Friday, April 28, 2023

The Sewing Kit

Sewing, specifically hand sewing, is an indispensable skill that everyone should have. Now, I'm not talking about making clothes; that's an entirely different level of talent. However, the ability to repair a rip or tear in clothing and equipment (or skin, in the worst case scenario) is extremely valuable in day-to-day life.

Back in the mists of time when I was young, hotels, airlines, and other businesses would give away small sewing kits to their customers. These weren't big or complicated, and the most basic ones usually consisted of nothing more than a small case or card with several colors of thread and a few needles. I still have some of them, including one that lives in my travel toiletry kit.

Marriot Hotel giveaway and WWII reproduction sewing kits

Known since the 1700s as a hussif (a corruption of housewife), sewing kits have also been a part of military personal gear throughout history. Whether standard issue or put together by the soldier, a loved one, the Red Cross, or another beneficial organization, they have accompanied a great many soldiers and sailors throughout history. I still have a kit from when I was involved with WWII reenacting that I used for display purposes, although it is perfectly functional. The different militaries of WWII had their own takes on what was a proper sewing kit for their soldiers, such as the US, Britain, and New Zealand.

My wife is a much more accomplished sewer than I am, and she's one of those amazing people who can actually make clothing. She made nearly all our Renaissance Festival garb, along with most of our Cowboy Action outfits. Her main sewing kit is, as expected, considerably more involved.

My wife's sewing kit
(note the FABRIC ONLY scissors)

However, when we travel she will put together a more specifically appropriate and compact kit depending on expected need. When travelling to a Ren Faire, for example, her kit will have the usual needles and thread, along with some heavier needles for bodices as well as rawhide cord for vests. When going to Cowboy Action events, she adds spare buttons appropriate to our costumes.

A small travel sewing kit can take up very little room, but is beneficial well beyond its size. An empty Altoids tin makes for an excellent travel kit container, as it can easily contain a small piece of cardboard or cardstock to hold needles, a few safety pins and straight pins, some buttons, another piece of cardboard to hold a selection of thread colors and weights, and even a small pair of folding sewing scissors.

The ability to make minor repairs to clothing now may save us from having to make a major repair later. Or, as the old saying goes, a stich in time saves nine.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Prepper's Pantry: Potatoes

Spud, tater, tatie, pirrie, earth apple, the gaffer's delight; whatever it's called, the common potato is an extremely versatile and tasty addition to any prepper's pantry.

Potatoes are believed to have originated in the area of present-day Peru and were first cultivated around 7,000–10,000 years ago. From there, the hardy spud worked its way up through the Americas and across the Atlantic to Europe, where it was slow to be accepted by farmers at first, but eventually was embraced wholeheartedly. Potato recipes appear in nearly every cultural cuisine around the world.

Since they were first intentionally grown, potatoes have diverged considerably. According to various sources there are nearly 4,000 varieties of potatoes in cultivation around the world. These types are generally grouped based on common characteristics, such as skin type, skin color, and texture.

With proper storage, potatoes can last a surprisingly long time, though they often get wrinkly after a while. Optimum conditions are around 50° Fahrenheit and 90 percent humidity. Due to this later element, one of the bigger concerns to watch out for in potato storage is mold. Also, don't store potatoes with onions, as this combination can encourage the potatoes to sprout.

Raw or green potatoes should be avoided due to the presence of the toxic compound glycoalkaloid. In higher concentrations it's known to cause headaches, diarrhea, and cramps, and in severe cases it can even cause coma and death.

Back in June of 2021, I shared a recipe for the potato-based Italian delicacy gnocchi. About a month later, I talked about pierogi. These are just two of the multitude of potato recipes that fill several cookbooks, such as this one or this one. Alongside rice, potatoes are one of the most versatile staples in world cuisine.

Potatoes are available fresh (of course) as well as in more shelf stable forms, such as dried flakes, powdered, and canned.

In addition to being eaten, potatoes are used for many other purposes, such as:

  • Alcoholic beverages (vodka, poitín, akvavit, and even some beers)
  • Livestock fodder
  • Manufacturing of papers and boards
  • Adhesives in textiles
  • Plant research (due to their genetic consistency)

There are even potato delivery services, including Potato Parcel and Mail A Spud. So whether you boil them, mash them, or put them in a stew, there are many ways to enjoy potatoes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Headlamp-to-Headlamp Comparison

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.

It's been a hot minute since I've blogged here, hasn't it? I do apologize for that. March was incredibly cruel to me and I needed to practice self-care. You can read about my troubles with a mold infestation within the walls of my home on my personal blog

One of the unfortunate side-effects of the mold remediation is that many of my preps are stacked and not readily accessible in the garage, which bothers me like a piece of food stuck between my teeth. Even if I don't need to access them right now, my mind knows that if I need anything it will be a massive pain to get, and that just grates upon my patience. Lack of control regarding my immediate surroundings is a source of stress for me, and I've been dealing with that stress for over two weeks now. 

One of the ways that's been helping me manage that stress has been my nightly walks around the neighborhood. While I haven't yet reached the point where I can do two loops with a rucksack, I have been able to comfortably walk two loops without a pack, which I do when my knees or back are aching. This exercise has also helped me not gain weight from all the stress eating I've been doing. 

As a result of all this I have pretty thoroughly tested two of the headlamps that I own, and since each brings something different to the table I thought I would do a head-to-head, or perhaps a headlamp-to-headlamp, comparison between the two. 

EverBrite 350 Lumen Red/Green Headlamp

My original assessment of this light may be read here

  1. Affordable ($18) 
  2. Three color options at the touch of a button (white, red, green)
  3. Four white light options (high, medium, low, strobe, and circuit-on-board [COB])
  4. Good battery endurance (three hours performance at the highest setting, five hours at medium)
  5. Lightweight and comfortable to wear
  6. Rear button light can be removed for added comfort when hiking with a backpack which is close to the back of your head
  1. Focal distance is fixed; no way to adjust between "spot" and 
  2. Lack of a top strap means the light can slide down your head from sweat or strenuous activity
  3. Non-removable battery can only be charged via micro USB cord and power source (difficult to do in the field or a survival situation)
  4. Charge level is indicated with four blue lights on the bottom of the casing which shine in my eyes (correctible with black electrical tape)

Dland / Madala 1000 Lumen LED Headlamp

My original assessment of this light may be read here, but please be advised that it (Dland) is no longer available at Amazon. However, an identical product (Madala, which I also own) can be bought from for less. I believe that both of these are knockoffs of the more expensive Explorer headlamp ($55) by Eagle Beam. 

  1. Affordable ($14)
  2. Bright setting is very bright (if not actually 1,000 lumens then at least 750 lm)
  3. Easy adjustment between spotlight and floodlight
  4. Light rotates 90°
  5. Top strap holds headlamp securely in place
  6. Surprisingly not as heavy or as uncomfortable as you might think
  7. Hinged battery pack allows dual 18650 lithium batteries to be quickly replaced if unable to charge via micro USB cord
  8. Strobe setting may dazzle/incapacitate an assailant
  1. No options for non-white light without changing lenses -- a process which is easy but not quick. These lenses are also an additional expense and more items to track. 
  2. Bright setting can easily dazzle the wearer if too close to a mirror or white-painted source, or even if your hand intersects the beam.
  3. Rear battery pack is bulky and can cause discomfort with a backpack that is close to the head.
  4. Battery life is poor -- two hours on bright diminishes output to below what the medium setting produces and reducing medium output to ineffectively dim.

Which Is Better?
While it may seem like the Dland/Madala 100 lumen light is better, that's not necessarily true; its great features are offset by some significant downsides like poor battery life and a thick battery pack. Conversely, the EverBrite's variety of colors and good battery endurance make up for its lack of focus and reduced range. 

I think that both headlamps have a place in a prepper's arsenal. The EverBrite is in my bug out and get home bags because of its versatility and its lack of a skull-bumping battery pack, and I compensate for its USB-only recharging by carrying a small power bank that can be recharged by solar or by hand crank. 

The 100 lumen headlamp trades versatility for power, and that power is best used around the home where I am unlikely to be carrying a backpack and where I will have ways to recharge it regularly, either with the aforementioned solar - hand crank - power bank solution or by changing out its lithium batteries. While I would hesitate to call it a tactical light, it is still an excellent choice for checking the outside of your house at night -- so long as you don't expect trouble from people with guns.  

I am very pleased with both of these lamps, and I am certain you will be, too, whichever one you choose. At these prices, why not get both?

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Product Review: the $30 Gun Belt

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

Way back in January of 2021 I bought a replacement belt to go on my work pants at the recommendation of several good friends. At the time it only needed to hold a phone case all day, so something really heavy duty wasn't at the top of my list, and the belt looked nice in the ads.

From the $30 Gun Belt website:
  • One solid piece of beautiful Genuine USA Full Grain Leather Steerhide. 
  • You may see some natural hide and color variations on the front and back, this ensures a genuine full grain leather hide.
  • Custom handcrafted at a real USA company leather shop.
  • Vegetable tanned (veg-tanned) drum-dyed leather hides.
  • 1/4 inch thick or in leather talk, right around 14-15 ounces.
  • 1 1/2 inches wide - Perfect width for standard belt loops and holster slots.
  • Heavy-duty roller buckle with a thick center tongue/prong.
  • For Options in hardware  Click Here
  • We use high quality Chicago screws for changeable buckle.
  • Nine (9) large oval buckle holes spaced at 3/4 inch apart.

Two years later, I'm really happy I bought it. Not only has the belt held up from the initial wear of a phone case, I also had to start wearing a small belt-clipped tool bag/notebook holder soon after. Here's a picture of the belt at the area that carries the tool pouch:

Scuff marks from a belt clip

The scratches are on the inside of the belt where the pouch rides, sliding between two belt loops. This is the only wear that's visible on the belt, as the outside of the belt is rubbed on by cloth/canvas material which is smooth. 

Other than the belt taking the normal 'set' where the back belt loop warps it, this belt looks like new on the outside. I don't do anything special to it; I just wipe it off with a damp paper towel, and only that if there is obvious dirt. I've paid more money for less sturdy, poorly constructed belts that show their wear in months, while this belt is practically new.

The only potential downside of this belt is that at 1 7/16" wide, many dress slacks belt loops may not big enough to fit. I've had no problem wearing it with Dickies' khaki work pants and Levi's and similar, since those brands traditionally are made for heavy belts.

Oh, and after the economic turmoil of the past 2 years, this $30 Gun Belt is still only $30! How much longer it will be this price is anyone's guess. I really like this belt and can't recommend it more highly!

Recap and Takeaway 
  • While you certainly can spend more on a hard-working belt, in my opinion you won't be getting anything extra but a fancier brand name.
  • If you wear dress slacks, this may not be your best choice. 
  • One $30 Gun Belt purchased direct from $30 Dollar Gun Belt: $29.99 plus tax and shipping.
* * *

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

The S&W FPC Side Folding Carbine

Earlier this year I heard rumblings that Smith & Wesson was coming out with a new pistol caliber carbine. As a fan of both the company and that platform, I was intrigued and eager to hear more. Finally, in late February, the Smith & Wesson M&P FPC (Folding Pistol Carbine) was released to the world. My interest was certainly piqued, especially after I saw Jerry Miculek's video.


Two other contributing factors to my interest were Smith & Wesson moving most of their production to a town about an hour away from where I live, and the fact that the FPC takes M&P 2.0 magazines. As I carry a 9mm M&P pistol every day, this detail meant I wouldn't have to buy a bunch of new magazines.

The store where I work eventually received two of them, but they both sold the same day they arrived, which wasn't surprising. So I had to wait for the next shipment to arrive, which thankfully didn't take long, and the manager put one aside for me.

All told, the packaging and included components are very nice. Everything comes in a good quality padded case with handles and an attachable shoulder strap. 

Included in the case: 
  • Carbine
  • One 17-round magazine
  • Two 23-round magazines
  • Four grip back straps (S, M, L, and XL)
  • Chamber flag
  • Federally mandated lock
  • Manual and other paperwork

Like the Kel-Tec Sub2000, the Smith & Wesson FPC folds in half for storage and transport. However, the FPC folds to the side instead of over the top, and the rear mounted charging handle interfaces with one of the slots on the fore end to lock it in the closed position. While this does make for a slightly wider package, it also means any optic mounted on the rail doesn't need to be removed or swung out of the way for storage.

Speaking of storage, the butt stock incorporates slots for two magazines, but this brings up one of my only criticisms of the FPC: the magazines are stored with bullets down and feed lips to the rear, which means quick reloading will require some practice to properly orient the magazines. Another issue with the magazine stowage is there are two release buttons, and the left button is pushed for the right magazine and vice versa. Again, this is a training issue, but not ideal.

I'm sure there will be aftermarket options available soon, as 3D printer files if nothing else.

Once I got it home, I gave it a quick teardown and cleaning. While I found disassembly slightly overcomplicated, it wasn't bad and revealed some interesting features:
  • Removing the butt stock is easy enough, and it has an internal spring whose purpose seems to be applying pressure to the release lever. 
  • The recoil tube plug and retaining pin can both be installed in either direction, a nice simplifying touch. 
  • Once the bolt is removed, it's revealed to be two parts held together by a dovetail type interface.

As mentioned on one of the links in my AR 9mm PCC post, the combination of bolt and buffer should weigh at least 22 ounces., with more not being a problem. The FPC's carrier alone is nearly 21 ounces, and with the bolt in place it weighs in at 26.5 ounces, making it soft-shooting even for a pistol caliber carbine.

Speaking of shooting:
  • Even with the no-name red dot I threw on it for testing, it was quite accurate at ten yards on a reduced-scale silhouette target, giving me the ability to nibble around the edges of the grouping and trim off scraps of target as I went. 
  • Recoil was mild, as expected. 
  • Brass was ejected in a pretty small area, allowing me to recover all fifty cases fairly quickly. Usually I lose at least one to the brass spirits.

All told I'm quite happy with my purchase, and with an MSRP only about $80 dollars more than a base model Sub-2000, Kel-Tec probably needs to keep an eye on their heels.

The Fine Print

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