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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bug Out Bags for the Unprepared

The other day I got into an internet conversation about what to put in a BOB/GHB for children. My friend was convinced that a 5-year-old should carry a lighter version of an adult bag, and I was trying to convince him otherwise. I've been mulling the idea around for a few days and I'm still convinced that a child's bag should be packed in a manner similar to what you would hand an untrained adult. Yes, I do have supplies set aside for helping family and friends; that's part of my job as father/uncle/grandpa/chaplain, to help others where I can.

I have grandchildren and nieces/nephews that range from less than a year old to their mid-20s. With the exception of the older nephews, none of them have any training or experience that would help them in an emergency. This influences what would go into a bag that I could hand off to them in case they were caught in a crisis near me. Rather than get into specific items, I'll list some of the categories of BOB contents and my thoughts on each.

  • Everybody needs water to survive. I've covered my locale in other posts; it's hard to travel more than a mile in any direction without finding water of some sort in the area around me, so I stock ways to clean water instead of stocking water itself. A Sawyer Mini filter weighs a lot less than the amount of water it can purify, so they are a staple in my kits. For kids and the untrained, I prefer the LifeStraw due to it requiring no training other than the instruction “use this every time”.
  • Water purification chemicals require a minimal amount of training/education to use, and I wouldn't trust anyone under the age of about 10 years old to use them correctly. Small children might eat them and cause serious damage to themselves, so I leave them out of any bag that might go to the untrained or underage.
  • Most filters come with some sort of bag or container now, and many of them have adapters for common bottles like soda and water bottles. Finding a bottle in an emergency isn't as hard as it used to be; just make sure it's clean. Reusing a soda/water bottle is cheaper than buying a dedicated flask and it will be more familiar to children that are used to drinking from them.

  • The quickest, cheapest shelter I can find is a Mylar Space Blanket. Lightweight and small, I usually toss more than one into any kit I assemble. They don't hold up to extended use, but will reflect body heat well enough to keep a person warm in all but the worst winter weather. They are also rain-proof and make a good insulating layer when used in the construction of a debris hut or other make-shift shelter.
  • Plastic bags are quick and dirty ways to get out of rain and snow, and  I've covered their many uses in earlier posts. Anyone over the age of about 3 can be trusted with a plastic bag; under that age they're going to need constant attention.

  • I did a series of reviews on various emergency rations a while back, and I keep several of the “$10 cookies” on the shelf for tossing into bags. They're cheap, compact, and palatable if you pick the right brand, and will keep the hunger pangs down. For kids and finicky adults, try to find the ones with a variety of flavors to keep the whining and boredom at bay.
  • Snacks and candies will lighten a child's mood, so make sure you add some hard candy (they store better than chocolates or gummies) to be used as a source of calories. Kids tend to burn a lot of calories since they're constantly in motion, so be ready to provide the energy they need. Most people are addicted to sugar to some extent, so adding it to an adult's bag won't hurt.

  • This is very situational. I wouldn't trust anyone under the age of 12 with a way to start fires without supervision, but I also know several adults that I wouldn't trust with a pack of matches. Use your own judgement when assembling a bag for unprepared/untrained adults.
  • I found a source of ferrocerium rods years ago and bought a batch. They're small and have holes in them, so they go on the drawstrings and zipper pulls of a lot of my everyday gear. Ferrocerium rods are the spark-producing rods common in fire starting kits. They're cheaper if you buy in bulk, and Amazon has a variety of sizes to play with. I feel that these are safe to give to children because of the effort and training needed to use them. If nothing else, the kids will be carrying your back-up firestarter without noticing it.
  • Lifeboat matches in a waterproof container are an easy, cheap addition to an adult bag.
  • I've played with “permanent matches” and had varying luck with them. The best I've gotten was about two years before the fuel evaporated and left me with a very small ferrocerium striker for starting fires. Lighter fluid or naptha evaporates as quickly as gasoline, so they have to have a very good seal if they're going to be stored for any length of time.

Tools and Misc.
This is a catch-all category for the toys and tools that we like/need to have. Tools require training to use properly, so consider a person's age and aptitude when adding any of these to a bag.
  • Knives: Anybody older than 7 or 8 should be trustable with a folding pocket knife. The Cub Scouts used to teach boys that age how to carry and care for a pocket knife, but they had to earn the privilege to carry one and carry their “Whittling chip” card (which could be revoked by any adult). Fixed blade knives used around a campsite or kitchen will depend on the level of maturity and experience.
  • Firearms: This is a touchy one. I won't give a firearm to anyone I don't trust with my life, but I have several people that fill that bill. I also have more firearms than I can personally carry at one time, so rather than leave them behind I will distribute them to friends and family as needed. In a few years I'll have second-generation children that I can trust with hunting guns; they're just now learning to shoot.
  • First Aid: Another one that will vary depending on age and training. By the age of 5, kids should know how to apply a band-aid to themselves or others. Training beyond that is something that you'll have to take into consideration before tossing in a tourniquet or Epi-pen. Required medications and supplies should go with the people who need them as long as they are competent enough to use them properly.
  • Cordage: Everybody carries paracord for emergency use, but without the ability to tie useful knots it's just extra weight. During an emergency is not the best time to teach knot-work, but the lessons will definitely stick in their memory.
  • Light: Everyone should have their own flashlight, preferably with standardized batteries. I've seen a lot of urban people who can't handle the darkness of a rural night, so a few glow sticks or Paqlites will help them get by if the power is out. Chemical glow sticks have a shelf-life, but will work in a pinch; watch the clearance racks of local stores around the holidays. For example, you can pick up cheap Halloween glow sticks in November. 
  • Sanitation: A washcloth and hotel-sized bar of soap inside a zip-lock bag should go into every BOB. Keeping clean feels good and reduces a lot of infections that can ruin your day. Not smelling each other will also help maintain personal relationships. Feminine hygiene products are a must if you are dealing with women.

  • Small children and immature adults will have a hard time dealing with the loss of all of their comfort items. Toss in a favorite stuffed animal or toy for the little ones, a solar charger/battery pack for recharging cell phones for the bigger ones. Having a way to play a familiar game or two will distract them and might help calm them down a bit.
  • Most adults and some children will have “addictions” that will need to be addressed. Instantcoffee packs are shelf-stable, have a long life, and will help wean people off of the caffeine that they consume on a regular basis. Sugar was mentioned above, but some people get cranky when their sweet-tooth kicks in. Tobacco is best left to the user's choice; they'll need to figure that one out themselves.

As you can see, I don't have any hard rules or recommendations for putting together a BOB for someone else -- too much depends on the person's maturity and training. The basics of water, food and shelter are a good start, with the other stuff added as needed. Keep in mind that most children and quite a few adults are not used to carrying anything heavier than a cell phone, so you'll have to keep the weight down to less than you'd carry yourself.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fuel Your Fire (Starter)

My half-joking mantra about preparedness is "I cheat at it." by looking for the most efficient and effective tool to accomplish a given task. Primitive bushcraft tools and methods are a wonderful proof of concept, and a neat way to show off skills, but modern technology exists for a reason -- the tools and techniques of today grew from a need for more reliability and efficiency than previous iterations. So while a flint or firesteel or matches are a fine way to light a fire, in many situations the best method is the modern cigarette lighter.

I am a dearly devoted fan of the refillable Zippo-type cigarette lighter. While gas station disposable lighters are far cheaper and function capably, refillable units have a build quality and an accompanying sense of permanence that no other lighter approaches. I have a small collection of these lighters, most of them inherited from my grandfather; the man stopped smoking somewhere around 1987 and most were quite old when he quit. I was able to get all of them up and running again with minimal work (replacing flints and a wick or two). Much like other quality tools, basic maintenance will keep them running in tip-top shape for generations.

Even though they will run forever with simple upkeep, refillable lighters like this have one major weakness: they leak fuel horribly. I end up having to refuel mine every 2-3 days. In addition, leaking fuel can cause an irritating and mildly painful skin reaction if the lighter is carried in a pants pocket. If I were a smoker, I would probably find it far easier to keep up with this fueling cycle, but since I don't smoke, I end up wasting far more fuel than I burn and run into having an empty lighter when I need a full one.

I recently found two solutions to this failing. The first is a small refillable lighter called the Warhead. At about $5, it is quite affordable. Size-wise, it is not much larger than a US quarter.

The top cap screws off to expose the wick and striker wheel. There is an o-ring seal at the bottom of the threads, making the lighter waterproof, as well as stopping fuel leaks. The fuel reservoir is smaller than a Zippo, but the leak prevention makes the most of that fuel. I received mine around Thanksgiving and promptly filled it; I am still striking it and getting flame off that same initial fill.

The second fix for a leaky lighter is a butane insert. This also replaces the flint and wheel with a piezoelectric spark igniter and requires no wick, rendering the lighter maintenance-free. This insert produces a hot, focused flame with absolutely the easiest and most reliable ignition available. Butane fuel is just as available as liquid lighter fuel, and lacks the strong chemical smell of liquid fuel.

I haven't had my butane insert for very long, which mean I haven't played with it near as much I haven't tested it as thoroughly as I'd like. You can expect a more in-depth review to follow once that happens.

The Warhead lighter with a Zippo for size comparison. 

Even good tools can be improved, and these lighters are a shining example of this.


Monday, January 14, 2019

A man, a Can, a Plan: Canned Corn as Survival Food

(Note: this article is an homage to a rather excellent book that I recommend as a gift for young adults leaving home for the first time. It even comes in board book format, so as to be durable enough to handle dorm life.)
Being a prepper, I am always trying to figure out my best options for emergency supplies. Having a background in accounting, I am inclined to literally make spreadsheets and compare the various options, sometimes exhaustively and late into the night. (We all need hobbies).

There are a lot of survival foods out there. Many of them are basically compressed pucks of shortbread that will keep you alive but not happy (through personal experience , I recommend drinking lots of water with it), although some survival foods can be fairly high-end freeze dried meals that are easy to prepare and taste about as good as a public school lunch: edible and surprisingly tasty at times, but not recommended as a primary diet.

With that in mind, I think I have found a good compromise between "tasty" and "cost effective" for survival food: canned corn.

No, really.

  • Canned corn is inexpensive. Like, really cheap: my local grocery store had a sale on it for less than fifty cents a can last week. Even at full price for a name brand, bought from a family dollar store it's less than two dollars a can. 
  • The corn itself can be eaten straight, which is nice in a canned good. Yes, you can eat canned soup without heating it, but it gets old real quick. 
  • If you happen to have rice on hand (another cheap survival food) the added nutrition from the water in the can is actually not a terrible addition. Use the drained water to cook the rice and then put the corn on top. Voila, instant side dish, allowing you to ignore the burned out remains of the city you are in and pretend you still live in civilized times. 
  • Soup or stew isn't that hard to make from scratch, and having canned corn on hand makes it that much easier. 
  • The corn can be used as bait for other food. Carp are by no means my favorite fish to eat, but they sure do love corn used as bait, and are a darned site better than nothing if you need protein. Heck, squirrels tend to love canned foods, so with a simple snare you can turn a can of corn into several meals. 
  • The can itself can be used to make simple tools, a stove being my personal favorite. Emergency cooking pots can be done, but try to make sure of what the can is lined with first; some of those liners are toxic. I have a tendency to save my cans and use them as small parts containers. And if you must, you can make a cutting edge out of the metal from the can; it's difficult, but possible. (I'm not counting the lid as you take it off.) 
  • Heck, it even makes a decent thrown weapon in a pinch: metal, compact, and heavy enough to do some damage... 

...which leads to the biggest con: it's heavy. There is no question, it will cost you in weight. so you may not want to do this if your plan is to bug out with a backpack. That said, if you plan to bug in, or if you plan to bug out in a vehicle, a few cans of this are probably not a bad idea.

In short, canned corn is cheap, easy to get hold of, and has a variety of uses. Not recommended for backpackers.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Product Test: UST Folding Stove and Fuel Tabs

Back in December I purchased a folding stove and fuel tabs from Ultimate Survival Technologies for under $7.

In this video I demonstrate how to use them.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Learning From Others

Life is full of experiences, and if you're lucky you'll take opportunities to learn from the experiences of others before you face the same conditions. This is why people write histories, to share what happened before in the hopes of educating future generations.

In the prepper world, there are lots of things that we prepare for and we have plenty of sources from the past to consult for ideas. What works and what doesn't are the basics we should be looking for, with acknowledgment that no two situations are exactly alike. Slightly different situations will have different solutions, and the more you look, the more options you'll be aware of. 

I'm a student of history, so I tend to look back 100 years or more for ideas. There really isn't much new under the sun, so most of what we have to deal with has been dealt with over and over in the past. This approach may not be for everyone, so let's look at some more recent events and the chronicles of those who lived through them. Yes, I'm going to link to other blogs; don't forget to come back here when you're done.

Selco is the pen-name of a survivor of the war in the Yugoslavia that started in the 1990s and hasn't really ended. Some of you may not be old enough to remember that mess, so let's just say that it was a civil war that shredded a moderately industrialized nation which led to it breaking up into something close to what existed before WW1 and the redrawing of the maps that followed it. This occurred shortly after the 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo, so we're not talking about a third-world country.

Selco writes for several prepper/survivalist blogs and has his own preparedness training company now. He lived through a civil war in an urban setting, so he's a good source of information for those of us in similar areas.

Fernado Aguirre writes under the name Ferfal. He survived the “unrest” in Argentina that started in 2001, so his information is less than 20 years old. Economic collapse, runaway inflation, and a government in turmoil took a toll on one of South America's biggest economies. They're starting to pull out of the worst of the troubles, but it has taken them many years. Again, Argentina is an industrialized nation, not some third-world collection of starving peasants. Bad things can happen to good people.

Ferfal has his own blog and is a good source of information dealing with the aftermath of a financial collapse and how government can make it worse than it has to be.

Jose Martinez
Jose is a fairly new writer. He's being hosted at Organic Prepper for now, but I imagine he'll have a site of his own soon.

Since Venezuela is a situation that is still unfolding as I write this, Jose has good information on how a once-prosperous nation can fall apart in modern times. He is living through a nightmare and wants to make sure others have his perspective in case they ever have to face a similar nightmare. Look for parallels between the events and actions that led to his nightmare and what we're seeing in other places around the world.

I won't even try to list all of the “edge” preppers out there; the tinfoil hat industry is booming and the religious/political/ethnic divides have fueled more blogs and websites than I can keep track of. If someone has to rely on fear and hatred to get motivated, I don't believe they will last long once TSHTF. They'll only last until their “enemy” is defeated, at which time they'll have to find a new enemy in order to maintain their survival.

The other option is that their “leaders” will see to it that the “enemy” is never defeated, ensuring that they get to stay in their leadership roles. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, if you've ever read 1984.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Etekcity Portable LED Camping Lantern

The dust has settled and the First 72 Hours have passed. Follow along as I build a long term plan via Prudent Prepping.  

Some time after I wrote the Pleasant Nature lantern review, I remembered a Christmas gift Erin gave me a few years back: the Etekcity Portable LED Camping Lantern.

This is a very cool lantern, and not just because it was a gift from our Editrix; it's cool because of what it is and does. The light output is variable not by pushing buttons multiple times, but by pulling up on the handles and exposing more of the LED bulbs!

One very important dimension not mentioned last week is the diameter of both lights. The Etekcity lantern is just under 3 1/2" (fractionally larger than a soda can), and the Pleasant Nature is just slightly bigger at a bit over 3 1/2". Neither measurement is a deal breaker in my book.

Here is more information from the Amazon page:
  • ULTRA BRIGHT: Includes 30 individual low powered LED bulbs, designed for a longer lifespan. Carry 360° of luminous light while saving energy(batteries included)
  • DEPENDABLE BUILD: Constructed with military grade; promising long-time durability, no matter where you go
  • DESIGNED FOR CONVENIENCE: The extremely lightweight build allows you to take your lantern on the go with ease. When not in use collapse the lantern to a smaller size; store it effortlessly, taking little space
  • LOW CONSUMPTION: Light up to 12 hours of regular, continuous use with enough battery capacity
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: 90-day return refund guarantee, 10-year warranty and lifetime supported by Etekcity. FCC, ROHS certified

Slightly open

The lantern's light output is very bright at full extension, with 30 LED bulbs mounted in three stacks of ten to give even light distribution. There seems to be some confusion on the output of this lantern, and answers to question posted on Amazon still aren't very clear to me, but when I compare this lantern to the one from last week the Eketcity puts out more and brighter light.

Here is the lantern (left) open to the point where it just lights up. From what I can tell, all the LED bulbs are lit right now but not exposed, so I believe the listed run times will not be affected by partially opening the lantern.
Wide open

The light output is very impressive when fully open! With all the LEDs exposed, there is much less distortion compared to partial settings. I would have no problem reading a book with this light or doing other work where a bright light is needed.

The only downside with the Etekcity lantern is that it's not solar rechargeable like the Pleasant Nature, instead needing three AA batteries to operate

There is a bit of effort needed to open the lantern and also to close it, so maintaining a setting  is not going to be a problem to me. Still, if I were packing this with the batteries installed*, I'd be tempted to wrap a heavy rubber band around it to prevent accidental activation.

* Pull your batteries, just to be safe; I've ruined nearly $100 worth of flashlights through battery corrosion. Erin recommends (and I use) cases like these for AA and AAA batteries, and there are similar containers for CR123 and 18650's.

The Takeaway
  • PRO: A compact, bright lantern in a durable aluminum body. 
  • CON: It needs batteries and is approximately the size of a soda can.

The Recap

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

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