Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Prudent Prepping: the Solo Bonfire

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

Things are back to normal here... or as normal as things can be in the earthquake/fire/drought land called California. I mentioned to a reader that the disasters are now affecting the exclusive suburbs and expensive high-rent urban neighborhoods which has changed how the fires are reported here in N. California, while S. California fires have burned exclusive towns for years. The poor forest and open space management doesn't discriminate by ZIP Code; it has now affected almost every county in N. California.

But enough of this, I'm safe from the scare of a fire 2.5 miles away that was contained to 50 acres, even if the smoke was so thick Sunday night it kept everyone up.

As an add-on to last weeks Buffet Post, I just saw this in The Home Depot:

Solo Bonfire

Solo Fire Pit

Now this is the Solo Bonfire Model SSBON, which is the basic model offered by Solo. It's a 19.5" W x 14" H stainless steel fire pit.

From the Home Depot ad:
The Solo Stove Bonfire is unlike any other fire pit you've ever seen. We have used our same patented technology that has been perfected into a portable fire pit to take along on trips or to enjoy at home. The best part. Nearly no smoke and minimal ash left over. Making the Bonfire not only easy to clean up, but wont leave you smelling like campfire. The Bonfire gets its power from logs, larger sticks or woody debris, to fuel the fire while the air intake holes on the bottom pull air in towards the fuel source. While air is being pulled in, the double-wall construction allows air to be heated up and fed through the top vents providing an extra boost of pre-heated oxygen, creating a secondary combustion and a beautiful flame that your family and friends will enjoy watching.

  • Low smoke
  • Portable
  • Durable
  • 304 stainless steel

Why am I posting about a fire pit when what looks like half my state is on fire? Because the other half isn't burning, and the rest of the country could enjoy a nice fire on the patio!

Here is a little more information on the unit:

It seems to be very well built in the same fashion as their stoves, which Erin mentioned to me once. Or twice. Not more than three times, I'm positive!

I really don't know how these things ended up on the shelf of one of the Depots I call on, but as you can see, there they are. I do have to say that I looked in the other stores in my area and the Solo Fire Pit was only stocked in one store, so I would have everyone check your local store. 

Full Disclosure time: Amazon has the exact model for $5 less with Prime and if you choose the BCP Amazon link, we get a little boost. This might be the better option, since everyone can get an Amazon delivery. 

Unless you're on fire.

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but my friends and I were able to put in place a few more emergency plans. There were even discussions of, and some actual BOB building, along with discussions about where everyone's important papers are kept just in case a real disaster hits.
  • Check out your local big box hardware store for a really nice, low-smoke Solo Bonfire... or order the Solo Bonfire through Amazon for only $295 and save $5 while helping out Blue Collar Prepping! What a deal!

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, October 28, 2019

Love Thy Eggs: New Coop 2019

This week: Keeping my chickens dry and warm.

I just bought a new coop. It’s awesome, complete, and should outlast my desire to need it. However, winter is coming soon and I’m in a rush to get it covered, so I had to do a little thinking on my feet.

Did I mention it was pre-wired? That light bulb survived the trip right where it's at!

Here’s a couple of pics in case you missed it.

Here's that ash I was talking about. Be careful what you burn!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Product Review: Lansky C-Sharp

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Longtime readers of this blog will no doubt remember when both Lokidude and myself enthused over the Lansky QuadSharp, a pocket-sized knife sharpener which came with four carbide cutting slots: 17, 20, 25, and 30 degrees. Its size, weight, price, and versatility (the ability to sharpen both a fillet knife and an axe is not to be underestimated) earned it a spot in any prepper's camping gear or Bug Out Bag.

I have only just become aware of the Lansky C-Sharp, which is essentially the QuadSharp but its its carbide cutting blades replaced with 600 grit ceramic surfaces for honing knives. The moment I found it on Amazon it I bought it solely based upon the strength of my experience with the QuadSharp alone, and I was not disappointed.

There really isn't much to say about the C-Sharp that hasn't been said about the QuadSharp. The form factor is identical, as is its price and quality of construction. If you like the QuadSharp then you will want this as well, and I believe this will become an essential part of your preps.

As for my own experience with it: I was able to take an old Mora with a damaged edge (the blade had a serious dink in the edge, and someone had tried to repair it by re-profiling the Mora's Scandi grind with a secondary bevel.. and not very well at that) and between the QuadSharp and the C-Sharp I was able to restore it to a 20° angle that cuts quite well. It may never be sharp enough to shave with, but for an outdoor working knife its cuts just fine and I won't be worried about using it as a "beater knife" in the future.

My Rating: 5/5
Buy it! You won't be disappointed. Repair damaged or seriously dull blades with the Quadsharp and then hone them to razor sharpness, or just touch up already sharp blades, with the C-Sharp. The only way Lansky could improve on this perfection is if they released a third version with a fine grit for polishing and perhaps a leather strop along the edge.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Drinking Container Safety: Metals

Last week I covered plastics for food and drink use; this week I'll cover the common metals you might find or buy for the same purposes. Metal containers have been in use for thousands of years, but the recent crazes of “detox diets” and natural-everything have made it hard to find useful information on the Internet. If a website has “natural” or “health” in the name and doesn't end in .gov or .edu, take the information found there with a healthy helping of skepticism.

Metal cans and cups have been around since humans learned how to work metal. Some metals are safe, some are safe with most liquids, and some should be avoided at all costs. Starting with the lowest atomic number and working up to end with the common alloys, here are the more common metals with their pros and cons:

12 Mg- Magnesium
Known for being light-weight and strong, Mg isn't used for food or water containers very often. Very reactive and hard to work with due to its low ignition temperature, Mg is rare in cookware but may be used in a make-shift water container. Excess Mg is readily excreted from the body, so only those with certain medical conditions need to worry about consuming too much.

13 Al- Aluminum
Once a standard for light-weight cookware and dishes, Al has been linked to several health issues and is falling out of favor. Al is a very reactive metal and is always found in combination with another element. Simple Al oxidizes almost immediately when exposed to air, forming a protective coating of aluminum oxide, but acidic foods and drinks will eat through that layer and leach Al into the food/drink. Heat will also speed up leaching, so cooking in Al will expose you to more.

22 Ti- Titanium
Light, strong, and expensive, Ti is safe for food use. There is slight chance of being allergic to Ti, but it is considered non-toxic. I've got a few pieces of Ti holding bones together, so it's safe to say that it is safe to eat or drink from containers made of it.

24 Cr- Chromium
A component of most stainless steels, Cr is also used to plate or cover cheaper metals to give them a shiny, corrosion resistant covering. Most of the reports of Crpoisoning are related to ions of Cr used in the plating process and not the finished product, so using that old chromed hubcap in your water collection system shouldn't be a problem.

26 Fe- Iron
Required by your body to function, Fe is non-toxic at all but very high doses. You might have to filter flakes of rust out of your water, but iron and steel containers are safe to drink from. Watch for bacteria and other microbes growing in rust and the pores of iron containers.

28 Ni- Nickel
Like Cr, Ni is used in stainless steel alloys and as a plating for other metals. Allergic reactions to Ni are fairly common, so if you can't wear cheap jewelry without breaking out in a rash you should avoid Ni plated drinking containers.

29 Cu- Copper
Being easy to work, fairly cheap, and a good conductor of heat all make Cu a good choice for cookware. It is soft and scratches easily, so it requires some care. Commonly found in distilleries and water pipes in old houses, Cu has become more expensive lately. See Pb, below, for information on solder joints. Cu is another trace element that your body needs, but high doses should be avoided.

30 Zn- Zinc
Commonly used to galvanize steel to give it a rust-proof finish, Zn is a trace mineral needed for proper bodily functions. Fairly non-toxic, but high doses can interfere with Fe and Cu metabolism. Avoid heating galvanized steel since doing so will release toxic fumes. If you are going to use a plated piece of metal as a grill or pan, make sure you safely burn off the plating first.

47 Ag- Silver
Solid silver and silver-plated dinnerware has been around for a long time because not only is it safe to use with food, but it may also have minor antibacterial properties. I'm not going to get into the colloidal silver debate, but silver ions have been shown to kill microbes in many lab tests. Too much in your diet will turn your skin permanently blue-gray (Argyria), but it takes more than that to be toxic.

50 Sn- Tin
Most of us have heard of tin cans, which are actually steel cans with a thin lining of Tin on the inside. Tin is a stable metal and not very reactive, so it is less likely to corrode and contaminate stored food or water than the steel shell which provides strength. Tin by itself is non-toxic and safe to use with food and drinks.

79 Au- Gold
Expensive but one of the best for food contact, gold doesn't tarnish and is almost inert in most environments, making it very unlikely to contaminate food or water.

82 Pb- Lead
One of the well-known heavy metals that is hazardous with long-term exposure. Its low melting point makes it a good solder for joining metals, so it is common in old water supplies and copper radiators. New potable water supply lines need to be soldered together with lead-free solder to avoid ingesting Pb with every cup of water, but such solder is easy to find.

Pb does accumulate in the body, so the longer you're exposed the more damage it will do to the central nervous system (CNS), peripheral nerves, kidneys, and circulatory system. Removing Pb from the body is a delicate procedure requiring hospital care and chelation therapy. Definitely one to avoid at all costs!


And alloy of Cu and Zn, brass is a common decorative metal. It does corrode, as anyone who has ever had to polish brass buttons on a uniform will attest. Some blends of brass can contain Pb and there is concern over the possible leaching of the Pb into water from brass plumbing fixtures. California has greatly reduced the allowable amount of Pb in all consumer goods, so newer fixtures should be safer than old ones.

Often used to make musical instruments, brass has some anti-microbial properties that are being researched. History shows that brass fittings on ships resist biological fouling, but until that can be quantified in a lab it is just “anecdotal evidence”.

One part tin and seven parts copper, bronze is one of the oldest alloys used by man, dating back at least 5000 years and is still in production today. Large bells and statues are often made of bronze due to its strength and ease of casting. Like brass, it can contain trace amounts of Pb as well as other metals.

A blend of Tin, Lead, Copper, and possibly other metals, pewter is of questionable safety to use with food. Pewter is used when the maker wants a darker alloy than either brass or bronze; it is normally gray or brown in color instead of the reddish-yellow of the other Cu alloys. The presence of any significant amount of lead would put it far down the list of potential materials for me.

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel (SS) is a generic name for a wide variety of alloys of steel and Ni, Mo, Mn, Cr, and a few other metals. Most common SS alloys are well-suited for use with food and water, with the only caveat to avoid storing chlorine-based solutions in SS containers. Chlorine pulls the Chromium out of the alloy, contaminating the stored liquid and weakening the SS.

As long as you avoid Pb, most metals are safer to use with food and drink than plastics. They are also easier to recycle and have a longer usable life than plastics. They may be heavier, but I prefer metal flasks and cups over plastic.

A side-note on metals and water:
If you're using a good reverse osmosis (RO) system or a hearty de-ionization setup, the water coming out may be so clean that it can actually eat away at metal piping and containers. I've seen this on an industrial scale and it is possible on smaller sets; copper contamination in lab-grade pure water that was traced to a repair made with copper piping on a RO system.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Prudent Prepping: October Roundup

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

I haven't done a buffet post in a while, and both this week and last have been really filled with work. I'm tired and there are almost three weeks' worth of topics I don't have time to write, rolling around in my head and as notes in my tablet.

First up, the latest California oddity:

Fire Warning Blackouts Scheduled This Week
Yes friends, you read that correctly. Due to temperatures forecast to hit the low 90's by Friday with wind gusts to 60 mph at the higher elevations, Northern California is shutting off the power again. This time, nowhere near the 800,000 (that became 2 million) originally affected will be in the dark; only a mere 200,000 (maybe. You never know). 

The store I was in today sold 14 generators from Monday morning until I left Tuesday afternoon. I'm still seeing battery lanterns fly out of the stores, and I predict Eveready and Duracell stock will soar in price well before the normal Holiday buying spree.

Share The Knowledge
In my post last week I mentioned needing to find my prepping books. I found them in the bottom of a book tote, as they were on a small shelf beside my computer and so went into the bin first. This was poor planning on my part! I've been looking through the pile and what I found is what I think will be my recommended book for beginners, at least in my area where $13 for a book won't dent most peoples budget.

When The Grid Goes Down (prophetic title, isn't it?) has very short chapters that include many lists, but it is presented in a style that doesn't make reading what is there boring.

From the Amazon page:
Disasters come and go each year. It is through developing a self-reliant mindset, having essential survival gear, and possessing a handful of critical skills that will enable you and your family to prevail in an urban crisis. Jammed with field-tested information from real-world applications, survival instructor Tony Nester covers how to prepare for both short-term survival ranging from 24-72 hours as well as long-term situations resulting from a grid-down emergency or pandemic.

Some of the chapters:
  • The 6 Key Areas for Creating a Self-Reliant Home
  • Water Storage and Purification Methods
  • Alternative Water Sources At Home
  • Creating a Water Map for Your Region
  • The 3 Essential Food Types to Stock Up On
  • Designing an Off-Grid Medical Kit
  • Home Security and Personal Defense Measures
  • Safeguarding the Exterior and Interior of Your Home
  • Heating, Cooling and Lighting When the Power Goes Out
  • Alternative Sanitation and Hygiene Methods.

I have to admit I had a hard time buying this paperback book sight unseen, since it cost $12.95 when I bought it and is now $13.56. At less than 80 pages, the Kindle version is a slightly better value at $4.49, but not by much.

Personal Comfort
I mentioned several weeks ago on the Facebook page that I'd seen markdowns being made on Mission Premium Cooling Towels in a Home Depot I service. I bought one and I like it! As was mentioned by Erin and others, these things only work in low humidity areas, like CA or AZ. Folks in humid areas of the South and Midwest won't benefit from putting a wet rag around their neck as the air is too damp to provide evaporative cooling.

I haven't seen them lately in stores, but Amazon has them!

From the Amazon page:
  • 100% Polyester
  • Machine Wash
  • Cools instantly to 30 degrees below average body temperature and stays cool for up to 2 hours when wet
  • To activate cooling technology simply soak in water, wring out and snap three times; to reactivate, simply re-soak and re-snap
  • Lightweight, premium stretch fabric with a textured, super-sporty look
  • Chemical-free, reusable and machine washable; permanent technology is incorporated at the fiber level and will never wash out
  • UPF 50 protection against the harmful rays of the sun; size 10" x 33"

Even though Fall is here, it looks like I will get at least one more week use from this before storing it in my warm weather gear box.

Takeaway And Recap
  • California is finally following the lead of other states and experiencing disasters regularly! My hope is this will spur more people to get serious about protecting their family.
  • Finding a suitable book to recommend is hard, and I need to start someplace.
  • The neck wrap is a luxury, but it does get hot and it works well.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but Amazon has When The Grid Goes Down for $13.56 in paperback or Kindle for $4.46
  • Also on Amazon is the Mission Premium Cooling Towel for (more than I paid for mine, but well under retail) $10.51 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, October 22, 2019

Stay With the Car

Every year in my part of the country, we hear tragic tales of tourists getting stranded and dying (or coming close) before they're found. If you're in the backcountry and your vehicle becomes disabled, what do you do?

The instinctive reaction from most folks is to leave the vehicle and try and hike out. This is one of the worst things you can do, and I'm going to tell you why:

Your car is easier to find than you.
A single human can very easily get lost, and is much harder to locate. Viewed from above, I occupy probably 3 square feet and have a matte finish; my truck occupies well over 100 square feet and is reflective. Additionally, I can only yell so loud and so often, whereas the horn on a vehicle carries further and can be used over a much longer time.

Your vehicle is a pretty good shelter. 
It will keep you dry in a storm, and if the engine runs you have some measure of climate control. Since most of these incidents seem to happen either in winter storms or desert environments, being able to keep warm or cool is a huge thing. You will also be more comfortable in your vehicle, sleeping better and keeping your wits more firmly about you.

Your vehicle also has all of your gear. 
If you leave your car, you have to leave substantial quantities of supplies that you may need. You can only carry about 25% of your body weight over any kind of distance, and that is with a proper pack. Loaded correctly and planning ahead, I can carry about 50 pounds; that sounds like a lot of weight, but keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds, and a gallon is about a day's supply under serious exertion! In the event that you're abandoning a vehicle, the odds of proper load-bearing gear being available are quite low, so that 50 pound capacity might fall to as low as 20 pounds.

If you stay with your vehicle, though, you have all of your gear at hand. You don't have to leave something potentially important behind because you have no way to carry it, or carry items you don't need on the off-chance that you might need them.

None of this applies if staying with your vehicle is a hazardous situation. 
Remaining in the path of a flood, or in an avalanche area, or with a dangerously damaged vehicle is a very bad plan. No matter how useful or easy to find your vehicle is, it's worthless if you're killed by a dangerous situation.

You may need to try to get yourself out of being stuck, but it should be your last resort, not your first.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Minimalist EDC Pts 3 and 4: Dry and Warm

The final installment of a series of minimalist planning, for those who have to carry everything with them everywhere they go.

This week: Keep dry and warm.

Godspeed to you all.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Importance of Faith

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Don't worry, this isn't going to be a lecture on religion. I'm the last person to tell you what you should believe. I just want to make two points about faith. 

First, I feel it's important that people believe in something. What that something might be is up to that individual to decide, as is how they practice that belief. The world can be a dreary, dreadful place at times, and during a disaster it can seem a lot darker. In a survival scenario it's practically necessary to believe in something that gives you hope and raises your spirits, because a positive mental attitude and a reason for living are the most important resources a survivor can have. 

I've struggled with depression most of my life, and even though I've never lacked food, water, shelter, clothing -- all the things needed for survival -- there were a few times where I strongly considered suicide because I had lost hope. If it's possible to contemplate suicide while having everything necessary for life, then being in a survival situation where those things are lacking only increases that chance for despair. You may die without water after three days, but three hours without hope can be just as deadly. 

Believe in something that uplifts you and rewards that faith. 

Second, don't be afraid to put faith in people. I don't mean all people, of course; there are plenty of human beings out there who don't deserve your faith, and a smaller (yet viler) percentage of them who will actively take advantage of you. No, what I mean is that you need to have people in your life whom you trust, and in whom you can put your faith. 

The more I learn about prepping, the more I am convinced that none of us can ever be self-sufficient by ourselves; there's simply too much for one person to do. Humans are social creatures by necessity; we lack the strength, speed, and natural weapons of most predators to survive alone. More than tool use, I believe that it's our ability to communicate and form tribes which makes humanity a successful species.

Find your tribe, cultivate them, and put your faith in them. 

Thank you for listening. I sincerely hope you have something you can believe in and people in whom your faith is secure. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Drinking Container Safety: Common Materials

Erin mentioned some potential hazards from drinking out of plastic containers (BPA) and aluminum, and asked me to add to the list of do's and don'ts for choosing what to drink from. During my research I gathered more information than most people can absorb in one article, so I'm going to split the metals off into a separate post and cover the other common materials today. There may be a third article for uncommon materials if I dig up even more data.

There are more kinds of plastic on the market than I care to list. Most plastics are petroleum-based, and the few that aren't are chemically similar to the petroleum-based plastics. Some plastics are made with or treated with BPA (Bisphenol A) or phthalates, both of which are endocrine disruptors (they mimic hormones produced by your body's endocrine or ductless glands). BPA is bad news and has received a lot of press over the last few years, so avoid it as best you can.

Plastics are formed by purifying and twisting basic hydrocarbons to create selected monomers. These monomers are then chemically or physically bonded together to form polymers (hence the use of the "poly-" in most names) with interesting properties.

Plastics are usually separated by the industry-standard recycling number stamped or cast into the plastic.

#1: PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)
  • Clear and smooth, this is the plastic commonly used for single-use (disposable) soft drink bottles and peanut butter jars.  
  • Avoid prolonged heat, as that may cause harmful chemicals to leach out of the PET. 
  • Bacterial growth is more of a problem when reusing bottles that contained sugary drinks than any chemical hazards.

#2: HDPE (High-density Polyethylene)
  • Considered "Food grade" by the FDA, this is the safest choice. 
  • Milk and water jugs are normally made from HDPE, so it has a track record as a safe plastic to use with food and drink. 
  • Most 5-gallon buckets are made of HDPE. 
  • David's Nalgene bottle which he finally managed to break was made of HDPE.
  • PEX (cross-linked Polyethylene) water pipe is made of HDPE and is rated for hot and cold water.

#3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • The common water and sewer pipe plastic. When heated, PVC can release phthalates and other chemicals, which is why hot water piping requires the use of CPVC (Chlorinated PVC) pipe. CPVC is less likely to leach chemicals into the water inside it, so it is a safer choice.
  • PVC is also used in plastic films or sheets for things like shower curtains and cheap rain gear, but making it flexible requires the use of softening agents that can be harmful. Collecting water in a PVC poncho is less of a risk than trying to store water in a can lined with the poncho.

#4: LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
  • Typically used for films like bread wrappers, LDPE is normally a single-use plastic that is food safe. 
  • Thin films may be useful as a liner for a container, but will lack the strength to be of much use for storing or transporting water by themselves.

#5: PP (Polypropylene)
  • Available in a wide variety of types, PP is opaque or translucent and has a high melting point which makes it safe for microwaves and dishwashers.
  • One of the safer plastics available, you'll see it used in yogurt  and food containers. (In my opinion, yogurt isn't quite food, but it wants to be.)

#6: PS (Polystyrene)
  • Hard or foamed, PS is the common material found in plastic dinnerware and styrofoam cups. 
  • PS can release unpolymerized styrene, which is a slow poison that accumulates in a body's fat over time.
  • Handy as an insulator, but not a good choice for storing food or water.

#7: Mixed or Other
  • Literally mixed plastics of unknown origin. This one is a gamble, since you have no idea of what is in the mix.
  • If you see a "7" and the letters "PC" on a container, it means that it is made of Polycarbonate which is made using BPA. 
  • This is the "last resort" of plastics for food or water.

Coconut shells, dried gourds, and folded leaves are all examples of natural cups.
  • If the material you've chosen comes from an edible part of a plant, it's safe to use as a cup as long as it hasn't started to rot.
  • Broad, smooth leaves will be safer than narrow, fuzzy ones because the "hairs" on leaves is where many plants keep their poisons. The fuzzy leaves also collect more dust and dirt that you'll have to clean out of your water before drinking it.
  • Leather can be used for short-term storage of liquids. The use of wine skins for several thousand years has proven that it's a safe choice.
  • Wood is usually a safe choice as there are few poisonous types of wood in the world, but avoid cedars, birches, and gum trees if you're making cups and bowls since they're all toxic. Some of the more exotic woods of the world are also toxic, but you're less likely to find them laying around.

Glass and Ceramics
  • While different materials, these are similar in structure and composition. Both are primarily made of silicon, a stable and abundant element.
  • Glass and glazed ceramics are smooth on the molecular level, leaving very little space for bacteria to grow. This also makes them easy to clean. 
  • Heavier than plastics and much more fragile, glass is a good option for stationary prepping (hunkering down or shelter in place) and long-term food storage like canned vegetables.
  • Unglazed and partially-fired ceramics are porous and will provide ample opportunity for nasty things to grow in your food and water. They are useful for transporting, but not for storing foods and water. 
  • Unglazed ceramics are a lot easier to make. Old-school crocks for making pickles and sauerkraut were often only glazed on the inside to save money in production while still being safe for food use.

Obviously,  if you have no other choices you'll use whatever you can find to hold water. This information is for when you have choices.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Earthquake! Part the Latest

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

Well, the post I wanted to make last week has been pushed back again. I wonder if the idea behind it should be shelved, since things are conspiring against turning it in...

Yeah, we had a medium-size one last night, 4.5 on the Richter Scale; big enough to wake me up and shake up the dog, but not enough to break anything here. It was quite a surprise to our recently arrived from overseas house guest! They are used to typhoons, but the house shaking for no apparent reason was a novel experience for them, and there was a little squealing and shouting from one end of the house to the other, checking on everyone.

That by itself wasn't too bad, but the text messages coming in for the next hour wore me out. I was scheduled to start an hour early that morning so I really needed some sleep, but the check-ins were (and are) appreciated.

This past week has really been crazy at work. How crazy you ask? This crazy!

Prepping Without Knowing How
With PG&E's announcement of a preemptive power shutoff, flashlights and batteries sold out fast along with the normal stock of generators carried in local stores. Many people decided to place orders to guarantee having one in case the power actually went out in a larger area than was first outlined. From last Monday to this Wednesday morning, a local store ordered and sold 144 generators of several sizes. This morning, the store I was in sold out of generators again.

I believe the blackout, and now an earthquake, has really opened many peoples' minds to planning for a disaster. Thursday the 17th is the 30 year anniversary of the (almost Big One) Loma Prieta Earthquake, and on the U.S.G.S. website is an explanation of what happened -- and what will happen -- to this area in the future. I wrote about earthquake prepping and showed an animation in this post from last year that pretty accurately showed where things were shaking in last night's quake. Please read through the linked posts under "What To Do". My fellow bloggers show what, and also explain why, they do when planning for a disaster.

Blackout Update
P.G.&E has said that all but a few isolated areas will soon have power restored. Now that they have potentially prevented a fire similar to what So. CA. had this past weekend, the Governor is now demanding PG&E pay people affected by the blackouts $100 and businesses $250, while respected news outlets are questioning whether this situation is potentially the New Normal for California.

Here at Blue Collar Prepping we have a very strict 'No Politics' policy that is enforced for members and bloggers, so I am not blaming any party. What I am going to blame, however, is 50 years of forest mis-management (in my opinion) and short sighted business practices for contributing to the fires that have burned too many square miles, destroyed far too many structures, and killed so many people for far too long.

Be safe and be prepared.

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased for this week, but I'm being asked even more questions on where to start. I have to dig my prepping books out of the totes to see which might be a good beginner book.
* * *

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, October 15, 2019

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic procedures are the methods involved in finding the root of a problem. You drill through a list of tests and potential issues, eliminating them until you find the problem. In my case, the problem is that my truck won't start. Lets get into my methods and see how I find problems.

Knowing what a piece of equipment needs in order to function properly is key to making a diagnosis. In my case, an engine needs 3 things to function: air, fuel, and spark (or compression, in a diesel). My engine will crank, but won't actually start. This means that I'm missing at least one of those critical elements.

Air is fairly straightforward. My filter is in decent shape, my turbo is functioning correctly, so air is getting into the engine.

Compression was my first thought. I didn't have any indicators of a catastrophic mechanical failure, so I look to my electrical system, with the idea that insufficient electrical current won't turn the engine with enough energy to get ignition. With 2 batteries, there may be enough power to turn the engine, but not with the force needed to actually ignite the fuel/air mix. Both batteries have 12.7 volts and test good on the machine at my local parts house. The alternator likewise tests good. Volts are present, so the next step is checking that they're actually getting to the parts that need them.

Using my electrical multimeter, I checked for continuity on all my fuses. I found one that was burned out, but it's unrelated to any of my engine components. (It is for lights on one of my trailer plugs.) I also tested the relays that control my engine functions. The easiest way to do this is to use another relay with the same part number. My fuel pump relay is the same as the relay for my air conditioning, and the relay for my daytime running lights. My ignition and starter relays are the same as the relay for my rear window defroster. Changing out these relays will tell you if a relay is malfunctioning. In my case, swapping relays did nothing.

This virtually eliminates anything in my electrical system as the point of failure. This leads us to fuel as a culprit. Chasing fuel leaks requires special knowledge and tools. If you're not equipped, this is the time when calling a mechanic can save you hours of time and headaches. If you have the tools and skills, I don't have to explain this part of the process to you.

The principle applies to any piece of equipment. The same idea of listing possible causes and eliminating them works for malfunctioning lights, plumbing issues, or any other problem you might face. Notice that I did the quick, easy, and free checks first. The more you can eliminate in short time and for zero cost, the better. It takes a bit of practice to brainstorm possible causes, so don't be afraid to call friends who have experience with whatever you're fixing. I still find myself making that call from time to time.

A bit of logic and some testing helps you find the root of your problems. This saves you time at a mechanic or sometimes that bill itself.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Minimalist EDC Pt 2: True Everyday Carry

The second installment of a series of minimalist planning, for those who have to carry everything with them everywhere they go.

This week: a true Everyday Carry for Everyone.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Water Pasteurization

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
The standard method of making water safe is to boil it. However, bringing a substantial quantity of water can be time and fuel-consuming, one or both of which may be in short supply in a disaster scenario. You can save time and fuel by instead pasteurizing your water (yes, just like they do for milk) before drinking it.

The boiling point of water is 212° F or 100° C, but the pasteurization point of water is 149° F or 65° C. That's a tremendous amount of savings of both time and energy, and can be easily achieved through solar cooking techniques as well as the traditional "pot on the fire" method.

However, a significant drawback to pasteurization is that, unlike boiling,  there is no visual indicator for when water has reached that point. This is easily corrected with the purchase or manufacture of a Water Pasteurization Indicator, or WaPI.
The WaPI is as ingenious in principle as it is simple to use.
  • A blob of wax with a very specific melting point sits at the end of a capped, hollow plastic tube. A small length of wire or fishing line with weights on the end keep the tube from floating to the surface of the water and provides a convenient way to pull the tube out for inspection.
  • The tube is placed into the water you wish to pasteurize with the wax at the top. 
  • When the water is pasteurized, the wax reaches its melting point and flows to the bottom of the tube.
  • Remove the WaPI to allow the wax to cool before re-use. 
  • To re-use, simply move the WaPI along the line so that the wax is again at the top of the tube and drop it into a fresh, cold pot of water. 
At 1.5 inches long and 1/6th of an ounce in weight, it essentially takes up no space and weighs nothing, meaning that it can be added to any Bug Out or Get Home bag without drawback. There is literally no downside to having this in a bag, which is something I have been unable to say about anything else.

You can purchase a WaPI for $10 and free shipping from Amazon

NOTE: Pasteurization renders water safe to drink; it does not sterilize. If you need to sterilize something, such as bandages or medical instruments, you must bring the water to a boil.

Further, pasteurization does not protect against chemical contaminants. For that you need a filter or a distillation tool.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Prepping for Winter

It's once again that time of year to switch from shorts and T-shirts to wool socks and flannel shirts. Fall is here, and that means winter is not far behind.

Here in fly-over country, the temperatures went from 90 to 55 like they saw a state trooper. Older building will switch from heat in the mornings to air conditioning in the afternoons, and they're predicting the first frost for this weekend. Most of today's post will concern those of us who live in colder regions, so the folks down south can read it for entertainment purposes.

Winter means that most of us have to rethink our daily preps and “change gears” in our thinking about the short-term preps. Staying warm moves up on the list of importance and insects become less of a problem. The BOB/GHB will grow in size as the extra layers of clothes are added. It's time to take stock and see where changes need to be made.

  • Check your doors and windows, make sure they close and seal properly. Adding a doorsweep/draft stopper to outside doors is an easy project that will keep some of the cold air out of your house. Putting them on interior doors may be an option if you want to close off unused rooms and heat only the ones you're actually living in.
  • Heaters need to be checked. If you have a furnace, either have it checked or do it yourself. Change to filters to improve airflow and at least look at the gas lines/ wiring to make sure they are still in good shape.
  • If you use fuel to provide heat, it's time to make sure you have enough. Propane and fuel oil tank levels should be checked and wood piles need to be refilled and covered. Natural gas and electrical heat are at the mercy of your utility companies (see David's post from yesterday), so you should look at your backup heat sources.
  • Years ago I lived in an old house with water pipes that were so poorly placed that they would freeze when the temperatures dropped down to about 10° F. Frozen pipes means no water and possibly busted pipes, so I had to insulate the vulnerable ones and place heat tapes on most of them. This is the time of year to check the heat tapes and insulation to ensure that vermin haven't destroyed them.
  • It's also time to winterize the lawn mower and get out the snow shovels. I don't have enough sidewalk or driveway to warrant a snowblower, but if you have one it's time to get it serviced before everyone panics after the first snowfall. Shovels are simple tools, but they need to be kept clean and straight to work best. I use an aluminum grain shovel for snow and have to smooth out the nicks and dents every year.

  • I have a fairly high metabolism, so I change my diet with the weather. It's time to switch to high-calorie foods and warm beverages to stay warm.
  • Fats and oils provide dense calories and store better than fresh vegetables, so my menus change with the seasons. As I get older, it takes my body a bit longer to adjust to changes in diet so I try to make the changes slowly.
  • Harvest season is in full swing, so there are plenty of locally-grown foods to stock up on. The orchards and farmers markets are open and prices are better than they'll be in a few months. If you can your own food, you're already in full production by now.
  • Cold weather and freezing temps means that I can't store water in my vehicles, so I switch to empty water bottles and a way to melt ice and snow.

  • Winterizing a vehicle is an annual chore. The most common issue I've run into over the years is weak batteries; once the temps drop below freezing it takes more power to start an engine, so a battery that worked fine all summer will pick the coldest day to die on you. Have your battery tested at an auto parts store and replace it before it leaves you stranded somewhere.
  • Modern technology has improved the coolant in most cars, but it still needs to be checked. Any auto parts store will sell you a hygrometer to check the density of your anti-freeze and most oil-change shops will check it for you as part of their service. Add or change your anti-freeze as needed; it's a lot cheaper than replacing a cracked engine.
  • Tires have also been improving over the years, but you still need to make sure you have enough tread left to give you traction in mud/snow/ice. Check your tires now, before you need that extra traction.
  • Those who live in mountainous regions or drive through them will know what tire chains are and how to use them. If you carry chains, it's time to pull them out and inspect them. Repair or replace worn chains, because having one fail while driving is a nerve-wracking experience that can do serious damage to your car.

Fall is busy for me. My day job is working with farmers, so I'm working long hours and don't get many days off between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. My preps are always a work in progress, so there are some that are closer to what I want to have than others. Keep improving what you have and try to get ready for what is coming -- that's the basics of prepping for me.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Prudent Prepping: Grid Down?

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

I've had to change my blog post topic this week, due to the Northern California fire danger and our local Power company's response to the threat.

When The Grid Goes Down
I first mentioned Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and their emergency response plan in this post from May of this year. There were discussions of having to possibly 'power down' sections of North California in the event of a major fire, or at least the threat of a fire based on the conditions at that time. No one was too concerned due to how remote the locations were where most of the fires started, and there was little thought given to the transmission lines (possibly) affected running through the wilderness areas to the urban power users.

Guess what happened this morning? Weather conditions are such that PG&E has announced that 800,000 customers will be affected by a mandatory power outage, and potentially 3 million users could be turned off if there are actual fires. Here is the latest, complete news report from SF Gate:

Neighborhoods Impacted by PG&E Shutoffs
This map shows part of my county, but lucky for me I'm not in the potential blackout zone.

The map below shows the entire Black Out area for Northern California. On this map I'm right at the "O" in the San Francisco. As you can see, major portions of the Coastal Range and Sierra Nevada mountains are affected by this policy.

Because I live in earthquake country and quakes are normally a complete surprise that lasts 30 seconds, I've finally seen what my fellow bloggers experience when storms are forecast: Panic Buying! I watched every generator, half of the larger flashlights, and ALL of the battery lanterns sell off the shelves between 6:01am and 1:30pm at the store I was working in today, and I was asked for lights and batteries All. Day. Long.

One cool thing was that I had several people looking for advice and tips on what to do, and I directed several to this blog for information. I expect to see a big spike in Sawyer Mini water filters and Etekcity LED lanterns, not from me but as Featured Items on Amazon.

Okay, maybe from me.

One of the local counties is recommending people in the affected areas to be prepared for as many as 5 days without power. This is a good time to review preps and convert others to being prepared. Not only did I send people to BCP, I shared my previous orders on Amazon with two co-workers and a customer I've known for several years to show that it's possible to build up supplies while having a reasonable budget. Everyone has slightly different requirements for their families and likes different things, so I don't think it's necessary to show a detailed list. What is important to show are the basics:
  • 1-2 gallons of water per person, per day. This is your minimum requirement.
  • Easy to cook (and acceptable) food for your family. This doesn't need to be fancy, long term storage food either. In fact, if your power goes out for 5 days, emptying out your freezer and fridge might give you enough food for 2-3 days by themselves.
  • Lights for everyone. My recommended lantern produces more than enough light to keep the dark away. Don't forget the batteries!
  • Radio, to keep up on the news. Battery or hand cranked. 
  • Optionally add portable power packs for personal electronics to this list. Cell phones may not have service if the towers lose power and backup generators run out of fuel, but it will temporarily allow for games and reading eBooks.
Of course, this is only if the power is off and there is in fact no fire. If there is a fire, all bets are off and you must evacuate!

It's sad that it takes a crisis to get people to think about taking care of themselves, but there is no time like the present.

Be safe, stay safe, and be ready to explain why you have emergency supplies.

Takeaway And Recap
  • Nothing was purchased this week.
  • Next week I'll have a report on my new water bottle, along with some more prepping news.

* * *

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, October 8, 2019

Guest Post: Why Every Bug Out Bag Needs a Woobie

by George Groot

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

What is a “Woobie”?
In the military, a woobie is a standard issue poncho liner, designed to work with a standard poncho to make something like a survival sleeping bag by putting the two together.* By itself it's a quilted camouflage square made from ripstop nylon with a small bit of insulation between the two sides. The edge is reinforced with slightly thicker nylon webbing, and there are sewn-in laces that allow you to tie the woobie to the poncho.

The woobie is beloved by soldiers as it is the most cost-effective item in terms of weight that you can carry to keep from freezing. The old saying “Travel light and freeze at night” is true in the infantry, and the woobie, much like the “snookie cap” (aka watch cap), is something lightweight to keep you from freezing at night.

Just how much do Soldier’s love their woobies? This much:

The woobie is viewed as an essential piece of kit for field exercises by most infantrymen, although it is viewed as a “comfort item” by some leaders who view a two pound woobie as additional weight that would be better spent on water, food, batteries, or ammunition. Having served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Germany where the winter weather can kill you just as dead as any enemy, I firmly believe that a woobie helps a soldier get better rest in the field. and a soldier who has better rest makes better decisions, is more alert on patrol, and a better teammate to have around. If you have a mission set of unknown duration, you’ll want to pack your woobie, and want your guys to pack theirs.

Getting a Woobie of your Own
Shipping weight for one is two pounds, but they are actually lighter, usually around 22 ounces when dry. Woobies come in a standard milspec size of 62x82 inches, but commercial offerings can be larger or smaller (my personal woobie has an extra 10” of length), so when ordering online make sure you get a woobie that is a size appropriate to you -- although if you don’t know where to begin, the standard milspec dimensions work fine for almost everyone except the super tall (and even for the super tall, a milspec woobie will work for most uses).

If you are looking for the most possible “utility” from woobie camouflage, get the USMC version with MARPAT camouflage on one side and coyote brown on the other. If you're looking for the most absolute value for the money, faded ACU pattern woobies are usually half the price of new ones, and the mottled digital gray actually does okay in winter, sagebrush deserts, alder forests, and against gravel and concrete. OCP, also known as multicam, works well in most natural environments, and the woodland pattern is usually fine for anywhere that has greens and browns to blend into. However, I recommend you purchase clothing that is specific to the area you are in, and not rely on a woobie for concealment.

The Many Uses of a Woobie
Much like the towel of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the lightweight woobie is an infinitely useful item to have on hand. Here are some of the things you can do with a woobie:
  • Comfort while resting. You can use your woobie as a blanket. You can use your woobie as a pillow. You can use your woobie as a hammock (not recommended, but you can if you have to). You can share woobies so that one person in three can get really good sleep while two provide security.
  • Overhead shelter and concealment. By spraying your woobie with Scotch Guard or other water repelling treatment for camping gear, you can use your woobie as a rain cover. Since they come in camouflage patterns, you can use your woobie to conceal you (if you've picked a pattern that makes sense for your area).
  • Gathering and carrying tool. You can lay your woobie out and shake fruits or nuts from trees to gather. You can use your woobie as a carrying implement by rolling stuff in it and tying the ends together and slinging it over your shoulder and across your body.
  • First aid. You can use your woobie and two long sticks to make an impromptu field litter to transport a casualty. You can cut a woobie into strips for splinting a broken limb. You can fold a woobie into a sling to support and immobilize an injured arm.
  • Cold weather garment (see pictures at end of article). By tying the loop ties together you can make an impromptu uniform liner that covers your arms and torso down into your groin and upper thigh area. (When wearing standard Army fatigues you’ll look “puffy” with your woobie stuffed in your uniform jacket and pants, but you’ll be warmer than the guys who are hanging about in a wet uniform.) Simply slide your fingers through the tied string, and put your uniform jacket on, then stuff the extra poncho liner into your pants, adjusting the poncho liner so that it covers your arms, armpits, torso, groin, and upper thighs. This will help you not die of exposure when halted for a long time.
  • An aid to fire starting. Since the woobie is synthetic, if you absolutely need some highly flammable tinder, you can pull the polyester stuffing from your woobie (not recommended, but it’s an option).
Youtube has many videos on how to modify a woobie to make it even more suited to various tasks, and if you are handy with a sewing machine you might want to look into whether or not any of those projects would be value added to you in the circumstances you think you are most likely to encounter.

What a Woobie Is Not
It is not the same as a sleeping bag, thermal mat, and a tent. In terms of heat retention it's way better than nothing, but on its own isn’t going to give you the good rest you need except in very mild conditions in places where it doesn’t get too cold at night.** You’ll need at least season-appropriate clothes to truly make the woobie into a valuable addition to your total system, and I recommend wool watch caps in every bug out bag regardless of season, as it can always get cold at night.

Packing your Woobie
A standard bug out bag can easily accomodate a woobie. A woobie is at least five pounds lighter than an M65 field jacket, and much lighter than a full sleeping bag set; it's even lighter than a spare uniform set. It crams down into a much smaller stuff sack or ruck pocket too. So if you need a lightweight bugout bag I highly recommend you put a woobie in it.

In a standard ALICE or MOLLE rucksack, an external pouch is perfect for rapidly stuffing a woobie into when you need to strip down to minimal uniform or so you don’t overheat. Stored that way, the woobie is nice and handy for when you need to add a layer. On a civilian backpack, I would recommend a small nylon “stuff sack” be used to hold the woobie so that it is easy to find by feel in the dark.

Your other kit should also be in stuff sacks, so that you don’t have a “rucksack explosion” digging around for a specific item. There's nothing more frustrating than having to empty your entire pack to look for one item, and then needing to repack in a rush because your position was compromised and you need to move immediately!

If you are cheap and don’t mind not having cool factory gear, a gallon ziplock style freezer bag reinforced at the seams and sides with duct tape can make a great waterproof storage bag for your woobie. (Note: if you have a larger than milspec woobie like mine, you’ll need to duct tape two bags to make a waterproof bag for your woobie). When I was in Ranger school this was the preferred way to store spare socks, t-shirts, woobie, pens, paper, etc, that could get soaked in the rain or a river crossing. I’ve used both the slide lock and the standard press lock, and for storing clothes, the press lock is probably the better option; for storing maps, paper, etc, the slide lock is really convenient because you’ll get in and out of those bags a lot more often even if it isn’t as totally waterproof. For what it's worth, I still have some of the duct taped ziplock bags from over ten years ago protecting some of my gear.

Waterproof sacks from ziplock gallon freezer bags and duct tape.
Waterproof gear bags ensure your BOB will float, and be much lighter on the other side of a water obstacle.
The bag holding my woobie is halfway finished to illustrate process.

Appendix: Woobie as Cold Weather Gear

1). Tie Figure 8 knot in center ties on each side of woobie.

2) Put fingers through tie loops created by figure 8 knot, holding folded woobie over shoulders.

3) Put on your jacket or uniform top over woobie, using ties to pull woobie into arms. Wrap loose parts around your torso.

4) Tuck excess woobie into your pants top. If you are a little tight, just unbutton the fly and stuff, using belt to keep pants up.

5) Zip up your top. Now you have extra insulation around your torso, arms, and upper legs. It won't make you perfectly toasty warm, but it's a lot better than nothing. To remove, just take the loops off your hands and pull the woobie out the jacket front.

* I’ve been in the US Army for a while now and this is one thing I haven't done with a woobie, so I might have to try it someday as simply knowing how to do it isn’t the same as having experienced doing it.

** However, if you are “escaping and evading” you should be moving at night and resting during the day anyway.

The Fine Print

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