Keeping Track of Survival Information

It is important to remember that in a grid down situation, you likely won’t have ready and easy access to the Internet so all of those great articles you’ve bookmarked will be useless to you. On top of that, depending on the nature of the calamity, even e-books might be out of reach. Any and all personal record information, such as insurance policies and such, won’t be accessible if they are only found on your computer.

Keeping Track of Your Information

Survival Binder

A survival binder is a simple way to keep all of that information handy. Start with a 3 ring binder and a three hole punch, both of which can probably be found at your local Goodwill if you don’t want to pay for new (though they are very cheap, especially at back to school time). While you’re at it, pick up one or two packages of dividers, which are cardstock with tabs affixed to the side. These will allow you to better organize your binder.

Some people go so far as to use plastic page protectors as well. This isn’t a bad idea but will add a bit of expense to the project.

Set up your binder with sections for things like:

Important documents – insurance policies, financial statements, property ownership paperwork, etc.

Food – recipes using food storage items, information on different ways to cook offgrid, that sort of stuff.

Water – information on filtering and purifying water.

First aid – information on how to stay healthy, treat injuries and illnesses, how to use different first aid items you might have on hand.

The list goes on and on. As you find information online that you might want to be able to reference if the power is out, print out a copy and store it in your binder.

I would caution you to stay on top of the organizing part of this project. It is all too easy to go on a printing binge and then just toss everything into the binder, promising to yourself that you’re going to organize it later. Trust me, later never comes. It is far better to place the printed pages into the correct part of the binder each and every time.

As you go along, you may end up getting to the point where you’ll need more than one binder because you’ve accumulated so much information. That’s perfectly fine and normal. What I suggest you do at that point is to create labels for the binders so you know what is in each. This will hopefully cut down on your searching time when you’re looking for a specific piece of information.

The survival binder is an excellent project for keeping track of all the great information you find online, allowing you to access it when the computer and Internet aren’t viable options.

Choosing a Food Storage Plan

We are very fortunate to be living in what we might call a renaissance when it comes to disaster readiness. At no other time in history have we had such a wide array of products available to us. Of course, that also means it can be rather overwhelming when you’re trying to make a decision on which product or type of products will work best for you.

Food storage is no exception. There many different options available to you as you plan for long-term food needs. Let’s talk a bit about each of the major categories of food storage.

Canned and dry goods

These are the things you likely buy every day at the grocery store. Canned vegetables and fruits, dry pasta, rice, and beans. If it comes in a can or a box, it probably falls into this category. The benefits to using these items is you are accustomed to eating them already, you know what you like and what you don’t. Preparing these foods is simple and easy, for the most part.

Canned Foods

The downside, though, is canned and boxed foods are often loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. They just aren’t the healthiest foods on the planet, y’know? On top of that, I can all but guarantee that once you’ve eaten fresh produce, like green beans and peas right off the farm, the ones that come in a can will probably turn your stomach.

Home preserved foods

There are a few different ways to preserve food at home, such as home canning (pressure or water bath) and dehydration. Foods preserved in these ways tend to be healthier, as you are in control as to what ingredients are added. There is also a strong sense of accomplishment in knowing you are providing for your own needs. However, there is a fair amount of work involved, not to mention the investment in a pressure canner, dehydrator, and other supplies.

Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods

Wise Company Food StorageSome of the more well known brand names in this category include Wise and Mountain House. These foods are specially packaged and preserved to last many years. Typically, all you need to do is add hot water and wait for the food to rehydrate. The nice thing about these products is there is little prep involved. If you can heat water, you can make dinner. Plus, these pouches and buckets are designed to last decades.

There are a couple of potential downsides, though. First, these products tend to be more expensive than other options. Second, some folks have reported digestive upsets and such. What I suggest is, if you want to explore this option further, buy a few sample meals and try them out. See if you like the taste and make sure the food agrees with you.

MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)

A common staple among preppers, MREs are either actual military surplus or are manufactured to the same guidelines and sold to the general public. Typically, one pouch will consist of a main dish, a side dish, a dessert item, crackers or bread, peanut butter or jelly, powdered beverage mix, a utensil, condiments, and a flameless heater. Basically, everything you’d need for a complete meal, all in one handy pouch. Because of this all-in-one nature, they can be nice to have on hand. Plus, the food merely needs to be heated, though it could be eaten cold in many cases. You don’t need to add water to rehydrate the food, just heat and eat.

MRE Components

MREs tend to be very expensive, though, when compared to the other options on this list. They are also rather bulky, taking up far more space than an equivalent number of canned goods or dehydrated food pouches.

What I recommend is diversifying your food storage plans. Start with the canned and boxed goods you normally eat on a regular basis, then add in a box or three of freeze-dried foods and perhaps a case or two of MREs. Ideally, you should learn how to preserve your own food at home as well.

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:

Are Multi-tools Required in Every Survival Kit?

I know this is going to sound sacrilegious but I am rather on the fence about multi-tools in general. Now wait, before you start chucking rocks at my head, hear me out.

As we go along here, please understand that I’m fully aware there are individual exceptions to these points. I’m speaking in general terms here.

First, I don’t know that any multi-tool can ever fully replace a good knife, whether we mean folding or fixed-blade. As most of us know by now, a good quality knife is a critical part of any survival kit. Personally, I haven’t found too many multi-tools that have a really good knife blade and are also easy to open and use with one hand. Quite often, if I need to cut something, I’m holding that something in my other hand and putting it down might be inconvenient.

Second, about the only time I’ve ever truly needed a needle-nosed pliers out in the field is when I’m trying to remove a swallowed hook from a fish. And, I have to say, the multi-tools I’ve tried that with haven’t worked too well. (A better solution, for me at least, was to pick up a couple hemostats at a surplus store and toss them into my tackle box.)

Plus, when trying to squeeze down on something with the pliers, many multi-tools are designed in such a way that the spines of all those other accessories dig into your hands. Sure, if you’re wearing gloves that issue is mitigated but, c’mon, how many of us really wear gloves as often as we should?

Most of the other common accessories on multi-tools aren’t always the greatest options either. Saws don’t cut very well. Wire cutters, provided the wire is thin enough, are ok. The screwdrivers work well enough, IF the screw head is open enough to get at it.

Now, with all that said, I’ll never say a multi-tool is a worthless addition to a survival kit. I think they are a valuable asset, but more as a backup than as a primary use tool.

Who knows? Maybe I just haven’t found the right one yet.

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.

How Are Your Vegetable Gardens Doing?

Here in the Upper Midwest, it seems like winter ended just last week. Given that we were still seeing frosts at the end of May, that’s not too far off, I guess.

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re still working on our main vegetable garden. Oh, we have some smaller garden beds with strawberries, asparagus, and some herbs as well as planters with taters doing quite well, actually. But, until recently the ground was just too saturated for us to do much with the main vegetable garden. We needed to redo the retaining wall before we could do much else.

Now, truth be told, my wife is the gardener in the family. I’m just the grunt labor. I dig where she tells me to dig. Some people have green thumbs? My wife has green fingers, hands, and arms. Seriously, we have more plants than Carter has pills.

Anyway, I bring this up to illustrate a point. Due to drought, many places had poor growing seasons last year, right? Garden production was way down so even those who normally are able to grow most of their own food were in a bind. Then, this winter seemed to last forever and gardens are going in much later than normal, at least around here. While many people plan to expand their gardens in the wake of a crisis so as to grow more of their food, what if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with that plan? Any number of factors could come into play and result in a poor growing season — drought, floods, infestation. You can have all the heirloom seeds in the world and they won’t do you a darn bit of good if you can’t get them to grow.

Yes, you should absolutely have seeds and supplies to grow your food. But, that shouldn’t be the ONLY plan. You should also have an extensive pantry and long-term storage foods to provide for your family in bad times.

Busy Weekend

I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put up wet. We got a lot accomplished this weekend though. Saturday, we restacked all the firewood, roughly 1.5 cords. Over the last winter, we went through about a half a cord in the wood stove. We obviously don’t use it as our primary heat source, otherwise we’d have gone through a lot more. Until this weekend, we had two different stacks of wood. One was seasoned stuff and the other was newer from a tree that came down last year. Both piles were rather disheveled so we took it all down and restacked the entire lot. My wife devised a really cool cover for the pile using tarps, PVC, and some metal tubing we had lying around. It took about six hours to remove and then restack the piles into a nice, orderly stack.

I also got a fire going in the fire pit (using the opportunity to teach one of my sons how to use a magnesium striker) and we burned a few of the large stumps we had that were infested with ants and rotting away.

Then, on Sunday I redid the retaining wall on our vegetable garden, expanding it by a few feet. We have this garden located in the back corner of our yard. There’s a moderate slope in this area so we built a retaining wall to level it out for the garden. Over the last couple years since we first built it, the bricks began to tilt a little as they weren’t quite level. The cinderblocks we used are just dry fitted, no mortar or anything. That normally would work fine for our purposes, provided they start out level. I reinforced them this time with metal bars driven into the ground. A couple weekends ago, we took down an old set of monkey bars. As a result, we had about twenty or so metal pipes about an inch thick to repurpose for the retaining wall reinforcement.

It now measures about 4 feet by 22 feet. The next step will be to put in landscape fabric against the inside of the bricks to keep the dirt from sifting out. Once we get the tree removed that is in this corner, we’re going to built another garden plot there too. That one will be around 4 feet by 16 feet or so.

It was a lot of work but we’re happy with the results.

The Preparedness Toolbox

When we talk about a “prepper toolbox,” we’re not really referring to physical objects but rather skill sets to learn and practice. I’ve talked before about how all too many preppers have sort of blinders on and become so focused on one aspect they let others fall to the wayside. This happens with food storage, with wilderness skills, and perhaps most often with security.


Think of all your preparedness skills as tools, each with different uses. If you focus too much on security, for example, you may end up with a toolbox filled with all sorts of hammers…when what you really need is a slotted screwdriver.

Your toolbox should have an assortment of tools to tackle a wide range of tasks.

Someone well-versed in disaster readiness should know:

–How to start and feed a fire under adverse conditions and with various implements.

–How to properly store food long-term.

–How to purify water using a wide range of techniques.

–How to keep their family safe and secure.

–How to improvise and think outside the box.

–How to build an expedient shelter using whatever materials might be at hand.

–How to turn off the gas and water in their home.

–How to put out a fire that is getting out of control.

–How to provide basic first aid, at a minimum.

–How to identify several different edible and otherwise useful plants.

The list goes on and on.

Robert Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love, wrote:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn (steer) a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Once upon a time, many of the skills we consider related to disaster readiness were really just commonplace. Few people DIDN’T know how to light a fire and cook over it. In our modern society, with all our technological conveniences, we often take these sorts of things for granted. If we’re hungry, we just pop something in the microwave and, voila, we’re ready to chow down. But, what if the power is out and that nuke machine is nothing more than a heavy box?

Make a commitment to yourself today to learn a new skill. Pick something you’ve always wanted to learn but just never got around to doing. Do your research, find a teacher if necessary, and then practice, practice, practice until you get it right.

Always look for ways to add to your toolbox!

DIY Summer School

In some districts, school is already done for the year. In others, like ours, we still have a couple weeks to go. This summer, in addition to family trips and such, my wife and I are planning our own version of summer school for our boys.

Studies have shown that children’s study skills deteriorate over the summer break if they aren’t being challenged. With reading in particular, they can fall two or three levels in just that 8-10 week period. Therefore, we’re going to have them doing book reports and research papers, as well as practicing math skills and learning about science and history.

In addition to the academics, I’m planning to kick their survival skill education into high gear. Here’s a short list for what I have on tap:

–Making fire – different types of campfires, ways to get them lit, how to keep them fed properly.

–Shelter building – lean-tos, debris huts, etc.

–Finding north without a compass.

–Locating water sources and purification methods.

–Traps and snares.

–Knife sharpening.

–Edible and medicinal plants.

–Target practice with bow and air rifles.

–Cooking over a campfire.


–Situational awareness.

Not only will these lessons teach them valuable skills, they are an opportunity to brush up on some of them myself.

If you have children, I challenge you to do something similar. Summer should definitely be fun but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn a thing or two along the way.

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.