Saturday, November 28, 2020

Bug Out Batteries

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
I had hoped to write my annual "Cool Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals!" post this weekend, but either I'm out of the loop these days or manufacturers just aren't having any specials on interesting products any more. Sure, you can find some great price cuts out there, but I just can't find anything which is so exciting that I have to share it with you. I know that this isn't the first time I've said this, but I think it will be the last; consider it yet another institution that 2020 has killed. 

That said, I'm going to continue with Part 2 of my "Alkaline or Rechargeable?" series, this time focusing on how I plan to recharge my electronics in the field. 

While you can always bring along Goal Zero solar panels such as the Nomad 7, I find them to be just a little too large and a little too fragile for me to be comfortable with putting them inside a backpack that may see rough treatment. I'm still getting a lot of use out of my (now sadly discontinued) Brunton Explorer, which folds up into a handy 9.5" x 5" x 1.25" package -- about the same length and height as most road maps. 

The Explorer has two drawbacks, which to me are quite minor:
  1. It doesn't charge Apple products very well.
  2. It only has a single USB output. 
I've solved the problems of both by pairing it with a Panergy Solar Charger & Battery Bank. Now, I will be the first to say that the Panergy takes a long time to charge; even the manufacturer states that it will take between 6 to 8 hours to charge it to 5-10%... but I didn't buy it for its solar panels. No, I bought it for its 10,000 mAh battery pack and its dual USB outputs.

In case it isn't obvious, I charge the battery bank with the much larger Brunton solar panels, and then I use the battery to charge my electronics. What's more, while I am not certain that the bank can be recharged by both solar and USB input, I note that the solar indicator lights up in sunlight even when attached to house current via the input plug. I haven't tested this, mainly because the bank holds onto power for a long time (I bought it in March, and it arrived with what seemed a full charge, and 6 months later it still indicated a nearly full charge), and I just haven't been reminded to drain the battery, time how long it takes to charge with the Brunton, then drain it and time how long it takes to charge with the Brunton and its own solar panels. Hopefully I can remember to test it on a bright, clear day and if I can I'll post the results here. 

However, solar isn't my only method of recharging! I also have in both my Bug Out Bag and my Get Home Bag an Eton FRX2, a great piece of kit which I recommend to everyone. Not only is it a hand cranked generator for those days when you can't recharge via solar power, it's also a flashlight and an AM/FM/NOAA Weatherband radio. Everyone needs something like this in all their preps, and I cannot say enough good things about this brand. It's currently a steal at $22 on Amazon. 

Finally, let's talk batteries themselves. I've given you ways to recharge internal batteries, but what about external ones? 

For AA and AAA batteries, I recommend the Guide 10 Plus recharger from Goal Zero. Not only is it a recharger in itself, but it can also serve as a battery bank for anything which recharges with a USB cord.

However, there are some things you need to know about this charger:
  1. The input is Mini USB, not Micro. This is critically important!
  2. You must have 4 batteries in the Guide 10 before it will charge. They don't all have to have the same charge, but you need 4 or it won't work. 
  3. You cannot mix AA and AAA batteries. The AAAs have an interior adapter sleeve that cannot accommodate AA batteries. 
  4. While you cannot recharge alkaline batteries with this (nor should you try), you can still put them in the Guide 10 to serve as a battery bank. Yes, this means you can use AA batteries to charge your cell phone if necessary. 
If you looking to recharge a Lithium-Ion battery in the field, then I suggest the Nitecore UM20 charger. Unlike the Guide 10, the UM20 can charge just 1 battery, or two batteries of different size, and its input is Mini USB. Like the Guide 10, however, it can also be used as a battery bank, which increases its usefulness. 

Finally, there are AAA to AA converters. These are plastic sheaths into which you stick a AAA battery so that it will fit inside a case designed for the larger AA. I keep about 4 in my BOB, just in case I need them, and they're so lightweight that I don't even notice them. I'm told they're also great for reducing the weight of an electronic device, although I imagine you'd have the change the batteries more frequently. 

Those are all my tips and tricks for recharging batteries in the field. Do you know of a technique that I missed? If so, please tell us about it in the comments below. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

Since I usually write on Thursdays, I get every Thanksgiving. It looks like I'll get Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve this year as well.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, a celebration of harvest and a day for giving thanks to whoever or whatever you credit with the blessings you've accumulated over the year. It doesn't matter if it's a deity or three, or just the person who puts food on your table. Maybe it's yourself for getting out of bed every morning and making sure you're taking care of yourself. Be thankful and give thanks to the sources of good in your life.

This year has been a mess on a lot of levels, but we should all be able to find something to be thankful for. Family, friends, food, shelter, or just surviving another year, it doesn't matter what you're thankful for as long as you can recognize that you do have blessings in your life. If you can't think of anything to be thankful for, drop me a note and I'll see if we can't find at least one blessing in your life.

Look around and see how many things went right this year instead of focusing on all of the things that went wrong. A now-departed friend used to always say that "No matter how bad your life is, someone out there has it worse," and we'd look for those poor souls. Working in 100°F heat in an open field with no shade? Yeah, at least I'm not cleaning porta-potties at a construction site in the same heat. Driving across three states for 16 hours to get to a job with no radio or air conditioning? At least I'm not stuck behind a desk in a windowless cubicle farm. Boss is a jerk and an idiot? At least I have a job that pays some of the bills while I'm looking for a better one.

Life is what you make of it. Learn from the bad parts and cherish the good parts; it'll help you be mentally prepared for the next bad part that comes along.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I'll see you next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Far Away... or Is It?

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

I recently added very good optics to my gear, and so the topic of "How do I figure out long to very long distances in the field without a rangefinder?" came up, and by long distance I mean "How far is that hill, and how long will it take to hike there?"

Luckily for me, one of my roommates is a math tutor and was able to answer the question in terms that I, the World's Worst Math Student (tm), am able to understand.  

Working It Out

My friend started out by telling me how easy it is, using words like Cosines and Tangents. After doing my deer in the headlights impression, we got out a piece of paper and made these really easy to understand pictures. 

This is what was drawn for me:

 I can do this!

First things first: I was told that the more accurately the angles can be measured, the better the distance calculation will be. 

  1. In the drawing, aligning the start point with the target and then laying out a 90 degree angle for the base is important. 
  2. Measure as accurately as possible along that 90° angle to establish the base, shown as X.
  3. Here is where being able to get good angle measurements is important, since this will give you the vital number that plugs into your distance equation.

So the answer to the question of "If I know the distance to point X, how can I find the distance to point Y?" is to take the tangent of the angle between X and Y -- this is known as an azimuth -- and multiply it by the known distance. In other words, Distance to Y = Distance to X times the Tangent of the Azimuth. 

My next question was "How do I figure this equation?" and I was told use my phone's calculator app to get the tangent. Looking at my phone and not finding any key marked 'Tangent', I was told to hold my Android phone sideways. 

Yeah, I didn't know there were other functions. 

So, after looking at the diagram and doing some simple calculations with my phone*, I think I will be able to estimate long distances easily. I will need to learn how to use a lensatic compass to find an azimuth, but that is a cheap and worthwhile addition to my gear. Guess what I'm doing next week?

*This can be done without cell service or a phone, if you have a small solar-powered calculator with the proper function keys.

Recap And Takeaway

  • Having a disorganized mind and plenty of smart friends helps me solve lots of problems!
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but there are several items to be reviewed as soon as supporting parts arrive.
* * *

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, November 20, 2020

Alkaline or Rechargeable?

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Earlier this week I received a message from a friend who asked: 
Hi there. Have you lately talked or blogged about whether to get a rechargeable flashlight? Anker has some cool ones and I like the idea of being able to recharge it. But, it also seems being able to use AA or AAA batteries is a huge convenience and doesn’t depend on having to find a plug or use a portable battery pack.

This is a very common dilemma among preppers. While there is no denying the efficiency and savings of rechargeable, there's also a huge convenience in the ability to quickly swap out exhausted batteries for fresh ones. What's a prepper to do?

My answer is to take the best of both worlds by purchasing rechargeable AA and AAA batteries to put inside your electronics, along with a recharger unit and a solar panel. This allows you to take advantage of the ready availability of alkaline batteries while also having a semi-renewable* source of power.

 Here are the preps I currently have.

At nearly $30 the Eastshine Universal Smart Battery Charger isn't cheap, but it beats the pants off of any other charger I've ever owned by a large margin with these features:

  1. It recharges more battery sizes than AA and AAA. 
  2. It recharges Li-Ion batteries as well as the more common Ni-MH and Ni-Cd.
  3. It doesn't require a pair of batteries to recharge like most others do, meaning you can mix them up as needed.
  4. It actually tells you how long it takes until charging is completed. 
  5. It comes with a 12V-24V power port adapter so that you can recharge it with your car if necessary. 

That power adapter is a critical portion of my preps. 

This is an older model (circa 2010) Goal Zero Nomad 7 solar panel. Newer versions have since done away with it, but this version has a 12V output and an adapter to accept car port chargers. This gives me the ability to recharge my batteries through the Eastshine via sunlight. 

You can still get older versions of the Nomad 7 with 12V output, but they are increasingly difficult to find as newer models are now "unisex", meaning USB output only. I don't know why this is so, but it is. 

Of course, in order to recharge batteries you need batteries to recharge, and I recommend AmazonBasics AA High-Capacity Ni-MH Rechargeable Batteries. The AA hold 2400 mAh of power, and the AAA hold 850 mAh. A four-pack of the AA costs $14.50, with an 8 pack costing $19; a four-pack of AAA costs $10.50 and an 8 pack is $17, so clearly buying in bulk whenever possible is the better deal.

This article is getting a bit long, so I'm going to stop here and make my Bug Out Bag charging solutions the topic of my next post. 

* Power cells eventually degrade to the point of uselessness. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Alternate Social Media

 As most of our regular readers know, Facebook deleted all links to our little blog a short while ago with no warning or explanation. We're not alone in that regard; there seems to be an ongoing purge of "wrongthink" on many of the major social media right now. Twitter, Facebook, and Google's YouTube are either flagging, editing, hiding, deleting, or banning any content that they deem "wrong". This is one of the pitfalls of "free" social media: you're using their services, and they get to decide how you can use them. "Free" social media make their money (a lot of money) by selling ads and several of them have been selling users' personal data to ad agencies for a long time. Again, it's "free" to use and that EULA (End-User Licensing Agreement) that nobody reads before clicking "OK" gives them the legal power to do this to a certain degree. Lawsuits and investigations are attempting to define how and what the limits are, but for those of us who prefer to live a more private life there is an easy way to avoid being treated as the product instead of the customer.

Don't give them the information in the first place.

There are alternatives on the market for the "big 3" social media. After Facebook (FB) declared us heretics, we moved our little group (200 members and growing) over to MeWe. It's not as busy as FB and we can still keep in touch by sharing information and articles. Functionally, it has the same offerings as FB without the "fact checkers" deciding who gets to speak and who gets blocked. MeWe is growing, so I expect it will soon be easier to find friends and family there. 

Let's look at some of the other options out there.

Google Search

The largest search engine on the web, Google started out as a neutral entity with the famous motto of "Don't be evil". They have morphed into a gatekeeper of information that decides who and what gets to be found when people are looking for information, and they have a very strong political ideology. Here are some alternatives:

  • Startpage. No tracking cookies and the option for private browsing. 
  • Duck duck go. No tracking of your history or location, one of the best for privacy while searching. 
  • Bing. Owned and run by Microsoft, so it has some corporate strings attached, but MS has had its hand slapped in court a few times and they're learning to play nice. 


Prior to FB we had MySpace and LiveJournal to connect with friends and share our thoughts and creative productions. They're both still active, but don't have the following that they used to. There have been many "FB killers" launched in the last few years, but none have gotten even a small fraction of the users FB has until recently. Here are a few options, with many more out there or in the works.

  • MeWe. As I've stated, MeWe isn't as active as FB, but it's growing. They don't sell your data or track you across the internet like FB and their commitment to freedom of speech is very strong. Free speech means that you may run across opinions or pictures that you don't like, but that is a small price to pay for your own freedom to speak out. Rather than getting offended, ignore and block the fools and go on with your life. Joining requires an invitation, click on the Fallout Shelter sign to the right for a link.
  • Gab. Laid out in a simpler version of FB, Gab offers most of the same features without the nannies keeping track of what you post. 
  • Diaspora. A decentralized form of social media, Diaspora uses "pods" instead of large servers to host its users. You choose which "pods" or communities you want to participate in. 
  • Discord. Another that requires an invitation to join, Discord was set up for gamers as a way to chat in test or voice while playing various games. Very light moderation of "boards", they allow a lot that would get you booted from FB. There is limited ability to share pictures and videos, mostly text chat and audio channels. There is a BCP Discord, you can find it by using the search box in the upper left corner.


I've never been a huge fan of 140 character messages, but I know some of you are. Twitter has gone off the deep end in the last year or two, banning anyone with views contrary to theirs. Many of the folks who have been kicked off Twitter or effectively silenced by being excluded from search results have found other outlets for their pithy pronouncements.

  • Parler. Quickly becoming the new place for people who are tired of Twitter, Parler is a viable alternative.
  • Mastodon.  Decentralized and ad-free, Mastodon is laid out like Diaspora in a "pod" or community format. User-owned, so there is no corporate desire to farm your information for more revenue.

YouTube (owned by Google), Reddit, and several other social platforms are all in the same boat as FB and Twitter. The encroaching censorship and banning of any "wrong" expression of users is forcing people to find other ways to communicate. 

Use common sense when you use any online method of communication. Unless you have some serious encryption, everything you say can be intercepted and recorded. Corporations use this information to target advertising and build a profile of you and your activities, governments use it to track and monitor your activities with law enforcement being their main goal.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Ice Storm Aftermath

As you probably heard, a large part of Oklahoma (and a couple of other states) had an ice storm two weeks ago, which led to all kinds of fun with limbs/trees breaking and power lines down. Here are some things that stood out for me:

Unless you have some kind of heater that doesn’t need a blower, no power means no heat. Several years ago I bought an indoor-safe kerosene heater; after assembling, fueling, testing, then draining and prepping it it’s been in storage ever since. If it’s seriously cold outside it won’t make the whole house toasty, but it will take the edge off, and if you can close off other rooms it’ll keep two to three (depending on size) of them a lot more comfortable. Mine is similar to this model

Two notes on the heater: 
  1. Use only K1 kerosene; it burns cleaner and has less smell to it.
  2. There is a fuel stabilizer available for kerosene that both prevents it from picking up moisture in storage, and kills even more of the scent. It worked pretty well here.

Being a fan of flashlights I’ve got several, and I have a nice LED battery-powered lamp (I now have two). I also have two of these Aladdin kerosene lamps. They put out a lot of light and some heat, which is always a good thing in cold weather. They’ll light up a room pretty well, and if you have something shiny to put behind them as a reflector*, you can direct the light better.

You have to watch these, as if you try to turn them up too high too soon you can wind up with the flame touching the mantle** inside and it’ll start smoking and smelling. And you really should fuel them outside. Same notes for lamp fuel as for the heater.

Whether oil lamp or candles, you need either matches or lighters. I have at least half a dozen butane lighters, but I could only find two of the damn things. I need to buy another pack of them, and paint them orange or something. Also, the new ‘green’ version of ‘strike anywhere’ matches suck compared to the old ones.

On battery lights: have spare batteries. Buy good ones, as they have a longer shelf life, and my personal desire is to have more than I think I might need.
* I’ve got a roll of 10” wide, 10 feet long aluminum roof flashing. It’s good for lots of things, and it makes great reflectors. 

 ** The mantle is a chemically-treated gauze cone that sits above the circular wick inside the chimney. It's a good idea to have a spare one, just in case. 

Cooking and Fuel
If you have an electric stove, a propane camping range is really nice to have when the power goes out. I wouldn’t want to try to cook a fancy meal on one (partly because I’m lazy), but it’s handy for heating water, soup and such. Also, make sure you have stuff that’s easy to heat for it: soup, stew (canned or dried), hot chocolate, tea, coffee, things like that.

Make sure you have kerosene and propane before you need it! This was an unseasonable storm, and while I had enough of both fuels to get through, it would’ve been better if the kerosene can had been full and a couple more propane cylinders would’ve been nice.

If you go the kerosene route, check farm & garden stores as you can often get K1 there for a lot less than buying it by the gallon at a store, or buying lamp oil (which is just a somewhat more-purified kerosene). Have a fuel can that’s NOT red, so it’s obvious which one contains what.

Other Thoughts
When you go outside, make damn sure you’re dressed for it and be careful about walking. In this case (other than overpasses and some bridges) the roads and walks never iced, but you don’t want to just stroll out and land on your ass- or head- because your porch did ice up.

Have some cash on hand. A debit or credit card isn’t much use if the network is down.

Finally, know in advance where to get dry ice. I lost the stuff in the refrigerator, but was able to get enough to keep the big stuff in the freezer safe. It wasn’t easy to find, either I knew where to look, but the demand was high.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Gerber Armbar Drive

I've been carrying some variety of a Swiss Army Knife for going on 30 years. I started with a penknife as a small boy, upgrading to a couple other varieties before settling into the Victorinox Tinker I've carried for the past 15 years or more. My dad carries one, my grandfather carried one, and millions of other folks do every day as well. They're a solid, simple, affordable tool that is popular for a reason.

With all that said about them, the Swiss Army Knife (or SAK for brevity) has some weaknesses: They can get overly complicated in a hurry, many of the tools are less-than-ideal compromises, and the blades are rather lacking. They're thin, short, and with an odd profile. They serve average users fairly well, but they fall down a bit when called on for more intense tasks.

Enter the Gerber Armbar Drive. It comes across as both stripped-down and a bit futuristic. It has an open frame and a single aluminum scale to protect it from everything else that rides in your pocket, and has almost exactly the same dimensions as the Tinker is it replacing. It doesn't have all of the tools a Swiss Army Knife carries, but it takes the most useful ones and implements them far better.

Starting with the knife itself, we have a Wharncliffe profile blade designed to be opened with one hand and with a thicker and stronger construction than the traditional SAK blade. The blade is the only tool on that side of the knife, allowing for stout construction and lockup. It also uses a liner lock for enhanced safety.
The opposite side of the tool contains a pair of very functional scissors, a short awl, and the screwdriver that gives the tool the name "Drive." Each of these tools features a hook on the spine for easy individual opening. 

  • The scissors have extra long blades compared to most multitools, and fit and slice tightly. 
  • The awl is short and sharp, and constructed in such a way that it can be easily resharpened, unlike traditional SAK awls. 
  • The screwdriver is a 1/4" hex bit holder that comes with a Phillips/Slotted driver bit. It has a magnet to hold the bit and can take any 1/4" screwdriver bit. 
  • My only concern with this tool is that the magnetic bit holder feels a touch fiddly, like the bit may fall out at some point.

On the end opposite the tools is a folding tool steel end cap. When opened, it claims to serve as both a bottle opener and a pry bar; the bottle opener functionality is there, but I have yet to test the pry bar claim and am a touch skeptical. In the folded position, Gerber claims it works as a hammer, something else I have yet to test and again am skeptical on. As opportunity arises, I'll certainly test these claims, and see if my skepticism is warranted.

There are two tools that my SAK has that I miss on the Armbar Drive, however. I actually got a fair bit of use from the P38-style can opener when camping, and I used the file quite a bit as well (mostly on my fingernails, but still). Unfortunately, I don't see a way they could have readily fit them into the knife's footprint without making it overly large. 

Everything in pocket knives and multitools is a compromise, and the Armbar compromises well.


Friday, November 13, 2020

Protection Against Laser Blindness

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
It is becoming increasingly common among certain disruptive groups to use laser pointers as blinding instruments. This is a purpose for which lasers were never designed, but are nevertheless well suited: not only will a laser flash across the eyes dazzle the victim, leaving them temporarily blind and therefore unable to defend themselves, but it can also lead to permanent eye injury and even blindness. 

According to this laser safety factsheet from Iowa University, any laser with an output of at least one milliwatt (1 mW) can cause permanent eye injury. I will not link to it, but it is possible to buy a 300 mW laser online for under $50. Given that many preppers live in the city or other urbanized areas and that unrest in this country is at an all-time high, I believe it would be prudent for some of our readers to take into account the possibility of being struck, either accidentally or deliberately, by a blinding laser. 

Some Science
While lasers come in all colors, green lasers are most commonly used for this purpose due to the human eye's specific sensitivity to that wavelength, likely a genetic heritage from our hunter-gatherer days where being able to differentiate between shades of green helped early humans tell the difference between edible and inedible plants. (Also, the Sun's central wavelength is in the green portion of the spectrum, which likely influences the whole matter.) As such, a green laser will inflict greater damage on our eyes than a red or blue laser of the same milliwattage.

Eye Protection
Fortunately, it is possible to defend against laser dazzle and eye damage through the use of protective lenses. These lenses will not provide 100% protection against lasers, because lasers are amplified and collimated visible light; any lens which protects 100% against visible light would necessarily be 100% opaque and therefore render you blind by different means. 

Furthermore, effective protection will not come cheaply; if you are not buying certified protective lenses with a known optical density and visible light transmission, you may end up buying colored sunglasses. 

Optical Density (OD) is a measure of un-attenuated laser energy that will pass through a filter. Attenuation is the absorption or scattering effect of the lenses. Therefore the higher the OD, the smaller the amount of high-energy laser light passing through the lens.

Information from

Visible Light Transmission measures how much non-laser light passes through the lenses. While you obviously need light passing through a lens in order to see, this measurement is also useful if you intend to wear protective lenses at night, when you will need a higher VLT than during the day. 

Information from

Armed with this knowledge, let's take a look at a certified pair of protective laser strike glasses, the Model 33 from Phillips Safety Products.

Optical Density:
  • Over 7 for wavelengths between 190nm and 400nm, which means it highly attenuates the ultraviolet spectrum. 
  • Violet pointers emit between 405nm and 445nm, for which the OD starts at 7 but rapidly drops off to 2 (reducing laser dazzle by 99%). 
  • Blue pointers emit from 450-488nm, so OD against blue is 2 to perhaps 0.5, reducing dazzle from anywhere between 90% and 50%. 
  • Green pointers emit between 515 and 532 nm, and these glasses are rated over OD 2 for that, reducing dazzle by 99%. 
  • OD zero for anything in the yellow, orange, red, or infrared spectrum. 
Visible Light Transmission: 33%, meaning that these have a tint equal to regular sunglasses. 

Conclusion: Good protection against violet and green lasers; adequate to poor against blue; no protection against red lasers. I base this conclusion on the fact that 99% attenuation against a 300mW green laser still leaves 3mW of laser energy reaching your eyes, which can still cause injury. 

An OD 3 would be preferable, as that would reduce the laser energy to 0.3 mW, well below the threshold of injury. Unfortunately, I cannot find any certified lenses of OD 3; for example, these glasses have an OD 4 and VLT of 55%, but the low price and lack of visible certification made me think they were too good to be true. A quick chat with their online customer service confirmed it. 

If you happen to come across any certified OD 3 glasses in the 520-532nm range, preferably with a VLT of 50% or more, please let me know so that I can buy them. Until then, I guess I'll have to spend $150 for OD 2. That's expensive, I know, but my vision (and potentially my life) is worth that much. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Detecting Broken Bones with Tuning Forks

One of our readers found an interesting medical article, but it was written in nearly-incomprehensible jargon and another reader asked for a translation. We do take requests, so I'll take a shot at translating it into common English.

The article was about a field-expedient method of determining if a bone was broken when there wasn't an X-ray machine handy, or if it was necessary to reduce the number and costs of X-rays. A study was done to see if using a tuning fork and a stethoscope can find fractures in bones by going to a clinic where people with suspected broken bones would show up, and checking them with the tuning fork/stethoscope before they got an X-ray. The results were good.

The tuning fork method breaks down like this:

  1. Identify the possible break. Talking to the patient is the easiest way to do this.
  2. Check the similar bone on the other side of the body for normal sound conduction. This will give you a reference point for the volume of sound in an unbroken bone.
  3. Check the possibly broken bone. If there is a break, the sound will be diminished or absent since sound waves travel through solid bone much better than through soft tissue. A break in the bone will interrupt the conduction of the sound waves.

The researcher used a common 128 Hz tuning fork applied to a point on the distal portion of the bone (further from the torso) and listened with a stethoscope applied to the proximal end (closer to the torso). Applying the fork and scope to the portion of bone closest to the surface will give the best results. 128 Hz tuning forks are used in several medical procedures and can be found easily. No batteries are needed; just tapping it against the ball of your hand will provide 20-30 seconds of a pure tone. Unfortunately, 128 Hz seems to be in the range of my mild hearing loss. I can't find a sample that I can hear, but here's a site that will let you generate any audible tone so you can hear what 128 Hz should sound like. 

The researcher had the best results finding breaks that went across the bone (transverse) and poor results with breaks that flaked off a portion of the bone (avulsion) or where two bones are jammed into each other (buckle fracture). The sample size was rather small (less that 40 patients), but it was enough to show that the test works.

From a prepper's point of view, this is a painless test that requires no power or expensive machines and it gives good results, which makes it something to think about adding to your trauma kit.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Purple Pack, part the Latest

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

The Purple Panic Pack build has slowed to a crawl due to major schedule conflicts, with only one item moving into the pack this week.

While any progress is good, the general "emergency supplies learning curve" has been rather steep. Not Mount Everest steep, but perhaps the Rockies.

What's In The Bag
I have several backpacks, most with some of the necessities already in place: some sort of stove, pots and pans, utensils and a water filter. There are Life Straws in one and Sawyer Minis in the others, and I took one of those to use in the Purple Pack. The one I added is the Sawyer Products MINI

From the Amazon ad:
  • Ideal for outdoor recreation, hiking, camping, scouting, domestic and International travel, and emergency preparedness
  • High-performance 0.1 Micron absolute inline filter fits in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2 ounces; 100% of MINI units individually tested three times to performance standards by Sawyer
  • Attaches to included drinking pouch, standard disposable water bottles, hydration packs, or use the straw to drink directly from your water source
  • Removes 99.99999% of all bacteria (salmonella, cholera, and E. coli); removes 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium); also removes 100% of microplastics
  • Filter rated up to 100,000 gallons; Includes one Sawyer MINI filter, 16-ounce reusable squeeze pouch, 7-inch drinking straw, and cleaning plunger 
Since my friend is a Health Care professional, a way to have clean water was an easy sell. Some of the other sells are going to be harder, since she has no outdoor recreation, hiking or camping experience. Time will tell.

General Prep
This is also somewhat of a hard sell, but with the recent power shutoffs due to the fires here in California the ability to cook food off-grid has now been shown to be a necessity and not fiction. A fresh propane tank is now ready to go for cooking, and more non-perishable food has been purchased, but I'm having a harder 'sell' for storing water in sufficient amounts to be useful. I'm also not in a place to order enough water jugs to set someone up with what I think is necessary, and I don't have enough jugs right now to give half of mine to someone else, but in a pinch one more person in this house will not stress our stores in the short run. In the long run, a bit more looking at the reality of what happens to people when the power is turned off might make a difference.

Recap And Takeaway
  • Nothing was purchased this week, but several items may be bought soon.
  • The Sawyer Mini mentioned above is the water filter system that I like, and can be bought from Amazon for $19.97 with Prime.
  • Surprisingly, the 2 pack option costs more than buying the filters separately. Go figure!
* * *

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, November 10, 2020

The Fire Triangle

Blue Collar Prepping has visited the many ways to make fire plenty of times because it is just that important. One thing I've not seen presented, though, is the science of how fire works. Knowing this science is why some folks seem far more successful at making fires, especially in tough situations. This knowledge is also vital in controlling and extinguishing fires.

Fire needs three things to burn: fuel, oxygen, and heat (sometimes stated as an ignition source). Taken together, these are called the fire triangle. If one of those elements isn't present, a fire cannot burn.

  1. Fuel: A fire has to have fuel to burn, that much is obvious. What is less obvious is that it has to be quality fuel, dry, and in sufficient quantity so as not to immediately burn through it all. Quality fuel means you need wood that is solid and not rotten. Ideally this fuel is hardwood, which burns hotter and longer and makes better coals.
  2. Oxygen: If you strangle a fire, it dies. This is shown very strongly in my chip burning posts, when a pile of ground up Doritos refused to burn whereas whole chips ignited easily; the reason for this failure is that not enough air could get to the pile to allow the fuel to burn. Make sure your tinder bundles are fluffy and that when you build your fire lay, you allow plenty of room for air to circulate.
  3. Heat: A fire requires something to start the burning. Sparks and standing flames like matches or lighters are the most common source of ignition, but they're not the only ones: chemical reactions such as potassium permanganate create strong flames, and friction fire methods use nothing but heat to create an ember. No matter your method, you have to have something to set the fuel alight.

If any of these elements are not present, you will not have fire, which makes this important knowledge regarding extinguishing fires. If you remove the fuel, the fire will burn out, but the quickest and most common way to extinguish a fire is through removing the oxygen it needs either via water, a chemical fire extinguisher, or other means. 

With a little applied science, you'll find your fires start more easily and burn more efficiently.


Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: "The Bug Out Survival Vest"

 Hi there! This week I review Creek Stewart’s The Bug Out Survival Vest pocket field guide. Lots of good information in a small handy self-contained notebook. Check it out below.

Thursday, November 5, 2020


We do not cover political topics here for a good reason: they're divisive. Politics, religion, and sports are all good ways to cause friction in any group, and that's not what we're here to do. All of these topics are tribal (groups that identify with others based on a shared history or interest) in nature, and tribal issues tend to become polarizing, with anyone not of the tribe seen as the “other” and often treated as an outsider at best and an enemy at worst. Human history is full of examples of tribal issues, and they can create very bad results.

Politics is a major issue currently. With a very polarized election between the two major parties that is still unresolved as of this writing, I've seen a lot of division created between friends and families based upon which politician gets to sit in a nice chair in Washington DC. Local politics isn't much better; down to the county Sheriff election, people are getting nasty with each other over the support of one candidate over the other. The lure of power over others is a primary driver of most politics, and it can be a very powerful attraction, even vicariously by the election of a surrogate.

Religion can be a touchy subject depending on the depth of difference between the people involved. The “One True Church” types are intolerant and often dismissive of anyone not of their denomination; many atheists consider any religious beliefs nothing more than superstitions and will belittle people of faith. Add in the various religions' views on sexuality and there are even more opportunities for conflict. Wars have been, and will be, fought over differences in religion.

Sports and other fairly minor tribal differences have led to riots, murders, and quite often assault. It doesn't matter if you're looking at the Ford/Chevy, 9mm/45ACP, or any of hundreds of other tribal identifiers; once passions get inflamed, violence is a predictable outcome. Let's face it, people can be assholes for any reason, or for no reason whatsoever.

The Benefits of Division
Division is not always a bad thing. For example, separating yourself from those who mean you ill is self-preservation. The loss of contact with family and friends, should they decide that our views are too different from their own, is yet another thing for which we should prepare.
  • Minimize reliance on others so that you can cut ties if needed. 
  • Keep looking for others that share your views, to build or join a new tribe.
  • Be wary of anyone that seeks to reestablish broken bonds. Some folks enjoy the fighting and won't like it if their favorite punching bag goes missing.
  • Forgive transgressors if you're able, but never forget what they did. People don't change that much over time, and given a chance they'll repeat old actions.
  • Some bridges need to be burned, but others require high explosives. Watch out for flying debris if you choose the second option.

Here at BCP, we don't care what your tribe is. We are here to spread information and ideas so everyone has a better chance of getting through bad times.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Prudent Prepping: Ever Ready?

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

Yes,  this post is two weeks in the making... but there were problems! I ran out of gas! I got a flat tire! I didn’t have change for cab fare! I lost my tux at the cleaners! I locked my keys in the car! An old friend came in from out of town! Someone stole my car! There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD!

Hmmm? Oh, you aren't buying it? Yeah, neither did Erin... 

What really happened was that I was out with friends, my phone was getting low on juice, and no one had a USB "C" cable so I could grab a quick charge. Yes, I know that means I was out with trendy Apple phone owners but hey, if you look at my FB Friends list you can see all types of folks. There's even several people that I suspect still use flip phones! Where is this leading? Here:

Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 PD
I chose the Anker because it has almost the same profile as my phone, came with its own cable and plug, and was the best combo of features and size for me.  Here is the info from the Amazon page.

  • The Anker Advantage: Join the 50 million+ powered by our leading technology.
  • Everything You Need: Provide fast charging to your phone or tablet wherever you are, and when you run out of juice, simply connect the included wall charger to fully recharge your PowerCore in just 4½ hours.
  • PowerCore Slim 10000 PD: One of our slimmest Power Delivery power banks yet is equipped with a 10,000mAh capacity to provide more than two charges for iPhone XS or Google Pixel, and almost one full charge for an 11” iPad Pro.
  • PowerPort III Nano: One of our smallest chargers, PowerPort is just 1 inch thick, packing 18W of USB-C charging power into a device the size of a 5W iPhone charger.
  • What You Get: PowerCore Slim 10000 PD, USB-C to USB-C cable, PowerPort III Nano, travel pouch, welcome guide, and 18-month warranty.
  • Compatible Phone Models: Audiovox Cdm3000
  • Connector Type: Usb Type C

I have a battery pack in my work gear and one in my BOB, but I neglected to grab either one of those when I went out with my sling bag. Now I have a charger to take care of that! 

While I was shopping for that the idea came to me that extra charging cables might be nice, so with some digging I found this:

Bolatus 3-1 Phone Universal Charger

From the Amazon ad:

  • Multi-function and Universal: No need to carry any other cables when you are in a car, taxi driver, business waiting zone, office, home or travelling. Bolatus 3 in 1 Charging Cable is all in one portable charging solution for those who are on move all the time.
  • Compatible with X/8/7/6/5. [Micro USB] Android Phones & Wireless Accessories, tablets, Bluetooth headset, external batteries, PS4 Xbox one controllers more. [Type-C] Compatible with Google Chrome book Pixel, Compatible with galaxy Note 9 8 S9 S8, LG G5 G6 V20, Google Pixel, Google Nexus 5X 6P, Huawei P9 10, Honor 8, HP Pavilion x2, Nokia N1, OnePlus, HTC 10 more
  • Sixth generation weaving process-Shuttleless Nylon Braided, more durable and better touching feeling. Gold-plated connectors resist heat and corrosion.
  • This multi charger is created exclusively for the purposes high quality, convenient charging of several devices simultaneously or individually. But Please NOTE! This cable is only charging cable. No transferring data function.
  • What you get--2 pack three way cell phone charge cable and Bolatus 12-month worry-free waranty. Any questions you have, please don't hesitate to contact us. We will get you back within 24hours.

This cable set is much longer than the previous multi-ended one I purchased previously, but that model is out of stock. No, I won't link to something you may never get to purchase, sorry. 

Recap And Takeaway

* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Are Iron Sights Still Relevant?

Modern firearms in our modern world come with modern sighting solutions. While magnifying scopes aren't exactly new technology, the glass being used in them gets better every year, and red dot sights make for incredibly fast target acquisition on rifles and even pistols. There is no arguing the benefits of the latest technology in aiding accurate fire. With that said, is there still a place for iron sights in today's firearms? Let's look at the pros and cons of iron sights and see if they still bring value. 

Let's start with the cons, because they definitely have some.
  • Iron sights are much harder to use if, like mine, your eyesight is weak
  • They have much lower visual contrast than a dot or a crosshair. 
  • They lack any kind of magnification, making engaging targets at longer ranges far more difficult. 
  • Many of them also have very limited adjustment, or adjustment that requires tools.

With all these factors stacked against them, why would anyone want iron sights on a firearm they plan to do serious work with? 

Not all is dour and dreary in the world of irons, and their redeeming qualities are very strong.

  • Irons are simple. You only have to put a post in a notch or a peep window and you're on target. There are no complicated reticles or uncertainty about how a dot should appear in your optic.
  • Irons are durable. While iron sights are not indestructible, and most modern optics aren't exactly fragile, the old-school iron sight definitely wins in the durability category. I've seen both iron sights and optic sights fail, but the failures on irons are far less frequent and generally have required far more substantial force.
  • Irons are less expensive. The gold standard for AR-15 iron sights can be bough for just about $110, and even the most expensive irons top out around $200, but quality optics are barely getting started at that price point.

In addition, the contrast issue I mentioned earlier can be resolved with brightly colored paint, or with a fiber optic sight insert. Both of these options have worked very well for me.

The verdict on whether or not irons are worthwhile is up to the individual user. The strongest point I can make on the matter is that all of my guns which can effectively mount iron sights have them. Sometimes old technology still gets the job done.


The Fine Print

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

Creative Commons License

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