Garbage Bags for Disasters

The next time you visit your local hardware store, pick up a small package of contractor grade trash bags. While a box or roll of them will be somewhat heavy, individually they weigh seemingly nothing and adding a few of them to your bug out bag won’t be noticed.

Some folks use a garbage bag to line their packs, in order to keep things dry inside. This isn’t a bad idea at all. Simply open the pack and drop in a trash bag, very similar to how you’d use the bag in a trash can. Then, fill it with your gear and use a twist tie to close up the bag. This method is far better than first putting the gear into the bag, then trying to stuff the loaded bag into the pack.

A trash bag also makes for a great ground cover when you’re out in the field. You can kneel or sit on it, even lay a couple of them end to end so you can lie down. This is why I suggest using contractor grade bags. They are thicker and thus much more durable. The standard trash bags you’ll find at the grocery store are typically very thin and will tear easily if you tried using them as ground cover.

Should you find you need to cross a small body of water, you can fill the trash bag with air and tie it closed to make a flotation device. It isn’t perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it will work fairly well for short term use.

If you’re in bear country, put all of your food and such into a trash bag and hang it high from a tree. The plastic trash bag will help keep smells from wafting through the forest.

Contractor Grade Trash Bags

In a pinch, you can stuff a bag with leaves and grass to make a pillow or small mattress. Not the most comfortable option in the world but it will help insulate you from the cold ground.

At home, if the plumbing isn’t working after a disaster, you can line the toilet with a trash bag to avoid having to use the tree outside. After a few uses, you’ll obviously need to change the bag. Don’t wait for the bag to get too full. You might be surprised at just how much human waste weighs. Keep a box of baking soda or some powder laundry detergent nearby and sprinkle some into the bag after each use to help with odors.

Remember, try to stick with the thicker, contractor grade, trash bags. They are going to be more expensive, yes, but they are also far more durable. When you piece it out, they’ll still amount to mere pennies per bag, too.

Make Fire in All Weather Conditions

The ability to make fire in all weather conditions is an absolutely critical survival skill. Fire keeps us warm, it cooks our food, it boils our water for disinfection, and it lights up the night. On top of all that, there is a strong psychological element at work. When you’re lost and anxious, a good fire will help keep you calm.

In any survival kit, you should have multiple ignition devices. These are the things that get the fire started. Best options include strike anywhere matches, butane lighters, and ferrocerium rods. There are others, of course, including magnifying lenses, but if you have matches, lighters, and ferro rods and you still can’t get a fire going, you’re doing something wrong.

Next, you should have a quantity of ready-to-light tinder. Yes, there are many natural sources of tinder, such as birch bark, chaga, fatwood, seed pods, and the like. But, you can’t always count on finding it when you truly need it. Or, you might find plenty but it is sodden due to recent rains. It is best to have something with you, just in case. Search first for natural alternatives, so as to not use up your supply if you don’t have to do so. Options for tinder you carry with you include cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, tinder tabs, Wet Fire cubes, and dryer lint. Keep this tinder in a plastic bag so it stays dry until you need it. Again, though, you should keep an ample supply and only use it when you can’t find tinder in the wild.

Making a FireWhen it comes time to lay your fire, think ahead. A common mistake is to not gather enough kindling and fuel right off the bat. The last thing you want to do is scramble around trying to find more sticks as your just lit fire fizzles out. Assemble a healthy pile of small twigs and larger branches, close enough for you to grab as needed, before even trying to light the fire.

When possible, I like to grab a slab of dry bark, peeled off a fallen log, and build my fire on that. This keeps things dry if the ground is wet. Plus, the bark is usually curled up a bit on the sides and if you place it properly, this will cut down on wind hampering your efforts.

There are many different methods for fire lighting, including building a bird’s nest with your tinder. What this entails is taking loose fibrous material like grass or shavings and tossing sparks into a hole you’ve made in the pile. This works very well in most situations. What I often do is to make a small pile of tinder and use kindling to build something like a teepee around it. I leave an opening in the teepee where I can insert the lighter, match, or where I can aim sparks from my ferro rod. As the tinder lights and burns, the small kindling will begin to catch. Slowly, so as to not smother the fire, add more kindling until it is all burning fairly briskly. Then, add thicker branches one at a time until everything is burning well.

There are many different types of fire lays, including the keyhole fire and the Dakota hole fire. Do your homework and learn some of them and find out the purposes behind their use. Every fire lay is used for certain things, such as cooking or just for warmth. But, no matter which fire lay you use, it all starts with ignition and tinder.

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.

Planning to Regroup

One aspect of your preparedness planning that is often overlooked is giving thought to the fact that family members may be separated when disaster hits. Sure, it’d be nice if everyone were safe at home when it happens but odds are that won’t be the case. Kids may be at school, adults may be at work. Some may be out shopping, at the movies, out to eat, or Lord only knows where if teenagers are involved. With that in mind, there should be a plan in place for regrouping.

One part of this plan should address emergency communications. Depending upon the nature of the emergency, calling everyone’s cell phone might not be feasible. Phone lines often become overwhelmed during a crisis. However, text messages may still get through as they run on a different system. Create some sort of code word or phrase that, if received, indicates they should head for home immediately. It needs to be stressed that the only time this code phrase is used is in a true emergency. Also, there can be absolutely no mistaking the importance of receiving the message and acting upon it immediately. If your son receives a text from you that says, “Code Red,” he is to drop whatever he is doing and head for home using the fastest route possible.

But, what if the nature of the emergency prevents an easy travel back home? What if, for example, there is massive storm damage between your son and home? If he’s unable to safely travel home, he should seek other shelter and hunker down. If at all possible, he should contact those at home to let them know, whether via phone call or text. Ideally, he’ll transmit his location and that he is ok.

Children who are too young to travel home themselves will need to be picked up. A plan needs to be devised to lay out who is picking up the children and, if it is from school, that person should be noted in the school file as an authorized pick up person. Schools are, rightfully so, rather insistent upon this.

On top of all of this, there should be one more plan – what if home isn’t safe? What if, instead of having everyone meet at the residence you need for them to meet elsewhere? Choose an alternate location, someplace that is relatively nearby but not immediately next door. Say, a park in the neighborhood, for example. If this is the message received, “Code Red, Location B,” they know to head to the park and meet up there. The idea here is to give yourself options, which is what prepping is all about. I’m not suggesting you have 87 different locations, each with a different code phrase. We’re not talking 007 stuff here. The point is to have an alternate meet up location, just in case.

Give serious thought as to where your family members may be if disaster hits. Make a plan to allow for fast regrouping, should the need arise.

Book Review: Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury

Reviewed by Jim Cobb

Dave Canterbury is one of the most well-known survival instructors in the United States. His Pathfinder School has taught thousands how to survive in the bush. Dave has also been featured on television, as the co-host of Dual Survival for a couple of seasons. He’s been there, done that, and truly knows his stuff.

Bushcraft 101

Bushcraft 101 isn’t the first book Dave has written but it might just be his best, at least so far. We’ve all likely heard the term “roughing it” when talking about camping, hiking, and such, right? Dave’s approach is what he calls,”smoothing it.” Rather than making things hard for yourself, Dave wants to show you how to make your time spent in the woods as enjoyable as possible.

The book is divided into two sections. In the first, Gearing Up, Dave outlines his 5 Cs of Survival. These are:

Cutting tool
Cordage
Container
Cover
Combustion

With each of these categories, Dave gives his recommendations for what he likes, but is careful to point out that what works best for him might not be the best for you. He also talks about why each of the categories is critical to survival.

The second section is In the Bush. This is where we get into the nitty gritty of bushcraft. From choosing a campsite to different types of fire lays, trapping to wild edibles, Dave covers it all. It is important to note, though, that we’re talking bushcraft here. This is not the same as bugging out, despite the apparent similarities. While there is a fair amount of crossover between the topics, they are more like kissing cousins rather than true siblings.

There are several appendices at the end of the book. The Pathfinder Concept details Dave’s thoughts and perspectives on the conservation of resources when engaging in bushcraft. This was the first time I’d read about this concept and I really, truly appreciate the sentiment here.

There are no photos in Bushcraft 101 but there are numerous very detailed line drawings. I’ve found that sometimes these drawings can make things clearer than photos, so I had no issues with the lack of photos.

All in all, I found Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival to be an excellent primer on the subject and highly recommend it.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

It’s hurricane season again and time to make sure we’re prepared to get through what Mother Nature dishes out. From June 1st through November 30th of each year, there is higher chance of one forming in the Atlantic basin and reaching the US.

Preparing for Hurricane SeasonNow that we’re relocated in Florida, the hurricane season takes on a bit more significance. It’s more than just a slight possibility that we’ll be affected by a tempest now, than it was when we were further up the east coast and more inland.

Even during regular rain storms here, power goes out. Usually it comes right back on but it’s already went out for over an hour one day this year. So I can predict with near certainty that if a hurricane were to hit this area, we’ll be out of power for who knows how long.

Getting Ready for a Hurricane

Hurricanes bring torrential rainfall and extremely dangerous high winds. The combination can be damaging to homes and businesses yet they don’t come without warning.

With today’s technology, we know when they transform from a tropical storm into the real McCoy and even the projected path they’ll follow with relative confidence. Knowing all this beforehand lets us know its coming and to get ready to either evacuate or hunker down and ride the storm out.

Preparing for either option is best and it goes without saying that you should already have a survival or emergency kit inside your vehicle at all times. Your home should also have some things on hand to help make life easier when Mamma Earth comes a knocking.

Assuming your home is structurally sound enough to withstand the abuse of the gale force winds (or else you’d evacuate, right?), you can pretty much expect to be without power. Without electricity, you can’t flip a switch and have the lights come on. You can’t cook on your electric stove or use your microwave to heat up food. Your freezer and refrigerator won’t have the power to keep your food from spoiling for very long.

These things will happen. If it’s only for a short period of time, it’s not a big deal. But as time goes on, the longer it takes to get the power restored, the more life will be more difficult. There won’t be hot water to take a shower and there may not be any running water at all for toilets to even flush.

Think about how you’ll adapt to these conditions beyond the having extra batteries for your flashlight. If your refrigerated food goes bad, what will you eat? How will you heat up your canned goods that you have in the cupboard? You may not need to heat it up, but a warm meal is a major comfort in a situation like this.

Above all, a clean source of water is necessary. Having a supply stored for such a “rainy” day is a good idea so you’ll be set when you need it. In the case of a hurricane, you’ll have warning so you can fill up your bathtub and as many containers as you can before it hits. Just be sure to have thought this out so you can get into gear as soon as you know it’s coming.

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:

–Water
–Food
–Shelter
–Fire
–Light
–Security
–First aid
–Hygiene
–Navigation

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.