Friday, August 30, 2019

Hurricane Shutters

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Florida has yet another hurricane bearing down on it, so now is the time for all smart Floridians to begin implementing their hurricane preps. (No, not "go shopping". Smart Floridians stock up in June or July because we know that there'll be a rush on stores and shelves depleted when it looks like there will be landfall.)

For me, that means looking at the weather forecast and deciding when I want to put up the hurricane shutters. I don't want to put them up too soon, because honestly they're a pain in the butt to do and it's hot, sweaty, get-eaten-by-bugs and get-scratched-by-thorns work, so if I put them up when I didn't have to, I'll be annoyed. There's also enough work involved with them that once they go up they stay up until the end of the season (which is officially the end of November but is effectively the end of September).

On the other hand, if I want too long, then I end up putting them up in the wind and the rain, which is also pretty miserable and also increases the chances for injury.

Let's talk about the three major types of storm shutters.


Image found across the internet

If you live in a coastal area frequently assaulted by hurricanes, don't use these. Yes, they're cheap, but quality and durability is suspect because plywood isn't milled, but rather manufactured from cheap wooden wafers pressed and glued together.  Plus, in order to install them you have to drill holes into your house, which looks ugly and if left untreated allow ways for termites and other vermin to get inside and damage the structure of your house. If you do this be sure to secure the sheets as tightly as you can, because they have a nasty tendency to get sheared off and go flying.

Please, for the love of all that's good and holy, don't use particle board. Just don't.


These are the kind of shutters that I have. They are metal (either steel or aluminum) and lock into metal fixtures with metal bolts and wignuts. So long as the fixtures are properly installed (you can find DIY instructions here, although there are companies who will install them for you quickly and professionally), you have a strong barrier that will protect your windows from storm debris.

Those are the good points. The bad points are:
  • They are expensive;
  • The edges are sharp and can result in injury if you are not wearing protective clothing; 
  • They are tiring to carry (each sheet is lightweight, but it can take between 4 and 7 sheets per window; multiplied by however many windows you have and whether or not you need to haul them up a ladder for second-story windows, they get exhausting quickly);
  • Over time, the brackets collect rust and debris and need cleaning, which delay installation;
  • Once installed they block out sunlight; 
  • Once installed, they make it impossible to escape through the window in case of emergency. 
They are very much a two-edged sword whose benefits only slightly outweigh their drawbacks. 


This is the Cadillac of storm shutters: a miniature garage door that rolls down over doors and windows. They are the most expensive of all the options, and most of them require electricity to operate. However, some of them can be raised manually with a crank (demonstrated in the video below), and they can be wired to accept power from a backup battery as well... and honestly, if you're going to this expense, you might as well shell out for the battery too. 

Despite these significant drawbacks, the benefits are massive:
  • Your house is protected with the push of a button;
  • You can wait until the last minute to activate them;
  • You can use them against other disasters, such as tornadoes;
  • You can put them down before a vacation to protect against burglary (admittedly, at the risk of advertising you're out of town);
  • Some units can be hooked into a home wifi unit to engage them remotely if a severe storm strikes while you're at work. 
If you can afford this option, I recommend it. 

Other Options
There are other options which are less common and might not be available where you live, such as Bahama shades, Colonial shutters, and polycarbonate windows. I don't have experience with them but they may be worth investigating. 

Regardless of which option you choose, please protect your windows from hurricane damage by putting up your shutters. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Two More for the Car Kit

While at work the other day, I realized how much duct tape we go through in a year. Granted, I work with a lot of outdated and poorly maintained machinery, but looking through the inventory logs I found that we use four times more than we sell.

Duct Tape
Duct tape is one of those "must have" items in a car kit. The uses are endless and it's easy enough to use that a child can figure it out. Be aware that the cheap dollar-store brands are a waste of money; the adhesive used is weak and not always waterproof, and the cloth backing is rarely attached to the tape well enough to withstand much weather. I prefer what is known as gaffer's tape, a type of duct tape made for the entertainment industry. (Gaffers are the "behind the scenes" people in music and movie production who spend a lot of time making sure everything goes right and that means a lot of quick repairs.) It's almost as good as the military-grade duct tape that I can't get any more (my supplier retired) and it will stick to almost anything except grease. Gaffer's tape should also be residue-free, meaning that the adhesive won't leave sticky residue behind, and most of it is a matte black color to avoid reflections.

A tip that I want to pass on about duct tape is that most brands come on a standardized cardboard tube. That tube just happens to be 3" in diameter, and is a perfect fit for dust caps or test caps for 3" PVC piping. Prices for test caps online is all over the place, and watch out for high shipping costs, but I have found them in a local DIY store for less than a buck apiece. Two of them will turn your roll of duct tape into a small storage box a bit bigger than an Altoids tin, which is a good use for wasted space and it might help you keep a few tools close to hand when you grab the tape. If you can't find test caps locally, keep an eye open in the mail room because the caps for 3" shipping tubes will work just as well.

Tie Wire
The second addition to a car kit should be some sort of tie wire. Being a farm-boy, I learned about baling wire a long time ago. Generally around 14 gauge (0.080 inch diameter), uncoated steel wire that a hay baler would use to secure small square bales of hay, the stuff was everywhere and used for every imaginable binding purpose -- I know of a lot of field gates that are still held closed by a length of baling wire. Farmers have moved to the large round bales in today's market, but you can still find small operations that use the little square bales for horses (they'll eat themselves to death if you give them a big bale) and straw for bedding.

Baling wire comes in 100 pound spools of over a mile of wire, so it's not practical for a car kit. If wire is too hard for you to cut or too stiff for the job, baling twine comes in similar spools and is jute, sisal, or polypropylene fiber. At ~8,000 feet per spool, two spools per package (the baling machines use them two at a time), this is best kept in a five-gallon bucket with a hole in the lid to feed the twine out of. It's handy to have sitting under a shelf in a garage or shop, but too big for an emergency kit.

This is what rebar tie wire was made for. It comes in smaller spools -- about 3.5 pounds, 330 feet long -- and slightly smaller wire (16 gauge/0.0625 inch diameter), but it's just as handy to have around. I've used partial rolls that I picked up out of construction site trash cans (they're already lighter) to patch up a lot of things long enough to get me home. For example, a friend hit a speed bump a little too fast and tore off his muffler, but a tie wire and a beverage can patched it up long enough to get back home. A rocking chair had to have the wooden joints re-glued and I don't have any clamps big enough, so washcloths for padding and tie wire did the trick. I don't think I can remember all of the times I've used some form of tie wire.

Both forms of tie wire feed from the center of the spool, which means the spool doesn't have to rotate as you pull the wire. A trick I learned from the construction workers is to wrap the outside of the rebar tie wire spool in a few layers of duct tape before use. This keeps the spool from getting caught on other things in a tool pouch, and prevents it from unspooling after you've cut the shipping ties.

If you live near the coast and plain steel wire will rust too fast for you, there is a more expensive option: stainless steel tie wire. I've seen this used for temporary binding of sheet metal and other things is damp or corrosive environments, and it's the same size and weight as the plain steel wire.

Holding things together until permanent repairs can be made is a key to field-expedient repairs. Make sure you have something a little stronger and more heat-resistant than zip-ties in your car kit.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Prudent Prepping: RTFD

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

I try to have a little fun with everything I write. Erin frequently pulls something out of my text that was intentionally inserted, but other times she will find nuggets on her own to use as the header for my posts. (Editrix's Note: This is true. David originally titled this "Food For Thought", which I felt wasn't a proper title for this post.)

That's what makes writing with this group so much fun! All the different views of common topics makes for interesting reading. I don't mean just the headlines, either; a friend and contributor to BCP, Garry Hamilton,  recently posted on his wall another hands-on test of his many knives. This reminded me to ask a question about maintaining a knife of my own.

Caring For Carbon Steel
I listened to Garry, Erin and several others talk up the various Morakniv models they own and how useful they are. I also have one, in my fishing gear stored at my parents house. It is very old and beaten up, and since it lives in a tackle box I'm not all that concerned about it's condition.

It's several months old, but I haven't used it very much.

I decided to carry it in my lunch box/first aid kit/carry everything box. I don't use any blue ice blocks to keep lunch fixings cold, just the glass bowls I pack and the occasional soda can, which limits the amount of moisture or 'sweat' that might be collected on everything. Even with all these steps, though, there still is some moisture or humidity that collects inside, plus the accidentally spilled water that I've dumped when carrying my washed bowls home. 

Something I sorta knew, but didn't really understand, was exactly what kind of steel was used to make the blade. At it turns out, it wasn't stainless steel, but carbon steel. 

Here is info from its Amazon page:
  • Full tang carbon steel knife with MOLLE multi-mount system is powerful enough to handle harsh tasks without the risk of breaking
  • Top grade carbon steel blade features razor sharpness, high hardness, and exceptional toughness and corrosion resistance
  • Molle Compatible mount system securely fastens knife to vehicles, walls, clothing, or packs so that it’s instantly accessible in any situation
  • Square-edged ground spine blade can be used as a striker with fire steel (sold separately)
  • Total length 9.0 inches (229 mm); blade length 4.3 inches (109 mm); blade thickness 0.13 inches (3.2 mm); weight 9.6 oz. (272 g)

Please note Point #2 above. I've no problem with the first three features mentioned there but I do have a slight issue with the claim of "exceptional toughness and corrosion resistance." I discovered that it is in fact possible to develop some corrosion on the blade if the knife happens to get damp. 
  1. Admission #1: The way the knife got wet was completely my fault and definitely preventable. I didn't dry my dishes well and dripped water everywhere. I didn't think the knife got wet, but when I looked at it a week later, there was a small amount of rust on the edge of the blade and also on the end of the hilt. 
  2. Admission #2: None of my knives are the equivalent of a Safe Queen. They all get used, some of them harder than others, so I'm not heartbroken about what happened. What I do want to try is preventing this same thing happening in the future if and when I spill more water, which is guaranteed to happen.
I sent a message to Garry, asking what I might do to keep this from happening in the future. Garry said, "I'm thinking wax will be your best bet. If you don't use it for food, there's always Turtle Wax." That's right, the solution he recommends is a coat of wax. Plain old car wax! 

I went on to say that this is an emergency knife and if used on food, a little wax will be the least of my problems. 

I used a non-stick scrub pad and Dawn dish soap to clean the blade. After rinsing and drying everything thoroughly, I wiped the blade with a coat of car wax, letting it haze over and then buffing it with an old sock. This is how the blade looks now.

Slight pitting

I'm happy to be on top of maintaining this knife, and any others that I may be buying, in the future.

The Takeaway
  • If I'm buying something different than what I have now, it pays to Read The Freaking Directions/Description of what I buy.
  • It pays to have a wide circle of friends with many different skills, so I can get myself out of trouble cheaply and easily! Thank you again, Garry.

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 27, 2019

Utah Brainbreaker Chili

It's one week to the beginning of most bird seasons here in Utah, which feeds right into the big game seasons. In my redneck world, hunting seasons mark the real beginning of fall, and all the wonderful cold-weather foods associated with it.

Now I hate reading 9 pages of background before a recipe, so I'll just give you the vitals right now. The story comes afterward, you can read it while the pot simmers.

The first thing to know is a batch of this chili is sized for a 3 gallon stock pot. Scale your own batch up or down based on knowing that. Second, seasonings are a very personal matter. This recipe works well, but if it calls for an item you don't like, delete it. If you think of something tasty to add, by all means do so, and then let me know about it, because I want to try it too!


2 quarts of your favorite stock
2 16oz cans of stewed tomatoes
2-3 cans of tomato paste (as needed)
1-1.5 pounds of bacon
1-2 pounds of andouille or other sausage
2-3 pounds of cubed beef or pork
1 bulb of garlic
lime juice (about equal to the juice of 10 fresh limes)
bay leaves
chopped fresh cilantro
chili powder
dried mustard
dried minced onion
1 16oz bag of pearled barley

Start with your stock pot on medium, with the tomato sauce and stock. In a skillet, brown your meat in the following order: bacon, half the pig or cow, sausage, and the remaining beef or pork. Between each round, transfer your meat to the stock pot, but don't lose any of the grease. The bacon and sausage grease will help brown the other meat. After your meat is browned, crush as much garlic as you like and brown it in the grease. After the garlic caramelizes, transfer it *and* the grease to the stock pot.

Add the lime juice, bay leaves, chili powder, dried mustard, and cilantro, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let it simmer covered for at least 2 hours. If you want a bit more heat, hit it with some ancho or chipotle powder. If you want a bit more smoke, add some smoked paprika.

After 2 hours, add the stewed tomatoes and barley. Add dried onion to taste, and simmer covered for another hour or so. You'll know it's ready when the barley plumps up and has an al dente texture.

While it simmers away, here's the story.

One of my favorite hobbies is giving Texas and Texans a hard time. It's all in good fun, and since Texans are almost religious about beans in their chili, it's a fun point to poke. I happen to love beans in my chili, but my wife an I can't agree on which beans to use, so years ago we experimented with barley and loved the result. When I tell people I put barley in my chili, you can actually see their brain try and shift gears. It's a lot of fun to witness, hence the Brainbreaker name.

Observant folks will note that there are zero fresh peppers in my chili. My body has a real nasty disagreement with all peppers, even bell peppers. Once they get powdered, I'm fine with them, but fresh they cause raging indigestion. We have to get our heat from cilantro and various dry seasonings.

If you prefer fresh limes, they work great. I've done it in the past, and the results were very tasty, it's just prep work I can avoid by using lime juice.

Also, I'm aware just how much meat is in my chili, and how un-blue-collar it may appear. I use the cheapest meat I can find to make this, because it will cook down and be tender even if it starts tough. Also, remember that this is a 3 gallon batch, which will feed a very mighty family, or can be frozen and stored for an entire winter. It reheats nicely, and maintains a good texture, unlike some foods when they're frozen. You could also substitute game or any other cheap meat you have available to you.

Cooking is mad science. Take this recipe and play with it, and let me know what you change. I'd love to taste test a whole array of variations on this theme.


Monday, August 26, 2019

Civil War Era Hard Tack

Hard is right!

All you need is 2.5 cups of flour mixed with a teaspoon of salt.

Knead in about 1 cup of water a quarter cup at a time. Roll it out, poke it lots with a fork, cut it into shapes, and bake for 30 mins at 375.

Let it cool for the afternoon before you put it away.

And here’s the recipe. Remember, I used an entire cup of water.


Sorry about the wrinkles.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Survival e-Reader

& is used with permission.
After writing last week's article, I realized that while I have mentioned the Survival e-Reader before, my argument for why it's a good thing is something which is not readable on this blog, due to it being presented in episode 56 of the GunBlog VarietyCast. Since referring to a concept that is inaccessible to our readers is in poor form, I present to you a transcript of my segment from that episode.

Sean: In addition to being the bratty kid sister of the blogosphere, you're also like Auntie Erin the prepper aunt. We all look to you for the most amazing, exciting, neat, very inexpensive ways to hack our way to safety and live through dangerous things. So what are you going to tell us about today?

Erin: Well, last podcast's plug of the a week about your Kindle Fire inspired me to talk about how to make a survival e-reader.

You're kidding, right? My Kindle is a survival tool?

Erin: You have a Kindle Fire HD 6, right? That comes with eight gigabytes of memory. You probably have access to only six for storage. The average e-book is about 500 kilobytes, so six gigs is roughly 600,000 kilobytes. So that's about a thousand to twelve hundred e-books you could store. Now your options increase if you have a Barnes & Noble Nook instead. They have slots for micro SD cards, in which case you can just expand that storage space massively. Amazon has 64 Gig micro SD for about $20. Now your Kindle cost you only $114, whereas the cheapest version of the newest Nook, the 7.0, costs about $150, so you pay for that versatility. But, if you don't mind getting an older model, a Nook from 2012 will only cost you about $50.
Editor's Note: This was correct when I said it four years ago. Things have changed since then; all current Kindle models have much more internal memory and all have SD cards. The cheapest is the Kindle 7 with 16 gigs of memory (and the ability to add 512gb more with an SD card) for $50. The $80 Kindle 8 HD can have up to 400gb additional memory. I do not recommend the Kindle 10 as it only allows the addition of a 256gb card to its 64gb of internal memory; you end up paying more for less storage, which is of critical importance to a survival e-reader. 

Meanwhile, the only Nook to still have SD card access is the Tablet 10.1, which at $130 costs much more than the Kindle 8 but has less memory (32gb internal and 256gb SD card). I no longer recommend the Nook; get a Kindle 7 or 8 instead. 
Alternately, make a field expedient e-reader as explained in this BCP article by Scott Bascom
Ultimately, the main difference between the Kindle and the Nook are file types. Nook uses the very common ePub format, while Kindle uses its proprietary MOBI format, which is mostly popular because it's on Amazon. Fortunately, there is a way to convert one to the other on your home computer; just follow the link in the show notes below.
 So what can you do with all of this storage? Well, you create a survival library of ebooks that can teach you first aid, or help you identify plants and animals, or show you how to do any number of other things. And the wonderful thing about these readers is that they can show you what to do using full color pictures rather than simply telling you through words. And sometimes that makes all the difference. For example, edible plants look different in the winter than they do in the summer, and a good e-book will show you both pictures. And what's more, there are plenty of e-books about prepping and survival that are absolutely free. I've included a link to a Web page for that.
Now, I do want to caution people about using apps. There are many apps that do similar things like do first aid or have survival information, and they do have the benefit of being interactive. However, apps often take up more room than ebooks -- you need the memory to run the program, not just read from a file -- and many have a tendency to not work without an internet connection. But, sometimes these are fine, so be sure not to dismiss them out of hand. Just investigate before you invest.

Sean: Oh, come on, Erin. My Kindle is fragile. It needs power, and what if it gets wet. I mean, aren't regular books better?

Erin: Well, these are good points, but you're fragile, too. You'll break if dropped from a great height, just like a Kindle. And you need a light to read a regular book; your e-Reader makes its own light. And yes, an e-reader that gets wet is likely broken. But a book that gets wet has pages that can tear, or stick together, or become moldy. The fact of the matter is that e-books and regular books both have a place in a bug out bag. Your Kindle weighs as much as one book, but can hold the information of over a thousand. That's not a bad weight to value ratio. Now yes, you will need to take care of it just like any other piece of gear. Fortunately, there is an entire industry dedicated to creating waterproof and shock proof tablet cases. Just yesterday I was in the sporting goods section of Walmart and found a lockable waterproof plastic case shaped for an iPad and it was filled with that pluckable foam so you could create a custom cushion. And this was around $20, which is not a bad investment for an expensive tablet.
Now, yes, you are going to need to power it. Fortunately, most e-readers can be powered by solar or by crank, just like a cell phone can, so any cell phone recharging strategies work for them, too. The problem is that most of these are trickle charged, so you're looking at a lot of cranking for many hours in sunlight. Now for this, I would recommend getting a USB-based battery that can charge your tablet while you sleep and then recharge that battery during the day. I've included my recommendations for solar panels, batteries and crank chargers and the show notes.
And even if the worst happens and your Kindle or Nook breaks, you can still make use of it by taking it apart and using the pieces. For example, the battery can be used to start fires. The circuit boards can be turned into cutting tools, and you can use the back of the LCD screen as a signal mirror. 
So you see, Sean, it makes a lot of sense to have an e-reader in a bug out bag; just make sure to take care of it.

Sean: Then when I'm bored, I can just read a book for entertainment?

Erin: Or listen to music, or watch a movie. Yes, morale is an important part of survival, and anything that makes your life better and takes your mind off boredom or miserable conditions is worthwhile.

Sean: All right, Erin. It was good to talk with you. See you again next week.

Erin: See you, take care.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Protective Cases Addendum

Last week I covered some basic plastic cases for protecting your valuable and somewhat fragile gear. One of our regular readers suggested another source,, and I'm still working my way through their site to see what they have to offer. The prices seem to be a bit high, but they offer a huge variety of cases from several different makers and custom-cut foam inserts.

The custom-cut foam is interesting because it gives us a way to repurpose old cases and containers, as well as a way to repair an “Oops” if you messed up while customizing a new case. Older cases and containers pop up in thrift stores and yard sales, usually without the original contents. If the case is still in good shape but the foam is cut out in a useless pattern, you can often pick them up very cheap. Having a source of new pluck and pull foam will let you put that case back to work. Amazon also sells pluck and pull foam sheets in a variety of sizes.

Another way the custom-cut foam can come in handy is in the making of camouflaged storage. You can find miniature safes disguised as common household items like a can of shaving cream, a jar of peanut butter, or a hard-cover book but you can probably find something around your home that you could convert. A hard-shell lunchbox and the ubiquitous cookie tin (aka Schrödinger's sewing box -- it's both cookies and sewing supplies until you open it) both come to mind, so look around and see what you can find. Using a chunk of custom foam will hold your valuables more securely and keep them from rattling around if moved.

Editor's Note: I added this because I thought it was funny. It wasn't originally part of Tim's article.

I'm looking into converting some of my surplus ammo cans into storage cases for a few delicate electronic tools. It's hard to beat the tried and true M2A1 .50 cal ammo cans, as they've been around for years and are still being used by the military. I've tested a few, the longest of which was leaving one filled with miscellaneous ammunition outside for over a year. It survived being buried in a few feet of snow, drenched with a total of over two feet of rain, sub-zero and above 100°F temperatures, and a few kicks and drops when it got in the way without losing its integrity. The ammunition was just as dry and clean as when I put it in the can, and it all functioned flawlessly. The standard M2A1 is 11x5.5x7 inches, so finding foam to fit inside isn't hard. I'm still looking at the options and trying to figure out the cheapest supplier.

I use a metal 40mm ammo can at work for secure storage of some nasty chemicals, as state law says I have to keep them in a locked container until I actually use them. It makes a handy transport case, and the hasp I welded on makes it secure storage. Since the flasks are a standard size, I'm trying to get the boss to pay for some foam so I can make inserts. The newer ammo cans I've seen in the surplus stores and at gun shows are trending towards hard plastic or fiberglass cases for larger ammunition. With the judicious use of a cut-off tool and a sander, these cases would make a good base for storing longer pieces of gear.

Testing of the Harbor Freight cases I bought is still under way, the larger one is currently bouncing around in the back of my pickup in a typical Iowa summer and the smaller ones are being scrutinized for compatibility with a few things. The smallest is almost too small for anything useful, and the medium may get turned into an emergency tool kit. Hand tools aren't fragile, but having what I need for common repairs all in one place and safe from the weather has been a challenge my entire life.

One of the things I didn't mention last week that I should have: since these cases are waterproof, moisture can't get out. If you put something away that is damp or wet, the moisture will stay on or around it and can cause rust or corrosion. Dry your gear before storing it or make room for dessicant inside the case.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Summer Car Review

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

After  watching Monday's video by The Discerning Shootist, I realized it has been a while since I checked everything in my own car.While  I do check the oil, washer fluid, coolant reservoir and those things everyone should be doing every time they gas up, I needed to go through the things I don't think about too often. 

"Out Of Sight"...
... means the things I don't necessarily look at, or the things that are meant only for emergency use. For example, I have a Black and Decker portable power unit which I reviewed in this post almost two years ago. I used it quite often that year, when I was trying to trace a mystery battery/charging problem, but after that I think I used it only once last year, and that wasn't on my car.

I pulled it out of the trunk yesterday, and while it still showed some charge, it wasn't enough to reliably jump someone with a dead battery.

As I wrote in the original post, I really like its compact size, the power to turn over a 4-cylinder engine, and the fact there is a USB port to give me another recharging source.

Nitecore P12Gt Flashlight
My food is rotated on my regular schedule and the bottled water doesn't last long before it starts tasting funny, so one of the other things I checked was the budget-busting flashlight I reviewed here, I don't have an excuse for ignoring the Nitecore, since it is in the driver's door pocket.
I ended up buying a single flashlight and a combo kit of flashlight, charger and batteries, since these lights use the very popular and common 18650 rechargeable batteries. If you need a nice flashlight that compares very favorably to the top-of-the-line trendy name brands, look at this one.

 The flashlight uses a CREE LED 'bulb' which puts out a lot of light and also heat. It was still putting out plenty of light after running for 20 minutes on a medium setting, but to be safe I charged the battery anyway. 

The last thing I checked was my tire pressure at the tire shop I use. My inexpensive tire gauge was within 2 lbs of the fancy ones used at the shop, so I trust the reading. After doing that I made sure the spare was up to pressure, too.  

The Takeaway and Recap
  •  Nothing was purchased this week, but I was reminded to check some of the things that I might need in a hurry. 
  • The Nitecore PT12GT Flashlight Kit has gone up in price from my original review, but is still an outstanding deal from Amazon at $89.95 with Prime shipping.
  • The Black and Decker J312B has also gone up in price from two years ago, but is competitively priced with the Big Box stores at $49.97 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 20, 2019

MacGyver Eyes

The atlatl range was closed this weekend, so sadly that video will have to wait. But on the way to our campground we encountered a bit of automotive trouble that might prove a touch instructive.

I've said in the past that I try to look at a problem with MacGyver goggles, and strive to teach others to do the same. For those who haven't heard the term before, it means that you don't need to have the "right" parts to solve a problem, you just need the "right now" parts.

I recently changed trucks, and while I am very familiar with gasoline engines, turbocharged diesels are an entirely new thing for me and have been a learning process. While traveling to our campground my truck suddenly got loud and lost a bit of power. It wasn't making any strange or troubling noises, it was just much louder. The power loss wasn't enough to sideline us, but it was noticeable especially when climbing hills.

A bit of rolling diagnosis and a couple of calls to some diesel-knowledgeable friends confirmed my suspicion that I had developed a boost leak. The short definition of this is that I had a small leak at some point between my turbocharger and my intake, which caused my engine to make less power than normal. We got to a gas station and let the engine cool, and proceeded to chase the leak. We located the source, which was an abrasion in one of the rubber hoses from the turbo.

I'm transitioning between trucks, all I had available were my hand tools for work and what I could find in a tiny farm town right at quitting time on a Friday. Calling every parts house in the area let me know that this particular hose was plenty available 100 miles back up the road in Salt Lake, but that it did not exist between my location and Las Vegas, and would take at least a day to get in. Obviously, that wasn't going to work.

Taking stock of what we had at hand, I grabbed some electrical tape to seal the leak. While it is stretchy and great at sealing things, electrical tape isn't very durable or sticky, especially when hot. My wife bought a roll of duct tape in the gas station (small town gas stations are great for having a wide variety of things) and we taped up the leak in the best way we could in a parking lot. First we used the electrical tape to seal the abrasion, then we used duct tape to reinforce it.

That got us back on the road. It wasn't a great fix, but it got us to our camp site safely. We headed into the nearest town the next day hoping for a bit of good fortune. We still couldn't locate the appropriate part, but one of the stores had some parts that I could fashion a patch with.

A chunk of radiator hose, a few hose clamps, and a bit better tape job, and the truck was running at about 95% power.

The eventual result. It's not pretty, but it's holding.

The most important takeaway from this shouldn't be how to patch a turbo boot, or anything specific from my story. Instead, try to look at problems from a more abstract angle. Rather than "I need this hose that is unavailable," try "I need to stop air from coming out of that hole." It won't be a long-term repair, but it will be a way to get home.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Errand Escapades and Poor Planning

Complacency will kill you just as quickly as hysteria will. Here are some good reminders, and a tip or two just for a day in the life. No zombies needed.

And here’s a picture of what your tire’s date code should look like:

Friday, August 16, 2019

Prudent Prepping: SFD Responder, Part the Last

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

Technical difficulties prevented me from posting on time, but our talented and resourceful Editrix Erin saved the day. So with no further delays, here is my post.

SFD Responder 2.0 Reloaded
I was asked  by a co-worker who reads the blog if I have any pictures of me wearing the SFD Responder 2.0,  and I do. I forgot to add one to my first and second post, so here it is:

No, I don't wear white socks with my slacks; I did it this way because black shoes, black socks and a black Responder didn't look good in a picture.

With a compact Chest Seal wedged into the pocket with the compression bandage and Quik Clot, everything is still reasonably compact and not obvious.

Here is info on the NAR HyFin Vent Compact Chest Seal that I bought from its Amazon page:
  • 3-channel pressure relief vents
  • Two Chest Seals for the treatment of entry/exit or multiple penetrating wounds
  • Advanced adhesive gel for superior adhesion, even to sweaty or hairy chests
  • Red-Tip Technology single step, peel and apply application that also allows for burping the wound if necessary
  • Weight: 1.6 ozs Packaged: Folded: H 6.5 in. x W 3.875 in. x D 0.25 in. Unfolded: L 6.5 in. x W 7.75 in. x D 0.13 in. Chest Seal Size When Deployed: H 4.75 in. x W 4.75 in.

This is the expanded and final version of my SFD Responder. I do believe this is the final version of my gear, since the pockets are just so small I really can't load anything else into them! If the contents do change, it will only be through removing something to make the room for a new item.

The Takeaway
  • Ask questions when adding unfamiliar gear. Large and compact Chest Seals aren't budget busters, but I don't like spending any more than necessary for my preps.
The Recap
  • Again, nothing was purchased this week but the NAR Chest Seals are available from Amazon for $33.55 but are NOT Prime eligible.

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book Recommendations: Survival Handbooks

& is used with permission.
Today I received a PM from a friend which said:
Hey! Long time no see! I've started watching a series on YouTube on the American Frontier (Townsends is the channel, with Coalcracker being a guest for some episodes). Watching this stuff has me longing for my boy scout days. Can you recommend a good field manual? Something for plant/tree identification, tying knots, and other wilderness/forest survival?

I've found that the SAS Survival Handbook is a good, all-purpose book, rather like an old Boy Scout Handbook but for adults. There's a lot (a lot) of excellent information inside it, from bushcraft to survival skills to plant & animal identification. There's first aid and knots and navigation. There are plenty of full-color illustrations to help you understand what's being taught. It's a legitimate weighty tome, both in information density and in actual weight (it's a trade paperback but it weighs at least as much as a hardcover book.) Fortunately for those of us worried about weight, there's both a Kindle edition for your survival e-reader and an app version for both Apple and Android phones.

Another book which I recommend is Wilderness Survival by Gregory J. Davenport. This is smaller and lighter than the SAS guide, and the illustrations are less detailed, but I feel it has a different focus. The SAS Survival Handbook is geared towards "Here's how to survive anywhere on earth, and your efforts should be focused on getting rescued or self-rescue", while Wilderness Survival 
is more "Well, you're stuck here, and could be here for a good long while. Might as well make yourself comfortable." It, too, is also available in Kindle format, and has earned itself a place in my survival e-reader.

If you're looking for good book on bushcraft skills and general survival, you won't go wrong with either of these. Put SAS in your bug-out bag and Wilderness Survival in your camping backpack and you'll be better prepared than a lot of people.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Protective Cases on a Budget

If you have gear that you want to keep dry and unbroken, you're going to need a protective case of some sort.

Pelican has been the standard for waterproof shipping/storage containers for many years. They make them in many sizes and shapes to fit just about anything you might want to protect, but they're not cheap. Pelican cases are also made in the USA if you're trying to avoid imports. My photographer friends don't have a problem spending a couple hundred dollars on a quality case for a camera/lens set-up that cost several thousand dollars, but they can also write it off as a business expense.

Amazon has their own line of hard cases and several of the “discount” tool stores like Harbor Freight (HF) and Northern tools offer alternatives to Pelican that are a lot cheaper. As an example, I went to my nearest Harbor Freight store and bought one each of their X-small, Small, and Medium cases for what a single Medium Pelican case would have cost.

For storing and shipping my electronics and a few other toys, I'm happy with the quality I got from HF. Here's what you need to look for when shopping for hard cases:

Most lines offer at least a small, medium and large case, with Pelican having the most variety of sizes. Your mileage may vary, but I like having cases that are uniform in size because it makes stacking them easier. If you're only going to need a few cases, shop around to find the ones that fit the tools and toys you're looking to protect.

Most of the makers are now using “Pick and Pull” foam for the bottom liner with “Egg Crate” foam on the lid. The Pick and Pull foam is about 1.5 inches thick and pre-scored (cut almost all the way through) in a roughly 0.5 inch grid. You can trace the outline of what you want to store on the foam and then remove the foam blocks to make a custom fit. It helps to make the holes slightly smaller than the object to ensure a tight fit. Several brands are using a solid foam base and two or more layers of Pick and Pull foam in their cases to allow for basic protection and more customization options.

IP Rating
I think I mentioned IP Rating when I wrote a review of my new cell phone, but I'll go over it again. IP stands for Ingress (sometimes International) Protection and is a two-digit number. The first number is for dust, the second is for water, and the higher the number the better the protection. Anything with a rating of 5 or more is considered dustproof/waterproof, so look for at least that level. By the time you get a water rating of 7 it is good against full immersion A good chart for the various levels can be found here.

Pelican doesn't list their IP ratings, but most of the others are in the 55-68 range.
Just remember that waterproof means that water can't get out, either, so if you put something away wet it will sit in that moisture until you open the case and dry it out.

Different manufacturers use slightly different plastics, with polypropylene being most common. Polypropylene is a good industrial plastic than melts at 266°F (130°C), so it should stand up to the heat you'll find anywhere in the world. It does get brittle at temperatures below freezing, so care must be taken in colder climates.

Pelican cases tend to have thicker walls than the cheaper models, so paying the extra money may make sense if you're protecting something really fragile and valuable. I have a friend who carries a pair of Glencairnwhiskey glasses in a small Pelican case when he goes camping, and the thin-walled crystal has survived several years of travel in that case.

This is a sticky one, as some folks want to save a few bucks while others will pay a premium for a brand name and/or better protection. I fall somewhere in the middle; I will pay for better protection for the few things that are going to need it, but will put the pistols and other hardware in cheaper boxes.

Here are a few prices for similar cases listed by brand, dimensions, and price in 2019.

  • Small
    • Pelican 1200: 9x7x4 $55
    • HF 1800: 8x6x4 $15
  • Medium
    • Pelican 1400: 13x11x6 $100
    • HF 3800: 15x10x6 $40
    • Amazon Basic: 12x11x6 $33
  • Large
    • Pelican 1600: 24x19x9 $200
    • HF 5800: 20x11x6 $90
    • Amazon Basic: 22x14x9 $125

I'm trying to get more organized in my storage, so I've been looking at a lot of cases and containers lately. Things like communications gear and some tools are going to find new homes in waterproof cases to protect them while keeping all of the cords, cables, chargers, and accessories in the same damned place. I'm not going to be five hours from home and find out that I forgot that unique cord for connecting my radio to an external antenna any more.

Springfield, Sig and a few other gun makers are shipping a lot of their new firearms in hard-shell cases that can serve as shipping containers as well as storage boxes. They usually have foam liners that are pre-cut to hold the pistol and magazines shipped from the factory, with a little room for extras. The ability to put a lock on the case makes it a bit harder for the thieves in the back rooms of various shipping companies and airports to get to your toys. They usually have the gun maker's name embossed on the lid so they're not great for discrete shipping as the thieves will know what's in the box. While these cases offer some security and foam padding for protection against damage, they're not normally waterproof.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What the Hell is an Atlatl?

In the beginning, humans were subsistence hunters. At some point, an enterprising caveman figured out that a pointy stick was good for killing animals. That caveman also soon learned that some animals are big enough, tough enough, or mean enough that even with a pointy stick in them, you're still at risk of severe injury.

The biggest and strongest cavemen could throw the pointy stick, hitting their prey from a safer distance. But what about the smaller cavemen who couldn't throw hard enough to kill a mammoth? While history shows us a plethora of innovations used to enhance the lethality of humanity, today I'd like to focus on something called an atlatl.

Photo by Richard Keatinge

The atlatl, sometimes called the dart thrower or spear thrower, is a lever-type device used to launch a pointy stick faster than the user could possibly throw it with just their arm. It works on the same principle as the catapult, sling, and various other devices that extend the length of a throwing arm to achieve greater speeds.

"But in a world where bows exist," I hear you ask, "why would someone ever choose to use the atlatl?" While bows are much more powerful, more intuitive, and far simpler to master, building a bow with any kind of power is very difficult to do from scratch, especially with primitive tools. It is also a very time-consuming process and requires particular materials. However, an atlatl only requires a stick about the length of your forearm, a knife, and maybe some kind of cordage. In addition, it can also throw larger and less refined projectiles than a bow. They're also a whole lot of fun to play with.

I'm hoping to spend some time on an actual atlatl range this weekend, so I can show how they actually function and how they can enhance your ability to throw arrows.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

For $5 more than a Life Straw, the Sawyer Mini Water Filter is is probably the best deal on the planet.

By the way, the correct math for this is 1 gallon per day x 100,000 gallons = 273 years. That’s normal recommended usage. And if the included bag breaks, any disposable water bottle will do in its place.

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