Sources for Gear and Equipment

I’m always on the lookout for inexpensive sources of decent equipment. Being that I have yet to win Powerball, I’m as broke as everyone else. Here are a few great sources for inexpensive yet quality gear.

First, obviously I need to mention our site, Survival-Gear.com. I have had the opportunity to “test drive” several pieces of equipment and haven’t been disappointed yet. The prices are very reasonable as well.

Goodwill and other thrift stores will sometimes have camping, fishing, and other outdoor related gear. In my experience, the pricing can be kind of all over the place. I’ve found some great deals on good stuff but I’ve also seen prices higher than what I’d pay for new at a different retailer. If you just watch your prices, you’ll do fine.

Freecycle is another good source and is free. If you’re not familiar with Freecycle, click the link and see if there is a group in your area. In a nutshell, members of the groups will offer up items they wish to no longer keep, free to whomever wants them. Most groups also allow members to post about items they want or need. And again, the key element here is the items are always free.

Rummage sales and flea markets during the summer months can be wonderful sources of cheap gear. Again though, you have to know what you’re looking for and “Buyer beware” is the key phrase.

You can sometimes find deals on places like Craigslist but I personally tend to shy away from them. There are so many scams prevalent there it gets difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The key with all of these sources is knowing how to tell good equipment from bad. Take the time now to do your homework and learn what to look for in items like tents, camp stoves, knives, and tools.

What If Wednesday–Five Things

This is an ongoing feature of this blog. Every Wednesday, I’ll present to you a different scenario. You take the information given and run with it. Give some thought as to what you’d do and how you’d go about it. I understand there will be scenarios that just wouldn’t apply to you personally for whatever reason. Feel free to change it around a bit to suit your own situation. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

A common thought exercise in school is the old, “stranded on a deserted island” scenario. The premise is you can only take with you five things, but you can pick which items to take. Sometimes there is a requirement that all the items must fit into a certain size box or into a backpack.

Let’s play that exercise again.

You can take only five things. They can be anything that currently exists in the real world. (No teleporters, weather control gadgets, etc.) Budget is of no consequence. But, all of the items but be small enough you can physically carry them all at once. Not necessarily in a backpack, just that they are small and light enough to all be carried by one person.

For the purposes of this exercise, make the following assumptions about the island.

1) It is a tropical climate (no snow or below freezing temps).

2) There is fresh water available, though the purity of it cannot be necessarily trusted.

3) The island is large enough to have a reasonably large and diverse animal population.

4) There is some sort of weird local phenomena that prevents communication with the outside world via radio or satellite transmissions. You can receive, but you can’t send.

What would you take and why?

Start Small

Many people when they are first beginning their journey into disaster readiness become quickly overwhelmed. There just seems to be so much to do and it can be hard to prioritize. Not to mention trying to come up with the funds to acquire all the “stuff” you feel you need.

My advice to folks in this situation is to start small. You can’t do it all at once, so don’t try. Just do a little bit every day.

When you go grocery shopping, add a couple extra canned goods to your cart. Maybe a bag of dried beans too. Be sure to date the packages when you get home and use them before they go bad. Remember, store what you eat and eat what you store. Keep doing this every time you go to the grocery store and you’ll be surprised how quickly it all adds up.

Every week or so, add a gallon or two of water to your emergency supplies. Make sure to rotate out water that is six or more months old.

Get in the habit of going through the sale ads every week so you don’t miss out on good deals.

Little by little, bit by bit, you’ll see your supply stash growing.

Barter

There may someday come a time when our current form of currency won’t be worth the paper it is printed on. If this were to come to pass, you may find yourself in need of either goods or services and need to render some form of payment. Thus, it may be prudent to stock up on a few things that are somewhat inexpensive now but may be worth their weight in gold down the road.

The first thing that comes to mind are those items we might consider vices now. Tobacco and booze top that list. There is little need to go out and get top shelf product either. Those people who would be willing to trade you some extra meat for booze won’t be concerned too much if it isn’t Glenfiddich single malt. For tobacco, I’d suggest storing it in your freezer (while it is still working), as well as some rolling papers. Just buy the larger canisters of loose tobacco as that’s much cheaper than a carton or two of even the cheapest cigarettes.

Coffee is another great idea, though I’d suggest storing it as “raw” beans, roast and grind them as needed. Candy, gum, and other sweets, if stored properly, will last a good, long time.

Moving away from consumables, some hard goods to keep on hand for barter would include needles, thread, matches, candles, blankets, soap, and fishing supplies (hooks, line, etc.).

I have seen some people advocate using ammunition, especially .22 shells, as currency. Personally, I don’t like the idea of giving bullets to anyone who might conceivably use them against me at some point.

How many fish hooks would equal a can of food? I have no idea, that’d be up to the people conducting the trade. Remember though, the best trade is one where each person thinks they got the better deal.

Aside from stocking up on goods, you might also consider what skills you have that might be “marketable” down the road. If you know how to sew by hand, you could probably trade some mending for extra candles or something. Be sure to stock up on anything and everything you might need for your hobby/career.

Remember, the items you stock up on for barter purposes are secondary to the stuff you put aside for you and your family. Meaning, only worry about the barter items after you’ve stocked up on what you and yours need to survive.

Cooking Without Power

During an extended emergency, you may find yourself wanting or needing to heat food and/or water. Let’s face it, you could eat cold Spaghettios fresh from the can, but it isn’t going to be all that tasty.

There are a variety of methods to cook food without using your stove or microwave. Some are much better than others.

Fireplace: Probably one of the least efficient ways to cook and difficult to do properly. The best way would be to let the fire burn down to hot coals and use cast iron cooking implements.

Wood stove: Definitely a huge step up from a fireplace. There are two types of wood stoves. One is made for cooking and the other is made for just heating a home. The first is obviously better than the second for food prep.

Campfire: Obviously this method has been in use pretty much since Man first discovered fire. But, it does take some practice and trial and error to do right. Consider using survival author Scott Williams’ green stick tripod method.

Outdoor grills: A gas grill is great to have and use, as long as you have fuel for it. A charcoal grill is an excellent resource and if you run out of charcoal you can use wood.

Hobo stove: This is a handy little device you can fashion out of an old metal coffee can. Searching through Google, you’ll find a number of different sets of instructions.

Solar oven: Again, this method takes some practice and some prep work to build but they work great.

Take the time NOW to try out some of these methods. Trust me, cold beef stew just won’t cut it.

What If Wednesday–Stranded in Your Vehicle

This is an ongoing feature of this blog. Every Wednesday, I’ll present to you a different scenario. You take the information given and run with it. Give some thought as to what you’d do and how you’d go about it. I understand there will be scenarios that just wouldn’t apply to you personally for whatever reason. Feel free to change it around a bit to suit your own situation. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

There have been multiple news stories as of late regarding people being stranded in their vehicles for hours and hours on the Interstates and elsewhere. I’m not talking about a guy who goes off the road and into the ditch. I mean dozens of cars lined up on the freeway for 10-12 hours or more.

What if this happened to you? You were trying to get home from work one evening during severe weather and traffic just came to a stop. No way to turn around, no where to go. What do you have in your vehicle RIGHT NOW that will help you? You could be miles from the nearest exit ramp.

Do you have food?
Water?
A way to stay warm?
Something to keep you occupied during those long hours?

Staying with your vehicle is almost always the preferred course of action in this situation, unless the authorities have the means to get you to shelter. Plan ahead and have emergency supplies in your car.

Recommended Reading–Nonfiction

My name is Jim and I’m a bookaholic. There’s no 12 step program for this addiction, nor would I sign up if there was. I love books, always have and probably always will. My personal library numbers into a few thousand. Perhaps paltry by some estimations but hey, I only have so much room in my house!

The vast majority of my collection is in some way related to disaster readiness and survivalism. Most of the fiction is post-apocalyptic in nature. While I’ve not read everything out there on these topics or with these themes, I’ve read a lot of ’em.

Here is my recommended reading list for reference books related to emergency preparedness. I’d welcome any suggestions for the list from my readers here.

The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley: This is an excellent book all about how human beings respond to stress and disasters. The author really did her homework, studying many different disasters through history and examining how people reacted. She then consulted various experts to find out why they acted as they did. This book will teach you how to counteract some of the responses to stress that are hard-wired into our minds and bodies.

Build the Perfect Survival Kit by John McCann: Don’t let the slim size fool you, this book is chock full of great ideas for pretty much any survival kit you might wish to assemble. McCann is great at coming up with items that serve multiple purposes, thus freeing up space for other stuff you’ll want or need.

Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late by Scott Williams: While there is a bit of information on assembling a bug out bag, the bulk of the book is centered on helping you plan where you’ll go and how you’ll get there. Williams goes through every region of the United States, giving information on climate, flora and fauna, and even suggests specific places to consider.

Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton: I love checklists and this book has them in spades. This book is a great resource for those who are just getting started with a pantry system. Lots of recipes utilizing stored goods is a great bonus.

Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance by James Ballou: I’ll be honest, I’m cheap. This book teaches you how to make do with what you have, rather than going out and buying the latest and greatest tools and gadgets. Being able to improvise solutions to repair problems is very handy when Home Depot or Lowes aren’t available.

Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery and Storey’s Basic Country Skills by John and Martha Storey: I put these two together as while each is great in it’s own right, coupled together they are pretty unbeatable. Both are considered “bibles” for homesteaders.

By no means is this short list to be considered the end all, be all list of survival reference books. But, I feel these are all “must haves” in any survival library.

Your recommendations?

Live Your Life

All too often, when we get involved with preparedness we sometimes put blinders on, so to speak. We focus in on identifying potential threats and devising ways to combat or counteract them. Then we work on our secondary plans, our backups, our fall back positions. From there, we start imagining ever more outlandish “what if” scenarios.

While this isn’t an inherently bad idea, we need a reminder from time to time that we do have lives to lead. We can’t spend every waking moment of every single day worrying about what might happen. Don’t feel as though you need to be huddled down in your bunker 24/7, counting and recounting rolls of TP. Get out into the world and live your life.

I’m not advocating taking senseless risks. Rather, what I’m saying is to not let worries consume you. A healthy dollop of caution is wise but as with anything else, there can be too much of a good thing.

Bug Out Bag Components–Shelter

Remembering that the purpose of a bug out bag is to get you from point A to point B, for example from work to home, you first need to consider how long you’ll likely need to rely solely on the contents of your bag. If you end up on foot, probably at least a day or two, possibly longer. Weight is a consideration as well. For this series of posts, we’ll look at items you might consider keeping in your bug out bag.

If you end up bugging out with a vehicle, obviously that might serve as your shelter if need be. However, you might end up on foot or for some other reason your vehicle might not be serviceable for an emergency shelter. For those reasons, have in your bug out bag the means to fashion an expedient shelter from the elements.

Your first line of defense is clothing. Always try to wear season appropriate clothing, including outerwear. In addition, have spare clothes in your bug out bag. Having clean and dry socks is not only a great mental boost but necessary in inclement weather. Clean and dry underwear can do wonders for your mental state as well. Packing one complete set of spare clothing doesn’t take up too much space if you compress it all down in a plastic bag, which also serves to keep it all dry.

Don’t forget to keep a pair of good walking boots or shoes with your bug out bag. They needn’t be packed in the bag as the first chance you get, you should put them on.

Adding one or two “space blankets” will give you another layer of warmth. If you purchase these great little inexpensive items, be sure to take them out of the package and unfold them, then refold and repack. Otherwise, they have a tendency to wear very thin along the original folds and you may end up with nothing more than shiny ribbons when you truly need the blankets.

As to expedient shelters in the field, all but the harshest terrains offer at least some sort of protection from the elements. Think back to when you were a kid, did you ever build a fort? A simple lean-to can be fashioned from branches and covered with leaves. Not great, but it’ll keep you out of the worst of the wind and rain.

Keeping a small tarp as well as a few dozen feet of paracord in your bug out bag will serve you well if you find you need to fashion a makeshift tent. Simply run the cord between two trees and drape the tarp on the cord, weighing the ends down with rocks. Again, not great but it’ll do.

Get out in the field now and practice putting together shelters like these. Learn from your mistakes now, rather than when it will truly matter.