Friday, August 31, 2018


This is the beginning of a new series on the different types of bugging out, and what kind of bags are good for each.

This week: definitions for all those acronyms, some sample bags, plus some neat stuff I found at garage sales.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Improvised Self-Defense Weapons, part 2

On Monday, Scott wrote about using things close at hand as makeshift weapons. This brought to mind a series of books that I read a long time ago, and still have packed away somewhere.

Back in the days before terrorism became a viable excuse for banning books and declaring certain information “forbidden”, we had access to books (the internet hadn't been created yet) that would scare most people today. Paladin Press published books that you couldn't find in most book stores, and they would ship to anyone with the money to buy. Authors like Ragnar Benson described the practical uses of high explosives and how to make them, Kurt Saxon had a series of books titled The Poor Man'sJames Bond that covered improvised weapons and a lot of chemistry, and The Anarchist Cookbook was still available. I once met a man at a gun show who was selling a set of books that he had written; he was a microbiologist who had been screwed by the system so thoroughly that he wanted to see it fall apart. His books covered, in great detail, how to create and use various chemical and biological weapons using household equipment. The FBI spent years shutting him down, but his books are still out there. Ah, the good old days.

The set of books that Scott's article reminded me of is titled Black Medicine.  The first book was subtitled The Dark Art of Death, followed by Weapons At Hand, Low Blows, and ending with Equalizers. Written by a medical doctor named N. Mashiro, the information is clear and concise. The books aren't very big, but they are full of information.

The Dark Art of Death covered the medical side of dealing damage to a human body: what parts of the body are the best targets and how to attack them. Since the object of the book is to stop a person, the author focuses on stopping the mechanics of the human body.

Weapons At Hand focuses on the parts of your body that make the best weapons as well as the myriad things around you that can be used as a weapon in a pinch. A few examples:
  • Punching someone in the face is a bad idea, since skulls are hard and fingers are fairly fragile. Aim lower, for the throat.
  • Anything with a cord attached can be swung to increase the speed and energy of the impact: Alarm clocks, telephones (the old ones), etc.
  • Pens, pencils, anything that is harder than your hand will keep you from damaging yourself  if you poke with it rather than your finger. 
  • There are a lot of things in spray cans that can be used as a weapon. Bug sprays work well; most of them are petroleum-based and will burn if needed. The insecticide is slow-acting, but will provide a second-level of damage.
Low Blows describes how to apply the information in the first two books in a fight. Mainly aimed at martial artists, some of the holds and blows are easy to practice and helpful in a fight.

The fourth book,  Equalizers, covers the use of more modern weapons, but I don't have a copy so I can't comment on the quality of the information. I would suggest looking around on some used-book sites for better prices ($200 for a paperback is insane).

I'm going to see if I can find my copies and re-read them, just to see how well the information has stood the test of time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Prudent Prepping: the Becker BK-2

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

Garry Hamilton, a member of the Blue Collar Prepping Facebook Group, is a fan of knives and recently offered to share a knife with several of us! The knife, a Becker BK-2, is to be used in as normal fashion as possible and then reviewed here.

Here is a short video talking about the history of the Becker Knife/Ka-Bar Company.

And this is the Becker BK-2 I have been loaned for review.

 BK-2 (bottom) with Kershaw Leek (top) for scale

First Impressions
This knife is BEEFY! The handle is sized right for me: not too big around to hold easily and long enough to fit well in my hand.

From the BK-2 website:
  • Weight, 1.0 lb
  •  Measurements- Blade length 5.25"; Overall length 10.5"
  •  Blade Thickness 0.250*
  •  Blade Width 1.625
  •  Edge Angles 20 Degrees**
  •  Grind, Flat
  •  Steel, 1095 Cro-Van
There is more info on the page listed above.

 (Left) BK-5 (Right) BK-2
* Yes, you read that correctly, the blade of this knife is 1/4" thick! That's why a knife 10" long weighs a pound. In comparison, here is a picture of the (now discontinued) BK-5 to show how stout the BK-2 really is.

The BK-5 is:
  • Overall Length: 13-1/2"
  •  Blade Length: 8"
  •  Thickness: 0.188"
  •  Weight: 11.9 oz
So you have two knives, one 40% longer and 3/4 the weight of the other, but the BK-2 feels much, much heavier, due to the weight not being spread out.

The BK-2 can obviously be used to baton wood, while the BK-5 is, for all intents and purposes, an all-black version of the WW2 Marine fighting knife.

** From discussions in BCP and elsewhere, grind angles have been mentioned several different times and how handy it would be to have them listed in sales literature or Owners Manuals. Ka-Bar shows angles on their Specification pages!

I plan on using this and reporting back very soon!

The Recap
  • One Ka-Bar BK-2 knife:  $72.80 from Amazon with Prime.

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, August 28, 2018

Guest Post: The Preps Nobody Wants to Do

by Xander Opal

There are preparations for disaster that nobody wants to do because their very nature makes people confront their own mortality and that of those they love, yet not even considering these things makes a rough time even worse.

Nobody wants to face the fact that someday their grandparents, their parents, even they themselves will die. In the midst of dealing with a death in the family, though, it is hard to get all the necessary details correct, or even some of the important things taken care of.

This sober article has been written with the perspective of someone who has had to deal with some of these very issues very recently.

Know Your Work Policies
Different workplaces have different rules regarding allowed time for dealing with a death in the family. Some might not have allotted bereavement time, or the time might not be enough to deal with everything that has to be dealt with. Some jobs require proof, such as a copy of the funeral program, to prevent others from abusing the system.

A good checklist of actions when requesting bereavement leave:
  1. Notify your boss
  2. Notify Human Resources
  3. Arrange the time off with whichever of the above is appropriate for your workplace
  4. Notify coworkers who depend on you and/or fill in for you
  5. Follow up within 24 hours if any of the above did not respond (for example, you left them a voicemail/email and they haven't gotten back to you). If the usual person in any of the positions above has someone filling in for them, make sure both they and the person filling in are both notified.

Know Who to Lean On
Many people are really out of it when a death occurs, breaking part of their world. It can help to know who you can turn to among friends and family to talk things over, who is responsible enough to remind you of the things that need doing, and who is reliable enough to help you do what needs doing.

Know Who to Support
Being helpful can help someone deal with the grief of the situation themselves. Be aware that you aren't the only one grieving; other family and friends are also scrambling to manage in a bad time and might need an ear or a hand. Someone, somewhere, doesn't have time to deal with simple things like food. A sandwich platter or a cheese/crackers/meat platter refrigerates well and will be ready for just when it is needed, such as during a break in the visitation period.

Know You Have Something to Wear
Depending on your lifestyle, you might not regularly wear a serious dress or suit. If not, make sure that you have something appropriate for a funeral that both fits and is clean. For a non-random example, I discovered that the clothes I last wore at a cousin's wedding were missing a button and had a stain; the dry cleaners had them ready (barely) the night before my grandmother's funeral.

Know You Have a Place to Stay
In modern times, people move a good distance away from family to meet the demands of work, desires of a place to live, and other reasons as varied as there are people. This means needing a place to stay, either with relatives, a friend, or at a hotel. Conversely, if you have a guest room, be prepared to be asked to help with out-of-town relatives and work out the best arrangement for all.

Know Everybody Knows the Plan
If "everybody knows something", somebody surely doesn't. It's an embarrassing thing to have a key person in funeral proceedings not know that a time was changed, even if the funeral director is on the ball and quickly finds a substitute. Better someone gets the information twice than not at all.

Know the Departed's Wishes
I've heard it said that "If you hate your family, don't have a will" and a will makes it clear what to do. While you cannot make someone take care of this key piece of planning, I highly recommend asking one's parents or grandparents to have one so things are done the way they'd like it after they are gone. Even if there are no items of monetary value, there are often little things that are precious mementos to one or more family members.

Know the Good Memories
A friend of mine recommended this, and I am making it a tradition: when a family member is deathly ill, or even after they pass suddenly, get a quality bound journal and good pens. Title it something appropriate, and take turns passing it around family and friends to write good memories about the person the journal is for. So long as a person is remembered, they are not truly gone, especially so if the memories are good ones.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Improvised Weapons for Self-Defense

When SHTF, you may need to defend yourself. And when that happens, you may not have your preferred option, such as a pistol, at hand. In fact, you may find yourself in a location, such as a FEMA camp, that will not allow you to carry a personal defense weapon.

First, some advice:
  1. Remember what you have on you,  and remember that even a show of force is often enough to make people go away. What this means is that when an individual who carries a weapon is confronted, he often only has to present the weapon in order to avoid conflict.
  2. Make sure that you’re aware of your local municipality laws. This article assumes that you do not carry a handgun for whatever reason, and the local laws may be one of them. These laws often extend to knives, and even pepper spray is  banned in some areas, so be careful.

Here are a few recommendations for improvised self-defense weapons:
  • Metal chopsticks, especially if the ends have been sharpened. They don't present an obvious threat, can be carried into offices and similar, and make a dandy defensive weapon. I know women who use them as hair sticks, and I often carry a (unsharpened) set as eating utensils. 
  • A heavy food-service fork in your pocket, in case you want to eat a salad in an emergency, can also be used to poke into other things.
  • The ever-popular tactical pen (I am fond of this one) certainly has a place in self-defense.  Despite lacking an edge, it is very unpleasant to be jabbed with one. If this is too tactical to pass muster, or carrying one is forbidden, use a metal drafting pencil instead. 
  • An adjustable wrench kept to make repairs is not considered a weapon, especially if carried in a steel tool box (which can also serve as a deterrent). Nor is a lug wrench, which can be quite large. Pipe wrenches are both large and heavy and not easily carried, but is suitable for a car... or, again, a tool box. 
  • Walking sticks are an ever-popular method to deal with unwanted pests, be they two-legged or four-legged. There are also ski poles that have nice sharp metal ends for digging into rough terrain.
  • Inside a building, there are all sorts of environmental advantages to anyone who decides to use them defensively. Chairs, tables, and the odd fire extinguisher on the wall all make handy bashing weapons, should you need to use one.
  • Innocuous things that most people would never think of as a potential weapon, like a laptop, make dandy bashing weapons. (I do not recommend this in most circumstances, since laptops are expensive, and you’ll either have to replace your laptop, or potentially somebody else’s).
  • A cell phone grasped firmly, especially with a rugged case like an OtterBox, can serve as a blunt striking weapon when there is absolutely nothing else. 
  • Even a book can be used as a weapon.

At the end of the day, the ultimate weapon is your mind. Remember that objects don't make people dangerous; people make objects dangerous.

Be a dangerous person, and don’t forget to practice.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Cheap Data Backup

We've all been there: the computer freezes up one last time and won't reboot. All of your digital work, photos, and contacts are on that computer, and now it's dead.
If you're serious about your digital efforts you have some form of backup, such as an online storage account (commonly referred to as “the cloud”), an external hard drive, or you burn copies to a thumb drive and store it somewhere safe.

If you don't have your work backed up, the friendly people at the computer store will gladly take a lot of your money to try to recover it without guaranteeing that they will be able to get it (and they'll likely make a copy of what they do find for their own purposes).

Online Storage
Storing files in the cloud is simply putting them on someone else's computer, and so you're going to need internet access to that other computer to retrieve your data. Make sure your data is encrypted on both ends of the transfer to keep nosy people out of your business. The big data companies have a dismal track record when it comes to respecting privacy. Just remember: if it's a free service,  you're the product, not the customer. 

Burn It to Local (Hard) Storage
In the old days, we used CD/DVD media to store important documents, but it's getting to the point where those are obsolete due to optical drives being not as common as they once were. I still have 3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives on my shelf, but I doubt I could make any of them work with a newer computer. Fortunately,  USB seems to be fairly stable and a thumb drive is a cheap way to store a lot in a small space.

External Drives
External drives are fairly cheap, usually under $100 for a decent size. They use the same hard drives (HD) as a computer, so they have the same potential for failure, but they don't have all of the other parts that can cause a computer to fail. This opens up a few options if your computer dies.

As long as the computer died of something other than a HD failure, your files are still there and easy to extract onto another computer. External drive enclosures are a cheap way to take a stab at recovering the files from a dead computer. If you can properly field-strip a weapon and get it back together with no left over parts, you can handle this.

If you're working on a laptop, it'll likely have a physically small (1.8 or 2.5 inch) hard drive hidden under a panel on the bottom; most of mine are accessible by removing a couple of screws and popping the panel off. Removing the drive is usually simple, usually held in place with a screw or a bracket that is screwed to the motherboard. The cable should be a standard SATA (Serial ATA) cable if it's less than 10 years old. You'll need to buy somethinglike this and follow the instructions for installing the hard drive in the new enclosure. Plug it into a USB port, and as long as the HD is good your files are there for you to play with again. After you save your digital work, you now have an extra external HD to use for redundant backup.

Desktop or tower computers can use larger (3.5 inch) drives and will require a different adapter. They also require more poser than you can get through a USB cable, so most come with their own power supply. If you're moving the files to another desktop computer, you may be able to simply plug the old drive into a spare plug on the wiring harness that goes to the new computer's HD (a lot depends on the age of your equipment), but this is an option best left to someone familiar with the internals of a computer. The simple method is to buy something like this and plug the HD from the dead computer into the adapter and then plug the adapter into your new computer's USB port. Removing the HD is simple, usually a connector or two and a few screws. If the old HD is still working, it will show up as an external drive and all of your files will be there for you to transfer.

Don't be afraid to play with a dead computer! It's not like you're going to kill it any worse. I've picked up broken laptops cheap or free because the screen was broken and gotten a good HD to use as external storage out of them.

Back up your data, and try to have redundant storage for the really important stuff.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Prudent Prepping: Gear Check

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

It's my scheduled time to look look over my junk, wherever I keep it.

Stored Gear Check
My calendar showed a notice that it is time to go through my emergency food to look for short "Use By" dates, and I found several one pound bags of pasta with six months left. I decided to donate them to the Food Bank and replace them with the identical brand from the local discount grocery store. Nothing else is close to going past the date until next year, but I will more than likely pull a bunch of those things out around Thanksgiving and make another donation.

While doing this, the stored water jugs were dumped, rinsed and refilled. It isn't necessary to change out water as often as this since it won't spoil, but I just do it since I have to get to the back of my closet anyway.

Related to stored gear, I had an opportunity to break out my suit last week only to discover it had been damaged by moths (first mentioned in this post). When I first discovered the moths everything was checked and cleaned, but the moth damage didn't show up as clearly as on my sweaters stored in that end of the closet. I now have a nice wool suit that has several pinholes in the pants and a small hole in the jacket, and fortunately you can't see them unless you really look for them. I don't need to wear a suit again until November, so there is still time to explore repair or replacement options.

Seasonal Gear Check
It's still very hot and dry here, but rain and cold (for California) weather is due, so I'm looking at all the things that will be rotated into and out of my GHB in the next few months. I pulled another snap out of my Goretex jacket this Spring, so before I need it it's going to Marmot to get a replacement installed... for free! I've had a zipper pull replaced before, and Marmot's Customer Service is amazing.

My GHB is lined with a plastic trash bag for waterproofing, but I'd like to get it out since the liner bag has to be moved around to find anything. There are several different water repellent products out now that compete with good ol' Scotchgard. I will look at treating the bag with the best rated and longest lasting water proofing.

This last isn't really a seasonal item, but I've been saving up for a pair of dedicated hiking boots to wear in place of the tennis-shoe-with-Vibram I wear now. I'm tired of buying a half size larger in a generic wide shoe just to be close to a shoe that fits! Due to the fact I wear a EEE (or EEEE, depending on the brand) shoe, and that several brands recommended to me like Danner do not have full-service stores close, I'm going to Red Wing. I haven't been there yet, but they had work boots in my size when I worked construction many, many years ago. A full report on the buying process and break-in will follow the purchase.

The Takeaway
  • Looking after your gear well before you need it is not just prudent, it's necessary.

The Recap
  • My good jacket taking a trip to the manufacturer for repair: $0.00
  • Waterproof treatment for my GHB: unknown cost at the moment
  • New hiking boots from Red Wing: final cost is also unknown, but estimated between $150- $200 

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, August 21, 2018

The Zeer Pot

& is used with permission.
The Zeer Pot, also known as the clay pot cooler or the pot-in-pot refrigerator, is a low-tech way to keep food, medicine, and other perishables cool.

Having been invented in North Africa and the Middle East, the zeer pot uses evaporative cooling to keep objects cooler than the environment in a manner similar to a swamp cooler, and like a swamp cooler it requires an environment of low humidity (10-30%) such as the desert, badlands, or other dry and windy places. In areas of medium humidity or above, it will work poorly or not at all.

Making a Zeer Pot

  • Two unglazed terra cotta pots
    • One pot needs to be smaller than the other such that it can sit inside the first with a 2-3 inch gap around all sides
  • Sand
  • Duct tape
  • A cloth able to fit over the top of both pots
  • A lid (optional)

  1. Use the duct tape to close off the hole at the bottom of the largest pot. 
  2. Place a layer of sand inside the large pot until the lip of the smaller pot is equal to (or slightly higher than) the lip of the larger one. 
  3. Place the smaller pot inside and carefully layer sand around the sides, making sure the smaller pot doesn't move and an equal circumference is achieved. Using strips of tape to secure the lip of the smaller pot to the larger will help in this regard. 
  4. Fill and pack with sand until the inner pot is tight. 
  5. Place zeer pot on a stand that exposes the bottom (such as with three stones) in a place out of direct sunlight but where wind can blow around it. 

  1. Slowly pour water into the sand between the pots. If you pour too quickly, you risk disturbing the sand or washing it away. 
  2. Wait until the outer pot is dark with absorbed water. 
  3. Check the inner pot. If it is cool, place the items you wish to refrigerate inside. 
  4. Add more water to the sand. 
  5. Cover inner pot with lid, if available. 
  6. Wet cloth and cover pot. 
  7. Add water to both sand and cloth as necessary. 

The sand serves as both a storage medium for the water and as a cooling material. When moistened, it will cool down as it evaporates. With the surface area of the sand against the outer pot, the majority of the moisture will be drawn through the terra cotta of the outer pot, which will also cool as it evaporates. This  evaporative cooling will lower the ambient temperature inside the pot.

The zeer pot works on the same principles as your body does to cool itself with sweat; just replace the food with your internal organs, the sand with your blood, and the outer pot with your skin. This serves as a handy guide for where best to place the pot: put it wherever you are most comfortable.

Important Note!
Due to the ratio of surface area to volume, many smaller pots work better than one large pot (I would recommend no outer pot larger than 18" across). The zeer pot needs a large moist surface area to cool its inner volume, but as you increase the volume of the pot the surface area requirements increase drastically. (In math speak: its volume will increase proportional to the cube of its linear dimensions, but its surface area will only increase in proportion to the square of its linear dimensions.)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Emergency Self-Defense

I like to start off my posts with something funny and memorable, but I am going to tone that down for this post because of the subject matter.

Preppers talk about TETOWAKI or SHTF a lot. Both of those terms imply that something has gone horribly wrong with society, at least on a local basis, but even if all else is well you may find yourself in an emergency that requires that you defend your life at any time. With luck and situational awareness you can avoid most of these situations -- but not always.

One of my favorite quotes is “There are no dangerous items, only dangerous people”. In self-defense, be a dangerous person.


The first step is to make sure that you don’t have an emergency. Keeping an eye out can save a lot of grief, and there are articles in the archive on the subject that cover this in depth. Having situational awareness makes a difference, if for no other reason than that it makes you look like less of a target. Having any potential threats view you as "too difficult to bother with" can save you a whole lot of trouble.


If you are in an emergency, the most important thing you can do (unless you're a professional first responder) is to see if you can get away from the situation. I'm not kidding; run away if you can! There is nothing wrong with that. Talk to a martial arts instructor, and you will get the same advice.

Range can matter, even if it's just to find a place to hide, gather your thoughts, and strike back.

I understand that retreat is not an option for some people; for example, those of you in wheelchairs have a much harder time in getting away. This is where the next item comes into play.


Little things matter, like keeping a cell phone charged, knowing what your local weapons laws are, and keeping it somewhere accessible if you carry one. Even making sure that your shoes are tied can matter! In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.


Things are easier if you make them a habit.
  • Going to the movies? Find the exits. Make sure that you know how you will get to them, and if you have someone else with you, determine if you will need to help them in case of emergency.
  • Do you carry a weapon? Determine the best way to practice. Fifteen minutes of practice once a week in infinitely better than none, and can be done between other tasks.
  • Do local laws (or other situations) prohibit you from having a weapon? Lean some basics of unarmed self defense, and practice.
  • Do not rely on unarmed techniques to save your bacon. If you are dealing with someone who is larger than you, or armed, it can take a lot of skill to overcome that.
  • Make it a game: how much can you plan for while doing normal tasks?
Practice can make the difference between using a skill smoothly, and having it be a disaster. This is why I frequently end my blog posts with "Don’t forget to practice."


A lot of this comes down to being good at improvising.
  • Strange men are starting to follow you. "Where can I duck into to avoid them/how do I find a better position to defend myself?"
  • Someone attacks you, and you don’t have a legal means to defend yourself. "What in my environment will work to defend me? How can I use what I have on me?"
  • Etc.
Remember, be a dangerous person, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Stop the Bleed

We recently had several posts concerning a challenge issued among all the writers to produce an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) on a strict budget of $30. One thing that was rather common among all those articles is that they are tailored to the skill, training, and comfort levels of the individual writers. This was expected, since we all try very hard to write what we know.

We had some equipment that was fairly common among all of us, and things like bandages and gauze were, in fact, pretty universal. My personal kit is very trauma oriented - not just the standard scrapes and bruises that most contend with, but treating serious wounds, burns, broken bones, and life threatening situations.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not medical personnel, though I have taken courses over the years on doing First Responder duties, helping with triage, giving CPR, and basic first aid.  I'm no expert, but I'm not completely in the dark either.

I recently had an opportunity to take a free course in how to control bleeding from a traumatic injury until emergency services can get there to tend to the injured person. 80-90 % of traumatic injury deaths happen because a person bleeds out before they can get to the hospital to be treated by medical professionals. This course, called "Stop the Bleed", was developed by the American College of Surgeons in conjunction with The Committee on Trauma.  Information on the classes can be found at Their site can give you information on the purpose of the courses, the basic content, and where the courses can be taken.

The course is aimed at non-medical personnel and teaches them to be able to quickly respond to a situation while waiting for medical help to arrive. However, I was amused to find that I was the only non-medically trained person in the course when I took it! I'm not joking, I was the only person in class who wasn't a nurse, EMT, LEO, or medical student. Oddly enough, I was also the person in the class who carries the most comprehensive first aid kit, and the only one who carries that kit every where they go.

Don't think that traumatic injury can only happen in SHTF situations, though.  Life threatening bleeding injuries can happen under any number of circumstances, ranging from auto accidents to kitchen knife slips to natural disasters like a tornado throwing debris around. And of course, for those who prefer to be prepared for the potential ugliness of life, there are always things like lunatics bent on mass murder in a public setting, school shootings, gang violence, home invasion, and robbery at work to think about as potentials for traumatic injury.

Knowing how to stop, or at least seriously slow down, the bleeding from an ugly wound could mean the literal difference between life and death for you or a family member or friend.  Knowing how and when and where to use that tourniquet you bought, or whether its better to pack gauze into a wound or use the QuikClot you purchased, might make all the difference to someone. 

Take the time. Learn to use the equipment you have, and under which circumstances to use that equipment. Take a course designed to give you that knowledge (even if you aren't a medical professional) and you'll feel much more confident that you can handle any situation you happen to find yourself coming up against.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A New Meeting Place: BCP Discord

Many of us here are gamers, playing video games, board games, role-playing games, etc. When we play, we sometimes play as part of a group and communication is a huge part of working together. Those of us who play online use a service called Discord, a free service for chatting by text or voice over the Internet without the ads and snooping that come with most of the “messenger” apps.

I've never used Facebook's Messenger app. The one time I looked at it, I was shocked at how much they wanted access on my phone/computer. I went to the Google app store today and looked it up to see if they had changed, but sadly they still demand the ability to add or remove anything they want to from my contacts list, memory card, text messages, and even my accounts. I may be a touch paranoid, but the idea of giving a total stranger (who may not be friendly) the ability to modify, add, and delete files on my phone/computer is abhorrent. When you consider that the stranger may not like what they find, or may not like what you say and can add or subtract files that are admissible as evidence against you in a courtroom, you'd be daft to give them that access.

Discord doesn't ask for that level of access.
  • If you have an email address, you can set up an account. 
  • They need to be able to use your speaker and microphone to facilitate voice communication, and your camera so you can share pictures. 
  • They don't want to know your location, make phone calls, send text messages, or read confidential information from your calendar app like Facebook Messenger. 
  • Discord channels are also invitation-only and aren't searchable; the only way to join a conversation is to be invited into it, and most groups have varying levels of access and permissions to make changes.
All of this is to lay the groundwork for a new way to interact with the readers and writers here at Blue Collar Prepping. I have created a Discord server (their name for a chat channel) for our use. The writers here at BCP are also moderators on our Facebook page, and they will have moderator/admin access on the Discord server. 

If you decide to join us, you'll be directed to the Campfire, which is a general meeting place for all to visit. I'm still setting things up and there will be changes made as it grows, but I have text-chat areas set up for a few specific topics (first aid, firearms, weather-related discussions, etc). The voice chat area is a bit empty right now, but if there are enough requests we may be able to host a regular (weekly?) live chat or presentation of sorts. This is not limited to the writers of the blog; I want more input from you, the readers. To be honest, after almost 5 years of writing I'm starting to run out of ideas, so I need your input and questions to be able to write articles that are useful.

Live communication is something different than text. I feel it will allow for a better exchange of information if you can ask/answer questions without waiting a week or two for another blog post. I know there are readers out there with stories and information to share, and I'm trying to provide a way for us to connect with one another and maybe help each other out once in a while. 

Names will be changed to protect the innocent. They'll also get changed if you choose something offensive. 

There are still the usual BCP rules:
  • No politics. We're not here for that.
  • No blatant ads. There is a place for posting links to things you may have found, but we're not here to grow your business.
  • Three strikes and you're out. Warnings will be given for all but the most egregious acts. If you're really offensive, you won't get any warnings. I have limited the boot and b permissions for the participants. an privileges to a select few.
  • Keep it PG-13, please. We're all adults (mostly) here, but try to act like your mother is reading what you type.
Discord comes as a phone app (Apple and Android versions) as well as a PC app for Windows, Apple, and Linux. They all connect to the same servers, so if you already have an account you can just add BCP to your list. I'm still learning a lot about Discord and how to run a server, there are tools available that I am trying to find a good use for. Expect changes and improvements in the future.

I have an active game group that I am part of, so I check Discord quite often during the day. It doesn't slow down my phone like a web page would, and I can flip through the servers quickly to check for new messages. I have disabled push notifications so you won't be getting notified of anything except when someone mentions you by name.

If you want to check us out, install the app from one of the links above, then click on the link below. If you already have a Discord account, copy and paste the link into the “Join new server” spot.

BCP Discord server:

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prudent Prepping: the Winbag

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

I've had to open a car without the proper keys on occasion. That hasn't been a problem since I had the dealer make me extra copies, but it may be something I have to do in the future. The Winbag Inflatable Shim will help me do that without scratching paint or damaging door seals. Using it this way isn't exactly the manufacturer's  specified use, but it's close enough to the tool that tow companies use to get into cars for my purposes.
The Winbag is designed to lift cabinets, counters, windows and other items that will not need to be permanently shimmed after installation. This short video shows its intended use, but this short video shows my intended use! These are (as far as I can tell) identical items, with the same shape, size and inflation device. I have never seen the locksmith's model in real life, but I'm convinced of this from the pictures.

As the car video shows, the door needs to be wedged open a small amount to insert the bag and then the inflation bulb is squeezed like a blood pressure cuff.

From the Winbag website:
  • 300 LBS / 135 KILO force at your fingertips 
  • Gentle on surfaces leaving no scratches behind 
  • WINBAG® goes where we can’t! Tight spots and narrow locations 
  • As a “soft shim” against delicate surfaces

I didn't realize that an inflatable shim could be used to open a car door* until saw the Winbag on display in Home Depot. I don't own any lock picks or car entry tools, so after shimming (bagging?) a gap between the car door and frame, I plan on using a coat hanger or similar piece of wire.

(Sorry, I didn't try it out on my car, nor did any of my friends volunteer theirs!)

I have friends who are carpenters and cabinet guys who have used these as intended, and they have no complaints about the Winbag other other than every one of them wishing it was a little bit bigger in both  width and height.

*This post is in no manner an endorsement of breaking into cars!

The Takeaway
  • As usual for me, dual use items are staring me in the face. I just need to open my eyes and see them!

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, August 14, 2018

Making Winter Coats

Why am I talking about a winter coat in the summer? Because...

"Say what?"

If you've read our blog for any length of time, you know we're all geeks here.  It was only a matter of time before a Game of Thrones reference was made. But it's also relevant to this article because if you want to make a coat for winter you'd best start working on it now. 

I was initially going to show you how to crochet or knit a coat, but that would have made this post super-long. After the success of my apron post, I realized I don't have to break this down to such a level; there are a lot of resources out there that show how to make coats and can explain it far better than I can.

The Capote
A good example of a multi-purpose that is easy to make is the Capote (pronounced capo -- it's French), or blanket coat, of the North American frontier. These coats kept you warm but weren't fancy at all -- not unless you were fortunate enough to have a significant other who was a fair hand at embroidery or bead work.

The blanket coat is just that, a coat made out of a blanket, and I'm fairly certain quite a few people can immediately see the advantages to this:

  • Your blanket is already right there, cutting down on the amount you have to carry otherwise.
  • In summertime, it's your bed. 
  • Remember way back when I published my first security articles? I made mention of the wardrobe changes you should consider for SHTF (for reasons such as "being less of a target"). Coats like this hide your chest and hips really well. 
  • You can use a specific color pattern to identify yourselves, either individually or as a group, to each other when out and about in camp or in town. 
If you like how the capote looks, you can check The Matoska Trading Company.  They have several capote patterns based on the various geographical regions.  (Yes, there were differences in capote designs from area to area, but that's a historical subject and beyond the scope of this post.) There are also several capote patterns on Amazon.

Alternately, you can try your hand at making your own using these patterns I found on Pinterest:

Other Types of Coats
Back in the Middle Ages, the word "coat" referred to armor like chainmail. Outerwear was more like the cloaks and capes that many of us today think of as some kind of fantasy costume. What we would consider a modern coat didn't become the norm until roughly the mid-1800s.  Frequently used interchangeably with the word jacket by American English speakers, there's a huge catalog of the different types of both.

If you're going to make your own coat, there are things you must consider just as if you were buying one instead.
  1. What's the activity I'm going to doing the most while wearing the coat? 
    This helps you decide on the material composition. For example, if you're going to be outside working with animals, it's going to need to be sturdy and not stain easily.
  2. What is the most common kind of weather that I may be wearing this in? This determines how thick, water resistant, or breathable you'll need it to be, and helps you determine the materials. 
  3. How much bending am I going to be doing? Do you need it to be fitted or can it a loose coat?
  4. Can I find what I need already made? Probably, but you have to decide your financial and time budget first.
Once you've gotten that figured out, it's time to hit the web!

  1. If you can sew, check with your local fabric shops first and go through the outerwear patterns they have available. Start in mid-summer as well, so that you aren't fighting against the deadline of cold weather.
  2. If you're making for kids, size it up a size or two, especially if they're in that 8-12 year range. Growth spurts are bad enough, and being cold during them is no fun.
  3. Trawl YouTube for instructional videos. Making coats can be hard, so learn as many tips and tricks as you can!
  4. If you commission someone else to make it, DON'T SHORT THEM ON PAYMENT. Coats take time and patience.
Once you decide on your coat, save those patterns. If they work, you'll want to make more of them. If they don't, take note of what did work and why, and then what didn't work and why -- the material, the construction, the cut, everything -- so you learn from the experience. 

Winter is coming. Stay warm!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Product Review: Field Expedient e-Readers

You have your fishing rod and you've caught a fish. You remember how to build a fire. You even have some spices on hand. Now how do you actually prepare it for dinner?

This is why an e-reader with an emergency and survival library belongs in your preps.

When deciding that an e-reader should be in my Bug Out Bag, I decided it needed three features, in this order:
  1. It had to be durable. I expect to take this to who knows where, and I expect that it will be difficult to impossible to replace or repair it during an emergency. Survival in rough conditions is an absolute must.
  2. It had to be easy to charge. Having to keep a proprietary charger on hand that requires a wall outlet does me no good if I don’t have a wall outlet on hand.
  3. It had to be cheap. I cannot afford a lot of device for something that will sit around most of the time doing nothing.
To that end, I decided to test two devices that I had sitting around. The first was a Nintendo 3DS XL (a portable gaming device) that I occasionally use. I had already put a 16 gig SD card into it; to turn it into an e-reader, I installed Calibre (a free third-party program) to mange and convert my various e-books into formats that can be read on any device.

The other item I decided to try was an old prepaid Huawei Union smartphone that I bought when I was trying out FreedomPop. I gave it a 16 Gig microSD card and purchased a cheap ($6) Otterbox-style case for it.

Nintendo 3DS XL

  • Very much the most durable of the two. As much as the smartphone held up just fine in testing, the handheld game console is designed to be used by small boys, and therefore survive all the abuse that entails. I know people who have regularly dropped the handheld consoles from tall heights, have run them through the washing machine (and dryer) multiple times, left one in a stream overnight, accidentally run them over with cars on and so on, all without actually making the device unusable. 
  • Actually has a nicer screen setup for reading. I find myself turning it sideways and using the direction pads as a page turner. This was a big difference when I was reading for long periods of time for leisure.
  • Plays MP3s natively. Just put them on the SD card. 
  • Still a gaming device. The library of game software available for this means that it is an excellent method to distract teenagers (or yourself).
  • Not a bad battery life, and would probably be notably better if I had a new battery. I found it lasted 1- 2 days of use between charges.

  • The charging cable is proprietary. Even thought it looks like a USB to microUSB cable, it's not; the end that plugs into the device is just slightly larger than microUSB. This means that you can't use standard cables to recharge it, so if yours breaks or is lost you have no way to charge the device.
  • They are expensive to purchase, even used. This is partly due to the durability of the unit increasing its resale price.
  • It does not have Bluetooth.
  • You have to sideload everything. In this case, you have to take out the SD card and plug it into the computer. Not a big deal overall, but still inconvenient.

I would say that this is an excellent option if you already have one on hand and  you don’t mind sticking one into your Bug Out Bag. If you have a teenager or small child, this is an ideal device to hand to them.

Huawei Union (Freedompop)

  • Uses a standard cell phone charging cable. I did not have to purchase a new cable or wall adapter, and the one that came with it is cross compatible with my other devices.
  • The battery life is excellent due to its small screen size and the fact that I am not using it for anything that requires a lot of wireless communication (no data, no phone calls). It goes 3-5 days between charges even as I listen to audiobooks all day.
  • Small form factor. Once again, the smaller screen size came in useful when I decided to try putting it into small pockets in my gear. 
  • Can run most android apps.
  • In a pinch, you can set it up as a phone. Even phone without carriers are able to call 911 (this is required by law) so it's still useful for calling for emergency help. 

  • Smaller screen. Not as nice to read on as the 3DS. 
  • More likely to attract attention. A game system is generally not seen as a luxury item whereas smartphones are, possibly because portable game systems have been around since the 1990s whereas smartphones are only a decade old. 
  • Needs a screen protector. The 3DS folds up to protect its screen when not in use, but the Union does not. Online reviews agree that without a screen protector, there is a very real chance of it getting cracked.

The Huawei Union has been just fine for durability for its price point, but online reviews say that it has the weaknesses of all cell phones: the screen will crack, it responds poorly to being submerged in water and so on. To be fair, it seems to be quite rugged for a cell phone (especially with the cheap case I put on it), but it does seem to come in second to the 3DS XL.

A comparable (and slightly nicer) cell phone by Tracfone is available on Amazon for $35. A screen protector and a case cost a combined $15 USD, giving you a usable device for $50. A 32gb SD card costs around $12 at time of this writing and will hold a huge number of books in text, and a fair amount of audio.

However things go, having a library on hand can be useful, even if that use is fighting boredom.

Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grain Storage

If part of your post-TEOTWAWKI plans include growing your own food, you're going to have to store some for use in the months after harvest. Canning fruits and vegetables is a good plan for storing sources of vitamins and minerals, but the common sources of calories are starches in the form of corn, wheat, oats, and other “cereal” grains. Proper storage of these grains will ensure that you have edible, nutritious food to eat while you're waiting for the next crop to grow. Here's a quick general list of how to store grain.

  • Clean any containers thoroughly to remove any remains of the previous contents. Putting new grain on top of old grain is a good way to speed up the spoilage of the new grain.
  • If you're using containers that held something previously (5 gallon buckets, glass jars, etc), make sure the containers are clean and odor-free. You don't want your oatmeal to taste like pickles, do you?
  • Make sure you get all of the bugs out. Insects will eat the parts of the grain that you're wanting, so make sure there are none present at the start.
  • Clean up spills. Mice, rats, insects and other pests will be attracted to spilled grain and will try to get to the stored grain. Rodent droppings are just full of diseases that you don't want to get. (Hantavirus, anyone?)

Good Condition
  • Store the best quality grain you have, and eat or feed to your animals anything that isn't going to store very long.
  • Sift out the fines (broken pieces) as best you can to prevent spoilage from spreading. Broken or ground grain has the more volatile portions exposed to the air, so they spoil faster.
  • Don't move the grain any more than you have to once it's in storage. Every time you move grain through an auger or conveyor, you break some of it. Even shifting bags around will damage the grain closest to the cloth.

  • This one varies slightly by type of grain, but if you can get the temperature down below 50°F, insects will go dormant and molds will not grow. Keeping intact grain (not ground into flour) below freezing is not needed unless you are doing so to prepare it for spring/summer temperatures. 
  • As I write this, it's August and I'm emptying a large (90' diameter) bin of corn at work. The grain is coming out at 55°F despite daily temps in the 90s for the last two months. We blow cold air through the grain during January to get it as cold as possible so it will stay cool until we need to ship it.

  • Moisture is important, but hard to test without equipment. Corn stores best at less than 15% moisture, soy beans at around 11%, wheat at 14% , and oil seeds like sunflower and canola below 8%.I'll do some research on low-tech moisture testing methods and write an update.
  • Moisture is the key to preventing molds and fungi from growing. Moldy grain can kill you due to the wastes produced by the mold (aflatoxin, ochratoxin) so this is something you want to watch for.
  • Keeping the moisture below 14% will keep most insects from breeding and will stop mold growth.
  • Getting the grain dry before storage is often a challenge. Leaving it in the field to dry naturally works unless you have a rainy year, and that also leaves it exposed to damage or loss from weather and pests. Using a solar food dehydrator would work for small batches, but larger quantities will require a forced-air dryer of some sort.

  • Once you've got your grain dry and cool, it's all set, right? Wrong! You have to check it periodically to make sure it is still in good shape. 
  • In larger containers, you'll want to watch for condensation on the inside if the grain is colder than the ambient dew point and there is air flowing through the grain. Air-tight storage is best, but hard to accomplish with large quantities of grain.
  • If you have rodent traps or poison set out, you'll need to check them frequently. Keep the dead animals from contaminating your grain by disposing of them as soon as possible. Keep the poison bait stations full until you stop seeing activity, then check them once in a while to see if any new rodents have moved into your area.

Storing grain isn't hard, nor is it rocket science. We've been growing and storing grains for about 20,000 years, so it's not an impossible or even difficult job as long as you know what to look out for.

These guidelines for storing food grains also works for storing seeds for planting the next year, so as long as you avoid the hybrid grains you can use some of your stored grain to grow the next batch.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Prudent Prepping: The Tape Of Holding

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

I really like the idea of Duct Tape in my GHB and I've carried some in my salesman gear for years. What I didn't like much was when the tape would get hot, and the adhesive would soften and stick to everything close by. With the tape in a thick plastic package, I don't have to worry what is going to be oozed next!

Redi Tape Pocket Size Duct Tape
From the Redi Tape web page:
Product Features
  • High Quality Duct Tape: strong, durable, easy to tear, weather resistant 
  • Multi-Purpose for all applications: home, outdoors, auto, on the job, readiness 
  • Stores EVERYWHERE: toolbox, glove box, tackle box, backpack, pocket, purse…EVERYWHERE 
  • Easy to Use, Store, and Handle 
  • Water tight package 
Product Specifications 
  • Tape Dimensions: 5yds x 1.88" 
  • Product Dimension: 4.5" tall x 2.0" wide x only 0.55" thick

    I've tried many different ways to keep my stored tape clean: placed it in plastic bags, covered it in aluminum foil, etc and each one has failed to allow the roll to come out clean when I needed to use some tape. I have a full size roll in my trunk, but I think that 15' in my sling bag and my GHB is plenty.

    Home Depot has this on Closeout in my local stores, so you may want to stop in and pick up a bargain.

    What's your craziest Duct Tape story? 
    Here's mine: At one time I was flying regularly and a friend suggested I start carrying duct tape as an 'emergency restraint device' for in-flight situations.  There was one time when he thought the tape might be used to control a drunk, but the crew convinced the idiot to settle down.

    The Takeaway
    • Duct tape is useful for repairs, first aid, and other uses 
    • Rolls of tape are thick, and even folded sections ooze when hot 
    • 15' of tape in a bag is ideal for BOBs and GHBs

    The Recap
    • Two rolls of Redi Tape: $2.19 each from Home Depot at Closeout pricing 
    • Available from Amazon in a 3 pack: $ 11.00 with Prime

    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.

    The Fine Print

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

    Creative Commons License

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