Thursday, October 29, 2020

Defending Against Mobs

With the current social/political mood rather restless, I've had a few people ask me how best to react to mobs and/or riots. I live in a rural area, so we aren't expecting much in the way of violence (one murder a year in the county is big news), but most of us have to travel to “the city” for shopping or other business and there have been some disturbances down there. I've witnessed one good riot in person and have followed a few others closely, but I'm not an expert by any means and so I started looking for expert advice.

The best advice is the simplest: stay away from crowds. Use the “rule of thumb” for any disaster waiting to happen, by which I mean “If you can't cover it with your thumb held out at arm's reach, you're too close.” Avoiding problems is the easiest way to deal with them, so not being where the trouble occurs is the simplest way to deal with an unruly mob.

The worst thing you can do is to go looking for trouble. Unless you have serious back-up on many levels, from legal to firepower, you're not going to be able to do much good. The only time preemptive action will work is if we enter a truly WROL (Without Rule of Law) scenario and that is a “survive at any cost” situation.

Defense against an unruly mob or group of attackers is a roll of the dice.

  • Locally, we had a bar owner shoot and kill a man who had already assaulted one person and was in the act of assaulting the bar owner. The local prosecutor looked at the evidence and decided to file no charges, but after a couple of days of “protests” he changed his mind and turned it over to a grand jury. The grand jury indicted the bar owner for murder.
  • The lawyer couple in St, Louis that were armed while telling protesters to leave their property have been charged. That case is still ongoing.
  • People who display a firearm against a crowd attacking their vehicle may get away unscathed, but there are groups ready to identify them and ruin their lives. Being fired from a job, having your personal information posted online, being defamed in public media and forums, and civil lawsuits are all tactics used by the organizers of some of these protests.

Some of you may have heard of Masad Ayoob. He's been teaching firearms use for decades internationally and is one of the world's experts on defensive firearms use. He did a rather long interview a few months back on this subject and covered it in detail. I strongly suggest you find the time to sit and watch or listen to his advice. At the very least, read through the shortened transcript.

The highlights are:

  • Avoid crowds.
  • If you run into a crowd, try to get away.
  • If you can't get away, try to deescalate the situation.
  • If your life is in danger, you do have the right to defend yourself against that threat, but only that threat.
  • Know your target and what is beyond it. You're responsible for everything damaged by your bullets.
  • Not everyone in a crowd is a legal target; most of them are not going to be violent.
  • Handguns are easier to keep control of, are less likely to over-penetrate a target, and are easier to use in a vehicle than a long gun.
  • Outside of WROL, you will be held responsible for your actions.
  • Lawyers will be involved and they're expensive.
  • Know your local laws and how they are enforced. Some areas are not friendly to self-defense.
  • Being in a car adds to the problems; newer cars won't let you run over a person and airbags deploying will incapacitate you for minutes.
  • Firing a weapon inside a car will damage your hearing permanently.

He did cover the “Rooftop Koreans” briefly, as well as a few other historical examples of people defending themselves against unruly mobs. The LA riots were a WROL situation since the police had been pulled back. There were about two dozen “unsolved” deaths, but no definite examples of defenders killing rioters. More recent events have been treated differently, depending entirely upon the political views of the courts and prosecutors involved.

Short of a total collapse of infrastructure I feel fairly safe in my area, but I know some of you are living in areas that are likely to see rioting if things don't calm down soon. Keep your eyes open, your training current, and your powder dry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Guest Post: Is GMRS For You?

GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service and is a licensed service in the USA that shares some of the FRS (Family Radio Service) channels but allows use of radios and antennas that give you more range. In this article I will outline the steps to get a license, as well as talk a little bit about what equipment is available. 

Unlike Ham Radio, a GMRS license requires no test; just 3 questions on an application and a $70 payment. The license is good for 10 years and covers you and your immediate family all the way down to your grandchildren, including in-laws! You can conduct a family business using GMRS (so it’s good for a ranch or farm), but your employees are not covered; they would need their own license so they can talk with you. Many Public Service organizations such as CERT or REACT also use GMRS. With this license you could have you our own repeater if you wanted (or form a group to pay for putting one together)

How Much Range is "More"?
Mobile and Base Stations are up to 50W, but GMRS uses repeaters like you have with Ham. So depending on your terrain, you could communicate 5-10 miles between your house (with an outdoor antenna) and your car while you are out; with a repeater, that might be 50 miles. 

How Do I Get a License?

Get a FRN (Federal Registration Number)

If you already have a Ham License you might have a FRN already. If so, skip to “Apply for a License". 
  1. Go to
  2. Click on Register.
  3. Answer the questions. 
  4. Register as an Individual as GMRS licenses are only good for Individuals.
  5. Wait for the email with your FRN
Apply for a License
  1. Go to and log in.
  2. Click on Apply for a License (on the left hand column).
  3. Choose the bottom choice in the box (ZA - General Mobile Radio Service)
  4. Answer the additional questions about whether you are exempt as NO.
  5. Answer the question about whether you have been convicted of a Felony.
  6. Review to make sure all your answers are correct. 
  7. Sign by typing your full name and answering the question about what your title is as SELF.
  8. Follow the link to Payment. Please note that it will take a few minutes for the invoice to show up in the system, so wait about 2-3 minutes before clicking the link.
  9. Wait a few days to get the License.
  10. Order your radios!


Do I Need a Handheld?
The answer to this depends on 3 things:
  1. Do you only need a range of less than1mile under normal circumstances?
  2. Do you have access to a repeater you can access with only a Handheld?
  3. Are you wanting to have a passenger communicate while driving?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then a handheld is for you.

GMRS handhelds can have more power than FRS handhelds as well as better antennas (FRS only allows for fixed , non-upgradeable antennas). GMRS handhelds are are channelized the same as FRS and follow the same plan, but many GMRS handhelds also allow you to use repeaters. 

The Btech V1 handheld is about $60 (about twice what an FRS radio costs) but has 5w compared to the 2w of the FRS, allows you to access repeaters, and allows you to use a better antenna.

When Should I Get a Mobile? 
(and how much power do I need?)
Are you wanting to drive and talk at the same time? Many states have laws on the books saying you can’t hold a cell phone while driving, and it's hard to distinguish a handheld from a cellphone while passing a cop.  

Mobile radios range from 5w-40w in the models available currently (unless you want to go to eBay and get an older Motorola or other brand that needs a special programmer), and prices range from $99 on the low end to $249 or so for the more powerful units.
  • Mobile radios in the 5w category, such at the Midland MXT105, tend to be direct only (no access to repeaters) and come with fixed or magnetic mount antennas. 
  • Radios of the 15w or 40w variety, like the Midland MXT115, have fixed or magnet mount antennas but also allow you to access repeaters. 
If you don’t want to drill a hole in your vehicle, a magnetic mount antenna will work for most uses. There are various “Gain” antennas available; many of them are short (6”) ¼ wave antennas, but you can get larger antennas (such as ⅝ over ⅝ wave) that are 25” or so. More gain generally means further range. 

In short, if you are going to be out in a vehicle and want to talk, get a mobile radio.

Are Base Stations Worth the Expense?
I’ve not found many, if any, dedicated base stations for GMRS. The most common way to build one is to take a mobile radio, add a power supply, and purchase a base station antenna and coaxial cable. 

Probably the most common use for this would be when there isn’t a repeater locally available and you need more power than a handheld would give you or need to be able to talk directly to a mobile or handheld out in the field. On some channels you can use up to 50w to do either.

Base station antennas go from little spikes that are 6” tall to giant monsters that are 11.5’ tall; it all depends on who you want to be able to talk to. For “around the 10 acres,” a simple spike mounted high and clear of buildings and nearby trees might be sufficient; if you need to be able to access a repeater 10+ miles away then you might need a 6 foot tall antenna; but if you want to talk directly to a mobile out in the field, you might need the 11.5’ monster. 

There are many kinds of “coax” cable out there, but for a base station you want a minimum diameter of 0.400” and to keep it as short as possible, as the losses inside the coax go up dramatically by length.


Join an existing Group
There are some 1700+ repeaters in the US, many of which are open or private but you can join the group. Check out where you can search by state for repeaters around you. Joining a repeater group, or supporting an open one, means that you won’t be an unknown person (or family) when you need to use it. 

Like Ham Radio,  you want to be brief and to the point when communicating among your family during an emergency. Many of these repeaters have “Nets” where everyone checks in and verifies their equipment works. Some just have a net to chit-chat!

Buy Your Own Repeater
Let’s say that your family is all over the place and that you can’t tie up someone to act as a relay sitting at a fixed location (like a base station). In that case, the next step might be to buy your own repeater. A good antenna, coax and backup power are necessities for good repeater operation, so expect to spend between $600-$4000 for a repeater/antenna/coax.

There are 8 repeater pairs of frequencies you can use, and you want to coordinate such that you don’t “step on” someone who is already using a channel in your local area. Again, check out where you can search by state for repeaters around you, and listen a lot before you decide to buy/install a repeater.  

While there are a few low power repeaters that are easy to program and are good for “local” use, a higher power repeater will have to be programmed with a special programmer and “tuned” for the channel you choose. Getting a high, clear location that is able to “see” the areas you want to be able to operate is a big consideration.

Final Thoughts
Practice! In the middle of an emergency where your cellphones are dead isn’t the time to break out the GMRS radios for the first time. Instead, join a group of like-minded individuals and families.

I can’t stress enough that you need to practice! Send the kids off to play/explore with a handheld and use the radios to check in periodically; it will help them to understand how to use the radio as well as give them the discipline as to how to use them when needed. Go to the grocery store and practice using the radio to “ask for the thing you forgot.” Remember, cellphones may not be there when you need them.

Tom King


Friday, October 23, 2020

Omniblade Alternatives

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
If you're a patron of the Assorted Calibers Podcast, by now you should have heard Oddball's review of the Omniblade, a $60(!) machete-hammer-hatchet-saw "multitool". If you aren't a patron, don't worry; the episode will be free on Monday. However, if you don't want to wait, here's an executive summary: It sucks.

As part of the commentary on that podcast episode, I mentioned that I would write an article for this blog where I would recommend for you cheaper and more effective tools than the Omniblade. The good news is that this is that article; the bad news is that I'm over budget... by $6. 

Machete and Hatchet

I'm a big fan of the kukri-style machete, as the design makes for a good chopper of more than just foliage. I have owned a Cold Steel Kukri Machete ($30) for over a decade now and it has yet to disappoint me. Not only is it well-balanced and a pleasure to swing, but its 1055 carbon steel construction is as close to indestructible as I've found -- a far cry form the Omniblade's cheap 420J2 Stainless Steel which bends when chopping wood. Also unlike the Omniblade, the kukri machete doesn't need a specialized hatchet blade to chop wood, as I have used it to cut branches as thick as my arm off of trees. Not only does it do that well, there's not a dent to be seen. 

Price: $30
Weight:  almost 1 pound (15.87 oz)


How about a real saw instead of a saw blade on the back of something awkward? The Corona Folding Saw ($18) has an ergonomic handle, a chrome-plated high-carbon steel blade, and folds away for ease of carry. Plus, it doesn't have other sharp bits sticking out at uncomfortable angles waiting to cut you when you use it. 

Price: $18
Weight: 0.54 pounds

I can't think of a reason why you'd need a hammer while out in the woods (pounding stakes? Get a rock!) but if you really want to carry one, why not get a tool that does other things along with hammering? The OX Tools 10" Molding Bar ($18) is also a chisel and a nail puller. 

Price: $18
Weight: 0.75 pounds

The Omniblade:
  • weighs 2.35 pounds
  • costs $60
  • is made of cheap materials
My suggestions:
  • weigh a combined 2.28 pounds
  • cost $66 total
  • are made of quality materials
In short, the real tools are lighter, more durable, more likely to work properly, less likely to injure you, and for a negligible difference in price. 

Please don't buy poor-quality tools, especially if you plan to use them for survival. 

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Glass Windows and Cold Weather

Where I live, the windows change with the seasons for a lot of people. There are some high-tech (very expensive) windows that do everything for you, but most of us still use screens in the spring and storm windows in the fall and winter.

Erin covered how to protect your windows from extreme weather a while back. I have nothing to add to that particular subject, so I'll work with other aspects of window work, specifically older styles.

Storm Windows
Older houses often have permanent brackets mounted on the outside to allow the residents to attach storm windows, which are basically a separate pane and frame assembly that covers the outside of the window in place of the screen and frame assembly used in fair weather. The extra layer of glass and, more importantly, the dead air trapped between the two layers of windows, adds insulation value while creating another barrier to wind and weather.

The glass is almost always single layer and frames are made of wood. Since glass is expensive and hard to ship in large sizes, most windows will be broken up into several small “lights” or pieces of glass. This makes replacing a broken pane easier and cheaper, but adds seams that require more effort to keep sealed. Unless you have a glazier in the family, learning how to replace a broken window pane can be a challenge.

Updated older houses usually have “combination” storm windows. These are generally an aluminum frame with a large, fixed upper pane of glass and a fixed screen on the bottom half, with a sliding glass pane that allows some control of the amount of air flow. Permanently attached, combination storm windows eliminate the seasonal chore of switching screens and storms. Normally single layers of glass, they perform the same insulating function as removable storm windows. Their quality and ease of repair varies drastically with the multitude of “installers” that sold these for many years.

Newer houses have multi-layered windows with built-in screens. Much more efficient at keeping heat on the proper side of the window, these are now standard. Frames are rarely made of wood any more, plastics require less maintenance and last longer than the original owner of a house, so they have replaced wood. Various gasses sealed between the layers of glass are touted as being better, but once the seal breaks you're going to have fun trying to wipe the condensation off of the inner surfaces.

Insulating Windows
A few of the tricks we use up north to keep the cold outside will also help if you're ever in a situation where your house has no heat and you're needing to conserve what you can. They all come down the the same basic idea as clothing: layers. Anything that will trap a layer of air provides insulation value; being able to see through it is a bonus.

Exterior Plastic Sheeting
This is clear or translucent plastic sheeting placed over the outside of a window and held in place with thin strips of wood called lath or strong tape, normally 4-6 mils (thousandths of an inch) thick. There are several types available, with plain plastic and shrinkable plastic being the main difference. Plain plastic needs to be anchored securely and stretched tight to keep it from flapping in the wind; any movement will put stress on the attachment points and can cause tears. Shrinkable plastics can be installed looser and then snugged up by applying gentle heat to make it contract.

If you're expecting severe storms or doing windows on the north side of a house you might want to look into one of the construction sheeting plastics like Visqueen reinforced sheeting. It has a netting of plastic cord embedded in the plastic, making it much more durable.

As tempting as it may be, don't wrap the exterior of your walls with plastic. Creating a complete vapor barrier like that increases your exposure to any toxins in the house (like from emergency heat sources) and will cause condensation and mold on your walls. Houses need to “breathe”, too.

Interior Plastic Sheeting
These can be found on Amazon or in most home improvement stores fairly cheap. They're all “shrinkable” plastics and much thinner (less than 1 mil) than what you'll see used for exterior work. The ones I use at work are crystal clear and do a great job of killing drafts coming through the antique windows in our office. Simply run a strip of double-sided tape around the window, stick the plastic onto the tape (start from the top to make it easier), and run a hair dryer over it to make it shrink to a tight fit. Get extra tape, because the rolls they include in the kits can be shorter than you'll need. I have to use the patio door sized kits for the 4' x 5' windows in our office -- we have more glass than walls.

Keeping a couple of window insulating kits or a roll of sturdy, clear plastic on a shelf could serve you well if you ever have to deal with a broken window for a few days until it gets replaced or need to seal off a room or two to heat in an emergency. It looks better and is a lot more useful than slapping a piece of plywood over the window.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Purple Panic Pack, part the 2nd

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

This post will be short on pictures and light on links, due to the way New! Improved! Blogger handles everything and I don't think it's legal to mail enough 80 proof Editor Medicine to have another post like last week's corrected and massaged for public view.

Purple Pack Update
As mentioned last week, I am making what I hope is my last ever GHB for a friend who doesn't have any experience planning how to build one. This is the pack I purchased, in purple since that is the favorite color of my friend. Both of our work schedules have been tight and out of sync, so very little has been done to fill the "Information Gap" as to why I want to add certain things to the pack. 

I want there to be understanding as to why I'm suggesting things, and also for there to be some time to actually look over, and possibly try out, what is being suggested. I want the "Why?" questions to change to "Aha!" statements. 

The only purchase I made for the Purple Pack this week was a 22 oz Iron Flask brand water bottle (also purple), since I know that it will fit into a standard cup holder. Iron Flash is a brand that I like and have used for over a year now

Recap and Takeaway
  • It doesn't matter how much you know unless they know how much you care. Great equipment without knowing why it's there or how to use it is useless.
  • 22oz Iron Flask: Purchased from Amazon for $21.95 with Prime.
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Just a reminder: if you plan on buying anything through Amazon, please consider using our referral link. When you do, a portion of the sale comes back here to help keep this site running!

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

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ear Protection

This week I'm taking an in-depth look at the types of ear protection available, the pros and cons of each, and what to look for when choosing your protection.

The three kinds of ear protection shown can be purchased below.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Secondhand Stress

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
We've all heard of secondhand smoke, which is where someone who isn't a smoker can suffer the ill effects of cigarettes by being around one or more people who do smoke. I put it to you that Secondhand Stress also exists, whereby you suffer the stress experienced by others.

Case in point: me. I am largely a hermit by choice, preferring to stay at home so I don't have to interact with irritating people. As such, the "lockdown" had little effect on me personally. I didn't even mind wearing a mask, as that both covered my "resting bitch face" and made people more inclined to avoid me. However, I have experienced growing levels of stress for quite some time, because even though the lockdown doesn't affect me, it affects the family members with whom I live. They are becoming increasingly short-tempered and irritable, and because I live with them that means the tension levels in the house increase, and therefore my stress levels go up.

In my case, not only am I more irritable than usual, having both a shorter temper and my anger burning hotter when I do snap, but all this stress is also taking its toll on me physically. I feel exhausted all the time, with no energy or desire to do anything except sleep, and yet when I do sleep for 8 hours or more, I never feel fully rested. I am also less creative and my ability to communicate complex concepts is diminished, both of which cause me frustration and only add to my stress levels. 

This feeling is somewhat similar to depression, but there are key differences. 
  • While I cannot speak for others, when my depression kicks in it happens very quickly, whereas in this case it has been slowly building for 6 months. 
  • My depression has never lasted this long. Again, other people are different, but mine is cyclical and would always break within a month. 
  • My depression has always been based on feeling of sadness, helplessness, and worthlessness, whereas what I am feeling now is based on frustration and impatience which threatens to explode into outrage at the slightest mishap or inconvenience. 
I don't have any good advice for how to fix this other than to emphasize the importance of everyone having a quiet place of their own where they can retreat to get away from irritation. Humans are territorial animals, and having a "den" where we can control the environment and not be bothered is critical. 

Learn from what is going on now because these lessons will be important later. If we ever have a grid-down disaster, or experience an emergency which requires long-term isolation, I expect to see these symptoms again. Even if you don't experience "cabin fever", unless you live alone the odds are good that someone in your family or tribe will, and the stress that they feel will soon be spread across your entire environment. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020


It's that time of year again when the weather is cooling off and the mice are moving back to where it's warmer, which means your house and other buildings will be seeing more furry traffic unless you've taken steps to keep them out. 

The main reason I worry about mice is because they can and will destroy my stored preps. Food and clothing are their main targets, but bedding and anything else they can use to make comfy nests are also in danger: books, cardboard, and anything else made of paper will be repurposed as nest lining. They also leave a urine trail where ever they go and I hate the smell of mouse pee.

At work our tractors and medium trucks just don't get used much between the time the crops are harvested and the next batch is planted, so we store them over the winter. Vehicles garaged this way can become infested, and the little buggers just love to chew on electrical wiring, which makes for a fun time when you go to start up next spring. One of their other tricks is to use empty spaces in your vehicle as a storage place for their food; it's a mess trying to clear heater ducts that are full of nuts, grain, dog food, or other dry foods they've found and moved for storage.

In short, mice are a constant problem so we've tested a few ways to keep them out of places. Rather than kill the little furry buggers and have to smell dead, rotting mouse for a week I prefer to keep them out of where I live and work. Mice have poor eyesight so they rely on their sense of smell to navigate, and that is where most methods aim. Pungent or strong odors will make them turn away and look for easier pickings.

Fresh Cab
An herbal/botanical repellent, this one works quite well in vehicle cabs and small spaces. Basically a mesh bag full of sawdust that has been infused with the oils from a Balsam tree, they are good for a month or two in the cab of a tractor or truck. Balsam is a pleasant fragrance, not overpowering or irritating. I've tried placing one in a sealed tote full of winter clothes, and after four months it was still pungent enough to be effective. A bit expensive, one of our local stores carries them in a four-pack box for about $15; Amazon has them for about $25.

Dryer Sheets
Cheap and easy to find, dryer sheets placed between layers of clothes in a storage tote will make the stored clothes smell better while keeping the critters away. Think of them as the modern version of the cachet of flowers used in the past to keep clothes smelling fresh. We have used dryer sheets in a skid loader for several years, and the slow release of fragrance from the sheets means they will last for a month or two.

Dryer sheets are not a good choice for use around stored food unless you want your crackers to taste like "Spring Blossoms" or whatever fragrance they are, as the odor will penetrate cardboard and plastic and get into your food. Metal cans are already mouse-proof, but will keep out the fragrances.

Dried pepper, cinnamon, and other strong-smelling seasonings will work, but they can get expensive. Best used around stored food, their lifespan will vary by the age and strength of the spices you're using. I've seen truckers sprinkle a pound of cinnamon in the box of a van trailer to absorb odors and repel mice, and it works for both.

A subset of seasonings is the mint family of herbs. Peppermint and spearmint oils are used in a couple of commercial repellents and are commonly seen in DIY videos. Placing a few drops of these oils on a cotton ball and placing the cotton ball where needed does deter mice, but the oils evaporate quickly and need to be replaced every few weeks. Avoid getting concentrated mint oil on your skin; it will cause burns and irritation.

You can still find mothballs in some stores, but they aren't as common as they once were. The original napthalene formula is outlawed in the EU because they have declared it a cancer risk, and the newer para-dichlorobenzene formula is an EPA-registered pesticide with evidence of causing cancer as well. The pungent petroleum-based chemical odor kills moths and repels rodents, but both types are flammable and have a distinct odor that some people find offensive. In my opinion, the best use for mothballs is in closets or other open spaces with plenty of clothes to protect.

I've started using a couple of these methods at home in my storage areas, and it has made a difference. Having a few cats around will help, but mine are too well-fed to be interested in hunting mice. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Get Home Bag, 2020 Style

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

What can I say about a GHB? Plenty as it turns out, thank you very much! While the basics are there (a bag!), this year offers up some different problems that anyone tailoring a new bag, or even redoing an existing bag, should consider.

The Bag
This bag is a Mardingtop 25L Tactical Backpack Molle Hiking daypack. Yes, it's a big variation from my style of bag and the previous versions I've built, not just the color but the style as well. This was purchased for someone with a very slight build who is a fan of the color purple.
From the Amazon Ad:

  • Zipper closure
  • MATERIAL- 28 Liters. This military backpack is made of 600D polyester. YKK Zipper.
  • HYDRATION COMPARTMENT- This assault pack with hydration compartment and can hold a 2.5 Liter bladder, the tube is fed through the top of the bag near grab handle.
  • MOLLE WEBBING- This rucksack can hang on small items, or for attaching additional pouches or gear. Backpack also has 2 webbing strap with buckle underneath to hold a bedroll, tent, sleeping bag or anything else.
  • WAIST BELT DESIGN- The waist belt of this bug out bag is stitched in, but you can slide them into the middle space behind the back padding support. It's a pretty snuggle fit and won't slide back out on its own.
  • DURABLE & MULTIFUNCTIONAL- This molle backpack with chest straps to cope with the weight so that it's well used as a 3 day assault pack, bug out bag, survival backpack, army backpack, trekking backpack or day pack. Suits for Hiking, Camping, Trekking, Traveling, School or daily use.
The size and features of this bag check all the needed boxes for its intended user.

What's Going In
Taking into account the current pandemic and the bag's future user is in patient care, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is first.

Tzumi Wipe Out Pack 
 From the Home Depot ad:
  • Face mask and latex gloves filter airborne and surface germs
  • Ideal for use in large gatherings, offices and while traveling
  • Includes hand sanitizer and wipes that kill 99.9% of bacteria

Very simple and very basic; just as intended. There may be a need to share this material, and having everything sealed up and ready to use is important. Color and packaging in your Home Depot may/will vary from what is shown above.

These masks differ from the first package in that this version is washable. I am wearing this particular brand after Corporate ruled out gaiters. From the Home Depot ad:
The Community Wear Face Mask offers protection both indoors and out. It is made of very comfortable and durable materials. The masks can be used by both men and women of all ages.
  • Provides protection from airborne particles
  • Washable fabric material
  • Intended for indoor or outdoor daily use
  • Suitable for adults and children
  • Ideal when traveling through busy markets and places of recreation
I've no complaints, other than I'd like a stouter nose bridge stiffener/bendy thing.

Tommie Copper Kids Face Mask 
Still going with the idea that having material to share is Good Planning, this is the last item for the week. This will possibly be a disappointment to many of you, but West Coast stores seem to have these in stock, but a UPC search fails. I see them merchandised in quarter pallet free-standing displays.

I haven't opened the package to check sizing, but the labeling says "For children aged 5-9" so I'm going to guess very small. Everything else lines up with the information shown on the adult mask package, so there should be no problems.

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Passing It On

A friend of mine recently was telling me about going camping with his girlfriend and her children. They mentioned that since he knew "all about compasses and stuff," maybe he could teach them a bit about navigation. He couldn't pass up such an opportunity, and gleefully passed along knowledge to another generation. Three inexpensive compasses, a map, and some satellite photos later, three youths are better suited to face life.

In the past six and a half years, we've spent a whole lot of time and bits imparting useful skills and knowledge to all of you, our dear readers/watchers/followers. I know the staff enjoys it, and we intend to continue that mission for as long as we are able. It's what Dad did, it's what America does, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

How about all of you, though? Now that you have some knowledge of your own, what are you doing with it? Have you discovered anything you had in your skillset that didn't seem applicable, but maybe now it is? Have you started sharing your knowledge with others?

There are a huge number of ways to spread the knowledge you have. My byline picture spoils my favorite way to pass on what I know; I volunteer as a BSA merit badge instructor, and just got asked to lead a group of young boys again. While Scouting provides a great opportunity to volunteer and teach, it is far from the only option. Girl Scouts, your local YMCA/YWCA, or community center all have teaching opportunities.

If you think you have nothing to teach, remember that you're probably a functional adult. This means you have to have some useful skills that a younger person or someone with a different background may not have. At the very least, you may have a different approach to a problem, which can definitely help others.

If teaching in person isn't for you, especially in this time of social distancing and restricted gatherings, you can share your knowledge here. We're always interested in guest posts expanding our point of view. Write out what you'd like to share, and get in touch with Erin or any of the staff. The beauty of a community like ours is that we all learn from each other, and we love when you're part of that.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Renogy 5W Solar Panel Charger Review

This week I’m reviewing the Renogy 5W Solar Panel Charger. I like it, but there are some things to know. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Many Uses of the Humble Aluminum Bottle

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Much has been said about Nalgene bottles, and rightly so: they are lightweight, nearly industructible, come in many different styles and colors and have tons of options for how to carry or use them. In fact, I have several in my preps. However, there's also something to be said for aluminum bottles, and I have found that they are better at multipurpose uses than the Nalgene.

To be clear, I am talking about the single-walled aluminum water bottles you can get at Walmart or Target for $10.

This is mine. I bought it over 10 years ago at a local Walmart for about $7.99 if I recall correctly. The loop on the lid makes it extra-useful, in my opinion. 

Water Purification
Sure, you can carry water in just about any bottle, but I certainly wouldn't want to boil water in a Nalgene. Given aluminum's high thermal conductivity, it heats up quickly and cools down just as fast, which is great for when you need to boil water for drinking. 

If you have the space, I would recommend having both a Nalgene and an aluminum bottle for your Get Home Bag. (For a Bug Out Bag I would rather have dedicated cooking equipment, such as a pot which can heated over the fire) 
  1. Boil the water in the aluminum bottle.
  2. When you can touch the bottle, pour the water into your Nalgene.
  3. Repeat until Nalgene is full. 
  4. Boil another aluminum bottle's worth of water and seal it when it has cooled.
  5. Refill your Nalgene from the aluminum when you are running low. When the aluminum is low, start looking for another water source. 

If you fill the bottle with water, rocks, or sand, you'll note that it's a lot heavier. That makes it a good tool for all sorts of applications: a rolling pin, an improvised club, perhaps even a counterweight of some kind. 

Even empty, it has uses: you can turn it into a jug line for fishing, or use it as an improvised monkey fist for throwing a line. 

All right, I'll admit that you can do all these with a Nalgene as well. But if you're using your Nalgene to drink from, you wouldn't want to risk damaging it using it for other tasks, and so having a second bottle you're more willing to risk could be handy. 

This is one you likely can't do, or at least can't do as well, with a Nalgene: make an alarm with it. In lieu of empty aluminum cans, put some rocks in an aluminum bottle and tie it to a tripwire as shown in this video.     


Hot Water Bottle
It's been a cold day and it looks like it's going to be an even colder night. You aren't looking forward to taking off your clothes, slipping into a cold sleeping bag, and shivering until your body heat warms your bag until it's comfortable, so you pour some hot (not boiling!) water into your aluminum bottle and put it into your bag to warm it up. If you suffer from cold feet, kick the bottle to end of your bag to help warm your toes. 

Alternately, use it like a traditional hot water bottle and apply it to a sore, aching body part for relief. You can also use cold water to roughly approximate an ice pack, but the high thermal conductivity will mean that it will lose its coldness quickly in most temperatures. 

Emergency Urinal
This is primarily of use to men, although adventurous women with funnels can also make use of this. If you need to relieve your bladder but cannot find a bathroom (such as struck in rush-hour traffic) or simply don't want to leave your warm sleeping bag, an aluminum bottle makes a great emergency urine receptacle. Plus, if you've been using your Nalgene bottle to drink from, you aren't likely to make a disgusting mistake in the morning!

What other uses for an empty aluminum water bottle can you think of?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Clotting Agents

 A reader asked my opinion on one of the clotting agents on the market and I had to answer that I had no experience with them but would look into it. We do take requests here, so if you have a topic that you'd like us to cover feel free to drop us a note in the comments or on our MeWe* page and we'll see if anyone can cover it. I'm going to limit myself to the topical of external agents since I don't have access to a full pharmacy and the thickeners that are used for internal bleeding. 

Clotting agents are anything that will help blood clot and stop bleeding. The military took a serious look at them and fielded QuikClot as part of combat first aid kits, but that was well after my time in service. Anything that can help stop bleeding increases the chances of surviving large wounds and makes smaller ones easier to treat. Remember that this is first aid, not treatment of a wound, and so once you've got the bleeding stopped you still have to get the patient to medical professionals who will repair the damage.

Blood clots when platelets (a type of blood cell) and proteins in blood bind together and form a gelatinous blob that inhibits blood flow. That gelatinous blob will eventually dry out and form what we see as a scab, sealing wounds and protecting them against infection. Clotting agents aid the platelets and proteins by providing a sterile and inert framework for them to bind to, which creates a blockage faster and over a larger area. Sterile and inert are key features since you don't want to do anything to a wound that will cause more problems in the future. There may be times where you don't have any other options, but your first choice should always be to do no further harm.

There are a few common types of clotting agents for sale right now: Chitosan, Kaolin, and Zeolite.

Derived from the chitin (shells) of shellfish like crabs and shrimp, chitosan is a polysaccharide somewhere between a complex sugar and a starch. Because it is a natural material derived from crustaceans it is biocompatible with very low chances of rejection or adverse reaction in humans, and biodegradable which means that your body will eventually break it down. People with shellfish allergies are commonly allergic to the meat of shellfish, but according to the FDA the chitin won't trigger that allergy.
  • Chitin by itself has been tested as a clotting agent and works well, but is coarser and more abrasive than chitosan.
  • Chitosan is chemically treated chitin, usually soaked in a strong base like sodium hydroxide, which makes the chitin easier to handle and has some reported wound healing effects along with the clotting. 
  • Several types of chitosan bandage have been approved by the FDA. Some even have added chemicals for improved antibacterial action.
  • Their packaging indicates a shelf-life of 2 to 3 years. 
  • Celox uses chitosan as its active ingredient.

A fine white clay named after the Kao-ling mountains in China where it has been mined for centuries, kaolin binds with the platelets and fibers in a clot and speeds up the clotting action. Hydrated aluminum silicate, the main ingredient in kaolin, also triggers one of the chemical reactions in the formation of clots, further speeding up the process. One study I found showed that 200 patients with the same surgical wound averaged ~5 minutes to stop the bleeding with a kaolin-infused bandage versus ~25 minutes for a plain bandage.
  • Kaolin is also the main ingredient in several anti-diarrhea medications (like Kaopectate) because of its ability to bind to toxins and chemicals. If it's safe enough for internal use, it will be safe for topical use. Some brands add silver as an antibacterial agent; you'll have to check the packaging for that. 
  • Shelf-life is 1 to 3 years from purchase, but since it is a mineral and not biological I would feel safe extending that quite a bit.
  • QuikClot products use kaolin now, but they switched from zeolites a few years back. 

Zeolites are a family of minerals commonly found in water filters and simple cat litter. They have a very porous surface and trap or bind chemicals and biologicals as they are exposed to them. They can also release sodium and potassium ions, thereby facilitating certain chemical reactions.
  • The first generation of zeolite coagulants were in the form of fine sand that was poured into a wound. This didn't work very well because it was difficult to remove from the wound during further treatment, and it also generated enough heat through chemical reactions with blood to cause low-level burn damage. Remember when I said "Do no further harm"? Avoid these if you can.
  • The newer zeolite kits use a mesh bag containing zeolite beads and a few other clotting aids. The mesh bag is placed over the wound and pressure is applied. The new formulation avoids the heat damage ,and the bag is a lot easier to remove once the patient is in a hospital.
  • Shelf-life is advertised in the same 2 to 3 year range but, like kaolin, it's a ground up rock and it should last a lot longer than that.

Prices vary by source and quantity bought, just like everything else. None of these are cheap ($20 for two compress bandages is common), so you'll have to decide if your personal circumstances merit the purchase.

* Facebook decided that our blog is spam and has blocked us from linking to it, so we've moved our social media presence over to MeWe. In true prepper fashion, we have redundant systems in place, and with the loss of FB we'll probably look at some of the other media sites to retain that level of redundancy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Product Review: Maglite ML25LT

I've loved Maglites for decades, and recently stumbled across the Maglite L25LT. Here are my thoughts.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Prudent Prepping: A Little This, a Little That...

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

...and before long you have a whole bunch of stuff!

This a teaser to my newest Work In Progress, a Get Home Bag. Yes, I'm doing what I believe is my 4th bag since I started writing for BCP (not counting re-doing my personal bag twice a year), and I hope this will be the last new bag I make.

Hatori Super Small Mini LED Flashlight
Last week I mentioned buying two more of my favorite mini flashlight, the Hatori Mini LED. This is the new, improved 3 Mode version of the mini light I've used for years and have mentioned many different times.

From the Amazon ad:*
  • 3 Brightness Levels: Three beam settings (High, Low, SOS) runs only ONE AAA alkaline battery (not included). 3 Brightness Levels make it ideal for use around the house, dog walking, or camping.
  • Pocket size outdoor flashlight: It is small and light enough to slip into a pocket and is forgotten until you need it. It is easy to fit in the palm of hand and only weights about 30g(only one).
  • 150 Lumens Powerful LED: High lumen small flashlight set in a dark or lit room will last quite two hours with moderate use(keep on) just one alkaline battery powered, which is sufficient to light you way and light small dark spaces.
  • Advanced Design: Skid-Proof design and Water-Proof design. Our flashlight set is made of high quality 6061T aluminum alloy with no worries in rainy day or snow days.
  • Safe and Warranty Guarranteed: High-efficiency and great output LED chip, over-charging protection, short circuit protection. All of Hatori Flashlights has 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE, NO HASSLE and 90-DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE.
  • 3.54 inches long
  • One AAA battery (not included) per flashlight.
*Grammar and spelling errors are from the original ad. Any similarity to my actual writing style is strictly accidental.
The three modes can be accessed by lightly depressing the button on the base or by actually clicking through. I would have to say the levels are HIGH, MEDIUM and STROBE, with the difference between High and Medium being enough you could possibly use Medium to check pupil reaction. When Strobe is on, it certainly qualifies as strobe, even if the pulses are not quite as fast as some smaller flashlights. Just to be clear, though, looking at the light reflecting off a white wall was enough to get me feeling a headache starting, so I'm not sure what someone with light sensitivities might make of all the flashes.

I will be placing one of the 3 Mode lights into the Bat Belt bag with the other going in the SFD Responder ankle rig mentioned here and other places. The original single mode light I'm not sure what to do with, except to add it to one of the individual first aid kits I have.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Two LED AAA flashlights with 3 light modes for $2 more that the single mode light? This was hard for me to pass up. 
  • Two Hatori Mini LED lights were bought for $10.19 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.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Old Medical Kits and Their Uses

The safety people came through work the other day and dug around for things to complain about. (I figure that's their job, so I just listen and don't offer any information; that's the best way to stay out of trouble.) One of the things they glommed onto was our first aid kits.

I work in a very small office attached to a medium-sized grain elevator, so our first aid kit is a wall-mounted box that is supposed to be kept stocked by a contractor. The contract got messed up and hasn't been renewed for a while, so the kit had several expired contents. We also have small kits for each vehicle and the safety nerds found a few old “car kits” and a chemical burn kit on a back shelf.

Here are a few pictures (all photographs by me) of the older kits and their contents:

As you can see, the smaller kit is very basic and has some damage to one package. That was the “Foille Ointment”, an old-style burn cream; I can only guess that the heat and age finally broke down the inner wrapping and the “vegetable oil ointment” seeped out. It's still beingmade and sold as an ointment for minor scrapes and burns.

Nothing in the small kit has an expiration date, which is not surprising since it was sold sometime in the 1960's at the latest (there's no zip code in the address). The building was built in the late 1950's, so this kit was probably close to original equipment.

The larger kit is more recent, with expiration dates around 8 years ago. If you look at the contents, you'll see that it has quite a bit more variety than the small kit.

The small boxes in the upper left corner are single-use eye wash bottles, with a variety of gauze pads and iodine wipes on the bottom of the right side under the bag of vinyl gloves.

The burn gel is a water-based gel containing alcohol, triclosan (the same thing found in most anti-bacterial soaps), tea tree oil, and a mild analgesic (pain killer). Used to protect a burn from getting infected it should still work, but the other ingredients have unknown shelf-lives.

While old, most of the contents of both kits are still usable:
  • The gauze and bandages that will contact a wound are still sealed and dry, so their sterility is intact.
  • The triangular bandages and gauze wrap are not and don't need to be sterile, and as long as they are still strong enough to do their job they are worth keeping.
  • The bandage scissors and tweezers from the larger kit will still work.
  • The vinyl gloves are degraded from age. Vinyl does age better than latex, but it will slowly fall apart.
  • The instant cold pack is a simple chemical reaction between water and ammonium nitrate. Neither is going to break down in storage, so it will still work.
  • Iodine is a simple chemical and the disinfectant wipes will be good for a long time. The same goes for alcohol wipes, as they don't break down or allow microbial growth.
  • The ammonia inhalants are going to still be potent, but their use has been minimized over the last few decades. If someone is unconscious, it's best to leave them that way until they can get to professional medical help.

Some of the things that will not be usable:
  • Adhesives don't age well, so the tape is going to be suspect. You may have to strip off the outer layers to get down to something that is still sticky. I checked the roll from the larger kit, and it wouldn't even stick to itself.
  • Adhesive bandages also don't age well. They lose their ability to stick and the cheap ones that are simple plastic will degrade. Cloth or plastic-infused cloth bandages last a bit longer and can still be used for covering wounds with a gauze wrap to hold them in place.
  • The eye wash bottles are doubtful. Water is hard to get perfectly clean, so there's always a chance that something is growing in the bottles.
  • The containers are falling apart, even though they've just been sitting on a shelf for years. The plastic used for the small kit is actually crumbling and leaving dust behind. The larger kit had both latches snap off and the hinge is going to go soon.
  • The Merthiolate antiseptic swabs are old-school and will still work, but the use of mercury-containing antiseptic compounds is out of fashion and may be unsafe. (That and it burns like a red-hot iron on even a minor scrape. I'm old enough to remember blowing on the red wound paint as a child, it hurt worse than the cuts.)
  • There were no medications in any of the little kits, but you'll have to research each one you find for an actual usable life. The printed shelf life is often very conservative and sometimes meaningless: antacids are usually chalk and have the shelf-life of coal and antiseptics are fairly simple and have long lives, but any cold medicines or more complex chemicals tend to break down faster. 
  • I won't even get started on the chemical burn kit. It's almost scary what they once used to use for treatment. I saved the metal box and trashed the contents.

I also salvaged some “expired” supplies from the larger (wall-mounted) first aid kit before having it restocked, but they all fall under the same categories as the stuff above. For stocking a backup kit or just having for a true emergency, they'll be better than nothing. The gauze and miscellaneous supplies will be used for training my grandkids on proper wound treatment -- training is always a good use for slightly expired goods.

BCP Unwelcome on Facebook

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Yesterday, Facebook decided that this blog "violates community standards" and removed all links to it from both personal pages and our dedicated FB group.

I appealed this decision and was informed -- well, when I say "informed" I mean "I checked the support center because certainly no one from Facebook contacted me about this" -- that the matter was closed. Furthermore, I discovered that for reasons which Facebook has not disclosed, we have somehow been labeled as a spam site.

Our readers know this, but I should like to point out for the sake of completeness that Blue Collar Prepping does not sell anything. Therefore, even if we did engage in spam tactics -- which we do not -- they would be completely useless to us in any event.

Furthermore, whenever anyone tries to post a new link, they receive the following message:

I have appealed this decision with Facebook via an email to a support liaison, which should result in this matter being reviewed by a team rather than an algorithm. While I hope that this resolves the issue quickly, we have taken actions to move ourselves, and not incidentally our followers and their profitable-to-social-media-for-advertising-purposes attention and clicks, over to MeWe. Please go to to join our new MeWe BCP group!

The Fine Print

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