Understanding EMP and Why You Should Prepare For It

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Source:  giphy.com


You’ve probably read books about EMP like One Second After and have likely heard of the Carrington Event, but what is an EMP and what does it have to with a CME?

An Electromagnetic Pulse can be caused by different things like a lightning strike, or a meteor breaking up in the atmosphere, or your car engine starting up.  (The latter was corrected back in the 80’s by a law saying they had to shield starters.)  The types we’re going to discuss  are Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse (NEMP), High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), and Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse – Starfish Prime

Back in 1962 scientists launched a W49 thermonuclear warhead into space and exploded it 250 miles above the Earth in a test called Starfish Prime.  This caused an EMP much bigger than predicted and it drove much of the instrumentation used to measure it off scale.  It also knocked out about 300 street lights, set off burglar alarms, and knocked out a microwave link in Hawaii, which was about 900 miles away.  The yield from this weapon was about 1.5 megatons.  It also knocked out some satellites in Low Earth Orbit due to an artificial radiation belt caused by the explosion.


Soviet Test 184

Right around the same time as Starfish Prime the Soviets conducted a test over Jezkazgan detonating a 300 kiloton nuclear weapon at an altitude of 180 miles.   This is considered to be much lower than the yield from one of today’s nuclear weapons.  Since this test was conducted over land the Soviets monitored roughly 570 kilometers of telephone line.  When the bomb detonated it caused major damage to overhear power lines, underground power lines buried to a depth of 1 meter, telephone lines, power generation sub-stations, military diesel generators and electronic failures, all despite the fact that they were using EMP-resistant Vacuum Tube technology at the time.

Source: giphy.com

Source: giphy.com

Coronal Mass Ejection

Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME for short, is when the sun blows off plasma and magnetic energy.  When these hit the Earth they can cause damage similar to an EMP.  In 1859 a CME hit the Earth and caused telegraph lines to give telegraph operators electric shocks.

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks.[15] Telegraph pylons threw sparks.[16] Some telegraph operators could continue to send and receive messages despite having disconnected their power supplies.

A solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would cause widespread disruptions and damage to a modern and technology-dependent society.[2][3] The solar storm of 2012 was of similar magnitude, but it passed Earth’s orbit without striking the planet.


There have been a few other large events like The Carrington Event since 1859; however, most have missed the planet sparing us the worst they could do.

In light of current political unrest in a nuclear capable world and Coronal Mass Ejections randomly throwing electromagnetic darts out into the solar system it seems prudent to at least do some serious thinking about what could possibly happen in a long term grid down event.  If a grid collapse were to occur it would open the door to Pandora’s Box, in this case meaning that people dependent on electricity to keep them alive would likely be dead within days, if not hours of the event.


What happens when one of the richest countries with the worlds most pampered population is suddenly thrown into darkness?

A grid collapse would lead to an economic collapse, food would no longer be distributed to cities likely causing food riots and major civil unrest would follow.  About ten or so years ago a city in Massachusetts had a water main break and people were under an order to boil water before drinking.  The city was shipping in free water to hand out to citizens, yet there were fist fights among people waiting in line.  The amazing thing is they still had electricity and running water – they just had to boil it first.  I don’t think it would be unreasonable to extrapolate large scale food riots if the grid went down and there were no more food deliveries here in the U.S.

Stores will likely start charging exorbitant rates for their goods in the days immediately following a collapse.  At least until the store owners figured out the paper they’re accepting for their goods is worthless.  Twenty bucks for a package of Oodles of Noodles?  Bargain.  Buy it quick.

In the book “One Second After” by William Forstchen the story centers around a small town in North Carolina that suddenly has to deal with a complete collapse of the grid after an EMP.  One of the things he discusses is the fact that we live in a country where everything is clean and sterile and our natural resistance to diseases has been diminished.  A good round of the flu in this situation could kill millions.  There are many diseases out there easily communicable that could cause a massive die-off of people.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see towns walling themselves off or setting up checkpoints like the small town in the book.  First, to protect themselves from people fleeing the cities and second, to stop the spread of disease.


Preparing for a long term grid down situation would be akin to learning how to live comfortably in the 1800’s.  There may be the odd pocket here and there of hardened generators or places with water turbines that could be repaired or what have you, but for the most part the country would be dark.

It’s good to have canned and dehydrated food standing by to stave off hunger for a few months or a year, but eventually you’ll have to learn how to grow crops, raise animals, and hunt and fish for your food.  And you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way – by hand or using oxen or horses to plow your fields.  If you’re lucky you might have a working tractor, but it’ll be up to you to keep it running.

Learn new skills and acquire knowledge.  Put a wood stove in your house if possible.  Have a large buck saw with a bunch of blades and an axe and splitting maul in your shed.

Set up a community of people to help each other.  No man is an island and someone who’s thought about this scenario needs to step up and become a leader, guiding those who don’t have the first idea of what to do down a path of doing something constructive instead of rioting, stealing, or even killing for a scrap of food.

Learn how to shoot a gun and know when to use it.  You will probably have to protect yourself, your family, or your possessions at some point.

Learn how to make candles, natural lamps and oil for light at night.  After the batteries are gone it could be years before you see electric lights again.

Raise chickens.  A dozen chickens can eat bugs right off the lawn and will lay eggs that will be priceless.

Grid Dependence

Stop for a minute and take a good look at how you live.  Do you wake up in the morning to your phone or tablet waking you up and immediately dive into Facebook or the news before you even get out of bed?  Are you totally dependent on electricity to cook your food, heat your water, make your coffee, and everything else you do?

Cutting wood the old fashioned way.

Cutting wood the old fashioned way.

Or if the power goes out can you get out a camp stove and a percolator and make some coffee with water you have stored away?  Have you done even the slightest bit of preparation for a power outage?

Are you comfortable camping out in a tent in all seasons?  Do you know how to start a fire in the rain or the snow?  Can you read a compass and go from point A to point B reliably?  Remember that the expensive GPS unit you bought will probably be worthless.

I live in Maine and we typically lose the power here three or four times a year where I live out in the boonies.  When the power goes out I have everything I need to make breakfast, wash up, have coffee, and get myself out the door with only a minimum of fuss.  I’m comfortable staying in a tipi with just a small woodstove.  My wife and kids are comfortable in the woods hanging out around an open fire and eating food cooked over it.

Small stove I use in my tipi.

Small stove I use in my tipi.

If you live in a city or urban area and have no idea how to make an open fire, or how to take care of yourself or your family if the lights go out for a few days what are you going to do when it goes out for a year?  Or two?  Could you survive?

I’ve talked with many people about this kind of scenario and a surprising amount of them have told me: “It wouldn’t matter because I’d be dead.  I wouldn’t want to live through something like that.”  Every time I hear that it blows my mind, but some estimates say we’d lose seven to nine people out of every ten if we had to live through a real long-term grid down situation, so their wish would likely come true.

Are you physically fit?  Life after the grid will likely be very strenuous.  Can you carry your bug-out bag twenty miles a day?  Ten?  Five?  Have you ever pulled it out of your closet and taken it for a walk?  Physical fitness is something we Americans lost touch with a generation ago.  Believe it or not most American’s could probably stave off 90% of the illnesses in this country if they’d just diet and exercise properly.  But it’s much easier to take a bunch of pills and medications to control high blood pressure or heart disease than to avoid it all together by eating smart.  Diet or die.  It’s your call.


Get used to a little discomfort.  Go for a hike in the woods when it’s snowing or raining.  Allow yourself to get cold and wet to see what it really feels like then multiply it by a hundred when it happens for real, because then you might not be able to get to shelter except for what you can build out of natural materials.  Go a day or two without eating and see how it feels.  Go down in your basement and turn off the electricity for a weekend and see what kind of obstacles you’ll face.

Pain lets you know you’re still alive.  At least that’s what the Drill Instructors used to tell us at Parris Island.

So how about it?  Could you survive?  Would you want to?  What kind of challenges do you see if the grid goes down?

-Jarhead Survivor


How-To: Winter Hiking and Camping

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Pack and Snowshoes Out of My Tipi

Not many people enjoy camping out in the cold.  The first time I took my wife cold-weather camping it got down to -4 Fahrenheit that evening and it was all I could do to get her out of her sleeping bag the next morning.  The secret to enjoying cold weather is dressing warm and having the right gear.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Tipi in the Snow

Tipi in the Snow

Just because the temperature drops below zero, or it gets dark at 4:30 doesn’t mean you should hibernate like a bear for the winter.  Instead grab your warm clothes, your head lamp, and a warm sleeping bag and head into the woods for a night.  I’ve camped many nights in cold weather and those camping trips have ranged from super fun to miserable depending on what I had for equipment.  One night when it was well below zero I was going to camp on a mountain near where I live.  When I got to the trailhead I put my pack on and started looking for my gloves, which – as it turns out – I’d left at home.  At that point I was unwilling to turn around to go back and get them, so I went camping without them.  Overall it wasn’t horrible, but setting my tent up when the temps were below zero was pretty rough.  Other than that I kept my hands in my coat pocket and managed not to lose any digits.  Manageable, yes.  Fun.  No.  Lesson learned.  Don’t forget your gloves.

What You’ll Need

No matter what your winter sport of choice is you’ll need a base layer of clothing to help keep you warm and dry.  One of the big mistakes newbies make is to just throw on a heavy coat and head outside.  A pro tip is to dress in layers with synthetic or wool long underwear.  Avoid cotton because once it gets wet it loses it’s insulating properties and you’ll get cold.  Thick wool socks, good boots, a good pair of pants and if you’re going to do some snowmobiling or go rolling around in the snow you’ll need some snow pants too.  You’ll also need a warm jacket with a hood, hat, and a good pair of gloves or mittens.  Even when you’re snowmobiling with heated handgrips you still need a good pair of gloves.  I was out on my sled earlier this season during the cold snap we were having and those expensive gloves were worth their weight in gold!

Waiting for a friend after we got separated.

Snowmobiling fun!

In between your long underwear top and jacket you’ll need a medium layer or two, depending on what the temperature is.  I have several different tops I wear depending on whether I’m snowmobiling, hiking, or snowshoeing.  I have a military cold weather wool shirt that works very well when I’m hiking or ‘shoeing.

Regulate Your Core Temperature

When you’re moving through the snow with a pack or pulling a sled with gear on it you’re going to heat up fast.  One thing I like to do to regulate temperature is to start unzipping layers as I go.

Take your hat off, pull your hood back, unzip your coat, take the coat off if you’re getting really hot, take your gloves off.  Basically you don’t want to sweat iWinter scenef at all possible even though you will if you’re working really hard.  What I do when I’m hiking is have another inner-layer shirt in my pack and when I get to wherever I’m going I pull it out and change into it immediately while I’m still hot.  By the time you get done changing you’ll have cooled enough to start adding your layers back on plus you’ll be dry up top.

Stay Hydrated

In the winter you don’t feel thirst like you do in the summer, so it’s easy to become dehydrated.  When you stop to urinate check to see what color it is.  If it’s yellow you’re getting dehydrated and need to drink water.  Have a water bottle handy and every time you stop make it a point to drink some water.

Small stove I use in my tipi.

Small stove I use in my tipi.

Sleeping Bag

If you’re camping a good sleeping bag is your most important piece of gear.  I’ve slept in cold weather in at least ten different types of sleeping bags with mixed results.  I’ve got one bag rated for -20 and I’ve slept in -10 with it and stayed reasonably comfortable.

The warmest bag I ever slept in was one of the older military extreme cold weather bags.  It came with a silk liner that was a sleeping bag in its own right, but put the two together and you have a bag that will keep you comfortable at -40.  No, that’s not an exaggeration.  In the early 80’s we camped out at Camp Ripley, Minnesota for ten days in temps that never got up to zero degrees at their warmest and down to -40 at night.  We stayed in the big ten man arctic tents in those sleeping bags and stayed warm.  Getting up to go the bathroom was a miserable experience, but the bag itself was unbeatable.  Its one downside is the weight.  It weighed about 15 or so pounds and was huge, but if you’re sleeping in arctic conditions I’d highly recommend this type of mummy bag.

The newer military sleep systems aren’t too bad, but I slept out a few nights at -10 and could feel the cold creeping in.  I’m not sure how it would feel at -40.  If anyone has camped in colder temps than I have in one of these sleeping bags post about it in the comments and let me know how it worked out.

Civilian bags are pretty good depending on what you buy, but very pricey the better and warmer they get.  The older military bags are reasonably priced, but heavy… more suited for car camping or being pulled on a sled rather than alpine camping.  The newer military bags are ok, but when you’re sleeping in temps colder than zero expect to sleep cold.

Fire in the snow

Fire in the snow

Tents and Shelters

Alpine style four-season tents are designed to be more sturdy than warm.  They are designed to hold up under high winds on the side of a mountain, which means they have to be light enough for you to carry them up there.  They are well engineered and sturdy, but also expensive.

I’ve used three-season tents in the winter and as long as it’s not blowing a a gale they’re fine.

Other shelters I’ve used are the arctic military tents, which are really heavy.  I used them in the military, but also bought one for home use and it lasted about five years before it collapsed after a blizzard here in Maine.

I also have a tipi which holds up really well.  My uncle in Canada has a tipi as well and I snowshoed out a few years ago in the middle of winter to find that a couple of poles had collapsed under the heavy snow load.  It was still standing, but two of the poles needed to be replaced.  The most important maintenance task to perform is to make sure your structure is shoveled off as soon as you can get to it.


Pack and Snowshoes Out of My Tipi

Pack and Snowshoes Out at My Tipi

Now that you’ve got your gear it’s time to take it on a shake-down cruise.  The first step is to put everything in your big backpack.

Here’s a list of some of the things you’ll want in your pack:

  • Backpack
  • Stove and fuel
  • Extra clothes
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tent
  • Knife
  • Flashlight or headlamp (or both)
  • Food
  • Water
  • Lighter/matches/firesteel – some way to start a fire
  • Cook pot and eating utensils

This is in addition to what you’ll be wearing and it’s not everything you’ll need, but it’s a good start.

A winter pack is usually pretty heavy.  One good way to move it through the snow is by pulling it on a sled or toboggan.  Make sure everything is lashed down tightly or you’ll wind up picking it up a hundred times.

Find a good patch of woods and if there’s plenty of snow you’ll want to pack down a patch of it with your snowshoes.  When you figure out where you want your tent to go start packing the snow down with your ‘shoes.  Walk back and forth on it for about ten minutes or so and then let the snow harden up.  After it’s left to sit for awhile you should be able to walk on it, or least put your tent up without worrying about sinking into the snow.

Now it’s time to lay your gear out.  Put your tent up and then the sleeping mat and sleeping bag should go in.  Once you’ve got that done put your pack in next to you or in your vestibule if you have one.  At this point you can work on your camp.  Get firewood if you’re going to have a fire and get it ready to light.  How do you get a fire going in the snow?


Once the work is done light the fire and kick back.  Now it’s time to relax and watch the stars.  Have some cocoa or coffee and something to eat and enjoy the evening.

When you get in your sleeping bag it’s a good idea to sleep with just a t-shirt and maybe your long johns and socks and a hat or balaclava.  That way if you sweat you won’t get them wet.  If you get cold by all means put them back on.  I’ve slept in an inadequate bag with my coat on before, so do what you have to do to stay warm.

The reason you’re out here this first time is to experiment.  Take notes on what worked and what didn’t.  I’ll usually write something like this in my journal:

“The new gloves sucked.  They were too tight and caused my hands to get cold.  Probably good for ice climbing, but not for general camping purposes.  Good news:  the new sleeping bag rocks.  It’s got plenty of room and kept me good and warm with last night temps around 15 degrees.”

Take good notes, modify your gear as necessary, and pretty soon you’ll be a winter camping pro.

-Jarhead Survivor


How To Make a Lamp From Natural Materials

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Cattail Fluff

Cattail Fluff

Years ago I was camping next to a lake and as darkness began to fall I discovered that I’d forgotten my flashlight.  I had some firewood cut and ready to go, but knew that it was going to be a long dark night with just the campfire to shed light.

I remembered something I’d read about making a lamp, so I went down to the shore and found a couple of freshwater clam shells.  Now I had my container I needed something to burn.  I’d hiked in early and made breakfast and still had a pan full of congealed bacon grease, which I heated up over the fire.  While it was warming up I tore a thin piece of cloth off my towel and laid it across the bottom of the shell with about an inch hanging out on either side.  When the bacon grease was ready I poured it over the makeshift wick and filled up the clam shell.  I let the wick soak up the grease, which took a few minutes, then lit it.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Surprise.  It worked!

Cattails down by the pond

Cattails down by the pond

Once I figured that out it was just a matter of finding the right material to make a wick in order for it to be all natural.  Turns out that cattail fluff works awesome for this.  If you live in the country like I do it’s just a matter of driving by the nearest pond (I actually  have one right across the street) and finding the cattail left over from last season.

How to Make Your Lamp

It’s so easy it’s almost embarrassing and I use them out at my tipi all the time now.  I use bacon grease because I usually have some on hand.  You could probably use any kind of fat that’s been rendered down, but bacon is easy.  If you have some bear fat give that a whirl.  In the past I’ve tried different things that didn’t work that well.  My biggest disaster was trying to use actual

Heating the bacon grease

Heating the bacon grease

lantern oil.  When I touched that Betty off it burned way brighter and hotter than I’d anticipated.  Stupid, I know, but at least I was close by the fire pit when I lit it off.  (I’m not crazy!)  It burned hot enough to crack the shell, but it also burned the fuel up fast.  No harm no foul right?


Check out this video on how to build the lamp.


The good things about this lamp are:  it’s free, it’s easy to make, it actually works pretty good!

The only bad thing about this is that the shell itself makes an unsteady base, so be careful when you set it down so that it doesn’t tip over.

Building A Lamp At Home

How can we apply this to someone living in the city?  Let’s say the power goes out and you’re sitting at home with no batteries for the flashlight.  Never fear, because you can make a lamp similar to this with what you have in the house.  You’ll need some fuel like vegetable oil, and something to put it in.  A tuna fish can will work excellent for this.  Next take a cotton ball or two and there you have it.

Pour the oil in the tuna can then put the cotton ball in for the wick and let it soak up the oil.  Light it and you’ll have a source of light for as long as you have oil.

And there you have it.  The next time you head out in the woods save that bacon grease from breakfast and make yourself a lamp.  Oh sure, you can have your lanterns lit, but to see how our ancestors did it you should this for a night to get a feel for it.  This is about the only way I light my tipi now and it’s pretty cool to see how much light you can get from a few of these simple lamps spread around.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor









Using Tech In Your Doomstead After TSHTF

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1_computer_tshtfIs there a place for modern technology after TSHTF?  Some would argue that there isn’t, but I believe that modern tech offers significant advantages over those that don’t have it.  If you have a way to make electricity after the grid goes down and you have some high tech gizmos in your back pocket, you’ll be in a better position to survive and thrive because of it.  Before we go any further those of you who know me are going to say, “Holy cow!  Jarhead is saying use tech!” because most of you know how I feel about people’s reliance on GPS, smart phones, and other electronic gadgets.  Let me qualify this article by saying that I’m not a Luddite.  I happen to love technology because it gives us instant access to all the information in the world in the palm of your hand.  (Most of us watch cute kitten videos instead of reading Plato’s Republic though).  Having a piece of technology in your possession can sharply increase your odds of surviving or allow you to do something you might not be able to do without it, such as navigate through a city or see what’s over that hill without actually having to climb up and take a look.  However, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a backup for your systems and a backup of a backup for your important systems.  For example:  you should know how to read a map and compass or do math in case your GPS or spreadsheet doesn’t work.  But this article is about how to use technology as a force magnifier, so let’s get to it.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Electronics are only as good as the grid of course, but if you have a solar array set up, windmill, or other way of naturally producing electricity you can still benefit from having some electronic devices around.  More on this later.

Potential Uses of Technology

3_network-cable-ethernet-computer-159304If communication is cut off  from the outside, you can still manage an internal network that would allow you to share information in your group.  If you can set up a network using TCP/IP (which stand for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and is basically a way for computers to communicate), which most people do these days using a router inside your home, then you can have several devices talking to each other.  I won’t get into a networking class, but having your devices able to communicate with each other is a powerful tool.

Check Out: Weaponized Nanotechnology is a Huge Threat to Humanity

By the way – TCP/IP was developed by DARPA as a way for computers to communicate after a disaster such as a nuclear war.

Some things a computer would be good for is tracking crop schedules, how much food you have on hand, creating a database for parts such as nuts, bolts and the million other things that make up a compound, and you could keep track of the events in your compound for easy retrieval.

PDF’s (Printable Document Format’s) are great for storing and retrieving information.  You can have books on a million topics, but instead of a library the size of Nebraska you can keep everything on one hard drive for instant retrieval.  You might want to have the more important topics in book format as a backup, but you can never have too many books to reference!

Training videos are another option.  You can take videos with your phone on how to do certain things in your compound such as stand guard duty, change a tire, cook a meal, shoot a bow and arrow, clean a gun, etc, and make them available to members of your community.

If you have surveillance equipment it can be run from your laptops.  Small security webcams today use small amounts of electricity and it might be worthwhile to have a few cameras watching the front and back gates to let you know if there are unfriendly’s in the area.

Then there’s the entertainment factor to consider.  We New-Age Homo-sapiens love to be entertained and today that’s delivered through the phone in our pocket or via a tablet or laptop.  If you have movies downloaded to your laptop, tablet, or phone you don’t need to have an Internet connection in order watch it.  This does take up space on your storage, so choose your movies wisely!

If you wanted to get fancy and had the know-how you could always set up a server (you could use a laptop for this) that would stream media from inside the Doomstead.


2_laptopA laptop can have several uses.  As mentioned earlier you can use it to manage your inventory.  If you’re in a large compound or Doomstead, you’ll need some way to efficiently manage your materiel.  Sure, you could do it by hand and I encourage you to have a paper backup, but you can’t beat a search query on a database for finding whatever it is you’re looking for.

I would recommend laptops over desktops because they have less electrical overhead.  A desktop PC needs a monitor in addition to the CPU, which also consumes electricity.  Laptops also have internal batteries, so if the power goes out unexpectedly it will stay on and you won’t lose any data. The idea is to keep your energy usage at a minimum.


1_tabletThe advantage of a tablet is that you can get some of the same functionality as a laptop with less electricity consumption.  Here’s an article from PC World a few years ago comparing laptop and tablets (RAM, Display, Storage, Battery Life, etc.)  Everything else aside if you’re looking at it from strictly a power consumption standpoint the tablet is probably your best option.

Related: Surefire Firepak Review

I won’t get into the technical details here because my experience is most people don’t care what kind of RAM a device has.  What matters is how much RAM it has and in the computing world more is better.  If you have an old laptop at home the one single best thing you can probably do to speed it up is to add more RAM to it.


At the low end of the power consumption scale is the smartphone.  Smaller screens, less processing power, but still handy even if you lose your cell connection.  Why?  Because your smartphone is essentially a small tablet when you strip away it’s cell phone capabilities.  You can run different apps on it and it uses less electricity.


A short wave radio could allow you to communicate long distances if have one.  During a crisis this might be an invaluable to find out what’s happening in the world. A good set of Walkie Talkies would be good for local communications.  An example would be an OP outside the camp communicating with a command center.


5_solar-panel-array-power-plant-electricity-power-159160As your ability to make electricity decreases so do the options for the electronics you’ll be able to run.  If you’re in a well set up doomsday bunker with generators and enough fuel to run for two years, you’ll be ok for awhile.  If you’re in a smaller community with just solar and/or wind and a battery bank to store the electricity you’ll want to be more conservative with your energy expenditure.

If you’re in a tipi (or tent) with a small solar panel and a deep cycle battery (this is basically my set up) then charging a tablet or cell phone would be pretty easy as long as the sun shines.  In this case you might want to build a solar energy generator.  The battery is relatively heavy, but once you have it in place it works great.  Or you could Make your own USB solar charger if you’ve just got a cell phone you want to keep charged.

None of this really matters if the SHTF event is some kind of Carrington Event or other EMP event like a nuclear war of course. If that’s the case, I hope you have suitable plans for light, cooking, acquiring water, self protection and all the other things we talk about on this blog.


If you have the ability to create electricity in your bug-out/bug-in location having a set of well thought technology devices on-hand could allow you to do things others can’t (like communicate long distance) giving you an edge over others.  The devices will be dependent on the amount of electricity you can generate, so keep that in mind during your planning phase.

What other uses are there for technology after TSHTF?  I’ve only scratched the surface here, so shout out your ideas below. Questions?  Comments?  Sound off below!

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The Stranger In the Woods

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hike_march_bug_outHave you ever wondered what it would be like if you had to bug out by yourself and live alone? Or what it would be like after TEOTWAWKI living by yourself? I approached Michael Finkel’s book, “The Stranger In The Woods,” with curiosity on several levels.  First, the events described take place less than forty-five minutes from where I live, and second, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to just walk away from it all and go live in the woods.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Have you ever gone for a hike or an extended camping trip and wondered to yourself, “What would happen if I just kept going? What if I didn’t go back?”  I read the book hoping for some insight and think I found an answer, or at least a partial answer.

In case you haven’t heard the curious tale of the “The North Pond Hermit“, in 1986 Christopher Knight drove his car into the Maine woods as far as he could, threw the keys on the dash, and walked away.  Over the course of several months he worked his way through the forest staying in one place or another, until he found a good sport for his camp near North Pond in Rome, Maine.  He didn’t want to be a part of society and distanced himself from human contact, but a hermit’s gotta eat, so he started breaking into places to get food.

For the next twenty-six years he lived in his little camp, near people, but never communicating with them.  Anything he needed he stole; food, clothes, a small radio, battery operated tv, sleeping bags, tent, etc.  He wasn’t proud of this and when he was finally caught he readily admitted to stealing and said how sorry he was that he had to do it.  He never lit a fire and was careful never to travel after the snow fell so that he would never leave tracks by which he might be discovered.

Finkel has done an impressive amount of research on being alone and looks at both voluntary isolation (monks, hermits, etc,) and involuntary isolation (prisoners, prisoner of war, castaways, and the like).  It was found that after ten days being alone was enough to cause nearly physical suffering in people who aren’t voluntary hermits.  Prisoners said that being alone was enough to cause great suffering and they’d rather have been with someone they didn’t like than be alone.

As to Chris Knight, legends grew up around him.  His image was caught once or twice on trail cams and he actually ran into a hiker once by accident.  This was the only time he spoke to another human being in 26 years.  He said, “Hi,” avoided contact and kept walking.  The guy barely paid him any attention and kept going.


Regardless of whether you think he’s a thief and it’s about time he got caught, or a legend who lived off what society had to offer without being a part of it, the fact remains that he spent a bunch of time by himself.

cabin_aspens_bug_outI like to get away sometimes and spend a little time to myself; who doesn’t?  But Christopher took that feeling to a whole new level.  Most “normal” people need social interaction, which is why solitary confinement is such a powerful form of torture for most people.  But Chris didn’t.  Indeed, he thrived on being alone and when he was in jail suffered greatly because he didn’t like being around other people.

Over the years, I think about the longest stretch I ever did by myself was around a week.  That’s quite a long time to go without human interaction and I admit I was ready for some company at the end of that camping trip.  It’s nice to be alone, but if you’re wired the way most people are (I hesitate to use the word “normal” here,) then after a few days you’re looking for human interaction.

People are different depending on their genetics and upbringing.  I’ve known people who couldn’t stand being alone for more than an hour at a time.  Literally!  I’ve also known people who could disappear from society and probably would be fine only talking to other humans once a month.

Check Out: Fortifying Your Home

But twenty-six years?  That’s a new record and an astonishingly long time to be by yourself.  Finkel explores the fact that Knight might have a form of Asperger’s disease, or maybe a form of schizophrenia.  Regardless, Knight showed an extreme resilience to being on his own for a long time.

In the end you’ll get caught if you’re breaking the law and that’s what happened to Chris Knight.  A game warden set up one of Chris’ favorite spots with some new high-tech surveillance equipment and caught him red handed.  Knight was taken to jail and shortly after that the story broke about the “North Pond Hermit” and he rose to fame, although he didn’t want anything to do with it.

He did answer Finkel’s letter however, which is how the story came to be written.  Finkel strives to keep the story straight and without sensation, which I welcomed instead of the typical story that could have really gone wild about Chris’ exploits.

Chris showed himself to be an intelligent guy with little or no patience for societal niceties.  Over the years I’ve known a couple of guys like this; those who don’t care about how you feel, or maybe they do, but don’t know how to “be nice” when talking to someone.   He told Finkel straight up he didn’t want to be visited and that he was being a pain, but Michael – in the true sense of the press – didn’t give up.  Eventually Chris talked with him and shared his story.


Camp trailerI said earlier that I think the author found a partial answer to how I would feel in the wilderness for long stretches by myself.  Having spent a little time alone I think I’d be ok for  a month or two, but to go twenty-six years is beyond comprehension.  Unless I was stranded on an island somewhere by myself I think I’d want some company.  Tom Hanks character in Castaway needed companionship even if it was in the form of an imaginary friend, “Wilson.”  (Remember Wilson?)

Read Also: The Best of Survival Fiction

I think it’s safe to say that to voluntarily be alone for twenty-six years is an extraordinary feat probably brought on by some personality trait 99.9% of the population doesn’t have.  Like me, I’m sure many of you day-dream about the idea of walking off the grid and living “out there” by yourself for long periods of time, but the reality is that you need money to survive, even if just a little, otherwise you’ll be doing the same thing Chris did and stealing in order to survive.

In my opinion Chris isn’t someone to be emulated because even though he appears to be reasonably intelligent, he couldn’t seem to come up with a way to live off the grid without breaking the law.  His ability to be alone is admirable to those who find that a positive trait, but in the end he should have approached the whole thing keeping in mind that just because you don’t like society doesn’t mean you can break the law and get away with it forever.

Has anybody else out there read the book?  If so, I’d love to hear your views! Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

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You Have Your Bug-Out Bag – Now What Do You Do With It?

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winterfire-300x225One thing I constantly try to keep in mind is that not everybody is familiar with the great outdoors. Recently I had a conversation with a friend at work who told me he had a bug-out bag full of good gear, but when we talked it became evident that he didn’t have a real solid plan of what to do with it in case he actually needed to bug-out. So I thought I’d write a short guide on what do do with your bug-out kit once you actually have to step outside the door with it.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Let’s assume you have the basics of what should be in a good camping kit. Remember the Survival Rule of 3’s?

1. You can survive three hours without shelter
2. You can survive three days without water
3. You can survive three weeks without food

This means you’ll need shelter, water – carrying some and with a wait to purify it, and food.

Let’s further assume that this bug-out (or camping trip) will last for three days and you want to go off grid where there is no electricity or other people in the area. We’ll also say that you’ve cleared the trouble area and now it’s time to enter the woods and set up camp.

In your pack you should have a shelter of some kind such as a tarp, tent or bivy. You’ll also need water and food, and a way to navigate such as map and compass. Don’t forget a first-aid kit! Add in some basics such as a knife, flashlight, sleeping bag, water filter, mess kit, stove, fuel, etc, and pretty soon you’ll have a pretty heavy pack with lots of gear. (See this post about keeping your pack weight down.)

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

So now it’s time to bug-out. What are the actual first steps you take? As silly as it might sound make sure you’ve got your pack(s) ready to go. When you’re satisfied that all is good go ahead and shoulder it. Make sure it fits properly and the waist and shoulder straps are cinched properly.

Check Out: The Survival Staff

Open the door and start walking.

I know that sounds a little silly, but stay with me.

glock_19_katrina_pistol_trijicon_streamlight_tlr2_surefire_with_gerber_lmf-2Now, if this is a full scale event with millions of people trying to get out of Dodge don’t be shy about taking care of yourself. If you have a gun carry it to where you can get to it easily. Very likely that someone who hasn’t done the planning you have might decide that your stuff looks pretty good and they’d like to have it for themselves. A gun is a great way to dissuade them if comes down to it.

In The Woods

ominous_forest_coldNow you’ve reached the patch of wilderness that is your destination. What do do? One of the first things you should have done is look over your map or Google Maps and get a sense of the land. Is there water in that patch of woods? If so are they lakes, streams, or rivers? Any cliffs or mountains? Swamps? Are there roads or trails? What’s out there that might benefit or hinder you? Where’s the nearest road in case you get lost? What’s the azimuth to it? The more information you have about the area you’ll be working in the better off you’ll be.

Now that we have a map and a better understanding of the area it’s time to pick a location for a camp. When I’m camping I typically look for a spot near water, but high enough not to be bothered by rising water if it rains. If possible, talk to people who’ve camped there before and ask them what the land is like and if there’s anything to watch out for.

Next to a lake or river on a high bank is usually a good spot. Spots like these will likely draw in other hikers/campers/refugees as well, so keep that in mind when selecting your camp. If you’re planning on burning wood make sure there’s plenty of dry dead wood in your area that will burn good. Standing dead is your best choice.

Watch out for “widow makers.” A widow maker is a dead tree or branch on or over where you’re setting up that might fall down during a high wind. Nothing will ruin your night like a widow maker crashing through your tent and killing you.


Once you’re happy with your area it’s time to set up your tent. (I’ll assume we’re using a tent in this scenario, although a tarp or poncho would work just as well.)

Clear the area of debris where your tent is going to be. Rocks, roots, pine cones, any of these things can make an overnight feel like a week if it gets under your sleeping mat. Once your tent is set up put the sleeping pad and sleeping bag inside, grab your axe/hatchet/saw and head out to get some firewood.

Related: Cold Weather Survival in a Blizzard

shelter_fire_camping_out-2As mentioned earlier, standing dead wood is your best bet. If you find wood lying directly on the ground it’s likely to be wet, damp, and/or punky and probably won’t burn very well. Tree’s that are standing, but dead, will offer a great source of firewood once you’ve cut them down. I usually have a small saw and don’t cut anything bigger than four or five inches at the base, which makes dragging and processing the wood a little easier.

After you cut the tree down don’t cut it up yet. I like to leave it at tree length as much as possible and carry it back as one unit, then cut it up when I get back to camp. Make a good stack of wood so you’ll be able to have a fire well into the evening. If you’re depending on the fire to keep you warm gather as much wood as you think you’ll need, then add some more. An all night fire burns a lot of wood!


If I’m doing a long distance hike I’ll primarily take freeze dried foods, which aren’t bad, but then again they rarely make me jump for joy either. But anything tastes good if you’re hungry enough!

At dinner I would advise using a fire to heat your water and food and save your stove fuel for when you really need it. When I’m in the field dinner is usually my biggest meal. I like to eat, hang out around the fire, then go to bed when I get tired.

Breakfast is typically a quick affair where I’ll either something simple like GORP, or heat up water for oatmeal and instant coffee. If you’re not moving you can use a fire to heat your meal. If you’re packing up and getting ready to leave you could probably use your stove to heat the water. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though! If you’d rather have a small fire before you get going go ahead. Just make sure your fire is dead before you leave.

If you’re on the move lunch is another quick meal. When I’m walking I like to stop for lunch somewhere high if possible and enjoy whatever view I can. If you’re trying not to be seen there are all kinds of places where you can drop your pack and get your stove going. My lunches are typically quick and easy to prepare, maybe some Oodles of Noodles and an energy bar, or if I don’t want to cook some GORP or trail mix might do the trick.


gps_compass_lostWhen you’re moving from place to place you need to keep accurate track of your location. You can do this by using a GPS unit or a map and compass. Being old school I like the map and compass and I highly suggest that you get a little schooling on them if you don’t already know how. If you’re on a bug-out and the S has really HTF then you don’t want to rely too heavily on anything that uses batteries.

If you’re moving site to site leave yourself a little wiggle room on the amount of time you expect it will take you to get there. I’ve pulled into a site after dark on many occasions and it can suck setting up camp in the dark after a day of hiking a heavy pack through the woods. Do what you have to do. Sometimes being in the woods on a long trip sucks and you just need to suck it up.

Conserving Your Resources

When I talk about conservation I’m thinking more about conserving your supplies as much as possible. Drink from streams with a filter if possible and save the water in your canteen. (But do drink. A lot!) If you’re sitting around the fire at night there’s no need to have your headlamp or flashlight going. Keep them off and save the batteries. If it’s the right time of year you can fish and pick berries to help offset what you eat.

Bathroom Breaks at Camp

When you’re traveling a bathroom is no big deal. Just step off the trail and do your business. Bury everything when you’re done.

If you’re in camp you’ll need to designate a spot for pit stops. I usually like to walk about fifteen steps from camp, but at night you’ll realistically probably only walk a few steps away before you let fly. Unwise, but understandable, especially if it’s cold. Better for everyone if you all have the discipline to go to the prescribed bathroom spot.


Now you have a basic idea of what an off-grid camp out looks like. A bug-out to the wilderness won’t be that different except you’ll probably be more on the alert for other people while you’re out there and will probably want to practice more light and noise security.

Every camp out is different, but they all share the same attributes and in order to get good at it you need to get out there and do it. Practice, practice, practice!

If you’re nervous start by sleeping out in your backyard or at a campground. As you get more confident head out into the wilderness for longer stays.

Talk to people who’ve camped in that area and see what they have to say. Is a gun necessary due to animals? Does it rain a lot? Etc. Ask questions about where they camped and how they made out. Ok, if you have questions or comments sound off below!

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Building a Natural Emergency Shelter With No Tools

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ominous_forest_coldHave you ever tried to build a shelter from natural materials in the woods?  Have you ever tried to do it with no tools?  Have you ever tried to do it with no tools in the winter in a foot of snow? Well I did, and here’s what happened. I went out snowshoeing with my yellow lab (Phyllis) and thought it might be cool to pretend that I was lost and needed to set up a shelter for the night.  It was about noon in mid-February, which meant I had roughly four and a half hours to build a shelter and get a fire going.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Since I never go into the woods without minimal equipment I can’t say that I had zero gear, but I didn’t use any of it when I built it.  Here’s a little video of just how easy it is to build a shelter from natural materials in the snow with no tools.  What could go wrong?

Time Line:

  1.  Fall on my ass:  5 seconds
  2. Swear:  17 seconds
  3. Gather wood:  1:20
  4. Breaking wood:  2:51
  5. Constructing the shelter:  4:54
  6. Tipping:  6:08
  7. Covering the shelter:  6:53
  8. Digging the firepit:  7:19
  9. Lighting the fire:  8:24
  10. Chillin’ in the shelter:  9:03

Don’t Lose Heat!

Before we actually build the shelter let’s take a look at some of the objectives.  First and foremost, don’t lose heat!  You lose heat through the following processes:

  • Convection – think blowing wind here
  • Conduction – like sleeping on the cold ground or sitting on a cold rock or log
  • Radiation – heat leaving your body like heat waves coming off  a woodstove
  • Evaporation – sweat

Building a shelter from what you have around you with no tools and keeping these rules in mind is a bit of a tradeoff.  Do the best you can with what you have.

Resources and Construction

In my case, I decided to build a lean-to style shelter from what was lying around in the forest.  In the section of forest I was in, there were a lot of standing dead fir trees about three to four inches at the base.  I looked all over and found a good supply of what I’d need, then went back to where I’d decided to set up my camp.

Read Also: Emergency Storage of Wild Plant Foods

It was in the forest near water, although this wasn’t absolutely necessary since there was so much snow on the ground.  However, it’s easier to gather water or ice then melt snow, so you exploit whatever edge you can, which is what I did in my mock survival situation.  It was also close to my supply of wood and a decent amount of fir trees, which I’d need for the fir boughs.

Next I laid a small log between two trees supported by small logs I’d broken and put underneath to hold it up.  This “cross beam” was about three feet off the ground.  Then, I laid a couple of ribs along it to get an idea of how long they’d need to be so I could break bunch to the right length.

survival_shelter_fallen_treeAfter this, I went and gathered what I hoped was enough wood to put the ribs on the shelter.  (If you haven’t seen the video, you should check out the first minute or two.  I completely fall on my back, while breaking some trees off).  Hey – nobody said it was going to be easy. Next I had to break the tree length sticks to the right size.  To do this, I found two trees close together.   Then I stuck the wood I wanted to break between the two and pulled on it until it broke where I wanted it to.  This isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done.  (Again, see the video for a demonstration).

I tried to build the shelter with it’s back to the wind so as to cut down on convection.  When you have a wind blowing it lowers the temperature considerably and with my shelter set up with it’s back to the wind and the fire throwing heat in, I was in pretty good shape.

Covering It Up

winter_shelter_survival_fireOnce I had the ribs on it was time to cover it up.  There are plenty of fir trees in that area, so I resorted to a technique called “tipping”, which means to break the tips off some fir branches in order to get what I need.  This doesn’t particularly hurt the tree as long as you don’t snap off every branch.  I gathered five or ten armloads and put some on the outside of the shelter and a few armloads inside as well to avoid losing heat through conduction.

Related: Ten Facts About Fire

Special note:  if I were going to build this for real, I’d put a lot more pine boughs over the top and on the ground to really help with the insulation.  Since this was a demo and I was getting tired I decided to go light on the insulation.

Next I broke some wood up for the fire and grabbed some small dead branches off fir and pine trees.  I piled the wood up and put the tinder on top then lit it with a lighter I happened to have in my pocket.  (I could have used a firesteel, but the lighter was quicker and easier).

Pretty soon I had a merry blaze going and decided to make myself some coffee.  Part of that small kit I told you about is a military canteen cup, so I poured in some water and made coffee using a coffee bag (exactly like a teabag, but with coffee instead).

After Action Report

canteen_cup_fire_shelter_survivalIt really wasn’t that difficult making a shelter using natural materials.  True, I don’t feel like I totally finished it, but it would have been easy enough if I needed.  I could have also covered it up with snow to really insulate it or added more to the front to make it less of a lean-to and more of a full shelter instead. The total time to make the shelter, even in the snow, was about two to three hours.  The thing about a shelter like this is you need a lot of wood to keep you warm through the night.  In the area I was in, it wouldn’t have been a problem because of all the dead wood laying around, but in other areas it might not have worked out so well.

Again, you’ll need to adjust the kind of shelter you have according to the materials available. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!


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Keeping Pack Weight Down If You Need To Bug-Out

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bug_out_open_roadYou’re at home one night and the power goes out.  Hackers have taken down the grid and you need to bug-out to your sister’s house a hundred and twenty miles away.  Traffic is gridlocked and no one is driving anywhere anytime soon.  You decide to bug-out on foot with your pack. Six miles down the road, you’re dying from the weight of the pack.  It feels like you’re carrying a Volkswagon on your back because you’ve got so much stuff in it. There’s a lot to be said for sticking to the basics when you build your bug-out bag.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Back in the dark ages (early 1980’s) when I was in the Marine Corps, a full pack for a basic infantry man ran about sixty pounds.  That was the canvas shelter half, poles and stakes, sleeping bag, food, mess kit, clothes, etc.  Lord help you if you were the machine gunner or radio man because that added a lot more weight to what you had to carry.

Stick to Basics

bug_out_roman_legionaries_marchingI remember going on forced marches for ten or fifteen miles and suffering because of the weight.  You eventually get used to it, but I wouldn’t say I ever came to enjoy it.  I soon learned what was important and what wasn’t and ditched the excess stuff.  Apparently this has been a familiar theme through the ages because during the Civil War soldiers started out with haversacks weighing forty to fifty pounds, but soon learned to drop the excess weight and only get by with the essentials.  I’d be willing to bet the same has held true for soldiers going back to the Roman legions where they were sometimes estimated to carry up to eighty pounds – a ridiculous amount of weight.  But then again, they were professional warriors and when they signed up it was for a much longer tour than four years like the average tour today.  Roman soldiers underwent conditioning marches that were brutally hard.  Vegetius wrote in De Re Militari:

To accustom soldiers to carry burdens is also an essential part of
discipline. Recruits in particular should be obliged frequently to carry
a weight of not less than sixty pounds (exclusive of their arms), and
to march with it in the ranks. This is because on difficult expeditions
they often find themselves under the necessity of carrying their
provisions as well as their arms. Nor will they find this troublesome
when inured to it by custom, which makes everything easy.

Our troops in ancient times were a proof of this, and Virgil has remarked it in the following lines:

The Roman soldiers, bred in war’s alarms,
Bending with unjust loads and heavy arms,
Cheerful their toilsome marches undergo,
And pitch their sudden camp before the foe.

Lighten Your Pack

As you probably surmised from the title, this post isn’t about soldiers and their pack weight.  It’s about you carrying less weight so that you can bug-out effectively if it ever comes down to it.  Unless you spend every day hiking a sixty pound pack fifteen or twenty miles, the likelihood of being able to do so when the SHTF are slim to none.  From the section above I reiterate:

Nor will they find this troublesome when inured to it by custom, which makes everything easy.

Chances are good that you’d be stopping along the way and ditching gear, thus you really need to focus on packing just the essentials.  I’ve seen packs on Youtube and in blog posts that a Clydesdale couldn’t carry.  They’ve got everything in there from three changes of clothing to enough ammo to fight off the zombie apocalypse all by themselves.  And the kicker is that quite a few of those people are about fifty pounds overweight and the act of actually carrying it more than five miles would probably kill them.

The Essentials

So what exactly are the essentials?  This depends on you:  your skill level in the woods, your fitness level, your bug-out plans, your destination, and your mission plan.

hike_march_bug_outThe worst case scenario is a full scale bug-out, meaning that you’re taking off and you need to live out of your bag for a minimum of three days, but probably longer.  If you’re careful, you can probably get away with forty to forty-five pounds.   This includes a tent, sleeping bag, freeze dried food, a quart of water with water filter, spork, small cook pot and stove, fuel (unless you’re carrying a small woodstove like a Solo Stove), lightweight poncho, and other essential gear. If you buy the lightest gear (usually the most expensive too), you should be able to have a good kit that weighs in the forty pound area.  I hiked a piece of the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine and my pack weighed forty-four pounds when I started.  I spent a lot of time getting that pack weight down, but it was worth it.  I also spent weeks leading up to that hike walking the road with the same boots I’d be wearing and carrying the pack to get used to the weight.

Read Also: Get Outdoors!

Rather than run through all the scenarios, I’ll list out some of the things I carry in my everyday woodsman kit and why I carry it.  I’ve managed to pare the weight down to about twenty to twenty-five pounds (depending on how much water I carry) and I’ve found this to be an acceptable weight as I’ve gotten older.

Then again, I also have a lot of experience in the woods and feel comfortable entering the forest with what some might consider minimal gear. I consider my kit to be a GHB or Get Home Bag, meaning I’ll only carry it about 30 miles in a worst case scenario, which for me is walking home from work.  I like to move fast and light and not be seen if at all possible.  So rather than carry weapons I choose to leave that weight behind and avoid confrontation.  I suppose the worst thing is someone steals my bag from me, which means I’ll be that much lighter on the way home.

Let me say up front that many of you won’t agree with my philosophy on firearms and that’s fine.  I live in Maine and in the area I’ll be walking through, people are unlikely to cause me problems.  If you live in the city and carrying a big pack loaded with shelter, water, and food makes you a fat target, then you’ll probably want to consider carrying a gun as protection.  Again, this all comes back to your situation and threat assessment.  But keep in mind that guns and ammo are heavy, so choose wisely.

To survive a night or two in the wild here’s what I carry for the basics:

  • Military Grade Poncho
  • Survival Knife
  • Firesteel and Lighter
  • Three Freeze Dried Meals (minimum)
  • Small Flashlight
  • 1 Quart Steel Water Bottle and Filter
  • Pot Set with Homemade Alcohol Stove and Four Oz of Fuel or Small Woodstove
  • Small Plastic Cup and Five Coffee Packets
  • Multitool
  • Map and Compass
  • Bandana
  • Titanium Spork
  • Gloves and Hat in Cold Weather
  • Sleeping bag/Wool Blanket
  • Notebook and Pen

This pack weighs between 20 and 23 pounds depending on the extras I put in.  If you’re going to rely on the above kit as your guide, other things you’ll  need to add to the list:

  • Experience in the wilderness/bushcraft skills
  • Much time spent evaluating and using each piece of equipment
  • Overall physically fit (weights and aerobics four to five times a week)
  • Skill with map and compass

Wilderness Survival Skills

packing_light_gear_minimumThe more you know about wilderness survival the less gear you have to carry; however, the longer it will take you when you have to set up camp.  It’s a trade off and you need to be able to judge yourself and the situation in order to make the best decisions.  A few days ago I took the following kit into the woods and made a shelter using no tools whatsoever.  I used two trees to break sticks to length and used fir boughs for insulation.  I used a lighter to get the fire going, but that was the only man made item I used.

Related: 15 Ways to Start a Fire

shelter_fire_camping_out-2It’s important that you tally up your knowledge, experience, and skills in addition to the gear you’ll carry. All of these things are important when trying to figure out the best way for you to bug-out. It’s also important to weigh your weaknesses.  For example:  if you’re overweight or otherwise not able to carry a pack for a long distance, you’ll need to make alternate plans.  Bugging in might be your best option, so instead of preparing to leave, you plan for an extended stay in your home or apartment.  But I digress.


In order to get your pack weight down you need to focus on the essentials.  My advice is to lay out everything you could want, put it in your pack (if it will fit) then take it for a walk.  If you can do three to five miles with that weight without much trouble, congratulations!  You’re probably going to be ok.

If you find yourself struggling after a mile or two, take your pack home and start going through your gear and eliminate stuff you don’t need.  Got a big flashlight that holds four D cell batteries?  Get rid of it and get a small halogen light that uses a couple of Triple A’s.  If you’re walking alone and have a three man tent, ditch it for an ultralight single man tent. That will save you five or ten pounds right there.  That’s the kind of mindset you need to bring to your gear.

Visualize what a camp out will look like and keep that thought in your head as you go through your stuff.  Always challenge a piece of gear.  Some of it will pass the test, but some of it won’t.  Don’t be afraid to cut back. I believe that speed in getting out of an area will be vital and it’s hard to do if you’re chained to a sixty pound pack.  After all, we’re not Roman soldiers!

Do you think a pack should have everything and the kitchen sink, or do you think a minimalist mindset is best? Let me know in the comments below. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

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Cold Weather Survival In A Blizzard


blizzard_survival_1You’re driving home from work during a blizzard and that semi-plowed road you were on suddenly disappears in a spray of snow. Whiteout!  By the time it clears enough for you to see again you’re in the ditch – a small ravine really –  stuck and wondering how you’re going to get out.  The wind outside is blowing at a sustained 35 miles per hour and the snow is falling at three inches an hour.  You hear a plow truck go by above you and when it doesn’t stop you know that any sign of your going off the road has just been covered.  Your cell phone isn’t getting reception down in the small ravine you’re in, so you decide to step outside and see if you can climb high enough to get a signal.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

The cold wind takes your breath away when you open the door, but you clutch your cell phone tightly and and struggle out into the thigh deep snow.  You’ve been at the office and your thin dress pants are soon wet, cold and clinging tightly to your legs.  Your sporty jacket is decent, but the thin driving gloves you’re wearing are useless against mother nature’s brutal onslaught.  You pull up the hood on your jacket and start up the hill, but soon realize there’s no way you can climb it in this weather.  You decide to skirt along the base until you find a spot you can climb.  Fifteen minutes later you realize you’ve made a horrible mistake and turn back towards the car, but then you realize you’re not sure what direction you came from.  You’ve walked through thick brush and the snow is rapidly erasing all traces of your passage.

If you live in a snowy environment this could happen to you someday – unless you take precautions.

Blizzard of 2017

blizzard_survival_2I was thinking about this yesterday as I was out in the “Blizzard of 2017” here in Maine plowing some friends out.  I didn’t have to go far, maybe six miles one way, but I live in a rural area and if I’d gone off the road, it could have meant big trouble for me.  I pulled my plow truck out onto the road and saw that it had been at least an hour or two since it had been plowed and there was at least four inches of snow with higher drifts in places.  This might not sound like much if you’ve never driven in snow, but I assure you it’s a great recipe for disaster.  Just because you have four wheel drive and a plow doesn’t mean you should go out into a blizzard if you don’t have to.

At one point, my truck started drifting off the road on a long stretch of nothing and I’ve got to admit my heart was in my throat for a few seconds until I wrestled it back onto the straightaway.  I cursed myself for being stupid, but stubbornly drove on until I got to my friends house.  You’re supposed to “plow with the storm” which means about every four to six inches you get out and plow if possible because when you have to push two feet of snow around it’s super hard on your truck.  But then again, getting stuck in a ditch and dying is hard on the driver, so I said screw it and after I plowed him out I went home and stayed there until the storm was over.

After a few hours of being home, I got restless, so I gathered up my son and we went into the woods to check on my tipi.  The wind was blowing pretty good and probably sixteen inches or more of snow had fallen by that point.  (I think we would up with around 30 inches of snow for that storm.)  We didn’t have too far to go and I know those woods like the back of my hand, so I didn’t feel like there was any real danger.  I put on my pack and snowshoes and we walked out there with minimal difficulty, but in my head I put the scenario above together using the current conditions.  It wasn’t that much of a stretch, believe me!

I’ve read stories of people who got stuck and decided to walk for help and didn’t make it.  In order to solve this problem let’s go back to our Survival Rule of Three’s.

Staying Alive

Yes, you’ve probably seen these before, but these are the basics and I think everybody should know them.  (My seven year old can recite them by heart now.)

  1. You can survive three hours without shelter (in bad weather)
  2. You can survive three days without water
  3. You can survive three weeks without food

As you can see from the order above the first thing you should do is seek shelter, so if you’re in a frigging blizzard does it make sense to walk away from the one source of shelter that you arrived there in?  No!  Stay with your vehicle, at least until the storm has passed.  This is the biggest mistake people make and I’ve always wondered why they do it.  The only things I can come up with are panic and/or desperation.  Trust me, if the snow is still falling stay with your vehicle.

blizzard_survival_3I thought about my situation and about what I did wrong and what I did right.  What I did wrong was to leave my driveway in a blizzard in the first place.  I didn’t really have to go out, but I did.  That was pretty stupid, but at least I learned from it.  I also didn’t have my survival gear with me.  Big red X on that one, folks.  I have a big silver toolbox on the back of my truck that holds tools, various junk, and my survival kit.  I took it out a few weeks ago so I could carry my snowmobile to Greenville for a riding trip with the boys, but I haven’t put it back on yet.  Oops.  What I did right:  I was extremely well dressed for the situation and I had a wool blanket in the back of the truck.  I also made sure I had a full tank of gas and my cell phone.  Unlike the scenario above it worked, but they actually pulled the snowplows off the road for awhile, so I’d have been stuck good if I’d gone off the road.   I could have survived the storm, but it was not a good idea to venture out when I did.

From my experience as a winter camper, mountaineer, ice climber, snowmobiler, and snowshoer, here’s a list of things that will keep you alive:

  1.  Don’t go out if you don’t have to.  Seriously folks, if you underestimate Mother Nature, she will kill you.
  2. Carry a sleeping bag rated for cold weather in your vehicle.
  3. If you’re not wearing winter clothes have some in your car or truck.  These consist of:
    1. Winter boots
    2. Snow pants
    3. Good gloves
    4. Hat
    5. Warm coat
    6. Snow goggles or glacier glasses
    7. Thick wool socks
  4. Water or a way to melt water.  If you’re in a blizzard there’s plenty of snow to melt.  Trust me.
    1. Alcohol or other small stove
    2. Small pot
  5. Weather radio – it’s good to know what to expect
  6. Only run your vehicle in short bursts to stay warm.  Also – make sure that the area around your exhaust pipe is clear of snow.  Getting a car full of carbon monoxide will kill you faster than the blizzard.
  7. Energy bars or some kind of food that doesn’t require cooking or heating.  GORP would work well here.
  8. Cell phone and charger.  If you’re stuck in a blizzard you can at least make people aware that you’re in trouble.
  9. Something to do.  A book, game, or something to keep yourself occupied.  Sitting in a car for hours and hours is boring.

So there’s a few ideas to keep you alive if you get stuck in a blizzard.

Again, the best advice I can give you is that if you know there’s a big storm coming stay home.  It’s better to miss a day’s pay or that meeting than to die in a blizzard! How about it?  What do you keep in your vehicle for emergencies? Questions?  Comments?  Sound off below!

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Get Outdoors!

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get_outdoors_winter_tipi-2Believe it or not we spend more time in our vehicles than we do outside.  I have friends who live in or around the city and their idea of getting some nature is to go down to the park and have their kids play on the swings for a half hour while the parents play on their phones.  A friend came up to our house to visit from the city a year ago and I took her young son and my five year old daughter to the woods.  This boy walked about twenty feet and tripped over a log because he didn’t know to look at the ground for obstacles.  He was so used to walking on manicured lawns and paths it never occurred to him that there might be something in the way!

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Kids between the ages of five and sixteen spend an average of six and a half hours per day in front of a screen, which is terrible; however,  I do believe the kind of screen time spent is important.  I assume that most kids spend their time watching videos, playing games, and engaging on social media.  This kind of screen time is passive and they are just sitting there slowly turning into a vegetable.  If they are producing something on the other hand, like writing a blog post, then I think the screen time isn’t as bad.  Yes, they’re not physically active; however, if they are producing some kind of content then they are stretching their minds and growing in that regard.

get_outdoors_snow_play-2Physically, on the other hand, this can’t be good for them.  I have a seven year old boy who would gladly veg in front of his Kindle playing games all day if we let him.  I also have a five year old girl who would sit in front of the TV watching Netflix and eating chips if we gave her the thumbs up, but we don’t.  My wife regularly throws the kids outside and makes them play out there.  The funny thing about kids though is that once they’re outside playing they don’t want to come in.


There’s nothing wrong with technology per se, it’s only when we allow it to consume our lives that it becomes an issue.  From the first moment we get up to the time we go to bed, we are stuck to some kind of screen.  I’m not saying I don’t, but we do try to have a little balance in our lives.  My wife hates the amount of time the kids spend in front of their devices. As such, we will force them to play outside.

Read Also: 10 Ways to Improve Your Survival Fitness

We live on a nice piece of land in Maine where there’s plenty of forest and open space.  My son learned to ride a bike when he was three, got his first motorcycle when he turned five, a 125 cc four-wheeler when he turned seven and drives them like pro.  My daughter loves to create crafts and I set aside time for her and I sit down where she will create things while I draw.  I have a tipi and wilderness camp where we spend a lot of time and the wifi doesn’t reach.  My boy can start a fire with a firesteel and can recite the Survival Rule of Threes.

get_outdoors_fire_start-2I like to think my family has a good balance with learning the old ways, being outside, and today’s invasive technology.  I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, so I remember what it was like without a smart phone, computers, and when the only TV had antennas.  Cartoons only played on Saturday and after a few hours of watching them my mom would boot us outside until lunch.  We hung out with our friends in person and built dangerous bicycle jumps, climbed trees, and did other things that, by today’s standards, would certainly have got our parents in trouble for neglect.

But let’s face it, barring some kind of major SHTF Carrington event, our smart devices are here to stay and I don’t think that’s a bad thing; however, we do need to balance screen time with outdoor time.  Kids need to get outside and play.

Location!  Location!  Location!

We used to live on a  busy main road, which I absolutely hated, but when it was just Mrs. Jarhead and myself, we were willing to tolerate it because it was easy for us to jump in my truck and drive ten miles to the local hiking trails.  As soon as we found out she was going to have a baby, we put that house on the market and moved as fast as we could.  We did not want our kids being brought up near a dangerous, noisy road.

It was the best decision we ever made.  We now live on a back road in Midcoast Maine with tons of woods surrounding us.  It’s not like we lived in downtown Manhattan before the move – we actually moved less than ten miles, but the location we chose was much better suited to our lifestyle. People might say, “But Jarhead!  You’ve never lived in the city!  How can you make a comparison?”

get_outdoors_coffee-2Good question.  Actually I used to be a consultant for a big company based out of St. Paul, Minnesota and for two and a half years I lived on airplanes, stayed in hotels, and drove rental cars all over the country five days a week.  As a matter of fact, I spent the last two months traveling in NYC:  Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.  I’ve been to just about every major city this side of the Mississippi and a few in Canada.  (I actually liked Toronto.)

So yes, I can make a strong comparison between the slow country life and fast paced, high stressed, city living.  Listen City Dweller – I’m not telling you to move to the country, although I’ll bet you’d be a lot happier if you did.  People in the cities are stuck in their high-rise caves, living on top of each other, stressed out of their minds at the high cost of living and lack of paycheck.  They stay in these dark caverns venturing out only to work or to do other things inside.  Few people actually have a chance to get back to nature and I find that very sad because they don’t realize the health benefits they are missing.

Ironically, it’s these same city people who say, “If TSHTF I’m going to bug-out to the wilderness and live there until it blows over.”  Hmmm, not so much.  Folks, if you’ve never spent any time in the wilderness and that’s your plan, I beg you to reconsider.  If I had a choice to choose between a city dweller with a full pack and my son with a firesteel, I’d take my boy ever time.  At least he knows how to start a fire using natural materials and to look for shelter!  Surviving in the wilderness is extremely difficult even for people who’ve been trained.

Get Outside!

get_outdoors_jarhead_dad-2Take your family camping.  Take them on a long hike in the woods, wherever that might be.  Let your kids know what it’s like to carry a backpack and walk for awhile.  It’s ok for them to be a little uncomfortable.  Give them responsibility to do things like gather kindling or firewood.  Show them how to set up their tent.  Allow them to help in the decision making for certain things.

My five year old loves coming out to the tipi with me because I’ll make her noodle soup.  Not the most nutritious meal, but being outside climbing trees and running around is great for my kids and we do it several times a week.  My son is old enough now to use a hatchet and loves the opportunity to swing it at dead trees to help with firewood.

Granted it’s a little more difficult in the winter, but we still do it.  I’ll go out on a Saturday or Sunday and stay four or five hours and sometimes will even spend the night out there (yes – even in the winter).  My kids come out to visit and when they’re tired from cutting and carrying wood, climbing trees and wrestling in the snow, they walk back to the house.  It’s awesome!

Related: Cold Weather Camping – Why You Should Try It 

get_outdoors_reading-2If there aren’t any kids in your family take yourself outside.  You’ll be happier and healthier for it.  Being in nature has shown to bring positive health benefits, so if you’re feeling depressed, you might want to spend a few days in nature without electronics and see if that helps before running to the doctor for a prescription. But that’s another article! Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!


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Get Out of Debt and Survive With Less After TSHTF

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tv_impressionsOn TV the other day (I was streaming a news broadcast off the Internet – I don’t have cable TV) I saw a commercial that settled in my mind and it gnawed away at for me awhile. I didn’t realize until later why it bothered me so much. Here’s a synopsis of the commercial: Dude1 walks out of his house over to his neighbors house in a suburban neighborhood, where his friend (Dude2) is admiring a new car. “Nice car!” Dude1 says and Dude2 beams and starts to talk about its features. Dude1 listens politely, then hits the button on his key fob and the brand new ultra fancy pickup truck in his driveway chirps and he walks over to it with a look of smug satisfaction on his face while Dude2 with the car stands there with his mouth open, obviously wishing he had the fancy truck.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

The American Dream is being forced down our throats, people.  Marketers know how we think and they target our desires to warp us into wanting more.  Not only do they convince us to want more, we need whatever “it” is to be bigger, faster, and more powerful! Buy, buy, buy!  It keeps the economy going and the markets inflated.

nice_house_elite“They” want us to consume so they can continue to make their Porsche payments and live in their fancy houses with body guards. Meanwhile, we’re stuck with five-hundred dollar a month truck payments we can’t afford because we’re suckered into The Dream.  I’ve noticed the same trend in prepping. Someone shows off the latest AR-15 or M4 with a super-scope or laser sites and there’s oooh’s and aaaah’s and people wanting to rush out and get one for their arsenal. Or maybe someone got the latest land rover, RV, or a hardened Hummer. Hey, if you can afford the stuff more power to you, but most people I know are in debt trying to keep up with their house payments and student loans, much less a hardened hummer with three new AR-15’s in it.

Get By With Less

car-refill-transportation-transportIt’s ok to plan on getting by with less. As a matter of fact that’s exactly what we’ll need to do if and when TSHTF. The more knowledge and experience you have about survival and getting by with less the better off you’ll be. Once the balloon goes up finding gas for that thirsty Hummer will be a chore and way more expensive to boot – if you can even find any. There’s been a movement lately about getting by with less called minimalism. I’ve done a little reading and decided that it’s perfectly fine to cut down on the amount of stuff in my life that takes up valuable space and time thinking about it. I went from fifteen dress shirts to six. A whole pile of t-shirts to five. A huge pile of camping gear to just what I need for me and my family. What good is five packs full of gear if I can only use one at a time?

I wound up selling a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace (one of the few things Facebook is good for) and haven’t regretted it at all.  How do you decide what stuff to get rid of? That was actually the easy part for me. I went through my gear and if I hadn’t touched it in the last six months or a year I put it in a pile mentally labeled “Sell or Donate.” If you decide to give it a try you’ll be surprised at how fast that pile will grow.

Letting Go

I admit that at first it’s a little hard getting rid of stuff that you love, but after awhile you realize it’s not the stuff you love, but the idea of it. You buy junk you don’t need because it makes you happy. It gives you a little dopamine hit when you walk out of the store with a new item. Pretty soon you have twenty-five pairs of shoes you don’t wear and two closets worth of clothing that just hangs there.

I probably had two or three hundred movie DVD’s sitting in my basement collecting dust. Now I’m down to about twenty of my favorite all time movies that I watch over and over again (Billy Jack for example), but are hard to find online.

book_shelfAnd books. If you love books like I do this was a hard one, but I went through my books and if I hadn’t read it in a year or ten and it didn’t make my heart bump in that special way it went in the pile. My goal was to cut back to one bookshelf (about five shelves from floor to ceiling two feet wide) instead of books taking over every available space in the house. This was actually way easier than I thought it would be. First to go were all the books I’d picked up at lawn sales or had given to me. You know what I’m talking about; you pick up a book on a hot summer day and it marginally grabs your interest, but hey! It’s only a quarter, so you pick up seven or eight because you have a few extra bucks on you and throw them into the back of your car. They ride around there for a week or so until you carry them in the house and try to cram them into that bookshelf that’s already overflowing and then you forget about them.

Where I notice it the most is on my dresser. It used to be covered with cameras, computer gear, pieces of paper, change, flashlights, knives… you get the idea. I have one of those that opens up like an armoire, so there are actually three shelves where I could keep stuff. In the morning I’d go crazy trying to find my EDC.

Now it’s clean. All the extra books are gone, I’m down to a couple of cameras I actually use, change goes into a special place in the kitchen where it can be used.  How did my wife react to this new mode of thinking? She was ecstatic! By nature she’s always been a minimalist, so when I started getting rid of extra junk she was happy as could be.  So how does that carry over to prepping? For one thing it allows you to focus on those things that are really important such as good quality food.

Instead of opting for ten guns how about buying one or two that will really get the job done?  Instead of a brand new sixty thousand dollar range rover how about taking care of the vehicle you already have? Treat your vehicles right and they’ll treat you right. People are so willing to throw something away today instead of taking care of it that it blows my mind.

I see people treating trucks like computer tablets these days. Once it’s a couple of years old they’ll trade it in for a new one instead of taking care of the one they have. Of course a tablet goes for a hundred dollars these days and a truck costs anywhere from twenty-five to seventy-five thousand depending on what kind you get. Friends of mine who didn’t have the money went out and bought an expensive SUV, but didn’t have the money to pay for it. Now they’re stuck with a huge vehicle payment and regret it.

Avoid Debt

Today my wife and I avoid debt like the plague, which is a great thing to be in agreement on.  If we can’t afford to pay cash for something we don’t buy it. And living as minimalists we typically don’t want it anyway, which makes it far easier to cope with those emotions that spring up when we see some shiny new car or gizmo that would be wicked awesome to have, but can’t afford or will never use.

money_debtYears ago my phone was ringing off the hook with companies wanting their money and I finally did this to get out of debt.  It’s hard to do, but so worth it in the end!  Don’t get me wrong, I still see stuff I want and think, “Ooooh! I’d love to have that!” But I’ll sit on it for a week and if the feeling goes away I know it was just a passing fancy. (That Korean era officer’s military mess kit I saw this summer for $300 springs to mind.) I thought about it for awhile and decided I didn’t want it because of its authenticity, but because it would be fun to whip something like that out at the campground and actually use it. I then decided that if I wanted something like that it would be far easier and cheaper to build one myself. It’s still on the back burner, but if I decide to move forward it will be a fun project and one that will really mean something to me.


I’m not saying to sell all your stuff and live in a tent or a yurt (although a yurt might be kinda cool when I think about it.)  What I’m suggesting is to take a look at your lifestyle and possessions and see if there’s anything you can cut back on or things you can sell.  Almost everybody has extra stuff and the average American has tons of extra stuff they don’t use.

If you have debt, selling some of that extra stuff and not buying more can help you drive that debt down a little. Thoreau said to “Simplify!” and if you take that advice to heart you can live a rich life while staying out of debt.  Let go of the stuff you don’t need and take a good hard look at the stuff you have.  You’ll be a happier person because of it.  Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

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Cold Weather Camping – Why You Should Try It

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climbing-225x300Most folks are inherently afraid of the idea of camping out in cold weather, but before we go further let’s define cold weather.  A person from Alabama is probably going to have a different definition of what cold weather is than someone who lives in Maine or any of the northern latitudes.  I consider temps 30 to 50 degrees pleasant to sleep in.  Anything below 30 degrees is starting to get cold and once the temperature hits 10 degrees, I consider it true cold weather camping.  The coldest I’ve ever slept in was -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty cold!

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

So why would someone want to subject themselves to the torture of sleeping in the cold?  A couple of reasons:

  1.  To prove to yourself that you can do it.  If you ever have to bug-out in the cold with just a tent and sleeping bad you know you’ll be able to do it.
  2. Once you’ve done it a couple of times you’ll have your gear tweaked for the cold just the way you like it.
  3. Experience.  Nothing beats actual hands-on experience when it comes to any kind of camping, but particularly cold weather camping.
  4. It’s actually fun once you understand how to stay warm out there.  It only sucks when you’re not prepared for it!


tent-300x225Shelter and Sleeping:  A four season tent is good if you’re going to be camping in higher elevations or where it’s windy; however, I’ve slept in three season tents in dead winter and they worked just fine.  They’re just not as sturdy in a high wind.  I’ve also slept in tipi’s, five and ten military tents, and snow shelters, all of which did a good job of keeping the weather off.  In my mind the sleeping bag is the most important piece of gear you can take with you into a cold weather environment.  The colder the bag rating the better you’ll sleep.  I’ve had a few nights where I slept cold (meaning I was shivering in my sleeping bag) because I took the wrong bag or was experimenting with different sleep systems.  A sleeping pad is important too because it separates you from the ground, which will try to suck the heat out of your body.

Stove and Fuel:  Other than small wood stoves, you can put in wall tents or military tents my favorite stove is the MSR Whisperlite.  Check out this video I made a couple of years ago.

Sled or Toboggan:  An easy way to move gear through deep snow is with a sled or toboggan.  I’ve pulled sleds called ahkios, which we used in Norway, but probably the most prevalent sled I’ve used is the toboggan.  The toboggan isn’t just a death ride into the valley, it’s actually designed to carry gear.  It’s slim width is well suited to fit into your snowshoe tracks as you pull it behind you.

Snowshoes:  If you think you’re going to hike long distances in deep snow without snowshoes, think again.  Let me save you the trouble and tell you that it is exceedingly difficult moving through deep snow without them.  Invest in a decent pair and your life will be much happier.

Clothes/Boots:  Synthetics and wool are your best choices here.  Remember the old adage, “Cotton kills!”  When it gets wet, cotton is pretty much useless when it comes to keeping you warm.  Dress in layers using synthetics and wool and you’ll be fine.  A good, warm pair of boots is also a good investment.

Water Filter:  If it’s warmer than 32 degrees F., you can get by with a filter.

Pot Set/Mess Kit:  If it’s really cold, you’ll likely be melting snow into water, so make sure you’ve got a pot to go with your stove.  Snow is super fluffy compared to water, so you’ll need a bunch of snow to  make just a little water.  Plan accordingly.

Fire Starter:  Lighters are good, but remember that butane doesn’t perform that well when it gets really cold.  I always carry a firesteel as a back up.  Matches are good as long as they are fresh and don’t get wet.  I’ve used the wax tipped matches with mixed results in cold and wet weather and would rather have a lighter. Experiment and see what works for you.

Flashlight:  Since it gets dark around 1630, it’s wise to have a couple of flashlights and even a lantern on hand.  I love lantern light and that’s what I use 95% of the time when I’m cold weather camping in my tipi or military tent.

Toilet Paper:  When there’s three feet of snow under you and no leaves, you’ll want to have some TP with you.  You’ve been warned!

First Aid Kit:  You’ll want a comprehensive first aid kit.  In cold weather you could see anything from a cut by an axe to trench foot.  Be prepared with knowledge and how to treat the injury.

Navigation:  You all know how I feel about GPS.  Yes, it’s totally awesome when it works.  I love looking at my phone and seeing what’s over the next hill, but when the phone or GPS dies where are you going to be?  Carry a map and compass. More importantly, know how to use it!  If you’re in the back country snow shoeing and get lost, you have suddenly entered into a true life and death situation.  Make sure you know how to get home, or at least to the nearest road.


winterfire-300x225Some things to think about in cold weather.  Carry extra long underwear with you.  When you stop for the night and you’re still warm from moving change into something dry as soon as you can.  If you’re already dry, no worries, but if you’ve been sweating you’ll be a lot more comfortable if you change. Everything takes longer in cold weather.  Moving, setting up your tent, getting water… everything.  Make sure you give yourself extra time when setting up camp the first time, so that you can get a feel for how long it takes.

Related: Your GPS is Awesome Until it Gets You Lost

Things tend to break easier in cold weather too.  The cold makes plastic brittle so it cracks easier, cold metal sticks to wet skin, batteries die faster, and other fun stuff you’ll discover when you get out there.

Stay Hydrated!

You won’t feel as thirsty in cold weather.  Remember to stop and take frequent water breaks as you’re moving.  One good thing about snow is when you urinate it’s easy to gauge how yellow it is.  If it’s dark, you need to drink way more water.  If it’s as clear as the snow, good job!

Going to the Bathroom At Night

snowmobile-300x169Of all the things about cold weather this is the one that sucks the most.  When you have to get up at 2:00 am to go to the bathroom and it’s -10 outside you might wish you were dehydrated, but don’t do it.  I sleep with wool socks and as soon as I get up I stick my feet in my boots, grab my soft coat, and go outside.  Usually there’s a designated area to go to the bathroom, but what you’ll probably find is at night people will take about five steps away from the tent and let fly.  If there’s no wind it’s not too bad.  Look up at the sky and marvel at how crystal clear it is.  If it’s windy and snowing, you’d better hurry because you’re probably going to freeze your ass off.  Once done, race back to the tent and crawl into your sleeping bag and get warm again.  You’ll be surprised at how fast you get back to sleep!

Read Also: Cold Weather – The Great Equalizer

Another  option is to use an old water bottle as a “piss bottle”.  Just maneuver around inside your sleeping bag until you’re in position, open up the old bottle and urinate into it.  Be careful you don’t miss!!  Cap it up and slip it outside the bag when done.  It’s more comfortable, but riskier if you can’t see what you’re doing.


Despite all the things I’ve told you to watch out for here winter camping is still an enjoyable experience.  Once you’ve got your gear nailed down and your winter knowledge solid, you’ll  enjoy those trips into the back woods.  The only way to know for sure is to get out there and try it.  Remember, when you’re walking from your heated car to the office and you’re wearing thin pants and winter jacket you’ll tell yourself, “No way in hell am I camping in this!”  But as soon as you put on three or four layers and climb to the top of a mountain somewhere, the wind hitting you in the teeth feels refreshing.

Don’t sit around for life to pass you by, folks.  Get out there and grab it by the tail and live it like it was meant to be lived! Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Jarhead Survivor
Kim Tashjian 

Fail to Prepare Fail to Live

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insurance_policy_prepDoes it make sense to be a prepper?  Should you spend time and money on things that will help you survive a potential disaster that might never happen?  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these questions and always manage to circle back to the same answer:  prepping is your auto, life, and house insurance all rolled up into one. Would you drive around without insurance?  You could, but if you get into an accident you’ve got the potential to be paying expensive medical and vehicle bills the rest of your life.  In my opinion it’s hardly worth it.  Even if you’re not the one causing the accident you might still wind up footing the bill if the other person is uninsured.  Life is a crap shoot and you need to stack the odds in your favor as much as you can.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

ice_storm_98_trees_line_noaa6198Sure, paying insurance premiums sucks.  I hate to see a portion of my hard earned pay check go out the window on payday to pay for something that might never happen, but I do it.  I look at prepping the same way.  You don’t know when a natural disaster or any other kind of disaster is going to happen.  For example:  winter is coming and we might get another ice storm like we did in ’98.  Some people lost power for two weeks during that time and it was really something to see how people reacted to it.  A few years ago we had a storm go through Maine and I lost power for three days.  Not too bad, but then again I have a generator and my house is wired with a transfer switch.   I had running water, cooked on a camp stove, used my grill, had lights, TV for the kids, and refrigeration. Although it was a pain putting gas in the genny every day or so, it would have been far worse without it.

Get Prepared

What I found interesting is that during that time people would say, “Man, you’re lucky you have a generator.”  Hmm, not really.  I show up for work every day, have a side gig writing for a blog, and stay busy doing wilderness survival training for myself.  I don’t consider myself lucky.  I just show up for work every day.

Related: Toughen Up and Take The Pain 

tv_wasting_time“I don’t have time to prep!”  Is something I hear from people who spend hours binge watching The Walking Dead.  If you’ve got time to watch TV, you have time to do some prepping.  I quit watching television back around the time MTV started airing that first “The Real World” series.  I watched two episodes and felt like I’d lost a little piece of my life I’ll never get back. I turned off the cable and never looked back.  After the cable is gone and there’s plenty of time I hear, “But I don’t have the money!”

You don’t need to go out and buy a huge stockpile of food, weapons, and ammunition the first day.  This can be a game of little wins.  Check out this post about how to buy a little more every week to get some extra food in your pantry.  Within a reasonably short amount of time you can have a pretty decent amount of stores in and ready to go in case of emergency.

What about firearms?  My personal opinion is that firearms should be down the list of things you need to start prepping, but I guess that depends on where you live and who you might be expecting for company after TSHTF.  I know this flies in the face of traditional prepper thinking and I’ll probably take some heat for it, but I’d rather have food to eat and keep out of sight then to have a large supply of guns and ammo, but little or no food to feed the family.  A single well thought out firearm should do the trick for most people.

But let’s say you do want a gun and don’t have a bunch of money to throw at it.  Check out this post from Road Warrior about how to spend your hard earned money on surplus firearms.  If you decide to get a gun and take from someone else who’s prepared, that makes you an armchair commando.  It’s also a good way to get yourself killed or branded as someone who needs to be locked away.  Chances are good that the SHTF event – whatever it may be – will not last forever and there will be a day of reckoning for those who went down the wrong side of the law, or moral code, or whatever may be in place at the time.

Ask yourself what’s the downside of having some extra food and water on hand?  If you’re doing it right there shouldn’t be a down side.  You should be eating the oldest part of your rotation and moving the new stuff to the back just like they stock groceries at the super market.  If the lights go out for whatever reason, you’ll have food and water for awhile.  That’s being smart, but you’d be amazed at how many people only have a few days food or less in their pantry at any given time.  A lot of city folk out there like to pick up dinner on the way home so it’ll be fresh.

Taking Care of Number One When The Lights Go Out

generator_prep_liveI don’t think everybody will be a bad actor, but there are definitely a few out there that will act badly during an SHTF event or even a short range crisis.  One of my favorite examples is during ice storms in the Northeast.  There have been reports of people stealing generators while they’re still running and even death threats to line crews if they didn’t get electricity out to someone’s home!

Think about how important electricity is to us.  It’s literally the blood that flows through the nation’s arteries keeping our food fresh, our lights on, helping to heal our sick people, and keeping us warm.  When the power goes out many people band together and help each other out, but there’s always those few who aren’t prepared and will do anything to help themselves.  You need to be prepared for those people as well.

Also Read: Urban Survival

If you can’t afford a full generator, or it doesn’t make sense because of where you live, you might also try a back up solar generator.  It’s small, quiet, relatively inexpensive, and good enough to power lights and small appliances.  It’s also renewable as long as the sun is shining!  What could be better than that?

My first responsibility is to my family.  I have a wife and two young children still living at home and I want to make sure they are safe and as comfortable as possible during any emergency.  I’ve spent some of my hard earned money to ensure that happens and you probably have too.  Part of that planning is protecting your equipment from those who haven’t and feel justified taking what is yours.  My generator is in a small shed and bolted down.  Someone could get it if they really wanted it, but it would mean some time and effort on their part.

Priority List

tent_sheter_rule_of_3Here’s a simple priority list based on the Survival Rule of Three’s.  This is off the top of my head, so if you have anything to add leave a comment at the bottom of this post. The Rule of 3’s looks like this: You can survive 3 minutes without air. You can survive 3 hours without shelter. You can survive 3 days without water. You can survive 3 weeks without food. I translated the rule like this:

Air – People die every year during blackouts because they have their generators in the basement or somewhere not ventilated properly.  Make sure your generator is in a place where it doesn’t build up carbon monoxide.

Shelter – You already have shelter and now it’s a matter of staying warm.  Wood stoves, propane heaters, and kerosene heaters, are all ways you can keep your family warm during those times when the grid is down.  You can also “huddle in place” by getting under some blankets if none of those options work for you.

Water – Have enough water stored in your house for at least three days or have a way to filter or clean it if you have a pond or other water source nearby.

Food – As you can see food is down the list as far as survival needs go; however, try telling that to your four year old when she gets hungry.  Stock up on food so that if something happens you can at least feed them for three days or a week.


Aim to be self-sufficient. To answer the question at the beginning of this article:  yes, it makes sense to be a prepper.  I dislike the show “Doomsday Prepper” because the producers always have them say something like, “I’m preparing for a solar flare,” or some such drivel.  Most preppers I know are preparing for anything.  To say you’re preparing for one specific event is absurd.  Prepare as broad and deep as you can and no matter what happens you’ll be ready when the time comes. Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Pictures of Money
B Bola
Matt Davis
Glen B. Stewart 

Toughen Up and Take the Pain!

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participation_trophy_sad_cultureThe United States has become a nation where  the pursuit of happiness and the absence of discipline has turned us into a land of politically correct, overweight, sissies intent on pointing the finger at someone else as the source of the problem rather than looking in the mirror like we should.  All the kids get trophies now.  Used to be that a kid got the idea of what it took to be a winner either by winning something and knowing what it took to get there. If they lost, they’d appreciate what it took to get a trophy. Collectively, we used to know that if we put in the long hours and the hard work, it would pay off and we would be successful.  Not enough people know this now. It would seem as though we’ve lost something in our culture that we used to rely on to win. At some point in time, we became soft.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

We go through our lives now from one carefully controlled environment to the next.  Not many people want to work outside in the cold winters or hot summers anymore.  We wonder why immigrants are taking our jobs – it’s because not many people are willing to show up and work in the fields or do the menial jobs any more.

If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you don’t have this attitude.  Why?  If you’re here, you’re probably interested in surviving a catastrophic event.  Anything from a national power outage to a nuclear war; we prepare for it all.  You also know that survival will mean hard work and suffering – something many, if not most Americans don’t want to experience.  I’ve talked with people in the past who have actually said, “If the power went out forever I wouldn’t want to survive.”  So much for the pioneering spirit our ancestors brought with them.  They would roll over in their graves if they saw what has become of our spirit.

If a little pain and suffering makes you quit, good luck when times get tough.  To those with weak mental fortitude: all I can guarantee is pain, suffering, and uncertainty.  If society collapses, nobody can say how others will react.  Some people riot and others band together to help each other.  Hopefully you live in an area where people help each other out.  If society takes a nosedive, most visitors of this site will at least be somewhat prepared. Those who fail to see civilization is premised on a fragile infrastructure will be in a world of pain when conditions deteriorate.

Take the Pain!

Obese or overweight?  Out of shape?  Terrible diet?  On a ton of medication?  I’ll bet that if you lost some weight a lot of those ailments would disappear.  If the idea of giving up McDonald’s food and exercising daily makes you cringe, good luck when the balloon goes up.  Ask yourself this question and be honest:  if you had to bug-out twenty miles right now – right this second, could you pick up your bug-out bag and walk the distance?  Could you walk it without your bug-out bag?  If the answer is no, then you must consider getting yourself back in shape.  It could save your life several different ways.  One, by making you healthy again allowing you to get rid of the medications and living a healthy life. Two, by giving you the ability to do physical, potentially life saving activities.  Go to your local shopping center or mall and stop in the middle of a bunch of people and look around.  In your opinion, how many could walk or run five miles in an emergency?  I’ve done this exercise many times and I’m always surprised at how few would be able to do this.

People are more interested in a magic pill will allow us to eat and drink whatever we want. Most people avoid entertaining the idea of exercise and diet.  We want all the stuff, whether that’s food, drink, drugs, or electronic toys, that will give us that little dopamine hit instead of working our asses off and being healthy.  We now have a national epidemic of people taking opioids. It’s been around for a long time and it seems to just keep getting worse.

A lot of times improving yourself involves some kind of pain, whether it’s the pain of going without alcohol or drugs, or of denying yourself that extra piece of cake.  Maybe it’s the pain associated with learning something new instead of watching three hours of T.V. every night. Sometimes you gotta sacrifice for the greater good.  Take the pain!

No Easy Road

flipping_burgers_self_sufficiencyThere’s no easy road to success.  If you want more money find a better job or get better at the one you’re doing.  A lot of young folks out there today don’t even have jobs and a good number of millennials are happy to live at home with mom and dad.  If you’re one of these kids, I say get off your ass and get a job that will allow you to help pay the rent.  I don’t care if you’re slinging burgers at McDonald’s or working on Wall Street, you need to be grown up and self sufficient because mom and dad aren’t always going to be there wiping your nose for you.  Check out this crazy story about a 28 year old man who killed his parents because he didn’t want to move out and fend for himself.  Sick eh?  Granted, it’s the millennial mindset taken to the extreme, but it’s telling that this happened at all.  As if all that was bad enough we’ve got rich companies skimming whatever they can off the top and people who don’t want to work skimming off the bottom.  Pretty soon there won’t be enough left over for the guy in the middle.

What Can We Do?

First, our kids have to know that hard work and pain is ok.  It’s part of the human condition.  If you make sure that your kids never feel any pain, they’ll never have a chance to grow.  You’re doing them a disservice.  Now don’t go around saying, “Jarhead says to starve my kids!”  Let’s not be stupid here.  What I’m saying is that if your kid comes up to you fifteen minutes before a meal and says they’re hungry, it’s perfectly fine to tell them to wait instead of giving them a candy bar.  If you give in, they’ll never know what it’s like to wait a few minutes.  Teach them discipline.

youth_football_goals_painA friend of mine came over with his son and we were all working out.  My son (seven years old) gave up after ten minutes and started upstairs.  He asked his friend to come with him and the friend said no, he wanted to try out for the football team.  I said, “That’s because he wants it”. My boy came back downstairs and started working out again.  I didn’t berate him.  I didn’t yell at him, but I opened the door to hard work by pointing out that his friend was working to achieve a goal.

Later this season my buddy called me up and told me his son was killing it on the football field.  When he mentioned to his son what a great job he was doing, his boy said, “That’s because I want it, dad!”  My buddy had to call me up and tell me what an impact my words had on his son.  He was willing to take the pain to get what he wanted.

You don’t need to be friends with your kids.  You should love them, but your children need someone who’s going to show them right and wrong and enforce it.  Not a mom or dad who wants to be friends and will give in because they don’t want the kids mad at them.  Guess what?  If your kid has never been mad at you, you either have one hell of an exceptional kid or you aren’t doing your job right.

Set a Goal

finish_line_goalsFind something you want and set a goal.  If you want to change the world you’ve first got to change yourself.  I don’t care what it is, but when you set the goal follow up on it.  Maybe you want to lose twenty pounds, write a book, walk five miles with your bug-out bag, race in a 5K, or give up drinking beer and eating hotdogs.  Whatever it is, this is how you do it:  set a realistic goal and a completion date.  Remember, a goal without a due date is just a dream and will never happen. Next, take instant action on whatever that goal is.  If you want to quit drinking, pour all your booze down the drain.  If you want to write a book, make a goal to write a thousand words a day or whatever you can produce.  Whatever it is you want to do make a small advance towards that goal every day.  Your kids are looking to you as an example. If you set a goal and abandon it a week later, guess what?  They’ll do the same thing.

Take Responsibility For Your Actions

When I went to Marine Corps bootcamp, one of the first things the D.I.’s pounded into us was to take responsibility for our actions.  If we did something stupid or screwed up, we were expected to own it.  They didn’t want to hear excuses or lies, they just wanted to hear you say, “The Private screwed up, sir!”. We were then expected to do whatever we could to make it right.

I think if more people – adults and kids – were held accountable for their actions, we’d live in a different world.  Then again, maybe not.  If you lack integrity, all the rules in the world won’t make you a better person.  What do you think? Am I way outta line here? Questions?  Comments?  Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy Of:

Daniel Lee
AZ Hook

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. Please use subject line: ‘Write for SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog’. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

Your GPS Is Awesome – Until It Gets You Lost

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china_maine_gpsThe other day my wife sent me on a mission to China to recover an important tactical item.  That would be China, Maine and the item was a coffee table she found on Craigslist.  Anyway, I jumped in my trusty pickup truck, fired up the GPS, and headed inland from the coast to grab the package.  The GPS, a literal device, took me on the shortest route. Which, as you’ve probably discovered, doesn’t always necessarily mean the fastest.  I was going up over mountains, down back roads, and twisting back and forth on an old dirt road that made me happy I have survival gear in the back of my truck.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Now, the coffee table was in South China, and when I got to an intersection where I could go left to South China or right to China it took me right.  Confused, I stopped and checked it out a little closer.  It took me north over China lake and down the other side.  Ok, I thought, maybe they consider “south” to be on the west side of the lake.  People and directions are funky and I was willing to give my GPS the benefit of the doubt.  With a few misgivings, I followed the GPS.

Related: Why I Prefer a Map and Compass Over GPS 

I should have listened to my instincts.  I got to the other side of the lake and all my warning bells were now going off like a  five-alarm fire.  I pulled over, looked, and sure enough the GPS was taking me to the wrong address.  I put in the address I wanted and it pointed to another area.  I won’t use the real address, but here’s an example of how it appeared. Address I typed into the GPS:  83 Fire Road #45, China Me.  It decided I really wanted to go to: Fire road 45, no number address.  Ok, they give addresses very oddly in China, so I tried this instead:  Fire Road 83, #45. It then decided I really wanted to go to Fire Road 11. WTF?

I poked at it for a few minutes with rising frustration then did something I haven’t had to do for awhile.  I asked for directions. There was a guy across the street playing with his dog and I pulled in and asked if he knew where Fire Road 83 was.  He rubbed his chin for a minute while his friendly black lab sniffed my leg.  I patted the dog (best part of the whole trip) while he thought about it.  He then pointed me to the other side of the lake with some head scratching, giving me low confidence in his directions.

At a store on the top of China lake, I stopped and asked directions.  Nope.  They had no idea.  I called the woman I was getting the item from and she asked where I was.  When I told her I was at the top of China Lake, she said, “What are you doing there?”  She then gave me some confusing directions on how to get to her house.  I finally asked her what she was near and she gave me the address of a bank.  When I put that in to the GPS, it worked and I followed it there. Of course, when I got there, the GPS told me I was at Fire Road 83, #45, just where I wanted to be.  Really? Thanks a lot!

Not Just Road Directions Either

gps_compass_lostA few years ago I was hiking behind my house following my GPS.  As you know, driving and hiking are two very different forms of navigation, so being the paranoid survivalist that I am I was keeping track of my location with a map and compass too.  At one point I looked down and it showed my location in a town about fifteen or twenty miles away in a completely different county!  There was a moment of “congnitive dissonance” as I looked at both map and GPS.  Finally I put the GPS away and followed the map and compass.  I knew exactly where I was even if the GPS didn’t.  I told a friend about this and he said, “Yeah, sometimes that happens.”

So, I did what any self-respecting human being would do and turned to Google.  Turns out this is a pretty common issue. Wow.  I’m no Luddite.  I love my phone and my laptop.  I use Linux.  I understand computer networks.  I get it.  But after a little study, I’ve determined that if you’re going to trust yourself to a technology that works “most of the time,” you might find your ass lost in the woods crying about your GPS.

Carry a Compass

appalachian_gps_trailI’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again.  If you’re going to go out in the wilderness, carry a map and compass.  Carry it, know how to use it, and at the very least be able to follow a cardinal direction. A few years ago Geraldine Largay went off the Appalachian Trail and got lost.  Her body was found a couple of years later.  She had a compass but didn’t know how to use it. A compass is not an ornament.  If you put it in your pack, at least know the basics of how to use it.

In my opinion, the best way to operate in the wild is to use your GPS as primary navigator with a map and compass as backup.  This accomplishes two things.

  1.  You’ll learn map and compass reading almost as well as how to use a GPS.
  2.  If your GPS fails for whatever reason, you’ll know where you are and how to get out safely.

Use a Bailout Azimuth

I coined the term Bailout Azimuth. If you’re lost and can’t go point to point, you can at least follow your compass until you hit a road, stream, river, or landmark.  Refer to the map on Geraldine Largay. Look carefully at where her remains were found and then look where the Appalachian Trail is.  A little common sense and some very basic map reading skills could have saved this woman’s life, but she chose to walk north looking for a cell phone signal instead of following her compass south back to the trail.  I’ve been in this part of the Maine woods before and it would be quite easy to walk off the trail and get lost.  That’s why a compass is a critical piece of equipment.

Related: GizzMoVest GPS Cases 

In this case, she moved north of the trail.  The moment she discovered she was lost, she should have pulled out her map and compass.  She would have seen that she was hiking east on that particular piece of trail. With a little study, she would have found that moving south or east would bring her back to the trail.  Instead she made a fatal error and moved north.  This really breaks my heart because a small amount of time spent at a compass class could have saved her life.

There are many stories where a GPS led people off road in their vehicles and they wound up stranded in the wilderness.  Sometimes they get rescued, sometimes they don’t.  Don’t be a statistic, folks.  Learn how to read a map and compass and be a survivor.  That’s why you’re here isn’t it?  To learn how to survive?  Trust me, if there’s one skill you can learn that trumps everything else, it’s how to navigate in the wilderness with a map and compass.


Use your GPS!  Like I said, I love mine; however, I try to be critical of it when traveling because it’s not always 100% accurate.

Here’s a little challenge for you.  The next time you decide to go on a trip take out a map and plot it by hand to see if you remember how.  I’ll bet when you look at the route you selected and where your GPS wants to take you, you’ll be thinking, “Why the hell is it taking me that way?” Questions?  Comments?  Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Jarhead Survivor

Interested in writing for us? Send a sample of your work and an introductory statement to joel@survivalcache.com. Please use subject line: ‘Write for SurvivalCache/SHTFBlog’. If you’re a good fit, we’ll publish your work and compensate you accordingly.

Snow Shoes: A Survival Necessity In Deep Snow

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article_snowshoes_1It’s almost time for winter here in the Northeast.  That means lots of fun outdoor activities, but one of the easiest is snow shoeing. If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend that you at least try it. It’s a great way to learn how difficult snow can be to navigate. When I was in New Brunswick, Canada last season,  I had the opportunity to visit my uncle’s tipi.  It’s about a mile out in the woods and there was three feet of snow on the ground. In some higher drift areas, the height of snow exceeded this. From time to time, we will get similar amounts of snow here in Maine.

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

I snowshoe’d out there, shoveled it out, then decided to get some wood for a fire.  I figured I’d try doing it without my snow shoes which turned into a forced march of less than a 100 yards.  It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve been in deep snow you’ll know what I’m talking about.  It’s hard to move around in deep snow.  Anyway, I went back with my armload of wood and returned wearing my snow shoes.

History and Features of Snowshoes

Snowshoes have been in use for over 4,000 years.  Ancient peoples used different kinds but our contemporary snowshoes originate from Native Americans. Older American webbed snowshoes were made from wood with gut and/or leather to form the webbing and bindings.  Modern snowshoes are made from metal and other synthetic materials.

snowshoes_traditional_survivalIn years past I’ve used beaver tail and bear paw snowshoes.  I also used a pair made by one of my uncles that were long and thin – almost like a ski, but wider, which worked awesome on open snow.  Beaver tails (my dad still uses them) are a generic snowshoe that work well in most places.  I found the bear paws, which are a little smaller and rounder, to be good in tight quarters such as bushwhacking, but not as good as the beaver tails on open trail.  With this being said, you could adequately use either type for any scenario. In fact, I preferred the bear paws my dad gave me until I bought the more modern Yukon Jack shoes.

Modern snowshoes are nice and have neat features that help in different environments.  First, modern bindings are superior to older ones.  Instead of a buckle and leather, they are made out of synthetics and easily snap into place.  I’ve froze my fingers off many times trying get old bindings tight.  Believe me, it is a relief to use more convenient, modern bindings.

Another great feature of modern snowshoes is the cleat that sits under your foot.  This is really handy if you’re climbing a hill and need traction on hard snow or ice.  I have crampons I wear for ice climbing, but snowshoes are better for overall snow travel.

There are many kinds of snowshoes on the market today. If you’re in the market for snowshoes, I’d suggest you talk to knowledgeable friends or a store expert.  Some of them are really expensive, but my Yukon snowshoes cost about $80 and have lasted me ten years with no problems.  I’ve hiked many mountains and forests with them and they are still in great shape.  Find a pair that works for you and your situation.

Snowshoe Accessories

article_snowshoes_2Most people use gaiters that keep snow out of boots as they walk through deep snow. Gaiters are pieces of fabric and velcro secured under knee to the boot. Some folks like to use ski-poles.  I now use a ski pole because there are situations where you’ll fall over without a little assistance.  I like to have at least one hand free when walking to move bushes aside, pick stuff up, or what have you, so this was a good compromise for me.  It’s like everything else, find what works for you and run with it.

Earlier this season I was walking through a frozen swamp.  If you think walking through a swamp with alders is difficult, you should try it in the winter when all the trees are bent over from the weight of the snow.  At one point I walked over a fallen tree to try and get past a particularly nasty deadfall.  When I got to the other side, I fell off the tree and landed in a five foot snow drift.  Luckily I had my ski pole with me, but I bent it all to hell using it to get out of that mess.  Without it, I’d have worked much harder to escape from the drift.

Winter boots are pretty much up to you, but I prefer to wear a technical ice climbing boot when I’m doing winter activities.  These boots are usually more expensive. While these are expensive, I get a great amount of use from them. For the record, I have an older pair of Scarpas and love them.

Snowshoeing is Tough

snowshoeing_tough_physicalIn the early part of the snowshoeing season, I get leg cramps at night. Following some of these early expeditions, I’ve jumped out of bed gritting my teeth and massaging my thigh. After a couple times out, I adjust. I suggest you start going slow and walking short distances. Be patient; you’ll get the feel for it.  Once your body adapts, you’ll be good to go.  Even though snowshoes expedite travel over snow, you’ll need be in great shape.  Snowshoeing is damned hard work.  It is especially difficult if you’re wearing a pack, pulling a sled, breaking trail, or heaven forbid, doing all three at once.

When you go out there be prepared to have fun and work hard. Anybody else out there enjoy snowshoeing? Question?  Comments?  Sound off below!

Photos Courtesy of:

Dave Ruben Photo 
Brigitte Malessa

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Ten Ways To Survive the Winter Cold

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winter_river_snowIt’s getting to be that time of year again and winter is nearly upon us. You know what that means,  snow. If you live in the northeast, you’ve seen your fair share of it.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the cold and snow and thought I’d pass on a few things I’ve learned and seen over the years.  Playing outside in a good winter snow is awesome.  I love snowshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating, snow mobiling, winter camping, and just about anything that can be done outside in the winter.  I’ve never understood folks who go inside at the first snow fall and stay there until spring. Why huddle under a blanket or camp out next to the wood stove when there’s so much to do outside!

By Jarhead Survivor, a Contributing Author of SurvivalCache and SHTFBlog

Armed with years of experience in hostile winter conditions, I’ve prepared an informative list. If you’ve read this list and followed it, you’ll be better prepared than most individuals.

1.  Dress for Winter

thick_snow_heavyThere’s a couple of ways you can be prepared for winter that will allow you to enjoy it.  This first one may be a little obvious, but in order to stay warm you’ve got to dress for it.  There’s a few guidelines for dressing for winter and the first one is to dress in layers.  Try to dress in synthetics as much as possible, but wool is also a good material to wear.  A good pair of winter boots to keep your feet warm will make your life a lot better as well.  There are thousands of winter boots out there, but I’d suggest something thick and durable.  I wear technical ice climbing boots and gaiters for just about everything, but I figure most people won’t want to pay $500 for a pair of boots.  Shop around and find yourself something comfortable.  You don’t want your gloves to be skin tight.  In order to provide warmth they need to be a little loose.  If your hands start to sweat take them out of the gloves if feasible.  If it’s below zero you probably won’t be able to, but wet gloves suck when it gets cold.

A good coat will consist of a shell and inner liner.  If I’m working hard snowshoeing, I’ll take the outer layer off and put it back on when I’m no longer working. If the temps are in the 20’s or 30’s, it’s not that big a deal unless the wind is blowing. When the temps dip below zero, you have to pay special attention to how you dress and how much you sweat.  Sweat can kill you in cold weather. Be prepared to change your clothes if necessary. I usually carry an extra set of long johns in my pack, so if I sweat I can change into something dry when I stop moving.

2. Bring Snowshoes and Skis  

If you’re going out in deep snow, the only way to move around is with snowshoes or skis.  Deep snow is very hard to navigate. If you’re on foot, your lack of mobility could kill you.

3.  Stay Hydrated  

If you’re moving outside during the winter, you’re dehydrating at a summer rate.  Be wary however, your thirst reflex kicks off in cold weather.  Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  If you’re hiking, keep that canteen handy and take a swig from time to time.  A good way to monitor hydration levels is to check your urine colors.  If it’s yellow, you’re getting dehydrated.  The darker the yellow, the more critical it is for you to drink.

4.  Don’t Underestimate the Environment 

winter_hike_survival_prepI’ve met people hiking in the winter with light clothes, no packs, and no clue.  I actually had one guy ask, “Do you know how to get out of here?”  We were hiking some back mountain trails and he and his son were completely lost.  They had no maps, no compass, no pack,  and no chance at survival if conditions deteriorated.  If you do go for a hike, make sure you’re able to take care of  yourself in a worst case scenario.  It’s better to carry those fifteen pounds of extra gear just in case.

5.  Know How to Start a Fire in the Cold and Snow 

With fire and shelter, you can survive adverse conditions. Starting fires is a skill that takes practice.  When you can light a fire with a lighter, begin using matches.  When you’re proficient with a match, use a firesteel.  Once you’ve mastered the fire steel, try making a bow drill.  When you can light a fire with a fire steel or bow drill, using a lighter almost feels like cheating.  Practice!

6.  Don’t Overestimate Your Skill 

snow_fire_survivalIf you’re an expert at desert survival, understand that doesn’t mean jack shit when the temp falls to -20 and you’re faced with three feet of snow.  I camp out year round and try different things to see how I’d make out in an emergency.  Last weekend (mid-November 2016) I spent the night in my tipi.  The temps were in the high 30s and I decided to sleep with just a couple of blankets to see how I’d make out.  I damned near froze my ass off because I wiggled off my sleeping mat during the night and the ground was leaching the heat out of me.  Make sure you understand all the nuances of how cold weather can impact you.

7.  Know How to Use Your Gear  

Whatever gear you decide to carry, you must know it like the back of your hand.  How will your stove fuel behave in cold weather?  Did you know that your Jetboil needs a special mix of fuel in the winter in order to work properly?  Same thing is true with Bic lighters.  If you do get a flame in really cold weather, it’s puny.  Test the integrity of your gear. When your life is on the line, you don’t want your equipment to fail.

8. Take a Map and Compass and Know How to Use Them

Terrain looks different in the winter.   I’ve hiked trails in the summer and when I went back to that same trail in the winter I had a hard time finding my way.  Why?  When it snows, it bends the trees over and they have a tendency to cover the trail.

9.  Know How to Build a Shelter 

In order to prepare a camping spot, pack down the area with your snowshoes. Let it set a half hour or longer and you can make blocks for an igloo.  Did I mention deep snow is hard to move around in?  You can either dig a snow cave or make an igloo out of blocks that you cut from the snow.  Keep your shelter small and tight and it will retain heat better.  You’ll find that snow is a remarkably good insulator!

10.  Be Physically Fit.  

There’s a lot of heart attacks from older and middle aged men who live a sedentary lifestyle after a big snow storm.  Snow can be quite heavy and the physical exertion of managing this snow can kill.  Keep yourself physically fit and it won’t be an issue.

There are many factors to keep in mind when you’re outside in the winter, but if you dress warm and use common sense you can have a great time.  Instead of saying, “Oh damn, winter’s almost here,” you can now say, “Alright!  Winter is almost here!”

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor

Photos Courtesy of:

Mont Blanc Treks
Christophe Brutel 
Kendall Whitehouse
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How To Make A Swedish Torch

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Ever wanted to know how to take one piece of firewood and turn it into a stove/torch?  Wonder no more.  This is an introduction to the Swedish torch.  As with anything there’s a dozen ways you can use this concept; from taking your chainsaw and cutting a pile of notches in a log for a long burn to doing it how I did it here, by taking a small chunk of firewood and splitting and cutting it into smaller pieces with my survival knife.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author at SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

Check out the Swedish Torch video:

The Steps

First you need a chunk of wood.  In this example I used a 3 inch thick piece and about 14 inches long just to see how it would work.swedish torch  I wanted to make sure it would light easy, so I used a dry piece of fir tree that had been standing dead for a long time.  I split the wood using my TOPS Survival Knife then whittled the inside down a little to make a chimney.  Once the wood was split I whittled about an inch or so out of the four quarters before putting them back together again.  I also cut a notch into the wood that would be the place where I lit the fire about two or three inches up from the bottom.  I also had an old wire coat hanger I used to tie it together at the bottom of the log.  What I did there was wrap the wire around the bottom of the wood and then used my multi-tool to tighten it up so it wouldn’t fall apart after it started burning.

Lighting the Torch

Now I had a stick of firewood that had been split, hollowed out, had a hole carved in the side, then wired back together again.  I swedish torch front viewgathered the driest smallest sticks I could find, which typically come from the dead branches of a fir or pine tree.  I broke these little twigs into even smaller pieces and stuffed them down the “chimney” hole from the top.  Don’t stuff too much wood down or it will block the flames and you won’t get a fire.  If this happens simply pull some of the wood out and try again.  Next I lit a piece of birch bark and put it into the side hole (the fire place – if you will) then let it burn up and into the dry twigs I’d stuffed  into the top.  I wound up blowing on the fire for awhile and for awhile I didn’t think anything was going to happen.

Related: Make A Fire With A Bow Drill

It actually felt similar to blowing on a “bird nest” when you’re trying to light a fire with a coal made from a bow drill.  At first nothing happens, then bam!  There’s a beautiful flame burning.  The top of the torch lit like it was supposed to and burned reasonably even from the top down.  Nothing in nature is ever perfect, but I was really pleased with how it performed.


This particular Swedish Torch lasted maybe a half hour or so.  If I’d made the log bigger it would have lasted a lot longer, but since swedish torch top viewthis was just a test I was happy with the way that it went.  The Swedish torch isn’t really meant to be a torch.  It’s not like in the movies where the hero walks into the cave and grabs a torch covered with cobwebs that’s obviously been there for fifty years, then lights it and it burns like the sun for three hours while they explore the darkest reaches of the cave.  Could it be used as a torch if you wanted to walk through the woods?

Also Read: How To Make Your Fire Last All Night

You could probably get away with a few minutes of walking through the forest or a dark cave with it, but I wouldn’t want to depend on it for any length of time.  I’m not sure how it would perform being moved around when it’s really meant to be a stationary fire.  Would I do it if I had to?  Hell yeah!  You can always make something that is adaptable, so always try and look for more uses for something if possible.

Make It Into a Stove

I was also able to take my canteen cup and put it on top of the log in such a way that when it burned it was heating water.  It didn’t swedish torch boiling water in a pottake too long for it boil a cup of water, maybe seven or eight minutes, which is totally acceptable in the bush.The next time I make one of these torches I’m going to cut a notch in the top in such a way that it will hold the pot and still be able to burn freely at the same time.  I left it flat on top and it burned ok, but I had to offset it so that it didn’t smother the fire.

Overall Impressions

I liked the Swedish Torch for several reasons.  First, it’s economical.  It doesn’t swedish torch burning outtake a lot of wood to keep a small fire going for a reasonable amount of time.  It’s not going to throw a lot of heat, but you’ll be able to warm your hands over it with no problem.  It’s a great way to throw light if you don’t have a candle, lantern, or flashlight, or if you just want to use it for atmosphere sitting next to your fire pit.  You can heat water on it without having to make a bigger fire.  Of course the downside to it is there’s some work on the front end to fashion it and get it lit.  If I were to spend a night out without man made light, I’d probably make four or five of these and have them laying around.

Questions?  Comments
Sound off below!
Jarhead Survivor

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Our Growing Dependence On Electronics

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Pokemon Go Survival Tips

If you’ve been to a shopping center or a mall lately you’ve probably noticed how many people these days are totally plugged Pokemon Go Survival Tipsinto their phones or other electronic gadgets.  It is even worse today now that the Pokemon Go craze has hit the world like a tidal wave.  I was in the big city of Augusta, Maine recently, which isn’t that big, and was reminded of how many people are constantly plugged into their toys.  Kids, young adults, and increasingly even the Baby Boomers are getting attached to their phones.

By Jarhead Survivor

cell phone

Wicked “Smaht” Phone

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smart phone too or “wicked smaht phone” as we say here in Maine.  It has my calendar, social media, weather, Google, and all the awesome things that make this day and age so damned busy.  Over the last year I’ve found myself with my face in its screen more and more.  Facebook, Messenger (that insidious Facebook messaging app,) and Snapchat.  What I found was that my ability to concentrate was going to hell because of all the instant gratification I was giving myself.  I’d be working on something, Messenger would ding, and I’d immediately pick it up to see who was saying what.  We have a group of people that all hang out together and when we can’t get together we go back and forth on Messenger.

Over the last couple of weeks I haven’t looked at Messenger or Facebook at all.  I uninstalled Snapchat.  Oddly enough I don’t feel as driven up as I used to.  Once I turned off the dinging sound and stopped other notifications coming in it was like someone gave me an extra hour or two every day for other things – like writing this blog post.  Not to mention my stress level dropped to what I would consider “normal” levels with our current crazy lives.

Also Read: Death By GPS

Have I given up using my cell phone for everything?  Not when it comes to education or listening to music.  I like the ability to read anywhere with the Kindle app.  I love listening to podcasts on my ride to and from work, so there’s an hour a day of otherwise idle time that I’m learning something.  Awesome!  I also have a pretty good library of music I listen to – everything from Classical to Rap.  (But I still mostly listen to Pink Floyd.)

The difference is that I’m back in charge of my phone instead of it being in charge of me.  With no dings or beeps coming from it every five minutes or less I no longer have the Pavlovian reflex to drop whatever I’m doing and see who’s doing what.  Now, you’re only as connected as you allow yourself to be, of course.  The choice is totally up to you.pen and notebook


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” Henry David Thoreau

As you can see disconnecting from civilization is hardly a new concept.  Thoreau talked about it back in the 1800′s and I’d be willing to bet many people in a changing society often looked to the wilderness with longing in their hearts with the desire to slip the constraints of civilization.

I’ve tried to have conversations with folks when their text alert was going off constantly, their email was dinging, and Facebook was chirping telling them there’s a vital comment on their latest humorous post that needs liking.  To say it’s frustrating is an understatement and I’m sure you’ve all had that same experience.

Related: Setting Up A Back Up Generator

I usually go out in the woods at least once a week and that’s a perfect time for me to unplug.  It’s nice to put the phone down and just listen to the wind blowing through the trees.  My young kids – four and seven – like to come out with me and they climb trees, play with sticks, dig around in the dirt, ask if they can play with the fire and generally do what kids are supposed to do in nature.  It’s awesome.laptop

If you haven’t done it lately give it a try.  Head out to the woods, or park, or whatever you have available to you, turn your phone off, or better yet leave it at home, and connect with a family member or friend, or just sit there and listen to the wind blow or the rain fall.  It’s a great experience and I think it’s something we all need from time to time.

Situational Awareness

People love their earbuds.  And truth be told if you want to listen to loud music I’d just as soon you put in your earbuds and listen to it that way; however, when you do you take away your ability to hear what’s going on around you effectively cutting your situational awareness down to nothing.  If you listen to loud music and read Facebook (or whatever social media you’re into) at the same time you’ve effectively turned into a zombie shambling down the side of the road without the ability to see or hear.  Have you ever seen people walking down the side of the road with their backs to traffic and plugged in so that they can’t hear that trailer-truck sneaking up behind them?

Also Read: DIY Solar USB Charger

The other day I listened to a podcast about visual intelligence where Amy Herman discussed this very topic.  (Listen to the podcast here.)  She told a story about how she was waiting to get on the subway and a man who had obvious mental problems was walking up and down the platform talking to himself.  Then he took out a knife and cut himself before going back to having his one way conversation.  Meanwhile people stood around plugged into their phones not realizing the potential danger literally right next to them.  When the train pulled up they all got on the same car together oblivious of the threat boarding with them.  She walked down to the other end of the train and avoided what might have been a bad situation.

If you do feel the need to plug in to your phone, instead of using the two earbuds and blasting at full power I would suggest using a Bluetooth ear piece instead.  These little guys fit in your ear leaving one ear free to hear what’s going on around you.  They don’t have the cable either so you can leave it holstered on your hip, or stored in your purse or backpack, so that if danger does appear suddenly you have both hands free to react without fear of dropping your phone or having your hands tied up.  Listen at a reasonable volume and you’ll still be aware of what’s going on around you (although still somewhat diminished) and you’ll be able to hear and assess danger in your environment.  Cheap bluetooth earbuds start at around $25 and are well worth the investment.  bluetooth earbud

The Dark Side

Another facet of using a Smartphone is that you no longer have any privacy.  Guess what?  When you use Facebook and the GPS to post a selfie of you drinking a beer at the local watering hole some people see it don’t think it’s anywhere near as cool as you do.  I’ve read stories where people posted pictures or videos of themselves driving drunk and got busted because their friends reported it.  Now that’s just plain stupid, both the drunk driving and the posting of it.

Other than stripping away your own privacy the government also has the ability to track every movement you make.  I’m not saying they do… but I’m not saying they don’t either.  I don’t want to launch into a long paranoid discourse of how “Big Brother” is reading every text you send, checking out the movies you’re watching, or listening to your phone conversations, but they certainly could if they wanted to.

Ever hear of someone getting lost in the woods and they find them by pinging their cell phone.  It ain’t that hard to do folks.  Even if your phone is turned off it will still return a signal, so don’t think by turning off your phone you’re slipping off the grid.  The ability to spy on smartphone communications is too shiny a toy for many folks in law enforcement to resist.  Now someone will say, “Aww, Jarhead, you’re just being paranoid, dude!  People can’t do that sci-fi stuff!”

Ever heard of Stingray?  That’s the code name for a secret technology used by police to trick your cell phone into thinking it’s connecting to a legitimate cell tower, when in fact it’s really a device being used by the police.  Check out this story of how a guy named Rigmaiden discovered it and exposed it (click here).

What Happens After TEOTWAWKI?

All this talk of unplugging from the matrix is great, but what happens when TSHTF?  As you know it wouldn’t take much to turn that communications device into a piece of plastic and dead electronic chips.microsoft surface keyboard

Increasingly, we are using our smart phones for more than just simple communications.  We bank with them, shop with them, learn on them, get entertainment from them, rely on them for navigation, get our news from them, keep our schedules on them, and so on.  I’ve come to rely on my phone for many things, but I always try to keep paper backups or local copies of the important stuff.

Now imagine if all of a sudden there were no more electronics.  Let’s say North Korea hit us with a few nuclear airbursts and destroyed 80% of our electronic grid with a well timed EMP burst.  First of all, our entire culture is now run with computers.  Nearly every facet of your day to day life relies on a computer chip of some kind.  Everything from turning on your stove to starting your car requires a computer of some sort today.  All of a sudden our whole society is brought to its knees with a few well timed nukes.

If you’ve seen the movie “American Blackout” or read the book “Lights Out” by Ted Koppel, you can get a good idea of what we could expect with a grid down scenario.  The scary thing is that I’m not sure they went deep enough into what might actually happen.  Second of all,  a good percentage of our population has come to rely heavily on these devices and will now have to turn elsewhere for their information, communication, and entertainment.  Initially we’ll all have to find ways to cope without our electronic nanny attached to our belts.

How to Prepare

Other than doing what we’re doing, which is prepping for an event like this, there’s not much we can do about the first scenario.  Most scenarios we prepare for all have to do with the grid going down.  Hunker down, protect yourself and your family, and ride it out is about the best we can do.

The second scenario – the one where everybody is going through phone withdrawal and trying to figure out how to operate in a society without instant communication and gratification -will be a different kind of hardship. Luckily we can prepare for that one a little better simply by unplugging once in awhile. I like to play guitar, draw, read books, and play with my kids as well as practice my wilderness skills.  It would suck without the electronics, but I’d get used to it fast enough.  After all, I lived through the 80’s when there were no cellular gadgets or personal computers.

Also Read: Off Grid Mobile Phone

Now, it’s true I’m painting this picture with a broad brush and a good many people out there aren’t dependent on a cell phone.   But in the developed countries it’s unusual for people *not* to have a smartphone these days.windows logo

Again, I’m not bashing people who own a phone or tablet, but I am suggesting you take a little time now and then to explore nature the way it was meant to be experienced.  Let your kids go out and get dirty.  Take them into the woods and let them see spiders, and trees, and all that nature has to offer.  My two kids love being outside.  I even take them out in the winter on showshoes.  If you’ve never seen a four year old on shoeshoes I invite you into the forest with us next year when we have three feet of snow on the ground again.  It’s awesome to see and my seven year old is like an old pro on them.  So the question is are you prepared to unplug?  Try it for a day and see how it feels.

Photos by:
Pokemon Go

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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10 Tips For When You Get Lost In the Woods

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Best Bushcraft Survival Tips

In July of 2013 Geraldine Largay was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine by herself after her partner had to leave because of a family emergency.  She was 66 years old and had a poor sense of direction and when she went off trail to use the bathroom she got lost and couldn’t find her way back.  She tried to send a text using her cell phone, but there was no signal.  Her remains were found two years later by a surveyor about two miles off the trail.  Her journal is now shedding light on what happened.  You can read her story here.  This is one of those stories that eats me up, because with just a little training it could have been avoided.

By Jarhead Survivor

The Maine Woods

The North Maine woods as seen from Mt Katahdin

The North Maine woods as seen from Mt Katahdin

If you’re wondering how someone could walk a few steps off the trail and get completely lost allow me to offer an explanation. The northern Maine wilderness isn’t like the lovely forests that Thoreau wrote about in Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts.  Those woods are thick and dark and beautiful and you must be on your guard because they are unforgiving of mistakes.  The trees grow close together and walking through them can be like pushing through a rack of clothing at a department store where it’s so tight you literally have to put your head down and bull your way through to make progress.  On several occasions I’ve walked through the woods around my house within feet of a trail and never saw it because of how dense the forest can be.

It would be easy to walk a little ways off the trail out of modesty to get out of sight of someone walking the trail behind you and then get turned around.  You start walking in the direction you think the trail was, but you don’t see it.  Second guessing yourself you turn back and walk a ways in the other direction.  At first you’re a little nervous and feeling sheepish that you can’t find the stupid trail, then eventually you start to panic because you know you’ve walked three or four times the distance you walked in and now you know you’re lost.  The trail could be five feet away at this point and it would easy to miss.

I know what it’s like to be in trouble in the area Geraldine was hiking in.  As a matter of fact I broke my ankle on the trail in the 100 Mile Wilderness not too far from where she got lost.  You can read part one and part two of that story if you’re interested.  I too ran into the problem of not having cell phone coverage, but I wasn’t really surprised by this fact as we’d had limited coverage during most of the hike.

So what do you do if you get lost?  Since she had a full pack lets assume that we have food for a few days and full equipment for a long term backpacking trip.  This sets us up pretty good for survival.

Wilderness Survival Tips

Typical forest in Maine.

Typical forest in Maine.

1. STOP!

This is an acronym for Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan.

Stop:  Stop moving.  There’s a good chance that you’re feeling panic right after you first figure out that you’re lost.  The urge is to run and find the trail.  Don’t do it.  Chances are good you’ll get even more lost or hurt yourself as you go flailing through the woods.

Think:  Get your head going.  Let the panic go.  Once you start thinking you can:

Observe:  Look around you.  What can you see or hear?  At this point hopefully you haven’t gone dashing through the woods looking for the trail.  If so you’re probably still within sight or at least hearing distance of it even though you can’t see it.  Take out a whistle and blow it sharply three times or yell every thirty seconds or so.  Keep an eye out for people hiking.  Listen for people hiking.

Plan:  What’s your best course of action?  Do you have a compass with you?  Do you know how to read it? How much food and water do you have?  Do you know where north is?  Do you have a tent and sleeping bag?

2. Don’t trust electronics to save your life

Too many people today enter the wilds of America with the assurance that their cell phone, or GPS, or whatever will save them if they get in trouble.  The truth is that if you trust your life to a piece of gear that runs on a battery or can die if it gets wet, then you are putting yourself in mortal danger without realizing it.  In the woods here in Maine a cell phone signal is a luxury and there are no stores to replace batteries that have died.  Take one with you for sure, but don’t pull it out expecting it to save your life.  That way if it doesn’t work you won’t be disappointed.

3. Know how to use your gear

One of the saddest things about Geraldine’s situation is that she had a compass in her pack, but she didn’t know how to use it.  If she could have spent an hour with me I could have showed her the basics of land navigation and she wouldn’t be dead right now.  If you put a piece of gear in your pack know how to use it.  A compass is not an ornament and when navigating from point to point it can save your life, but you must know how to use it.

4. Always have an emergency azimuth

compass, direction, bearing, azimuth, hiking

Taking a compass bearing or azimuth in the wilderness.

Before going on a hike anywhere, you need to look at a map of the area where you’ll be operating in.  Usually there will be a road, or a river, or some kind of land feature that will act as a handrail for where you’re hiking.  For example, if you’re hiking a trail and there’s a road that parallels the trail five miles to the south, then south is your emergency azimuth.

Related: How To Use An Emergency Azimuth

If you wander off the trail, set 180 degrees on your compass and follow it until you hit the road.  It might be a long five miles bushwhacking through dense forest, but if you follow the azimuth (or direction) you will eventually run into the road.

5. Always know where you are

As you move along the trail make sure you know where you are on the map.  If you cross a stream or river find it on the map and you’ll know exactly where you are.  If you’re hiking east and walk off the trail to your left what direction is that?  If you said north then you’re well on your way to surviving.  Let’s say you walk left (or north) far enough and lose sight of the trail and you want to find it again.  Which direction would you follow on your compass to get back to the trail?  If you said south congratulations, because you’ll find your way back to the trail and instead of it becoming a deadly situation this incident will just be a little blip on your day.

 6. Leave a detailed hiking plan with someone

If there’s any one thing I’m guilty of not doing this is the one.  Quite often I won’t hike a trail, but set out to bushwhack to a new place.  Instead of saying, “I’m going to hike the trail up Ragged Mountain,” I’m more likely to say, “I’m going to follow an azimuth of 277 degrees magnetic until I get to the rockfall at the base of the mountain, then I’m going to hike 256 degrees to summit,” if I say anything at all.  I pledge to be better in the future about leaving a detailed hiking plan with my wife before heading out.  Either way, at least make sure someone has an idea of what general area you’ll be, because if you get hurt or lost they’ll have no idea where you are.

7. If you’re lost, make camp

winter camping

Jarhead Survivor on a winter campout.

This will prevent you from becoming even more lost.  Geraldine was two miles off the trail, but in those woods it might as well have been 200.  As soon as you figure out you’re lost, stop moving.  Set up your tent and make yourself comfortable.

8. Signal

Start a fire in a clearing.  Start it using dry wood then add leaves or green wood or whatever you can to make it smoke.  The more smoke the better.  Use a whistle to blow three sharp blasts from time to time.  The louder the better.  If you have a mirror use it signal aircraft that might be looking for you.  Set up a bright colored poncho or one of those reflective emergency blankets in a clearing.  Anything you can do to draw attention to yourself is good.

9. Remember the Survival Rule of 3′s

You can survive:
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food

These aren’t actual rules of course, but guidelines to help you organize your activities should you get lost.  Thus, shelter is more important than food using this model.  If you have a tent and sleeping bag, then you can move quickly along the priority list to water.  Once you have a water source then you can start thinking about food.

10.  Evaluate your situation and make a decision based on your facts. camp fire pit

If after three days I haven’t been found or haven’t seen any sign of activity like a helicopter circling around looking I will probably try and self rescue, but that’s based on the fact that I’ve done a lot of wilderness survival, land navigation, backwoods hiking and camping, and have tons of experience.  If you’re from the city and all you have is a couple of classes and a few hikes along well beaten trails under your belt, then you might want to sit tight.  Carefully evaluate your situation.  Ask yourself, “Does anybody know where I’m hiking?”  If the answer is yes then you might want to stay put.

If the answer is no, then perhaps you’ll want to start moving.  It’s hard to give a definitive answer because everybody’s situation is different.  I probably would have advised Geraldine to sit tight because her husband had a good idea of where she was hiking and he would be able to alert the authorities to her general area.  Unfortunately, she moved further off the trail looking for a cell phone signal and made it impossible for rescuers to find her.

Also Read: Maine Primitive Skills School Review

Each survival situation is different.  The actual key here is to be as prepared as possible for any situation while out hiking.  Other tips might be don’t hike alone if you’re a novice, carry a good first aid kit, and on and on.  There are many things you need to take into consideration when going on a hike like the Appalachian trail and the more research you do and the more experience you gain the better off you’re going to be.  I’ll leave you with this advice.  Even though I’ve said it before it’s worth saying again:  learn how to read a map and compass and if you put something in your pack know how to use it.  It could save your life.

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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2 Types Of Military Sleeping Bags To Use On Your Bug Out

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Best Military Sleeping Bag

military sleep system - intermediate - patrol - bivy

This picture shows the bivy, the intermediate bag, and the patrol bag.

I love military gear.  Some people hate it for various reasons, but to me this gear has proven itself on the battlefield.  It’s constantly evolving and being updated as technology changes, but it’s always being put to the test.  Another good reason is that you can usually get it relatively cheap after it’s been used at Army/Nave stores or other discount stores.

Today we’re going to talk about sleeping bags.  There are thousands of sleeping bags on the market and it can be a tough decision to try and figure out which one you should use if you have to bug-out.  Sleeping bags tend to be expensive as well and who wants to spend $300 on a new sleeping bag that’s going to live in a bug-out bag and see the light of day once a year when you go in to check the gear?  Leaving a newer sleeping bag compressed will eventually cause it to lose it’s loft ending the usefulness of the bag.

By Jarhead Survivor

There are a couple of types of military sleeping bags I’d like to compare and contrast today.

Old School

First, let’s go back to the ’80s when I was in the Marine Corps as a fresh faced youth.  The bags we used back then were much heavier than the ones used today.  I usually rolled mine up and tied it to the outside of my ALICE pack and carried it around that way if we were going to be marching.  I spent a lot of time in artillery, so luckily we could just throw our bags on the back of the 5 ton trucks when we were moving around.

tennier military sleep system - bivy - intermediate - patrol - compression sack

This is the Tennier System (4-Part). The fourth part is the compression sack in this picture.

The standard bag back then was the Bag, Sleeping, Intermediate Cold Weather (ICW) and its Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) cousin.  I spent hundreds of nights in both of these bags and never got cold.  The ICW bag weighed about 7 1/2 pounds and surprisingly, so did the Extreme Cold Weather; however, the ECW bag also came with a liner for really cold temps and that added some to the weight.  I slept many nights at -40 degrees Fahrenheit and never felt unduly cold in the ECW bag.  Most of my nights in the ICW bag never really fell below freezing and I never felt cold in it either.

Related: M1951 Fishtail Parka Review

These are mummy type bags with drawstrings that you can use to pull the hood of the sleeping bag tight around your head in cold weather.  One of the things they told us to avoid was sleeping with your head down inside the bag.  This puts a lot of moisture inside, which can cause you to get cold.  However, I did this many times without getting cold, so I leave it up to you try it for yourself.  When the temperature is below zero your natural tendency is curl into a ball and try and get your head as far from the biting cold as you can.  Some people wore a balaclava and others, like me, wore the wool watch cap to bed.  They also advise sleeping with the parka mits over your feet to help keep them warm.  Although I never did this it makes sense if your feet get cold.

One night I was camping with my dad just off a frozen lake here in Maine.  The wind was howling and the ambient air temp stood at -20.  He couldn’t believe it when I stripped down to my undershorts, t-shirt, and wool socks and climbed into my ECW bag.  I was shocked to see that he had brought a kids Charley Brown – type sleeping bag and froze his ass off all night.  I gave him my field jacket and some other stuff, but I could still hear his teeth chattering all night long.  It didn’t take him long to get himself a good warm bag after that night!

 The New Gear

comparison icw bag - tennier sleep system

Hilary models the ICW old style military sleeping bag. Next to her is the Tennier Systems (4-Part) sleep system

Now let’s talk about the more modern military gear.  The new Modular Sleep System (MSS) bags are made by Tennier Industries and come in four or five parts depending on the model you get and is rated between 50 and -50 degrees Fahrenheit.  There’s a lightweight patrol bag rated for between 30 and 50 degrees.  The Intermediate bag is rated for 30 degrees to -10.  There’s a compression bag you can get that’s a good modern day addition that will compress the MSS down to one cubic foot.  The one piece I really like is the bivy, which is basically a personal tent.  It’s water resistant and has a cover over the face I found useful in cold weather.

Like I mentioned earlier, you can separate these bags and use them independently or together.  I slept in the lightweight patrol bag in 40 degree weather and found I was a little cold though it’s rated between 30 and 50 degrees.  I’ve slept in the intermediate bag in 30 degree weather and was reasonably warm in it, but I wouldn’t want to try it in -10 degree weather by itself.

Also Read: SHTF Sleep Deprivation

If you combine all three components and you’re sleeping in your polypro underwear they say it’s good to about -50.  The coldest I’ve slept in the combined sleep system was around -10 and I was comfortable, although I wouldn’t want to attempt -50 in one of them.

One thing I had to learn was how to ventilate properly.  When I first got in the bag I zipped up all three components and was too warm.  So I unzipped the inside sleeping bag down to my belly button and cooled off until I was comfortable.  As it got colder I zipped the inner bag up a couple of inches at a time until I was in full mummy mode with the bivy closed and covering my face.  I liked this feature as it meant I could breathe outside the main bags without getting moisture down inside them.

Also Read: Mil Surplus Sleeping Bag Review

Over all this bag is much closer to the civilian bags on the market today.  They are far lighter than the older bags and more versatile; however, they are a little more expensive.  They also compress down nicely and can fit in your pack a little better, although I found that most quality civilian bags rated for the same temps will compress more and be a little lighter.

Tennier Sleep System and ICW bag side by side.

Tennier Sleep System and ICW bag side by side.  The Tennier bag is NOT compressed in this picture.

As mentioned earlier I like the bivy.  One thing I’ve done is take the bivy from one of my Tennier sleeping bags and put it in my Get Home Bag (GHB.)  By itself it doesn’t offer much in the way of insulation for warmth, but during the non-winter months it would be ideal for get home purposes.  Open it up, climb inside with your clothes on, and you basically have your own personal tent.  Put it on top of some pine or fir boughs, or a pile of leaves, and you’d even be comfortable while you grabbed a couple hours of tactical shut-eye.


When to Use These Sleeping Bags

So when is the best time to use these bags?  The older bags would be good:

When you’re on a budget
When you don’t expect to be carrying your bag anywhere
When you want to be sure you’ll be very warm
If you are dragging it on a sled

The newer sleep systems would be good:

When you expect to be hiking and need a lighter bag
If you have a little more money to throw at them
When compression is important to you (pack space)
When you need a bag you can split up for different purposes and climates

Overall they are all pretty good sleeping bags. I bought a pile of the newer ones at once and still have a few kicking around.   There’s a link on their site for a Retail Outlet and you can pick up individual gear there as opposed to bidding at Government Liquidation.  One thing you might try though:  if you have a few like-minded friends looking for pretty good sleeping bags or other military gear pool your funds and bid on a lot of sleeping bags.   Split the shipping costs and you might be able to pick up twelve to twenty sleeping bags for a few hundred bucks like I did.  I sold some of them, but kept four or five for family and friends and have loaned them out to friends several times when we went camping and our friends didn’t have any gear during a bug-out.  You might also need to loan to family during a bug-out.  Ya never know, folks.

If you have questions about bidding at Government Liquidation let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.  I spent a good deal of time on this site a couple of years ago and got a pretty good feel for it.

Questions?  Comments? Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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13 SHTF Tips For City Dwellers

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Best Urban Survival Tricks

13 SHTF Tips For City DwellersMost of you reading this are urban or city dwellers.  Stay with me for a minute while I set the stage.  Roughly 80% of the U.S. population is urban.  What exactly does urban mean though?  According to Wikipedia:  “An urban area is characterized by higher population density and vast human features in comparison to the areas surrounding it. Urban areas may be cities, towns or conurbations, but the term is not commonly extended to rural settlements such as villages and hamlets.” 

By Jarhead Survivor

This confused me a little until I thought about it.  I was expecting urban to mean the city, but here’s what Wikipedia had to say about that: “A metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as a metro area or metro, is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing.[1] A metropolitan area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, cities, exurbs, counties, districts, and even states. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions.[2] Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socio-economically tied to the urban core, typically measured by commuting patterns.[3]

I live on the outskirts of a small town in Maine, so I live in a rural area: “In general, a rural area is a geographic area that is located outside cities and towns.[1] The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the word “rural” as encompassing “…all population, housing, and territory not included within an urban area. Whatever is not urban is considered rural.”[2]  Typical rural areas have a low population density and small settlements. Agricultural areas are commonly rural, though so are others such as forests. Different countries have varying definitions of “rural” for statistical and administrative purposes.”

Still with me so far?  – More from Wikipedia “In the United States, there are two categories of urban area. The term urbanized area denotes an urban area of 50,000 or more people. Urban areas under 50,000 people are called urban clusters. Urbanized areas were first delineated in the United States in the 1950 census, while urban clusters were added in the 2000 census. There are 1,371 urban areas and urban clusters with more than 10,000 people.

Alright, alright already.  What does all of this actually mean?  Well, statistically speaking if you’re reading this there’s a good chance that you live in an urban or metro area,but what’s more important is how does this affect you?  Lets talk about some of the things that might happen during a breakdown of social services or a power outage.

What Will Happen In An Urban Area When TSHTF?

The first thing we all know is that if there’s a disaster of some kind and food deliveries can’t  make it into town the citizens have Best Urban Survival Planmere days before the shelves are cleared out.  A few years ago a water leak in Weston, Massachusetts caused 2 million citizens a lot of concern.  People were lined up for blocks to get bottled water.   They had electricity and running water – they simply had to boil it –  and there were still fist fights because people just weren’t prepared to spend a couple of days without clean water!  Imagine this same scenario, but on a much grander scale.  All of NYC for example, or maybe LA, or even a couple of states.  What kind of chaos do you think would ensue if a large city wasn’t able to feed its population or provide them with water?

Most people think that if something like this happened the government would take care of them in some way.  A friend of mine has a wife who works with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and I asked him what she thought would happen if we lost electricity in the entire state of Maine.  I wondered what kind of plan was in place for such an event.  He went home and asked her and she told him, “We don’t have a plan for anything of that magnitude.”  Her statement scared me.  Here in Maine we’re a pretty rugged bunch.  Many of us live in the country, we have wood stoves, are prepared for power outages from blizzards, etc, but I have a feeling that the more prepared among us wouldn’t last more than two weeks without starting to get desperate and many living in and around the cities up here much less than that.

There have been several large scale ice storms here in Maine over the years and during one of the last storms people were literally threatening line crews with guns to come over to their houses and get the power turned back on!  After just a week without electricity people had reached the stage where they couldn’t stand to be without it.

In Ted Koppel’sLight’s Out” he discusses what may happen if cyber terrorists knock out the grid leaving areas the size of states or Lights-Out-A-Cyberattack-A-Nation-Unprepared-Surviving-the-Aftermath-Survivaleven larger without electricity for weeks or even months or years at a time.  He paints a grim picture many of you are familiar with:  the power goes out and people switch to batteries and candles for light until they too run out. Their cell phones soon die and with no way to recharge them people who are used to communicating solely by smartphone are no longer plugged into the ‘net.  Food and water are soon gone from the supermarkets and city dwellers used to ordering out or grabbing something to eat on the way home are suddenly hungry.  Refrigeration goes and within a few days food is rotting in freezers and refrigerators.  A few people have generators, but this kind of electricity is dependent on gasoline and many gas stations don’t have generators to operate their pumps.  People dependent on drugs that require refrigeration or ventilators to stay alive start to die.  Commuters are trapped in elevators, tunnels, and as soon as they can’t fill up their vehicles there are vehicles running out of gas and leaving their cars or trucks wherever they stop.

Let me help put this in perspective.  Have you ever hosted a cookout or family meal for some friends and family?  My wife and I love to host parties here at my house a few times a year.  The first time we had a cookout she went out she bought a ton of food.  She also had some of the wives bring items like potato salad, chips, etc.  I stood at my grill flipping burgers, hotdogs, chicken, and kielbasa thinking there was no way that twenty or so adults and twenty plus kids were ever going to eat that much food.  Within an hour it was almost all gone.  That was just one party with a relatively small group of people.

Now imagine this on a large scale.  Try to imagine thousands of people milling around waiting for food to be air dropped or doled out by the government.  Or millions of hungry people scouring the city looking for food.  Would you stand a chance in that dog-eat-dog environment?  Are you elderly?  A pacifist?  Not physically fit enough to walk a few blocks?  Physically disabled without someone to care for you?  If so you’d better have something to bring to the table because it’s going to get very ugly out there.

Don’t Be A Refugee

Honey, it don’t make no difference to me baby
Everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (don’t have to live like a refugee)

Tom Petty

The last thing I’d want for my family is to be dependent on the government for the basic necessities of life.  Can you imagine what a refugee camp would look like made up of your neighbors?  Can you imagine what it would look like if the government was able to make a food delivery and sent a convoy of military vehicles into the middle of your city to dole out bags of rice, bottled water, and MRE’s to those lucky enough to be at the front of the line?  What if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to get food?  Would you be able to live long without it?  What if you did get food?  Are you strong enough to protect it from others who are just as desperate and want to take it from you?  Don’t think it would happen here in the United States?  Don’t forget the Weston, Mass. example above where there was fighting over bottled water that flew off the shelves when people already had water.  Again, they just needed to boil it.

According to some, cities would be the origin of the “golden horde.”  Once people figure out they won’t be able to survive there Urban Survival Planthey’ll head out into the country like a swarm of locusts, consuming as they go.  Whether or not that’s true is hard to predict and I suspect depends on the nature of the SHTF event.  If there’s a panic situation such as a fast moving pandemic and people are leaving ill prepared then this might be a viable scenario.  A long term power outage like the one Ted Koppel predicts could also trigger such a migration.

Many people operate under the delusion that they’d  bug-out to the woods and live off the land for until it all blows over.  With 80% of the people living in urban areas how many do you think have actual wilderness survival skills?  I’m pretty good in the woods.  I spend a lot of time there and I’ve done my share of camping, backwoods camping, hiking, mountaineering, survival training, etc, and I don’t think I could last more than a few weeks  – maybe a month, (comfortably) – without a source of food out there.  I’m guessing that people with no wilderness survival skills would last a lot less than that.  If they take off into the woods on a mass bug-out chances are you’ve got a few days until things get really uncomfortable.

So How Do I Survive?

There are multiple strategies you can and should leverage in order to survive.  Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

1.  If you’re a city dweller living in a small apartment your best bet is to have a bug-out location in mind.  A relative or friend’s place outside the city would be ideal.  It should be easy to get to and you need to have a plan in place on how to get there and when to leave.  Don’t wait for the riots and people walking the streets with guns before deciding to bug-out.  Instead, when you see trouble start to brew take a few days “vacation” from work and head out of the city to your bug-out location.  You might think you can’t do this due to your work or life situation; however, if this is something you are truly committed to you can make it happen.

2.  Put together a bug-out bag or Urban Survival Bag for you and your family members.  Test the gear and your ability to use it by going on a camping trip with only what you have in the bag.  I’ll say it again:  Test your gear!

3.  Form a survival group.  There is power in numbers.  Find other like minded individuals and form a plan on where to meet, what to do, when to leave, and whatever else you think needs to be planned out.

4.  Stock up on food, water, and weapons.  Check out the Church of Latter Day Saints food calculator to give yourself a head start.  It’s a basic looking calculator that gives an eye opening answer. Learn how to hunt, grow food and purify water.

lds calculator

Click the image to see an example of the LDS food calculator

5.  Get yourself physically fit.  You might have to walk out of the metro or urban area you’re in.  Are you ready for that?  Do an honest self assessment and if you find yourself lacking get to work!

6.  Stock up on first aid supplies, batteries and candles, flashlights, lanterns and lamp oil or kerosene lamps and fuel  for short term events.

7.  Take a comprehensive first aid class.  Get a book called, “Where There Is No Doctor,” and read it.  It’s good.

8.  Don’t be an armchair prepper.  Really get out there and start preparing if you’re serious.  Have you ever watched a cat when it was stalking a mouse or some other prey?  It’s got laser like focus and intensity.  That’s how you have to be when you do this if you want to get up to speed quickly.

lds outpt

Click the image to see an example of how much food four people should store

9.  Stay away from drugs and alcohol.  This is the time you need to be sharp and focused.  If you lose your edge you could lose your life.

10.  Educate yourself.  Read blogs like this one, read books, listen to podcasts, watch Youtube videos.  There are literally a million ways to learn how to prep.  Jump on Google and find the best way to prep given your circumstances.

11.  Find alternative ways to create electricity, heat your home, and obtain food.

12.  All your preps will run out eventually.  Some sooner rather than later.  Be prepared for it.

13.  Expect the unexpected.  Any plan sounds great until it hits the fan.  Be flexible because when “the event” goes down you won’t be ready for it.  Be ready to improvise.

City Living SHTF Exercise

I know that many of you like living in the city.  A few years ago I worked in New York City as a consultant from time to time and Survival Planheard people talk about how much they loved it.  What I also saw was a bunch of people living on top of each other with no survival skills other than those fit for the concrete jungle.  The next time you’re in the middle of downtown, City Dweller, I want you to pause for a few minutes and run yourself through the following scenario:

At noon time look around and imagine that suddenly the power goes out.  Everywhere.  Your cell phones will probably work for a little while, but most of the major news outlets are down.  Traffic has come to a halt because there’s no lights to govern the million cars in the congested downtown area.  Where are you?  Heading out for lunch?  On a train or subway?  An elevator?  Still in the office?  Who’s with you?  What’s around you?  Could you get home if you had to given the current circumstances?  Can you get something to eat or drink?  Do you have cash on you?  Are you wearing comfortable walking shoes or those $200 dress shoes that look sharp, but hurt like hell after walking a mile or two?  Do you have family somewhere you need to meet up with?  Do you have a plan set up with them to meet you somewhere in case communications are down?  Are you worried about crime in your area?  Guess what… the cops are going to be too busy to help out with a small time mugging.  Are you alert to everything going on around you?

Ok, really run it through your mind as a mental exercise.  Think of all the things that you could do to get home, or get out of town, or meet up with your family members.  Look at the people around you and imagine how they’d be acting.

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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Tops BOB Knife Review

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Best Survival Knife

BOBknife3 As hard as it is for me to say this, I think I’ve finally found a knife that I like better than the Ka-Bar Becker BK-2.  The BK-2 is an awesome knife.  It’s a workhorse and of the few smaller knives out there it’s one that you can actually chop and pry with that has some effect on what you’re hitting.  Check out a comparison of the BK-2 and a couple of other knives here.  I’ll use the BK-2 as a comparison here because this is probably one of the knives I’ve used most in the last five years.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author at SHTFBlogSurvival Cache

Before that I had a Ka-Bar USMC fighting knife that I used for many different tasks.  If you’re one of my old readers you’ll know I love the BK-2.  I still do, but I’ve found an alternative knife that I like a little better.  The Tops BOB knife was designed right from the beginning as a woodsman/survival knife by the Brother of Bushcraft.  It’s got some cool features that might seem a little gimmicky like a divot to be used as a bearing block with a bow drill set, but I’ve actually used it and it works.

The Knife

The knife is made from 1095 High Carbon Steel with a blade thickness of 3/16″.  It’s got a Kydex sheath with a rotating steel belt clip. The whole knife is 10 inches with a blade length of 4 1/2 inches, which makes this a smaller knife.  But, it gets the job done.BOBknife1

I used it for the normal bushcraft things you’ll do:  splitting wood, chopping, cutting, carving, among other things.  It’s real test came when I took a class at the Maine Primitive Skills School.  I can’t emphasize how important a knife is during wilderness survival since it’s arguably the most important piece of gear you’ll take into the field.  Sure, most any knife will get the job done, but it takes a special knife to get good marks in all categories.

Related: 7 Things To Consider Before Buying A Survival Knife

At the Maine Primitive Skills School we used knives to split wood, carve a bow drill set, peel bark from a pine tree, and all kinds of other stuff.  Over the last few months I’ve put this knife to the test and the more I use it the more I like it.  One area that it really excelled in was whittling.  I used it to whittle a spindle and fireboard out of a piece of firewood and it worked beautifully.  I also carved a spoon and wasn’t disappointed with its performance there either.

Some of the features of this knife include a whistle attached to a fire steel, which makes it a pretty good simple survival kit.  Drawing from Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of Survival this kit gives you cutting and combustion, and you can make your own cover with it.



The features on this knife are pretty cool too.  First of all the ferrocium rod also has some magnesium rods on it that can be whittled down and used to assist your spark in starting a fire.  The whistle is shrill and would help if you got in trouble and were able to blow it.  Remember – three blasts is a distress call. There’s also a divot in the knife which allows you to use the knife as a bearing block with a bowdrill, which I used to successfully start a fire.

You Might Like: Fallkniven A2 Review

There’s a small wedge on the bottom of the handle that you use as a striker for the fire steel.  It’s a little awkward to hold the knife when starting a fire at first, but you get used to it after using it a few times.  When used for whittling there’s a thumb ridge along the back of the knife you can use to help with that fine detail work.

The Kydex sheath holds the knife tight and there’s a holder built in for the fire steel and whistle combination.  I didn’t like the way the whistle tapped against the sheath as I walked and I was afraid the firesteel was going to fall out when I was in the wood, so I wrapped a Ranger band around the knife over the whistle and firesteel and that kept it in there nice and tight and quiet.


Testing consisted of actually using the Tops BOB Knife in many different scenarios.  As mentioned earlier I split wood with it.  Because it’s so sturdy it handled very well at this task.  I’ve used some knives in the past where the handle would twist when you used it batoning, but this was rock solid.  The thickness of the wood being split is determined by the blade length, of course, so keep that in mind when gathering wood you intend to process with your knife.

Also Read: Parry Blade Knife Review

I also started fires with both the firesteel and by using it as a bearing block with a bow drill set.  The Best Survival Knifefiresteel is much easier of course, but not having to carve and burn in a bearing block probably saved me fifteen minutes of looking and actual work, so it’s a handy feature.

The knife is marginally heavy enough that you could chop wood with it, but it would be a struggle, so I didn’t bother trying to chop a tree down or anything of that nature.  You can generally look at a knife and have an idea of how it’s going to work at a given task and while the knife is sturdy and of a good weight for its size, it’s not a hatchet.  If you’re going to do some serious chopping bring an axe.

Final Determination 

The question I ask myself every time I have a piece of equipment like this is, “Would I be confident that Best Survival Knifethis would be useful to me in a survival situation?”  Meaning, do I think this knife would stand up to the rigors and be an asset to me if my ass was on the line?

The answer is yes.  I’m confident it would be helpful.  As mentioned earlier I’ve favored the Kbar BK2 and it still has a place in my heart, but the Tops BOB Knife is now my main knife and it now holds the main place of honor in my everyday Bug-Out Bag.

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

All Photos By Jarhead Survivor

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How to Start A Fire With Your EDC Knife And A Shoelace

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“If I was lost in the wilderness  I’d just take my shoelaces and make a bow drill and start a fire.”  I’ve heard people say it time and bobbowdrill14again and I roll my eyes every time I hear it.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard someone say it who could actually back it up with a fire.  Most folks have just watched a video or two and think it would be easy to make a bow drill and get a fire going if they got lost.  Easy to say when you’re sitting at your desk or standing around the water cooler with your hands in your pockets trying to impress your coworkers.  Much more difficult when you’re actually in the woods with just a pocket knife and your shoelaces on you to hopefully make a fire.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author at SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

After listening to a blowhard at work expound on how he’d do just that I decided to give it a go to see how hard it would be.  Here’s what I learned.

Basic Skills

First of all, I can start a fire with a bow drill.  Here’s a video from an earlier post:

bobbowdrill1I’ve done it a fair bit and understand the principles, but with something like this you really need to practice a lot in order to become proficient at it.  Check out how I do it in the video.  That fire was accomplished with a set made from dry cedar, which is fairly easy to get a coal from as long as you’ve done everything right.  I’d also like to clarify something else; for every coal I get I usually wind up making three or four attempts with the bow drill before I get it right.  I’ve practiced enough, but things happen.  Maybe the string is too loose, or too tight.  The notch might not be deep enough, the lubrication might not be right, or any number of things could be just a little off.

Related: Easy Tarp Shelter

It takes a lot of persistence and trial and error when conditions are good before you have a chance at doing them when condition are bad.  As the old saying goes, “Practice makes perfect!”

Raw Materialsbobbowdrill6

The first thing you need to do is find the right materials you’ll need for your drill set.  The tools I used were my Camillus folding knife and my bootlaces.  I was able to whittle the materials I needed from a standing dead tree I found sticking out of the ground.  Pretty much anything lying on the ground up here Maine is going to be useless given the dampness in the ground.  Ideally a small standing dead cedar or fir tree is a good source of materials you’ll need to build your bow drill kit with.

You need to make the following pieces:  spindle, fireboard, bow (which can be a small sapling), and then use your shoelace.  If you really want to try it the hard core way you can make your own cordage rather than using a shoelace.  The next thing you’ll need is a “bird’s nest” of tinder to start your fire.

Spindle and Fireboardbobbowdrill7

I found a small standing (leaning in this case) dead fir tree that suited my needs perfectly.  I broke it to a manageable size and trimmed it by hand as best I could.  The spindle needs to be as straight as possible, which is why a standing fir tree is perfect.  The very top of the tree is ideal for making a spindle as it’s usually very straight.  The piece right underneath it can be whittled into the fireboard.

After I found the right tree I harvested the parts I wanted and took it back to camp where I started working on it with my EDC knife.  First I shaped the spindle to where I could use it then I shaved down the fireboard to where it should work.  I made the bearing block out of a piece of oak and used a branch from the same oak to make the bow.  Then I pulled out my shoelace and attached it to my bow and I was ready to start.

Using the Setbobbowdrill2

Here’s something I noticed when working with this set.  The smaller the knife the more natural your set becomes.  For example, instead of making the bearing block a perfect hand-held size chunk of wood I broke it off as close as I could get it and called it good.  It wasn’t pretty, but it worked great.  You’ll be surprised at how close to it’s natural form you can leave some of this equipment and still have it work.

 I tied my bootlace to the bow and hoped it didn’t snap before I could form the coal.   If doing something like this is really a part of your survival strategy I’d highly suggest replacing your bootlaces with paracord.  It’s much tougher and more versatile than regular bootlaces.  Mine did work, but if I’d had to depend on them in a real survival situation I’d have been worried.

Also Read: Sphinx Compact 9mm

The first task is to “burn in” the set, which means to make guidelines on the bowdrill set and then use it so that all the pieces fit together properly.  After I got it burned in I cut the notches in the fireboard and got ready to do it for real.bobbowdrill4

As mentioned above it can sometimes take several tries before everything comes together and you get a fire.  In this case it took about six attempts before I got a good coal.  Like I said before, in order to get a coal you need to be persistent and don’t give up.


I feel that I answered the question posed at the beginning, “Is it possible to start a fire with your EDC and a shoelace?”  Yes, it is.  The caveat is that before you do it you need to have the skills already in place.  If you’ve never started a fire with a bowdrill before and think you can walk into the bush with a knife and get a fire going you are deluding yourself.  It takes a fair amount of skill and knowledge of the right kinds of wood, how to cut the notches, where to get lubrication, how much pressure to use, and a dozen other factors that need to line up before you’ll get it right.bobbowdrill9

The one thing I’m going to change is the knife I carry for an EDC.  While I don’t usually care for serrated edges, it would have made life a little easier when cutting my notches and cutting some of the smaller limbs off.  If not something with a serrated edge a good multi-tool will do the trick.  In my case I’ve stated carrying the Leatherman Skeletool because it’s small enough to fit in your pants pocket and comes with a pocket clip like many pocket knives today.

Starting a fire with what nature provides is a great feeling and a good skill to have, but if you’re seriously planning on going out in the wilderness take a small survival kit with a lighter and/or matches with a wax coating.  A small survival kit can make the difference between an unexpected night out camping when you get lost or injured compared to a survival trip where you might not live.

It was a fun experiment and I’ll do it again in the future using natural cordage next time.  That will add a new level of complexity bobbowdrill11to the mix.  If any of you woodsmen out there have done something similar I’d love to hear about it.

All Photos & Video by Jarhead Survivor

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!
Jarhead Survivor

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Technology and Survivalists

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cash One thing I’ve noticed in the past is that every time I’ve really needed technology the most is when it let me down.  I was thinking about this the other night after my cell phone shut itself down never to start again.  I happened to be on call that night for work and in order to dial into the company network I need to have security software that ran on my phone.  No phone, no network.  It got me thinking about the other times I’ve really needed some kind of technology only to have it fail and leave me twisting in the wind.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

For example, not long ago I was in Canada and needed to use my debit card to book a hotel room.  My little boy was with me and cranky after being in the car for so long and when I gave them the card it was declined.  I had plenty of money in the account, it just wouldn’t accept the card.  So I pulled out my laptop to connect to the wifi to see what was going on and when I went to my bank site the online banking was down.  Lucky for me my dad was traveling with me and loaned me enough money to book the room, but to say I was feeling stressed is an understatement.  Carrying large amounts of cash is a little more difficult to do these days, but a lesson I learned here is that it’s a good idea to have at least a few hundred dollars on me to cover emergencies like this.  Lesson learned.

Another time years ago when I was in the service we were running fire missions on the new (at the time) ballistic computers.  I was the Fire Direction Control (FDC) Chief and still carried an old fashioned plotting board.  We’d been in the field practicing shooting for a couple of weeks when the batteries started to die.  We were setting up to shoot on a Saturday when my computer suddenly quit.  Oops.  We’d gone through all the batteries and there were none left in the battalion!  So we had three mortar declination diagramplatoons set up to fire and no computers.  I whipped out my old plotting board without telling anybody and plotted all the information on it while the CO and everybody else was freaking out.

Admittedly I was a little rusty, but I ran through a few dry fire missions and was pretty confident I could shoot the mission.  I told the CO to give me a round of HE (High Explosive) and shot it from our center gun.  It was pretty close and with a few adjustments I was able to shoot the whole platoon.  Success!  But then the commanders from the other platoons showed up wondering how the hell we were shooting and when I showed them the plotting board (ancient technology by that point) they were duly amazed.  Pretty soon I was shooting three platoons off the plotting board – something I’d never done before.

Data Storage

solar generatorOne of the greatest things about computers is their capacity for storage.  I love the fact that I can store a thousand books on a USB drive the size of a quarter, but I hate the fact that it runs on electricity.  I have a bunch of paper books in my library that will be of great benefit if things ever go south, but admittedly I have more stored on an electronic USB hard drive.  I also have a solar panel hooked to a deep cycle battery with an inverter so that I can charge electronics if I need them.  I’ve used it to charge phones and tablets as well as to power LED lights during power outages and it’s been rock solid for years.

If you do have something saved on computer storage make sure you the means retrieve it if you need it.  Having a laptop with no way to charge it would be a pretty sad situation to be in if the power went out for good.  I would suggest keeping your most critical documents and books in hard copy somewhere that you can get to.  A strong enough EMP or Carrington type event will theoretically render most delicate electronics useless

Compass vs GPS

Here’s one that every one of you knows to be true:  when the SHTF and you need to bug-out, knowing how to read a map and compass could save your life.  But I’d be willing to bet less than 10% of you reading this could reliably navigate through the woods on a point to point course.  Here’s a small test of your knowledge:  do you know how to adjust for the Grid/Magnetic angle in your area?  Do you know what it is?  If you can’t answer this question point to point land navigation will be impossible for you.  You’ll be able to go from road to road or other big targets, but a destination like a field or building would be difficult at best for you to find when pulling information from a map to use on your compass.

Is GPS a bad thing?  Not at all.  I love GPS.  It takes the guess work out and I like to use my phone to navigate when I’m out hiking.  But here’s a couple of things I’ve observed over the past couple of years:  one time I was hiking in the woods behind my house and called up the GPS and for some reason it showed my location more than ten miles from where I actually was.  I tried to adjust it, but to no avail.  I pulled out my map and compass and continued on the old fashioned way.  I downloaded another app that was supposed to show a compass needle on it.  Coolest thing ever!  Except it pointed west instead of north.  I looked it up and it’s a pretty common problem with android phones.

Also Read: Death By GPS

compass2If there’s one skill that you should pick up I highly recommend learning how to read a map and compass.  I put it right up there with learning how to start a fire, building a shelter, and knowing how to find water in the wilderness.  Imagine that you’re trying to get to your (Bug Out Location) BOL with your family and you’ve had to detour from your route because of traffic or what have you.  You’re suddenly on foot carrying your BOBs and dependent on ground based land navigation.  Could you find your way to your destination if the GPS you’re carrying died?  Can you find your location on a map using terrain association?  Could you hook around a road block or a town if need be and get back on track?  Can you look at a topographic map and determine what kind of terrain you have ahead of you?

Technology Isn’t Bad

Technology isn’t bad, folks.  Far from it.  I love technology and all the gizmos available today.  It’s our dependence on it that has me worried.  Even if you have the smartest phone, and the sharpest GPS unit, and the latest tablet, you should still be able to do the things your mission requires without them, like shooting that fire mission on a plotting board instead of a computer like I mentioned above.  How to get by without it?  Imagine the worst case scenario when TSHTF and plan for it as if you don’t have any of your of electronic toys.  If there are no communications make sure you’ve set up preplanned things to do with anybody you need to communicate with.  For example:  if the phones go down during a huge storm make sure everybody in your family/unit/tribe knows what to do.  Maybe you have a standing order with your kids of, “If the power goes out and we can’t talk go to grandpa’s house and stay there until me or mom can pick you up,” or whatever your situation is.  Make sure you have plans in place ahead of time.

Can’t navigate without a GPS?  You might want to consider taking at least a basic land nav course, and you might want to include others in your family as a back up in case you’re not there.  Give them the skills to survive.  My oldest daughter has had some training and my six year old son has shown some interest in map and compass lately.  He’ll know his pace count soon and understand the cardinal directions by the summer.

Use Technology to Help You Prepare

It’s fine to use technology to help you get ready for the dark times that potentially lie ahead, but when the power goes out make sure you have a way to d0 those important things without electronic devices.

Go Camping Without It

Here’s something to try:  load up your pack without any electronics and go camping.  Keep a journal of your trip and use it as a learning experience.  I love camping with just the basics such as a knife and axe, sleeping bag, lantern and oil, canteen and canteen cup, poncho, and a little food and water.  When you don’t have a phone in your hand you tend to look up at the night sky instead of down into your lap.  You’ll think more and consume less.  I love writing down ideas in my journal by the light of the campfire and the lantern.

Try it.  You just might like it.
Questions? Comments?

Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

BTW:  I’m curious to know how many of you can or can’t navigate with map and compass.  Do you think a basic Land Navigation course would be useful?  Don’t have enough time to devote to it?  Already an expert and good to go?   Don’t think you’ll ever need to use it?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

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High Tech Prepping: How To Get Free Topographic Maps Using Your Computer

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Best Maps for Survival

Are you using available technology to help you with your preparations for when TSHTF?  If you’re a Luddite then this post is not Top Survival Blogfor you; however, if you own a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer then this post will show you how to obtain and use free topographic maps.  You might ask the question, “If we’re using high tech why not use a GPS?”  Great question.  The way I use technology is to assist me now while the grid is still up.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The way I use technology is to assist me now while the grid is still up.  Creating lists, downloading and printing maps, using online resources such as SHTFBlog and Survival Cache, looking at gear reviews, etc.  If you’re planning on using your GPS endlessly after the grid goes down I’m afraid you’re going to be stuck somewhere up a river without a paddle.  The batteries in your devices will eventually die.  Are you prepared for that?  There’s a hundred uses for technology if you have it available and you’re not afraid of it.  Let’s get started.

Stuff You’ll Need

Here’s a list of software that I use.  I’ll lay it out and show you how you could also use other software.  First, I’m using Windows 10 on a Microsoft Surface 3 Pro.  I use Windows Edge or Internet Explorer as a browser, and Microsoft OneNote to capture and manipulate images.  This could easily be done on Windows 7 or Windows 8.  You can use Google Chrome or Firefox as a browser, and there’s a free tool in Windows 7 under accessories called the Snipping Tool, that allows you to capture images off the screen.

OneNote is awesome for a bunch of different reasons.  It’s a free download and all you need is a Microsoft account in order to use it.  This is one of the few pieces of software out there that I really recommend.  I basically run my life off OneNote.  If there’s enough interest I’ll write another post about it in future and how I use it for prepping if anybody is interested.  There’s also a similar piece of software called Evernote, which is just as awesome.

Free Topographic Maps

Who doesn’t love free stuff?  I like Google maps and use it fairly extensively, but I still like topographic maps when I’m out doing Land Navigation.  As is true with nearly everything these days there are other ways to do what I’m about to show you, but the following method works best for me.

To get topographic maps follow this link.  This link should bring up the following page.



Use your mouse (click and drag) to get to the area you want then use the scroll button on your mouse to zoom in.  You can use the pinch method on a touch screen if you’re using a tablet.  Here’s what Maine looks like as I start to zoom in:




The red squares are quadrangles that indicate areas that have corresponding maps.  Zoom in some more until you get to the level of detail you want.  Here’s a screen shot of West Rockport in Maine in an area in the hills I’ve hiked often:




This is smaller than what I can see on my screen, but now you can see roads, lakes, contour lines, etc.  Basically all the details that make a topographic map what it is.  Now it’s time to actually get a screen shot and paste the pictures into OneNote or whatever software you use.  When you download and install OneNote you should see a another tool called “Send to OneNote”.  It’s small icon that looks like this:




If you’re running Windows 7 and didn’t download OneNote you can always use the Snipping Tool under the Accessories menu.  When you have the map just the way you like it click the Send To OneNote icon on the tool bar at the bottom of the screen and it will pop up a screen like the one below.  Click “Screen Clipping” and the screen will darken up a little.  That’s Windows way of telling you that it’s ready for you to make a selection.  I start at the top left corner of the area I want to highlight then click and hold the left mouse button and drag down and right until the area I want is highlighted.





Let go of the left mouse button and a screen like the one below will appear.  I usually choose “Copy to Clipboard”, which takes your selection and stores it in memory.





You can paste it into just about any word processor or graphics program.  Again, I like OneNote for it’s versatility so I’m going to paste it there.  I go to OneNote and create a new page, then I can either Right Click and choose paste or just hit the Ctrl – V shortcut on the keyboard and paste it in.



In the above graphic you can see I’ve named it Spruce and Ragged Mountain Map.  The cool thing is that you can copy and paste as many maps as you want then print them out when you’re ready to use them on a trip.  Below is a printed version on my black and white laser printer.  If you print these out on a color printer they look great and work great too.  I’ve got many of these black and white maps of various areas here in Maine.




Magnetic Declination

We now have the map of our area, but we aren’t quite done yet.  If you’ve used a map and compass before you know that you have to adjust for the magnetic declination in your area.  To find out what it is in your area click here.

Enter your city and state,  click SEARCH MAP and you’ll get a screen back like this:



In the white information portion on the map you’ll see where it says Magnetic declination:  -15 degrees 51’

I’m just going to use 15 degrees as my declination, so I write that at the bottom of my map.  I can even put it in the same type of graph you’d find on a real map.




It’s a little crude, but it conveys the necessary information.  Now I know what I need to use in order to convert from grid to magnetic and vice versa.  If you don’t know how to do this don’t worry.  I’m getting ready to write a series of posts about map reading/land navigation coming up.  You might also want to check out my YouTube channel for more info on this topic.

Use It!

You now have a perfectly good map to use when you’re out on your land nav trips.  Many of you probably use a GPS when out hiking, but I encourage you to start taking a map and compass when you go out and track your progress on a real map.  That way when the batteries die on your GPS you’ll have a backup and the knowledge on how to use them to get where you’re going.

Questions?  Comments?
Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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Escape From Richmond

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In June of this year I put an announcement out on our website for suggestions of a city that would be suitable for an urban escape scenario. My intention was to walk to safety with a small team from a major metropolitan area during a simulated emergency situation where the freeways and public transit system were shutdown. The scenario was designed to test equipment, fitness, route planning and to have some fun in the process! My goal was to add real world data to the often speculated and opinionated world of 72 hour bags, and urban survival preparedness.

My little home town of Boise, Idaho does not fit the bill for conducting a real world urban survival scenario soIMG_2670 it was necessary to reach out. After the announcement I received about a dozen suggestions for cities ranging from Phoenix to Atlanta. Although most offered logistical advice no one seemed like they were willing to conduct the scenario with me. Then along came John from Richmond, Virginia. I could tell from the beginning that John was super pumped to be a part of the scenario and had a group of friends that were equally excited. Within 24 hours of communicating with John he furnished a detailed escape route from his office in downtown Richmond to a safe zone approximately 25 miles away in Chester VA. The route included a 2 mile hike to a boat dock then an 8 mile boating leg on the James River to an isolated river bivouac site for the first day. The second day would require a 15 mile hike through urban and rural neighborhoods to make it to our safe zone. The city of Richmond met all my parameters so an easy decision was made. After speaking with John on the phone I knew I had made the right choice. John is a former Navy sailor and active competitive pistol shooter. He has an infectious energy and a gift for logistics. This guy was all over it Escape 2and made my part of planning very easy, just show up on Richmond on the designated date and start walking!

On October 19 I flew from Boise to Richmond. That evening I met with my five teammates for dinner. I was a bit nervous meeting five strangers that I would be spending the next two days and walking nearly 20 miles with. However they all turned out to be outstanding men and patriots. We hit it off right away and soon were eating, drinking, and laughing like old friends. John provided manila envelopes to the team with detailed route instructions and maps. No one had an ounce of ego or attitude and as the evening progressed I knew the trip would be successful based on the group’s collective mentality and attitude. Everyone was excited for the challenge and to learn from one another. So right up front I learned perhaps the most important lesson of the whole trip; the people (team) you choose to associate with are more important than gear, route planning, firearms etc. Your most valuable asset in an emergency situation is your teammates. This lesson has been repeated to me over and over throughout my life and was reinforced many times during this urban escape scenario. Now is the time to reach out and build relationships with like-minded individuals. Foster and build a strong team that you can count on during hard times and for god sake do your part to never let them down!

I met John at our established safe zone and dropped off my car. We shuttled to his office in downtown Richmond and parked. We met our other team members at his office and took a pre-adventure photo. My teammates all had different pack and dress configurations, but all of them stuck to the low key “grey man” concept. We did not want to attract any more attention than six dudes with packs walking through downtown Richmond would generate. We stepped out of the lobby and began the first leg of the journey at approximately 16:00 hours. escape 3

We crossed under Interstate 95 and walked through the Shockoe bottom district on our way along the river to the dock. At 1600 hours on a Friday downtown was bustling with people. We walked casually but with a purpose and talked as we walked. I thought people would definitely notice and react to six men walking through downtown with backpacks on, but no one seemed to care what we were up to. I did not notice a single second look and I was purposely looking for them. The grey man concept works and is a must if your emergency escape route takes you through an urban area. Had we been decked out in camouflage with military style packs we would have surely been noticed and probably stopped by law enforcement. escape 4

The amount of information on the internet about what should and should not be in a bug out bag is mind boggling! My recommendation is to keep it very very basic to start with. You can always add items to increase capability and comfort later, but having something put together is better than nothing. A simple kit can be built with any budget in mind. You cannot know how your kit will work if you have never used it. Your back yard does not count! And remember you are far more likely to use your bug out bag to spend the night at a hospital with a loved one or to help other people in times of need than to need it running into the wilderness away from the blue helmets, so keep your preparations based solidly in reality.

This trip gave me the opportunity to observe 5 different bug out bags in action. I’m happy to report that all of them perforescape 5med very well. Besides a cold night sleep for some teammates everyone had the basic gear to comfortably spend a night out and walk 18 miles to safety.  The way of knowing how things will or will not work can only learned through real conditions testing. I know all of my teammates and myself included, will be adding or subtracting gear based on this trip and making their kits better, lighter and more catered to their specific needs.

We walked the two miles to the boat dock without incident. Everyone seemed to be doing well under the load of their packs. All team members carried relatively small packs that were easily maneuverable. In my experience a pack that is less than 30lbs with water is essential in staying light and fast. Anything beyond that weight really takes a toll on most people regardless of fitness and will slow you down after a few miles. One older woman asked us what we were up to as we walked down to the dock. We told her we were out for a hike and she seemed happy for us.

We loaded our packs aboard John’s boat and departed the dock at about 1730 hours. Once we were under way on the James River thescape 6e bustle of the city instantly went away and we were almost alone on the water. Our preplanned camping area was a large peninsula tucked off the main channel of the James River downstream from the Dutch gap boat ramp. The peninsula offered flat camping and almost 360 degree security by water. When we arrived we did not have much day light remaining. The team quickly worked together to gather firewood. There was a great impromptu fire building instructional session that developed and soon we had a great warm fire to gather around. The preferred fire starting option was a flint striker to ignite a dried grass tender ball.  During a real situation we likely would have forgone the fire for security reasons but for a training scenario it was wonderful.

The evening was clear and cool with temperatures falling into the 40’s and what my western skin thought was high humidity, but my eastern brothers thought was no humidity. Mid 40’s is a great temperature to test a survival shelter set up, cold enough that you have to get it right to sleep well but not so cold its dangerous if you screw it up. Once all of the shelters were up we ate various meals around the camp fire, MRE’s, freeze dried, protein bars etc. One member of our team had never experienced the joy of eating an MRE. I think it only takes one to realize you have not been missing much! After eating we sipped some rum talked and laughed before putting out the fire and retreating to our shelters to sleep.

In a nutshell most of my teammates did not sleep due to the cold. The two hammock sleepers John and Justin had it particularly baescape 7d as the cold crept in from underneath them during the night. I was awoken very early in the morning by them building a fire to try and warm up. Once the fire was going, everyone got up and gathered around the fire. I was still warm and cozy in my nest so I rolled over and enjoyed a bit more sleep! I write this now not to disrespect my teammates, but because it really drives home the point that you must have a durable, repeatable, lightweight and easy to pitch shelter if you are going to survive an emergency situation where you have to sleep outdoors.

Here is what I think is a great lightweight shelter set up for an emergency pack that covers most environmental situations. First a high quality rain poncho. Not the two dollar cheapo sold a Walmart but something purpose built like the Equinox poncho sewn in the USA or a GI style military poncho. The poncho of course works as rain protection while on the move but it can also serve as a ground cloth and a pitch-able shelter to sleep under if needed. They take up very little room and a good quality one can be used over and over again. Also if for some reason you have to sleep in an office space or temporary shelter during a disaster the poncho can be set up as a privacy curtain indoors.

Next you need something to insulate you from the cold ground. Inflatable mattresses are the standard and serve the role well in recreational settings. For an emergency pack I think they are bulky, fragile and overpriced. I have found that a small piece of closed cell foam pad works great. I cut a piece about 10×20’’ foam pad that can slide in or rolls up easily into my pack. The foam pad is virtually indestructible, and provides a place for my shoulder and hip to rest on the ground. I usually put my feet on my pack to keep them off the ground. IMG_2670

You need some kind of full body insulation. Emergency foil blankets suck and are not a good option. I have tested and shivered in them to many times. They can add some additional heat and wind protection to a shelter set up but should not be counted on alone. Most of them are pretty fragile and will not stand up to repeated use. Instead I think a better option is a lightweight sleeping bag or poncho liner. You get so much more warmth and versatility from it and with modern insulation and compression stuff sacks they take up very little room in a pack. I also think a good warm fleece cap and some kind of thermal long underwear are a must in an emergency pack no matter the season.

Once everyone was up we gathered around the fire and made breakfast and coffee. Spirits were high as we packed our gear and prepared for the short but cold boat ride to the Dutch gap boat ramp and then the 15 mile hike to our safe zone! We loaded into John’s boat and began the cold ride back to the Dutch Gap boat ramp. When we arrived at the boat ramp another member of the team named Dean was there to load the boat. We quickly strapped on our packs to begin the 15 mile journey on foot to our safe zone. John had planned the route to keep us off of major streets and away from less than ideal neighborhoods. He had initially looked at walking power line and utility condors but then changed his mind after seeing how overgrown and brier clogged they were. Also the sight of six men with packs walking in the corridors would have guaranteed a stop by authorities. During a true emergency it may not have been to out of place. The lesson here is having multiple familiar routes planned to reach your destination. If one does not work out the ability to quickly reroute is crucial.

Without telling the world where my friend John lives I’ll say our route took us due west then northwest from the James River through the towns of Chester and Chesterfield, VA. We mostly walked on suburban streets and on the shoulder of busier roads. The previous days experience was the same for day two. No one obviously noticed us or cared what we were doing. One guy in a truck plastered with gun stickers honked at us as if he knew exactly what we were up to and would have loved to join us! A few people out doing yard work waved at us but other than that most people did not give a second look. Many of the neighborhoods we walked through were middle class to upper middle class which I would highly recommend as a measure of safety.

Chris, the Army Ranger beast in the group, took the lead and kept us going on a steady 3mph pace pretty much for the entire trip. Fitness levels varied throughout the group but everyone did great. We stopped about every five miles to rest and eat. Everyone was diligent about checking on the health of their feet. Shoes and socks were pulled off and fresh socks and powder ensued. At about mile seven the first blisters began to form on John’s feet. Moleskin was applied and he soldiered on. Near the end of the trip the blisters on one of his heels ruptured and caused him to grimace in pain. We were close to our safe zone so John toughed it out and finished the trip.

In regards to fitness, like I mentioned everyone was able to cover the prescribed 18 miles in two days without much issue which is an awesome accomplishment. By the end of day two we were all walking with a bit of a limp. During a real disaster where our loved ones were without us we likely would have walked through the night and not stopped to camp. The motivation of getting home would have kept us going. Make no mistake though if you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded don’t think you’ll be able to rise to the occasion in an emergency especially when you add a heavy backpack to the mix. A basic level of fitness is paramount. I believe in functional fitness, in this case if your emergency response plan includes walking a significant distance it makes a lot of sense to incorporate hiking into your weekly fitness training. Throw on a pack and go walk for 30 minutes to an hour once a week. You will be very glad you did!

About 24 hours after we started our walk out of downtown Richmond we could finally see the last turn where we would enter John’s neighborhood and reach our safe zone. After a 18 mile walk we are all relieved to see the end so near. We walked up the drive way to John’s house triumphantly and posed for a picture. Packs and boots were shed and a few celebratory shots were taken. John’s lovely wife had prepared an awesome dinner for the team. We sat around a fire in the backyard and talked and laughed about trip. I could not have asked for a better team, or better experience. This trip was absolutely 100 percent successful and exactly what I was looking for when I set out to do it!     

I’d like to thank John, Justin, Jason, Chris, Glen and their families for making the trip possible, educational, and fun. I had worked in federal law enforcement for 10 years prior to starting Zyon Systems. I was forced to leave law enforcement after an injury that left me blind in one eye. I think I’ve adjusted to civilian life at this point. I do not miss the agency, the politics, or the calls. What I miss are my team mates. I miss the camaraderie, the trust, and the banter that you can only know if you have worked as part of a team in a job where your actions could have serious consequences. I was not looking for that when I started planning this trip, but I found it if only for a few days and it was awesome! I only spent a few days with the guys in Virginia but they have a place in my heart and home and hopefully our paths will cross again. To echo a point that I made earlier, building a strong team is the best survival / emergency tool you can have. Make people your biggest investment and you will thrive if things go bad. Plus your life will be that much better if things stay normal, which is what we can all hope for. 

How to Make Your Camp Fire Burn All Night

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Have you ever wanted a fire to last all night long, but didn’t want to stay up feeding it hour after hour?  Most nights you lay down Axe and woodand open your eyes again two hours later just in time to throw more tinder and wood on just before it goes out.  Recently I was watching a video on Far Northern Bushcraft – a favorite Youtube channel of mine – about how to keep your fire going all night long.  The short version is you take one log and lay it top of another and light them on fire.  Once the fire is established it will burn very slow.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author SHTFBlog & Survival Cache

The rule of thumb on this fire is that for every inch of thickness you have in your logs it will burn for one hour.  Thus, if your logs are eight inches thick the fire should last eight hours. Nothing is ever that precise in the bush of course, but it does give you a reference point.

Materials and Procedure

Long fire setup

I started with two logs about four inches thick. After chopping them up with my ax I carried them back to camp and then cut four green poles about four feet high.  Then I flattened the two logs by taking my ax and trimming about two inches of wood off each length leaving a flat side along one side of the log.  Thus, if you stacked one on top of the other they would lay flat without support.  I drove the poles into the ground and stacked the two logs one on top of the other with some tinder and kindling between them.

Related: Fire Starter Review

To reiterate, this is not a big fire.  It’s more of a smolder that will last most if not all of the night depending on how thick your Firelogs are, what kind of wood you’re using, how hard the wind is blowing, and stuff like that.  I set my fire up with kindling in front of it as well as in between the logs with spacers and then lit it.  After a small blaze that lasted for a few minutes I was rewarded with a fire that smoldered between the two logs.  For more info check out the short video I made:

The only real downside to this fire is that because it burns so slow it emits a good deal of smoke.  If you set this up in front of your shelter for heat make sure you’re upwind or you’ll suck down smoke all night long.


The fire lasted about 2 1/2 hours before I had put it out, but was well on its way to burning the full four hours predicted by the Long firerule of thumb.  The next time I head out for a backwoods camping trip I’m definitely going to try this set up.  You’ll want an axe to help get this set up properly and don’t forget to use green sticks for the support posts.  That way they won’t catch on fire as it burns through the night.

Got any tips for an all night fire?

Sound off below!
-Jarhead Survivor

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