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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

MacGyver Eyes

The atlatl range was closed this weekend, so sadly that video will have to wait. But on the way to our campground we encountered a bit of automotive trouble that might prove a touch instructive.

I've said in the past that I try to look at a problem with MacGyver goggles, and strive to teach others to do the same. For those who haven't heard the term before, it means that you don't need to have the "right" parts to solve a problem, you just need the "right now" parts.

I recently changed trucks, and while I am very familiar with gasoline engines, turbocharged diesels are an entirely new thing for me and have been a learning process. While traveling to our campground my truck suddenly got loud and lost a bit of power. It wasn't making any strange or troubling noises, it was just much louder. The power loss wasn't enough to sideline us, but it was noticeable especially when climbing hills.

A bit of rolling diagnosis and a couple of calls to some diesel-knowledgeable friends confirmed my suspicion that I had developed a boost leak. The short definition of this is that I had a small leak at some point between my turbocharger and my intake, which caused my engine to make less power than normal. We got to a gas station and let the engine cool, and proceeded to chase the leak. We located the source, which was an abrasion in one of the rubber hoses from the turbo.

I'm transitioning between trucks, all I had available were my hand tools for work and what I could find in a tiny farm town right at quitting time on a Friday. Calling every parts house in the area let me know that this particular hose was plenty available 100 miles back up the road in Salt Lake, but that it did not exist between my location and Las Vegas, and would take at least a day to get in. Obviously, that wasn't going to work.

Taking stock of what we had at hand, I grabbed some electrical tape to seal the leak. While it is stretchy and great at sealing things, electrical tape isn't very durable or sticky, especially when hot. My wife bought a roll of duct tape in the gas station (small town gas stations are great for having a wide variety of things) and we taped up the leak in the best way we could in a parking lot. First we used the electrical tape to seal the abrasion, then we used duct tape to reinforce it.

That got us back on the road. It wasn't a great fix, but it got us to our camp site safely. We headed into the nearest town the next day hoping for a bit of good fortune. We still couldn't locate the appropriate part, but one of the stores had some parts that I could fashion a patch with.

A chunk of radiator hose, a few hose clamps, and a bit better tape job, and the truck was running at about 95% power.

The eventual result. It's not pretty, but it's holding.

The most important takeaway from this shouldn't be how to patch a turbo boot, or anything specific from my story. Instead, try to look at problems from a more abstract angle. Rather than "I need this hose that is unavailable," try "I need to stop air from coming out of that hole." It won't be a long-term repair, but it will be a way to get home.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Errand Escapades and Poor Planning

Complacency will kill you just as quickly as hysteria will. Here are some good reminders, and a tip or two just for a day in the life. No zombies needed.

And here’s a picture of what your tire’s date code should look like:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Prudent Prepping: SFD Responder, Part the Last

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

Technical difficulties prevented me from posting on time, but our talented and resourceful Editrix Erin saved the day. So with no further delays, here is my post.

SFD Responder 2.0 Reloaded
I was asked  by a co-worker who reads the blog if I have any pictures of me wearing the SFD Responder 2.0,  and I do. I forgot to add one to my first and second post, so here it is:

No, I don't wear white socks with my slacks; I did it this way because black shoes, black socks and a black Responder didn't look good in a picture.

With a compact Chest Seal wedged into the pocket with the compression bandage and Quik Clot, everything is still reasonably compact and not obvious.

Here is info on the NAR HyFin Vent Compact Chest Seal that I bought from its Amazon page:
  • 3-channel pressure relief vents
  • Two Chest Seals for the treatment of entry/exit or multiple penetrating wounds
  • Advanced adhesive gel for superior adhesion, even to sweaty or hairy chests
  • Red-Tip Technology single step, peel and apply application that also allows for burping the wound if necessary
  • Weight: 1.6 ozs Packaged: Folded: H 6.5 in. x W 3.875 in. x D 0.25 in. Unfolded: L 6.5 in. x W 7.75 in. x D 0.13 in. Chest Seal Size When Deployed: H 4.75 in. x W 4.75 in.

This is the expanded and final version of my SFD Responder. I do believe this is the final version of my gear, since the pockets are just so small I really can't load anything else into them! If the contents do change, it will only be through removing something to make the room for a new item.

The Takeaway
  • Ask questions when adding unfamiliar gear. Large and compact Chest Seals aren't budget busters, but I don't like spending any more than necessary for my preps.
The Recap
  • Again, nothing was purchased this week but the NAR Chest Seals are available from Amazon for $33.55 but are NOT Prime eligible.

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book Recommendations: Survival Handbooks

& is used with permission.
Today I received a PM from a friend which said:
Hey! Long time no see! I've started watching a series on YouTube on the American Frontier (Townsends is the channel, with Coalcracker being a guest for some episodes). Watching this stuff has me longing for my boy scout days. Can you recommend a good field manual? Something for plant/tree identification, tying knots, and other wilderness/forest survival?

I've found that the SAS Survival Handbook is a good, all-purpose book, rather like an old Boy Scout Handbook but for adults. There's a lot (a lot) of excellent information inside it, from bushcraft to survival skills to plant & animal identification. There's first aid and knots and navigation. There are plenty of full-color illustrations to help you understand what's being taught. It's a legitimate weighty tome, both in information density and in actual weight (it's a trade paperback but it weighs at least as much as a hardcover book.) Fortunately for those of us worried about weight, there's both a Kindle edition for your survival e-reader and an app version for both Apple and Android phones.

Another book which I recommend is Wilderness Survival by Gregory J. Davenport. This is smaller and lighter than the SAS guide, and the illustrations are less detailed, but I feel it has a different focus. The SAS Survival Handbook is geared towards "Here's how to survive anywhere on earth, and your efforts should be focused on getting rescued or self-rescue", while Wilderness Survival 
is more "Well, you're stuck here, and could be here for a good long while. Might as well make yourself comfortable." It, too, is also available in Kindle format, and has earned itself a place in my survival e-reader.

If you're looking for good book on bushcraft skills and general survival, you won't go wrong with either of these. Put SAS in your bug-out bag and Wilderness Survival in your camping backpack and you'll be better prepared than a lot of people.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Protective Cases on a Budget

If you have gear that you want to keep dry and unbroken, you're going to need a protective case of some sort.

Pelican has been the standard for waterproof shipping/storage containers for many years. They make them in many sizes and shapes to fit just about anything you might want to protect, but they're not cheap. Pelican cases are also made in the USA if you're trying to avoid imports. My photographer friends don't have a problem spending a couple hundred dollars on a quality case for a camera/lens set-up that cost several thousand dollars, but they can also write it off as a business expense.

Amazon has their own line of hard cases and several of the “discount” tool stores like Harbor Freight (HF) and Northern tools offer alternatives to Pelican that are a lot cheaper. As an example, I went to my nearest Harbor Freight store and bought one each of their X-small, Small, and Medium cases for what a single Medium Pelican case would have cost.

For storing and shipping my electronics and a few other toys, I'm happy with the quality I got from HF. Here's what you need to look for when shopping for hard cases:

Most lines offer at least a small, medium and large case, with Pelican having the most variety of sizes. Your mileage may vary, but I like having cases that are uniform in size because it makes stacking them easier. If you're only going to need a few cases, shop around to find the ones that fit the tools and toys you're looking to protect.

Most of the makers are now using “Pick and Pull” foam for the bottom liner with “Egg Crate” foam on the lid. The Pick and Pull foam is about 1.5 inches thick and pre-scored (cut almost all the way through) in a roughly 0.5 inch grid. You can trace the outline of what you want to store on the foam and then remove the foam blocks to make a custom fit. It helps to make the holes slightly smaller than the object to ensure a tight fit. Several brands are using a solid foam base and two or more layers of Pick and Pull foam in their cases to allow for basic protection and more customization options.

IP Rating
I think I mentioned IP Rating when I wrote a review of my new cell phone, but I'll go over it again. IP stands for Ingress (sometimes International) Protection and is a two-digit number. The first number is for dust, the second is for water, and the higher the number the better the protection. Anything with a rating of 5 or more is considered dustproof/waterproof, so look for at least that level. By the time you get a water rating of 7 it is good against full immersion A good chart for the various levels can be found here.

Pelican doesn't list their IP ratings, but most of the others are in the 55-68 range.
Just remember that waterproof means that water can't get out, either, so if you put something away wet it will sit in that moisture until you open the case and dry it out.

Different manufacturers use slightly different plastics, with polypropylene being most common. Polypropylene is a good industrial plastic than melts at 266°F (130°C), so it should stand up to the heat you'll find anywhere in the world. It does get brittle at temperatures below freezing, so care must be taken in colder climates.

Pelican cases tend to have thicker walls than the cheaper models, so paying the extra money may make sense if you're protecting something really fragile and valuable. I have a friend who carries a pair of Glencairnwhiskey glasses in a small Pelican case when he goes camping, and the thin-walled crystal has survived several years of travel in that case.

This is a sticky one, as some folks want to save a few bucks while others will pay a premium for a brand name and/or better protection. I fall somewhere in the middle; I will pay for better protection for the few things that are going to need it, but will put the pistols and other hardware in cheaper boxes.

Here are a few prices for similar cases listed by brand, dimensions, and price in 2019.

  • Small
    • Pelican 1200: 9x7x4 $55
    • HF 1800: 8x6x4 $15
  • Medium
    • Pelican 1400: 13x11x6 $100
    • HF 3800: 15x10x6 $40
    • Amazon Basic: 12x11x6 $33
  • Large
    • Pelican 1600: 24x19x9 $200
    • HF 5800: 20x11x6 $90
    • Amazon Basic: 22x14x9 $125

I'm trying to get more organized in my storage, so I've been looking at a lot of cases and containers lately. Things like communications gear and some tools are going to find new homes in waterproof cases to protect them while keeping all of the cords, cables, chargers, and accessories in the same damned place. I'm not going to be five hours from home and find out that I forgot that unique cord for connecting my radio to an external antenna any more.

Springfield, Sig and a few other gun makers are shipping a lot of their new firearms in hard-shell cases that can serve as shipping containers as well as storage boxes. They usually have foam liners that are pre-cut to hold the pistol and magazines shipped from the factory, with a little room for extras. The ability to put a lock on the case makes it a bit harder for the thieves in the back rooms of various shipping companies and airports to get to your toys. They usually have the gun maker's name embossed on the lid so they're not great for discrete shipping as the thieves will know what's in the box. While these cases offer some security and foam padding for protection against damage, they're not normally waterproof.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What the Hell is an Atlatl?

In the beginning, humans were subsistence hunters. At some point, an enterprising caveman figured out that a pointy stick was good for killing animals. That caveman also soon learned that some animals are big enough, tough enough, or mean enough that even with a pointy stick in them, you're still at risk of severe injury.

The biggest and strongest cavemen could throw the pointy stick, hitting their prey from a safer distance. But what about the smaller cavemen who couldn't throw hard enough to kill a mammoth? While history shows us a plethora of innovations used to enhance the lethality of humanity, today I'd like to focus on something called an atlatl.

Photo by Richard Keatinge

The atlatl, sometimes called the dart thrower or spear thrower, is a lever-type device used to launch a pointy stick faster than the user could possibly throw it with just their arm. It works on the same principle as the catapult, sling, and various other devices that extend the length of a throwing arm to achieve greater speeds.

"But in a world where bows exist," I hear you ask, "why would someone ever choose to use the atlatl?" While bows are much more powerful, more intuitive, and far simpler to master, building a bow with any kind of power is very difficult to do from scratch, especially with primitive tools. It is also a very time-consuming process and requires particular materials. However, an atlatl only requires a stick about the length of your forearm, a knife, and maybe some kind of cordage. In addition, it can also throw larger and less refined projectiles than a bow. They're also a whole lot of fun to play with.

I'm hoping to spend some time on an actual atlatl range this weekend, so I can show how they actually function and how they can enhance your ability to throw arrows.


Friday, August 9, 2019

A Lesson on Preparedness from Summer Camp

A story from Army Reserve summer camp, told to me by a guy I know. The camp was in late July, in Kansas. Not exactly a time and place known for “I wish I’d brought a sweater”.

Toward the end a front came through, bringing rain and about twenty degrees cooler temperatures, so that night it was in the 60s instead of 80s, and the next day was 80 instead of 100. This doesn’t sound bad, unless you’re wet and tired, at which time even fairly mild temperatures can become dangerous.

This guy is the cautious sort, so he’d taken some cool/mild cold weather gear along, just in case, so he was able to change into it. Nobody else in the unit had brought that gear. In the morning, people felt downright chilly, and the ones who had gotten wet and decided “Screw it, it’s summer and I’m tired” and went to sleep woke up shivering, because in those conditions wind chill is a thing even in summer.

Worse, that chill can lead to hypothermia.  Here there were medics to take care of them, but for a small group or lone person, in a situation where things are already difficult to bad, it's potentially life-threatening.

So remember: even in summer, depending on where you are or going, having something a bit warmer to change into is a good idea because Murphy is a bastard.

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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