Free Shipping on Bulk Ammo -- TargetSportsUSA.Com!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Get Home Bag 2.0, Part 1

Well here I am sorting and packing from lessons learned on the long dark walk home. Forgive me the length; I tried, but there are too many nuggets for one episode.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Computer Disasters and Recovery

Three and a half years ago, I wrote an article about prepping for an upgrade to Window 10. It's still relevant, because there are still people using earlier versions of Windows, but I need to expand on having a “Live CD/USB” on hand before starting.

Most laptops and desktops sold today run some flavor of Windows. I can hear the Apple fans winding up in the background, but I am going to ignore them for one very good reason: I have no experience working with Apple products. I'm not going to try to give advice on something I know nothing about, so if you run anything with a Macintosh OS, you'll have to look elsewhere. Proprietary hardware tends to require specialist repair, so I stick with what is readily available and somewhat open-source.

I am the default IT tech for most of my family and a few close friends. I'm not a computer expert -- I have no schooling or certifications to put on a resume -- but I've been working with them since the days of punch-cards. I've built most of my own desktops over the last 30 years, and have learned a lot through research and by making mistakes. Upgrading the operating system (OS) used to be something that had to be done every two or three years, so I've had plenty of practice.

Repairing or restoring computers has been a puzzle that I've mostly enjoyed for quite a few years, and one of my most important tools is a “Live CD”. This is a method of repairing (or at least accessing) the software on your computer, and will not work if the hardware has been damaged. A PC with an intact hard drive can be salvaged by installing the drive in an external enclosure, but the possibility of a broken hard drive is the reason we have to back up our data.

(Sorry, but the tools and techniques for recovering data from a broken hard drive are way beyond a blue-collar budget. That is a specialist service reserved for governments and corporations with large budgets.)

Windows 10 is a fairly stable OS after three years of tweaks and updates. I know it has problems -- name something in this world that doesn't -- and a few of those problems can keep your PC from running. Viruses and malware are the main issues, but once in a while you'll find a corrupted file or two that will shut everything down and lock you out of your important files. Since I'm writing this on a PC and you're likely reading it on one, we can agree that they have become an important part of our daily lives. We can survive without them, but they usually make life easier and allow us to store huge amounts of information in a very small space. If you have your important data or documents stored on a computer and it locks up for some reason, here's one method to try to get them back.

Live or Rescue CD
A “Live” CD or USB stick will contain a complete OS capable of being run from the CD/USB. You don't need to install anything; just insert the media and boot up your PC. Most computers made in the last ten years or so will try to boot (start) from the CD/USB before trying the hard drive. If not, you'll need to interrupt the startup sequence by pressing F8 or the Delete key right after you hit the power button. You may have to hit that key repeatedly just to make sure you send the interrupt signal at the correct time.

Once you see a screen like the first picture below, you'll have to scroll through the options in the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) to set the “boot sequence” to try to start from the CD/USB first. An example is shown in the second picture. The BIOS is software that is installed on the main board of your PC at the factory. There are several different BIOS types, but they will all have the same basic options. Follow the prompts to save the changes and restart your PC with the Live CD in the drive.

Once your computer reboots using the Live CD/USB, you'll have a very small operating system that will allow you some access to your files. You can use this chance to back them up to another drive or attempt to repair your original OS if that is an option.

Which Live/Rescue CD should I choose?
Almost all of them run some flavor of Linux, a free OS that has been around for many years. It's free because most of the development is “open-source”, meaning that it's done for free by enthusiasts and not a corporation. Updates are tracked on free websites, and there are several equally good version out there. There are issues like lack of drivers for new software until someone gets around to making them, which keeps most non-geeks from using Linux, but it is also hard to write viruses and malware that will work which means it's more secure.

I have several copies laying around for differing uses. Here are my top picks:

A very powerful toolbox full of programs that will let you access and repair most software problems. I've used this one several time to restore laptops that were  dropped and had bad portions of their hard drives.

This one has been around since the days of floppy drives, and it still works. If you see someone on eBay selling a rescue CD, they have probably just burned a copy of this free utility and are charging for someone else's work.

For when you want to access a computer but don't have the password, or you don't want to leave any traces of your activities. This one is a hacker's friend, because it will let you into a locked computer once you've learned how to use it, but it also has ethical uses like accessing computers locked by ransomware. This one is for advanced users due to some of the anonymity features.

This is a complete replacement for Windows, but will run from a USB stick and let you into your files. I've run several computers on Ubuntu over the years, and it was the OS I installed on the laptop I gave my 75 year-old completely computer-illiterate mother. She couldn't screw it up in 5 years of trying, so it's safe to say it's a stable, secure system.

As we've written before, always back up your important data, but if you lose access to your files and haven't done a recent backup, one of these tools may help. They're free, so it costs no more than what you will pay for the CD or USB stick to store it on and it's always nice to have more tools around. My main problem is finding where I put the blasted CD, so I end up downloading it again for every job.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Prudent Prepping: December Round-Up

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

I have several things that need mentioning and can't make them a separate post.

Son of First Aid
My first post on first aid and its follow-up received many comments, all of them appreciated. I have no problem being educated on topics I know very little about, like first aid and tourniquets. In fact, I have no problem with listening to anyone talk to me about most anything related to prepping!
My two pack of tourniquets arrived last Sunday, and so I'm returning the loaner to the Master Chief. Next on my list is learning the proper way to use them correctly. Google and YouTube may be a friend, but I need a life saver to walk me through the proper steps. My local Red Cross doesn't have anything going until the new year, so I have to wait.

Disaster Relief
My local Food Bank, Contra Costa/Solano County is directly helping the people displaced by the Butte County/Paradise fire. They've been delivering food to the area since the 20th of November and are now in their usual drive to help the local people too. If you have a mind to donate, the information is in the linked web page. Thanks!

Holiday Gift Ideas
Crank Flashlight
Go and check out your local Big Box store for special buys and close-outs! I found this Emergency Flashlight just by walking down the aisle.

This has been shown before and is now a Special Buy, non-stock item in my two closest Home Depot stores. It works as advertised and is almost sold out! If I didn't have any backup power plans this would be under my tree or in my stocking!

Look for the large selection of under $10 battery flashlights too. There are some reasonable sized AA and AAA lights that I'm giving out to friends this year.

The Takeaway

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but the two pack of tourniquets is still a screaming deal and in limited supply when I checked.

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 11, 2018

Alternative Use of a Pencil Sharpener

After my video about Improper Use of a Cheese Grater, folks asked about using a cheap pencil sharpener to make tinder. This week I did a video to compare the two.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Prepping for Hypoglycemia

Most preppers assume that when the apocalypse happens, they will be fighting zombies, killing aliens, and fending off invasions of leather-clad bikers that seem to have endless supplies of motorcycle parts for when things break.

While they’re doing that, though, some of them will have to face unfortunate health problems that make it somewhat more difficult to keep stabbing bikers all day long or wading into zombie hordes and cleaving skulls with a broadsword. In my case, I am speaking of hypoglycemia.

What It Is

Hypoglycemia, at its root, is the condition of not having enough sugar in my blood. Hypoglycemics have to make sure that they maintain the minimum level of sugar in their blood needed for their brain, nerves, and various organs to continue normal operation.

People who know about hypoglycemia will think that symptoms are limited to low energy and irritability. This is true, but there's more to it than that; I know several people who actually went blind due to their lack of blood sugar (thankfully for them it was temporary, but very disconcerting). Worse, a hypoglycemic will often have trouble thinking when their blood sugar get low, in part because they literally do not have the fuel needed for their brain to think properly, often making it hard for them to realize they need to fix the problem. If it can sneak up on a person in daily life, think how much more common it would be during a disaster and how difficult it would be to fix.

How It Happens

There can be several reasons that a person might be hypoglycemic, ranging from an under-active pancreas to a problematic reaction to medicine such as metformin, a common diabetes medication. I also know at least one person who had a hypoglycemic reaction after having an allergic reaction. Hypoglycemia can be caused by all sorts of things, so please keep that in mind.

There are different triggers for the condition, with the most common one being not eating a regular diet and overexerting yourself. Untreated, it can lead to all sorts of things, including coma and death. Thankfully, whatever the cause, it has the same treatment.

Treatment: The Stack

When you're treating a hypoglycemic, remember the stack. Incidentally, this is also useful when working with pregnant women who have trouble keeping food down but still need the full range of nutrition provided by normal foods.
  1. At the bottom of the stack you have simple carbohydrates. These are things like hard candy, sugary drinks, crackers, and bread. They are the easiest to break down in your body and are the least likely to be rejected by an upset stomach. This is the first thing that you want to give to a hypoglycemic, since it will allow their body to function correctly until you can put more substantial food into them.
  2. Once some of that simple sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, you can put slightly more complex carbohydrates -- fruit, whole wheat bread, Snickers bars, and most commercial Nutri-Grain type bars (not a lot of protein, typically has a fruit filling) -- into the body without as great a fear of rejection.
  3. After that, add protein like beef jerky, protein bars, and steak. These take a little longer for your body to break down, but they allow it to continue having energy for longer.
  4. Finally, and if you have the opportunity, add fats for ongoing energy, usually in the form of cooked food. I'm a fan of saturated fats like coconut oil or most animal fats like butter or lard, but I know people who stick to primarily vegetable fats for things like this. 
  5. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that if someone has low blood sugar, they will have a harder time absorbing whatever you feed them, so it is best to give them a little bit of food that they can digest, and then something bigger.
I actually like using trail mix for the beginning of the stack, followed by a protein bar and beef jerky. They're easy to carry, take up little space, and keep well in all climates. 

Whatever you choose, even if it's just commercially prepared glucose tablets, please make sure that if you are prepared to check on the medical needs of the members of your group. A little bit of preparedness now can save a lot of grief later.

Good luck, and don’t forget to eat something. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Leave No Stuff Behind?

Back in November I did a series on getting home after an EMP. In one of my videos, I was in my car going through my gear and deciding what to take and what to leave, but it was too dark to see everything. This video solves that with an inventory review in the daylight.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Little Things Add Up

A lot of the ads that I see in the prepper magazines and online offer food and other supplies in large quantities. The common “year's supply” of food for one person starts at around $1000 and there is no upper limit. I'm seeing a year's worth of MREs going for $5-10,000 depending on the vendor.

Shelter is often sold the same way; tents are still fairly cheap, but buying/building a cabin or underground shelter starts to get into the “second home” price range. Folks around here that live in a flood plain (which means they have no basements) have been buying tornado shelters that sit in their garages. These are essentially a concrete box with a heavy door and which cost as much as a good used car. Getting pricing is difficult due to the costs of shipping and varying local codes and conditions, but I've seen reports on underground concrete bomb shelters that cost $100,000 and up. Around here, $100k will get you a starter home in a small community.

Firearms are another field where every “expert” has his/her ideal combination of “required” guns that everyone should own. A quality handgun, shotgun, and rifle combo will start at around $1500 and again, there is no upper limit.

This form of sticker shock can be daunting to new preppers. Being expected to shell out large sums of money that they don't have is one of the more common replies I get when I ask friends why they don't prepare more. If all you read is the ads, prepping looks too expensive for a lot of people, but that's not the case. There's no reason anyone should be expected to pay out a year's wages just to get the basics covered. If you have an extra $100k laying around and can spend it on preparation, more power to you, but you're in the minority; most of us have to take another route.

It's been stated that anything can be built given enough time, money, and manpower, and that a shortage of any one of those three can usually be made up for by increasing the other two. A prime example is the Burma Road project of 1937-38, when the decision was made to build a road from British-held Burma through the lower end of the Himalayas into China to supply Chinese troops fighting the Imperial Japanese Army shortly before WW2. 200,000 laborers built 717 miles of road through mountainous terrain in less than two years, mostly by hand. Time was short, but manpower was plentiful and money was available, so two of the three made it possible. Building up your supplies can be accomplished in the same manner.

If you don't have the money, invest your time and manpower. Repairing/modifying your gear, preserving your own food, and building your own shelter are three good examples of this. I know that canning and drying your own food allows people with food allergies the option of having stored food since very little to none of the commercially produced stuff completely is free of gluten, soy, dairy, or nuts. Storm shelters can be built by hand with a small crew a lot cheaper than having a precast box delivered, but it will take a lot more time.

If you have the time to do the research and money is coming in slowly (I know people with a “preps” line in their monthly budget), start small and trade up to what you want. I have a friend who really wanted a top-end 1911A1 pistol, but couldn't afford the $3000 price tag. He started by buying a cheaper, polymer-framed pistol in .45ACP and as his budget allowed, he traded it for a lower-priced 1911A1. After three or four more trades he eventually got the pistol that he wanted, but it took him a couple of years and he probably spent a bit more that the $3000 due to losses in trade value. At no time was he ever without a serviceable pistol, and he didn't have to go into debt to get the one he really wanted, both of which were important to him.

If time is short, getting what you want is going to be expensive. If you've ever been around when a natural disaster strikes, you'll know all about the price-gouging and profiteering that happens with essentials like water, fuel, and generators. It's human nature, and the law of supply and demand is about as flexible as the law of gravity. Manpower can mitigate this a bit if you have the bodies available to seek out smaller supplies at more reasonable prices.

If you're alone or working with a small team, money will make things happen faster but time is usually what gets spent. I could spend thousands of dollars to stockpile ammunition for the various firearms I own, but I prefer to spend a couple of hundred to buy the equipment and supplies to reload. Spent brass is cheap (or free), and the components cost about 25% of what store-bought ammo does. I can also tailor my ammo for specific guns, increasing my accuracy which means more efficient hunting.

Don't let the lists and big price tags scare you away from getting better prepared. Break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces and take them on one at a time. The old joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” applies: One bite at a time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Return of More First Aid

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

A quick follow-up to last week's post and an update to another.

I mentioned last week that I wanted to start carrying a tourniquet in my EDC first aid gear. Little did I know what I was missing, in terms of both information and tools.

To Tourniquet,
Or Not To Tourniquet?
That is the question, and it's pretty easy to answer if you do any reading at all. Everyone even remotely connected to first aid recommends having one in your first aid gear and learning to use one correctly. The kit I mentioned in last week's post contained what I thought was a good tourniquet, but as it turns out the SWAT-T tourniquet was not recommended by every commenter on the BCP Facebook page (join up, it;'s fun!) or this blog.


I'm not "ouching" because my choice was knocked, but because another bit of information was missing from what I had thought was a good knowledge base. Fortunately, my friend the Master Chief graciously loaned me a CAT until I could get some of my own. 

2 Pack Genuine NAR CAT Tourniquet Gen 7 Black
From the Amazon page:

The CAT Tourniquet utilizes a durable windlass system with a patented free-moving internal band providing true circumferential pressure to the extremity. Once adequately tightened, bleeding will cease and the windlass is locked into place. A hook and loop windlass retention strap is then applied, securing the windlass to maintain pressure during casualty evacuation. The tourniquets unique dual securing system avoids the use of screws and clips which can become difficult to operate under survival conditions.

Be certain to get the real thing, as everyone tells me there are many, many counterfeit CATs on the market. Here's a video on how to identify fakes.

My key
Last April, I wrote about having extra keys made for my car. It was an expense I really had a hard time justifying at the time, but it paid off this week. A key isn't supposed to be able to reach around corners or wiggle when put into the ignition switch!

The plastic molding holding the metal portion in position cracked right at the front edge. Looking closely, the original key looks like it was done by a slightly different manufacturer than the current copies. There seems to be a bit of a flatter front where the metal enters the plastic body. I'm not taking things apart to check it out, but that's how it looks.

Now I'm down to one complete, full-function key as a spare, not counting the valet key.

Another learning moment. I'm just glad this is only costing cash to fix.

The Takeaway
  • With my budget I need to be absolutely certain that what I order is what I need the first time.
  • Planning pays off, even it the initial expense hurts.

The Recap

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 4, 2018

Got Wood? Hardwood vs Softwood

If you've watched my videos or read the articles I've written about making fires, you may have noticed me refer to hardwood and softwood. While the argument could be made that any wood is hard when it's falling on your head, there are important distinctions between hard and soft varieties of wood.
Hardwoods are used in flooring, furniture, cabinet-making, and for smoking food. They are tough, durable woods, usually with a very tight grain structure. They are also more energy-dense than softwoods when being burned.

Hardwoods come from deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees that shed their leaves every year. Normally these trees reproduce with fruits or nuts, but not always, such as in the maple tree.

Softwoods are used mainly in structural building frameworks, but are also used in large decorative and structural wood beams. They are also popular for some trim and veneer applications.

Softwoods come from evergreen conifers such as pine, spruce, and fir trees. They tend toward a more open grain pattern, and are easier to shape and work with than hardwoods. They also have a very pleasant aroma.
Why does all of this matter, and how will it benefit you? There are numerous reasons why being able to identify the wood type you're selecting is important. In the bushcraft and firemaking realm, selecting the right woods can be vital in keeping you warm with minimal effort. Softwoods are great for starting a fire, as they're easier to process into kindling and small logs, and take a flame more readily. Conversely, hardwoods burn hotter and longer, and produce wonderful coals for cooking.

If you're buying wood for building projects, softwoods will be less expensive, but hardwoods tend to look better when finished. As a rule, hardwoods get stain or varnish, softwoods get painted. The aromatic nature of some softwoods, such as cedar, also serves as a wonderful rodent and insect repellent. The cedar chest grandma kept her bedsheets in did far more than just smell pretty.

Be familiar with your wood, so that you can get the most mileage out of it.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Driving in the Snow

Friday night there was a slight cold snap. Just a little chill, really.

On Saturday I had to go south by about a hundred miles, and ended up leaving for home right before midnight... at which point I traveled through a snow storm in the middle of the night on mountain passes with limited visibility and sheer cliffs.

For those of you on the east coast  reading this: when I talk about mountains, I'm not talking about the mountains on the Appalachian trail. The highest mountain peak in Maryland (where I spent a fair amount of time growing up) is over 3000 feet. As I look out my window I can see Mt. Timpanogos, which is close to 4 times that height, and doesn't even break the top 5 tallest peaks in my state.

These are not small mountains, and the trails in them tend to be twisty and windy due the height of the terrain. I've had to learn to drive in the snow, and have had to do so as a matter of being able to get around. I have to do it fairly well, because going off the side of the road doesn't mean getting towed; it means wondering if I left my toaster oven on in the several seconds that I have left while I plummet to my death.

The next time you are stuck somewhere where it is unexpectedly snowing -- or if you need to bug out to a snowy location -- remember these three rules.

Drive Slow
If there's snow on the road, keep an eye on your speed. Any snow at all means that it's cold enough to form ice on the road, and patches of “black ice” (ice that does not show up visually against the road, but is still very slippery) can form.

If the road is covered in snow such that you can't tell where the lane markers are, or where the edges of the road are, driving slowly is the only way to give yourself enough time to safely brake or make turns.

Sudden braking is actually a very bad idea as it's very likely to cause skidding. You may not be able to avoid it, but if you have to brake suddenly, you want to be doing so at a low speed. Sharp turns can cause the same problem.

Getting into a car accident will put a much bigger dent in your schedule than saving the five minutes by going faster. Remember that.

Drive Low
Most modern cars are front-wheel drive. A lot of them have a tendency to understeer in bad weather, due to swinging around. Having a little junk in the trunk (I recommend a thorough emergency kit) gives you extra traction, which can save your life when you are dealing with adverse conditions.

If you have nothing else, and need cheap weight, buy kitty litter or play sand. They also provide grit (for traction) if you need it to get out of a slippery spot.

Once again, a car accident (even just denting your bumper) is much more expensive than the extra mile or two per gallon you will save by having no extra weight in your car, so put the bowling ball back in the trunk.

Drive Light 
Keep your running lights on. If it's after dark, people will turn on headlights, but there's nothing wrong with keeping your running lights on at all times and erring on the side of caution. Being visible to other drivers makes much easier for them to avoid hitting you.

You can save yourself a lot of grief with some basic preparedness. Having lived in the south (Alabama) and the northeast, I understand what having an unexpected flurry of snow can do to traffic, and to the ability to get around. Hopefully, if you ever have to bug out, it won’t bite you in the back.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, November 30, 2018


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Despite what it sounds like, a portyanki isn't a monster from Dungeons & Dragons. It's actually the Russian name for "foot wrappings", and they were commonly used by the armies of many nations through the 20th century in lieu of socks.* In fact, the Russian army wore portyanki up until 2013!

A portyanka (that's the singular term) is simply a piece of cloth -- ideally rectangular and roughly 3 feet long by 1.3 feet wide, but square and triangular cloths will also work -- that is wrapped around a foot like a bandage and tied into place. It acts like a sock to cushion and insulate the foot, wicking away sweat and protecting against blisters.

At this point, you're probably wondering why I suggest you learn to tie cloths around your feet when you have perfectly good socks. While socks are clearly the superior technology, there are several good reasons for knowing how to wrap your feet:

Portyanki are Easy to Make 
You might find yourself barefoot during a disaster, or your socks might become damaged or lost in a long-term SHTF scenario. Socks can be difficult to replace or repair in that situation, but portyanki can be scrounged from fabric like sheets, pillowcases, t-shirts, and the like, and they will fit any size foot. 

Portyanki can be Re-wrapped 
Socks with holes in them aren't very good, but since portyanki are wrapped, a hole isn't that big of a deal; just turn the cloth over and re-wrap it to cover the hole. 

Wet socks aren't pleasant, either. If you're wearing long enough portyanki (this is why I said the rectangular ones are better), you can take them off and re-wrap them so that the part which was wrapped around your shin (and are hopefully dry) can go around your foot, and the wet portion is now on the outside and higher on your leg where it can dry. 

Portyanki are Easy to Clean
Speaking of drying, because they are single pieces of cloth which lie flat, portyanki dry quickly in the air. Since the cloth is thinner than most socks, they are also easier to clean -- in fact, the standard Russian manner of cleaning portyanki was to boil them!

Portyanki are Disposable
Easy come, easy go. You didn't put a lot of effort into making them, so when they're worn and threadbare, you can throw them away without regret.

Despite all these advantages, there are areas in which portyanki fall short.

Portyanki are Slow to Put On
Socks are easily and quickly pulled on, but portyanki must be tied in a specific manner. It is possible to put them on quickly -- Russian soldiers were held to a standard of getting dressed in 45 seconds -- but that requires practice.

Portyanki Must be Tied Properly
Improperly tied portyanki will result in painful blisters! Make sure that all folds and wrinkles are smoothed out as part of the tying process.

Summer vs Winter
Summer portyanki can be made out of cotton (and if you're scrounging them, that's probably the material you'll use). Winter portanki were traditionally made out of flannel, although wool would be best.

Tying Your Socks
So how do you properly tie your portyanki? I'll provide you with a step-by-step procedure, but the easiest way to teach you is for you to see the process yourself. I've provided several videos of the process from different angles, in case a certain step isn't clear. If you only watch one of them, watch the first one.

  1. Place your foot on the portyanki such that most of the material is on the same side as your big toe. (We will call this the inside.)
  2. Leave approximately one foot-width of material on the same side as your little toe. (We will call this the outside.)
  3. Some people like to have their feet parallel to the sides; others place theirs at an angle, with their heel near the corner. Experiment to find which style works best for you. 
  4. Take the outside edge corner and wrap it over your toes, tucking it under the ball of your foot. Smooth out any wrinkles. 
  5. Take the inside edge and wrap it over your entire foot and ankle, smoothing out any wrinkles. Make sure that the cloth stays taut around your heel and ankle.
  6. Continue the wrapping motion and go under your foot, stepping down again once the material is smoothly wrapped. 
  7. Grasp both corners of the inside wrap and cross it, so that the front corner is in the back and the back corner is in the front. 
  8. Wrap this portion around the upper ankle and shin. You will have one corner pointing up your leg and another behind your leg. 
  9. Take the corner behind your leg and wrap it around to the front, tucking the loose end into the wrap you've made. 
  10. Tuck the final corner down into the wrap. 
Congratulations, you've tied your first portyanka! Now you get to do it again for your other foot!

*  Prior to the 20th century, socks were considered luxury items that were only given to officers.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dealing with Pain in Others

A lot of prepper articles are written about first aid because injuries tend to happen with any situation that rises to the level of an emergency. First aid generally means treating injuries when professional medical help is not available to stop further damage and prevent loss of life, with the goal being to get the patient to better care as soon and as safely as possible. The patient is going to experience pain both before and after seeing a physician, and the field of treating pain is complicated and controversial, but there are secondary issues that we should all be ready to address.

I'm learning to deal with chronic (long-term, unending) pain in someone I know. The day-to-day stress of having pain that won't go away has emotional and mental effects that drugs don't treat. Acute pain (short-term, may go away eventually) is normally the result of injuries and tends to be more unsettling to the patient because it is out of their normal experience. Both types of pain cause changes in the person suffering them that will affect how they deal with the world and people around them. Don't expect a person dealing with pain to act or react normally; you may have known them for years, but they can turn into a completely different person once they're in pain.

Physical Effects of Pain
  • Loss of appetite and weight. Plan your meals accordingly and do what you can to make sure they get the calories and nutrients that their bodies need, especially if they're healing.
  • Fatigue and sleeplessness. Pain will interrupt their normal sleep cycles, which will prevent deep, restful sleep. This will eventually cause fatigue and the other effects of sleep deprivation.
  • Decreased movement. The risks of pneumonia and blood clots rise with the lack of mobility caused by injury and pain. Internal movements will also be slowed down, so watch for constipation and fluid retention if they aren't eliminating wastes as they should. Diuretics and laxatives are a subject for a separate article.
  • Weakened immune system. Dealing with the source of the pain will focus the body's attention away from general immune response, so watch for infections in areas that weren't injured.

Mental/Emotional Effects of Pain
  • Stress. Pain causes a lot of different stresses on the body and mind, so expect anyone who is not a hard-core stoic to show signs of stress. Dealing with stress varies from person to person, so investigate the patient normally deals with stress and find ways for them to do it.
  • Depression/anxiety/panic/fear. Chronic or acute, pain tends to kick us out of our comfort zones. From what I've experienced, the severity of the pain is less of a factor than the personality of the patient. Drugs can help with these effects, but they tend to cause problems of their own that you then have to deal with. A calm environment and slow, quiet movements may help reduce these effects by eliminating any new emotional stresses.
  • Anger/resentment. This one I know well. Pain, especially chronic pain, tends to cause outbursts of anger and resentment over little things, and big things lead to full tirades and melt-downs. Patience, prayer, and a thick skin are your only defenses. Being able to take a break and letting someone else handle the person in pain will help with your mental state.
  • Disconnection from other people. Pain centers the mind on itself, leading to a loss of concern for others and difficulty relating to them. This means more conflict and less enjoyment for everyone around. This can be really hard on a marriage or other long-term relationship.

Pain is Part of Life
Humans have been dealing with pain longer than we've been able to talk, so it shouldn't be something arcane or mysterious. Our society has tried to ignore or sometimes punish those in pain for several centuries, which is so fundamentally wrong to my mind that I have a hard time grasping the concept. Most of the natural drugs we have stumbled across, even the discovery and development of things like alcohol and narcotics, have been in search of at least a temporary respite from the pains of life. The addictive properties of some of these drugs get blown out of proportion by those who think they know how to live our lives for us, and I'm sure some of that is based on their desire to control as much of the world as they can.

Those of you who are young and healthy should enjoy life as much as you can and give thanks to whichever deity you prefer. As we age, we collect injuries and ailments that cause pain and this impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. Be aware of those impacts and take them into consideration when dealing with others.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Prudent Prepping: More First Aid

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

I always look for ways to add to and improve my preps, and while food is most important, right after are my first aid supplies.

Every Day Carry
I have in my lunch box a very small first aid kit that has various band aids, triple antibiotic, and Tylenol. In a separate zip lock bag is Advil, aspirin, gauze pads and QuickClot. After an employee cut himself on some metal strapping this week, I decided it was time to look for a better way to carry more and better gear. I'm exploring several different options for keeping gear close to me (which means future blog posts on this subject), but this is my first step to improving things.

Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak

This kit was mentioned by both Erin and myself in the $30 First Aid Kit Challenge prompted by this post from Chaplin Tim.

I really like the fact that it is sealed in a very sturdy plastic(?) bag and also has a zip lock seal to close it up after you open it the first time. Erin and I both really like what is included.

Since I really like this kit, it made sense to me to look at what else might be available from Adventure Medical Kits.

This is what I found:

Adventure Medical Kits Professional Series Trauma Pak Pro

The Pro is similar to the regular pack; however, it includes a SWAT-T tourniquet and loses some of the gauze pads. I'm good with trading some gauze for being able to stop serious bleeding.

From the Amazon listing for the Trauma Pak Pro:
  • Stops Bleeding: The Advanced Clotting Sponge uses zeolite, a common mineral, to help blood clot up to three times faster than blood on its own.
  • Critical First Aid Information: Instruction sheet with information on managing life-threatening and traumatic injuries.
  • Made for Tactical First Response: Designed for fast deployment in critical situations; fits in BDU pocket.
  • Personal Protection: Nitrile examination gloves plus biohazard disposal bag.
  • A Tourniquet Anyone Can Safely Use!: The SWAT-T is easy for anyone to use without advanced training. Instructions are printed directly on the SWAT-T.

Luckily, the injury to the employee didn't require the use of a tourniquet, but I don't know when I may need one.

The slight downside to the Trauma Pak Pro is everything isn't in a sealed package but in a woven pouch. All of the critical gear appears to be contained in waterproof and sterile packaging, so those items won't be ruined by water, but the pouch itself could get knocked around some in my lunch box. If worst comes to worst, I'll put it into a zip lock bag like I've done to my existing gear that could be ruined by water.

The Takeaway
  • Improvements to my gear come in tiny steps as I am able to afford it.
  • If bleeding can be controlled, the chances of survival until expert medical care arrives is increased.

The Recap

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, November 27, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Apocalypse Builds: #10 Can Stove

It's after the apocalypse, and you've reached your bug out location and you're sitting around, waiting for the zombies to eat you. Your pork and beans deluxe (now without long pig!) is ready to eat straight out of the can.

You get out your handy dandy P38 can opener and you open the can. Using your tactical spork, you dig in.. and realize that it would really taste better hot. You need a way to heat it up, so you quickly empty a can of freeze dried beef chunks into a gallon ziploc bag, and you make a stove using your handy dandy pocket knife.

Wait, what?
A #10 can stove (sometimes called a hobo stove) is a super easy to make emergency stove. All it requires is a #10 can (think coffee can) and a pocket knife. You can make it with all sorts of fancy features and tools, but at its core, all you need is a pocket knife and a can.

If you want to make it easy on yourself and you have onet on hand, you can use a “church key” style can opener. Tin snips and  a pair of pliers are useful, but not actually needed. 

Note: This is not a number 10 rocket stove. That is a different thing.

Building a #10 Can Stove
  1. The can should have one open end (this will be the bottom) and one closed end (the top and cooking area). 
  2. Place the open end on the ground.
  3. Use the can opener or pocket knife to cut holes below the closed top, evenly spaced along the sides. I prefer eight holes of about a half inch diameter each.
    • If in doubt, cut fewer holes, since you can make more fairly easily.
    • Don’t cut away the metal! If you need to, you can adjust the air flow by bending the metal back in. 
  4. Using the pocket knife, score a spot on the can about one quarter of the way up from the open end (aka the bottom).
  5. Cut down from that spot to the open end.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 at a distance of about 1/4 the height of the can between cuts.  
  7. Fold the "flap" of metal out of the way.  
  8. Place fuel into the stove using that hole. 
  9. Light it.

But why not just build a fire?
In my experience a #10 can stove works just as well as an open fire, and it also keeps the fuel relatively dry and hot. The can forms both a cooktop and a chimney, and allows you to burn a variety of fuels. I especially like it for burning things like fuel tabs with random brush piled on top when it is wet (or the brush is damp). It dries things off quickly, and keeps the fire manageable.

In a pinch, you can even make these out of soup cans; they just have less capacity, and don’t get as hot. 

If you have made a couple of these, you can experiment with the chimney design so that it still flows well, but smokes less.

I made one with nothing but a leatherman multitool, and it worked great. I had cooked eggs in about 10 minutes from a dead start with a cast-iron pan.

As always, don’t forget to practice.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chaplain Tim has the day off to spend time with his family like the rest of us. Regular posting resumes tomorrow.

In the meantime, please enjoy these two holiday favorites written by the
Whatever you do, have a great day filled with fun, good, fellowship and family.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Thanks Giving

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

Corny or not, this is a good time for reflecting on all the good things that have happened to me and all the good people I have in my life.

Some names listed here don't read this blog, but many do. Some have reasons listed, but many don't and that's okay too.

In no particular order or importance:
  • I am very thankful to be on Blue Collar Prepping with this group of writers. I'm always excited to read what is put up. I count you as friends.
  • I am extremely thankful for Erin Palette and her very patient work to make my writing readable.
  • Evelyn and D.R. for the couch and mail box.
  • Darryl, Sean and Jonathan for answering questions that clarified much.
  • John and Ella for being such a good fit. He got lucky!
  • Shane, Jenn and Cassie for the dinner invites and for how mad you get when I bring things!
  • Bubba. Sir! Yes Sir!
  • Jason Rennie for the free books. Like my To Be Read pile wasn't large enough.
  • Mark for signing my books, for my first Red Shirting, and for writing in such a cool universe.
  • Rick for shipping me an OOP copy of a book AND signing everything!
  • MadMike for OOP books and signing them, as well as the commentary on Facebook and the blog.
  • The ILoH Larry Corriea for putting out so many great books and hysterical fisks.
  • The Mata family for all the prayers sent to me. Gihigugma tamo tanan.
  • Janelle and Don. Thanks for the quiet.
  • Myeong
  • Liza
  • Susan Lee for calling me 'DB'.
  • Kitty and The Kid, I WILL touch the iPad!
  • Van and all the Saturday group. Being 外人 is fun!
I am especially thankful for all the new friends I've made this year, and for all the people who have commented on my writing offering corrections and praise. Thank you.

I could go on all night and even then I'd miss someone, so if you aren't here, please know you are memorable to me.

Thank you.

I really went through my stores and stripped out a bunch more stuff that wasn't close to outdated to make room for incoming goodies. I still have a good three-day supply in each bucket, but now the duplicated items are gone. 

I spent $10 extra this week at the grocery store on food to go in the Food Drive barrels. I also wrote a check to the Food Bank for a turkey.

I don't have a picture to show my progress, but I didn't make it to the end of the month for Movember; my beard was just way too itchy to last. Everyone said the third week would be less scratchy, but I couldn't stand it. Regardless, $25 dollars that I would have spent on a haircut and shaving went to Prostate Cancer research instead. 

The Takeaway
  • I hope I am as good a friend back to the people who call me Friend. 
  • If not, I will try harder.

The Recap
  • A donation of $25 to support men's health and Prostate Cancer research.
  • A total of $30 in food and cash to my local Food Bank.

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, November 20, 2018

Product Review Revisited: Gerber MP400 Compact Sport

Longevity is important in a tool. Good tools last for years, but great tools last for lifetimes.

Today I revisit one of my first reviews for this blog:  my Gerber MP400 Sport multitool. Do my initial opinions of the tool hold up five years in?

(I also apologize for my bad on-the-fly math. I've actually carried this tool for roughly 1800 days, not 2200.)


Monday, November 19, 2018

Apocalypse Builds: Concrete Block Stove

Last week I reviewed a rocket stove and gave it a less than stellar review. This week I decided to look into other options, either commercial or home made.

Since I have a bunch of stuff sitting around, much of which I would like to dispose of, I decided to look into concrete block rocket stoves. The siren call of bacon and eggs after the fall of civilization appeals to me; marauding bands of Mad Max style raiders can have fun, but I want my breakfast!

The idea behind concrete block rocket stoves is that you have five hollow concrete (or “cinder”) blocks, called breeze blocks in some places. Four of them will be standard rectangular blocks, with the last one a square block with what looks like serifs on it -- kind of like an “H” with an extra center bar between the two long ones.

If you want to use a frying pan (I recommend cast iron for this), you'll also need some sort of pot standoff. I use a couple of rocks on top of the rocket stove, but most people use something nicer like a gas cooktop pot standoff.

1 & 2) Foundation
Lay two concrete blocks so that they form a long thin bar, with a continuous top and the holes on the sides. This forms the foundation.

It's technically possible to do this without the foundation, but after experimenting, it seems to make a large enough difference to make it worth it.
3) Begin Combustion Chamber
The third block is the differently shaped one. Lay it so that it is dead center on top of the two foundation blocks and aligned with them. The hole in it needs to be aligned so that you can see the seam of the two lower blocks in it. 

This forms a sort of pyramid with the blocks, and creates the back of the combustion chamber.

4) Complete Combustion Chamber
Lay the fourth block on its end, perpendicular to the foundation. The bottom hole of this block will align with the gap in the nonstandard block. 

This completes the combustion chamber, and allows you to feed fuel into it in a protected area. This also allows you to place kindling and small amounts of fuel in the top part of that block, giving you a partially covered area if you have to dry out fuel.

Be aware that the back of the combustion chamber has a small divot that will fill up with ash as you use it, so you'll need to clean that out between uses.

5) Chimney
Lay the fifth and final block so that it's directly on top of the third block, holes aligned to form a chimney. The combustion chamber back will be only partially underneath the hole in the block, but don’t worry, it's supposed to look like that.
    Place kindling in the combustion chamber, roughly half way in. Light it, and place small pieces of wood or other fuel in it. Slowly push the fuel into the back of the combustion chamber as it burns.

    Grab your kettle, put it on there, and make yourself some hot chocolate. Congratulations! You have a rocket stove. It takes me less than five minutes to heat up a ten inch cast iron frying pan in order to fry eggs.

    They aren't terribly portable and aren't the best possible design, but they are a fairly nice option for those of us who expect to bug in and don’t want a larger permanent structure.

    My Rating
    • 4/5 as long as you are bugging in, or have the materials handy at your bug out site.
    • 1/5 if you are bugging out.
    Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

    Friday, November 16, 2018

    The Long, Dark Walk Home

    Now that I've done a practice walk home after an EMP attack, it's time to talk about what I learned from it all.

    Here’s a link to the AK pistol video I mentioned.

    Thursday, November 15, 2018

    The Comfort of Wool

    Cold weather has arrived a bit early this year, so I've had to break open the tubs of warm clothing before Thanksgiving. Most years I can get by working outside in November wearing insulated underwear under my jeans and a few more layers on the top half of my body, but not this year. Snow on the ground before Halloween isn't a good sign around here, we're in for a long winter.

    I realize that some of you are laughing at me right now, since you live in areas that rarely see snow or temps below 40°F. That's fine; laugh all you want as you're slapping mosquitoes in December. I've lived in a lot of different climates, and know that even in the desert it get cold at night, so I try to plan ahead for cold weather or having to live without heat. The camping trips and other overnight stays in the great outdoors have instilled in me a sense of appreciation for warm clothes. If you ever travel at night in the winter, you should at least have warm clothes in your vehicle bag.

    There is an old saying about winter clothing: “cotton kills.” It's based on the fact that cotton loses its insulating value if it gets wet. Sweating in cotton long-johns is a good way to learn about hypothermia, so it's best to avoid either sweating or cotton. Most of my insulated underwear is cotton, but I have learned how to adjust my clothing to avoid sweating in it.

    The whole concept of dressing in layers is designed to allow you to remove clothes as you start to warm up, and it's always better to be a bit chilly than to start sweating in winter. The sweet spot is between shivering and sweating, and it varies from person to person. I'm one of the people with single-digit body fat so I don't have a lot of natural insulation, I have to buy my warmth instead.
    • Silk is a fair insulator, and I do own a few undershirts and socks made of it. Pleasant on the skin, but expensive and very touchy to wash/dry. Silk socks don't work very well in boots because they're too “slick” and tend to slide around my feet as I walk. Since I don't want to deal with the hassles of wearing garters, I avoid silk socks now.
    • Modern fibers like polypropylene (PP) don't absorb moisture and will retain more of their insulating value than cotton when wet, but they aren't as comfortable to wear as a natural fiber. I have PP long-johns, but they're stiff fibers and tend to be more irritating to the skin than natural fibers. 
    • Polyester (PE) is one to avoid, since it doesn't “breathe” very well and will trap moisture next to your skin, making you feel clammy and cold.
    • Nylon is a tricky one. There are so many different ways to spin nylon into a yarn that it's hard to know how it's going to treat your feet. Basic nylon dress socks are horrible; they don't breathe worth a darn and will trap moisture inside your footwear. Some of the “fluffier” nylon yarns that I've seen fall between the PE and PP fibers for insulation value.
    • For basic winter socks, I prefer wool. I've had wool socks last for up to four years of daily wear when properly cared for (the Army used to issue only wool socks, and I wish I had a good source for them now). They're expensive and need to be washed with care, but they breathe enough to allow sweat out and will retain their insulating value even when wet. I've inadvertently tested this several times over the years, by having a foot break through a thin layer of ice and ending up knee-deep in water. You extract your foot, pour the water out of your boot, wring out your socks, and put them back on. While not exactly pleasant, a wet wool sock will keep your foot warm. Cotton and cheap plastic socks need to be dried before putting them back on or you'll lose more heat from your feet than if you went without socks. Wool also has the advantage of being a lot easier to dry with unconventional heat sources; plastic fibers are prone to melting before they get dry near a campfire, while wool and cotton will be completely dry before they start to burn.

    This post came about because I haven't had time to do much laundry lately and I ran out of wool socks, so I dug down to the bottom of my cold-weather tubs and found some “insulated” socks that were received as a gift a few years ago. They were cheap and mostly polyester, so while they were abundantly thick and warm for a few hours, by noon I had to change them out because they were wet from the moisture they had trapped inside my boots. The 16 hour days meant that I had to change socks twice during the day and that just meant more laundry to do when I got home. I think those socks are going to be relegated to the rag bin when they come out of the dryer. 

    Wednesday, November 14, 2018

    Prudent Prepping: Get Out Of Dodge

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

    California is on fire again...  or perhaps "still on fire" is a better way to describe what's happening.

    Here are some stories from the N. California fire:
    The final report lists 42 confirmed deaths and over 200 missing.

    I only have one thing to say about this entire year's fires in California and the disasters around the country:

    What Were They Thinking?
    I can only talk about the situations here where I am, and this latest fire in Butte County follows the Oroville Dam disaster, so the Sheriff and the local people know how to handle mass evacuations. The Sheriff ordered an evacuation when the fire first reached the edge of the town, and while it took some time to burn into the center of town, people had time to leave.

    I have close friends who live there and they lost everything, but they're safe. Why? Because they left when told to! They listened to the warnings and left as soon as they could. From what I understand, since basic items were already staged, my friends were able to get many sentimental items out with them. 

    What Can Be Done
    • Double and triple check your plan! Verify your designated meet-up spot and have a 2nd or even a 3rd in mind. 
    • Know how to get out out of your neighborhood. Have all the routes memorized! 
    • Have your BOBs ready, along with what is really important close by. 
    The bloggers who were here in 2015 picked our favorite or essential items in our own personal BOB or GHB and put them in a blog post. We've added several more people since then, and everyone has written about their own setup. The Discerning Shootist has several posts about gear, starting here with a definition of what all those initials mean.

     If you want to spend time looking at what else is available to read, a look up "BOB" in the Blogger search box (upper left corner) on the Blue Collar Prepping page. There are 44 articles just with that term, and "Bug Out Bag" shows 74 and "GHB" lists 115! That is only the posts with those terms in the title or tags. Everyone has written about their gear, and I feel it is important to read what is different in each person's bag. Not only do you have different climates, there are enough differences in climates to make "What's In the Bag?" a fun rabbit hole!

    I highly recommend a search by author name on our blog. You'll see we have many things in common, and some that might make the proverbial light bulb go off and trigger an AHA! moment.

    The Recap and Takeaway
    • There are few heroes in a disaster, most people are better off to get out with their group. 
    • Have A Plan. Hell, have 2 or 3! Just make sure your group is on the same page! 
    • When the authorities say it's time to leave, leave. Right then. 

    Nothing was purchased this week, but if this latest round of fires starts those extra dollars burning a hole in your pocket (heh!), see below on how to keep us here!

    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.

    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