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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Prudent Prepping: RE(I)-placing Gear

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

I like to see, feel, and try on my clothing before paying out my hard-earned Blue Collar Prepping budgeted cash. Doing this is harder and harder with so many stores closing or expanding their Online Only offerings. In the past I have shopped at REI, since they carried a wide selection of camping and rugged outdoor clothes. Nowadays I'm spending little money and less time in their stores, which is a shame since I need to buy some replacement items that REI has and I really like them. So why am I doing that?

REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month. In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership.

This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI. These include Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns including “modern sporting rifles.”

This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.

Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that.

I believe that companies have the right to choose to do business with whomever they choose, for whatever reasons they choose. To do otherwise would be poor business and possibly un-American. I believe this decision is wrong for many different reasons, but it is their choice.

This puts me in a bit of a dilemma, since I need to replace some socks I've worn for the better part of ten years (no, not the same socks!) first purchased from REI and reviewed in this post a year and a half ago. I too have a right to shop where I want and spend my money however I choose, because the opposite would definitely be un-American.

I really like this sock, since it fits well and keeps my feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I'm now looking at websites for companies selling what appear to be the same sock, but I need to order and wait to see if in fact they really are the same. If not, I have to get an RGA, mail the items back, wait for a credit back to my card and then try a different company. Many of you younger people have no problem ordering and returning item after item until you get it correct. I have only one thing to say:

Get Off My Lawn!
Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino (2008)

I like these socks. I really, REALLY like them, and if the heel and ball of the big toe area weren't getting thin, we would not be having this conversation about capitalism, rights guaranteed (not given!) in our foundational documents, and socks. Especially socks.

I'll keep everyone up to date on how the search is going. Until then, Sourpuss McGrumpyface is signing off.

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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Electrical Troubleshooting: Tools

I have returned from my hiatus. Short answer to expected questions: my family is good and things are getting back to as normal as they ever are. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern about it.

During my absence, questions about basic home electrical maintenance came up among the staff, and I was asked to do a series on the topic since that's how I pay my bills and buy my toys. I'm more than happy to do this, both in the interest of helping folks be more self-sufficient, and also in the hopes that some of our bolder readers will have an eye towards doing this kind of work safely and properly.

Electrical work requires some tools that other tasks do not, and since these tools will help prevent accidents and injuries, this is a very good place to being my series. Basic variants of these tools can be obtained very economically, while fancier versions have almost no ceiling to their cost. For homeowner purposes, those basic devices will work just fine, without the added expense of features that rarely if ever will get used.

Non-Contact Voltage Detector
The non-contact voltage detector is the first line of protection from electrical shock. It detects the presence of voltage in a wire, switch, or outlet without requiring that bare metal be exposed. Every professional electrician I know carries one daily. Shocks hurt, and this is cheap insurance.

Outlet Tester
A huge number of the electrical issues that crop up in a home involve wall outlets. This device plugs into a standard outlet and diagnoses any wiring problems affecting it. It is a very quick way to find trouble points.

The multimeter is the ultimate diagnostic tool. Basic units test for the presence of AC and DC voltage, amperage, and electrical continuity; fancier ones can test electronic components, measure temperature, and a host of other things. An auto-ranging meter is far simpler, but adds a large amount to the cost. If possible, look for a meter that lists a feature of "audible continuity," meaning it will sound a tone when a circuit is electrically continuous. This is useful when trying to identify wires or locate a broken wire.

Amazon has three very affordable kits that have these tools for all your basic electrical diagnostic needs. You could purchase them separately, but with the pricing and quality of these kits, there isn't a reason to unless you're looking for a very specific feature.

All of them are quality brands, carry the same basic features, and cost less than a date to the movies. You could pick from the Klein, Amprobe, or Extech kits based solely on your favorite color (yellow, red, and green respectively) and not make a wrong choice.

Next week, I'll show you how to use these tools to perform a variety of common household electrical tasks.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Prepping for Asthma

As any prepper knows, preparedness is key.

And as anyone with chronic health conditions knows, emergency preparedness for those conditions can be nearly impossible at times.

I have lived with chronic, severe allergies for the last 20 years plus, but they have only notably impacted my life over the last 10. The most significant day to day impact of this has been asthma, specifically allergy-induced asthma that has made interacting with the general public difficult... such as when I have an allergic reaction to most kinds of soap. In addition to soap, I am badly allergic to mold, such as orange mold, various plants, and dust mites.

(I am aware that there will are those of you who claim that it is impossible to be allergic to soap. Feel free to convince my allergist, and my body, of that. When the in double-blind testing I have the same reaction, I promise you that it is not “attention seeking”).

Non-Medicinal Preps
In an emergency, I don't expect frequent access to allergy medication so I can restock what I typically keep on hand. This means that for whatever emergency I am planning against, I have to keep enough on hand to last me for quite some time. To that end, I specifically look for things that will last for a long time.
  • Instead of just getting medication, I try to control the environment. Medication tends to expire much more quickly then filters for your furnace or a facemask.
  • When I do get medication, I try to keep a stock of individually foil packed pills, so that if there is an emergency, I don’t have to open an entire container of them and risk contamination or expiration.
  • When I do stock up on medication, it's easier to do it in stages. The rule that I have is one – two – five. I try to get a one month supply, and then a two month supply, and then a five month supply, and then a year's supply, and so on. If I cannot afford a month's supply at a time of whatever it may be, I start with a day or week.

Over the Counter Preps
As to the specifics of what preps I keep on hand:
  • I keep a year's supply in bottles of three different over-the-counter allergy medications. I buy mine from Costco, but it does not especially matter where you purchase yours from as long as they work and have a basic minimum level quality packaging. I use, sometimes more than one at once, generic/store brand versions of Allegra, Claritin, and Zyrtec
  • I also keep a two-week supply of each of these in foil-wrapped packets. I actually buy name brand for these, because in my experience the packaging tends to be more waterproof. The Claritin and Zyrtec are even available as a dissolving tablet, which means you don't need water to take them. 
  • I keep a two week supply of Mucinex on hand. I'm still working up to a full year's supply, but the supply that I do have is all foil wrapped.
  • I keep chlorpheniramine (an alternative to benadryl) on hand. I buy this in bulk, since it is cheap, and I know people who are allergic to Benadryl.
  • As far as controlling the environment, I use a good spray sanitizer when I clean, and then I use a power fan style HEPA filter.
  • To supplement that, I use a box fan with a 20” x 20”  filter on it.
  • I even use a face-mask respirator on occasion. It has excellent filtration, and on days like today (where the air smells like barbecue) it ends up being a practical method to be able to breathe outside. I tried to keep between four and six filter replacements for it on hand, because I occasionally use the respirator for work reasons.

Prescription Preps
Everything I have mentioned so far is not a controlled substance, requires no prescription, and can be purchased over-the-counter at any drugstore with no problem. Everything else on my list is still legal, but may be more difficult to obtain in case of power outages or loss of infrastructure.
  • Sudafed and other decongestant medications require identification (such as a driver's license) to purchase in the USA. Pharmacies scan your ID, and to enssure that you’re not making methamphetamine with it they monitor and restrict how much you're allowed to purchase in a given month. I try to keep a one-month supply on hand, which is thankfully not very much. I do not use it often, but when I need it, I have to have some on hand.
  • I try to keep an inhaler on hand in my backpack, in my desk, and on my person. When I am in public a lot I end up going through an inhaler every 3 to 4 months, averaged over the several that I keep on hand. I also try to keep a foil-wrapped inhaler in my bug out bag, my roadside emergency kit, my primary toolbox, and one to three in the long term food storage. I know that sounds like a lot, but inhalers are inexpensive, (less than $10 each at Walmart without insurance), will be very difficult to get a hold of in a real emergency, and are something I will quite literally die without. I feel that overkill is a far smarter way to go then underkill.
  • Finally there is the EpiPen. I've never had to use one, and I hope I never do, but if I have to it will be there. I keep one in my backpack and my first aid kit. I would like to keep one in several other places, but they are quite expensive. I hope to remedy this with an EpiPencil.

It's possible to prep for asthma. I did it, so you can do it too. I know it sounds like a lot, and in some ways it is, but it's entirely doable.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Other BOB in Your Life

Last week I showed you my Every Day Carry Bug Out Bag.

This week, I show you my car BOB and my house BOB. Each one is slightly more complicated than the last.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tire Plugs

Last week, I mentioned using a condom as a make-shift tire plug, and that the subject of tire plugs was worthy of its own article. 

I have family with professional tire repair tools, so fixing a flat is not normally a big deal for me. In years past and at work, however, there have been several times where I needed to get a vehicle back on the road and AAA wasn't an option. We experience a major wind event (exceeding 65 mph) where I live about once every five years or so. This leads to a lot of roof repair, and the roofing companies tend to scatter nails along the roads leading to the dumpsite for old shingles. Picking up a nail or a drywall screw in a tire is normal, but it's still annoying. In SHTF situations, like relocating after a tornado or hurricane, similar debris may be found on the roads so it would be wise to know how to do your own repairs.

About Tire Plugs

  • Tire plugs are a “quick and dirty” way to repair a hole in the tread of a car/truck tire. 
  • Repairing holes in the sidewall of a tire is not considered safe, but in an emergency I would give it a try since it isn't going to make the situation any worse if it doesn't work.
  • Plugs will only work on tubeless tires, so if you're driving an older vehicle with tube-style tires, you're out of luck. 
  • Plugs work best on smaller holes, like those caused by nails and screws, but I have seen people using multiple plugs on holes caused by bone fragments from a suicidal deer. 
  • Tire plugs are sold as “temporary” or “emergency” repairs, but I have seen them last for years. They work, are cheap, and are easy to use.
Here's a picture of a typical tire plug kit. The two T-handle tools are a rasp for roughing up the hole (left) and an insertion tool (right); the  strips are the plugs, and the green tube is full of rubber cement. Additional tools required are a pair of pliers for grabbing the offending nail and a way to get air back into the tire after it has been plugged.

Use of the Kit
  1. Remove the foreign object from the tire. You may need to take the tire off of the vehicle to access the hole, but not always.
  2. Use the rasp, the T-handled tool that looks like a round file, to roughen the hole. This will give the glue a better grip on the tire. Insert and remove the rasp a few times, giving a twist to the handle once or twice.
  3. Place one of the strips in the notch of the insertion tool. Aim for the middle of the strip so you have equal lengths on either side of the tool. If your insertion tool has a slotted hole instead of a notch, put the plug strip through the hole.
  4. Apply a liberal amount of the rubber cement (glue) to the strip. This will act as a lubricant until it dries and becomes part of the plug when it does.
  5. Insert the tip of the insertion tool into the hole in the tire and push firmly until about half of the plug is inside the tire. You don't need a bunch left sticking out, but you don't want the plug to go completely into the tire, either.
  6. Once you have inserted the plug, pull the insertion tool back out about a half-inch and turn it 90°, then pull it out the rest of the way. This should disengage the plug from the tool, and is something you'll be able to feel when you try to remove the tool. For the tools with a hole instead of a notch, simply pull straight back on the handle and the tool should open enough to release the plug inside the tire.
  7. If you want, trim the excess plug material sticking out of the tire close to the tread. This is not really needed, as it will wear off with normal travel.
  8. Re-install the tire if you took it off of the vehicle and re-inflate it to normal pressure. 
  9. You're ready to go if the tire holds air. The glue will harden in a few hours and driving on it won't hurt anything.
Tire plug kits are cheap. Amazon has them for sale from less than $10 for a simple kit to less than $50 for a kit that includes gloves, pliers and extra repair parts like valve stems (one of them even has its own compressor for inflating the tire after repair). The plug strips do have a shelf-life, normally around 5 years, and once they get dry and brittle they need to be replaced. Replacement strips are sold separately for around five dollars. If you don't want to use an online vendor, most auto parts stores will have similar kits on hand for about the same price.

This is a technique that I have used and have had good luck with, so I recommend it to anyone putting together a vehicle kit. Sometimes having a spare tire just isn't enough and you need to get back on the road ASAP.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Freeze Dried And Packaged Food Pails

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

My long, long-delayed plan to have food suitable for long-term storage is not ending. It is, perhaps, at the end of the beginning.

I must admit that I didn't buy the two buckets of assorted meals; that was the Master Chief. We've collaborated on several projects, and as his budget freed up some extra money, he bought two different assortments from the same company to show their basic meals. Besides, he liked what is in each bucket.

Wise Emergency Food Kits
Wise Food Kits
On the left is the Wise 56 Serving Emergency Food Kit, and the white bucket on the right is the 104-serving Wise Emergency Food Variety Pack. There's a small amount of overlap in each pail, but not enough to make a difference or make picking both a hard choice.

All information on contents and nutritional values are from the Wise Company.

The 56 Serving Kit contains:
  • Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini (4 Servings) 
  • Savory Stroganoff (4 Servings) 
  • Chili Macaroni (4 Servings) 
  • Chicken Flavored Noodle Soup (4 Servings) 
  • Cheesy Macaroni (4 Servings) 
  • Pasta Alfredo (4 Servings) 
  • Hearty Tortilla Soup (4 Servings) 
  • Granola Strawberry Crunch (4 Servings) 
  • Brown Sugar and Maple Multi-Grain (12 Servings) 
  • Apple Cinnamon Cereal (12 Servings)

Additional Information:
  • Includes 1 total bucket 
  • Total calories: 13,600 
  • Average calories per serving: 243 
  • Food is safely sealed in Mylar pouches 
  • To avoid waste, each pouch conveniently contains 4 servings 
  • Lock-in stacking buckets for compact and secure storage without the need of shelving 
  • Grab-and-go handles for easy transport in an emergency 
  • 25 year shelf life
  • Total Weight: 8 lbs (per bucket)
How this breaks down into servings per-package and calories-per-serving is a little on the skimpy side if you are doing manual labor, but if you are bugged in or trapped by bad weather, there is enough to keep you stomach from growling.

The Variety Pack contains:
  • Pouch of creamy pasta and vegetable rotini (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of pasta alfredo (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of savory stroganoff (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of creamy tomato basil soup (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of freeze-dried peas and corn (8 servings each) 
  • Pouch of apple cinnamon cereal (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of brown sugar and maple multi-grain (4 servings each) 
  • Pouch of butter sauce (8 servings each) 
  • Pouch of vanilla pudding (8 servings each) 
  • Pouch of creamy yogurt (8 servings each) 
  • 2 Pouches of whey milk (12 servings each)
Listed serving size and calories  per serving are similar enough to be not worth repeating.

The Chief did some of his own taste testing before ordering, and is confident that everything is suitable for people with standard taste buds and no restrictions on diet.

What About Restricted Diets?
I'm glad you asked! Wise Co. has a good selection of Gluten-Free foods available, along with organic foods.

I have to admit my personal favorite brand of freeze-dried food is Mountain House, but that purchase will have to wait until my budget opens up and their basic assortment arrives on the porch.

The Recap
The Takeaway
  • Deals are around if you look and wait for them to arrive. 
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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Guest Post: Thoughts on Ear Infections and Sepsis

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

Last month I spent some time observing a multinational military exercise out in the Pacific. One of the participants was living in an old military installation where all of the bathing water was non-potable, meaning that it was unsafe for consumption. He bathed in that water, and got a pretty bad ear infection as a result. Luckily, he was eventually prescribed antibiotics which helped his body clear the infection.

What should he have done? 
He should have followed the guidelines for drying his ears after leaving the shower, and then sterilizing his ears with hydrogen peroxide or other mixture which would have killed any bacteria trying to get in.

The lesson to be learned here is that non-potable water shouldn’t be used for hygiene purposes if you can avoid it.

In another case, last week I had a run-in with a family member who came down with a case of systemic infection by gram-positive bacteria through, as best we can tell, a cut to her skin. We don’t know if it was a self-inflicted cut that was the vector, but given the location of where the abscess formed in her body, I assess it as likely. Had she not been cutting herself as a coping mechanism for other stresses in her life she could have avoided sepsis entirely.

She also picks at scabs (also a dysfunctional coping mechanism), and if the wound wasn’t already infected, opening up the wound again increased the risk of infection. A proper antibiotic ointment and a covering bandage would have avoided sepsis entirely if this were the infection vector.

What did we do?
First, we got her medical treatment, which included two visits to the emergency room, multiple blood cultures to identify what sort of bacteria was multiplying in her body, and hospitalization to administer antibiotics via intravenous delivery.

Second, I mixed a bleach solution in a spray bottle and sprayed down all the surfaces that I knew she’d touched in the house. Generally sepsis is not contagious, but it can spread, and sterilizing surfaces is a smart thing to do. 

Finally, all of her clothes were washed in accordance with CDC MRSA sterilization guidelines or thrown away. The CDC guidelines for washing linens are to use hot water as high as your washer can go, use detergent, and dry in a dryer on high heat.

In the end, she got the advanced medical treatment she needed to deal with the infection, and we're working on the behavioral health issues as well.

How does this apply to prepping? 
The worst time to get a systemic infection is during an emergency when normal services are interrupted, so self-care is very important, especially for people who may have to deal with individuals who are less than highly functional in dealing with normal life.

Self-care is important and you will need to ensure that you have some sort of way to wash your body using soap and water, as well as have an adequate supply of antibiotic ointment on hand for minor scrapes and cuts. With a background in biochemistry, I know that the average person already has some type of staph bacteria on their skin. There are many different varieties of staph, and normally they can’t get inside to do much harm, but the moment your skin is opened up you are definitely at an increased risk of letting something on the outside get into the inside.

The old wisdom of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here:
  • Have powdered bleach on hand (it lasts indefinitely, where liquid bleach has a pretty short lifespan before it reduces down to saltwater), as bleach can turn non-potable water into sterile water pretty effectively. 
  • Have antibiotic ointment on hand, and I recommend getting two different generic store brand types (zinc-based and triple antibiotic ointment) in case someone shows allergy symptoms to one of the ointments. 
  • Have a good supply of covering bandages on hand. 
  • Have a way to wash yourself with sterile water and soap. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide to dry out ears after swimming or other immersion in non-potable water should also be on hand (although a mixture of vinegar and rubbing alcohol has also been said to work as an ear drying mixture).

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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