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:

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.

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!

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!