Thursday, March 15, 2018

2 Out of 3 Ain't Bad

I had to sit through a corporate training class this week. The subject matter was pure common sense and nothing I haven't heard repeatedly in my years of working for a living, so my mind wandered a bit. Then the instructor brought up a slide of a sign that I've seen in many shops:

While slightly humorous, this is a reality for most businesses. It also applies to prepping.

  • Fast and good, but not cheap: Think prepackaged MRE's or brand-name freeze dried meals. You can get them delivered within a few days and they'll provide complete nutrition, but you're going to pay for it.
  • Fast and cheap, but not good: Off-brand freeze dried meals and survival bars (like the ones I've reviewed) are fast and cheap, but don't provide everything your body needs. They'll keep you alive for a while, but you can't rely on them long-term.
  • Good and cheap, but not fast: This is the realm of growing your own food. It's much cheaper than buying it from a store and a well-planned garden will keep you alive for a long time, but the results take weeks or months to be realized.

Specifically filtration:
  • Fast and good, but not cheap: The Berkey filters* are great for processing gallons of water every day, to a high standard of purity, but they're expensive.
  • Fast and cheap, but not good: Any chemical treatment like Iodine or Potassium Permanganate can disinfect water in large quantities, but do nothing to remove harmful chemicals. Depending on your source water, you might be able to get by with this route, but I wouldn't count on it for every situation.
  • Good and cheap, but not fast. The Sawyer filters* and Lifestraws* do a good job of cleaning water for you to drink at a small fraction of the cost of a Berkey, but they're slow.

  • Fast and good, but not cheap: Go to any sporting goods store and buy premium or target ammo. You'll get more consistent groups and have the ammunition on hand, but you'll pay for the extra accuracy and convenience.
  • Fast and cheap, but not good: White-box (commercially reloaded) ammunition or surplus/imported ammunition will be a lot cheaper than target-grade, and you can have it delivered to your door within a few days, but the quality is going to suffer. Corrosive primers and high-temperature powders are commonly used in cheaper ammunition and both can lead to rapid deterioration of a gun's barrel. Consistency and quality control are other areas of concern with bargain ammo, so make sure you're ready to accept more misses and misfires, or at least know what do to when they happen.
  • Good and cheap, but not fast: Reloading your own ammunition is the best way to tailor cartridges for an individual gun, wringing out every bit of accuracy that the combination of shooter and gun can give, but it's slow. The components and basic equipment aren't that expensive, but the set up and load testing time can be a reason to pass on this practice.

I could go on for a long time giving examples, but you should have the basic idea. Knives, tents, clothes, cookware, etc. all have the same “two of the three” type of trade-off, so set your goals and then set your priorities.

In some cases you may be able to work with something that is a bit cheaper than the top of the line as long as it still meets your base goals. Not every firearm has to shoot 1” groups at 100 yards, not every tent has to be able to handle snow loads, and not every meal has to be tasty as well as perfectly balanced nutritionally. Other times you might be willing to save up for something that costs a bit (or a bunch) more just to get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you got the best thing available. Like everything else in life, prepping is a series of compromises. Know what you're willing to trade in order to get what you need.

As a side note, I should mention that there are a lot of places that will try to sell you less than “two out of three”. There's a lot of overpriced crap on the market that is neither good, fast, nor cheap, so make sure you do your research and check product reviews found anywhere other than the seller's site.

We here at BCP don't normally get test-and-evaluation samples to write our reviews; we buy things with our own money and conduct real-world tests. We are also not afraid to write a negative review if we run into something that is not worth buying (in fact, I believe that some of us actually enjoy being able to point and laugh at some of the poorly made, tasteless, broken, useless junk that is being marketed to preppers).

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