Self-storage units as caches

They go by many names–U Lock It, U Store It, We How Sit, etc. Most self-storage facilities are relatively inexpensive. They can provide a prepper with a great place to cache some supplies, or even a vehicle, with a bit of planning and forethought.

While these facilities are popular in cities, you can find them in relatively rural or semi-rural areas as well. The ones out on the outskirts of town or even further out are the ones to consider. The idea is to provide you with a place to store some goodies that is on your route to your retreat area.

Even the smallest units have ample storage for cases of supplies, bug out bags, weapons, food, water, even a bicycle or two. Most are climate controlled so you won’t have to worry about your stuff freezing up or rusting until you need it. Self-storage places likely won’t be initial targets for raiders or looters either. Even so, take the precaution of boxing up your supplies and labeling them as old clothes or something else innocuous.

Just make sure you keep on top of the rental payments. You don’t want your cached supplies ending up on an auction block at some point.

Food storage – dehydrated foods

Dehydrated foods have several good qualities. They are easy to store, just keep ’em dry for the most part. Most varieties rehydrate well. Usually, there is very little nutritional loss during the dehydration process. Some kinds can be eaten without rehydration, such as dried fruits. They are also light and easy to toss into a bug out bag.

However, as with anything else, you gotta take the good with the bad. Most kinds of dehydrated foods require water to prepare. Clean, potable water might very well be in short supply when you end up needing your dehydrated foods the most. Crunchy lasagna noodles with powdered sauce mix doesn’t taste all that great without the added water.

Many of the entree varieties need not only water but it must be hot. So not only do you need to have a supply of potable water but you’ll need a way to heat it for a length of time. Again, might not be all that feasible during the greatest need for the food.

They are relatively expensive. You could easily spend $50-100 on a case or two of meals, receiving enough food for a family of four to last a couple days. For that same price, I could buy enough fresh food to last a couple weeks or more and can or preserve it myself.

While many varieties taste pretty good, sometimes the texture is a bit off. This isn’t a big deal as, if you’re hungry enough you’ll eat it. But, it is something to keep in mind. If you are going to store dehydrated food, I highly recommend you try them out first and be sure you like them.

Suffice to say, before you drop a few hundred bucks or more on some cases of dehydrated food, do your homework first. I’m not saying they are a bad thing. I have several packages myself. But, know ahead of time what is required to prepare them and be sure you will want to eat the ones you buy.

New Feature – Q & A

I’d like to start a new feature on this blog. Let’s do some questions and answers. If you have a question on anything related to preparedness, survival, or disaster readiness, either post it in the comments below or email me – If I don’t know the answer, I’ll help you find it.

Don’t hold back. The only dumb question is the one that doesn’t get asked. I’ll answer the questions here on the blog.

How to Make a Lanyard

Guest Article – by Don Hebert

This article will show you how to take a length of cord and weave it into a much shorter length. In this example, I started with 8 feet of mini-blind cord (available on and other places) and the finished lanyard is 7 inches long. You can attach the lanyard to whatever you like using S-Biners or any clips, or even just by tying the ends of the cord to the item. If you need a length of cord for whatever reason, all you have to do is pull out the end of the cord from the lanyard and it will unravel as far as you need.

Step one: Screw 3 screws into an old wooden spool. The spool needs to have a hole large enough for the lanyard to pass through. I drilled out the center hole of this spool to 3/8”.

Step two: Tie a knot in the cord and place the cord over one of the screws and wrap the cord around the screws from the inside out.

Step three: Go around the screws a 2nd time in the same inside out manner.

Step four: Using a piece of wire, nail, hook, etc. (I used a yarn loom hook I bought at Wal-Mart for under a dollar) and take the bottom loop over the top loop and off of the screw, leaving the top loop on the screw. Do this for all 3 screws. Continue looping and hooking until either the lanyard is as long as you want or you run out of cord.

As you work, the lanyard will start coming out of the hole in the spool.

When you have either run out of cord or the lanyard is as long as you want it, take the cord loops off of the spool.

Take care at this point as if you pull the loose end from the top, it’ll unravel. Pass the S-Biner through all 3 of the loops and then take the loose end and weave it down inside the lanyard tucking the end inside. Do the same for the other loose end.

The finished lanyard, attached to my new Gerber Trendy knife.

The Death File

The mantra of preppers is the same as the Boy Scout slogan – Be Prepared. Prepare as much as you can for whatever life throws at you. Part of that mindset or lifestyle is, or should be, to prepare for your eventual passing. Every single one of us owes the universe a death, unfortunately.

In order to help your family during what will surely be a troubled time, put together a Death File. Simply put, this is a file where you’ve collated all important information in one easy to access place. Doing so will make it incredibly easier for your loved ones to carry on in your absence.

What should be in the Death File?

–Documents related to your last wishes. A copy of your will, power of attorney, medical instructions on life support, that sort of thing. If you have specific requests for funeral arrangements, include that as well.

–Contact list. If there are specific people you wish to be notified of your passing, for example friends you know primarily or only online, make a list of them and their contact information.

–Financial papers. All bank accounts, trusts, tax records, property ownership, investment accounts, basically anywhere you have funds stashed or in which you have financial interest. You don’t necessarily need to include statements from each of these accounts, just indicate where they can be found.

–Other important papers. Passports, military records, adoption paperwork. Again, just leave instructions on where this info can be found.

–Insurance policies. Include information on every insurance policy you have, including the agent’s name and contact information.

–Safe deposit boxes and/or cash stashes. If you have one or more places you regularly stash some cash, tell your family how to find them.

–Professional contacts. If you are the one in your family who takes care of most of the record keeping, be sure to include a list of those professionals you deal with regularly. Accountants, attorneys, financial advisors.

–Online accounts. This would include email addresses as well as any social networking sites. Give your family instructions on how to access these accounts if need be, as well as closing them as appropriate.

–Bill paying information. If you are the primary bill payer in your family, leave detailed instructions on all regularly paid bills such as mortgage, credit cards, utilities, and property tax. How you pay (online, mailed check, etc.) as well as where to find the statements should be included. Be sure to also include information on canceling credit accounts, even the ones you don’t use very often.

Nobody likes to think about their own passing or the passing of a loved one. But, this is something you should do NOW. Trust me, your family will thank you for it.

Food storage – Where to find space?

Setting aside enough food for a family of four to last just a few weeks takes up a fair amount of space, let alone planning for several months. Not everyone has a huge walk-in pantry to use either.

Basements are usually good places to start, as long as they are dry. Use a dehumidifier if need be to keep moisture out of the area. Build simple shelves from 2x4s to keep things off the floor and organized. Do NOT use the cheap pressed board bookcases you find at discount stores. The shelves will warp rather quickly under the weight of canned goods.

If you have staircases in your home, do you have access underneath them? There are many different plans available online for building various types of shelving to take advantage of this often unused space.

I’ve heard of some folks who built shelves inside their walls, using the space between the studs. This isn’t a bad idea, as long as you can easily access the food stored there so you can rotate it regularly.

Most beds have a fair amount of space under them, enough room for at least a few cases of canned goods.

Check your closets and see if there is enough space along the back of them to install some shallow shelves. For canned goods, they only need to be 5″-6″ deep.

For apartment dwellers, you probably have a small storage unit of some sort in the basement. You could box up your food storage items and label the boxes “Old Clothes” or something else innocuous. Go a step further and put a couple old shirts over the top of the food in the boxes.

Remember, store what you eat and eat what you store. Rotate, rotate, rotate. The food won’t do you much good if it goes rancid or is otherwise unfit for consumption when you most need it.

What If Wednesday – Every Day Carry

Do a mental inventory of your pockets right now. What if you were forced to evacuate your area with nothing more than what you have on you RIGHT NOW. No bug out bag, no emergency kits. Just what is in your pockets and perhaps in your jacket/coat if you have one.

How far could you get with what you have on hand?

While it would be difficult to carry around everything you might need in just your pockets, you should consider at least a few basics.

–Pocketknife of some sort. Lately, I’ve been carrying a folding box cutter type of knife one of my sons got me for Christmas. I often pair it with a Swiss Army knife I’ve had for 20+ years.

–Fire starting supplies. Just a cheap butane lighter coupled with some torn up business cards from your wallet could end up being a Godsend.

–Cell phone. If you don’t already have a cell, think about purchasing a prepaid model for emergency use. Keep a list of important numbers in your wallet.

–Money. Both paper and coin. Just a few bucks will get you lunch from a vending machine but a bit more can get you a place to crash for the night if it comes to that.

–Pocket emergency kit. We’ll discuss this one in further detail in a future post but suffice to say it is possible to create a fairly detailed kit small enough to fit into your shirt pocket. While it won’t replace your bug out bag, it’ll certainly do in a pinch.

The bicycle as a bug out vehicle

There are a few distinct advantages to using a bicycle as a bug out vehicle.

They are infinitely more portable and lightweight than a car or truck. Thus, you can store them in a basement or storage locker without much effort.

You can find them very cheap, even free, if you look around. Rummage sales, Craigslist, Freecycle, even friends or neighbors are great sources for cheap or free bikes. Many police departments sell off bikes they recover but go unclaimed. You can easily get enough bikes for a family of five for less than say thirty bucks. Clean them up, spend a few bucks on new tubes, and you’re good to go.

A bike is much more maneuverable than a car or truck, able to fit through the smallest gaps on the roads as well as going down trails barely wide enough to walk on.

Bikes are free to operate, requiring no gas, electrics, or oil (beyond lubing the chain and such periodically). Thus, the bike is pretty much EMP proof.

However, this brings us to one of the big downsides–YOU are the engine. While most of us learned to ride a bike when we were young, if you’ve not been on one in many years, be prepared for a rude awakening. It takes some time to get conditioned to riding a bike again. Just like any other form of exercise, you need to condition yourself.

Bikes can carry a surprising amount of “stuff” in bags of various configurations. But, since you’ll be the one moving all that stuff using pedal power, every ounce is felt.

You might consider as well using a bike just as a means of transporting your gear–loading it up and pushing it instead of riding it. You can carry a lot more weight that way, but obviously you’ll be walking instead of riding, thus moving slower.

Give some thought to picking up a cheap bike as transportation insurance against EMP if nothing else. Don’t worry, you’ll quickly remember how to ride it. After all, it is like riding a bike, right?

Traveling with preps

Later this spring, I’ll be taking a couple business trips out of state. One of them will be a road trip and obviously I’ll have my bug out bag, car emergency kit, and other goodies with me. No problem there at all.

However, the other one involves me flying to Dallas, Texas, to be a speaker at the 2011 Survival & Preparedness Conference. That’s about 1000 miles from home. Things have changed a lot in the twenty years since I last flown and obviously many of the things I’d normally have in a bug out bag for such a trip cannot be taken on a plane. I hate going through the luggage ordeal and much prefer to just have a carry on.

My solution? What I’m thinking of doing is packing a bug out bag with just the absolute essentials, boxing it up, and mailing it to the hotel where I’ll be staying. Obviously I’d make the arrangements ahead of time so they know it is coming. Then, when I head home, mail it back.

For those readers here who frequently travel, how do you handle this dilemma?

Divorce, child custody, and emergency planning

While this doesn’t apply to me personally, there are lots of folks out there who share children with ex-spouses. Have you given thought as to how you’ll handle that situation during a crisis?

What will you do if there is a massive disaster and your kids are at your ex’s house at the time? Have you discussed this with your former other half?

What if the kids show up at your place with the ex in tow?

As I’ve been saying over and over on this blog, think about these things and make plans NOW.