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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why an RV for Prepping?

I probably should have started my RV related posts with this one, but it just didn't “gel” until this week. I'm a simple man, and what I write has to make sense to me before I'll publish it. This part of my journey just wasn't ready to be written before now.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've been camping since I was in diapers - mom actually used to change our diapers at the campgrounds we visited back in the early 1960's. I've spent weeks at a time living out of everything from a sleeping bag with a cover to a Class C motorhome (my recent purchase is my first experience with a Class A). There isn't a whole lot of mystery to living in the outdoors for me any more; I've been through most of what can go wrong at least once in the last 50-odd years. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend looking at an RV from a prepper's viewpoint.

An RV is mobile by definition. Being able to hook up to a camper or hop into a motorhome and drive away from a natural or man-made disaster is one of the key selling points for a prepper. My Class A is fine for paved roads and well-maintained gravel roads, but I wouldn't care to take it too far down unimproved (dirt) roads or off-road. A tow-behind trailer hooked to a 4WD truck could get to more remote locations, and offers more options once you've arrived.

Being able to put distance between you and a crisis situation is important to surviving most emergencies. Hurricane coming ashore? Get your butt to higher ground. Riots making life difficult in your city? Go far enough away that the looters won't find you. One of the bumper stickers I saw on an RV the other day said, “One of the joys of living in an RV is that family can't visit a moving target”.

One of the down sides to RV's is that their mileage sucks. My F250 with a 5.3L engine gets a miserable 15 MPG, but my 32 foot Class A with a Ford 7.5L (460 cubic inch) engine will be lucky to get 10 MGPG. Larger Class As with a diesel engine are on par with city buses and semis, 4-8 MPG. This is why most RVs have at least 50 gallons of fuel tanks installed - to get you a few hundred miles between fill-ups that make your wallet cry.

Living out of a pop-up or turtle camper is cramped, but it beats the snot out of sleeping on the ground. I went with a full Class A because of my wife's medical needs and the fact that I prefer to sleep where bugs have a hard time getting into bed with me. Having a supply of fresh water and a way of cooking food makes life easier to bear, regardless of what else is falling apart. Being able to carry our computers and TV with us is a good way to beat boredom, and I'll have plenty of power for the various radio systems that are going to be installed.

While I don't live in tornado alley, I have friends who do. We might see a twister or two each summer, but they rarely come within 20 miles of my house. Once I get my RV back into shape, it will probably be stored for most of the year at a secure storage lot about 30 miles away, just in case I need to use it if my house were to be destroyed. On the odd chance that fire or a tornado were to hit my family or friends, I have mobile housing that I can offer them until they get their house back together. A medium to large RV would also make a good guest house for visitors (mother-in-law housing), giving them a bit of privacy and control over their lives that may be lacking after a disaster.

If you're looking for the bare essentials to self-sufficiency, an RV will meet most of your demands. Since they carry their own water, fuel, and electrical generator while providing shelter and storage, they are close to being self-contained; food is about the only thing that they can't provide, but parking one next to a large garden would cover most of that. If you're looking at adding solar panels to your house or bug-out location, setting up a smaller system on an RV will let you work out the little problems before you make a major investment in equipment.

Do you have family that is new to prepping? Children or a new SO that don't have a firm grasp of what it means to prepare for emergencies? Traveling in an RV will teach them some very important lessons, like how to get by with a limited wardrobe and how to live in close quarters with other human beings without killing each other. Since most of us are going to be storing an RV for months at a time, you'll get to practice winterizing and fuel storage every year. Meal preparation on a small stove using food that has been stored in the RV will be good practice for once you get to your bug-out location and start living off of the long-term storage food you've got cached, and taking a shower with a limited water supply is always a good skill to have. If you've ever thought about the “small house” fad that's been going on for the last few years, consider that most RV's have less than 300 square feet of floor space and still manage to feel comfortable.

I'm getting close to retirement and I've got vacation time to burn, so I got an RV to use while visiting friends and family that are scattered around the USA.  I don't fly any more due to the TSA and various other political policies, so I thought I should at least be comfortable while we're driving around the country. I'll have more articles about my project RV as I start working through the issues that it has - I bought it cheap knowing that it needs a lot of work, and this way I'll get to know it better than someone who just signed the loan paperwork and drove a new one off of the lot. Being able to repair or bypass things is a large part of me being a prepper, so this is both practice and an education for me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prudent Prepping: What to Do When Things Turn Ugly

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

Given the current political climate, now seems to be a good time to do a review of what to do and how to act if I'm caught up in a 'disturbance.'

I wrote about this last November, right before the polls closed. Things have not changed enough for me to feel safe in the areas I drive, but I do have a much better feel for how I can get through the places I work and back home.

All those points still apply:
  • Plan alternate routes
  • Have places to stay
  • Don't be afraid to turn back at the first sign of trouble. 

What still needs to be covered is...

What to Do If Accidentally Caught in a Protest
First of all, don't be where protests are planned to happen. The protests where the most damage has occurred have all had official permits, issued well in advance. The Public Notice periods usually last for weeks, so there isn't much of a surprise when and where the demonstrations start.

The Most Important Rule: Don't Get Caught In A Riot
Seriously, stay away.

When things get crazy, the police aren't going to care that you just left a birthday party or had to work late. They will have a difficult enough time picking out the rioters from the regular protesters and those who are just there by mistake, so be careful with what you do and how you act. During a riot, you are all potentially dangerous in the eyes of the police. When the the order to break it up and break heads comes, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing there in the first place.

If you have not intended to participate in the riot (which I hope was the plan):
  • Do not interact with anyone. 
  • Don't look at anyone.
  • Try not to have any physical contact with those around you while you walk out. 
  • Do not become a target or get noticed.
  • Just keep moving.

Getting Out
I'm old enough to have been around the riots in Berkeley and Oakland CA in the late 60's and 70's. (Yes I'm really that old.) I can say from first hand experience that old-style tear gas is no fun, and I was only getting a very diluted whiff from two blocks away from the canisters. When things go 'non-linear' it is best to be already on the way to safety. How do you do that?

  • Start walking and don't stop. 
  • Don't run. That will draw attention to you, both from the cops and those around you. 
  • Look for the edge of the crowd and make your way there.
  • If there is a store you can hide in, do that while you figure out an escape route. 
  • Don't pick a high value target as your hideout! That Starbucks might seem inviting, but recent history says that is a poor choice. 
  • Get to the edge of the crowd, but don't try to walk against the flow - that could get you knocked down. Travel at a diagonal to the direction the crowd is going until you get out of the main body, hopefully well away from the agitators and potential violence. 
  • If the crowd is running, that is a bad sign that trouble is right behind. This is about the only time running might be advised, since you don't want to be on the tail end of the crowd and therefore the first to see what caused them to start running!
  • Most importantly, stay calm and work you way out of trouble.

The Takeaway
  • Plan ahead. No one wants to use their spare tire, but everyone should have one.
  • Know what to do if things go bad.
  • Stay calm, don't rush, and walk your way to safety.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest Post: Edible Insects

by Almo Gregor

Almo Gregor is a firearm enthusiast and avid hunter. Outdoors activities like hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood, and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others. Almo is also an editor for Outdoor Empire.

You may notice when watching survival shows or reading survival articles that there is a huge focus on food. Some are for entertainment purposes; it is more engaging to watch a person hunt a wild pig with a spear than to watch them find a clean water source. However, some of that focus is legitimate because when your body goes too long without food, it starts to eat itself as an energy supply.

This starts with the fat reserves and moves on to muscle mass. Within a few days, you start feeling weak and clumsy. Then the body starts attacking organ tissue, including brain matter. Your body starts to hurt all over, you become confused, and memory loss is quite common. All of these side effects of hunger can greatly diminish your ability to survive. When you cannot remember how to find your way back to camp, or you decide to take your chances on eating a poisonous plant, the results can mean death.

So what's the most efficient way of getting food?
  • Hunting burns a lot of calories, can be dangerous, and has very low rates of success. 
  • Trapping allows you to set a trap line and just spend a few minutes each day checking that line. The odds of success are not huge, but at least you are not spending all day tromping through the woods.
  • Fishing is often a good option for collecting protein, but it can mean getting into the water and that is not a risk I will take in many environments. 
  • That leaves gathering, which has always been primitive man's preferred method of finding food. 
The toughest part about gathering food is finding the nutrients that your body needs the most. With some basic knowledge of plants in your area, you can find plenty of leafy greens, root veggies, nuts, and berries to fill your belly. The problem is finding the proteins and fats that your body needs to survive. Most plants found in the wild have very small amounts of calories, protein, and fats. Foods like fruit, berries, and nuts can help offset this, but most people need a larger source of protein.

Insects can be the answer.

Introduction to Eating Insects
While this idea takes a period of adjustment for some people, keep in mind that most of the earth’s population eats insects. Insects are seen on every continent including Antarctica. It is estimated that there are three billion insects for every one person on our planet, so they are a food source that cannot be ignored. There are roughly thirty million species of insects that have been classified, and roughly 1900 of those can be eaten by humans.

During my last survival challenge, I brought two of my nephews (Jay and Dre) with me. They are 10 and 11 years old, and are a bit more open minded than most of the adults that I know. I wanted to give them exposure to different food sources while in the wilderness, so I brought along pemmican and hard tack so they could try some preserved survival foods. We caught a small bass in our gill net and we found a small turtle, so we already had some protein.

But I wanted them to become open to gathering as well. I found a few large black ants and popped them in my mouth. The boys seemed disgusted, but I explained that this variety of ant tasted a bit like Sweet Tarts candy. Jay was eager to try them out and agreed with me, on the taste but Dre was more hesitant. I finally got them both eating insects and felt like we were making progress.

General Rules
When you decide to start trying out some insects, be aware that there are general rules for which ones are safe. You should always know the specific insects found in your area, as the species found can vary greatly from one area to another. However, following these rules in any environment can help keep you from getting sick.

Avoid Bright Colors
Bright colors on an insect such as red, orange, yellow, and blue are a warning. These colors are there to stand out in nature and warn animals that they are off limits. Eating insects with these colors is a good way to ingest toxins that can make you sick. Stick to insects that blend in with brown and green colors.

Avoid Fuzzy Insects
When you see lots of hairs or spines on an insect, they are often there to distribute toxins. They are also an obvious warning to other animals to stay away.

Avoid Foul Smells
You may not realize it, but your sense of smell is designed to keep you from getting sick. As with most cases in nature, it is a good idea to avoid anything that has a foul smell, as this usually indicates bacteria or toxins of some kind. Do not eat any insect that has a foul smell.

Avoid Flies and Mosquitoes
Any insects that spend time around stagnant water or feces should be avoided. Insects like flies and mosquitoes carry diseases that can kill a human, so avoid them at all costs.

Avoid Slow-moving Insects in the Open
If an insect is hiding or flies away as soon as you come close, they are probably safe to eat.
However, insects that are poisonous know that they are poisonous and do not have to flee. They can walk slowly wherever they want to go and know that most animals will stay away.

Remove Stingers
Bees, wasps, and even scorpions are okay to eat, but only after the stinger is removed.

Cook Your Insects
Cooking insects kills any bacteria or parasites that could make you sick, so if you have the ability, do so. Certain insects like grasshoppers can give you parasites if not gutted and cooked.

Soak Worms Before Eating
You can consume underground creatures such as grub worms and earth worms, but their digestive systems are full of dirt. Soak them in water overnight to purge their system before eating.

Specific Critters
There are certain edible insects and other critters that can be found in most of the world. Here are some that you are likely to find anywhere.

There are numerous species of ants, and all are edible. You can break open an ant hill, or shove a stick into the hill and eat the ants off the stick.  

Bees and Wasps
These are both edible if the stinger is removed. Many cultures roast adult bees, and their larvae are delicious.

Butterflies and Moths
They can be eaten as adults or as caterpillars - but avoid caterpillars that are red, yellow, or orange!

They have a nasty bite when alive, so cooked is better. They can get to be very large and are eaten as street food in China. Remove the head before eating.

Make sure you know the difference between centipedes and millipedes, because millipedes are poisonous.

They are not around every year, but on the years they hatch, they are best when still young and soft.

Contrary to popular belief, most roaches in nature are clean insects and are fine to eat... but avoid any found in urban settings.

There are companies which cook crickets, grinds them into flour, and makes energy bars out of them. Crickets are eaten all around the world, and are one of the most popular edible bugs.

Earthworms and Grubs
These are high in protein and iron.

June Bugs 
These have some size to them, and both the adults and larvae can be eaten.

I have seen these sold in roadside stands on the west coast. They are roasted and then tossed in spices to flavor them. I tried the BBQ ones; they were pretty good.

Pill Bugs 
These are also known as "Roly Polys" and are closely related to shrimp.

These can contain parasites, so pull off the head and the guts that come with it, as well as the wings and legs. Once cooked, they are a good source of protein and calcium.

Be careful catching these guys - some are deadly - but they are edible once you remove the stinger. 

It is common to find slugs in gardens. They carry parasites and also sometimes eat plants that are poisonous to humans, so they must be gutted and cooked.

Considered a delicacy in French cooking, they always seem to be cooked in white wine and butter.  I have eaten escargot on a few occasions, first trying them in Zurich, Switzerland, and have since ordered them whenever they are on the menu. They need to be gutted as well. 

Most people just eat the legs, but the whole spider is edible. They get to be very large so they can make a good meal. Be careful of their urticating hairs, so cook them before eating.

These are typically eaten raw. Like ants, you can break into a hill or you can put a stick in there and fish them out. Very high in protein.

In Conclusion
When you are literally starving and need calories and protein to keep going, do not forget about insects. However, I suggest you get over any apprehension before your life depends on it.

The next time you go hiking or camping, find some edible insects and cook them with your meal. Try to get your family involved, too! It will make life so much easier if you are ever in a situation when these critters become a primary food source.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Argument for Chocolate

I swear, as I write this I can actually hear the readers asking “This is about prepping, not some frou-frou Cosmo article. Why are you bringing up chocolate?”

Well, I have several good reasons. Hear me out.

Argument 1: Macronutrients
Chocolate generally contains a lot of “instant on” energy in the form of carbs and fats, which may be necessary in an emergency. Calories are needed in general if you have to hike out of a disaster, and having calorie-dense foods is important. Fats are important for a number of other reasons, and (for myself at least) one of the most important factors in a disaster is being able to take medication without getting sick - ibuprofin, for example, causes less stomach irritation when consumed with fats and other lipids.

Argument 2: Micronutrients
One cup of milk chocolate chips (such as in trail mix) contains 13 grams of protein, 26% of your daily magnesium intake, and 21% of your daily iron intake, all of which are used in abundance if you are in a physically stressful situation such as bugging out. In addition to that, chocolate contains vitamins B12 and B6, which are energy transport molecules that allow more efficient use of the caloric reserves already inside you. Things like 31% of your daily minimum calcium needs and 17% of your potassium are simply a bonus, since lacking either of those can cause muscle cramping.

Argument 3: Emotional
Chocolate is fun. It tastes good, it packs an emotional punch, it makes a useful trade good, and in a pinch it can keep children quiet. It crosses cultures, nations, and language, and is enjoyed the world around. Chocolate can provide an immense emotional boost to those that consume it, allowing them to continue just a little longer, be just a little nicer, and keep up just for a bit more, be they a border guard who you need to be just a little bit more friendly,  or you when you're just having a hard day,

Types of Chocolate and their Benefits
Once you've decided to keep chocolate in your preparations, you'll find that you face three primary issues: choosing the type of chocolate, acquiring the chocolate, and storing it.

Milk chocolate is the most commonly consumed chocolate in the US. It is higher in calcium, protein and B-12 (an energy transport molecule, often used in energy drinks) than dark chocolate. It comes in a massive variety of forms, from chips to candy bars, and is often easy and fairly inexpensive to purchase right after major holidays (such as Christmas) as long as you aren't picky about quality. It makes an excellent trade good since everyone is used to it, and most people enjoy it in trail mixes, bar form, or “Kisses” (a small individually wrapped chocolate candy).

Dark chocolate has more carbohydrates (sugars, or instant fuel) than milk chocolate does. It also has more iron and magnesium, which are both used by the body during exercise such as extended hiking or weightlifting. It comes in almost as many forms as milk chocolate does, and is almost as available in the US. It is not as popular as milk chocolate, but because many people are quite fond of it, it can still be used as a trade good. It makes a better cooking chocolate for many dishes, partially because there are fewer competing flavors than milk chocolate, and can be substituted for milk chocolate in cooking by addition of milk products, such as canned milk or powdered milk. Dark chocolate is also useful for those who are lactose intolerant or have milk protein allergy, since it can often be acquired without any milk products in it.

White chocolate is not the same kind of chocolate as milk or dark chocolate. It is usually made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, and the taste is quite different from milk or dark chocolate, with a “lighter” flavor. It is actually higher in calcium than milk chocolate, as well as vitamins B-6 and B-12, and slightly higher in fat, but it also lacks theobromine (a caffeine-like chemical that most chocolate contains). It is available in much more limited forms than either milk or dark chocolate, but it is still usually available in grocery stores. It is much less popular than milk or dark chocolate, and so makes a poorer trade good, but because of its makeup it can be more readily used as a sweetener for hot drinks than some other forms. It can also be used as a substitute for some people who are allergic to dark chocolate, as they may not be allergic to the proteins in the white chocolate.

(A note from the author: I have found that people who do not like dark or white chocolate will often enjoy taking one piece of dark chocolate and one piece of white chocolate and eating them both at once, giving a flavor similar to but not the same as milk chocolate).

Purchasing Chocolate
Most people reading this will simply go out and purchase chocolate bars at their local grocery store. There is nothing wrong with this. Chocolate with stuff in it tends to be in either bar or “lump” form. Often the contents are fruit or nuts, but there are several popular candies with wafers in them.

The nutritional breakdown will change according to what is in the chocolate, as will the storage and usage conditions. Chocolate-covered almonds are fairly popular, and contain a lot of protein and calcium compared to most other types of chocolate. Peanut M&M’s are protein heavy and designed to be more shelf-stable than other forms of chocolate. If you decide to go with this form of chocolate, your individual tastes and needs will heavily dictate what is best for you.

Baked chocolate products (brownies, cookies etc.) are commonly available, and are often in shelf-stable individual packaging. These will usually have a lot of flour and sugar added, so they are high in carbohydrates, but are therefore a poor choice for diabetics and similar. They are however useful for people with small children since they are less messy (not mess-free, sadly) than other forms, such as bar chocolate.

(There is a planned upcoming blog post on how to make your own shelf-stable chocolate products.)

Hot chocolate gets its own category because it is the only shelf-stable form of chocolate drink I could find that did not weigh a lot for the amount consumed. Hot chocolate is easily obtainable from individual packets to  bulk containers and everything in between. It can be used for making treats on the road, bribes, trade goods, and a number of other options. It is typically a powder, but there are also solid blocks of it you can purchase, often sold as “Mexican hot chocolate”.

Nutella (and other chocolate spreads) are surprisingly hardy on the road, making them very nice for longer term preps. They come in shelf-stable long term packaging, and name brands (such as Nutella and Jif Chocolate Hazelnut Spread) come in small containers that will fit into jacket pockets. They tend to go well with all sorts of things, and can make a dandy improvised dessert on their own. They can often be purchased in individual servings, and spread well with plastic utensils. The biggest downside is the potential mess, which is especially an issue with children.

There are also many other forms of chocolate for anyone who wants themsuch as UHT chocolate milk (a milk chocolate that has been stabilized with special packaging and high heat), chocolate dust coated almonds, baking chocolate, and even freeze dried ice cream. They all come with advantages and disadvantages.

Once you have decided on what type, remember to add it to your shopping list. Since chocolate (depending upon type and storage conditions) stays good for five years or longer, you should wait until it is on sale after a major holiday in order to save on the purchase price.

Storing Chocolate
That said, there are a lot of other options that you should be considering. What are the storage conditions you have? Is the chocolate going to live on top of a refrigerator (typically slightly warmer than surrounding environment), or on a shelf, or in a cool, dry place? All of these storage conditions effect what kind of chocolate will store well.

For warmer conditions, you may consider something like M&Ms which were originally designed for use by troops in wartime conditions so that they would have comfort food on hand without special storage. For cooler conditions (most of the northeastern US or Canada), you may want larger chunks such as whole chocolate bars or leftover chocolate from holidays such as chocolate Santas or rabbits.

If you are like me, and find yourself tempted to simply snack on it, I find that a zip tie on the bag will keep me from eating it out of boredom. I can still break it by hand, but it takes extra effort. When I can, I vacuum seal the bags.

Please note that chocolate can form a whitish coating under certain circumstances, otherwise known as “bloom”. This does not mean the chocolate has gone bad! If the chocolate is not off in smell or taste, it is probably fine.

Bloom is often the result of moisture in the atmosphere or a slightly heightened temperature. This can also effect “temper”, or the hardening process the chocolate undergoes. Though the texture can be poor, a melted chocolate bar that has been re-hardened is just fine to eat, and can often be salvaged for use in cooking and drinks.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #156 - Will Shooting Gun Games Lead Sean to be Slain Upon the Public Thoroughfare?

"Despise not the racketeer. Instead, despise his sport."
  • USCCA held its first ever PolymerPalooza, a unique and fun shooting event! Beth talks about some of their sponsors and products, and what she did there.
  • A man bit and partially severed another man’s nipple. How does that happen? Sean digs in to discover what sort of person would act like this.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • We’ve all had that neighbor who’s not quite there. In fact, we’ve seen whole movies that revolve around the 'crazy neighbor' dynamic. But how do you deal with them? Miguel gives us some practical tips borne from 20 years experience with the crazy lady next door.
  • Our Special Guest this week is author and firearms instructor Grant Cunningham. Grant answers the important question: Will competition shooting get you killed on the streets?
  • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Friend of the show Amy asks, "I drive long distances in hot weather in an older car. What preps should I include for hot weather vehicle survival?" Erin's answer involves cold packs. 
  • NPR interviews the President of the Women’s March to talk about the NRA and its Dana Loesch video, and their bias is showing.  Weer’d takes them on.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the MAG-20  Armed Citizen's Rules of Engagement class in Matthews, NC.
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.
Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
Hot Weather Car Survival
Listener Amy writes in with these timely questions: How should I modify my car prep kit for hot weather? What's the best/safest way to store water in that scenario? I drive 45 miles each way to work, in a fairly unreliable car, so getting stuck is more of a "when" and not an "if."

This is a great topic, because while I’ve addressed cold weather survival in a car back way in episode 15, I haven’t done anything specific on car-based heat survival - which is odd, considering that I live in Florida.

The problem with giving advice on heat survival is that in my experience, it has a lot more “Well, it depends” factors than cold weather. For example, regardless of if it’s 30 degrees or 30 below, snowing or not, blowing or not, you know that you need to have an outer waterproof shell, an inner insulating layer, avoid sweating, and stay out of the wind; everything else is just a matter of degree.

But hot weather forces you to ask questions like:
  • Is it a humid heat or a dry heat? 
  • How hot does it get?
  • Do you get a lot of reflected light due to terrain (like glare off a desert or water), or is it absorbed by vegetation or dark soil?
  • Are you going to be surviving in the shade, or out in the sunlight?
Plus there are the general questions of “Are you planning on waiting for rescue, or is this an "Ah crap, I gotta hike out of here" kind of situation?” and “Have you any health problems?” that I ask of anyone who comes to me for advice.

Here are Amy’s answers:
  • Humid. Gawd-awful humid. My poor curly hair...well, I just HATE summer.
  • Highs in the upper 80s/low 90s usually, late July we can see higher with sickening heat indexes. 
  • Not much reflected light...most is absorbed by the crops. Which is pretty much all the terrain in my area. 
  • It depends on where in my route I'm stuck. I probably wouldn't even call it stuck if my car died in town at either end, so we'll go with wait.
  • I'm that person who brings a separate list of medications to doctor appts and writes, "see attached." Soooo....asthma, insulin resistance, some random but serious allergies, chronic migraines, ADHD, social anxiety, OCD...blah, blah, blah. So, a mixture of some physical illnesses that could go downhill quickly in the heat with some mental illnesses that, while controlled well with medication, could make an emergency situation feel or appear (and, therefore, become) more desperate or crippling than necessary. I wear a medical ID bracelet, carry necessary meds with me, and keep extra epi-pens in my car.
So, first off: Good job on being prepared with medication and epi-pens! Now my advice is going to come with a few assumptions:
  • I assume you already have things like a first aid kit, battery backup for your cell phone, tools for basic car repair, etc.
  • I assume you have a reliable way to call for help and you don’t travel through dead zones. 
With those in mind, here’s what I would suggest you add to your car:

A wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. The one I’ve linked in the show notes is a khaki boonie hat with detachable flaps for your face and neck to prevent sunburn.

Speaking of sunburn, carry the highest SPF sunblock you have.

At least one gallon of water, preferably more.
The human body needs half a gallon of water a day, but that doesn’t take strenuous activity or dehydration into account. I’d buy plastic gallon jugs at the store and remove them at the beginning of winter (you don’t want them to freeze, burst the plastic, then thaw and leak everywhere). Make sure you keep them covered, or in the trunk, because water exposed to sunlight can start to grow algae. 

If the water does start to go bad, you can still use it for things like wiping your body down or pouring on an overheated engine. A thick washcloth will help with all of that.

Wiping sweat off your body with a wet washcloth is a good way to feel cool for a little bit, but it doesn’t last. For a longer-term solution, get some chemical cold-packs and keep them with your first-aid supplies. Not only can you use them to prevent swelling, but a cold pack on your neck, between your thighs or under your armpits can make you feel a lot better. You can get a 24-pack of them from Amazon with Prime shipping for $14.50.

Just in case you don’t have a space blanket in your preps, get one. Yes, most people use them to stay warm, but a reflective surface can help keep you cool by reflecting the heat away from you.

If you have to stay in the car for shelter -- and if you do, I assume you’ve rolled down the windows -- the windshield can be covered with a commercial sunshade, which usually costs between 8 and 15 dollars.

I also suggest the longest shovel you can fit in the car and can comfortably use. Don’t use a folding shovel unless you have no other choice; you can get plenty of nice 27-inch shovels at the hardware store if space is an issue, but get a longer one if you can. You can use this shovel for a variety of tasks, but the two that I’m thinking of are “digging your tires out if they get stuck” and “Digging a trench to lie down in because that will be cooler than inside your car.”

A waterproof tarp with a reflective side will also be useful; not only can you use it as a sun shade, if you do decide to dig a shelter it can be used (reflective side down) to keep the dirt and bugs and yuck off you.

And, of course, ways to tie all this down. A 100-foot hank of paracord and a roll or two of duct tape will help immensely!

Finally, have a map of the area, the more detailed the better. If you know how far it is to the nearest aid station, that will do a lot for your peace of mind, and it will help you give navigation assistance to whomever is coming to help you.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Be Frugal With Your Space

Happy Forgetful Frugal Friday.

Prepping for everyday emergencies can be overwhelming and too easy to get carried away with. Less is more, my friends. So today's video isn't about being frugal with your money or your time, but rather with your space. no longer exists, so here's a link to a similar product from an industry leader.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Different Kind of Cold

While researching the various systems in my RV, I managed to find an installation manual for the refrigerator and it emphasized the differences between a typical household refrigerator and the kind you'll find in an RV. Those of you who have no interest in getting an RV may find some of those differences useful if you're looking for a refrigerator/freezer for a remote cabin or other “off-grid” living quarters.

Most RV refrigerators will run on either 120VAC power or propane (LP), while a few models like mine will add 12VDC as an option. It may sound strange, but they actually cool the inside of the refrigerator by heating up a “boiler” using a propane flame or an electrical heating element. The method of cooling is called “single pressure absorbtion refrigeration” (SPAR) instead of the conventional“vapor compression” method (VC)used in air conditioners and household refrigerators. Here are a few of the differences:

A conventional VC system uses a compressor/condenser unit to turn gaseous Freon (a generic name for a family of fluorocarbons) into a liquid, then pumps the liquid through an expansion valve which causes it to turn back into a vapor. The change from liquid to vapor is known as a “phase change” and requires quite a bit of heat to accomplish. The liquid gets that needed heat by pulling it out of the inside of the refrigerator, cooling the contents. The hot vapor is then routed back to the compressor, which further heats it as it compresses it back into a liquid, and finally to the condenser where the excess heat is exhausted to the outside air.

A SPAR unit uses two gasses (usually hydrogen and ammonia) and a liquid (water) that absorbs one of the gasses, all kept at roughly the same pressure. The ammonia, in liquid form, absorbs heat from the inside of the refrigerator and changes phase to a gas. That gas is absorbed by the water, which is then heated in a small “boiler” to drive it back out of solution. The gaseous ammonia condenses back to liquid form in a condenser and flows back to the heat exchanger inside the refrigerator. The hydrogen serves as a carrier for the ammonia and eliminates the need for a mechanical pump to move the liquid ammonia. SPAR systems have no moving parts, so they will last a long time. There is no compressor, and the condenser is a lot smaller, but in return efficiency takes a dive; SPAR units are only about a third as efficient as VC units, which is why SPAR systems are rare in houses today. 

My grandpa used to buy Servel refrigerators that ran on kerosene, back in the 1930s and 40s. I've heard that they would run on as little as a quart a day. You can still find them for sale on eBay and Craigslist, but they don't meet all of the current safety regulations and the safety nannies are trying to get them off of the market. Servel was the brand name used by Dometic, which is the major maker of SPAR systems in the world, for their household appliances. They still make them, but they are all propane-fired now. A full-sized refrigerator will burn about a pound of propane each day, so a grill-sized 20 pound cylinder would last about two weeks (they never fill cylinders more than 85% full [17 gallons] for safety reasons).

The VC system uses an electrically driven compressor, which requires a big surge of power to start. The SPAR system will have a control board and ignition coil that require electricity, but most of that is 12VDC. RV systems generally have a 120VAC heating coil to replace the propane burner when you are hooked up to the grid or running a generator, mine also has a 12VDC heating coil as an option, but it is not rated for the full cooling capacity and the manual advises using the DC option for no more than 6 hours. Electric heating elements are not efficient, and I avoid them wherever possible.

VC system have a compressor, which is a sealed unit with moving parts inside. There is no maintenance, when it dies it has to be replaced and that usually costs more than a new refrigerator would. Compressors can be noisy when they run, whereas a SPAR system is almost silent (unless you're using a generator to power it).

Cost can be an issue. Since SPAR units are targeted at the RV market, their production is nowhere near that of VC units. Economy of scale knocks the price of VC units down to half or a third of a comparable SPAR unit. SPAR units also tend to be smaller, somewhere between a dorm fridge and a house fridge. The smaller size is a plus for me, it means that the refrigerator will get cleaned out more often and there's less of a chance of leftovers getting lost in the back of a shelf.

If you're on a budget and still trying to put together a bug-out location or a bug-out vehicle with cold food storage, keep an eye out for people scrapping or parting out an older RV. It's hard to kill something with no moving parts, and replacement circuit boards are still being produced for a lot of the older models, so a used RV fridge might fill a niche if you have medication that needs to be kept cold or just want to enjoy a cold beer (or have ice cubes in your lemonade) as you watch the world fall apart around you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Re-Reading Cody Lundin

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

I've run out of E-books to read, so I grabbed a 'dead tree' book for my lunch companion. On the top of my stack was one of my favorites, When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin. Re-reading the book reminded me there are a couple things still missing from my preps.

The Three Basics
In his book, Lundin mentions several things about food that I read but didn't really catch the first several times through. Cody Lundin specifically talked about 'carbs, protein and fat' more than once in his Food chapter, along with several other mentions in different places. I do have carbs covered with supplies of pasta and crackers and protein with canned chicken, but I was lacking in the fat portion. The canned chicken and tuna I have in the Buckets of Holding (and Get Home Bag) are packed in water, which isn't bad in itself, but for disaster prep water-packed isn't the best choice.

I recently added canned chicken to my stores, rotating some old cans to my pantry shelf and giving the rest to my local Food Bank, and with my budget I can't just buy something to replace the chicken right away. What I have to do is add something fatty to the mix, bit by bit. So far, the best and easiest way to get some good fats is through oil, and the way I plan to do it is by adding sardines in olive oil to my supplies. Costco has 12 can cases for almost $24, but I can do better on price by shopping at my local discount grocery store where single cans at the outlet are $1.69 each ($20.28 for 12). Granted, the Costco brand and the outlet are both imported, but I'm betting in a blind taste test by hungry people that both will taste just fine! Another point in favor of  canned sardines is that the cans are much easier to open than my canned chicken.

Now some people don't like sardines, and I understand the fish breath after you eat them can be gross, but I put this into the same category as garlic: Once everyone has some, no one can tell the difference.

As usual, a few cans a week will be going into my gear until the buckets are well supplied.

Stored Water In Jugs
Do you know the difference between crazy and eccentric? Rich people are eccentric!

If you can get past some of Cody's eccentricities, there are some very good tips on surviving any disaster. One thing he has no problem with is algae in water, either in bulk or his personal water bottles. I like my water clear, so my nalgene bottles get washed regularly and I add a very small amount of chlorine bleach to my stored water. I dump the 6 - 7 gallon jugs every six months, even though I have them stored indoors in my closet. Each time I change the water I taste it to see if there is any flavor or odd smell, and there has been nothing other than a very faint 'stale' taste. I haven't ever tasted bleach or seen evidence of anything growing in the jugs, and don't expect anything with my storage conditions.

Cody recommends 3 oz. of plain, unscented chlorine bleach per 1,000 gallons, so 7 gallons need just 3 drops to treat city water! If the Wild Man of the West finds that works, I'm good too, so I follow his guideline.

The Takeaway
  • Re-read your resources. There could be something you've missed, like I did with the oils and fats.
  • I like fresh, clear water, so the small amount of extra time to treat what I store is time well spent.
    The Recap
    • 5 cans of sardines in oil: $1.69 ea. at Grocery Outlet; total $8.45
    • If you haven't read When All Hell Breaks Loose, I recommend it. This should be on everyone's book shelf.

      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, August 8, 2017

      Rhio Reviews: Grant Cunningham's "Prepping For Life"

      Recently, our dear Editrix Erin asked who within the group of writers, both part time and full time, identified as a Bibliovore - someone who feeds on books. I was the one who answered and raised the proverbial hand in class.

      I say "proverbial hand in class" because for my trouble I was tasked with a book report. Fortunately, digesting books is easier on my system than digesting some of the Emergency Foods that I've been asked to test and review!

      Grant Cunningham is familiar to many of us as a Gun Guy - an instructor and author in the field of firearms safety and firearms-based self-defense. It seems that Cunningham, like many of us, also doesn't believe in the concept of a "One Size Fits All" approach to being prepared for whatever life happens to throw in your general direction.
      His new book, Prepping for Life: The Balanced Approach to Personal Security and Family Safety, is what's under review today. It's a comprehensive look at his system and methodology of maximizing your preparedness, developed over the course of several years. His writing style is relaxed and easy to follow, and he lays out how he developed his system, and what sorts of trial and error went into getting it to the point its at today.

      His system, which he refers to in the book as Adaptive Personal Security (APS), revolves around that key word: Adaptive. Everything about this system is flexible and intended to make your life easier by being adjustable to suit your own needs.

      APS is broken down into four separate, easy to comprehend parts:
      1. Anticipate - figure out what your personal risks/dangers in life happen to be, and build a plan around them. He even provides a framework for a simple, logical method of prioritizing the risks you face, so that you can concentrate on the ones that are most likely and ignore the "fun to think about but highly unlikely" scenarios such as zombies.
      2. Deter - this is where you figure out the most likely and effective methods of avoiding those previously-identified risks, and adjust them to suit your preferences, income, and desired investment of time and money.
      3. Detect - noticing and acknowledging those risks you identified, and (hopefully) attempted to deter, when they actually arrive on the doorstep of your life.
      4. Respond - this is where your actual preps come into play, be they a sidearm to protect yourself from criminals breaking in, or those cases of bottled water, blankets, and extra clothes you have stored in your storm cellar for when a tornado hits.
      Cunningham gives plenty of examples of what sorts of things you should be considering, while making it very plain that Your Mileage May Vary! He manages to lay out a system that is easy to follow, easy to adapt to personal finances and circumstances, and is suitable for everyone from the single individual to the retired couple to the young business couple with 6 kids, 3 dogs, and a mother-in-law living with them!

      While I enjoyed reading this, Cunningham does manage to lay out a few truths in this book that, as a longtime member of the preparedness community, I found difficult to come to grips with, such as how many preppers overestimate their abilities. There's no getting around the fact that some truths are unpleasant; however, a healthy dose of realistic expectation is required in life, especially when considering what things we honestly need to be prepared to face. It took me several days of arguing with myself before I could finally come to terms with everything, but logical, rational, dispassionate, and objective analysis finally won in the end.

      All in all, I'd say this one is a Must Read. I'm definitely going to be keeping a copy in my library, and will most likely take a closer look at the system to see how it would work for me.

      Grant Cunningham's Prepping for Life: The Balanced Approach to Personal Security and Family Safety  is available in Kindle format for $6.99 and in paperback for $14.91 with Prime shipping.

      As a general side note - all opinions expressed in this post are strictly those of OkieRhio, not necessarily those of my fellow writers, or the editorial staff of this blog.  I was not paid to write this review, nor was I given any input as to what should and should not be covered.

      Monday, August 7, 2017

      Close Shaves Post-SHTF

      Scott has written several guest articles for us, but this is his first post as a regular contributor for Blue Collar Prepping. Please make him feel welcome. 

      “Shaving?” you ask. “Shaving? We don’t need no stinking shaving!”

      It is a disaster, after all, and there are more important things to worry about. The ravenous zombie hordes, for example. Or the invading aliens, looking to abduct humans and use them as spare parts to repair their pet cows.

      And I (kind of) agree with you. But there are number of eminently practical reasons to keep a razor and other shaving supplies in any preps you may have.

      Many people are going to have a great need to feel “normal” after a disaster, and the psychological boost for the continuation of normalcy in any disaster situation should not be underestimated. Not having to spend that extra bit of mental energy adjusting to changes in your environment can notably reduce exhaustion.

      Something that most people do not realize is that most (but not all) of the “body odor” that people smell comes from bacteria that actually grow on body hair. Shaving body hair can help with scent control in enclosed situations, and is occasionally used by hunters to control body odor when hunting things that will be scared away by human scent. Shaving can also be used to reduce the need for things like deodorant.

      Even if people don’t like to say it, they are much more likely to help someone who is well groomed and well presented than someone who looks like they’ve gone through a disaster, even if that is exactly what has just happened.

      Sanitary reasons for shaving include vermin control, such as lice. Longer term SHTF scenarios can include situations where one person brings in head lice into a group, and because they are sheltered together, it rapidly spreads. In addition to being uncomfortable, the vermin can spread disease, posing potential deadly risk. There is a reason that traditional treatment for this was to shave heads (and occasionally body hair) to treat and prevent spread of vermin. Combined with non-medicated soaps, this allows both prevention and “cure” of head and body lice.

      “Muck” can accumulate in hair, especially in beards. It is much easier to clean a shaved face than to clean a beard, especially if you do not have access to water, or have very limited access. Anyone who has ever eaten a messy hamburger with a beard (or seen someone else do so) knows what I am talking about.

      In hot climates, it may be wise to keep body hair shaved in order to prevent fungal growth. It can also be medically necessary to shave someone in preparation of surgical work, and shaving can even make things like stitches easier to apply.

      Protective Gear Compatibility
      NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) disasters are uncommon at most, but they do occur. If your preps include a gas mask, it is unusual to find one that accommodates facial hair. If you acquire a gas mask post-SHTF, you may find yourself unable to use it with facial hair. (There are facial hair-friendly respirators and gas masks, but they are much less common and typically more expensive. 3M produces one, but it costs as much as a used scooter.)

      Pros and Cons of Shaving Methods
      With that in mind, I present you an overview of the major methods used for shaving. This is actually not an exhaustive list, but it covers the most common methods in the United States and Europe for people who shave on a regular basis, whether it be facial hair or other.

      The classic electric razor. This razor is used for all sorts of things and is probably the most common powered shaving accessory for men in the modern Western world.

      • Ease of use
      • Most people already have one
      • Fairly robust
      • Usable for many shaves
      • Nicer models will often include beard trimmer attachments, and can sometimes even be used to trim hair
      • Batteries can often be recharged hundreds of times

      • Require power and a more detailed cleaning than most other types of razors. (While you do not need to clean them after every shave, they do require a more thorough cleaning when they are cleaned, and in the field this can lead to problems. )
      • More expensive and more difficult to maintain than most other razors
      • If dull, causes painful pulling of hair when used, and difficult to sharpen in the field without special equipment
      • Do not shave as closely

      In my opinion, these are best left at home, or used when bugging out in something like an RV.

      A mechanical razor is much like an electric razor, with the power source being a hand-wound spring.

      • Excellent for long-term SHTF 
      • Self-sharpening models were popular when they were in vogue

      • As of 2017, they are no longer being manufactured (to the best of my knowledge), and to purchase one you must buy an antique 
      • Ones in good condition tend to be fairly expensive

      Modern Multi-Blade Cartridge
      This is the most common style of unpowered razor sold in North America and Europe. It comes in a bewildering array of styles and forms, but is usually a lubricating strip with several attached blades on a changeable, disposable cartridge head.

      • Nearly everyone owns one
      • Don't stand out
      • Common and cheap enough that you can purchase one for a bug out bag and it will not break the bank 
      • All you need to use one is some water and perhaps a mirror; they have a lube strip built in, so no shaving soap needed. 

      • Some people are allergic or sensitive to the lubricant pads
      • So common that someone else may have the same style and type of razor, leading to problems such as confusion and deliberate theft. 
      • Made of inexpensive plastic, so they break more easily than some other options
      • Finding or storing enough blades for continual use without easy resupply can become expensive and problematic

      El Cheapo Dollar Store Disposable
      Very similar to the cartridge style multi blade, I count this as a separate type because of two main factors: the entire assembly is disposable instead of just the cartridge, and the price.

      • Common, easy to find, and quite cheap
      • Shave reasonably well
      • Are typically several for a dollar
      • Cheap enough to be disposable, or put into each bug out bag without breaking the bank.
      • Can last several shaves (depending on type of hair), meaning that you can put only one or two in a 72 hour kit

      • Tend to break much more easily
      • Do not last as long as the more expensive options
      • Tend to have much more limited styles
      • Have a strong tendency to have cheap lube on the lubricant strip, which is often much more problematic for those with allergies

      Classic Double Edge
      A double edge razor is a very old style, characterized by having a razor held between two plates of steel with a post handle. The razor that is held between the two plates of steel is disposable, and extremely inexpensive to replace. It is used until it is dull, and can either be stropped to regain the edge or thrown away.

      • Can be purchased brand new on the internet or even at antique shops
      • Excellent for people with sensitive skin
      • Give a very close shave without being as difficult to use or maintain as a straight razor. 
      • Very rugged and very easy to use, even in the field (they were issued to the United States military up to the late 1990s)
      • Refills are so inexpensive and take up so little space that if someone shaves every day, and requires regular razor blade changes, you can stockpile a lifetime supply for relatively little.

      • More modern than a straight razor, but much less common and less modern than a multi-blade Gillette or similar
      • Handles start at $10 and up
      • Separate razor blades may be a risk if you have small children that go through your things
      • They take longer to get a good shave than a modern razor does because you have to pay more attention. (If this is the kind of razor you use every day, the difference can be measured in seconds, but if it’s the first time you’ve ever used one, you may end up feeling much more safe spending an extra minute or two.)
      Straight Razor
      A straight razor is a long piece of sharpened steel on a hinge that collapses into a handle. Popular for several centuries, they are still in use by high-end barbers.

      • Gives an excellent shave
      • Are easy to obtain
      • Available brand new, and sometimes at used prices comparable to cartridge razors
      • A well maintained straight razor can literally last for centuries

      • Takes more time and effort to shave, due to being a razor sharp piece of steel without a guard to prevent cuts 
      • New models are expensive, with a quality blade and handle being several times the cost of cartridge razors
      • Require re-sharpening on a regular basis, using a process called “stropping”

      Chemical Depilatories
      Now for the oddball: using caustic chemicals to soften hair and remove it without using a blade.

      • Nothing but water and a wash cloth are required for most methods on the market.
      • Can be used in places where sharp pieces of metal are not allowed
      • Available over the counter at many drug stores and groceries
      • Results often last longer than traditional shaving methods due to the chemicals affecting the hair below the skin
      • You are slathering caustic chemicals on your skin, waiting for them to take effect, and wiping them off 
      • Do not get this in mucus membranes, do not get this in your eyes, do not let children play with it.
      • Difficult to use in field conditions 
      • Relatively expensive per use
      • Does not work on all types of hair
      • Can cause irritation for sensitive skin

      Now you know what questions to ask when looking into the best option for shaving when SHTF. Use your common sense and don’t forget to practice.

      Sunday, August 6, 2017

      Gun Blog Variety Podcast #155 - RINO Hunting

      "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know." - Groucho Marx
      • Beth and her husband went to Shootrite Academy in Alabama. They discuss what it’s like to train as a married couple, and Beth learned an important lesson about defensive pistol use in 101 degree heat.
      • Sean has a doozy of a Felons Behaving Badly segment featuring five, count 'em, FIVE suspects involved in a kidnapping. You're going to need a score card to figure out who is related to whom!
      • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
      • We're all supposed to grow up, not just grow older, but some people miss the maturity bus. Miguel tells us what to do when you run into an alleged adult who throws a childish temper tantrum in public.
      • Sean went RINO hunting with the pro-gun group Grass Roots North Carolina. There were people dressed in Rhino pajamas, a rhino mask, and more Sergeants-at-Arms than you can shake a pro-gun banner at.
      • Tiffany is on assignment and will return soon.
      • Erin finishes up her series on Surviving Survival with a double-length segment on successful coping strategies.
      • The One and Only Anti-Gun Podcast brings on a researcher to talk about research and the anti-gun agenda. Weer’d listens so that you don't have to!
      • And our Plug of the Week is for the PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Holder
      Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!
      Listen to the podcast here.
      Read the show notes here.
      Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

      Blue Collar Prepping Transcript -
      Surviving Survival
      For the past two months, I’ve been talking about what trauma is and why our brains respond it the way that they do, and giving suggestions on how to manage anger, fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. This week I conclude this series by giving general strategies for getting past the traumatic event and getting on with your life. In other words, how to survive the rest of your life once you’ve survived the emergency, tragedy, disaster or trauma. 

      There are six strategies that lead to successful outcomes. Of these, the most effective strategy -- contrary to all expectations -- is Suppression. In other words, Put it out of your mind. Just don’t think about it. Think about other things instead. 

      In the paper titled Study Of Adult Development, psychiatrist George Vaillant found that simply suppressing a traumatic experience and getting on with life is, quote, "the defensive style most closely associated with successful adaptation". Suppression is straightforward, practical, and best of all, it works. "Of all the coping mechanisms," Vaillant writes, "suppression alters the world the least and best accepts the terms life offers." 

      However, not everyone can simply stop thinking about things that trouble them. This is a problem which I have; when something bothers me, I end up chewing on it over and over, like a cow with its cud. For those of you who end up ruminating on your problems like I do, here are other successful strategies:

      Sublimation - Do something to channel anger, energy and anxiety into something productive. This is engaging the seeking pathway, and I went into this in detail in episode 148. Sublimation is another form of suppression, because seeking pathway overrides the rage pathway of rumination. 

      Altruism - Do something kind for someone else. This helps you twice: first by occupying your mind with the task, and the second with the chemical reward that comes with positive emotions when your gift makes its recipient happy. 

      Anticipation - See the future and prepare for it. Like studying for a test so hard that you score a 100% on it, if you over-prepare then the actual event is a nonissue. This is an excellent strategy for things which have a definite end goal, such as a diagnosis of cancer. If you’re a prepper, you are constantly using this technique. 

      And finally Humor - Being able to laugh at yourself is healing. It has been said that you “Can’t be laughing and worrying at the same time,” and I’ve found this to be true, which is why I always try to make a joke to lighten the mood when things seem horrible. 

      The best coping mechanism of all, if you can manage it, is to combine suppression with laughter. Laugh about the good things in life and don’t think about the terrible things -- or laugh AT the terrible things, to rob them of their power. A thing you mocking is not a thing to be feared. 

      There are 12 steps for successful survival, whether you are in the middle of a disaster or you are dealing with the aftermath. 
      1. Perceive & Believe - Recognize the reality of the situation. Don’t deny it is happening; accept it and deal with it. 
      2. Remain Calm - acknowledge whatever fear, rage, or sadness you have, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, use that energy to be productive by engaging the seeking pathway. 
      3. Think, Analyze, Plan - Know what you have and what you want. Once you have a realistic assessment of your resources and predicament, set achievable goals. Tell yourself “OK, this bad thing has happened. Now what?” Look to future instead of ruminating on the past or what could have been. 
      4. Act on that plan - This is sublimation, and it effectively directs negative emotions outward into productive effect. Do something other than dwelling on pain and trauma. 
      5. Celebrate success once action is taken - This creates a dopamine reward within your brain, which makes you feel better and causes you to want to keep progressing forward. This is a “virtuous circle”. 
      6. Count your blessings - This results in gratitude, which calms negative emotions. 
      7. Play - Have fun, which is part of living a healthy happy life. Without joy, you aren’t living, you’re merely existing. 
      8. See the Beauty - Focus on positive, ignore the negative. This binds you to the world so you want to keep living. 
      9. Believe you can influence events - Believing that you will succeed is the attitude of the survivor, not the victim. Do not wait for rescue; rescue yourself. 
      10. Surrender - Don’t let your fears hold you back; let go of them and move forward.
      11. Do whatever is necessary to make that move happen - By this point, you should know, deep within yourself, that you have the will and skill to accomplish what is needed for healing or rescue. Do not let obstacles keep you from your goal. 
      12. Never give up - You’re still alive. That means you can always improve your situation. 
      Finally, there is happiness, which is what everyone wants in life. I’m going to conclude this series with three key thoughts on happiness and the pursuit thereof:

      “It’s possible to lead a healthy happy life even in the aftermath of trauma. Perhaps more importantly, happiness is not a matter of avoiding trouble; it’s a matter of how you deal with it.”

      “Happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster. Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing.”

      To make your live more complete, and therefore help you achieve happiness:
      1. Do something you love.
      2. Do something for someone who needs you.
      3. Be with people who care about you.
      I can’t stress that last one enough: Be with people who care about you.

      Take care of yourself, folks.

      Friday, August 4, 2017


      Sometimes being thrifty is being trained. The more you know, the less you have to carry, and the less you fall for.

      Thursday, August 3, 2017

      The Sawyer Extractor

      My primary first aid kit is a small trauma bag. It was a gift from a former employer for completing a 40-hour First Responder course and volunteering to be one of the medical aid staff at a large (800 acre) industrial site. Over the years, I've added things to it to better address the injuries I was dealing with when I had to open it, and one of  the first additions was a Sawyer  Extractor. This is the same company that makes good water filters, and they've been around for 30+ years, so they're doing things right.

      Photo courtesy of

      What is it?
      The Extractor is a small, hand-operated suction pump for removing venom from stings and bites. It comes in a plastic case that is smaller than a paperback book and weighs only a few ounces.

      It is not a replacement for an Epi-pen if you are allergic to insect stings, but it will reduce the amount of venom in your system and reduce your body's reactions to the venom.

      What does it do?
      By creating a moderate suction in a small area, the Extractor can pull venom from an insect or spider bite to reduce the pain and damage. I've used mine on wasp stings that would normally raise a welt and cause pain for days, and seen nothing more than a red spot and pain that only lasted a few minutes. They are very helpful when dealing with children who have been stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, as the reduction in pain and swelling reduces the trauma (and drama).

      They may help reduce the amount of venom from a snake bite, but since a snake's fangs are longer than most insect stingers, they tend to inject the venom a lot deeper and closer to blood vessels. While something is better than nothing, venomous snake bites are not to be taken lightly, so get proper medical aid ASAP.

      How do you use it?
      The Extractor is a large, double-chambered, spring-loaded syringe. After placing one of the reusable plastic cups on the tip, you pull the handle all the way to the rear (to compress the spring), place the plastic cup over the bite/sting and then push the handle back down. The spring will force an internal plunger up, creating a gentle suction that draws the venom or poison out. Once you have the venom out, use the alcohol swabs and band-aids provided in the kit to clean and cover the wound to prevent infection. There is also a disposable razor in the kit for removing excessive body hair from the bite/sting site if the hair is thick enough to prevent a good seal between the plastic cup and skin.

      Where do I get one?
      I've seen them for sale at Walmart for about the same price as you can get them on Amazon. If you want to help support this little blog, please consider using our Amazon link since we get a few pennies per sale through the Affiliate program. If you want to pay more, they are also found in most camping and hunting supply stores. $15 is cheap for something that can prevent a bee sting from ruining a weekend camp-out or make being stuck in the woods less miserable.

      Having worked with Cub Scouts and several other groups of younger people, many of whom were not accustomed to living close to nature, I've had to use my Extractor a handful of times over the years. The one in my kit is due for replacement (I'm going through my kit and making some changes, so this is a good time to take inventory and replace things that are out of date), so I'll be picking up a new one soon. While it isn't a definite life-saving device, it is useful enough that I keep one in the big bag.

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