Survival Kit Odds n Ends

There are several items that I often suggest be included in your survival kits, yet don’t really fit neatly into any single category because they are so multi-purpose. Most of these things are very inexpensive and will certainly come in handy during a survival situation.

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Surgical tubing is wonderful stuff. It is hollow and stretchy and has several uses. You can use it as a long straw to pull water from hard to reach places. This is also the same stuff that is often used for commercial slingshots and obviously would work well for a DIY one too.

Contractor grade trash bags fold up very small, fitting into almost any kit. Yet they have a wide range of uses. Stuff one with leaves and grass for a makeshift mattress. Cut holes for head and arms to make a rain poncho. Just lay it flat on wet ground to have a dry place to sit. Hold it open during a rainstorm to collect water.

Glue sticks, the kind that are for hot glue guns, are incredibly handy to have. You don’t need the gun, of course. Just hold the glue stick over a flame until it softens, them smear it where needed. Be careful as the soft glue will be hot, which should go without saying but….

Zip ties are, to my way of thinking, almost though not quite, as useful as duct tape. They are wonderful for attaching gear to your pack, lashing limbs together for a shelter, or any of another hundred uses. There are types of zip ties that can be undone, instead of needing to be cut off, but they are more expensive.

What sorts of odds and ends do you have in your kits?

Rummage sale season is almost here

Around these parts at least, rummage sales are starting to crop up again. Not too many, of course, given that there is still snow on the ground, but a few here and there are being advertised in the local fish wrap.

rummage sale

While I don’t get to as many sales as I used to, I still love to swing in to them when I can. You just never know what you’ll find. Last summer, I stopped at one that had listed knives in their ad. Come to find out a guy was liquidating his entire collection of blades — knives, swords, machetes, martial arts weapons. While a lot of it was really junk and just looked pretty, I found a couple of decent folding knives for a buck each.

I’m always on the hunt for tools, especially old hand tools. While it is a common saying — they don’t make ’em like that anymore — with tools in particular it really is true. You’d have to pay a considerable amount of money on a tool today to have it be of the same quality as something made 40+ years ago. Back then, they made things to last. The best part is you can usually pick these up pretty cheap at rummage sales. Not always, of course, as invariably there are a few people out there who know the real value of these things. But there are enough people out there just looking to clean out the garage that it is usually worth my time to see what treasures might be gleaned.

Of course, any sight of camping or hiking gear deserves a closer look. A few years ago, I was driving through a neighborhood to visit a couple sales. Saw one that had a large canoe sitting in the front yard. I’m glad they had it there to catch my eye because about ten minutes later I was loading into my trunk a box full of camp cookware I’d purchased for about four bucks.

Sit down and make a list of what you feel you need to round out your preps. Then, do your homework and determine the average cost for those items. Have that list with you when you start hitting rummage sales this season. That way, you’ll be able to recognize deals when you see them.

Homemade Stew

Ok, in the interest of helping those who are all thumbs with scratch cooking, I wanted to share with you my own recipe for a simple stew that is very filling as well as incredibly easy to prepare.

Seriously, there is absolutely nothing fancy here at all. Just good, old fashioned stew.

Stew

Ingredients
1 lb stew meat, cubed
3-4 large potatoes
1/2 lb corn
1/3 lb peas
2 tbs flour
4 packets beef gravy mix
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil (canola or vegetable)

Start by cubing your meat into small chunks. Personally, I like them to be about an inch or so all the way around.

Put 2 tbs flour in a ziplock plastic bag and then put in the meat. Seal the bag and shake it up until the meat looks to be all dusted with the flour. Put about four tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy pot and turn the heat to about medium-high. When a drop of water sizzle when tossed on the oil, dump in the dusted meat.

What you’re doing is browning the meat on all sides. Stir it up frequently until it is completely browned.

Pour in four cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat a couple notches. Sprinkle in the contents of two beef gravy packets and stir well. Simmer for about 30 minutes or so, uncovered.

While you’re waiting, peel, rinse, and cut up 3-4 large potatoes. I like a lot of taters in my stew. If you don’t like them quite as much, don’t use that many. Again, I cut them up to about an inch in size. After the meat has been cooking for about a half hour, add the potatoes as well as two more cups of water. Sprinkle in the remaining two gravy packets, stir it all up, and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes or until the potatoes seem tender.

By now, you should have people walking into the kitchen, asking what that glorious smell is coming from.

Add the corn and peas, stirring them in. You can use fresh, canned, or frozen, whichever you have on hand. I usually use frozen and since I like corn a little more than I like peas, I add more of the former than the latter. However, you are welcome to use whatever you like for veggies — corn, peas, carrots, green beans, etc.

Simmer for about ten minutes and you’re all set. You could add dumplings too, just follow the directions on the Bisquick or Jif Mix box.

The stew will be very thick, more like meat and veggies covered in gravy instead of in a broth type soup. It will keep in the fridge very well for a few days, provided there are any leftovers. It however does not freeze very well in my experience.

Scratch Cooking

Cooking from scratch has become something of a lost art. Entirely too many people prepare the majority of their meals by picking a box out of the freezer and tossing it into the microwave. And that’s if they actually heat the food at home and aren’t just getting take out.

The reality is, a lot of those folks will be in for a rude awakening should a disaster strike and they’re forced to figure out cooking on the fly. Of course, a lot of those people might not have food stored to begin with but hey, gotta take it one step at a time I guess.

Scratch cooking

Scratch cooking is an important skill and if it isn’t in your repertoire, you need to fix that as soon as possible.

If you are a total beginner, start by stopping in at your local thrift store and buying one or two decent cookbooks. Personally, I love the Betty Crocker one I’ve owned for about 20 years now. Don’t worry about any of those themed cookbooks, like “101 One Skillet Meals” or some such nonsense. Just get a basic cookbook that has instructions on how to prepare a bunch of different stuff, as well as guidelines for cooking in general. It should define terms like braising, simmer, and poach.

Then, pick one recipe a week to try. Doesn’t need to be anything fancy and, in fact, if you can’t pronounce the name, pass on it for now. Maybe start with basic soups and stews, adding dumplings if you feel adventurous.

The main reason why preppers should learn scratch cooking is because storing basic ingredients is way cheaper than storing complete meals. By knowing how to turn dried split peas and a few potatoes into a tasty soup, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Cooking isn’t hard if you know how to read and follow directions. Rest assured, you’re going to mess things up here and there. That’s ok, as long as you learn from the mistakes. Hell, one time I made meatballs from scratch and instead of putting in parsley, I put in mint. Just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the spice rack. I didn’t realize it until my wife and I sat down to dinner. It was…interesting. They actually weren’t that bad, just different. She still ribs me about it from time to time. Believe it or not though, we did happen across a meatball recipe a few years ago that called for mint too.

Don’t Forget to Head Prep

Entirely too often, preppers get all wrapped up in acquiring supplies and gear and forget to “head prep.”

What I mean by head prep is to do some thinking and make the sometimes difficult decisions now, getting your plans sorted out while you have the luxury of time to do so.

Head prep means, simply, to research your options and make contingency plans.

If you have a plan to bug out, make sure you’ve determined at least three different places for where you can go, as well as how you’ll get there.  You should also have at least some ideas for what could happen to cause you to bug out.  I mean, you want to get out ahead of the crowd if you can, right?  So, what will you look for as an event that will flip that switch from shelter in place to full-blown bug out?

If you have school-age children, who will pick them up if disaster strikes on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of algebra class?  If you share custody with an ex-spouse, you better have a talk with him/her about this as well.

How will you handle roadblocks, whether as a result of disaster debris or authority figures trying to keep order from descending into chaos?

What will you do if local authorities start going door to door to collect food and supplies “for the common good?”  (Note: if your answer is anything like, “I’ll take ’em all out with my sniper rifle first!” then you not only need your head examined but you’d best have a plan for how your family will dispose of your body.)

While no plan survives first engagement with the enemy, by thinking ahead you’ll have a better understanding of your options later, allowing you to make faster decisions when you need to the most.

How many fire starters are enough?

It should go without saying that every survival kit should contain the means to get a fire going. Fire is one of the basic survival necessities. It will keep you warm, cook your food, boil your water, and dry you out. There is also the psychological component. Damn but a campfire just makes us feel safer, doesn’t it?

Campfire

How many different methods of lighting fires should we have?

The short answer is, as many as practical. By that, I mean I’d not want to shortchange the food supply just to fit another dozen boxes of matches in my pack, of course. But, you should have several different items with you. Options include:

–Butane lighters
–Strike anywhere matches
–Magnesium bar with flint striker
–Old fashioned flint and steel
–Magnifying glass

Of course, there are other primitive ways as well, such as a bow drill. And learning how to use those methods is a great idea. However, just about any survival expert I know will tell you he or she carries matches and lighters too.

In addition to these tools, you should have ready to use tinder as well. This saves you from having to try to find dry material during or after a rainstorm. Cotton balls soaked with petroleum jelly is a popular choice, as is dryer lint. You could go a step further and make some fire straws too.

The main point to understand today is you should have several different methods at your disposal for lighting fires. Scatter them throughout your pack and your pockets. I’d say three different methods would be the absolute bare minimum to have with you. And I’m not counting primitive methods in that number either.

CDC warns of nightmare bacteria

The CDC has issued warnings about a new bacteria. Called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (say THAT three times fast) or CRE for short, this bacteria has evolved to become very antibiotic resistant. The scary thing though is it can somehow transfer this resistance to other bacteria!

We’ve known for years now that many prescribed antibiotics aren’t necessary. By that, I mean doctors (and patients) rely on them more and more often, when they might not really be called for. The end result is bacteria can develop this resistance to the drugs, making it more and more difficult to quash when someone does get sick.

CRE has been found in more than 40 states and that number is likely to rise, not fall. Most people found to be infected picked up the bacteria in hospitals or long-term nursing facilities.

Interesting fact: Roughly two million people a year pick up new infections during hospital stays. About 100,000 of them die from those infections.

Obviously, if you can avoid hospitals, do so. If you can’t avoid visiting one, be double damn sure every single person washes their hands before and after interacting with you. More and more healthcare providers are being educated on things like CRE and we can expect protocols to change and improve to reduce the number of infections. But, be on your guard and use common sense.

Stock up on paper goods

One suggestion I often make to new preppers is to stock up on things like paper plates and bowls. While yes these products aren’t the most environmentally friendly, they are great to have on hand during emergencies.

Quite often, one of the first things to go in a crisis is potable water. Granted, we preppers should always have a good supply of water stockpiled for this very situation. We should also have multiple means of purifying water too.

However, washing plates and bowls could quickly cut into that supply. You’re not going to wash these things in dirty water, are you? Water that might be tainted with, oh, perhaps raw sewage? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Disposable plates and bowls can just be tossed into the fireplace or wood stove when you’re through with them. Flatware can be easily washed with very minimal water or you could set aside a couple boxes of plastic utensils.

We don’t have a warehouse store like Sam’s Club near us so I can’t speak to how cheap paper plates might be in places like that. For us, we stock up at Walgreen’s when they go on sale for $0.99. Used to be a package of 100 but that changed to a 72 count a few years back. Even so, a couple bucks will give you enough plates to last several days without a problem.

Trapping 101 – Set Locations

I often see snare wire mentioned as a component of different survival kits. While a great idea, I do wonder how many of these people have ever trapped anything. For our purposes today, we’re going to concentrate on the snare type of trap. In general, this trap works by strangling the prey, at least that’s the plan. Sometimes, you might end up with an animal that has caught a leg instead of their neck. If that happens, you better have some means of disposal with you, or otherwise have a way to set the animal free.

There are snares available for purchase, of course, or you can make your own. There are hundreds of sites out there that can explain in great detail how to craft your own snares. Today, I just want to talk about where you should set snares.

There are several different sets or locations you should consider. Obviously, if you plan to set out snares to augment your diet with meat post-collapse, you should take the time now to learn what critters are in abundance in your immediate area. Look for game trails, for starters. Often, a variety of different animals will all use the same trails. Think of them as the highways of the forest. These trails will give you indications of what is out there to be caught.

Now, you don’t want to place your snares at any old place along those trails. You first want to identify locations along the trail that just naturally lend themselves to snares. For example, look for places where the animals have to scurry under brush. They are already used to having branches and leaves brush against them so they won’t notice the snare wire. You may consider extending the entrance of the “tunnel” a few more inches and place your snare inside. Better to catch them before they get fully into the brush so you have better access to the animal once it is caught.

If you have fencing or other border types of structure, look for places where the animals are crawling under it or have found a hole to go through. Most animals prefer going that route than climbing or jumping over the obstacle. A similar location is when a fence ends at the beginning of the forest. Critters will usually walk along the fence until they reach that spot, then shoot over into the tree line.

Existing culverts are another good spot. If the area at the opening of the culvert is wide open, consider adding brush around it so the snare won’t be seen as well.

Identifying good set locations now will give you a leg up on the competition later. However, if you decide to actively trap animals now, please be sure to obtain the necessary permits first and abide by whatever laws are in force.

QuikClot – Yea or Nay?

The other day on my Facebook page, I asked friends to post any questions or concerns they’d like to see addressed here on the blog. One of them was about my opinion on products like QuikClot.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not personally familiar with the product. By that, I mean while I’ve certainly heard of it, I’ve never had to use it myself. So, all comments here are based on research I’ve conducted and not on personal experience.

When QuikClot was first introduced, it was a powder one would pour onto a bleeding wound. There were two issues that arose during real world use of it. First, the substance would interact with the blood in such a way that it would quickly increase temperature to about 140F degrees. That isn’t really a great thing to happen to a patient’s wound. Second, being a fine-grain powder, any breeze would send some of it airborne, sometimes right back into the face of the emergency responder. Getting it in the eyes caused chemical burns. Again, not a great thing.

Eventually, they came out with gauze and bandages impregnated with the stuff, to keep it from blowing around. They also managed to stop the exothermic reaction, so no more burning.

Here’s the thing though. It is supposed to only be used on extremities. Abdominal wounds are a no go for it. So, if you’re dealing with a gunshot wound to the upper chest, this isn’t the stuff to grab. Also, when the gauze is eventually removed from the wound, it can often take the body’s natural clot with it, thus causing the bleeding to start all over again.

There are also concerns, perhaps unfounded, that the clotting agent can cause small clots in the wound that may eventually break loose and travel throughout the bloodstream. I’ve seen nothing yet definitive on this but it would be a concern if true.

From what I understand about current accepted practice with trauma care, for extremity wounds a tourniquet is much preferred over products like QuikClot. Granted, these practices assume competent medical care by a surgeon or other physician is nothing but an ambulance ride away. The whole idea behind EMT care is to stabilize the patient to make the trip to the ER.

At the end of the day, would I personally recommend products like QuikClot be present in your first aid kits? Yeah, I would. But, they would not be my first option for most wounds. One of the problems with products like these is that some folks see them as sort of like a wonder drug and they end up using them far more often than necessary.