Friday, April 28, 2017

The Everyday Prepper Basic Vehicle Kit

Welcome back to Forgetful Frugal Fridays here at Blue Collar Prepping!

This week I quickly touch upon the emergency equipment I carry in my Reasonably Priced Automobile 2.0

Next week I'll be showcasing the cheap and easy way to do yard work!

Play as Prepping

I know we cover a lot of serious issues on this blog, staying alive tends to be a serious thing to most people. Having done my share of doom and gloom posts, it's time to change things up a bit. I do like to have fun once in a while. Here are my thoughts on an unconventional way to improve your prepping skills or at least get a chance to explore possibilities without risking your life. It may even be a way to introduce a non-prepper to the lifestyle.

Video games are popular and most households have a computer or console for playing on. I never caught the PC gaming bug, I prefer to use a dedicated console for recreational gaming (currently an Xbox One S, the Xbox 360 got demoted to Netflix service). There are thousands of games on the market and most of the “survival” themed games involve zombies since it is more palatable to kill undead monsters than realistic human beings. The graphics on the newest consoles are getting close to photograph quality, depending on the artists, so it's an issue that the developers have to consider before going to market. Killing people is still frowned upon outside of combat games so zombies are the default targets.

My personal favorite ZS game is an indie game that got picked up by Microsoft back in 2013. Originally released on the download-only market (Xbox Live Arcade), it got remastered and polished for release on the Xbox One in 2015. The name of the game is “State of Decay” (SoD) and it is not your usual zombie survival (ZS) game. I've played through several ZS games like Dead Island, Dead Rising, Dead Space, and Left 4 Dead and they all focused on combat and super-powered zombies. Willful suspension of disbelief is fine for entertainment, but when I want a mental challenge the game has to be believable. That's where State of Decay shines.
  • Supplies don't respawn, so you have to keep looking for food, ammo, and other survivors. Food can be grown but it takes time and a lot of space to grow enough to feed people. Cars and pickups are available, but take damage that requires a mechanic to repair.
  • The weapons are common items, no rare or experimental super weapons to tip the balance in your favor. The game developers actually went to a gun range and test-fired several weapons and got training on their use before making the game, so firearms are close to realistic in use. This is a refreshing change from most video games.
  • Weapons wear out. Maintaining things becomes very important when you can no longer just go to the store and buy a new one.
  • The zombies are basically human, no super-strong exploding screamers that tip the balance towards the zombies. The exceptions are things like police/military in body armor that got infected, they take more fire power to stop. I find that believable, a head shot on a target wearing a Kevlar helmet would take more than a 22LR to be effective.
  • Your reputation is used as a form of currency. This makes sense to me, being an ass towards other people is not a survival trait in most situations. There are times when you will run into people you don't want to have around and how you deal with them affects your reputation with various groups, kind of like real life in that respect.
  • Death is permanent. If the horde catches you outside your fenced-in compound and makes a meal of your character, there is no respawn point. That character is dead and gone, along with his reputation, and everything he was carrying is left lying on the ground. To continue the game, you need to switch to a different character in your group (something you do to improve their stats anyway). If you run out of people in your group the game ends.
  • Community is important. Loners don't last long, so you have to look for and recruit other survivors. Gathering a balanced group that has overlapping skill sets is important to making a viable community, just like forming a tribe in real life.
  • Dealing with other groups is an integral part of the game. How you treat other groups, from the family of moonshiners on the hill to the remnants of a city government changes your options for survival. Trading with other groups, large or small, affects your reputation.
  • Stealth is important. The zombies in SoD are attracted to noise, so being stealthy will allow you to avoid battles you might not win. Distractions like firecrackers and friends drawing their attention from a distance are also part of the game.
This is a game, but some of the options and decisions are going to be life-like. Being a game, the developers had to balance things like weapons effects and food usage, so expect a measure of “artistic license” in some areas. The main complaint from reviewers was that the game was too difficult, as if surviving a zombie outbreak was supposed to be easy. You play through a “third-person” point of view, which means your “camera” is above and slightly behind the character most of the time.
There are two add-ons for the base game, “Breakdown” is an open-ended sandbox version with no story line or objective other than survival and “Lifeline” is played from the military's point of view and is more defensive and time-based.

The next generation of SoD has been in development since before 2013 (SoD was released as a way to fund the development of the game they really wanted to make) and a 2017 release date will be announced soon. Expect multiplayer and much larger maps for SoD2, but not much else is being released before the E3 expo in mid-June 2017.

I have no financial interest in this or any other video game, I just like the way it makes me think about actions and their consequences. I am not being paid to say nice things about this game, nor am I a professional reviewer.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Budget Your Budget

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 mentioned that I have a new-to-me car and with that comes the increased expenses of a newer vehicle. Since I can't easily increase my income, I have to decrease my "outgo". Several of my expenses are fixed (or almost), but there are ways I can reduce even those. What I'm looking at is the answer to the eternal question, "What Can I Quickly Change?"

Rent, utilities and insurance are fixed expenses and at the top of my list. They can be changed, just not in the short term and I need to save money immediately. The easiest place for me to start is with food.

This is a topic that can be very touchy to some people, especially if they have a family history of food shortages/rationing or malnutrition/starvation,or if they prep with other people who share the same food supply. I am fortunate in that I have never been that hungry, but there have been times I could easily see the back of my pantry. I've been pretty good at budgeting, but I think there is still room for improvement.

As it turns out, there is a lot of room for improvement, starting with how I shop.

I Will Stop:
  • Buying microwave dinnersThese seem like an easy way to have a hot meal in a short time, but are generally as expensive per-pound as steak, along with a serious overload of salt and additives.
  • Using vending machines. I have been guilty of needing (okay, wanting) a soda and paying $1.50 for a drink that, if purchased at the supermarket, costs $4 for a six-pack. This is also a poor way to have a candy bar or other snack items.
  • Eating fast food lunches. There are Snack Shacks at or near most of the places I call upon. While the food is prepared with fresher ingredients than at most fast-food places, it is still   expensive; fFor example, a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee is most of $5 and a Super Burrito or BLT is $7.50. 
  • Eating dinners out. I'm not eliminating every dinner out. I just plan to eat out much, much less and to take advantage of bargains when I do. 
  • Shopping 'trendy'. I've never been a Whole Foods nut, but I have shopped there in the past. No longer! Grocery Outlet and the various dollar stores are my first stops now, with the big chains only for those items not found elsewhere.
  • Drinking fancy coffees. I am as guilty as most for running out to $tarbuck$ for overpriced coffee or other drinks in the morning with coworkers. If I do go with friends, I will buy plain coffee to reduce sticker shock.
  • Deli case shopping. This isn't quite as bad as frozen or microwave meals, but it's close, both in price and in non-essential additives.

I Will Start:
  • Planning meals for several days at a time. This involves shopping for those ingredients weekly and not stopping every day to buy what's needed.
  • Taking water to work, and I will buy it by the case at the warehouse store. If I do buy soda, it will also be purchased by the case; the per-can price is much cheaper than the machine.
  • Making my own lunch. The ingredients are cheaper.
  • Using coupons or a discount service like Groupon when I go out for dinner. Several of the local sports bars have good, relatively cheap food with the expectation that they will make up the difference in booze. Since I don't drink much, I end up saving money. 
  • Buying in bulk. This includes the things that make sense to have in big packs, like paper towels and toilet paper. Food items are a bit harder for me to buy in bulk, because I'm buying only for myself, and bags of oranges and potatoes from the grocery store sometimes don't get used before going bad. However, meat in bigger packs gets divided into bags and dropped into the freezer.
  • Looking in the marked-down section of the meat counter. This is a great place to hunt up ingredients for my next dinner; I've found roasts that turned into stew, chili and burrito filling there, along with steaks. Later in the evening can be a good time to find rotisserie chickens being marked down. 
  • Using my rice or pasta as a base for more of my meals instead of donating extra to the food bank. Chicken, beef and different spices, or sauces over rice or macaroni, make for good, nutritious and filling meals.             

Other Ways to Save:
  • Look at your car insurance for a way to save some money. Shop for a cheaper policy and check into raising your deductible. The difference between a $500 and $1000 deductible can be huge! 
  • Get a cheaper cell phone plan or turn off some of the extra features that have a per-month charge. Do you really need to have unlimited texts, or is a fixed number better? What about your data use - can you get by with a cheaper plan? Most cell providers are offering unlimited data (with restrictions, naturally!), so that can be another way to save some serious money too.

The Takeaway
  • There are ways to trim a budget if you know where to look. I haven't looked at mine as closely as I should have until now. Wish me luck! 
  • If you have a novel way to save money, leave a comment! I need all the help I can get in paying for my new car.

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.

AR-15 Basics: Lightweight AR

This week, we look at the lightweight AR in detail and discuss and how to put your rifle on a diet.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #140 - Going to NRAAM 2017

There's no yellow brick road, but be sure to follow the GBVC cast at NRAAM!
  • Beth is still going to NRAAM... but the USCCA is not. Beth tells us how the NRA dis-invited them.
  • Some relationships are fiery; this one ends in arson. Who lit the fire? Sean takes a look.
  • Barron is on assignment this week.
  • Discretion is the better part of valor, and so Miguel reminds you to pick your fights lest you get in over your head.
  • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about concealed carry handguns as Personal Protective Equipment.
  • Tiffany is on assignment this week.
  • Friend of the show Sarah Cade asked Erin, "How do you find your family members in an emergency?" Erin has some ideas.
  • For some reason, family members seem to get upset when their criminal spawn get shot! Weer'd brings us the grandfather of one of the home invaders killed in Oklahoma.
  • And our plug of the week is NRAAM 2017. Follow us on Instagram!
Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
 Finding Lost Family Members
in an Emergency
This week’s topic comes to us courtesy of friend of the podcast Sarah Cade, who asked for advice on how to find family members in an emergency. And that’s a great question! However, it’s very tough to answer because in an emergency, the best way to contact family members - cell phones and the internet - may be down, or so overloaded with traffic that no signal can get through. However, there are some tips and tricks I can pass along to make finding a lost family member easier.

Now the first thing to keep in mind is that during a disaster, texts are far more likely to get through than voice cails, because texts require far less data. So ensure that family members have a phone that can send and receive texts! At this point I think even the dumbest flip phone can text so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Next, make sure that your family members have a way to keep that phone charged! There are a variety of ways to do this, with the simplest to make sure that each phone has a charging cable and both a wall and car adapter. A portable battery to charge the phone when they can’t get to an outlet is also a good idea. I recommend the Anker Astro E1, which is literally the size of a candy bar and can fully charge an iPhone 7 twice, and only costs $17 from Amazon.

Another good way to keep your cell phones operational is with a hand crank dynamo. I like the ones that are also flashlights and AM, FM, and Weather Band radios because that’s a lot of utility in one package. The iRonshow Emergency Dynamo costs only $17.99 and belongs in every prepper’s bag.

But even if the cell network is completely down, a cell phone can still be useful in locating your loved one. Make sure that you have a picture of each of them on your phone - if you have the time, take a picture of them right before you evacuate so you also have a visual record of what they were wearing - and so if you get separated from them, you can show people their picture on your phone while asking “Have you seen this person?” rather than trying to describe them.

Now back in episode 9, I recommended that people scan their critical documents - drivers’ licenses, passports, vaccination records, etc - and keep them in a thumb drive. This is still a good idea! In fact, you should have other family member’s information on this drive as well, because if you can make it a FEMA shelter, the government or the Red Cross might be able to help you find out where your family is, and having copies of their documents can’t hurt in trying to locate them.

Of course, you don’t want all that personal information hanging loose on a thumb drive, so I suggest encrypting it. I’m sure Barron will jump in next week if I get it wrong, but I’ve found that a great tool is an on-the-fly encryption tool like VeraCrypt which creates a virtual encrypted disk on your thumb drive. So long as you remember the password, you can open the encrypted files easily, but it will take others a long time to break through it!

ProTip: since you need to actually run the program to decrypt your data, install a copy of it on your thumb drive as well.

Finally, the best way to find your family members in an emergency is simply not to lose them in the first place. Pre-plan rendezvous spots if you ever get separated in an emergency. For example, my family uses the acronym ACE: if we get separated, or we cannot reach our house due to a disaster like a fire, our rendezvous spots are, in order: the Airport, our Church, and the local Epic Theater.

If you have to evacuate in multiple vehicles, make sure that every single one of them has a detailed atlas for every state you may have to travel through, and designate meet-up spots in case you get separated. This may be as simple as "the first rest stop across the state line" or as complex as a street address. Write these locations inside the cover of the atlas so they won't get lost.

And yes, I said locations, plural -- on a long journey you need more than one. General rule of thumb for military convoys is a rally point every 20 miles or so, but you don't need to go that route; something simple like "every Chevron station at an interstate exit" or "every highway exit that ends in 5" will suffice for most purposes.

So there you go, Sarah; I hope you found this helpful. And if you or any of our other listeners think of something I missed, go to, click on the Contact Us tab, scroll down to Erin, and leave me your idea in the comment box. Don’t forget to click on “More ponies” before you hit submit!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Reasonably Priced Everyday Prepper Vehicle

Everyone say hello to the newest Blue Collar Prepping contributor, The Discerning Shootist! 

TDS has done several videos for us, including a guest video during during our "Perfect Prepper Vehicle" theme week. I figured I ought to give him a byline, since he was kind enough to mention the blog in his videos. 

-- Erin the Editrix

This week I did a video about an affordable and everyday prepper vehicle instead of a perfect fantasy. I plan to make a series of videos featuring this car and how I affordably modified it for everyday use as well as disaster/bug out readiness.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Scrolling through my facebook feed the other day, I saw a post/picture that stated something along the lines of “Not once in the last eight years (meaning the time before our current President) did I have to wake up fearing that WW3 was going to start today”. My initial response was, “You're welcome. Those of us who served during the Cold War managed to remove that threat for a little while”. Before I hit the enter button, I stopped and thought about the young person who had shared this bit of tripe. I erased my comment and let her post go unanswered because she wouldn't have allowed anything contrary on her page. This is a problem on several levels that needs to be explored.

Political Divide
The gulf between the dominant parties in American politics is getting wider. Civility is rare whenever politics get brought up (one of the reasons we don't cover politics on this blog) and I'm starting to see an increase in the dehumanization of those who disagree with either side. This is not a good way to run a country, having people inciting hatred for anyone who doesn't agree with a certain political opinion. When we have black-clad idiots facing off with skinheads (and the police standing by doing nothing), we have a recipe for a riot. I'm old enough to recall the last major riots we had in this country and it was not a pretty situation.

Politicians get changed, we have this cycle of elections that makes sure of that, but nobody is being taught how to get through the periods where their guys aren't in power. Instant gratification and lack of long-term thinking are pushing people away from each other in alarming ways.

This is one of the reason I'm a prepper- so I can identify and avoid situations that have a strong potential of boiling over into a riot. I'm too old to get involved in fist fights in the streets, I never really enjoyed the few from my younger days.

History is a Lost Cause
For some reason, the two generations that were raised since the end of the Cold War were not taught basic world history. I saw this begin in the 1970s, but it is much worse now. The pause in global conflict from 1989 until now is just that, a pause. War has been the default setting for mankind since the beginning of recorded history. Just because the USA managed to outspend the USSR on war preparations, or at least cause them to bankrupt themselves trying to keep up with us, doesn't mean that war will never happen again. The blame lies with the schools and the idiots in charge of them that replaced history with “social studies” or whatever they're calling it this week. The history of our own country and those most likely to be in conflict with us should be more important than learning about the dress code of an island tribe in the Pacific Ocean.

Another reason I choose to prepare for disasters, some of them are man-made. This issue is why I have old books set aside. Any history book written in the last decade or so (which is as old as most schools are allowed to keep) is to be read through carefully, looking for what they left out.

Evil Exists; Deal With It.
Since the 1960s, there has been a push to rewrite human history in shades of gray. There is no black and white any more, no good or evil. Everyone and everything is more or less the same shade of gray when you look at everything about them, according to those who want to excuse evil acts. The impetus for excusing evil is to be able to conduct even more evil in the future. The belief that all peoples and cultures are equal disregards the teachings of history, and common sense should be enough to show that such beliefs are false.

Religion is a part of this problem. I make no distinctions between sects or even entire beliefs, I'm seeing every religion being watered down and made “palatable”. Very few churches are willing to teach that evil exists, they're much too busy extorting money so they can build another wing on the building or hire another “preacher”. The “heathen” or pagan religions are not exempt from this, I've met several “pagans” that know nothing about what they claim to follow, but they love the tattoos and art work.

This is why I'm a spiritual prepper. My way of life is fading, being replaced by a foggy, washed-out searching for a utopia that can not and does not exist. Evil seems to be getting a foothold and I am doing what I can to fight back.

The Debate is Over
With the invention of facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. we have given up on actually communicating with each other. Anyone who voices a contrary opinion is now a sub-human monster whose words don't deserve to be shared. Most of the social media outlets are working on ways to censor “fake news” or at least anything that gets reported as fake news. That sounds like a great way to have a one-sided debate to me.

I have a lot of young friends, close to half of my Facebook friends list was under 30 years old when I added them. I've lost count of the number of times my comments have been deleted and how often I've been unfriended by nominal adults (they can vote and most can buy alcohol legally) just because I disagreed with something they posted. Most of the time it's something they copied from a political site, since very few of them know enough about history or politics to be able to form their own opinions. Someone they like said it, so it must be true and anything to the contrary is heresy. Movie stars and musicians that want to moonlight in politics have found it very easy to get time in front of cameras and microphones when they want to spout their version of “the truth”.

I do have two or three friends whose political views are drastically different than mine and they are intelligent enough to be able to debate those differences. We rarely change the others' minds, but we can talk in a civil manner and discuss the differences. This is becoming harder to do with every election cycle.

This is why I prepare for different kinds of disasters. A tornado will usually rip up a section of land a mile or so wide for a dozen miles or so. Car crashes don't normally involve more than two or three vehicles. Blizzards hit fast and last a week, with the roads and power being affected for days at most. In the aftermath of any of these, nobody is really going to care who I voted for in the last election if I can offer them aid. I'm not likely to turn down a warm place to sleep just because my friend voted for the “wrong” politician.

Unless I win the lottery and can buy that private island, I guess I'm going to have to find a way to deal with these issues. I'll keep trying to educate the ones who are willing to learn and I'll miss the ones who choose to remove me from their lives over something as petty as who gets to sit in the Oval Office.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Seasonal Gear Check

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

It has been raining and snowing at record levels in California, with parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains having a snow pack near 200% of normal! This has made Winter gear planning pretty easy: sweaters, rain gear, extra wool socks and the like.

Spring planning? Not so easy.

Spring Has Sprung
Things become a bit weird when we enter spring. Over the last three weeks it has been: sunny and 75°; raining and 50°; and clear and 35°! I've pretty much thrown my hands up and put a couple long sleeve t-shirts in a plastic bag in a corner of my trunk alongside the rain gear. 

Rain-X Latitude 
One thing on my car that has been getting a workout are the wiper blades. One of them cracked and the edge separated, and now it leaves a smear on the glass as it wipe. Do I really need to mention that it was the driver's side blade? 

I like the Rain-X brand; their Latitude blades seem to last as long as any other I've tried and are priced comparable to the other, 'better' quality national brands. I needed a set right away, so there was no time to order from Amazon and use the very handy Blue Collar Prepping link. While I was as the store, I also bought Rain-X Bug Remover washer fluid. (I don't need to buy the cold weather version, since I only have about 10-15 days below freezing or the frost point where I live.)

I can testify that the Rain-X fluid will treat your windshield so well that you can keep your wipers on the longest delay setting at night and have excellent vision in all but "fire hose" downpours.

Gear and Pantry Check
As I mentioned above, the gear in my Get Home Bag is as set as it's going to be until the rain actually stops. Which should be soon. (I hope.)

A notice popped up on my phone calendar to go over the Pantry checklist. It's a bit early for me to go all the way through my stores and my day-to-day pantry, but there were a couple things that were getting close to their sell-by* dates; the biggest was the instant oatmeal I have in my home stores. I like the Quaker Oats Variety pack that the warehouse clubs carry. I am a little disappointed that the packets are now loose in the big box, when previously they were more evenly divided by flavor and in smaller boxes which made putting them my prepping stores more convenient. However, all this is a minor irritant because I just place the individual packs into heavy duty zip lock bags instead of doing the same to the discontinued small boxes.

The only other item on my shelf that was even close to needing to go was 12 cans of chicken breast, also from Sam's Club. I like keeping chicken in my gear, since it is a nice change of pace from tuna, and at 13 oz. the can is easily shared with another person or mixed into pasta as an easy protein boost to the carbs.

The oatmeal is going onto my pantry shelf, since I take oatmeal with me every day. It's a nice and easy way to have something hot for my first break at 7 am. The chicken is going to the local food bank since I have cans on the kitchen shelf right now.

* I (and most of you) know that the sell-by date does not mean the food is spoiled or no longer safe to eat.

The Takeaway
  • Plan for your weather, no matter how silly your choices seem to others.
  • If you can't see the road, you are a hazard to everyone, not just yourself.
  • Rotate your food to keep things fresh and help out those around you.

The Recap 

    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, April 18, 2017

    The AR-15: an Introduction

    The AR-15 is an excellent rifle. If you can only have one gun, it is a great candidate due to its modular nature.

    I go over some of the basics of the AR-15 in this video. Setting the rifle up for specific needs will be the basis of future articles.


    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    Gun Blog Variety Podcast #139 - Beth, What Is Best In Life?

    By Crom, what a podcast!
    • The USCCA Concealed Carry Expo is worth several shows. This week, Beth tells us what some of the women in the firearms industry have to say.
    • It's a complicated storyline in this week's Felons Behaving Badly, but the characters are much the same as they always are. Sean gives you their backstories.
    • Barron is on assignment this week.
    • Are you a snob? Miguel has a few words for you.
    • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin explore why no one is talking about that school shooting in San Bernardino last week.
    • Are you a parent? Do you have responsibility for others? Tiffany brings us an interview with Melody Lauer who, along with John Johnston, teaches the Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent course.
    • Erin wants you to bury your stuff. Safely. For reasons.
    • From the "You can't make this stuff up" files, Weer'd brings you an interview with Moxie Cotton, a drag queen who will be helping school kids film a "gun violence documentary. Seriously.
    • And our plug of the week is "Concealed Carry is Herd Immunity Against Crime" shirts by our very own Erin!

    Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

    Listen to the podcast here.
    Read the show notes here.

    Thanks to LuckyGunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

    Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
    Cold, Hard Cache
    Last week, I mentioned that best way to safeguard preps that you cannot control is to bury them. This is known as caching supplies, and has been used by militaries around the world for centuries, if not longer. What’s important to note is that the word cache - see ay see aitch ee - is from the French word “cashy” which means “one who hides”. A cache, then, is a hidden supply of something - probably something valuable, since someone has gone to the effort of hiding it. The website How to Bury Your Stuff has a phrase, No one can take what they cannot find, and I recommend that every prepper read it.

    Now when it comes to caching supplies, there are three qualities to keep in mind: Accessibility, Portability, and Capacity.
    Accessibility. This is the most important consideration, because a buried cache you cannot get to might as well not exist at all for what good it does you. The ideal solution is to cache on land that you own, as this gives you the best amount of control over it, but many preppers have caches concealed along the route to a bug-out location. If you do this, it is critical that you can get to these supplies at all times of the day and night, and in all seasons.

    Access doesn’t always mean “can I reach the place where I buried my cache”, either; it can also mean how difficult it is to unearth it. If the ground freezes where you live, then you need to have a way to break through frozen ground in order to reach your supplies. Will there be flooding? A foot of standing water can make it nearly impossible to get to your cache. And if the land is public, there’s always the chance that the earth could be disturbed for a variety of reasons - erosion, development, animal activity - and reveal your cache to other people.

    Portability. Once you reach your cache, do you need to take everything, including the case, with you? Or can you just open it, take what you need, and close it back up?

    A completely portable cache needs to be small. Not only will a larger container be heavier, but it will also take more time and effort to dig up than if you only need to remove the lid. However, if you are in a hurry you may not have time to properly re-bury or otherwise conceal a non-portable cache, meaning that anything you cannot take will be lost, whereas with a portable container you can just leave behind an empty hole.

    Capacity. There are differing schools of thought on this subject. On the one hand, it’s a lot of work to dig a hole, fill a container with supplies, seal it up, bury it, and conceal the evidence of the burial, so there’s a lot to be said for doing the “one and done” approach, especially on land that you own.

    On the other hand, “one and done” means that if your cache is compromised, you have lost ALL of those preps. However, if you spend the time and effort to hide multiple caches, you stand a greater success of not losing all of them.
    So with these in mind, I present to you various options for making your cache.

    • A wide-mouth Nalgene bottle is a great way to store a lot of small preps, or to have a portable cache, and they only cost around 10 dollars. If the bottle is opaque, or if you put have a sleeve to put it in, no one will see that it’s full of supplies instead of water, and these days no one looks twice at a water bottle unless they’re thirsty. I specified Nalgene instead of metal because plastic won’t rust the way metal will, and unless you are burying a cache in the desert or other dry climate, you need to worry about groundwater.
    • If you want to store a little more and are willing to pay more, an MTM Survivor Ammo Can costs $20 and holds up to 500 rounds of 5.56 ammunition, or 16 30-round magazines, or anything else that fits into a 7x12 inch space, like a pistol or money or food.
    • For a great combination of capacity and portability, kick it old-school with an Army surplus ammo can, which costs between $25 and $30 depending on if you choose 30 or 50 caliber. While these are made of metal, they are incredibly tough; there’s a picture on How to Bury Your Stuff that shows a can that was buried for 4 years, and the pistol and ammunition stored inside it worked perfectly. The can showed signs of rust and pitting, but could have probably stayed in the ground another 4 years without issue. Giving the bottom of the can extra coats of Rust-Oleum paint and wrapping it in a plastic tarp will also expand its functional lifespan.
    • To get more capacity at the loss of portability, get some food-grade buckets like I mentioned waaaay back in episode 5 and pair them with some gamma-seal lids for $12 each. They provide an airtight seal on the bucket and they’re very easy to open if you have opposable thumbs -- much less so if you’re an animal. We store pet food in ours and leave them on our back porch, and while animals have tried to get inside by gnawing the plastic, not even raccoons have been able to open the lid.
    • Finally, if you want a big container for a “one and done” solution, get a Military Grade 58-Gallon Waterproof Molded Barrel. They’re big - almost 2 feet across and nearly 4 feet high - and they’re heavy, weighing 18 pounds - but boy do they hold a LOT of stuff. I’m not sure how you’d get everything out of if without having to crawl inside, but you can fit anything short of a fully-assembled Mosin-Nagant inside. They’re also quite expensive - around $60 before shipping - but I can’t think of anything larger I’d want to bury.
    And remember: If they can’t find it, they can’t take it!

    Thursday, April 13, 2017

    Pump It Up

    Last week, I mentioned pumps that could be used to empty an underground storage tank (UST) and how I was having a hard time finding a suitable pump for emergency use. There are several issues that I ran into, but in order to explain them I need to make sure our readers have a basic understanding of pumps, pump mechanics, and the limitations of each type of pump. My knowledge of pumps comes from a few decades of working with (and on) various types of pumps and not from any formal schooling, so I may get a few details wrong, but the basic knowledge is from personal experience.

    What Is a Pump?
     A pump is a mechanism for moving a fluid (gas or liquid state) from one area to another. Both a trash pump and your heart are liquid pumps, but they work by different methods and are examples of the two main types of pumps.
    Centrifugal pumps
    Centrifugal pumps work by using a spinning disk, usually one with vanes on its face, to throw the fluid against a casing that directs the flow in the desired direction. Normally the intake is in the center of the disk (called an impeller) and the discharge is rotated 90° from the intake. Here's a simple example :

    Image #1

    If you have a well, you probably have a submersible centrifugal pump at the bottom. Your water-cooled vehicle has a centrifugal water pump that moves the coolant through the engine and radiator. The fuel pump in newer (fuel injected) cars is a centrifugal pump. Centrifugal pumps are very common in industry.

    • Easy to work on: as long as you have the correct seals on the drive shaft, the pump will run for years and parts are not built with excruciatingly tight tolerances. 
    • Long life: because the impeller and volute are not actually touching each other, there is very little wear between the two. 
    • Variable rates: by changing the speed of the drive shaft, you can easily change the rate of flow (within reason). There is a minimum speed below which the pump won't move anything, and a maximum speed where the spinning parts will fail, but there is a range of flow rates from a single pump.
    • Tolerant of variable feed: properly designed, they can handle a limited amount of solids mixed in with the fluid feed. Liquid pumps will handle a limited amount of gasses in the feed.
    • Good for pushing fluids long distances and up high vertical distances (AKA "head").
    • Dead-head resilient: If the discharge is blocked, the pump will not build up much pressure. This is handy if you can't, or don't, want to deal with high pressure lines.
    • High flow rates at lower pressures: I used to work with pumps that had up to 18,000 gallons per minute flow rates, but they were only working against about 6 feet of vertical head -- about 3 PSI.
    • No dry start: the volute must be full before the pump will work. So-called "self priming" pumps simply have a method of filling the volute before starting the pump, or they have a volute that is designed to hold fluid after power is shut down.
    • Poor suction: while they are capable of generating moderate discharge pressures, they won't suck up anything below the inlet port.
    • Lower efficiency: only about 60% of the energy put into the pump is transferred to the fluid. There is a method of figuring out peak efficiency, but I don't want to get into how to read a pump curve in this post.
    • Works best with thin fluids: oils and greases are too viscous to be moved through a centrifugal pump.

    Positive Displacement Pumps
    Unlike centrifugal pumps, positive displacement (PD) pumps use a wide variety of methods of moving fluids. They all have two things in common: check valves, and a chamber that changes in volume. The check valves may not be separate pieces, or they may be an integral part of the mechanism, but there has to be some way to prevent back-flow for a PD pump to work.

    image #2
    Here's a common pitcher pump, which is a good example of a piston pump. The volume of the space between the pump base and the piston is changed by the action of the handle. The check valves are at the base and on the piston. Deep, old wells may not have a valve on the "foot" of the pump and will rely on the leather seals on the piston to do all of the work.

    Image #3

    This is a peristaltic pump, commonly used as a "metering" pump because the volume of fluid is set by the size of the tubing. By changing the speed of the drive, you can easily meter out exact amounts of fluid. The changing volume is in the tubing, and the check valves are formed by the rollers as they pinch the tubing against the housing. They're easy to work on since the great majority of any wear is in the tubing, which is easily replaced.

    Image #4
    This is a vane pump. The centrifugal force of the spinning rotor throws the vanes out against the casing, creating a sealed volume that it then moves around the bottom of the casing to the discharge. We use this type of pump to move anhydrous ammonia because the materials are selected to withstand the temperature extremes. They don't last long if you run them dry, though; the fluid acts as the only lubricant available to the vanes as they slide along the inside of the casing.

    There are other types of PD pumps that use diaphragms or some other way to create a changing volume, but I think you get the idea. PD pumps have many uses.

    • Often self-priming:  they are designed to move gasses as well as liquids, so they can prime themselves from a dry start. A pitcher pump may need a cup of water dumped down the casing to wet the leather piston to form a good seal, which is why you'll sometimes find a full water jar next to the hand pump. 
    • Good for thicker fluids: high viscosity liquids like oil and grease are no problem for a PD pump. I've seen specialty PD pumps that will move wet concrete through a hose to the building site. 
    • High pressure: the common pressure washer that you use to clean your sidewalk or power-wash your siding uses a piston pump. Pressures in the thousands of PSI are easy to achieve with a PD pump.
    • High pressure: if the discharge gets blocked, most PD pumps will create dangerous levels of pressure in a matter of seconds. I've seen someone close the wrong valve and have to clean up after a 6" diameter pipe blew out. 
    • Touchy to work on: much tighter tolerances in the manufacture means that PD pumps tend to be harder to work on, especially in the field. Special "clean rooms" are normally set aside for working on PD pumps to keep dust and dirt out of the internal parts.
    • Lower flow rates than centrifugal pumps.
    • Shorter life-span than a centrifugal pump: the tighter tolerances and constant motion of parts against each other lead to increased wear.

    So picking a pump is not as easy as it seems. Like most of life, there are compromises and trade-offs in deciding which pump to choose if you're trying to empty a UST. I'm still doing some research and will update last week's article soon. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a gas station that will let me field test any of my possible solutions; for some reason they're not fond of anyone spreading information that could help thieves...

    Gif credits


    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    Prudent Prepping: The "Key" to Security

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

    Or to be accurate, several keys to my new-to-me car.

    How can a key make me secure?
    In my pickup truck, it didn't matter what I had in the cab or even on the back seat; if you had a key, you had access to whatever was inside. Having a vehicle with a trunk has changed how and what I keep in my car, because I no longer need to worry "Is it obvious what I have in this bag? Am I tempting a break-in by having it on my floorboards?"

    Two regular and Valet key
    I previously posted about only having one key for my truck and breaking the loop off. It wasn't a very fun time. Fortunately, my truck wasn't new enough to have a security chip, so those copies were cheap.

    Keys for a 2012 model car are not that cheap, not by a long shot. I was given one key when I bought the car, but a spare was needed, and since the programming fee is the same for one or 100 copies, I had two made.

    Along with two regular, full-featured copies, one of the keys I had the dealer cut for me was a valet key. The regular keys have a door lock/unlock, a panic button and a trunk button, while the valet key does not.

    Trunk and gas access

    It's called a valet key because you give it to the valet to park your car without giving him access to everything inside it. A valet key only works on the door locks ignition; it won't open the glove box, nor the lockable lever that opens the trunk and pops the gas cap over. 

    This may seem like old news to many, but I'm just getting used to having a fairly hidden and safe place to carry my valuables. My gear (such as firearms, range bags, even my Get-Home Bag) is now several times more secure that it was when in my truck.

    The Takeaway
    • Limiting who can get to all areas of your vehicle is important.
    • Having spare keys can keep you from waiting for a roadside service call and an expensive locksmith fee .

    The Recap
    • Three keys and programming fee from the Honda dealer: $205.11 inc. tax. This was a comparable price to local locksmiths, while also giving me exact copies of the original key. 
    • Nothing else was purchased this week. In fact, not much will be purchased for a bit, as this was a big hit to my Prepping and disposable/fun budget. 

    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, April 11, 2017

    Buying Used

    It is a well-established fact that I love gear. In fact, most humans have a love for objects, because at heart we're tool-using animals. However, living on a budget makes buying the new shiny things difficult. Buying used gear can be a great way to save money, but you have to be better prepared than if you're buying new.

    The first key to buying used is to do your homework. Know the product features you need and expect to see beforehand.  Know common failure points and how to check them. While researching your potential purchase, note any routine maintenance that is recommended, and be prepared to perform this right away.

    Some items that are commonly purchased used have specific things to look for.

    Vehicles are probably the most common item that people buy used because they're expensive and have a substantial drop in price after even a year of use. They also have a wide checklist of things to look at:
    • Check body panels for paint that is a slightly different color, or inconsistent gaps between body panels. These things can indicate that the vehicle was wrecked. Rust is another obvious red flag.
    • Start the engine, let it get to operating temperature, and listen for metallic noises, sharp clicks, or other odd sounds. 
    • Test all of the buttons inside the car. Make sure everything operates correctly.
    • During the test drive, note if the car shimmies, hops, or pulls to one side. Also note any noise or vibration during braking. All of these things indicate problems that will need to be addressed.

    Used clothing can be a great way to save money, especially if you're buying clothing you expect to outgrow quickly or is subject to being damaged. Check seams, buttons, and zippers for wear and proper function, and look for stains.

    Tools are both necessary and expensive, and purchasing tools secondhand is a great way to get what you need for bargain prices.
    • Check for chips, cracks, or bent parts. 
    • Make sure that the handles are smooth and in good repair.
    • Make sure that the body of the tool is in good condition, with no cracks or breaks. 
    • Ensure that cords have all prongs solidly in place and there is no damage to the plug or the cord itself.
    • Pay attention to the condition of power tool batteries. Test all batteries in the tool if possible.
    • Plug in the charger with a battery on it, to make sure that it functions as well.

    Firearms are another expensive item with a bustling used market. Other folks have written far more comprehensive checklists than I could for both revolvers and pistols, and used long guns follow the same basic guidelines:
    • Screw heads should not be damaged.
    • Finish should be even and in decent shape.
    • Action should cycle smoothly. 
    • Be sure the gun is also chambered in a caliber that you can still get ammunition for. A great price is no deal on a weapon you can't feed.

    With a little research, you can save a lot of money and still have all the gear you could need.


    Monday, April 10, 2017

    Why is this night different from all other nights?

    & is used with permission.
    Chag Pesach Sameach to all our Jewish friends!

    For those of you who aren't Jewish, the festival of Passover begins today and ends next Tuesday (April 18). I have been informed that on the penultimate day of Passover, a yahrzeit candle is lit on sundown and burns all night and day, ending when Passover ends.

    This is of no small interest to me, because prior to this the only long-lasting candles that I have seen were the bulky and not-cheap 36 hour survival candles that everyone knows about. But for about the same price a one 36-hour candle, you can get six Yahrzeit candles. Admittedly, you can't cook with them like you can with the 36-hour ones, but at this price they're a great way to make sure you have illumination during power outages.

    Now before you start to worry if this is sacrilegious, I specifically asked that question of a Jewish friend and I was told "My parents have used them for years as a bathroom nightlight during power outages - they come in a glass container, fit into the toothbrush/cup holder tile thing, and are odorless." 

    What's more, because of Passover, these candles are likely to be on sale for a while, sometimes as low as 30-50 cents each. You can find them at just about any supermarket that has an "ethnic foods" section -- just look for the kosher food and you'll find these.

    Sunday, April 9, 2017

    Gun Blog Variety Podcast #138 - Everything Sounds More Profound in Latin

    Semper ubi sub ubi.
    • Beth is at the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo, and she takes some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to tell us about it.
    • In one of the worst crimes we have ever talked about on the podcast, Sean looks a little deeper to find out what kind of creature would murder two little girls - one only four days old.
    • Barron is on assignment this week.
    • Politicians frequently mistake themselves as public masters. Miguel tells us his idea for whipping them back into proper public servants.
    • In the Main Topic, Sean and Erin talk about the US Senate going nuclear and imposing the Reid Option on Supreme Court filibusters.
    • Tiffany is on assignment this week.
    • Inter arma enim silent leges: "In times of war, the law falls silent." But what about when your choice is break the law and survive, or keep the law and die? Erin tells us about "The Doctrine of Competing Harms."
    • One of these days the anti-gun leadership will force Loaded Conversations to stop broadcasting their utter hatred of people like us - but today is not that day, for it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Weer'd focuses on Gays Against Guns leader, and Loaded Conversations co-host, Dr. Dwight Panozzo, PhD.
    • And our plug of the week is the SFD Responder from Safer Faster Defense.
    Thank you for downloading, listening, and subscribing. You are subscribed, right? We are available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play Music!

    Listen to the podcast here.
    Read the show notes here.

    Thanks to Lucky Gunner and Remington for their sponsorship, and a special thanks to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support.

    Blue Collar Prepping Transcript:
    Ethical Prepping and the Doctrine of Competing Harms

    Over the years, the Blue Collar Prepping blog has talked about some subjects which, while not illegal themselves, could certainly aid in illegal activities. For example, last year Chaplain Tim talked about lock picking, and this past Thursday he talked about how to siphon gasoline from underground storage tanks as a way to fuel your vehicle after a disaster.

    Like Tim, I believe there’s no such thing as inherently bad knowledge for the same reason that I believe there’s no such thing as an inherently bad tool; it’s what we do with those tools, or that knowledge, that matters.

    There’s also the fact that in a life or death situation, it is permitted to break a the law when following it would cause more human injury than breaking it. This is known as the Doctrine of Competing Harms here in the US, although it is sometimes called the Doctrine of Necessity or the Doctrine of Two Evils.

    For example, if you are lost in the woods and you are in danger of dying from exposure or dehydration, it is legally defensible for you to break into an unoccupied cabin in order to save your own life, because a human life is more precious in the eyes of the law than personal property. You can get in out of the cold, you can build a fire, you can even drink water and eat food, because this trespassing and burglary is being done to save a life.

    However, it is not legally defensible for you to then ransack that cabin or take items from it. Once you are out of danger, anything else you do is prosecutable. Now, some of you are likely wondering “This is all very well and good, Erin, but what does this have to do with prepping?” And the answer to that is ethics.

    Here’s an example of ethical lock picking: You come across that same unoccupied cabin in the woods and you’re going to die of exposure if you don’t get shelter and warmth. You could just break the lock or smash a window to get inside, but it’s more ethical to pick the lock, because it doesn’t destroy the cabin owner’s property. It’s also ethical to leave a note with your name and contact information, explaining what you did, and why, and what you used, and offering to compensate the owner for loss and damages. Not only is this the decent thing to do, but it also gives you affirmative defense against charges of trespassing, burglary and theft.

    Similarly, if you are a prepper who owns such a cabin, it is ethical to keep it unlocked and stocked with food, water and firewood in case someone is stranded and needs shelter. That’s a common practice in Alaska and many parts of Canada, and I’ve heard it done as far south as upstate New York. Remember, the entire point of prepping is to prevent suffering and death. Clearly, your own well-being comes before that of others, but if your life isn’t on the line -- for example, you aren’t currently living in that cabin -- then your concern should be for other innocent people.

    I will admit that things become a bit fuzzy if that cabin is your bug-out location and is filled with your preps, because in that case anything which is taken by a stranger in need is conceivably being taken from you when you might need them in the future. This is made even fuzzier if you keep firearms among your preps. In a situation like that, what I recommend is a bit of misdirection. Leave the door unlocked and some back staples like food, water and blankets for such a lost soul, but keep your main preps both hidden and locked.

    Good places to hide your preps are:

    • Under the floorboards
    • Buried a few feet underground 
    • Concealed nearby, under a camouflage tarp or otherwise made to look like part of the terrain
    Whichever you choose, it’s important to make sure that these preps are sealed tightly. Not only will this prevent damage from moisture, but a tight seal will lock in odors that might attract hungry wildlife.

    Next week, I’ll talk about the best containers for such storage. 

    Friday, April 7, 2017

    Guest Post: If You Find Yourself In A Hole, Stop Digging

    by Tim Kies

    I remember when I first became interested in the prepping lifestyle, back around 2005. It wasn’t called that back then; it was called the self-sufficiency movement, or the modern simplicity lifestyle, or many other names. Regardless of what we called it, everyone seemed to think that doing what our grandparents took as a normal way of living meant that we were somehow preparing for TEOTWAWKI.

    I started trying to follow what the many websites from back then all said: I bought a few extra canned goods each shopping trip; I had a few cases of bottled water in the corner of the room; I even stored some extra gasoline (with stabilizer) in the shed . The only thing that I didn’t do was to have some extra cash on hand,  because the biggest problem that I had -- and that I suspect many preppers have -- is a mountain of debt.

    I was earning well over $22 per hour plus overtime, but I never had any money. Instead, I was a typical American with a wallet full of credit cards with balances on them. I paid them every month, but I also used them every month, and so instead of the balances going down they always went up. I had no savings, so if a car broke down, out came another credit card.

    I thought I was doing well by putting extra food in the pantry against some future crisis. But the fact is, the crisis was already occurring. Every time I spent $20 on supplies that I didn’t need, I put myself further into debt. If I had used that $20 on a credit card bill, I could have saved money spent on interest and gotten to the debt-free point that much faster.

    What finally made me see the light was the realization that we had always had a car payment. Sometimes we traded an older, failing car in for something better while we were still upside-down on our first loan because we just didn’t have the money to fix the older car. I eventually realized that unless I paid it off completely, we would never have a car that lasted longer than its payments. I got mad at myself for the financial mistakes I had always made, and decided to try and get control of my money, especially since I was getting older but not getting ahead.

    We scraped together the money from a tax refund, and with some extra overtime I paid off the car. We then sold it and bought a cheap van, later adding another cheap van. both paid for with cash and both with no collision insurance on them. We then began to get rid of our debt by paying off our credit cards and getting rid of them. A year later, instead of being even further in debt, we had actually begun to dig ourselves out of it. 

    Then I lost my job. I had been making a very good income for 35 years, and suddenly that was gone. It is one thing to say "If you lose your job today, tomorrow your job will be looking for work", but it is a very different thing when it actually happens. Not only do you find that jobs for people with your skills and at your age are hard to come by, but they also don’t pay as well or give benefits. It soon became obvious to us that we would have no choice but to file for bankruptcy. 

    I talked with my bankruptcy lawyer about negotiating with my creditors to reduce the balance and trying to pay my debt off myself. The lawyer was upfront and said that they had people to do that from time to time, but they ended up coming back to him and continuing on to bankruptcy almost without fail. 

    We had no valuables to sell, and no decent prospects for making money enough to pay the debt off, so we filed for Chapter 7 where our debt was eliminated straight out. (This is used when you have no assets to sell, like boats, cars, coin collections, etc. and the debt is unsecured, such as credit card loans.) We were able to keep our home, which we still owed money on, but we could have also included that in the bankruptcy if we wanted to walk away from that debt at the cost of being homeless. The worst part of it all was that I had to admit to myself that I had royally screwed up.  You are actually not treated badly by anyone you deal with, except for yourself; the whole thing is simple, pretty straightforward, and painful.

    Once we were out of debt, we were faced with the prospect of how to put the pieces of our lives back together. For me, that was getting a job. I eventually found a job at a mobile home park as a maintenance man. Because we were debt free, I was able to work part time. I worked there for two years until I could receive Social Security Disability for pain from a broken back that I acquired 30 years ago in a car accident. With back pay from disability, we were able to buy my wife a newer vehicle. We of course paid cash ($8,000), and this time we are maintaining full coverage insurance on the car since it is worth more than we are willing to risk losing in a crash. When the value of the car drops below $3,000 or so, we will drop full coverage on it and take our chances. 

    Now we are completely debt free, so even on a limited income we don’t need as much as we used to just to get by. We have never had a written budget; we just make sure to stay on top of our bills, such as internet, gas and electric, and rent. We basically just learned to live within our means. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do things, like go on vacation or see a movie. It just means that we have a savings account that we use for things like that and we only take money from there. If we have the money in it, we can do something we want to; if not, we won’t, even if we have more than enough money in some other account or in the box in my drawer. But the biggest part of what we are doing now is that we are no longer just drifting along. We are doing things on purpose. 

    I still do prepper things; I just think that I have gotten smarter about it. I no longer prep for the collapse of the world, but instead for a week-long power outage or a snowstorm that disrupts delivery of food to local supermarts. I have a fund that I save money in, and only a vague idea of what I am going to use it for. It might be a new gun, or some ammo, or maybe even a kayak, if I saw a great deal on one.

    I am no authority on money, debt, or much of anything else. If I had paid attention to how my grandparents lived, I would have been much farther ahead then by simply following the path of least resistance. When they wanted to buy a new couch, or a lamp, they didn’t simply go to a furniture store and plunk down their credit card; they saved up enough money until they could pay cash for it. Not only did they appreciate the thing more, but as I have learned over the course of my life, they didn’t waste money buying the cheap junk that looks good on the showroom floor but doesn’t last as long as the payments on your credit card. They looked at things like that as an investment, and bought quality.

    My goal in this is not to have you follow my path. My goal is to get you to think that a dollar spent on a can of beans might better be spent paying down a dollar of debt. It could end up saving you a lot more in the long run, and we ought to be looking at pepping as a long-term goal.

    Thursday, April 6, 2017

    Got Gas?

    About a year and a half ago, I wrote a short post about lockpicking. In the first paragraph I stated “I don't condone and can't recommend breaking laws for petty reasons, but at the same time I believe that tools and skills are neither good nor evil by themselves, and that applies to today's article as well.

    Gasoline and diesel are common fuels that we pump into our vehicles on a regular basis, and some of us store back-up fuel. We've already covered fuel storage, but what if you're away from your stored fuel when TSHTF? Where are you going to find enough fuel to get you home if the pumps aren't working due to a sustained power outage?

    Gas stations don't normally have back-up generators, but they do have underground storage tanks full of fuel.

    Anatomy of a UST

    This is a generic model of an underground storage tank (UST). The American EPA made drastic changes to the laws covering USTs back in 1988, requiring that existing tanks meet new standards or be replaced with new tanks that met the standards. Most of the tanks you'll find in the US will be laid out similar to the picture, so I'll use it to point out how to access the fuel in the tank if the pumps are dead.

    From left to right in the picture, the tank has several connections:
    • Vent pipe
    • Fill pipe
    • Fuel pump
    • Meter (AKA gas pump or island)
    Without electricity to power the pump, it and the meter are dead and not much use. If you have a generator handy, you may be able to get them to run, but any island that takes a credit card will also need a phone line or internet connection before they will dispense fuel. Good luck with that in a grid-down situation! Additionally, the circuitry inside the meter/island will have anti-tamper hardware or firmware to prevent bypassing the electronics.

    The vent pipe ties into the top of the UST and allows vapor flow to and from the tank as it is filled and emptied. The vent pipe will normally be run to a building or other structure near the tanks, and extends at least 10 feet in the air so that any vapors pushed out of the tank while filling it are routed away from any possible ignition source. Vent pipes are usually capped with a mesh screen to keep debris and insects out, and can be as long as needed. 

    Last, and most important, is the fill pipe. You've probably driven over the fill pipe connections dozens of time without even noticing them -- they're the bumps in the driveway near the islands. Here's a picture of a common fill point.

    Photo credit: Chaplain Tim

    They are about 10 inches in diameter and normally raised an inch or two above the surface to keep rain water out. The lid will be heavy so it will stay in place with cars driving over it.

    Photo credit: Chaplain Tim
    Once you take the lid off, here's what the inside of the hole looks like.

    A simple lock is all that secures the cap, but remember that you're working on a fuel tank, so don't use anything that will create a spark to remove the lock! 

    Bolt cutters should fit into the hole and still open enough to get around the shackle of the lock; picks could be a challenge due to working in a hole and at a weird angle; and I doubt you could get a pry bar into position within the limits of the hole. 

    Grinders and cut-off wheels are a bad choice.

    After the lock is off, simply lifting up on the ring, or ears of the latch, unlatches the cap and it lifts off with ease. The ring is supplied to make it easier to remove the cap while wearing heavy rubber gloves, a safety measure for the guys who handle fuel for a living.

    Once you have the cap off, you'll have a three-inch or better pipe running straight down to the fuel. Getting the fuel out will require a pump and some hose or pipe.

    Diesel is a lot safer to work with (it has a higher flash point than gasoline), so pumps rated for diesel are easier to make and thus cheaper. Finding a pump rated to transfer gasoline is neither simple nor cheap, and finding one that can lift liquids more than a few feet makes the search even harder.

    Since you're trying to lift a liquid up out of a tank, a siphon isn't going to work. Centrifugal pumps require a full pump before they will work, so unless you have a way to “prime” your pump they are a poor choice; what you are going to need is a “positive displacement” pump of some sort. For shallow tanks that are mostly full, any of the pumps rated for gasoline with a suction “head” rating of at least 8 feet will work.

    Getting the last few feet out of a UST will take a submersible pump dropped into the tank, and that is a DIY project that I could piece together from a spare automotive fuel pump and some extra wire. The fuel pump in your car is likely inside the gas tank, so they're designed to be submerged, the hard part would be sealing the wiring up to avoid any possibility of sparks.

    This is a subject that requires more research, I will be coming back to it and posting an update.

    The small station I help take care of has three 5,000 gallon tanks underground that get topped off about once a week. Larger stations that do a lot more business will have more and larger tanks, and get resupplied more often.

    We have to measure the tank levels on occasion, and use a 14 foot long “stick” with graduations every quarter-inch dropped down the fill pipe to do so. This means that the bottom of our tanks is not more than 14 feet below ground (actually closer to 10 feet), so 15 or 20 feet of hose or pipe would be plenty to get to the fuel. 

    Just about any metal pipe would work as long as you make sure it is grounded to the tank before moving fuel through it -- flowing petroleum products create static electricity and can cause a spark. Keep the pipe in contact with the fill pipe, or actually clamp a grounding wire between the two. 

    Plastic tubing is easier to work with, being more flexible than metal pipe, but is harder to ground to the tank. Pump slowly and minimize the creation of vapors to reduce your risks. Check the type of plastic you are using to make sure it is safe to use with your fuel. Gasoline will dissolve some common plastics and diesel can make them swell up.

    I don't want anyone to see this post as an invitation to steal fuel or a “how-to” rip off a gas station, but I can imagine situations where knowing how to access the contents of a UST would be ethical, legal, and useful. If there is any doubt, the standard disclaimer applies:
    This information is provided for informational and educational purposes only. The author assumes no liability in how you use this information and cannot be held responsible for your actions.

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