Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The First 72 Hours And Beyond

continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.

72 Hours and Beyond 

I am now starting the next step in my disaster survival plan: expanding from 3 days to 2 weeks of stored supplies.

Here is my target list and quantity of normal pantry items to buy, in addition to what I've squirreled away: 

Future Purchases

  • 10 lbs brown rice
  • 10 lbs dried beans and lentils
  • 5 lbs pasta
  • 5 large cans of pasta sauce
  • 10 lbs of Bisquick or similar
  • 12 cans of tuna*
  • 12 cans of chicken*
  • 12 cans of Spam* or similar
  • 8 cans of fruit*
  • 2 lbs of  steel-cut oatmeal or other cereal
  • 4 large jars of peanut butter
  • 4 jars of jam
  • 10 boxes of crackers, assorted
  • 5 lbs of dried fruit, mix and match
  • 100 count Vitamin C
  • 32 oz oil
  • Small jars of your favorite spices, at least 1-2 oz size
  • 2 2 lb boxes of powdered milk
  • 4 lbs powdered eggs
  • 5 lbs of your favorite candy

*Canned goods are available in low sodium and low sugar, to match your groups health concerns.

Continuing Items

I've no luck in finding used food-grade storage pails, so buying several is on this month's list. I will also be going back to REI to attempt to score a good day pack this weekend, with a REI-cap (Erin!) in Wednesday's post.

Purchased last week

  • 5 lb plastic jar of honey, Sam's Club $14.48
  • 34 oz Similac Sensitive Formula, Sam's Club $31.98 
This is a bit of a budget buster for me, but in planning for a longer term emergency, there are likely to be situations where formula can be used as a barter item or a way to take care of friends and neighbors less well off.

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

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Road Trip Prep

Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes the possibility of road trips.  They can be great fun, and I highly recommend one.  My wife and I are leaving on our own tonight.  A bit of preparation and forethought can keep the from descending into utter chaos, as well.

Know your route. Pack a map, and know how to read it. GPS can fail, usually at the worst time.  If possible, study your route before you leave. Check the availability of alternate routes as well.  If it's a route and area you're not familiar with, start looking for fuel at half a tank. In many places I have traveled, it is entirely possible to be 100 miles from a gas station.

Carry extra snacks and drinks.  You'll never regret it, especially when you need it.

Give your vehicle a checkup before you leave.  Check your fluids and top off any that are low.  Check your tires for wear and for proper inflation. If you're nearing any regular maintenance, get it done before you set out. Have any repairs you've been putting off done as well.  If you don't know how to do any of these checks, many mechanics will perform them for you for a nominal fee, if not for free.

Get out there, see something interesting, and have the time of your life. Plan ahead, and don't let anything ruin your time.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Harsh Realities: Staying Human.

It's month six of the chaos. Your tribe is at each others' throats, everyone is stressed out, and some of the fights have resulted in knives and guns being drawn. One of the men beat his girl to a bloody pulp, and she turned around and killed herself in front of some of the women. The women are terrified of the men now. You find yourself watching the sun set and wondering... what happened?

It's not that far-fetched. Humans are creatures that can become addicted to easy comforts and soft working conditions. You've been prepping for years, weeks, months, days... but have you prepped to stay human? Have you put back something as simple as a football?

Today we address something that seriously concerns me about our prepping community. I see countless articles about the best ways to store canned goods, take care of chickens that have an egg stuck, and endless debates that go nowhere over the best guns, but where does your humanity fit into all of this?

How are you going to stay feeling human? Have you even allowed yourself the understanding that you will need to continue to need to re-affirm the bonds of your tribe despite it's SHTF?

We humans are social creatures. It's built into us (regardless of how you think we came into existence, the need to be around another human being is there) to be social with members of our species. Even if it's only for a few hours every week, it's there. The pubs and bars aren't going to be there anymore. The libraries, the coffee shops, the TV, the internet, radio ... they won't be up and running for awhile, if ever again. What will you do for music? For entertainment?


Ideally, everyone will be able to bug in. (Stay put, in other words.) Do you have a library you've built up a little bit? There are going to be days when the weather is so foul, you don't want to do your outside work. Or maybe you've managed to get done everything you wanted to do that day. So give yourself the treat of a few chapters of a book. Good places to go for such things are:
  • Garage sales - You can find many of the older, harder to find books at such sales and for less than a few dollars (maybe even one of those one where is a box of books and a sign that says 25 cents.) 
  • Used book stores - Where I currently live (Los Angeles), there are dozens of lovely stores that have paperbacks for 50 cents and hardbacks for up to two dollars. If you pick up a book that is part of a series, be sure to make a note on your phone about which books you're missing and take them off the list as you find them. 
  • LIBRARY! - Once a year, if not more often, libraries hold a book sale.  I'm unsure of the particulars on which books get sold, but it's another great way to get books of almost any kind - even old textbooks. 
  • - No, seriously. You can find, as long as you buy used, books on ANY topic at any level of skill and in any genre for fractions of their original prices. Like this one : John Ringo's "The Last Centurion", Thomas Bullfinch's Mythology (a massive wonderful volume of the myths), etc. 
Books will play an integral part in keeping your mind and skills sharp. They can be incorporated into games for the kids and bored adults (think scavenger hunts and places to hide clues). They can be a weekend treat, when everyone wakes up on the official “we all take it easy day” and grabs something to read, or even just a box that gets pulled out when it seems nerves are ready to start fraying.

Yes yes, I know "Kindle/Nook have a month long battery yada yada yada". Have you gotten a solar charger for it yet? You do remember the Law of Murphy, yes? Then be putting back paper books my friends.


For the love of the God(s),  store some games! Board games like Monopoly, Life, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, Uno, Battleship, chess, checkers, etc. Even basic playing cards are good to have.

Time taken to play games with those you are closest with in your tribe - be they lover, friend or child - are important, even today. These are bonding moments that cement relationships and help relieve tension. It can be one on one time or a fire team (er...four to six people. Eesh, can you tell my partner is a Marine? ) group bonding time. Hell, challenging that cute person (who you know is single when you're also single...) to a game of checkers can help break the ice to a new relationship and new bond that makes the tribe stronger as a whole in the end.

Games give you a means to make a connection with members of your tribes that you may not otherwise interact with. Even games that are more physically active like football, soccer, volleyball, baseball, Frisbee, hopscotch, hackey sacking (whoa, hey now. I'm a hackey-sacker. It's an incredibly good work out when you've five or more people playing and a good exercise on knees and hips that need a good dose of loosening up), basketball, etc. Games like those let out aggression that might be cropping up over what usually wouldn't be a problem, and help get tempers sorted out.

A good round of football does amazing wonders for the soul. (Yes, I preferred being a receiver but the guys I always played with had me be a tight end. They hated me being on defense because I was a damn good quarterback sacker. I always got my man… why are you giggling?)

Hackey sacking, when done with multiple people, tends to cause hysterical laughter as you stop being able to take yourself seriously and the humor is contagious. Also, hackey sacks and checker/chess boards can be easily made via crochet or knitting so try not to stress too much if these aren't already in your preps. I'll have patterns here very soon.


Trust me, you need them. Even if it's just the full moon, and a simple special treat at that night's meal to celebrate that months birthdays, celebrations are something that have been a part of being human since our inception. Whether you believe in creation or evolution, you know humans need times to hold feasts and celebrations. Be it a new baby, a partnership of two people made official to the whole of the tribe, a good harvest season, or the longest day and the shortest day of the year, you will need celebrations.

At this point I will ask you, do you have a means of keeping a calender figured out? Do you have at least a ten year calender set aside?

I advise that you find ways to keep track of four days: Longest day and shortest night; equal day and night (the equinoxes, the spring and fall); shortest day and longest night.

These will enable you and your tribe to keep a good handle on the seasons. Seasonal changes will affect you and tribemates - for example, getting enough sunshine in the winter.

Physical Relationships

Now, I'll be the first to admit my thoughts on this may be a bit different than most people's. Being able to hug someone and then later at night have sex with them... that's a fact of life that you cannot ignore. At some point, everyone will be wanting to have sex with someone else. I am not going to tell you shouldn't. Hell, you might have a couple of lovers. I am NOT going to tell you it's wrong or right. It's your choice as to what you decide to do in that area.

What I will tell you is not to be afraid of having sex with your lover(s). Enjoy the encounters (as long as both parties CONSENT to said encounter). Kiss them, hold them tightly and seek them in your arms frequently when they are your forever partner. Be passionate with them.

Sex relieves stress and builds bonds between people. (Yes even for guys. Anyone who says that sex doesn't build bonds is so full of crap that it's beyond ridiculous.) Sex is normal, natural and for the love of God(s) do not be afraid of engaging in it. It's okay to hold hands, steal kisses on the cheek. You can even get creative and woo her/him again. Just listen when the rest of the tribe tells you to put the guitar up and stop trying to sing to them, mkay?


Play games. Play hide and go seek with the kids. Play with the baby animals. Deliberately run the leave piles in the fall. Play will help you keep the world's weight on your shoulders from getting worse.

It helps you remember that you are a human.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Guest Post: Profile & Edge Choices for a Bug-Out Blade

Editor's Note:  I have been on vacation all week. This post has been scheduled in advance. If the blog has blown up during the past week, it's not my fault as I haven't had the time to be online.

Profile and Edge Geometry Choices for a Bug-Out Blade

Our guest author for the past two weeks is Todd Gdula, a professional bladesmith and member of the American Bladesmith Society.  He does custom work and his website is

Having already selected the steel type from among the dozens of practical choices, choosing a good profile and geometry is relatively simple.

Blade Geometry

Geometry refers to the type of edge. There are essentially three: hollow, convex, and flat.

L-R:  Hollow, flat, and convex grinds. 

A hollow grind is the sharpest, but the most fragile. Its strength is in knives used for fine cuts. Its weakness lies in chopping, and even worse being hammered through an object.

A convex grind is the opposite of a hollow grind; the sides of the blade bow out rather than in. It is also called an apple seed grind or a Moran edge. It has the most steel behind the edge and is therefore the strongest. Axes and hatchets have this type of edge, and although it is the least sharp, it has the best edge retention. Despite the fact that it’s the least sharp it is possible to bring a convex edge to sharpness where it will cleanly cut paper.

A flat grind is just that; the flats of the blade are actually flat. It is considered a compromise between the hollow grind and the convex grind.

The hollow grind is the first and easiest to eliminate. It is simply too fragile to be used as an all around survival knife.

A good argument can be made for a flat grind, and it’s not a bad choice. For shear strength, however, it’s just not as good as a convex grind.

So, we’re left with the convex grind. I think it’s the best choice. Axes have this grind for a reason; anyone who has ever driven an axe into a log with a sledge hammer will testify to how strong this edge is. I’d make it ¼” thick at the base of the spine, tapering to the tip.

Blade Profile

We need to choose a profile next. For a big working knife I want a blade 10-12” long and around 1 ½” wide. We have the choice of any number of blade styles: Bowie, spear point, bolo point, or drop point being among the most popular.

Bowie (clip) point

Bowie Point: Jim Bowie made the knife named after him famous as a fighter. It was also very popular as a camp/utility knife, used as a chopper, skinner, and steak cutter. It has a clip point to lighten the tip, making it a faster fighter but a less powerful chopper.

Bolo point

The bolo point adds weight to the tip and makes for the most powerful chopper of the group, but it’s front heavy and a poor stabber, and so not a great fighter.

Drop Point

Of the last two, the drop point is the better chopper and the spear point is the better fighter, but they’re both pretty good all around designs. I’d go with either one of these with a slight bias toward the spear point.

Spear point

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Guest Post: Tornado response

Today we have a guest post from a friend who was one of the first people to respond to the aftermath of the F5 tornado that hit Moore, OK  almost a year ago. The debris was still falling out of the sky as his ambulance came over the hill into the town and he spent the next four days shuttling injured people to various hospitals in the area.

So you think you're in the clear now that you survived your disaster? That, unfortunately, is not the case at all.

After being on an ambulance crew for four days during and after the May 2013 tornadoes in Oklahoma, I learned quite a bit about what happens after a disaster. Surviving the actual tornado, or hell, any major disaster is a no-brainer, that's a basic part of prepping. The things that happen in the following hours, days, weeks, and months are also things we need to be worried about.

The actual tornado did a lot of damage but the things that were dangerous afterwards are what hurt a lot of people. When you have open gas lines, sharp debris, unstable structures, overhanging power lines, etc. you need to have your wits about you. This is not the time to get hurt physically because you are not paying attention. We literally had cases of people walking into traffic. Not because they were suicidal or anything, it was simply because they needed to get from point A to point B and they didn't think about looking both ways when crossing the street.

Psychological shock was a huge problem. If you're not physically injured, that does not mean you are not psychologically injured. The reasons are obvious now, but we did see a lot of it. Your struggle has just begun, you need to have your head in the right place and make the right decisions. The decisions you make in the first 12 hours will stay with you for months or even years. You need to take however long you need to take to get your head back in the game. Be aware that others around you are probably in shock, too. They will not be thinking straight, and may put you in danger by their actions.

One major thing that you have to realize is that communications will be down in the immediate aftermath of a disaster like this. Our ambulance had zero ability to communicate with our dispatch and through them, the rest of the world. Zero. We were literally on our own. Radio did not work, cell phones did not work, texting didn't work. The only thing that did work was email and that was only if we were lucky and in the right spot. Something to keep in mind while setting up your preparations.

So. Your house has been hit. You need to make a decision, do I stay or leave?

When and if you decide to leave, you should know that you are not going to be able to come back for quite a long time. You're going to have to know where you are going to go. Grab what is close to your heart and irreplaceable. Hopefully it is small enough to walk with because the roads will be full of debris and people. Your car may not even be in the same county after a tornado, if it survives in drivable condition. The hardest part will be leaving things behind. Remember, that is what insurance is for.
Also note that hotels will spike the prices on you. Unfortunately, after a disaster is when the opportunistic scum of the earth come out of the woodwork.
Don't rely on hotels, motels, or extended stay hotels as a permanent solution. There were many cases of actual storm survivors being kicked out to make room for contractors/utility workers that were coming in from out of state to help with the rebuilding.
Depending on how long it takes for city workers and emergency workers to do their jobs, you may be out of your house for weeks, even months. Reason being is because they will say the neighborhood is unsafe with the power lines, water lines, and gas lines being broken. They will not allow anyone back into the neighborhood until the workers have done their jobs unhindered from civilians getting in the way. That does not mean that the scum sucking parasitic thieves will not go into the neighborhood under the cover of darkness and steal from your home that is now wide open.
Please, have a plan in place for where you can go in case something bad happens. Some place for you and your family to stay for a long time until you get back on your feet. Family, friends, co-workers- this is a good reason why having a network of people you can rely on is important.

In a later article, I'll talk in more detail about the people who stayed in their homes. That was a nightmare for everyone. The stories I heard from the people that refused to leave their homes were of nightly police foot pursuits for thieves. No power and no light emboldened the thieves. It was a big problem for police and unfortunately a lot of peoples' personal belongings were stolen from their storm-damaged homes. That is the reality that you will have to deal with when you make the decision to leave your home. By storm or by man, more than likely you will lose a lot of possessions if not everything. Again, good insurance is a must.

Always remember that people will try to scam you. From insurance adjusters to contractors, it seemed like everybody was trying to screw somebody. Don't get me wrong, there were some good people out there that wanted to help (I still thank the local pizza company that fed us for days) but the good ones were outnumbered by the bad one. So beware. Best advice would be to look around for local contractors now. Roofing people, foundation people, tree removal companies, etc., and have those be your go-to people. After the disaster is not the time to try and find them. They will be a little busy. It doesn't matter that your home is brand new right now, do your research and get the contact information, you will need it later. Yes, insurance does pay eventually, but they do not do the legwork for you to find the people needed to do the work.

Remember the most important things. You are in the middle of a disaster. Just because the tornado is gone doesn't mean that the disaster is over. You have to rely on yourself. You also need to be able to take care of yourself. Emergency crews will not be able to take care of the minor injuries that you would normally call an ambulance for. The ambulance crews and other emergency workers are looking for people who are trapped and badly wounded. A twisted ankle or a broken wrist is on the bottom of the totem pole.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The First 72 Hours: Where To Now?

Part 11 of a continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.

Where To Now?

If you have been following this series, the intent has been to get myself ready for a local emergency, with enough food and other supplies to get 2-3 people covered for 72 hours. As I have (mostly*) reached that point in my plan, the question is "Where to now?"   From here the next step is 2 weeks of stored food, portable shelter, alternative water supplies and a plan for leaving the area if necessary.

Stored Food -
This will be an expansion of the food types to include items designed for long term storage, while continuing to buy more of the staples already on my list. On the To Buy list are freeze-dried, dehydrated and other types of easily stored foods, with taste tests and ease-of-use comparisons on camping trips this Spring and Summer.

Water Supply -
With the potential for staying in place or leaving the area after evaluating conditions, a stable supply of  water is a critical part of my plan. To get there, something better than a personal filter is needed to supply the volume of water required for the group. Water sources that are close to where I'm at will be mapped out and checked for year around use. What is bought will also be tested on trips this year.  Recommendations are appreciated, so please promote your favorites!

Evacuation Plan  - 
Bugging Out! This is part of every disaster plan, and mine is no exception, it is not necessarily at the top of the list due to my situation. With 1-3 days to evaluate local conditions, whether it will be better to leave or stay should be a simple decision. There are out in the S.F. Bay Area people where I will be welcome, as well as local folks if my home is too damaged but the conditions allow local 'bugging'. 

Portable Shelter  - 
Here is one of my sticking points: Shelter. I do not have light weight, easily portable tents. I am still shopping for 1 or 2 person tents that can be loaded and carried in a backpack. A larger 4-6 person tent is available when more permanent camps are needed, so that is covered.

So, that is what is in store on this small portion of the BCP blog. I thank all of you that have commented here, on the BCP Facebook page and directly to me for your input so far and in the future.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

First Aid Kits: Odds and Ends

To wrap up our first aid kits, lets look at some odds and ends to customize and personalize your loadout.  These are things that not everyone will need, so pick and choose the things that are appropriate to your lifestyle, environment, and activities.

New Skin: Similar to superglue, New Skin can serve as a temporary alternative to sutures, and gives more sensitivity and utility in digits than a traditional bandage.

CAT Tourniquet: A tourniquet that can be applied one-handed, even on yourself.  Handy if you spend a fair bit of time alone, or participate in hobbies with the potential for falls or other traumatic injuries.

Steri-Strips: An old standby from my grandmother (a 50 year nurse).  Similar in practice to a butterfly closure, but they're tougher and more durable, as well as being nearly invisible.  Light and compact, they're great to have around.

QuickClot:  A chemical clotting agent.  I prefer the kinds that are either impregnated gauze or a sponge, as they're easier to control and use than the loose powder.  They're great for stopping serious bleeding, especially in areas that are difficult to tourniquet.

"Israeli Dressing":  A jack-of-all-trades compression dressing.  Israeli dressings can be used to provide direct pressure, secure other dressings (such as the aforementioned QuickClot sponge), or serve as a primary dressing themselves.  They're designed for easy application, such that an injured person can apply one to themself if necessary.

Instant Cold Packs:  Useful for easing pain, as well as controlling swelling.  Instant cold packs require no outside cold to be effective, instead using a chemical reaction.  As anyone who's injured joints can tell you, immediate application of cold to ease swelling helps recovery, and can allow you to be immediately active if needed, at least to some level.

So, what customizing gear does everybody else have in their first aid kits?  What gear haven't I mentioned in all this that deserves a nod?  Let us know in the comments!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Harsh Realities: Hygiene

Author warning: this one could get gross. There, you've been warned.

Did you know....

That one of the main reasons women get medically evacuated from military deployments is due to kidney infections? That progressed to that stage due to un-treated Urinary Tract Infections? That were perfectly avoidable?   Articles I've seen estimate it as low as 32% to upwards of 68%, due to such problems. Just be careful when you go to research this.  You end up with a lot of articles that are on either side of this  "issue" over women deploying that are so full of dross it's pukeable.  Like this article.

Ladies and Gents, pay attention:   Your genitalia region needs to be kept clean along with your armpits.


Ladies, two words: Yeast infections.

Now yes, it's bloody unfair that guys do not have to worry about those wrong!  Men can get yeast infections.  They just don't notice most of the time.

Thought you were in the clear there didn't you boys?

Now we all know the joys of a hot shower after a particular grimy day outside and of scrubbing off the day. This is a luxury. You will know it as such, when SHTF. Bathing will take up precious water resources, however keeping yourselves clean is not something that you should be sacrificing. Our ancestors had open freaking sewers and they did not bathe as frequently as one might think. One of the insults from the Chinese when the Europeans started showing up was that they stunk. Hygiene was a bigger deal to them than Europe and America for a long time.

You don't need a huge bathtub to get clean. Get a pot of water and heat it until the steam is just starting to rise off it. Any hotter than that and you will scald yourself. (We are trying to avoid as much self-inflicted misery as we can, remember?) Get your wash cloth (I'll have patterns for home made ones here soon, as they last longer than store bought, work better and can be made in varying colors to show which is whose), soak yourself down, make thyself soapy and then pour the rest of the water a little at a time over your shoulders to wash off the soap. ( You have remembered to set aside a bathing area in the tribe commons right?) Save some for your scalp.

Now, you want to keep your hair clean too and combed out every day.  Ticks are a serious concern in much of the United States and keeping yourself free of them is crucial.  Bathing frequently lets you check for them, chigger bites (plus the vinegar you are using on your hair takes the itch out of those blasted things' bites), etc. Now to give you more information on what kind of diseases and viruses are carried by ticks:

Ticks are best killed by fire.  Yes, now you get to legitimately yell "KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!"

Very simple. Bathing does not need to happen every day, however washing your plumbing is something that should happen every night before sleeping.

 Two reasons for this:

  1. It'll help you sleep better. ( Don't believe me? Try it out for a couple weeks right now. Sleep is sleep, regardless of what the world is doing.)
  2. It reduces the chance of UTI's and yeast infections in women.

Ladies those yeast infections and UTI's are a bitch. I've seen some estimates that state 90% of women by the time we're 40 have experienced both multiple times. The yeast infection symptoms and UTI symptoms can seriously destroy your ability to be productive in any manner that is satisfying to yourself.

Now Gents (thought I had forgotten about you didn't ya?), you should clean down there too. You are going to be wanting to get frisky. As a courtesy, to whomever your partner is ... clean it! That stench is appalling when you want to be physically intimate with someone that you have a close bond too.  Now, it's entirely
possible to do a mutual bath which would be good for couples.  However I am not going to go there right now, I'll just leave you this pic on the right so that you get the general idea.  

It's a respect thing in a way. You keep yourself clean, and don't reek like a gamer on the last day of Dragon*Con, you find it's easier to interact with tribe and friend.  AND you help yourself feel a little bit more human in all the chaos.

Here soon we'll be having a couple of articles on soap making along with a much longer article next week.

(P.S. If this seems a bit less polished than normal that is because our lovely Editor is on vacation, and I do not posses the same level of skill in polishing articles that she does.  My apologies about that.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Guest Post: Steel Choices for a Bug-Out Blade

Editor's Note:  Starting next Monday, I (Erin Palette) will be on vacation for an entire week. As such, today is spent in preparation for my trip, and next Friday I will be in Indianapolis for the NRA Annual Meeting. Therefore, this post and the next will be guest posts.

Steel Choices for a Bug-Out Blade

Our guest author for the next two weeks is Todd Gdula, a professional bladesmith and member of the American Bladesmith Society.  He does custom work and his website is

One of the questions most asked of knifemakers is “What’s the best steel for a blade?” The correct answer is, “It depends on what kind of knife it's for.”

Volumes could be written on this topic, but today we’ll make it short and simple by only talking about blade steel choices for a survival knife, and a general purpose survival knife at that. This is my opinion on what the best steel choice is if you can only put one knife in your bug-out bag.

To choose a steel, we first need to identify what the knife needs to do. A survival knife needs to be a jack of all trades and very reliable. It can potentially be used to chop and split wood, de-limb branches, gut and skin game; act as a pry bar or a hammer, and to defend yourself. That’s a pretty tall order, especially when you consider that each of these tasks has knives specially designed to do them.

There are three general categories of steel to choose from, and each category has many types of steel within it. The three categories are simple carbon steels, stainless steels, and high alloy tool steels. Some types of steel may fit in more than one category depending on whose definition you use.

Types of Steels

Simple carbon steels include what are known as the “10” series steels; 1045, 1050, 1060, 1075, 1084, 1095, etc., as well as the “O” and “W” series and 5160 and 52100. The 10 in the 10 series indicates that it’s low alloy – basically the 10 means it’s iron with whatever percentage of carbon; .45%, .5%, .6%, etc. The O stands for oil hardening and the W for water hardening. Neither is as simple as the 10 series, but the alloying is fairly low. The 50 series starts to have more alloying, but is still relatively simple. The 50 means it has some chromium; 51 is low chromium, 52 is medium chromium. The second two numbers indicate carbon content; .6% and 1% respectively. (Editor's note:  see Firehand's post for a more in-depth discussion about what carbon content means.)

Stainless steels contain enough chromium so they form chromium oxide instead of iron oxide, which inhibits rust. Stainless is a large and varied group; 420, 440, CPM154CM, 12c27, ATS34, and on and on. By definition – which is also somewhat variable, stainless contains at least 10.5% chromium, but some types approach 20%.

High alloy tool steels have lots of stuff added to the smelting recipe and most were created for a specific purpose. They include the “A”, “S”, “H “ and “D” series, Vascowear, and overlap into some of the stainless types, as well as 52100 and some others. The A stands for air hardening; the S for shock resistant; the H for heat resistant; the D for die steel and Vascowear is a high vanadium wear-resistant alloy.

Which Steel to Use?

So it comes down to a process of elimination. I’m going to eliminate the high alloy tool steels first, because they have very specialized properties and we’re looking for a jack of all trades.

Next to go are the stainless steels. I can hear the outrage, so I’ll explain. The only advantage stainless has over non-stainless steels is that it’s rust resistant. And believe it or not, that’s not that important. However, it has two disadvantages that to me are very important: First, when it's heat treated, it through hardens, which means that the whole blade must become the same hardness. Second, compared to other steels, it’s not suitable for big blades because of its relative brittleness

We’re down to simple carbon steels then, and while there are several good choices here, there is one stand out: 5160. The main reason for this is it can be differentially hardened, which means that the edge can be made very hard and the spine fairly soft. This is important because it makes the knife very tough:
  • When subjected to lateral forces it will bend, rather than break. 
  • You can strike the back of the blade with, or against, hard objects and it will deform rather than chip. 
  • You can make a very large (even sword sized!) blade from it and it can handle tremendous chopping stresses. 
  • You can easily sharpen it with a rock. 
  • While there are a number of steels in its category used to make springs, 5160 is the spring steel.
While there are other good choices, 5160 is, in my opinion, the best all-around steel for all the things a survival knife has to do.

Next Week: Profile and Edge Geometry Choices for a Bug Out Knife.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


One of the many things that I see largely ignored on the prepper sites is the subject of inter-group relations and communication. It doesn't matter if you're bugging out or sheltering in place, eventually you're going to meet or see other people and you need to have a plan on how to react to those “others”. It doesn't matter if you're by yourself or in a group, unless you've managed to find Gilligan's Island there will be others around and you will have to interact with them at some level.

These are my (somewhat random) musings on making contact with others after TSHTF, without any attempt to put them into any specific order. I am throwing them out there to spark conversation and thought instead of trying to tell you what to do.

The old saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” holds true in a post-disaster environment in my opinion. If you're going to act like an ass, expect to be treated like an ass. Also, remember that a lot of people will be armed after a disaster, so be as civil as you can.

In the period immediately after a disaster, most people are going to be suffering some form of shock and won't be acting “normal”, but there will come a time when your life is not in danger every second of the day and that's when you need to take stock of your contacts. Find out who's around you and what their situations are. Even if you can't/won't help them, knowing who is around you is just as important as knowing what is around you. Personally, I'd very much like to know that the family in the house next door isn't the local front for a Mexican drug lord or criminal gang. If there are any forms of communication left after the disaster, I'm going to check on family and friends just to remove the doubt about them and to let them know my situation.

Personal contacts and the ability to network are going to be vitally important after any disaster, as knowing the people around you and being known by them is going to play a big part in deciding who to help and who to ask for help. Being able to barter with your neighbors is only going to work if they're willing to trade with you. I have made it a goal of getting to know a few families in every town in my rural county. This eases social contacts because once you have established something in common (a common friend, that you went to the same school, ate at the same diner, etc.) people are more willing to talk to you. It also spreads out my options to trade and work with the people in my area so I'm not forced into a deal or trade that is not mutually beneficial.

This can be modified by the city-dwellers quite easily. Make friends with, or at least get to know, people in different areas of your city. If you have a bug out plan, do you have any contacts along the route from point A to point B? Once you get to your retreat, do you know the people that live around you? If not, then you're the stranger that everyone will approach with caution.

Humans are predators at the DNA level, and unless they have been turned into figurative zombies by their culture they will fight for their survival. Tired, hungry, scared, and hurt people are going to be more common and more dangerous after a disaster. I don't have much use for zombies myself, but your mileage may vary. If you have huge stockpiles of food and are looking to start a harem, you'll probably have your chance. Anyone who will refuse to attempt to survive is going to be way down the list of people I'm going to be interested in helping, and they probably won't still be around by the time I get that far down the list.

Initial contact with strangers is going to be the most dangerous situation for both sides. Walking up to a house and banging on the door is not a good way to make friends. Shooting at people as they walk past your place is not very neighborly. If at all possible, initiate contact at a safe distance. Standing in the street or driveway and announcing your presence would be polite, as would telling someone to stop before they got to your door. The concept of “neutral ground” should be explored if your group is going to meet another group for the first time.

Rules of Engagement (ROE) are going to vary by your situation. ROE, for those of you without a military background, are a set of guidelines for when it is OK to open fire on an “enemy” or any other stranger that enters your area. The military sets very specific (and sometimes stupid) restrictions in their ROE in today's climate, where public relations are a part of fighting a war. A guard walking a fence line around an air base may not even be given live ammunition for fear he might shoot someone and sully the local reputation of the air base, but a sniper may be told that any male seen carrying a weapon on the street is a viable target. Your ROE are going to probably fall somewhere between these two, and I'll leave it up to you to decide your own rules. Be aware, however, that the guys on the other side of the fence have their own ROE and it may not be the same as yours.

Each of these concepts could/may be further explored in individual posts in great detail. If you have thoughts or ideas, let me know- I'm looking for feedback and conversation, since I know that I don't know a lot of things.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The First 72 Hours: EDC in a Professional Setting

Part 10 of a continuing series on prepping for a disaster, with an emphasis on how and where to start while on a Blue Collar budget.

Urban Every Day Carry 

I've mentioned in earlier posts that I have Every Day Carry items and a Get Home Bag in my vehicle, and now is the time to share what's in my EDC kits. Since California is almost-but-not-quite a Shall Issue state, I do not have any personal defense items.

On My Body

Here are all the items (minus coins) I have on my person every day:

Top Row
  • Vertical iPhone 4 case w/ phone below, work
  • Horizontal iPhone 4S case and phone, personal
  • Leatherman Kick, sales goal reward
  • Coast PX25 LED flashlight, all mine
Middle Row
  • Wallet, unknown brand, big enough for DL, Credit Cards and receipts
  • Kershaw Leek, in Stainless Steel, pointy and very sharp
  • Unknown small folder, also in Stainless Steel, utility knife
  • Keys, assorted
  • Kleenex tissue, Tacti-cool package
Bottom Row
  • Money clip, not enough

On weekends, the work phone is off the belt and sometimes the flashlight too, but everything else stays. The Leatherman Kick is a compact tool (now discontinued), that I really like for its light weight. The Coast PX25 was a splurge buy several years ago, as an upgrade from the five-for-$10 Home Depot Christmas specials. It's very bright at over 200 lumens and does not quickly drain the batteries like some of the cheaper lights. The left front pants pocket has the wallet and Kershaw Leek, right pocket gets keys, money clip, coins, small knife and during allergy season, Tacti-cool Kleenex in a hip pocket.

If you don't know already, Kershaw makes a quality knife here in the U.S. at a very affordable price.

In the Bag

This is a bit complicated, as my carry bag is a soft-side salesman's grip, which needs to be replaced and down-sized.*

These items are in the bag that goes to work with me and at the end of the day stays in the truck, but not what makes up my Get Home Bag (that is the basis for a later article). 

Top Row
  • Plano Waterproof box filled with band-aids, triple antibiotic and gauze pads 
  • Write anywhere pen and waterproof pad
  • Nail File, disposable
  • Box cutter, Hi Viz Green and spare blades
  • Tooth brush, tooth paste and floss
Middle Row
  • Alka Seltzer
  • Aleve
  • Generic Tylenol
  • Wet Wipes
  • Kleenex
  • Hand Sanitzer, unscented
  • Reading /magnifying glasses
  • Disposable Lighter
  • Micro fiber cloth
Bottom Row
  • Emergen-C vitamin packets
  • Gum
  • Claritin allergy tabs  
  • Small spiral notebook

Not shown are my catalogs, small binders and other portable office items used during my day such as highlighters, pens, pencils, paper clips, and mini staple gun.

The Plano Waterproof box was purchased in Home Depot for $7 and filled with assorted knuckle, fingertip and strip band-aids, plus some gauze pads and the smallest triple antibiotic cream tube I could find. This is a work in progress and I refer everyone back to the BCP First Aid series, starting here.

I believe the pen and note book were a gift. The nail file is also unknown; the box cutter and blades, approximately $6 from Home Depot. Dental stuff purchased from various stores.

The items in the middle row are self explanatory; general personal care items, lighter and wiping cloth. 

And on the bottom row, vitamin packets for immune support and trace minerals that dissolve quickly, gum to help keep your mouth moist, allergy tabs for the obvious uses and a plain notebook I can share with someone else in need.

Items to be Purchased
  • Inexpensive Pepper Spray, legal here but check your state
  • Expanded 1st aid supplies
  • New bag* to carry items

* I am actively looking for suggestions for replacement bags. The small bag (sling) needs to be small enough  to carry all the time, but large enough to hold a Kindle Fire or B&N Nook, plus most of my belt worn items and pens and note book. The larger bag needs to hold the rest of the listed supplies and binders, whether a Messenger, sling or another style, I'm uncertain. I am not looking for an obvious tactical bag with MOLLE and PALS attachments everywhere, but a sturdy, clean designed bag.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Aid: Training

Since folks have asked, lets take a break from the gear parts of first aid, and talk for a minute about where to learn how to use all the gear you've acquired. There are two nationally available training resources I can recommend without reservation.

The first is the American Red Cross.  They set the curriculum that most other trainers teach to. I've personally taken a number of their courses, and they teach a variety of good information.

The second is National Safety Council.  They taught my most recent first aid course. The curriculum was solid, well-presented, and easy to understand. They also have online options available if conflicts prevent classroom training.

There are other options as well. Local volunteer emergency groups (locally, we call them Community Emergency Response Teams) often host training for free or reduced fees. They're also a valuable resource and affiliation in general for preppers. Your local city hall or fire department can provide information about such groups in your area.

Many employers also offer first aid and CPR training, frequently on the company's dime. Your employers Human Resources or Safety department can tell you about any programs your company has. Any time you can get someone else to pay for training, it's an opportunity you should at least consider.

If anyone has any other good nationwide training resources, please share them in the comments.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Harsh Realities: PTSD/S

PTSD is not a new problem for humanity.

Let me make something very clear right now: Are you alive and conscious? If "yes", then you can get PTSD (or PTSS, Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms).

There's a reason that “TRAUMATIC” is a part of the name. Many things could cause it; basically anything that you experience directly or indirectly such as:
  • Rape
  • Combat
  • Work as a first responder
  • Abuse (years of it accumulated or a brief, very brutal period)
  • Really bad car wrecks
  • Someone committing suicide in front of you
  • Major disasters (Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc)

If you are a human being, then you can develop the symptoms of PTSD/S. However, this does not cue the end of your world.

Please note most of what I say is based on my own personal experiences. I DO NOT SPEAK FOR EVERYONE with PTSD/S. Yes symptoms will be the same in many causes, however causes are not. 

As hinted in prior articles, PTSD/S is something that I deal with on a personal level. I personally can't speak for everyone on this, thus I'll be referencing myself.  At this point I can only offer up my personal thoughts and how I've been dealing with it. I can point you to the information, but you need to draw up your own plan and conclusions.

Yes, at times it can be a fight with myself, but it can be dealt with, regardless of how bad it is. Part of the problem with treating PTSD/S is that many people have no concept of how much trust plays a role in being able to deal with it. Another part of the problem is how seductive it can be to use drugs as the "cure-all" that so many in the psychology community seem to think them to be.

At the end of this article will be some links for you, with more information on PTSD/S in general and links to a few organizations that are currently busting ass trying to help our veterans here in the USA deal with it - and by so doing, indirectly help people like me. Please read through those articles.

Thought number 1: SKILLS!

I don't think it's possible for me to emphasize this one enough. By being able to improve my quality of life, or the lives of other people in my tribe - even in small ways - I get an endorphin high practically every time I finish a project. It proves, to the inner critic that is my worst enemy, that I do have worth. Worth which is not decided by others, as there will always be someone who adores the ever living hell out of me; it is decided by myself.

For me, I set out to master crocheting (then knitting, and it was sewing before crocheting) and I'm getting there, but anyone with half a brain will tell you that you can always improve any skill. Every project I finish beats my PTSD back just a little bit more and makes it more manageable.

Practicing a skill is a good way to send a polite signal to others around me that I need some space. My work area acts as a refuge while I get some time to breathe. 

When I use my skills, even if I only use them for a few minutes and then go sit in the sun for a while, it strengthens the process of being able to believe in myself, of being able to convince myself that I can handle this.

Thought number 2: A companion

This one factor was a huge tipping point for me, because it shifted everything from just barely manageable to being able to go for a few days with almost no problem. A buddy (be it a pet or a damn good friend, male or female) who is watching your back makes a huge impact. It lets me relax a little bit. Such buddies are lifesavers.

I had both my cat and my fiance/partner. Both can tell at this point when I need to be handed a ball of yarn , gently loved on, or a little extra security... though my fiance's manner of giving me yarn to do something with  is much preferred over the cat's. The MindyCat, as she is called, will sit and watch me for a few seconds and then take immediate action which she knows will send me into giggle fits.

Being able to laugh, sleep, even just enjoy being outside with the others in your tribe... it's to easy to take for granted honestly. Learning NOW how to deal with it, be it yourself or a member of your tribe is your first official homework from me. It can be the difference between life and death.


PTSD in general:

Organizations for PTSD/S help:

(Just don't say this to anyone with PTSD.
Numbers 1-3, 6, 8 and 10 cross over to civilians like me. Just don't.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Some quick thoughts on fire starting

Not actually Erin.
Picture by KJ Photography
& is used with permission. 
One of my early claims to fame (and still a very popular post to this day) was when I reviewed four camp stoves that required no special fuel like alcohol or white gas to boil water or cook food -- just tinder and kindling that could be scavenged nearly anywhere.

Last month, I received a shipment of three such stoves from Bushcraft Essentials.  While I am not (yet) ready to review them, an afternoon of messing with fire and camp stoves has made me want to share the following observations with you:

Fire is hungry.  I know that we all know this in an intellectual, "Well of course fire needs fuel to consume, that is what makes fire fire, you know?" way,  but that is totally different from the visceral "Ah crap, I need to get more fuel AGAIN?" way.

There's a proverb that goes "Get as much fuel as you think you will need, then double it."  I can state  from first-hand experience that either this is wrong, or I do not have a good idea of how much I will need, because I needed to go for more fuel about four times. (It's probably the latter. See: Useful Idiot.)

In fact, just think of a fire as a baby:  It's hungrier than you think, it needs constant attention to keep it alive, and if you turn your back on it then it will probably get into mischief.

Know the difference between tinder and kindling.  Tinder, being smaller, is easier to find and gather, but since it is smaller it has a lower "fuel density", i.e. it doesn't burn very long. If all you have is tinder, you're going to be feeding your stove constantly just to keep it from going out; you need kindling which will burn longer and produce a nice set of hot coals.

You know what burns well?  Chunks of mulch. Not necessarily the fresh mulch with the brick-red dye on it; I'm talking about the mulch that has been on the ground for several months and is the color of the surrounding dirt but which hasn't yet started to rot. Get chunks of that in finger and thumb sizes.

Pine cones also work well, if you can get them into the stove opening.  I have a suspicion that a closed pine cone will burn for longer than one which has opened, but I have yet to test this.

Not so much apropos of camp stoves, but of fire starting in general:  if you buy a magnesium fire starter, make sure it's actually magnesium and not a chunk of aluminum or zinc or some conglomeration of pot metal.  Many years ago (before I knew better) I bought one of these from Amazon (link is for information purposes only -- DO NOT BUY), and when I went to test it today I found that it wouldn't ignite at all, even when I applied a burning ember directly to the pile of shavings.

This video will tell you all you need to know on the subject.

The video specifically mentions Doan Magnesium bars. I do not have any of this brand (oh, but I am going to fix that tout suite, have no fear), but a quick search on Amazon shows them here. Again, I have not tried this product, so I am not recommending it quite yet, but everything I have read says that Doan's the best. As soon as I get one of these I shall report back with a review.

I should have the review of all three stoves up by next Friday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 10, 2014


There are some emergency medical articles in the works, so I thought I'd preface them with some posts that clarify terms and methods. Today’s word is “Triage”.

Triage is a method of deciding which victims of an incident get care (prioritizing care) when the number or type of injuries overwhelms a responder's abilities to help all of the victims. This may sound cruel or heartless, but when you're the only medically-trained responder at a ten car pile-up, you have to have some way of deciding who to help because you won't be able to help them all and trying to would only mean that none of them would get proper care.

The factors that determine when to start to triage an incident are:
  1. The number of victims - if the victims outnumber the people able to help, you should start prioritizing the victims.
  2. The severity of injuries to the victims - if the injuries are severe, you should begin triage
  3. The number of responders - see number 1 above. As more help arrives (you hope), things will get easier to handle.
  4. The training levels of the responders - a car load of physicians can handle more injuries than a car load of Boy Scouts.

The START system

Simple Triage And Rapid Treatment is the method that I was trained to use. It is one of a few slightly different triage systems in use, and the one I know best so I'll explain how it works. START was developed to give responders a quick way to prioritize treatment in a mass-casualty incident, and it breaks victims down into four color-coded categories.

  1. Green. The walking wounded, tag them “green” and move them out of the way to a safe area.
  2. Yellow. Delayed treatment. Injuries that are not life-threatening or don't require immediate aid.
  3. Red. Immediate treatment. Life-threatening injuries that you need to work on or transport to treatment right now.
  4. Black. Dead or Expected to die. Treatment has little to no chance of preventing death or victim is already dead and treatment would be pointless.

The color-coded categories are assigned by doing some very simple checks. Since I haven't figured out how to draw a flow chart, I'll just go through the steps.

  1. Are they ambulatory (walking under their own power)? Tag them Green and send them to a holding area. Make sure someone is at the holding area to keep them informed of the situation and monitor them.
  2. Are they breathing? If not, reposition the airway (like you would for CPR) and check again. If they start breathing, tag them Red. If they don't start breathing, tag them Black and move on to the next victim. If they were breathing on their own, check the rate of respiration - if they're breathing less than 10 or more than 30 times per minute tag them Red. If respiration is normal (10-30 times per minute) go to step 3.
  3. Check for pulse at the wrist or check capillary refill (squeeze a fingernail and see how fast the color comes back). If there is no pulse or the capillary refill (CR) takes more than 2 seconds, tag them Red. If they have a pulse or CR is less than 2 seconds, go to step 4.
  4. Mental status. Ask them to squeeze your hand or some other simple act. If they understand and obey, tag them Yellow. If they can't, tag them Red.

Triage is an on-going process. Once you have assigned a color to a victim, someone has to monitor the Green and Yellow tagged victims to watch for signs that their condition is getting worse. The Red tags should be treated or transported to treatment immediately, The Yellow tags next, and the Green tags last. The Black tags are sadly not going anywhere until everyone else has been taken care of.

As a side note, triage can also be applied to other situations in life. If you're evaluating anything that is in trouble you can create a triage system for it. Keep it quick and simple and learn to make decisions quickly and decisively. Being wishy-washy and not wanting to commit to any action is not a good way to prepare for anything.

The Fine Print

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

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