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Thursday, June 14, 2018


I'm looking at switching jobs soon, and since there aren't many local jobs that pay more than I'm making now I'll probably end up having to commute to the city again. The idea of driving an hour each way five days a week is displeasing, but I'm burning out physically and mentally where I am now, so it's time for a change. The change from work being 10 miles away to work being 45 miles away means I will have to make some changes to my vehicle and what I carry in it.

I currently drive a Ford pickup to and from work. It's handy for when I need to haul or tow something and the shop pickups are gone, but it only gets about 15 MPG. It's also coming up on being 20 years old and is starting to require too much maintenance too often to be considered reliable transportation. If I were to keep using my truck, the additional 70 miles per day would cost (using the current gas price of ~$3.00/gallon) $14.00 more every day. That's equivalent to losing $1.75/hr over an eight hour day, which means that I'd need to make that much more just to break even. The added wear and tear is harder to estimate, but the IRS uses $0.545/mile as a reference for gas and maintenance expense, which works out to a bit over $38/day (about $750/month) in extra cost. That's a monthly payment on a nice car with full coverage insurance.

One option is to find a vehicle that gets better mileage and has fewer maintenance needs, so I'm looking at used cars. There are plenty of small cars out there that get ~30MPG, which would drop the loss down to about $7.00/day or $0.875 per hour. That's a reasonable raise in wages to expect when looking for a new job, and the lack of maintenance bills will cover any car payments or increases in insurance costs. I'm currently scanning the local car markets, trying to find something that will carry what I need (GHB and such) and that I can comfortably drive -- I'm over 6' tall, so a lot of the really small cars don't have the leg room or head room for me to drive.

Carried Preps
I'll be traveling mostly Interstate highways instead of two-lane county roads, so my GHB is going to have to be modified.
  • Longer distance means I'm going to have to pack more food (water is covered by the same Sawyer filter as my current GHB). I could walk home from my current job in a couple of hours, but trying to walk from the city would be closer to a day or two due to terrain and distance. That means I'll need to add some sort of shelter and sleeping gear to the GHB, and probably a few more toiletries. Extra socks and maybe a change of boots are going on the list as well.
  • My vehicle first-aid kit is currently under reconstruction. The bag is over 20 years old and is starting to wear out, and I dumped a lot of the contents due to age a while back. I need to get it restocked and find a new bag that will fit in a small space, but that hasn't been high on my priority list. I have a smaller kit that I moved from another vehicle in the truck at the moment, but it is limited in its contents. With the possibility of a longer commute on a busy highway, I'm expecting to see more traffic and more accidents, so the first-aid kit has been bumped up a few notches on the list of things to get done.
  • I normally carry a full 5 gallon gas can in the back of my pickup. It's there for helping stranded motorists and making sure I have enough gas to get home (an extra 75 miles in the truck) in extreme situations. That won't be an option in a car, so I'm going to have to figure out a back-up plan for fuel. The requires more research and is something else to consider when looking at cars.
  • Tools are going to be an issue. I carry a lot of tools in my truck because I've had to work on it on the side of the road a few times. I'm praying that a newer car won't have as many mechanical issues and won't require as many tools, but I'll still have to find a spot for the minimal tool bag that I will always carry in a vehicle.

Being a prepper impacts all aspects of your life. Something as simple as switching jobs brings up a chain of things that have to be taken into consideration. This added complication can cause some people to avoid change, but I prefer to see it as a way to challenge my creativity and resourcefulness. I'll keep a list of what I have to change if I do end up finding a new job, and will explain those changes in a future article.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Bicycle Cable Locks for your Get Home Bag

& is used with permission.
If your route home takes you through urban areas, or if your GHB doubles as an overnight bag, I recommend that you add a bicycle cable lock to your preps because you never know what you might need to secure, such as:
  • the gate behind which you are sheltering for the night;
  • critical equipment to a tree or a pole so that it doesn't fall or is stolen;
  • or yourself to a safety rail.
Cable locks have the advantages of being small, lightweight, able to secure more things than a regular padlock due to their length and flexible nature.

I recommend a combination lock instead of a key lock. With four 10-digit dials, there are 10,000 possible combinations, which means it won't be easily cracked. There are also no tumblers accessible for picking like a traditional padlock. 

Furthermore, keys can be lost but a combination can be written down. If you are the forgetful type, I suggest you place a note with the combination inside a water-tight plastic bag alongside the lock. If you are worried you will forget the combination during a high-stress moment, use a Sharpie marker to write the combination on the wrist of your non-dominant hand so you can quickly access it. 

Best of all, if it's a programmable lock, you can give the combination to a friend (perhaps someone who needs to secure their bicycle?) and then change it later.

Safety is your prime concern during an emergency, and there are few places safer than behind a locked door. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Second Helpings at the Prepping Buffet

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

It's refill time at the Good News Buffet!

I'm in a Big Box home improvement store 5 days a week, so many of the posts are focused on deals or products I see in my wanderings up and down the aisles. Here is another!

Food Safe Buckets
Yup, you read that correctly, I found food-grade 5 gallon pails in the Paint Dept. at Home Depot! The pails seem to be in stock in all the Home Depot stores in my area, but this might vary. With 2,200+ stores, I've seen products only be available regionally, so do some checking.

Labeled Food Safe

From the Home Depot website:
  • Durable plastic construction great for use at home or work
  • Carry handle helps you cart water, paint or food
  • Made with FDA-approved material for safe food transport

Why do you need food grade pails? Just think of the ways they can be used and not just for storing food. I expect to use several to carry water, both before and after filtering, and at least one will be set aside with the Sawyer Filter and spout adapter I wrote about here. I'm buying several more and encouraging my prepping group/friends to buy several and start setting aside dried goods in them.

I don't have my own garage now, so the 30 gallon metal garbage can I used for non-perishable gear was passed on to a friend and the smaller items will now be stored in these buckets. Even if I use several for bulky gear storage, they're still Food Grade Pails! The only downside is I haven't been able to see if any of the lids in stock (there are several) are Food Grade.

Sawyer SP 181
Here's my write-up of the steps involved to wake a pail ready to use as a base-camp water filter.

 Some of the info on the Sawyer SP 181:

  • Made in the USA
  • Complete water filtration system designed for emergency preparedness, groups in the backcountry, and mission trips
  • Highest level of filtration on market -- removes greater than 99.99999% of all bacteria and 99.9999% of all protozoa
  • Bucket and faucet adapters provide high-volume clean, potable water from any fresh water source; easily field maintainable
  • Filter with built-in and removable push/pull cap; comes with one 32-ounce, BPA-free collapsible pouch for personal hydration
  • Backed by manufacturer's lifetime limited warranty (Independent Testing Laboratory Hydreion, LLC.; Microbiological Report S05-03)
I'm really happy with my various Sawyer filters and others have written about them here and here, with Chaplin Tim's post being a very thorough report on long-term use (and possibly abuse) of the filter system. Read up, compare and make a choice that fits your needs.

The Takeaway
  • 5 gallon food-grade pails can be found in the craziest places! I will keep looking for prepping gear wherever I go.

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but these pails from Home Depot for $4.48 are a real bargain.
  • I still recommend Sawyer filters, with the SP181 as a good choice for a base camp $59.49 from Amazon with Prime.

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.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Car Cooking

I originally had a completely different article in mind for today, but I had a small emergency on the way to work and school: I needed breakfast and I had no time to cook it before I went.

Since my commute is a good hour to hour and a half depending on traffic, I knew it would have plenty of time to cook, so I grabbed some week-old leftover garlic bread and fixings, threw it in a foil package, and away I went. By the time I got to school, it was cooked, and it tasted excellent.

Here's the important part: I cooked it in my car, specifically on the exhaust manifold.

(For those of you who are thinking of The Roadkill Cookbook, and thought it was a joke, you obviously don’t know enough Cajuns and or Rednecks.)

Two methods of cooking food in your car are popular: The “on the go” method of putting foil-wrapped food on your engine manifold, and the “stationary” method of using your car as an oven and baking with it.

Foil on Manifold
The foil wrap method is fairly simple: Take your food, wrap it in heavy-duty non-stick aluminum foil, and place it on your car's engine manifold.

The food should be completely enclosed and not dripping anything from the package (if that happens, it tends to generate a burning smell), and it works best if the food selected still tastes good even if it's a little under- or over-cooked -- it can be very hard to determine the exact cooking time with an engine, and it takes some effort and practice to get it just right.

When you put the package on the manifold, make sure that it will not slide around or catch in any moving parts! I have never had an issue with this, but I've been told that it makes an unreasonable mess. Thankfully, I haven't heard of anyone causing actual damage to their car from having potatoes fall out in the engine compartment.

I have found that food cooked this way works best if it is cut into small pieces, has some kind of oil mixed into it, and is inside a package that can be laid across the manifold, giving the food maximum contact with it. I've also discovered that this method works best with food that isn't frozen when the trip starts, mainly because that generates a lot of liquid and you don't want your package to leave (see above).

For a short trip like to and from work I prefer to cook things that just need heating, whereas road trips are opportunities for better-cooked meals. Some of my personal favorites are sandwiches with melted cheese, hot dogs, baked steak (or cheese steak), and MREs in foil packets.

For those of you who live in a hot climate, you will be familiar with how hot your car gets in the summer -- it basically becomes one big solar oven, which is how this method cooks food. This method does not work well in most climates during the winter. In the summer, however, even in the far northern US, you can bake things in your car.

This method works wonderfully to heat food that does not have to be baked precisely; it is very difficult to set your car to 350 degrees F for exactly 2 hours. In my experience, a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it works best. I leave the product that I am baking on my dashboard and make sure to park facing the sun. Once again, it takes some practice to get this exactly right.

My personal favorite with this method is to bake cookies, but I've also made made soup, cake, and baked potatoes. That last one is difficult, but after a day of hiking in Arizona they were great.

I am sure that with some experimentation you can find out what works for you. There are a lot of very tasty foods that you can cook with these methods, and it is surprising how many foods can be cooked in the field this way,  even in “field expedient conditions”.

Have some fun. Experiment. Don't lick the wires, but you can lick your fingers afterwards. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Sharing Knowledge is Free

This week I had planned to give you a report on how well our mosquito yard spray worked. However, like many things in northern Michigan, the weather was not cooperating and we had low temperatures reach into the 40s every night this past week. Therefore we had no mosquitoes, but we did have some very nice campfire nights.

So instead of a mosquito spray report, I'll tell you about how I taught my 14-year-old daughter  to change the front brakes on my reasonably-priced everyday prepper vehicle.

There's no more inexpensive way to prep for any future catastrophe than by teaching your children and following generations how to do things. It doesn’t cost anything except a little bit of time and patience, and the pride in your kids and the knowledge that you won't go it alone (which is very important in a single-parent household) is an immeasurable payoff.

And it doesn’t have to be just your kids. I’ve had several neighbors inquire about raising their own chickens, and I’ve been able to give them some advice on what to look out for from my own experiences.

This is The Discerning Shootist for Blue Collar Prepping. Be good, be safe, and if you can’t be safe, be good and dangerous. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Weather Apps

Because I am an adult in America, I have a cell phone. It's an older Samsung, but it's a smart phone which means I carry around a computer that can make phone calls. I use the computer functions much more than I do the phone functions, which means I have several apps installed on my phone. 

The ones that get the most use in the spring and summer are the weather apps. I live in the upper Midwest, so I have to deal with tornadoes and thunderstorms every year. Having a convenient way to track the weather in real time helps me make decisions that will minimize the risks I have to take. 

Here are some that I've used in the past and a few that I still use. (For the record, I don't have any financial stake in any of these apps. These are my opinions of apps that you can find in the common app stores available on Android and Apple phones. Links will take you to the official Android site, but you can find them on Apple with a simple search.)

Like most apps, there is a free version that will have ads covering part of the screen as well as a “pro” version (this one is $2.99) that runs ad-free. I tried the free version for a year or so and ended up spending the money for the pro version to support the developers.

MyRadar is a simple, clean radar app with plenty of optional settings for map styles, overlays, and information displayed. The map is interactive, which means you can drag the map around on your screen to see radar for any area as well as zoom in or out using two fingers. This is my go-to weather radar, since it loads much faster than the local news channels or other weather apps.

This is good for local weather forecasts, with hourly and daily forecasts. It has radar, but it isn't as clear or easy to use as MyRadar. I don't mind the small ads on the bottom of the screen, so I haven't made the jump to the paid version. The forecasts are fairly accurate, about average for most weather forecasters. This is also the default source of weather information on my Samsung phone.

Sometimes we all need a laugh, and WTForecast gives a simple daily forecast for the next 10 days with a witty saying. The witty comment changes every time you open the app, and it takes a while to cycle through all of the random comments pertaining to the current weather at your location. For example, it's currently 93°F outside with 60% humidity and the comment is, “It's like a terrarium outside”. The background picture changes with the season and I believe it also changes by location. The ads are small enough that I don't notice them.

Be advised, there is a profanity option in the settings that will make most of the comments NSFW.

I used to have this one installed on my desktop. It was nice having the outside temperature displayed on the task bar next to the clock. Then it was detected as spyware/adware by several PC security scans, so it got deleted (not a simple process back then) and I've not tried it since. The owners have since changed and claim that they've cleared out anything that may be harmful. I may give it another chance in the future.

I used this app for years, then the Weather Channel “upgraded” it to StormTracker (and now StormRadar) and got rid of most of the features that I liked. When it became a copy of other apps I have, it was deleted. I do have the web version bookmarked on my browser so I can still look at a ten-day graph of various weather conditions (wind, temperature, air pressure, humidity, etc.), but when they took that off of the app, it got deleted. The math geek in me likes to see graphs; I can gather information like how fast the temps are going to rise or fall or how long it's supposed to rain over which hours.

Weather has a big impact on my life and is one of the main things I prep for. That makes having good information a vital part of my preps. Multiple sources of information will give you the opportunity to compare and contrast their accuracy and reliability, so grab several and keep the ones that give you the most usable information.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Buffet Post

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

Another semi-monthly posting of topics and ideas too small for me to make into a stand alone blog post!

Budget Prepping
While this entire blog is an attempt to do prepping for as few dollars as possible, I'm talking about preparing a savings budget.

Having a plan for savings is as important as your prepping plan. Even if it's just dumping your change into a bucket or skipping one coffee per week, the dollars will add up. I skipped one or two coffees per week to buy my first post-divorce present to myself.

Every pundit and author of financial self-help books says something along the lines of "Having a goal is good, but unless you have plan to reach that goal, you're not going to make it."

Hand Sanitizer
I have a small bottle of sanitizer in my work gear and more in my GHB. It's not only a way to keep clean, but also a backup fire-starting aid in case I ever use up all my Esbit cubes.

When the factory mixture is gone,  I re-fill the bottles with my own blend of unscented sanitizer and jojoba oil. There is just enough oil to keep my hands from drying out from the alcohol and without it, my hands get pretty chapped. I started using jojoba oil way back in 2015 and began adding it to my sanitizer sometime after that. I believe the sanitizer/oil mix is a good way to keep my hands clean and healthy.

The Takeaway
  • Have a Plan. Plan your plan, and don't be afraid to change it to get better results.
  • With my small budget, multi-use items are a necessity.

The Recap 
  • Hand sanitizer gel, 2 oz bottles. Various stores, never more than $1.99 
  • Jojoba Oil from Trader Joe's. Was $7.95 (in 2015) and I've still got half a bottle!
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, June 5, 2018

Guest Post: Lower-Cost Scope Comparison and Review

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

A few years back, the competition rules for the service rifle were changed to allow a “maximum of 4.5 power with 35mm objective lens” optic on AR-15 type rifles. This was done mainly to make the sport more accessible to people who didn’t want to have to learn all the intricacies of iron sight shooting at distance, and to make it easier on older shooters who have eyes that just aren’t as good as they were when they were younger.

Because of this change, I have been able to test a number of optics, and here is a review of the less expensive competition scopes for preppers.

Bushnell Banner 1.5-4.5x32
This is a non-illuminated budget scope manufactured for Bushnell by Su Optics of South Korea. At 1.5 power there is some obvious spherical distortion around the edge of the sight picture, but that really clears up at 4.5 power. The light gathering of this scope is very good, and while the elevation and windage adjustments are finger adjustable and have graduated lines, they are small and this scope was really meant to be a “set it and forget it” type hunting scope. For around $90, this is a pretty good option for a .30-30 or an AR-pattern rifle. Turret adjustments are one-quarter MOA, and the “multi-X” reticle is easy to use to get centered on your target.

Nikon P-223
This optic is made in the Philippines and has very clear glass, no noticeable spherical distortion at the edges, and a bullet drop compensator (BDC) reticle combined with uncapped tactical turrets. It is the most compact scope here, and for $140 you get excellent Nikon glass and adjustments. The downside is that you have no ability to drop it down to a lower magnification for rapid snap shots, but out of all the scopes in this review this is the best one for a dedicated long-range option, as you can use the BDC for quick shots or dial in each shot using the half-MOA turrets.

This is the only scope reviewed here that has stadia lines to let you know which revolution your windage and elevation knobs are on, which is a really useful feature for long-range shooting. This scope would really be at home on a “ranch rifle” setup where snap shots at predators from the top of a quad could happen fairly regularly.

Vortex Crossfire II 1-4x24
This is a solid entry level “me too” optic by Vortex. The regular reticle version is a standard Duplex and works fine for hunting or competing in daylight hours, and is about 10 dollars cheaper than the illuminated version. The illuminated version is worth the extra money because if you should need to make quick snap shots in low light the red center dot on the reticle gives you that option, but if the illumination fails (the battery dies, for example) you still have a decent scope.

Zeroing the scope is the same as any other, and you just need an hex key to adjust the knobs to zero. After multiple high-power matches, the adjustments have so far proved repeatable from my 200 yard zero out to 600 yards. Adjustment clicks are graduated in half MOA adjustments, although they a little “mushy” so I like to see where I stop the knob.

Mounting Options
For mounting these scopes I have used the Vortex Cantilever 30mm, a Burris P.E.P.R 30mm, and a CCOP 30mm and 1” version. The Vortex and Burris options are solid, but the CCOP is essentially a clone of the P.E.P.R and sells for $30 less. Only the Nikon P-223 3x32 is too small to fit inside the CCOP 1” mount, and needs a set of medium or high rings to attach it to the rail.

Final Thoughts
There are many other scopes out there in this price range, and if I didn’t mention them it is only because I have no experience with them. Having handled the scopes reviewed here, I can say that the Vortex illuminated gets the most use from me as it is the scope that sits on my primary competition rifle. What I like least about the Vortex is that the illumination control knob sits on the ocular bell which is less convenient to me than if it were placed opposite the windage knob, and also there is not an “off” selection between brightness options. But neither of these are dealbreakers for me, and so the Vortex continues to be my primary go-to scope.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Small Game and Survival

Many preppers talk about hunting after SHTF. I have heard countless discussions about caliber, availability of ammunition, capability of weapons, and so on. These discussions almost inevitably center around the taking of large game, as an elk or a deer can provide a lot of meat for someone.

I go the opposite direction and make an argument for taking small game instead. This approach has several advantages:
  • Small game is very common. In fact, most small game animals are considered pests. In Utah, there are a number of small game animals that do not require a permit of any sort to hunt or trap. You are almost guaranteed to find small game animals within city limits, even in big cities.
  • Small game is likely to disappear last in a long term emergency. Everyone else will be busy hunting large game, leaving the small things for you.
  • Small game makes a single meal, and if you don’t have refrigeration that makes a big difference. You may have to kill two or three animals to get a meal, but you don't have to spend time processing the rest of the meat so that it's preserved without refrigeration. 
  • You can hunt small game with smaller, cheaper weapons. A slingshot is much easier to acquire and keep in your preps than a full size hunting rifle, and the ammunition is cheaper and much easier to improvise. I don’t recommend a slingshot for hunting deer (even if it has been done), but it's fine for hunting quail. Airguns and bows that are sufficient to the task are much cheaper than ones up to hunting large game, and blowguns are a traditional method to hunt small game.
  • Small game traps are much easier to keep. They are lighter, smaller, less expensive, and easier to improvise with wire or rope. 
  • Small game hunting is inexpensive. In Utah, the permit for small game is much less expensive than that for a deer tag. A combined small game/fishing licence along with an air rifle, ammunition and so on costs less than a single elk tag. This means that you can afford to practice.

You aren't limited in variety when it comes to small game, either:
  • Pheasant is originally from Asia, but it now ranges over much of the world specifically from people introducing it as a game animal. Its taste is excellent, and it has provided food for centuries. It has lovely feathers that can also (and often have been) used for decoration.
  • Potguts (also known as Uinta ground squirrels) and similar squirrels are a popular source of protein for small game hunters.
  • Rabbits have no bag limit where I live and everywhere I have looked at the hunting laws for. They are also commonly considered a pest animal, and may not even require a permit to hunt.
  • Pigeons (a domesticated form of doves) are possibly the most common animal in any major city, and they were originally bred as poultry. They are a common food in the middle east and there are countless recipes for them online. 
  • Raccoons are a pest across much of the US, and a staple of southern cooking in days gone by. My grandmother told stories of hunting and eating raccoons during the great depression, and how tasty they really are.
You may want to be careful with any animals living in a city. Since they are surviving on garbage, the taste may be poor, and any of the mammals may have rabies, so look up the symptoms and signs of it to prevent infection.

Be sure to look up your local laws and regulations before you start hunting small game -- you don’t want to violate the law!

Good luck, be safe, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Elastic Shoelaces

& is used with permission.
Several of my shoes use Hickies-brand no-tie shoelaces, and I'm quite enamored of them.

I know what you're probably thinking: "Erin, you've already told me that I should replace my shoelaces with paracord. Why are you now suggesting I replace the paracord with elastic bands?"

That's a fair question. The answer is that paracord laces are a general purpose prep, while elastic laces are a solution for a very specific problem. Here are some examples:
They making getting through security screening a lot easier. I can put on or take off my shoes like they were loafers, but the elastic keeps them just snug on my feet as if I'd tied them. If you fly a lot, or otherwise need to take your shoes off on a regular basis, these save a lot of time and effort. 
They are great for people with physical or mental disabilities.  My father has Parkinson's Disease and can no longer remember how to tie a necktie; forgetting how to tie a shoelace can't be far behind. My mother has arthritis in her fingers and sometimes has difficulty with fine motor skills, and this will only get worse as she gets older. In both cases, the simple "pull it on and you're done" nature of the elastic will give both of them more independence. 
They speed up getting ready in an emergency. I have a pair of side-zip combat boots that I keep by the door as my "Something has gone wrong and I need to be outside NOW" shoes because they will handle any environment. However, despite zipping up the side, they still have shoelaces. The idea is that I fit the shoe to my foot, unzip the boot, and pull my foot out; when I'm ready to go, I just reverse the process. The problem is that my boots don't work like that -- I can get my foot out, sure, but I can't get it back in again unless I untied the boots then re-tied them once my foot was in. This completely eliminated any benefit to the side-zip! However, once I replaced the laces with Hickies, I was able to slip into my boots quickly and without issue. 
So while these are not specifically emergency preps, I find that they make my life easier on a day-to-day basis by helping me and members of my family speed through daily challenges.

I've used mine for over a year now and I have no complaints regarding their performance. The worst thing I can say about them is that, being elasticized, the more you stretch them the more they will fatigue, so the laces at the very top of your shoe or boot are likely to wear out and snap. This isn't a problem, as a package of Hickies comes with spares and the laces themselves are easy to swap out. I'm told that the 2.0 version addresses this problem with increased durability, but I haven't yet tried them.

Buy a package and see if you like them. You won't be putting them into your bug-out bag, but you just might find that they become part of your every day carry.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Homemade Mosquito Spray

Mix together
  • 3 cups Epsom salts 
  • 3 cans of stale cheap beer 
  • 1 big bottle of cheap blue mouthwash 
Stir until salts dissolve, then pour into sprayer.

Next week, I'll talk about how heavily I sprayed and how well it worked.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

WAG Bags and Poo Powder

I've covered outhouses and composting toilets, so let's take a look at one final method of dealing with human waste in an emergency before I move on to a less squeamish subject.

Outhouses work well if you have a BOL established, or have a yard to construct one in if you have to bug in. They're a semi-permanent fixture that will serve for years of use and have been around for centuries. Composting toilets are smaller than outhouses, and some models are mobile, but they have more maintenance issues and need to be emptied more often.

For the prepper who lives in an apartment or works in a multi-story building, neither of these options will work if your building is isolated from the normal municipal services. Some scenarios which come to mind:
You're at work on the 40th floor when a crisis hits and you're told to shelter in place. Most situations like this are resolved within a day or two at most, but nobody wants to hold their bladder that long. Street-level riots, flash floods, fires, active-shooter situations, and the like could leave you trapped, and there are multiple reasons that the water could be turned off. I've seen office buildings with key-card locks on every door, including the bathrooms, and a lot of them will stay locked if the power goes out.

Tornado sirens are going off, so you hustle your family into your underground shelter only to have the house settle on top of the shelter door. Emergency services and your neighbors will dig you out once they figure out that you're stuck, but it may take a day to get enough debris shifted that you can get out.

You've taken shelter in a cave with a floor that is too hard to dig into. Unless you find a sizable colony of bats and want to add to their guano pile, you'll need some way to carry your wastes out.

You waited too long to evacuate ahead of the hurricane and got stuck in the inevitable traffic jam for most of a day. The nearest rest area is 10 miles behind you and your wife has to pee “RIGHT NOW!” and isn't going to squat next to the car in view of all of the other unlucky people stuck on the highway.

There is a solution to all of these situations, and it's called a WAG Bag. WAG stands for Waste Alleviation and Gelling, which should tell you a bit about how they work.

WAG Bags come in a few different styles, the most common being a double-walled plastic bag containing a powder (usually referred to as “Poo Powder”). The powder may be scented, but all variations are hydrophilic (water-loving) gelling agents that will bind with water to rapidly form a gelatin-like mass. The gelling action turns liquid wastes into a form that is easier to transport (it won't spill) and will seal solid wastes to eliminate odors. Most of the bags are made of biodegradable plastic, so once it's full you can just toss it into any trash can and it will decompose in the landfill.

The plastic bags vary by brand; some of them are designed to fit into a bucket or waste-paper can, while others have wide flaps on the opening so you can just hold it open while you squat over it. Watch what you're buying, since the liners for the portable toilets usually don't come with the Poo Powder because they're just a plastic bag system for holding wastes.

Campers who use portable toilets often add clumping kitty litter to the bag after each use to get results similar to Poo Powder, so if you have a litter box for your cat you should be able to make a fair imitation WAG Bag out of two trash can liners and some clumping litter.

If you ever get a chance to explore some of the more remote areas of the world, you're going to find that most of them have a strict “pack out what you pack in” policy. Keeping wilderness areas clean of trash and wastes is important for aesthetic reasons, but the health reasons are more important. Think of all of the people who have attempted to climb Mt. Everest and the waste they've left along the trails: since there are at least 200 dead climbers interred on Mt. Everest, there has to be tons of waste as well. WAG Bags are now mandatory at a lot of hiking/climbing sites, so they're becoming more readily available and cheaper.

A container of Poo Powder is small and fairly cheap. If I were working or living in a high-rise building, I think there would be a few of them in a drawer or on a shelf, just in case. The powder is shelf-stable and has an indefinite shelf-life, so it will store for years.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Setting Up A Friend

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

I'm helping a new friend set up a Get Home Bag. I've set up several, including my own, and here are my basic requirements.

A Bag
There has to be a way to organize and keep things handy and safe. While a bag/backpack sling bag is required to 'Get Home', the size, shape, style or color isn't up to me so I'm leaving that up to my friend.

The Gear
This is another Work In Progress, with additions to the bag going in slowly. It's not my bag, after all.

The basic Basics

Esbit Stove and Fuel
I like the compact size and low weight of the Esbit stove, along with the fact it is simple to set up and use. Everything you need to heat water or food is right there, with no need to forage for twigs or dry tinder. To start the fire I added UCO Stormproof matches. I've taken the striker strips off the outside of the case and CAREFULLY placed them inside the waterproof case, because they are plain paper and will not work if they become soggy.

Cooking Pot
I've donated an MSR stainless steel cooking pot. This is their 1.1 liter size, large enough to heat enough water for 2-3 dehydrated meal pouches and then wash dirty utensils.

Water Filter and Bottle
The Sawyer Squeeze filter is extremely light weight at 3 oz. and this set comes with 16, 32 and 64 oz. water pouches.  The filter easily stores inside the 32 oz. Nalgene bottle, the wide mouth allowing it to drop right inside.

Blanket and Wipes
Everyone has their favorite emergency blanket, and I like the SOL brand. They are light weight, store easily, and will wrap up 2 people if necessary.

Wet wipes are useful for removing as much dirt and grime as simply and easily as possible, especially if water is in short supply.

And More...
This is just a start. I think with a little more time and a camping trip or two, additions to this set will be easier to discuss and then be adjusted to meet individual needs.

In Other News
Based on Scott's recent post on Rubbing Alcohol and the comments in the Blue Collar Prepping Facebook group, I decided to add some alcohol of my own to the GHB!

These are 50ml plastic pouches purchased from a local discount liquor chain. Since these will burn almost as well as rubbing alcohol, won't evaporate as quickly, and can be used as a disinfectant and water treatment, I bought two  vodka and two spiced rum. (Strictly for emergency use!)

Check your local stores for availability.

The Takeaway
  • Helping friends get prepared is important. 
  • Watching them realize how easy it is to protect themselves and their families is satisfying.

The Recap
  • One Esbit Stove and fuel set: $30.97 with Amazon Prime
  • One UCO Stormproof matches set in a waterproof case: $7.93 from Amazon 
  • One MSR 1.1 liter stainless pot:  $19.99 from Amazon with Prime
  • One SOL Emergency Blanket: $4.99 from Amazon with Prime
  • Four 50ml assorted alcohol pouches: BevMo (a local discount liquor chain) $1.99 ea.

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, May 29, 2018

Water by the Gallon Jug

by Xander Opal

My favorite source of water is the humble gallon jug found at every supermarket and convenience store, preferably with a screw-on lid in case it gets knocked around or over. I get several uses out of each jug, refilling it as needed.

Uses of the Gallon Jug
The most obvious use is for drinking, though there are a number of other situations that make me glad I had that water along.
  • Washing. Sure, there are hand sanitizers, but those aren't good for rinsing and removing dust, dirt, or even nastier stuff that one might be spreading or spraying in the middle of a field, far from a tap.
  • Cooling. You can always pour water on a cloth tied around your head or neck and use to to cool yourself. There are also times when your vehicle has lost coolant and you need to limp just a bit further, so (carefully!) adding water to the radiator will do the trick. 
  • Fires. I was in a fast food drive-through when a careless smoker tossed a cigarette butt into the landscaping, which started to burn the dry wood chip mulch. One application of a handy gallon of water later and the initial problem was solved. While an 'A-B-C' fire extinguisher should be used for fires that aren't burning wood or grass, there are times where this is just plain handy.

To keep your water palatable, keep it cool and out of direct sunlight. I have also found that if that isn't an option (such as the only place available on a vehicle being in sunlight, against the transmission hump, on a hot day), putting a few mint leaves in means you at least have some halfway decent tea instead of hot water. This isn't good for long-term, but if you're out on a job for a day or less, it can help.

You're eventually going to run out of water, however many bottles, jugs, or barrels you have.

In civilized areas, make note of where stores, service stations, and restaurants are as well as their operating hours. If you're unfamiliar with a town or city, don't go wandering about on foot in the heat without knowing where you can stop by, top up and cool off.  Not only will this prevent heat injury by staying hydrated, but  if you encounter someone who doesn't know where to get water you can also be a big help to them.

Out in the wilds, clean potable water is harder to come by. There are many ways to purify water, but these devices and techniques do you no good without a source in the first place. Maps that indicate small streams and ponds, not just what might be shown on a road atlas, are important here. If you might end up away from civilization, plan ahead so that you can find the water you need to get back.

Water is important, so keep it close by and keep drinking!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Air Rifles and Backstops

When SHTF, you never know what will happen to your supply of food.

A number of people will resort to hunting and scavenging for their dinner. I know that some of our readers will be in an area that will be hunting rifle friendly, and they will have the budget to purchase one, purchase ammunition, and to go to the range regularly. However, this is not true of everyone, and to those people I suggest getting an air rifle.

Modern air rifles are good for hunting small game: rabbits, squirrels, turkeys and even pigeons (they were domesticated from rock doves as a food source). I don’t recommend using one to hunt bear, or elk, or even deer, but there are plenty of options in and around most urban environments that will keep body and soul together until you can get into a better situation.

What You Need
You only need a few things to use an air rifle for hunting: the rifle itself, ammunition, any storage that you decide on, any accessories, and a backstop.
  • The Rifle
A good air rifle can be had for less than $200;  they start at around $80 for a new one that will take very small game and go up from there. Many municipalities that restrict ownership of firearms do not restrict air guns, making them easier to obtain.
  • Ammunition
Air rifle ammunition is cheap. Plinking ammo tends to cost about a penny a round, and you can purchase high end hunting ammunition for two to three cents a round-- compared to even the cheapest .22 ammunition, it's a fraction of the cost.
  • Storage
Storage can be as simple as putting it in a closet all the way to keeping it in a full-scale gun safe.
  • Accessories
I like a red dot sight on mine,  but any cheap sight for an air gun is acceptable as  they are meant to be shot at 100 yards, not 1000.

Note: Make sure that any scopes or sights you put on an airgun are designed for it. The recoil works differently, and can actually destroy a scope meant for a firearm.
  • A Backstop
If you have a yard, or a long enough range, you can purchase a commercially made target. I have used a simple resetting target, and I enjoyed it, but as it is not a proper backstop it comes with a risk of accidentally hitting my neighbors' property if I miss my target.

If you want to spend the money, you can purchase a commercial backstop to stop the bullets, but they are expensive, with a small one costing around $85. I prefer to make my own.

Making Your Own Backstop
The recipe is fairly simple:
  • A Container
I use cheap old plastic Walmart bins, but I know people who use cardboard boxes or custom-made wood enclosures.
  • A Target Hanger
I make my own with hardware cloth and binder clips.
  • A Way to Stop the Pellets
Ballistic putty is what a lot of commercial options use, and it works well, but it gets quite expensive -- for a small target you will want ten or so pounds, which runs around $40.

For a do-it-yourself solution, I have found that old carpet scraps do the trick.
  1. Find a local store that sells carpet and ask for scraps. I was able to find a selection of commercial carpet, shag, and other, and all it cost me was asking nicely and picking it up.
  2. Eight layers of carpet in an old bin stops everything I have tested quite nicely, with the deepest penetration being at five layers.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Caffeine Tablets

& is used with permission.
Some people just can't wake up in the morning without their cup of coffee. Other people get chronic headaches which are soothed by caffeine. It can give you a burst of energy when you need to stay alert, and it can help those who suffer from ADHD to concentrate and relax.

In short, there are many good reasons why caffeine should be part of your preparations. Yet it can be impractical to put coffee or high-caffeine energy drinks into your bug out bags due to weight, volume, or the necessity to boil water to prepare the beverage.

This is where caffeine in tablet form comes in. A 1 ounce bottle can hold the equivalent of 100 cups of coffee while taking up only a few cubic inches of space. Best of all, this caffeine doesn't spoil or require preparation; just wash down a pill with a drink of water.

My caffeine tablet of choice is Jet-Alert. I bought a 120-count bottle in February of last year because some days I am so sleepy I need more than my usual morning cup to wake up, but an additional cup upsets my stomach and a soda gives me a headache. I've been taking them on and off over the past year, sometimes as often as 1-2 a day for a week, then not taking them for months. After taking 95 of these tablets, here is my experience:
  • They work quickly and effectively. 
  • They do not provoke headaches or upset stomach. 
  • They do no cause dependence (it was easy for me to stop taking them once I felt sufficiently rested). 
  • I have experienced any side-affects from taking these tablets; however, I admit I have not been taking them long-term. 
Each tablet has 100 mg of caffeine in it, which is equivalent to one 8 ounce cup of coffee. At $6 for 120 tablets, that's five cents per cup of coffee which will fit easily into a bug out or get home bag. 

I think this is a tremendous value and will be adding a bottle to each of my bags. However, keep in mind that human beings react differently, so try this out before you add this to your preps. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Every Day Carry in Washington DC

The secret to quick in-and-out of memorials in our Nation’s Capital is reduced carry. My pocket trauma pack didn’t get a second look, but my flashlight did get me a second glance or two.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Another Alternate Toilet

Last week I wrote about outhouses as a way to handle human waste if normal infrastructure fails or is unavailable. However, there are places when an outhouse just won't work:
  • Locations in the mountains with very little or no soil
  • Any area where you can't dig a post-hole without the use of explosives
  • Locations near water where the water table is less than 3 feet below the surface (check at high tide)
  • Areas below sea level (New Orleans)
  • Arid or desert regions where the soil isn't stable or will suck the moisture out of the waste before it can break down
  • Areas with dead or toxic soil (salt flats or polluted/contaminated soils)
In places like these, you may want to look into composting toilets. A composting toilet (CT) uses controlled aerobic digestion to break down waste, and the long retention time will destroy most of the pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms present in the waste. Proper venting will keep odors and dangerous gasses out of your living spaces, so it is feasible to put a CT inside a house. There are a few different types of CT on the market, so I'll break them down by how they work.

Slow or Cold Composting Toilets
The simplest style, a slow CT relies on longer retention time and limited use to operate. Most often found in seasonal-use locations without running water or electricity, the slow CT isn't much different than an outhouse, the main difference being that a CT will have some method of diverting the liquid wastes away from the solid waste to allow the solid waste to build up in layers.

A cold CT will take months or years to completely break down human feces, so the holding tank has to be large enough to contain the expected input. I've read of some parks that use a series of vaults arranged in a line or a circle with a mobile structure above them. When one of the vaults gets full, the structure is moved to the next vault in line and the full one is sealed and left to decompose for a few years before being emptied.

The compost from a slow CT is likely to contain some pathogens (unless you can give it a year or so to decompose), so you aren't going to want to use it to fertilize a garden. Trees, flowers, and pastures would be good uses for this type of fertilizer.

Active Composting Toilets
This is the type most commonly found in stores. They usually come with a fan to provide air to the “pile”,  and some will even have a heating element to keep the temperature of the pile at a level where decomposition will occur most rapidly. Liquid wastes may or may not be diverted depending on design, and the addition of bulking agents like sawdust or peat moss after each use will help aerate the pile for quicker action.

An active Ct will break down normal human wastes in a matter of weeks, but since they have moving parts they have more maintenance needs. They are also quite a bit more expensive than a conventional toilet (most are close to $1000), though an active CT should be seen as an investment that will pay for itself in lower water use and production of compost.

The addition of heat and moving air will help kill pathogens, so the compost from this style is normally safe to use on a garden.

Wet Composting Toilets
Sometimes called a “vermifilter” toilet, a wet CT uses a minimal water flush (a pint or two instead of gallons) like a standard toilet to move the waste into a reaction chamber where the liquids drain out through a mesh on the bottom. Red worms or some other type of earthworm (hence the “vermi” part of the name; raising worms is known as vermiculture) are kept in the reaction chamber and allowed to break down the solid waste. There will also be some naturally occurring aerobic bacteria that will help the worms break things down, and once there is a deep enough bed of material they will actually clean the water as it trickles through. The water flowing through the bed will carry oxygen to the worms and bacteria, so it is a necessary part of the process.

The resulting worm feces (castings) and undigestable wastes are considered safe to use as fertilizer on food crops. The liquid that flows through should be treated, or at least disinfected, before being used for anything.

Clivus Multrum
Actually a brand name of a design, a Clivus Multrum is a large inclined room located beneath a toilet. It provides a lengthy retention time and has few moving parts, but needs to be built into a building.

If you're looking for a long-term solution and have the space and money, I'm sure one of their consultants would be glad to help you. There are similar designs out there; a search on the internet should find you more information than I have. I've never dealt with one of this style, as they're fairly new (patented in my lifetime) and they look to be marketed at larger structures like parks and campgrounds. The resulting compost should be free of pathogens and safe for use as fertilizer.

Other than the addition of sawdust, wood chips, or peat moss as a bulking agent, there are very few things you'll need to keep a CT running. There are various starter cultures of active bacteria on the market that you may want to use to jump-start your toilet if it has been dormant for a while; I see very little difference between the brands.

If you choose a wet CT, the earthworms will reproduce and keep the decomposition going (and may provide a source of income: think “bait shops”) but they will require a somewhat steady supply of food. Not a good choice for a remote cabin that only gets used a few days a year.

The fertilizer that you'll remove from a CT will return a huge percentage of nutrients back to the soil, making your garden grow better and last longer without the need for commercial fertilizers. For some people, that's enough of a reason to switch to a CT, but most of us aren't going to want to deal with the odors and mess unless we have to.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Prudent Prepping: $30 And 15 Minutes

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

I was unable to come up with a topic for this week's post until a behind-the-scenes chat with the BCP bloggers gave me an idea for a topic: What if I knew for certain an earthquake was going to hit in fifteen minutes, while I was in a Big Box home improvement store? I have only $30 to spend and fifteen minutes to get out of the store with my essential items to get through a disaster.

Here's what I chose and why. You can play along at home by substituting your local disaster for mine!

The List
This was a bit harder than I first thought, since Home Depot/Lowe's/Mernards don't have food. (Sorry, jerky and chips don't count this time.) That left other things that might be cheap and very useful in a disaster. First thing I picked?

Home Depot and everyone else sells water by the case of half liter bottles and occasionally half gallon jugs. I found these in cases, stacked by the contractor check out.

24 ct filtered water
This isn't "fresh from some mountain spring" water, this is "from your municipal system, filtered for you' water. The price reflects what it is: water. Just water.

With a good, clean supply of water, you can live quite a long time. I 'bought' 2 cases at $2.48 each.

It's organic!
Well, sort of. A bag of charcoal was my next pick. This is a way to cook and keep warm with minimal flame, smoke and blowing embers.

I looked to add a small grill to the mix, but the prices were most of the total budget. Besides, if I can make it home then charcoal will be a nice backup to the propane grill I already have; and if I'm stuck someplace, the charcoal will work very well in the Solo Stove in my trunk!

I 'bought' one  (almost) 16 lb bag for $9.97.

 2 mil plastic
A roll of plastic, a good amount of duct tape and rope will make a shelter for a reasonable amount of time.

Here is the plastic roll I picked out. 9' x 12' 2 mil plastic is a good compromise between strength, weight and cost. Whether it is used as lean-to or rigged as a tent, it is tough enough to do the job.

I 'bought' one roll for $3.18.

Duct Tape

If duct tape, some tie wire and super glue can't fix it, things are really broken! For use in my shelter, duct tape can seal edges to make a wind proof enclosure, be twisted into strands almost as strong as rope, or be used to temporarily plug holes.

I 'bought' one roll for $4.98.

Paracord with winder

This roll of paracord is 75 ft long -- 25 ft longer that than the usual bundle sold in Home Depot. This is long enough to tie other things together as well as rig a shelter. It  was $2.98 and I 'bought' one roll.

The Recap
So how did I do? Let's total this up.
  • Two cases of water @ $2.48 each: $4.96 total
  • One bag of charcoal: $9.97
  • One roll of plastic: $3.18
  • One roll of duct tape: $4.98
  • One spool of para cord: $2.98
Before tax, everything came to $26.07. Add in local and state sales tax and you get $28.74!

With a little bit more time to figure things out, I may have dropped one case of water and added in another drop cloth. Since this was a test with a time limit I gave myself exactly fifteen minutes to navigate the aisles and theoretically fill a cart.

Let me know what you think of this list and what you have in mind. Remember, walk through your local store and time yourself as you go!

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

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

The Fine Print

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

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