water pump that my father and I decided to build this spring.  We had to replace the actual down hole pump that ran his sprinkler system.  While we were waiting on the pump to come in, we decided to build a hand powered water pump using ¾ inch PVC and a check valve. The design was simple.  The parts were easy to work with.  The PVC cement did not want to function as cement should.  We primed and glued.  The joints would just not hold.  We even let it set over night.  The joints would just come apart.  It took an entire week of working in the evenings after work and a new bottle of cement to finally get water to come out the top of the pipe.  It sure was a good thing we did not assume that PVC cement would work when we needed it the most.  Remember that assumptions are just that, assumptions. 

A crisis is only a crisis if a tried and true solution is not available.  Work with your gear and become familiar with every aspect of your gear.  It is only thru testing and training that your assumptions will be eliminated.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

E.E.'s primary problem was not the insurance. It's the design flaw and negligence that allows the small glitch to evolve to the full-scale catastrophe.

Every trouble that can occur occurs. Every trouble that cannot occur occurs too.

Firstly, the furnaces may fail - it's quite normal. I have no idea about their model but I believe they should have and so have some security automation that stopped them due to some problem (electricity?), or the fuel supply failed. The first task to design should be "The stopped furnaces should not self-destruct". How should it be done? I see at least 2 ways: either use the glycol or find some automatic valves that dump the system in emergency to the safe place.

Then, you have two furnaces. They do not heat the same area. Instead one of them heats basement and the other one heats the second floor. There is no chance that the operating furnace can heat the failed one and prevent it's destruction.

I believe that both furnaces have a common fuel and electricity supply (a redundant propane tank and proper UPS is too costly.) Any supply problem stops them both.

Then, I think, the house has the grid power (see below). If so, the emergency electric heaters should keep the temperature at least in critical areas at least above zero.

Then let us imagine that the worst occurred. Both furnaces failed, and pipes burst. Some hundred liters of water flew to your basement. Not a big trouble. But
Water exploded out of the second floor bathroom at an alarming rate, for most of a week.

It means that either you have either a communal water supply or local electric water pump. Since the grid power is simpler to obtain I believe that you have electricity. So either your water pump has not been duly stopped before departure or your intake valve in your basement has not been duly closed (And possibly not duly heated and having no way to dump water when the valve fails). It's not your design flaw. It's negligence. You believed that your furnaces are reliable and you need not close the water supply. They weren't.

And the last. Both the automatic valves that feel leaks and insulate them and the GSM controllers that can inform owners about troubles exist and can be bought and installed. But they are your last line of defense against the trouble that should not happen. - Thor A.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I never realized how dark and eerie our house could be.  Even at night, there were usually two or three nightlights casting their brave glow to prevent midnight mishaps. But on this evening, there was no electricity to power this smallest of luxuries.  Another thing I noticed as I kept vigil over my sleeping loved ones by emergency candle light was the extreme, echoing silence.  There was no fan humming in my son’s room. There was no whir of the compressor cycling on and off in the refrigerator.  There was no air blowing through the central air unit of our home.  Instead there was lingering, creeping silence that accompanied the knowledge that it would be a long time before normal service was restored.

This may sound like the beginning of an apocalyptic horror movie, but in truth, this is what happened in my town after the Super Outbreak of tornadoes on April 27, 2011.  We experienced our own localized TEOTWAWKI when an EF4 tornado ripped through the center of town on its 38 mile long trek of devastation.  The world as we knew it was about to shift dramatically.

The day started off with tornadoes ripping up the town just south of us in the pre-dawn hours.  Everyone was tense as the Weather Channel meteorologists were forecasting a TorCon index of 9/10; the highest numbers they had ever seen.  Yet, we all felt comforted by the fact that storms seem to veer off before hitting our town.  We have weathered many near misses and become a bit complacent.  At 3:00 PM, me, my 15 year old son, my 72 year old Mom and Dad, and my 92 year old grandmother sought refuge in a back basement bedroom of my downstairs apartment as the tornado sirens blared.  The camera located on the tallest building in the center of town provided an excellent view to the local News Channels of the half mile wide tornado as it barreled straight towards us. 

Like most people who are confident that disasters only happen to others, we stood on the driveway after the power went out.  It wasn’t until we realized we were looking up into the center of a side funnel and we could hear the tortured wailing of the winds in the main tornado that we ran like frightened rabbits to the back basement bedroom.  We were lucky that the true devastation started a block away from our house. After the tornado sirens stopped, the police, fire-engine and ambulance sirens began to scream only a few blocks over.  Within the city limits, 910 homes and 98 businesses were damaged.  

As we huddled in the dark, listening to more storms rumble by, we expected things to return to normal within an hour or two.  What no one knew at the time was that the Super Outbreak had destroyed almost all the large high voltage transmission towers that brought electricity into our substation from the north.  We were without grid electricity for six days and without cable television and Internet service for 12 days.  Gasoline was scarce for three days.  Land line phones were inoperable for 21 days.  Cell phone service was sketchy for nearly a month.  Also, schools were closed for 12 days.  Our cushy world as we knew it had suddenly ground to a halt. 

Let me start by stating that I’m not your average “survivalist.”  In fact, I don’t personally own a stitch of camouflaged clothing.  I’m a middle-aged, overweight, desk-driving, city dwelling, mother of one.  I don’t like camping and my idea of roughing it is to pitch a tent on the drive-way so I can come into the house whenever I need something.  I hate baiting hooks for fishing, and the only things I like to shoot are aluminum cans. 

I never made a conscious effort to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.  Sure, the thought that some cataclysmic event could disrupt our cushy every-day lives has always lurked in the back of my mind, but I never acted on it in a big way.  Despite the fact that we did not have an organized response to a disaster, we survived quite well due to several things we had set into motion over the past few decades. 

Our location was selected for a number of factors.  We chose to live in town, to be close to hospitals and utilities.  Our electricity is never out for very long, due to the numerous grids that can be used to reroute power around problems.  We also chose a home with a basement, which is crucial when living in tornado alley. 

The first necessity for survival was food.  My mother and I have always kept an emergency supply of non-perishable food in the basement. She began this practice in the 1970s, during the Cold War.  As children, we thought it was normal to have extra food in the basement.  Of course, raiding the stash to snack on the powered Jello didn’t help her, but we sure enjoyed it.  She stopped for many years, but then started stockpiling peanut butter and jelly again in 1999.  It started out as “Y2K supplies.”  When that didn’t result in grid disruption, those supplies were renamed as “tornado supplies.”  In the winter, we jokingly renamed them “ice storm supplies.”  This wasn’t some organized, labeled food storage.   We just stuck extras of what we normally used in some boxes in the basement.  To prepare food we used the propane barbecue grill and the side burner while we were without electricity.

The second necessity we had prepared in advance was electricity.  Since weathering Hurricane Fran and ice storms in North Carolina in the 1990s, we have never been without a generator.  Years ago, we had an electrician wire a separate breaker box into the house so we could power most of the house, most of the kitchen appliances, and the HVAC unit by plugging in the generator.  Also, I have had a inverter box in my van for road trips for years which allow us to plug in regular appliances to an outlet that is run off car battery when the engine is idling. We used this to recharge our phones, laptops and fluorescent lanterns.

The third necessity we required was information.  Our first line of access was a wind-up radio.  My Dad’s reason for buying this was not disaster related.  He simply got tired of replacing the batteries in his radio that he listened to daily.  With this, we could get information on more storms coming through, as well as the condition of our town, and the availability of limited resources, like gasoline.  We also had cell phones that could generate a Wi-Fi hot spot.  Although we couldn’t use them to make calls, our phones allowed us to reach out and connect with the outside world through the Internet.  Facebook was a Godsend since people were creating pages for the City where vital information was shared.

One resource we did not expect to be scarce was gasoline.  Apparently, very few gas station owners were prepared for an extended period of time with no electricity.  On the first day after the tornado hit, there were only two gas stations that had the foresight to purchase generators for such an emergency.  The lines of cars queued up there were staggering. 

We were lucky, in that we had five full gas cans for the lawnmower.  After a failed attempt at purchasing more gas, we rationed the generator by running it only three times a day to keep the freezer cold and several hours at night.  Next we started siphoning gas out of our vehicles.  We started with the least necessary vehicle. We reasoned that the last to go should be my mini-van, since it can hold the most people, and got the best gas mileage, in the event we decided to evacuate.  So, with this plan, we were set to weather several days without gasoline.

One resource we didn’t have to worry about during this localized TEOTWAWKI was water and waste.  Our water treatment plant was not damaged, and the service was not interrupted thanks to back up generators.  Though since that day, we have had the opportunity to suffer the loss of these luxuries due to non-disaster plumbing disorders.  We have become quite efficient at what I call a Japanese shower, where you wet and soap your body with a washcloth, then only turn on the shower to rinse off.  We did not drain the tub, and used that water for flushing the toilet.  Waste management is something we do not have a solution for yet. 

Our safety was not an issue as we were fortunate to not suffer any criminal activity as a result of this TEOTWAWKI.  At the time, our only defense was a very old, pistol and a shotgun with one box of ammunition.  Luckily, there was no breakdown in civility in our little town as might be expected in an extreme disaster.   

I am proud how our town of 18,000 responded to this disaster.  Several churches set up cook centers for food that was about to spoil, and to provide meals to senior citizens, government employees and workers.  Charging stations were set up at local shelters to charge phones and battery powered tools.  Volunteers and sports teams from the high school mobilized to help clear debris and cut fallen trees.  Government offices were open to help citizens get permits to be able to drive through downtown.  Police and National Guard were mobilized to help with directing traffic and prevent looting.  Tide mobile laundry service came to town to provide clothes washing facilities.  Trucks loaded with bottled/canned water drove through the affected areas handing out water to whoever wanted it.  It was a wonderful affirmation of all that is good in human nature.  

The End of the World as we know it doesn’t have to be an event that impacts the entire world.  Sure, there will always be the looming threat of global catastrophe, but it’s the “as we know it” part that we experienced in our localized disaster.  You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  Our outlook on the world changed that month.  People no longer scoff at tornado warnings.  Storms are watched more closely.  Schools close more readily when severe weather threatens.  More families are prepared because they purchased some of the items they needed to survive that month.  Cities are purchasing and installing community storm shelters. 

My family no longer teases us about our TEOTWAWKI supplies.  They simply nod and feel more secure knowing that we are taking steps for the next event. I doubt I will ever have a fully stocked “retreat” outside of town, but are doing what we can.  We are taking baby steps that will add up to a solid plan for coping with a disaster.  If this middle-aged, overweight, desk-driving, city dwelling, mother of one can be prepared, then so can you. 

What we had before the Super Outbreak of 2011:
-Second breaker box for generator to run essentials
-Coleman lantern and Emergency long-life hurricane/tornado candles and hurricane lamps and oil.
-Night lights that become flashlights when the power goes off.
-Non-perishable food and paper items in storage.
-Propane grill with a side burner eye and an extra tank
-Power converter for van – used to charge cell phones and laptops.
-Internet access via cell phones
-Internet hotspot via smart phone.
-Blue ice blocks to keep in the freezer or use for emergency coolers.
-Several tanks of gas for the mower/generator.
-Filled up the tubs with water and filled 10 gallon jugs with filtered water.
-Important papers and prescriptions in satchel. 
-Folding chairs for safe room.

Additional steps taken after tasting TEOTWAWKI:
Researched solar powered water heaters, solar and wind resources for electricity. 
We have purchased a solar charger and plug adapter for small appliances.
We have purchased a camping solar hot water shower bag for emergencies.
Researched pedal powered generators.
Researched storable food stuffs.
We have tried several freeze-dried meals from a camping supply store.
Researched water collection systems.
Designated ICOE ("In Case of Emergency") contact person.
Came up with our own list of supplies in the event of TEOTWAWKI
Inventoried our battery powered tools.
Researched tents and sleeping bags.
Researched reusable defensive weapons that do not require gun powder or gunsmithing.
Practiced fire starting with flint.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

To anyone who swatches the news or opens up an internet browser from time to time, it’s exceedingly clear that the world is becoming an extremely dangerous place.  From the abstract threats such as global economic collapse or pandemic to the more concrete ideas of natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks and the like, it’s obvious that preparedness isn’t just something to think about occasionally, it’s an absolute necessity.  Yet, with our feet firmly planted in the middle class, my wife and I don’t exactly have the money to go out and build the fortified bunker of our dreams for the day when, inevitably, life as we know it here in America may take a turn for the worse.  We’ve had to adapt our game plan to match both our materials and our means.  And let me tell you, preparing for disaster smack dab in the middle of the suburban wasteland is a completely different ball game.

So, to start off, I think we should have a little history about me and my situation.  I grew up in the mountains of northeastern Tennessee, deep in the heart of Dixie.  In rural Appalachia, self-sustainable living and prepping are just normal parts of everyday life for a lot of people, and my family was no exception.  Hunting, fishing, gardening, canning food, etc. were pretty much the norm in our area, and served as a means for people in a fairly poor economic region to build both a comfortable life for themselves and a little peace of mind.  On top of that, the mountainous terrain of the southern back country offers great protection from a lot of natural disasters (tornados, flooding, etc.) and isolation from most of the rest of the American populace should widespread civil unrest occur.  In short, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was born and raised in a prepper’s paradise.  Then, against all odds, I found a beautiful woman who loved me back and we’ve been building a life together for the last 12 years.

However, once we got married, we joined the world of corporate America in order to be able to make the kind of living that we wanted for ourselves in the “new” economy.  Unfortunately, our company underwent some “consolidation” and shut down the office in our hometown.  My wife and I (who both work for the same business) were tasked with a choice:  both face unemployment and risk becoming part of the foreclosure statistics on American home owners, or follow our jobs and move far from friends and family out into the Midwest.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but with the prospect of starting a family of our own right around the corner, there was no choice but to bite the bullet and take a chance on building a better life.  With only a three month window to find and purchase a new home, we ended up settling in a large subdivision on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area near our new place of employment.

Back in Tennessee, our home was a two story brick house with a sizable basement, snuggled into the side of a heavily wooded mountain.  However, due to the higher prices of real estate in our new area, we ended up in a single story wood-framed house built onto a concrete slab, surrounded by hundreds of nearly identical homes.  We are less than 10 miles from one of the largest cities in the continental United States, and to make matters worse, our home is actually visible from one of the major interstates that feed into the city.  In other words, like most of Middle America, my new house is a nightmare in terms of survivability should any major collapse of society occur.  Yet, for that very reason, immediately bugging out during a time of crisis is not an option, due to some of the following factors:

  • Living near a major population center means that when food/water/electricity go into short supply, everyone is going to have the same idea: get out of Dodge.
  • The major roadways around our home become near parking lots during rush hour every day as it is.  In a disaster, those traffic pileups are likely to become semi-permanent.
  • Since a lot of people in large cities don’t commute via cars, during the mass exodus to escape, those who do have working transportation will become immediate targets.
  • Furthermore, like the swarm of locusts of Biblical lore, a large group of people trying to flee an area on foot are likely to consume every resource in their path, one way or another.  While they may not have cars, it’s extremely likely that whether it’s a golf club or a Glock, some will be armed.

Therefore, for all these reasons and more, a more nuanced approach is required.  As much as we would like to, getting back to friends and family in the mountains of Tennessee just probably won’t be an option in the short term.  This means bugging in and hoping to ride out the worst of it until such a time that either:

  • We deem the situation fit to travel via the back roads and reach a more defensible location back home with our families.


  • The turmoil in our area has cooled to a point that we can start trying to become self-sustainable here in our community without fear of reprisal (openly gardening, hunting, fishing, etc.)

Either way, the name of the game becomes surviving the short term fallout that is bound to follow any collapse of basic societal structure.  Following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it becomes pretty easy to map out the way that things will probably play out.  Our lives, like it or not, are ruled by this chart.  Surviving the “exodus” near a major city means two things:  Having the basics in the bottom row of that pyramid covered for up to a 6-month time period for you and your family and having the means to defend it from those who will want to take it from you.  However, there are unique challenges to achieving either of these goals when living in a matchstick house on a concrete block amidst hundreds of other families and within spitting distance of millions of potentially hostile people.

Let’s start with the first part, meeting your needs.  There are plenty of preparation checklists out there with great advice on every little thing that you might need to survive the apocalypse.  I’m going to assume that you know how to cover the basics of food/water/medicine storage.  However, there are a few extra things to consider when living in the suburbs.  Basic bunker mentality for bugging in during a crisis follows the “dig in and defend” model.  We’ll call this the tortoise approach.  That’s great if you have the means to make it work, however, there’s nothing particularly defensible about many people’s homes, mine included, so that mentality has to change.  For me it has become “avoid detection and deter”.  My home doesn’t have a basement, a bunker, or a safe room, so the idea of holing up in a fortified spot with enough firepower to hold off the mob just isn’t feasible.  Instead, I want to present a small target and make it as unappetizing to potential looters as possible.  Think less snapping turtle, more porcupine.

Back to Maslow’s handy dandy pyramid of preparedness priorities, we know that water is the number one driving force of human survival behavior.  Once the taps stop running and the Aquafina has flown off the shelves, it will be a matter of a few short days before people either leave their homes in search of greener pastures (lakes, rivers, etc.) or start to beg, borrow, plead, and potentially kill to take water from those who still have it.  Here are some things to remember about water storage in the ‘burbs.

  • Diversify your storage.  Like the old adage says, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket (this includes brands, types of containers, and storage locations).
  • You should try to have at least 100 potential gallons per person in your house at any given time, and stored in a variety of places around your home.
  • Keep emergency water containers clean, dry, and ready to be filled at a moment’s notice.
  • My solutions include:

It’s been said over and over, but it is the truest statement in this world: water is life.  Storing water in this way, even if a portion of my home becomes damaged or inaccessible, I’ll still have enough to survive the short term and reevaluate the situation.  Eventually, though, even the largest supplies will run dry.  In this case, you need to be able to answer these questions:

  • Where is my nearest source of clean water (stream, river, large lake, etc.)?
  • Is it easily reachable by foot, under cover of darkness?
  • If not, how likely am I to be able to reach it by car?
  • Do I have an easy way to transport it back to my home?
  • Can I protect myself during this process?
  • Do I have some way to make sure it’s safe (boiling, filters, water treatments, etc.)?

Next on the list comes food storage, and this is another topic that is covered ad nauseam in any number of preparedness web sites and books.  But the important thing to remember for our purposes is that not only do you need to have food, but you need to not draw attention to the fact that you have food.  Nothing brings uninvited guests to the party quite like the smell of fresh beef stew when they haven’t eaten a thing in weeks.  In fact, they’re likely to bring their own silverware if you catch my drift.  Here are some ways to keep that from happening:

  • Avoid storing foods that have to be cooked in an open container or that put off a strong or unique odor.
  • Avoid heating methods that produce smoke or have to be ventilated in any way.
  • Don’t store foods that require much, if any, water to prepare.  Water is going to be your number one resource; you can’t waste a drop that you don’t have to.
  • Try to cut down on trash as much as possible (i.e. large resealable containers as opposed to individually packaged and disposable containers).  Trash has to be disposed of at some point and is a clear indicator that someone is still taking the wrappers off of candy bars.
  • Keep calorie intake healthy, but to a minimum.  Being the only guy in the neighborhood who still has a double chin is another red flag.
  • Don’t use a generator for any reason, ever.  In an isolated location, with proper noise reduction and ventilation, it’s a viable choice.  But nothing says “come burn my house down and take my stuff” like being the one family that has electricity when the darkness comes.

The whole goal here is to fly under the radar as much as possible.  Shelf stable foods that don’t have to be cooked at all are ideal.  Think mixed nuts, dry cereals, beef jerky, and the like.  These types of foods are also much more convenient to transport and prepare should you have to bail out.  Self-heating MREs are also a fantastic option but do require water to prepare and are easy to get burnt out on after a while.  While it’s no fun to have very few fresh hot meals, survival in the midst of the fleeing hordes revolves around avoiding notice at all costs.  You may not be happy, but you’ll be alive.

The last piece of the puzzle is the hardest, but also the most important: defense.  A quiet, middle-class suburb is a pretty appetizing target to people in a desperate search for the basic necessities of life.  All of the supplies in the world won’t mean a thing if you can’t defend them.  However, the key is to not to attract any unnecessary notice and to make your home an inadvisable target.  Some potential tools for getting this job done include:

  • Door Crossbar Holders:  These can be installed quickly during a time of chaos with nothing but a cordless drill, some heavy duty wood screws, and some spare 2x4s.  Putting up at least two sets per door means that the old police trick of “kick and breach” won’t be quite so easy.  It also stops the more subtle “lockpick in the night” routine.  Remember, the goal here isn’t to make the entryway impregnable (which is nigh impossible in a wood and drywall home), but rather to buy some time to defend.
  • Biohazard Signs:  If pandemic is the trigger that starts the collapse, one of these signs on each door is tantamount to installing an invisible force field around your home.  Even if it’s something more plausible, like a global economic collapse, looters are much more likely to target the house that they think won’t give them cholera.
  • Window Privacy Film:  It’s ok for people to know that your home is still occupied.  In fact, an abandoned house is far more likely to be ransacked than one that is thought to still be defended.  Letting people pinpoint your exact location before an attack, however, could cost you your life.  With this upgrade (along with normal blinds/curtains) you can still use lanterns, headlamps, etc. without giving away where you’ve chosen to bed down.
  • Window Bars:  Again, the keys here are speed/ease of installation and deterrence.  You don’t need to protect your windows from a full SWAT team with breaching charges, just dehydrated, half-starved city folks looking for some free supplies.  These bars give you time to line up a clear shot from behind cover and make sure that the person trying to get in realizes the risk vs. the reward.

It’s also important to designate a small fallback area within your home and use this as the staging area for everything else you do.  This way if part of your home becomes compromised it’s not a total loss.  While your “Alamo” may not be a fortress, it should be a place with as few windows and doors as possible and a clear field of fire.   Ours is the large master bathroom with an attached walk-in closet.  The only window in the bathroom is small, octagonal, made of thick frosted glass, and about 8 feet off the ground.  Once things look to be turning south, all our supplies can be quickly moved to the closet, the bathroom door triple barred, and the window filmed over.  The two Mossberg pump action 12 Gauge shotguns with 500+ magnum slug shells that live in the closet provide the “deter” portion of the game plan.

Finally, if possible, it’s also great to have a “plan C” just in case.  If your home catches fire, is completely overrun, or for some other reason becomes uninhabitable, you may have to leave in a hurry.  Fortunately for us, there is attic access in both the walk-in closet and our garage, with only about 20 feet of crawlspace between the two.  Hiding a couple of bug-out backpacks in the crawlspace allows us a fairly covert escape route directly to the car, or at the very least, out of the house.  Planning everything needed to bail out and stay safe on the run in a completely different topic in and of itself, but just keep in mind that bug-out supplies are similar to bug-in supplies, just on a much smaller, more mobile scale.  It’s not a perfect scenario, but having a “last ditch effort” retreat solution is never a bad thing. 

At the end of the day, I think it’s very feasible to sit tight and ride out the initial panic of any major catastrophe, even in a less than fortified location.  When the lights go out and the trucks stop running, places in and around major cities are going to revert to the Wild West fairly quickly.  But it’s for that very reason that staying put is the best option.  When the world around you is chaos, there are too many things that can go wrong by stepping out into the maelstrom, even if the goal is getting to a safer location.  It’s hard to predict exactly how things will go down and Murphy’s Law will bite you on the butt any time you think you’ve got it all figured out.  In any event, by keeping a low profile, deterring looters if possible, and using force if necessary, I think that we suburbanites stand a pretty good chance of making it through the first few months of TEOTWAWKI relatively unscathed.  And that, my friends, is what it is all about.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thanks for posting regarding the Pure Water Revolution stills.

I'd like to mention a concern regarding the purity of the 'pure water' mentioned in the video, and an idea for operational cost of the unit.

Volatile organic compounds such as: formaldehyde, d-Limonene, toluene, acetone, ethyl alcohol, 2-propanol hexanal, propane, butane, methyl chloride, etc.  All have a boiling point lower than or equal to water.  Therefore some of these compounds will end-up in the 'pure water' with the setup as shown in the video.

Many of the aforementioned compounds can be removed by not collecting water from the still until the temperature of the heated water reaches 100 degrees C (adjusted for elevation). Only attach the collection apparatus after 100 degrees C (212 degrees F) has been reached.

I'm sure the inventor's final solution for a heat source won't be the propane canister shown in the video since the cost would be prohibitive for many.  I'd propose a super efficient wood gas heater as this could be powered by tiny sticks and twigs, hence lower cost.

Sincerely, - Keith C.

JWR Replies: It is also important to note that distilled water should not be your sole source of water for drinking and cooking, because it lacks trace minerals that are important to human nutrition and bone health.

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. 

A reader recently enquired about using water cooler jugs for long term storage. You suggested taping the original cap to the jugs. I'd like to mention that 55mm snap-on reusable caps can be purchased very inexpensively on eBay. They are not water tight i.e. if turned on its side, water will slowly leak but the caps are adequate to keep out dust and allow transport. 55mm is the standard size for most 3 and 5 gallon jugs. - George C.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I am a brand new prepper. Within the last year I have been introduced to the world of Prepping and preparedness by a co-worker of mine. I have been reading up on as much as I can, but despite my efforts at increasing my knowledge and awareness of disaster preparedness, I am woefully un-prepared for even the slightest disaster or minor interruption of my accustomed lifestyle. I am beginning to acquire some extra food items, and I am making small steps toward expanding my food and water storage.

One thing that I have been thinking about of late, is the topic of water storage. I have already determined that when the SHTF I will be bugging in, as I have a family with two young kids, and really nowhere else to go. I need to make room in my house for all of my appropriate storage needs. Right now I have a small water cooler in my house, and use the large 5 gallon bottled water jugs. As I was pouring myself a glass of water the other day, I wondered if it would be possible to use those 5 gallon water bottles for my water storage. What I would like to do is to store an extra bottle every time I have the water delivered until I obtain a suitable amount for storage. I was also wondering if I could re-use the empty bottles as well for additional storage. As I look at the bottles, I don't think they are meant for long term storage.

My question is: Would those water bottles be a suitable method of long term water storage, and is there a way that I could provide for a better seal around the opening that would allow them to be used for long term storage? Thank you for putting up this blog, and all of the valuable insight that comes with it. I would appreciate any advice on my question. Thank you. - Matt B.

JWR Replies: Yes, those work fine. In my experience, the plastic caps that come from the spring water companies are adequate if you tape them on. But be sure to first lightly chlorinate the water. The bigger issue is exposure to sunlight. Be sure to store your water in a dark place such as a closet, to prevent algal growth.

To make water that has been stored many months more palatable for drinking, you can aerate it. This can be accomplished with a wire whisk or a hand-crank rotary egg beater. Or, lacking those, you can just rapidly pour the water back and forth between two glasses several times.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thanks for what SurvivalBlog done for the prepper community. I just had a feeling weighing on my heart to share this information. So here it is.

In any survival situation, water is in the top two things that must be had in order to survive if not at the top of the list. What I'm going to describe is how to set up a rainwater catchment system. The first thing to do is decide how much water you want to harvest. Then you need to decide how to hold that amount. Whether it is a couple food grade 55 gallon drums linked together or an underground AquaBox system that can hold thousands of gallons. Next you need to set up your structure, be it your home, shop building, barn, or animal housing, you will need to have guttering with a down spout. A steel roof is preferred by most for this, but any roof will work. At this point you need to know how you are going to use the water that is collected. If you are just going to use it to water your garden or your livestock, it doesn't need to be filtered. If you are planning on using it for drinking water, then it will need to be filtered or purified in some fashion. This essay will go through the steps for drinking water.

For every square foot of roof that you can harvest, you will get a half gallon of rainwater for every inch of rain. [JWR Adds: To be precise, multiply .623 gallons by the number of square feet of your roof.]

Read more at eHow: How to Calculate Rainfall for Harvesting

So you can figure how big of tank you need by multiplying the square feet by the average rainfall for your location and that will give you an rough figure of how much water you can expect from that roof.

Let's start at the top of the water system. You have your roof with its guttering attached. Does it have a leaf guard mounted on it to filter out the leaf litter? If not you can install a Invisaflow Flex Gate Downspout Filter on the downspout and install a stainless steel mosquito screen on the bottom where it connects to a First Flush Diverter to keep the little suckers out of the tank. They will find their way into your tank otherwise. In some locations, these are required by code.

After the water passes through the Downspout Filter, you will want to install what a First Flush Diverter. There are several styles of these, but the basic design is this. The water comes into the Diverter and fills it up, doing so causes a rubber ball to float up to a tee connection. The first water off the roof is in the bottom of the Diverter with all the bird droppings, dirt and small bits that the Basket Filter missed. Once the ball goes up to the tee connection, the rain water is diverted to a second pipe and sent on its way to the tank of your choice.

Now for the tank. Is it light or dark in color? If sunlight can penetrate, it will grow beautiful green algae. Now, unless you like the taste of algae in your ice water, you will want to paint your tank a dark, opaque color. The actual color does not matter as long as light cannot get to the water. After the tank is painted, you will need to attach the pipe from the Diverter. Use a hole saw the same size as your pipe, you want as tight a fit as possible. After inserting the pipe, seal all around it with a silicone caulking. Next you will want to put in an overflow pipe of the same size as your inlet pipe. Place it as high on the side of the tank as possible for the maximum amount of water harvest. This pipe will also need a mosquito screen as well. Attach as above. Lastly on the tank you will need to attach your water line. Depending on location and use will determine the size of line or lines that you want.

Running your water line from tank to destination, you have a choice of running it above ground or trenching it in. In some locations you may have to run it under the frost line to prevent freezing and to meet code requirements.

The following is one scenario that could be used for hilly terrain in an off grid situation:

Up-slope from your cabin you have a small barn/wood shed/chicken coop and you decide that you want a gravity fed water system that could also be used for fighting fires if the need arises. First thing you do is attach the correct length of guttering to the lower eave of the building. You lucked out in the fact that it already has a steel roof. After installing the leaf guard and down spout, you attach a Basket Filter that you picked up at a local home improvement superstore. You then install a First Flush Diverter you built from plans you found on YouTube. You run the diverter line to the 275 gallon poly tank that you picked up at the farm and ranch store. (You painted it the same color as the barn/wood shed/ chicken coop.) You then dug a trench from the tank to the cabin and ran a 2 inch water line to within 75 feet of the cabin. Here you plan on installing a freeze proof faucet for fire fighting. You then ran a 3/4 inch line that you attached to the 2 inch line the rest of the way to the cabin. Once at the cabin, you run the line inside to a small holding tank with a spigot or to an in line filter then to the holding tank. After back filling the trench, you run the overflow pipe in another direction. You just happen to have some 4 inch flex landscaping pipe and run the overflow pipe into it and run it towards your pond. After trenching and back filling the overflow, you stack up firewood around your tank to better hide it from those you wish not to know about it and to protect it somewhat from possible gun fire from same. Not to mention it will keep more sunlight off of it and partially insulate it from winter temps. Another option is to bury the whole tank which will protect it from freezing, gunfire and sunlight.

Ideally, you would have some form of rain water harvest on every structure at your retreat. It can be used to water gardens and orchards, water all livestock, top off your fish pond with the overflow from the tanks, keep your hydroponic set up with fresh water, run a line to that outdoor shower house with the solar heated water system on the roof. You could run it to the automatic water system in the rabbit house or chicken coop.
Another type of rainwater catchment would to use a pond. You could use an existing pond but it would require draining in order to install the pipe line. The best bet would be to install the piping during construction. Before the dam is complete, take a 4 inch PVC pipe and run the non-flared end through a hole in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket that you cut with a hole saw. You did drill countless 1/4 inch holes all over the bucket first didn't you? I thought so. Now replace the bucket's lid that also is quite holey. If you haven't removed the metal handle to the bucket, now would be a good time. This will be your filter to keep your fish stock from being sucked down the pipe. Now install the 4 inch PVC pipe, several feet up from the the bottom of the pond, through the dam. You want it up, off the bottom for two reasons. First, you want it up out of the muck that is on the bottom of all ponds. And second and most importantly, you don't want to drain the pond if someone accidentally or purposefully leaves the line open.

After the pipe is installed and the dam finished, you will want to install a down sizer. Either a 4 inch to 3 inch or a 4 inch to 2 inch. Right behind the sizer, you need to install a valve so the line can be turned off at the source. Now is when you run the water line to you choice of location. End the line with a freeze-proof faucet. A pond with fish in it makes a great source of water for a garden or orchard. The fish fertilizer is loved by all vegetation. This set up will also give you the head needed for some firefighting applications also, depending on location of pond to fire. You could even plumb this into a drip irrigation system or soaker hose network. Just downsize the line from 2 inch to 1 inch or smaller so that you don't flood the area too quickly.

Now these are not the only rainwater catchment methods out there, they are only two methods. I'm sure that there are several SurvivalBlog readers that know other ways and hope that they share them. Also any critiques or advice is welcomed.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

While the majority of single parents are women, men too can be found in this situation. Generally speaking, single women with children are usually on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Let’s face it, poorer young mothers (or fathers) with very young children need to learn survival skills as much as anyone else, and do not have the financial resources to buy all they need.  So what do you do if you are a single woman with a babe-in-arms and two toddlers and have no money?

I can tell you what you can’t do, you can’t sit around and wait for help or someone else to do it for you. You must seriously realize the life and death of your children can rest upon you and you alone.  Don’t look to the government, or your family/community, or anyone else. Look in the mirror, you brought them into the world, you are responsible for them. When you have children who are solely dependent upon what you do, what you pack and your decisions, it puts a weighty burden on the non-prepared.   

Little to nothing is written on the special resources for a single parent survival needs especially for lower income women with babies and toddlers.  As a single parent myself, I faced life-threatening events, and my survival skills helped keep my family well and strong. But much of what I learned was learned the hard way. I was lucky enough to have had grandparents who survived the Great Depression and they taught me lessons growing up that are deeply ingrained in me. These lessons include gardening, canning, food storage and self-defense along with hard work and strong faith. My mom’s first husband was military and being paid once each month she said her food never lasted the whole month and she learned how to scrimp and stretch. She taught me how to estimate food usage and how to make it last. My own fathers abusive temper and his drinking and drug problem, led mom to have to take the us as children several times to safe environments. We found women’s shelters, safe houses and remote camping sites until the law finally had the problem under control. So, I am not joking when I say I have seen my own mother face life-threatening emergency situations with children multiple times on a shoestring budget.  As you have read many disasters do not come from Mother Nature or governmental influences, some you can only prepare for with faith, knowledge and guidance.  

Some of the first hints I will give may make the hard-core well equipped preppers laugh and think this is a comedy show. But I guarantee you that young mothers need to be creative to meet their needs with a “$0” budget. Here are some hints for developing your Bug-out-bag (BOB). Of course, having some kind of a BOB with small children is better than no BOB. Always, always pack a BOB in something with wheels, a wheeled suitcase, a wheeled cooler, a wheeled cart or anything else on wheels that will hold your stuff. A single parent with small children needs a wheeled BOB, I cannot emphasize that enough. Remember the lessons we learned during Katrina, the agony on the parents face as they begged for help. Many did not have BOBs or did not have the time to grab them. Prepare yourself and your children now, don’t wait.

Some say they don’t know where to start. Start with what you have. Look at the needs of your children, and start there.  Pack clothing, blankets, copies of insurance cards, birth records and other important records. Get free info from the Red Cross on first aid and emergency medical info, go to health expos at churches or county fairs who often have free first aid kits. FEMA, the Internet and other organizations have info on what to include in your BOB. Get free road maps from state or local highway departments or tourist info stations. Use dryer lint [from drying cotton clothes] in a sandwich bag for fire starter; just remember to put your matches in a separate baggie. Use left-over utensils from past parties, like animal shaped plastic spoons, paper plates with animal faces or napkins with balloons. These things you would normally throw out can brighten little faces in emergency situations. Smaller plates or saucers come in handy if the food is scarce; small portions always looks like more if the plate is smaller.  Pack new (can be cheap from the dollar store) toys or unused new party favors, this will hold their attention longer. Pack both cloth and disposable diapers, cloth diapers can double for other necessities. Don’t forget to pack formula (preferably powdered), bottles, pacifiers or other major needs your child has. You know your child, their needs, their wants and behavior; you also know the items your family likes to cook and the tools to defend your family. Here I must say if you are a person of faith, then you need to prepare your family spiritually as well. If you are a spiritual person place a small set of your Scriptures or other spiritual items such as prayers or item in your BOB.  Do not forget to pack water. Water can be bottled in almost any empty, clean used plastic bottle or 2 liter, just remember to sterilize it with bleach or some other method. You can find instructions for sanitizing water with bleach on many sites on the internet, be sure to use regular bleach. Knowledge is key, look at your community you might be surprised what is available to you.

Hints for babies and toddlers: Being alone with a baby or toddler or both can put you in a very venerable situation when it comes to emergencies. It is critical to have a plan and have a well prepared BOB. I strongly suggest you find a support system, but not just anyone or any friend. Find someone who would love and treat your child like their own if you were not available. Look carefully and chose even more carefully.  Don’t let out of your arms the thing that is the most important to you, your baby, it is going to be hard to carry children in your arms and on your hips and also carry a bag. Keep your child close to your heart to keep them safe, use a sling or a baby carrier that fits like a back pack. Never let go of your children, keep them close at all times in an emergency situation. How many times in the news recently have we seen strollers roll into subway tracks or train tracks? If the baby had been in a snuggly or a sling, in the mother’s arms, that would not have happened. It would take an Amazon woman to carry both her children and a backpack; most women cannot do that, but just remember, unless you have direct contact with your child, you do not have control. Carry your child, wheel your supplies. Keep your most precious close to your heart. Always, always take a long blanket or sheet so that you can swaddle your child. Swaddle babies and insecure children any age to help them feel more comfortable and under control with the situation, the extra sheet you pack to do this can also come in handy in other ways, for shelter or a tent.

Hints for preschoolers and elementary ages: For toddlers and older children, have key words for specific things, words age appropriate. This can be a fun game, if my Daughter would start to sing the Star Spangled Banner; I knew to find a bathroom fast. Do not just use keywords for SHTF make key words for fun items such as the bathroom or for bedtime.  I learned that by adding some “fun words” this helps them learn the key words faster and not forget. For toddlers and preschooler, always pack a wrist-to-wrist strap. If you don’t have one, make one from elastic or an old belt or a purse strap. I made my children wear wrist straps that secured their wrist at one end to my wrist at the other end, especially when we were in danger. That way I always knew where they were and had some control over my toddlers.  They did not like it, but they were safe and that is more important.

Hints for middle school to teenagers: incorporating older children into family participation should be a natural outcome of a loving family relationship.  You can enroll them in programs to teach self-defense or other items, some at school.  Many Police and Fire departments and organization such as Boy and Girl Scouts and The American Red Cross have programs that are free to children or to the public. For middle and high school children who are old enough to understand, explain the gravity of the situation and be honest with them. They understand and can help, and will probably become more fearful if you do not talk to them. The older the child, the more stress they can help take off of you, by sharing the burden. Middle school aged children understand more than you know and are usually quieter about their feelings. When you can get to a safe spot, encourage your children to talk out their feelings.

Lastly, to find what you really need in a disaster situation with your children, throw only your BOB in the car with your kids one weekend, and leave for a State Park or camping site. You will learn real quickly what you need and what you don’t need. Practicing in a normal situation makes an emergency bug-out feel less dangerous. Always, yes always keep your car full of gas; you never want to be in a situation where you don’t have the gas to get your kids to safety. Sacrifice a Girl Scout meeting, or a lunch trip out, or whatever it takes during the week, to keep your car full of gas.

Sheltering-in-place; A single parent has different needs than that a two parent family for food storage. You need to buy more ‘child’ food and less ‘adult’ food. You can always eat baby food, but a baby cannot always eat adult food, unless you process your own baby food. My mother always kept her food storage on the bedroom closet floor, underneath her dresses. We kids were in charge of stacking the boxes and marking the dates with a permanent marker on top, now I understand that it wasn’t much food storage, but it served our family well as we never ran out of food.  Instead of trying to buy food storage all at one time, buy some with each trip to the store. Buying a bag of beans a month adds up quickly and can fill a five-gallon bucket within a year. Always check your dates on cans goods and buy foods that your family will and can eat.  My family will not eat beets so even if I love it, I would not buy it.  Rotate your foods; if you are able to buy a few extra cans eat the oldest first along with dieted cans.  Do not eat foods from bulging cans--these can kill you!  Bloated canned goods or bad water can kill younger children quickly; know a way to sterilize water.  Know about food safety, temperatures for cooking and handling foods, free on the Internet or at a County Health Department, this will keep your family alive. 

Don’t forget the water. Save your 2 liter pop bottles or sports drink bottles. Store water sanitized with regular bleach in these containers. Or if you can afford it, purchase water and keep on the shelves out of the reach of children. It doesn’t cost anything to store water, so no excuse here. Basic cooking skills with shelf stable ingredients is something to be known ahead of time and not first practiced over a make-do fire in a unfamiliar place with crying, hungry children. Know how to cook basic items, such as pancakes, gravy, or pie crust.  I am surprised how many parents don’t cook these days.
If you are limited in funds, buy flour (wheat if you have a means to grind it into flour) and store it in gallon zip lock bags. My grandmother always said her family survived the Great Depression because of flour, because she could make three things; pancakes, white gravy and pie crusts. All are flour or wheat based items. Grandma said you could put anything in a pie crust and make it taste good (she meant squirrel and rabbits too). Pies can be big, little or pocket size and can hold fruits, veggies and meats. She could also make anything with her ‘white sauce’ or white gravy. It is the base for many, many dishes and casseroles and can be put over, under or as part of almost any food. Then her pancakes, (hoe-cakes, Johnny-cakes, etc) you can put anything in pancakes, or make them thinner and roll anything in them. This one staple, a storage of wheat (long shelf life), or flour (shorter shelf life) can create all these three foods plus any type of bread, pasta or noodles. Grinding wheat when you have small children can make you go nuts, it’s hard to keep their little fingers out of everything and mills are expensive. I always kept flour, and it has served my family well. Thanks Grandma. 

You must seriously realize the life and death of your children can rest upon you and you alone.  Don’t look to the government, or your family/community, or anyone else. Again I say, Look in the mirror, you brought them into the world, you are responsible for them. Remember your emergency may never be the emergency you planned for, so be prepared for anything. Not just with cool hi-tech gizmos, but know primitive skills. My Grandpa used to say “prepare for the worse and hope for the best”. In a critical situation and usually is directly related to how you are handling the situation. If you are nervous and upset, you can bet your children will be too.  Survival is a lifestyle that needs to be incorporated into daily living.  Prepare now so you and your children will not fall prey to some other predator tomorrow.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The solar still is the most written about yet least used survival technique there is. I would like to help change that, with some actual testing and practical knowledge, back to something you can really use for survival.

If you ask almost anyone that has read a book on survival, or taken a summer wilderness class, how they would acquire water in a desert environment, without hesitation they would say: “I would just build a solar still.” There is nothing wrong with that; it is one way to attain at least some water. The solar still is the stock answer, and not a bad one either. The desert is a harsh environment short on water and the ground is the only real place to find it hiding. Desert vegetation is extremely hard to squeeze palatable water from. Contrary to what you have heard. cactus, even the infamous Barrel cactus, do not contain enough refreshment without d’stilling their contents to sustain anyone. And if you have not had the opportunity to try sucking moisture out of a Barrel cactus, do not bother, Bleeeech. In fact, it will make you even thirstier, and some people even sick.

There is a problem, however. The next thing that same person will tell you almost in the same breath is: “But, they don’t work very well, and you wouldn’t have enough water to live on. Not to mention it wastes more sweat to build than you could replace with it.”

Those are all completely true criticisms.

Solar stills are inherently inadequate for evaporating the moisture from the ground, and any vegetation that you might add to it, into drinking water. There has only been one design in the history of its conception. Well, at least since they have been recorded in books, as far as I can tell. It’s like viewing the same photo, penned by the same hand, knocked out time and again from the mid-fifties in every book. Every one of them has it-- cut and paste, almost. As well as the same way too short paragraph description only slightly modified to avoid plagiarism.
The picture is a very plain line drawing of an inverted cone-shaped hole in the ground, out in the middle of a flat and barren land with nothing else around, and a sheet of plastic stretched over the hole to match the conical hole. There's a cup centered at the bottom, and then they always say--”a small stone or pebble” in the center to hold the point of the plastic to that cup. If you have a decent manual, it will explain that this old technique is used for a “if nothing else is possible” situation, and not advisable to try unless you're going to die anyway. Solar stills work, just not very well. That just bugs me.

So why put it in the book in the first place? Why waste that valuable space in the book? It would be just as easy to teach, “If you're going to freeze to death anyway, try and find a hibernating bear to snuggle with." It does not make much sense; if it can be better, than why not do it?

What if I told you that there is a better way. One that works. One that is worth it. One that could and will save your life and maybe loved ones with you. I know you need to know. Like me, you are a survivor. You will learn and will do what it takes to continue to live. That’s why you're reading this now. Knowledge is power, and more.....it's life.
So let's get started. First, a short history of the solar still. The first recorded sun-powered still ideas were made by the Arabs a millennium ago. They developed some of the modern things that we take for granted today, such as mathematics, and celestial navigation, etc. The first practical designs are credited to a Frenchman, Adam Lonicier in the year 1561. And then yet another Frenchmen, Agustin Mouchotin, in 1861, was the next in line to copy or alter this idea to his own ends while he was working on a way to refine the brandy business. It didn’t work out the way he expected, though. The man that first took the concept to its fullest modern day design was an American named Charles Wilson, in 1872. On a mining expedition in Chile, he developed a system of ocean-fed canals in large proportions and was able to purify enough water for a small city. That very same solar still worked without problems for more than forty years. Now, all of these designs were large, non-portable devices to gather moisture to supply their homes or cities.

In the US, we might have known and used solar stills since its founding, but it was first used as a “portable survival plan” in the First World War; at least, the original commercial printings date back to that time. Those plans became standard operating procedure, though just as a very last resort, from the Second World War on. Solar still kits with plastic sheets have been standard issue in Air force birds since 1960. And the only way they have changed is in the rotation of that kit for freshness. The conceptual design has remained exactly the same for these past 70 years.
There have been some improvements here and there to "solar stills. In fact, others came up with the concept of small portable blow up (for a boat or plane traveling over water anyway) solar stills that can be used while adrift in the water, and are now standard military on every boat/plane that would carry more than three people. These are based on the exact configuration of the in-ground models and really have but one extra benefit..... the unlimited supply of water.

The other improvements have all been made to the non-portable home units now being built with new space-age materials. They have changed the materials such as the covering glass and used reflecting mirrors, and added +/- 5 % here or there, varied the depth of the water or the insulation under it, as well as colors and gained a few more percentage points, and so on. The one thing that made a huge difference however, was if you could hold the inside of the still in a vacuum. This will improve the workings up to 100%. I know of no way to achieve that with a hole in the desert floor and pocket materials, unfortunately.

These changes also have nothing to do with a “wilderness survival solar still”. Not unless you can carry an entire hardware store in your pocket. In that case it would be easier to just carry the extra water. The wilderness solar still design has not changed at all. It’s still just a hole in the ground, with little science involved other than trying to evaporate water.
Until now.

My wilderness solar still, described here, has an increased output of over 400% . So, how does one improve on a hundred year old hole in the ground? Like most people, I have heard and read about Solar stills for my whole life. I have implanted the illustration to memory, cataloged and filed. But when was the last time you ever built one? You do go out and build
at least one of these every year, right? Testing with the various substrates, soil conditions, and atmospheric anomalies that will give better results, right?
Wait, you don’t? Me neither. I never did, until a little more than 15 years ago. Oh, I played around a bit with them when I was a kid, but never seriously. Why would I? If it’s been written in the books for 70 years of course I can trust it. Right? Well just like anything else, I want to “know” what I can and cannot count on. I need to know how much liquid can one get out of, say, a four foot diameter model in the Arizona desert in mid-summer, with the materials I carry.

This was not answered in any book. In fact not too much is ever mentioned in any survival books about solar stills except the simplistic version on how they are made, and that they do not work very well. If it was a firearm, would you trust that it fires accurately because a book publisher that printed off millions of copies said that it did, and that once purchased there would be no need to test fire it? Well, I guess a lot of sheep--I mean people have done that a few times.

Everything that one will rely on for survival should be run through its paces to find its weaknesses and its breaking points and faults. Find out if you can depend on it, or if it is worth the weight in your pack. Or, you can pack it and wait to find out later when there are no other options. I know several people right now that have all the fixins for a dandy of a solar still in their B.O.B.s. At best they have only imagined ever making one. Again, relying only on those books with the same short descriptions and same simple picture, they trust that in a dire time of need it will work just fine. It does on television! I bet that half of them will not even know how to dig the hole in hard soil without a shovel in their bag.

I fear that is the way with a lot of gear, though. Like carrying condoms in a small survival kit. Someone spread that around long ago and it stuck. I’m sure it came out of Viet Nam. Latex was just starting its heyday and they were being handed out like gum. Sorry about the pun. Today rookies are still adding them to their kits, and some do not even have a clue why.
Not that long ago, I had someone on a preppers board post the list of contents of his “kit'” and I gave a few suggestions with a list of my own. He thought it was great that I added a few plastic Ziploc bags--”I could use one to carry water in if I had to”, as well as fifty other uses for them. He said he should have something like that as well. But he had listed two condoms (no spermicide or lubes). I asked what he used those for--chance encounters? He did not have a clue. He had no idea why they were taking up space in his kit. Not to mention that they do not make very practical water carriers.

There are better ways.
I am the sort of man that has to go test things. To find those better ways. In fact, every year, for three to four days I go out somewhere with only my small survival kit, and some hopefully unused emergency-only safety gear. I see what the kit is made of--or really--how I made it. Added to that are the numerous backpacking trips, hunting/fishing excursions, and the like. All are great times to test out gear. If it can be improved, it gets revised. It will never be perfect, but there is never a perfect emergency situation either. They just happen, and the kit is there to help fill in some of the gaps. The main revisions are in the knowledge and thought base and can change with the area you're in, and adapt what you have or find without having to carry any extra gear. I even revised a common motto: Practice what you think you know, and know what you have practiced.

The solar still is no different. I want to know what to expect, even if I lived in, say, Minnesota, or somewhere else water is not such a commodity; I would still want to know if and how they work. You never know when you might end up in a completely different environment than what you’re accustomed to.

Like most others, I took the solar still for granted for too many years. Until one day someone asked me how they worked and why. I started quoting the text books. Gave the same answers in the beginning of this article. Somewhere in the middle I caught myself and started rethinking the idea of actually testing them out and seeing with my own eyes how they went so wrong, and what they can do in a real-life situation. I wanted to see if I could improve them so I would not have to give those same horrible answers.

I reside north of Phoenix, Arizona these days, the perfect Area of Operations to test such a thing. It’s great here in the off-summer times but H*ll the rest of the year. There is not much water in the cool months and none in the hot. On the whole, it’s dry. One has to plan his outings around water. Either hike to it or carry enough of it--there is never enough.

At a minimum, once a week the local news has a story of at least one adult going missing on a mountain hiking trail that is right in the city. Worse, at least two or more times a year there are persons missing in the Superstition Mountains east of the major cityscape. They are usually found in one to two days, thanks to well-trained Search and Rescue people, though it sometimes takes a lot more time. Most of these people are not from here or another desert area. They never have very much water with them, if any. They all started out as a simple three hour hike to the top of some peak that you can see from almost any place in town. A little bit of not paying attention and oops, they’re in another canyon that looks like the last seven they were in. Like most lost people they think, “If I just can get up around the next bend I will see where I messed up”. They are almost always wrong. These people should have the proper knowledge and carry the simple tools to provide for themselves just in case. In these situations I would suggest at least a full Camelbak and a charged cell phone. For those that venture out further, a lot more will be needed to survive this deadly place till you are found, or you find your own way out.

A Better Way
You will not find this in any of the survival books or in any print that I have not laid down. I came up with this on my own accord and have tried to inform people about this and other things that I have come up with to increase their chances of survival. I appreciate the opportunity Mr. Rawles has given me here to reach an audience of intelligent and like-minded preppers. I hope others will glean something from this and take it yet another step further.

You know what they say: If you can save just one life—well, it’s very true. Accidents happen all the time, and I could not even imagine something like watching my kids thirst for water that I could not provide for them.

“So, what heavy, fancy new gear do I have to add to my kit this time”, you're asking? Nothing. One more time: Not a thing! If you carry a hunk of plastic and a cup now for a solar still/E-shelter, that will continue to be the only thing you need. Think, for example, if the first car tires were square they would not work very well, and with just a small alteration in shape and no extra material we could get them spinning down the highway. Everything that I will try to detail out to you now I have taken to the field and tested personally. I started with baselines, building exact replicas of the solar stills in the survival books. I tested these in various places at various times during the year to get a good average base to draw from, and testing things my way in the same places and times of the year. These test that I have carried out were completed in the deserts around Phoenix, Arizona right around 1,600-foot elevation. I also have several other test sites in Northern California that I use at various times of the year.

Now unfortunately you are still going to have to dig a hole. It will be similar to the one that you should already be used to seeing in the books. This should be a hole at least five feet across; six feet would be even better. I have made plenty of them that were only in the four-foot diameter range and they worked well. The bigger, in this case, the better, materials permitting. The smaller ones that I have constructed had limitations of landscape rather than my just being lazy. The plastic I normally carry is about 6x8 feet and can be used for a quick shelter or what ever is needed most at the time.
The first difference you will notice is, instead of having a round hole with the deep point ending in the center, I want you to dig it in the shape of a common looking seashell. The shell that you should have in your minds eye is the iconic “Shell oil” sign design. When laying this shell shape out on the ground in the size that you would need, you will have to make sure that the top rounded side of the shell points away from the sun's tracking through the sky. In North America that would be to the north. To explain from a different angle, you want the sun to track east to west across the bottom third of the shell from right to left. The importance of this will be evident before we are through.

The top rounded section, or north side, would function much the same as the conventional still with sloping sides with approximately 25-45 degree angles, to as deep as you need the hole. The slopes would end not in the center, but on the bottom side of the shell shape about three quarters of the way down from the top, on the south side. The sides might have to be a bit steeper to end at the same point; that’s just fine. The bottom of the hole does not have to be a point, either. If the ground turns excessively hard, half flat is okay. The only need for depth is trying to get down deep enough to find damp soil. If you find damp sand a foot deep, you can stop there, but make sure that you will have enough vertical room to make the plastic work with your catch container.
This is tough without a simple picture. I have posted links to Photobucket. They are not masterpieces, just a simple computer “Draw” diagram.


The bottom of the shell area with the squared off “tail” is not sloped very much unless you have to, and you might have to because of sandy or very loose soil. If this is the case, slope only as needed. If you have a few rocks laying around they can be used to bolster the sides to keep the shape of the hole. In fact, keep rocks in mind while gathering supplies
because later in this article I will explain how adding rocks to the inside of your still will be beneficial.

One other thing to remember is that the solar still might have to be used for a few days and in loose soil the common man-made erosion will quickly fill up or change the shape of the solar still. Adding rocks may also stop this from happening. To minimize all this digging, use the spoils from the hole to raise the sides, increasing the depth with half the work.
The bottom of the hole is not one level. At the bottom, the “tail” end of the shell is a raised shelf. This shelf will hold the catch pot. I know this sounds a little complex but with the cross-section illustration it should be very simple. I will post a cross-section that is very easy to understand, coming up soon.

There are only three other things that you have to do before you can cover your still. The first is very optional. If your soil already has some moisture to it and is somewhat dark in color you may skip this step. If not I would recommend that you look around for any vegetation that you can collect and add to the hole. If you have any of that cactus that you thought that you could eat and had to spit out, chop it up and add it to the hole. Anything with leaves that’s not poisonous or will cause you great harm in harvesting will be fine. Grass is very good and holds a lot of moisture. It can all be broken up into parts just long enough to line the bottom and sides of the hole. Make sure that once the plastic is pulled over and angled that the vegetation will not make contact with the plastic. If it does it may siphon off those valuable water droplets before they get a chance to run to the cup.

The added vegetation makes two things happen. First, it will add more moisture to the distillation process, and second, it will help the bottom of the hole to be a darker color, if you have a light soil. Dark colors absorb more heat. This is also the time to add any other items of moisture. If you are by the sea, add sea water. If you are close to a cow-trampled mud wallow, add some cow patty mud to the still. If you have to urinate for god sake do not waste it in the bushes, pee in the still. Do not worry about it being gross or about what is in the water. The lower heat that is generated by the sun instead of fire will only vaporize the water molecules and leave the other things in the bottom of the still. You can even use radiator fluid as a source of moisture to add to your still. Do not under any circumstances try and drink radiator fluid without processing them through a distiller. (Ed. Note: Bad idea! Many auto coolants contain Methanol, which evaporates at a lower temperature than water. Methanol is poisonous, and will kill you by destroying your liver.)

The second thing that you should add is small rocks. Not too small, about fist or palm size or bigger, and flat if possible, any shape is okay if not. The ideal rocks would be very dark river rocks about 4-6 inches around and 1-3 inches thick. But when picking up rocks in the desert make sure you do it carefully. Some critters use them for houses. A bite or sting is the last thing you need in a survival situation. The rocks should be placed along the inner sides and bottom of the still. They serve two purposes. The first is that they collect heat, being a darker and a denser material. And second, they hold that heat past the time when the sun drops below a level that hits your solar still. This will change the name of your solar still to the “stored heat radiation still”.

The still works on simple properties of moisture evaporation. This is accomplished with heat. The longer you apply heat the more water you can make. In fact, the time of day your still makes the most water, believe it or not, is after the sun goes down. If you have done everything correctly, the heat should continue radiating out of the rocks while the air above the still should be getting cooler. This will condense more water faster than in full sun, at least for a while. It will also extend the time past the “sun hours” that you are still making water. We are trying to create a wide difference in temperature, inside the still and out. As the temperature on different sides react to each other, they are still making you water.

The third thing to add before sealing your solar still is the container to hold the water that we hope will fill it several times. Just make sure that it is stable on the shelf that was constructed just for this vessel. If it falls over or you knock it over trying to remove it, you could turn a bad situation worse, if not fatal. This container can be almost anything that holds water--a pan, jug, plastic car part with dirt under it to make it stable, plastic bag with dirt to hold it in a cup shape, or a soda can or bottle with its top cut off--basically anything you have that’s clean and will hold water. I prefer to use larger pan-type catch basins. This makes it easier to position the point that water will drip from.

Not everyone will be carrying a length of tubing long enough to reach comfortably from the top to the bottom of the still and also be secured. Not having to open the still after its closed, however, will help with maintaining continuous heat trapped in the solar still. Any loss of heat will take a period of time to regenerate. Really the only time you would carry a tube long enough is if you were carrying it just for solar still construction. There are other reasons to carry tubing in the desert, though not that long. One of them is to gain access to trapped water in cracks and such that you would not be able to get to any other way. So adding a few extra feet might make things easier if you plan on using a solar still. What is the right length to carry? Go try it out yourself. This will depend on many variables--the depth of the hole is the main length but other factors will come to bear in the installation. If your kit now contains six feet, that will be more than sufficient.
So, we have our hole in the right shape--I will explain why in a bit--and we have it lined with rocks and/or vegetation. We have also tried to add as much moisture that we could find, as well as making sure that the catch container and the tubing, if used, will not be accidentally tipped or moved. It’s time to cover the solar still.

The plastic used can be any that you have. Clear or black, blue if that’s what you’ve got. I prefer the clear to opaque. Why? I want the heat, especially the infra red light, to pass easily through the plastic and do its heating “inside” of the hole. And I want the plastic as cool as possible. If it was black or a darker color, the plastic itself would be heated and it would change the temperature ratios and alter my expectations. Now if all you have at the time is black plastic, then use it. It works too. Some people even say that it’s the black that works better. I will not. You can make your own choice. For these results pack the clearer shades. Next the plastic is carefully stretched out over the hole, then using the spoil piles removed from the digging placed over the plastic all the way around the edges. On the south or the “tail” side of the still, I run the plastic up halfway into the spoils pile. This will give me a steeper angle on that side. When this is covered with the condenser material it will also help increase the reconverting of vapors in concert with the condenser.

There are two things that you have to be careful of here. The first is, that you leave enough slack in the plastic to have it dip in the middle, very similar to the original concept. You should first drape the plastic over the entire still and secure it in several places first, so you can make adjustments as needed before you bury the whole edge. The second is that once you start to seal the edges you should make sure to keep them as sealed as possible. You do not have to bury them with tons of dirt, but they should be as held down securely
and without many bigger rocks under or above it. You are trying to make the inside as airtight as you can under such primitive circumstances. I have seen many solar stills, constructed by untrained persons that have learned from these incomplete books, that have only one rock on each corner to hold the plastic down. This is not enough. Outside air entering the inside will not only cool but dry out the air inside of the still.

Now we are getting to the important parts. The rest was important but similar to a conventional still. From here out it changes dramatically.
Again, a little history before we go further. A solar still is a simple still. One has to look and think of it just like any other type of still, however. If you have any schooling and remember chemistry class you will remember how to distill water on a stove or lab tabletop. Very simply, heating water over a flame turns it into vapor and rises. At the top of a tapered flask it turns drastically, which helps it make contact with the walls of the tubing. Once out of the flask it is directed into a condenser. The condenser in this case would be a larger tube around the smaller tube that the steam is flowing through, with cool water flowing in between the two. The instant the steam contacts the sides of the cooled tubing it turns again into liquid, and flows out of the end of the condenser into a catch container. Even if you are distilling alcohol, you would do the same thing. Heat a liquid, turn it to steam and let it rise. Once it is removed from the heating vessel it changes direction and is cooled by a condenser of one design or another, usually cooler water Water is very good at pulling the heat out of things, especially clumsy humans. The key points are to heat, turn the water to vapor which rises to contact the plastic sheet, and most importantly, condensing back to liquid and falling into your catch basin.

In our solar still we use the hole and the plastic to trap the sun’s rays to create heat. With this heat we will turn the moisture in the still to vapor. We will allow it to rise and contact the condenser. The only thing that there is for a condenser is the hot sheet of plastic that is stretched over the hole. It does not seem to efficient. And you know what? It’s not. Not yet.
As we know, the basic solar still does work, but poorly. The thing we need is the same thing that we would have if you were making whiskey. A large difference in temperature between the cooker and the cooler. The plastic that is trapping the sun's heat is being heated itself. This does not make things better.

Most of the reasons this solar still is different from all the rest is that I add a real condenser. This makes the water condense and collect into the cup instead of recirculating around and around, cooling the inside of the still, or worse, sticking to anything that’s in the still, like the sticks or rocks that were added or even the parched upper walls of the still, which are hungry for moisture.

Rule One: The quicker you can gather the heat, make vapor, and re-condense the vapor, the more water you get back. It all comes down to that. This speed is contingent on the condenser design and temperature.

There are a number of ways you can accomplish this and it all comes down to what you have on hand. Use what you have and keep the above principles in mind. You can look at this next diagram to understand what I will try to explain to you next. Listed as “The cross section”.

To make a condenser that will cool the moisture in your solar still I recommend a two- stage process. The first is to change that simple pebble we are told to toss in the center of
our plastic to a much more capable form. Again, using what you have. If dirt is what you have then so be it, use dirt. Not a simple handful, but a pan full. The pebble will still be needed though. It will be used to hold the point where the water will be dripping from, underneath. Make sure that it is directly over your off center catch container. After that, you will continue to add soil over the pebble until a large enough patch covers an area about the size of a plate or larger. This only has to be as thick as needed to build up to that size an area, but a little more is okay and will keep the condenser cool longer. Just make sure that the plastic sheeting you're using will take the weight and not tear or stretch too far out of proportion. Remember, later in the day the now heated plastic might have changed its properties, so check on it now and then for stretching.

Keeping this upper soil cool will make a huge difference in your solar still. If you happen to have moist soil, you are golden. Keep some out from the digging of your still if you can; if not, try to find a way to moisten the soil. This time get a friend to pee on it if you have to.

Other methods that I have tested used things that I had in my pack. A small aluminum backpack frying pan with no sharp edges to puncture it was placed on the plastic. I was able to place it in just such a way as to have almost the whole bottom of the pan in contact with the plastic and still have it point to the catch container. The aluminum worked fairly well, actually, when I filled it with soil for weight and cooling. Aluminum does not hold a lot of heat but transfers it quickly, and so it makes a good material to use.
I do not recommend rocks or steel. These materials trap and hold ambient heat and would work in reverse of the way you needed. You are trying to create a place under the plastic that is cooler than the rest of the plastic, in an area about a foot plus in diameter, and evenly built up the south side to where the plastic is held down. Referring to the pictures I have provided should help to clarify any of my miscommunication, I hope.

The next part is just as important as the last one and rounds out your solar still to a lean mean water making machine. It is also one of the reasons that you had to dig the hole in the shell shape and orient it to the sun the way I have explained. It's half of the real key to the entire still: Shade.
Wait! That’s supposed to be a bad word in solar still construction, right? All the books say to stay away from all shade. No image will have a tree, let alone a small bush, in them that one might take to mean shade. So why shade?

Shading one side of the solar still will do more for making water than everything else you have done so far. In essence, you will be making your condenser cooler and making a greater difference in the temperature between the two sides. By shading the southern 1/3 of the plastic (remember the shell shape), you are creating a much cooler area that the water vapor will adhere to and which will quickly run down to the point and pour off in streams into the catch container. After you have constructed your still, make sure after the first hour that you monitor the catch, because if the vessel is small, or you are making a lot of water, it will overflow and waste your valuable moisture.

The first part of making this shade is with the spoils pile that you should have from digging the hole. You had to use some to hold down the plastic but there should be a lot left over. When in the planning stages and you are lining the hole up with the sun's tracking line, make a note to put the spoils on the southern rim of the hole. It will save you from
having to move it twice. This pile might just be enough in the wintertime. The sun tracks low in the southern sky, creating long shadows. In the summer it will just be a good thick base to help insulate that side of the hole. You will have to add to the top and maybe even the sides of it, as needed; you will have to adjust it through out the day from time to time as the sun tracks through the sky. You want the shade line to fall right across the bottom 1/3 of the shell shape at all times or as much as possible. It should fall right at the end of your shelf inside the still and the tip of the soil you have added as the condenser to the top.

What should I use for the shade? Look around. It could be anything--leafy branches of a tree, clothing items that you can spare (not ones needed for body protection--you will lose more water than you can replace when direct sun contacts more than 20% of your body), an extra tarp not needed to keep you out of the sun, maybe even something like a fire reflector design (built with small logs). Even plane or car parts. Again, take into consideration that it might have to be adjusted throughout the day to optimize the placement of shade.

While I’m at it I want to go over a few other things. Any solar still will have to be moved from time to time. There is only so much moisture in the small area of the ground under your still location and in the vegetable matter you might have placed inside. When the amounts drop off a lot, start planning the next one.
Also, you do not have to only make one, for many reasons. You might have a group of survivors that would require a lot more water, or just plain redundancy. Your solar still is a delicate structure and can be destroyed by an unforeseeable accident that could take away a needed chance at surviving.

Also, the hole does not have to be a shell shape; it can be anything that you want it to be. It is just an easy way I came up with to teach the three-dimensional aspects needed for construction with an easy-to-remember shape that just works, and includes the shelf and offset plastic not known in any other still.
Oh, and very importantly, try to keep the “pebble replacement” condenser damp, and shaded as much as possible. The evaporation of the moisture from this area will super-cool the plastic underneath, and condense vapor more quickly. This means a lot more water for you. But that evaporation will dry out this soil and allow it to warm up, decreasing production.
That’s it.

So, you want to know what all this amounts to? I know what they've done for me and for others that I have so instructed. I can tell you those facts and what to expect.
In comparison with a classically-built solar still I have, at a minimum, quadrupled the output. Let me say that again: Four times the output in the worst case environments every time. I have been able to pull water out of ground that was so bone dry a conventional solar still did nothing--not a drop. You can do better in areas that have more moisture in the soil, obviously. But then the Extreme Still will work far better, too—as much as 8-10 times better.

This may still not sound like a lot to you. Think of it this way. The reports vary, but they say you need at least 1.5 to 2 quarts of water per person, per day, to survive while resting in high temperatures. It's really more like a gallon a day, in the real world. Good luck getting that amount from a classic solar still. You might, if you're incredibly lucky, be able to get half a quart if you left it all day without a drink. Again, if you were lucky. With the Extreme Still in the same conditions, two people can drink two to four quarts per sunlit day from one still, if not more. And it will keep working long after the sun goes down, for even more water.

All these figures are relative due to different conditions but the 4:1 ratio will always stand as a minimum baseline between the two stills. It’s only a baseline as well; in some testing areas I had more than six times the results or higher as an average baseline.

The last time I was able to write something up on my new still design it had more pictures than words, I think. Maybe some here read it a few years ago. It started in an area that was powder dry. Clouds of dust arose as I dug a small four-foot wide hole with an E-tool. I think the entire thing was less than two feet deep, as well. I only had opaque plastic, and I was trying the test with almost no vegetation added for demonstration purposes, just a few Mesquite sprigs that were close. I did have lots of very dark rocks of the right size, although square and pointy. The outside temperature was more than 113 degrees, and my “shade” for the D’still was a very weird pair of plaid pants that I found twenty feet from where I dug the hole. I used two poles and some brush stuck in the spoil pile to hold the pants out and across the still for shade.

All this was completed after I had already constructed a classic still, with prime materials and a lot more care (It was a little earlier and was not so hot yet). The classic one that was set up forty feet away--text book, as they say--and was five and one half feet across. It had the benefit of “working” the entire time as I constructed the other D’still, as well as the time I let both run together.
Once constructed,, you will see within seconds after sealing the Extreme still, water droplets forming in the shaded area, clinging to the underside of the plastic. A perfectly demarcated line of refreshing water droplets filling in the shady side. Almost clear on the sunny, or hot, side.

Within fifteen minutes the temperature inside the Extreme still was up over 170 degrees. Within three hours, I was very hot and had my work calling –I had to wrap it up. When I pulled the two covers to look at my effort for such a blistering day: I received nothing from the classic still. Zero. I pulled two and a half cups out of the dust with the D’still, in three hours!
Which one do you think I will use when my life or those that I care about depend on it?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Some people say you can’t prepare for every situation.  I say, you can because every situation has one common element that can and will hurt you outside of the event itself: other people.  Lets face it, if you die in a storm, a nuclear/biological/chemical event, or terror attack, then you are dead.  There is nothing from stopping God’s will. 

You don’t prepare for those events, you prepare for surviving those events.  There are many events, (and not far-fetched crazy extreme events) which people should be prepared to deal with to protect themselves and their families when it’s over and you are alive. Some include:

  1. Storms (Hurricanes/tornados/floods/earthquakes, droughts, Tsunami)
  2. Financial collapse
  3. Biological emergencies (natural or weaponized)
  4. Chemical emergencies (Living near DuPont?)
  5. Nuclear emergencies (Attack/Power grid failure resulting in leak)
  6. Civil unrest (Riots/Revolution/Civil War/Race war/Looting)
  7. Power Grid failure (EMPs/Solar flares/ attack on grid)

The interesting fact is that just one event on the above list, can and will cause another on the list.  If you don’t believe me, look at Hurricane Katrina. Not only did this storm devastate a region, but what else happened? Civil Unrest, chemical emergencies from refineries, Biological emergencies with contaminated water and disease from bodies, and financial collapse of the region and lets not forget the looting and power grid failures. Look at the recent tsunami in Japan.  No one ever dreamed the nuclear reactors would so easily fail, melt down, leak, or kill (wait for it). The Japanese can probably site all the above listed events as a result of an earthquake. There is a common denominator shared by each item on the list that represents the biggest threat to survivors, outside of the event itself: People.

People will react in the most amazing ways after a horrible event.  Events like these bring out the best and worse in people.  This was seen in New Orleans. I was there in the aftermath. I saw the best and worst in mankind – Mostly the worst.  Normal, law-abiding people (well, it is New Orleans), when put in a survival situation, will kill you, if the stress of the event makes them believe they need your stuff to stay alive.

The dichotomy is that people are the biggest threat, but you can’t survive without the cooperation of other people.  You can’t make it through the listed events alone; you have to rely on other people to pool all your resources to survive. Every event on that list will cause people to lose their minds and cause chaos. Give it a couple of days, then the looting, crime and civil unrest explode like a powder keg.  Sure, you can crawl in your bunker, but for how long? You can buy 20 guns, but you can only shoot one at a time. You need to get organized, with a group of trusted friends/family, to provide, protect and plan your hopefully short term situation.  The well-organized, well armed groups will get passed by the marauders for easy pickings down the road.

Just in the last 10 years or so, we have seen some horrible events that touch every item on the list above….9/11, Hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,, Haiti, Japan's Tsunami, Worldwide Earthquakes, Eastern Seaboard Power failure shutting down New York, Euro collapsing, Japans Nuclear reactor failures, Iran’s Nuclear prowess, Missing former Soviet nuclear devices, Los Angeles riots, Tornados Midwest rampage, Ohio/MS River flooding, Texas droughts, and I could list a whole page .
Preparing doesn’t sound so crazy now does it? It’s not some right-wing doomsday fantasy, but if it makes you concerned, perhaps it should – No one is saying we should build an underground bunker (although I would love to).  All I am saying is having a plan, with people you trust while pooling resources just may save your life.

So now you realize you aren’t crazy- lets take a look at the basics:

What are the basic needs we will need as human beings?

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Shelter
  4. Security

WATER – Take stock if you are staying put or bugging out. You have what is available to you, but I would recommend having 3 sources of water either in my home or bug out location.

  1. Natural water sources (Creeks, rivers, springs that flow year round)
  2. Well water (How is it powered? Electricity/ manual pump/ solar?)
  3. Water storage (Ponds, stock tanks, water catch systems, barrel storage, bathtubs)
  4. City/County (Keep in mind this source is dependent on upkeep by people who will not be showing up to work in our scenarios)

FOOD - I know a lot of people have their 3-day bug out bag with survival food bars handy, but I believe you need to take stock, not only of your pantry, but other potential sources in your locations.

  1. Stored and saved canned goods with shelf life and extended life usage.
  2. Staples (oil, flour, beans, wheat, salt, sugar- Think food grade barrels)
  3. Natural Resources (Fish, wildlife in area for meat, Feeders/traps/snares)
  4. Seed (growing, farming, reproducing your own food – heirloom seeds)
  5. Livestock animals
  6. Food as a trading commodity (honey, spices,  alcohol, Etc)

SHELTER –We have our homes we currently live in whether its an apartment, house etc. Think about if you leave or bug out, it’s important to have shelter not only where you end up, but keep in mind it may take a few days to get there. Do you know anyone between you and your bug out location? Is there someplace safe you can leave a cache?
Some things to think about shelter:

  1. Size, capacity (how many are in your trusted circle? Will everyone fit?)
  2. Power options (propane, electric/generator, wood for warmth)
  3. Portable/semi permanent (shipping container, RV, tents, Trailer)
  4. Underground (storm shelter, root cellar, buried shipping container)
  5. Ability to create lean-to and basic shelters
  6. Alternate locations (when things get too tough, you may need to relocate)
  7. At your bug out location, is there a secure place, if there is a bio event, that someone can be put into quarantine until incubation period is satisfied before joining the rest of the group?

SECURITY – This means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Lets list out a few things that are important keeping in mind safety in numbers- however a smaller group of well prepared and well trained people can be the most important asset of security.

  1. Personnel (large enough to make the average band of marauders move on to easier targets)
  2. Weapons  (pistols, mid range, long range firearms.) One important need for quiet registered suppressed smaller caliber weapons for stealth and hunting.  This will be very important- Texas is mostly flat and sound carries for miles.) It is good to have .22, .223, .40/9mm, 12ga, 30.06/.308, 7.62x39. These are most plentiful and easily found.  Stealth and being quiet is something that not many presently talk about, but will be important.  If someone is looking for food/water etc, man-made noises are a beacon for people to come and find you. At some point, you will want to put your big bang stick away and opt for suppressed/small caliber or conventional bows.
  3. Ammunition: Having similar calibers among your group members makes ammo go further and able to work with more than one weapon. This coordination could be extremely important in long-term situations.
  4. Night Vision (or Thermal but expensive) There are many Gen 1 NV scopes out there that are priced so reasonably that they make it a must.  Those who own the night, control the day.
  5. Dogs (trained ones, not purse dogs)
  6. Fuel (including storage- This will make you mobile while gas is scarce)
  7. Alternate Transportation (ATV, Bicycle, UATV, mopeds) Don’t laugh – You can ride 10-to-20 miles on a bike without being in Olympic shape.  How long does it take to walk 10 miles?  Not so silly now is it?  Do some research on the Japanese in WWII being able to move mass amounts of troops in a short timeframe catching their enemies by surprise.  And bike is quiet…….

Now that we have some of the basics identified, there are other things that could have been listed above that many of us have lying around or have access to its usefulness.  I like to refer to these items as assets.  You should put a checklist together of your assets, keeping in mind, some assets are intangible.  Here is a quick list of both:


Communication. This is number one for a reason- ham radios, CB radios, Walkie-talkies, field phone with wires, and radios. Information equals knowledge, and knowledge is power.

  1. Boats (rafts, canoes, jon-boat, fishing and pontoon, inner tubes/pool toys- sometimes you need to get across a river/creek and need to keep stuff dry and they take up no space at all – deflate and use again later)
  2. Vehicles (some of us have multiple vehicles…or toys, that carbureted vehicle can be more valuable than you know if there is a solar flare or EMP)
  3. Trailers (we have a lot of stuff and people to bug out)
  4. Generators (these need extra fuel so prep accordingly, and don’t forget the oil)
  5. Tools (welder, chain saws, wire cutters, bolt cutters, etc)
  6. Bikes (these don’t need fuel and can get you miles in minutes)
  7. Land/property (even if it is not ideal bug out territory, it could be used as a cache to store items in alternate locale, or a safe place to stop and resupply to your ultimate destination)
  8. Reloader (The ability to load and reload your own ammo is a huge asset)
  9. Medical equip (all inclusive down to the band aids – don’t forget toothaches and tools for extraction if necessary) People never think about dental as part of their first aid kit…until they have a cracked tooth or toothache.
  10. Silent weapons (crossbows, bows, arrows/bolts, snares/traps)
  11. Fishing Poles (self explanatory)
  12. GPS/Maps (You need both because at some point tech will fail, oh yes, learn how to use a compass with that map) You don’t need static electricity with a needle on a pool of water- Bear Grylls is cool to watch, but go buy a handful of cheap compasses and put them in everyone’s bag and teach some online land navigation basics.
  13. Force multipliers (trip wire alerts, motion sensors, noise making material for areas you cant always see) An easy fix, battery operated motion lights.  If you need eyes in a location you can’t see at night – Set these up in those hard to see areas – It’s like having an extra person to alert you. Fishing lines and cans with rocks will make noise when tripped.
  14. Battery charging devices (Commercial, solar,  also think non conventional like a stationary bike with a belt to an alternator to battery to inverter to outlet) Hook it up to a wheat grinder and make some flour.
  15. Alternative energy (like my bike idea above, there are available sources on the market like solar, wind, hydro- research hydro – It only takes 10 foot of head to turn a turbine – I would love to explore this idea with my creek)
  16. Wood (Gotta have heat in winter, and have to cook)
  17. Clothing for all seasons (doesn’t hurt to have chest waders, mosquito netting, and sewing kits for repairs.  Not everything needs to be military or camo )
  18. Hammocks – I’m getting everyone in my family hammocks with a cheap tarp to go over the top.  There is a whole group of campers out there using only hammocks – Very cool, light weight and fit into the 3 day bug out bag nicely.

Now lets look at a list of what I call Intangible Assets.  What knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) do we bring to the group that can be passed along or taught?

  1. Training  (Firearms, tactics, military, safety/chemical, survival)
  2. Certifications (CPR/First Aid, EMT, MD, paramedic, dentistry)
  3. Skills (Farming, hydroponics, carpentry, mechanics, cooking, fishing, welding)
  4. Knowledge (Can you fix things? Make things, butcher, chemical knowledge, canning, pickling, reloading, armorer, water purification)
  5. Abilities (climb trees, make candles, negotiate, bow hunt, make a zip line, fish with a net. Think outside the box)

These are just a few things to think about when starting to prep.  Take your own inventory, and then take the next step. This step is just as important as your safety.  Unless you are going to live by yourself in a bunker (Okay, perhaps I have bunker envy)- you need to incorporate your trusted inner circle to share your ideas and make a plan. Choose wisely- I have seen a lot of people utilize their family- Most of the time, that works. But some folks don’t live near their family, or if they do, they don’t always get along with an in-law or each other.  Don’t be that guy that chooses his best friend that doesn’t believe in prepping, and if by chance they do, won’t prepare, wont bring anything to the table and will end up mooching off of your hard work and the others in your group.  Here are some things to keep in mind when you find your bug out group.  Ask the hard questions with your group now.

If you plan on leaving your home to your bug out location, you may be faced with some tough decisions, table these with your group and ask:

  1. How many people are invited to the location?
  2. What is the group going to do when some other “friends” not in the trusted circle show up?
  3. Uninvited family vs. uninvited friends – Is there a difference? Oh yes!
  4. When others show up looking for a handout or help- what are we prepared to do?
  5. In a bio situation (bird flu) how long should you quarantine others before letting them into your location- What if they are sick – What is the group prepared to do? What if they are family?
  6. Leadership roles vs. democracy vs. clans (family leaders)
  7. What are group pooled items vs. individual (mine) items.  What is shared vs. kept?

Meeting with your trusted inner circle (bug out crew) of people now and discussing these items will be crucial down the line.  Lets face it, it’s hard to find couples that all like each other much less entire families. Face the fact and embrace the fact there will be disagreements in advance, No one will ever completely agree on everything- That is reality.  These disagreements may become amplified in a stressful environment, but come to grips with it together and talk about it now. Talk about that family or group that finds you and wants to join your group to bolster their security (who, what when where, why and how- will be the name of that game). I can create an endless number of scenarios for and against accepting – But the group needs to come to an agreement.  What style of leadership are we going to use? Talk about it now.

Have a plan and several routes that everyone knows to get to your bug out location.  This is where communication devices are essential – Know what routes are inaccessible, have your back-up routes from each alternate points of entry (back up routes to your back up routes) Timing will dictate your routes.  Depending on situation and spread of the event, smaller towns that you would normally drive through could be barricaded and controlled by organized militias/groups like you, limiting access. This goes for any area.  Think of your bug out location, you may want to limit the access too, out of fear of travelers/hordes looking to pillage.  Depending on the situation be prepared to negotiate, barter, trade and or shoot your way to your bug out shelter. You may end up using all those methods along the way.

Bug out to a secondary location comes with its own set of pros and cons.  To me, the hardest question is: When is it time to bug out? No one can predict the best time, but I will say before all of the gas is used up. In our area of South Texas, you can hear a V-8 engine a couple miles away.  Remembering that a panicked society wants to take your stuff because they did not prepare and believe they will die without your stuff-What I am trying to say is err on the early side of bugging out.   The Bottom line is that if you wait too long, you will have herds of “zombies” trying to catch, shoot and kill the caravan of people who still have gas and a way out of town. 

At this point, being quiet is the name of the game. Noise attracts attention- Hunting is a good example; an AR-15 is deafening and can be heard 5 miles and more away. If you use it, use it only once. You will have everyone’s attention waiting to vector the second shot and move in that direction. Get skilled with a bow/crossbow or get a suppressed weapon. .22s are relatively quiet and are good small game calibers. Generators are loud and will attract attention. What are some fixes? Underground, ventilated areas/ mufflers? This opens the door to learning to trap, lay snares, or take serious advantage of the hog trap.  Stock up on rat traps and keep them at your bug out base (the snapping closed kind).  Not for rats, but for small game and birds.  These force multipliers will help you catch your needed protein.

As your group comes together, start training together.  You can start out with a  “survivor man” weekend where you can try your wares. Sight in all your weapons, start fires utilizing various methods, cook using only a fire-pit.  Walk your perimeter, know your weak spots, where are you vulnerable?  Where are the best vantage points on the property, escape routes, choke points, fallback areas, and cache spots.  Bring the families out.  Make sure everyone of responsible age knows how to load, fire, unload each weapon system each family owns. Make training weekends fun, but cover the basics and have everyone hone a skill. If they don’t have one, have them choose one, learn it well, and teach the rest of the group. Empower everyone in the group because we all need to not only feel we contribute to the whole, but we actually all really do need to contribute.  Make weekends to learn how to:

  1. Fish
  2. Shoot
  3. Plant/Harvest
  4. Gather
  5. Hunt/trap
  6. Security patrol/force multiplier utilization
  7. Communications
  8. Prepping vehicles/Trailers/ bags with supplies (what should be in them)
  9. Survivor man trips using your 3-day bug out bag. Know what works and what doesn’t.
  10. Make flour from wheat and bread from flour.
  11. Make alcohol – Uses are many, from drinking, fire starting, trading, sanitizing, cleaning wounds, sterilizing….and did I say drinking?
  12. Bee keeping many uses from pollinating, honey, candles, trading. Edible honey was found in Pyramids buried for centuries.

Each aforementioned training topic could be a whole chapter in a book.  Remember there are no wrong ideas, some may be misguided or implemented incorrectly, but most of us have not gone through this before. Getting ideas together is the first step to getting prepared which leads to taking action and responsibility for you and your loved ones which just may save your life one day. Good luck to us all – we might just need it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

There’s a lot of information available on how to make water safe to drink.  That’s a good thing because water is one of the most important parts of our survival and comfort.  My goal in this article is to organize and describe some of these methods in a way that is interesting and easy to read. I have included a few internet links to more detailed step-by-step descriptions and how-to videos created by others.

Although important, I’m won’t go into all the diseases and problems that can be caused by ingesting contaminated water. Just know that there is some bad stuff out there that can make a survival situation worse than if you didn’t drink the water at all. Additionally, I understand there are differences between the terms PURIFICATION, DISINFECTION, and FILTERED. I don’t want to get into all those details in this article.  When making water safe you want to choose the most effective method with the materials available.

In all methods listed below an attempt should be made to pre-filter large contaminates before beginning the disinfection process.
I have listed some of the methods below in two different ways; a brief description and then a detailed description. 

Brief Descriptions of methods:

Boiling: Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.
Distillation: Converting water into a vapor and then back into a liquid via direct or solar heat.
Commercial Filter:  A product designed and manufactured specifically for purifying water. These usually contain some type of charcoal or ceramic filter.
Chemical:  Using water purifications tablets, chlorine (bleach) and iodine.
Solar Disinfection (SODIS): Exposing water filled transparent bottles to the sun for an extended period of time.
Improvised Filter:  Using multiple layers and combinations of sand, rocks, pebbles, grass and cloth to create a filter similar to how the ground naturally filters water.

Detailed Descriptions of Methods:
Boiling: Boiling water is probably the most effective and reliable method of disinfecting water.  To make water safe to drink by boiling the water needs to be at a rolling boil for at least one minute.  Some sources may mention five or more minutes as the minimum but the extra time doesn’t provide any extra benefit and uses up more fuel.  An exception to the time for the boiling would be in high elevations where three minutes is recommended.
Ensure the container has not been previously used to store dangerous substances.  Metal containers are ideal for boiling water but other containers such as clay and plastic can be used as well.
A plastic container can also be used for boiling water.  Place the full container as close to a heat source as possible without coming into direct contact.  Keep it there until you see the water boiling for one minute.  Here’s a video from the YouTube channel Wilderness Outfitters demonstrating this method: Boiling In Plastic Bottle [JWR Adds: If you have a thermometer (ideally a floating dairy thermometer, the oft-repeated "full boil" or rolling boil" is not required to disinfect clear (filtered) water. The magic number that needs to be touched for Pasteurizing is 65º C (149º F). But if you don't have a thermometer, then bring the water briefly to just short of a boil (where the water visibly starts to churn), just to be safe.

This method is similar to how nature creates rain.  Heat transforms water into a vapor.  The vapor will condensate when it comes into contact with a solid surface or enough of it collects together until it’s too heavy to be suspended in the air.  There are several methods of making water safe via distillation. I will discuss solar distillation here.
Many survival manuals discuss creating a “Solar Still” to procure water  from the moisture in soil or green vegetation but it can also be used on existing sources of water that are suspected of being contaminated.

The typical description of a solar still describes using a depression in the ground eighteen to twenty-four inches deep and about three feet wide. Green vegetation is placed inside along the sides.  A collection container is placed on the ground in the middle and then the entire depression is covered with plastic sheeting.  Cover the sides of the sheeting with soil or other heavy objects to hold it in place and create a seal.  A small weight is placed on top of the covering directly above the collection container.  This causes the covering to drop slightly in a cone shape so that the condensed water on the underside of the plastic sheeting will pool to the center and then drip into the collection container.  You can run tubing from the collection container to the outside of the solar still and use as a straw so that you don’t have to disturb the cover when accessing the water.  Here is a video posted on the YouTube channel Desert Survival demonstrating how to build a solar still: Solar Still

Potentially unsafe water can be placed into the solar still and it will be evaporated the same way that moisture from the green vegetation would be.  You can pour the unsafe water directly into the depression or place in containers.  It’s very important to not allow any of the contaminated water to come in contact with the collections container or the covering for the depression.

[JWR Adds a Proviso: As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, do not use distilled water as your only source of water for drinking and cooking for an extended period, since it lacks the essential trace minerals found in spring water, well water, or tap water.]

Commercial Filter:
There are numerous types of products designed to mechanically purify water.  The technology for these is constantly changing especially as more effective and efficient methods are developed for use in impoverished areas of the world. 
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Most use a ceramic filter or activated charcoal to remove contaminates.  There are pump-operated versions and some very simple straw types.

These types of filters can be expensive but their benefits would quickly outweigh the cost if they are ever needed in an emergency.  Some major benefits are time and energy do not have to be expended in gathering fuel, starting a fire or waiting on chemicals to be effective etc.
I have provided a few links below of different types of filters and how they work.  I’m not promoting any of these brands but simply directing you to them as examples of what a typical commercial filter looks like.

The following link has some examples of portable filters by one of the leading manufacturers of these devices:  Katadyn Water Filters  Here’s an explanation and demonstration of a pump filter on the YouTube channel, KatadynKP: Pump Filter 
Here is an example of a filter straw:  Aquamira Filter Straw  This link has a great demonstration posted on the YouTube channel, ShelfReliance:  Filter Straw Demonstration.

  There are a few different types of chemicals that will make water safe to drink.  Some, like purification (iodine) tablets are made specifically for camping, hiking and emergency situations.  Others, like household bleach and iodine tincture can be used safely if you know the proper ratios to use. 
When using chemicals for disinfection in a container with a lid remember to loosen the lid about 5 minutes after adding the disinfectant and allow the water to come into contact with the threads and the inside of the lid.  This will ensure no contaminates remain in those areas.

Water purification tablets are pretty straightforward.  You drop the appropriate number of tablets into a container of water (usually about a quart) and wait about 30 minutes.  The effective time will vary slightly depending on the clarity and temperature of the water.  These types of tablets were standard issue in my infantry days in the army.  They can be purchased just about anywhere camping gear is sold.  An unopened container of the tablets can be good for a few years.  Follow the directions on the label.  Here’s a great demonstration posted on the YouTube channel, eHow: Water Purification Tablets

Household bleach (chlorine) is probably the most accessible method of disinfection for a typical family since it is such a common product in our homes.  The bleach must not have additives such as scents, cleaners or be the “colorsafe” type. About 1/8th teaspoon can be added to a gallon of water.  (16 drops if you have dropper.) After stirring let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  Smell the solution to get a general idea if it was done correctly.  There should be a slight chlorine smell similar to a swimming pool.  If you do not smell the chlorine then you can repeat the procedure.  If it still does not work the second time around then the bleach is probably not effective anymore.  Bleach does not have a particular long shelf life especially after opening the container.  “MrJmfitch” created a video of the bleach technique:  Chlorine Bleach Disinfection
Iodine tincture solution is a handy item to have in your emergency kit because not only can it be used to disinfect water but it can be used in the treatment of wounds.  Caution must be used for people with sensitivity to iodine. 

It is recommended to use tincture with 2% iodine.  Add about 5-8 drops of iodine to 1 liter of water and wait at least 30 minutes.  Issues with the iodine taste of the water can be remedied by adding vitamin C after the 30 minute wait.  Here is a step-by-step guide with pictures on the web site, Instructables.  Iodine Purification

Solar Disinfection (SODIS): 
This method uses the suns UV radiation to disinfect contaminated water.  Ideally a PET made container should be used.  A typical plastic transparent water bottle would be an example of a PET made container.  Here is more information on what a PET container is: PET Containers
Completely fill the bottle with the contaminated water and expose it to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  If only partial sunlight is available then the time should be extend to several days.
An optional step I have read about is to agitate the container before it is completely full.  This will oxygenate the water.  Finish filling the container after oxygenating. 
This link has detailed step-by-step instructions:  SODIS Step-by-Step
Here’s a video demonstration of the SODIS method on the YouTube channel, wildernessinnovation: SODIS video

Improvised Filter: 
An improvised filter uses multiple layers of different materials to filter the water.  It’s similar to how the earth naturally filters water.  This method is certainly not the preferred method but is probably slightly better than drinking straight from the source.
Some type of container will be needed such as a bottle or a can but I’ve even seen this method demonstrated in a hole in the ground.  Filter materials that can be used for this method include dirt, grass, charcoal, cloth and coffee filters.  You will ideally need at least three different materials.  The preferred ones would be grass, charcoal and dirt.

The top of the container will need to be removed so the materials can be layered into it.  Smalls holes will are placed in the bottom of the container.  They need to be the right size to allow the water to flow through them but not allow all of the filter materials to get through.  You can start small and increase the size of the holes as needed.

The filter should have the coarsest materials on the top and bottom and as the layers get closer to the middle the finer materials are used.  For example, at the bottom of the container would be grass, then on that would be dirt, then charcoal, dirt again and then another layer of grass at the top.
This link has an easy to follow step-by-step guide on the web site Practical Primitive: Improvised Water Filter
Here is a video demonstration from the YouTube channel eHow: Improvised Water Filter Video

Remember, you always want to use the most effective method of water purification with the materials on hand.   You also need to factor in the time an energy that will be expended in the particular method you choose. In a worst case scenario there may be a chance that you have no method of ensuring water is safe to drink.  If it comes down to dying of dehydration or possibly getting sick from drinking unsafe water, drink the water.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sometime in the not so distant future our lives will be turned upside down by yet another natural or manmade emergency. Start now by doing your research and figure out which type of emergency is most likely to affect your life. Then get ready! Once the stores close their doors and the gas stations are no longer pumping gas, it’s too late! Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and remember that the survival basics are similar even if the emergency or climatic conditions are different.

I was born and raised in the Hawaiian Islands and decided to come back after 12 years of schooling, working and military service on the USA mainland to raise my family on a relatively small island in the Pacific Ocean. Why would I do such a thing? Hint: It was 72 degrees below zero wind chill factor for two weeks during my last of seven winters in Montana! Some of the advantages of island living include the year round growing season, plenty of wild game, fruit trees and let’s not forget to mention the milder warmer climate. The downside of living on an island is that you’re really on your own when the commercial ships and planes stop coming over, which could be a blessing during a pathogen type emergency, but that’s another chapter.

Throughout the years of living here, I’ve noticed the way residents on a small tropical island do things are usually quite different from how folks would do things in more populated areas. You have to adapt a different attitude for living and dealing with the same people that inhibit that island since you’re going to interact with those neighbors more often. Similar rules and considerations would probably apply to behavior in a combined family retreat during a TEOTWAWKI or SHTF situation.

Another major consideration is that the resources on an island are very limited and very dependant on a robust commercial system. Most of our consumer goods (95%) are shipped here from the Mainland USA and people here are starting to realize that if that “commercial system” went down even for 3 days that the islands would quickly run short of food and other essential goods. A concerted effort is being made by a growing number of residents to think sustainable by planting gardens and exploring ways to be more self-sufficient as the island inhabitants were before us. We still have a long way to go but I’ve always felt that the more citizens that are prepared for emergencies the better.

Since you probably don’t own a retreat to bug out to and your emergency supplies are minimal, your emergency plans may include your home or apartment serving as your shelter in place location during a short-term emergency. Now let’s say the emergency lasts longer than expected and your power and water supply have stopped; you better have a plan B and C for moving out. Now comes the hard part about spending your hard earned money on gear that you may not use very much but will certainly be a game changer in any emergency. Consider the money you spend on essential gear as an investment and purchase the best equipment you can afford since replacement parts may be next to impossible to get once the stores close their doors and remember, your equipment doesn’t have to be fancy just functional and rugged.

Basics concerning food start by storing as much food as you can afford and have room for and don’t forget to rotate your food supply since they all have expiration dates. One-week supply of food and water should be the minimum amount to have on hand at any time. Energy bars and vitamin supplements should also be stored along with your food supply. If you live in a tropical area harvesting food from the ocean, rivers and streams will involve diving, spearing, netting or fishing and having the correct equipment is vital. Local residents have been living off the bounty from the ocean for centuries and knowing how to be such a hunter-gatherer will be life saving information.

Freeze-dried or MREs:
Choose these types of prepared foods if your plans include moving to a different location since these foods are lightweight making them easier to carry on your back and are worth their high price when you consider how heavy can goods are.   Supplement your diet with whatever you can find along the way if on the move.

Note: Basic ocean food gathering tools including a spin casting fishing rod, swim fins, facemask, spear, underwater flashlight and dive knife should be part of your gear if you live or plan to move to a tropical environment. Optional gear: wet suit, booties, SUP surfboard or small canoes to reach deeper water and assorted nets. Know your limits! Once in the water you’ll need to constantly watch out for big waves, sharp coral and strong rip currents.

Drinking Water:
Clean drinking water is essential to life for us humans and we need to drink at least 2 liters a day to function and more water is required if the climate is hot or your physical activity high. Even if there are clear flowing streams or rivers in your area, precautions should be taken to avoid drinking the water before treating. Pre-filter your unclean water with a cloth or handkerchief and then bring to a boil before drinking if no other purification methods are available. Consider a solar distiller before drinking salty and contaminated water. Drink water before you’re thirsty to avoid dehydration and heat stoke and add Gatorade type powder to your drinking water to keep your electrolytes balanced when under a heavy load.

Source and filters:

There are so many portable water filters and purification kits around not to have several on hand. Another method of purification is desalination which renders salty and contaminated water safe through evaporation and can be done with readily available materials such as copper tubing and cooking pots with tight lids. Always purify your water when in doubt since getting diarrhea from drinking contaminated water will take the fight right out of you and lessen your chances of survival. Know where your drinking water comes from and always stay alert for other sources of water. Don’t compromise your water sources by bathing or dumping wastes upstream. Rule: Take care of the natural resources and it will take care of you.
Prepare yourself to cook on open fires, small camping stoves or underground and think out of the box when preparing your meals. Consider solar ovens that are easy to build with readily available materials. You’ll be surprised at what looks edible when you’re really hungry! Watch your fires carefully since the Fire Department will probably be very busy during a major event and not be able to respond to every call, so include a fire extinguisher with your gear.

Methods and materials:

Have at least three different methods to start a fire on you at all times. Carry lighters and magnesium fire starters, which will provide you with many fires then learn the basics for fire making and practice them. Remember that burning green stuff means you’ll be making plenty of smoke, which may attract unwanted guests.

Note: Cooking meat, fish and starches underground is a method locals have been using for centuries. After the pit is dug large enough to fit whatever you’re cooking, add enough river rocks (make sure rocks are not wet before putting them into t