Bartering Basics: What To Do When Money Has No Value

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Bartering Basics: What To Do When Money Has No Value

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Money can quickly lose its value in the event of a catastrophic event. In 1998 in Quebec and Ottawa, an ice storm crippled the power grid in those two provinces, forcing people to learn to live without electricity for several weeks. Credit cards and other forms of electronic commerce simply ceased to function.

In such a situation, bartering can replace cash and credit cards. Bartering is the simple act of exchanging one thing for something else. But it’s rarely simple.

Bartering begins when you need something you don’t have. The key is to find someone who has it and who is willing to trade for something you have and that they want. It could be goods, or it could be services or a unique skill.

Stockpile items that will have value if the manufacturing infrastructure breaks down. Items to think about include:

As you can see from the above list, these are items that are difficult to produce or create on your own. All can be bought in stores or online.

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But there’s a certain skill set you can learn that will allow you to produce items of value for barter. They include:

  • Eggs.
  • Vinegar
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Smoked fish and game.
  • Fresh fish and game.
  • Baked bread and other baked goods.
  • Knitted items.
  • Firewood.
  • Honey, maple syrup and molasses.
  • Herbs and herbal remedies.
  • Rustic furniture.
  • Basic tools, from brooms to rope.

You also can barter your own skills. Someone who has the tools and the expertise to perform timber-frame construction easily could barter their labor for goods and services. The same is true for someone who is an expert at herbal remedies or who can construct and build cabins or furniture from rustic resources. You even could barter your help and assistance with simple labor for fundamental tasks. The critical thing is to have the ability to anticipate what others may need when times are tough.

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Bartering Basics: What To Do When Money Has No Value

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To a large degree any barter transaction is a negotiation, much like at a flea market. That gets to a fundamental rule of barter. Only bring a small portion of what you have of any item, and don’t advertise the fact that you have more of anything. In a barter economy, you might encounter desperate people who will take desperate measures to get what they need.

Let’s look at the basics of bartering …

The 5 Steps of Bartering

1. What you want versus what you have. Try to assess the current value of what you need from a barter standpoint and assess what you can offer in exchange.

2. Identify potential trading partners. This might be neighbors or individuals at a barter market. Sometimes networking can help by simply getting the word out to your friends and neighbors that you are looking for a certain item or set of items. There’s also the remote possibility that the Internet may still be functioning, to some degree. After all, it was fundamentally designed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to survive total thermo-nuclear war.

3. Negotiate. Sometimes a barter exchange is a mixed bag of items. If someone has something of particular value like an ax, and you don’t have a comparable tool to exchange, you could combine items for trade such as nails, seeds, a gallon of vinegar and an assortment of first-aid supplies you can spare. You also could offer services in exchange for the item.

4. Agree on a time and place to make the exchange. If you’re at a barter market, you may have these items with you. Otherwise, you need to determine a place to meet and complete the transaction. Make sure you inspect the item or items before agreeing to the final exchange. Refunds are rare and failing to live up to the bargain is not a good idea on either side of the transaction.

5. Build your barter network. If you are satisfied with the transaction, you have the opportunity to build a relationship with this trading partner. Chances are you will be able to continue to make exchanges in the future and it’s always best to do it with someone you trust and have come to know.

There are online websites and various locations already established for the barter of goods and services. You may not need to barter for something right now, but it’s good practice. It’s particularly valuable at some of the barter markets that have popped up. This recreates the environment that you will encounter in a pure, barter economy. It also will give you a chance to see what people offer or create so you have new ideas as you expand your barter inventory and hone your barter experience.

What advice would you add about bartering? Share your thoughts in the section below:           

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23 Items (Besides Food & Water) FEMA Says You Should Stockpile

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23 Items (Besides Food & Water) FEMA Says You Should Stockpile

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Editor’s note: This is the second story in a two-part series about what the federal government says should be stockpiled. Read part 1 here.

Perhaps surprisingly, the federal government has been part of what has driven the prepping movement.

FEMA’s “ready.gov” website was developed with the idea of helping people to prepare for a natural disaster so that they would have a better chance of surviving it. While FEMA isn’t the definitive source for survival information, a number of things that are widely accepted in the prepping community trace their roots right back to Ready.gov.

The most glaring example of this is the three-day food rule, which defines that bugout bags, otherwise known as 72-hour bags, have three days of food in them. Just about everyone talks about having three days of food in their bug-out bag, without anyone taking about the “why” behind that figure. But here’s the why: because the government said so.

Personally, I carry five days of food in my bug-out bag, and have another couple of weeks worth in a secondary bag, with even more food in other portable containers. The idea is to take as much food with me as I can, and use the food from the other containers first, leaving what’s in my bug-out bag for last. That way, if I have to abandon my vehicle and the other food, I’ll at least have that five days’ worth.

So, where did FEMA’s idea of three days’ worth of food originate? It came from their master plan, which states that they will have relief services in place in three days. Forget that they haven’t been overly successful in accomplishing that in the past, but it’s still their plan.

We can extrapolate a very important point from this. That is: everything that the government says about disaster preparedness is based upon the assumption that the Nanny State government will be there to help you. If you trust the government, that’s fine; but if you don’t, then it’s not a good idea to put too much stock in what they offer as survival advice.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at FEMA’s list of “Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit.” This printable list is what FEMA recommends having on hand, mostly with the idea of surviving a natural disaster.

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In addition to food and water, the list includes:

  1. Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
  2. Flashlight and extra batteries.
  3. First-aid kit.
  4. Whistle to signal for help.
  5. Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place (better to use a medical grade mask to keep out pathogens, too).
  6. 23 Items (Besides Food & Water) FEMA Says You Should StockpileMoist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
  7. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
  8. Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).
  9. Local maps.
  10. Prescription medications and glasses.
  11. Infant formula and diapers.
  12. Pet food and extra water for your pet.
  13. Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.
  14. Cash or traveler’s checks and change.
  15. Emergency reference material such as a first-aid book or information from ready.gov.
  16. Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
  17. Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper. When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color-safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
  18. Fire extinguisher.
  19. Matches in a waterproof container.
  20. Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.
  21. Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels.
  22. Paper and pencil.
  23. Books, games puzzles or other activities for children.

Before going any farther with this, we need to understand exactly what this list is. By looking at it, it is immediately clear that the items listed are for sheltering in place, in your home, while waiting for government relief. That, in turn, assumes that the government will be able to bring relief, that they will be able to do it in three days, and that they will physically be able to get to you. Those are some pretty big assumptions.

When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, one of the many problems that delayed the arrival of relief into the New Orleans area was the trees and other debris scattered on the roads. There were many places where the roads had to be cleared before the trucks carrying the relief supplies could make it to those who needed it.

FEMA’s inability to deal with the situation in a timely manner was obvious and examined in great detail. So, it would be natural to think that they would have been ready seven years later when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast. But they didn’t even put out requests for quote (RFQs) for the supplies they needed until the day after Sandy hit. It doesn’t look like they learned a whole lot.

While there are many other examples we could use, I’ll just mention one other. In 2016 there was a massive flood in Louisiana, affecting about 30 parishes (what the rest of us call counties). In that case, it wasn’t FEMA that rescued people and brought relief, but rather the people of Louisiana helping each other. Some used their boats to rescue people stranded on their roofs, while others set up emergency shelters and cooked meals for those who were displaced by the flood. It was a great demonstration of community outpouring to help one another out.

23 Items (Besides Food & Water) FEMA Says You Should StockpileSince it’s clear that there are many cases where the government can’t get in place fast enough to truly make a difference, accepting the idea that three days’ worth of food and water is enough, is ludicrous. But even if they could, that three-day figure doesn’t take into account any long-term or national disaster scenarios.

Long-term disasters are those that last anywhere from a few months to more than a year. In such a case, it’s clear that we’d need a whole lot more food than the three days mentioned in FEMA’s list; or, we need to grow our own food.

Situations like terrorism taking out the grid or bio-warfare would mean that we’d all have to be self-sufficient for months.

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Many writers have undertaken to write complete lists of what you’ll need in these sorts of situations, myself included. Take a look at the article on “22 Things Besides Food and Water That You Should Stockpile” or “21 Surprising Items You’ll Need when the Grid Is Down.” The truth is, there is no way of knowing for sure everything we’ll need, so we need to plan for everything and hope that we didn’t miss anything.

But let me take a moment to make a quick case for what’s missing from the government’s list. To determine what we need, we always have to start out with the basics for survival. Those are:

  • Ability to keep warm.
  • Clean water.
  • Nutritious, high-energy food.

To support that, we need to add:

  • The ability to defend ourselves.
  • First-aid supplies.
  • The ability to start a fire.
  • Tools.

Just looking at those seven areas, it’s clear that the FEMA list is missing a lot of things. They mention matches to start a fire, but they don’t talk about fuel for the fire. Their list assumes that everyone has a stock of firewood sitting behind their homes, as well as a government-approved wood-burning stove to burn it in? Incomplete answers to survival problems, like this one, get people killed.

They do mention the ability to purify water with bleach, but that’s the only water purification method they mention, and they missed the part about shaking up the water once you put the bleach in it to make the bleach dissipate, and then allowing it to sit for 20 minutes to kill the pathogens. But why not mention some other methods of water purification? Water is such an important part of survival, that depending on only one method is not safe.

Two of the “supportive” areas that I mentioned above are totally missed by FEMA: the ability to defend yourself, and tools. One of the things you can count on in the aftermath of any disaster is the criminal element coming out of the woodwork to take advantage of the situation.

The fact that they missed tools can be forgiven, if we assume that the plan is to shelter in place, in your home, awaiting the arrival of government aid. But then, if you were one of those people, you wouldn’t be reading this website. The fact is that many survival tasks, from building or repairing shelter to preserving food, are going to require tools of some sort. Of anything that FEMA has left off their list, this is probably the biggest omission. Yes, you can make it three days without those tools, but not a whole lot longer.

All in all, the only true value that the FEMA list has is as a starting point. For someone who hasn’t done anything about emergency preparedness, this list is an eye-opener. But the sad thing is that many will take this list as being the definitive word on survival and not go any farther.

Simply put, it is not wise to put our survival in the not-so-capable hands of the government.

What is your reaction to the FEMA list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

The First 10 Foods That Disappear From Store Shelves During Disasters

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The First 10 Foods That Disappear From Store Shelves During Disasters

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I live in a hurricane zone. While we don’t get a lot of hurricanes that actually hit us, we do get a lot of threats from them.

So, I’ve seen how people react to them, time and time again. The funny thing is, the same people go to the store and buy the same things each time one is heading for us. They never seem to prepare or even improve upon their last-minute preparations.

Setting aside the lack of wisdom that goes with their decisions, there’s a huge problem with how they are approaching disaster preparedness. That is, they aren’t thinking ahead.

Their lack of planning explains, at least a little, the poor decisions that they make. When you’re in a hurry to make a decision, the natural tendency is to fall back on the things you know the best. That can be rather problematic, especially when you consider that the things which we would normally use when everything is going fine are not likely to be all that useful when the power is out. As we all know, whenever there is a disaster, especially a natural disaster, one of the things you can count on is for the lights to go out.

Knowing how people react, the local stores have made their own provisions. When a hurricane warning comes, you can see the local Walmart stores rolling out pallets of flashlights and batteries. Extra shipments of some food items come in, and emergency items are “stocked to the roof” in anticipation of extra sales. Even so, they still sell out of the same things every time.

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Of course, the biggest thing that people are stocking up on is food. But, since they haven’t planned it out, they usually buy the wrong things. I’ve seen it over and over.

Here are the first 10 foods that tend to sell out in the stores when a disaster is imminent:

  1. Water
  2. Bread
  3. Beer & alcohol
  4. Canned fruits & vegetables
  5. Canned soups
  6. Peanut butter
  7. Eggs
  8. Meat
  9. Coffee
  10. Frozen prepared foods

If you look at that list, you can spot a number of very important errors. First of all, the meat and frozen prepared foods require refrigeration. Likewise, bread won’t usually keep more than a few days without going bad. Yet, the one thing we can always count on is the power going out. So, what they are doing in buying those foods is either preparing for a feast or preparing to throw the food away.

On the other end of the scale, there are some things on that list that really make sense. Water is going to be the number one “food” need for most people, so stocking up on it is always a good idea. Unfortunately, the stores never have enough water and sell out of it quickly. Only the first 100 or so people to get there manage to buy water.

Soup, peanut butter and other canned goods are always good survival food — the types of things that most preppers stock up on. However, most last-minute shoppers don’t buy enough of them, so it won’t be long before they’re scrounging for food.

Finally, we find beer and alcohol rather high up on that list. Contrary to Maslow’s Hierarchy, most people put their vices before the basic needs for survival. This is especially true in times of crisis. Many people drink to forget their problems, and a disaster definitely qualifies as a problem. So, they’ll stock up on beer (and cigarettes too, but we’re talking about food here) to make sure that they have enough to keep themselves distracted from the destruction all around them.

Do you agree with our list of 10 foods that disappear from shelves first? Share your observations in the section below:

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7 Survival Uses For Alcohol You May Not Have Considered

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7 Survival Uses For Alcohol You May Not Have Considered

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A critical part of preparing for survival is learning about everyday items that are present in most homes, and then repurposing those items into a variety of uses.

One such item is alcohol. Here are seven uses for it:

1. Fire-starter

In the event that you find yourself in a cold and wet survival situation with no dry tinder, alcohol just may be what saves your day. Simply soaking a piece of cloth in alcohol and then lighting it up with a match or lighter will get a fire started quickly. Of course, you’ll want to have extra fuel on hand to keep the fire going, but for transforming that initial spark into a flame, alcohol will work wonders.

2. Wound disinfectant

When you sustain an open wound, it’s essential to clean it with a disinfectant before bandaging in order to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

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Alcohol is a very effective wound disinfectant because it can kill bacteria instantly. The only downside to this is that it also can kill or damage tissue around an open wound, so you’ll want to be very conservative in how you apply it.

3. Surface disinfectant

This would come in handy for disinfecting knife blades, thermometers, medical equipment and cooking utensils.

4. Bartering commodity

In the event of an economic collapse where paper money becomes worthless, the new currency will be necessities: food, water, personal hygiene items, fire-starters, first-aid equipment, toilet paper, and so on.

While alcohol may not be a “necessity,” it is definitely something that will be in high demand during a disaster scenario. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, it may still be wise to set aside some beverages that you can use for bartering and trading when the time comes.

5. Bug repellent

Repelling bugs needs to be a bigger survival priority than most people realize. In any kind of a long-term disaster, sanitation standards are going to plummet, and diseases can spread quickly via mosquitoes, flies or other pests. Blend alcohol together with olive oil and then apply it directly to your skin. It will keep mosquitoes and other bugs at bay.

6. Mouthwash

Sip some alcohol into your mouth and then swish it around for about a minute. It will kill the bacteria on your teeth and gums. Spit it out and then rinse with water.

7. Firearm cleaner

When your usual gun-cleaning oils are no longer available during a survival situation, you can use alcohol as an alternative. Simply clean your gun like you would with cleaning oils, and then rub it down with a rag.

Do you know of other survival uses for alcohol? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Backwoods Hunting Weapon You Can Make In 1 Hour (No, It’s Not A Bow)

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The Backwoods Hunting Weapon You Can Make In 1 Hour (No, It’s Not A Bow)

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When suddenly confronted with a wilderness survival situation, finding or building shelter from the elements should be your first priority. However, once you have either located or constructed suitable shelter and found a source of fresh water, obtaining enough food to maintain your heath is of paramount importance — and obtaining sufficient protein is essential. Thus, knowing how to construct and use primitive hunting tools, such as a sling or an atlatl and darts, is extremely beneficial, since they require very little construction time and can be easily made from the materials at hand.

Many if not most survivalists would say a self-bow — any simple bow made from a single piece of wood – should be constructed first. But this requires a significant amount of time to make, because you first have to find a straight sapling of an appropriate species and cut it down, and then you have to remove the bark and wait for the wood to dry before carving it to shape. Also, there is the issue of finding appropriate material from which to construct a bow string that does not stretch.

Consequently, constructing an atlatl (a “spear thrower”) and darts is often a far better strategy, because an atlatl can be built with as little as an hour’s work, and atlatl darts need not be nearly as sophisticated as arrows for a bow; atlatl darts are not subjected to the same stresses that firing an arrow from a bow produces. This is the weapon used by our ancestors to kill small animals, long before there were bows.

Let’s Get Started

In order to make an atlatl, start by finding a straight sapling, approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter and preferably one that is of a very lightweight species of wood, such as poplar. Cut a section from it, approximately 24-28 inches in length. Use your camp knife and a baton to split the sapling down the middle, into two halves. You will need to choose the thicker of the two halves and proceed to use your bushcraft knife to flatten and smooth the split surface while leaving the other side half-round. Next, find an appropriate tree limb with a symmetrical fork, and then cut the fork from the limb, leaving approximately two inches below the fork and then cut each fork to a length of approximately one inch. Then cut a peg, approximately two inches in length.

Story continues below video

Next, drill one hole in the end of the flattened section of sapling using an auger or bow drill with sand for an abrasive and, once the hole is drilled, insert the peg firmly into the hole so that it extends approximately one inch above the flattened surface. Carve a handle on the other end of the sapling section by first rounding the edges and then carving shallow groves in either side for your index finger and thumb to help you retain your grasp on the atlatl when using it to launch a dart. Once you have the grip and finger grooves carved, drill a second hole in the flattened side, approximately one inch above the point where your thumb and index fingers meet when grasping the handle section of the atlatl, and then firmly insert the fork into that hole and you will have a completed (although very primitive), fully functional, atlatl.

Ultimate Tactical Self-Defense And Hunting Weapon That Doesn’t Require A Firearms License!

Now you need to make atlatl darts. They can be made as simple as cutting a reasonably straight section of sapling to approximately 36 inches in length, removing the bark, sharpening one end, and then cutting a nock in the other end that will mate with the peg on your atlatl. Then, to launch your dart at a prospective target, all you have to do is place the dart’s nock against the atlatl’s peg and then lay the shaft into the fork and hold it in place by positioning your thumb and index fingers over the dart’s shaft. Raise the atlatl over your shoulder, point the dart at your intended target, and then move the atlatl forward in an arc while releasing the dart’s shaft from your fingers. This will cause the dart to launch with great speed and momentum. If you’re confused, then watch the video below.

Story continues below video

With more time to work with, you can make much finer atlatl darts by cutting an appropriate sized sapling to length, removing the bark, and then straightening the shaft by suspending the dart over a fire for a short period in order to cause the moisture contained within the wood to heat. Also, you can harden the tip of the shaft by placing it in the coals of a fire for a short period and removing it. Then, sharpen it with your bushcraft knife.

So, although an atlatl and darts may not be as sophisticated a hunting tool as a bow, it requires significantly less time and effort to make it – and yet is every bit as effective at harvesting both small and large game animals. The range over which they can be cast is mainly dependent on the strength of the hunter, but the average person can easily cast a dart 50 yards using an atlatl and, with a little more effort, 100 yards.

What advice would you add on making an atlatl and darts? Share your tips in the section below:

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The ‘Survival’ Flour That Lasts 30 Years. And You Already Own It.

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The ‘Survival’ Flour That Lasts 30 Years. And You Already Own It.

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Have you tried baking with oat flour? Oat flour is a great alternative to wheat flour – especially for homesteaders, survivalists and preppers.

Why? Oats are inexpensive and have a very long shelf life. When packaged in unopened #10 cans or sealed in Mylar bags and placed in a five-gallon food-grade bucket, oats can last 30 years or more.

When most Americans think of flour, they think of all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour because those are the types most readily available on supermarket shelves. However, oat flour usually is there in a less conspicuous spot, and in fewer quantities.

Unlike wheat flour, oat flour is gluten-free, so you may find it in your store’s healthy foods section, as well. (You also can make it at home – keep reading.)

That lack of gluten in oat flour gives baked goods a different texture than those made with wheat flour. However, for people who are cutting back or avoiding gluten for dietary or health reasons, oat flour is a welcome choice. As a general rule, however, oat flour is lighter and less coarse than whole-wheat flour.

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Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

The flavors of oat and wheat flour are similar, although you may discover that oat flour has a heartier and somewhat sweeter taste than all-purpose wheat flour.

How the texture of oat flour compares with wheat flour really depends on the type of wheat flour you have been using. Whole-wheat flour has a thicker, grainier texture than all-purpose wheat flour, for example. Similarly, home-ground oat flour usually has a coarser texture than mill-ground oat flour.

Oat flour is easy to make, and you do not need a special grinder. You can make your own oat flour by putting dried oats into your blender and using the pulse setting to chop the oats into a fine powder. One and one-fourth cups of rolled oats makes about one cup of oat flour.

Grind small one- to two-cup batches at a time. Store unused flour in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you’ve never used oat flour, a good place to start is with quick bread and muffin recipes. Experiment with the ratio, perhaps using one-fourth oat flour and three-fourths wheat flour to start. Then you can slowly increase the ratio of oat flour the next time you bake that item until you are using only oat flour.

Since oat flour does not contain gluten, you may need to adjust your rising ingredients slightly. For example, if your recipe calls for them, you may need to add extra yeast and/or extra baking powder with oat flour than with wheat flour. You also may need to add more or less moisture to get the right consistency.

You can try adding a tablespoon of tapioca starch or potato starch per cup of oat flour used to help lighten the mixture if you like.

Oat flour, which has 120 calories per one-third cup, also works well as a thickener for sauces and gravies.

Oat flour is higher in fiber than wheat flour, and your oat-based baked items will be more nutrient-dense.  Oats are a significant source of protein, vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, iron and other minerals.

Have you ever baked with oat flour? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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It’s Gonna Doom Many Preppers (And They Don’t Even Know It)

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It's Gonna Doom Many Preppers (And They Don't Even Know It)

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People who are serious about preparedness have a lot to be concerned about. The considerations of post-disaster survival range from food to water to hygiene to self-protection to transportation to emergency medical care.

But there is one area of what we call “prepping” that is often overlooked: personal health and fitness. If sudden disaster were to strike, it is possible that your most valuable prep might be your own body. Those who are unfit and unhealthy might be limiting their capacity for independence both now and in whatever future.

I am not a health care provider or a fitness expert. Rather, I am an ordinary citizen with a personal testimony to share. Over the past several years, my weight has crept up and my overall health has deteriorated. When my blood work reported results so high that my provider wanted me to begin a regimen of medications this past spring, I resolved to turn things around by eating better and exercising more.

Just 30 Grams Of This Survival Superfood Provides More Nutrition Than An Entire Meal!

It's Gonna Doom Many Preppers (And They Don't Even Know It)

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Five months later, I have lost 26 pounds and am closing in on my goal weight. But it is about far more than numbers on the scale. A follow-up with the laboratory and my provider revealed drastically reduced lipids and sugars, lower blood pressure, and increased lung capacity.

For many people, the side effects of physical fitness are at least as rewarding as the actual numbers on the scale and lab report and clothing sizes. In my case, my weight loss also has resulted in more self-confidence, a higher energy level, and feeling generally more positive.

Making the time and doing the work to increase my fitness level has made me a more able homesteader. Long hours on my feet during canning season, racing to the chicken house to investigate a sudden commotion, and weekend firewood-processing marathons are less taxing now.

And if disaster strikes, I will be more capable of keeping myself and my loved ones safe. While there are a lot of other factors that are important, the ability to walk, run, climb, push and haul might be some of the most needed.

Too many of us are obese, or lead sedentary lives, or live with addiction, or suffer from conditions that are exacerbated by lifestyle. This will not serve us well in the event of a disaster, and could possibly even jeopardize the welfare of those we love.

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It's Gonna Doom Many Preppers (And They Don't Even Know It)

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Consider the many scenarios in which physical fitness would be crucial. People may need to run to save a child or slip quietly out of sight in a forest. They might be called upon to walk long distances, climb a tree or ladder, rappel, pound a nail, heft an axe, operate a scythe, paddle a boat, swim, carry heavy loads, and work long days — all of which are possible for unfit people but will be more challenging.

Dependence upon cigarettes, alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, or even technology could possibly result in placing oneself at risk for a fix. Nobody wants that. Nobody wants to land in a post-disaster scenario with a bad knee, poor dental health, or gout, either.

None of this is to say that everyone has complete control over their own health. Accidents happen. Diseases happen. Genetics happen. But for the rest of us, it makes sense to do all we possibly can to be fit and healthy.

Nobody is perfect, and thank goodness we do not need to be. We all struggle with issues — my family history of heart disease and diabetes and my fondness for Dr. Pepper and Little Debbie’s will always be present in my life. But facing our health challenges head-on and dealing with them now instead of later is a win-win. We win now, we win in the event of a disaster, the people around us win because we will have fewer special needs and instead will be able to help others, and we win in terms of comfort and longevity if disaster never happens. The only people who really lose out if Americans become fit and healthy are the big pharmaceutical companies.

We do not need to look like body-builders or run like track stars. But we do need to reach for our personal best and make health and fitness a central component of our prepping goals.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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6 Clever, Off-Grid Ways To Cook When There’s No Electricity

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6 Clever, Off-Grid Ways To Cook When There’s No Electricity

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You may not think of it this way, but the vast majority of the food we eat is cooked. Oh, it may not actually be cooked in your kitchen, but it was cooked somewhere. Frozen foods, breakfast cereal, cookies, bread, potato chips, dry-roasted peanuts, candy, spaghetti sauce, lunchmeat and even some canned goods are all cooked somewhere — probably in a factory.

Of course, those factories save us from having to cook all of those things ourselves.

But what if you couldn’t get all of that food anymore? What would you do? Could you come up with enough food to eat if you had to bake your own bread and can your own vegetables? Even worse than that, what if you had to do it without electrical power?

The sad reality is that our infrastructure is very fragile. As long as it works, it’s great. But it doesn’t take a whole lot to take it down.

That’s why it’s important to have alternate ways of cooking your food. Fortunately, there are a wide range of options that we can choose from … if we take the time to be prepared to use them.

1. Wood fire

Mankind’s oldest means of cooking was over an open fire. For much of human history, this was the only way that people could cook. Even today, there are places in the world where cooking over wood is the norm.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Mexico. While the cities can be quite modern, once you get out in the sticks, it’s not surprising to find people doing things much as they have been done for centuries. The country is in transition and because of that, you’ll see the old ways and the new ways in use side by side, even within the same household.

When we talk about cooking with a wood fire, we’re actually talking about several different cooking methods. The common factor is the wood, but how that wood is used and how the food is cooked can vary extensively. Some possibilities include:

  • A fireplace.
  • A wood-burning stove.
  • A fire pit.
  • A clay oven.
  • An open fire.

2. Dutch oven

The Dutch oven is often used in a wood fire, but it still deserves special mention. Originally, Dutch ovens were cast-iron affairs, with feet to hold them level in the coals. The lid looked inverted, with a lip, so that coals could be piled on top, too. This gave the ability to bake foods, long before our modern ovens were invented.

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6 Clever, Off-Grid Ways To Cook When There’s No Electricity

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Most of what’s called Dutch ovens today wouldn’t survive use in this manner. They’re typically thin, stamped metal, with an enamel coating on the outside and Teflon on the inside. If you tried to set them down in the coals of a fire, the enamel would burn and the thin metal would probably be weakened.

3. Barbecue grill

One alternate means of cooking that almost everyone has is a barbecue grill. While we normally only use it for cooking steaks and hamburgers, you can cook just about anything on a grill, with a little practice. Pots and pans can be placed on the grill, although once again, you’d be better off with cast-iron ones.

If you have a gas grill, you should keep at least one spare tank of gas on hand at all times. That way, you’ll have a ready means of cooking, when and if the power goes out. For charcoal grills, you can use wood, although you’ll have to allow it to burn down to coals to get the best results.

Learn to start a fire in your charcoal grill without lighter fluid. That way, you can always have the ability to cook your food, as long as you have fuel for the grill.

4. Camping stove

Those who like to go camping probably already have a camping stove. This makes a good alternative when you can’t use your regular stove. However, most camping stoves today work off of those little bottles of propane gas. Unless you’re going to stockpile a whole lot of little bottles, you’re going to be somewhat limited.

6 Clever, Off-Grid Ways To Cook When There’s No Electricity

Coleman

One solution to this problem is getting an adapter which will allow you to refill those little propane bottles from a regular propane tank, such as the ones used for barbecue grilles. That’s also a great way to save money, as the little bottles are quite expensive.

If you can find it, Coleman still makes a camp stove that doesn’t use propane. Called their “dual-fuel stove,” it’s the same model that I remember using as a kid. You put the fuel in a tank and pump it up to pressurize it. They named it “dual-fuel” because you can use it with both the canned Coleman fuel and regular gasoline.

That adds a lot to the utility of the stove, as the one fuel which will be easiest to find during an emergency is gasoline. You might have to siphon it out of a car’s gas tank, but at least you’ll have fuel.

5. Solar oven

If you’ve never used a solar oven, you should try it. But unless you know what you’re doing, I’d really recommend buying one rather than making your own. The commercially manufactured ones are much better than just a box covered with aluminum foil.

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The idea behind a solar oven is that the sunlight is converted to heat by striking a black surface inside the oven. Reflectors increase the amount of sunlight that comes into the solar oven, helping to augment the temperature. Most are covered with a glass or plastic cover, which helps to hold in the heat.

Cooking with a solar oven is much like cooking in a crockpot. It takes a little time. But beware: It is possible to overcook with a solar oven. I’ve burned roasts and potatoes in mine.

6. Solar Fresnel cooker

If you’ve ever used a magnifying lens to torture ants or light a leaf on fire as a kid, you already know how to use a Fresnel cooker. Fresnel lenses are the flat plastic magnifying glasses, which look like they have fine concentric circles molded into the backside. You can find them at dollar stores and other places, usually marketed for reading small type.

The old big screen televisions, prior to the flat screen TVs we now have, all had a Fresnel lens inside, just behind the screen. You can salvage one right out of one of those televisions, or if you can’t find one, try checking eBay. They usually have them.

Your Fresnel lens will need to be mounted in an adjustable frame, both to hold it and to adjust the angle. The food you want to cook is placed at the focal point of the lens, which is usually about two feet below it. So, you’ll need a stand of some sort to hold the frying pan or pot you’re going to put the food in.

I’ve seen Fresnel cookers generate enough heat to fry an egg in one minute or actually melt pennies. If you want to cook something quickly, this will do it. As long as you’ve got clear skies, you can cook just about anything you can think of. Just be careful not to burn your food.

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3 Forgotten Ways The Pioneers Built Fires Without Wood

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3 Forgotten Ways The Pioneers Made Fires Without Wood

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I’m fortunate to call the windswept prairie of the Great Plains my home. If you get out of farm country, it’s just grass as far as you can see. In fact, there are still places nearly unchanged since pioneers first tried settling this area more than 100 years ago.

Although quiet and expansive, there are real challenges to living in the plains. This rings especially true for a person who pursues knowledge in woodcraft. One of the biggest barriers to settling the plains was the lack of timber. Historically, people all around the world have overwhelmingly depended on wood as a natural construction material. The lack of trees on the prairie was one of the biggest obstacles pioneers faced when they looked into the Great American Desert. Wood was, and is, such a central part of our life, especially when forging a living from the land. Lack of timber seemed to make settlement nearly impossible.

While most Americans during the mid-19th century looked at the prairie as an inhospitable land, there were already people living happily in this treeless expanse. An array of Native American societies were established, each developing strategies for living a life that depend on wood as little as possible. Adventurous mountain men and explorers had also learned these lessons the hard way. They, too, knew how to survive in a land devoid of such a pivotal resource. One thing everyone on the plains had to know was how to build a fire without using wood as a fire fuel.

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Even today, we can take a page from their book and remember there are other excellent fire fuels besides wood. Here are three examples of resources you can burn when heavy timber may be in short supply:

1. Buffalo chips/cattle manure

Buffalo chips is a reference to the dried manure of buffalo that once dotted our grasslands. Once dubbed as “Plains oak”, buffalo chips were widely used as fire fuel for generations on the plains. When cattle were brought north, their manure also was collected for the same purpose. Both sources were a very common source of fuel, and actually offered several advantages to wood fires. For starters, in such a dry environment, buffalo chips don’t throw sparks like wood fires tend to do. Manure fuels smolder more than they actually burn. The smoldering actually helps control the fire, rather than constantly setting the prairie ablaze.

3 Forgotten Ways The Pioneers Made Fires Without Wood

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This smoldering characteristic also made buffalo chips ideal for burning in tipis and other natural shelters. Another advantage of using a fuel “cut by the cows” was the saved labor. Rather than spending hours cutting and splitting wood, people living on the plains simply gathered and stacked the chips. In a region so difficult to make a living, this saved labor would have been nice.

2. Woody shrubs

Although there is a lack of trees on the Great Plains, there are locations with an abundance of woody shrubs. Most prolific in my area are sagebrush and yucca. At times, these sources of fuel came in especially handy. One mountain man, Osborne Russell, kept a journal of his experience depending on sagebrush for fire.

Russell and a few companion’s horses had been run off, and the group was on foot. Back in those days, being afoot on the prairie was akin to a death sentence. They headed for an army fort they that lay across a sagebrush sea more than a week’s march. While making their way across the barren land, they carried little more than their rifles and basic gear. No blankets, no food, and none of the small comforts their rough lives knew. As they traveled, they shot buffalo when they came upon them and used the hides to sleep on. While caught in his sagebrush sea, a mix of rain and snow moved in upon the group. Russell’s account of the incident leaves no debate that the trip was miserable. After many, many cold and wet miles, the group finally safely walked into an army fort and survived the ordeal.

Along the way, though, the group needed to build a fire each day. With no wood in sight, they turned to a nearly endless source of fuel in the sagebrush. Russell noted that at times these fires consisted of no fuel larger than thumb size. Needless to say, it kept them alive in poor conditions.

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Sage and other woody shrubs should not be overlooked for their potential as a fuel source. As with buffalo chips, small shrubs offer the advantage of keeping a fire small. Again, in a place that is so dry and windy, keeping your fire small is important. An old mountain man adage was “the bigger the fire, the bigger the fool.” By keeping the fire small, they not only limited the chance of spreading fire, but they saved labor and decreased their chances of being seen by those who meant to do them harm.

3. Animal fat

A final alternative fire fuel people utilized is animal fat. In the past, animals like bear provided not only meat for the larder, but fire fuel, such as for burning lamps. If the pioneers or Native Americans happened to be in an area devoid of animal manure or shrubs, fat would have been a viable option.

In my own experience, I’ve used raccoon fat as a fuel source while building a campfire. I can testify to its ability to put out some heat. A word of caution, though: Unlike the previously mentioned fuels, fat burns extremely hot and very fast. Just toss a bit of raccoon fat on the fire and step back. It is best used in small amounts; otherwise your fire could easily get out of control. Have a bucket of dirt on hand. (With a grease fire, water only would heighten the problem.)

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5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

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5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

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In an earlier post this winter, I wrote about three survival gadgets that everyone should store in their vehicles during the coldest months of the year. Let’s now turn to the basics.

Here are five often-forgotten items that everyone should store in their car, truck or SUV during winter:

5. Light sources.

Basically, the nightmare scenario that we’re preparing for is the most commonly experienced during the winter.

The cold has a way of freezing the life out of our car batteries (jumper cables being a given addition to this list). The cold also tends to result in the loss of friction – that is, the force of physics that cars depend on to keep the wheels on the road. Hence is why I recommend adding a work lantern with an attached magnet. That way, you won’t be fumbling in the long winter’s night while trying to get your car back on the road again.

And in the event that there’s no possible way of driving out of that snow bank, I’d also recommend a tactical flashlight with SOS signaling capabilities.

4. First aid.

Simply put, one sheet of ice can put us in the ER on a normal day. Besides, in the event that you find yourself in a survival situation, the events leading up to such a scenario are often the same ones that make a first-aid kit necessary in the first place (such as a black-ice-caused car accident).

3. Emergency communication.

Let’s play out a particular scenario for a moment…

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Pretend your vehicle has slid into a ditch, but you also happen to be on a road that tends not to see much traffic — especially in this weather. And so, you sit in your (now stationary) metal shelter with wheels, wondering what to do next. Of course, you’d phone for help, but you’ve got a grand total of zero bars to work with, so that’s out of the question. Should you walk for help? How low will temps reach tonight? Will this lull in snowfall hold until you make it to assistance?

These gaps in weather intelligence info can be alleviated with a simple pocket weather radio, since you’d be able to hear real-time weather broadcasts as the storm unfolds.

5 Winter Survival Items EVERYONE Should Store In Their Vehicle

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I’d also recommend keeping at least a mini CB radio on hand, which can run on the adapter to a cigarette lighter power supply. Not only could you tune in to CH9 (emergency channel), but you’d even be able to communicate to nearby CB operators … who might just be kind enough to alert emergency personnel to your present predicament. At which point, set your flashlight to SOS-mode and await the cavalry.

2. Chains, n’ such.

Perhaps one of THE most obvious additions to your winter emergency vehicle stash would be the appropriately sized cables/chains for your tires. At least in my own experience, I’ve seen a Saturn SL2 rip through two feet of road powder with chains, while the 4×4 Jeep I was in remained stuck. A humbling experience, I do admit.

I’d also recommend adding other tire-traction items, such as traction mats. You also might want to purchase a traction “boot,” which are these ingenious tabs that clamp to the wheel and dig into the snow like a cleat.

1. Things that make you warm.

Last (and certainly not least), make sure you’ve got a change of the warmest possible clothing you own (that you don’t mind storing in your vehicle indefinitely and you use only for emergencies). In this instance, you might not necessarily have to concern yourself with moisture and water resistance, since you’ll be staying inside the vehicle. However, I would still NOT consider cotton materials an option. Cotton is just horrible for winter apparel, since even the slightest amount of sweating can result in chills … and chills are a precursor to hypothermia. I’d recommend wool materials. Quite frankly, I will always recommend wool (or smart fleece.)

And while we’re at it, you might as well do your due diligence and equip your ride with a polar fleece thermal blanket. If you’re going to be stuck inside a cold metal box, this will at least keep your body heat to yourself.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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The Cheap, Easy-To-Make Survival Lamp Your Great-Grandparents Used

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The Cheap, Easy-To-Make Survival Lamp Your Great-Grandparents Used

Imagine you are sitting in a log cabin, or perhaps hunkered down in a lean-to or some other makeshift shelter in the woods. It’s dark, and you’d like more light than your fire provides so you can do some chores.

Maybe you are mending your socks, or sewing a button back in place, enjoying a meal, or just trying to do a little reading before bed. Or maybe you are in a survival situation, and have lost modern means of lighting, or the grid has gone down, and your rural homestead still needs lighting. Or maybe you just like the tools and skills of the past. Either way, it’s dark and you want some light. There are a number of traditional means of lighting your home or shelter, ranging from kerosene lamps, to wax or tallow candles, to the often-forgotten tallow lamp.

Illumination through combustion was the first way our ancestors fought off the darkness, starting with fires and torches, and reaching a point of refinement with pressurized white gas and propane before the electric light won out in the end.

Until petroleum refining took off in the mid-19th century, natural fats and oils provided that illumination. In the Middle East, olive oil was a popular illuminating oil, and at one time, whale oil lit the homes of the well-to-do and wealthy in Europe and America. However, by and large for the common person, candles provided that light. But hunters, natives and the very poor knew of another light that could be as simple as placing melted tallow (a rendered form of fat) in a shallow dish and setting it alight, or using a bit of cloth or porous fiber, string, twine, etc., to serve as a wick. It is a traditional method of lighting that has existed for thousands of years.

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These very simple lights can be made from material readily found in the wilderness, and a tablespoon or so of tallow has been shown to provide useful light for about 45 minutes, making it perfect for working on evening tasks before bed, or even just a few minutes with your Bible or another book. Like all simple tools, the tallow lamp can seem more complex than it really is to our modern mind, so let’s take a look at a common way of making them.

Seashells were one way of holding the tallow, but you also could do it with a piece of bark, a stone with a hollow in it, a small dish, or really anything capable of holding the tallow. For a wick, an inch or two of simple string or twine will suffice, as will a strip of scrap cloth.

Melt the tallow and pour it around your wick (it can be laying sideways if needed), or even press unmelted tallow or fat around the wick. You also can run the wick through a button that will hold it upright in the pool of tallow (a so-called button lamp) and make it a bit more efficient.

What you get with just a minute or two of work is a crude, but effective, lamp. This would not be suitable as your primary lighting source unless you had no other choice, but it becomes invaluable for the stranded hunter or in a total societal collapse. (It’s a great way to use up rancid or heavily used cooking fats, though.)

One of the biggest drawbacks to the tallow lamp, aside from the low levels of light it produces and the fact that it is both smoky and can put out an odor, is that it demands the use of edible fats. You can make lamps along these lines with any kind of natural oil, and as we all know (or should know) fats are very important in a survival situation. Fat consumption provides valuable caloric energy, so this puts tallow lamps strictly in the realm of something to use when you have a sufficient fat supply.

Making tallow lamps isn’t hard. While they are not the greatest source of light, they are more than sufficient for personal use, and are a useful tool when you have no other source of light.

Have you ever made a tallow lamp? Share your tips in the section below:

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Survival Lessons From The Man Who Didn’t Eat For An ENTIRE YEAR

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Survival Lessons From The Man Who Didn’t Eat For An ENTIRE YEAR

Angus Barbieri prior to his fast.

On July 12, 1966, the Chicago Tribune published an article about the unlikely story of Angus Barbieri, a man in Scotland who was eating a breakfast consisting of a boiled egg, some buttered bread and coffee. This was no ordinary breakfast, though. It was actually the breaking of a fast that had started more than a year earlier. Specifically, it was the first food Barbieri consumed in 392 days. During that time, he literally ate no food. No meat, no vegetables, no fruit, no smoothies, no light meals.

When he started his diet, Barbieri tipped the scales at a whopping 472 pounds at only 26 years of age. No sources divulge much information as to how the young man got so heavy, other than he worked in his parent’s fish and chips house. Being so heavy, Angus was looking for a way to get back down to a healthy weight. After consulting with doctors, they agreed he should try “total starvation” in an attempt to lose the weight. Angus agreed, and the fast was on.

For the next 392 days, Angus was completely devoted to the task at hand. He quit his job and worked closely with doctors, who monitored his condition. Although he didn’t eat any solid food, his body still needed some vitamins to endure the brutal starvation. The Chicago Tribune reported he consumed only water, soda water, tea, and coffee, along with prescribed vitamins during the fast. “I occasionally had a little milk or sugar in my tea,” he said. During the fast, he reportedly stayed in hospitals for two or three days at a time, and then returned home. After his grueling year was over, Barbieri weighed a trim 179 pounds — and was not planning on returning to work in the fish and chips house, which his family had sold. He even said he had forgotten what food tasted like.

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What a unique and interesting story. As a disclaimer, this is article is not intended to endorse starvation as a means to lose weight. In fact, the same doctor who supervised the fast reported he knew of “five fatalities coinciding with the treatment of obesity by total starvation.” In other words, five other people had died trying to do the same thing. Don’t try this at home.

This story, though, may teach us something about short-term survival situations and the tremendous adaptations the body makes.

Survival Lessons From The Man Who Didn’t Eat For An ENTIRE YEAR

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The first lesson Mr. Barbieri can teach us is that food isn’t a top priority if we find ourselves in a bind. Simply put, our bodies can go for quite an extended period of time without eating. Yes, Angus was in a unique situation hundreds of pounds of fat stores clinging to his body, but the fact stands to reason. Even a relatively fit individual likely has enough fat reserves to last long enough to endure a short-term situation. Dangers like dehydration and hypothermia are much bigger concerns. There even have been reports of people dying from thirst in as little as two days. If you’re in a bad spot, finding water and shelter should be your first priority.

Second, this incredible story teaches us a bit about how the body is designed. Obesity is a growing problem in America, and we tend to view fat as a bad thing. The truth, though, is that throughout history, a limited amount of body fat was a good thing. Every pound of body fat contains roughly 3,500 calories – which can be useful during a survival situation. With the irregular diets of some of our ancestors, the ability to store fat was a survival must.

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Of course, our diets and sedentary lifestyles have made packing on the pounds easy. On the upside, they also have given us a bit of insurance if we find ourselves in a bad spot. Even if you find yourself in the most remote location in the lower 48 states, you likely have enough calories on your body to make the trek out – provided the temperatures don’t kill you first. Again, finding water and shelter are much higher priorities than finding food. In fact, one survival expert, Dave Canterbury, told Off The Grid Radio that he encourages people who aren’t foragers not to eat anything in a short-term survival situation, out of fear they might eat something poisonous.

Keep in mind, though, that this view of survival applies only to short-term situations. Long-term situations would require a different approach in order to replenish your calories. Otherwise, you’ll simply become too weak to achieve any of your survival chores.

Although the unique story of Angus Barbieri is an interesting tale, it does offer up a few lessons for folks interested in survival and the human body. We can be comforted knowing that we all are likely carrying around at least a few days of calories in fat reserves on our body. Know the real dangers you face if you happen to be stranded, and plan accordingly.

How long do you think you could go without food and still survive? Share your survival tips in the section below:

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Why You Should Carry Cash In A Credit Card Society

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Why Everyone (And We Mean Everyone) Should Always Carry Cash

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The use of plastic currency is very common in today’s world. In fact, stores that don’t accept debit and credit cards are becoming anomalies.

However, a little cash stash should always be included in everyone’s everyday carry supplies. There are many reasons why cash money could become important, ranging from purely convenience to absolute necessity.

When might cash matter? Aside from the idea that practicing a cash-only personal finance is a great way to keep from spending more than you can afford, cash can bail you out of sticky situations.

Off-grid establishments still exist. From a remote country gas station to a rustic hiking hostel to a roadside farm stand, you never know when you might need a little cash money to pay for what you want. Encountering a place which lacks the capability to accept plastic payment is still not that uncommon, particularly in rural areas.

Imagine the serendipity of being out for a drive and happening upon a delightful little mom-and-pop diner with the smells of your favorite food wafting from the kitchen—only to discover that they accept cash only and you have none. Sure, you could make the drive to the nearest ATM, some 10 miles of winding country road each way, but you probably would not.

Sometimes even when establishments do accept plastic, it is nice to have a little cash on hand. Paper money can make splitting the check or paying your share of the tip easier, and it is convenient to have a few dollars in your wallet when all you want is a soda or pack of gum.

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Having cash makes it easier to buy direct from individuals. Transactions such as getting a great deal on a vintage bureau on Craigslist or scooping up a baby stroller at a garage sale are easier with cash for everyone involved. You also might want to avail yourself of a chance to get in on a friend’s bulk purchase by buying just one pair out of a dozen gloves or a small bag of artisan flour out of a 50-pound sack. It also would be a shame to pass up a purchase of fresh delectable produce at a stand beside the road, or to miss an opportunity to donate a few dollars to a good cause because you did not have money handy to do so.

Having cash on hand also can be more than just a matter of convenience. Stuff happens. Stuff like forgetting your purse at a friend’s house—or your wallet in your other jacket pocket—and not realizing it until your gas tank is too low to go back for it. And stuff like searching for a store at midnight when you suddenly realize you are completely out of disposable diapers and finding that the only store open has a broken card machine until the repairperson arrives the next morning. And even stuff like rushing to a meeting and not having cash for a toll highway or parking area and ending up late because of detour.

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And those possible situations are just everyday occurrences. If a minor emergency were to happen, the need for cash could become even more important. In the event of something like a power outage, small stores without generators would be able to serve only cash customers. If the precipitating event continued, generators in larger places could eventually fail, as well.

In the event of a major disaster, cash will be vital, at least for a period of time. In a true catastrophe, it is possible that all representative currency could eventually become valueless. But in the interim, having cash could mean the difference between comfort and suffering, and could possibly contribute to your very survival.

The advice to always keep cash on hand is all well and good, but is not easy to do. Probably the biggest barriers to stashing cash are related to how difficult it is to avoid spending the money as fast as you get it. There is no magic bullet, but everyone can do it.

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As far as pocket money goes, for those little gotchas like emergency gas and unforeseen parking fees and middle-of-the-night baby necessities, it makes sense to keep the stash in your car. One way to do this is to keep a little covered dish—a recycled pint container such as the ones sour cream or cottage cheese come in—in your car. Tuck it away out of sight so thieves cannot see it. Start out by just dropping your coins into it every time you get change in the drive-through or coins back at a toll booth. Add a few bills here and there as you can spare them, never enough so you miss the money but sufficient to add up over time.

If the container-at-your-fingertips idea works for you, great. If, however, you cannot resist frequently dipping into your money dish, try hiding a little money in areas of your car that are less convenient to access. Most cars have places to stow items so that they are not accessible to the driver. Try tucking some money away in the trunk or under the back seat, and when you are faced with the choice of pulling over and digging out a stashed $10 bill versus dipping into your wallet, you will choose the latter.

Once you know you have a solid emergency stash in the back of the car, keep trying to keep a money container within reach. Eventually, you can make it work.

Building up a supply of money at home for true disasters works on the same principle. Start small and move up, with a $5 in a decorative cookie jar and $20 in an empty toothpaste box in the bathroom cabinet and another few bills tucked between the pages of an old book. Choose hiding spots in places you don’t look in often, and in places where would-be thieves may not find, either.

But where does this money come from to begin with if you are in the habit of using exclusively plastic and electronic transactions? You will need to be proactive about it, especially at first. You can get a little cash back every time you use a card at the grocery store, withdraw money from your account at an ATM, or develop a habit of doing more trading in cash.

There is no disputing the fact that we are quickly becoming a cashless society, and I am not suggesting that we can or should resist that trajectory. But I do maintain that everyone needs to have a little cash, on their person, in the car, or at home—and preferably all three—for convenience and emergencies.

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

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Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay Warm

When winter rolls around, most of us simply curl up in front of the wood stove or fireplace, or even turn on our electric blankets, but what would you do if those things were suddenly gone?

If the worst-case scenario occurred, would you know the ways that our ancestors stayed warm during winter? During those times, we might not be able to have a fireplace or a cozy home to sit out the winter months. So this might be a good time to familiarize yourself with the old-fashioned ways people have used to stay warm when they were outside.

Instant Heaters

My mother, during the depression, often took a hot baked potato to school, worn inside her coat. This helped keep her warm on her wintery walks to school.

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Other warming items, which are easily heated in a stove or in a pot of boiling water, would be hot water bottles, rocks, bricks, flat stones, potatoes and even shoes or underwear! My mother often said that, before she got dressed, she put her underwear and shoes right next to the wood burning stove on a cold, icy morning.

‘Crazy Layers’

Dressing in layers — but not the types of layers you and I use — was perhaps one of the best ways our ancestors stayed warm. They weren’t too picky about what it was, either. Layers of items create air pockets which keep heat in and cold out. Today, we have a great selection of fibers to choose from, so we can put on a couple pair of silk undergarments and a synthetic coat.

Before these materials were invented, however, some of our ancestors knew how to do what my grandmother called “crazy layers.” This means wool long John’s or undershirts and leggings, perhaps several pair. If you had them, you wore multiple pairs of pants or several petticoats (or slips). Stories in my family say that my great-grandfather only had two pairs of pants, so he would put them on, stuff the hems into his socks and boots, and then he stuffed chicken feathers in between the pants for insulation!

Most women wore several layers of clothing, a couple of scarves and hats, along with fur-lined gloves. It was not uncommon to see women wearing blankets tied about their neck or across the shoulders. This left their arms free to work, but helped to keep them warm.

Even More Unusual Ways to Stay Warm

Strange Winter Tricks My Ancestors Used To Stay WarmOf course, we all want to believe that the truly desperate fights for survival are behind us. However, since none of us can foresee the future, we should at least be aware of some of the extreme, or at least unusual, ways that our ancestors stayed warm when dire circumstances were more common.

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Sleeping next to or under animals is a good way to stay warm if need be. Yes, it’s true that sleeping under a cow or next to a couple of goats or sheep might not smell great and might not be all that comfortable, but it will surely beat freezing to death.

Also, in a pinch, you can use some of nature’s own insulating materials, such as leaves, hay, feathers, hair (such as horse hair), straw, dried grass and even pine boughs to insulate your clothing, make a shelter and provide a dry floor for bedding.

Let’s not forget that there are other things to burn besides wood. If you want a fire but can’t find wood, remember that you can burn most dried animal manure (cow, horse and buffalo “chips” are great for this), as well as bird nests, straw, hay, charcoal (partially burned wood), paper, cloth, tires and leaves.

I don’t know about you, but after thinking about burning cow patties to stay warm, I am really grateful for my wood burning stove and electric blanket right now!

Do you know of other ways our ancestors stayed warm during winter? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Prepping For An Evacuation: How To Be Ready When The Gov’t Says ‘Get Out’

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Prepping For An Evacuation: How To Be Ready When The Gov't Says ‘Get Out’

Mother Nature has incredible power available at her fingertips — much more than we humans do. With water alone, she is able to destroy some of mankind’s greatest accomplishments. Water leveled the city of Miyako, Japan, in 2011, as a tsunami brought a wave surge 128 feet high. Water also destroyed much of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005.

Currently, Northern California is closely watching the destructive power of water, as the spillway for our nation’s highest dam, the Lake Oroville Dam, is crumbling.

What has caused the damage to that dam’s spillway? Just water. Erosion has created a 200-feet-long by 30-feet-wide rupture in the spillway, opening the way for more erosion. The emergency spillway is being eroded away rapidly, as well, as waters rise above the lake’s capacity.

Fortunately for residents downstream, the dam itself is holding. But should either spillway fail, which is a very real possibility, a 30-feet-tall wall of water could go rushing downstream. While that isn’t as bad as a 700-feet-tall wall of water, it has caused mass evacuations of the towns in the path of potential flooding. Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered from their homes, with no promise of when they’ll be able to return.

Were They Ready?

When events like this happen, I always find myself asking how many of those people were truly prepared. How many had an evacuation plan in place? How many had a place to go while they waited out the disaster? How many even had a bug-out-bag packed, so that they would have the basic necessities of survival?

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Prepping For An Evacuation: How To Be Ready When The Gov't Says ‘Get Out’ While flood warnings were given to the major cities downstream, the towns closest to the dam itself only received an hour’s notice to evacuate. That’s barely enough time to gather up your family and jump in the car, let alone leaving in anything that resembles an organized manner. It literally meant grabbing what you can and running out the door, so that you can sit in traffic, as the highways aren’t built to accommodate an evacuation. Some invariably had to abandon their cars and proceed on foot once they ran out of gas.

The vast majority of those people ended up packed in shelters, set up by charities or the government. This left them with no privacy, little comfort and no way of protecting their property. Had they had plans in place for an emergency, they would have been able to go to a much better place, where they could be more comfortable as they awaited their fate.

What’s Different About an Evacuation?

Normally, when we talk about bugging out, we’re talking about escaping from the aftereffects of a calamity. More than anything, we’re talking about escaping a breakdown in society. But an evacuation isn’t that. An evacuation is intended to protect you and your family from a natural or man-made disaster. In such a situation, it’s easier to survive in an urban environment than it is to head for the hills. Staying within the area also allows you to get back to your home quickly and survey any damage when officials allow it.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that bugging out in an evacuation has to include going to a government-run shelter. In fact, I would avoid that at all costs. You’re much better off trying to make it on your own than you would be packed into a refugee shelter that’s set up in some gymnasium.

Planning Your Evacuation

Planning for an evacuation is much like planning for any other bug-out. But there is one major difference. That is, the fact that you don’t need to plan on heading into the wild. That affects the things you carry with you and the destination that you seek.

You should start your planning with a destination. Where can you go to find a safe place from a pending disaster? For the people in Oroville and the other nearby towns, there are several options. The best is to head uphill from where the lake is. That can mean heading directly up the nearest mountain, but I really mean to head for some other town that is at a higher elevation. That would put them out of the path of the water.

Most people will stop at the first safe haven they can find, which means nearby towns fill up fast. Stopping there could very well put you in one of the shelters that we’re trying to avoid. Instead, pass through that first town and go farther down the road. The farther you go, the less you’ll see of other evacuees. That will put you in a better situation when you do decide to stop.

We can clearly see what happens to the roads in such an evacuation. As many have predicted, the roads leading away from the danger area have turned into parking lots, filled with slow-moving traffic. Abandoned cars litter the roads, left behind by those who ran out of fuel.

So it’s best to have escape routes planned out that don’t involve the major highways. Find the back roads that will take you where you need to go. While those might not be the fastest way to go somewhere in normal times, you’d probably be flying down those roads compared to the people sitting on the highways.

Work out an escape plan that includes many routes, with interconnections, so that you can jump from one route to another, as the situation may dictate. There’s no way of knowing how many others know of those routes and might try using, too, so you want to have as many options open as possible.

The other part of avoiding a traffic jam is making sure that your vehicle is ready for the trip. That means keeping your car or truck in good shape, mechanically, so that it’s ready to roll. But it also means having a supply of gas on hand so that you have something to go with. Most of us don’t keep our gas tanks filled. But in a time of evacuation, you’ve got to have a full gas tank, or you risk being one of those people who are forced to leave a car on the side of the road.

Grab and Go

The bug-out-bag is a great starting point, but as I said earlier, I wouldn’t want to leave with just that if my house might be destroyed by a 30-foot wall of water. I’d want to take anything and everything I could, realizing that I might never see the things that I didn’t take with me.

But what to take? In such a moment, you’re not going to be thinking clearly. So that’s not the time to put together a list of everything you want to pack. Besides, you’re going to have mere minutes to grab what you can, not hours to neatly fill your suitcases.

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Prepping For An Evacuation: How To Be Ready When The Gov't Says ‘Get Out’ With that in mind, it makes sense to prepare yourself a checklist, so that if you do have to go quickly, you’ll be sure to grab the most important things. Those will have to fall into two categories: things to help you survive the aftermath, and things to help you rebuild your life. Both are equally important, although we don’t think of it that way in most bug-out scenarios.

Your bug-out bag probably has the majority of the things you need to survive. But I’d like to add a few items to that, if you don’t already have them packed:

  • Extra clothing, especially rugged clothing.
  • Coats, hats, gloves, boots (especially during wintertime).
  • A tent and sleeping bag (if you have them) or blankets.
  • Whatever cash you have on hand.
  • Extra food and water.

For rebuilding your life, there are a number of other things you’ll need:

  • More clothes, for job interviews and for working.
  • Any valuables you have in your home.
  • Your computer (especially if it has valuable information on it).
  • Tools for your profession (which might include the above-mentioned computer).
  • Copies of all your important documents (birth certificates, marriage license, property deeds, car titles, diplomas and degrees, licenses, kids school records, health records). These can be scanned images on a thumb drive or CD.
  • Photos and other important memories.

Of course, you’re going to be limited in the space you have available, so you’ll have to be selective about what you take. But by taking the time to plan it out before-hand, you will make it much easier to evacuate with everything you really need, when and if the time comes.

Plastic bags are a great way to pack soft items, such as clothing. You can literally grab armfuls of clothing and stuff them in the bags. Being soft and flexible, they can then be stuffed in the trunk of your car or corners of the back seat, without a problem. You’ll find that you can pack more, by using plastic bags, than you can by using suitcases, boxes and plastic bins.

What advice would you add on evacuating a disaster? Share your tips in the section below:

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7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

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7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

Image source: Pixabay.com

I’ve been in survival situations numerous times — usually because of bad luck or sheer stupidity. The two worst ones occurred in winter, and, thankfully, I survived.

Winter is unforgiving in a survival situation. The only advantage is that the snow and ice are delivering you a regular water source that’s typically safe to drink when melted.  After that, everything else is worse.

The critical first step is staying warm, building a fire and sustaining it. But there’s a second priority that’s equally important: shelter.

But before you exhaust yourself scrambling to find the branches, boughs and other materials to build a shelter, take the time to look for a natural shelter.

1. Low-growing pines

You may have seen a pine tree with its boughs overloaded with snow. It’s not an inviting sight, but if you spread the boughs and look at the base of the tree you may be surprised to see dry ground around the trunk. This is one of the ways that nature can provide you with an instant shelter that will protect you from the wind and snow.

7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you cut away a few low-hanging branches you can build a fire that will provide some heat. You also could build the Swedish “upside-down fire” even if you can’t clear all of the snow off the ground. We’ll cover that at the end of this article.

2. Large deadfalls

A large tree, whether it be a pine or deciduous, will often create a natural canopy over an area of ground if it has been toppled. Here again, you’re looking for that precious bare ground that says it may stay that way over a period of time. You could carefully clear some branches for a fire to provide some heat, but you’ll need to guard against snow melt.

3. Root cavity of large uprooted trees

We have a cabin in Michigan. One summer, a violent windstorm uprooted a monster oak not far from the cabin. It was a green tree, so I was going to wait until the next summer to cut it up. During the winter, I was walking and noticed the snow-covered and sand-encased roots forming a natural canopy over the hole left by the roots. It was dry and no snow had entered. I climbed down and was surprised that the sand was still soft and unfrozen. It was cozy but a bit claustrophobic. In an emergency, I would have gotten over that fairly quickly.  It was my first experience in a literal root cellar.

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Large uprooted trees are fairly common in heritage forests, so keep a look out and you might find your own natural root cellar as a winter shelter.

4. Caves

If you’re fortunate enough to find a cave, you’ve found nature’s natural penthouse.  However, advance cautiously. You’re not the only animal in the woods trying to survive the winter, and some of the other animals have bigger teeth.

Caves are also ideal for capturing the heat of a fire. Build the fire as large as you want.

5. Rock canyons

7 Instant And Natural Winter Survival Shelters

Image source: Pixabay.com

In some parts of North America there are natural rock canyons. They’re often narrow in parts and both the snow and wind have a hard time getting into them. That’s a good thing.  Here again, you can haul in your firewood and build a significant fire to stay warm. If you’re worried about animals using your canyon as a pathway at night, build fires on either side of you in the canyon. Just make sure they’re small enough so that you can jump over them.

6. Rock overhangs

There are occasions along a cliff face that a natural depression will occur, resulting in an overhang. It’s not as cozy as a cave, but it could protect you from precipitation and the wind, depending on the wind direction. It’s also a good environment to enjoy the heat of a fire; the rock at your back and around you should reflect the heat nicely. You just have to hope the wind doesn’t shift and fill your little enclosure with snow drifts.

7. Large boulders

It’s a bit odd to be walking through the woods and encounter a large boulder in the middle of nowhere. It’s so odd that geologists call them “erratics.” They’re erratic because they don’t geologically belong there. They were delivered by the glaciers as they advanced south during the Ice Age.

An erratic has some benefits. For one, the leeward side (the side opposite the wind) will often have less snow on the ground and will protect you from the prevailing wind. It also can serve as an excellent heat reflector. You can sit with your back against the wall of the boulder, and the fire will heat you and the rock face. Or you can build the fire at the base of the boulder to allow the rock to act as a huge reflector. This assumes you have a clear night without precipitation.

Do you know of other instant and natural winter survival shelters? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Profound Truths From History Channel’s Survival Show ‘Alone’

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3 Profound Truths From History Channel's Survival Show ‘Alone’It’s been a long time since Bear Grylls commercialized the arts of wilderness survival. But if there were one primary reason why the show eventually lost popular interest, it probably had something to do with the weakness that had been embedded in the show from the very start: the ever-present camera crew.

But that’s particularly where History Channel’s Alone shows us the true nature of what it takes, stripping away the glitz and glam, leaving only the average modern human to adapt to the harshness of the wild. There’s no camera crew.

Here are three lessons to glean from such a unique and thought-provoking gem of a television show:

No. 3 — Systems depend on systems (that depend on circadian systems).

While watching Alone, I was left with the distinct impression on how each contestant’s performances progressed from Day 1. If a contestant was not able to sustain a regular sleep pattern, then that contestant’s ability to function, critically think and maintain emotional toughness decreased significantly. Thus, shelter, bedding and warmth became a make-or-break aspect of their ability to continue.

Which leads us to the circadian rhythm. According to Psychology Today, this is how the circadian rhythm is best defined: “Often referred to as the ‘body clock,’ the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat — regulating many physiological processes.”

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PT also notes that when the circadian rhythm is disturbed, depression and bipolar disorder even can arise. However, the psychological detriment doesn’t stop there, because the longer the body is subject to sleep deprivation, the more the mind becomes unravelled. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says:

In addition to these normal fluctuations, not getting enough sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of weeks to months — has a significant effect on our ability to function. Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions.

No. 2 — Physical fitness is a game-changer.

We, modern humans, have become poorly adapted to wilderness environments. Even though we may devote ourselves to living a healthy life, our muscles, joints, tendons and even equilibrium are not accustomed to some very fundamental factors. Simply put, flat and level ground puts strain on the unadapted body over time — and unless you take the time to construct them, furniture is a modern luxury that doesn’t exist out there.

Alan Kay, the winner of Season 1, knew he was getting a run for his money within minutes of starting the race [1]:

The thing that stood out to me was how hard it was to even walk in that environment. Everything is so wet and so thick that you’re burning massive amounts of energy.

By the end of the season, Kay had lost 60 pounds.

No. 1 — To break the body, break the mind.

It’s no wonder why we weren’t exactly seeing Bear Grylls as someone who accurately demonstrates the true nature of wilderness survival. Sure, even though one may have knowledge and skill, it’s the accumulation of many small stressers that leads to bigger stressers. Ultimately, Alone shows us that the greatest toll taken is on the mind, and its ability to endure sleeplessness, physical fatigue, and the vast mental abyss of total isolation.

It’s not terribly difficult to become physically fit and knowledgeable about how to survive in such environments. Instead, all of those varying stresses accumulate against that which is the most critical component in a survival situation: the mind — and more importantly, the ideas that permeate it. Once the mind believes it has finally reached a maximum stress point and begins to sustain fatal errors (such having given up hope), then the body is soon to follow.

It’s no secret that isolation can be uncomfortable, but over the course of days, weeks, months and years, the psychological toll becomes more and more severe. It even may devolve into outright hallucinations, according to an article from the BBC that discussed a woman who had endured 10,000 hours of total isolation in an Iranian prison cell. Wired Magazine also published an article discussing the effects of solitary confinement on the U.S. prison population, telling of symptoms that they describe as “universal”:

Consistent patterns emerge, centering around the aforementioned extreme anxiety, anger, hallucinations, mood swings and flatness, and loss of impulse control.

Alan Kay: A Remarkable Mind

Thus, it’s also no wonder why Alan Kay won the first round of Alone. Out of his fellow contestants, the man wasn’t exactly the most skilled, nor was he the most fit. But what most certainly separated him from the pack was that he took good care of his mind. He kept his brain active, his ego at bay, and he regularly reminded himself of the truly simple and rather beautiful things that are common to all biological life.

A tough mind is a well-ordered mind, recognizing that true adaptation is an active state of negotiation between the man and his environment. To survive is not an act of war; it’s an act of humility and harmony, trading with — and learning from — that complex ecosystem of trees, fish, weeds, bugs, critters and morning mist they all commonly share. Alone seemed to prove that survival begins with the toughness of the mind, reinforced by the pure and simple truths that it keeps within.

[1] http://people.com/tv/alone-winner-alan-kay-shares-his-wilderness-survival-tips-ask-whats-going-to-kill-me-first-and-whats-going-to-kill-me-next/

Have you ever watched Alone? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter

Artist: Robert Duncan

Most of us head indoors and turn up the furnace when frigid weather hits, stacking in a good supply of wood for the stove or plugging in the old electric throw blanket — and praying that the power doesn’t go out!

For the native people of this land, however, they had none of those luxuries. Have you ever wondered just how the heck they stayed warm when it was dangerously cold? During blizzards and ice storms? Were teepees and other shelters really that warm?

Of course, there could be causalities during severe weather. You can’t help but picture the people who went outside to attend to nature’s call, only to find themselves half frozen within minutes, or lost in a driving snow.

Let’s take a look at how the indigenous people of this land not only survived during the harshest winter weather, but actually looked forward to it as a time to stay indoors, sleep, rest, spend time with family, and get caught up on chores.

An Ounce of Prevention

One way that native people prepared for harsh storms was forecasting them. Generally speaking, there were always one or two elders who seemed to have a knack of understanding that, for example, if the wind was bringing clouds from the north, it meant a blizzard, if from the east, it would bring snow, but nothing too harsh. Thin clouds meant cold weather. No snow and a ring circling the moon meant it would rain within 24 hours.

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It also helped to observe animal behavior. For example, woodpeckers sharing one tree or one nest meant a harsh winter was coming. It is also said that when muskrats made their holes high up on the banks of rivers, lots of snow was on the way.

In the far north, the elders looked for bright spots that appear on either side of that cold winter sun. An old saying was that those spots were fire, which the sun had made to warm its ears. This was a sign which meant a severe cold snap was coming quickly.

Forgotten Skills That Helped The Native Americans Survive Winter Native people were well aware that being caught without proper provisions during the winter would almost certainly mean death — so they prepared themselves accordingly.

When Caught Unaware

Literature has painted Native Americans as some sort of “magic” people who knew everything about nature, but the truth is that they were humans who made mistakes. This is especially true of young couples sneaking away for a little tryst, or young men trying to prove their bravery.

Sometimes, indigenous people were away from camp when a snowstorm or blizzard struck.  In these cases, stories of survival are almost all the same: People sought shelter quickly, made a small fire, tried to stay warm and wait it out. Shelter was the foremost concern, and it would take the shape of hollowed-out tree trunks, caves, rock outcroppings, even a quick lean-to made from branches, a tree and some snow.

Anything that would burn would be collected as quickly as possible, including horse or cow dung, pine cones, old pine needles, small branches – basically, whatever was dry. By surrounding the fire with rocks, they could radiate heat into the shelter.

If you were with someone else, you could share body heat. Natives would wait out the storm by sleeping as much as possible near the fire. It’s an old wives’ tale that people who fall asleep in the cold will never wake up. When you are cold enough, your body will wake you up to let you know!

Protect the Body

Next to the fire, your most precious asset is your own body heat. Native people considered their body as a natural fire that they never wanted to squander or allow to go out.

For the indigenous people, this meant never sitting directly on the ground, but instead perching themselves on furs or rocks near the fire that were covered with hides and fur. The Eskimo people were known to tie dried loon skins, including the feathers, to a rope, which they wore around their waist, similar to an apron. This was not only an extra layer of warmth, but if they were out and about, they would turn it around so the skins were lying on their buttocks, giving them a natural buffer between their fanny and a cold rock!

Native people kept their body fire protected by layering clothing. Better to remove clothing if you became too warm than to be caught in a snow storm wearing just a breechcloth!

Making the Cold an Ally

Of course, native people had many ways of dealing with the cold over the years that are no longer useful to us in modern times. Many tribes were nomadic and simply moved south along with the migrating birds. Other tribes used longhouses, where almost everyone in the tribe would spend the winters together in close quarters, their combined body heat making the interiors warmer.

Native people were known to cut wood when it was well below freezing. Why? Not only were they kept warm through the effort, but wood at 30 below (Fahrenheit) splits very easily!

Perhaps one of the best secrets of the indigenous people was that they saw the cold as a living thing that deserved respect. They did not try to prove how long they could stay outside in an ice storm. Native people believed that cold was a spirit that had great power worth of respect and attention.

Do you think you could have survived as a Native American in frigid weather? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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3 Edible Mushrooms That Defy Nature & Grow During Winter

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3 Edible Mushrooms That Defy Nature & Grow During Winter

Oyster mushrooms. Image source: YouTube

Any outdoor survival situation eventually requires some degree of hunting and gathering. Unfortunately, there are far fewer plants and animals in winter than you might find in more temperate seasons. Curiously, though, mushrooms in winter are an option — but you have to know where and when to look.

How can mushrooms grow in winter? The simple answer is that most can’t, but there are occasions when a mid-winter thaw will not only allow but encourage some mushrooms to emerge.

Two examples of edible mushrooms in winter include oyster mushrooms and wood ears. There’s also an edible winter mushroom called velvet shank that can withstand freezing and thawing throughout the winter.

Perhaps the most visible and ubiquitous mushrooms in winter are growing low to the ground on the trunks of trees. They often grow in clusters and stick out from the sides of the tree like little shelves.

This class of mushroom is commonly called “tree brackets” or as their appearance implies, “shelf mushrooms.” Mycologists refer to them as polypores. There is one polypore exception we’ll cover that can be eaten, and that’s wood ears, but it is a rare exception.

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While tree brackets are easy to spot and seem to be everywhere, almost all of them are defined as inedible and most are toxic and as tough as frozen leather.

Where to Look

Mushrooms favor forested areas where the rotting cellulose of trees provides them with the nutrients to survive and grow. A few can emerge in an open field or you may have seen them in your lawn, but lurking beneath the ground is a humus of rotting vegetation that feeds many species of mushroom. These are referred to as saprophytic fungi.

Then again, some species of mushrooms are parasitic and actually grow on green trees and plants as opposed to dead and rotting ones. The tree-brackets or shelf mushrooms we just covered are an example of a class of mushrooms referred to as parasitic fungi. 

There’s a third classification referred to as a symbiotic or mycorrhizal fungi. These mushrooms emerge from the roots of living plants and trees and actually help the plant or tree to draw more water or nutrients from the ground. These also can be found in an open field, lawn or wooded forest.

When to Look

Mushrooms cannot emerge from hard, frozen ground or frozen, rotting wood in winter. It takes a mid-winter thaw, usually preceded by rain or thawing snow, to motivate the mycelium or the early growth stage of a mushroom to spring to life, and with any luck (and a duration of a few days) a mushroom will emerge. The rare exception is the velvet shank which emerges and survives all year round.

What to Look For

Now comes the hard part. What have you found? There are three edible mushrooms often identified as prime species for mid-winter emergence. It’s worth noting that all three of these mushroom species are saprophytic, meaning they thrive on the rotting wood of trees, or the rotting cellulose of plants.

1. The velvet shank

3 Edible Mushrooms That Defy Nature & Grow During Winter

Velvet shank. Image source: Geograph.co.uk / Creative commons

The prime season for the velvet shank in many parts of North America is defined as November, December and January, although it is a year-round mushroom. The velvet shank is a very common mushroom and can actually withstand freezing and thawing. Its appearance is defined by yellow caps that are flat and about 2 to 10 centimeters in diameter. The stem is very tough and is also yellow, although it darkens towards the base, and the stem darkens to black as it matures. The velvet shank stands about 3 to 10 centimeters from the trunk or stump of the tree and has thin, yellow flesh. Horse chestnut and elms are a favored host for the velvet shank.

2. Oyster mushrooms

Prime months for oyster mushrooms include November, December, January and February, although they also can grow year-round. They first appear as grey turning to a creamy brown as they mature. The caps are shell-shaped anywhere from 4 to 20 centimeters in diameter. The oyster mushroom favors the trunks or branches of rotting, broad-leafed trees. It is also a very common mushroom. But beware. There is a similar looking mushroom called the olive oysterling that is toxic.

3. Wood ears

3 Edible Mushrooms That Defy Nature & Grow During Winter

Wood ears. Image source: Mo.gov

This mushroom has its prime season in January, but like the others is also a year-round species. After first appearing its texture is jelly-like but it hardens as it approaches maturity. It has a reddish-brown appearance and the interior of the cap is greyish-brown.  It also grows on dead branches and trunks and some of the common trees it favors include sycamore and elder. It, too, is a very common mushroom found across most of North America and is one of the few tree brackets that is edible.

While there are many sources for information about mushrooms, I usually look to the U.S. Forest Service as a starting point. They have an excellent publication that you can download for free as a PDF that does a great job of identifying mushrooms in the Eastern United States. You also can visit their website at www.fs.gov.us to search for information about mushrooms across the continent.

Another good resource is The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. This is handy to take into the field with you while you’re studying mushrooms.

What advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Single Biggest Problem Lurking In Most Survival Preps

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The Single Biggest Problem Lurking In Most Survival Preps

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Prepping can easily become an all-encompassing activity, affecting every area of our lives. That’s why many preppers refer to it as a change in lifestyle, and not simply adding something to their already full plates. That actually makes sense, as the attitudes one needs to develop for prepping require looking at life in a different way and establishing a different set of priorities.

The basic concept of prepping is to make sure that you have everything you need to survive, no matter what comes your way. That’s a pretty broad concept, but one that is actually achievable. After all, our ancestors lived a prepping lifestyle as a matter of course, and they didn’t have as much available to them to work with as we do today.

But the problem with such a broad definition is that it’s easy to have blind spots — areas that we haven’t thought about which could affect our survival. Ultimately, we need to seek out and find solutions to those blind spots so that they don’t come up and bite us at the wrong moment.

One such blind spot is the area of debt. In our modern, materialistic society, we are accustomed to living in debt. In fact, I’d venture to say that there are many preppers who have built their prepping stockpile with credit cards. While that might be okay to get started, if someone doesn’t have the cash on hand, in the long run, it can be devastating.

Debt and Disasters

Here’s the problem, and it’s a problem which comes from a blind spot we all too easily have: The likelihood of a societal-ending event is much lower than is the likelihood of a regional natural disaster.

So, how is that a problem? Because many of us easily slip into the thought pattern of surviving such an event. As such, we don’t think of having to pay off that debt. After all, if an EMP attack were propagated against the United States, all the computers which house the records of our massive debt would be fried. Nobody could collect, because they wouldn’t be able to prove that we owe the money. And if the company is several states away, with no mail delivery, how could we pay anyway?

Emergency Seed Bank Provides THOUSANDS Of Pounds Of Food

The Single Biggest Problem Lurking In Most Survival Preps

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But a regional disaster isn’t going to do a thing to make those records disappear. So, in addition to trying to survive and rebuild our lives, we’ll have the problem of trying to pay for our homes, our cars and just about everything else we need, simply because we bought it on credit.

In such a situation, a family easily could lose their car or even their home if they didn’t have the cash reserves necessary to continue their monthly payments. Rather than helping them to survive, that would make their survival problem infinitely more difficult, as they would lose their shelter and probably a whole lot more.

A Potential Financial Collapse

But there’s another potential disaster that could prove even worse for those preppers who are in debt. That is, a financial collapse. The little hiccup we had in 2008 to 2009 caused millions of families to lose their homes. What would a nationwide depression do?

During the Great Depression, the unemployment rate hit a whopping 25 percent, meaning that one out of every four families had no income. Many of those families lost their homes, leaving them on the streets and searching for shelter. In the process of losing their homes, they lost many of their possessions, as well.

The same would happen again were we to be hit by another such depression. Considering that financial analysts have been predicting a collapse for years, we need to be ready for it. Perhaps the government and the financial community will be able to prevent such an event, but that’s not something that we can count on.

Your home is your single most important piece of survival equipment. It not only provides your family with shelter, but it is the place where you store your stockpile and other survival gear. When a disaster comes, it will be your home that will protect you. But as long as you owe money on it, there’s a chance you could lose it.

Getting Out of Debt

Granted, paying off a home – or even a car — is a difficult undertaking. This isn’t something that you can solve in a month or even a year. But it does need to be part of your survival planning. Until you own your home, free and clear, you will always have the risk of losing it. From a survival point of view, let alone any other, that’s unacceptable.

The Single Biggest Problem Lurking In Most Survival Preps

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Part of the problem is that most of us have more home and more everything than we can actually afford. The average American family lives off of 110 percent of their income, counting on credit to make up the difference. So, instead of getting out of debt, they’re actually getting more and more in debt.

The first step in getting out of debt is restructuring your finances. No, I’m not talking about restructuring your debt, but rather restructuring your budget. You’ve got to find a way to get to a positive monthly cash flow, rather than a negative one. That will probably mean cutting some things out of your life, and may even include downsizing to something that you can more easily afford.

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There are three major areas of debt that most of us have:

  • Credit card debt.
  • Vehicle debt.
  • Home mortgage debt.

Of the three, the credit card debt is the least important, although that’s the one that experts on debt reduction tell you to get out of first. Their reasoning is that it is smaller than the other two categories, and the interest rate is higher. But from a survival point of view, failing to pay off your credit card isn’t going to cost you anything, simply because there is no collateral for you to lose.

On the other hand, both vehicle debt and home mortgage debt do have collateral, the items you used the loan to buy. So, those are the ones you could lose the fastest. But even there, we can see a distinction between their relative importance, as you don’t necessarily need your car to live, but you do need your home.

So, the number one thing you need to come up with is a plan to pay off your mortgage. That may include paying off the other debt, as well, but the goal isn’t just paying off your cars or your credit cards; it’s paying off your home. Only then will you have the security of knowing it won’t be taken from you at your time of greatest need.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the section below:  

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7 Little-Noticed Ways to Use Tree Bark for Survival

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7 Little-Noticed Ways to Use Tree Bark for Survival

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If you find yourself in a survival situation in the woods, you’re basically standing in a goldmine of potential resources, all of which are literally at your fingertips along the trunks of nearby trees. Knowing just how versatile tree bark can be might just save your life.

1. Cordage

Tree bark, specifically long strips of inner bark, can be wrapped or braided together to create durable and flexible cordage quickly. Simply cut away the flaky outer bark from a section of the tree, and then begin to peel the inner bark away in long strips. Don’t remove more than one-fourth of the bark around the tree, or the tree might not be able to survive. Longer cuts top to bottom are better than wider cuts going further around the tree.

Good tree species to try include cedar, aspen, basswood/linden, maple or willow.

2. Food

While eating tree bark may seem to be an act of desperation, it’s actually a traditional food in some cultures, eaten for its distinctive flavor even in times of plenty. The indigenous Sami people of northern Sweden use the inner bark of birch trees, first drying and then grinding it into a flour for baked goods.  It’s described as giving a “sweet woody aroma” to baked goods, and actually boasts 1,000-1,200 calories per kilogram.

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Pine bark is also used by northern Scandinavian people for food, and rather than being relegated to a famine food, there is historical evidence that rich, well-off families collected the largest amounts of the nutrient rich inner bark. While it is also commonly ground into flour, it can be eaten fresh during harvest and has a mild sweetness and texture similar to coconut meat. As an added bonus, it contains plenty of vitamin C to help ward off scurvy during the wintertime.

3. Medicine

While the medicinal properties of willow bark, the native source of Tylenol, are well-known, there are many other tree species that also have medicinal bark.

Witch hazel extract is an antibacterial wash made by cooking thin witch hazel branches on a slow simmer for many hours to extract the compounds in the wood and bark.

Beech bark tea is used to treat lung problems and was once used to treat illnesses as significant as tuberculosis. Even common apple tree bark has medicinal properties when used to treat fevers and diarrhea. For a more comprehensive list of medicinal tree bark, take a look at 10 Medicinal Trees that Heal Virtually Everything.

4. Basketry

The inner bark of basswood, elm, hickory, willow, ash and maple trees all can be used to weave sturdy and long-lasting basketry. Strip off the outer bark, and then peel the inner bark into long flexible strips. Roll up the bark strips for storage until you’re ready to begin working, and then rehydrate them with warm water to make them more workable before beginning to weave your basket.

5. Fire-starting

7 Little-Noticed Ways to Use Tree Bark for Survival

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Most devoted campers know that the outer bark from birch trees makes excellent fire-starting material.  It peels easily from the trees without harming them and is full of flammable resin that ignites easily.  Pine bark from dead pine trees also makes great tinder because of its flammable resin.

6. Cooking

Tree bark, especially from trees with flexible bark that comes off in large sheets, can be formed into cooking vessels and used to make just about any food you want. Well-moistened birch bark sheets can be used to create an impromptu wok for cooking over hot coals. Let the fire burn down to a thick layer of very hot coals, and then cover with ash to create a barrier. Place the well-moistened birch bark on top and cook your food on the clean hot surface.

Tree bark containers also were traditionally used for boiling maple sap into syrup, as well as storing the finished maple syrup for long periods of time (up to a year).

7. Bedding

In a survival situation, it’s essential to insulate yourself from the cold ground while sleeping to prevent hypothermia, even in relatively mild climates. Tree bark is an excellent insulator because it can be peeled in large sheets that can be flattened to create a smooth and comfortable surface. The corky nature of many species of bark also creates a natural insulation.

Do you know of other survival uses of tree bark? Share your tips in the section below:

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50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

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50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

There is a new fad in Silicon Valley and Wall Street: Some of America’s richest and smartest people have become survivalists.

“Anyone who’s in this community knows people who are worried that America is heading toward something like the Russian Revolution,” hedge fund investor Robert H. Dugger told The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos.

Osnos profiled a wide variety of wealthy people who believe American civilization is about to crack up.

“When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” Facebook Executive Antonio García Martínez said. Martínez put his money where his mouth is: He bought five acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest for a survival retreat, stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammo and installed generators and solar panels.

“All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.”

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Martínez was surprised by how many of his colleagues shared his fears and interest in prepping.

50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

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“It runs the gamut, from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens,” Venture capitalist Tim Chang said of Silicon Valley survivalists.

One unnamed investment executive told Osnos, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system. A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”

Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive, admitted to stockpiling food and water and studying archery for self-defense. Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman got laser eye surgery to eliminate the need for glasses during survival.

“If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the a–,” Huffman said.

Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong told Osnos that “most people just assume improbable events don’t happen,” but “technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.”

“The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely,” Wong said “They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”

Apocalypse Insurance

Around 50 percent of Silicon Valley billionaires have some sort of “apocalypse insurance,” LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman said. The insurance can range from an elaborate bunker to a farm in New Zealand.

“I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”

Like everyday preppers, wealthy survivalists face the stigma of being labeled crazy. Yet more and more of them are going public.

“They don’t put tinfoil on your head if you’re the President and you go to Camp David,” Tyler Allen, a Florida real-estate developer, said. “But they do put tinfoil on your head if you have the means and you take steps to protect your family should a problem occur.”

Allen recently paid $3 million for a “survival condo” in a hardened missile silo in Kansas.

Some of America’s best-informed people have become survivalists. Everyone else needs to ask: What do they know?

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Foraging During Winter: 7 Cold-Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Life

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Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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Winter is obviously not the best season for foraging for wild plant edibles, but in a survival situation there are many plant-based foods you can use to keep you eating even when prospects for wild game come up short.

With a little work learning what’s edible in your area, you’ll be prepared should you find yourself hungry and on your own in the dead of winter. Here are a few options available throughout the United States:

1. Frozen or fermented fruit

Though by January, apple season has been over for months, many types of apples hold their fruit on the tree all the way through winter, especially native crab apples. Some heirloom varieties of apples have been selected for their ability to hold fruit without dropping them well into cold weather. One such variety is D’Arcy Spice, which is traditionally picked in November months after most apples have dropped, and then stored hung from bags off the tree in winter. The apples themselves will freeze, and slowly begin to ferment into calorie-rich hard cider within their skins when the temperatures rise above freezing. Scientists believe that our ability to digest alcohol stems from the ancient practice of harvesting fermenting fruit in winter and early spring, and needing to get as many calories from it as possible.

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Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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Other fruits also hang on the tree or vine through the winter include grapes and hawthorn fruit (an astringent native fruit, similar in some ways to a crab apple). For grapes, many wild species ripen long after birds have already migrated, and hang on the vines to be eaten by returning birds in the spring.

2. Water plants

Water has a buffering effect on temperature, and in less extreme climates the ground near small ponds may be workable during warm spells. That’s a good time to go looking for cattails, which can be identified by their dry stalks sticking up out of the water. Their roots are similar to potatoes and are a rich source of carbohydrates. Watercress growing along banks is also high in nutrients, though unfortunately low in calories. Together, steamed cattail roots and watercress can keep you going until your prospects improve.

3. Tree bark

Foraging During Winter: 7 Hardy ‘Survival Plants’ That Could Save Your Live

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The inner bark of many trees is easy to harvest and contains starchy calories that are easily accessed in winter with the use of a sharp knife or even a pointy rock or stick. Trees such as pine, aspen, beech, maple and linden are excellent choices, and some restaurants are jumping on the foraging bandwagon and making a pine bark bacon by marinating the inner bark in salt and spices before roasting it to a crisp in strips.

Though I’m sure pine bacon won’t fool a true carnivore, it’s something that might add a bit of comfort to an otherwise dire situation, and perhaps help you forget that you’re actually eating bark to survive.

4. Wild berries

While many softer fruits are long since eaten by birds or rotted away, some berries hang on through the winter and are a welcome calorie and nutrient source if you can locate them. Teaberries are the fruit of the wintergreen plant, a creeping forest ground cover. The berries remain edible all winter and can be found in melted patches of the forest floor. Cranberries, similarly, remain tasty all winter and can often be found as late as June of the following year still clinging to the low-trailing stems. Rose hips are a bit astringent, but generally hold on roses, wild or propagated, throughout winter and can help fight off vitamin C deficiency.

5. Nuts

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

Image source: Public Domain Pictures

If you’re winter tree identification skills are decent, you can find acorns, butternuts and black walnuts by digging in the snow at the base of those trees. Take care to identify those trees ahead of time, noting the distinctive branching pattern of the butternuts and black walnuts, as well as the diamond bark pattern particularly prominent on butternuts.

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Once you know how to spot them, they’ll likely be a great high calorie mid-winter food source anywhere squirrel populations are not exceptionally high.

6. Biennial roots

Biennial roots, or the roots of plants that store energy in the first year for seed production in the second year, are a great source of calories in the winter in milder climates where the soil can be worked. Good examples include burdock, wild parsnip, wild carrot (also known as Queen Anne’s Lace), Jerusalem artichokes, thistle root and dandelion.

7. Winter hardy greens

Many nutrient-rich salad wild greens do not die back in winter. They keep their leaves and pause growth during cold and snow-covered spells only to continue growing when temperatures warm slightly or snow cover melts off briefly even in mid-winter. Good examples include sorrel, chickweed, miner’s lettuce and watercress. While they’re not calorie-rich, they can help to balance a diet based on starchy roots or meat by providing micro-nutrients, and help to boost moral by giving you a taste of spring even in the coldest parts of the winter.

What would you add to the list? Share your winter foraging tips in the section below:

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14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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I live in a warm part of the country now, so winter isn’t a big deal. Actually, it’s my favorite time of year, because it’s not hot. But it wasn’t always that way. I grew up and learned to drive in Colorado, where the mountains make it so that a winter blizzard can sneak up on you and leave you stranded before you know it. I can’t remember how many people I rescued; they simply were good drivers who were trapped by winter weather.

I don’t care how good of a driver you are — there are situations where you can’t keep on trucking. I remember an icy parking lot that put me in a snow bank, simply because I couldn’t get enough traction to overcome gravity (the parking lot was sloped, and the exit was uphill). I’ve seen the same happen to truckers, who literally had to bail out of their rigs when gravity overcame friction and their trucks started sliding backwards, down the mountain. Then there were the times when blizzards cut visibility to the point where I or someone else drove off the road, thinking we were driving on it.

That’s why I always kept my car prepared to deal with emergencies, especially the emergency of being stuck in the snow. I never could afford a fancy four-wheel drive, so I was stuck trying to make do with a sedan — and that was in the day when sedans were rear-wheel drive, not front-wheel drive. So they were even worse in the snow.

Preparing my car for winter weather consisted of two basic areas: preparing the car to survive and preparing so that I could survive. Both were necessary, because in the wintertime, that care was an important piece of survival gear.

Preparing The Car To Survive

I’m not a big fan of playing mechanic, although I’ve done more than my fair share through the years. Even worse is having to play mechanic in the cold and snow. I replaced more than one frozen thermostat in below-freezing temperatures before I learned that lesson. After that, I always made sure my car was mechanically ready for the winter.

Wintertime is hard on cars, so they need to be in good shape. The old cars I was driving didn’t automatically have that going for them. So I had to make up for what they lacked. That meant going through the car from end to end, before the first real freeze hit. I checked all the fluids, the rubber on my tires, the battery, and the condition of all of the “regular maintenance” items, like hoses and belts. Better to spend a few bucks replacing one when it’s convenient, than getting stuck because you didn’t (which will cost more).

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The next important thing was the gas tank. In the wintertime, I’d always keep a minimum of half a tank of gas. That way, if I did get stuck somewhere, I could use the engine for heat. Used cautiously, running the engine only in short bursts, that half a tank will last the night.

In addition to those two items, I’d put some things in the trunk, to help my car or the car of someone else who was stranded:

1. Sand – The extra weight of two bags of sand made a huge difference in traction. Of course, that was rear-wheel drive, so it’s not so important today. But if you drive a pickup truck, you’ll need to add some weight over the back wheels, where they are notoriously light.

2. Chains – If your state allows chains, get some. Just be sure to take them off, if you get to dry pavement or even spotty drive pavement. Otherwise, they’ll break.

3. Shovel – You never know when you might have to dig your own car out.

4. Tow strap – I prefer the nylon straps to a chain, but to each his own.

5. Basic tools – For emergency repairs.

6. Spare battery – Batteries are one of the things that go out easily in the cold. I’d carry a spare, as crazy as that might sound. Today, I’d use a lithium ion backup battery pack, such as a Pocket Power X.

I also carried the following:

7. Plastic bags – To use as a makeshift toilet. You don’t want to have to go outside for that. Just do it in the bag and set it outside.

14 Winter Survival Items Everyone Should Store In Their Vehicle

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8. High energy food – High calorie food bars will help your body produce heat.

9. Water – The trick here is keeping it from freezing. I kept mine in the passenger compartment.

10. Flashlight — With extra batteries.

11. Rope – Avoid getting out of the car. But if you have to go outside for some reason, tie one end of the rope to the steering wheel and the other to your wrist. That way, you can always find your way back, even in whiteout conditions.

12. Blankets – A couple of wool blankets makes a world of difference. I carried a couple of old Army blankets. Wool is the only material that maintains some of its insulating value even when wet.

13. Gloves, hats and scarves – An extra set you won’t wear anywhere else.

14. Space blankets, duct tape, candles and matches – More on that in a moment.

Additionally, I carried a full survival kit. Since I didn’t have to carry it on my body, I carried a rather robust one, more along the lines of a bug-out bag. That way, I had enough with me to use, in case I was actually caught in a situation where I would have to walk out. That never happened, but there were places in the mountains where my car might not have been seen if I went off the road.

As part of that kit, I had a portable stove and fuel. That allowed me to prepare warm drinks. You don’t want to eat snow for water, as your body has to warm it. Better to melt that snow and drink hot water, which will add heat to your body, rather than take it away.

Preparing For My Survival

Even with the best driving practices and a properly equipped vehicle, you still might end up off the road in a ditch somewhere. I remember once when the snow had drifted up over the road and I couldn’t get through. So I turned around. But by then the snow had drifted up a couple hundred yards behind me, as well. I was trapped on the road until the next day, even though I had done everything right.

Whether you’re off the road in a snow bank or sitting on the road as I was, you want to stay with your car. While a car isn’t the best shelter there is, it will protect you from the snow, wind and to some extent from the cold. When you’re trapped, you can help it to keep you warm by improving its ability to hold in heat. You’ll need:

  • At least three space blankets.
  • Something to cut them.
  • A roll of duct tape or other strong tape that will stick in cold weather.
  • Some large candles.

Line the inside of the passenger compartment with the space blankets. If you’re alone or just a couple, you can line just the front seat, allowing one of the space blankets to form a curtain behind the seat. So, you’d use one for the dash, down to your feet; one for the roof and curtain behind you; and cut one in half to cover the doors. If you have a family, just extend to include the back seat, as well; but you’ll need a couple more blankets to do that. Fortunately, they’re cheap.

What else do you carry in your car during winter? Share your tips in the section below:

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15 Documents You’ll Need To Rebuild Your Life (Post-Disaster)

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15 Documents You'll Need To Rebuild Your Life (Post-Disaster)

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A big part of survival and preparedness is focused on the big event – like a supervolcano erupting or an EMP attack taking down the grid. But the reality is, we’re much more likely to face those smaller, regional disasters than we are something that takes down the country.

If that’s the case, then one thing that we have to think of is what’s going to happen after the event. Much of our focus is on surviving the disaster itself and its aftermath, when the power is out and supplies are hard to come by. But there will be a time when we recover from that disaster and either return to normal or some new definition of normal.

When that time comes, we need to be ready to rebuild our lives. Not rebuild it as Grizzly Adams — living in a log cabin in the woods — but as normal people, living relatively normal lives: going to work, evenings in front of the TV, and taking the kids to their activities.

Should that happen, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to be able to prove who you are and what property is yours, in order to claim it after the fact.

Documents You Need

So the question is: What documentation do you really need? That’s a tricky one, as none of us know exactly what we’re going to face.

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15 Documents You'll Need To Rebuild Your Life (Post-Disaster)

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We also have to consider the necessity of rebuilding our lives in another location. So, we won’t only need ownership documents for our home and cars, but records of every facet of our lives.

  1. Personal identification — Driver’s licenses, school IDs, passports and anything else that defines you and the various members of your family.
  2. Current ID photos of all family members – Both headshots and full length.
  3. Home title – The ultimate proof of home ownership.
  4. Car titles and registration – For each car, truck, camper, boat, motorcycle or trailer that you own.
  5. Marriage license – Make sure it is a real copy and not just the decorative one that some weddings use.
  6. Birth certificates – For every member of the family.
  7. Licenses – If there is anything you’re licensed or certified to do, then you want to be able to prove it. This includes driver’s license, concealed carry permit, trade licenses, computer certifications, and anything else that you might have to prove to someone.
  8. School records – If you have children in school, make copies of all their records and include them. Make sure you add records of your own education, especially higher education, whether in a university or trade school.
  9. Health records – This one will be a bit difficult, but your doctor’s office should be able to supply you with them. Some medical records can help in identifying people. If you are taking any medications, be sure to have records of what they are and why you are taking them.
  10. Investment records — Copies of stocks, bonds and other negotiable securities.
  11. Bank records — Information on all bank accounts and online financial accounts. You might want to put that in some sort of code, so that others can’t read it easily.
  12. Passwords – Once again, possibly in some simple code.
  13. Tax records – You can be sure that the IRS, like a vampire, will survive.
  14. Work history – If you have to rebuild your life, that might include finding a new job.
  15. Contact information – We no longer learn people’s phone numbers and addresses, counting on our smart phones to remember them for us. Create a list of everyone who is important to you. You may need to find them or call them for help.

Make It Safe And Secure

Obviously, you can make paper copies of some of that, but carrying copies of all of it would require a pretty good size notebook. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue, providing us with the compact means of carrying all of it.

Be Prepared! Store An ‘Emergency Seed Bank’ For A Crisis Garden

15 Documents You'll Need To Rebuild Your Life (Post-Disaster)

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I refer to the flash drive. You can put all that, and more, on a flash drive that weighs less than an ounce and easily slips into your pocket. They now have flash drives that will connect to tablets as well, with a micro USB connector on them, in addition to the regular USB connector. Those are better, especially if you are taking a tablet or smartphone along with you.

Scan everything onto your computer and make copies. It would be best to put them into a .PDF format, rather than a .JPG or other image format. Be sure to label them accordingly and create a file system on your flash drive that makes sense. If you ever need those documents, you’ll probably need to be able to find them quickly.

I’d also recommend making a second copy, either on another flash drive or on a CD. This copy should be carried by another family member, so that if one backpack is lost, you don’t lose both copies. Like everything else in survival, redundancy is important.

What would you add to our list? Do you disagree with anything? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid House In The World?

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The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

The ultimate off-grid home also might be the world’s most isolated. It is a hunting lodge located on the island of Elliðaey, which is in the North Atlantic off the southern coast of Iceland.

The house has a 110-acre island to itself, with the only things being a few trees, grass, puffin birds, and a rocky coast that belongs on a postcard.

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Despite its’ remoteness, the house on Elliðaey is sort of famous as the center of a couple of urban legends. The strangest of those stores is that the island is the home or retreat of Iceland’s most famous resident — the eccentric alternative punk and rock singer, Björk.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

A popular online legend is that the Icelandic government gave Elliðaey to Björk for her service to the nation. That is not true, though. Björk did once own an isolated home in Selfoss, which is on the southern tip of Iceland.

Also false is a story that the lodge belongs to an eccentric billionaire. Instead, the lodge belongs to a local hunting club. The club’s members use it to hunt puffin. The home even has a sauna.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

 

Although no one lives in the home permanently, that was not always the case. Descendants of the Vikings actually lived on the island for around 300 years, settling there sometime in the 17th century. They left by the 1930s.

Despite its remote location, Elliðaey is not a practical survival location. Except for puffins, there is little food on the island.

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Elliðaey is part of the Vestmannaeyjar or Westman archipelago.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

Iceland is an island nation in the North Atlantic that is home to the world’s oldest parliament, a fishing fleet and a number of Internet data centers for processing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The data centers are powered by Iceland’s most abundant resource: electricity generated by geothermal steam.

Iceland is perhaps best known as the location of several volcanoes. One of them, Eyjafjallajokull, disrupted air travel in the Atlantic with a huge dust cloud in 2010. The British tabloid The Sun reported that Eyjafjallajokull is rumbling again and might erupt this summer.

Would you want to visit or live in the lodge on Elliðaey? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Forgotten Survival Skills That Kept The Eskimos Alive

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Forgotten Skills That Helped The Eskimos Survive Winter

Image source: Wikipedia

When most people think of Native Americans, they picture the tribes of the Plains, riding on horseback, hunting buffalo and waiting out the winter in their teepees.

But not all Native Americans lived this way. Consider the people we often call Eskimos.

The word “Eskimo” means “eaters of raw meat” in the language of the Algonquin tribe. It was the French who began calling the native people they found up north by this name. While there are numerous tribes, such as the Inupiat, the Inupiaq, and Yupik, for the sake of this article, we will refer to these tribes as the Inuit.

The Inuit tribes that lived in the far north somehow survived in far harsher climates than the Plains people ever had to endure. How could humans have survived in areas with low light levels for part of the year, extreme wind chills, and temperatures of minus 30 or more?

There were a great many skills that helped these native people survive. While not many of us have a chance to hunt seals, we would be wise to take note of some of the survival skills that allowed these native tribes to thrive in a very unforgiving climate.

Food

The Inuit people consumed a diet that was perfectly suited for the environment in which they lived. During the summer, the Inuit would move inland, away from the coast, and hunt caribou, which, like the Plains tribes, provided them with almost everything they needed. The tough skin on the head was used to make the soles of shoes, and the softer skin from the belly for clothing that was close to the skin. The Inuit were careful to use everything from their kill, as it took four animals to make one jacket or parka. A pair of pants for one person required two more caribou hides. The antlers were used as tools, tendons were used for thread, and fat was rendered to store food for later, also to use as fuel for “lamps.” During the short summers, berries were gathered, birds were caught and the meat dried, eggs were enjoyed, berries and herbs were gathered and stored. Fresh water fish also were caught from lakes or streams. The Inuit diet consisted almost entirely of meat, with only the few plants that could be found during the very short summer to add some variety.

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During winter, dogs were invaluable hunting partners. The Inuit stayed close to the coastline. Before the sea edges froze, seals would often sun themselves on the sand or rocks. Killing a seal during these times was a challenge and took real teamwork. In the winter, dogs would sniff out the air holes these mammals used. The Inuit would lie in wait and when the seal came up for air, they speared it. Seals were as prized as caribou, but for different reasons. Their hides were waterproof, making them valuable for shoes and gloves. Seal and walrus meat was extremely nourishing. Whales were difficult to catch, as the Inuit had to hunt them using kayaks and spears; however, when they did kill them, they used every single part. The fat, or blubber, is very high in calories and helped the Inuit stay warm as they burned many calories to maintain their body heat. The blubber also was used as oil for lanterns, which provided heat and light.

Eskimos near Thule Air Base in 1968Using the food that was available to them to their best advantage was one of the Inuit’s secrets to survival.

Transportation

Before you can get around, you need to know your way around! The Inuit used the stars and sun (when it was available) to navigate, especially on the water. On land, they often used landmarks or erected one, if they thought it was necessary.

The Inuit used sleds made from whale bones with skins stretched over them. Dogs would pull the sleds through the snow. On the water, kayaks were the usual means of transportation, but when moving larger families or supplies (such as whale meat) larger boats, called umiaqs, were used. If the umiaq used oars, it was usually the women who operated them. Paddles were used by men. While most kayaks were made from driftwood, umiaqs were made from whale bones lashed together or pegged together. Seal skins were then stretched over the frame.

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For a typical umiaq of about 30 feet, seven to eight seal skins would be needed to cover it. While these boats were large, they were fairly lightweight and could be carried by two or three men. A 24-foot umiaq weighs a mere 150 pounds, on average. Dogs also were counted on to carry or drag packs during the summer months. The husky dog that the Intuits used comes from the Inuit breeding of dogs with wolves. Huskies can survive the harsh winters with their thick coats and are very strong. Most huskies easily can carry a 40- to 50-pound pack all day.

Shelter

One of the best-known traits of the Inuit people was their wintertime shelters, called igloos. Igloos were houses made of snow and ice and were the best winter shelters, as snow causes air to be trapped, making it a very good insulator. A typical igloo could be built in less than one hour by two men with sharp knives. After the blocks were cut and stacked, the snow was packed on the outside for further insulation. Sometimes, several igloos would be connected via tunnels, enabling large families to have some privacy, but still stay together. Igloos often were warmed with homemade lanterns, fueled by the melted fat from seals and whales. So while outside temps might be -50 degrees Fahrenheit, inside the igloo, it could be 60 to 70 degrees.

Summer shelters usually were made of whale bones lashed together and covered with hides. The floors also would be covered with hides for insulation and comfort.

Clothing

Almost all clothing was made from seal and caribou hides. In the coldest winter months, two layers of clothing were worn. The one next to the skin had the fur turned inward; the outer layer had the fur facing outward. Caribou hide has natural air pockets, which make it super-insulating. Parkas often were made from caribou hides, with the fur inside, and waterproof seal hides on the outside. Many parkas had hoods edged in fur. Gloves were made much like parkas. While polar bear skins were valuable, these were not hunted often as the risk was too great.

Perhaps we never will live in environments like those of the Inuit people, but we all can learn from the creativity, resourcefulness and determination that kept them alive.

Would you want to live as an Inuit? Do you believe you’d have what it takes? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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7 Reasons You Gotta Keep Prepping Under Trump

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7 Reasons You Gotta Keep Prepping Under Trump

Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr / Creative Commons

The Left has been running scared ever since Donald Trump won the presidential election. Thanks to the media narrative throughout the campaign, they are convinced that Trump is the atheist version of the devil incarnate, out to destroy their god (big government) and everything the progressive left has done to warp the principles of this country.

Liberals, by the droves, are joining the prepping movement: buying guns, stockpiling food and other essential supplies for an expected, coming disaster. Of course, they can’t define the disaster, other than to say it’s the incoming president, but to them, that’s a disaster.

On the other hand, many conservative preppers have put their prepping on hold, as if Trump could single-handedly stop a natural disaster or a terrorist attack on the grid.

A change in the president doesn’t make the world much safer than it was before. Oh, he might be able to enact some laws and initiatives which will eventually make the world a safer place, but only in some ways. Nothing that any president can do will stop a hurricane from hitting our shores. Nor is there much likelihood that any president could truly put a stop to terrorism, no matter how hard he or she tried.

The world is still a dangerous place and is likely to stay that way for as long as we live. Here are seven reasons you should continue prepping:

1. Natural disasters didn’t go away

The most likely disaster that any of us prepare for is a natural disaster. Statistically, we are all likely to live through one or more of these in our lifetime. While not as “sexy” as a nation-crippling EMP, natural disasters are what started the prepping movement. They are the foundation of all that we do.

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No president can stop a natural disaster, at least, not with our current level of technology. We will continue to see natural disasters strike various parts of the country and see people lose their lives and property to them. About the only thing the government can do is improve their ability to react to those disasters — something that I won’t hold my breath waiting for.

2. The power grid is still at risk

The most vulnerable part of our country’s infrastructure is the electrical grid. In pretty much any natural disaster or even a large storm, you can count on the power going out. And it doesn’t even require a storm. Remember the 2003 Northeast blackout that took out power for 55 million people in the Northeast? It all started with a software bug at one utility in Ohio. Then there’s the danger of cyber threats. Gary Davis of the California-based Intel Security said representatives from other nations at the United Nations have told him that their biggest concern is that a “teenager could take down” their country’s power grid. Speaking of cyber threats …

3. Cybersecurity

Worldwide, the problems of cybersecurity have steadily increased. In his New Year’s address, President-elect Trump said that there is no such thing as true security over any electronic means of communication. He recommended putting things on paper and using good old-fashioned snail-mail or couriers, if you want security.

Any country’s power grid is susceptible to hacking. Both China and Russia have invested in this area of warfare, with China being the clear world leader. All it would take is a decision in Beijing, and the lights would go out nationwide in the U.S.

Netflix, Twitter and Amazon all went down in 2016 due to hacker attacks. LogRhythm, which helps companies guard against cyber threats, is predicting the entire “internet will be shut down for up to 24 hours” in 2017 due to cyberattacks.

4. A Carrington Event

The 1989 Solar Storm That Knocked Out The Grid, Closed Schools & Businesses, & Panicked The Population

Image source: NASA

Our sun is extremely active, with massive solar storms and sunspots appearing and disappearing regularly. We nearly were hit in the 2014, when an extreme solar storm sent electromagnet waves, known as a coronal mass ejection, in our direction, narrowly missing the Earth. Had those waves gone out at a few degrees in different direction, they would have hit us squarely, shutting down not only our grid but every electrical grid in the hemisphere.

The largest solar storm in modern history, knows as the Carrington Event, took place 1859. Since there was no grid and virtually no electronic equipment to be damaged, the storm had little effect other than to damage some telegraph machines. But if it such a thing happens again today, it will be devastating.

5. EMP attack

Then there’s the risk of an enemy attacking us by EMP. As best I know, neither Iran nor North Korea are running scared of Trump. Both of those countries are hard at work on both their nuclear programs and their missile programs. The only question is whether Iran would attack Israel or the United States first.

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Similar to a Carrington-type event, a properly run EMP attack would shut down the grid for the foreseeable future, with devastating results. According to a report to Congress by the EMP Commission, as much as 90 percent of the population would die in the first year following such an attack.

6. The threat of terrorism

While Trump says he takes the threat of extremist Muslim terrorism seriously, it will take time for any of his initiatives to make a dent in terrorism, let alone bring it to a stop. The cancer of terrorism is loose in the world — and it’s not going to go away quickly. As the United States and countries throughout Europe and the Middle East have discovered, it is difficult to prevent lone wolf terrorists.

7. A possible economic collapse

There have been rumors of a pending economic collapse for years, ever since the national debt spiraled out of control. Yet the collapse hasn’t yet happened. But the conditions which create the concern of a collapse have not gone away.

The globalists control much of the world’s monetary supply, giving them a huge amount of leverage to control world events. It is they, more than any other group, who create economic rises and falls and can even orchestrate a financial collapse. If they decide a financial collapse is in their best interest — not the best interest of the USA, mind you — they will make it happen.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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10 Ways To Prep For Survival Without Spending Money

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10 Ways To Prep For Survival Without Spending Money

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Many people recognize that preparing for an uncertain future is wise, but far fewer actually do it due to cost. All that food, water, gear and equipment isn’t cheap.

Fortunately, there are other ways that you can prepare for the unknown without hardly spending a dime:

1. Research the biggest risks of your area. How much does it cost to surf the Internet or visit your local library? Nothing. If you’re serious about prepping and survival, you need to be ready to invest countless hours into research. Specifically, you need to focus on researching the biggest risks that your local community or area faces so that you know which type of disaster is most likely to occur.

2. Have a plan. Simple, right? You should always have plans written down for specific scenarios before they occur so that you’re more ready when a crisis does hit. Other than the cost of the paper and the writing utensils, writing down a plan is completely free.

3. Learn how to reuse basic items. There are numerous items, lying around your house right now, that you can apply to a survival situation. You can make miniature grills out of Altoid tins and torches out of drinking straws, and use dental floss as fishing line.

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Learning how to use these items in a survival situation, and then actually practicing to use those items, will pay off long-term.

4. Set aside cash. Think of it as saving money rather than spending it. Over the course of a long-term disaster, you might not be able to access the funds in your bank. Offset this by setting aside a few bills each week into a large jar. You’ll be surprised at how fast it will grow.

5. Build improvised weapons. Survival naturally requires you to be creative, and a major priority in a survival situation is security. Therefore, it makes sense that you may need to get creative in regards to how you defend yourself. Learning how to build improvised weapons, such as a bow and arrow (out of sticks) or a spear (with little more than glass shards and poles) can be a fun activity.

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6. Learn advanced first-aid skills. Every injury, no matter how small, requires attention in a survival situation – simply because it can develop into something far worse if it goes untreated. You can learn advanced first-aid skills on your own time without spending any money.

7. Pre-assign survival roles to your family. Everybody in your family, or your entire survival group for that matter, needs to be contributing to your survival efforts. If you pre-assign roles to your family members now, you’ll save a lot of time and confusion when the survival situation actually does occur.

8. Learn how to start a fire without fire-starter. Anybody can take a match or a lighter and get a fire going, but very few can start a fire with two sticks. Learn about the different ways that you can start a fire without fire-starters, and then practice using this method in a safe environment. It will be an incredibly valuable investment of your time.

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9. Learn how to mend clothing. Taking care of your clothing will be essential in a long-term survival situation when stores may not be an option. Learning basic knitting or stitching methods will be well worth the effort – and it’s a good way to pass the time when you’re bored.

10. Practice. The old saying goes that practice makes perfect, right? Don’t just learn how to survive. Actually practice what you have learned. While this tip has become a little clichéd in the survival world, it’s still completely relevant.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

8 Weird Ways Your Ancestors Kept The Bed Warm During Winter

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8 Weird Ways Your Ancestors Kept The Bed Warm During Winter

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Our ancestors’ homes usually were heated by wood-burning stoves. While any wood stove will keep a certain space warm, the ability to heat a whole house – particularly one that is two stories — diminished with distance and range.

Sitting next to a fire is nice when the weather outside is -30 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you’re sleeping upstairs you’re going to feel far less heat and far more cold.

While some homes had the luxury of a second story fireplaces, most did not. As a result, our ancestors had to improvise numerous solutions to stay warm at night.

Some of these solutions were simple and some more complex. Some were temporary, while others were more permanent. Many of these solutions were used in combination on particularly cold nights. Still, our ancestors found some unique and even weird ways to stay warm at night when sleeping.

1. The “grate.” Homeowners would cut a hole between the first and second floor and insert a grate that would allow the hot air from below to rise into the second floor. It was far from forced-air heating, but it did offer some relief.

2. The hot-bed pan. Another solution was to take hot coals from the fire and insert them into a covered pan on the end of a long wooden handle and rub it over a mattress before sleeping.

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It brought some wood smoke into the bedroom briefly, but that was and still is common in any home heated by wood. The heat was temporary, yet it took the edge off a cold bed when first turning in.

8 Weird Ways Your Ancestors Kept The Bed Warm During Winter3. The “nightcap.” If you’ve ever slept in a cold tent during winter, then you know the need for a “nightcap.” This was a head covering that could be a knitted cap or, in Artic climates, a fur cap. When the weather outside is frightful, keeping your body warm is only half the battle. A stocking cap or “nightcap” made a big difference.

4. Layers on layers of insulation. Layering is a common concept for anyone in winter, and layers of sheets, blankets and quilts made a sleeping arrangement warm and warmer. Goose down quilts were a luxury and often a necessity on bitterly cold nights.

5. Sleep with the dog. The shared body heat from a pet can help keep a bed warm at night — and the dog appreciates it, too.

6. Night clothes beyond pajamas. Most pajamas are made from a thin, lightweight material that serve more as a modest way to sleep.

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Our ancestors didn’t mess around. Their night clothes were often heavyweight combinations of wool and thick, cotton flannel.

7. Snuggling. Families often slept together in the same bed, especially on cold, winter nights. The human body radiates heat at an average of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and a combination of people in the same bed allowed the body heat to be shared.

8. Hot iron. This is potentially dangerous, but hot pieces of iron were sometimes heated on the top of a wood-burning stove or in a fireplace and then placed into a metal bucket. The bucket was then brought to the bedroom and placed on the floor or even under the bed. The radiant heat from the hot iron lasted for hours and helped to bring some added heat to a cold bedroom.

Of course, when all else failed, it was likely that a family would sleep downstairs in closer proximity to a stove or fireplace. This was a somewhat radical move, but when temperatures plunged far below zero, it was sometimes the only alternative.

Do you know of other ways our ancestors kept their house warm at night during frigid temps? Let us know in the section below:

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19 ‘Must-Haves’ Most Everyone Forgets To Stockpile

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19 ‘Must-Haves’ Most People Forget To Stockpile

Image source: BlueMountainFoodPantry

For the dedicated homesteader or prepper, stockpiling isn’t something with a beginning or an end, it just is. You start your adventure by building a stockpile of food and you never really end it. While the heavy push for stockpiling might come to an end, the reality of stockpiling never does. You just find more and more things that you should add to your stockpile, wondering why you hadn’t thought of them before.

The thing is, without knowing beforehand what sorts of emergencies we might be faced with, there’s really no way of knowing everything we are going to need. So, we have to make some assumptions and build our stockpile based on them. But those assumptions can change with time, which means that our need for certain supplies might change, as well. So, we just keep adding and adding, making sure we have what we’ll need, when the time comes.

There are countless lists out there of things you should stockpile. Most have more or less the same things on them — perhaps because we tend to learn from each other. That’s good on one hand, but it means that everyone is likely to be forgetting the same things.

That’s where this list comes in. I’ve been at this for a while, and I’ve collected some things in my stockpile which I’ve discovered others tend to forget. So, I’m going to try and plug those holes. Hopefully, you’ll find a few things on this list which you hadn’t thought of before. Even better would be to find that you’ve thought of the same things that I have, and you don’t have any holes in your stockpile. Either way, I expect this to be useful for you to check yourself against.

Food

Food is where we all start, but have you thought of these?

19 ‘Must-Haves’ Most People Forget To Stockpile

Image source: Pixabay.com

1. Spices. Your meals are going to get awfully bland if you don’t have spices to flavor them. What you have in your kitchen might last a few months, but that’s about it.

2. Salt. Everyone has salt in their stockpile, but do you have enough? Salt isn’t just necessary for flavoring our food; it’s also for preserving meat. If you’re going to hunt at all, you need a couple hundred pounds of salt on hand for meat preservation.

3. Bouillon. Otherwise known as soup starter, mixed with water, this provides you with the stock. Somehow, I think soups are going to be a big deal in any post-disaster menu.

Food Production

Most of us are planning on producing at least some of our own food, if not all of it, in the wake of a disaster. But do you have everything you need to expand your garden to that size? A 20-foot garden plot isn’t going to be enough; you’re going to need to turn your entire backyard into a garden.

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4. Fertilizer. Few people bother stockpiling fertilizer, but if you’re going to have to expand your garden rapidly, you’re going to need a mountain of it. The best, of course, is a mountain of compost.

5. Animal feed. Those chickens, rabbits or goats you have are going to need to eat — or you won’t be able to eat them. Few people bother growing feed for their animals. So you’d better have something on hand.

6. Insecticides. The wrong bugs could cause you to lose your entire garden. I don’t want to think of how much I’ve lost to grub worms, let alone other types of pests. You probably won’t be able to find the insecticides – organic or otherwise — you need after a disaster.

Health

We all know we need a first-aid kit, although most don’t go far enough in stockpiling replacement supplies for theirs. But there are a few other key items you might want to consider.

7. Vitamins. If your diet isn’t going to be as well-balanced as it should be, a good quality multivitamin might go a long way towards keeping your health up.

19 ‘Must-Haves’ Most People Forget To Stockpile

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Spare glasses. For those who wear prescription glasses, this will be a necessity if they are going to do anything to help keep their families alive.

9. Reading glasses. Even if you don’t need them now, don’t assume you never will. Reading glasses are great for any close-up work or working with small things.

10. Activated carbon (sometimes called activated charcoal). This is useful for a variety of things, such as making your own gas masks and purifying water. It also can be taken for stomach problems.

11. Spares for your first-aid kit. I know I just said this, but it can’t be overstated.

Repairs

We all have pieces of equipment that we’re planning on using to help us stay alive after a disaster. But what if something happens to that equipment? Are you prepared to make even simple repairs? If not, that wonderful tool or other gadget might just turn into a paperweight.

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12. Coleman lantern pump rebuild kit. If you have the old style Coleman lanterns or their dual-fuel stove, you know about the pump in the fuel tank. These last well, but eventually need new seals. A rebuild kit doesn’t cost much and can keep that equipment working.

13. Small engine parts. If you’re planning on using any gas-powered tools, such as a chainsaw or a roto-tiller, you’d better have at least the basic parts, such as spark plugs, air filters and priming bulbs. That way, you can keep them running.

14. Specific parts for critical equipment. Everything has critical parts and short-life parts in it. The manufacturers should be able to tell you what those are and be selling spares. Make sure you put in a good supply.

15. Water filters. If you’re using any sort of water filtration system which has filter cartridges, figure out how many filters you need to have and then multiply it by about 10. You can’t have enough.

Clothing

Few people think about stockpiling clothing — which means that there will be a lot of people wondering what to do when the time comes. A few specific things you need to think of are:

19 ‘Must-Haves’ Most People Forget To Stockpile

Image source: Pixabay.com

16. Kids’ clothing. Kids grow a lot, and you need to have larger sizes on hand than what they are using now.

17. Work gloves. I guarantee you, you’ll need them. But they tend to wear out, so have some spares.

18. Rough clothing. Most of us don’t wear very rugged clothing. If you don’t, stock up.

19. Work or hiking boots. Especially important if you have to bug out.

That’s our list – what would you add to it? Share your tips in the section below:

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

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Most of us are planning on “bugging in” when a disaster strikes. Generally speaking, that’s a much more practical solution for people who don’t have a survival retreat off in the woods somewhere. Not only does your home provide you with shelter, but it has all of your survival equipment and supplies, as well as your other possessions. But what do you do if something happens to your home?

There is always a risk of your home taking a hit during a natural or man-made disaster. Some disasters, like earthquakes and tornadoes, are known for destroying houses. If that should happen to you, then you will need an instant replacement. If you haven’t thought about it beforehand, then you might not have an idea of where to go or what to do.

To start with, evaluate the condition of your home. If part of it is still standing, then you might be able to take shelter there, at least on a temporary basis. You only want to do this if the part that is standing is structurally sound, though. If it is likely to fall, you don’t want to be trapped inside.

If you find that you have to abandon your home during a societal collapse, there are a number of places around you, many of which may very well be excellent shelters to use. While they may not be as nice to stay in as your home, neither is a makeshift shelter or a tent off in the woods somewhere.

1. Outbuildings

If you have outbuildings on your property, that might be a good starting point. Surprisingly, a shed or detached garage might survive a situation in which the house is destroyed. While that building may not be as well constructed as the home was, it might have been sheltered by the home itself.

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7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

Image source: Pixabay.com

Granted, a shed or garage isn’t a very comfortable or even nice place to lay your head to rest, but it has the advantage of being close to your home. That means you can stay close to your possessions. If you are going to begin salvage operations — to get what you can out of your damaged home — then it helps to stay close. Besides, those salvaged items can be used to make your temporary shelter more comfortable.

2. Your place of business

If you own a business, then you probably have an alternate shelter that you have legal title to, even if it is rented. Your office or store may very well survive something that damages your home, simply because commercial buildings are often stronger than residences. Their simpler construction, lack of windows and need to support more weight on the floor leads to a more robust building design.

If you have such a place, it would be good to stock some emergency supplies and equipment there, so that in the case of a disaster, it’s easy to move your family to the workplace. While you probably won’t want to abandon the equipment and supplies you have at home, what you keep at your business will help your family to survive while you are salvaging whatever you can.

3. Abandoned homes

Whatever makes your home uninhabitable may make it so that many other people flee. If that happens, then there will probably be a good assortment of abandoned homes available in the neighborhood. (Note: Use this option only as a last resort in a societal collapse.) The problem with this is that you would technically be trespassing and if the person came back, the situation could become a bit sticky. For this reason, I wouldn’t be too quick to move into someone else’s home.

If forced to move into someone else’s home, it is wise always to treat it as if it were theirs and not mine. In other words, I would take care of their home, leaving their possessions alone as much as possible. While I would use their furniture and kitchenware, I wouldn’t remove anything from their home or rearrange things any more than absolutely necessary. That way, if they were to come back, I could at least show that I’ve cared for their home.

Having said that, moving into an abandoned home is probably the most comfortable option you have for an urban survival shelter in an emergency situation. While it wouldn’t be your home, it would be a home, with all the comforts to be expected.

4. An abandoned business

There are always abandoned buildings around that were once stores, warehouses and other businesses. Any of these provide the basics necessary for a shelter. They can keep the weather out and protect your family. At the same time, businesses usually have a lot of open space, which you can configure as you need for your family. They also often have bathrooms, which might still work if there is water service.

While I wouldn’t hesitate to use an abandoned business as a survival shelter, I wouldn’t expect much more of it than it to be something to help protect me from the weather. I would operate under the assumption that anything I need would have to be brought in.

7 Overlooked Forms Of Shelters When Society Collapses

Image source: Pixabay.com

One nice thing about abandoned businesses is that you can pre-plan. Just by keeping your eyes open for businesses that close in your area, you can know which businesses would be available in the case you need an emergency shelter. A little further investigation could show how you can get into those buildings if you have to use them as a shelter.

5. A vehicle

This may sound a bit unusual, but survival situations are unusual. A vehicle can actually be a fairly good, although small shelter, in times of need. I lived in a motorhome for a number of years, traveling the country. Although the space was limited, I had everything I needed. In a pinch, I could have lived in a much smaller vehicle if needed.

A prepared vehicle is easier to live in. But even if your vehicle isn’t prepared ahead of time, there are things you can do to make it work. Adding a shell to the back of a pickup or removing the back seats from a van creates a living space. A mattress in that area makes a comfortable sleeping area. Camping equipment, such as a camp stove, can quickly turn that makeshift vehicle shelter into something rather comfortable and workable.

6. An abandoned basement

Basements are the part of any structure that are most likely to survive. As such, they can be used as a place of refuge, even when the rest of the building has been destroyed. Often, the floor above the basement will remain intact even when the rest of the building is destroyed. That can turn the basement into an underground home.

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During World War II, much of Europe was destroyed. As the various armies battled across the landscape, defenders would take refuge in buildings, using them as makeshift pillboxes. The attackers then had to destroy those buildings, clearing out the soldiers. The residents of those buildings often took refuge in the basement.

While a basement isn’t a very comfortable shelter, it worked for the Europeans. At a minimum, it protected many of them from being killed by shrapnel and gunfire. Once the fighting moved on, many stayed in the basements because the houses and apartments above were destroyed. While it wasn’t as comfortable as home, it was shelter.

7. The underground

Speaking of basements, underground structures of many types have been used as shelters at one time or another. The catacombs of France are probably the most famous of these. But those aren’t the only underground shelters that have been used. Governments often build underground bunkers to hide activities, simply because they are well hidden.

Of course, you won’t be able to get into an underground bunker that the government is using, but many cities nevertheless have some sort of underground. This could be a storm sewer system (like the catacombs) or a subway system. Some cities even have commercial areas that are underground. Regardless of why the structure is underground, it is much more likely to survive many a calamity than anything above ground is. That makes it possible to use as an emergency shelter.

What type of shelter would you use? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Stock An Emergency Food Pantry For Less Than $60

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Image source: NorthJersey.com

Image source: NorthJersey.com

Do you have enough food for an unexpected snowstorm? Are you ready for a natural catastrophe? If not, now is the time to start. FEMA recommends that you have at least 3 days’ worth of food and water stored. But that is not enough, because in a crisis it may take weeks to get the food back on the grocery store shelves and for power to be restored.

For less than $60, you can feed a family of two adults and two children for 30 days.

Sound impossible? It’s not! With just a few ingredients and two easy recipes, you and your family can survive a disaster.

7 Foods For Survival

Here’s what you’ll need to get:

  1. 10 lbs. of cornmeal
  2. 20 lbs. of white rice
  3. 16 lbs. of dried mixed beans
  4. 2 lbs. of granulated chicken flavored bouillon
  5. 1 gallon of pancake syrup (or honey)
  6. 1 lb. of salt
  7. 2 lbs. of vegetable oil

A few weeks ago I bought most of these items at Walmart and Sprouts, and it cost me less than $60 for everything. I found 20 pounds of white rice at Walmart for only $8, and Sprouts had a sale on dried, mixed beans for less than $1 per pound. And I also got a gallon of pancake syrup from Walmart for only $8 because it’s much cheaper than honey. But if you don’t mind spending more money, honey will be more nutritious and will usually last indefinitely.

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Rice and beans will last the longest when stored in food grade enamel-lined buckets with a Mylar lining that will provide an airtight environment. It also helps to add a few crushed bay leaves. To store cornmeal, put it in the freezer for a few days to kill any bugs. Then store it in a bucket with Mylar lining. And don’t forget to use oxygen absorbers, too. Grains stored this way should last anywhere between 20-30 years!

Cornmeal Mush

Want a warm, filling and inexpensive breakfast? Try cornmeal mush. This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings. And of all the breakfast foods that you can buy, this one is the cheapest.

Ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup cold water

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups hot water

survival pantryDirections: Combine the cornmeal and cold tap water in a bowl to keep it from getting lumpy. Meanwhile, in a pan, combine the salt and hot water. Bring it to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, add the cornmeal mixed with the cold water. When the water and cornmeal boil, reduce the heat to low. Allow the mush to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it is nicely thickened.

Spoon mush into bowls and serve with pancake syrup or honey, if desired. Don’t forget to set aside the leftovers to go with lunch and dinner! To fry, pour mixture into a loaf pan and chill completely. Remove from pan, slice and fry in a small amount of oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Fried cornbread tastes great with soup!

Survivor Soup

Rice and beans are a survival staple. After all, they’re cheap and provide carbohydrates and protein. This soup is very hearty and filling. It costs just pennies to make, and it will give you enough energy to sustain you during a difficult time.

Ingredients:

1 cup of rice

2 cups of dried, mixed beans

1 tablespoon chili powder (optional)

1 tablespoon cumin (optional)

Bouillon (season to taste)

Directions: Add first six ingredients to a large kettle. Pour two quarts of water. Add bouillon to taste, chili powder, and cumin (if using). Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours. This soup is thick and hearty, and should be enough to feed four people for lunch and dinner.   

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Although this soup is often bland by itself, it’s easy to add more ingredients. I usually add two cans of tomatoes, one diced onion, three diced carrots, two diced celery stalks, and two diced potatoes. It tastes great with canned chicken, ham and Vienna sausages for extra protein. And it makes a great meal when served with fried cornmeal mush.

I also like to top it with one of the following toppings:

  • Sirachi sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Salsa
  • Jalapenos
  • Tortilla chips

Other Survival Supplies

Cornmeal mush for breakfast and “survival soup” for lunch and dinner will help to provide enough food to feed your family for 30 days. I also recommend that you stock up on canned fruit and canned vegetables to supplement your diet. To help with any vitamin deficiencies, make sure that you have enough multivitamins for each person in your family. And make sure that you have some extra prescription medicine set aside, as well as pet food to take care of any animals.

Don’t forget to have plenty of water set aside. You’ll need at least 120 gallons for a family of four for 30 days. One of the cheapest ways to store water is to purchase a bladder that you can use in your bathtub.

If you have a fireplace, it’s also a good idea to have plenty of firewood set aside to heat your house and cook your food. But if you don’t have a fireplace, you can purchase a small gas burner and have plenty of propane to cook meals.

During times of economic uncertainty, it’s essential to be prepared. And if you buy these 7 foods for survival, you’ll be much more prepared in case of an emergency.

God’s Word shows us the importance of planning ahead. Proverbs 27:12 says:A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

What food items would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their Vehicle

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3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their Car

Indeed, the temperature has dropped. We’ve noticed.

This means now would be a good time to reevaluate your winter preparedness – specifically, what’s currently stashed in your vehicle to break out in case of a blizzard?

Have you stocked and loaded your favorite emergency duffle? Well, if you haven’t, then here are a few interesting ideas that might turn some gear to keep you warm. Now I won’t be discussing general winter survival or gear in this post, simply because those are some rather inexhaustible topics in themselves, but we will cover a few items that really make sense to carry during the coldest months of the year.

1. Heated blanket/portable charger

From my own personal experience, as heated blanket has actually kept me from a potentially life-threatening situation (ie., when my hatchback plowed into a snowbank just outside Bedford, Va). I had to get quite comfortable with the idea that help would not arrive soon, and my heating options were limited.

With a portable heated blanket and a portable charger, you can stay warm until you’re safe. (Plus, your car battery – or even the sun — can recharge this type of portable charger.)

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Just make sure that your car is NOT enveloped in snow when it’s idling, because carbon-monoxide poisoning becomes a huge concern. Also, time your gas to battery intervals so you don’t drain your only way of starting the car again.

2. Zippo hand warmer

In my mind, carrying along a Zippo Hand Warmer makes quite a bit of sense. However, it’s not just the dexterity-enabling heat capsule that I’m after. It’s the fact that you should also be carrying lighter fluid in the same duffle. If you just so happen also to carry a Zippo Lighter, well then, you’ve got a hand warmer and a complete fire kit.

3. The right signaling gear

3 Winter Survival Gadgets Everyone Should Have In Their CarSpeaking of fire, snow is white.

And if you’re pressed into a situation where you have to build a fire in the snow, chances are, you’ve probably had a bad day. That’s why, if you’re going to bring along duct tape, you should make sure that your sticky wonder ribbon is in the most obnoxious neon orange color possible to pop against the whiteness of the snow. With that being said, fire is always a great way to keep warm in such situations — but oddly enough, it’s not really that great of a signaling device in snow-clad broad daylight. You’ll need a way to offer additional contrast for responders, and wouldn’t you know it? Duct tape burns with black smoke.

Be smart out there this winter. Stay safe. Stay warm.

What devices would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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15 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To Survive

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15 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To Survive

Those of us who are fascinated with life in the “Wild West,” beyond what Hollywood shows us, realize that our pioneering forefathers had it hard. True history, not the kind shown on Netflix, isn’t filled with gunfighters and stick-up artists, but rather hard-working men and women who faced deadly situations on a regular basis. While some succumbed to the dangers of the West, many more survived.

We can honestly say that each and every person who took part in settling the West was a survivalist — especially those who chose to live outside the city. Whether they were farmers, ranchers, prospectors or shepherds, their first job was to survive. So everything they did and pretty much every item they owned was centered around that need.

The average rancher had few permanent employees. A few hands to check the herds and ride the range to look for dangers that might hurt or kill the cattle were all he needed. Many would try to pick terrain to settle on, which would naturally mitigate against the cattle wandering. One of the best things for this was water.

Cattle, of course, need water, and few will wander beyond a day’s walk from that water, unless being driven by men or predators. In much of the West, where water is scarce, laying claim to land with a spring or creek on it gave ranchers access not only to much-needed hydration, but an easy way of keeping their cattle home where they belonged. That reduced the labor they needed to hire — an important factor in a land where cash money was hard to come by.

But there were times when cattle operations needed more hands than the few semi-permanent staff. That was at roundup time and for a cattle drive. For these all-important events, ranchers would hire some of the many “drifters” who roamed the West, moving from ranch to ranch, often riding the “grub line” until they could find a job.

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This made the cowboy’s life one of survival. He literally lived out of his bug-out-bag. Of course, they didn’t call it that back then. Rather, they called it their “bed roll.” His bed roll, his saddle bags (which served as his survival kit) and his saddle were about all the worldly goods that most cowboys owned. Many didn’t even own their own horses, but rather rode those that belonged to the ranches they worked.

So, if the cowboy’s blanket roll and saddlebags were respectively his bug-out-bag and survival kit, what sorts of things did he carry in them?

1. A good knife

The first thing that any cowboy had was a good knife. They didn’t have hatchets, machetes, wire saws and multi-tools like we carry in our bug-out bags today. Their only tool was a knife. So it was important to have a good one. This would usually be a mid-sized sheath knife, which was used for everything from cutting wood to skinning game.

Few had a honing stone, but the cowboys would often sharpen their knives on whatever stones they could find. A good chunk of granite or a piece of sandstone — it didn’t matter. Either one became a honing stone in turn.

2. Guns and ammo

15 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To SurviveFew cowboys roamed the West without a firearm. While they weren’t all laden down with guns, as we see in the movies, they pretty much all had something. It might be a pistol, but in most cases it was a rifle. The pistol was more convenient, but the rifle was better for hunting game or fighting Indians.

Many of the cowboys had been soldiers in the Civil War. When they were discharged, they were allowed to take their guns with them. This meant that most had long guns, even if they didn’t have a pistol.

Rarely did the cowboy carry his gun on him, unless he was on the trail. It was too cumbersome and got in the way of handling cattle. But when on a trail drive, they pretty much always went armed. In the case of a stampede, that gun might be the only thing to save your life.

3. Fire-starting

A tinder box was an essential piece of every cowboy’s kit. In it, he would store bits of tinder that he gathered along the trail, always ensuring that he had some with him. He’d also keep a piece of flint in it, often sewn into a leather cover, thus improving his grip on it. If he had matches, they’d be in the tinder box, as well.

4. Canteen of water

The canteen was an essential piece of equipment, especially in terrain where water was scarce. The typical canteen was about 2-1/2 quarts. It would be covered with layers of scrap fabric, usually hand-sewn by the owner. By soaking that fabric in water, when he filled his canteen, the cowboy could keep his water cool.

The first thing that a cowboy did when he stopped at water was to fill his canteen, even before drinking. That way, if he had to leave in a hurry, he had a full canteen to take with him. It didn’t matter if he was only going to town, he’d stop at the water trough and fill his canteen, often dumping out the old water to replace it with fresh water.

5. Cookware

A cowboy’s cook set was pretty minimal, but he usually had one. This would consist of a small pot, a coffee pot, a tin plate and a cup. That was enough for him to cook anything he needed to, out on the trail. Coffee was prized, and having a coffee pot to make coffee was important to men who spent 14 or more hours per day in the saddle, in all kinds of weather.

6. Food

A cowboy never left the bunkhouse without taking some food with him. He never knew what the day would bring or even whether he’d make it back to the bunkhouse that night. So, he kept a little bit of food in his saddlebags at all time. This could include:

  • Bacon — a favorite staple in the West.
  • Biscuits or hard tack.
  • Coffee & sugar.
  • Dried fruit (if they could get it).

Range eating usually wasn’t all that good. The food that the cowboy carried was intended to keep him going if he couldn’t make it back. Beans and bread were common fare, along with just about any type of meat imaginable. But they rarely carried that with them. Those were things kept in the chuck wagon or back at the ranch.

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It was common for cowboys to hunt their meat in order to avoid eating the cattle they were raising. It’s not that cowboys had anything against beef, but rather that those cattle were worth money. If they killed one, it was highly unlikely that they could preserve the meat, so much of it would be lost.

7. Fishing line & hook

15 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To SurviveMany cowboys carried some line and a hook, so that they could catch fish when they camped by the water. This wasn’t a given, but it wasn’t uncommon, either. They’d dig up worms to use as bait, or find grubs, crickets and other insects.

8. Piggin strings

Piggin strings are thin strips of leather or rawhide, like leather boot laces. Their main purpose was for tying the feet of the cattle when thrown for branding or castration. However, they became the cowboy’s equivalent of paracord, using it wherever they needed cordage. A typical cowboy kept a few pieces of piggin string in their pockets, along with a ball in their saddlebags.

9. Rain slicker

Storms could come up suddenly in the West, especially for those who were in the mountains. Those could be dangerous for cowboys, drenching them and causing hypothermia. They’d keep their rain slicker tied behind their saddle, either in a small blanket roll or alone, where it was ready at hand. That way, they could put it on, without having to dismount.

10. Blankets

An actual blanket roll was much bigger than what we are used to seeing in the movies. It could be as much as a foot in diameter. That was too big to carry while riding the range. On the trail, the cowboys would leave their blanket rolls in the chuck wagon, retrieving them at night. In the morning, they’d roll up their blankets once again, with their other possessions inside. At the home ranch, those possessions were in the bunkhouse.

But no matter what, a cowboy would have a couple of blankets tied behind their saddle. Call it the predecessor to the sleeping bag. Few would only want one blanket, as that wasn’t enough to deal with the fall and winter chill.

11. Coat

Just as today, coats were seasonal things. But you’d never find a cowboy leaving the home ranch, without a coat, if there was any chance of it getting cold. If they didn’t wear it, they’d tie it behind their saddle, along with their blankets and rain slicker.

Those that could get them would have gloves, or more likely mittens. A slit would be cut in the mittens, allowing the index finger to slide out when they needed to do something that required some dexterity. But mittens were safer than gloves, as they would allow the fingers to share heat, lowering the chance of frostbite.

Few cowboys could afford work gloves. Rather, their hands became as tough as leather from the work that they did. It’s not that they wouldn’t have used the work gloves, if they had them; but a cowboy’s wage wasn’t enough to afford many luxuries.

12. Bandana

The bandana was a useful part of any cowboy’s kit. More than anything, it was used as a dust filter over the nose and mouth. This was especially important when “riding drag” behind a herd. But the bandana served many other purposes, as well, including protecting the neck from the sun, being a handy washcloth and serving as an emergency bandage.

13. Tobacco

cowboys-1-cm-russellEven cowboys who didn’t smoke tended to carry tobacco. At that time, tobacco was the ultimate trade good. Offering someone a smoke was often the start of many a conversation, especially out on the trail.

14. Books

Surprisingly, many cowboys carried books with them. A large number were much more highly educated than you’d expect, having come from the East and being products of eastern schools, even universities. They were drawn to the West for a variety of reasons, and many gave up a life of wealth and position for the opportunity to travel.

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Reading material was highly prized in the West. Cowboys would carry books along with them, trading them with each other as the opportunity arose. In this way, they were able to experience a wide variety of reading material while not having to carry much with them.

15. Extra clothes

Cowboys didn’t change their clothes and bathe every day, like we do today. Nevertheless, having a bath and getting cleaned up was one of the joys of coming off the trail. While they didn’t have an extensive wardrobe, most had a couple of changes of clothes, including one nice suit. They’d keep that in their blanket roll, taking it out for church and other important events.

A Final Word

When you compare this list to our modern bug-out-bag, there seems to be a lot missing. But the cowboys of the past could stay alive with the things in this list. Few carried more, as their horses would tire too quickly if they were overloaded. And few cowboys could afford a pack horse, in addition to the one they were riding. So, they were limited in what they could carry by their lifestyle.

Nevertheless, the cowboy had the essentials. Of course, they were a much hardier breed than we are today. For them, hardship was a daily occurrence, and danger was their constant companion. They were better suited for survival than we are today. Maybe if we lived our lives on the back of a horse, instead of sitting in front of a computer, we’d be, too.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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15 Free-But-Forgotten Ways Our Ancestors Stayed Warm During Winter

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15 Free-But-Forgotten Ways Our Ancestors Stayed Warm During Winter

Artist: Thomas Birch

Staying warm was not always as simple as flipping a switch or nudging a thermostat. In the days of our ancestors, it also was not as easy as loading and starting a pellet stove. It involved even more than hauling firewood in from a dry shed and loading it into a state-of-the-art woodstove.

With what were often limited resources, our grandparents needed to use common sense and ingenuity to augment whatever they used as a primary heating system.

Here are some of the “free” things they did to keep warm:

1. Wear sweaters and warm clothing. There probably were not many folks going around all day in short sleeves in the dead of winter. Instead of bringing the indoor temperature high enough to dress the same all year ‘round, they added on layers during colder seasons.

2. Acclimatize to cooler temperatures. When my aunt relocated to Florida several years ago, she laughed at the sight of joggers wearing earmuffs at 50 degrees. But by the next year, she, too, felt cold at higher temperatures than she had while living up north. In the same manner as my aunt became accustomed to warmer weather, so, too, can most people get used to cooler indoor temperatures during winter.

3. Stay active. I have hiked many mountains in cool weather, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt in temperatures as low as in the 40s. But sitting indoors at my computer, I reach for a sweater as soon as it dips below 70. Our grandparents may have moved around both in- and out-of-doors more than we do now, if for no other reason than to accomplish daily living tasks which we no longer do today. This higher level of activity contributed to keeping them warmer.

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4. Wrap up. When they did curl up on the couch with a good book or relax with a hobby, our grandparents likely made good use of afghans, shawls and lap quilts. Rather than heat the whole room, it made sense to use warm covers to retain body heat during sedentary intervals.

5. Be conscientious about trips in and out of the house. Every time a door is opened, heat escapes. By planning ahead and limiting the number of times the door is opened, people in our grandparents’ generation were able to retain indoor heat more efficiently.

6. Use the oven for indirect heat. It goes without saying that baking anything other than necessities is a better idea on a cool day than on a hot one. And after the baking is done, it is useful to leave the oven door ajar to allow the heat into the room.

15 Free-But-Forgotten Ways Our Ancestors Stayed Warm During Winter

Artist: Currier and Ives

7. Close off unused rooms. Spare bedrooms, summer kitchens, utility rooms and entryways may not need to be heated all winter. The more square footage in a home, the more heat is required — and the harder it can be to stay warm. Closing doors and heat registers to non-essential space can be helpful. This is what our grandparents did.

8. Keep bedrooms cool and pile on extra blankets for sleeping. Many bedrooms do double duty as areas for homework, children’s play or hobbies. It might be worth considering to move these activities to common areas during cold weather, thereby saving heating costs while keeping the family warm in one or two rooms.

9. Use insulated curtains or hang blankets on windows. Staying warm in our grandparents’ time often included creating an extra barrier between themselves and outside, and window coverings were key.

10. Cover walls. Hanging heavy quilts along exterior walls can help keep rooms warmer. It not only provides additional insulation, but soft textiles create the illusion of warmth and comfort. Extra coverings over wall outlets can help minimize drafts, as well.

11. Place draft dodgers under doors. Creations made of yarn, fabric, rags, synthetic stuffing, or newspaper can help prevent air exchange and retain more warm air inside. These could be basic — just old hosiery stuffed with textile scraps — or as fancy as anyone wanted to make them.

12. Winterize windows with plastic. Windows which were particularly vulnerable to wind and cold and those in rarely used rooms could be easily covered with a sheet or two of clear plastic and tacked on using furring strips, adding an additional layer of insulation and helping to create a greenhouse effect inside the house.

13. Caulk or fill in around windows. Loose windows and frames allow warm air to leak out and cold air to flow in. Filling in gaps and cracks with a malleable material helped prevent heat loss and contributed to our grandparents staying warm.

14. Insulate the attic. Commercial insulation is probably the best idea for us today—despite its higher cost, it is super-efficient. But our grandparents had to do it with whatever they had—rags, woolens and even old newspaper could make a difference. It was important that they take care not to place anything combustible too close to a chimney, and that remains a crucial consideration for us today, too.

15. Bank around the house. Our grandparents used bales of hay or straw, bags of leaves, or other insulating materials around the outside of the house. Often in colder climates, they packed snow around the foundation to minimize transfer of heat.

By being intentional and diligent, our grandparents were able to thrive in the coldest of weather. And by following the lead of our ancestors, we all can stay a little warmer during winter.

What old-time advice would you add on staying warm during winter? Have you discovered new ways? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Stranded In Sub-Zero Temps & Surviving On Seal Meat … For Nearly 2 Years

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Stranded in Sub-Zero Temps & Surviving On Seal Meat ... With No Possible Rescue

If it weren’t for bad luck, some folks would have no luck all. But these folks often seem to have a deep-seated determination that drives them through the rough spots. One such determined fellow of the past was Ernest Shackleton. As an Antarctic explorer, his survival story – one of the most incredible in recorded history — can teach us all a bit about the grit it takes to get out of a serious pinch.

Ernest Shackleton was born an Anglo Irishman in 1874 and was raised in bustling London during the height of English imperialism. Bursting with energy and enthusiasm, at a young age Shackleton knew a life of adventure waited for him, as he dreamed of far-off lands and watched the sailing ships return from their exotic journeys. He became a certified master mariner, an Antarctic explorer, secretary of the Scottish geographical society, and made an attempt at English Parliament — all before his 30th birthday. To say the young boy from London had ambition, with the drive to match it, would be an understatement.

As Shackleton grew he was pestered by an underlying determination to achieve some sort of notoriety. At first his goal was to become the first to lead an expedition to the South Pole. Despite his best efforts he was unsuccessful in several attempts, and Roland Amundsen would become the first recorded human to stand on our most southern point. With the prestige of that journey evaporated, Shackleton shifted course and set a new goal: to become the first recorded man to cross the Antarctic continent.

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You can imagine how daunting this challenge would have been. He guessed the journey to be roughly 1,800 miles – 1,800 miles across the desolate, frozen, wind-swept, nothingness of Antarctica. Not only that, but he planned to start this expedition in the Weddell sea, a body of water generally unexplored at the time. In fact, much of the expedition would be through places the maps simply left blank. Heap on the added challenge of exploring a place where the record low is -128 degree Fahrenheit, and it becomes clear he was willing to risk everything. (He recorded temperatures of -23 – although it undoubtedly was colder at times.)

Despite the odds against an expedition, in 1913 Shackleton sorted through 5,000 applications to select the 28 men he believed would help achieve his goals. The group, a mix of experienced sailors, adventurers and greenhorns, set to sea aboard The Endurance on Aug. 8, 1914. As the unquestioned leader of the group Shackleton — or “The Boss” to his men — ran a tight ship. He believed in order and the necessity of routines to help the atmosphere and environment of the expedition. From the stories, The Boss had an intuitive way of leading men. This trait would be tested to its fullest potential in the coming months. The voyage went smoothly across the Atlantic and on Dec. 5, 1914, The Endurance and her crew pushed off from their last supply point at South Georgia island for the Weddell sea to begin their Antarctic exploration, looking to take advantage of the summer in Antarctica, which runs from late December through March. Little did they know, though, about the hardships awaiting.

As The Endurance moved south into the Weddell sea they began to encounter especially thick sea ice. The ship and her crew pushed on, slowly picking their way through the ice pack to open water. Ever so slowly the routes of escape grew less and less. Before long, The Endurance was surrounded by ice in all directions. Try as they might, the ship could not break through. Men were put to work trying to clear a path through the ice with saws and pick axes, but to no avail. By Jan. 19, 1915, it was becoming clear to The Boss the ship was stuck. A month later in his journal Shackleton noted, “The Endurance was confined for the winter …Where will the vagrant winds and currents carry the ship during the long winter months that await us?” Seems like the kind of uncertainty that can be a bit unsettling.

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At that point, all the men could do was sit and wait. The men were kept busy by cleaning the ship and performing regular chores. They also passed the time playing improvised soccer games and other forms of impromptu entertainment. Several of the men spent a good deal of time with the expedition’s sled dogs, which had been brought along the anticipated overland journey. All-in-all, the men made the best of a bad situation and spirits were as high as could be expected. This resolve would soon be tested by the ferocious elements surrounding them.

In July of 1915 the ship was becoming increasingly stressed by pressure from the surrounding ice. It moaned and creaked. Over the next few months, The Endurance would slowly crumble before the men’s very eyes. By October, the boat had nearly tipped completely sideways. It was becoming increasingly unsafe for the men to stay aboard and on Oct. 27, 1915, the order was given to abandon ship. There, on the floating sea ice, the men unloaded their gear, dogs and necessities to establish Ocean Camp, surrounding their disintegrating ship. In the sub-zero temperatures and gusting winds of 70 mph they could only watch as their ship was reduced to splinters.

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“It is hard to write what I feel,” read the journal entry of Shackleton. In the middle of an unexplored sea, floating haphazardly on ice no less, the group had just lost their ship.

By this point, the men had consumed nearly all of their food supplies, and the seals and penguins they hunted had vanished. Not only that, but they had determined that the ship has drifted over 1,100 miles trapped in the ice. Off course, food deprived, cold, and without communication or a boat, the crew could only do their best to ensure their continued survival. All of the dangers the men accepted when volunteering for the voyage were becoming more and more real. Nearly a year after being frozen in, the men had lost nearly everything and their odds of getting off the ice during the second year looked bleak.

That changed, however, by April of 1916. Incredibly, the winds had pushed the men within sight of Elephant Island, which lies on the extreme north edge of the Weddell sea. Just before The Endeavour sank, the men had managed to retrieve two of the lifeboats on the vessel. Although the boats were necessarily small, they offered the advantage of being able to be pulled around on top of the ice. Seeing some open water and an opportunity, Shackleton ordered the men to take to the boats and head for the island. In high spirits they landed and pitched camp. It was the first time the men had set foot on dry land in 497 days.

The celebration was short lived, though, as The Boss realized they were not out of the woods yet. The pack ice once again began closing in, and with no way to reach the outside world Shackleton made what likely was one of the most gut-wrenching decisions of his life. He decided to take a small crew and set sail for South Georgia Island, some 800 miles away. The ocean they had to cross contained some of the most violent waters in the world, and they fully expected to encounter 50-feet waves, ice cold water, and winds of 70 mph or more. And they were going to try it on a 22-food lifeboat called the James Caird. It had to feel like a suicide mission, but what ensued will go down as one of the greatest small boat journeys of all time.

Nearly immediately, the rough waves spilled over the sides, soaking the six men and their equipment. Clothes, sleeping bags and all other aspects of their gear became saturated with the freezing ocean water. For days on end, the small crew sailed on, soaked to the bone and battling strong winds and sleep deprivation. As ice built up over a foot thick on the boat itself, steering and balancing the small boat became a continuous chore. Although the elements tested the men to their core, their biggest threat came from the water itself.

Stranded in Sub-Zero Temps & Surviving On Seal Meat ... With No Possible RescueIn the middle of a particularly rough stretch of water Shackleton called out to the men that the sky was clearing ahead. Except that it wasn’t. Shackleton wrote:

I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave.

During twenty-six years’ experience of the ocean in all its moods I had not encountered a wave so gigantic.

It was a mighty upheaval of the ocean, a thing quite apart from the big white-capped seas that had been our tireless enemies for many days. I shouted ‘For God’s sake, hold on! It’s got us.’ Then came a moment of suspense that seemed drawn out into hours. White surged the foam of the breaking sea around us. We felt our boat lifted and flung forward like a cork in breaking surf. We were in a seething chaos of tortured water; but somehow the boat lived through it, half full of water, sagging to the dead weight and shuddering under the blow. We baled with the energy of men fighting for life, flinging the water over the sides with every receptacle that came to our hands, and after ten minutes of uncertainty we felt the boat renew her life beneath us

With no time to waste, the crew pushed onward into the unknown. In a stroke of fortune, the crew of the James Caird managed to locate South Georgia island a harrowing 14 days after leaving Elephant Island. Bedraggled, frostbitten, sleep deprived and water logged, the small crew put ashore on a desolate shore. Shackleton knew the location of a whaling station on the island, but getting there would be a challenge. Not only were the men cold, worn down and exhausted, but the country between their landing location and the whaling station was once again blank on the map. If The Boss was to get to the station and save his crew, he would once again need to risk life and limb in order to do so.

Paratrooper: The Survival Water Filter That Fits In Your POCKET!

With two of the men in bad shape, Shackleton left one man behind to tend to their needs and he along with two other fellows embarked across the glaciers and rocky mountains of South Georgia Island. At one point the three men had to huddle together for body warmth simply to stay alive. Shackleton feared they would die if they slept, so they marched on without rest. It took the feeble group five days to cover the distance between their landing area and the whaling station. They were taken in by the station and given some very basic comforts, including a bath, shave and rest in a warm and dry bed.

True to his leadership reputation, The Boss wasted no time in setting out to rescue his two stranded parties of men. The sick men with the James Caird were fetched rather easily, but the 22 men on Elephant Island would pose a different story altogether. It would take the help of multiple governments and four ships to finally reach the stranded men on the desolate island. It was Aug. 30, 1916, when Shackleton finally gained sight of the men he had departed from some four months prior. It had been 634 days since the crew had initially headed into the unforgiving Antarctic waters — 634 days of frigid cold, wind and uncertainty. Amazingly, they all were still alive.

The legendary Shackleton Antarctic expedition was fortunate in that not a single man was lost. The story highlights the absolute tenacity of the human spirit and underscores what a person can endure. Not only that, but lessons from Shackleton’s leadership during the expedition may teach us about handling ourselves in seemingly hopeless situations. The story of Ernest Shackleton is one for the ages.

Bibliography

Bio.com Editors. (2016, Feb. 3). Ernest Shackleton. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2016, from The Biography.com website : http://www.biography.com/people/ernest-shackleton-9480091#synopsis

Buleen, C. (2016, Dec. 7). Average Temperatue of Antarctica. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2016, from USA Today.com: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/average-temperature-antarctica-13726.html

Cool Antarctica. (2016, Dec. 7). Shackleton Endurance Expedition. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2016, from Cool Antarctica: http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/History/Shackleton-Endurance-Trans-Antarctic_expedition.php

South-Pole.com. (2016, Dec. 7). The Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2016, from South-Pole.com: http://www.south-pole.com/p0000098.htm

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How To Make A Simple, Solar Water Filter Out Of 2 Water Bottles

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Food is essential for survival, but water is even more important. But how do you survive if your only source of water is, say, filthy river water? One option is a pocket water filter – such as a Paratrooper filter. Another option: a solar water filter made out of two water bottles and a small PCV pipe. It could come in handy if you forget your pocket water filter or left it at home.

Paratrooper: The Survival Water Filter That Fits In Your POCKET!

Emergency Heat: The 6 Best Ways To Stay Warm When Disaster Strikes

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Emergency Heat: The 6 Best Ways To Stay Warm When Disaster Strikes

Because they are a fire hazard and a source of toxic fumes, it is a bad idea to use an oven to stay warm. Image source: State Farm. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Anyone who has ever heard of the “rule of 3s” knows that one of the most important survival needs we all have is heating. It doesn’t matter if you are hiding out in your basement or have bugged out to a secret location in the woods, you’ve got to have heat. A number of the survival things we do, such as building shelter, wearing clothes and, of course, starting fires, are all part of fulfilling that need.

That’s why many homesteaders have fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. We recognize this need and try to prepare for it. But what if something goes wrong? What if something happens to the wood-burning stove, rendering it useless? Or what if someone lives in an apartment or home without a stove – and the electricity goes out? What can be done then? Are there other options?

Fortunately, there are always other options.

Let me say here that you shouldn’t limit yourself only to one option on anything. If your Plan A to heat your home is to use your fireplace and you don’t have a Plan B, you’re looking for trouble. While there isn’t much that can go wrong with a fireplace, strange things happen. Damage to your home might make it impossible to use the fireplace or even to use the room that the fireplace is in.

So, what alternate heating can we use for our homes, besides heating with wood?

1. Propane

One abundant fuel source that people use for heating their homes is propane. I’m sure you’ve seen houses or even house trailers with a propane tank out back. The gas company comes and fills it up once a year, and the family has a constant supply of propane gas to power their heat, warm their water and even provide a fire in a fake fireplace.

The great advantage to that system is that you have control over your supply of propane. With the tank in your backyard, it doesn’t matter if the electricity goes out – you’ve got gas.

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You can even improve on this by having the gas company install a second tank. It might take a little talking to get them to do that, but it will be worth it. That extra tank of gas will give you enough time and heat to keep your home humming along, even in the event of something catastrophic happening to the power grid. (Note: Never use an oven to heat your home. It is a fire hazard and a source of toxic fumes.)

2. Catalytic heater

The best way of using propane is with a catalytic heater. These come in various sizes and use a ceramic element. The propane burns more on the level of coals in a fire, rather than an open flame. This makes it safer and helps to prevent using the propane up too quickly.

These heaters are highly efficient. They also come in smaller versions, which will hook up to the top of a portable propane tank, such as the type used for a barbecue grille. That makes them usable, even if you don’t have a 500-gallon propane tank in the backyard. Simply get a few portable tanks and fill them up. You’ll have enough heat to last a while.

3. Kerosene

Emergency Heat: The 6 Best Ways To Stay Warm When Disaster Strikes

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Kerosene heaters are another excellent way of heating, without using electricity or wood. Of course, you only want to use kerosene heaters in areas of the country where kerosene is readily available. In some places, you can buy it through gas stations, but in other parts of the country, the only source is a paint store. That makes it too expensive to be practical.

I used a kerosene heater for my office when I lived in upstate New York. My office was in an unheated, uninsulated attic, but with the kerosene heater, I was able to keep it warm. It didn’t cost me a whole lot to use it, either.

4. Passive solar

Passive solar homes are designed and built specifically to harvest sunlight and convert it to heat. But even if your home was not built as a solar home, you can still take advantage of solar power. If you have a number of well-insulated south-facing windows, you may be able to use the sunlight streaming through those windows to (somewhat) heat your home.

You need something black for the sunlight to fall on. If you have black carpet or a black flagstone floor, that would be perfect.

5. Solar heat exchanger

Another option to make use of that solar power coming in your windows is to make a solar heat exchanger. This is nothing more than a plenum for air to pass through, where it will be heated by the sunlight. The plenum needs openings at both the top and the bottom, so that cool air can enter in the bottom and warmed air can exit out the top. This will happen with natural convection, eliminating the need to use any electrical power.

Many people make these plenums by cutting the tops and bottoms out of aluminum cans and gluing them together. The cans are then painted flat black, so that they will absorb the sunlight well. Aluminum is a good material for this, because it has one of the highest thermal conductivities of any material you could use.

If you don’t have access to a good stock of aluminum cans, you can accomplish the same thing by closing off the window opening from the inside, leaving about an inch of space at the top and bottom. The side facing the sun has to be painted black, preferably flat black. Whatever material you have available would work, such as plywood or cardboard. But ideally, you’ll cover the side (the side facing the sun) with aluminum, painted black.

6. Ceramic pot heater

Another option is to create a heater from ceramic flower pots. Two pots can be put together, with one upside-down on top of the other. This creates a container with empty space inside. Put a candle, oil-burning lamp or a candle made out of a can of vegetable shortening inside. When lit, it will heat up the ceramic, which will radiate heat into the room.

Don’t Forget to Dress Warm

Your body is generating heat all the time. If you’re trying to survive, don’t take for granted the heat that it is generating. Be sure to dress warmly so that you can keep that heat in rather than having it radiate into the air around you and then trying to replace it. The single most important part of keeping warm is to wear a hat, as about one-fourth of the body’s blood supply goes to the head. If you don’t wear a hat, too much of that heat is radiating out of our head and away from the body.

What advice would you add on emergency heat? Share your tips in the section below:

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5 Winter Survival Skills That Will Keep You Warm, Dry … And Alive

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5 Winter Survival Skills That Will Keep You Warm, Dry ... And Alive

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Every different climate delivers a unique set of challenges in a survival scenario, and winter is no exception. If you aren’t too careful, the frigid wind and cold can immobilize you with frostbite and then kill you off with hypothermia.

In this article, we are going to look at five specific skills that you absolutely must have in order to survive when you’re stuck outdoors during winter.

1. Getting a fire going … and keeping it going

Knowing how to start a fire is an important skill to have in any survival scenario, but it’s extra important during winter. If you are ever wet and cold, a fire may be the only thing that gives you a chance of surviving. You also need a fire to dry out any damp clothing.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to build and maintain a fire during winter. The ground often is blanketed in snow or ice and the wood that is above the ground is saturated with moisture, too. On top of that, there could be high winds that put any spark you manage to create out in an instant. So how are you supposed to start a fire during winter?

The answer is to keep cotton balls that are coated in Vaseline with you at all times – especially during winter. These are highly flammable and will be a lifesaver in a winter survival situation. (They’re also inexpensive.) You’ll also need something to cause a spark, such as a ferro rod. But this is just the solution to getting a fire going. How can you keep that fire maintained?

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Construct a pit into the snow that is approximately two feet deep. This is so that the walls of the pit will protect the flames from the wind. The bottom of this pit should then be covered with logs and sticks. Next, set some tinder and your Vaseline cotton balls on top of these logs.

If all of the wood that you find is already wet, then use a knife or a hatchet to cut into it and see if there’s any drier kindling that you can get from the inside. Then, set up your kindling in a pyramid. This will allow the wood to dry and then burn faster.

The technique above might save your life.

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2. Building a warm-enough shelter

This is another survival skill that is important in any situation — but arguably more so in a winter scenario. During winter – unlike other seasons — you have to keep yourself warm and dry. For these reasons, you would be wise to spend more time working on your winter shelter than, say, your summer shelter.

Your shelter should be constructed in a site that is flat and on higher ground, with plenty of trees for cover from falling snow and wind. The trees also provide the natural resources you’ll need to build your winter shelter.

One of the best winter shelters to make is one that has natural cover, such as the boughs of a tree. You can dig around the trunk of the tree underneath the lowest boughs, so that the branches spread above you protect you from the snow and wind. The snow walls would then provide additional protection, and you can even set up a little place for you to make a small fire.

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3. Maintaining a proper body temperature

During winter, it’s easy to get too cold – but also too hot. Wear an outer shell layer that deflects the wind and the coldness, an insulation layer that keeps your body warm, and then a final layer that sticks right to your skin. When you’re traveling through the snow with all of this clothing on you, you can easily overexert yourself. The sweat will then freeze and make you at risk for both frostbite and hypothermia.

Keep close attention to your body temperature and add and remove layers as needed. If it is snowing or raining, wear all three layers so that your shell layer can keep your inner two layers dry. But when you’re traveling out in the sun or working on building a shelter, remove one or more layers so that your body can cool down and avoid perspiration.

4. Making snow goggles

While we most commonly use sunglasses during summer conditions, the ice and snow during winter can reflect the rays of the sun back to your eyes – essentially blinding you. If you don’t have snow goggles or sunglasses with you already, then you’ll need to know how to make them on your own, out of natural resources.

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The easiest snow goggles to construct are made out of birch bark. Birch bark is best for snow goggles because it can be removed from the trunk of the tree in sheets. Cut out a sheet of bark and then cut small slits in it for your eyes.

Next, cut holes into the sides of it so that it can be tied around your face. It may not sound like much, but these simple DIY goggles will provide your eyes with the protection they need when the sun is out.

5. Building a pair of snowshoes

Snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger area so that your foot will not completely sink into the snow. If you’ve ever tried to walk through a winter forest without snowshoes, you know how exhausting and time-consuming it is. Snowshoes will save you a lot of time and energy.

If you don’t already have a pair of snowshoes with you, you’ll need to make some on your own.  The simplest form of DIY snowshoes are groups of boughs that are tied together and then lashed onto the feet. More traditional snowshoes will require some time and energy to build. You’ll need to find a long, flexible stick that you can bend and then tie at the end, followed by crisscrossing the insides of the snow with more sticks, vines, and/or rope.

 

 

Should you successfully build a pair of snowshoes, it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to make it out alive much faster.

What winter survival skills would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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How To Start A Survival Fire When It’s Cold, Wet & Miserable

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How To Start A Survival Fire When It’s Cold, Wet & Miserable

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With winter weather finally here in most of the country, it’s a good idea to keep yourself ready to start a fire. We aren’t normally warned about pending survival situations, so it’s important to carry an EDC bag or survival kit with us at all times. That ounce of prevention really is worth much more than a pound (or three) of cure.

If there’s ever a time when starting a fire is critical, it’s in cold weather. The biggest survival danger we face in the wintertime is hypothermia. Cold weather is bad enough on its own, but if you happen to fall in a river, or otherwise get wet, your chances of survival drop from difficult to very iffy indeed.

But starting a fire in cold weather isn’t anywhere near as easy as it is in warm weather. Not only are you fighting the difficulties of heavy clothing and your body being made stiff from the cold, but finding dry fuel and a good place for a fire are much more difficult in the cold. On top of that, it seems like most fire-starters just don’t want to work as good when it’s cold outside.

Locating the Fire

Finding a good location for your fire is even more critical in cold weather than it is at other times. To start with, the ground may not be dry. Chances are, things will be covered with snow, making it hard to find good, clear locations. If they aren’t covered with snow, then you might find that all you have is frozen ground. That won’t work well, either, as the fire will melt the water in the ground, which will then try to extinguish the fire.

Your best bet is a bed of stones — not just a circle of stones around the fire, but stones under the fire, as well. That will not only protect your fire from the wet ground, but also from any water from melting snow that decides it wants to try and run through your fire pit.

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You can easily make a broom out of pine branches to clear off an area and find the stones you need for your fire. If no pine trees are available, then you might want to try pulling up a handful of long dried grass.

Finding Dry Fuel

Fuel can be deceptive in the wintertime; that which looks dry might not be. The problem is that any water in the wood is probably frozen, making the wood seem dry. Unless it is coated in snow or ice, a branch laying on the ground will look dry, even if it’s filled with ice.

Always check the weight of any branches you pick up. With experience, you’ll soon have a pretty good idea how much a dry branch of a certain size should weigh. Try comparing dry branches to freshly cut, green branches sometime, and you’ll see that the green branches weigh considerably more. So, if the branch is heavier than that, it’s most likely not a dry branch.

Look for dry branches in the same places you would if it were raining. That means sheltered areas where the rain won’t fall directly on them, while being off the ground so that they don’t soak up water from the ground. One of my favorite such places is the underside of deadfall trees. There are usually a whole bunch of dry branches which can be broken off easily.

Dry Tinder

How To Start A Survival Fire When It’s Cold, Wet & Miserable

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The bigger problem is going to be in finding anything you can use as tinder. Tinder, by definition, is dry stuff. But you’re not going to find much dry stuff around, unless you happen to find an abandoned bird’s nest somewhere.

This is why our ancestors carried a tinder box with them when traveling. Rather than having to look for tinder when it would be hard to find, they were able to use the tinder they were carrying with them. Then, when they found something that would work as tinder, they replenished their stock.

This is what you should do, as well; carry your tinder with you. Whether that’s in the form of char-cloth or a commercial “fire-starter,” having something that will readily ignite with you is a great guarantee of your survival. You could find everything else you need in nature, but if you can’t find something to use as tinder, you’re going to have trouble making a fire.

I carry a commercial fire-starter with me, as well as cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. Either one will work, even with damp wood, so I’m always sure that I can start a fire. Between the two, I have enough in my bug-out bag to start 50 fires and enough in my EDC to start 20. Why? Because I want to be sure that I can get a fire going, if I need one.

Starting Your Fire

This isn’t the time for impressing people with your ability to start a fire by rubbing two dry sticks together. Nor is it a good time to try and get a couple of sparks from a Ferro Rod into some dry tinder. If you need a survival fire in the winter, then you can’t afford to waste any time. Forget finesse and go for the sure methods of fire-starting, matches or a butane lighter.

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Butane lighters are my favorite fire-starting technique. The best are the ones which have a piezo-electric igniter. Not only will those work every time you strike it, but they continue striking, so that if the wind blows the flame out, it reignites immediately. A waterproof butane lighter with a piezo-electric igniter isn’t anywhere near as cheap as a disposable Bic, but they are worth the investment.

Now, I’ve got to say something about butane lighters here. That is, they don’t work in cold weather. If the weather is cold enough that you’re wearing a coat, it’s cold enough to keep the butane in your lighter from turning into a gas. But, there’s an easy way to overcome this; that’s to keep the lighter inside your clothing, where the heat from your body will makes sure that the butane can flow.

Of course, matches will work as well, especially if you spend the extra money to buy stormproof ones. The only problem is that you’ll be more limited as to the number of fires you can start.

A Final Thought

One way to eliminate the problem of having to start fires in cold weather is to carry one with you. The American Indians did this, carrying hot coals in a cone made out of tree bark. If you’re in a survival situation, you might want to consider doing this, too. Not only will this keep your fire going, but it makes an excellent hand warmer, as well.

What winter fire-starting advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Simple Trapping Skills That Every Survivalist Should Know

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3 Simple Trapping Skills That Every Survivalist Should Know

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If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, what would be your first priority? One recurring theme when reading stories of survival is the constant search for food.

Folks like the Lykovs or Alexander Selkirk all relayed a similar message that food was a constant necessity that proved unending in its demands. Not only was food harder to obtain, but their caloric expenditures would have increased dramatically as they transitioned into survival mode.

While hunting with a gun can be effective, trapping is another strategy to secure meat in the wild. In fact, trapping was a part of the Lykovs’ story. These days, trapping has earned a bad rap, with a few bad incidents making people leery of the practice altogether.

But trapping is a longstanding tradition in many parts of the country and also a great tool for animal management. Not only that, but trapping is a low-energy way of obtaining meat for the table. It targets many small game animals that tend to have large populations. I personally have eaten meat from my trapline and find it pretty tasty. Another benefit: Trapping targets animals that tend to have beautiful and useful fur.

If you’ve never trapped before, and think it might be a good skill to add to your repertoire, here are three basic traps that would be effective in any survival situation.

1. Footholds

The basic trap you’ll see people using these days is a foothold trap. As the name indicates, a foothold trap is designed to hold the foot of the trapped animal. Most folks wrongly believe traps are designed to cause severe damage to animals. They’re not. These traps aim to secure the animal above the foot, and simply hold it securely until the trapper can show up to dispatch it. I have only been trapping for a few years, but have yet to see an animal with any of the extreme injuries anti-trappers peddle as common. Watch the video below to understand this concept better.

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Footholds are useful for catching literally any animal out there, from muskrat to bear. One thing you need to consider is the size of the animal you want — and then select the proper trap. A good all-around trap is a #2 coil spring. (The number refers to the size of the trap. Smaller numbers like #1 are smaller traps, while a #4 would be big enough to hold more powerful animals.) A #2 coil spring is a nice middle-of-the-road trap that can secure most species you’d want to trap. With it you could catch raccoon, opossum and even powerful critters like beaver. In a situation where you can’t haul around a pickup full of traps, the #2 foothold can probably get the job done.

2. Conibears

A conibear refers to a square trap designed to kill the animal within seconds of triggering as an animal walks through it. One positive of a conibear trap is it diminishes the amount of ammunition you’ll need to carry and shoot on the trapline. In a situation where you need to conserve as much ammunition as possible, this added benefit can be vital. When using conibears it is important to pair the animal with the correct trap.

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For trapping raccoon, trappers generally use 160s or 220s. One popular set to ensure proper firing of your conibear is to build a bucket set. These sets require the animal to walk through a small opening in a five-gallon bucket to obtain bait in the back. When they walk through the opening, the trap fires. Using the bucket set greatly increases the odds you will get an ideal catch right behind the ears, resulting in a quick and clean kill.

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One bit of advice before purchasing and using your conibear traps is to check your local game regulations. Since conibears are designed to kill instantly, many states have imposed laws to avoid catching dogs and cats. In my home state, for example, conibears must be placed at least six feet off of the ground, or completely submerged beneath the water. Some localities have banned this trap altogether.

3. Snares

Snares of today are simply made with a length of cable and a one-way slide. Like the conibear, they are designed to pass over the animal’s head and kill the animal in the trap. More modern snares are not designed to choke the animal, but rather to cut off blood flow to the brain, killing the animal much faster. To set a snare, first determine an animal’s routine path of travel. Once you’ve located the path, find a good location from which to hang your snare. Care must be taken to build your loop to accommodate the animal you want to catch, as well as placing the loop off the ground for the same purpose.

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Snares are beneficial for a variety of reasons, including not needing much ammunition. Secondly, snares are much lighter than either of the two steel traps previously mentioned. If you are in a situation where you have to carry your traps, snares may be the best option. Their weight also can allow you to set more traps at a time. If you start trapping, you’ll soon learn it can be a numbers game, and the ability to set more traps gives you a better opportunity to find food.

Similar to conibears, snares also generally have a good deal of legislation regulating their use. Consult your local laws to check their legality.

Final Thoughts

If you can get your hands on a few traps, it may be worth your time to learn a bit about this ancient art. Not only will you learn about the natural world around you, but you may learn a skill to help you during a survival situation.

Have you ever used traps? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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REVIEW: ‘The Road’ Is A Gripping Prepper Novel Full Of Tragedy, Struggle And Hope

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REVIEW: ‘The Road’ Is A Gripping Prepper Novel Full Of Tragedy, Struggle And Hope

A screen shot from the movie that is based on the bestseller.

I recently asked a fellow author and prepper to recommend a well-written prepper novel, and he replied without hesitation: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I ordered the book through my rural lending library system right away.

To say that The Road is well-written is an understatement. The book – which won a Pulitzer Prize — contains wording so artfully constructed that I had to stop and ask myself if the book in my hand was one of prose or poetry. The imagery was graceful. The emotion was moving. The words flowed like water across the smooth stones of a brook bed.

However, when I mentioned the book to others who were familiar with it, McCarthy’s beautiful writing was not what most people commented on first. They said things like “dark,” “bleak” and “scary.” Those were the words I heard most when I talked with others. I read many reviews expressing similar sentiments, and I learned that the book had been made into a movie.

Spoiler alert: If you have not read the book or seen the movie and you want to, stop reading this review right here.

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The book follows the journey of a man and his young son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The father has made the decision that they can no longer remain in place and that they must travel south toward the coast in search of better options.

It is possible the man might be seeking solidarity with fellow survivors, as well, but he remains highly suspicious and guarded when encountering others—and with good reason. Society has broken down into a vicious dog-eat-dog world where everyone is clinging to their own survival by a thread and nobody is trustworthy.

McCarthy tells a lean tale. He doesn’t clutter the story with extraneous details. He doesn’t even give names to the characters—just “the man” and “the boy” and the title “Papa” in conversation. We are not told of their setting, but the mention that there used to be “states” and “state roads” implies it is America. We know it is a cold and snowy season.

There are few facts given about the event itself. We know only that it happened several years prior to the first chapter. Huge clusters of civilization have been burned to the ground and survivors were few. What little is left is covered with ash so thick and pervasive that it has left almost no flora or fauna.

There was once a wife and mother, but she is gone before the book begins. The boy’s birth happened at the same time as the apocalyptic event, and readers are given to understand that the three of them somehow cobbled together a life of survival for a period of years.

We learn early on that the struggle became too much for her. She chose to end her life rather than go on in a world so hopeless. It is a heartrending scene as the couple engages in an argument, each attempting to sway the other in that awful life-and-death decision—he begs her to stay, and she begs him to go with her.

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REVIEW: ‘The Road’ Is A Gripping Prepper Novel Full Of Tragedy, Struggle And Hope The man is determined to go on living, despite the stark living conditions, ever-present danger, and vast challenges. He forges on southward, protecting himself and his son from looters, murderers, cannibals, starvation and freezing as best as he can.

The little boy is anxious and fearful—he has lived his entire life in apocalyptic conditions, has trouble imagining having friends, and tastes his first Coca-Cola while on the journey south. His mother is gone, and his father has taught him that if he ever finds himself in a situation where he knows he will be tortured—or worse—that he is to follow in her footsteps.

But in spite of being a child born into a stark world that seems to deny any existence of a higher power, there is a certain celestial sense about the boy. There are hints throughout the book of him possessing a wisdom beyond his years and a compassion too deep to have been developed in his upbringing.

I caught myself wondering whether the wife had been right. Could the trauma and suffering possibly ever pay off?

Alternately, I was angry at her. If she had stayed, I thought, their lives would be better. Less alone. Less pressure on either of them as the sole caretaker of the other. It struck me that she had chosen out of selfishness, to the detriment of those she loved. I wondered: What would I have done in her shoes?

But the man had declared that they were survivors. To him, it wasn’t just an empty word. It was the mantra upon which he based every decision, every action, every sacrifice of making sure the boy was warmer and healthier and better fed than he himself was.

In the end, the father sacrificed everything he had. He gave his all to make the best possible life for his son, never making time for his own body to recover from whatever malady had struck him, and the malady won the day.

But hopelessness does not win. In this story of tragedy where it seems that the only way out is to follow the path taken by his wife, the man chooses a different one. He chooses life for his son. Even knowing that the odds are stacked high against the boy, he chooses hope and life.

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“Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again,” McCarthy tells us.

The boy sits with his father’s body for three days before a stranger comes along.  And somehow, the stranger does bring goodness. He assures the boy that he is one of the good guys and that he doesn’t eat people, helps him tend to his father’s remains, and takes him home to join his family.

The mother talks to the boy about God, but she tells him it’s alright if he talks to his father instead.

Incredibly, despite a journey of cold horror, human tenderness and warmth carry the day.

I keep the book at the back of my mind as I go about my own life. Sometimes I think about the strength and tenacity of the father, or the beauty of the son’s compassion for others. I remind myself that I’m doing the right thing by tucking away extra food and supplies for a rainy day. I ponder the implications of the evening news. Mostly, though, I feel grateful—for food, and warmth, and shelter, and community. And above all, I am grateful for hope.

Have you ever read The Road? What was your reaction to it? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The WWII Soldier Who Disappeared Into The Woods & Lived Off-Grid For 27 Years

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The WWII Soldier Who Disappeared Into The Woods & Lived Off-Grid For 27 Years

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The day was hot and sticky — as usual. Beneath the tropical sun a hawk-faced young man crept silently through the dense jungle foliage. Thick green vegetation nearly engulfed him as he wove through the jungle floor. Sweat trickled down his face and his clothing was once again dampened. His alert eyes darted intently in all directions, always searching for the ever-present danger of the enemy. In his nimble hands he clutched a weather-beaten rifle, issued to him for one reason: to kill all of those who would threaten his emperor.

Young, and brimming with determination and nationalistic pride, the lean man knew the odds were stacked against him. His country had been losing ground in this great war to foes from across the ocean. Enemy troops were bearing down on his island, his homeland. He and a small group of fellow soldiers on the island had made up their minds. They had resolved to keep up the fight and never surrender.

Then, almost inaudibly, in the distance he heard a slow drone off to the east. Mixed with the cacophony of the jungle it was hard to determine the source of the noise, but it sounded like the hum of a plane. In this island war Shoichi Yokoi, the young soldier, had become ever-so accustomed to the sound of enemy planes. His eyes snapped to the sky, searching for the source. However, through the chaotic dancing of the treetops in the tropical wind it was hard to see much. Within a minute or so the noise increased tremendously as the aircraft flew closer. In a flash the plane zipped low overhead, deafening the jungle below. The mighty rush of air it brought with it seemed nearly to uproot the trees with its force. The young man ducked slightly, perhaps out of instinct more than necessity.

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The WWII Soldier Who Disappeared & Lived Off-Grid For 27 Years

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With the passing of the plane and its deafening tumult Shoichi noticed what looked like leaves falling from the sky. As the scattered items fell to the earth, he eventually realized they were paper pamphlets discarded by the passing plane. He pushed through the restrictive jungle foliage and snatched a pamphlet, suspended on a fern. Quickly scanning the leaflet, he discovered a shocking announcement. To his bewilderment, it proclaimed the great war was over. Just as astonishingly he read his home country, Japan, had surrendered. Confusion built up inside him and he rushed off to inform his fellow comrades.

This is where the incredible story of Shoichi Yokoi really begins. Yokoi and several of his fellow soldiers concluded it would be better to stay on the island fighting than to return home in surrender. In an action symbolic of Japanese soldiers of World War II, they would fight to the bitter end, no matter the cost. Their decision would intern their fates to the surrounding jungle of Guam. Some would lose their lives over the ensuing years, while Shoichi would struggle onward. In fact, for the next 27 years Shoichi survived expressly off the gifts of the jungle and bits of discarded waste. For the lion’s share of that time, he shared the experience with several fellow soldiers. For 19 years he and two other men lived as jungle hermits. In 1964, though, his companions met their untimely death in a great ocean flood. Following their deaths, Yokoi survived alone for eight years in solitude. How he was able to carve out a living in an unforgiving jungle home is likely to impress even the most cynical reader.

First, Shoichi’s main concern during his island solitude was finding enough food. In fact, he would later recount that finding food was a “continuous hardship.” With limited large game animals to pursue, he was forced to constantly feed his high caloric demands with small animals. He mainly subsisted on edible plants, nuts and fruits he gathered from the jungle. Additionally, he became adept at trapping eel and shrimp. At times he was also able to procure meat from birds and wild hogs. His favorite food was rat meat, but in his extreme situation of survival Yokoi couldn’t afford to be picky and ate absolutely everything he could.

When he wasn’t spending time finding food, much of Shoichi’s time was devoted to making the tools and goods necessary for his survival. Living in such extreme isolation, Shoichi was completely self-dependent and had to make literally everything he needed. He learned to use the bounty of the jungle, unknowingly in similar ways to Guam’s native peoples. He made cordage from trees, a trap for eels, and used bamboo for all sorts of things. Showing off the true power of human ingenuity, Yokoi used the inner bark of the Pago tree to weave a homespun fabric of sorts. From this he actually tailored an army uniform that held up remarkably well.

Story continues below video

Perhaps most impressive was the survival shelter Shoichi constructed. Using only an improvised hand trowel, he dug a deep pit in the jungle floor. Initially, he dug straight down into the ground. Once seven or eight feet down, he cleared out a space for living quarters. It had dedicated sections for sleeping and cooking, and it even had a latrine. His latrine drained into the nearby river, thus keeping his den remarkable sanitary. To avoid cave-ins he used bamboo shoots to support the roof. As bamboo was his main source of wood, it was also used to construct his ladder to enter and exit his pit. The shelter was excellently camouflaged, and even standing next to it you could barely identify the entrance.

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Another of Shoichi’s major survival lifelines was his ability to make fire. As a soldier the young Japanese may have learned a variety of fire-starting techniques. During his stay in the jungle he used two primitive methods of fire-starting. Initially he used a glass lens to focus the rays of the sun to produce fire. Eventually, though, he lost the glass lens he was using and had to adapt. With a new problem to solve, he resorted to the much more primitive method of friction fire-starting. Amazingly, Shoichi discovered how to create a coal using what he described as a bow drill set. His ability to revert to more primitive methods for survival seem to highlight an ideology within modern survivalists that modern tools eventually will give out — and the understanding of primitive ways of doing things comes into play. The ability to make fire not only allowed Yokoi to cook his food, but it allowed him to boil his water, something he did each day.

So it was for Shoichi Yokoi for 27 years. Although the rest of the world had moved on, he and his comrades held out in an amazing display of discipline, attrition and outright grit. Interestingly, Yokoi’s survival story doesn’t end with him voluntarily reentering society. In fact, the resourceful soldier was returned to civilization at gunpoint. While checking his shrimp traps one day he was surprised by two American hunters. The two men wrestled the wild man into submission and checked him in to local authorities. As his amazing story unfolded, people listened in disbelief. So much had changed during Shoichi’s 27-year expedition that the world was almost unrecognizable to him. Upon his return to his homeland he said, “The world has certainly changed, but my determination to serve (the emperor) will never change.”

Shoichi Yokoi’s 27-year jungle survival story certainly holds many lessons for modern survivalists looking to prepare for similar situations. His ability to meet caloric needs, make tools, build an adequate shelter, and produce fire allowed him to live in isolation. Driven by an unwillingness to surrender, he forged a life for himself out of the surrounding jungle. His ability to adapt, observe his surroundings for resources, and continue his lonely war was truly amazing.

What is your reaction to Shoichi’s story? Share it in the section below:

Works Cited

BisitaGuam Episode E10: 28 Years in the Jungle. 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z038hpQsY04.

Kristof, Nicholas D. 1997. “Shoichi Yokoi, 82, Is Dead; Japan Soldier Hid 27 Years.” The New York Times, September. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/26/world/shoichi-yokoi-82-is-dead-japan-soldier-hid-27-years.html.

“Shoichi Yokoi – the Japanese Soldier Who Was Too Embarrassed to Return Home. He Lived in the Jungle in Guam for 28 Years after the End of WWII.” 2016. The Vintage News. October 12. https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/10/12/shoichi-yokoi-the-japanese-soldier-who-was-too-embarrassed-to-return-home-he-lived-in-the-jungle-in-guam-for-28-years-after-the-end-of-wwii/.

“Website.” 2016. Accessed November 11. http://www.primitiveways.com/jungle_30_years.html.

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7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

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7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

Life was hard for our ancestors — much harder than it is for us today. Most of them didn’t have running water and electricity to make their lives easier. These modern conveniences have changed our way of life, to the point where we often forget what people had to do throughout history in order to survive.

We look at survival today as something needed in a time of emergency, but to many of them, survival stared them in the face every day of their lives. That was especially true in the wintertime, when it wasn’t possible to glean what you needed from nature. Basically, if you weren’t ready for winter, you didn’t survive.

So our ancestors all became experts in stockpiling. They’d spend the warmer months preparing, so that when the cold winter months came around, they’d be ready. You could tell a lot about a family’s wealth and industry by that, as there were those who struggled through the winter and those who didn’t.

I remember my grandmother, who lived though the Great Depression. She was a hoarder if you ever saw one. While her home wasn’t one you’d expect to find on one of those reality shows where they dig through a house filled with junk, she didn’t let things go to waste. If there was any utility she could get out of something, it didn’t go to the trash; it was saved for that proverbial rainy day.

Not everyone saved all the things that my grandmother did, but I imagine a fair percentage of those who lived through the Depression did. Even those who didn’t knew the importance of stockpiling for winter. The idea of “saving up for a rainy day” wasn’t just a figure of speech — it was a way of life.

So, what did they stockpile? Let’s take a look.

1. Food

Of course, the most important thing to stockpile for winter was food. Everyone would “put up” food — canning, smoking and drying it. The modern grocery store is actually rather new, with the first real supermarkets opening exactly a century ago. Before that, you could buy foodstuffs from the general store, a local butcher or a local greengrocer (produce only). But there weren’t grocery stores as we know them.

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The majority of the population at the time was involved in agriculture. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that the vast majority of the population shifted to the cities. And while people who lived in the cities have always had to depend on store or market-bought food, before that time, they were in the minority.

2. Feed

Feeding yourself wasn’t enough in those days. You needed to be able to feed your livestock, as well. Even people living in the city had to take this into consideration, as many had horses and wagons.

Early garages weren’t attached to homes, because they were converted barns and stables. Before the automobile became common, that’s how people moved around. So, they’d have a stable behind the home and had to make sure the loft was filled with hay and grain to feed their horses. Granted, they always didn’t harvest that themselves, but they still had to buy it and stockpile it to take care of their horses.

If that hay and feed was the “fuel” for their transportation back then, and they stockpiled it to get through the winter, perhaps we should follow suit. While our modern cars won’t run well off of hay, few of us have enough fuel to keep them running for more than a day or two. In a blizzard or power outage, that could prove to be a costly mistake. (Click here to learn how to stockpile gasoline.)

3. Firewood

7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive WinterCutting wood for the fire in the wintertime is much more difficult than it is in the summertime. So our ancestors needed to take advantage of the warmer weather to cut their wood and stack it for winter. Granted, living in the city made that hard for some, but cities were smaller back then. They could still take a wagon out to the country to cut wood, if they didn’t want to pay someone for it.

It would take several cords of wood to make it through the average winter, and – prior to electricity — there wasn’t any other option. That is, unless you happened to live in an area where you could heat with coal. Coal produced much more heat per ton than firewood did, making it a great improvement; but you couldn’t cut or mine it yourself.

In addition to the firewood, our ancestors always made sure they had a good stock of tinder. It’s all but impossible to find anything that can be used as tinder in the wintertime. So, most families filled up their home’s tinderbox to overflowing during the warmer months. That way, they could always start a fire if it went out.

4. Extra blankets

Keeping a home warm was difficult, especially a larger home with lots of rooms. Few actually could afford a fireplace in every room, even if they wanted one. So they’d heat the main living area of the home and leave the doors open to the bedrooms. Whatever heat managed to make its way in there was all that they’d get.

Since they didn’t have much heat in the bedrooms, they counted on body heat to keep them warm at night. That was part of the reason why kids would sleep together — so that they could keep each other warm.

But the other thing they did was pile blankets high upon the beds. It wasn’t uncommon to have a chest at the foot of the bed, which was used to store these extra blankets in warmer weather. Then, in the wintertime, they’d be brought out and piled on the bed. A good quilt was laid on top to make it all look good.

That’s part of why goose down quilts were so popular. Not only are they warm, but they don’t weigh a ton. It’s much nicer to bury yourself under a couple of goose down quilts than to have the weight of six wool blankets on you all night long. So save those goose feathers; it’s time to make another quilt.

5. Medicine

Most people kept a pretty good supply of medicines in the home — not the medicines that you can buy over the counter in the drug store, but home remedies. Doctors weren’t all that common. Some communities only had a visiting doctor come by a couple of times a year when he was making his circuit. So, they needed to be ready to take care of themselves. That’s why home remedies were so important. When that’s all you’ve got, you want to make sure you don’t run out.

6. Candles

Candle making was a summertime activity. You had to make them when the bees were active, collecting pollen and making honey. That meant you made them during the warmer months, when there were lots of flowers in the fields and on the trees. In the winter, bees stay in their hives, living off the honey they stored up in summer.

Harvesting honey, for those who had hives, also meant harvesting the beeswax. That meant it was time to make candles. While some were made by professional candle makers, it wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own, especially those in rural communities. Those candles would have to be enough to get them through the winter.

7. Reading material

Wintertime was a time to stay indoors as much as possible. The harvest was in and it was too early to think about plowing for spring. So, people would work inside the home, repairing harnesses, sewing clothes and reading. Few had time to read during warm weather, as the work on the farm kept them going from “can see” to “can’t see,” but in the wintertime, gathered around the warmth of the fire, reading was common.

People would literally save magazines and newspapers for months, waiting until wintertime to read them. While that would make the news a bit out of date, life didn’t move as fast back then. News was slow to get to rural communities anyway, especially out West. So, winter made a good time to catch up.

What would you add to our list? Share your winter stockpiling tips in the section below:

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The ‘Quickie’ Survival Bow You Can Carve In A Few Hours

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The ‘Quickie’ Survival Bow You Can Carve In A Few Hours

Image source: Cody Assmann

 

Behind finding fresh water, finding food is one of the biggest concerns in a survival situation. The easiest way to feed yourself for short-term situations is to learn edible plants, but at some point you need meat.

The ‘Quickie’ Survival Bow You Can Carve In A Few Hours

Image source: Cody Assmann

When you start discussing tools for hunting, the bow and arrow inevitably enter the conversation. Learning to make a capable bow, though, is no easy task. Bows made by bowyers today are works of art just as much as they are hunting tools. Learning the entire process takes years of practice and attention to detail. If carefully crafted and cared for, a good bow can last for years and years.

The problem is that properly curing a piece of wood (stave) for a bow takes months or years if done the traditional way. If wood is not properly dried, it will break much sooner and you will have to start over. If you find yourself in a situation where you need a bow and arrow, but don’t have years to dry a stave, you’ll need to make a “quickie” survival bow. Quickies are bows that are completed within a few hours of harvesting the wood. These bows are not designed for long-term use, as they will most certainly break at some point in the near future. However, these bows can absolutely serve for short periods of time until you can properly cure a stave.

For those interested in learning how to make a survival bow, here are the three steps you need to follow.

1. Selecting your wood

Good woods for bow-making are yew, ash, Osage orange, oak, bamboo and mulberry. You may, however, find yourself in a situation where none of these woods are highly prevalent. As I set out to make myself a quickie bow I found myself in that exact predicament. In the Great Plains where I live, trees are scarce, and trying to find a good tree for making a bow can feel like looking for hen’s teeth. With that being the case, I decided to select a much-despised tree of the plains — the Russian olive. Although these invasive trees are everywhere, they have not earned a reputation as a standout bow material. Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

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When selecting any piece of wood, a piece that is taller than the shooter, straight-grained, and free of many knots is ideal. Good woods have the ability to withstand forces of tension on the back (facing away from the archer) and compression on the belly (facing the archer). Once again, the ideal piece of wood may not always be available in a survival situation, so do your best to find a piece that most closely fits the bill. I was able to find a Russian olive branch about the thickness of my arm — and fairly straight. It also had no major projecting branches. Since it was so prevalent and the piece looked good, I decided to give it a go.

2. Roughing it out

The ‘Quickie’ Survival Bow You Can Carve In A Few Hours

Image source: Cody Assmann

Once you have your piece of wood selected, it is time to start roughing out the bow. Use a tomahawk, hatchet or knife to remove large bits of wood and create a rough outline of your bow.  Be careful not to remove too much wood in this process. You can always take more wood off, but you can’t add more once it is gone. On my Russian olive bow I left the back of the bow completely untouched and it worked well enough. Bowyers will tell you this is incorrect, and they are right; this is not the correct way to make a bow you want to last for a long time. However, we are discussing survival bows and are looking to make an efficient hunting tool as quickly as possible. With the rough shape of the bow carved out, you can move onto the next step in the process.

3. Tillering

The ‘Quickie’ Survival Bow You Can Carve In A Few Hours

Image source: Cody Assmann

The next step to make a quickie survival bow is to tiller the bow. Tillering is the process of getting the bow to bend in an even arc when drawn. You can continue to work with your cutting tool, but a file is ideal for the job. If you have a file available, it is worth using. Start by bending the bow and seeing where it is stiff and where it bends easily. In the areas the bow bends stiffly, begin to remove a small bit of material with your file. A good rule is to spend more time scrutinizing your bow than you do working on it. This will help you avoid removing too much material and ending up with a bow that is too light and incapable of doing its job. Continue to remove material and check the arc of the bow until you are pleased with it. Once again, spend as much time tillering as you find acceptable for your situation. When you are pleased with the tiller of the bow, it now can be strung and ready for use.

I was able to construct my quickie survival bow in the matter of a few hours; depending on your situation you can spend more or less time on the process. If your survival situation were to be a long-term affair, you would be wise to begin drying a stave while you make your first quickie bow. You could essentially use quickie bows in the time it took your stave to dry and then construct a long-term hunting bow for yourself. Regular hunting bows are made in much of the same fashion, with attention to detail being a big key. The kind of bow you create all depends on your particular situation. However, should you decide to proceed with a quickie bow you can rest easy knowing your new survival bow can help procure some life-saving meat.  Add this knowledge to your list of bushcraft skills, and you will immediately increase your ability to survive and thrive in most any situation.

What advice would you add on making a survival bow? Share your tips in the section below:   

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Emergency On The Appalachian Trail (A Rescue Story For The Ages)

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Emergency On The Appalachian Trail (A Rescue Story For The Ages)

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I jerked up out of a fitful sleep to the sound of men shouting. My mind was still sticky as I tried to orient myself to the gray dawn after a night of trauma.

I was lying on the floor of an Appalachian Trail lean-to with three others—an older gentleman known as “The Old Ridgerunner” on one side of me, my husband Mark on the other, and a middle-aged man called Chris lying comatose beyond him.

Mark and I were out for a four-day trip through a slice of Maine’s famous “Hundred-Mile Wilderness,” so called due to limited road access. We were frequent hikers who spent most of our free time backpacking or bagging peaks in northern New England. We had embarked upon that trek from a trailhead along a gravel road some 16 miles north on Sunday afternoon, and by early evening Tuesday had arrived at a camping area nestled into a ravine on the northeast shoulder of White Cap Mountain.

The Logan Brook lean-to is pretty standard as trail sites along the Maine Appalachian Trail go. A three-sided log lean-to with a floor wide enough for five or six sleeping bags to lie comfortably side-by-side, a fire pit, a water source handy, a few tenting spots, and a privy discreetly tucked into the nearby forest at the end of a short side trail.

Nothing had seemed out of the ordinary when we arrived. We set about our usual campsite busyness—unpacking, filtering water from the brook, and setting up our tent in a spot about twenty feet from the lean-to.

Other hikers arrived and tended to similar activities. Ridgerunner and Chris both happened to be endeavoring to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in sections and were finishing up the last few hundred miles in Maine.

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Two other hikers, both young men, arrived for the night as well. One was a thru-hiker known as “Swami, “and the other was a weekend recreationalist named Greg, out for a four-day trek.

The group all chatted casually, getting to know one another on a cursory level as strangers who were thrown together for a night, each fading in and out of conversation as camp chores allowed.

We noticed a few odd things about Chris right from the start. He had been back on the trail just two days and a total of only 12 miles, and was surprisingly tired when he arrived at camp. As we prepared supper over our tiny portable stove near the lean-to, we noticed that Chris had already crawled into his sleeping bag. It was early in the evening for turning in, but hikers have their own way of doing things and we dismissed it.

Shortly thereafter, someone noticed that Chris’s feet were shaking, and asked him if he was all right. He responded coherently. He thought he would be okay, he said, but asked for water. I filled his water bottle with filtered water, and offered to make some soup for him. He rummaged through his belongings and produced a cup. I handed it back filled with soup, and he accepted it gratefully.

It was apparent to the other five of us present—Ridgerunner, Greg, Swami, Mark and me—that Chris was sick. We offered assistance, gave him water, and could do little else other than hope that sleep would heal him. As hikers, we’d all been there. For a sudden dehydration or flu or other malady that strikes a body while deep in the backcountry, the only cure is time and rest.

Emergency On The Appalachian Trail (A Rescue Story For The Ages)

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Darkness was encroaching when the seriousness of Chris’s condition became obvious. He suddenly vomited while lying on his back and began choking. My husband leapt into the lean-to and turned Chris onto his side. The choking subsided, but his breaths came in loud labored groans. Next, he began to convulse.

We were unable to rouse Chris, and realized in dismay that he had not been merely sleeping, but unconscious. His skin was hot and sweaty. We unzipped his sleeping bag and found that he was wearing several layers of clothing. It was a hot July evening, and we attempted to cool him by easing the sleeping bag away from his body and removing what clothing we could.

It was clear that our fellow hiker was in crisis, and this tiny group of people who had met for the first time only a few hours before was suddenly and completely in charge of the life of a person in our midst.

First, we did the obvious, tearing through all of Chris’s belongings in search of medical documents or prescription medication. Our search turned up no clues.

We discussed our options. None of us had cell phones. They were uncommon among serious hikers in those days, and reception from Logan Brook would have been unlikely anyway.

Chris was not going to walk out on his own, that much was clear. Someone was going to have to go get help. While we were weighing the risk of sending hikers out through the forest at night versus waiting for daylight, Chris suffered another round of choking and convulsing. That clinched it. We couldn’t wait.

Greg and Swami knew they had to be the ones to go. Despite the many miles of harsh mountainous terrain they had already hiked that day, their youth and strength made them the best choice.

We had to figure out the safest and fastest way for them to get help, and didn’t have much information to go on. Our only maps were those printed specifically for hikers and included just a narrow swath along the Appalachian Trail itself, and a rough large-scale road map of Maine that showed almost no unpaved roads.

We were in an area of Maine so remote that it didn’t even have a name—TB R11 WELS was its only nomenclature. The region is dotted with sporting camps, logging operations, and old grown-in roads, but we had no way of knowing where any of those might be in proximity to our location. Mark thought we might have crossed an old camp road a few miles back, but he couldn’t remember for sure, and didn’t know whether the camp road might dwindle to an unnavigable labyrinth, especially at night.

The best bet was to send Greg and Swami out along a known route to a public campground. Hay Brook Campground was in the wilderness, but it was accessible by car. The young men hoped to find a camper there.

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To that end, they would ascend the steep climb to the summit of White Cap Mountain and take a side trail from there down to Hay Brook. A total of eight miles, all in the black of night, after a full day of strenuous backpacking already under their belts.

We packed them up with extra headlamps, emergency gear and a prayer, and settled in to wait. I was scared. We all were, drifting in and out of sleep as we lay on the hard wooden lean-to floor next to the man whose condition seemed to be deteriorating.

None of us had dared to hope that help would arrive before late morning, and were surprised to hear an approaching game warden and paramedic shouting “Hello!” at daybreak Wednesday.

There had been access on the old camp road, it turned out. A camper at Hay Brook had called out to the gatehouse on a cell phone, and although reception had been spotty, the gatekeeper had got the gist of things and called the warden service. Equipped with maps and high-powered night travel equipment, they had reached Logan Brook from the camp road in just a few hours.

It was a relief to have professionals show up and take charge. The paramedic fired questions at us while he unpacked supplies and hooked up equipment to care for his patient.

The game warden set about brisk preparations for a helicopter evacuation. We were incredulous. How could that be, I asked him, here in a thickly forested ravine?  They would lower a cable, he told me.

The rescue professionals used two-way radios to communicate with the warden service airplane circling overhead and a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter en route to the scene.

Meanwhile, we on the ground scrambled to prepare. The game warden chopped a few trees to widen the clearing. Ridgerunner, Mark, and I scurried to do as he directed, searching for materials to build a smudge fire in order to help the helicopter locate the site. I volunteered my blaze orange rain poncho to provide a target for the drop, and we used heavy rocks to hold it down. There was no time to dismantle tents and put away belongings, but we hurriedly grabbed everything up and tossed it off to one side of the lean-to.

The smoke had barely cleared the treetops than we heard the tut-tut-tut of the chopper. Hovering close to the trees over the tiny clearing, it lowered a Guardsman on a cable.  Next came a long metal basket-like stretcher.

The noise and wind were incredible. The game warden had warned us that it would be like a hurricane, but I was still not prepared for such force. Small trees nearby were nearly flattened. We huddled in the back of the lean-to and covered our faces to protect them from the bits of flying gravel and sparks from the fire. My heart sunk as I watched my entire tent fly across the clearing and get sucked through the trees beyond.

Emergency On The Appalachian Trail (A Rescue Story For The Ages)The helicopter swooped away. The Guardsman and paramedic worked together to prepare Chris for transport. In the interim, we three campers rushed around the site trying to retrieve belongs and cover the embers in the fire pit.

The helicopter returned and hovered overhead for several minutes while preparations were completed.

The paramedic went up first. It appeared to be his first live experience airlifting, so the Guardsman gave him some quick do’s and don’ts before he lifted off.

Chris went next. Two more rescuers had arrived on foot. They helped strap the still-unconscious patient to the basket, and we all watched in awe as the cable drew him up into the helicopter.

Rather than send the harness back down for the Guardsman to use—probably in the interest of time—the helicopter lowered an apparatus that looked like a large two-pronged pulp hook. The Guardsman straddled the hook and held on as he ascended skyward. We civilians on the ground below held our breaths and watched as the wind dragged him through the top branches of a nearby tall tree before reaching the open chopper door.

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Only about an hour had elapsed, from the time the first two rescue workers arrived to the moment the helicopter roared away. We hikers sat on the lean-to bench in a daze. Gear was strewn over a half acre of forest. Trees were laying over at a 45-degree angle.

We all did our best to sort gear, and the ground crew left on foot with what we hoped belonged to Chris.

Mark fired up a camp stove. The three of us relived the events of the past 12 hours over cups of coffee. We lauded the professionalism of the rescue crew—the skill of the helicopter pilot hovering in a mountain ravine at dawn, the expertise of the warden service, and the bravery and strength of the night hikers.

Ridgerunner packed his belongings and headed out. The two of us waited with Greg’s and Swami’s packs until their return around noon. We all exchanged stories again before parting ways—the three lone hikers northbound towards Katahdin, and Mark and I southbound toward our car waiting at a trailhead.

We managed to retrieve our tent from the puckerbrush. By some miracle we were able to bend the poles back enough that we could set it up and sleep in it the next night.

Back home two days later, I made some follow-up calls. The rescue professionals confirmed that our little group had made the right choices—sending hikers out in the night, and sticking with the route that involved more mileage but less risk.

Chris lived. He had an underlying physical disorder of which he was unaware, and had been exacerbated by trail conditions. As far as I know, he made a full recovery, and I hope he was able to finish the Appalachian Trail.

My husband and I went on to travel hundreds more hours and miles on trails throughout Maine and beyond, but never before or since has a four-day trek been so eventful. And for that, we are truly grateful.

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

The 3 WORST Animals To Eat For Survival

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The 3 WORST Animals To Depend On For Survival

Image source: Pixabay.com

Imagine this situation: You silently enter a nearby piece of woods and move stealthily along some edge cover. You take each step with care, hoping to avoid a hazardous one that would snap a twig beneath your feet and signal your presence to the entire surrounding woods. Fate has landed you in this situation, where your survival depends on your skill with a gun and your knowledge of the land.

Up ahead your prey is feeding, unaware of your presence. Ever so slowly you lift your rifle to your shoulder and take aim.

In a survival situation like this, what animal do you imagine yourself hunting? Is it a deer? Are you fortunate enough to live in an area of elk or other large animal? How about small game animals? Not only are small game animals the most abundant, but they also typically require the least amount of skill to harvest. There’s just one problem with this plan: You’ll starve to death.

The big risk people would face in this situation is a misunderstanding of how their body works and the calories their new life would require in a survival situation. If you ever find yourself in a situation where your life depends on harvesting the bounty of nature, here are three animals you shouldn’t count on:

1. Rabbits

The truth is that if you ate nothing but rabbits in a survival situation you would die from what is called rabbit starvation. This phenomenon occurs when the human body eats only lean meats for an extended period of time. To function properly, you constantly need a variety of food sources to keep you going. Native people knew all about this. Here is a diary entry from renowned explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson scribed more than 100 years ago after living with Native people:

The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life, for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source — beaver, moose, fish — will develop diarrhea in about a week, with headache, lassitude, a vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the north. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken.

2. Squirrel

In city parks and towns around the country, you will find a population of squirrels that, at times, seems to outnumber the people. The real problem with squirrels is that their caloric return is far too low to depend on as a major food source. One squirrel is estimated to provide around 540 calories. In a world where we spend increasingly more time manipulating a screen and sitting on our keesters, we still demand around 2,000 calories a day. Even with our modern luxuries, you’d need to consume around four squirrels a day just to calorically break even. No problem, right? Well, there is one problem. In a survival situation, you could expect your caloric demands to skyrocket. Even if your daily caloric demand only doubled to 4,000 calories per day, that would put you at needing a hefty eight squirrels a day to break even. I’m sure this wouldn’t be a problem on day one in many areas, but how about with a family of four needing 32 squirrels a day? How about on day 100 when you’ve already shot 800 squirrels? As you can tell, the math doesn’t add up, and squirrel is not something you should be depending on as your staple food source.

3. Panfish

The 3 WORST Animals To Depend On For Survival

Image source: Pixabay.com

Trout and certain panfish find their way on the bottom of this list for the same reasons as squirrels. For example, a wild trout only provides 143 calories per fillet. Double that and you are at 286 calories per fish. Again, the amount of panfish or trout you’d have to catch in a day would be substantial if you were to try and live solely on their sustenance. Based on a 4,000-calorie diet, that would equate to around 14 fish per day to break even for one person. However, there would be an advantage of panfish over squirrels and rabbit. That advantage is that fishing is passive. In other words, you could cast a few lines each day and come back later to check your catch, with very little effort involved. Fishing doesn’t require nearly as many calories as hunting does; therefore, the calories of your panfish would go further and you may not burn 4,000 calories per day. If you were in a situation where you didn’t have to expend much energy, panfish could possibly be a reasonable food source for an extended period of time. However, you would still have to catch an awful lot of fish.

Final Thoughts

In reality, these animals all can play a minor role in a long-term survival diet, but they should not be viewed as long-term staple food sources. Keep in mind this analysis has considered diets solely composed of these animals. If you could find supplementary food items — from plants to other animals — you would decrease the negative effects. People who lived off the land for generations didn’t depend solely on these animals, and neither should we.

Do you agree? Disagree? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:  

Survival Light: 4 Overlooked Ways To Brighten A Room During A Blackout

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Survival Light: 4 Overlooked Ways To Brighten A Room During A Blackout

Image source: YouTube screen capture

Each year, blackouts become far more frequent. It simply makes sense to have some kind of backup plan to provide light in the family home.

Sure, you have a flashlight and a candle, but you can do so much more to make your home brighter.

Here are four ideas – ideas that you even might want to incorporate in your off-grid adventures, such as camping.

1. A bottle with a flashlight. A water bottle and a flashlight can be transformed into a bright lantern you can sit on the table or kitchen counter. Peel off any paper or labels from the bottle. Fill the bottle with water and leave off the lid. Put your flashlight on top of the bottle, with the light facing into it. You can wrap a strip of duct tape around the flashlight to keep it in place. The water will refract the light, creating a nice, bright orb that will allow your hands to be free. Similarly, you can place a headlamp around the bottle or jug, and point the light inward.

2. A balloon and a flashlight. You will need to blow up the balloon. Go bigger or smaller, depending on how big you want your lantern. Keep the balloon pinched while you work the end over the light end of the flashlight.

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The flashlight will keep the air from leaking. Turn on the flashlight and watch the balloon light up, creating a lantern. You can hang a few of these from the ceiling or prop the flashlight in a jar, empty can or even duct tape it to a surface so you can have light without holding it with your hands.

3. Solar outdoor lights. Yes, the kind that you pop in the ground along your pathways are perfect for inside. You can hang them or stick them in a vase or Mason jar in the center of the room. Cluster several together if you need additional light.

4. Multiple candles. A single emergency candle is fairly bright, but it probably isn’t going to be bright enough to light up the kitchen table or the living room. You can enhance the brightness by clustering two or three together. Use string or a rubber band to tie them together and pop them in a pickle jar or old jam jar. The light will reflect off the glass and be bright enough for everyone to see clearly. Putting a mirror behind the cluster of lights will reflect the light back into the room.

Whether you use a candle or a flashlight, the key is to refract the single beam of light to make it appear bigger and brighter. Using water, a mirror or glass is the key to transforming a single candle or flashlight beam into a room-brightening lantern.

Do you have advice on creating “survival light”? Share your tips in the section below: 

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The Secluded, Self-Sustaining Neighborhood That’s Prepped For Societal Collapse

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The Secluded, Self-Sustaining Neighborhood That’s Prepped For Societal Collapse

Rising out of the high desert landscape of New Mexico are dozens of futuristic-looking homes that are part of an ongoing experiment in off-the-grid living.

Some of the 70-plus home are almost buried in the earth, and some rise a story or two above it. Some are tiny one-room dwellings, and others are designed to shelter and to feed a family of four. All of these so-called “earthships” require no electrical grid, no water lines and no sewer systems.

The Greater World Earthship Community, the brainchild of architect Mike Reynolds, includes nearly 700 acres of rural property. The closest town is Taos, a small artsy and ski community that has a population of less than 6,000.

Reynolds began his experimental community of self-sufficient homes in the 1970s. However, it hit some bumps with permits and regulations before the county government designated the community as an “illegal subdivision” in 1997. Government officials eventually changed their position.

Today, the community is thriving again and even includes a school for training students who want to learn how to build self-sufficient housing. The county also gave the organization two acres for designing and building homes that do not meet its building code requirements.

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It is at that experimental section of “The Earthship Project” that video producer/reporter Kirsten Dirksen begins her interview with Tom Duke, an earthship builder and a long-time resident of the earthship community.

Duke, a former professional volleyball player from Los Angeles, and his wife moved to New Mexico about 18 years ago. Intrigued by the idea of an earthship home, they purchased some land and built and lived in a tiny earthship – a pod, as Duke calls it – for five years while they built their dream home nearby.

Today, that pod is their storage shed, and the Dukes and their two young sons live in a custom two-bedroom self-sufficient home. Like all earthships, it follows the following four principles:

  • Harvests water.
  • Uses and reuses sewage.
  • Uses thermal mass for heating and cooling.
  • Uses recycled and natural materials.
  • Uses solar and wind power
  • Produces food

With rainfall in the high New Mexico desert averaging only about eight inches a year, efficient use of water is a major part of an earthship home.

Reynolds designs the homes to collect and use water four times. Water that is first used for washing or drinking goes to plants in an indoor greenhouse that then filters the greywater and sends it back to the toilet. Then the blackwater is sent outside to four feet below ground where it feeds the roots of plants and trees.

“You don’t smell it. You don’t see it,” says Duke of the blackwater as he gestures to the thriving plants and trees surrounding his desert home. “But you are able to have this beautiful landscaping.”

With both the indoor and outdoor water systems in place, earthship residents only need to water plants to get them established. After that, they are sustained by the home’s water system.

In addition to recycling the water, the plants provide a natural heating and cooling system for the homes and produce food, as well. For example, the master bedroom in Duke’s home boasts a diverse garden, including tomato plants, mint and rosemary. His living room has a tall fig tree.

The newer homes can maintain a consistent year-round temperature of 71 degrees with their use of thermal mass and ventilation.

Duke is already teaching his young sons how to build a home “from trash,” and he points out the mounds of glass bottles, tires and aluminum cans that earthship builders use in home construction.

Story continues below video

Glass bottles are cut and fit together for “bricks.” Cans provide the framework for cement walls and stairs. Tires are used for many purposes, including as seats in an outdoor amphitheater for students, as planters for trees and as structural support.

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Duke estimates that earthship homes cost $225 per square foot to build, with the price decreasing the more work you are able to do yourself. He says he pays only $300 each year in utilities — $100 per year for propane and $200 a year for a supplementary water delivery.

“We really cherish water here,” he says. “What I have found is that living on eight inches (of rainwater a year) is hard, but I think every American could live off 12 inches of rain.”

The Secluded, Self-Sustaining Neighborhood That’s Prepped For Societal CollapseDuke also shows Dirksen an earthship “nest” designed as a simple and inexpensive dwelling for the developing world, and a large custom home designed to feed and shelter a family of four. With more square footage allotted for growing food than for living space, this intriguing home features trees and plants growing in nearly every available spot, a chicken pen outside and a tilapia pond in the greenhouse.

“We are a highly experimental green building operation here,” says Duke. “We are always pushing the envelope, always getting better.”

He is particularly proud of The Earthship Army, the teaching part of the Earthship Project. “We are sending out an army of knowledgeable students who can take this (information) out to the rest of the world.”

He adds that people sometimes ask if the earthship community is a cult. “If it is, it is a tire-pounding, beer-drinking cult, and that’s about it,” he says with a laugh.

Duke, who admits he did not know much about building or living self-sufficiently when he moved to New Mexico and learned “from the ground up,” offers that it is empowering to be able to build your own home.

“I feel I can go anywhere in the world and build a house out of trash – people’s tires and bottles and cans.”

Would you want to live in such an earthship home? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Forgotten Food Sources From The Great Depression

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Forgotten Food Sources From The Great Depression

Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression. Even though my mother was very well-off later in her life, I never saw her leave the house without some snack inside her purse. She said she just didn’t feel comfortable or “safe” without taking something to eat.

My father grew up on a farm and my mother on the outskirts of town, but both had difficulty finding plenty of food to eat. I often wonder if I would be as brave and resourceful as my parents were should I ever find myself in a similar situation.

Although they went without many other items, including new shoes, new clothes, and store-bought candy and toys, the thing my parents talk about most was the difficulty just in feeding themselves.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the best food sources that people used during the Great Depression.

Hunting, Fishing, Living off the Land

There was plenty of free food around — if you were willing to catch it, trap it, shoot it and skin it. My father and his brothers spent many, many hours out in the fields and woods surrounding their home shooting rabbits, wild pheasants, quail, grouse, wild turkeys, doves, ducks and deer. My father was the youngest of 13, so food didn’t last long on the table.

For those who had enough land or lived on farms, there also were the usual chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep and cows. However, lots of thought went into deciding whether to kill livestock. For example, killing a cow meant no more calves, milk, cream or butter. However, if the cow was too old to have more calves, it would quickly find itself the main food at Sunday dinner.

My mother talks about going out to the open fields near her home and collecting whatever edible greens or wild food they could find, such as dandelions, burdock root, wild onions, potatoes, wild blueberries and raspberries, chickweed, wood sorrel or plantain. Wild honey was also desired, but it could be a dangerous endeavor.

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If you lived near any body of water that contained fish, you could usually manage to catch enough on a Saturday for a fish fry. Fishing was rather time-consuming, though, when you consider that you generally spent the better part of the day for only one meal.

Stretching the Food

Making the most of whatever you had was one of the main ways people lived during these stressful times. For example, the fish that you caught on Saturday might make a fine fish fry, but don’t you dare throw out the heads or bones! This could be reused to make gravy or a base for soup. Add some fish heads, tails and everything but the entrails, a few vegetables, and you could brew up a stew or soup for another meal or possibly even two!

One-dish suppers, casseroles and other food-stretching recipes were popular during this time. Women traded secrets on how to make things like creamed chipped beef on toast, chili, soup, creamed chicken on biscuits, spaghetti without meat, bean soup or bean sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

Almost every meal was made at home from scratch. Forget about cake mixes, biscuit mixes, chili spice packets, or packaged mac and cheese. Not that these things weren’t available, but it was much cheaper to buy in bulk and cook at home. Most women became expert cooks and knew how to make just about anything by hand.

Let’s not forget “leftovers.” You never threw out anything, no matter how small the portion. My mother talks about “mish-mash” nights, when they took everything out of the icebox and pantry and ate whatever they found before it went bad.

Gardens and Backyard ‘Farms’

Unless you lived in an apartment building, you likely had a backyard garden. People would grow just about anything, and they often saved seeds to share with others, as well as to use again the next year. Popular garden vegetables were corn, green beans, tomatoes, squash, turnips, potatoes, cucumbers and pumpkins. Almost every woman knew how to can or pickle vegetables. Fruit would usually be eaten promptly, but there were still plenty of women who canned applesauce, as well as jams and jellies from fruit about to go bad.

My father would tell how he and his brothers would go to neighboring farms after the harvest and take home whatever had been left behind. Corn that had been nibbled on by birds or squirrels, cabbage with too many worms, or bird-pecked fruit left on the trees or the ground would be collected and taken home. His family would chop off the bad parts, wash off worms, and eat whatever was left.

Sharing

They say no man is an island, and that certainly was true during these trying times. Many communities and church groups would hold potlucks, church dinners and Sunday night suppers, where everyone would bring whatever they had and everyone could share in the bounty. These were usually a once-a-week measure, but it certainly helped to stretch the family food budget. You might only have a loaf of bread to share, but if someone else brought chicken, everyone could have chicken sandwiches!

Desperate Measures

My parents told frightening stories about people who would literally stand for hours in the cold or snow in front of restaurants and beg for food as people came outside. People would dig through trash cans, hoping to find some scraps of food, or they would simply beg homeowners or farmers for work in exchange for food.

In larger cities, people often had to resort to begging on the streets or waiting for hours in line at a “soup kitchen” for a bowl of soup and a thick piece of bread.

Hopefully we won’t have to experience the hard times of another Great Depression, but isn’t it comforting to know that, if needed, you could manage on your own by keeping your skills and know-how up to snuff?

Do you have any stories of survival during the Great Depression? Share your stories and thoughts in the section below:

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The First 5 Items That Should Be In EVERYONE’S Everyday Carry

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The First 5 Items That Should Be In EVERYONE'S Everyday Carry

You likely already know that what you carry with you on a daily basis is influenced by whether you live in the city, in a small town or on a farm, as well as by the job you have and the mode of transportation you use.

Nevertheless, there are a few everyday carry (EDC) items that should be in everyone’s pockets, purses, briefcases and so on. Here are five:

1. The band-aid

I took part in an experts’ round-up a while back, which is in essence a mega-article where they take survival “gurus” and ask them what the most important survival item is. Everyone said knives and multi-tools, but I said band-aid.

Why? You never know when you might get a cut or a bruise. It is much more likely than landing in the middle of social unrest and having to make your way home through angry mobs and tear gas. Even then, you could still get injured and need to patch yourself up.

I carry a band-aid in each wallet, in my gym bag and, of course, a few in my car. They’re cheap, lightweight and small.

2. The phone*

Duh, everyone carries a phone, right? Maybe, but is your phone prepared? I’m talking about loading it up with survival eBooks, GPS apps, offline maps and so on.

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If you live on a farm or spend a lot of time outdoors or on construction sites, do you have a rugged phone, or at least a shock-absorbent case?

Whether or not you’re a HAM radio enthusiast or have a couple of walkie-talkies in the trunk of your car, your phone is likely to be the thing you use to call for help in an emergency or to make sure your family is safe.

3. Cash

You don’t have to believe ATM machines will stop functioning in a disaster situation. You should always have some cash on you, because it can get you out of a pickle fast. It’s accepted everywhere.

4. A pocket knife

The First 5 Items That Should Be In EVERYONE'S Everyday CarryThere’s nothing like a knife to make you feel safer. Well, maybe a gun, but not every location allows it to be legally carried. A pocket knife is the next best thing. It can help you escape an attacker, and you can use it to cut and open things.

Whether you sleep with a gun under your pillow or you think guns are evil, a pocket knife can be your everyday best friend.

5. A fire-starting device

It doesn’t matter if it’s a lighter or a magnesium fire-starter, the ability to ignite fire should never be ignored. You can use fire in a variety of survival situations: to signal someone, to cook a meal, and, of course, to keep you warm.

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So there you have it: The minimum number of EDC items (according to my humble opinion). Now, I know I left out things like your house keys, but I don’t really consider those to be survival items. I also know you can add dozens of other things to your EDC, and I encourage you to do so.

You can build on them by adding things such as:

  • a larger wallet to fit more items.
  • a mini first-aid kit.
  • a credit card shaped Fresnel lens
  • a multi-tool
  • a compass
  • a concealed carry revolver
  • … and so on

What would you list as your five “minimum” everyday carry items? Share your advice in the section below:

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Rethinking Survival Tools: 6 Areas Most People Get Wrong

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Rethinking Survival Tools: 6 Areas Most People Get Wrong

Image source: Pixabay.com

It seems that everyone has their ideas about survival kits and must-have tools. I’ve probably read through at least 100 different lists in the last few years, and in reality, what I find are the same ideas being reiterated over and over again. The new ideas I find in those lists are all too often impractical — either too heavy or too bulky to carry.

With that criteria in mind, I’m always going back and rethinking my kit, looking to see if there is something I can improve. While a lot of time that doesn’t accomplish much more than assure me that I’m doing alright, at times I find something else that will serve me better. Recently, I’ve made a few changes in my tools, seeking to have a set that will serve me better if I ever find myself bugging out and having to survive on what’s in that bag.

The tools in your survival kit will probably be used for two main purposes: building shelter and gathering firewood. Both of those tasks require a lot of wood cutting. So, one of the biggest needs for my tools is to be able to cut a lot of wood, quickly and easily. If the tools can’t do that, they are essentially worthless.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some common categories of tools and see how well they will work in a true survival situation.

1. Knife

Everyone agrees that the knife is the most important tool you can carry for survival. I’m not going to argue that. In fact, I just added a second sheathe knife to my bug-out bag. My basic bug-out plan calls for me to have one on my belt. But what happens if that one gets lost? The answer most people go with is to have a folding knife as a backup. I have that, too, as a folding knife is part of my everyday carry (EDC). But I really wouldn’t want to depend on a folding knife in a survival situation, hence the second sheathe knife.

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I’ve had a number of different knives through the years, which has led me to appreciate what I feel makes a good survival knife. First of all, it has to be quality. More than anything, that means being made of quality steel, with a full tang. Good steel will stay sharper longer, increasing the knife’s utility and reducing maintenance.

As for knife design, I’ve settled on a length, from 3 1/2 inches to 5 1/2 inches. My main knife is the longer length and my backup is the shorter. For survival tasks, anything longer is too hard to work with and anything shorter leaves you struggling to get things done. Avoid a sharply pointed knife, like a severe clip point or dagger, as the point will break easily. But be sure to have a point, as they can be useful. A drop point is just about ideal. Tonto points leave you without the ability to use the knife as an awl.

2. Saw

If there is any one area where I think most of us have missed it in our survival tools, it’s with the saw. Most people carry a wire saw. Some have replaced that with the pull strap chainsaw. Have you ever really tried cutting a tree branch with a wire saw? Forget it. Besides, in a true survival situation, the wire saw is probably going to break. Forget any saw which is part of a knife blade or multi-tool, too. They are just too short.

I was tempted to add a bow saw to my bug-out bag for a while, although it’s really too big. But if you want to cut tree branches, that’s about the best manual saw for it. It’s definitely faster than anything else you can find, and cuts with minimal effort.

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Image source: Garrett Wade

But I found something almost as good. That’s the pruning saw. No, I’m not talking about the type that are on the end of a pole, but rather a folding pruning saw. Looking much like an oversize pocket knife, these will have a saw blade from 8 to 12 inches long and are razor sharp. Lightweight, they’ll still cut through a tree branch in a few minutes of work, rather than an exhausting half hour.

One other option is to combine your need for a saw with a machete. Some manufacturers make machetes with a saw blade on the back side. I have one of these, and while it doesn’t cut as good as my bow saw, it’s almost as good as the folding pruning saw. What it lacks in tooth design and sharpness, it makes up for by being longer.

3. Machete

Since we’re on the subject of machetes, let’s talk about them. Maybe it’s the time I’ve spent in Mexico, but I’ve grown to really appreciate the general utility of a machete. Not only are they about the only tool you can use to clear underbrush and blaze a trail, they’re excellent for cutting down saplings and cutting off small tree branches. Properly sharpened and used, they are better for cutting small branches than a hatchet.

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The machete also makes an excellent short-range weapon, should you find yourself in a melee and need something better than a knife. Using one against a knife-wielding attacker definitely gives you the advantage of reach, all but ensuring that you’ll win that confrontation.

All this and the machete is actually a rather light tool. It’s much lighter than a quality hatchet will be and even lighter than most tomahawks. Considering the importance of keeping the weight of everything you carry down to a minimum, the few ounces a machete saves is worth it.

4. Hatchet/tomahawk/machete 

Somehow, the tomahawk has become a very popular option within the preparedness community. Granted, it’s a cool weapon, much cooler than a hatchet. Yes, the hatchet can be used as a melee weapon, and, yes, it can be thrown. But if it came down to that point, I wouldn’t want to be throwing my tomahawk and perhaps giving a weapon to an enemy.

Many think of a tomahawk as a hatchet with additional benefits. But a tomahawk can’t do everything a hatchet can. More than anything, it can’t be used as a hammer, something that any good hatchet does very well. And while you can cut wood with it, it doesn’t cut wood as well as a saw or a machete.

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Image source: TheMacheteStore.com

Actually, although I still have a hatchet strapped to the side of my bug-out bag, it’s lost a lot of its prestige to the machete. The main reason I still carry it is that the one I have has a hammer head and a pry bar built into it. Both of those can be useful tools to carry. While a rock can do service as a hammer, there’s really nothing else I’m carrying that can do double duty as a pry bar, without breaking it.

5. Shovel

When I was in the Army, we carried a shovel (more properly called an “entrenching tool”) as part of our field gear. The main purpose of that was for digging foxholes. Considering the effectiveness of foxholes in warfare, that made sense. But do we really need one for survival?

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There are a few places where a shovel is useful in survival, such as digging a latrine, making a fire pit and digging a trench around your tent to divert water. While those tasks could be done with a knife or other tool, that would probably dull the tool — not something you want.

Thus, a shovel is part of my kit. What I’ve found is that the longer the shovel, the better. When it comes time to dig, a handle that’s a few inches longer gives you more leverage, making the job easier. Look for length, rather than the added whistles and bells that some companies try to include. You don’t need your shovel to double as a saw or a compass; they won’t do that well.

6. Multi-tool

Ever since the multi-tool hit the market, they’ve been included in survival kits and bug-out bags. Perhaps that hearkens back to the days of the Swiss Army Knife or the multi-purpose knives that we carried as Boy Scouts. I’m not sure.

But there’s a big difference between today’s multi-tool and those knives of the past. That difference is that the multi-tool is intended to be a compact tool kit, with screwdrivers and pliers as the main focus. Yeah, they usually have a saw blade and a knife blade as well, but not some of the more useful survival blades, like an awl.

The thing is, you’re not likely to need to strip down a piece of equipment and repair it when in the middle of the wilderness. You’re more likely to need to make clothing out of a hide that you tan yourself. So, why are you carrying that multi-tool along? What are you going to use it for?

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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8 Irreplacable Things That Won’t Work During A Long-Term Blackout

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8 Irreplacable Things That Won’t Work During A Long-Term Blackout

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We all have dealt with power outages. Usually, it is very short-lived, and in fact, the first hour or so is kind of nice. It is romantic, mysterious and fun to just chill without the hum of it. You don’t even realize how loud everything is until the appliances in your home are quieted.

But a long-term blackout is completely different. Many Americans fail to realize just how dependent this world is on electricity. Here are eight things that won’t work in a long-term blackout that go beyond the lights and refrigeration we often think about:

1. Water will stop flowing. In short power outages, you generally still get water from the tap, because either the wastewater plant is on another grid, on a generator, or you are getting the water from the storage tank. In a long-term blackout, the pumps will not push water and it will all run dry. If you are on your own well, your well pump will not work at all unless you have some form of backup.

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2. Credit cards won’t work. You won’t be able to buy your favorite morning beverage – or anything else — without scraping together the cash. Our entire financial system is electronic and relies on the power grid. The banks will be closed, with no functioning ATMs. All of your money will be inaccessible.

3. Gas pumps won’t work. Even if you have cash. That’s because the pumps require electricity. This means you can’t drive to the next city or to your cabin in the woods if you weren’t prepared.

4. Street lights in your neighborhood will be out. You don’t know dark until it is a cloudy night and you don’t have the glow of porch lights or street lights to guide you. Note: There are some street lights that are solar, but most are not.

5. You won’t be able to flush the toilet. In the short-term, yes, toilets still work. But in the long-term, when pumps aren’t working? They simply back up. Those on septic systems will be more fortunate, but even those eventually won’t work.

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6. The garbage man won’t be coming. Why? There is no gas to run the trucks. The garbage you are creating from your canned goods and packages of freeze-dried meals is going to start to accumulate.

7. You won’t be able to call 911 for help. Those systems run on electricity, and when generators stop working, 911 will be down.

8. The Internet will be down. It will work for a little while, but eventually the servers will lose power. In a minor blackout, you usually still have Internet because of battery backups and what not, but in a major blackout, it will be gone.

What would you add to our list? Share your additions in the section below: 

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7 Survival Things You’re Better Off Buying in Mexico (No. 2 Will Save You TONS Of Money)

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7 Survival Things You're Better Off Buying in Mexico (No. 2 Will Save You TONS Of Money)

Image source: Pixabay.com

I live real close to the Mexican border. While that usually elicits questions about the dangers of the drug cartels coming over the border, that’s not something I worry a whole lot about. The cartels are smart enough to know that Texans believe in concealed carry, so chances are that if they tried to start a firefight here, they’d get more than they bargained for.

But living so close to Mexico has its benefits — like giving me another source for my survival supplies. While there is little you can buy in Mexico that isn’t available in the United States, there are a number of things that are more readily available. Not only that, but some things are considerably cheaper in Mexico than they are in the United States. So with some careful buying in Mexico, I can make my prepping budget go considerably farther than buying here at home.

1. Antibiotics

I would say that the number one reason to go to Mexico for your supplies is to stock up on antibiotics. Here in the U.S., you have to have a prescription to buy them. But most antibiotics are available over the counter in Mexico. Not only that, but you can buy them in bottles of 100, and the price will be much lower than it is here at home.

7 Survival Things You're Better Off Buying in Mexico (No. 2 Will Save You TONS Of Money)

Image source: Pixabay.com

As best I know, there is only one antibiotic that there is any restriction on bringing back to the United States, and that is ciprofloxacin. The reason why that can’t be brought across the border is that ciprofloxacin is the antibiotic of choice for treatment of anthrax. As such, its importation has been outlawed so that terrorists can’t bring it in for their own use.

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While you’re at it, don’t forget other emergency medicines, such as the EpiPen, used for the emergency treatment of anaphylactic shock. While expensive in the United States, the Mexican equivalent sells for about $12. Now, it isn’t in an automatic injector, like the EpiPen here is, but rather a syringe, needle and small vial of epinephrine. So, it’s a bit harder to use, but you don’t need a prescription or have to shell out hundreds of dollars.

2. Prescription medicine

If you have any family members with chronic diseases, like high blood pressure, they are probably taking medicines daily. That creates a serious problem when it comes to prepping. Most doctors won’t write a prescription for extra medicines.

But you can buy many of them in Mexico. Every winter, the states bordering on Mexico are inundated with retired people who escape the cold months back home. Here in Texas, we call them “winter Texans.” Besides escaping the cold, coming to Texas allows them to go into Mexico and buy their prescription medicines for the entire year. Not only are most of those medicines much cheaper in Mexico, but you don’t need a prescription to buy them.

In my personal experience, Mexican pharmaceuticals are excellent. I’ve been buying mine over there for more than 15 years, and have never had a problem. The quality has always been excellent.

Mexico is also a good source for medicines that have not been approved by the FDA. Some “orphan drugs” haven’t passed FDA approval yet because of the high cost of testing and approval. For people with rare diseases, that causes problems. They either have to use veterinary versions of the medicine or go without. But they may very well be able to buy them in Mexico.

3. Dental services

While visiting Mexico to buy your medicines, make sure to take care of your teeth. Dental services are expensive in the U.S., but not so in Mexico. At the time of this writing, a filling is going for about $35, the same for an extraction. My wife recently needed a root canal, post and crown. The entire package was $410, rather than the $2,000 or more it would have been here at home.

4. Veterinary supplies

7 Survival Things You're Better Off Buying in Mexico (No. 2 Will Save You TONS Of Money)

Image source: Pixabay.com

If you raise animals for food, you had better count on having medicines on hand. Farmers do this so that they can care for their animals rather than having to call a vet all the time.

There are veterinary pharmacies in Mexico that specialize in the medicines you would need for livestock and for pets. As with the human medicines, prices are much better in Mexico.

5. Homesteading tools & implements

Speaking of raising animals, you’ve probably noticed that here in the U.S., everything is done electronically. If we could invent an electronic shovel to dig a hole in the ground, we’d do it. But if the power is out, all of our electronic wizardry will be nothing more than expensive paperweights.

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I have found that it is hard to find many manual tools and farm implements here in the U.S. Mostly, that’s because other than the Amish, we don’t use them. But in Mexico, many farms don’t have dependable electricity, and so they still use the manual methods. That makes it much easier to find those tools and implements there, and it makes them much less expensive, too.

This really doesn’t apply to just tools. Other related things, like saddles and tack for horses, are readily available at reasonable prices.

6. Water tanks

Water tanks are actually rather easy to find in the U.S. That is, if you either want used plastic barrels (which have chemical residue in them), used bulk liquid containers (same problem), or want to pay a fortune for shipping.

I got frustrated looking for a couple of water tanks for my home. Considering that I intended to use them for drinking water, I didn’t want anything that had been used for chemicals. But buying a new water tank online means paying more for the shipping than the tank costs.

In Mexico, pretty much everyone has a water tank on the roof of their home, except the poorest of the poor. That’s so that they’ll have water, even when the local utility is experiencing difficulties pumping the water. As an emerging country, that’s rather common. These water tanks are made there in Mexico, are designed for drinking water and are cheaper than they are here in the U.S.

I bought two 750 liter water tanks (200 gallons each). One is on the back porch and the other is in my garage. Rather than having to pay shipping on them, I simply loaded them in the back of my pickup truck (I could only carry one at a time) and brought them home.

7. The local blacksmith

7 Survival Things You're Better Off Buying in Mexico (No. 2 Will Save You TONS Of Money)

Image source: Pixabay.com

How many times have you wished that the old village blacksmith was still around? I know I have. There are times when you need something made, and a blacksmith would be just the person to have around. Well, you can’t buy a blacksmith in Mexico, but you can find them. So, if you need something made, you might be better off taking your design to Mexico and looking up a blacksmith rather than taking it to a machine shop here.

It’s amazing what these blacksmiths can make. I know a man who had a leaf spring break on his car. There were no springs like he needed, where he was, but there was a blacksmith in Mexico. The blacksmith made him a spring, just like he needed. It was so perfect that the car sat level once it was installed.

I had the axle shaft break on my motorhome, inside the axle housing. When it did, it overheated and literally welded itself into place. I had to drill out the messed up axle shaft and then look for a new one. However, I couldn’t find exactly what I needed. So I took what I did find to a blacksmith, and he modified it to be what I needed.

Have you ever purchased items in Mexico? What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

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Chances are pretty good that you know someone who lived through the Great Depression. Some of the stories they tell are almost unbelievable.

My mother, for example, was a child during the Great Depression and World War II. She always kept some type of snack in her purse, even though she was well off. She used to tell me that growing up in Michigan, she and her sisters would eat corn meal mush for breakfast while my grandmother heated potatoes inside a wood-burning stove. In the winter months, those potatoes would go inside their coats to keep them warm on the walk to school, and believe it or not, that’s what they had for lunch. A cold baked potato. It’s hard to imagine.

Let’s take a look at 10 ways our Great Depression-era ancestors reused or upcycled common items:

1. Flour sacks

Especially in rural and farm areas, flour sacks were literally reused as clothing. Patches were applied to pants and shirts, socks were mended, youngsters wore hand-me-downs, and flour sacks, which were large cotton bags, were washed, cut, and sewn into just about anything, including aprons, dresses, boys shirts, and underwear

2. Rabbits

While we might not think of rabbits as something you can “upcycle,” they really were versatile animals that helped many families live through the depression. A breeding pair of rabbits could be fed just about any type of produce scraps you could find, or for just a few handfuls of alfalfa. They reproduced quickly and could be used for meat or sold to others for cash or other goods. The fur also could be used to line boots or make blankets and clothing.

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My mother says that her father once spent the weekly meat money on a pair of breeding rabbits. My grandmother was really angry with him at first for spending grocery money on something she had to feed, but within a year, the family was making money or exchanging rabbits for things such as milk or eggs from other families.

3. Washtubs

Large, galvanized washtubs were used for just about everything: washing clothes, washing dishes, even as bathtubs or water heaters. One summer (fortunately it was summer!) my grandmother’s water heater broke and there was no money for another one. My grandfather put a few old sheets in a washtub and would leave it filled with water on the back porch, which got a great deal of sun. By the end of the day the water was warm enough that someone could take a bath.

4. Presents

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Most children received fruit and nuts as a Christmas present, or if they were very lucky, a few pieces of hard candy. My mother used to tell me that she would make all of her presents from leftover material she would collect. Broken shoelaces became woven key or watch fobs, scraps of paper (she collected a great deal from school) were cut into small notepad sizes. The tops would have two holes punched in it, and then tied with an old piece of string for notebooks or drawing books.

5. Sheets, towels and blankets

These valuable items were never, ever thrown away until they were literally just threads in your hands. Sheets were mended and patched until they couldn’t be used anymore, and then cut up into dresses, curtains or more patches for other sheets or pillowcases. Sometimes, sheets were cut into long strips and woven into lightweight blankets or rag rugs. The same was true of blankets. Towels were mended until you could literally see through them. Even then, they were cut into washcloths, cleaning clothes, or used for patches for pants and shirts.

6. Chickens

Since we spoke about how rabbits could be used, chickens were also versatile. My father grew up on a small farm where they kept about 100 chickens. Chickens that didn’t lay eggs for a few days became dinner. Feathers from chickens were used to make or repair pillows, blankets, sometimes even saggy mattresses! While geese had better feathers, my father said that their geese were often eaten by local wildlife, so they relied on chicken feathers instead.

7. Old clothing

Some of the creative ways people dealt with clothing during the Great Depression were simply amazing. A knit sweater, for example, could be used in the winter, and then the sleeves removed for the summer. If the sweater was still good, the sleeves were sewn back on. My mother tells me that she once had a pair of shorts and a blouse that were fairly worn out. She and my grandmother took them apart and sewed the material so my mother had a “new” bathing suit.

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Dresses could be cut into blouses or skirts, depending on where the wear or damage was. Pants were made into shorts, overalls made into pants. My uncle John would tell me that he was embarrassed to wear a pair of his father’s patched-up work pants, until he saw his friends wearing the same things.

8. Tires and inner tubes

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Although most tires today do not use inner tubes, they were common during the Great Depression. Tires from cars and bicycles were patched over and over, until they simply could not be used any longer. Some tires were burned as a means of heating, but the smoke is so terrible that you had to be pretty desperate to do that. Tires were often cut and used to replace shoe bottoms or were used to make swings for the kids. Inner tubes were usually cut up to make patches for other inner tubes or tires, but they also could be used to make waterproof boots by simply covering them with pieces of inner tubes cut to fit.

9. Driftwood, string and other things

My mother says that she and her brothers spent many weekends in search of anything they could find either to use or sell. Even things like old tree branches and driftwood were collected, cut and bundled either to be sold or used. Every rubber band and piece of string was kept or collected to be reused when the need arose. Every paper bag was folded and saved, every cord cut off of every un-repairable appliance, and every scrap of soap was saved in a jar to melt later and be reformed into a “new” bar of soap.

Final Thoughts

Many stories about the Great Depression are filled with acts of kindness between people experiencing great hardship. Those are the stories that fill me with the hope that we all could survive something this terrible.

Do you know of other ways our ancestors reused items during the Great Depression? Share your tips in the section below:

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Survival 101: How To Forecast Tomorrow’s Weather … Without The Weather Channel

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Survival 101: How To Forecast Tomorrow’s Weather … Without The Weather Channel

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When you left the Jeep by the trail, and began heading down the oak leaf-covered footpath that winds its way up the mountain ridge, you felt certain about today’s weather. You had enjoyed a gorgeous night of tenting under the stars and a delicious breakfast, but then it hits you: the realization that the sky seems to be turning darker by the hour.

Before long, you’re getting the distinct impression that you might have just hiked 16 miles into the woods, only to shiver in the rain, and may even be forced to head home in defeat. And then there’s always the possibility that this might just be … well … a bunch of rainless clouds.

This is going to be one tough call to make.

And even if you had brought your smartphone with you, and not left it in the Jeep, it wouldn’t have done much good. There are no smartphone towers around here, and technology isn’t really going to help you in this situation.

Many have suggested that a hiker’s barometer/thermometer watch could provide data on the current situation, but unfortunately, most in the “affordable range” tend not to work effectively. Besides, you’d also have to know how to interpret this data, and it’s not even going to offer near the accuracy that you’d get from two important pieces of gear — items that you had with you all along: your eyes and your brain.

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Your eyes can see the data, and your brain can do a darn good job of interpreting it. So, here are just a few of the basics on reading the clouds for when you have just as much need for a smartphone in the woods today, as just another text from the boss.

Clouds You Should Know

To start off, here’s a quick little guide on how to identify the clouds overhead, along with descriptions on what they mean:

Fair Weather Clouds

Cumulus. Image source: Pixabay.com

Cumulus.

Cumulus Fair weather (unless closely clumped together, which could signal a little rain on the way). They generally look a bit like floating cotton balls.

Cirrocumulus. Image source: Pixabay.com

Cirocumulus.

Cirocumulus Looks like a very thin high-altitude blanket, most likely to dissipate into clear blue sky. This could also foretell of a massive hurricane-like storm system approaching within days in extreme cases.

Cirrus. Image source: Pixabay.com

Cirrus.

Possible Warning Clouds

Cirrus High-altitude wisps, indicating a possible major weather change and storms within 24-48 hours. Especially pay attention if cirrus clouds appear in a wavy pattern.

Cirrostratus. Image source: Pixabay.com

Cirrostratus.

Cirrostratus Cirrus clouds accumulate and thicken, possibly warning of rain or snow on the way.

Altostratus. Image source: Wikimedia

Altostratus.

AltostratusThese create a thick grey veil over the sun, meaning the rain is soon to come.

Storm Clouds

Nimbostratus. Image source: Wikimedia.

Nimbostratus.

Nimbostratus Low level thick, wet wisps, meaning it’s probably not going to clear up anytime soon.

Cumulonimbus. Image source: Pixabay.com

Cumulonimbus.

CumulonimbusThese are your thunderstorm clouds. You’d better hunker down and take cover immediately.

Storm Clouds Descend

One important thing to pay attention to is how the weather is progressing. With the exception of certain regions with their own unique weather phenomena, most storm systems will move over the area, starting with high-altitude cirrus patterns and ending with low-altitude nimbostratus formations. In most cases, it progresses like this:

  1. Cirrus
  2. Cirrostratus
  3. Altostratus
  4. Stratus
  5. Nimbostratus

However, in the event that your camp is directly in the path of a squall line, then this progression will happen almost rapidly enough to completely miss, and it will likely be accompanied with billowing, towering cumulonimbus formations. Here’s a great tutorial video that explains exactly what I’m talking about:

Story continues below video

 

Nevertheless, there’s a very good chance that both scenarios will be preceded by those high-altitude wispy cirrus clouds, so always pay closer attention to the sky when they show up.

Warm Front. Cold Front.

Warm and cold fronts tend to have very distinct attributes that will reveal themselves to you in the sky without your needing those squiggly lines on the Doppler map. You can usually tell the two apart, using these criteria …

Warm Front – Weather generally changes in a more gradual, more even manner, and is usually accompanied by lighter precipitation that lasts for longer periods of time. It’s also usually preceding a low-pressure zone. To give you an illustration, it’s just like in a super-hot cup of coffee: the half-and-half tends to stir itself if you let it sit, and the same goes for warm fronts.

Cold Front – Weather generally changes in a rapid and often chaotic manner, and these are known for stressing out sailors and sea captains. Because cold air is denser than hot air, cold fronts will form a wall, which then churns and causes rapid convection, and thunderheads shortly thereafter. Much like a weather explosion, these systems tend to precede a high-pressure zone, quickly condensing the water vapor in its path … and becoming heavy rains, heavy wind, and other various storm nasties.

Thus, if the weather seems to take days to change from blue to grey, then you’re probably looking at days of rain due to an inbound warm front.

But if the weather goes from blue to terrifying in 90 minutes, then you’ll only have to whiteknuckle that tarp for about 15 insane minutes of nature’s fury.

Weather Patterns You Can Basically Bank on

When temperatures change rapidly, or there’s a sudden increase in wind speed and/or direction, then it’s time to keep an eye on the sky. Depending on your region, of course, weather systems generally roll in from the west or southwest. So if you’ve got a hunch that the weather may be changing, then turn your eye where the sun sets, because that’s where your trouble’s going to originate.

Obviously, there’s still plenty else to learn about reading the clouds, but this should at least get you started. As for another more obvious fact, if the weatherman says you should stay indoors, then folks: Please stay indoors. Your eyes may be 20/20, but their eyes are seeing things from orbit, and, well, bad storms kill people.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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8 Obvious-But-Overlooked Ways Our Grandparents Survived Tough Times

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8 Obvious-But-Overlooked Ways Our Grandparents Survived Tough Times

Image source: Mast General Store

Hard times are nothing new. They have come and gone throughout the centuries, and people have dealt with difficulties as best they can.

Amid catastrophic weather, crop failures, job loss and personal injuries—all of which often lead to economic disaster—our ancestors made it through some of the worst of times. Here are a few money-saving tips our grandparents might give us for getting through hard times.

1. Work harder. It might seem laughably obvious at first glance, but hard work really is the answer to a lot of struggles. If you have a job, ramp up your efforts. If you do not have a job, make it your full-time endeavor to look for one. Either way, consider devoting some of your free time to per diem work such as raking leaves and shoveling roofs and walking dogs. Money is out there, just waiting for you to earn it.

2. Tighten your belt. This is another tip that is so obvious that it can be overlooked. Meals out, new clothes, new vehicles, furniture, accessories for both the home and for personal use, and many other luxuries which people routinely purchase can be forgone during hard times. If it isn’t truly necessary, you can do without it until your cash flow improves.

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3. Limit entertainment. If you are spending your time working hard, you will have less time and energy for entertainment. And tightening your belt means saying no thanks to things like cable television, the latest electronic gadget, a hobby upgrade such as a new cycle or camera or snowmobile, or a vacation trip. This is not to suggest it is healthy to go without entertainment and leisure for a lifetime, but focusing instead on work and thriftiness for a period of time to get you over a rough patch is wise.

4. Buy second-hand. Even if your livelihood requires that you dress in brand names and drive a nice car, you can still do it wisely by purchasing pre-owned. Consider shopping at thrift shops, online resale outlets, and social media buy/sell groups, not only in lean spells but also in times of plenty. It is a great way to support local businesses and help out your friends and neighbors who may need the cash your purchase brings in.

8 Obvious-But-Overlooked Ways Our Grandparents Survived Tough Times

Image source: Rustins

5. Have a yard sale. Selling your unnecessary goods can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you scoop up a little cash from the sale, but you will help declutter your home and garage in the process. Having things clean and organized can be energizing, which helps you stay focused and get other things done.

6. Fix items instead of replacing them. In this world of disposable everything, it feels almost automatic to toss stuff in the trash and go buy another one. But in our grandparents’ youth, goods were thrown out less and repaired more. Consider having jacket zippers replaced at a repair shop instead of buying a whole new garment, or sewing on buttons and stitching up seams yourself. Glue broken knickknacks, tighten window blind strings, and don’t be afraid to tinker with tools and equipment to get them back into smooth running condition. Buy parts and replace them yourself or pay a professional—which is still less costly than buying new.

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7. Grow your own food. Backyard gardening is never completely free, but it is always a better value in the long run than buying less healthy and more chemical-laden foods in the store. During hard times, even a few patio pots filled with tomatoes and summer squash can ease up a straining budget, and a couple of laying hens can make a real difference.

8. Shop wisely. If chicken is on sale, buy chicken. Even if that was not what you had in mind for your current menu or if it comes in packages bigger than you need, you can always repackage and freeze it for later. Buy seasonal items on clearance and store them for next year. Buy in bulk for items you use a lot. Avoid brand names when it does not make a difference, and use coupons for the brand names you prefer when it does matter.

By following these few simple tips all the time, you will be able to build money-saving habits so that when hard times come around, you will be better prepared. It may be possible to become so skilled at pinching pennies that your practices will either help deflect economic difficulties in the first place or will help you glide right through them with barely a hiccup in your routine. Either way, engaging in money-saving behavior is always a win-win.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Discover The Secret To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

10 Often-Overlooked Medical Supplies To Stockpile For A Societal Collapse

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10 Often-Overlooked Medical Supplies To Stockpile For A Societal Collapse

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There are certain mistakes I see made over and over again among those in the preparedness community. Most of them are understandable. We live in a society where we have a plethora of resources and support available to us, and breaking out of that mindset and thinking of how to be truly self-sufficient is hard, even for those of us who are trying.

But if we are going to survive a major natural or man-made disaster, we’ve got to be ready to make it on our own. That means having both the knowledge and the supplies to do everything we need, for ourselves.

One area that is commonly overlooked is the area of medicine. Oh, we all have first-aid kits, and I’ve even seen some pretty good ones around. But that’s not the same as medical preparedness.

Let me enumerate some of the problems:

  • Medical facilities and personnel becoming overwhelmed with the large number of people who get injured in the crisis and its aftermath.
  • Lack of transportation making it difficult to get injured or sick personnel to medical facilities.
  • Modern medical doctors and facilities not having electricity. Many hospitals only have about 48 hours of fuel for their generators.
  • Breakdown of the supply chain, making resupply of even the most basic medical supplies iffy at best.

With all of this in mind, it’s clear that we need to be ready to take care of our own medical needs. That means much more than just having a little first-aid kit on hand. First of all, most first-aid kits can’t take care of a serious injury. And even those that can will quickly get depleted.

Here are a few of the top items you’ll need to stockpile, and stockpile well.

1. Bandages of all kinds (in bulk)

Injuries are common and will be even more common in a survival situation. When medical care is difficult to come by, any injury is serious. Injuries create openings in the skin by which bacteria and other pathogens can enter.

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So, it’s important to clean, disinfect and protect even the smallest of injuries.

  • For smaller injuries, cloth adhesive bandages are great. They stick better than the plastic kind, so they protect you better. That makes them worth the extra money they cost.
  • For large injuries, one of the best bandages you can have is a sanitary napkin. They are sterile, and designed to absorb a large quantity of blood. They are also much cheaper than other sterile bandages.
  • The new “cohesive” medical tape is much better than other types, in that it sticks to itself, rather than the patient. So, when you take it off, you won’t be pulling any hair out and causing the patient any extra pain.

Bandages really should be changed every 24 hours, or faster if they become blood soaked. So it’s easy to see how you could go through a lot of bandages quickly. It’s not unreasonable to think in terms of a few hundred of each size.

2. Gauze (in bulk)

Gauze is great for larger injuries, for times when you have to soak up blood or for cleaning off a wound. You can buy it in several forms, but probably the most common and most universally useful is in four-inch squares. These come in both sterile and non-sterile varieties.

When bandaging a wound, you need to use sterile dressings directly on the wound. But the second layer doesn’t have to be sterile. So, if you have a bleeding wound, you can use those four-inch non-sterile gauze pads on top of a sterile one, and save a lot of money.

Stretchable gauze is also useful, especially in cases where you need to protect the skin, but not necessarily soak up a lot of blood. Skin rashes are such a case. Once you medicate the rash, you should cover it for protection. Stretchable gauze is an easy way to do this. It can also be used in place of medical tape, although it doesn’t work quite as well.

3. Antiseptic cream, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide (lots of it)

Any wound needs to be cleaned and disinfected. The first step is to flush it with a sterile solution to remove debris. This could be clean drinking water. If it’s safe enough to drink, it’s safe enough for cleaning out a wound, too. But after that, something that will kill bacteria and other germs must be used.

Many people clean the wound with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide and then apply an antiseptic cream. This is ideal, as it provides the maximum protection. You really can’t be too careful where the possibility of infection exists.

4. Clotting agent

Image source: QuikClot

Image source: QuikClot

Clotting agents, like Quikclot or Celox, help to get wounds to stop bleeding and scab over quicker. This can be very useful in a situation where a wound is bleeding quickly. The more blood a person loses, the longer it takes them to heal. So, using a clotting agent helps to reduce their recovery time. It also can prevent them from bleeding out and dying.

These clotting agents are available either in a granulated powder that is sprinkled on the wound or embedded in bandages of various types (including a sponge). Either will work. The powder is useful for smaller wounds, but larger wounds require the bandages with the clotting agent included.

5. Personal protection equipment

It is important to do everything possible to prevent the spreading of infection and disease. For this reason, medical staff wear masks, gloves and eye protection. Well, if you’re going to be treating patients, you’ll need the same. Non-sterile gloves, which are sufficient for everything short of surgery, come in boxes of 100, in a variety of sizes. Buying them like that helps ensure that you’ll have them when you need them.

The most common place for pathogens to enter the body is the face. You have more naturally occurring openings in your skin, there in your face, than anywhere else in your body. That makes it necessary to protect your face from splashing blood and the droplets of sneezes. A medical face mask and simple plastic goggles is sufficient for this.

6. Sutures

Gaping wounds need more than a bandage; they need the skin brought back together and held there for healing. In a hospital, they accomplish this with stitches. You can do the same, although it’s recommended to practice beforehand, as sewing up someone’s body is different than sewing on a button.

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But there’s an easier way — adhesive sutures. 3M’s Steri-Strips and butterfly bandages both work well for this. While both are good, the Steri-Strips come in a package of five, which makes them much easier to work with.

7. Elastic bandages

Elastic bandages are useful for a host of things, especially dealing with broken or sprained limbs. Keep an assortment of sizes on hand, so that you have the right size for every need.

In order to be able to splint broken limbs, you’ll need something to use with the elastic bandages. In a pinch, sticks will work. But a Sam Splint is even better. This is a sheet of foam rubber-coated soft aluminum sheet, four inches wide. You can form it to fit the limb, and then attach it in place with the elastic bandages. Properly done, this will work almost as good as a cast.

8. Pain relievers

There are several different over-the-counter pain relievers available; if you consume mainstream medicine, stock them all. Different ones work differently with different people. That’s why ibuprofen might work well for one person, but not for another. You should have as a minimum:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

While it would be nice to have some stronger pain relievers on hand, those all require a prescription. If you have a good enough relationship with your doctor, you might be able to get some; but if not, you can’t even buy it in Mexico.

9. Antibiotics

10 Often-Overlooked Medical Supplies To Stockpile For A Societal Collapse

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Antibiotics are another thing you usually need a prescription to buy. That’s mostly to protect people from misusing them. So if you do stock any, make sure you have written information on how to use them properly, specifically information on dosage and which one to use for which ailments.

Many homesteaders buy veterinary grades of antibiotics, for which you don’t need a prescription. They usually come out of the exact same factories from which human antibiotics come. Another way is to buy them in Mexico, if you happen to be traveling that way. In Mexico, you can buy them in any pharmacy.

10. Over-the-counter medicines

Finally, stock up on all of the common over-the-counter medicines you use. Remember, you won’t be able to get them during a disaster, and even though they don’t actually cure most things, they do alleviate the symptoms, making it much easier to carry on and do the things you need to be doing. Specifically, you should have:

  • Antihistamine (Benadryl) — for runny nose.
  • Decongestant — for stuffed up nose or sinus headache.
  • Loperamide (Imodium) — anti-diarrheal.
  • Meclizine (Dramamine) — helps prevent nausea and vomiting.
  • Hydrocortisone cream — to help alleviate itching, such as from poison ivy.
  • Omeprazole (Zantac) — for heartburn
  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin cream) — for fungal infections on the skin

When the next crisis hits — or the next snowstorm or flood – don’t be left wishing you had the right medical supplies on hand. Stock up now.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:  

hydrogen peroxide report

8 ‘Weird-But-Essential’ Things You Aren’t Stockpiling (But Should Be)

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7 Weird-But-Essential Things You Should Be Stockpiling (But Aren’t)

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You probably have seen at least a dozen lists pertaining to what you should be stockpiling just in case disaster strikes.

It is a little hard to fathom that reality, but imagine going to Walmart or a similar store and finding aisles and aisles of empty shelves. You won’t be able to shop at Home Depot or Lowe’s either, and all of those Internet stores will be out of stock, too.

This means you need a stockpile of food, water and other essentials in your home. But there are a few more things you will want to add to the shelves.

The list below may seem a little weird — like, “Why would I need to stockpile that?” kind of strange. Well, you don’t know what you need until it’s gone, and these are some of those things you just really don’t want to have to try and do without. They are so cheap, they may even appear inconsequential. They’re not.

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Here’s seven things you should be stockpiling:

1. Shoestrings are probably not on your radar, but you need them. Survival is going to be a lot of walking and outdoor work. Tying and retying your shoes weakens the strings. A broken shoestring is actually a big deal when you are trying to get around and your shoe is falling off. They are cheap, so load up on them in varying sizes.

2. Duct tape is something that appears on most survival/prepper lists, but a single roll is just not going to do it. You will discover you will need duct tape for just about everything. You could easily go through a roll in the first week if you are using plastic to cover the windows, fix broken glass and so on. Duct tape to waterproof shoes is a common trend in, but what they don’t tell you is you can burn through almost an entire roll on one pair of shoes.

3. Nails and screws. These are not always cheap, but if you visit some yard sales or thrift stores, you can get them for fairly cheap. Big buckets and cans of screws and nails, even if they are used and a little rusty, will prove invaluable when you are starting over from scratch. They can be used to build new shelters, repair existing structures or fix fences.

7 Weird-But-Essential Things You Should Be Stockpiling (But Aren’t)

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4. Reading glasses. You can pick them up for a buck at the dollar store. Buy a lot. If you have a slight vision impairment, you will want to be able to see to read, do any kind of detailed work or to see in general. When there are no more eye doctors or the like, you will want to have the extra glasses on hand.

5. Ziploc sandwich bags. Generic ones are fine. These bags will make life a little easier and cleaner. Packing food for a scouting trip, keeping medical supplies dry, storing dried herbs and so on is easier when you have sandwich bags. If first-aid supplies are in short supply, wrapping a sandwich bag around a bandage will help keep the injury and bandage dry if you are going to be in the rain or snow.

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6. Paper plates and plastic utensils. They are a bit of a luxury, but imagine when you have no water. You won’t be able to wash dishes very often. You don’t want to eat off dirty dishes (it could make you sick) and you don’t want to leave a sink full of dirty dishes that will invite unwanted guests. Paper plates can be used and then burned for fuel.

7. Safety pins. They also are so versatile! Using them to hold up your pants, replace a broken zipper or as a makeshift hem are just some of the uses. You also can use them as a fishing hook or to hold a tent door closed. In a worst-case scenario, they can even be used as a self-defense weapon.

8. Gloves of all kinds. Exam, rubber and work gloves are going to be a huge help. Putting on a pair of exam gloves when you are butchering an animal is a nice luxury, especially if water is in short supply. Rubber gloves can be worn when you are cleaning up nasty business, including the bucket toilet. Work gloves will protect your hands from blisters when you are taking care of outside chores.

These are just a few things we tend to forget we have until we need them. Each of these items is fairly inexpensive and worth putting on the shelf. Do a little home inventory, like checking the junk drawer or that one shelf in the hall closet. You will likely discover more items that should be added to your stockpile list.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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3 Traits That Separate True Survival Knives From Worthless Ones

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3 Traits That Separate True Survival Knives From Worthless Ones

Image source: Koster Knives

Let’s go over a bit of “basic survival knife 101” and talk about what makes for a good piece of sturdy, handy, sharpened steel to make your time in the sticks just a little bit easier.

However, there is one thing I did want to mention before we begin: I’m personally not much of a believer in the modern “survival” knife concept.

Yes, it is true.

Let’s just say that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen or held a real survival knife — at least, as it’s described in many popular gear magazines — and that’s because I’m fairly certain that they don’t exist. In my own backwoods experience and years of study, there are many types of knives that make for excellent companions. To depend on only one just doesn’t make much sense.

What Makes a Good Knife?

At the end of the day, it would be foolhardy to expect a knife to do everything, from building shelter to cleaning a critter to performing those millions of other critical camp tasks.

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Different blades are simply required for different applications. But then, I am also well aware that the backwoods can be extremely unpredictable — so if you must depend on one good knife, after say, your pack has taken a 10-mile journey down the river without you — then the following attributes should get you by until you either make it back home or are reunited with that backpack:

1. The tang — Especially if this knife happens to be the only blade at your disposal, then you’re going to want to make sure that it’s extremely well-prepared for a royal beating. That’s why I tend to suggest a knife that possesses a full-tang design. This means that the knife’s metal extends all the way to the bottom of the handle, providing a single, unbroken piece of steel. In most cases, this type of tang formation provides the greatest amount of durability and strength, performing far better than the vast majority of other knife tang configurations.

With that said, I am absolutely NOT a fan of “handle-compartment” designs — especially since most are cheaply manufactured and are basically sold like a gimmick from the get-go. And by the way, I’m just going to come right out and say that a foot-long knife is only going to give you problems in the field, because you’re not always going to be hacking at tree limbs with it. Try whittling a stick into an eating utensil, and you’ll see what I mean. Just keep it between 3.5 inches and 5 inches, and call it a day.

3 Traits That Separate True Survival Knives From Worthless OnesThe only real exception to my tang preference might extend into the partial-tang configuration. However, I’d prefer that beastie to be hand-forged. If done right, the handle itself is crafted to reinforce the blade, actually providing an even stronger (and more comfortable) design. That’s why, if you’re willing to spend that kind of cash, then don’t rule out doing business with a talented blacksmith — especially one who knows what they’re doing.

2. The handle. While acquiring a knife with a well-made handle might seem like somewhat of a peripheral design preference, I honestly feel like a good grip is the second most important attribute that makes for a good backwoods knife. Why? Well, it’s actually fairly simple …

For 95 percent of your camp tasks, your hands will be working with this knife. If you don’t have a comfortable handle, then your hands will be paying for it very soon in blisters. Also, depending on the task, a badly designed handle could even lead to slippage (and then a bleeder to follow). This is why I tend to recommend micarta scales on a full-tang knife, especially since they’re extremely tough and super comfortable.

On the other hand, I also tend to be a sucker for custom bone or leather handles. Heck, why not? Handles like that aren’t just comfy … they’re gorgeous, as well.

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3. The profile – And now we come to the knife’s profile – or what I’d define as the overall shape of the blade itself. Different blade shapes are designed to do different things, which is why a wide-profile blade is great for skinning and cleaning game with its long cross section, while a Tanto-edged knife is great for, well, penetrating body armor (thus its backwoods application is truly lost on me).

Keep the knife simple! That way, you won’t have to guess at what your exotic “tracker knife” is going to do next. This is why I’d recommend the spearpoint profile, as it offers a little curvature for slicing soft material; whereas, the long straight edge makes for quick work of light chopping tasks. A symmetrical sharp blade is a predictable blade … and predictability makes it easier to get the job done in the safest way possible.

Preparedness: It’s About the Mission, Not the Gear

At the end of the day, it is easy to get glitter-eyed for flashy gear — especially with all the marketing and movies we see these days. And hey, it’s not even a bad thing to purchase a blade for the “cool factor.” However, I’d personally rather be in the bush with an ugly-yet-effective knife than a flashy-yet-useless one. From generally enjoying the backwoods, to those rare situations when you’re pitted against it in a survival situation, it’s best to pack in the gear to meet the mission at hand — rather than plan your mission to fit your gear.

Do you agree? What is your best advice on survival knives? Share your opinion in the section below:  

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The Man Who Survived On A Deserted Island, Eating Goat, For 52 Months

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The Man Who Survived On A Deserted Island, Eating Goat, For 52 Months

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The sun shone bright overhead when Captain Woodes Rogers of the ship “Duke” stepped ashore of the jagged and timbered island in 1709. Tall peaks jutted skyward as if the Great Pyramids of Giza lay beneath a cloak of green. A soft breeze offered limited relief from the incessant heat of the tropics.

Woodes and his men were privateers employed by the British crown. Effectively, this employed the men as well-connected pirates who sailed against its enemies, namely Spanish ships of the area. This particular island lay roughly 400 miles off the west coast of Chile and was by no means a hot spot of traffic. Capt. Rogers and his men were simply passing by on that February day when they decided to drop anchor offshore. A lookout soon spotted smoke rising from its dense foliage. Smoke? Surely in this case where there was smoke, there must be man. Curious, a handful of men landed on the island to investigate. With Spanish enemies seemingly teaming the oceans, tension hung over the men on their approach.

They were greeted not by a rival Spaniard, but by something much more bizarre. A white man stepped forth from the jungle, clad in nothing but goatskins for clothing. By the looks of the shaggy beard, unkempt hair (even by pirate standards), and weather worn look of the man, the sailors could tell this man was unusual. He approached apprehensively across the beach, like a wild animal approaching gawking tourists. Each party eyed the other beneath furrowed brows in that brief moment before introductions began. Although Capt. Rogers’ men could hardly understand the unclear garbling of the wild man, he seemed to be genuinely happy to see these Englishmen and began to tell them his story. It was a story that impressed even adventurous pirates.

Who Was It?

Alexander Selkirk (born Alexander Selcraig) of Scotland was born in the late 1600s to a cobbler (Selcraig, 2005). Not much is known of the Selcraig family other than they lived in the tiny fishing village of Lower Largo in southeast Scotland. It is also known the family regularly attended services at the Largo Kirk, or church. Incredibly, proof of their attendance is manifested in the recorded minutes of the church that are still available today. You see, Alexander was a bit of a hot head and had trouble controlling his temper. The Kirk minutes mention several episodes in which the church reprimanded the young Selcraig for improper behavior. The final mention of Alexander in these documents was in 1701, after the young man assaulted his brother after a prank at his expense (Selcraig, 2005). After being publicly rebuked in front of the congregation, Alex had had enough, and was determined to leave Lower Largo once and for all.

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In those days a man with the right spirit and skills could find work privateering for the British crown. With hate in his heart and his eyes to the sea, Selcraig boarded the ship Cinque Ports and somehow became known as Alexander Selkirk for the rest of history. Cinque Ports and another ship, St. George, were bound for South America and the South Pacific. Plunder and treasure were being pillaged in the “New World,” and these ships were meant to secure these treasures for the British by any means necessary. As the ships left port, it is likely Selkirk had no idea of the adventure he was beginning.

The Man Who Survived On A Deserted Island, Eating Goat, For 52 Months

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Pirating was not an easy life. Not only did the men risk battles with other seamen and the natural adversaries of the sea, but other more real risks as well. Scurvy, fever, dysentery, typhus and a catalog of other diseases were often the most prevalent dangers a pirate faced. One could only be so fortunate to die on the keen edge of a Spanish sword, rather than the dull and painful edge of these diseases. Aboard the Cinque Ports, Selkirk faced these common enemies, but it was the ship’s captain that would eventually break him.

While out at sea Captain Charles Pickering died and was replaced by an arrogant young seaman named Thomas Stradling. Stradling never had the trust of his men and abused his power aboard the ship. Dissention grew and the young captain was looking to justify his rank and effectively snub the men into obedience. He would get his chance on a lonely island in the South Pacific off the coast of Chile.

How Did He End Up Deserted?

In 1704 the Cinque Ports dropped anchor off the tiny island in order to secure fresh meat, fish, vegetables and make repairs. For a month, the crew dutifully prepared the ship for their big voyage ahead that would take them across the immense expanse of the Pacific. The Cinque Ports was rotting, and the sailors whose lives were buoyed by that ship wanted to improve its structure more than anyone. After a month, Capt. Stradling called the men to hoist anchor and shove out to sea. It was at this point Selkirk’s independent nature boiled to the surface. He objected to the captain’s orders, citing the ship’s rotting hull as evidence it could not make the journey. Although the men had thrown their backs into the job, Selkirk was not confident of its strength. His conviction was unrelenting; in his mind the ship could not make the journey. Selkirk was so convinced of the ship’s dangerous framework he made a decision that would forever change his life.

As his blood boiled and his temper flared, Selkirk declared he would rather be cast away on the island than head out to sea aboard the ship. In an instant, Capt. Stradling saw the moment he had wanted. He speedily met the demands of the rebellious sailor and put Selkirk ashore with nothing more than a musket, some powder and lead, hatchet, knife, navigation tools, tobacco, cheese, jam, a bit of rum and his Bible (Selcraig, 2005). It was when the ship shoved off that Selkirk began to feel a great remorse for his request. He pleaded and begged the captain to allow him back on the ship. In front of the entire crew, Stradling refused the request, thus sealing his authority and demonstrating the fate of any dissenters still aboard.

It must have been a lonely feeling for Selkirk to watch the ship become a tiny dot on the horizon. Alexander found himself alone on a deserted island, and he would remain in isolation for the next 52 months of his life (BBC, 2016).

Fortunately for Selkirk, he had a few things going for him. For starters, the island was teaming with life. Rats, goats, cats, lobster and fish all abounded, but it was the seals of the island that were the most numerous. Southern elephant seals dominated the island, so thick that later explorers would record they had to shoot a number of the seals just to make a path to walk ashore. In addition to the animal flesh, the island also was abundant in a number of different vegetables the stranded man ate. Fresh water was also easy to find, as the mountainous lands afforded a number of streams that made a quick dash to the surrounding ocean. Sure enough, Selkirk would become accustomed to his island diet, preferring goat meat above all else.

Battles With Loneliness

Alexander Selkirk Alexander Selkirk Selkirk’s biggest adversary on the island was not hunger, predators or disease, but loneliness. The physiological war of isolation on people has been well-documented, and was surely the biggest threat to his well-being. Fortunately for Selkirk, he was able to pass his time pouring himself into his Bible, in addition to the number of survival tasks he would need to accomplish each day. The sailor could start a fire using his musket flints and tried to keep the flame burning day and night. The comforting effect of a burning campfire is still one of the biggest supports for a stranded person. In addition to fire chores, Selkirk also had to procure skins, tools and shelter. Eventually, he even tamed a few of the wild cats and gained a small degree of relationship with them.

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Another way Selkirk passed his time was to scan the horizon from a lookout point on a high rocky point. This vantage offered him the opportunity to look for passing ships and determine whether they were British friend … or Spanish foe.

Thus was the means by which Selkirk was able to signal Capt. Rogers in 1709. When the men of the Duke heard Selkirk’s story, they couldn’t help but feel some skepticism. Pirates like Alexander aren’t necessarily enlisted for their chivalry. Coincidentally, a man named William Dampier was aboard the Duke and actually had known Selkirk as a sailor of the Cinque Ports and could vouch for the legitimacy of his story. Dampier also informed Selkirk that his hunch the Cinque Ports could not make the journey had been proven right. The ship had, in fact, gone down off the coast of Chile, drowning most of the crew. A few men survived, only to be locked up in Spanish prisons.

Selkirk would board the Duke and eventually return home, riding a bit of celebrity status upon his arrival. For a free meal or a pint, Selkirk wandered the pubs of Britain, retelling his adventures on the faraway island of the Pacific. Eventually another Brit, Daniel Defoe, would come to learn of the Selkirk story. Defoe was a well-known author of the time, and the story simply mesmerized him. Although we don’t know if Defoe ever met Selkirk, we do know his story inspired Defoe to write one of the best novels of all time. The epic novel he drafted would prod the imagination of adventurous minds for generations to come. The renowned fictional character we know as Robinson Crusoe was born out of the real-life adventures of the lesser-known Scottish hothead Alexander Selkirk. His story of survival is truly one of the most inspiring in all of history.

Do you think you could survive on a deserted island for four years? Share your thoughts on Selkirk below: 

Bibliography

BBC. (2016, September 1). Alexander Selkirk – the Real Robinson Crusoe? Retrieved September 17, 2016, from The European Lifeline; History Oddities: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/europe/oddities_europe.shtml

Selcraig, B. (2005, July 1). The Real Robinson Crusoe. Retrieved September 17, 2016, from Smithsonian.com: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-real-robinson-crusoe-74877644/?all

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What Survivalists Get Wrong About ‘Living Off The Land’

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What Survivalists Get Wrong About ‘Living Off The Land’

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As I’ve talked to various people about their survival plans, the same themes keep cropping up over and over again. That makes sense, as we all need the same things to survive. On the other hand, some of these common themes contains some really bad ideas.

The bad idea I’m referring to here is those who think that they can just go hunting to feed their families. If what they mean as “hunting” is what they do every fall, then their families are going to starve. But the fact is that while you can’t feed your family by hunting, you can augment your food supplies with it.

The biggest problem is that what most people think of as hunting is sport hunting, not survival hunting. While it’s always nice to get some game while sport hunting, it’s not necessary. If you miss your shot, that’s OK, you can always pick up some steaks at the supermarket. But when you’re hunting for survival – or “living off the land” for meat — a missed shot might very well mean that your whole family goes hungry.

Today’s sport hunting really isn’t all that fair, either. When I was growing up, we weren’t allowed to use feed corn as bait. In fact, we weren’t allowed to use anything as bait. But now, most of the people I know use corn all the time. Without it, I doubt they could get anything.

So, what’s so different about survival hunting? What do you have to do that you wouldn’t normally do?

Hunt for Whatever

In sport hunting, the idea is to go hunting for a particular type of game. In deer season, you hunt deer. In duck season, you hunt duck. But when you’re hunting for survival, you hunt for whatever you can find; even if what you can find is not something you’d normally hunt for. You’re after food and if it can be eaten, then it’s fair game. This could include domesticated animals.

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Actually, this points out a huge moral dilemma that few of us have thought about. There are many things you and I can do to survive which may not be strictly legal. The question is, where do we draw the line? That’s not an easy question to answer, especially when you consider that there will be an “after” to the crisis, in which people will be charged with crimes they committed during the crisis. You sure don’t want to put yourself in the position of having to go to jail for feeding your family.

Size Matters

While you will need to be hunting for whatever you can get, you want to avoid hunting for small game. That doesn’t mean that you want to cross small game off the menu, though. Rather, you want to try and trap small game, so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time on it. You’ve got to get enough for your time to make it worthwhile.

I recently went dove hunting with a couple of buddies. While we did fairly well, I couldn’t help but think that we couldn’t have fed our three families one meal with the meat that we’d harvested on that hunt. Dove aren’t very big and you don’t get much meat off of them — maybe a taco or two worth out of each dove. If we had been hunting for survival, that day would have been a net loss.

Accuracy

What Survivalists Get Wrong About ‘Living Off The Land’ Few hunters actually practice shooting with their guns. Most of them dig their hunting rifle or shotgun out when it’s time to go hunting, and then put it away for next year. How do any of them expect to be able to shoot accurately, without at least some practice?

I’m an avid shooter who goes to the range about once per week. As such, my shooting skills are fairly descent. This showed in that dove hunt I just mentioned, as I got the first three doves before either of my buddies bagged one. It wasn’t that they didn’t see any birds or didn’t take any shots, but it was that I had been practicing.

Every bullet has to count in a survival situation. Back in the pioneering days, the standard was one shot, one kill. It didn’t matter if dad was out hunting or one of the kids were. Each bullet needed to bag something for the pot. Bullets were too precious to waste.

Knowing the Game and Their Habits

In survival hunting, you can forget about baiting the game with feed corn; you won’t have any. Nor will you be able to spend days on end hunting for one deer. Hunting will mean going out in the morning or evening and returning with game after a couple of hours. Anything else would be an inefficient use of your time.

Survival is too demanding to spend the entire day on one task. Many different things need to be done each and every day. Finding food is one of those things. But it can’t take over the day. So, you’ll need to learn how to hunt efficiently, bagging what you’re after in just a little time.

That means knowing the animals and their habits. Where do they sleep? Where do they eat? What watering holes do they use? When can you expect to find them at those watering holes? Those are important things to know so that you’ll know where to find the game that you so desperately need. The easiest of those to know is when they water. Most animals will water near daybreak and dusk, so those are the best times of day to hunt.

Fortunately for us, most animals are creatures of habit. They will often have a daily circuit where they water and feed in certain areas at certain times. So once you know their habits, you’ll know where to find them.

Don’t Waste a Thing

The Native Americans were great hunters. They were great at making use of what they had hunted, as well. There was no waste, as everything was used in one way or another. The meat they didn’t eat was dried, the skin tanned and even some of the internal organs that weren’t eaten were put to use.

You and I are going to have to learn that, as well. More than anything, we’ll need to be ready to preserve any meat that we bring home if it isn’t eaten immediately. That generally means smoking or drying it, although it is possible to can meat. We’ll also need to know how to tan the hide, as we’ll need that leather for shoes and clothing.

A Final Thought

Mankind domesticated animals because it was more efficient than hunting. And that was back when there was much more game available. In today’s world, finding game is nowhere near as easy. That’s going to be especially true in a time when everyone is out there hunting, because the grocery store shelves are empty.

If you expect to live off of hunting alone, you might have a very unpleasant surprise waiting for you. Unless you live in a very remote area, where there aren’t many others hunting the game, you might very well have trouble finding enough meat for the pot.

What advice would you add about survival hunting? Share it in the section below:  

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Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans Hidden

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Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans Hidden

The art of camouflage is vital to hunters and the hunted. When Europeans came to the New World, their idea of camouflage was one of single color, usually green or dark brown. Many early settlers in what would be America were taken hostage or killed because they never saw their captors until they were, literally, in front of them. The native people of America were masters of the art of camouflage.

In fact, many believe that it was the indigenous people who were the first, true inventors of camouflage. This skill gave them a tremendous advantage, regardless of the inferiority of their weapons. After all, you can’t shoot what you can’t see (and frequently don’t hear).

Camouflage also allowed native people to get closer to their prey. Before they could hope to get close, however, they had to find their prey. Tracking skills were taught from a very early age, and every native American male had to learn them or starve.

Camouflage Skills – Paint

Native people learned early that being as quiet as possible, as well as blending in with their surroundings, made them next to invisible in their world. Of course, the camouflage would depend on the terrain.

In summer months, men would paint their bodies and faces with streaks of green and white to appear as part of the summer leaves and sunlight. Long streaks of brown would run down the length of their arms so that they would appear like branches. Leggings were often painted (or even made from different colored hides) in long brown and white vertical stripes, to mimic tree trunks and dappled sunlight. Leaves and small twigs were braided into the hair. Some warriors went so far as to paint small birds or lizards on their bodies to appear even more like their surroundings.

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In the fall or early spring, the green camouflage was exchanged for black, brown, yellow and bits of red and gold to mimic the changing colors of the leaves and the dying foliage.

Some of the “paint” used had spiritual or protective significance to the native people. The colors of the four directions (black, red, yellow and white), for example, were thought to offer guidance and align the hunters with the forces of nature.

Camouflage Skills – Cover

Another well-known skill of the indigenous people was to cover themselves with something that appeared to be natural. If one wanted to hide among large, grey or black boulders, a person would cover themselves in a gray or black and gray blanket.

New settlers were impressed with just how close native people could get to their prey in order to kill or manipulate them. One technique that is well-documented was the use of animal hides. Some animal hides (such as baby bison or whitetail deer) were tanned so that they left as much of the animal intact as possible, including ears, tails, legs and heads (faces, minus the skull). Hunters would try to cover up their scent by rubbing grasses and bark over their bodies. Then, relying on an animal’s poor eyesight (such as buffalo, deer, elk and moose) they would cover themselves in the hide of a grass-eating animal and crawl or walk slowly, as if they were grazing animals. As long as they moved slowly and their scent did not betray them, many hunters were able to literally walk right up to an animal and either spear it or stab it.

Camouflage Tricks That Kept The Native Americans HiddenAnother trick using the animal hide was for a dozen or so hunters to gradually work behind the herd to maneuver it so that it was close to cliffs or dead falls. When their prey was in position, they could throw off the hide and yell, frightening the herd. Often, a great majority of the herd would run off the cliff and be killed on impact. Women and other hunters were waiting below to finish off the survivors and begin their tasks.

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Sometimes, native people used both bait and camouflage to capture their prey. Dead falls with bait (such as a small wounded animal tied to the top of the covering) would lure animals to their deaths. Other times, native people were known to lie on the ground and cover themselves with branches and leaves. They would tie a small animal to their leg or wrist. The thrashing of the bait sometimes caused larger predators, such as hawks, weasels, or foxes to come running. Once the animal grabbed the bait, the hunter would leap out of their hiding place.

Tracking Skills 101

Of course, before the camouflage can work, you need to find the animal. Tracking is an important skill and one that most people have lost.

Becoming familiar with the footprints and scat of local animals is just the beginning. While some tracks are distinct (possums and red foxes, for instance) others look very similar, such as goats, elk, caribou and pronghorn sheep.

One tip: When you do find a set of tracks, keep the footprint between you and the sun. The light will cast a shadow on the print, which makes it stand out.

Of course, finding tracks in wet dirt or mud is easier than in hard-packed dirt. This requires time and skill. Native people were excellent trackers who could not only tell which animal they were hunting, but they also could tell their gait (whether the animal was walking or running), how big the animal was, and approximately how old the print was. All of these clues, however, take years of study to learn, which is why boys as young as two and three were taken out for walks and taught how to identify tracks.

Native people also knew that most animals will leave other signs or clues, such as chewed leaves, nut shells, broken branches, crushed leaves or grass, broken pine cones or pine needles, spots on tree trunks where they were chewed or rubbed off, feathers, or destroyed nests and tunnels, where larger animals, such as bears or wolverines, might have tried to dig for insects or grubs.

The indigenous people of America relied on nature for everything they needed, so they studied every single tree, plant and animal in their location. They knew their habits, their calls and their patterns, and they took advantage of this knowledge whenever they could.

What camouflage or tracking advice would add? Share your tips in the section below:

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4 Overlooked Crises You’re Probably Not Prepared For … But Should Be

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4 Overlooked Crises You’re Probably Not Prepared For … But Should Be

Image source: Wikimedia

It seems that preparedness is like fashion. At any point in time, there’s one disaster that seems to be in the spotlight more than others. I would say the “disaster of the moment” is the fear of an EMP, but others are not far behind.

An economic collapse, major natural disaster, terrorist attack – all of these are feared by the vast majority of those in the preparedness community, who go to great lengths to prepare.

But there are other disasters that they should be thinking about. In fact, the number of unique disasters and critical events that could affect us in this day and age are around 100, by my count. In this article, let’s examine the ones that are often ignored. No, I’m not talking about zombies and asteroids. Bear with me, and you’ll see that preparing for them won’t change your survival plans that much — and it won’t break the bank, either.

1. Electric shocks

When a hurricane or strong winds knock down the power lines and either you or a family member accidentally touches them, what should be done?

Before you help someone, you have to make sure you’re not in danger of getting in contact with electricity yourself. At high voltages, electric current will travel through air and shock you.

(As a side note, I say “shock” and not “electrocute” because electrocution is actually the death resulting from an electric shock.)

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The first thing you should do is break contact between the person and the power line. Use a pole or something similar made out of non-conductive material such as wood or plastic. Note that you can’t use gloves or a cloth, as the current will go right inside you.

The second step is to either give first aid or call an ambulance. If you don’t know how to give first aid, you should call 911 immediately.

2. Job loss

Why on earth would anyone list a job loss as a crisis? Because this is something that can affect anyone, and it could take months before you find another one. And most Americans already are living paycheck to paycheck. What will you and your children eat in the meantime? Why, your stockpile, of course! Enough said.

3. Death

It surprises me how many people don’t prepare for the actual and very unpleasant event of them dying. Granted, we don’t talk about death much, and we’re optimistic by nature … but there’s a question you need to ask yourself:

What will your family do without you?

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Some of the things you can do just in case it happens include:

  • Writing a will.
  • Making arrangements with a relative or friend to take care of your children or pets.
  • Teaching and training your kids to survive without you.
  • Mentally preparing them by openly talking about death.

4. Pickpocketing/robbery

Be honest with me, here: Are you really looking out for thieves when you’re in a crowd – or are you looking at your phone? If you’re not looking out for the bad guys, then you definitely need to work on your awareness, because no matter how careful you are, they’ll always find a way to steal your wallet.

It only happened to me once. I actually felt the guy trying to reach for my wallet inside my messenger bag. He was really smooth, I’ll tell you that.

What would you add to our list? Share your tips in the section below:

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Would ALL Wildlife Be Wiped Out If Society Collapses? The Answer May Surprise You

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hunter-2-publicdomainpicturesdotnet

All hunters complain, at least one, about having to buy a hunting license. For that matter, they’ve probably complained that they were limited to hunting only during a few short weeks a year. But in fact, there is a very good reason why we need hunting licenses and we need a hunting season. That is, that without the restrictions that hunting season and hunting laws place on “We the People,” there wouldn’t be any game.

The History

When this country was first settled, it teemed with game. Early explorers were unanimous in their praises for both the quantity and the quality of wild game, ready for harvest by European long guns. Who hasn’t heard the reports of buffalo covering the Great Plains? The herds were so vast that they went on for miles.

Yet where are those vast herds of buffalo today? What has happened to the deer? The truth is that there have been times in our nation’s history where the game were all but extinct due to overhunting. Without proper controls, it could easily happen again.

In the early days of our country, wildlife flourished, especially deer. Reports dating from the early 1800s indicate that there were more deer in Illinois than there were when the nation was founded. Wolves and other predators had been hunted ruthlessly by farmers in order to protect their livestock. This allowed deer populations to grow, as the predators which killed them were nearly hunted to extinction.

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But by the late 1800s, the deer population in Illinois had dropped to the point where they were virtually eliminated. Hunters, who were allowed to hunt year-round, without a bag limit, had killed off the deer. [1]

It took a major conservation effort on the part of the state of Illinois to repopulate the deer in their state, including importing white tail deer from other parts of the country. Now, deer are plentiful once again and hunters are once again harvesting deer in the fall. But restrictions are in place to ensure that overhunting doesn’t happen again.

Illinois isn’t the only state where this happened. As settlers moved westwards, they cleared out much of the wild game population in state after state. This was the result of not only hunters harvesting the game, but also of farmers taking much of the game’s natural habitat. Time and time again, animals were killed nearly to extinction, before conservation efforts were put in place.

The Problem Today

Would Wildlife Be Wiped Out If Society Collapses? The Answer May Surprise You

Image source: Wikipedia

Many survivalists and preppers talk about living off the land, following a societal collapse. But the population of the United States is much higher than it was in the 1800s. In 1800, the entire U.S. population was only 5.3 million people. A century later, it had grown to 76.2 million people. But today, we have about 319 million people.

Less than two percent of our population has a stockpile of food in their home. So, it’s reasonable to assume that most people will be looking for whatever food they can find. Without their normal food sources to depend on, people will be looking for everything from stray cats to edible house plants. Many, having heard of our ancestors hunting for food, will naturally assume that they can, too.

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To even think that the current game population could support the current population of people is somewhere on the far side of foolish. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, we have more than 13.7 million hunters in the United States (as of the 2013 hunting season). With that number of hunters, it wouldn’t take long at all to lower game levels to a near-extinction point once again; and that’s without everyone else out there trying to hunt for food as well. (This is why it is so important to grow and raise your own food.)

But we have to remember: Not all gun owners are hunters. With somewhere over 300 million privately owned guns in the United States, there are many more people who will be out there trying to hunt, than the “real” hunters in our society. Even if those people are ineffective hunters, their mere presence will make the game go deeper into the woods.

Let me throw one more monkey wrench in the works here. The vast majority of our population is concentrated on the East and West Coasts, especially the Northeast and Southern California. Yet those aren’t the areas of highest game density. In fact, the areas of highest game density are where the population is lowest. So, the people with the greatest need will find that they will have the least possibility of hunting for their food.

This means that if anyone in the country would have a chance of living off the land, it’s the people who live in the lowest density areas of the country, especially Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas. Perhaps those people can depend on game to help them survive, but the rest of us are going to need other sources for our food.

What is your reaction? Do you think there is enough wild game to support America, post-collapse? Share your thoughts in the section below:

[1] http://web.extension.illinois.edu/deer/historyofmanagment.cfm

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Superglue Can Do THAT?! Yes, And Here’s 3 Reasons It Should Be In Every Survival Kit

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Superglue Can Do THAT? Yes, And Here's 3 Reasons It Should Be In Your Survival Kit

Image source: Wikimedia

 

When you’re in the sticks, you absolutely, positively must maintain some semblance of self-reliance out there — no matter how long your backwoods stay happens to be. Simply put, the duration of your trek or tramping may not necessarily last for a week, but you’ve got to be prepared for the possibility that it might.

At the same time, you might very well be planning on staying out there for more than a week, but nothing will dampen your camp like a massive rip in the roof of your tent. These things happen, but that’s why we plan for such events in advance … because Murphy’s Law tends to kick in when it’s least convenient.

But then, there’s superglue.

Strong Enough for a Battlefield

Superglue — or Loctite or Krazy Glue — reigns from a very sturdy and handy class of adhesives. However, whereas an adhesive like Gorilla Glue (which is still quite handy in a pinch) may take a fairly long time to bond, superglue does the job within seconds … at least fast enough to accidentally bond your fingers together, so keep that in mind. Been there. Done that. Still trying to de-bond the T-shirt from my skin. Ok, moving on.

Anyway, the original brand-name Super Glue was developed in WWII in order to bond metal on metal — which is arguably where this stuff shows its true colors in strength. From the SuperGlueCorp.com website:

Super Glue was initially discovered in 1942 in a search for materials to make gunsights for the war. #8 Note: The problem was that super glue stuck to everything so its development was set aside until the early 1950′s when it began to gain popularity commercially.

With bond strength that sturdy, the fact that it comes in a compact, lightweight and extremely packable bottle makes this stuff a backwoods gear no-brainer. Here are three excellent reasons as to why that is the case.

No. 3: Bonds just about anything (except fabrics)

One thing I should mention is that most superglue products do not work very well on fabrics. However, in the backwoods, tearing fabrics is usually not what gets us into trouble.

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It’s when we rip a hole in nylon webbing — that’s when we do get into trouble. In such cases, superglue can fix a tent, a tarp, a pack, a rainproof parka, etc. Not to mention the obvious stuff, such as flashlights, fishing poles, compasses, and the sort.

No. 2: Incredibly handy if you need stitches

According to Andrew Weil, M.D., this stuff can actually be used to treat minor cuts in an emergency. Now I’m obviously NOT talking about those huge gushers that need to be treated immediately. However, its “wound-sealing attributes were noted in the Vietnam War, when medics used it before sending troops on to surgery.”

So basically, superglue is perfect for bonding and healing those whittling mishaps that cause our fireside project to turn that familiar red hue. It may not necessarily be a substitute for stitching a bleeder on the leg, but it will do the job for a mundane dripper on the knuckle.

No. 1: Fire

And last, I will leave you with the coolest reason why superglue is a pack item essential

Story continues below video

Yes, that is correct. You can actually start a fire by dripping a whole bunch of superglue on a cotton ball, due to a thermochemical reaction that takes place. So, if you’re out of matches, you don’t have your firesteel on hand, and you left your Zippo in the truck, you’re STILL not going to freeze to death tonight. When you’re done treating your minor cut, you can fix the tent before the rain starts falling, and then start a campfire — using nothing but superglue and a cotton ball.

A multi-purpose item, to say the least.

How have you used superglue for survival? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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DIY: The Long-Lasting, Easy-To-Make Survival Glue Your Ancestors Used

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DIY: The Long-Lasting, Easy-To-Make Survival Glue Your Ancestors Used

The finished product Image source: Cody Assmann

Bushcraft and survival skills are often the process of reverse engineering. Take fire, for example. If you want to learn how to make a friction fire, you would begin by learning how to make a bow drill set, what materials you would need, and how to actually make the coal. Eventually, you would probably figure out how to make a coal and create your first friction fire.

For a short period of time, you would be happy with this accomplishment and continue practicing the skill. Over time, though, you may become curious about other aspects of the drill set. You might begin to wonder: “How did people create the string in the bow drill?” or “What tools did they use if they didn’t have steel to shape the wood?” I can tell you from experience that as you dig deeper and deeper, you’ll truly begin to understand how little you know.

DIY: The Long-Lasting, Easy-To-Make Survival Glue Your Ancestors Used

Materials needed. Image source: Cody Assmann

Another appealing aspect of bushcraft is the real world application of the knowledge you gain. Unlike some aspects of our formal education, everything you learn in bushcraft can be directly implemented in your life. The fact is, they were all skills people used regularly. When I started making my own primitive arrows, I learned an awful lot about the lives and skills of people who depended on their arrows to stay alive. I also learned how to create a product I could take into the field and actually help me on a hunt. The skills of the past definitely are relevant today.

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During my experience in making arrows, I eventually began to reverse engineer the process. Over time, I would learn to wrap my arrows with sinew, straighten the shafts using fire, and process turkey feathers for my fletchings. One aspect of the project that really drew my curiosity was how primitive archers created the glue they needed to attach points and fletchings.

I eventually learned that ancient people sometimes used an adhesive called “pine pitch glue” that was made from all-natural materials. I learned quickly that this all-natural glue is not only an excellent way to attach feathers to my arrow shafts, but is an outstanding adhesive in general. For anyone interested in primitive skills, making their own archery gear, or developing skills for a survival situation, learning how to make pine pitch glue is about as simple as it gets.

The first thing you will need to do in order to make this primitive glue is to gather your materials. To begin, you’ll need to find a source of the material that lends its name to the glue: pine pitch. Pine pitch is a golden resin you’ll find seeping from scars, broken branches, or any piercing of pine trees. When the sap first finds its way out of the tree, it is soft and sticky and cannot be gathered. Once it has had sufficient time to dry, however, pine pitch hardens and becomes easy to gather and store until you are ready to start your project. The amount of glue you’ll need depends on the amount of glue you want to make. Around half a cup to a full cup would be a good amount for your first project.

DIY: The Long-Lasting, Easy-To-Make Survival Glue Your Ancestors Used

Pulverized charcoal. Image source: Cody Assmann

With your pine pitch in the bag, you’ll need to find some charcoal or some other filler material to bind the resin. Other examples of binding materials are wood or bone shavings, or dried dung of herbivores. Whatever material you obtain, it will need to be ground into a fine powder. It is best to use a round stone and simply grind your material until it is as fine as possible. The amount of binding material needed isn’t an exact science and will take some experimentation. I would suggest to begin with around half as much binding material as you have pine pitch. Finally, you’ll need a small stick that will carry the glue for you, a fire, and a tin can of some kind. Obviously, ancient people didn’t have tin cans, so if you’d like to stay primitive you can substitute a thin flat rock.

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As previously mentioned, the actual process for making pine pitch glue is incredibly straightforward. Once your materials are gathered and you have a fire rolling, let the fire burn down to a good bed of coals. Next, fill up the tin cup with the resin you gathered and place the tin in the bed of coals. You’ll be surprised how quickly the hard resin turns into a thick sludge of melted sap. Stir the mixture in order to make sure all of the resin is melted down evenly. If you find any additional substances such as bark or dirt in the sap, you can remove it from the mixture. These would cause an inferior product if left in the glue. Next, take your pulverized binding material — charcoal in this case — and add it to the melted resin. Stir the mixture well. At this point you now have made pine pitch glue, which if allowed to cool will become very hard.

DIY: The Long-Lasting, Easy-To-Make Survival Glue Your Ancestors Used

Melted resin. Image source: Cody Assmann

Before you allow the glue to cool, however, you need to get it out of the tin. The final step is to take the small stick you found and begin to scoop the pitch out of the tin. As the glue begins to cool it will harden and you can shape it on the stick. The shape of the pitch doesn’t matter, but many folks make it resemble a cattail. Continue to scoop more and more of the liquid glue out of the tin onto the now cool stockpile you have. Once you have removed as much glue from your tin as possible, all you have to do is wait for your project to cool. It can easily be stored and transported until needed. When you find yourself in a situation where you need to use some of the glue, simply heat it over a flame and apply it to the surface you would like to bind.

Pine pitch glue is an excellent natural adhesive. It was used extensively by ancient people to bind fletchings and secure stone, and bone points to arrow or spear shafts. It can also be used to repair holes in tents, packs, or even shoes. Really, anything you would hot-glue together can be bonded using pine pitch. Pine pitch glue may not stand out as one of the top necessary resources or skills of a survival situation. However, when you begin to think about all of the possible uses of the glue, and the utter simplicity of the process, it is easy to see how learning the process is well worth your time. Even if you never need to use this exceptional glue, learning how to make it will help you better understand the lives of those folks who came before us, and the skills they mastered to live seamlessly with the natural world.

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Your Charlotte: 3 Ways To Stay Safe When Riots Break Out In Your Town

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Your Charlotte: 3 Ways To Stay Safe When Rioters Come To Your Town

 

Posted Sept. 22, 2016

CHARLOTTE — As the situation in Charlotte continues to escalate, one fact is certain: Wherever there is a high population area, you’re going to have a high chance of people not getting along. In this case, there have been dozens of arrests, accompanied by a taxpayer-paid visit from the National Guard. Protesters even tried to throw a photographer into a fire.

Whether the issue stems from race, politics or economic status, there will be times when tensions in cities reach a critical boiling point — and it’s during such times when the average, peace-loving folks like us should take measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Here are three tips:

No. 1 – Avoid flashpoints.

When certain densely populated areas become a cauldron of human rage and anarchy, that’s when “groupthink” begins to take over. Groupthink is the loss of reasoning in individuals – when they adopt the mentality of the crowd that they’re a part of. As the psychology website alleydog.com explains:

A good way to define this term is to tell you how Irving Janus (the main researcher on this topic) describes it. Janus (1972) said that groupthink is “a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.”

This is one reason why it’s absolutely crucial for individuals to take cover and stay out of sight for the duration of the riot — especially during the hours that curfew is in effect. Obviously, you’ll want to keep away from downtown areas, but also, it’s best not to come within blocks of businesses, either.

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You’ll know where the rioting has reached a fever pitch wherever there is looting, as this is an invaluable indication of where law and order has been temporarily overturned; places where consumer goods are concentrated tend to be magnets for looting. Also, it’s best to keep away from places that sell alcohol, because A), this is probably not the best time to be attending happy hour, and, B), alcohol will attract and enable the dreaded groupthink amoeba.

No. 2 — Gather your valuables and necessities.

If you currently live within blocks of the rioting, then you’ll want to consolidate, hide and protect your valuables and necessities. It’s really anyone’s guess as to what the groupthinkers are going to do and where the riot virus will spread, which means that it’s best to prepare for the worst BEFORE the anarcho-festivities engulf a street near you.

Your Charlotte: 3 Ways To Stay Safe When Rioters Come To Your TownWith that said, you should make sure that your home is on lockdown, your windows are shut, and any entrances to your residence are secured. Draw the curtains (or even board up the windows if you have the time), so that any peaking inside your residence from the outside is impossible. Next, let’s suppose that groupthinkers will breach …

You should then secure your valuables (jewelry, most of your loose cash, checkbooks, most identification and important paperwork, most of your medications, and expensive electronics. I’ll soon explain why I emphasized the word “most”) by getting them in a safe or lockbox. However, whether you have a lockable compartment or not, you’ll want to get these valuables out of sight to a place that cannot be quickly identified.

This might also be a great time to install a camera inside your home which covers the entry points to your residence.

No. 3 — Prepare to escape.

Now that your valuables are secured, you should start getting your bugout gear together (if that’s not already done). While I’m not necessarily going to discuss what should be in your 72-hour pack, I will say this: Do you remember how I emphasized the word “most” in the last pointer?  Well, you’ll also want to gather enough cash, paperwork and IDs, and medications that will get you by for a few days in the event that you have to leave. Also, make sure you grab some water and food, just in case you end up in the nightmare scenario of getting trapped for a length of time.

Once you’re feeling fairly confident that you could have your group evacuated within roughly 2-5 minutes, then it’s time to ask yourself an honest question: At what point should you actually leave?

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Your Charlotte: 3 Ways To Stay Safe When Rioters Come To Your TownOnce you’ve put your bugout trigger in place, then you’re not going to deal with the mental conflict of the old “should I stay or should I go” syndrome. This also will keep arguments among your own small group at bay, especially if everyone agrees on the trigger in advance. The point is simple — limiting confusion is crucial in these scenarios.

What NOT to Do

Ok, this part is extremely important, so read closely …

DO NOT put on your tactical gear, and if you’re carrying a weapon of any kind, make sure that it’s well concealed. Not only will your tactical vest attract the attention of the groupthinkers (because it could make you look like law enforcement, which is bad), but this is also going to attract the attention of the authorities (because they might think you’re impersonating law enforcement, which could be worse).

During this scenario, the authorities are still in relative control, because they still possess superior firepower, communication and tactical organization in comparison to both the rioters and innocent folks.

So just be smart, keep a small profile, and you’ll be most likely be left alone.

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Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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There’s a reason why big cities come to mind when we think of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Any kind of a large-scale attack will always inflict more damage and tragedy on a city because of the massive increase in population. It will affect more people, creates more chaos, and deal the largest economic blow.

But you can survive a major disaster in a city — whether it is natural or man-made — even if you’re in the middle of it. That’s not to say that evacuating a city won’t be dangerous, but it is to say that your chances of survival increase dramatically if you simply know what you’re doing.

Here are 10 tips for escaping a city when a crisis strikes:

Tip No. 1 – Know every evacuation route possible.

Many people have an evacuation route planned from their home to a destination outside of the city, but most also fail to have a backup evacuation route, and even a backup route to the backup route, and so on.

The truth is that you need to know every single evacuation route possible from your house to your predetermined rendezvous point (which we’ll get to a minute). This way, when one route fails, you still have backup options so you aren’t stuck.

Tip No. 2 – Have a predetermined rendezvous point.

Your destination or rendezvous point is where you will meet up with your other friends and family members. This destination can be anything from a bug-out location, to a family member’s house, to a secret hideaway that only you know about (such as a natural landmark).

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What’s important is that there be multiple routes from your home to this destination and that it be within driving distance.

Tip No. 3 – Practice driving to your rendezvous point.

Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

Image source: Pixabay.com

Not only should you be aware of all of the possible routes to your rendezvous point to your house, but you should practice driving them, as well. Pretend that one route fails and you now have to detour to the other route. You should get to the point where you know each route by heart and without having to read a map or GPS.

Tip No. 4 – Plan out different scenarios.

You never know when disaster will strike, meaning you don’t know if you will be at home, at work or elsewhere. You could be at work, one child could be at school, another could be at piano lessons, your spouse or significant other could be visiting with friends on the other side of town, and so on.

The point is that you need to have a plan for every scenario. You’ll likely need to come up with new routes and backup routes in order to accommodate these scenarios. What’s important is that you get everybody out of the city safely and quickly, so make sure your plans reflect that.

Tip No. 5 – Have a bug-out vehicle.

Your bug-out vehicle needs to be a real bug-out vehicle. It can’t just be any ordinary car. It needs to be an AWD vehicle that is capable of driving over rough terrain, it needs to be well-maintained, and it needs to be big enough to carry each family member and your bug-out supplies. Trucks and SUVs are commonly favored.

Tip No. 6 – Make sure each family member has a bug-out bag.

Most homesteaders and survivalists are fully aware of the importance of having a bug-out bag/survival kit, but far fewer recognize the need for each family member to have a personalized one.

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Make sure each bag is ready to go and easily accessible so you can grab them in a jiffy. Going as far as to keep your bug-out bags actually stored in your bug-out vehicle isn’t a bad idea, either.

Tip No. 7 – Have at least 20 gallons of gasoline and 20 gallons of clean water ready to go.

Get Out Of Dodge: 10 Tips For Escaping Any City When Society Collapses

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You’re going to need plenty of gasoline and water to get out of Dodge. You need the gasoline so that your bug-out vehicle can run, and you need the water so that your family can stay hydrated when water sanitation standards are going to drop significantly. Twenty gallons of gasoline and water each is a good amount to have in your bug-out vehicle, ready to go.

Tip No. 8 – Keep up to date on weather and disaster alerts.

Make it a daily habit to check up on the weather and news, but go a step further and get breaking weather and news alerts sent to your phone and email.

Tip No. 9 – Look for warning signs.

In addition to keeping up to date on what the authorities are saying, you would always be wise to look for warning signs yourself so that you can get the sense if an evacuation will be necessary.  If the authorities announce that an evacuation is necessary, your entire city will instantly be thrown into chaos. Entire roads will be closed off — instantly blocking off some of your escape routes — and more roads will be clogged with traffic, which will make your escape far more difficult.

But if you identify the warning signs and begin your evacuation BEFORE the authorities call for one, you’ll be able to escape your city much more quickly (and safely) because it’s likely some sections of the city won’t be closed off yet and not everyone will be in a frenzy to escape.

Tip No. 10 – Be armed.

Being on the open road makes you vulnerable, especially if you’re bogged down in traffic and can’t drive away in a hurry if needed. Don’t think that you and your family are safe within the walls and windows of your car. Mobs and raiders will be a significant threat in any urban disaster scenario. For this reason, always be adequately armed when bugging out, and keep your weapons close by you, being prepared to use them if necessary.

What advice would you add to this story? Share your survival tips in the section below:

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The Smartphone As A Survival Tool? 9 Ways It Can Literally Save Your Life

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The Smartphone As A Survival Tool? 9 Ways It Can Save Your Life

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Modern man seems to be permanently attached to the smartphone. For that matter, modern woman and modern teen are just as attached, and modern child is catching up. Basically, the smartphone has become an inseparable part of most lives.

It also can be a vital survival tool. Used properly, it can help you through a wide variety of calamities — saving your bacon before you fall into the frying pan.

We can break the ways a smartphone can help you down into two different generalized categories — things that it can do while intact and things that a broken smartphone can still do.

The Intact Smartphone as a Survival Tool

When I refer to an intact smartphone, I’m referring to one that is still functioning. Some of this will be via using the phone as intended and others will be via apps. If you are out of range or your phone service provider is out of service, your phone will still run local apps. Some of those can be of great help, even if you can’t communicate through the phone.

One thing to remember is that if the phone is not connecting to a tower, it will constantly try to do so. That will kill the battery. To prevent this, you have to shut the phone down when you’re not using it or turn it to airplane mode. You should also have an alternative power supply for your smartphone, either one of the battery packs or even better one of the various solar chargers available on the market.

1. Calling for help

The first and most obvious survival use for a smartphone to help you survive is to call for help. It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in a snowstorm or you fell down a mountainside, as long as you have a signal, you can make a call and let someone know where you are and that you need help.

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You should always let someone know where you are planning on going and when you are planning on getting back. That way, if you don’t make it back, they can get people looking for you. Many phone have a “find my phone” feature for such emergencies. Teach your family members how to use this.

2. Survival library

Most people don’t bother using their phone as an e-book reader, probably due to the small screen size. However, you can get e-book reading apps for all smartphones, regardless of the operating system. With that, you can read whatever books you want in electronic form.

Build yourself a library of useful survival e-books. This should contain books on bushcraft, wilderness survival, urban survival, food preservation, fire-starting techniques, finding food in the wild and identifying wild plants for medicinal and edible purposes.

Make sure you download these books to your phone; otherwise you can’t access them when you are out of range or the phone company’s system is down.

3. Locating yourself

Don’t know where you are? Let your smartphone help. To start. turn on the GPS function and get your location. Unless you are really out in the boonies, it should be able to plot you a route back to the nearest civilization. While you’re at it, look for any streams or bodies of water, so that you can take care of yourself while you are walking out.

You can also download a compass app, which will allow your phone to act as a compass for you. That will be a big help if you forgot to bring a compass with you. Instead of having to look for moss on the side of a tree or use your watch and the sun to figure out where south is, you can just use your smartphone.

4. Flashlight

The screen of your smartphone will work somewhat as a flashlight, but you’re best off if your smartphone has a light (often the camera’s light) that doubles as a flashlight. It will produce much more light than the screen will and will be enough to light your way.

5. Binoculars

The Smartphone As A Survival Tool? 9 Ways It Can Save Your Life

Image source: Pixabay.com

This only works on smartphones that have high pixel cameras in them. If you can’t see something clearly, such as looking down the valley and trying to determine if there’s a town down there, take a picture of it. Then, zoom in on the picture and get a more detailed look at it than what your eyes can provide.

The Broken Smartphone as a Survival Tool

While an intact smartphone will do a whole lot more for you than a broken one, don’t throw it away if it breaks. You can still use various parts of the phone to help you survive and even be rescued.

6. Starting a fire

Believe it or not, there is more than one way you can use your smartphone to start a fire; it all centers around the battery. Open the phone and take the battery out. If you have 0000 steel wool, take a small piece of it and spread it out, then then brush it over the battery’s contacts; it should start burning. You can do the same thing with a gum wrapper, depending on the type you have.

The gum wrappers that work are the ones that are waxed paper with aluminum foil on one side. Cut a strip of the wrapper that’s about ¼ of an inch wide and make a spot in the middle that’s about 1/16 of an inch wide. This will work like a fuse. Attach one end of the strip to the positive terminal and the other end to the negative. The “fuse” should burn, igniting the waxed paper.

Another way is to find a wire inside the phone and cut it loose from wherever it is soldered. Strip off the insulation in the middle so that both ends and the middle are bare. Then, attach one end to the positive battery terminal and the other to the negative. This will cause the wire to heat enough that you can ignite some tinder with the bare spot in the middle.

If all else fails, the battery will burn by itself. All you need to do is stick a knife into it and it will ignite, producing a thick smoke. Just make sure you’re ready with your tinder when you do so.

7. Signaling for help

The Smartphone As A Survival Tool? 9 Ways It Can Save Your Life

Image source: Pixabay.com

The LED touch screen for your smartphone is reflective. You can use it to signal airplanes and rescuers by reflecting the light of the sun. To aim it, start by aiming at your hand. Move your hand to be in front of the person you are trying to signal and check that the sunlight is still being reflected onto it. Then simply remove your hand, without moving the mirror. The same light that was on your hand will be shining on the person, attracting their attention.

8. Cutting

There are several parts of the phone that can be used for cutting, with a little sharpening. The green fiberglass circuit board can be sharpened on a rock, making a cutting tool that is good enough for soft materials, such as rope, fabric and meat.

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By shaping and then sharpening the circuit board into the shape of an arrowhead, you can attach it to a stick with wire from the phone or plant stems, making a spear for catching fish.

Most smartphones have some sort of a metal panel in them, which is used for holding things in place. Remove this panel and break off an edge by bending it back and forth. That broken edge will be sharp and work as an emergency knife.

A broken glass screen is already sharp enough to cut with and may be the best knife you can get out of the smartphone. However, if your screen is intact, you’re probably better off using it for signaling.

9. Finding your way

You can make a small compass out of items from your smartphone. Take out the speaker and a small piece of wire. All speakers have magnets in the back. Take the wire and rub one end of it on the back of the speaker to magnetize it. Set the now magnetized wire on a small leaf and float it on a puddle (you have to have water that isn’t moving). It will turn the leaf until the end that you rubbed is pointing north.

What are other ways that a smartphone can be used as a survival tool? Share your tips in the section below:

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If A Solar Storm Strikes The Power Grid, THESE STATES Are Where You Might Be Safe

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If A Solar Storm Take Out The Power Grid, THESE STATES Are Where You Want To Live

Image source: NASA

 

Many homesteaders have heard of the Carrington Event of 1859.

This massive solar storm struck the very early wired telegraph grid, and was so intense that in some places, telegraph operators reported they could send messages even with their batteries disconnected. The event produced auroras that were seen close to the equator and illuminated the night sky so bright that Americans could read their newspapers on their porch.

This historical storm that pummeled the Earth was caused by a coronal mass ejection striking the magnetosphere, and remains to this day one of the largest electromagnetic storms on record.

Of course, in 1859, unless you were a telegraph operator getting zapped by poorly grounded or isolated instruments, or were dependent on a message getting through in a hurry, an electromagnetic storm wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it was more of a cultural novelty, as people who had never seen the Northern Lights in the sky got to enjoy the amazing show caused by the disturbance in the upper atmosphere.

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But 2016 isn’t 1859, and the grid is far more complicated than it was during pre-Civil War days. Today, a solar storm the size of the Carrington Event could destroy transformers and other key parts of the power grid, knock out satellite communications, and take out ground-based communications. Radio and other wireless transmissions like cellphones could be disrupted, and transmitting facilities damaged. According to a 2013 study by insurer Lloyd’s of London, a Carrington-sized storm is “almost inevitable” in the future, simply because one occurs about every 150 years. The study found that:

  • Blackouts would last anywhere from 16 days to 1-2 years, depending on if spare parts for the grid are accessible. If “new transformers need to be ordered, the lead-time is likely to be a minimum of five months,” Lloyd’s found. This is because transformers are custom-made.
  • The highest-risk areas would be “along the Atlantic corridor between Washington D.C. and New York City.” Other high-risk regions include Midwest states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, and the Gulf Coast.
  • The total economic loss would be as much as $2 trillion.
carrington-event-pic-map

Image source: Lloyd’s of London

Lloyd’s even created a map, showing the states where the storm would have the greatest impact and the least impact (see picture).

“Carrington-level geomagnetic storm simulations can be created using statistical models of past storms or simulations of the interaction between extreme solar wind conditions and the geomagnetic field,” the study found. “Simulated magnetic field time-series are then combined with the local ground conductivity structure to derive the surface electric fields.”

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Without electricity, gas pumps don’t work and trucks cannot make deliveries. In other words, the nation’s supply line comes to a halt. Major banking centers are in some of the most vulnerable regions, and we can expect economic upheaval until things are normalized.

According to Lloyd’s, if you don’t live in an area most likely to be affected by such an event, you might be OK. Other experts, though, caution that a Carrington-type event would impact the entire country and spark a nationwide blackout, due to the interconnected nature of the grid.

If a major solar storm is about to strike and you live in an area that will be badly impacted, the first thing you should do is make sure you have as much cash on hand as possible. Credit cards and the like are mostly useless when the power goes out. Fuel and water may become scarce, as pumps cease to operate and temporary disruptions of supply occur. Without a Faraday cage, our own personal electronics may be damaged or destroyed, and it’s likely you will have no phone service. Skilled amateur radio operators may be able to communicate during a storm, and certainly will have the most functioning mode of communication after the fact, but as in any emergency a lot of their effort will be directed toward helping first responders and aid workers until communication starts returning.

If you are not already prepared to live off the gird with food, water, your own radio gear, maybe a small Faraday cage, and cash or gold and silver on hand, then now is the time to start. Short of a massive overhaul of the most vulnerable parts of the grid, odds are that the next Carrington-level event will cause massive disruptions that will ripple through the entire globe. Not only do you need to start preparing now, but you need to have a plan to withdraw to a safer area in case of civil unrest. Many major Eastern population centers are already high crime areas and often have tough gun control laws that effectively disarm the law-abiding population. The 1-2 year recovery for full grid capacity that is predicted in some areas could turn into a 1-2 year-long crime spree as tensions rise and the will to riot increases in the face of limited services.

We no longer live in the barely wired world of 1859. Life was hard back then, but a disruption of the telegraph system for a few days hardly mattered. Today, the same event will drive us back to the 1800s, and most Americans simply cannot handle that. Can you?

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7 Incredible Tools The Native Americans Crafted From Tree Bark

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7 Survival Items The Native Americans Made From Tree Bark

Most of us see little use for bark. We peel it before we build with it, we trim it off before smoking fish or game, and we generally don’t see much value in it as firewood or a dependable heat source.

Native people, though, had a much different viewpoint. They used bark from many trees as a resource for numerous solutions, but there’s a trick to working with this material.

Paper birch is the bark of choice for bark crafters, and the Ojibway took barkcraft to a new level thanks to the fact that birch grew everywhere they lived. Other tribes had to make-do with stiffer and less pliable resources, although slippery elm, willow and aspen offered workable solutions.

Harvesting Bark

Be careful with living, green trees. If you remove too much bark, you will potentially kill the tree. In fact, if you cut the bark from a tree around its circumference, it will be dead in weeks, if not months. Native peoples would sometime “girdle” a tree. This involved removing bark around the full circumference of the tree; this was a designed action and they knew that the following year the tree would be dead. Often, a large fire was started at the base and stone axes were used to cut into the weakened and charred wood until repeated fires and chopping felled the tree.

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Even a dead birch tree will provide a strong and pliable source of bark. If you come across a dead-fall birch, harvest the bark to your heart’s content. If you’re desperate and only have access to live trees, limit your cuts and stripping to half of the tree if you can. That will at least give it a fighting chance for recovery.

You may be wondering: Why is bark so important to a tree? The inner bark or “xylem” is essentially the circulatory system for any tree. Water and nutrients are delivered to the tree from the roots to its leaves by this circulation. That’s why a “girdled” tree will soon die. When its only source of water and nutrients is cut off, the tree has no options for survival.

Pre-Treating Bark

There are a few steps to making any bark more workable. Some tree bark, like the slippery elm, requires a bit of scraping of the outer bark to make the piece more pliable. Birch is naturally flexible, but it will be curved when first harvested. Native Americans flattened the birch bark on the ground with the curved side down and weighted it with stones. The moisture in the ground and the weight of the stones eventually flattened the bark.

Another key step is to soak the bark in hot water before working with it. This also adds some flexibility, and it helps to keep the bark from splitting when it’s folded or shaped.

Many bark creations were sewn at the seams with cordage or strips of leather to re-enforce items like baskets and bowls. If the object needed to hold water, the seams were sealed with pine pitch.

Let’s take a look at items the Native Americans made from bark:

1. Cup

One of the easiest and most common uses for bark was for a ladle or drinking cup.  A circle of birch bark was cut and a triangular fold was made from the center to the edge. This fold was then overlapped to form a cone. The creased bark was held in place with a stick with a split in it, and the fact that the bark was not cut made it water tight to either scoop water from a spring, or to simply drink it as a cup.

2. Bowl

This same approach was used with a wider circle of birch bark or slippery elm to make bowls supported by rocks around the side, or a hat that would shade you from the sun or protect you from the rain.

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3. Pot

The bowl concept also can allow you to cook with a bark cooking pot. Hot stones were picked from a fire with two sticks much like chop sticks, and the stones were swirled in the water until the water actually started to boil.

But be careful with hot rocks. A rock from a river may appear nice and smooth, but many of them contain moisture in their cracks and crevices and can explode and shatter in the fire. Igneous rocks like granite or basalt are the best because they are less likely to be porous and allow water to seep in.

4. Sunglasses

“Sunglasses” are another option, with a piece of bark cut about six inches wide and two inches in height. You may doubt the need for sunglasses, but in winter, snow-blindness is a serious problem, as sunlight reflects off forests and fields of snow. These sunglasses, though, did not contain any glass or plastic. A couple of sticks were used to support the bark strip over the ears like a regular pair of sunglasses, and two crosses in the shape of a plus sign (+) were cut into the bark at eye level.

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A semi-circular cut was made to fit over the bridge of the nose. The size of the crosses was usually a half-inch long both up and across, and the slit was about an eighth of an inch wide. You look at the world through the slit, which allows less light and protects your eyes. This was actually an Eskimo invention.

5. Backpack

A backpack is also easy to make with a long piece of bark about three feet in length and a foot and a half wide. The bark was folded over, and the seams on either side were sown together with cordage or long strips of leather. Holes were poked first and the cordage or leather simply woven through. Straps from cordage or leather were attached and reinforced with more lacing. and everything from personal items to harvested plants, fruits and vegetables could be carried with ease.

6. Candle lantern

A curved piece of birch bark, wrapped and held in place at the base around a circle of sawn wood creates a wind block and reflector for a candle lantern in a fixed camp. Be careful using this indoors. Birch bark is highly flammable, which makes it great tinder, but not something you want to burst into flames in a cabin.

7. Torch

A simple torch is easy to improvise, with strips of birch bark held in place by a slit in a long branch. Additional strips of bark can be added as the birch burns; it actually gives off a good amount of light for a long time.

Final thoughts

All Native American tribes crafted canoes from birch, but that’s something that’s a bit beyond my expertise, although I’ve had success making small-scale toy canoes from birch bark, and my kids and grandkids still play with them. Maybe someday I’ll see if I can scale it up and actually make a birch bark canoe, but I’ll definitely be testing it in very shallow water.

What advice would you add on making tools and utensils from bark? Share your tips in the section below:

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6 Popular Survival Strategies That Will Probably Get You Killed

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6 Popular Survival Strategies That Will Probably Get You Killed

Being part of the preparedness community doesn’t guarantee your survival, and it doesn’t mean that you are incapable of making a fatal decision. It doesn’t even mean that you’re automatically going to know what to do and have the things you need to do it with. All it means is that you’ve made a decision to do what you can to prepare yourself and your family, so that when disaster strikes, you’re as prepared as you can be for it.

Granted, going through the process of preparing for emergencies will greatly increase your chances of survival. But that assumes that you don’t make any fatal mistakes. It also assumes that you’re not going to make the wrong decisions about how to prepare.

You’ve got to be careful in this realm, because not everything you hear will be right. While there is some excellent material out there, there’s also some really poor information. You’ll find information written by one expert which directly contradicts what another says. When the supposed experts can’t agree on something, it makes it real hard to figure out what the right answer is.

Part of the problem is that there is no one right answer. There is no one perfect solution for every survival problem. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to work for you, and then you’ve got to do it. But you want to make sure you avoid the deadliest mistakes, such as these:

1. Being a “lone wolf” survivalist.

Survival is hard work — there’s no two ways about it. There are just too many different things that need to be done to ensure that your needs are met. If you try and do it all on your own, you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed with work, without enough hours to do it all.

That’s why we come together in society. Working together, the tasks of survival can be split up, allowing each to concentrate on one part. That makes for greater efficiency, and it reduces the amount of knowledge that each person has to have. In the end, everyone ends up better off.

Rather than trying to make it on your own, find a survival team you can join or start your own. If your extended family or even your circle of friends are like-minded, you’ve already got what you need to have in order to put a survival team together.

2. Planning on living off the land

There was a time when our ancestors lived off the land. Those early pioneers and settlers came to a land that was rich in resources and teeming with game. While living off the land was work, it was possible.

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Things have changed since then. No longer is the land and the game so plentiful. While there is no shortage of game in the woods, many hunters return home empty-handed from their hunting trips. That’s OK when you can stop at the local supermarket and pick up steaks and burgers, but if there’s a breakdown in the supply system and you’re depending on shooting a buck for dinner, you might have too many hungry nights.

America’s population has grown too much to realistically plan on living off the land. Considering that preppers and survivalists make up less than 2 percent of our population and there are more than 300 million firearms in the country, it seems to me that there will be a lot of people out there trying to hunt, and many for the first time.

3. Ignoring the need for a bug-out plan

Most survival writers, myself included, recommend trying to bug in, rather than bug out. There are several reasons for that, most notably the fact that few of us have a good survival retreat to bug out too and even fewer have the bushcraft skills to make a long-term shelter in the wild. Besides, staying home keeps you where your stockpile is, as well as providing you with shelter and familiar surroundings.

6 Popular Survival Strategies That Will Probably Get You Killed

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But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a bug-out plan. Things can happen which make bugging in impractical or even dangerous. If that happens, you’ll need to be ready to get out of Dodge and take your family to a safer place. Hence, the need for a well-thought-out, well-organized plan.

4. Not having a survival retreat

If there’s a chance that you’re going to have to bug out, and there is, then you need a destination that you can reach. Whether that’s a cabin you own in the woods, a friend’s home in a rural community, a cave you found in the wilderness, or even a state park, you need a place that you can go. Actually, you need more than one such place, as not all disasters will treat you the same.

The idea of heading off into the woods and building a log cabin with your tomahawk and wire saw is fantasy, not reality. If you’re going to build that log cabin, then you’re going to need better tools than that. You’re also going to need supplies to keep you going, until you can get to the point where you’re growing your own.

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If you can’t afford that cabin in the woods and don’t have a family member who lives in a rural setting, then you’re going to have to find something else. But more than anything, you’re going to have to pre-position equipment and supplies, so that when you get there, you can survive.

5. Waiting too long to bug out

This is a tricky one, as each disaster is different. Therefore, it’s all but impossible to say with any level of security when you should bug out. You’re going to have to look at the likely threats for the area where you live and try to determine a trigger that you can watch for, which will tell you that it’s time to leave.

Generally speaking, it’s better to bug out when things start looking dangerous, than to stay home. I realize that sounds contradictory to what I said a moment ago, about it being better to bug in, but it really isn’t. Yes, it’s better to bug in, but if you’re going to have to bug out, then do so quickly and don’t waste any time. You want to beat the rush, especially if it’s the type of situation where everyone will be leaving the city and blocking the roads.

6. Having the wrong people in your survival team

I mentioned earlier the importance of having a survival team. But I need to add a word of precaution to that. That is, having the wrong survival team is worse than having no survival team. The last thing you need is to be burdened with are people who don’t have much to contribute when you’re trying to survive.

I’ve seen a number of survival teams through the years, and I see two mistakes being made over and over again. The first is to ignore the personalities of the people who are invited to join the team. If you can’t get along well together, it doesn’t matter what skills they have; it won’t work. Worse than that, if they are lazy and complaining, expecting you to do everything for them, they’ll be a burden.

The other big problem is to concentrate on the wrong skills or accept only skills without preparation. Some skills are more valuable than others, and that needs to be taken into consideration. Someone who is a trained medic is worth a lot to your team. Make sure that each member has skills that truly are to the team’s benefit. In addition, make sure that they invest in the equipment and supplies necessary to put those skills to work when the time comes.

What survival and prepping advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

Ever wonder how our 19th-century ancestors maintained a strangely effective telegraph and telephone grid long before the days of highly efficient batteries? The short answer is that they did it through brute force and ingenuity. The long answer is something far more glorious, and even something the modern homesteader could draw inspiration from to create power for recharging small electronics or – in the event of a crisis — running low-power objects.

Now, don’t get me wrong: There is absolutely zero rational reason to recreate these old 19th-century batteries unless you have absolutely no other choice. You are best to stockpile modern-day batteries, solar chargers and survival gadgets, but there may come a time when any sort of cobbled-together battery is the best choice you can make.

The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

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Called a “crow’s foot” battery (or gravity battery) for the shape of its zinc electrodes, these batteries had a star-shaped copper base connected to a wire which created the positive voltage. The whole thing was installed in a large glass jar, full of copper sulfate as an electrolyte. Now so far, a clever prepper or survivalist should be able to scrounge the copper and zinc to make the electrodes, and the glass jar to put them in. But the copper sulfate solution may be harder to come by, although under the name “blue vitriol” it is sometimes sold to provide copper nutrients in animal feed and as an algae killer for pools. You may be able to scavenge that, or if you have access to about 6 volts DC, and sulfuric acid, there are means to make it through electrolysis. Clearly if you expect to survive through a societal collapse, it may be a rather good idea to either have a chemical stockpile before the government puts common chemicals on a watchlist, or make good friends with a chemist who knows how to make things from scratch.

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

The battery, with the parts separated. Image source: W1TP.com

But let us assume then that you’ve managed to come up with the ingredients for our ancestral battery. Just what can you do with it?

The early telegraph grid used batteries arranged in parallel, using a great many of these roughly 1.5- to 2-volt batteries to maintain the circuit. This array of batteries could be built on to provide sufficient amperage to transmit the telegraph, and later telephone signal over such distances as may be required. They were bulky, leaked electrolyte as they were discharged, and in general were somewhat messy. They were usually placed on a wooden table, with glass battery rest insulators underneath to provide insulation for the battery and also to catch some of the spilled electrolyte. All told, these batteries were crude, yet highly effective.

Coming back to the modern era, or an unpleasant future where you want to charge your small electronics or have some sort of power system for communication, creating these crude 19th century marvels will require dedication. But just what can you do with them?

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The 1800s Homemade Battery You May Need During A Collapse

Image source: MorseTelegraphClub.org

It really depends on how many you can make. Each battery is fairly low voltage and low amperage, and their output depends on the freshness and quality of the electrolyte as well as the quality of the electrodes. You will need a good mulitmeter to check voltage and amperage for each battery you manage to assemble. Personally, I think the primary value of these batteries is less in being able to charge up your pre-collapse iPhone (solar chargers do it much, much better) and more to run some sort of communication array.

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If you get enough batteries going, you can connect them in series to run a low-power radio, or you can run them in parallel for your own telegraph or landline telephone system. They also have value in keeping low-draw LED lights on or as a supplemental source of power for other systems. Because of their large size, these batteries have a long life span, and if you are skilled enough to make them, you can salvage many valuable materials from them at the end of their life cycle to aid in making another battery.

These things are great if you have access to copper, zinc and sulfuric acid, and from there, the output of these batteries is limited only by your resources. I think they work best for providing low-voltage application in parallel, which could be used to maintain small electronics and rechargeable battery packs in a pinch, but I would focus most on using them to make your own communication grid as they were once intended.

The stark reality is that batteries are messy, and nothing can replace a stockpile of solar-powered products — or even a solar-powered generator. Still, it is good to be prepared for all circumstances. We have become culturally dependent on a myriad of electrical devices, and some of those devices can be crucial for communication during a collapse. If you have the ability to add obsolete skills to your skillset, then learning the batteries of the past may become a literal lifesaver.

What advice would you add? Share it in the section below: 

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5 Things You Better Get Off The Internet Before The Grid Goes Down

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5 Things You Better Get Off The Internet Before The Grid Goes Down

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We rely on the Internet for nearly everything in life, but in the wake of a natural disaster or large-scale collapse of the power grid, it is possible that the Internet could become inaccessible.

Even a few days without it could cripple American society’s ability to manage money, practice commerce, and communicate.

Because of that, it is a good idea to reduce your dependence on the Internet by moving more of your needs offline.

Here’s five areas to get your started:

1. Banking. Out of convenience, most Americans do at least a portion of their banking online. There’s no harm in using an online account to manage some of your bill payments and financial transactions. Just don’t rely on it to maintain your records. Monthly or quarterly, download a paper statement from your bank, print it, and file it away. Additionally, make sure you have paper records for all of the accounts you hold. Do the same thing for any stocks or important records of assets; record them on paper. Better still, do most of your bank transactions in person, at a local bank; you’ll have greater security and get better customer service.

2. Maps. Relying on GPS or Google Maps to tell you how to get around your local area is foolishness. Purchase or download updated local maps and keep them where they can be easily referenced or found in case of emergency. GPS won’t be a reliable source of navigation if the power grid is compromised.

3. Reference materials. Whether you read books on a Kindle or tablet, follow websites relevant to your interests, or just get the news delivered digitally, it is important to keep a paper trail for the information you’ll need in the future.

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You may not always be able to Google your way to an answer. Buy reference books relevant to setting up and maintaining a homestead, including home improvement encyclopedias and farming manuals. Printing information from often-referenced websites and filing it appropriately will ensure you’ll have the knowledge at your fingertips long after you can’t get it online. Best of all, develop your skills now so you will not need as many reference materials to accomplish tasks around the homestead.

5 Things You Better Get Off The Internet Before The Grid Goes Down

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4. Email. Discussing plans and making decisions by email has become commonplace. Create a personal file of email correspondence for each family member and for your business activities. When agreements are solidified by email, print the message and file it accordingly. In addition to backing up your knowledge of what was decided, the written correspondence is an important record in your family. Just as our prior generations preserved old letters, so we must preserve meaningful emails in order to tell the story of our families.

5. Contacts. Many people scarcely know their phone numbers, let alone those of their families and other close contacts. Maintain an address book containing all the contact information and locations of anyone you care about, as well as resourceful peers and acquaintances.

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Knowing where to find someone important to you is the first step to reconnecting, and you don’t want to be left high and dry by an inability to access your contacts.

Bonus – Unplug These, Too

Photos. Of course, this is a little sentimental, but there’s more to life than practicality. Don’t simply store precious family heirlooms “in the cloud.” Kids today are being raised with very few printed photos documenting their lives. What a shame if all of those digital photos were lost! Create a photo album for each member of your family, or a family album documenting your lives together. The small investment of time and money could reap rewards for the rest of your life and become an important piece of your family’s heritage.

Entertainment. Learn to amuse yourself without surfing the web, clicking through Facebook, or playing online games. Part of being resourceful is being able to find and create entertainment with ready supplies — paper and pencil, card, and dice games are a great way to connect with your family and have a great time without plugging in. Invest in a book of activities and start gathering around the table more often, and you won’t miss the Internet so much in times of outage.

What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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Stockpiling is the life of the homesteader and survivalist, and it seems like there’s always something new that we find we need to add to it. For many, this means mostly food, but you shouldn’t stop there.

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in stockpiling food that we forget other important things. So, I’m going to share with you some of the top needs I’ve seen — many of which are way too easy to overlook in our stockpiling process.

1. Medicines

We all get sick from time to time. Fortunately, our bodies are pretty good at healing themselves from a lot of that, but sometimes they need help. A few common medicines in your supplies could help ensure your long-term survival, as well as helping you deal with more common problems.

Start with over-the-counter medicines. There are a number of things you can buy which will help you deal effectively with day-to-day colds, the flu and those aches and pains we all face. For those, you’ll want to be sure you have:

  • Antihistamine
  • Decongestant
  • Cough suppressants
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Pain relievers
  • Loperamide or Imodium for diarrhea

In addition, you want to make sure to stock up on antibiotics, if you can. Although you usually need to have a prescription to buy antibiotics, you can buy veterinary versions without a prescription — or if you go to Mexico on vacation, you can buy them over-the-counter in any pharmacy.

Don’t forget any prescription medications that family members need. Those are even harder to stock than antibiotics, and will probably require the cooperation of your family doctor. But many will cooperate, if you explain why you want them. They understand the need and are likely to support your efforts to protect your family.

2. First-aid supplies

Medical help is typically overwhelmed in any crisis. Not only that, but it’s often much more difficult to get to where the medical personnel are. With the chances of injury increased, you’d better be ready to take care of them yourself.

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The good thing is, learning first-aid isn’t really all that hard. A few lessons from your local Red Cross or in online tutorials will go a long way toward helping take care of any injuries your family might experience. Supplies, without knowledge, are all but useless.

3. Batteries

Most people think about batteries, but they don’t think about them enough. Consider how many things you have that use those batteries.

You also need to think about the odd-sized batteries that you use. More and more, we find compact electronics using lithium-ion button batteries — what we once called hearing-aid batteries. If you don’t have a stock of those batteries, as well, then the devices that use them will eventually become useless. Take an inventory of all the different types of batteries you use and make sure you have a stock.

Another thing to look at is rechargeable batteries. Most of us have at least some solar power. If you do, then make sure that you can recharge batteries off of it, especially for your most-used electronics, such as radios and flashlights.

4. Candles

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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Regardless of what light sources you might have, you will probably end up resorting to using candles at some point in time. Candles have the distinct advantage of simplicity, meaning that we can make them ourselves, if needed. All we need is a source of wax, such as a beehive.

The problem with candles is that they only burn so long. You actually need quite a few candles to make it through even a short blackout. So, this is one of those items that you might want to just keep on collecting.

I buy candles at garage sales, where they go for a dime on the dollar, or less. I then melt them down and pour them into spaghetti sauce jars, making my own “survival candles.” Most of these are made with multiple wicks, allowing the candle to put off more light.

5. Candle wick

Speaking of candles, stockpile a spool of candle wick, as well. A couple hundred feet of candle wick will allow you to keep making candles. Regular cordage doesn’t work so good, so for the minimal investment this takes, it’s worth it.

6. Firewood

Most homesteaders and survivalists are planning on heating and cooking with wood in the event of any disaster that takes out the grid. Wood is a renewable resource and one that we can harvest ourselves. But it takes a lot of wood to make it through a winter. You really need to have about six cords of firewood in order to have enough. Of course, if you’re going to be cooking on wood all-year long, then you’ll need more.

7. Fuel

Firewood isn’t the only kind of fuel you’re going to need. While that might be your main heating and cooking fuel, what about everything else? Not only will your car be parked without gasoline, but your chainsaw, your lawn mower and your roto-tiller, as well.

While we may have to get used to living without cars and trucks, those other tools will be even more critical in a survival situation. Having fuel to roto-till your backyard and turn it into a garden will be a critical survival need. So will being able to cut down trees and convert them into firewood.

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But gasoline isn’t the only fuel you may need. If you have kerosene heaters or oil lamps, you’ll need fuel for them, as well. How about propane? Do you have a propane barbecue grille? Are you planning on using a propane camp stove? Granted, there are other options for any of these things, but they aren’t easy ones.

8. Butane lighters and fuel

It has taken years, but I’ve finally moved away from matches as my standard fire-starting tool. I’ve come to realize that a butane lighter is much more efficient, allowing me to light about 1,000 fires and being more compact than a waterproof match container that holds less than 20 matches.

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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But while many people have opted for disposable butane lighters, I’ve chosen to go with quality. There are a number of reasons for this, most especially because I like having a lighter that the wind can’t blow out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had more frustration from wind blowing out a lighter that I was trying to use to start a fire, than I care to remember.

A quality, windproof lighter is about the best option around. Most of these are piezo-electric, striking constantly while the gas supply is on. That’s how they make them windproof. Even if the wind tries to blow them out, they relight immediately. They are also refillable. So, a couple of cans of butane lighter fluid will keep you striking a light for years.

9. Flashlights

I have to confess, I’m a bit of a flashlight collector. I don’t know why, but I’ve got flashlights everywhere. I’ve even gone though my house, putting holders in closets and cabinets, so that there is always a flashlight in every room. That way, if the lights go out, nobody has to go stumbling around to find a flashlight.

But no flashlight lasts forever, not even the modern tactical lights. While I haven’t had any problems with high-grade tactical flashlights, I have had a number of med-grade and el-cheapo tactical lights go dead. And by dead, I mean really dead.

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So don’t think that having a flashlight is enough. Have several. Have several spares. That stockpile of batteries isn’t going to take care of you if you don’t have the lights with which to use them.

10. Building materials

This one may sound like an oddball to some, but I’m a firm believer in including at least some building supplies in my stockpile. That’s because the most likely disaster that any of us will face is a natural disaster. Those tend to damage homes, meaning that you need to be ready to make emergency repairs.

Now, when I’m saying emergency repairs, I’m not talking about fixing the trim. I’m talking about drying-in your home in the case that a tree branch comes through the roof. You can do that with a minimal of materials. It may not be pretty, but it will keep you dry.

11. Hardware

This one goes hand-in-hand with the building materials. If you’re going to fix things, you’re going to need hardware – screws, nails and such — to do it. There are also a lot of other things you can fix, even without the building materials, if you have the hardware. Put in a goodly stock, making sure you have lots of variety.

12. Hand tools

22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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In today’s society we’ve become dependent on power tools. Like everyone else, I’ve got a good collection of them in my workshop. But I also have hand tools for just about everything, so that even if I don’t have electrical power, I can keep on working.

It’s not unusual in a survival situation to find yourself having to build things to help you survive. Having the right tools, to go along with the building materials I just mentioned, makes it possible for you to make shelter, furniture and a host of other things.

13. Sandbags

There are few places in the country which are immune to flooding. Even areas which are extremely arid flood at times. Whether due to hurricanes, or flash floods upstream, we are all at risk of the possibility of flooding.

Of course, there are a lot of different ways of dealing with flooding, but the most basic is with sandbags. Stacked sandbags have stood the test of time, both for their convenience and their effectiveness.

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In a time where flooding is expected, many municipalities have centralized sand piles that are usable for filling your sandbags. But you can stock your own sand, too, simply by building the kids a nice big sandbox. Make sure it’s big, so you’ll have plenty of sand; that way you’ll be able to fill all your bags.

14. Repair tarts

Speaking of repairing, you need to look at all of your survival equipment from the viewpoint of making repairs on it. It’s great to have a pump for water; but if the pump breaks down, it’s no more valuable than a paperweight. You’ve got to be able to repair that pump, as well as your chainsaw, your roto-tiller and your solar power system.

In most cases, the parts that can go bad in these devices are usually fairly simple things, like seals. Such things are referred to as “maintenance parts,” simply because replacing them from time to time is considered part of normal maintenance. Manufacturers will often sell kits of these common parts, which is an ideal way to make sure you have what you need.

Of course, having the parts is only part of the battle. You’ll need the tools and knowledge, as well, in order to make those repairs. So, make sure you have the necessary information on how to work on the device, as well as any specialty tools necessary.

15. Clothing

Few people think of stockpiling clothing, mostly because we all have closets full of them. But the clothes we wear every day may not be appropriate for a survival situation. If you wear jeans and work shirts all the time, then you’re set, but if you work in an office, you aren’t going to have clothes that are rugged enough for the work you’ll need to be doing.

So you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of:

  • Jeans
  • Work shirts
  • Work jackets (for winter)
  • Work gloves
  • Wool socks
22 Survival Items (Other Than Food And Water) Your Stockpile Needs

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The other big issue here is children. They have this bad habit of outgrowing their clothes, at times just about as fast as you can buy them. You need to have at least a couple of sizes of clothing larger than what they are wearing now in order to be sure that you have enough to keep them going until a good barter system can be put in place.

My wife used to buy our children’s clothes a couple of years ahead-of-time when they were small. Part of this was that she was a consummate garage-saler. So she’d buy what she could, knowing that the kids would need it later. We had boxes of clothes in the attic, all broken down into sizes by child.

A similar system would be ideal for your needs, if you have children. Instead of buying them the clothes they need now, work your way up to buying them the clothes they’ll need in two years. When you take the next size out of the attic, start filling a box with one size bigger than what you have. That way, you’ve always got clothing for them, for at least a couple of years.

16. Sewing supplies

Speaking of clothing; that stuff has a bad habit of tearing, especially when you’re doing hard physical work. So you’ll want to make sure you have a good stock of needles and thread on hand for making repairs. You’ll also want buttons, zippers and other such goodies, to keep your clothing in repair.

If the lady of the house is one who sews, make sure that you get a treadle sewing machine sometime. You can still find them at antique shops and (every now and then) even Goodwill stores. Between that and a stock of fabric, you’ll be in good shape for clothing.

17. Sturdy boots

Few people wear hiking boots on a daily basis. If we wear boots, they’re more the decorative kind. About the sturdiest shoe we ever wear is a pair of tennis shoes … not really all that sturdy. But in the case of survival, good sturdy boots are essential, especially ones that will offer you good ankle support. The last thing you will need is a broken ankle from twisting it on rough ground.

Don’t just depend on one pair of boots, though; they can wear out. Have a couple of pair, and alternate using them, so they will both break in well.

18. Water filter systems

Many of us have some sort of water filtering unit as our primary means of water purification. But once the cartridge or filter has purified the number of gallons of water it is intended for, it’s dead.

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There really isn’t an “ideal” number of filters to have. Just make sure that whatever you have, it’s plenty for your needs. Then add a couple more, just for good measure.

19. Personal hygiene supplies

Someone once said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” I’m not so sure about that, but I am sure it is next to good health. While it is both possible and fairly easy to make soap, that requires a source of lye. If you don’t have that source, then you can’t make it. So, even something that simple needs to be considered in your supplies. But soap isn’t the only personal hygiene supply you can make. Take a look around the Internet and you’ll find a plethora of recipes for anything from deodorants to cosmetics.

20. Cleaning supplies

One of the best ways to keep bugs and rodents out of your home is to keep it clean. Both are attracted to food residue, especially sugar. This is a common means for the spread of disease, so you’ll need to watch out for it.

You’re best off buying commercial concentrates and stockpiling those. Not only do they take less space, but you’ll find that by buying them by the gallon, you’ll save money. Just make sure to have a good stock of spray bottles (which are cheap) to go with them.

There are many recipes on the Internet for making your own cleaning supplies, too — some from natural ingredients. Once again, you’ll need to make sure that you have access to those supplies, but some may actually be growing in your garden already.

21. Heirloom seeds

Most homesteaders and survivalists are already gardening. In a situation where you have to be able to depend on the produce you are growing, heirloom seeds are the only way to go.

As part of your gardening efforts, you should be trying to harvest the seeds from your garden. Those seeds will be the beginning of next year’s garden. In olden times, farmers commonly saved seeds from their harvest so that they would have it for next year. When you can’t run to the local store and buy seeds, that’s the only way you’ll get them.

But I want to mention one other thing here. That is, if a major disaster strikes, where you’ll have to live off of what you grow for the foreseeable future, then one of the first things you’re going to need to do is to expand your garden. That means you’ll need enough seeds on hand to do that. It will already be too late to buy more. So, how many seeds will you need to turn your entire backyard into a garden?

22. Ammunition

This one is kind of obvious, but I thought I’d mention it anyway. Many people out there talk about having 10,000 rounds of ammo. That’s great — if you’re planning on fighting a small war; but if your focus is hunting, then you may be stocking the wrong thing.

Think this one through. Yes, you need ammo for home defense. You also need ammo for hunting. You may even need ammo for training your children and other members of your family. So take the time to figure out how much ammo you’ll actually use for each of these needs — and then double it. That should see you through.

In addition to teaching your kids, think in terms of skills that you’ll need to learn. You’re probably working on those right now, and that’s great. But if you’re anything like me, there’s never enough time for all you want to learn. So, stock up on some good books to teach you those skills when the time comes. That way, you won’t be without them.

What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:

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10 Survival Tips That Kept Your Great-Grandparents Alive

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10 Time-Tested Survival Tips, Straight From Your Great-Grandparents

Unless you are fairly young, chances are your great-grandparents already have passed on. But if they were around in today’s tenuous times, our great-grandparents might have a few words of advice for us.

Survival was something most of our ancestors did well, and a few tips from their success could make a real difference in our lives today.

Our great-grandparents probably survived hard times due to a combination of the right skills and knowledge, the right priorities, and the right attitudes. Here is what they might say to us if they could:

Skills and Knowledge

1. Be able to acquire food by multiple means. Learn to grow vegetables, tend fruit and berry orchards, milk dairy cattle and goats, keep laying hens, raise meat animals, and hunt for wild game.

2. Know how to preserve food for leaner seasons by way of canning, smoking, drying and root-cellaring.

3. Learn to make all of your food from scratch, from bread to butter to noodles to jerky to cheese. Even if you do not do all of it annually, develop and keep up the skills.

4. Be able to repair and maintain what you use. Furniture, buildings, engines, equipment, shoes, toys, kitchen utensils—you name it. It is important to take meticulous care of your belongings and fix whatever needs fixing until it is beyond repair. Buy less, fix more.

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5. Know how to treat minor injuries and illnesses at home. Sometimes seeking professional medical advice is the best course, but in a survival situation it is valuable to be able to assess and treat problems yourself if needed.

10 Time-Tested Survival Tips, Straight From Your Great-Grandparents6. Learn to provide as many of your own basic needs as you can. Hiring a pro might be the most sensible way to go nowadays, but it does not need to be the only option. If tough times come along, knowing how to clothe yourself and your family, heat your home, care for sick animals, provide home defense, and use alternative means for transportation will be useful skills.

Priorities

7. On most days, put work before play. There is one caveat: It works well to combine work and socializing. In days of old, people worked together with their households and communities on projects like construction, food preservation, quilting and livestock management. Putting work first in a way that builds, creates and nurtures camaraderie is still a great idea.

8. Focus on goals that make a tangible difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. Remember that in a survival scenario it will be more useful to be able to feed, shelter and protect your loved ones than it will be to chase imaginary electronic characters.

Attitude

9. Develop mental toughness. Tell yourself you can do what you have to do to get by. Even when you want to curl up in a corner and let the world pass by without you, know that it is not an option.

10. Be independent. Do not rely upon the government or wait for some other entity to take care of you. Do not let others make decisions for you about whether or not a place or activity is safe — but do not assume that there will always be someone to rescue you if you make poor decisions. Be smart, and be in charge of yourself.

Whether or not your great-grandparents are still around to cheer you on, use these words of advice along with your own image of what they were like to live a life that would make your ancestors proud of you every day. And if you ever find yourself in a survival situation that may or may not be similar to what they went through, remember to heed their sage words to help you survive and pass along the wisdom to another generation.

What time-tested survival advice would you add to our list? Share it in the section below:   

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The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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Probably the biggest problem associated with bugging out is having a place to go. A few survivalists or preppers have a cabin in the woods or a bunker buried somewhere, but most of us don’t, simply because we can’t afford it.

Please note that I don’t consider just bugging out to the wild a viable alternative. Few people have the necessary skills to play Grizzly Adams and live off the land. And trying to do that, with what you can carry in your bug-out bag, is a recipe for disaster. You just can’t carry the tools you need to be able to build a cabin and cultivate crops in the wild. Nobody can.

What if I were to tell you that you can build that bug-out retreat and you can do it relatively cheap? Now, let me define “cheap” here. I’m talking about building something for a few thousand dollars, maybe as much as $5,000, but definitely less than $10,000. Compared to what a cabin in the woods costs, that’s cheap.

There are two basic things you need in order to create a bug-out retreat: land and a shelter. With that as a starting point, you can work on putting together the rest. So, let’s start with those.

Land

Overall, land is expensive. But it is still possible to buy land cheap, if you aren’t picky about what you buy. Land values are based upon the land’s utility, so the key is to find land that doesn’t have any real utility. While that land isn’t going to have electricity, water, phone service and city sewer, that doesn’t mean it’s totally useless. In fact, if you can come up with those things on your own, then that land becomes ideal for a bug-out retreat.

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What makes this land (usually referred to as “junk land”) so attractive for a bug-out retreat is that it is in places where people aren’t likely to go. We’re talking about land that’s out in the middle of nowhere — not close to any body of water, not close to any major highways, and you can just forget about finding a local electric company, let alone getting them to run wires out to your property.

But because this land is so unattractive to other buyers, you can buy it for next to nothing. I’ve seen land like this go for as little as $160 per acre. At that price, a 5- or 10-acre lot is still cheap.

The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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The biggest problem with this land, from a survival point of view, is water. You’re either going to have to count on rainwater collection or drilling a well — unless you want to haul water in. So, before buying any junk land, you want to figure out a water plan. That means doing some research — specifically into the annual rainfall and how low the water table is.

Surprisingly, the first layer of water-bearing sand isn’t usually as deep as most people think. If you talk to a well driller, they’ll tell you it’s hundreds of feet down. But they’re looking for really good water, as well as the bigger fees that come with those deep wells. There are ways that you can put in 20- to 100-foot wells yourself, without paying a fortune.

Preparing Your Land

Before going much further in preparing any bug-out shelter, you’re going to need to do some preparation of the land. More than anything, this means developing some means to get water, putting in a rudimentary septic system, and coming up with some way of producing electrical power.

Water

Of these, finding water is the hardest, which is why I listed it as a deal-breaker on any land you explore. But if you can get enough water on your land to survive, then you can do the rest. Keep in mind that you’ll not only need water for drinking and cooking, but also for cleaning and gardening. So forget about the “gallon of water per person a day” that some people reference. Even with being cautious of your water usage, you’re probably going to need somewhere between 20 to 50 gallons per day.

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But that’s doable, even from a shallow well. Remember, our ancestors lived without wasting 100 gallons a day watering their lawns and running their washing machines, and we can, too. In many parts of the world, there are still families living on five gallons of water per day.

Sewage

Sewage is easy. At its simplest, you need to dig a hole in the ground. If you want to do a little better, you can create a two-tank septic system out of 55-gallon drums and a leech field for it out of plastic pipe and some gravel. That would merely be a scaled-down version of what is used for a home.

Part of the reason you can use a scaled-down septic system is that you can reuse your grey water. Every drop of water you use for washing clothes, dishes and bodies can be reused, either for washing something else, or for watering your garden. That will do wonders to reduce your water usage. I’ve watered my garden for years with grey water and it hasn’t hurt the plants a bit.

Electricity

While electricity production isn’t really a requirement, we live in a society that is highly dependent on electricity. Having some electrical power production capability on site will make life easier in your bug-out retreat, even if that capacity is limited.

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Actually, in the case of many types of disasters, your own electrical power production will be more reliable than depending on the grid. So, be sure to put in a wind turbine or some solar panels, whichever will work better in your area, along with a battery backup system. That way, you’ll be able to use your electronics.

Shelter

The Cheapest Way To Build A Sturdy, Reliable Bug-Out Retreat

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Okay, so now that you’ve got your land and you’ve done some work on it, the next big issue is shelter. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about a lot of different sorts of survival shelters over the years, and most of those are good. But personally, I’d rather be comfortable.

There are people who build a cabin out of 100 percent scavenged materials. Those are impressive. I’ll have to say that I’ve seen some amazing things built out of scavenged materials, like the cabin that a couple built with a front wall made of scavenged windows. But that requires a lot of time that you dedicate to scavenging the materials and lots of time to turn them into something usable.

There is another option that I’d like to show you — one that you may not have thought about. That’s to use a travel trailer. Now, before you tell me that travel trailers are expensive, take a look on eBay or Craigslist. While there are plenty of expensive travel trailers there, you’ll also see some older ones which can be bought for a song … or maybe two songs.

Look for one that needs some tender love and elbow grease; that’s how you get a trailer cheap. Add a little patience to that recipe, so that you don’t rush out and bid on something that’s beyond what you can afford. Remember: If you don’t win the bid, another one will come along.

A little elbow grease and a few hand tools will go a long way toward saving you thousands of dollars on a travel trailer. Buying one that needs work makes for a good project to work on evenings and weekends, and you can even turn it into a family project that you work on together.

The biggest advantage of this means of building a shelter is that you don’t have to change your entire life to do it. The change from living in a house to living in a trailer is much easier than that of moving into a yurt. At least you’ll have beds you recognize, as well as real cabinets to store things in. You’ll even have a real bathroom with a real toilet you can use.

Putting it All Together

Obviously, there are going to be a lot of other details you’ll need to discuss and work on to finish out your bug-out retreat. But these are the two biggest expenses. If you think about it, everything else is going to be pretty much the same, whether you bug out or bug in. So, those expenses are mostly identical.

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10 Ingenious Survival Uses For An Empty Water Bottle (Watch The Video For No. 5!)

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10 Smart Survival Uses For An Empty Water Bottle (Watch The Video For No. 5!)

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When you’re done drinking from a soda or water bottle, your usual instinct is to throw it in the trash, right?

The reality is that not only is this habit extremely wasteful, but you’re also tossing away something that can be extremely useful in a survival situation or on the homestead.

Let’s take a look at 10 alternative uses for a water bottle:

1. Funnel.

This one is extremely simple – and no doubt, the most popular use. All you have to do is cut off the bottom of your bottle and remove the cap at the top. Then you can pour any fluids or grains through it.

2. Food storage.

Use your funnel that you just constructed to pour food into more bottles. Never fill up your bottles all the way; instead, leave a little space at the top for an oxygen absorber. Screw the cap over the bottle extremely tight, and then store in a dark, cool and safe location.

3. A storage capsule.

Simply remove the bottoms of two plastic bottles, and then smooth down the edges. Glue the two bottles together with the caps facing out. Your makeshift capsule can now hold anything from jewelry to seeds to medications.

4. Seed starter.

A two-liter plastic bottle works best for this method, but the small kinds will work, too, if needed. Take a knife and cut the bottle in two. Use the end of your knife to poke a few holes in the bottom of the bottle.

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Fill up the bottle with soil and some water, and then plant your seeds. To accelerate the seed germinating process, place your other bottle half over the top; the result will be similar to a greenhouse.

5. Fish catcher.

A two-liter plastic bottle works best for this method, too. Take a bottle and cut off the top of it. Turn the bottle over and then place the cut-off piece back in the bottle, so that the cap side is facing toward the bottom. Place your trap in a running source of water, and small fish will be able to swim into the trap without being able to swim out. Grab them.

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6. Flotation device.

Tie a large number of sealed plastic bottles together, and then cover those bottles together with a plastic bag or garbage bag. Strap this to you and use it as a flotation device; if you have enough plastic bottles, you can even construct a workable raft if needed.

7. Makeshift shoes.  

Your feet need to be fully protected in a survival situation in order for you to traverse long distances, and if anything happens to your existing shoes, you will need to fashion a replacement. With duct tape, cord and two plastic bottles, you can easily fashion your own sandals together.

8. Makeshift broom.

With nothing more than a stick, some string or duct tape, scissors and a plastic bottle, you can make your own broom to keep the floors of your off-grid shelter clean. Simply cut the bottom half of your bottle into shreds that serve as the actual broom, and then tie it to a stick or pole to complete the process.

9. Faucet.

Hang a two-liter plastic bottle filled with water upside down over a bowl, and slightly unscrew the cap. A little bit of water will then escape out of the cap and onto your hands for you to rinse.  When you’re finished, simply screw the cap back up. This is a great way to keep your hands clean in the wilderness.

10. As a light.

Fill up a plastic bottle with water. Cut a hole into the roof of your shelter to place your bottle. When the sun strikes the roof of your shelter and the bottle as well, the light will be dispersed throughout your shelter.

What other survival uses for a bottle would you add? Share your advice in the section below:

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Flint Knapping 101: How To Make Weapons And Tools, From Stone

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Flint Knapping 101: How To Make Weapons And Tools, From Stone

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One very intricate, centuries-old survival skill is the ability to flint knapp. Flint knapping is the creation of tools or weapons from stones. Native American tribes — and people before them — used this skill to create tools and weapons used by hunters and gatherers. Today, flint knapping is still a highly skilled art practiced by survivalists.

There aren’t many tools that are needed, although picking the right stone is essential. The best stones to choose from are flint, chert or obsidian. Make sure the rock of your choosing is without cracks, fractures or fissures.

The only other thing you will need is something to break up and mold the stone to your creation. Long ago, people used antlers, hard wood, bone or stone. For safety, wear gloves, pants, glasses and shoes, and have a piece of leather to hold the stone – so you don’t get cut.

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Once all of these tools are obtained, you are ready to begin working. Keep in mind: This takes patience.

Percussion Flaking

Percussion flaking is needed to start the process. This type of flaking will make the general shape of the tool you are creating by striking the stone (with an antler, bone, stone, etc.). Be careful when striking the rock as not to break it. This will take time and practice. Once the general shape of the creation is made, move to the next step

Pressure Flaking

Pressure flaking is just as it sounds, and is used for the finishing touches. You apply pressure to the edge of the stone with the tool of your choosing and flake off pieces. This step shapes the corners of the stone, like an arrowhead. Carefully keep flaking and flaking until the edges are formed. Watch the video to see this put into action.

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If you are creating an arrowhead, then you will need to create a notch. This is that fish-tail-like shape on the bottom of the arrowhead. To do so, you need to notch by carefully flaking and abrading the edge. To prevent it from breaking, use the stone to abrade the edge down. Keep repeating this process until you get your desired notch.

Knowing how to create tools with your own hands gives you a link to the past but also can help you in a situation where you are without the equipment you need. If you want to learn a new skill, then give flint knapping a try!

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The Often-Overlooked Survival Document Every Homesteader Should Store In A Safe

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The Often-Overlooked Survival Document Every Homesteader Should Have In A Safe

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According to the American Bar Association, about 55 percent of Americans die without a will – the essential document that protects your family from the legal complications and in-fighting that can follow a death.

But even a will may not encompass all the information you need to impart to your family. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork used to track your existence. Even as you move to a more self-sufficient lifestyle, a paper trail will follow you; it’s a feature of the modern age.

Don’t be the only member of your family who knows how to keep your home and lifestyle operating, your wishes in case of death, or where the family jewels are hidden. Prepare a spreadsheet with the following information, and store it in a fireproof safe or other secure location (making sure everyone knows where to find it).

1. Family identification. Document the location of the birth certificates and passports for all members of the family, as well as Social Security numbers, medical information, adoption records, marriage and death certificates, birth dates and legal names.

2. Contacts. Make a contact page for family members and close friends, legal professionals, insurance companies, financial advisors, and anyone else who has been responsible for maintaining your records.

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3. Assets. Detail all assets, such as real estate, vehicles and valuable items. Be sure to list specific information as appropriate, such as serial numbers, Vehicle Identification Numbers and the location of deeds for property. Don’t forget to list financial assets, including bank accounts, investments, stocks and bonds.

4. Liabilities. Maintain updated records for loan information and amounts, credit cards, mortgage and personal lending. Be sure to include specific information about agreements as well as the location of documentation.

The Often-Overlooked Survival Document Every Homesteader Should Store In A Safe

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5. Insurance. Quick access to personal, medical and property insurance policy numbers can speed the company’s ability to provide you with the insurance payments needed to quickly bounce back in an emergency. Make sure you, your spouse, and your next of kin all know the location of and value on insurance policies.

6. Bills. After an emergency or death, bills for items and services purchased earlier will still be owed. Include the account numbers for utility companies, payment information as well as frequency of billing, and the details of any agreements. Contact numbers for billing companies can help your family stop unwanted services before becoming inundated with bills.

7. Emergency plan. Make an account of your family’s plans in case of emergency, upheaval or accident. Determine a meeting place and detail the location of emergency supplies. Make sure even the youngest children have been prepared to find shelter, basic supplies and the rest of the family so they will know how to react if things become chaotic, and practice relevant drills at least once per year.

8. Final arrangements. A will and living trust are necessary for helping your family make decisions in case of your death or incapacitation. All adult family members should have a legal will, as well as written instructions for any actions desired in case of death. This is particularly important in families with children or other dependents, in order to provide for their future and indicate who should be responsible for their safety. Be certain to discuss your plans and desires with close family members and entrust them with your wishes.

9. Homestead journal. Update regular seasonal logs about what you do to your property, how the homestead is made to be productive, plans for future development, and the location of needed equipment and supplies. Enter relevant information about livestock and pets, as well, including veterinary records, pedigrees and directives for ensuring their health. If you do not plan to have your next of kin run your homestead in the event of your death, a detailed plan about how to divide and liquidate assets should be included in your will.

There are many resources available online to help you prepare your “in case of emergency” document. The US Department of Health and Human Services provides a list as a jumping-off point.

Prepare and store the document digitally and in hard-copy, talk over your plans, and make sure everyone understands where to find the information. Providing your family with the tools to pick up the pieces in a worst-case scenario is a realistic approach to guaranteeing their continued prosperity and safety. Don’t leave them stranded.

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5 Ways The Native Americans ‘Read Nature’ To Survive

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5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Artist: Frank McCarthy

 

For most of us, finding out the day’s weather is as easy as turning on our television or checking the forecast on our smartphones, but the native people of North America had to rely on what they were taught.

They simply read the signs of nature – a skill we should practice more.

Learning to read the signs of nature, which are often right in front of us, can help us track animals for food, find safe sources of food and water, and even predict the weather.

In fact, most indigenous children were able to survive on their own at a very young age because they were taught the signs to look for almost as soon as they could talk.

Unfortunately, many of these skills have become forgotten by most in our society over the last few centuries, but you can still pick up these important survival skills and learn directly from nature.

1. Following the Weather

No matter what part of the country you are living in, bad weather can sneak up on you. Indigenous people were always aware of their surroundings, knowing that dangerous animals, enemies or storms could be just around the corner.

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By paying attention to nature’s signs, native people knew that one can almost feel bad weather before it starts. Before a big storm, the wind generally picks up, making the leaves on trees twist and showing you their lighter-colored underside. Look into the distance and see if you can see rain further out. Take a deep breath. Native people find that you can smell rain in the distance, even if mountains prevent you from seeing it. Birds will fly lower to the ground and begin to gather in the trees, even though it is still mid-day. Crickets will stop chirping. Fish sometimes come to the surface and even leap out of the water. If wildlife around you suddenly disappear or if you spot seagulls farther inland than normal, a storm is surely on its way.

2. Finding Water5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Over the centuries, native people relied on the same water sources year after year. But for non-nomadic tribes, or when traveling, finding water was a skill no one could afford not to learn! To find water, native people learned to look for green-leafed trees, such as aspens or cottonwoods. The presence of birds, dragonflies or other animals usually means that there is water somewhere nearby. Native people learned to watch for animal trails, such as deer paths, and to follow them downhill. Since animals need water as well, you can bet that a trail will eventually lead to a watering hole. Also, if animals were drinking it, the water was most likely safe to drink. Canyons that face north are more likely to have watering holes, even in the summer, as the sun does not penetrate that far inside the canyon. Natives knew that a dry river bed might still have water. They would look for green plants clinging to the edges and dig right next to them. Chances are that water was just a few inches below the surface.

3. Knowing Which Wild Plants Were Safe for Eating

This is another skill that native people passed down to one another, and it varies greatly depending on where you are. While indigenous people knew that cattails were quite edible, there were not many in the deserts or dry valley areas. Non-nomadic tribes, such as the Ojibwa, raised crops on family plots, but nomadic tribes learned over the centuries which plants were safe to eat and when to harvest them. Native people learned to watch the animals for reliable food sources. Squirrels, blue jays, crows and other animals sometimes hide food — such as acorns — for later consumption. If food was scarce, these were dug up and eaten. Many tribes knew that when birds, deer or other animals were eating berries, these were generally safe for humans as well. Many wild berries, such as blackberries, grow near the forest edges. Plantain is found almost everywhere in the U.S. and can be eaten raw or cooked. Dandelions are another edible plant. (But don’t ever consume mushrooms unless you are 100 percent certain you know what you are choosing, as many are poisonous.) The indigenous people looked to the trees to find nuts or fruit. Native people learned to avoid plants that smelled like almonds, or any plant that has thorns.

4. Finding their Way Home

5 Ways The Native Americans 'Read Nature' To Survive (No. 2 Might Be The Most Important One)

Artist: Alfred Jacob Miller

Ever wonder how the native people of this land never seemed to get lost? Even when a single young man would walk out into the woods to hunt, they never seemed to have trouble finding their way back. How did they do this? Again, indigenous people were always aware of their surroundings. They knew a marker (such as a mountain or a particular growth of trees) that would help to guide them back. Also, without a compass, they still knew the four directions.

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Even without sunlight, they would know that the north end of a gorse bush, for example, had the thickest tufts of “flowers.” They also knew that trees tend to grow longer or grow more branches on the side that faces south. Before they even left camp, indigenous people knew what direction their camp lay in relation to their journey, so finding their way back was pretty easy.

5. Finding Meat

Native people ate quite a bit of meat when they could find it. Since animals tend to migrate or move about to find their own food, meat choices for indigenous people varied, depending on the season. Fishing was always a good source of food. Nets, not poles, were the preferred method of fishing, although spears were also sometimes used in deeper water.

Many women made traps near water sources or along known animal trails. Birds, such as ducks and geese, were often caught using traps, bolas or slings. Even small children learned to use slings or slingshots to kill rabbits, raccoons and squirrels.

For most of us, skills such as these would take a lifetime of learning, or at least several years of classes, plus practice. However, for the native people of North America, reading the signs of nature was as normal as putting on moccasins in the morning.

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Lost In The Woods: 5 Tricks For Finding Your Way … Without A Compass

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Lost In The Woods: 5 Tricks For Finding Your Way ... Without A Compass

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After numerous fishing, hunting and backpacking trips, I’ve found myself lost more times than I’d like to admit. Over time I learned the hard way and spent a good amount of effort learning some basic techniques for those occasions when I simply assumed I wouldn’t need a compass.

We all know a compass points north. At least to magnetic north, which is close enough to true north to help you get where you want to go. But if you don’t have a compass, there are a few other ways to make sure you stay on course:

1. Know that the sun rises in the east. Or at least very close to true east. Figure out where the sun is rising and the opposite is west. If the sun is rising to your right then straight ahead is north. You should be able to figure out south and west from there. The same rules apply as the sun sets in the west, but if you’re still lost you’ll probably want to make camp rather than wondering around after sunset.

2. Know that the North Star is in the north. It’s actually true north. If it’s not cloudy, then you’ll find it at the tail end of the Little Dipper. Lay a stick on the ground with a couple of small sticks to make an arrow so you can wake up in the morning and remember the direction. The sun rising to your right in the east also will confirm that your arrow is correct.

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3. Drive a stick into the ground about 12 inches high. Assuming it’s sunny, it will cast a shadow. Put a small pebble at the end of the shadow. Wait about 15 to 30 minutes and the shadow will have moved. Put another pebble at the end of the shadow. Now draw a line through the two pebbles. You now have an east/west line. Look at which side the shadow is pointing over that east/west line. It will be pointing in a northerly direction given the sun favors the south side of the sky. Draw a line through the east/west line at a 90-degree angle and you’ve got your coordinates: north, south, east and west.

4. Make your own compass. You’ll need a needle, a piece of wool or silk, a leaf and a puddle of water. Rub the needle with the wool or silk about 100 times and the needle will actually acquire a magnetic charge. You also can (carefully) rub the needle through your hair. Place the leaf delicately on the pool of water and place the needle on top. If there is no wind, the needle should align with magnetic north. The thicker end of the needle (the side with the eye) will favor the northern direction. You also can use shadows (shadows tend to favor north) to determine which way your needle is pointing. From there, you can figure out your coordinates.

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5. Look for moss on (certain) trees. There are a lot of skeptics about this technique, but it can work if you find the right tree. Look for a solitary tree that is openly exposed to the sun. Moss likes shade, and the northern side of a tree is typically in shade most of the day. If the tree is deep in a forest, it will be a far less reliable source to base direction on, as shade is more common there and the appearance of any green or moldy growth could surround the trunk.

One Last Thing

Knowing which way is north, south, east or west has little value if you have no idea what lies in any direction. Before you depart for that casual walk in the wilderness, take some time to understand the general location of key landmarks like a road, river, lake or highway. If you know there’s a road to the north and a river to the south, you’ll at least have a chance of finding your way back when you arrive at that landmark.

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17 Amazing Ways Duct Tape Can Save Your Life (Hopefully You’ll Never Have To Try No. 10)

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17 Ways Duct Tape Can Save Your Life (Hopefully You'll Never Have To Try No. 10)

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Survival situations require you to think on your feet, meaning that anything and everything you have needs to be viewed with a whole new mindset.

That means using a little creativity and ingenuity. One of the tools you should always have in your survival kit or bug-out bag is duct tape. Duct tape can be a life-saver—literally.

We all know how useful duct tape is in today’s world. If you can’t fix it, duct it!

Here are 17 uses for duct tape in a survival situation:

1. Waterproof your shoes. In a survival situation, it is absolutely imperative you keep your feet dry. If it is raining or there is snow on the ground, that is going to make it tough to move about with standard footwear. Wrapping your shoes or boots in duct tape will seal them up and make them fairly watertight.

2. Make a nice splint for a broken bone. Use a couple of branches to keep the limb straight and then wrap with duct tape to secure it in place.

3. Seal a leaking tarp or tent so you can stay dry. A little strip on the outside with another on the underside will seal up a hole.

4. Keep your legs dry. Use the duct tape to secure plastic bags over the bottom half of your legs. This will keep your legs dry while you walk in the rain or snow. If you are wearing boots, a strip around the top opening will prevent water from getting in your boots if you are walking through deep snow.

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5. Create cordage. Tear off strips of tape and roll it over onto itself. The cordage will be pretty sturdy and can be used to hang food or clothes off the ground or to drag gear through the water.

6. Make a shelter. Use the tape with garbage bags. Tape the bags together to form a large “tarp” and then use some tape to secure it to a couple of trees and you have a lean-to.

7. Create a butterfly stitch. It would be crude, but it would work in a pinch to close a wound.

17 Ways Duct Tape Can Save Your Life

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Construct a cast. Wrap an injured arm or leg with clothing and then seal it with a layer of duct tape.

9. Make a band aid. A little tissue or a cotton pad and a strip of duct tape is all you need. All wounds should be covered to keep them from getting dirt and debris inside and becoming infected.

10. Tie someone up. If you need to restrain a bad guy, duct tape is durable and can be used to tie him or her up or to make handcuffs.

11. Repair a broken water bottle or canteen. Put a layer or two over the split or hole and you have a water-carrying vessel once again.

12. Patch your jeans, shoes or jacket. Duct tape can do it! If a button breaks, roll some tape to create a belt that will hold up your pants.

13. Make a hunting spear. Use some tape to wrap your knife around a long branch to create a hunting spear that can be used for small or large game on land or even to fish.

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14. Catch bugs. Hang strips of tape inside your tent or around your camp to help keep bugs off of you. The tape will act as fly paper. Mosquito bites can be a huge issue when you are in the wild.

15. Create an ace bandage. This would support a sprained ankle or wrist. Make sure you have something between your skin and the tape.

16. Fix a damaged door or broken window. This especially is useful after a storm. Use the duct tape to secure plastic, a tarp or large kitchen garbage bags over the hole.

17. Seal up containers or bags in your kit. This will keep them completely dry should you be moving while it is raining, or if you cross a river or stream.

There are plenty of other uses for duct tape that you are sure to find and develop. Do yourself a favor and keep plenty of rolls on hand for an emergency.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

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Inside A Secret Government Warehouse Prepping For Societal Collapse

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Inside A Secret Government Warehouse Prepping For Societal Collapse

It sounds like something out of a Cold War era movie. Boxes of medical supplies stacked high in government warehouses to help citizens in the event of a public health emergency.

However, this huge stockpile is very real. It is called the Strategic National Stockpile, and according to the CDC website, “Once Federal and local authorities agree that the SNS is needed, medicines will be delivered to any state in the U.S. in time for them to be effective. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible.”

For security reasons, the location and the number of warehouses that comprise the SNS are classified information – as is much of what is in them. “If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can’t fix,” Greg Burel, director of the program told National Public Radio in a recent interview. “And we just don’t want that to happen.”

The SNS started in 1999 with an approximate $50 million budget. Since then, it has built an inventory in multiple warehouses that is valued at just over $7 billion. “If you envision, say, a Super Walmart and stick two of those side by side and take out all the drop ceiling, that’s about the same kind of space that we would occupy in one of these storage locations,” Burel said.

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The SNS extensive inventory includes massive amounts of small pox vaccines, antivirals in case of deadly flu pandemic, medicines to treat radiation burns and sickness, chemical agent antidotes, wound care supplies, antibiotics and IV fluids.

NPR science writer Nell Greenfieldboyce recently visited an SNS. She was told she was the first reporter ever to visit the secret warehouses, and she had to sign a confidentiality agreement not to describe the location or the exterior of the facility.

A locked section of the warehouse stocks painkillers than can be addictive. A giant freezer is filled with medicines that need to be kept frozen. Greenfieldboyce described a humming sound that comes from the rows of ventilators that are charged once a month and sent out for maintenance once a year.

With an annual budget of more than half a billion dollars, the SNS is charged with deciding what to purchase for the stockpile. In order to do so, officials must determine which threats are realistic and which are not.

“That’s where we have a huge, complex bureaucracy trying to sort through that,” Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told Greenfieldboyce.

The government recently hired a firm called Gryphon Scientific to analyze how well the stockpile could respond to a range of health disaster scenarios.

Inside A Secret Government Warehouse Prepping For Societal CollapseAlthough he said he could not be specific on results of the study, Gryphon Scientific’s Rocco Casagrande told the NPR reporter, “One thing we can say is that across the variety of threats that we examined, the Strategic National Stockpile has the adequate amount of materials in it and by and large the right type of thing.”

However, he pointed out that the studies were based upon a single type of attack at a time or a single type of weapon.

The brief shelf life of some of the newer medicines is a problem for the SNS. “These are often very powerful, very exciting and useful new medicines, but they are also very expensive and they expire after a couple years,” explained Dr. Tara O’Toole, a former Homeland Security official who is now at In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit that helps bring technological innovation to the U. S. intelligence community.

Another problem is the time it would take to get the medicines from the warehouses to the people who need them in the event of real emergency. “It is not going to be easy or simple to put medicines in the hand of everybody who wants it,” O’Toole told NPR.

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The warehouse Greenfieldboyce visited contains 130 shipping containers, but who will be on the receiving end of these shipping containers during an actual emergency?

“While they do have plans for emergencies, and lists of volunteers, they’re volunteers,” said Paul Petersen, director of emergency preparedness for Tennessee. “And they’re not guaranteed to show up in the time of need.”

Local public health officials have had severe budget cuts and are underfunded, Petersen told NPR. “Over and over, I heard worries about this part of the stockpile system.”

O’Toole said, “We have drastically decreased the level of state public health resources in the last decade. We’ve lost 50,000 state and local health officials. That’s a huge hit.” She commented that emergency drills would be helpful, adding, “The notion that this is all going to be top down, that the feds are in charge and the feds will deliver, is wrong.”

Meanwhile, the secret warehouses continue to stockpile supplies. “We have the capability, if something bad happens, that we can intervene in a positive way, but then we don’t ever want to have to do that. So it’s kind of a strange place,” Burel told NPR.

“But we would be foolish not to prepare for those events that we could predict might happen.”

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Sources:

CDC

NPR

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