Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Buffet of Product Review Follow-Ups

Today's post is a buffet of updates. I've been doing ongoing research on a few things, and have more information on a few topics that I've covered in the past. Those, and the lack of a good, original topics for this week, mean it's time to clean up some of the tidbits and loose ends.

Freeze-Dried Fruit
I tested and reviewed the Nature's Turn brand freeze-dried fruits a few weeks ago. At the time, the local source only had the apple, banana, and strawberry versions, but they were restocked and added the pear and peach snacks. They're still a dollar per bag at the local dollar store and I've seen them pop up online more often, so I hope they're widening their distribution.
  • The peaches were like the freeze-dried apples in texture, similar to a hard foam. The flavor was subdued and light until the fruit rehydrated in my mouth, and then it kicked in with lots of flavor, and the texture of fresh fruit started to come back. Good eating, and a pleasant surprise in the flavor burst.
  • The pears were a disappointment. They didn't have much flavor and the texture was just as bland. Not a bad flavor, just not much of any flavor.

Cell Phone
A little over a year ago I bought a new cell phone that has prepper potential. The Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2 has survived a year of my use without any issues.
  • The glass is unscratched despite the many drops and the generally harsh environment I work in (lots of abrasive dust). I keep it in a rubberized protective case, which has helped keep the already armored shell intact, where it rides on my belt or pocket for 12-16 hours a day.
  • The water-proofing is excellent. When it gets dirty, I simply wash it off in the sink. I don't have to worry about rain or splashing water while I'm cleaning any more.
  • I haven't noticed any decrease in battery life in the first year, but that can often take two or three years to be a problem.
  • The USB-C connector is nice, as being non-polarized means that you plug it in the right way every time. However, this has meant that I had to upgrade some of my charger/data cords and they are no longer compatible with some of my older electronics. I'm looking at adapters, but that's in the future for now.
  • The wireless charging works as advertised, but the phone gets noticeably warmer than when using a cord. I use the solar battery pack I reviewed here to charge my phone since it has the wireless charger built in.

Solar Battery Bank
This one rides in the truck with me most days. It's nice to be able to unfold the panels and set it on the dash while I'm at work and have it top off the charge for free. I put it in the shade when its not being charged to avoid too much heat.
  • About a hundred nights where it got below freezing, and probably the same number of days where the temperature inside the truck got over 90° F, haven't impacted the battery pack capacity. It will still charge my phone from dead, twice, with a little left over for other things.
  • The plastic-hinged solar cells are a concern, I'm watching for signs of cracking where it bends, but I haven't seen any yet.

Waterproof Cases
Speaking of things that ride in the truck with me, I threw the larger of the three cases I reviewed here in the bed of my truck last year. 
  • A few feet of snow, below-zero temperatures, a foot or two of rain, and countless bumps and bashes haven't hurt it at all. 
  • The interior is still dry, and other than a little bit of rust on the hasps and some scuffs and dirt, it still looks good.
  •  I expected the plastic would get brittle from the sunlight (UV rays tend to do that to most plastics) or the cold, but it has held up to the elements quite well, considering the price.

UST Parahatchet
I picked this one up at WalMart over a year ago. Initial testing gave fair results, so I loaned it to a young friend who was going on a week-long camping trip. Between his results and my own hands-on testing, this one falls into the “Hard Pass” category.
  • Weight: It's too light to have enough momentum to chop anything you couldn't break in your hands. Trying to chip off pieces of medium-hard wood (Red Elm and White Oak) ended up with the blade glancing off as often as it bit in. This is why the Boy Scouts teach keeping everyone at a safe distance when chopping wood.
  • Edge: It kept its edge fairly well, but some of that is because it saw very little actual use. We didn't intentionally abuse it, as I'm not a fan of “test to failure” unless someone else is footing the bill.
  • Handle: The paracord wrapping looks “tactical” but is a poor fit for most hands. It's just not comfortable to use, and if you have to remove the paracord for some other use you're left with a piece of flat, stamped metal to try to hold onto. This is not a good idea when swinging a sharpened edge around!

That's about it for this week. I'll see if I can kick my muse in the next few days and get back to new, original topics. Take care of yourself and your tribe; they're all you have that you can really count on.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Parapocalypse Cord Review, pt 1

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

The weather hasn't been cooperating with me in my attempts to record videos of the paracord I mentioned buying several weeks ago. You can see me, but not hear anything over the wind.

First Impressions
The cord itself is fairly stiff in comparison to standard paracord; twice as stiff, I would have to say, which makes sense considering the extra fibers in the core. I have reasonably sharp knives in my pockets and gear, and the cord cuts like something much thicker.

What surprised me when cutting was that the last two strands to cut were the fishing line and (I believe) the Dyna X. This was true for all three cuts I made in my sample. You will definitely need a sharp knife to cut this cord!

After cutting, the internal strands pulled out cleanly and were easy to separate.


The Components
I had no problem getting the waxed jute to catch on fire, even after dunking the separated strand in water. I'm not sure how it will work if the entire original cord is wet for a long time, but I expect it will still light well.

There is a ban on fishing here (even though Social Distancing is the norm for the sport), so I don't have an actual "in use" test for the monofilament fishing line, but it does tie like I expected 10 lb test line to work.

I don't have an "in use" test for the nano aramid either, since no one here is close to 110 lbs; either we are way over or under that total. I'm hoping to borrow a kid later, if all home schooling and chores are done this week. I did however wind a strand around an equal amount of waxed jute, and after the jute burned off, there was some discoloration but no melting of the Aramid.

I'm not sure how to test the Dyna X either, but I want to also try and see what sort of weight might be supported by this.

The outer sheath and the nylon paracord all caught fire quickly and burned as I expected nylon to to do: hot, smoky, and making a sticky flaming mess I wouldn't want to get on me. Using it to possibly help start a fire with less than dry wood is where I think this will be helpful, along with tying smaller items.

The whole 25' long sample is going to be used up when I'm finished, so I will order another 25' hank and, I think, one of the longer lengths as well.

Recap and Takeaway
  •  I'm disappointed I don't have videos that work, but hopefully the weather cooperates when I get the next batch of cord.
  • This is very useful cordage that I'm adding to all my gear bags. It is going to be added, not replacing, the paracord I have now since it could be used up, leaving me with no high strength, longer length cordage if needed.
  • Nothing was purchased this week, and nothing is expected to be ordered next week either.
* * *

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, April 27, 2020

DIY Alcoholic Beverages!!

This can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Do your research!!!
Other than that it is simple and have fun!!
UPDATE: definitely use half the amount of yeast. 1 glass and I’m stuffed up!!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Purifying Water with Bleach, part 2

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Last month I was asked about how to purify stored water. This woman's concern was that the water was good enough coming out of the tap, but she was worried that long-term storage would result in bacterial growth which would render the water undrinkable.

Purification of water is something that we've covered extensively on this blog, and one of the earliest articles we made on that topic was Chaplain Tim's essay on using bleach to neutralize a toxin produced by an algal infestation of Toledo's water supply.

While filtration and boiling are still the best and easiest methods to purify water, sometimes they just won't work, as in the Toledo case. In that situation, the toxin was left behind by the algae as it died off, and even though filtration would remove the algae itself it would still leave the toxin behind. Worse, boiling the water would concentrate the toxin, actually making the problem worse!

I encourage you all to go read Tim's article, as it explains the chemistry behind why this works and how you should use it. Still, if you're like me and your eyes get a bit watery at all the math, I present to you this handy cheat sheet for storing and purifying water.

I don't recall where or when I found this image; all I know is that it was years ago during a web-wander. If you know where it's from, please let me know so I can give credit where due.

I added my own notes to this to enhance usability. We have teaspoons in my kitchen, but not 1/4 or 1/8 tsp and I don't trust my eyes to be able to accurately eyeball those amounts, so I used Tim's math from his post to convert their measurements into units I could use, which were drops.

Please note: This chart is for standard bleach, not concentrated bleach! Concentrated bleach is 8.25% NaClO (sometimes listed as Sodium hypochlorite) instead of the standard 5 to 6% solution, so you need to use less of it. According to his article, it's 4 drops of bleach to the gallon for clear water instead of the listed 8.

A few things I want to point out before I wrap this up:
  • Cloudy water is treated the same way as clear water because, as the text above indicates, you need to filter cloudy water before drinking it. 
  • If for whatever reason you can't filter it, I would treat it as surface water. 
  • Surface water gets special treatment because there's no telling what's in it. See this article for more explanation. 
  • Cold water needs more bleach because the cold inhibits chemical reaction. For a great example of this, do an experiment: take two mugs of water, one from the tap and one hot from the kettle or microwave, and stir in an equal amount of powdered coffee or cocoa. Watch how the hot water absorbs the powder easily, while the cold water causes the powder to clump. The same principle applies here. 
  • Allow at least 30 minutes for the bleach to do its job! If the water is cold, make that 60 minutes. 
  • The human nose can smell chlorine in water at a ratio of 3 parts per million. A ratio of chlorine to water which makes it safe to drink is 5 ppm. Therefore, if you can easily smell the chlorine without it being supter-strong, it's safe to drink. 
  • Chlorine loses its effectiveness years, becoming inert in 5 years. Powdered bleach lasts longer, although I don't know by how much. Here are directions on how to make your own bleach, although be advised that it will be more diluted than commercial versions. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Vermiculture and Fishing

Vermiculture is the growing of worms for a specific purpose. Growing worms may sound like an odd endeavor, but there are several reasons why a prepper might want to do a little research on it.

I mentioned vermiculture in my post about composting toilets (CT), so you may recognize the word if you're a regular reader. Turning waste into something useful is what worms do, so this is a good use for them. Once you have an established colony of happy little waste eaters, you can “harvest” a portion to sell to others setting up a similar CT. The best online resource I've found so far (free and a good amount of information) is here.

Composting other forms of waste like food scraps, grass trimmings, and leaves is a lot quicker when worms are added to the mix. Proper aeration and moisture will keep the wrigglers happy and they'll eat their own body weight every day, providing “castings”, or worm feces, that is and excellent fertilizer for food crops. We don't seem to have a writer with a lot of experience in composting, so if you have such experience please contact me (comment below or drop a note on our Facebook page). I'd like to get more information out to our readers, but I'm not going to “pull a rabbit out of my hat” and try to explain something I've never done.

Fishing bait is another good use for worms. The fact that this is the time of year (spring) when the weekly rains will bring the night crawlers and earthworms out of the soil for us to pick up and use for bait is is actually what sparked the idea for this article, There are methods for coaxing or driving worms out of the soil which I may write more about later, but the main problem I have seen is storing them for more than a day or two. Worms live in cool, moist dirt, and if you want to keep them alive for any length of time you're going to have to provide something similar. Buckets full of soil are heavy and hard to dig through, so a couple of companies have developed “bedding” material for worms.

MagicBuss Bed-ding (that's the way they spell it) is the brand that my family has used for decades. Amazon's pricing is high, so check local stores or any other online sporting goods stores. It's made of recycled paper with some nutrients added and is designed to keep worms alive but not reproduce. Sold in several sizes of bags, you mix a quart of water with each pound of dry bedding, and then add worms. It makes a light, fluffy, dark gray mixture that worms can move through easily.

My father usually keeps 40-50 dozen night crawlers (they're the local favorite) in a couple of five-gallon buckets stored in a cheap refrigerator in the garage. He'll pick up worms in April and have live bait through November with very few problems. Leftovers at the end of the season are returned to the soil before the first hard freeze so they can spend the winter in their natural habitat. The refrigerator is set fairly warm, about 40-45 °F and the cool, dark, conditions are good for the worms. Grabbing a handful to take fishing for the day is simple, and having them in storage means more “spur of the moment” fishing.

Baitboxes for worms are normally insulated to keep them cool, and most have lids on two sides. The worms will tend to congregate on the bottom of the box, so instead of digging through the box you just flip it over and open what was the bottom lid. This is much easier than lugging around a five-gallon bucket, and the worms survive longer in an insulated box when the temperature starts to climb.

If you're growing worms instead of merely storing those you have found, you're going to have a surplus eventually. Selling bait may not pay the mortgage, but it is a time-honored method of providing extra income in areas near popular fishing spots. Overhead and operating supplies are minimal; a good root cellar will store them as well as a refrigerator, and if you're composting anyway the feed is free.
Kids can learn valuable lessons running a small bait business, from advertising to inventory control and security on a small scale, while making a bit of pocket change in good times and extra income for the family during hard times. Prices around here are a dollar or two per dozen, and the city folks would rather pay that than store their own.

Growing worms may not be for everyone, but it may be something that you can read up on and keep in the back of your mind. Having options is part of being prepared for life's ups and downs, this is just another option for some of us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Detour Post

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

I was originally going to post about my tests of the Parapocalypse cord I mentioned in last week's post, but things have come up since then that have pushed that review back a week.

What changed? Two things.

Stimulus Check
Yes, I did get one, and there were in fact several things that have been on my mind as needed additions to my preps but whose cost prevented me from buying them. Since this blog is about prepping on a budget, I've a feeling my problem is fairly common. However, as much as I wanted to buy some new equipment or improve the quality of several items, I resisted and saved most of my stimulus money. What I did do was use some of the money to buy... money.

First, I went and bought some more silver coins, which is called 'junk silver'. The price has been fairly low lately and I wanted to take advantage of that. I certainly don't have a hoard by any means, but I do have some that I can hold onto as an investment against inflation.

Then I 'spent' more money to get more cash to have on hand for short-term emergencies, of which California has had more than I'd like to see. Power outages and fires, sometimes combined, can make using debit/credit cards or even finding an operating ATM impossible. I put some cash in my GHB and the balance in my Bug Out equipment.

What was left over I kept in the bank, even though I still have a shopping list.

Personal Protection
No, not that kind, or even THAT kind; I mean the kind that more and more states seem to be ordering worn when people are out in public. The order came down that the group I work with now have to wear masks while working, all day and any time we are in public areas. I knew this was coming, just not when it was due to start. That day was today, and I wasn't prepared... well, I was prepared but my equipment wasn't with me, so that counts as not being prepared.

I'd kicked around the notion of going overboard with obeying the letter of the law and wearing a Shemagh like this to work, but in a trial at home it was too hot to wear, even with our still-cool temperatures. I still own one, though, and it is in my work gear just in case I get cranky.

Not A Happy Camper
What I ended up deciding was having a BCP member send me two of the reusable masks she makes! These have a pocket to carry replaceable and washable inserts, so these are far from disposable.

But as I said, this was sprung on us and I didn't have my mask with me, so I had to wear one of these masks with the very irritating Ear Loops From Hell all day.

Happy Camper

This is what I will be wearing going forward. I will also using the ear-saving neck band that Erin mentioned last week to protect my ears from being sanded off by the elastic band.

The pocket of the mask can be filled with different weight material, and I chose to use a layer of salvaged T shirt.

Before the comments come about how this isn't much of an actual filter mask, I want to state that the paper mask the company made me wear is also not going to stop much of anything when worn for an entire day.

My company wants us to wear masks, so everyone has masks.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Have a plan and follow it,  but be ready to modify as the situation changes. I wasn't going to buy silver, but the surprise money made sense to do it now. 
  • Masks like the one I have have to be made-to-order and where I got mine has a backlog, so I hesitate to mention who to contact because of that. 
  • Neck Bands can be bought through Jacob Rosecky with details in this BCP post by Erin.
* * *

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, April 21, 2020

Drinking Distilled Water

If you watch survival shows on TV. you'll often see folks distilling water, and for good reason: it's a guaranteed way to get all the contaminants out of your drinking water. In fact, back in 2014 I wrote an article about how to set up a very basic still.

There are plenty of reasons to buy or make your own distilled water. In addition to knowing it's contaminant-free, it's also far gentler on things like humidifiers and CPAP machines and is the water you're supposed to use to top off lead-acid batteries. This is especially important if you have very hard water*, like we do in my area.

However, the argument that distilled water may be unsafe to drink gets made time and again, so in this article we examine the question "Will drinking distilled water get you through an emergency, just to kill you afterward? Or is it perfectly safe, and the innocent victim of internet experts?"

Distilled water is quite useful, cheap to buy, and easy to make. It's also known to not have anything bad for you in it. Why wouldn't you want to drink it? First of all, it tastes... well, it actually doesn't taste; it lacks all of the things that give water the flavor you're used to. This flat, lack-of-taste can be quite off-putting, which means you might not drink as much, especially when you need to be consuming lots of fluids.

The second traditional strike against distilled water is that it strips minerals from the body. This has been proven to be untrue. There is, however, a related issue: while distilled water doesn't take anything from you, it also doesn't replace anything your body naturally uses, either. Regular water from your tap, or the filter on your refrigerator, or wherever you get your water has minerals and electrolytes in it that your body needs to function.

If you're drinking distilled for a short period of time, your may be sore or fatigued or otherwise less than 100%, but you'll probably suffer no long-term effects. If you're eating a healthy diet, you might suffer no ill effects at all. If you choose to drink distilled water for a longer time frame, though, you may want to look at taking some kind of multivitamin supplement product to replace what the water isn't giving you back.

The lack of mineral content also means that distilled water doesn't hydrate you as effectively as non-distilled water, and you may have to drink more to obtain the same effects. Keep an extra sharp eye out for signs of dehydration.

In short, distillation is a great way to purify water. Don't be afraid to drink distilled water or use it in household processes. If you do drink it, be conscious of your mineral and electrolyte intake, and take supplements if you need them to stay in good health.


* Hard water, for those unfamiliar with the term, is water that contains very high concentrations of minerals. It causes nasty buildup anywhere those minerals get deposited and allowed to dry, and things like humidifier evaporation panels and swamp cooler panels get coated with a hard, salty looking shell rather quickly.

Monday, April 20, 2020

DIY Bacon Grease Candles

A little project I’ve wanted to do for awhile now. With a little help from my community!!!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Preventing "Mask Ear"

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Nurses and other caregivers who wear masks which loop behind the ears have been suffering from wounds where the ear loop rubs raw the skin behind the ears. As this style of mask is the kind which many of us own or have made, preventing Mask Ear is a concern to many preppers.

Fortunately for us, fellow Blue Collar Prepper Jacob Rosecky of Rosecky Custom Engraving has a 3D printer and is selling multi-position behind-the-head ear strap holders for $2 each, which includes sales tax. I bought 3 and am very happy with their performance.

Shipping Costs
  • 1-5: $1 shipping (fits inside standard envelope)
  • 6-50: $7.50 shipping (small flat rate box)
  • 51+ : $13 shipping (medium box)

Payment Information
Venmo: @Jacob-Rosecky

Jacob tells me that sometimes Paypal doesn't give him your address, so you might want to PM him your details to ensure swift delivery.

They are made from food-grade polypropylene and are very flexible, as you can see.

They can be made in a variety of colors; right now Jacob has blue, red, green, yellow, and clear material on hand.

Even if you aren't concerned about COVID-19, there are plenty of other diseases out there and it may become necessary (or even mandatory) to wear protective masks. I consider these a very affordable investment in the future.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Slow Down, Don't Panic

In times of crisis, panic is one of your main enemies. I covered what panic is about 18 months ago so I won't redefine it, but I do want to talk a bit more about its effects and ways to remedy it.

Panic is natural, and it makes us do stupid things. Marketers learned a long time ago that fear, uncertainty, and doubt were powerful tools to get people to spend money, and panic-buying is all three of them wrapped up in a single bundle. Panic-buying creates artificial (and unnecessary) shortages that create more panic-buying, leading to empty shelves and price-gouging. I've seen price-gouging occur at the mere threat of an earthquake (for example, $2.00 wrenches marked “gas shut-off valve wrenches” and sold for $10.00), a disease outbreak (N95 mask that I sell for $1.50 priced at $5.00 or more), and snow storms (generators sell out fast if the weather-geeks start using the word “blizzard”).

Politicians may not be marketers, but they do hire them. Normally sane people will allow horrendous restrictions of their rights if a politician can get them to panic over something. If you're a fan of history you'll be able to pick out a dozen or more examples of this in the last few hundred years alone. It's a form of “crisis management” wherein they create a crisis so the people will beg them to manage it on behalf of the public. 

Being able to confront an emergency without letting panic take over requires training, practice (or experience), or a mental defect.
  • Proper training can (but not always will) lessen the shock of an emergency situation. If you know how to bandage a wound or splint a broken limb, the sight of blood or a crooked arm isn't as likely to instill a panic response. You may still be a but unsure about the situation, but your training should give you the confidence to do the best you can and get through it. The “confidence chamber”, AKA the gas chamber that the military uses to expose trainees to tear gas, instills a sense of confidence in their equipment and training. It also teaches them that while unpleasant, tear gas is not lethal and it shouldn't evoke a panic reaction.
  • Practice is a follow-on to training. I like to remind folks that the old saying “practice makes perfect” is wrong; “practice makes permanent” is closer to the truth, because if you practice something wrong then you'll do it wrong when it's needed. 
  • Experience is having done it before, which should remove some of the mystery and “unnaturalness” of a situation. I've dealt with minor wounds on myself and others for most of my life, so seeing a cut, gash, or puncture isn't going to cause panic as it's nothing new to me. The same goes for first responders who witness a car crash or fire; they may move quickly, but with purpose because they've seen it before.
  • Mental defects are a bit touchier. Certain types of sociopaths and psychopaths don't see people or animals as living beings, but rather as objects. Bad things happening to “objects” doesn't set off panic, or really any other emotional response, to those with these forms of messed-up brains. It makes no difference if it's a matter of bad wiring, chemistry, or spiritual defect, some people just aren't right in the head. It should be noted that this sort of reaction can also be learned or ingrained. Long-term abuse and some forms of PTSD can “burn out” the normal ability to panic, causing unusual responses to emergencies.

The main remedies for panic are pretty basic:

  • Slow down. Don't rush, or allow yourself to be rushed by others, into making decisions unless there is an immediate danger to life or health (IDLH in safety-geek). Even if there is a major threat, slow down and take things one step at a time. Gather as much information as you can before making big decisions.
  • Step back. This is often an instinctive reaction, and it works. When confronted with something unusual, people tend to take a step or two backwards. We're wired that way to put distance between us and danger, but it also gives us a chance to look at the whole scene and make better judgments. Removing ourselves from the immediate danger gives us a chance to view things from a less personal level and that will often lead to better decisions.
  • Prepare ahead of time. I'm hoping that is one of the reasons you're reading this blog. Having redundant systems in place to take care of the necessities of life removes or reduces the opportunities to panic. For example, if you have a spare tire for your car, a flat tire is merely an inconvenience instead of an emergency. If you have the tools and training to deal with an emergency, panic is a lot less likely, and even if it does kick in it will be short-lived. Having sufficient supplies on hand also means you will avoid the costs of panic-buying and artificial shortages. The recent run on toilet paper, several instances of ammunition shortages in the last few decades, and various fuel price spikes can all be ignored if you have your own supplies laid in before the masses go berserk. Furthermore, the “I got this” mentality is very powerful and can delay or halt panic in others, and not having to deal with panic in others will free up your time to deal with other issues while also avoiding further panic. 
  • Avoid the panic. One of the blogs I read every week uses the phrase “stay away from crowds” a lot. It makes sense on many levels, but crowds will panic as fast as the fastest person in them. Think of it as a weakest link situation: the one person who panics can set off a chain reaction in the rest of the crowd. Large groups of people are dangerous on a good day, but add a dose of panic and you get people killed by being trampled by the herd as they flee.

Take care of yourselves and your tribe in the weird times we're living in, because nobody else is going to step in and do it for you without a price that you'll regret later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Parapocalypse Cord

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

This week I reached deep into my Bag o' Topics and couldn't even find lint. Luckily for me, our wonderful and talented Editrix bailed me out with an idea.

After talking it over with Erin, I jumped on Amazon to see if I would be able to find what I wanted and have it delivered before May. It was in fact available, and it arrived on Sunday! Due to family obligations I didn't have time to do much more than look over the material, but I did take it apart and see if what was advertised is really there. It is.

Parapocalypse Ultimate Survival Cord
Parachute Cord 7-Strand Core with Fire Starter Waxed Jute, 10lb Mono Fishing Line, Dyna-x, and Yellow Kevlar Cord 625lb Test

Say that three times, fast! That's as big a challenge as the Christmas Story movie Red Ryder BB Gun description.

Super Cord!
From the Amazon ad:
  • Based with our 5/32in 550 Paracord with waxed jute, 10lb fishing line, Dyna-x, and Kevlar 110lb test
  • Our wax coated, waterproof jute is designed to start fires in any situation, even in a downpour
  • The Nano Kevlar 110lb test is great for cooking over a fire or friction sawing through materials
  • Dyna-x is great for low-stretch, ultra-strong applications like snares, hoisting, or mending clothes
  • The 10lb Mono-filament Fishing Line can catch fish, set traps, or suture wounds
This is only a 25' piece of paracord, with the manufacturer offering 50' and 100' lengths for comparable prices. I chose the Tan color for a pretty simple reason: in a pack, with a bunch of other stuff that's mostly black, I want to see what is there and grab it easily. Most of my gear has been black and with having to get into even my sling bag, black inside black isn't doing it for me now.

What's Inside
I was unable to take a decent picture of my sample when unraveled, so this is from the Amazon ad.
  • Rope Diameter - 5/32 in / 4 mm
  • Tensile Strength - 625 lbs / 283.5 kg
  • Weight (oz/100ft) - 10.25 oz / 290 g
  • Waxed Fire starter Tinder
  • 10 LB. Monofilament Fishing Line
  • 1 x 110 LB. test Nano Aramid
  • 160 LB. Dyna X -
  • 7 strand nylon core


My intention is to cut up most of the existing cord to see how it really works, and then re-order at least one more 25' piece or a 25' and 50' for the real camping gear. I will attempt to record a video of some of the tests, if my equipment works well.

Wish me luck!

Recap And Takeaway
  • I purchased one Atwood Rope MFG Paracord from Amazon for $10.99 with Prime.
  • As I try to make my carried gear lighter, smaller and more compact, multi-use items that do not give up utility are high on my list.

* * *

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, April 14, 2020

Guest Post: Military Rucksacks

by George Groot

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

One of the more common logical fallacies among preppers is “If it’s milspec, it must be good, right? After all, the military uses it!” That belief is wrong. Milspec, short for “Made to Military Specification”,  is nothing more than any other industry standard such as Z87 for eye protection lenses or ISO 27000 for risk management framework compliance.

The focus of today's article is milspec rucksacks. I will specifically address the two most common types found on the surplus market, A.L.I.C.E. and M.O.L.L.E., hereafter simply called “Alice” and “Molle” (pronounced “Molly”). Alice is “All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment” and Molle is “Modular Lightweight Loadbearing Equipment.” Both of those contain at least one lie in the title; I’ll let you figure out which it is.

These come in two main flavors: medium and large. The medium Alice pack can be used with or without a frame, and is a decent size for a get home bag. If you use it without a frame it won’t be very comfortable for heavy loads or long distances, but it's fine to throw in the trunk of your car and will carry enough to get home. There was a “field pack, small” designation for a Small Alice pack, but I’ve never even seen one over the course of my career.

The large Alice pack is simply not usable without a frame. Also known as the great big green life sucking tick, it can hold a lot of crap and in the military, most of that crap is mission essential items first with comfort items secondary. The large Alice pack was designed for Infantry patrolling, which is a slow process. The top of the Alice ruck will not extend above your shoulders, ensuring that it doesn’t increase your profile, which is why it sticks out so far from your back. This means even if you pack it correctly, with lighter stuff on the bottom and heavy stuff on top, the extra distance of the center of gravity of the pack will force you to lean forward to prevent being pulled back.

The MOLLE Family
The smallest member of the Molle backpack family is the Assault pack. It has an internal plastic sheet in lieu of an actual frame. Not meant to carry heavy stuff long distances, it is designed to carry extra water, ammo, radio batteries, and medical supplies for actions on the objective; in other words, mission-essential items only, and no comfort items. It can carry slightly less than a medium Alice pack.

Medium Molle is my preferred Molle rucksack because it has the best design for long range rucking. It is narrower than a Large Alice or Large Molle, and has a minimal U-shaped plastic frame. You can add external “sustainment pouches” high on the sides if you need extra storage.

Large Molle is in my experience the worst rucksack for actual hiking. It is heavier than the Large Alice, but only holds marginally more. The straps are notorious for coming undone under heavy weight (i.e. 45 to 85 lbs, the standard packing list for an Infantryman), and like the Large Alice, it is designed to put the stuff you are hauling on your back in a manner that doesn’t significantly raise your silhouette while patrolling.

Tips & Tricks
What Alice and Molle have in common is that when compared to a civilian hiking pack, they have poor ergonomics. Soldiers have taken to modifying their gear with sleeping pad foam, 100 mph tape, and 550 cord to make them more comfortable.
  • Add foam to the straps with 100mph tape. Increasing the distance that the straps have to travel over your chest by adding foam material is a good way to distribute the load a little better and give yourself more leverage to control the load. Your hips are the leverage point, and being able to get the weight of the pack on your hips is the purpose of the belt, so use the belt assembly for that purpose. 
  • Add 550 Cord reinforcements to the quick releases. It sucks when you are trying to cinch down a strap and the quick release assembly comes undone (the thing to do when receiving fire is drop to the dirt and ditch your ruck so you can fire back, which is not something most civilian packs are designed for), so reinforcing the straps so they don’t come undone is helpful. 
  • Use bungee cords to keep the pack tight against the frame. If you don’t have a full pack, the worst load distribution is “loose” and “settling to the bottom.”  The outer pockets on an Alice pack should only hold your poncho, poncho liner, and a med kit, and the bottom of a large or medium Molle should be where bulky but light items are. To keep the pack tight and not shifting, some bungee straps can be used to keep it all tight against the frame, ensuring the center of gravity doesn’t shift on you during movement.
Rucksack Shopping
If you are in the market for a rucksack or hiking backpack, please look at alternatives to Alice or Molle; there are many great civilian alternatives that are lighter with better ergonomics. However, if you already have an Alice or Molle pack and want to use it as a get home bag or part of your preps, then by all means modify it to perform for you.

The best designed rucksack will be “tall and thin”.  There won’t be one huge compartment on the bottom to put everything in (aka Alice), and there will be plenty of padding on the straps for your shoulders along with a nice wide belt for your hips. The material will also be smoother than the rough synthetic used by Molle. There are many good hunting packs that are designed this way.

However, if Alice or Molle are what you can get, look for a Medium Alice with frame or a Medium Molle rucksack. These are not the largest options for carrying stuff, but are the easiest to configure for carrying stuff comfortably.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Nice Pocket Discovery

A little classic reproduction throw back! Don’t forget the spoons, Ma!

Godspeed to you all.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hydration Tube Inline Hijinks

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
If you have a hydration bladder in a backpack, you know how difficult it is to refill without unpacking the entire thing -- which is not something you want to do on a hike, let alone while bugging out on foot or trying to get home.

If you're refilling in the wild, then water purity is also a concern. Sure, you could boil water and then pour it into your bladder after it's cooled, but that requires you to make camp and build a fire. If you have a long ways to go, or don't have the time or ability to make a fire, that might not be a good choice.

I'm going to show you how you can refill your hydration bladder using its drinking tube while filtering it at the same time. I consider that last part very important, because once you introduce dirty water to your system it must be considered permanently dirty until you're able to clean it with soap and hot water, and during an emergency you might just forget that your formerly clean water supply is now dirty. With my method, everything that goes into your hydration bladder will be clean.

What You Will Need
  1. Mazama MagmaFlow Quick Disconnect Coupler
  2. Two Sawyer Products SP115 Fast Fill Adapters for Hydration Packs
    • Some pumps (below) may come with fast fill adapters. What's important is that you have two sets of male & female adapters. 
  3. Sawyer Products SP110 Inline Hydration Pack Adapter for Screw On Filters
  4. Sawyer Mini Water filter. 
  5. Superglue, epoxy putty, or plasti-dip. 
  6. A pump filter. 
About That Pump...
This will be the most expensive part of the setup, but it is necessary to fill your bladder via the tube and, in my opinion, the convenience is worth the cost. I'm using a Katadyn Hiker which I bought about 10 years ago when I first started getting into prepping. It is also a filtration system, and the fact that this means I'm double-filtering my water is a feature in my book. 

However, the quality of filtration is less important than having a pump. If you can find an inexpensive pump that doesn't need a filter to operate, go ahead and use that so long as you feel its construction is durable enough for your needs. I couldn't find any like that, and most of the hiking pumps to be found online are about $50... although I did find one on Amazon for about $27.50 with no reviews whatsoever. I consider that to be super sketchy, but am including it here for sake of completeness. 

1) Cut your drinking tube approximately one inch from where it attaches to the mouthpiece and attach the MagmaFlow coupler. Be sure to pair the larger part of the coupler with the longer part of the tube! This is important because the large piece has a shutoff valve which will prevent water from leaking out of your drinking tube when you take off the mouthpiece. 

2) Take your Sawyer Mini and attach the gray threaded adapter to the bottom. Then, using the tubing and fast fill adapters, place them like so:

You may find it useful to remove the cap from the drinking end of the filter like I did.

If you are using the Dual Threaded Sawyer, then you will unscrew the pop-up valve on the drinking end and replace it with the blue adapter.

3) Take the remaining fast fill adapter and seal the ends with something tough and waterproof, like plasti-dip or epoxy putty. Even superglue will work, although I recommend you color it in so that you can tell at a glance which of the adapters are sealed.

4) Your finished product will look like this. The sealed caps will prevent contamination of the clean output end by droplets from the dirty input end. This is how I store it in my GHB.

To refill your hydration bladder with inline filtering, do the following:
  1. Remove bite valve from drinking hose using the MagmaFlow disconnect. 
  2. Remove sealed valve from the clean end of the Sawyer filter and place it over the bite valve lead to keep it clean.

  3. Insert clean end into drinking hose. 
  4. Remove cap from dirty end and place it where you won't lose it. 
  5. Assemble your pump and plug its output into the dirty end of the Sawyer. 
  6. Place input of pump into water and begin pumping. 
The finished version will look something like this:

It is reasonable to expect that this double-filtration setup would increase the time it takes to refill a hydration system, but that is not my experience. I tested this with a 2 liter bladder and 2 liters of water. 
  • Without the Sawyer, it took me a little over 2 minutes to fill the bladder with 2 liters of water. 
  • With the Sawyer, it took me about 1 minute 50 seconds. Since adding another filter cannot make the pump go faster, I attribute this increase to warming up the pump and/or increased familiarity with the process. 
Be Advised!
With your hydration bladder inside your backpack it will be difficult to see how full it is! Be careful not to over-fill it or else you risk rupturing your bladder. 

To prevent over-filling, I recommend that you practice with a known quantity of water. For example, it takes me 60 pumps to move 1 liter of water; therefore, if my hydration bladder is empty then I know I need to pump 120 times to fill it. 

Once you have this number, write it on your pump with a permanent marker. 

Final Thoughts
I am not familiar with all pump systems, but the Katadyn Hiker has an expensive filter ($40) with a limited lifespan (200 gallons) and no ability to backflush it. Conversely, the Sawyer Mini can be backflushed and can filter up to 100,000 gallons over its lifespan. 

With that in mind, if you expect to be drinking from a lot of dirty sources during a bug out or get home scenario, it might be prudent to use the cleanable filter with the longer lifespan to handle the majority of the work. In that case, the solution is simple: get another set of fast fill valves and place them in the input hose of the pump, so that the pump filter is only processing already filtered water. 

Only you know which version is right for you. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Guns and Safety

We've been writing this blog for a little over six years, so we've covered a lot of information that that you may not know about. There is a handy search box at the top of the page, but some things need to be emphasized so I'm going to re-hash an article from 4 years ago.

Americans are buying firearms and ammunition at panic levels. In the last report I saw, from March of 2020, there were more FBI background checks performed than at any time since the Brady Bill went through Congress. We're buying firearms at a rate that even the worst gun control scares didn't match; Black Friday and the lead up to Christmas have always been high sales times, but we blew through the record of 3.3 million checks done in December 2015 by 10% in March 2020. These numbers don't even account for the 23 states (as of this writing) that conduct a background check prior to issuing a purchase or carry permit that exempts holders from further background checks. I happen to live in one of those states, so my carry permit serves as proof that I can be allowed to purchase a firearm and no NICS check is required. Private sales are also not yet included in these numbers.

From anecdotal evidence, a lot of these gun purchases are by people new to guns. First-time buyers, many of whom have little or no experience with firearms, need instruction and help to be able to properly use and maintain their new tools. The first thing every gun owner or user (I've trained several youngsters that are not old enough to legally own a firearm) needs to learn are the 4 rules of gun safety:
  1. All Firearms are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle of a firearm point at something you don't want to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
  4. Know your target and what is behind it.
Lokidude covered these in the post I linked in the first paragraph, so go read that if there's some part that doesn't make sense.

If you are new to firearms and want an experienced shooter to explain the 4 Rules in person, or perhaps take you to a range and give you some hands-on assistance with getting to know your new tool, there are resources available:
  • Our own Erin has founded a non-profit organization to match new gun owners with willing teachers, regardless of sexual preference. Operation Blazing Sword was started to bridge the gap between the LGBTQ community and the gun community after the Pulse nightclub attack, and has grown to include everyone that requests help. We want you to be safe, regardless of your skin color, religion, sexual preference, or income level. Many of the volunteer instructors will help with more than just teaching the basics, but it varies by the instructor and their budget.
  • I'm not a huge fan of the NRA for political reasons, but they do have the longest track record of teaching people how to use firearms safely. They offer several levels of training through their certified instructors all over the USA, for a reasonable price. 
  • With the fairly recent expansion of concealed carry rights in many states, classes on basic firearms safety have popped up as a cottage industry all over the country. Check your local gun shops and gun shows, and you'll find fliers and business cards for small companies offering the training required for specific carry permits. Even is you don't want a permit to carry I strongly suggest that you get some form of training if you choose to own a gun.

We've covered several other gun-related topics (type “gun” in the search box) over the years, but the safety of new owners has become more relevant recently. If you're one of the new owners, welcome to the club and please feel free to ask questions. All of the writers here are gun owners; many of us have decades of experience and we're here to help.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Prudent Prepping: We Are Safe And Sound

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

I got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones,
Ain't got no records to play

-- Talking Heads, Life During Wartime

It's been a weird couple of weeks around the house. Two people here are locked down, one is working almost full time hours, and I am getting extra pay per week, more vacation days if I get sick, and any overtime is getting counted as double time. The old guy scores again!

While dealing with all this, We have all been trying to keep a level head and not stress anyone or ourselves any more than necessary. There has been a lot of house cleaning, closet reorganizing, shelf rearranging, and cooking, lots and lots of cooking. You have to understand that this is driving my friend's girlfriend crazy: she is a driven woman, used to being in control of what is going on, now at home for almost 3 weeks. She is used to working a minimum of 5 days a week and at least 8 hours a day. Stress is here, and it needs to be recognized and not ignored.

What To Do
Don't ignore your feelings. What you feel may be different from your neighbor, but your feeling are your feelings and they are valid.
  • Talk it out with your friends. They want to hear from you and, more than likely, would like a friendly ear also. 
  • Figure out what you can do while obeying your local regulations.  Everyone needs to do what they feel comfortable doing. Get some exercise, just don't paddle board in Malibu or your equivalent hot spot for ticketing.
  • Eat properly. My last two trips through the grocery store have seen me get 90% of the food items I wanted to buy. Pasta was available, most cuts of meat, and all the fruit and veggies you might want. Yes, we are supposed to be prepared for a disaster, but fresh food is available so ignoring normal items is foolish.
  • Protect yourself. If you do need to go out, cover up as best you can. Unless you had a stash of masks pre-virus or were lucky to buy something as they became available on Amazon, you'll need to improvise. I'm not in a position to show anyone how to do masks, but there are many folks on YouTube to watch. Gloves are in short supply too, so wash your hands all the time.
  • Shop and take care of other chores for friends or family that might be at risk.

Recap And Takeaway
  • I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary; my work gets me walking on average 2 miles a day, and I am getting outside as often as I am able and as the weather allows. 
  • Food isn't a problem and paper goods are holding up so far. 
  • Nothing exceptional was purchased or planned for this month, but that can change overnight.
  • Be smart and safe. Things could get silly.
* * *

Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

If you have comments, suggestions or corrections, please post them so we all can learn. And remember, Some Is Always Better Than None!

NOTE: All items tested were purchased by me. No products have been loaned in exchange for a favorable review. Any items sent to me for T&E will be listed as such. Suck it Feds.

The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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