Note from the Memsahib:

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Note from JWR: I will be a featured guest today (Saturday) on Dr. Geri Guidetti’s web radio/shortwave radio show. The show airs at 1 p.m. Central Time (11 a.m. Pacific Time.) This two hour show will also be available via podcast. The Topic: Pandemics–family Preparedness. For details on how to hear the webcast live or on how to download it post facto, visit the Republic Radio web site:

More Severe Weather Patterns Ahead?

Although climatologists are sharply divided as to long term global warming versus global cooling, there is some evidence of at least short term changes in climate. Consider the following “Hundred Year Forecast” from the pundits at LiveScience: However, you might just log this as “Food for Though and Grounds for Further Research” (FFTAGFFR), rather than as reliable data for making decisive relocation plans. I’m sorry to say that the jury is still out about global warming.

“Doug Carlton” Re: Ghillie Suits, Camouflage Ponchos, Protective Masks, and Night Vision Gear

Here’s my views on some of your more recent e-mail. Grandpa R. brought up some interesting things. First of all on the Ghillie suit, I don’t recommend a poncho for the stereotypical work a Ghillie suit is used for. A Ghillie suit is a task and terrain specific uniform that’s employed by specially trained folks. If you already have the training and field craft to use a ghillie suit correctly and effectively, then you already know the answer to the question. That answer isn’t the poncho, it’s the same one or two piece suit that every sniper from every nation uses. There’s a reason they ALL use the same thing, and that’s because it’s the only thing that will does the job at that level of expertise. Jim’s recommendation on the poncho is dead on for the survivalists who aren’t graduates of a service branch’s sniper qualification course. The poncho is a multi-use item, and that’s always a plus. A great example of one is the German Zeltban. The Zelt can be used as a poncho, breaking up the outline of the human figure, as a “shelter quarter” to make a four-man tent, as a tarp to make an individual shelter, as a poncho for rain, etc. as an outer garment including various ways to configure it for walking, riding on horses/bicycles, etc. Many European countries used them right up until recently. Most are canvas, so they are quiet, though they are heavy. many are designed with summer foliage camouflage on one side, and winter on the other, though I’ve seen some that are just green and you can dye them whatever you want for your area. If I was going to use one in the desert, I’d make a copy of the Zelt in canvas with one side day desert and the other side night desert, and update the buttons, etc. If I was in the north, then woodland on one side, and a winter/fall on the other would be a better choice. You get the idea. A liner made from a GI poncho liner would also create a sleeping bag, and a field jacket. It’s a phenomenal piece of kit. I can provide specs to anyone, just e-mail Jim and he’ll let me know if it’s something worth pursuing in the future for an installment on the Blog.
On gas masks and NBC, you have to remember not to equate Army NBC training and procedures with your’s as a survivalist. You don’t have the
logistics tail to make fighting and operating in contaminated environments a viable option. The best you can do is provide a limited amount of NBC protection that will allow you to egress a contaminated area. Changing filters when “in the soup” is not high on my list of things to do. High on that list is getting out of that area. Don’t think “Army”, think “survivalist”. It’s two different things. In a practical sense, you simply don’t need a “dirty environment change” capability. You need a capability to protect yourself long enough to get to a clean environment. The mask filters will give you plenty of time to do that. Military operations in an NBC environment and survival operations in an NBC environment are two very different things. Equipment, individual tasks, et cetera are the same or similar, but they are conducted differently. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed if a gas bomb hits. You’re never doomed if you prepare. But your actions as a survivalist will be different than your actions as a soldier on the battlefield would be.
On the subject of NVG/NODs. Older generation devices will exhibit what’s called “bloom” effect. So a tritium night-sight would present a big softball sized glow on the end of your weapon. The later gen units greatly reduce the bloom effect, so what the effect is will greatly depend on the generation of the systems in use. Electrical tape will pretty much cure any noise and light problems at night.- “Doug Carlton”

Letter Re: NBC Protective Masks

“Grampa R.” wrote in, asking about changing filters in a contaminated environment. I agree with you on the constant exhale method. I’ve also seen military NBC folks cover the opening after removing the filter while changing it to a new one. This seemed a little complicated to me, even with the other filter prepped for install. Also, this method would necessitate deconing your gloves or whatever you would use to cover the hole before covering the hole (or you would risk inhaling contaminant that might be on your gloves.) I like the method you described much better. It is always good to seek overhead protection before changing canisters if you are still receiving agent.
The M17 series of masks should be considered “Tier 2” masks in my opinion, due to the problems changing the filters in a contaminated environment.
Regarding masks and filters: Your mask has a series of valves that control intake and outlet. Hence, you should be alright to keep a filter installed in your mask as long as you keep the opening to the filter covered with something like duct tape. Roll one end of the duct tape well past the opening and make a small “handle” by putting it back on itself. Then when you don the mask all you need do is to pull the duct tape off the opening of the filter and your good to go. The inlet valve on the mask (which only works one way) and the tape covering the opening of the filter are keeping dust, pollen, etc. from getting into the filter. The older issue C2 filters came in a metal can that took approximately 1 minute to open. These are great for storage, but would take some time to open without practice. The new issue C2A1 come in a quick open plastic can type container. Very durable, I’ve stood on them to no effect. Micronell M95 filters are another good choice if you can’t find C2A1s.
I encourage readers to learn symptoms of the various chemical agents as well as treatment. Hope this helps. – R.H.

Letter Re: Ghillie Suits and IR Protection

I find I must disagree with you about Ghillies. In my opinion a poncho is a not a good idea for a Ghillie. My advice instead is to use a long “lab-coat” style jacket [as the starting point for constructing a Ghillie]. I bought mine for $10 at a surplus work-clothes store. Get a large one which will fit over your LBE without your pack. Dye it brown (or some other more tactical color) and cut the front of the coat in a U-shape from just above the belt-line and from the outer edge of the thigh (so the material on the sides just brushes the ground when you are on your belly), it should look like a set of “Tails” on a bizarre tuxedo. Get rid of the button closures too, replace them with velcro closures to get in and out of the suit fast. Then use camo-netting or fishnet to cover the coat completely across the back, arms (with an inch or two of excess) and a veil that goes over the head and down about half-way to the waist (so it can be used to cover your weapon.) Secure the net on the suit either by sewing it directly or by sewing on buttons and making button-holes in the netting (sewing directly is MUCH easier.) The burlap, rope, cloth pieces, etc. are then tied to the netting, completely across the back and the back and top of the veil with a small amount on the front of the veil itself. Add a pair of trousers with the back of the legs similarly covered and either sew strips to a pair of boots or make a pair of spats covered in strips. I also recommend covering the knees and elbow areas with heavy material to reduce wear and pad the joints when crawling.

The Ghillie suit is for laying down or crawling, so you cannot put a bunch of stuff on the front, nor can you crawl very well with material bunching up under your legs or needing to be secured so it doesn’t get in your way. My version will cover what needs to be covered, it’s not quite as hot as many versions, allows a degree of freedom of movement, and best of all is not covered in stiff, sticky, often flammable glue. A little spray-paint can be used to tone down bright spots and blend the colors better. Also a fire retardant is essential, all that burlap and cloth will go up like a month-old Christmas tree with the slightest spark.

One other note, [lining a ghillie suit with] mylar is a bad idea, a Ghillie suit is hot enough, adding mylar will have you broiling in your own juices in five minutes if you cover yourself in it and that’s the only way to disguise your heat signature enough to matter. If you are worried about FLIR or other thermal detection, find an olive drab space-blanket or, even better, a “combat casualty blanket” which is a heavy padded version of a space-blanket, and convert it into a cover for you position.- Warhawke

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is
nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality, yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its’
exactitude is obvious; but its’ inexactitude is hidden; its’ wildness lies in wait.” – G. K. Chesterton

Note from the Memsahib:

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Survival On a Shoestring Budget

I often get e-mails from readers claiming either directly or indirectly that preparedness is “only for wealthy people”–that working class people cannot afford to prepare. That is nonsense. By simply re-prioritizing your budget and cutting out needless expenses (such as alcohol, cigarettes, convenience foods, and cable television) almost anyone can set aside enough money for a year’s worth of storage food in fairly short order.

It is amazing what can be done with hard work, ingenuity, and very little money. While I do not endorse interloping on public lands nor do I suggest that you live like a hermit, the following stories are indicative of what can be accomplished with next to no cash.

First, here is an article about about a father and daughter that lived for four years undetected in a Portland, Oregon park:

Next a story about a hermit who secretly lived for at least three years inside the “secure” Los Alamos nuclear research reservation in New Mexico:

Next, an article about New York City’s semi-apocryphal “Mole People”:

I also vaguely recall in the early 1990s reading an article about a man who secretly built an underground house in parkland abutting the suburbs somewhere on the east coast. The house went undetected for several years. Its entrance was hidden in a berry thicket. He was only discovered because neighbors saw his comings and goings. When sheriff’s deputies arrived to investigate, after much searching for the entrance, they entered the underground house just as the man was taking a shower in his bathroom. (Perhaps one of you readers saved the newspaper clipping or has a link to the news story.)

I recommend the book “The Last of the Mountain Men“. It is the story of Sylvan Hart (a.k.a.”Buckskin Bill”), a famous Idaho solitary who lived deep in a roadless section of the River of No Return Wilderness. His solution to his own unemployment during the Great Depression was to move to the wilderness and live self-sufficiently. The book describes how Hart lived from the 1930s to the 1970s. He mined and smelted his own copper, made his own muzzle loading rifles and pistols, and constructed his house and garden. It is a fascinating book.

And for someone with a “maxi” budget? Consider this:

I didn’t point out all of the preceding references because I want you to live like hermits or flee into the wilderness and live in a hollowed-out tree like the boy in My Side of the Mountain. Rather, I just want you to start thinking outside the box. Survival is 90% sweat, ingenuity, and perseverance. It is only the remaining 10% that requires cash.

On Financial Freedom by “Mr. Yankee”

Everyone agrees that the more self sufficient you are, the greater your personal freedom is. If you are making monthly payments for your mortgage, car loans, and to credit card companies, you are obligated to work so that you can pay those bills and your time is not your own. Your freedom is limited by your debts. But, if we are financially free, we can choose how to spend our time. And the freedom to use our time as we please is a goal worth striving for.
To that end, I will offer a few tips that are easy to incorporate into you spending habits which bring you closer to that goal. These are not earth shaking changes that will turn your world upside down. These are baby steps down the path to financial independence. But every penny that you can save increases your personal freedom. If you are not following any of them, by using these techniques you should save 10% on the purchases you make most often. That is the practical equivalent of getting a 10% raise. And who couldn’t use that?
No matter how much we do for ourselves, we spend some portion of our hard earned cash for the basic requirements of survival. You need food, shelter, and clothing. In addition, there are other items that you buy regularly which you can shop wisely for like over the counter medicines, pet food, and fuel. I’ll use groceries as the example for this issue, but you can apply the techniques to anything that you pay for regularly.
The first step is to get a firm idea of what the fair price of the item in question is. This is as easy as just noticing what you pay for each item as it goes in your grocery cart. Once you know what you normally pay, you will be able to recognize and take advantage of bargains, and avoid the pitfalls of false advertising and marketing schemes.
In store sales are often a good way to save money, but only if the price is less than you would normally pay. An offer to “buy one, get one free” is not a bargain if the first item has been marked up 100%. If the item in question is offered for sale for less than the normal price for two, then the sale is worth taking advantage of.
Similarly, you may be able to save a few dollars a month by using discount or mail in rebate coupons. In fact, if you are diligent at clipping and redeeming you can save quite a bit of money over time. But be careful. Because I tend to buy the cheaper brands and coupons are often for more expensive brands, I can rarely save money by making use of coupons. For example, a $3 box of cereal still cost less than a $5 box with a "$1.00 off "coupon.
Using coupons and taking advantage of sales should let you save a few dollars every trip to the grocery store. But real savings occurs when you have the ability to take advantage of bulk discounts. Let’s say that the “buy one, get one free” offer we discussed above is for a can of ravioli or soup that your family eats once a week. The can normally costs a dollar. So buying two cans for the price of one saves a dollar over buying two when they are not on sale. But canned food is fairly shelf stable. If the cans on sale are not near their “best used by” expiration date, consider buying as many as you can afford. If you bought $20 worth, you would save $20 that you would normally spend over the next five months. By buying one can a week you would normally spend $40 over 40 weeks (5 months.) But by buying the same amount of food for $20 because it is on sale at half price, you save $20. That is like someone putting an extra $20 in your pocket. Sure you might get an odd look from the cashier when you put 40 cans of the same thing on the checkout counter, but is it worth an odd look to get $20? It is to me. When I find pasta on sale at three pounds for a $1 or less, I buy 30 pounds. It is shelf stable, and it gives me the peace of mind of not only knowing that I have saved at least 50% vs. buying it one box at a time, but also that my family won’t starve if times of shortage or financial hardships arrive.
“Buy one get one free” deals don’t happen as often as we’d like, but 25% off sales do happen frequently. Even if the sale is only 25% off the normal price, the same $20 spent would save you $5. Why not save $5?
The last tip I will offer this month is one that should only be used by people with strong self discipline. It can be downright financially dangerous if you can’t control yourself. But if you have the will power to do it, it is literally free money. Your secret to tool for free money is … a credit card. But not the cash advance feature!
Many credit cards offer cash back rebates on money spent. Discover card established itself by paying back a percentage of money spent in Sears’ store credit. Today many credit card companies offer store credit or cash back options. Most are 1% back on dollars charged with additional bonuses for using your card at certain retailers. My credit card pays back a straight 1% on all purchases made. I put my grocery bills, gasoline expenses, and anything else I can pay by credit card through that account. As a result they pay me $10 for every $1,000 spent. This is free money actually earned (not just saved.)
Now here is the dangerous part. You must pay the balance off every billing cycle. If you do not pay off the credit card (in full) each month, you will be charged interest on the balance and it is 100% certain that the interest due will exceed the cash back rebate earned. But if you have the self discipline to only use the credit card for expenses that you would normally pay cash for and to pay off the balance every billing cycle you can actually make money using a credit card. At $10 cash back per month you earn $120 per year. $120 will buy a lot of groceries when a god sale comes along! In addition, using the credit card for routine purchases makes balancing the check book a whole lot easier when you only write one check each month.
So there you have it – five steps toward financial freedom: learn what a fair price is; take advantage of sales; mail in rebates and other coupons; save money by stocking up with bulk buying discounts; and if you have the self discipline to pay off your credit card each month, take advantage of cash back rebates. These techniques will let you save and earn a portion of every purchase you make, and every penny saved or earned is a step closer to your financial freedom! – Mr. Yankee

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

Letter Re: Ghillie Suits, NBC Protective Masks, and Southern Arizona

Dear James,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions. I know there are hundreds of letters that come in. My brother Paul in Seattle and my “adopted son” John in Iraq are daily readers. I am building a ghillie suit. Would you suggest a poncho or a coat with an extension to cover the legs? I also plan on lining the suit with mylar or similar heat hiding material. On the subject of gas masks. I have Israeli military units for me and my wife. I have M17 models for back up or friends. Can you tell me how someone can change both cheek filters in an M17 in a tactical situation and survive. Even the standard spin-on can my other two have would let in poison if you changed it in the field. Lastly I am considering moving from Phoenix to the Tombstone area. How do you feel about that area? Thanks again, – Grampa R.

JWR Replies:

Regarding Ghillie Suits: I recommend a poncho, because they are the most versatile. They are also best in hot climates. (Coverall-type ghillie suits are sweltering in hot climates.) Because you can bundle up the front of the poncho when high crawling, I’ve found that poncho hangs up on brush less than a traditional ghillie made out of BDUs or coveralls. Although I can’t imagine that you’d be crawling around much in Cholla cactus country!

Regarding Protective Masks: There is no way to change filters in an M17-style (“cheek filter”) mask in a contaminated environment. The only practical way to change them is inside of a sealed room, after going through a transition room with decontamination shower. And even then, that takes about 10 minutes of tugging on those blasted plastic filter retainer buttons. It is simply a lousy design. (Off on a tangent, I can remember laughing out loud when I saw a picture of the Soviet copy of the M17 mask for the first time. (“Ha ha, fool! You’ve fallen for one the classic blunders! The best well known is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’… “) The difficulties that I cited are the main reasons why the U.S. military switched back to screw-on filter canisters for their NBC masks. The latter, BTW, can be changed in a contaminated environment by exhaling during the canister swap. (The only exception would be a very contaminated area, where you would probably be dead anyway, due to suit leakage.) OBTW, JRH Enterprises has the best prices that I’ve found for mask components including screw-on filter canisters.

Regarding Southern Arizona: The Tombstone area is typical for the terrain and hydrology of the region, and hence doesn’t have a lot going for it. If you must stay in southern Arizona, you are better off in the edge of the Chiracahua or Huachuca mountain ranges where there is some surface water. Go take a look at Ramsey Canyon and Garden Canyon, (both are east of Sierra Vista.) You will be amazed! BTW, there are similar verdant canyons elsewhere on the periphery of the Chiracahua and Huachuca ranges. If you haven’t ever taken the drive through the Chiracahua over to Portal (near the New Mexico state line), I recommend it. There is some private land in that region. I recommend that you talk to real estate agents in Sierra Vista and Bisbee. Tell them that you are looking for a place with a year-round spring and are willing to wait until one comes on the market A place with a well will suffice (with a photovoltaic-powered pump system, as sold by Solarjack, but that is a poor second choice compared to a reliable spring.

Letter Re: Survivor Man TV Series

I highly recommend a TV show called Survivor Man. It is on the Science Channel on Direct TV it is Channel 284 on my unit, and it comes on Friday Nights. This fellow goes into the wild and stays seven days in different locations without much in the way of supplies. He shows some pretty decent survival techniques. Fire starting, water locating, food sources etc. He has done everything from the Arctic to Deserts. I find it quite informative and it may be of use to some other readers as well. I just thought I would pass it along. – Jerry

Letter Re: Tritium Sights and Night Vision Devices

Mr. Rawles,
First let me say that I love the blog. Also, your book (“Patriots“) is my all time favorite fictional survival book. You will have to give us an update on when the new edition with extra chapters is due out.
A little background on myself, for the past few years I have been flying helicopters in support of a military survival school in the Northwest. I average a handful of night flights each month and when we fly we use current issue NVG’s. We normally fly at 300 feet above the ground and have little to no cultural lighting (city lights) as we are over National Forest lands. For this reason I would consider the amount of light we fly with to be similar to a TEOTWAWKI scenario (no cultural lights.)
Now I would like to add some thoughts about the tritium sight thread from Monday. The benefits associated with tritium sights definitely outweigh any disadvantages. I consider your comments on tritium sights to be correct for worst case. By that I mean you would get the penlight in the face effect (we call it “raccoon eyes”) if you were operating in an unlit building, in a cave, or possibly outside on a very overcast and moonless night with no cultural background lights. Tritium sights should not be overlooked when trying to decrease your tactical profile but I personally would not excessively worry about them. Like yourself, I would use a full flap holster and that would be the extent of my mitigation. To give some perspective on light sources in a different situation, I remember flying a couple weeks ago with a full moon and having a hard time seeing an IR (infrared) strobe. And we had to request the IR strobe after being unable to identify a group in which an individual was swinging a chemical light stick attached to a 2 foot cord around in a circle. I would like to point out to your readers that wearing their own set of NVGs would give them a much greater light profile (very bright raccoon eyes) than tritium sights would. NVGs are a huge force multiplier and I don’t recommend going without them but when they are used they should primarily be used to scan and only for a short duration.
Two things that I would be more concerned about are fire and light discipline. As far as fire goes, even a fire that has no visible flames really pops out when viewed on NVG’s. That is because the goggles sensitivity peaks near the red/ IR spectrum of light. If you must have a fire, bury any left over embers and move far away when you are done. Like I said, goggles really pick up red and IR lights. Brake lights can be seen for miles and those red filters used on flashlights to read maps are almost just as bad. Get rid of the red filters and carry a blue/green filter instead. The blue/ green filter allows you to maintain your night vision while offering a slightly smaller light profile than the same flashlight in plain white.
Regards, – The Northwest Helo Pilot

Letter Re: Retreat Potential for The Eastern States and “Prudent Places USA”

Hi Jim and Memsahib:
Many people cannot possibly move west of the Mississippi. I think everyone wants to make an educated assessment of where they live in relation to preparing for whatever may happen. Regardless of the energy and thought we put into planning, there seems to be one or many things we either leave out or have not considered. For example, how many have taken into consideration if there is a germ facility or chemical weapons lab near their prized spot? There are also terrorists cells among us as well as major terrorists organizations. Knowing their targets whether they be infrastructure, military, national landmarks or vulnerable cities should be considered in our plans. I recommend that Prudent Places USA CD-ROM. It covers six main areas: Natural Disasters, Manmade Disasters, Environmental Basics, Environmental Problems, Energy, People and Places. Within these chapter headings, one has access to 69 main topics, plus additional sub-topics and maps to a county level–all 3,141 of them. Maps are very large and must be presented in CD-ROM format. If there is a safer place in your county or state these maps will point them out. The maps can be printed on transparencies and overlaid for a defining view of areas of interest. This is one of the most comprehensive accumulation of data covering almost every topic of interest for choosing a prudent place I have come across. David from Israel so eloquently illustrated the mindset of most who prepare. Generally speaking, we tend not to think of having to leave our retreat. We all should have at least two backup plans in place. Prudent Places USA is an invaluable aid in planning localities, roads, everything one can imagine and more. See: Regards, – F1