There are books you read through once, then toss aside or trade in at a used bookstore. On the other hand, there are books you read and then want to keep on hand for future reference. The Simple Survival Smart Book is definitely in the latter category.
It is written by Patrick Shrier. He comes by his knowledge honestly, having spent a lifetime in wilderness pursuits as well as a couple of decades spent as a Cavalry Scout for the United States Army. He absolutely knows his stuff.
The Simple Survival Smart Book is not focused on long-term prepping but rather short-term solutions to keep you alive when bugging out or during other similar emergency situations. As a result, you’re not going to find a ton of info here on food storage plans, emergency power systems, and the like. What you will find, though, is great information and tips on staying alive while on the move.
Here is the table of contents:
Chapter 1: Survival Planning
Chapter 2: Preparedness Kits
Chapter 3: Outdoor Survival
Chapter 4: Map Reading and Navigation
Chapter 5: Acquiring Food and Water
Chapter 6: Combat
Chapter 7: Basic Field First Aid
Chapter 8: Useful and Helpful Knots
Appendix A: Tips, Tricks, and Hints
Appendix B: Minefield Record Card
Appendix C: Foodborne Illnesses
If Chapter 6 wasn’t enough of a hint, this book is written with a decidedly military bent. That’s neither good nor bad, in my opinion, just an observation. Given Shrier’s background, this makes perfect sense. Personally, I rather appreciated the insight provided in Chapter 6, as well as throughout the book. I also genuinely enjoy his writing style. He is not at all dry but is, in fact, pretty humorous in spots. He writes as though he’s standing next to you, showing you how to perform different tasks. This is refreshing when compared to many other books in this niche.
This is a self-published book, rather than one traditionally published. As with many self-pubbed books, there are a few formatting mistakes and such. Nothing earth-shattering and nothing that should cause great alarm among potential readers. But, I’ve found that for some reason self-pubbed books seem to suffer more of this sort of thing than traditionally published books. Likely it isn’t the fault of the author but of the printing process itself.
One area where the book really shines is with Chapter 4. Navigation and map reading can be very confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with at least the basics. However, Shrier does very well with explaining this complicated topic in easy-to-understand steps.
Another chapter that is outstanding is the first chapter on survival planning. Here, he goes into detail as to how to create an effective plan to achieve an objective, primarily by using a variation of the military decision making process. Using this tool, any objective can be broken down into incremental steps.
The Simple Survival Smart Book would be an excellent addition to the bug out bag or other kit. It runs 240 or so pages, so it isn’t too huge or bulky. Slip it into a ziplock bag and toss it into your kit after you’ve read it. The book would be a valuable tool for any time you’re forced to abandon civilization for a bit.
As of this writing, it is going for about $12.00 on Amazon.
The new issue of American Survival Guide dropped a bit ago and I’ve finally managed to get through it. Time, as of late, has been getting away from me. If you’ve passed by any newsstands recently, you probably saw this issue and wondered if it was worth picking up.
In my opinion, yes, it is definitely worth the purchase.
At 130 pages, it is a bit thicker than many of its counterparts. As with past issues of this new version of ASG, it is professionally done, with excellent photos and great writing. All told, there are about 18 full articles in this issue, covering a wide range of topics.
The articles are divided into sections — Chemical Warfare, Urban Preparedness, General Preparedness, Homesteading Preparedness, and Wilderness Preparedness. While I liked most of the articles, a few really stood out to me.
Lock Picking 101 by Jack Richland covers a little discussed area of interest for preppers. Richland makes a great argument for the need for preppers to learn this skill and gives some basic instruction. While you aren’t going to be able to run out and open any door you wish with nothing more than a bent paper clip after reading this article, it does provide some great basic information.
Doable Drills by Larry Schwartz talks about the need for practicing your plans as well as keeping up with your skills. There are several suggestions for things you can do on your own or as a family or group to keep everyone ready to go if the proverbial balloon goes up.
Fireside Fortification by Michael D’Angona covers how you can use several different common campsite tools as self-defense weapons.
The Dope on Soap by Barri Segal provides instructions on making your own laundry detergent. This is great information for budding homesteaders.
Covert Digs by Alex LaGrand is all about using caves as natural retreat locations, including vital differences between caves and mines.
Included in this issue are five different buyer’s guides — binoculars, solar, knives, water filtration gear, and airguns. I always appreciate these buyer’s guides as they allow me to see side by side comparisons.
As with many magazines in this niche, the cover price is a little higher than I’d like — $8.99. However, they do offer discounted subscription rates, 1 year (six issues) for $21.95 and 2 years (12 issues) for $34.95, which brings down the cost quite a bit.
Finally, I’d once again mention that this American Survival Guide is not connected in any way (as far as I know) to the ASG many of us remember from years ago. Different publisher, different writers, slightly different focus. That doesn’t mean this is a bad magazine, far from it actually. I just don’t want anyone to get confused, thinking they are buying one thing and getting another.
I have to tell you up front, this isn’t the typical sort of novel I review here. It is neither apocalyptic nor dystopian. Instead, imagine just for a moment if the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks had taken place not on a deserted island…but a deserted planet.
Mark Watney is an astronaut and part of a team that travels to Mars. They are there to study the rocks and soil and do all the sorts of things astronauts typically do in space. While such missions aren’t necessarily routine within the scope of this book, this team is the third to do so. A freak storm causes the team to scrub the mission soon after landing. As the astronauts scramble to board their ship, Watney is struck by storm debris and separated from the team. He is thought to have been killed and the rest of the crew departs the planet.
Watney, however, isn’t dead. At least, not yet.
He is stranded on Mars, all alone, and with no way to contact either his team or NASA back on Earth. Now, for those of you who don’t remember your science classes, Mars has almost no atmosphere, nor plants or other natural food sources. Watney is forced to improvise with the equipment his team left behind. As the story progresses, he battles with that old scamp Murphy, he of the famous Murphy’s Law, time and again.
Along the way, we are also treated to some truly hysterical writing as Watney is a Class A wise ass. The bulk of the story is told through journal entries Watney writes. In fact, it isn’t until a few chapters in that we are even introduced to any other characters, other than through Watney’s referencing them in his journal. As we go along, though, the reader is given glimpses of what people are doing back home to try and reach Watney, once they learn of his survival.
Being both a botanist as well as an engineer, Watney is uniquely qualified to handle the problems he faces. My understanding is that the story is grounded in real science and everything that happens is at least feasible, rather than outlandish pseudoscience. I don’t have much more than a passing blush of knowledge about astrophysics and such so I’ll have to take others’ words for it.
I loathe spoilers so I won’t tell you how the story ends. Suffice to say, from start to finish this book is a wild ride. I do have to mention a language warning, though. If strong language turns you off a story, you might think twice about this book. While it certainly isn’t cover to cover cuss words, Watney is rather liberal with his use of the F work and such. I can’t say I blame him. If I were stranded on Mars, I’d probably be cursing a fair amount myself.
I truly enjoyed the heck out of The Martian. The author, Andy Weir, has a wonderful ear for dialogue and Watney’s character truly speaks to the reader. You feel his joy and his sorrow and it doesn’t take long at all before you’re rooting for him every step of the way. While this book will really be appreciated by fans of hard science fiction, anyone who enjoys a edge of your seat story will likely enjoy it as well.
You can find it on Amazon here as well as through any bookseller.
One thing that is often lacking in our preps is organization. Sure, we usually have at least a rough idea of what we have on hand and what we need to fill in gaps but is that really good enough? I mean, how many times have you stopped at the store to pick up a couple cans of whatever, only to get home and find you already had eight cans scattered amongst various cupboards and cabinets?
The Preparedness Planner is an excellent tool for keeping your preps under control. There are essentially two components to the planner. First, there are lists on top of lists of things you may wish to have on hand in case of emergencies. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a comprehensive list of food storage, bug out bag components, and other supplies. I’d be willing to bet you’ll see at least a few things you’d not thought of before.
The second component to the Preparedness Planner consists of forms you print out and use to keep track of your goodies. These forms are the heart of the Planner. There are forms for keeping track of:
–Bug out bags
–Toiletries and cleaners
–Seeds and plants
–Animal and pet supplies
–Gear and tools
Each of these forms can be printed out separately, allowing you to only use what you need without wasting paper and ink. You can then insert these forms into a binder so everything is in one place.
As you add to your supplies or use them up, you update the Planner so you’ll always know, at a glance, what you have and what you need.
The Food Storage section even includes forms for menu planning. An excellent approach to devising a food storage plan is to create possible menus for a few weeks, then calculate what you’ll need to have on hand for each of those meals. Using the tools in this Planner, this is a piece of cake (no pun intended).
Many preppers have devised their own homemade methods for tracking supplies and food rotation. Some use spreadsheets on their computers, others use notebooks and pens. The Preparedness Planner is a great middle ground between those approaches. The forms take the guesswork out of organizational difficulties, letting you just fill in the blanks that apply to your situation.
The Preparedness Planner is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. Sort of like a hammer, for example. It might be difficult to build a house without a hammer, but merely owning one isn’t going to give you the knowledge and skills to be able to do so. What I’m getting at is, don’t look upon this Planner as being the end all, be all, when it comes to learning how to incorporate prepping into your current lifestyle. It is a great tool, and one that I recommend to both new and seasoned preppers, but you’ll still need to do the work and not just let this Planner languish on a shelf somewhere.
All told, the Preparedness Planner runs 87 pages or so. The majority of those pages are the printable forms, with a scattering of very well written instructions on how to use them as well as the aforementioned comprehensive lists of food and other supplies.
You can purchase the Preparedness Planner from AreWeCrazyOrWhat.net.
This is, I believe, the second issue of OFFGRID Magazine, which is an offshoot of RECOIL. I reviewed the first issue here. As with that first issue, the cover price of $8.99 is a bit steep, in my opinion, for a magazine but there is a ton of great information here.
All told, there are 16 full length articles in this issue, spanning 114 pages. One of the best articles, I feel, is Short Range Comms: Understanding FRS and GMRS Two-Way Radios by Raymond Chang and Martin Anders. It is an excellent overview of this often misunderstood topic. The authors go into great detail on how these two-way radios can be useful without overestimating their range and capabilities.
Another great one is Bug-Out Gone Bad: Surviving the Loss of Your Disaster Gear by Tim MacWelch. We preppers usually have multiple kits lying around in our homes and in our vehicles. As a result, we are often no more than an arm’s length away from those goodies. But, what if we were separated from our kits? What are the priorities for survival? How can we plan ahead for even this contingency? All of those questions are answered quite well here.
In Prometheus Unbound: A Guide to Portable Stoves by Gordon Meehl and Martin Anders, they talk about the different options for small stoves, from those that are fueled by propane to those that use sticks and pine cones. Personally, I find I often enjoy “buying guides” in these magazines, where they do side-by-side comparisons of the different products available in a category. This one is no different, illustrating the various options with eight different stoves.
Another buying guide is found in Crucial Tools: Guide to Hands-Free Lighting, where they review no less than 16 different lights, from headlamps to those you can wear on your wrists. While many of these are rather pricey, the article does explain what you should look for when shopping.
In Meat You Can’t Beat: Canning Animal Protein, author Gordon Meehl explains the ins and outs of pressure canning meat. This article even includes a sidebar on how to preserve one of our favorite foods — BACON!
Other articles in this issue include information on selecting and using generators, fortifying home windows, treating hypothermia, physical fitness drills for small spaces, and even a few true stories of recent natural disasters.
All in all, I enjoyed this new issue of OFFGRID Magazine quite a bit. I’ll certainly be looking for the next issue in a few months.
I’ve mentioned more than once how sick I am of zombie books. To my way of thinking, of all the potential disaster scenarios out there, both plausible and outlandish, a zombie apocalypse would be among the easiest to negotiate. I mean, in most stories the zombies are rather slow-moving, so they’d be easy to dodge. Plus, it isn’t hard to pick them out of a crowd, y’know?
With all that said, I rather enjoyed The King of Clayfield. Unlike many other zombie books, this one comes across as at least somewhat realistic. A virus dubbed Canton-B is sweeping the nation, turning people into rabid, cannibalistic monsters. While they lack much of any intelligence, they are strong and quick-moving.
The protagonist is left unnamed and the book is written from his perspective. He’s a museum curator, which is a nice change of pace from the typical ex-Special Forces/Navy SEAL/Recon Marine that is all too commonly the hero in these sorts of tales. He has little to no inherent survival skills, though he is somewhat intelligent and quick-thinking as the story progresses.
The Canton-B virus sweeps through his town like wildfire one day, with mobs of people going crazy and attacking anything that moves. He’s at the museum when this occurs and runs outside to try and help those who are trying to escape the zombies. He meets up with a woman who’s unseen brother is obviously a prepper/survivalist. Upon realizing our hero has not a clue what to do about this disaster, she tells him to start downloading and printing out as much information as he can glean from the Internet on topics like water filtration, growing food, and other survival skills. Her brother soon picks her up from the museum, battling zombies all the way.
He then comes across an old high school classmate whom he’s spoken to perhaps a few times since graduation. They manage to flee the city center and head out to the countryside, though not without some difficulty. Jen is at times flighty and a bit…off. But, she is also a fighter and not afraid to do whatever it takes to survive.
They had both heard a few news reports indicating that alcohol consumption seems to kill the virus if you are infected. So, the acquisition and imbibing of Southern Comfort is high on the to do list after any encounter with the zombies.
As the story moves further along, we meet other characters, both good and bad. What I really appreciated as a reader was how most of these characters had distinct personalities and motivations. While their back stories weren’t fleshed out very much, that made for a leaner story overall.
They discover that some of the people they’ve killed in self-defense come back to life later, becoming what we readers might recognize as true zombies, the undead. This, however, isn’t discussed much in the story, with the characters just being confused about this new development.
All in all, The King of Clayfield wasn’t a bad read, but it does have a few minor faults. The book begins 8 months after the virus outbreak, with the protagonist talking about being thankful he’s learned how to grow food and not have to rely upon scavenging canned goods to survive. From there, the basically becomes a giant flashback about how the virus started and all that happened to the hero along the way. But, the book never reverts back to the time frame at the beginning of the story.
The book also ends somewhat abruptly. However, I later learned there are two sequels to The King of Clayfield, so in retrospect I guess this makes sense, at least to a degree.
The King of Clayfield is fairly well written, lacking the typos and other errors that are so common nowadays. The dialogue rings true, with each character having their own “voice.” The actions of the various characters are true to their personalities and motivations.
What I really liked, though, was how the zombies in this book were sort of secondary to the story itself. Rather than focusing on the states of decomposition and trying to shock the reader with scenes of gore just for the sake of gore, Gregory instead concentrated on the survivors, which I felt was a wise choice. This is a story of people, not the undead.
The King of Clayfield was certainly good enough to get me to search out the sequels — All That I See (book 2) and Fire Birds (book 3).
I received the newest issue of Self Reliance Illustrated in the mail a couple of days ago. I have to say, this might be the best issue I’ve seen yet!
Here’s what I like about SRI. They always have a great mix of topics. Everything from wilderness survival to information of use to urban preppers is covered. The magazine is obviously professionally published, rather than appearing as though it is a high school class project. In each issue, the writers come across as truly knowing what they’re talking about.
Out of 20 or so articles in this issue, there are a few that really stood out to me.
Shemagh 101 by Daniel Mervine is an excellent overview of the many uses of this versatile item. One thing we survivalists and preppers truly value is gear that serves multiple purposes. The shemagh certainly qualifies — head wrap, camouflage, hobo pack, sling, expedient water filter, the list goes on and on. In his article here, Mervine describes each use in great detail.
Knots by Scott Wickham Jr. details five knots that are required in BUD/S training. These are:
–Right angle knot
The instructions for each are very easy to follow, with several photos. Each of these knots are essential to know.
I’m always a sucker for an article about DIY survival kits so A Common Mans’ Backpack by George Nikolakopoulos caught my attention right away. Starting with a medium size ALICE pack, Nikolakopoulos takes us through each area of his kit and what he carries to meet all of his basic needs.
My favorite article in this issue has to be Stay on the Right Track by Bob Lee. He is a retired Florida Game Warden and truly knows his stuff when it comes to tracking anything on two or four legs. In this article, Lee gives some excellent information regarding using the sun as well as tracking sticks to help stay on the right track.
All in all, this is another great issue of SRI. As I mentioned, there are about 20 articles here, along with several product reviews. The info to advertising ratio is very good, as always.
SUNRISE is the final installment in the Ashfall series by Mike Mullin. I’ve previously reviewed the other books in the trilogy — ASHFALL and ASHEN WINTER. Tanglewood Press was kind enough to send me an advance copy of SUNRISE for review purposes.
One thing you need to know going in is that you really must read the first two books before diving into this one. While you could read SUNRISE as a standalone novel, you’ll likely feel quite lost. ASHFALL introduced us to Alex, at the time a 15 year old boy who struck out on the road to find his family after the Yellowstone caldera blew. Along the way, he met Darla, a young woman a couple years older than he and possessing of tremendous intellect and creativity. Together, they made for an indomitable team.
In ASHEN WINTER, the tentative peaceful existence Alex, Darla, and Alex’s family had cobbled together was tested in several ways, including the forced separation of Alex and Darla after she was taken prisoner.
SUNRISE concentrates on a rebuilding of society, as Alex and his loved ones begin putting down significant roots. Of course, not all goes as planned. There are threats both from outsiders as well as from within the group. Among the outside threats is Red, a sadistic leader of a group of cannibals and who has taken over a nearby town. Trust me when I say that Red tests Alex and Darla more than any other threat they’ve encountered.
As the story has progressed through the three books, Alex has matured into an effective leader. He becomes the person everyone looks to for guidance and who makes the hard decisions. He struggles with this role, as it sometimes prevents him from taking direct action and instead having to allow others to do so in his place.
What started as a small family farm and perhaps a dozen people eventually blossoms into a community of over a thousand, all working together to build sustainable means of food production, water acquisition, even electricity. Naturally, with such an endeavor, there are numerous obstacles along the way. Alex learns the hard way how politics is alive and well, even in this post-apocalyptic world.
What I found particularly interesting with the overall story arc is how it mirrors the development of many preppers in the real world. I don’t know if the author intended that or not but it is certainly there, if you pay attention.
Preppers often start their planning with assembling bug out bags and determining where to flee in the event of disaster. It is very typical that many of these folks actually plan to just run to the hills and live something of a nomadic existence. This is mirrored by Alex’s journey from home to find his family in ASHFALL.
As preppers mature, many realize that such a plan is doomed to failure in the long run. So, they begin to figure out ways they can shelter at home. They also often begin to network with people in the immediate area. This is sort of what happens in ASHEN WINTER, where Alex and company begin settling down at the farm and exploring means of making life easier. They are joined there by a few other people who seek the same things.
Finally, we reach the opposite end of the prepper development arc, where rather than looking to a life on the road, the prepper looks to be a member of a community. There, truly sustainable living endeavors can happen, such as growing crops and building long-term food stores. There is safety in numbers, as is made evident more than once in this final book, SUNRISE.
As with the other books, SUNRISE is exceptionally well written. The dialogue rings true, as do the characters’ actions and motivations. The story pulls the reader along, resulting in compulsive page turning until way after bedtime. I highly recommend the entire Ashfall series.
SUNRISE might complete the Ashfall series but I truly and deeply hope it does not conclude the author’s writing career. I’m already looking forward to seeing what other stories Mike may have to tell.
Over this past weekend, I finally got around to watching Tomorrow, When The War Began on Netflix. I’ve been wanting to see it since it was first released here in the U.S. but just never made it a priority. Having now sat through it, I regret having not watched it sooner.
It is based on a novel with the same title, itself the first in a series of books by John Marsden. It has been described as an Australian version of Red Dawn and I find that to be particularly apt. I have, in fact, sat down to read the book and had a difficult time with it. While it is written for the young adult crowd, being Australian there are a ton of slang terms and such that I had trouble deciphering so moved on to something else. After seeing the movie, I’m definitely going to give the book another chance.
What we start with is a stereotypical group of high school age kids. We have the girl next door, the bad boy with a heart of gold, the likeable best friend, the preacher’s daughter, the stoner, the jock, the spoiled rich girl, and the kid no one knows much about. With the exception of the stoner, the group heads off for a camping trip to “Hell,” a large wilderness area that is uninhabited and basically in the middle of nowhere. During this trip, Ellie (the focus of the story and the aforementioned girl next door) sees numerous jets flying over in the middle of the night. They seems to be flying fairly low but she can’t discern where the jets would be coming from or where they are heading.
Upon returning from their trip, they visit several of their homes and find them devoid of any people. The power is out, as are the phones (landlines and cell). In some of the homes, it is evident the residents left abruptly, due to partially eaten meals still on tables and other clues.
As night falls, they see the only lights in town appear to be at the hospital and the fairgrounds. Approaching the fairgrounds, they see virtually every town resident is there, all being guarded by some foreign military force. Ellie witnesses one town resident being executed by a soldier and flees. In doing so, she is discovered and several armed soldiers pursue her. Thinking quickly, she uses a shirt from one of her group as a wick, putting it into the fuel tank of a riding lawn mower. This explodes, taking out the soldiers chasing her.
After a couple more close calls, the group decides to head back to Hell and figure out their next move. Along the way, they are joined by the stoner mentioned earlier. Upon reaching Hell, they hear a radio transmission that informs them that the foreign troops are part of “The Coalition Nations,” a group of several Asian countries that have teamed up to take over Australia’s vast natural resources.
They also learn that nearby Cobbler’s Bay is one of the main ports being used to transport troops and supplies into Australia. There is but one bridge available to get from Cobbler’s Bay to the rest of the continent and the group decides to blow it up.
All in all, this was an excellent flick. The acting was very well done and the action sequences easy to follow. I just enjoyed the hell out of this movie. If you liked Red Dawn (either the original or the remake), this film is right up your alley. While there is a fair amount of teen romance subplots, they are actually rather low-key and not made a primary focus of the story.
The movie is rather open-ended, paving the way for one or more sequels. But, the audience isn’t left hanging, either.
This new incarnation of American Survival Guide is actually pretty decent, but I need to get two things off my chest before we get into the actual review of this issue.
1) I grew up reading the original American Survival Guide and I have fond memories of it. As funny as it sounds, it will always have a place in my heart as it was just about the only source of survivalist information for me back in those days. So, I have a bit of a hard time with this relatively new publication using the same name. But, maybe that’s just me. Most readers will have no problems in this regard at all.
2) The $8.99 cover price is a bit high for any magazine. While there is a ton of great information in this issue, for that price I could buy an actual book on one of the topics talked about in a relatively short magazine article. They do, however, offer a subscription, six issues for $24.95, which brings the per issue price down a fair amount.
Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about this Winter 2013 issue of American Survival Guide.
The magazine is divided up into different sections:
Each section has a few articles that fall into those basic categories. Scattered throughout the issue are product reviews and buyer’s guides.
Being a magazine, you expect a ton of great pictures and the reader isn’t disappointed in that regard here. Each article has excellent photos that help the reader understand the topic at hand. Of course, there are also a ton of ads in the magazine. That stands to reason since revenue for publications like this come primarily from advertising. Those ads are what pays for the magazine to be produced. But, I do think the information vs. advertising ratio here is skewed heavily towards the former rather than the latter.
On to the content. In Real World Solutions, Steve Maxwell gives us some great information on seven essential items for surviving a major power failure. These include clean power generators and headlamps. As Maxwell notes, “Even a little bit of power is a wonderful thing when the grid goes down.”
In Cabin Fever, Amber Erickson Gabbey talks about ways to reduce feelings of isolation and boredom during long winter stretches when you may be cooped up inside. There are a number of great suggestions here, including playing games, staying active, and working on household projects.
A Call for Help by Larry Schwartz gives an excellent overview of the different communication tools preppers may choose to have with them when adventuring in the back country, such as personal locator beacons or satellite phones. I learned a fair amount from this article, myself, as I’d not looked deeply into such devices.
Saved by the Bow by Peter Schoonmaker is an excellent article on the subject of survival archery. He talks about his own hunt for rabbits in the snow and the tools necessary for success.
Abe Elias give some great advice in his article on bugging out, The Long Way Home. He correctly notes, “The very first part of forming a get-home plan is to be educated enough to decide if you should stay or go.”
All told, there are about 14 different articles in this issue. Add in five different buyer’s guides and the reader is presented with quite a bit of practical information in the 130 pages of the magazine.
The buyer’s guides in this issue include food and water, winter jackets, bows and gear, bug out bags, and guns. Each item presented in these guides is rated by the magazine in what I feel is a pretty fair manner.
All in all, not a bad issue at all. Plenty of pertinent information relevant to both new and experienced preppers.