Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally! The Bug Out Bag!

The last time I left off, I wrote about the need for a smaller bag that holds your absolute essentials. Things like a few band-aids, a small bottle of water, granola bars, etc comprise this little bag.

Today, it's all about BOB. A bug out bag, by any other name is a bag. It can be anything you want it to be. It can be a simple backpack costing just $20 all the way to an elaborate system costing more than $250. Either way, it will perform one basic function: gear storage.

What kind of bag you decide to use will depend on your situation and what you intend to use it for. If you are an urban dweller, and only need something to get a few miles, you could probably get away with a lot less than the guy who might have to walk a few days to get home. For the purposes of this post, I'm going to focus on the guy who needs more gear. You may or may not need all of this, but it will cover nearly everything.

The setting: You travel more than 50 miles away from home everyday. You live in an area that is at higher risk for earthquakes and volcanoes than some places. You have a lot of bridges between you and your house, and traffic ranks in the top 5 worst in the nation. You're going to need a bag, but you can't just have any bag. You need something that will have a few extras that your high school Jansport backpack didn't.

Requirements for a Bug Out Bag:

1. Durable! Durability needs will vary per user, but try to buy the most durable bag you can afford. Military style bags will probably get you the most bang for your buck because they use simple materials and are built for combat.

2. Roomy. Get something that will have enough room for your 72 hour kit.

3. Comfortable. This is where bags can get very expensive, so be careful. You will need something that has a good suspension system. Padded shoulder straps, sternum straps, and a good hip belt are a must. Get a padded hip belt to make your life better. Having rigidity in the pack helps distribute load between the shoulders and hips.

4. Low profile. Don't get an outrageous "LOOK AT ME" pack. I have one of those for camping and backpacking. It has Osprey embroidered proudly across the back so everyone following me can see it. That pack was expensive, it's rugged, and it's not for survival. Get something that gives you a lower profile.

5. External Attachment points. More of a "would like to have" item, external attachment points on your pack will allow you to bring along things that may not fit inside, like a sleeping bag or tent.

Now, if you know that you will never be more than a day's walk from home, you probably won't need anything more than a basic backpacking pack, and that's okay. You can buy them used all over the place and they are in really good condition. I would avoid external frame packs because, even though they can be comfortable, they are cumbersome and take up a lot of space in the trunk of your car.

The particular pack I have my eyes on has all the required things for my 50+ mile from home activities and none of the fancy crap that would make me stand out. It is the BUGOUT GEAR Tac Ruc E&E bag.


I chose this design based on all the 5 requirements that I wrote above. It has a nice comfy suspension system, it's large (5900 cu in), it has attachment points all over it, it is hydration bladder compatible (3 liters), it is made of rugged canvas, and to anyone seeing me with it, it looks like a humdrum army surplus bag. But this is a lot more.

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out and buy THIS particular pack. This is simply what I'm looking at for my uses. This pack comes in a tan, camo, and black. For emergency use, the tan one might work the best simply because it will blend in to the surrounding environment. Camoflauge will as well, but in an urban setting, camo will actually attract attention. Black isn't found in nature much, so even at night, it could stand out.

Do some research. Check out uscav.com, or just google bug out bag and see what you get. Visit an army surplus store, or a backpacking store. Don't be disappointed if a bag you thought you liked doesn't work out in the end.  It is going to take some research and footwork on your end, but when you find what works for you, then your hardwork has paid off.

-James

Self Defense for Survival

Recent world events have brought about the subject of self-defense in a critical situation. Now, you may think me crazy, or you may have already, but the latest earthquakes in Haiti and Chile have vindicated my position on the importance of a good, well stocked 72-hour kit. If you think you are immune to mother nature, think again!

Self-defense is important to survival because when people are hungry and scared, they will often act irrationally. Being prepared is a double-edged sword. On one side, you are prepared to ride out the storm, as it were. On the other hand, you may very well become a target of opportunity to those who are desperate. Since a stash of equipment doesn't do you any gun if it is stolen, you need to be able to defend yourself and your supplies. Your supplies may be all you have left after a major catastrophe. When FEMA becomes a four-letter word, and riots break out, your supplies become your life-blood. To keep your blood from being spilled over your supplies, you will need a few things.

First, let me get you on the same page; come to an understanding. Nobody wants to hurt or kill anybody. We all wish to just live our lives as we want to and go in peace. However, the world doesn't always work that way. Hunger, lack of shelter, stoppage of basic social services, inability to travel, paranoia, etc can lead anyone to doing something that is completely out of character. The nicest person you know could turn evil simply due to the human need to eat. Your best friend can turn into your worst nightmare. We need to understand this and also understand that we need to do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our families, and those things which keep us alive in time of great need. How you come to grips with this reality is completely up to you, but you must be willing to make the hard choice when all of your options have been used up.

If you are able to do so, it is advisable that you keep a gun in your 72-hour kit, or at least have one that is available for it. Not only should you have a gun, but if you go that route, it is your responsibility to train with it, get proficient with it, and come to know it well. With that, you must learn the laws of the land regarding use of deadly force and when it is and isn't acceptable to use a gun in a self-defense situation. A good resource is Washington Gun Rights and Responsibilities, by Dave Workman. It is not a difficult read, and it will unlock the laws regarding gun rights and your responsibilities in the state of Washington.

For most cases, a small pistol, like a .38 revolver, or compact automatic will suffice. This is ideal for a pack style 72-hour kit because it won't weight a lot and will provide sufficient protection against a random passerby that just happens to want what you have. Carrying an extra couple of magazines or keeping speedloaders (for your revolver) is a must!

In some cases, your 72-hour kit may be less mobile, or maybe you aren't restricted to just keeping a pistol. Say, for instance, your kit is in the trunk of your personal vehicle or at home. There is nothing wrong with keeping a shotgun or rifle in there either. Just know that walking around with a loaded rifle or shotgun in plain sight might get you some unwanted attention. The main goal is to avoid confrontation, not to attract it.

If carrying a gun is not for you, or if you are restricted from doing so (either legally or because of work), then carrying other forms of defense might work. For instance, a strong folding knife can be easily deployed to save your butt. Be careful with the knife you choose, however, because some types are illegal. Carrying a fixed blade knife might cause you to come under scrutiny by law enforcement. The knife itself might not be illegal, but law enforcement can always call into question your intent. In a critical situation, law enforcement can become as powerful as it is powerless.

Other improvised weapons can be made or used from tools. Carrying a hammer, or baseball bat, a club of some kind, a crow bar, pipe, axe, etc are all weapons that will give an upper hand in a situation where a thug might not be so well armed.

More important than the weapon you carry is how you present yourself. You don't want to appear as a victim or look weak. To avoid confrontation, you will want to make it so that any person won't want to confront you. Make them seek out easier prey. This isn't always possible, but carrying an air of strong presence about you helps. Additionally, avoid areas that are completely isolated when possible. If no one is around to hear you scream, then someone might take advantage of you. At the same time, it is wise to avoid areas that have widespread panic. In the aftermath of an earthquake, urban centers with dense populations are probably best avoided completely. If that means adding another few miles to save your butt, then that is what needs to be done. Remember, the goal is to keep YOU safe so that you can return to your family and then keep THEM safe. You cannot do that if you are incapacitated.

Now, it can't be clearly said when panic about food and supplies might set in. It depends on the severity of the situation at hand. It also depends on the logistics of relief efforts in your area. The first day or two might go without much of a problem. The problem begins at the third day because most households only have enough food in them for 3-7 days. If you happen to be walking around with a pack full of food, people might confront you. At first, it may be to barter for something of value (and if you can spare the food, by all means go for it). But when a situation degrades to a point where people are hungry (and Americans hate being hungry), it could get violent really fast.

Avoid slums and high crime neighborhoods, period! These places are the first to go apeshit in the wake of a catastrophe. If you don't believe me, then recall the L.A. riots. If you happen to be in a questionable area during the event, GET OUT FAST!!!

Try to keep your vehicle as long as possible. I know I've covered the vehicle before, but it is important. The vehicle moves faster than people and can provide some measure of protection. Remember, it's not bullet-proof and it can be immobilized really fast if you end up in a crowd of people. Be ready to ditch it if necessary. Just don't make the decision lightly. Driving an extra five miles can shave 2-3 hours off a hike. Drive 30 miles and you've coverd a day and a half on foot; you also avoided any foot-born confrontations in that distance.

Remember, the best self defense is to avoid confrontation completely. But should avoiding confrontation become impossible, you fight to win. I don't believe in a fair fight. I believe in winning. I fight for my family and my safety. Keep that mindset with regards to self defense. People who get desperate have most likely lost a reason to exist. We exist for our families and that is worth fighting for.
 
-James

Bare Bones Bag - Optional Augmentation

Okay, let's assume now that you have all your gear assembled in your vehicle, and ready to go. You went through the effort to pack everything as neatly and tightly as you could, but somewhere along the way home, the unexpected happened: you lost your backpack, or someone stole it while you were sleeping. It could happen.

For this you need what I call a "bare bones bag." It is basically a small pouch that holds your most desperate of survival equipment. It should contain the following:

1. Energy bars. You won't be cooking this food. This food should require no preparation and should be loaded with calories, carbs, sugars, protein, and and other essential nutrients. No points for taste either.

2. Unopened water bottle. I packed one of those 16.9 ounce water bottles in mine and it fits without taking up all the room. It's not much water, but it is at least something.

3. First-Aid kit. Make it practical, yet small. Keep some pain relievers in there, anti-biotics if you can find em, imodium, slings, bandages, ointments, etc. I'll write more on first-aid kits in the next installment.

4. Flashlight with extra batteries/bulb.

5. Map of the area and a compass. They don't have to be fancy. They just have to work.

6. Thermal emergency blanket and an emergency poncho. Both will keep you dry. One will keep you warm. Carry both.

7. Small knife. Mine will be packed with a solid steel knife that I can wrap some para-cord around the skeletal handle with.

8. Fire starter and waterproof matches in a waterproof container.

9. Sunscreen (and sunglasses if you can fit them).

10. Wipes of some kind (baby wipes, anti-sceptic wipes, alcohol pads).

11. Survival Kit in a Can. It's redundant in a few ways, but it can be a life saver for when you are absolutely desperate. Plus, it will hold all the other little things that you may have never thought to pack, but will have when you need them.

This pouch should be large enough to hold all of this gear, yet be small enough to be carried on your hip if need be. I purchased one that has snap belt loops for either vertical wearing from the hip or horizontal across the small of my back. It's a used army surplus bag in nearly new condition. The webbing is very strong and the material will repel water to a degree.

The bag itself is part of your bug out bag, but it should be kept as close to or on your person at all times. Never lose sight of it. Should your main pack get destroyed, stolen, lost, or need to be abandoned, you still have this survival kit, and it may save your life.
 
Now, don't get me wrong here.  The items above aren't duplicates of anything that you would normally take along.  This pouch is just a place to assemble the stuff you will use the most to make it easy and convenient.  Plus, you can remove this from the main pack to keep it safe with you, should you need to rest or ditch your main bag.
 
-James

Bug Out Bag - Small Tools and Equipment

I love this part. I'm going to talk about nifty little bits of gear that you might want to keep in your 72-hour kit, or "bug out bag." Note that I'm only going to list the bare essentials because realistically, you don't need a whole lot of "gear" to survive. You'd be amazing at just what you can live without.

Knowledge
First off, get a survival book. Read it, and then stow it away in your kit. I chose to buy the pocket-sized SAS Survival Guide, ISBN: 0060849827. It's a little larger than a standard deck of cards, but has a vast array of information in it, like how to spot edible plants, accident survival, shelter building, survival in various climates, etc.  Let's face it.  If you are not humping it in the bush every day, then you might forget a few things, so having a handy reference in the field is a good thing.

Good Knife
I spoke about this in the introduction, but it is important enough for me to repeat here. I'm just going to reiterate some of the important parts. Invest in a knife you will use often. Don't buy some exotic thing that you will toss in your bag and forget about. Purchase a good lockback knife in the $40-$60 price range. Kershaw is my favorite knife maker in this range. You don't need an overly expensive knife. You need a good knife. More money does not always mean better. Better does not always mean more money. Of course, many have their preferences, but my way of looking at it is this: If it works, then it is better. A good, inexpensive knife in your pocket that you use and abuse on a daily basis is better than an awesome expensive knife left in your nightstand drawer. Don't be timid with your knife either. USE IT! Learn its strengths and weaknesses. Experiment with different types and find what works best for you. I go through a good knife about every 2-3 years because as good as they are, I beat the piss out of them. I have my knife that I like a lot and will be replacing it with the same kind when mine finally gets destroyed. Keep your blade sharp. I recommend getting a simple two-part knife sharpener that has a coarse carbide end for sharpening and a fine ceramic end for honing. The sharpener doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. Mine only cost me $4.00 and it keeps my blade sharp enough to do some serious cutting with.

Cordage
You should carry a small section of cordage. This could be simple nylon rope, or my preferred para-cord.  While you won't be hanging from this cord any time soon, it is strong enough to lash gear to your pack, or secure a tarp so it won't blow away in the wind, or keep your gear secure. I would probably carry about 20 feet of the stuff minimum, but not to exceed 50 feet. I also carry bootlaces that get wrapped around plastic knife sheaths or axe handles. If you need the cordage, you can use it, but until it is needed, it makes a great handle for things. One thing a friend did was buy an all metal knife and he wrapped para-cord around the handle very tightly. This way, he had his cordage, but it wasn't in the way when not needed. I've seen para-cord wrapped around gun fore ends, axe handles, walking sticks, you name it.

Tarp
Why not a tent? Tents weigh more. Plus, a tent is about 10 times as expensive as a tarp. With a tarp, you can make many types of shelters. From an a-frame tent to a simple lean-to against a tree or car bumper, a tarp can make quick shelter out of anything. It is also easy to setup and tear down because you don't have poles to pack. Simply fold the tarp down, roll it up, and wrap with para-cord for storage.

Fire Starter
You will probably want to invest in a good flint. You will also want some waterproof matches for lighting your camp stove (talked about above). You will also want to keep small parafin wax fire starters to help you get a fire going if you need it. Fire does more than keep you warm. It lifts your spirits and can be used for cooking food and making water safe to drink. It can also keep predators at bay as well as be used to signal rescue. Just be sure to put it out completely before you leave and DO NOT attempt to light a fire if you smell gas.

Multi-tool
You would do well to invest in a good leatherman style multi-tool. You never know when you will need a good set of pliers, a screwdriver, file, or small saw. I carry a Leatherman Wave with me on my backwoods adventures. It can be used to make repairs to your gear or adjustments to things like compass declination screws, rifle scopes, or just making repairs to your glasses.  I also use the saw to notch wood so it will fit together to make my shelter strong without needing very much cordage.

Map and Compass
At the very least, you should carry a map of the area you are in. That's obvious. But you need a compass too. If you find yourself in an area that is unfamiliar to you, a compass will help you quickly locate magnetic north, and will help you orientate your map. If you do not know how to do this, pick up a Boy Scout Handbook and start reading. A compass can be used for a buttload of navigational strategies, such as following a bearing, or being used to make sure you are traveling in a straight line (and not in circles). This is especially important in wilderness survival. Now, in urban settings, this doesn't seem as important because you will have roadsigns to help tell you where to go.  But, if you believe that for what it is, then you have been deceived. The signs give directions that the road takes to get to the destination, and the distance IT takes. However, you don't need to stick to main roads when you are on foot. However, if you were walking near I-5, then you'd probably want to stay close because it is a well known landmark.

Flashlight or Headlamp
Have you ever tried to do something in pitch black darkness? It sucks, huh? Put a good aluminum flashlight in your pack with spare batteries and bulbs. An LED 3-watt Maglite works well. I have small ones that take 3 double-A batteries and they are nice and bright. They have carry cases too, and don't weigh much. I also have a head lamp that I use for backpacking at night. It frees up your hands and allows you to look directly at what you want to see. This can come in handy if you are doing stuff like tying a knot, erecting shelter, cooking, reading, or even for going for a weapon to use in self defense.

Mess Kit
Essentially, it's a pot that fits in another pot and has a fork, spoon, and knife in it. You will need one if you intend to boil water and prepare food.

Survival Kit
Huh? It's called a Survival Kit in a Can, or SKIC for short.

It fits into a sardine sized can and should be in every 72 hour kit. It has all the really small things like thread, needles, fish hook, etc. Some of the stuff may be redundant to my list, but the stuff I listed separately needs to be in its own case. For instance, there are matches in the SKIC. The waterproof matches I suggest should go in their own waterproof match case. This way, you may use your matches without breaking the seal on your SKIC. Your first aid kit will be separate too, but some things are included in the SKIC. Think of SKIC as a last ditch survival aid. You probably won't use most of the stuff in there unless you are really desperate. But that's what it is for. At less than $10 in most places, it's a good idea to keep one in any vehicle, pack, or kit you have.

That's it?
Not quite. Bring toilet paper. Yes, you will be squatting when you are out surviving, and you don't want to run around wiping your backside with whatever you can find. T.P. will help keep you sanitary and healthy. Also, you can buy small packages of baby wipes, which are amazing! The wipes can be used on any part of your body. From cleaning your hands to washing your face, to just removing some of the "funk" that occurs from going days without showers, baby wipes are worth the extra weight in gold. Your nose will thank you too.

Of course, you can assemble more or less gear into your pack, based on your preferences.  There is no 1-way to do it - just a way to do it.  Find what works for you and figure out what gear you can live without and what gear you must have.

-James

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Aid Kit - Bug Out Bag Style

There is a big controversy over what types of gear you should stow in your first aid kit. Some people believe you should stock an entire operating room, where others believe all you need are a few bandages and some pain relievers. Each side of the aisle will make valid points for each method, and that is okay. I personally believe that your personal first aid kit should contain enough stuff for you to help yourself in an emergency. Carrying around a bunch of surgical equipment will do you no good if you cannot get easy access to the wound. Plus, carrying an excessively heavy first aid kit will be cumbersome. First aid kits take up a lot of space in your pack. True, they are quite possibly the most important items to have... right next to water... but like water, you don't want to carry so much that you drop dead from exhaustion.

Below is a list of the things I have in my light and fast first aid kit. Note, this kit is my personal kit for backpacking. It's not a kit designed for anyone else to use because I have tailor-made this kit to my specifications. Yours may be different, but this will get you pointed in the right direction:

10 adhesive bandages (regular band-aids)
2 adhesive pads, 3"x3"
3 sterile gauze pads, 3"x3"
4 butterfly bandages
1 roll of adhesive medical tape
1 roll of cohesive bandage wrap (better than elastic)
1 moleskin pad, 3"x6"
1 small bar of soap or small pack of cleansing (alcohol) pads
1 tube of antiseptic (I used Neosporin w/ pain reliever)
3 small packets of basic first aid creme
3 small packets of burn gel
1 pair of Scissors
2 pairs of non-latex gloves
1 mouth/protection barrier for CPR
1 pencil and paper
1 small baggy of medications I take
Iodine and neutralizer tablets (for treating questionable water)

This kit fits into a small bag that is then stuffed into the bare bones bag (will be covered later), which will never leave my side in an emergency situation. In my backpacking pack, this kit resides in the top compartment, easily accessed in an emergency.

Your first aid kit should be the last thing you pack into your bag. The reason is because if you need it, it will be the first thing you see when you open the flap. Other bags, which have pockets on the outside, should have the first aid kit located toward the center pocket, where it will be protected from impacts on the sides (say, from brushing up against stuff). It also makes it easy to tell someone else, "Hey, in the middle pocket, there is a first aid kit..." instead of saying, "...the one on my right... no your left, yeah, the one on your left... no I meant right." Basically, you want your first aid kit easily accessible and protected from impacts.

If you can get your hands on anti-biotics, it might not be a bad idea to put them in your kit either. However, I have been unsuccessful at finding these because they are normally kept under lock and key at hospitals and clinics.

Remember, many of the items in a first aid kit do have a shelf life - especially medications and pain relievers. I would not trust a band-aid that is over 5 years old either. It would be best to rotate out your first aid stock with the one you use at home. Since you are most likely to use the first aid kit at your house, you should place your aging equipment into your home kit, and place the newer supply in your personal kit. This is not to say that you are placing old, outdated, or defective gear into your home kit. It's more like placing a new can of beans in the back of your pantry so you eat the old one first, before it expires. Otherwise, you will end up with old consumables that may or may not work when you need them to.

Rotate your medicines. I keep Ibuprofen in my first aid kit because not only is it a good pain reliever, but it also a muscle relaxer, which does wonders after a long day out hiking when your back, shoulder, and leg muscles are just aching. It is also that quality that makes Ibuprofen an anti-inflammatory medicine. I have a condition known as Sciatica, which causes the Sciatic nerve to flare up on occasion, especially when the muscles around the nerve are put under great strain. My doctor recommended the necessary dose for me to take to get the inflammation down when this happens. Therefore, I have plenty of Ibuprofen in my kit. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and pound for pound, it is quite possibly the most valuable consumable I carry. Other medicines you may need should also be organized and rotated frequently.

Also, remember to put a desiccant pack into your first aid kit. Moisture is the enemy of almost everything in there!

I also recently added Iodine and Neutralizer tablets to my first aid kit. The small bottles fit in there without a problem and also requires me to open the first aid kit to get to them. It is important to not let your kit just go unopened forever. I've seen what happens when people never crack open their kits. They assume something is there, only to find out that it isn't.

This brings me to my next point, and I want to reiterate the importance of customizing your kit to you. Don't buy the massive kit that has 144 million things in it that you won't use. You should keep a kit like that in your house. What I did was buy a basic $8.00 kit and added the stuff that I wanted. It's not the cheapest way to go, but in the end, it gives you the most bang for your buck. The only things in there are things that you may need and none of the things you don't.
 
-James

Food For Survival - Bug Out Bag

Since I left off on the subject of water, I figured I'd jump right into the next point: food.

Food is essential to the human body because it contains the things the body needs to stay alive. Nutrients are important, more specifically calories. Calories are the fuel that keeps the body moving. If you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. If you take in more than you burn, you gain weight. There is a bit more to it than that, but when it comes right down to it, simplicity will work.

Many people have a hard time finding the critical balance between their level of activity and their calorie intake. In my experience it is because if I'm not doing anything, my mouth can be working. However, I find that if I'm doing a lot of activities, I tend to forget to eat. This is an issue when it comes to survival. You need to eat.

It is true that the human body can live on for weeks without food. Would you want to try? No. You would be so weak that simply eating food could kill you.

Should you find yourself a good three day's walk away from your house, you will need to have enough food on hand to last those three days. How much food? Well, that depends greatly on your metabolism, dietary habits, what type of food, and whether or not you are going to walk over easy terrain or up and down some steep hills.

A simple rule of thumb is that for every mile walked, you burn X amount of calories. Weight x Distance = Calories burned. It should be noted that if you walk slow, you will burn more calories than if you walked a normal pace because each time you step, you have essentially no momentum to carry you forward. However, at faster speeds, you also burn more calories because you utilize more muscle groups to keep up the pace. Also note that the weight of your pack will greatly impact your calories burned per mile.

Why is all this important? Because in order to find out how much food you need, you first need to know how many miles you might have to walk. Let's use my minimum 25 miles. I weigh around 300lbs. So, if I walked at a steady rate of 3 miles per hour (which is actually kind of slow at only 1 mile every 20 minutes), I would burn +-159 calories. Take that 159 calories and multiply it by 25 miles and we have 3975 calories burned. That's enough to drop one lbs of weight, plus some. However, you also burn calories when you are at rest, when you sleep, and every time you inhale and exhale. Heck, your heart is just a muscle that burns calories just to pump blood.
Where did I get that 159 calorie number? I got if from a chart.


Yeah, so what if I found it on the Internet? These are all just estimations anyway, and your results will vary.

What is important to know is that your body uses your energy reserves in the form of fats first. But once you burn off fat, you start to burn off muscle. Doesn't sound so bad at first, but once your heart rate reaches a certain point, you burn both fat AND muscle at the same time. So be cautious.

So, what foods then? Well, my favorite trail meals are from Mountain House Foods. They come in freeze-dried pouches that you simply put boiling hot water into and presto! Instant meal! My absolute favorite, the Chicken and Mashed Potatoes has 250 calories and 32 grams of protein. Protein is ready to use fuel as well as the calories. There is also a lot of sodium in this meal, which may or may not help to replenish electrolytes lost due to dehydration.

Energy bars are another thing to keep in your kit. I always have a Clif Bar or two on my backpacking trips. They have a crap load of everything, and 230 calories to boot. Carbs are also fuel, and they are loaded with them.

Now, if you can't stand carbs, then stop reading. Honestly, in an emergency situation, are you really going to care about your carb intake? Heck, you may not know where or when you will get your next meal, so you'd better pack them in while you can.

Another thing you could carry is a Mayday Food bar. Each bar has 3600 or 2400 calories. Obviously not something you'd eat in one shot, but you could just munch on it as you walk or break off a piece when you rest.

Don't run around and eat three big squares a day. You want to eat as soon as you wake up, and just keep munching every hour or two while you are on the move. This keeps your energy levels elevated and tells your body to metabolize. If you wait too long before eating breakfast, your body goes into starvation mode and will not metabolize as quickly because it doesn't have anything to jump start it. This also means that all those calories you eat get turned into fat instead of burned off as energy.

Remember that energy bars, Mayday bars, Protein bars, or whatever they call them these days require that you be moving. The Mayday bar has 400 calories per 3 ounce serving! That same serving has 17 grams of fat and 55 carbs! Normally, this isn't something you want to eat right before you go to sleep. However, if it is really cold outside, you should eat something right before bed. The energy will help keep your core temperature up while you are sacked out for the night.

Pro tip: If you wake up cold, grab a handful of nuts and eat them. Eating Oreo cookies is okay in small servings too. The sugars, protein and other calories will actually help warm you up. I tested this in a snow cave on Mt Rainier. It was 15 degrees outside, and just barely above freezing inside.

Your food should be highly nutritious and loaded with fuel (calories, protein, carbs, and some sugars). It should be small enough to get into a small pack. Don't store boxed foods because they don't have a long shelf life and are comprised mostly of AIR. If you get something like the Mayday bar (five year shelf life) or the Mountain House meals (7-12 year shelf life), then you keep rotation of food to a minimum. Foods like energy bars, beef jerky, or dried fruits and nuts should be rotated twice yearly. DO NOT store any food that requires refrigeration. Stay away from fresh fruits, veggies, and meats. They will spoil FAST.

Storing freeze-dried and airtight packaged foods may not seem appealing, but neither does an earthquake or some other catastrophe. What I suggest is that you buy different types of rations, freeze-dried meals, and various energy bars and weigh the palatability vs. energy. Don't just buy something because it is loaded with calories. If you don't like it, you might not eat it. You may even put off eating until absolutely necessary because said monster bar tastes like dog doo. If you must make concessions of nutrition and energy for taste, then do so. Just don't store a butt-load of Snickers bars because they taste better than Clif Bars. Be realistic. Storing one or two candy bars isn't a bad idea, but don't load an entire pouch with them. They are basically pure sugar. And while sugar is good for a boost, sugar will also make you crash when taken in large amounts. Don't crash! If you eat a candy bar, save part of it and only eat a nibble. This way, you get the burst of energy without the side-effect of a crash in about, say... 30 minutes!

Any backpacker store, or outfitter will have these freeze-dried meals and other types of food designed specifically for hikers. Just date them with the day you bought them and the date of expiration. When the expiration date draws near, pull them and take them with you on your next hike. Just remember to replace what you take from your 72 hour kit.

-James

Water For Survival - Necessity!

Don't worry. This entry won't be quite as long as my last few have been because I am talking about H2O. That's right: water.

Water is essential to human life. The body is 60% water, where the other 40% is comprised of intracellular fluid and extracellular fluid. To survive, you must continue to hydrate yourself with water. If you stop drinking water, you will begin to dehydrate. Dehydration is defined as an excessive loss of body fluid. Common forms of dehydration include the loss of electrolytes (sodium in particular), water, and a combination of both. I'm not going to spout off much scientific jargon because jargon isn't what will save your life. Water will save your life. Drink it!

Your body loses fluid through heat, cold, stress, defecation, and exertion. In nominal temperatures (68 degrees F), the body loses 2-3 quarts (liters) of water a day. Therefore, you need to replenish said amounts. You may lose more or less depending on various factors, such as temperature, humidity, physical exertion, or other factors such as diarrhea.

The result of dehydration, which is the inadequate resupply of water into your system, is shock. It also reduces your ability to do even the simplest of tasks, like tying a knot.

To prevent dehydration, you should take small sips of water regularly, even if you are not thirsty. Thirst does not indicate how much water you need. Moreover, thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated.

Here is a simple body fluid loss percentage with the results. At 5% body fluid loss, you are thirsty, irritable, nauseated, and you may feel weak. At 10%, dizziness occurs, followed by a headache, inability to walk, and a tingling sensation in the limbs. At 15%, your vision suffers, it hurts to urinate, your tongue swells, deafness can occur, and you experience a numb feeling in your skin. If you lose more than 15% body fluid due to dehydration, YOU WILL DIE!

It's always been said to me that your urine should be clear, or close to it. However, if you can pee out 1 gallon a day, you are doing your part to stay hydrated. Obviously, in high heat, you should increase your water intake to 4-8 gallons daily, depending on how hot it is, exposure, and your level of activity. When I went to Boy Scout Camp in late July, 2009, it was 110 degrees (dropping only to 90 in the evening), and there was no wind. I must've filled my 1 quart nalgene bottle 30 times each day! Still, a lot of people suffered from heatstroke, which is the body's inability to cool itself off. Basically, it's like an overheating engine, which is BAD!

Now, I've been severely dehydrated before, so I know what it's like to experience it. It sucks! My judgment was impaired, I became clumsy, and couldn't see straight. My ability to navigate using my compass and map went straight down the toilet. Fortunately, my wife was there and was able to help me back to camp without me getting killed.

In your 72 hour kit, is important to carry 3 days worth of water, which amounts to about 3 gallons. These should be in sealed containers that you did not open (bottled water). The reason for that is algae growth. When the water is bottled at the factory, it is a sterile environment. Your kitchen, or your garden hose, is not. Using your own containers introduces all sorts of opportunities for little bacterial things to grow, and mold to occur. Mold and bacteria = very VERY bad. You may expect diarrhea if you drink contaminated water, at the least.

Should you find yourself in a situation where you've got a long way to go, and you have run out of water, then you have another option; purification or filtration. I recommend buying a water filter or purifier (whatever you decide is up to you - makes no difference to me). This will allow you to collect water from any source and use it. From mud puddles to rivers, to streams, to even used bath water, a filtering device will remove contaminants and make it safe to drink. I would avoid sewage or the water IN the toilet bowl. Water from a toilet tank is safe. To put one of these filtration devices to the test, a friend of mine and I pumped Mt Dew through a MSR water filter. Water came out. No hint that it was soda just seconds before.

You might also carry iodine tablets designed for water purification as an alternative to filters. Additionally, boiling water will also kill bacteria and make it safe to drink. Double your safety by first filtering and then boiling.

Remember that dehydration is your enemy and will render you nothing more than a boat anchor if you are trying to make it home safe. Stay hydrated. It is of the utmost of importance.
 
-James

Fuel

In most emergencies, earthquake, power outage, snow storm, torrential downpour, lahar, tsunami, or trade embargo, fuel will be in limited supply. You'd better stock up on your own.

Most vehicles these days run on unleaded gasoline. Some of you, like me, also drive oil burners known as Diesel powered vehicles. However, most do drive gasoline powered vehicles. My work van runs on unleaded gas. This is a strength and a weakness at the same time. Normally, unleaded gas is widely available and can be had at any gas station you choose. However, if you were paying attention during my last post in moisture, you recall that I said during the last big power outage in the area, all the gas pumps were dried up for miles. I don't know how many miles. What I do know is that of all the 5 gas stations I visited, all were crammed with really cranky people trying to get the last drop of whatever was left, which meant that I had to visit 5 gas stations just to get 5 gallons of 92 octane fuel; the cheap stuff was bought out first.

The first line of defense is to keep your fuel tank at least 1/2 full. I know this can be a pain because it means you will visit the gas station twice as much as you normally do. I know a lot of people wait until their tanks are on "E" before they stop by. The good news about filling up when your vehicle is at 1/2 is the sticker shock isn't so high. I keep my vehicles at at least 1/2 tank at all times, or at least I try to. Sometimes it drops a bit lower, but I make a concerted effort to keep the tank full, or at least at 1/2.

Why?

Because in the best case scenario, you will be able to drive straight home. Widespread power outages don't make for impassable bridges and roads. However, it can make for a really bad traffic jam if all the companies in the area send their employees home. Ever sit in traffic with only 1/8 of a tank of fuel, and have 30 miles to go? Not a very comforting feeling, is it? What about a snow storm? If you are prepared, you might have tire chains. This means you can drive on most roads even in the snow. But that doesn't mean that some idiot in a fancy rear-wheel drive sports car won't try to drive home without chains. Every single time there is a snow event in the Puget Sound area, it seems that EVERYONE takes to the roads and freeways in their cars. Unprepared for the conditions as they are, they put their lives in jeopardy in a vain attempt to make it home instead of just waiting it out until the traffic dies down. I can't count how many cars I've seen stuck, abandoned on the side of the road because they got stuck or ran out of fuel. The bottom line? Keep your tank full as often as you can because you never know when you will be stuck or unable to get to a gas station... or even if the station will have gas.

Now, you vehicle's fuel tank is the obvious, and smartest choice for storing fuel safely. They are vented and engineered to be extremely safe, even in a crash (unless you drive an old Ford Pinto). There is no need to drive around with a 1-gallon fuel can sloshing and rolling around in your trunk.

But wait James. Isn't this about the 72 hour kit, not the vehicle? Keep your shirt on, I'm getting to it.

Now that we understand that you will have a good chance of driving home, albeit on weird routes to avoid major congestion, during many emergencies, we must still address you going out on foot. This is where your fuel tank can help you again.

We want to see if there is a way to close the distance between our location and home. If even only 5 miles, it will cut hours off your walk. We want to get as close to home as we can. If it means sitting in traffic or driving slow for a few hours, it still means something. Chances are it is really cold outside and even though one could walk faster than you are driving, you are still warm and your feet and hands aren't cold. Your cell phone is still plugged in and charging, and your gear is still stowed away in the back, protected from the elements outside.

But now is the time to hoof it. If you are still 20 miles from home, you have a good day to two days worth of walking ahead of you, depending on terrain and conditions. Give yourself plenty of time if it is overly hot, cold, blustery, or snowing. Ice slows you down fast because you don't want to slip and hurt yourself.

You will still need to eat. But as stated before, unless you only bring a year's worth of Clif Bars, you will need to prepare your food. For this, you will need a stove, and for that you will need fuel.

For backpacking and camping, I use a combination of different stoves and fuel styles, depending on what I'm doing. I have propane, white gas, dual fuel, and butane mix type stoves. My favorite for backpacking is my butane canister stove because it works in the cold and high altitude, where white gas or unleaded doesn't. It's also easier because there is no need to dispense or pressurize the fuel. It's all done for me. But that's backpacking. There are no gas stations or cars to siphon fuel from where I go, so there is no need to take white gas on most occasions. However...

You will likely pass all sorts of cars and gas stations on your way home. Some may have fuel. Some won't. But chances are that you will be able to find at least something.

For the "bug out bag", I recommend taking a dual fuel, or other multi-fuel stove. My favorite, although a little more bulky than others, is the Coleman Sportster II dual fuel stove.

Another good stove is the MSR Dragonfly multi-fuel stove which burns white gas, unleaded gas, diesel fuel, kerosene, and jet fuel. That's good news for you diesel guys too. Another is the MSR Whisperlite Internationale, which burns white gas, kerosene, and unleaded fuel. I have yet to see a stove that can use isobutane/propane and liquid fuels. But if you find one, email me and I will buy it.

Now, this isn't a plug for Coleman or MSR, even though I'm a big fan of both companies. This is just what I know works well. I've seen cheaper stoves out there and most of the time, my backpacking or camping companions ask to use my stoves because either theirs won't work or it's broken. Remember this adage: Quality hurts you once. Crap hurts you all the time. Aside from the backpack, your stove will represent the most considerable investment of money and time to learn to use and maintain. You may buy something you think will work well, only to find out down the road that it doesn't work as well as you intended for your circumstance. How do you think I ended up with 3 or 4 stoves in the first place? My MSR Superfly is great for backpacking, but I'm not so sure it would be great as a survival tool because it uses a specialized fuel canister using a special blend of 80/20 Isobutane and propane. You gonna refine that in the field?

Nope, it's dual fuel, multi-fuel or nothing at all. Get something that will operate on automotive unleaded fuel. That's the key. Should you find yourself needing to siphon off a tank, you will find a lot of cars or even a fuel station. Note, this kind of behavior is not condoned at all... unless your life is at absolute risk. Remember, your own vehicle is a storage vessel for fuel. Here's a trick for getting to it:

This trick works for carbureted and EFI vehicles.

1. If you have an electric fuel pump (EFI), then it will start to pump fuel when you crank the vehicle. If you have a mechanical fuel pump (carburetor), then it will start to pump fuel when you crank the vehicle.
2. Disconnect the distributor from the coil by unplugging the coil wire. This will allow the vehicle to crank, but it will not start (also a great theft deterrent).
3. Disconnect the fuel line going into your carb or the fuel rail, or TBI. Note, on EFI systems, there is a return line to the tank. If you disconnect it, crank it, and nothing comes out, you disconnected the wrong fuel line. If you do not know which one is which, locate your fuel filter (normally under the car) and follow the line to the carb or EFI system. You can also disconnect the line at the fuel filter if you have the tools to do so. If nothing else, cut the rubber line to get access to the fuel.
4. stick your container (whatever you will catch the fuel in) under the open fuel line. Go inside and crank the engine. Fuel will pump out into the container.
5. Reconnect or plug the fuel line when you are done. Note, if you are leaving your vehicle, just leave the distributor wire unplugged until you can return.

I used this trick one time out camping. Silly me, I forgot to pack extra white gas for my Coleman stove. Luckily it is dual fuel, so I used this trick to fill up my stove and keep cooking. Needless to say, the boy scouts who were with me learned a valuable lesson about being prepared and learned a neat survival trick at the same time.

Now, you ask, why not just siphon the tank? Well, most vehicles have a little check ball in there that keeps the fuel in the tank in the event the vehicle rolls over. The opening is wide enough for fuel to get through, but not necessarily a siphon hose. My dad found this out trying to siphon fuel from his van in a vain attempt to get fuel for his generator.

One thing you can do, if you wish to avoid damaging your vehicle, is install a shutoff and bypass valve. This will allow you to close off fuel from your engine and open a valve to harvest it from the supply line. Two small ball valves would accomplish this task. One valve closes fuel off to the engine and the other is open to drain the fuel from your vehicle. I recommend installing this AFTER the fuel filter because it will protect your camp stove from contaminants.

Of course, it is hoped that you have enough white gas on hand so that you do not need to siphon off your tank. You may, at your own risk, carry your stove with the fuel tank almost full. Allow some room for expansion for hot days. I'd also carry an extra fuel bottle, like this just to be safe. You should note that dual fuel stoves, like the Coleman Sportster II actually burn hotter with unleaded gas, and unleaded gas is less expensive than white gas. Be sure to rotate your fuel supply every 6 months, as with everything else. Gasoline does have a shelf life. 1 year max with unleaded fuel. Do not use fuel stabilizers in stoves. I have done some research into Coleman white gas and while it lasts a lot longer than unleaded gas, you will still want to filter it before use. You can buy a funnel that has a small foam filter at REI for less than $3. My advice. Save yourself the headache and cycle out fuel every six months during normal kit rotation.  Otherwise, you risk the fuel gumming up the gas lines and jets.

I like to purge my stove of fuel by draining most of it, but leaving just a little inside. Pump it up and run it at full bore until the flame dies. This will ensure that no residual fuel is left in the jets or in the line leading to the jet. Open and drain out any remaining liquid fuel and let it sit for a while. Unleaded fuel does evaporate. Now, Coleman does not recommend storing your stove with fuel in the tank due to lacquer buildup, which can impede the flow of fuel. If this is a concern for you, then get another MSR fuel container so you can fill the stove as needed instead of using it as a storage vessel. But if you are going to to that far, just get an MSR stove in the first place and store the fuel in their containers.

There is no catch-all. Obviously, you can't prepare for everything and there isn't enough room in any vehicle to be prepared for all that may happen. What we are focusing on is a few major situations that we, in the Puget Sound region, are concerned about. Fuel is an important asset in a survival situation. You cannot always count on being able to collect firewood to make a fire. It rains a lot here and during the months when many disasters could take place, everything is soaked. A small puddle of white gas will burn for about 5 minutes even in the rain; that's just enough time to warm up your hands so you can get to work.

Once you get your fuel and your stove, you need to light it. I'd recommend carrying both waterproof matches and a lighter that is windproof.

The bottom line: Keep your tank full and take care of your fuel. It will take care of you.
 
-James

Moisture Abatement - The Key to Long Life

I'm going to address moisture first because it will affect EVERYTHING in your 72 hour kit, or bug out bag. Moisture is bad news to just about everything you want to store in your kit. In your first aid kit, it can be detrimental to medications or pain killers that are stowed. With food, it can advance the spoilage to just a few days rather than a year. With electronics, moisture can render even the coolest GPS receiver into a paperweight. With maps, documents, money, and other paper, moisture can make the ink run, the paper tear, and make writing impossible. With clothing, it dampens them and advances mold growth, which renders them useless and unsanitary. My point is that moisture is the enemy of all stored emergency items.

You must take great care to rid your kit of any moisture before you stow it away and make sure that moisture stays away. How do you do this?

First off, I'm a big fan of reusable desiccant bags. They draw moisture away from your gear and can be recharged in the oven or microwave, depending on what you get. I prefer the oven versions because of who knows just what happens in the microwave! The one I linked to is easily identified as needing to be recharged because it gets harder as it absorbs moisture. Just to be safe, you might as well get one not only for in your 72 hour kit box, but put one in the trunk as well as one under your seat in your vehicle. Remember, there is a good possibility that you will be able to drive straight home in most emergencies or disasters. Your vehicle is your first line of defense. As long as it has a tank of gas, some basic emergency tools, and isn't molding out from under you, it will serve you well.

You will also want to store smaller desiccant packets in with your medicines. Most pain killers and prescription drugs are designed to disintegrate when they come in contact with moisture. Unless you want to open a small packet of paste when you go for your favorite pain killer, I suggest a small watertight baggy to store them in (separate from the rest of your first aid kit) and a small desiccant packet inside with it. Packets, such as these are a good choice because they change color to let you know they are unusable.

This brings me to another part of moisture abatement and the laws of physics, if you will. I know, BORING! Man, physics is so dumb! Yeah, it may be dumb and boring, but it is the law and all things must abide by it.

When a container is warm, and then opened in a cold environment, moisture will collect. When the container is closed again, moisture droplets will form. With nowhere else to go, moisture will absorb into anything that will absorb it. Don't believe me? Place a regular dry house hold sponge into a small bowl of water about the same size as the sponge. Come back a few hours later and you will find that the sponge as absorbed almost, if not all, of the water. That's what your gear does! But that is also what a desiccant pack does and it will attract moisture more than your gear will, which will keep it dry and usable. Now, I'm not saying to drop a desiccant pack into a bowl of water. The bowl analogy is a macro-sized example of what happens on a really REALLY small scale. If you've ever left your cell-phone in a car and came back to see moisture in behind your screen, then you know what I'm talking about.

Let me switch gears and talk about a box. What kind of box you use for your 72 hour kit is up to you, but a few basic rules apply:

1. It must secure tightly. It doesn't necessarily have to be airtight or watertight, but being very moisture resistant helps a lot.
2. It should be strong enough to get banged around in the trunk or the back cargo area of your vehicle. You should be able to stand on it without collapsing it. If you cannot, then you need a stronger box.
3. It should be large enough to accommodate all of your gear when packed in, but not so large that it becomes a burden and you find yourself leaving it home. Remember a survival kit left at home is no survival kit at all; it's just a collection of things.
4. It should be low profile enough as to not attract unwanted attention. Don't go labeling it SURVIVAL STUFF or 72 HOUR KIT, or something like that. These kits are a significant investment, and it would be a shame to see a year's worth of kit buildup go away in an instant.
5. Bolt it down if possible. Lock it always.

Okay, so I digressed from sole moisture abatement, but I figured there was no sense talking about a box unless I just got that information out there. Now you know.

Your box should be free of holes. Don't drill drain holes in the bottom of your box. That only serves to attract any moisture that may gather in the carpet UNDER the box. Yes, it happens. I have a tool box in my Ramcharger that was actually stuck to the carpet because moisture collected under it and froze in the cold air. It happens. If you are concerned about moisture building up in the box, put a 1 lb desiccant bag in there and sleep better at night. By the way, a 1 lb desiccant bag is good for an entire trunk, so sealing it in a small box is plenty!

We must now move on to smaller packaging. You want your food to stay fresh and not spoil. You want your electronics to stay dry and protected. You want your batteries to stay in working shape. You want your clothing to remain dry and mildew free. You want your boots to be dry. You sure want a lot. The desiccant bag in the box is going to do a lot to keep your gear nice and dry, but for some items, you need a little extra protection against moisture. Additionally, smaller items will still need to remain moisture free when they transition from the box to the backpack. If you think a car is a moisture prone hellhole for food and gear, wait until you hump it 15 miles in a driving rain.

I like using zip-loc bags in various sizes. I like the freezer bags because they are stronger than your average sandwich baggies. Freezer bags come in all sizes, from smaller to uber huge! You may even vacuum seal some items that you know won't go bad. Batteries last for years in storage. Vacuum seal them with a desiccant pack, date it, and don't worry for about 3-5 years.

If you store food, use FDA approved desiccant packs. No, this doesn't mean to store desiccant packs that can be eaten. There is no such thing. Just use a pack that won't contaminate the food you are storing. If you are trying to save money and store homemade dehydrated fruits, veggies, and jerky, then an FDA approved desiccant pack is worth its weight in gold. Just remember that proper rotation is absolutely necessary with food items, especially homemade goods.

Whenever packing loose food products, vacuum seal it. It removes the air from the package (most of it anyway). The lack of air/oxygen inhibits bacteria growth no matter how much moisture is in it. Rotation on a six month to annual basis, depending on the item is critical. Do not store raw meat or fresh fruits and veggies. They will spoil quickly.

Another option is freeze-dried foods, as they are oftentimes sealed with nitrogen or some other inert gas that renders bacteria growth a non-issue. Most freeze-dried foods last a lot longer than dehydrated foods do. As long as you don't break the seal, you need not worry about moisture entering these foods.

The bottom line is this: if it sealed in a package, drop a desiccant pack in it. Layered defense is your best defense in moisture abatement. Start small. Drop a desiccant sachet in each of your first aid baggies, and the kit. Put desiccant packets into small bags that store other gear or food. Put a large 1 lb desiccant bag in the box to keep all other gear dry. Put a desiccant bag in the trunk or cargo area outside the box to add an additional layer of defense. If you want to really go crazy, put a couple 1 lb desiccant bags in the passenger compartment (hidden of course) to keep moisture at bay there too. Another added benefit is you might find that your car windows don't fog up as much, which is especially nice in older vehicles.

-James

The Bug Out Bag - Introduction

Alright, it's not so much as a "bug out bag" as it is a 72 hour kit designed to get me home in the event of an emergency. I personally think that the term "bug out bag" is a bit of a misnomer because if something really did happen (earthquake, flood, volcanic activity, etc), where in the heck would I bug out to? Chances are, in the Puget Sound region, I'd "bug out" right into a traffic jam.

So, what shall we call it? I dunno, a 72 hour kit? Perhaps a hold out kit? Or what about just a backpack loaded with some survival gear and enough food to last me about 3-5 days so I can get home to assist my family when the shit hits the fan bag?  Sounds good!

Now, let's get serious for a second here. Much of my working life is spent away from the home, as yours probably is. I get up in the morning and commute to work. The problem is that instead of just parking my vehicle 25 miles from home, I'm usually asked to travel an additional 30-70 miles further in order to get to the job site I'll be working at for the day. That puts me anywhere between a minimum of 25 miles to a reasonably average maximum of 150 miles from home. That's a pretty broad range.

Since I spend upwards of 12 hours a day away from home, including travel to and from the shop as my normal commute. That means that for 5 days a week, I'm only home 1/2 of the time. Factor in that all of my survival gear, and not to mention all of my emergency preparedness stuff, is at home, I'm kind of screwed if I can't access it in an emergency.

What good is your gear if you can't use it?

It's good for nothing. That's the answer I have to that simple question. It's nothing more than a boat anchor for all I care. I need a solution. Enter the... eh, "bug out bag."

First off, this isn't a bag for my whole family. It is a solo bag, for me. My only concern for the bag is my own personal safety. It sounds selfish, but unless I can get home safely, then I'm no better than a boat anchor to my family. So, the mindset is that the bag is designed to give me the best possible chance of survival in the first critical hours and days after a major disaster/emergency so that I may be alive and well in order to be there for my family.

So, what makes up this "bug out bag?"

Food, mostly. People need energy reserves before they can expend it. Should I find myself 50 miles from home, stranded with no way to drive, I will be in for a bit of a walk. What could take only an hour driving could take 3 days walking. Hmm, 3 days = 72 hours. The "bug out bag" is a "kit" designed to last "72 hours"... 72 hour kit? Amazing coincidence, eh?

Along with food comes the ability to prepare it. Unless you plan to pack nothing but beef jerky, energy bars, and dehydrated fruit, you will need to find a way to cook it. You will also need a mess kit and basic utensils. Note that with food, you will need to keep it rotated to keep it fresh. I'd do it a minimum of every 6 months to avoid spoilage.

You will also need other gear: cordage, lighters, flint, fuel for your stove, flashlight, signal device, spare batteries, first aid kit, etc.

Let's talk about the first-aid kit. You won't be doing any major surgery on yourself, so leave the big-ass-mumbo-jumbo kit that you can buy at Costco at home. You need to be light and fast. Having a massive first-aid kit to slow you down does you no good if you drop dead from exhaustion. Save weight on the first-aid kit. Go minimal and use the weight savings to pack a water filter.

Water.  Seriously, water is essential to human life. You may survive days, or perhaps weeks, without food but unless you have water YOU WILL DIE... soon. Very soon. In fact, being thirsty is a sign that you are already dehydrated. At 2009 summer scout camp I saw a lot of cases of heat stroke and how it affects people. It's hard to store water effectively because believe it or not, it does go stale. If you have an opened container, or a nalgene bottle that you filled, the water will start to grow some weird stuff that you probably don't want to drink. I'd store enough bottled water to fill your hydration bladder, and then store the bladder dry and empty. Like I said above, keeping a water filter or purifier on hand will help you replenish your water supply on the go.

But why will I need a water filter? I can just walk into 7-11 and get some more. C'mon James. be reasonable!

I am being reasonable. Imagine if you will, a massive earthquake, the BIG ONE, rumbles through the Seattle Metropolitan area, and wipes out tons of buildings, knocks out bridges for 30 miles in every direction, and triggers a lahar on Mt Rainier. I guarantee you that every ounce of fresh water is going to be bought, sold, stolen and hoarded for the next 50 miles in every direction. People may be stupid, but they aren't so stupid that they will forsake an easy snatch of bottled water.

Anecdotal evidence here (touched on in my last blog post): During the big snow storm/ice storm that knocked out power for up to 5 weeks in places around here, people were frantic. There wasn't even an earthquake or major disturbance... except the power went out. After the first few hours, nobody thought much. Even my wife and I went out for dinner in an area that still had the power on. But after the next 24 hours, people went batshit crazy. First things to go were fuel and water. Interesting. I went to Fred Meyer and saw a Chinese guy hoarding so much water that his cart looked like it was going to collapse. When I reached for a storm candle, some jerk pushed me out of the way and grabbed it for himself. There wasn't a gallon of propane to be had for miles, and Lowes sold clean out of generators within 24 hours. It didn't do the proud new owners of said generators any good because by the time they got to the gas station with their brand new gas cans (labels still on them), they soon realized the pumps had run dry. They were back to square one. People were so desperate that a few savvy individuals bought generators and then waited in the parking lot for disappointed customers to come out and then sold them to them for twice the retail price!

Now, am I reasonable? You know I am.

When disasters happen, YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN. Until government agencies can come in and restore order and confidence, there will only be disorder and chaos. And before you give the government too much credit, remember FEMA during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the local governments that elected not to evacuate the citizens with all the hundreds of school buses that were PARKED at the bus barn, only to be buried under 15 feet of water, mud and alligators. I'm still being reasonable. I watched it all happen on CNN.

For your kit, you must pack only what you need and nothing else. Your i-Pod must go. Your cellphone is probably essential, but will be useless in the first 18 hours after an emergency because "all circuits are busy". Turn it off and save the battery. Your best friend will be a good pack, your gear, and a good knife.

It's amazing how much you can do with a good knife. I carry a knife everywhere I go. I find I use it for so many things that I feel naked without it. Now, don't go packing some knife you will never see again until you need it. Pack the same knife you use frequently. My knife is a Kershaw Needs Work1820GRY. It is a locking folder with assisted spring opening. It has a flat blade with a thick spine to give more leverage when cutting or peeling. It isn't a fighting knife. it is a utility knife designed for doing what I do with it - work. However, it does have a sharp pointy tip that would really ruin someones day if need be. Plus, the blade is razor sharp. I prefer not to carry expensive knives because I break them just as fast as a cheap one. Knives are consumables. Their blades are finite and you can only keep the edge sharp for so long until the blade wears away. I'm not saying that you can't keep a knife sharp for years. I have a Cold Steel Kobun that has seen zero use in the time I've owned it and I'll be willing to bet that the blade is as sharp as the day I bought it, almost 6 years ago. The problem with the Kobun is that it is a fixed blade knife, a fighting knife.  I don't get into knife fights much, so, it doesn't see nearly as much action as my utility knife. Use what you pack. Pack what you use. That's my motto.

What about the pack? That is highly subjective and will be what you are comfortable carrying. If all you can handle is a small Jansport backpack, then that's what you carry. If you feel comfortable with an army issue ruck, then that's what you carry. Just don't go out and buy something expensive and never use it. Break it in and find out how it works for you. Your pack should be comfortable, supportive, and reasonably sized for 3 days worth of rations and gear. I have an Osprey pack, but it is for excursion type backpacking - not 3 day survival. Don't get me wrong, if I needed to "bug out" while at home, I'd pack it to the hilt. But I think that for something to toss in my vehicle, I can get away with something much more basic and low profile. A good used pack, military grade, is something I would put into my kit. Whatever you chose, be sure to take it on a few backpacking trips to find out what works, what doesn't, or even if this relationship between you and your pack is going to be a healthy one.

One more thing about packs: Don't store them loaded. I know, I know. It kind of defeats the purpose of a bag you just grab and run like hell with. But c'mon. If something is coming at you that fast, you're already in deep shit. Get a good box to store in your vehicle. Arrange your gear neatly inside so it doesn't rattle around or spill. Make it so you can easily inventory, assess, and modify as needed. Then place your pack loosely over it and cover with the box lid. For an added measure, I'd toss a few desiccant packs for moisture abatement. Why all of this? Well, for one, if you need to rotate stock, you don't want to have to unpack and pack your backpack every time. Additionally, you don't want to store your pack under stress. Keeping it loaded, almost bursting at the seams, does not help your pack's longevity. Storing the pack relaxed takes tension off draw cords, straps, seams, and the material itself. It takes but a few minutes to pack your gear into your backpack. And trust me, if you survive the disaster in the first place, you will have nothing but time (in most instances). Additionally, it allows you to pack other things in your kit that you normally wouldn't stow in your pack. Good boots, for instance, are something that you would wear rather than pack. Instead of taking up space in the pack, they sit in the box, ready for you to put on. Different clothes, a belt, a multi-tool, etc are all things that you would wear rather than pack. In the wintertime, you can also add more to the box, like a blanket, or shovel, more food, or even a gun.

This all helps you to do another thing: slow down. It gives you time to assess and reflect on your situation. Where are you in relation to your home and family and guns and food? What's the best route home? Where is the damage? Can I drive around and bypass the disaster and get a little closer before I have to hoof it? If your pack was loaded and you could just head off, you might not take time to listen to the radio and find out some critical details pertaining to the emergency at and. This could put your life and safety at risk, rendering you a boat anchor to your family.

-James

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go? Those were the words in some weird song from the 80's or 90's (it's all a blur anymore). The question is a serious one, however, when you consider your options in an emergency. Should you stand your ground or should you "bug out"? Already, in early 2009, people in areas affected by major flooding had to assess their situation and answer that question. What happens next is a matter of preparation, expectation, and whatever Mother Nature has in mind.

In the Pacific Northwest area (Puget Sound Region), the ratio of chances of needing to "bug out" vs staying put are 1:1. I shall use my circumstances as an example. I live in the shadow of Mt Rainier, and it is no coincidence that I am also on the leading edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire. I also live within 10 miles of two major military installations: Fort Lewis and McCord Air Force Base. I also live within 30 miles of Bremerton, where there is a Naval Base. We also have sub pens at Bangor, which isn't much farther than that. Aside from geological and military infrastructure, we also have Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Olympia; major shipping ports for goods coming from overseas. This is also a sensitive area because terrorists always have the possibility of dropping things such as dirty bombs right on our doorstep.

When I put together a survival kit/bug-out-bag (BOB for short), I had to identify what threats I am preparing to survive. I put a lot of thought into what I might run into. Following Captain Dave's model of what to prepare for, I identified a few questions that needed to be answered before a kit was assembled. After all, it would do me no good to pack N100 masks if a dirty bomb was blown up just two miles from my house. On the other hand, having a gun doesn't help me if a volcanic eruption spews poisonous gas over us all and kills us. What would I do? Shoot the ash as it falls down around me?

In the interest of preparation, I modeled my research based on what I found online. Hey, there is no sense in making it up yourself if you can use online resources. That's the beauty of the Internet. After pouring over my regional situation, I identified 5 major problems that would mostly likely occur; these are the dangers I need to prepare for the most. Note: these are the events that would be most likely, but not necessarily be the events that will occur. There may also be variables that I did not think of, but I believe that preparing for these 5 higher risk probabilities leave me in pretty fair shape to asses and survive just about anything. My survival list includes 5 major sections that are addressed individually and augment each section after it.

First on my list: What Do I Prepare For?

1. What natural disasters or extreme conditions are my family and I likely to face in the next five years?

a. Earthquake
b. Volcanic Eruption/Lahar
c. Power Outage (large scale)
d. Fire
e. Flooding

In addition to these 5 disasters, I also identified other situations that I could face in my lifetime:

2. What other disasters or emergency situations might I face?

a. Civil Disorder (increased crime)/riots/political uprising
b. Economic Crisis (can follows natural disasters)
c. Terrorism
d. War
e. Tsunami

Now that I've identified disasters/emergencies, I needed to identify the ramifications of each event: (I have included the top three for example)

3. What are the ramifications of each item on my list?

Potential Disaster: Earthquake

Ramifications:

Infrastructure Destruction (roads/bridges/railways/Buildings)
Injuries/death
Travel impediment
Supply line cut
Business shut down
Looting/Civil unrest

Potential Disaster: Volcanic Eruption/Lahar

Ramifications:

Ash disbursement over wide area
Air Quality compromised
Mudslide
Power outage
Travel impediment
Refugees
Injuries/death

Potential Disaster: Power Outage (Large Scale)

Ramifications:

Utilities non-functional
Perishable food spoilage
Civil unrest

While flooding is something that the State of Washington has dealt with a great deal of in recent weeks, and is number 5 on my list, it's number 5 for a reason; it is the least likely of the 5 disasters to affect me. I live on top of a hill; I have for many years. If I was still living in the Puyallup/Orting Valley (in the shadow and destructive path of Mt Rainier), then it would likely be number 1, with a Lahar coming in a very close second. But I was prepared for that when I bought my house (and also with the houses I rented in the past). I took that into consideration. It could still flood up here in Tacoma, but my house is also about 4 feet higher than street level, so it would need to flood 4 feet up here before it got to my house. While possible, that likelihood is highly improbable.

The second part is your home. It's where you live, and in all logical likeliness, it is where you will make your stand in most survival situations. Consider: You do not necessarily abandon your home in a power outage, and that's number 3 on my list. You do not necessarily abandon your home after an earthquake (unless it's been destroyed), and it's number 1 on my list. In reality, traffic will be so bogged down that "bugging out" will be all but useless. You'll waste precious fuel and in the end, you won't get far. Plus, you will be separated from your own personal infrastructure and family. I have a generator at home with enough fuel on hand (gas cans and vehicle fuel tanks) to last weeks. I have enough food at home to last months, and Western Washington has no shortage of fresh water to purify and drink (it's raining now as I type). I also have all my guns here, ammo, cleaning supplies, vehicles, clothing, boots, blankets, and a working furnace that will supply heat as long as gas lines and electricity work. Having a b.o.b. is no good if you do not have a headquarters, so to speak.

Now, onto number three on my list: Vehicles. Your survival in a desperate situation depends on your ability to be flexible. And flexibility is all about mobility. Between us (my wife and I), we have three vehicles at our disposal. Each has different capabilities and allows us to maximize survival efficiency in a situation. If the power goes out, and I need to resupply my stock of candles or kerosene, a four wheel drive isn't always necessary. The roads aren't destroyed, and traffic is there whether I drive the Ramcharger or not. Added to that, the first 24 hours of a major power outage don't often necessitate driving over curbs and through people's yards. My wife's Saturn Ion is plenty vehicle for this situation. It is fuel efficient, so as to not rob my generator's supply as much as my Ramcharger would. Now, let's say the roads are biffed, and offroad capability is mandated. I think you get the idea here.

Now to number 4: Supplies and Kits. This is anything and everything you think you will need to survive the catastrophes that you would likely see in your area. The supplies you carry are highly personalized to each situation and cannot be stretched too much into another area. But there are your basics: food, water, gear, and protection/procurement. Of course, you need food and water to survive, and I keep enough on hand to be comfortable while in a situation. Keeping variety is necessary to keep moral up (as moral is just as important as your gear). I have a shitload of tools that I can use at home (I'm a mechanic, remember?). So stocking up on wrenches and stuff is not necessary for me. But it may be for you. You need to be self-sufficient and fixing stuff might be necessary. I also have camping gear and various items on hand to protect against different threats: masks for volcanic gases, first aid kits for wounds, water purification to make it potable, candles, lamps, batteries for power outages, knives and multitools for on-the-go problems, toilet paper (don't forget the TP!), fuel for generators and cooking/heating, etc. Now, many of these items are in various places. I've identified what would stay and what would go. To that, I keep a small toolbox in my Ramcharger with some of my more basic (and necessary) tools. Lindsay and I also have what I call "go boxes". If I need to suddenly "GO", I already have everything I may need in a few lockable boxes that I can quickly get into the Ramcharger (or truck) and we can "GO"! Things like camping gear are in these boxes. I have batteries, flashlights, some food, etc that goes into them. Basically, we take our "go boxes" camping because camping is essentially what we'd be doing if we had to leave suddenly. This way, we also go through our stock and keep it updated regularly. If guns need to "GO" with us suddenly, I know where they are. The gun cases are close by, and I know exactly which ones to bring and which ones to keep in the safe, where they would hopefully be safe from looters. If the safe is bolted down to the concrete floor, the handle removed, and the battery taken out, it should keep looters at bay - note the keyword here:should. You take a big risk leaving your house and you should only do it if your chances of survival out on the road far outweigh your chances of survival if you stay home; and it should not be considered lightly.

The last and fifth section of my survival plan is just that: a plan. Do we stay? Do we go? Where do we go? How do we get there? Where do we assemble? Do we have a cache of supplies elsewhere? AHHH! Didn't think of that? Neither did I until I read Captain Dave's Survival Guide. I haven't had the resources to do so, but I plan on getting some of my family together on a storage unit about 100 miles away and storing up some supplies, ammo, and possibly a weapon or two there. That way we can assemble somewhere plausibly safe and equip there. It would add greatly to the "bug out bag" or "go boxes", or whatever you call it. I call it "cache augmentation". Yeah, it sounds big and that's the idea; it is big. Basically, you cannot survive without a plan, so plan and plan. Practice. Drive to your rallying point to see how long it takes. Drive there during rush hour and get a better idea of how long it will really take. Drive there during Thanksgiving weekend and you will have a new respect for how far you can get on a tank of fuel. It took me 2 and a half hours to drive just 30 miles on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend. Yeah, I worked overtime and was on the road at 4:30 PM and got home at 8 PM.

So, here it is: The short version:

1. Identify
2. Prepare your home
3. Prepare your Vehicle(s)
4. Assemble your Kit
5. Make a Plan

-James

Civility Breakdown and Total ANARCHY

What is it that makes a civilized society civilized?  What is the number one thing that keeps people from turning into animals and running amok in complete anarchy?

While I can't say that there is one magical thing, I can think of a few things that keep a civilized society civil.

1. Gasoline: It is the lifeblood of nations and without it, all industry grinds to a halt.

2. Electricity: This is something we take for granted everyday.  99.999% of people can't make it through 1 minute of their day without using electricity.

3. Running water: This is another thing we take for granted daily.  When you shower, brush your teeth, go to the bathroom, you use water and sewer services that require a massive infrastructure to keep working.

4. Food supply: We rely on grocery stores to bring food to us packaged conveniently so we may consume it quickly.

If you lose these four things for any period of time, our so-called civilized society starts to break down rapidly.  My line of work is pretty much emergency type work.  I maintain generators.  Without backup power, places like hospitals, fire stations, police stations, water treatment plants, and even sewer systems stop working.  Believe me when I tell you I've seen people go from good to completely terrible when they realize their power (or backup power) is out, especially if it is critical equipment.

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August of 2005, it completely devastated the Gulf Coast, killed 1800 people, and destroyed a levee system that governments were in charge of maintaining.  Flood waters rammed casino boats and houses into buildings and land upwards of 12 miles inland.  Flood waters remained high for weeks after the event.  Five years after the fact, many people affected by Hurricane Katrina still live in temporary housing.  The catastrophe has cost America over 90 BILLION dollars!

How long did it take for services, electricity, fuel, and food supply lines to break down?  Well, fuel was scarce before the hurricane made landfall.  People were busy trying to get out of the path of destruction.  That put a squeeze on fuel supply.  Others tried to stock up on food as best they could after realizing they would not make it out in time.  There goes the food supply.  As for electricity and other services like water and sewer, they were put out of business when the hurricane destroyed power substations, flooded levees, destroyed sewer systems, and ravaged water treatment centers.

After the fact, how long did it take for our civilized society to break down completely and go into utter chaos and anarchy?  Four days.  Just four days after the trapped people realized they were on their own, our wonderful civilized society broke down into every man for himself.  People were raped, stolen from, murdered, and victimized either for the few things they had or because people didn't know how to cope with the sudden loss of all these things that we take for granted every single day. 

Eventually, order was restored, but not before shooting between police and civilians took center stage.  Many of the refugees still in the area were criminals and were responsible, in large, for the murders and rapes that took place after the hurricane swept through.  Another terrifying thing that happened was that police and national guard troops were going house to house, disarming the residents of their weapons that they had for home defense, leaving them completely defenseless and at the mercy (or lack thereof) of criminals and looters.  Fortunately, legislation was put into place afterward to make sure that legally armed civilians would not be disarmed again.  Will our government ignore those laws the next time?  We may never know.

I cite Hurricane Katrina because it was recent (within the last decade).  I also cite it because when people say "It will never happen to me," it in fact does. 

About 4 years ago, we had a major power outage across the Pacific Northwest that put people in the dark for upwards of two weeks, in the middle of winter.  During that time, I watched as hardware stores were cleared of candles, kerosene fuel, gas cans, propane canisters, gas stoves, lanterns, etc.  Gas stations were inundated with people trying to get what little fuel into their gas tanks as they could.  I remember being pushed over by a man trying to buy scented candles because that's all the stores had left.  During all this drama, I watched as stores in the areas not affected, sometimes a few miles away, were completely stocked with vital supplies like food, water, toilet paper, etc. 

Without even suffering a major catastrophe, people acted like it was the Apocalypse, and crammed into stores at the last minute to get whatever they could.  Why?  Because they didn't prepare?  Of course.  But really why?  Because something they took for granted everyday up and went away and they didn't know how long it would be until the lights came back on.  The water was still running.  Toilets were still flushing.  Streets hadn't been destroyed, and everywhere you went, you could always go a few more miles and find areas that weren't affected.

What I remember the most was that people went from being polite to going into every man for himself mode.  Suddenly, the rule of law did not matter?  If you had a generator, you kept it under guard at all times, lest someone come along and steal it from you.  In fact, people went into places like Home Depot, bought a couple generators at the normal price, and sold them in the parking lot for twice as much.  No, nothing illegal about that, but only a douche bag would think to do something like that to his fellow human being in a time of need.

I kept a low profile during that incident.  I had my little generator and a heater.  We ran it for the time we were out of power (which for us was only about a day or so).  We had food, blankets, kerosene lamps, etc to ride it out.  No big deal in our house.  But for some people, it was the end of the world.  They would resort to theft, scandalous activity, and given enough strife, murder to get what they needed to survive.  Hey, it's the survival of the fittest, right?

Now, before you start to say, "Okay, well what's your point anyway," allow me to make it.  No, I'm not going to go about telling you what you need to survive, although I have some writings in that way for you and they will be coming shortly.  But when you prepare, don't announce it to the world.  In the blogosphere, I can get away with it, for the most part, because nobody knows where I live.  I'm talking about your neighbors and friends.  They can and oftentimes do turn on you at the worst moments.

So, what of these writings of mine?  They relate mostly to the bug out bag, which I've sort of touched on before, but these writings are far more detailed and worthwhile to read.  Stay tuned.

-James

Saturday, October 23, 2010

.22 Practice Pistol

With the rising cost of ammunition, and the need to stockpile my self defense munitions, I feel the need to buy a pistol that I can practice shooting zillions of rounds out of without breaking the bank.  Every time, I shoot 100 rounds of 9mm, it costs me over $30 typically.  A box of 500 .22lr rounds only costs $20 on the high end. 

Since I'm trying to save money shooting, I don't want to spend a ton of money on a gun.  Spending a bunch of money on a new gun to shoot .22lr would be like buying a Toyota Prius at $35K to save 30mpg on a 12mpg truck that's paid for.  It just doesn't make sense.  So, the gun has to meet two criteria: 1, it must shoot cheap ammo.  2, the gun itself must be inexpensive (not necessarily cheap).

After killing some paper at the range today, I walked to the downstairs gun shop to look at some .22 automatics.  I handled the Sig Sauer Mosquito (.22lr), but the slide lock release tab sticks out too far and I can't get my thumb on the gun very well; I have large hands.  I also considered a revolver, but revolvers, no matter what caliber, aren't going to go for less than $350 ever, unless you find a score.  I'm not a gambling man, so I'll stick with what I know: buy new or buy used (if I can find one). 

I handled a couple different Ruger Mk III style pistols today.  Ruger has made these guns for years and they come in two basic variations: traditional and the 22/45 style, which uses a 1911 style grip frame.  I took a liking to the 22/45 style because even though I don't own a 1911 pistol, the grips emulate more traditional automatic grips, like the ones found on my SR9 series of guns.  additionally, the light weight of the gun is a plus.

Of the 22/45 weapons, you can get various barrel versions, such as regular tapered, stainless, bull, fluted and slabside (pic above is a 4.5" slabside model).  I'm hooked on the little slabside gun.  It meets all the criteria (he he, only two... yeah).  Ruger MSRP is $333, which should translate into about $260 retail at the local gunshop.  The barrel length, as mentioned is 4.5" long and the entire gun is about 8.5" long.  Magazine capacity is 10 and the weight is 30 oz unloaded, which is actually heavier than my Ruger SR9c!  In fact, my Beretta M9A1 weighs just 3.9 ounces more than this pistol!  This information is critical, as this 22/45 is comparable to the guns that this is intended to supplement.

As this gun isn't going to be an expensive buy, I intend to get a full day of overtime in at work.  This should get me most of the way there, if not all the way.  Just need to call the gun shop and get a price and work with that.

-James

BEHOLD!


This ain't your grandfather's M9!  This is how they ought to look out of the box!  I haven't even had the chance to fire this yet and already I've replaced the plastic grip panels with licensed Hogue wrap around grips, complete with the Beretta logo.  I've also mounted the Streamlight TLR-1s weapon light, and that's where it will stay.

I barely had enough time to snap this picture before I found that I want to add glow in the dark night sights to it.  Aside from perhaps a few internal modifications, that's about as far as it will go.  I do plan on getting 4 20rd flush fit Mec Gar magazines for it as well.

Update: I took it shooting and I was putting 1" groups at 7 yards with it, right out of the box.  No trigger modications have been done to this weapon.  No malfunctions of any kind.  This weapon is superb.

-James