Recently in G. O. O. D. Category

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

This video shows why motorcycles are the answer to rural mobility. The 11 minute video is of a road that was washed out by storms, apparently in Japan. Much of it is overgrown and vanishing and the motorcyclist has to dodge quite a few downed limbs. - InyoKern


I would like to thank Jeff H. for writing this article on the use of a motorcycle as a BOV as I was planning on doing the same in the near future.  He touched on quite a few very good topics.  But, from his submission, you can tell that he is a more experienced motorcyclist.  I would like to share my thoughts from a beginner/novice point of view.  The one difference of opinion that I have is concerning the bike’s size.  I definitely agree with the suggestion of getting a Dual Sport/Dual Purpose/Adventure Touring bike that is a 650 cc or larger when you need it to be your pack mule, or want to do cross country highway trips.  But, I don’t want the smaller Dual Sport bikes to be overlooked for a variety of reasons.  I just purchased a small Dual Sport bike a few months ago with the mindset of using it as a possible BOV, as well as a daily commuter.  The following takes you through the reasoning I took in purchasing a small Dual Sport Bike:
First and foremost, I have never ridden/owned a bike for the street (a dirt bike here and there), so I did not want to invest too much money on something that I may not like.  For a larger bike, you will be paying more money up front.  The bike I purchased is a 2009 Yamaha XT250.  This bike sells new for about $4,500 (other bikes in this range can be had for under $4,000).  A new 650 starts around $6,000, and a can go up past $10,000 for the larger displacement bikes.  Add the insurance difference on top of that (especially if you are a young male like myself), the riding gear, and that makes for a fairly large investment for something you may not like.  Other than the initial purchase, you will be feeding this thing money in the forms of fuel and maintenance.  The XT250 only has about a 2.5 Gal fuel tank, but I have gotten between 70-75 MPG (roughly a 150+ Mile Range).  Each bike is different, but the average “High” MPG from the larger bikes I have seen is between 40-65 MPG.  The maintenance on a single cylinder, air cooled engine is not going to be as time/money consuming as a liquid cooled larger engine (there are some air cooled units though).
A small bike is generally a light bike.  The XT250’s weight is somewhere in the 250-290 lbs, while a Kawasaki KLR650 is in the 430 lb range, and they just go up from there.  It may not seem like a lot, but if you are truly in a G.O.O.D. situation and your bike gets stuck in the mud or tips over, what would you rather struggle with?  Seat height is another consideration.  Most Dual Sport bikes are “dirt bikes with lights”, so they can be awkward for some people (especially those who are inexperienced or vertically challenged).  I am about 6’ with a 32” inseam, and when stopped at a light, I can get both feet flat on the ground comfortably.  When shopping for a bike, I sat on a variety of different Dual Sport bikes, and the larger bikes (like the Kawasaki 650) I felt quite uncomfortable while stopped (I either had to have the bike tipped to the side, or be on my toes) as I could only get one foot on the ground.  This in addition to the 400+ pound curb weight didn’t make me feel too comfortable.  This may be a non-issue for an experienced rider, but as a novice, I felt like I was going to tip over and I didn’t even have any riding gear on, no backpack, no extra luggage, etc.  If this bike is still too tall for some of you; the Honda CRF230M is a strong candidate, and a much smaller bike (I felt, and looked, like I was riding a kids bike).
It doesn’t get much more simple than a single cylinder, air cooled, carbureted, dirt bike.  The only electronics the XT250 has are the lights/signals, speedometer, electronic ignition, and the handlebar controls.  The only thing that is absolutely needed out of those is the ignition control box.  Most larger bikes have fuel injection at a minimum, and quite a few newer ones have ABS, Traction Control, Fuel Injection, etc.  Also, as far as fluids go, most small displacement, single cylinder, air cooled bikes only have the engine oil and brake fluid.  If the bike is liquid cooled, then you have coolant on top of that (as well as everything that is needed for the liquid cooling: Radiator, Coolant, Water Pump, Thermostat, Hoses/Lines, Complex Cylinder Head, etc.).  Fuel injection is nice, but adds another computer, a bunch of sensors, fuel injectors, etc.  Carburetors have their own problems, but it is possible to MacGyver them in the field if need be. 
I know that I just touched on a few choice areas concerning a smaller displacement bike; the main goal of this writing is to keep your options open.  There is a good reason that the XT250 and XT225 (the XT250’s Predecessor) are used worldwide as transportation.  These bikes are hugely popular in Europe and Asia.  They are not without their faults, but a very good alternative if the thought of a larger bike isn’t too appealing in your situation.  These bikes aren’t made for cross country highway cruising, but they can handle occasional highway use; the winds really push you around though (since the bike is under 300#).  Being carbureted there is a short warm-up period vs. fuel injected which is ready to go right away.  Please do your research about what bike is best for you; there are a lot of good forums out there about these bikes with first hand experience.  Reading about the extreme reliability and durability of the XT250 was the deciding factor (some people have logged more than 30,000 miles on a 2008!).  I am very pleased with this bike and will recommend it to anyone who is on the fence, but you just need to learn the limitations of whatever you choose.  This bike is very forgiving and not overly intimidating for the first time rider, but it is also a blast for the more experienced rider – “It’s more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow”!  And, for the sake of safety, whichever bike you choose, make sure that you use All The Gear All The Time. 
Adventure Rider Forums
XT225/250 Forums
Thumper Talk Forums

Regards, - O.V.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I have what I would consider three different Bug Out Vehicles (BOVs): a 4WD pickup, a 4WD SUV and a motorcycle.  The bike of coarse could be placed in the back of the pickup and unloaded somewhere down the road as needed thus greatly extending the range of either individually.  As far as BOVs are concerned there are many advantages to using a motorcycle.  One is good fuel mileage. Another is the ability to go around snarled traffic and other obstacles.  Disadvantages are lack of carrying capacity and the personal protection of being in a big heavy vehicle.

As far as what motorcycle you would use, I would recommend one of the types know as Dual Purpose.  These bike types have the ability to go both on and off road.  I’d start with at least a 650cc for a single rider and I use a 1200cc because I ride two with my wife.  The bigger bike isn’t as easy to ride in the hard stuff but it can carry a heavier load.  Just don’t get a bike so heavy that you can’t pick up when it falls over, because it will at some point.  If the bike doesn’t come with one buy and install one of the large capacity aftermarket fuel tanks.  The bike I have has a range of about 350 miles on one tank of fuel.  It would be very wise to get a bike with a quiet muffler.  No need in letting everyone know where you are.

I personally ride with all the protective gear, helmet, gloves, pants and boots.  Select these items with your intended purpose.  All of mine are waterproof which I consider a big plus if you get stranded.  Note that through experience not all items advertised as water proof actually meet those criteria.  I use military issue waterproof, steel toed boots instead of regular motorcycle type boots for when you have to abandon the bike and take to foot.  My jacket and pants have lots of waterproof pockets.  In those pockets I always carry a folding knife, multi-utility tool, survival butane lighter, paper matches, LED flash light, some toilet paper in a zip lock, cash and copies of all pertinent paperwork. In addition, a password protected jump drive with lots of personal information, phone numbers, policy numbers, bank info, some photos, passport and birth certificate copies and land titles. A Fisher Space Pen is another item that has proven invaluable to me.  It will write upside down, in freezing cold, in zero gravity and under water.  In the US where allowed I carry my pistol and a small quantity of ammo. (I intentionally try to avoid traveling in states that don’t allow concealed carry.  No use in giving them any of my business).  I carry two wallets.  My real one and one filled with a few dollars and some of those sample credit cards you get in the mail.  The fake one is a give away in case someone is demanding my wallet.

I always carry a good road atlas as well as some of the DeLorme Atlas of the areas I’m traveling in.  Another item I use regularly is a GPS.  In case of a G.O.O.D. situation it is recommended to have several escape routes planned.  This is where hopefully the GPS satellites are still functioning.  The GPS I have is made for motorcycles and is waterproof and vibration resistant.  In addition the model I have allows you to plot detailed routes in advance on your computer and then down load them into the unit.  Each route can be displayed in a different color.  In addition I have loaded a complete set of topographic maps in addition to the regular road maps.  Since having the Dual Purpose bike, this allows you to plot routes through some very remote areas on trails that won’t show up on normal road maps.  Of course you have these marked on your paper maps as well.  I’ve found these work well in the US but in Mexico, South America and Africa, maps both paper and GPS are sketchy at best unless you are on a main highway.

One of my main Bug Out Route concerns is bridges (river crossings).  These are easy choke points and a huge issue of safety.  Last year flooding of the Missouri River between Omaha and Kansas City forced the closing of a few bridges causing one to drive many miles out of the way to get across the Mighty Missouri.  Think what it will be like if the New Madrid fault knocks out bridges along the Mississippi or an earthquake takes out bridges on the west coast. In Patriots the characters ran into trouble at a check point on the road.  I see this as a real concern. Having the Dual Purpose bike with knobby tires can hopefully safely get you around these types of points. In many other countries I’ve traveled in, check points with armed guards are common place.  Only a couple of times did they try and shake us down for some cash.  This type of a situation is where having the fake wallet with just a couple of bucks in it comes in handy.

 When my wife and I travel on the bike we carry all our gear on the bike.  I consider this good training for a G.O.O.D scenario.  We trade off on camping and staying in hotels depending on where we are.  You quickly learn what is important and what is not as storage space is very limited.  We make use of saddle bags (panniers) and a dry bag.  In one pannier I carry tools and spare parts.  These need to be chosen based on your bike and your abilities.  One of my friends asked me what I thought was the most important tool to carry and I told him a pair of Vise Grips.  He asked why not a wine bottle opener and I replied that with the Vise Grips I could make a wine bottle opener. An LED headlamp with extra batteries is a very important item.  I like the ones that have high and low settings.  Some times you need just a little light and on high they seriously impair your night vision. On my first trip with my new LED head light, I pulled it out to begin setting up camp only to find it was completely dead.  I didn’t have spare batteries because I knew the new batteries would last for way more hours than I needed for several trips.  Well that was before the on/off push button accidentally got pressed in my pack.  Now I have spare batteries and remove one of them from the light before I pack it.  I also carry a small cheap (in case it gets confiscated) machete.  This is a common tool all over the world and I’ve not had it questioned at any checkpoints.

Other supplies I’ll say are very important are duct tape, silicone rescue tape, bailing wire, Quicksteel epoxy putty, Loctite 248 (this is like a chap stick and won’t leak), an assortment of bolts and nuts, rope, zip ties and tire repair items.  On a recent out of country trip the Quicksteel was used to repair a hole in a radiator, a broken turn signal and a broken lever mount.

Along with the basic tools including wrenches, screwdrivers, etc, I carry a small triangle file which can be used to repair damaged bolt threads as well as other uses.  Another handy item is a Stanley 15-333 8-Inch Folding Pocket Saw.  This saw is like a big folding knife that uses reciprocating saw blades.  It will store a couple of extra blades in the handle.  I carry a wood cutting blade, a metal cutting blade, and a carbide grit blade that can be used to cut hardened steel like a padlock.  We once used these to manufacture a needed part in a remote area in South America. One more item, although I’ve never needed to use it, is a few 3/32” E-6010 welding rods.  These can be used with three 12 volt car batteries and some jumper cables to make an emergency field repair.

I haven’t had hardly any issues with flat tires in car or bike in the US in years. After saying that, I was assigned to do some volunteer work in a Midwest City that was partially destroyed by a tornado.  One of the things that became readily apparent was there were lots of flat tires and more than one tire per car. In a TEOTWAWKI situation I would suspect flat tires to be a huge issue and highly likely.  Having a hand pump or compressor and tire repair tools and supplies will be most important.  On the bike I carry a small 12 VDC compressor, tire plugs, patches, spare tubes and tire irons just in case my tubeless tires can’t be repaired with a plug. 

Traveling in remote areas in foreign countries is a real eye opener and good practice for when things are not so good here.   One of my first remote bike trips was in Baja back in the 1980’s.  When we arrived in a small town there was a line at the gas station.  People had been there for 3 days waiting for the arrival of the next gas supply truck.  In South America one gas station was so remote they had to start a small generator to make electricity to operate the gas pumps while another station was just a rack with 2 liter pop bottles filled with gas. Traveling in these remote parts of the world you don’t pass up keeping your tank full because there may not be any fuel down the road, something that may happen here way too soon.  We had just left Santiago, Chile four days before the big quake in 2010.  Talk about being lucky and being glad I keep the survival items with me.  Here’s another tip, never fill up your vehicle if there is a fuel tanker at the station unloading fuel into the stations tanks.  This stirs up any crud that may be in the stations tank and you will pump it into your vehicles tank.

We have it too easy here in the US, or at least until TSHTF.  Here in the US we think getting patted down at the airport is a big infringement of our rights.  In a grocery store in Namibia all customers were patted down before leaving the store and there was a military guard with machine gun at the entrance. At several other locations, stores had little to sell and shelves were basically empty.  Leaving one town the next morning after a rain storm had all the ditches along the road filled with people bathing, washing clothes and filling their buckets from the puddles of rain water.  These are some of the things that are commonplace in many parts of the world but not yet here.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but get and store the items you want while they are still available as they are luxury items in many places and in the future they may be scarce here also.  In Zambia I paid about 32,000 of their dollars ("Kwacha") for two beers.  The point being that cash, even the US dollar, may not be worth much in the future.

Traveling on normal roads in the US isn’t that hard on a vehicle, but in a TEOTWAWKI situation, off road or remote travel will introduce a lot of vibration.  This is hard on the vehicle, passengers and supplies.  Your vehicle whether a car, truck or motorcycle needs to be prepped.  It’s amazing how many things will shake loose.  I use Loctite on all the nuts a bolts.  I recommend Loctite 290, which is medium strength wicking formula that you can apply to already fastened bolts thus negating the need to undo every fastener.  Other things you don’t think of, are things like pills.  They will turn to dust if not properly packed and some medicines can be deadly if taken as a powder instead of a slowly absorbed pill. I’ve had holes rubbed through packed clothes that touched the inside walls of the panniers.  I’ve also learned to pour my water into recycled soda bottles.  The thinner walled water bottles don’t hold up well under vibration and even the heavier duty soda bottles need to be carefully packed.

I carry a pretty complete first aid kit that I packed into a foam lined camera case.  I won’t go into the contents as there are many good lists available. Because I’ve traveled in remote areas in several foreign countries I’ve had special shots and pills required for things like typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus and yellow fever.  If one studies the aftermath of areas where disasters have occurred and the diseases that become issues I’d recommend getting those shots now.  My doctor is aware of the type of travel I do so he has prescribed other medicines for “just in case”.  I just plainly asked him what he would take with him if he was going where I was going.  A couple of different antibiotics and some pain medications supplement the other over the counter medicines I normally pack.  One really important medicine is an anti-diarrheal.

Because bulk and weight are precious commodities on a motorcycle during normal travel, just a jar of peanut butter and crackers are used to supplement daily food stops.  In a SHTF situation I have another dry bag packed with a pack stove, mess kit, food items and additional water as well as a Katadyn water filter.  I carry the typical backpacking camping equipment for setting up camp.  A Gerber pack axe for its size and weight it is pretty useful tool as well as an additional defensive weapon.  Some OD green heavy thread and some booby trap string poppers make a good perimeter guard and can be attached to items that might walk away.  They won’t hurt any one and the loud report will probably scare away all but the most determined.

While a motorcycle isn’t the ideal BOV for everyone, it has some advantages and I consider it another backup to the back up.  Ideally in a group evacuation a motorcycle could be very useful as a scout vehicle and in less than total collapse situations they allow quick fuel efficient travel. My final tip for when TSHTF is to remember to pack a roll of toilet paper.

JWR's Comments: It cannot be overemphasized that choosing a motorcycle as your bug out vehicle will necessitate storing nearly all of your gear and storage food at your retreat. While not for everyone, a dual sport motorcycle can add tremendous versatility to your mobility.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I read a lot of material in SurvivalBlog and several other similar sites about methods and means of bugging out if you live in a city or other area where it would be undesirable to live during some kind of calamity.  After seeing so much about this idea of waiting until the SHTF, or some other event that would necessitate leaving the area in which you live, I feel the need to weigh in and give the position of the person who’s already living in the area to which many of the city dwellers are being encouraged to bug out to.  I hope to offer a very swift kick in the seat to all those pondering the “bug out” issue.  This business of advising people about waiting until there's a great calamity to leave the city has got to stop.
I cringe every time I see an article giving advice on how to make preparations to leave your city for a better place to ride out an economic calamity or other kind of disaster, man-made or otherwise.  My questions to all those pondering this issue are these: 1.) How convinced are you that you may need to “bug out” at some point in the future, and 2.) If you are at least mostly persuaded of the future need to bug out, then why haven’t you done it already? 
I realize that there can be myriad reasons why someone may feel unable to relocate even though they may want to.  You don’t want to move away from your family, your job, your kid’s school, your friends…You don’t want a longer commute, you’re underwater on your house, you like your house. The list goes on and on.  My guess, however, is that when the SHTF like so many of us are fully persuaded that it will, many of these things that now keep you from pulling up stakes and moving will drop distantly behind the desire to simply stay alive. 
If you believe in the crash what this web site and so many others are forecasting, get out now.  If you have to short sell your house and rent in the area that you plan to bug out to, then do so.  Don’t let a ding to your credit score or the “demotion” of going from homeowner to renter keep you from doing what you believe needs to be done.  Don’t let the tenure you have on the job keep you from making a wise and prudent decision.  If you don’t get out now, then plan on staying put.  If you refuse to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to relocate now while it is safe to do so, then harden your current domicile and settle in and ride it out. 
Post-SHTF, if you do succeed in escaping the city and reach the nearest rural like the one I live in, then what?  If you come to my town, what exactly am I supposed to do with you?   Are you coming empty-handed?  Do you have any skills that might make you a welcome addition to my community?  If the answer to those two questions is no, tell me exactly why I should welcome you.  “It’s the charitable thing to do”.  It certainly would be.  However, if being charitable to the empty-handed refugee means possibly starving my own family, for whom I have been diligently laying in store, then my being charitable to you may violate my own mandate to “provide for my own, specially those of my own house”.  If I do that, I’m worse than an infidel and have denied the faith (I Tim 5:8). 
No, it’s not at all that we in the rural areas are unkind, uncaring, uncharitable or unfriendly.  On the contrary, me and my neighbors are the kind of people you want to live near.  But if the cities are burning down, we will be overwhelmed by the influx of thousands refugees trying to escape to a safer place, which will inherently make the place they are escaping to less safer.  If you think you may have a mind to ever “bug out” then do it now, integrate yourself into the community and become a functioning part of it.  Learn the area and the climate and get started taking care of yourself and your family.  You’ll be miles ahead of those who waited. 
If your survival plan is to flee the city and live off the charity of others in the countryside, let me put this plainly; you’re going to die.  It’s not that there will be a lack of charity-on the contrary, in hard times, people can rise up and surprise you with how giving they can be.  But there just will not be enough to give.  Immediately post-SHTF, the amounts of most every vital commodity (gasoline, sugar, rice, beans, toilet paper, etc.) will be finite.  There won’t be any more coming, maybe not for a long, long time.  What I have may be all I will have for months or years.  And with my six kids, 2 kids in law, 2 parents and 2 siblings to try to care for, how charitable can I afford to be?
In Matthew 25, Jesus gives a parable of ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish.  The five wise foresaw the need and made preparations (just like Proverbs 27:12 advises).  The five foolish, being in close proximity to the five wise, must have undoubtedly also foreseen the need, but chose not to make preparations.  In the end, the five foolish tried to borrow from the five wise, but the wise were wise enough to know that if they shared, there would have not been enough for everyone.  Read it folks.  Think about it.  And remember this key point; They were all virgins (good, godly people). They were just not all wise.  True wisdom is knowing your limitations.
Until last year, I lived in a rural area with a few acres, fruit trees, a garden, chickens, and lots of trees for firewood.  A defensible place too.  But believing like I do in the eminent crash, I felt it was not good enough.  We have since moved even further out into the hills to a larger plot of land that is much better suited to a self-sustaining life.  The new house is larger so we can take in more of my family members who live in places that will be undesirable WTSHTF.  Every decision I have made for the last several years has been with the goal in mind of taking care of as many of my family as possible for as long a period of time post-crash. 
Make the move now.  Don’t wait another month to decide.  If you read this site or any others like it, and you live in an urban area, get out now.  Make the preparations.  Do the research, retrain yourself in another field of work if you have to, and relocate.  If you read this site and others like it, your excuses for why you can’t…will not cut it post-crash.  I know many will think I’m unreasonable or unkind, or just plain ignorant of how difficult for some what I am suggesting may be.  I’m not an ignorant or unkind man.  I’m an associate pastor, a marriage and family counselor, and I give multiple thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours a year to help others.  And this is why I’m writing this piece now.  To help someone get off the fence and make a choice.  Decide to do it, or decide not to.  
There are three kinds of people when speaking of Emergency Preparedness; 1-those like JWR, myself and many others who are already prepared, 2-those who watch American Idol and play video games all day and are completely oblivious to what’s happening in the world around them, and 3-those who are right in the middle of the first two.  It’s those middle folks I’m worried about and talking to right now.  The ones who say “I’d like to prepare but…” or “I’d like to move to a rural area but…”  Because they are semi-aware and watching, these are the ones who will be the first out of the city and heading to the hills with little or nothing to sustain themselves but the hope that the folks “in them thar hills” will be ready for them.  We won’t be.  Even the most prepared among us will have our hands full when the gas pumps stop working, the electricity shuts off and the trucks stop rolling.
Either you make the move now and get settled on a little homestead in the country-whatever it costs you, or settle in where you are.  Store up some food, get some guns-even a used .22-and figure out how you can hide out where you are and ride out the storm.  It won’t be easy.  It will be very rough for a long time.  Even if you can move to a different home in the city you live in that has a more defensible scenario-one with a basement you can seal off and conceal-do it.  Leaving the city during a calamity will be at least as dangerous as staying put.  Know your neighbors.  If your neighbors are creeps, move and get some better ones.  If you live in apartment, get out.  Rent a house with like-minded friends and split the costs of preparing if you can't do it alone. 
I will no doubt be accused of being cold hearted in telling people not to flee to my area.  If you show up on my doorstep, I’ll give you what I can-probably a Rubbermaid container of rice and a gallon of water.  I’ve already stockpiled lots of containers for this very thing.  But then what will you do?  Not everybody here can or will do that.  And even if they could, how long can you live like that?  The idea of going to national forest and living off the land is ludicrous.  I won’t even begin to list the hundreds of reasons why that won’t work. 
In looking at the current condition the world is in, we may still have 6 to 12 months before TSHTF, but it WILL HTF.  Use the time you have wisely.  Do something to become more prepared every single day.  Pray for wisdom.  James 1:5 says we can do that and God will give it to us liberally.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

While the majority of single parents are women, men too can be found in this situation. Generally speaking, single women with children are usually on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Let’s face it, poorer young mothers (or fathers) with very young children need to learn survival skills as much as anyone else, and do not have the financial resources to buy all they need.  So what do you do if you are a single woman with a babe-in-arms and two toddlers and have no money?

I can tell you what you can’t do, you can’t sit around and wait for help or someone else to do it for you. You must seriously realize the life and death of your children can rest upon you and you alone.  Don’t look to the government, or your family/community, or anyone else. Look in the mirror, you brought them into the world, you are responsible for them. When you have children who are solely dependent upon what you do, what you pack and your decisions, it puts a weighty burden on the non-prepared.   

Little to nothing is written on the special resources for a single parent survival needs especially for lower income women with babies and toddlers.  As a single parent myself, I faced life-threatening events, and my survival skills helped keep my family well and strong. But much of what I learned was learned the hard way. I was lucky enough to have had grandparents who survived the Great Depression and they taught me lessons growing up that are deeply ingrained in me. These lessons include gardening, canning, food storage and self-defense along with hard work and strong faith. My mom’s first husband was military and being paid once each month she said her food never lasted the whole month and she learned how to scrimp and stretch. She taught me how to estimate food usage and how to make it last. My own fathers abusive temper and his drinking and drug problem, led mom to have to take the us as children several times to safe environments. We found women’s shelters, safe houses and remote camping sites until the law finally had the problem under control. So, I am not joking when I say I have seen my own mother face life-threatening emergency situations with children multiple times on a shoestring budget.  As you have read many disasters do not come from Mother Nature or governmental influences, some you can only prepare for with faith, knowledge and guidance.  

Some of the first hints I will give may make the hard-core well equipped preppers laugh and think this is a comedy show. But I guarantee you that young mothers need to be creative to meet their needs with a “$0” budget. Here are some hints for developing your Bug-out-bag (BOB). Of course, having some kind of a BOB with small children is better than no BOB. Always, always pack a BOB in something with wheels, a wheeled suitcase, a wheeled cooler, a wheeled cart or anything else on wheels that will hold your stuff. A single parent with small children needs a wheeled BOB, I cannot emphasize that enough. Remember the lessons we learned during Katrina, the agony on the parents face as they begged for help. Many did not have BOBs or did not have the time to grab them. Prepare yourself and your children now, don’t wait.

Some say they don’t know where to start. Start with what you have. Look at the needs of your children, and start there.  Pack clothing, blankets, copies of insurance cards, birth records and other important records. Get free info from the Red Cross on first aid and emergency medical info, go to health expos at churches or county fairs who often have free first aid kits. FEMA, the Internet and other organizations have info on what to include in your BOB. Get free road maps from state or local highway departments or tourist info stations. Use dryer lint [from drying cotton clothes] in a sandwich bag for fire starter; just remember to put your matches in a separate baggie. Use left-over utensils from past parties, like animal shaped plastic spoons, paper plates with animal faces or napkins with balloons. These things you would normally throw out can brighten little faces in emergency situations. Smaller plates or saucers come in handy if the food is scarce; small portions always looks like more if the plate is smaller.  Pack new (can be cheap from the dollar store) toys or unused new party favors, this will hold their attention longer. Pack both cloth and disposable diapers, cloth diapers can double for other necessities. Don’t forget to pack formula (preferably powdered), bottles, pacifiers or other major needs your child has. You know your child, their needs, their wants and behavior; you also know the items your family likes to cook and the tools to defend your family. Here I must say if you are a person of faith, then you need to prepare your family spiritually as well. If you are a spiritual person place a small set of your Scriptures or other spiritual items such as prayers or item in your BOB.  Do not forget to pack water. Water can be bottled in almost any empty, clean used plastic bottle or 2 liter, just remember to sterilize it with bleach or some other method. You can find instructions for sanitizing water with bleach on many sites on the internet, be sure to use regular bleach. Knowledge is key, look at your community you might be surprised what is available to you.

Hints for babies and toddlers: Being alone with a baby or toddler or both can put you in a very venerable situation when it comes to emergencies. It is critical to have a plan and have a well prepared BOB. I strongly suggest you find a support system, but not just anyone or any friend. Find someone who would love and treat your child like their own if you were not available. Look carefully and chose even more carefully.  Don’t let out of your arms the thing that is the most important to you, your baby, it is going to be hard to carry children in your arms and on your hips and also carry a bag. Keep your child close to your heart to keep them safe, use a sling or a baby carrier that fits like a back pack. Never let go of your children, keep them close at all times in an emergency situation. How many times in the news recently have we seen strollers roll into subway tracks or train tracks? If the baby had been in a snuggly or a sling, in the mother’s arms, that would not have happened. It would take an Amazon woman to carry both her children and a backpack; most women cannot do that, but just remember, unless you have direct contact with your child, you do not have control. Carry your child, wheel your supplies. Keep your most precious close to your heart. Always, always take a long blanket or sheet so that you can swaddle your child. Swaddle babies and insecure children any age to help them feel more comfortable and under control with the situation, the extra sheet you pack to do this can also come in handy in other ways, for shelter or a tent.

Hints for preschoolers and elementary ages: For toddlers and older children, have key words for specific things, words age appropriate. This can be a fun game, if my Daughter would start to sing the Star Spangled Banner; I knew to find a bathroom fast. Do not just use keywords for SHTF make key words for fun items such as the bathroom or for bedtime.  I learned that by adding some “fun words” this helps them learn the key words faster and not forget. For toddlers and preschooler, always pack a wrist-to-wrist strap. If you don’t have one, make one from elastic or an old belt or a purse strap. I made my children wear wrist straps that secured their wrist at one end to my wrist at the other end, especially when we were in danger. That way I always knew where they were and had some control over my toddlers.  They did not like it, but they were safe and that is more important.

Hints for middle school to teenagers: incorporating older children into family participation should be a natural outcome of a loving family relationship.  You can enroll them in programs to teach self-defense or other items, some at school.  Many Police and Fire departments and organization such as Boy and Girl Scouts and The American Red Cross have programs that are free to children or to the public. For middle and high school children who are old enough to understand, explain the gravity of the situation and be honest with them. They understand and can help, and will probably become more fearful if you do not talk to them. The older the child, the more stress they can help take off of you, by sharing the burden. Middle school aged children understand more than you know and are usually quieter about their feelings. When you can get to a safe spot, encourage your children to talk out their feelings.

Lastly, to find what you really need in a disaster situation with your children, throw only your BOB in the car with your kids one weekend, and leave for a State Park or camping site. You will learn real quickly what you need and what you don’t need. Practicing in a normal situation makes an emergency bug-out feel less dangerous. Always, yes always keep your car full of gas; you never want to be in a situation where you don’t have the gas to get your kids to safety. Sacrifice a Girl Scout meeting, or a lunch trip out, or whatever it takes during the week, to keep your car full of gas.

Sheltering-in-place; A single parent has different needs than that a two parent family for food storage. You need to buy more ‘child’ food and less ‘adult’ food. You can always eat baby food, but a baby cannot always eat adult food, unless you process your own baby food. My mother always kept her food storage on the bedroom closet floor, underneath her dresses. We kids were in charge of stacking the boxes and marking the dates with a permanent marker on top, now I understand that it wasn’t much food storage, but it served our family well as we never ran out of food.  Instead of trying to buy food storage all at one time, buy some with each trip to the store. Buying a bag of beans a month adds up quickly and can fill a five-gallon bucket within a year. Always check your dates on cans goods and buy foods that your family will and can eat.  My family will not eat beets so even if I love it, I would not buy it.  Rotate your foods; if you are able to buy a few extra cans eat the oldest first along with dieted cans.  Do not eat foods from bulging cans--these can kill you!  Bloated canned goods or bad water can kill younger children quickly; know a way to sterilize water.  Know about food safety, temperatures for cooking and handling foods, free on the Internet or at a County Health Department, this will keep your family alive. 

Don’t forget the water. Save your 2 liter pop bottles or sports drink bottles. Store water sanitized with regular bleach in these containers. Or if you can afford it, purchase water and keep on the shelves out of the reach of children. It doesn’t cost anything to store water, so no excuse here. Basic cooking skills with shelf stable ingredients is something to be known ahead of time and not first practiced over a make-do fire in a unfamiliar place with crying, hungry children. Know how to cook basic items, such as pancakes, gravy, or pie crust.  I am surprised how many parents don’t cook these days.
If you are limited in funds, buy flour (wheat if you have a means to grind it into flour) and store it in gallon zip lock bags. My grandmother always said her family survived the Great Depression because of flour, because she could make three things; pancakes, white gravy and pie crusts. All are flour or wheat based items. Grandma said you could put anything in a pie crust and make it taste good (she meant squirrel and rabbits too). Pies can be big, little or pocket size and can hold fruits, veggies and meats. She could also make anything with her ‘white sauce’ or white gravy. It is the base for many, many dishes and casseroles and can be put over, under or as part of almost any food. Then her pancakes, (hoe-cakes, Johnny-cakes, etc) you can put anything in pancakes, or make them thinner and roll anything in them. This one staple, a storage of wheat (long shelf life), or flour (shorter shelf life) can create all these three foods plus any type of bread, pasta or noodles. Grinding wheat when you have small children can make you go nuts, it’s hard to keep their little fingers out of everything and mills are expensive. I always kept flour, and it has served my family well. Thanks Grandma. 

You must seriously realize the life and death of your children can rest upon you and you alone.  Don’t look to the government, or your family/community, or anyone else. Again I say, Look in the mirror, you brought them into the world, you are responsible for them. Remember your emergency may never be the emergency you planned for, so be prepared for anything. Not just with cool hi-tech gizmos, but know primitive skills. My Grandpa used to say “prepare for the worse and hope for the best”. In a critical situation and usually is directly related to how you are handling the situation. If you are nervous and upset, you can bet your children will be too.  Survival is a lifestyle that needs to be incorporated into daily living.  Prepare now so you and your children will not fall prey to some other predator tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Those of us who have considered the terrible option of having to leave our homes, our main domicile and primary place of normalcy and safety due to civil unrest or worse have had to ask the question of, "What do I take with me?". Eventually this question comes down taking that hike to .... wherever we feel is best, a better chance for survival environment. Why hike? Because any rational consideration of events that could occur all lead to fuel being no longer able to be obtained, roads blocked, normal travel impossible. Furthermore, the roads themselves may not be the best option for travel for reasons we can all imagine as to why. So we mentally move on to the 'Bug Out Bag', that pack, frame and its contents that we hope will see us through to a place of peace and security.

The novice, the out-of-shape, the inexperienced all begin by assuming that they can fill their pack with everything that they've read is necessary and still perform a prolonged panic hike of some 20+ miles per day. Day after day; perhaps, week after week. Possibly even night after night as well. Packed is food, water, first aid, sleeping and/or tent gear, campsite needs such as utensils, axe, knife, machete, saw, rope and all the rest of those things deemed absolutely necessary. And should violence and the need to protect oneself be an issue, firearm(s) and ammunition.

Water alone weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. And the average needed daily amount for an adult is 8 - 8 ounce glasses of water per day. In other words, your daily water weight load is right at 4.2 pounds (a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds). Having at least two days worth of water is not an unreasonable amount to expect to be carrying. The rest of the weight math is subject to what is in the pack, in your pockets, pouches, bags.....; in other words, the traveler who's trekked knows that weight carried is the one crucial factor in what is to be carried. The value of each item is scrutinized as to that factor and its worth, utility, need and multi-purpose potential.

Consider the weight of an AK-47, a set of web gear, and 120 rounds of ammunition loaded in magazines. Having actually weighed them, I've found that they come in at just over 20 pounds. I assume that most rifles of a similar purpose, with the same number of rounds, would be of a like measure. So, just water for two days and your rifle and a minimal amount of ammunition alone add up to almost 30 pounds. How's the old back feeling now? And let's not neglect the weight of clothing, shoes/boots, pocket and belt gear. Easily another five pounds if you're carrying a good knife, binoculars, compass, mini-first aid kit, some ready-to-eat packets of food, then...

Anyway it goes, anyway you go - if on foot, the load quickly adds up. Many an Old West wagon train movie illustrated a trail dotted with belongings discarded when times got hard, animal power to haul having sickened, weakened or died or other trail hazards and dilemmas arose. That 'sleeps 4 dome tent', or extra foam rubber ground pad sure seemed to be 'the thing' when you bought it; until that is, you had to haul it for 5 days on the run. That axe or spare shotgun, handgun or two and their respective ammunition needs also seemed perfect for a last-stand home defense; but prove just too much to carry too far.

As I prepared by both reading and studying, and then actually packing a Bug-Out bag (or two, or three....) I came to the conclusion that it would sure be nice to be three people with 21 year old strong backs. I began to consider just how to beat the weight and transportation problem. Seeing an old street woman pushing a shopping cart reminded me of the movie The Road and the hero/father's shopping cart. Supplies and the means to move them for him and his son were trudged along like that poor old lady that can be found downtown in any city. Like the old woman, there is plenty of room for all the necessities and even some 'luxuries' (everything is relative don't forget.) in a stolen grocery store cart. But, a shopping cart makes a poor vehicle for overland use. Whereas those carts are fine on pavement and sidewalks, the tires are too small and easily fouled, not easily maneuvered on broken ground. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I looked around for an off-the-shelf vehicle people already use for valuable cargo that is highly maneuverable, light-weight and adaptable to many terrain types.

What I found was the everyday 3 tube-tired baby stroller. The more 'upscale' model with two 12" diameter tires and a pivoting smaller tire. A load capacity between them of over 50 pounds for usage as a human baby conveyance. The stroller features I would recommend would be similar to the Baby Trend Expedition LX Travel System, Millennium with two 16" rear tires and a 12" front tire.

And this stroller, or such of a like type, can be found at virtually any thrift store for less than $20. I was fortunate and literally found one broken (the tray cracked, some of the upper pipes bent, and all the canvas shredded) being discarded by a neighbor. As in the picture above, there is a small triangular shelf above the front pivoting wheel (which you may discover can be locked in a straight 'run' position). As the stroller was damaged, I was able to salvage and saw off the rear axles, brake and wheels; as well as the front fork with the pivoting wheel and 'table' above it. This buggy originally sold for around $180.

As I looked at my parts with the eye to it becoming a 'Bug Out Buggy' and taking some quick measurements, I found that the pipe/tubing used was almost exactly the same outside diameter as high-pressure 1" PVC water pipe internal diameter. Literally a perfect fit. To the sketch board!!!

What I did was design around what I had on-hand, the former baby stroller gleaned from my neighbor's discards at the curb. The first consideration was to reverse the original wheel layout due to this vehicle being drawn rather than pushed. The second consideration being the main cargo area which consists of a large denim bag 18"W x 16"L x 12"D (which corresponded to the approximate size of 2 average day-backpacks. A table or platform area over and extending rearward from the axle of 18"W x 12" L and the pair of forks to extend the length and stride of the puller - in my project this was 40". The necessary 45 degree sloping run to the rearmost point consisting of the original front triangular table/foot platform added another 20". This sloped area was in part determined by my decision to 'fit' a previously-purchased OSHA First Aid kit in that location - the slope toward the pivot wheel platform - where it would be quickly accessible. The overall length depending on which pair of forks is being used is roughly 5'. What needs to be pictured is a vehicle with the main load structure being pulled by a pair of poles and terminating in a small triangular platform at the rear with an average height from the ground of a foot and a half. From the rear to the front the shape from a side view would be of a triangle over the pivoting wheel, an open-bottomed square with vertical supports connecting to the axle, another square that is the cargo area and finally the poles extending forward from the main cart body.

A couple of bags of PVC fittings - 'Tee's', Elbows, 45 degree elbows, caps, and some threaded adapters for the fork handles, some 15' of PVC pipe, PVC cleaner and cement, some eyebolts, heavy cable ties to affix the upright sections to the remaining buggy axle, a couple of linchpins, a piece of fiberglass reinforced plastic and for aesthetics - some spray paint - all told no more than $60 worth of hardware; and, I had my frame built and fitted in about four hours. A technical note - PVC is easily molded and bent by gentle and careful heating of the material with a heat gun. This allows for curves of any radius or direction you may wish for your project.

I own a sewing machine and had many a pair of cast-off and no longer wearable jeans that were easy to convert into denim cloth to make a hanging bag with button-on straps to sling it off the pipe rails. I can see others may use zippers, velcro, snap fasteners or the like for the same purpose. I prefer buttons over those as replacement can be done with many available materials; whereas, the latter-mentioned all take specialized tools or are not obtainable in the field. A button only takes a pierced disk or toggle and a needle and thread to replace.  It all depends on the desired configuration of the cart, the builder's preference and what and how much is to be carried. I do recommend planning on being able to remove any bag for cleaning purposes as assuredly will become necessary. In addition, having a large canvas bag for future uses independent of the cart cannot hurt. Just think of opportunistic harvest needs. A large bushel-sized bag would come in handy.

The power I intend to use is my own motive power and strength to pull this cart like a rickshaw style (with pipe insulation handgrips). But.... a major alternative 'power source' that I've made are two additional forks/tongues that can be interchanged for the angled handles in order that my dog can pull it when I desire him to. As the owner of a large German Shepherd weighing some 130 pounds, it was a case of "why not use all my resources?" Initial experimentation with him in the traces/harness I rigged and on leash went well; though, I do counsel anyone considering this option to engage in a multiple exposure and training sessions with your mutt. Some dogs may not readily take to becoming harnessed 'sled' dogs.  And thus, that is why there is a second/spare set of forks with threaded adapters/couplers on the ends of the forks to mate to the forward ends of the cart bag frame. I took the liberty of color coding the left side with red tape to insure that the threaded adapter fittings for the two fork pulling options were always installed on the correct sides and aligned with the linchpin holes drilled through the threaded adapters to prevent any accidental fork rotation while in use. The linchpins are secured to prevent loss by two nylon lines from the pull-ring to conveniently placed eyebolts just behind the threaded adapter fittings. Additional eye-bolts are installed on the dog-forks and in the center of the upper 'U' pipe forward of the bag compartment for dog harness attachment (or to be used as ready-to-hand lash down points).

Remember, if you will, that I reversed the original buggy design direction of travel, with the smaller pivoting wheel being to the rear. This allows for far greater maneuverability and affords the larger tires to surmount obstructions easier than would a forward-most small tire. In addition, the formerly front triangular shelf is perfect to sit on with feet on the axle while the dog pulls; or, for a 5 gallon water carboy, ammunition separation and availability - whatever purpose you deem this platform is to be used for. If you consider this cart is designed to be pulled not pushed, it will make better sense.

I load tested and found that the cart as built easily handles over 140 pounds of weight - with an estimated maximum of 180 pounds - while pulling easily and smoothly. As a precaution, I emptied the air out of the tubes and replaced same in all three tires with 'Fix-A-Flat' for some puncture hazard resilience.

The load I used on the initial build, pre-painting or threaded adapters for the alternate forks, was, as stated above, of two average-sized backpacks, one medium duffel and an ammo pouch containing over 400 rounds of 7.62 x 39 caliber rifle ammunition on the rear 'deck'. It is easy to picture how at least 2 long-guns and more cargo could be placed on top of the hanging bag and following fiberglass-reinforced plastic table behind it. The packs and pouch were loaded with over 90 pounds of gear and supplies and the cart pulled easily and 'lightly'. I tested the now-rear shelf with a filled 5 gallon carboy of water - some 42 pounds - lashed to 3 eye-bolts installed for that purpose and hardly noticed the extra effort needed to pull the cart.

It is an enjoyable project, a quick week-end affair to accomplish, inexpensive and as designed above; or however you may wish to configure it for your own needs, a thing that it easy to do. The big plus is a man on the move can still carry a pack, a rifle and pockets goods on his person while pulling this; effectively quadrupling the normal load if need be. Many things too bulky or weighty to be conveyed by one's own upright strength - such as 5 gallons of water on the rear shelf - can now be moved with ease. I consider it to be sort of an automatic cache if the need to be free of longer-term needs must be abandoned due to hazardous circumstances arising. All that would be needed is to find cover for the cart and move off already packed out with a short term needs regular pack arrangement and/or defensive weapon.

I've not completely explained many of the design considerations. Some important ones are why no bag compartment is behind the axle - in order to lessen the accumulation of mud, dirt and debris on the canvas. Another thought is to make the cart as well-balanced see-saw-fashion fore and aft of the axle. The height of the fork handles to pull - either human or canine - is crucial for comfort and ease of use. Good heavy-duty cement rather than the weaker strength compounds is a must. The entire cart should be able to be picked up with little strain when unloaded/empty with one hand. The ability to remove the forks allows for ease of transport in a pickup truck, van or on a car roof, giving the owner the ability to take it in a 'bug-out' situation on and then off a fueled (or just ran out of gas) vehicle and move away from a hazard or traffic situation readily by paring down its overall length initially. The poles/forks too can be used for temporary tent poles and other campsite uses. The overall length of the cart cargo platform including the bag area should be approximately that of an adult body - around 3-4' - with the knees bent at the aft over-axle platform so that in an emergency you have a wheeled gurney at hand.

There are many other design parameters that could be included ranging from sewn-on pouches on the sides of the bag, rain cover fabrication, mud-flaps and more. It is all a matter of what the builder wishes to include. But as I began this essay with - weight, weight, weight and the consideration of that is what is crucial.

There seems to be a lot of debate on 'should I head for the hills, post-SHTF'. In my opinion, what most people miss is: Yes, it is a bad idea to head for the hills with no firmly established destination. Either move now or establish a place you are welcome to before the SHTF.

I doubt a small town will be welcoming strangers in that situation. As for the fantasy of 'living off the land', you and 85 million other people? Ever try to bag a deer during hunting season with the limits in place today? - Ross

JWR Replies: I agree wholeheartedly. The whole "Batman in the Boondocks" all-I-need-is-a-backpack-and-a-rifle-and-a-big-knife shtick seems to be promulgated by dreamers who have never actually tried it. For all but a few Herculean backpackers, it is indeed an unrealistic fantasy. If you leave your home with only what you can carry on your back or what can push in a cart, then you've shortchanged yourself and have positioned yourself just one notch above a penniless refugee. So consider this a last ditch contingency plan, not Plan A, or Plan B, or even Plan C.

By far, the best solution is to relocate well in advance of any disaster to a small town, with your larder fully intact. You need to become fully part of a community, to overcome the We/They Paradigm. The small town relocation concept was first advanced by Mel Tappan in the late 1970s, and it was crystallized in the 1980s by Joel Skousen. He dubbed it Strategic Relocation, and wrote an excellent series of books on the subject. I too, advocate living at your retreat year-round, and my family lives that life here at the Rawles Ranch. We only make occasional trips into cities, primarily for stocking up, or to broaden the horizons of my homeschooled children. (We visit museums, zoos, arboretums, libraries, and major book stores--like Powell's-- to enrich our at-home teaching curricula.)

There are some who advocate establishing a well-stocked retreat, with the hopes of getting there at the 11th Hour in the midst of a crisis. I do not recommend this, as there are lots of things that can go wrong. Not only is there a high risk of not making it safely to your retreat, but there is also a substantial risk that burglars will clean out your carefully stored tools and provisions. This approach is also suboptimal in terms of "working the kinks out" of your self-sufficiency plans. Unless you practice independent living day-to-day, it can be daunting--whether it is the peculiarities of growing a productive garden in your micro-climate, establishing fruit and nut trees, building up flocks and herds of livestock, or just learning the quirks of cooking on a wood stove. That all takes time and practice. Granted, you could have just one member of your family live at your retreat year round to "hold down the fort", but that is inferior to having everyone in the family living there and working the land. In closing, I must state that I recognize that for many SurvivalBlog readers that have work or family obligations in the cities and suburbs, that this may be your only practical solution. It is not the best, but make the best you can of it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Apocalypse: en route or ongoing? I won’t argue whether something terrible will happen. It’s a flawed premise. Something terrible is already happening, just not where your computer is plugged in. It is not necessary for the entire planet to be threatened for a single region to be thrown into chaos. It wasn’t necessary for the whole state of Louisiana to be in peril before New Orleans turned medieval after Katrina. The mistake in logic occurs with the base assumption that a survival scenario is the end game. If that’s your assumption, there’s no need for extensive preparations. All you can hope to do is postpone the inevitable. For the rest of us, disaster will bring about a dire, though temporary state of more primitive living conditions. It’s temporary because we are working to make sure it doesn’t last. Everyone’s survival objective should be to rebuild and sustain. Adapt does not mean devolve.

Civilization is usually restored in a matter of months after the most catastrophic disaster. Push that period of primitive lawlessness out to several years and you’ll get no argument from me. What I’m talking about is realigning your survival paradigm with the realm of the probable. You will never be prepared for everything possible, and you will probably never hunt feral cats with a bow in a radioactive ash storm. Even if you do, I submit there is no conceivable way to prepare yourself for that eventuality while maintaining a tolerable existence in the pre-apocalyptic world. It makes more sense to concentrate on the remaining 99-point-something-percent likely scenarios which, combined, will take 4,000% less preparation and worry. This paradigm shift takes about as much time as reading this article.

Still not sold? Well, I still won’t argue. Please see Robert Heinlein’s quote about teaching pigs to sing. But let’s assume you recognize the benefit in an approach based on overwhelming probability. I’m going to reward you with the single biggest life saving strategy you will acquire this year, and it costs nothing. In fact, it’s going to save you money. Ready? Stay home.

You heard me. Don’t go anywhere. Metaphoric pause inserted here to allow for knee jerk reactions. Someone exclaims, “I’m not staying in this city!” Another asks, “Why should we listen to this guy, anyway?” And that’s a reasonable question.

As a rescue technician, I’m qualified in high angle (dangling from a rope), trench, excavation, and underwater environments, as well as vehicle extrication, wilderness search and rescue, confined space safety and response, unexploded ordnance (bombs), mine fields, and HazMat operations. There are very few rescue scenarios I have not trained on, drilled on, commanded, or otherwise participated in. The rescuer’s creed is simple. I am the most important person on the scene, my partner is second, and the victim is third. This means I am primarily trained to keep myself and my team safe while we do all we can for someone else. Or, survival, for short.

What I am not: I may be the only survival expert who was never associated with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. Quite frankly, if you are getting all your survival tips from a SEAL Team member or any other individual whose primary qualification is combat experience, then you fall into the threat category for the rest of us. I dig special ops as much as the next guy, but they are trained to kill people. At night. With suppressed automatic weapons, helicopters and Zodiac boats. Is killing really that big a part of your overall plan? Or, do you envision saving yourself and your loved ones from the perils of a disaster-stricken city or suburb when additional resources may be hours or even days away? Because that’s what I do on a regular basis.

What I don’t often get a chance to do is speak to people before trouble finds them and explain how to best avoid becoming a victim in the first place. This information is hard won, paid for in some cases with life itself, and not the product of idle web surfing. I hope it strikes a chord with someone. I hope never to see you in need of rescue. That’s a result that benefits us both.

Here, I’ve enumerated the reasons for staying in or near your home (what we call “sheltering in place”) as opposed to immediately fleeing to an alternate location when disaster strikes. Do not lament any bug out preparations you have made or might be in the process of making. Survival is first and foremost a matter of options – having them, realizing them, and implementing them. If you can afford a subterranean bunker and it makes you sleep better at night, knock yourself out. Can’t hurt, right? I’m simply saying, in the most probable survival scenarios, the greatest number of us stand the greatest chance of helping ourselves by shifting the bug out option down the list a bit. For the vast majority of people who do not have bunkers, piling into the truck and heading for the hills is a very bad first option. And here’s why:

1.) The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the better your chances of long-term survival. All else equal, meaning your immediate surroundings aren’t grossly contaminated, you will live longer in the neighborhood where you’ve spent the last ten years than you will in the forest. Yes, this takes into account roaming bands of armed thugs. Yes, it’s true even if you’ve found the last virgin wilderness where the ground is fertile and game abounds. There is no substitute for, nor any advantage that trumps a thorough knowledge of your surroundings. You can “feel” when something is not right in your neighborhood. That’s because it is your habitat. In the best of conditions, animals struggle outside their habitat

2.) You will need support. Because you can’t anticipate every eventuality, you will not know from whom, or from where, aid might come. When you flee the worst of human nature, you also hide from the best. Okay, you may discount completely the kindness of your neighbor, but are you going to ignore the benefit of trading with him when supply caches are lopsided? And what about when your interests align with his? When, for example, those armed thugs show up, they won’t be coming just for what’s in your house. They’ll be going door to door. You will suddenly discover allies all around you and it will have nothing to do with philanthropy or humanitarian principles.

3.) Have you ever heard, “Train how we fight, and fight how we train”? It’s an accepted strategy by now, from athletics to the armed forces. You will perform in the same manner you practiced. This holds true for your environs. Football isn’t practiced on a soccer field just as jungle warfare techniques aren’t honed in alpine forests. The better you know your surroundings, the better able you are to use them to your advantage. Near your house, you already know which streets are dead-ends, which drainage and choke points to avoid, where the nasty dogs are, and you know all routes from there to everywhere else in a 20 mile radius. Unless you are at least that familiar with your bug out location and spend at least half your time there, you are safer at home. Note: companies like onPoint Tactical offer urban survival courses customized to most metropolitan areas. Check for one where you live and improve upon your turf advantage instead of trying to learn new terrain.

4.) After shelter and food, your psychological well being is the most important factor in your survival. I cannot overstate the importance of your surroundings on your psyche. All of those familiar, comforting belongings that you cannot pack in a go bag will make the difference in morale when things get really tough. These morale stabilizers will translate to poise in the face of extraordinary circumstances, when every decision matters. But let’s say you’ve adopted the Spartan lifestyle and everything you own already fits into that go bag. My question to you is, why defend any ground at all? Find yourself a mule and go nomad. Most of us social animals, however, need our territory. And the psychological benefit we derive from home territory – the home field advantage, in other words – is no myth. It reminds us what we’re struggling to preserve.

5.) If you have put any thought into a remote shelter, you have grappled with the problem of supply. Everything from food to first aid and farm implements must be transported there and stored there. You probably already have all this stuff at home. Consider how much easier it would be to simply increase your stores in that one location. You can maintain equipment in your garage. Rotate fuel and food into consumption before it expires and replace it with fresh goods. Keep your medicine and vitamins in the refrigerator that’s already running and extend their shelf lives. Yard not good for growing things? Let the dog poop somewhere else and rehabilitate your soil. Take the money you would have spent driving to your remote shelter on a monthly basis and construct some raised vegetable beds. Start a compost heap. Raise fruit trees and perennial crops now instead of depending on your ability to learn this skill under life and death pressure.

6.) There will be an “after”. There may be several. Hollywood is largely responsible for our warped vision of a post-apocalypse world. They share the blame with unscrupulous fear merchants and a several religious sects. Disaster and ruin are not end states. Ever. Populations regenerate and societies rebuild. That means that there were more than a few people left after every catastrophic occurrence in history, and there have been some big ones. What has happened before will happen again, including the healing process. What kind of shape would you expect your property to be in after you abandoned it to looters and the elements for a few months? What if, instead of a single big bang Hollywood style disaster, a much more likely succession of smaller disasters strike? You have the option to weather them one at a time and rehabilitate in between, or isolate yourself at the onset and forsake your home. The latter could well prove to be an irreversible decision.

There are more reasons than I’ve given here – some technical, some the lesser of two evils – but I’m hoping this is sufficient to compel many readers to pause and consider the basis for their assumptions. If something about your plan of action is troubling you and you can’t quite get a handle on it; if every problem you attempt to solve creates two new ones; if the amount of money, worry, and time you’re spending on this somehow doesn’t make sense, it’s because your premise is flawed. It’s likely you inherited someone else’s premise and didn’t ask the right questions of it. There’s time to do that now. Take another look at what you already have before buying anything new. Then get some qualified advice on how to maximize it.

The latest economic recession was, for thousands of people across our nation and millions worldwide, apocalyptic. Vast numbers of those people are still in survival mode. One of the benefits to being less severely impacted by this disaster is the unbelievably cheep expertise available to us on the open market. Security consultants, architects, builders, fire fighters, self defense specialists, farmers and firearm instructors (to mention a very few) are scouring the want ads for any kind of employment. Offer them a day’s wage to help educate you and your family. It’s money wisely spent because it helps you and it helps a skilled individual without a job. We will need those skilled people nearby when the worst comes to pass. This is symbiotic, community recovery without going all Kumbaya around a campfire. It is practical, sustainable, and it will serve you much better than an individualist approach. I promise.

So, my advice reiterated is this: ignore the microscopic possibilities and concentrate on some solvable problems. Learn to separate practical survival from movies and video games. Go back to the beginning and question everything. It’s not hard. It will make you feel better. It will save you money. It will save your life and possibly many others. Be safe out there.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I just read the SurvivalBlog post "Letter Re: Military Surplus G.O.O.D. Vehicles."

Here's a web site for any of your readers in or near West Virginia looking for a Humvee, Deuce and a half or 5 ton trucks: Clark Trucks.

With My Regards, - Aaron K.


Reference military surplus vehicles, I would like to recommend that for those seriously interested in something other than a "deuce" that there are several places here in the US where former Swiss or Austrian "Pinzguaers" are available.  These are very versatile, high ground clearance, 4x4 or 6x6 trucks.  They have 4-cylinder, air cooled, carbureted, 89 hp, motors and will travel almost anywhere.  Maintenance is easy and common items such as 24 volt light bulbs, spark plugs, and oil filters are readily available at most auto parts stores.
Now, the bad news, there are only a handful of sources in the US for major parts and some of them are fairly expensive.  They are also fairly distinctive and draw quite a bit of attention for a truck that is only slightly larger than a Chevrolet Astro van.  Their range is only about 200 to 250 miles on a 20 gallon fill up, so jerry cans would be in order for a long bug out trip.
The 4x4, 710M model, will carry a full ton, or is capable of moving 10 persons and gear at speeds up to about 60 mph on paved roads.  The 6x6, 712M, will carry 14 persons and gear or a full ton and a half of cargo.  Both styles have 45 degree approach and departure angles and are rated for a 45 degree side slope.  I will take their word for that simply because I run out of nerve at about 10 to 15 degrees of side slope.
Finding a Steyr, Daimler, Puch (the consortium that designed and built these trucks) Pinzgauer is fairly easy by just searching with the term "Pinzgauer."  There are a few diesel powered Pinzgauers finding their way into the country.  Caution would be advised on these as registration of them for use on streets and highways could be tricky due to EPA regulations.  The truck, in most cases, has to be 30 years old to meet the standards.  In my case the two I have beat the daylights out of the Polaris Ranger as a utility vehicle.  They were both cheaper than the new Ranger models and can be titled, license, insured and driven on the highways, whereas a UTV in most cases has to be trailered.
Another potential source for former military vehicles, mostly of American manufacturer, is Idaho Motor Pool.  I know nothing about them other than their internet reputation is pretty good.
I love SurvivalBlog and I am very grateful for your books and the information you provide.
Regards, - Signcutter

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I loved your book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. I was surprised when I read the G.O.O.D. vehicles section that you didn't really mention old military vehicles as G.O.O.D vehicles. I was curious of your stand on this as I'm sure other readers are too. I recently purchased a 1-1/4 ton 1968 Kaiser Jeep M715 that had been converted to run on both gas and propane. It really isn't a very complicated vehicle to work on the wiring is very basic. I believe this is a good retreat rig as the maintenance is very basic the only con is that it has a low gear ratio so top speed is maybe 55 mph. No special tools are required on it just a good socket and ratchet set, timing strobe light, a good Digital Volt Ohm Meter and a set of screwdrivers and some brake line wrenches. Those are a all you need to work on al but the most advanced repairs.

I live in Arkansas so seeing people drive old Army rigs is commonplace. So would you recommend old military rigs and why or why not? Also would you recommend a specific kind? - J.R.O.

JWR Replies: Yes, so long as you live in area where they won't stick out like a proverbial sore thumb, military surplus vehicles can be quite practical for retreats. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, here in the U.S., two of the most practical models are M35A2 2-/12 ton trucks with multifuel engines for hauling fairly large loads, and diesel CUCV pickup trucks for hauling light loads. One good source for CUCVs is Classic Mustangs in Denver, Colorado. More obscure and hard-to-find military vehicles can often be found at Dave Uhrig's site.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

As a former California Department of Forestry (C.D.F. which is now Cal-Fire) wild land firefighter I would like to give some professional advice to persons living in wildfire prone urban interface locations.  The 100 foot clearance required is really a necessity in defending your retreat.  If infrastructure is still up, when told to evacuate, GET OUT ! From a roadway, I once had to listen to the screams of a woman who burned to death because she refused to evacuate her home.  It is a haunting memory.

Have an advance plan for safety zones and escape routes.  A safety zone is an area where you could weather the fire without the chance of being burned over as your escape route has been cut off.  A large area, void of vegetation is the best.  Sometimes you might come across grazed over areas or a large rocky area that would suffice.  Gravel and paved parking areas are best.

In an instance where you are about to be burned over, setting a fire ahead of you and the main fire's path of travel and then moving into the "black"  might save you as fire cannot burn the area again.  

When a wildfire breaks in your area, put on as much 100% cotton clothing as you can. Long sleeves and ALL leather boots are also important.  Safety glasses and a bandanna over your face (not wet) .  Cotton resists flame where polyester melts.  Nomex is your best fire resistant material.

In a post collapse situation, I strongly suggest going to a bare earth policy around your retreat.  Strip all vegetation (yes that includes your landscaping, no spare water to care for it anyway) away for 100 feet.  Eliminate over-hanging tree branches, clear "ladder fuels " which are the lower branches on the trees.  Clean your roof and eaves troughs of dead vegetation and leaves.

Lastly, "don't put all your eggs in one basket " in fire prone areas.  Have a back up pre-position or during high fire season have a stash trailer positioned somewhere else.  A root cellar or underground storage will also work.

After collapse, especially in the California foothills, many refugees will escape the city with very little survival skill knowledge.  The first thing they will do is start a fire to cook food during a high fire danger season.  Post collapse, wildfire danger rates at or above that of looters and gangs. - G.I. Jim

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