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Monday, January 22, 2018

Product Review: Gerber Center Drive

Assuming your circumstances permit, the majority of preppers will have a knife, multi-tool, or both in their EDC.

On most days, I carry a pocket knife of some sort, (usually the Klein folding electrician's knife) a razor (usually the Gerber EAB) and a Gerber Center Drive*.

Years ago, Lokidude reviewed the Gerber MP400, and I feel that our readers would benefit from a similar review of the Center drive.

http://amzn.to/2E0Vknl

Features
The Center Drive has a pair of needle nose pliers with a replaceable carbide wire cutters/stripper cutting surface, which extend by pressing the button on the side  and sliding it upwards. It also has one fine edge knife, one serrated knife, one cat's paw prying tool, a bottle opener, a file, a spare bit holder, and a ruler stamped into the frame.

Mine came with a belt sheath that can be positioned either sideways or in a standard up/down configuration and closes with a sturdy Velcro type fastener. The sheath is MOLLE compatible, and holds a bit driver set. With the exception of the spare bit holder, all of the tools lock when extended.

http://amzn.to/2E0Vknl

The tool that it is built around is the magnetic bit driver, which extends out in such a way that it is very close to the center line of the tool. When you have to remove a screw, or drive one, this can be a real life saver.

http://amzn.to/2E0Vknl

The Good
The build quality on this is excellent. The moving parts are all made to tight specifications, and all of the tool locks are either metal, or plastic over metal, with ridges built into them to allow easier use. I have had my hands covered in oil from working on a car on the side of the road and not had an issue extending the pliers.

The straight fine-edge knife and the pliers can all be opened one-handed, and both the bit driver and knife have a quality liner lock on them. I don’t use a file very often, but when I do, it is VERY nice to have on hand.

The magnetic bit holder is a lifesaver if you have to use it to drive screws. While not as nice as a dedicated screwdriver, it is definitely more ergonomic, and less slip prone, than a normal multi-tool.

I have not done torture testing on this, just daily use (and yes, I have put it through the dishwasher), but it seems to hold up well. Have to change a stuck oil filter on the side of the road? Stab knife into oil filter, rotate out, hand screw new one on. Have to fix your hot glue gun? Sure. Have to pry up a 500 lb steel plate so that you can get to the thing underneath it? Awkward, but not really a problem with sufficient grip strength and leverage.

The best part is that I have yet to have this one stolen. I have traveled with it, worked with it, taken it to conferences etc, and have yet to have someone try to walk off with it. I have lost several Leatherman tools that way, but for whatever reason (my theory is that it is not a Leatherman brand, and so people do not think of it as quite so valuable) no one has “forgotten” to return it or grabbed it out of my luggage.

The Bad
The “handedness” of the tool tends to get in the way. I can get the knife out one-handed using my right hand, or the bit driver one-handed using my left hand, and put them away the same way; but trying to open or close them with the opposite hand is quite difficult.

The Ugly
This is not the best bang for your buck. I dearly love this tool, and use it quite often, but it does not have the widest range of accessories, or the biggest knife, or… you get the idea.

There are tools that have almost all of the same features for about a third the price. That is something that you have to keep in mind with this.

Overall: 4.5 of 5
I really like the tool and the sheath. If it is within your price range, I would recommend this, preferring it to the other options I have used (Leatherman Surge, Core, Wave, Mut EOD, and Micra; a couple of other Gerbers; and a multitude of knock offs and off brands). It seems to overcome the ergonomic issues with using a screwdriver on a multi-tool, and it has a high build quality. If you use a multi tool on a regular basis, but don’t need any more exotic tools (like the M-16 cleaning tool available on the Leatherman Mut), it is wonderful.

If however you do not mind a somewhat lower build quality, and do not need all of these exact features, you can purchase a quality tool for less money.


*I use the model # 31-003073N multi-tool, and Amazon has a slightly different model, but as far as I can tell they are the same tool; mine just came with some driver bits.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Product Review: Dland 1000 Lumen LED Headlight

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I received this headlamp at Christmas and have been using it for about a month now.

It has three settings which I have named
  1. Set Things On Fire
  2. Rather Dim, Actually
  3. Let's Induce Epilepsy!
Setting one is great for doing things at night, but beware of "light splash". Setting two doesn't have that problem by virtue of being substantially less bright, and setting 3 is basically a strobe version of setting one.

I compared this light's output to a flashlight of known power (my 420 lumen Kel-Tec CL-42)  and discovered the following:
  • The dim setting is actually brighter than 420 lm when zoomed in to spotlight mode, but not by a whole lot; when zoomed out, the 420 lm light was brighter. From this I infer that the "dim" setting is probably 500 lm. 
  • The bright setting is noticeably brighter than 420 lm in flood mode, and definitely brighter in spot mode. While I'm not sure if it's actually 1,000 lumen, it's demonstrably brighter than 500 lm and likely 750 lm at the least. 
  • The strobe mode has the same output as setting one. 

The Good
  • It is comfortable to wear, which is slightly surprising given the weight of the light in front and the bulk of batteries to the rear. 
  • The battery case has a red light in the back which illuminates when the light is turned on, making it easier for buddies to find/follow you in the dark. 
  • The light is adjustable from spot to flood and angles up and down to conveniently illuminate the ground in front of you at ranges from "where your feet are" to "twenty feet ahead". 
  • It comes with two 18650 lithium batteries. 
  • The battery case is also a battery charger and comes with three input devices: a wall outlet, a car port, and a USB cord. 
  • The price. $15 for a comfortable, bright headlamp is great. 

The Bad
  • The battery lifespan is pretty abysmal on "bright". After 2 hours of use, the light output quickly diminished; the bright setting was dim and the dim setting was practically nonexistent. 
  • It's very, very easy to dazzle yourself if you get too close to a white or reflective surface. Even adjusting the light with your hand can cause light splash if your hand intersects the beam. 
  • It's also very easy to shine the light in someone's eyes while talking to them. What is an annoyance with a regular flashlight is absolutely painful with a high-lumen beam. 
  • It might make for a good tactical light if not for the dual faults of being mounted to your head and requiring you to take a hand off your weapon to turn the light on and off. 

My Verdict
The battery life make it a no-go for bug-out bags, but the price and performance are excellent for bug-in preps, especially if you have additional 18650 lithium batteries charged and ready to go. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Banging the Pillow: .32 ACP


This week we continue our ballistic testing with one of my favorite pocket guns, the Kel-Tec P-32, and my favorite round for .32 ACP pocket guns, the Winchester white box 71gr flat point FMJ.

Next week I’ll cover the .22 Magnum out of everyone’s favorite pocket revolver!








Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another Swiss+Tech Pocket Tool

Since I reviewed one of the Swiss+Tech (ST) tools last week, I thought I'd keep going with a few more reviews of their products. When I find a brand of something that I like, I tend to explore their full line to see if the quality stays the same. That's one of the reasons I like Sawyer water filters and Nebo flashlights; quality is consistent throughout their line of products.

Back in late 2015, I added my Every Day Carry (EDC) list to the ones our other authors had done. One of the items on that list is another ST tool that I received as a gift which has been with me for about eight years now. That tool is the ST66676, a six-in-one multi-tool that looks vaguely like a key and attaches to a key ring. Mine is a bit dinged and pitted from the years of riding around in my pocket, so I'll use the picture from Amazon to illustrate.

The six tools available are:
  1. Straight screwdriver: Smaller than a #1, roughly 3/16 of an inch wide. It's the squared off piece at the top of the picture.
  2. Philips screwdriver: It appears to be a #2 pattern but without the depth. You can see it on the "left" leg.
  3. Bottle opener: Functional, but the arm isn't long enough for much leverage. Also on the left leg in the picture.
  4. Straight cutting blade: The front half of the "right" leg, about an inch of blade.
  5. Serrated cutting blade: The rear half of the "right", also about an inch long.
  6. Micro screwdriver for eyeglasses: Also serves as the locking tab for when the tool is closed. The protrusion on the curved piece at the top.
My thoughts, pro and con.
  • Like most of the ST tools, this one is designed to securely lock when closed around a key ring. The latching mechanism is stout and, when coupled with the small size of the tool makes, it a challenge to open. I doubt you'd be able to open this one-handed, and good fingernails are a major plus. There's just not much to grip when opening it.
  • I'm not sure which type of stainless they used, but it has held up to several years of abuse pretty well. Mine is showing some minor pitting from the sweat and chemicals it has been exposed to, but no rust. Like the multi-tool I reviewed last week, there is no plastic in this tool.
  • The Philips screwdriver is actually made of two pieces riveted together. This probably makes the manufacturing easier while providing a groove for the cutting blade to sit in when the tool is closed. With the short length of the arms, it would be hard to get enough leverage to damage the screwdriver, so I don't think this is a problem.
  • Being roughly the size and shape of a normal house key, this tool is light enough to carry on a key ring without adding too much weight. It isn't much thicker than an ordinary key, so it adds no bulk to a key ring.
  • Being shaped like a key, the tool should be able to get past the TSA but there are no guarantees. They keep changing the specifics, but generally don't allow any sharp blades in your carry-on.
  • The cutting blade is small (about 2 inches total) and is exposed when the tool is opened. Watch your fingers when using the screwdrivers, since a slip could slice open your fingers. The blades are sharp and take a good edge, so ST uses quality stainless steel.
  • When opened 90°, the latch locks the tool open to make it a bit safer to get some leverage. This is a nice safety feature, but I wouldn't bet my fingers on it. It will also latch when opened 180°, making the knife easier to use. Be careful when closing it; the latch is quite positive and fingers of one hand will be near the knife blade.
  • Priced around $10.00, this tool is cheap enough to have several attached to various gear. They also make good gifts for like-minded people.

As part of my EDC, this is my third-level blade -- a lock-back pocket knife and BSA pocket knife are my primary and secondary -- but it's comforting to have a backup to the backup. I rarely use it since I have other tools that work better, but it is an insurance policy against getting caught with nothing. It has come in very handy at times over the years and functions moderately well. It's not an everyday use tool, but I don't think it was designed to be one.

I have a few other ST tools on order, so I'll be reviewing them in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Safety Alerts

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

I had a wake-up call this week, and it was caused by a mechanical failure. Funny enough, it was a problem with a button.

Seriously, a button was pushed, shaking up a bunch of people.

OOPS! I Did It!
Sorry everyone, I was not in Hawaii causing havoc. I wasn't in Japan either, for that matter. No, I was at work, just getting started for the day when my phone rang. My phone doesn't ring often that early, since I start at 5 AM.
Phone: Ring, Ring!
Me: "Hello?"
Sis: "Hey, it's your sister, are you okay?"
Me: "What?"
Sis: "You sent us two emergency texts and a sound recording of footsteps and banging noises."
Me: "Uhhh, I don't know what to say. Everything is fine here, we are just setting up for the normal work day."
Sis: "Look at your phone, the whole thing should be there."
I looked over my phone, and it was all there in black pixels.

The only thing that might have caused this to happen is that my phone case pinched the phone and rapidly punched the power button to activate the emergency message function on this model. I wear my phone in a horizontal case on my belt, not in my back pocket, and the case is two years old and getting a little soft. Since I am left handed, the phone is carried on my right side and  facing screen-in, so the power button is pointed upward.

Now this is a bit funny since my sister has a habit of checking on me anyway, but it usually isn't when she is pouring her first cup of coffee, and this only happened because I went through the steps to actually set up the Emergency Alert function available on this phone.

Samsung is not the only company to have this type of program, so look through your instructions or Google your particular make and model. This is something my friends and family have done and is something everyone needs to do, especially their kids or those working odd hours and places.

To have something so simple to set up and use already in my phone, even with the possibility of a false alarm, made the decision to spend the two minutes setting it up a no-brainer,

The Takeaway
  • Personal safety can be as simple as pushing your phone's "ON" button and almost that simple to set up.
  • Pick a reliable contact and be prepared to be the recipient of a future call. 

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week. 

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, January 16, 2018

"If a Missile Alert Sounds, Prepare to Live "

Submitted by one of our readers:
It's interesting when the National Review, of all places, is giving some pretty sober, entry level prepping advice.
Please don't let the politics of the site keep you from reading what is a sensible article on what to do if the next missile alert (like the one that happened in Hawaii this past weekend) is real instead of an error.
You get alert on your phone that a missile is inbound. You flip on the television to confirm, and it’s repeating the same message. What do you do? Do you prepare to die, or do you prepare to live?
Prepare to live. As tempting as it may be, don’t spend the precious minutes between missile alert and missile impact texting family, sending tearful goodbyes on Snapchat, or attempting to reconcile old grudges. Don’t do it.
Go read the whole thing, both for the sensible advice and for the fact that a national publication is helping to normalize prepping.

However, the usual internet rule of "Don't read the comments" still applies.

Monday, January 15, 2018

USB Battery Comparison

Regardless of whether you're bugging out or just on a simple road trip, having a way to charge your electronics on the go can be a real life saver. Cell phones, tablets, even a Nintendo DS can all be charged with a USB cable, and so having a rugged, easy to maintain, easy to use power source that has a USB output plug has some serious advantages.

Solar panels are only good during the day; wall chargers are only good if you have regular power; but batteries work regardless, which is why I include them in my preps. I prefer a charger with a removable battery: 
  1. It tends to be less expensive than a dedicated battery/charger combo with the same features;
  2. You can carry extra batteries more easily;
  3. For whatever reason, the ones that I have come across are much more rugged than non-removable types. 
As such, I have three different portable USB battery packs that I have reviewed.

DeWalt
When I bought my DeWalt heated jacket, it came with a DeWalt USB adapter -- it actually functions as the connector between the heating system and the DeWalt 20 volt batteries that it uses.

http://amzn.to/2DB58nP

Features:
  • Dual USB out. I can charge two devices at once with this, and it kicks out plenty of juice while I do. Both my 7 inch tablet and my cell phone have been charging on this at once, and it works wonderfully.
  • Uses DeWalt 12 volt Max or 20 volt Max batteries, and I have a ton of them sitting around. It is not advertised for this, but it will also use the 60 volt system, which gives a massive well of power.
  • Has the largest batteries, and largest battery selection in terms of charge amounta, of any of the three options here. The largest battery I have that works with this (9 ah 60 volt) will fully charge an iPhone X roughly 36 times from zero. Want to charge the kids' tablets on a weekend campout? Not a problem.
  • Really, really rugged. My USB charger has survived two motorcycle accidents (both at about 15 mph), being dropped, run over, walked on, thrown at least once, loaned to a Marine, and had a half a dozen toddlers monkey with it while it was charging a tablet for them. I know that it has a warranty, but I have not had to use it, even after the toddlers and the Marine.
  • The least expensive adapter of the three, at around $30. If you already have the batteries, this is the cheapest option.
  • Battery charge indicator means that you have some idea of how much longer you can keep things charged
Drawbacks:
  • A little loose. You can’t run around with it in your pocket as easily as the other two. The USB cable itself stays in just fine; it's the connector on top of the battery that is the issue. If you have packed it in a backpack or similar to keep it from sliding around, or keep a bungee cord on it, it works fine, but I have had issues with slipping. I have never had an issue with it sitting on a table, though. 
  • This one is the only one of the three that will not charge the batteries it uses via USB, meaning that I can’t hook this up to a solar panel and recharge things in a pinch; instead I have to have a dedicated charger on hand for this. In a long-term SHTF situation, this is a real issue.
  • This is the physically largest charger. Not only are the batteries physically larger, the charger itself is larger, and that makes this the hardest to haul around. I still keep one in my work/school backpack, but it is much harder to keep in a pocket or small handbag.
  • The batteries are expensive. Having more capacity comes at a price, and the least expensive battery that would work with this I could find for this was around $40 in December 2017.
  • To use the charge indicator, you have to take the charger off of the battery and re-seat it. Kind of a hassle.
This one is best for...
Shorter term SHTF (natural disasters/in-law visits/scout camp), or just every day use. For long-term SHTF, it requires a dedicated charger that may or may not be available. If you have a generator of some sort, and don’t require on the go charging, you can get past that.

If you already have DeWalt 12//20/60 volt tools, this is a great little tool, and can save your bacon on a job site.


Milwaukee
I wish to point out that there is a Milwaukee USB charger that is similar to the DeWalt version above, but I don't have the compact batteries that it uses. I'm reviewing the one which takes regular Milwaukee batteries. 

http://amzn.to/2FHP1p8


Features:
  • Uses Milwaukee 12 volt batteries, a basic name brand rechargeable battery that is only $25 on Amazon. There are a number of available batteries that carry a lot more charge.
  • Good energy density for a moderate price and has enough charge for approximately 1.5 iPhone charges. 
  • Can be charged via USB. It actually comes with a wall charger, and works fine with my Goal Zero nomad 7 solar panel. 
  • It uses Micro USB power in, which is actually the same standard as most cell phones.
  • Since it can be used to charge Milwaukee 12 volt batteries, this can actually be used in a long-term SHTF situation to allow use of power tools.
  • Battery charge indicator with five LED indicators. It has a button on the top that you can press at any time, and it indicates how much charge is left.
  • Pocket sized. I tend to keep this in my pants or jacket pocket as I am walking around.
  • Tight fit, with the top of the battery going into the device. It actually only takes up a very small amount of space more than the batteries.
  • Fairly rugged. I have not tested it to the extent of the DeWalt battery, but it has survived several extended outings, use as an emergency hammer, being slept on, etc.
  • At least on paper, the most water resistant of the three options. I have never submerged mine, but I have gotten soaked with it in my pockets, with no harm to it or the battery.
Drawbacks:
  • The smallest selection of batteries out of the three.
  • The USB cable comes out at an awkward angle. I am constantly afraid that I will kink the cable, even though it hasn't happened yet. This is probably not that big a deal, since the way it is positioned (look at the picture) means that it is actually much less likely
  • This cannot be used as a pass-through charger. I actually cornered a Milwaukee rep and asked him about this, and he said that he doesn't know exactly what will happen, but it is a bad idea.
    • Less of a drawback, and more a note: I asked the same rep about what would happen if you plugged the charger into itself. The rep got an odd look on his face and said “Nothing good”.
  • Requires pressing a button to get things to charge. When you press the button, it shows the level of charge left, but it can be irritating to plug something in and forget to press the button to start the charge. That may only be me, but be aware that it can be an issue.
  • Small and round, so it goes to the bottom of whatever bag it is in, but large enough to not fit into a lot of my pockets. I end up having this float to the bottom of my bookbag much more than the other two.
This one is best for...
If you have a well rounded set of preps, I actually think this is the best all-around choice. It can be used to power tool batteries, which is insanely useful post SHTF. It takes up much less space than a normal Milwaukee 12 volt charger, even if it does take twice as long to recharge a battery.

I actually like this one for my EDC. I use it when I am at school, or on business trips, and it has yet to fail me. I have even tested it with a couple of different non-brand name batteries with no problems to date.

Overall, I recommend this one. It has the power density to be useful, and the best mix of other features.


Goal Zero (Guide 10 Plus)
http://amzn.to/2DCRgZW

Features:
  • Uses four AA or AAA batteries which are available everywhere and inexpensive. You probably have them sitting around in your home.
  • Can use either rechargeable batteries or disposable.
  • Designed for use with the Goal Zero solar panels to charge. I purchased mine with the Nomad 7, and it works quite well with them.
  • Fits in a fairly small space due to the flat design.
  • Has a clear cover, so you can see the batteries inside it.
  • Lowest weight of the three, due to the smaller mass of batteries.
  • Reasonably rugged.
  • Built-in flashlight.
  • Has an “On/Off/Flashlight” switch for the USB out.
  • Metal cable built into the top makes it convenient to hang from hooks. I keep a carabiner on mine and hook it onto my backpack when I am out.
  • Secondary DC power port, so that you can use the Goal Zero charging cables instead of Mini USB when charging from a solar panel. 
  • Charges just fine from a wall outlet with a USB adapter plugged in.
  • Has an “On/Off/Flashlight” switch for the USB out.
Drawbacks:
  • Holds, by far, the least charge of any of the three. Four AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium disposables only hold enough power for four of them to charge an iPhone X approximately 1.2 times from full discharge. While a lot better than nothing, this means that four AA rechargeable energizer batteries do not contain quite enough power for a single full charge.
  • Battery door flops open a lot. I have to use a rubber band on mine.
  • Mini USB in, not Micro USB in. Micro USB is the standard that most cell phones use, and having another type of cable to mess with is a real hassle at times. If you use this type of cable, you may not have an issue, but I have found it to be less and less used.
  • The least water resistant of the three. 
This one is best for…
Long-term SHTF or 72 hour kits. Either living in a FEMA camp or similar, with potential access to new AA/AAA batteries, or very long term, mobile situations that will involve scavenging most of your supplies.

I am also a fan of this one for use when traveling by air. You can pick up new batteries at the other end if you have to, with minimum hassle, and not worry as much about the TSA.


Overall
I like the Milwaukee 12 volt. I use it in my EDC, and if budget permitted, would pick up a second one for my BOB. That said, all of these are excellent devices that have served me well, and I expect to do so for years to come, and I would not hesitate to use any of these.

Don't lick the wires, and remember to practice.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ponchos and Rain Capes and Hats, Oh My!

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I live in Florida where, despite it being called the Sunshine State, it rains a lot. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, and when we aren't being battered by tropical storms or worse we have a tendency to get afternoon rain showers. We've even had a rainy January (with snow, of all things!), which is at odds with the current prediction for a La NiƱa-driven warm, dry winter season.

What I'm getting at here is that despite the fact I don't live in the Pacific Northwest, I know about rain and the importance of staying dry. I also know that there are times when you can't avoid going out into the rain, especially if you have dogs that need walking. The Venn Intersection of these two positions is "How best to stay dry in a variety of seasons."

Keep Your Feet Dry
There are few things more miserable than wet feet in wet shoes while you're walking. If you're in hot weather, that's a great way to get a fungal infection (I know from painful experience that they aren't fun at all), and if you're in cold weather that could result in sickness, hypothermia and even frostbite.

Both cases can be prevented by wearing waterproof boots. I am not a fan of galoshes, instead preferring to keep a pair of comfortable leather combat boots by the front door. They keep my feet warm and dry in a variety of environments, and the addition of wool socks should help in colder climates.

(I recommend against "jungle boots" unless you are spending a lot of time outside in warm, wet weather, as they aren't very good in the cold. A regular boot has a more universal application. However, if you need two pairs of boots, one for cold and one for hot, then by all means get them both.)

Keep Your Body Dry
There are many options for this, from raincoats to umbrellas. I am partial to the poncho for the following reasons:
  1. It covers more of my body than a rain jacket.
  2. It is faster and easier to put on than a rain suit. 
  3. It doesn't occupy a hand like an umbrella, nor is it as susceptible to wind.
  4. Unlike most waterproof coats it is unlined, meaning I don't have to worry about becoming overheated. Instead I layer, with the poncho as the waterproof outer shell and base insulating layers to keep warm. 
  5. A poncho can be turned into a shelter in an emergency. 
I have talked about the Swiss Rain Cape before, and it's a great low-cost option for preppers, but it isn't the best that I've used.

The very best poncho I have ever used is the Poncho Villa by Hazard 4. I bought this at the NRA 2016 convention and, while expensive, has been worth every penny I paid for it.

http://amzn.to/2CWkGo5
It is breathable. You may not understand how important this is until you're sweating underneath a piece of waterproof plastic and wondering if being cold and wet from the rain is preferable to being hot and wet from perspiration. The Poncho Villa (hereafter PV) is so comfortable that I have used it as a blanket while sleeping on a hospital couch.

It is waterproof. Even though the fabric allows my skin to breathe, it has kept me dry through two hurricane seasons.

It is adjustable. By this I mean that it has two snaps per side, allowing me to customize the amount of freedom you want for your arms. I can leave it unsnapped for maximum airflow or snap it up all the way for dryness. I prefer to fasten the lower but leave the upper snaps undone, as that allows me to more easily access my concealed pistol... and yes, I can rapidly drawn and aim from that condition.

It has velcro strips for reflectors.  There are velcro strips across the chest, the back, the back of the head, and the shoulders. If you are concerned about visibility at night (especially if you are wearing the black version), you can attach reflectors without worrying about compromising your poncho's waterproofing; if safety isn't a concern, you can attach unit or morale patches instead.

http://amzn.to/2CWkGo5
It has a pocket. There is a 12"x14" belly pocket that will hold hats, gloves, and other gear and which seals with velcro for a secure closure.

http://amzn.to/2CWkGo5
It is compressible, by which I mean it can fold into that pocket to become a pillow. The material is soft enough that it feels comfortable against my skin.


It has grommets at the corners like a mil-spec poncho, so you can turn it into a shelter with just some rope.

http://amzn.to/2CWkGo5

In the interest of fairness, I need to point out that there are two things I don't like about this poncho:
  1. It's not as long as most ponchos. I am 5'4" and it comes to just below my knees. This is not a terrible problem for me, because my combat boots come fairly high up my shin, but for people with longer legs this may be an issue. 
  2. I do not like the hood. I dislike hoods in general because they muffle my hearing, restrict my vision, and when I turn my head they don't turn with it so I end up being able to see out of only one eye. Which brings us to...
Keep Your Head Dry
Since I don't like hoods, the best way to keep my head dry is to use a waterproof hat. In warm weather, I use a wide-brimmed boonie hat that was been Scotchgarded to within an inch of its life; fFor cold weather, I have an insulated and waterproof hat with fold-down ear flaps (a balaclava is sometimes necessary if it's windy).


Stay dry = stay warm = stay healthy = stay alive.


Dear FCC: All items were bought with my own money. Go away. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Banging the Pillow: .380 ACP


First up: the AMT Backup DAO (the same gun as the negligent discharge mentioned here), comparing the penetration between a Winchester Super-X 85gr Silvertip JHP and a Winchester 95gr  flat nose FMJ.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Swiss+Tech 9-in-1

While digging through my truck bag/ GHB, I ran across a small nylon pouch that I didn't remember sticking in that side pocket. Once I opened it and saw what was in it, I had an “Oh, that's where that went” moment.

A friend gave me a little pocket multi-tool as a present a few years ago and after initial testing (playing with it), I found a pouch for it and stuck it in my GHB. I then forgot I had it and that I had put it there. I've tested it (played with it to see what it would do) some more since then, and thought it might fill a need for some of you.

The item in question is a Swiss+TechST50016 multi-tool. Like most of the Swiss+Tech (ST) tools, it is made of stainless steel and is designed to securely close around a key chain or D-ring to keep in close to hand. Once closed it requires folding both handles down to open, so it is very unlikely that this tool will ever accidentally come unhooked from your gear.

Here it is closed:


Once you pivot the handles down, the function becomes a bit more clear:


The 9 tools are:

  1. Pliers (small, but good teeth)
  2. #1 and...
  3. ... #2 Flat screwdrivers (inside one handle)
  4. #1...
  5. ... and #2 Philips screwdrivers (inside the other handle)
  6. Wire cutter (right below the plier joint)
  7. Wire connector crimper (below the cutter)
  8. Wire stripper (just below the cutter, use one notch of the crimper)
  9. Bottle opener (on the same handle as the Philips screwdrivers)
The individual screwdrivers are easy to see once they are folded out from the handles. I like the way they nested the smaller ones into the larger ones to save space.


Pros and Cons

Pro
  • Small and multi-functional.
  • A good mix of tools: the #1 Philips is what you need to open the battery compartment of many toys and electronics, and #2 Philips is the standard for drywall screws and most electrical box screws.
  • No cutting blade, so the TSA shouldn't steal it.
  • Sturdy. There's no plastic in this one, it's built to be used.
  • The handles each have three ridges to give you a bit more grip. This is nice for people like me who have large hands; it prevents slipping and gives some feedback on how much force you're applying.
  • The wire cutter and stripper work well for 12 and 14ga copper wire, the most common sizes you'll find in houses. I didn't want to dig out the heavier wire to test it, but I'd guess that 10ga solid wire is about as big as it will handle.
  • The screwdrivers can be used with the handles in a couple of different positions:
    • With the handles down (so the tool looks like a pair of pliers) and the screwdriver blade extended straight out, it gives you a bit more reach. 
    • Fold the blade 90° for a little more leverage, or turn the handles back to the storage position, to give you a better grip.
  • They're cheap. For less than $10, you can have something to throw in your desk drawer for minor furniture repairs or put it in a tackle box for fixing a messed-up fishing reel.

Con
  • Being made of stainless steel, it's heavy for its size and not something I would carry on a key chain in my pocket. With the cell phone, normal EDC knife and pistol, and keys/money/misc. I already carry, I don't need something else testing my belt's ability to keep my pants on me.
  • The handles pivot on a pair of pressed rivets. This is probably the weakest part of the tool, since the rivets have to absorb as much force as you apply to the handles. For light duty it shouldn't be an issue, but not a design for a tool you'd use every day.
  • The pliers are small. A quick test gave me a maximum comfortable bolt head/nut size of around 12mm or ½ inch. That's equal to about a 10mm or 5/16” diameter bolt, which is light-duty to me. The jaws open wider than that, but I prefer to have a bolt head or nut completely inside the plier jaws when I'm applying torque. My knuckles have seen enough abuse over the years to teach me a few things.
  • Mine had a small burr on one of the jaws, which made it hard to open or close until I took a small sharpening stone and buffed it away. Mass-produced tools often have minor imperfections like this, so I'm used to fine-tuning them.
  • The crimper does a mediocre job of crimping connectors on most common wire sizes. It did a fair job on 16ga, but the 20ga and 12ga wires didn't want to hold very well. 
  • The wire cutter is stainless steel, so use it for copper and aluminum wire. Steel wire will likely dull the cutter on the first try, unless it is very soft steel.
  • It's small, so you might forget you have it.

I have at least one other Swiss+Tech product (they're small and I misplace them) and I will be reviewing it soon. For the prices, I may have to pick up a few more to compare functions. Expect more product reviews in the near future.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Superior Food Storage Planning

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

My job has changed again, and I find myself traveling much, much less and working no more than 15 miles from home. Not only has this freed up more time during the afternoon, it has also potentially given me some extra money every month.

One thing lacking in my preps is food designed for long-term storage, and I plan on fixing that in 2018.

Finding Food
There have been several taste tests of 'Prepping Food' on this blog, most notably this one by Okie Rio and one by me with the assistance of two good friends. I have to say, my taste-off was a bit more successful then the items tested by my co-blogger! Since I have a very small sample size to work with (and a similarly sized budget), I do not plan to jump right in and purchase large amounts of unknown quality food. I need to find even more things I like, at an affordable, blue collar price.

What I'm Looking For
I know there is a wealth of knowledge and experience among our readers, so I expect to get advice and suggestions for my list.
  • Ingredients. Since I am looking at food to be used during an emergency, easily digested and nutritious food is important to me. While quality is key, I am not looking at only natural contents.
  • Special Diets. I have people with some slight dietary needs in my potential prepping group. Luckily there are no vegans or severely allergic members, so while those options are available, I don't have those worries.
  • Price. I do plan to buy multiple items to try to save some money by buying in bulk. I will also be looking to see exactly how large the servings-per-pack are, as another way to save money.
  • Storage and Life Expectancy. I really want to get the highest quality food as my budget allows, and I also want it to last as along as possible too. This might mean making a compromise between the two as I find out more about the available options.
The brands previously tested will be looked at carefully, minus the obvious non-starter, along with several brands advertised on sites linked to in the sidebar.

Wish me luck!

The Takeway
  • Budget is a prime consideration this year and doing things within my limits is key! Stretching my money and improving my preps is my first priority. 

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased the past week, but I am actively looking for suggestions on what to sample going forward.

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, January 9, 2018

Understanding the File System

I'm not talking about computer file systems; I mean the files that are hardened steel tools. Selecting the proper file can be daunting with the massive range of files available and tasks they can perform, but the process becomes much simpler with a bit of information.

At their most basic, files are tools made from very hard steel with an abrasive surface cut into them. They are used to shape material and clean up rough and burred surfaces. Files are classed by two basic criteria: shape and tooth coarseness.

Tooth Coarseness
There are three primary levels of file coarseness. In order of most to least coarse, these are bastard, second cut, and smooth. A coarser file removes material much more quickly, but leaves a rougher, less finished surface. A finer tooth cut is far slower-working, but produces a finish that is smooth to the touch and looks much more polished.

Shape
The shape of the material being worked determines the best shape of file for the task.
  • Mill and flat files are squared bars used for general stock removal on flat surfaces. They represent the first thing that comes to most folks' mind at the word "file." 
  • Triangle files have three cutting surfaces. They show their best features on inside corners or cleaning burred threads on bolts. 
  • Round or "rat tail" files look exactly like the tail of a rat, hence their name. Their shape makes them ideal for filing inside circular holes.
  • Half-round files are my personal favorite; if I can only have one file, I'll pick a half-round. One face is flat like a mill file, while the other face is arched to work in rounded areas, and the faces meet at a sharp point, allowing triangle-style function.
Other File-Like Things
Needle files are very small, very fine-cut files. They remove material slower than any of the other files mentioned, but they leave wonderfully polished surfaces. I keep a set around for working on small machined parts or fitting things like firearms.

Rasps look like files, but with teeth more akin to a cheese grater. They're used for rapid removal of very soft materials like wood, plastic, and chitin (horse hooves). They remove material much faster than a normal file, and resist getting clogged with removed debris.

Raspel Baiter.jpg
By Simon A. Eugster - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Using Files
File teeth are directional, meaning they only cut one way. They are designed to be pushed forward against the working surface. Pulling a file backward in a sawing motion will not remove any material, but can quickly dull your tool. Instead, push your file forward with even, moderate pressure. At the end of the stroke, lift the tool from the workpiece and reset it for the next stroke.


When selected and run properly, files will provide years of service, sometimes even a lifetime. Keep your axes sharp, your threads clean, and other metal projects deburred.

Lokidude

Monday, January 8, 2018

Urban Camping

The next time an earthquake hits your town, or a hurricane or wildfire hits, (or your mother in law visits -- I am in no position to judge on that one) you may find yourself without a home for a hopefully short period of time. Alternately, you may just find yourself between apartment housing contracts for two weeks.

Couch surfing may not be an option for various reasons, and you may not have the money for a hotel room or even for a traditional campground. For situations like this, I would suggest a potential option: urban camping.

What is Urban Camping?
Like the name suggests, urban camping is camping in the city or suburbs. It means a lot of different things to different people, but at the end of the day it usually comes down to a fancy way of being homeless for a bit.

Urban camping can be in a car, in a camper, or even in a tent, but I don’t really recommend that last one. The difficulty comes in three parts:
  1. Where are you allowed to camp? / What do you camp in?
  2. Dealing with the elements, including the human one. Make sure to obey the laws very carefully; being arrested for trespassing sucks.
  3. Standard camping issues (sanitation, food, hopefully not bears…)
I want to stress something: when you are urban camping, there is a very real risk of having problems with locals. I have never had an issue, and most of the people that I know who do this on a regular basis have not, but the fact is that you are in an urban environment and if you are not careful you may have problems with law enforcement, warranted or not. Stealth is your friend in this, as is the phrase “leave no trace”.

Short Version:
 Be careful and you should be fine, but urban camping carries risk.

What Do I Sleep In?
Cars
These are fairly innocuous, and finding a place to park that no one minds is much easier to find than a spot for a tent or a spot for an RV.

The biggest difficulty with sleeping in a car is being able to stretch out comfortably. Sedans are typically a little cramped, but even my ‘98 Honda Civic can fit my 300 lb, 5’11” frame in it fairly comfortably with some planning. (I am assuming that you have a compact car of some sort, since it is fairly easy to stretch out in a minivan, SUV, or station wagon.)
  • If you can, fold down the back seat of your car, and remove the passenger side front seat. This will give you an area to put down some sort of base for the bed, such as boxes covered by a cut sheet of plywood, or even heavy cardboard, in order to level them out. Put a sleeping bag on top of it, and you have a level, dry place to sleep.
  • If you cannot remove the seat, scoot the passenger side seat as far forward as possible. Once you have done that, lean the passenger side seat as far back as you can. Put a pillow on the seat where it meets the back; that does a remarkable job of leveling it out.

Trailers
A camping trailer is awesome, but finding a place to park it and sleep in it is difficult to say the least. Finding someone who will let you  park it on their property is difficult, but not impossible.

If you can find a place to put a camping trailer or RV, you will still have all of the issues you would normally with camping, but it is a much nicer way to camp than the other options. 

Tents
A tent tends to draw a lot of attention, especially from law enforcement, and is an easy victim to vandalism. It has the advantage of allowing you to sleep stretched out, but with the preparation outlined above, you should be able to do that in another vehicle. 

If you have no other option than a tent, I recommend either a backpacking type tent (which can be packed into a small space) or a folding pop-up tent (so that you can get out of there quickly if you run into problems).

http://amzn.to/2CGMRE4
I use this pop-up tent from Zaltana. I have used it October and February in the Spokane Washington area (business conferences with all of the local hotels booked) with just my sleeping bag for insulation, and was fine. It takes me 20-30 seconds (yes, seconds) to set up, and if I decide to stake it down it takes me 2-3 minutes longer. It takes me about 30-60 seconds to put away, once my gear is out of it.




Where Can I Sleep?
First, remember to respect the laws. There are a plethora of online resources on how and where it is legal to park/sleep over night, and I could not even begin to cover every municipality in the USA, let alone other countries. Web searches are your friend.

A rule of thumb that I use is to make sure I don't make a nuisance of myself. If no one knows that you are there, they don’t hassle you. I also recommend finding somewhere out of view of the street if you can, with an easy way to leave if problems arise.


Residential areas tend to have people more willing to call police on odd looking cars, so you are taking chances with those. If you can find a secluded spot, and switch where you sleep, you may have no problems.

Parking Lots
If you are in the parking lot of a business, they are much more likely to be okay with it if you purchase something from them and if you move where you sleep at least every other night. On the occasion that I had to sleep somewhere behind a store, I have made sure to clean up after myself meticulously, and to clean up any trash etc. in the area as well. Employees are much more likely to look the other way if you are not a pest.

Walmart is almost perfect for travelers and people who are urban camping because they have food, camping supplies, and toilets. A lot of Walmarts in the midwest actually have RV parking, and don’t mind people who stay two or three nights in a row in their parking lot.

Truck Stops
I am a big fan of truck stops. They can be a little noisy, but they are right next to major roads, are open 24/7, and have rentable showers. In addition to that, a lot of them expect to have travelers occasionally sleep in their parking lots.

However, I do understand that it can stretch the definition of “Urban” to do this, and it is not always a convenient -- for example, if you have to get to a job site, the commute time can be a bit much.

On Foot/On a Bicycle
If you don't have a car, or have to travel lighter, I recommend finding somewhere on the tail end of a bus route. Heavily trafficked areas tend to be more traveled by law enforcement and by people who are permanently homeless, which can lead to friction that you will probably want to avoid. Finding somewhere at the tail end of a bus route will still get you close to public transport, and if you select carefully, can still allow access to toilets/food for purchase at odd hours.

None of These
If you have none of these as an option, find a spot away from the road a bit. Foot traffic will lead people to you, and you want to avoid that as well. Somewhere a bit darker and a bit out of the way is generally a good idea, as is being willing to move come morning. I strongly recommend somewhere with easy access to a toilet, since public urination is frowned on and can cause problems with law enforcement.

What Do I Need to Have?
I strongly recommend a tarp with some rope at the very least. Even if all you do is wrap up your stuff, it is nice to have a waterproof package, and a tarp can act as an impromptu pup tent, ground cover, bag, and light blocker. Cheaper tarps will let more light through, and are more likely to rip, but a serviceable tarp for this should not cost more than $20, and you can sometimes find them on sale in the $2-5 range.

I also recommend a sleeping bag. I like a canvas bag because if I get strange things on it I can wash and dry it fairly easily, but as long as it is warm, it works. If you can’t get a sleeping bag, a good wool blanket is actually very nice. A blanket and a bag are nice together, if budget allows. Be aware that having just a blanket can be to your advantage if you may need to get out quickly, due to problems with locals, since a blanket takes less time to disentangle yourself from than a sleeping bag.

If you are camping out of a car, I recommend a couple of sturdy cardboard boxes that have been folded to help even out the sleeping arrangements. They look fairly innocuous if they are in the back seat of the car, and can be set up quickly.

I also recommend a good pair of sleeping earplugs (if you feel comfortable blocking out some sound in your environment) and a sleeping mask. Urban camping tends to involve being around a lot more light pollution.

Also, several pairs of good socks. Sanitation is much easier if you have clean socks. Underwear dries more easily than socks do if you have to wear it while it dries.

General Tips
Avoid making a lot of light or noise. Besides being potentially attention getting, it can be just straight up rude to any potential “neighbors” you have.

A small cooler can save you a LOT on food costs. You might get tired of lunchmeat sandwiches, but it will do the job.

A national parks pass can save you a lot of hassle. If you have something nearby, it may be worth it to spend the $80 (at time of this writing) and just camp in one of those. That may not be possible, depending on time of year, but it is sure a heck of a lot cheaper than a normal campground or a hotel.


Be safe. Be aware of your environment. And good luck.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Too Much On My Belt

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
That title should actually be "I have too much stuff on my gun belt and that makes it difficult for me to conceal everything, and I can't find good alternate places to put that stuff, and I have trouble paring stuff down," but that would have been excessively wordy.

This is something I call Batman Syndrome and it ties into an article I wrote years ago about how there's a slippery slope between being a prepper and being a hoarder. If you have full-scale Batman Syndrome, your every day carry preps resemble Batman's utility belt, or a police officer's duty belt, or soldier's assault pack. 

To be clear, the problem isn't just having all that stuff with you; it's allowing that stuff to interfere with your life. As an example, if you regularly carry a backpack full of preps, but there's no room for anything else in it and you end up carrying your books (or whatever should be in that backpack) in your arms, you're defeating the purpose of having a backpack in the first place. In my case, I'm trying to avoid becoming the person who carries so much stuff that it's obvious she's carrying, which therefore negates the whole "concealed" aspect.

So why am I sharing this? Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I typically have at least five different things going on in my brain at one time. Usually some of these things are fun, like "I can't wait for the next Marvel movie," or are easily solved in the short term, like "What will I have for dinner?"

However, sometimes my mind grabs onto something which is neither fun nor easily solvable. These are either questions about prepping or worries about my future, and I end up ruminating on those problems until I either solve them or get distracted by something. A problem occurs when the distraction ends up being another worry or question -- I get locked into a pattern where I can't concentrate on anything because most of my brain power is locked into trying to fix various concerns while solving nothing, like a dog chasing its tail. 

In an attempt to break this pattern, I've decided to share with you one of the things which are bothering me. I don't really expect solutions; I'm just hoping that talking them out will clear my head.

Here's what I have on my Every Day Carry gun belt*:
  • Glock 26 pistol. It's not a gun belt if it doesn't have a gun on it, so this isn't coming off. 
  • 2x 17 round magazines. These aren't coming off either, because they counterbalance the weight of the Glock and keep me from feeling lopsided. Plus, I like carrying 50 rounds. (2 x 17 = 34, plus 15 round magazine in pistol = 49, plus one in the chamber = 50.)
  • Tactical flashlight. I have a CL-42 which, while at 420 lumens is not the brightest flashlight out there, has the virtues of being small, lightweight, and free (it was given to me at the Kel-Tec booth a few NRA conventions ago). It's bright enough to do what I need it to do and takes up so little space and weight that it's practically negligible. I see no need to remove or replace it. 
  • Tourniquet. No matter which model you carry (CAT or SOFTT-W) or how you carry it (horizontally or vertically), tourniquets are bulky and there's no way to get around that. Still, if I'm going to carry a gun to protect my life or the lives of loved ones, I'm going to carry a TQ for the same reason. This one isn't coming off, either, but I have yet to find an ideal solution. 
    • For those curious, I've found the SOFFT-W works better on the Phlster Flatpack, while the CAT works better in the Kley-Zion.
  • Ka-Bar TDI, Large. I carry the large version because if I ever need a knife on my belt (as opposed to in my pocket or in a bag), then I'm probably fighting for my life and in that situation I want the largest knife possible in order to maximize damage and distance. The problem with this, though, is that the handle is likewise large and it's easily seen through my clothing. I can be convinced to take this off, but I won't like it. 
    • I've tried carrying this unconcealed, but the shape of the handle has lead more than one person to assume it's a pistol. Given that I can't openly carry a handgun in my state unless under certain specific conditions, I feel this invites more trouble than it's worth. 
    • I also own the smaller version, but it has its own issues, most notable of which is that the clip on its sheath doesn't work well with my belt and I've yet to find another sheath or carry solution which works any better. 
  • Sabre Pepper Gel. This is probably the one item I could most easily be talked out of carrying, because pepper sprays have limited utility. I still like having it, though, because it gives me options that aren't lethal.
  • Wound Treatment Kit. I received this as a Christmas Present from Lucky Gunner (alongside another SOFTT-W and Phlster), and I'd really like to carry it because it has means of treating a serious wound in a manner which complement the tourniquet. The problem is that it, and the pouch that it's in, is five inches long, four inches high and two inches thick. It doesn't fit comfortably anywhere on my belt; it's more of a cargo pocket or purse kind of carry. Unfortunately, I don't wear many clothes with cargo pockets and I don't carry a purse everywhere (such as when I'm walking the dog). 
    • There's also the fact that by this point, I've used up all the space from 9:00 to 3:00 on my belt, and anything else which is added makes sitting in car seats and at restaurant tables uncomfortable.


The final bit of irony about all this is that if I could just carry openly, I wouldn't be worrying about this. Again, the problem isn't carrying all this stuff; it's concealing all this stuff. 

Alas, Florida isn't likely to get open carry, even for permit holders, for the foreseeable future. 



* Not to be confused with my Special Occasion Gun Belt, which involves a  .380 Colt Mustang and a single spare magazine. This is for when I'm going to a nice place or a social event where I don't want to be carrying a lot of gear, but I still want to be armed. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Little Pillow Talk about Safety and Penetration


Happy New Year!

This video is the first in a series where I demonstrate the penetrative value of various handgun calibers versus my neighbor's pillow (previously killed here).






Thursday, January 4, 2018

Staying Safe and Warm in Winter

It's winter, and around here we've been breaking low-temperature records for at least a week. There's frost and snow in the Carolinas, the East Coast is gearing up for a blizzard, and there's even a snow forecast for Florida,

Staying warm is nice, but staying warm and safe at the same time should be your goal.
  • Every winter we hear of house fires started because of a “faulty” space heater.
  • Ice storms and blizzards tend to bring down power lines, causing people to use makeshift sources of heat, often without any forethought.
  • Candles being used for light during a power outage and kitchen stoves being used to warm a house when the furnace dies (gas stoves can usually be lit with a match if the electricity is out, but don't try the oven) are two other common causes of winter house fires. 
  • At least once a winter, the national news will cover the death of a family asphyxiated by carbon monoxide (CO) from a charcoal grill used as a source of heat inside a house. 

Safety is one reason to prep, so how do we stay safe in winter?

Christmas Decorations
  • Christmas is over, so everyone who used a real tree should get the dried up, dead, highly flammable tree out of the house by mid January at the latest. If not, keep watering it daily to reduce the drying.
  • Unplug Christmas tree lights when nobody is around to watch the tree, even if you use an artificial tree. Fire retardant doesn't mean fireproof, and those presents wrapped in thin paper will catch any sparks that may fall from a bad string of lights.
  • Check your strings of lights every year. Any cracking or fraying of wires means that string goes into the recycle bin or trash. Strings of lights are cheap; cleaning up after even a small fire isn't.
  • I've seen “retro” tree displays using real candles for lights. Unless you have a sprinkler system or other fire-suppression system installed in your house, this is a bad idea. It may look cool, but it's a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Watch the holiday plants. Poinsettias aren't as poisonous as once thought, but holly berries are toxic.
  • American mistletoe isn't poisonous, but its European cousin is. Pets and small children are the usual victims, since they'll eat anything they're not supposed to.

Emergency Heat
  • Keep flammables away from any source of emergency heat. Clothes, curtains, blankets, and paper should be kept at least three feet away from any heater.
  • If you have a wood stove or fireplace for back-up heat, treat it like any other prep you have by practicing its use before you need it. You're not going to reach for a book on first aid while someone is bleeding, so why would you try to run a wood-burner without practice? I covered wood heat 2 ½ years ago in two articles, and the basics haven't changed since then. 
  • Do not use any form of cooking grill inside an occupied building. Charcoal and propane can both produce dangerous levels of CO very quickly. Odorless and invisible, CO kills by blocking your blood's ability to transport oxygen. Even with a good furnace, CO alarms are cheap insurance and I highly recommend putting one next to each of your smoke alarms.
  • If you plan on using electric space heaters to warm a small area (keeping your feet warm under a desk, under a sink to keep water pipes from freezing, etc.), make sure you have a newer heater equipped with a tip-over switch. Usually a button on the bottom, the tip switch kills the power if the heater falls over.
  • Electric heaters draw a lot of power, so most of them will come with a warning against using extension cords with the heater. Common household extension cords are rated for about 5 amps, while most heaters will draw 10 amps or more. Pushing that much amperage through a too-small wire makes it get hot, creating another fire hazard.

Emergency Lighting
  • We've covered a lot of different forms of lighting on this blog. Use the search box in the upper right-hand corner and you'll find reviews and thoughts on flashlights, lanterns, and other forms of light.
  • Candles and kerosene lamps are common forms of emergency light, and they both generate a bit of heat. I covered lanterns in my “liquid-fueled light” series a few years ago.
  • Any time you are using flame as a source of light, you need to keep children, pets, and stupid people away from them. Kids playing with candles cause a couple of fires every year around here (rural towns in a county with a population less than 6,000).
  • Never go to sleep with a candle burning. The Army used to have a duty known as “fire watch” back when we lived in wooden barracks that were built before running water was common inside a house. Someone had to stay awake all night just to watch for fires that could take out an entire building in a matter of minutes. Not a bad idea if you're using open fire as a source of light or heat.
  • If you're using a battery-powered light for back-up, make sure you have plenty of spare batteries. I tend to buy AA and AAA batteries in bulk packs of 30 or more to save money, and the plastic boxes they come in keep them from being scattered in the junk drawer.

Prepping for winter is just another item on the list where I live, but I know some of you don't normally get temperatures below freezing and the rare winters when you do can be a bit of a shock. Stay safe when you prep for the out-of-the-ordinary weather.

The Fine Print


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

Creative Commons License


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