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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Prepping Uses for Trash & Plastic Shopping Bags

I've found so many uses for plastic bags over the years that they have become one of the things that I try to stockpile. I've seen the machinery required to make plastic bags, and that is a technology that takes a lot of infrastructure to sustain. Luckily, most plastic bags are still made from petroleum and they won't degrade or break down for decades, so supplies will last through short-term disasters.

Be sure to avoid the brands with insecticides and fragrances if you're going to use them for food, water, or close to your body, some of the chemicals they use are strong enough to make a person ill.

Here are a few of the uses I've found:

Trash Bags

Emergency Rain Gear
  • Cut or tear a hole in the bottom of a trash bag and pull the bag over your head to make a quick rain poncho. I've outfitted a whole pack of Scouts this way for less than $5.
  • Slogging through mud or rain? Put your feet inside a couple of bags and then put on your shoes/boots. Tie or tape the bags around your ankles and a few places up your leg and your feet will stay drier. Be aware, though, that since the bags are waterproof, they will also hold in the sweat from your feet, so you will eventually develop wet socks and possibly even a rash. Dry your feet and change your socks regularly!
  • Draping a trash bag over your pack will keep the contents dry. Lining the pack with a trash bag before you load it works better, but you have to watch for sharp edges as you pack it.

Vapor Barrier
  • If you are dealing with snow or heavy fog, putting a plastic bag between layers of clothes will keep the moisture from seeping through to your skin.
  • It was common to use plastic bread bags as a liner inside winter boots when I was a kid (a long time ago), and trash bags will work just as well or better.

Solar Still
  • Lokidude covered solar stills here. Having a plastic bag makes it easier to build one.
  • You can also wrap plastic around plants or tree branches and gather the water that evaporates off them during the day. 

Covering Holes
  • If you need to seal up a room to keep out dust, fallout, smoke, or fumes, a supply of trash bags and duct tape will make the job easier. I use industrial trash bags to seal up grain bins before fumigating them and they work great.
  • Broken windows are a common occurrence after strong winds (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) and tape and trash bags will cover any size of window.
  • If you use a window air conditioner, wrapping the outside of the unit in a plastic bag during the cold season is a good way to prevent drafts and conserve heat.

  • Slicing open a large trash bag will give you a sheet of plastic large enough to be used as a ground cloth under a sleeping bag. It won't last very long unless you use the heaviest bags available, but it will keep the dew from soaking your bag.
  • Placing a bag or two over the top of your sleeping bag will trap heat, but also moisture, so be sure to air out your bag every day. A quick way to stay warmer is to place the foot of your sleeping bag inside a large trash bag before you crawl in. It'll keep your feet warmer while having the top half of the bag exposed will let some of the humidity out.
  • If you're putting together a lean-to or debris hut, placing plastic bags on the roof will make it shed rain better. Bags added to the walls will cut the amount of wind that gets through.
  • Wrapping a plastic bag around you will trap some of your body heat and will keep the wind from carrying it away. It's not quite as good as a Space Blanket, but it'll do in a pinch.
  • Stuffing a couple of large bags full of leaves will make an insulating bed to keep you off of the ground and make sleep more comfortable. A bag stuffed full of clothes or leaves will also make a passable pillow, although you will probably want to cover it with a shirt as a pillowcase.
First Aid
  • Large plastic bags are handy for holding contaminated items, whether they be blood, body fluids, chemical contamination, or fallout.
  • Tie two opposing corners together and you have a make-shift sling for a broken arm.
  • Sucking chest wounds are one of the things covered in more advanced first-aid classes, and you need an air-tight material to seal them.

Plastic Shopping Bags
If you don't have trash bags handy, the ubiquitous grocery store bags are free and often pile up in kitchens. They are known as “T-shirt bags” because they resemble a sleeveless T-shirt (AKA wife beater) when they are flat. While not as large, they do have several uses for preppers.

  • Cutting a plastic bag into strips and twisting or weaving them together into twine is simple and makes a surprisingly strong cord. You can never have enough cordage.

First Aid
  • Like trash bags, grocery bags can be used to seal chest wounds and are also small enough to be twisted into something like rope that can be used as an emergency tourniquet.
  • Being smaller than trash bags, grocery bags are just right to use as air-sickness bags.
  • Filled with ice and tied shut, I've used plastic bags to take down the swelling from minor strains and sprains.

  • Using a plastic bag as a bucket liner is a simple way to create a portable toilet.
  • If you don't have gloves handy, putting a plastic bag over your hands will let you handle nasty things and keep your hands clean. Everybody that has had to pick up behind their dog knows this trick, but you can also use it for isolating yourself from blood-borne pathogens while rendering aid.

  • Keep wet clothes separate from dry ones in your pack by putting them in a plastic bag before stowing them. This is also a good idea for dirty or wet footwear inside a pack, although I prefer to use my boot laces to tie the spares to the outside of my pack so they can dry.
  • I've often put a bar of soap inside a plastic bag before sticking it back in my pack, just to keep it from getting into my food and all over my clothes.
  • Cutting strips of plastic off of a bag makes cheap, easily visible trail markers that can be tied to trees or fences. These strips are also handy for making quick field-expedient repairs (see cordage above).

Carrying Things
  • They are designed to carry stuff, so why not use them that way? If you're out foraging for food, a dozen plastic bags will fit in a pocket until needed.
  • If you're trading or bartering, having bags on hand makes carrying stuff home a lot easier.
  • If you are handing out supplies to people after a disaster, having the supplies prepackaged in plastic bags makes the process a lot smoother.
  • As long as there are no holes, you can carry a couple of quarts of water in a common bag. Double it up if you're worried about the weight tearing the seams.

Plastic bags are easy to find outside of California and have a long shelf-life and many uses, so why wouldn't you have a supply on hand? For those of you who live in areas that have banned the use of plastic bags, they are availableon Amazon if you want to thumb your nose at the busy-bodies who think they're in charge. $30 for a thousand is pretty cheap and should last a long time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Sanitizing and Moisturizing

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

I work around the public, deal with the public, and touch things in the course of my day that potentially hundreds of people have touched. I also handle boxed goods that may have been stored on a shelf for months and could be covered in dust, dirt or worse, depending on the location of the store. I wear gloves for most of the day and when I'm not, my hands get dirty quickly. Even when wearing my cut-resistant work gloves (reviewed here), my hands are sweaty, which attracts dust through the weave.

What this means is that I wash my hands four or five times a day, and when I can't wash, I use hand sanitizer (also four or five times a day). Unfortunately, my favorite supplier of sanitizer discontinued the unscented product that I liked.

What to do?

I have started to make my own blend with commercially available sanitizer and the Jojoba oil I have in my bag that I mentioned in this post. It took a bit of fiddling to get the ratio correct, but it now works as well as the store brand in my opinion.

Lately I've been putting more oil into the little travel bottle to keep my hands from cracking and splitting this winter. I haven't tried it out, but my local Gear Nut seems to think the added oil will make this into an even better fire starter than sanitizer by itself, because it will not evaporate as quickly.
The cold weather also drys my face out, especially my lips. My all time favorite Lip Balm is Carmex, in the little jar, sized just like the founder of the company used in the 1930's.

The company is still under the control of the founders family, making products to the original formula! I first bought some on a business trip to Nashville many years ago when I started to get a cold sore. The local drug store recommended this and I've had a jar in my personal gear ever since.

From the Carmex website:
Five Tips for Healthy Lips
  • Water, water, water. Almost every aspect of health can be improved through proper hydration, and your lips are no different. So make sure to drink up, all day long. 
  • Licking your lips draws out moisture and only makes the problem worse. Rely on Carmex® Classic lip balm to get the job done instead! 
  • Especially during winter and windy days, don’t leave the house without a scarf to give your lips an extra layer of protection. Not that you needed another reason to show off your new wrap. 
  • Lipsticks that are shiny or contain high gloss with little-to-no color can be potentially harmful to lips because they can attract UV rays. Try a triple-layer approach for added protection: apply a lip balm with SPF — such as Carmex Daily Care® — followed by a colored lipstick, then finish it off with some shine. Look lovely AND healthy. 
  • Dryness is the enemy. Use a humidifier. Keep your skin and lips fresh no matter the season with this simple solution.
I like the original jar because it is much more difficult to smash or crush than the squeeze tubes or lipstick type tubes, but they can be hard to find. Last week I lost the jar kept in my jacket pocket, so I needed to buy more. It took 3 stops to find the jar in stock! Everyone had plenty of the tubes, but the jars were sold out. To fix this problem, my next Amazon visit will have a three pack of Carmex added to the order.

The Takeaway
  • Working doesn't need to wear out or damage your skin.
  • Damaged lips mean uncomfortable eating and can give the wrong impression in a business setting.

The Recap
  • Hand sanitizer can be made for pennies per bottle. See this link for more information.
  • three pack of Carmex Lip Balm: $5.65 from Amazon with free shipping,  but unfortunately no Prime 2-day shipping. 

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, December 12, 2017

Guest Post: Getting Unstuck

by Xander Opal

It's a situation that will eventually happen if you drive on snowy roads or go cross-country: your vehicle will get stuck. Or perhaps you'll get a call from a friend or family member who is stuck, or encounter someone whose vehicle is stuck.

I have had quite a bit of experience getting stuck, from tractors in a field to a car on a snowdrift. Hopefully, you can learn a bit from me about what to do, and what not to do. This article is about getting unstuck, rather than recognizing Where Not To Go.

Know when to stop trying to get out by yourself.
Sometimes you can get out by rocking back and forth, shifting from drive to reverse to back in quick order, but that can just dig your vehicle in deeper, especially in mud. It's a lot easier to pop a vehicle's wheels out of relatively shallow divots than it is to drag a vehicle that's axle- or frame-deep in muck. It gets even more complicated and difficult if you have a trailer or piece of equipment in tow.

Generally, if you feel the vehicle settling deeper when attempting to change directions, or there is no progress more than a few inches in either direction, stop.

In all cases, it is very important to know where it is safe to hook a chain or strap onto your vehicle, as well as the towing vehicle, to prevent damage or injury. (For example, there's the time I discovered it was a bad idea to wrap a chain around the radiator mount on a truck.)

Additionally, when a stuck vehicle is being pulled out, ensure that onlookers are standing back more than the length of the strap or chain used. That strap or chain is being loaded with the energy it takes to move several tons of metal; if it breaks under load, you do not want that energy being applied to the human body.

Stuck in Snow
Useful gear:
  • A shovel (one that can be disassembled for easy storage is good)
  • Some kind of grit (sandbag, oil-absorbing material, kitty litter)
  • Carpet scrap/tarp/welcome-mat sized 'rug'
  • Safety orange reflective vest

When hung up on a snowbank in the middle of the road:
  1. First make sure there is no other traffic; you do not want to be outside of your vehicle in a freeway pile-up. You also want to be visible to any other drivers, which is where the safety orange reflective vest comes in useful.
  2. Determine which is the clearest method of travel. If the road ahead is as bad as the spot you're hung up on, it is best to turn around and find another route or a safe place to wait for the road to be cleared. 
  3. Use your shovel to clear out the snow from the direction you want to go, and also pull the snow out from under your vehicle if you cannot see clearly to the other side. Take special care to ensure that the wheels are not stuck in a packed snow/ice 'dish' under each.
  4. Pour a bit of the grit material before and behind the wheels, both under the vehicle and a car length in the way you're going to go (pickup truck drivers often put bags of sand in back to put more weight over the drive wheels). This will give the tires something to grip and move you with better than the icy snow-pack it had just created. You can also put the carpet/rug pieces right against the powered wheels of your vehicles in the direction of travel (front wheels of most cars, rear wheels of two-wheel-drive trucks).
  5. If you are not stuck too badly, putting the vehicle in low gear and gently putting your foot on the gas should get it moving back to a safe spot, at which point you can pick up any carpets used and proceed on.

Stuck in a Ditch
Useful gear:
  • Tow strap or chain
  • Some kind of grit (sandbag, oil-absorbing material, kitty litter)
  • Distress signals like flares and/or reflectors
  • Safety orange reflective vest

Unless you have a winch and a handy stout tree in a direction nobody's going to hit the cable with their vehicle, you're going to need help if your vehicle can't move itself. This is a bit more complicated, especially as traffic is more of a concern since your rescuer will be in the way of at least one lane. Signs to warn other drivers, such as flares and reflectors and bright visible vests, are a necessity.
  1. Again, make sure the tow strap or chain is attached correctly to the proper locations.
  2. Do not jerk or yank suddenly to try to break the stuck vehicle free. This is a good way to break the strap or chain, and possibly do damage to one or both vehicles. 
  3. Carefully draw the strap or chain tight, then gradually apply more power. If the rescue vehicle is having problems with traction, it is a good idea to sprinkle grit over the working area. 
  4. Slow is best in all things. The rescue vehicle will have to angle down the road; it often helps to pull the stuck vehicle out in the direction the end toward the road is aimed. 
  5. The rescue vehicle needs to be ready to stop when the driver sees the formerly stuck vehicle getting closer, meaning it has traction. The formerly stuck vehicle's driver needs to be ready to stop when they see they're at that point as well.

Stuck in Mud
This is where knowing when to stop is very useful, and if you don't, you've literally dug yourself a hole.

Useful tools:
  • 2-4 boards, 2x4 or 2x6
  • Shovel
  • Carpet scrap/tarp/welcome-mat sized 'rug'
  • Long chain or tow strap
  • Boards
If you aren't stuck too badly and you're by yourself, you can wedge 2x4 or 2x6 boards behind the wheels of your vehicle (tree branches may also work in a pinch) and use them to back out of your situation.
  1. If your vehicle is loaded down with a lot of weight, remove that weight before attempting to get it out. It is a bit of a pain to deal with, but not as much as getting stuck worse from failed attempts. 
  2. Use the shovel to remove high points of dirt/mud from behind the wheels, and from under the vehicle if it is resting that deep. 
  3. Ease the vehicle with slow acceleration to get it onto the planks or branches (tarp or carpet scraps can be handy here for this). If you can get up on there, accelerate quickly and Do. Not. Stop. until you get well onto safe, dry ground. 
  4. As always, make sure any bystanders are a safe distance away.

More often, a rescue vehicle is needed. This is why long chain or tow strap is specified; I've linked a good 40' or more of logging chain together to get a tractor out of a bad spot. At worst, two or even three rescue vehicles (and thus tow straps or chains) might be required if the vehicle is well and truly stuck.
  1. Remove as much weight and stack the material out of the way.
  2. Hook the chain or strap to the correct places on both vehicles; a shovel might be needed to get to the right spot on the stuck vehicle. 
  3. Keep the rescue vehicle on good, safe ground, and bystanders well away. 
  4. Pulling the stuck vehicle at an angle, even a sharp one, can be useful to get it out of the ruts getting stuck makes. 
  5. Very gently take the slack out of the tow chain or tow strap, then gradually apply power to keep traction and not break the chain or strap. 
  6. As noted above, the driver of the rescue vehicle must be ready to stop when the formerly stuck vehicle is onto safe ground. The driver of the formerly stuck vehicle needs to be ready to stop when they see the rescue vehicle has stopped. 

A Few Notes on How to Pull Someone Out
  • Agree on signals for "Ready," "Go," "Faster," "Slower," "STOP!!".
  • The rescue driver watches the stuck vehicle driver, and does not begin until the stuck vehicle driver signals readiness.
  • Both parties watch for the possibility of a bystander in a bad spot, a broken chain/strap, or a chain/strap that comes undone.
  • Try to stay calm and methodical. It is easy to be angry or frustrated, rush through the process, and make the situation worse by getting stuck more deeply, breaking the only means of getting un-stuck, or worst, causing injury.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Product Review: the OKC Marine Combat Knife

I am a big fan of a knife for every day carry and use.  Opening packages, trimming things, even prepping food; all of these things happen on a regular basis, and all of them are easier to perform with a knife.

While I do prefer a pocket folder, there are some tasks that a fixed blade is better for, especially when camping. Sometimes you want a knife large enough to do the job without getting in the way.

To that end, I purchased an Ontario Knife Company Marine Combat Knife.*

Full disclosure: I have never used this knife to stab anyone, open a can of chewing tobacco, or do anything with it that would make a first sergeant turn purple with rage. Because of this, I feel that I have only tested it as a “Combat/Utility knife”, not as a “Marine Combat knife”.

Made by Ontario Knife Company, the Marine Combat knife is patterned after the Ka-Bar. There are a few differences, such as the coloration of the handle, but by and large it is a Ka-Bar clone.

My knife came with a leather sheath that fits quite nicely on my belt. The sheath seems to be well built, and has acquired only minor visual scarring. I use a shoe care oil on mine every six months to a year, and it seems to be holding up well.

The Good
I have opened a lot of cans (Number 10, all the way down to miniature cans of tomato paste) with my knife. I just jam the tip in and move it to cut. It seems to work well and the blade has yet to develop nicks or chunks out of it.

I have used my knife in the kitchen when everything else was packed (or when everything else was in the dishwasher or dirty in the sink and I was too lazy to clean something), and I can attest that it works well as a meat cutting implement.

I have prepared several roasts with it, as well as at least one round of steaks for grilling, and have gotten an even, clean cut out of it each time.

Mine occasionally goes through the dishwasher. It develops very small rust spots, but they come off with a little light rubbing from my thumb.

In use as a general camp knife it holds up well, and only requires sharpening after extended hard use (2-3 days or longer).

I keep enough of an edge on it that I have used it to dig out splinters, cut open letters, and (in one memorable case) to clean up a vinyl stencil when I could not find a razor knife.

On occasion I have used it to cut kindling off of a larger piece of wood. Hammering on the back of the knife, or on the pommel, has yet to produce more than minor visual scarring and has yet to chip or bend the knife in any way.

I have used it to pry apart car suspension parts, and the blade is not bent. I do not recommend this, since I am sure that it is bad for the knife.

A light oiling and storing outside the sheath (to avoid trapping moisture) seems to be all the care it needs most of the time.

The Bad
This is not a piece of modern technology. The Ka-Bar was adopted in the early 1940’s, and even if the technology used to assemble it has improved, the essential design is still limited by the technology of the era when it was developed.

The Ontario knife company has done pretty much nothing to change that. Which, to be fair, may be exactly what some of you will want: a very straightforward and no-frills knife with a blade thicker than that of a modern knife made with modern materials.

The Ugly
I have noticed that the knife was imperfectly sharpened when I first received it. It took me about three hours of hand sharpening with a Lansky sharpening system to get the blade perfect, but that included a bunch of use before I sharpened it, and a lot of finicky work to get it just the way I wanted it. I probably could have done it in a third the time if I was not watching television while I did it.

Other than that, it has had no serious problems.

The Verdict
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

It doesn't have as nice a fit and finish as some other Ka-Bar clones and variants (including the Ka-Bar itself) but it is much cheaper; as little as half the price at the time of this writing.  Ka-Bar brand knives will also often come with decoration, such as embossed sheaths.

If you want the ~80 years of history, it's hard to go wrong with the name brand. If you want bang for your buck, and don’t mind a quality off brand, this is an excellent buy.

*Note: this is not the OKC3S Marine Bayonet, which is currently produced for the USMC under contract by Ontario Knife Company. They bear a strong resemblance, but are not the same knife.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #173 - Too Many Acronyms

GOA and NAGR tried to make HR38 DOA with FUD.
  • Self Defense with Kids and Dogs! No, not using your kids as shields or throwing dogs at intruders. Instead, Beth discusses the self-defense options that are available when you have small children and/or dogs.
  • In a story that hits a little too close to home, Sean knew the victim (but not the son) in "Friends, family grieve after Franklinton man killed, allegedly by his son."
  • Barron is back with us this week to talk about why you should keep your cell phone number secure, safe, and private.
  • Miguel has a temper. The guy in that truck you just accidentally cut off has a temper. You have a temper. In this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Miguel offers some tips for how to avoid having the worst part of you make the worst decisions possible.
  • In this week's Main Topic, Sean and Erin discuss the "Fix NICS" half of HR38, and why you shouldn't let the freakout by GOA and NAGR over NICS frighten you away from supporting this important bill.
  • Tiffany is attending a week-long Deadly Force Instructor course in Live Oak, FL. She has just enough time on a break to record  her thoughts on why you should attend… and stay tuned for a surprise cameo!
  • It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for you to buy stocking stuffers for the preppers in your life. Erin makes a list, and you should check it twice.
  • There was so much anti-gun nuttery on the “Professor Puppet” video Weer’d did last week, he had to come back for more.
  • And our Plug of the Week is Contact Your Senators and ask them to support HR38 Concealed Carry Reciprocity.
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: 
Stocking Stuffers for Preppers
Hello preppers! If you are listening to this podcast on Sunday night, you have exactly 14 days until Christmas! 

Hopefully you have all prepared for the season by buying your presents early, or at the very least you know what you plan to get and you have the shipping times worked so that all your gifts arrive on schedule. 

As for myself -- well, not to brag, but I completed all of my Christmas shopping before it was even December and now I’m working on my famous (or perhaps infamous) My Little Pony Christmas Cards. 

But for those of you who haven’t finished your shopping (or for those of you who are just now going “Oh crap, I really need to get started”), Santa’s Elf Erin is here to give you some ideas for inexpensive but useful stocking stuffers for friends and family. Give them to people who aren’t yet into prepping as a combination gift and kick in the butt, or get a bunch of things and make a smorgasbord box of handy preps. 

Everyone needs a good flashlight! I recommend the 300 lumen mini Cree LED flashlight by UltraFire. It uses a single AA battery, is super-efficient, has a zoomable focus and at only 4 inches long it fits comfortably in pockets and purses. It’s only $6 and, like most of the items I’m going to recommend, as Amazon’s two-day Prime shipping. 

Everyone also needs a good fixed blade knife. I’ve talked about Mora knives before, and they’re still the best-kept secret in the knife world. They’re amazingly ergonomic, don’t need sharpening out of the box, and come in a variety of colors including military green, tactical black and magenta. They range in price from $10 to $22 depending on which color you get. 

Worried about loved ones getting lost or succumbing to the elements? No worries, fam, I gotcha covered. There’s a company called SOL for “Survive Outdoors Longer” and they make a panoply of  survival tools for use when you’re the other kind of SOL.  A two-person survival blanket costs $6 and will keep them warm and dry, while a $9 signal mirror and a $6 package of rescue whistles will ensure they are seen and heard. 

If you’re looking for something to put you over the limit for free shipping, get an eyeglass repair kit for $4 that comes with a magnifying glass, 12 screws for eyeglass hinges and nosepieces, and a tiny screwdriver for those tiny screws. These kits are essential if, like me, you need glasses to function, but they’re still nice to have if your sunglasses break. 

Other good things to put inside stockings are things which you can pick up at just about any grocery store, like batteries (AA or AAA), disposable lighters and rolls of duct tape. Did you know that duct tape is made of cotton and can be used as a fire starter?

This last item isn’t really a stocking stuffer, and it’s quite odd, but I’m including it here because there’s a humorous Christmas story attached to it. Three years ago, my mother had cataract surgery and that made it harder for her to focus her eyes enough to do the knitting and stitching that she enjoys. In desperation, I ordered her a multi-power head magnifer -- you know, the magnifying lenses on headbands that jewelers and watchmakers use -- because it was only $9 and I could get it to her in two days. I figured that even if she hated it, I could still find a use for it. 

To my extreme amazement and delight, my mother LOVED IT and uses it daily. It’s given her years of faithful use and has brought peace and joy to the house because she is no longer frustrated about being unable to see her hobbies. So if you have a family member who has poor vision and whose hobbies include precision work like making models or painting miniatures or tying fishing lures, get one of these. I guarantee that you won’t regret it!

Friday, December 8, 2017


One chicken is clearly top of the pecking order and bullying another one to the point of not eating or leaving the hen house.

She looked better today. The other hens are also being attacked, but not to the same degree.

If it continues, the bully gets a bullet.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gifts for Preppers

The winter holidays are upon us and this is a time for giving gifts to family and friends, but what do you get a prepper? The beginner is always easier to buy for because they don't have much and anything that they can use will be appreciated. Those of us who have been in the game for a while can be a bit harder to shop for unless you have a budget that will cover cars and real estate. As has been pointed out in the past, "blue collar" doesn't mean broke but it does mean we work for our money.

Here are some suggestions for this Christmas/winter holiday season.

  • Nobody ever has too many batteries, especially the common AA size. With most brands now advertising a 5 to 10 year shelf-life, they store well and will get used in flashlights, radios, toys, and all of the other things that we buy that use batteries. Prices will vary by brand and the size of the package, generally from a few bucks for a 4-pack to just under $25for 100*.
  • Rechargeable batteries* and their chargers are always a good option, especially if you get asolar charger.* Make sure the batteries and chargers match, since Ni-MH and lithium batteries use differing chargers.
  • If you know the recipient has something that takes an odd or uncommon battery (CR123, 2/3N, CR2032, etc.) they would probably enjoy getting a few spares for their flashlight, red dot scope, or whatever. 

If you know a prepper who wants to start reloading their own ammunition or wants to expand their set-up, there are lots of choices. Since reloading is a very precise undertaking, you must know exactly what the person receiving the gift needs or uses. Getting the wrong brand, size, or type of supplies will make your gift worthless or potentially dangerous!
  • Lee loader kits. Caliber specific, very easy to use, cheap (~$30)*, and small enough to fit in a pocket of your backpack. I explained how they work in apost a while back.
  • Reloading accessories. From primer pocket brushes to case-length gauges, there are all kinds of little things to litter a reloading bench, with prices running from a few dollars to as much as you want to spend. I like the case-lengthgauges that a friend got me years ago; they can't be beat for doing quick QA checks on the ammo you're cranking out. Lee Precision makes a lot of neat little toys that help make reloading easier or faster and some of them are fairly cheap.
  • Bullets. Cast bullets can be found in most common, and a few uncommon, pistol calibers. $30-40 for a box of 500 will keep a reloader busy for a few days. I have had good luck with the products from Missouri Bullet Co.
  • Jacketed bullets are needed for rifles and high-velocity pistol calibers. Hornady, Barnes, Sierra, etc. make a wide variety and they can be found for as little as $10/100 for common sizes, with the more exotic or large calibers  closer to a buck a piece. Online prices from shops like Midway or Natchez Shooters Supply will probably be cheaper than a local gun store, but watch the shipping costs.
  • Primers and powder. These are best gifted in person, since shipping them requires a Haz-mat fee that will take a big bite out of your gift money. Primers are running about $30 for a thousand, or $4 perpack of 100; powders vary in price but the common ones are under $30 per pound and some are under $20 a pound.

  • If your budget is tight, candles are cheap and store well. I've found 50-packs of tea light candles for less than $5 at various dollar stores, and my tests have shown that they will each burn for about 6 hours. (Be warned that they normally use soy-based wax and mice love the taste.)
  • At the other end of the price spectrum, the UVPaqlite series has held up well in our testing but is expensive. 
  • In between the two are more types of flashlights and lanterns than you can count. If you know the recipient has liquid-fueledlanterns, those fuels store well and are like batteries in that you can never have too much of it on hand.

Food and Water
  • Everybody should have some way to treat their water, even if it's a $5 bottle of iodine tablets from your local Army surplus store. 
  • Water filters come in many shapes and price ranges, from the $20 Sawyer Mini* to the $300 Big Berkey*. A filter takes up less space and weighs a tiny fraction of the water it can provide.
  • Food is worse than water when it comes to variety and prices. You can get everything from  emergency ration bars to freeze-dried gourmet meals in a pouch, and prices range from $5 to $50. Use your judgment on what the recipient needs and wants to pick out food items. 
  • A relative of mine who used to make fun of my prepper ways got a box with three MRE's in it for Christmas one year, he laughed and tossed it in his locker at work. It came in really handy when a snow storm stranded him there for two days a few years later (and he quit laughing at me).

Firearms, tents, sleeping bags, and such are big-ticket items that show you really love someone and need to be picked out with care. If your budget allows and you have someone that needs something like this, there's no reason you can't help out a fellow prepper. They might be able to return the favor somewhere down the line when you're in need.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Prudent Prepping: The Solo Stove

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

Last week under "General Prepping" I said that a Great Light appeared and shined down upon a path unseen by my eyes. I saw new and wondrous things almost too difficult to describe in words.

Fortunately, I have pictures.

Solo Stove Lite and Pot
The Solo Stove Co. had a Black Friday deal* featuring a free pot that lasted for several extra days, allowing me to be enlightened (or bludgeoned... both work) until I bought one.

The Kit

Pictured are (L to R) the windscreen, Solo Pot and Solo Stove Lite. I was expecting to need the screen for this demonstration, but the winds that had been gusting up to 30 mph stopped as the sun went down. I did set it up to see how easily it went together (very easy) and also exactly how tall and how large an area it would surround. It turns out there is enough space to put a larger diameter pot than I currently pack inside the shielded area. (Editor's Note: It's designed to work with the next size up, the Solo Titan.)

Fueled up!

The directions for all biomass stoves say something like "Gather sufficient fuel for the task at hand" and the Solo is no different. I gathered several small oak limbs knocked down by the wind along with small twigs that still had leaves, broke them into ~3" pieces, and placed them into the stove and put a match to it. After the initial start-up, the stove was very much smokeless and only smoked a small amount when adding some of the larger diameter pieces.


Judging how often to add fuel is a bit of a learning experience. Too much and the flames will flow up the sides of the cook pot; too little and you will be waiting for everything to finish cooking; but just enough will keep a nice solid fire burning!

Hot Water!

When there were enough twigs ready and the fire was steady, I put the pot with 16oz. of water on the Solo stove and started my stop watch to see how long it would be to hot water and then to boil.

Due to this being my first try with the stove, I had a bit of trouble keeping an even flame going but even so, right at 4 minutes the first bubbles formed on the bottom on the pot and at 4:30 the water was boiling.

I am impressed with how easy the fire started, the ease of adding fuel into the box, and the lack of smoke (if I do my part correctly!). This is the largest biofuel stove I own and I think it will move into first place as the stove to take camping. The only time I might use my trusty Whisperlite is for areas lacking lots of fuel and places not allowing burning and open flames.

The Takeaway
  • Compact, lightweight and able to use almost anything as fuel, the Solo is great!
  • Good advice and solid recommendations from friends are wonderful. 

The Recap
  • One Solo Stove Lite with free Pot: $69.99* Black Friday special
  • One Solo Windscreen:  $19.99 for me, but now $12.50 plus free shipping for the next 4 days!

*Don't despair if you missed this -- Solo has a Christmas Sale on right now with everything up to 50% off. Check them out! Hurry though, as of today (Wednesday Dec. 6) there are 4 days left for this deal!

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, December 5, 2017

You Don't Have to Wander or Be Lost

You've got a map and compass now. Great! Now you need to figure out how to make them do useful work instead of merely being neat trinkets.

North isn't exactly north. By that, I mean that there is "true north" which is the direction of the North Pole, and "magnetic north" which is close to the pole, but not quite there. North on your map refers to true north, and north on your compass is magnetic north. The difference between these two is called declination, and is used to make them work together.

Declination varies depending on where on the globe you are. It's about 11.5 degrees at my house, and can be even larger. will give you an accurate declination number for your home or trip destination. This article gives a good in-depth read on declination.

Now you need to orient your map and compass so that the north you're using on your map matches your compass. This is a very simple process, but describing it is very wordy. From
  1. Lay your map out on a relatively flat, smooth surface. 
  2. Turn your declination-adjusted compass dial so due North is at the index pointer. 
  3. Place your compass on your map with the edge of the baseplate parallel to the north-south meridians on the map. Notice the orienteering lines and direction-of-travel arrow are all parallel with the map lines. 
  4. Turn the map and compass together until the compass needle is "boxed" in the orienting arrow (Red in the Shed). 
  5. Now, the map is oriented to the real world. If you know where you are on the map, you should be able to look in any direction and see the objects represented on the map in the same direction.

Now you know where you are, where you're going, and what direction gets you there. You can use the scale on the map to tell you how far away your landmarks and waypoints are, but how do you know how far you've gone or how close you are? If you know how long your stride is, you can simply count steps to get there. An easy way to track this is a device called ranger beads. These can be made fairly simply, but they're also cheap to buy.

The big key to ranger beads is knowing how many steps it takes you to go 100 meters. (100 yards also works fairly well.) Measure out a 100 meter distance and walk it several times, trying to keep an even, casual stride. Count the number of steps for each trip, and find the average step count for 100 meters. Then, as you're hiking, each time you reach that step count, advance your beads to track your traveled distance. A standard ranger bead set will count to 5km before it needs to be reset, which translates to a bit over 3 miles. 400 meters is 1/4 mile, 800 is 1/2 mile, and 1600 is a full mile.

If you can find a direction, and know the distance, you can get to anywhere you're going.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Wheat Grinders 101

Post-SHTF, there are a lot of preppers who will be sitting on large stockpiles of inexpensive healthy bulk foodstuffs, mostly in the form of rice, wheat, and beans.

Sadly, out of the preppers I know that have these kind of preps, I know quite a few that do not have any way to turn the stocks of grain/beans/whatever into flour for baking and cooking with. This can lead to an awkward situation.

In order to avoid this, I recommend a wheat grinder. Also known as a grain mill, a wheat grinder consists of a hopper to put grain into, a grinding mechanism, and a power source. The home models come in three basic varieties:

Manual Grinders
These tend to be the least expensive option, with a smaller grain hopper and the power for grinding the grain provided by your muscle power.

Most hand power wheat grinders clamp to a surface in order to keep themselves stable. If it is a soft or unstable surface, the clamp can wear into it.

These are best for a beginner who is unsure that they will upgrade any time soon, and someone who expects to grind grain without power.

Electric Grinders
These cost more than manual grinders because they have an electric motor providing the power source. Unsurprisingly, they grind the fastest out of all the various options, and because of this they typically also have a larger grain hopper.

They can be very very loud while running, often compared to jet engines in sound. This comes from the open funnel shape of the hopper, which acts as a speaker for the engine that the grain is going into.

(I own one that can be heard by the neighbors, two doors down, through closed doors. Mine is louder than most, and also an antique, but be aware that noise can be an issue.)

Hybrid Grinders

This type is the least common, but it's my favorite. They default to hand-crank operation, but if you have the money, can also use a specialized electric motor. (It's worth noting that you can buy the motor later if price is an issue.)

Hybrids cost more than manual grinders, and cost more than most electric grinders of the same quality, but if you may be in a situation where power is intermittent, they are the best option.

Price Range
As with all things, quality comes with a price. Expect to pay $40-45 or more for a quality hand crank grinder, with prices going up from there. Electric grinders cost $150 and up for a quality model, with a lot of them starting closer to $200.

A better quality model will often be quieter, easier to operate, and produce a finer flour. It may come with an adjustable fineness setting on the grain, and will usually produce less dust. It may also come with accessories that allow for nifty little things like grinding peanut butter.

A better quality model will often be much easier to clean as well.

For some hand powered and hybrid wheat grinders you can purchase a larger hopper, making it easier to do larger batches of grain.

A number of grain mills have special attachments to make it easier to make specialty flours, such as rice or beans. I have a friend who uses a lot of rice flour in baking and actually had her grain mill pay for itself with a cheap attachment for rice flour.

Use and Cleaning
The vast majority of grinders are fairly simple: add grain and crank the lever or turn on the switch. Read the user's manual first, but I have rarely had issues.

Make sure to clean your grinder thoroughly after every use with dish soap and water or a food safe multi-purpose cleaner, If you end up getting any parts wet, make sure that you dry them completely before using it again.

I recommend using a damp cloth to wipe down the exterior before use. Having an unused toothbrush and some Q-tips to clean hard-to-reach areas can be useful.

Other Options
If you own a Kitchenaid stand mixer or one that is compatible, you can get an attachment for it that grinds grain. If you have a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja blender, there are instructions online on how to grind grain with them.

If you are really desperate, it is even possible to grind wheat with a coffee grinder. I don’t recommend this since it takes a lot of effort, produces a lower quality grain, and is very hard on the coffee grinder, but if you have no other choice it's better than nothing.

Good luck finding the wheat grinder for you, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast Radio #172 - Vacuums Suck

But in a good way!
  • Beth has never done yoga because she’s not flexible. But that’s the whole point of yoga! Similarly, some people don’t get involved with firearms training because they aren’t proficient with firearms.
  • It's a story with a happy ending, then a sad one: a robbery suspect is beaten with bat by Raleigh store clerk. Sean explains.
  • Barron is on assignment
  • Talk is cheap, and talk without the skills and knowledge to back it up is even cheaper. Miguel is tired of the fake outrage at those who didn’t help a woman and child shot by a gunman.
  • In this week's Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about HR38, the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which just passed the House Judiciary Committee.
  • Tiffany is on assignment.
  • Just because something sucks doesn't mean it's bad. Erin talks about vacuum sealers.
  • All through life,  one must seek intellectual guidance on complicated issues. Who better to seek knowledge from than a puppet,  especially a puppet that’s an anti-gun nut! Yes, Weer'd is about to Fisk a puppet.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the TOPOKO 25 oz Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle.
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: 
Vacuum Sealers
If you’ve assembled a bug-out bag, you have no doubt run into situations where you wish you compress items into smaller forms so that you could pack more of them into your bag. 

And if you’ve ever fallen while crossing a stream, or gotten caught in a sudden downpour, you know how important it is to have dry clothes and how difficult it is to keep them that way when your bag is drenched. The same also goes for valuable electronic devices like cell phones, weather radios, and the like.

Fortunately there’s a way to accomplish both of these tasks, and that’s with a vacuum sealer. While you’d be hard-pressed to use one after the SHTF due to their need for electricity, they’re great for setting up long-term storage before disaster, and and they make your life easier in the meantime.

Vacuum sealers are quite simple in operation:
  1. Take the item you want to seal and place it inside the smallest bag which will fit it, leaving an inch between the end of the bag and whatever you put inside it. (Most vacuum sealers come with pre-made bags with only one open end, but you can also make your own using rolls of plastic; more on that later.)
  2. Place the open end into the sealer, close it, and press the activation button.
  3. The sealer will then suck all of the air out of the bag. When there is no more air to be sucked out, a heating element will fuse part of the top and bottom of the bag together, creating a seam. 
  4. You now have a vacuum-sealed bag that is both watertight and airtight!
The applications for a vacuum sealer are limited only by imagination and what you can fit inside the bags. Here are just a few uses:
  • Foods like beans, rice, and dehydrated meals can be protected from spoilage and pests. 
  • Clothes are not only kept dry, but are compressed into a compact shape. I have a friend who sent me a set of surplus BDUs by vacuum sealing them so that they fit into a flat rate box. 
  • Protect things which would be damaged by water like medicine, first aid supplies, electronics or important documents. 
  • If you throw in some desiccant packets -- the moisture absorbers which are included in a lot of over-the-counter medicine and supplement bottles -- you can waterproof ammunition, and possibly even an handgun. 
  • And heck, you can even use it for its original purpose: vacuum sealing meat and fish so that they last longer and don’t suffer freezer burn.
I mentioned making your own bags with rolls of plastic, and while it involves a bit more effort -- you have to measure out the bag, seal one end, then fill it and seal the other -- it’s actually more economical because not only do sheets of plastic cost much less than pre-made bags, you also have the ability to make custom-sized bags instead of being forced to use the ones made by the manufacturer. We’re talking the difference between 100 feet of 8-inch tube plastic for $20 vs $20 for 44 bags.

The one drawback to vacuum-sealed bags is that once you open them, they aren’t air- and watertight any more. This is fine for food items, but you might want a way to keep your clothes, electronics and fire-starting tinder dry afterwards. The solution to that is simple: Include some ziploc bags for small items, and waterproof dry bags for larger items, in your bug-out or get-home bags.

I’ve included a link in the show notes to a good, all-around vacuum sealer that has high ratings on Amazon and only costs $30. If you’d like to know more about vacuum sealers, or want recommendations on different options, I suggest you read the two Blue Collar Prepping blog articles written by Chaplain Tim -- they’ll put you on the right path.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Keeping the Ladies Warm

I'm heating my house this winter, but I also have a henhouse to keep warm. After all, I want those ladies spending energy on making eggs, not staying warm!

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to