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Guns and ammo are undoubtedly at the top of the list when it comes to many preppers’ inventory. Lots of us in the prepper or survivalist scene love our guns and gadgets. But simply buying a gun and putting it in the closet or the nightstand drawer does not guarantee anything. In fact, handguns can be potentially, more dangerous to the owner than the bad guy. In particular, if the owner never practices with them.

We all have busy schedules and life gets in the way sometimes preventing us from getting to the range to train. Or some people’s budgets may not allow them to shoot as often as they would like or need to.

But folks, there is a solution… Wanna know the secret to becoming a better shooter? Actually, there is no secret, but dry fire, can significantly increase a person’s shooting ability.

Practice Practice Practice

What is dry fire? Dry fire is simply practicing everything related to running a firearm, without actually firing a live round. You can practice everything from drawing your pistol from the holster, to reloading, trigger press/squeeze, target transitions, shooting from awkward positions, engaging multiple targets, moving while shooting, from behind barricades, etc, etc. It’s endless what you can do. And one of the best attributes of it, is that it costs nothing! Only as much time as you want to put into it.

To be good at shooting, you need to be consistent. You have to do everything the same every time you do it. How do you improve consistency? Repetitions, depending on how good you want to get, as many reps as you can possibly do, perfectly. I’m sure you all have heard the saying, practice makes perfect? Well, to be analytical, if you are doing something wrong and practicing it 1000’s of times, you are practicing to suck. You have to be sure you are practicing the technique correctly in order to be perfect. Please be aware of that.

For all the beginners and even intermediate shooters, I recommend getting some professional instruction. That way you can be sure you are doing everything correctly. Any of the big shooting schools in the country is money well spent. But also don’t overlook possible local instructors, just do your homework and vet them so you know your not gonna get robbed of your money and getting crap instruction. The NRA is also a good resource.

 

S.T. Action Pro Inert Safety Trainer Cartridge Dummy Ammunition Ammo Shell Rounds with Nickel Case – Pack of 10

 

If you live near a gun club that has monthly USPSA (United States practical shooting association) or IDPA ( International defensive pistol association) matches, seek out the grand master, or master class shooters for possible help working with your skills. Grand master and master class shooters are very highly skilled shooters. A person does not make those levels unless they want to get there. I.e. they put in the time and work to reach those levels. YouTube can be a good source of info as well, but that is only after you have a grasp of the basics after having had professional instruction so you understand what the video is explaining.

Dry fire can be done pretty much anywhere, but there are some safety rules you MUST adhere to. The priority safety rule when it comes to dry fire is to not have ANY ammo in the same room. Double and triple check your weapon that it is empty of any live ammo. I do recommend snap caps or dummy rounds to help replicate the weight of a loaded handgun. But one must be diligent in making sure there is no live ammo in the dry fire area.

 

Practicing using a wall that will stop bullets is also a good idea, like a basement wall or foundational wall as they’re usually some form of concrete or stone. If you don’t have a wall like that to practice with, be aware of what’s behind the wall you are using, just in case. Now, the whole dry firing training, consists of NOT using live ammo, but it’s always better to be safe when it come to firearms.

Safariland 6280 Level II SLS Retention Duty Holster

OK, on to the meat and potatoes! You can print out any variety of targets downloaded from the web. You don’t even need to tape or pin targets to the wall. You can use a light switch, or a mark on the wall. I use post it notes as you can get them in all sizes, they adhere to the wall well and remove without ruining the surface of the wall. I use the smallest size post it note I can find which are 2″x2″. I also like them because I set up different arrays to practice different things. Or you can hang a full size silhouette target. I like the idea of aiming small.

Once you have your target/s up, it’s up to you to decide what to work on. A good place to start is the fundamentals. Learn to establish a good grip on the weapon. Draw quickly and smoothly. Another saying in the training industry you may have heard is, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. WRONG! I vehemently disagree! Smooth may be fast but slow is slow! I don’t care how smooth your draw is, if it’s slower than your adversary, YOU LOSE! It’s good to start slow, to learn the movements and feeling, but ultimately the goal is to start to speed things up. Shooting a round on target at 7 yards from the holster in under a second is very achievable! It just takes practice.

So a suitable basic drill is to establish a good grip on the weapon, smoothly and quickly draw from holster, acquire a good sight picture, that means front and rear sights are equal height, and there is equal light or space on each side of the front sight, in the notch of the rear sight. Take that sight picture and align it on the target. Slowly take up the slack in the trigger, and break the trigger without disturbing the sight picture. Now, re-holster and do it again, and again, and again. Dry fire is a great way to develop the toughest part of shooting, the trigger press. Without the BANG of the round going off, the tendency of beginners to flinch will be absent.

 

 

The idea is to do it until it becomes subconscious. That is ultimately the level you should achieve. To be able to run the gun subconsciously. You shouldn’t have to think about how to operate and shoot your weapon. If something bad happens in real life that warrants you drawing your weapon, you’ve got a lot of other information to process without having to think about how to run your weapon. One piece of gear I recommend getting at some point is a shot timer. It can give you cues when to start your movements, you can set par times to help develop your speed. It is a great way to measure progress. Not to mention you can use it when you live fire as well.

All professional competitive shooters practice dry fire. The average ratio for most pro shooters is for every time they press the trigger on a live round, they press the trigger 5 times in dry fire. Even the special ops guys do dry fire. When they practice new drills, or tactics, it’s done dry first, until they get it right. Then they do it with live fire to practice the real thing. If you carry concealed, practice drawing from your concealed holster. If you have battle nylon, like a battle belt or a holster mounted on a plate carrier, put them on and practice dry firing from them!

 

 

Most of us love the guns, but how many practice with them? By that I mean actually train with them. Going to the gravel pit and blasting off rounds as fast as you can pull the trigger is not training. That’s just making noise and it is not developing any skill. It would be cheaper to just buy firecrackers if all you want to hear is noise. Have structured practices to develop your skill. You can also do the same with rifles. So if you get bored with the pistol, pull out the AR or AK! If someone dry fires for 15-30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, in one month you will see a notable improvement the next time you go to the range.

Guns and ammo are undoubtedly at the top of the list when it comes to many preppers’ inventory. Lots of us in the prepper or survivalist scene love our guns

Packing heat is always a good idea because you never know what this world is going to throw at you next. Revolvers make an excellent choice as a Concealed Carry Weapon, backup or self-defense piece. Here are seven reasons why the wheel gun excels.

Dependability

Revolvers have the earned reputation of being dependable under pressure.

A wheel gun can put up with a lot more abuse than an auto-loader. Drop it in the dirt. Roll it around in the mud. It is still going to function. Semi-autos are a lot more finicky about dirt and dust.

Even a cheap revolver is going to shoot a round that fits correctly in a cylinder chamber. New ammo or reloads, it does not matter. You can mix loads too. Load the first one or two out the barrel with a hot JHP to avoid over-penetration. Then, lower power loads behind that like lead ball to fill the rest of the cylinder.

Auto-loaders definitely express preferences in ammo. I once had a 1911 that digested factory JHP and FMJ just fine. Drop some hand-loaded round ball and it jammed every time.

 

 

Revolvers do not jam. Auto-loaders can. Misfeeds can be caused by a bent lip that you didn’t notice before slapping a new mag home or a weak mag spring. Auto-loaders are also susceptible to “limp wristing”, a problem that a revolver never has.

Fits your hand better

Even a cheap revolver is going to shoot a round that fits correctly in a cylinder chamber. New ammo or reloads, it does not matter.

Revolvers come in all sizes from the diminutive North American Arms .22 and .22 Mag to the behemoth North American Arms BFR in .45-70
Auto-loaders do get small, but not as small as the NAA revolver.
The BFR is not suited for concealed carry, unless you are about 12 feet tall. A lot of people say the NAA revolvers are also not suited for concealed carry. If you must have maximum concealment and minimum size, the NAA offers fit both categories. If the choice is between no gun or an NAA revolver, these pocket powerhouses win every time.

Read More: Top 5 Firearms you need to get your hands on now!

Auto-loaders do not reach the sheer size of the BFR either.
A new generation of auto-loaders with different grips is out. Revolvers have had this for years and the choices are much broader.
A good revolver will also fit in the best hunting backpacks as a backup.

Shooter Friendly

 

Light loads are the perfect way to get used to shooting a revolver and to teach newbies. Shoot light and carry hot.

The revolver is more shooter friendly than an auto-loader. Because the revolver does not require recoil or gas to cycle, you can load revolver rounds very light. If you load auto-loader rounds light, you run the risk of a jam. The slide may not come all the way back. It may come back just far enough to begin the ejection of spent brass, but not complete it. There is another jam.
Light loads are the perfect way to get used to shooting a revolver and to teach newbies. Shoot light and carry hot.

Auto-loaders have a slide that comes back to cycle the weapon. More than one person has been pinched by the slide, usually because of limp wristing.

Easier to repair

A revolver has just a few parts. Most revolver parts can be milled in short order by any good metal shop.

Greater Durability

Revolvers have the least chance of failure of any handgun except single shots and the derringer.

The revolver is older than the auto-loader. What we know from a century of using both firearms is that the revolver lasts longer. Shooting does wear both firearms, but a well-built wheelmen will last longer than all but the most expensive semis.

The move to polymer parts on handguns in the semis is another reason many of these guns will not last as long as a wheelgun. Plastic, call it what it is, won’t hold up the way steel does.

Put another way, revolvers have the least chance of failure of any handgun except single shots and the derringer.

Safer

The revolver does not have a safety by and large. A few, like the Heritage rim-fire, do have a safety, but this is not common. Why no safety? Not needed. To make the revolver fire, the hammer-firing pin has to hit the primer hard enough to effect a detonation.

Double action revolvers do take some strength to pull that trigger to cock the hammer. Single action means you have to manually cock the hammer.

If the hammer is back, you know the gun is ready to fire. In a semi auto, especially with no exposed hammer, you have no idea if the gun is ready to fire.

Easier to Clean

Cleaning a wheelgun means running a patch down the barrel and through the cylinder chambers. Cleaning an auto means field stripping and putting it back together. For experienced shooters, this is not a problem. For someone who is new to guns, it can be daunting.

Law Friendly

Getting a permit to carry a revolver is easier in states that link a carry permit to the type of gun. Even New Jersey is more likely to issue a permit for a wheelgun than an auto. If you live in a state where the permit is keyed to you instead of the gun, a revolver still makes a good choice.

Conceal-ability

Hiding a revolver is easy. Modern holsters hide the profile very well. The holsters also come with features that make the holster snag in your pocket when drawing. You come out with the gun, the leather stays behind.

Revolvers also carry well in a shoulder holster, if that’s your thing.

I carry a Cobra hammerless snub .38 in a Bianchi 152 holster. The pistol is rated for +P ammo. The little holster fits most snubs. This is the second .38 snub I’ve had as a carry piece. The first one was traded to lady who wanted something for her purse and had a rifle I wanted. If I ever trade this one, its replacement will be a .357 snub hammerless or shrouded hammer. That way I can carry .38 Smith & Wesson, .38 Short Colt, .38 Special or .357.

 

 

 

Packing heat is always a good idea because you never know what this world is going to throw at you next. Revolvers make an excellent choice as a Concealed Carry

The world of Survival and Prepping Bloggers is pretty diverse. There are those who will say that they are only talking intelligently about preparing without any of the fear as if fear somehow makes prepping less relevant.

There are those who are on the opposite of the spectrum and almost daily warn of impending doom around every corner. In our broad sphere of influence you have Preppers, Survivalists, Homesteaders, Back to the Land types, current and ex-military, Off-Grid, Anti-government, Sustainable living, farmers, militia and all other points in between.

The largest majority in my experience are just regular folks who don’t want to be caught off guard if some emergency happens. Like the Prepper versus Survivalist argument, there are a lot of sides to any one topic.

With each of those sides come opinions and you know what they say about opinions.

 

 

When it comes to opinions I have more than my fair share and right or wrong they are what guide me on just about every decision.

My opinion from time to time has gotten me in trouble with some who read this blog and as long as the conversation stays civil, which I think it always has, that is perfectly fine to me. Now, I would like to think I am wise enough to realize when my opinion is wrong and be mature enough to change my mind. This to me makes perfect sense. If you learn something that wasn’t known to you before that completely alters your understanding and yet you refuse to change your beliefs out of stubborn pride then you deserve whatever you get.

Opinions in my opinion aren’t hard and fast rules. Opinions can change over time.

Speaking of opinions, there are some people in the Prepper community that absolutely abhor guns. They may each have their reasons, but usually they are convinced that a gun is not necessary for protection or survival. I had a reader send me in this question:

Does it even make sense to Prep extensively with intentions of NOT including firearm(s)? Why would someone Prep just to have it all taken away by somebody with nothing but a gun? I thought this might enlighten some of those who Prep but are dead set against owning a weapon of any kind.

I think this is a great question and there are really only two main opinions when it comes to guns. You either like them or you don’t. Maybe like isn’t the right word. You either appreciate what they are useful at doing or you don’t.

 

Digging Deeper

I wanted to try and come up with all the reasons I could think of for why anyone would not want to have guns in a survival situation. I came up with a few reasons, but maybe you have more I didn’t think of.

  • Their Religion forbids owning guns
  • History of bad experiences
  • Philosophically opposed to killing even to protect life
  • Scared of guns
  • Believe guns are better in the hands of police/military

I am sure there are a myriad of other reasons, but for this article I’ll start with these. For the sake of argument, I will even say that all of these are valid reasons for not wanting to purchase a weapon for defense.

Getting back to the question; does it make sense to prepare if you aren’t checking the box on the firearm box? I think this depends greatly on a lot of factors.

What are you Prepping for?

Prepping is not something you can ever accomplish. To me, Prepping is a way of living in a way that will keep you as safe and self-sufficient as possible no matter what emergency or crisis comes your way. You could also say that Prepping is about becoming self sufficient in a way. You could be prepping for an earthquake or a Tornado, a Hurricane or even a broken down vehicle. Each of these normal events has a relatively short time period, but the devastation from some of these natural phenomenon can last years. If you lose your home to a hurricane you might literally not have a home to call your own for over a year.

For these events, safety from others is not normally your focus in the short term, but I can point to virtually any natural disaster and show examples of looting and robbery. Eventually safety does become an issue whenever there is a crisis even if it was caused by Mother Nature.

Others are prepping for man-made events like war, home invasions, economic collapse or riots where the rule of law is out the window. In an event like this it’s every man/woman for themselves. In this type of event safety is no less an issue, but what makes this worse is that you don’t have relief workers spending their summer vacations passing out water. You don’t have power company trucks from other states rolling in. You could very well be alone with no one but your family and neighbors for safety.

What do you want to have by your side in the middle of the night?

Where do you live?

Now even if we do have the worst case scenario, global catastrophe, or plague known to man there will be people who aren’t as affected as others. If you are living in downtown New York, regardless of the issue you will have a lot of other people to contend with. If you live out in the plains of eastern Kansas, I imagine there will be a lot fewer people to deal with and worry about. Does that mean you have nothing to worry about though?

To anyone who has read this blog for any length of time, it is probably painfully clear that I have and advocate the responsible use of firearms by legal adults. Firearms serve a purpose for me and that is almost singularly around protection of my family. I have weapons that are solely for hunting but in a pinch they can be used for defense too. I live in what I would call a small town. Not one stop light small, but small enough I think. We do not have the same problems as those in New York, but we certainly don’t have the breathing room that they do in Kansas either.

 

 

As I have said on multiple occasions, I believe that a means of defending yourself is one of the key items you need to account for if you are prepping for almost anything. Your very life could depend on the choices you make or the situations you find yourself in and in my opinion, planning to survive without considering the dark side of humanity is a failure to plan for one of the most likely scenarios.

Is purchasing a gun your only option? No, I guess you could have a baseball bat, or a cross-bow or a hockey stick.
You have to ask yourself, how well protected will you feel with your choice? I don’t want to look into the eyes of someone intent on killing me as I grip a golf club.
I want to have the most effective means I can purchase for defending my family and our home. I have settled on firearms because to me that makes the most sense.

 

 

If you are planning to survive catastrophe, but don’t expect the darker side of humanity to ever be a threat to you or your family I would urge you to reconsider.
For me having a gun and never needing to use it would be far superior to not having a gun and losing my family to someone who did.
Does simply having a gun guarantee the bad guys won’t come knocking?

Hardly.

 

Does me having a rifle mean I will be able to defend my home against any and all threats? No, but it does give me a fighting chance at surviving and protecting my family. Isn’t that what you are prepping for after all?

 

 

 

The world of Survival and Prepping Bloggers is pretty diverse. There are those who will say that they are only talking intelligently about preparing without any of the fear as

If your community gets hit by a disaster, like a hurricane, flood, radiological release, or even an earthquake, how would you and your family fare? Would you join the masses who are left unprepared for such an eventuality? Or, do you have the supplies and knowledge that would allow for you to survive? Has your pantry been carefully stocked? Do you have a plan for retrieving and purifying water? Do you have an energy source? In other words, are you prepared? Let’s take a quick peek at some of the things that you can do to ensure that when something happens, you will be ready for it.

Getting Power

Yes, you can have a generator for an energy supply, but how long will that last and how much gas will you need? What if the power will be out for an extended period of time?

Solar Panel Starter Kit 400W

Another option, and one that is much lower maintenance, is to get one of the home solar kits that are available. These kits have everything that you will need to turn your solar dreams into an actuality. You can even use these to power your home when there isn’t a disaster. What a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on your energy bills! When the power goes out for everyone else, your lights won’t even flicker.

Location Matters

If you are a prepper, you will know that where your home is located is of utmost importance. You might want one that is off the grid and will be away from the chaos should there ever be a disaster. So, what should you consider when you are looking for the best prepper property? One thing to consider is access. You will want to find property that is remote, yet can still be accessed with relative ease. You will also need to have access to a water supply that is sustainable and one that has enough storage space for all of your supplies. Security is also a concern. If you are the all-out sort of prepper, you will also want to make sure that the soil will be good for planting crops. Find a place with all of these things and you will have found the ultimate prepper hideaway.

Emergency Kits

Small First Aid Kit 100 Piece: Car, Home, Survival

Another great prepper tip is that even if you have the ideal prepper property, you will want to make sure that you have a 72-hour emergency kit. This is also sometimes called a ‘bug out bag’. It can be critical to your survival. These short-term kits will make sure that you are able to be self – sufficient for as much as three days. You might build this kit yourself or buy one that has already been made. Some of the things that should be in it include, but are not limited to:

Have a Plan

You might have all of the gear in place. You might have all of the food and medical supplies in place. You might have everything ready in the event of a disaster. What is the plan, though? Having a plan will help you to do a couple of things. The first thing that it will do is make you consider the current state you are in and what your responsibilities are. The second thing that having a plan will do for you is that it will give you a checklist that can be used to purchase the necessary supplies or to plan on the amounts of things that you will need to have on hand and how many people you are preparing for. All of this is what you will need to know if you truly want to be ready to take on whatever the world can throw at you.

You will also need to have a way to communicate with the world. This might be a two-way or short wave radio or cell phones.

Also, when it comes to plans, make sure that everyone in your family knows the plan and that you have drills to ensure that everyone knows their part in the plan. This will ensure that if there is a disaster, your plan will go off without a hitch.

If your community gets hit by a disaster, like a hurricane, flood, radiological release, or even an earthquake, how would you and your family fare? Would you join the masses

Prepping in some cases is about taking proactive steps to avoid or mitigate the risk of danger. Usually when we think of prepping nirvana the vision is a remote location, far away from the hustle and bustle of any city. Something like the Walton’s home that is far away from any neighbors and a trip into town isn’t something you make for a single carton of milk like we currently do. The ideal location provides safety from the threats we routinely discuss on Final Prepper, but there are a lot of factors to consider if you are looking for your own survival retreat.

Some of you may be thinking that the hour is at hand and any chance of finding a survival retreat for your family has passed. That train has left the station and if you aren’t already in your off-grid sustainable home, it’s too late. I don’t know if that is the case for everyone. I do believe that even if SHTF happened right now there would be ideal (as possible) locations that people could move to. Now, this movement might be a long and tortuous process. You may be moving not because you have stuck that For Sale sign in your yard, but you might be moving cross-country as part of a bug out after a collapse has happened.

Assuming for a minute that you have the resources, desire and time to move to a new survival retreat, your safe place from the rest of the world, what types of features should you be looking for to make your new home most suited for long-term survival and self-sufficiency? The items below are not in priority order, but I think they cover a few of the bases.

Water Sources

You know that you must have water. There is plenty of good property for sale in the desert that is pretty affordable, but without water how long can you live there? The perfect survival retreat property has at least two sources of water year round. A well is one desirable feature but if you are buying land outright with no improvements you may have to have someone come out and so an assessment on your property. Assuming you have a good source of ground water you could drill your own well or have someone take care of that for you. Rain barrels are a great alternative, but what if it doesn’t rain enough to replenish the supplies you need?

In addition to a well, running water in the form of a spring, river, stream or even stationary water from a pond will greatly extend your ability to provide water for your family, livestock and crops. It should go without saying that all water on the surface will need to be disinfected prior to drinking. Well water will need to be tested also to make sure it doesn’t contain toxins from farm runoff or pesticides aren’t present. The USGS has a good page explaining different sources of water for the rural homeowner and important considerations.

You need to have great soil conditions to grow food to feed your family and livestock.

Soil Quality

So you have a great piece of land nestled back in the forest and water flows freely from a creek on the property. You still have to eat don’t you? For most people that includes some form of crop production that will likely account for most of the food you consume. You can have thousands of chickens but you will need to grow crops to feed them as well as yourself. Man cannot live on chicken nuggets alone contrary to what millions of children across the world think.

Testing the soil quality on a piece of land is an important consideration before you purchase any property. There are soil testing kits you can purchase online that will quickly tell you the soil conditions. Once you know the type of soil you have, you can work to amend it if necessary. There are a few common issues:

  • Soil is too acidic – Adding lime, poultry manure or wood ash to your soil can make it more alkaline and raise the pH to a healthier level.
  • Soil is too alkaline – Many gardeners swear by coffee grounds as an inexpensive, safe and readily available way to lower pH levels.
  • Soil is lacking nutrients – Organic matter can include anything from compost to bone meal to lawn clippings, depending on your specific needs.
  • Soil is too sandy or dense – Adding peat moss is an inexpensive and effective way to loosen up clay soil, while compost can build up and enrich sandy soil.

If you don’t have the ability to purchase a soil testing kit, you can go the DIY route as well. The video below shows you how.

 

Growing Season

Along with soil quality, you will need a long growing season to maximize the amount of produce and crops you can grow. Each part of the world is different and most sustain some form of plant growing, but there are differences. You can read more about growing zones on the USDA website or view the map below to see where your survival retreat property falls.

How long will you have each year to grow crops?

Location

Strategic Relocation has a myriad of data points and analysis on the best locations to move for survival.

This is usually the first criteria that people consider when they are looking for a new home and you might say some of the items above fall into the location aspect. The location of your retreat does matter greatly from a couple of standpoints. Ideally you want to be further away from high concentrations of people. The golden horde affect will be a very real risk I believe in the face of large disasters, wars or economic issues. Look at the migrants fleeing Syria right now landing in Hungary to see a real-live example of the migration of people away from troubled areas. The further away you are from large centers of people the better off you will be from the risk of a swell of people on foot in a tragedy.

Do you have plenty of timber on your property? How far away are you from neighbors? Will there be any developments that put a big neighborhood or shopping complex in your back yard? Who owns the property near you?

Location also matters when you are considering paying for this new survival homestead. Are you able to find work that will pay the bills? Even if you buy your piece of land and pay cash for it, there will always be taxes. You will likely need to purchase some supplies and that requires money. Perhaps you have a source of income that isn’t dependent upon location and that might be the best. What about schools, access to healthcare? All of these are considerations you will need to make. Strategic Relocation is a great resource that takes a lot of the finer points and makes them easy to search. We also have access to a free download that allows you to use Google Maps to mine data on threats as well. Read more about that here.

 

 

Moving is never easy, but if you are planning to move primarily for the security of a survival retreat, the decisions are harder than simply moving to a better neighborhood across town.

What other factors would you consider before you moved?

Prepping in some cases is about taking proactive steps to avoid or mitigate the risk of danger. Usually when we think of prepping nirvana the vision is a remote location,

Bug Out Bags come with their own set of problems just as complex in some cases as the myriad of reasons why you could be forced to rely on a Bug Out Bag in the first place. There is the type of bag to purchase, the specific gear to load in there and a million voices telling you what is best and what isn’t needed. Not to be left out of the discussion, Final Prepper has had its fair share of comments about the subject both from the perspective of how much weight to pack in your bug out bag and our very own Bug Out Bag checklist for those of you just starting out.

Regardless of where you get opinions or advice, everyone who is discussing a Bug Out Bag usually recommends you storing food in there. We casually throw out the obligatory, FEMA recommended 3 days or 72 hours’ worth of food advice but have you ever wondered what food to pack in your bug out bag? Does it matter anyway?

I like to make the connection between planning for your bug out bag and planning for a hiking trip into the woods because I think almost all of the same considerations should be taken for each situation. The motivation for strapping the pack to your back is different in each scenario, but the realities of packing everything you would need to survive for three days hiking the Appalachian Trail or running from mutant zombies from mars are very similar.

When you are looking for food ideas for your bug out bag there are four things I think you should take into consideration. The first is caloric value, the second is weight and the third is spoilage and lastly, you have preparation effort. For these food ideas, you need to seriously consider if the food you have planned for your bug out bag is going to be the most beneficial to you.

Caloric Value – A normal person hiking all day burns a heck of a lot of calories. I don’t have to tell you that hiking even on flat ground with a 30-50 pound pack on your back is going to make you work harder than that desk job you have. How many calories you will burn and conversely have to consume will depend on the shape you are in and what you are doing. For a very generic example, I used a calculator on HealthStatus.com to see that if I hiked for 10 hours I would burn close to 6000 calories. You may weigh less or hike fewer hours so you will have to see what your caloric needs would be, but the food you are packing should be able to give you back those calories each day or else your body will start eating itself and you don’t want to be anything less than 100% healthy if you are bugging out.

Weight – This should be pretty simple. The more your food weighs, the heavier your bag will be. A high calorie to weight ratio is smart and with the choices below I think there is a good balance. Some people think you should just pack 3 MRE’s in your BOB, but MRE’s aren’t weight conscious at all. On our last backpacking trip, I saw about 6 cans of food laying off to the side of a trail. I can only imagine the person who was carrying that weight and what they were thinking.

Spoilage – Where are you storing your Bug Out Bag? Is your food sitting in the hot sun of your car trunk every day for 3 months? You need to take care to only pack foods that won’t spoil, or plan for storing your bag in a location that won’t cause your food to spoil more quickly.

Preparation Effort – I know that when you are backpacking, you are outside in the fresh air with nothing but nature around. It’s a nice little creature comfort to make meals that taste great and have some fresh ingredients. Your Bug Out Bag food shouldn’t be gourmet. As much as possible, the preparation of these meals should be easy and kept to a minimum.

Before I get into the food ideas for your bug out bag, let me state that these choices aren’t always going to be what the normal healthy person consumes on your average day. The Bug Out Bag is what you grab when there is a need to get out of harms way very quickly. This isn’t camping or taking a leisurely stroll in the woods. Some of the food choices could be improved, but we are going for quick and simple calories mostly in a format that doesn’t spoil too quickly, doesn’t take a lot of preparation and doesn’t weigh a ton. So, with all that said, here are some ideas we came up with for your bug out bag food supplies.

G.O.R.P – 130 Calories per ounce

G.O.R.P – If you don’t know stands for Good old raisins and Peanuts and has been a hiking staple for years. G.O.R.P is calorie-rich and is simple to make. Unless you have chocolate in there, it shouldn’t melt in the trunk of a hot car either. The thing you want to avoid is what we did and that is to buy a giant bag of G.O.R.P thinking everyone would be eating off the big bag. After two days of hiking (we had also brought other snacks) the bag wasn’t getting any lighter and I think we still brought half of it home with us. Pack individual zip-lock bags for each person. One cup of GORP (depending on the ingredients you have in there) can provide as many as 700 calories.

Mountain House Freeze Dried Meals

I have taken Mountain House meals with me and my family on every camping trip. They are the best at filling us up and for the taste, they aren’t too shabby either. For breakfast, my favorite is the Breakfast skillet and dinner is a toss-up between Chilli-Mac or Lasagna with Meat sauce. To get these down to the smallest footprint, you can poke a hole in the bag with a pin, press out any air and cover the hole with a piece of tape. For optimum freshness, I would only do this right before you were leaving. An added bonus with these meals is that you don’t need anything but a long spoon. Simply heat some water and pour it right into the bags, seal for the recommended time and then eat up! You can cut the bag down to size with a knife to make it a little easier to eat out of without getting chili-mac on your hands.

Peanut Butter – 170 calories per ounce

Peanut butter is a great food item for your pack because of its high calorie to weight ratio. 1 tablespoon of peanut butter packs a whopping 190 calories and if you bring some crackers, this food will keep you going. This is one MRE food item to consider because all MRE’s have a pack of either peanut butter or cheese. You can also buy MRE items individually so I know someone will sell you a bunch of Peanut butter packets if you are looking for them.

Mainstay Emergency Food Rations – 3600 calories in a pack

Mainstay Emergency Food Rations are standard in my Get Home Bag as well as my Winter Survival Car kit and would make perfect sense in a Bug Out Bag as well. These are exactly what they say they are and that is survival rations. They are even less gourmet than the other options on this list, but they have some advantages. They are already packaged in waterproof containers, they can withstand extreme temperatures without spoiling and they take zero preparation. Just break open the pack and break off two bars (800 calories).

Mac & Cheese – 105 calories per ounce (with oil and summer sausage)

Mac and Cheese is probably the cheapest camping food you can get and you really only need to boil water to cook this. If you have some extra olive oil or meat to add to the pot, like summer sausage you can really amp up the taste of this meal. One box of macaroni and cheese, prepared with 1 ounce of olive oil and 2 ounces of summer sausage provides a whopping 1,100 calories and weighs just 10.5 ounces. I know that olive oil and summer sausage aren’t really spoilage friendly foods so I didn’t add them to the list, but if you have any preparation time, they might make good additions.

Snickers Bar – 140 calories per ounce

Now we get to the part where I said not every choice would be the healthiest you can imagine but a snickers bar does pack a lot of calories in a small size and could be a morale booster as well.  You could easily substitute bars that were made specifically for hiking like Cliff Bars or Power Bar. A single King Size Snickers weighs less than 4 ounces and packs 510 calories.

Lipton’s Pasta/Rice Sides – 110 calories per ounce

Another great add hot water option that makes for easy preparation. Lipton’s Pasta sides make a filling meal and are cheap like Macaroni and Cheese.

Instant Mashed Potatoes – 115 calories per ounce

Instant mashed potatoes are right in the same family as Macaroni and Cheese or the Pasta Sides. Just add water to a pot and let these rehydrate.

Drink Mixes – Gatorade, Coffee, Tea

I know it sounds like a comfort item but drink mixes are great for kids who may not want to drink as much water as they need plus they can add back vital minerals and electrolytes lost from sweating. If you don’t think carrying a big pack around the hillside isn’t going to make you sweat even in relatively cool weather, you really need to try it. For those of us with a caffeine habit, Starbucks Via packets are an excellent choice for your bug out bag. Tea bags offer the same level of comfort and when you can its nice to sit down or wake up to a nice hot cup of coffee.

Pop Tarts

Pop-Tarts are a good breakfast option for kids as well as adults. They need no cooking or preparation, just open the bag and eat up.

Your Turn! What ideas or suggestions do you have for your bug out bag food items?

Bug Out Bags come with their own set of problems just as complex in some cases as the myriad of reasons why you could be forced to rely on a

We all know about the dangerous side effects of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers. But when your head is pounding, it’s hard not to reach for the bottle of pills in your cabinet. We all experience pain every once in a while, whether it’s from a migraine, sore muscles or swollen joints. But instead of stocking up on painkillers, you might be able to find a natural painkiller in your own backyard!

Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) has been used for centuries as a natural painkiller and sedative. It looks similar to a cross between a dandelion and a thistle. Back in the day, many referred to it as the “poor man’s opium.” It contains a resinous milky sap which releases a small amount of pain-relieving opiates. When this substance is collected and dried, it’s known as lactucarium.

The main active compounds in lactucarium are lactucopicrin, lactucin and lactucopicrin. These compounds have been found to possess analgesic activity, along with sedative activity. Researchers have found that this “opium lettuce” was a well-known painkiller even before the Victorian Period. If you want a natural way to help reduce pain, wild lettuce might be able to help.

Here’s what you can use it for:

1. Insomnia

Thanks to its powerful sedative effects, wild lettuce can be used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems. It has a mild sedative effect on the body which works to calm anxiety and promote sleep. Wild lettuce calms and relaxes the body.

2. Anxiety

Wild lettuce is believed to slightly inhibit the function of the nervous system. This makes it a natural remedy for stress and anxiety. It provides a calming effect on the body and mind.

 

3. Pain

Wild lettuce can be used as a natural pain remedy for sore muscles and joints. It’s calming, relaxing and pain relieving effects match those of over-the-counter painkillers, without the dangerous side effects.

4. Asthma And Coughs

Wild lettuce can be used as a natural treatment for asthma and coughs. The powerful herb helps reduce irritation of the bronchial tubes and lugs. It’s also able to loosen mucus and difficulty breathing associated with asthma.

5. Migraines

Migraines can be extremely debilitating. Sometimes medication can’t even help relieve the pain. Wild lettuce can be used as a natural remedy for headaches and migraines. It relieves pain while calming the nervous system to reduce the anxiety associated with migraines.

How To Use Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce has a naturally bitter taste. But if you make it into a tea and mix in a little honey, you can enjoy its many health benefits. You can look for it in your own backyard or in health food stores. To make wild lettuce tea, pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoons of wild lettuce. Let it steep for 10-15 minutes then drink! Add some honey for a sweeter taste.

Watch the video below for more information about wild lettuce extract:

We all know about the dangerous side effects of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers. But when your head is pounding, it’s hard not to reach for the bottle of pills in

Outhouse from the rear

Besides taking for granted how simply water normally arrives into our homes, sometimes we also fail to consider how easily we can discharge waste-water.  Looking through one of my favorite old books the other night, I was reminded of how easy most of us have it today.

The 1909 book, “Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book,” includes detailed plans for building a privy, which is quite useful ― right down to the size of boards and hardware required.

“It is believed that any 14-year-old schoolboy of average intelligence and mechanical ingenuity can, by following these plans, build a sanitary privy for his home” at an expense of $5 to $10 per receptacle, according to locality, the book states.

The plans could be adjusted so that instead of one seat, it may have two, three, four or five seats, etc., according to necessity. A pretty lattice covered with flowers or vines will add to the privacy of the privy ― at least outside it may be private. Also, for those with more “elegant taste,” an elaborate, and more expensive, structure can be built with a peaked roof instead of the standard single slant.

What really caught my attention, though, was the additional information about cleaning the privy and ensuring a clean water supply for the home and gardens. Unlike the open-pit outhouses I remember as a child, these plans call for a bucket under each seat, which should be deep enough so the user is not splashed. It also must fit snugly to keep out vermin and insects.

But here is where the fun comes in: “The frequency of cleaning the receptacle depends upon (a) the size of the tub; (b) the number of persons using the privy; and (c) the weather. In general, it is best to clean it about once a week in winter and twice a week in summer.

 

Privy Bucket Rotation

Outhouse from the front

“An excellent plan is to have a double set of pails or tubs for each privy. Suppose the outhouse is to be cleaned every Saturday: Then pail No. 1 is taken out (say January 1), covered and set aside until the following Saturday; pail No. 2 is placed in the box for use; on January 8 pail No. 1 is emptied and put back in the box for use while pail No. 2 is taken out, covered, and set aside for a week (namely, January 15); and so on throughout the year.

“The object of this plan is to give an extra-long time for the germs to be killed by fermentation or by the action of the disinfectant before the pail is emptied. Each time the receptacle is emptied, it is best to sprinkle into it a layer of top soil about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep before putting it back.

How to build an outhouse in the South

Waste Disposal

“For the present, until certain very thorough investigations are made in regard to the length of time that the eggs of parasites and the spores of certain other germs may live, it is undoubtedly best to burn or boil all excreta; where this is not feasible, it is best to bury all human discharges at least 300 feet away and downhill from any water supply (as the well, spring, etc.).

“Many farmers insist upon using the fresh night soil (the bucket contents) as a fertilizer. In warm climates, this is attended with considerable danger, and if it is so utilized, it should never be used upon any field upon which vegetables are grown which are eaten uncooked; further, it should be promptly plowed under.

“In our present lack of knowledge as to the length of time that various germs may live, the use of fresh, un-boiled night soil as a fertilizer is false economy which may result in the loss of human life.”

Flies carry disease

The book further advises that a box of topsoil or lime can be left in the outhouse to sprinkle on top of the excreta to control flies. However, as a rule, people are almost always messy and fail to cover the excreta completely. “The lime is not used with sufficient frequency or liberally to keep insects away, as is shown by the fact that flies carry the lime to the house and deposit it on the food.”

With that said, I promise to never gripe again about cleaning the bathroom.

This book is available for free online at Open Library.org.  The section with privy plans begins on page 122, including drawings, measurements and parts lists.  We can’t promise the privy can be built for $5 or $10 though!

Outhouse from the rear Besides taking for granted how simply water normally arrives into our homes, sometimes we also fail to consider how easily we can discharge waste-water.  Looking through one

There are two recurring themes we have in prepping and survival blogs around preparing for disasters of any type. The first is the need to practice any plans you have well before the actual need should arise. This is similar to practicing a fire drill with your children so they will have experience going through the motions and the event will hopefully be more successfully executed because of this training should a real fire break out in your home. Practicing anything you are planning to do when under stress is going to make you better at that task when you are faced with a real scenario. Examples for prepping are to turn off the power for a weekend and live like the grid has gone down. Another theme we discuss regularly is the process and plans for Bugging Out.

Bugging Out simply means leaving the area you are in to move to an area that is safer. It could be safer from a chemical spill, impending flood waters or violence caused by looting. There are as many reasons why you could conceivably want to or have to leave your home as there are for staying. Bugging Out isn’t limited to your home either because you could be anywhere when a disaster strikes and still need to move quickly to a safer location.

Bug Out bags are designed for us to be able to quickly grab enough supplies for each person in your group to live for a minimum of 72 hours at least according to FEMA and although we would like to think we could drive our survival vehicle out of the ruins and wreckage, staying just a car length ahead of the big cloud of disaster rolling swiftly behind us (cue the summer disaster movie music) reality tells us that in times of major crisis, roads quickly become overwhelmed and traffic makes getting out by car at a certain point impossible. Bugging Out on foot is a better plan that will cover the contingencies if travel by vehicle is out of the question.

So, how can you practice bugging out with all of the gear you would actually need to survive for 72 hours or more with only what you can carry and not look like a weirdo? Backpacking into the woods is the best way I can think of to practice bugging out and I have composed a list of 10 ways your first backpacking trip will better prepare you for bugging out below. By practicing an actual bug out for three days in the wilderness you will learn so much that will better prepare you if you really ever have to Bug Out.

A lot of people plan to simply walk into the woods if the grid goes down. I won’t debate the merits of that approach in this article, but I have written on the subject before. All that is fine and well, but you may actually have to leave your home with a pack. If that is your plan, here is your chance to take what you have assembled and do just that. I can almost guarantee that you will learn lessons if you do that now that will change how you really bug out in a potential disaster. I took my family into the woods a few years ago and we have since been back a few times. Here are some of the things I learned from that experience.

1. – Find out what works and what doesn’t. – This is one of the big advantages in my opinion of practicing your bug out plans in this way. When I started building my bug out bag, I had a big list of items I needed and once I had them all, they were crammed into my military surplus bag. After walking around for a while with about 70 pounds of gear I quickly decided that I needed to drop a lot of weight from my bug out bag and that while the military surplus Alice pack was nice, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world. Also, carrying that bag might make me a target a little more than someone who was just hiking with a regular bag in that someone might think I had a lot of supplies in there (prepper) instead of just some sweaty socks and camping gear. I also learned that in general I just had too much stuff. We packed too much food, that was too heavy and our clothing options were more than we needed. Lastly, I found a lighter water filter and all those things combined shaved a lot of weight off my pack and my shoulders.

2. – Live Simply – Piggybacking on the item above, backpacking should give you a great excuse to live simply and to ignore all the extra clutter in our lives. What do I mean by clutter? I have seen a lot of bug out checklists that have so many extra things included that are ridiculous. Kindles or e-readers, coffee presses and a lot of unnecessary creature comforts. In this exercise, bugging out will be to save your life and your bug out bag should be packed with items that will help you live. It should not be packed with small inflatable boats unless your plan is to escape by water, camp chairs and portable fans. Keeping your bag to the essentials will make carrying it much easier. You will also find that you don’t need or even much use some of the extra stuff you brought. Instead of bringing a whole set of cookware and utensils, a simple pot and spoon might be all you really need.

3. – Learn how to use the bathroom outdoors – This might sound silly, but unless you have gone number 2 in the woods then this is something fun to learn. How hard can it be you ask? It’s just squatting, right? Well, maybe it is, but it wasn’t as simple as sitting on the throne for me. I got it done of course, but in the beginning it was awkward and took a little finagling to get right. Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

4. -Discover wild water – Probably the single heaviest item you can have in your bug out bag is water and we should all know that we need at least a liter per day for optimum health, more if you are in hot climates or exerting yourself and even more for regular hygiene. Carrying a bag on your bag through the woods will exert you but in order to meet the requirements of 72 hours, you do not want to carry three giant bottles of water with you. Learning how to filter your water and of course finding sources of water is going to be the best long term strategy for bugging out. My kids were amazed when I broke out the water filter and in no time had all of our Nalgene bottles filled with clean fresh water out of the river. I swear it tasted better than anything in a plastic bottle from the store or our tap and they all know how to filter their own water now if they need to.

5. – Discover how everyone in your group reacts – One of my initial concerns with my family was how they would react to the wilderness and carrying their bags for three days so I tried to pay special attention to the weight they had and how they were faring on our hikes to new campsites. To my surprise, they all did amazingly well but that might not be the case with your family. By finding out who hates this whole exercise right now, you could save yourself some headache later when just going back to the car isn’t an option.

6. – Find friends with common interests – Once you start backpacking you will invariably meet friends who are also into this hobby. They may share common ideas about being prepared or at the least common interests and skills that might be helpful to your group should we all need to walk into the woods. If nothing else, you may have another source for gear advice should you need it and experienced friends who also like to backpack can share their observations and lessons learned with you on various locations, routes and strategies that could improve your bug out plans. Even if you meet people along the journey, you can learn from them. We only ran into 2 other people the entire weekend we were out, but they all had hammocks instead of tents and sleeping bags so that was something I started investigating.

Learn what to carry and how to cook outdoors.

7. – Increase your options – Simply being able to live for three days in the woods or a field or anywhere outside of a house or hotel is going to give you options if you are forced to leave your home. The more you experience living outside and traveling over distances with your house on your back, the more you will see options where before there was only dread. Leaving home with a pack won’t be as daunting once you have done it a few times for fun regardless of the scenario. The scenario might be bad, but the thought of sleeping in the woods won’t.

8. – Adapt and reuse – One of the best ways to simplify your backpack or bug out bag and to reduce weight is to use items for more than one purpose or to reuse items for something different. One simple example is to have the water filter so you can refill water along your route or at your site as opposed to hiking it in. Clothing is another area that can be viewed in this way. On our trips, I would have one set of pants, not three but these are convertible so I can make them shorts if needed. One fleece, a hat, gloves spare underwear and thermals. The clothing lists changes with the seasons. You don’t need a change of clothes for every day. If the weather or your climate is relatively warm, a tarp will double as a shelter and weighs a lot less than a tent. It takes up much less room too. Paracord can be used as well as duct tape for a million uses.

9. – Set new goals – After our experience in the woods, I wanted to go on longer hikes to have a greater challenge of both navigating terrain and planning a longer stay in the woods. Successes make you strive for new goals, but even setbacks should give you something to strive for. If you have a miserable time in the woods, analyze what the problems were. If it was your gear, this can motivate you to think more clearly about what you have and how to use it for your next trip.

10. – Build your confidence – Lastly and I think the most important lesson you should take from backpacking is the confidence you will have to live in the woods for a while. This was most noticeable in my wife and kids. I was already fine with camping, but for my family this was all new and before we went, there were lots of questions and doubt. After our three days my family was not only happy with the experience, but were really impressed with how “not horrible” our time was. They had plenty to eat even though we had no kitchen table to sit around. They slept well even though their beds were on the ground and we all had a great time even when there was no traditional entertainment to be found. After our first trip my family was ready to bug out and even if that never happened, we had a great new activity to do for fun. Win Win.

There are two recurring themes we have in prepping and survival blogs around preparing for disasters of any type. The first is the need to practice any plans you have

Portable Swamp Cooler

How to build a low-cost 12 volt evaporative cooler.  My husband and I built two swamp coolers that we use to air condition our tent when we camp in hot, dry weather at Burning Man.  These compact units blow cool air like an air conditioner, but they use just water for evaporation instead of using a compressor or toxic Freon. There are two great designs on the internet for making evaporative coolers for camping.  This blog post enhances one of those designs by providing lots of detail on sourcing parts, comparing options for parts, and a variety of power options.  We built ours for under $40 each and they worked great for cooling a tent and letting us nap in the Nevada desert.

We used the following materials:

  • 5 gallon bucket from the local hardware store or recycled, $0 – $2.30
  • 12v water pump from Amazon.com, $14.50 + shipping = $17
  • Swamp cooler pad 33.5″ x 24″, $2 – $7
  • Drip irrigation tube 48″ long, Tee connector, diameter should fit your water pump, $5 – $10
  • Recycled PC fan, 12VDC and around 1 to 2 Amps, $0.50 – $4
  • Elbow duct 4″ diameter, $3
  • 12 volt battery, $10 – $20
  • Screws, 4 Short sheet metal screws, $0.50 – $1
  • Quick connect female crimp connectors, sized for your battery
  • Four to eight feet of small gauge wire (20 – 26 gauge)
  • Butt splice connectors, to connect the wires butt to butt, in the gauge of your wire
  • Optional: window screen 33.5″ x 13″, $0 – $6
  • Total:  $40 to $73

Tools that you will need to buy or borrow:

  • Drill
  • Hole saw drill bit, 2″ to 3″ , $13
  • Wire cutters and very small gauge wire strippers, 20 – 26 gage
  • Tin snips for cutting your elbow duct
  • Optional: silicone caulk

How do I choose a good recycled PC fan?

Recycled PC fan screwed to lid of bucket. Note the edges of the elbow duct

You can get a great deal if your town has a store where you can get recycled computer parts, or perhaps your local Goodwill has electronic stuff.  We got a bunch of fans for 50 cents each at PC Recycle in Seattle.  Or for a bit more money you can buy recycled PC fans off the internet.  Or you could pay the full price for a new fan from your local computer store.

You want to read all those letters and numbers and find “12 VDC” which means 12 volts of direct current.  Direct current is what you get from a battery or solar panel.  Next you want to find a fan that will move a lot of air by drawing a lot of current, so you look at the number preceding the “A” for amps.  For example, “0.11A” or “0.20 Amps” are pathetically weak, and a “1.2A” or “1.6A” fan will blow a lot of air!    The bigger the number, the cooler you will be, and the faster it will drain your battery.  My fan was 1.6A and our little $10 battery ran the fan and pump for 5 hours before we noticed the battery getting low.

Online the listings will also describe the dimensions of the fan, such as 80mm or 120mm.  The size doesn’t really matter as long as it is in the ballpark of about 80 – 120 millimeters. You’re going to drill your own mounting holes in the lid of your bucket so the exact size doesn’t matter.  Bring the fan with you to the store when you buy your elbow duct.  Your elbow duct diameter must be smaller than the distance between the corners of the fan’s mounting holes.

The number of wires coming out of the fan also don’t matter for this application.  You will only use power and ground, typically red and black.  The other wires control the speed of the fan if it were connected to a computer, but we don’t care.

Which Swamp Cooler Pad to Buy?  Synthetic or Organic?

You can buy swamp cooler pad that is made of organic or synthetic fibers.  You can read the marketing stuff about which one is better, but here’s my experience from hosting a workshop where a bunch of people built 5 swamp coolers in my yard and some of them used organic and others used synthetic pad.  When you cut the pad, little bits will get everywhere.  The organic pad that got all over our garage and yard was quickly used by birds and squirrels to make energy-efficient nests in the trees.  The synthetic blue bits seemed to get ground into the floor and dirt by our feet.  The synthetic bits were difficult to remove with a shop vac or broom, perhaps because they had some static charge making them cling?  The organic fibers smell like wood chips or hay, and the synthetic pad has a slightly plastic smell.  Neither smell was offensive to me, but some folks didn’t like the  smell of hay when the swamp cooler was operating.

I recommend purchasing a roll of the organic Aspen Cooler Pad, and cut rectangles to share it with friends and neighbors. We cut one piece of pad into a  33.5″ x 24″ rectangle and then folded it in half, and rolled it into a cylinder that fit inside our bucket.

Battery Options and Solar Energy

For maximum portability, we used a 12 volt sealed lead acid battery for about ten to twenty dollars.  This type of battery is often used to run a computer backup uninterruptible power supply, or UPS.  You will want a battery which can give enough current to both the fan and the water pump, so 1.2 AH rating on the battery is quite sufficient.  AH stands for Amp Hours.  We ran our swamp cooler with the big 1.60 Amp fan for 6 hours and it ran down our battery enough that it wasn’t blowing very hard anymore.

If you’re traveling with a car or boat, then you can run your swamp cooler on your 12V vehicle battery.  When we go to Burning Man, we take a deep cycle marine battery that weighs about fifty pounds.  That huge battery runs our lights, a stereo, and our swamp coolers for 9 days.  The marine battery is easily recharged with a small (12″ x 4″) solar panel and a charge controller.

Steps to build your Evaporative Cooler

Step 1 Drill Holes in your 5 gallon bucket

We drilled two rows of 2″ holes because that’s the size of hole saw that we already owned.  This step is messy and fun.  Use a shop vac to cleanup the mess.  The goal is to maximize air flow through the damp pad, and leave enough water in the bottom of the bucket to cover your water pump for the entire duration of the runtime (e.g. six hours of sleep).

Key considerations on where to drill the holes:

  • Your water pump must be completely submerged or it will run dry and break.  Mark your water line that gives you at least 2 inches of water above your pump intake.  Cut your ventilation holes above that water line.
  • The holes should be at least 4 or 5 inches from the lid of the bucket.  You want the air to come in through the holes, pass through the damp pad, then come out through the fan at the top.   If the air passes through more damp pad, then that’s great!

Step 2 Cut your Screen and Cooler Pad

Two rows of 2″ holes above the water line

The optional window screen helps to keep the cooler pad and the drippy water inside of your bucket.  I tried gluing the screen to the inside of my bucket, but that didn’t work well, so don’t bother.  The screen and cooler pad should cover all of your ventilation holes.  Measure from the inside bottom of your bucket to at least 3 inches above your ventilation holes.  Leave an inch or two at the top section of the bucket for your PC fan and wires.

You want to force ALL the air through the damp pad.  If air can sneak in the air holes and out through the fan without going through the damp pad, then it won’t be cool!

Option A exact dimensions:  Measure and cut your screen in a trapezoid shape because the bottom circumference of your bucket is closer to 32″ and the top diameter of the bucket is about 33.5″ if you are using the same bucket that I did. Measure the diameters of the inside of your bucket near the lid and near the bottom, and then do some math (diameter * 3.14 = circumference).  Now measure and cut your window screen and test the fit before measuring and cutting your cooler pad.  For the cooler pad, cut your trapezoid slightly smaller to allow for the thickness of the pad.

Option B Close Enough Engineering:  Cut your screen to a rectangle about 34″ x 13″ and it will overlap some when you stick it in your bucket.  Cut your swamp cooler pad about 33″ by 24″, fold it in half and shove it in your bucket.  Trim it if you have to.

Step 3 Drip Irrigation

We used black drip irrigation tube and a little bit of clear poly tube. Measure the dimension of your water pump output spout and purchase the appropriate size hose.  Take your pump with you to the store.  Buy whatever is cheap and available by the foot from your local store.  Buy the appropriate size Tee connector for your hose and any connector that you might need to connect the hose to your water pump.

Swamp cooler pad with drip irrigation tube

You’re going to make a halo shape with the irrigation tube. The diameter of your drip tube halo should be about one inch smaller than the dimension of your bucket, so that your tube rests in the middle of your swamp pad ring.  If your halo is too close to the edge of the bucket, then the water will drip out of your ventilation holes.  Again, circumference = diameter * 3.14.  Adjust your circumference result to include the amount of the Tee connector that will complete the halo.  Now cut the irrigation tube.  Use the Tee to make the circle first, and then attach a piece of irrigation tube that will go down the middle of your bucket to the pump on the bottom.   Place your halo inside of your bucket with the cooler pad and make any adjustments to the size and shape of your irrigation tube halo.

Next you poke holes in the halo to let the water rain down on the cooler pad.  Carefully place your halo on a flat surface to make the holes on the bottom of the halo so it rains down on the cooler pad, and not up on your fan!  Space the holes equal distant from the next hole, about the same size.  We tried three methods of poking holes in the irrigation tube.  You can use a drill with a very small bit, and be gentle to not drill all the way through the tube!  For more control, you could use a small nail and manually poke the tube, or use a gentle tap from a hammer to poke the hole.  My preference was to use a light weight hammer and two gentle taps for each hole.  A fourth option that we did not try was heating a piece of wire and melting holes into the irrigation tube.

After you poke holes, test your irrigation system.  Put your cooler pad in the bucket.  Pour water in the bucket.  Attach your water pump to the irrigation tube halo and connect the battery.  How much water is coming out?  Enough?  Is the water coming out of all the holes, or just the holes nearest to the Tee connector?  Decide if you want to make your holes larger or make more holes, or scrap your halo and start over with new tube.

Step 4: Install duct on and fan on the Lid

Fan and duct screwed to the bucket lid

Wear gloves so you don’t cut your hand on the sharp metal.  Cut a hole in the lid so the duct just fits through snugly.  Mark a 1 inch line on one end of the duct.   Use the tin snips to cut narrow triangle-shaped notches out of the elbow duct, to form little flaps.   Stick the duct through the lid and bend the flaps you just made.  The flaps should be on the inside (bottom) of the lid, and the elbow duct should be on the outside (top) of the bucket’s lid.

Hold your fan against the bottom of the lid so that at least 3 of the four mounting holes on the fan will go through metal flaps and lid.  You want your four screws to securely sandwich the metal flaps between the plastic lid and the fan.

You want to buy sheet metal screws.  They have very coarse thread, which means fewer turns per inch.  You also want them to be fairly short screws, shorter than an inch.

First use a drill to make a tiny hole in the bucket lid.  Then just use a manual screwdriver to push the sheet metal screw from the top of the bucket lid, through the bucket, the metal flap and the fan.  alternatively, you could use a nut and a bolt, but if you try this option then you must use a lock washer to prevent the nut from shaking lose.

Step 5: Wire everything together

Connect all the wires.  First strip the wires to expose a good 1/3″ (1 cm) of copper core of the wires.  We used butt splice connectors.  Decide how long a wire you want from your swamp cooler to your battery.  The wires from the PC fan will likely be really short, so use the butt splice connectors to make them much longer.  Use Red wire for the positive wires, or use black wire and mark it with a flag of red tape.  You’re going to make a Y shape when you connect the positive wire from the fan and the positive wire from the pump to a single wire using the butt connector.  The singe wire will then connect to your battery.  This is called wiring in parallel.  Do the same thing for the ground wires.

Our battery used Quick connect female crimp connectors.  Your battery may use a different shape of connector.

You’re done!  Test it a few times before you make any significant modifications.  Optionally, seal the gaps around the elbow duct with caulk.

Troubleshooting:

If water gets outside your bucket and onto the floor: Perhaps you need more swamp cooler pad to absorb the water, or perhaps your pump is squirting too hard in a direction that aims the stream directly at the ventilation holes.

Air doesn’t feel very cool: touch your swamp cooler pad and check for uniform wetness.  Verify that the pump is working  and the water is dripping uniformly around the halo.

FAQ:

How much water does it use?  Answer:  I add about a gallon of cold water that we drain from our drink cooler to the bottom.  Then each day we top it off with another pint or quart, depending on how much we run the cooler during the morning sleep or afternoon nap.

How long do the batteries last?  Answer: the batteries really depend on a lot of factors, such as wattage of your fan & pump, age of your battery, and temperature of the battery.  We topped ours off with a tiny solar panel (the size of an ipad).  If you plan to go completely nocturnal at Burning Man, then you will want a small, deep cycle marine battery to run your coolers for 6 – 8 hours every day while you sleep.  Keep the battery in the shade and off the ground with two wood blocks or a milk crate to allow air circulation.

[caption id="attachment_8666" align="alignright" width="263"] Portable Swamp Cooler[/caption] How to build a low-cost 12 volt evaporative cooler.  My husband and I built two swamp coolers that we use to air condition our

There are millions of people out there who would never leave their dogs behind in any emergency situation if they can help it. That is wonderful and that sort of love and loyalty is to be commended. So I ask, why not take it one step further and train your dog to benefit you in a survival situation?

Dogs have natural survival instincts already in them so there are some things you do not have to worry about. It has been my experience that the majority of dogs can assess a dangerous situation and let the owners know by barking at the threat. Teaching your dog to speak, or to be quiet, is not as hard as you think and can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation. If you do not want someone to know your location then being able to keep your dog quiet on command is of the utmost importance. If you are in a situation where you need to be found then having a dog that can alert others on command is very important.

No matter what you are training your animal to do you must always remain patient when training. Dogs can sense aggravation and may become scared or timid. This is not what you want. You want training time to be fun. Most dogs live to make their owners happy and are more responsive and willing to do what is asked with positive reinforcement training.

In order to teach your dog to be quiet, you must also teach your dog to speak. The two commands go hand in hand. For this reason we begin by teaching the dog to speak. Practice these steps 1-2 times a day for about 5-10 minutes. Anything longer than that usually results in boredom and then is no longer fun for your dog.

Speak Command:

  • Invoke a situation that will get your dog to bark, such as knocking on the door. When someone knocks and the dog barks say in a firm commanding voice, “Speak,” and when he/she barks immediately give him/her onetreat and lots of praise such as, “Good girl” in an excited voice.
  • Repeat this process until you can gradually stop using the door knocking to get your dog to bark. Once the dog has mastered the speak command then he/she is ready to learn the “Quiet” command.

 

Quiet Command:

  • Place your dog on a leash and give him/her the command to bark. When he/she does, then give the dog one treat.
  • Do this several times in a row.
  • After 4-5 times of barking, quickly tug on the leash and give the command “Quiet” or “Hush.” When the dog stops barking quickly give him/her three treats in a row. By giving the dog three treats the dog learns that being “quiet” has a higher treat value than bark does.
  • Repeat these steps 4-5 times in a row and then take a break making sure to praise and reward the dog for good behavior. Toss around a ball or his/her favorite toy.
  • Do this until the dog no longer needs the leash corrections to follow the Quiet command.
  • As the dog progresses, stop giving treats for the speak command and give one treat for the quiet command.

OBEDIENCE REVIEW

Whenever possible, your dog will try to get away with as much as possible. If you start to slack off with obedience practice, your dog will soon forget all the commands you’ve taught him. It is better to practice five minutes a day than to randomly do it every few weeks. When your dog behaves perfectly on a consistent basis, then you can start to get a little lazy. But if you notice a bit of attitude or stubbornness, get right back into a routine of practicing obedience before things go too far and are harder to fix later. Here are a few tips on how to practice obedience with your dog.

  • Don’t repeat commands more than twice.
  • Use his name first, then the command.
  • Take your time. Most dogs, especially young ones, are already in an excited state. Teach them to relax and slow down.
  • Do obedience with the dog on your left side, not in front or behind you. By having him in a consistent position, you can be more aware if he’s creeping ahead or lagging behind. It’s also easier to correct a dog that is at your side, rather than being slightly ahead or behind you.
  • Praise your dog when he is in the correct position, even if you had to physically help him into the position.
  • Use a low, firm tone of voice.
  • Pick a release command, such as “Okay!” to let him know when he is done with a command.

There should be a clear separation between giving a command and giving a correction. Give the command. Wait three seconds. Then correct him, if necessary. If your dog waits until you start to give a correction before doing the command, follow through with the correction anyway. Otherwise you will continually have to start to correct before the dog performs the command, rather than the dog automatically performing the behavior when he hears the command.

These commands were learned through Animal Communications Institute.There are training tools you can use to help you in your journey to having a well trained dog. I have listed some examples below.

  1. Prong collar: This collar looks mean but I assure you it is safe and will not hurt the dog. It is designed to simulate how a mother dog would correct her pup if she didn’t want the dog doing something by grabbing the fur around the neck and pulling back by the loose skin. A safe and effective alternative to choker collars, it puts even pressure around the neck, about every half inch, pinching the skin in a band. This collar does not apply direct pressure to the trachea so you can train your dog with little or no tugging, jerking, or pulling. (Note: We have and train pit bulls to the best of our ability and this collar has been very effective in teaching them how to not pull us when on the lead and due to their massive size, it is needed.)
  2. Vibration collars: These collars give momentary burst of pre-measured stimulation to get your dogs attention if he is distracted; it gives electrical stimulation for as long as you hold the button down, up to eight seconds; and page causes the collar to vibrate for non-electrical stimulation. There is often a shock feature on these types of collars as well.
  3. No- Pull Dog Harness: Self explanatory.
  4. Basket Style Muzzle: There are some dogs out there that can be unpredictable around strange people so for their safety and your dog’s safety you may consider owning one of these. This high ventilation quality muzzle can be very useful in many situations and everyday use – visits to a vet, traveling, off-leash walks, preventing eating off the ground, yet allow for panting and drinking, providing the ultimate in comfort and safety for both the dog and owner or trainer. Well-fitting, light weight, soft and comfortable yet strong and durable. Safe and non-toxic. The straps are adjustable and won’t stretch. Please measure snout circumference and length for fit.

When there is a natural disaster hitting such as a tornado or hurricane the last thing you want to be doing is calling/searching for your dog. Obedience training can eliminate this so that your dog stays with you unless told otherwise. I encourage all pet owners to think about what all your dog is capable of learning that can benefit your safety and theirs.

Note: Here is an amazingly affordable dog back pack that will help lighten your load by allowing them to carry their one dog supplies.

There are millions of people out there who would never leave their dogs behind in any emergency situation if they can help it. That is wonderful and that sort of

I was approached via email back in June of this year by a reporter in New York State who was covering a local story about a man who had been killed in a gun accident. Apparently, the man was cleaning a shotgun and it was loaded. The shotgun went off and he died from a wound to the chest. What does that have to do with me you ask? The reporter said that this man along with many other things was a Prepper and he wanted to get some background about the Prepping Movement to accompany the other article about the accidental death of this man.

I was a little skeptical at first because I wasn’t seeing a clear correlation between the death and prepping from what he was telling me, so I asked for some additional information. I wanted to make sure that preppers weren’t negatively associated with this accident and I certainly didn’t want to enable any misrepresentation on my part. The reporter asked me three questions and I responded to him. I didn’t expect most of what I wrote to make it into the actual article; it never works that way but I did want to include them here on my site for our readers. I think there was one sentence from my response and another from a different article I wrote. The rest of the article was full of a lot of generalization and it doesn’t appear that this reporter interviewed anyone else. Actually, the article doesn’t even seem complete to me, but that is his job I guess, not mine.

One good thing about having a blog is that you get to write as much as you want so in this article I will include my responses in their entirety. This is my perspective on the questions I was asked about the Prepper Movement, why it is growing and how I would answer people who think the movement is fringe. This is how I responded to his three questions but I don’t mean to come off as being petty that he didn’t use more of my text. On the contrary, I just want to make my point a little clearer than you can with such a dynamic subject when you are limited to one sentence. So, here goes.

Why is being prepared a growing movement?

To understand why the Prepper movement is growing I should first describe what I think the movement is. Prepping just means taking steps to be better prepared for any unforeseen or unplanned events that can threaten the health, safety or well-being of yourself or those around you. What are people preparing for? The list can be pretty long and varies by person, region and situation, but at its heart; the movement is about empowering yourself. Being prepared to take care of your family or yourself when an emergency or disaster strikes, reduces the sense of helplessness so many people feel after a crisis. The helpless feeling usually comes from being unprepared for a particular situation and this is often for completely preventable reasons. Instead of depending on government agencies or the police or national guard to rescue you, you take that responsibility on yourself to a larger degree than most people choose to. Simply starting with the basics of food, water and personal security can mean the difference between life and death.

Why is prepping becoming so mainstream?

I think the desire to be more self-sufficient in an crisis or emergency is becoming more mainstream because we have so many examples where the people we are told to depend on have not been able to take care of themselves much less anyone else in a disaster. You only have to look at events like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy to see examples of perfectly natural events destroying lives and leaving people without homes, power, food or gas for weeks and months. When banks close their doors for weeks in Cyprus and then the people are left with no options, it causes some to consider what they would do in a similar situation. People even 50 years ago were so much more self-sufficient than we as a society are now and I think there is a growing awareness that complete and total dependence on systems and processes that are fragile isn’t wise. I think it’s simply becoming harder to argue with the logic of having some level of preparedness.

What would I say to people who think it is a fringe movement?

There is nothing fringe about wanting to make sure your family has food when the grocery store shelves are empty or that you have money if the banks lock their doors. There isn’t anything fringe about a father wanting to protect his children if bad men come to bust down the door. If these people can explain how planning to take care of yourself if the power goes out, the gas stations are rationing gas and looters are breaking into houses next door due to a relatively minor storm,  is somehow insane, I am all ears. Until someone can give me a rational reason why they believe that it is much wiser to do nothing and expect FEMA to show up, I don’t want to stop planning for alternatives. Until they can guarantee that the National Guard can fix everything in 24 hours or that despite repeated warnings from the police, that they should not be counted on in an emergency to protect you, I would rather do what I can to prepare myself and my family. Even the federal (via ready.gov) government says you should have a plan so really who is fringe?

Those were my responses, what would you say to a reporter?

I was approached via email back in June of this year by a reporter in New York State who was covering a local story about a man who had been