Monday, July 30, 2018

DIY Epipens: the Epipencil

An epipen is an autoinjector filled with epinephrine, used to manage life threatening anaphalactic reactions.

Translation: it is a special syringe with a special medication that can be used to save the life of someone who is having a severe allergic reaction.

For those preppers who are dependent on an epipen, having one can literally be the difference between life and death. It can be frustrating and expensive to acquire them; the last time I purchased an epipen, it was $600 USD per unit. They can also go bad over time or from temperature ranges outside what they are designed for -- if they freeze, or are left in to hot of a car, they are considered to have gone bad.

Because of how important they are, a group of individuals decided to design an off the shelf version of the same device costing a fraction of the price that allows a prepper to have several on hand. They call this device the epipencil
NOTE: This is not an FDA approved device. You will still have to have a prescription for the drug itself. Don’t do dumb stuff to yourself medically.

The inventor explains its assembly:

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


During times of war, when normal supply lines are disrupted, it's common to see food and fuel being rationed. A simple definition of rationing is "When someone else decides how much of a commodity you can own or buy." Today we see rationing in places experiencing economic downfall or failure of a government, with consumable goods like food, fuel, and clothing being limited to what you can produce yourself or a small amount through normal channels. Massive inflation (usually caused by failure of a government or monetary system), trade embargoes (politics), war (government), and major natural disasters can all lead to rationing. How would you react to a rationing system?

During both world wars, so much production was shifted to the support of the military that consumer goods were rare or non-existent. Some examples:
  • You're going to have trouble finding a picture of a 1944 Ford or Dodge car, because those factories were making tanks and aircraft by then. 
  • Pennies were made out of steel for a few years because copper was so essential to the war effort.
  • Anything that had to be imported was likely to be scarce or unavailable, so tropical fruits and chocolate became very expensive. 
  • Coffee and tea likewise became scarce and substitutes like Chickory root were used instead. 
  • Transportation systems were also placed under government control, so shipments of goods within the county were severely disrupted. 
Looking back at the Soviet Union and some of the stories I've heard of their mismanaged supply chains, where they couldn't even get bread without standing in line, I dread the idea of a government-run economy. The analogy I got from a former resident of the Soviet Union was that everything was rationed, and the currency itself was their form of ration card. Ordinary people never had enough currency to get everything they needed, and that was by design.

Today we see electricity being rationed. They don't use that word; they prefer to call it a “rolling brown-out” or insist that you have a “smart meter” that is controlled from a central office. They'll often offer you a discount on your electrical bill if you let them control your heat and air conditioning during the day (while you're at work).

I don't have any contacts in Puerto Rico, but I've heard/read that they are still living with limited clean water, sewer service, and electricity in many areas almost a year after Hurricane Maria tore the island up. Food supplies are improving, but not back to what they were.

Several things happen when rationing is instituted:
  • People become very resourceful. If all of the rubber tires were being sent to the front lines of a war, farmers went back to steel wheels on their tractors. Ingenuity is a virtue. 
  • Recycling gets a real workout, with nothing being thrown away until it has to be replaced. People start to realize the value of what they have been throwing in the trash. 
  • Repair shops suddenly become feasible again. If you can't get a replacement, see if you can get your old (whatever) fixed. Skills can be as useful as goods in this area. 
  • “Alternative markets”, also known as gray or black markets, spring up everywhere. If the people in power say something, you can bet that there is someone who will try to find a way around it. Unofficial trade is often outlawed, but it will never be fully stopped. 
  • People start to provide for themselves. Victory gardens were strongly suggested and supported during the world wars as a way to use non-productive ground like yards and parks to grow food for the local citizens, easing the burden of the transportation system. Locally grown food is also healthier and tastier than something that has been shipped in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. 
  • Bulk smuggling becomes very profitable. Today's smugglers carry relatively small, value-dense things like drugs, gems, or guns, but food becomes much more important once it becomes scarce. Things like sugar, coffee, spices and citrus fruits that aren't grown in the USA will rival cocaine and marijuana in profit margin. 
  • People begin to move out of unsustainable areas. Unless you have a job with guaranteed delivery of life's essentials, why would you want to live in a city that can't support itself? Urban areas become less attractive and rural areas see a lot more immigrants. This is not always a good thing, since many of those fleeing an urban environment are ill-suited to rural life. 

There's a good chance that when the SHTF, it will be a slow process. Without an asteroid strike or EMP attack, our systems are most likely to die a slow, wheezing death due to the inertia they have built up over decades. Rationing is likely to be one of the steps forced on us either as we rebuild, or as the system shuts down for good to be replaced by something different.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Post-it Extreme Notes

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

I first mentioned Rite in the Rain notebooks in this post, and I've used them even before I began blogging here. I like the idea of having the ability to leave written notes in bad weather and not have the paper dissolve or the message wash away. Staying in contact with people if cell service is out is important, and the ability to leave alternate contact info, personal status ("I'm okay!") and directions is vital in a disaster. What I wasn't able to figure out was a way to attach the note wherever I wanted it, especially if surfaces are less than perfect. Post-it Extreme Notes look like the answer to my problem.

From the 3M Post-it website :
  • Water resistant, durable and writable. 
  • Made with ultra-strong Dura-Hold™ Paper and Adhesive. 
  • Sticks to textured surfaces and in tough conditions. 
  • Sticks in hot and cold environments. 
  • Use indoor/outdoor. 
  • Removes cleanly. 
  • 3 in. x 3 in., 1 Pad each in Orange, Green and Yellow. 
  • 3 Pads/Pack, 45 Sheets/Pad. 
  • Not recommended for use on paper. 
  • Apply to dry surface to hold in wet conditions.
    When conditions make communication tough, Post-it® Extreme Notes make leaving notes and reminders simple, so you can get the work done. Made with Dura-Hold™ Paper and Adhesive, these notes will hold up in hot, cold and wet conditions. They stick to tough and textured surfaces like concrete, raw and painted wood, and tile. Make sure your message is seen with a note that sticks in tough conditions. This pack includes 3 pads of Post-it® Extreme Notes in Orange, Green and Yellow. Each pad has 45 sheets.
    The note paper is very different from the Post-it notes I've used before; it's much thinner and feels fragile. but it's very difficult to tear compared to the original. The adhesive is also different; the note presses down on the surface easily since it is thinner and the adhesive feels stickier, but I don't have any originals to do a comparison to.
    Everything sticks
    I know that Rite in the Rain will not take some markers, but it appears that Post-it Extreme Notes will. Of course, these are also a much thinner material, and so I expect Rite in the Rain to last longer and hold up much better.

    I'm a little disappointed that the notes are not listed as sticking to damp or wet surfaces. I'll have to try them on different surfaces, including at least a damp surface like misted car windows, when we get some nights that are cool enough to try.

    The Takeaway
    • Always keep your eyes open for things to add to your preps. 

    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, July 24, 2018

    The EDC Wallet

    Why an EDC wallet? Because out of all of your gear, getting back to normality after most SHTF is probably going to require documentation, and you are most likely to store those documents in your wallet. People were out of work for months after Katrina not because they couldn't find work, but because they couldn't find their legal ID to show to prospective
    employers. No ID, no employment.

    Even just having a Drivers License that will not get lost due to a defective wallet can make a huge difference. And can you imagine what would happen if an immigrant lost their green card?

    The Wallet
    Ideally, an EDC wallet will be
    • Durable
    • Large enough to hold what you use on a regular basis
    • Compartmentalized enough to make it easy to sort
    • Small enough that it can still fit in a standard pocket
    • Warrantied such that if something happens to it, you don’t have to worry. (I prefer this on all of my tools if I can).
    • I strongly prefer mine to have an ID window
    I personally use an Eddie Bauer Tri-Fold Leather wallet (now no longer made, unfortunately, but you can still pick them up on eBay). Eddie Bauer actually has a reputation for an amazing warranty, and tends to back it up even after years (even decades), promising 100% satisfaction.

    All of this becomes even more important if you have a child, especially one that is rough on things. Can you imagine trying deal with the hassle of proving that a child is yours so that you can get them medical care, and not having the appropriate documents?

    Its Contents
    Just as important as a durable wallet is having the right things inside it.

    As someone with life-threatening allergies, it amazes me that so many people who have these allergies don’t have some way of alerting first responders to those allergies if they are unconscious.

    When I went through first aid training, we were told we might need to look in a wallet for a medical card, listing things like allergies or serious medical conditions (diabetes, transplants etc.)

    Having a small printout with your allergies listed (for example, an allergy to penicillin) can literally save your life, especially in an accident. There are certain medications that they cannot administer if you are allergic to certain things, and having a listing of those makes care for you much easier.

    This is personal opinion, so take it with a grain of salt: I like to keep an ounce of silver in my wallet. Family history (as well as written accounts of things like the Russian revolution and various major economic collapses) indicate that while an ounce of silver will not get you all the way out of most troubles, it can get you a meal, a tank of gas, or maybe even bribe a border guard.

    I urge careful consideration regarding whether or not this is appropriate for you.

    I am a fan of carrying an unlubricated, latex-free condom. Aside from its traditional uses, I have lost count of the number of times I have used it in waterproofing electronics -- cell phones are expensive, and having lived in areas prone to unexpected flooding, I have had to wade through more than one small unexpected river in order to get home.

    I am also a fan of having an emergency packing list, which is used in circumstances of “I have to evacuate and these are all the things I need to double check”. Adrenaline and stress make people do odd things, and writing that list down before hand can save a lot of stress.

    Emergency contacts are essential, especially for a child. Having a “Call this person if this child is lost” card can save a lot of stress.

    TL:DR Wallets are an important part of preparedness. Don’t forget them.

    Monday, July 23, 2018

    Guest Post: Zeroing a Rifle Using the “Maximum Point Blank Range” Method

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

    Col. Townsend Whelen opined that “Only accurate rifles are interesting.” I mostly agree with him on that, and have dedicated a good portion of my adult life in the same job field as the good Colonel and hope that I can pass on a few skills that will help you wring out every last bit of accuracy that you need from your rifle.

    Please note that varmint hunters, long range competitors, and bench rest shooters aren’t the target of this article; this is aimed at someone who needs to make a shot fairly accurately and fairly quickly. That could be a rancher pulling the trigger on a coyote or wolf, or a deer hunter trying to fill a chest freezer with venison. This article is focused on a more practical form of accuracy to set up a utility rifle for best shooting without having to do any adjustments to scope nobs or your iron sights before you take a shot.

    In my world, precision means how repeatable the rifle/load combination is (in terms of making small groups) but accuracy is how well a shooter uses the rifle/load combination to put a hole in something downrange where it needs to be (whether on target or game).

    A modern bottlenecked rifle cartridge shot from a rifle with a 16” or longer barrel is generally going to have ballistics that allow the projectile to go further than the average shooter is likely to engage. Point blank is the range at which a shooter does not have to compensate for ballistic drop, so the trick is to maximize your max point blank range options for your rifle/load combination.

    Zero Like a Hero
    1. Decide on a load. 
    2. Decide how large of a circle you want your rifle groups to be at max distance with that load.
    3. Zero your rifle at 100 yards. 
    4. Shoot five shots for five groups, measure the group size, and average them.
    5. You now have a really good idea how your rifle will group at distance. 
    6. Apply your load to a ballistic calculator like JBM Ballistics and plug your ballistics numbers into it. 
    7. Set the max distance to 300 or 400 (yards or meters, depending on what you are comfortable using), make sure you set the range increment to 10, and at the bottom choose a “vital circle” diameter (stock number is 5”) and check the “zero at max point blank range” option.

    8. Your output will be a ballistics table that is highlighted in green when your bullet is within 5” of your line of sight, above or below. I put in the data for a 150gr flat nosed hunting bullet at 2,400 fps from the muzzle, one of the most common .30-30 loads in existence. As you can see, this sedate old hunting round has a “point blank range” of 270 yards.

    9. Take your 100 yard group size, divide that by 10 to get your spread per 10 yards, and multiply by your max PBR. 
      • If our .30-30 had a 4” group at 100, then it would be 0.4” at 10, and multiplying that by 27 gives us an expected group size of 10.8 inches of spread at max point blank range. That’s hitting a dinner plate at more than two and a half football fields if you do your part.
      • If it shot a 3” group at 100 yards, that’s 6” at 200 and 8” at 250.
      • If it shot a 2” group at 100 yards, that’s 4” at 200, and 6” at 300, so a 2” rifle/load combination can take full advantage of a 5” vital zone on the target all the way out to the max point blank range and still be inside of that 8” dinner plate. 
      • But notice that even the 4” grouping rifle could shoot a dinner plate at 200 yards using this method to zero a rifle.
    10. So what do you do if your target is smaller than a dinner plate? Well you have to figure out how big of a circle you are willing to accept. If your target was an 8” circle, then you already know that you can’t shoot beyond 200 yards with the accuracy of that load in your rifle, so you go back to the ballistics calculator and start shrinking the Vital Zone number until it gets down to 200 yards. 
      • In our case, that vital zone gets whittled down to 2.4” and the max PBR becomes 200 yards. There are formulas you can use to figure this out, but unless you are a math geek it’ll be much faster just to take a stab using the ballistics calculator and adjust yourself in to the correct answer.

    11. Your ballistic table will let you know how high you need to be at 100 yards to take advantage of your max point blank range zero. 
      • Use a ruler or tape measure and put a mark that far above your aiming point, and verify. 
    12. Now your rifle is ready to be as accurate as you are, out to the max point blank range of the ammunition you are running through it.

    “Shooting a rifle accurately is easy; just align the sights perfectly to the target and keep them there while you pull the trigger.” – A running joke for service rifle shooters that I first heard from an AMU instructor at Fort Benning. Shooting accurately is actually pretty difficult, because it’s really hard to stay still.

    I hope this has been helpful, as at the end of the day I want you to have confidence in your gear and be able to take the shots that fill your freezer with venison -- or get you through an Appleseed with a Rifleman patch at the end.

    Thursday, July 19, 2018

    Financial Security?

    I'm getting close to retirement age and have been making preparations for the time when I don't have to get up before dawn and freeze (or sweat) my butt off just to put food on the table. I've worked blue collar jobs most of my life, so I have some savings and a retirement account set aside, but I also know that the concept of “financial security” is a recent invention and is about half myth. I promise, this isn't going to be a political post -- we don't do those here.

    Let's look at the basics:
    • Finances are based on money, which in the USA is measured in dollars. Those dollars are backed by faith and trust in our government... the same government that can't live within its own budget, even though it gets to write the tax laws and the budgets.
    • There is no material backing for our money (the system is known as fiat currency) and it has no intrinsic value. It's not allowed to have any intrinsic value. To be blunt, it's imaginary money, and the US Mint is constantly changing our coinage to ensure that the metal content is less than the denomination (pennies aren't copper any more, and nickels are on the list to be changed soon) just so we don't melt them down for a profit. 
    • To make things worse, around 90% of those dollars don't even exist in physical form; they're digits on a computer spreadsheet. If anything were to shut down the communications between the computers that track our money, or the computers themselves, all of that digital currency disappears.
    • Banks loan out up to nine times as much money as they have deposited, a practice known as fractional-reserve banking that is legal and often encouraged by the government. This further decreases the value of the physical currency in circulation.

    Security is the second part, and the most mythical.
    • Having money deposited in a bank is only as secure as the system that tracks it. No bank keeps their deposits physically on-hand; it's all digital in today's world. Digits are harder (but not impossible) to steal than physical cash, making banks less prone to robbery. Those deposits are insured through a government-run program (FDIC), but only up to $250,000. That's on the low end of any retirement fund, so don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
    • But I have an IRA/401(k) retirement plan, so I'm good, right? Sorry, but both of those are based on the stock market, which is an entirely different level of imaginary money. The value of a stock/bond/note is only what someone is willing to pay for it, so owning $100 dollars worth of stock today can turn into owning $1 worth of stock tomorrow if nobody wants to buy it. I lost about $80,000 worth of “value” when the stock market took a wrong turn in 2008, so I know how fast stocks can be devalued. There is no insurance for retirement accounts like there is for bank deposits.

    Someone out there is laughing to themselves because they bought gold or silver to hedge against losses in the stock market. 
    • Unless you have physical possession of those precious metals, you don't own them. You may have a certificate that says you “own” a certain amount of gold, but unless you can put your hands on the metal, all you have is an expensive piece of paper.
    • Even if you have the metal in a safe or safety deposit box, it's not secure. There is precedent for the confiscation of gold by government decree: in 1933, the US government outlawed the “hoarding” of gold, and forced the sale of most privately held coins and bars to the Federal Reserve. They paid about $21 per ounce for the gold, then set the price at $35 per ounce to boost the holdings of the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve is a private bank, meaning it's as much a part of the government as Federal Express.
    • There is also the example of the “Liberty Dollar”, an alternative currency that was shut down by the US government. Although a judge finally ordered that the coins seized be returned to their owners, it took almost seven years for that decision. A lot can happen in seven years.

    Bitcoin and some of the other crypto-currencies rely on the Internet and digital communication for their existence. I understand the basics of block-chain encryption and how the coins are “mined”, but they seem to be a fragile vessel for carrying wealth. Any disruption, natural or man-made, of digital communications would place your “money” out of reach or wipe it out completely.

    I don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but money is a gamble. Regardless of what the salesmen may tell you, there is no guaranteed method of storing money for retirement. Cash buried in the backyard will lose value due to inflation (which can be astronomical; see Zimbabwe or Venezuela), and can be rendered worthless if the government decides to print new bills.

    Real estate is about the only stable way to store wealth, since (volcanoes aside) they're not making any more of it, but I know not everyone has the opportunity or resources to buy land. I have a few family members who had rental properties that were sold when retirement time came. They didn't make a killing, but it was a nice way to ensure that they had something to rely on besides savings and the stock market.

    This is one of those topics where I don't have an answer for you, but rather just want to make sure you're aware of the risks. We might all get lucky and the next major crash won't happen until we're all dead and buried, but I don't like to rely on luck.

    If any of you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2018

    David's $30 IFAK Challenge

    aka The Better Late than Never post, as I catch up with the rest of my co-bloggers!

    Why a $30 Dollar Limit?

    As Chaplain Tim said in his first aid kit post, we all have different levels of training and ideas on what's important in a kit. Also, this is Blue Collar Prepping, the place where we admit to being on budgets and are proud of it! Everyone has written and explained what is in their kits and the reasons behind those items. To duplicate what several folk have in their big kits would be well over $200, if not more! Here is what I bought.

    Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pak with Advanced Clotting Sponge
    Yes, I know that Erin started with this same pak, but I deliberately did not read anyone's post, just so I would not be influenced by what the others purchased. This is just a coincidence (Really!).

    I wanted something very small and lightweight to fit into my lunchbox, a hard sided 6-pack Igloo cooler. Since I do carry my lunch and the fixings are sometimes frozen, everything else has to be waterproof. This is a waterproof package and if it's opened, it is resealable.

    What's in the kit?
    • (1) QuikClot 25g Sponge (Zeolite)
    • (1) 5” x 9” Trauma Pad
    • (1) Pair Nitrile Gloves
    • (1) Hand Wipe
    • (1) 2” x 26” Duct Tape
    • (1) Triangular Bandage
    • (1) Package 4” x 4” Sterile Gauze Dressing, 2 dressings per package
    • (1) Package 2” x 2” Sterile Gauze Dressing Pkg, 2 dressings per package
    • (1) 3” Conforming Gauze Bandage
    • (4) After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipe (Lidocaine Hydrochloride, Benzalkonium Chloride)
    • (1) Re-Sealable Bag for Bio-Waste and Sucking Chest Wounds

    QuikClot Advanced Clotting Sponge, 25g
    I work around things that can fall, break, or are very sharp (like sheet metal( and can poke you (like fence wire). The Trauma Pak has this exact clotting sponge, but I chose to double up on them, in case I ever have to stop bleeding.

    It's worth noting that Adventure Medical sells a 50g clotting sponge as well. It's too expensive to fit in my budget, but it's a great deal at twice the sponge for on 1.5 times the price.

    PhysiciansCare by First Aid Only

    I wanted to find a small pack of normal first aid items -- band-aids, cleaning wipes, and the like. These are what I normally need and use every week.  I have extras that will go into the box when the original pieces are used up.

    The kit includes one antiseptic wipe, one sting relief wipe, two 2" x 2" gauze pads, five adhesive plastic bandages (3/4" x 3") and four junior plastic bandages.

    How Did I Do?

    I think I did quite well, thank you!
    • The Adventure Medical Trauma Pack was $15.63
    • Quick Clot Sponge was $10.49
    • Small First Aid kit was $3.49
    This totals up to $29.61, just under the $30 First Aid Kit Challenge target!

    All of my shopping was done on Amazon, and several others have done quite well by brick and mortar shopping, so go and purchase what you need wherever you find it!

    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.

    Monday, July 16, 2018

    Don't Forget Your Hat

    There is a piece of prepping gear that I find oddly lacking in a great many preps: A hat. Not only is it missing in a majority of preppers kits, I find that those who have one tend to be missing a good hat.

    Why You Need a Good Hat

    When SHTF you can expect to be outdoors a lot, whether during the event itself or in the events after it. The sun is hot, unpleasant and miserable to be in when you have no shelter from it; injury and even death can result from overexposure to it. Thankfully, most of it can be avoided with simple protection, and avoidance is much easier than recovery.

    Sunstroke can be a major problem when it occurs, and is a reason for hospitalization in and of itself. Wearing a wide brimmed hat can sharply reduce that. A hat can even be wetted down to help keep you cool, in addition to providing shade.

    Next is simple sunburn. Anyone who has had sunburn can tell you how miserable it is, and how bad it can be if it is on your neck, face, or shoulders, and how hard it can be to carry a pack (or even wear a shirt) when it rubs against your neck at all. Sunblock can help a great deal, but it only goes so far, and will not protect against things like extended exposure. A hat will also only help so much, but it will do more than sunblock will.

    Both sunstroke and sunburn can happen in any climate. Even in a cloudy climate, UV radiation can penetrate the cloud layer and cause damage. In fact, while hiking it can be wise to wear protection against the sun even when there is cloud cover, because people often do not notice the damage as quickly and will damage themselves without noticing.

    Cloudy weather also brings another potential threat that a hat will help to protect against: rain. For those with glasses, keeping them from being rained on will preserve your vision. For those without glasses, a good hat will still allow you to see more easily in inclement weather.

    What Kind of Hat?

    I recommend a wide-brimmed hat with a rigid enough brim that it holds itself up and covers both your face and your neck. I personally prefer a hat with minimal venting, but that may depend on who you are and the climate you are in.

    In any case, a good hat should run (at the time of this writing) from less than $15 (link 1) to $50 or more to in-between, depending on exactly what you want. Even if you are like me and require specially-ordered hats for your overly large skull, a good basic hat runs less than $100. Getting a fully custom made Beaver fur hat built for me specifically was around $600, which is about the top of the cost range.

    In short, a small investment can save you a lot of hassle and grief.

    Don’t forget to wear a hat.

    Thursday, July 12, 2018

    Tim's $30 IFAK Challenge

    This is my take on an inexpensive IFAK. You may notice that each of us have slightly different choices in our kits; this is because we all have differing levels of training and
    we carry what we know how to use.

    The Bag to Hold It All

    I found a soft-sided cooler designed to carry six cans of beverage (with ice) that has a zippered compartment in the “lid”. The larger supplies fit into the waterproof base easily, and the smaller pieces don't quite fill the zippered compartment. There is room to add to this kit, which will probably happen after I finish writing this article. It has a carry handle on top and it's small enough to fit behind, or under, the seat of my truck. It looks like a lunch box and won't draw the extra attention that a large red cross would.

    Bandages and Gauze

    Gauze squares (pads) are used to clean wounds and absorb blood. They're what you grab when you need to put pressure on a wound to stop the bleeding. I bought the most common sizes, 2”x2” and 3”x3”. The boxes contained 10 of each, for $1.00 and $1.99 respectively.

    Non-stick pads are used to cover a wound once the bleeding has stopped. They will protect the wound from debris and dirt and most will absorb any minor bleeding or other seepage from a wound. The 3”x4” size will cover small to medium sized wounds. $2.19.

    Rolled gauze is used to secure the pads in place once the bleeding has stopped, as well as general binding together of things like splints and slings. 3”x 2.5Yd roll, $1.00.

    Adhesive bandages (Band-Aid is a brand name, but that's what most people call them) are handy for covering small cuts and wounds. I bought two boxes, one of clear waterproof standard bandages in two sizes (3/4” and 1” wide) and one of knuckle and fingertip bandages. $2.19 per box.

    Bandannas because I couldn't find triangular bandages, which have been a staple in my first aid kits for as long as I can remember. These 20”x20” bandannas will work if folded in half (they're thin, so folding them is best) as slings, bindings, emergency head cover, water pre-filters, and a host of other uses. I put two of them in the top compartment. $1.00 each.

    Other Supplies

    Vinyl gloves. Take a class on blood-borne pathogens and you'll keep gloves in every kit you own. I choose vinyl or nitrile gloves because I have too many friends who are sensitive to natural latex. These one-size-fits-most vinyl gloves were in the hardware aisle, near the paint supplies. 8 gloves, so 4 pair for $1.00.

    Tape. I found several types of tape for about the same price, but I chose the clear “surgical” tape. It tears easily enough that you don't need scissors while still being strong enough to hold bandages together or to skin. The adhesive is fairly waterproof and holds up to minor stretching and motion on joints. 1”x10 Yd roll, $1.59.

    Self-sticking tape. The common brand name is Coban, which is a 3M trademark. Make sure you look at the packaging and buy the latex-free versions. This is the duct tape of a first aid kit, it sticks to itself but not to skin or hair, and is stronger than you would expect. Handy for general binding and securing bandages, it comes in a variety of colors and sizes. I chose a generic brand 3” x 4 Yd roll because it fit nicely in the bag. $2.99.

    Hand sanitizer. I found a one ounce bottle of Purell, which is gelled alcohol. It has an indefinate shelf-life and will disinfect wounds just as well as it does hands. It's also a handy fire starting aid, but that's not strictly first-aid related. $1.00.

    Super glue. Generic super glue works wonders for closing small cuts. It stings a bit, but if applied over the top of a cut that is being held closed, it bonds the skin almost immediately (if you've ever glued your fingers together, you know how fast it sets). 2 tiny tubes for $1.00.

    Emergency blanket. One of the cheap “Space blankets” found in the camping supplies aisle. This one wasn't as cheap as some I've bought, but they're all aluminum-covered Mylar and they all do the same job. Reflecting up to 80% of body heat, these little blankets are useful for treating and preventing shock. $1.99.

    Flashlight. I have more flashlights than I know what to do with, but I always keep one in my first aid kit. Checking pupil dilation requires a light source (training required) and I have often needed extra light when trying to find or treat an injury. This one is a throw-away LED light, I can replace it easily and it is stored with the batteries out of the light. $1.00.

    Everything laid out... 

    .. and when packed in the bag

    Things Which Eluded Me

    I was unable to find a pair of EMT shears in either of the dollar stores that I shopped at, but I have spares so one will go into the kit. EMT shears are right up there with rolled gauze and triangular bandages in utility. There's not much you can't cut with them, as I used to show the Cub Scouts by cutting pennies in half. They make short work of seat belts, clothing, and light metal, and the rounded nose keeps you from inflicting damage (most of the time). They can be found on Amazon or picked up at an actual pharmacy/health care supply store for a few dollars.

    Tourniquets are a specialty item, so I didn't expect to find them in a dollar store. Give me a stick and one of the bandannas and I'll make a field-expedient tourniquet. I can think of several ways to make one, so the lack of one doesn't bother me as much as some (tactical) folks think it should. 

    With the recent (2016) changes in CPR training, they now emphasize rapid compressions and breathing is secondary, I'm finding it harder to locate CPR shields to protect the aid-giver from contact with potentially dangerous bodily fluids. I can get them online, so they're on my shopping list. Get CPR training through the Red Cross or American Heart Association, it's cheap and a lot of businesses will pay for their employees' training.


    Supplies totaled up to $23.13, but the bag was $8.00 and that puts me at $31.13, slightly over the $30 limit. 

    To remedy this, I also picked up a plastic container with a latching lid. Made of hard plastic and thinner than the bag, the 11”x”x6”x2” box held everything once I got rid of all the extra packaging. It only cost $2.75, dropping my total to $25.88.

    I think I'll stick with the bag for convenience, durability, and the extra room to add to the kit later.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2018

    Scott's $30 IFAK Challenge

    When we the staff at BCP decided to try our hands at making a $30 emergency kit, I thought about the restrictions and, based on those, made an executive decision:

    I would purchase everything from one physical storefront, traveling to and from it by foot or by bicycle.

    I figure that there are plenty of other reviewers who will order things online, and plenty who will take time to carefully cultivate a specific list of what is needed. I, on the other hand, showed up at the store, and could only purchase what was physically available in a single visit.
    • The first thing I looked for was something to carry things in. I found a small laundry hamper (about 1.2 cubic feet) with comfortable handles and holes in the sides. This gave me a large enough container to hold everything, and has plenty of spots to which I could tie things. 
    • I then purchased a four-foot three-prong extension cord, and have since braided it into a comfortable handle. In a pinch, it will still serve as an extension cord.
    • I bought a binder pouch and put into it super glue, band aids, nitrite gloves, electrical tape, allergy pills, acetaminophen (paracetamol) and antibiotic gel. I figure that this is the core of my first aid kit. 
    • I also had bandages and rubbing alcohol, but those did not fit into the binder pouch. 
    • If I were to assemble this kit without the restrictions I put on myself, I would purchase proper medical tape of some sort.
    • I made sure to buy a razor knife (to cut things accurately) and some feminine napkins (in case of a major spill of some sort). 
    • I figured that being able to start a fire is important in an emergency, so I got a lighter and sparklers. Sparklers are not as useful for starting a fire, but they will stay lit in damp conditions, and along with the rubbing alcohol above they will make it easier to get recalcitrant tinder started. 
    • I put in a flashlight and spare AAA batteries. It is surprisingly bright, and LED flashlights have come a long way. 
    • Complimenting the light are a mylar blanket and emergency poncho in case of foul weather.
    • I decided to purchase some cotton string and a four-pack of glow sticks, so that I would have a method to mark off areas and possibly even signal for help.
    • At the end of my shopping trip, I had room in the budget for some one-liter water bottles and granola bars
    Total cost: $28.66 including tax.

    This should give me an inexpensive, light, portable kit that I can keep in the back of a car, on my shelf, or even strapped onto the back of a BoB. This is affordable for a college student, someone on a fixed income, or even someone who wants to start prepping and is not sure how to start. I figure this makes it a fairly accessible item.

    • If I had spent more time on this, I would have gone to another dollar store and gotten one of the cheap “back to school” backpacks they have in stock, or even a duffel bag. 
    • I also would have made sure to put in a suture kit and a tourniquet, but given the limitations of what I had on hand, I feel I did pretty well.

    Don’t forget to practice.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    Rhi's $30 IFAK Challenge

    I don't do as much writing for BCP as I used to, but I still like to keep my hand in. This means that when something like this challenge is presented, I enjoy taking part, both for the chance to write about something that interests me and for the competitive edge against myself.

    Our ever-faithful Editrix Erin posted yesterday about her own take on the IFAK Challenge from Chaplain Tim. Its a good read, and the take is much like Erin: solid and with a unique perspective.

    Like everyone else who decided to take part, I budgeted $30 total and shopped only at places available to everyone, either retail outlets or online. My choices included Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, and The vast majority came from Dollar Tree, simply due to pricing; I can purchase a lot there for a very small amount, and it was a fantastic means of stretching a budget so much that I could hear my change squealing in pain.


    My first stop was at Wal-Mart for my only major purchase. It was also my most expensive purchase at $11.13 after tax and it is composed of two separate items.

    The Equate All Purpose First Aid Kit (cost $9.88) is the same one I use in my personal BoB. This comes with gloves, antiseptic wipes, a wide variety of bandages and gauze pads for wound closures as well as medical tape for the gauze pads. Also included are a few small packets of antibiotic ointment, tweezers, an instant cold pack, and butterfly closures. Its a good all-around start for a basic first aid kit that comes with a very reasonable price tag.

    The other addition from Wal-Mart was a pair of white terry wash cloths from the bath & bedding department. They were on sale in a 4 pack for $1, and I just couldn't pass that up. Wash cloths have a huge variety of uses ranging from bandaging to wound dressings to the simple use of cleaning an area of blood so that it can be better treated. They can also be cut into multiple long strips for tying splints.


    My second "stop" was actually a bit of online shopping which took place months ago, before the challenge was issued. The items purchased, however, should still be available, and since I already had them it meant I wouldn't have to wait on shipping times to include them.

    My first choice from my various list is a Tourniquet that I managed to purchase for $1. I actually got 3 of them when I made the purchase initially, and they're still available at that price, so instead of ordering more I simply moved one of my spares into this Challenge Kit.

    Second choice from Wish was a couple of rolls of Self-Adhering Elastic Bandage. I chose 2 rolls so I would have some spare for my personal bag, but I'm only counting 1 roll for this, at $2.

    Third on the purchase list at Wish was a set of Iodine Swabs for wound cleaning. They are currently listed for $6, but I managed to get them while they were on sale for the impressive price of $1 for 100 swabs.

    The total spent at was $4, other than shipping, which I'm not going to include since it depends on your location.

    Dollar Tree

    By this point I had spent almost exactly half my budget. I knew I could add significantly to my kit for the amount I had remaining, but I also knew I was going to have to get seriously creative on some of my additions.

    I'm cheap. I admit that I'm cheap. I love shopping when I can spend very little and get a lot, and that's why Dollar Tree has appealed to me for several years. Being able to stick to the rest of my budget and still achieve a wide variety of useful items was a decided win.

    This would be the whole haul of 14 separate items from Dollar Tree.

    I started with the obvious stuff in the health area: Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, along with Low-Dose Aspirin. Not everyone can take any one type, and the Aspirin is good for potential heart attacks as well.

    The anti-diarrhea and laxative meds speak for themselves, as should the Daytime/Nighttime allergy relief. An ace style bandage wrap, antiseptic wipes, and alcohol-based hand sanitizer were all obvious choices to me.

    The items which weren't so obvious were still easy picks to my mind. There's a package of crafting Popsicle sticks to use for splinting, and as something to hold things open in a hygienic manner.

    Tampons make a good wound packing material, since they are absorbent cotton and come in a individual packaging. The plastic applicator from those could also easily be used either for wound drainage, or for an emergency tracheotomy.

    The small travel sewing kit has a wide variety of materials held within, which can be used for anything from holding bandages in place (the safety pins) or as an impromptu suturing kit. It also contains a small pair of scissors, which will ultimately help with the medical tape when using the gauze from the initial basic kit.

    The final item from my brief spree at Dollar Tree was a roll of Duct Tape. It has far too many uses to start listing them here, unless I want Erin growling at me for the next 2 days.

    Total spent at Dollar Tree was $14 plus tax, which around here meant $15.62 total.

    My Money's Worth

    At the end of the day, I managed to stay mostly in budget, mainly by fudging on the shipping costs from since I was ordering for myself at the same time as for the challenge, and the shipping charges wouldn't have changed.
    • Wal-Mart = $11.13
    • = $ 4.00
    • Dollar Tree   = $15.62
    Grand total = $30.75 due to taxes.

    Monday, July 9, 2018

    Erin's $30 IFAK Challenge

    & is used with permission.
    Last week Chaplain Tim challenged us to build an IFAK using only $30 and only using sources that anyone can find (like Walmart, Amazon, a Dollar Store, etc). Here's my submission, and let me tell you, I am not happy with it.

    The main reason I'm not happy with it is because a decent tourniquet alone is going to cost $30 or more, and when I think IFAK I think "Infatryman's First Aid Kit" which to me means "bullet wound" which means "Needs a tourniquet."

    With that objection noted, here's what I put together:

    Adventure Medical Trauma Pak with Advanced Clotting Sponge

    • (1) QuikClot 25g Sponge (Zeolite)
    • (1) 5” x 9” Trauma Pad
    • (1) Pair Nitrile Gloves
    • (1) Hand Wipe
    • (1) 2” x 26” Duct Tape
    • (1) Triangular Bandage
    • (1) Package 4” x 4” Sterile Gauze Dressing, 2 dressings per package
    • (1) Package 2” x 2” Sterile Gauze Dressing Pkg, 2 dressings per package
    • (1) 3” Conforming Gauze Bandage
    • (4) After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipe (Lidocaine Hydrochloride, Benzalkonium Chloride)
    • (1) Re-Sealable Bag for Bio-Waste and Sucking Chest Wounds

    Reasoning: With a clotting sponge, trauma pad, gauze, and the ability to improvise a chest seal, this is most of what I think I'd need to handle any wound that I feel comfortable treating and is the core of my budget IFAK.

    Cost: $18.93 with a $3.30 coupon, for a total of $15.60. ($14.40 remaining)

    Israeli Bandage Battle Dressing First Aid Compression Bandage, 6 Inch 

    Contents: (1) vacuum-sealed 6" wide dressing

    Reasoning: The Israeli bandage acts as a primary dressing, pressure applicator, and secondary dressing all in one unit. Between it and the trauma pad + QuikClot combo above, I can treat multiple wounds or a through-and-through that is bleeding on both sides.

    Cost: $8.89 with free shipping. ($5.51 remaining)

    Ready America First Aid Pocket Kit, 33-Piece

    Contents: See picture, above.

    Reasoning: This rounds out the IFAK with band-aids for booboos, pain killers and antibiotic ointment.

    Cost: $3.97 and free shipping for Prime members (which I am) when buying this with other items totaling $25 or more (which I am, with the Adventure Medical Kit and Israeli Bandage -- apparently the $3.30 coupon doesn't count against the $25 total).

    Total Cost to Me: $28.92

    Addendum: Adding a Tourniquet

    If I'm allowed to go over budget by just $16.97, I can add a Recon Medical TQ. The addition of a tourniquet would make me feel a lot better about this IFAK, because then I can treat arterial wounds and traumatic limb loss.

    DISCLAIMER: I have no idea regarding the quality of the product. It looks a lot like the North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) at half the price, but I don't know the design differences between the two brands or if this is a shoddy knockoff.

    It does have a 5-star Amazon rating with over 1200 reviews and 87% of them giving it 5 stars. I recognize that this is not proof of quality, but that's a lot of anecdotal evidence by verified purchasers, many of whom claim to be in law enforcement, the military or fire/EMS. I would think that if it were junk, there would be far more negative reviews.

    That said, I'd still purchase a CAT or a SOFTT-W over this one, simply because I know I can trust my life to them.

    Thursday, July 5, 2018

    The IFAK

    One of the basic prepper tools is a first aid kit. "First aid" covers almost all medical treatment given before a medical professional is involved, so it's a vague term; for some people with limited training first aid is the box of bandages and hydrogen peroxide in the medicine cabinet, while others carry a bag full of supplies suitable for responding to major trauma. Wherever you fall in the spectrum between those two extremes, an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) should be on your list of preps. Ideally, an IFAK should always be within reach, but keeping it in a desk drawer or glove box is better than not having one at all.

    The concept of an IFAK came from the military, so a lot of the “tactical” preppers think that is the only way to go. Giving a soldier the means to treat wounds before a medic could get to him increases that soldier's chances of survival, but we're not all soldiers. For those of us who don't spend our days in a combat zone, the contents of an IFAK will change according to our training, budget, and perceived threats. More on that later.

    During WW2 first aid kits were large and carried by a medic, someone with limited medical training. The contents and use of that type of kit can be found here, and some of the treatments are outdated or illegal today. (Can you imagine having to explain Morphine injectors to a cop at a traffic stop?) Fast-forward to the current wars and combat operations, and every soldier carries his own first aid kit for use on himself or another soldier. The contents of current kits varies by branch, so I'll break them down that way.

    • Tourniquet, Combat Application
    • Elastic bandage
    • Gauze bandage, 4”x4”
    • 2” surgical tape, 6' roll
    • 4 exam gloves
    • Nasopharyngeal airway

    Air Force
    • 2 Israeli bandages
    • 2 Gauze bandages, 4.5” x 148”
    • EMS shears
    • Nasopharyngeal airway
    • Surgical tape, 1”x 360”

    • 2 Tourni-Kwik tourniquets
    • 2 “H” compression bandages w/ 8”x10” pad
    • 2 Gauze bandages, 4.5”x148”
    • 5 Bandaids, 2”x4.5”
    • 10 Bandaids 3/4”x3”
    • 2 Triangular bandages 40”x40”x56”
    • Waterproof tape, 2”x100”
    • Burn dressing, Water-Jel, 4”x16”
    • 8 Antibacterial ointment packets
    • ½ oz bottle of Povidone-iodine solution
    • 10 water purification tablets, Katadyn Micropur brand

    As you can see, the various branches have tailored their kits to meet the injuries they expect to see with a few basics common to all three. Compression bandages are good at stopping bleeding from wounds, surgical tape is handy in a lot of ways, and gauze bandages have been used for at least a century on the battlefield. Consider this if you're trying to put together a kit of your own, or if you're modifying a kit, rather than buying a pre-packed kit: you want to have what you think you'll need and have the training to use. For example, the nasopharyngeal airways are tricky to use and come in a variety of sizes.

    The $30 IFAK Challenge
    I have challenged the other authors here to put together a cheap ($30) IFAK to see what each of us thinks is most important to have at hand on a daily basis, so expect to see a few articles about them in the near future. My build will be posted next week, since I wanted to get this bit of comparison/history written first.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2018

    On Independence

    I've given David the day off, so enjoy this post from last year. -- Erin

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
    As this post goes live, it is Tuesday, July 4, 2017. It is also Independence Day. On this day 241 years ago, 56 men risked everything they had to ratify a document declaring that they would no longer be subjects to the ruler of a distant land.

    Liberty, and everything that comes with it, was dear enough that men were willing to risk everything to obtain it. Failure meant certain death, as well as a permanent stain on their families and progeny.

    In the modern day, we celebrate the success of their daring venture. The parades date back to young men (and some old men) marching off to war with a grand farewell. The fireworks are an analog of the artillery fire that has cleared the way for those brave men since the dawn of our nation.

    Don't feel guilty if you barbecue, or go to car shows, or go camping or boating or whatever with your family for this holiday. Blood and treasure has been shed for two and a half centuries to secure your right to spend time with the people that matter to you. If patriotic displays or quiet remembrance are more your speed, that's perfectly appropriate, too; the memories of the lives spent in service are worth keeping.

    Lives have been pledged to the ideals of this nation since before the Declaration of Independence was even ratified, a tradition which has continued uninterrupted. While at times our military was much smaller, we have always had a core of professional officers and specialists that recruits could rally around. As warfare became more complex and involved, a cadre of true professional soldiers has arisen to fill that role. The stunning part is that all of these professionals are volunteers. We haven't had conscript soldiers in my entire lifetime, and for nearly a decade before.

    Knowing that our men and women in uniform all raised their hand of their own free will makes the final line of the Declaration even more poignant:
    "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
    Honor those who have purchased liberty, in whatever way you see fit. That is the nature of freedom, and that is what they have secured for us all.


    The Fine Print

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

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