SHTF Mystery Gear Box: Worth It? Maybe.

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If you are like me you’ve spent countless cumulative hours in various big box stores, outdoor stores, dollar stores and even at swap meets looking for useful or even just cool preparedness items.  It can get to a point where you are once again standing in front of that vending machine in the break room, you know everything that is in the machine but you stand there anyway pondering your next move.  Boring.

Why not let someone else make that choice for you with respect to your next move?  Granted I wouldn’t roll the dice and let a stranger mail me my next firearm (even if they could) , but for smaller less “big decision purchase” items why not give it a go.  There is something to be said for anticipation and the unknown and at the price points offered by SHTF Club one really can afford to take a leap of faith…besides you can cancel at any time per their website.  Here are the plans they offer as well as some additional information.

A new mystery box every month. (Usually ships around the 15th.)

Three tiers – Basic: $19.99, Pro: $49.99 and Elite: $89.99.

The $19.99 box is guaranteed to be worth more than what you pay.

The $49.99 box is guaranteed to be worth more than $80.

The $89.99 box is guaranteed to be worth more than $120.

Cancel or renew at any time.

So your next question is probably going to be, what’s in the box?  According to their website it’s some variation of (but not limited to): knives, fire starters, emergency prep (SOS), hydration, survival gear, hard use tools, paracord and other accessories.   You are probably thinking, well that’s cool but how good is this stuff?  I’m glad you asked because I should be receiving a box from them in the next few days and will be reviewing the contents inside.  Some of my thoughts are:

Are the contents worth the price of admission?

What about the quality of the contents?  Good knife or $5 OTC at Ace Hardware type knife?

Relevant to preparedness?

Presentation:  How packaged, as in neatly with applicable instructions for those who may need them or dumped in a box?

I am fairly confidence that I will be pleasantly surprised with this product, after all they have good reviews out there and seem to be serious about advancing the preparedness message.  I will follow up shortly with a review but in the meantime, check out their website for yourselves and see if anything strikes your fancy.

 

SHTF: High probability low impact vs Low probability high impact

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What are you preparing for and how do you prioritize accordingly?  There are some very real threats out but all of us are limited on time and resources.  Even the independently wealthy prepper with all the time and money in the world could not prepare for and mitigate risk for every potential disaster which exists in the world today.  With that in mind there must be a calculated balance, prepping for threats in a common sense way which does not over extend our resources or take up too much time (read: getting bogged down).

I see this two ways: High Probability / Low Impact vs Low Probability / High Impact.  Where you are in the world and you current state of readiness determines how you break the threats out and prepare for them.  A few examples follow.

High Probability / Low Impact

  • Bugout necessary because: forest fire, flooding, train wrecks and spills chemicals etc.
  • Storm causes power outage for a few days or even a couple weeks
  • Job loss
  • Stuck on the side of the highway broken down in winter storm
  • Droughts cause water shortages

Low Probability / High Impact

  • Supervolcano in Yellowstone erupts
  • Total financial collapse globally
  • Asteroid strike on earth
  • WW3 with nukes
  • EMP Strike destroys the grid

From the list above (and there are many more) you can see that “impact” to us is relative, you might think a job loss is tough but indeed it is relatively low impact compared to the Supervolcano erupting (especially if you are in the fallout zone).

I’m sure at some point most of us used to watch the OPSEC fail show Doomsday Preppers, where people would state which disaster they were preparing for.  Countless time and efforts were being poured into prepping for that one thing but what if that one thing never came to fruition?  What if all that time and money toward an underground bunker could have been redirected toward something(s) which would have a better impact to mitigate more plausible scenarios?  Granted there is some definite crossover with respect to preps but all of those hand crafted Faraday cages probably won’t come in handy as supplemental income if a job loss happens.

There are no guarantees with respect to preparedness.  You could be that guy with seemingly everything going right: community, preps, land, crops, animals, et al and that flood / fire comes through and wipes it all out.  With that in mind I think it is important to strive for excellence but also have the mental agility to be flexible, to adjust and prioritize as necessary in order to remain effective.  All of the items I listed above could happen so I’m not discounting any of them, yet as stated time and resources are limited so use them wisely.  Make your own high prob / low impact vs low prob / high impact list and plan accordingly.

 

Travel Preparedness: Airports and TTP’s

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Traveling is something that millions of people do every day and while not as frequent I too suck it up and play the airport / airline game.  Herded like cattle through various checkpoints, lines of people hustling to one location or another.  Stand here, sit there, and don’t move unless you are told to do so.  If you comply all is well, if you do not comply or even give the perception that you might not feel like complying well then…it could be a bad day.

Most of us carry a gun for our own personal protection and while traveling with a gun inside checked baggage is allowed outside of that firearms are a huge no-no inside airports and airplanes.  Combine that with the fact that parts of the airport (in my opinion) are extremely soft targets and the stakes rise when traveling to grandma’s house.  A quick threat assessment would reveal a most likely course of action:  Single shooter as we saw in Florida.  Most dangerous course of action:  Coordinated attack as we saw in Belgium and Turkey.

I believe there are two components/concepts which we can harness when traveling which would greatly increase chances of survival should a worst case scenario occur.

  • Situational Awareness. Should go without saying but it’s an important one.  Paying attention to one’s surroundings, avoiding grouping together in areas like baggage claim, understanding where the good guys with guns are and the exits nearest your location.  If you are with family or small ones, having a plan to get them out quickly if a stampede starts.
  • Trauma Kit / Training. How many lives could have been saved post event in the examples I listed above if a few survivors had an improved first aid kit (IFAK) and the ability to employ the equipment inside such kit?  Think CAT Tourniquet, Quikclot Combat Gauze, Israeli Bandages, Gauze, NAR Field Dressings, chest seals and more.  Hemorrhaging can kill quickly and the ability to stop it only in the short window between the event and when First Responders arrive could save others (or your own life).

Back in the day I never used to travel with an IFAK but thankfully I made the transition and it’s standard on the packing list these days.  I keep the components on our near my person in a carry on bag at all times.  I should stress once again that proper training on how to employ these items is crucial, otherwise you’ll have people attempting to TQ a neck or wipe blood away with combat gauze.  A good place to source many of these items is North American Rescue, check them out when you get a chance.

 

I’ll wrap it up with some final thoughts.  Many of us tend to be action oriented in that if there is a threat we feel as if we could / would do something about it to mitigate the threat or even eliminated it.  The reality is that some will slip through the cracks, some will get past the gates and into the village and maybe even get away.  It’s at that point where we have to remain action oriented but now it’s about saving lives until help arrives.  I strongly urge everyone to seek basic training with respect to utilizing the components in side of an IFAK and to stay aware and safe when traveling through airports.

4 Things Wrong With Your BugOut / Survival Bag

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I recently spent a few days out in the backcountry wilderness living out of my bag, miles away from the nearest town and long out of cell phone range.  It was myself and my dog hiking a few miles a day at over 10,000 feet in elevation, getting in touch with nature and evaluating some gear. When out in that sort of environment one figures out really quickly what is essential and what is fluff with respect to gear, what works and what doesn’t.  Since the bugout / survival bag is what we rely on to hold all of our essential equipment it stands to reason that this piece of kit should be near the top of the list with respect to how well it is taken care of.  Unfortunately that isn’t the case in many instances, so here are 4 things that might be wrong with your bugout / survival bag.

1- It hasn’t been unpacked in 6 months

Cooler temps are approaching so does the gear in your bag reflect that?  How long has it been since you completely emptied your bag, took and inventory and re-packed it?  Far too often gear is packed and then allowed to sit which means folks forget what is where and items often expire.

2- It doesn’t have hydration bladder pockets

Water is everything out in the wilderness and you must have a good way to not only carry it but access it while on the move.  Many good packs have built in hydration bladder pockets on the sides allowing for a 2 or 3 liter hydration bladder to be stuffed down in them.  Run the hose down over the shoulder and drink while on the move, hook up a mini sawyer in line water filter for drinking river/lake water.  The days of strapping canteens to a belt or the back of the pack are long gone for most, as there are much improved methods for carrying water.

3- The gear inside it has been chosen based on theory, not practical application.

Folks tend to buy gear based on other people’s opinions and there is nothing wrong with that, but has that gear been tested out in the field?  Has the tent actually been set up, fire starting material tested, stove been used to cook food?  Maybe there is a hatchet or other cool looking tool in there that is completely unnecessary, only way to find out is to get out there and test the gear.

4- It was purchased wholesale for $25 online.

It’s true, you get what you pay for.  To build a quality pack you need quality materials and folks who know what they are doing.  Time for design, R&D, manufacturing and advertising.  All of these things are built into the cost of the product (a good bag in this case) so that the company can remain profitable.  I know this seems like basic information but it stands to reason that a bag that runs $25 on the rack cannot possibly hold a candle to a pack that runs $350 or more.  The type of materials in the more expensive pack will be more durable, the zippers and fasteners will be better, the internal frame and shoulder straps will be much more comfortable and on it goes.  There are some good compromises out there which folks on a budget can look into but one must be careful when choosing a good bag.  Go cheap and by the time mile 5 arrives you’ll be sorry you did.

 

Split Operations: Separated from your home base.

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Home is where the heart is and for most of us where our preparedness stash is.  Should some localized or regional disaster (or worse) take place I’d like to think we would feel better about addressing that situation surrounded by what is familiar to us (read: having loads of preps and self sustaining infrastructure in place).  While this does not guarantee our safety or survival it truly is a best case scenario, the opposite end of that spectrum being 1000 miles away from your home with a paperclip and pack of bubble gum if T-SHTF.

There is a sobering reality to all of this and that is the fact that being in and around home base constantly is not practical for many.  Travel dictates that we need to be away from home and in some instances for months (or more) at a time.  That is what I will address in this post, running split operations with the reality that you just might not be able to get back to your home and family if something bad happens.

Here’s the Setup: Split Operations

I’ve lived apart from my home, preps, family for months at a time.  Usually work related, it means that we could be hours or even days away when it comes to drive time.  While I’d like to believe that if something bad were to take place I’d be able to drop what I was doing and rush to my wife’s side in a flash that is simply not the reality of the situation.  When living apart necessary steps must be put in place to ensure sustainability for the short and potentially long term.  What does that mean?  It’s like this, if the power goes out for two days because of storms have I set my wife up for success with our backup power situation?  What if a snow storm cuts power and access to basic necessities for 2 weeks, will she be able to get through it with minimal stress and discomfort because of preparedness steps previously put in place and rehearsed?  These are highly probable and relatively low impact events.  Yet what about a truly worst case scenario which would mean us hoping to reunite at some point but being forced to make it on our own in the near term?  Who truly knows how things would play out as there are so many variables but I have to be confident in the fact that I’ve done everything in my power to set both of us up for success.

Tips for Split Operations

Essentially this boils down to common sense and understanding that one cannot guarantee success for any given scenario, but putting measures (and backups) in place certainly increases one’s chances.  Below are some tips that I’ve come up with over time for running split operations.

90/10:  When I roll out I usually take the equivalent of 10% of my preps with me, leaving the majority back home with my wife.  Those preps that I have are usually what I’d need when mobile and once I get to my destination I can supplement by purchasing new.  This usually means snagging enough supplies to sit out a localized disaster for a few days or even weeks (at most).  Again the majority stays back home with my wife as she would need it, it’s not practical for me to haul around and should I be able to make it back to my place I’d want all my supplies waiting on site for me.

Rehearsals:  It’s one thing when I’m home and am able to do most of the heavy lifting but what about when I’m not?  This is not to say that my wife isn’t perfectly capable of doing some hard labor but let’s face it, I’ve spent more time doing it and she doesn’t mind that.  A perfect example would be when I was almost 1000 miles away and a storm hit knocking power out.  We had rehearsed the procedure for moving the generator out, hooking it up, starting it using the choke and fuel shutoff valve and operating the transfer switch.  When the time came she was able to accomplish this task and all was good.  Had we not rehearsed it the task would have been exceedingly more difficult I’m sure.

Worst Case:  In a worst case scenario it’s understood that we’ll simply have to make due in our own set of circumstances.  That is a reality that many fail to acknowledge and as such they never prepare for it.

The Bottom Line

There are folks out there who haven’t spent so much as a weekend away from their spouse or kids, I am not one of them.  If you are like me and travel for work or have to live away from your family for months at a time because of other circumstances put some thought in to your split operations plan.  Set yourself and those left behind up for success with the understanding that you might not always be there for them.

 

Prepper Mentality: Good Samaritan? YES.

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I pondered writing this article because I absolutely do not want this to come across as a “hey look at me” moment.  Yet I think if we can examine what happened today it will shed light on what I believe is another slice of the proper prepper mentality: the good Samaritan role…something I do not excel at but am constantly trying to improve upon.

The Caveat 

Allow me to toss in a clarification paragraph before relating my story, in that there are two sides to this assertion: that being the PRE and POST SHTF role of the prepper good Samaritan.  Pre SHTF when times are good is one thing, post SHTF when everything could be in short supply would demand a tighter hold on things and extreme justification of action (especially if one’s own family is at risk).  Heck I’ve even written articles which borderline endorse taking necessary items after SHTF if the circumstances are right and absolutely all other options are off the table.  It’s all dictated by METT-TC, for now I won’t overthink this and get right into it.

The Situation

I was to meet my wife at the supermarket this evening, she was going to grab some supplies to cook one of her fantastic dinners.  These are one of those dinners where you can smell the aroma of the food and it’s like oh my….delicious is right around the corner!  I got to the supermarket first but as I was pulling into the lot I saw a family of 4 standing on the corner holding a sign which had something about money needed for food on it.  This struck me as strange, while I don’t live in what I would consider an upscale area sights like this are very uncommon.  That combined with the fact that the whole family was sitting there which included two small boys.  Not exactly the “crackhead begging for cash” situation, it weighed heavily on my mind as I parked and entered the store.

My wife linked up with me in the store about 10 minutes later, the first thing she mentioned was the family standing on the corner.  At that point I knew I had to do something so I excused myself and went outside to assess the situation.  I knew that if this was legit there was absolutely no way I could in good conscience drive away and leave an entire family in need.

I approached the family on foot, they appeared to be foreign and my initial instinct was middle eastern although the woman did not dress in this manner.  I introduced myself and tried to start a conversation there on the busy street corner.  The man said that they were from Romania and on their way to California and in need of food, he pointed to their old beater minivan (with Cali tags) and indicated it was theirs.  I took a look at the wife and two boys who were now sitting in the grass and knew that I had to take this at face value and do something about it.

The Outcome

Language barrier aside I had them follow me into the supermarket, pulled a cart out and gave it to them.  I spoke and motioned with my hands while indicating that they should go shopping and that I would pay for everything.  They nodded and went about their way and I went to find my wife to make sure she didn’t forget the COFFEE.

I linked up with the family at the other side of the supermarket and knew that their story was legit.  What was in the cart?  Lots of bread, sandwich meat, various cheeses, a balloon for one of their boys.  This was a family clearly on the road and one who did not want to take advantage of me and for that I was thankful.  We checked out and I think the total was around $70, I selected the debit option and pulled out another $40 and gave it to the husband because I figure he might need gas.  They thanked me over and over again, I told them no problem and wished them good luck…and that was that.

Key Takeaways

Once again please don’t take this as me tooting my own horn, believe me when I write that I’m no perfect person and I honestly know that many of you would have done the same thing. I felt compelled to do this for those people, not because I was seeking anything in return but because it just seemed like the right thing to do.  I’m not sure what will happen if SHTF but as preppers we are likely to be in a situation where we are able to help those in need much like how I helped that family.  Now this doesn’t mean that I line the entire neighborhood up and disperse MY family’s supply of storage food just because I’m a nice guy, absolutely NOT.  Yet I think we have to keep some form of positive intent in our minds, that willingness to be someone’s helping hand if needed and if only briefly.  My efforts surely did help the family but only for a few days at best, yet I feel like I was able to fulfill my part…one that was placed in front of me and I recognized (as opposed to the potentially hundreds of people who drove by that family before I got there).

The Bottom Line

For me being a prepper means being both ends of the spectrum: I can be kind, helpful and more than willing to give someone the shirt off of my back.  Yet if tested I will flip the blinders down and become the epitome of ruthless and calculating, especially if my own family is involved.  I’m not perfect but I can tell you that when presented with the right set of circumstances I think it only serves us right to remember that being a good Samaritan is something we need to hold ourselves to…if only because it seems like the right thing to do.