Monday, September 28, 2020

New Neighbors Neighborly?

This week we’re wrapping up room in the new ladies in. I discuss a strategy that I used, and show the fruits of that labor.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Product Review: Fuzion Digital Pocket Scale

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I recently had a mix-up with my ammunition supplies where I could not tell the difference between several magazines' worth of 55 grain .223 ammo and several others magazines' worth of 40 grain .223 ammo. In order to sort out this issue I decided to invest in a digital scale.

I will admit that digital scales aren't specifically prepping items; they are fragile and electronic and you will rarely need precise weight measurements of small objects in a disaster scenario. I do however consider it a prepping adjacent item; in this case, a tool which enables me to prepare more effectively. In my case, I use it to weigh ammunition; bullet weight is an important factor in ballistics, and unfortunately that data is not written on each cartridge. If I were into reloading ammunition I would definitely weigh every cartridge I loaded to insure I hadn't accidentally used too much or too little powder. I'm certain there are other uses for such scale for people who perform precision crafting/repair work or who engage in ultralight camping.

Whatever your hobbies, I'm sure there have been times when you wanted a precise measurement of something that's too small to be weighed on a bathroom scale. To that end I recommend to you the Fuzion Digital Pocket Scale ($17.99 at Amazon with Prime shipping).

What I like about it:
  • Affordable
  • 4.6 stars out of 5 on Amazon with 1,550 ratings
  • Has a 50 gram weight for calibration
  • Comes with batteries (not essential, but a nice gesture)
  • Has a tare function
  • Measures in 6 separate units: grams, ounces, grains, carats, pennyweights (dwt) and troy ounces (ozt).
That last point is what really sealed the deal for me; I specifically needed a scale which measured in grains. I don't really need to measure anything in carats, pennyweights and troy ounces, but it's nice to know that I can if I want.

What I dislike about it:
  • The magnet does not adequately secure the lid closed
  • Doesn't seem rugged enough for the "pocket" claim. 
I would never, ever put this in my pocket. I would, however, feel comfortable putting this inside a briefcase or other piece of luggage and expect it to survive the trip. If you plan to do this, please do not throw away the piece of foam which stabilizes the weight table for shipping!

My Recommendation: A+
If you need an affordable digital scale which only measures to two decimal points and can measure up to 200 grams (7 ounces), then you can't go wrong with this small, affordable scale. Just don't toss it into your backpack or tuck it into your jeans pocket. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Feral Food?

For the last several decades, feral hogs have been spreading in the USA. Originally farm animals, they have gone feral and started breeding with the wild boars imported years ago as game animals. This interbreeding has created a potentially dangerous animal that is slowly spreading northward from the southern tier of states. We haven't seen them in the upper Midwest yet, but they've made it to Missouri and Kansas. Reports out of Canada have small herds wandering around in British Columbia and Manitoba, and both Texas and Oklahoma have serious problems with them.

A few points to ponder:
  • Feral pigs will destroy crops overnight and they're known to attack small or sick livestock and pets. They're voracious omnivores and will compete with humans for food, so if you're relying on growing your own you will want to keep an eye open for them.
  • Being close to the size and construction of humans, pigs are very good at spreading diseases. They are a common vector for our annual flu and several other diseases, and this is one of the reasons we have to cook pork thoroughly to avoid illness. Pigs also carry a variety of parasites that are quite happy to transfer to humans.
  • Pig reproduce like rabbits. Starting at 3-6 months of age a female pig will drop at least two litters of 5-10 piglets every year until she dies. With very few predators able to take on a herd of hogs, they spread quickly. Unless you can harvest them at least as fast as they reproduce, a herd of wild pigs will quickly strip an area of food and move on to greener fields.
  • Pigs are smart and adaptable, and will lose their "normal" coloring and start to grow fur soon after they get out of captivity. Those born in the wild will start to look more like their wild boar ancestors with razor-sharp tusks and hooves. They also become more aggressive and have little fear of  anything smaller than themselves.
  • Many states have declared feral pigs a "non-game" animal and there are no seasons or limits, but others have regulations, so check your local laws if you decide to go looking for them. Most hog hunters use dogs to track and catch wild hogs, and it's not unusual for the hog to kill a dog or two before its killed. Sows with piglets and boars are very dangerous to be around, so find a way to kill them from a distance. 
  • Pigs have one weakness: electricity. It doesn't take much current to kill a pig; a lot less than it takes to kill a human, in fact. Something that we'd feel as a tingle of electricity will stop a pig's heart. I've known farmers to lose dozens of pigs due to a faulty light switch in a shed. 
  • Hunting pigs with a firearm or bow isn't much different than any other game, but being able to hit them in a vital area can be a bit of a challenge because they're closer to the ground than a deer. They have a fairly thick skull, so I'd avoid head shots with smaller calibers. Just like most other game, hearts and lungs are the main target areas.
  • I won't bother listing recipes for pork; we've been eating them for a long time, and regional tastes vary. Younger pigs will be more tender and less "gamey", while older boars will be almost inedible due to the rank odor of the meat. If you get hungry enough, though, you'll find a way to eat it.

Whether you're protecting your crops and critters or actively hunting them, wild pigs are a food source to consider in the southern half of the USA. Give them a few years and they'll be up in the grain belt, and that's when things are going to get really interesting.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Fighting the Bat Belt

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 long fought the temptation to overload myself with gear, both carried on me and collected for various uses. Seriously, I truly hate carrying stuff on my belt, even if it is amazingly useful and potentially life saving gear. It's like those amazing videos people make of 500,000 dominoes laid out in some cavernous space, just waiting to be bumped: there's "just one more item", and then I need to have a bigger, longer, wider belt pouch, and then before you know it I'm Batman with a thick utility belt that's nothing but pouches.

However, I recently discovered a legitimate reason to carry a little bit more gear in a slightly larger belt pouch.

North American Rescue 7 Hook Strap Cutter
From the Amazon ad:
  • Saves time – more than 1.5 minutes faster than traditional trauma shears when cutting 2 articles of clothing.
  • Extensively tested and widely used by the US military for medical and egress purposes.
  • Maintains sharpness for hundreds of cuts (up to 500+ cuts through seatbelt test material).
  • 440C cutting surface and opening with varying handles to provide a more compact carry or more leverage
  • Includes a MOLLE-compatible carrying sheath, MFG: BENCHMADE
This seems a little small to cause any problems, right? Not if you're trying to squeeze it into an already tight space. I was trying to add it to my Maxpedition PLP belt pouch mentioned here. I couldn't make it fit into the case with the tourniquet, quick clot and compression bandage.
This led me to look up the advice of the person whose setup I copied and a recent comment he made about occasionally using a slightly larger bag. This led me back to Maxpedition and their small bag page, where I found the next bag (dominoes I tell you!) I will be carrying:

Maxpedition E.D.C. Pocket Organizer
From the Maxpedition page:

"If it's hard to find, it's hard to use. Kill the clutter and keep it together with Maxpedition Pocket Organizers: portable multi-tool managers that can be packed, carried or easily secured to the PALS webbing exterior of your Maxpedition bag. Instantly recognizable by their large front mesh pockets and oversized carry handles, these practical utility packs come in 5 different sizes with multiple solutions to help keep you organized."

Here's the spec of the bags I ordered. (Yes, I did say bags, plural, more than one. Just wait a moment and I'll explain.)
  • Full clamshell opening main compartment with dual zips
  • Inside left: Slip pocket; key ring; elastic organizer with 9 divisions
  • Inside right: Slip pocket; tie-down loop; elastic organizer with 6 divisions
  • Front exterior: 2" x 3" loop field for patches; mesh slip pocket with hook-and-loop closure
  • Back exterior: Oversized handle; attachment webbing
  • MOLLE compatible
  • Attach using two (2) 3" TacTie® Attachment Straps (sold separately)
  • Main compartment: 5"(L) x 1"(W) x 7"(H)
This particular model is virtually the same length as the existing case but now wider, allowing me to fit the strap/clothing cutter inside. And maybe some other things, if I'm careful to not overload it.

Now, why did I buy two bags you ask? Because Maxpedition is (apparently) closing out this style bag in a Buy One, Get One sale!
Seriously, go and check out the selection of small bags there... you might find something you really need (as opposed to only want)!

Recap And Takeaway
  • With careful planning, the ability to carry more necessary and useful items doesn't mean having to carry another belt bag; it can just mean carrying a slightly bigger bag.
  • The E.D.C. Pocket Organizer was purchased directly from Maxpedition. 2 bags for the price of one! ($26.99)
  • I bought the seriously cool North American Rescue 7 Hook Strap Cutter by Benchmade with MOLLE ready sheath from Amazon for $19.99 with Prime. Unfortunately, this item is now sold out. Sorry! (Editrix's Note: it can currently be bought from the Benchmade store on Amazon for $38 with Prime shipping.)
* * *

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, September 22, 2020

Series, Parallel, and Combo Battery Wiring

For those who aren't clear on the difference between volts and amps, there is a handy guide to electrical terminology here.



Monday, September 21, 2020

New Ladies Moving In

OK. No minimalist/redo prepping this week. Opportunity knocks, I answer. But can’t we all just get along?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Waterproofing Cotton

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
"Cotton kills" is an aphorism that all campers, hikers and preppers ought to know. Cotton is often called "death cloth" because wearing it in a cold, wet environment can lead to hypothermia. But do you know why?

It's because spun cotton fibers are hollow. When water meets cotton, that water becomes trapped inside the hollows of the fibers. In fact, cotton is so good at trapping water that it can hold 27 times its weight in H2O! That much water takes a long time to dry out, and when you add that to the fact that water is an amazingly efficient conductor of heat, you can see why wet cotton clothing can be a killer.

But this flaw in cotton's design can also be its salvation. If we fill those hollow fibers with something else, then water cannot clog them in first place. Ideally, that "something else" is a substance which repels water anyway, thereby making the cotton garment doubly impregnable. Most spray waterproofing substances just coat the outer fibrous layers, with the predictable result that a gap in coverage means water is still dispersed throughout the fabric. However, if we wax our cotton garment, then water will bead off it due to a combination of surface protection and an inability of it to soak in.
There are many forms of cotton wax out there. I prefer Martexin Original Wax, which comes in a 1.5 ounce metal tin ($12 with Prime from Amazon) and which provides enough wax to treat a boonie hat. Coincidentally, I know this because that is the garment I treated my tin of Martexin; for larger items, such as coats or jeans, you will need more than one.

Application of the wax is easy, albeit messy. Martexin wax is soft and slightly sticky, like an ointment, and so I scooped some up with my finger and worked it into the fabric. I find that a circular motion works best, although you can alternate between up-down and left-right; what matters is that you coat the fibers as thoroughly as possible. Pay special attention to seams and other places where fabric overlaps to ensure that you have covered it from every angle. When you are finished the material should have a waxy sheen to its surface. In the picture below, the right side is waxed and the left side is not.

When you have finished waxing your section of garment (I suggest doing it by sections to avoid fatigue and to ensure that seams have overlapping coverage), melt the wax into the fibers using a heat source. I prefer using a heat gun as that is both fast and hot, but you can make do with a hair dryer or even a camp fire.
Be careful! All waxes are flammable to some degree, but waxes made with paraffin -- a petroleum derivative -- are especially so. Do not set fire to your waxed garment!
The heat will melt the wax, which will sink into the fabric and the surface will no longer be glossy. Your garment may look slightly darker but otherwise normal. In the picture below, you can see that the beige to the right is slightly darker than the beige to the left. 

Now turn your garment over, or inside-out, and coat the other side exactly the same way. This gives you a double-layer of protection.

If you have any wax left, pour water over your garment. The water should bead off it as if the cotton was nonporous; if you notice any wetness, you missed a spot, so dry your garment and cover it with more wax.

When you are done, you will notice that your waxed cotton garment is darker and stiffer. This is normal, although in the case of coats and jeans the stiffness will work itself out after a few days of wearing it, much like new leather.

Unfortunately, just like other forms of waterproofing this, too, will eventually fail. Hot days and direct sunshine will cause the wax to seep out of the cotton fibers, and constant flexing will crack the wax surrounding fibers at points of motion. However, touching up your waxed cotton is as simple as adding more wax and applying heat -- far easier and far less expensive than chemical waterproofing, and likely to last longer as well.

No go out there and wax your cotton!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Maintenance as a Way of Thinking

If you use the search box in the upper left corner, you'll find a batch of articles over the years that cover specific maintenance of cars, bicycles, and a few other things. Today, I want to look into the various philosophies of maintenance.

Having worked for companies large and small in several capacities, I've done a lot of maintenance in my lifetime. Differing managers/owners have different ideas of the most efficient way to conduct maintenance, and I've dealt with the four most common types. These four types carry over across fields of work and even into taking care of yourself, and each is more of a philosophy than a method.

Preventative Maintenance 
Preventative maintenance is the art of replacing or repairing something before it goes bad. Checking the oil in your car on a schedule is a good example: you're making sure the level hasn't dropped to an unsafe point before causing damage to the engine. Regular inspection is also a big part of preventative maintenance, looking for signs of impending failure.

From a prepper perspective, rotating your food supplies and keeping your tools sharp fall under preventative maintenance.

Predictive Maintenance 
Predictive maintenance is using historical data to show when something is about to fail and repairing or replacing it shortly before that point. Going back to the oil in your car example, changing the oil every 5000 miles even though it may still be good is a form of predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance can be expensive and hard to justify to the bean-counters, but it does reduce the amount of time that systems are off-line.

Changing out the contents of your first aid kit based on the expiration date is another good example: they're probably still usable, but you change them just to make sure they're good when you need them.

Fix on Failure
This is the most common form of maintenance: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. Unless you have redundancy built into your systems, this can cause huge problems. This way of thinking can also get quite expensive because very little thought is put into having spare parts and the proper tools on hand to effect repairs when needed.

The heart of prepping is having what you need when things go wrong.

Ignore It and It'll Go Away
I've seen this (lack of) thinking more often than I wanted to. There is no plan, time, or money to fix something because it may be cheaper to replace that thing than to work on it. In the business world you'll see this when someone is planning to “flip” or dump a business before it falls apart; ignoring maintenance saves them money, but will cost the next owner a lot more. The other reason I've seen is pure denial: owners who don't want to think about spending money on maintenance and ignore it until it bites them in the butt.

For a prepper, this philosophy is summed up as “Failure to plan is planning to fail”.

You'll likely end up using a mixture of the four philosophies, just try to avoid the last one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Gear Cleanup

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 missed the calendar alert I set for myself to go through my gear. Work has been very strenuous the last two months, and when I'm home I haven't felt like going through all my equipment both places it's stored.

The sorting and checking dates on my food is always first, then the longer term stores and water, then equipment. Everything looked good, water was swapped out at my secret lair, and when looking at part of my gear, I found some stuff needing maintenance. Yes, I put something away dirty.

Real Avid Gun Boss Universal Cable Pull-Thru Cleaning Kit 
One of my guns is a .22LR pistol that is notorious for its difficulty in removing and reinstalling the slide, so normal cleaning is done with it still on. Due to the confined space left, a longer holder for patches is too long, so a smaller/shorter version is needed. I found The Gun Boss through recommendations of other owners.
From the Amazon page:
  • COMPACT AND PORTABLE UNIVERSAL CLEANING KIT: the weather proof, zippered, ballistic nylon case is extremely portable and is great for use in the field or at the range
  • SPEND LESS TIME CLEANING WITH UNIVERSAL CLEANING CABLES: don’t thread rods, use the t-handle with the 33 " or 8 " plastic coated cable to clean your shotguns, rifles, and handguns
  • RIFLE AND HANDGUN CLEANING SUPPLIES: . 45, . 357/. 38/9MM, . 30, . 270, . 22, and short-action . 22 phosphor bronze brushes, . 17 cal brush/slotted tip combo, 3 short-action nylon slotted tips, 25 cleaning patches
  • SHOTGUN CLEANING SUPPLIES: 12 and 20 gauge phosphor bronze brushes and mops, 25 shotgun cleaning patches

This is a kit designed for everything from 12ga shotguns down to my .22LR, so the handle and flexible cleaning 'rod' (really a coated cable) is way to long for this job. I like the fact that the tips are nylon instead of the old school brass/bronze, even if the metal is soft enough not to do any damage.

I will admit to shooting relatively cheap ammo that has left some crud in the barrel, so I pulled the proper brush gently through the barrel, followed by several patches until clean. This was followed by a wipe-down with a clean rag with just a drop or two of CLP.

Break-Free CLP-4
There are hardcore fans of all the various lubes and oils, ready to plant their fandom flag on that hill called Brand Loyalty. Use what works best for you -- there's no judgement here -- this product is just highly recommended by folks that shoot way more than I do. 

From the Amazon ad:
  • Penetrates and spreads along metal surfaces into every pit and crevice to undercut contamination and lift residue away where it can be removed.
    Long-lasting lubricating film dramatically reduces adhesion of sand, grit or other abrasives which cause wear and failure.
  • Corrosion inhibitors prevent the formation of rust while Break-Free's unique boundary film protects metal surfaces from moisture and other contaminants.
  • Specially formulated synthetic oils won't lose viscosity, dry out or stiffen up in extreme environments - such as cold, heat, dust, dirt, humidity and even salt air - keeping equipment in ready condition for months at a time.
  • It has been proven to preform in temperatures ranging from -65F to +475F and after saltwater immersion

All said and done, my gear is now cleaned and stored properly.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Dirty gear can come back to haunt you. If something gets rusted or parts stick together and when the tool is really needed, you're stuck with junk.
  • I've had the Real Avid kit for a while, but the CLP4 was a recent purchase talked about in this post. $7.49 from Amazon with Prime -- a slightly lower price than before!
  • If you need a decent cleaning kit, the Real Avid Gun Boss kit is an Amazon item. $29.99 with Prime.
* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Portable Power

Recent events have gotten me thinking again about emergency and portable power solutions. Storms here and elsewhere have left friends without power for extended periods of time; in addition, medical developments in my life in the past few months have made it almost a necessity that I have daily access to 120v power. No, I'm not dying, at least not any faster than the rest of you; I'm on a CPAP machine to help me breathe while I sleep. My wife says it makes me far more pleasant to be around.

The obvious answer to long term power is a generator. We've discussed them in the past, and the topic may be worth revisiting in the future, but they have some weaknesses. Two of the biggest, and definitely most applicable to me, are portability and the inability to run them at night. Running a genset during the day is all well and good, but I need power at night, and that means batteries. If I'm in my camper or have a vehicle handy, I can use the battery power in those so long as I don't overdo it, but I'd rather have an independent option. Today, we'll look at the theory behind constructing a portable power box, and later we'll actually assemble the device.

Generating 120v power is easy, if you have a 12v source. You simply hook up a device called an inverter, which converts the power through the magic of electrical theory. (Seriously, the theory involved takes up an entire year of electrical school, and it probably still best described as wizardry.) Small inverters can be had very inexpensively, and will provide enough wattage to power small medical apparatus, charge cell phones, and keep other small devices running. Larger inverters can power heavier equipment, but that will murder your battery life.

Our 12v power supply will be batteries. A 12v car battery would be simple, and have plenty of energy to run our inverter for ages, but car batteries are large and heavy. By the time our whole box is done, a car battery could push it to 80 or more pounds, and nobody wants to lug that around. Motorcycle or "powersport" batteries are an option, weighing in at 5-7 pounds, but they aren't sealed, meaning they can leak acid if the power box tips over. They're also designed to start an engine, meaning they discharge best in short, heavy bursts, and not in long, slow loads. Instead, we will use a set of 6v lantern batteries. They're light, fairly inexpensive, and are designed for the kind of draw we're going to put on them. By wiring them in series, we can bump the voltage to 12v, getting us the power we need for our inverter.

Rechargeable 6v batteries have about a 4.5 amp-hour rating. What that means is that they'll give you 4.5 amps for one hour, or one amp for 4.5 hours, or anything in between, based upon your current draw. My CPAP, since it is the device currently in question, draws 0.75 amps, meaning that in a perfect world two lantern batteries would run it for 6 hours. The world isn't perfect, though, so for that device, a more reasonable expectation would be 5-ish hours. We can extend that with a second set of batteries, doubling our available time.

To figure how many amp-hours you need, look at the devices you intend to power. Either the power supply for the device, or the device itself, will list the wattage or amperage draw.
  • If it's amps, divide by 4.5 to find out how many hours you have available;
  • if it's watts, divide by 120 (the nominal voltage draw) to get the amperage draw. 
Then figure out your available time. If one set of batteries is enough, wonderful. If not, we'll get around to adding a second. I'll cover the specific wiring method during construction, since those are kind of "show-me" items.

Using four of these batteries and this inverter, plus a few bits and bobs, I'll be into the project for about $100 but it will give me all the power I can use in a day. It will also weigh in at a svelte 10 pounds, making it very convenient to grab and go. I could save some money on both the batteries and inverter, but I like the attachment points on these batteries, and the inverter has some nice protection features built in that make it worth a few extra dollars to me.

Do some figuring on small devices you need to keep running when no utility power exists. Once we come back to this, you can figure for yourself how many batteries to stack in to keep your critical items powered.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Fall 2020-Reflection and Resupply

Join me over the next few weeks as I explore upgrades and new directions for my daily commuters and commutes. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Product Review: the Magpul MOLLE Speedthreader

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This product is one of those items you didn't know you needed until now, and once you've seen it in action you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Anyone who has tried to thread stiff MOLLE straps (technically called PALS, for Pouch Attachment Ladder System, but everyone refers to it as MOLLE anyway) through tight webbing knows how uncomfortable, time-consuming, and awkward it can be. Fortunately for all of us, our friends at Magpul have created a device which threads between the webbing and then pulls the strap after it, reducing the overall time to under a minute. 

It sounds confusing, but it's not. I'll let this video demonstrate it for you.
That video was posted in 2007. I cannot believe I have gone thirteen years without knowing about this, but it's true. 

The Magpul MOLLE Speedthreader costs $8.59 from Amazon with Prime shipping, and is worth every penny. It is 18" long, made from a single piece of flexible plastic, and weighs .06 ounces. One end is a blunt point for threading through webbing, with holes in it so that you can attach a length of paracord to it. Doing this makes a loop for your hand and gives you much greater grip, and greater leverage, when pulling a strap through tight webbing.

The other end is a split gripper for grasping the fastener snap to ensure it is completely pulled through the webbing. The threader has a clearly marked "This side towards pouch" molded into the material so that you can ensure the snap is oriented correctly after you pull it through.

To use the threader:
  1. Align your MOLLE accessory with the webbing to which you want it mounted. 
  2. Starting from the top, thread the needle end through the webbing. 
  3. When the needle has come out the other end, insert the snap fastener of the strap between the sides of the split gripper. 
  4. Get a firm grasp on the needle end (this is where the length of cord comes in handy), and pull it through. 
  5. Remove the snap from the gripper and fasten it to your accessory. 

My Rating: Five Stars
If you work with stiff MOLLE on a regular basis, or you do a lot of threading/unthreading where efficiency matters, or if you have weak or arthritic fingers, I cannot recommend this tool highly enough. Get it from Amazon today.

Dear FTC: I bought this with my own money. Go away. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Canned Heat

While helping a friend with some camping gear, I was asked to explain the difference between the various “canned” gasses used in camp lanterns and stoves. This friend didn't want to deal with a liquid fuel like diesel fuel, kerosene, or gasoline (which is my first choice) and was looking at the butane and propane options on the market. 

Pressurized cans of fuel gas are fairly easy to find and store well in a cool, dry location for decades, so they make a good choice for emergency supplies. I've used several types of propane canisters for heating over the years and have seen the butane models, so I did some digging and here are the results.

Often called LP gas, sometimes defined as Liquid Propane and other times Low Pressure or Liquefied Petroleum gas, propane has been in use for a little over a hundred years and is commonly found just about anywhere in the world. A popular cooking fuel, it is cheap and easy to transport in steel cylinders that vary in size from less than a pound to several hundred gallons. You'll find a Propane cylinder attached to every gas grill in almost every garage in the US, so it is very common.

Propane has a chemical structure of C3H8, with a boiling point of -42° F. It produces around 2.22 MJ/mol (don't sweat the units, just make sure to use the same ones when comparing) of heat when it burns. Explosive limits are between 2.3 and 9.5% in air. Above or below that range, the mixture is either too lean or too rich to ignite.

Commonly used as a cooking fuel in Asia and in disposable lighters around the world, Butane is another liquefied gas that is easy to store. There are several brands of camping stoves and lighters that use Butane cylinders for fuel and the cylinders are fairly easy to find.

Butane has a chemical structure of C4H10 and a boiling point of 30° F. It has the capacity to produce about 2.88 MJ/mol of heat. Explosive limits are 1.8 to 8.4% in air.

Compare and Contrast
Both Propane and Butane are naturally odorless, colorless gasses that will have a chemical added to make it easy to detect leaks. Methyl Mercaptan is the most common odorant, and it's the same chemical that they add to natural gas to identify leaks. I'd bet that everyone has smelled either a propane or natural gas stove before the flame is lit, as it's a very distinct odor. Both are also a gas at normal room temperature and pressure, and are easily compressed into a liquid and stored under pressure.

Comparing the two, they produce about the same amount of heat and have similar (narrow) explosive limits, so either one will work well as a fuel source for back-up heat or light. The major deciding factor is the temperature that you will be expecting to use it at. 
  • Propane will continue to “boil” inside the cylinder and, in my experience, produce usable amounts of gas down to about -5° F. Below that, you have to warm the cylinder to get it to work. 
  • Butane shuts down at about 40° F, as anyone who has tried to use a disposable lighter in the winter will attest. 
If you live where the temperature drops below freezing, Propane is the better option for large containers. Butane in small containers like a lighter can be kept close to your body to keep it warm, but as soon as you remove it and start to use it in cold weather it will shut down.
Butane cylinders for a camp stove are selling for about $2.00/8 oz ($4.00/pound) can right now, and Propane in small canisters is selling for around $8.00/16 oz. By buying an adapter and a larger, refillable Propane tank you can cut the price drastically, but your local supplier prices are not something I can check; around here a 17 pound refillable canister costs about $35.00 empty and takes another $2.00/ pound to fill.

My Recommendation
My choice is Propane, due to the climate I live in and the ease of storing large quantities of it. I have a grill-sized cylinder that I had filled over 20 years ago which is still full (it came out of a camper when it got scrapped).

However, if you're looking for something to put into a pack or GHB and you live in a more temperate climate, then either one will work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Prudent Prepping: The Shorts of It

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

Well isn't this interesting! I finally have both brands of wool underwear, and there's been enough time to properly evaluate them!

Wool-ed I Do It Again?
Short answer? Yes, and I will probably buy more fairly soon. Just to do a really quick recap, I mentioned Minus 33 boxers in this post and then followed up with a post on the last-minute substitution of the Wooly brand here. This is what I found:

What Is Similar
  • Both brands have virtually the same make-up in their fabric and the waistbands are also the same flat, almost no-seam elastic.
  • When holding or wearing both brands, the 'feel' is also difficult for me to tell apart. 
  • Both are smooth, almost silky and my DriFit shirts are about the same 'silkiness'. 
Having now worn both brands for almost a week each, I really like how nice I feel at the end of my day. The weather has not been as hot, but my work has made up for that lack by expecting more production. The waistband was something I wasn't sure about since my regular boxers are covered on the inside, and these are like jockey brief waistbands, but I have found no problem with how it feels, probably due to it being flat. I don't really know why the waistband feels good, it just works.

What is Different
As I've shown above,  there is surprisingly very little difference in the feel or material. What is different is the cut or style of each brand:
  • The Wooly brand is shaped much more like my regular boxers: somewhat straight legs and about the same length.
  • The Minus 33 are shaped wider in the leg and maybe not quite as long. I was having a hard time trying to describe what the shape is when a former military friend said, "Oh, those sound like PT shorts!" After looking at what has also been described as 'silkies' and 'Ranger Panties', that's about what they resemble: wide of leg and loose. 
However they're described, I'm keeping both of them.

Recap And Takeaway
  • If you can get past the high price for either brand, I recommend both of these. I will be wearing nothing else in the hot weather. (Nothing else? Oh myyyy! -- Erin)
  • Nothing else was purchased this week, since these boxers ruined my Fun Money budget for the next several weeks.
* * *

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.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Ballistic Armor: Miscellaneous

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
This is the final post in my series on Ballistic Armor, and it's a catch-all of topics which didn't really fit anywhere else.

Side Plates
As the name suggests, side plates are ballistic plates which cover the gap between your front and rear plates. They are typically 6x6" or 6x8" and protect your vital organs from your armpit to the bottom of your ribcage.

Do you need them? I don't feel qualified to answer that.
One veteran has told me that side plates are the kinds of things that people in foxholes need, and that as long as I shoot squared-up, the benefits of side plates are marginal at best and that a ballistic helmet is more important.

However, others have told me that engagements on the two-way range have a distressing habit of being from directions you don't expect, and that it all comes down to whether or not you're willing to take the risk and, of course, if you can afford it.

If you do decide to purchase side plates, here is what I have to say:
  1. Ensure that your plate carrier is cummerbund-compatible;
  2. Get the best plates you can afford;
  3. Do not forget to get trauma pads for them to reduce injury from impact and backface deformation;
  4. Practice moving and shooting with your armor, as full armor rigs require significant practice before you achieve proficiency with them. 

Your Abdomen
You may have noticed that ballistic plates do not cover your abdomen, leaving your vulnerable to being gut-shot. This is the unfortunate result of the "pick two" dilemma I talked about in Levels of Protection: any armor which will completely protect your front will be significantly heavier, significantly bulkier, and significantly more expensive than what we have now.

Furthermore, ballistic armor is designed to protect you from immediately fatal injuries to vital organs, and being shot in the intestines is not immediately life-ending. Yes, it is painful and yes, left untreated you will bleed out, but it is not fatal in the way that a gunshot to the heart or lungs is; unless civilization has completely collapsed, you should survive long enough to make it to a hospital to treat you for your injuries.

I know of only one company which makes a commercially available abdominal plate, and that is AR500 Armor. I am reluctant to recommend them because their abdominal plate is steel (and I covered the issues with spalling here) and because the company has a poor reputation (information on which can be found here), and so all I'm going to say about it "I rather like their plate carriers" and "If you really want a steel abdominal plate, you can get one from them."

The US Military has access to Interceptor armor, which not only covers the entire front torso but also the neck and groin, and has armored sleeves for the arms and legs. However, I do not know if it is commercially available. Furthermore, it's only rated to stop a 9×19mm 124-grain FMJ bullet at 1,400 ft/s, so it's not even level IIIa protection.

If all this makes you feel funny, then take some comfort in the fact that I don't like it either. If anything, I'm worried about my face being unarmored. Speaking of which...

Ballistic Visors
If you have $300 lying around, you can purchase a level IIIa face shield. In fact, you have two choices:

Your first choice looks like a hockey mask, and it doesn't protect your eyes nor does it look like there's any way to put a trauma pad in it. Still, it beats being shot in the face, and it works with a helmet. (for $50 more you could purchase one that doesn't work with a helmet... but why would you want to?)

Your second choice is a clear face shield which mounts to a helmet. It only protects up to 9mm so it doesn't offer full IIIa protection, but it does protect your eyes. I also don't know how much the curvature distorts your vision. Being offset from your face it won't need a trauma pad, but I imagine that even a glancing shot will reduce visibility.

Again, welcome to the world of ballistic armor, where everything is a compromise.

Beware the Fatal "V"
I cannot find the link for this now, so you'll just have to trust me on this. Back in the 90s, when cities like Los Angeles started to heat up with gang warfare and police officers were issued kevlar vests, there was a spike in fatalities where officers wearing vests were nevertheless shot in the upper chest, just below the throat, and died.

As it turned out, this spike in fatalities was due to a combination of factors:
  1. The officers in question were wearing their armor lower on their body, with the upper edge sitting below their collarbones. This is more comfortable to wear long term, and therefore understandable when pulling 8-12 hour shifts. 
  2. Department policy at that time was to wear dark uniforms with a white t-shirt underneath. This created a high-contrast "V" target for criminals. 
  3. Therefore, this provided a handy, visible target for shooting at an area which was unfortunately unprotected by the kevlar. 
Therefore, do two things to avoid the Fatal "V":
  1. Wear your armor as high on your chest as possible. 
  2. Do not create contrast between your armor and your un-armored bits. 
This video will show you how to properly position your plate carrier. There are more in-depth videos out there, but this is short and sweet.

In Conclusion...
I have taken great pains to ensure that this series is as complete and as accurate as possible, but there is always the possibility that I have missed something important or gotten something wrong. If that happens, please do not hesitate to contact me; it is more important to me to that I give correct information than it is for me to always look correct.

For those who wish to refer back to previous articles, they are here:

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Collapsible Camp Lantern

Summer is drawing to its end, which means that cooler weather is coming. Autumn is my favorite time to spend in the woods,; the cool mornings and bearable afternoons make hiking and hunting more enjoyable and sitting around evening campfires are actually comfortable.

I like to travel light, so I'm always looking for toys and tools that are smaller and perform more than one function. Wandering through Wal-Mart, I noticed an “expandable” solar powered LED light/charger. It was a brand I've never heard of (not unusual in Wal-Mart) and as I was looking at it I noticed an almost identical version further down the shelf with the store brand (Ozark Trail), so I grabbed one of each. Neither brand is on Amazon, but this is the same item with yet another brand on the packaging.

At about 3 inches square and 2 inches high, the lights are about the same size as two hockey pucks stacked up. Here are the specs I was able to find on the packaging, along with a few observations:
  • The solar panel on top is about 2” square, so minimal output; my estimate is maybe 10mA.
  • The folding carry handle on top is cheap and it will break off soon. Nice for hanging the lamp, though.
  • The switch on the side has three functions: low, high, and flashing.
    • Low power is about 30 Lumens and will run 5-6 hours on a full charge.
    • High power is about 125 Lumens and lasts 3 hours.
    • The flashing mode is standard these days. I find it annoying.
  • There is a rubber panel protecting the USB in and out ports. It's rated IPX4, so it's good for heavy rain but not for immersion in water. In other words, weather-proof but not water-proof.
  • There is a USB A port and a short cord supplied for use as a battery bank, as well as a micro-A USB port for charging with a phone/device charger.
  • The internal battery is non-replaceable with about an 800mAh capacity. Pretty small for use as a battery bank, but it will top off a cell phone.
  • The indicator lamp shows red when charging, green when fully charged.
  • Charge times varied wildly by source. Plugged into a 1A car charger, it took 3 hours to fully recharge; my home charger is rated for 2.1A and it took less than an hour. I haven't tested the solar panel yet, but I'm expecting it to take at least 10 hours of daylight to fully charge.

After playing with the lamps for a few days, I noticed a few things:
  • The lamps are a comfortable size in my hand. I have large hands and small lights are hard to grasp when I'm wearing gloves, so this is a good size for me. Small things also tend to get lost, so I look for the middle ground when choosing sizes.
  • The battery, LED, and other electronics are all in the “head” of the unit; the “base” has a cute little lens to focus the light when the lamp is collapsed. Collapsed, it does make a decent flashlight, with a concentrated center spot and a diffuse outer ring of light. The plastic lens is slightly recessed in the base but will be prone to scratches. I may disassemble one of the lamps to test the lens as a fire starter later.
  • Expanding the lamp is done by gently pulling the base away from the head, exposing a plastic bellows-shaped diffuser. Think about the bendy straws you played with as a kid, except 2” in diameter and about 4” long. You can bend it sideways to direct more of the light through the lens on the bottom to where you need it, but it isn't much light. Bending it did come in handy for blocking most of the light on one side, creating a darker area. This is good if you've got someone trying to sleep but you still want to read for a while.
  • The switch is a simple push-button, but you have to cycle through all three modes to turn it off.

The surprising thing about these lights is the price. The display at Wal-Mart didn't have the price for the “Alpha” brand, so I was a bit shocked at checkout. Amazon has them for $9.00, and the Ozark Trail version was $10.00, but the exact same light in almost the exact same packaging with the “Alpha” brand was $20.00! This is not a $20 light. Save your money and get the store brand if you're paying cash, or go to Amazon and use it as an add-on item to get free shipping. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Prudent Prepping: August Roundup

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

As is my usual excuse, I've got several things to discuss and either there isn't enough info to expand the topic up to a full post or I'm still gathering my thoughts, which lately will fit easily into a Dixie Cup. The small size.

What's First
I mentioned my temporary relocation for work, how amazingly hot the location and work is, and what I'm trying to do to survive and work comfortably in this post. Unfortunately (but not unexpected), the shorts I ordered are delayed even longer than shown. I will not receive the Minus33 shorts until Friday, if I'm lucky, so what I did was to go looking for another previously recommended brand: Woolly Clothing Men's Merino Wool Classic Boxer.
Now I haven't anything to compare these wool boxers to other than my cotton ones, and while it has not been as hot as last week, I really like the feel of these!

Some info from the Amazon ad:
  • [ 100% 150 GSM 17.5 micron Australian merino wool ]
  • [ ULTRALIGHT CLASSIC BOXER ] Flatlock seams, tagless interior, double tough high-wear zones, soft elastic jacquard. Full merino construction for extra stretch, odor resistance, moisture wicking, itch free, 4-season comfort.
  • [ CASUAL FIT FOR COMFY DAILY WEAR ] These boxers will keep you comfy during work, play, leisure, travel, and workouts. Ultralight merino in a classic boxer cut, made for all climates and pursuits.
  • [ PICTURED MODEL STATS ] 5'10'' // 155 lbs // 30'' waist. Wearing size small.
  • [ MERINO PERFORMANCE FOUNDATION LIFESTYLE WEAR ] Woolly pairs the nature proven benefits of merino with classic everyday styles that work anywhere. Enjoy the no-odor, anti-microbial, fire resistant, moisture wicking, and long wearing comfort of merino in every aspect of your life.
  • [ BACKED BY THE WOOLLY PROMISE ] We like to keep things simple. If you are ever dissatisfied with our gear, at any time, just give us a shout and we'll work to make it right.
The Initial Good
The feel of these is hard to describe, since I've worn cotton boxers for, well, a really long time! There is an almost silk-like feel to the fabric, but not slippery. When thoroughly sweaty, the Woolly Shorts didn't bunch up, get sticky or feel clammy if I sat down for lunch and cooled off some. They are also cheaper than the other brand.

The Initial 'Eh, But Waiting For More Info'
The sizing of the Woolly boxers leaves me a little bit undecided, since I fit right between the Medium and Large recommendation. I ordered the Large and while I like them, I'm unsure if I want to keep them. The cut is wider than my existing boxers and I'm not sure how the elastic in the waistband will last in the long term, since these start out bigger than what I have now. I will make a decision when (if) the originally ordered brand shows up.

About Those Amazon Orders...
I recently placed an order for some CLP, since the local gun store was out and the next closest retail gun store had a location burglarized and is closed. There was no delay shown for the CLP, and here is my 4oz. tube of Break-Free CLP-4 Cleaner Lubricant Preservative.
Yes, that's what the box says!
Yes, I got my 4oz tube all right, along with 11 that I really don't need! Even figuring the fact that I seem to lose oils and lubes before I use them up into the equation, I'm looking at well over a lifetime supply, maybe longer.

There are many different lubes out there, but I was looking for something that would thicken or get stiff very slowly, since several items I want to clean and then re-oil don't see a lot of use.

From the Amazon ad:
  • Penetrates and spreads along metal surfaces into every pit and crevice to undercut contamination and lift residue away where it can be removed.
  • Long-lasting lubricating film dramatically reduces adhesion of sand, grit or other abrasives which cause wear and failure.
  • Corrosion inhibitors prevent the formation of rust while Break-Free's unique boundary film protects metal surfaces from moisture and other contaminants.
  • Specially formulated synthetic oils won't lose viscosity, dry out or stiffen up in extreme environments - such as cold, heat, dust, dirt, humidity and even salt air - keeping equipment in ready condition for months at a time.
  • It has been proven to preform in temperatures ranging from -65F to +475F and after saltwater immersion
If I follow the recommended amounts, I think this matches what I need.

Recap And Takeaway
  • So far I'm really happy with the Woolly Boxers... other than the fit. I'm keeping them until I can compare my first order. Two pair of Woolly Boxers ordered from Amazon: $29.99 with Prime.
  • Yes, CLP is what I need, but only one bottle. Yes, I am contacting Amazon about the mis-shipped product. Karma seems to have me on Speed Dial, so it is going back. One bottle (and only one!) of CLP 4 ordered from Amazon: $7.58 with Prime.
* * *

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

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

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

The Fine Print

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