Friday, September 29, 2017

Bugging In: the Long Road Ahead

Last week I mentioned that people would be best served by finding a locale where bugging out is unnecessary except in extreme circumstances.

This week is just a quick outline if what's to come; for the remainder of the year, each episode will be an in-depth exploration of an aspect of bugging in.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trees After a Storm

While looking at pictures of the aftermath of this year's hurricanes (and the season's not over yet), I was struck by the number of trees toppled and torn by the 100+ mph winds. I was reminded of the trees we lost around here after the 2011 floods (although ours took a year or two to die from drowning - a tree's roots need air) and the damage I've seen tornadoes do to homesteads and wood-lots.

Most of us like having trees around. They provide shade in the summer, firewood for the winter, and we hate to see them destroyed by hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. Trees are often symbols of permanence and strength, and it is disquieting to see them chewed up like a dog toy. Fruit and nut trees can provide food in small lots and income when planted in larger numbers. There are a lot of reasons to like trees.

So, what do you do after the storm has passed and you begin to survey the damage so you can make a plan for the future?

Safety First!
  • Be on the lookout for trees and branches in contact with power lines. There is no easy way to tell if a power line is “live” or not, and wet wood makes a fair conductor of electricity. If you see trees in the power lines, call the experts.
  • Unless you have experience felling trees, leave the standing or leaning trees to the experts. Broken branches stuck in a standing tree are often called “widow-makers” for good reason - they are unpredictable and dangerous to clear. Leaning trees will have unnatural stresses on the trunks and they may not react to cutting as you expect them to. Work from the top down if at all possible to avoid having a trunk release the pressure from a twisting or tilting stress in a way that is unexpected.
  • Use your personal protective equipment (PPE). Safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection with power tools, and Kevlar chaps if you're running a chainsaw. Keep non-workers a safe distance away; you don't want to get hurt or injure a bystander and add to the load on emergency services. (We've covered this before in various posts about firewood.)

Clear the Paths
  • Roads and walkways should have priority over yards; you're going to need the roads to get help in and out, and at the very least having a cleared path will make it easier to get rid of the debris. The only exception I can think of is if you have or expect looters and would prefer to make their travel more difficult. Some would consider clearing the roads for looters “hunting over bait” and therefore unsporting, but that's a personal decision.
  • Clear the area around where you're going to be working. Less clutter means fewer things to trip over, which is always a good idea when you're dealing with cutting tools. Having helpers keep the area cleared as you cut a tree into manageable pieces will speed things up and is a good use of unskilled labor.

Know How to Dispose of the Debris
  • In the aftermath of a major storm there is always a huge pile of debris to get rid of. Locally, we see this after every ice storm and tornado. Tree limbs and branches are often piled and burned at centralized locations in order to prevent hundreds of smaller, less well-watched fires from causing further damage. This also gives some control over the smoke produced by burning green wood, since it will be coming from a single source which is usually well away from where people are living.
  • If there are no centralized services available (yard waste collection), you may have to set up a “burn pile” on your own property. Think of it as a huge campfire and build it with the smaller pieces on the bottom and the larger ones on top. This will allow the heat from the smaller pieces burning to rise past the large ones, giving them a chance to dry out enough to burn with less smoke.
  • If you have a wood chipper, composting the debris is a good option. Even just putting a layer of wood chips down around the base of healthy trees is better than burning wood for the sole purpose of disposing of it. Wood chips will help hold in moisture and keep down weed growth, and they tend to make it easier to mow around trees as well.

I'm going to talk to an arborist friend soon and will try to get some professional advice on how to decide if a tree is too damaged to survive, so I'll cover that process in a separate post. They might grow into weird shapes, but trees are pretty resilient to damage from what I've seen.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Prudent Prepping: The Basic Get Home Bag

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

I started helping a fellow sales rep who is new to earthquake country with disaster planning last week. I was asked to give a shopping list, as the rep's family is in major freak-out mode after the recent earthquakes in Mexico. They are willing to pay for supplies (within reason, I assume), so I'm putting together a BGHB (Basic Get Home Bag) as a starting point. As this is California, clothing is being left off the Suggested Item List, since those are optional. (I sincerely hope this means "bad weather clothing isn't necessary", but this being California, it could literally mean "clothing is optional". -- the Editrix) This list is also being assembled for someone with an extremely small geographic territory, relatively mild weather and proposed for a fit, healthy 20-something, so it's just the basics.*
*In no way is this the ultimate setup for anyone else. It's what I have, what I'm familiar with, and can recommend to a stranger as items that worked when I needed them. Your mileage may vary. 
HDE Military Tactical Backpack
This pack has two large zippered compartments, sizes medium and small, with the smallest (seen at the top, under the compression strap buckle) just big enough to hold a small personal-size first aid kit, tourniquet of your choice and maybe 2 other items of roughly Altoid tin size.

Here you see the opened pack and all the very convenient storage areas. There are plenty of internal zippered pockets, some of them mesh for ease of finding important items, and more than enough slide-in pockets for everything from packaged snacks, pens, pencils, fire starting gear or what ever you think might be important enough to be visible when this bag is wide open.

The main pockets have enough room to hold a change of clothes, 2 liters of water, food and improvised shelter/weather protection with room to spare. The shoulder straps are comfortable and easy to adjust, and the compression straps really do a nice job of keeping everything compact and as close to your back as possible.

Esbit Ultralight Pocket Stove
There are plenty of other stoves to pick, but I like this one for how small, light and compact it is. I have one in my gear, along with extra fuel tabs.  The tabs light easily, burn hot and if sealed, last a very long time.

My longest possible trek home is five times as long as my friend, so if it works for me then it will work for them.

MSR Trail Lite Duo System
This is the most expensive part of the gear I'm recommending, but it is also the most durable and easily adapted to other uses besides a GHB. This set is for two people going for the 'ultra-light' camping route, but with the addition of a second pot/pan, this is more than sufficient in any camping use, even car camping.

The pot is designed to cook for two, so for one person it works very well and the extra bowl and cup makes it simple to have your wash water ready after cooking.
Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System
My personal filter in all my bags is a Sawyer, and I can't think of an easier filter to use or maintain. Rated for filtering up to 100,000 gallons of water (with proper care) and able to remove most common contaminants, there is not much to dislike here.

As several of us have reviewed different models and sizes, this is a favorite.

This gets into too much of personal choice to really make any hard recommendations, but here are what I have:
  • Eating utensils. I have several different sets, but in my GHB is a set of Sea To Summit Delta Cutlery. The knife really cuts and the set doesn't rattle when stored inside the cooking pot!
  • Fire starters. I also have several, but I recommend matches in a waterproof case like the UCO Stormproof kit. Extra strikers are included and the case is easily seen.
  • Survival blanket from Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL), because keeping warm can save your life.

The Recap
  • Starting preps for an emergency don't have to be expensive.
  • The information is out there. Sometimes it's as close as the person you talk with every day.

The Takeaway
Only the largest and in my opinion most important items are listed here, with links to some of my personal favorites as options.

Added together with options, this comes in under $150 for a good quality, reasonably compact and light weight Basic Get Home Bag.

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, September 26, 2017

Guest Post: Why Live In Florida Where There Are Hurricanes?

by Miguel Gonzales

Miguel is a resident of Miami, Florida and has lived there for 20 years. He is also a contributor to the GunBlog VarietyCast and his blog, Gun Free Zone, can be found here

Erin has been asked these questions by her readers:
"Why would anyone live in Florida where there are hurricanes? Why not just live somewhere that these storms don't exist?"
Rather than answer them herself, she decided to go straight to the horse's mouth: me.

Let’s start with why I moved to Miami in the first place, and the answer (believe it or not) is prepping. When I decided to leave Venezuela, Hugo Chavez was not yet the president or even an official candidate, but I could read the writing on the wall. The missus and I made the decision to leave, and I figured that sooner or later I would have to bring my parents to the US as well. Miami was the logical choice because of its cultural diversity and affinity: 
  • Spanish spoken there
  • Similar foods
  • Nationalities we were familiar with (Venezuela used to be a great hub for refugees escaping from South American countries under dictatorships.) 
So the cultural shock to my parents would have been minimal. Dad unfortunately left us too soon, but I did finally manage to convince mom to leave Venezuela and come live with us.

"But Miami! All those Hurricanes! OMG DEATH!" Okay people, calm down and let me explain. It is not that awful, because hurricanes are polite. I repeat: Hurricanes are polite.

Why do I say that? Because in true Southern fashion, hurricanes give you plenty of warning they are fixing to mess you up. That means you get to prepare and get your stuff together before impact. Do you get that with an earthquake? Nope. Floods? Nope. Tornadoes? Nope nope. Maybe massive wildfires can give you some warning, but if the wind changes, you are screwed.

Just to be clear: with the exception of a massive wildfire, I HAVE BEEN THROUGH ALL THAT CRAP. 
  • Earthquake? Pass. It is freaky to see concrete slabs moving like jello and buildings collapsing. 
  • Floods? I almost lost my life in one when I was a toddler. I still remember the waters rushing inside the house. That was not fun. 
  • Tornadoes? Do you know how freaky is for somebody who just moved from the tropics to see the sky suddenly turn purple, feel the temperature drop 30 degrees and have hail peppering their head? Not fun! I almost left tracks in my tighty whities. 
So, if you give me a choice of natural disasters, I will pick hurricanes every single time. Hurricanes seem to come in 10 year or so cycles. Prior to last year, the last hurricane to hit is was Wilma in 2005. Can you say you had a disaster-free decade in your area? It is going to be very rare, right? I have basically spent close to half my living time in Miami only worrying about the air conditioner dying in the summer.

South Florida learned a lot after Hurricane Andrew. Building codes have been reinforced and improved,  and we have a great canal system to keep the water from flooding too much and for too long (which is a feat in an area where the highest natural peak is six feet tall). 

Many new people in the area realize things are about to get heavy when they hear their mayor or the governor say "Be advised, you will need to be on your own from three days to two weeks depending on the damage. Do not expect us to come rescue you, especially when the hurricane is blowing." It is a moment of epiphany for a lot of them, and then the panic ensues... which can be funny to us old hurricane hands. Nothing says "newbie" like buying forty packs of hot dogs that will not survive without refrigeration.

Most of the victims that you will see in the news are either idiots who refuse to take minimal precautions, newly moved carpetbaggers from the NY/NJ area (OK, just kidding there… sort of), and the professional victims who think that government is supposed to either switch the hurricane off or give them shelter, a new car and a pony because they demand it. 

After the hurricane passes, the government is not going to do squat until they figure out what happened, who is the hardest hit, and who requires immediate attention. It is called triage, and you better face that dancing song early and learn to love it.

South Floridians know that if we lose power, we aren't getting power back for a while unless we live next door to a hospital. The same goes for locations with above-ground wiring, since it is subject to the impact of pieces of the abundant greenery we are so fond of down here. I live about a mile from an electrical substation, our area has all-underground wiring, and we didn't get our power back for 36 hours after we lost it. In the meantime, we checked on our neighbors to make sure they were fine, cleaned up debris, and opened roads so traffic could flow. Some grocery stores and gas stations were running on a limited basis via portable or fixed generators, and those of us with our own generators managed to keep the fridges and freezers cold and did a lot of grilling!

What I am trying to say in a long-winded manner is that both government and citizens have a basic understanding of how to prepare for the hurricanes that are going to hit us. These preparations will not help everybody, but the load of victims will be greatly reduced. 
  • Preparation means fewer calls to 911 because there are no collapsed homes with people inside or trapped in the attic because of flood waters. 
  • Preparation means no need to wait for the county crews to come chop down tress fallen across the road, because at least three neighbors will have chainsaws for the thick stuff and everybody has machetes for the smaller stuff (this is Miami after all, we love our machetes). 
  • Preparation means no people starving to death after the second day because most bought at least some tuna and crackers to last a week. 
  • Preparation means people getting hydrated because they followed the simple rule of having one gallon a day per person for at least a week. 
  • Preparation means power companies with local and out of state linemen on staging areas ready to rebuild the grid. 
  • Preparation means all emergency service personnel ready to take care of the injured, even when it means being away from their loved ones. 
  • Preparation means carefully driving out after the storm and checking out what is open and working, so that your neighbors do not have to run around to determine what pharmacies are open or where the ice bags are being passed out. 
  • Preparation means babysitting the neighborhood kids while the parents take a well-deserved nap. 
  • Preparation means all this and much more. We have done it in the past and will do it in the future with improvements.
How effective have all these preps been? The number of deaths in Florida because of hurricanes is small, even minuscule; you get more people killed by gunshots in an average week in Chicago. The victims tend to be people that made a wrong turn and ended up drowning in a canal, or stepped on an electrified cable or puddle. I think there was one man who died when he was trying to move his car a day after a hurricane and a branch of a tree broke and hit him in the head.

I cannot end this post without mentioning guns. Other than some idiots targeting shoe stores, Miami-Dade County was almost free of looters. There might have been a couple of minor things stolen from civilians, but the total collapse like you saw during Katrina didn't happen here. The bad guys realized long ago that neighborhoods become armed encampments, and they do not take kindly to strangers or looters. Again, this means less load on county & state services that can be properly routed to those in real need.

One last thing. Turn off the Weather Channel and the News on TV. They are in the business to sell commercial time and they don’t get to raise rates by being moderate in their presentation.

In conclusion: while hurricanes are amazingly powerful and Irma scared the bejesus out of me, I have a better chance to survive them down here where there is a culture and infrastructure prepared for it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Husqvarna Carpenter's Axe Review

I want to make something clear in this review: I did not initially purchase this axe as a survival/bug out tool, but because I owned a property management company and needed a handy hand axe when I was working on landscaping. I tried out several, and ended up using this one long before I decided to use it as a prepper axe.

Also note that I ended up purchasing several for my employees' use, so I was able to do some comparative testing, especially with maintenance, on this product.

The Good
  • Sharp, tough, well balanced, with a heavy enough head that it makes it easier to do work with it, I have used and abused several of these and have yet to have one fail. 
  • I keep one next to my door for general use, and it sees a lot of loaning out with all the wear and tear that comes with that (especially to college-age neighbors), and has yet to show notable wear.
  • It is small enough to pack well, but large enough to be useful. 
  • It is actually less exhausting than lighter camp hatchets (specifcally, Estwing hand axes) when used for an extended period of time. 
  • I have yet to test one to destruction, despite repeated attempts (mostly due to the neglect of others). I did however find one after a year and a half in the elements that an employee had left out. I wiped the rust off with my t-shirt, and used it to split kindling.

The Bad
  • At around $60 when I bought it from a dealer, it is not a cheap tool. That said, I have used similarly priced Estwings, and have not found them to be as effective a tool for the price. 
  • The grip on the handle is suboptimal. I have found that if you are using it for an extended period of time, it becomes hard to hold onto because of sweat. To combat this, I braided paracord around the bottom half of the handle, and so long as I braided it tightly, I found this to be an acceptable solution. It's a hassle when I re-oil the handle, but if your palms are less sweaty than mine are that may not be needed. 
  • There is occasional surface rust if you leave it out in the elements, but I have not noticed that impairing the utility of the axe.
  • This is not the lightest axe out there (2.75 lbs), so if you have weight limits, this may not be the best choice for a bugout axe. 

 “Off Label” Uses
  • Makes a dandy throwing axe, even if it has a tendency to throw a little high if you are not used to it. 
  • I have used the back to hammer everything from nails to breaking a chunk of concrete apart. I am sure this is not good for it, but it has yet to break.
  • Prying with both the handle and the head has happened on many occasions. I am certain that this is not good for the handle to use it like that, but it has yet to break, so…
  • I have used it for cutting all sorts of stuff, from rope to opening my mail. The head holds an edge surprisingly well.
  • When moving logs around, I tend to slam the axe head into the log and use the axe as a handle, in order to lift it easily. (A useful trick when dealing with large logs: I recommend the flat end of a cut log when doing this,  so that the blade goes in between the fibers of the grain for best grip.)

You will find that, after a year or two with no maintenance, the handle will get a bit “stringy” and is more prone to splintering. I know that the internet holds all sorts of special recipes for the best possible care for your hand axe, but I found that a heavy coat of used cooking oil from my deep fryer, applied every three to six months of heavy use, or two years or so of sitting around, worked just fine.

I use a Lansky Puck for basic maintenance of the edge, with a bastard file I bought at home depot for getting out any really bad gouges. I have a policy of a quick brush up sharpening after a day of heavy use, or a week of light (camp) use. It takes a while for the blade to get dull, however, and notably outlasted the Fiskars Camp axe and the Estwings I also tried out.

I have coated the head of the axe that I use the most in an industrial spray enamel to mark it as mine, and have found that I no longer even get surface rust on it because of that. The edge has worn off, and I suspect that would be an issue if it got used less, but that would be easy to take care of with a sharpening.

My Rating
8 out of 10 if you are looking for a good all-around survival axe;  9/10 if you are not worried about weight. I absolutely recommend it, especially if you have the chance to go to a Husqvarna dealership and handle it beforehand. The only disadvantage is the weight (about double the weight of a camp axe), and that is really only an issue if you are backpacking.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #162 - South Florida Knows How To Hurricane

That's "be prepared for a hurricane" and not "make a rum cocktail."
  • Have you ever attended a Friends of the NRA Banquet? Are you curious about what it’s like? Beth shares her experience so you can decide if it’s something you’d like to do.
  • A man is accused of robbing three Charlotte businesses, but Sean finds out that his conviction record isn't the worst part of the story.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • In any situation you’ll get groups of people who have different skills and levels of preparedness. How prepared was Coral Gables, Florida for the long term loss of electricity? They apparently had their lawyers on speed dial. Miguel tells you what he thinks.
  • Our Main Topic is "Dry Fire Practice: Is It Boring?"
  • Tiffany finishes her three-part segment on the NRA Carry Guard Expo by talking about the good things she encountered within the Expo itself, especially the programs made for “the laaadieeeez.”
  • Back from her Evacu-cation, Erin has some tips and tricks for you to make your evacuation plans easier.
  • Now that the Brady Campaign’s Dan Gross  has been fired, Weer’d bids a farewell to Dan in the best way he knows how.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Pocket Pro II shot timer.
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 -
 Evacuation Tips and Tricks
This was the second year in a row that I evacuated for a hurricane, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at it. So let me share with you some tips and tricks that I’ve learned. 

1) Know the order in which you want to load your stuff
For me, this is pretty simple:
  1. First I load my bug-out bag. Even if I can’t load anything else, that and the Get-Home bag I already have in my car will enable me to be a pretty comfortable refugee for several days. 
  2. The next thing I load are my guns and just enough ammo for them to fit inside their cases. Now, most people are wondering why I don’t load clothes next, and there’s are multiple reasons for that:
    • Clothes are cheap and easily replaced, while guns are expensive and a pain in the butt to replace. Besides, I already have changes of clothes in my bug out and get home bags. 
    • I don’t want my guns to fall into the wrong hands if looters get to my house before I can return. As a gun owner, I feel that I have an ethical duty to make sure my firearms aren’t used by criminals. 
    • In a worst-case scenario, I can trade a gun for something necessary, like food or shelter or transportation, because guns have intrinsic value. Clothes, not so much. 
  3. Then I add whatever gear isn’t in my bug-out bag but which would be useful for an extended absence (like camping supplies) or for sorting through wreckage, (like tools or protective clothing). 
  4. Next up are whatever portable electronic devices I can fit into a backpack, like my tablet computer and podcasting gear, along with recharging cables and docking stations. If I have the time, I’ll remove the hard drive from my desktop and put them into a protective waterproof box, like a Pelican Case.
  5. All of these have been items which are expensive and difficult to replace, going in order form “most useful” to “least useful”. If you’re making a list of your own, this is where you should put valuable luxuries like expensive jewelry, or irreplaceable sentimental items like heirlooms. 
  6. Then, and ONLY then, do I pack extra clothing. This is where your “nice to haves” go - things which would be nice to have with you but can be be replaced easily. 
  7. The last thing to go into my car are snacks and drinks. 
2) Have duplicates of your toiletries
I don’t know about the rest of you, but having a repeatable, reliable bathroom routine goes a long way towards making me feel normal and comfortable.

I recommend against packing up your toiletries as part of the evacuation process, because this will slow you down and you will probably forget things, like your favorite loofah sponge in the shower.

Instead, build an “overnight bag” complete with duplicates of all the things you use when showering, brushing your teeth, etc, and then grab that bag along with others in step one. That’s one less step to worry about and one more thing on your list that’s already packed.

What’s more, you can use this for things other than evacuations. If you’re going on vacation, or need to take a business trip, you can grab your overnight bag instead of having to pack, then un-pack, then re-pack your toiletries for another trip.

3) Have wonderful friends
Both times that I’ve evacuated, I have been blessed to have really great people volunteer their homes for me to stay in.

This hospitality is amazing, because not only does it save me the cost of a hotel room, but it also means I get to meet great people in real life and enjoy their company.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: if you’re a prepper, you can’t do it alone. You need people to help you out. Friends, extended family, other preppers in your group - all of these people constitute your Tribe, and you should cultivate those relationships. Go out of your way to help people, and they’ll be more willing to go out of their way to help you when you need it. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ersatz Tires

Flat tires aren't as common as they used to be (due to better materials and construction), but they still happen at the worst times. Since spare tires don't get used very often they tend to get ignored, which means that there's a good possibility that your spare is going to be flat when you need it.

The “temporary” spare, AKA “the doughnut” that comes with most cars, is there to get you to the nearest repair shop. Most of them have a very limited life, usually under 100 miles. Doughnuts are also smaller and narrower than the standard tire, so they will affect the handling of your car when in use and put a lot of stress on the differentials of vehicles because of the difference in size (smaller tires have to spin faster to cover the same distance).

Since 2009, some car makers have decided to save even more weight and space by deleting even the doughnut spare, replacing it with a “repair kit” that consists of a can of sealant and a compressor. The repair kits are useless if the tire has anything other than a small hole in the tread, but they're cheap and save weight (and therefore gas). Basically, they've started shipping cars with a can of Fix-a-Flat instead of a spare tire.

So what do you do if you have a flat tire and your spare is dead? 
Or what if you have two flat tires at the same time (Been there and one that - got forced into a curb that took out both tires on one side of my truck)? 
  1. Look around and see if you can borrow a spare from someone. This may sound strange to urban people, but rural folks do tend to help each other and there's always a chance that you'll be able to find something that will fit your car. 
  2. If you're in a SHTF situation, salvaging a wheel and tire from an abandoned car might be your only option to get mobile again.  Unfortunately, not all tires are created equal; fortunately, this article will tell you what need to look for:

Tire Size
For emergency use, this is less important than you'd expect. Since the typical doughnut spare is a lot smaller than a regular tire, you can use any tire that will fit inside your wheel-well, and running smaller (a 14-inch tire replacing a 16-inch tire) won't be much different than using a doughnut.

Going larger or wider means you'll need to check the clearance on your fenders and steering components; you don't want a tire rubbing on anything. Here'show to read the information on the side of a tire.

Watch the weight rating! You'll want something that is rated for at least as much as the tire you're replacing, especially on trailers.

Number and Spacing of Lugnuts
Most standard wheels will have 4, 5, 6 or 8 holes for the lugnuts. 4- and 5-hole wheels are common on cars, 6- and 8-hole wheels are more often found on trucks and SUVs. Ford did make a 7-hole wheel for a few years on their F250 pickups, and there are some trailers and ATVs that use a 3-hole wheel, but those are the exceptions. Obviously, you're going to need something with the same number of holes as your regular wheels.
Spacing is a bit tricky, but there is a standard way of measuring it. The picture to the left shows how to measure your bolt pattern. This needs to be an exact match, but as long as you're working with two vehicles that are similar in size and age, you should be able to find a suitable wheel.

Center Hole Size
The hole in the center of the wheel is for the wheel hub, and there are two general types of wheels:

Hub-centric: where the weight of the vehicle is borne by the hub of the wheel. This style is common on cars, and these normally have a raised lip on the brake disk/drum around the hub that the wheel slides over. This needs to be an exact fit since the lug bolts are probably not going to be strong enough to carry the weight, and changing sheared lugs is a royal pain.

Lug-centric: where the weight of the vehicle is borne by the lugnuts. This style is more common on trucks and larger SUVs with 8-hole wheels. The raised lip is absent, and the hub hole diameter is less important. As long as the hole is big enough for the hub to go through, it'll work. If you have a 4WD with locking hubs, you'll know how big some of these holes can be.

Depth of Wheel
Unless you're playing with custom wheels this isn't much of a problem, but finding a donor wheel with the proper depth to give you room for the brake parts is important. Here'sa good link that explains the depth measurements. In a SHTF situation, I'd try flipping the wheel around and putting it on backwards (with the outside of the rim towards the vehicle) just to get moving again.

If money's tight and/or you really need to get out of Dodge
I know of at least one young man who buys temporary spares from a local junkyard for next to nothing and runs them on all four wheels of his compact car. He has to change them every week or so, and they are horrible for traction, but they get him to work and back. He's saving for a better car and doesn't want to dump $400 into tires for something he's going to be trading off in a few months.

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prudent Prepping: Semi-Monthly Roundup

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

This is my way to wrap up several different ideas too short to make into a complete and separate post.

First up is a gift from the Master Chief who, after retiring from his last job, now has plenty of time to shop on the 'Net. He has given me several things, but none as small as this:

Nelson Rigg CB-PK30 Black Compact Backpack
From the Amazon entry:
  • The Nelson Rigg CB-PK30 Compact Backpack allows you to gain 30L of storage whenever needed
  • It packs down small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, giving you extra cargo capacity without all the bulk
  • Large enough to carry a full face motorcycle helmet, basketball, or a day's clothes, it's perfect for day-to-day use, day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping, or shopping
  • Constructed from strong Tri-Max nylon with embroidery style stitching for added strength
  • Ultra lightweight with an integrated compact storage bag makes it easy to carry anywhere you go
This is not replacing my existing GHB; it's going to be the extra 'Share The Care' bag if the worst happens and I find someone in need of a backpack.
  • It weighs nothing and takes up almost no space.
  • The straps are thin and prone to curl into themselves with some weight in the bag -- in other words, exactly what you'd expect in a bag like this. 
  • The nylon(ish) material is definitely NOT waterproof or even water-resistant, but with a medium trash bag used as a liner, it should do in an emergency. 
As this is a secondary bag, none of these are deal-breakers. Plus, the price (free) was fantastic!

Baby Prepper Progress
I've mentioned that I have a new prepping group and my friends are getting serious about disaster preparedness. What's happening so far?

  • GHB's have been purchased and basics like clothes, small amounts of food and bottled water have been added.
  • Approximately half the group comes from places that have regular economic or natural disasters, so the idea of having extra food on hand is normal. Figuring out how and where to store everything is the next step.
  • Selecting Rally Points A, B, and maybe C is our next goal, since several of us travel quite far and in different directions on a daily basis. No one wants to be left out, and there could be several days' delay if the Big One (earthquake) hits us. After two in Mexico this month, we could be looking at a repeat of 1985-89 here in California.

Everything is proceeding much better than I expected, since I follow the old saying, "Plan for the worst but expect better".

The Takeaway
  • I have wonderful friends that do the nicest things for me. I'm truly blessed
  • There's nothing like an example to show people who you are. Luckily, lately I've been a good one.
  • Having everyone 'on-board' and working in the same direction for a common goal feels great.

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, September 19, 2017

Firearm Records

You should have a record of pretty much anything with a serial number, but for now I'll concentrate specifically firearms.

I know of several cases in which firearms were stolen in a burglary (one involved a personal friend - in his case, guns from his father and grandfather) and there were no descriptions or recorded serial numbers, which meant about zero chance of ever getting those guns back. This happens a lot, so don't let it happen to you.

Make records, and make copies. In these days of digital cameras and flash drives and writable CD/DVDs, there’s no reason not to use them. My suggestions on firearms:
  1. Make a list of important information for each firearm such as brand, model, serial number, other identifying marks or numbers, etc.
  2. Take a picture of each firearm. If there are identifying/proof features on both sides, take one of each side.
  3. Label each picture as to what it is. Either put the serial number in the picture name, or keep the list together with the pictures. Preferably both.
  4. Make a hard copy of the list to keep with the other media, just in case something happens to the electronic copies. Paper and ink are cheap. 
  5. Make at least two copies: one to keep with you, preferably in a fire-resistant storage box or safe, and one in a secure off-site location (with relatives, safety deposit box, whatever).
Flash drives or other re-writable media are great; you can update them at any time. Paper records will have to be printed again when things change; again, paper and ink are cheap.

Don’t store your only record on your computer! In fact, you shouldn't leave any copy on the computer; once you copy anything on it to the storage media, securely wipe the files on the PC (laptop, tablet, whatever), just to be safe in case of viruses.

These records are good for more than just theft; if there's a fire, or flood, or a small SMOD, you'll need to be able to show the insurance people just what you have. These directions will also work on other things, like your computer or TV or power tools. But if, for some reason, you don't have an inventory of everything, at least make one of your firearms.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #161 - We Are But Mad North-North-West

Erin's neighborhood was supposed to get its power restored this weekend. Now it's been pushed back until Tuesday next week.
  • Beth says it's always the right time to talk to children about firearms, and the new book "Safety On" by Yehuda Remer can help you with that.
  • A second suspect has been identified in a NW Charlotte homicide, and good news! He's not quite as awful as the suspect they have already charged!
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • To be, or not to be: that is the question. Or perhaps the question is "to stay, or not to stay." And when the hurricane blows southerly, Miguel knows a hawk from a handsaw.
  • Our Main Topic is the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that more Americans than ever have a gun in their homes.
  • Tiffany covers a few of the Every Day Carry travel considerations that aren't usually discussed in the average concealed carry permit class.
  • Erin left the hurricane behind. But she has preps in place, so why evacuate? She shares her thoughts on avoiding troubles as a valid prepping strategy.
  • The Joyce Foundation Shell Group, States United, has cooked up a “Video Game” to oppose concealed carry Reciprocity, and gets the reaction from alleged Real People™. Weer'd has the audio.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program.

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 -

Why Evacuate When You Have Preps?
As I write this, I’m comfortably ensconced at Castello Sorrentino, enjoying the delightfully cool North Carolina weather. The reason I’m able to  enjoy it so much is because Hurricane Irma largely missed my part  of Florida, contenting herself with knocking down trees and power lines. This means I no longer have to worry about the safety of my family or the integrity of our house, and my evacuation has become a vacation. 

Despite all this, though. I’m still having trouble shaking the feeling that I am now 2 for 2 at being a gigantic pussy when it comes to hurricanes. After all, what kind of prepper am I if I chose not to reply upon those preps, but instead to run away at the first opportunity?

Friend of the show Josh made a great point last week when he posted this to the BCP Facebook group:
It occurs to me that training with a firearm and preparing for disasters are very similar.
In both cases you are gathering the tools and knowledge to handle a situation if it gets bad. In both cases your education tells you to leave the area as soon as it seems likely things actually will go bad.
And I believe this with 100% conviction. Just like concealed carriers 
believe "You win every gunfight you avoid", we preppers believe that we survive every disaster we aren’t present for. Sure, you might be able to out-draw or out-shoot a bad guy, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get through the experience unscathed. You might get hurt anyway, or be arrested and tried for murder by an overzealous prosecutor, or be harassed by the media and hated by your community. 

Similarly, if you rely on your preps to get you through a disaster you could have avoided, at the very least you’ve consumed those preps and need to replace them. Progressing up the scale of awful, take a moment to realize that “surviving a disaster” and “surviving a disaster unscathed” are two completely different things. If you’re crippled, but you lived, then technically you’ve survived…

Now I understand that there are some situations where people cannot evacuate. Perhaps you have a family member who cannot be moved, and evacuating without them would be the same as abandoning them. Perhaps you don’t have a car or the funds required to get out. Perhaps you have a job as an emergency responder, and it’s your duty to help those who didn’t leave. In all of these cases, I understand why you didn’t go, and I don’t fault you for your choice. 

But what gets me are the people who have the ability to leave but choose not to evacuate -- like my parents, who say “We evacuated once back in 2003. We were stuck in traffic, and the dogs were hot, and we couldn’t find a hotel that would take us and our pets. We’re just going to stay behind.”  To me, this is like saying “We’d rather risk death than be inconvenienced by an evacuation.” I don’t get this. I just DON’T. It’s like hearing the anti-vaccine folks talk and realize that they’re saying “Having a dead child is preferable to having one with autism.”

So I just leave at the first sign of impending doom, because the best prep is not gear, not training, but the ability to get yourself out of dangerous situations - and the best way to get out of dangerous situations is not to get into them in the first place. 

This is why I’m up here in North Carolina, enjoying lovely weather and power and internet, while my family are sweltering in summer Florida heat without air conditioning. 

Yup. They really saved themselves some inconvenience, didn’t they?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Post-Irma Erin

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I realized that it's been a while since I posted a blog update on how I'm doing. I've been posting updates on Facebook, of course, but not everyone who reads this blog follows me there.

Short version: We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?

Long version: I left Florida on Friday shortly after noon, and after twelve hours of driving -- most of which seemed to be spent in stop-and-go traffic in South Carolina, regardless of which road (interstate, US road, state road, surface streets) I took -- I ended up in North Carolina to spend the weekend with partner in podcasting Sean Sorrentino. I did some dry fire practice with Sean, met some really cool people, and then left Tuesday morning because I feel that guests,like fish, begin to stink after three days.

However, power was still out at home. It's not scheduled to be restored until this weekend, and so I'd be bored silly while sweating my bits off if I returned -- and the condition of some of the roads in Florida was still iffy -- so I decided to head west and hang out with some people in Tennessee because they'd indicated they would be happy to host me. So right now I'm in eastern TN through the weekend, hopefully heading home on Saturday or Sunday.

I've been speaking to my family every day over dad's cellphone. Mom, dad, dogs, house, they're all fine, just bored and hot. They can't even take showers to cool off because while they have water pressure, there's no power to run the electric sewer pump, so they need to be careful or else they'll cause the buried septic tank to overflow, which happened back in 2003ish. Believe me, no power + Florida heat + sewage smell = YUCK.

The house didn't take any damage from Irma so far as we can tell, but all the food in the refrigerator has gone bad, and likely all the stuff in the freezer as well. Fortunately there's enough canned food to feed everyone in the house. Yay preps!

Dad is currently in the hospital right now, and trust me, that's a good thing. He's been fighting pneumonia for about 2 weeks, and just before Irma he was diagnosed with COPD. He also has a tendency to complain and get in mom's way, so him being out of the house is good for mom's sanity, and because he's in a place with air conditioning and medical attention, it's good for him as well.

So as these things go, we were remarkably lucky. I still maintain that bugging out was the right choice of action, because (if for no other reason) I'm comfortable and they're not.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prudent Prepping: New Recruits

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

Some people plan things well in advance, and some need a virtual kick in the pants to start preparing for emergencies. The recent hurricanes have been starting points for several conversations about prepping for the past two weeks.

Starting the Conversation
I never start with telling people that I'm a Prepper, but after talking about the local weather, the hurricanes, or the big earthquake in Mexico, I ask "What have you done to make yourself ready?" I usually hear that there has been little thought given to what could happen and how they will react.

One recent conversation started over lunch when I commented on the team logo on a sales rep's jacket. Their home state gets bad weather (snow, ice storms and tornadoes) and a comment was made about how scary earthquakes are and how freaked out having the building shake makes them feel. I was asked how I feel about earthquakes, and I said they don't bother me nearly as much as tornadoes, since you can't see earthquakes coming your way from the next county. It turns out that the rep's family had a 'storm room' all set up on the chance there was a bad storm. I asked the rep about any plans for a similar amount of preparation here, and was met with a blank state.

I gave them the link to the Get Home Bag posts here, with a suggestion to look at the First 72 Hours link at the top of any of my posts and then look up everyone else who writes here.

I also suggested a book I've had for a while:

The Disaster Preparedness Handbook 
From the description:

"This is the essential guide every family should have, study, and keep handy, in case the unthinkable should occur. Shelter. First Aid. Protection.With this book you can outline your survival plan."

Information is broken down into easy-to-read sections, with a space to write your own notes provided. While this is not the most detailed book on disaster planning, it is enough information in small bites for a young person doing their very first solo living, so that making and following a plan will be doable.

I was surprised to see how excited the rep became reading the BCP posts. They mentioned that their family still in the Midwest were also concerned with earthquakes.When I see them either this week or next, I expect to pass this book on and hear which items have been purchased.

And that is how I influence friends to be prepared.

The Recap
  • I always have a calm answer to questions about prepping.
The Takeaway
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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

GunBlog VarietyCast #160 - Round and Round

Blood going round and round: Good.

Hurricanes going round and round: Bad.
  • Beth is on assignment and will return next week.
  • What kind of sicko breaks into rehab facilities and sexually assaults the patients? Sean takes a closer look.
  • Barron is on assignment and will return soon.
  • What do you do when a Category Five hurricane is barreling down on you? If you’re Miguel, you fret that you don’t have enough propane, because you’ve already used yours to smoke ribs and brisket.
  • Our Special Guest this week is Kelly Grayson, the Ambulance Driver, here to explain what lifesaving medical equipment lay rescuers should have in their kits… and more importantly, what they shouldn't have.
  • Tiffany’s back with her first after-action report on NRA’s Carry Guard Expo in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You’re going to love her off-the-cuff interview with her Uber driver.
  • Unlike Miguel, Erin is evacuating Florida before Hurricane Irma arrives. On the eve of her departure, she gives us her thoughts on the bug-out process.
  • Weer'd talks about the Kellermann Study in nearly every episode. This week he finally gives that piece of anti-gun “Scientific” research the Patented Weer'd Fisk Treatment that it so richly deserves.
  • And our Plug of the Week is for Smuggler's Notch Litigation Wheat Whiskey.

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.

There is no Blue Collar Prepping Transcript this week because Erin recorded her segment extemporaneously and so there are no notes to transcribe. 

Bump Starting a Manual Transmission

When it comes to evacuating an in an emergency, you may be forced to use what's available instead of what you like. This can include everything from hitching a ride on a city bus, to carpooling, to just straight-up walking. Some people even have a perfectly prepared BOV ready to go, but even if you are ready in that way, life will happen, and at some point people will have to improvise. 

When you improvise, you sometimes have to use whatever is at hand, including cars that you had not planned to use because they have… issues. Sometimes these issues develop while you are on the road, and you have to get the vehicle moving again. 

As a note, this post focuses on manual transmission vehicles, since they are easier to get running in problematic circumstances, and will run even with problems that would cripple an automatic transmission vehicle.

Do you have the key?
If not, you have a whole other set of problems. Entire books have been written on this subject, and the best advice I can give in the space I have is for you to call a locksmith or read up on it elsewhere on the internet.

From personal experience, I recommend that you keep a spare copy of a key to any vehicle you own on a backup ring that you store somewhere safe.

Stick Shift Basics
If you can drive a stick shift, ignore this. Otherwise, this is a basic primer.

A stick shift is like the gears on your bicycle. There are a few safety features in modern transmissions (such as preventing you from going into reverse at high speed), but otherwise the mechanism is very similar. 

The clutch is just a way to unlock the chain so that you can change gears. It also allows the engine and/or wheels to spin freely.

How to Shift
  1. Make sure the parking brake is off and your foot is on the brake pedal. 
  2. Unless the clutch is broken, you will have to engage (press down on) the clutch in order to change into gear. 
  3. Engage first gear (upper left hand corner of the shift tree in most cars) with your left foot on the clutch to fully disengage the transmission. 
    • If you are unfamiliar with the vehicle, slowly raise and lower your left foot a few times on the clutch to try to find that point that it catches just a little bit. This is called a clutch point. 
  4. Make sure the transmission is fully disengaged and turn on the vehicle. 
  5. Take your foot off of the brake and push on the gas with your right foot until you can just hear the rumble of the engine. 
    • Take your foot off too slowly and the engine will not engage the transmission with enough force, and will stall out from the load. 
    • Take your foot off too quickly and you will get “Kangaroo Gas”, where the car will jump and then stop. 
    •  Thankfully, there is a fairly wide range of useful engine speeds, and it gets larger when you practice. 
  6. Slowly disengage the clutch as you engage the gas. As you bring your foot back, you will find that “clutch point” again as the transmission engages enough to move power between the engine and the wheels. (This is where most people have a problem when learning to drive, since they usually let off of the clutch too quickly. The engine is unable to handle the strain and it turns off.)
  7. Keep disengaging the clutch and slowly engaging the gas in order to increase power. 
  8. Changing gears is basically the same procedure, but going from one gear to another instead of from a stop. 
If you need further explanation, I have found this song a useful resource when teaching new drivers.

Bump Starting a Car
There are a lot of reasons a car may not start: the battery may be dead, the battery charging system may have problems, the starter may not work, the distributor may have issues… the list goes on. A surprising number of these can be bypassed by what is called “Bump starting” or “push starting” a car.

This works best on either a flat surface or a slight downward slope, and these techniques also work on most motorcycles and some scooters.

  1. Prep the car. Make sure that your emergency brake is off and that the keys are in the ignition and turned so that you can turn the wheels freely. 
  2. Fully engage the clutch and go into first gear, and make sure that you turn the key so that the electronics are engaged, but not the starter.
  3. Get up to speed. The more skilled you are at this, the easier it gets. I recommend that you be traveling at least 5-7 miles an hour. This is best accomplished by having someone else get out and push, even though I have learned how to push with one leg while operating pedals with the other.
    • As a note, have the lightest person drive if you can. Shaving 50-60 pounds off of the weight does not sound like it would make a huge difference with a several thousand pound vehicle, but often it does.
  4. Pop the clutch. When you are up to speed, release the clutch. The car should shake a bit, and the engine should start. Operate the vehicle from there as normal.

As always, don’t lick the wires, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, September 8, 2017

How To Move All That Gear, Part 2: Bugging Out From Your Buggy

What do you do if you have abandon your bug out vehicle? Shootist gives us a "Hillbilly Spectacular" demonstration of how he plans to do it.

More Hurricane Updates

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Thursday was spent packing and putting up shutters.

Today I finished putting up the shutters, and will be loading up the car next. I hope to leave soon.

Because I've been busy and didn't have time to make a proper blog post, here's a chronology of my activities as a series of FB statuses:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fire and Stone

If you need to build a fire for warmth, cooking, or morale, then you should be looking at being in control of that fire. Fire rings made of steel are common at campgrounds and the old standard for a campfire was a circle of (dry*) stones, both of which keep the fire from spreading to grass and nearby weeds. (I've dealt with a few grass fires; they take some skill and a lot of time to kill, so they are best avoided. Look at the West Coast any summer to see what a grass or brush fire can turn into.) A steel ring also provides a handy stand for supporting a grill or rotisserie to make cooking easier.

In the last year or so I have seen a bunch of “ideas” for building fire pits, most of which use common cement blocks and/or landscape blocks. Since we humans have enjoyed sitting around a fire since before recorded history began, I can understand the desire to have a “safe” fire on your patio or in the backyard. If the electricity goes out, having a way to cook all of the food in your freezer before it spoils would be a good thing. The problem I see with the plans being shared on various social media is the use of concrete to contain the fire.

Standard concrete is a combination of cement and aggregate. The aggregate is sand and small stones, which provide the strength (in compression**) of the concrete. The cement is the glue that holds the aggregate together. Cement is made by grinding limestone into small pieces and then heating them to about 2700° F long enough to drive off all of the water and carbon. When mixed with water, the cement turns back into limestone (admittedly, that's an oversimplification, but it's close to what actually happens), binding the aggregate together tightly.

As you can imagine, the transformation of limestone to cement is reversible if you add heat and evaporate the water. What happens when you build a fireplace or fire-pit out of concrete and then build a fire in it? Depending on the heat of the fire, it will start to degrade or fall apart.
  • Up to 212°F, concrete is safe and isn't damaged, so boiling your water isn't a problem.
  • At about 570°F, the cement starts to lose water and shrink, but the aggregate is going to be expanding and causing stress inside the concrete. The concrete will take on a pink color when it cools.
  • Between 850° and 1050°F, the hardened cement starts to decompose back to dry cement, leaving the aggregate unsupported.
  • Around 900°F, the cement starts to rapidly absorb CO2, which creates carbonic acid when mixed with water. This causes widening of the pores in the surface of the concrete, which exposes more surface area to damage from chemicals in the smoke.
  • When the temps get up to 1,100°F, any quartz in the aggregate explosively boils off into vapor. This will create small voids within the concrete, turning it into heavy styrofoam. The concrete will turn a light gray in color.
For reference: wood, kerosene, coal, and other organic materials have flame temps between 3,000-4,000°F. That's more than enough to destroy concrete in a matter of hours, assuming the concrete doesn't explode first.

The general rule of thumb after a house fire is to treat any concrete that is pink or gray as damaged and unsafe. If the goal is to contain your fire you don't want to use damaged material, so I suggest avoiding the use of concrete.

If you want to make your own fire pit for cooking, signaling, morale, or warmth, use firebrick (silica sand that is fused into blocks) or ceramic (fired clay) materials to be safe. Yes, they're more expensive, but they'll last a lot longer and are a lot less likely to hurt people by exploding. Better yet, use a ring of steel like a section of a barrel or a truck tire rim - I've seen tractor tire rims used to make really large fire-rings that a dozen people can sit around in comfort, but that seems to be a bit wasteful to me. To each his own, I guess.

*I specify dry stones because if you use stones pulled out of a lake or stream, they will likely have water trapped inside them. As the stones heat up from the fire, the water inside will boil off to steam, expanding 1500 times the original volume and turning the stone into a bomb.

** Concrete is very good at holding up heavy weights (compression), but poor at being pulled apart (tension) or twisted (torsion). Steel has the opposite strengths, which is why we use steel bars or rods to reinforce concrete structures.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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