Monday, December 14, 2015

Gifts of Preparedness for the New Year

Need ideas for useful stocking stuffers? Need to go bigger but have no idea what the recipient wants or needs?

It would be a very rare person who could not benefit from thoughtfully chosen survival and preparedness gifts. Consider a flashlight for a common "emergency" of finding a lost earring, but one so tiny it's adorable and clips to a keychain or purse to be always at the ready. That same tiny light might be lifesaver if a power outage leaves the owner stranded in a dark, unfamiliar building.

You get the idea: gifts with "normal emergency" uses that could also be at home in a disaster "go-bag." Here's a list of ideas in modest price ranges and a few examples of extra things to create an impressive gift "bundle" with a theme.

Streamlight 73001 Nano Light Miniature Keychain LED Flashlight, Black (about $10) or similar

  • Other keychain tools/gadgets include things like the Gerber Shard, the DoohicKey Multi-Tool, the Swiss+Tech Utilii-Key 6-in-1 Tool, a cheap P38 can opener, or a mini-magnesium fire starter.

Paracord Bracelet to keep minimum 550 cordage at hand (or tuck it in or clip on to daypack or hiking fanny pack)

  • This can be paired with any number of knot-tying educational gifts like a deck of cards with knots illustrated on the backs or Brain Fitness Knot So Fast game.

Emergency Fire Starter ranging from a simple mini-Bic to waterproof matches in a cool container to a Swedish FireSteel to one of the newer quick-strike starters like the Lightning Strike by Holland

Lifestraw personal water filter or similar (no one can have too many of these but spend for certified name brands)
  • Pairs as a theme with a water bottle with purification tabs, a hiking canteen with stainless cup for boiling water, etc.

Survival whistle -- I"m partial to the SOL Rescue Howler Slim as it fits on a keychain, can be heard up to a mile away, has no "pea" to get lost or stuck, and is plastic (safer in freezing temps). Super cheap so put one in everyone's stocking.

Seat belt cutter and window punch / breaker (as low as $7) for that one time the slippery roads send the car into high water or a roll-over.
  • This pairs nicely with other car  emergency items like a warm blanket(s), first aid kit, flashlight, high-calorie emergency bars, etc.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Frugal Preparedness Gifts - More Time Than Money

In the last post, I talked about giving Christmas gifts that were a hands-on experience. You took the time to put needed items together for a particular experience and then either printed instructions on their use or worked with the recipient to show them how learn the skill.

Want other very frugal but valuable gift ideas that might one day help the recipient stay safe? Let's look at some thoughtful gifts that take only YOUR own time and YOUR knowledge to assemble. These should make you feel good to give if you know the recipient should have these emergency preparations but likely will never put forth the effort.

#1.  Maps for emergencies

When a disaster (tornado, flood, rail-car explosion, etc.) happens near your home or across your region, you need to know where to go and the best alternate routes to take to get there. Even if your giftee has a good GPS system, the device is not programmed to consider hazards to avoid, etc.

Let's start with a local map. Most chambers of commerce or some real estate agencies will provide one or two of these for free. Use your local knowledge to mark routes from your giftee's house that do not have to cross railroad tracks or notorious flood-prone areas. Use a different color of highlighter to mark hospitals and buildings that are designated emergency shelters. Say your friend or family member is out shopping on a hot August day and the tornado sirens go off. Would he or she know the nearest safe shelter when there is no time to drive home to the basement?

If your city is large enough to have an emergency management director, call that office to ask if they have maps with public shelters marked already. If not, ask if you can come by and have someone mark up a map with you. (You will be learning valuable information for yourself if you did not already know all of the locations to mark on the map.)

Of course, to mark alternate routes for each major direction, you need to know what larger highway system you want to hook up to. We've all seen the pictures of interstate highways clogged and not moving an inch. Secure a state map and examine reliable but alternate routes to highlight. Do you know where the recipient would choose to go if home was not inhabitable? Mark those spots and routes.

You might place these maps in plastic "sheet protectors" for durability. And perhaps include those in a binder you label as Emergency Info.

#2.  Emergency Contacts
This are sheets you create to provide phone numbers and email addresses for a variety of entities such as all local utility providers, poison control 800 numbers, Red Cross, etc.

If you know family members of the giftee or that person's close friends, you can start a hard copy of numbers to reach those people. Because Murphy's Law tells us just when you need to call Uncle Jake in Idaho, your cell phone is dead and you cannot find his number. (You could still call to say you are on your way for an emergency visit if you can borrow someone else's phone or use a land line once you are at a safe place.)

Put these lists in sheet protectors and add to the binder containing the maps.

#3. Other Emergency Printables
You can find another dozen (at least) helpful sheets to print out from online sources. After all, you have these sheets in YOUR emergency binder, don't you?  Review several versions of a list of documents to include and choose the best to print out for your giftee.

Don't forget things like a "Family Communications Sheet for Kids" from FEMA.

Here's a link to the FEMA site to print that out:

OR, here is a fold-able card from (an excellent source of further info) that has ID, contacts family emergency meet-up info:

If you have more money than time, the next post will provide ideas on survival gear you can afford at almost any level of spending. And how to create a "theme" survival gift.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Survival "Practice Kits" Make Fun Gifts

Random thoughts of Christmas (and birthday) gifts made me think of creating preparedness skill kits for others (or even yourself).

You know plenty of people, I'm sure, who say they have an interest in prepping or learning survival skills, but they never get beyond reading how-to's. Or, maybe you know a young person who would like to learn some bushcraft skills but lives in an urban area. So what if you could hand them the skill-building outdoor experience in a box or bag?

I can explain best, I think, by showing you some examples.

Let's take the idea of learning to find your direction if you are lost in the woods. All that's needed is a day that casts shadows, a couple of tall sticks and a couple of small rocks. You can bundle the sticks and rocks and tie on a tag with instructions. If you are able to perform the exercise with the young person or adult, all the better!

This is the experience of using the sun's shadow moving over a period of 15 minutes to show you an east-west directional line. Use this to orient yourself and check that you are traveling in the right direction if you lose or break your compass (you do carry at least a button compass when you hike, don't you?).  There are tons of examples with photos online and here is a link to one that is nicely done:

There is also the method of using a non-digital (analog) wrist watch. Here is a link to a good example of that:

You can print out an online illustration of this method and include it with the above practice kit or hand-write the instructions. Explain that if the person simply knows the time but has no analog watch, it is easy to create or imagine the positions of the hour hand and the 12. You can also include a small compass with instructions. Use the compass to show that the sun-and-sticks method shows the proper general directions.

Another idea for a practice kit is for fire building (yes, going for the basics here). If the recipient is of age to be truly careful with creating fire and can find an appropriate place to build a small fire, this practice kit could contain several examples of fire starting. Perhaps the easiest one will illustrate.

I am a BIG fan of cotton balls smeared heavily on the outside with petroleum jelly. You stuff several in an old photo film canister or tiny ziploc bag or such. Pull out one cotton ball and fluff it so that some of the drier inside is exposed and air can circulate in it a bit. Tuck it into the tinder bundle. Now, using the regular Bic lighter (or similar) that is part of the "practice kit" you've assembled, simply set it on fire. It will burn for a good while like a small candle. This gives time for the tinder bundle to catch well so the newbie can get the next layer of larger fuel to ignite. You will have put a variety of types of tinder in the kit box so experimentation can take place.

Of course, the fire preparedness kit can feature as many ways to make fire as your time and/or budget allows:  instructions and materials for creating char cloth, a fire steel, magnesium bar, windproof lighter, waterproof matches, etc. You can even include materials to create homemade waterproof matches.

I think these examples show that with some imagination, you can create a bushcraft experience and give it as a gift. Other basics could be filtering water, using a LifeStraw, making solar still, etc. Consider the person's age, interest level, physical environment, etc. Make it FUN and it will be a gift that gets used AND may encourage the recipient to get out and DO more to learn skills.

Soon, I'll have a post with gift ideas for gear purchases or even some free but valuable tools.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FREE ebook Sunday & Monday, Aug. 23 & 24

I'm making the first novel in my Obliterated series FREE for Kindle** download on Sunday, August 23 and Monday, August 24. The full title is:  Obliterated - Would You Know How to Survive?

It is the tale of a worldwide apocalypse (sci-fi so I didn't have to get into politically questionable areas) and how a very small group of people survive. It is laced with real-world camping and survival tips and strategies.

This is a full-length novel --- not a teaser short novella. There are two sequel books, but a reader can enjoy each one independently.

The setting is Albuquerque, NM, and locations to the northwest of the city. For a post-apocalyptic book, it is (purposefully) family friendly such that most readers have no problem with older teens reading it (though you will want to evaluate that for your kids by reading it yourself).

If you enjoy the book, I hope you will leave a high star-rating Amazon review. Independent authors like me depend on achieving 4-star-and-above averages so that we can get noticed. So far, the entire series has four stars and above -- thank you wonderful readers!

**  The format is Amazon's Kindle ebook format. However, Amazon lets you download the Kindle app to almost any device:  computer, tablet, phone. So you do NOT need a Kindle e-reader to take advantage of this free offer. Just type in Kindle app on the Amazon search box and the site will guide you through the download and usage process. Takes only a few minutes.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Baking Soda & Vinegar for Hair -- Why?

It's easy to find lots of posts online about simplifying your hair care routine to baking soda and vinegar. Most are positive, but I have seen a few negative.

I switched to this method almost 4 years ago and would never go back to commercial shampoos and conditioners. The main reason is that my hair and scalp are in better condition since the switch than ever before. That right there is the only reason I need personally.

But, there are other advantages I'll lay out here that can be particularly good for preppers and those in the mobile (RV and vandwelling) lifestyle.

  • Environmentally sound. If you are washing your hair out in the boonies and do not want to have fragrances and chemicals around your bathing area, you can't get more basic and natural than baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Gray water is not contaminated if it is to be used for gardens, etc.
  • Frugal. The ingredients are pretty cheap and since you do not use much per washing/conditioning, you will save lots and lots of money over commercial concoctions.
  • Adjustable proportions so you can find the perfect balance for YOUR hair and scalp.

A huge side benefit for me -- with very curly, thick hair -- is that the vinegar is truly magic! All my life I've struggled with trying to comb my hair and with trying to get out knots and tangles after a washing/conditioning. My mother will attest to regular screams and "ouches" in my youngest years. Now, as soon as I pour on the apple cider vinegar rinse, I can comb it through my hair... tangles seem to fall out before the comb even touches them. Maybe more amazing, after my hair is dry and the curls are going gonzo, I can STILL run my fingers through my hair without snags. Unheard of for me me my entire life before this!

The basic recipe (and the proportions I generally use) is 1 tablespoon of baking soda to one cup of water. And the same for the vinegar:  1 tbsp apple cider vinegar in one cup of water.

I use two plastic (safety in the shower) re-usable water bottles to mix my two formulas. This allows me to shake the baking soda and water mixture to blend it well. The vinegar and water needs only a gentle shake or stirring just before use to make sure it has not separated. My bottles each hold enough for 2-3 uses.

I wet my hair, squirt the baking soda "shampoo" near my scalp and lightly "scrub" with my fingertips for just a minute or so. I rinse that out. I pour on the vinegar "conditioner," again trying to get the liquid mostly on the scalp -- it will coat the hair strands to the ends on its own as I comb the vinegar through my hair (many people don't bother with that step if it is not needed to get out tangles). Rinse the hair again and you're done. Don't worry, the vinegar smell will likely be completely gone by the time you use your towel and it will for sure be gone when hair is dry.

As stated above, an advantage of mixing your own is that you can adjust the concentrations. If I have been in a lot of dust or gotten pretty sweaty, I up the baking soda a bit. If my hair seems to be a bit dry (affected by weather), I will lessen the baking soda for a few washes. If I use too much vinegar in the rinse, I find my hair gets a bit heavy instead of staying fluffy. Your results will vary.

For a quicker than usual fast wash, I have been known to wet my hair, use a spray bottle of vinegar to apply the tangle magic, and then rinse thoroughly. This can leave my hair a bit "heavier" but it is actually smoothing during frizzy weather.


1/ Some folks find they have an adjustment period of a few weeks, especially if their scalp is used to lots of products. The scalp may be used to producing lots of sebum to counteract commercial shampoos. I had no adjustment period at all, but with this warning you may want to give yourself some time for your head to adjust.

2. A nice reader notified me that if you color your hair, this system will/may take out the color. Sorry, I didn't even think of that since I've never used hair color.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Know Best Defense for Predators & Other Deadlies

Campers and preppers have a special need to keep up on "best practice" recommendations for dealing with potentially deadly animals of the non-human kind.

As the encroachment of people into previously wild lands continues, some animal behaviors are changing. Even those camping in nice campgrounds in rural areas may find dangerous wildlife encounters are on the rise. Those who boondock and hike are certainly at greater risk of encounters.

Preppers have special needs for awareness in a bug-out location. They may be focused on getting there and establishing defenses against human intruders yet forget they are now in a new wildlife environment with different "rules" and risks.

For example, let's look at the mountain lion (aka cougar, panther, puma) that lives throughout the western US and has isolated populations in places like Florida and Michigan. Cougar attacks on humans are extremely rare. and death from a mountain lion attack happens much less than death by snakebite or even dog attacks. Many of the few recorded deaths from a cougar are small children who were not accompanied by an adult -- something for parents to keep in mind when in a seemingly friendly outdoor area.

If you encounter a mountain lion, the recommended advice is to look as large as you can. Open your jacket, wave your arms, shout, throw rocks or sticks, etc. (Though be careful about bending movements that make you look smaller.) If the cougar feels cornered, it will be much more dangerous, so back away but do so slowly. Any movement that looks like sudden retreat will trigger the cat's "chase" instinct. Likewise, completely freezing or playing dead may make the cat think you are injured and easy prey.

Have children stand right behind or beside you. If you need to pick up a small child, so so without bending.

If you are attacked, fight back! You will surely be injured but almost all who fight back survive. This leads to the next concern:  how far away is help for your bleeding wounds? This speaks to not being out alone or at least to having a large bandana and/or some bandaging in your hiking/survival pack. (A post for another time perhaps.)

Now, those who know what to do in case of a bear encounter will immediately realize the above is mostly the opposite of what one should do with a bear. And that is the point of this post. Know your wildlife threats for the places that you will be, and know both how to avoid and how to respond to the danger.

Avoiding danger such as from rattlesnakes includes not putting your hands or feet where you cannot SEE. If stepping over a log with debris around it, use a hiking stick to first poke at the area your foot will be feeling to find purchase.

Again, arm yourself with knowledge and aids accordingly. When you google something like "bear attacks," look for trusted sources such as a Forest Service or Fish & Wildlife site.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don't Let Your Vehicle Be a Death Trap in an Emergency

Today on the forum for CheapRVLiving a moderator posted an article about a 72-year-old man and his dog dying in his hot car. The battery had died and he could not get the door locks nor windows to open. 

This was a very odd situation indeed, but it prompted me to recall what I know about escaping a vehicle in an emergency. (I'm not an expert, but I try remember what studies have shown and have a plan in mind for the unexpected.)

A very handy thing to remember when you are in almost any vehicle is that most headrests can be released and pulled from the seat back. One or both of the long metal rods can be used to create a concentrated point of impact on a car window and break it. Then use the headrest to clear away the shards of glass around the window. Aim for the center of the window if you are going to use a pointed object to batter it. 

If a car has integrated seat headrests, obviously another object would need to be found to do the job. Perhaps an umbrella, screwdriver, small hammer, or even the corner of your laptop.

What if your vehicle has left the roadway and is sinking in water or a crash has disabled your seat belt release and you need to get out fast? There are compact emergency tools such as  
that can both cut through seatbelt webbing with a razor and shatter a window with a steel point. It's a good prepping tool to have near enough to the driver's seat to grab in case of emergency. One good place to keep it is the driver's door pocket.

If the person trapped in a car does not have a disability that prevents it, another option is to turn sideways and lean back, put heels against the window and then give a sharp kick to break it. If kicking with your feet, aim for the front section of window, toward the hinges instead of the center of the window.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Color in Your Survival Kit?

Survival expert Cody Lundin recommends wrapping bright yellow duct tape around some items in your survival kit. More visibility for small items like a lighter means less chance of it getting lost or left behind. Plus, you have extra duct tape that you can unwind for other uses. 

I would add that you then have a place to write simple instructions using a permanent marker. 

What if you are injured in an emergency? Would others with you know how much tincture of iodine to add to a quart of water to purify it? Would a friend know to scrape shavings from your magnesium block to start a fire in extreme dampness? 

If you become dehydrated or very cold, your brain is going to be foggy at best. Anyone can become confused in a life-threatening situation.

Figure out the shortest way to write instructions anyone can understand on the duct tape wrapped around relevant items and those critical items in your emergency kit are instantly improved.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Earthquake-Safe Homes in a Post-Apocalyptic World?

Earthquakes in the news helped me determine the subject of this week's post.

In my post-apocalyptic novels (the Obliterated series on Amazon), a small band of survivors travel to an area they hope will be safer from the ravages of earth changes. Quakes and tremors are happening at least weekly by the third and final book. This means survivors in the non-electrified world must invent a method of building homes to withstand a lot of shaking.

My own thought process began with how "safer" buildings are erected these days: often the foundation is on a platform that has "shiftable" supports. Basically, the foundation can flex with the movement of the earth.

I thought the survivors' small homes must be:

  • flexible to withstand shaking, 
  • not underground for danger of being buried,
  • without heavy materials that could fall and injure/kill,
  • able to be built with hand tools only,
  • yet water- and wind-proof.

My first choice (of a few ideas tossed around in the book) was to use the building blocks used in "earthships" -- those wonderfully engineered and quirky environmental wonders.

The main walls for earthships are made from recycled tires rammed with earth. Earthships are then over-covered with dirt to be partially underground, but my characters would not want that for fear of being buried.

So, they come up with a plan in the second book to build small circular homes. They will wire together tires (with heavy-duty wire or cable), stake the bottom row, fill each with rammed earth and then build up the walls layer by layer. Each layer is also cabled to the one below. Gaps in two offset rows that make up the circle of tires would be chinked with adobe or other natural materials. The roof would be any lightweight sheet of material they could scavenge. The inside floor would be dug out a few feet so fewer tires would be needed.

The hut's foundation would not flex but the walls would. The old "willows bend and oaks break" theory. These would not be pretty structures but should provide thick-walled, protective shelter. In a hand-made new world fraught with earthquakes, what would you build?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Pocket of Emergency Preps for a Hike

Emergency preparedness for a simple hike? Any hike could turn into an overnighter due to unfortunate events such as getting lost, a sprained ankle, or unexpected weather making a trail dangerous. You won't take a fully loaded backpack on every walk in the woods or jaunt through the desert, of course, so what items are most critical to carry? Here's my list followed by explanations:

  • GPS, smartphone with GPS app, or button compass
  • emergency whistle
  • tiny LED flashlight or better
  • flagging tape strips (if there are not easily visible landmarks)
  • small pocket knife or multi-tool
  • emergency mylar blanket, heat sheet or contractor bag(s)
  • lighter and/or all-weather matches
  • stainless steel or aluminum water bottle or cup
  • a few bandages and insect repellant wipes 
  • a small amount of duct tape

First are tools to help you get home if you are lost or delayed. A GPS or smartphone app is the high-tech solution, provided you have marked your camp location before setting out and have the electronic device with you (along with enough battery life or an extra battery) and have a signal.

A simple button compass (liquid filled) is a simple solution to help steer you in the right direction if you’ve taken time to learn the basics and you know the general direction of your camp. The simplest tool is your own awareness: take note of recognizable features that can be seen from a distance all along the way, especially if you make a turn. 

If you find yourself turned around and you’ve taken photos along the way, go back through the photos to see if they show your previous positions.

Next, always carry a compact, loud, emergency plastic whistle (get a non-metal one that doesn’t have a “pea” as those can be a problem in freezing weather). A whistle can be heard much farther than the human voice, and it never gets a raw throat. Three whistles in a series means “I need help.” (Three of anything is the international symbol for “Help!”)

A small but powerful flashlight is, in my opinion, the third essential for every hike. It may help you get home after the sun goes down, preventing the need to spend a night out.

If you have a tendency to wander off course when walking or there are no distant markers in the landscape, consider taking  neon-colored “flagging tape” in your emergency kit. Tie these non-adhesive, nearly zero-weight strips onto branches or anchor an end under a rock. On the way home, collect the pieces you’ve used to mark your path.

Other than the smartphone or GPS, these items are small enough to fit in your pocket or small pouch, so there is really no excuse not to take them with you every time you walk away from camp. Or, the mini LED light, the whistle and even some tiny compasses can go on your key chain. Survival experts insist a knife is also necessary, so consider at least a small pocket knife or multi-tool on your keychain as well.

Now, imagine you are stuck a few miles from your car or RV without the ability to get to it. What additional items can you easily carry on every walk that may help you survive or be more comfortable until morning?

Your immediate need will be shelter from wind, rain, cold or heat/sun. Wearing appropriate clothing when you leave camp is your first line of “shelter.” For mini emergency kits, the most often-used shelter is a mylar sheet sometimes called a space blanket. These are better than having nothing to fend off hot sun or rain, but they are very cheap for a reason.

If you choose to wear something like a fanny pack, or if you have a decent-sized cargo pocket, you would be much happier with an emergency blanket such as those in the SOL line made by American Medical Kits (AMK). These bright orange “heat sheets” even have survival tips printed on one side (and the color helps others find you). Or, take along a 55-gallon trash bag or contractor bag that is at least 3 mil thick (4 mil is even better). Do an online search for “garbage bag shelter” to view the best ways to deploy your “shelter” in various locations and conditions. Here is a link to a very good explanation in a video produced by Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

A fire will not only keep you warmer but also make you feel safer overnight. It also may serve as a signal if someone is searching for you after dark. For these reasons, carry a lighter: one that is NOT childproof but is translucent. Childproof lighters can be difficult to operate if your fingers are cold or shaking from trauma. A translucent reservoir lets you keep tabs on the fuel so you can replace your lighter when needed.

A fire will also be necessary if you must find and purify (boil) water. Hopefully you are prudent enough to carry a bottle of water, but you’ll need more than a liter or two in very short order. You'll only last about three days without water (most can survive a week or two without food). To boil found water, many experts recommend carrying a stainless steel or aluminum water bottle. But in the desert, a metal bottle can get quite hot to carry and use. Consider taking along a metal cup or even a clean small food can if you decide to carry your water in a plastic bottle. If you are using the famous “Altoids tin” for your mini emergency kit, you can boil water in it, but you’d need to do that over and over to get enough to drink.

Most long-distance hikers insist on redundancy for crucial survival items. They would tell you to also carry a flint and steel or, for bad weather conditions, a magnesium stick and striker. Cotton balls well coated with petroleum jelly and kept in folded foil or a small prescription bottle are superb “tinder” to get your fire going from a shower of sparks. However, if this begins to feel too cumbersome, it’s better to keep a simple kit that is always with you instead of a better kit you never take.

Along with the bright colors of your emergency blanket (or contractor bag) and your flagging tape, a signal mirror can help rescuers find you if you are immobile. It is a small rectangular mirror with a sighting hole. If you carry one, know how to use it properly. (Your metal bottle or cup can also be used to reflect the sun in a pinch.)

For comfort, consider adding a few bandages and insect repellant wipes to your tiny kit. Finally, make yourself a small roll of duct tape, or wrap some around your water bottle or other items. It can cover a blister to make walking possible, repair a rip in your emergency blanket and do so much more.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Spring Foraging: How to Eat Dandelions

Just today I "found" a very nice website for information on food storage, survival and similar topics. Angela has several posts about a spring "opportunity" most people think of as a nuisance: dandelions.

This information is a great example of "supplementing" one's mobile food supply or home food resources. Learn to work with and enjoy wild edibles like this now, and you are more prepared for gathering wild foods in an emergency situation.

From what I've seen of her site, I give her very high marks not only for knowledge but also for effectively teaching what she knows. I'll provide the link to Angela's blog post that summarizes several of her other posts on dandelions. She has great, clear photos of things such as how to peel the roots for cooking and eating.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Water Filter Standards for Emergency Water Use

In the last post, I referred to being able to purify water from natural sources in case you are stuck in a remote place or are in an emergency situation.

If you are looking at water filters that will clean your water to prevent illness, here are the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) industry standards that a "wilderness" filter should meet:

Protozoan Cysts: ≥99.9% removal

Bacteria: ≥99.9999% removal

Virus: ≥99.99% removal

Please note that I am not a water expert, but I am summarizing from many articles I consider reliable and the above standards are accepted nationally. You should be aware that the symbols in the list above mean "greater or equal to" --- and if a filter manufacturer waffles on their numbers, beware!  Phrases like "up to" a certain level are not the same as "equal to or greater than."

You must also pay attention to how many "nines" are shown for each type of contaminant as they are necessary for the size of the particles being filtered out.

When the characters in the third and final novel in the Obliterated series settle in a permanent location, establishing a year-round water supply is the first priority on their list. They use a variety of ways to filter and purify their water. See the book on Amazon.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mobile Lifestyles & Preparedness: Rvers and Van-Dwellers

If you live a mobile lifestyle, space is limited even in the largest Class A RV. If you are a van-dweller or pull a 14-foot travel trailer, you have extremely limited space for everyday essentials.

So how can you be prepared for both short-term and long-term emergency situations?

Because you live in your RV, van or trailer  – whether for a two-week vacation or full-time – you already have the advantage of shelter, bedding, communications (cell phone and emergency radio), clothing, one or more methods of cooking, and some quantity of food and water.

You also likely have on hand more and possibly better essential items that would go in a home emergency “bug-out” bag:
  • knives
  • matches, lighters and other fire starters
  • pots and pans
  • water containers
  • can opener
  • first aid kit
  • lighting (hopefully including a headlamp)
  • emergency radio with hand-crank for power
  • leather work gloves
  • insect repellent
  • sewing kit
  • copies of your most important documents
  • area and regional maps
  • pen and pencil

What if you become stranded through an act of nature, a mechanical failure, or a major calamity in the vicinity? Do you have emergency supplies to sustain yourself? The two primary needs beyond keeping yourself safe from temperature extremes are water and food. Your mobile dwelling won’t have a large pantry or root cellar for stockpiling supplies, so what can you do?

One answer is to have a dedicated emergency food stash such as a “bucket” that holds a 30-day supply of dried foods. These can be a good deal more expensive than regular food, may be full of excess sodium and empty “survival” calories, and have a shortened shelf life because of the likelihood of hotter storage temps than are recommended. Yet, these may be right for you if you shop carefully.

Another solution can be to keep extra stock on hand of foods you eat anyway that are excellent “emergency food” selections. If a jar of peanut butter will last you through three or four weeks of intermittent use, then keeping an extra two or three jars for emergency nutrition needed on a daily basis won’t be too much of a hassle. Write the date you buy each jar on the lid or label so you can use up the “oldest” each time you need to open a new one.

You won’t want to live on peanut butter alone, so look at other foods you normally use that you can rotate in the same way. Oatmeal is a hearty comfort food that uses few resources to prepare. Stir in a flavorful glop of peanut butter, and you’ll up the protein of each serving.

Freeze dried or dehydrated fruit can be a welcome snack anytime. Buy extra packets to build your emergency food supply and rotate them into your normal usage. Dried fruit chips dipped in peanut butter or dropped into hot oatmeal? Both good variations. More and more places (including Target) carry Mylar pouches of crispy lentils and green pea pods (check expiration dates for longevity) and freeze-dried veggies.

Canned soups, meats, fruits and veggies in rotation may take up more space, but if you’re buying what you usually eat, you’ll always be able to keep your supply fresh. There are usually nooks and crannies where a few cans will fit; just remember where your backup stashes are located!

What can you do to be prepared for a temporary emergency that might keep you isolated for more days than your emergency water and food supply will last?

For water, the answer is to be capable of sterilizing water from natural sources around you using one or more methods such as: filters that clean to NSF specs, boiled or pasteurized water, iodine drops or tablets, chlorine bleach, and even clear plastic bottles that can be set in the sun to irradiate clear but questionable water. If you are boondocking in the desert, this is a much greater challenge. Desert survivalists recommend always having about three feet of pencil-thick, flexible tubing so you can reach into small puddles that might form in rock cracks and crevices after a rain. Know the nearest sources of water anytime you camp in extremely dry country.

To extend your food supplies in a severe emergency, have resources to obtain food in your surroundings. An edible plant identification book can provide a fun hobby in normal times and be a life-saving resource in disasters.* To obtain other foods, you can keep fishing equipment, wire for snares and/or weapons for taking game. Of course, all of these require proper knowledge. At the least, keep a couple of common-sense survival books in your dwelling.

If you truly believe that a major catastrophe or societal collapse is coming, then you probably should be prepping in a secured location or always be within a gas tank’s drive of your retreat.

What if you need to hike out to get help or get to a better location? See a future post for tips on making the trek with the essentials you’ll need.

* Know the procedures for “testing” wild edibles even if you are sure you have the right plant.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Making Apple Cider Vinegar in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has dozens of uses beyond making a salad tasty. And, because its production requires no modern conveniences, knowing how to make it is a great survival skill.

Now, I will make a confession:  In my last novel, Obliterated 3: Beyond Survival, I have the characters talk about apple and pecan orchards in their region. There is a glut of apples, of course, because most of the world’s population has been… you guessed it…obliterated. I had meant to have a discussion between some characters about how they could use those excess apples to make gallons of ACV. Then the discussion was to go on about some of the uses in a post-apocalyptic world. Well, I totally missed that note card and the vinegar discussion didn’t make it into the book.

So, I am putting the basic information here along with links to a couple of sites that do a good job of showing you how to make it yourself.

Benefits and Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is a disinfectant (with a high enough acidity), a deodorizer, a cleaner and grease cutter, a skin and hair tonic and, some say, an energy booster.

[Disclaimer:  I am reporting information I have read for years, but I do not claim to be able to verify all uses though I have successfully tried most. Because ACV is acidic, it may cause throat irritation in some people or it may interfere/interact with some medications (check with your doctor before trying the internal uses).

ACV is a people- and pet-friendly cleaner that absorbs odors and has antibacterial properties. Mix half water/half ACV for general cleaning such as windows and hard surfaces. If you want to use a spray bottle, you might want to filter the solution so that fine fiber in the ACV does not clog the spray mechanism.

Dabbing a solution on your armpits will act as a deodorant to kill smelly bacteria. And it is an astringent for the face and other skin if one is needed. A more gentle mixture can be used in a bath to help alleviate sunburn sting.

Taken internally, a little splash in water (about a teaspoon per cup of water) may help constipation, bloating and (some claim) even food poisoning. Sipping it may help fight sore throats and sinus problems by stopping bacteria growth.

Because ACV contains potassium, it may act as an energy booster in water and even thin some mucus.

Making it with raw honey or sugar:

Countertip simple:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Obliterated 3: Beyond Survival released

Obliterated 3: Beyond Survival, the 3rd and likely last novel in the series, is now available on Amazon. From today (March 26) and through March 28, it is on a CountDown Deal, which means you can download the ebook much cheaper than its normal $2.99 price (not that isn't a steal in my humble opinion LOL). As with the other books in the series, the content is family-friendly compared to most all post-apocalyptic fiction.

Here's the link:

Obliterated 3: Beyond Survival

All books in the Obliterated series have real-life survival tips woven into the fictional story. In this volume, readers learn such things as:

1. how the Pecos survivors prioritize tasks to create their new village and

2. what will be planted in their community gardens to provide the most nutrition per square foot of garden space

As the author of those books and this blog, please forgive the long lapse of time since the last book and posts on this blog.  I had begun full-time RVing and had no regular access to the Internet and then an unexpected death in the immediate family changed all priorities.