Saturday, May 30, 2020

When the Balloons Go Up

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
"The balloon has gone up" is a phrase dating back to World War 1 which means that the situation has suddenly, perhaps unexpectedly, become very serious and probably violent. Observation balloons were used in WW1 to spot for artillery, and seeing them in the air meant that a barrage of shells were about to go out, and war being war, receive a counter-barrage in return. in WW2, barrage balloons were fielded over London to protect the city against air raids. In either sense, seeing a balloon meant that something nasty was about to happen.

The balloon went up over several cities last night (29 May 2020). There are now riots in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City (MO), Houston, and elsewhere. We here at Blue Collar Prepping try to stay politically neutral; however, we draw a distinct line between protesting, which is political in nature, and rioting, which involves looting, vandalism, arson, and potentially violence, all of which are criminal in nature. We do not condone such criminal acts and in fact roundly denounce them. 

If you live in a big city, act as though the balloon has gone up. Lawfully carry the largest firearm you can with as many magazines as you can (known in BCP parlance as "rolling heavy"), stock up on groceries, fill your vehicle's gas tank and make sure your get-home bag is in place and in good order. Keep your head on a swivel, stay away from crowds, and if things start to look hairy, get out of there.

In addition, we recommend you review the following articles on surviving crowds and riots:
Be safe, everyone. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Another LED Light

I write a lot about lighting. I've mentioned before that I have a family member who doesn't react well to darkness, so emergency lighting is important to me. Since I need lighting to prevent a mental meltdown that would distract me from other things, I spend a lot of time (and money) researching lights. I also work in an old facility that was built shortly after electricity was introduced to the rural area I live in (don't laugh, there are people alive around here who recall life before household electricity was available) and lighting was “optional” in a lot of the spaces I have to crawl into. Having good portable lighting makes my job easier, so I'm always looking for good options. I hit one of the big-box stores the other day and found something that looked usable.

This is a Chinese-made LED work light with an American brand name slapped on it. Honeywell used to be a well-known and respected brand, but like many old brands they couldn't compete in a world of cheap knock-offs, so they “license” their name as a way to stay alive financially. Once known for making things that would last decades, their name is now attached to a lot of cheap plastic crap that you'll find in the “as seen on TV” aisle of stores and on late night TV ads.

This one comes with a limited 5-year warranty, so they have some faith in it.
$20 for a pack of two of these lights was a cheap investment in research, so I picked them up. I'm still in the testing phase, but here are my first impressions:

  • Weighing less than a pound, the all-plastic construction makes them easy to carry. 
  • The downside to being light is that the sealed batteries are going to be small. 
  • The all-plastic case is questionable for durability; only further testing and use will show how well it holds up.

At about 1.5” thick and roughly 5” x 7” in size, they don't take up much room in a tool bag or drawer.

  • Four different lighting modes: high, medium, low, and strobe. 
  • Battery life (still being verified) is rated at 50, 100, 500, and 120 minutes respectively. 
  • The 28 surface-mounted LEDs provide a good white light at 1000 lumens (LM) on high, 500 LM on medium, 100 LM on low. 
  • The strobe function is annoying, but will attract attention if you need help.

  • The carry handle rotates to form a stand and there are four magnets of the back to let you stick it to a steel surface. 
  • The handle is more rugged than most plastic lights I've seen and the magnets are strong enough to hold the light upside down with ease. 
  • When rotated completely “up”, the handle makes a good way to hang the light above floor level.

  • While not water-proof, it is listed as suitable for wet environments. 
  • The only openings (for charging the internal battery) are behind a rubber seal, so rain and dust shouldn't be a problem. 
  • The single push-button switch is behind the same rubber cover, a simple way to reduce the number of openings and seals during construction.

  • Sealed batteries, so it has a ubiquitous micro-USB port for charging.
  • The instructions recommend charging for 10 hours before first use, and I'm testing recharge rates from various levels of discharge. 
  • So far, the listed battery life at the different settings has been within +/- 10% which is about all I expect from Chinese-made goods. 
  • There is no indication of battery capacity, so I'm going to have to use a few different chargers to get a ballpark figure.

Once I get a better idea of battery life, I'll probably keep one of these in the SUV and the other at work. So far I'm happy with them; a $10 work light that will make it easier to change a flat tire on a dark night or let me see that piece of machinery that has been hiding from the sun since before I was born is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Going Home

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

A guy I see once or twice a week struck up a conversation with me about how the area seems to catch fire regularly and how his area has only two roads into where he lives. . The topic of getting ready to leave in a hurry came up and I mentioned I've a bag in my car with some supplies ready to get me home. Here is what I have in my Get Home Bag.

The Bag: HDE 20L MOLLE Tactical Military Backpack 
This was a gift and I very regularly recommend it as a small-ish backpack or Day Pack. Here is a link to the post showing bag and its contents when I traveled 300+ miles a week.

From the Amazon page:
  • Materials: 600D Nylon
  • Zipper closure
  • 17" shoulder drop
  • Military tactical backpack size approx.: 9" x 9" x 17" Heavy duty 600D Nylon construction with quiet Paracord pulls and adjustable chest and waist belts
  • Lightweight and breathable 20L capacity with 4 zippered compartments, 1 padded velcro rear pouch, and top carry handle
  • MOLLE style webbing, D-rings, and compatible with a hydration pack (not included)
  • Fast-release buckles and padded straps helps relieve weight and reduces fatigue when carrying heavy loads
  • Great for students, hiking enthusiasts, military, first-responder personnel, or anyone with a passion for the outdoors, everyday use
The only downside is it isn't waterproof. I have treated it with repellent spray and carry the contents in plastic bags, in case I ever get caught going home in the rain.

Since I am no more than 17 miles from home now, I have drastically reduced the things inside.

What's In It?

Small pocket

Small Front Pocket
I don't plan on cooking on the walk home, so the small pot I had last year, or the cooking kit shown in the previously linked post isn't here.

From Top Left:
Pen, pencil with ~20' of duct tape, AA batteries, eyeglass repair kit.

Hatori flashlight, Rite In The Rain notebook, UCO waterproof matches. I think these items are pretty self-explanatory.

Medium Pocket

Large Front Pocket
Even though I don't plan on cooking, there may still be a reason to start a fire and I do believe in the 'One is None'  Principle, so there are several ways to start a fire in my gear.

Left to Right:
Wet Wipes, large knife (gift from the Master Chief), UST SparkieSmith Pocket Pal X2 sharpener, partial roll of toilet paper and travel pack of Kleenex.

Main Pocket
Main Pocket
The main pocket is where I'm carrying my bulky gear. Yes, this is a little less food than many people carry, but this is plenty to get me home from my normal commute.

Breath Mints, 2x 50ml of alcohol (just because), CRKT Guppie and CRKT Eat 'N Tool, Leatherman Tool, canned tuna.

The Leatherman tool is one of the originals, and I don't remember the model, but it was a gift. Not shown is any water that I keep in in my car and if needed, will be moved into my bag.

Main Pocket

Here are the only clothes I carry in my GHB: two pair of socks and and a long sleeve T shirt. There is a complete change of clothes available in my car.

Large Pocket

Large Pocket

The very last items in my bag are a Frogg Toggs rain poncho and a SOL 2 Person Emergency blanket.

The Poncho is always there because even in the summer, there can be fog and cold weather near the coast and the SOL is a good emergency wrap and possible signal flag.

That's everything I have in my bag. I strongly recommend searching this blog for Get Home Bags to compare what my co-bloggers carry.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Having a plan and following it is important; just be prepared to modify as necessary.
  • Nothing was purchased this last week, but there are links to what I think are the most important things to carry.
* * *

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, May 26, 2020

Guest Post: the Potable Aqua Pure Portable Electrolytic Water Purifier Device

by Gwen Patton

There are hundreds of gadgets, devices, and chemical additives on the market today intended to disinfect or clean drinking water. Most gadgets are complicated and difficult to use; filters require special hoses, pumps, replacement filter media, and usually require cleaning or backflushing, while chemical additives like halazone, iodine, and bleach have hazards, limited lifespans, and special storage needs to keep them fresh and to prevent children from getting into them.

Ideally, you want an effective water treatment that doesn’t require special storage, isn’t poisonous in case your kid gets into it, and will be cost-effective and available for years. I believe I’ve found that very solution with the Potable Aqua Pure Electrolytic Water Purifier (just "Pure" for short). It comes with a manual, a quick-start guide, a container with 25 chlorine test strips, a power brick and USB cable, a 1-oz squeeze bottle, a wrist lanyard, and the electrolytic device itself. You supply salt, water for the brine bottle, the water you want to sanitize, and the container to sanitize it in. (I used a one liter Nalgene bottle.) The instructions are very complete, and there are videos available as well.

How It Works
The Pure is a small device about the size of a candy bar. It has a long-life lithium battery for power that can be charged by any USB power source or by putting it in the sun with its built-in solar panel exposed. It works by electrolytically splitting table salt ions into a mixture of chlorine and oxygen compounds that are the same chemicals used by municipalities to treat tap water. It will make enough doses for 150 liters of water on a single charge, and the battery should last for over 60,000 doses until it ceases to hold a charge. It charges on USB power in a few hours, and an hour of sun on the internal solar panel will make two doses.

The device has two storage cells in the top, protected by silicone covers. You fill these with table salt, Kosher salt, or even rock salt, so long as it’s sodium chloride. Included is a 1 ounce squeeze bottle, to which you add the contents of one salt cell and then fill with any water, even the water you want to treat, and then shake to dissolve the salt.

On the front between the salt storage cells is a narrow compartment protected by another silicone cover. You open that, drip in about 50 drops of your salt solution, then press a button on the front to cycle through how many liters of water you want to treat at one time. This can be between 1 and 20 liters, though you’ll have to do a second cycle to treat that much. You can treat up to 10 liters at a time per dose.

You hold the button for 2 seconds to start the process. The solution in the electrolizing compartment fizzes for a while, then the lights go out. You carefully pour the solution in this compartment into your container of water you want to treat, shake it up, and close it.

There are other instructions, based on how dirty the water is, and what microorganisms you’re trying to kill, because some conditions (such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium ) require a stronger dose and some require a test stage after 10 minutes to make sure you have enough chlorine in the solution. All treatment requires the water to sit for 30 minutes for the disinfection to complete, except for Cryptosporidium which requires 4 hours of sitting, as those cysts are very hard to reliably kill. There are other conditions in the user guide that say what to do if the water is really dirty or cloudy, but the most common solution is to run the water through a simple pre-filter, like a coffee filter or a clean t-shirt, to get particulates out.

Another side use of this device is to make a strong dose of the disinfectant solution, but to add it to a smaller quantity of water to make a sanitizing solution. You can use this to clean surfaces, disinfect dishes, and to clean wounds in an emergency. It doesn’t make the same compound as what is found in laundry bleach, but it is a bleach, and it can sanitize like one.

Test & Evaluation
I tested this device on my home tap water by running the 10 minute chlorine test, though for this use I didn’t have to, and it showed there was plenty of chlorine in the water. I let it finish the half hour cycle, opened it and sniffed. I could barely detect a hint of pool chlorine smell. I poured a little into a glass and tasted it, and  I could detect no chemical flavor at all. I left the bottle open for 5 minutes and sniffed again, and detected no chlorine odor. I filled the glass and drank it, and I believe it actually tasted better than the water fresh from the tap. I had my wife Maggie taste it as well, and she made the same observation. Of course, I don’t have laboratory facilities to test the water before and after to show it working, but it certainly tasted perfectly fine and I felt no unpleasant side effects.

My Rating: 5 Stars
To recap:
  • We have a very small device with an extremely long lifespan. 
  • It uses a very common and easily acquired substance to electrically make a sanitizing solution of variable and controllable strength. 
  • It can kill or deactivate 99.99% of all usual biological water contaminants in ½ to 4 hours. 
  • It is not a filter, so it does not remove particulates or dissolved materials,  dirt, toxic chemicals, or heavy metals. To remove those would require very powerful filters or even distilling. 
The Potable Aqua Pure Electrolytic Water Purifier is an excellent addition to any disaster response gear you might wish to have. It costs $115 from Amazon, and might be found for less at your local camping store.

    Monday, May 25, 2020

    DIY Bacon Grease Suet Treat

    You know how I like to take care of my ladies and not to waste anything. Here’s a little treat I whipped up for them.

    Godspeed to you all.

    Friday, May 22, 2020

    My Aching Back

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    As many of you may have noticed, I didn't post last week. The reason for that is the title of this post: I was in such pain that I couldn't think straight, and that pain lasted basically the entire weekend.

    (Yes, insert joke about how a prepper really should have a backlog of posts ready to go for moments like this. I completely agree. The problem is finding the time to create such a backlog in the first place.)

    According to the doctors, I have osteoarthritis in my lumbar region. I've had this for a while now; I can recall back as early as 2013 that my lower back would stiffen and almost lock up when I would be washing dishes at the sink, or when vacuuming the house. I chalked this up to getting older, gaining weight, and not being in the best shape I could be in. The problem is that it's gotten worse over the years, and now it's to the point where if I walk more than a hundred yards I can feel it stiffening up. Once I reach that point, I need to sit down and rest for a few minutes so that my back can relax. If I don't, the pain gets worse and worse until not only is my back screaming at me but it is also physically painful to lift my legs enough to walk. After walking the dogs last Friday I had to crawl to my chair from the front door.

    As you can imagine, this condition puts rather a large dent in my prepping plans. The way it stands right now, if I have to walk any distance at all I'm likely to be screwed; if I have to walk (or run!) a significant distance to reach safety I have to hope that the adrenaline rush will carry me, and in any "long walk home" scenario my need to rest will slow me down and extend the time it takes to get there.

    What's more, my back pain is also aggravated by having to lift heavy things. My Get Home Bag is still pretty heavy, so lifting the bag plus walking with it on my back it is currently a recipe for disaster. This is the main force driving me to lighten my GHB.

    At this point there really isn't anything that can be done to fix my pain; we can only treat the symptoms. I was prescribed a topical gel to help reduce pain and inflammation, and was told to lose weight and do yoga for flexibility. I am... skeptical... about yoga, but that's been on hold and will continue to be on hold until this COVID-19 mess goes away. Losing weight is a goal of mine, and it's something that I've been working on for a while now, but I have absolutely no willpower when it comes to resisting evening snacks.

    Here's how all of this relates to prepping:
    • Take care of your body. You only get one and it's with you your entire life. 
    • If you have chronic or persistent pain in your back after doing X activity, see a doctor about it immediately. You want to get started treating it sooner rather than later. 
    • If you're overweight, work to lose it. I'm not about to fat-shame anyone; I'm just stating the obvious that "The less weight your body is carrying, the less strain on it and the easier your life will be." 
    • Maintain mobility. If I had to bug out on foot right now, I don't know how far I'd make it other than "not very far."
    •  Make sure you can lift your pack and walk with it.

    I don't know how disabled people prepare for evacuation, but I worry I may soon become one. If you're a disabled prepper, I'd love to hear your advice and stories. I'd also love to hear from you if you have overcome back problems. 

    Until then, I'm going to be hobbling around the neighborhood, trying to get my flexibility... back. (Pun intended.)

    Thursday, May 21, 2020

    Perfect Enough

    The title of this article is one of the sayings soldiers once used to determine that a job was done: "It may not be perfect, but it is close enough that it will work." This is an acceptable goal for preppers since most of us aren't experts in everything and don't have unlimited money to buy the very best of everything we might need.

    Another way to express this thought is “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. If you can't settle for anything other than perfection, you're going to spend a lot of your life being disappointed. Life doesn't always allow for perfection, and the pursuit of it can lead to results that are worse than “good enough”. Talk to any artist who works with a physical medium (painter, sculptor, woodworker, etc.) and they'll probably tell you that they have to set down their tools before they're completely satisfied with most of their work. There comes a time where any more “fine touches” will start to chew away at the majority of the work they've already done. I know this may be hard for some of you, but you have to get your mind set to accept that if something works, it's good enough.

    Here are a few examples of what I mean, as they pertain to prepping.

    Perfect water doesn't exist outside of a chemistry lab, so you're drinking “good enough” water on a daily basis. Your choice of filter or chemical treatment has to be as good as you can get it, but trying to attain perfection will slow you down and may end up wasting water that is good enough to keep a person alive.

    Most filtration systems have a back-flush or cleaning cycle that takes clean water and uses it to purge the contaminants from the filter. Your home water softener is an example; it uses water to recharge the resin in the “bed” that traps the nasty chemicals you're trying to remove. Reverse Osmosis and Micro-filtration have a set percentage of “blow-by” water that won't pass through the membranes and is used to carry away the contaminants, and that water is wasted because it won't be available for you to drink or cook with.

    Stop and talk to the people stocking the produce section of your local grocery store some time, and they'll tell you how much they throw away every day because of minor imperfections that have no effect on the taste or nutrition of the fruits and vegetables. If you're growing your own food, you'll be a lot less picky about what you'll put on the table, and the people sitting at your table will learn to eat what is put in front of them.

    A lot of people would prefer to live in a mansion in Hollywood with servants and groundskeepers to do all of the menial work. That may be possible, but it isn't probable for 99% of the population. Find something that is “good enough” and falls within your budget.

    Emergency shelter is similar. I have friends who might go “glamping” (glamorous camping) with a huge camper outfitted better than most apartments, but they wouldn't know what to do with a tent. As long as the shelter serves its purpose of keeping the elements off of you and your stuff, it's “good enough”. I've slept in 4-star hotels, on the bare dirt under a tarp, and everything in between. Shelter is one of the things that can be improved while still in use, so you can keep pushing closer to “perfect” while you're living with “good enough”.

    While I'd love to have a rifle capable of putting every bullet into the bullseye at 1000 yards, I realize that neither my budget nor my eyes are up to the task. My bolt-action rifle with a good scope is more accurate than I am, so it is “good enough”. Yes there are better rifles out there, but I don't need them.

    Pistols are a very subjective choice, so the idea of a “perfect” pistol is a fallacy. I own and carry what I can afford to shoot. Practice will make more improvement than buying a more expensive pistol.

    Only you can decide which firearm is best for you. If all you can afford is a cheap revolver or Hi-Point, learn how to use it well and it should serve its purposes. I'm not saying you have to settle for something that doesn't work -- there is crap out there on the market, after all -- but rather that once you find one that does work, you should at least be content with it before looking for the next best thing.

    Look at your preps and your goals, take a good look at them, and decide which are good enough. Then, leave those alone while you work on another part that isn't quite up to that standard. Don't waste time and money chasing perfection in one area while others are lacking.

    Wednesday, May 20, 2020

    Prudent Prepping: Summer Shift

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

    I've started changing out my GHB gear from what I carry for winter in California to what is needed for summer. Certain folks have mentioned that changing for the seasons means wearing socks with sandals when it is "California Cold," but I always have socks in my gear since I never know when it'll drop below 50°!

    Summerizing my Get-Home Bag and Vehicle
    What's changed? Not that much, really: a wool sweater is out, and a long-sleeve t-shirt replaces it. Two pair of wool socks stay, along with the rain gear, because even if it doesn't rain during the summer here, it can be very foggy and damp along the coast. I have been an "essential employee" all during the virus panic, so there hasn't been any down time for me or my car. After checking dates on the food I carry, my bag is ready to go.

    On to the car, which is getting a new set of wiper blades, washer fluid and an oil change. Blades and fluid are purchased, and oil is going to be fixed this week. I have to do a little bit of work before installing the wiper blades, though; due to the parking area at work being surrounded by pine trees, I have sap all over my car and several dents from green pine cones. My first job is cleaning the windshield of tiny droplets of sap that prevent the blades from clearing the glass well, and after that I have to do the rest of the car with Tar and Sap remover.

    Coolant level, belt (singular), tire pressure and battery are checked out and in good shape, but I'm due for a major service soon, so I'm budgeting for that.

    What's Happening
    There was an unusual situation last week at work: an employee got dizzy and felt sick. No, it wasn't the virus, it was dehydration. Now that sounds somewhat funny to me since it hasn't been hot here; what has happened, though, is the requirement to wear a mask while working. It seems that the employee in question had been taking breaks but not drinking any water between those breaks.

    Just as a reminder, the standard for water consumption is '8 glasses a day', which is 64 oz or two quarts. Now before anyone gets jumpy, that is a general guideline and YMMV, as the Mayo Clinic states in this article. An excerpt:

    How much water do you need?

    Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.
    So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:

    • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men
    • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
    These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks. 
    Further down in the linked article it explains that as long as you don't feel thirsty and your urine is clear to light yellow, you are doing okay. None of this is a hard and fast rule, so adapt your drinking to your personal situation.

    I admit that finding the time or place to drink when wearing a mask has been hard, since before this I just grabbed a water bottle and drank on the floor. Now that isn't quite so easy, since a local store was fined $5,000 for employees not properly wearing masks. I'm not drinking as much water as before, and I expect that many others are in the same boat; as it warms up, I believe that dehydration may unfortunately become more and more common.

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Don't neglect your car preps, even if you're not driving much. There can still be an emergency that requires you to go somewhere quickly. 
    • If you have to work, don't neglect drinking enough water to keep you healthy, no matter how much or little that is.
    • Wiper blades and fluids were purchased locally from an independent auto parts store. 
    * * *

    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, May 19, 2020

    Geocaching as a Preparedness Skill

    I recently  read an article which pointed out that 2020 is the 20th anniversary of the GPS game known as geocaching. This made me realize that my first geocaching find was almost 17 years ago, and that blew me away! Thinking about all of this made me realize there are some valuable skills that can be gleaned from a fun outdoors game.

    The obvious first skill is proficiency with your GPS unit or the GPS on your phone. You'll learn to quickly and cleanly use its various features, as well as setting routes, waypoints, and the like. Land navigation is a valuable skill, and geocaching is a fun, cheap way to practice.

    Secondly, geocaching teaches some gray man skills. Geocachers refer to non-geocachers as "muggles," and keeping caches secret from muggles is necessary to protect them. Geocachers quickly develop the ability to look for something in public without appearing to do anything interesting, and there are a lot of times in life when appearing entirely unremarkable is a valuable thing.

    Also, sometimes cachers have to be quick on their feet. Very early in my caching life, I rolled up to a cache when a Jeep rolled up right behind me. I was quite active in a local caching forum at the time, and this Jeep had a vanity plate that I recognized as a user of the forum. Two people looking at a tree are fairly unremarkable, but five of us got a bit of attention. A couple kids at the playground near us started asking questions, and I don't remember who came up with it, but one of us declared us to be "tree scientists," and all of us immediately ran with it. The kids were satisfied, we found and logged the cache, and went on our way with a good laugh and a story.

    One other, less obvious skill is the ability to set up, hide, and recover a cache. If your bug-out plans include a specific location like family property or something, caching durable supplies there can prove useful, and knowing how to protect your cache from the elements and the curious ensure that it will be there when you need it. Learning how to place it and mark the location means that you can find it when you come back to retrieve the contents. That's the entire heart and soul of geocaching, and it's a useful skill from time to time.

    If all of this sounds interesting, has all of the information you need to get started. I started out using a Garmin GPS, and it has certain advantages, but with modern cell phones you already have everything you need to find your first geocache sitting in your pocket. You'll get outside and get sunshine and exercise at the very least, and you may acquire a few handy skills in the process.


    Monday, May 18, 2020

    New Normal, Does it Equal New Opportunies?

    This “new normal”, while clearly a misnomer, certainly can provide some new opportunities for our safety.

    Godspeed to you all.

    Thursday, May 14, 2020


    One of the most basic things about being a prepper is learning how to provide for yourself and your tribe when normal systems break down or are unavailable. Systems are funny things, and there are college-level courses on “proper” systems design and most of the concepts transfer between types of systems quite easily. I want to focus on one of the things that modern designers hate, fear, and avoid: redundancy. You've probably heard the aphorism “Two is one and one is none”; David is a big fan of repeating it. Having a back-up for anything you use is redundancy boiled down to its bare minimum.

    Preppers have to work with what they have in a crisis situation, so redundancy is a good thing for us. If your knife breaks, you lose a job, or get stuck somewhere, you should have something handy that can provide the same functionality like a spare knife, money in the bank (or a side job), and people you can trust to feed your cat. These are all forms of redundancy that we can, and should, live with. I like redundancy, and I've made it a part of my life as having spares and back-ups has saved me a lot of hassle over the years. I try to keep at least two of everything... except for my wife, of course. 

    However, I'm a bother to management when I ask for redundancy in critical machinery, as corporate HQ views having unused capacity is “wasteful” and we should all “do more with less”. That is what they were taught in Business Management 101, and they rarely learn to think otherwise.

    The “just in time (JIT) supply” ideology was introduced to the US about 40 years ago and it has changed the way businesses operate on many levels. The easiest way to explain it is running as business like someone living paycheck to paycheck, and they're only one missed check away from trouble. This business style is notable for its disdain for redundancy and storage, and supply lines are the only thing that keeps it alive. Here are a few JIT points of interest and how they can be avoided by preppers.

    They Say: “Warehouses are Bad, Wasteful, and Expensive” 
    The days of massive warehouses full of goods are over for the most part. With the exceptions of seasonally produced goods (mainly agricultural), nobody stocks more than a few days' supply of anything. I've seen a new manager clear out a warehouse full of spare parts at a huge industrial facility (and got promoted for it) because she thought it was wasteful” to have spare motors, pumps, and valves on-site; within a year, half of the cleared-out materials had to be repurchased and put back on the shelves. Various government stockpiles have seen the same actions taken, especially emergency supplies. Selling (at a loss) something you've already paid for just to buy it again later at a higher price seems to be more wasteful to me, but then I don't have a degree in Business Management.

    I Say: Be Your Own Warehouse
    Your only counter to this is to have your own supplies on hand when they're needed. We have to be our own warehouses, and for preppers that means keeping extra food, water, clothing, and shelter on hand. Storage space can be a problem, so we need to learn to prioritize and keep what we need.

    They Say: “Rapid Shipping is a Necessity” 
    I enjoy using FedEx and UPS; they make my life simpler and provide a service. There are lots of other shipping companies out there that couldn't survive without the constant demand for immediate shipping of “operating supplies”, the things consumed on a daily basis. This is often the weakest link in the supply chain due to the many ways transportation can get messed up: bad weather, bad roads, bad drivers, and a bunch of other things can all delay shipments for days or weeks. Getting the wrong thing delivered is another common problem.

    I Say: Have a Back-Up Plan
    If you rely on regular shipments of anything, medications come to mind, have a back-up plan. We get some of our prescriptions filled online and shipped overnight/express, but the local pharmacy has a copy of the prescriptions and can fill them in an emergency. There have been a few times where an extra few days' worth were all we could get locally, but it helped get us through until the order arrived.

    They Say: “24/7 Operations Are Now Normal” 
    40 hour/5 day weeks are fading into the sunset and most businesses are moving towards having at least a skeleton crew working around the clock to take care of the inevitable emergency customers. Since nobody carries their own stock of supplies, running out of something creates an emergency that needs to be addressed. This, coupled with the digital connectivity afforded by cell phones and computers, has changed how most people work.

    I Say: Train Your Tribe To Cover For Each Other
    Since I'm one of those “on-call” employees that works whatever hours the customers need, I've set aside times where I'm not available. It took some training of the new hires, but I can now rely on them in the event that something prevents me from getting to work. This allows me peace of mind and gives me time to take care of personal things.

    Cross-train your tribe to take the pressure off of each other by having redundant skills. Think about how you'll deal with situations such as having to work different hours or your normal contacts stop offering 24/7 service. I'm somewhat lucky to live in a small town with only one cafe (no stores) that is open 24 hours a day; it's forced me to plan ahead more since I don't have the option of running down to the all-night grocery store if I run out of milk.

    They Say: “Central Planning & Projection is a High Priority” 
    This is a philosophical and political issue. Is it more efficient and better to have local control over things, or central? The central planners get more power/control over their subordinates (it's a pathological thing for some folks), but local conditions are often ignored. This is not a new issue; America has struggled with it for as long as we've been a country and businesses have fought over it in the marketplace (check out the DC vs. AC, Edison vs. Westinghouse electricity competition of a hundred years ago). 

    I Say: Prepare Locally
    I'm not a supporter of central planning; it fails too often, and when it fails it impacts a large number of people. Look at most of the laws written in our state capitols and Washington, DC: the people writing them can't (or won't) plan for all of the possibilities over a large area, and we get poor laws as a result. If you want another example, Soviet-era Russia is a study in the failure of central planning.

    Prepping is about as “local” as you can get. If you want to see how well central planning works for localities, just read some recent history of “emergency response” by our various government agencies. Organizations that large move very slowly, which is why FEMA tells us to have our own 72 hour kits. Make your own plans and set aside your own supplies.

    Redundancy gives you options, and options give you a better chance of getting through a crisis. Look at your daily activities and see where a bit of redundancy can be implemented to help you be prepared; look for that weakest link, and find a way to replace it if it should snap.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2020

    Prudent Prepping: Repurposing Bags

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

    Erin's post about redoing her GHB reminded me that I have been putting off redoing mine, both for the Summer Gear Swap and to better protect the gear inside. What I'd really like to do is make the everything fit into a series of dry sacks similar to these from Amazon. Unfortunately, my GHB has several compartments and I would only able to use the smallest bags, and not too efficiently either, so what I am doing instead is repurposing* some packaging from work to accomplish almost the same thing.

    I've used dry sacks before when rafting and they work very well in protecting their contents. They are also buoyant, which makes them easy to find if you end up in the water. The downside is they are not clear, so it can be difficult to know what is inside, and they take some time to open when you need access to their contents. Instead of those, I'm using some industrial strength zip lock bags to sort my gear. I saved one or two of this type of bag a long time ago when I worked in a different area, and now it seems the same supplier is sending goods to where I am now. So far I have bags about the same size as store-brand sandwich bags, but larger volume orders come in what are supposed to be gallon equivalents.

    I am also changing from all-black tools and gear to things that can be seen more easily in the dark and when digging gear out in a hurry. Not only will a very heavy gauge clear plastic bag help in this, the side benefit of being waterproof is a bonus. The downside is a shipping label that is pretty much permanently attached. I really don't want to try several of the chemicals which I know will soften most adhesives, because I'm afraid the bag will become brittle and crack sometime in the future.

    When I get more of both sizes, I will show how they work in sorting my gear.

    *I laugh when I read words like 'repurposing'. Why, back in the day we called it something else: dumpster diving. 

    Recap And Takeaway
    • Reusing something to make your life better is a great thing and when it works right out of the gate, even better.
    * * *

    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, May 12, 2020

    Greenhouse Basics

    I love fresh herbs. I also live where it gets really cold, and our growing season is 4-5 months for most things. This means I either spend a bunch of money at the store half the year getting the herbs I want, or I have to cook with dry herbs. My desire to have fresh ingredients year round drove me to look for a solution.

    Bringing the plants inside would be the easiest solution, but I don't have a whole lot of appropriate space in my house to grow anything, and my dogs and cat would destroy them. This means that the best solution is a greenhouse. I don't have space for a big walk-in area, but I also don't need that much growing area for a simple herb garden; a 2'x4' space with a couple racks inside would be plenty. I didn't find many commercial solutions for my needs, and nothing I wanted to pay for, so I did some research on designing and building my own and I'd like to share the basics I've found with you.

    Greenhouses are designed to trap heat and light, two things that are in short supply during the winter in northern latitudes. If you have the capability to recess the floor of the greenhouse into the ground to a point below the frost line, this makes the heat portion of the equation far simpler. Unfortunately, the area where I'm looking to site my micro greenhouse is on concrete, so I'll have to design a bit differently.

    Both light and heat in greenhouses are primarily supplied by the sun. This means you need a glass or plastic wall that faces the sun for the longest possible amount of time during the day. For me, that means a southern facing with about a 30 degree slope, and a white or other light colored material on the northern wall to direct heat and light back into the growing area.

    In order to trap the most possible heat, you need to insulate your greenhouse. Insulation should be placed into the roof, sides, and back. This can be residential fiberglass batting, foam board, spray foam, or whatever other material you have available. If you're building on concrete, elevate your plants a few inches and insulate under them -- concrete is wonderful for retaining heat, but it takes a ton of energy to get warmed up. My plan is to use half of a wooden shipping pallet as a floor and then pack it with straw or some other fill material.

    Either glass or clear hard plastic will work fine for the sun-facing wall. Glass is great for trapping heat, but it can be expensive and fragile; plastic is light, inexpensive, and durable, but it doesn't insulate well. I haven't decided which to use yet, and probably won't until I'm actually laying down cash, but that's one of the last things I need to put in place as summer is just starting and I won't need to worry about insulating my plants until sometime around October.

    I'll keep you updated as design and building progress this summer. With a bit of luck and skill, I'll have fresh rosemary and cilantro to put on steaks in January.


    Friday, May 8, 2020

    The Bug-Out Chest Rig

    Not actually Erin.
    & is used with permission.
    Earlier this year I mentioned that one of my resolutions was to reduce the weight of my Get Home Bag. While I am still in the process of doing that, one of the things which I have done (and is sort of a cheat, but as Lokidude says, "If you aren't cheating you aren't trying hard enough") is to move some of that gear off my back and onto my chest with a chest rig.

    While this does not reduce the actual amount of carried weight, it does serve to reduce the amount that my aching back has to carry while simultaneously placing gear in a position where I can access it quickly. I consider this a double win.

    The one that I have is the NYCTO Tactical Chest Rig (which I acquired for a price much, much less than the $129 it's being sold for), but any sort of chest carrier will do so long as it has plenty of pockets and can be worn in conjunction with a backpack. For example, a cheaper but less customizable option is the Ribz Frontpack, which has a few large pockets instead of several smaller ones and has no MOLLE webbing.

    This is my Nycto with most of the pockets open (the main pocket is exploded below). From left to right:

    Grenade Pocket 1: Medical

    Magazine Pocket 1: Vision

    Main Pocket:  See Below

    Magazine Pocket 2: PPE

    Grenade Pocket 2: Hand Protection

    Main Pocket, again
    Some of the contents were spread out so they could be seen. All of this easily fits into the pocket and does not prevent me from lying prone if necessary.

    From Back to Front and Left to Right:

    Most of this should be self-evident, but here's some explanations:
    • I'm allergic to a lot of stuff and I burn easily. 
    • My medication is with my first aid stuff because that only needs to be taken once daily. 
    • My first aid stuff is in my GHB, because it is bulky and if I need to do first aid I will likely need to take off my pack first. It probably wouldn't hurt to add some band-aids to my front pocket, though, and I'll do that as soon as I hit Publish. 
    • The critical trauma stuff is right there so I can get to it immediately before I or someone else dies. 
    • The Dawn is there so I don't confuse it with regular soap and use it for washing. 
    • The shooting gloves are in the chest pocket because there's no room for them in the grenade pocket. 
    • I don't have a hat with this gear because I always have either a baseball cap or a boonie hat with me when I leave the house. 
    • I still have room to conceal a full-size pistol within the main pocket, if necessary.  

    The Nycto C-Rig and all its components weigh 5 pounds. On the one hand, that's not a lot of weight removed from the GHB bag itself; on the other hand, that's 5 fewer pounds I have to haul on my back and they're all items I will want to access quickly without stopping to rummage around in my backpack. 

    I encourage all of you to add a chest rig to your GHB or BOB. You won't regret it. 

    Thursday, May 7, 2020

    BOV Shopping

    As many of us know, everything has a useful lifespan and everything will eventually need to be replaced. My faithful pickup truck finally hit the point of being more of a problem than an asset, so I needed to find some new (to me) transportation. Since this is my daily driver, it also serves as my Get Home Vehicle and/or my Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). I need it to be reliable, affordable, and able to carry the gear I want. I'll be trimming the gear down some since I won't have the box of the pickup any more, but that's a topic for another article.

    I'm one of those odd people who minimizes debt, so a new car with a monthly payment is not what I was looking for. I tend to save money and pay cash for my vehicles; it takes some discipline and time, but the security of actually owning my vehicles and the lower insurance payments is well worth the hassle. Having a money sitting in the bank isn't what it used to be because savings accounts don't pay much interest any more, and some banks actually have negative interest on savings, meaning that they charge you to leave your money with them. The temptation to spend that set-aside money is very real -- I could buy a lot of ammunition for what a good used car costs -- but part of being an adult is learning to plan ahead and stick to the plan.

    I hate shopping. Being a typical male, I go to a store with my goal (target) in mind, get it, then get out. Car shopping is even worse when you add in the sales-people and some of their tactics; they only get paid when they make a sale, so most of them will do and say anything to get you to sign the papers on a car. (There are good reasons for all of the used-car salesman jokes out there, and the industry does not have a good track record.) I did a lot of research on used cars over a three-week period because I've been out of the market for several years. My truck has been my daily driver for 10 years and it was 10 years old when I bought it, so technology has changed a lot about the vehicles on the market. Here's a quick list of what I was looking for, some of the things I found, and what I ended up with:

    Car, Truck, or SUV?
    I don't haul much cargo any more and have access to a pickup any time I need one, so I wasn't looking for another pickup. Cars are too small for my uses and I don't have kids at home, so I don't need a mini-van. I wanted a small or medium SUV, preferably with 4WD to deal with the snow we have to deal with most years.

    I ended up with a All Wheel Drive (AWD), which is a permanent 4WD, SUV with a 2-speed transfer case (low for off-road, high for on-road). The off-road capabilities were a nice bonus, and were much better than my 2WD pickup could ever hope to do.

    I'm getting out of a 20-year-old truck, so I know that anything that old will be a money-pit, and anything less than 5 years old is going to be out of my price range unless it has major problems or is already worn out. My target range was 8-10 years old with reasonable miles on it; I ended up with a 12-year-old vehicle that had been well maintained and had fairly low miles on it. Sometimes you have to look outside your preferences to find something that will work.

    This one is very personal. Some of us have better jobs than others, and I'd wager that some of us don't have a job at all. I have a decent job and am able to set aside some money after the bills are paid, so I had about $10k for a vehicle. Your situation will be different; some will be able to afford more and some will not be able to scrape up that much, so do the best you can with what you have. I ended up spending most of my savings on the SUV, with a buffer for the inevitable repairs that any used car will need.

    This is actually one of the least important aspects to me. Some folks are brand-snobs and won't drive anything other than their preferred brand, but I'm not going to start a Ford/Chevy, US/Foreign, or Union/Non-union discussion. That is a personal preference akin to 9mm vs 45ACP and I don't want to start a fight amongst the readers.

    My final choice was a foreign-made SUV with a good reputation and a history of dependability. I've driven mostly Ford products for most of my life and have gotten used to working on them, but I can still learn new things and I'm not fixated on any one brand.

    Trying to find a standard (stick) transmission is almost impossible any more, as everything has an automatic transmission these days. I prefer the simplicity of a clutch and stick-shift, they last a lot longer and are more efficient at transferring power to the wheels, but the mandated gas mileage rules have made them obsolete.

    During my research, I found that most to the Constantly Variable Transmissions (CVT) on the market today are crap. They're nice because they don't have actual gears that shift, creating a smooth ride and better gas mileage, but they wear out at about the time most new car buyers are trading them in. 100k miles seems to be where problems start, with a few brands failing well before that. Since most of the CVTs out there are sealed units, they get replaced rather than repaired, at a cost of roughly $4000. That chopped a huge chunk of the used cars off of my lists. The SUV I bought has a conventional 6-speed automatic, which gives me a good mix of low- and high-speed settings.

    Engines are another thing to seriously research. Using Ford as an example, because I know that brand but could find the same type of thing for many other brands, some of the engines out there have known issues like:
    • Turbochargers that fail often and early
    • Spark plugs that are a dealer-only replacement
    • Excessive oil leaking or consumption
    • Control module problems
    • Very short life-spans
    I ended up getting a small V-8 that has a good record of reliability. It has more power than I really need, but it is nice to have a vehicle that can run at highway speeds without straining. The gas mileage is better than my old pickup, but not by much.

    I'm getting old, so I enjoy some of the newer features and creature comforts available in newer cars. The SUV I ended up buying has more accessories than I need, but none of them are crucial, nor will they stop the vehicle from running if they fail. Being comfortable isn't a sin, and having toys that make driving safer is a good thing. Don't base your purchase decision on the lack of comfort unless you have a good reason, but don't turn your nose up at a car with extra bells and whistles either.

    No, I don't really need a heated windshield and side mirrors, but it's going to be pleasant not scraping ice for a few months of every year. The built-in cell phone connectivity will replace the hands-free headset I've used for years (I have a commercial driver's license and drive large trucks, and the DOT gets nasty if they catch you holding a cell phone while driving). The on-board computer tracks a lot of different information for me, and having that information displayed as I drive removes some doubt and worry. Tire pressure monitoring, built-in GPS, and a few other gizmos are new to me, but I think they'll make it easier to drive. I am going to have to look into having a remote start module installed, I was surprised that the SUV didn't have one from the factory.

    If you're looking at used cars, do your research. Kelly Blue Book ( has been an industry standard for car pricing for decades and can give you a range of prices for similar vehicles in your area. Edmunds ( is another price comparison site with reviews and known issues listed for each model. If you are looking for known problems, I have found good information at Car Complaints ( where they list owners' and government reports of issues. Many larger dealers offer the Carfax or other reporting sites' data on used cars -- things like title transfers, accidents, recalls, and dealer maintenance -- or you can pay to get your own report from most of these sites.

    Now it's time for me to take the new toy to the dealership and get a good base-line check done. I want to know if there are any problems that I didn't catch while doing my research and test drive.

    The Fine Print

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