Editors’ Prepping Progress

To be prepared for a crisis, every Prepper must establish goals and make long-term and short-term plans. Steadily, we work on meeting our prepping goals. In this column, the SurvivalBlog editors review their week’s prep activities. They also often share their planned prep activities for the coming week. These range from healthcare and gear purchases to gardening, property improvements, and food storage. This is something akin to our Retreat Owner Profiles, but written incrementally and in detail, throughout the year. We always welcome you to share your own successes and wisdom in the Comments. Let’s keep busy and be ready!


It was a pleasant week at the Rawles Ranch. Between a few snow showers, we had the opportunity to do some hiking and cross country skiing. Late in the week I took a break from writing and did some snow plowing. I even had time to do some snow shoveling, reorganize the garage, and carry a few things down to Jim’s Amazing Secret Bunker of Redundant Redundancy (JASBORR). Sorry, but no photos of JASBORR–a.k.a. The Fleidermaus Grotte–are available, for OPSEC reasons.

This past week we received another batch of forwarded Snail Mail. There were several envelopes with subscription donations for the Ten Cent Challenge. It was also gratifying to see that more than 500 of the 2005-2018 SurvivalBlog Archive waterproof USB sticks were sold in just the first week of sales. I was told that the first increment of those orders were packaged and mailed out on Friday. By the way, I should mention that the family that is handling order fulfillment for us again this year operates as a home-based business. I think it is great that we can partner with folks who live the same lifestyle. Just like us, they do not want to be tied up in the corporate rat race.

To both the Ten Cent Challenge subscribers and to those who ordered USB sticks, my sincere thanks!

Avalanche Lily Reports:

Dear Readers,
This week we did our regular winter home schooling, chores, skiing, hiking and writing. In addition, I watched a whole slew of videos by a young woman with the trail name Dixie. She hiked the three major hiking trails of the United States during the past four years: The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. Her web site is called Homemade Wanderlust. In her videos she talks about her gear, food, water, itineraries, and experiences of these hikes.  Her photography and advice is excellent, very professional, very authentic, and down to earth.

During my high school and college years I did do some backpacking trips.  I’ve wanted to do them again, but during the past 8 years I have been helping Jim develop our homestead, gardening, harvesting and preserving our produce in the spring and summer, and schooling in the fall and winter. So I haven’t made the time to do anything more than day hikes. I milked cows for the middle six years of the first 8 years of marriage. I’m currently not milking. I’ll explain that in my column next week.

Dixie’s videos inspired me to want to do winter cross country skiing camping and summer backpacking this coming spring and summer.

Watching her videos prompted me to reassess and compare her ultralight style with my survivalist style backpack/Bugout Backpack.  They are definitely two different animals but with some overlap. Perhaps I’ll write an article comparing their differences and similarities.

I went through all of my backpacking gear: sleeping bag, pack, tent, clothes, cooking utensils, boots, food, water filters, and so forth.  I compared that with her gear list, where I live, and what scenarios I would be facing.  I made some changes and a list of a few items that I need to acquire and have ordered them.  Then I began to test my gear out starting with sleeping outside in the winter. I’m first going to work out what is best for me and then continue coaching and finish outfitting the girls. They have much of what they need, but need a few more items. I’ll then wrap it up with Jim.  He did some backpacking in the Sierras as a Boy Scout and as a young man. Currently, he has to work hard on the blog and books these days and doesn’t have much free time.

Testing Gear

On Sunday, I washed my 5 Degree Fahrenheit-rated down mummy sleeping bag, a fleece bag liner, and a Woodland camouflage mil-spec Goretex Bivouac bag that Jim gave me. The Bivvy bag had been stored in the garage, and it had a faint smell of mildew. After those had been washed and dried, I then set up my one man tent (there is room for Jim) on the covered open back porch deck.  I set up the tent without the rain fly, so that I could see the sky.  I put my self-inflating sleeping pad inside the tent and  put my sleeping bag into the fleece bag and then put the two of them into the Bivouac bag.   I then slept out in it on Sunday night while trying to watch for the Super Blood Wolf Moon through the clouds. The clouds never cleared away enough for a good view of it.  The girls would come out onto the porch every few minutes to see if we’d get a glimpse.  Just a little we saw.  Since our porch is sometimes a throughway for skunks and raccoons.  I feel much safer inside a tent, instead of cowboy camping.

The temperature dropped to a low of about 28 degrees F and it was snow showering in the early part of the night. For sleeping, I wore just some mid-weight wool long john pants and a silk long john long-sleeved shirt, cashmere sweater, a wool hat and Darn Tough hiker weight socks. I had left my boots and winter coat in the house since I was just experimenting to see how comfortable I would be sleeping outside and could run inside in two seconds, if needed.  For the most part, I was warm.  About 2AM, the wool hat was so itchy that it woke me up, I took it off and burrowed deeper into the Mummy bag.  I fell back to sleep and woke up at 4AM, feeling damp and a tad bit chilled. I could hear Jim adding wood in the wood heating stove, in the house. I felt the call of nature, and felt very hungry, so went into the house, greeted Jim, ate something, warmed up by the stove and went back to bed in our own bed.

Conclusion: I will need a soft fleece hat for winter sleeping outside.  The sleeping bag and my shirts became damp, either from me sweating, the humidity, or also maybe the bag wasn’t completely dry when I took it out of the dryer earlier that evening, or the Bivvy sac trapped the sweat inside everything. In the future I will wear either a cotton t-shirt under the cashmere or only the cashmere sweater and see how the dampness is. I will also put the fleece sleeping bag liner inside the sleeping bag and see how that feels and will ditch the Bivvy for a night.

Also, the next time I sleep out, I plan to put the tent out in the meadow on top of the snow with a footprint groundsheet between the snow and the tent. I will also have my boots, winter coat, and mittens with me.I intend to put them on as soon as I crawl out of the sleeping bag in the morning.

Next week, I’ll discuss some of the backpacking food issues that I found, as well as some current events and my new sense of urgency to re-organize our field gear.

May you all have a very safe and blessed week. – Jim & Avalanche Lily, Rawles



We made a family affair out of watching and photographing the lunar eclipse. We thought that we were going to miss it as there were fairly heavy rain clouds that obscured much of the night sky, but just as the eclipse began, the clouds began to thin out and we were treated to a spectacular sight. At the full climax, the clouds disappeared and the view was so spectacular that we actually got to see the meteor hit the lunar surface. It was so quick that we thought that it had been an error in our camera until we saw other reports of it on YouTube. What a wonderful experience that we will be talking about for quite some time.

On the prepping front, this week was a rather slow week as we needed a mini-vacation from all the activity surrounding the loss of a loved one. It became a time of introspection and Bible study as slowed our pace down and just enjoyed each others company.

Next week, we’ll be hard at it again as the weather predictions are signalling much warmer weather, some of it in the high 50s with very little wind. Now is the time to get those spring chores done before the spring winds start kicking up and the ground freezes hard.

o o o

As always, please share your own successes and hard-earned wisdom in the Comments.


  1. Would also be interested in the comparison of ultralight vs. bug out bag. Have done recreational winter camping and after a long day of hiking, skiing, snowshoeing , etc the body furnace gets going and have been quite comfortable in synthetic long underwear , down bag and tent.

    Have set up the bug out bag for stealth and long durations of inactivity. Hence the need for camo, heavier clothing and ability to eat without making a fire.

    And of course getting wet or injured is serious in any condition.

    Great article. Look forward to further installments !

  2. JASBORR sounds like a new product from IWI. I like it.
    Avalanche Lily is demonstrating that we all need to be continuous learners.
    Testing our gear and plan before we need it. My Wife and I need to follow your lead.
    Jim waking you up by stoking the wood fire is funny. He is wise.

    We spent an afternoon pruning a patch of salmon berries to the ground. They will come back even thicker in the spring. Salmon berries grow wild and they are edible. The bears like them. The best thing about them is they are thorny and make a really good border barricade plant.

    I am preparing to transplant two plum trees and we continue to clear our property of blow downs and branches. It is nice to get outside.

  3. I started my deer-proof orchard fence this week. My source of telephone poles is a friend made from my ham radio club membership. He works for a communications company. They salvage and erect poles for their communications sites.

    I suggest you call the power company, ask which subcontractor sets up and takes down their poles, then ask that company if they would drop off damaged power piles at your place.

    My friend told me they have to pay lots of money to dispose of them, so a free dropoff at my place saves them a thousand bucks, thanks to the anti-creosote issues. I won’t be having any contact between creosote and [groundwater] source, so no worries.

    Costco fruit trees came and went in just four days this week. I got 19 more to add to the orchard. In our Penninsula Fruit Club, one member intensively manages 1.9 acres of trees and harvested 56,000 pounds of apples 4 years ago.

    Our Spring Fruit Show and Grafting Clinic is coming March 2 in Bremerton. Once again we’ll have over 400 varieties of apples, pears, cherries, quince, grapes, kiwis, plums, berries, and more, to pick from. Most are heirloom. Come if you can. God Bless.

  4. When we replaced all our hiking and backpacking gear after a house fire (hidden junction box that even the electrician who redid our electric and the inspector missed), we took the opportunity to purchase lighter weight packs. We also discovered that our 5’2″ daughter needed a pack suited to her shorter stature to avoid back problems and chafing.

    I also cannot tolerate ichy wool, but want the warmth and waterproof qualities. One solution I’ve found is to line the hat with fleece, or I have even been know to wear a fleece hat or pair of knee high socks under wool ones.

    This week seemed doubly long battling the weather here at the cabin. A nor’easter that dropped over a foot of snow followed by an arctic blast of below zero temperatures followed by rain for 12 hours followed by single digit temperatures. It’s a sheet of ice out there. I’m pleased to say that all went well because of our preparations…studded tires, plenty of dry kindling and wood, a stocked pantry, and backup electric heater.

    This week my order for 25 lbs of gluten free flour arrived. My daughter has had to go gluten free after an injury and I am experimenting with mixes and baking for her and for a business plan I have. I’m also going to resell some privately for slightly above cost. Time for waffles with maple syrup.

    1. PJGT, after I slipped on ice in November, my sweetheart bought me some NEOS stabilicer boots. They have removable studs on the sole. The boots fit over a regular shoe, so a fella can take ’em off before walking on bare floor.

      I hope the ice thaws soon.

      Carry on

      1. Once a Marine,

        Fit over shoes? Great idea. People are so creative. Thanks for sharing and recommending.

        No thawing this upcoming week as temps look to be in the single digits to below zero. Woodpile is still going strong. Mighty happy to have that newly built wood shed filled with dry wood ready for the stove.

  5. great post , looking forward to more. I am currently in the same process , lighter load out . Try using polypropelene long underware and see if you get the same condensation issue, using those GI bivvies are an acquired art . I am trying to get a balance also in my load out between lighter weight and durability, being on the East coast my planning and loadout differs from what you lucky people are prepared for . The loadout I have been working on is more Escape and Evade orientated due to the aspects of my A.O., living in a gun unfriendly state makes things differently to what your load out consists of, the load out I am trying to optimize for is Temporarly Evac in a non-permissive environment if things go south rapidly to a more friendly area . Guerilla camping style and movement at night. (PVS-14 and training from the past , OPSEC on an open forum) being older (60) I don’t overestimate my capabilities, I Train with my gear at every opportunity I can get and Dry fire when I can’t get to the range , eat right and run daily. Necessity dictates a concealable defensive arm in extreme conditions. (I.E. complete breakdown WROL).
    Regardless of gear , Faith in God , a will to live and no doubt in your effort to prevail wins in the end . Maybe I will write a short article if I get get some time to do it right in the near future.

    No one is coming to save us (except God we are never truly alone) its up to each of us to prepare to the best of our abilities.

    The Only way out is Through.


    1. It’s incredibly cold here and going to be even colder next week. Full blown hibernation mode. All I do is go out to work in my shop and burn all my firewood. We need some of that Global Warming back again.

  6. It sounds like you are having a condensation problem in your bag from your perspiration. I strongly suggest that you buy a bag from WIGGY’S, available on line. He uses lamalite insulation and it will eliminate your perspiration problem. I have his 20 degree bag and have slept in it naked in 10 degree weather as a test and was totally comfortable. When you read the testimonials on his site as well as the military testing you will be sold. My bag is over ten years old, used and washed regularly, lent out to friends and family and still looks new. Well worth the money.

    1. My Ranger experience and my Eagle Scout Son’s experience with Wiggy’s bags bear out Mr. Makowski’s experience. The bags work, they work to a bit below the temp rating.

      Jerry Wigutow, the owner, sometimes can be hard to swallow. He unabashedly claims his is the best and does not hesitate to make that point.

      That being said, I’ve purchased for me, mine, and a couple of friends more than 10 of the sleeping bags and probably 20+ poncho liners from Wiggy’s. So far – no failures or complaints.

  7. Really look forward to the Sat. SB comments.

    Finishing up with the garage project this week. Peg boards are now loaded with the tools we could not find. Shelves are being sorted as to plumbing, electrical, soldering/welding, household, vehicles, hardware, etc.

    Received some vanilla beans which I will place in dark bottles for a tincture this week. I also received a very well illustrated book on wild mushrooms in our area. The nice thing about this book is that it is divided into seasons.

    Still working on our 160 meter antenna. Hard to do in the snow. Was able to repair a tuner and that made a big difference with our other antennas. Made several contacts.

    More snow tonight and tomorrow morning. Hope we can make it to church this week.

    Blessings to all at SB and readers.

  8. Cotton Kills

    Wiggy Bags don’t let you get damp

    Merino wool doesn’t itch – certainly must be one of the 8th day blessings God gave us after he made the universe! Varustaleka has a merino hoody, glove liners, hats, that are WARM and well priced. I also find their wind-proof shell (smock) coat for $70 to be exactly that – combined with the hoody, I am good down to 5 degrees with a 20 MPH wind.

    The bivvy bag will trap all of your perspiration.

    Good post of your activities – thank you for the work of putting it down for us.

  9. To the Two Wiggy’s Bag Advocates,

    We here at the Rawles Ranch do possess three complete sets of FTRSS Wiggy’s Bags! Jim bought them in the early 1990s. I will completely agree with you on the incredible comfort level they offer. We have used them the few times we’ve gone camping with friends (very close to home, to be able to run home to milk our cows and do animal chores) or slept out in our tents, on our land. But here is my whine, “They’re soo huge and bulky and too heavy for backpacking.” I refuse to carry it backpacking. It has been my opinion that the Wiggy’s FTRSS bag combos are best for what I call Civilized camping, that is, places that people drive to, campgrounds or cabins, or pull a sled behind them or some kind of trailer…

    After conversing with Jim (between the upper paragraph and this one) I am going to reassess the Wiggy bag combo. I will take out the inner bag which is rated to 5*Fahrenheit, check it’s weight and size after stuffing it into a compression sack and then I will sleep in it in the tent sometime this week to test it’s warmth and breathability and will let you know what I think. I have always been worried that it wouldn’t be warm enough with just one of the bags by itself winter camping. But, I haven’t honestly ever given it a try so now I will.



  10. Still harvesting tomatoes. Planted seeds yesterday for next year’s plants. Mostly heirloom black varieties of tomatoes. Started scallions, cabbage, chard, and lettuce. Seeds are on a heat mat in the garage. Took cuttings of three kinds of figs and am trying to root on the heat mat. Am trying a couple of apple varieties too. Yes I know they won’t be on rootstock but imagine they will be fine if they root. Just big trees. Am rooting grapefruit , tangerine ,lemon , and grapes (not on the heat mat). Potted up herbs I rooted in the window sill and put them outside with a plastic tub for cover until we stop freezing at night. Potted up ginkgo biloba seeds that i germinated. Most are still in the fridge stratifying but will plant as they germinate in the bag. My daughter cut up several dead willow trees that are being used as fire wood. Rather punky but it does burn eventually. Also pruned a mulberry tree and am burning that even though it is green. Weeded another 3 raised beds.

  11. The inner bag of the Wiggy’s FTRSS Combo Bag is 8.2 pounds…. It’s a lovely semi-mummy bag. Maybe the outer summer bag would be warm enough for me in the summer? I will be testing out the Winter weight inner bag this week.


  12. Having watch all of “Dixies” videos and spending 30 years backpacking I would caution anyone that wants to go backpacking to get some training before striking out in the way Jessica has. Read a book or two. Before her 1st hike she was an Engineer and a good one. Her camping experience was nil and her motivation an early life job crisis and was a spur of the moment thing. She started out with no knowledge and learned some bad habits which have never been corrected. It should be understood that Amateur Extreme Hiking is inherently dangerous. There are much better National Trail hikers out there and some education is appropriate. Jess is fun to watch though. Her photography editor did a fine job.
    Yes I know her. Yes she grew up down the street from me. Yes she wants to improve.

    1. I have not watched her videos, but hiking those trails is admirable. I grew up on a farm, living in the outside and my parents would probably be up for child abuse in today’s world. We had freedom to roam, and worked harder than most adults do today. I am comfortable in the woods and in the cold (having lived with the athabascan Indians on the Arctic Circle), but I fear being stuck in a city!

      1. I hear ya on the differences today! I took my dad down to the old hometown where he and I grew up- soooo much…progress. Nothing recognizable there now. So much change. We had many farms to roam when I was a kid, for us kids any farm land was free roaming territory as long as we didnt misbehave. It was a good time to grow up. I was blessed by having a top notch boy scout troop experience- we backpacked every month. Dixie’s trips are entertaining, she is a sweetheart of a gal. When she gets something in her head to do nothing will stop her. Her whole family is fun and each of her siblings have been Valedictorian or Salutatorian and not one is lazy. I had to look both of those words up just to spell them here! I think you would enjoy her videos, she filmed them on her phone and had a friend/BF back home edit and produce. He did an excellent job. When you start a thur-hike in Georgia someone on the trail gives you a nick name. Jessica got Dixie because of her southern drawl, blonde hair and big smile.

  13. picked up 20 LED flashlights for $6 on clearance at Walmart along with 2 spray cans of flex seal for $2 each. Also picked up some arrows and bow string wax.

    Added information to one of my books of “useful information. My daughter calls it “Dad’s book of apocalyptic knowledge.”

    Whole family went out to BOL to clean up from the construction project. Doing some reorganization.

    Lots of snow this week and next week we will be having temps below zero with wind chills around -30.

  14. This is the time of year I watch grocery store sales for canned goods, as you can catch some good ones and buy in bulk if you pay attention. Safeway had store brand canned vegetables and beans on sale 2/$1.00 last week (no coupon needed, no limit) so I contacted the grocery manager and ordered a number of cases of corn, creamed corn, green beans, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans.

    He ordered on Monday and they had my order for me today (Saturday) – all stacked up in 2 grocery carts. The young lady who pushed the 2nd cart out to my car didn’t say much; the young man who took the carts back to the store asked, “Stocking up?”, to which I replied “Yes, sure am, it was a good sale and these keep for a long time.”. His reply: “Smart!” ( with a big smile). Now to rotate all the pantry/storage areas to make room for our newly added cans of food security! 🙂

    I also watered the orchard – still a work in progress – growing fruit trees is tricky here in Arizona, but I’m learning. We planted 16 fruit trees and 6 berries/vines last year, we’ve made it through the first summer and some hard frosts, and we still have 13 trees and 4 vines/bushes – so far, so good!

    Also this week – had the local spray company come out to give us an estimate for adding our newly cleared additional acre to the areas we have them spray for us. There is an invasive, noxious weed taking over North Phoenix called Globe Chamomile – if you all ever find it in your part of the country – do all you can to eradicate it immediately! It is horrible, and both my husband and I (along with many others) are terribly allergic to it. Local wildlife won’t eat it, goats don’t like it, even bunnies don’t like it. The juice from cutting it is also an allergen and has sent people to the hospital with severe welts/burns/blisters. It dries standing upright and becomes an extreme fire hazard. We tried fighting it by hand and physically removing it for a year, but we lost the war. Luckily the local, family owned spray company we use has a pre and post emergent formula that works on it (took 2 years for him to find something that would work), and which doesn’t harm native or fruit trees or cactus, so hopefully we can get the weeds under control soon, and get outside to enjoy the AZ wintertime.

  15. FYI Dixie is not unknown to the prepper community. Scout you can’t call someone who hiked the three major trails an amateur. Suggest you watch her videos. Going “light” doesn’t mean going stupid.

  16. Cold weather camping/bug out vs warm weather camping/bug out. For those who have internet connection may I recommend a bushcraft site for recommendations on cover and clothing to sleep in. The guys name is David Pearson and he goes by Realbigmonkey1.com
    He has numerous videos on various one and two person cover and also what to wear in various weather conditions. He and other bushcraft videos you will be connected to by his videos have detailed suggestions for the various conditions we all run into. I have personally completely altered my mindset and preparations on emergency provisions and BOB for the various scenarios of season and temperature. there are common sense provisions on food and water and hygiene first aid also. His provision for a heated cover are quite interesting in wet conditions. Also recommendations on clothing that protects from mosquito, tick, chigger bites.

  17. I have noticed a prideful hubris within some of the so-called survival tribe. Experienced bushcraft people have much to offer folks with a humble mindset. True useful knowledge can be garnered from various places. Could you survive 6 months or longer if forced outside your home or bugout location in dire emergency condition. Could you survive 2 months without your stockpiles? 1 month in winter? We all should benefit from knowledge to accomplish survival in that likelihood. Your stores of food, water, batteries, solar panels, toilet paper, silver, bic lighters, etc can not be carried in a 72 hour pack BOB. You might be forced from your best laid plans. History is replete with that very possible scenario. You better know how to gather water, food, shelter, make fire, etc etc. Just look at the major migrations of peoples from numerous countries across the globe in the past two years. A tent and sleeping bag are not going to get it in the dead of winter in most of the US and Canada. You better be prepared with cheap packable provision for harsh reality that is within the reach of everybody now with a little knowledge.

    1. Oly and Scout,

      Oly, you are absolutely right with this above comment. We need to glean information from everyone who may have experiences in the areas we’re interested in learning about. We will pick out what is relevant and useful for ourselves through experimentation, trial and error. We also will learn from other’s mistakes.

      Let me add, that just because I am James Wesley, Rawles’ wife doesn’t mean that I don’t worry about what would happen IF we were forced from our home at a moment’s notice and had no one to turn to? Let me tell you it is often on my mind what we would need if we had to flee. I dread the possibility of that day and pray that it wouldn’t be in God’s plans for our lives. I am constantly running lists through my mind and thinking about where everything we might need is located in case we had to grab and go. I know we cannot carry on our backs enough provisions and food for the four of us to survive somewhat comfortably for more than a month in the winter in our locale!! This is why I am now turning my attention to Ultra-light hikers like Dixie, who by the way, only came to our attention last week. I will watch others, as time permits.

      The ends of all three of her through hikes were finished in the snowy conditions. I was very curious to know how she had dealt with the cold and wet and how comfortable she was while sleeping out in it, and what her gear was. I have read many stories about people sleeping out in Alaska in -30* temperatures and always wondered how they did it? I have lived on mountains in my college and post-college years for jobs which required hiking all day outside in all weather conditions. So I have some experience of living outside, the clothes, equipment and food required during all seasons, but it has been about 25 years since I’ve done it.

      Scout , in my opinion Dixie did take some risks, (Notably, swimming that river in the Sierras/Yosemite with her backpack on and surviving!!) Umm, I haven’t seen anything, yet, that I would think was one of her bad habits? I’m curious to know what you think they are?

      To me, the bottom line is that everyone chooses the risks that they’re willing to take, and usually, Praise the Lord, He protects us. Life is a risk! And as far as folks being worried that newbie people who are watching amateurs, are going to learn bad habits and skills, I’d say, hopefully, that most people possess common sense and will know what their own limitations are for behavior and activities and will be able to evaluate their own risk taking willingness.

      We do have a friend who was a survivalist instructor who has given us some sound advice on the few more clothing items that we need to acquire for winter camping. I will be trying them out. I need to harden myself, the girls, and Jim. For we do not know what the Lord has in store for us. Being physically in shape is an extremely important component of this readiness, of which we’re all embracing in between all of our schooling, cooking, chores and writing. I’ll write more later on these topics and experiences.

      Blessings to you both,


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