Thursday, August 31, 2017

RV Water Systems

The water system on an RV is basically a smaller version of the infrastructure that supplies your house. Most people don't like to think about their water until it stops working; they just assume that you get water when you turn on the faucet, and when you flush the toilet it all magically disappears. Living in a camper will put you in closer contact with two of the best things humans have ever developed: clean water and efficient waste management.

Since most Class A motorhomes are “self-contained” - meaning they don't require any external hook-ups for short stays - they carry their own supply of water. Even the old slide-in pickup campers and pop-ups had a water tank and pump to supply the sink. The complicated part comes from where the water goes after you use it. Simple (old) campers commonly had a drain hose from the sink that you routed outside, letting the waste water drain onto the ground. That is frowned upon today, and is definitely not an option for toilets. The solution is a three-water system of tanks and piping that is put together like this:

Clean (Blue) Water
My motorhome has a 90 gallon clean water tank, mounted to the frame under the bed in the rear of the coach. Being careful with water will stretch that out to a couple of weeks' worth of water; if I can find an outside toilet and shower, it'll last for a month.

The tank has a 12VDC pump to supply potable water to the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, water heater, toilet, and shower. The pump draws its power from the coach batteries (I covered the electrical system last week) and pumps around 3-4 gallons per minute, which is enough for a water-saving shower head or any faucet.

Standard RV water heaters are propane-fired versions of a household water heater that only hold 6 or 10 gallons, so you'll learn to take quick showers. Be sure to watch those water heaters carefully; the “instant on” point of use water heaters use a flow switch to start the heater, and if a faucet isn't open far enough to meet the minimum flow set point of the switch, there won't be any hot water.

There is a female garden hose fitting on the left (driver's) side, all the way to the back, for filling the tank. Most campers also have another female garden hose fitting for hooking into the water system at campgrounds or an outside faucet on a house. You'll want a pressure regulator on the garden hose (which needs to be rated for potable water) to prevent spikes in pressure, which can damage your plumbing -- campers water lines are made from plastic to allow some movement without breaking while you travel down the road, but they don't handle sudden pressure changes very well.

You also don't want to try to run the water pump and the campsite hookup at the same time! The campsite water pressure will be much higher than your pump can produce and it will force water backwards through your pump. This can lead to burned out pump motors, pump impellers coming off, or air getting trapped in your pump, all of which mean that your pump won't work when you need it.

Gray Water
Gray water is what goes down the drains from the shower and sinks. This water isn't clean, but since there is no human waste involved, but it's not quite sewage either. My gray water tank is broken pretty badly, so I'm going to have to replace it. The original tank was 60 gallons, and it sits between the frame rails of the chassis. There are a lot of pipes connected to the gray water tank and they're all glued in place. so it's going to be a pain to replace.

Watch what goes down your drains. Fats, oils, and grease (FOG in waste treatment terms) will coat the inside of your tank and block your level sensor. Once the layers get thick enough, they will blind off your drain port and prevent your tank from emptying. There are chemicals available to remove FOG, but they're mostly just a concentrated base like lye with some fragrance added.

Black Water
The waste from the toilet drops directly into the black water tank. That's the only direct connection, although some models will have an overflow from the gray water tank. Mine is supposed to have a 60 gallon black water tank, but I haven't measured it to make sure. With just the two of us using it, that should last at least a week before needing to dump it.

Since this is where the nasty stuff is stored, the black water tank will have a vent pipe that runs up the wall and vents above the roof. Mine has a 2 inch pipe and needs a new rain cap on the top - anything on the top of an RV is going to get exposed to a lot of weather as well as the wind from driving, so expect a lot of wear and tear up there.

Speaking of the sewage, I recommend using one of the biological treatments on the market to help digest the waste between dumpings. After a few days in warm weather, black water tanks get pretty rank as the waste ferments. I'll have a chance to test a few different brands next summer, but don't have a specific one to recommend right now.

RV toilets are odd in that they don't usually hold water until you get ready to use them; having a bowl full of water as you drive down the road is a good way to end up with wet floors. The normal procedure is:
  1. Open the toilet lid. 
  2. Step on the small lever to add water to the bowl, or on newer toilets push the single lever down part-way. Add as much as you think you'll need, usually about half-full. 
  3. Use the toilet as normal, with the caveat that toilet paper for an RV is designed to break down (dissolve) quickly and isn't going to be as comfortable as household TP. 
  4. To flush, step on the large lever, which also depresses the small lever (on newer toilets you just push the lever down all the way). The large lever opens the sliding gate allowing everything to drop into the black water tank, while the small one turns on water flow to flush everything down. 
  5. When you're satisfied that the bowl is clear, close the lid. This isn't just to mollify the womenfolk; it will help keep bad odors from creeping back up and into your bathroom. 
Dumping Your Waste Tanks
Good campgrounds charge you a fee for overnight stays, mainly to pay for their infrastructure. Part of that infrastructure may be a sewer connection at each camper site, which means you can hook your drain hose up to a port in the ground and dump your tanks when they get about half full. This is great for extended stays, since it means you won't have to leave your camp site to find a place to dump the waste tanks. It's not a good idea to leave the dump valves open all the time because the solids will tend to stay in your tank unless you have a good supply of water moving to flush it out.

Several businesses have free dump stations as an incentive to get campers to stop at their stores; look for a Cabela's store or a Flying J truck stop. Interstate highway rest areas are another good place to find dump stations, and around here the county fair grounds usually have one as well. Other truck stops may have dump stations, but they may charge a small fee for their use. Joining one of the large campers groups will get you access to free dump stations at their locations as well.

How to dump your waste tanks:
  1. Get the drain hose out of its storage compartment. That's usually the rear bumper, or at least near it. 
  2. Connect the hose to your waste port. It's usually a 3" fitting with quarter-turn locking ears. 
  3. Connect the other end of the hose to the dump station. A lot of times this is just sticking the tapered end of the hose into the hole in the ground, but some have locking tabs. Use the locks if they are available, as that will prevent smelly messes. 
  4. Open the dump valves. There are differing opinions on the “correct” procedure, but the one that makes sense to me goes like this: 
    1. If the black water tank is not full, open the cross-over valve from the gray water tank until it is at least 2/3 full. 
    2. Close the cross-over valve and open the black water drain valve. 
    3. Once the black water tank is empty, close the drain valve, open the cross-over valve again to flush it with the contents of the gray water tank. 
    4. Drain both tanks and rinse both with fresh water. 
    5. Adding a couple of gallons of water and your choice of treatment chemicals is a good last step. 
  5. Flush the hose with clear water before putting it back in storage. 
  6. Clean up any mess you may have made. The next person to use the dump station will appreciate it. 
I have heard tales of people in a bind having to dump their black water tanks into road ditches, and the scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation of Cousin Eddie dumping his waste down a storm drain gets brought up whenever my friends hear about my purchase of an RV. I don't advise either method in civilized times (combined storm/sewer lines are a thing of the past), but if TSHTF, you'll dump waste where you can. Try to be somewhat considerate and at least cover your waste, though; insects and other pests will find it soon enough.

While my recent articles have been about the various parts of an older RV, most of the information is transferable to small cabins or off-grid houses as well; my small house just happens to be mobile.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Disaster Planning Review

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

With the natural disasters recently here in California (heavy rains, dam failure and multiple massive forest fires) and now the big hurricane in Texas that's been predicted every year since Katrina, it feel like a good time to brush up on and polish my own disaster plans.

To Bug Out, 
or Not to Bug Out
That is the question I need to answer. There is no chance I'll be hit by a hurricane or threatened by a tornado, and I don't live in the flood plain of a dam like the residents of Oroville CA, or wildfire-prone rural hills of Lake County - but I do live in a well-developed neighborhood with lots of mature trees, just like Berkeley and Oakland.

August 24 was the anniversary of the last big quake to hit near me (in Napa), so it seemed to be a good time to go over my plans to either stay in my place or Get Out of Dodge. Things have changed a bit since I last went over my Bug Out plans. I no longer have a truck to load my stores into, but a car just like this:

Not a truck.

It's a nice car with a fairly big trunk, but there isn't room for the amount of gear I planned to carry when I owned a truck. There will be some serious trimming, and possibly giving equipment and stores to my budding Prepping group, since I won't be the gear depot and delivery agent any longer.

Regardless of what I have for a vehicle, though, my plan is pretty stable.

Bugging Out
If I'm home, I can get everything out and loaded in less than 30 minutes. I think I can reduce that time by rearranging what I have to carry.

Items to Have Ready: 
  • Bug out bags for each person.
  • Cell phone, personal electronics and chargers for each item, including car charging cables.
  • Food.
  • Water.
  • Important papers, photos and sentimental items. Copies of your important papers should be in each persons bag.
  • Food and carriers for your pets if you have any, as well as leashes, vet records, water bowls and toys. 
  • First aid items and medicines, with copies of your prescriptions. Don't forget eyeglass prescriptions. 
  • Cash: enough to fill your vehicle twice and buy several days of meals.
  • Any other items that will help make your time away easier.

Bugging In
This is going to be less of a problem IF there has not been an earthquake that actually affects my house. If there is enough damage to make this house unsafe, we leave. Power outages or other damage caused by a regional earthquake that might cause some inconveniences will have to be looked over if or when it happens.

Everything that I would be taking out is just as easily used at home, so there will only be a problem if the power was out for an extended time and food in the freezers started to thaw.

The Recap
  • Have a plan and review it when any part changes, like the number of people you are working with or how you might need to move your gear. 
  • Be certain everyone involved is aware of what they need to do and also what might be expected if someone else can't do their part. 

The Takeaway
  • There is nothing like a distant (or nearby) disaster to motivate you to take another look at your Bug Out/ Bug In plan and rework it if necessary. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Alternative AR Calibers

After discussing gas system options, Erin's other big AR question dealt with alternative calibers. Being as the AR is the Barbie of the gun world, there's a monstrously large list of chamberings for the platform, and swapping between them can be as simple as pushing two pins and changing uppers. At worst, you may also have to change a buffer as well. All in all, the changeover takes about 30 seconds.

With so many options available, it would be a Herculean task to list and break them all down. And while I may be mighty, Hercules I am not, so I'll stick to some of the more common and available calibers that the AR can run.

.22 Long Rifle
.22LR is cheap, very quiet, and has virtually no recoil in the AR-15 platform. It makes an excellent practice and teaching caliber, allowing the same trigger and control setup used in a centerfire rifle to be employed on a trainer.

6.5 Grendel
The Grendel was a fairly early entry into alternate AR calibers. It is designed as a precision long-range cartridge, and was an early standout in competition shooting. Unfortunately, it is less widely available than the other calibers on this list.

7.62 x 39
Delivering performance similar to the legendary 30-30 Winchester, the 7.62x39 adapts fairly well to the AR platform, turning a basic AR-15 into a very functional big game hunting rifle. It does however have some quirks, such as feeding from non-standard magazines, and difficulty with setting off the hard primers used in cheap imported ammunition.

.300 AAC Blackout
Designed by Advanced Armament Corporation, the Blackout is a 5.56 case necked up to .30 caliber, which means it feeds and functions using standard AR bolts and magazines. AAC is a suppressor manufacturer, so the Blackout comes in two loadings: the 125gr supersonic load performs very similarly to a 7.62x39 with none of the drawbacks, while the 220gr load runs at subsonic speeds and is specifically designed to run with a suppressor. If you have the means to acquire a suppressor, this is an excellent load at shorter ranges.

.458 SOCOM
If no other caliber on this list has enough power, the .458 SOCOM does. Using standard AR magazines at reduced capacity, this round was developed as a short range, very hard-hitting round for soldiers performing missions outside the performance characteristics of the 5.56. It also has both supersonic and subsonic loads, with the subsonic load delivering roughly twice the energy of the .300 Blackout. The supersonic loads also make a dandy short and medium range hunting round, suitable for almost all game in North America.

9mm Luger
Yes, the same 9mm Luger that runs in untold numbers of police and private citizen handguns also functions wonderfully in carbines. The added barrel length gives a substantial velocity increase, and the longer sight radius and stability of a shoulder stock contribute to greatly improved accuracy. In a carbine, it's even easier shooting and lighter recoiling than in a pistol. Unfortunately, it requires very different magazines and a block inserted into the magazine well to make the magazines fit and feed properly.

Selecting an alternate chambering for an AR allows you to tune your weapon for a specific purpose or to meet a particular need. The modular nature of the AR makes this a fairly straightforward proposition, and one very worth investigating.


Monday, August 28, 2017

A Note on Communities

I had an experience last night which drove home the role of communities in prepping.

I had been grilling when a piece of plastic fell on the grilling surface. Since I didn't want the plastic to melt to the grill, and reacting rather than thinking, I tried to brush the plastic off. With my hand. 

In less than a second, I managed to incur second degree burns across the back of my right hand.

I did briefly consider going to the emergency room, but I recalled my first aid training and came to the conclusion that all the ER would do is take my money and maybe write me a prescription for the pain. 

Instead of doing that, I got a ride from a friend to the local pharmacy where I bought an over-the-counter pain killing cream and a bag of frozen vegetables to use as an ice pack. After getting home, another neighbor came by to return a tape measure I had loaned him and offered to feed me dinner. I declined only because someone else was getting ready to feed me.  Later, I went online to ask if anyone knew how to deal with the pain from the burn, and got an immediate response from several sources which were a great deal of use to me. 

Why am I sharing this story with you? Because communities matter, especially in prepping.

The Second World War was effectively the end of civilization in a large part of the world. People faced the very real possibility of starvation, death, and getting shot for walking out the front door. Even in relatively untouched countries such as the US, people had to pull together and face shortages across the board, all while missing loved ones that formed important parts of society.

During this time people relied on communities to fill in the gaps.
  • Didn’t have someone to watch the kids during a factory shift? Ask a member of your community. 
  • Have a car that needs to be fixed, but cannot afford a mechanic? Ask a neighbor. 
  • What about needing help with a harvest from your garden? Again, ask a neighbor. 
There is a myth among preppers that when the bad times come, you must be a totally self-contained island. You should of course be as self sufficient as possible, but thinking that you will be able to take care of all of your needs on your own is magical thinking.

The simple fact is that having a community that you know and trust is important. Being able to have someone that you know will have your back is a valuable resource, and one that can be cultivated by being active with the people around you, getting to know them, and putting forth your own valuable skills in return.

So make friends before the apocalypse! They are good to have in emergencies. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #158 - Nashville is Nice, So I'll Say It Twice

Sean continues his love affair with the City of Nashville.
  • What does a #1 New York Times bestseller have to do with range etiquette? Beth talks to us about Range Rules & Expectations.
  • When is a dispute not a dispute? When it's an armed robbery. Sean finds out about our deceased suspect.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • This week, Miguel discusses that oft-repeated maxim of the Tactical Shooter: Competitions will get you killed in the streets!
  • Our Main Topic is the Eclipse. Sean spent the weekend with Co-host Emeritus Adam in Nashville and watched the Eclipse in Gallatin, Tennessee.
  • Tiffany is headed up north for the very first NRA Carry Guard Expo. She tells us what NRA Carry Guard is, and what is she hoping to learn at the Expo.
  • It's hot and you've got to walk to safety. What things should you bring? Erin explains hot weather survival gear.
  • Weer’d sends us a message from a dark future. It's like "12 Monkeys" up in here.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the City of Nashville.
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 -
Hot Weather Survival Gear
For the past two weeks I’ve talked about what to wear in hot weather and what gear to have if your car is stranded. But what if you need to self-rescue, or otherwise need to walk long distances in that hot weather? That’s the topic of this third and final installment. 

First of all, you’re going to need the right clothing, so be sure to check last week’s segment on hot weather clothing. Pay special attention to your feet, especially if you’re wearing impermeable boots or you’re walking through a lot of water. The very last thing you want is something that makes it painful or uncomfortable to walk, so make sure you listen to my segment on preventing fungal infections from episode 143. 

Check your feet regularly to prevent blistering. If you find yourself developing hot spots, then either cushion them with moleskin from Dr. Scholls or use something called HikeGoo,which is a cream that both moisturizes your skin and lubricates the hot spot to prevent more friction. 

Change your socks as often as possible, even if you have only two pairs. Get a mesh stuff bag, put a carabiner clip on the drawstring, and hang the used pair from your belt loop or backpack strap to dry in the sunlight and fresh air. (This will take longer in humid climates, unfortunately.)

Regardless of whether it’s during the day or at night, walking in hot weather is thirsty business because you’re going to be sweating our water to keep cool. This means you absolutely need a way to keep water with you at all times. I recommend a hydration bladder in the largest size possible; most brands like CamelBak top out at 3 liters, but the MSR DromLite comes in 2, 4, and 6 Liter versions.

You’re also going to need a way to carry that bladder, because water is heavy. Most backpacks these days are hydration bladder compatible - but check, because they may only go up to 2 liters - although a lot of bladder manufacturers also sell carriers for their products. Whichever way you go, make sure you get the lightest color possible. Your all-black MOLLE-festooned CamelBak carrier may look tactical, but the dark color will absorb the sunlight and heat up your water. About the only thing worse than drinking hot water when you’re thirsty is drinking no water at all. 

And you’re going to be drinking a lot of that water. A LOT. We’re supposed to drink 2 liters, or half a gallon, of water a day just as part of our regular activities, so if you’re having to do hard work in the blazing sun and humidity, you’re going to be sweating a lot more and becoming dehydrated that much faster. This means you need a way to refill your water reservoir. 

There are various types of pumps and filters out there, but I swear by the Sawyer Mini. It’s inexpensive without being cheap, it’s lightweight, it’s good for 100 thousand gallons, and - best of all - you can put it right on the tubing of your hydration bladder between the bite valve and the reservoir itself. This means you won’t have to take the time to pump clean water in before you can drink it.
Instead, just take a bit of cloth, like a bandana or a t-shirt, and put it over the reservoir’s opening to filter out any large contaminants like dirt, bugs, leaves, etc. Then fill up and drink through the filter. 

If you do this, keep two things in mind:
  1. You must remember that the water in the reservoir is unsafe until it passes through the filter, so don’t use that water for bathing or cooking by just pouring it back out. Send it through the filter first. 
  2. Second, understand that filters aren’t perfect and there’s still a chance you might get a parasite from drinking unboiled water. This is a risk you’ll need to take, because you will die from dehydration and overheating long before the parasites can even make you sick. Get to safety, and then you can worry about what you drank. 
Finally, here’s a hot-weather ProTip for you: Keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose as much as possible. In fact, if you can find something clean, smooth, and inedible - such as a guitar pick, or a metal washer, or even a clean pebble - put in your mouth. Not only will it remind you to keep your mouth closed, but the presence of it in your mouth will cause you to salivate. This will keep your mouth moist and help you feel less parched and thirsty.

Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
We at Blue Collar Prepping are thinking of theTexans affected by Hurricane Harvey. Whatever having "our thoughts and prayers are with you" accomplishes, know that you have them.

However, we also realize that in times of disaster, thoughts and prayers aren't enough. When it comes to making a difference, the three biggest helpers are Time, Talent, and Treasure.

The difference between "time" and "talent" is that talent is a specialized skill whereas time is "just being there to help" -- only surgeons can do surgery, but a lot of people can give first aid, and just about everyone can dig a ditch or fill sandbags or pass out food.

However, this does not mean you should get in your car or your boat and go to Houston to help out! Not only will you likely just put yourself in danger (the last thing we need is more victims), but you may end up diverting emergency aid from the residents there and/or contribute to the confusion.

Instead, help out from where you are:
  • Go to a hospital and donate blood
  • Volunteer at a local church, charity or food pantry to pack disaster supplies
  • Check in on friends (texts are more likely to go through than telephone calls) and let them know that if they need anything, you are there to help. Sometimes just know that people care is enough of a morale boost to get through the day. 
If you have a specific skill that can be of use without putting yourself in harm's way, do it. For example, HAM Operators are a communications lifeline during disasters. However, most forms of talent involve people being in site, which leads to the aforementioned problems of getting in the way of emergency crews. 

The "good news" about all this is that even if you can't volunteer NOW, your help will still be necessary in the weeks and perhaps months to come. Disaster recovery takes time, so wait until the authorities give the all clear before you head down to help. 

This is also known as "donating money" and it's the best way to ensure that those in need get what they require. Many well-meaning people think that donating clothes, food, blankets and such will help those affected by the disaster, but more often than not this just slows down the distribution of needed supplies. Instead, give money so that the "boots on the ground" agencies can get what is needed. 

I do however urge you all to be discerning with your donations. Some charities spend more on advertising and payroll than they do on helping those they claim to serve. These are the charities which I endorse, due mainly to fact that they spend most of their money in achieving their mission:

Local Charities
(copied verbatim from this Fader article; given that this is disaster response, I don't think they'll mind the plagiarism)
National & International Charities

Please give generously -- but please also give intelligently. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Skunk Trap (Protecting Your Preps 2.1)

Sometimes life hands you a skunk that eats your chickens; sometimes life then gets rid of that skunk for you.

But even though I didn't have to take care of the skunk myself, I thought I'd show you the plans I'd made for him.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

RV Electrical Basics

Because my RV is basically a mobile Bug-out location (BOL), I need to make sure that the electrical systems are good enough for moderate use. I'm not going to be living in it full-time for years, so it doesn't need a generator capable of providing substantial power for decades nor the fuel capacity to keep a generator going that long, but I do want to be able to have lights and running water (I could live without the microwave). Here's what it has and what I'm going to do to improve it.

What's There?
Like most motor homes, mine has three separate electrical systems and they're all interconnected to a certain extent. The main separation is between the engine electrical (known as the “cab”) and the living quarters (the “coach”).

Cab power is 12VDC, provided by the engine's starting battery and alternator.
  • The alternator is a heavy-duty version of what is normally found in cars, rated for about twice as many amps as a car alternator. 
  • The battery is a large light truck battery.
  • Cab power runs all of the things associated with driving the motor home like headlights, turn signals, clearance (marker) lights, engine electronics, and the starter. 
  • In order to prevent idiots from getting themselves stranded with a dead starting battery, there is no way to get power from the cab to the coach.

Coach power in my RV is a mix of 12VDC (batteries) and 120VAC (electrical hook-ups).
  • There is a storage compartment at the rear of the RV for two deep cycle batteries, like you'd use for a golf cart or trolling motor. 
  • These supply all of the lights on the ceiling as well as the water pump, furnace (it has its own miniature propane furnace for winter travels), control circuitry for the refrigerator and water heater, the starter for the on-board generator, and various little fans and exterior lights. 
  • These batteries are kept charged by a converter box that uses 120VAC from either the generator or shore power (when you're plugged into an outlet at a campground). 
  • There is a “starter boost” switch on the dashboard that will engage a solenoid and briefly add the coach batteries to the cab battery in case you left the headlights on and can't start the engine. 
  • I've already switched out all of the 12VDC incandescent bulbs in the coach with cheap LEDs from Amazon. I picked two different styles of LEDs to do a comparison (short ones and long ones), and so far there is very little difference. I can have all 24 lights on at once and only use as much power as 2 of the original bulbs, and they run cooler. The shift in color from the yellowish hue of the incandescent bulbs to the slightly blue of LEDs also makes the RV look more appealing -- it just doesn't look as old and worn under bluer light. Morale is important, especially if I plan on spending a lot of time in the RV.
  • The 120VAC system is fed by either the generator that produces ~50 Amps, or the shore power cord which is rated for 30 Amps. 
  • The rooftop AC units are 120VAC only and each pulls about 20 Amps, so there is some creative use of switches and wiring to power both of them at the same time, but that's particular to my RV. 
  • The refrigerator is a 3-way model, running on 120VAC, propane, or 12VDC. 
  • There are a handful of standard household outlets scattered around the coach so you can plug in your laptop, coffee maker, power tools, or cell phone charger. The one in the bathroom is actually a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) model because there is a possibility of it getting wet from the shower. GFCIs react quicker than standard circuit breakers and provide an extra level of safety in wet locations. 
  • There are also duplex outlets on the outside of the coach for hooking up anything you want to use outside, and they have rain-proof covers on them.

What's Missing?
I have plans to modify the electrical system quite a bit. There is some redundancy in the existing setup, but I want more; I'm a belt and suspenders type when it comes to simple systems that I plan to use a lot. I don't want to be shut down on the side of the road because of a single fuse (BTDT) or have to cancel plans because of a minor mechanical issue. I like redundancy, it's insurance against Murphy's Law.
  • The current coach battery setup is too small. There is currently room for about 200 Amp-hours worth of battery and I'm going to double that at least. I'm investigating where would be best to place at least two more deep-cycle batteries.
  • The power converter is 120VAC to 12VDC. I'm going to be adding a large inverter to be able to go the other direction and use the new coach batteries to provide limited 120VAC. The inverter will probably be placed in a space vacated by the old water heater after I replace it with a more efficient on-demand model.
  • There will be solar panels on the roof, tied into the 12VDC coach batteries. Mounting them and running power cables is under study right now; it'll be next spring before I'll be able to afford them, so I have time to plan out how many I need and how I want to mount them. I'm trying to figure out what I'll need and how much space I have to mount them on. You also have to remember that they have to stay in place as I'm traveling down the road at 65 mph, so mounting is important.
  • Most of the interior 120VAC outlets are going to be replaced with modern versions that have USB 2.0 power ports built into them. Too much of our lives runs on rechargeable batteries these days.
  • The outside outlets and the ones in the kitchen area are going to be replaced with GFCI outlets. I like having the extra security/safety, and they're not that expensive.
  • I am going to install a master kill switch on the cab battery. It will be hidden from sight, and will completely disconnect the battery from the engine for anti-theft and anti-idiot reasons. I'm trying to decide if I want to use a keyed switch for extra security, but run the risk of losing the key and being shut down.
  • All of the outside lights, with the exception of the headlights, need to be switched to LEDs. LED headlights exist, but they don't work well in cold climates. The heat from a halogen bulb will melt ice and snow off of your headlights, but LEDs run cooler and get blinded fast in any kind of winter weather.
  • I need to install LED light bars/strings inside the cabinets and put a few along the floor as night lights.
  • Each of the exterior storage compartments is going to have an LED light installed inside, along with a switch on the door. I am contemplating wiring the switches to a notification panel in the cab so I'll know if any of the doors are open before I start driving.
  • I need to install a separate AM/FM radio for the coach. We like music, and I don't want to use the cab battery for anything once we're parked. One nice thing about having a smaller space than a house is that I won't need very large speakers to fill it with sound.
  • Speaking of radios, I am working on a communications station for shortwave and other radios. I'll have a Citizen's Band (CB) up front by the driver's seat, but I want a scanner and a Ham Radio setup as well. I'm still working on getting my Ham license; testing locations are a bit of a drive and they don't test very often.
  • The generator is not currently hooked up to either the 120VAC or the 12VDC coach system. I'm not sure if this is because the previous owner (PO) couldn't get it to run or if he just didn't want to mess with it. I will be dropping the generator out of its hiding place and doing a thorough tune-up/minor overhaul on it, which will be covered in a post of its own. 
  • The PO has passed away, so I can't ask him questions. I'm finding a lot of electrical issues, so he might not have been able to offer much help anyway. He also didn't leave any of the owner's manuals in the RV, so I'm digging through various internet forums to find what I can.

As I've mentioned before, I bought this RV cheap with the full knowledge that it was going to take a lot of work to get it back into shape. Besides learning the details of how things operate, this work will allow me to customize the RV to fit my personal tastes. So far, I haven't run into anything that I can't do, and if I do find something out of my reach, I have friends who can work on things for me. My worst case scenario would be something major wrong with the engine, but I can get that swapped out in a buddy's shop within a week, although it might cost me a case of beer and $1000 for an engine. Ford made a lot of the 7.5L (460 cubic inch) motors and they're easy to find.

I will soon have access to a paint shop that is large enough to fit the RV, so it may even get a fresh coat of paint this winter. Being a generalist has its advantages, and I've learned how to do a lot of different things over the years.

Next week I'll cover the plumbing, which is almost as complicated as the electrical system.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Odds and Middles

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

The Difference Between a Riot and a Protest
I had a very nice side conversation with a more politically active friend about what I wrote in last week's post.

There was a good bit of back and forth, trying to define what was a riot, how it was separate from a demonstration or protest, and why someone might want to be involved in one or even several. We talked over the reasons for various gatherings of like-minded individuals, who might want to be in those groups, and why others might be opposed to them. While there was no disagreement on the points raised in my post, we were not able to come to a meeting of the minds on why a demonstration might turn into a riot.

In my opinion,  a protest is non-violent while a riot isn't. The rightness or wrongness of a rally, a demonstration, or a protest are are all based on your point of view,  but a riot has no shades of gray.

Leaving all politics out (which is one of the stated rules here)*, I don't plan to be near any gathering that even might become a riot. I would however like to hear from anyone who participated in any demonstrations recently, and what preparations they took to be safe.

*Along with No Politics, there are several other very important points in the pinned post at the top of the BCP Home Page. If you read and Like that post, it will give you 2 chances before getting hit with the Ban Hammer. Please, take the time to read it.

My Prepping Group
I have a small, very tight-knit group of friends whom I have decided to ask if they would like to start prepping with me -- or have all of us prep together. However it's said, I'm wanting to plan with friends. We live close by, but work can take some of us a good distance away for the day, so Get Home Bags will be our first priority. Getting my friends involved should be pretty easy, since the men (and one woman) camp and hike already, and the others know helpful skills like cooking, canning and serious sewing.

One thing I'm happy about is all of these people already know me, so I don't have to try and overcome the 'crazy prepper' image that is seen in too many cable TV shows and movies. I believe the learning curve should be pretty flat; half the group comes from places that have natural disasters, or have been through war/civil unrest, so they already have food on hand. Only one family knows about this blog and what I write, though, so the first order of business is get everyone else reading this blog.

What finally convinced me to do this was when a friend saw my GHB in my trunk and asked what it was.  Erin was able to give me a link for BCP posts on Get Home Bags, which I gave to my friend and now will pass on to my Prepping Family. Wish me luck!

The Takeaway
  • Be open-minded and listen to all sides; there could be something you are missing by being in an echo chamber.
  • If you have a stable group or family close by, prepping together can lower costs by buying in bulk and sharing labor.

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Guest Post: Pickup and Trailer Packing for Vehicle Stability

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

Towing a heavy load is not something that most people do routinely, and it is one of those activities that is perfectly benign... right up until it isn’t.

Pickup trucks range from "very small" to "rather large" with varying bed lengths and capacities. Trailers come with at least one axle and usually a lighting system. Larger trailers may have built-in electric or hydraulic braking systems and even anti-sway features.

Getting a Hitch
For the purposes of this article, I will explain what I did loading up a Ram 2500 pickup (a three-quarter-ton model) and a U-Haul 5x8 trailer. The trailer uses a standard 4 prong trailer connection for lights, is listed with a 500 pound tongue weight, and has a standard 2 inch ball hitch.

My truck is tall enough that, when I purchased it, my wife decided that we would spend the money to get some running boards so that she didn’t have to hop to get in. This meant that I needed to purchase a drop hitch to ensure that the trailer traveled largely level to the road, so I purchased a 5.75 inch drop hitch with a pull weight of 5,000 lbs and 750 lbs tongue weight. I did this even though the final travel angle of the trailer wasn’t perfectly even with the road surface because it gave me 250 lbs of "buffer" in case of bumps on the road. This meant I’d have a little bit of safety on my hitch (which I owned) even if there was none on the tongue (covered by rental insurance).

Loading the Trailer
I parked the trailer, chocked it (placing triangular blocks of wood in front of and behind each wheel to keep the trailer in place), and put a nice thick piece of firewood under the tongue to keep it roughly at hitch height. I then worked to load the heavier items in front of the trailer axle to ensure that when the trailer was completely loaded, there would be downward pressure on the hitch. There was a "no higher than" load line inside the rented trailer, and my final load needed to be horizontally level so that things couldn't fall down during transport. Empty space is not a good thing in a trailer unless you have blocking and bracing material to keep it in place, so I find it's easier just to pack it tight and throw in trash bags filled with pillows, blankets, or rolled-up foam mattresses in the very back to keep things on place.

Once the trailer was loaded, I used a screw jack to raise the tongue back to the exact height needed to drop it down onto the hitch ball, then crossed the safety chains under the tongue to loop through the holes on the side of my hitch and connected those chains back onto themselves (this is so that just in case the ball hitch fails, the tongue will be trapped by the crossed chains and give me enough time to stop the truck).

Loading the bed of the truck was the same process, placing the heaviest objects forward of the rear axle to keep the center of gravity between the front and rear axles for best traction and stability, as the downward pressure of the trailer tongue on the hitch is going to add additional weight behind the axle. See "How to Load a Pickup Truck", below.

The U-Haul trailer has a 55 mph speed limit for a reason. Most people who rent trailers aren’t people who routinely drive with trailers, and since the weight of the vehicle will be significantly more than its unloaded weight, acceleration will be slower, deceleration will take longer, and turning radius will also be wider. All of this adds up to a driving style that must be more careful in general, and specifically more mindful of other vehicles on the road.

If you can immediately unload once you reach your destination, simply leave the trailer attached to the truck. If you have to unhitch an unloaded trailer, use the following procedure:
  1. Chock the wheels
  2. Place blocks (splitting blocks or cinderblocks are ideal) under the rear and the tongue of the trailer
  3. Use a jack to lift the tongue off the hitch 
  4. Lower the tongue onto a jack stand or block. 
  5. The trailer is now stable for unloading. Always be careful when opening the trailer, as things will have shifted during transport.
Unloading the bed of the pickup is simply the reversal of loading it, using the same safety precautions.

Videos and Resources

Monday, August 21, 2017

DIY Protein Bars

Protein bars are a great method to carry food on the go. They can be nutrient dense, inexpensive, easy to pack, and can be customized to almost no end, with flavorings and ingredients so flexible that it can be amazing.

Unfortunately, many commercial bars taste like processed sawdust mixed with a bittering agent, and so are not much fun to eat.

I get around that problem by making my own tasty protein bars.

Basic Recipe
Protein bars are, at their core, plant or animal protein with a binder. Ideally, they are made without any raw animal products in them to maximize storage use; fairly physically robust so they can withstand storage; and have enough food value to substitute for a meal in an emergency.

The meta recipe that I follow for goes something like this:

  • Three parts Protein Powder (I prefer whey-based powder)
  • Three parts Oats
  • Two parts Milk (I like almond, but everything from cow to rice or coconut milk will work)
  • Two parts Nut butter (Nutella or similar)
  • Two parts Coconut oil
  • One part Chocolate chips (for a stiffer bar)

  1. Melt the coconut oil.
  2. Add the dry ingredients. 
  3. Mix in the milk. 
  4. Bring to a light boil. 
  5. Add the nut butter and other items.
  6. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the bars and shape them on wax paper.
  8. Put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
As many of you may have noticed, this is remarkably like the process for no-bake cookies, but with higher protein content and much less sugar. Oats are fairly high in protein (twice as much as wheat), various milks tend to be high in protein, and adding nuts just helps more.

Disclaimer: protein "bar" may be a bit of a misnomer. I find that when I make them at home, they end up in any number of shapes, many of them lumpy. I often use a cookie cutter on them to entice my children to eat them, so don’t feel bad if your bars don’t turn out perfectly the first time.

Nuts and or seeds can be added for additional protein and roughage. I prefer almonds, since they tend to bake well, and are a nice change from what most people eat, but a variety of nuts (I have a friend who favors macadamia) can be added to taste. I also enjoy pumpkin seeds in mine, but only if I have added chocolate as well.

Chunks of dried fruit are an excellent and tasty addition, and add easy bulk. Adding either these or nuts will help the bars to be more stiff.

Chocolate chips are very tasty, but are often best added after the mixture has been heated, to allow them to remain whole. M&M’s work especially well for this.

Beans (no, wait, seriously) ground into a flour can add bulk. Black beans work especially well, and some people like the flavor.

The major disadvantage of homemade protein bars is that they do not last as long as commercial bars in storage. There are however, several things you can do to ameliorate this.
  • Using a vacuum sealer can help immensely. The plastic will help to keep the form of the bars, and the vacuum will help keep it fresher longer.
  • Keeping them cool and out of the sun can keep the bars good for quite some time. Properly shaded and vacuum sealed bars have lasted years, and retained flavor and texture.

Good luck, and remember to practice!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #157 - Protests, Pepin & Plasma

"Pepin & Plasma" sounds like a roleplaying game involving podcasting in the grim future.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return soon.
  • A Charlotte man who led police on chase is charged in Valentine’s Day homicide. Why did he run? Sean looks a little closer.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • Miguel puts together a grab bag of thoughts from his Flea Market of Ideas. He talks a little about cops getting denied service because they are armed, about Moms Demand blaming the NRA for car deaths, and about a liberal mugged by the reality of gun control.
  • Our Special Guest this week is competitive shooter and Pro-Arms Podcast hostess Gail Pepin.
  • Tiffany brings her unique perspective to the controversy surrounding the events in Charlottesville, VA.
  • It's just like a woman for Erin to be focused on what people should and shouldn't be wearing in the summer. Her position on white clothing after Labor Day is unclear, but she has some definite thoughts on cotton.
  • NPR held a Round-Table on gun control. Weer’d is here to take on the lies.
  • And our Plug of the Week is the Sparkr Mini by Power Practical.
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 -
Clothing for Hot Weather Survival
There’s a saying among campers, hikers and other survival buffs: “Cotton Kills”. This is because cotton loves to absorb moisture but hates to let go of it. In cold weather, if you get your cotton clothes sweaty, or you fall into water, you will likely become hypothermic if you keep them on because they will stay wet and cold -- but if you take them off to dry them out, you will also likely become hypothermic because you won’t have the insulation of clothes on your skin. 

This is why, if you watch a lot of survival TV, you’ll see people like Bear Grylls stripping naked before swimming through cold water. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not like having wet clothing on while swimming would make it any more comfortable. And once on the other side, Bear will dry off with a towel and then put his still dry clothes back on. 

In fact, this is good advice regardless of whether or not you’re wearing cotton, so remember that trick. 

But if cotton kills in cold weather because it absorbs moisture and doesn’t let go of it easily, what about in hot weather? Specifically, what clothing should someone wear in a hot environment if they have to walk to safety?

As I mentioned last week when I answered Amy’s letter, hot weather survival is based on variables. In this case, the biggest factors are humidity and terrain.  If you’re in a dry environment, your biggest danger is from direct sunlight. Keep as much as your skin covered as you can, and cover the rest in sunscreen. Cotton is actually an acceptable choice of fabric for this situation during the daytime, because it will absorb your sweat and the low humidity and high heat will help it dry out. But that’s during the day. At night, it’s a different story. 

You see, hot-but-dry environments are usually deserts, and deserts have a distressing habit of becoming cold at night because there isn’t much in the environment to retain that heat. So the sweaty cotton clothing that’s fine to wear during the day can still result in you becoming hypothermic at night. Your options, then, are either to carry spare clothes that you change into at night, or to wear clothing made from synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex or microfiber. 

These materials are great because they wick moisture away from the skin and dry much faster than cotton does. Not only does this prevent chafing rash, which is why so many exercise fabrics (like Under Armor, are synthetic), but it also makes them excellent choices for hot and humid environments as well. 

Here are the materials you should avoid for hot weather survival:
  • All forms of cotton, including denim. 
  • Rayon, Lyocell, Tencel, and Viscose. 
    • While they are synthetic, these fabrics actually absorb moisture as fast or faster than cotton, and lose all insulation when they become wet. 
These are materials which are good to wear for hot weather survival:
  • Pertex
  • Supplex
  • Gore-Tex
  • Under Armor Heatgear
  • Cool Max
You will unfortunately pay more for these fabrics than you will with cotton. On the other hand, they will protect your skin from the heat of the sun and absorb your sweat without chafing or sticking. 

Regardless of whether your shirt and pants are cotton or synthetic, here are the four pieces of clothing you MUST have for comfortable hot weather survival:
  1. A wide-brimmed hat to keep your face and neck in the shade. Check last week’s show notes for a boonie hat I recommended. 
  2. Shoes which breathe but still protect your feet. There’s no perfect answer here; good protection (like boots) will make your feet hot, and feet which breathe aren’t going to be well-protected (think sandals). Take the terrain into account along with your personal preferences and find what’s right for you. 
  3. Spare socks. Unless you’re wearing sandals, your feet are going to get hot and sweaty. Take it from someone who has suffered Athlete’s Foot: the last thing you want for your feet in hot weather is for them to be wet as well. Change your socks often. 
  4. Spare underwear. This is for exactly the same reason as the socks, only moreso. Trust me, you really don’t want heat rash anywhere near your sensitive bits.
To answer the question on everyone’s mind: yes, companies do indeed make socks and undies in synthetic materials. I suggest everyone who is concerned about hot weather survival buy at least one pair of each.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why an RV for Prepping?

I probably should have started my RV related posts with this one, but it just didn't “gel” until this week. I'm a simple man, and what I write has to make sense to me before I'll publish it. This part of my journey just wasn't ready to be written before now.

As I think I've mentioned before, I've been camping since I was in diapers - mom actually used to change our diapers at the campgrounds we visited back in the early 1960's. I've spent weeks at a time living out of everything from a sleeping bag with a cover to a Class C motorhome (my recent purchase is my first experience with a Class A). There isn't a whole lot of mystery to living in the outdoors for me any more; I've been through most of what can go wrong at least once in the last 50-odd years. Here are a few of the reasons I recommend looking at an RV from a prepper's viewpoint.

An RV is mobile by definition. Being able to hook up to a camper or hop into a motorhome and drive away from a natural or man-made disaster is one of the key selling points for a prepper. My Class A is fine for paved roads and well-maintained gravel roads, but I wouldn't care to take it too far down unimproved (dirt) roads or off-road. A tow-behind trailer hooked to a 4WD truck could get to more remote locations, and offers more options once you've arrived.

Being able to put distance between you and a crisis situation is important to surviving most emergencies. Hurricane coming ashore? Get your butt to higher ground. Riots making life difficult in your city? Go far enough away that the looters won't find you. One of the bumper stickers I saw on an RV the other day said, “One of the joys of living in an RV is that family can't visit a moving target”.

One of the down sides to RV's is that their mileage sucks. My F250 with a 5.3L engine gets a miserable 15 MPG, but my 32 foot Class A with a Ford 7.5L (460 cubic inch) engine will be lucky to get 10 MGPG. Larger Class As with a diesel engine are on par with city buses and semis, 4-8 MPG. This is why most RVs have at least 50 gallons of fuel tanks installed - to get you a few hundred miles between fill-ups that make your wallet cry.

Living out of a pop-up or turtle camper is cramped, but it beats the snot out of sleeping on the ground. I went with a full Class A because of my wife's medical needs and the fact that I prefer to sleep where bugs have a hard time getting into bed with me. Having a supply of fresh water and a way of cooking food makes life easier to bear, regardless of what else is falling apart. Being able to carry our computers and TV with us is a good way to beat boredom, and I'll have plenty of power for the various radio systems that are going to be installed.

While I don't live in tornado alley, I have friends who do. We might see a twister or two each summer, but they rarely come within 20 miles of my house. Once I get my RV back into shape, it will probably be stored for most of the year at a secure storage lot about 30 miles away, just in case I need to use it if my house were to be destroyed. On the odd chance that fire or a tornado were to hit my family or friends, I have mobile housing that I can offer them until they get their house back together. A medium to large RV would also make a good guest house for visitors (mother-in-law housing), giving them a bit of privacy and control over their lives that may be lacking after a disaster.

If you're looking for the bare essentials to self-sufficiency, an RV will meet most of your demands. Since they carry their own water, fuel, and electrical generator while providing shelter and storage, they are close to being self-contained; food is about the only thing that they can't provide, but parking one next to a large garden would cover most of that. If you're looking at adding solar panels to your house or bug-out location, setting up a smaller system on an RV will let you work out the little problems before you make a major investment in equipment.

Do you have family that is new to prepping? Children or a new SO that don't have a firm grasp of what it means to prepare for emergencies? Traveling in an RV will teach them some very important lessons, like how to get by with a limited wardrobe and how to live in close quarters with other human beings without killing each other. Since most of us are going to be storing an RV for months at a time, you'll get to practice winterizing and fuel storage every year. Meal preparation on a small stove using food that has been stored in the RV will be good practice for once you get to your bug-out location and start living off of the long-term storage food you've got cached, and taking a shower with a limited water supply is always a good skill to have. If you've ever thought about the “small house” fad that's been going on for the last few years, consider that most RV's have less than 300 square feet of floor space and still manage to feel comfortable.

I'm getting close to retirement and I've got vacation time to burn, so I got an RV to use while visiting friends and family that are scattered around the USA.  I don't fly any more due to the TSA and various other political policies, so I thought I should at least be comfortable while we're driving around the country. I'll have more articles about my project RV as I start working through the issues that it has - I bought it cheap knowing that it needs a lot of work, and this way I'll get to know it better than someone who just signed the loan paperwork and drove a new one off of the lot. Being able to repair or bypass things is a large part of me being a prepper, so this is both practice and an education for me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Prudent Prepping: What to Do When Things Turn Ugly

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

Given the current political climate, now seems to be a good time to do a review of what to do and how to act if I'm caught up in a 'disturbance.'

I wrote about this last November, right before the polls closed. Things have not changed enough for me to feel safe in the areas I drive, but I do have a much better feel for how I can get through the places I work and back home.

All those points still apply:
  • Plan alternate routes
  • Have places to stay
  • Don't be afraid to turn back at the first sign of trouble. 

What still needs to be covered is...

What to Do If Accidentally Caught in a Protest
First of all, don't be where protests are planned to happen. The protests where the most damage has occurred have all had official permits, issued well in advance. The Public Notice periods usually last for weeks, so there isn't much of a surprise when and where the demonstrations start.

The Most Important Rule: Don't Get Caught In A Riot
Seriously, stay away.

When things get crazy, the police aren't going to care that you just left a birthday party or had to work late. They will have a difficult enough time picking out the rioters from the regular protesters and those who are just there by mistake, so be careful with what you do and how you act. During a riot, you are all potentially dangerous in the eyes of the police. When the the order to break it up and break heads comes, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you are doing there in the first place.

If you have not intended to participate in the riot (which I hope was the plan):
  • Do not interact with anyone. 
  • Don't look at anyone.
  • Try not to have any physical contact with those around you while you walk out. 
  • Do not become a target or get noticed.
  • Just keep moving.

Getting Out
I'm old enough to have been around the riots in Berkeley and Oakland CA in the late 60's and 70's. (Yes I'm really that old.) I can say from first hand experience that old-style tear gas is no fun, and I was only getting a very diluted whiff from two blocks away from the canisters. When things go 'non-linear' it is best to be already on the way to safety. How do you do that?

  • Start walking and don't stop. 
  • Don't run. That will draw attention to you, both from the cops and those around you. 
  • Look for the edge of the crowd and make your way there.
  • If there is a store you can hide in, do that while you figure out an escape route. 
  • Don't pick a high value target as your hideout! That Starbucks might seem inviting, but recent history says that is a poor choice. 
  • Get to the edge of the crowd, but don't try to walk against the flow - that could get you knocked down. Travel at a diagonal to the direction the crowd is going until you get out of the main body, hopefully well away from the agitators and potential violence. 
  • If the crowd is running, that is a bad sign that trouble is right behind. This is about the only time running might be advised, since you don't want to be on the tail end of the crowd and therefore the first to see what caused them to start running!
  • Most importantly, stay calm and work you way out of trouble.

The Takeaway
  • Plan ahead. No one wants to use their spare tire, but everyone should have one.
  • Know what to do if things go bad.
  • Stay calm, don't rush, and walk your way to safety.

If you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!
If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Guest Post: Edible Insects

by Almo Gregor

Almo Gregor is a firearm enthusiast and avid hunter. Outdoors activities like hunting and shooting were a big part of his childhood, and he continues with these traditions in his personal and professional life, passing the knowledge to others. Almo is also an editor for Outdoor Empire.

You may notice when watching survival shows or reading survival articles that there is a huge focus on food. Some are for entertainment purposes; it is more engaging to watch a person hunt a wild pig with a spear than to watch them find a clean water source. However, some of that focus is legitimate because when your body goes too long without food, it starts to eat itself as an energy supply.

This starts with the fat reserves and moves on to muscle mass. Within a few days, you start feeling weak and clumsy. Then the body starts attacking organ tissue, including brain matter. Your body starts to hurt all over, you become confused, and memory loss is quite common. All of these side effects of hunger can greatly diminish your ability to survive. When you cannot remember how to find your way back to camp, or you decide to take your chances on eating a poisonous plant, the results can mean death.

So what's the most efficient way of getting food?
  • Hunting burns a lot of calories, can be dangerous, and has very low rates of success. 
  • Trapping allows you to set a trap line and just spend a few minutes each day checking that line. The odds of success are not huge, but at least you are not spending all day tromping through the woods.
  • Fishing is often a good option for collecting protein, but it can mean getting into the water and that is not a risk I will take in many environments. 
  • That leaves gathering, which has always been primitive man's preferred method of finding food. 
The toughest part about gathering food is finding the nutrients that your body needs the most. With some basic knowledge of plants in your area, you can find plenty of leafy greens, root veggies, nuts, and berries to fill your belly. The problem is finding the proteins and fats that your body needs to survive. Most plants found in the wild have very small amounts of calories, protein, and fats. Foods like fruit, berries, and nuts can help offset this, but most people need a larger source of protein.

Insects can be the answer.

Introduction to Eating Insects
While this idea takes a period of adjustment for some people, keep in mind that most of the earth’s population eats insects. Insects are seen on every continent including Antarctica. It is estimated that there are three billion insects for every one person on our planet, so they are a food source that cannot be ignored. There are roughly thirty million species of insects that have been classified, and roughly 1900 of those can be eaten by humans.

During my last survival challenge, I brought two of my nephews (Jay and Dre) with me. They are 10 and 11 years old, and are a bit more open minded than most of the adults that I know. I wanted to give them exposure to different food sources while in the wilderness, so I brought along pemmican and hard tack so they could try some preserved survival foods. We caught a small bass in our gill net and we found a small turtle, so we already had some protein.

But I wanted them to become open to gathering as well. I found a few large black ants and popped them in my mouth. The boys seemed disgusted, but I explained that this variety of ant tasted a bit like Sweet Tarts candy. Jay was eager to try them out and agreed with me, on the taste but Dre was more hesitant. I finally got them both eating insects and felt like we were making progress.

General Rules
When you decide to start trying out some insects, be aware that there are general rules for which ones are safe. You should always know the specific insects found in your area, as the species found can vary greatly from one area to another. However, following these rules in any environment can help keep you from getting sick.

Avoid Bright Colors
Bright colors on an insect such as red, orange, yellow, and blue are a warning. These colors are there to stand out in nature and warn animals that they are off limits. Eating insects with these colors is a good way to ingest toxins that can make you sick. Stick to insects that blend in with brown and green colors.

Avoid Fuzzy Insects
When you see lots of hairs or spines on an insect, they are often there to distribute toxins. They are also an obvious warning to other animals to stay away.

Avoid Foul Smells
You may not realize it, but your sense of smell is designed to keep you from getting sick. As with most cases in nature, it is a good idea to avoid anything that has a foul smell, as this usually indicates bacteria or toxins of some kind. Do not eat any insect that has a foul smell.

Avoid Flies and Mosquitoes
Any insects that spend time around stagnant water or feces should be avoided. Insects like flies and mosquitoes carry diseases that can kill a human, so avoid them at all costs.

Avoid Slow-moving Insects in the Open
If an insect is hiding or flies away as soon as you come close, they are probably safe to eat.
However, insects that are poisonous know that they are poisonous and do not have to flee. They can walk slowly wherever they want to go and know that most animals will stay away.

Remove Stingers
Bees, wasps, and even scorpions are okay to eat, but only after the stinger is removed.

Cook Your Insects
Cooking insects kills any bacteria or parasites that could make you sick, so if you have the ability, do so. Certain insects like grasshoppers can give you parasites if not gutted and cooked.

Soak Worms Before Eating
You can consume underground creatures such as grub worms and earth worms, but their digestive systems are full of dirt. Soak them in water overnight to purge their system before eating.

Specific Critters
There are certain edible insects and other critters that can be found in most of the world. Here are some that you are likely to find anywhere.

There are numerous species of ants, and all are edible. You can break open an ant hill, or shove a stick into the hill and eat the ants off the stick.  

Bees and Wasps
These are both edible if the stinger is removed. Many cultures roast adult bees, and their larvae are delicious.

Butterflies and Moths
They can be eaten as adults or as caterpillars - but avoid caterpillars that are red, yellow, or orange!

They have a nasty bite when alive, so cooked is better. They can get to be very large and are eaten as street food in China. Remove the head before eating.

Make sure you know the difference between centipedes and millipedes, because millipedes are poisonous.

They are not around every year, but on the years they hatch, they are best when still young and soft.

Contrary to popular belief, most roaches in nature are clean insects and are fine to eat... but avoid any found in urban settings.

There are companies which cook crickets, grinds them into flour, and makes energy bars out of them. Crickets are eaten all around the world, and are one of the most popular edible bugs.

Earthworms and Grubs
These are high in protein and iron.

June Bugs 
These have some size to them, and both the adults and larvae can be eaten.

I have seen these sold in roadside stands on the west coast. They are roasted and then tossed in spices to flavor them. I tried the BBQ ones; they were pretty good.

Pill Bugs 
These are also known as "Roly Polys" and are closely related to shrimp.

These can contain parasites, so pull off the head and the guts that come with it, as well as the wings and legs. Once cooked, they are a good source of protein and calcium.

Be careful catching these guys - some are deadly - but they are edible once you remove the stinger. 

It is common to find slugs in gardens. They carry parasites and also sometimes eat plants that are poisonous to humans, so they must be gutted and cooked.

Considered a delicacy in French cooking, they always seem to be cooked in white wine and butter.  I have eaten escargot on a few occasions, first trying them in Zurich, Switzerland, and have since ordered them whenever they are on the menu. They need to be gutted as well. 

Most people just eat the legs, but the whole spider is edible. They get to be very large so they can make a good meal. Be careful of their urticating hairs, so cook them before eating.

These are typically eaten raw. Like ants, you can break into a hill or you can put a stick in there and fish them out. Very high in protein.

In Conclusion
When you are literally starving and need calories and protein to keep going, do not forget about insects. However, I suggest you get over any apprehension before your life depends on it.

The next time you go hiking or camping, find some edible insects and cook them with your meal. Try to get your family involved, too! It will make life so much easier if you are ever in a situation when these critters become a primary food source.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to