Monday, December 31, 2018

Why Do I Prep?

Last week I had a friend and his significant other over. We talked, and they both commented on how my home was well-equipped for just about any emergency that they could imagine. My friend mentioned that when the zombies come he plans to come to my home and set up camp.

After several comments in this vein I pointed out to him that the reason I keep water and food on hand is not for the end of the world, but for the next time someone is working on the water pipes that go to my house and I suddenly lose water for a day or two. I am not expecting a massive ground invasion from aliens, Soviets, or anything like that, but I am expecting that a natural disaster will happen sometime within the next few years and being able to feed myself and my family is important.

He seemed genuinely confused by this and asked questions about what kind of emergencies I expected and why did I expect them? After all, there's very little of modern industrial civilization that's likely to fail  on in the next couple of years, and given the infrastructure involved these things are unlikely to fail permanently. The conversation went off  into bushes after that, but the point remains that most people expect me to prep because they expect that I am predicting the end of the world.

I’m not really expecting the end the world, at least not anytime soon. Even if you consider events like the Bronze Age collapse or the fall of the Roman Empire to be an effective end of the world, it doesn’t happen all that often. What I am worried about is the next snowstorm when the roads haven't been plowed because there is too much snow to handle; the next time my house doesn't have power in the middle of the summer and it’s a record heatwave; or the next time a city worker accidentally cuts a gas line and I have a fireman knocking on my door and telling me that I need to evacuate.

Forget an invasion by aliens, what happens the next time that I don’t want to go to the store and I am entertaining guests? Keeping ingredients on hand that I purchased while they were on sale has saved me so much money over the years that it's almost ridiculous. Having a supply of food on hand is very simple, but is often overlooked as a core part of emergency preparedness.

Even more esoteric skills come in handy on rare occasion, like knowing how to light a fire with nothing more than a pocketknife and a rock. Even if you intend never to go camping and live in a major city, note that the skill set I practice includes things like bicycle repair – practical, regular-use skills that come in handy well before the zombie apocalypse.

The point of all this is that instead of viewing prepping as some oddball hobby, I try to take a practical view of "How much of this can I apply in my everyday life and actually have it be useful?",  even if that use only comes every month or two.

Remember, the world is a crazy place. Go be ready to win in it.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Self-Feeding Fire

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
It's Friday, and that means a video! But it's not one of me. Rather, this is a video of a rather neat concept I've seen floating around recently, but apparently I'm out of the loop as videos of a self-feeding fire have existed since at least 2015.

Here's what I've determined from reading and watching videos on the subject:
  • This is not a fire to keep you warm. Instead, this is a way to ensure you have a cooking fire and the means to quickly start a warming fire when you wake up in the morning. 
  • Be sure to pack enough dirt around the feed ramps that they don't catch fire. 
  • 45 degrees seems to be the optimal angle for the feed ramps. More than that and other logs in the stack may catch fire; less than that and the logs may not feed properly. 
  • You want logs of roughly the same diameter. This will maintain an even burn time throughout the night. If you have smaller logs, place them on top. 
  • You want the logs to be straight and roll easily. This may require you to strip off the bark or otherwise smooth them out if they're knotty. 
  • Place sticks between the first two logs in order to allow for proper airflow when you are starting the fire. 

If you'd like a non-video version of that, read this article. It has many step by step pictures.

An alternate version uses only one ramp and a rock wall. This probably requires the same amount of effort to build, but has fewer moving parts and fewer failure points. The rocks, if large enough and heavy enough, will not only act as a log stop but will also absorb the heat from the fire that will radiate out. If you sleep perpendicular to these rocks, they will help keep you warm through the night, and a large enough wall could act as a wind break.

Caution: Make sure that these are DRY rocks! If they are saturated with moisture (such as rocks found in rivers), then they may explode when the water inside them expands as it turns to vapor from the heat.

Here's an example of that version, made much prettier by use of commercial lumber and power tools.

If you make a self-feeding fire (I'm looking at you specifically, Lokidude) please take pictures and report back with how it went and what you learned from the exercise. You can leave comments below, or in our Facebook group.

Happy camping!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2018

All of us at Blue Collar Prepping wish you and your loved ones a merry, safe, and prepared Christmas.

In the spirit of both the holidays and this blog, please enjoy this Survivopedia article titled 13 Survival Lessons From Santa, The Ultimate Prepper.

The staff has the rest of the year off. Happy holidays and see you in 2019!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Get Home Bag 2.0, Part 2

Just like I couldn’t get all my stuff in one bag, I can’t get it all in one video, so here’s the wrap-up.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Winter Gloves

David brought up the subject of gloves in a chat with me the other day, wondering what gloves were appropriate in areas with actual climate instead of weather. He lives in an area that doesn't see much change from summer to winter, whereas a few of us live in the northern states and have to deal with things like snow and below zero temperatures. Since I work outside a lot, doing pretty much the same things year-round, I thought I'd give my two cent's worth.

Gloves are designed to protect your hands. I like the German word for gloves, Handschuh, literally a shoe for your hands. That gives you a good idea of the utility of gloves as well as an idea of how varied they can be. From spike heels to steel-toed boots, gloves and shoes both come in an amazing variety of forms. I wear different gloves for different hazards, but the question was about cold weather so I'll emphasize that as a criteria for selection.

Chemical Gloves
I work with industrial quantities of agricultural chemicals. Some of them are corrosive, others are flammable, and they're all poisonous. Normal weather lets me get by with vinyl or rubber gloves for most of them, but I keep cheapcotton gloves around to wear as a liner inside them when the temperatures drop. I specify cheap cotton gloves, because they are disposable if they become contaminated and some of the chemicals I work with are too nasty to risk washing gloves. Working with cryogenic materials like anhydrous ammonia and LP gas, which will freeze skin on contact, requires special gloves but I still wear liners under them in the winter.

Work Gloves
Normally I'll have on a pair of leather gloves. Work provides us with cow or pigskin leather gloves, whichever is in stock at the time, and they keep me from picking up a lot of minor nicks and scrapes. Once October rolls around, we break out the insulated leather gloves. The brand we stock is insulated with Thinsulate*, which does a good job of keeping fingers warm without too much bulk. These work until the temperature drops below 20°F, which is when I break out the real winter gloves. I prefer a heavier leather shell and thicker liner, windproof and waterproof if I can get it. I avoid plastic gloves because they melt or burn more easily than leather and in the winter they get brittle and crack.

*Thinsulate is a branded polymer insulation rated by “grams”, with the higher numbers providing more insulating value. Light weather will call for 40-60 gram lining, from freezing to about zero you'll want 100 grams, and below that I tend to rely on layers and it gets hard to quantify.

Extreme Conditions
Once in a while I get called to do really stupid things, like dragging idiots out of ditches in the middle of the night during a snow storm. This requires handling chains that are cold enough to stick to bare skin and usually a lot of time next to or underneath a vehicle in the snow. This requires a heavy glove with a thick layer of insulation, but I've made do with plain leather and frequent breaks to warm up my fingers.

It's been a few years since we've had ice on the lakes thick enough to allow ice fishing, but that's another extreme. We don't do it often enough to justify building the ice fishing cabins you'll find further north, so we just bundle up and stand on the ice for a few hours at a time. If you ever need to get away from people, ice fishing is a good choice.; there aren't many idiots dedicated enough to follow you out onto a frozen lake just to annoy you.

Both of these situations call for a heavily insulated glove that is waterproof. I have a couple to choose from, depending on how bad it really is. The first is a heavy leather glove with Thinsulate liner and a layer of Mylar between them. Any pair of quality ski gloves will do as well, and will be easier to find. They're great for keeping the fingers warm, but they limit the mobility of the fingers.

My other option is a pair of arcticmittens that I got from a Army surplus store years ago. Made of soft deer leather with a piece of fur on the back of the hand for wiping your nose on, they come with thick wool liners to provide insulation. They also come with a cord that is long enough to run up your sleeve, over your shoulder and down the other sleeve. You then attach the mittens to the cord so you can't lose them if you have to remove one for some reason. It may sound like something you'd do for children, but in extreme weather losing your gloves can mean losing your hands to frostbite. The newerversion comes with a quilted liner and camouflage fabric cuff, but should work the same. Mittens keep your fingers in the same space to preserve heat, but that also limits all of your finger motion. For truly Arctic conditions, I'd look for a set of mittens made of animal skin with the fur on the inside.

I've mentioned finger mobility several times for a reason. If you're not used to wearing gloves, it'll take some adjustments in your routines to get used to the loss of fine finger control. All of our valves and cranks at work are over-sized to provide a bit more leverage, and this also comes in handy when you're trying to work them wearing heavy gloves. If you've ever seen a piece of industrial equipment and wondered why the buttons and controls are so large, it's to allow their use while wearing gloves.

With a bit of practice, you'll be able to do most manual labor without noticing the gloves, but finer work that requires dexterity will call for either removing your gloves or finding/making a compromise. If you look around the hunting supply stores, you'll find “shooting” gloves and mittens which have an extra finger or a hole that you can poke your trigger finger out of when you need to fire a weapon. Another option is the old standby of “fingerless”gloves that are missing the tips of the fingers to allow finer motion while still keeping most of your hand warm. There are also a lot of hybrid gloves that blend gloves and mittens, like these or these.

I'm also seeing a lot of new gloves with conductive rubber tips on the fingers for use with touch-screen technology. Trying to use a cell phone or tablet while wearing gloves is not something I've ever done; I use a bluetooth headset under my hat for the phone in cold weather, but the younger employees will chance frostbite in order to play with their phones. I have rubber tips on my pens for if I have to text or punch in data while wearing gloves, so I've not yet bought a pair of the new style gloves.

If you carry a weapon as part of your EDC and you live where it gets cold enough to need gloves, you need to practice with your weapon while wearing gloves. Drawing a weapon from a holster or pocket is difficult when you can't feel it; the bulk of a pair of gloves will change your grip, and thus your sight picture; loading a magazine gets to be comical and revolvers are even worse; and if you're wearing insulated gloves you may not be able to get your finger inside the trigger guard. You may never have noticed it, but military pattern AR-style rifles have a trap-door style bottom plate on the trigger guard, and pressing in the detent with the tip of a bullet or other pointy object will let the plate swing down and out of the way, opening up the trigger guard so you can get a gloved finger in there.

If all else fails, learn how to get the glove off of your shooting hand in a hurry.

Gloves are an important part of my daily gear, so I keep several options around. If you're an office worker, you'll probably need gloves more than I do in order to avoid the nicks and cuts that my callouses would prevent. I'm not going to knock anybody's lifestyle, but a soft manicured hand is not going be able to take the damage as well as a calloused one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Tourniquet Etiquette

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

In a previous post I said that I wanted to learn how to use a tourniquet correctly. The Red Cross doesn't have a first aid class for months, so I took matters into my own hands... so to speak.

That Hurts!
I know a firefighter/EMT from the gun store, so I looked him up. He showed me how to apply a tourniquet, first on my arm and then on my leg.Since he didn't want his picture taken for privacy reasons I can't show you what I learned, but I can post  a short video which summarizes and expands on what my friend told me.

What isn't very clearly stated in this video is that, to get the blood flow to stop, you really, REALLY have to wind that sucker down! In order to reach the point where I couldn't feel a pulse in my wrist, the windlass was tightened so much that it was painful. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure which would hurt worse, an injury which needed a tourniquet or the tourniquet itself.

Not Feeling Is Good
I did notice a little loss of feeling below the tourniquet after it was on for a few minutes. I was told this is pretty normal when blood flow is reduced, very similar to when your foot 'goes to sleep' when you cross your legs. The flow of blood below is halted, but in most cases, leaving a tourniquet on for as long as an hour will not do permanent harm. Compare that to an arterial bleed where you can die from blood loss in less than 2 minutes!

Going Forward
I'm going to buy at least one more tourniquet to have in a separate first aid pack and figure out how to carry one with me all the time. Erin and I have a joking disagreement on the Batman Utility Belt look (I don't necessarily hate it and she doesn't mind it), but the usefulness of having a tourniquet at hand all the time is pretty clear. My dress code may be changing.

The Takeaway
  • Lots of injuries may kill you, but the vast majority of the time it's actually the loss of blood that's lethal and not the injury itself. 

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but some really good knowledge was gained from a friend (who is getting a gift card from a classy pizza place!). 
  • That screaming deal on tourniquets is still there, but they're low or out-of-stock at the moment. If you don't have one, you should check the deal out.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Cheese Grater vs Pencil Sharpener Tinder Test

This week I perform a side-by-side ignition test of the two tinders made with a cheese grater and a pencil sharpener. Ignition was a bit rough, and I suspect that's due to my test bed being a cookie sheet with no airflow into the piles. Improving that would make a world of difference in how quickly each took to flame.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Water Storage and Filtration

You can live three weeks without food, but only three days without water.

Water is life.

This past week I've had around five people ask me about storing water, and why I store water if I have a water filter. This post addresses those questions, since there is a thirst for knowledge.

I have a bunch of potable water on hand. In the corner of my living room are nine boxes of bottled water, stacked and out of the way. In addition, I keep five gallon camping jugs of filtered tap water on hand and rotate through them. I also have a LifeStraw water bottle that I use on a regular basis, and I have a reverse osmosis filter for my kitchen sink.

"Why do you have so much stored water?"
I live in a desert and have had at least two experiences in the last seven years where I had to dip into emergency water. Having a two week supply for two adults for drinking and household use is on my short list for emergency supplies.

"But then why have a filter?" 
First, in a long-term disaster scenario, there's a very real chance of something like an economic collapse, and there's an equally very real chance that I'll need tap water filtration. If tap water isn't available, then being able to filter whatever is on hand (such as a rain barrel) becomes essential.

Second, because if I use these things in my every day life, it becomes much easier to transition in an emergency. In an emergency, I want as little to be distracting me from the matter of survival (and prospering) as I can manage.

Finally, I dislike the taste of the tap water where I live. It just tastes weird, and that's probably more my body's strangeness rather than a comment on water quality, but it was good motivation to prep.

"What do we do now?"
If you have the space, start with some stored water; 72 hours of drinking water can save your life. If you have a source of water that you can filter to drink (stream, river, lake, pond; even scum-covered man-made canals are filterable  drinking water) I recommend you get a man-portable filter next.

And after that it is up to you.

"Wait! How do I store water?
This one is pretty easy. It doesn't take much to store water for long term storage. 
  1. Get a clean container for your water;
  2. Fill almost to the top;
  3. Put in roughly ½ teaspoon of the cheapest bleach you can find;
  4. Cap it off.
(Note: Some bleach is scented. You want regular, unscented bleach. Dollar stores will often have half gallon jugs of it, and those work just fine).

For short term storage (Less than six months)? I prefer to use filtered tap water, a good quality plastic container, and consuming and replacing it regularly. I use filtered water for my humidifier (because the directions say to), my electric kettle (because it's easier to clean), and to drink, all of which help to rotate the water just fine. The only hassle is refilling my 5 gallon jugs.

To Sum Up
Store and filter. Both storage and filtration have a place and a specific use.
Which one you put into your bug out bag is up to you, but if you are bugging in, you really do want both.

Have fun, and don't forget to practice.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Get Home Bag 2.0, Part 1

Well here I am sorting and packing from lessons learned on the long dark walk home. Forgive me the length; I tried, but there are too many nuggets for one episode.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Computer Disasters and Recovery

Three and a half years ago, I wrote an article about prepping for an upgrade to Window 10. It's still relevant, because there are still people using earlier versions of Windows, but I need to expand on having a “Live CD/USB” on hand before starting.

Most laptops and desktops sold today run some flavor of Windows. I can hear the Apple fans winding up in the background, but I am going to ignore them for one very good reason: I have no experience working with Apple products. I'm not going to try to give advice on something I know nothing about, so if you run anything with a Macintosh OS, you'll have to look elsewhere. Proprietary hardware tends to require specialist repair, so I stick with what is readily available and somewhat open-source.

I am the default IT tech for most of my family and a few close friends. I'm not a computer expert -- I have no schooling or certifications to put on a resume -- but I've been working with them since the days of punch-cards. I've built most of my own desktops over the last 30 years, and have learned a lot through research and by making mistakes. Upgrading the operating system (OS) used to be something that had to be done every two or three years, so I've had plenty of practice.

Repairing or restoring computers has been a puzzle that I've mostly enjoyed for quite a few years, and one of my most important tools is a “Live CD”. This is a method of repairing (or at least accessing) the software on your computer, and will not work if the hardware has been damaged. A PC with an intact hard drive can be salvaged by installing the drive in an external enclosure, but the possibility of a broken hard drive is the reason we have to back up our data.

(Sorry, but the tools and techniques for recovering data from a broken hard drive are way beyond a blue-collar budget. That is a specialist service reserved for governments and corporations with large budgets.)

Windows 10 is a fairly stable OS after three years of tweaks and updates. I know it has problems -- name something in this world that doesn't -- and a few of those problems can keep your PC from running. Viruses and malware are the main issues, but once in a while you'll find a corrupted file or two that will shut everything down and lock you out of your important files. Since I'm writing this on a PC and you're likely reading it on one, we can agree that they have become an important part of our daily lives. We can survive without them, but they usually make life easier and allow us to store huge amounts of information in a very small space. If you have your important data or documents stored on a computer and it locks up for some reason, here's one method to try to get them back.

Live or Rescue CD
A “Live” CD or USB stick will contain a complete OS capable of being run from the CD/USB. You don't need to install anything; just insert the media and boot up your PC. Most computers made in the last ten years or so will try to boot (start) from the CD/USB before trying the hard drive. If not, you'll need to interrupt the startup sequence by pressing F8 or the Delete key right after you hit the power button. You may have to hit that key repeatedly just to make sure you send the interrupt signal at the correct time.

Once you see a screen like the first picture below, you'll have to scroll through the options in the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) to set the “boot sequence” to try to start from the CD/USB first. An example is shown in the second picture. The BIOS is software that is installed on the main board of your PC at the factory. There are several different BIOS types, but they will all have the same basic options. Follow the prompts to save the changes and restart your PC with the Live CD in the drive.

Once your computer reboots using the Live CD/USB, you'll have a very small operating system that will allow you some access to your files. You can use this chance to back them up to another drive or attempt to repair your original OS if that is an option.

Which Live/Rescue CD should I choose?
Almost all of them run some flavor of Linux, a free OS that has been around for many years. It's free because most of the development is “open-source”, meaning that it's done for free by enthusiasts and not a corporation. Updates are tracked on free websites, and there are several equally good version out there. There are issues like lack of drivers for new software until someone gets around to making them, which keeps most non-geeks from using Linux, but it is also hard to write viruses and malware that will work which means it's more secure.

I have several copies laying around for differing uses. Here are my top picks:

A very powerful toolbox full of programs that will let you access and repair most software problems. I've used this one several time to restore laptops that were  dropped and had bad portions of their hard drives.

This one has been around since the days of floppy drives, and it still works. If you see someone on eBay selling a rescue CD, they have probably just burned a copy of this free utility and are charging for someone else's work.

For when you want to access a computer but don't have the password, or you don't want to leave any traces of your activities. This one is a hacker's friend, because it will let you into a locked computer once you've learned how to use it, but it also has ethical uses like accessing computers locked by ransomware. This one is for advanced users due to some of the anonymity features.

This is a complete replacement for Windows, but will run from a USB stick and let you into your files. I've run several computers on Ubuntu over the years, and it was the OS I installed on the laptop I gave my 75 year-old completely computer-illiterate mother. She couldn't screw it up in 5 years of trying, so it's safe to say it's a stable, secure system.

As we've written before, always back up your important data, but if you lose access to your files and haven't done a recent backup, one of these tools may help. They're free, so it costs no more than what you will pay for the CD or USB stick to store it on and it's always nice to have more tools around. My main problem is finding where I put the blasted CD, so I end up downloading it again for every job.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Prudent Prepping: December Round-Up

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

I have several things that need mentioning and can't make them a separate post.

Son of First Aid
My first post on first aid and its follow-up received many comments, all of them appreciated. I have no problem being educated on topics I know very little about, like first aid and tourniquets. In fact, I have no problem with listening to anyone talk to me about most anything related to prepping!
My two pack of tourniquets arrived last Sunday, and so I'm returning the loaner to the Master Chief. Next on my list is learning the proper way to use them correctly. Google and YouTube may be a friend, but I need a life saver to walk me through the proper steps. My local Red Cross doesn't have anything going until the new year, so I have to wait.

Disaster Relief
My local Food Bank, Contra Costa/Solano County is directly helping the people displaced by the Butte County/Paradise fire. They've been delivering food to the area since the 20th of November and are now in their usual drive to help the local people too. If you have a mind to donate, the information is in the linked web page. Thanks!

Holiday Gift Ideas
Crank Flashlight
Go and check out your local Big Box store for special buys and close-outs! I found this Emergency Flashlight just by walking down the aisle.

This has been shown before and is now a Special Buy, non-stock item in my two closest Home Depot stores. It works as advertised and is almost sold out! If I didn't have any backup power plans this would be under my tree or in my stocking!

Look for the large selection of under $10 battery flashlights too. There are some reasonable sized AA and AAA lights that I'm giving out to friends this year.

The Takeaway

The Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but the two pack of tourniquets is still a screaming deal and in limited supply when I checked.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Alternative Use of a Pencil Sharpener

After my video about Improper Use of a Cheese Grater, folks asked about using a cheap pencil sharpener to make tinder. This week I did a video to compare the two.


Monday, December 10, 2018

Prepping for Hypoglycemia

Most preppers assume that when the apocalypse happens, they will be fighting zombies, killing aliens, and fending off invasions of leather-clad bikers that seem to have endless supplies of motorcycle parts for when things break.

While they’re doing that, though, some of them will have to face unfortunate health problems that make it somewhat more difficult to keep stabbing bikers all day long or wading into zombie hordes and cleaving skulls with a broadsword. In my case, I am speaking of hypoglycemia.

What It Is
Hypoglycemia, at its root, is the condition of not having enough sugar in my blood. Hypoglycemics have to make sure that they maintain the minimum level of sugar in their blood needed for their brain, nerves, and various organs to continue normal operation.

People who know about hypoglycemia will think that symptoms are limited to low energy and irritability. This is true, but there's more to it than that; I know several people who actually went blind due to their lack of blood sugar (thankfully for them it was temporary, but very disconcerting). Worse, a hypoglycemic will often have trouble thinking when their blood sugar get low, in part because they literally do not have the fuel needed for their brain to think properly, often making it hard for them to realize they need to fix the problem. If it can sneak up on a person in daily life, think how much more common it would be during a disaster and how difficult it would be to fix.

How It Happens
There can be several reasons that a person might be hypoglycemic, ranging from an under-active pancreas to a problematic reaction to medicine such as metformin, a common diabetes medication. I also know at least one person who had a hypoglycemic reaction after having an allergic reaction. Hypoglycemia can be caused by all sorts of things, so please keep that in mind.

There are different triggers for the condition, with the most common one being not eating a regular diet and overexerting yourself. Untreated, it can lead to all sorts of things, including coma and death. Thankfully, whatever the cause, it has the same treatment.

Treatment: The Stack
When you're treating a hypoglycemic, remember the stack. Incidentally, this is also useful when working with pregnant women who have trouble keeping food down but still need the full range of nutrition provided by normal foods.
  1. At the bottom of the stack you have simple carbohydrates. These are things like hard candy, sugary drinks, crackers, and bread. They are the easiest to break down in your body and are the least likely to be rejected by an upset stomach. This is the first thing that you want to give to a hypoglycemic, since it will allow their body to function correctly until you can put more substantial food into them.
  2. Once some of that simple sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, you can put slightly more complex carbohydrates -- fruit, whole wheat bread, Snickers bars, and most commercial Nutri-Grain type bars (not a lot of protein, typically has a fruit filling) -- into the body without as great a fear of rejection.
  3. After that, add protein like beef jerky, protein bars, and steak. These take a little longer for your body to break down, but they allow it to continue having energy for longer.
  4. Finally, and if you have the opportunity, add fats for ongoing energy, usually in the form of cooked food. I'm a fan of saturated fats like coconut oil or most animal fats like butter or lard, but I know people who stick to primarily vegetable fats for things like this.
  5. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that if someone has low blood sugar, they will have a harder time absorbing whatever you feed them, so it is best to give them a little bit of food that they can digest, and then something bigger.
I actually like using trail mix for the beginning of the stack, followed by a protein bar and beef jerky. They're easy to carry, take up little space, and keep well in all climates.

Whatever you choose, even if it's just commercially prepared glucose tablets, please make sure that if you are prepared to check on the medical needs of the members of your group. A little bit of preparedness now can save a lot of grief later.

Good luck, and don’t forget to eat something.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Leave No Stuff Behind?

Back in November I did a series on getting home after an EMP. In one of my videos, I was in my car going through my gear and deciding what to take and what to leave, but it was too dark to see everything. This video solves that with an inventory review in the daylight.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Little Things Add Up

A lot of the ads that I see in the prepper magazines and online offer food and other supplies in large quantities. The common “year's supply” of food for one person starts at around $1000 and there is no upper limit. I'm seeing a year's worth of MREs going for $5-10,000 depending on the vendor.

Shelter is often sold the same way; tents are still fairly cheap, but buying/building a cabin or underground shelter starts to get into the “second home” price range. Folks around here that live in a flood plain (which means they have no basements) have been buying tornado shelters that sit in their garages. These are essentially a concrete box with a heavy door and which cost as much as a good used car. Getting pricing is difficult due to the costs of shipping and varying local codes and conditions, but I've seen reports on underground concrete bomb shelters that cost $100,000 and up. Around here, $100k will get you a starter home in a small community.

Firearms are another field where every “expert” has his/her ideal combination of “required” guns that everyone should own. A quality handgun, shotgun, and rifle combo will start at around $1500 and again, there is no upper limit.

This form of sticker shock can be daunting to new preppers. Being expected to shell out large sums of money that they don't have is one of the more common replies I get when I ask friends why they don't prepare more. If all you read is the ads, prepping looks too expensive for a lot of people, but that's not the case. There's no reason anyone should be expected to pay out a year's wages just to get the basics covered. If you have an extra $100k laying around and can spend it on preparation, more power to you, but you're in the minority; most of us have to take another route.

It's been stated that anything can be built given enough time, money, and manpower, and that a shortage of any one of those three can usually be made up for by increasing the other two. A prime example is the Burma Road project of 1937-38, when the decision was made to build a road from British-held Burma through the lower end of the Himalayas into China to supply Chinese troops fighting the Imperial Japanese Army shortly before WW2. 200,000 laborers built 717 miles of road through mountainous terrain in less than two years, mostly by hand. Time was short, but manpower was plentiful and money was available, so two of the three made it possible. Building up your supplies can be accomplished in the same manner.

If you don't have the money, invest your time and manpower. Repairing/modifying your gear, preserving your own food, and building your own shelter are three good examples of this. I know that canning and drying your own food allows people with food allergies the option of having stored food since very little to none of the commercially produced stuff completely is free of gluten, soy, dairy, or nuts. Storm shelters can be built by hand with a small crew a lot cheaper than having a precast box delivered, but it will take a lot more time.

If you have the time to do the research and money is coming in slowly (I know people with a “preps” line in their monthly budget), start small and trade up to what you want. I have a friend who really wanted a top-end 1911A1 pistol, but couldn't afford the $3000 price tag. He started by buying a cheaper, polymer-framed pistol in .45ACP and as his budget allowed, he traded it for a lower-priced 1911A1. After three or four more trades he eventually got the pistol that he wanted, but it took him a couple of years and he probably spent a bit more that the $3000 due to losses in trade value. At no time was he ever without a serviceable pistol, and he didn't have to go into debt to get the one he really wanted, both of which were important to him.

If time is short, getting what you want is going to be expensive. If you've ever been around when a natural disaster strikes, you'll know all about the price-gouging and profiteering that happens with essentials like water, fuel, and generators. It's human nature, and the law of supply and demand is about as flexible as the law of gravity. Manpower can mitigate this a bit if you have the bodies available to seek out smaller supplies at more reasonable prices.

If you're alone or working with a small team, money will make things happen faster but time is usually what gets spent. I could spend thousands of dollars to stockpile ammunition for the various firearms I own, but I prefer to spend a couple of hundred to buy the equipment and supplies to reload. Spent brass is cheap (or free), and the components cost about 25% of what store-bought ammo does. I can also tailor my ammo for specific guns, increasing my accuracy which means more efficient hunting.

Don't let the lists and big price tags scare you away from getting better prepared. Break things down into smaller, more manageable pieces and take them on one at a time. The old joke about “How do you eat an elephant?” applies: One bite at a time.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Return of More First Aid

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

A quick follow-up to last week's post and an update to another.

I mentioned last week that I wanted to start carrying a tourniquet in my EDC first aid gear. Little did I know what I was missing, in terms of both information and tools.

To Tourniquet,
Or Not To Tourniquet?
That is the question, and it's pretty easy to answer if you do any reading at all. Everyone even remotely connected to first aid recommends having one in your first aid gear and learning to use one correctly. The kit I mentioned in last week's post contained what I thought was a good tourniquet, but as it turns out the SWAT-T tourniquet was not recommended by every commenter on the BCP Facebook page (join up, it;'s fun!) or this blog.


I'm not "ouching" because my choice was knocked, but because another bit of information was missing from what I had thought was a good knowledge base. Fortunately, my friend the Master Chief graciously loaned me a CAT until I could get some of my own. 

2 Pack Genuine NAR CAT Tourniquet Gen 7 Black
From the Amazon page:

The CAT Tourniquet utilizes a durable windlass system with a patented free-moving internal band providing true circumferential pressure to the extremity. Once adequately tightened, bleeding will cease and the windlass is locked into place. A hook and loop windlass retention strap is then applied, securing the windlass to maintain pressure during casualty evacuation. The tourniquets unique dual securing system avoids the use of screws and clips which can become difficult to operate under survival conditions.

Be certain to get the real thing, as everyone tells me there are many, many counterfeit CATs on the market. Here's a video on how to identify fakes.

My key
Last April, I wrote about having extra keys made for my car. It was an expense I really had a hard time justifying at the time, but it paid off this week. A key isn't supposed to be able to reach around corners or wiggle when put into the ignition switch!

The plastic molding holding the metal portion in position cracked right at the front edge. Looking closely, the original key looks like it was done by a slightly different manufacturer than the current copies. There seems to be a bit of a flatter front where the metal enters the plastic body. I'm not taking things apart to check it out, but that's how it looks.

Now I'm down to one complete, full-function key as a spare, not counting the valet key.

Another learning moment. I'm just glad this is only costing cash to fix.

The Takeaway
  • With my budget I need to be absolutely certain that what I order is what I need the first time.
  • Planning pays off, even it the initial expense hurts.

The Recap

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Got Wood? Hardwood vs Softwood

If you've watched my videos or read the articles I've written about making fires, you may have noticed me refer to hardwood and softwood. While the argument could be made that any wood is hard when it's falling on your head, there are important distinctions between hard and soft varieties of wood.
Hardwoods are used in flooring, furniture, cabinet-making, and for smoking food. They are tough, durable woods, usually with a very tight grain structure. They are also more energy-dense than softwoods when being burned.

Hardwoods come from deciduous (leaf-shedding) trees that shed their leaves every year. Normally these trees reproduce with fruits or nuts, but not always, such as in the maple tree.

Softwoods are used mainly in structural building frameworks, but are also used in large decorative and structural wood beams. They are also popular for some trim and veneer applications.

Softwoods come from evergreen conifers such as pine, spruce, and fir trees. They tend toward a more open grain pattern, and are easier to shape and work with than hardwoods. They also have a very pleasant aroma.
Why does all of this matter, and how will it benefit you? There are numerous reasons why being able to identify the wood type you're selecting is important. In the bushcraft and firemaking realm, selecting the right woods can be vital in keeping you warm with minimal effort. Softwoods are great for starting a fire, as they're easier to process into kindling and small logs, and take a flame more readily. Conversely, hardwoods burn hotter and longer, and produce wonderful coals for cooking.

If you're buying wood for building projects, softwoods will be less expensive, but hardwoods tend to look better when finished. As a rule, hardwoods get stain or varnish, softwoods get painted. The aromatic nature of some softwoods, such as cedar, also serves as a wonderful rodent and insect repellent. The cedar chest grandma kept her bedsheets in did far more than just smell pretty.

Be familiar with your wood, so that you can get the most mileage out of it.


Monday, December 3, 2018

Driving in the Snow

Friday night there was a slight cold snap. Just a little chill, really.

On Saturday I had to go south by about a hundred miles, and ended up leaving for home right before midnight... at which point I traveled through a snow storm in the middle of the night on mountain passes with limited visibility and sheer cliffs.

For those of you on the east coast  reading this: when I talk about mountains, I'm not talking about the mountains on the Appalachian trail. The highest mountain peak in Maryland (where I spent a fair amount of time growing up) is over 3000 feet. As I look out my window I can see Mt. Timpanogos, which is close to 4 times that height, and doesn't even break the top 5 tallest peaks in my state.

These are not small mountains, and the trails in them tend to be twisty and windy due the height of the terrain. I've had to learn to drive in the snow, and have had to do so as a matter of being able to get around. I have to do it fairly well, because going off the side of the road doesn't mean getting towed; it means wondering if I left my toaster oven on in the several seconds that I have left while I plummet to my death.

The next time you are stuck somewhere where it is unexpectedly snowing -- or if you need to bug out to a snowy location -- remember these three rules.

Drive Slow
If there's snow on the road, keep an eye on your speed. Any snow at all means that it's cold enough to form ice on the road, and patches of “black ice” (ice that does not show up visually against the road, but is still very slippery) can form.

If the road is covered in snow such that you can't tell where the lane markers are, or where the edges of the road are, driving slowly is the only way to give yourself enough time to safely brake or make turns.

Sudden braking is actually a very bad idea as it's very likely to cause skidding. You may not be able to avoid it, but if you have to brake suddenly, you want to be doing so at a low speed. Sharp turns can cause the same problem.

Getting into a car accident will put a much bigger dent in your schedule than saving the five minutes by going faster. Remember that.

Drive Low
Most modern cars are front-wheel drive. A lot of them have a tendency to understeer in bad weather, due to swinging around. Having a little junk in the trunk (I recommend a thorough emergency kit) gives you extra traction, which can save your life when you are dealing with adverse conditions.

If you have nothing else, and need cheap weight, buy kitty litter or play sand. They also provide grit (for traction) if you need it to get out of a slippery spot.

Once again, a car accident (even just denting your bumper) is much more expensive than the extra mile or two per gallon you will save by having no extra weight in your car, so put the bowling ball back in the trunk.

Drive Light 
Keep your running lights on. If it's after dark, people will turn on headlights, but there's nothing wrong with keeping your running lights on at all times and erring on the side of caution. Being visible to other drivers makes much easier for them to avoid hitting you.

You can save yourself a lot of grief with some basic preparedness. Having lived in the south (Alabama) and the northeast, I understand what having an unexpected flurry of snow can do to traffic, and to the ability to get around. Hopefully, if you ever have to bug out, it won’t bite you in the back.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, November 30, 2018


Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Despite what it sounds like, a portyanki isn't a monster from Dungeons & Dragons. It's actually the Russian name for "foot wrappings", and they were commonly used by the armies of many nations through the 20th century in lieu of socks.* In fact, the Russian army wore portyanki up until 2013!

A portyanka (that's the singular term) is simply a piece of cloth -- ideally rectangular and roughly 3 feet long by 1.3 feet wide, but square and triangular cloths will also work -- that is wrapped around a foot like a bandage and tied into place. It acts like a sock to cushion and insulate the foot, wicking away sweat and protecting against blisters.

At this point, you're probably wondering why I suggest you learn to tie cloths around your feet when you have perfectly good socks. While socks are clearly the superior technology, there are several good reasons for knowing how to wrap your feet:

Portyanki are Easy to Make 
You might find yourself barefoot during a disaster, or your socks might become damaged or lost in a long-term SHTF scenario. Socks can be difficult to replace or repair in that situation, but portyanki can be scrounged from fabric like sheets, pillowcases, t-shirts, and the like, and they will fit any size foot. 

Portyanki can be Re-wrapped 
Socks with holes in them aren't very good, but since portyanki are wrapped, a hole isn't that big of a deal; just turn the cloth over and re-wrap it to cover the hole. 

Wet socks aren't pleasant, either. If you're wearing long enough portyanki (this is why I said the rectangular ones are better), you can take them off and re-wrap them so that the part which was wrapped around your shin (and are hopefully dry) can go around your foot, and the wet portion is now on the outside and higher on your leg where it can dry. 

Portyanki are Easy to Clean
Speaking of drying, because they are single pieces of cloth which lie flat, portyanki dry quickly in the air. Since the cloth is thinner than most socks, they are also easier to clean -- in fact, the standard Russian manner of cleaning portyanki was to boil them!

Portyanki are Disposable
Easy come, easy go. You didn't put a lot of effort into making them, so when they're worn and threadbare, you can throw them away without regret.

Despite all these advantages, there are areas in which portyanki fall short.

Portyanki are Slow to Put On
Socks are easily and quickly pulled on, but portyanki must be tied in a specific manner. It is possible to put them on quickly -- Russian soldiers were held to a standard of getting dressed in 45 seconds -- but that requires practice.

Portyanki Must be Tied Properly
Improperly tied portyanki will result in painful blisters! Make sure that all folds and wrinkles are smoothed out as part of the tying process.

Summer vs Winter
Summer portyanki can be made out of cotton (and if you're scrounging them, that's probably the material you'll use). Winter portanki were traditionally made out of flannel, although wool would be best.

Tying Your Socks
So how do you properly tie your portyanki? I'll provide you with a step-by-step procedure, but the easiest way to teach you is for you to see the process yourself. I've provided several videos of the process from different angles, in case a certain step isn't clear. If you only watch one of them, watch the first one.

  1. Place your foot on the portyanki such that most of the material is on the same side as your big toe. (We will call this the inside.)
  2. Leave approximately one foot-width of material on the same side as your little toe. (We will call this the outside.)
  3. Some people like to have their feet parallel to the sides; others place theirs at an angle, with their heel near the corner. Experiment to find which style works best for you. 
  4. Take the outside edge corner and wrap it over your toes, tucking it under the ball of your foot. Smooth out any wrinkles. 
  5. Take the inside edge and wrap it over your entire foot and ankle, smoothing out any wrinkles. Make sure that the cloth stays taut around your heel and ankle.
  6. Continue the wrapping motion and go under your foot, stepping down again once the material is smoothly wrapped. 
  7. Grasp both corners of the inside wrap and cross it, so that the front corner is in the back and the back corner is in the front. 
  8. Wrap this portion around the upper ankle and shin. You will have one corner pointing up your leg and another behind your leg. 
  9. Take the corner behind your leg and wrap it around to the front, tucking the loose end into the wrap you've made. 
  10. Tuck the final corner down into the wrap. 
Congratulations, you've tied your first portyanka! Now you get to do it again for your other foot!

*  Prior to the 20th century, socks were considered luxury items that were only given to officers.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dealing with Pain in Others

A lot of prepper articles are written about first aid because injuries tend to happen with any situation that rises to the level of an emergency. First aid generally means treating injuries when professional medical help is not available to stop further damage and prevent loss of life, with the goal being to get the patient to better care as soon and as safely as possible. The patient is going to experience pain both before and after seeing a physician, and the field of treating pain is complicated and controversial, but there are secondary issues that we should all be ready to address.

I'm learning to deal with chronic (long-term, unending) pain in someone I know. The day-to-day stress of having pain that won't go away has emotional and mental effects that drugs don't treat. Acute pain (short-term, may go away eventually) is normally the result of injuries and tends to be more unsettling to the patient because it is out of their normal experience. Both types of pain cause changes in the person suffering them that will affect how they deal with the world and people around them. Don't expect a person dealing with pain to act or react normally; you may have known them for years, but they can turn into a completely different person once they're in pain.

Physical Effects of Pain
  • Loss of appetite and weight. Plan your meals accordingly and do what you can to make sure they get the calories and nutrients that their bodies need, especially if they're healing.
  • Fatigue and sleeplessness. Pain will interrupt their normal sleep cycles, which will prevent deep, restful sleep. This will eventually cause fatigue and the other effects of sleep deprivation.
  • Decreased movement. The risks of pneumonia and blood clots rise with the lack of mobility caused by injury and pain. Internal movements will also be slowed down, so watch for constipation and fluid retention if they aren't eliminating wastes as they should. Diuretics and laxatives are a subject for a separate article.
  • Weakened immune system. Dealing with the source of the pain will focus the body's attention away from general immune response, so watch for infections in areas that weren't injured.

Mental/Emotional Effects of Pain
  • Stress. Pain causes a lot of different stresses on the body and mind, so expect anyone who is not a hard-core stoic to show signs of stress. Dealing with stress varies from person to person, so investigate the patient normally deals with stress and find ways for them to do it.
  • Depression/anxiety/panic/fear. Chronic or acute, pain tends to kick us out of our comfort zones. From what I've experienced, the severity of the pain is less of a factor than the personality of the patient. Drugs can help with these effects, but they tend to cause problems of their own that you then have to deal with. A calm environment and slow, quiet movements may help reduce these effects by eliminating any new emotional stresses.
  • Anger/resentment. This one I know well. Pain, especially chronic pain, tends to cause outbursts of anger and resentment over little things, and big things lead to full tirades and melt-downs. Patience, prayer, and a thick skin are your only defenses. Being able to take a break and letting someone else handle the person in pain will help with your mental state.
  • Disconnection from other people. Pain centers the mind on itself, leading to a loss of concern for others and difficulty relating to them. This means more conflict and less enjoyment for everyone around. This can be really hard on a marriage or other long-term relationship.

Pain is Part of Life
Humans have been dealing with pain longer than we've been able to talk, so it shouldn't be something arcane or mysterious. Our society has tried to ignore or sometimes punish those in pain for several centuries, which is so fundamentally wrong to my mind that I have a hard time grasping the concept. Most of the natural drugs we have stumbled across, even the discovery and development of things like alcohol and narcotics, have been in search of at least a temporary respite from the pains of life. The addictive properties of some of these drugs get blown out of proportion by those who think they know how to live our lives for us, and I'm sure some of that is based on their desire to control as much of the world as they can.

Those of you who are young and healthy should enjoy life as much as you can and give thanks to whichever deity you prefer. As we age, we collect injuries and ailments that cause pain and this impacts our lives and the lives of those around us. Be aware of those impacts and take them into consideration when dealing with others.

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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