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The various types of emergency foods that are available, coupled with the commercial hype surrounding them, can understandably lead the prepper to make less than optimal decisions with regard to the types and amounts of emergency foods to acquire. In this article I will briefly recap the most common types of emergency food and describe how each would fit in to a practical survival strategy.

The common types of emergency food stores include:

  • Canned Foods – Canned foods consist of fruits, vegetables and meats that have been prepared for long-term storage in jars and cans. Canned foods can be prepared at home and are available at virtually any grocery store. Depending on the type of food, they can either be ‘dry-pack canned’ or ‘wet-pack canned’. (Wet-pack canning involves immersing the food in hot water – sometimes in a pressure cooker – prior to vacuum-sealing.) Dried beans and dried white rice are the dry-pack canned foods most commonly stored by preppers and survivalists because they have an extremely long shelf life (up to 25 years!) and provide a good supply of proteins and carbohydrates.
  • mre

    MRE’s are a common choice for Emergency Food.

    Dehydrated Foods – Dehydrated foods have been processed in a food dehydrator to remove much of their moisture. This inhibits the growth of microorganisms that cause the food to spoil.

  • Freeze-dried Foods – Freeze-dried foods have been processed in a commercial freeze-drier in such a way that virtually all water has been removed (much more than is removed by a dehydrator). This process results in food that is lightweight and which has a very long shelf life.
  • Cured Meats – Cured meats have been treated with chemicals (usually nitrates) in such a way as to inhibit the growth of microbes and extend the unrefrigerated shelf life of meats.
  • Smoked Meats – Smoked meats have been exposed to the heat and smoke such that the increase in temperature dehydrates the meat (which inhibits microbial growth) while the smoke deposits an anti-microbial chemical layer over the meat.
  • Meals Ready-to-Eat – Originally developed for the military, MREs are portable, long-shelf-life food packets that contain complete meals. MREs can quickly be prepared and consumed. Often these packets include built-in food heaters and provide complete meals.

ISSUES RELATED TO NUTRITION

In general, all of the above forms of preserved foods provide good nutritional value. While the heating associated with some canning processes can degrade some water-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, C, thiamine and riboflavin, they still serve as a good source of these and other nutrients. While nutritional value is preserved in the above types of foods, the nitrates used to cure meats have been shown to be carcinogenic in larger quantities. Salt and sugar may be added to canned foods to improve taste, which can also affect the nutrition offered by such foods (be sure to check the labels of any canned foods for references to sugar and salt!).

MREs provide good calories and some nutrition, but also contain a large quantity of sodium, which has been show to have adverse health effects when consumed excessively (MREs are designed to simply “get the soldier across the battlefield”).

SHELF LIFE OF DIFFERENT EMERGENCY FOOD TYPES

The shelf lives described here assume the foods are kept at room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Canned fruits and vegetables typically have a shelf life of between 2 and 5 years. There is much anecdotal evidence of canned meats being eaten (and having good flavor and nutrition) after being stored for as long as 10 years. Some dry-canned foods such as dried beans and dried white rice can have a shelf life that exceeds 25 years.

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables typically have a shelf life of up to one year, while dehydrated meats have a shelf life of only about one month.

Freeze-dried foods have a shelf life that ranges between 5 and 25 years, depending on how well it is packaged (plastic food pouches have a shorter shelf life, while cans have a a much longer shelf life).

Smoked meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life of only a few weeks.

Cured meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life that ranges from a few weeks to as long as a year, depending on the type of meat and how it was cured.

Canned foods offer offer the most nutrition at the least cost. The other forms of food have the advantage of lighter weight and/or longer shelf life, but at significantly greater cost.

Smoked meats have an unrefrigerated shelf life of only a few weeks.

NOTE: While the storage of cured and smoked meats is of limited value in the time leading up to disaster; the ability, equipment and supplies required to smoke and cure meats will certainly be valuable skills to have in the aftermath if refrigeration systems are unavailable.

Modern MREs have a shelf life of between 3 to 4 years when stored at room temperature, however that shelf life can decrease rapidly when stored at higher temperatures (in a desert environment the shelf-life for a MRE may be as short as one month!). Also, when purchasing MREs you should be certain of their date of manufacture – otherwise you won’t get the benefit of the full shelf life.

DETERMINING YOUR OWN EMERGENCY FOOD NEEDS

A good way to begin to understand the types of emergency food supplies you will need is to consider how you will most probably be traveling during and after a major disaster. If you expect to be sheltering-in-place then the bulk of your emergency food supplies should consist of canned foods, as canned foods offer a very good shelf life and provide a lower cost per meal than other forms of emergency food. Even though canned foods are heavier than other types of emergency food, if you are sheltering-in-place then portability becomes a less important consideration than cost.

If you expect to be traveling on foot for an extended period, then the weight of your food will be a major consideration. In these circumstances you should plan on having freeze-dried food available, as freeze dried foods have an extremely long shelf life and are extremely light.

If you expect to be traveling by vehicle then weight is less of an issue and the ability to “eat while on the move” becomes important. MREs are an excellent choice for these circumstances because they can typically be unpackaged, heated and eaten without the need to interrupt travel. Also, because they utilize a chemical reaction to generate heat, the preparation of MREs does not produce smoke that might attract undesired attention.

When considering these factors you should not only be anticipating your travel needs when bugging out, but also potential future needs to travel overland for trade, barter and defense. Of course no one has a crystal ball to be able to predict these needs with certainty; however you should at least be able to develop a reasonable estimate. Additionally, you should build into your estimates the expected duration of the disaster, which should ideally be the amount of time required for you to become self-sufficient.

A quick way to estimate your emergency food needs is to answer the following questions:

  • How many people are in my group?
  • What duration disaster (in days) am I planning for or how long do I anticipate before achieving self-sufficiency?
  • If bugging out to another location, how many days of travel will be required?
  • In the aftermath of disaster, what percentage of total group members’ time will be spent on extended trips away?
  • What percentage of meals will utilize basic dry-canned foods such as beans and rice?

The answers to these questions can help you to estimate your own emergency food needs. If MREs are used exclusively for travel, for example, then the total number of MREs needed for travel is simply the product of number of group members, number of days of travel and number of meals per day. You may then increase this number so as to plan to use MREs for a percentage of post-disaster travel when concealment and speed are a top consideration.

Amounts of freeze-dried meals can be estimated as the product of average number of people traveling, the number of days of travel and the number of meals per day (while there will be some double coverage of travel by MREs and freeze-dried food, it’s never a bad idea to have some extra food on hand).

The balance between dry-packed “beans and rice” type meals and canned foods will be much more subjective, however by thinking in terms of the percentage of beans-and-rice meals vs. other meals, and of course considering the number of people you are planning to feed and the expected duration of the disaster, you will be able to identify the types and quantities of these bulk emergency foods that will meet your preparedness needs.

NOTE: Even before disaster strikes you should normally be consuming and replenishing your supply of canned disaster food so that you do not find yourself with a cupboard filled with expired canned food when disaster does strike!

 

The various types of emergency foods that are available, coupled with the commercial hype surrounding them, can understandably lead the prepper to make less than optimal decisions with regard to

 

It’s not a secret that self-reliance plays an essential role in a SHTF scenario. Besides the basic knowledge about making a fire and a shelter, purifying water and dressing wounds, you also have to make sure you have an ample supply of food. Canned beans and frozen meat are bound to run out sooner or later. And if you’d like a side dish with fresh game, you’d better draw-up a checklist of all the essential garden tools you need for a vegetable garden. Tending a small crop sounds daunting, but, in fact, it can be pretty easy once you get the hang of it and you grasp the essential things. Backyard farming might involve a lot of early mornings and hard work, but it’s a gift that keeps on giving. And if our ancestors aced it, we can do it too. Keeping a vegetable garden in tip-top shape will require a wide range of essential garden tools. Get some inspiration from the list of tools we’ve compiled for the beginner prepper who wants to grow his own tomatoes and cilantro.

Hand rake

You’ve got plenty of hand rakes to choose from. As long as it feels comfortable and sturdy, a hand rake will help you easily clear any type of debris around your plants and vegetables. With lengths that vary from 3-15 inches, hand rakes are adjustable and can come in handy for more than just cleaning your flower beds.

Water breaker

Vegetables will need a lot of water to grow and become plump and tasty. For a gentle, daily irrigation you can choose a water breaker that is suitable for mature plants and flowers. They’re convenient, easy to use and can even be safely handled by children helping out with household chores.

Shears

If you’re a novice to gardening, you might not know that grass and shrubs will grow everywhere and will take over fragile plants if they are not trimmed in time. This is where shears come in handy. Designed to cut tough shrubs as well as leather and other fabrics, shears will be useful in gardening chores and around the house for cutting cables or boxes.

Hand pruners

There’s a lot of cutting involved in gardening. Plant’s thickness directly influences the tool you need. To tackle branches that don’t exceed three-fourths of an inch, you’ll need a hand pruner. This tool has very sharp blades and will easily cut through anything.

Footwear

Never do any gardening chores in your everyday shoes. They’re bound to get dirty and damaged in addition to failing terribly at keeping your feet dry. To make sure you feel comfortable and feel free to step in puddles and mud, choose a pair of rubber boots. They also double as rain boots, they’re comfortable and extremely easy to clean and dry. Don’t shy away from investing in a more expensive pair that will stand the test of time and safely get you through all seasons.

GardenVegetables

Gardening gloves

A pair of high quality gardening gloves is a must both for newbies and seasoned gardeners. These will keep your hands protected and won’t allow thorns to pierce through. Depending on how much gardening work you plan to do, you can choose between a really light weight pair or a thicker, heavy duty set. You’ll figure out what you need once you start working and get some hands-on experience. Stubborn bushes will require a solid pair of gloves, while handling more delicate plants a simple cotton pair will suffice.

Gardening aprons

We’re used to associate aprons with the kitchen and cooking, but their use is much more extensive than that. Gardening aprons have a self-explanatory purpose: they protect clothes from dirt, mud and water, but they also come with plenty of pouches and pockets. These are very useful for carrying around seeds, small tools, protection glasses and garden twine. You can even use them to hold your keys and phone, as long as they’re secured with a zipper or button, to prevent accidentally losing them among plants.

Wheelbarrow or cart

You might not need this straight away, but you’ll start wishing you had one as your workload increases. Wheelbarrows or carts will come in handy for moving waste, bringing in compost, taking shrubs or trees from one place to another, taking large quantities of ripe vegetables from the garden into the house and carrying around equipment. Besides being very helpful in your vegetable garden, these tools will prove to be of service on other household chores as well.

Garden pegs, fleece and twine

These bits and pieces might be small, but they’ll help any beginner prepper keep his garden in tip-top shape. Pegs will prove useful for securing nets or lines to the ground. Fleece is generally used for protecting the plant from freezing overnight in spring time. And, finally, twine is very versatile and will have a use in most of your gardening activities, such as tying plants to stakes.

Carrots

Other criteria to consider before starting planting seeds:

  • Sun exposure. Second to water, Sun is the best friend of vegetables. They need at least six hours of Sun exposure every day to thrive. When you choose the spot for your vegetable garden, factor in Sun exposure and go for a spot that won’t be shadowed by buildings or trees throughout the day.
  • Soil types. Your vegetables won’t be able to grow in any given kind of soil. Find out what you’re dealing with by using a soil test it and, if it is the case, enrich it with compost.
  • Seeds and water. Research different types of seeds to know what’s suitable for the area where you live and prepare to take good care of them. Vegetables will need plenty of water daily, so if there’s not enough rain, you’re going to have to step in and water them yourself.
  • Placement and size. As a rule, it’s better not to place your vegetable garden next to a tree, which will steal all the nutrients your veggies need and cast a shadow on the plot. When you’re considering the size of your backyard farm, take into consideration that a 16 x 10 feet garden will be enough for a family of four during summer time and still offer plenty for canning.

  It’s not a secret that self-reliance plays an essential role in a SHTF scenario. Besides the basic knowledge about making a fire and a shelter, purifying water and dressing wounds,

This article continues where Part 2 left off in discussing how you can move through environments without leaving signs that you were there. This could come in handy if you are fleeing from people who are trying to track you.

Minimizing Your Trail

We have, thus far, introduced five different types of sign that can be used to track and locate a group on the move. Without trying to throw you a curve, there is a sixth type that just is as damaging, or more so. That is, the ability to visually locate you. If I see you standing on a ridge line or moving through open country, it matters little that I haven’t picked up your trail (yet). Because I saw you, I can now move in your direction and cut for sign. This means that your route movements and manner of dress are just as important as the physical sign you are depositing along your route.

There are many things you can do to lower your profile (visibility to others) and to reduce your tracks while on the move. Part 3 will address the physical sign and Part 4 will deal with your group’s visibility profile while on the move.

The Obvious

Be alert to soft soils – whether saturated with water, damp, dry or powdery (such as moon dust). Any soil type that permits the sole of your shoe to leave a clear imprint of the tread may require some type of obfuscation or outright avoidance.

Whenever possible, use hard packed soils, rocky ground, or terrain that has pebbles or gravel. In areas where rocks or pebbles rise above the soil level, you can walk long distances without leaving any trace at all.

Dry Washes and Creeks

Normally dry washes and creeks tend to reinvent themselves after a heavy downpour; sometimes violently so. Sandy areas will be wiped clean of any tracks, but damp silt deposits may remain along the margins. These can leave sharp impressions of tracks.

Hiking through a wash can be a convenient way of concealing your movement because it places you below the surrounding terrain, and there are times when it may become necessary to use them. There are, however, two important caveats: First, it is far easier to travel downhill in a sandy wash than uphill. The expenditure of energy while you are gaining elevation could be two or three times greater than what is required on a hard pack surface of equal distance and elevation gain. Second, any tracks that you leave in a dry wash could remain there for days or weeks. It will be more difficult for an inexperienced tracker to determine the age of the tracks, but they will, nevertheless, reveal your route. If the planned route takes you near a wash, my general advice is to travel above and parallel to it.

Using Booties or Carpet

CarpetShoes

In this image, the wet sole of a carpet shoe shows the outline of the shoe it was covering. The only reason this group was located was because they created a visible trail through an area of wet grass. Prior to entering the grassy area, there was no sign.

In Part One I introduced the concept of using burlap, booties and carpet shoes to mask tracks on soil types where shoe tread can be easily seen.

Burlap can be effective for relatively short distances (perhaps 10 to 20 miles), but will break down on rough terrain that is dominated by sharp-edged rock or gravel, course granite or pumice. Once burlap begins to unravel you will be leaving a trail of threads behind you. In addition, wrapping or removing burlap from your trail shoes simply takes too long.

In the case of booties made from felt type material, a worn out bootie sole will allow the tread of your shoe to make direct contact with the soil. This is not to say that booties cannot be effective, but their application should be limited to terrain where there is little likelihood of encountering sharp, jagged or coarse rocks. Bear in mind also, booties are relatively thin and will not be effective if worn over aggressive boot treads such as lug soles.

The ideal solution is a carpet shoe made with medium to high density pile that has a height of ½ inch or greater. The upper portion should be a sturdy material, such as denim or a rip-stop weave. Ideally, the carpet sole will be about ½ inch wider and longer (at the toe and heel) than the shoe it will cover. The key to securing a carpet shoe to your foot is the use of good quality Velcro strips sewn onto the upper fabric. Depending on the type of hiking shoe it will be worn over, you may choose to have either an open heel or opening at the top. Although you won’t find them listed in the yellow pages, there is a veritable cottage industry along the U.S./Mexico border dedicated to manufacturing carpet shoes and booties, so producing them for yourself will be a DIY project. Experiment with carpet remnants and scrap material to see what works and fits best for your foot.

Why you should avoid bunching up

SmugglerTracks

This photo shows where a very large smuggling group gathered in a wash before crossing a 2-track road.

Photos like the one above illustrate what happens when there is no trail discipline. All of the tracks you see are the result of a single group (estimated to be in excess of two dozen people) that was allowed to bunch up before crossing a road. This is what you call a “bright trail.” In addition to the many tracks, the group also carelessly left bits of trash. In a SHTF scenario, any group that leaves trail sign like this certainly risking detection and could be gambling with their safety.

When to Walk Single File

The vast majority of your movement on a trail should be in single file formation. This is often necessitated by terrain features and dense ground cover, such as brush and trees. There are, however, three circumstances that justify a deviation from this mode, but the decision to abandon single file should be determined by your point or scout and based upon their judgment. The three circumstances are: Jumping trail, moving through tall grass, and crossing roads. The most obvious reason for maintaining a single file is that it is minimizes the spread of your tracks, making it far easier to police them up. From a practical standpoint, it is far easier to keep track of everyone in a file formation than when spread out, and a narrow column keeps foot sign confined to a single trail, making it easier to police careless tracks. Spreading the trail with ten people walking abreast means that you are producing ten sets of tracks. It becomes an impossible task to police these tracks if the group is moving abreast of each other.

Determining When to Abandon a Trail

Your primary objective is to keep your group safe and to survive the journey to your destination. Abandoning a trail does not mean you are abandoning that objective. It may mean that circumstances in front or behind you have made the continued use of a trail untenable.

Jumping trail

This describes a calculated maneuver that may be required when you believe your present route is untenable. For example, your “tail-end Charlie” has spotted a group in trail of you at some distance. You may determine that their rate of closure is such that maintaining your present speed and course will result in unacceptable risk. The need to conceal your tracks has now become a matter of some urgency. There is no cause for panic, but you need to locate a point where you can break off (or ‘jump’) the trail. Whether you choose to jump trail going uphill or downhill will depend on terrain features where you are.

You will want your group to be able to individually depart from the trail in a lateral movement (left or right, up or downhill), but in such a way that you are not creating visible sign. The last person to jump trail should be the scout or “Charlie.” Their role will be to ensure that no visible signs of trail departure can be detected. Once again, the use of booties or carpet may be needed until the group is able to reassemble at a point of concealment.

If you are under pressure from a group in trail of you, you may not have a wide range of jump locations that you would consider ‘ideal.’ One thing is certain, however; that is to put a natural obstacle, such as a hill, between yourself and the trailing group so that when you do abandon your route the maneuver will not be visible.

I dislike making recommendations based upon hypothetical terrain conditions, but I will risk this one suggestion:

Given the opportunity, break from your trail on an uphill course. The primary reason is that high ground is tactically superior.

  • You will be better able to observe the group that is closing on your position.
  • It will be more difficult for someone standing at the base of a hill to spot you. Brush, trees, rocks and the natural curvature of the hill work in your favor.
  • Their behavior (which you can now observe) will reveal whether they have been tracking you.
  • You will be able to assess their threat level and make appropriate decisions.

Crossing roads

At some point on your journey, perhaps often, you will encounter roads that require crossing. Roads with frequent curves and bends, especially in hilly country, can sharply limit your ability to detect other groups that may be using it. Do you cross the road in single file, time the crossing so that each person makes it to concealment on the other side before the next one crosses, or do you make a mad dash to cover on the other side?

Let’s say that you must cross the road from a point of concealment on one side, to a tree line or similar concealment point on the other side. The total distance, including the roadway and shoulders or banks, is 70 feet. At a normal, unhurried pace, you can cover that distance in 20 seconds. Our hypothetical group of ten people would, therefore, require 200 seconds (03:20) from start to end to complete the crossing in single file mode. That is a very long time.

A faster and safer method is to spread the group laterally and cross the road simultaneously. Total crossing time: 20 seconds. Crossing points such as these are a good time to use booties or carpet. This will obfuscate the tracks on both sides the road.

Tall grasses and weeds

TracksThroughGrass

Moving single file through tall stands of grass or weeds risks the creation of a very distinct path.

 

As I pointed out earlier, moving through large stands of grass and weeds in single file can create a very visible trail that may not recover very quickly, if at all. If the field cannot be avoided, it will be better if each person enters and emerges from the field at a different point; that is, you will be spreading the trail in a “line abreast” maneuver that permits each member to be separated by several feet. Provided that each member of the group is not ‘barging’ through the field, this tactic will make it much more difficult for a group in trail of you to locate your path.

There is one caveat. Because weeds and grasses are easily crushed, you must move slowly through the field and watch where you place your feet. Step over or around clumps.

How to prevent skids

Although the shortest distance between to points is always a straight line, it does not mean that you should attack a steep hill or decline in a straight line path. Apart from the increased exertion and risk of injury while climbing or descending a steep angle, you risk the creation of skid marks that will be very difficult, of not impossible, to conceal.

It will be much easier if you use a “switchback” method that allows you to keep your angle of ascent/descent relatively shallow. This will greatly reduce the risk of skids and conserve energy. It is important to note that scuffing of soil is harder to prevent when you are going downhill – even if you are using a switchback course of descent. The simple reason is that gravity is a force multiplier and increases the impact of each step on the soil or rubble that you are crossing. Repeated impact on the same spot by several people will loosen the soil and may dislodge rocks.

Proper brushing out of tracks

TracksInDesert

This photo shows the tracks of three individuals moving through silt. Note the heavy toe impressions – they were moving hurriedly toward nearby cover.

As noted in several places, tracks laid down on soft, damp soil or mud will be difficult or impossible to remove. The best method I have found for removing or obscuring tracks on loose and hard packed soil is to use a soft hand towel. I’m referring to the type that matches a bath towel, except that it would be 26 to 28 inches in length. A gentle flip of the wrist will propel the towel onto the track with enough force to obscure or remove it without causing a major displacement of other soil (or rock) on the trail. At minimum, this type of motion will fill in the track with loose soil, giving it the appearance of an old track. Ideally, it will completely obscure the track. In the photo above, there is no practical way to remove these tracks without it being obvious. The shoe impressions are simply too deep for this type of soil.

It is a certainty that you cannot avoid leaving some type of sign along your trail. Whether it is a dislodged rock, a muddy print or an accidental piece of trail trash, you will at some point leave evidence. The techniques described in Part 3 will help you cover your tracks to the best possible extent. If practiced and adhered to, they may well give you the edge you need to complete your journey safely.

In Part 4 we will take a look at lowering your group’s profile while on the move. In the meantime, I welcome your comments and questions.

This article continues where Part 2 left off in discussing how you can move through environments without leaving signs that you were there. This could come in handy if you

This article continues where Part 1 left off in discussing how you can move through environments without leaving signs that you were there. This could come in handy if you are fleeing from people who are trying to track you.

In Part One of this series I introduced some of the issues that can place your group at risk of detection when on foot and on the move. In Part Two, we will cover the remaining four types of ‘sign’ that can be left on or near a trail you are using.

High Sign

This topic focuses on evidence that is above ground level. In other words, this is evidence that may be found on brush and tree branches that line the path of your trail.

Cut and broken branches

If you are moving through areas of dense cover, such as thickets or bramble, it may become necessary to use machetes to clear a path. Removing (disposing) the evidence of cut limbs and branches is problematic by itself. An even greater issue is the stub that remains on the tree. Cutting a path means that you will have created a visual sign of your passage and course. Freshly cut branches that are left near the source will remain green for a time, indicating that you have recently used this location, or that you have cut a path in a new direction.

CoveringTracks1

Tree branches were hacked off to provide a place of concealment and shade.

Hanging or suspended debris

Good trackers always look for various types of sign that are lying on, or suspended from, brush and tree branches along a trail. The most common sign will include fabric from ripped or torn clothing, sleeping bags, blankets or back packs.

The most effective method of mitigation is to maintain constant awareness. Everyone in the group should be alert to the risk, but the person occupying the “tail-end Charlie” position will be your last line of defense for the detection and removal of high sign.

  1. Night Sign

This term refers primarily to critters that commonly emerge and search for food in the safety of darkness, including innumerable bugs, mice, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, coyotes and deer, etc. Their foraging activities will leave tracks on just about any trail that has loosely compacted soil. Importantly, the combination of night sign and your tracks will provide a useful timeline. For example, if a night critter crosses tracks that you deposited the previous afternoon, it could mean that you are several hours, but less than one day, ahead of the tracker. If your tracks overlay distinctive night sign, it may mean that you are only one or two hours in front of the tracker.

In the photo below, a very crisp heel mark with an “X” pattern has been laid on top of several critter signs.

CoveringTracks2

Footprints that overlay night sign indicate recent passage.

 

Birds that forage for seeds or insects (quail and dove, etc.) will only leave tracks during daylight hours, but footprints that lay on top of these tracks can be used to establish a timeline, as well.

Night fog and dew can also be forms of night sign when moisture is deposited in the imprint of a track, particularly if the soil inside the print shows signs of swelling. Fog and dew operate differently on tracks than rain. An astute tracker can use this knowledge to establish an approximation of when your tracks were created.

There is nothing you can do to prevent night sign on your trail, but you can limit the ability of a tracker to use these clues as time stamps. The key, of course, is to leave no tracks of your own.

  1. Poor Obfuscation Techniques

There are many ways to attempt covering your tracks. With few exceptions, most efforts that I’ve seen merely substitute the original footprint with a different clue – one that shows you are trying to hide your trail. Effective masking of footprints depends on the type of soil, surface covering, the depth and detail of the impression, and soil moisture. Obfuscation is not a “one size fits all” solution. You are better served by avoiding the creation of tracks in the first place, than your efforts at removing or obscuring them. Here are a few examples of techniques that are not effective:

  • Avoid sweeping techniques that make use of rough brush. Any attempt that leaves lateral impressions of stems or branches will be obvious.
  • Coarse bristle materials will wipe the track, but it will leave a brushed out area that may be larger and smoother than the original print.
  • Rough techniques that cause the displacement of small rocks and gravel will be obvious to a trained observer.
  • Walking single file in sandy washes may increase the difficulty in determining a group’s size, but it is impractical to eliminate the tracks.
  • In sandy or other loosely compacted soils, repeated impressions in the same foot print will only serve to enlarge the size and depth of each print.
  • The same holds true on soft or damp soil, but increases the risk of revealing overlaying tread marks from multiple shoes.

The bottom line is that obfuscation efforts that do not match the original texture and appearance of the surrounding area may result in detection. Useful mitigation techniques are addressed in Part Three.

CoveringTracks3

Discarding trash and clothing along a trail is a sure way to be detected. What else is wrong in this photo?

 

Trash and Waste

Do not discard trash along the trail. Careless disposal of trash, such as package wrappers, water bottles or metal food containers also indicate use of the trail. The condition of the trash may tell a tracker how recently it was deposited. Importantly, it is an advertisement that, not only do you have food, it may reveal the type. For example, a carelessly discarded MRE package may reveal (or at least suggest) that you are well equipped for a long journey. Some types of trash, such as a brand of imported sardines, may uniquely identify your group; particularly if the same objects can be found at successive break points. Light colored objects, such as tissue, plastic spoons and discarded shopping bags are additional indicators that you are moving along a route.

Clothing items of any type reveal much about the person that discarded them, including size, age and sex.

Small folding shovels can pull double duty as a weapon or for digging holes to hide your trash or waste.

The best practice is to bag all trash and return it to your back pack while on the move. You can collect everyone’s discards from the day’s journey when you set camp, then bury it in a secluded spot. It is essential that you bury human waste and tissue.

Make sure that you have more than one trenching tool in your group. I would also suggest that someone have an army style folding shovel.

In this and the previous segment of the article we have identified the primary types of ’sign’ that your group is at risk of leaving along a trail. Realistically, you cannot move along any route in an invisible state, but you can use tools and practices that will greatly reduce your trail profile.

In Part Three of this series we will begin to address techniques that will help you conceal, or at least mitigate, any sign your group may leave. In the meantime, your questions and comments are welcome.

This article continues where Part 1 left off in discussing how you can move through environments without leaving signs that you were there. This could come in handy if you

A survival bracelet may look to some like a fashion statement, but this unique type of accessory is actually a functional item that can be used in an emergency situation. When this kind of bracelet is made from parachute cord, it is called a paracord survival bracelet. Learning how to make such a bracelet can be a fun and useful activity. Exploring a few facts about parachute cord and survival bracelets could help you to understand the many reasons that these handy accessories are in such demand across the world. Once you have explored the reasons for owning this kind of bracelet, you can get started on learning how to make paracord survival bracelets for yourself and your loved ones. You may even wish to host a survival bracelet party, so you and a group of guests can share the experience of making survivals bracelets for fun, fashion, and (most importantly) for emergency preparedness. When you assemble an emergency preparedness kit, adding a few survival bracelets is not a bad idea.

What Is Paracord?

Paracord is a shortened version of the term “parachute cord.” This type of cord is a lightweight rope that is made from nylon. Its original function was to suspend lines in the Second World War. This cord has a smooth texture; because it also lightweight and has an elastic feel, it is perfect for a broad assortment of functions today, from enabling water rescues to keeping cargo secured. It can be used as a thread for sewing gear that needs to be repaired, and it may also be utilized to create a line for fishing. It has even been used to make whips for those who ride horses or drive livestock. The rope can be utilized to secure camouflage or mosquito nets, fasten rucksacks securely, and position equipment on harnesses. This versatile cord is ideal for many outdoor activities, especially since it does not mildew as other materials might.

Survival Bracelets and Their Uses

Survival bracelets can easily be made for your family or to sell to others.

Just as parachute cord can be a useful tool, survival bracelets made from paracord may be transformed into useful tools. By simply disassembling a survival bracelet, you may utilize the material from which it is made. You might rely on your survival bracelet to make a fire via the bow-and-drill friction technique. Another option is to use the cord from a survival bracelet to create a tourniquet or splint in an emergency medical situation. You could utilize the cord from your bracelet to make a snare trap for food. If you are hiking on an unfamiliar trail you can tie the cord around a tree limb to create an instantly recognizable marker. The uses and possibilities associated with survival bracelets are seemingly endless.

Making Your Survival Bracelet

Now that you understand how useful and essential a survival bracelet can be, you’re probably ready to make one. The first step you will need to take is to gather all of the materials necessary to make your bracelet. To make a basic survival bracelet with a release buckle, you will need:

Once you have your materials assembled, measure your wrist in inches. Simply wrap the measuring tape around your wrist to do this. This will determine exactly how many feet of paracord you will need to create your survival bracelet.

Place the two ends of the cord together, and determine where the middle of the length of cord is. Then, pull the center of the cord through either end of the release buckle to create a loop. Once you do this, you will then pull the ends of the cord through the loop you’ve made. Tighten the loop until the cord is securely attached to the release buckle.

Next, disassemble the release buckle (but leave the cord where it is). Pull the ends of the cord through the other end of the buckle, and slide that part of the buckle toward the other piece. You will then measure the cord to be sure the length is the correct size for your wrist. You will measure in inches from the flat part of the pronged piece to the end of the other piece. Be sure to add one more inch than you need, so the bracelet fits comfortably on your wrist.

Once you have measured the cord length to ensure a proper fit, you will begin the process of knotting the cord. You might choose a basic knot, such as the cobra knot, for your bracelet. First, position the left side of the cord underneath the center strands of cord; then, position the cord on the right underneath the left strand, above the center strands, and through the left loop. Pull the cord to tighten it until the semi-knot is adjacent to the buckle. Repeat the entire process in reverse (starting with the right side first, and then the left). Continue alternating sides until the bracelet is complete.

Once the bracelet has reached the size you need, cut the loose ends and melt them together with the lighter. You should now have a survival bracelet that meets your needs and looks great!

A survival bracelet may look to some like a fashion statement, but this unique type of accessory is actually a functional item that can be used in an emergency situation.

The Lowly Goat

I have been a prepper since just before Y2K. It has been an interesting journey that encompassed ‘peak oil prepping’, natural disaster prepping, EMP prepping and TEOTWASKI prepping. I’ve purchased all sorts of prepper gadgets and supplies, drooled over the Lehman’s catalog, ordered from a variety of dehydrated food company catalogs, improved my gardening and food preserving skills and changed a room in the house to a storage room instead of a dining room. But after all those years, all the prepper novels, the YouTube channels and lengthy discussions with like-minded friends, I have come to the conclusion that we just have to learn how to survive as our pre supermarket ancestors did. We need to have the skills necessary to survive long-term that were needed before electricity. Because once all our purchased stuff is used, we will have to know how to raise our food and fix things by hand.

There are thousands of articles on all things related to prepping written by people way smarter than I am. But I seldom find much on how to select and manage livestock after a collapse. My gardening skills are improving, I don’t know much about guns and my cooking and food preservation skills are a work in progress, but I have been around animals all my life. I’ve cared for livestock on my hobby farm for at least forty years so it only seems natural that I would decide to focus this article on animals from a prepper point of view.

One of the animals that I think will be a major player in sustainable living after the SHTF is the lowly goat. Goats can supply milk, meat, hides for clothing and be work or pack animals if needed. It’s time to look at what the goat has to offer and why I think it is better than a cow.

Both the cow and the goat provide the same products and many think the cow is going to be the perfect prepper milk and meat source. It is generally assumed that once the power goes off, dairy farmers will be giving, or bartering, their herds away because they won’t be able to milk them. I suspect this is true. So many preppers are planning on just grabbing one of those free, or bartered, cows and their milk and meat problems are solved. Short term, that will work for some and, worst-case scenarios, get others severely injured or killed. Let’s look at the cow and goat and explore why I think the cow is a bad idea and the goat is the perfect solution in most prepping situations.

BackyardGoat

The Backyard Goat: An Introductory Guide to Keeping and Enjoying Pet Goats, from Feeding and Housing to Making Your Own Cheese

Raising Goats: Goat Safety

The first thing to look at is handling. The average prepper doesn’t have a lot of experience handling animals…let alone milking a dairy animal. While we tend to see photos of contented cows in clean barns looking happy, cows are animals that weigh over a thousand pounds and very definitely have a mind of their own. If you don’t know what you are doing, the risk of injury when a cow swings her head around and accidentally drills you into a wall is very real. Don’t forget that she may not like your amateur milking efforts and show you her displeasure with a well-placed kick. Have you ever been run over by a cow that doesn’t want to go in the direction you want her to go in? Remember, doctors will be in short supply at best, so a broken arm that means a trip to the emergency ward today may mean something much worse in an STHF situation.

The milk goat, on the other hand, is usually under two hundred pounds. A cranky goat is much easier to handle than a moody cow and the likelihood of injury due to a kick is dramatically reduced. A doe (female goat) isn’t likely, although it is possible, to be able to swing her head around and send you sailing either. So from a safety point of view, especially for someone with little or no experience handling livestock, the goat wins hands down. Of course, if you have the handling experience, then a family cow might be something to consider. But keep in mind, if the collapse has happened, you will probably have inexperienced people staying with you. While the experienced people will do fine with a grumpy cow, how will the new displaced urban residents living at your bug out location do if they are assigned barn duties? Something to consider.

Since we are talking about safety, lets mention bulls and bucks….the boys! Breeding animals are not pets and in this case, both of these animals can be dangerous. Many an experienced farmer has been crushed by a bull after making one handling mistake. While a buck goat can be nasty, the chance of serious injury from a handling error is dramatically reduced just because of the difference in size.

Raising Goats: Goat Reproduction

Most people never give the breeding aspect of milk production a thought. Cows and goats have to be bred, and produce a baby, in order to produce milk (Some contradictory info on this later) . Farmers now days solve the problem of keeping a dangerous bull by, instead, using artificial insemination (AI). The AI guy comes to the farm with tanks of semen and breeds the cows. There is very little risk of injury. But after an EMP there will be no AI guy and the only way to get the goat or cow bred so she can keep producing milk, and offspring to raise for meat, will be to have a breeding bull or buck around. Life after a collapse of society is going to be jam-packed full of new and terrible dangers so it makes sense to choose the reduced risk of keeping goats that must be bred instead of cows.

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Some of you will say “I can take my cow to the bull at the neighbor’s house” and that could be true in isolated cases. But two things should be considered. The average prepper isn’t going to keep a bull for breeding so finding that bull in your region will be difficult. Then you have to get your cow to the bull. You will be able to lead a goat through the woods. Depending on the woods themselves, leading a cow through the woods in order to avoid detection on a road is going to be a big challenge. Especially if Bossy isn’t interested in walking through the underbrush and jumping over fallen trees.

The reproductive cycle of the cow is continuous all year-long so you can breed her and have calves at any time. This means you can plan when you will have the biggest supply of milk. Goats have a breeding season, usually from mid-fall to about January. You have to plan carefully if you want a decent supply of milk for the entire year. This could be a disadvantage if you choose to have goats as your safe haven dairy animal but it isn’t an insurmountable problem.

Raising Goats: Housing your goats

The bigger the animal the more extensive the housing required to keep it healthy and happy. You can keep about six goats comfortably in the same space that you can keep one cow…. And the goats are not nearly as strong as a cow so your shed or barn doesn’t need to be as rugged for goats as it needs to be for a cow. The average prepper doesn’t have a barn but is likely to have a shed or garage that can be converted to shelter a dairy goat or two. Keeping goats in a small shed or garage is much more doable than housing a cow in one. Let’s not forget that a fifteen hundred pound bull is going to need a very stout barn and paddock area, as a bull on the loose is extremely dangerous. A two hundred fifty pound buck goat does not present the housing challenges of the bull for the prepper.

Obviously, if you have the space and shelter, then a cow isn’t going to present a housing problem…however, as a prepper who understands that security is important, you will probably appreciate an animal that you can easily hide. While not ideal, a goat can easily be housed in a cellar, on a porch or even in the home itself. I’m sure keeping a goat in the house is not something anyone would look forward to, but in some SHTF situations your animals are a critical part of your long-term survival and the ability to hide them from thieves, and wandering gangs, is an important consideration when deciding which dairy animal you will decide on. Cows will be MUCH more difficult to hide or even impossible. Keep in mind that livestock of all kinds will be far more valuable when food is scarce. In our modern world, livestock thieves are not common. But in a post-collapse world your livestock may be one of your most valuable resources. Your ability to protect and hide the livestock could be the difference between surviving and starving to death.

When discussing housing we can’t overlook pasture space. Cows are grazers and goats are browsers. That means that cows need good quality pasture to produce milk. Goats, on the other hand, browse (similar to deer)and are great at converting weeds to delicious milk. They don’t need large open areas of pasture. The downside is they love to eat trees and will kill any trees they have long-term access to as they strip off the bark of fully mature trees and eat the small branches of all trees. Eating an apple tree that is part of your long term survival plan isn’t a good thing but good fences and management will prevent that. Cows, because of their size, tend to destroy the ground in small pastures so it is important to have large grazing areas for cows. If you aren’t currently farming, and your dairy choice is the cow, you will need to have all the fencing on hand so you can put it up if TSHTF. You can tie a goat out and then move it as it trims everything within reach so a failure to have fencing prepositioned isn’t the disaster it could be if you plan on keeping a cow or two.

Another aspect of housing is feed storage. Keep in mind that in a complete collapse or an EMP, it is highly unlikely that you will not have access to baled hay. You will have to store loose hay, which takes up more space than baled. Do you have the space to put enough loose hay in a building to feed a cow for the winter, or is feeding a goat a more reasonable option when it comes to hay storage space available?

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Bugging out with livestock

I’m sure this topic sounds out-of-place since we are talking about dairy animals….but it is very important to discuss in a worst-case scenario. The bottom line here is you can move a goat much easier and faster than you can move a cow. Without a stock trailer, you don’t have many options other than walking. The goat, on the other hand, can ride in the back seat of a car. If you are walking, they are usually easy to walk with and much easier to hide if you are on the road and need to jump into the woods to hide from other people you come across while traveling. You can even use a goat as a pack animal and there are pack harnesses available for purchase specifically for this purpose. The cow will slow you down and make it far more difficult to hide while the goat isn’t going to slow you down, is much easier to hide and can even carry some of the supplies you have decided to take with you when you bug out.

Raising Goats: Goat Milk

Before I get into choosing the goat I should probably address the issue of goat milk. Most people I talk to think that goat milk tastes terrible. Sometimes they are right, however, sometimes they are wrong and often there are good reasons for ‘goaty’ tasting milk.

When judging the taste of goat milk some things need to be considered. Remember that the whole milk you purchase at the store is bottled after some of the cream has been skimmed off. If you have access to raw cows milk try some and you will discover it tastes much different from the product you purchase at the store. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized which means the cream doesn’t separate. So if you are used to drinking milk with reduced cream content, drinking goat’s milk that is rich in cream will either be a tasty treat or make you want to say “ugh!”

But the big complaint about goat milk is a goaty taste. The taste of goat milk is influenced by genetics so always try to sample the milk of a goat’s mother if you are buying a young goat. The food you feed your goat will also influence taste and that includes the types of plants growing in pastures. Undiagnosed illness or parasite infestation can influence taste so correct health management is important. Handling the milk after milking is critical in providing a quality product and chilling it quickly is the key to making sure you are properly handling the milk. Cow’s milk needs to be handled in the same way. And last, the condition and location of the milking area will contribute to the taste in the milk. Milk tends to absorb the odors in the air. Because of the unique characteristics of goat milk, it seems more prone to absorbing these odors. If there is a buck near the milk stand or you are milking in a garage with chemicals, the milk may absorb the odors produced by the buck or the chemicals. With all these factors influencing the quality of the milk to think about how you will store milk at your safe haven. Will you have refrigeration? If not, will you be able to use 3 to 4 quarts of goat milk a day or will you be able to find uses for 4 to 6 gallons of cow milk per day? It makes no sense to feed an animal to produce milk and then throw the milk away. For that reason alone, the goat may be the best option for a prepper.

MilkingGoats

The average goat is going to produce about three quarts of milk a day over the course of a ten-month lactation, with some producing less and others producing over a gallon a day. (Cows will produce three to six gallons a day). The amount of milk, for both the goat and the cow, is going to depend on the quality of feed, how long the animal has been milking, barn management and genetics. Remember, in an SHTF situation you probably won’t have access to good quality baled hay and grain purchased from the feed store. It is safe to assume that feed quality will go down and have a negative impact on production so choosing a goat that is an exceptional producer is important as that production will drop with the drop in feed quality.

Since one cow will produce a lot more milk in one day than one goat, you should look at your situation and decide how much milk you need at your hideaway. Do you have a small or large group of people? Are there children that will need milk daily? Do you have other animals to feed that could benefit from extra milk? Remember, you will have a much more difficult time preserving milk without electricity so planning ahead, as far as milk needs are concerned, is important. Will you be able to use four to six gallons of milk a day from a cow? Do you have children or adults who are lactose intolerant because many of these people can tolerate goat’s milk when they cannot tolerate cow’s milk?

Choosing the best goat for you

There are many different goat breeds but not all goats are the same. I am going to discuss the differences that are important from a prepper point of view. Some are dairy breeds (Alpine, Saanen, Toggenburg, Oberhosli, LaMancha, Golden Guernsey), some are meat producing breeds (Boer, Kiko, Kinder), some are dual-purpose (Nubian) and some are miniatures (Pygmy, Nigerian Dwarf). The Fainting Goat is a novelty that is listed as a meat breed but it claims to fame is a genetic disorder called myotonia congenital which causes the muscles to freeze for about ten seconds, rendering the goat prone and helpless when frightened. Then there are experiments which are crosses of two breeds and they include crosses of the normal size goats crossed with (usually) the Nigerian Dwarfs to produce a miniature dairy breed. The minis are cute and from a prepper standpoint much easier to feed, house and hide. But milk production is, on average, reduced to a minimum so it may only be an opinion for the small family or lone prepper.

Check out this article from “Mother Earth News” for an in-depth discussion of the breeds and their differences.  Based on my experience with goats I do think that some of the milk production is exaggerated however you can see which breeds milk the best and which breeds have the most butterfat.

What about a mixed breed goat? Experimentals, the crossing of two purebreds, are often just as expensive as purebreds. Crosses are usually done to achieve a certain characteristic or because the goat breeder doesn’t have access to a purebred buck to match the doe. Experiments are great if they are a good cross that was designed to improve characteristics you are looking for, like increased milk production or better udder support. If the cross goes against what you want, such as reduced size of the goat or to produce more fainting goats that are helpless to predator attacks, you should stay away from the experimental. Mixes of unknown origin may be good if the seller can show you mom, dad, sisters, and cousins of the goat you want to purchase but in general, a mix of unknown origin is a big risk as you have a good chance of not getting what you hoped for.

The cost of a mix is usually the big reason for purchasing one but the old saying holds true here. “It costs the same amount of money to feed a good one as is does to feed a bad one.” In other words, if you feed a pound of grain to two milking does there is a good chance one of those goats will produce more from that pound of grain than the other. Genetics plays a big role in milk production and the only way to have a reasonably good chance of getting what you want is to get a goat with a known history.

Genetics also plays a role in the length of time a goat (or cow) will produce milk after giving birth. The dairy industry generally determines that an acceptable length of time for one lactation is ten months and then you dry off the cow or goat and wait for the next baby to be born to start the process again. But what happens if you don’t have a bull or a buck to breed the girls? While I cannot speak intelligently about how long a cow can milk if you keep milking her past that magic ten-month deadline, I can say that there are many factual accounts of goats being milked for years without stopping and without rebreeding. Milk production is not at the peak if you choose to just keep milking a doe but you at least are able to provide some milk if you can’t find a buck to breed her. If your bug out location or safe haven isn’t located in a place where you will easily have access to a buck, or if you can’t find a buck to purchase, you need to purchase your does wisely so you have the best chance possible of getting a doe that can keep milking long after you go past the ten-month cut off date. You need to find a doe or does with a proven history or genetic background of exceptional milk production and then hope that production will help her to continue producing for a year or more.

I am currently milking a ten-year-old LaMancha doe that has been milking for almost two years. She is giving me about a quart and a half daily. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it is still more than my husband and I need and I am told her production will increase again in the spring.

A word about udders. In the world of dairy animals, the udder is the working part of the animal. It must have certain characteristics that will contribute to the cow or goat being able to produce milk over many years. Udders should be nice and tight against the body. An udder that isn’t supported correctly and hangs below the hock join in the leg is much more likely to be damaged if the animal runs. Well attached udders on a prepper dairy goat are critical to the health of the animal and its ability to bug out with you.

The purchase price is also a consideration if you are going to get started before disaster strikes. You have put a lot of money into your preps and purchasing livestock probably isn’t something you want to do. Unless your plan is the bartered farmer cow after the collapse, you will need to plan on spending $200-$500 for a good goat with a proven pedigree. You will be able to find goats MUCH cheaper but the chances of getting a good on at the cheaper prices is basically very low. If your survival depends in part on a dairy goat, you shouldn’t skimp on the quality of that goat.

Obviously, as I have mentioned above, you want to check out any known milk production records. However, there are other things to take into consideration as a prepper. Color may be important to you. Will a white goat such as the Saanen be more difficult to blend into the environment than a brown Toggenburg, LaMancha or Nubian? If you can’t effectively hide them inside a building or shed, then you will want goats that blend into the countryside.

The Nubian is known for their constant talking. Will that talking let neighbors know you have a nice milk and meat source just waiting to steal? Or doesn’t that matter? Speaking of talking, have you ever heard the bellowing of a cow half a mile away? There will be no hiding a talkative cow.

The Saanen is probably the biggest dairy goat and that can be either good or bad. Do you want to use them for pack animals too? In that case, you want big and rugged. Of course the bigger the goat the more food it will eat. Do you have the manpower to cut and haul food from the fields in large quantities? Keep in mind that goats eat about 4 pounds of hay a day vs a cow eating about 30 pounds per day. That is a lot of hay to harvest, haul to the barn and put in the barn.

Perhaps you want the kids to do the milking and be able to handle the goats? The LaMancha is often more ‘docile’ than the other breeds and might be a better choice for those who can’t handle the bigger framed goats.

Meat Too

Just a quick note about meat production. The goat often has more than one kid…sometimes as many as four. These kids, if not being added to the dairy herd, can either be used for barter or meat production. Cows usually have one calf and, when butchered, produce a lot more meat. While that sounds great, you have to remember that you have to preserve that meat and you may not have refrigeration. Butchering one goat means less problem processing than a steer. It also means that the other goats for meat can be kept alive till you need more meat instead of having to process and store your entire meat supply at the same time.

As I am sure you noticed, I think the goat is the perfect prepper milk supply. She will be safer to handle, easier to milk, easier to house, easier to hide and easier to feed than a cow. Unless your safe haven or compound will have a dozen or so people living there, the cow will produce so much milk in a day you will end up throwing it away. If you have to bug out, dragging two or three goats with you is relatively easy but transporting a cow or two if there are no automobiles or trucks running will be almost impossible and very dangerous as the cow will make you a big target for gangs. You won’t be able to move fast enough to hide her quickly.

After reading this article I suspect some of you will still say “A cow is the best prepper choice for me” and I’m sure that in some cases, a cow is a better option than a goat. But for the vast majority of preppers, who have never milked a dairy animal, and never cared for livestock before, the goat offers a solution that will fit nicely into the average prepper’s long-term food production needs.

The Lowly Goat I have been a prepper since just before Y2K. It has been an interesting journey that encompassed ‘peak oil prepping’, natural disaster prepping, EMP prepping and TEOTWASKI prepping.

I frequently highlight the need for water when you are preparing for emergencies. This simple, yet vital element of life can’t be ignored for long, so I recommend a multi-faceted approach when it comes to making sure you always have enough to drink. As long as the tap is running and the source is not dangerous to your health, you should be fine. That works great normally, but we all know that stuff happens. Water mains break, sources become contaminated or the disaster can render the pumping stations inoperable due to personnel or equipment problems. Your job is to keep any of those situations from impacting your ability to provide good clean water to your family.

If you are in the safety of your home you can store water in large containers so potential disruptions don’t affect you as much. You can collect and filter rain water from your roof normally or in emergencies, public sources like ponds, streams or rivers will work for a large percentage of us assuming you have fairly consistent access to them. This is usually enough if rainfall and those water sources are prevalent.

But what if you live in a drier climate and you are forced out of your house due to some emergency? Or what if you are lost in the wilderness and your source of water is depleted?

A reader of Final Prepper, James sent me an email asking for more guidance on water for the millions of preppers who actually live in Phoenix or other desert environs. I do appreciate the question and although I don’t live in the desert (so this subject is a little out of my imagined wheelhouse) I figured that this topic was very worthy of research for my own information as well. Below are some of the ways I knew about in addition to new ways I learned to find water in the desert. I know that we do have some readers (and authors) who live in Arizona who will be happy to fill in with their own ideas in the comments below also. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

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The desert doesn’t play around…

Where can you find water in the desert?

I have been to Phoenix, AZ before on a business trip to a nice resort type of location in the warm days of July. If I did not fully appreciate it before, that trip really reinforced my gratitude for Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern air conditioning. To be honest, the temperatures really weren’t that bad in the evenings and mornings. I was inside during the day so it isn’t like I was too inconvenienced by the heat but with temperatures over 105 degrees, I know that you really wouldn’t want to be more than arms reach away from a good water source for very long. For Preppers, this type of climate does impact the importance of water in your survival plans. The heat and low humidity (but it’s a dry heat!) seemingly evaporates your sweat instantly so I didn’t even see the traditional outward signs of moisture loss, but the ready access to water everywhere reminded you to keep hydrated.

This was reinforced doubly when my wife and I took a drive after that up to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. I had planned a short hike into the canyon and in my research; I was frequently admonished about my hiking plans and water supply. Because of its altitude, the rim where you begin your hike down into the depths of the Canyon can be as much 40 degrees cooler than your destination. You start out at the top of the Canon and it is a relatively pleasant 80 degrees, but by the time you reach the bottom near the Colorado River, the temperature can be as high as 120. To make things worse, the hike back can take you twice as long as the trip down so if you foolishly consume all of your water going down, you won’t have any for the much more strenuous hike back up. Our plans weren’t to even hike all of the way to the bottom, mainly because I didn’t want to have to carry 2 gallons on my back.

Had I been in another, flatter desert environment and found myself without water, there are some tips and tricks you can try.

A woman seeks water in a dry riverbed near Kataboi village in remote Turkana in northern Kenya. In 40 degree heat and no access to clean water, she resorts to collecting unfiltered water for her family in containers. The lack of rain this year across the Horn of Africa has resulted in failed crops, lack of water and death of livestock. The Government of Kenya declared the drought a national disaster as 3.5 million people in the country are in need of emergency assistance.

A woman seeks water in a dry riverbed near Kataboi village in remote Turkana in northern Kenya.
In 40 degree heat and no access to clean water, she resorts to collecting unfiltered water for her family in containers.
The lack of rain this year across the Horn of Africa has resulted in failed crops, lack of water and death of livestock. The Government of Kenya declared the drought a national disaster as 3.5 million people in the country are in need of emergency assistance.

Dry riverbeds can still contain plenty of water if you dig for it.

North facing shady areas at the base of cliffs – There is water in the dry climates like Arizona. Actually, the main source of water for Phoenix comes from three rivers and they bank surplus water underground, but if you were out in the wilderness it might be harder to find. One thing to remember is water goes to the lowest point which is almost always underground. Even when there is no water on the surface, you can often find it where it used to be. In lower areas, near the base of cliffs, you can dig down and find water occasionally. This water has run off the face of the rocks and settled below the surface. If you find a low spot that looks like the sand is moist, you can dig down and sometimes find plenty to drink. This water will need to be filtered for sediment if nothing else but could save your life.

Watch where birds and insects travel from/follow animal trails – Birds and insects like humans need water to live. You can watch the path that they fly from in the early mornings and evenings for a clue as to where a source of water may be. Animal tracks can be used to follow a path to a water source as well and you may find a watering hole used by the native wildlife. To get a clean source without any type of water filtration you can dig a hole 9 feet away (roughly) from the water source and allow cleaner water under the surface to re-hydrate you. This water, filtered through many feet of sand and silt should be free of any contaminants that the water on the surface of the watering hole would have. Again, I would always try to keep some form of water filtration device with me if I was going out into the wilderness. It’s just one less thing I have to worry about.

Tinajas

Water collects in Tinajas and you can use this to keep you alive.

Rock pockets and depressions – Rain is routinely collected in depressions in rock surfaces. Some of these can be large enough for you to swim in. If you are searching for water, it is a good idea to get up a little higher up to see if you can see a source like this. Just one good-sized hole could be enough to keep you in water for a very long time. There are some of these large depressions called Tinajas, that have petroglyph markings on them and it is thought that some of these may have been ancient directions to denote good places to get water. If not, at least they are really interesting to look at.

Where vegetation is living/broad-leafed trees – If you can find trees growing in the desert, it’s a good bet they have tapped into a source of water. Broad leafed trees like cottonwoods are an indicator that you can dig down to their roots and find water suitable for drinking. These trees could be growing in old riverbeds that still have water flowing way beneath the surface.

In dry river beds – Like the example above, just because there is no water on the top, you may find water by digging below the surface. The drier it has been, the less likely you are to find water but look for a lower place in the riverbed, one where the water would have likely stayed there the most time and dig down. This is another reason to have a handy bandanna with you to soak up water and squeeze it into your mouth.

What not to do if you are looking for water

Solar Still – Now I have heard about solar stills for a very long time. I think even in the Army we discussed these as a good source of water. In a desert however, you won’t get the same amount of return for your effort. Digging a solar still will expend a lot of calories and effort and you won’t get much moisture out of the ground. If you have plenty of green leaves to lie in there, you still have to wait a whole day. If you are thirsty it is better to stay in the shade than dig a still.

Forget the cactus – You have probably seen the cowboy chopping open the cactus and drinking from it. Trying this yourself can get you killed. There is only one type of cactus you can drink from and only one variety of that one cactus. The barrel cactus looks like its name and the Fishhook barrel cactus has water in there that isn’t toxic. It isn’t like a bottle of Evian though and you could still get sick. One alternative is to eat the fruit off the cactus. Prickly pear can be roasted to get rid of the little hairs and spines and can provide some moisture.

Don’t drink your own pee or anyone else’s for that matter – If your body is straining with lack of hydration, the last thing you want to do is force your kidneys to work overtime on a strange substance. Yes, your urine is supposed to be “sanitary” but this shouldn’t be a trick you use to re-hydrate yourself even in an emergency. What you can use it for is evaporative cooling. Soak that bandanna in your urine and wrap it around your neck to cool off somewhat. Then make a mental note to wash that bandanna.

So there are some ideas I have for how to find water in the desert. I think it goes without saying that as much as possible, you should plan for water well before you find yourself in a situation that would require you to use any of these methods above. If you are, hopefully this will help.

I frequently highlight the need for water when you are preparing for emergencies. This simple, yet vital element of life can’t be ignored for long, so I recommend a multi-faceted

Introduction

There may be a time in your future when it becomes necessary to evade detection while on foot and on the move. If SHTF forces you to strike out cross-country, or to abandon your vehicles at some point, you will be leaving a trail of your route with every step that you take. The more people there are in your group, the ‘brighter’ that trail will be.

I’m not referring to concealment while in camp or at a lay up site. Instead, this series will focus on two things:

  • Developing an awareness of the sort of activities that reveal your presence on a trail, and
  • Techniques that will hamper the ability of someone to track you while moving through various types of terrain.

Effective application will, at minimum, slow down tracking efforts of a group behind you. The less aware they are of your presence, the safer you will be. If a group is aware of you, but cannot pin down your route, they may abandon efforts to locate and overtake you.

The Risks

There are numerous reasons for being concerned about tracks that you or your group may leave:

  • Other groups may very well be taking the same route, even if only temporarily, to reach their destination.
  • Your rate of travel will be determined by the capabilities of your group. That is, you will be moving at the speed of the slowest individual.
  • Health and stamina issues may force more frequent rest breaks than you anticipated.
  • Security risks that are in front of you may force frequent breaks in travel.
  • Any group in trail of you may be traveling at a higher rate of speed.
  • You will not know the size, capabilities or intentions of a trailing group.
  • Bandits may be working in your area. At some point, this may become inevitable. They will be on the hunt for vulnerable groups. If they pick up your trail you may become their next target.
  • You can be tracked at night.
  • You may be in trail of group whose size, condition and capabilities are unknown. Information contained in this article can provide tools to help you assess some of that group’s composition and potential threat level. That knowledge will help you determine whether you can risk overtaking a group, or if you need to find a different route.

Before we launch into the techniques for covering your tracks, I suggest that you take a few minutes to watch the following collection of videos. They are linked so that one will play after the other. Pay particular attention to the one titled “Raw Footage Arivaca April May 2014.”

Apart from gaining an exposure to what goes on in the borderlands (that you may not have been aware of), this collection of video clips from hidden cameras is extraordinarily instructive in the ways smuggling groups move in terrain they effectively control, as well as areas where they are at heightened risk detection. If the route bears significant risk, or if it is being repeatedly used over a period of time, efforts will be taken to obscure tracks.

Five Types of ‘Sign’

Tracking skills require more than the ability to recognize a footprint. It involves the detection and interpretation of visual evidence on the ground, as well as above it. Basically, there are five types of sign (evidence) that a tracker will be looking for. Someone else might categorize them a little differently, but I have organized them in a way that allows you to think about evidence that you deposit on a trail and what you can do to avoid or mitigate it. Think of these categories as ‘calling cards’ that you may unwittingly leave behind as you move along your route.

1. Footprints

A comprehensive discussion of soil types and terrain conditions that allow the detection of tracks is far beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that most surfaces will reveal the passing of foot traffic to a greater or lesser degree.   Even a boulder will show signs of your passage if you deposit a muddy boot print on it. The durability and clarity of the impression are affected by many issues, including soil composition, material that is on top of the soil, moisture and wind.

The SAS guide to tracking is another great resource for learning tracking skills.

The imprint of a shoe sole reveals many important things about you and the group you are traveling with, including whether you are carrying heavy packs and whether there are women and children in the group. Tracks will also reveal whether you are walking casually, hurriedly, or if you are running. They will tell an experienced tracker that you are attempting to keep each step inside the footprint ahead of you or even that you are walking backward in an effort to mislead your direction of travel. Finally, your tracks may reveal that your group is not equipped to go the distance: highly worn tread, holes in the shoe, or the divot from a walking stick are good examples.

The sole of your shoe is a signature

Experienced trackers use tread recognition to single out one or two patterns when they are ‘cutting sign.’ They will alert others along a known or suspected route to the details of the tread, such as a ‘running W,’ concentric circle, cross trainer or lug pattern, to see if they appear farther up the trail. This helps confirm the course and direction of a group and enables trackers to leap-frog, or ‘cut ahead,’ so that they can close in on the group.

If a group is behind you and tracking, they may not be experts, but the continued sighting of any particular tread pattern will confirm that they are on your trail.

The number of tracks indicates group size

In a group of any size, the length of each person’s stride will vary. For example, the stride of a nine-year old child will not be the same as that of a six-foot tall adult male. A reasonably experienced tracker in trail of you will be able to develop a pretty accurate “soft count” your group size after only one or two hundred yards; often less. Determination will be based upon the variations in stride, range of tread types and foot size. The effort will be greatly simplified if your group does not maintain a narrow, single file column.

The size of the tracks indicate the group’s composition

Even if everyone in your group is wearing an identical brand of shoe, variations in foot size will reveal the number of children, juveniles and adults that comprise your group. In combination, the foot size and tread pattern can reveal that there are females.

Tread detail is an indicator of freshness

Full and partial tracks that are laid in a variety of soil types can retain a very sharp impression. Without an excessive amount of moisture or wind, those tracks can survive for weeks. Accurately interpreting the relative freshness (hours versus days) is a learned skill that you can practice at home and on weekend outings. Nevertheless, good observation can help pin down the age of a track. For example, let’s say that you started out with a dry day, but it rained for about a half-hour at noon. A tracker behind you will have waited out the same rain shower. If he sees your still moist tracks at 3:00 that afternoon he will know that you are no more than two and a half hours ahead. Your ‘gift’ has just lowered the skill requirements of a tracker from expert level to that of simple observation and rudimentary reasoning.

Freshly turned rubble and scuffs on the trail

Trackers will also look for freshly turned rubble and displaced pebbles. Simply stated, an overturned or displaced rock or pebble will leave a surface scuff or small hole in the soil that matches the size and shape of the rock. The rock will likely have a different color on the bottom than the side that was facing upward. The color of the soil in the hole may be different from the color on the surface.

ConcealFootprints

This photo shows two scuff locations and a displaced rock. The group that left these sign moved on the trail at night. Apart from the obvious tracks, what else does the photo tell you?

General characterizations can be made of groups that leave these types of sign. For example, one or more of the following may apply:

  • Moving at night
  • Hurried – Being pushed from behind by trackers
  • Experiencing fatigue, or
  • The group has poor trail discipline

Bent grass

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Bent grass can reveal a distinct trail of a group when moving in single file. This photo shows two distinct trails and a spot where people were standing while in the cover of trees and brush.

 

Tracks that are laid through wild grasses and other ground covers will be bent over by the pressure of passing foot traffic. Repeated, (single file) traffic will bruise the grasses, breaking the stalks near the ground. Although green grasses that have not been excessively bruised will return to an upright stance over time, recovery is not immediate. Dead, (especially desiccated), plants are easily crushed and fragmented. They will indicate a course of travel, even in the absence of a distinct foot print.

Methods to mitigate bent grass will be discussed in Part Three of the article. Other than natural forces (wind or rain), there is no practical remediation for crushed, desiccated plants that I know of.

Skids

Did you ever slide down a hill after stepping on loose pine needles, or had the soil on a steep bank break loose under your foot while you were climbing up an embankment? These are the type of skid marks I’m referring to. They can easily mark the location where you break from a trail for rest, or when changing course. Remediation is difficult, especially if you are in a hurry. Methods to avoid or limit skid marks will be discussed in Part Three.

Moon dust

This type of soil can be figuratively compared to dry talcum powder. Tracks laid in moon dust will leave a particularly sharp impression, although windy conditions will quickly erase the details. The arid Western region of the U.S. and areas that are experiencing drought will produce these conditions. Be alert to and avoid trails that take you through powdery soil.

Desert pavement

Many lower elevations in the Southwest (particularly if they are alluvial) may have a thin, fragile covering that is referred to as “desert pavement.” It is usually comprised of very small pebbles overlaying a thin, equally fragile surface crust. The pebbles are frequently coated with a thin patina (varnish) of minerals, making it reddish to dark brown in appearance. Walking across desert pavement will dislocate the small surface pebbles, and your weight will break through the thin crust.

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Tracks on Desert Pavement

In the photo above a smuggling group crossed a large area of desert pavement at night; leaving the very visible trail that you see. If you create a trail across this type of soil there will be nothing you can do to mask it. Attempts to do so will only make the trail more obvious. The solution is to detour around desert pavement.

I am not familiar with soil surface conditions in other regions of the country. I mention desert pavement only because it may alert you to soil types or surface conditions that warrant similar precautions where you live.

Windblown tracks

The movement of air, (breezes and wind), can dry out surface soil very quickly. Depending on the soil type, rapid drying may preserve a sharp image of tread. Trackers will look for tread imprints that may have bits of sand or plant debris on the trailing edge of the imprint (relative to the prevailing direction of the wind). On other soil types, windy conditions may obscure or erase tracks entirely on exposed terrain over a period of time. These clues can help determine the age of the tracks.

Burlap, booties and carpet

 

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These drug packers are wearing carpet shoes in a rocky dry wash.

If you have watched the videos referenced at the beginning of the article you will have seen many smuggling groups that were wearing various types of covering over the soles of their shoes. The videos show individuals with layers of burlap wrapped and tied around their shoes, as well as “carpet walkers” and foot coverings, known as “booties,” made of thinner material, such as felt. To varying degrees, these obfuscation efforts work. It can take an experienced tracker to recognize a trail where these methods have been employed, and it will likely take an expert to successfully locate a group on carpet in rough, rocky terrain.

At its most fundamental level, the purpose of these obfuscation methods is to make it more difficult to spot tracks and to deny a tracker the ability to identify a specific footprint. This does not mean, however, that the methods are equally effective across all terrain, or that they have equal durability. All three types merit some discussion.

Burlap is frequently used on dry hard packed soil and in dry sandy washes. On damp soil the rough burlap material can leave an impression of the fabric weave. Several layers of burlap will be wrapped around the shoe and then tightly tied with cordage. Once the burlap begins to break down from wear, strands of thread can be found lying on the surface. If the cordage unravels, a portion of the shoe tread may become exposed, leaving a direct imprint in the soil. Trackers will look for evidence of shredding.

ConcealFootprints5

Felt booties are effective on many types of soil, but are not the most durable method for concealing tracks.

Booties are designed to slip over a shoe and are usually constructed using a relatively thin synthetic material. The bottom may be constructed of one or two layers of material. They are primarily intended for covering lightweight walking or jogging shoes that do not have aggressive treads. Durability of the fabric is only marginally greater than the same thickness of burlap. Booties do not break down in the same way that burlap does. They don’t shred per se, but large holes can develop, allowing a major portion of the tread to make contact with the ground. The best application for booties is smooth, hard packed surfaces.

ConcealFootprints6

Carpet shoes have a bottom made from pile carpet sewn to a durable upper material. This pair has Velcro straps that secure around the heel.

Carpet shoes are constructed using a cut to size piece of carpet that is usually sewn to an upper portion made from durable cloth. The carpet portion is typically a pile type of synthetic material. Higher quality shoes will have a denser and thicker material. Some carpet shoes fully enclose the heel, while others may be open at the heel or use Velcro straps. In some cases, the carpet may be strapped over the top of the foot to make it more secure. Open heeled carpet shoes can be put on very quickly when circumstances require their use, but can slip off if the person is running. Well constructed carpet shoes are the most durable of the three types. Carpet can be used on virtually any soil type and, in general, is the most effective method of obfuscating tracks. In addition to preventing an impression of the shoe tread, it can reduce the overall print impact on softer soils.

It is important to note that these obfuscation methods are generally not used on steep, bare rock surfaces (especially when wet) where traction is needed for safety. Booties and carpet are usually removed when a group moves from soil conditions to terrain that is mostly rock.

We will continue the discussion of the remaining four types of trail sign in Part Two. If you have questions in the mean time, drop me a note to ensure that I address it directly, or in a subsequent article segment.

Introduction There may be a time in your future when it becomes necessary to evade detection while on foot and on the move. If SHTF forces you to strike out cross-country,

As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of, right? Not so fast. When you come right down to it, that advice, those how-to’s are what works for them. “Them” are all the people out there on the internet writing blog articles and posting videos. Most of them have the best intentions. They want to impart their knowledge to others who might benefit from it. But how do you take what they offer and make it your own? How to tweak it, modify it and customize it to what works best for you? This is exactly what should be done for a bug out vehicle, or in this case a bug out trailer. It has to meet your specific needs and include those particular adaptations and improvements that will be comfortably functional for you when everything else is going down the tubes.

Where to Start

First, select a base trailer to build up into the perfect survival masterpiece trailer. Lucky, for you there are a ton of choices out there. Trailers in all shapes and sizes have been manufactured for decades to meet all kinds of utilitarian needs from the professional contractor or construction firm hauling equipment to trailers meant for moving goods to those built for transporting recreational toys. Add to those variations all the recreational camping trailers on the market and the choices seem pretty much endless.

Do your research, envision the finished trailer in your mind, go look at potential buys in person, seek out used trailers for sale to save money, and pick the one that best fits your needs. Remember the longer a trailer is, the more restricted it will be for some locations. Longer trailers, obviously, need a larger turning radius and more space, in general, to maneuver. They are also limited to predominately flat roads as they are unable to manage rolling trails with narrow troughs between steep inclines.

Consider these types as potential bases to build out from;

  • Box utility trailers
  • Compact horse trailers
  • Teardrop trailers
  • Airstream trailers (compact versions)

To pull that trailer you need to first build your bug out vehicle.

These types provide solid bases from which to customize to your unique specifications offering enough variety to fall within particular budget constraints. The benefit of these trailers is they are already enclosed which is a head start, so to speak, which allows you to jump right into customizing the inside. Having said that, though, there are numerous examples of people who have built up open-topped trailers, or even homemade pickup bed trailers, into rugged, workhorse camp trailers capable of going anywhere the vehicle towing them can go. But more on those later.

Enclosed Trailer

Determine the type of space you want to have inside. Will the trailer be self-contained with room to sleep and move around or will it serve as a gear and supply storage and transport? Once the usage of the inside space is settled on you can set to designing the features; insulated walls, the sleeping and sitting areas, storage (gear, food, water), cooking equipment and fuel (Used inside or out? Is ventilation needed?) and windows.

The biggest decision to make (most likely made before even buying the trailer) is will it be a sleeper or a transporter. Will the environmental conditions require an insulated, indoor living area or will an expansion component like an attached tent or pop-up roof sleeper be sufficient and comfortable?

BugOutTrailer1

This trailer has almost every bell and whistle imaginable. Click the image for more photos and details.

If you’re starting with what is, essentially, an empty box on wheels then it would behoove you add a layer of insulation, especially if you plan to sleep inside. The typical, recreational, camp trailer will already be insulated but it’d be worth checking its condition if the unit is an older model. Insulating a cargo trailer is done in the same fashion as insulating the walls of a house. The trailer will already have ribbed, structural support throughout, just as a wall has studs. Cut and fit sections of insulation between these ribs and cover over with sheets of plywood, measured and cut to fit properly and don’t forget to do the same with the roof.

From here, the rest is a custom job, built to your standards and needs. Aftermarket interiors such as cabinetry, foldout beds, convertible seating (into sleepers), and counters are available from various travel trailer retailers or you can build them yourself. Sinks and plumbing are easily found at supply stores and counters can be built to fit a typical camp stove. Research space-saving techniques online for innovative storage areas, utilizing every empty space inside and out. Add storage fuel and propane tanks, generators and batteries outside to avoid gasses from building up creating dangerous conditions inside. For additional energy supply needs beyond fuel, with most trailers’ flat roofs, consider installing solar panels or even a roof-mounted, wind turbine.

ButOutTrailer4

Sleeping tents are a popular add-on to some bug out trailers.

Open Trailer

The open utility trailer comes in a full range of forms and sizes. By the term “open” we mean what is essentially, a flatbed trailer with 1-2 foot sides all around or a shallow, open-topped box on wheels. A popular customization for these is to convert them into tent trailers. A number of companies have cropped up over the years that manufacture folding or pop up tents that collapse into a zipped up square and overlays the open trailer. The tent and its support platform are hinged on one side and raise like a hatchback and serve as a cover lid for the open-topped trailer. The inside space is used for equipment and supply storage which can be partitioned off to effectively organize supplies. Or a portion of the inside houses slide-out storage containers or even full, outdoor kitchen setups with stove, sink and counter space.

Many people who go this route with their bug-out trailer make them into truly rugged, go-anywhere contraptions. Fitted with independent suspension, off-road tires and specialized hitches with couplings that allow for extreme vertical and horizontal towing angles these trailers can go virtually everywhere the vehicle towing them can go.

Both types of trailers, open-topped and enclosed, can incorporate external storage containers mounted to the outside walls, on over-sized wheel wells and to the roofs. There is often space on the trailer’s tongue for sturdy containers, propane tanks for cooking fuel or battery banks to store power. The customization opportunities are extensive, limited only by your imagination, time and to some extent, your wallet.http://fpnws.wpengine

Trailers are really one of the most versatile, bug-out vehicle options able to carry all that’s needed for a survival situation – food, water, shelter and lots more – the essentials, all piled into a mobile home away from home.

As disaster prepping continues its precipitous rise in popularity it seems every conceivable gadget, defense rig or bit of advice has been done or handed out. Everything’s been thought of,

Preppers are a resourceful group of people and there aren’t too many dire situations we don’t have some type of prepared response for ready in our minds. Our plans and preparations for survival are expansive and limited in most cases only by our imaginations or our paycheck. You name the disaster and we have got the bases covered in terms survival kit, our basic needs, bug out plans and tactical DEFCON 1 defensive measures.

But there is still a large number of people in the world who simply don’t see the same value in preparing as preppers do. I personally think that number is coming down, but like everything else, there are degrees of urgency based upon your own situation and each individuals’ views of likely risks as you see them. I know friends who 4 years ago would laugh at the mere suggestion that our country could have anything approaching an economic collapse but who now, at least in conversations, agree that the future looks a little dimmer than even they had imagined. They can now freely admit that they have a sense that there will be bumps ahead, but disagree on how much you should worry about or prepare for any ‘potential’ disaster. They can acknowledge increased risks but they don’t feel inclined to do too much about it.

Then there are other people who never in a million years believe anything bad like economic collapse, pandemic, war or outright tyranny could happen in this our enlightened society. They also believe that the mere thought of bad people getting together to do bad things and not tell anyone (conspiracy) is a sign of mental illness. Sure they will agree that monstrous atrocities have happened in our collective past but rationalize that away because people were less educated, or concede it is limited today to a few violent places in third world countries. They will tell you that as a modern, interconnected world we are so much more thoughtful and considerate now. Rational discourse rules the day.

They have no doubt seen far too many Oscar award-winning, tear-jerking movies about bad people and bad situations to believe that any tragedy on a similar scope could befall us in these progressive times. These bad stuff deniers seem to have this view of the Star Trek ‘United Federation of Planets’ utopia where everyone gets along (usually) and there is peace and harmony across the cosmos if only the smart people (elites) are in charge. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

Well, even these people who have watched far too much TV and rely too heavily on the wizards of smart can admit that even if we don’t have Klingon battle cruisers outside our Solar system, you can have storms, both literal and figurative that wreak havoc with our peaceful civilization.

Even Prepping Deniers want a backup plan

Understanding that there are people like those I mentioned above out there, some of whom we are even related to, I wanted to try to put a less ominous spin on Prepping for the benefit of those who need some additional encouragement. You can still have some level of preparedness without going to the lengths that others of us choose to do. Granted, you are only going to be as prepared as the level of time and energy you put into it, but something is better than nothing.

denial

Even if you don’t believe anything bad can or will ever happen, wouldn’t you feel better with a just-in-case survival kit of items on hand?

To that end, I wanted to put together a list of common sense survival items to have on hand just in case, barring all logic and the goodwill of your fellow enlightened souls, something bad does happen and you are forced to rely on your own self for survival. These survival items are multi-purpose should be non-threatening to anyone out there. I won’t mention camouflage or firearms of any type today but I thought a simple list of items to go into a survival kit for not quite the end of the world could still come in handy to you out there someday.

This survival kit and the items below should be something that anyone can store in a closet of your home, nicely out-of-the-way and hidden from all your friends who would react with horror and derision at the mere hint you were taking any of this ‘prepping nonsense’ seriously. It may not be enough to keep you alive if we really do have a SHTF event, but it will help in many situations where it’s not quite the end of the world.

So for those of you who can foresee some minor inconveniences in life that are worked out shortly, but still want to be prepared, a little…. This list is for you.

Simple Survival Kit List

Backup Power – When the power goes out, it’s good to be able to replace that electricity isn’t it? You can do this in many ways according to how much you want to spend, but let’s assume that a whole home generator is not what you had in mind. Neither is a noisy portable generator. You can still have a fairly reliable source of backup power with a solar panel charging kit like the EnerPlex Kickr IV Portable Solar Charger. This set of panels allows you to roll it out and charge up your cell phone. Add something like Generatr S100 Portable Battery and you can charge a larger battery that will in turn recharge more devices. Another thing to consider with this is having extra batteries on hand should the power go out. I have Sony Eneloop rechargeable batteries but there are many other types of rechargeable batteries that I can use in almost all of my devices like radios and flashlights. I also have spare USB type batteries like a portable RavPower 16750mAh USB charger that sits fully charged. With this one unit, I can charge my iPhone 6 times.

BlackoutNY

Blackouts happen all the time.

If all that fails, you can also purchase a simple 1000 W inverter to plug into your car’s adapter to provide power to larger appliances or recharge your batteries much faster. Just make sure you have extra fuel stored for your cars too.

Lighting – Even during the bright hours of the day, if you are stuck inside, you could be in the dark, literally. Flashlights are a must have for power outages even during the day. You can choose from a lot of options like a bright tactical flashlight to something you attach to your key-chain but for the best of both worlds I like a headlamp. This way I can have the light automatically shine where my eyes are pointed and my hands are free to do whatever task I need to. Have one source of light for every family member.

Money – When the power goes out, so too usually goes your ability to get money out of the bank or ATM or make purchases without cash. Almost all point of sale systems rely on electricity and now the internet. so having a small stash of cash on-hand makes pretty good sense. Just a couple hundred dollars could buy your family food, get a hotel room in another state or purchase gas to power your car. Make sure you keep some on you and some hidden at home. You can hide some spare emergency cash in between your phone and the phone case and always have a backup. Have at least $200 in cash where you can get to it. Smaller bills (20’s) are better.

Food – Who wants to go hungry during a power outage or short-term emergency? You can either keep more food stored at home, or purchase food for emergencies. The former will give you better tasting food, but the later requires a little less discipline. Storing extra food in your survival kit keeps everything in one place, but it does take up additional room. Ideally we wouldn’t lose that space to something you already have storage options for, but it may work out better this way.

Along with actually storing and having access to food to eat, you need a way to cook it unless you want to eat a lot of cold canned food. One of the better options I have found is simple freeze-dried camping meals. All you need for these is hot water which you can either heat over a fire outside or with a small camping stove like the JetBoil. Sure the freeze-dried meals aren’t going to be the healthiest options but for short-term situations like this they store nicely, pack a pretty decent amount of calories (make sure you check first) and are filling. I would much rather eat a warm packet of Mountain House Chili-Mac than eat a cold or even warm can of beans. Have enough meals for 5 days for each family member.

Water – Water is one of the trickier items if you consider it. It is all around us usually, but clean drinking water may be hard to come by at times. If the water isn’t coming from the faucet, you might need to find a source. Fortunately, in most climates, there is water around us in lakes, pools, hot-tubs, water heaters and streams. You should store one gallon of water per person per day. We have been going with 5 days so far, so plan accordingly.

Having water on-hand is the best, but just in case, you need a water filter too. For the most basic needs, you can boil water for a minute to kill any bacteria. Filters like the gravity filters from Platypus allow for a lot of water filtration plus carrying capacity in a short time. LifeStraw makes an individual option too that is cheaper, but you can’t filter a large amount of water using one of these easily. Compared to boiling, purification tablets and the LifeStraw, I prefer the gravity fed options best.

Pensioners

Do you have a supply on cash just in case the banks don’t let you in or the ATM machines aren’t working?

Shelter – We will assume that you have shelter since this is not quite the end of the world and heat isn’t something you can easily plan around without power. Cold is something that can be easily addressed with a little more preparation. For this a good three season sleeping bag is a nice item to have for each member of your family. Optionally, you can go with something like the puffy blanket from Rumpl which packs down small and will keep in body heat. Hats and gloves are good also.

CommunicationsA simple weather radio will help you stay in touch with what is going on and you can even use some of these to charge your portable devices and also see in the dark with the included flashlight. No, you won’t be able to communicate out, but you can stay informed.

How do you store your survival kit?

For most of the items mentioned above,  they will easily fit in a good-sized plastic tote. Something like Rubbermaid’s 48 Gallon Action Packer will allow you to store these items neatly away. You may need additional options for water since that takes up so much space but the rest of these items should fit fine.

That will get the most basic needs out-of-the-way, but what else could you store if you were really hoping to cover more bases?

Miscellaneous tools and gearA good sturdy knife is important as well as a multi-tool or at least a decent set of tools to work on items around the house. A nicely stocked first aid kit would be a good addition. Disposable lighters are always handy and are much easier to use that a fire striker.

Security – I said I wouldn’t mention guns, so you can use something like pepper spray or a tazer if you feel that your security would be helped by having something. I would tend to agree.

Mobility – The ability to pack all your gear into a bag would be another nice to have, but if you are talking about evacuating, we have moved well past the simple survival kit mentioned above. If you do decide something more robust is necessary, we have lots of articles on Final Prepper that can help you with that. Bikes are another consideration.

Hopefully the simple items above can help you out if you find yourself in an emergency that isn’t as dire as The End of the World As We Know it. As anyone who regularly reads this site should know, I strongly advocate much more serious and comprehensive methods, skills and supplies, but that isn’t for everyone. Maybe this will help or inspire those out there who still can’t see the point, but nevertheless want a little insurance.

Preppers are a resourceful group of people and there aren’t too many dire situations we don’t have some type of prepared response for ready in our minds. Our plans and

One evening last week, I decided to make my family an apple pie. We had canned apples from last fall and I still had about six jars left in the pantry.  “Perfect!” I thought as I rolled out my pie crust.  I opened the first jar and dumped the apples in, but since I prefer a deep-dish pie, I needed one more jar to fill it to the brim.  Alas, to my dismay, I opened the second jar and I shrieked in horror because the lid wasn’t sealed.  Fearing the dreaded botulism spore, I opened the third.  Now with a more critical and leery eye, I decided these apples looked weird and possessed an odd brown color.  Out they went.  Under the same scrutiny, unfortunately for my pantry, the fourth and fifth met the same fate.  Luckily, the sixth and final jar passed the test and my family’s craving for a sugar high and “circumferential” celebration was satisfied.  I baked the pie, and we all survived.

This occurrence caused me to consider the peril that could be lurking in our pantry.  I realized the seriousness of botulism and how little knowledge I possessed on the topic.  This concerned me greatly because I have a pantry full of canned foods that were either purchased or I had put up myself.   After some research, I verified the fact that canned foods, the kind in actual metal cans not jars, affected with botulism will bulge and rust.  However, jars of food from home canning or some metal cans show zero signs of botulism.  What is even more frightening is that once botulism is contracted,  you inconveniently may require medical attention to survive.  Treatments such as respirators, feeding tubes, and IVs may be necessary for survival.  How many preppers have a respirator on hand and the medical know-how to treat food poisoning such as botulism?

The Facts

Botulism or Clostridium botulinum is found in soil and untreated water throughout the world. It produces spores that survive in improperly preserved or canned food, where they produce a toxin. When eaten, even tiny amounts of this toxin can lead to severe poisoning.

C. botulinum is anaerobic: Oxygen kills it. That’s why, if the spores are already in the food, home-canned foods can be particularly dangerous. The canning process depletes oxygen, and if a high-enough temperature is not maintained for long enough during the cooking and canning process, the spores can survive, and they’ll feed on the food until it’s eaten … by humans.  If you assume the bacteria could not be possibly living in that jar of green beans that came from your grandmother’s garden in 1933, think again.  Microbiologists have found dormant bacterial spores that were thousands of years old.  This is serious, so don’t have and delusions about your iron stomach or intestines of steel.

There are two types of food-borne botulism: The type that affects adults and the type that babies contract from eating honey before they are one year of age.  Simply put, there are traces of botulism in the honey that are taken care of by adult stomach acid, but not yet developed in infants under a year.

As of right now in the U.S., there is an average of 145 cases of botulism annually.  15% are from food, 65% are contracted in infants, and 20% are wound-related.  For this post, I am focusing solely on the food-borne type.  Of the 15% contracted poisoning from food, almost all the cases derive from home canning.  Rarely does anyone sicken from commercially canned goods because the cans are required to undergo a “botulinum cook” at 121 °C (250 °F) for 3 minutes.  Home pressure cookers can only reach 240 °F.  The culprits are generally not high acid foods, but low acid edibles such as beets, green beans, corn, and asparagus.  It is also likely found in cured pork and ham and smoked or raw fish.

Another source of poisoning to be wary of comes from oils that have been infused with garlic, pepper, or other vegetation because botulinum bacteria may seep into the oil from the vegetation.  Pay close attention to dates on the products and once opened, refrigerate.

Normal symptoms of food-borne botulism usually occur between 12–38 hours after consuming the botulinum toxin. However, they can occur as early as 6 hours or as late as 10 days after.

Normal symptoms usually include dry mouth, double and/or blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, drooping eyelids, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, vomiting, urinary incontinence and sometimes diarrhea. These symptoms may continue to cause paralytic ileus (bowel obstruction) with severe constipation and will lead to body paralysis. The respiratory muscles are affected as well, which may cause death due to respiratory failure. These are all symptoms of the muscle paralysis caused by the bacterial toxin.

No Worries!  I Am A Clean Freak!

Even if you are the most sanitary person on the planet and vacuum yourself out of your house every day please consider the following from http://www.pickyourown.org/botulism.htm

“Clostridium botulinum bacteria exist either as spores or as vegetative cells. The spores, which are dormant and comparable to plant seeds, can survive harmlessly in soil and water for many years. When ideal conditions exist for growth, the spores produce vegetative cells which multiply rapidly and may produce a deadly toxin within three to four days of growth in an environment consisting of:

[list style=”1″ underline=”1″]

  • a moist, low-acid food (like meats, almost all vegetables – including peppers, green beans, corn, etc.)
  • a temperature between 40° and 120°F
  • less than 2 percent oxygen (which occurs in any jar of canned food)

[/list]

While the incidence is fairly rare, the death rate is high if not treated immediately. Prevention is obviously extremely important. Home canning should follow strict hygienic recommendations to reduce risks. Pressure canners should be used for all low-acid foods, but home pressure canners only reach 240 F, not 250 like commercial equipment, and are not hot enough to kill ALL of the spores. It is the destruction of the active bacteria, and destruction or substantial reduction in numbers of spores along with the creation of an environment that is less conducive to the growth of the remaining spores, that ensures safety.

The botulism spores can only be killed by the high heat which can be obtained in a pressure canner. Water bath canners cannot do this. The toxin (that is produced in anaerobic conditions) can only be destroyed by boiling; so if there is any doubt, boiling the food for 20 minutes after opening the jars adds an additional measure of safety, although this is not always practical. Colorado State University says:

As an added precaution, boil all home-canned vegetables and meats without tasting for 10 minutes plus one minute per 1,000 feet above sea level (15 minutes at 5,000 feet). Boil home-canned spinach and corn 20 minutes before tasting. If the food looks spoiled, foams or has an off odor during heating, discard it.

The processing times in recipes in PickYourOwn.org are from the USDA and Ball Blue Book, and ensure destruction of the largest expected number of heat-resistant microorganisms in home-canned foods. Properly processed, home canned food will be free of spoilage if lids seal and jars are stored below 95°F. Storing jars at 50° to 70°F also enhances retention of quality.

Can’t I simply heat the jars in a water bath canner for a very long time or add acid (vinegar or lemon juice)?

Botulism spores are very heat resistant. They may be destroyed at boiling water temperatures, but extremely long times are required. The higher the canner temperature, the more easily and quickly they are destroyed.

Low acid foods

Therefore, all low-acid foods should be sanitized at temperatures of 240° to 250°F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 PSI. PSI means pounds per square inch of pressure as measured by a gauge. At these temperatures, the time needed to destroy bacteria in low-acid canned food ranges from 20 to 100 minutes. The exact time depends on the kind of food being canned, the way it is packed into jars, and the size of jars.

Acid foods

The time needed to safely process low-acid foods in a boiling water canner ranges from 7 to 11 hours. Such long processing times are not researched and are not recommended. Losses in nutrients and quality would be unacceptable. The time needed to process acid foods in boiling water varies from 5 to 85 minutes.

In addition to the acidity of the food and the heat resistance of the microorganism, the time required for sufficient heat to penetrate all parts of the food in the jar must be considered. Heat is transferred from the outside of the jar through the food and thus is affected by:

The size and shape of the container. Smaller jars heat faster than wider or taller jars. The USDA no longer recommends jars larger than a half-gallon, and typically jars must be 1 quart or smaller.

Amount of liquid. Food containing a large amount of free liquid heats much more quickly than a more solid product.

Piece size. Smaller pieces of food (corn, peas) heat much more quickly than large chunks.

Amount of fat. Fat insulates the food and slows heat transfer. Most canning recipes require little or no added fats or oils.

The type of heating medium being used. Wet steam heats faster than dry air.

The many factors involved make it impossible to estimate the correct processing conditions for any food product. This is especially true for items which are mixtures of food with differing water content, piece size, fat content, or acidity as well as types and numbers of microorganisms present. The establishment of a correct, safe process requires laboratory research by trained scientists. “

Steps to Reduce Risk

  1. If in doubt, throw it out!  Remember, botulism can only be detected 100% in a laboratory.  Don’t take any unneeded risk.
  2. Bulging cans or jars with bulging canning lids should be thrown out immediately and wash your hands after contact.
  3. If food is foamy or has a bad odor throw it out.
  4. Do not decide you are Martha Stewart some weekend and invent your own recipe assuming that adding acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice or other acids will render your canned food safe.  There is hope for your creative side, however!  Playing around with spice amounts is usually fine because it does not affect the acidity levels.
  5. Avoid canning pumpkin or pumpkin butter because home pressure cookers cannot heat the jars to a temperature required to render such foods safe.
  6. Be careful of who you accept canned foods from.  If your Aunt Dorothy decided to can for the first time to save a bundle on Christmas gifts, but she has a tendency to leave her house without a stitch of clothing on, I would thank her graciously and pitch it in the trash as soon as possible.

A Good Source for Recipes

Use only time- tested recipes that have been in your family for years.  And of course, recipes form Ball Blue Book, USDA, local agricultural and University Extension services, and PickYourOwn.org are tested approved.

Anyone stocking up on food should consider the safety of their stores and clear out and dust off the shelves once in a while.  Being prepared and providing safe, healthy food to your family is the key to any survival plan.  Considering the ramifications of contracting food poisoning such as Botulism, checking and ensuring the quality of your preps is vital.

One evening last week, I decided to make my family an apple pie. We had canned apples from last fall and I still had about six jars left in the

If you are like me you don’t have the resources to afford a bug out retreat. My prepper ideal of a remote fortress located on hundreds of wooded acres, miles away from civilization and fully stocked with 20 years of supplies, flowing water and established orchards for me and the rest of my extended family is sadly just a dream. I hope to one day have a location that I can fall back to if I need to leave my house, but the way things are going right now at least, my isolated retreat is just my simple suburban home.

A true remote location that will provide shelter and safety isn’t something that most people can swing. It is one thing to live in a remote area but it is another to live closer to larger metropolitan areas for the convenience of work, schools and commerce while also maintaining a separate property to be used if the grid goes down. Having two homes is not something the average prepper can afford, or at least I haven’t figured out how to yet. I know that there are some that will say you have to make sacrifices now, to sell everything and move while there is still time but for a whole host of reasons my family plans to stay put and try to ride out any crisis that would head our way.

Does that mean that I don’t believe we will ever be forced to leave? No. I can see a lot of potential reasons to bug out even if we don’t have anywhere to go, but it would be the absolute last resort. I know enough to know that the best plans can change and I can already foresee situations where what I thought would happen might turn out differently. There are no absolutes in life so I will adjust if needed.

Thinking about what I would do if I was forced to bug out led me to the concept behind this post. What if me and my family couldn’t stay in our home for any one of a dozen reasons? Where would we go? Would we be left only to bug out to the woods and try to hide there? Are there other options? What would give us the best chance of survival?

If you have to leave now

If I had the resources to be able to move to an ideal retreat location, what would I be looking for? Could I use these traits of the perfect survival retreat property to help me find a place after the SHTF that could keep my family safe? I started thinking about how I could apply these same search criteria on a much smaller scale perhaps even locally to my home to find someplace where my family would be safer. I know there are some who will say for one reason or another that you will never be safe in any location permanently. I guess they assume you would wander the wilderness forever eating moss and shrubs or else you die.

Retreat1
Everything depends on the disaster  you are going through and it is with articles like this that I usually have people saying how one or more of my points won’t work because of X. This will probably be no different, but to frame the discussion let’s just say that a global pandemic has hit the US very hard. The virus was so deadly that 45% of the population was killed in one year.

Naturally, with a disaster on this scale, panic and rioting are common as services had ceased due to problems with supply and personnel. Cities are burned to the ground and no order existed in the town you live in. Over the last few months you have heard reports on your Ham radio of gangs roaming further out of the city and they are on track to be in your neck of the woods in a few weeks. You know that you can’t defend your home against overwhelming numbers and your neighbors were almost all decimated by the virus or have left long ago. Being prepared you were able to shelter in place and reduce your exposure but without a large group to defend your property the prospects of survival look bleak.

With the news of approaching gangs who have slowly fanned out looking for food and creating a path of destruction in their wake you have decided it is time to go. You pack up the supplies most critical to your family’s survival and head out away from the city looking for a new place to call home that will give you all of the traits of that perfect retreat location that you couldn’t afford before the SHTF.

What are the traits of good retreat?

As you set out on the road you will be looking for a new place to stay. Depending on the location you are in you would probably want to get as far away from the city as possible. Finding a new place to hunker down will be difficult and you will most likely need to find a location that is an abandoned home or building. What would you look for?

Retreat2

Running water – A location next to or very near a source of water will be crucial assuming the utilities no longer work. This is where location matters as cities routinely do not have a source of running water. If your city is not located on a river, you could improvise rain catchment systems but you would need to work out a system for storing the water. This isn’t impossible, but I think cities have their downsides. Even if half of the population was gone due to the virus, you will still be in the middle of a large area of others all competing for resources to live. Do you leave town or do you try to claim the top two floors of an abandoned building?

In the country, running water is easier to find but you are still going to treat it for disease. There is no way of knowing what is upstream but you can boil water for a minute to kill all of the active bacteria and make it safe to drink.

Away from population/ Lines of drift – The further away from people the better is what we look for in a retreat, but that assumes we have some support in the form of a larger group. You may find that you will want to stay closer to others for safety, but again each situation will be different. My preference would be to hide away but you can be attacked in the woods just as easily as in the city.

In a disaster we frequently mention the Golden Horde and you would assume if 45% of the people are dead already there would be a lot less people you would need to worry about but I would still stay as far away from interstates and secondary roads as possible. I would be looking for a place I could hide in that would be very likely overlooked by anyone out wandering around. Of course, if it is a location you found that means someone else could find it too.

Good ground for growing food – This is regional as well but if you live in an area with a short growing season it would make sense to move to a new home where you could grow food for longer each year. That may mean migrating south or east or west depending on where you live. Can you grow food in a city? Of course, it you can find good dirt and assuming the climate is more agreeable to long growing seasons. You can still garden just about anywhere in the US though but what you grow and how well you are able to garden will be factors.

Retreat3

Defensible – High ground with clear lines of sight – Does your new bug out retreat give you the ability to defend it if need to? If you are going through all the trouble to move somewhere else, you would want it to be an upgrade hopefully, right? Any location you select should ideally give you good visibility to your surroundings so that you can see who is approaching. In a city this could mean the roof of a building but I still think that is a less ideal place. Having a cabin halfway up a mountain with some cleared land would be better. What about an abandoned bank or service station? You could have security on three sides but the store front windows would be a downside.

I would be looking for a building that had no windows if those were my options; or at least windows too high for the average person to crawl in. Something like a warehouse would give you a lot of choices if it was in the right location.

This is all hypothetical but I think it is conceivable that in order to survive you could have to roam outside of your city in a worst case scenario. The same advantages of the retreats that we look for can be had in other locations too if you know what you are looking for. Will it be as nice as that dreamy prepper retreat? Probably not, but it could still give you a location that could keep you and your family alive.

If you are like me you don’t have the resources to afford a bug out retreat. My prepper ideal of a remote fortress located on hundreds of wooded acres, miles