Archive for the ‘Combat Survival’ Category

How to Make Homemade Deodorant

February 27, 2013

If we are ever faced with a TEOTWAWKI –(The End of the World as We Know It.) (Pronounced “Tee-ought-walk-ee) type situation, given that most people are far from prepared with hygienic items like deodorant — let alone food — the world is going to literally become a stinky place (you ever been in a packed bus in a third-world country? Not fun I tell ya, not fun).

Well, by storing a few extra items as part of your preps you’ll become the go-to guy (or gal) for those looking to manage their underarm issues.

Heck, I’m sure you’ll even get some sweet barter deals out of it, “Hey man, how bout we trade my ammo for your homemade deodorant? My wife won’t let me back in the house unless I fix this problem”.

How to Make Homemade Deodorant

What you’ll need

  • 6-8 Tbsp Coconut Oil (solid state)
  • 1/4 Cup Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Corn Starch

Step-By-Step: Making your Homemade Deodorant

Step 1: Throw the coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch in a bowl.

Step 2: Mix the ingredients together with a fork (this step is a lot easier if you warm up the “oil” until it becomes soft and mixes easily).

Step 3: Place your finished product in a jar for storage.

Putting Your Homemade Deodorant to Use

Since coconut oil begins to melt above 75°F, if you live in a warmer climate (or it’s Summer), it’s best to store it in a cooler area (like your fridge). If you have no choice but to keep it in an area above 75°F, you can still use it without issue — it’s just a bit more messy.

To use, simply dip a couple of finger tips into the homemade deodorant and apply to your underarms.

Some Observations

After using this, I have to say it’s quite effective both as an antiperspirant and deodorant.

The antiperspirant properties seem to come from the corn starch and the deodorant properties come from the baking soda and coconut oil (coconut oil is a natural antibacterial).

I’m a guy who sweats pretty easily and if I forget to use deodorant when I’m exercising or playing sports, well…let’s just say I feel bad for anyone having to block my jumpshot. But after using this I stay pretty dry and best of all, still smell great.

What I do notice with this is that it needs to be applied more often than you commercial variety (at least with me). If I have a very active day I’ll need to apply it more than just in the morning.

Resources

  • PassionateHomemaking.com  – I learned this great recipe from Lindsay over at PassionateHomemaking.com. She’s got some fantastic article so be sure to check them out.
  • Asonomagarden.wordpress.com – Here’s another recipe for homemade deodorant if you don’t want to use coconut oil (I haven’t tried this one).

Building a Debris Hut

February 27, 2013

If you were ever forced to bug out and survive in the middle of winter, knowing how to stay warm and dry in chilling rain or subfreezing temps is a must.

And what if you had to do that without bedding, fire, or a blanket. Would you still be able to stay warm and dry?

Since my brother was in town for the Thanksgiving holiday we decided to see how one of my favorite survival shelters — a debris hut — would fare on an overnight in some cold weather.

The evening we did the test was going to be in the low 20s (Fahrenheit) so it was a great night to test the shelter out: Will a debris hut keep me warm on subfreezing temps without the need of a fire or sleeping bag?

My results are at the end of this post.

But first, a little more about the debris hut and how you can build your own…

Debris Hut History

The basic purpose of a debris hut is to provide a cocoon of insulation and warmth — much like a sleeping bag.

I actually learned this shelter from its inventor, Tom Brown Jr. in one of his survival classes years ago and since that time I’ve had the opportunity to test it on multiple occasions in the Spring, Summer and Fall — comfortably sleeping without the need of a sleeping bag or a fire to stay warm and dry.

However, I’ve never tried this out in colder temps below freezing. So this cold-weather test is a long time coming for me.

The great advantage of this shelter over, say, a lean-to or other shelter is if built right, it doesn’t require you to have a sleeping bag, blanket, or a fire. It is built to be entirely self-sufficient as an insulator and shelter from the elements.

If you live in the Northeast like I do, or another area with lots of debris/woods, this shelter is an excellent one to have in your mental toolkit.

How to Build a Debris Hut

Building a debris hut is actually a fairly simple process. If you live in an area with woods and debris then you’ll have everything you need to build one of these shelters. The key is, you should be able to find all your materials off of the ground.

In other words you want dead materials.

You don’t want to start cutting down perfectly live trees for this not to mention that being a waste of energy.

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Find an area with lots of debris. As I mentioned before, this shelter is ideal for an area that naturally has a bunch of debris and woods. While this can be built in less than ideal locations, it will be well…less than ideal and take longer to build. Leaves, long grasses, pine-needles, and so on are all excellent for use with this type of shelter.

You’ll even find a good amount of debris under a thin layer of snow:

Step 2: Find a ridge pole almost twice as long as you are high. The straighter the better, however even a crooked one like this will be effective.

Step 3: Prop up the ridge pole. Using two “Y” shaped sticks, the next step is prop up the ridge pole so it sits about crotch height. Be sure you use sturdy sticks (at minimum the size of your wrist) that aren’t brittle or rotting.

It helps to lie under the ridge pole to make sure that there is a descent amount of head and shoulder room to move a little bit at night.


Step 4: Build the framework – Next, using sticks anywhere from two-finger to wrist thickness, create “ribbing” perpendicular along the entire length of the ridge pole.


Step 5: Add “stick debris” to the structure – In this step you want to gather a bunch of stick debris and place it all over the structure.


Step 6: Place debris over the shelter – Gather a whole bunch of debris like leaves, pine needles, long grass etc and pile it on top of and in the shelter.

Step 7: Create a thick bedding – After filling the cavity with debris, climb into the shelter and flatten out the debris on the shelter floor. Repeat this at least 3 times to make a thick comfortable, insulative bedding.

Step 8: Plug up the shelter – When you’re ready to retire for the night, pull in a bunch of leaves with you into the shelter, surrounding yourself with leaves (if it’s really cold) and plugging the entrance — effectively creating a cocoon of leaves.

My Test Results and Observations

Was I able to get through the night without a sleeping bag in 20 degree weather?

Partly.

I actually made it most of the night without the need for anything extra. I hit the sack around 9PM and slept soundly until around 3am. I must have moved too much during the night because the leaves I had on top of me had eventually fallen off and so there was a gap of air above me that was starting chill me.

At that point I grabbed the sleeping bag and slept through the rest of the night.

Would I have been able to survive the night without the bag?

Yes. However it would’ve been uncomfortable.

The issue was I did not have enough leaves on top of the shelter to really contain and hold the heat radiating from my body. There were plenty of leaves below and beside me since my back, bottom and sides were nice and warm. Above me was the issue.

I’m going to try this shelter when we get some colder weather again (right now it’s pretty mild). For the next time though I’ll need to make sure I put twice as much leaves on top.

It’s important that the colder it is, the more debris you have over the shelter. Ideally, from the top of the ridge pole, you want at least one arm’s-length of debris covering it for these colder temps.

How to Make Yogurt from Powdered Milk

February 27, 2013

I’m a big fan of yogurt, especially the thicker kind like Greek yogurt. If I had to go without it during TEOTWAWKI you might as well end my world right then and there.

…kidding.

But really, I love yogurt and if you’re like me then you probably would like to have it around after the SHTF. If that’s the case, it’s definitely a good idea to learn how to make it NOW…especially from your long-term food stores.

Speaking of long-term food storage, hopefully you guys are working on building your long-term food stores (if not, check out Prepper Academy to get exact step-by-step details into how to build up a solid food-storage plan as well as master the other aspects of prepping).

As part of your long-term stores, I HIGHLY recommend having powdered milk. Besides obviously reconstituting it to have milk, there are quite a variety of things you can make from it like different cheeses, “sour creams”, and yes, even yogurt.

Having Yogurt Post SHTF

The key with making yogurt from your food storage is to have a starting yogurt culture available. This can be easily acquired by purchasing yogurt from the store.

Once you make your own yogurt from the instructions below, you can continue to make yogurt by saving a little off from the previous batch, continuing this process for as long as you’d like to have yogurt.

Making yogurt from powdered milk is actually a simple process:

How to Make Yogurt from Powdered Milk

What You Need

  • Powdered milk
  • Yogurt (w/ active cultures)
  • Cooking thermometer
  • Mason jar (or similar)
  • “Yogurt Incubator” – This can be many things. Basically you want something that will maintain a steady temp of around 100°F – 150°F for 3-4 hours. In my example I use an Excalibur dehydrator but you can also use a crockpot, a slow cooker or even a large pot filled with water on a very low heat (this must be monitored).Your yogurt mixture can be placed in a jar which is then placed in the warm environment (like with the example shown here or immersing the jar in water that is kept at a warm temp) or you can place the mixture directly in the cooker (like in a crockpot or slow cooker).

Making Yogurt – Step-by-Step

Step 1: Reconstitute powdered milk. In a pot, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of powdered milk and stir until mixed thoroughly (this is stronger than how you would normally reconstitute the milk).
Step 2: Heat milk. Using a thermometer for accuracy, heat milk to 180°F.
Step 3: Remove milk from heat. After reaching 180°F remove the milk from the heat source and let it stand until it reaches a temp of 110°F.
Step 4: Mix in yogurt. Using store-bought yogurt w/ active cultures (or from a previously made batch) thoroughly mix in two tablespoons into the warm milk and pour mixture into your jar. Here’s what you want to see when reading the labels on your store-bought yogurt:
Step 5: Place yogurt mixture in warm environment. Using your incubator of choice, place your yogurt mixture in it and try to maintain a temp of around 100°F – 150°F. I place my jar in an Excalibur food dehydrator with the trays removed at a setting of 115°F. Yes I do close the door (not shown in this pic)
During a SHTF type of situation I could use my hot-water canner and place the jar in there (NOT AT BOILING TEMPS THOUGH). You would need to babysit it quite a bit to ensure that the temps don’t get higher than 150°F.
Step 6: Remove yogurt from incubator. After around 3 to 4 hours, check on your yogurt to ensure it has coagulated (just look, don’t stir or disturb!). At this point there may be a small amount of whey separation on top (hard to see in this picture). If so just pour that little bit off and enjoy your yogurt while warm or refrigerate for normal cold yogurt.
(optional) Step 7: Make Greek-style yogurt. To make a thicker yogurt like Greek-style yogurt, just pour your yogurt in a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or even a cotton t-shirt and hang it over the sink for a couple hours (until the thickness reaches your liking).
Step 8: Flavor (if desired) and enjoy!. If you’ve made Greek yogurt, keep in mind you’ll lose about half the volume of the original batch (my two-cup recipe in this example made around 1 cup of Greek yogurt).

Troubleshooting Failed Yogurt

If after 4 hours you still don’t have any coagulation, then it’s likely your yogurt has failed. Here are some possible reasons for failure:

  • Your starting yogurt culture was dead before you used it. Be sure to purchase or use fresh yogurt with active cultures.
  • You killed the yogurt culture. You possibly added the yogurt to too hot milk (didn’t wait until it reached 115°F before adding) or you killed it in your incubator. In either case, ensure the temp of the culture never reaches much over 150°F.
  • You disturbed the yogurt while it was “incubating”. Do not mix, stir or otherwise heavily disturb the developing yogurt. It’s ok to visually check it or move it VERY SLIGHTLY to ensure it has set.
  • Yogurt was in the incubator too long. If the yogurt has separated quite a bit and is bubbly, you likely kept it in the incubator too long.

How to Develop Mental Toughness

January 23, 2013

“The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you’ll bleed in times of war.”

There are a lot of things that we as preppers need to prepare for.

We focus on building our food and water storage, having multiple backups of our energy and heating needs, look to learn skills that were common in the “old days” and focus on building our security measures to protect what we’ve worked so hard to build up.

If there’s one thing though that we rarely hear about in the prepper circles that I feel is equally as important, it’s building up our mental toughness.

The unfortunate thing is that most of our nation (and many preppers I know of) greatly disregard this aspect of preparation. They become soft, live lifestyles with no discipline and prefer to take the path of least resistance.

Believe me, I get it, it’s part of our nature to do so.

However, if we want to have the mental fortitude to be able to survive when times get tough, we need break those patterns and take a different road — in many cases a harder road.

After all, we may not be able to hide behind our preps, hoping that we’ll be living on easy street when things go south.

In a survival situation, or a long-term SHTF type situation, mental toughness is what will bring you across to the other side, and although it may be an overlooked attribute to develop, it may just be one of the most important.

How to Develop Mental Toughness

First off, it helps to know exactly what mental toughness is.

The definition that I like is that it’s the ability to will oneself through less-than-ideal situations and conditions. This could be battling cancer, going through military training or simply waking up early to go workout.

Mental toughness is typically not something you’re born with (I don’t know of too many babies who just “tough it out” when it comes to not getting fed)…

…mental toughness is something that is developed.

So how do we develop it?

Well, it all comes down to regularly operating outside of your comfort zone.

Take this illustration for example…

The center circle represents you, and the inner area is your present level of comfort. No extra amount of effort is required to stay there. This is your safe haven, your bad habits, those day-to-day ruts, your place of predictability and familiarity…your level of comfort.

Beyond this circle lies your area of discomfort. This is the area in which you know you COULD operate if required to, but, it’s uncomfortable and most people choose not to.

However, when you purposely choose to step just outside of your comfort zone something interesting happens…

With time, this larger area will become your new comfort zone and what was previously difficult now becomes easier — giving you a broader and new perspective on what your limitations are. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.

When this is done on a regular basis, not only does your capability increase but so does your mental toughness.

So what are some things that you can do to build mental toughness?

Well, the key is to seek out daily opportunities to get into the zone of discomfort. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a look at the various activities you do on a daily basis and start by tweaking some of them such that they take you just out of your comfort zone.

Here are some examples that should spur some ideas of your own:

  • If you have a flight of stairs in your home, any time you walk down them, go on all fours (great shoulder and chest workout). Or when going up, hop up each step.
  • Do a number of pushups or pullups (install a pull-up bar in the doorway) before entering or leaving certain rooms of the house.
  • Go without food or water for 24 hours
  • When on errands, park your car further out so you have to walk farther.
  • When showering, finish the last portion of it with a blast of cold water.
  • When watching TV, do pushups/situps during the commercial breaks.
  • Try to do as many activities as possible with your non-dominant hand.
  • If your on the shy side, go out of your way to talk to 3 new people a day and learn something about each of them, or…
  • …try singing at the top of your lungs when someone is pulled up next to you at a stop light.
  • Wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to.
  • When getting your mail in the middle of winter, go out in some shorts and a t-shirt.
  • On those nights when you’re exhausted and just want to go to bed, force yourself to clean or do the dishes for 10 minutes.

While they may seem inconsequential, these little out-of-your-comfort-zone activities (when done often) are a great tonic and will build up your mental toughness.

As you may have noticed in some of the examples, building your mental toughness goes hand in hand with building your physical toughness. Both of these are crucial when it comes to survival.

Conclusion

You may have heard the saying, “The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in times of war” (or any of the other variants of this saying). What this means is that now’s the time to prepare (to sweat) for tough times ahead.

Those times are coming…will you be prepared?

It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of your level of fitness, how tough or weak or how old you think you are, you can make the choice to go beyond your present level of comfort — ideally on a day-to-day basis.

As a side note, I would recommend keeping a mental toughness journal. Basically, record on a daily basis those things you did to take yourself out of your comfort zone. As you do so, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made and what used to be uncomfortable and difficult become comfortable and easy.

Each time you make a choice to go beyond your comfort zone, you build up a reserve of mental toughness. Each time you choose the easier path you diminish that capacity. As you build mental toughness, you will be able to call upon that reserve during tough times — and overcome.

Resources

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, there’s a fantastic book written by SEAL veteran Cade Courtley called, SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster that served as the inspiration for this article.

Survival Rifles

January 7, 2013

There are many survival rifles to choose from.  I will break them down into 5 categories: AR, AK, Surplus, Pistol Carbines and Hunting. I will explain their advantages and disadvantages.  After reading my article you should be able to find out which one from the above categories fits you best.

 

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AR15 in action! (photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/41bHnT)

 

Lets start with AR.  Contrary to popular belief the AR does not stand for Assault Rifle.  It stands for Armalite rifle which was the company that first developed the rifle platform in the 1950s before it was sold to Colt which developed it into the M16 used in the military today. The AR15 is a highly popular  civilian version available in semi automatic only as opposed to the military version which is full automatic.  The AR 15 went on the market to civilians in the early 1960s and has been popular ever since.

 

AR 15  advantages

  • simple to operate
  • ammo is widely available
  • highly customizable
  • very lightweight
  • very accurate right off the shelf or out of the box

 

AR 15 disadvantages

  • must be maintained regularly
  • many small parts when field stripping
  • can be expensive to purchase compared to other guns ($750-1500+)

 

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AK47 (photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/dk7CuD)

 

The AK, also know as the Avtomat Kalashnikova was developed by Mikhail Kalsknikov for a design contest for a new rifle for use by Soviet Forces after WWII.  It was first introduced for use in 1947 by select Soviet Army Units, hence the AK47 designation.  A few years later in 1949 it was accepted for use by all Soviet Forces and its allies.  It is estimated that 100 million AK rifles have been produced worldwide making it the most popular Assault Rifle.  Even 6 decades after being first fielded it still remains in service.

 

AK advantages

  • simple to operate
  • widely available
  • easy to field strip and clean by almost anyone
  • inexpensive to own compared to an AR  ($400-1000)
  • tough and long lasting to abuse

 

AK disadvantages

  • not as accurate at long distances as an AR
  • 7.62 X 39 ammo not as common as .223/5.56mm
  • known in movies and other media as a “bad guy” gun

 

Surplus rifles are also quite popular as “survival rifles” too.  Many good choices exist, but a common one is the Russian Mosin Nagant.  It was originally developed by Russian Sergei Ivanovich Mosin and Belgian Leon Nagant.  It was adopted into a final design in 1891 and served Russia, Soviet Forces, and allies until adoption of the AK47.  Some Mosin Nagant rifles still are in service today in places like Afghanistan and SE Asia.  The design of the rifle feeds from a magazine that holds 5 rounds and is bolt action, allowing for one shot to be fired at a time.  Many variants exist and they can be acquired cheaply.

 

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Mosin Nagant, a typical surplus rifle (photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/8i5Wr4)

 

Mosin Nagant advantages

  • VERY inexpensive…(a rifle and nearly 500 rounds can be acquired for less than $200)
  • accurate powerful round capable of knocking down any man or beast on this continent
  • easy to operate
  • can hit targets at very long ranges

 

Mosin Nagant disadvantages

  • heavy, long barrel and bulky
  • not capable of rapid fire
  • powerful kick might be too much for some

 

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Authors Keltec Sub2000 Pistol Carbine

 

Pistol Carbines have become very popular lately as “survival rifles.” Several manufacturers have put out carbine models including Keltec, Hi-Point, Beretta, and others.  I personally own a Keltec Sub2000 pistol carbine chambered in .40 S&W.  The Sub2000 like many other pistol carbines shoots the same ammo and most of the time uses the same magazine as its pistol counterparts.  This allows for interchangeability between rifle and sidearm easily.  Additionally, the Sub2000 folds in half for easy portability and storage.  The longer barrel insures longer range and accuracy than just using a pistol.

 

Pistol Carbine advantages

  • greater accuracy and stopping power than a pistol
  • interchangeability between rifle and sidearms (depending on models)
  • less kick than a pistol
  • more compact than standard rifles (especially if it folds up)
  • can easily hit man-sized target at 100+ yards
  • cheaper than AK or AR ($250-750)

 

Pistol Carbine disadvantages

  • range shorter than most rifles
  • to insure interchangeability must purchase correct models
  • difficult to hunt small game with at long ranges

 

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Typical Hunting Rifle, the 30-30 (photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/9rwq6v)

 

Hunting rifles naturally fall into “survival rifle” territory by the nature of their design.  Hunting rifles are available in wide variety of calibers, actions, and magazine capacities.  As an example, one I have used for a number of years mostly for deer hunting is a Winchester Lever Action .30-30.  Most hunters should be familiar with this rifle.  It is very accurate to at least a couple hundred yards and fires a powerful round.  Its internal magazine holds 5-6 rounds depending on if a round is chambered and you can hunt just about any medium to large game with this round.  Also it is a decent self defense round with its blunt nose and slow trajectory.  Of course this is only an example and we don’t have the time time or space to go into all of the hunting rifle choices available out there!

 

Hunting rifle advantages

  • good stopping power  (of course depending on caliber)
  • many actions, caliber, and round capacity choices out there
  • most are easy to learn and use

 

Hunting rifle disadvantages

  • gun itself and ammo can be quite expensive ($200-2000)
  • most have low capacity magazines (1-5 shots at time)
  • some may have a learning curve to fire accurately
  • again depending on rifle can be difficult for some to handle

 

In conclusion there are many choices out there and of course you can only fire one gun at a time.  Think closely about what situation(s) you could be in should SHTF happen and choose wisely.  Also take into consideration stronger gun control restrictions may be on the way in the near future! I welcome your comments and suggestions.  Happy Prepping and be safe out there!

Survival Sense: Part 1

January 7, 2013

Doomsday Preppers Apocalypse 101

It has been said that Alaska’s upper Yukon River valley is the harshest, most unforgiving environment on the planet.  Local humor quips that there are only two seasons here –winter and the Fourth of July. This is a land of incredible extremes.

“THE INNER ELEMENT”

Dark, six-month winters known for prolonged periods of 40, 50, and even 60 degree below zero temperatures are followed by intense, fleeting summers that are punctuated by 90 degree temperatures and punishing, large-scale thunderstorms.  If you’ve never found yourself out in the open, walking into 40 mile per hour winds at 45 degrees below zero, you just don’t know what you’re missing.  Such environmental conditions call for a healthy metabolism and a “bullet-proof” wardrobe.  There simply is no “faking it” for the person who continually lives their life out in the country here.  The margin for error is scant –and the penalty for mistakes can be very costly.  A person simply has to know what they are doing in order to stay on the positive side of life’s equation from day to day.

Despite the obvious antagonism of the environment, the greatest threat to a person’s well-being here may surprise you.  Apocalypse 101Indeed, the most formidable obstacle to survival in any location comes from within –and it falls under the collective heading of “misinformed” or “faulty” metabolic conditioning.  This is to say that a person is many times more likely to fall victim to “self-defeat” than they are to lose a wrestling match with the bears or succumb to an untimely weather event –and self-defeat is certainly a very bitter pill to swallow.  As such, the balance of my writing over the next several months will focus on the proper understanding and care of your greatest ally in any survival situation –your own physiology.  To a lesser extent, I will discuss equipment, techniques, and mindsets which will tip the odds in your favor should the dark side of nature ever come to call.

By way of introduction, consider that the human body is designed for survival.  This cannot be argued against.  If it were not for such inherent inner programming, few of us would have survived the “arena” of our elementary school playgrounds.  That is to say that the “trauma” we experienced in the form of skinned knees and gashed elbows etc. would have left us to bleed out.   While this is an obvious over-simplification, it is none-the-less true.  There are countless inner-workings which are designed to “keep us swinging” –if only we will let them.  As previously mentioned, it certainly pays to enlist your body’s inner genius as your ally –and not (knowingly or otherwise) treat it with “contempt.”  If you don’t give your body what it wants, it may take it from you –and it may do so at a very inconvenient time.  Like it or not, this is where the battle of survival is most often won or lost.

 

These things said, I invite you to study the following words of the late Walt Whitman: “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons.  It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”  The implications of this statement are many –and they are very far-reaching.  A number of years ago, I adopted this premise as my own uncompromising standard –and I worked hard to make it my life’s reality.  Now, it very well describes my daily existence –and it clearly defines my relationship to the natural world.

Next time, I will begin by examining various mindsets and lifestyle choices that put modern man at odds with his inner workings –and thus significantly reduce his potential to survive in all manner of situations and circumstances.  It is inevitable that my overview may initially “irritate” some persons and earn me the discontent of others.  This is certainly not my intention.  As such, I will offer the following words by George M. Trevelyan in advance –as an antidote for any possible contention:  “The truth is a hard deer to hunt –for what man, after seeing his quarry, can turn away?”  For me, these words cut to the bone every time.   The direct implication is that, once a fresh truth registers with one’s inner person, he must choose whether or not to enlist his will and embrace potentially significant change (and inconvenience) in order to abandon his present course, and travel in a wiser direction.  The obvious alternative is that a person can knowingly disregard the truth, and then choose to continue along the way toward self-limited performance and a lesser quality of life.  Amazingly, some of us do.

Get-Home Bag

December 10, 2012

Imagine this, you’re 40 miles from home doing some errands in the city and the Big One has just hit. It cripples communication and power lines, halts public transportation, and has just left your car buried under a heaping pile of concrete. With the power down, your bug-out bag stuck in the car, and some of the zombies coming out to take advantage of the situation, your family is depending on you to get home NOW. But there’s just one thing…

Do you have the resources to make the trek back home by foot? Or are you going to remain where you are, hoping for the government to come help you and possibly risking an attack by looters or worse? This is where you need your Get-Home Bag.

What is a Get Home Bag?

The purpose of a Get-Home Bag is to get you to your home or to some other shelter-in location safely and as quickly as possible.

A Get-Home Bag is different than a Bug-Out Bag in that it is designed to be carried with you at all times (or at least readily accessible) any time you’re away from home. While a typical Bug-Out Bag is stocked full of items to support you for at least 3 days, a Get-Home Bag should contain the minimal amount of items to support you in getting home within a 24-hour period.

What Type of Bag Should I Choose?

If you are caught in a situation where looting and other forms of lawlessness is breaking out (remember Katrina), the last thing you want to do is stand out from the crowd. It’s at those times that you want to be the Gray Man and fade into the background.

If your Get-Home Bag screams “tactical” or looks like you’re carrying a load of preps, you could be a target. For that reason, the main thing you want to ensure is that the bag is discreet.

If you’re female, you’ve already got it made. A purse is discreet but also the larger handbags are often seen being carried by women so not only do they blend in well but they can carry a bunch of stuff.

For you guys, a simple messenger bag works wonders. Especially in the cities, messenger bags are seen being carried by guys more and more so they blend in real well.

I carry 5.11′s PUSH Pack everywhere I go. It’s not overly tactical looking, it has a small footprint (it looks like a camera bag) with multiple compartments and has strategically placed MOLLE webbing so that it can carry a bunch of stuff for its size. Since half the time mine has a baby bottle in one of the outside water-bottle compartments, it looks like a glorified diaper bag — perfect for blending in.

If you can’t deal with the Man Purses, go for a standard back pack. Just be sure not to abuse its size with a crap load of gear. Keep it under 15 pounds. Anything over that and you’ll soon give up carrying it around on a day-to-day basis.

In most cases, try to stay away from the Alice Pack or MOLLE Pack type of look. If it’s overly military looking or you have a bunch of MOLLE webbing with all sorts of gear riding on it, you’ll attract undesired attention since it looks like you’ve got a bunch of supplies on you (and they’d be right).

Just keep it simple and go for what blends.

What Should Your Get-Home Bag Contain?

What you pack in your Get-Home Bag is obviously dictated by personal preference and what your needs are. However, if you’re unsure as how to organize it, perhaps I can share what I carry in my Get-Home Bag and hopefully it’ll give you some ideas on how best to organize yours.

As with all my preparations, they are organized into what I call the 5 Pillars of Survival: personal security, shelter, water, fire, and food.

pers_sec

Personal Security

The Personal Security portion of your Get-Home Bag has to do with those items which will keep you safe and keep you alive (in the case of injury).

If you have the option to carry a concealed firearm in your state and you are comfortable with that, by all means I would recommend that. Otherwise, if it’s not an option, you can carry a knife, pepper spray, stun gun or any other item that can protect you from animals of both the 4-legged and 2-legged-walking-upright variety.

Here’s what my GHB contains:

  • Glock 22 with 15 rounds of hollow-point 40 caliber ammunition
  • Benchmade RSK MK1 folding knife (this, I clip to my pants)
  • stripped-down version of my trauma kit containing: Quick-Clot (combat gauze), Israeli bandage, pain-killers and nitrile gloves

shelter

Shelter

The Shelter portion of your Get-Home Bag includes those items that protect you from the elements. Since you will most likely not be carrying a tent around with you at all times of the day, your limited with regards to size and weight.

My GHB contains one of the simplest and lightest shelters available: a space blanket. These ingenious devices are waterproof, windproof, and can reflect up to 97% of the radiated heat your body throws off. The down side is, since they are so reflective they aren’t very discreet.

If you are worried about being observed, then you’ll want to be sure to cover up the space blanket some how. Or if you can afford the space in you GHB, the military has a field version of a space blanket (often called a “Casualty Blanket“). The casualty blanket is olive drab on the outside so it’s a bit more discreet. It also provides greater durability and warmth than a basic space blanket, but at the cost of greater bulk and weight.

Unfortunately my GHB can’t afford to give up that space, so for now — until something better comes along — I’m stuck with a standard space blanket. (Update: 9/15/11 – I was able to find an olive drab space blanket here)

water

Water

The Water portion of your Get-Home Bag includes water itself or those items that allow you to hold, filter, and purify water.

If you were forced into a 24-hour trek back home, dehydration will quickly become a very real issue. That’s why it’s so important that you have either water on you or some means of getting and purifying it. The benefit of living in New England is water is always a stone’s throw away, however it may not always be the cleanest. For this reason I carry the following:

  • small hydration bladder
  • iodine crystals (Polar Pure) for purifying
  • bandanna (for sediment filtering and many other purposes)

If you live in a more arid environment, consider carrying at least a small water bottle along with you.

fire

Fire

The Fire portion of your Get-Home Bag includes those items that you need to reliably start a fire.

I wouldn’t recommend packing some obscure “cool” fire-making implement like a battery and steel wool or a fire piston. Remember, this isn’t about impressing your friends but about survival. Instead, pack something you know you’ll be able to start a fire with (especially in wet conditions) like a lighter or waterproof matches.

Remember, redundancy is a good thing so pack in a firesteel and some Vaseline-coated cotton balls while your at it. These implements hardly take up any space so if you can carry more than one option, by all means go for it.

Here’s what’s in mine:

  • lighter
  • matches
  • firesteel and Vaseline coated cotton balls

food

Food

The Food portion of your Get-Home Bag includes enough food to carry you through a 24-hour period.

Food is the last on the list of importance in a survival situation (in this case, getting home). You can actually go for quite a bit without food (~ 3 weeks) however, in a high-stress situation liking humping it though a disaster area, you’ll be burning up calories like crazy so having something on hand will give you that needed boost.

For the food part of your Get-Home Bag you’ll want to avoid any high-water-content containing foods like canned goods or fresh foods. Instead pack some simple, dense, calorie-rich foods that save space and take no extra preparation beyond tearing open a wrapper. Dehydrated foods and dense candy bars are more along the lines of what you want.

For my bag I carry four 400-calorie emergency bars. It’s not gourmet but it will carry me through until I get home.

Beyond the Essentials

The elements of your GHB that make up the each of the five Pillars of Survival above should be the minimum required to get you home, but if your bag still has some room in it, may I suggest a few more things which can greatly aid you in the getting-home process.

What I Currently Have in My Bag

Beyond the basic items listed above, here are the other items I am currently carrying:

  • Maps: I carry foldable topo maps (homemade from MyTopo via Google Maps) of my area. This encompasses where I work, my home, and the areas in-between. This way, I can figure out how best to navigate around potentially unsafe or inaccessible areas.
  • GPS: This would be my primary means of navigation if satellite coverage is available.
  • A compass: Since I have experience and training in orienteering (navigating by compass), I carry a small compass that can provide a back-up in case my GPS were to go down (via EMP or otherwise):
  • Survival Knife: I carry a Bark River Bravo 1.
  • Paracord: Too many reasons to list here.
  • Lock-Pick and Bump-Key set: You never know what types of buildings you may need to get into or through in your attempts to get out of an area or into a safer shelter-in location.
  • Surefire E2D LED flashlight: Flashlights not only light the way in darkened areas but provide a tactical advantage.
  • Leatherman Wave multi-tool: The name speaks for itself.

What I would like to carry if I had the room

Given my current configuration, here are some items that I would like to carry but do not quite fit:

    • Breaching tool: A crowbar or modified Stanley Fatmax makes for an excellent breaching tool for getting into and out of areas in an urban environment.
    • Alternate footwear: The chances are good that the stuff could hit the fan while I’m at work. A 45-mile hump in a pair of dockers is not my idea of fun. Unfortunately at the present time I can’t fit a set of running shoes in my GHB. I am currently looking into a pair of Vibram Five Fingers as a potential solution to this issue.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

The key to safely and successfully getting home is to plan ahead. Since your situation is probably different than mine, you need to figure out what potential hazards and obstacles you’d face given the area you’d likely be egressing from. This will dictate what types of things you’ll need to equip.

As with any form of survival training, be sure to practice with the tools you carry. Getting caught in an emergency situation is not the time to try out a new tool/technique for the first time. Be prepared ahead of time with both equipment and training.

The Three B’s of Preparedness

December 7, 2012

Well, the election is over and it’s become apparent that our Nation is continuing down a slippery slope. With all of the legislation and rhetoric being espoused from D.C. regarding gun control, ammo taxes, healthcare and the much vaunted secession debate which is continually spun and re-spun by the media; Mr. John Public is fed a steady stream of ilk which cements him in apathy. Mr. Public doesn’t know what to do or believe because he’s not a doer, nor is he self-motivated, but one that believes everything will pan out as long as he continues to rely on the institutions which made this Nation what it is today. If he encounters difficulty in life, he simply reports to the local welfare office for his monthly ration. Should he become ill, he simply needs to report to the local Medicaid office where he will be assigned a doctor and cared for. And, when he is one day unable to find stable employment, he simply reports to the FEMA Camp where work will be assigned and his basic needs met and his protection assured by the armed FEMA Youth Corp from the civil uprising that is outside the gates.

However I and I pray you dear reader, am a doer. We have seen the writing on the proverbial wall for some years now and daily things escalate- A super storm in the North East, an earthquake in Eastern Kentucky and in the Middle East Israel has decided to start assassinating its enemies without “international” approval. If you have not been prepping for a while now, YOU’RE ALREADY BEHIND! Preparedness isn’t something that is a passing fad or an idea that can be thrown together on a whim. True preparedness isn’t having enough on hand for a few days during a storm; true preparedness is a lifestyle… Something you live and DO daily. With that in mind, I have broken down this lifestyle into three categories called the “3 B’s”- they’re easy to remember and should you prep these items alone in abundance and in redundancy you will not only have the very core of your long term survival needs, but trade items which can be utilized as currency when there’s none to be had.

The three B’s are:

BEANS: Beans doesn’t only stand for the wonderful things that make chili extra filling and our rear ends extra noisy, but food in general. Obviously you will want to eat should you be forced into a long term situation of self-reliance. If you believe that you will be able to live on wild edibles and wild game; you’re incredibly misinformed. You will not be able to harvest enough from the wild to be completely self- reliant and in all likelihood not enough to survive just one harsh winter. Thus, you MUST supplement your wild edibles and gardening and canning with store bought canned foods, MRE’s, Freeze Dried and Dehydrated food stuffs. Taking into consideration your shelter and mobility options, you may be able to have one large cache of food or several within a specified area. Regardless of the scenario, compile primarily foods, drinks mixes and yes, even liquor such as whiskey or vodka, which you consume on a regular basis NOW so that your palate is not forced to greatly adjust to “survival food”. If you hate Spam- don’t stock it in abundance! Use it for trade… Liquors like Vodka can be used as trade, antiseptic, poison ivy relief, a laundry freshener, insect repellant, mold killer, and to treat ear aches to name only a few!

BULLETS: Bullets obviously means ammo but I also lump knives and other tool items in this category. Stock up on common ammunition NOW. We all hear the rhetoric and it’s only a matter of time before they tax the ammo so much we cannot afford it. Look at the Cook County Illinois (Chicago) with their proposed “violence tax” of $0.25 per bullet sold! So that box of 50 .22 rounds will now cost you a whopping $22.50 instead of the current $10.00 (approx. for Federal ammo at Sportsman’s Guide). What is common ammunition? Well, it’s not .223… Think 12 gauge, 22 long and 9mm- these are the guns you need on hand for your family and the ammo you need to stock FIRST in abundance because it’s cheaper, easier to obtain now and it will be the most common you’ll find should your neighborhood be taken to a FEMA camp… Some will argue that they need to grab up their .223 or 7.63×39 or 54 because the others are more common and while that rings true, the others build up faster. I mean how many .22 do you really need? You can get a box of 500 Blazer rounds for $17- stock up 5000 rounds and you’re probably set for your .22 supply for some years to come. Do the same with your 12 gauge which is $23 for 100 rounds of target or bird shot at Wal-Mart. Remember; the common ammo is for small game hunting and bandit protection. You need the other goodies for the occasional big game, holding off marauders, zombies, Blue Hats, etc. Another thought to consider is picking up some barrel adapter for a 12 gauge single shot such as a New England Arms Pardner or H& R single shot. You can pick these weapons up for around $50-$60 at most pawn stores, they last forever, you can clean them easily in the field and with a small investment of $110 you could shoot 410/45LC, 9mm and .22 through your shotgun! See www.gunadapters.com for other options…

Knives as I mentioned are also lumped here because everyone needs a good knife for skinning game, doing chores or self-defense. Choose a solid fixed blade and select one that you can stake your life on. Too often people believe they can enter a survival situation with a cheap China made knife from a flea market only to have it break the first time the baton a branch with it. For me, my knife is one of the most expensive items I carry, often costing as much or more than my guns! I go for carbon steel, fixed blade that can just as easily be used for self-defense as they can for common woods chores. I like the Becker BK2 and Habilis Bushtool. But there are many other fine knives that can accomplish the same things. Shop around for the best deal, check eBay, find a trading site such as Bushcraft Trading Post on Facebook- I have upgraded most of my equipment by trading within this group and have a back up knife such as a folder or smaller fixed blade for carving or skinning tasks. Mora Knives are great little knives that can easily be re-handled when the plastic handle breaks, and they’re cheap. Condor Knives also offer good quality products for a fair price. Cold Steel used to be nice and their high end models still are, but they’re priced out of the common mans market. There’s no reason to have to spend over $200 on a good knife… That said, cheap knives have their place in your barter bin. Keep lots around as beaters and for trade with other like-minded folks along the trail.

Band-Aids: Band-Aids stands for all your medical & hygiene supplies. You need bandages, gauze rollers, 4×4 pads, tampons, soap, and toilet tissue, sutures, anti septic ointments, antibiotics galore and whatever prescriptions you rely on. If you wear glasses, have several pairs available in hard cases. Stock up on common antibiotics and refill whatever prescriptions you’re given as often as you can and just keep the meds stocked back because they most likely don’t expire. There are over 122 types of commonly prescribed medicines that don’t go bad, some even after 40 years of storage according to a recent FDA press release. Things that do expire are Aspirin and Tylenol, but they will still go at least 5 years according to the same FDA study! And you can get 140 tablets of 325mg Aspirin at your local Dollar Tree for yes, $1 that is made in the USA!

Additionally, get some basic medical training. A class in Wilderness First Aid will greatly enhance your ability to field treat common problems and learn to improvise when you lack proper medical equipment. Get books- REAL BOOKS, not ebooks on field medicine. When and if the power grid fails, ebooks are worthless. If you’re near Kentucky and want to get some training in Wilderness/Disaster Medicine, check out my website as we offer classes on a regular basis.

I realize that it’s difficult to store everything you need for 1, 2 or more years and in reality, you can’t do it due to variables that cannot be foreseen or taken into account. However, you can at least prepare enough essentials to greatly affect your survivability over a long period by simply prepping the 3 B’s.

And always remember- Hope for the best, prep for the worst…

Putting Together your Winter Emergency Car Kit

November 27, 2012

Between commuting to and from work, running errands, and schlepping the kids around to various activities, the average American spends over 200 hours a year in their cars.

This is more time on the road than we spend in vacation time in a year!

With all that time in your vehicle, the chances of you being stranded in your car due to a breakdown or inclement weather at least once in your lifetime is more likely than not. For that reason it’s an absolute must to have a Emergency Kit for you vehicle.

And with winter now fast approaching, having an emergency kit in your car is doubly important!

How to Put Together Your Winter Emergency Car Kit

What you decide to put into your car kit is really based on your needs, skill and desired comfort. In this post I’ll show you what I put in my kit but in doing so I’ll explain the core principles that you should follow. Ultimately, how you decide to fulfill those principles is up to you.

Throughout every season, I have two kits at all times in my car:

  • a core emergency-car kit and …
  • a watered down version of my Bug-Out Bag (BOB) — it’s more like a Get-Home-bag.

When winter rolls around I add some extra gear that would help me through the rougher weather if I were to become stranded.

Following the 5-Pillars of Survival (+ Tools) Approach to Building Your Vehicle Kit

For all my emergency kits (vehicle kit, Bug-Out Bag, Get-Home Bag etc) I organize them according to 5 principles of survival that I call the “5 Pillars”. Once I have all the pillars accounted for I then add extra “tools” that help make survival a whole lot easier.

Here are the contents of my emergency-car kit organized according to these “Pillars” (items with an ** are what I add for the winter season):

Personal Health & Security

Items in this category consist of anything that helps with keeping you safe, secure and healthy. Here’s what’s in my car kit:

  • small club – In addition to my carry pistol, I keep a small club near my seat as backup (this is actually not “with” my kit in the trunk for obvious reasons)
  • first-aid kit

Shelter

The shelter portion of your emergency car kit should contain all those things that help to protect you from the elements and keep your body at a steady 96.8°F. Here’s what I include:

  • **extra winter clothes (snow pants, gloves, hat, heavy wool sweater and winter jacket)
  • **winter boots
  • **sub-zero rated sleeping bag
  • 2 mylar emergency blankets (in the small BOB)
  • tarp tent (in the small BOB)

Water

The water component contains all those things that help to store, filter, collect, and purify water. It also includes, well, of course…water.

  • 1 gallon water jug
  • 2 quart bottles of water (in small BOB)
  • water purification tablets (in small BOB)
  • collapsible water containers (in small BOB)
  • small water filter (in small BOB)

Heat and Energy

This category contains all those items that you need to create fire, light and energy (including fuel). Here’s what I have:

  • matches (in small BOB)
  • firesteel (in small BOB)
  • flashlight (in small BOB)
  • road flares
  • portable 12V jump starter
  • extra batteries (in small BOB)
  • 1 gallon of gas – beyond keeping my tank always above 1/2, I pack a gallon of fuel just in case. This is rotated every few fillups
  • emergency car heater
  • extra 90% rubbing alcohol for the emergency car heater

Food

The food category includes food itself as well as items that might help you procure food. Here’s what I include:

  • Emergency food bars (in small BOB)
  • Ruger 10/22 rifle with 1000 rds .22LR ammunition

Tools

Once the 5 Pillars are met, you’ll also want to include some extras that help you beyond “just surviving”. This makes up the brunt of what I have. Here’s what’s in my “Tools” category:

  • tool kit – for basic auto repairs
  • duct tape
  • hand axe
  • folding saw (in small BOB)
  • windshield washer fluid
  • antifreeze/coolant
  • 1 quart of oil & funnel
  • Fix-a-Flat
  • tire repair kit
  • **small snow shovel
  • **snow shoes – hey, you never know when you have to trek it home in a blizzard
  • **traction skids – you can also use two pieces of carpet, kitty-litter, or sand
  • **ice/snow scraper
  • jumper cables

A closer look

Here’s what detailed look at my car kit:

I keep my core car kit in a storage container for easy access:

Here’s what my kit looks like year-round in the trunk — plenty of space for extra things

When winter rolls around, I unfortunately have to sacrifice space for security. This is a trade-off I’m always willing to make:

Hide Tanning at Home

November 16, 2012

One of the most wasted resources during hunting season is the hide of an animal. Most people take their game to a processor and leave with a couple arm fulls of various cuts of meat and sausages. But,what about the rest of the animal you took in? Well, those parts are simply discarded by the butcher or processor. What sort of things could deer parts for example be used for? If you take the antlers of a buck they can be used for knife handles, clothing/ equipment buttons, flint knapping tools and various tool handles to name only a few. The hides of course can be used for wall hangings, rugs and worked further into rawhide, buckskin for clothing or even knife and tool sheaths again to name only a few.

The hide of small game such as rabbits is also widely used as a liner in gloves, boots and headwear. Goat and Bison hides are utilized in furniture coverings and the list goes on and on. So for this month’s article, let’s look at just one way to tan a hide for the purpose of a rug, wall hanging or similar use. Again, this is only one method and there are many and while this one is pretty easy there may be some that are easier- all however take a time investment. This same method can be utilized on any haired/furry animal hide to produce the same results.
Step 1: Remove the Meat from the hide. After skinning out the game with a good sharp knife take a large metal serving spoon and scrape off the remaining bits of meat and pieces off the hide as best you can. Cut off any growths or tough bits with the knife and be careful so not to cut through the hide.

Step 2: Make a Decision. Will you tan now or later? If you plan to tan right away, plan on a time investment of several days of messing with the hide. Most of this time will be done within as little 15 minutes, but it’s a daily chore. If you plan to store your hide a freezer works great. Simply roll it up and place it into a heavy trash bag, then inside of another trash bag. If you cannot spare the freezer space, salt the hide thoroughly- one pound of salt for every one pound of skin and place it into a 5 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid. The hide will last forever this way, but the longer it sits the more hair you will lose. Check the hide every other day for the first two weeks and drain any liquid that has collected in the bottom of the bucket. You also need to think about how you want to tan your hide. Will you use a store bought tanning agent or use a more traditional approach such as soap or brains? Store bought agents are quick, easy and effective, but is that what you want? Another thought to consider is ticks- you might want to hose down your hide with some Raid or other flea and tick killer before storing just in case…

Step 3: More Salt. So now you’re ready to begin. If your hide was in the freezer, let it thaw completely first. If coming from the salt bucket, simply scrape off the old salt and prepare to salt again. Rub salt into every inch of skin and then fold the salted hide upon itself, skin to skin. Wait 24 hours, then complete the process one last time.

Step 4: The Soak. It’s now been 48 hours of sitting in salt, now it’s time for a salt bath! Take a plastic tub (size will depend on hide being done) and fill with warm water adding one pound of salt per gallon of water. Soak the hide for 24 hours.

Step 5: The Scrub. Wash the flesh side with dish detergent. Dawn works excellent due to its ability to cut grease and fats. If you’d like go ahead and wash the hair side with detergent as well, just hose it out really well and then hang it over a rack, fence or something similar to air dry.
Step 6: The Stretch. While the hide is still damp and pliable, tack it to a piece of plywood, flesh side up or out (facing you), stretching it out as much as possible.

Step 7: Apply the Oil. Your objective at this stage of the game is to prevent rot. If you elected to use a store bought tanning solution such as Deer Hunter’s and Trapper’s Hide Tanning Formula, then simply take a paint brush and apply three good coats to the flesh side of the hide, allowing 24 hours of cure time between each coat for best results. However, if you have elected to take a more natural approach such as using brain (of the animal)- blend the brain with a gallon of warm water, hide should be damp to the touch and you will use a sponge or heavy brush to saturate the flesh hide with the mixture. Let dry for an hour, then repeat. Repeat once more in 24 hours. Murphy’s Oil Soap is yet another method you can use, once again with the hide damp to touch, paint on the oil soap allowing the hide to soak it in for a couple hours before applying another coat. Repeat in 24 hours then apply warming foot oil which will aid in softening.
Step 8: Shake, Rattle and Roll. Once dry, your hide will be as stiff as the board you pinned it to and you can break it in by rolling and twisting it. Don’t go crazy though or you’ll lose more hair than you want. Once you’re satisfied, hang it up in the man cave or toss it on the cabin floor.