Recently, Creek Stewart sent me a copy of his latest book entitled, “The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide” to review.
In this article, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about the book, what my opinion of it is and how you can win your own copy…
First off, for those not familiar with Creek, he is the author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit. He’s also a regular contributor to the popular blog, The Art of Manliness as well as the owner of Willow Haven Outdoor — a leading survival and preparedness training facility in central Indiana.
As someone who’s been practicing wilderness survival skills for some time now, when I first saw this, I thought it was going to be another one of those crappy wilderness survival books I’ve been seeing on the book shelves lately. That is, they take a popular personality (in this case, Katniss from the Hunger Games books/movie), and uses it to sell a book of “survival” skills that are just another rehash of all the other basic survival skills’ books out there — in other words, nothing new.
This book’s not like that.
Not only does the book show some unique skills I don’t typically find elsewhere (debris “nests”, hammock A-Frames, natural rain collectors etc) but it also has some new ones I haven’t seen (like the snow kabob) and it does all of this in an entertaining way by interweaving the cool survival stories and themes that are in the Hunger Games books (the movie didn’t show much of that unfortunately).
Who is this book for?
Although from reading the cover you might think that this book is only for young adults or fans of the Hunger Games series, but it’s actually full of solid survival info that applies to anyone interested in that kind of stuff (like most of you guys ).
Having said that, if you have a friend (or kid) that loves Hunger Games, this is a great way to get them into learning about wilderness survival. In fact, I could totally see this book as required reading for girl (and boy) scouts. I know when my girls get old enough to appreciate the Hunger Games books, I’m definitely going to use this book as required reading for them too.
Here are the contents of the book by chapter:
- CHAPTER 1: Survival Mentality – Think Like a Victor
- CHAPTER 2: Survival Shelter – Mother Nature is the Ultimate Gamemaker
- CHAPTER 3: Hydration – Haymich Says “Find a Water Source”
- CHAPTER 4: Catching Survival Fire
- CHAPTER 5: Tools of a Survivor: Katniss’s Forage Bag
- CHAPTER 6: Beyond the Fence – Survival Hunting & Gathering
- CHAPTER 7: Survival First Aid – Healing Basics From Katniss’s Mom
- CHAPTER 8: Navigating the Capitol: Tips and Tricks for Travel, Rescue, and Evasion
- CHAPTER 9: Raiding the Cornucopia – Building Your Survival Kit
I think it’s pretty cool that not only did Creek weave in the Hunger Games themes and story line, but he also covers the most important aspects of survival.
All in all I really liked this book and thought that Creek did a fantastic job at making core survival principles relate to such a popular story. The way the book is written will likely get many who are not interested with wilderness survival at least open their eyes to the importance of it.
If you’re looking for a pure survival book, there are better ones out there, like the Airforce Search and Rescue manual (AFR-64) which I highly recommend. So if you’re expecting something all encompassing than this might not be a good fit.
However, if you’re looking for something more entertaining (unless you’re a bit strange, military manuals aren’t known for their entertainment factor), love the Hunger Games series, and at the same time want something to serve as an excellent primer to wilderness survival, then you’ll love this book.
Even for us old hats, it still contains some gems.
How to Win Your Own Copy (and some other prizes)
Now something for you guys…
Two of my readers will win the following:
- An autographed copy of The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide
- A Willow Haven Outdoor logo sling pack
- A 100% cotton Willow Haven Outdoor survival bandanna and,
- A multi-functional survival tool with built in lanyard, compass, ferro rod, whistle and water-proof container for storing matches other survival kit items
To get in the running, simply leave a comment here on the blog about either your favorite wilderness survival skill that was mentioned in the Hunger Games books/movie or tell me a wilderness survival skill that you always wanted to learn.
I’ll randomly (through a random-number generator) pick two winners and post the winners names here on Friday. Once I announce the winners, you’ll then need to contact me through the contact form on the blog telling me the address you’d like it shipped to.
“And may the odds be ever in your favor…” (sorry, had to do it)
I’m sure you’re already familiar with cotton balls and Vaseline being an excellent tinder for starting fires. That in combination with a ferro rod (FireSteel) is typically my go-to method for starting fires in an emergency.
Recently though, I’ve been updating/upgrading my EDC kit and wanted to make a more compact and comprehensive one. Since the cotton balls were a little bulky/greasy for my new kit, I needed something flatter and drier.
Enter fire cloth.
At a recent food-storage conference, Leon Pantenburg from CommonSenseSurvival.com (be sure to check out his site, he’s got some great articles there) recently gave me some of his homemade firestarter — what I like to call fire cloth — that seems to consist of a mixture of waxes and cotton cloth.
Here’s a video I put together on how you can make your own (if you want a written description, just skip the video and go directly to the article below it):
How to Make Fire-Cloth
What You’ll Need
- Paraffin Wax
- Beeswax – Instead of purchasing expensive commercial beeswax, you can just buy a toilet wax ring (found in most hardware stores). They’re typically made from beeswax and are under $2).
- Cotton cloth or cotton balls
Making Fire-Cloth: Step-by-Step
|Step 1: Melt some paraffin in a double boiler. I made a make-shift double boiler by placing a glass Pyrex bowl in simmering water.
|Step 2: Melt an equal amount of beeswax.|
|Step 3: Dip cotton strips in wax and let cool. The thicker your cloth strips the more wax it’ll absorb and the longer it will burn.
|Step 4: Light with matches or lighter.|
Negatives of Fire Cloth and How to Get Around Them
The cloth strips are very effective…if you have a flame source like a lighter or matches. The downside is, unlike cotton balls and Vaseline, it’s tough to use a ferro rod with the standard fire cloth.
Here’s an alternate method I came up with:
|Step 1: Dip a cotton ball in the above mixture. It’s better to quickly dip so the cotton isn’t completely saturated.|
|Step 2: Place wax-impregnated cotton ball in folded parchment or wax paper.
|Step 3: Flatten cotton ball with a roller pin.
|Step 4: Fluff up and light with ferro rod. Once cooled, remove the cotton from the wax paper (it should be completely flat. When you’re ready to use it, just tear off a piece and fluff it up so that the ferro-rod sparks will ignite it.
Having a really flat piece of effective tender is an excellent option for the fire portion of your EDC kit. Try it out and let me know in the comments below how it went!
Homemade pancakes made from my food storage are excellent by themselves, but when you add some homemade maple syrup to them they are so good I wouldn’t mind surviving the apocalypse just on those alone.
In all seriousness though, the more experience you can get in making/hunting/foraging for your own food the more thriving and the less surviving you’ll be doing if things ever get as bad as some think they might get; and having maple syrup is one of those things that could really be a morale booster in tough times.
Making your own maple syrup is actually a very simple process.
Here’s how it’s done (if you want a written description, just skip the video and go directly to the article below it):
How to Make Your Own Maple Syrup
What You’ll Need
Even though (at the writing of this article) the syrup season is winding down, I would recommend getting the equipment ahead of time so that you have it when you need it.
- Maple or birch trees (yes, birch trees will make birch syrup not maple syrup)
- Syrup taps
(this is a link to the kit I use)
- Bucket or other food-grade container
- Large cooking pot
- Heat source – this can be your grill, a propane cooker (what I use), rocket stove or a simple campfire
Making Maple Syrup: Step-by-Step
|Step 1: Drill a hole about 2 inches deep that is slightly smaller in diameter than your tap. You’ll want to drill at a slight upward angle and on the south facing side of the tree.
|Step 2: Hammer in your taps or “spiles”.
If tapped in correctly, you should see sap dripping from it.
|Step 3: Attach container to your tap. If you’re using a hose/tap combination like I use, then just run the tubing into the container (I drilled a hole in the container’s lid to easily feed the tube through). Otherwise, hang a container using the hook/spile method.
|Step 4: Start to boil your sap down.
I typically process my sap 10 gallons at a time. 10 gallons of maple sap will make around 1 quart of syrup. I’ll boil the sap outside until it is about 1/2 to 1 gallon left.
The remainder I’ll boil inside over a stove top to better control and monitor temperature:
|Step 5: Stop processing once syrup reaches 7°F over your boiling point. At sea-level where I live, the boiling point of water is 212°F. If you’re at a higher altitude you’ll want to measure with a thermometer what the temp is when the sap is boiling. At this step, just add 7°F to whatever that temp is.
|Step 6: Filter syrup into a canning jar.
I like using a t-shirt or cheesecloth. Muslin or any other filtering material is fine. Once you place the lid on the canning jar it will self seal as it cools off
|Step 7: Store away and enjoy!
When to Tap your Trees
As a general rule, once you have warmer day-time temperatures but still cooler nights, you’ll start to get good sap flow. The best flow comes when the temps reach below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Where I live in the Northeast that tends to be around late February early March through about April.
How Long Can I Tap My Trees
You can keep the tap on the trees until the buds start to form on the branches. Once the buds form, the sap will become “bitter” resulting in an inferior end product.
A Note on Syrup Grades
What do the various grades of syrup mean?
You’ve probably noticed the various grades of syrup you can buy from the store (ie Grade A or Grade B are the most common here in the U.S.). The grades are basically a judge of darkness and clarity. Grade A tends to be lighter colored and doesn’t have as strong a maple flavor whereas Grade Bs have a darker color and stronger taste.
How do you make different grades of syrup?
In reality, you really don’t have control over what grades of syrup you can make since it varies year to year. As a general rule though, the earlier in the season you make it, the lighter the syrup tends to be.
In my trees this year you can see different colors of syrup over just a couple weeks (the lighter, clearer color was made a bit earlier):
About a month ago Chad Cooper, the owner of Infidel Armor, sent me some of their body armor for testing. I was finally able to get outside and test it this past week so I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and experiences.
Before I show you the beating I gave these things, let’s quickly go over the why’s and wherefore’s:
The Best Options for Body Armor
When it comes to body armor there are a number of different choices you can make: ceramic, steel, Kevlar as well as an array of synthetics and hybrids. Each has their own advantages and uses but for the Prepper crowd I’d have to say the only real choice would be steel.
Think about it.
If there ever is an extended crisis situation where rule of law has gone out the window, we as Preppers may need to deal with the consequences of social unrest and the fact that other less-than-savory elements of society will likely be seeking out resources from those (like us) who have them.
Having the right type of armor for those kinds of circumstances is crucial.
I personally own some soft Kevlar-based armor which is for concealed (under clothing) wear. It has its purposes but would I feel comfortable having that for a long-term crisis situation?
After multiple hits (and I’m talking only handgun rounds) it quickly loses its effectiveness. Also, Kevlar vests can lose its protection capabilities over time with regular wear or improper storage — not good if you need a vest for a long-term situation.
Ceramic plates or ceramic hybrids are another option that many consider. Ceramic/ceramic hybrids can be relatively lightweight (compared to steel) and many have the ability to stop armor-piercing rounds like the M995 round.
The downside is that they require yearly x-ray analysis to assess for cracks in the ceramic elements — again not something good for a long-term WROL (without rule of law) scenario.
In my opinion, steel (particularly AR-500 steel) while not perfect, is really the only solution for Preppers.
Anyone who has regularly shot AR-500 steel targets at the range or in competition can attest to how much of a pounding it can take. The benefit of AR-500 steel is that it can take multiple (we’re talking hundreds if not thousands of) hits from high-powered rifles without being compromised. That’s something that will still be effective for you when you don’t have the option of resupply (like the military does) or yearly analysis (in the case of ceramic plates) or don’t have the funds for multiple backup plates.
What you want is armor that is effective, affordable, and able to sustain multiple (or more) hits of high-powered calibers without compromising future engagements.
Does Infidel Armor fit the bill? Let’s find out…
A Closer Look at Infidel’s Plates
Now that you have a really superficial understanding of different armor available to you and why steel is the better option for Preppers, let’s take a deeper look into the plates made by Infidel Armor.
First off, Infidel Armor’s plates are indeed made from AR-500 steel (so far so good). Each plate (not including the anti-spall material) weighs in at about 7.5 lbs — pretty standard when it comes to these types of plates.
Standalone vs. In-Conjunction
Infidel’s plates are also standalone (another plus).
If you haven’t heard of this term, basically there are two types of plates you can purchase: standalone and in-conjuction. “In-Conjunction” plates require that you wear the plate in conjunction (hence the name) with soft armor in order for it to reach its rated effectiveness. This is not the best idea because you may be in a world of hurt if you purchase an in-conjunction plate and try to put it in a standard plate carrier.
All of the plates sold by Infidel Armor are standalone which doesn’t require it to work in conjunction with anything else. This is what you want when simplicity is key.
Anti-Spall Protective Coating
Now Infidel is not unique in the sense that their plates will take multiple hits without issue. There are a number of other plate companies selling AR-500 steel plates where you’ll get the same performance. What places them apart is their proprietary anti-spalling coating that they cover their plates with.
Spalling is basically the fragmentation process that happens when a bullet strikes a hard surface. This spalling can cause severe injury to the wearer of steel plates (especially if it hits the neck or face). The coating they put on their plates helps to contain the spalling and prevents it from hitting the wearer — definitely a good thing.
The only downside of the coating is that it adds an extra 1.5 lbs per plate. So with each plate by itself weighing about 7.5 lbs, we are now up to 9 lbs per plate — a total of 18 lbs for just the two plates (not including the weight of the plate carrier — which is minimal — or side plates if you wanted those as well).
That weight may be a bit much for some people.
Keep in mind that since armor plates sit basically flush to your body and are close to your center of gravity, it doesn’t “feel” that heavy (it’s not quite like running around with a backpack).
As an aside, the thing that kills ya (for those that can attest to running around with plates) is the heat. These plates (and all steel plates for that matter) act very much like a giant heat sink, absorbing the heat around you (as well as what you’re giving off), making it pretty uncomfortable. Just be sure you have plenty of hydration.
A Note on Price and Certification
As a fellow Prepper, Chad (Infidel Armor’s owner) is trying to market his armor packages to other budget-minded Preppers.
For that reason he originally had a target price of $300 for a complete setup (2 plates and a carrier). With his entry-level package currently going for $305, he came pretty close to the mark. That is a very good price if the plates turn out to be half decent considering the military SAPI plates can go for $300 for only a single plate (that’s without the carrier)!
Why so cheap? Well, partly because it isn’t certified.
Does it need to be? Well, not really.
Certification is basically only required if you plan to sell to the government. Since Infidel’s target audience is preppers, not certifying it allows him to keep his prices much lower.
In reality though, certification doesn’t really mean much. First off, they propel a round from a cylinder under laboratory conditions that come no where near what battlefield conditions are like. Plus, they award certifications of level III to those who fail on on the 7th hit!
Will Infidel’s armor perform better? Let’s find out…
Testing out Infidel’s Plate
Check out the following video to see the results of my testing. In it you’ll see me shoot multiple 9mm, .40, and .45 handgun rounds, 5.56mm and 30-06 rifle rounds, and 12 gauge shotgun slugs at it. Will it hold up to the challenge? See for yourself:
When it comes down to it, I would stake my life on these plates. In fact, I would have no qualms about taking the plate that I just shot up and placing it back in my plate carrier. It would still be very effective.
In my tests I wanted to see how it responded to many different types of rounds. There are others who have taken these same plates and literally shot hundreds of high-powered rifle rounds (like the 7.62) one after the other without any penetration issues.
These plates are the real deal — certification or not.
If you’re looking for a solid armor solution at an affordable price, I would have no problems recommending any of Infidel Armor’s armor packages.
Note: Keep in mind that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase some armor now from Infidel or some other reputable seller as soon as you can since I’m hearing talks of certain states looking to ban the purchase/possession of body armor.
I’m a big fan of yogurt, especially the thicker kind like Greek yogurt. If I had to go without it during TEOTWAWKI you might as well end my world right then and there.
But really, I love yogurt and if you’re like me then you probably would like to have it around after the SHTF. If that’s the case, it’s definitely a good idea to learn how to make it NOW…especially from your long-term food stores.
Speaking of long-term food storage, hopefully you guys are working on building your long-term food stores (if not, check out Prepper Academy to get exact step-by-step details into how to build up a solid food-storage plan as well as master the other aspects of prepping).
As part of your long-term stores, I HIGHLY recommend having powdered milk. Besides obviously reconstituting it to have milk, there are quite a variety of things you can make from it like different cheeses, “sour creams”, and yes, even yogurt.
Having Yogurt Post SHTF
The key with making yogurt from your food storage is to have a starting yogurt culture available. This can be easily acquired by purchasing yogurt from the store.
Once you make your own yogurt from the instructions below, you can continue to make yogurt by saving a little off from the previous batch, continuing this process for as long as you’d like to have yogurt.
Making yogurt from powdered milk is actually a simple process:
How to Make Yogurt from Powdered Milk
What You Need
- Powdered milk
- Yogurt (w/ active cultures)
- Cooking thermometer
- Mason jar (or similar)
- “Yogurt Incubator” – This can be many things. Basically you want something that will maintain a steady temp of around 100°F – 115°F for 3-4 hours. In my example I use an Excalibur dehydrator but you can also use a crockpot, a slow cooker or even a large pot filled with water on a very low heat (this must be monitored).
Your yogurt mixture can be placed in a jar which is then placed in the warm environment (like with the example shown here or immersing the jar in water that is kept at a warm temp) or you can place the mixture directly in the cooker (like in a crockpot or slow cooker).
Making Yogurt – Step-by-Step
|Step 1: Reconstitute powdered milk. In a pot, add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of powdered milk and stir until mixed thoroughly (this is stronger than how you would normally reconstitute the milk).
|Step 2: Heat milk. Using a thermometer for accuracy, heat milk to 180°F.
|Step 3: Remove milk from heat. After reaching 180°F remove the milk from the heat source and let it stand until it reaches a temp of 110°F.
|Step 4: Mix in yogurt. Using store-bought yogurt w/ active cultures (or from a previously made batch) thoroughly mix in two tablespoons into the warm milk and pour mixture into your jar. Here’s what you want to see when reading the labels on your store-bought yogurt:
|Step 5: Place yogurt mixture in warm environment. Using your incubator of choice, place your yogurt mixture in it and try to maintain a temp of around 100°F – 115°F. I place my jar in an Excalibur food dehydrator with the trays removed at a setting of 115°F. Yes I do close the door (not shown in this pic)
During a SHTF type of situation I could use my hot-water canner and place the jar in there (NOT AT BOILING TEMPS THOUGH). You would need to babysit it quite a bit to ensure that the temps don’t get higher than 115°F.
|Step 6: Remove yogurt from incubator. After around 3 to 4 hours, check on your yogurt to ensure it has coagulated (just look, don’t stir or disturb!). At this point there may be a small amount of whey separation on top (hard to see in this picture). If so just pour that little bit off and enjoy your yogurt while warm or refrigerate for normal cold yogurt.
|(optional) Step 7: Make Greek-style yogurt. To make a thicker yogurt like Greek-style yogurt, just pour your yogurt in a cheesecloth, coffee filter, or even a cotton t-shirt and hang it over the sink for a couple hours (until the thickness reaches your liking).
|Step 8: Flavor (if desired) and enjoy!. If you’ve made Greek yogurt, keep in mind you’ll lose about half the volume of the original batch (my two-cup recipe in this example made around 1 cup of Greek yogurt).
Troubleshooting Failed Yogurt
If after 4 hours you still don’t have any coagulation, then it’s likely your yogurt has failed. Here are some possible reasons for failure:
- Your starting yogurt culture was dead before you used it. Be sure to purchase or use fresh yogurt with active cultures.
- You killed the yogurt culture. You possibly added the yogurt to too hot milk (didn’t wait until it reached 110°F before adding) or you killed it in your incubator. In either case, ensure the temp of the culture never reaches much over 115°F.
- You disturbed the yogurt while it was “incubating”. Do not mix, stir or otherwise heavily disturb the developing yogurt. It’s ok to visually check it or move it VERY SLIGHTLY to ensure it has set.
- Yogurt was in the incubator too long. If the yogurt has separated quite a bit and is bubbly, you likely kept it in the incubator too long.
Disclaimer: Home canning bacon is not recommended by the USDA.Understand that if you decide to do this, IT IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
For you guys out there that think that canning is for a bunch of old grannies let me tell you…
…canning can be manly.
It’s funny, whenever I try to get some of my guys friends who are into prepping to take up canning I typically get a response along the lines of “canning is for grannies”. It’s not until I mention that you can home-can bacon that their ears perk up and they’re all for it. I’d have to agree, when it comes to canning, it doesn’t get much more manlier than canning good ol’ bacon.
In the following video, I demonstrate how easy it is to can bacon at home (and hopefully for you guys, you’ll want to pick up a great skill to have):
“The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you’ll bleed in times of war.”
There are a lot of things that we as preppers need to prepare for.
We focus on building our food and water storage, having multiple backups of our energy and heating needs, look to learn skills that were common in the “old days” and focus on building our security measures to protect what we’ve worked so hard to build up.
The unfortunate thing is that most of our nation (and many preppers I know of) greatly disregard this aspect of preparation. They become soft, live lifestyles with no discipline and prefer to take the path of least resistance.
Believe me, I get it, it’s part of our nature to do so.
However, if we want to have the mental fortitude to be able to survive when times get tough, we need break those patterns and take a different road — in many cases a harder road.
After all, we may not be able to hide behind our preps, hoping that we’ll be living on easy street when things go south.
In a survival situation, or a long-term SHTF type situation, mental toughness is what will bring you across to the other side, and although it may be an overlooked attribute to develop, it may just be one of the most important.
How to Develop Mental Toughness
First off, it helps to know exactly what mental toughness is.
The definition that I like is that it’s the ability to will oneself through less-than-ideal situations and conditions. This could be battling cancer, going through military training or simply waking up early to go workout.
Mental toughness is typically not something you’re born with (I don’t know of too many babies who just “tough it out” when it comes to not getting fed)…
So how do we develop it?
Well, it all comes down to regularly operating outside of your comfort zone.
Take this illustration for example…
The center circle represents you, and the inner area is your present level of comfort. No extra amount of effort is required to stay there. This is your safe haven, your bad habits, those day-to-day ruts, your place of predictability and familiarity…your level of comfort.
Beyond this circle lies your area of discomfort. This is the area in which you know you COULD operate if required to, but, it’s uncomfortable and most people choose not to.
However, when you purposely choose to step just outside of your comfort zone something interesting happens…
With time, this larger area will become your new comfort zone and what was previously difficult now becomes easier — giving you a broader and new perspective on what your limitations are. Then, the whole cycle repeats itself.
When this is done on a regular basis, not only does your capability increase but so does your mental toughness.
So what are some things that you can do to build mental toughness?
Well, the key is to seek out daily opportunities to get into the zone of discomfort. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a look at the various activities you do on a daily basis and start by tweaking some of them such that they take you just out of your comfort zone.
Here are some examples that should spur some ideas of your own:
- If you have a flight of stairs in your home, any time you walk down them, go on all fours (great shoulder and chest workout). Or when going up, hop up each step.
- Do a number of pushups or pullups (install a pull-up bar in the doorway) before entering or leaving certain rooms of the house.
- Go without food or water for 24 hours
- When on errands, park your car further out so you have to walk farther.
- When showering, finish the last portion of it with a blast of cold water.
- When watching TV, do pushups/situps during the commercial breaks.
- Try to do as many activities as possible with your non-dominant hand.
- If your on the shy side, go out of your way to talk to 3 new people a day and learn something about each of them, or…
- …try singing at the top of your lungs when someone is pulled up next to you at a stop light.
- Wake up an hour earlier than you’re used to.
- When getting your mail in the middle of winter, go out in some shorts and a t-shirt.
- On those nights when you’re exhausted and just want to go to bed, force yourself to clean or do the dishes for 10 minutes.
While they may seem inconsequential, these little out-of-your-comfort-zone activities (when done often) are a great tonic and will build up your mental toughness.
As you may have noticed in some of the examples, building your mental toughness goes hand in hand with building your physical toughness. Both of these are crucial when it comes to survival.
You may have heard the saying, “The more you sweat in times of peace, the less you bleed in times of war” (or any of the other variants of this saying). What this means is that now’s the time to prepare (to sweat) for tough times ahead.
Those times are coming…will you be prepared?
It doesn’t matter where you are in terms of your level of fitness, how tough or weak or how old you think you are, you can make the choice to go beyond your present level of comfort — ideally on a day-to-day basis.
As a side note, I would recommend keeping a mental toughness journal. Basically, record on a daily basis those things you did to take yourself out of your comfort zone. As you do so, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made and what used to be uncomfortable and difficult become comfortable and easy.
Each time you make a choice to go beyond your comfort zone, you build up a reserve of mental toughness. Each time you choose the easier path you diminish that capacity. As you build mental toughness, you will be able to call upon that reserve during tough times — and overcome.
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, there’s a fantastic book written by SEAL veteran Cade Courtley called, SEAL Survival Guide: A Navy SEAL’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster that served as the inspiration for this article.
A few weeks ago (at the suggestion of one of my readers) I picked up a fairly new product being marketed to outdoorsmen called a “Ribz Front Pack”. For those new to front packs, they are basically the opposite of a backpack in that you wear it up front.
After playing around with it for a little while now I thought I’d share with you guys some of my thoughts and opinions and most of all, how it’s beneficial to you as a prepper.
Review of the Ribz Front Pack
On first impression, the Ribz front pack reminds me of a cross between some of the old military “H-Harnesses” and the newer Load-Bearing Vests (LBVs) and chest harnesses — albeit much more lightweight and less heavy-duty.
It’s designed to be carried in front of your body when out on the trail to give you easy access to crucial gear when you need it at a moments notice.
The two ways to wear it are by itself (as displayed in the following picture) or with a backpack.
When wearing in tandem with a backpack, the theory is that because the Ribz front pack puts weight forward of your body, it will counterbalance a heavy load on your back.
It’s hard to see in the next picture but I have to say I did feel significantly more balanced with it on while hiking than with it off. Here I’m wearing a 45 lb. bug-out bag with only around 6 lbs of gear in the Ribz pack. Despite the weight difference, it still felt a lot more balanced.
There’s quite a lot of space in these packs. The smaller version can pack a little over 500 cubic inches (250 in each pouch) of gear and the larger one — pictured in this article — over 700 cubic inches (350 in each pouch).
Each of the pouches has an outside pocket that is accessed through a zipper. The pouches themselves also contain a main area that makes up most of the space and two elastic nets sewn into the inner wall of that area. These nets can stretch to accommodate some good-sized gear.
Just to give you an indication at how much 700 cubic inches is, here’s a picture of just one the pouches with a standard 14oz can of food being held in one of the elastic nets. Plenty of room to spare.
Overall, I really like the Ribz front pack — especially when worn in conjunction with a backpack. Also, the fact that it sits over the ribs (probably why it’s named “Ribz”) makes lack of maneuverability not an issue.
So how would this piece of gear apply to us preppers? Here are my thoughts…
Personal Application of the Ribz Wear Product
If you’ve read my survival kit article then you’d know that I am a big fan of having my survival kits segmented into 3 distinct tiers.
In a nutshell, the three-tiered kit approach is as follows:
- Tier 1: Commonly referred to as your EDC (Every-Day-Carry) kit, this kit includes all those items that you would need to survive that can fit directly on your person (ie. in your pockets, on your belt, in your wallet, on your keychain etc).
Basically if you had to ditch everything, and run with only the clothes on your back, what would remain would be your “Tier-1″ kit. This is what I have with me all the time and carry every day.
- Tier 2: Your Tier-2 kit is what is commonly called The Get-Home Bag. This kit is a compact and easy-to-carry kit that would fit in a small backpack, fanny-pack, purse or similar “bag” containing core survival items that could sustain you for around 24 hours or more — the theory being that it gives you just enough time to get home, hence the name “Get-Home Bag”.
I try to carry this with me at all times as well, but there are times when this is not possible.
- Tier 3: Finally, the Tier-3 kit is what we all know as our Bug-Out Bag, Go-Bag, 72-Hour Kit and so on. It’s a larger pack or bag that contains enough gear and supplies to sustain you for 3 days or more with the intent of taking you from a ground zero location to a safer spot.
My Tier-3 kit sits at home, waiting for a time I hope never comes.
In a bug-out or extreme-survival scenario, my ideal is to have all three kits. Not just with me, but on me.
You might ask, wouldn’t the Tier-3 Kit be enough?
Well, packing everything in a Bug-Out Bag can still be a liability if you ever needed to ditch that big bag for whatever reason.
Since all your gear — essentially your lifeline — is tied to that bag, ditching it while bugging out would be a huge problem if that’s all you had. Having redundancy across multiple “tiers” will give you insurance should you need to leave your main bag behind.
All my kits (Tier 1, 2 and 3) are built upon the same foundation. The gear may be different, due to size and weight constraints, but in the end they all have the same six categories:
Personal Health and Security
Included in this category are all those things I would need to provide healing, health, safety and protection to myself and others. It includes items like first-aid and trauma kits, medicine, firearms, pepper spray and so on.
These are items that provide protection from the elements. This could be a tent, blankets, sleeping bag, emergency Mylar blankets, extra clothing and so on
All those things that I would need to procure, carry, purify and filter water. Things like portable water filters, purification tablets, water containers, water bladders and other related items would be part of this group.
Heat and Energy
Items in this category help provide heat, light and energy as well as assist in making fires. Here you could find matches, lighters, firesteel, tinder, flashlights and lanterns, extra batteries, portable solar chargers and more.
This category includes actual food as well as items to procure and get food. MREs, snares/traps, dehydrated foods, canned goods and other things would be what you’d find here.
This final category includes all those other things that make survival easier. It could be a GPS or compass for navigation, an emergency radio, an axe, a knife, a saw and more.
With the three-tiered approach to your kits, I like to have as much redundancy as possible. In other words, I try to include (as best as possible) items from each of these categories across all three tiers. Sometimes, this will lead to duplication, but I’d prefer that to the alternative.
An example of this in my set up is, I have a Katadyn water filter in my Tier-3 kit (my Bug-Out Bag), a Seychelle water-filter straw in my Tier-2 kit and I always carry a couple of water-purification tablets with me as part of my Tier-1 or EDC kit.
So where does the Ribz front pack fit into all of this?
Well, up to this point, I really didn’t have a good solution for a Tier-2 kit. I thought of a fanny pack but that was uncomfortable when hiking and I can’t stand having a lot of weight at the belt line.
This front pack really helps to make carrying my second tier a whole lot easier. Best of all, the Ribz front pack allows you to have essential gear up front so that if you had to access some key items while on the go, you wouldn’t have to stop, take off your backpack and dig through it to get your needed gear. In addition, you now have an insurance policy if you had to (heaven forbid) drop your main pack and jet out of there.
As an added bonus, I really like the non-tactical look of it. If you were to wear it by itself when on the trail, it doesn’t draw too much attention.
If you’re interested in purchasing a RIBZ or learning more (I don’t receive any commissions for sales of these) go to www.ribzwear.com
LDSAvow.com has recently released its latest version of their fantastic book “The LDS Preparedness Manual” (now in it’s 8th version!).
Quite simply, it’s a collection of fantastic preparedness related articles covering most prepping subjects such as:
- food storage
- emergency evacuation
- heating, cooking, and lighting
- clothing and shelter
- and much more…
I figured I’d send this link out as a belated Christmas present for you guys. It’s a fantastic read and highly recommended!
You can download it for free here:
UPDATE: Try the above link first, but if it’s not working for you, you can download it here as well:
If we are ever forced to live through an extended grid-down situation, I think many of us would realize how much we rely/depend upon our “common” appliances like our washing machines.
For that reason, having an off-grid secondary option will really make living a whole lot easier if things do go south.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you how you can make your own effective off-grid “washing machine” using easy-to-obtain items:
What You’ll Need
- Two 5-gallon buckets with one lid
- Toilet plunger (make sure it’s a newly purchased one)
- Liquid detergent (optional: stain stick)
- Rope or clothesline
- Clothes pins
How to Make an Off-Grid Clothes Washing Kit
Step 1: Drill a hole in the middle of the lid just big enough for the plunger handle to fit through.
Step 2: Place the following items in one of the buckets:
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Stain remover/stain stick
- Vinegar (1/2 cup added to rinse water helps to remove soap)
- Rope or clothesline
- Clothes pins
Step 3: Put bucket with items in it into other bucket and place lid (with holes) on top of buckets (feeding the plunger handle through it).
Step 4: Store away for a time you need it.
How to Use Your Off-Grid Clothes Washing Kit
To use your kit, simply perform the following steps:
- Take out the items in the bucket
- Fill both buckets 1/2 to 3/4 full with water — enough to completely cover your clothes
- Put a small amount of detergent in one bucket (this will be your washing bucket)
- Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the other bucket (this is your rinsing bucket). Vinegar helps to remove the soap from the clothes
- Place clothes in the washing bucket, cap the bucket after feeding the plunger handle through the lid’s pre-drilled hole
- Move the plunger up and down for a few minutes until your clothes are clean
- Pull out clean clothes and wring them out
- Place soapy clothes in the rinse bucket and use the plunger as you did when you washed the clothes
- Wring rinsed clothes out again and hang them up to dry
- Repeat with another load of laundry until water becomes too dirty.
NOTE: You can get away with doing the above steps with only one 5-gallon bucket if you wish. The only difference is in-between washing and rinsing you’ll need to empty the water.