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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prudent Prepping: the Winbag

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

I've had to open a car without the proper keys on occasion. That hasn't been a problem since I had the dealer make me extra copies, but it may be something I have to do in the future. The Winbag Inflatable Shim will help me do that without scratching paint or damaging door seals. Using it this way isn't exactly the manufacturer's  specified use, but it's close enough to the tool that tow companies use to get into cars for my purposes.
The Winbag is designed to lift cabinets, counters, windows and other items that will not need to be permanently shimmed after installation. This short video shows its intended use, but this short video shows my intended use! These are (as far as I can tell) identical items, with the same shape, size and inflation device. I have never seen the locksmith's model in real life, but I'm convinced of this from the pictures.

As the car video shows, the door needs to be wedged open a small amount to insert the bag and then the inflation bulb is squeezed like a blood pressure cuff.

From the Winbag website:
  • 300 LBS / 135 KILO force at your fingertips 
  • Gentle on surfaces leaving no scratches behind 
  • WINBAG® goes where we can’t! Tight spots and narrow locations 
  • As a “soft shim” against delicate surfaces

I didn't realize that an inflatable shim could be used to open a car door* until saw the Winbag on display in Home Depot. I don't own any lock picks or car entry tools, so after shimming (bagging?) a gap between the car door and frame, I plan on using a coat hanger or similar piece of wire.

(Sorry, I didn't try it out on my car, nor did any of my friends volunteer theirs!)

I have friends who are carpenters and cabinet guys who have used these as intended, and they have no complaints about the Winbag other other than every one of them wishing it was a little bit bigger in both  width and height.

*This post is in no manner an endorsement of breaking into cars!

The Takeaway
  • As usual for me, dual use items are staring me in the face. I just need to open my eyes and see them!

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, August 14, 2018

Making Winter Coats

Why am I talking about a winter coat in the summer? Because...

"Say what?"

If you've read our blog for any length of time, you know we're all geeks here.  It was only a matter of time before a Game of Thrones reference was made. But it's also relevant to this article because if you want to make a coat for winter you'd best start working on it now. 

I was initially going to show you how to crochet or knit a coat, but that would have made this post super-long. After the success of my apron post, I realized I don't have to break this down to such a level; there are a lot of resources out there that show how to make coats and can explain it far better than I can.

The Capote
A good example of a multi-purpose that is easy to make is the Capote (pronounced capo -- it's French), or blanket coat, of the North American frontier. These coats kept you warm but weren't fancy at all -- not unless you were fortunate enough to have a significant other who was a fair hand at embroidery or bead work.

The blanket coat is just that, a coat made out of a blanket, and I'm fairly certain quite a few people can immediately see the advantages to this:

  • Your blanket is already right there, cutting down on the amount you have to carry otherwise.
  • In summertime, it's your bed. 
  • Remember way back when I published my first security articles? I made mention of the wardrobe changes you should consider for SHTF (for reasons such as "being less of a target"). Coats like this hide your chest and hips really well. 
  • You can use a specific color pattern to identify yourselves, either individually or as a group, to each other when out and about in camp or in town. 
If you like how the capote looks, you can check The Matoska Trading Company.  They have several capote patterns based on the various geographical regions.  (Yes, there were differences in capote designs from area to area, but that's a historical subject and beyond the scope of this post.) There are also several capote patterns on Amazon.

Alternately, you can try your hand at making your own using these patterns I found on Pinterest:

Other Types of Coats
Back in the Middle Ages, the word "coat" referred to armor like chainmail. Outerwear was more like the cloaks and capes that many of us today think of as some kind of fantasy costume. What we would consider a modern coat didn't become the norm until roughly the mid-1800s.  Frequently used interchangeably with the word jacket by American English speakers, there's a huge catalog of the different types of both.

If you're going to make your own coat, there are things you must consider just as if you were buying one instead.
  1. What's the activity I'm going to doing the most while wearing the coat? 
    This helps you decide on the material composition. For example, if you're going to be outside working with animals, it's going to need to be sturdy and not stain easily.
  2. What is the most common kind of weather that I may be wearing this in? This determines how thick, water resistant, or breathable you'll need it to be, and helps you determine the materials. 
  3. How much bending am I going to be doing? Do you need it to be fitted or can it a loose coat?
  4. Can I find what I need already made? Probably, but you have to decide your financial and time budget first.
Once you've gotten that figured out, it's time to hit the web!

  1. If you can sew, check with your local fabric shops first and go through the outerwear patterns they have available. Start in mid-summer as well, so that you aren't fighting against the deadline of cold weather.
  2. If you're making for kids, size it up a size or two, especially if they're in that 8-12 year range. Growth spurts are bad enough, and being cold during them is no fun.
  3. Trawl YouTube for instructional videos. Making coats can be hard, so learn as many tips and tricks as you can!
  4. If you commission someone else to make it, DON'T SHORT THEM ON PAYMENT. Coats take time and patience.
Once you decide on your coat, save those patterns. If they work, you'll want to make more of them. If they don't, take note of what did work and why, and then what didn't work and why -- the material, the construction, the cut, everything -- so you learn from the experience. 

Winter is coming. Stay warm!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Product Review: Field Expedient e-Readers

You have your fishing rod and you've caught a fish. You remember how to build a fire. You even have some spices on hand. Now how do you actually prepare it for dinner?

This is why an e-reader with an emergency and survival library belongs in your preps.

When deciding that an e-reader should be in my Bug Out Bag, I decided it needed three features, in this order:
  1. It had to be durable. I expect to take this to who knows where, and I expect that it will be difficult to impossible to replace or repair it during an emergency. Survival in rough conditions is an absolute must.
  2. It had to be easy to charge. Having to keep a proprietary charger on hand that requires a wall outlet does me no good if I don’t have a wall outlet on hand.
  3. It had to be cheap. I cannot afford a lot of device for something that will sit around most of the time doing nothing.
To that end, I decided to test two devices that I had sitting around. The first was a Nintendo 3DS XL (a portable gaming device) that I occasionally use. I had already put a 16 gig SD card into it; to turn it into an e-reader, I installed Calibre (a free third-party program) to mange and convert my various e-books into formats that can be read on any device.

The other item I decided to try was an old prepaid Huawei Union smartphone that I bought when I was trying out FreedomPop. I gave it a 16 Gig microSD card and purchased a cheap ($6) Otterbox-style case for it.

Nintendo 3DS XL

  • Very much the most durable of the two. As much as the smartphone held up just fine in testing, the handheld game console is designed to be used by small boys, and therefore survive all the abuse that entails. I know people who have regularly dropped the handheld consoles from tall heights, have run them through the washing machine (and dryer) multiple times, left one in a stream overnight, accidentally run them over with cars on and so on, all without actually making the device unusable. 
  • Actually has a nicer screen setup for reading. I find myself turning it sideways and using the direction pads as a page turner. This was a big difference when I was reading for long periods of time for leisure.
  • Plays MP3s natively. Just put them on the SD card. 
  • Still a gaming device. The library of game software available for this means that it is an excellent method to distract teenagers (or yourself).
  • Not a bad battery life, and would probably be notably better if I had a new battery. I found it lasted 1- 2 days of use between charges.

  • The charging cable is proprietary. Even thought it looks like a USB to microUSB cable, it's not; the end that plugs into the device is just slightly larger than microUSB. This means that you can't use standard cables to recharge it, so if yours breaks or is lost you have no way to charge the device.
  • They are expensive to purchase, even used. This is partly due to the durability of the unit increasing its resale price.
  • It does not have Bluetooth.
  • You have to sideload everything. In this case, you have to take out the SD card and plug it into the computer. Not a big deal overall, but still inconvenient.

I would say that this is an excellent option if you already have one on hand and  you don’t mind sticking one into your Bug Out Bag. If you have a teenager or small child, this is an ideal device to hand to them.

Huawei Union (Freedompop)

  • Uses a standard cell phone charging cable. I did not have to purchase a new cable or wall adapter, and the one that came with it is cross compatible with my other devices.
  • The battery life is excellent due to its small screen size and the fact that I am not using it for anything that requires a lot of wireless communication (no data, no phone calls). It goes 3-5 days between charges even as I listen to audiobooks all day.
  • Small form factor. Once again, the smaller screen size came in useful when I decided to try putting it into small pockets in my gear. 
  • Can run most android apps.
  • In a pinch, you can set it up as a phone. Even phone without carriers are able to call 911 (this is required by law) so it's still useful for calling for emergency help. 

  • Smaller screen. Not as nice to read on as the 3DS. 
  • More likely to attract attention. A game system is generally not seen as a luxury item whereas smartphones are, possibly because portable game systems have been around since the 1990s whereas smartphones are only a decade old. 
  • Needs a screen protector. The 3DS folds up to protect its screen when not in use, but the Union does not. Online reviews agree that without a screen protector, there is a very real chance of it getting cracked.

The Huawei Union has been just fine for durability for its price point, but online reviews say that it has the weaknesses of all cell phones: the screen will crack, it responds poorly to being submerged in water and so on. To be fair, it seems to be quite rugged for a cell phone (especially with the cheap case I put on it), but it does seem to come in second to the 3DS XL.

A comparable (and slightly nicer) cell phone by Tracfone is available on Amazon for $35. A screen protector and a case cost a combined $15 USD, giving you a usable device for $50. A 32gb SD card costs around $12 at time of this writing and will hold a huge number of books in text, and a fair amount of audio.

However things go, having a library on hand can be useful, even if that use is fighting boredom.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Some Frugal Friday Firearm Projects

Two cheap firearms bought at auction plus a little sweat equals a very nice investment.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grain Storage

If part of your post-TEOTWAWKI plans include growing your own food, you're going to have to store some for use in the months after harvest. Canning fruits and vegetables is a good plan for storing sources of vitamins and minerals, but the common sources of calories are starches in the form of corn, wheat, oats, and other “cereal” grains. Proper storage of these grains will ensure that you have edible, nutritious food to eat while you're waiting for the next crop to grow. Here's a quick general list of how to store grain.

  • Clean any containers thoroughly to remove any remains of the previous contents. Putting new grain on top of old grain is a good way to speed up the spoilage of the new grain.
  • If you're using containers that held something previously (5 gallon buckets, glass jars, etc), make sure the containers are clean and odor-free. You don't want your oatmeal to taste like pickles, do you?
  • Make sure you get all of the bugs out. Insects will eat the parts of the grain that you're wanting, so make sure there are none present at the start.
  • Clean up spills. Mice, rats, insects and other pests will be attracted to spilled grain and will try to get to the stored grain. Rodent droppings are just full of diseases that you don't want to get. (Hantavirus, anyone?)

Good Condition
  • Store the best quality grain you have, and eat or feed to your animals anything that isn't going to store very long.
  • Sift out the fines (broken pieces) as best you can to prevent spoilage from spreading. Broken or ground grain has the more volatile portions exposed to the air, so they spoil faster.
  • Don't move the grain any more than you have to once it's in storage. Every time you move grain through an auger or conveyor, you break some of it. Even shifting bags around will damage the grain closest to the cloth.

  • This one varies slightly by type of grain, but if you can get the temperature down below 50°F, insects will go dormant and molds will not grow. Keeping intact grain (not ground into flour) below freezing is not needed unless you are doing so to prepare it for spring/summer temperatures. 
  • As I write this, it's August and I'm emptying a large (90' diameter) bin of corn at work. The grain is coming out at 55°F despite daily temps in the 90s for the last two months. We blow cold air through the grain during January to get it as cold as possible so it will stay cool until we need to ship it.

  • Moisture is important, but hard to test without equipment. Corn stores best at less than 15% moisture, soy beans at around 11%, wheat at 14% , and oil seeds like sunflower and canola below 8%.I'll do some research on low-tech moisture testing methods and write an update.
  • Moisture is the key to preventing molds and fungi from growing. Moldy grain can kill you due to the wastes produced by the mold (aflatoxin, ochratoxin) so this is something you want to watch for.
  • Keeping the moisture below 14% will keep most insects from breeding and will stop mold growth.
  • Getting the grain dry before storage is often a challenge. Leaving it in the field to dry naturally works unless you have a rainy year, and that also leaves it exposed to damage or loss from weather and pests. Using a solar food dehydrator would work for small batches, but larger quantities will require a forced-air dryer of some sort.

  • Once you've got your grain dry and cool, it's all set, right? Wrong! You have to check it periodically to make sure it is still in good shape. 
  • In larger containers, you'll want to watch for condensation on the inside if the grain is colder than the ambient dew point and there is air flowing through the grain. Air-tight storage is best, but hard to accomplish with large quantities of grain.
  • If you have rodent traps or poison set out, you'll need to check them frequently. Keep the dead animals from contaminating your grain by disposing of them as soon as possible. Keep the poison bait stations full until you stop seeing activity, then check them once in a while to see if any new rodents have moved into your area.

Storing grain isn't hard, nor is it rocket science. We've been growing and storing grains for about 20,000 years, so it's not an impossible or even difficult job as long as you know what to look out for.

These guidelines for storing food grains also works for storing seeds for planting the next year, so as long as you avoid the hybrid grains you can use some of your stored grain to grow the next batch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Prudent Prepping: The Tape Of Holding

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

I really like the idea of Duct Tape in my GHB and I've carried some in my salesman gear for years. What I didn't like much was when the tape would get hot, and the adhesive would soften and stick to everything close by. With the tape in a thick plastic package, I don't have to worry what is going to be oozed next!

Redi Tape Pocket Size Duct Tape
From the Redi Tape web page:
Product Features
  • High Quality Duct Tape: strong, durable, easy to tear, weather resistant 
  • Multi-Purpose for all applications: home, outdoors, auto, on the job, readiness 
  • Stores EVERYWHERE: toolbox, glove box, tackle box, backpack, pocket, purse…EVERYWHERE 
  • Easy to Use, Store, and Handle 
  • Water tight package 
Product Specifications 
  • Tape Dimensions: 5yds x 1.88" 
  • Product Dimension: 4.5" tall x 2.0" wide x only 0.55" thick

    I've tried many different ways to keep my stored tape clean: placed it in plastic bags, covered it in aluminum foil, etc and each one has failed to allow the roll to come out clean when I needed to use some tape. I have a full size roll in my trunk, but I think that 15' in my sling bag and my GHB is plenty.

    Home Depot has this on Closeout in my local stores, so you may want to stop in and pick up a bargain.

    What's your craziest Duct Tape story? 
    Here's mine: At one time I was flying regularly and a friend suggested I start carrying duct tape as an 'emergency restraint device' for in-flight situations.  There was one time when he thought the tape might be used to control a drunk, but the crew convinced the idiot to settle down.

    The Takeaway
    • Duct tape is useful for repairs, first aid, and other uses 
    • Rolls of tape are thick, and even folded sections ooze when hot 
    • 15' of tape in a bag is ideal for BOBs and GHBs

    The Recap
    • Two rolls of Redi Tape: $2.19 each from Home Depot at Closeout pricing 
    • Available from Amazon in a 3 pack: $ 11.00 with Prime

    Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

    Tuesday, August 7, 2018

    Tools in my GHB

    & is used with permission.
    I'm going to preface this post with an admission: I overpack. Anyone who has seen my luggage knows this. Part of what drove me to be a prepper is my hatred of not having a thing when I need it, and so I somewhat compulsively over-estimate my needs when packing because, as has been drilled into me by my parents, It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

    So yes, what I consider a Get Home Bag other people would probably call a Bug Out Bag, and my BOB is more likely an I'm Not Coming Home (INCH) bag, aka I'm a homeless refugee and now I must live in a camp in the woods.

    That said, I have a question for the rest of you: Am I weird for carrying tools in my GHB? Or do other people do it, too?

    I know that space is at a premium in GHBs and weight is a major concern, but I can't keep myself from adding these -- I feel un-prepared otherwise. And they only add about 3 pounds total to my bag.

    I live in a semi-rural part of the county (think "suburban neighborhoods in a sea of undeveloped woods") and so my GHB needs to be optimized for both city and country use in case I need to walk home.

    Top to bottom, left to right:
    • Folding bush saw in case I need to make a shelter, build a fire, or otherwise carve wood. 
    • Craftsman clench wrench in case I need to unscrew a nut, like from a car. I realize it's not the best tool for the job, but it's a fair jack-of-all-trades tool and it's lightweight. 
    • Mini claw hammer that I bought at the grocery store. I don't expect to do a lot of hammering nails; this is more of a "in case I need to break or bash something with a blunt object."
    • Compact screwdriver set that has multiple bits:  Phillips heads 1-3; Torx heads 10, 15, 20 and 25; and flathead screwdriver heads 4, 5 and 6mm. Again, not the best tool, but certainly a multi-use and lightweight one. 
    • Mini pry bar. There are many uses for this that aren't nefarious. If you've ever needed to open a crate or a paint can, you know how useful one of these is. 
    • Hawke Peregrine knife for all my multiple fixed-knife needs. Plus I can lash it to a branch and make an improvised spear if I need to. 
    • Multi-Use Survival Tool (MUST) and MUST Angle. The angle is the bit on the left, the MUST is the hatchet-looking thing on the right. With any coin as a screwdriver I can change the MUST from a hatchet to a chisel, and the addition of the MUST Angle creates an adze. Using just the angle without the blade, I have a hoe. 
    • Not shown: the Leatherman multi-tool I always have on me. 
    With these tools, I am reasonably certain I can handle most tasks I'd need if I ever had to walk home from the next county, and they only weigh 3 pounds. 

    But what do you think? Am I foolish for carrying this extra weight? Or have I neglected an important tool that I absolutely need?

    Tell me what tools you have in your Get Home Bags!

    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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