Share your knowledge & learn from experts

Because prepping and community go hand in hand

Some things to consider when building fallout shelters

I’ve long had an interest in the construction of nuclear blast and fallout shelters. Most preppers will be familiar with Cresson Kearny’s guidebook, “Nuclear War Survival Skills” (NWSS), which is available as a free pdf here (save a copy!). Anyone interested in the construction of a fallout or blast-resistant shelter should start by reading this guide, which is excellent.

I have some reservations about strict adoption of NWWS to mitigate contemporary nuclear threats. Kearny’s book was largely a response to underfunded civil defence. He operated on the premise that prior to a Russian first strike there would be a significant exodus of civilians from Russian cities. Having detected this migration via satellites, the US civilian population would have 3 days to migrate to rural areas and construct fallout shelters. There are many open questions regarding this strategy. Some thoughts on how contemporary shelters could be modified:

Today, threats are more likely to be sustained at low probabilities for extremely long time periods. Consequently, shelters don’t have to be constructed hastily but should be highly durable. There are several historic examples of accidents nearly resulting in a nuclear disaster. Obviously these scenarios wouldn’t have provided sufficient time for people to construct a shelter. Independent of their durability, the materials and techniques used in NWSS were quite crude – i.e. tools and materials that could be taken from most suburban homes. In addition, we’ve had ~35 years of building science and product advancement since the last version of the book was published. Scientists seem to be converging on the idea that a 5-10 year nuclear winter will be likely after a full-scale exchange, and perhaps even after a smaller exchange such as the sort that would occur between Pakistan and India. This would result in the near total collapse of the industrial agricultural system. Launching a full-scale reboot of technological civilization is outside the scope of this post. However, it might be worth considering the integration of protected food storage, tools, and technology. Although Kearny did provide details for high capacity shelters, I’m of the opinion that in many areas the default shelter size should have at least moderately high capacity. If you’re going to the trouble of constructing a shelter, the marginal cost of adding some neighbors is low. And this isn’t strictly a bleeding heart perspective. Just think of how smug you’ll be in the middle of armageddon, surrounded by people who dismissed you as a survivalist crank! How many times can you pointedly glance at someone and say “good thing I built this, right?” in 3-14 days?

We should divide shelters into 2 major types, those that are within an existing building – usually the basement of a home – and those that are separate. How should you decide between the two? Kearny believed that freestanding shelters were significantly more robust, mainly due to fire risk. On the other hand, basement shelters are considerably less expensive to construct. In addition, it’s somewhat of an open question whether basement shelters could add reasonable fire protection – or even shockwave protection – given contemporary materials, back-up power systems, filtration, ventilation, and airtightness levels. Overall, my sense is that people would ideally have some idea of the threat of fire risk, and gravitate towards basement shelters in the majority of cases where the fire risk isn’t extraordinary, due to the cost savings. I’ll try to cover both types, but will start with the basement.

I’m going to start with a basement shelter that modularly moves through a descending order of priorities. The basement would ideally have a clearance to the bottom of the first floor joists of 7’6″ (or more), which should provide an interior headroom clearance of ~6’. I’ll add an asterix where where I have a lot of uncertainty.

Overhead ceiling mass; Wall mass; Water (possibly integrated into ceiling/walls massing); Food (possibly integrated into ceiling/walls for massing); Fire protection; Ventilation; Air quality and radiation monitoring*; Sleeping; Hygiene; Entertainment and activities; Shockwave protection *.

The driving principle to reduce gamma radiation exposure is to place a high mass between you and the source. We have to assume that gamma-laden fallout dust will be distributed everywhere outdoors, so this means placing mass between you and all lines of sight to outside (gamma doesn’t tend to bounce around corners). In fallout literature, people often refer to a material’s “halving thickness” which is the thickness required to reduce gamma radiation by 50%. Concrete’s halving thickness is 2.4”. In the case of a basement shelter, a realistic target is to place 12″ of concrete overhead, which is 5 halving thicknesses. In conjunction with other materials in the joists directly overhead, or other layers of the building, we could likely achieve 6 halving thicknesses, equivalent to roughly a 98.5% reduction in gamma penetration (2).

Here are some instructions for building a shelter with an interior of roughly 7′ wide & whatever length you specify (although working in modules of 4′-8′ is sensible). The frame consists of a supported ledger and a parallel stud wall. These support joists that support ceiling joists that support a ceiling mass (ideally concrete). I have a spreadsheet cutsheet in the works but it’s not ready for primetime.

Select an ideally windowless corner of a basement with minimal overhead obstacles. The selected corner should also be as far below ground as possible. Wiring is OK if stapled to the joists, but avoid significant plumbing (esp waste) or duct-work if possible. Ideally the width of the shelter (short axis) would run parallel to the overhead ceiling joists. Measure the height from the floor to the bottom of the existing basement ceiling joists. Deduct 20″ from this. This is the stud length for support wall. Cut one stud for every 16″ of length + one for the end. Cut 5 pc 2×4 at the specified length of your shelter. These are your ceiling ledger, 2 ceiling rim joists, wall bottom plate, and wall top plate. Mark a level line on the long side of the wall at a height above the floor of (stud length + 6.5″). This is the top of the ceiling ledger. Back the ledger with ice and water shield or sill gasket and attach it to the wall using construction adhesive and masonry anchors. Individually measure and cut studs for placing beneath the ledger 16″ on center. Attach ice and water shield or sill gasket to the flat side of the studs and attach them to the wall in their measured locations using masonry anchors. Frame the wall by connecting the wall plate to studs placed vertically every 16″. Set the wall well back from the work area. Attach ice and water shield or sill gasket to the bottom plate of the wall. Cut the ceiling joists to the specified width Deduct 4 1/2″ from the overall width of the shelter. This is your ceiling joist length. Cut the same number of ceiling joists as wall studs. Frame the ceiling by attaching the ceiling rim joists to the ceiling joists placed horizontally every 16″. Install 1/2″ sheathing over the ceiling using glue and construction adhesive. The sheathing should be flush on 3 sides, but project over one rim joist by 1 1/4″. This projection will be attached the ledger. Apply either asphalt impregnated 15# felt or ice and water shield over the sheathing. This will serve as a capillary break between the concrete and the plywood to prevent rot. Optional: Drill 1 1/8″” holes 12″ on center ~6 1/2″ above the ledger. Epoxy 1″ dia rebar exactly equal to the length and width of the shelter long into each hole, with 2″-4″ embedment in the wall (this will leave the rebar 2″-4″ short of the penetrating the outside edge of the concrete). Connect each point in the rebar grid using a tie wire loop. Run a bead of construction adhesive along the top of the ledger. Measure from the base of the ledger wall (overall width minus 10″) and mark a line the length of the shelter. This part will suck and will require several pairs of hands. Place the ceiling assembly over the top of the ledger and connect several screws through the plywood into the ledger. Quickly place the support wall under the ceiling assembly on the opposite side. Align the outside edge of the wall with the line you struck in 13. Fasten the wall to the floor slab using masonry anchors. Plumb the wall at the two outside studs and fasten the plate at these two locations to the ceiling joists above. Straighten the wall in between these points by sighting the wall along the top. Fasten the top plate 2x at every joist. The ideal overhead mass is 12″ of concrete, but you can use other heavy objects if you prefer. For concrete, prepare plywood edge forms roughly 16″ wide to be attached to the perimeter joists. Don’t install these yet. This part will also suck. Mix concrete and shovel it into the deck. As you approach the nearest edge of the form, install the plywood edge forms so the concrete doesn’t spill out. Once the concrete has set, you can apply more heavy things into the overhead joist cavity to provide even more protection.

This should complete a reasonably well protected overhead mass. If folks are interested I’ll try to work on the wall section. Hope you enjoyed this!

Read More
5 Featured

Recipes for cooking with only non-perishable food

I was wondering if anyone could share some recipes for cooking with only non-perishable ingredients? I’m thinking canned fish and chicken. Thanks in advance  🙂

Read More
23 Featured

Brushfire information resources

A brushfire started very near my home this afternoon while I was at work. Luckily, a neighbor was home and alerted me.  I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility to return home, work from there and monitor the situation.  I have Fire Department alerts to email but don’t check my personal email often during the workday.  No other alert was raised as evacuations have not been declared yet. So I have some work to get better alerts. In a couple hours the fire went from 5 to 107 acres and had the wind stayed in its original direction, an evacuation would have been more likely for my neighborhood.  But luck was on our side today, and the wind changed to away from homes.  There are 4 helicopters and I don’t know how many firefighters. It’s looking like they’re succeeding in containment based on the reduction in smoke and frequency of helicopter flyovers.

These resources were quite helpful in assessing the fire as it had not yet made the news:

Local Fire Department alerts – once I heard, I could check my email and see a map pin that was near (but also from experience not ON) the fire location. Satellite map of potential fires – zoom to your location.  The squares grew over time. Live tracking of aircraft website. If you click on a helicopter it will show the recent flight path. That showed the water pickup to dump location loop. Quite helpful. Live tracking of wind direction website – indicates the direction the fire may move. MyRadar phone app.  @eric has shared this for fires.  For this event, it’s not showing this fire, or it’s in the wrong spot.

This appears to have been a near miss for me so far.  And an opportunity to learn how to be better prepared for next time.

Read More
9 Featured

10/4/22 Great price for Life Straws

Costco has LIFESTRAWS on super sale now – 4 pack for 40 bucks!!
That’s cheaper than the price we got for them as a retailer…….
A great stocking stuffer or party favor??  😉

Read More

No Grid Survival Projects book, has anyone tried it?

I’m tempted to order this, but thought I’d see if any of you have checked  it out? Might be pretty basic stuff, but looks like he’s made it easy to complete his projects by referencing exactly where to get supplies.
It might be a good one to have on hand in the prepping library, if his projects seem legit.

Please chime in with your thoughts!

Read More

Why all the bottled water?

I am seeing news stories, featuring people buying cases of bottled water – in my opinion, an unnecessary expense….

Granted, potable water in THE basic necessity, but I have never had problems with tap water, properly stored and at times, I have used raw water, properly treated ( usually boiled).  Commercial water is a waste of resources.

Right now, I have about 17-25 gallons of jugged tap water, ready for thee next earthquake or whatever.

Read More

Switch replacement amperage

I have a nilight lightbar which I have wired to my starter battery. The rocker switch that it came with is a 12v 20amp switch but that switch does not fit in the dash- and I don’t want to custom install it. I found a switch that fits perfectly in the blank spaces but it is a 12v 16amp switch. My question is how do I determine if the 16amp switch is sufficient for the application?

Read More

Article about “Best Before” Dates

I hope it’s appropriate to post here, but I think that as preppers, we probably pay particular attention to those “use by” dates – I know I do.  I review my inventory according to “use by” or “best by” dates, but I’ll certainly be more reluctant to toss foods that are beyond those dates.  best-before-labels-scrutinized-food-waste-concerns

Read More

Can you just use bleach for safe long-term water storage?

I have a question,

I have a few water totes and barrels. Can a guy just use bleach for long-term water storage, keep it out of the elements, and how long will that last? Do you have to use aquamira?

Read More

Iphone case with camera cover?

Hey Folks,

Has anyone come across a decent phone case that has built in sliding front and rear camera covers?  I now there are a few on amazon but the reviews don’t look so good and it seems that the covers break rather quickly with limited use?  The little sliding stick on covers are okay for the front but suck for the rear cameras.



Read More

Harvest envy thread

In college, I learned to always study for finals in the library. Why? In the library, when I looked around and saw other students surrounded by empty coffee cups who had been there since 6 am. I felt behind and got back to work. If I tried to study in the dorm, I looked around and saw people goofing off, said to myself ‘well, I studied six hours today, that’s a lot more than them, I’m probably fine.”

What’s my point? Seeing Redneck’s thread about muscadines (including buckets of grapes at the end) is pretty motivating to get my own vines planted. 

So, to keep each other motivated to plant crops, learn to forage new things etc. I think we should start posting envy pictures of our harvests. To get us going, here’s a pic of three pounds of juicy ripe figs I foraged from feral plants in the neighborhood (I got about three harvests this size this year). 

I also got a similar sized batch of wild pawpaws, but neglected to take any pictures.

Read More
2022-08-31 18.29.41

How long would white flour last?

Hi y’all. I live in a country where it costs a ton to get cool prepping stuff (like oxygen absorbers and vacuum sealed bags and such) so I’m trying to think through extending the shelf life of white flour using what I have. Let’s say I fill a food-grade bucket and lid with 5-pound bags of flour, each sealed inside a gallon ziplock bag and then closed the bucket with the lid and kept it at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The expiration date of the flour is 6 months from its production date, but how long do you reckon it’d last in the situation I just described? Thanks!

Read More

Complications an HOA brings to prepping

Where I am looking to buy a house either has areas without a Home Owners Association and the neighborhood is pretty run down or houses in an HOA that are nice and well kept. Looks like HOAs attract certain people and do their job at keeping up the curb appeal.

Now I am a person who will keep up their house. It will always be sharp and clean looking, HOA or not. And I want to live in a neighborhood with like minded people who feel the same way. BUT…. from what I am seeing, HOA’s also bring with them some not so friendly rules that would make me feel restrictive and also not allow me to prepare how I would like.

I asked my realtor to pull the HOA rules for two properties I was looking at. And just for an example, both site that only domesticated animals were permitted, which means I cannot have backyard chickens. And one said you cannot erect a tent on the property. I get it, no having loud and messy animals or turning your house into a dump with bunches of tents and temporary shelters. I see why they said those things, but at the same time that means I cannot even go practice camping in my backyard?

For those who live in an HOA, do you find it restrictive to your normal life and also to your prepping life?

Read More

Backyard fitness activities for weight loss

Aerobic gardening

Aerobic exercise is considered the most effective way to lose weight, and aerobic exercise for half an hour to an hour a day is very effective for fat loss. People rarely associate aerobic exercise with gardening, but the truth is that the role of gardening is not limited to beautifying the backyard, there is much more. According to authorities, being active in the backyard for 30-45 minutes can burn up to 300 calories.

Digging. Digging up dirt in a garden or greenhouse tent is one of the most common tasks for every gardener. But it’s hard to think that sustaining half an hour of digging will cost you 186 calories, roughly equivalent to the calories spent on skateboarding or cycling.

Weeding. When you do weeding tasks, you can add some strength training, such as doing proper squats and lunge exercises to exercise your core. You can also exercise your triceps by the way. For every half hour of weeding, you’ll burn 172 calories, which is the same number of calories you burn for doing aerobics.

Backyard Trampoline

If you think a solo backyard workout seems too boring, invite your family to join you! Trampolines are great for exercisers of almost all ages, and they’re so popular that no one can resist a sport that makes people look cool.

The beauty of trampolining is that you won’t find it boring, and, well, you’ll grow to love it!

Even if you’re just having fun on a trampoline, you can still burn a lot of calories. If you jump on a trampoline for ten minutes, you burn roughly the same number of calories as if you were running for 30 minutes.

A person can burn 500 calories in one hour of jumping on a trampoline, which is more efficient compared to walking and running.

Read More

How to prepare for jury duty

I just went through the jury duty process and wanted to share my experience and the things I wish I had known before that would have made it a much smoother process. This is all based off of my experience for the court that I went to and things may be different for you in your area.

Getting your summons. When you get your jury duty summons in the mail, look at the date and make sure you are able to attend. If you have a trip to Europe booked or a surgery scheduled around that time you may want to request a postponement. In my state, you can submit a request to postpone jury duty for another time period within the next 6 months, but you do have to show up that day and can’t postpone again. After that, inform your employer of your scheduled jury duty date so they have proper coverage during that time.

The night before. In my area, you are supposed to call the courthouse the night before your scheduled appearance and an automated system will then inform you if you are to come in or not. One time I called in and it was canceled, so I didn’t have to go after all. Get to bed early and lay out your clothes, breakfast, and a lunch you can bring. In the picture up above, everyone is nicely dressed, but in the jury duty I went to people were in normal casual street clothes. My recommendation is to dress nice, but comfortably.

The day of jury duty. When you arrive you will show your jury duty summons (your ticket to get in), and go through metal detectors. Make sure you left your knives, pepper spray, guns, and whatever else at home. Bring a book to read. After I arrived they had us wait for about three hours before they got started. You could dabble on your phone, but in general they don’t like phones on in courts because they are distracting, you could be looking up information on the case, or you could be recording the proceedings. All of these could get you in trouble and the judge can give you a contempt of court charge or the entire case might go into mistrial. Turn your phone off and bring a book or newspaper to read. Also bring a jacket. Even though it was in the 90’s outside, they cranked up the air conditioning inside and everyone was freezing, including myself. In the courtroom I went to I was permitted a closed water bottle, but no food. So leave your food in your car and have that during the lunch break, and only sip on the water, because they do give you bathroom breaks, but if you really have to go, you don’t want to hold up the entire court if they are in the middle of something.

Jury selection. There were about 100 of us selected and eventually that gets whittled down to 12 jurors and 3 alternative backups. They will ask you a series of questions to see if you are going to be a good choice to be on the jury and will be fair and impartial. If the upcoming trial is only going to be a day or two, they probably won’t ask a lot of questions but the trial I was scheduled for was going to go on for three weeks because it was a pretty serious crime. So voice any issues you may have of sitting in on a jury during that time period. Things such as being a member of law enforcement, being a victim of a similar crime, or even being a single mother of five children with no options for child care could get you excused.

Pros and cons of serving on a jury. Most likely if you are reading this you are a citizen of the United States and are subject to receiving a jury summons. The Constitution gives us this great privilege to be judged by our peers and not just a judge. So being able to serve my community in this way was something I was looking forward to. There are some hardships that come with it however. In my state, your employer is supposed to pay you for the first three days of jury duty, but after that the court will give you $50 a day. If I had been selected for that three week trial then that would have put some serious hardship on my family if I only made $50 a day. Have some emergency savings that you can live off of if you have to go through a trial like this. If you are a business owner, set procedures in place to have various shifts covered if one of your employees has to go through this. One poor lady there had previously served on a federal jury for 18 months! I don’t know how if payment was different for her, but could you live on $50/day for 18 months? That’s when tapping into savings and food storage would be helpful.

Read More

Any ideas for how to fit solar panels for solar generators in a small back yard?

Hello, everybody. I’m back on TP after a LONG absence. I just bought solar panels for solar generators. They arrived today. Kind of exciting. This is my first venture into trying to recharge my sogens from the sun. I got these two panels:

Now I have my next problem. I didn’t realize the solar panels would be so big. Each of the two Allpowers is 7 ft long. The only place I have to put them is my back yard, but my back yard is small and there is some obstruction from trees and other plants. I don’t know if I can fit two of these things side to side. I’m wondering if there’s a way to arrange them in a more compact way? Perhaps one set of panels on some card tables and the other one on the ground underneath? Are there any frames or something out there I might get to stack these so they both get sun?

Another problem is security. My back yard has a chain link gate that’s a little under 5 ft tall. Even with a lock someone in good physical shape could climb it pretty easily. And the fences on two sides of the yard are pretty see through. Now, I’ve never had theft on my property, despite it being a very urban neighborhood, and my back yard is removed from the street. But if someone spots two large solar panel arrays, plus a generator sitting out there, what’s to keep them from hopping my fence and stealing them? These are some of the most expensive items I own!

Read More

I just love watching Canadian geese fly over!

It seems out house is on the local Canadian geese flock’s flyway between a neighbor’s lake and maybe their feeding grounds.  Every day, the geese fly directly over our house on the way to the lake.  I assume they use our house as a beacon to locate the lake.  They fly over all during the day, from morning to evening.

I find the Canadian geese to be beautiful & graceful in flight.  I love listening to them honk.  This morning, while working in the garden, a larger than normal flock flew over.  Made my day!  I took a picture of part of the lake that they head to, which is just a couple of hundred yards from our house, on our lane.

Read More

Too cold, too hot – are you prepared

Many European countries are ordering government buildings and others to limit their air conditioning thermostat to 77F and heat to 66F. It’s not clear how they can enforce these limits aside from astronomical electricity prices.

But if electricity prices rose dramatically and you were forced to implement something like this what would be the impact to you? How would you prepare or react?

In my case, we keep the AC at 74F during the day and night. In the winter we set heat to 72F but turn it off around 9pm and back on at 4:30am. It is no lower than 50F at 4:30am and we believe we sleep much better in a cool room.

I work at home permanently now and my ‘office’ is next to the garage and on a concrete slab. The room is not very efficient and it’s near 80F in the summer so I use a fan. The drawbacks are I tend to get heat rash and I need a shower at the end of the day.

In the winter, the floor of this room is very cold and the room is usually in the low 60’s. I use a closed-cell foam pad to keep my feet warm, wear a vest and a hat.

My concerns for the coming winter have less to do with the recommended range of temperatures and more with the reliability of power.

How will you adjust? How will our European members adjust?

Read More

Flood preps & emergency raft recommendations

Seeing all of the flooding over the last week has moved prepping for floods to the top of my list of missing items. We are in a flood zone and have insurance. Our house was also built with the first floor 8 feet above the 500 year flood maps and flood vents in the foundation. We have a large stack of pre-prepped sand bags too. Along with power outage, food and fresh water supplies.

However, our location is surrounded by roads below flood level and they are they only exit from our area. High ground is several miles away as the crow flies.

We have an axe for the attic and life vests for the kids. (Life vests for us are on our list.)

One thing I know we’re missing is an emergency raft and paddles. Any recommendations for that? Preferably in the under $200 range?

Any other items specific to flooding, especially flash flooding, that you can think of?

We live in the vicinity of two powerful rivers (one of them dam fed approximately 80 miles upstream) multiple creeks and holding ponds. Good chance for significant debris, chemical, and sewage in flood waters. With enough notice we would evacuate pre-flood. If our home is habitable, we would shelter-in-place. So, for the raft and attic supplies, they would be last resort/caught by surprise/no other options.

Read More

Late summer means it is muscadine picking time!

I love this time of year.  It is still hot and for some reason, the past month has been exceptionally wet.  My gourds and pumpkins are growing nicely, the rattlesnakes pole beans are finally producing now that those extremely hot days are gone, the okra needs picking every 2 days… and the muscadines are ripening. Oh, the flavor & sweetness packed into those grapes is almost beyond belief.  My wife is gonna make a batch of jelly with the ones I picked today.

Muscadines are a great crop for warm, humid climates.  It requires no spray and disease isn’t an issue.  You do need to prune each winter, as grapes are born on new growth.  I have around 100 row feet of muscadine trellises and they bear lots of huge, juicy grapes.  About half are the bronze variety, called scuppernongs which I actually prefer a bit more than the black (very dark red), but my wife prefers the dark red in making jelly because it makes a nice red jelly.

Read More
muscadine 10

Potential large scale nation-wide Railroad Strike this coming week

I just found out from a close friend—who works for the railroad—that there is a scheduled nation wide union strike beginning September 16 if  their demands aren’t met. They are asking for a much needed pay raise, and to change the draconian work laws that only guarantee them 4 days off every 3 months (otherwise they are constantly on call and required to go when called). 

If it’s transported on land, it’s probably transported by railways — trucks typically only do the shorter hauls. Think about what you may need and maybe prioritize it early this week. We’ll be grocery shopping, topping off fuel tanks/cans, and restocking animal feed. Historically these strikes are quickly ended by Congress, but even a delay of several hours impacts thousands of trains and the supply lines are already struggling. (An analogy would be if all the nations airports closed for several hours or longer — how long would it take to catch back up?) 

I did some research and found this article (there are more):

(I also posted this on Discord — but I’m not “Discord fluent” yet and it seems like things get lost or quickly passed over there if you’re not staying on top of them. Probably just me.)

Read More

Lightweight and cheap hand saw for your bug out bag

In a forum post that I can’t seem to find now, a member shared the World’s Lightest Backpacking Saw. Coming in at only 3.95 oz (112g) this minimalist collapsible saw would be a great addition to throw in a bug out bag. However, this commercial product is no longer being made. So if I wanted one, I was going to have to make one myself. 

I am going to share two designs that I came up with so this type of saw will be accessible to those on a tight budget with no tools to work with or if you want some additional features, you can take it to the next level. Video of completed product at the end of this post.

Design #1 – Cheap, quick, and minimal.

For this first model, you will need to get a 9” or 12” sawzall blade from the hardware store ($4-$8), a 9.25” long ½” diameter PVC pipe ($3) (they can help you cut it at the hardware store or you can use your saw blade), a piece of paracord, and a small stick the length and diameter of your finger.

This is really easy. Thread the paracord through the hole in the saw blade, stick the paracord through the pipe, tie a knot at the end, thread the stick through the hole of the paracord knot and twist until the blade is firm in there.

That’s it!

Design #2 – Slightly more expensive, requires more tools, but has more features

This design does require a bit more work, but is far superior in my opinion. One of the things I didn’t like about the commercial product and Design #1 is that you had to store your blade next to the handle and it had potential for cutting up other gear in your pack. I wanted a larger diameter tube in Design #2 to be more comfortable in the hand, and offer a storage space for the saw blade inside. 

With the larger diameter tube however, the saw blade would just slip through. To fix this, take a ½ inch diameter 1” long piece of PVC pipe, sanding down the outside until it fits snuggly inside the ¾” pipe, and apply some PVC glue to keep it secure. By doing this, it creates the necessary diameter for the saw to sit in while still maintaining the ability to store the saw inside the handle. An additional modification that I did with Design #2 is to cut slits in the ½ inch pipe so that the blade has a secure slot to sit in and won’t spin around when you are tightening down the rope.

You can just stick with threading the paracord through the hole in the blade, or go with the cotter pin attachment that the commercial version uses. I don’t really see the benefit of the cotter pin besides being able to remove the rope without having to untie the knot, or maybe distributing the tension between two points instead of one. I probably wouldn’t bother buying the cotter pins again, but if you want to I’ll show you how to bend and use them.

Get some ⅛” X 1” cotter pins ($1.25/pack of 5) in the nail and screw aisle of the hardware store, thread it through the hole of the saw blade, pinch slightly up on the cotter pin with some pliers and bend the legs of the cotter pin over the pliers teeth.

The finished product will look like this.

Another modification I made with Design #2 is to sand little ridges in the base to lock in the stick better than a smooth surface. The commercial product gets around doing this by just really cranking the line until it won’t move and holding the stick while you saw, but I like the grooves better. You can recreate this by wrapping a pencil in sand paper and running it back and forth over the end of the pipe.

Comparing the DIY version with the commercial product.

To be honest, I like the PVC pipe version much more than the commercial product because of the low cost, and additional features.

Comparing Design #2 to the top recommended hand saw in The Prepared’s Best survival handsaw article, the Silky Gomboy costs and weighs three times as much and doesn’t have cheap easily replaceable blades.

The commercial product uses a better rope called Zing-it that is lighter weight, stronger, and doesn’t have any stretch. I couldn’t find Zing-it anywhere cheaper than $27 for a roll and the paracord works perfectly for me, so I am sticking with that.

For $1 more, I could have gone with the superior saw blade that the commercial product uses, the Diablo carbide teeth blades. The reason I went with the Milwaukee blade is because that fits inside the ¾” PVC whereas the Diablo blade was just slightly too wide. In the future, I would like to get the Diablo blade and grind down the wide spine so that it will fit inside the handle. The commercial product also went with a long 12” blade which is much faster at cutting with its longer draw length, but for this compact version I stuck with a 9” blade. Here’s a short video showing what the Diablo blade can do compared to a similar sized Fiskers saw.

There is enough room inside the handle of Design #2 where you could have both a wood and metal saw blade. Perhaps you have this in your bug out bag and use the wood blade to cut firewood or build a shelter with, and the metal blade could be used to cut a chain link fence or padlock if you are stuck somewhere and need to get through during SHTF.

Video of completed Design #2

Read More
Design 1 parts

Review of Juan Pablo’s book THRIVE

Holy mole! Talk about a comprehensive book! I learned something about survival on virtually every single page. I have dozens of books on survival but this one takes the cake for every topic. If you are considering staying in the wild, this is the book for you.

Read More

Low-bandwith website recommendations for when you have poor service

Looongtime internet user here. I have pretty bad service at my house, any text-only sites that you recommend?

Read More

FAQ: Apple AirTags for prepping

Of all of the products Apple released in 2021, perhaps the one that’s received the most press — for good and ill — is the AirTag, a small, cheap (for Apple), tracking device. The idea is that you slip it into a bag or attach it to your keys and you can easily track down the AirTag’s location with your iPhone. The other side of the coin is it’s feared to be a potent tool for stalking and auto theft.

What makes the AirTag different from Tile and other trackers?

The concept of a small, portable tracking device isn’t new. Ham radio operators have been using APRS for such devices for decades, and object tracking entered the mainstream with the Tile trackers. But what makes AirTag different is the power of Apple’s extensive Find My network. Tile trackers aren’t very useful because most of the time, it’s limited by the transmit distance of Bluetooth, about 30 feet. The AirTag also works by transmitting a Bluetooth signal, but it uses every nearby iPhone, iPad, and Mac with the right system requirements to relay the signal, and there are a lot of those out there in the wild — millions and millions. Tile has a similar networking technology, but the network isn’t anywhere close to as extensive.

To clear up some confusion: there is the Find My app on iPhones that you use to see the locations of devices, friends, and AirTags, and then there is the Find My network, which relays signals from AirTags and other devices.

The Find My network works silently in the background. If you have an Apple device, you won’t notice it being used. And the Find My network uses encryption and other technologies to protect your privacy from the devices relaying the signal.

How extensive is the Find My network? Kirk McElhearn mailed one to a friend and discovered that he could track it practically in real time. Every time the AirTag gets near a compatible Apple device, it relays its location to Apple’s servers.

How does an AirTag help me track objects?

The AirTag has three mechanisms to help you pin down its location:

It displays its approximate location on the map in the Find My appIt supports radar-like precision tracking on the iPhone 11 and laterIt features a small speaker that can be triggered from the Find My app to help you audibly track the AirTag

Do I need an iPhone to use an AirTag?

For all practical purposes, yes. You can view an AirTag on the map with the Mac and iPad versions of Find My (not the web version on, but you need an iPhone 11 or later for the precision tracking that helps you find the AirTag once you’re in the general proximity. You need an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to set up the AirTag.

Apple has considered what happens if a good samaritan without an iPhone finds your AirTagged item. There is an NFC chip built in that can be scanned with an Android phone, displaying your name, phone number, address, or whatever information you decided to share on the AirTag.

What can I use the AirTag to track?

Apple envisions you tracking things like backpacks, keychains, purses, and bicycles. In terms of preparedness, you can expand this a bit to things like:

Go-bags Individual First-Aid Kits Tool boxes Ammunition boxes

Keeping an AirTag with your kits can help you find them when you need them and can’t remember where you put them. It may also help if your bag or other kit is stolen, assuming you’ve hidden the AirTag well and the thief isn’t actively looking for one.

There are creative uses for AirTag as well. An Army wife stuck one in her family’s stuff so they could track a moving truck. When the driver kept delaying and making excuses, she tracked the AirTag location to quickly figure out that he was full of it.

Can an AirTag be used for stalking?

There have been a number of media and police warnings about AirTags being used by criminals, including a model finding one in her pocket and people finding them attached to their vehicles.

Apple shipped the AirTag with a number of anti-stalking protections. Most notably, you’re alerted if an AirTag not registered to your iPhone is found nearby. It can lead to false alarms, like if you’re on a bus with someone who has an AirTag in their backpack. And it only works if you use an iPhone.

To help address this concern, Apple has shipped an Android app, called Tracker Detector, which doesn’t automatically detect foreign AirTags but lets you manually scan for them. Oddly, you can’t manually scan for AirTags with an iPhone and you can’t be automatically alerted of them with an Android phone.

Expect Apple to do more soon to address criminal usage of AirTags (and the bad press).

Can I share an AirTag with a family member?

Find My lets you track the locations of members of your Family Sharing group, as well as their registered Apple devices. That’s really helpful when, say, your spouse has lost their iPhone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way with an AirTag. An AirTag is tied to a single Apple ID and isn’t shared. That can be really annoying if you borrow your spouse’s keys with an attached AirTag and get stalking warnings.

How long does the AirTag battery last?

Apple says the AirTag battery should last about a year. Amazingly for an Apple product, the AirTag takes a standard CR2032 battery that you can easily replace yourself.

How do I attach an AirTag to stuff?

The AirTag is a smooth disk without any holes or other ways to attach it to things. It’s easy enough to slip one inside a bag or box, but you need some sort of case to attach it to things like keys. Apple would like for you to buy one of their high-dollar designer AirTag cases, but there are cheap and perfectly serviceable AirTag cases on Amazon.

Read More