Weekend Project

This weekend, I’d like for you to take a little time and put together a mini survival kit. Nothing elaborate nor fancy is required. Just a kit that will satisfy most if not all your basic needs in a survival situation, yet be small enough to fit on your belt or in a purse.

To review, here is a list of basic needs:

–First aid

Preppers are some of the most ingenious people around. This is often highlighted when it comes to building survival kits. People figure out all sorts of great ways to save space and not sacrifice quality.

So, show me something! Get creative! Send me a pic or two of your creation, along with some info about what you included in the kit. I’ll pick the best ones to feature here on the blog in the next week or two.

Send the pics to: Jim@SurvivalWeekly.com.

Prepper Fatigue

Most of us have felt it at least once or twice. We’ve devoted so much time, so many resources, toward planning for what might come someday, we get burned out. We feel overwhelmed by how much we still feel we need to do. It feels like there will never be enough time, enough money, to accomplish our goals.

This is normal. This is a natural emotional reaction.

When it happens, it is your mind’s way of telling you that you need to take a break for a bit. Really, it isn’t healthy to spend all of your waking hours doing nothing but prepping, thinking about prepping, reading about prepping.

Take the well-deserved break and do something fun. Spend some time with the kids. Go on a day trip to see something exciting.

Take a Saturday night and hit the movies with your significant other. Even better, just grab something from Redbox or find something on Netflix. Pop some corn and veg out for the evening.

Get together with some friends and go to a ball game. Or a live band. Or a play.

The point is to take some time to take a step back and enjoy life. The prepping will be there when you return.

Signs It Is Time To Bug Out

A few weeks ago, Lisa Bedford, The Survival Mom(TM), asked several survival and preparedness bloggers for a short essay detailing how we’d know it is time to bug out, or as she put it, that the “balloon had gone up.” Here is my contribution.

One of the most common questions I get, just behind What kind of gun should I buy? and just ahead of Who sells the best-tasting dehydrated food? is “How will I know it is time to bug out?” Variations of this include “How will I know this is the event?” and “How can I get out before the crowd?”

It is very difficult to give any sort of concrete answer to these questions because they are, at least in part, very subjective. For almost all potential scenarios, my pat answer is to remain at home until such a time that home is no longer tenable or safe. But, I’ll readily admit that is side-stepping the actual question.

Here, then, are some indicators, “red flags” if you will, that things are likely to get much worse before they get better.

Stores aren’t seeing stock coming in. We’ve all heard the statistic that grocery stores only have about 3 days worth of stock at any given time. While that figure varies depending on the item, such as they may have enough toiletries to last a typical month but enough fresh meat to only last a couple days, the average for the store on the whole is likely stock levels to last a week or less. If something causes disruption to the replenishment process, that not only makes it difficult to purchase food and other supplies, the secondary result is people begin to panic. In our modern society, most people are accustomed to immediate gratification. They want something so they go to the store and buy it. Now, how often have you run to the store to pick up something and upon arriving you learn they don’t have it in stock? It makes you feel frustrated, maybe even angry. How dare they not have the new season of Justified on DVD! Now, imagine that instead of a set of DVDs, it is canned vegetables, milk, or bread and your family is already getting pretty hungry. One of the first things we’ll see in the wake of a major event is store shelves not being stocked. The disruption may only be for a few days but you don’t want to be around when people find out they can’t get food from their normal sources.

You hear eyewitness accounts of looting in your area. I want to stress the “eyewitness” part of that. In chaotic situations, rumors are guaranteed to be flying left and right. Case in point – think back to all the rumors you heard about what went on inside the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. No doubt about it, there were bad things going on but, as far as I know, the rumors about infants being killed were never proven to be anything but stories. So, if you hear that a neighbor was told by a friend of their cousin who heard from a guy down their block that their uncle saw some looters, you might take it with a grain of salt. However, if said neighbor instead tells you he saw a band of ne’er do wells going house to house as he was coming back from scouting the area, that’s a sure sign things are likely to be heading south quickly.

Emergency services are overwhelmed. As we’ve seen in the aftermath of major disasters like Hurricane Katrina and various tornadoes in Oklahoma, law enforcement agencies as well as other emergency services can easily become overwhelmed. Please do not take this as a gripe against them. Thousands and thousands of good men and women work in those fields and do the very best they can to respond to emergencies large and small. However, they are only human and they have limits. They can’t be in two places at once and there’s only so many of them to go around. At some point, triage will have to take place and decisions made as to which emergencies are more important than others. This happens every day, actually. Police dispatchers routinely need to determine which 911 calls get priority when things get really busy. A traffic accident with possible fatalities on a major highway takes precedence over a complaint about an out-of-season campfire in a backyard (yes, people call 911 for such inane complaints). However, after a major event, staffing levels may drop due to officers having been injured in the disaster, being ill, or just plain wanting to remain at home with their families and this will result in many calls for assistance going unchecked for longer periods of time, if responded to at all. Even if attendance at roll call is 100%, the sheer volume of requests for help may become too much for any department to fully bear. In the event that takes place, you really don’t want to be one of the people standing around, waiting for a squad car to arrive and hopefully resolve a problem for you.

Above all else, trust your gut. If that voice in the back of your head is telling you it is time to head out, do so. You may only have one chance to get out ahead of everyone else and make it to your secondary destination rather than end up in the middle of an interstate that has become a large parking lot.

Pick Your Battles

Part of the problem with becoming rather active with prepping and such is you sometimes find yourself butting heads with other people who don’t think like you do. Preppers, particularly those fairly new to the lifestyle, are very passionate about their beliefs. It usually takes a little longer for us seasoned pros to get our dander up but it does happen from time to time.

Here’s the thing — You can lead a person to knowledge but you can’t make them think.

One of the worst approaches is to immediately start talking about end of the world scenarios and how they should have stored enough food and water to last at least a year. That’s not a very good sales pitch, let’s be honest. All you’re doing is coming off as some sort of extremist, using a scare tactic to make a point. That’s not going to work with most people.

Start small, talk about weather emergencies that have been in the news. Bring up the need for having a little extra on hand in case someone in the family gets laid off or loses their job completely.

Sometimes though, we can talk until we’re blue in the face and some folks just aren’t going to budge. That’s ok, that’s their problem. You did your part by broaching the subject and presenting them with (hopefully) practical and factual information. If they choose not to pursue it, like the grasshopper compared to the ant, so be it.

Pick your battles wisely. Don’t get so involved that it stresses you out.


Pandemics are epidemics that cross national or international boundaries and affect great numbers of people. In other words, a whole lot of people living in a wide area have all been infected with the same disease. This isn’t just a case of the sniffles running rampant through a school district.

With many people, the first thing to come to mind when discussing pandemics is the Black Death, sometimes called the Black Plague. While it is impossible to cite exact numbers, it is believed the Black Death claimed up to 200 million lives from 1347 to roughly 1350. In just three years, it decimated up to 60% of the entire population of Europe. This pandemic of the bubonic plague originated in or near China and spread through the Silk Road to Europe. Fleas, carried on the backs of rats that infested all the merchant ships back then, helped to spread the disease everywhere they went.

Take a moment and let those numbers sink in a bit. 200 million people perished as a result of the disease. To put that into perspective, estimated population numbers in 2012 indicate there are roughly 314 million people living in the United States, including the District of Columbia. Can you even imagine what life would be like if two-thirds of the U.S. population all died within a few years? How long do you think it would take for life to return to anything close to normal? According to some experts, it took Europe about 150 years to get back on its feet.

A more recent example is the flu pandemic that occurred in 1918-1919. This was the first major outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus. It is sometimes referred to as the Spanish Flu, only because of how the news of the virus spread back then. Remember, this was during World War I. Back in those days, censors worked hard to keep morale up by not allowing much negative news to hit the airwaves. I know, that would never happen today. So, anyway, as the early reports about the illness and mortality rates started coming in from Germany, the United States, Britain, and France, these censors did what they could to keep it hushed up. Spain, however, was neutral during WWI and didn’t bother keeping things quiet. The result was that news reports seemed to indicate Spain was being hit hard by this flu but not so much the rest of the world. Therefore, it came to be called the Spanish Flu.

What was particularly chilling about this flu outbreak was how it targeted the healthy segments of the population. Rather than the deaths being centered among the elderly, infirm, and children, it was the healthy young adults who were hardest hit. This was due to how the flu virus worked. What happened was the virus caused what is called a cytokine storm in the body. Essentially, this means the patient’s immune system went into overdrive and the healthier the patient was at the outset, the more powerful the immune system, resulting in cytokine storms that killed the patients.

This flu pandemic hit just about every corner of the planet. While numbers are still sketchy, estimated death tolls range from 50-100 million. Now, no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of dead bodies but bear in mind that most of them perished within about a 9 month period.

Could something like that happen today? I mean, with all our modern medical knowledge and technology, surely the powers that be would be able to act quickly to develop a remedy and nip it in the bud before things got out of control, right?

Think about this, though. HIV/AIDS has been around since 1981 and they still haven’t figured out a cure for it.

Round Out Your Training

So, earlier today, I saw a post from someone on Facebook asking if anyone was interested in joining their survival group’s next “training session.” I clicked over to their website, out of curiosity if nothing else. My suspicions were confirmed when I read all about their combat maneuvers and such. All sorts of braggadocio about tactics, combat, and marksmanship.

Interestingly enough, not a word about food preservation, water purification, or even basic wilderness skills.

If you’re going to organize or participate in a survival group, your training must be diversified!

Don’t get me wrong, I agree that security and defense are important aspects of a survival plan. C’mon, I even went so far as to write a damn book on the subject! But the reality is security should only one piece of the overall puzzle. There is so much more involved in long-term survival planning.

For example, let’s say you have a core group of eight people. These people are going to need 2,500+ calories a day in their bellies. They are going to need a gallon or more of clean water to drink every day. They are going to need to know:

How to garden
How to hunt
How to trap
How to fish
How to raise animals
How to preserve their food
How to survive if they get lost during “patrol”
How to keep clean without running water
How to treat injuries and illnesses
How to repair broken equipment and gear

And on, and on, and on…

If you spend all your time playing weekend warrior, you’re missing the much bigger picture.

Another Great DIY Firestarter

We’ve talked about DIY firestarters before, especially fire straws. This is another project, just slightly more involved, that brings excellent results.

Here’s what you’ll need:
–Strike anywhere matches
–Toilet paper
–A couple old candles

First, you’ll need to melt the candles. What I’ve found works well is to take an old tin can, empty and washed out, of course, and fill it about 2/3 full with pieces of broken candles. Heat a pan of water a few inches deep and place the tin can in the water. You might need to play around a little bit with the water level so the can will sit without tipping over. What you’ve done is make a crude double-boiler. As the water heats, it will melt the wax. Stir it from time to time using a twig to break up the chunks.

While that’s heating, lay out a handful of matches. Tear off individual squares of toilet paper. If you’re using kitchen size matches, tear each square in half. If you’re using the smaller matches, tear the squares into thirds. For our purposes, we’ll assume you’re using the kitchen size ones.

Roll the toilet paper around the matches, using one torn strip per match. What you want is to have the edge of the strip just below the head of the match. Roll it tight and give it a slight twist at the top and bottom of the match when you’re done to help keep the paper in place.

Once the wax has all melted, dip each match into it. It doesn’t really matter which end you do first as you’ll end up doing both. If the tin can is small, you may find it easier to use tongs so you don’t end up with hot wax on your fingers. After dipping each match about halfway, lay them out on aluminum foil to dry.

Once they’re cool enough to touch, dip the other ends, being sure to cover the entire match with wax. Lay them out to cool again.

When you go to light one, carefully chip off the wax on the match head. You want to do this lightly so you don’t light the match too soon. When the head is uncovered, ruffle the exposes toilet paper a bit, then strike the match. Hold it down for a second to help it light the toilet paper and wax, then place into your tinder.

It will burn for several minutes, giving you plenty of time to get the tinder and then kindling going.

Anticipating Needs in a Survival Situation

Whether you’re lost in the woods or out for a night on the town, it is important to plan ahead and anticipate needs before they arise. This, to a large degree, plays into situational awareness.

For example, let’s say you went out hiking and somehow lost your way. As you try to puzzle out the correct path to take, part of your mind should already shift into survival mode. Mentally inventory the gear you have with you. Begin looking for a good place to bed down for the night, should it come to that. Gather seed pods or other tinder as you go along, stuffing it into a pocket for use later. Earmark potential sources of water so you can come back to them if need be. Pay attention to the flora and identify some wild edibles you might add to the cook pot that evening.

On the urban side of the coin, any time you enter a building, make note of where the emergency exits are located. Get in the habit of mentally planning an escape route. Given how frighteningly prevalent mass shooting incidents have become, this is just common sense. Keep track of your walking route so you know how to get back to your vehicle in a hurry. Look for places where you might be able to hunker down for at least a short time, long enough to collect your thoughts and make solid plans.

Anticipating needs and making plans to meet them is just part of survival.

The Argument for Mini-Kits

Spend much time on the more heavily-trafficked survival message boards and you will inevitably see posts come up regarding mini-kits, like the kind you make out of the ever-popular Altoids tins. Frequently, what happens is someone posts a picture of one they put together, which is all well and good. But then, you’ll see several posts saying how it is a stupid idea, what possible use would such a small kit have, that sort of thing.

Part of the problem is that those who build these kits are often inexperienced with survival skills in general and perhaps feel these small kits are all they’ll need. At least, that’s how it sometimes comes across.

The reality is, these mini-kits are great.

But they certainly aren’t intended for long-term survival by any means. They are a backup, perhaps even a backup to your backup gear. They are not, or should not, be seen as the end all, be all survival kit.

The idea behind having a mini-kit is that, no matter what, you can always have at least some survival gear with you at all times. They are small enough to toss into a pocket or purse and not make you feel overburdened by the size or weight. If something happens to your primary gear, you’ll still have some of the basics at your disposal.

Typically, these Altoids tins and such have things like:

–Strike anywhere matches
–Tinder (Fire Straws, anyone?)
–A button compass for navigation
–A signal whistle to help rescuers find you
–A small razor knife or other blade
Water purification tablets
–Some adhesive bandages
–Duct tape
–Maybe even some paracord

No, a mini-kit isn’t going to keep you living high on the hog for weeks on end. But, it just might be enough to keep your butt alive for a day or two, at least long enough that you can work to improve your situation. As I always say, skills trump stuff every time. So, while you work on assembling all these nifty kits and whiz-bang gear, please be sure you know how to use all of it!

More Unusual Additions to the Survival Kit

One of the things I truly enjoy is coming up with ways to take common items and repurpose them as survival gear. I can’t say I’m always the first guy to come with a given idea as, more often than not, I’ll later see it or a variation mentioned somewhere. Still though, ’tis fun.

Alcohol swabs are pretty cheap. They are great to have in your kit to help clean small wounds, of course. But, they are also excellent for getting a fire going. Tear open the package and pull the swab out about halfway, then light it using any of your typical means of doing so. You may not see much flame as alcohol burns very cleanly. It also is pretty damn hot so be careful!

This one comes courtesy of survival expert and author John McCann. Toss a few small balloons in with your survival fishing gear. They work great as improvised floats. Who doesn’t have room in their kit for a couple balloons?

Glue sticks don’t need a glue gun to work. Just heat up one end over your fire, then smear the glue where it is needed. Great for making expedient repairs in the field. But, watch your fingers as the glue is obviously hot and will stick to the skin.

A simple, inexpensive rat trap baited with peanut butter will work well in keeping you fed. Spray paint it first with a neutral, flat color like gray or tan. Screw in an eye hook on one end so you can tie it to a tree so you don’t lose the trap if the critter isn’t killed instantly and instead tries to crawl away while “caught.”

Take a look around you. Think about how you could use everyday common items in a survival situation. Get creative!