Friday, February 28, 2020


I'm not going to get started on the Wuhan Flu, Corona virus, COVID-19, or whatever they're calling it this week. The amount of actual information available is too sparse and unreliable for me to make many recommendations, so I won't be writing much about how to deal with this particular nasty.
Today's post is about my thoughts on one aspect of the spread of this disease.

There are some basics that are almost universal to preppers, the main one being “Stay away from crowds”. This is good advice for a lot of reasons, but slowing the spread of disease is an important one. One method of avoiding crowds is quarantine. People on cruise ships, in hotels, and even entire cities are being locked down with nobody being allowed in or out. Some travelers are keeping themselves apart or away from the public as a form of voluntary quarantine, which sounds to this cynical old man like a good reason to take a vacation from work. Two weeks of no people isn't a punishment for some of us, and I've paid good money for less.

Whichever way it happens, quarantine outside of a hospital or government facility is going to be a form of forced bugging in. You're going to be unable to restock food supplies for around 14 days, although water and electricity should still be available. If you get stuck in such a situation, treat it as a test run for your food preps. Do you have two weeks worth of food on-hand right now? Are you ready to spend two weeks in close proximity to your family or roommates? I pity those who have young children that don't understand why they can't go outside or visit their friends, and I pray that their internet and cable don't go out.

I happen to live within an hour's drive of one of the few infectious disease isolation facilities in the US. They treated Ebola patients, mainly medical staff returning from Africa, a few years ago. The dealt with SARS before that, and have a good reputation of doing their job well. That level of quarantine is close to an extended stay in an intensive care unit, and the patients are only going to be vaguely aware of what's going on.

We also had a few dozen US citizens brought back from China placed in quarantine in a National Guard (NG) base nearby (they all went home after their stay). Government-funded quarantine would be like staying in a 2-star resort for vacation: not much to see or do, but your meals and shelter would be provided. The NG base was fairly close to an airport, had good access control, and the barracks weren't in use at this time of year, so it made a good low-threat quarantine site. If COVID-19 blows up to full pandemic-scale disease outbreak, I doubt the authorities will even try to move people to quarantine sites, because it's much cheaper and easier to simply lock them in their own homes, towns, or cities and control the traffic going in or out.

I've seen stories coming out of China of people in high-rise apartments relying on their upstairs neighbors lowering food down in baskets to stay fed. Do you know your upstairs neighbors? Do you have a good enough relationship with them that they would be willing to help you? What about the neighbors below you, are you willing to help them if you have the supplies to spare or aren't part of the quarantine? Do you have a basket/bucket and a piece of rope long enough to reach their window or balcony?

Most diseases have an incubation period where people have been infected but aren't showing any symptoms, allowing them to spread the disease as they travel. I've seen a range of possible incubation periods for this bug (that “sparse and unreliable” part I mentioned) that vary from 9 to 21 days, with 14 days seeming to be the default number. Your 72-hours kit isn't going to be quite enough, so you might want to set aside some extra supplies while they're available. I expect to see regional runs on canned foods and other supplies soon if things get much worse.

I'll be keeping an eye on the reports of how this outbreak unfolds and may write more about it in a few weeks. The levels of hysteria and misinformation at present may make some people a pile of money, but they do nothing to help people actually get through it. Panic and fear are often used as tools to steer people towards a desired purchase or action, so be aware that there are plenty of folks out there who will use any crisis to enrich themselves. We are not here to spread fear; we aren't selling anything, and we write this blog to pass on information and help you, our readers, prepare for bad times. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Guest Post: Pandemic? Don't Panic!

by Dr. Cathaleen Madsen

Dr. Madsen holds a PhD in Bioscience with a concentration in Microbiology and Infectious Disease. The views expressed in this article are hers alone, and not those of anyone she works or has worked for. She has written this article as a favor to Erin Palette and was not paid to do it.

Picture this: you’re at work, hauling a bit more rump than usual in preparation for the Big Deadline, when your child’s school calls. They’ve got a sore throat and a fever of 101° F; can you please come pick them up?

You assent, groaning inwardly because you knew this was coming. Half your team is out with the seasonal crud already, you’ve been trying to ignore that little tickle in your own throat, and just to make things interesting, there’s a heavy snow warning for your area, because of course there is, because Murphy is a bastard and you never could get the hang of Thursdays.

But hey, this is Adulting 201 and not your first rodeo.
  1. Your first stop is your boss’s office to explain the situation and respectfully suggest they start planning coverage, because the Asia-Pacific Team / yearly inventory / Federal audit isn’t going to stop for something so minor as a bout of the crud and an incoming blizzard. 
  2. Your second stop is the grocery store, where you grab a couple of bottles of cough syrup and Tylenol, maybe a week’s worth of easy-prep meal staples like lunch meat, peanut butter, and microwaveable dinners, and some good-ol’ bleach and Lysol. You should probably pick up an extra bottle of wine or 6-pack of beer, because reasons.
  3. Third stop is the school, to pick up your child. Yes, they’re miserable, and it’s going to be a long few days of chicken soup and cold medication, but you go through something similar every year. You’ve got this.
If you’re nodding along right now, congratulations! You’ve got the right idea on how to prep for the arrival of COVID-19, aka the Wuhan Coronavirus.

But wait! I hear you ask. What about the quarantines? What about “social disruption?” The Diamond Princess? A freaking PANDEMIC?! Why are there no masks or gloves in that shopping list? What about basic infection control? 3% lethality? HELLO???

I'm happy to answer those questions, but first let me introduce myself so you’ll have an idea of where my answers come from:
  • My name is Cathaleen Madsen, and I have a PhD in Biosciences which I earned through the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases at George Mason University.
  • My dissertation was on molecular virology, and though I didn’t work on Coronavirus, I’ll be happy to geek out over viral reproduction and surface proteins with anyone who’s interested. 
  • I spent most of my electives in the Biodefense (policy) department, where I focused on mitigation of public fear and anxiety related to biological threats. So although this has nothing to do with who’s signing my paychecks these days, looking at risks and allaying fears is kind of what I do.

Let’s start with some definitions, by which I will take the sting out of some very scary words, like pandemic. In basic terms, that means a disease that has spread widely across geographic regions. It has nothing to do with how many people actually get sick, how severe their sicknesses are, or how many people die. Hollywood certainly doesn’t help here, but so far it looks like we’re facing more “swine flu outbreak of 2010” and not so much Steven King's “The Stand.”

The next scary word is quarantine. Yes, that does mean confinement of a person who was likely exposed until the incubation period has passed without them showing symptoms. But it doesn’t mean being barricaded in your home while soldiers with rifles guard the front door (at least not in the US), much less internment in some government-run sterile clean room while techs in hazmat suits pass your meals through a slot in the plastic barrier. The government is currently screening people coming off of international flights from known risk zones, or coming across the border, and then diverting the people who need it to medical facilities that can handle it. They’re not rounding up citizens to test at random and then divert to holding facilities. Aside from the complete Constitutional violation of such a thing, we simply don’t have the manpower, and anyway that ship has sailed - literally, in the case of the Diamond Princess. It’s berthed in Yokohama, Japan and undergoing quarantine there, well outside of US jurisdiction (though 14 Americans were repatriated. And then quarantined). An upgrading of the status from epidemic to pandemic means a change in tactics from “keep it over there” to “minimize its impact here.” For an excellent explanation of why this is so, please see this article.

This is where prepping comes in. Yes, you should go out and replace basic supplies you’re out of, plus a little extra - not because society is about to break down, but because you might be stuck in the house for a week feeling like absolute trash and too bombed on cold medication to drive or operate anything more complex than a can opener and a microwave.
  • Standard household disinfectants are always a good idea in crud season, and yes, bleach and Lysol do kill Coronavirus. 
  • Walking around in an N-95 filter mask and gloves is complete overkill, and will remind you forcibly of August in the South. Worse, stocking up on these is going to divert those resources away from hospitals and other healthcare workers who actually need them. Instead, practice the elbow bump instead of a handshake, push elevator buttons with your knuckle, and try to stop touching your face (you’d be surprised how often we all do this). 
  • And for the love of wellness, WASH YOUR HANDS. Under a faucet, with actual soap and running water and suds.

The other part of minimizing the impact is staying home when you’re sick. (See also: social disruption.) Sick workers are going to have a hard time filling quotas, sick plumbers won’t be able to fix your faucet when it breaks (hence the ever popular advice to stock up on water), and sick coaches may have to cancel your kids’ sporting events. In extreme situations, schools or workplaces may close under the guidance of local government or management - think snow days.

Again, this is not Hollywood-style “civil unrest” with people running, screaming, and looting while armed officers break up any groups larger than three; it’s the isolation of your favorite pizza place being closed for a week while the kids are out of school, and by the way, that toy you’ve been promising your youngest is back-ordered because it ships from China. (Now you know why I suggested wine or beer.)

Regarding lethality, COVID-19 has a reported mortality rate around 2.3% according to CDC-China. But it’s important to remember that is some very basic math; it's just the total number of deaths divided by total number of confirmed cases. It doesn’t take into account things like people who had mild symptoms and never went to the doctor so they didn’t get counted (thus making the denominator larger), elderly age or previous medical conditions, or where and when they became infected. Not surprisingly, mortality has been much higher at the epicenter of the outbreak, where things happened very fast and new patients were met with already-exhausted healthcare resources. Remember that proper medical management, even if there’s no cure, is a significant factor in reducing the death toll. Medical centers and public health workers here in the U.S. are doing quite a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that our resources are ready to meet the challenge, which is an advantage that the first round of patients in Wuhan didn’t have.

Bottom line: what preps do you need? I would suggest the following:
  • Maintain at least a week’s worth of groceries and staples in the house, including whatever the kids or pets need. Throw some easy-prep meals in there for days when you’re too sick to cook. 
  • Staples in this case includes disinfectants.
  • Check prescription medications. If anything is about to run out, see if you can refill a little early. (Don’t bother trying to source and stockpile antibiotics. They don’t work on viruses anyway.) 
  • Do get some extra cold medicine - the stuff you have is probably an inch of orange syrup in the bottom of last year’s bottle, and you’ll need a full set if the crud (of whatever variety) hits your house.
  • Talk to work about their plans for coverage. Can they cross-train people to fill multiple functions? Allow telework if someone gets sick?
  • Ditto if you’re under regular medical or mental health care. Will your therapist allow a Skype call? Do they have a plan for making sure everyone can still get dialysis/chemo/scheduled surgery during an outbreak or a staff shortage?

Also, be sure to do the following:
  • Check on your neighbors who might be elderly, disabled, parenting small children, recently laid off, etc. No one wants their home health aides to come in with a raging fever, but it happens when there’s genuine need and/or the other person absolutely needs the paycheck, and baby formula is ridiculously expensive.
  • Don’t be afraid to cancel plans if you or a friend is getting sick. Whatever sort of sick that may be; the flu is likely to lay you out faster and harder than COVID-19.
  • Go on about your business until it’s time to stay home.

Above all, don’t panic. Go ahead and prep, but prep like you're facing a snowstorm in flu season, not like you're expecting the eruption of Yellowstone.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Water Jugs

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

I have been busy with a whole bunch of personal drama that doesn't relate to prepping, other than "be prepared for anything."  This a short post of what I am doing to plan for the short term and how I can change that into long-term success.

Who's On First
"I don't know! Third base!" is the traditional response, if you're a certain age and/or appreciate classic comedy. Have you a group of like-minded folks you can trust? Even if you don't, deciding for yourself on how things are done and in what order is important. For me, ensuring that my folks are safe is my first priority, then my physically close family (I say 'physically' since some are 900 miles away).

After that, I'm on track to have one month of easily transported food for four by summer, not counting the normal bulk goods my friends stock normally. There is always rice here, and now we have an extra 25 lb bag in a food safe bucket. Spices have been restocked, and anything half full or not used in the last 6 months has been dumped. It's pretty easy to look at dates on some of the things I have and say, "Yeah, I really don't need this in this condition," and useful items have been replaced.

Water Jugs
After last year's fires and potentially a new round this year, I've decided to add to the one thing that could be a real sticking point if the power goes out for more than one or two days: Water. There is always a case of water in the house and I keep one in my car, but if there is an earthquake or a power outage lasting several days, there may not be much water out of the faucet, so I bought another of my personal favorite water jug, the Reliance Products Jumbo-Tainer 7 Gallon Jerry Can.
This jug does what I need the things I own to do:
  • Be reasonably inexpensive
  • Do what it's designed to do well
  • Not take up too much room
From its Amazon page:
  • 7-gallon jumbo-tainer style rigid water container
  • Combines the easy to carry shape of a traditional jerry can in a more contemporary shape
  • Features reliable tap style spigot and dual grip-through handles

If I really want to stop and think about it, I believe I've bought maybe 7-8 of these containers over the years, but I always end up with 4. I have given away the balance to friends when they were starting their preps, and I think I punched a hole in one by not securing it well in the back of my long-gone truck. Right now I have jugs in the back of my closet; looking at my calendar and how busy I was in December, I neglected to dump and refill my existing jugs at Christmas.

This one is going to be washed out with dish soap, rinsed and refilled twice and left in the sun for an afternoon, just to be sure it's clean and ready to store. I do go to the extra step of adding 2-3 drops of regular, unscented chlorine bleach to each jug, even though I replace the water every 6 months. I want the water fresh, no matter how long it may be stored.

Recap and Takeaway

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, February 25, 2020

"It's 4 wheel drive, not 4 wheel stop."

That's an axiom here in the land of the ice and snow, and we had a nasty little storm Sunday night into Monday morning that drove that point home. The storm didn't put down much snow, but it rained first, then got really cold, and then we got a dusting of snow, which resulted in very slick conditions on the roads. It took me 45 minutes to go less than 5 miles on the freeway to the exit where they kicked us off onto surface streets. In that 5 mile stretch of freeway, there were 20 accidents before 6 am, and they kept coming until mid-morning. A disproportionate number of those wrecks involved 4 wheel drive trucks and SUVs.

4 wheel drive is a wonderful asset to have. I've driven exclusively 4x4 vehicles daily for over 15 years, and I will never be without one again. Sadly, their capability can convey a false sense of security to their owners who feel like their large, stable vehicles can go anywhere and do anything. Sadly, this causes them to encounter risks they don't even know they're taking, so I'd like to review what 4 wheel drive can and cannot do.

What 4x4 Can Do
Four wheel drive increases driving traction by delivering power to all four corners of the vehicle. This keeps slipping wheels from spinning in rough or loose terrain. They can also help in rough terrain by invoking gear reduction, increasing torque at the cost of speed. This same gear reduction aids in slowing the vehicle without using the brakes.

What 4x4 Cannot Do, 
or How It Doesn't Help
Four wheel drive does nothing to increase friction between your tires and the surface you're driving on. No matter the gearing or how built your rig is, without friction you won't be stopping. This is the thing that many people forget: they buy big fancy 4x4 rigs and get a false sense of security right up until they hit the car in front of them or a road barrier.

The other issue of concern with a four wheel drive is that with the system engaged, your steering ability greatly diminishes. When your steering wheels are also providing power, turning will be rougher riding and more difficult, especially at low speeds.

Knowing what your vehicle is and isn't capable of will save you a world of hurt.


Monday, February 24, 2020

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hand Drills, part 2

Last week I covered the once-common hand brace style of manual drill. This week I want to explore the geared manual drill, usually just referred to as a hand drill, the last form of manual drill invented before electric motors took over the hand tool market.
Sometimes called an eggbeater drill because it uses the same mechanism as a manual eggbeater, this style of hand drill shares most of the pros and cons of the hand brace but uses a gear and pinion system to increase the speed of the turning bit. That pesky law of conservation of energy requires that an increase in speed comes at the cost of torque or power, so a hand drill is not going to do large holes as well as a brace will. The now-standard 3-jaw chuck for holding drill bits was introduced with this style of drill, allowing more flexibility and standardization in the choice of bits. Working around explosives in the Army, I had to use an eggbeater style drill on rare occasions. I recall drilling out a couple of rivets, which took two days and a bunch of bits, but they were made of very hard metal.

Eggbeater drills are still in production and I recommend spending more for a quality tool rather than getting a cheap one. We usually link to Amazon for purchases, but after looking at what they had to offer I couldn't find one available in the US worth adding to a serious tool box. I did find a woodworking toolsite that has better quality, so I'll use their drills and pictures as examples.

To recap the pros and cons of a manual drill, with emphasis on the eggbeater style:

  • Quiet. With no electric motor, they are almost silent.
  • Precise. The lower speed and manual operation give better control over the drilling.
  • Cordless. No batteries or electricity means it will work anywhere, even after a power outage or underwater. Yes, I have seen them used underwater and they do work.
  • Durable. Fewer moving parts generally means longer life. As long as you choose a well-built drill, it should last a few generations.
  • Slow. When working on metal or stone, slow speeds will extend the life of your bits. I can't count the times I've seen someone with an electric drill ruin a bit by using too much pressure and too high of a speed. Blue bits don't cut and can't be sharpened; the steel has lost its tempering and is too soft.

  • Slow. Trust me, they're slow when used on metal.
  • Tiring. Instead of using a whole-arm motion like a brace, the eggbeater style only uses the lower part of your arm. You'll feel it in your elbow instead of your shoulder after a while.
  • Low torque. The eggbeater style won't generate the torque of a brace, so it is better suited for small bits (under 3/8th inch).

There are a few different styles of hand drills.

Instead of having a handle in line with the chuck and bit, a chest drill will have a flat or slightly curved plate perpendicular to the chuck. This lets the operator put his chest on the plate while turning the crank, giving him more downward pressure. Handy for working with larger wood bits and any size metal bit, but overkill for precision work. I have seen sets with removable handle/chest plate sets to expand the use of the drill. Picture from Highland Woodworking.

Single vs. Double Pinion
Cheap or light-duty drills will have a single pinion gear connected to the shaft that holds the chuck. The outside drive gear with the crank handle on it will engage this pinion gear and cause the shaft to spin. Having only the bottom of the frame for support, this style will not be as precise or as durable and a drill with two pinions.

Double pinion drills have pinions that engage the drive gear at top and bottom. Cheap versions will have the top pinon mounted to the top of the frame and a drive shaft that ends at the bottom pinion, while a quality drill will have a shaft that extends through the frame and has pinion on both top and bottom. Proper double pinion gears will provide a more rigid drive shaft and less tendency for the drill to twist or torque while in use.

Light vs. Heavy Duty
Light-duty is the standard, while heavy-duty generally means better bearings and stiffer frame with the addition of a second handle mounted in the center of the frame. The second handle will let you get more of a pistol style grip on drill, which is handy when using it in a horizontal position.

Adding a gear box and the ability to change gears, this style will offer a bit more flexibility in what you can do but adds a lot of moving parts.You can see the gear box on the breast drill above.

Extra-Light Duty
Fiskars is a craft and hobby brand of scissors and other hand tools. They make a plastic hand drill that is pistol-shaped, designed to be held in the left hand while the right hand turns a crank on the side. I've never used one, but I'd bet that it has plastic gears inside the sealed case. Plastic gears will not last as long as even cheap metal ones, so I would place this in the “toy tools” box.

Not everything a prepper can use fits in the EDC category. Having a well-stocked tool box will give you options to repair or build things that can make life easier. If you're looking at barter as a part of your preps, having the tools to create things opens up new opportunities and being able to repair stuff is a valuable skill.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Prudent Prepping: I'm Stuck on Bandaids

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

Yes, I carry a very small first aid kit with me and the largest number of items in it are band-aids. There are a couple of other things besides band-aids.

Where It Started
Originally it was a Johnson & Johnson mini first aid kit, like this one.
From the Amazon page:
  • Perfect for minor first aid situations
  • The plastic case is durable to travel with you wherever you go
  • Contains 12 essential first aid items
  • Includes cleansing wipes, first aid gauze pad, knuckle adhesive bandages, and butterfly closures.
I've used up the original contents and kept the case, because it is the right size to put into my lunchbox, sling bag or laptop bag.

What's Inside
Some similar items, actually!


I still have band-aids and alcohol wipes, but I've added an antibiotic cream, Liquid Skin, and a lighter. (Why a lighter? This was the best place to keep it safe and is easily found when I need it.) I would like to replace the butterfly closures when I find a small package of them so that I can divide them between my other kits.

The Liquid Skin really gets a workout on my hands, since about half the day I wear gloves and half not. When I get a scratch or a cut, keeping a band-aid on my hands or a finger is almost impossible, due to putting on gloves, taking off gloves, and reaching into a pocket to get keys or money.

Liquid skin in use

The shiny stuff on the scab is Liquid Skin covering a scratch. I tried to keep a band-aid on this for a day and it didn't work; my gloves tore the band-aids right off, and when not wearing gloves dirt worked its way under the bandage or I'd bash that spot and cause more bleeding.

One minor problem: the tube is pretty sensitive to heat and cold after opening, or at least that's my guess. I had a hard time getting the cap off due to dried material gluing the cap down. Since the Liquid Skin is carried in a box and there's no chance of smashing the tube to force out the liquid, expansion and contraction is my answer.

The stores I service all have much bigger first aid kits with gauze pads and the like, but for 99% of the 'emergencies' I see, this kit can handle the job. for that last 1%, I have the tourniquet and carrier I mentioned in last weeks post, along with a much larger kit in my GHB.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but I'm going to see about buying more Liquid Skin.
  • I now need to go through all my first aid kits and look at the things that I've opened, not only to see if they haven't dried out, but also to check on everything's expiration dates.


    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, February 17, 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Hand Drills, part 1

I took a trip up to my "cabin" a while back just to check on things. It's really a 14' x 21' shed that a buddy and I built many years ago on a back corner of my family farm. It sits on top of a hill buried in trees and is a pain to get to, which makes it perfect for providing a peaceful place to go to take a break from society. We don't store much in the cabin since it is not a secure location (hunters and hikers wander by), but it is a form of fall-back Bug Out Location (BOL) since it has a solid roof and a wood stove for heat/cooking. The main thing we have stored there is tools, some left over from when we built it and others added to make staying there a little nicer. The entire shed was built without the use of power tools on-site, so all of the tools are manual.

Among the handful of manual tools on the shelf is a manual drill, sometimes called a hand brace. There's a metal box full of drill bits next to it, sizes from 1/8th inch to 1- 1/4 inch, for wood-working, We used the drill to make holes in the floor and walls for a few wires from the solar panel and short-wave antenna, along with a few other minor uses, but it stays up there for future projects. Mine is an older version of this one that is still in production.
A hand drill may seem like something that your great-grandpa would have used, and he likely did. Before the invention of small electric motors, hand drills were the only practical way we had to make holes in materials. Their history goes back centuries, and I'll get into that in a future post, but the hand brace was the last generation of manual drills before motor drills replaced them.

A hand brace is normally used for working with wood due to the slow speeds it reaches, but I have used mine on soft metals like Aluminum and Copper. Even though they're old tech, they still do their job and don't require batteries or extension cords.

  • No electricity- this is a major point for a back-up tool. It will work just as well in your garage as it will 20 miles from the nearest power line.
  • Quiet- Without the whine of an electric motor, you can work without bothering neighbors or family that is trying to sleep.
  • Simple- Fewer parts means fewer things that can break or get lost. Before cordless drills became common, you needed a chuck key to tighten the part of an electric drill that holds the bit (the chuck). Losing that key made changing bits a challenge.
  • Inexpensive- The cheap imports are half the price of a cheap cordless drill. A quality brace may be found in antique shops or flea markets, but the prices will vary wildly.
  • Durable- I have cordless drills that are less than 15 years old that I can't find batteries for. Any cordless drill over I've ever torn apart or seen destroyed was full of plastic gears and sealed bearings. My hand brace is older than I am, and by keeping it clean and oiling it once in a while I'll be able to pass it down to my grandson.
  • Safe- Since you are providing the power to the tool, you have instant feedback on how well it is working. The slow speed of the drilling action means that you won't have an out-of-control drill torquing out of your grip if it binds on something. These are also a lot safer to hand to a child as they learn how things work.
  • Slow- Slow and steady allows a better chance of precision with a hand-held tool. Getting a hole at the proper angle is easier at low speeds and corrections are simpler. 
  • Versatile- I have bits for my hand brace up to 1-1/4 inch, which is more than most cordless drills can handle. With a modern chuck I can also use the tiny bits that are commonly found in household bit sets. I also have a set of bits with screwdriver heads and they come in very handy when working with long or large wood screws. The swing of the brace lets me get a lot of torque on a stubborn screw

  • Slow- With a rotating speed measured in double-digit RPMs instead of thousands, it's going to take longer to make a hole.  A lot longer. You're not going to be putting a round wire wheel in a hand brace to remove paint or rust unless you're really bored.
  • Tiring- Your arms are the power source, so you're going to get a workout if you have very many holes to drill. People today aren't used to using manual tools, so it may exercise a set of muscles that you didn't know you had.
  • Bits aren't common- You're not going to find a very large selection of bits anywhere, and very few places carry them. Unless you find a brace with a modern 3-jaw chuck, it will require a bit with a tapered, squared tail to function. Your local hardware store is not likely to have those on the shelf.
  • Larger- While the brace itself may not be much larger than a motor drill, the space required to swing the center piece will mean that working in corners or near walls/floors is going to be  harder. 

As some of you know by now, I'm a fan of old-school tech. It worked for our ancestors, and will still work for us if we lose the luxuries of electricity and big-box stores. Knowing how things used to get done makes it easier for me to figure out a way to work around problems.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Bottle Bag Challenge

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

Well, I tried to get this thing done last week, but it didn't happen.

Water Bottle Challenge
Erin set out specific but also very vague guidelines for this challenge. Everything has to go in or be attached to the bottle carrier is what I understood the rules to be. (Correct. - Erin). My bottle carrier was shown in this blog post, right after Erin announced the challenge. Here is what I have going into my bag.

The big pieces

The bag was written up well in the original post, but with a little time to fool with it, I believe this setup will be used when I'm in the local parks this spring and summer. There are plenty of attachment points for clipping to or use MOLLE straps. There are even loops on top of the bag for another patch!

(Speaking of patches, this one is from a BCP Facebook group member and friend, Jonathan Sullivan. If you'd like to buy one contact him, but hurry up because they are going quickly.)

The water bottle is one I've had for a while and don't carry often, since it was purchased from REI. I've limited what I buy from them over the last two years to things that I can't wait for Next Day from Amazon.

Next to that is a Maxpedition PLP cell phone case. More on that later.

Next to that is my latest item bought from Amazon: FUNANASUN 2 Pack Molle Pouches
From the Amazon ad:
  • One item includes 2 tactical pouches and 2 carabiners. Dimensions: 8.3" x 4.7" x 2.2". Constructed by durable 600D nylon material and internal surface are made of waterproof material.
  • The tactical pack has vinyl sewed inside to keep moisture from soaking through to the material on to the outside, and a steel drain hole rivet in the bottom.
  • The molle attachment bag with 2 buckle straps on the back could be attached to tactical backpack, combat vest or other tactical gears as an extra exterior pouch or carry it as a normal pouch to secure essential gears.
  • The utility molle pouch with two-way zippers in silent cord pulls allows you to quickly zip the military pouch shut from either both sides or access just one side of the tactical pack without completely opening it.
  • The main compartment and 2 internal pockets are perfect for storing cell phone, tactical pen, keychain, GPS device, digital cameras, medical supplies, ammo, paracord or any necessary gadgets you need.
I chose this because I needed a bag about this size for carrying some extra items on my sling bag, but never ordered one, so I ordered two for this challenge.

What It Holds
The Contents

I decided to use the water bottle as a water bottle by keeping it empty and carrying everything in the pouch and existing pocket on the bottle bag.

The contents, from left to right and top to bottom:
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter 
  • Hand sanitizer from CVS
  • Pencil wrapped with duct tape
  • Hatori AAA pen light
  • Mints
  • Eye glass repair kit
  • Gum
  • 3 Clif Bars
Bottom Row
  • SOL Survival Blanket 
  • Leatherman  multitool
  • Mini Johnson and Johnson 1st Aid Kit
  • Magnifying Tweezers
Everything but the first aid kit fits into the molle pouch.; that, I had to put into the pocket on the Bottle Carrier itself.

All that's left is the cell phone pouch mentioned earlier.

Maxpedition PLP Phone Case
Maxpedition PLP and contents

I've had this case for some time and carry it with me at work and elsewhere. I wrote about the first version of this kit in this post and have been fooling with the contents ever since.

What you see is:
  • North American Rescue CAT tourniquet
  • H&H mini compression bandage
  • 2 pair rubber gloves
  • Six alcohol wipes 
The wipes sort of migrated to this pouch and so I left them. Everything else should be fairly self explanatory when you read the linked post.

There is still room in the Bottle Carrier pocket for more things, but for what I want at the moment, this is enough... until I start fooling around with it again.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I was surprised with how much I was able to fit into the available space. There is even room to add more without using the empty water bottle as extra storage.
  • I bought a FUNANASUN 2 Pack Molle Pouches from Amazon for $15.99 with Prime. If you aren't a member of the BCP Facebook page, you missed my explanation of why I chose a different model of carrier than Erin's.
  • Nothing else was purchased this week.
* * *

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, February 10, 2020

Shootist's Water Bottle Bag Challenge

Less may be more, but lightweight still is king.

I apologize for talking so much.

Buy your water bottle bags here.

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Trauma Infographic

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This has been making the rounds on various blogs, and it's so good I thought I'd post it here for everyone to use. I didn't know that I shouldn't pack an abdominal wound and I would very much like to learn why not.

Blue Collar Prepping endorses the following products:

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Shelter Essentials

Lately we've been discussing skills and the need to practice them, and one of the most important skills that I can think of is providing some form of shelter in an emergency. I'm going to take a generalist approach to my methods and ideas on shelter in order to cover as many variables as possible, as this is one of those times where knowing "why" helps take care of the "how".

These are general ideas work for improvised shelters, portable shelters, and impromptu or expedient shelters. You're going to want the same basics in any tent, debris hut, basement, or bunker. If you're looking at a damaged or abandoned structure, these are the things to give extra scrutiny.

Parts of any shelter, in my order of importance:

  • Most of what we'll need shelter from is going to come from above. Rain, snow, fallout, and sunlight are all things to take shelter from, so having a proper roof over our heads is important. 
  • A proper roof should stop most of what you're trying to get out of. Nothing is perfect, so look for ways to improve what you've found with what you have.
  • Of slightly less importance is heat; heat rises, and a good roof will trap it closer to you and therefore shrink the amount of heat you'll need to generate to stay comfortable. 
  • For the most basic shelter, a flat roof leaned against a solid structure or another section of roof (to form a tent-like shelter) is quick to build and simple enough to throw together from debris and scraps. Additional heat is usually provided by an open fire outside the shelter, near the opening, for safety. 
  • More advanced shelters should include some method of allowing smoke and excess heat out through an opening in the roof, so include that in any planning.

  • Heat may rise, but it is also carried away by conduction. Placing a floor between your body and the ground will break the physical connection between the two and reduce heat loss from conduction through the earth.
  • Anything placed on the bare ground will be better than nothing. Packed earth is a building option, but should be on the bottom of the list.
  • If you're going to be using an open fire inside as a source of heat, you'll want to make sure the floor is not going to catch fire. 
  • You'll want your floor to be above ground level to prevent water from entering. If you can't get that, make sure the floor is sloped enough to allow water to leave. The standard for water drainage is at least one-eighth of an inch of drop for every foot of length.

  • A simple debris hut or lean-to won't have actual walls, but anything more complicated than those will have them. 
  • Walls have to support the roof and block weather, and are normally built before the roof. Plan ahead and make sure you have some way to get the roof pieces up on top of the walls, or you'll have an animal pen instead of a shelter.
  • They also should be constructed in a manner that will let you control air-flow through the shelter, especially if you are using an open flame as a source of heat.
  • Walls will give you more room to move around inside, but will also increase the amount of air you'll have to heat or cool, so plan your shelter according to your fuel supply.

  • Opening don't have to be doors and windows, but those are the most common. Chimneys, ventilation holes, and loose construction methods also count as openings. Openings should have some method of closing when they're not in use.
  • Doors and shutters are a great way to add a layer of security to your shelter while they help keep out the weather. The tighter they fit, the better they will keep out dust, snow, and vermin.
  • Windows don't have to be made of glass. Early pioneer cabins and houses didn't have access to glass, so they used oilcloth or greased paper to keep the bugs and dust out while letting some light in. 

  • Modern plastics are common enough to be useful in emergency shelter construction. Clear plastics make passable windows, but add layers if it's very thin. Opaque plastics make good waterproofing for roofs and walls.
  • Wood comes in many forms, from sticks, logs, and branches to mill-cut lumber. Easy to work with and easy to find anywhere outside of a desert or arctic plain, wood is the most common material in the US.
  • Masonry like brick and stone is common in many areas, but requires a binder of some sort (like mortar) to hold them together, unless you're lucky enough to find flat stones that will stack securely. A good source of clay and a fire will provide you with masonry bricks.
  • Dirt makes a fair construction material, but takes a lot of time and manpower to use correctly. Sod cabins were common 150 years ago around my area; adobe is more common is the Southwest; and baked mud bricks were used for centuries in other parts of the world. Google "rammed earth construction" if you want more information on a rather rare method of building.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but rather more of a way to spark your imagination and powers of observation. I've got a fair amount of experience building and repairing things, so I can look closely at a structure and get a good idea of how sturdy it is, but some of you may not have much experience and will have to learn as you go. Just remember that practice makes permanent, so if you practice something wrong, you'll always get it wrong. I'll be practicing a couple of methods of making emergency shelters this spring and summer, so watch for updates with pictures.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Buffet Post

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

As usual, I have ideas and topics I can't seem to make into stand alone posts, so here is another odds and ends post.

Replacing Food
I have friends who are now serious about looking out for themselves. With all the fires the last three years and the closest big one barely 15 miles away, their decision to get going wasn't a difficult one.

I am also slowly converting my stored food to much longer lasting items, and so I ordered another Mountain House Classic Bucket. I first wrote about buying Mountain House items in this post, and I like their assortment. This is the second meal bucket for me, and my friends also have two.

From the Mountain House Amazon page:
  • Quick prep! Just add water to the pouch and eat in less than 10 minutes, with no extra cleanup!
  • Contains 12 total pouches, two each Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, Chicken Teriyaki with Rice, Beef Stew, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Noodles & Chicken, and Granola with Milk & Blueberries. Bucket contains 29 total servings.
  • Allergens: Soy, Milk, Wheat, Egg, Coconut
  • 30-Year Taste . Packaging May Vary.
  • Use for emergency food storage, survival food, camping trips, backcountry hiking, RV expeditions and more!

This pail is closed and I think it will stay that way -- keeping it closed is best for my purposes since, with water and a heat source, I have food for several days. With the possibility of earthquakes and fires forcing an evacuation, having these buckets in easily moved pails seems like a good idea.

Impulse Buying
Last Friday I was talking to an employee about how dust masks were flying off their shelves and what people were buying. The masks I mentioned in this post were sold out, with no restock date in the system. My friend laughed and let me see the 8 week sales history of that product and I almost fell over, since the average was 6 per week and the prior weeks' sales were 128!

My previous advice to stay home if you aren't feeling well still stands, along with keeping away from crowds if you have a compromised immune system. Being concerned with a new variation of a disease is fine, just be aware that the normal known flu virus killed almost 80,000 people 2017-2018. Be aware, not alarmed.

Bottle Bag Challenge Update
I'm still fooling around with several different ways to carry all I want. Our Esteemed Leader has (as usual) set a pretty high bar for what she was able to fit into a bottle bag. How to fit things I want into the available space means I either need to find more space or carry less. There are interesting things arriving in packages with the Smiling Mouth logo!


Oh my!

Recap And Takeaway
  • One Mountain House Classic Bucket meal assortment from Amazon:  $86.12 with Prime shipping. There is a delay in receiving this, and I'm not sure why.
  • Take your normal precautions this winter and if you are out in crowds often, wash your hands more than normal. If you can't, get yourself  an alcohol based hand sanitizer and rub that stuff in.

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, February 4, 2020

Yogurt Update

I mentioned in my previous yogurt post that while I enjoyed the initial product, it was a fair bit runnier than I expected. I also mentioned that I had seen a few methods online to correct that. This weekend, we made another batch of yogurt and used one of those methods.

The method that seemed the simplest and "cleanest" to me was adding powdered milk to the mix. The idea is that adding more milk solids will cause a thicker mix, partly by absorbing liquid and partly by having more of those solids on their own. I used this milk from Walmart, but powdered milk is also available on Amazon. Be sure to check the ingredient list on whatever milk product you buy, as it's a fairly processed food product and may interact unfavorably with people who have food sensitivities.

We used one quart of milk's worth of powder to a one gallon batch of yogurt. This was done after boiling and cooling the milk, but before adding the yogurt culture. The end result is much thicker and creamier, but still thinner than commercial yogurt. A two-quart equivalent would likely have been too much, but a quart and a half would probably be about right, if you crave that stiffer texture.

The texture we got from this batch mixes wonderfully with various flavoring agents as well as fresh or frozen fruit. I highly recommend mixing it with honey. I don't know why I've gone 37 years without trying this, but I'll definitely do it far more frequently.

A little mad science in the kitchen is fun and can really improve your food. Please feel free to share your favorite yogurt add-ins in the comments or the BCP Facebook group.


The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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