Guest post, Nick, Some thoughts on preparedness and my recent travels

As most of you who read this are aware, I’ve been on vacation for the last 10 days. First a flight to northern rural NY to stay with relatives, then a day at Niagara Falls, then a car trip across Canada to Michigan, and some more staying with relatives.

Ten days away from home and stacked preps is stressful for me (and I’ll assume for any serious prepper). Add in the car travel cross country, the travel in ANOTHER country, the flights, and the fact my family is along for the trip, and we get a great big pile-o-stress for your humble commentor. On top of all that, add typical family dynamics and a very sick father (thankfully on the way to recovery) and you get a  BIG PILE….

Anyway, here are some observations, some things that went well, and what you might want to consider in a similar situation.


NB- I will travel, I will go places that are targets, and I will subject myself to crowds because I recognize the odds are slim, and my wife and I have a philosophical commitment to giving our kids as much of the sort of life we grew up with as possible within the current circumstances. Sitting home on top of my pile of preps, forted up in my castle, isn’t desirable or practical. YMMV.

So, with that out of the way, what’s a prepper to do? I’m traveling by air, and land, and crossing international borders. Can’t carry my usual defensive tools, either in NY or Canadia. Can (and did previously) in Michigan, but the logistics of shipping tools to MI just for the 4 days outweigh the benefits. Travel by air with defensive tools has its own logistical considerations that I’ve commented on previously. In any case, it wasn’t gonna happen on this trip. This DID free up space and weight in checked baggage…

Other than my normal air travel considerations, what was especially worrisome about this trip? Well, mostly the 8 hrs of driving across Canadia and Michigan. So, I packed the ‘trauma’ bag from my truck to carry with us. We’d have a car (SUV) the whole time from landing in NY to flying out of MI. The one thing I really didn’t want was to come across a wreck and be unable to help. (Given my personal history of coming up on wrecks shortly after they’ve happened, this isn’t at all far-fetched.) No fire extinguisher, but at least I’d have my big first aid kit.

Other considerations were being in places that could be terror targets, and being away from home if a major event happened. Increased vigilance, and carrying my ‘travel bag’ addressed both concerns, as much as I could. Normally we travel very lightly when going to parks or any other activity. This time, I kept my carryon backpack with me. This gave me a few more resources if there were any major issues.

I’ve been carrying the bag, mostly unchanged, on trips with the kids for several years. It’s an old but VERY sturdy targus laptop carrying book bag style backpack. It’s from the era of 14 pound notebooks and has heavy cordura, good padding and suspension on the straps, and lots of pockets and compartments. It isn’t at all “tactical” looking, other than being black.

On this trip, I pulled out some stuff I’ve been carrying unused for some time. Nothing life saving or critical, but it made a difference and kept minor issues minor.

The first real reach into my bag of tricks was when we were getting on a sightseeing boat, and I noticed an older couple with difficulties. He had the very thin skin of the elderly and was bleeding pretty steadily from a tear on his forearm where he’d bumped into something. She was trying to mop up and control the bleeding with a napkin. From my ‘blow out kit’ (small first aid bag, meant to treat one serious injury like a gun shot or serious bleeding injury) I took a couple of extra large bandaids. I gave them to the lady  and turned their issue into a non-issue for the 2 hour tour. I had more serious dressings if that didn’t do it, but when I checked back they were fine.

I pulled out a towel for my shivering wet child after doing the walking tour at Niagara. I’ve had the tightly rolled up micro fiber ‘super towel’ in my bag for a while. It makes a decent kid blanket, or towel. It’s lightweight, and rolls up into a package smaller than a coke can.  If you’ve got little kids, get a good towel.

I used the foot first aid, blister care on my little one. I’ve been carrying the blister aid, and moleskin packages for a while. Tough resealable envelopes, weigh nothing, slip in a pocket, and invaluable when you need them.  Again, not lifesaving, but quickly addressed the little one’s pain and kept us moving with only a short stop.

The food bars, and lightweight rain coat came in handy too, as did the drinks.  My EDC knife and FLASHLIGHT got their normal daily workout.

That covered us on the road, and while sightseeing, but what about getting home in the event of a big event?


The number one prep for that was that we had a rental car.  This gave us tremendous flexibility, and many more resources.   After much consideration and back and forth, I didn’t add any additional items to my normal travel bag, other than the big first aid bag.  I decided I had enough knives and didn’t need to add a Mora.  I was gonna add a water filter, but actually spaced out and didn’t throw it in.  FAIL.

What I did do was make sure there was a case of water in the SUV and enough ‘snack bars’ that we’d be able to move and keep moving if we had to.  For the first part of the trip, we’d be at a campground surrounded and supported by family, many of whom were camping and brought camping stuff.  Several of them are Eagle Scouts, and scout leaders, so I figured that was pretty well covered if we had to stay there.

For the second half of the trip, we’d be with family in Michigan.  This is somewhat far from home, but I’d considered it as a destination if bad things down here forced a move out of the area.  Unfortunately, it’s a ‘weekend’ house and not prepped.  That doesn’t mean it’s without resources… It has all the stuff a house in a wooded area by a lake, in a small town rural area has.  Fire pit and woodpile, axes, chainsaws, other tools (but no defensive tools), gas grill, well, etc.  What it doesn’t have is any real stored FOOD, or a gennie.

I wasn’t able to add a gennie or any gubs, but I did make a start on food.  I made a mad dash thru Home Depot and Walmart before we left, and bought a few things.  Granted it is not a well considered or comprehensive list, I feel much better now that I added this stuff.

From Home Depot, 2 at 12 gallon “Tough Totes” and a food safe 5 gallon bucket and lid.  These are mini versions of the heavy black bin with the waffled yellow lid.  I went with 2 smaller bins as being easier to move.  The bucket is for rice.

From Walmart, I hit the camping aisle, got a single burner butane stove, and 4 cans of butane.  2 packs of “Hot Hands” as there were no O2 absorbers.  Sawyer water filter.  Then off to the food aisles.  I was limited in time, and by what was there.  I got really lucky as this store stocked Keystone Meats.  So I grabbed a bunch of canned meat in various flavors, some canned veg, some canned soup, 3 liters UHT milk and 2 small cans of Nido powdered milk.  One liter peanut oil, one bottle soy sauce, big package of oatmeal, 2 big jars of peanut butter, nutella, and a can of pie filling rounded out the cans.  Added 20 pounds of rice and 5 packages of spaghetti.  The shortest storage life is the UHT milk.  The rest should be good for years stored in the basement.

At the house, the cans and all the rest went into the tubs.  The pasta and rice went into the bucket followed by the hot hands and the sealed lid.  I know O2 absorbers would be better, but the hot hands have to be better than nothing.  The bins went on a shelf, the burner and a couple of leftover 6 packs of soda went on top of the bins.  The bucket sits on the floor.

It’s not comprehensive, but it should provide food for a couple of weeks depending on how many of us are at the house, and what else is in the kitchen cabinets.  I’d like a more well-rounded and PLANNED larder, but it was the best I could do quickly with what was there.  All told, I spent about $250 USD with better than $70 spent on the filter, burner, and fuel.  I put it all together in about an hour, while family was at the beach, and it takes up very little space in the basement.  I feel a LOT better knowing there is some back up food there for any winter storm, tornado, or any other reason.

Maybe on my next trip there, I can find a used gennie at a yard sale and convince my relatives that it’s worth having.  The house is already wired for a gennie with an outdoor connection and transfer panel.  I’d love to get some other stuff stored there too, but family is resistant.  We’ll see, esp. as conditions in Chicongo deteriorate….


Anyway, that’s the report.  Nothing extraordinary, but preps and preparedness kept minor issues minor, quickly provided comfort and aid, and I got a small cache established at a possible bug out location (translating everything into prepper-speak.)




(added- I also downloaded the appropriate maps for the driving part of the trip, as we’d be out of wireless data coverage, and studied the route first, in case the maps didn’t work.  Filled the gas tank long before empty too.  Avoided the cities in MI that are no-go zones after dark.  All the standard things for traveling by car…..)


Nick post- quick response to article becomes a post about selling stuff online

Some people here have expressed interest in my business (former sideline, now primary) and conveniently there is an article on survivalblog…

I wrote this response as a comment, but promoted it to post due to length. It’s still a bit rough though.

This article isn’t horrible, and in fact has some good stuff, but the author seems to completely miss the point:

“I am, again, currently unemployed. However, I finally took the initiative and started an online business to bring in some extra cash.”

She says this like it’s a revelation, yet she previously started and failed at two other businesses “I have had my own HR consulting company,[and] started my own sporting goods store”– what she really means is “This time I decided to buy and sell stuff online” thinking that it would be easier than working.

Online business is a BUSINESS. It’s got differences but it’s a business, not a magical unicorn that farts money.

Throughout the previous 25 years, she keeps going back to being an employee, subject to the whims and vicissitudes of others. This time is no different, she’s still got the mindset of an employee (do as little as possible, collect check).

Even with this statement– “In 2015 I saw the collapse in the oil and gas industry coming and decided that I needed to generate some “mailbox money” then to help supplement my unemployment insurance until it ran out. I was finally RIF’ed (selected as part of the Reduction in Force) in February 2016. My unemployment insurance ran out August 2016. Fortunately, I began prepping for that moment back in 2015 when I began investigating the fastest ways to make money and build a business. Not only that, but I doubled my efforts putting up canned goods and other consumable items.” — And so she reveals herself. She PLANNED to fail, coasting until her benefits were gone. She’s looking for the next ‘get rich quick’ scheme. She does start stacking, which is to the good, but that’s the only positive thing in the paragraph.

Then she discovers that there is a learning curve, and she’s gotta WORK at it! “There is definitely a learning curve to selling online. One must take into consideration pricing your items correctly, selling fees, monetary transaction fees, shipping fees, shipping supplies, time listing the items, negotiating with buyers, and other issues. I lost money the first month and began to run out of stuff to sell. I had to find another way to find stuff to sell.” — JUST LIKE A BUSINESS, who’da thunk it? And how do you lose money selling off your old cr@p?

“Although I knew I was going to lose my job, I was not mentally prepared for it.” — which is because she never really accepted that it was going to happen, which is probably why she never treated the online selling as a business.

“PayPal account … Since it was difficult to get money out of that account, I left it there for my “rainy day”. ” — NO IDEA what she’s talking about here. Paypal is linked to a bank account. You hit “Transfer money to my bank” select an amount, and in 3-5 days go to your bank and withdraw the money. Simple. Or use Paypal at POS machines instead of cash or credit. LOTS of real life stores accept Paypal.

“Finding Sources of Products Online To Sell For A Profit” — here’s another mistake. She’s buying cheap crap from alibaba and aliexpress to resell. That’s a REALLY crowded field, with no way to differentiate yourself except price, AND it’s all cheap crap anyway. sells large lots of store returns and open box merch (mainly) which are going to have issues. I’m gonna guess at a 20-40% breakage rate, or in other words, only 60-80% of it is going to be good. Might be wrong, because it’s been a while since I looked at that stuff. I decided it was too crowded on the buy side with all the newbies bidding up the prices past where you could make any money. Never looked at bulq . com

“Starting an online store is not that difficult, but it is very, very, very time consuming.”– more unnecessary work and expense. WHY build your own store at all? For this kind of thing, use ebay. Even setting up an ebay store (if you have the volume) is straightforward, and your customers are already looking there! No bothering with SEO, promotion, or ‘driving traffic’. NO web fees, SSL certs, or site management.

“When I ran out of stuff to sell around the house, I had to begin using the money I had to begin buying stuff. Since it takes time to sell stuff, I began running out of money fast to buy stuff and to live on at the same time.” — translated, ‘after I lost money, selling off all my old crap, I discovered that buying a bunch of cheap crap and hoping to make a few cents on each sale, ties up money in inventory, and when those sales don’t happen, there isn’t any PROFIT.’

So she takes on debt to further her ill considered business model– ” I borrow money from them, buy the product and sell it with a bit of a markup; in return, they get their money back in full plus interest.” — translated as ‘ I enter another business agreement with FAMILY to piss away their money too.’

Then she looks at entering ANOTHER agreement, to take on MORE debt, but (I think) didn’t qualify as she doesn’t say she actually signed up for the “Working Capital”.

Finally she closes by expressing her fervent desire to abandon her business venture, and return to the bosom of Big Corp at the approximate age of 5o? 55? –” I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half. By the grace of God, I will find another job. ” –her own words reveal that she never thought of herself as ‘working’ at her online business.


So what can we learn from this?

The nature of work is changing. If your entire employment history is one desperate transfer from one sinking ship to another, STOP! Get out! Don’t expect to continue finding a chair when the music stops. Sooner or later you won’t and you’ll be forced to face that. Act at the time of your choosing. Change industries, fields, or start that other business.

If you have warning that your situation will be changing, TAKE THE TIME GIVEN! Take it seriously and get prepped! She should have learned her lessons while she had the cushion of a regular paycheck, or she should have been actively looking for another situation… NOT planning to coast and milk her benefits until they ran out THEN start looking.

Business is business. Being online doesn’t change that. You still need to know how a business runs, what makes it successful/profitable, and you need to put in the work. What is different about selling online is that your startup costs can be very low, and you can start very slowly. You don’t need to rent a building, stock it with inventory, and hire employees. (she did the virtual version of this- exactly what you DON’T need to do.)

As she did, you can start by selling stuff you already own. Old hobbies, and collections that no longer interest you are good sources of items. There is no way you should lose money doing this. If you can’t take free stuff, and sell it for a profit, that should be a lesson for you! (assume the stuff has 0 cost basis as it’s just sitting there unused and unwanted) Again, businesses have costs. Shipping, fees, commissions, supplies, etc are all part of the cost of doing business. If the price of the item won’t cover those things, DON’T SELL IT. If you do, you are paying someone to take your stuff. In that case, you’re better off piling it on the curb, or having a yard sale. Many things WON’T be economical to sell online, and you should just have a yard sale.

This first part is your ‘learning’ period. You learn about Paypal and Ebay taking 10-13% You learn how to take good pictures so you don’t need to edit every one. You learn about shipping options and costs. You learn what sort of things sell for you. You learn how long it takes to measure, weigh, photograph, and list items, and you learn HOW MUCH you need to PROFIT on the item to make it worth doing! This is what she should have been doing during the year warning she had.

After learning the basics and building your transaction history and skills on ebay or etsy or your local FB group, then you need to start sourcing more stuff to sell. Decide what you LIKE looking for and LIKE selling. Do you have special knowledge or skills? Do you have a hobby or collection that gives you special insight? Keep in mind that ‘collector’ mindset will hurt you if you are doing it for profit. Keep in mind that each type of item will have its own learning curve wrt desirability, pricing, packaging, etc. For example, toy trains might interest you. You might start buying them at what you think is a reasonable cost, but it turns out they are all very common sets and don’t sell well unless deeply discounted. Every time I decide to sell some new type of items, I made mistakes in purchasing and selling. Sometimes they were VERY COSTLY mistakes. That’s why it’s very helpful to start out with items you know, and items that are LOW COST TO YOU.

Like any business, if you have low margins you need HIGH VOLUMES to make profits. If you can keep your margins up, you can sell a lot less and still make profit. You’ll work a lot less, and your costs will be lower too. This was the mistake she made. She had low margins on cheap crap, and was not in a position to sell high volumes.

Leverage existing networks/infrastructure. Ebay is the big dog for a reason. It costs you nothing but fees to get started on ebay. In the beginning ebay was like an online yard sale, but that has changed. There are sellers with MILLIONS of transactions. I routinely see sellers with 10s and even 100s of thousands of transactions. Almost everyone will go to ebay and search ebay, many of them looking for brand new commodity items or traditional retail items. Your listings are right there too! Whether you are selling one of a kind vintage items, or you aspire to 100s of thousands of sales, why NOT go where the customers already are? AND save the cost, time, and effort of developing your own store.

What sells well changes over time and is different for different sellers. Don’t build big inventory. Just in time works for little guys. Buy it with the goal of selling it right away. DO NOT sit on items! (this can be difficult for me, I like to let certain things age in my possession. You’re buying to SELL, not KEEP. Don’t get high on your own supply.)

The best way to maximize return on effort is to buy multiple items you can sell from one listing. It takes the same time to list a $20 item as a $200 item, or 20 items that are all the same and sell for $30 each. Guess which listing keeps paying you for the same effort?

Sometimes an item won’t sell for a LONG time. I’ve got stuff listed that finally sold after literal years. ONLY relist items like that if they are going to generate a good profit when sold, and when you have ‘free listings’.

Price aggressively. Use the “Sold Listings” search option to see what similar items sold for, then click on the “Sell one like this” button and start your listing from there. Always check if an item is selling, has dozens of unsold items just like it already listed, and what it actually sells for BEFORE buying the item. Even if you can double your money on that thrift store item, is it worth the effort for $5 net? If you don’t ask that question, you won’t make any money! Your goal should be to minimize any inventory. You want constant turn over on unique items, and quick sell out on lots.

Keep in mind that you need enough profit to fund more purchasing, and to throw off cash for your personal goals (eating this week, or funding the new bang toy, etc)

Do some research on youtube. See what other ebay sellers/ thrifters are doing. (this is a whole lifestyle thing, buying and selling online, with a vblog) Decide if it’s something that will work for you. (one prominent youtuber says they make good money selling Hometics power supplies. I see them all the time, so I started picking them up. I can’t seem to sell ANY. Not gonna pick up any more.)

Maximize your ‘edge’ whether it’s specialized knowledge, repair skills, or regional arbitrage (buying where an item is common, and selling where it is not.) Eventually, your edge might be that you can buy multi-pallet lots for thousands of dollars, and have your staff process the warehouse full for sale! You’ll be able to outbid me every time!

Finally, selling online is relatively easy, has very low barriers to entry, and can be profitable. Like most businesses, you get out of it what you put in. If it’s going to be a primary source of income for you, after that initial ‘trial period’ you need to COMMIT and put in the effort, but be smart and learn first WHERE your effort is best spent.


Guest post, some thoughts on radios, and why it’s hard to get a straight answer from a ham…

In response to this question-


You seem well-informed on the subject, so what are YOUR recommendations for someone looking to just get a few radios?”

I’ve consolidated some of yesterday’s discussion in one place.



The important question to start with is ‘what do you want to do?’ With that info, you can narrow the list.


The first separation is listen vs talk. No license required to listen. To listen, get a scanner. Most transceivers will scan, but they are much slower. To talk, see below.

If you want to monitor your local area, (and it’s fun but you aren’t necessarily gonna get the inside scoop), you need a couple of scanners. I like analog because they’re cheap. They work well for scanning ham bands, or the analog FEMA interop freqs.  Analog scanners will also cover the GMRS and FRS bands, weather bands, marine (almost everyone in the US is near a coast or navigable waterway), air, etc.  If you are rural, you may have more traffic on analog than other areas. If your area has gone digital, you need a digital capable trunk tracker scanner. The Uniden Home Patrol II is a bit long in the tooth, but is widely recommended. I like mine, but it needs a bunch of tweaking to the internal channel list. Setting up scanners takes a bit of thinking about what you want to monitor too. I shut off all the dispatch channels because they run constantly here.  You may be in a slower area, and want to hear the dispatches, but even in a rural area, I think you’ll be surprised how much work your cops and EMS people do.  For other sources of good intel, your highway motorist aid guys probably still use analog and they’re a good source for high water and road debris info. Same for the ‘talkback’ channel for your local news teams to talk to their ‘in the field’ guys. There is a lot of interesting stuff even during normal times.  Radio Reference is the definitive web site for frequency info.

The other type pure listening radio for preppers is Shortwave. After trying dozens of radios and listening at least a couple of nights a week for the last year, I’ve concluded that there’s not a lot of info actually on SW. By definition, the state broadcasters are running propaganda stations. Most of the other stations are religious.  The airwaves are NOT awash in alternative news stations.  But even so there are things to listen to, and post SHTF, there might be other broadcasters or other content. It’s definitely overblown in the prepping world though.  Other than music, I listen to a ham focused show out of Havana, a ham focused show on one of the religious broadcasters in Tennessee, and everyone’s favorite conspiracy guy broadcast by a station in Florida.  Shortwave is also a fun, quick way to check band conditions without firing up your HF ham rig.

For SW, I like older “communications receivers” like the Kenwood R-1000 or the Yaesu FRG-7700. They have continuous coverage from the low lows to their highs at 50mhz. They are usually used on AC power but also may have battery inputs. For off grid, I love my Panasonic RF-2200. Over a year of checking thru the dial a couple of times a week, on one set of D batteries.  Like the AC models, it is a larger model.  Larger models will generally give you much more sensitive tuning and bigger dials, which is GOOD.  For pocket or on the go, I’m really liking the little Sony ICF 7600 I took to the Virgin Islands. It’s got digital tuning but you can comfortably just tune thru the bands. LOTS of other radios with digital tuning will “chuff” or take a second to tune every single time you push the UP or Down button. For scanning around that is REALLY tedious. The Sony is very smooth tuning up and down.

You’ll notice that this stuff is all older. Yup, it is, but the designs stood the test of time.  And it’s non-critical or covered by spares, and is cheap compared to current gear with the same capability.

I’ve decided the little pocket analogs are almost completely useless and the pocket digitals are pretty useless for just tuning around.  Also, don’t worry about single side band or having a Beat Frequency Oscillator on your SW radio so you can listen to hams. They are almost impossible to tune in given the smaller dials, and across a dozen portable radios, I couldn’t consistently hear SSB conversations. If you want to listen to hams, get a ham radio.  [there are other factors too, like where the band pass filters start and stop that can make SW listening on a ham radio, or ham listening on a SW radio problematic.]


When it comes to talking on the radio:

If you are thinking about getting a ham license, and want to get started cheaply, the baofengs are a great entry point for a tech or general license. DON’T buy a used radio unless you can get some guarantee that it works. You want to get on the air, not work on radios. If you want something better than the chinese radios, any of the big three, Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu, that have the features you want, will be great. ALWAYS check the reviews at before buying. They will address any reliability or useability issues, esp for something that’s been out for a while. I’d buy cheaper, and fewer features unless you’ve decided you like ham radio as a hobby or decided that you need a digital mode. Buy a dual band radio that has 2 meter (144mhz or VHF) and 70cm (440mhz or UHF). Don’t buy a single band radio unless it’s very cheap or you are planning for a dedicated use like data or APRS.

For HF (getting more than a mile or two away, or for HF data modes) I’m gonna say, there are great values in 20-25 year old gear. My Yaesu FT 847 works great.  There are many classic models from the time period that are well regarded, still run well, and are cheaper than comparable new models.  Any voice work on HF requires a General or Amateur Extra License.

There are multiband mobile radios that include HF but due to power and antenna limitations, they aren’t the best choice if you are gonna do a lot of HF.

Mobile radios make decent home stations too, if the power limits are ok for you.

Antennas are critical to your success talking on the air.  Some of the radios (like FRS) are intentionally crippled by requiring attached (and crappy) antennas.  There are lots of books about antennas, making your own, or buying, and the classics are available used for very low prices.  The web is full of antenna projects too.

Some people recommend tube radios for EMP survivability but they are harder to use, need more power, and are physically bigger. Probably better to get another modern radio and put it in a metal box if that worries you.

Moving to radios that don’t require a license, the most common are the ‘blister pack’ small form factor walkie talkies.

I have buckets full of FRS/GMRS radios (blister pack) that I buy when I see them cheap ($1-3). I don’t trust them for anything critical though. I use them when I’d rather not yell but don’t trust them for anything farther than that.

I’ve also bought motorola business radios when I see them cheap. They are bulletproof unless the batteries leaked, but anything will be destroyed by leaking batteries. After years of using moto radios in the field, I may be biased, but they just keep working.  A blister pack Motorola business radio is a good compromise between a $10 FRS and a $1000 ham or commercial high end walkie.

There are real differences between a $1200 moto walkie and a $30 one. Those differences might not be important to you, but don’t discount them. Sure, you can easily replace your $30 radio with a spare if you are where the spare is. It’s NOT so easy to replace if you are out USING it and the spares are at home. If it’s critical gear, buy quality.

I’ve mentioned before that I think CBs are worth having. There is still a lot of CB use in more rural areas, and among the Off Road crowd. There are also some people in the prep/liberty/militia/patriot movements that advocate a super set of CB known as “freebanding.” They use modified radios or ‘export only’ models that include access to freqs outside the Citizen’s Bands. They are illegal for most people, are NOT obscure, ARE easily monitored, and get you very little for the additional cost/risk/complication and learning curve.

A side note on licensing. Many of the freqs and radios are restricted to various licensed individuals/businesses/or classes of people. Some are enforced, some are not. FRS doesn’t need a license, but is supposed to be restricted to non-business use. GMRS requires a license, which covers your whole family for a number of years, and is a ‘fee only’ license. CB dropped the individual license requirement, but there are still restrictions on power output, antenna heights, and even attempting to reach beyond certain distances. Ham frequencies and modes and power output are all subject to different license requirements. Technician and General ham licenses are not difficult to get with study, and will give you almost all the privileges that the very hard Amateur Extra license does. MURS describes frequencies for business use and does not require individual licenses. Most of the blister pack ‘business’ radios use MURS freqs. There are some other freqs and modes available (baby monitors, dakota alert, Moto 900mhz walkies, that don’t require individual licensing).  Some preppers advocate one of the more obscure frequencies and modes but you won’t be hiding when you press the transmit button, and there are ways for anyone motivated to eavesdrop.  BTW, it’s illegal to encrypt or otherwise attempt to hide the content of your communication on the ham bands, and also illegal to use them for business (with one specific exception for used ham gear) or to be compensated for your use of the bands.

Some online preppers have recommended getting marine radios and using them on land. This is a really bad idea, with very little upside.  It’s specifically prohibited by law. The Coast Guard takes a very dim view of this abuse, and they are set up to direction find transmissions. Just don’t do it.

Every month, the magazine of the ARRL (QST) lists enforcement actions the FCC has taken. The vast majority are for CB violations, followed by willful interference violations on ham bands. Hams will report you if you are on their bands without a license. Just don’t do it. There are guys that LIVE to direction find you, record you, challenge you, and they will remember you if you later get a license. Given that, there are WAY more violators than there are people prosecuted. But if you do get prosecuted the fines are not small, and the FCC tacks on “respect my authority!” fees too.  Get properly licensed and get on the air to practice.  It’s no different than the recommendation to gun owners to get training and practice.  You’ll learn to use the gear you have, be able to judge its usefulness and appropriateness for YOU, and to make changes if needed.

One of the biggest frustrations for new hams is getting a definitive gear recommendation. Experienced hams will almost always say “it depends” and “what do you want to do?” For preppers, it’s a lot easier. Start with the baofengs. Add a dual band mobile (in the car or on your desk) from the big 3. A good basic walkie or HT as hams say, is the Yaesu FT-60r.  Most will consider that an upgrade from the baofeng HTs.  Stay away from re-purposed public safety commercial radios until you’ve gotten farther along in the hobby, or unless someone local can set it up for you (and keep it up.)

In general, look for radios that can be programmed by pc with a cable. That will be WAY easier than doing it by hand. That said, I’ve got about 4 freqs programmed in my HT. How many more can you keep track of?

I hope that helped some, I’ve written 10’s of thousands of words on the subject here and in other blog comments.



(opinions are my own, correct me if I’m wrong, ask any questions you might have.)

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, or a prepper goes to a large public event- guest post by Nick

Ok time for the rodeo report.

Firstly, in Houston, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a BIG DEAL(tm). It lasts for several weeks, has a fixed carnival and exhibition hall, concerts every night, art galleries, wine tasting, BBQ competitions, lots of displayed animals, with lots of family oriented stuff to do. Oh, and shopping too. Imagine a State Fair on steroids, with more money involved.

Second, I’ve said earlier that I think it’s naive and unhelpful to just say “Don’t be there.” Like many quotes, the original has a lot more context in it. He was specifically talking about places where Bad Things ™ traditionally happen, and it’s well and widely known that someplace IS such a place. Additionally, if we let “them” change the way we live, “they’ve” won. Terrorists and insurgents act to make life so intolerable that even their shitty idea of paradise on earth looks better than what you’ve got. We are NOT THERE YET. Even in places like Columbia, people get on with their lives. They take precautions, they alter their behaviour, but they continue living their lives.

One of the things my wife and I consciously set out to do is to give our kids as many of the same experiences we had growing up, albeit within the current social context. We push WAY outside where many of our acquaintances would stop wrt stuff our kids do, and it’s still just a pale shadow of the freedom we had.

Finally, it’s naive to think you can avoid trouble by avoiding places. Trouble will find you in your bed at night. It will find you on the road. It will find you no matter what you do. I don’t mean you should go looking for trouble (like the author of the ‘don’t be there’ quote meant) because trouble can find you easily enough on its own.

So we go places that are likely targets. I even allow myself to be disarmed in some of them. If the world is going down, I want my kids to have memories of what it was, of the good places and things. How else could they ever yearn to bring them back?

I do carefully weigh the risks and alternatives, and, like avoiding bad neighborhoods at night, I have said “No, we are not doing that.” Specifically and recently involving the Superbowl, I said “NO. Not going, not working on it, not gonna be anywhere near it.” It is also true that when I was younger, I sometimes sought out those ‘bad places’, purposely rolling the dice and daring the world to fcuk me. And sometimes it did. For the most part, I no longer am willing to roll dice. Having survived much more than my share of bad things, I am not looking forward to the scales balancing.

The fact is, there are threats around us every day. Planes fall out of the sky and kill people in their beds. I NEED for my kids to have memories of golden days at the beach with family and grandparents, even if I have to go to Massachusetts to make that happen. I NEED for my kids to live the wonder and magic of meeting the characters they love from their stories, come to life in front of them. I need them because those sorts of things shaped who I am and what I’ve done and I want my kids to have the same chance at that outcome.

Anyway, we went to the HLS&R on the last day of the event.

We went at opening time in the morning, both hoping to escape some of the heat, and the crowd. Due to the efforts of the open carry movement, we’ve seen several venues that previously were not posted become posted no CHL zones. If you gotta buy a sign banning open carry, you might as well take the sign they gave you for free and ban concealed too, right? HLS&R bans concealed carry on the basis that pro-rodeo is a professional sport and TX has exceptions to LTC for pro sports facilities. The livestock area is banned as an official school kids’ area for school sanctioned events. Sucks, and a step back as they are now posted legally and searching for contraband on entry.

Pocket knives are specifically allowed, so I left the 9 in the car, and carried the rest of my normal EDC. The only addition is that when we travel in my wife’s vehicle, my trauma bag moves from my truck to hers. No problem at entry, emptied my pockets into the bin, left the neck knife in place. Walked thru the metal detector- no beeps. They are using modern detectors with multiple indicator lights to show what vertical level the alert was triggered,  which was interesting. Also interesting that sensitivity was low enough not to trigger on the knife or chain. I guess all the big belt buckles would be setting it off…. Wife got a cursory bag check.

The day was sunny, partly cloudy, nice breeze, and somewhere between 80 and 90+ F. At the last minute I decided to wear my CoolVest. I’m really glad I did. I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a vest with phase change gel inside, that you soak with water. The water evaporates, and you are cooled. It is a bit clammy but the cool is worth it. I recharged it 3 times during the day, and would not have made it otherwise. I was still a bit off from all the sun the day before and from being sick last week. A big hat, light clothes, and the vest made the heat tolerable. If you find yourself affected more by the heat, you gotta get something with active cooling. Worth every penny.

We started at the carnival, which is set up with adult rides at one end, down to kiddie rides at the other. We started about 3/4 of the way- at the rides for teens and tweens (both my kids are tall for their age) and where the midway games were. The games gave dad a chance to point out some hard-learned and expensive lessons about carnival games and the value of prizes. Not sure the kids were impressed or convinced. The rides gave the 7 yo a chance to do some independent stuff, as we don’t ride spinner rides anymore. We spent the morning eating, playing, and riding, working our way toward the kiddie end so the 5 yo could ride some of her favorites.

Along the way, we did the farmer’s tour (thru the farmland, collecting fruit and veg, milking cows, shearing sheep, and then selling the results for cash, and depositing the cash in a bank at the end…. All simulated, but good fun for the kids. A bit of an exposition and a treasure hunt in one. The kids really like the milking simulator, now with improved teats! AND there was a corn pit. Y’all northern invaders can have your lame old ball pits, we’ve got Corn Pits!

[Corn Pit!]

[More Corn!]

And teat simulators!


Fun fact- dairy cows need about 35 gallons of water a day. Think about that if you’re thinking post-SHTF. Gonna need a LOT of water if you got cow.

One more pic for Miles 😉

[Fun on the Farm!]

A little while later, while standing in line for a ride, is when the security issue occurred. Something catches my eye. 2 uniformed cops, 50-60 feet away in our direction of travel, holding up some paper money and looking at it really hard. Heavyset hispanic male, wearing all ‘sports wear’ (team jersey and shorts, etc, in appropriate gang colors) covered in prison tats, including the entire hair area of his shaved head, standing there opposite the cops. Suddenly there are 4 cops. This is when I tell my wife we’re moving. We move away and sorta around a ride, the best cover in the area. Trying to keep the little ones behind me as we fade back, me still watching. Now there are 6 cops, and one is standing directly behind the male, with hand on pistol. Lots of discussion between cop and male going on.

I’ve got the wife alerted that there is danger. I’ve got her and the kids behind me, and tucked up against, and behind, the curve of the steel carny ride, while I skin an eye past the ride to keep watch. Kids are starting to realize something is going on, and keep milling around to see what daddy is looking at. Wife is trying to herd them back behind the ride. Now the male is getting a thorough pat down and search, still 6 on one, and postures are focused but not edgy. I don’t think gunfire or a chase is imminent but I sure as hell didn’t want to continue walking in that direction and pass within feet of the whole scene.

I’m pretty sure they’re gonna do a felony takedown and tell the wife that if anything happens to get UNDER the steel ride. We’re quite some distance away now, but can’t retreat farther without giving up what cover we have. Here’s where the prepping comes in…. 7 yo is still trying to get around me to see. Finally (and a bit late) I say what we’ve been practicing and discussing for a year or more. I say the family phrase that means “You have got to listen and do what I say RIGHT NOW. NO QUESTIONS UNTIL LATER. NOW.” And she does. My wife has tried telling her “stay put, daddy put you behind him for a reason”, but that didn’t work (but it did let me know she recognized the threat and my reaction). The trouble phrase did work.

I’m convinced that if you are gonna be out in public with your family, you need a way to alert them that no foolin’ shit just got real and they need to get with the program. You need to reinforce it too, and never use it for anything trivial. It should be normal words, but ones that don’t ever normally occur together, yet don’t sound alarming if overheard.

At this point, instead of things getting sporty, the cops and perp relax a bit, the 4 extra officers leave, and the remaining two escort tat-boy from the premises without cuffs. I guess talking does sometimes work, and not all perps are looking to be dragged thru a carnival in cuffs or go down in a blaze of glory.

Some observations on the scene. NO ONE ELSE seemed to be aware of any of this, or concerned in any way. (or like me the aware ones were very low key) People walked right past 6 cops surrounding a tatted up gang banger without a thought. The interview stance and the scrutiny they were giving the money, and the sudden arrival of additional officers should have been a big clue, even if you discount all the visual warning of a tatted up gang member. Most dangerous things LOOK dangerous.

I can envision at least 3 easy ways for this to have been a serious incident, but while I was watching and planning for a shootout, chase, or stampede, it never actually looked or felt that tense, so I kept my reaction innocuous and I thought at an appropriate level of caution. If words got exchanged or became heated or if others had come out of the crowd, we’d have been headed thru barricade and into service areas and out of there.

Cops had it under control the whole time, most people didn’t even notice, and we took (I think) reasonable steps based on my perception of the threat.

And then our day at the rodeo continued. More fair food was eaten, more rides were ridden, more animals were petted and some learning happened. We visited the baby piglets, and my sweetly vicious 5yo was laughing about how pigs were great because they had such tasty meat inside them. Cows and chickens too daddy!

It started getting to be late afternoon, the crowd vibe started changing. There were more singles wandering around with alcohol, and more of them were visibly impaired. The staff stopped picking up trash and cans were overflowing. Def time to go.

On the way out, we caught some of the Mutton Bustin’. This is awesome, and probably one of those ‘only in Texas’ things. Young kids, doing bronco busting on SHEEP. 5-8yo kids, riding angry sheep that outweigh them by 4x… and doing a damn fine job.

[Mutton Bustin’]

And with that we were off to the parking lot and home, but not before getting some more deep fried food, specifically, deep fried butter balls, with maple syrup and sugar. Boy those were good.

Some observations:

Economic —
The HLS&R sucks money out of people’s pockets like a Dyson. A turkey leg is $14. Bottle of water is $4. Sausage on a stick and a cup of iced tea was $15. Some of the carny games were $20 just for a chance at the big prize. (some were less and lots of people were winning prizes, and if you bought your tickets ahead of time, they were half price.)

Lots of people were throwing money down on food and games. Ride tickets were the same as game tickets, 50c each onsite, 25c prepaid. Some rides cost 12 tickets per person though, or more. The skyway cable cars were 9 tickets per person each way, so almost $20 if we’d bought onsite. $10 one way for the family as it was…. Again, NO SHORTAGE of people buying tickets onsite. By afternoon there were LINES to buy tickets.

The rodeo is very popular. It’s also in the heart of a traditionally black neighborhood, being at the Astrodome. Demographics on the last day were heavily skewed to black and hispanic. Judging by dress and visible tats, hair and nails, these were not the sort of people you would expect to have a few hundred bucks each to spend on turkey legs and carny rides– unless they were getting it from something other than work. In other words, other than families, the blacks looked like gangbangers and the hispanics looked like day labor, but both sets were dressed up in their versions of finery. Don’t get me wrong, there were LOTS of families that looked like ordinary folks. But there were a LOT of ‘urban’ fashions in gang colors, and a hell of a lot of visible tats. Older hispanics tended to be very neatly dressed in tucked shirts, pressed jeans and shirts, very clean and well groomed, basically Sunday clothes but jeans. Hispanic families had mom in charge, with the kids dressed up and neat. Blacks were either families with mom and dad and kids dressed normally, or single males in ‘sports wear’. Whites were in high-style ‘country’ or showing WAY too much flesh and tats. Whites tended to have much more colorful tats, blacks homemade line work, and the hispanics had small related stuff that was in lines instead of blocks (think a row of stars from shoulder to jaw up the neck.)  Gangsters of any color tend to lots of arm, neck, and face tats.

Didn’t see many hipsters. Did see a LOT of short shorts and baby doll tops on young girls.

The groups were all well mixed and getting along fine. Everyone (except the thieves and con artists) seemed to be there to have fun. There were not groups of young men or gangs but there were singles and people who were probably bangers just out with their families. Again though, daytime, on the last day. There was a fair amount of self sorting in proportion. More blacks in the older kid section of the carnival, more hispanics in the younger kid section, and more whites in the livestock areas. Normal demographics for Houston as a whole are 40% white, 40% hispanic, 10-15% black, asian and other take up the rest. In the carnival area, at least, white and black were swapped. Don’t know if it was anything to it, just offered as observation. Everyone goes to the Rodeo.

Did see a fair number of muslims, at least females that were easier to identify by dress. Not one Sihk, very few asians. Didn’t see anyone who was rowdy or out of control, didn’t see anyone who wasn’t well dressed (in their own fashions) or trying to look good.  There weren’t any groups of kids running wild.

The Rodeo is a big deal in Houston. There were a crap ton of visible cops OUTSIDE the venue but NONE inside. (Other than the ones dealing with the counterfeiter, I didn’t see any inside the perimeter that I noticed.) There are hundreds, if not thousands of ‘volunteers’ in vests, shirts, and IDs all thru the grounds. These ‘volunteers’ would be pros in any other event, but they aren’t event pros, they are Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo longtime volunteers. They are VERY well organized. There are committees for every conceivable part of the event. Other than not riding herd on the trash and cleanup staff, I didn’t see any other ‘public event’ issues. The porta-jons were plentiful and clean. There were running water hand-washing stations in every food area. There was a lot of lighting. Cables were all ramped. All the carny stuff was new looking and well painted. All in all a very well run event.

There are always risks involved when people get together. The world we currently live in has a constant low level drumbeat of attacks and incidents. Any given public event has a small chance of being attacked, and in any large event the current mode of attack is very limited in the number of victims possible. I’ll continue to make decisions on a case by case basis, but unless there are large scale attacks or I’ve got no faith in law enforcement or the event organizers, I’ll keep participating in these sorts of things. I’m certainly not going to let my wife take the kids while I stay home (which was my other option this weekend.)

So that was my Sunday. Fun and worth doing, even with the bit of excitement in the middle. Some pre-planning paid off. Some compromises were made. But fun was had by all, and that was the point.


(Deep fried, half inch thick bacon on a stick, oh yes, you will be mine. Fried butter balls with syrup, yes, in moderation. Funnel cakes, oh hell yes. But my favorite had run out, deep fried pecan pie. Maybe next year.)

Monday, 7 November 2016- guest post –some thoughts on ham radio

In response to H Combs question the other day, I said I would post links to my previous comments about getting started in ham radio, from a prepper point of view.

Here is the full text of one comment I wrote for another site.  The poster’s question was about the using the Baofang UV5 handy talkie for communicating with his parents in another state, and what would be involved in making that happen.  Following the text is a link to the original comment, and all the other replies.  Many of the replies have a lot of good info too.  [I’ve added comments in square brackets today.]


nick flandrey says:

I own this radio too [Baofang UV-5Rplus+], and like it for an entry level radio. It will give you access to local repeaters, (which will increase your effective range) and let you practice radio use with the entry level license- the Technician Class.

Getting that first license is straightforward and (relatively) easy depending on your knowledge of basic electronics. REALLY basic. Many of the exam questions are things like “what is the symbol for a resister?”

The quickest route to passing the exam is to use one of the online practice exams (free) and just keep taking it until you can consistently pass. You can see the correct answer to the questions and you can just learn those. All of the questions on the exam come from the exact same pool of questions as the practice, so this is a good, fast, way to prepare to pass the exam. While you are practicing, once you can pass the Technician test, start learning the questions for the General test. Depending on your starting knowledge, you can learn the questions and answers in a few days of study. DON’T spend money on this. There are several free services online.

Once you are passing the practice tests consistently, go online and find a local time and place to take the actual test. Most cities have them frequently. There is a small fee for the test. The ARRL website has links to training and testing. When you get to the test site, tell the volunteer examiner that you will be taking the Technician class test, and if you pass, you would also like to take the General class test. It doesn’t cost any more to take the second test after you pass the first, and it will give you a lot of additional frequencies and modes to use that will let you communicate longer distances directly. [this is important!  You will need the General Class to use voice on HF, which is the only way to get out of your immediate area if the grid, and UHF/VHF repeaters are down.]

Please note that this is NOT the traditional route to a license! There are many in the ham “community” that really frown on this approach. It is the quickest way to get on the air and use your radio legally (and you should not use it illegally, unless WROL conditions are likely to exist for a long time.) MANY folks in the prepper and emergency response community take this route because they just want to be able to use their radios and communicate with their teams, and have no interest in joining the larger ham community. I was this way when I started, and I used this method.

The traditional method, and a better way to actually LEARN about radios, ham, and the ham community, is to join a local club and get guidance and help from them. There is a long tradition of mentorship (having a mentor, traditionally called an “Elmer” to help train you and answer your questions, as well as indoctrinate you into the language, techniques, and culture of the amateur community). They would recommend starting with one of the ARRL test prep books, and learning the material vs. just learning the questions so you can pass. The books are well written, easy to follow, FULL of useful information, and can be had cheaply if you can find them second hand. The questions don’t change that often, so the books are good for a while. The info in the books is good even if they are older, just use an online prep site for the actual questions.

I chose to quickly pass the test, get on the air, and then go back and read the books to fill in the HUGE gaps in my knowledge. I’ve found that I like many aspects of the ham hobby and am slowly joining in the hobby, not just using my radio as practice for TEOTWAWKI. The hobby is MASSIVE with an enormous amount of different areas to focus on or learn about. (You can talk to the space station for example.) There is also a long history of public service (it’s one of the reasons amateurs are given use of the otherwise very valuable spectrum for free.) Many in the prepper and emergency response communities will find a lot of crossover with ARES or RACES which are ham organizations that provide communications support in the event of an emergency. There are others as well- Red Cross, Salvation Army, LDS, NOAA all have amateur supported groups.

Also, don’t get frustrated! Like any culture, amateur radio has an established language, history, and procedures. It can take a while to learn those things, and to feel comfortable. A local club will help tremendously with those things. One note, it can be very hard to get a “straight answer” to some questions. The hobby is large, the participants all have their own focuses, and most are reluctant to give limiting, definitive answers without knowing a lot about your particular situation. Some examples are “what radio should I buy? What antenna works best for (this specific thing) I want to do? How do I talk with my aunt in Idaho?” This is another area where having locals who know you can be hugely helpful.

Finally, I found some accessories will really help you use your radio. You will want a better antenna. They are cheap on ebay, less than $10, and will help. Also, a battery eliminator is a good bet, and the extended battery pack is highly recommended. I’d also suggest a mid-price dual band antenna on a magnet mount for your vehicle ($40) Using a handheld inside a vehicle is problematic. If you are worried about stealth use, a headset/earphone will help keep you quiet.

Get your license, get on the air on a local repeater, and practice! Most folks in the community are friendly, welcoming and responsive. When you find someone who is not, just ignore them and move on. You might find that you have added not just a prep, but a new hobby.

good luck,


oh, and to answer your original question. If you and your parents are in states covered by a repeater system, tied to other states, like the Saltgrass Network, or Winsystem, you may be able to use that radio to talk them during normal times when the repeaters and the internet are up. To talk state to state directly you will need radios capable of HF frequencies, a General class license, antennas, and some other stuff. Even buying used gear, you could spend $500 – $1000 at each end. The key in either case, is practice ahead of time.

/end of copy paste





Thursday, 18 August 2016 — Oh goody, a list!

Preppers love lists. And here is a TOP 50 list, hurray! Get this stuff and you’re set! Problem is, it’s a fantasy. It’s supposed to be Survival Items, but quickly devolves into comfort items and lifestyle items. It fails to acknowledge hard truths about a survival situation. In fact, there is so much wrong with it, I had to chime in. My comments in [ xxxx] snips with ….

Our Top 50 TEOTWAWKI Survival Items List

[SURVIVAL- not comfort, not rebuild society. That should be the final determination of whether something makes a SURVIVAL list.]

Rubbing alcohol: Not only is rubbing alcohol good for disinfect­ing, it can also be used as a great ice pack when combined 1:2 with water. Rubbing alcohol also works as a fire starter, cleaning and disinfecting tools and more. Just don’t use it for mixed drinks!

[so, primary use is icepack? Icepack is a survival item? Where will you cool it down? Rubbing alcohol is a USEFUL and cheap thing to store. Store the highest strength you can, and save it for disinfecting. NOT useful as a firestarter.]

Yarn: Having wool-yielding animals, processing wool, and spinning yarn is laborious, and unless you’re already an expert your future learn­ing curve will thank you for having a supply of yarns on hand for knitting warm clothing and making repairs.

[not survival- noted as NS! from here on out, lifestyle and requires a skill- noted as LS! Better to store warm clothing, extra items. You do not have the time or energy in a survival situation to knit!]

First aid ointment: A simple cut can result in serious infection if not treated properly. And because tubes of first aid ointment usually only contain an ounce, make sure you have plenty on your survival items list.

[oh for Pete’s sake, you need a bunch of medical supplies. You need references and training. A couple of bandaids and some ointment are NS! Better- make sure your survival med kit includes AB ointment, burn cream, suture alternatives like Steristrips, skin glue, or tape. You will need WAY MORE supplies for wound treatment than you think, stock up!]

Anti-diarrhea medications: Diar­rhea … regularly kills folks… [FIFY]

[meds, yes AD meds. Yes all of the OTC meds. AD meds can be survival, and you need salt replacement tabs or ORS electrolyte solutions too. Better get some anti-biotics too, not having them could kill you.]

Arnica: This homeopathic remedy [!!]… used as a home remedy for bruises and sprains. …

[OFP’sS! Lights are on people, stock the real stuff. Add some tiger balm to your medical preps if you are worried about bruises. NS! ]

Toiletries, deodorant, beauty products: …


Bleach: The importance of clean­liness and disinfection of cooking utensils, the home, garden tools, animal holdings, and more will in­crease as diseases increase in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. You should have lots of this on hand.

[can’t argue this, get bleach, get the powder to make more. Stored liquid bleach degrades in strength over time.  When you run out, salt has been used as a cleaner throughout history.]

Books of all sorts, in print: … entertainment. …

[a good reference library is vital for long term survival. First Aid could be vital for short term. Entertainment is NS! Yes, you should include the great works. NS! ]

Brewing/alcohol making sup­plies: …

[nice idea, NS! LS! needs knowledge and skills. Can be improvised with the knowledge and skills, WAY more useful as sterilizer and anesthetic than as recreation or trade item.]

Ammunition reloading equip­ment: A lot of people have a stored supply of ammunition, but once that runs out, will more be available at stores?

[stores?? wtf? survival!]

… could save a lot of money by investing in a reloading press.

[save money?? LS! needs knowledge and skills. STOCK UP NOW! Unless you are running and gunning, (in which case you aren’t saving your brass) you will use your ammo for hunting, which might be 50 rounds a year of the big stuff and more of 22. Better would be learn about traps, snares, and alternative QUIETER methods of taking game. If your focus is long term grid down, get some black power arms and learn to use them.]

Citric acid: It comes in canisters large or small, and is important for food preservation, cleaning, and as an additive for nutritious seed sprout­ing. It also acts as a meat tenderizer for the inevitable tough meats you’ll be eating, and can be used to flavor beverages. You can buy it in bulk online for your survival items list.

[right thing, wrong reasons, NS!]

Cocoa nibs: The health benefits of quality, unsweetened cocoa are well documented, and it will be worth its weight in gold as a cherished ingredient for sweets and treats. It can be used as a valuable barter item, but because of its storage abilities and ability to bring joy to a dreary existence, we recommend keeping it for yourself. And store more. Nibs can be used in themselves or ground into powder, so having nibs on hand is more versatile.

[OMFG. NS! LS! Survival does NOT mean sitting on the porch with a cup of cocoa!]

Paracord: You’ll need to tie things up and genuine milspec Paracord is stronger, lighter and more versa­tile than rope. Plus, the seven inner strands of Paracord can also be sepa­rated and utilized for another variety of uses only adds to its handiness and the importance of always keeping it with you. (We’ve used Paracord to lace up our hiking boots. Heck, you can even floss with one of the inner threads of Paracord! Can you tell we love this stuff?)

[paracord is a legitimate survival item, IF YOU KNOW WHAT you can use it for. Wearing the bracelet won’t save you. Long term survival– better is storing cordage of all kinds. Block and tackle, tow ropes, string, cord, thread, rope is a vital tool in a muscle powered world.]

Dates: Dried dates are a very nourishing, and very storable, food. They are very sweet, which will be welcome when sweeteners become scarce.

[WTF?- NS!]

MRE (Meals Ready to Eat): Grow­ing vegetables and hunting game are essential skills, but on the slow days, it’s good to have some back up. High-quality MRE has an extremely long shelf life and come in a variety of tasty flavors, so you’ll have variety on your survival items list.

[having some food, readily available, is a great survival tool. You can go a long time without food if you aren’t doing anything, and are sheltered. Not so true if you are doing heavy work or exposed to the elements. You will increase your short term chances the more you have readily available. I’ll leave discussion of whether MREs are tasty to those with extensive experience, but I’ve never heard them described that way. Better for the average person to store freeze dried backpacking meals, retort meals, or even protein powder shakes than MREs, and you better have much more than just enough for the occasional day when the garden isn’t producing or the game is scarce (ie MOST days.)]

Epsom salt: Epsom salts contain important magnesium, which is use­ful for soaking sore muscles, soothing sprains, and more. Epsom salt is also useful in the garden to help increase vegetable yields.

[again, like most of this list, NOT survival NS!]

Fabric: Chances are you’re forgetting some key, long-term items in your holdings, like fabric and the skills to make new clothing as your current stock wears out. In a bad sce­nario, your clothing will take much more of a beating than it currently does now, and you’ll wish you had denim, cotton, and more available for repairs or making new clothes.

[NS!! LS! assumes you’ve also got the knowledge and skill and other infrastructure to make clothes, as well as the time and energy. Better to store more clothes. SOME fabric is useful, mostly canvas, denim, etc, and was a staple of frontier life, but they bought clothes when they could afford it, because they were better than homemade. For long term survival– better to be sure you have replacement clothes for all the members of your group in appropriate sizes and for the various seasons.]

Feminine supplies: If you’re a woman or have women in the household, feminine supplies will be essential to have on hand, how­ever, we don’t recommend tampons. Why? One average female in the U.S. will use between 10,000 and 15,000 disposable tampons or pads in a lifetime, meaning there is no way to stock enough. Instead, stock reus­able sea sponges and reusable pads, which can be cleaned, disinfected, and reused.

[I’ll leave this for someone with experience, but there are other products that are better than “sea sponge” and many were used throughout history. For immediate survival, a good supply of feminine hygiene will help morale and health. Long term, NS!]

Nail files and nail clippers: Poor foot and nail maintenance and health can cause serious problems and in­fections later. Don’t underestimate the importance of caring for your feet and hands, arguably the most important tools you’ll have. [emp added]

[better to say for long term survival– store the grooming tools you need, razors, scissors, clippers, etc. Short term NS!!! Recommended– putting away sturdy boots, and all different kinds of gloves, and USE THEM to protect yourself.]

Water filtration and water puri­fication: Water is essential for life so you’ll need several gallons a day per person. So even if you store enough for a year, what about year two? It’s a good idea to have a good filtration system, as well as water purification tablets as backup.

[FINALLY we get to water. And, “it’s a good idea”??? It’s CRITICAL that you have water to drink and for sanitation. Tabs, filters, bleach, boiled, or irradiated, you need to get it, treat it, store it, use it. FIRST NEED is water.]

Medicinal houseplants: Aloe vera’s medicinal uses are wonderful, so we recommend having renewable resource of medicinal houseplants like aloe vera and citronella. Can’t grow houseplants? Now is the time to learn. Collect medicinal houseplants and make sure you know how to grow them effectively for the home medicine arsenal.

[oh jeez, more amateur NOT survival lifestyle crap. Much more effective things are available right now, stock up! Sure, plant the garden, but medicinal use of plants is lifestyle and again depends on skills and knowledge. Add some books to your reference library.]

Games: Along with good books, games are more important than you think to keep the family sane. TVs and DVD players breakdown in time, but Uno, poker, chess, and checkers never wear down and are always available to you and your family when it’s too dark and cold outside to do anything else. Winters will be longer than you think without entertainment.

[ok, I’m gonna be kind and put this as Nice to Have, for long term survival. Distracting the kids is ok, but it’s not gonna feed them or keep them safe.]

Garlic: As a valuable flavor en­hancer and for its medicinal and healing properties, there is no way you can have enough. We also recom­mend storing and regularly rotating bulbs for growing garlic of your own when stored supplies run low.

[someone is confused about the hobby homesteader and SURVIVING THE END OF THE WORLD. NS!]

Ichthamol ointment: This sticky, dark, slightly stinky goop is also known as drawing salve and it works incredibly well for extracting splin­ters. Just a dab will do ya, so a one-ounce tube of it will last years. Every medicine cabinet should have this.

[no idea what this is, but a magnifying glass, AB cream, and tweezers work great, are quick, and should be part of medical preps. No need to stock something else. Oh, and NS!]

Hand tools: Repairs to your shel­ter and anything else will be neces­sary. There are many antique and new hand tools that will drill, dovetail, saw, and plane wood for shelter maintenance. Invest in the basics.

[This is a whole post right here. Yes, hand tools, but also POWERED TOOLS for as long as you can. Also needs a ton of skills and knowledge to be put to use. Long term only.]

Hemp seeds: Hemp is good for fiber for nets and rope, can be woven into excellent fabric, and can be used to make a good milk product. No, it won’t make you high.

[No you won’t be making fiber and rope. NS!]

Honey: It has an indefinite shelf life (honey has been found in Egyp­tian tombs and is still perfectly ed­ible) and is important as a sweetener. You’ll also need honey’s antibacterial properties to heal wounds. Make sure it’s 100 percent pure honey.

[NS! No one ever died because they didn’t have sweetener. Not a bad idea to put up honey though, for the reasons listed, just not a survival item.]

Potassium iodate (KIO3): Potas­sium iodate is a critical item to have in the event of a nuclear disaster. Ra­dioactive fallout can travel thousands of miles and if you’re in the zone where it occurs, you can be sickened and die in short order. KIO3 protects your sensitive thyroid gland from the effects of radioactive iodine, meaning you don’t want to be without this important precaution.

[I’ll leave this to RBT to comment, but I get the feeling the author has no knowledge or experience and is just parroting this.  And how will he know to take the pills unless he’s got monitoring equipment?]

Compost pile: Composting is environmentally friendly and will enrich your soil to help plants grow. You can throw any vegetable waste in your compost pile (and even coffee grounds and egg shells), but abso­lutely no meat, fat or sweet things that might attract rodents or bugs. Locate your compost pile well away from the house, keep it moist and turn it over regularly.

[OMFG NS! Not even long term. Nice to have, not critical.]

Loom: Storing fabric is impor­tant, but having a loom available for weaving blankets, clothing, and more will be important. A large loom is not necessary; even small woven squares can be stitched together into larger items.

[argg. hippy hobbyist. NO NOT A SURVIVAL ITEM.]

Lye: Lye is used in soap making and to preserve or prepare certain types of food, like hominy, curing olives, or making century eggs. It will also be impossible to make soap without lye. Historically, lye was made using wood ashes, but this process takes time to learn to do cor­rectly, and some woods work better than others.

[ok might be a long term item, but can be made onsite. If you are making soap post SHTF, you can make lye.]

Needles/thread: Don’t underesti­mate the amount of thread that will be necessary for clothing repair, and how easily needles can break when being used regularly. During the Revolutionary War, sewing needles were a trade item among women. It’s a good idea to stock different thicknesses of thread, making sure not to neglect heavy-duty thread for repairing jeans or leather items. And knitting needles will enable you to make sweaters, mittens and blankets to a host of other items. Sewing and knitting are essential skills.

[I’ve got a sturdy threaded needle in my everyday carry, so I’m gonna say it can be appropriate for a survival list. Small, light, and useful. Store a bunch.]

Oil press: Oil is not only for cook­ing, it is also for soap making, food preservation, and health and skin care. The problem is that oil doesn’t store well. An oil press will allow you to extract oils from nuts or seeds.

[Long term? IDK, but not something on everyone’s mind. I’m thinking animal fat is way more plentiful and useful. ]

Old medical books: While treat­ments can be found in old medical books, they’re most important use is to diagnose disease symptoms. Many diseases have been near eradicated and medical books no longer teach students what they look like. These diseases will likely reemerge in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

[Falls under reference library. And if you get the right books, modern books DO have diagnostic info, as well as modern treatment. Does you no good to know Johnny has croup if you don’t know what to do about it.]

Pencils/pens/paper: We hardly use them anymore, but they will become more desirable and more valuable later. Make sure you have enough.

[I’ve got a pencil and some paper in my kit, so ok, but generally not a survival item. USEFUL as all get out, not critical.]

Reading glasses: We age and along with that comes reading diffi­culties once we hit middle age. Keep several pair, in case you lose or break them… which you will.

[long term. Spare prescription glasses if you use them should be MUCH higher up your list. You can’t IFF before shooting if you can’t see.]

Salt: No, you’re not storing enough for eating or food preserva­tion. It never goes bad. Store more.

[FINALLY, a good item, long term, not short]

Shoes for children: …

[covered before]

Slingshot: Silent, deadly, and accurate with practice, the sling shot is a way to defend yourself and hunt small game, even when ammo runs out. Rocks can be used effectively if you have practice under your belt. Make sure everyone in your group has at least one.

[Not silent, Not deadly.  The rubber bands degrade rapidly. If you think you’ll be hunting with a slingshot, you better learn to use a sling, or an arrow thrower too. gahh.]

Soap: Cleanliness will be para­mount as basic societal conditions decline. [no it won’t] While you can make your own bar soap, make sure you have enough soap of all kinds, like soap flakes for laundry [just shredded bar soap], or ammonia, to keep up with the cleaning demands. Cleanliness is one of the most impor­tant things to pay attention to. [no, not really, water, food, and security rank a lot higher.]

Socks:… [already covered under clothes and shoes]

Sundried tomatoes: …..

[OMFG. SO NOT survival.]

Stainless steel buckets, milk pails, etc.: Stainless steel will almost last forever. Buckets and milk pails are easy to disinfect and clean, too. Forget plastic in the home—it de­grades and becomes increasingly difficult to keep sterile and clean.

[WTF? NOT SURVIVAL!!! Hobby farmer!]

Tea tree oil: Due to its long shelf life (indefinite) and ability to assist with wound healing and disinfec­tion, tea tree oil is an essential item to have in your medicine cabinet. It can be used alone or added to other skin preparations.

[what is with this guy? get some AB cream!]

Heirloom seeds: Why heirloom seeds? Because you’ll be able to save the seed year-after-year for continued harvests. GMO and hybridized seeds won’t produce viable offspring, and many times the resulting seed won’t even germinate. A good heirloom-based seed bank is paramount.

[ok, long term. Define “good” though.]

Tobacco seeds: Growing tobacco for trade will give you an edge, and it has uses as a plant for making re­pellants in the garden for problems such as aphids, borers, rodents, and more.

[I’ll let RBT address this, since he’s gonna do the experiment, but NS! I’ll note that production of tobacco historically needed a lot of workers, and takes them away from food production.]

Seed-starting supplies: … [nice, not critical]

Vitamin C: …for scurvy prevention.

[Just about any dark green veg has this, as well as tomatoes, citrus, etc. in other words, unless you are in a cave eating hard tack you probably don’t need to worry about scurvy. Long term, stock a couple of jars of multivitamins. That will address any other deficiencies you have too.]

Alternate energy sources: Elec­tricity and natural gas may not be available from the utility company during a bad situation. [ MAY NOT?????] Think about how else to heat the house (such as a wood stove) and provide electrical power (e.g. windmill, solar panels).

[long term you are back to the traditional sources, heat, muscle, wind, water, chemical.  Make sure you can utilize them.]

Animals: The amount of wild game available will likely dwindle with time.

[there will be NONE in most of the likely SHTF scenarios, see any account from WWI or WWII or Selco about cities or countryside during wartime, nor will there be any dogs or cats.]

Having livestock such as sheep and goats will enable you to sustain yourself with meat, milk and fiber. Not everyone has the room for animals on their property, but if you can, do it.

[almost no one has room, or knowledge, better to raise chickens or rabbits if this is a concern for you.]



So much fail in a single list. Oh, it might have been ok if the list was titled “50 things you might have forgotten, and would be nice to have if SHTF” but it was titled SURVIVAL.

The list is more telling about the person who wrote it, than a guide for essentials. NOT ONE mention of defense against hostile people or animals. Lots of airy fairy new age-y items. Several items that evoke a hobby farm or gentleman farmer lifestyle. An emphasis on comfort and continuing a modern lifestyle. This author is not gonna make it through a TEOTWAWKI event. He clearly hasn’t considered it from an urban or even suburban perspective, nor does he sound willing to make hard choices.

Part of his problem is that you have short- and long- term survival and the problems and needs are different. Worst case is a short term event that results in a long term situation, like a plague that kills a large percentage of the population, or a surprise attack that results in a technological collapse. First you have to survive the event, then you have to find a way to live in the aftermath. Different skills, different stuff.  It also helps to define the requirements by deciding what your goals are. Do you want to just survive for a period of time until outside help arrives or rebuild a society?

Your answers are going to shape your preps.  In the mean time, use his list as a nudge about some things you may have forgotten about, but other than water, food, and salt, there’s not much here that will help you survive.


Saturday, 13 August 2016 Home made first aid kits

Based on comments from a previous post, here is some discussion of basic first aid kits.

FWIW, I like to build my basic kits and my much more capable ‘car kits’ around a makeup organizer or a toiletries organizer. I find them often in thrift stores and yard sales for only a buck or two.

New comments, or additions are in [square brackets]


Dave says:
22 August 2015 at 15:18 (Edit)

Here are the contents of my under $10 first aid kit:

30 clear adhesive bandages
0.33 oz triple antibiotic ointment
50 extra strength acetaminophen tablets
50 alcohol prep pads
5 2×2 gauze pads
5 3×3 gauze pads
5 yards of 1/2″ adhesive tape

Everything listed above fits in a one quart zip top bag.

[I think you are a bit heavy on bandaids, and could use more styles. I like the fabric ones as they stick well. Consider having a couple of sizes of traditional shapes, plus finger tip and knuckle, and at least one big one for a skinned knee.]

nick says:
22 August 2015 at 20:15 (Edit)

Hey Dave, some things to think about adding,

tube of crazy glue (to glue skin, stings like fire but works)
wet naps (get some at chick fil a)
packets of sunscreen (like a condiment pack at fast food, might be in the sample size section of your store)
sunblock chapstick
fewer tablets,
gloves- vinyl if you are worried about latex allergies.

[trauma shears are great, but a good sharp ‘kitchen’ style scissor works well. Any scissor is better than none, as long as it is sharp. For a knife, even a ‘wallpaper’ style disposable box cutter works- the kind with snap off blades. It’s cheap, sharp, and small.]

OR just buy one of these kits. I have several versions and like the quality and what’s included.

The 1.0 kit is a good balance of price and performance.

In general, you are right that you can put together a better kit for the money, but the Adventure Medical kits do a good job of proving that wrong (or LESS right.)


BTW- great job taking that step! Keep adding to your preps!

[I still like the AdvMed kit as a starting point.]

Dave says:
23 August 2015 at 14:06 (Edit)


The first aid kit is intended to go in a vehicle emergency kit, which will be a little stripped down to start with. I’m betting that I’ll be there with a knife and a flash light that I’ll remember to grab the flash light out of the car. The other suggestions look like things I will want to add when I expand the kit.

The things I think are missing:

1. Oral rehydration salts.
2. A splint and a more effective pain reliever than acetaminophen.
3. A weeks supply of my prescription meds.
4. Some loratadine tablets.

The last item is for my wife, and the other things are things I actually could have used at one point or another. On our last vacation, my wife and I both could have used the oral rehydration salts. Would have made the vacation a little less memorable.

[the anti-diarrhea meds are a staple of my kit, and in my briefcase, and my boo boo kit. I don’t think you need anything stronger than Tylenol but you might want to consider fewer Tylenol tabs, and adding a few anti-inflammatory tabs, like Motrin, and a few anti-histamines, like Benadryl. I carry electrolyte salt tablets, for dehydration and hangover relief. Splints are likely overkill, and are pretty easy to improvise. ]

[I also think, due to the changing nature of the threat, that you need to consider gunshot or other trauma, even in a basic kit.   I’d add 2 rolls of Kerlix and a couple of 4×4 gauze pads.

A penlight, a Sharpie marker, and a large safety pin would be good adds too.  An instant cold pack is nice if you have the space.

You can still fit this into a pretty compact package, and it adds a great deal of capability.]

[Medical prep in general is a big topic and deserves more in depth coverage, but I’m gonna limit this post to the basic first aid kit.]




ADDED_____________ 2pm


Finally found a couple of the others, so I’ll make this even more of a mega post!


  • nicksays:

    Ok, I’ll bite, since I’m in serious work avoidance mode.

    And I’ve got my ‘blowout kit’ right here in my range bag.

    Small samsonite toiletries bag, about 2.5x4x7 inches, that unzips in a clamshell and lays flat.

    Loose in the middle,
    israeli bandage
    trauma shears
    medical tape
    maglite (if you use led, it must have good color rendering)
    3 pr gloves

    in the loops on one side
    4x sterile pad, 3×3 folded in half
    1x roll kerlix
    1x roll gauze
    4x sterile pad, 3×3 folded in half
    extra shears

    in the zippered mesh pouch on the other side
    8x assorted size and shape fabric bandaids
    4x alcohol prep pads
    2x single use Povidone-iodine ointment
    4x kleenhanz antimicrobial moist towelettes
    1x envelope of wound closure strips (steri-strips) 8 @3 inches
    2x maxi-pads, full size, generic, no fragrance
    1x package, 2 @4×4 topper dressing sponges
    1x 4×4 Exuderm OdorShield (what I had handy as a chest seal)
    1x black sharpie marker
    1x sheet of paper, folded for notes

    So there is some stuff in there that is not strictly gun shot treatment, but then I don’t have to carry another ‘boo boo’ kit (although I carry my altoids tin one whenever I’m with the kids.)

    The bags in my vehicles are scaled up versions of the blowout kit, and include gorilla tape, more of everything, ice packs, etc. I’d have to get one out to go thru and list it all.


    [OFD asked if that all fit in the Samsonite toiletries bag]

    yep all that fits in the little Samsonite bag. The bag goes into my range bag most of the time. Since I don’t travel with the range bag, the blowout kit goes into my carryon. I checked the TSA rules, and trauma shears meet the rules for allowed scissors, and they didn’t steal them on my last trip.

  • nick says:

    Ok, ‘boo boo kit’ in an altoids tin, goes in pocket whenever I go anywhere with the kids.

    Loose, or in top half

    6x assorted shapes and sizes fabric bandaids, incl one big enough for a scraped knee
    3x sheets of rite-n-rain notepad paper.
    3x imodium anti-diarrhea med

    tucked firmly and completely into the bottom half
    6x alcohol wipes
    1x single use triple antibiotic cream
    1x small tube crazy glue
    4x fabric knuckle bandaids
    1x One third of a paper book of matches
    1x wooden golf pencil
    1x prethreaded sewing needle, 18 inch black thread, wrapped around pencil
    1x lens cleaner wipe
    2x stick of caffinated chewing gum (BlackBlack, from asia)
    1x safety pin

    It is a little puffy, and won’t quite stay closed by itself, so I have a rubber bracelet around the outside (like the ‘live strong’ bracelets)

    I also wrote “med only” on it to remind myself not to put anything with a blade in it so I can take it on the plane.

    If I had a small tweezer, I’d include that too. and since I carry a credit card sized magnifier in my wallet, I don’t need one in my kit.




I like toiletries organizers or cosmetics organizers for medical bags. They fold open flat, sometimes with a pouch that folds out again for a tri fold, they have zippered mesh pouches and elastic loops. They are super cheap at yard sales and thrift stores, and some of them are better quality than the chinese import tactical bags. No external molle, but that’s not a problem. I like them about 8 x 9 x 3 inches for truck bags. Big enough to hold a lot of supplies, small enough to fit under a seat. I wouldn’t recommend the classic ‘dopp’ bag, or any other that just zips open on the top (shaving bag). You want it to fold open and lay flat so you can see everything.



Wednesday, 3 August 2016- Traveling and the prepper, some thoughts

I can say from experience that when you are an active prepper, travel and vacation are much more stressful than when you are blissfully unaware. This is especially true when traveling by air and with your family.

The amount and type of preps you can carry/use are greatly limited, and I have to just accept that I’m not really going to be as prepared as I’d like to be. It usually means NOT carrying a GHB, sometimes not having access to a firearm, being far from your preps, and other stressful limitations. The only way I can do it is to compartmentalize mentally, and accept that there are times and events that I can’t prep for adequately.

That said, there are things you can do.

Whenever possible, travel with at least a pistol and an extra mag. Arm up as soon as you can after arrival. (Or don’t travel by air.) If you can’t carry, add another knife. You can CHECK your pistol/s and/or rifle/s when you arrive at the airport. You just ask for a firearms declaration form at the baggage check in counter. At least here in TX, that doesn’t even get you a second look. Of course, read and understand the policy for your airline. It will be on their website. Some people recommend printing the policy and carrying it in case you run into a clerk that doesn’t know the rules, but I’ve never had issues. FOLLOW THE RULES TO THE LETTER and you should be fine. One thing you will need is a locking box. I use this:

in a laptop sleeve, locked inside my luggage. You should also research the laws in your destination state and city regarding ownership, carry, and any other restrictions. There is a lot of info available online, just look at the dates of any posts and make sure you are looking at a current article.

My blow out kit moves from my range bag to my carryon bag for air travel. Given recent events, it just seems prudent to have upgraded medical capability with you at the airport. Trauma shears are allowed again. Look at the TSA website for details on blade length.

Consider using a backpack/bookbag for a carryon. Hands free is critical for self defense and movement. DON’T carry anything with molle or camo patterns unless you want everyone to notice you. This is especially true for overseas travel. I use an older Targus laptop bag. It has a ton of pockets and compartments, is well padded and sturdily made, was cheap, and isn’t at all ‘tacticool’.

Carry a nice metal flashlight that can work as a weapon. I love my Pelican 1920, you might like something different.

Think about getting a tactical pen, or whatever alternative weapons you can carry and use. A simple metal mechanical pencil or metal pen can make an effective weapon when nothing else is available.

My ‘boo boo kit’ (my altoids tin “everyday” survival kit) goes with me everywhere the kids go. It has basic medical and comfort items. It can’t go in carry on luggage because it includes a Leatherman micra and a Gerber STL 2.0 knife but my blowout kit has bandaids and minor first aid in it, so I put the ‘boo boo kit’ in a checked bag. I have an ‘airplane’ boo boo kit that doesn’t include the multitool and knife, but my wife usually carries that.

My checked toiletries bag includes a good multitool, spare knives, antibiotics and anti-diarrheal meds, as well as normal OTC meds. I have more OTC anti-diarrheal and some other handy OTC meds in my carry on bag in a little pouch.

Having a couple of energy bars in your carryon is smart. Having a couple more in your checked bag is even smarter. Distribute them throughout your group, but have at least one bar per person with you.

Keep your eyes open, and your threat condition up.

Look at a map, know where you are and have at least a basic idea of where you might go.

Look at where you are staying, identify exits, look at the structure, look around when arriving to see the area and neighborhood.

If you are going to be someplace longer than a day or two, see if you have friends or relations nearby. Or friends of friends. Yes, just showing up somewhere is WAY less than optimal for all involved, but it’s better than NOT having a plan or a (possibly) friendly face at the end of the trip.

Some online folks claim to assemble a GHB at their destination whenever they are away from home for any length of time. Some of the articles were very interesting especially looking at what you could get quickly and cheaply from stores or from yardsales. It’s worth thinking about. What would you grab and where from if you had to equip yourself in a hurry?

Try out this thought experiment:

What I can put together just from stuff in my bags?

For me, it’s pocket knives, multitool, energy bars, bottled water, a pretty good first aid kit, OTC drug bag, water resistant outerwear-long pants and a pullover, several flashlights, extra batteries, ham radio HT with listen only on public service bands, ziplok baggies, cable ties (zip ties), a couple of binder clips, chargers, a lightweight extension cord, and two ereaders (entertainment and distraction for the kids).

What can I grab from the hotel room?

Typically you will find lightweight blankets, pillow cases, bottled water, anything from the mini-bar, any electrical cords and string from blinds, small hand towels, plastic bags from trash cans, soap, and improvised weapons from chair legs, ironing board, or other furniture.

Speaking of staying in hotels, take a minute to find the fire stairs and note which direction they are from your room. If the door isn’t alarmed, open it and see if you can get back in from the stairwell, or if the door locks behind you. An advanced tip is to locate the service elevator. It’s usually behind a plain or ‘staff’ door, behind the public elevator. If there are multiple elevator banks, it’s often behind the one furthest from the front desk. I’ve never run into one that needed a special key or key card to operate and it just might get you down and out in a hurry if needed. Check if it needs a key card to call it to your floor. Public elevators usually need a key card for the ‘special’ floors, but the service elevator usually counts on security by obscurity. The service elevator will also either go to lower floors or open the back door to access utility spaces. They are usually not crowded, and may be a faster way out than the front exit.
Casinos are a special case. Generally, casinos take access control and security VERY seriously. Don’t mess about in a casino.

Don’t forgot the most important travel prep– cash and other convertibles…

CASH is king. An event like 9-11 will take out pretty much all landline comms in the area. That means ATMs, POS machines, and credit card terminals will stop working. As soon as you know a major event has happened, find a cash machine and max withdraw on every card in your wallet. Screw the fees for cash advancing from a credit card, you will need the cash. You can always put it back if you don’t use it. If you are accustom to using cards for everything, at a minimum be sure you have cash advance activated on your cards and know how to use them.

CASH is king. Have some on you. You should have at least $100 in $20s, several hundreds if you can afford it. Distribute it throughout your stuff, so you can’t lose it all at once if you have a ‘misadventure.’

While cash is king, having some other easily convertible valuables on you is a good idea too. This is what that stainless steel Rolex watch is for. It’s your border crossing bribe, your last seat on the last flight out, your taxi ride to the border, your ‘get out of dodge’ money. A genuine Rolex is widely recognized and widely exchangeable for cash. Even in America, any pawnshop in the country will give you cash for a Rolex. Anyone routinely traveling overseas should consider a plain Rolex, and it’s a fairly unobtrusive and useful prep here.

Since I don’t have a Rolex, I carry a few small gold coins. They are a bit harder to convert, but if you have any time at all, there are LOTS of places to do so. As part of prepping, and USING your preps, take some time and go to a pawn shop, or ‘cash for gold’ place and see what it’s all about. At the very least, read about it online. You’ve already got PMs as part of your preps, carry a few with you when traveling. Smaller coins are preferable to bigger ones. Carrying a couple of gold chains might be a good choice too, but they will be harder to convert to cash anywhere other than a ‘cash for gold’ shop, or pawnshop.

Travel is usually stressful enough, even without the added concerns that prepping brings. Take a few minutes, do what you can, and then accept that it isn’t optimal, but it’s the best you can do under the circumstances. Use your most important tool, your mind, and stay aware, but don’t let your concerns spoil family time on your vacation. It’s possible to find the balance.


Let’s try out this guest post thing!

I posted this in Sunday’s comments, but let’s try it as a guest post (with a few edits).

I think I’ve shared before, but if not, here’s how I approached food storage.

Some needed background: I started prepping for a specific event– Y2K causing social disruption or an excuse for terror attacks. Since I lived in CA, those preps morphed into my “earthquake kit”, then after a move to the Gulf Coast, it became my “hurricane kit.” My focus was on a regional disaster of limited duration, and local effect (aid could come from outside the region but would be delayed in arriving.) As such I had NO bulk long term storage of staples. Ebola and RBT’s prompting, as well as the deteriorating world political and economic climate convinced me I needed to up my food storage significantly. This is when I added “significant and prolonged economic downturn” and “global collapse” to my prepping scenarios.

Back to food. In all my preps I strive for ‘defense in depth’ and redundancy. Food is no different. I think of my food storage in tiers.

First is my pantry. This is the food in the kitchen. Stuff we eat every day, and cooking supplies. Fresh vegetables and meat in the fridge, fresh fruit, and some canned sides and seasonings. Before the kids, we ate mostly home cooked meals, made from primary ingredients. We eat more prepared foods, and convenience foods now, and fewer ‘made from scratch’ meals. That’s changed what’s in the cabinets a bit, as there are more quick pastas and other quick side dishes but it’s mostly stuff we eat regularly and often.

Second tier is my “store”. This is the area just inside my garage (steps from my kitchen by going out the back door) where I keep a “store” for items we use up on a regular basis. They are on shelves and can easily be seen and grabbed to take into the kitchen and restock the pantry. My freezer and second fridge are here. The shelves hold 3-6 months usage of stuff like condiments, peanut butter and jelly, snacks for the kids’ lunches, ziplok bags, some cleaning stuff. It’s meant to be the first place to go when something in the kitchen that we use all the time runs out, instead of running to the store. It also has some things we don’t use as often but like to keep close by like rice cups, crock pot sauces, peanut oil, bottled drinks and juice boxes, etc. The fridge holds eggs, milk, cream, beer, wine, soda, cheese in many forms, and fresh meat if it won’t fit in the kitchen or is waiting for me to repack and freeze it. The small freezer in the fridge holds microwaveable meals, bread, pizza, mostly convenience foods. The modestly sized chest freezer holds meat mainly, much of it bought in bulk then repacked and vac sealed. Sometimes there is bread, usually some Costco heat and eat convenience food, and a couple gallons of frozen liquid eggs. The majority is bulk protein.

The third tier, and area, is some relatively recent shelving. It holds my backups for the “store” area, bulk cleaners, my serious canned goods, sauces, seasonings, oils, etc. I consider this my longer term area as it has stuff we don’t normally eat much of (canned veg, meat, and beans) but will be needed if we get to that point. I do pull from this area directly when I make something with pouch meat, canned ham, or I need a quick side dish that’s not on the shelf in the “store” area. Ideally everything in this area has a 2 year or longer shelf life. I have some of it organized on cardboard flats in 30day groupings. One flat has 30 cans of meat. One has 30 cans of veg or starch. The two flats together are minimal meals for our family for 30 days. I can see at a glance how many days I can get with just those 30 day flats. I’ve also got my Mountain House freeze dried meals in this area. I have them in boxes of so many people for so many days. Ie, each box has breakfast, lunch, snack, drink flavors, and dinner for x people for x days. I can grab the boxes if we have to leave in a hurry and know I’ve just got to add water and heat. They are light and compact.

When groceries come home they go into the pantry if fresh, or into the third tier if long term. The third refreshes the second, and the second refreshes the pantry and kitchen. There is some rotation by doing it this way, just less than perfect because some of the items never get used in normal life.

The last tier is bulk staples. These are not something I use or access ever. I just put them in buckets or bins, and hope I never get that hungry. Flour, rice (couple varieties), salt, sugar, oil, powered milk, and some coffee in big tins. If things really go south, I expect this to extend the other tiers of stored food, and/or to provide charity or assistance if prudent. If I buy some long term storage freeze-drieds, this is where they will go.

Finally, the TV coverage of the tornadoes in OK a year or so ago convinced me of the need to have backups OFFSITE. So I have a lot more bulk, cans, water, fuel, stoves, pots and pans, and other supplies stored elsewhere. That was a bit of a ‘panic buy’ and is far less organized. I expect a bunch of spoilage in that offsite storage, although I’m trying to rotate some of it home. Like I said before, I expect spoilage and waste in my long term storage food. We just don’t eat those things in our everyday lives, and my storage conditions are less than ideal. I can live with it. Can’t live without it 🙂


So that’s how I do it. The system has evolved over time, and worked well through several regional disasters. The addition of longer term and bulk was very easy to integrate, as I just tacked it on to the back end. I’ve still got a way to go, but I feel pretty good about where I am at the moment, and can focus on other things. It should be clear, but if it’s not, almost all of it was incremental. With the exception of the couple of months when I added a bunch of cans and bulk to every Costco trip in my ‘panic buy’, I built what I have by simply buying a bit extra with every shopping trip, especially looking for bargains and buying what was on sale at the time.

I’m looking forward to the comments, and seeing how this whole thing looks 🙂