Coming in September…

Okay, admittedly I’ve been somewhat scarce online lately. Don’t take that to mean that I’ve been just sitting around eating bon-bons all day, though. Instead, I’ve just been extremely busy with several things. I spent a week down in Florida working with Panteao Productions on a series of instructional prepper/survival DVDs. Immediately prior to that, I worked with another film crew on a super-secret project, about which hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon. I’ve also been hard at work finishing up the manuscript for my upcoming book, Prepper’s Financial Guide. Of course, there have also been the typical family obligations as well as the ever-present day job.

It doesn’t stop there, either. This week, I’ll be working on a few other things, trying to wrap up as many of my outstanding projects as possible.

After Labor Day, though, expect to see a lot more of me online. As you may know, September is National Preparedness Month. That being the case, I have a lot of great stuff planned for the coming month. Chief of which will be a series of intensive reviews of several different pre-made survival kits that are out on the market. While I’m still waiting to hear from a few companies, at last count I’ll have at least six different kits to discuss, everything from small ones that fit in your pocket to full blown bug out bags.

Expect a return to weekly installments of our newsletter, The Survival Weekly Dispatch, as well. That’s another thing that sort of fell to the wayside in the last month, due to other obligations.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, here. Lots of plans, lots of projects, all with the focus of getting you, my faithful readers, prepared for whatever life decides to throw your way.

Stay tuned….

Prepping for Civil Unrest

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, serve to highlight the need for being prepared for civil unrest. While this is more of an issue for urban preppers, anyone who travels to larger cities needs to be aware of the possibility of riots and protests breaking out during the trip.

One element of civil unrest that needs to be addressed is its unpredictability. Riots can happen quickly, often with absolutely no warning at all. You may have no clue what predicated the unrest, all you know is suddenly there are large groups of people who are obviously very upset and taking it out on the businesses, buildings, and even other people around them.

If you find yourself caught up in a crowd and things are getting ugly, get out of the area as quickly as you can. Rather than fight against the mob’s movement, work your way sideways across the group and as soon as you’re free of the group, head down a side street. If you are traveling with your family or a small group, link hands as you move so you don’t get separated. Once you get a block or two away, stop and collect your thoughts. Figure out where you are and how to get to a safe location, such as your home or hotel. This is why it is important to have a street map in your EDC (Every Day Carry) kit.

If you are at home or in your hotel when rioting breaks out, the best thing to do is hunker down and wait it out. Heading out on the streets, particularly after sundown, is just asking for trouble. Always have enough food, water, and supplies on hand to meet your basic needs for at least a few days. This is easier to accomplish at home than when traveling, of course. However, many travelers routinely stock up on snacks and such for their rooms to help offset having to eat out for every meal. At the least, hotels that offer breakfast for their guests will likely have some amount of food on hand as well.

Generally speaking, it is safer to travel during the day rather than at night. Therefore, mid-morning to early afternoon is probably the best window of opportunity for you to beat feet, should you choose to do so. This is not a bad idea, provided you are confident you can get out of town quickly AND you have someplace to go. The worst thing to happen would be you get lost and end up on the streets when the worst of the rioting and looting are taking place.

Bear in mind, too, that if things get really bad, the authorities may enact curfews and possibly travel restrictions. In other words, if you are planning to bug out in the event of civil unrest, you should do so sooner rather than later. Again, though, for most people and in most situations, sheltering in place may be your best option.

Chance Sanders has produced an entire DVD full of great information on urban survival. Called Surviving Civil Unrest, the video shows you exactly how to plan for, and survive, these all too common events.

Coming Soon: Make Ready to Survive DVD Series

As I mentioned on Facebook not too long ago, I’m working with Panteao Productions as an instructor for an upcoming series of DVDs called Make Ready to Survive. This series is, quite honestly, the most ambitious project I’ve been involved with to date.

Panteao Productions has made a big name for themselves in the area of tactical and firearm video production. Some of the most skilled, talented, and experienced military and law enforcement folks in the country are listed among their instructors, including Massad Ayoob, Michael Bane, Bill Rogers, and Freddie Blish.

With Make Ready to Survive, Panteao is taking all of their expertise with filming instructional videos and focusing their lenses on prepping and disaster planning. They have gathered together instructors from a wide range of expertise and are distilling all of their knowledge into a series of DVDs that are designed to appeal to both the very new prepper as well as the very experienced survivalist.

Here’s just a short list of the topics covered in this series:

–Bug out bags
–Offgrid food preparation
–Bushcraft and wilderness survival
–Home security, now and after a disaster
–Short and long-term food storage
–Water storage and filtration
–Sheltering in place versus evacuation
–First aid
–Firearms for survival
–Civil unrest
–Temporary shelters
–The list goes on and on….

This series is not all about surviving doomsday nor is it full of nonsense that won’t work in the real world. Instead, Make Ready to Survive takes a common sense and logical approach to disaster planning.

Look for the first installments to hit Amazon and elsewhere in November or December. Panteao also offers subscriptions for their streaming content, which might be of interest to some of you.

Survival Thermodynamics

I have long been a fan of Ragnar Benson. He’s written numerous survival books for Paladin Press, all from the perspective of “been there, done that.” Safe to say that Benson, along with Dr. Bruce Clayton, helped me to form many of the survival philosophies I have to this day.

One of the key elements common to many of Benson’s books it his theory of Survival Thermodynamics. Simply put, the idea is to never expend more energy to achieve a survival goal than what you’ll gain for doing so. To do otherwise is to end up with a net loss and never getting ahead of the game.

Here’s how this works. Let’s say you spend several hours tramping through the woods, hunting game. A bad day results in you bringing back just one scrawny squirrel. Your efforts have caused you to burn far more calories than you’ll be gaining by eating said critter. This is why trapping is an important option to consider for food acquisition, as is gathering wild edibles. It takes fewer calories to pick berries, dandelions, and other plants than it does to hike around tracking game.

While a giant bonfire will certainly aid in someone finding you, assuming you want to be found, of course, you’ll also burn a lot of calories gathering and chopping fuel maintaining that blaze. A smaller fire is easier to feed and control, just sit a little closer for warmth if need be.

My father instilled into me a similar philosophy, though he didn’t think of it in survival terms. Work smarter, not harder. I’m sure many of you have heard that phrase before, right? This is really the same concept as survival thermodynamics.

Conservation of energy is a key element of survival. By giving thought to what you stand to gain by following a certain course of action, you can preserve your energy until it is truly needed.

The Last Minute Shopping Trip

There you are at the local grocery store, picking up what you’ll need for the coming week. You’ve been here countless times and know the store like the back of your hand so you’re operating sort of on autopilot. Your phone buzzes and you glance at the screen, expecting to see yet another picture of your newborn nephew that your sister posted on Facebook. Instead, you are frozen by the message you see.

Major quakes along New Madrid fault. Massive damage is being reported in many locations. The balloon has gone up.

This message was sent to you by a trusted friend, a prepper and a member of your mutual assistance group. That last sentence about the balloon is a code phrase telling you this is a major situation and one likely to have far reaching ramifications.

Few of the sheeple around you at the store likely know anything about the disaster as of yet. Doubtful any of them would recognize the implications of it, either. However, you’re savvy enough to realize supply chains are going to be disrupted, likely for some time to come. Massive resources will need to be rerouted to lend assistance to those directly affected by the quakes.

As word gets out about the disaster and people start giving more thought to it, odds are pretty good that the shelves of the store you’re in right now will be wiped clean by the end of the day.

Given this insight, you have an interesting opportunity in front of you. You could stock up for the long haul, just in case things get nasty later, and not have to deal with throngs of sheeple clamoring and fighting for the last loaf of bread.

Your time is limited. You want to grab your goodies and get the hell out of Dodge before folks in the area wise up.

So, what do you buy?

The answer is going to be a bit different for each person, based on what they already have at home as well as the family’s food preferences. On top of that, of course, is the financial end of things. How will you pay for a massive cartload of groceries? To answer the second question first, if possible try to have at least one credit card available to you that has a low balance. Use this card ONLY for emergencies and pay it off as quickly as you can any time you use it. This gives you a cushion of buying power just for situations like this, as well as emergency car repairs, an unexpected hotel stay, and other similar situations.

Ok, back to our grocery store scenario. As I said before, you want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. Planning ahead will save you time. Sit down and make a “dream” shopping list. Put on that list everything and anything normally stocked at your grocery store that you’d want to be sure to grab during your last ditch shopping trip. Here are just a few ideas.

Canned veggies, fruit, meat
Canned soup, pasta, stew, chili
Dry beans and pasta
Powdered milk
Bottled water
Powdered drink mixes
Granola bars, protein bars
Baking mixes
Baking soda
Baking powder
Gravy mixes
Peanut butter
Fresh fruit and veggies
Fresh meat
Toilet paper
Feminine hygiene

Personally, knowing the layout of my grocery store as well as I do, I’m confident I could load all that up and be at the registers within 15 minutes or less. What I suggest is, after making your list, put it in your wallet or purse. Think about it like this — you’ll probably never need it but you’ve invested all of maybe 10 minutes of your life into making the list and it might prove invaluable someday.

In our scenario here of a series of quakes along the New Madrid fault, we’re not looking at a likelihood of massive power outages outside the immediately affected areas. Therefore, fresh meat and such can still be frozen or refrigerated at home. This isn’t truly a “stock up for the end of the world” situation but rather stocking up in advance of anticipated shortages.

Worth noting, too, is the law of supply and demand. As supplies of food and other essentials decrease, demand is going to increase. This often leads to higher prices. Stocking up in advance of this will save you money in the long run, as well as keep your family fed.

Note: Please do not take this post to mean that you should plan on heading to the store as soon as you hear about a possible disaster coming your way. That’s exactly what everyone else will be doing and you want to avoid crowds, not run toward them. The takeaway here is that by planning ahead, you might find yourself in a position where you can take advantage of some advance warning.

8 Uses for a Walking Stick

Walking sticks come in all shapes and sizes, from fancy adjustable models you can buy at REI and other sporting goods stores to a branch you pick up during a hike and whittle into shape. No matter where you get it, a walking stick is a valuable addition to your survival kit.

What are the qualities of a good walking stick?

First, it should be both light and strong. A store-bought model might be made of aluminum. If you’re on the hunt for a DIY approach, look for strong wood like oak, ash, hickory, or walnut. With a wood walking stick, you want it to be completely dry, no “green” wood. I’ve even seen some DIY walking sticks made from PVC.

Personally, I much prefer wood for my walking sticks. If I’m out hiking, it just feels “right” to be using wood rather than a man-made material. But, to each his or her own.

As for weight, this is a judgment call and is different for everyone. You want the walking stick to be as light as possible, so as to limit the possibility of fatigue from carrying it. But, at the same time, you don’t want to sacrifice strength of the stick.

Length and thickness are largely a matter of personal preference. Go with what feels good in your hand. For many people, a stick that is tall enough to reach to or just below their sternum seems about right. Too short and you’ll be leaning down when moving downhill. Too tall and it will feel cumbersome. For thickness, I like about 1.5″ or so.

A strap attached near where your hand is most comfortable on the stick will help relieve stress on your wrist. What I do is sort of rest my wrist in the strap, letting the strap take the weight of my arm when I’m at rest.

So, why should you want a walking stick? Here are eight reasons:

Balance – a walking stick can be a big help when negotiating uneven terrain.

Reach – if you have a need to get at something hanging in a tree or floating away from you in a pond, a walking stick can extend your reach considerably.

Gauging depth — when traversing a stream or river, it is important to be able to watch out for dips that could cause you to stumble. Same thing goes for when trying to move through deep snow.

Clearing a path — by holding the stick upright in front of you, it can be used to part branches, leaves, or brush.

Defense – a walking stick can obviously be a weapon, whether your attacker is on two legs or four. Further to this point, you can carry a walking stick in most buildings where other weapons are prohibited. However, I will say you’ll probably have less hassles doing so if your walking stick is “finished” looking, rather than just a dead branch you picked up in the woods an hour prior.

Fishing – you can tie your line to the end of the walking stick to turn it into an expedient fishing pole. Many a fish has been caught in this fashion.

Shelter support — if you find yourself needing to spend an unexpected night outdoors, your walking stick can work as a ridge pole or support pole for a cobbled together emergency shelter.

Spear – while I don’t necessarily advocate this unless it is absolutely necessary, you can tie a knife to the end of your walking stick to make a spear. NEVER throw the spear, though. Keep it in your hands and thrust at the target. Throwing it will likely damage your knife and the odds of you hitting your target without prior experience are somewhere between slim and none.

Carry gear — use a shemagh to package your small gear into a bindle and tie to the end of the stick to carry everything hobo style.

If you think about it, the walking stick might very well have been the very first multi-tool!

6 Ways to Increase the Prepping Budget

There’s really no way around it, prepping costs money. Even those who rely upon a very minimalist approach still have to purchase a few things here and there. Those little things can add up quickly, too. In today’s economy, few of us have a ton of “fun money” sitting around. As a result, we sometimes find ourselves deciding between our current needs versus what we might need down the road if disaster strikes.

Here, then, are a few ways you can increase the prepping budget.

Buy low, sell high
If you have some skill with recognizing good deals at rummage sales and such, you can bring in a bit of money buying these items cheap and selling them yourself. You don’t even need to set up your own rummage sale, either, nor dink around with auction sites like ebay. There are a TON of groups on Facebook that are all about selling and buying used items, and all geographically based. Meaning, there is probably at least one, if not several, groups operating in your own local area. What is nice about this approach is you don’t have to pay for shipping and it is cash based, so no worries about someone reversing a charge later.

Of course, this also means you’ll need to spend some time locating the items to buy, as well as coming up with the funds to make the initial purchases. But, for many people, this is a fun hobby that also happens to bring in a few extra bucks.

All the news that’s fit to print
In many areas, newspaper delivery remains a way to earn a decent part-time income. Gone are the days, at least around here, where young boys toured the streets on their bikes, aiming for the front hedge. Instead, many delivery routes are done handled by adults and from cars or trucks. Not all, of course, as I do see a few people walking with wagons and such. In any event, it might be worth your time to inquire at local newspaper offices about available routes. Typically, the routes are either very early morning (daily newspapers) or late afternoon deals (weekly or biweekly papers).

Newspaper delivery might not pay a ton of money, likely maybe $100 a week depending on the number of houses on a route, but you’re also only working a few hours a day, with plenty of time to do other things later.

Turn skills into cash
I think all of us have at least one hobby or skill that could be profitable. Perhaps you are rather crafty and love to combine a hot glue gun and some glitter to make something no one has ever seen before. Maybe you really know your way around a sewing machine. Or you do your best work with your hands deep into a lawnmower engine. No matter what the hobby or skill is, I’d bet someone somewhere will pay you to do it.

I was at a flea market several years ago and saw the dumbest thing for sale. It was three or four pieces of landscape timber, cut to different lengths and screwed together. They had then wrapped sisal twine around the top and bottom, giving it something of an old pier piling look. They had bored a hole in the top of the longest timber and stuck in a solar landscape light. Then, they glued a plastic frog to one of the other timbers. All told, they’d spent maybe $6 on materials and it probably took them 15-20 minutes to assemble each one. People were lining up to buy these damn things at $35 each!

Earn other people’s security deposits
If you know any landlords in your area, talk to them about doing the cleaning and painting between tenants. Sure, occasionally a renter will leave a place just absolutely filthy upon leaving but quite often it is just a matter of shampooing the carpets and painting the walls. If you can do it even a little cheaper than the competition, you’ll likely get the gig.

Some landlords may also be agreeable to allowing you to take possession of abandoned property, the junk the former tenants leave behind. While most of it will just be trash, occasionally you may find stuff worth keeping or perhaps selling online.

Write your own checks
As more and more people start their own websites and blogs, several different services have cropped up where you can get paid to write content for sites. Textbroker is merely one example of how this works. (Note, this is NOT an endorsement for Textbroker, I’m merely using them for illustration purposes. I’ve not worked with them personally so can’t speak to how well they treat writers.) Basically, you sign up and submit one or two pieces of writing so they can gauge your skill level. Once approved, you can peruse what amount to classified ads seeking content. You pick and choose the subjects with which you are familiar or are interested in. Meet the deadline, word count, and other criteria specified and get paid.

Now, most services like that pay what amounts to a pittance. On average, you’ll probably only make about five bucks per article. But, the articles are usually pretty short (~400 words or so) and if you’re a fast (and competent) writer, you can likely produce five or six articles in a couple of hours.

Many traditional magazines still pay a decent rate, too. Head to your local library and find a recent copy of Writer’s Market. Look up your own favorite magazines and see if they accept freelance material. Or, just do a Google search for “[magazine name] submission guidelines.” If they do accept freelance submissions, follow the instructions TO THE LETTER. You’ll need a thick skin as the vast majority of submissions to any given publication are rejected for one of many different reasons. But, if you enjoy writing and have some degree of skill with doing so, this can lead to a pretty decent part-time income.

Reduce your overall expenses.
Yes, this sounds like common sense and you likely already know this, at least in theory. But, it is important enough to be worth mentioning. Every dollar you save somewhere else can be put towards prepping. If you can go without the $5 latte a couple times a week, that could add up to $40 or more at the end of the month. If clipping coupons saves you $12 on the grocery bill this week, put that into the prepping savings account. You may be surprised just how fast the nickels and dimes add up.

3 Common Misconceptions about Bugging Out

Bugging out has long been a staple of survival planning. However, as with many other areas of prepping, there is a whole ton of bad information out there. Here are just a few of the most glaring misconceptions when it comes to planning to bug out.

Misconception: Bugging out should be my primary plan.
Reality check: Most preppers have stockpiled at least some amount of food, water, and other supplies. Why, then, should the primary plan be to leave all or most of it behind? There are some scenarios where bugging out makes perfect sense but in most cases, sheltering in place should be the primary plan, with bugging out being the backup option.

Remember, once you leave your home with your bug out bag, you are nothing more than a refugee.

Misconception: Heading off to the wilderness to live off the land is the best bug out plan.
Reality check: First, few people are truly skilled and experienced enough to live off the land for extended periods of time. Further, most of them who are will be the first to tell you it isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

Second, once you’ve made it to the Great White North or wherever it is you plan to hole up, then what? I’ve found very few people who are planning on doing so have actually thought beyond that point. There you are, safely ensconced in your debris hut or lean to. Now what? For how long do you plan to hide in the woods?

Third, I’ve found a lot of people who are relying on this sort of plan are figuring the big bugaboo will be martial law, economic collapse, or perhaps a combination of those two scenarios. That’s all well and good but what’s the plan for the FAR MORE LIKELY natural disasters and such? I mean, let’s say it is something like Hurricane Katrina. Would it have made much sense to head off into the bush then?

Misconception: I need a cache of gold or silver because money will be worthless.
Reality check: While having a stash of precious metals isn’t the worst idea in the world, don’t overlook just plain old cash. Again, playing the odds, it is far more likely you’ll be able to use dollars than need to rely upon gold or silver. For example, if you’re heading out of town because massive civil unrest seems to be overtaking the city, you’ll probably still be able to fork over a couple of twenties for some gas and bottled water at a convenience store. Show up with a few gold coins instead and you might walk away empty handed.

The best approach here would be to hedge your bets and have both gold/silver coins as well as normal currency in your pack.

None of this is to mean you shouldn’t have a plan for bugging out. Indeed, it is a vital component of your overall survival plans. But, it is something that requires a lot of practical thought as well as common sense.

The Dangers of “Better Than Nothing”

It’s better than nothing is a phrase you see over and over in prepper forums. Whether the folks involved are talking about retailers, brand names, or just products in general, it’s better than nothing is what is often tossed out to validate a purchase of decidedly less than ideal gear.

The it’s better than nothing reasoning is a trap, nothing more.

Here’s why.

Falling into the better than nothing mindset leads to complacency and even laziness. This is how it often plays out. “Joe” buys a prepackaged bug out bag from one or another discount retailer. He spends about forty bucks on it and figures he got a pretty good deal. I mean, the kit has, among other things, a couple of emergency blankets, some matches, a flashlight, water bottle, a signal whistle, and a multi-tool. Joe thinks, “Well, that’s good enough for now, better than nothing.” He then tosses the kit into his trunk and doesn’t give much more thought to it.

About six months go by and Joe is headed home from a late night at work when his car breaks down. The battery for his cell phone is dead, of course, since he never remembers to charge it. No worries, he thinks, and pulls out his whiz-bang awesome survival kit. Taking out the crank flashlight, the handle snaps off the first time he turns it. Oh well, there should be enough moonlight to see under the hood and maybe diagnose the problem. Ah, that’s the culprit, a battery cable came loose! Sliding the multi-tool from the survival kit, Joe tries to tighten down the cable. Um, yeah, not so much. Seems the pivot hinge on the multi-tool is stuck. It won’t open fully, nor will it close up now. Since the kit is open and it is getting rather chilly, Joe pulls out the emergency blanket and shakes it open…whereupon it promptly tears along each of the major fold lines, leaving him with nothing more than thin strips of material.

The phrase better than nothing implies that the item provides at least minimal value in a situation. Anyone care to explain how, exactly, this $40 survival kit lent anything other than frustration?

Most of these better than nothing products, from budget multi-tools to inexpensive full blown kits, are a danger. Not because they may hurt you directly but because they lead you to believe they are good enough to rely upon in an emergency. Remember, we’re not talking about a $5 popcorn maker you picked up during a Black Friday doorbuster sale. These are products you are purchasing for the sole, or at least primary, purpose of keeping you safe and alive. Do you really want to entrust that responsibility to something that is shoddily made and untested?

Now, before I get accused of being an elitist snob when it comes to gear, I’m not saying you must go out and spend top dollar on brand name products. My regular readers here know I value a great deal and encourage you to shop around to get the best possible prices on anything you need to purchase. However, no matter how cheap it is, it isn’t a good deal if the item is faulty or outright doesn’t work as intended. Each and every piece of gear you buy should be fully tested before socking it away for future use. If it doesn’t work, return it and get something different. If it kinda/sorta works, that shouldn’t be seen as good enough.

Avoid the better than nothing rationale!

Look, more and more discount retailers are stocking alleged “prepping” supplies. Quite often, you get what you pay for. In far too many cases, the products sold are not well made and won’t last under normal, let alone rugged, use. They are being sold merely to capitalize on the popularity of prepping in today’s world.

About the only thing many of these cheap products will do is make you feel good about having purchased some new gear. And that good feeling will disappear the first time you try to actually use the items.

Three Rules for Choosing Barter Items

Surfing the web, you can find hundreds of lists of items people suggest setting aside for possible use in barter transactions after a collapse.  Obviously, this isn’t a topic that falls into the localized disaster discussions but is reserved for those who are preparing for potentially long-term scenarios, situations where current forms of currency will likely be worthless.

The idea is to have a stash of goodies you can use to trade for things you may need.  This isn’t a bad idea, provided you use common sense.  Rather than recite just one more list of possible barter items, instead here are my three rules for choosing which items may work best for you.

First, the items must have inherent value to you.  What I mean is, don’t stockpile stuff you will probably never use yourself.  There is a strong possibility you may never have the opportunity or need to use your chosen wampum for trade.  Focus on items that you would have a use for anyway.

Next, the items must be relatively shelf-stable.  Disregard any items that are even somewhat perishable and concentrate on the ones that will last a long time.  Unless you have a very reliable offgrid means of ensuring stable temperatures, avoid anything that will go bad in high heat or humidity.

Finally, items must be relatively inexpensive today.  It makes very little sense to spend thousands of dollars on barter goods.  Further, many of the things that are likely to have the most value after a collapse are pretty darn cheap today.  For example, you can buy a 25lb bag of table salt at Costco for under five bucks.  After a collapse, salt will probably be well sought after, for a variety of reasons.

Note, though, that this doesn’t mean the items you choose should necessarily be cheap, just that you shouldn’t pay a ton of money for them.  If you see a set of decent quality hand tools at a rummage sale and you can get them for just a few bucks, snap them up!  They’ll probably fetch a good price later.  If you never have to use them as barter, you’ll at least have extras in case one of your tools breaks or gets lost.

The idea behind stocking up on barter items is to provide you with a way to make “purchases” when currency is worthless.  By following the above three very simple rules, you can avoid spending money needlessly.