Thursday, January 31, 2019


Frostbite is a medical condition caused by exposing skin to extreme cold. I've mentioned it a few times while writing about cryogenic gasses (anhydrous ammonia and liquid propane gas), so it's not an exclusively a winter-time threat, but during winter exposed areas like fingers, toes, ears, noses, cheeks, and chins are the most commonly affected areas.

Where fire and heat damages tissue like skin by cooking it, frostbite damages it by freezing. If skin gets too cold, the tissue under it will start to freeze, causing the cells to burst as the water that makes up 60-70% of each cell expands. Further damage is caused by the loss of blood flow to the frozen tissue, leading to tissue death (necrosis). This can cause damage ranging from irritation to amputation, similar to burns. Like burns, frostbite has been broken down into three levels or degrees.

Level 1
  • Numbness and loss of movement or dexterity
  • Skin may also turn red, similar to a 1st degree burn
Frostnip is the first indication that your exposed skin is too cold, and is also a sign that your extremities have been sensitized to the cold due to previous damage from freezing. I have a few fingers that got frostbite a long time ago, and the nerves in those fingers took some damage. They are the first to go numb or “pins and needles” when exposed to cold now, almost 50 years later.

Treatment is simple: gently warm the cold tissue to restore proper blood flow and keep it warm until normal functions are restored. Placing the affected body part into warm (not hot!) water works well. Hot water won't work because your affected parts won't be able to feel the temperature properly, and if the water is too hot you can cause extra damage. If warm water is not available, add insulation to the affected body part and increase your physical activity to warm it from the inside with increased body temperature and blood flow. As the tissue warms up and nerves are reactivated, you're going to feel a lot of pain. It's going to feel like the affected tissue is on fire and you're going to want to stop the warming. Keep it up until things start to feel normal again.

Level 2
  • Skin is hard to the touch and white or waxy looking
  • Fingernails and toenails of affected area will no longer show capillary refill 
  • Blisters and peeling skin, similar to a 2nd degree burn, are common 
Frostbite is when the tissue under the skin is frozen solid and needs to be treated ASAP. A blueish tint to the skin is a sign that it has lost blood flow and is not getting enough oxygen.

Capillary refill is a simple check: Press down on the nail -- it will go white as you squeeze the blood out of the capillaries -- then release.  Normal blood flow will return the pink color in less than a second, but reduced or stopped blood flow will cause them to stay white.

Treatment is similar to Level 1, but will take longer and needs to be monitored more closely for signs of necrosis. Hands and feet are easy to warm by placing them under your or another's armpits. Think of the places where you sweat the most, and those are the areas that tend to be the warmest; the armpits and crotch are the easiest to access. Shared body heat can be a medical treatment, so two or more naked people sharing a sleeping bag might not be what you think.

Level 3
  • Skin has turned a darker color and is as hard as ice
This is the level that causes people to lose fingers, toes, ear lobes, and parts of their noses in order to save their lives. Once the skin turns dark, it and the tissue underneath it has died and is not going to come back. Dead tissue is a prime breeding ground for bacteria like gangrene, so debridement, or removal of the dead tissue, is the only common treatment.

Treatment at this level requires medical training and equipment, so get the injured person to a hospital. My opinion, and I am NOT a doctor, is that frozen tissue is dead and I wouldn't want to restore blood flow that could pump dead or damaged blood cells back into the rest of the body unless I had antibiotics, blood thinners, and other measures at hand. I'd leave frozen tissue frozen until treatment was available,while keeping other areas from freezing. 

Frostbite hits the young and old the hardest because they have a hard time controlling their body temperature. Use of alcohol, tobacco, and a lot of medications that limit blood flow will make you more susceptible to frostbite. Dress in layers, cover your ears, face, and extremities, and keep an eye on your friends and family. It's hard to look at your own ears and face, so you can develop frostbite and not know it until someone else points it out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Prudent Prepping: the Klymit LWD

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

Last Wednesday (the day my salvaged blog post was published) was my birthday and the tradition here at Blue Collar Prepping is to embarrass me with cool gifts... or at least, that's how it appears to me. This year was no exception to the rule and the crew bought me a seriously cool present.

Klymit Lite Water Dinghy
The Klymit Lite Water Dinghy (LWD) Is a very strange hybrid craft: not really a kayak and much more than an air mattress.

From the Amazon ad:
An advanced inflatable boat developed with input from professional kayakers and packrafters, the LiteWater Dinghy – LWD – will expand your backcountry playground. Easy to take with you, the LWD weighs only 35 ounces and packs to the size of a one-liter bottle. Made from lightweight, durable polyester, it resists tears and punctures. Six tie-off zones lash gear, and the pump doubles as a dry bag. The LWD inflates quickly, tracks well, maneuvers easily, and delivers a supportive ride making it agile, stable and comfortable enough for canyoneering, finding your own private island, or just spending a day bobbing on a remote alpine lake.
Sleeping pad, above.
Klymit LWD, below. 

The collapsed size of the LWD is slightly larger in diameter than my sleeping pad and is almost the same length, but is quite a bit heavier!

Here are the specifications:
  • Weight: 35 oz
  • Dimensions: 76" x 45"
  • Pack Size: 4.5" x 9"
  • Capacity: 350 lbs
  • Raft Rating: Class 2; We recommend the LWD for conditions of mild flat water to small waves
  • Fabric: 210 D ripstop polyester top and bottom
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime 
I don't have a place to test the LWD until the weather is warm and sunny. Very sunny, about 85 degrees.

Now I know why I received a paddle from Erin as my Christmas present. There have been some odd gifts floating around, but a paddle with no boat? Everyone has heard "up a creek without a paddle" but I've never seen "have a paddle without the boat."

(Editor's Note: Mwhahahaahahahah. -- Erin)

Now I have the set. Thank you, guys. I don't have the words to say how cool this really is.

Update From Last Week
I received my two H&H Mini Compression Bandages today, much later than what was first listed as the expected delivery date. It seems right after I ordered and blogged about them, the seller was back-ordered. Coincidence? You be the judge.

The Takeaway
  • I have the best friends and don't know what I did to deserve this.
  • (You're a great friend, that's what you did!  -- Erin)

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, January 29, 2019

Throwing Motions: Big and Powerful

This week we have a video demonstrating the large throwing motions involved in swinging heavy tools efficiently.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Secret Shopper: The Inside Scoop on Savings

  • I do not in any way represent Gander Outdoors or its affiliates;
  • My opinions are all my own;
  • I’ll probably get fired once corporate finds out (maybe). Shhh.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Appetite Fatigue

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
The concept of appetite fatigue has been referenced several times in posts, but until now there has been no written explanation for it. This is due to the fact that I mentioned it in the early days of the GunBlog VarietyCast and before I started keeping a written record of my segments. To correct that oversight I have made this post, which is a reconstruction of that podcast segment.

Most people haven't been forced to eat the same thing day after day after day, but appetite fatigue  -- also known as food fatigue and informally called I would rather starve that eat this crap one more day -- is a very real condition, and you don't even have to be in an emergency situation for it to occur. Any college student who has subsisted on ramen noodles for any length of time knows exactly what I'm talking about here.

Appetite fatigue can affect anyone forced to eat the same thing, but it affects children, sick people, and the elderly the hardest. There was a study done in Britain after World War 2 which showed that these three groups would simply stop eating when confronted with a sudden crisis-induced dietary change, which resulted in malnutrition and sometimes even death, even when surrounded by food. For a more recent case, one blogger's family was without power for a week after Hurricane Rita in 2005. They had an entire crate of MREs, but unfortunately that crate had just one flavor: pasta primavera. After only three days, the children were refusing to eat the meals.

Here are some suggestions on how you can reduce the effects of appetite fatigue.

Store What You Eat and Eat What You Store
I'm not saying you shouldn't put back some MREs or other food rations because they do have their place, but you need to normalize your food reserves as much as possible. Store the kinds of food you like to eat so that you don't experience a kind of "menu shock" when you discover that your survival food tastes funny. Similarly, if you plan to make extensive use of survival food, make it a part of your diet now so you can become used to it. Discover which packages you like and don't like, and what tricks you can use to make them palatable.

Store Spices and Other Flavorings
In GBVC episode 44 I talked about the importance of having spices and condiments in your bug out bag, and it's just as necessary here at home. Bags of beans and rice are cheap to buy, and you can make them last a very long time, but if all you're eating is boiled beans and rice then you're quickly going to get sick of their taste. Adding spices can stave off food fatigue by keeping your tongue happy.

Experiment with Textures
Eating food of the same consistency can become dreary, even with different flavorings. Again, ask any student who has lived on ramen noodles how much of a difference there is between beef flavor ramen, chicken flavor ramen and shrimp flavor ramen. The answer is "not much", as they all feel like noodles in your mouth and not beef or chicken or shrimp. Changing the texture can help change how your mouth perceives taste, which goes a long way to extending your food supply. For example, frying those ramen noodles changes both their taste and texture, and it only requires you to store cooking oil and a suitable pan for frying -- both of which will keep for a very long time.

Exercise Portion Control
Also known as leftover syndrome, this is what happens after Thanksgiving when you're sick of turkey and are willing to eat practically anything else. This is a very mild form of appetite fatigue, and it's easily averted by simply not making more food than you can eat in one sitting. This is especially important after a disaster when refrigeration of cooked food might not be possible. You don't want to waste food by being unable to eat it and having it spoil.

Store Comfort Food
Take a cue from The Martian's Mark Watney and save some items for special occasions or to break up the monotony and lift spirits. Did you know that you can get a pizza making kit that will store for 20 years? At $14 for a 12 inch pizza,  it's not a bad deal. I wouldn't suggest you buy hundreds of dollars of pizza kits, but putting a few back isn't a bad idea. Imagine what would happen if it were your birthday during a disaster, and all you had to eat were the same old boring beans and rice you'd been eating for a month. Wouldn't you regard pizza as a special treat? For the same reason, put back treats that lift spirits like hard candies or vacuum-sealed chocolate. Sometimes just knowing there's a treat at the end of a meal can help people, especially children, get through another boring dinner.

And to finally answer the question asked by Adam in episode 95 when this segment first aired: yes, there is such a thing as "survival cheesecake". Mountain House sells a pouch of New York Style Cheesecake Bites, and you can buy it on Amazon for $10 with Prime shipping.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Permanent Matches

We've written a lot about fire and several different fire-starting methods over the years, because being able to build a fire is a staple of survival. A few weeks ago I got a chance to practice a couple of my favorite methods while burning a rather large brush pile (branches and limbs cleaned up from several yards), about the size of two normal parking spaces and about eight feet tall at the center. The weather was finally right (no wind, rain expected within 12 hours) so I started small fires in four different spots using four different methods. My ferrocerium rods, butane lighter, and a chemistry trick all still worked fine, but I wanted to try out a “permanent match” I'd picked up at a gun show. It worked, so here's a short review.

Permanent matches come in a couple of different forms, but they all use lighter fluid and a wick to catch a spark from a ferrocerium rod. The style I bought is similar to the ones you can get from Amazon, and since they all probably come from the same factory in China there isn't going to be much difference besides price. I bought a batch of 10 of these small square lighters for $20 at a gun show two years ago, and I've been “testing” them off and on since. You can often find these for sale in bulk displays at truck stops and lower-end stores for about the same price, so keep your eyes open.
Photo credit: Amazon link in article

The match itself is made of three pieces:
  • The body, which is packed full of some absorbent material like cotton. The lighter fluid is trapped in the packing material similar to a Zippo lighter. The model I have is a plastic shell with a very thin stainless steel skin wrapped around three sides to protect the plastic.
  • The stick, which is actually a metal tube containing a steel core with a wick wrapper around it. The wick soaks up fuel while it is stored in the body of the match and creates a usable flame when the fuel burns. The top of the stick has a knurled knob to give your fingers something to grasp and a rubber O-ring to seal the body while the stick is inserted.
  • The striker, which is a thin ferrocerium rod embedded in the side of the body. This rod is too thin to be carried alone ( it would break if you tried to use it without some sort of backing), so it is built into the body of the match. This feature also makes it hard to lose the striker.

How to use a permanent match:
  1. Unscrew and remove the stick from the body.
  2. Fill the body of the match with lighter fluid or naphtha. Gasoline will work, but diesel fuel is a bit too hard to ignite.
  3. Reinstall the stick into the body and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. This will let the wick absorb some of the fuel.
  4. Remove the stick and use the exposed tip of the metal core to quickly scratch down the striker bar on the side of the match body. The first pass or two may not produce enough (or any) sparks due to the layer of oxidation that forms on the striker, so the first use may take a few tries.
  5. The wtick should catch the sparks and give you a better flame than you'd get from a wooden kitchen match. The flame will be fairly wind-resistant, so you'll have to blow on it pretty hard to put it out.
  6. Extinguish the flame when you're done and insert the stick into the body, making sure you get the knob screwed down tight enough for the O-ring to create a good seal.

Troubleshooting is pretty simple:
  • If you don't get a flame at all, check to make sure the wick has fuel in/on it. Lighter fluid has a distinct smell, so you should be able to tell if it's got fuel.
  • If the flame is small, carefully pull more of the wick out of the tube and splay it out around the tip of the core. Unlike a lamp or candle, you want to create a spread-out wick to catch the sparks.
  • If there is no fuel left in the body and you don't have any on hand, you still have the striker and a steel core to create sparks with.

I've been playing with the batch I bought for two years now.
  • I've run them through the washing machine and dryer with no ill effects.
  • The one I use for the brush-pile had been sitting in the center console of my pickup for at least 18 months. It still had enough fuel in it to work.
  • The chains and clips that come on some models are there for show. They will not hold up to use as zipper pulls or for attaching the match to gear.
  • The rubber O-rings are better than I expected from mass-produced, cheap gear. Sitting on a bench in the basement, next to a kerosene lamp upstairs, or in the console of my truck, they've all held fuel for over a year.
  • Once lit, the fuel in the wick wrapped around the core of the stick will produce a flame for at least a minute. That's plenty of time to light a lantern or get your tinder going, and longer than a wooden match will burn.

Overall, I'm happy with what I received for the price I paid. Being cheap, small, and reliable makes these a good addition to any bag as a backup firestarter. I'll probably buy a batch of some of the other styles and give them a quick test in the near future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Every Day Carry: What and How

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

Last week's post disappeared! If anyone has it on an open tab, please send a copy back to Erin.

In a series of posts starting here, here, and expanded with info from friends here, I've been fooling around with making a first aid kit for far too long. But first I need to do a really quick recap of what was in last week's post.
North American Rescue Hyfin Vent Chest Seal

The North American Rescue Hyfin Vent Chest Seal comes highly recommended for treating penetrating chest wounds. They come in two packs and I bought two sets.

H&H Mini Compression Bandage
The H&H Mini Compression Bandage was also rated highly as a way to hold a gauze pad or Quik Clot pack in place instead of other tapes, like the duct tape I still carry. Since the company didn't offer Prime fast shipping but only free shipping, this has not arrived so I don't yet know exactly how big or small this bandage pack is.

(It's 4" L x 3" W x 0.5" H -- Erin)

These two items are going into a kit, bag or other sort of  carrier along with a tourniquet. This leads to the next question:

In this linked post, Jonathan Sullivan talks about his existing EDC blowout kit. Since he now has a toddler there have been some modifications made to the kit, with details (and links) to why and how these particular choices were made here on to his current blog. I'm exploring the use of a large phone case (as mentioned in the post) to carry everything, IF I can get everything compact and light enough to avoid the feeling of wearing a Batman Utility Belt.

As things stand right now, I've added a tourniquet and the chest seals to my EDC lunch box supplies and I'm waiting to see how everything stacks and packs into small spaces.

The Takeaway
  • One down and one to go on the latest additions to my first aid gear. 
  • Having friends and listening to their experiences helps me make fewer mistakes. 

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, January 22, 2019

    Going Through the (Throwing) Motions

    2019 looks to be a year of "Loki goes into the woods and throws things." Erin got me an atlatl kit for Christmas, and I've been dying to play with slings as well. Most of us learn to throw things at a very young age, but some people don't, and others don't progress past a rudimentary level.

    Why Learn to Throw?
    I view the ability to accurately throw an object to be an essential life skill. Not only is it used by the weapons mentioned above, but it is also vital in many social activities; for example, the ability to play catch or darts or baseball opens opportunities to expand your acquaintances and network with people.

    The hidden benefit of learning the throwing motion is that those body mechanics are used for a plethora of other things: the same arm movement that allows an accurate dart throw also makes for a sure hammer strike, and the weight transfer that gives power to a baseball throw drives an axe efficiently into a log. You can of course drive nails, split wood, and perform other tasks without knowing these techniques, but doing so will burn a lot more energy and time with far less satisfactory results. Learning good throwing mechanics adds competency to all these skills.

    Accurate vs. Powerful
    Accurate throws and powerful throws employ different throwing motions.

    Powerful throws are large and explosive and use the whole body.
    MLB pitcher Randy Johnson is a great example of a big, powerful throw.

    Accurate throws are more compact, relying on only some regions of the body to get work done.

    Champion darts players are incredibly precise, with a small, controlled throwing motion.
    From Wikipedia

    In the coming weeks I'll show detailed breakdown videos of both types of throwing motions, as well as how they relate to more traditional preparedness tasks. I'll also work on video of "throwing things in the woods," but a lot of that will have to wait until there's not a foot of snow on the ground.

    Limber up and learn to throw.


    Monday, January 21, 2019

    Guest Post: Black Bean Gluten-Free Spaghetti Noodles

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

    While shopping at Costco I ran into Black Bean Spaghetti Noodles which were certified gluten-free. Since my wife has a wheat allergy, gluten-free is a good thing for her, and I was intrigued by the stated protein content -- not that I’m surprised a bean product has lots of protein, only that it seemed to be an ideal product for our family as it was shelf stable, gluten free, and had a high nutritional density -- so I figured that we’d buy a box and give it a try.

    How Did It Taste? 
    It tasted more like “health food pasta” than something you’d get at Olive Garden, which isn’t to say it tasted bad,  just different. One of my two children said it tasted good with a sweet basil marinara sauce, the other one (who only eats noodles with soy sauce or coconut amino sauce) declared that it was unfit for nine year old human consumption. My wife and I tried it with a sweet basil marinara, a roasted garlic marinara, and a basil pine nut pesto. Of the three we tried, the strong garlic/basil tastes of the pesto were the best match.

    The Good
    Lots of shelf stable protein that rapidly goes from dry storage to prepared to eat in less than ten minutes. This is a real plus for anyone who has a lot going on and can’t dedicate a large amount of time to food prep.

    The Bad
    The taste isn’t for everyone.

    It comes in a pretty bulky package compared to other pasta options. I think adults will be fine with the flavor, but children might see black pasta and go “icky, different!” because we taste first with our eyes and nose.

    If you have limited food storage space the particular product we bought might not be for you.

    The Interesting
    The texture of this pasta almost begs me to use it in a stir fry with garlic, seafood, and some citrus. There are a number of Chinese and Korean noodle dishes that would go really well with this texture, and the flavor of the sauces would easily overpower the taste of the noodles.

    Nutritional Density
    In our house the preferred gluten-free noodle option is Barilla Gluten Free, as it cooks most like normal pasta and more importantly tastes most like normal pasta (unfortunately, it isn’t priced like normal pasta). However, Barilla Gluten Free pasta isn’t exactly nutritionally dense like most normal pastas, and really only serves as a source of empty carbs which ensures that people can get enough food energy per day.

    To directly compare the two:
    • a 2oz serving for Barilla is 4 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates
    • a 2 0z serving of Explore Cuisine Black Bean Spaghetti is 25 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrates. 
    However, don’t underestimate the need for “empty carbs” if you transition to a high amount of manual labor. Our ancestors grew wheat and rice for a reason, and paired with all-day physical labor it seems to be a winning combination for keeping civilization going.

    Closing Thoughts
    We aren't going to replace all our Barilla Gluten Free pasta packets with various bean or legume based pastas, but odds are good that we’ll continue to add them  into our diet to ensure that we do have a variety of foodstuffs on hand. A few years back, my wife and I went a month trying to live off of a commercial 30-day survival pack, and we learned through the experience that living off the same stuff for any length of time really, really sucks. Avoiding food monotony is probably one of the subjects that preppers need to talk about more often, because while having a ton of food is great peace of mind,  having a lot of different flavors and textures in that stockpile is really, really important.

    Footnote: Gluten-Free Recipes
    For people who’ve dropped money on a grain mill and would rather make their own noodles than purchase in bulk, I unfortunately cannot find a recipe that turns black beans into noodles. However, here are three other gluten-free recipes that may be the right starting point.

    Thursday, January 17, 2019

    Bug Out Bags for the Unprepared

    The other day I got into an internet conversation about what to put in a BOB/GHB for children. My friend was convinced that a 5-year-old should carry a lighter version of an adult bag, and I was trying to convince him otherwise. I've been mulling the idea around for a few days and I'm still convinced that a child's bag should be packed in a manner similar to what you would hand an untrained adult. Yes, I do have supplies set aside for helping family and friends; that's part of my job as father/uncle/grandpa/chaplain, to help others where I can.

    I have grandchildren and nieces/nephews that range from less than a year old to their mid-20s. With the exception of the older nephews, none of them have any training or experience that would help them in an emergency. This influences what would go into a bag that I could hand off to them in case they were caught in a crisis near me. Rather than get into specific items, I'll list some of the categories of BOB contents and my thoughts on each.

    • Everybody needs water to survive. I've covered my locale in other posts; it's hard to travel more than a mile in any direction without finding water of some sort in the area around me, so I stock ways to clean water instead of stocking water itself. A Sawyer Mini filter weighs a lot less than the amount of water it can purify, so they are a staple in my kits. For kids and the untrained, I prefer the LifeStraw due to it requiring no training other than the instruction “use this every time”.
    • Water purification chemicals require a minimal amount of training/education to use, and I wouldn't trust anyone under the age of about 10 years old to use them correctly. Small children might eat them and cause serious damage to themselves, so I leave them out of any bag that might go to the untrained or underage.
    • Most filters come with some sort of bag or container now, and many of them have adapters for common bottles like soda and water bottles. Finding a bottle in an emergency isn't as hard as it used to be; just make sure it's clean. Reusing a soda/water bottle is cheaper than buying a dedicated flask and it will be more familiar to children that are used to drinking from them.

    • The quickest, cheapest shelter I can find is a Mylar Space Blanket. Lightweight and small, I usually toss more than one into any kit I assemble. They don't hold up to extended use, but will reflect body heat well enough to keep a person warm in all but the worst winter weather. They are also rain-proof and make a good insulating layer when used in the construction of a debris hut or other make-shift shelter.
    • Plastic bags are quick and dirty ways to get out of rain and snow, and  I've covered their many uses in earlier posts. Anyone over the age of about 3 can be trusted with a plastic bag; under that age they're going to need constant attention.

    • I did a series of reviews on various emergency rations a while back, and I keep several of the “$10 cookies” on the shelf for tossing into bags. They're cheap, compact, and palatable if you pick the right brand, and will keep the hunger pangs down. For kids and finicky adults, try to find the ones with a variety of flavors to keep the whining and boredom at bay.
    • Snacks and candies will lighten a child's mood, so make sure you add some hard candy (they store better than chocolates or gummies) to be used as a source of calories. Kids tend to burn a lot of calories since they're constantly in motion, so be ready to provide the energy they need. Most people are addicted to sugar to some extent, so adding it to an adult's bag won't hurt.

    • This is very situational. I wouldn't trust anyone under the age of 12 with a way to start fires without supervision, but I also know several adults that I wouldn't trust with a pack of matches. Use your own judgement when assembling a bag for unprepared/untrained adults.
    • I found a source of ferrocerium rods years ago and bought a batch. They're small and have holes in them, so they go on the drawstrings and zipper pulls of a lot of my everyday gear. Ferrocerium rods are the spark-producing rods common in fire starting kits. They're cheaper if you buy in bulk, and Amazon has a variety of sizes to play with. I feel that these are safe to give to children because of the effort and training needed to use them. If nothing else, the kids will be carrying your back-up firestarter without noticing it.
    • Lifeboat matches in a waterproof container are an easy, cheap addition to an adult bag.
    • I've played with “permanent matches” and had varying luck with them. The best I've gotten was about two years before the fuel evaporated and left me with a very small ferrocerium striker for starting fires. Lighter fluid or naptha evaporates as quickly as gasoline, so they have to have a very good seal if they're going to be stored for any length of time.

    Tools and Misc.
    This is a catch-all category for the toys and tools that we like/need to have. Tools require training to use properly, so consider a person's age and aptitude when adding any of these to a bag.
    • Knives: Anybody older than 7 or 8 should be trustable with a folding pocket knife. The Cub Scouts used to teach boys that age how to carry and care for a pocket knife, but they had to earn the privilege to carry one and carry their “Whittling chip” card (which could be revoked by any adult). Fixed blade knives used around a campsite or kitchen will depend on the level of maturity and experience.
    • Firearms: This is a touchy one. I won't give a firearm to anyone I don't trust with my life, but I have several people that fill that bill. I also have more firearms than I can personally carry at one time, so rather than leave them behind I will distribute them to friends and family as needed. In a few years I'll have second-generation children that I can trust with hunting guns; they're just now learning to shoot.
    • First Aid: Another one that will vary depending on age and training. By the age of 5, kids should know how to apply a band-aid to themselves or others. Training beyond that is something that you'll have to take into consideration before tossing in a tourniquet or Epi-pen. Required medications and supplies should go with the people who need them as long as they are competent enough to use them properly.
    • Cordage: Everybody carries paracord for emergency use, but without the ability to tie useful knots it's just extra weight. During an emergency is not the best time to teach knot-work, but the lessons will definitely stick in their memory.
    • Light: Everyone should have their own flashlight, preferably with standardized batteries. I've seen a lot of urban people who can't handle the darkness of a rural night, so a few glow sticks or Paqlites will help them get by if the power is out. Chemical glow sticks have a shelf-life, but will work in a pinch; watch the clearance racks of local stores around the holidays. For example, you can pick up cheap Halloween glow sticks in November. 
    • Sanitation: A washcloth and hotel-sized bar of soap inside a zip-lock bag should go into every BOB. Keeping clean feels good and reduces a lot of infections that can ruin your day. Not smelling each other will also help maintain personal relationships. Feminine hygiene products are a must if you are dealing with women.

    • Small children and immature adults will have a hard time dealing with the loss of all of their comfort items. Toss in a favorite stuffed animal or toy for the little ones, a solar charger/battery pack for recharging cell phones for the bigger ones. Having a way to play a familiar game or two will distract them and might help calm them down a bit.
    • Most adults and some children will have “addictions” that will need to be addressed. Instantcoffee packs are shelf-stable, have a long life, and will help wean people off of the caffeine that they consume on a regular basis. Sugar was mentioned above, but some people get cranky when their sweet-tooth kicks in. Tobacco is best left to the user's choice; they'll need to figure that one out themselves.

    As you can see, I don't have any hard rules or recommendations for putting together a BOB for someone else -- too much depends on the person's maturity and training. The basics of water, food and shelter are a good start, with the other stuff added as needed. Keep in mind that most children and quite a few adults are not used to carrying anything heavier than a cell phone, so you'll have to keep the weight down to less than you'd carry yourself.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2019

    Fuel Your Fire (Starter)

    My half-joking mantra about preparedness is "I cheat at it." by looking for the most efficient and effective tool to accomplish a given task. Primitive bushcraft tools and methods are a wonderful proof of concept, and a neat way to show off skills, but modern technology exists for a reason -- the tools and techniques of today grew from a need for more reliability and efficiency than previous iterations. So while a flint or firesteel or matches are a fine way to light a fire, in many situations the best method is the modern cigarette lighter.

    I am a dearly devoted fan of the refillable Zippo-type cigarette lighter. While gas station disposable lighters are far cheaper and function capably, refillable units have a build quality and an accompanying sense of permanence that no other lighter approaches. I have a small collection of these lighters, most of them inherited from my grandfather; the man stopped smoking somewhere around 1987 and most were quite old when he quit. I was able to get all of them up and running again with minimal work (replacing flints and a wick or two). Much like other quality tools, basic maintenance will keep them running in tip-top shape for generations.

    Even though they will run forever with simple upkeep, refillable lighters like this have one major weakness: they leak fuel horribly. I end up having to refuel mine every 2-3 days. In addition, leaking fuel can cause an irritating and mildly painful skin reaction if the lighter is carried in a pants pocket. If I were a smoker, I would probably find it far easier to keep up with this fueling cycle, but since I don't smoke, I end up wasting far more fuel than I burn and run into having an empty lighter when I need a full one.

    I recently found two solutions to this failing. The first is a small refillable lighter called the Warhead. At about $5, it is quite affordable. Size-wise, it is not much larger than a US quarter.

    The top cap screws off to expose the wick and striker wheel. There is an o-ring seal at the bottom of the threads, making the lighter waterproof, as well as stopping fuel leaks. The fuel reservoir is smaller than a Zippo, but the leak prevention makes the most of that fuel. I received mine around Thanksgiving and promptly filled it; I am still striking it and getting flame off that same initial fill.

    The second fix for a leaky lighter is a butane insert. This also replaces the flint and wheel with a piezoelectric spark igniter and requires no wick, rendering the lighter maintenance-free. This insert produces a hot, focused flame with absolutely the easiest and most reliable ignition available. Butane fuel is just as available as liquid lighter fuel, and lacks the strong chemical smell of liquid fuel.

    I haven't had my butane insert for very long, which mean I haven't played with it near as much I haven't tested it as thoroughly as I'd like. You can expect a more in-depth review to follow once that happens.

    The Warhead lighter with a Zippo for size comparison. 

    Even good tools can be improved, and these lighters are a shining example of this.


    Monday, January 14, 2019

    A man, a Can, a Plan: Canned Corn as Survival Food

    (Note: this article is an homage to a rather excellent book that I recommend as a gift for young adults leaving home for the first time. It even comes in board book format, so as to be durable enough to handle dorm life.)
    Being a prepper, I am always trying to figure out my best options for emergency supplies. Having a background in accounting, I am inclined to literally make spreadsheets and compare the various options, sometimes exhaustively and late into the night. (We all need hobbies).

    There are a lot of survival foods out there. Many of them are basically compressed pucks of shortbread that will keep you alive but not happy (through personal experience , I recommend drinking lots of water with it), although some survival foods can be fairly high-end freeze dried meals that are easy to prepare and taste about as good as a public school lunch: edible and surprisingly tasty at times, but not recommended as a primary diet.

    With that in mind, I think I have found a good compromise between "tasty" and "cost effective" for survival food: canned corn.

    No, really.

    • Canned corn is inexpensive. Like, really cheap: my local grocery store had a sale on it for less than fifty cents a can last week. Even at full price for a name brand, bought from a family dollar store it's less than two dollars a can. 
    • The corn itself can be eaten straight, which is nice in a canned good. Yes, you can eat canned soup without heating it, but it gets old real quick. 
    • If you happen to have rice on hand (another cheap survival food) the added nutrition from the water in the can is actually not a terrible addition. Use the drained water to cook the rice and then put the corn on top. Voila, instant side dish, allowing you to ignore the burned out remains of the city you are in and pretend you still live in civilized times. 
    • Soup or stew isn't that hard to make from scratch, and having canned corn on hand makes it that much easier. 
    • The corn can be used as bait for other food. Carp are by no means my favorite fish to eat, but they sure do love corn used as bait, and are a darned site better than nothing if you need protein. Heck, squirrels tend to love canned foods, so with a simple snare you can turn a can of corn into several meals. 
    • The can itself can be used to make simple tools, a stove being my personal favorite. Emergency cooking pots can be done, but try to make sure of what the can is lined with first; some of those liners are toxic. I have a tendency to save my cans and use them as small parts containers. And if you must, you can make a cutting edge out of the metal from the can; it's difficult, but possible. (I'm not counting the lid as you take it off.) 
    • Heck, it even makes a decent thrown weapon in a pinch: metal, compact, and heavy enough to do some damage... 

    ...which leads to the biggest con: it's heavy. There is no question, it will cost you in weight. so you may not want to do this if your plan is to bug out with a backpack. That said, if you plan to bug in, or if you plan to bug out in a vehicle, a few cans of this are probably not a bad idea.

    In short, canned corn is cheap, easy to get hold of, and has a variety of uses. Not recommended for backpackers.

    Good luck, and don’t forget to practice.

    Friday, January 11, 2019

    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    Learning From Others

    Life is full of experiences, and if you're lucky you'll take opportunities to learn from the experiences of others before you face the same conditions. This is why people write histories, to share what happened before in the hopes of educating future generations.

    In the prepper world, there are lots of things that we prepare for and we have plenty of sources from the past to consult for ideas. What works and what doesn't are the basics we should be looking for, with acknowledgment that no two situations are exactly alike. Slightly different situations will have different solutions, and the more you look, the more options you'll be aware of. 

    I'm a student of history, so I tend to look back 100 years or more for ideas. There really isn't much new under the sun, so most of what we have to deal with has been dealt with over and over in the past. This approach may not be for everyone, so let's look at some more recent events and the chronicles of those who lived through them. Yes, I'm going to link to other blogs; don't forget to come back here when you're done.

    Selco is the pen-name of a survivor of the war in the Yugoslavia that started in the 1990s and hasn't really ended. Some of you may not be old enough to remember that mess, so let's just say that it was a civil war that shredded a moderately industrialized nation which led to it breaking up into something close to what existed before WW1 and the redrawing of the maps that followed it. This occurred shortly after the 1984 Winter Olympics were held in Sarajevo, so we're not talking about a third-world country.

    Selco writes for several prepper/survivalist blogs and has his own preparedness training company now. He lived through a civil war in an urban setting, so he's a good source of information for those of us in similar areas.

    Fernado Aguirre writes under the name Ferfal. He survived the “unrest” in Argentina that started in 2001, so his information is less than 20 years old. Economic collapse, runaway inflation, and a government in turmoil took a toll on one of South America's biggest economies. They're starting to pull out of the worst of the troubles, but it has taken them many years. Again, Argentina is an industrialized nation, not some third-world collection of starving peasants. Bad things can happen to good people.

    Ferfal has his own blog and is a good source of information dealing with the aftermath of a financial collapse and how government can make it worse than it has to be.

    Jose Martinez
    Jose is a fairly new writer. He's being hosted at Organic Prepper for now, but I imagine he'll have a site of his own soon.

    Since Venezuela is a situation that is still unfolding as I write this, Jose has good information on how a once-prosperous nation can fall apart in modern times. He is living through a nightmare and wants to make sure others have his perspective in case they ever have to face a similar nightmare. Look for parallels between the events and actions that led to his nightmare and what we're seeing in other places around the world.

    I won't even try to list all of the “edge” preppers out there; the tinfoil hat industry is booming and the religious/political/ethnic divides have fueled more blogs and websites than I can keep track of. If someone has to rely on fear and hatred to get motivated, I don't believe they will last long once TSHTF. They'll only last until their “enemy” is defeated, at which time they'll have to find a new enemy in order to maintain their survival.

    The other option is that their “leaders” will see to it that the “enemy” is never defeated, ensuring that they get to stay in their leadership roles. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, if you've ever read 1984.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2019

    Prudent Prepping: Etekcity Portable LED Camping Lantern

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

    Some time after I wrote the Pleasant Nature lantern review, I remembered a Christmas gift Erin gave me a few years back: the Etekcity Portable LED Camping Lantern.

    This is a very cool lantern, and not just because it was a gift from our Editrix; it's cool because of what it is and does. The light output is variable not by pushing buttons multiple times, but by pulling up on the handles and exposing more of the LED bulbs!

    One very important dimension not mentioned last week is the diameter of both lights. The Etekcity lantern is just under 3 1/2" (fractionally larger than a soda can), and the Pleasant Nature is just slightly bigger at a bit over 3 1/2". Neither measurement is a deal breaker in my book.

    Here is more information from the Amazon page:
    • ULTRA BRIGHT: Includes 30 individual low powered LED bulbs, designed for a longer lifespan. Carry 360° of luminous light while saving energy(batteries included)
    • DEPENDABLE BUILD: Constructed with military grade; promising long-time durability, no matter where you go
    • DESIGNED FOR CONVENIENCE: The extremely lightweight build allows you to take your lantern on the go with ease. When not in use collapse the lantern to a smaller size; store it effortlessly, taking little space
    • LOW CONSUMPTION: Light up to 12 hours of regular, continuous use with enough battery capacity
    • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE: 90-day return refund guarantee, 10-year warranty and lifetime supported by Etekcity. FCC, ROHS certified

    Slightly open

    The lantern's light output is very bright at full extension, with 30 LED bulbs mounted in three stacks of ten to give even light distribution. There seems to be some confusion on the output of this lantern, and answers to question posted on Amazon still aren't very clear to me, but when I compare this lantern to the one from last week the Eketcity puts out more and brighter light.

    Here is the lantern (left) open to the point where it just lights up. From what I can tell, all the LED bulbs are lit right now but not exposed, so I believe the listed run times will not be affected by partially opening the lantern.
    Wide open

    The light output is very impressive when fully open! With all the LEDs exposed, there is much less distortion compared to partial settings. I would have no problem reading a book with this light or doing other work where a bright light is needed.

    The only downside with the Etekcity lantern is that it's not solar rechargeable like the Pleasant Nature, instead needing three AA batteries to operate

    There is a bit of effort needed to open the lantern and also to close it, so maintaining a setting  is not going to be a problem to me. Still, if I were packing this with the batteries installed*, I'd be tempted to wrap a heavy rubber band around it to prevent accidental activation.

    * Pull your batteries, just to be safe; I've ruined nearly $100 worth of flashlights through battery corrosion. Erin recommends (and I use) cases like these for AA and AAA batteries, and there are similar containers for CR123 and 18650's.

    The Takeaway
    • PRO: A compact, bright lantern in a durable aluminum body. 
    • CON: It needs batteries and is approximately the size of a soda can.

    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.

    Monday, January 7, 2019

    Sew You Say

    The question "What would be good things to have in a SHTF basic sewing kit?" was recently asked in our Facebook Group.  Erin referred that question to me, the go-to seamstresses of the writer group.

    My personal "emergency" sewing kit is likely a lot more extensive than most folks would ever need, use, or want to haul along with them, mostly because it contains extra items  that only someone who sews frequently would have a clue what to do with it all. I'm paring things back to the bare basics for this little tutorial, to dump all that extraneous "stuff" most of you will never need.

    Barest Basics
    At its most simple, an emergency sewing kit should contain four items, all of which are small enough to be folded up together and placed in an EDC kit:
    1. A needle
    2. Black or white thread
    3. A couple of all purpose buttons
    4. Something to cut the thread with, such as tiny scissors or a small folding knife that's nice and sharp. 
    Since most of us keep one or more sharp pocket knives in our EDC anyway, that last item could easily be omitted from a sewing kit. 

    If you have poor eyesight or a lack of coordination, you might also consider a needle threader as the fifth piece to this utilitarian kit. This is a tiny, flat metal disk "handle" with a wire attached in a loop, and which can be more easily poked through the eye of the needle and used to pull thread through without making yourself crazy trying to get it done. I use them often, even when I'm working with a sewing machine.

    To make a pocket kit of this type, start with a small square of scrap cloth. (Any sort of cloth will do; it doesn't have to be anything fancy.) This cloth serves two purposes: first, it serves as a place to store your needle, thread, and buttons in a single little packet; second, it can serve as an emergency patch for whatever it is you need to repair in a pinch.

    Stick your needle through your cloth square several times to hold it in place and to keep it from accidentally stabbing you or other things in your EDC. Place the buttons, thread, and threader (if you've chosen to include one) onto the center of the square over and around the needle you've made safe. Now it's simply a matter of folding up the cloth, holding it together with a safety pin, and sticking it into one of the various places where you keep EDC or emergency items. 

    Voila, you have spare buttons if you lose one, something to make a quick patch with, and needle and thread to attach either of those to whatever they need to go on.

    Stepping It Up a Bit
    If you're looking for something a bit more inclusive than that barest of basics set-up, you have a lot of options open to you. Some of them not only remove the guesswork of what to include, but come at a price that even a die-hard penny-pincher can appreciate.

    The upgrade that tops my list is a $1 sewing kit that I purchased at Dollar Tree not far from home. (Yes, the same Dollar Tree where I managed to put together a comprehensive medical kit for $30.)  This sewing kit comes in a small clear plastic case with handles, so that you can easily see everything it contains. Around the size and shape of a deck of standard playing cards, these weigh in at only 2-3 ounces, making them very portable.

    These kits come with 5 to 7 small spools of thread in assorted colors (typically black, white, red, green, navy blue, and gray) as well as a thimble, a short measuring tape, a seam ripper, a tiny pair of (not terribly sharp) scissors, an assortment of needles in their own case, an eyelet needle threader. and a small box of "extras" like multiple buttons, safety pins, and both sides of a couple of hook and eye closures.

    Truthfully, this may seem like a lot more "bang for the buck" than that bare basics throw-together kit, but its honestly not. While it falls under the category of "the absolute minimum that I'm personally willing to keep in a bag, and only because I have to save space and weight for other things!", for most folks this is going to be all they ever need.
    • Realistically, most folks aren't familiar with the use of a thimble these days, and therefore are more likely to ignore it or promptly lose it than they are to utilize it for fingertip protection while doing quickie hand sewing. 
    • Measuring Tape? Sure, folks like Evelyn and I are going to dig those out and use them often, but what about normal people? Men, how much more likely are you to dig that measuring tape out to use in a woodworking project, and then forget to put it back where it belongs? Then again, that measuring tape is an automatic multi-tasker, since it can be used for things other than sewing!
    • The box of "extras" to keep all the buttons, safety pins, and other types of spare closures in is nice for organization and neatness, but unless this is going into a bag you expect to be living out of for several days at a time, how likely are you to need more than a couple of buttons or a single safety pin? 
    • The same can be said for the multitude of needles in a dedicated disk case. You aren't likely, most days, to need more than one - and if you weave it through your cloth patch, its going to stay in place and be easy to find.

    The Mother Lode
    This is where we delve into the deep end of the pool with all my eccentricities.

    While either of the above styles of sewing kit are easy to throw together, and come with price tags that range from $1 up to about $15 depending on how many colors of thread are included and where you happen to purchase them, now we're going to get into a "Seamstress's Choice" of emergency sewing kit. This style of kit isn't for the faint of heart, or for those uninitiated in sewing. Kits of this sort are not available through places like Amazon or Wal-Mart or Target; they're personally put together by the seamstress (or tailor) in question, and as such tend to vary wildly. Due to the nature and extent of the variants possible, I'll only be going over my Personal Mother Lode Emergency Sewing Kit.

    NOTE: this is not my standard traveling kit. This is my "TEOTWAWKI has happened, I'm packing up everything I can and will never get to return" kit.
    • We'll start with my mini portable battery operated sewing machine. Yes, my personal kit contains an actual sewing machine. While this isn't the exact model, and it's slightly more expensive ($19 as opposed to $14),  it's very similar to what I have and is the current equivalent to my 10 year old portable. It comes with an AC adapter, so it can be plugged in when outlets are available, as well as being capable of running on AA batteries. It only produces a basic machine interlocked chain stitch, but honestly that's all it needs to do. 
    • The one available on Amazon also has the option of adding an "extras" kit, which I have for mine. These extras are a variety of colors of thread spools, bobbins wound in the same colors, a good pair of scissors, an extra measuring tape, needle threader, seam ripper, thimbles, and hand needles. This extras kit can actually work as a "beyond the barest basics" emergency kit for most folks as well, though at $10 instead of $1, the only serious improvement is a significantly better pair of scissors.
    • I have two pairs scissors in this Mother Kit. One is a dedicated pair of fabric scissors, which do not get used for anything other than cutting fabric. Talk to any serious sewer you happen to know, and you will find they have a pair that they will threaten gross bodily injury over if you use them for cutting anything else. The other pair of scissors is a "catch all" pair and honestly, you can use them on almost anything and I don't care as long as they go back in the box when done.
    • Next in the Big Box of Emergency Sewing we have a zip top gallon baggie, in which are a pair of replacement zippers (one black, one white or grey) 2 rolls of elastic (1 each of 3 yard length 1 inch wide and 1/2 inch wide) to repair things like waist bands or cuffs, and several colors of bias tape - usually three yard lengths of black, white, red, blue, green, purple, and yellow. This may seem like a lot, but those in the know have a myriad of uses for bias tape that run the gamut from creating a quick and easy casing for an elastic waistband to using it for a simple hem that won't fray. 
    • There's also a quart zip bag full of various colors, widths, and lengths of ribbon usable as everything from shoe laces to a short length of cordage to tying your hair out of the way.
    • Where smaller kits typically have a tiny box of odds & ends with a few buttons and safety pins, I have the Big Bag O' Buttons. It's a 1 quart size zip top baggie, stuffed full of buttons of every size, shape, color, and material you might imagine. Every shirt or skirt or pants that I've owned has had their buttons removed before scrapping and stored in this bag. Every spare button purchased as a set that wasn't needed on the project went into this bag. 
    • I also have a box the size of an Altoids tin which contains safety pins. A second, smaller box contains hook and eye sets and snap sets. A third small box contains straight pins, both with and without the plastic ball caps on the non-sharp end, enough to lay out at least 2 full patterns at any given time.
    • I have a trio of chalk pencils, used for marking fabric along cut lines and instructions and in different colors so I can use what shows up best on any given fabric. 
    • There are also no fewer than 4 seam rippers in the box, mostly because I tend to toss my spares in there when I wind up with a new one.
    • Finally, because I deal with a lot of costuming I also keep an unopened package of plastic featherlight boning to fix corsetry accidents, as well as horsehair braid to help stiffen hems. I also try to keep a roll of instant hem tape because it makes for a quick and dirty repair of a folded seam.

    What You Should Know
    Even I keep one of the small Dollar Store kits in my normal BoB/GHB. It's light, it's portable, it doesn't take up space that could be used for something more critical, and it has everything I'm likely to need in a pinch. My Mother Lode kit is for extreme conditions, and even I don't take it out of the closet lightly! Unless you're a serious die-hard tailor/costumer/sewer, the Mother Lode Kit is so far beyond normal as to be impractical for most SHTF applications, even for someone as flamboyant and impractical as myself!

    The Fine Print

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

    Creative Commons License

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