Those of you who know me or are frequent fliers here or on my Facebook page know full well just how much of an avid reader I am. While I don’t limit my book consumption to strictly survival-related stuff, that has been the bulk of it for quite some time now. In spite of having read hundreds of “prepper” and related types of books, the list of titles I suggest to everyone is rather small. There’s just a lot of crap floating out there and it seems like the good ones are becoming fewer and further between, y’know? I’m going to tell you right up front that Practical Self-Reliance by John D. McCann is a book I consider to be required reading for anyone wishing to pursue any sort of independent lifestyle. Yes, it is that good.
There are 16 chapters spanning a little over 320 pages. The book is profusely illustrated, with rarely more than a page or two between photos. From cover to cover, McCann goes through a wide range of topics, talking about everything from growing and foraging food to financial preparedness to staying comfortable in hot or cold climates, all with an eye toward doing for yourself rather than waiting for someone to do it for you.
Perhaps the best part about this whole book is the fact that the knowledge McCann is imparting isn’t just theoretical. These are lessons that have obviously been learned through hard work and real world implementation.
One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 6 — Recycle and Repurpose. As McCann notes in the book, “As you become more self reliant, old things start to take on new meaning.” Here, he shows us how to reuse and repurpose things like newspaper, wine bottles, cardboard tubes, and pallets. For those with the prepper mindset, information like this will make it easier to use supplies you scrounge after an event, allowing you to make do with what you have rather than just longing for what you lack.
As with McCann’s previous books (Build the Perfect Survival Kit and Stay Alive!), he has recommendations for specific products here and there, identifying them by brand name. This is great as it narrows down the search when it comes time to obtain the items yourself. However, on top of that, if there’s a DIY approach that is just as good if not better than a store-bought item, McCann shows us that as well. A great example of this is found in Chapter 10 — Water is Essential. Here, McCann takes us step by step through the process of building a 5 Gallon Gravity Filter System for making water potable. Honestly, folks, this project along with the smaller 2 gallon model he also includes in the text is worth the price of admission. With any of the projects in this book, the instructions are easy to follow and understand, with little left to the imagination.
One of the neatest little projects is making what McCann calls a “slush lamp.” This is the type of oil lamp where the wick floats on the fuel. Of course, I’ve seen these types of lamps in the store but hadn’t given much thought as to how I’d build one at home. Using jute twine, a cork, and a container for the fuel, McCann makes it very easy to do. This is a great option for backup illumination during a power outage, using olive oil from the kitchen for the fuel.
If you’re looking to get off the grid, either partially or completely, McCann has you covered in Chapter 12 — Alternative Power. Here again, this isn’t just information cobbled together from Wikipedia entries but projects and ideas McCann has tested and found work. For example, the idea of using solar landscape lights to provide illumination indoors at night has been around for a while. But, have you considered using them to recharge AA batteries for your flashlights and such? Of course, the information doesn’t stop there. McCann covers not only solar panel systems but also wind, water, and human power generation.
All in all, as I mentioned at the beginning, Practical Self-Reliance belongs on every prepper or homesteader’s bookshelf. It is a resource you’ll find yourself turning to again and again. To be clear, this isn’t any sort of “live off the land” survival manual. While there is some great information on foraging and such, the focus here is on how to be self-sufficient, providing for your own needs in all areas of your life as much as possible. Highly recommended!
Oh, one last thing. The back cover contains what might very well be the only known photograph of the author actually smiling. That alone should be enough to pique your interest.
In his follow up to Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag, Creek Stewart does to vehicles what he did to survival kits. This book is easily one of the most detailed guides to outfitting a bug out vehicle I’ve ever seen.
In 220+ pages and 17 chapters, Creek outlines how you should go about choosing a bug out vehicle then assembling the necessary gear and supplies to keep in or on the vehicle so it is ready to go at all times.
Right off the bat in Chapter 1, Creek makes it clear that you should not become emotionally invested in your chosen BOV (Bug Out Vehicle). As we have no way to reliably know exactly what the future holds, it is conceivable that the BOV might need to be ditched or abandoned at some point. It is better to come to terms with this now, rather than later.
Chapter 2 shows you the lifestyle considerations to bear in mind when choosing a BOV. A married prepper with multiple children is going to have vastly different needs than a single person with no dependents.
Chapter 3 discusses the essential elements common to all BOVs, such as reliability, ability to go off-road, and blending in. While some of the information here sounds like common sense, it is critical one fully understands these needs so they can make an informed decision.
Chapter 4 goes into the various and sundry supplies one should have in their BOV. Creek looks at his BOV as a giant, mobile bug out bag, which makes perfect sense. While the discussion here isn’t nearly as detailed as his book on bug out bags, which stands to reason as the focus here is on the vehicle, not the kit, there is a fair amount of info here that is great for the newbie as well as the old curly wolf.
Chapter 5 is on maintaining your BOV. The importance of being able to make simple repairs as well as conduct routine inspections and maintenance cannot be overemphasized.
Traveling off road is the focus of Chapter 6. For the uninitiated, leaving the pavement behind can be dicey but it is important to know the basics at the minimum.
Communication, navigation, and security are all important components to any bug out plan and these are covered in Chapters 7 and 8. There is discussion on GPS units, two-way radios, amateur radio transceivers, as well as firearms, camouflage, and concealment options.
Chapter 9 tells you how to go about packing and storing all your goodies for the long haul. Creek outlines several available options, including everything from second-hand coolers to truck boxes and rooftop carrier units.
Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is something to bear in mind when choosing and outfitting a BOV. As such, the topic gets its own discussion in Chapter 10. Here, the basic facts about EMP and its likely effect on vehicles is outlined, as well as instructions on building a Faraday cage to protect vulnerable electronics.
Chapters 11-16 concentrates the discussion on all the different types of vehicles one might consider for bugging out. While the focus is on gasoline or diesel cars and trucks, there is some coverage of alternate considerations, including options such as bicycles, ATVs, boats, horse and wagon, even small aircraft. At each step along the way, Creek gives you the pros and cons for each option, allowing you to decide for yourself what might be best for your individual circumstances.
The final chapter, one of my favorites in the book, gives excellent ideas for practicing various bug out skills at home as well as presenting resources for additional study. It is those exercises, call them drills if you want, that will take your bug out skills to the next level and ensure you’re still among the living when all is said and done.
One of the things I always appreciate in Creek’s books is his attention to detail. As with others he’s written, this book is profusely illustrated, leaving little to the imagination whether he’s talking about DIY spray pain camouflage or loading a deer cart with survival supplies.
If bugging out is one of your likely responses to disaster, I’d highly recommend you check out Build the Perfect Bug Out Vehicle so you can make sure you get to where you’re going.
You can find Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag just about anywhere books are sold, including here on Amazon.
Prepper & Shooter Magazine is a fairly new addition to the survival newsstand. Issue #2 was just published in the last few weeks. I missed the premier issue, though I did search for it after a few of my readers mentioned it to me. I found this issue at Barnes & Noble.
My first impression is P&S shows a lot of promise, but I don’t know that they’re quite there yet. The magazine is not quite as polished as the others in this niche. This isn’t a big deal, not in the grand scheme of things, but it is obvious the folks behind the scenes are still finding their way, so to speak, as to layout and such.
There are 17 full articles running through the 77 pages of the magazine. On top of those, we have 5 shorter review type pieces. The information to advertising ratio is very good, with far more actual articles than ads.
Here are a few of the articles I found most interesting.
Survival Kit Sheath Platform by Andrew Blanchard
As someone who has made similar kits a time or two, I was very interested to see how someone else turned their knife sheath into an actual survival kit. Blanchard has some great ideas here, though I would have liked to see a few more pictures of his kit.
Your Local Emergency Management Agency as a Prepper Resource by Scot Loveland
This article talks about something I’ve touched on several times–using government resources as an aid to your prepping, rather than just seeing them as the enemy.
How to Listen to Shortwave Radio in Your Vehicle by Shortwave Sam
While most experienced ham operators already know this stuff, the instructions given for setting up a portable unit in your vehicle are great for folks just starting out.
An Interview with Survivor Jane by Tara Dodrill
This was probably my favorite piece in the magazine. Many of us are fans of Survivor Jane, myself included, though I admittedly didn’t know a whole lot about her on a personal level. This interview serves as a great introduction to this truly wonderful woman.
Hearthside Cooking and Baking Basics by Margie Thompson
If I had to guess, I’d say there are likely far more fireplaces than wood stoves in homes across the country. While fireplaces don’t work quite as well as wood stoves when it comes to home heating or cooking, the latter can be accomplished fairly well with a bit of know how. In this article, we are given some great insight on how to do it right.
Bugout by Bicycle by Kendall Rush
This is another must-read. Many of us have a bike as part of our overall survival plans but how many have actually tried to bug out using one? Here, Rush details his experience with doing a dry run, which didn’t quite go as expected.
There are also articles on guerilla gardening, emergency alert radios, oil of oregano, and several other topics.
My overall opinion? As I said at the outset, I think Prepper & Shooter Magazine shows a lot of promise. I enjoyed several of the articles in this issue and will definitely be picking up the next one.
I’m calling this the Summer 2014 issue, though there is no indicator on the cover or masthead as to what they are calling it. American Frontiersman magazine comes out twice a year and the last issue came out back around April.
As with previous issues, there is an awful lot of great information here. All told, there are 39 articles spanning 130 pages. The overall focus, as you might guess from the title and cover art, is on how mountain men survived and how to use those skills and techniques today.
Here are just a few of the articles that caught my attention.
Trapping 911 by Dave Canterbury
This is an excellent overview of several different trap and snare sets, both water and land based. There is some great information here for both the novice and the more experienced.
Modern Man Atlatl Making by Will Dabbs
When I was a kid, one of the first primitive weapons I made on my own was an atlatl. I wish I’d had this article with me back then as things would perhaps have been a bit easier. Here, Dabbs shows us how to make a very effective atlatl using PVC components.
Handcraft a Knife Sheath by Kevin Estela
Lately, I’ve been toying a lot with the idea of trying my hand at custom leatherwork. In this article, Estela makes crafting a custom pouch sheath very simple with easy to follow directions.
Build a Woodstove by Will Dabbs
A Vogelzang kit combined with an old oil drum makes for an excellent shop woodstove. Here, Dabbs takes us step by step through the process.
Mountain Meds by Michael D’Angona
Everything from aches and pains to bad breath to itchy rashes can be treated with plants and herbs found in your backyard. This article is a great primer on what plants to use for which ailments.
Making Lye Soap by Jill J. Easton
For those prepping for possible long-term scenarios, being able to make your own soap completely from scratch could prove useful. This article not only lays out the steps but has some great discussion on how it was done back in the day.
On top of all that great information, there are articles on:
–Making a real coonskin cap
–Making a moose call
–Black powder handguns
–And a ton of other stuff, too!
All in all, American Frontiersman is an excellent publication. I only have two complaints.
1) The cover price of $9.99 is a bit steep. In this case, though, I think it is worth the expense.
2) I wish it came out more than just twice a year.
You can find American Frontiersman at most newsstands, including grocery stores and such. As far as I know, there is no subscription available at this time.
From time to time, I see requests from people asking for magazine suggestions, which ones are worth getting and which ones are only passable. Given the popularity of disaster readiness today, it only makes sense that there is a plethora of choices on the newsstands today.
At the time of this writing, here are the prepper or homesteading magazines I personally enjoy. These are the ones I pick up when I see them or have subscribed to in the last couple of years. Links direct to the magazine’s website, if available, or to their presence on Facebook.
American Survival Guide
One of my favorites, ASG has become one of the premier prepper magazines available. Published nine times a year, it is the closest we get to a monthly magazine. ASG generally contains a great mix of informative articles alongside product reviews.
A spinoff from RECOIL magazine, OFFGRID is quickly becoming very popular and for good reason. Their articles are excellent and present a great overview of several aspects of preparedness.
Backwoods Home Magazine (BHM) has long been a favorite for both aspiring and current homesteaders. In the last few years, they’ve been adding more and more prepper-themed articles as well, most notably several on alternative energy.
Back Home isn’t nearly as well known as most of the others on this list and I often wonder why that is. Back Home is an excellent resource for those who truly strive to live a self-reliant lifestyle.
Mother Earth News
Many people have lamented how much MEN has changed over the years. Back in the day, it was THE resource for those looking for information on living off the grid and getting back to the land. Those who read it back then have said MEN is a “sell out” and now caters to the gentleman farmer set. I don’t know how true that actually is but I find at least one or two articles worth my time in every issue.
Self Reliance Illustrated
Another favorite of mine, each issue of SRI is jam-packed with great information of interest to preppers, hikers, and anyone else who believes sitting in front of a campfire with some friends beats the hell out of anything on TV any day of the week. Largely reader-written, these folks have been there and done that.
New Pioneer really sort of bridges the gap between preppers and homesteaders. There is a ton of information in each issue that is of interest to each group. Overall, the focus is on living a self-sufficient lifestyle as much as possible.
Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Similar in scope to Backwoods Home, Countryside has also been around for quite some time. Here’s some inside info you’ll probably not see elsewhere, at least not yet — Countryside is about to add an entire section of their magazine devoted to disaster readiness. Check out upcoming issues and you just might recognize one of the contributors to that section.
Another favorite of mine, this one comes out twice a year. It is published by the same folks (Harris Publications) that do New Pioneer. Excellent magazine, chock full of great articles from cover to cover.
As with Self Reliance Illustrated, Backwoodsman is largely reader-written. Unlike SRI though, the quality of the writing itself really is all over the board. I’ve read some truly excellent articles as well as some that were considerably less than stellar. What is consistent, though, is the level of experience and insight being shared. These folks will certainly do to ride the river with, if you know what I mean.
Many of these publications have rather steep cover prices, often in the $9-10 range. However, most of them also have subscriptions available that result in dramatically cheaper prices per issue. Assuming you can’t afford to just buy each and every magazine that catches your eye at the supermarket or bookstore, what I suggest is checking your local library to see if they have, or can order, a few back issues. If that isn’t an option, leaf through an issue or two at the newsstand and decide if the magazine might be worth your time. Different strokes for different folks, magazines I particularly like might not be your favorites and vice versa. Pick one or two titles and see about subscribing. Back issues often make for great resource material to have on hand, y’know?
Also, something else to keep in mind is that any magazine runs on advertising. Meaning, it is the sale of those ads that pays the bills. Therefore, you cannot expect to see a high quality publication that doesn’t have any ads in it, not unless the publisher is made of money and is just looking for a tax write off or something. With all that said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised, more often than not, at the information to advertising ratio in the above listed publications.
THE RULE OF THREE is yet another addition to the glut of young adult (YA) disaster books that have flooded the market recently. That said, it stands head and shoulders above most of them. It is an engaging read with interesting characters.
Adam Daley is sixteen years old and hard at work helping a friend with an essay on a school computer when suddenly all the power goes out. It doesn’t take long before students and faculty alike learn this isn’t a typical power outage. Your usual power blip doesn’t normally affect modern cars as well as cell phones. School is dismissed early and Adam climbs into his beater, an ancient jalopy that by some miracle (to he and his friends, at least) still runs. Picking up his siblings at the elementary school, he heads for home.
Adam’s mother is a local police captain and his father, a commercial pilot, is away from home on business. Herb, Adam’s next door neighbor, is a retired gent who knows far more than is obvious at first. Readers here, though, will probably figure out immediately why Herb wants a ride to the local pool supply store so he can buy as much chlorine as he can carry, despite the fact that there is no pool in Herb’s backyard.
At no time do we, the readers, learn the exact nature of what we presume to be an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event that has taken place. We know nothing more than what the characters are able to learn through spotty ham radio communications.
It doesn’t take long before polite society begins to break down. As this happens, we learn more and more about the mysterious Herb. Seems he may be more than just the retired government paper-pusher he’s been telling everyone he is. It is Herb’s character that I found to be one of the more interesting and original components in this story. I mean, sure, we’ve all seen the ex-operative character in disaster fiction, the guy who seems to know how to do everything from kill with a clothes hanger to pilot a jet. Here, though, Herb is more than that stereotype. In fact, time and again he uses people skills, such as negotiation, to accomplish a goal or defuse conflict. I found this to be rather refreshing, actually, compared to the all too typical shoot ‘em all approach we’ve seen over and over again.
As the story progresses, Adam’s neighborhood becomes almost his entire world. Fortifications go up, security plans implemented, and long-term plans begin to be formulated. Their secret weapon is Adam’s ultralight, a small DIY plane he and his father built in the garage. Using it to fly over other areas of the city, Adam (and us) are able to see just how bad things are outside the walls.
Being a YA book, there is naturally a hint of romance in the form of Adam’s crush, Lori. The only thing that really bothered me about this subplot was the convenience of it. I mean, of course the girl he’s crushing on has been pining for him, too, and, of course she just happens to live close enough to be included in the little community they’ve formed. The author does handle this subplot skillfully but, in my opinion, it was just a tad unnecessary.
The other thing that didn’t quite ring true to me was the reliance Adam’s mother, the police captain, had with regards to Herb. It would seem to me that anyone, but particularly a woman, who is self-confident and skilled enough to rise to the rank of police captain wouldn’t just roll over and let a “civilian” call as many shots as Herb does. I would have liked to see Adam’s mother push back against some of Herb’s suggestions, if nothing else than to allow Herb to inform her (and the reader) exactly why he was making certain suggestions. Again, this didn’t detract from the overall story but it is something I noticed.
THE RULE OF THREE ends somewhat abruptly, with at least a couple of plot threads left unraveled. But, I’ve since learned this is the first book in a planned trilogy so I’m confident things will be wrapped up in the next couple of books.
All in all, I really enjoyed THE RULE OF THREE. As I’ve mentioned before, YA disaster fiction has really exploded in the last few years and many of those books are really top notch. THE RULE OF THREE is highly recommended. You can find here on Amazon as well as at most major bookstores and your local library.
Far too often the little ones become either scared and confused or left behind while adult family members lead the charge to prepare for an uncertain future. Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure: A Prepper’s Book for Kids is not only encouraging to help the children want to participate but also helps the parents and grandparents alike to embrace the adventure in prepping!
This comforting story is written from the perspective of both the slightly skittish dog, Miller and Jake, his owner who leads the way and prepares for every adventure! As they prep, their imaginations take them far, but that’s okay because this helps them to better prepare. From bug spray to water, Jake and Miller are prepared for just about everything! And don’t forget that important can opener.
Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure: A Prepper’s Book for Kids is a short book that is easy for elementary school age children to read,
but it’s also short enough to be a great read-a-loud at bed time or nap time. We feel pretty sure this might even become a great show-and-tell book for school! How cool is that? Your kids can help inspire others!
The author, Bernie Carr (who also authored the national bestseller: The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster) spends time on things that kids really would consider when they set out on an adventure. And even though the characters may ‘prepare for the worst’ Jake’s outlook is always hopeful and it helps to calm some of his dog’s fears.
After all, isn’t this what we want to do with our children, calm their fears, equip them to be well prepared and all the while, not forget that this can be a fun journey!
Enter the giveaway below!
Join us next week for another great book review and giveaway!
Right off the bat, when I first skimmed Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival, it was obvious Angela Paskett knows her stuff. This isn’t just another retread of the same old stuff we’ve seen countless times before. The author has truly been there and done that, having worked on her own food storage plans for over fifteen years.
In just over 200 pages, she covers the entire gamut of food storage, from assembling 72 hour kits to long-term storage of grains and such. One area where I feel the book truly shines is Chapter 5 – Preserving Your Own Food. Being able to preserve food at home allows you to take advantage of great deals you find in stores on produce and such, as well as protect your own garden bounty and meat you’ve harvested. This chapter gives an excellent overview of water bath canning, pressure canning, and dehydrating. What I really appreciated were the numerous lists of what vegetables and fruits work best with each method and which ones may have less than ideal results.
I was also pleased to see the book wasn’t filled with 100s of recipes for meals using stored foods. If I want a cookbook, I’ll buy a cookbook, y’know? Instead, from cover to cover, Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival is chock full of practical information.
Another standout is Chapter 10 – Organizing and Storing Your Food Storage. As the author notes, when you’ve been at this for even a short time, you quickly realize food storage requires space and not a small amount of it. Throughout this chapter are several innovative ideas for where you can hide your goodies and still keep them accessible.
The book wraps up with several pages of worksheets and checklists, all of which are also available online through a link noted in the book.
Food storage is often one of the very first areas a new prepper needs to address and this book is tailor made for that purpose. Even those who have been around the block a time or two are sure to find a nugget of new information.
Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival is available at all major bookstores and (as of this review) for under $14 at Amazon.