Notes for Tuesday – April 21, 2015

April 21st is Aggie Muster Day for all Texas A&M Corps of Cadets graduates. Aggie Muster celebrations/meetings are held as far away as Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan. I should mention that Jim’s grandfather (a U.S. Army Cavalry LTC) was an Aggie– something mentioned so often that everyone in his family felt like de facto Aggies, too. Other than the officers that matriculate though West Point, the four institutions that seem to have the greatest ongoing esprit de corps for graduates are Texas A&M, The Citadel, Norwich University, and VMI. Jim felt almost obliged to include an Aggie character in his novels Survivors and Founders, even though his connection to Texas A&M is two generations removed.

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Today, we present another entry for Round 58 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The $12,000+ worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate, good for any one, two, or three course (a $1,195 value),
  2. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical. This certificate will be for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses. (Excluding those restricted for military or government teams.) Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  3. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 Nato QD Billet upper with a hammer forged, chromlined barrel and a hard case to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR type rifle to have quick change barrel, which can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools, and a compact carry capability in a hard case or 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  4. Gun Mag Warehouse is providing 20 Magpul pmags 30rd Magazines (a value of $300) and a Gun Mag Warehouse T-Shirt. (An equivalent prize will be awarded for residents in states with magazine restrictions.),
  5. Two cases of Mountain House freeze dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  6. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  7. A Model 120 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $340 value),
  8. A $300 gift certificate from Freeze Dry Guy,
  9. A $250 gift certificate from Sunflower Ammo,
  10. KellyKettleUSA.com is donating both an AquaBrick water filtration kit and a Stainless Medium Scout Kelly Kettle Complete Kit with a combined retail value of $304,
  11. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $300 gift certificate, and
  12. Two cases of meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  2. A FloJak EarthStraw “Code Red” 100-foot well pump system (a $500 value), courtesy of FloJak.com,
  3. Acorn Supplies is donating a Deluxe Food Storage Survival Kit with a retail value of $350,
  4. The Ark Institute is donating a non-GMO, non-hybrid vegetable seed package–enough for two families of four, seed storage materials, a CD-ROM of Geri Guidetti’s book “Build Your Ark! How to Prepare for Self Reliance in Uncertain Times”, and two bottles of Potassium Iodate– a $325 retail value,
  5. A $250 gift card from Emergency Essentials,
  6. Twenty Five books, of the winners choice, of any books published by PrepperPress.com (a $270 value),
  7. TexasgiBrass.com is providing a $150 gift certificate, and
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  3. *Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  4. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security,
  5. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  6. APEX Gun Parts is donating a $250 purchase credit,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a Locking Rifle Rack (a $379 value), and
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).

Round 58 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.

“Internet” Without Infrastructure – Part 1, by R.H.

Communication, outgoing and incoming, is obviously vitally important, but we tend to take for granted the various channels available to us at this time. The telephone, email, and even television and radio media rely on a huge amount of civil infrastructure– the same infrastructure that we rely on for water, sewage service, food, electrical power, transportation, shipping and basic mail, and both fire suppression and law enforcement services. The Internet has become a vital part of that infrastructure. Without a functional power grid and cable or telephone service, the Internet does not exist. It could be argued that, even in the total absence of the rest of the infrastructure, very basic Internet services, such as email and even limited access to local, national, and world news, could mean the difference between survival and death for many, or at least the difference between sanity and insanity. At the very least, they could become a substitute for the postal and telephone services and would be extremely helpful. There is a way to provide these basic services without the normal infrastructure. By transferring files from computer to computer in any ways available, it’s possible to build a very broad “Internet” of sorts.

Imagine your favorite (or most dreaded) TEOTWAWKI scenario. Now, alter it slightly by introducing very basic, albeit slow, email service, access to at least a few of your most trusted blogs, and some community or national news sites for security information, news, and want ads. It’s at least an improvement, isn’t it? Is it really practical? Absolutely!

In case you think that I am just talking about copying files between computers in your neighborhood, or on the other hand that I am talking about some grand idea of replacing the whole Internet, please hear me out. This is something that is inevitably going to happen anyway if/when the infrastructure fails. It will happen in some form and to some degree. However, with a little organization and adoption of some very basic standards, it could give us all a viable substitute that could provide the most vital elements of modern communication and media, even after TEOTWAWKI. When this happens, it will probably have a name of some sort, but there is no telling what name will stick. It could be called “Internet Without Infrastructure” (IWI), “The SneakerNet”, “SneakerWeb”, “Big SneakerNet”, “The UnderNet”, “The UnderWeb”, or any number of names I could think of. In this article, I will just refer to it as “the network”.

Executive Summary

Here’s the summary of how it works, with much more detail to follow:

  1. Each separate communication or blog entry is put into a small file (text, binary, encrypted or whatever).
  2. The filename of the file is unique, but it also always starts with the unique address of the recipient (which is mutually agreed upon in advance or, if not, the recipient’s pre TEOTWAWKI email address). In the case of a blog entry or site, the URL is used.
  3. The file is put onto a USB key, flash drive, or SD card, along with hundreds, thousands, or millions of other messages. The USB key, flash drive, or SD card is called a “mail pouch” or just a “pouch”.
  4. A “Postmaster” (anyone with a working computer and a willingness to help) seeks out other Postmasters and swaps files with him/her, copying all files from pouch A to pouch B, then back to A, ignoring any duplicates. At this point, both pouches now contain a combination of everything from both.
  5. Each Postmaster, in turn, seeks out other Postmasters and exchanges the messages in their pouches with them in the same manner.
  6. To receive a message (or see a blog or website), the recipient contacts any Postmaster and searches for his own unique address, or the name of the blog or site, in the master mail pouch.
  7. Postmasters apply a few simple protocols (described later) to purge old messages, prevent sabotage, keep the system running, and maintain the integrity of the network.

In one sentence, it’s: “Put your message in a file, give the file a unique name that always starts with the destination address, and then spread the message far and wide.”

There are technical aspects to this, which I cover here for completeness, but not everyone needs to know everything about it. The better it is generally understood, the better it will work, but Postmasters will inevitably be the specialists who know the techniques better than anyone else.

As soon as I’ve described the few technology items that are required to bring this about, I’ll give the rest of how it works, what the protocols are, and various ways that it can be used to provide secure, anonymous communication in a community, a region, a country, or the world.

Details

What’s Required?

Only a few basic technology items are necessary, but no real infrastructure is required.

Computers. Some computers, of course, must have survived any EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse, caused by a solar event or military nuclear device) that might have been part of the event that triggered the TEOTWAWKI scenario in the first place. Of course, they must be kept powered or charged as well. These computers could be desktops, if someone has the ability to keep them powered, but laptops would be very much preferable, requiring less power and being more mobile. In theory, tablets or smartphones (iPhone or Android) could be made to work, but it would require special skills to set them up and probably some custom applications. For now, let’s assume that we will use full computers, such as laptops or desktops, running Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems. Another thing to remember is that computers, like anything else, eventually break. So, of course, the saying “two is one, and one is none” applies to computers also.

Power. I can’t stress enough the importance of being able to keep the computers powered or charged. This can be done with solar cells or generators, but don’t count on fuel being available or wait until after TEOTWAWKI to find out that your solar cells won’t cut it.

If there is an EMP, it’s very likely that any computers that were plugged directly into the grid at the time, and even many (or most?) that were not plugged in, will be “fried”. In addition, even those that were not plugged in, especially those with antennas inside them (which is really ALL laptops, tablets, and phones these days) are likely to be unusable, unless they were protected by a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage can be built inexpensively and easily in a variety of ways with common items, such as aluminum foil, an ammo can or a metal trash can, et cetera. The subject of Faraday cages is covered elsewhere, so I won’t go into it here.

Portable Storage. Portable storage can be in the form of USB Keys, SD cards, micro SD cards, or small external USB drives. All of these items have become quite inexpensive, which is good, because we need lots of them! I will call each device a “mail pouch” or just “pouch”, just to give them a common name and so I don’t have to keep writing “USB Key” or “USB Key or SD card”. Writeable DVD’s could also be useful for making backups or possibly transferring data between machines that have compatible drives, but USB Keys and SD cards are best.

Adaptors. The only other thing required is adaptors. Just about all laptops, at the time of this writing, have a USB plug, but not all have SD card slots. A simple and inexpensive USB adaptor, available at Amazon or eBay for under $10, solves this. A micro SD card normally comes with an adaptor that makes it into an SD card, so these can be read and written using the same USB adaptor. Some adaptors come with slots of various sizes to accommodate all available sizes of SD cards, which is nice, but not absolutely necessary.

In spite of their low cost, adaptors may be the weakest link in this whole scheme. Computers are everywhere, and lots of people have USB Keys lying around. There is an SD card in just about every digital camera. Micro SD cards are in many smartphones, but adaptors are a bit less common. Post TEOTWAWKI these adaptors might not be available, so make sure you have extras. Without them, we can still use USB keys only, but that would be a shame considering how ubiquitous the SD and Micro SD cards are, and because of their other advantages that will be covered later. Micro SD cards are slower and more expensive than SD cards and USB Keys, but they also may be surprisingly easy to come by after TEOTWAWKI, since they can be “mined” from piles of now useless cell phones.

What is SneakerNet?

SneakerNet is an old term (see WikiPedia, lots of good information there). It started out as a joke. I remember it from the 80’s. Basically, it’s the idea of transferring data between computers by copying it onto some medium, which could be a USB key, SD drive, CD drive, or in the old days a floppy disk and then walking it over to another computer (in your “sneakers”) and copying it to that computer. One of the most important things that a computer network (including the Internet) does, is to transfer information between computers. Without a broad civil infrastructure, most networks fail. However, as long as you have computers and portable storage, you can still have a network of sorts, even if it’s just “SneakerNet”. Reportedly, Osama bin Laden evaded the NSA for years and kept his organization running using his own SneakerNet. However, what I’m talking about is much broader than that.

Letter Re: Locking up a Well Pump

HJL,

Can you please help me understand what you mean about locking up a well pump to prevent sabotage? Even if my well pump is locked, a saboteur intent on destroying my well could still dump poison down the air vent or take a k-saw or sledge hammer to the exposed portions of the pump. Unless you are erecting an impenetrable concrete and steel structure around your pump, I don’t understand what you are protecting by putting a lock on a manual well pump.

Preventing an uninvited neighbor from cycling your well pump does not protect your well from damage. It does keep thirsty people from obtaining water, which may cause them to behave unpredictably, and withholding an unlimited supply of water from those who need it ranks among the most unchristian things I can think of to do in a disaster. This concept of placing a lock on an outdoor well pump is a real head-scratcher to me.

HJL responds: It’s similar to the concept of locking your house. If your house is built like the majority of modern houses, your house is inherently insecure. Most homes can be breached with a simple kick on the front door, but even if you take the precautions of securing the doors and even placing bars on the windows, a determined attacker is still going to gain entry. The best you can do is slow them down and make them work a little bit harder. Most criminals are lazy; if they have to work at it, they won’t bother. Years ago, the local locksmith told me that the secret to keeping your home from being broken into is to make your neighbor’s home seem more attractive to a criminal. If your neighbor puts up a chain link fence, you put up a fence and bars on your windows. If he posts a “security” sign in his yard, you post a “video security” sign in yours.

The bottom line is that if someone is determined to sabotage your well, there is very little you can do to stop him. However, you can certainly make it difficult for him. If that person is not acting with a determined mind and willing to put significant effort into it, he will simply move on. The vast majority of vandalism in this area is simply vandalism of opportunity. Just don’t give them the opportunity. After all, you probably don’t leave your front door unlocked or the keys in your car all the time either. It is important to remember that locking your front door does not prevent you from extending charity to people any more than securing your well head does.

News From The American Redoubt:

regon Man Gets Prison Sentence For Collecting Rainwater On His Own Property. – RBS

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Dad of CEO who announced 70K salaries: ‘We’re really surprised’ I wonder how surprised they will be when the price of a McDonald’s hamburger hits $15? I wonder if they can make the connection?

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Rural Residents of the People’s Republic of Oregon want to pump their own gas. – RBS

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Idaho Limits Forced Blood Draws From Motorists

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For those who are thinking of moving to the Redoubt area, Survival Realty has some awesome listings right now:

http://www.survivalrealty.com/2015/04/bookers-retreat-remote-salmon.html “The Rawles family has enjoyed exploring the Salmon River area of Idaho. It is rugged country and truly some of the most remote in the state. Currently a resort, this property offers a remarkable opportunity for a self-sufficient retreat, with rooms for multiple families in an extremely secure location.”

http://www.survivalrealty.com/2015/04/everything-idaho-greg-applegat.html “This property, near Deary, ID has room for a family to set up a truly sufficient lifestyle, without concern for the world’s events! With the addition of an independent power system, this home has everything one might need to survive.”

http://www.survivalrealty.com/2015/04/spectacular-81-acre-farmstead.html “This St. Maries property is an old homestead. Properties like this are a great pick because they’re historically proven as good sites for self-sufficiency without modern technology.”

http://www.survivalrealty.com/2015/04/tactical-hydro-retreat-strateg.html “This Sandpoint home on 30 acres is set at the end of the road, and offers an excellent location for micro-hydro power, as well as an extremely defensible location.”

Economics and Investing:

Student debt now makes up nearly half of federally owned financial assets. The student debt bubble edges on with many more unable to pay their debt.

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The Rise of the Paper Machines

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Items from Mr. Econocobas:

Grexit Fears Cause GDP Forecasts to Plummet

Did Greece Just Launch Capital Controls: “Mandatory Cash Transfer” Decreed Due To “Extremely Urgent Need” -

Student Debt Accounts For Nearly Half Of US Government “Assets”

US Teeters on Brink of Economic Collapse Due to ‘Dollar Bubble’ – Ron Paul

Notes for Monday – April 20, 2015

On April 20th, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, leased by BP, killed 11 workers and began spewing an estimated 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months, creating the worst known offshore oil spill.

April 20th is also the day that we remember the victims of the Columbine High School tragedy, where two students stormed into a suburban high school in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, at lunch time with guns and explosives, killing 13 and wounding dozens more in what was, at the time, the nation’s deadliest school shooting.

Scot’s Product Review: DeLorme inReach Explorer

The first warning is that this is an electronic device. It probably won’t work after an EMP or Carrington event. It communicates via the Iridium satellite system, which is also used by the government, so it isn’t secure, not that any electronic communications are. It depends on the GPS satellite constellation, which is another government service. The government can, when it feels like it, degrade the accuracy of civilian GPS units or even shut down the service to all but government clients. There are, therefore, drawbacks that you have to be aware of. Regardless, the DeLorme inReach offers some pretty amazing abilities, especially for those who get off the beaten path or who need to communicate or navigate in times of a disaster, short of a countrywide collapse.

There are two inReach units. The one I reviewed, thanks to a loaner from DeLorme, is the inReach Explorer. The other one is the SE. The essential difference between the two units is that the Explorer has navigation capabilities, though it has some limits. Both units allow the user to be tracked over a web page and to send and receive messages through the Iridium satellite network anywhere on the planet.

In my mind, the biggest ability with both is that you can send an SOS message, complete with your location, by flipping off the safety lock and pressing one button. The SOS message goes to GEOS http://www.geosalliance.com/, which could be thought of as an international 911 center located in Houston, Texas. GEOS, which also provides services to other vendors, will contact the emergency dispatch site closest to your location who will then send help. Your SOS message will include your position and who you are, and you can also add information about what exactly is the nature of your problem so you can get an appropriate response.

This service is not for boo boos, however; it is for serious life-threatening matters only. You could face substantial fines or other problems if you use this feature inappropriately. There may also be charges, even for legitimate search and rescue services, and GEOS offers extra cost plans to help cover those. Such charges are unlikely in the U.S., if the call was for a real emergency, although there may be costs for ambulance services and transport to a hospital. GEOS offers medevac plans to get you from the hospital you were deposited in to a hospital of your choice. That could be a huge benefit if you are far from home or in a location with subpar medical care. Information on the plans, costs, and how they work are on the GEOS http://www.geosalliance.com/ website.

Besides the SOS function, you can text message or email whoever you desire. I had to spend some time to get used to messaging with the inReach. The functions were not intuitive to my personal brain, but I persisted with bumbling about until I was able to do it. Part of the problem is that, besides the SOS button and its safety lock, there are only three controls on the unit– an enter button, an escape button, and a four-way rocker switch. The screen is about 1.5×1 inches, which is a bit small for the amount of information it can deliver. You have to scroll around a virtual keyboard with the rocker switch to compose and address messages, though it does start to learn words and addresses and prompt for them, which can help a bit.

There are pre-written messages, like “yes”, “no”, “starting trip”, “delayed”, or “pick me up” among others, which I found very useful. You can add more from the web page that works with your inReach account.

When you send a message, there is a little rotating icon next to it until it completes sending, which is helpful to know. It took me a while to figure that out, which frustrated me since I wanted to be sure the message went out. I didn’t see this information in the rather sparse “get started” manual that came with the unit, when I read it. There is, however, a lot of information on the DeLorme website that I found very helpful. There is also help information available on the device.

When someone replies to an email message, it is important for them to know that they can’t reply directly to the email. They have to go to the link that came with the email and use the messaging function on the web page. The email does warn the recipient, but many people don’t fully digest what they read. (Who, me?) If you want people to retain the ability to message you, be sure to warn them not to delete the email with the link or to at least bookmark the link.

Thankfully, you can reply directly to a text message from your cell phone. Every text message I sent came to my cellphone with the same “reply to” number, so one could add it to their address book for future use. The text message contains a link that will take you to a map showing the sender’s location, if your phone can do that. The map, as with the one that comes with an email, uses the excellent DeLorme topographic maps, as well as offering a simpler version with just the streets or a satellite view. The satellite view showed where I was sitting inside my house, which was somewhat disturbing in some ways. You can also configure it to include your longitude and latitude with a text message.

A key point to remember about messaging is that, unlike your cell phone, it is not instantaneous. To save battery life, the inReach checks at preset intervals. You can, however, change the intervals or force a check whenever you wish. You may still have to wait for a satellite to come into view, however, for the inReach to connect.

The navigation features of the inReach are helpful but rudimentary. The problem is that the maps presented on the inReach have no details. You can create a waypoint to navigate to, but you pretty much have to know its longitude and latitude. It is possible to scroll the map and point to a location, but without map features, that is tough. You can’t just ask it to show you Shellman, Georgia, how to get there, and what’s in between. Entering the information for a waypoint on the inReach itself is tedious and really requires a map with longitude and latitude.

When you subscribe to a plan for the inReach, you get access to a web page that gives you access to the excellent DeLorme topographic maps, upon which you can plan a route and place waypoints. When you connect the inReach to your computer, you can use their Sync application to upload the information to the inReach. This makes it a lot easier to use for navigation.

When you plan a route, you are actually drawing a line across the map, not saying I’m here and want to go there. It isn’t like one of the car GPS units that can follow roads automatically. This has advantages in that you can create off-road treks, but it really isn’t designed for navigating your car. You can do it, but it will take more effort than most car-oriented GPS units.

Once you have placed your waypoints in the inReach, it will show you which way to go to get to them. If you have input a route, it will guide you along it. There is also a compass, so you know which direction is which. This is all extraordinarily useful if you go astray.

You can upload contacts from the web page, which is a lot easier than entering them through the inReach. The inReach will remember any addresses to which you send a message, which does help the next time you message that person.

When you send an email message to someone, it will include your location. You can have the inReach track you at desired intervals and send periodic messages to tell people where you are. If you don’t think Facebook and Twitter are security violations, it can update those too. I didn’t try this feature, as I don’t do social networks. It is possible to set up access for family or friends, so they can ping your inReach to see where you are now, but there may be costs when they do it, depending on your service plan.

There is the usual stuff on the web page to manage your account, and you will need access to it to finalize setting up the inReach, as it requires a lot of emergency contact information should you ever need rescue.

In my view, the inReach really comes to life if you have an Android or Apple device with Bluetooth. You can pretty much run the inReach using DeLorme’s Earthmate app from the mobile device, which is a whole lot easier than using the three buttons on the inReach. Even more powerful are the full-featured maps you can download from DeLorme and display on whatever size screen you can afford and feel like carrying.

The one drawback is that I didn’t find a search function to find addresses on the PC or mobile device maps. To set a destination, you need to locate it on the map and mark it as a waypoint. On the mobile device or inReach, it will draw a straight line from where you are to the waypoint. You can create additional waypoints along the trails or roads you plan to use to force it to route you along your desired path. This gets tedious, though. The web-based, PC version gives you the option to draw the route as precisely as you desire, though it takes time and energy.

Messaging was also far easier with a paired device. You can create additional preset messages that are easily accessible from the app and access contacts in your address book. While it will send and receive messages from the mobile device through the inReach, it will not sync your contacts without an Internet connection.

I had no problems getting it to pair with a 2012 Nexus 7 tablet, and it worked quite well. One oddity to me was seeing that the app required the mobile device to have its own GPS, rather than pulling information from the inReach. So, beware of that.

One thing to always remember about the inReach is that it depends on satellites that use line-of-sight radio frequencies. That means you are trying to get a signal to something overhead; if there is much between you and the satellite, it won’t work well. The GPS in the unit was startlingly sensitive, and as noted above could even detect in which room I was hiding in my house, which has a plywood sheathed asphalt shingled roof. It didn’t work in my shed with a metal roof, so there is some safety from it.

The messaging was not as good as the GPS. It would work from a window in my office, which was a bit of surprise. It definitely worked better than the Iridium handsets I managed back in my newspaper days, so technology has improved in the last ten years. Heavy tree cover will cause issues with the messaging system, and it may be necessary to move to an area with a clearer view of the sky. It is best to have a full view of the sky, not just part of it as a satellite might be on the wrong side of whatever is preventing you from seeing the whole sky. Since there are 66 satellites in the system and they are in different planes of orbit, sooner or later most of your local sky will be covered, but it can take longer to get out a message if it has to wait for a satellite to show up. Being deep in a canyon is a particular problem as only a small part of the sky is available and it may be a long while before a satellite can see you. This is why satellite communications don’t work well in downtown cities with tall buildings.

Another concern is that messages on satellite services don’t always go through as quickly as they do on your cell phone. Satellite services use older and slower technologies. You have to add this to the wait time for a satellite to be in view. I had a wide range of times to send and receive messages, from almost instantaneous to 20 minutes. It usually took three to five minutes to punch one out from my office window and one to two minutes while we were walking the dog with it hung from my neck on a lanyard. It also worked well on a road trip hanging from my rear view mirror while driving south, but it didn’t work well at all while going north. So, apparently the car roof was blocking the needed portion of the sky.

The inReach weighs just 6.7 ounces, and it measure 6.0 inches high, 2.5 inches wide, and 1.3 inches thick. You can get it for $359.00 from Amazon. You also need a subscription service to use it. There are two types of plans– an annual contract and the Freedom plan, which allows you to suspend service whenever you don’t think you will need it. There are different levels of plans, and if you pay more you get more services. The plans run from $12 to $100 per month. The Freedom plan requires a $25 annual fee, and then you turn it on when needed for 30 day increments. You have to have an Internet connection to activate it after suspending it.

I should mention that there is another device that somewhat competes with the inReach; it’s the Personal Locator Beacon (PLB.) PLB’s run about the same price as an inReach but only do one thing– call for help. They operate on different satellites and communicate with Cospas-Sarsat– an international governmental organization. Cospas-Sarsat stands for Space System for the Search of Vessels in Distress-Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking which is a breath-taking but descriptive name. PLB’s system operates with more power and on a lower frequency than inReach’s, which gives them a better ability to reach the satellite through overhead cover. If you buy one, be sure to get one with a built-in GPS. Some don’t have this capability, which makes it harder to find you. If all you want is to get help, a PLB might be a better choice, and they have no subscription fees; however, the messaging ability of the inReach is extremely useful, in my view.

DeLorme rates the battery life at 100 hours with tracking points sent at 10-minute intervals. This will vary, depending on how much other messaging you do or how long you keep the screen lit. The rated battery life seemed realistic in my trials. It charges quickly from a USB charger.

Delorme markets inReach largely to outdoors people, like hunters, hikers, and the like. As a prepper, I have mixed feeling about the inReach. The requirements for satellite and Internet service and the inherent insecurity of electronic communications concern me. I do know I am going to buy one for my son when he starts going on scout trips next year, so I can keep track of where he is and he can call for help if needed. I may have a squabble with the scouting leadership over it but so it goes. They don’t like electronic devices on trips, but I see this as quite different from a game thing or texting on a cell phone.

One big caveat about any electronic navigational device is that you should not throw out your paper maps and compass. Electronics get broken, fail, or we forget to charge batteries. As preppers, we have concerns about EMP or Carrington events. Any electronic device that is in communication with other electronic devices is a security issue. I see inReach as a very useful tool, but we mustn’t forget these facts about electronics.

Out of curiosity, I put the inReach in one of the MobileSec Cell Phone blocker bags I reviewed in December, and a single bag appeared to completely block the signal to the Iridium and GPS satellites. It appears to me that when the inReach is powered down, it is invisible, but I can imagine times when one would want to be completely sure of privacy, and these bags would take care of that concern.

I currently live in an area with solid cell phone coverage in normal times, but I would like to have this capability on hand for hurricanes and other regional issues. If we were still spending much time outdoors out of cellular coverage, it would be a no brainer, but it is hard in my part of the country these days to escape cellular contact even when you want to. As much as I would like to have this capability, the monthly costs and initial outlay deter me until I get it for my son’s trips. I also have the feeling that they will come out with better products down the road that might answer my desire to do address searches and provide the ability to plot over road navigation as well as by straight line.

If you decide an inReach is for you, expect to spend some time learning to use it along with the web site and the Earthmate app. Like any powerful tool, it requires commitment. Some of the features aren’t obvious to find. I spent several hours working with them and then going back and doing research and then working some more. It was all worthwhile, but it wasn’t always instinctive for me. The most important function, though, getting help, is obvious and easy to use and would be a great comfort to have at any time.

– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Erie

Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Kershaw – Siege Tomahawk

Please indulge me for a few minutes, with some of my past. I was raised by my grandparents from the time I was 6-weeks old. The sad thing is that my grandparents had already raised nine kids of their own, and it sure wasn’t fair to them to have to raise me, but that’s the way it was. I had a good life though; I have no complaints. I didn’t realize it, but back then, in the 1950s, my grandparents were dirt poor. When I was younger, they both worked in the same factory on different shifts so one could be home with me. Both stopped working at some point, and my grandfather turned to alcohol to pass the time of day. Still, I had a good life with plenty of friends on my block to play with all the time. Back in those days, no one locked their doors, so it wasn’t the least bit unusual for a neighbor or friend to just open the door and come right into the apartment. It was like that on our entire block back in Chicago.

I’m sure many older SurvivalBlog readers will remember S&H Green Stamps. Many grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets would give you one S&H Green Stamp for every ten cents you spent. You pasted these little stamps into booklets, and when you had enough books filled with those stamps, you went to a department store that contained the S&H Green Stamp outlet. There, you traded the filled S&H Green Stamp booklets for something you found in their catalog. Needless to say, it took a LOT of those little stamps to fill a booklet, and it took many booklets to trade for something. I guess it was something akin to a barter system back then.

When I was six or seven years old, I longed for a hatchet and hunting knife set that I saw in the S&H catalog, and I would help my grandmother paste those stamps into the booklets, until the day came when there were enough filled booklets to take and trade for that hatchet and hunting knife set that I longed for. It was quite the big deal, at that young age, to hop on a CTA bus with my grandmother and go to downtown Chicago to the S&H redemption center to get whatever it was my grandmother could afford to get. Needless to say, she never had enough filled booklets to get everything she wanted. Again, my grandparents were poor, real poor. Many times, my grandmother would send me to the corner grocery store with a quarter to ask for 25-cents worth of baloney for a sandwich. Even at a young age, I knew the store’s owner always gave me more than 25-cents worth of lunch meat. They knew my grandparents were poor. I remiss….

I longed for “that” day, the day when my grandmother and I would hop on the bus and head downtown to trade those stamps for my prized hatchet and hunting knife set. One of my favorite tv shows back then was “Davey Crockett”, and I pictured myself out in the wilds of our backyard, hunting big ol’ bears with that hunting knife and then making a fire using the hatchet to chop some wood. I never stopped to think where the wood would come from. There weren’t any trees on our block! For whatever reason, my grandmother kept delaying heading out that day to get my treasure. Then my grandfather got off the bus. He had gone downtown and got that hatchet and hunting knife for me. I was in heaven!

Needless to say, it was a very cheap hatchet and hunting knife. The knife came dull and so did the hatchet. They had plastic handles on them that was supposed to simulate a bone handle. To this day, you can still find these sets in tourist shops around the country. Still, I was the only kid on the block who had a set-up like this. I never did get around to hunting a bear with the knife, like Davey Crockett did, nor did I ever chop down a tree with the hatchet. I owned that set until I was in my teens, too.

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All right, the above is going the long route to introduce SurvivalBlog readers to the new Siege Tomahawk from Kershaw Knives www.kershawknives.com, which I recently received for testing. To be sure, I got the first writer’s sample for testing. I’m here to tell you that this is no cheap toy hatchet. This is a masterfully-made tomahawk for serious survival and, if needed, it’s a weapon of last resort. SurvivalBlog readers are getting a first look at the Kershaw Siege, too!

A little history on the tomahawk is in order, and this goes back to Colonial days or maybe even long before that, if you consider a Native American war club as a tomahawk. In short order, our founders discovered that a tomahawk was not only a great tool to carry, but it was also an excellent weapon. Native Americans back then would trade just about anything to get their hands on a British-made tomahawk, as did many settlers, who wanted a good tool and a weapon of last resort. To this day, many in our military use tomahawks in the field, and there is one company that even sells mil-spec NSN (National Stock Number) tomahawks to our troops. During the Vietnam War, many of our Special Forces carried a tomahawk in the field, too. I’ve mentioned this before; if I were going up against someone armed with a knife, I’d much rather have a tomahawk instead of a knife. Because of the longer reach you have and the power behind a tomahawk when you swing it, it’s devastating, to say the least. Have you seen the movie The Patriot starring Mel Gibson? If so, you saw some serious use of a tomahawk or two by Gibson’s character against the British.

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The tomahawk was also used as a throwing weapon, however, I would never throw my weapon away like that. I’m not skilled enough, and most of us aren’t, in the art of throwing a tomahawk. To be sure, there are competitions held all over the country that involve throwing tomahawks, as well as logger axes and knives. Still, I would prefer to keep my weapon in my hand, instead of throwing it at an attacker.

A closer look at the Kershaw Siege shows that this big tomahawk has a double edge blade that is 4-inches long, and I’m here to tell you right now that this thing can easily shave newsprint; it’s “that” sharp. We also have a spike head on the other end that can easily penetrate a skull, without much effort, which is a great way to take out a Zombie! The Siege has a full-tang that is made out of 3Cr13 steel, and it is black oxide coated. Many tomahawks sold today had a wooden shaft or a fiberglass shaft that can break. This won’t happen with the Siege. The handle material itself is glass-filled Nylon scales, which has something called a K-Texture; it’s rubbery and clings to your hand, too. On the end of the handle is a nail-puller, and it can also be used as a pry bar. I’m not sure where a nail-puller comes into play, if you are out in the wilds, but it’s there just the same. The weight of the Siege is 1-lbs 1.6-oz, but it feels heavier, perhaps because of the long shaft. It also comes with a sheath and a belt loop on the back. However, the belt loop isn’t large enough to fit on a military pistol belt, which is a disappointment to me.

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When my delivery guy brought the package from Kershaw, he asked what it was. He knew full well that it wasn’t ammo , which he brings me so often. I told him what was in the box and asked him if he wanted to see it. Needless to say, he jumped at the opportunity, and he helped me open (he ripped) the box to get at the contents. He then ripped the Siege out of the blister packaging, too. He was like a kid in a candy store; it is nice! He loved the feel and the balance of the Siege, and I have to agree with him on this point. He announced he was getting one as soon as he could.

I have a small homestead in western Oregon on slightly less than four acres. This is all the land I need, and it’s a lot of work keeping it up, too. We are always having a problem with blackberry vines; they can grow a foot a day when weather conditions are right. Luckily, this time of year they are dormant, but they’re still there. It always serves as a great test to see how sharp a knife is, as many knife blades will either slip off a blackberry vine or simply bend it or break it but not cut it through. The Siege easily sliced right through the blackberry vines. I used the spike head, and it easily penetrated half inch plywood. I could easily chop on fallen trees. The long shaft of the Siege really gives you some power, compared to a shorter hatchet that many campers carry. I even tried my hand at throwing the Siege, and it actually stuck in a tree, many times. Sometimes it would stick by the head, sometimes by the spike, and sometimes by the end with the nail puller. I would suggest, though, if you use the nail puller end that you keep the sheath on the Siege to prevent getting cut by the head of the tomahawk or getting poked by the spiked end should your hand slip.

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With the all-steel construction of the Siege, it is a bit heavier than a wooden shaft or fiberglass shift tomahawk, especially compared to those used in throwing competitions. The longer shaft makes the Siege a bit slower in the hand when swinging it. Still, the Siege is an awesome tool and weapon of last resort, in my humble opinion. You simply are NOT going to break this thing, and during all my testing and throwing it I didn’t do any damage to the thing! Wow! It got a little dirty, but it cleaned right up. The only change I’d make is to have a larger belt loop on the sheath so it will fit on a U.S. pistol belt or allow it to attach to MOLLE gear on a backpack. That would be nice.

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You can go out and purchase one of those cheap $12 survival hatchets, but they can’t compare to the Siege tomahawk from Kershaw. Quality doesn’t come cheap. However, in this case, the full retail of the Siege is only $79.99, which is quite a bargain, and you’ll never have to replace it; it will last your lifetime. What I would have given to have had a Siege back when I was a kid. There’s not a doubt in my mind that I could have tamed the entire wilderness of Chicago.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Chick Pea Pudding

Hello Hugh, here is a simple and highly nutritious chocolate chick pea pudding recipe made from all food storage ingredients. The pudding has no beany taste, and if you have a Vitamix or blend the chick peas long enough in a regular blender there is no graininess. I also have used oats as a thickener, in case a person does not use flour or corn starch.

Ingredients:

  • 1-15 oz. can chick peas or garbanzo beans
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cups non fat powdered milk
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/4-1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. oats
  • 1 Tsp. powdered egg
  • berries ( optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. oil or butter (optional)

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse the peas/beans three times.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients into Vitamix or blender; blend on high 3-5 minutes, until contents are smooth and no longer grainy.
  3. Prepare a double boiler. Alternatively, if you have no double boiler, place two dinner knives in the bottom of a cast iron skillet, add water to barely cover the knives. Place a medium-sized heavy sauce pan on top of the dinner knives.
  4. Pour blender contents into the top portion of the double boiler or the heavy sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the pudding begins to thicken.
  5. Pour into serving cups or dishes.

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Useful Recipe and Cooking Links:

Do you have a favorite recipe that would be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers? Please send it via e-mail. Thanks!

Letter Re: Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Inter Ordnance “AK-47″

Hugh/JR:

I own the same rifle; I just bought it last fall. Full concurrence with all Pat’s observations, but the plastic furniture can be a drawback. During repeat (not full auto) firing, the hand guard failed (melted) at the forward-most position, welding the heat-softened material to the increasingly-hot barrel.

I recommend owners of this otherwise fine product consider either increasing the gap between the plastic hand guard and the barrel or swapping it for one of different material.

V/R

Economics and Investing:

The World Bank has been found to have violated its own policies, on protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

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Ford to spend $2.5 billion on plants in Mexico, angering UAW. – A.W.

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Oil Busts Triggering Economic Seizures: “A Stream of Bankruptcy Attorneys Running Around”. – H.L.

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1 out of 4 college adjunct faculty collecting government assistance: Students in debt and professors barely getting by all the while tuition soars.

Odds ‘n Sods:

The Death of the Left. – H.L.

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Car thieves’ scary new tool. – D.S.

HJL Adds: While the article on the dangers of new technology was interesting, I found the link to the video of the scythe-vs-weed whacker at the end of the article to be incredibly amazing.

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This New Libertarian Micronation Might Just Be Crazy Enough to Work. – H.L.

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SurvivalBlog reader L.B. has recommended the OneYardRevolution channel on YouTube. Its focus is on frugal and sustainable organic gardening. In particular, L.B. likes that he doesn’t waste your time by constantly repeating himself.