Preps When Traveling

I enjoy traveling but I hate flying. Well, it isn’t the actual flying I don’t like, it is the fact that I can’t always bring what I want to bring on the plane. If I absolutely have to, I’ll check a bag but that’s time out of my trip I don’t want to take if I can avoid it.

For my trip to the Living Ready Expo this weekend, here’s what I’ve done. First, I mailed to myself at the hotel a couple blades to have with me when I’m there. Just two small but decent pocket knives. When I leave Atlanta, I’ll either mail the knives back home or I’ll put them in my carry on luggage and check the bag.

In my carry on luggage, I’ve packed a butt pack with the following:

–A Heatsheets emergency blanket
–Paracord
A magnesium striker
–A small fishing kit and some snare wire
–A compass
–Some shelf-stable food
–Water purification tablets
–A Sierra cup (large)
–Some first aid supplies
–Two flashlights

To the best of my knowledge, everything there is ok to keep with me on the plane. I guess we’ll find out for sure when I get to the security checkpoint.

All of those items make up my mini-BOB for while I’m there. I’ll have a rental car once I land in Atlanta so at least in theory I’d have transportation to get out of the city if needed.

If any of you visit the Expo on Saturday, be sure to stop over at the “Meet the Experts” table and say hi!

New Virus Cropping Up

Various news agencies are reporting the findings from the World Health Organization related to a new virus they are calling MERS-CoV. This is a coronavirus, a group which encompasses the common cold all the way to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). They are saying this one is not SARS but something new. As of last week, there were 44 reported infections, with about half of those resulting in fatality.

My understanding is that thus far, those infected have been limited to France and the Middle East. WHO is very leery though, believing this could be the next Spanish Flu. For those who don’t remember their history, the so-called Spanish Flu swept the globe back in 1918-1920, killing about 75 million people.

According to a story on CNN:

Novel coronavirus acts like a cold virus and attacks the respiratory system, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. But symptoms, which include fever and a cough, are severe and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea have also been seen, according to the WHO.

Thus far there is no vaccine against MERS and antivirals don’t seem to be of much help either.

While this might be a red alert as of yet, it is certainly something that bears further monitoring.

Beware Fraudulent Survival Instructors

As prepping and survivalism grows ever more popular, it seems not a day goes by without someone else hanging out the proverbial shingle, advertising survival instruction. Some, probably even most, of these people are qualified in some way to teach the subject. They might be military veterans who have received extensive training as well as been tested under fire. Others have simply been living the life for many years, having learned at the knees of those who came before them.

There are, though, a fair number who just read a few books and figured that’d be good enough. They might be very convincing and charming and know all the cool slang terms. But, when push comes to shove, they couldn’t get a decent campfire going if you gave them a Bic lighter and a cup of gasoline.

How can you know the instructor is really legit?

The first thing to do is check out their purported credentials. Just as with anything else, if they sound too good to be true, they just may have inflated the ol’ resume here and there. Most commonly, I see this with military service. They will tell you they are an ex-SEAL / Green Beret / Ranger / whatever. If that’s truly the case, they shouldn’t have any qualms about sharing with you their DD-214, which is their official military service record. Ask to see it. If they balk, ask why. If they cite security clearance or something, just walk away and find another instructor because odds are they are just BSing you.

Bear in mind too that military service and training doesn’t automatically qualify them to teach anything. An analogy — I’ve shared with my readers before that I work as a private investigator. Now, I’m pretty damn good at what I do, primarily because I’ve learned from some of the best in the business. Becoming a private detective is one of the go-to plans for retiring law enforcement officers. Just because a guy wore a badge for 25 years doesn’t automatically qualify them to be a competent PI. Depends on their training and background, right? I mean, if the guy was essentially running speed traps for 15 years, how in the world does that equate to finding a missing person or taking a statement from a witness? So, just because a guy was in the Army for 12 years, that doesn’t mean he received more than just basic survival training. Sure, that might be more than you have had yourself but if you are going to pay someone to teach you how to survive in the bush, wouldn’t you want that person to be as highly trained as possible?

Please note, I mean absolutely no disrespect to any military veteran with the above. Anyone who has signed on to do a hitch in the military gets my honest gratitude and support. My point is simply that there are some vets out there who want people to think they have had more training in certain areas than really ever took place.

If the instructor has passed the initial sniff test, look for reviews online. Find out what other people are saying about the school. Pay particular attention to negative reviews and read them closely. It might be that the person and the instructor had something of a personality conflict, which may or may not affect you. It could also be that the reviewer is simply a buffoon and couldn’t be bothered to even try learning the most basic skills without complaining. Remember, every school is different and each instructor has their own style of teaching. You may not do well with someone who is hollering at you like a drill sergeant. Then again, maybe that’s exactly what you want.

Finally, find out how long the school has been around. If they’ve been in business for the last 15 years, odds are they are doing something right. However, if the ink isn’t even dry on their sign, you might want to think twice about parting with your hard-earned cash just to be a guinea pig.

Emergency Radios are Important

Every home should have at least one if not a few portable radios that can be used in the event of a power outage due to severe weather. Of course, there are many different types available — wind up, solar, battery.

At the minimum, you want an emergency radio that will pull in AM/FM signals as well as weather bands.

wind-up-radio

What I suggest is having one emergency radio in the kitchen or other common area of the home. The idea is to have it out in the open, where you can easily grab it and turn it on if you hear a weather siren or something.

Then, have a second radio stashed in your basement or storm shelter. This way, you’ll always have at least one with you in an emergency.

These radios are very important as they will help keep you informed as the situation develops. Tornadoes in particular can crop up very quickly and learning of their existence and location is critical. You can’t just rely on TV or news broadcasts on your smartphone because there likely will be at least a short delay between when they receive the information and when it gets transmitted out.

You’ll get the information faster from weather spotters who report directly to your local weather service. Minutes, even seconds, count!

The Most Important Thing in Your Bug Out Bag

Time and again, I see one specific thing missing in bug out bags. It is so important, yet it is easily forgotten by even the most experienced survivalists.

Empty space.

Why is it important to leave empty space in your BOB?

First of all, by consciously leaving empty space in the pack, you are reducing the overall weight. Anything you can do to lessen the burden on your back is a great thing.

Second, having empty space in the BOB gives you options. If it is packed to the bursting point, you have absolutely no room to add things to it later. For example, you may come across an old orchard and you’d love to take some apples with you but without having room in your pack, you’re forced to just carry them with your hands. Remember, the ideal is to keep your hands free as often as possible so you can better react to danger.

Of course, the longer a bug out lasts, the lighter the pack should get since you’ll be consuming the food you’ve (hopefully) packed in the kit. But, who’s to say you won’t come across things like the aforementioned apples or a broken vending machine with a couple bottles of water still inside?

What I see happen all the time is someone buys a new pack to use for their bug out bag and feels compelled to fill every nook and cranny with gear and supplies. Fight that urge and leave yourself some empty space. Give yourself options for down the road.

Get Rid of the Junk

Fact: Being prepared takes up a fair amount of space in the home. Food, water, gear, all of it needs a place and often that place is already occupied by something else.

Fact: Most of us have too much stuff to begin with. For example, my father has in his basement roughly 8 bazillion coffee mugs. Most of them are freebies he received here and there. He doesn’t need them, doesn’t use them, but the mere suggestion that he part with at least some of them is met with outright hostility. He also still has every stereo he’s ever purchased, as well as umpteen different sets of dishes, silverware, and I couldn’t begin to guess how many pieces of framed art that date back to when my mother sold Home Interior products in the 80s.

With the weather finally getting nicer, this is a great time to start purging your home of unnecessary clutter.

Start small, just do one room or even just one closet at a time.

For clothing, if you haven’t worn it in the last 18 months, it goes away. The only exception for this might be hunting or other specialized gear. But, jeans, dress slacks, shirts, jackets, all of it goes into the “Goodbye Forever” pile.

Get rid of the knick knacks and junk that is cluttering up the basement and closets. If you haven’t displayed it in the last year, and it holds no deep sentimental value, add it to the pile.

Old cassette tapes for which you no longer own a player, get rid of ’em. Same goes for VHS or [shudder] Beta tapes. Hold on to the LPs though because they are just cool.

Old sets of dishes and tableware can go, unless you are saving them to pass along to a child when he or she gets their first apartment. But really, no one needs 8 different sets of plates.

Be vicious about this process. If it has been sitting the basement or attic for the last 6 years and you’ve never once even looked at it, do you really, truly NEED it to begin with?

If you are so inclined, try unloading the stuff at a rummage sale. I’ve heard of people making pretty good money with them, though my own experiences have been lackluster at best. What doesn’t sell goes to a thrift store. Then, in a month or so, go back to the store and chuckle at the prices they put on your stuff….

The idea here is to make room for the GOOD stuff, the things that you may actually need at some point. Plus, it is just nice to have a little more breathing room.

Preparing Food Sources at the Bug Out Location

Many preppers have at least one designated bug out location. They may not have a full retreat set up but they at least have a place they plan to go if/when staying home just isn’t an option. A large number of these preppers plan to augment their food supplies by hunting, fishing, and possibly trapping.

Plan ahead to make food acquisition easier!

You should already have a good idea of the types of wildlife that lives in the area. Do some work now to attract the critters so you won’t have to work so hard to find them later.

Some time ago, we talked about guerrilla gardening. Use this same idea of deliberately planting edibles out in the sticks to attract potential food sources.

For example, many animals will routinely visit berry bushes. Plant a few here and there and invite them to snack.

Routinely scatter birdseed here and there to attract our feathered friends. Set up feeders as well. Do the same with squirrel feeders and try to keep them reasonably stocked with corn and such.

Learn what the local critters like to eat and set them up for a feast.

You should be visiting your bug out location on a regular basis anyway, right? Might as well take just a little time during each visit to make the place more inviting for future dinner guests.

Burglary Tools in the Bug Out Bag?

Something I occasionally see suggested for the bug out bag is a small pry bar. In fact, I’ve made that same recommendation from time to time. I carry one in mine, in fact. To my way of thinking, a pry bar falls into the category of, “better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

It isn’t something I carry on my person all the time. It just sits in the bug out bag, waiting for the day it might be needed.

However, in many states a pry bar could be viewed as a burglary tool.

I am fairly confident though that being the pry bar is in the same bag as things like emergency blankets, water purification tabs, and other items that are obviously emergency gear the pry bar won’t immediately lead to arrest if I were to be stopped and searched for some reason.

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, of course it could. But given the prevalence of prepping and survival kits in the mainstream media and such, I think I could make a pretty good argument against the presence of a mere pry bar being indicative of criminal intent.

Of course, it might not be the worst idea in the world to put the pry bar in a tool box with wrenches, screwdrivers, and such rather than in the bug out bag. Give some thought to doing that instead.

Related to this is the suggestion some make to have a set of lock picks in the bug out bag. First, this is truly a dumb idea unless you first learn how to use the tools properly. Picking a lock is as much art as it is science and takes a fair amount of practice. Second, unless you are a licensed locksmith, odds are it might be illegal for you to possess a set of picks, regardless of whether they are in your bug out bag or your toolbox. If you are considering purchasing a set of these tools, I highly suggest you look into the applicable laws for your area, just to be safe.

Common sense would seem to dictate that if you found yourself stranded on the road somewhere and decided to hoof it, strapping your bug out bag on your back, if the lock pick set were found by a member of law enforcement, you’d likely have some explaining to do.

Learning from Fiction

I’m in the middle of reading The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide by Creek Stewart. As those who read the Hunger Games trilogy know, there is a fair amount of survival knowledge and lore hidden amidst the drama. In this book, Creek, a noted survival expert, pulls from the trilogy these little tidbits of knowledge and expands upon them, explaining how it works in the real world.

Today, I wanted to highlight one of these bits of knowledge. One item that should be present in all of your survival kits is a sheet of plastic. Tarps are heavy and cumbersome but a sheet of heavy duty plastic, say 3 feet square, won’t take up much room nor weigh a ton. Yet, for the small size and weight, having it will prove to be handy in many ways.

For starters, you can lay it on damp ground for a place to sit. If you’ve ever been out in the field and sat down on wet ground, you know well just how cold your butt gets in short order. A 3 foot square won’t be enough to lie down on for the night but it is plenty of space to sit and rest your legs.

Suspending it above you will keep the rain off. Again, not enough to really cover your whole body but if you’re sitting in a shelter, it will prevent you from getting soaked. To tie it off to something, take a small rock and put in a corner of the plastic. Roll the corner over the rock a couple times, then tie your cordage to it. Repeat with the other corners as necessary.

If you don’t have any large containers for water storage, dig a hole and line it with the plastic. It might not be transportable that way but you’ll have a supply of H2O with you in camp.

A solar still could be made if you do have a container to use for the water.

solar still

Roll up your wet clothing and wrap it in the plastic to keep the rest of your gear dry until you reach camp.

So many uses for this inexpensive piece of kit!

Tip for Emergency Communications

I’ve lately been watching a new DVD called Surviving Civil Unrest by Chance Sanders. A full review is coming shortly but suffice to say, I’m blown away by how much great information is presented.

I don’t want to give it all away but I did want to share one tip I’ve gleaned that y’all might find useful.

It should go without saying that being able to stay in communication with separated family members or people in your survival group is very important.

Having some sort of formal plan to cover this will be very beneficial. Given that no one may know ahead of time exactly what the crisis might be or what limitations there may be on the ability to communicate freely, here is one way to plan ahead.

In your survival plans, have it set up such that after a member of your team or family has made initial contact, they will attempt further contact during a designated time window, say the first ten minutes of each hour. It should be understood that those at home should not attempt to contact the individual but that he or she will make contact, if able, during that time frame. This allows the individual the freedom to turn off their cell phone or whatever in case they find it necessary to go “radio silent” as they make their way home. Those at home should concentrate on monitoring for received communications during that time window and spend the rest of the time implementing any other survival plans that may be necessary.