Poll: What are the Best Items to Store for Barter and Charity?

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Everyone seems to have their own opinions about what are the best items to keep on hand for post-TEOTWAWKI bartering. I did mention a large variety of barter items in the Barter Faire chapter of my novel Patriots  (The chapter titled: “For an Ounce of Gold.”) Of course many of the same items are important to keep on hand to dispense as charity.

Since two heads are better than one, and by extension 5,000 heads are better than two, I’m taking a poll:  Please e-mail me your lists of preferred barter and charity items, and I will gladly post them.

My personal favorites are:
.22 Long Rifle rimfire ammo
1 oz. bottles of military rifle bore cleaner
Waterproof duffle bags (“dry bags”)
Thermal socks
Semi-waterproof matches (from military MRE rations)
Military web gear (lots of folks will *suddenly* need pistol belts, holsters, magazine pouches, et cetera.)
Pre-1965 U.S. silver dimes
1 gallon cans of kerosene
1 pound canisters of salt (may be worth plenty in inland areas)
Small bottles of two cycle gas mixing oil (for chainsaw fuel)
Rolls of olive drab parachute cord
Rolls of olive drab duct tape
Spools of monofilament fishing line
Rolls of 10 mil “Visqueen” sheet plastic (for replacing windows, etc.)

I also respect the opinion of one gentleman with whom I’ve corresponded, who recommended the following: Strike anywhere matches.
Playing cards.
Cooking spices.
Rope and string.
Sewing supplies.
Candle wax/wick.

Again, I would greatly appreciate seeing your barter and charity item lists.  Please e-mail me your lists and I will post them in the next few days.

Radiation Protection Factors for Dummies – by L.H.

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When building a homemade fallout shelter in a basement, or on a cement slab inside the first floor, it is important to understand halving thickness and protection factors.
First of all, after a nuclear detonation, there will be light, heat, and a blast wave. This essay assumes that you will be out of that target area, with your home and roof intact. If you are close to targets, you may need better shelter than this improvised model. At the end of this essay I will list a few sources showing target maps, fallout maps, blast areas, etc.
Fallout is the mixture of the dirt and materials at the site of the blast, all mixed up with radioactive material. Every single piece is radioactive. Near the blast it can fall out like gravel, then farther away like rice grains, then like sand, and then like fine powder. And every fallout particle is sending out gamma rays.

You need to take almost immediate shelter for the gamma radiation from fallout. Gamma rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, like radio waves and X-rays and light. If you picture the fallout landing on trees and the ground being like tiny little light bulbs, you realize that even in a basement there will be dim, indirect light. If your basement walls stick up a couple feet above the ground level, there will be lots of little light bulbs all along the edge of the basement shining at you. As light and radio waves reflect off the atmosphere, in the same way the gamma rays scatter off the air. Little light bulbs will land on trees and the roof. You want to dim/block them as much as possible, on all four sides and overhead.

A halving thickness is the amount of material that will block half of the gamma rays passing through it. Any mass will block them, whether lead or feathers, sand or chocolate bars, as long as you have enough mass. You can use all of your survival foods and other items to add extra shielding.
Here is a list of materials and their approximate halving thicknesses. (References differ slightly when listing these figures.)

2.2” concrete
3.5” sand or dirt
4.4” water
8.8” wood
7” books or magazines
4”hollow concrete blocks
3.2” red bricks
5” broken anthracite coal
5” wet peat moss

Here is where many items you are storing up can contribute to shielding. [JWR Adds: If in sealed containers, these foodstuffs will still be safe to consume after shelter emergence if any residual fallout dust is first washed off of the exterior of the container.]
7” sugar
7” navy or soy beans
7” butter or oil
7” shelled corn
7” wheat
7” potatoes
7” rice
12” coffee beans
9” apples

Now, one layer of any item above will block half the gamma rays. That is 1/2, which is called a protection factor (PF) of 2 (read only the denominator of the fraction). 1/2 of the rays are hitting you, 1/2 are blocked. By adding one more halving thickness, you block half of the remaining gamma rays, so now 1/4 are hitting you. So you have a protection factor (PF) of 4. Another layer blocks 1/2 of that remaining 1/2 of the radiation, so that means only 1/8 of the original total outside radiation is hitting you, and you have a PF of 8.
A fourth layer of anything listed above blocks half of that 1/8 radiation still entering, so now we only have 1/16 of the outside gamma rays hitting our body. ( PF 16)
5 layers= PF 32
6 layers=PF 64
7 layers=PF 128
8 layers=PF 256
9 layers=PF 512
10 layers=PF 1024

Now, how much of a PF do you need? The answer involves how much gamma radiation, or rads/ Roentgens, are in the fallout outside your house. They are called “R”. The less R the better. 50 in one day is considered the most you can safely handle, or 10 a day for a week, or 100 over the course of two weeks. So your shelter must not let you get more than 100 R in two weeks. (It is far safer to get none or almost none.)

So, how many R will be outside after bombs, and how does PF relate?  The first question depends on where you are and where the bombs are, how big the bombs are, and where the wind is blowing. If you are 25 miles from a total of two megatons blowing your direction, during the course of two weeks there will about 4,500 R total outside. If 200 Russian bombs go off nationwide, the East coast can easily get 20,000 R outside during two weeks. If you are 25 miles from a target that might get four big bombs you could easily have 20,000 R outside. Suitcase nukes would produce much less fallout. You have to decide if you expect limited suitcase nukes, a limited Russian strike with MIRVs (several bombs on one target area equaling one megaton total), or a “real” nuclear war with perhaps hundreds of big bombs of two or more megatons each. Sources below show fallout possibility maps.
Now, how does PF relate to the R outside?
Remember that the bottom denominator of the fraction is the PF, telling you what fraction of the fallout (R) is hitting you. A PF of 2 means half of it is hitting you. A PF of 16 means 1/16 of it is hitting you. A PF of 100 means only 1/100 is hitting you.
If it is 20,000 R total outside during two weeks, you don’t want to get more than 100 R, so you need a PF of 200. Makes sense? Divide the R by the PF. 20,000 divided by 200=100. If one 2 megaton bomb detonates near you, and the R over two weeks is 4,000, what PF do you need to only get 100 R? 4,000 divide by what equals 100? Answer is 40.So, a shelter with a PF of only 40 can save your life. This is the FEMA minimum standard. PF 200 is much safer. The ideal is PF 1,000, which equals about 3 feet of dirt or sand, or 22” of cement. STRIVE TO GET AS CLOSETO A PF 1000 AS YOU CAN, OR AT THE VERY LEAST A PF 200.
Now the basement shelter should have a PF 1000 on all four sides. If you cover the exposed sides of the basement, outside, up and over the ceiling level, with ten layers of the halving thickness chart items (3 feet of sand or 4 feet of hollow concrete blocks) your basement will have an automatic PF of 10. That means 90% of the fallout is already blocked, and you need to only get a PF of 100 on the four inside walls and overhead for a total PF of 1000. That means seven layers of the materials listed above.
4 feet thick of old magazines and paper will work. Stagger some water barrels. You can get 5 gallon buckets of wheat and rice and beans, and stagger them so there is 4 feet total of wheat and beans on the sides. About 5 feet of wood works too. Personally, I think the 7 foot thick wall of coffee is a good idea.

The hardest part is the overhead shielding. A basement support with 10.5” of sand 3.5×3) has three halving thicknesses or a PF of 8. Add one more layer and you are up to PF 16. My first and second floor and roof are at least another halving thickness for a PF of 32.
(This is easily done with the steel shelving units at Home Depot that hold 2,000 lbs per each top shelf (20 cubic feet of sand): with two units that is a foot of sand over 40 square feet. [this was my method, but I don’t trust the specs and used more supports per cubic foot.] Or make your own supports with 4×4’s, or cinder blocks with 1/2 inch plywood. Try to get 4 layers ( PF 16) overhead, using sand, or maybe some cinder blocks with a waterbed on top of that. Hopefully the house floors and roof will then get you to PF 32.)
As soon as the bombs go off, you pile 7” of books and wheat and beans on the first floor directly overhead. That gives you a PF of 64. (The overhead PF of 32-64 will save your life if all four sides are PF 1000, even if fallout is severe.) Better to pile on more stuff though, another 7” of stuff- plenty of your cans and heavy items. Anything with mass. That gives you a PF of 128 just from last minute living room piles. This is for a worst case scenario. But if we have a limited strike, the fallout will be far less for most of us. Even one waterbed overhead on the first floor, with 9” of water, gives a PF of 4. That means you get 1/4 of the initial radiation. If it is 600 R overhead, with no shelter you will get severely ill and might die. Just using the waterbed over the basement with basement walls covered up outside all the way up, means that you get 150 R and will be basically OK.
So, the moral of this story is, start now and do what you can. Don’t feel like it is useless to only do a little, if you can’t do a perfect shelter. Do what you can now and build up the shielding as you get money. Start with a foot on all sides, and try and get to 18”. Then go for two feet next summer. Think about your stash of preps and books, and what can go overhead on the first floor. Mark off the first floor spot that will have last minute cans and buckets and books. Clear the basement area, and get the flashlights and bedding ready. Try really, really, hard to do something in the basement- overhead- now, even an old table you can lie down under covered with cans and buckets.

You can find lots of useful information here: http://www.radshelters4u.com/, including a free download of Nuclear War Survival Skills, and all sorts of maps and diagrams.
Our favorite book for basement shelters is J Allan South’s “The Sense of Survival.” This wonderful little chart compares the mass of many items. Use sand and dirt as your standard for a halving thickness, and you can see how various things like beans and wheat and wood compare.  http://www.reade.com/Particle_Briefings/spec_gra2.html

JWR Adds: I consider a home fallout shelter a must for anyone that is serious about preparedness.  The end of the Cold War–culminating with the breakup of the former Soviet Union–significantly increased the risk of the use of nuclear weapons. (Since traditional nation states are are much more responsible with their toys than are rogue states or terrorist groups.)  Two SurvivalBlog advertisers (Safe Castle and Ready Made Resources) offer prefabricated shelters as well as consulting on shelter construction and HEPA air filtration systems.  Also, be sure to read the extensive information on fallout shelter design, construction and ventilation available for free download at Dr. Arthur B. Robinson’s Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine web site.

Letter from “Fred the Valmet Meister” Re: Low Compression / Low RPM Stationary Engines

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I just discovered these cool “Hit and Miss” gas engines made in the 1920s and 1930s by Maytag. They were used to power washing machines. Very simple engine; maybe one horsepower. You start it with a foot pedal that leverages a gear to spin the crankshaft to get it going. What a wonderful little engine for a remote location.  These could be used to power the washing machine or even run a small generator to charge up a bank of 12 volt batteries. I noticed that there are currently several for sale on eBay and they even have leather drive belts for them and water pumps. Could be used to fill up a water tank for gravity feed. – Fred

Letter Re: The Micro-Farm Tractor

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In response to the excellent article, “The Micro-Farm Tractor”, I have to say my best bet for all-around small farm tool would be the diesel all terrain vehicle (ATV). ATVs have quickly infiltrated into many farms today, as haulers, sprayers, snowplows, transport, and so on. You can purchase many available farm accessories that make it into the equivalent of a mini-tractor, as well has many hunting related accessories, since they appeal to the hunter’s market as well, like gun racks, camo, storage, and essential noise-cutting mufflers (very effective units can be had at Cabela’s). I would suggest a diesel unit, since they are longer lasting, more reliable, and you can use stored (for several years with proper preservation) or improvised diesel (biodiesel.)  I was out elk hunting last year in foul weather and I immediately saw the advantage hunters had getting around in the muck with an ATV. If we had actually taken an elk, we would have had to spend all weekend hauling pieces of it out! (In a way we were glad we didn’t get one where we were hunting, seven miles down a mucky old road, with steep hills to the right and a steep ravine to the left). With an ATV, we could have gotten a whole animal out in one or two goes, with a lot less slogging in the muck. Just make sure you’ve got a winch, and maybe even a come-along. Also, many of the hunters were able to cruise with an ATV on trails that would (and have) gotten me stuck in the mud. To sum it up, I plan on purchasing one or two as soon as our move to a few acres of rural property in southern utah is completed early next year to use as my mini-tractor, hunting companion, snowplower, all-around hauler and 4 wheel drive short distance transport. – Dustin

JWR Replies:  In addition to biodiesel, you can also legally use home heating oil if operating off road. (The only significant differences between diesel and home heating oil are the “no tax cheating” added dye and the standard for ash content.) There are several options for diesel-powered ATVs. These include:

The Kawasaki Mule. See: http://www.atvsource.com/manufacturers/kawasaki/2003/mule_3010_diesel.htm


The John Deere Gator. See:  http://off-road.com/atv/reviews/quads/gator-2003_02/

(The U.S. Army Special Forces uses John Deere Gators, but I’m not sure if that’s because they are the best ones made, or just because of a “Buy American”  contracting clause. Perhaps one of our SurvivalBlog readers in SOCOM can comment on their opinion of the Gators.

Note: Polaris also made a diesel quad back around 2002, but they were reportedly problematic, so they were quickly discontinued.

Letter from Mr. Lima Re: CONEX Containers

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Per the letter from the Blog reader regarding CONEX containers- Yes they are a great way to store bulk supplies at your retreat. I’ve been using them for almost eight years now and have noticed several things when using them.

First, try to get one made of “COR-TEN” steel. My father has years of metalworking experience and pointed out one of ours that is made of COR-TEN. It reputedly holds up better. I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the one COR-TEN we have compared to several others not made of it.

You might want to weigh the difference in cost between finding one locally or buying one closer to the coast and preferably a major seaport where they will be cheaper. Shipping costs being the deciding factor, as well as condition of container. We’ve never paid more than $1,500 for a 40 foot container and you can find them for around $1,000. if you shop around. Keep in mind most places will just give you a general quote on the phone. You want to go to their yard and check one out for yourself, make sure the doors close and latch properly, climb up on the roof, and inspect closely for holes.

Figure out EXACTLY where you want it dropped, unless you have heavy equipment- and I don’t mean a small tractor- you will not be moving it from that position.

Go to the junkyard and get four to six old metal tire rims. Put them down on the corners below the container. It will help air circulate a little bit under it. We’ve had problems with moisture coming up from the ground in to two of the units. Doing this helped the problem immensely.

Readers should plan to ventilate the containers, as you mentioned, even if it’s just for storage. They get very hot. Might not be an issue up North, but it is here in the South.

Re: Use as a bunker or as hardened shelter, etc. Keep in mind that CONEX/SeaLand type containers have most of their strength in the floor and on the corners of the roof (which is probably why they can stack them a dozen high on ships). You absolutely MUST reinforce the insides if you plan on completely burying one. (Such as 6x6s or heavy timbers.)

Here is what [U.S. Army] FM 5-103 “Survivability” says about containers (page 4-31):
“Large metal shipping containers such as CONEX containers, are used to make effective shelters… …are easily converted into protective command posts, communications shelters, troop shelters, aid stations, and shelters for critical supplies. Because the CONEX container’s floor is stronger than it’s roof, it is inverted to resist more blast and provide some overhead cover. Although the shelter sometimes constructed above ground, it is easier to construct it below ground by placing the inverted CONEX container in a hole half it’s height and then covering the roof with earth.”

For our purposes, shipping containers make great storage facilities and can make use as initial entrances into shelter systems, housing for families, etc. They are fairly secure and can be used for pre-positioning of bulk supplies even at the “absentee owner” type retreat. Hope this helps. – Mr. Lima

Letter Re: Understanding Human Immune System Response to Infection

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Hello! I just finished reading Patriots   for a third time – INCREDIBLE book. I’m also a good friend of “Dr. Buckaroo Banzai.” I have a master’s degree in immunology and teach in a nursing program at a local college. My comments are aimed at the general education of the readership of your blog. The immune system operates largely on the function of T-helper cells. There are two main T-helper varieties. One variety (T-h1) deals with intracellular pathogens (viruses, few bacteria) and the other (T-h2) deals with extra-cellular pathogens (majority of bacteria, protozoa, fungi).  What separates these two groups are the cytokines (chemicals which modulate immune response) that are released. T-h1 cytokines promote immunity to intracellular pathogens AND SUPRESS the function of T-h2 cells. What this means is that the body’s response to a viral infection WILL leave the patient more susceptible to a bacterial infection. The opposite is true as well – bacterial infections leave the body less prepared to deal with viral infections. Just thought you’d want some of the background here! Keep up the good work, keep your powder dry, and God bless! – Dr. Rocky J. Squirrel

Letter Re: Power Outage Alarms

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Thanks for keeping up the good work. I have inadvertently discovered a great power outage alarm. We were bought a carbon monoxide detector a while back. Whenever the power is cut, or the unit is un-plugged, it WILL wake you up!   I don’t know how long it continues to go off because it is so loud, I get it stopped right away. This is an item we should all have, too, just to detect the carbon monoxide. – Sid

Note from JWR:

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Today we feature still another entry for the SurvivalBlog writing contest. The prize is a transferable four day course certificate, good for any course at Front Sight. Get your non-fiction articles submitted via e-mail by the end of November to be considered for the contest. Most of the articles that have been submitted thusfar are fairly general.  Feel free to submit detailed articles on specific topicsAll will be considered for posting.

Jeff in Afghanistan on: The Combat/Survival Mindset

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I have been a soldier, police officer, and am now working overseas as a security contractor in Afghanistan. I’ve attended and given a great deal of firearms related training, and over the past few years I’ve started to see a serious deficiency in typical law enforcement and self defense training. The United States is a country filled with people who live lives mostly untouched by serious violence. That fact is a good thing, and is a testament to our country, but it handicaps us in the way we train ourselves and our warriors, particularly our police. I want to cut directly to the main issue I see. In my experience most shooters who practice with any frequency have decent basic skills. I see quite a few who are very good shots and have some basic tactical skills. Americans have access to good firearms and equipment, as do American police officers. However, I believe most self defense minded people, and indeed most police officers, are trained to fail by their departments, their instructors, and their society.

Most police departments require officers to qualify quarterly, and many departments are moving toward realistic shooting and away from static paper punching. The department I worked for offered different holsters for officers, and if officers wanted to change, they had to practice with the holster and demonstrate at the range that they could smoothly draw and make accurate shots very quickly. Technically most of the officers were decent and some were quite skilled with their equipment. Many fired their weapons on a weekly basis and dry fired daily to keep skills sharp.

Where the department and society in general let them down was in mental preparation. If an officer is involved in a shooting, the officer is immediately put on suspension while the incident is investigated. Most of the time, though admittedly not all, the suspension creates a pall around the officer. Counselors are brought in and the officer is typically required to attend. The legal environment is such that officers live in fear of the almost certain law suit that will follow the shooting. If the officer has done everything right, the chances of losing an actual trial in front of a jury are small, but officers know the agency/city or county my settle for a lesser amount to put the issue away. City managers would rather write a smaller check and settle with the wounded or dead criminal’s family than suffer the small percentage chance of suffering a multi-million dollar judgment in court. This scenario assumes the officer survived the shooting, or more accurately, applied all his training to the situation, made the right decisions, and used his skill with his weapons to defend his life or the life of another. Many other officers lose their lives because the doubts and fears we train into them cause them to hesitate at the critical moment and lose the encounter.

We have in effect trained our officers to fail. This applies to citizens training for self defense as well, because much of the training taken by citizens is at the same schools police officers use. Indeed, at the local level, many of our police officer run side businesses and train locals in basic skills so they can qualify for concealed carry permits.
The fact that an officer is immediately removed from duty after a shooting, investigated while the media has a field day and his department offers non-committal statements until they see which way the legal/public opinion wind is blowing pounds the idea in the officer’s mind that he has done something wrong or heinous. The officer is taught that defending himself, doing the job he was hired to do, is bad. He is also taught that he should feel quite remorseful after the action, and due to that remorse require counseling. Those facts are also observed by his fellow officers. These activities set the officer up for a difficult future.

I understand the legal ramifications for a department and I know why officers are given days off after a critical incident such as a shooting. What I am arguing against is the passive and shameful mindset that accompanies a shooting. When an officer survives a shooting by employing his skills, he should be rewarded not taught to feel shame and fear of legal reprisal.
Likewise, a citizen who defends his family from an intruder at 3 a.m. has done a heroic thing, not something to be ashamed of. If you disagree with my stance here, ask yourself what you would say to a family member who shot an intruder: Would it be, “Oh my goodness, that is terrible, you must feel awful” or would it be, “Congratulations, your kids and family are safe and you did the right thing.” If you read this website, you might be one of the rare people to offer encouragement, but you also know what the majority of people would say.

My Experience
In my current position I face more violence than I did as a soldier or a police officer. I also face a less complicated legal environment, though I do occupy a gray area in terms of use of force in this country, and therefore have to worry about losing my job or suffering prosecution in local courts. I have been in several shootings here, some that would best be described as small battles. A few times I have been in one, and then in another later in the day. I am not given time off, counseling, or therapy, nor do I need it. The actions I have taken were proper and I do not lose a wink of sleep over it. Speaking to my police friends brought home these problems for me, because I heard repeated statements such as, “How do you deal with it, that must be very tough…etc.”

The work can be difficult, but I was hired because I am an armed professional, and I should not fall to pieces the first time I am required to demonstrate that professionalism. If I had fallen apart, my employer would have been right to fire me. I don’t suffer any mental anguish over my work, because I am a professional, understand my environment, and act properly. These lessons may seem far removed from your situation, but if you carry or own a weapon for protection, your outlook should be the same as mine. It does no good to survive a shooting, and then crumble afterward.

Societal Issues
Our society will not admit that it is proper to defend yourself or your family at the current time due to several factors in my opinion, but that does not make the desire to defend yourself and your family any less worthwhile or heroic. The United States has had an increasing standard of living for many years, and many people are generations removed from genuine life threatening hardship. This has resulted in a mental and physical softening of the general population. They have never been faced with life and death choices and cannot truly conceive that others have. It is also a fact that it takes large amounts of money to own media outlets and most people who have enough money to own or hold high positions in such media outlets reside in major cities. They live in a world even more insulated than most other Americans (already an insulated group as a whole), and they present their view of the world in their newspaper or on their television channel. Thus Americans see a skewed view of life in the media. I am not broaching the “liberal bias” issue here, simply saying that most of the people who own major media share certain life experiences and tend to represent those in the media. Those life experiences are not consistent with the way the majority of Americans live.

Issues You Should Consider
If you are involved in a shooting, whether as a police officer or a citizen, you should consider a few ideas. Be confident in yourself and your actions, but do not make broad statements to friends, the media, or peers until the legal situation is resolved. Don’t wear offensive or tasteless clothing (such as, “The only good criminal is a dead criminal,” or “Gun control means shooting with two hands”) either before or after the incident. While these things may seem funny, you will be tried in the court of public opinion as well as a court of law, and both may be done concurrently at times. You should not want your actions to appear lighthearted or frivolous about what you have done. The confidence you should have is not the kind to trumpet on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. You have protected yourself and/or your family and you should be proud and confident, but not to the point of your own detriment.
If you are a police officer, attend any training and or counseling your department requires. But do so with an air of quiet confidence, not shame or fear. If your department gives you several days off after the incident, don’t sit home and brood about the incident. Take your spouse and children out of town for a few days to a place you will all enjoy. Go to dinner and be your normal self. You will instill confidence in them by your actions, and they will learn valuable lessons about self defense and dignity from you. Conduct yourself as properly as you did during the incident, and be happy, because you are still alive and able to enjoy the ones you love.

We all have a right to a decent, safe life. When some thug tries to steal that right from us or someone we love, and we shoot him, we have not done a bad act, he has. We cannot change our society as a whole, at least not quickly, but we can change how we feel and view our own actions. Be proud of yourself and your decision to be responsible for your own life and continue holding your head high if you are forced to use your firearm to defend yourself or your family.

Letter Re: CONEX Containers

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I’ve recently been shopping around for used sea containers [Continental Express or "CONEX" transoceanic shipping containers], primarily to replace the weathered sheds that came with our property. While I haven’t sold my wife on the idea yet, we have been looking at metal sheds, which are more expensive and much less durable. You can purchase sea containers for a fairly reasonable price (approximately $1500 for a 20’ unit). Naturally, I started thinking about other possible uses for them (shelter, fallout shelter, etc.), and wanted to see if you, or any other bloggers, had any experience with using them in the survival context. They’re weather tight, can be purchased insulated, and are steel. Seems like there must be some pretty interesting possibilities there. – P.H.

JWR Replies:  I agree that despite the recent price increases, CONEXes are still a bargain. Many thousands of U.S. soldiers and Marines are billeted in converted CONEXes in Iraq.  These are called Containerized Housing Units (CHUs).  This consists of CONEX retrofitted with a door, window, top vent, power cabling, and an air conditioning unit.  These are pretty Spartan accommodations, but it sure beats living in a tent.

Just keep in mind that if you use a CONEX for above ground storage then a “spinner” vent should definitely be added to the roof . Why?  Because CONEXes tend to sweat inside.  (For the same reason, do not stack cardboard boxes directly against the interior walls.)

Don’t count on a CONEX being truly secure storage if your retreat property is not continuously occupied. Welding on a shroud to protect a padlock from attack by bolt cutters is a good idea. But given enough time, a determined thief will just come back with a cutting torch.

Perhaps some SurvivalBlog readers will have some detailed suggestions for the various uses of CONEXes, or if any of you are deployed troops that are billeted in a CHU, please e-mail me with your comments!

Letter Re: STANO Components

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I am fairly new to the survival lifestyle and I’m still learning. I’ve been in the military and have been hunting and shooting since I was a small child, so I’m okay there. I’m interested in obtaining some night vision goggles for use after hurricanes (I live in southeast Louisiana) and for patrols if TEOTWAWKI occurs. One of my neighbors is way ahead of me and has actually done some business with you on Valmet parts, etc. He trusts you and I trust him, so I wanted to get your opinion on STANO Components. I assume that since they are a link on your website that you have personal experience with them and that they are a reputable company. However, in today’s world, I feel it is necessary to confirm this. Would you please share with me your feelings and opinions regarding STANO Components? Thank You, – R.V. in Louisiana

JWR Replies: I only know of Al Glanze (who operates STANO Components, Inc., in Silver City, Nevada) by reputation. But what a great reputation! One of the SurvivalBlog readers featured in the Profiles section (“Mr. Tango”–a night vision expert) told me that he has bought nearly all of his night vision gear from STANO Components. He tells me that Al Glanze is extremely reputable, sells only top quality gear, and has a fantastic reputation for customer service. He mentioned that on several occasions Al was willing to let “Mr. Tango” hand pick image intensifier tubes based on “in the field” side-by-side nighttime tests. (Checking for subtle differences such as minimum scintillation–commonly called “the sparklies.”) Virtually all of the U.S.-made scopes that STANO Components sells come with certified data sheets. (Stating the exact number of line pairs and other critical data.)

Beware that there is a lot of junk on the night vision market–especially Russian junk–with fake data sheets. Most of the rebuilt U.S.-made equipment one the market was put together on someone’s kitchen table, often using image intensifier tubes of dubious quality with an unknown number of hours of operating time. But, in contrast, you can buy from STANO Components with confidence.

Letter From Argentina Re: Post-Collapse Political Turmoil, Health Care, and Gambling

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Mr. Rawles.
I read your book and I found it both entertaining and full of information as many others did. I live Argentina, South America where things have been hard after the 2001 economical collapse we suffered. We changed five presidents in one week, if you can believe that, and well… we are struggling to get back on our feet, though it sometimes it seems that it’s impossible. “When it finally seems as if we hit bottom, someone starts to shovel.”
I started reading your letters on Survivalblog.com and find them, again full of valuable insight. There are a couple of things that, in my most humble personal experience, might differ from what you estimate may happen after a crisis. Medical health companies, for example have made a lot of profit. This is because public health isn’t worth a penny, they are on strike most of the time and lack the most basic health implements like disposable needles, cotton, etc. People either have private health insurance or die like rats over here. As for the popularity of gambling and casinos, don’t ask me why please, I’m clueless, but it seems that the poorer the people, the more they gamble. Most poor neighborhoods, some that even lack tap water or gas service, places that don’t even have light, there you can find one big shiny Bingo in the middle of the place. Please excuse my English, its not as good as it should be. Just wanted to let you know how things developed over here, concerning those issues, thought you might find them interesting. I posted some general thoughts concerning urban survival at a place called frugalsquirrel.com under the name of FerFAL at the General Patriot Discussion forum: http://www.frugalsquirrels.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=1;t=044387;p=1

It’s just things I noticed, some stuff I do myself to get by, in this now-turned Third World country. Regards, – Fernando in Argentina