My Favorite Things

I am often asked for recommendations on knives, gear, books, and such. The thing you need to understand is that everybody is different. I mean, I think Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is one of the best movies ever made but there are a lot of people out there who will disagree. The knife I find works best for me and my purposes might not be the ideal solution for you.

With all that said, though, I thought I’d put together a short post here detailing my personal choices in several categories of products. If nothing else, then when people ask for my recommendation on this or that, I can just give them this link.

Knife — Folder
Folding knives are great for every day carry (EDC) and the technology has improved to such a degree in recent years that I’d put some of them up against smaller fixed blades. My current favorite is the Kershaw Thermite. The 3.5″ blade is plenty long enough for most tasks around the house and retains a razor sharp edge even after heavy use. Plus, it isn’t all that pricey at about $25.

Knife — Fixed Blade
A good quality knife is perhaps the single most important tool you can have in a survival situation. My personal favorite is the GNS made by LT Wright Knives. Here’s a link to their site. You can read my full review of the GNS here. It isn’t an inexpensive knife, though, at $155.00.

For the budget conscious, a great alternative is the Condor Bushlore. I’ve reviewed it at length here. You can find it here on Amazon for under $40. This really is a great knife. My son carries it and loves it.

I have three different multi-tools I use fairly regularly. My SOG Power Lock is the most robust of the three. As such, it is also the heaviest so I tend to only use it when I’m around the house.

Next is my trusty Leatherman, which I’ve had for more years than I can remember. It is one of the first models they ever made and I don’t even think they sell them anymore.

The third multi-tool is the Gerber Dime. It is a great option if you’re trying to keep things low key and trying to avoid having a ton of stuff hanging on your belt. Small enough to fit into a pocket yet with most of the traditional tools you’ll find in the larger versions.

The problem I’ve had with many small flashlights, those designed for EDC, is that they are too long and heavy. They might be called “pen lights” but they are far from being actual pen-sized. The ones that truly are small are also fairly dim. Then, I found the Streamlight ProTac 1AAA. At just four inches long and a half inch thick, this light is small enough to take just about anywhere. On High, the ProTac shoots out 70 lumens, which is incredibly bright for such a small flashlight. Amazon has it for under thirty bucks. I reviewed the ProTac 1AAA here in full.

Survival Kit — Small
Any instructor worth his or her salt will tell you that assembling your own survival kit is typically a far better option than buying a premade one. The sad fact is that there are hundreds of companies out there trying to make a quick buck by selling inferior crap and just capitalizing on the “prepper” craze. That said, there are a few companies out there doing it the right way. One of the best small sized survival kits on the market today is the Pocket Tin Survival Kit designed and sold by Survival Resources. My full review is here. As with any small kit, consider this to be only a backup, a “just in case” sort of kit.

Survival Kit — Large
If you are in the market for a full-size kit, one that is basically ready to grab and go with little in the way of customization, you can’t do much better than the Echo-Sigma Get Home Bag. My review, with a complete breakdown of the components, is here. It isn’t cheap by any stretch but you’ll not find many other kits on the market today that have this much in the way of high quality gear inside. Plus, there is plenty of room for adding your own goodies, too.

I’ll be adding more categories as the year goes on. The above covers the most common items people ask me about.

Listen To Your Elders

Before she passed away a few years ago, I used to love listening to my maternal grandmother tell stories about what life was like when she was growing up. She was born in 1925 and was raised on a farm. Grandma knew how to pinch a nickel until it screamed, that’s for sure. After she married Grandpa and they moved to the southern part of Wisconsin, she began working in a factory, a job she held for a couple of decades until she retired. I’m one of nine grandchildren of hers and one of the only ones she ever taught how to make her signature fried chicken. Even knowing exactly how she cooked it, I can never get it quite right.

Yet, for all that, there is so much I never thought to ask her about, so many stories I didn’t get the chance to hear.

Here in the United States, there is a huge knowledge gap between the generations. We sometimes joke about Grandma or Grandpa trying to figure out Facebook or texting. But, to be fair, they’d probably laugh at us during our first attempt to make bread from scratch. Then again, maybe they’d be too polite to outright poke fun at us.

For most of us, our grandparents grew up knowing the value of a dollar and lived by the motto — Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. Today’s adults and young adults would likely toss out a pair of socks with a hole whereas the elder generation would have sewn it up. Our grandparents and great-grandparents, at least for the most part, maintained food pantries at home just as a matter of course. They grew gardens and preserved food. Even those folks who were born and raised in cities still learned many life skills that have been lost today. Many of them raised “victory gardens” during WWII.

The point is this. There is a ton of knowledge and information that is slowly slipping through our fingers. A lot of this stuff isn’t the sort of thing you’ll easily find using Google, either. I mean, I don’t know about you but I hated history class when I was in school. Today, though? I can’t get enough of it! Probably because now it isn’t all about memorizing names and dates but instead it is listening to stories about what things were really like back then.

Many if not most cultures around the world recognize the importance of elders and the knowledge they have to offer. In many countries, it is common to have grandparents living in the same home as their children and grandchildren. Honestly, it is rather shameful how we here in the U.S. often treat the elderly.

Here’s my suggestion to you. If you have older family members still around, make the time to sit down and talk to them. Ask them to tell you about their lives. Ask questions. Consider taking notes or even recording the conversations. My wife loves the voice recorder I bought her for Christmas a couple of years ago, particularly because the recordings can be downloaded as mp3 tracks. If you’re looking for some ideas of what to talk about, try some of these prompts:

–Tell me about a time you got into trouble as a child.
–What was a favorite treat of yours back then?
–What chores were your responsibility?
–Tell me about some of your favorite meals from back then.

If you don’t have family members available any longer, consider volunteering some time at a local nursing home. Many assisted living residents would love the opportunity to spend some time chatting, reliving memories and passing down knowledge.

Do anything you can to preserve the lessons our elders still have to teach us. Remember that old saying — those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Scavenging Supplies — A Thought Exercise

As you might expect, the subject of survival and disaster planning comes up somewhat regularly at our home. I like to toss thought exercises out to my kids from time to time, just to see where the discussion leads.

Over the weekend, my wife and I were heading out for a few hours to do some running around. I decided to leave my boys a short homework assignment, based in part on a book I’m currently reading. In the story, there is a small group of young adults who are traveling across the country after a major disaster. As they begin their journey, they come across a big box retail store and stock up on supplies and gear for the journey. I decided to use that premise as a thought exercise. Here’s what I gave my boys to work with:

There has been a major disaster. You and a small group of survivors are traveling home and it will take several days to get there. You come across a Walmart store. You have one backpack, nothing special it is just like the one you use for school. What supplies would you take from the store? Remember, you’ll need to be able to carry the fully loaded pack, so weight is a concern. Assume you have nothing with you other than the clothes on your back.

I asked each of my boys to make a list of their chosen supplies. When we returned, I went over each list and we talked about the different choices. Here are some of the highlights.

My eldest (15 years old) was the only one who had included a knife on his list. My middle son (12 years old) was the only one who thought of socks and other clothes. My youngest (10 years old) thought to grab apples and oranges, assuming they’d still be good to eat.

They all thought to grab water bottles but no one thought of water filtration gear or purification tablets. No one grabbed any sort of cordage but my eldest mentioned taking a couple of bandanas. All had matches or lighters on their lists. No one thought of flashlights, though.

One thing I found rather interesting was that no one had anything on their lists that you might consider frivolous or foolish. No toys, mp3 players, or other nonsense. My eldest mentioned a prepaid cell phone, which on the surface is a good idea, depending upon the nature of the disaster, but he didn’t know the phone cards had to be activated at the cash register, which likely wouldn’t be an option.

A few other things I pointed out that might be good ideas to grab:

–Mess kit
–Granola bars and other prepackaged “ready to eat” food
–First aid kit

All in all, the exercise resulted in a pretty interesting discussion. For those curious, the book that prompted this discussion is SYLO by DJ MacHale.

So, what would be on your list?

3 Common Prepper Complaints (that are just bad excuses)

I’ll warn you right up front, odds are there will be something in this post that will irritate, perhaps even anger, you. Well, so be it. See, here’s the thing. I’m tired of listening to the same old complaints over and over. I understand that preppers are human beings just like everyone else and, that being the case, complaining about this, that, or the other thing is sort of hardwired into their DNA. But, I hear these complaints so frequently, I’ve decided to just answer them all at once in a single blog post. That way, I can just send out a link to the post rather than typing out the same response over and over.

Complaint #1 — I can’t find any local preppers!
Many people have woken up to the realization that long-term preparedness requires a team approach. Community survival planning is the way to go. Of course, that means you need to be in touch with others in your area who are of like mind. Over and over, I hear how preppers just can’t seem to find anyone in their local area who is interested in disaster planning. Look, there are over 3 million self-avowed preppers in the United States. There are countless more who might not think of themselves as preppers but are taking active steps to be better prepared for emergencies.

If you can’t find a single person who is interested in prepping, the problem lies with you, not with them. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but that’s what it boils down to, really. One or more of the following likely applies to your situation.

A) You interact with exceptionally few people in your daily life. If you only ever speak to the same three people every day, you’ll need to expand your horizons a bit. Either that or quit complaining.

B) You tend to be more than a little passionate about the subject of prepping, which in turn makes people uneasy. Take it slow and easy when broaching the topic of prepping. If you go from zero to TEOTWAWKI in 0.6 seconds every time, yes, you do indeed sound like a whack job.

C) You just flat out aren’t trying very hard and expect people to find you instead. Face it, you’re probably going to actually have to leave your house once in a while. Visit some community events where preppers are likely to be in attendance, such as farmers markets and such. Go out to gun shows. Attend local classes on topics like gardening and food preservation (you can find these classes at your library or through the park & rec department).

Complaint #2 — I can’t afford to prep!
Yes, prepping costs money and most of us aren’t recent lottery winners. However, quite often I hear this complaint from people who, for whatever reason, feel they need to buy everything all at once and, if they can’t, they just give up. Not a very smart approach, once you stop and think about it. That’s like interviewing for a job you really need, but telling the interviewer that if you can’t start out as Vice-President, you’re going to pass on the whole deal.

In order to add funds to the prepping budget, one of two things needs to happen.

A) You need to increase your income. You could do this by working part-time outside the home or perhaps turning a hobby into a home-based business, such as woodworking or car repair.

B) You need to reduce your expenses. Most, though certainly not all, people have at least a few things they can do to cut down on expenses, such as reducing the number of drive-thru meals every week.

Complaint #3 — My spouse doesn’t support my prepping!
Often, this circles back to the point made earlier about how you talk about prepping with people. If this topic dominates every single conversation you have with your spouse or significant other, I guarantee you they are tired of hearing about it. Dial it back a notch or two.

When you do talk about prepping, keep it low key and free of wild predictions of the coming zombie apocalypse.

Sometimes, putting a financial spin on prepping can help get spouses on board. Explaining to them, and using real life examples, of how you can eat tomorrow at today’s prices by stocking up during good sales can go a long way toward getting the “buy in” from them.

Another point to consider, though, is the impact your prepping might be having on the family as a whole. If it has become all consuming on your part, it might be reasonable for your family to feel as though something isn’t right. Communication on the part of all involved is key to resolving any conflict.

Look, the reality is, these complaints are excuses, nothing more. If you truly want to be prepared for life’s little (and not so little) emergencies, you’ll find ways to overcome these obstacles, rather than sitting down and pouting because it hasn’t all worked out exactly as you’d hoped.

Freecycle for Preppers

The Freecycle organization has been around for several years, yet there are still lots of folks out there who’ve not heard of it. Freecycle can be an excellent resource for rehoming your unwanted stuff and occasionally receiving items of use to you.

Taken from the website:
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,206 groups with 8,600,848 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.

Once upon a time, Freecycle groups used the Groups feature on Yahoo. Nowadays, pretty much everything is done via the Freecycle website. Here’s how this works.

Visit and open an account there. You’ll need to provide a username, password, and email address. The link to sign up is located at the top of the screen on the main page.

After you’ve logged in, it will prompt you to find groups in your area. In the search box, put in the city closest to you. There may not be a group based in your exact town but you should be able to find one reasonably nearby. You can certainly join more than one group, too, if there are multiple groups in your immediate area. For example, I travel a lot for work so I’ve joined groups in the areas I visit most often, as well as the groups nearest my home.

As you join different groups, be sure to check your email settings with each one. If you click on the My Groups tab, you’ll see a list of all the groups you’ve joined. For each one, you’ll see a button that says, “Change Settings.” There are three options:

None apart from ADMINs — this means you’ll only receive emails that are special notices from the group administrators. To view the actual group posts, you’ll have to visit the website.

Email digest — you’ll receive one email a day, with all group posts contained within it.

One for each post — you’ll receive each post to the group as an individual email.

What gets posted to the group?

There are two main types of posts — Offer and Wanted.

When people have something they want to get rid of, they’ll post it as an Offer. Typically, they will tell you what the item is, the condition of the item, and a general idea of where they are located. Here’s a sample Offer post:

OFFER: Coleman lantern
I have a Coleman lantern up for grabs. It is in fairly good condition, though I’ve not used it in several years. Located on east side of Chicago

The other type of post is a Wanted post. These can get sort of tricky, believe it or not. In many groups, you’ll see far more Wanted posts than you’ll see Offers. You can’t expect to ask for, and then receive, a ton of high-end gear. Posting a wish list is usually not very well received by group members. Instead, here is a typical Wanted type of post.

WANTED: Coleman lantern
In need of one or two lanterns for an upcoming camping trip. I can pick up anywhere local either evenings this week or any time this weekend.

No big long story about why you need the item, just the basic facts. Offering to pick up the item is actually pretty much a given as whether the post is an Offer or a Wanted, the recipient is typically expected to arrange for pickup of the item.

Responding to a post

If you see an Offer of something you want, you’ll contact the person who posted it, either via the website or via email. It always pays to be very polite. Keep in mind that you likely aren’t the only person contacting them. Don’t give them a sob story about how much you need the item, though. That gets old quickly. Just explain that you are interested in the item and give them a time frame of when you might be able to pick it up.

Hi, I’m very interested in the Coleman lantern. I live just outside Chicago and could pick up as quickly as this evening, if you’ll be around. Otherwise, I work days and any evening this week should work. Thanks!

Rules of the group

While there are some standard rules that are common to almost all Freecycle groups, such as nothing illegal is offered, no drugs, no weapons, etc., each group may have their own little foibles as well. Some groups require new members to make at least one Offer post before posting a Wanted, for example. The rules of the group should be found on the group’s page on the Freecycle website.

I’ve been a member of many different Freecycle groups over the years. Some were great, others were terrible. Often, it comes down to how the group is run by the admins. Now, Freecycle folks are all volunteer. They don’t get paid for the work they do, so keep that in mind. Occasionally, though, you may find an admin who apparently just has entirely too much time on their hands. They will reject posts for seemingly random reasons. Or, they will argue with members about what is appropriate to be posted and what is not. The groups run by iron-fisted admins tend to peter out after a while because members tire quickly of that nonsense.

Common sense safety concerns

Unless you happen to know personally the person you’ll be meeting, it pays to exercise good common sense. If you are going to them, make sure a family member or friend knows where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when you should return. If they are coming to you, what many folks do is leave the item on the front porch in a bag or box with the recipient’s name on it. This reduces the danger of having to open your door to a stranger.

Many people will agree to meet at a public location, such as a fast food restaurant parking lot. But, if the item is large or cumbersome, that might not be an option.

Final thoughts

It is best to look at Freecycle as a way to get rid of stuff you no longer need, rather than just expecting to get a ton of free stuff. It really is about paying things forward. That said, there are people out there who have stuff like tents, backpacks, books, camping gear, and other cool stuff that they might be looking to part with, if only they knew it was wanted by someone else.

4 Great Martial Arts for Survivalists

Let me say at the outset that I’m not suggesting these are the BEST martial arts for survivalists or preppers. I don’t like that term “best” as things are different for everyone. What works well for one person might not be a great thing for another. Instead, what you’ll find here are suggestions for a few different martial arts that are well suited for the likely needs of survivalists and preppers.

Eskrima / Kali / Arnis

These are the traditional martial arts of the Philippines. Focus is on the use of weapons, such as knives, sticks, and machetes. What is interesting about Eskrima is that most students learn weapons first, then advance to empty-hand techniques. This is the complete opposite of most other martial arts. In fact, with Eskrima, many of the weapon techniques utilize the exact same or very similar body movements as do the empty hand techniques. This allows for a greater utilization of muscle memory.

Students learn how to defend against angles of attack, rather than against specific types of strikes or styles of fighting. This makes Eskrima rather fluid and a proficient student is able to quickly counter an attack regardless of the aggressor’s fighting style.

While it is all but impossible to truly learn any martial art simply by studying a book, this one will give you solid information on Eskrima, enough for you to make a fully informed decision on whether to pursue study in it.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is about as “real world” as a martial art gets. It combines techniques from street fighting, boxing, wrestling, judo, aikido, and several other arts. Krav Maga was developed in the 1930s and 1940s in Israel. As with most martial arts, the emphasis is on avoiding a fight if at all possible. However, if it is unavoidable, Krav Maga teaches students to end the fight as quickly and decisively as possible.

It is a brutal art, teaching students how to exploit any weakness and how to cause as much pain and injury as possible. As I said, this is real world stuff, not really suited for tournaments and such.

An excellent primer on Krav Maga is Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combative Techniques.

Jeet Kune Do

Like Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do (JKD) is a hybrid art. It was founded in the mid-1960s by Bruce Lee. JKD incorporates a wide range of techniques, including strikes, grappling, and kicks. The main idea is for the student to be able to flow from one technique to another seamlessly.

One of the key elements to traditional JKD is the idea of not telegraphing your intentions. In many martial arts, there are specific poses or stances one adopts. In JKD, the focus is on surprising the attacker by not tensing your muscles or even twitching until you strike. When done successfully by a practiced student, the attacker (now the victim) will not be able to defend. JKD as an art is based on the concept of staying loose and flexible.

Learn more by reading Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method: The Complete Edition.


Like most boys growing up in the 1980s, I was infatuated with all things ninja. However, like most things portrayed in the media, real life ninjutsu isn’t much like what you’ve seen in the movies. You aren’t going to be tossing around throwing stars, at least not right away. Nor are you going to be lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone to assassinate.

Honestly, ninjutsu is very much the survivalist version of the martial arts, when you get right down to it. Ninjutsu is a very well rounded art, encompassing everything from empty hand combat to weapons to situational awareness.

Stephen K. Hayes is one of the most well known American instructors. He has been referred to as the “Father of American Ninjutsu” and has written several great books on the subject. One of his latest, The Ninja Defense: A Modern Master’s Approach to Universal Dangers, even includes a lengthy DVD.

Whether you choose one of these arts or a different one, take the time to fully check out the school and instructor. Talk to current students and sit in for a class or two. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go in knowing you aren’t going to become any sort of master in just a few weeks. However, it won’t take long before you notice an increase in your physical fitness as well as your self-confidence.

Guerilla Gardening

Yes, it is only January and, for most of us at least, actual gardening is still a ways off. But, as the snow flies and temperatures dip, this can be the best time to sit down and plan out your gardens for the coming season.

Many of my readers live in an area that, for one reason or another, isn’t great for planting gardens. If you’re in a condo or apartment, there’s just not enough space. If you’re in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association, the rules might not allow it. Fortunately, there are still some options available to you, if you’re willing to get creative a bit.

Guerilla gardening is basically growing food under the radar, so to speak. Rather than having actual plots of land where you carefully sow your seeds in neat little patches, you’re using a variety of techniques to keep things at least reasonably hidden from plain sight.

Historically, guerilla gardening referred to using vacant city lots, highway medians, and other such unused areas for planting food crops. The idea was to put to use these abandoned areas, not only providing food but also improving the aesthetics. This is certainly one option you might consider, should you have a vacant lot in your immediate area. However, I would caution you that if you don’t own the land yourself, you could be opening up a large can of worms. If the owners decide they want to build an apartment building on that lot, there is typically nothing you will be able to do to prevent them from destroying the gardens, as many such gardeners have found over the years.

That said, if you have what seems to be a suitable vacant lot in mind, you might consider tracking down the owner. Contact them and see if you can get permission to plant a garden on the lot, with the understanding being that if the lot is ever sold or the owners decide to build on it, it is up to you to either move the garden or let it be razed as needed. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

Container gardening is a viable option for most apartment and condo dwellers. While you certainly won’t be able to grow a ton of food in this way, some is better than none. Basically, container gardening is where you use planters and such on your patio or driveway to grow your plants. Using a cold frame would fall into this category as well, I think.

For most plants suited to container gardening, you’ll want pots or planters around 16″-18″ deep. While pretty much any plant can conceivably be grown in a container, provided the container is large enough, some that work particularly well are pole beans, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. Potatoes can be done as well, but you need a fairly large container to end up with a decent crop. One method that works well for taters is to use a container about two feet deep. Plant the potatoes at the bottom and as the plants grow, add more soil and compost to cover the tubers. Keep repeating this process all season long. Toward fall, when the plants die off, dump out all the potatoes.

Dwarf or miniature fruit trees are something to consider for those living in a tight space. As the name implies, these are smaller versions of the standard plants. Be sure to do your homework, though, as many varieties require two or more of them in close proximity for pollination.

Edible landscaping is another option, particularly for those living in HOA communities. Basically, this involves using food-bearing plants to decorate your yard. For example, rather than planting hedges along the border, try using blueberry or blackberry bushes. If you have landscape beds in your front or back yard, consider scattering some food plants in with the decorative shrubs. Just be sure they will get plenty of light throughout the day. Some good choices for these beds would be broccoli, lettuce, and kale. Strawberries make for an attractive ground cover, too.

Whenever possible, be sure to purchase or otherwise obtain heirloom seeds. This means the seeds obtained from the fruit or vegetable grown can be planted and will grow true. Most of the seeds found in big box retailers are not heirloom but are hybrids. Trying to grow viable plants from hybrid seeds is usually a fruitless endeavor.

Be Prepared: Active Shooter

It has sadly become more and more common to hear about active shooter situations playing out all over the country. It can happen at schools and universities, office buildings, movie theaters, just about anywhere you can imagine. As with most other types of disasters and emergencies, understanding ahead of time what you should do can help you remain reasonably calm and able to take action rather than freezing up.

First, if at all possible, flee the area. Do not look to engage the shooter in any way, whether you are armed or not. All too often, keyboard warriors indicate they will take down the shooter in a heartbeat. Unless you have been trained in combat shooting, which is far different then just sending some rounds downrange on a sunny day, forget about it. Odds are good that you’ll be dealing with chaotic, low light conditions.

If, despite that advice, you decide to shoot back with your legally permissible concealed carry weapon, be damn sure you know what you’re doing. If the round you fire misses and hits another victim, things are not going to go well for you later. Same goes if the round you fire goes through the assailant and hits someone else.

Now, before my inbox explodes, let me also say this. If you feel you have no other choice but to immediately defend yourself against the shooter, do so using whatever means you have available to you.

As soon as you can, call 911. While you likely won’t be the only one doing so, don’t make the assumption that someone else is going to make the call. Give the dispatcher as much information as you can — location of the shooter, description of the shooter, number and location of victims if known, and where you are located. Your description of the shooter will ideally contain the following:

–Approximate age
–Race or skin color
–Color of hair
–Presence or absence of facial hair
–What they’re wearing
–How they are armed (handgun, shotgun, knife, etc.)

If you and the shooter are in a building, try to get outside and away from the area. If that is not feasible, find someplace you can hunker down, such as an office or closet. Do what you can to barricade the door. Turn off all lights and remain quiet. If there is something to hide behind or under in the room, do so. Either way, do not remain in front of the door. Stay out of the likely line of fire should the shooter enter the room. Stay there until you are rescued or until you hear an all clear sounded.

It is also important to have a basic understanding of how law enforcement will respond to reports of an active shooter. For starters, the first officers on the scene are going to be focused on locating the shooter and eliminating the threat. They will not be stopping along the way to check on injured victims. There will be rescue teams following that will take care of that. If you know where the shooter is, by all means inform the officers. But otherwise, just stay the hell out of their way.

Stay down until you are specifically told otherwise by an officer. Remember, this is a high stress situation and you don’t want to do anything that could cause an officer to think you are possibly involved with the shooting. Keep your hands visible and drop any packages or bags you might be carrying. Do not get offended by any rough treatment by an officer, such as them grabbing you and pulling you out of the area. Do what you’re told when you’re told to do it.

Being involved in an active shooter scenario is no one’s idea of a good time. It is terrifying and stressful. But, knowing what to do ahead of time can help you stay calm and reduce your reaction time.

[Original photo obtained here and modified with title font and such.]

Goals for 2015

At the end of the year, many of us try to determine what we hope to accomplish in the next 12 months. These aren’t “resolutions” but rather goals we want to achieve. I thought I’d share with you some of my own goals for 2015, partially in hopes you’ll help keep me accountable for them and partially because seeing some of these might help you decide what you hope to achieve in 2015. Those of you who subscribe to our free newsletter already heard about several of these goals.

Professional Goals:

Focus on
For quite some time now, I’ve been missing out on the “Weekly” part of Updates have been hit and miss, rarely approaching any sort of regularity. The plan for 2015 is to get back on at least a semi-fixed schedule. This includes:

–One new informative post or article every week.
–One review (book, magazine, or product) every week.
–Two videos a month.

Product Development
For quite some time now, I’ve had several ideas running through my head of products I’d like to market. Nothing extravagant or complicated, just a few things that I think would be popular among my readers. This year, I’m looking to get these ideas out of my head and into the real world.

Writing Goals:

While much of this category would seem to fall in line with professional goals, they are different enough to qualify for their own heading, at least as far as I’m concerned.

Prepper Books
I’m currently working with Ulysses Press on the topic of my next book with them. We’ve been toying with a few different ideas, just a matter of narrowing it down. The original plan was to do two books in 2015. We’ll see how it goes.

Untitled Novel
While I’ve started my first novel, work on it has been hit and miss the last several months. I plan to finish the rough draft by June and have it ready for publication by September or so. I’ve been considering self-publishing the novel but we’ll see if any publishers are interested in it first. Don’t ask for more info on this project as I’m keeping all story details hush hush.

Magazine Articles
My goal in 2015 is to sell at least one article to each of my favorite magazines. I’ve already made strong headway on this, having sold material to SURVIVOR’S EDGE, COUNTRYSIDE, and SELF RELIANCE ILLUSTRATED. Still working on pitches for OFFGRID, BACKWOODSMAN, BACK HOME, NEW PIONEER, AMERICAN FRONTIERSMAN, and BACKWOODS HOME.

Personal Goals

Naturally, on top of goals geared toward professional success, I have some personal things I’m hoping to achieve.

I finally went and had a physical exam done about a week ago. I don’t typically visit the doctor unless I absolutely must, so going for a routine exam is a big achievement in and of itself. I have a family history of heart issues so I figure it is high time I start taking care of things. Thankfully, I found I’m in pretty good health, though my “good” cholesterol is a bit low. I’m not setting any goals of losing x amount of weight or anything. Rather, I just want to make sure I stay active and also improve my diet a bit.

I work a lot. Typically, between the day job and all of my writing and related endeavors, I put in around 70 hours a week. I don’t mind the work as I truly enjoy 90% of it. But, I need to slow down a bit and enjoy life, too. My kids aren’t getting any younger and neither am I. To that end, my wife and I have been making plans for things we want to do as a family this year.

So, what are your goals for 2015?

Cold Weather Survival Tips

The following is a guest post by Chris Ruiz from The Bug Out Bag Guide.

Huddled within the snow-block Quinzee his father had built, snuggled up next to his sister with a campfire burning out front, it was almost possible for Jacob Voss to imagine he was playing in a snow fort, enjoying an outdoor adventure with his family. Almost.

Only hours before, the Voss family had been forced to flee the warmth and comfort of their home and take refuge in the wilderness. Sunlight lasted for only an hour, just enough time to find a place to camp and set up shelter.

As cold as he was, Jacob felt thankful. His family had been prepared and he was confident his father knew how to keep them alive. Others hadn’t been so lucky. He had seen his classmates running from their homes with nothing more than sweatshirts and sneakers. He was safe, his family was safe, and due to his father’s knowledge of outdoor survival, they were comfortable.

Bugging out in cold weather can challenge the survival skills of even the best outdoorsmen and requires significant training and preparation. If you live in an area where bugging out in winter is a possibility, make sure you regularly check you bug-out-bag to ensure you have the proper gear for the elements.

In this article, we will provide you with the survival knowledge you’ll need to keep yourself and your family safe in cold weather including staying warm, building shelter and fire, and performing first aid.

Staying Warm

The key to surviving cold weather is to keep your core temperature warm. This is especially difficult in harsh winter conditions when shorter days (less sunlight), wind chill, lower temperatures, and ice and snow are all working against you to steal your body heat and energy. In order to stay warm, your body is going to need to work harder and consume more calories than normal to keep you going.

Here are our top tips for staying warm in frigid conditions:


Layer Up

Unlike his ill-prepared neighbors, Jacob Voss had several layers to help keep him warm. Layering multiple items is preferable to one thick layer as air gets trapped between the layers and is warmed by your body to act as an insulator against the cold.

For an average adult, three to five layers is most desirable, starting with a light wicking layer closest to your skin to keep perspiration off. Your outer layer should be both wind resistant and waterproof to minimize heat exchange and keep water out. The great part about layering is that you can add or remove layers as needed to regulate your body temperature.

If you happen to be bugging out with children, like the Vosses, make sure to dress them in one additional layer than yourself to ensure they stay warm.


Stay Active

It may be tempting to bunker down and wait out the cold, but by keeping yourself moving you’ll ensure you keep your heart rate up and provide a good flow of warm blood to your extremities.

Remember to keep a moderate pace and maintain your body temperature by adding or removing layers as needed. By over-exerting yourself, you risk becoming drenched in sweat, which will create moisture that takes heat away from you.


Keep Hydrated and Nourished

Hydration and calories are key to keeping your body going in freezing temperatures. To fuel the extra energy you’ll spend keeping yourself warm, make sure to keep your bug-out-bag stocked with high calorie/low weight options such as nuts, granola bars, energy gels, and powerbars. For hydration, Gatorade powder can be mixed with water or melted snow, which will keep you hydrated longer than water alone.


Cover Your Head

A covered head is a key source of warmth – in fact, up to 90% of heat loss will be through your head if it isn’t properly covered. Make sure to pack a hat or jacket with a hood – or both – to keep your head covered in the snow. A hat or hood also provides an easy layer to put on or remove to regulate your temperature.


Building Shelter and Fire

After addressing your core temperature, building shelter should be next on your cold weather survival priority list. In the case of the Vosses, they built a Quinzee out of snow, but there are other options as well. The video below provides step-by-step instructions on how to construct a Quinzee if that’s the option you’ve chosen.

Another alternative is to create a basic A-Frame or Lean-To shelter using branches and piling snow on top. While it may be cold to the touch, snow is an excellent insulator and makes a great outer layer for a shelter. If your survival pack includes an emergency blanket, poncho, or tarp, these can all be used as a roof for your shelter by laying them on top of your branch frame. Additionally, if you have a spare, you can use one of these items on the floor of your shelter for added insulation. The video below provides practical guidelines for building a winter survival shelter:

Your next consideration should be building a fire. If you plan to have your fire inside your shelter, always ensure you provide for proper ventilation to avoid suffocation.

In cold weather situations, fire is essential for two reasons:

1. Keeping warm – while this may seem obvious, keeping warm has other less tangible benefits such as raising morale and keeping freezing-related medical issues off everyone’s mind.

2. Melting snow – the great thing about snow is that it provides a nearly limitless supply of water; make sure to boil melted snow before drinking to ensure all pathogens are killed.

When gathering kindle for your fire, look for dead branches on the lower parts of trees and stay away from those on the ground or in the snow – the moisture will make them harder to burn.

Performing First Aid

Besides the plethora of injuries that can arise when bugging out (check out my First Aid article for preparing for and treating typical injuries), cold weather offers the added dangers of hypothermia and frostbite.


Hypothermia occurs when your body’s core temperature drops to the point where your body can no longer self-regulate (typically below 95 degrees Fahrenheit). The onset of hypothermia can come rapidly, especially if someone falls through thin ice into cold water, such as a stream or lake.

The following are symptoms of hypothermia:
● Shivering
● Loss of coordination
● Weak pulse
● Drowsiness
● Slow speech
● Confusion or memory loss

To ensure survival, hypothermia must be treated immediately. If you suspect that you, or someone in your group, have hypothermia, try the following treatments:
● If possible, seek emergency medical attention
● Replace any wet clothes with dry ones or dry items such as blankets or sleeping bags
● Ensure protection from wind or other elements that could cause heat loss
● Seek immediate shelter
● Warm the person up through shelter, a fire, or body heat from another person
● Have the person drink warm liquids as this can help bring their temperature back up


An exposed body part – usually a nose or ear – can become so cold that ice crystals will begin to form in the tissues. This is frostbite. Without immediate treatment, it can lead to the loss of the affected body part.

Symptoms of frostbite include the following:
● Numbness in the affected area
● White patches on your skin, which will turn black with severe frostbite
● Hardening of the affected area

If you suspect that you, or someone in your group, have frostbite, try the following treatments:
● If possible, seek emergency medical attention
● Gradually warm the affected area by moving it closer to shelter, fire, and away from the elements
● Applying warm water to affected area

In the case of frostbite, make sure you AVOID the following:
● Placing anything hot on the affected area – this can cause burns that are not felt as the area is numb
● Walking on frostbitten toes or feet – this can cause additional damage
● Rubbing the affected area to warm it up


Survival in the winter can prove to be one of the most challenging and brutal bug-out situations you can find yourself in. However, armed with knowledge and the proper gear, you will greatly increase your chances of survival.

There is no better test of preparedness than facing the elements head-on. To ensure you and your loved ones are properly equipped, spend a weekend in the wilderness practicing and honing your winter survival skills. Not only will this help test your preparedness in a controlled environment, but also highlight areas you may need additional training or gear for.

If you’re ever faced with bugging out in winter, you want yourself and your loved ones to be safe, comfortable, and perhaps imagining it as a family adventure, like Jacob Voss. Don’t get caught wishing you had been prepared, like his ill-fated neighbors.

About The Author
Chris Ruiz is a lifelong outdoorsman and has been interested in survival tactics and practices for many years. He currently helps people prepare for unforeseen disasters at The Bug Out Bag Guide. For more information on disaster preparedness, emergency planning, survival skills, every day carry, or picking bug out gear, please visit: