The Pre-Test and the Ultimate Test

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There may come a day when you have to put all of your training and preparations to use. That will be ultimate test of whether or not you have a true survival mindset. Do you think that you are ready for WTSHTF, physically and mentally? Assuming that you live in the suburbs, try a weekend “grid down” test with your family. This will test both your mental preparedness and how well you have prepared for the basics. Here is how it is done: Some Friday evening, unannounced, turn off your main circuit breaker and shut the valves the gas main and the water main. Leave them off until Monday morning. You might be surprised how the weekend goes. One thing that I can guarantee you: Some of the most accurate lists of logistics that you will ever compose are those written by candlelight.

Now, assuming that your weekend test goes well, extrapolate to a situation where your entire community is in the same circumstances. Then add to that some turmoil: bullets are flying and perhaps there is even the occasional stray mortar round. The recent civil wars in Kosovo and Macedonia are good points of reference.

Letter Re: Security for Unattended Retreats

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Hello Jim,
Todd’s article [on Friday, November 23rd] was a good discussion on the all encompassing aspects of your retreat. It has been some time since security has been discussed on the blog, namely security systems. Here are some things that could, (should) alert you to a detrimental event at your intended retreat when you do not live there.
Have a security system wired into you future retreat, motor home, CONEX, outbuilding, etc… I would venture a cost range from $300-to-$2,000 to cover your structure from basic to very well covered. Monitoring varies and will likely run around a Dollar a day.

There are countless options that provide “extra sets of eyes and ears” at your retreat during life as we know it. There are many companies that will give you support so you can install your own system. They will likely cash sale you the necessary wire and components. Then you can have them come out and connect it to a monitoring service that will call anyone you decide either before or after calling the authorities, it is customizable. If you would like it to call a trusted neighbor, your pager, or your own phone, it is possible.

If your retreat is already built, you can go with wireless sensors that have great range and extremely simple to install. A huge piece of mind can be offered by adding moisture sensors and temperature sensors to your system that will along with fire, contact you and the monitoring service can tell you that your heat source has failed, smoke is detected, water is detected, and so forth. All without having to compromise a key to your retreat and the password to your alarm.

You can add different user passwords so you can tell whom has been there and when. It is amazing what is available. Don’t forget the weakest link which is the hard-line to the property. Vandal proof it, or better yet, discuss underground thru foundation service. This is available, you just have to ask and possibly bear the risk of having to pay the phone companies technicians to come in and troubleshoot future line problems rather than it be on their dime when the demark point is outside the structure. If you don’t want the possibility of having the technician inside your structure, then harden the wire with stout metal pipe where it is above ground, possibly make a hardened sheet that protects the demark point from impact or bolt cutters. Details will have to be worked out with your utility company. At the very least this will add considerable work and noise to attempt to terminate your phone line.

If you have multiple structures on your property, don’t forget to bury an underground high speed Cat 5 telephone line and it’s a good idea to throw in a low voltage and coax line in the trench for interconnectivity of your buildings. This will allow you to monitor the structures with only one system, (if large enough), and only pay one monitoring fee. If someone attempts to break in to your garage, you can have the sensor chirp in your home so you can investigate on your own rather than wait for the authorities should you deem it necessary and safe to do so.
As a last reassurance, add a set of security cameras. Many companies offer cameras that only tape when motion or heat is detected. Get with your local “techie” and ask him how to view your property real time and/or review your recording device over the Internet so you can look for odd or awkward behavior. At least you have the opportunity to apprehend the bad guys and possibly recover some of your stuff should you choose to do so. Or, at least you can know who or whom you can trust if you decide to “keep quiet” about your loss.
Peace of mind for about the cost of a nice rifle and magazines. I think that it is worth it. – The Wanderer

Letter Re: Reactions to Preparedness Course

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Your “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course is an amazing tome of information and I refer to it quite often. I’m thankful to have found it and I’m grateful that there are folks out there, like you and Jim, who are willing to devote serious amounts of time and effort sharing (well, okay, selling for a reasonable price) their knowledge. Hats off to you!

Its weird, I’ve shown the course to several people and several ridiculed me for having spent such a sum of money on 220 pages of information relating to some guy’s shopping spree at a big box store. They simply failed to understand the importance of the information contained. Their reactions were what I’d expected but, surprisingly, three of the seven or eight folks I showed the course to found it to be as interesting and important as I did, and one of them is planning on buying the course this week. People are waking up.

I don’t want to ramble on for too long, but suffice it to say that an incredibly tiny amount of people truly understand the predicament our country is in and the precarious nature of how food and goods are made available to them.

I’ve tried to explain the situation in simple, straightforward terms and backed my word by countless sources of reliable information, only to be met with either apathy or accusations of fear-mongering. I pray I never have to rely on my preparations, but even a Boy Scout knows better than to rely on hope alone. And I certainly didn’t hear my family complaining as they gobbled up my fresh whole-wheat dinner rolls at Thanksgiving, made from grain that I had milled the night before.

A hundred bucks for this course? You could double that price and I’d have still made the purchase. I’m going to buy another copy on Friday, as a Christmas gift to a friend. I hope I can slip my order in before the deadline ends. Thanks. Keep fighting the good fight. – H.H.H.

Weekly Survival Real Estate Market Update

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We have seen the first significant snowfall in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana which from the scuttlebutt around town has sent sellers into a panic, in which they rightly should be. Although some folks around my locale understand the engineered crash of the Dollar, most are still of the opinion that pulling their property off the market and waiting until spring will yield them either a better price (good luck) or a faster sale at that time (maybe so, with a plethora of SurvivalBloggers arriving?). This makes for more detailed work for your agent as they now must search the recently expired, withdrawn and canceled listings in your locale of choice, as much as the active listings for sale to find your retreat.

The other issue is that most sellers, if the property remains on the market into winter, either fail to realize or just don’t want to admit that the value of their property may be drastically reduced very soon and you’ll need to be careful making too low of an offer as not to insult them. Many folks in the country are stubborn enough to walk away from a sale because of their pride, so be careful with low ball offers. It may be better to offer them more than you want to pay than to come back with an addendum lowering the price after the home inspection is done–and you have some ammo for your price drop. If they do not agree then you simply cancel the purchase, get your earnest money back and find another property.

Speaking of other properties the key is to have you back up property ready to write an offer on. And, you must be ready to walk away from your first choice if you don’t get it for your pre-determined price. Do not get emotional about any property unless you are willing to pay the sellers asking price, period! If you can’t walk away from a deal for $1 then your going to get run around with counter offers until your blue in the face.

You’ll need to gather your facts about your primary and secondary retreat choices that you’ll be making offers on. If retreat #1 has the ultimate gravity fed spring water (or a shallow well) and #2 is a very deep well but the most tactically sound property you have ever seen, recall what I said in my WSREMU of 10-26 where I wrote about the importance of prioritizing your retreat characteristics while shopping, the first being water in the acronym W.A.L.L.S. (Water, Access, Location, Light). You can always defend a property, it just may take more resources, but having gravity fed spring water like we do here at the Savage Retreat is like gold. So you’ll need to raise the bar for your #1 choice since the benefits of fresh water 100% of the time even in a grid down situation outweighs the risk of paying a little (or allot) more than you wanted or felt the property was worth. One can always buy a TNW 1919A4 in order to defend a less than tactical retreat than to magically have a gravity fed spring appear on the property!
Another consideration may be that you have narrowed your search down to two properties, one that has a house that backs up to a hillside and is very wooded with no tillable land and just enough room and sun exposure for a small garden that may feed your family if you can everything you grow for the winter. The second is a nice older farmhouse on a nice plot of tillable acreage but it is very exposed to everyone around. Depending upon your idea of when the TSHTF you may consider that having the tillable land for growing barter items and for wider fields of fire and may be more beneficial. In such a case I would look into obtaining a wholesale license to save money, and purchase a mixture of Poplar for higher concealment (which certain varieties can grow up to 8 ft per year and top out at 80 ft) and Evergreens for lower concealment and plant them around the perimeter of the property. Tillable land is more valuable in the long term than tactical land since again, defensibility is merely a matter of resources. This makes getting to know your neighbors as important as the specific property in order to determine who will be a help and who may be a hinder (target) in times of peril, especially if you plan to quietly form a “security cooperative” during peace time that will turn into your outer warning ring when TSHTF.

Forming your “security cooperative” will take time. It will require genuine effort and a warm attitude as the ‘new’ folks are always under the microscope for am minimum of one year in the country. You won’t be able to walk right out and make trusted friends, especially if your a city slicker like I was when I got to my locale. You should do a quick meet and greet during your inspection period and make sure that the banjo dueling neighbors aren’t child molesters as well, or worse tax collectors. Once you have established your cooperative they can serve as a watchful eye on your retreat if it will not be a year round residence for a spell. During times of peril they can serve as your outer warning ring but most likely will not fall back to your retreat. Remember, friends are friends and business is business and your ultimate priority is securing the safety of your family and those in your actual “Group” that will be arriving when the balloon goes up, so unfortunately, it’s merely ‘business’ and they in most cases will serve their purpose. This may sound cold, but it’s reality. Dispense Christian charity and send them on their way. Your children will thank you one day after all returns to normal.

Earlier this year I had a client that asked me to complete a tactical overview on several properties they were considering purchasing. One of the biggest issues was similar to the one above, where the property had required the purchase of several hundred trees in order to close it off from the nosy neighbors prying eyes in order for a an LP/OP to be constructed hidden in plain sight so to speak. My advice was two fold. First, no matter what or where you’ll be doing construction you’ll be better off if you meet with each of your neighbors over a period of a few weeks before construction begins to nonchalantly mention that your having either a wine cellar constructed or the new one I like, a high tech duck or deer blind built. Why? Because as I have said before, either they will see what is going on and actually come onto your property to say “hi” (which you do not want at that time) or they will be part of the construction crew (gravel, concrete, wood supply driver et cetera) and if so they will pay you no mind. I’m sure you’d rather have them talk about you as the “wine connoisseur” than the “survival nut”, right? I guess the only issue would be explaining the tunnel from the house to the “duck bind”, but I’m sure an answer of “I have more money than brains and I like the convenience of being warm all the way there and back” would be sufficient enough to have them roll their eyes and walk away!

As a noteworthy point, always have a home inspection, even if you do not plan to use it to chop the price down you’ll need to know what your going to fix and improve and the $300 or so you’ll spend will be well worth it. If the deal is so good your going to pay cash and close it quick before the seller realizes what is happening, then fine, worry about the rest later but still have the inspection after closing. The best way to find a good inspector is to have your agent recommend one then get into the yellow pages and call around and look for anyone that used to be in any type of analytical or construction field before arriving at being an inspector. If you are worried about something then hire separate licensed contractors to do the inspections, a plumber, electrician et cetera. Always have the septic tank inspected and pumped before close of escrow, it is standard that it is done here but it may not be elsewhere, so be careful.

On a closing note, if you are planning to relocate someday to the northern Idaho or northwestern Montana area I have information on a secure storage facility for those that want to pre-position supplies here until they can buy or build their retreat, but feel more comfortable having to carry only their BOB’s and a rifle to get here and not a unsecured rented trailer. There are several requirements in order to qualify. Also, I can help you with your retreat shopping as we have finally got Freedom Realty open for business and will be featured on the site soon along with many approved listings being republished. Thanks for your patience. Please contact me if you are interested in any of these opportunities, via e-mail for more information. God bless, T.S. in N. Idaho

Odds ‘n Sods:

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Reader Michael C. mentioned that there is a nice selection of online bushcraft books at the Backyard Bushcraft web site.

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S&P Says Third-Quarter Housing Prices Dropped by Sharpest Rate in Index’s 21-Year History

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Bob M. in Pittsburg sent us this article link: The “Free Money” Credit Card Brawl at KMart. Bob’s comment: “I’m not sure which is more appalling; that people would riot, and behave thusly, or that they think that ‘credit’ is in fact, ‘free’ money!”

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From The Wall Street Journal: Study Warns of Decline In Value of Homes. The article begins: “The property value of U.S. homes will fall by $1.2 trillion, and ‘at least’ 1.4 million homeowners will lose their properties to foreclosure in 2008…”

Note from JWR:

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Today we present another article for Round 13 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day “gray” transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 13 ends tomorrow (November 30th). Remember that articles that relate practical “how to” skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

Recycle!, Recycle!, Recycle!, by Heghduq

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In the age of disposability one is hard pressed to find items that can be re-used. But if one looks hard enough you would be amazed at one can find to recycle and re-use. First don’t take anything for granted just because it says disposable on the package doesn’t mean that you cannot re-use it or part of it. Let’s take a look at some simple items that can be recycled and or cannibalized to be used for other purposes.
When living on a fixed income it is paramount that you save as much money as possible. $600 a month is not a lot to work with when it comes to disposable income. So every penny counts. I learned most of my Recycling skills from my mother. She is a little off the rocker as it were but very practical when it comes to such things. A lot of what we have recycled over the years was from what other people have thrown out.
Here is a list of items recovered by this scrounging.
1) Old screen doors – The screens are worth their weight in gold. If they are made of wood (Older homes) the wood can be used for any number of projects. Fence mending or shed building come to mind.
2) Cast Iron Pots and Pans – I was actually shocked that anyone would throw these out so I went to the former owner and asked why they would throw those out. I was told that they were her grandmother’s old pans and that she passed away and she found no good reason to keep them. So my mom and I got a gold mine on that one.
3) Toys – Every November the alley suddenly filled with old toys. For those who can’t afford to buy all of those fancy expensive toys and games this makes for a great Christmas for those on a low income. We found perfectly good toys that had absolutely nothing wrong with them. Aside from the occasional nick and scratch they worked just fine even the electronic ones.
4) Old furniture – Pretty self explanatory. A little Tender Loving Care and most pieces work like new.
5) Solar Powered calculators – This one is more for the Techno-geeks but enough of these can yield enough mini-solar panels to make a small battery charger.
6) Old appliances – Most of the time, people don’t realize that it is a matter of a belt or something simple that causes the appliance to stop working. Again Age of Disposability. Why fix it when you can replace it with one just like it. If the appliance truly is "fried beyond repair" there are still many things that can be cannibalized. Motors belts, hardware, and copper wiring all come in handy.

Now on personal recycling there are a great many things on can keep and reuse and cannibalized for other applications.
1) Plastic Peanut Butter Jars – I read a while back that these make Great additions to B.O.B. {Bug out Bags} with all of the gear one needs just in case there has always been the issue of all those little things that are easily lost and scattered through out your B.O.B.
Everything from small tools to a first aid kit in a jar. Since that article I have seen a sudden surge of "Kits in a Jar" for sale for ten to twenty dollars a pop. Now this is great for those who can afford such things. The only problem is they are all stock and most of their contents are not of the best quality. I find that a custom kit made from items that fit your own needs are, better than generic kits. The other thing that works is you can fill it with high quality items of your own choosing.
Another good thing about these plastic jars is they have several uses. A little acrylic paint and some creativity and you can fake the look of peanut butter. Add several coin rolls. Based on an article I read this week I tested a theory and found that The Jiff peanut butter jar is the perfect size to fit rolls of Nickels. Another use is as planters. Take the lid off of the jar and drill 3 holes in the bottom. Glue the lid to the bottom and cut off the top lip of the jar. Fill with dirt and you have a recycled Jiff jar that can be used to start your garden in.
2) Disposable Lighters – This one has probably been told several times but it is still worth another word. After the disposable is empty one of the more crucial pieces is still viable. That being the flint. Be careful when removing the spark wheel. You will shoot the flint across the room never to be seen again. These flints are the perfect size for all standard Zippo lighters. I have personally tested this and have found that these flints generally last longer than the refills that you pay $.99 cents or more for. People think I’m nuts for saving all of those disposable lighters. I can’t tell you how many times I have found a disposable lighter lying on the ground and snatched them up. Recycling the flints is just one application. The other thing that can be done is to assemble a tinder kit. All you need is an Altoids container some dryer lint and a disposable lighter with the wind guard removed. Put the dryer lint into a small plastic bag (sandwich bags work well for this) fold the bag over several times to ensure that the lint will not get wet. Seal it with some duct tape and place in the tin with the disposable lighter. The Altoids Gum tins work best for this as they are half the size of a standard Altoids tin. Add this to your Jiff kit and your good to go.
3) Coffee cans – Everything from a cook stove to food storage.
4) Plastic weave Cat Food, Dog Food and Livestock Feed bags – Can be recycled to make sand bags. So keep those bags they are tough as nails.
5) Two Liter soda pop bottles – Water Storage
6) Pop Ice brand Popsicle wrappers – The log ones in the plastic tube wrap. These and a paper clip work well to make long Ice tubes that fit in the end of pop bottles.
7) Plastic dog food and cat food buckets – Free Stackable storage buckets that can be used without the cost of buying additional buckets. Perfect 5lb storage containers just add food grade storage bags and an oxygen absorber for long term storage.
8) Old Pill bottles – Store small screws, nuts, bolts, nails and any number of other small items.
9) Old Office chairs – The caster wheels can be salvaged for use in making a rolling storage shelf or work bench using the recycled wood from discarded doors.
10) America Online (AOL) Promotional CD-ROMs – Cut down make good signal mirrors that can fit in a pocket survival kit. [JWR Adds: Intact, they also make good mirrors to hang up in your fruit trees and over your vegetable garden to help ward off marauding birds. You can hang them up with monofilament fishing line.]
11) Old cotton T-shirts – Cut apart, these make good gun bore and chamber cleaning patches.
12) Anything Denim – Cloth mending patches. [JWR Adds: Cut-off denim pant legs also make very sturdy sacks if you sew up one end.]
13) Old VCR tapes – Tested this after seeing Castaway with Tom Hanks. In-a-pinch Lashings.

This is just a beginning list of recyclable and reusable items. The list can go on and on. Use your imagination and some ingenuity and there is a wealth of items that can be used and adapted for survival. Feel free to add to this anything that I have missed. This is an on-going process and experiment that those on a limited budget can apply.

Letter Re: Advice on Buying AR-10 Rifles

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I live outside of Boise, [Idaho] on 40 acres with a deep well and have most everything ready for a jump to my brother’s new ranch in Montana, if (when) the SHTF. While my place will be occupied by my friends that don’t have anywhere to go and /or want to stay in the area. I will leave for a better Bug Out Location where I and my family can better survive long term. I only live here because it is a good job and I can’t find anything even close to pay in the part of Montana that my brother lives in. He is a doctor and can afford the remote life style.

I would like your input,. My brother and I are getting ready to buy a pair of .308 semiauto rifles and for the most part I like the Armalite AR-10 with an ACOG scope. This would be our defensive long range (250 to 500+ yard ) rifle. Any recommendations as to something “better” than a factory model, do you know of someone else building something with .308, reliable magazine design. While rails and collapsible stocks are cool and I would like them, they are not necessary for the intended purpose. I have looked at [the] DPMS [AR-10] but I also here a lots of complaints from people who actually own the weapon. Thanks, E.

JWR Replies: Aside for Eugene Stoner’s relatively dirty gas tube action (which can be mitigated with regular cleaning), the only drawback to most of the AR-10s on the market is the high cost of extra magazines. Most AR-10s use variations of M14 magazines which can cost up to $40 each. However, a few brands of AR-10s use standard FAL magazines which can often be found for under $8 each! So, with that in mind, I would recommend the Bushmaster AR-10 (now out of production) and the RRA (Rock River Arms) LAR-8 A SurvivalBlog reader was recently told by a Bushmaster customer service representative that Bushmaster sold its tooling and rights for their .308 rifle about a year ago to Rock River Arms.

The AR-10 is a fine rifle choice for your circumstances. They can be quite accurate, so they are ideal for open country–like the majority of Montana. Just be sure to get at least one of your AR-10s set up for long range shooting. Get a full length (20″) barrel and fixed stock flat top (“A4″) model that will readily take optics mounted low enough to provide a consistent cheek weld. The ACOG TA-01 or TA-11E would be good versatile day/night scopes. They are available from a number of Internet vendors including CGW. (I noticed that they currently have the TA-01 .308 BDC scope on sale.) But since you are planning on open country shooting, make sure that at least one of your long-barreled .308 rifles is set up a with an adjustable magnification Mil-Dot or ART scope in its primary configuration, with perhaps an ACOG as a spare if you can afford it.

Letter Re: Preparedness Course Applicability for Australia?

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Hello Mr. Rawles,
I was looking to take advantage of your “1/3-off” offer on your “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course, but before I spend that kind of money, I was wondering if you could tell me how suitable you course is for non-US conditions, specifically, Australian conditions? How “Americanized” is it, and how difficult would it be to “translate” it into Australian?

I really enjoy your blog, and have found your tips and those of your contributors very helpful. Kind Regards, – Richard C.

JWR Replies: The course and accompanying audio CD are largely geared toward American and Canadian readers, but if you have comparable “warehouse” type stores with large container/case lots of packaged foods available, then it should be 95% useful to you. Oh BTW, one oversight: I don’t list the shelf life of Vegemite.

The 33% off sale for the course ends tomorrow, so be sure to place your order soon. Best Regards from us here the snowy north to you in the sunny south

Odds ‘n Sods:

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Paris suburb riots called ‘a lot worse’ than in 2005

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EU President Barroso: Weak dollar a ‘problem’ for world economy

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The precious metals market has been volatile, jumping up and down on every bit of international economic and financial news. I currently suggest “at-or-below” buy prices of $818 for gold, and $14.42 for silver. As always, buy on the dips! And, as previously mentioned, be sure to get your beans, bullets, and Band-Aids squared away before investing any excess cash in precious metals. It now appears very likely that the Federal Reserve will make further interest rate cuts. This can only be bearish for the US Dollar and bullish for silver and gold. Get out of dollars and in to tangibles!

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Murray and Larry W. both spotted this one: Citigroup to Raise $7.5 Billion From Abu Dhabi State. They are giving the sheiks 11% interest when the prevailing rates are half of that? This sounds like a desperation move to me.

Notes from JWR:

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The 33% off sale for the “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course ends in just two days. Be sure to place your order online or have it postmarked by November 30th

Today we present another article for Round 13 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The writer of the best non-fiction article will win a valuable four day “gray” transferable Front Sight course certificate. (Worth up to $2,000!) Second prize is a copy of my “Rawles Gets You Ready” preparedness course, generously donated by Jake Stafford of Arbogast Publishing. Round 13 ends on November 30th. Remember that articles that relate practical “how to” skills for survival will have an advantage in the judging.

Choosing a BOV, by Brian B. in Iraq

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There is something to be said about having a defendable retreat far from society with multiple routes to reach it and the preparations that go along with it. But all of those preparations are for naught if you haven’t considered the best way to get from Point A to Point B.
With the ever rising fuel prices that we all are experiencing nowadays, it’s very likely that your Bug Out Vehicle (BOV) will also be your main means of transportation. Unless you are really squared away and have the finances to allow it, many of us simply can not afford a dedicated BOV in addition to our regular daily-use vehicle. That is compounded by the spouse’s need for a vehicle and Lord help you if you have teenage kids. If you feel like you fit into this category, I’m going to give you some advice on what vehicles to purchase and what to look for when you purchase them.

Vehicle Types
The first aspect of the vehicle purchase should be what type of power plant you want, i.e. whether you want a gas or diesel. There are advantage to both that have been talked about and debated for years. In my opinion, the best power plant for a BOV and regular use is a diesel engine. Longevity, fuel economy, parts availability, and the monstrous amount of torque available are only some of the reasons that diesel wins in my mind. There are two types of injection systems that have been offered by the "Big 3" [American light truck] manufacturers. Indirect injection systems spray the fuel into a prechamber where the combustion process begins. This prechamber is also the location of the glow-plugs for help starting the truck in cold climates. This is a very inefficient but durable design. Direct injection systems spray the fuel directly into the cylinder where combustion occurs. This is a much more reliable and efficient system. All diesels offered by the Big 3 today are direct injection.

Once you determine what type of motor you’re interested in, you must then determine whether you want a pickup truck, SUV, or car. Since we’re talking about a vehicle that will need to get us into a remote area across potentially hazardous terrain, a car is not a good choice for BOVs, and whatever you choose should be a four wheel drive. That leaves us with a SUV or pickup truck. Both have advantages and disadvantages and it’s up to the individual to determine which route they follow in this aspect. The good news is that the diesel SUVs and diesel trucks share most of the same drive trains and parts.
For those of us who have decided on a diesel powered vehicle, you’re now faced with choosing from three different manufacturers. GM, Ford, and Dodge. It is recommended that when purchasing a BOV, you want to buy one that has the fewest amount of electronics controlling the vehicle. Electronics are a huge pain in the nether region to diagnose and repair so the fewer potential problems the better.

Manufacturer Options
For the bow tie [company logo] fans, you’re looking for a pre-1993 pickup truck, Suburban, or full size Blazer. GM began using the 6.2L naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) mechanically injected 6.2L back in 1982 and in 1993 they began changing over to the 6.5L electronically controlled engine. The 6.2L and some 6.5L motors use an indirect mechanically injected system in a V8 design. GM, for a brief time, installed diesel engines in their half ton trucks, but they are rare and hard to find. More common is the _ ton and 1-ton trucks and Suburban’s with diesels. You will have to check the individual trucks to see if they are laden with electronic controls in the 1993 model year vehicles as this was the time when GM switched over form the mechanical to electronic injection systems. This was also the period when they were switching from the 6.2L engine to the 6.5L motor. Some had turbo chargers and some did not. A turbo will give you more power and better mileage so if you can find a turbo charged motor that’s the route to go. There are also aftermarket turbo systems out there that will work even better if you want to spend the extra money for them. These trucks came with a heavy duty 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission and various trim levels. The older mid-80’s trucks will likely have a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic, none of which have an overdrive gear to save on fuel consumption. A 4×4 3/4 ton 7.3L turbocharged truck will likely get around 15 mpg average and go 200k miles between overhauls. All of these trucks were available in regular cab, extended cab, or crew cab (4-door) versions. The GM trucks and Suburban’s also had one additional limiting factor, the front independent suspension, which improved ride quality and handling substantially, but the tradeoff is off-road capability and the ease with which you can install a lift kit on the vehicle.

For the blue-oval [company logo] fans out there, you are limited to F250 and 350 trucks. Beginning in 1985, Ford installed 6.9L non-turbocharged indirect mechanical injection V8 diesels originally developed by International-Harvester for some of their machinery. Starting in 1989 you could get a 7.3L indirect mechanical injection V8 diesel and in 1991 a turbocharger was optional. By 1994, the last year for the old I-H diesels, a turbo was standard. In 1994 Ford phased-out the old mechanical indirect injection motor for the new electronically controlled direct injected turbocharged 7.3L Powerstroke motor. The early diesels were equipped with a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission and by 1994 a 5-speed manual was standard and a 4-speed automatic was optional. These trucks are pretty bulletproof and maintenance friendly and get marginal fuel mileage. A 4×4 3/4 ton 7.3L turbocharged truck will likely get around 15 mpg average and go 200k miles between overhauls. All of these trucks were available in regular cab, super cab (extended cab,) or crew cab (4-door) versions. The major problem area for these trucks is the common failure of the glow plug controller and glow plugs, which makes starting these trucks extremely difficult especially on a cold morning.

The last choice is the Dodge Ram 1/2 ton and 1-ton trucks. Beginning in 1989 Dodge began installing a 12-valve 5.9L I6 diesel produced by Cummins with mechanical direct injection. In 1991, Dodge added a turbo charger and intercooler as standard equipment. The intercooler was an industry first and offered a significant increase in performance and economy. These “first generation” Cummins trucks used a Bosch rotary injection pump (called a VE pump) and came with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission in a regular cab or club-cab version. Also, the Cummins trucks do not use glow plus. Instead they utilize a heater grid placed in front of the air intake for the engine which heats up when temperatures fall below 40 degrees to aid in the combustion process. In 1994 Dodge completely redesigned their pickup truck lines and the Cummins got an upgrade as well, commonly called “second generation” Cummins trucks. The VE injection pump was replaced with a new inline P7100 injection pump capable of higher fuel pressures and greater fuel delivery, as well as an upgraded turbocharger. The drive trains were also beefed up with heavier duty 5-speed manual transmissions, transfer cases, and axles. Half way through the 1998 model year, the engine was redesigned with a 24-valve cylinder head and the mechanical injection systems were replaced by electronics to meet emission standards. Also in 1998 the interior of the cab was redesigned and a 4-door Quad Cab version was made available to make it easier to get into the back seats of the extended cab trucks. The 1994 to 1998 trucks are probably the most sought after trucks. A typical 1/2 ton 4×4 truck with 5-speed transmission and 3.55 axle ratio will get 20-22 mpg and these trucks regularly go 300k miles before major work needs to be done. There is one potential problem associated with these trucks. The timing gear cover on the front of the motor uses dowel pins to line up the cover when being installed. Unfortunately, in some cases this dowel pin can vibrate and back out of their spot falling down through the timing gear case causing lots of damage before ending up in the oil pan. There are common and inexpensive fixes available for this problem. One advantage to these trucks is the ease with which you can increase the power output of the engine. Replacement parts are readily available for these trucks as well and for those who like more power, performance parts are easy to come by to let you make well over the power levels reached by the newer electronically controlled trucks.

Once you’ve made your decisions between all of the above options and have found a potential match, there are a few common areas that you need to inspect before making an offer.
First, check the oil. Because of the amount of detergents in diesel engine oil, it’s common for it to be pitch black after only a few hours of operation. When you check the oil, look to see if there is any discoloration or a scent of burnt radiator fluid which will indicate a leak of coolant from the head gaskets. Check the radiator hoses to make sure they are firm, but still pliable. The engine coolant should be a greenish color and free of rust. Brake fluid should also be free of contaminants. Walk to the passenger side of the truck and have someone start the vehicle while you observe the tailpipe. Most older diesels will puff out some blue and/or black smoke on startup and that’s normal. You’re looking for a large cloud of smoke that takes several minutes to go away. This is an indication of a faulty glow plug controller, glow plugs (Ford & GM) or grid heater (Dodge), or internal problems. With the engine running check the transmission fluid level if it’s an automatic. It should be full, have a pinkish color and not smell burnt. Ask the owner if the engine has ever been “turned up.” Some owners add power without the required upgrades of intake and exhaust and there could be potential damage. Turn the vehicle off and craw under the truck. You’re looking for any large amounts of oil leaking out of the engine or transmission. Ask the owner when the last time the transmission fluid and rear axle fluid was changed and if they have the maintenance records fro the vehicle. Most of the time you can tell a vehicle that has been well maintained early off. If it’s been abused, buyer beware. That’s not to say don’t buy the vehicle, just don’t pay a lot for it as there will be lots of things that will need to be inspected and/or replaced. Also check the sheet metal in the fender wells and under the cab to make sure the floor is not rusting away.

Next, take the vehicle for a test drive. Make numerous stops and starts and turns in both directions. Listen for any noises that are out of the ordinary. Allow the engine to warm up and drive it hard to see if a problem presents itself. Find an empty dirt lot somewhere where you can test the 4×4 system. Ensure that the 4×4 system will engage and disengage properly. With the truck in 4-high drive around in a figure 8 to make sure there are no problems with the front drive train. Put the transfer case in 4-low and floor the truck to make sure that the transfer case will not pop out of gear, an indication that the transfer case is shot.


Once you purchase a vehicle, then you’re going to have to make it into a truck BOV. If you’re in an especially remote area with a lot of off-road driving required, the suspension will need to be modified for off-road use. No, you do not need a 14” lift kit and 44” paddle-wheel tires. 33” to 35” tires will get you anywhere you need to go. Wetter climates may require a more aggressive tread so use your judgment. A well built steel bumper for the front and rear is a must. This may be necessary for pushing things out of the way, such as a Prius or a fallen tree. Aftermarket fuel tanks that rest in the bed are a common addition. These tanks will allow you to carry anywhere from 50 to 150 gallons of additional fuel (which needs to be treated if it’s sitting up for a long time.) Other additions that would be useful is an onboard air compressor system, an onboard suspension systems if you’re planning on hauling a bug-out trailer with you, GPS receivers in the cab, high-powered driving lights, etc. Your local conditions will warrant a different combination of modifications than other areas. Local 4×4 shops in your area can probably give you the best advice on what you will need to do to your particular vehicle.

It is up to the individual to determine what works best for him. It’s also worth stating that in different areas of the country, one vehicle manufacturer may be more common and another one may be non-existent. If that’s the case, it may not be wise to have a Dodge truck where everyone drives Chevrolets. Conversely, if you need a truck for your personal use and you have a wife and three kids to move about, it may be a wise move to have a Chevrolet/GMC pickup truck and a Suburban with identical drive trains. The point is, decide what works best for you, plan accordingly, and work the plan. My next installment will cover what you should check and look for when inspecting a potential BOV.