SHTF Update

Hey everybody.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to put a blog post out today.  Mrs Jarhead was admitted to the hospital this Sunday evening and I need to take care of her and the kids.

They’re not sure yet what it is, but the leading theory is a tick borne disease.  All I can say is she’s been in tremendous pain and thanks to some good medication is now sleeping comfortably.

Since this is a prepper blog it might be wise to note that if something like this happened when you didn’t have access to a medical facility, it would be a good idea to have some serious pain killer on hand.  My understanding is that if this is tick borne the idea is to hit it with some antibiotics, something else that might be good to have stashed away.

Question?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

Cooking Food After the SHTF – It’s NOT Optional

It can be easy to lose sight of the basics as a prepper. You get to worrying about how many beans and bullets you have, and it can be easy to forget about things like how you’ll cook those beans. Remember, most SHTF scenarios are things you can survive.  Some will be short enough that you can skate through on meal replacement bars, canned fruit and water. For anything longer than a few days though, you’ll want to consider a way to cook some hot food. Cooking is crucial to our diets. It helps us digest food without expending huge amounts of energy. TEOTWAWKI is not the time for a raw diet.

Morale - Cooking a hot meal can also be a good morale booster. Whether it’s a simple pot of oatmeal or a soup full of dried veggies and meat, it doesn’t have to be complicated to raise spirits.  I carry oatmealspaghetti makings in our bug out bags. Raisins and cinnamon already mixed in the measured out oats, just add boiling water.   For bigger groups there are freeze-dried meals that can cover quite a crowd. I have one can that will feed 10 people  spaghetti with meat sauce with the quick addition of boiling water.

Basic - Really basic, can you boil water? That should be your starting point for this one. Make sure you have a way to boil water. Bug out, bug in, power on or grid down. Hot drinks, safe drinking water, simple meals and the freeze dried ready-to-eat meals all need boiled water. You can get pretty far with just boiling water, days and days if you plan your food storage right. Think this one through carefully though. You may have to boil water in your house, basement bug in for radiation events come to mind. You may have to boil water in a temporary refugee type situation, maybe you’re camped out at a state park waiting for flood water to recede so you can go home. You may have to boil water for weeks on end with no warning, say your friendly local chemical dealer lets a couple of tanks leak into your county’s water supply.  So you want something that can handle most of those situations, or maybe a couple of somethings that together can cover all the scenarios. My solution was a Kelly Kettle.  It’s a basic rocket stove design. Very sturdy, very safe, light weight. Runs on twigs and pinecones, which I have a lot of.  I don’t have to balance anything on top of it because the whole kettle fills with water.

Safe Meat -For longer SHTF type events you may need the ability to cook up meat. Hunting prizes or raised livestock or just freezer meat that has to be cooked before they rot because power is down.  Of course a basic stick over a fire can get you some cooked meat, it’s not terribly efficient though. A grill or a way to bake the meat bbq style, either would work better. Meat can also go into the boiling water mentioned above, soups and stews are very efficient if you need to get every last calorie you can.

Vegetables – Even garden goodness occasionally needs some cooking to be at max nutritional value.  Cooked carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables supply more antioxidants, such as carotenoids, to the body than they do when raw. Boil or steam them for maximum benefits. Lycopene also increases in availability for us after cooking. Gentlemen, if you don’t know why you need Lycopene, give it a quick Google search.

Cooking for a crowd – The last thing I can think about to say on this one, is plan to cook meals to a bit bigger than normal. (And yes, I’m implying that your normal should be a cooked meal.) Whether you are feeding an elderly neighbor, or your brother-in-law is on your couch with his family in your guest bedroom, times of hardship will necessitate people coming together. Make sure you have a large pot and a couple of large pans. And that your cooking/stove setup can handle the weight of those.

What are your plans for grid down survival cooking? Do you get a lot of practice with it? Where do you think your weak spots are?  Shout out in the comments!

- Calamity Jane
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There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that when it comes to the one-gun prepper arsenal, the shotgun reigns supreme. King of the hill, my boomstick, baby! We here at have written about many a time – you can find our musings about the ultimate in firearms versatility here, here, and here.


If you scroll through the comments, you probably will find mention of a specific item that increases a shotgun’s versatility exponentially – the chamber adapter. Essentially a slug of metal that has been machined into the profile of a shotgun shell, it has a chamber for one of many, many calibers bored out of the middle. It allows you to chamber a different caliber – from .22 Short all the way to a smaller shotgun shell size, say .410 in a 12-ga – and safely fire it in your larger-bore shotgun. There are also chamber adapters for rifles; my brother has one that allows him to shoot .25 ACP out of a .250-3000 Savage. The caliber choices are extensive; pretty much all your standard pistol-caliber rounds are covered, as well as this company making a kit that allows you to shoot .223/5.56mm, 7.62x39mm, and even .308 Winchester in your 12 gauge. Prices range from a few bucks to over $100, depending on if you want a long-”barreled” sleeve-type adapter that’s rifled, or the style that I got, the “snubnose”, if you will.



I’d been wanting to try one of these babies out for some time, so I basically stopped hemming and hawing and grabbed one off Amazon on the cheap. After all, if it sucks, you probably shouldn’t pay a lot for the suck, right? Right. I ended up purchasing a 12 gauge-to-.38 Special/.357 Magnum adapter from Tru-Bore on Amazon. With shipping, it showed up at my door a few days later, for the paltry sum of just over $31. I didn’t expect much, and once I opened that package, I’m glad I didn’t: at first glance it wasn’t terribly impressive. A nicely machined piece of steel, but that was about it. I secretly had hoped it would be rifled, but I knew deep down it wouldn’t be, and I was right. It’s a smooth bore, and it measured out at .360” inside the bore. Hmmm…a standard .357/.38 bullet is .358”. Sounds to me like an unstabilized bullet….the bullet has .002” of wiggle room in the bore of the “barrel” of the adapter.



Yup, definitely a smooth-bore! .002” may not sound like much, but it’s enough to make that bullet bounce around down that bore like a BB in a coffee can, de-stabilizing the projectile. More on that later.


The back of the “shell” is recessed for the rim of the .38/.357 cartridge. It has a little extra room around the rim for a fingernail, knife blade, or some other plucking accoutrement to retrieve the spent empty cartridge from the adapter. (unfired cases drop in and out with ease, but fired cases expand and stick inside the chamber of the adapter.)


My trusty digital calipers mic the length of the adapter at 2.7315”. With a Winchester .357 Magnum 125-grn JHP measuring 1.5650”, that leaves a “barrel” length of 1.1665”, or just over 1 5/32”. That isn’t much; the average J-frame Smith & Wesson barrel length is about 2 inches. So don’t expect rip-snorting velocities out of the adapter. Sadly, my chronograph is currently being borrowed by a friend, so I couldn’t clock bullet velocities. Future report, I guess; my apologies.


Upon initial inspection, one of the first things I noticed is that the leading edge of the “shell” is very sharp; I took a touch of emery cloth to take the edge off so it wouldn’t scar up the innards of my shotgun. For the first test, I broke open my Winchester 101 over-under shotgun to see how the adapter fit. THUNK…dropped right in the chamber satisfyingly. I went to close the action, and, what do you know? The action wouldn’t shut. I sat there playing with it, and couldn’t come to any real satisfying conclusions as to why it wouldn’t shut. I can only imagine the ejector system may have been causing the problem; break-open guns I tried it on with no ejectors worked fine. It also chambered pleasingly in my Remington 870; I didn’t try it through the action, though, because the weight of the shell plus the sharp edges might have made it catch in the action or jam up. I didn’t feel like disassembling an 870 in a sandpit, so I made a decision to just use it single-shot. It’s not like you’re going to fill the magazine up with these things; the unfired cartridges slide right out without any effort and would surely bind in the magazine and action. This baby is relegated to break-open style guns or single-shot use out of a repeating shotgun.


I couldn’t wait to try this thing out on the range. Reviews I’d read said not expect much in the accuracy department; I didn’t. Lots of factors effected this in my mind: lack of rifling was the biggie, along with the short barrel length, and the lack of precise aiming equipment on the shotgun; all I have on my test 870 is a Meprolight tritium bead. Not exactly a 12 power Leupold…


…but it would have to suffice. With a pistol-caliber cartridge like the .357 Magnum, you have to be realistic: you’re probably not going to be making 100-yard head shots on running antelope. I envision the use of this to be close-range defense to be used in lieu of precious shotgun shells, putting down a nuisance/sick animal perhaps, or one you have in a trap or snare. Maybe with bigger calibers that pack more horsepower, you could hunt deer at close ranges in my mind. But that depends largely on how it performs on target.


My son and I loaded up the gear, and a target stand and some targets, along with a handful of the aforementioned Winchester 125-grn JHP rounds, and a box of .38 Special +P handloads: a 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter (LSWC) at about 850-900 feet per second. After setting up the target stand with targets and getting everything and everyone ready for a hot range, I paced off 10 paces, about 30-32 feet, depending on how sprightly I feel. I slipped in a .38 handload, dropped the works in the chamber of the 870, and closed the action. Everything locked up fine, the shotgun went fully into battery.


I lined up a steady 6 o’clock hold on the target (putting the aiming point of the target directly ABOVE the bead. It makes aiming more precise when your sighting device covers the target) and slowly pressed the trigger. Pop! The round went off, with practically no recoil. It was pretty underwhelming, actually…but hey, there was a hole in the target, surprisingly close to the bullseye, as well! Interesting. I slowly opened the action – the adapter engaged the extractor on the bolt just fine and the ejector popped it out of the ejection port with no fuss.


The fuss came when I tried to use my fingernail to extract the spent case. NOPE. A stiff shake. NOPE. Finally I pulled the felt-tip pen that I was using to mark the target out of my pocket (never did like prying with the point of a knife) and pushed it down the muzzle end of the adapter. With a tap, the .38 case dropped out. Folks, this is definitely not a rapid-fire setup. We eventually settled on a locally-sourced (read: the ground at my feet) free-range organic stick to pop the empties out of the adapter. I will say that after about 50 rounds, the empty cases usually dropped out with a firm shake or a tap on a rock…maybe a little bit of firing residue made the difference?


I repeated the process two more times for a three-shot, 10-yard group:


You’ll notice two things about this group: #1: actually pretty damn good accuracy; far better than I’d expected. The black Shoot-N-C target is 6 inches in diameter, making the 3-shot group under two inches. That’s not terrible, folks: that’s minute-of-rabbit and possibly squirrel if you can get either to sit still long enough to draw a bead and really concentrate on trigger control with crappy shotgun triggers.


The big thing you should notice, though, is that the bullet holes aren’t round. If you look carefully, the bottom two are pretty much exact outlines of the profile of a .38 Special bullet. Yep, they struck the target SIDEWAYS. These bullets are “tumbling”, or spinning end-over-end due to improper stabilization from an oversized bore and no rifling. At 30 feet, this isn’t too much of an issue, however, accuracy will almost certainly degrade very quickly as the range increases. It also means that the bullet will not strike the target nose-on, which is the way bullets are designed to strike; hollow-point bullets only expand if they push into target substrate hollow-point first; same with jacketed soft point bullets. So, you certainly will not get the terminal effectiveness that you could get with a properly-oriented bullet. I COULD make an argument that tumbling bullets will continue to tumble through target flesh and bones (the 5.56mm military cartridge was supposedly designed to do this to help make up for its small diameter), but if I have a dedicated high-performance hollow-point bullet, I’d like it to work as intended. However, knowing that the bullets tumble, I will in the future use heavier, longer full-metal jacketed or all-lead bullets that will be more terminally effective with tumbling. Work with what you got, right?


We stepped back to 15 yards and I let my son give the setup a go.



He thought the whole idea was pretty cool, and really enjoyed the adapter. His groups at 15 yards were almost as good as mine at 10:



Again, a nice consistent tight group, and again, more tumbling. But the accuracy was really far better than I’d hoped for by a long shot. I’d expected the group size to increase exponentially, but it was staying clustered together nicely. So we stepped back to 25 yards, and I got behind the 870 again. I loaded up the Winchester 125-gran JHPs. Holy crap; three shots went into almost the same hole at 25 yards! So, we went back to 40 yards to see how things worked at what I’d previously considered to be “yeah, right” distance. I was getting a bit more optimistic, I will admit.

This time, I sat down to make sure I was getting consistent accuracy with a solid seated position. Again, 6 o’clock hold, really working the trigger produced better than expected results. I fired 5 shots this round.



You can see the .357 25-yard group at upper left; the 5-shot 40-yard group is laid out in thick magic marker outline. We were now getting to be the outside edge of the practical range for the adapter. The group was about 8-9” across at its widest point; the vitals area of a mature whitetailed deer is generally considered to be about that size. I was very pleased with the group, however. I’d fully expected to be off the paper completely at this distance; yet rather I got a useful-sized group that shows decent consistency reasonably close to the point of aim.

For yuks ‘n’ giggles, we opened up at a large prominent rock at the opposite bank of the sandpit.


Yeah, forget about it. The bullets hit the ground about 6-10 feet in front of the target, and then bounced into the bank in a depressingly huge pattern. Even with the proper holdover to get the bullets to impact the target area, you’d be lucky to hit a 15-passenger van or a literal barn door at 125 yards. At 75 yards you’d be lucky to hit a normal-sized entry door to a house.



I must say, I was very surprised by this milled-out hunk of steel. I went in expecting this to be a close-to-useless range toy or conversation starter, but ended up walking away thinking there was actually some utility to this chamber adapter.


Granted, you have an envelope to work inside: I’d say 40, 45 yards MAXIMUM is the effective range of this adapter in .357 or .38 Special. Its limiting factor is the short “barrel” length and complete lack of rifling to stabilize the projectile. Sights (or lack thereof) MAY have been holding back the accuracy a bit, but not much. At 45 yards, the bead of a shotgun at a 6 o’clock hold worked reasonably well – and I’d be willing to bet that most prepper-utilized shotguns will have a standard bead-type sight. I have plans in the works to mount a red dot electronic sight to a shotgun soon; I’ll post a report (with velocities) eventually to see if it actually helped.

If all I has was my 12-gauge, you can bet sure as hell that I’d have these adapters in a couple common calibers, such as .22 LR, 9mm, .38/.357, and maybe something like .45 ACP or .44 Magnum. With every adapter you purchase, you increase ammo availability exponentially. Sure, you won’t have a rapid-fire tactical shotgun, but for the guy who owns a farm or who only wants one gun that’s not a “black gun” so he doesn’t cause a stir, this is a great way to increase your effectiveness with a single firearm. I can see the maximum effectiveness with these adapters coming from a break-open type shotgun with no ejectors; if you only have one adapter, you don’t want it to go flinging over your shoulder at high velocity in the woods after you take a shot at the only meat you’ve seen in days. Keep it captive in the chamber (a rubber O-ring system would really help here…hint, hint, Tru-Bore) and have a small flat headed screwdriver or dedicated prying tool to pop the empties out and you’ll up your fire rate quite a bit. This adapter would work out beautifully for the man with a double shotgun: a side by side or over/under. One barrel would have a standard shotshell in case of a flying bird, the other a chamber adapter with a caliber that offers more punch and precision in case of a deer, coyote, or badguy pops up.

There’s really no down side to having one of these and a handful of pistol-caliber cartridges in your shotgun kit. For 31 bucks, it was worth every penny in my book. I reload for the .357 Magnum, and have several handguns in that caliber – and it’s a very popular caliber here in rural Maine, so ammo should almost always be around or at the very least not a hassle to obtain or load for.

Bottom line: Chamber adapters increase the utility and versatility of your shotgun, and therefore your survival probability in a SHTF situation. I’m getting more. If you have a shotgun, you’d have a hard time making an argument to NOT get one or two to keep with your survival kit.

What do you think? A ridiculous piece of gear that’s not worth your time, or would you now give one a whirl? Do any of our readers utilize these, and is so, how do your results stack up against mine? I’d love to hear about it; sound off in the comments below!


As a side note: you love shooting, right? So why wouldn’t your kids? Be sure to take your children (or, if you don’t have children, take your nephews, nieces, neighbors, whomever!) to the range with you. Teach them to respect the power of the firearm, and how to handle one with the utmost safety and concern for human life. If you start young and teach them properly, you’ll have someone who’s with you all the time who you can trust with a firearm, and a hunting/foraging buddy whose company you’ll always enjoy, and will help you drag game out of the woods, or just provide quality companionship while plinking empty soda cans with .22s at the range. I started my son when he was 7, and now, many years later, he is a fine shot and a respectful, safe young man with a firearm; I couldn’t be prouder.

So get out there, have fun, train, and BE SAFE!



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Seven Reasons Your Bug-Out Will Fail

The S has HTF and you’re ready to bug-out.  You grab your stuff and hit the road and ride off into the sunset, happy to be alive.  Right? Hold on a minute.  Let’s make sure you’re not making a mistake that could derail your bug-out. Here are seven reasons your bug-out might not go as well as you hoped.

  1. Failure to Act

The first one is a failure to act.  You might have the best bug-out plan ready to go, but if you miss the cues of when to leave you might be trapped in your current location with bad things about to happen.  Recognize when it’s time to get out of dodge.  Some of this is going to come from the media in the case of a natural disaster.  Listen to the radio and news stations and if they say it’s time to get out of Dodge you better load up the truck and move out.

In the case of something like civil unrest, a market or money collapse, rioting, or anything caused by your fellow man you’ll have to keep a close eye on the situation.  It comes down to what you can bear.  If you have a low threshold for danger it might be a good idea for you to leave as soon as you suspect something is going to happen.  For those of you who have work and/or family pressures or a spouse that doesn’t believe in prepping and thinks you’re foolish for even considering moving out, you’ll have to have a higher tolerance.  At some point there will be a kick-off event that will decide for you when to leave.  Let’s hope it’s not too late at that point.

Just remember that the longer you wait the more likely you are to be sharing the roads out of town with a bunch of other scared refugees.

When you decide it’s time to leave don’t screw around.  Get moving!  In the case of a quick bug-out you need to be prepared to move fast.  During my time in the service we used to bug-out when the CO went around and started yelling CSMO!  That stands for Close Station March Order and it meant to pack up all the gear and get out of the current position as fast as we could.

If you have your plan laid out and your BOB’s are ready to go then it’s just a matter of throwing stuff in the BOV (bug-out vehicle) and exiting stage left.

2. Inadequate BOV

The BOV you use should depend on the situation.  I’ve heard folks saying they’ll bug-out using a bicycle, which is fine.  But if you’re trying to get out of a city on a bicycle and there’s a tsunami coming, or you’re trying to move through a riot in progress you might be in trouble.  Make sure the BOV you choose is adequate to the task.

Having said that not everybody has a HMMVW in the garage waiting for the day the economy collapses causing you to flee the city with the ring-mounted .50 cal M2 blazing away from the gun port.  Most of you reading this are ordinary Americans driving minivans, passenger cars, or any one of the thousands of passenger cars out there.  This means you need to adapt your bug-out plan to whatever vehicle you’ll be driving, which can be a compromise to the situation.

If you look around the area in which you live you can probably come up with a few likely scenarios of why you might have to bug-out.  For example:  if you live near a railroad maybe one of your scenarios revolves around a chemical leak.  If it’s a small town your car is probably more than adequate for this type of situation.  Or maybe you live in hurricane country along the coast, in which case you’ll want to avoid any Katrina type storms like the plague.  In most bug-out situations you’ll want to move fast, unless you’ve exercised your judgment to leave early.

However, living in a city will present a whole other list of issues and I’ll address this is another post.

3.  Poor Route Planning

Do you have a plan for your bug-out?  Have you thought through all the possible scenarios?  If you’re getting out of Dodge in your vehicle have you prepared a good route and a few alternate routes?  Because if you’re in a city and you’re taking the main artery out of town guess what?  A million other people will be doing the same thing.  My idea of surviving is not being stuck in traffic when the tsunami rolls in destroying everything in its path.

Make a detailed plan of your escape route and have it written down along with some alternate routes.  Take the time to actually drive the route and make notes in a notebook about what you see.  ”Big bridge six miles out of town over fast moving water.  It might collapse or cause a jam up during an ice out.  Or maybe it’s a tactical situation where some group is holding the bridge and not letting anybody through.  (Don’t think that would happen here in the U.S.  Did you forget about the bridge into Gretna and how the cops shut it down to refugees?)  There’s a less traveled bridge two miles south in case of emergency.  Take Route 3 south to Old Town Road to bypass.”  If you don’t make notes there’s a good chance you’ll forget about it when you have to use it.  Or maybe you’ll be incapacitated and your significant other or a friend will be at the wheel.  If they have good notes to go by they might just save your butt.

Make sure your BOV is up to the route.  As you do a dry run over the escape route ask yourself questions as you go depending on the various scenarios you could expect.  I might ask myself, “If I had to move during a blizzard would my vehicle make it to the next town over?”  Answer:  in my minivan hell no, but in my pickup with the plow attachment I just might be able to get the ten miles in order to save myself and the family.  Maybe you live in a flood zone and might have to drive through water up to your hub caps.  Could your vehicle make it?

4.  Tactical Negligence

This is a tough one and not a lot of people think a lot about it.  What I mean by tactical is the ability to move you or a group of people safely through an area without being deterred by your fellow man.  During a disaster of any kind there will be people looking out for each other because there are a lot of good people out there, but there are always a few scumbags looking to capitalize on others.  Or sometimes it could just come down to a family that hasn’t prepped deciding to go next door to the family that has and taking their stuff at gun point.  People will do bad things when desperate.

One of the big ones is OPSEC or Operational Security.  It’s a military term that means don’t go blabbing your plans to anybody.  If you tell one person, that person will tell someone else.  And that someone else might mention it to another someone else and so on.  OPSEC can also be compromised by having a truckload of freeze dried food delivered to your house in the middle of a busy neighborhood.  People notice things that go on in tight communities.  I’m not saying don’t get prepared, just use a little discretion when doing so.  And don’t go telling your neighbors about your preps either.  Friends have seen my pantry and invariably they’ll say, “Well, if anything ever happens I’m coming over here.”  Guess what, I won’t be rolling out the welcome mat to any schmoe that shows up on my doorstep.

Another area you might have to worry about is armament.  Americans love guns and sometimes it seems like everybody and their little sister has one.  Having a great bug-out vehicle and lots of preps might be for nothing if you get held up before you can get out of town.  Be prepared to defend your family, yourself, and your stuff if necessary.  Some people might ask if you’d really shoot someone for a vehicle or a sleeping bag.  Here’s what I say about that.  If that vehicle or sleeping bag is critical to keeping you and your family alive and someone is trying to take it from you then you have the obligation to defend it.  It may sound stupid, but your gear may what is standing between you and death.  If that’s the case and you have the means and skill to protect it I’d say it’s your right.  Having said that, if it means putting yourself or your family in mortal danger don’t be afraid to bail and let them have the stuff.  You can always attempt to get more, but if you’re dead you won’t be able to try.

5.  Poor Planning

When you plan for a bug-out you have to take into account all the variables that your situation brings with it.  Do you have young kids?  Pets?  Older people to look after?  Special medical needs?  Special fuel requirements for you BOV?

I have two small kids and walking any distance with them is a pain.  The oldest can walk by himself for a while, but the 2 ½ year old can’t go any significant distance.  Last year I took the family up a mountain with a full bug-out bag on my back (about 50 lbs for me) and we set up a little camp, made a fire, heated up some noodles and coffee, and generally chilled out for an afternoon.  It was a lot of fun.  Then came the hike down mountain.  My wife carried the baby and then my son (4 at the time) needed to be carried after walking a short distance.  I picked him up and carried him in my arms while wearing the back pack and we made it down the mountain.  This type of activity uses a lot of calories and you need to be in good shape to do it.  It would be exceedingly difficult to do this for any amount of time.

At that point I decided it would be very difficult for us to do any kind of bug-out on foot and re-thought the whole situation.  The gear I carried was enough for me and the missus for a day or two, but have you ever taken two or three young kids to the beach for a day?  Baby bags, diapers, bottles, wipes, extra clothes, toys, etc.  And that’s just for the afternoon!  Imagine trying to do this for a week, on foot and moving through harsh terrain and weather, with two or more little ones.

This meant I’d have to find a way to move my family without moving on foot if at all possible.  I have a four door 4 wheel drive pickup that I’d use in most situations.  The worst scenario for me would be having to move after a CME or some other event has fried all the electronics.  Ironically, it would be easier for me to move the whole family in the winter on sleds than in any other season.  My wife and I are quite skilled on snow shoes and pulling a couple of sleds would be manageable.  Other than that we’d probably be reduced to pulling a crude cart like they do in “The Road.”   We might be able to bicycle once the kids are a little older, but until then I’m just crossing my fingers that nothing bad happens.  (And even then I’ll be keeping them crossed.)

For older people you have to take into account meds, their ability to move, their mental state, and things like that.  If someone has Alzheimer’s disease it will be very difficult to move them.  If they have heart disease or diabetes or any other condition that needs constant medication you’ll have to make sure there’s a way to carry that medication while keeping it cold, or whatever conditions it might need to be stored in.

Do they have a cane or walker?  Are they confined to a wheel chair?  Plan, plan, plan

6.  Bug-Out Location

Many people think they’ll bug-out to the woods and live off the land for a few weeks until things blow over.  Let me put this notion to rest for you right now.  You won’t be able to survive off the land for very long.  Very few of you reading this might have the skills to do this, but the vast majority will starve to death in a relatively short period of time.  Do yourself a favor and find a relative, or friend, or a shelter, or a camp, or some place you can go to in case of an emergency.  Have some cash on-hand in case you need to stay at a hotel.  Whatever it is don’t try and convince yourself that you can survive in the woods for an unrealistic amount of time.

An ideal bug-out location would have a source of running water, be fairly well hidden, easily defendable, and if you have neighbors that think the same way you do there’s always strength in numbers.  Another good idea is to know exactly what resources you have on the property, which means you’ll need to get out and recon on it.  I know the woods behind my house like the back of my hand.  If things went to Hell and I was driven out of my house and had to hit the woods there are many good spots to hole up for awhile until I can get a plan together to get the house back.  If you haven’t hiked an area it’s just a great big black hole until you get out there.  I’ve gone so far as to draw rough maps of resources such as camps I’ve set up, streams, bogs, old logging roads, etc.  It’s nice to have something like this so you can look at it and know exactly where things are.

Do you plan to cut off any roads in to your area if the balloon goes up?  Do you have the resources to do it?  How many people can you rely on to help you out?  Or are you going it alone and hope not to be discovered?

7.  Unrealistic Expectation Of What Camping Out Is

Let’s say that worst comes to worst and you have nowhere else to go, but to the woods.  Many people have no idea what an extended stay in the field is actually like.  Many of you with military backgrounds probably get it.  Ever hiked the Appalachian Trail?  Then you know what I’m talking about.  But if your idea of getting outdoors experience is watching back to back episodes of Dual Survivor you have a tragic wakeup call ahead of you. Get out there and test your gear.  Spend a weekend, or better yet a week, in the bush.  I’m not talking about camping at the local campground, I’m talking about hitting the back woods with a backpack and doing it Alpine Style.  Not only is this a good test of your gear you’ll also start to appreciate what it takes to live in the woods.  It’s hard, folks.  Living without electricity and running water sucks.

You’ll also get a good idea of just how far you can hike that heavy BOB you have in the closet.  If you try to hike a 70 lb. bag any distance when you’ve never done it before it will likely kill you before you’ve gone a mile.  Get realistic about what you need for gear and pack only what you need.


Now you have a few things to look at when planning your bug-out.  This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should get you started in the right direction.  Remember the 5 P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance) and you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to a real exodus from your area.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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Tornado Talk

Well, most of our readers will probably remember that I live in NW Iowa.  We’ve been dodging more than our fair share of bad weather the past week.  In fact, this post is being typed up in Word, because we haven’t had internet since Monday. Storm after storm, floods on top of floods, and of course, tornadoes. Thankfully, most of the tornadoes have stayed on the Nebraska side of the river. I have friends on that side that I’ve been keeping close tabs on, but so far me and mine have escaped harm.  I’ll be headed to a fun mix of sandbagging, clean ups and benefits this weekend (and next) as our communities rally around those that got hit hard and try to protect those that are still facing down the rising water.  Pilger got wiped off the map.  I know we have readers from the coasts here, do y’all hear about it when a small city in the fly-overs gets its clock cleaned?  The saddest news is the 5 year old girl from Pilger that died from injuries. She was sheltering in her family’s trailer home when it was hit by one of the tornadoes.

Which brings me to my first bit of advice for tornadoes: Choose your shelter wisely. I have explained to my husband flat out, that I will not live in a place without some sort of underground shelter. Period.  I don’t care how poor we get, I don’t care if I have to dig it myself. It’s the height of stupidity to think that anything less than underground shelter will save you and your loved ones if a twister is roaring its way towards you. Have you ever seen what a trailer home looks like after a brush with a tornado? Kindling. Exploded kindling.  Most wood frame houses with vinyl siding will only fair marginally better, and even they won’t provide much shelter for anything larger than an F2.  I have to have my rule, because a surprising number of houses in tornado alley are not equipped with shelter.  Like so many other safeguards in our so called modern America they are deemed too expensive, or too troublesome to bother with. Some companies are offering homeowners the choice to build a tornado safe room into a house that otherwise wouldn’t offer proper shelter. The rooms are enclosed in steel usually, and bolted to the foundation.

Check out some of these models to get a feel for what’s on the market. FEMA even has grants, if you live someplace like Oklahoma or Kansas or Iowa.tornadofrequency

If you are in a community (mobile home or otherwise) that offers community shelters, make sure you examine them with a skeptical eye. Are they large enough to fit EVERYONE? Everyone and their dog? Because you know most people will bring the dog if they can.  Is the shelter normally locked? Who gets the key? Who gets to decide when to unlock it? Is it close enough to your house?

It’s important to make sure you can get out of your shelter. This is one instance where OPSEC could get you killed. If no one knows you have a shelter, it’s possible no one will know where to look for you. There was a gal in Moore, OK that was stuck in her pre-fab buried shelter for days after the tornado because her door handle failed and no one knew where she was.  Doors can also be buried by rubble, or downed trees.   Don’t let this risk deter you though, trust me, your neighbors will happily dig you out if they know/suspect you’re there. They’d much rather dig you out alive from your shelter than they would dead from the rubble.  (Well, don’t trust me, trust your neighbors, you do trust your neighbors, right?) Annually inspect the opening and closing mechanisms for your shelter door. Let your kids practice getting in and out of it.

Things to keep in your shelter? The basics for any shelter, of course, food, water, and medicine top the list.   Tornadoes are often in the evenings, so a place for young/old to lay down would be nice.  If you want to plan for the “after” of a tornado, I would suggest Personal Protective Equipment.  Hard hat, long sleeves, work gloves and steel toe boots.  That’s the minimum that disaster relief groups require for people headed into a tornado aftermath zone to help. Refer back to my exploded kindling remark.  Houses, trees, cars, everything is likely to be broken, smashed and tossed around and flip flops won’t cut it if you’re trying to salvage what you can from the wreckage.  If you work a job like I do, where PPE is required, this can be easy to stash. Just toss your worn out boots/gloves in the shelter kit when you get new ones. Sure they won’t cut it for a 40 hour week at a job site, but most of the time, they’re not so worn out you couldn’t strap them back on during an emergency.

Another part not to overlook is communication. Y’all might remember that I don’t have a TV in my house, no cable, no local, nothing. With our internet down all week, we’ve been relying on radio to keep up with all the watches/warnings and whatnot. We have our big plug in radio in the living room and a couple of smaller ones that run on batteries and hand crank. The local stations don’t mess around and they’ll interrupt programming constantly to keep everyone in the loop as situations and warnings change.  And of course we still had our cell phone, with which to keep close tabs on our friends in the path of harm, and for them to keep tabs on us.  If you can afford it, a good solar charger for vital communication tools will come in extremely handy if you ever find yourself on the flip side of a tornado with all the power lines down and the nearest shelter with charging stations 20 minutes away.  Hubby and I have been drooling over some lately. They get pricy fast, but I like these. Look for watts to see how quickly they will charge things, a 5W charger will work slower than a 15W. solar chargerMake sure you know if they have battery packs or not. Battery packs are needed if you want to store the solar energy to charge devices at night, or in caves, or whatever.

Here’s a 16W one. It has no battery. But it’s faster than the one below, and can produce considerable charge power just in an afternoon of direct sunlight.

This one has a battery. But it’s a bit smaller than the solar collector above, so it takes about 40 hours of sunlight to get a full charge on a large 7200mA battery.

My final bit of advice for tornadoes is this: Reach out to your neighbors, especially if they are new to the area to make sure they know what to do for tornadoes. I heard about some guys dying in a ditch where they tried to hide from a tornado and the flood waters drowned them. People from other countries especially can be unfamiliar with tornado safety.

Stay safe out there y’all! Sound off if you have more tornado talk to share!

- Calamity Jane
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Tips On Staying Alive When the Bullets Start to Fly

Note: we’ve been having some issues with WordPress and getting our posts on the blog reliably (you probably noticed last week was pretty sparse in the post department) so Jarhead Survivor was kind enough to post this for me. -Road Warrior

For the past couple months, shootings seem to be all I see on the news. Violence is running rampant, and though the people doing the shootings seem to definitely have mental illnesses or grudges, you can’t help but wonder if this is the new status quo for our country. With all the attention and media hype given to the subject, (I’d go so far as to bet that if the media stopped reporting and sensationalizing this violence, the number of shootings would drop – but what do I know?) as well as the always present debates of gun control and help for the mentally ill, it seems to me that these acts of violence are becoming more and more prevalent in society today as a way to “show the world” what your problems are, what your beliefs are, and how far you’ll go to show what a martyr you’ll be for your own cause. It’s appalling and frightening – and a reason to be prepared.

 The shooting that has held my ear the longest is the one that happened last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. As of right now (June 10, 2014) the details are still pretty fuzzy about what happened, but a couple of stories you can read here and here seem to sum up most of the news stories that I’ve read pretty well. In a nutshell, a man and his wife, two people who were dissatisfied with the government and authority, decided to start their own two-man revolution. They packed all their arms and ammunition (a .38 revolver and an “AR-1″ rifle or a shotgun) into a backpack, and walked past their neighbor on the way out the door. They told their neighbor that “they had to do what they had to do” and that they were “sorry”. The neighbor, even though she witnessed the couple walking out the door with guns, did nothing, even after the cryptic conversation. Several hours later, the couple, Jerad and Amanda Miller, walked into a pizza joint at an aging strip mall where two on-duty police officers were eating lunch. After yelling something akin to “this is the start of a revolution!”, the couple gunned down the officers, stripped them of their duty handguns and ammunition, and walked across the street to the local Wal-Mart.

image from Facebook/

Folks, what happened at the Wal-Mart is what’s really caught my attention, because it really hits home personally. The details of the happenings inside the Wal-Mart haven’t come out 100% yet – I’m sure they will soon – but from what I can gather, here’s what happened: The Millers walked in the door of the Wal-Mart. Amanda Miller grabbed a shopping cart, presumably to disguise herself as a shopper, while keeping her husband covered. Jerad Miller fired a handgun into the air, and yelled to everyone that “the revolution” had begun, for everyone to clear out if they didn’t want to get hurt, the cops were on their way.

 I haven’t seen security camera footage yet, but I have to assume that at this point, the entire populace of the Wal-Mart at that time instantaneously panicked. After a second or two of “What the hell was that?!” I’m sure people in the back of the store ran forward to the entrance, only to find people who didn’t take immediate cover running for the back of the store. Cashiers must have gasped and ducked behind registers. People surely jumped on their cell phones to call the police or perhaps film the event (a phenomena I don’t understand…”I’m in danger! Better film it!”). Fathers and mothers grabbing their children and herding them behind cover.  I imagine that for several seconds, the tens of thousands of square feet of that Las Vegas Wal-Mart was 99.999% reactionary, and that reaction was confusion or ”Oh, shit.”. Fight or flight.

 Enter bystander Joseph Robert Wilcox, 31. He told his friend he was going to confront Jerad Miller, and drew his concealed handgun, which he had a legal permit for. Reportedly, his intentions were to stop the man with the gun so nobody got hurt. I don’t know if he took cover, I don’t know what he was armed with, or how the confrontation went down. I do know that well-meaning Joseph was gunned down by Amanda Miller, from a shot in the ribs he never knew was coming. Amanda, posing as a customer, had circled around and shot Joseph in the back. He died on the scene. The Millers then got in a gunfight with one of the two five-man police teams who entered the building, where they both were wounded. They retreated into the interior of the Wal-Mart, made a makeshift fort out of various materials, and Amanda shot her husband repeatedly, then herself, putting an end to the whole terrible mess. (Evidence has come to light that the police may have shot and killed Jared Miller)

 The reason this hits home for me is because I carry a firearm legally concealed, as do many others I know. We do so to protect ourselves, family, and others from harm…but this is a real wake-up call personally, as I’m sure it is for the hundreds of thousands other people who lawfully carry concealed. It forces us to ask ourselves: how far will we go with this pistol by my side? Where do we draw the line that we want to defend? What can we learn from all of this? I know this is a SHTF site, and you may be expecting to be reading about Bug-out-Bags or water collection, but the fact is that the possibility of being involved or near an incident like this one is much more likely these days than a total societal collapse, and as such, qualifies as a SHTF event in my book. I’m sure for a lot of people in Las Vegas that day, the S did indeed HTF.


I’ve never been in a gunfight. I truly hope to never be in one…especially one so horribly one-sided as this. But I have trained under people who have, and conversed with many people more who have. I’ve read books and researched the subject…and while I wasn’t there, I would say that Mr. Wilcox may not have thought things through, and been reactionary without giving consideration to strengths and weaknesses. I’m not critiquing at all; I certainly have no right to. What are the thoughts on the matter? What lessons did I take home that this instance reinforces?

 -If you find yourself in a fair fight, you did something wrong. – Joseph Wilcox, from what I can gather, drew his pistol and confronted Jared Miller, who also had a drawn pistol. At a glance,this seems to be pretty fair odds to me, skills and training notwithstanding. I’m sure Wilcox thought that if things went down, maybe if he caught Miller unaware, he would have the upper hand. But there are many other things to consider: What if Miller had been using illegal substances (reports are the Millers were active users of Methamphetamine.), and therefore could not be reasoned with, and if had to be shot, didn’t react to even a well-placed bullet? This is fairly commonplace with many drugs, I understand. What if Miller had a plan, accomplices, and body armor on? (seems to me that he possibly had all three) These are all things that tip the balance of a fight in one way or the other, things that Wilcox could not have known. So that begs the question: why get yourself into what APPEARS TO BE a fair fight? The balance should be decisively in your favor before you decide to engage.

-If you must confront/engage, do so from a position of strength and cover, with no blind spots if possible. – Think things through. Everyone has been in a Wal-Mart. Assuming this happened while you were in the checkout lane, and you had to react with your weapon, how could you do so from a position of cover AND concealment? Ducking behind a register, rolling your body and gun out so minimal body exposure is allowed comes to mind. Behind a customer service desk, back to a wall, is even better. You never know how many bad guys are there – especially in a high-traffic area like a Wal-Mart. This lack of knowledge killed our good Samaritan. Know the difference between concealment and cover: concealment hides you, cover protects you. Always be aware of your surroundings (part of your OPSEC) and think about what could stop a bullet if it came to that. Keeping in that mindset can never hurt.

-Keep your gun concealed. If you must reveal it, it’s time to start shooting. – In my book, if I have to pull my gun, it’s because I perceive enough of a threat to my or others’ lives to reveal my firearm and end the threat. Period. If you pull the gun and don’t use it or don’t intend to pull the trigger (possibly hoping the show of force will scare off bad guys? I don’t know.), then why bother having the gun at all? Drawing your concealed firearm gives away a prime tactical advantage: if a bad guy sees you with a gun, you are a target. If he doesn’t know you have it, you may be able to get yourself in a better position (i.e. behind cover, civilians out of the line of fire, etc.) without drawing attention to yourself. And if you DO draw that gun, you are in unavoidable danger and should start engaging without hesitation. If that gun is out, it’s no time to be wishy-washy. However, as a counterpoint:

-If you can retreat, do so. If you can get out of there, get the hell out of there! Provide relevant information to the police, ask if you can render assistance. Go home to your family. Miller stated that anyone not wanting to get hurt had better leave; in my book that means that he PROBABLY wasn’t going to be gunning down kids in the vitamin aisle. Be smart; leave if you can. You don’t have backup; cops do. You (probably) don’t have training in active shooter situations. Cops do. Cops have long guns, body armor, and if necessary, armored vehicles. You have what you brought in the store/area. Let discretion be the better part of valor: protect yourself and your loved ones with conviction if you are in imminent danger; however, if you can retreat safely, retreat. Don’t be a hero: this hero died. As an extra caveat, in my home state of Maine, you are only authorized to use lethal force if you have explored all other options and cannot retreat. Granted, this is an extraordinary specific case, Mr. Wilcox’s actions were 100% justified, and had things gone the other way, he would have been in the clear. Which brings up the next point…

-IN AN ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION, EVERYONE WHO IS NOT A POLICE OFFICER AND HAS A GUN IS A BAD GUY. When the police get there – and they will get there quickly – they don’t know what went down. All they probably know at the outset is that they have an active shooter inside a heavily-populated area and to stop him/her. Police officers these days are no longer trained to sit and wait for backup in active shooter situations; first one on the scene gets in there and engages to draw potential fire away from civilians. Therefore, if you use your firearm in a 100% justified self-defense situation, and you are covering a downed bad guy, the police will rush in and react to a person with a drawn gun over a prone body, possibly with a somewhat predictable, though mistaken outcome. BE SMART. If someone is with you (as Mr. Wilcox had a friend) tell them to phone the police immediately and tell them that there is someone with your description (what you are wearing, skin/hair color) engaging the bad guy(s). If nobody can do that for you, it might be smarter to retreat to a position of cover and make the phone call yourself rather than having you and the police flying blind. It could very well save your life.


As of this final update before I post this article (June 18th, 2014, 8 days later) the Las Vegas Wal-Mart shooting has completely fallen off the media radar. However, it’s an interesting case that re-affirms strong points to think about for the men and women who carry concealed. As always, we don’t have 100% of the information on what truly happened. We’ll never know what went through Joseph Wilcox’s mind when he was confronting Jared Miller. I can’t find any security camera videos of what happened to him, or how the showdown went. All we know is that, despite the very, very best of intentions, things went badly. And we have to prepare ourselves for that: no matter how much we prep, no matter how much we read, no matter how much we debate people online in forums, there’s always the possibility of just plain shit luck. Knowing that can happen, we need to learn to be smart, think things through, and tilt the balances in our favor, whether it’s bring extra batteries for the GPS AND learning map and compass skills for when you go hiking, or engaging  an active shooter from behind cover in a super store. It may not be very macho, but at the end of the day, getting home is still the most important thing; and if we learn from others and what happened to them, we up the chances that we will get home by that much more.

Thoughts on this situation? I’d love to hear them…is my head up my ass? Or did this get you to think a bit about how you conduct yourself?

Stay safe and get home.

- Road Warrior

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Tips for Self Rescue When You’re Lost in the Wilderness

I’ve written about this before, but since there’s a new hiking season coming on and people are still using GPS to figure out where they are I figured I’d do another piece on how to get yourself out of trouble in case you find yourself lost.

“Hey Jarhead!  That would never happen to me!  I carry a GPS.”

Well good for you!  But that doesn’t give you permission to turn your brain off.  Check out the stories here of people who turned their lives over to a GPS.

In other posts I’ve talked about how much I like the GPS on my phone.  It’s awesome.  I can just dial up Google Maps or whatever and figure out where I am within a pretty close radius.  Usually.  There have been times when I’ve checked the GPS in the woods only to discover it thought I was somewhere 20 miles away from my true location.  In those cases I just put it away and went back to the map and compass.

But just because you’re carrying a map and compass or GPS doesn’t mean you won’t get lost.  Even the best navigators make mistakes out there and will occasionally find themselves somewhere they didn’t expect to be.  There have been several occasions when I’ve hit an obstacle – a river for example – that wasn’t on the map.  There’s a sudden thrill of fear and your mind goes “Uh oh!” and for some reason you want to run.  Your brain tells you to run up ahead and maybe you’ll see the trail.  Maybe you will, but most likely you won’t.

Let’s say you’ve just discovered you’re lost.  Your heart is racing, you’re breathing hard, and you’re mind is telling you to run.  You’re way the hell out in the woods and you’ve gone off the trail and all you have is your day hiking kit with you.  What do you do?

STOP!   Stop.  Think.  Observe.  Plan.

STOP! -  Instead of running off and getting even more lost sit down on the nearest stump and take a deep breath.  Ok, you might be lost, but you’ve got resources.  Running is only going to make this situation worse.  Sit there until your breathing is under control.

Think.  You’ve got your daypack with you.  (Right?) How can you leverage it in your situation?  (Read this to see what you should have with you.)  Do you have a map and compass?  When was the last time you remember seeing a trail blaze or know for sure you were on the path?  Were there any identifiers you can think of to get back on the trail?  What can you hear?  See?  Where was the sun when you hiking?  According to the map, which direction is the trail running?  Is there running water nearby?  Starting to think things through will help ease the panic.

Observe.  You’ve already started doing this in the thinking step.  This is important because it may or may not help you get back on track.  Look for terrain features.  Can you see a mountain peak or are you near a river or lake?  Can you hear traffic?  Which direction is north?  Which way were you hiking?

Plan.  Now that you’ve calmed down and assessed your situation you might discover that you truly are lost.  That sucks, but hey!  You’re dealing with it with a calm mind instead of running in circles flapping your arms and squawking like a chicken. You’re heading in the right direction to survive.


Leverage Your Resources

Assume you’ve taken my advice with 10 Items You Should Have In Your Pack. You now have an excellent list of resources at your disposal for a survival situation. I won’t go into detail in this article because it’s laid out in the hyperlinked post. It’s a great starting place for those of you who might not have the experience and knowledge about what to put into your own kit. You’ll find as you gain experience that you’ll come up with your own additions or substitutions. For example, you might decide to use a poncho and poncho liner instead of a wool blanket. See a discussion about that here.

Here’s the thing, if you have a map and compass and the knowledge on how to read them then you’re not really lost. You might be a little displaced for awhile, but you’re not really lost. If you look at your map you should have an idea of where you are within a couple of square miles. All you have to do is look for a hand rail such as a river or road. Let’s say you look at the map and you know you went off the trail somewhere near the middle of the map. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter. Look at the last known position on the map and then look for a river or road like I mentioned above. It will be in a certain direction from where you are. You might see a road fifteen miles east of where you are. Follow your compass east and eventually you will find the road. It might suck walking off trail through the woods (it would here in Maine I’ll tell ya), but you will find your way out. How do I know? Because I’ve used this exact technique. I’ve felt the cold finger of panic run up my spine when I discovered I was lost snowshoeing in the woods during a snowstorm. I’ve fought down the urge to run to see what’s ahead. I’ve forced myself to sit on a log and dig out my thermos and look around with a rational eye. This isn’t conjecture on my part. These things really work.

Here’s the list:

  1. A canteen and canteen cup
  2. A lightweight rain suit
  3. Lighter or some other kind of firestarter.
  4. Survival knife
  5. Food – energy bars, GORP, or other kind of food that doesn’t need much preparation is a good idea; however, if you have a heat source such as a camp fire then freeze dried foods, Ramen Noodles, or any other kind of light-weight hiking food is an excellent choice.  If I’m on a long hike I’ll have oatmeal and an energy bar for breakfast (don’t forget the coffee), an energy bar for a quick lunch so I can keep moving, and for dinner I’ll break out a freeze dried meal and live it up.  As a side note make sure you’re drinking a lot of water while you’re moving.
  6. Map and Compass (I’m counting this as one unit) or a GPS.  I use a Cammanga Military Compass for accuracy.
  7. First aid kit
  8.  Flash light or head lamp
  9. Wool blanket – this item has many uses and if it gets wet it still has insulating value.  You can lay it out to picnic on, wear it as a cape or shawl with a hood at night  around the fire – it won’t burn like cotton or some of the synthetics out there if a coal lands on it, or you can wrap up in it case you get stuck out over night.  I’ll write a full post on wool blankets later.
  10. Contractor bag – these have many many uses.  You can stuff it with leaves or pine needles and sleep on it, which creates a comfortable bed and vapor barrier.  It can be used to carry water.  Some people say to use a condom, but they’re so fragile I’d be scared to death it would break and lose all my water.  A contractor bag is tough and you could carry a lot of water if you needed to.  (And were strong enough.)  It can be used as a rain coat.  It can be stretched out and used as part of a shelter to keep the rain off.  It can divert rainwater into your canteen.  These bags have many different uses and I suggest you get one for your pack if you don’t already have one in there.

Make a Decision - to move or not to move? If lost, most times you should stay where you are until help finds you. If you’re hurt you may not have a choice about staying where you are. In that scenario do what you can to patch or splint yourself up and get your body stable. If you decide to stay use the Rule of 3′s to guide your efforts.

This is simply a mnemonic for helping to remember the survival sequence:

  • You can live three minutes without air.
  • You can survive three hours without shelter in bad weather.
  • You can survive three days without water.
  • You can live three weeks without food.
  • You can live three months without human contact.

(This is very generalized of course.)

Using these rules as a guide line you would want to build a shelter of some kind first, then look for water, and finally concentrate on finding food. Using the kit above you could make a shelter by making a lean-to out of the contractor bag and a few well cut logs.

Now let’s say you’ve violated the rule about not telling anybody where you’re going. I’ve read many incidents where someone went on a hike, snowmobile trip, or whatever, then changed the plan or didn’t tell anybody where they were going at all. In this situation you might want to think about trying to find your way home. The danger, of course, is that you get even more lost or sustain an injury wandering around in the back woods.

Once you’ve made the decision to start moving make sure you leave plenty of time in the afternoon to make a shelter and get enough fire wood for a good fire. A fire is a wonderful tool for cheering you up, warming you up, boiling water for drinking, cooking food, and providing light. By the time it gets dark you should be all settled in with plenty of wood and a good shelter.

Keep your compass handy and consult it often as you move. It won’t take long moving through the deep woods to start to drift off course. Sometimes you can’t help it due to terrain features and geography, but try to stay on track as much as possible. If you didn’t bring a compass I hope you know how to find the North Star! What about finding direction during the day without a compass? Here’s how to tell direction using your watch and the sun.


If you’re lost a major component of getting found will be finding a way to make a signal. If lost or in need of assistance try to group your signals in threes if possible. Three signal fires, three blasts from a whistle, three flashes from a mirror etc. This will show people you are in trouble.

You can also yell, wave your arms, or do pretty much anything that will attract attention. My experience has been that cell phone reception has been spotty at best and non-existent when I really needed it. Don’t rely on your cell phone as your sole means of rescue or you might find yourself disappointed. I broke my ankle on the 100 Mile Wilderness in Northern Maine once and there was zero cell reception.

By all means ff you’re in an area that has cell reception, use that phone! Call someone to come get you. I’ve heard of people calling forest rangers from the top of Katahdin to come get them because they were tired. I would advise against this as it tends to annoy the rangers.

There are many ways to signal that you’re in trouble. Check out this short video for making a few.

Be Self Sufficient

If you’re lost you need to be a MacGyver when it comes to using whatever you have for gear. Find new ways to use things. Don’t throw anything away as you might be able to use that item for something later on.

Don’t be afraid to spend the night in the woods. If you’ve never slept alone in the woods it can be kind of a freaky experience at first, but after awhile you take it for granted. These days I enjoy a night in the woods by myself, especially in a lean-to or UTS (Under The Stars), where I can hear and sometimes see what’s going on. (Not much usually.)

Don’t depend on someone coming to rescue you if you can help it. Even if you’ve decided to stay put there are always things you can be doing to make your situation better. Add to your shelter to make it even more water proof, keep gathering and processing wood, set up more signals, make figure four traps, purify water, and on and on.

Never Give Up

No matter what happens out there, never give up. You might be scared, hungry, tired, injured, thirsty, whatever. Just remember that what you need to survive could be right around the next corner. You just have to be able to recognize it when you see it. The only time it won’t matter anymore is when you’re dead. Up until that point keep fighting.

Questions? Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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Garden Basics: Weeding 101

Weeding. I know, it seems mundane, but it’s a skill that could mean the difference between a bumper crop and a failed crop in your survival garden. This is really one of those skills you learn best by doing. I can tell you everything I know, but you’ll likely have a different set of weed pressures in your garden, than I do in mine.  I’m going to try here today to get some of the basic and general points all in one place, so anyone looking at a new garden, and having trouble figuring out how to do this thing called “weeding” can have a place to start from.

Top of the list for most new gardeners, “How do you tell the difference between the valuable food babies and the baby weeds?” Practice. Yup, there I said it again, get out there and start to learn the difference, it gets easier, I promise. Things that can help you your first couple of years include:

  • Good marking of where you seed your food babies.This doesn’t have to be fancy, I use sticks to mark rows, and a page in my journal to map things and mark seeding dates. That way you can be more sure about what you are pulling, anything between the rows, or anything outside of the sticks is a weed and safe to pull. Remember the shape of the leaves of what you are pulling, and anything that is closer to a row and in more question, compare the leaf shape to those that you were 100% sure were weeds and see if that helps.
  • Plant the same types of crops for a couple of years and learn what they look like at every stage in development.  As you gain familiarity, add a couple more. This way you aren’t overwhelmed with a ton of new babies to learn in one year.  Although, there will reach a point where you will be more comfortable with things and you’ll be able to guess what a baby will look like from the seed type and from things it’s related to. You’ll notice this approach doesn’t work if you are planting a survival can of seeds, all of which must go in this year if you are to survive the coming winter.
  • Is it coming up in a spot you forgot to water and fertilize? Probably a weed.
  • Has it come up in a few days instead of the week and a half your seed packet says? Probably a weed.
  • A good plant id site. PennState has a good bit of photographed weeds, organized and online. They even have video’s of the weeds, doing what, I don’t know. Check it out!

What’s the best way to get the weeds out? Get ‘em young. Pluck them out by hand or with some light hoeing, yes, I know how 1800′s. Really, they are so easy when they are young, it’s a 2 finger job. My small hand hoe/3 prong rake works really nicely to clear a row of weeds in the 0-2″ tall range.  Anything in the 2-6″ range will need a full sized hoe or some hand pulling.  Larger than 6″? Well… if the crop that’s buried under those 6″ weeds is still salvageable, you can carefully pull those weeds out, but you’re likely to damage the crop just from the root systems of the established weeds.  Flaming could work, if you have the equipment for it.  If there’s doubt about that crop surviving, it may be better to hoe the whole section under and replant something that will mature in the season time you have left. Check out some of my other tool suggestions for food production!

How often should you weed? If you’re getting every row every couple of weeks, things are easy to stay on top of. If weather or other work has kept you from a row for a few weeks, it can take a hoe, or some really tough pulling out by hand.  A good soaking can help if you’re pulling by hand. Let the soil get on the dry side if you’ll be hoeing.

Why not just spray it? Are you eating any of the crops? Are your meat animals eating any of it? Then you probably don’t want to be spraying it.  I think spray herbicides will be the DDT of our generation, known to our children and grandchildren as a short-sighted and harmful answer to a perennial problem. There will always be weeds. Weeds will eventually adapt to any spray. Just learn how to get them out manually and save yourself the time and cost of herbicides.  I can’t prove that you’ll be healthier for it, but I greatly suspect that to be true. Here’s some more on organic pest control, once you’ve got the weeds under control.

Does it have to be 100%?  No, especially once the crop in question has gottenCIMG6877 big enough to fend for itself. Here’s a shot of half my garlic crop, last week. At this point I won’t do a lot of weeding to this plot, the garlic is mature, it just needs to finish any bulb development it has left, put up a scape for me to cut off, and then over the next month it will dry and die back. So there’s no purpose to weeding anymore. Nothing will have time to overpower the 20″ high garlic before I harvest and hoe the whole section under.



Check out some of these before and after shots for how I weed. You can see the baby grass and dandelions in the BEFORE pic on the left.








In the after picture, you can still see some green from weeds, but most of those are uprooted and just laying on top of the soil where they’ll whither and die. Some are inside the onion row and difficult to remove without damaging the onions.  This is another time when less than 100% is ok, don’t damage delicate root systems just to achieve 100% weed removal.  Remember, there will always be more weeds.

In the BEFORE shot below left, these are potatoes that I had started to hill/weed before realizing I should take a before shot. So look at the lower left section for a true before look. You can see the weeds in the 0-3″ range. Hilling the potatoes every couple of weeks helps me stay on top of the weeds, it’s a kill 2 birds with one stone maneuver.










Mulch is also part of my strategy, I’ll weed the row then cover it good with some mulch, if the plants are large enough to see over it. Potatoes and Tomatoes are the ones I do this the most with.  They have long seasons,



so it’s worth the time and cost to mulch, plus they do better if they have more consistent levels of moisture at their roots. And they are big enough to see over the 6″ of mulch.  And Iowa generally doesn’t have a slug problem, which can be exacerbated by mulching.

Here’s the final shot of the potato row mulch, after I had hilled it with dirt. This is only the first hilling, I usually do at least 2.

Hope this helps. Do you have specific questions? Email me a picture if you need identification help. Or sound out in the comments!

-Calamity Jane
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Three Excellent Survival Knives for Under $100

Outdoorsmen love knives.  The reasons for this are varied, but for me it’s because of the utility they offer.  If all you have is a good blade and the right skill set you could potentially survive in the wilderness for a long time.

How so?  Let’s think of the Rule of 3′s for a moment and see how a knife could help.

Rule of 3′s

  • You can survive 3 minutes without air
  • You can survive 3 hours without shelter (in inclement weather)
  • You can survive 3 days without water
  • You can survive 3 weeks without food
  • You can survive 3 months without human interaction

(These are all highly generalized of course, but the rules give you a “survival lens” to look through when planning your survival strategy.)

Could a skilled woodsman survive without a knife?  Yes, but the people who could do this are few and far between.  Even the folks who could survive indefinitely in the forest with just a knife and their knowledge and skill are probably one in 10,000 or even fewer here in the United States.

How can a knife help?  A knife can help you to cut brush and limbs to make a shelter, split wood, cut tinder and kindling, and make a bow drill to get a fire started.  It could help you take bark from a birch tree to make a container, so you can boil water for safe drinking and cooking.  It can help you to cut sticks for a figure 4 trap to get small game.  It could help you harvest different types of raw materials for cordage, which is very helpful in any survival situation.

You get the idea.  A good knife is an extremely useful resource any time you’re in the woods, but much more so when your life depends on it.

A good survival knife needs to be reliable, durable, and tough.  Here are seven characteristics to look for when buying a good survival knife.  This article sums up the characteristics perfectly and I encourage you to check it out before reading further.

It’s not hard finding a knife under $100, but finding a good knife – something you’d trust your life to – is a different matter.

The following knives all have their strengths and weaknesses and it all comes down to personal preference and what you need the knife for.  This is by no means an all-encompassing list, it’s simply a few of the knives I’ve had experience with and would recommend.

Let’s get started!

SOG Seal Pup

With an overall length of nine inches this clip point, partially serrated knife packs a lot of utility for it’s relatively small size.  My first note about this knife is that it’s sharp coming out of the box.  And I mean sharp.  After I opened it up I immediately took it out in the woods to try out.  It was still winter and I was using it to split some kindling for the stove in my military ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) tent.  I was twisted around in an awkward position and instead of setting the knife on top of the wood when I went to baton it, it slid down the side and touched my finger very lightly.  I was surprised at the amount of blood that poured out of the cut.  After  wrapping the wound with duct tape I used a lot more caution with the blade.

It handled the batoning with no problem and I didn’t notice any appreciable dulling of the blade.

The SOG Seal Pup is light compared to what I’m used to.  I can strap it to my belt and forget it’s there until I need it.  It’s great for jobs like cutting meat, cordage, and whittling those little pieces of dry wood to start a fire.  It’s good for small jobs like making a bow drill set and would be perfect for cutting food up at camp.  You could also use this knife for skinning small or large animals.

About the knife:

This is a full tang knife, or as close as you can get to it.

The Tang of a knife is the portion of the blade that extends down into the handle. The Tang and the blade are one solid piece of steel. A Full Tang, or tang that goes all the way to the base of the handle, is considered the best for a quality survival knife. The full tang gives the entire knife strength. On cheaper knives the blade is only connected to the top of the handle and can break off.


The handle is made from GRN or Glass-Reinforced Nylon.  It fits in my hand nicely and has an excellent grip.  It feels like rubber and has a raised diamond pattern, so even if it gets wet it doesn’t feel slippery.  Again, this is a smaller knife, but I don’t think someone with big hands would have a problem using it comfortably.

SOG prefers AUS-8 Stainless Steel for their blades.  I won’t get into the whole “stainless vs. carbon” debate, but I will say that this knife comes sharp out of the box and you need to treat it with care.

Being stainless you don’t have to worry about it rusting as much as you would with a carbon blade.  Some people say it’s harder to get an edge on the blade, but I’ve always had good luck with them.  I don’t think I could sharpen the blade as well as they did at the factory, but I have a stainless steel dive knife I’ve had for years and it’s still in tip top shape and it has a hell of an edge too.  If the Seal Pup stands up to corrosion as well as that dive knife it should be serviceable for many years to come.

The blade is partly serrated and has a powder cover.  On the back of the blade is a thumb rest for that fine detail knife work you might find yourself doing.  My experience with the powder cover is that it eventually wears off after using it in the field for awhile.  The SOG still has most of it left, but you’ll see pictures of my other knives where it’s worn off in the middle of the blade where I baton wood.

One thing about serrated edges is that if you use them for chopping it will eventually wear the serrated part down or even break them.  Up until recently I really didn’t like a serrated edge, but I’ve tried a few knives recently that are changing my mind up to a point, this blade being one of them.

The knife I ordered comes with a basic Kydex sheath.  Some people don’t seem to care for Kydex, but I like it because it’s formed to the shape of the knife making it hard to fall out if you don’t strap it in.

Overall Score

I give this little powerhouse a score of 4 out of 5 stars.  It’s sharp, tough, and sits on your belt without pulling your pants down or otherwise causing discomfort.

In most cases I’d rather have a smaller knife than one that is too big and if I had choice I’d go with this one.

Ka-Bar Becker BK2

One of my personal favorites is the Becker BK2.  It lists a higher price in the last link than it does on Amazon, so check it out here if you want to buy.

When you pick this bad boy up you know you’ve got a serious tool in your hand.  It’s 1/4″ thick of solid 1095 Cro-Van steel with a drop point and a blade length of 5 1/4″ and a weight of 1 pound.  The overall length of the knife is 10 1/2″, which is small enough to fit comfortably in a pack or to be worn on your belt without banging your ankles.

It keeps a pretty good edge, but what I like about this knife is its muscle.  I’ve pried stuff with this knife I would never try with another for fear of breaking the blade.  I’ve heard it described as a crowbar with an edge, and while it made me laugh, it really is a good analogy.

I’ve used this knife for about four or five years now and it’s still my main go-to knife.  I have pounded this knife, thrown it, pried with it, and abused it in more ways than it deserves and it’s taken it all without complaint.  One of the things I like about it is that it’s heavy, which makes it good for chopping.  Other knives I’ve used, like the Seal Pup, are just too light to make a good chopping tool, but the Becker BK2 doesn’t have that problem.

The Zytel handle can be a little slippery when it’s wet (even then it’s not too bad), but I put a piece of paracord on the end as a wrist wrap and haven’t had any problems with it slipping out of my hand.

The newer handles have a pummel on the base of the handle, but my first generation does not.  This is good for pounding stakes, cracking nuts, bones, or whatever might need to be pounded.

As you can see from the pictures I’ve used this knife a lot.  Its strength lies in it’s durability and because of its weight it’s excellent for chopping and limbing branches.  When I limbed my tipi poles I used this knife and it made short work of it.  When you hit a thumb sized branch at the base of the limb it will take it right off without hesitation.

This knife wouldn’t be so great for skinning small animals, but for most other small jobs it does just fine.

I keep this knife pretty sharp, but haven’t been able to get an edge on it like the Seal Pup.

This also comes with a Kydex sheath and if you look at the picture you’ll see I’ve got some Ranger Bands wrapped around it where I store a firesteel.  With these two components it makes a very good mini survival kit for when I’m walking around in the woods with just the knife on my hip.

Overall Score

In today’s category I give the Becker BK2 4 3/4 stars out of 5.  It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damned close.

 Ka-Bar Stats off the website:


1.0 lb.


1095   Cro-Van

Blade   Type

Fixed   Blade

Lock   Style



Blade   length 5-1/4″; Overall length 10-1/2″



Edge   Angles

20   Degrees

Handle   Material



Drop   Point




KA-BAR   Becker

Butt   Cap/Guard


Pocket   Clip


Made in

Knife   Made in USA, Sheath Made in Taiwan


1095-01-493-1798   KNIFE-COMBAT

Blade   Thickness


Cold Steel SRK (Survival Rescue Knife)

Another excellent knife is the Cold Steel SRK.  I bought this knife after talking with Leon Pantenburg at Survival Commonsense.  Read his review here.   After doing some research I discovered that it’s a universally well liked knife.  Leon is a pretty savvy outdoorsman and I liked what he had to say about the knife, so I gave it a try.

I’m glad I did.  It’s a tough, good looking knife with a 6″ blade.  It weighs 8.2 oz, a good deal less than the BK2 and I’ve found that when I’m going through one of my “pack light” phases the BK2 gets taken out and this knife goes in.

This is an excellent all around knife that sits between the SOG Seal Pup and the BK2 in several different categories.  This knife is made from stainless steel as well, but of the three knives I’ve had the best luck sharpening this one.  It has a great edge and I’ve managed to keep it very sharp using my sharpening stone.  When I hand this to people I have to warn them, “It’s sharp.  Be careful.”

The SRK is lighter than the BK2, but heavier than the SOG Seal Pup, and of the three has the longest blade at 6″.  Weight and blade-wise it’s not as good at chopping as the BK2, but better than the SOG.

It’s not as thick as the BK2 at 3/16″ of an inch, but I haven’t had any problems with it during field use.  Indeed, it performs the tasks I use it for extremely well and it’s a pleasure to hold in my hand.  Again, in the picture you can see the black coating wearing off, but I chalk this up to every day use and don’t really expect a knife to hold onto its finish with any serious use.

The overall length of the knife is 10 ¾”, which is within the range of what I prefer for a survival knife.  When you hang it off your belt it’s light enough that it’s no bother and small enough that it doesn’t bang on your knee or otherwise get in your way.

The handle is made from checkered Kraton polymer and feels good in your hand – no issues with slippage here.

The sheath is Kydex and can be configured in several different ways although I use it in its standard configuration.  One thing I really like about Kydex sheaths in general are that they’re molded to the individual knife.  If you forget to strap it in or if you’re wearing it around camp and don’t want to strap it down it will stay locked in the sheath until you need it.  I’ve shaken it upside down and the knife did not slide out of the sheath.  I also use Ranger Bands on this sheath and usually have a fire steel attached to it as well.

I give this knife 4 ½ out of 5 stars.

SRK Specs off their Website:
Blade Length: 6″
Overall Length: 10 3/4″
Steel: Japanese Aus 8A Stainless w/ Black Tuff-Ex™ Finish
Weight: 8.2 oz
Blade Thickness: 3/16″
Handle: 4 3/4″ Long Kray-Ex™
Sheath: Secure-Ex® Sheath


It’s important to note that I don’t beat my knives up on purpose; however, I do use them hard which is what any of us would do in a survival situation.  If it’s going to fail I’d rather it do it on a two day hike than an extended field situation where I really need it to perform.  I’ve broken knives using them in the field and it’s a lousy experience.

The hardest choice with these three knives is deciding which one I’m going to take with me when I go out into the woods for a hike or camping trip.  Sometimes I say screw it and take them all if there’s not a lot of hiking involved and weight isn’t a big issue.  I also have several bug-out bags and keep one in each bag, so if I have to grab one and go I know I’ve got a solid knife to fall back on if I find myself in trouble.  That’s a good feeling to have.

It’s important to remember that a knife is a personal choice.  Just because I prefer the BK2 by a tiny margin doesn’t mean you’ll like it (although most people do.)  Do your research.  Check around to see if any of your friends might have the knife you’re considering so you can get your hands on it.

When you eventually find the knife that is right for you buy it and get to know it.  You won’t regret it.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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Weighing the Options For Drinking Water

Water is one of the basic needs for every prepper.  But, does every prepper know exactly what they are guarding against and how to best deal with all the pitfalls? I think some people hesitate because it’s a life or death thing and they don’t want to make a mistake. So let’s take an in-depth look at water purification.

Boiling, filtering, chemicals, and solar are all purification methods that a good prepper should know about. Let’s define all of those first, so we’re all on the same page. Then pros, cons and the limitations.


Boiling of course refers to bringing the liquid to a rolling boil. For most bacteria and viruses the temperature of water at a rolling boil is enough to kill after a minute. If anyone has ever told you it has to boil for 10 minutes, they didn’t know what they are talking about. It does take a frustratingly long time to get cool enough to drink, so keep that in mind unless it’s the middle of winter. Or unless you’re aiming for soup.  If aiming for soup, let that water boil, BEFORE adding in the soup components.


Filtering means running the water through some kind of filter. There are all sorts of porous materials that will work to filter water. Some, like bandannas or socks will only filter out bugs and sand.  Some, like filters available from hyperflow-Microfiltercamping stores (sizes between 0.1 and 0.4 microns,) will remove bacteria from water but will not remove viruses. New “hollow fiber” technology can remove viruses. “Reverse osmosis” filters remove bacteria and viruses and can also remove salt from water, which is important for those dwelling near or on an ocean. No filter can filter out chemical contamination, except activated charcoal, see below..




Common micro-organisms and the filter size needed:

Organism Examples General Size Filter Type Particle Size Rating
Protozoa Giardia, Cryptosporidium 5 microns or larger Water filter 1.0–4.0 microns
Bacteria Cholera, E. coli, Salmonella 0.2–0.5 microns Microfilter 0.2–1.0 microns
Viruses Hepatitis A, rotavirus, Norwalk virus 0.004 microns Water purifier to 0.004 microns

There are two basic types of filters :Membrane Filters use thin sheets with precisely sized pores that prevent objects larger than the pore size from passing through. Plus: Relatively easy to clean. Minus: They can clog more quickly than depth filters. Depth Filters use thick porous materials such as carbon or ceramic to trap particles as water flows through the material. Plus: Can be partially cleaned by backwashing. Activated carbon filters also remove a range of organic chemicals and heavy metals. Minus: Rough treatment can crack the filter, rendering it useless.


Chemicals refers to what you can add to water to kill the bad stuff but not kill yourself. The most common is bleach. Liquid Chlorine bleach is what most people have on hand. (Clorox or Purex.) Don’t use any bleach with perfumes or dyes or other additives, you don’t want to be drinking that stuff.  Place the water in a clean container. Add the amount of bleach according to the Department of Health table below. Mix thoroughly and let stand for at least 60 minutes before drinking. Remember that chemical treatment of cloudy water is less effective, so filter your water first to get it as clear as possible. Iodine is another chemical used. Some people are allergic to iodine though, so be aware of that. Bleach will not kill some disease-causing organisms commonly found in surface water. Bleach and Iodine will not remove chemical pollutants.

Treating water with household bleach containing 5.25-8.25 percent chlorine
Volume of Water to be Treated Bleach Solution to Add
1 quart/1 liter 5 drops
1/2 gallon/2 quarts/2 liters 10 drops
1 gallon 1/4 teaspoon
5 gallons 1 teaspoon
10 gallons 2 teaspoons



Cheapest of all, sunlight can be used to purify water. It harnesses the UV rays and the heat. Clear plastic bottles placed in the sun for 6 hours will kill off bacteria, viruses, protozoa and worms.  But of course, not chemical pollutants. Like the other purification methods, it works best on filtered water.  Minus: Doesn’t work at night or on cloudy days.   Need more on this one? Check out the 88 page manual!

I’d say for the best outcome, you’ll thank yourself if you have close to a week’s worth of safe drinking water stored, and the makings to set up one of these methods in  day or two. If you’re not storing rain water, you’ll need to scout out the local creeks/rivers/ponds/etc.

Don’t let this basic need trip you up when it matters most! Find the method that works for your situation and get it set up! Anyone with some water stories to share? Shout out in the comments.

- Calamity Jane

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Getting The Most Out Of My DIY Alcohol Stove

I’ll admit it, I’m a cheapskate. But for good reason…I cheap out on a lot of things so that I can have really really good stuff in other areas. For instance, I’ll eat store-brand taco shells for dinner and have peanut butter sandwiches for lunch so that I can afford that Troy free-floating battlerail for my AR. (review soon). I’ll buy eight-packs of t-shirts at Wal-Mart so I can get the BF Goodrich AT tires for my Tacoma. It’s pretty simple, and I’m sure everyone here does it to some degree when it comes to their gear. However, there was this one time I cheaped out on gear, and it actually worked out pretty damned well.


I was looking for a good portable stove for my BOB about a year ago. Hoping for reviews or ideas, I checked the search function here on the blog to see if Jarhead Survivor or Calamity Jane might have tried one that worked well. Hopefully it wasn’t exactly pricey! A search found this article by Jarhead Survivor, circa 2010: “How to Build Your Own Alcohol Stove” BAM! I was pretty tickled pink. I’m the kinda guy who would much rather build something that works well on the cheap (and learn something along the way!) than spend money on something that came off a shelf with nothing but the side of its box to tell me about it. As a bonus, this particular alcohol stove was pretty cheap: its cost was two previously enjoyed frosty beverage cans, (of the red, white, and blue 16-oz. variety…I don’t drink that sissy Coke Zero stuff like Jarhead used in his article.), a handful of pink R-19 insulation (nabbed from my attic roof), a razorblade, and a thumbtack. For fuel, Jarhead used HEET gas line antifreeze (as a side note, ONLY USE THE YELLOW BOTTLED HEET! The red bottle has fuel injector cleaners that are poisonous when burned.). I whipped up a couple…and you know what? They worked pretty well! I’ve used mine quite a bit over the past year, and I have mostly good stuff to say about them. They are extremely lightweight, take up very little room, and they will heat up a cup of water for coffee or soup with no problem. Downsides? They get HOT, and you need to pay attention to that – but I guess that’s a natural byproduct of fire in general, huh? They need something stable and flat to sit on, especially in snow. I found that out here:


Yep, this definitely melted through the snow and fell over. Bogus. Shoulda been smarter than that!  If the platform they are on (a large rock, for instance) isn’t relatively flat and level, the top-heavy container of water perched above the stove can (and probably will) tip over. If all you have is a couple cups of water you were able to filter out of a less-than stellar-looking bog hole, and you REALLY need it, your day will be instantaneously ruined by the lack of forethought to find a flat surface.


The last thing I didn’t like about it was not really a big deal; you have to accept it, since it comes with the territory of having such a small, DIY stove: it only burns for a few minutes, and then you have to let it seriously cool before you fill it, lest you find yourself in close proximity to a small aluminum grenade you made yourself. But, like I said, you have to accept it; it’s the trade-off for spending approximately zero dollars, and having an extremely portable, lightweight stove.




Maximizing my stove

I know Jarhead said to use HEET, and that’s what I had been using. But a quick perusal of all the flammable shit I had in my shed made me think there MIGHT be a different fuel out there that might burn more efficiently. So, by God, I went all Mythbusters on it and brought in a bit of science. I measured how much fuel my little stove could handle (about four tablespoons) and decided on this course of action: Use equal amounts of different fuels (all readily-available flammables people might find in abandoned sheds or homes) and use it with my stove setup (the very one I carry in my BOB) to see how long it A) takes to boil a pre-determined amount of water (One cup) and B) burns for. So, armed with a bunch of stuff that could burn me, a pad of paper, a pen, and the stopwatch on my iPhone, I set up on my concrete front steps to see what I could find out.




What did I find out? Well, for one, they all worked with the stove, and none of them kersploded it, leaving little pieces of Pabst can in my face. Some definitely worked better than others, and some burned cleanly, some were a mess. They all ignited very easily with one or two strokes of my FireSteel GobSpark Armageddon. Some of these (like the gasoline) will melt through plastics, requiring you to put a bit of thought into your container if you decide to carry them.



For this test, I used 87-octane gasoline (don’t tell my wife I was supposed to mow the lawn with it.) white gas (or “Coleman fuel”…as most of Coleman’s products  run on this stuff or propane.), 91% Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, Gas-Line Antifreeze (HEET), Charcoal Lighter fluid, and acetone. Ambient temperatures were about 50 degrees, and the only casualty was a ferociously stupid june bug that flew at high velocity right into the stove…I may have lost a few eyebrow hairs too, but such is the price I pay for science. Here are my notes on the various fuels…”Boil” was a nice rolling boil, “burned out” was the flame COMPLETELY out. Again, I used four tablespoons (two ounces) of fuel per test. Don’t tell my wife I used her cooking measuring stuff, okay?

GASOLINE: One strike with firesteel, explosive! (there was a fun fireball with this one, boys and girls! Be careful!). Large, dirty burning, orange flame about 12″ high. TIME TO BOIL: Didn’t boil a cup of water (!), burned out in 5 minutes, 32 seconds.

WHITE GAS: One strike with firesteel, burned quickly, with a nice flame. TIME TO BOIL: 2 minutes 42 seconds, burned out in 5 minutes, 8 seconds.

91% RUBBING ALCOHOL: Two strikes to ignite with firesteel, burned very evenly, very cleanly. Blue/white flame. TIME TO BOIL: 3 minutes 10 seconds, burned out in 9 minutes, 4 seconds.

LIGHTER FLUID: 2 strikes with firesteel, large orange smelly flame. Very sooty! TIME TO BOIL: 3 minutes, 11 seconds, burned out in 5 minutes, 29 seconds.

HEET: One strike to ignite, nice blue/yellow flame. Burned pretty cleanly.TIME TO BOIL: 3 minutes, 26 seconds, burned out in 6 minutes, 48 seconds.

ACETONE: two strikes with firesteel to ignite, clean fast burn. TIME TO BOIL: 2 minutes 43 seconds, burned out in 4 minutes 6 seconds.


IMG_1290 IMG_1291


As you can see, things got rather dirty. I noticed the petroleum-based products (gasoline, lighter fluid) burned very high, sooty flames. (No, they didn’t turn the dog black.) There was a lot of nasty soot and residue left over on the stainless cup and the stove, which were absolutely appalling to remove from anything it touched – clothes, fingers, skin. Additionally, they didn’t burn that efficiently – hell, the gasoline didn’t even boil water. It could be used to cook or heat, I suppose, but truthfully, I wouldn’t want whatever that stuff was all over the cup and stove to be all over my food. So, in a last-ditch case, it will work, but I’d keep looking for the other products if I could.


Alcohol based fuels did the job much better. They burned hotter (blue flames) and cleaner (very little residue on the stove and cup), and longer, with the champion going to the 91% rubbing alcohol. This bad boy burned hot for over nine minutes on 2 ounces of fuel, trumping the others by over 30%. As an added bonus, it’s VERY inexpensive and easy to find (about 2 bucks a bottle or less at pretty much ANY grocery store or drugstore) and it can be used to clean wounds and disinfect.


I still use the HEET (since I have it) but once it runs out (or I say “screw it” and use it for its actual intended purpose of keeping water out of my vehicle’s fuel tanks), I’ll be carrying around a bottle of 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol in my BOB for fuel. I’ll have to make another little DIY stove after all this testing and use…but it’s given me a year’s worth of service after spending about 10 cents for it. I think it deserves the retirement.


What do you guys think? Was this a fool’s errand? I liked this test because it worked with a VERY inexpensive tool that is extremely useful within its limitations, and it uses materials that can readily and easily be scrounged, even in a down-and-dirty SHTF environment/situation. Would you rather carry around a bottled-fuel stove? Or do you just go old-school and make fires?


Stay safe!

-Road Warrior


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Compare and Contrast of Wool Blanket and Poncho and Poncho Liner

For various reasons I don’t keep a sleeping bag in my Get Home Bag or my everyday hiking kit.  Today I thought I’d talk about other options than having a sleeping bag permanently stored in your kit.

blanket and packFirst of all I think the best choice a person could make for a serious bug-out is a good sleeping bag, especially up here in the Great White North.  Having said that, keeping a sleeping bag in your pack all the time has two disadvantages:  1.)  They’re relatively heavy and 2.)  If you keep your sleeping bag compressed all the time it will eventually lose its loft.

I keep my sleeping bags in a loose bag until I need them.  With a good sleeping bag starting at $150 and up these days I want to protect my investment.


The goal is to carry something in my pack that is light in weight, but warm enough to keep me alive if I have to use it to spend the night out. This means carrying different items during the various seasons up here in Maine.

I think it’s important to point out that these items are more for a regular day hiking kit or a get home bag (GHB) than a full five day hiking pack or a long term Bug-Out Bag. Unless you’re very skilled and hard-core you’ll probably want to carry something heavier (like a sleeping bag) if you’re going for an over nighter or a multiple day hike.

The idea here is to have something with you on a regular hike that’s light enough to keep you warm if you get caught out overnight, but not heavy enough to kill you hiking it up a mountain because of its weight.

poncho liner bag Ro

For example: if I wanted to hike a mountain here in Maine this time of year (it’s May 11, 2014 as I write this) and the temperature today was around 72 degrees. Tonight it could easily go down into the 30′s. That means if I go out on a day hike carrying what the typical day hiker carries, (water bottle, power bar, and maybe an extra t-shirt ) the last thing I’m thinking about is that it’s going to get cold that night. I’ll sweat on the hike getting my clothes wet, which means if I get lost and have to spend a night out with wet clothes, no shelter and no way to start a fire, I’m a prime candidate for hypothermia.

Bear in mind this is about survival and not comfort.  That’s not saying that if you use these as effectively as possible they won’t keep you warm.


A quick word here about knowledge and skills.  If all you have is a poncho liner and poncho and the temperature is going into the 30′s you are going to get cold; however, if you start a fire and reflect the heat back into a shelter you’ve found or made you’ll be much warmer and might even be able to catnap through the night.

This type of knowledge is a force multiplier, which means if you take your piece of gear by itself it will help a little.  But if you combine it with your knowledge of starting a fire you will not only survive the night you’ll be comfortable as well.  They become more effective when used together.

This is true of any gear you put in your pack.  Try to make sure it has multiple uses or is important enough to have a spot.

Wool Blanketblanket1

There are many good things to be said about wool.  When it gets wet it still retains a good deal of its ability to keep you warm unlike cotton, which will kill you if it gets wet in cold weather.There are many kinds of wool blankets out there on the market.  I bought a military surplus blanket off Amazon and so far it’s held up pretty good.

You can keep it rolled up tight and it won’t lose its ability to keep you warm, which is what happens to a sleeping bag after it’s lost its loft.  This means you can put it in your pack and forget about it until you need it.

The wonderful thing about a wool blanket is the rage of uses you can get out of it.  There are many YouTube videos out showing many ways to use the blanket as a cloak.  All you need is a way to pin it and it’ll become a great cloak or overcoat to wear while you’re in the woods.

It can be used in different ways such as a cloak, or as a shelter, or just roll up in it and sleep in it next to a fire.  If a spark lands on the blanket it won’t cause the same damage as it would on a synthetic sleeping bag.

Don’t forget that in cold weather a big part of the battle for staying warm is to put some insulation between you and the ground.  If you don’t have a sleeping pad gather some leaves or fir boughs and try to put six inches of this insulating material between you and the ground.  This will help keep you warm.

The wool blanket is quite a bit heavier than the poncho liner, but it’s also a lot warmer on its own.poncho liner bag

Poncho Liner and Poncho

To be fair I almost always use the poncho liner in conjunction with the poncho unless I’m in the southern latitudes.  When I was in Gitmo, Cuba sleeping on a cot I used a poncho liner, but it was easily in the 70′s at night with a light sea breeze, so it was no big deal.  In North Carolina and other southern states it worked well in the summer because it’s so hot down there.  In the fall I would either pair it up with the poncho or use a light sleeping bag.

Up here in Maine I’ve attached it to the military poncho, which is a heavier duty poncho than the Wal-Mart variety, and then folded the poncho in half and buttoned it up to create a sleeping bag.  This works pretty well, but I haven’t really tested it much below 55 or 60 degrees.  That means I’d want to use this configuration in the summer.  One thing I like about the poncho/poncho liner combination is that it gives you a variety of uses.  You could use the poncho by itself to keep the rain off, or set it up as a shelter, or use it to funnel rain water, and many other uses.

The poncho liner by itself is a very lightweight blanket.  You could use it to help camouflage a position, or you can wrap up in it as a blanket and it will do a fair job of keeping you warm.  Combine the two and you can make a decent sleeping bag.


The military grade poncho and  poncho liner together when compared with the wool blanket weigh roughly the same.  If it’s going to be cold and wet I’ll carry the poncho and the blanket.  It’s the heaviest combination, but also the warmest and it still won’t drive my pack weight up past 20 lbs. and that’s including my other gear.poncho and wool blanket


Other Options

Branching out a little another option I use in the summer is a heavy duty space blanket  and a ripstop poncho.  This is not a military grade poncho and it’s a little smaller, but I’ve slept under it (in a sleeping bag) and it seemed to be up to the task of becoming a shelter without coming apart.  Whereas the military poncho is square, this one has more of a rectangular shape, which I didn’t realize until I went to set it up.  No biggie, but I did have to adjust the design of my shelter accordingly that trip.  The ripstop poncho is also much lighter than it’s military cousin.poncho shelter

I haven’t really tested the space blanket under harsh conditions.  The thing to remember about this is that it reflects heat and is not insulative.  It’s silver on one side and olive drab on the other.  Very light though, and compresses down fairly well.  It reminds me of a small tarp to some extent.  It is not like the cheap silver space blankets you see blanket


These are all good pieces of gear to have on hand if you want to carry something relatively light.

The lightest combination is the rip stop poncho with the space blanket.  A very good solution for summer time.

The next heaviest is the military poncho with the poncho liner.  This combination probably has the most uses with the individual pieces capable of many different functions.

The heaviest is the wool blanket with a poncho for shelter or keeping the rain off.

The main advantages of carrying these pieces of gear are:

  1. They are lighter than a sleeping bag.
  2. You can put them in your pack and forget about them until you need them.  This way you don’t have to worry about losing the loft in your sleeping bag.
  3. In warmer weather they are perfectly acceptable for sleeping.  People get so hung up on sleeping in a sleeping bag they forget there are other options out there.

I have at least six sleeping bags, but the equipment listed above is what I use in my personal GHB and hiking pack.

Any of you woodsmen out there have an alternative?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

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poncho and blanket

SWATTING – Send a SWAT Team To A Friend Near You

copsIf you’ve been reading here for awhile you know I’m no big fan of SWAT teams in many small towns.  Now hackers are using SWAT teams to get revenge on competitors or prank others.

Ever heard of SWATTING? It works like this:

Let’s say I have beef with you. In this day and age it’s pretty easy to track down where you live and find out a few things about you simply by doing some computer hacking. So I find out where you live and then using a phone masking system I call the cops and pretend to be you, or your son, or daughter, or just someone in the house.

I get on the phone with 911 and say, “I just shot my wife and now I’m going to shoot my kids.” They trace the call and find it coming from your house and dispatch a SWAT team to take care of the hostage situation.

Meanwhile, you’re at home watching TV, your kids are upstairs in their rooms doing homework, and your wife is puttering around in the kitchen. Suddenly your door flies open and ten cops in SWAT gear burst through the door to end the situation. If you’re lucky they won’t “end” you in the process.

Congratulations, you’ve just been SWATTED.

A lot of celebrities have been SWATTED lately and it’s now boiling over to the average guy.  Check this out:

It’s relatively easy to swat someone, since law enforcement tends to err on the side of taking emergency calls seriously. The threshold for calling in a special forces team varies by district, but generally it seems to be enough to say you have a gun and a potential victim. All swatters really need is the victim’s address, a way to mask their phone number, and a crazy story to tell the 911 operator.

The police, as you can imagine, aren’t too happy about this either.

Swatting can bring harsh penalties. In 2007, a young man named Randal T. Ellis called in a hoax on an apparently random household using a deaf relay service. At first, Ellis told the 911 operator that his name was Ryan and his sister had overdosed on cocaine and gave the address of a house in Lake Forest, Washington, where Doug and Stacey Bates lived with their twin daughters. Ellis also claimed he had a gun and had shot someone in the face. He then threatened to shoot his mother and his sister.

Brian Sims, a sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, was the lead investigator on the case. He discovered that Ellis had used the California Relay System to call 911. About five search warrants later, Sims traced the call from an AOL account to a Comcast account and finally to Ellis. The 19-year-old went to jail for three years on five felony counts, including computer access and fraud, false imprisonment by violence, and falsely reporting a crime. He was ordered to pay $14,700 in restitution.


So far there haven’t been any reported injuries, but it’s only a matter of time.  If someone happens to be sitting there with a gun on them it’s likely the police, who are hyped up at this point, won’t hesitate to shoot when they bust in and see it.

Having as many SWAT teams in the United States as we do is bad enough.  There are many reports of SWAT hitting the wrong house and terrorizing the wrong folks.   Now we also have this new fad to worry about.

Be watchful out there, my friends.  You never know who’s going to knock on your door next.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor


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Are YOU ready?