My wife and I keep emergency bags in our vehicles in case of the unknown event that leaves us away from home and trying to get back there or to get to another location. I assembled our bags with a few overriding thoughts. First of all I wanted good gear because it may not be possible to replace any of it on foot. Second that the packs would be filled with clothing that would not be carried forward like shoes and clothes lessoning weight and increasing room for water and other items. Third, to carry no more than we have to. Fourth is to prioritize in classic survival priorities of water, food, shelter, self defense and tools.
LL Bean AT-35 Pack – this pack uses an aluminum rack to provide a few inches of space between my back and the pack which keeps me from overheating, there is mesh netting against my back. The pack hooks a water bladder and has an exit hole for the drinking tube and is a top loader with the usual compartments and pouches.
Camelbak 100 ounce bladder to be filled with clean water as soon as possible.
32 ounce water bottles
Katadyn Pocketceramic water filter buy the best when it comes to water, you can find water everywhere if you have a way to filter it.
Water purification tablets because that filter won’t get everything and hiking home is the wrong time for Montezuma’s revenge.
Survival Food Bars (8) without energy you won’t be walking very far.
2 MRE’s that are stripped of all packaging.
Knife capable of cutting, chopping and fighting.
Leatherman multi tool –don’t leave home without it.
50 Rounds of 9mm boxed.
2 Glock 19 magazines (Glock pistol is my concealed carry) stored in a pouch on the pack belt.
Outside the belt holster for Glock 19 covered by an untucked shirt.
Rain Poncho made of a breathable fabric in a light color that is knee length.
Walking pants - I wear Blackhawk Tactical pants because I love all of the pockets.
Walking shirt that is thin and wicking but has a high SPF and wears untucked.
Socks (3 pairs) of Thorlo’s light hiking socks.
Walking shoes that meet the climate.
Headlamp with both a bright LED that eats batteries and backup LED’s that runs for a week on 3 AA batteries.
Flashlight that operates on 2 AA batteries.
10 AA lithium ion batteries for lights stored outside of the lights in a plastic bag.
Space blankets (2) to reflect body heat and fire pit heat (it gets cold here sometimes).
$20 Bills (20) for when the ATM machine won’t work and they don’t take credit cards.
2 Tarps that cover 8 X 8 one to lay down without that many bugs and one as a rain shelter.
Cigarette lighter Iphone DC charger.
Map of the area Toilet kit with TP, Tooth brush, tooth paste, razor, comb and nail clippers.
First Aid kit with special attention to feet.
Para-cord about 50 feet gets a lot of jobs done.
From the car:
Glock 19 pistol.
Boonie hat to keep my head out of the sun.
Every Day Carry:
USB Flashdrive on keychain that holds photos of all vital documents (encrypted).
Mini Flashlight on keychain, you always need light.
Glock 19 pistol.
iPhone it has so many uses that it earns it’s keep.
The extra pistol and magazines are great for traveling with my wife if she is not carrying concealed at the moment. I like to grab her bag and put it in my car when we go any distance from home together.
Cooking with a Solar Oven
Does a solar oven fit into your preparedness and survival plans? It might. Even as the world is crumbling around you, you’ll still want to cook meals, sterilize water, preserve food, and maybe even treat your family to a warm bath. A solar oven allows you to do this, without using precious electrical energy, without depending on gas lines (that are probably broken), and even without wood for a fire! All with a lightweight device about the size of a suitcase. So here’s the solar oven by the numbers:
Amount of Sun. Obviously, you need sunshine to make a solar oven work. To determine if you have enough, you can either stick your head out the window and look, or you can consult a map of average solar radiation.
The following map takes into account both latitude and cloud cover, giving average solar radiation. If you live in a medium-to-dark grey zone, then getting a solar oven is a “slam-dunk” preparation that you should do. However, solar cooking experts tell us that most anywhere on earth between the 60th parallels of latitude allow at least some solar cooking. That's basically mid-Canada to the tip of South America. No solar cooking for most of: Iceland, Alaska, N. Canada, Russia, or the Antarctic, sorry.
Here is the number of prime solar cooking days you have at specific latitudes:
60 lat = 50 days
50 lat = 100 days
40 lat = 150 days
30 lat = 200 days
20 lat = 250 days
(2) Choosing or building an oven. A solar oven is a fairly simple device, and you can build your own if you’re handy. Fellow author Quake has built several of his own, with great success.
Extremely simple, cheap, and portable solar ovens can be made with little more than: two automobile windshield sunshades, a turkey size oven bag, a dark pot, and a rock to set it on. Great for the refugee on the move. I’ll not describe how-to here, because solar oven plans are easily googled.
If you decide you want to buy, as I did, then you need to decide between a box-style oven (best for baking), and a “hot plate” style oven (ideal for boiling water). The latter often look like shiny dish antennas that focus light to an intense point. The former mostly look like suitcases with wings.
If you determine a box-style’s what you want, then you’ll be choosing among just a few top contenders. (This source compares four of them: http://www.comparethebrands.com/compare/60 I purchased the Global Sun Oven, a popular option. I ordered it from Amazon for about $260. Pricey, but the company funds free ovens to third world countries through upcharging those of us in developed countries. Their concern is the tremendous amount of smoke inhalation by people cooking over smoky fires, the long-term health damage that entails, as well as the deforestation that can accompany an entire population using wood fires to cook.
The oven consists of an inner, anodized aluminum “tub” and an outer plastic “tub,” with insulation between. A glass door covers the opening, and four anodized, polished aluminum reflectors unfold to make the oven look a little like Sputnik.
(3) Pottage. There’s one additional item you’d need to make your solar oven work for you…the right kind of pot. It needs to be dark-colored, with a tight fitting lid. GraniteWare pots are universally recommended. Finding the right size is a bit tricky; but I can recommend the GraniteWare Roaster #0517 which fits well and works for many different purposes, holding about 3 quarts. (I also purchased 4-qt Stock Pot #6209 for water purification, more on that later.)
Also, you’ll want a flat space to set the oven. I actually place mine on a piece of plywood on the lawn, or on the picnic table. This way I can slide it around easily, as the sun tracks across the sky.
Preheat your oven by placing it facing the sun. Readjust it to face the sun every half hour to two hours, depending on the severity of your obsessive-compulsive disorder. The more O/C you are, the hotter your oven will get. Here in So. Cal., the oven regularly heats to the 320-340 range. The highest I’ve seen is 350. The manufacturer says that temperatures may go as high as 400, but that measurement must have been taken by the devil cooking in hell. Or possibly, in Arizona.
(4)Recipes. Go ahead, cook something. Start off simple, and go from there. Here are easiest-to-hardest to cook foods with solar:
Lots of recipes on the internet. And in libraries (remember those? they’re still out there). The Global Sun Oven website has a burgeoning recipe section. But I’ll get you started with my favorite recipe so far. It’s sort of like a cobbler, but not quite, it’s a “cobbler cake,” more or less:
3 T butter, melted in bottom of your GraniteWare pot.
In bowl stir together:
3/4 C flour
1/2+ C sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 C buttermilk.
One thing you have to get accustomed to with solar cooking: foods don’t “brown” as they do in a gas oven. So there’s a little learning curve to determining when a dish is done.
Practice now, before the end of the world! Bake potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rice, lentils, and all those other foods you’re storing like a good squirrel who’s waiting for a long hard winter. Learn now, while mistakes are easily corrected.
(5) Get a WAPI. This is a survival oven, yes? Then use it to purify your water. Maybe you have a water filter, but you want to destroy those nasty viruses, too. Your solar oven rides to the rescue as a bacteria, protozoa, and virus killing machine. Put your water in a pot, and pop it in the oven. If you purchased a WAPI device (a WAter Pasteurization Indicator) for $9 you’ll be able to kill those nasty viruses efficiently by heating the water to 155 degrees for 6 minutes. The WAPI is an acrylic tube with wax in one end of it. Place it wax-end-up in your water, and when the water is pasteurized, the wax melts and flows down to the other end of the tube. You’re done! Cool it and drink it, and enjoy NOT getting sick. It won’t taste flat like boiled water because…it wasn’t boiled.
You may be wondering, as I have, whether the solar oven could be made into a solar still. I’ll bet it could, if you’re willing to modify your oven. I’m still pondering this. One thing to note: the inner anodized aluminum tub is not seamless like a sink. It’s actually folded up and riveted, and does not appear to be watertight. So any design allowing the condensed water to fall to the bottom of the tub would likely not work. Besides, it would be falling onto hot black anodized aluminum, which would simply re-vaporize the water. In my opinion, you’d need to collect the condensate off the glass in a trough and route it out of the oven (meaning a hole in the side). So more pondering on this before I tear into an expensive oven.
(6) Preserve food. We said survival, right? No refrigerator, no freezer? No Mason jars and gas stove? Not even a FoodSaver? You can use a solar oven to dehydrate your food: make jerky, dried fruit, and dehydrated vegetables. Using the sun to dry victuals is the most ancient method of preserving food. It works great, concentrates flavors, retains vitamins and nutrients, lightens the weight of your food, and is free, easy, and clean with a solar oven (although not exactly fast!).
Now, you’ll have to modify your oven so you dry your food rather than cook it. That means reducing the heat to around 110-160 Fahrenheit, which is needed for successful dehydration. Too hot, and you will unintentionally cook your food instead of dehydrating it. To modify the Sun Oven for a lower range, I took off the reflectors. On bright days, I also tape a piece of white paper in the center of the oven’s door. And, I prop the door open about an inch, to let the water vapors out as well as to cool the oven. Convection alone should do the trick (and according to SunOven it does), but I added a small fan in the bottom of the oven to keep the air moving. (This small fan was designed for cooling a laptop computer and runs on USB power, which is supplied by a small GoalZero solar panel.) This setup generally gives me around 130-140 degrees with decent airflow and protection from dust and insects. Turning the oven away from the sun cools it even further, if necessary. While I’m still on my own learning curve here, I’ve successfully dried several trays of fruit. The last batch took me two full days of sun.
A final note: This oven has been a big hit with the Lady of my Life, who is thrilled that her husband is now voluntarily helping shoulder the burden of cooking for the family. I remind her every so often that yes, while it is cooking, it’s a very manly form of cooking, so there’s no shame in it. That seems to suit her just fine.
Beginning Long Term Food Storage
I live in Florida so keeping food in the cabinets is a logical thing to do with hurricanes passing by on a regular schedule and no guarantee that the grocery store will be open or that we will have a way to get there. This single factor more than any other led me to become a “Prepper” and think about self sufficiency in times of trouble.
My personal journey to long term food storage started with short term food storage, when we went to the grocery store I would buy extra of the things that we normally eat when they were on sale, especially the buy one get one free (BOGO) sales. I began to see nothing odd about having 50 boxes of Cherios or 100 cans of tuna in the house. After a couple of years my wife even declared it to be a good thing after we discussed the fact that everything that was in our pantry was free because of the way that we were shopping! We had a lot of food at the time too but it was food with an expiration date, some of it we gave to charity because we could not eat it before the date expired. Charity is a good thing and it feels just as good when you can do it with free (to us) food, maybe even better. But I wanted to take the next step and buy some foods that have expiration dates in decades instead of months or years.
I decided that I would start with rice because it’s inexpensive, filling and I like it. Sam’s Club sells 50 pound bags of rice for less than $20 so I bought 6 bags (300 pounds) and brought it home. After looking at it for a few days I ordered some 5 gallon pails online as well as 6 gallon mylar bags, a package of oxygen absorbers and a hot jaw clamp. The basic idea is that the pail and lid provide a structural integrity for stacking and keep insects and rodents out as well as blocking light. Mylar bags like the ones that potato chips come in make an air barrier, mylar is made from alternating layers of metal film and plastic and have a very low air leakage. The correct size oxygen absorber removes the oxygen from the air that is mixed in with your food, air is 72% nitrogen and the rest is mostly oxygen and that is what allows insects and bacteria to live in your food and ruin it. Now the hot jaw clamp is a very interesting tool that cost about $150 and clamps down on the end of the mylar bag about 6 inches at a time making a half inch wide melted seam.
So with all of the ingredients in hand I decided to give it a try. I lined up 8 buckets which research told me should hold 300 pounds of rice and I put a mylar bag into each one of them rising above the rim of the pail by several inches. With my mylar bags in all 8 buckets I emptied the rice into them and ended up with less than a gallon left over, it would have fit but it was my first time and I wanted to be cautious. I raised the pails a few inches off of the floor and dropped them down several times when I was filling them to help the rice settle and the pail hold more.
The next step had me a little nervous the first time that I did it. You see the oxygen absorbers start absorbing oxygen from the air as soon as you open the bag that they come in so it’s important to do this quickly and reseal the oxygen absorbers for future use too. After my hot jaw clamp warmed up and was ready to seal I sealed my way across half of each of the mylar bags getting the seams straight and practiced folding the bags into the pails to make sure that they fit. Next I opened the bag of oxygen absorbers and put one into each of the mylar bags and used my hot jaw clamp to reseal the plastic bag that the oxygen absorbers came in so that they would not be full of oxygen and useless the next time that I needed them to preserve food. I did not linger as I applied the hot jaw clamp to finish sealing each of the mylar bags folding them into the pail and forcing out as much air as I could before finishing them with overlapping seals. Finally I forced the cover onto the first pail and then went to the garage for a rubber mallet which did a nice job of banging on the remaining covers. I was done!
A couple of notes about storing food this way, first you want to use certain foods that last a long time in a zero oxygen state. White rice is very good for this but the brown rice and other types that contain more oils have a very limited life. Wheat stores wonderfully this way if you don’t grind the kernels into flour and will last for centuries, of course this means that you will need a wheat grinder to make your flour 10 or 20 years from now or whenever you need it. Second it’s a good idea to buy plywood and cut it to size so that the weight of your stacked pails is equally distributed on the rims of the pails and lids, not stacked pail on pail which is the weakest part of the pail. And of course always label your food product because by the very nature of it being “long term food storage” you most likely will forget what you put into each container.
For the less adventurous there are companies that do all of this and sell the finished product, often for very reasonable prices depending on the food that you are buying. I have some pails of beans that I purchased for about the same price that I could put them up myself, that’s an easy decision!
So now I have rice, red wheat, white wheat, oats, black beans, red beans, pinto beans etc. and these will make the base of our meals and provide lots of calories while keeping our stomachs full. I am gradually replacing my cans of meat and vegetables with dehydrated and freeze dried products that last decades too, and I have the ingredients for some wonderful meals by adding a can of tuna or ham and a can of vegetables to my rice and beans for instance. Best of all I feel secure that no matter how crazy the world gets my family will eat. Others may not be so lucky as to be able to eat, the poor souls who shop every day or two and keep nothing in their cabinets. I am not comfortable being one of those folks and being a burden on society instead of a benefit to it, so I store long term food. You should too!
CR123A Battery Comparison
This is a summary of a test of several brands of CR-123A batteries that I did several years ago. The light was a Surefire G2; the older non-LED version, but still gives good comparison between the brands.
To satisfy my own curiosity (and innate distrust), I ran side-by-side comparisons of various CR-123A batteries. Main goal was to see how the brand-name batteries compared to the cheaper ones bought online.
Tested were SureFire SF123A, UltraLast UL123A, Energizer, Browning, and “Powerizer” CR-123A’s
Test device was a SureFire G2 flashlight; running 2 CR-123A’s and rated @ 65 lumens. I let the light cool down a half hour between each set of batteries.
SureFire batteries ran the light for approx. 65-70 minutes before being down to what I’d subjectively call half-power. Another 10 minutes it was down by half again; less light than my old Streamlight 7-LED flashlight with fresh Energizers. At 90 minutes, it was down to the point where it would only be good for searching thru a desk drawer or a small space like that; not useable as a multipurpose light. At that point, I put it out of its misery and started the rest period for the next set of batteries.
UltraLasts reached ‘half power’ at approx 50 minutes, and then dropped more steeply than the Streamlights. At 65 minutes, they were down to the point that the Streamlights were at 90 minutes and I took them out.
Energizers performed almost identical to the SureFire batteries. 65-70 minutes to half power or so, and then a somewhat sharper drop off; it was near dead at 80 minutes.
Brownings ran it the longest. I was surprised at this; I expected them to be like Browning flashlights I’ve had in the past – Browning in name only, with mediocre quality. But they ran 80 minutes before hitting ‘half-power’ and 100 minutes to the point I’d been removing the batteries from the light.
Powerizers ran it slightly less than the Energizers or Surefires. At 60 minutes they were down to (subjective) half-power. At 70 minutes, they were down to the “desk-drawer-use-only” level and I pulled them out.
Basically, it broke down as follows:
SureFire – 70 minutes, $4.50 a pair online; cost 6.4 cents per minute.
UltraLast – 50 minutes, $2 a pair online; cost 4 cents per minute.
Energizers – 70 minutes, $10.50 a pair locally; cost 15 cents per minute.
Brownings – 80 minutes, $8.50 a pair locally; cost 10.6 cents per minute.
Powerizers – 60 minutes, $3 a pair online; cost 5 cents per minute.
May sound like small differences, but cost of operation (of any device) is a real issue to me. (For perspective, consider that even this small test represents $28 worth of batteries used in one flashlight in one day, and I’m a cheapskate at heart. Cost of operation is definitely an issue with any device that uses CR-123’s...)
This also turned into a test to see how hot I could get a Streamlight G2. At less than five minutes of run time, the head of the light is quite hot. After an hour, the entire body of the light is hot as well. Not too hot to handle at all, but it would serve quite well as an emergency handwarmer if need be.
The final measure of price-per-minute of runtime – from probably 2007 or so when I did this test – is very different now than it was then. The real game-changing factor nowadays is the broad availability of high-quality, name-brand batteries at much lower prices if a person is willing to purchase in quantity. For example, the energizers used in this test (and now my most-used brand) were just over $5 apiece back then, but now are available for $1.29 if bought in a box of 50 from www.batteryjunction.com. That new much-lower price means a drop in the per-minute price from 15 cents down to 3.6 cents; roughly one-fourth of what it was just four or five years ago. Fact is, the costs have gotten low enough that we now use energizers almost exclusively, both for personal use and for our customers’ devices as well. They’re a known quantity that work well, the customers trust, and the price nowadays is right down there near the generics.
While reviews of various flashlight types and models aren’t within the scope of this review, it’s worth mentioning that the improved LED versions available today make the lumens higher and the runtime-cost simultaneously lower.
It’s a good time to be a flashlight-aholic.
My Favorite Pistols
Up until the day that Rodney King’s arresting officers were found not guilty and Los Angeles erupted into rioting, looting and your basic beating and murdering of the unaware passerby I was content with having a 357 revolver in my glove box for my personal protection while making nightly bank deposits for my business. On that day I decided that a 6 shooter was just not going to suffice in the new world and that I was going to need a permit to carry concealed weapons. So I promptly drove to the nearest gun range to try out a couple of Glock semi automatic pistols that had magazines that held lots more ammunition in quickly replaceable magazines.
I fired the classic Glock 17 9mm pistol that coincidently holds 17 rounds in each magazine and another 1 in the chamber and a Glock 21 .45 caliber pistol that holds 13 rounds in each magazine and another 1 in the chamber. I liked them both and being a large man I did not feel much difference when shooting them but after seeing those riots on television and people being pulled out of their cars and beaten and killed I opted for the Glock 17 because it holds 4 more rounds in each magazine.
Next I applied for a Concealed Weapons Permit and found out that it is very hard to conceal a large frame pistol like the two Glocks that I fired the 17 and 21 on your body and not “print” in such a way that it is visible to other people which nobody wants to do and in some states it is not legal. So I bought a second pistol to carry with me that was very small and kept the Glock in my glove box in the car. These pistols fired a smaller round than the Glock 17 did and during range shooting I could not accurately shoot the small pistol nearly as well as I could shoot the larger Glock 17. This bothered me so over several years I bought and sold a variety of smaller pistols looking for one that was lighter weight and a better shooter. The weight keeps getting better but there is no way that a small frame pistol is going to shoot with the accuracy of one that you can wrap your hand around and has a longer barrel and frame to sight in your target.
Eventually this led me to yet another Glock, the Glock 23 chambered in .40s&w that holds 13 rounds in the magazine and 1 more in the chamber and the best part is that this pistol is a mid frame size that is concealable on my body without printing a pattern for people to recognize as a weapon when worn in a good quality holster adjusted for my particular pistol. This was a great solution and I carried this pistol for years with great success, meaning that nobody ever noticed me carrying it and it was comfortable for me to carry all day. So I thought that I was finished with searching out the right pistol for me but not so.
My wife decided that she would like to learn how to shoot and to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. This presented a new problem in that the frame of the Glock 23 was a little large for her hand and the .40s&w round was just too powerful for her, she did not like it, anyone else married?
So luckily this was not that long ago and Glock had introduced a GEN 4 pistol that was superior to its prior models of the same pistol models in that it had a grip with changeable backstraps which allow you to make the grip size smaller, a longer life recoil spring, a larger magazine release catch which can be reversed for left hand people. Personally I feel that the new spring system shoots with less recoil too, so with all of these benefits and a good fit for my wife we just had to decide on the 9mm Glock 19 which holds 15 rounds in each magazine and 1 more in the chamber. This is also a mid frame pistol the exact same size as the Glock 23 so I could be completely happy carrying mine in a Minotaur MTAC Holster and my wife can carry hers in a pocket book with a specially made pistol pouch hidden in the center and accessed through the side. All done right? Afraid not…
My wife finds the Glock 19 a little heavy and large for daily carry, but if it ever gets serious that would be ok, so we buy a compact size Glock 26 which holds 10 rounds in each magazine and one more in the chamber in a GEN 4 that satisfies all of her needs. I on the other hand can’t shoot this gun very well at all because there is no room for my pinky on the grip since it’s a compact frame. But there is a solution! Two companies Scherer and Pierce each produce finger extensions for this pistol and the Scherer which is a bit longer and gives this pistol the same feel as the Glock 19 which I love without changing the size or weight of the pistol. This is great because at the same time that I learned to shoot this pistol well I found a new holster that lets me wear this pistol under almost any shirt with a couple of extra magazines on the other side of its shoulder harness giving me a great concealed carry option that I can shoot extremely well and carry comfortably under almost any clothing without printing so that people will not know that I am carrying it and I can carry the Glock 19 on my waist at the same time if there ever were riots again and I were afraid of losing my Glock 19 to the mob in a scuffle. We are very happy with these choices.
Now why do I mention only one brand of pistol, the Glock? Well I am brand loyal and I like this brand of pistol because there is no lever safety only a trigger safety so with a round in the chamber when you do pull the trigger you do not have to do anything else and it will fire. On firing I have put many thousand rounds of ammunition down range with Glock pistols and I have never once had a failure to fire or a jammed round and this is my priority in a handgun, there are of course many other excellent handguns made and many experts will have different opinions on what’s best, this is mine.