Being The Grey Man

My apologies to the ladies out there, I mean no disrespect but focusing on the male terminology. But, “the grey woman” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. The term, “the grey man,” refers to blending in and not being noticeable.

I’m not talking about wearing camo out in the woods but rather fading into the crowd wherever you are. This concept applies to survivalism in that we usually strive for a high degree of OPSEC. This includes not calling attention to yourself by wearing fatigues, carrying large packs, and displaying several weapons as you pick up a few things at Walmart.

Instead, try to look like Joe Average. Avoid bright clothing or shirts with memorable phrases, no matter how funny they may be. Ball caps are fine but again, nothing odd or unusual.

Keep the overstuffed pack in your trunk and use a messenger bag for day-to-day carrying of essentials. Polo shirts are nice anytime of the year. Cargo pants are still relatively in style so you can probably get away with the fatigue pants as long as they don’t scream “wannabe commando.”

Bear in mind where you’re headed as you get dressed in the morning. Think about what folks around you will likely be wearing and mirror that image as best you can, at least within reason. If you’ll be doing business at the local courthouse, for God’s sake at least wear pants and a clean shirt.

Avoid giving the death stare to people you happen to meet during the day, unless of course they truly deserve it. You may think you’re projecting an air of confidence with a heaping spoonful of “Don’t mess with me” when, in actuality, you look like you just stepped out of the asylum. Don’t get me wrong, that can be fun to do sometimes but if you’re attempting to blend in, you’re failing miserably if people are pulling kids out of the store aisle you just entered.

By being the grey man, you’re in a much better position to observe your surroundings and practice great situational awareness. And, if comes down to it, you can fade away without being noticed.

Learning From Fiction

One of the things I enjoy in reading fiction is learning a new technique or little tidbit of knowledge I could use later. I’ve found that while some authors sort of just wing it when they are writing, many of them actually do quite a bit of research to determine how feasible their ideas may be.

An author who is really worth reading and learning from is Gary Paulsen. Many people are familiar with his Hatchet series of books but may not realize just how prolific he is, with some 200 books to his name so far. Most of his stories are centered in the wilderness in some way. Paulsen himself has truly been there and done that when it comes to these sorts of stories. In the Hatchet books in particular, the main character, Brian, learns through trial and error ways to survive in the wild with very little in the way of supplies.

The Clan of the Cave Bear and other books in the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel are chock full of factual information on how primitive people lived — what they ate, what they used for medicine, how they survived.

The fiction of James Wesley, Rawles is known to be filled with practical survival techniques. His book Patriots has been said to be a survival manual written as a novel.

Learning through fiction is fun and this is a great way to help teach the younger generations. They get to read a great story and the teachings just sort of filter in without them even realizing it.

What fiction books have taught you a thing or two about survival?

Prepper Certifications, Part 2

Based on some of the comments I received after yesterday’s blog post, apparently I didn’t communicate my idea very well, and that’s my own fault. Let me try to expand a bit on yesterday’s topic to hopefully better explain.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a licensed private detective in my day job. I’ve been working in the security and investigation field for almost two decades now. Within the security/investigation field, there are several different certifications one may pursue, some worthwhile, some not worth the paper they are printed on. An example of the former is the CPP (Certified Protection Professional). Offered through the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), the CPP designation informs clients that the security professional has achieved a high level of training and education in security management. Can someone work in this field without having a CPP? Of course they can. It isn’t any sort of license that would be required to work in security. Instead, what it does is show potential clients that the security professional is serious about their job and is exceedingly knowledgeable in this field.

As it says on the ASIS website, the CPP is the, “Preeminent designation awarded to individuals whose primary responsibilities are in security management and who have demonstrated advanced knowledge in security solutions and best business practices.”

That’s sort of the idea I’ve been kicking around. Would having such a certification for those who seek to teach prepping related skills be worthwhile? At no point in yesterday’s blog post did I even hint at the idea of an average prepper wanting or needing such a certification. I want to make that point clear as obviously OPSEC is a concern for many preppers.

Let me address some of the specific comments I received.

Who is to judge who is “qualified”? Certifications will only bring divisions to our purpose. It is like the NG Prepper series where they have “experts” judge someone’s preparedness. Who are they to judge and why don’t we see the expert’s preps?

Well, the NG Prepper series and their purported experts is one of the things I was thinking about when I came up with this idea. Indeed, who are they to judge? What are their qualifications? I find it interesting that on many of these prepper type of shows, the experts are never really discussed. I’ve done enough digging to find out the name of their company but the last time I checked at least, information about the principals was decidedly lacking.

NO! Doing so would only invite the government to come in and regulate prepping. Next you’ll receive a citation or arresting for prepping without a permit/certificate.

Again, I’m not at all talking about requiring some sort of license or certification to prep. Far from it. I’m not even talking about requiring a license or certification to instruct. Instead, I’m thinking, what if there were some sort of recognized certification that would offer an air of legitimacy.

Absolutely not!!!!! Gotta be a government idea to control even more of our lives! That would be worse that gun control, they would be controlling the food…of course, that’s what they want.

As with the CPP designation mentioned earlier, this wouldn’t be a government controlled anything.

Not to mention the fact that most certifications come from those people already established in an industry to prevent competition.

To a degree, I’d agree with that. To go back to the private detective analogy, most states require a license to work as a private investigator. In some places, this is just a matter of paying a fee but in others it requires a passing grade on an exam. In many cases, this exam really does concentrate on the knowledge that would be required to perform the typical duties as an investigator. But, there are a few exams out there that truly are designed to do nothing more than keep people from passing them, at least not the first time out. I sat through one a few years back that consisted of a little less than 100 questions and perhaps a dozen of them actually pertained to the profession. So yeah, I understand the comment about trying to limit competition. But, with that said, I think most would agree there is a LOT of bad information out there, being written or presented by people who have not one real clue what they are doing.

In my opinion the answer would be “No” I say that because at least for me, and in my mind should also be for others, a fairly private thing. You learn by doing, gathering information from trusted sources / friends etc… and call it paranoia, but you never advertise your prepping. Going to a school or taking any kind of formal class on the subject while a newbie is likely to get good information, or at least a nudge in the right direction on how and where to start, classes and or instructors will do little more than advertise your intentions.

I don’t know that attending a class is “advertising” you’re prepping. Those of us who do regularly teach these types of classes are already “out there” in the public eye so being certified wouldn’t really be revealing much of anything.

To recap the basic points:

–The certification wouldn’t be required to teach at all. It would just be a means of showing the instructor has achieved a certain level of knowledge and experience.

–The certification wouldn’t at all apply to someone who wants to prep. No one, least of all myself, is suggesting a person would need to be licensed or certified to prep.

–This isn’t something that would be run by the government in any way.

Does that all help clear things up a bit?

Should There Be Prepper Certifications?

This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while now and thought I’d toss it out here for discussion. Obviously, in the last few years there has been a HUGE increase in the availability of information relating to prepping and survivalism. The causes for this could be debated for quite some time but for our purposes today, it doesn’t matter why. The fact is, prepping is sort of the new “in” thing to do.

Naturally, when something begins to become popular, people try to capitalize on it. Ten years ago, you’d have been hard pressed to find a book in a local bookstore that talked about any kind of survivalism except for wilderness stuff. Five years ago, websites containing good, solid information on prepping were few and far between.

Today, you can’t swing a dead cat in a bookstore without hitting a book with either “survival” or “prepper” in the title. A quick Google search on the word “prepper” got me over two million hits.

There are people out there who are trying to do nothing more than make a quick buck or two off the popularity of prepping. Others, like myself, are trying to share practical information in hopes of helping folks. I’ll be honest, if there were a way I could truly make a living doing it, I’d be in heaven. But, for me at least, the sharing of knowledge is more important.

My point is this — how can you determine whether someone is truly qualified to be any sort of instructor of prepping and survival? Sure, there are classes here and there on wilderness survival techniques, many of which are incredibly good. But, the living in a debris hut is only one small aspect of what I’d consider survivalism. I mean, there’s food storage, water storage, first aid techniques, security, natural disasters, pandemics, civil unrest, the list goes on and on.

I’ve mentioned before that FEMA offers several classes online that are of interest to preppers. But going through those classes doesn’t really give you anything official. The knowledge you’ll gain is great, to be certain, I’m not dissing on those programs at all.

I guess what I’m getting at is, should there be some sort of organization or entity that could “certify” people as being truly experts in various aspects of survivalism? I mean, I consider myself to be a “disaster readiness expert” based on my three decades of experience and knowledge. I figure if a guy spends 30 years doing something, he’d better be an expert in it by that point, right?

What do y’all think? Do you think some sort of recognized organization might be beneficial to those seeking to learn from true experts, rather than just some dude in his parents’ basement hoping to make a few quick bucks on a slapped together website?

Disaster Can Strike Even The Well-Prepared

I received word over the weekend that an online friend of mine had her house burn down. She’s a prepper and has been a fixture on at least a few survival related Yahoo Groups. Sounds as though an overheated compressor on the freezer is what started it. Thankfully she made it out ok, as did a couple of her dogs.

Casualties include her cat, possibly a couple more dogs, and just about all her preps.

She has a neighbor who has offered her a place to stay while she gets back on her feet.

She lost all her canning supplies in the blaze, as well as personal photos and other irreplaceable items.

She had her bug out gear in the truck and that was all salvageable. It really drives home the point of having bug out gear in your vehicle. As Carol has stressed, it is important to not have all your preps in one place. A simple accident, something that could happen to any of us, can wipe you out completely.

If you’re of a mind to do so, please say a prayer for Carol.

And if you’ve not done so already, please make a point this week to put together bug out bags for each member of your family and put them in your vehicles.

Update: A donation page has been set up for anyone who’d like to contribute a little something to help Carol get back on her feet.

Book Review — Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten

Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten
by Russ Cohen
Review by Dee B.

Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten (Russ Cohen, 2004)

Book Review by Dee Burke

Have you ever wondered how you’d feed your family during a crisis if for some reason your food storage wasn’t sufficient or available? What if the supermarket shelves were empty? If you know a thing or two about foraging for food in the wild, you likely won’t go hungry.

Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Russ Cohen, author of Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten. Over the course of an hour or so, I sat and listened to the voice of foraging wisdom, stared at images of plants I recognized as weeds growing in and around my own yard, and sampled treats made with foraged foods: autumn olive fruit leather and barberry/hickory nut thumb print cookies. I came away with a desire to take a nibble on the wild side and felt comfortable enough after what I’d heard to seek out some wild edibles on my own. So, of course, I bought the book. I wasn’t disappointed.

Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten contains a great deal of information in a straight forward, easy to read format. It’s a good starting point for beginners. It opens with an introduction to foraging, followed by information on more than 40 edible plants that focuses on those easily identified. Cohen encourages consulting a field guide specific to the reader’s area, and he provides the necessary cautions about being sure of what you’ve found before consuming any of the plant. At the same time, he makes foraging seem like something anyone could do.

Perhaps the most tempting part of the book is the recipes, proving foraged plants are not just salad greens or nuts. After a walk in the woods at the right time of year, you might feast on cattail chowder, black locust fritters, strawberry knotweed pie, sassafras candy, and sumacade. Yes, sumacade. The fruit of the unmistakable staghorn sumac can be made into a drink that looks and tastes remarkably like pink lemonade (and is high in vitamin C). Just the thing on a hot afternoon. I know because it was the first wild edible I harvested after reading the book.

While the focus of this book is wild edibles in New England, there is information on plants found across the country: stinging nettle, day lilies, invasives like garlic mustard, and every lawn owner’s nemesis, the dandelion. A particularly nice feature is the chronological listing at the back of the book identifying when each plant (and which part) is in season.

If you can find a copy of Wild Plants I Have Known . . . And Eaten, grab it. You just might find yourself inspired to make wild edibles a part of your regular diet now simply because they’re good to eat even when you still have those easy supermarket options.

Pathfinders on the Road

We here at are proud to be an official sponsor of Pathfinders on the Road. Led by Matt Brooks, POTR travels around the country teaching wilderness survival skills to like minded people. Both children and adults have benefitted from his real world and out in the woods training.

One of Matt’s specialties is creating fire. In this video shot at one his stops, Matt demonstrates how to create fire from “rubbing two sticks together” – otherwise known as the Bow Drill Method. Pay special attention to his technique of attaching the 550 cord to the bow. This clever idea is not well known but helps immensely when having to tighten up your string.

Having watched him demonstrate a variety of techniques at the 2011 Pathfinder Gathering (including the Hand Drill method on Chaga, I can personally attest to his superb skill.

Watch the video below.

If you’ve ever tried this method of starting a fire, you know it is not easy. It takes a lot of practice to get your form right, applying the correct pressure, not to mention just building your fire set! The all important notch that your dust can drop down into is often a source of frustration to the uninitiated. And the patience of letting your burning dust form into a coal is often too quickly rushed as well. Friction fire is never a guarantee but watching this fire starting video as demonstrated by Matt makes it look too easy!

If you’ve never tried to make fire by the bow drill, maybe you’ll now give it a shot. If you do, keep us posted on your efforts!

You can find Pathfinders on the Road on Facebook!

New Look and New Contest!

Contest time! We’ve put together what we hope will be a fun and exciting one this time around, with some incredibly cool prizes. In fact, let’s talk prizes first.

The First Place winner will receive a $100.00 gift certificate to! That’s right, you get to pick and choose anything you want in the store.

The Second Place winner will receive a two-person survival kit backpack. Click over to that link for a full rundown on the contents. Here’s a pic of the kit:

The Third Place winner will receive a tactical shoulder bag. Personally, I love the one I have.

So, how do you win one of these great prizes? You can enter the contest in one of two ways:

1) Submit a photo to be published here on the blog. The photo should in some way relate to survival or emergency preparedness. Examples would include a nature scene, demonstrating a skill, pic of a bug out kit, that sort of thing. We’re leaving this one pretty wide open to interpretation. If after seeing the photo I’m unsure exactly how it relates to the topic, I’ll be in contact and give you an opportunity to make your case.

While not essential for your entry, a sentence or two about the picture that we can include when we post it would be welcome.

By sending in a photo, you are stipulating that the photo is yours and not gleaned from elsewhere on the Internet and that it has not been published anywhere, in print or otherwise.

2) Submit a positive book review for publication here on the blog. The book may be either fiction or non-fiction but must in some way relate to survival or disaster readiness. By “positive,” I mean you should pick a book you liked and want to share with others. In your review, you should specify why you feel the book has value to other preppers. The review should be no less than 200 words and there is no maximum word count.

Please do NOT send me reviews using Word, WordPerfect, or any other word processing program. Just put the review into the text of an email. I’ll take care of any formatting issues on my end. I would encourage you to proofread and spell check your review before sending it over to me. And again, by sending me a review, you are stipulating that it is original, written by you, and that it has not been published elsewhere.

Ok, so you send in either a photo or a book review, with me so far? You cannot enter the contest twice and, in fact, we’ll only accept one contest entry per household. So, pick one option and run with it.

Once your entry is posted here on the blog, readers will vote on the ones they like. The votes will be made by leaving a comment on the entries. Readers may vote for more than one entry but they may not vote more than once on the same one. I will also email each entrant a link to their specific entry so they can send that around to friends and family, post it on Facebook and Twitter, and generally try to drum up votes.

Now, in the past, we did have trouble with people submitting multiple votes for the same entry so please bear in mind we’re taking measures behind the scenes to prevent that. If we determine there is cheating going on, we will disqualify the offending entrant.

We will accept entries beginning now and through June 30th. Voting will begin with the first entry being posted and continue through July 7th. We will tally the votes and announce the winners on July 9th. Obviously, those who get their entries in first will have an advantage over those who procrastinate.

Send your photo or book review to Include your name, mailing address, and email address. I will contact you via email when your entry is posted so you have a direct link to it.

If you have any questions at all, please leave them below as a comment and I’ll address them as soon as I can.

Oh, one last thing. If you’ve won any of our previous contests, you are indeed still eligible to play this time around.

Good luck!

Organizing Information

If you’re anything like me, you’ve accumulated at least a few gigs worth of survival info from various sources online. Everything from recipes to bug out bag lists to entire books as .pdf files, it all gets downloaded and stored on a hard drive. However, in a true emergency, all that info will likely not be accessible due to power outages and what not.

This is why it is important to print out all that great info so you have hard copies of it. Of course, that will leave you with several stacks of paper that will then need to be sorted and organized.

Here’s what I want you to do. First, if you don’t have them already, hit up Freecycle and/or Craigslist for a printer and several three-ring binders. Ideally these binders will be different colors but if not, work with what you have. If you don’t get any hits for scoring free ones, you can pick up an inexpensive but still decent inkjet printer from Walmart for around $40. Binders aren’t that expensive either. If you don’t have a three hole punch, get one of those as well. Depending on how many files you have, buy the appropriate amount of paper. At the least, I’d start with a couple reams.

Label the binders with categories of information that make sense to you. For example, you might set up binders for Recipes, Bugging Out, Alternative Energy, Firearms, Food Storage, and/or Water Purification.

Set aside a half hour a day to just print out your files. What you might consider doing is setting up a folder in your computer where you put the printed out files, so you don’t end up printing anything twice. Print the document or file, then send the file to the folder, deleting it from the original location.

As you print out files, punch them with the three hole punch and place them into the appropriate binder. This is important, do not just print things out and put them into one big stack to sort later. You’ll never get around to doing that and you’ll find yourself trying to work around huge, toppling stacks of paper. Once everything is printed and sorted, you can go back through and organize each binder. When you get to that point, you can use tab dividers and label them appropriately.

Naturally, in a bug out situation you’ll not be able to lug around a dozen binders full of information. But, given that bugging out is generally going to be your last option rather than your first, you’ll hopefully have all that information at your fingertips when you truly need it.